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Book Review Series – Lori Alexander’s “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Shhhh…Be Very, Very Quiet, Part 2

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Submission


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-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6  Chapter 7   Chapter 8 – Part 1

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Chapter 8 – Part 2 – Win Him Without a Word

Due to the length and so much wrong happening, this chapter is broken into two parts. In Part 1 we looked at how Lori teaches wives that they are to be silent partners when it comes to their husband’s transgressions in order to win them to the Lord. Lori insists that a wife in a difficult marriage should continue to remain faithful, follow her husband’s lead, and win him over through her actions of love and service.

To the wife whose husband has had an affair, Lori states:

Now, I know many of you may say that a woman with a husband who is an adulterer has clear biblical reasons to divorce him, but what God has joined together, let no man tear asunder. If we are told to forgive someone seventy times seven and love our enemies, how much more should we forgive a disobedient husband, even it is it’s his seventh transgression?

If a wife continues to stay in this marriage because she believes Lori offers a biblical view,  she will continue to be devastated by her husband’s lack of personal self-control, lack of respect toward her, and disregard toward their marriage. Wives should not feel compelled to remain in a marriage in which she is not being honored and respected.

Surely Lori offers hope to a woman in an abusive marriage.

Some will accuse me of condoning abuse since, in their minds, a wife’s desire for submission always leads to abuse. On the contrary, a woman who is kind and gentle to her husband, seeking to please him, will more than likely draw him to herself instead of making him angry enough to abuse her…It takes a lot of strength to be a woman like this, and it is a weak woman who gives into her emotions and is led astray by her feelings.

I need to pause for a moment and let you all know that Snarky Kathi has stepped aside to allow room for Angry Kathi to show up.

In proper Lori fashion, she places blame toward the woman. If a woman is not kind, gentle, and led astray by her feelings then her husband may become angry enough to abuse her. I am inclined to think that Lori truly believes that it is a woman’s fault if she is abused by her husband. See why I am angry? Does Lori even understand the dynamics behind abusive relationships?

God does not ask a wife to submit to abuse, but too often the word abuse is used so frivolously that it does a disservice to those women who are truly abused. It’s the degree or method of control that determines whether behavior is truly abusive or simply bad behavior.

Is Lori going to inform her readers of what she considers “truly abusive” behavior? Of course not. And, here’s the deal, Lori doesn’t get to define what is “truly abusive!” We have laws and guidelines set in place to determine abuse. I wonder which of these laws and guidelines Lori considers “frivolous.” I sure hope that a woman who goes to Lori for counseling does not let her determine if she is “truly abused.”

Lori states that if a woman has been kind and gentle and yet her husband is overbearing and abusive she should seek counsel from a pastor, counselor, or the police. That all looks good written down, but in the end, Lori is going to tell a woman who seeks police intervention that she will need to remain faithfully married to her abuser. There is absolutely no room for divorce. What good does it do for her to give this advice?

Someone recently started a new Facebook page called Lori Alexander Undeleted. Here is the info about the page: 

This page is dedicated to exposing the dangerous teachings and heartlessness of Lori Alexander.
Coming soon: screenshots of callous statements and deleted comments that are intended to show she is not being bullied and only deletes to prevent respectful discussion.

The following screenshot is a comment that was deleted from Lori Alexander’s The Transformed Wife Facebook page.

 

Screenshot 2017-07-04 at 2.45.38 PM
A recently deleted comment on The Transformed Wife’s Facebook page and captured by Lori Alexander Undeleted. Content: “First, a suicide hotline number was deleted and now this…I’d say this proves Lori really doesn’t want to help anyone.”

 

If any of Lori’s readers are here, please don’t go to her for advice if you are experiencing emotional, physical, sexual, or spiritual abuse from your husbands. Abuse in any form is never frivolous and should be taken seriously. When you are able, go to the police and a professional counselor for help. If you need help locating resources in your area, send us a message: SpiritualSB@gmail.com. We are more than happy to help you and support you.

There is more to this chapter, but why move on? It is filled with quotes from Michael Pearl and others who comment on her blog. Again, Lori fills almost half a chapter with other people’s words. I think it is more important to highlight the fact that while Lori gives lip service to seeking help for abuse, she is not concerned about helping women get out of abusive relationships.

 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233. This is a 24/7 free hotline to call for help if you are in an intimate partner violent relationship. Questions regarding how to support a victim of domestic violence are welcome as well. Phone services support over 200 languages.

photo credit: Brian Tomlinson Quiet via photopin (license)

170 thoughts on “Book Review Series – Lori Alexander’s “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Shhhh…Be Very, Very Quiet, Part 2”

  1. LEB, the errors and agendas of the authors could definitely come into play. However, we believe in a God who could supernaturally guide the authors to write something inerrant. Paul says to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness”. This statement is either true or false. If it is true, then we believe that supposed inconsistencies and flaws in scripture are actually our own misunderstanding and misinterpretation. If it is false, then we have the “higher criticism” theology where we get to pick and choose what in the Bible we believe to be applicable and accurate.

    It seems that Jesus never weaved his way through OT scripture. He often said, “have you not read?”

    The problem with science vs. the Bible is not really a problem with science or the Bible, but our understanding of both. Often, what is misunderstood as science is really materialism. It is accurate to say “We have hard core evidence that the earth is billions of years old.”, but it is not so accurate to say “Trying to say the earth is 6000 years old by tracing back the comments in the Bible is so ludicrous that it is beyond the pale”

    The reason is that you’re confusing science and truth. Science is “the best explanation within materialism”. The truth must account for more than the material universe. Thus, something like the Big Bang Theory is actually beyond the realm of science, because it is not within materialism. In fact, Stephen Hawking says, “the laws of the universe were created in the Big Bang” His opinion has changed to the idea that there is a multi-verse and our universe is just a projection of the multiverse, but it still begs the question of where did it all come from, because that is not materialism.

    So, scientifically, there is no good explanation within materialism for the universe being younger than billions of years old because uniformitarianism (a materialist philosophy) suggests that certain characteristics of the universe don’t change, but that then falls afoul of planets with “killer orbits” – that could theoretically crash into each other.

