How can we come to personally know our loving God?
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Quote of the week from In Search of the Loving God:
ver since Frederick II, European princes had dreamed of extricating themselves from the sway of Rome, and recovering the great wealth the church had accumulated in their lands. Now they began to feel confident about doing so. The church was corrupt enough, confused enough, and had alienated enough of its support, to open it up to a successful attack.
In Germany the attack gathered around an ex-monk called Martin Luther. Luther provided the theological justification for breaking with Rome; the princes took advantage of this by supporting him, and making sure Hus’s fate didn’t befall him; the printing presses did the rest. In many European countries, and in England, the church split from Rome and was brought under the control of secular government. In each case there was some genuine reform of the way religion was practiced, as this was required as a justification for the split. Apart from this, though, the reform of the church during the Reformation was quite limited; only the most blatant corruptions were addressed. The basic worldliness of the church, as revealed in its doctrines from Augustine to Aquinas, remained unchanged in the new Protestant churches. One of the major problems was that both Luther and Calvin still believed in the predestination of a fixed elect, and all this entails. Bound up with predestination is the doctrine of man’s lack of free will, and inherent helplessness. As pointed out by Pelagius in Augustine’s time, this doctrine leads to moral weakness and is destructive of human responsibility. Consequently, the major Protestant churches introduced very few changes in belief on how people should behave toward each other; if anything their attitude was even more self-centered and selfish than that promoted by the Catholic church, as salvation was seen as being by “faith alone,” and the value of good works was discounted. Nor was there any real spiritual renewal. Protestants saw the spirit as being directed through the Bible, rather than through the pope and bishops. There was even less scope in Protestantism than in Catholicism for direct personal experience of God.
The similarity of the position and methods of the Protestants and Catholics is shown by their joint reaction to the Anabaptist movement. The Anabaptists believed the Christian’s relationship with Christ must go beyond inner experience and acceptance of doctrines, and must involve a daily walk with God, where Jesus’ teachings and example shape a transformed life. They believed the principle of love should guide their lives in a practical way. As a result, they were pacifists in dealing with their persecutors, rather like Gandhi and Martin Luther King in modern times, and would not take part in coercion by the state. As in the church of the book of Acts, they helped each other, and redistributed wealth within their own communities. Decisions were made by the entire membership on a consensus basis. Separation of church and state was called for. They considered Christians to be “free, unforced, uncompelled people,” that faith is the free gift of God, and that authorities exceed their competence when they “champion the Word of God with a fist.” The Anabaptists believed the church to be distinct from society, even a so-called Christian society. These beliefs alarmed the established leaders of Protestant and Catholic Europe alike. Protestants were additionally concerned that the Anabaptist’s emphasis on life as well as belief was a challenge to the basic Reformation principle of salvation by “faith alone.” The Anabaptists protested that their ethical teachings were not a means of gaining salvation, but rather a necessary expression of the new life in Christ which resulted from it. Their protests were in vain, though, which is not surprising, as they served to point out the bankruptcy of the standard Protestant position, and this merely made the Protestants hostile. The Reformers determined to use all necessary means to root out Anabaptism. The Catholic authorities took the same line. Both Catholics and Protestants considered the Anabaptists dangerous heretics who threatened the religious and social stability of Christian Europe. Over the next twenty-five years thousands of Anabaptists were put to death, by burning in Catholic areas, and by drowning or the sword under Protestant regimes. Many more Anabaptists were forced to recant. Remnants of the Anabaptists survive today as certain groups of European “brethren,” the Hutterites and the Mennonites. In order to survive, these groups shed many of their Anabaptist characteristics, and became legalistic and isolationist. With the safety of recent times, though, the Mennonites are experiencing revival, and their numbers have more than trebled to nearly a million over the last forty years. It will be interesting to see if they can play a significant role in the transformation of the church in our time.
The basic lack of change in Protestantism is reflected in the fact that the same bad old fruits kept being produced by the new churches. The way the Anabaptists were treated is just one example of this. Another is that the burning of witches went on just as relentlessly in Protestant areas as it did under the Catholic Inquisition. Indeed, as we have seen, the competition between Protestants and Catholics resulting from the Reformation led to a renewal of intensity of witch burning on both sides, when it had looked like it might otherwise have died out. The real reform, a return to Jesus’ teachings of toleration, love and living in “the Kingdom of Heaven,” quite simply just didn’t take place in the main-stream Protestant Reformation, or in the Catholic Counter Reformation. And, arguably, genuine reform couldn’t yet take place, as the conditions in Europe were still so superstitious and brutal. But at least the break-up of the church started to bring it under the control of governments. Eventually, as governments became more democratic and enlightened, this would cause the church’s more barbaric excesses to be curbed. Within two hundred years the witch burnings ceased, and the time finally arrived when scientists were able to get on with their work without living in fear of their lives.
Although the Reformation was politically significant, in starting the process of bringing the church under secular control, it was very much a non-event in spiritual terms. Perhaps the biggest single misapprehension holding the Protestant church back in our time, is the notion that it has already gone through all the major reform it needs, in the Reformation, and that all it needs to do now is get around and “witness” to as many people as possible, and tell them how wonderful it is. Most of the reform the church needs, both Catholic and Protestant, is yet to come, and their witness will be unimpressive until after this real reform takes place.