    So, the disagreement between Christians and science is primarily whether uniformitarianism is “true”. We can agree that it is a good assumption to operate within the realm of science, but then we need to apply a filter between scientific results and “truth”. This is why the “how can you deny gravity” argument does not work with Christians. We don’t deny gravity because observing gravity doesn’t require us to extrapolate what gravity was 10,000 years ago. But many of the other scientific tools require extrapolation. For example we use parallax to determine the distance of close stars. We then correlate parallax with red shift, and for stars that are hugely distant, we use red shift solely as a determination of distance. Yet, red shift assumes that the speed of light is truly a constant (uniformitarianism).

    So, I can 100% agree with teaching evolution and Big Bang as “science”, but I have significant doubts that a non-philosopher is going to understand the difference between “science” and “truth”, and thus it becomes religious indoctrination, not education.

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  2. The Gnostic Bible is a set of books written by people who held gnosticism. There are hints of John dealing with gnosticism in 1/2 John – “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

    Gnostics believed that the spirit was good and flesh evil. This created a conundrum with Jesus being God incarnate (with flesh). So, they settled on the idea that Jesus “appeared” to come in the flesh, but he really didn’t have flesh, because then he couldn’t have been God.

    Supposedly, the Gnostic Bible was a set of books that the gnostics wrote and attributed to Apostles (e.g. the Gospel of Thomas), but were not really written by who they claimed. That’s about all I know. These were never really in the process of determining the canon because they were dismissed by their contemporaries. However, many centuries later, they were rediscovered and there was some controversy whether these were lost books of the Bible.

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  3. FYI, the debate over evolution stems partially over information theory, and whether organisms have gained information or lost information. Evolutionary theory says that species were very simple at first and then gained complexity through genetic mutations. Information theory would say that species might start out very complex and adaptable, and then lose their adaptability as there is natural selection within an environment.

    So, if Adam and Eve were created with significant amounts of genetic information that have been lost, or specified, then it is possible that all of the races were within their genes, and that as they migrated to different regions of the earth, certain genes were bred out, yet we still remained the same species. There is also gene activation/deactivation. Scientists have been able to “add” characteristics to certain insects that they do not naturally possess by activating genes. Some info here: https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/developmental-biology/signaling-and-transcription-factors-in-development/a/homeotic-genes

    In the same way, there could have been less ‘species’ at the time of the Ark, that exploded as they became more specific. You can look at lions and tigers from those two perspectives. In one perspective, there was a “base” cat type, and these types gained genetic information and bred until they branched into two sexually incompatible species (close enough that sterile hybrids can be made). The other perspective is that there was a base cat type and based on natural selection, two variants arose that became more and more specific to the point that they no longer had enough common information to breed.

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  4. Mark, Your explanations and efforts to produce them are much appreciated. They go a very long way towards helping me understand how Fundamental Christians think such that I can better understand their views. Thank you for this explanation to complex questions. It is in understanding our fellow man that we can live in harmony with him even where our ideology differs.

    Now if I can prevail upon you but one more time, I would be most appreciative. I have a question concerning Christianity which I have had for as far back as I can remember being taught about it. It concerns this business of Christ i.e Jesus “dying for my sins.” First of all, who asked him to do anything for me such that I should now be indebted to him. Secondly, how can anyone atone for anyone else’s sins. My sins are my sins; your sins are your sins and Jesus’ sins are his sins. We all commit them and we all need to make good on them in some way,. That way may be to make amends to the person harmed, make restitution fro something done or else change our ways so that we never commit these sins again. If I do something wrong, the fact that Jesus died on the cross is not going to change that reality nor is it going to make it any less burdensome for the person against whom I sinned. Moreover, what exactly are all these sins he died for and who asked him to do so in the first place.

    In the years since he died, a whole bunch of atrocities and misfortunes have been committed by persons. There have been wars. There has been the holocaust, there has been infinite and countless sins perpetrated by persons who have lived through the ages. Jesus can’t make it “unhappen” by what he did and, more importantly, the people responsible for what ever has been done are still responsible. Worse, all things considered, I don’t think I have been all that terrible in terms of what I have done which is not to say I do not have my faults or that I have not ever done anything which was less than desirable. Whatever these faults and misdeeds are, however, they are my responsibility and I need to atone for them. Jesus can’t make it all better and, worse, I never asked him to do anything for me so I don’t appreciate the notion that I am now indebted to him for doing something which he was never asked to do in the first place.

    Catholics have this notion of “original sin” which we were taught about in catechism classes. Supposedly, Jesus “saved” us from all of that by virtue of dying on the cross. This original sin stems from the actions of an allegorical character, Eve, who proceeded to eat fruit from the “tree of knowledge.” Before that, apparently, ignorance was bliss. I don’t know whether this is the sin which Jesus has allegedly “saved” us from or whether it is something else. Any light you can shed on these issues which I have raised would be most appreciated. I have never related well to Christianity and this is one huge issue which has never been resolved to my satisfaction. I thought it was crazy the first time I learned about it way back when at the time when I was attending catechism class – perhaps 3rd grade or so. It never got any better though the years. If you can help me understand the point I am missing, I would be most appreciative because it seems like an absurd concept to me from the get go. I ever hear people running around proclaiming what “miserable wretches” they are. I can’t help but think that if they perceive themselves as such (typically they are rather nice people, in the first place), then they need to do something about it

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  5. Let me play “devil’s advocate.” There’s a 4th option popping up now there never was before–that Jesus never claimed to be God’s only begotten Son, and His disciples only started to claim that after His death. I find this hard to believe, but I know Jesus and talk to God night and day. Some people would call my sense of His Presence a delusion. It’s definitely subjective. Believing is seeing.

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  6. Memory, being what it is, I find it hard to believe a whole lot of what his disciples claim Jesus said and did. I don’t know that you are delusional because you feel a sense of presence in your life. I sometimes feel a sense of a presence, as well, although in my case, I seriously doubt it is Jesus. What you say could conceivably be. Perhaps you and I have wanted to believe such and we create the presence in our mind. Or perhaps it is “real.” Either way works for me. I am not qualified to say which it is. Realistically, I think it is more what we want to believe but I could go either way on this one.

    If Mark is not quite up to the task of humoring me, perhaps someone else can answer some of the questions I posed in my previous post about this whole issue of Jesus “dying for my sins.” I have never been able to buy that one.

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  7. LEB, Atonement is somewhat paradoxical. I tend towards Calvinism, which is different that what most would consider Fundamentalism. Two of Calvin’s five points (TULIP) are applicable to atonement. First of all, L – Limited atonement. Calvin would say that if Jesus died for all, then all would be saved. Calvin would say that Jesus died only for his sheep. He didn’t die for the goats. Now, the gift of salvation is freely available in the truest sense, but only those who accept it are the sheep.

    The work of the Holy Spirit is somewhat not disputed, although the extent is. Dispensationalists would say that the Holy Spirit brings a spiritually dead person to the point where s/he can decide for or against God. Calvinists would say that the Holy Spirit brings that person to a point where s/he would never decide against the free gift. That is the I – Irresistible Grace.

    Sin has a communal nature, yes, but it also is rebellion against God. That’s why mainstream Christians get so wrapped around the axle on Homosexuality. It doesn’t have a significant communal aspect, but it is still rebellion against God. (I think that the idea of outlawing homosexuality goes beyond the sphere of government, but….) So, when I kill someone, I’m obviously harming that person and the community, but I’m also essentially screaming “I HATE YOU!!!” to God. I hurt someone created in his image. I think that is why the Bible says Satan was a murderer from the beginning. He couldn’t stand to see the image of God in people. I think that’s why churches that ignore and cover up abuse are really on the wrong side.

    I’m not sure how Jesus’s death works with the communal nature of sin, but it deals with the spiritual nature. Jesus says, I can atone for that sin, and the Father says, I accept Jesus’s sacrifice as payment for your sin. If you reject that offer, than you are accepting the responsibility of paying for that sin yourself.

    Original sin is that, by Adam and Eve’s actions, we are naturally in rebellion against God. A somewhat limited example would be World War II. Someone who was a US citizen was at war with someone who was a German citizen, even though that citizen didn’t explicitly “declare war”. Their representative declared war, and because of that, they’re at war, whether they personally like that or not. In the same way, Adam and Eve chose Satan’s side of the war over God’s side of the war. Because Adam was the representative of the universe and all his children, we are, by nature, on Satan’s team. That’s original sin.

    Nakedness wasn’t a sin before the fall and it wasn’t a sin (for Adam and Eve) after the fall. It wasn’t that ignorance was bliss and they sinned and it didn’t matter. They didn’t sin. Their concern over nakedness was the introduction of guilt and shame and their desire to hide and cover their shame.

    Probably will generate more questions than it answers, but…

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  8. I would also say that if you want to keep this civil it would be best not to try and assign names to people who don’t self-identify. In purely theological ways, I would probably be considered somewhat Fundamental, although theological Fundamentalism came well after Calvinism, but the modern definition of Fundamental has morphed significantly and I would definitely not put myself anywhere near there now.

    Classical Fundamentalism is mostly the antithesis of Universalism. Fundamentalism is simply the idea that there are core beliefs that someone must have to be saved. However, that got co-opted by people who then came up with laundry lists of fundamental beliefs – Jesus as savior, substitutionary atonement, the virgin birth, original sin, then not watching movies, not smoking or drinking, abstinence, no birth control, then, at some point it became blowing up abortion clinics and killing gays.

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  9. Mark, This is absolutely fascinating and you are impressively well versed in theory. OK, I looked up the sheep and the goats and I got the idea. Some say, as you point out, Jesus died for the sheep. BUT the sheep are apparently the ones following the Christian laws, as it were so they are not sinning in the first place, no? Salvation is for the sheep and Jesus died for them. They are following all the rules and because of that they are going to be saved. Were it not for Jesus’ death, however, even if they did follow all the rules, they were not still not going to be saved? So in order for the sheep to be saved, Jesus had to die for them AND they had to follow the rules which sheep are suppose to follow. That being the case, they will be saved.

    So now we have the goats. They don’t follow the rules and they are not going to be saved because of their behavior. They are held accountable for their infractions. So, then, is it fair to say that whether you are a sheep or a goal depends on whether you follow the rules? Somehow I got the impression that simply following the rules was not enough. One must also “accept Jesus as your savior.” So someone like me who strives to follow the rules, lead a good life (note the word “strives”), tries to serve others and does not harm anyone BUT also does not accept Jesus as my savior is going down with the goats? Hitler or someone like me who “did not accept” – it is all the same. Behavior does not matter? Unless one worships at the alter of this entity, he or she is going down big time? It does not matter what you do? Unless you flatter him i.e. worship him, you are going down?

    That approach would not depict Jesus in a very favorable light, no? It would sort of portray him as a very petty entity. Also, where also does God the father fit into this paradigm. While Jesus is busy insisting that people accept him as their savior (or else he is casting them into hell), what is God, the father doing? He is backing Jesus in this seemingly egocentric approach? Surely, he does not say ‘You accept my son as your savior or else I want no part of you either; never mind any good you might have done in the world.”

    Frankly, none of this whole paradigm sits very well with me which is how I became a secular humanist. It all seems so irrational to me and it has since I was a young child. I am fine with the rules. I am fine with service to others – the whole 9 yards. It is all good. However, this business of mandatory “worship at my feet or I else I will cast you into hell” simply does not cut it for me. I am more into humility than that. I am not trying to be provocative here. I am just trying to better understand how I have come to the conclusions I have. Probably, if I had been born into Judaism or one of the Eastern religions, it might have been a better fit for me.

    Mark, I do absolutely appreciate your efforts in sorting through all of this. I really like your analytical and knowledgeable approach

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  10. Okay, so the T in TULIP is Total Depravity. Not only did Adam and Eve joined the wrong team, but the universe became thoroughly corrupted by sin. It’s not that some choose good (the sheep) and some choose evil (the goats) by their own free will, but instead we, by nature, are so corrupt that God restrains evil from being as evil as it could be (this is called common grace and is somewhat disputed in Reformed circles).

    So, how do the sheep become sheep and the goats remain goats? It is not some inherent difference between the sheep and the goats (what you are talking about as the difference between sheep and goats is legalism – being saved by our good works). Instead, the picture is somewhat like this: we are all in prison. Outside is freedom and inside is the prison. We, by nature prefer to be in the prison. We’re told that all we have to do to leave the prison is get up, walk to the warden, ask him for the door key and walk out. For whatever reason, though, none of the prisoners want to do that. Maybe they blame the warden because he brought us there in the first place. But, one day, a man comes in and starts talking to me. He talks about the amazing food outside the prison, he talks about festivals and parties and joy. In fact, the warden offers amazing things for those who just ask for the key and walk out. At some point the blinders come off and even though I think it’s too good to be true, I ask the warden and walk out of the jail.