— From In Search of the Loving God, Chapter 10, "The Church is Brought Under Control" pp. 156-159.
Past Quotes of the Week can be read at:
Past quotes of the week
Endorsements and Reviews:
In Search of the Loving God is a book written with a purpose - and that purpose is to bring an age old message of truth and love to our tired, confused and desperate world. Mark is out to conquer hearts and win love for God. His book mingles impressive scholarship with both poetic appeal and down to earth empirical experiences. The world is in great need of the healing that this book could bring it.
(Ian D. Baynes, B.V.Sc., M.A.P.S.)
In Search of the Loving God reads like a combination mystery, history, and Bible commentary all rolled into one. Read it for its enlightening view on Scripture and revealing stories of the church's history. May the Spirit use this book to reach many people with its hopeful
message for the future of Christianity.
(Joy Wells, Educator)
Mr Mason's skills as both researcher and writer are such that I was unable to put the book down once I started it. He makes what could be a very dry topic not only readable, but also highly relevant to someone who is attempting to move beyond surface spirituality to a level of deep understanding and growth.
His book is divided into two parts. The first gives a very comprehensive, and eye-opening, history of the Bible and Christianity as a religion. He shows incredibly clearly how and why the church strayed from the teachings of Jesus and what that means to the church today. The second section shows how the Bible and its teachings are relevant to seekers in today's world. He describes Bible passages that teach us about reincarnation, a simple lifestyle and free will, and he includes wonderful and affirming interpretations about what hell and the book of Revelation really means.
(Patricia Vallerand, from her review of In Search of the Loving God in the Observer Quarterly)
To read more reviews, and more of what readers are saying about his book, see the reviews and endorsements page at this site.
Author's description of In Search of the Loving God:
In Search of the Loving God proposes that the key to knowing and loving God is meditation, but that before we can love God, and effectively meditate, we need to overcome our fear of Him. The book challenges traditional Christian beliefs by taking a fresh look at the life of Jesus, and at how the church soon became corrupt and power-seeking and largely ignored Jesus' teachings, invented the concept of everlasting punishment in hell in order to control people through fear, and eventually terrorized European society with the Inquisition and the witch craze, in which millions of women were burned at the stake, often for no crime greater than being a midwife. It looks at the disturbing similarities between medieval Christianity and modern religious fundamentalism, which in America manifests as the Christian Coalition, and other organizations of the religious right. It shows how the "us and them" nature of our society is based on, and underpinned by, the medieval Christian belief that some people are valuable to God and are saved, while others are not and are eternally damned. The importance of the separation of church and state in protecting us against fundamentalism, and preserving our freedom to make our own moral choices is highlighted, as is the reality of our free will -- God's greatest gift to us.
The book has chapters on why there is no honest Biblical basis for believing in everlasting punishment in hell, Biblical evidence for believing in Reincarnation, a metaphysical interpretation of the Book of Revelation, how to meditate, the reality of miracles in our lives, and on how Christianity could be more accepting of other religions such as Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. It advocates a radical reform of Christianity, which would result in it becoming a religion of love and acceptance, rather than what it traditionally has been: a religion of guilt and fear. Abandoning the belief in eternal hell, and embracing reincarnation and meditation may sound particularly New Age, but the Bible shows Jesus taught these concepts, and that they open the way to knowing and loving God. If you are looking for a loving and inclusive spirituality, a Christianity that embraces God and all people, then this book might be a stepping stone on your path.
In divine love,
Challenge yourself to this zany and informative Religous History Quiz
If you need help editing and or publishing your writing,
you may like to read about the author's editing and publishing service: Dwapara Press Editing and Publishing
The Hot Springs of America, a novel, showing how another "terrorist" attack could mean the end of our current democracy, and plunge America into a second civil war. Read two complete chapters online, and if want to read the rest, the e-book can be purchased for just $5.95 (PayPal or Credit Card). To start reading, click here: The Hot Springs of America.
Original Songs: Songs of love, peace and the spirit. A number of songs I have written, including "Avatar" and "Live by the Words We Say": Songs.
Clipper Ship is a suite of productivity tools that makes working on a computer easier and more enjoyable. It includes an "instant spreadsheet," allowing you to do calculations with numbers in editors or word processors, even if they are mixed with text. It also allows you to paste often-used blocks of text from a pick list, and copy symbols not on your keyboard from a symbol list. It has a macro recorder, enabling you to record and replay keystrokes and mouse actions. It has an Area from Map feature that easily gets diminsions and areas from on-screen maps including Google Earth. It has an image capture feature that copies the current window or the whole screen into the Paint program so you can edit and save the images. It has a multi-clipboard, enabling you to paste any of the last 12 clips you have copied, monitors your typing speed in the current session (if you care to look at it!), and it is also an abbreviation expander with over 26,000 built-in short forms for words and phrases. It is fully Windows 7 compatible, and also works on previous versions of windows. To find out more, and to download the free 'Lite' version of the program, click here: Clipper Ship.
Aquarius Database is a freeware business database with perpetual inventory stock control and many other nice features, which will meet the needs of many startup and/or small businesses, and which can be extended later to give added functionality as a business grows. To find out more about it, click here: Aquarius Database.
My farm and forest at Fox Hollow: near Eugene, Oregon: Farm.
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