    The thing that you’re missing (and I completely missed growing up) is love. God created us to shower us with his love. He wants us to recognize that love and reflect that back to him in worship, but also to each other. That was what we were created to be. When the world fell into sin, God’s desire didn’t change, but we did. God loves us and showers his blessings on us, and we use those blessings to slap him in the face. We use our God-given creativity to create crucifixes in a cup of urine. We use our God-given logic to reason him away. Yet for all that, the Bible says, God sends rain on the just (sheep) and the unjust (goats). God could give the sheep all the material blessings and give the goats the dregs, but it seems more that the goats get blessed and the sheep get the dregs.

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  11. Mark,

    You wrote the following: “we, by nature, are so corrupt that God restrains evil from being as evil as it could be (this is called common grace and is somewhat disputed in Reformed circles).” Mark, how can you possibly say such a thing? We are absolutely NOT all corrupt. No one is perfect, for sure, and there are a whole lot of “bad” people out there but absolutely we are not all corrupt. Most people are basically good, some more good and some less good. Evil people exist, for sure, but they tend to be the exception. How can you possibly believe such a statement. Worse, if you believe that God is the entity who created us and then you say we are all corrupt and evil, well then whose fault would that be. I am absolutely floored that you would make such a statement. Maybe you did not say such but are simply expressing what some of the faithful believe.

    Mark, if I am in prison, I must say it is a pretty nice prison overall. All around me I see beauty and I so much enjoy life and living. I am ever amazed at the wonderful things about me and all the blessings I have. Life has its challenges, for sure, but, on the whole it is a very beautiful experience. I love it and I try to pay back my blessings by helping others. What is this nonsense about prison. If I am in prison, I must say, it is a damn beautiful prison wherein I am confined.

    You mentioned the notion that I am missing love. There is love everywhere. I see it and feel it all the time. Life is what you make of it and if you spread and sow love, you will reap it. There is lots of love growing in my garden – there are also lots of challenges but we work to deal with them and overcome the challenges. The more we give to others, the more we get back, in return.

    What is is this nonsense about God creating us so we will love him back. That is like saying you want to have children so they will love you. Any parent knows that such is a formula for disaster. You have children so you can serve others and spread you good fortune to other beings. You give and sacrifice for them without expecting anything in return. It does come back to you, however, but you don’t go in to the whole thing with that expectation. That is what these 14 year old girls do who say they want to have a baby so that they will have someone to love them. It is nonsense and misguided priorities. You have a baby to give love not get it. If you get any back, so much the better. The crucifix in a cup of urine is disgusting – period. We also use our creativity for very wonderful creations and they abound all around me. I see absolutely wonderful things which have been created – and to be fair, some not so wonderful things as well. I see more good than bad.

    God did NOT give the sheep the dregs and the goats the blessings. He spread blessings all around the world and they are there for the taking by whoever wants them. Goats take some, sheep take some and some are so blind that they do not even see the blessings so they take nothing. They sit at a plentiful buffet and starve because they cannot see the food!

    Here is the key. Drop all expectations. Give with no expectation of getting anything back. Give simply as a repayment for all the blessings given unto you. Don’t worry about what your neighbor is getting and don’t compare. Look at all the wonders about you and do whatever it is that you can to add to those wonders. For every piss-Christ (disgusting, indeed) there is a beautiful Monet. There are far more Monets then piss-Christs, any day. There will be those days when some idiot puts the piss-Christ in your bathroom and it falls over onto the floor creating a disgusting mess which you must clean up – broken glass and urine everywhere – evil, smelly and, worse, you cut you hand on the broken glass bleeding into the whole thing as you try to clean up the mess – a mess which you did not even create! – yuck. It IS going to happen. There absolutely ARE the piss-Christ artists of the world. For the most part, look at the Monets and seek them out. Sometimes they are a bit hidden but if you look in the right places, you WILL find them.

    PS – If God did not want me to be intelligent and logical, then he should not ought to have given me any brains.

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  12. LEB,

    Mark was describing what people spend years debating in seminary. There’s a lot of different ideas about what Calvinism theology is and how its supposed to work. No one really fully understands it even though people have made careers out of studying and trying to explain it.

    Mark,

    I love reading your responses even when we disagree because you have a lot of fascinating thoughts to share. You often sound like someone who’s had the heavy theological training that the rest of us wish we had.

    For those that are wondering—on this topic there’s two major schools of thought in the church—Calvinism and the rest of us. 🙂 I’ve never been able to accept Calvinism because I refuse to believe that Jesus only died for certain people. I can’t accept the idea that God picks who gets saved and who doesn’t. NOOO!!!! Jesus died for the whole world. Everyone gets to make their own choice of accepting or rejecting Christ.

    Here’s my perspective:

    Imagine that someone goes to their mailbox one day and finds a mysterious letter. They open the letter to find out that some relative they’ve never met has left them a massive inheritance. They just need to go to the bank to claim it. What if that person tears up the letter? What if they refuse to believe that inheritance exists? Then they will miss out on the free gift that was offered. No one is going to force them to accept the free gift.

    As Christians we believe that Jesus purchased the inheritance of Heaven for us. That place where there’s no suffering, no pain, nothing but love and joy forever. But God won’t force us to go to Heaven. If we reject Christ—who is love itself—then we are rejecting love itself. Once we reject love, what’s the other option? The opposite of love. Yes there’s plenty of love in this world because we are made in God’s image. We were made to love like God loves. God—who is love—is with us in this world. That’s the love we feel. But what happens when we pass from this world to the next?

    Think about taking your grandchildren to the park. Three year olds can’t drive the car themselves. But they can get in the car with their grandparents who can drive them to the park. What if they don’t want to go? If they refuse to get into the car then they can’t get to the park by themselves.

    Mark was making the point earlier that nobody is perfect. Everyone is flawed. So no matter how good we are—we’ll never be good enough to get into Heaven. Thus we need the atonement of Christ to stand between us and the perfection required to obtain Heaven.

    But what if we reject the atonement of Christ? Then we are back to trying to be good enough on our own to get into Heaven. We are trying to stand in the courtroom by ourselves without any defense attorney. God respects our free will to the point of allowing us to turn our backs on Him. God never sends anyone to hell. God never wants anyone to go to hell. It’s just that God allows us the option of rejecting Him. He won’t make that choice for us. That’s our choice.

    Part of us wants to do whatever we want without experiencing any consequences. We want to make all the rules. Yet even if we choose to make our own rules, we still see natural laws operating in the world around us. The laws of nature affect our lives whether we want them to or not. For every action there’s a reaction. The law of gravity works even if we refuse to believe it. The law of gravity works even if we get offended by it. We get to make the choice of whether to use gravity to benefit ourselves or to hurt ourselves. Either way the law of gravity still works. We can’t just wake up one morning and decide to outlaw gravity.

    That’s how we see the atonement of Christ. We can reject it but then we’re back to trying to get into Heaven with our own merits. Nobody’s perfect enough to do that.

    Most people who don’t believe in God still believe in their intuition. They believe in their gut feeling. Many people have had experiences where their gut feeling saved them from danger or helped them find the right direction. As Christians we believe that intuition is actually the Holy Spirit inside of us, helping us. Think about that intuition. Can you measure it? Can you prove it scientifically? Nope. But we still believe in it.

    While we’re on this subject, I’d like to respond to the comment earlier about the idea that people are “miserable wretches.” We have an uphill battle in the church dealing with that crazy notion.

    In the Bible, God never talked to people that way. God always brought out the good in people. He spoke to them in love and kindness, helping them realize their full potential. When God sends a message to Gideon, God refers to him as a “mighty man of courage” even when Gideon is hiding out in the winepress. The rest of the story is about God having to help Gideon work up his courage to experience his full potential. Yet God NEVER calls people “miserable wretches.” God always speaks to people in a way that pulls them up.

    I wish there was more time to post more examples of this. I wish I had more time to continue this discussion but its time for me to turn off the computer. Good night, everyone! ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

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  13. Avid Reader,

    Another of your great and detailed commentary. But even you are not addressing my fundamental concern. Why must Jesus die for my sins? Why am I not responsible for what I do. How can his death possible “cancel out” my ill-doings. i have done the things, I am responsible and I need to make amends for them.

    The fact that he died does not make what evils people have done and are still doing any less wrong and it does not absolve them of responsibility. Using your logic, I can do all manner of evil things and then go to Jesus proclaim my sorrow, state that he is my salvation and now everything is peachy keen. Worse i can do evil my whole life and then at the last 10 minutes “repent” and now I am saved. Hitler can repent the last second in his bunker and all is well. If he, at the last moment, accepts Christ as his savior and now he goes to heaven. Meanwhile, someone like me is going to hell. I try to do the right thing. I do not believe I have brought about a whole lot of evil (I hope not anyway) I am not perfect, for sure, but I strive to be a good person. At least I work at it. Never mind if I spend a lifetime trying to help people. If I do not accept Jesus as my personal savior so I am going to hell. I shall burn for all eternity. Meanwhile Hitler, who repented the last minute, basks in the glory of God in a heavenly paradise for all eternity – after murdering 6 million Jews.

    Somehow, I don’t think so. This whole concept sounds so absurd to me. If what you were saying were really true and Hitler gets saved and sent to “eternal paradise” while I would go to hell – well, frankly, I would not want to even be with that kind of God. That is certainly no place for me; nowhere I would want to be. So, it does not really matter what you do your whole life. It only matters that you accept Jesus as your savior and if you have done anything bad – you repent. Repenting the last second is also fine – never mind 6 million Jews got slaughtered. All is well now because you repented, You accepted Jesus as your savior and now you are going to heaven. Can you not see any irrationality to this line of thinking?

    Mark is talking about predestination. Calvinism speaks to predestination. What Mark is saying is that God “already knows” who is going to be saved and who is going to be eternally damned. God knows but you don’t. So if you are on the damned list, you are going to hell no matter what you do in this life. How many good deeds you do are irrelevant. BUT since you don’t know (and he does), you are supposed to do good deeds anyway. If you happen to fall on the s–t list, you are damned anyway and God knew this all along (because God is all knowing, of course). If you are on the saved list, you must do these good works because that is what is expected of you. Such is what predestination is all about: God knows (you don’t) and the whole thing has already been decided. The entire movie is already written only you have not seen it yet. That is predestination in a nutshell.

    Not withstanding the absurdity of this sort of logic, if it really were true, who the heck would even want to participate in such a system? Not me, that is for sure. Frankly, Avid Reader, Calvinism makes more sense than your version – not that either makes much sense. Under Calvinism, Hitler is damned anyway no matter what he does unless, of course, he just so happens to fall on the “saved list.” You might GUESS which list he is on but it is not for you to know. Only God knows so your guess could well be wrong. Moreover, under this system, you are not suppose to be second-guessing God, anyway. Under Calvinism, it is not your place to say that Hitler is on the damned list and Mother Theresa is on the saved list. You might be just be wrong and it is not for you to question God. You are to mind your own business, do what is expected of you and keep your “guesses” to yourself. “Judge not lest ye be judged”

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  14. LEB, I explained earlier that there is a difference between “societal” evil and “spiritual” evil.

    When people say that we’re born neutral or good, they’re talking from a societal perspective. Babies don’t murder, they don’t commit adultery, they don’t have the capability of premeditating evil from a societal perspective. Yet, spiritually, they are naturally in rebellion against God because of original sin. (As an aside, I think this misunderstanding is why Pearls, Ezzos and many Evangelicals get discipline wrong, because they are essentially trying to discipline “spiritually”).

    I think Ted Turner is a great example. From a societal perspective, it’s my understanding that he gives a lot and is a really kind person. On the other hand, he openly talks about how he hates God.

    When we judge from a human perspective, we often judge incorrectly. We also don’t know what’s in the heart. When I was growing up, I was ruled by fear. I wanted to steal and cheat, but I was afraid of what would happen if I got caught. So, societally, I was a perfect little goody-two-shoes, but spiritually, I was full of all sorts of evil. The church I grew up in didn’t teach me grace, but instead taught “okay” ways to channel that evil nature. It wasn’t okay to steal, but it was okay to not steal and then talk about how God equipped us special people not to steal. It was okay to become a Pharisee and trap those around me in a hopeless race to perfect themselves without changing the heart.

    LEB, “So if you are on the damned list, you are going to hell no matter what you do in this life.”

    This is not true. Predestination goes hand-in-hand with free will. God doesn’t make me sin against my free will. When I was little, I did steal. God didn’t stick the pack of gum in my hand, and he didn’t send the Holy Spirit to robotically force my hand to grab the gum, but there was an opportunity and the evil that was already in my heart had the opportunity to come out.

    I mentioned this before. The Pharisees claimed that they wouldn’t have killed the prophets. Jesus’s response is essentially, “you didn’t have that opportunity, but I’m going to send you prophets and you’re going to kill them.” It was the evil in their hearts that was given an opportunity to come out.

    If I say that Hitler couldn’t have been saved in his final days, then what hope would there have been for me? If I’m saved because of something I do, then isn’t that salvation by works? Am I not then claiming to be something better, and rightfully so? But, on the other hand, what if the evil that was in me by nature, when provided the opportunity could have grown into the very thing that disgusts me about Hitler?

    Avid Reader, I think there are a lot of “both/and” circumstances, and it’s very, very difficult to separate them. I find difficulties with Calvinism just as I find difficulties with Arminianism. On the one hand, before Esau is born, God has already rejected him, and God creates objects for glory and objects for destruction. On the other hand, God does not desire that any should perish.

    There are some pretty profound questions, though. For example, why do we pray for someone’s salvation. Against Calvinism, God has already chosen whether that person will be saved or not, so it’s somewhat pointless to ask God anything because everything is already planned. Against Arminianism, God has already done all he can to bring that person to salvation, so asking God to do more is pointless. If that person is not going to ultimately choose God, it’s kind of like rubbing salt in God’s wounds.

    I think in the same way, there is a societal/spiritual dichotomy where, societally, we are called to behave in an Arminian way, yet spiritually, we understand that God is in control and making sovereign choices. A wise Catholic friend said, “Act as though everything depends on you, pray as though everything depends on God”.

    Also, I didn’t go to seminary. I grew up in a church that was fascinated with the nuances of Calvinism and preached those nuances from the pulpit. I also read a decent amount of theology and read it online.

    LEB, “You might GUESS which list he is on but it is not for you to know.”

    Correct. For those who take it overboard, this brings despair, but for others, it brings hope. I can hope that my grandfather and grandmother who visibly rejected God their entire lives finally saw the gift of God as something they wanted. I can hope that for all the evil Hitler did that he was brought to his knees and received forgiveness rather than the just punishment for his sins.

    On the other hand, it’s also possible that someone like Mother Teresa who did all sorts of societal good ostensibly for God’s glory was really feeding her own ego. She could have been a modern-day Pharisee. We don’t know what’s in the hearts of others. Tullian Tchvidjian preached and wrote about love and grace and holiness, yet the actions that came out of his heart were manipulation, abuse, egotism and adultery.

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  15. LEB, I think the movie “Click” is a good analogy for predestination/free will. At the beginning of the movie, Adam Sandler finds a remote control that essentially controls his own experience. He uses that to mute people he doesn’t want to hear and fast-forward through things he doesn’t want to experience. At some point, the remote just automatically fast-forwards through years and years of his life, since all he cares about is getting ahead. He gets the things he wants, but those around him suffer.

    Near the end of the movie, Chistopher Walken (who gave him the remote in the first place), shows up to present him the movie of his life while he is on his death bed. Walken shows him that the movie is written and directed by Sandler (free will), even though through much of his life he was on auto-pilot while he was fast-forwarding to the next promotion (predestination).

    Also interesting in this case is the “Hitler” conundrum. Sandler has a death-bed conversion, but our Hollywood-inspired reaction to his conversion is to say, isn’t that wonderful that he realized his fault? Whereas, our reaction to a death-bed conversion for Hitler should be shaking our fist angrily at God?

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  16. Avid Reader, I think it is our nature to ignore verses that don’t sit well with our views. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say miserable wretches, but how do you deal with these verses?

    Rom 3:9-18 “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,
    “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands,
    There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, With their tongues they keep deceiving, The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood, Destruction and misery are in their paths, And the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    Isaiah 64: “Behold, You were angry, for we sinned, We continued in them a long time;
    And shall we be saved? For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
    And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf,
    And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.”

    Genesis 6: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

    But, yes, there are also verses I struggle with:

    “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3.

    “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” Hebrews 6.

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  17. LEB,

    Well, the way you described Calvinism—great description of exactly why many of us can’t believe in it! 🙂

    Now of course we are responsible for our own behavior. Why wouldn’t we believe that? That’s the Biblical principle of sowing and reaping.

    “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows that will he also reap.”
    Galatians 6:7

    You asked about this:

    “I can do all manner of evil things and then go to Jesus proclaim my sorrow, state that he is my salvation and now everything is peachy keen.”

    There’s been a misconception that getting to Heaven simply requires praying the sinner’s prayer. Yet accepting the atonement of Christ also requires repentance. The whole idea of repentance is take responsibility for our actions.

    On another thread I shared the true story of William Brisbane (1806-1878). This is a case study in what real repentance means. I’m not going to bore everyone by repeating all the details but basically Brisbane was raised in an affluent family in antebellum America. He was taught entitlement mentality that it was perfectly ok to own a plantation and live off the work of others. So he has this luxurious life in South Carolina where he never has to work. Everything is taken care of for him.

    Long story short—one day he goes to his mailbox to find out that someone had anonymously mailed him an abolitionist book. Of course he gets offended. But curiosity makes him read it. That book showed from the Bible how much God hated the whole system of slavery. So Brisbane realizes that he’s doing evil. He’s literally a thief—stealing the very lives of others. Realizing that he can’t be both a Christian and a slaveowner, he has to make a choice. So he repented. It wasn’t just asking for forgiveness. It was making major changes. It meant being ostracized by his whole community. It meant getting death threats from his neighbors. It meant selling his material possessions and using the money to move everyone on his plantation to the free state of Ohio where he could hire and attorney and pay for the legal process of freeing them.

    That’s real repentance.

    “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.”
    Matthew 3:8(NLT)

    So to respond to your question about Hitler. One of the first things they teach in logical reasoning classes is to avoid the Hitler analogy. That’s a very sensitive issue for many people. So I’ll just briefly respond to that and then move on. Hitler chose a very evil path. He hardened himself for years, growing cold inside. The Bible talks about how when someone has consistently chosen the path of evil, they can harden themselves to the point where repentance is impossible. There comes a point where time runs out and evil people can’t just suddenly change overnight. Hitler never repented. We know that because he never turned away from the horrific evil that he inflicted. Right now he’s reaping what he sowed—experiencing the full judgment and wrath of God.

    “Whoever still won’t obey after being warned many times will suddenly be destroyed. Nothing can save them.”
    Proverbs 29:9 (NIRV)

    While we’re on the subject, according to the Bible, God actually shortens the lives of evil people.
    “But what about those people who are cruel and brutal? You will throw them down into the deepest pit long before their time.”
    Psalms 55:23 (CEV)

    Now moving onto some other points that you raised. Think about this—imagine dating someone that you really care deeply about. You’re always going out of your way to do things for them. But they keep saying, “you don’t love me.” You keep telling them that you do love them. You keep showering them with gifts, spending time with them, etc. Then they say “I won’t believe that you love me unless you give me everything that I want.” How would that make you feel?

    How much more does God have to do to prove His love for us? What are we waiting for to happen to believe in that love? Part of us doesn’t want to believe in God unless He becomes a vending machine that gives us whatever we want. But God actually has feelings too. We know what we like and dislike. We know what we want and don’t want. So does God. He has things that he likes and dislikes, wants and doesn’t want.

    God has set the laws of nature in motion. Gravity still works whether we believe in it or not. Gravity works even if we get offended by it. Gravity works even if we try to outlaw it. That’s how we see God’s spiritual laws. We can hate the law of sowing and reaping but it still works whether we believe it or not.

    Well, this intense discussion has been fun. I wish there was more time for us to continue but the real world is pulling me away from the keyboard again. So I’m going to draw my part of this discussion to a close and fade back into the shadows.

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  18. To make the dating analogy more accurate, the person you’re dating says, “you don’t love me if you don’t let me sleep around without getting angry with me!”

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  19. Mark,

    Thanks for sharing those verses. Lots of food for thought there. Again, I love reading your comments because you always have so much meat in them to absorb. Thanks for helping me understand more about that type of theology. Interesting points there.

    What I was referring to earlier was how to recognize when God is speaking to us. There’s a huge difference between the way that God speaks and the way that the accuser, the devil, talks.

    Again I wish I had more time to post examples of how God speaks. If you look at the way that Jesus spoke to the churches in Revelations, He dealt with issues that needed to be addressed, but He didn’t criticize or accuse them. The devil speaks to us with cutting remarks and accusations, trying to cut us down. God speaks to us in ways that lift us up, helping us recognize our full potential. That’s all I was trying to say. All right, time for me to fade back into the shadows.

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  20. Avid Reader, The Hitler analogy is double-edged. The Bible says that John the Baptist was regenerate in the womb. John kicked when he heard Mary’s greeting in the womb, and perhaps that was evidence of salvation, but salvation is a spiritual matter, not necessarily a societal matter. If Elizabeth had an abortion, John would still have gone to Heaven even without visible evidence of that regeneration.

    In the same way, someone in a vegetative state still has a spirit, and the Holy Spirit can still bring that spirit to repentance and regeneration without that person having to be baptized, write a book against slavery or whatever. That is what Martin Luther rejected about the Catholic Church. They taught faith + works. Yes, in ordinary circumstances, we see faith by the works evidenced – a profession of faith, baptism, a life showing sanctification, but God also works through extraordinary circumstances, like John the Baptist and the thief on the cross.

    I think this is the point of the parable of the vineyard. Some workers start working in the morning, some at noon, some in the evening. The evening workers still get paid a day’s wages. The natural inclination of the workers who worked more is to say that they should get more, but the owner still pays them a day’s wage.

    I think C.S. Lewis tries to explain this a few times in the Narnia stories. No one is told the contents of Aslan’s conversation with Edmund, or the heroine in “The Horse and His Boy”, or Eugene(?) in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”. The idea is that each person’s private forgiveness between them and God is a private matter, even though we see that they seek “societal” forgiveness.

    But, I agree, there is a point where Paul shuts off the discussion, and I think that while it’s okay to search and wonder beyond that point, it’s not okay to come to conclusions and then declare that those who come to different conclusions are heretical (as the Calvinists and Arminians have done).

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  21. “Well, this intense discussion has been fun. I wish there was more time for us to continue but the real world is pulling me away from the keyboard again. So I’m going to draw my part of this discussion to a close and fade back into the shadows.”

    True words of wisdom. I should do the same. This certainly has huge rabbit-trail potential!

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  22. Mark, As usual, your expertise in theology is bringing much to this discussion. We are all learning – for sure I am. I would like to take a closer look at some of the points you raise. You made the distinction between societal even and spiritual evil. When there is too much of a difference between the two, people start to reject spiritual theology in favor of “common sense” or at least as it is defined by the society wherein they grew up. When “God” starts to tell us things which contradict our reasoning ability, we tend to say “That is absurd; I am not buying that product.” Of course, it is not God directly telling us anything. It is the spiritual leaders of the day who are transcribing the theology for the common folks. They are the ones directing the Sunday school content, the sermons and however else it is that persons gain knowledge of religious dogma. When they start promulgating concepts which require people to check their brains in at the door, then there is widespread rejection of what is being promoted.

    Now I want to make one point very clear and it is the one which concerns the putative “evilness” within your heart concerning stealing. You were not “evil” as a child when you stole. You did not know any better and it was up to the people raising you to teach you right from wrong. I stole a key blank once from a store display not because I was “evil” but because I did not know any better. On a previous occasion a salesman in a department store gave me a key blank as a freeby so I thought it was then OK to take one. My mother corrected my behavior. Made me return the stolen key blank and explained to me why we don’t steal.

    I don’t recall whether it was you or another man who had the abusive father growing up. This man had a father who beat and humiliated him in front of friends and then we come to learn that the father was not even stupid – this father had a PhD in science, no less. Apparently the beatings were very, very frequent and then for trivial reasons. Was that you or a different man on this forum? Anyway, it is no wonder that this father’s children would not know a whole lot about right and wrong because said children were trying to survive constant episodes of getting beat up. How could they learn anything but fear. Similarly, the father was too busy brutalizing the child to teach the child much of anything. If you were that person – and I can’t recall if you were – it was not so much a matter of you being evil as much as it is a matter of you being the victim of an evil father. If that man was your father, I can understand why you would defend him – it is only natural to love and defend our parents – BUT that was an evil and sadistic man. Perhaps his own father was the same way and perpetuated this evil from one generation to the next. If someone is constantly ducking the wrath of an abusive parent, it certainly does not leave much time for anything else. Anyone who is abused by anyone – parent or otherwise – loses much opportunity for growth because of how much time and energy it takes to deal with the abuse being heaped upon them. I don’t know how these idiot parents think the children can even concentrate on their school work if the child is constantly in pain from beatings delivered earlier in the day or week. How does one study calculus or perfect is writing skills when his bottom is so sore from being beaten up that it hurts to even sit in a chair.

    Using your analogy about Hitler coming to salvation due to last minute repentance, it is not a matter of persons angrily railing against God for having forgiven Hitler and now making it “all better.” He had but to repent and accept Jesus and the slate of murdering 6 million Jews was wiped clean. No rather, people are not “angry” as you suggest. Rather, the realize the ludicrousness of the system and reject it as nonsense. They don’t say “I am angry at God for ‘saving’ Hitler.” Rather, they say, “this whole ideology is bulls–t” and then they reject it lock, stock and barrel. They look for something else. For some, like me, it might be secular humanism. For others, perhaps an eastern religion and for yet others, no religion, at all. When the pastor preaches nonsense and irrational content, you don’t become angry with him. Rather, you look for someone else who teaches something which makes more sense. The unfortunate persons are the ones who stuck around and continued to get abused by this “spirituality.” I now understand more about why they did stick around then I did previously. They are the true victims. They bought this nonsense. They believed it and trusted the leaders and then they got burnt.

    For that reason it appears to you that the “goats” (like me) are reaping all of the blessings. The blessings were around for anyone to reap – goats or sheep. Some of the sheep, however, were too busy defending themselves from abuse to be able to get any of the blessings. When one is writhing in pain and suffering the after affects of these abusive persons, he or she is not much in a position to plant a flower garden and enjoy the beauty. Neither is the person in much of a position to help others. They are too busy simply trying to survive. The “goats” saw the handwriting on the wall early enough to escape or else they were fortunate i.e. the lucked out and never experienced any of this stuff. They were in a better position to appreciate and benefit from the blessings which do abound and which are available to goats and sheep alike.

    Mother Theresa, BTW, was a very bitter person. She did all of this sacrificing and suffering for God who, then, never came down from heaven to pat her on the head. She wanted God to “love her” for all she did “for him.” and personally appear to her. She wanted this “personal relationship with Jesus” which some of you here have only, for whatever reason, it did not happen for her. She was very bitter and whined and complained constantly to her superiors about her plight. She did good with expectations of reward. Wrong motivation. Accordingly to my system, you are suppose to do good with no expectations of anything in return.

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  23. Avid Reader,

    You posted the following: “So to respond to your question about Hitler. One of the first things they teach in logical reasoning classes is to avoid the Hitler analogy. That’s a very sensitive issue for many people. So I’ll just briefly respond to that and then move on. Hitler chose a very evil path. He hardened himself for years, growing cold inside. The Bible talks about how when someone has consistently chosen the path of evil, they can harden themselves to the point where repentance is impossible. There comes a point where time runs out and evil people can’t just suddenly change overnight. Hitler never repented. We know that because he never turned away from the horrific evil that he inflicted. Right now he’s reaping what he sowed—experiencing the full judgment and wrath of God.”

    You don’t know any of that. You but speculate. According to your belief system Hitler could have repented the last minute and, if he did, according to your belief system, all is now OK. Sure if he repented earlier then he would have had to make amends to back it up. But, under your belief system, one can repent at any time – even the last minute – and it is all good. In fact, under your system, the later he does repent, the better it is for him because there is less time left for him to make any amends. It is irrational and accordingly, many people reject it. Of course, one of the first things they teach you is to avoid the Hitler analogy. They teach you that because they do not have any good answer for the problems it raises. It is a stick your head in the sand approach. You have absolutely no proof of what went on in his mind during his last moments on earth. At best, you are speculating.

    Now here is another little problem with the Hitler thing. Suppose your speculation is correct and he did not repent. OK so he died evil and now he is experiencing the wrath of God. Well, a lot of good that is doing the 6 million Jews he killed. Would not you have thought that instead of allowing Hitler to murder all of these persons and then later on reign wrath upon him, God might have done something to help all the innocent victims – 6 million of them, to be exact. It was not their “free will” to suffer and die and be tortured. It was forced on them. I absolutely believe you were told to avoid the Hitler dilemma because your teachers have no good answer for it. Better you not even bring it up.

    For goats like me, it simply does not all add up and that is why we reject it. We are not telling the sheep to change what they believe. The goats are in no position to dictate what the sheep do or do not believe. The goats also have absolutely no right, either, to rain on your parades. If you all like all the lights, icons, music and public display of creches which goes with Christmas, we goats have absolutely no right to interfere in these activities. Frankly, the lights are very pretty and the music is very nice even to a goat’s eye and ear. We are simply saying why we see this theology as such bulls__t. .

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  24. LEB, “You did not know any better and it was up to the people raising you to teach you right from wrong.”

    I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway. I can get in your situation that you simply misunderstood, and that is not considered theft. Maybe I’m the only person who knowingly did “bad” things, but I doubt it. I believe that people have the capacity to numb themselves to evil and even justify it as a good thing. It’s not just the church that has done that.

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  25. Mark, I can’t know what was in your heart. I am not even sure if you were the person with the abusive father because I can’t find a search function on this site. If you were that person, it is not hard to imagine that you would, in fact, do such things. Instead of teaching you and fostering positive outcomes for you, it sounds like this father beat you up constantly and humiliated you almost everyday. That being the case, no wonder you had problems such as stealing. Who wouldn’t. With parents like that, who needs enemies.

    How can these Christian sorts expect their children to succeed in life when they are constantly inflicting pain upon them. They often brag on online forums how their children will have a sore bottom for days and thus how much they are “learning.” Meanwhile, how can these children possibly do what they are suppose to do with their schoolwork when they are so sore with pain they can’t even sit down. I am really glad I was brought up with goats and not sheep. If you were given to “evil” thoughts and if you were the same man who described abuse at the hands of your father, (perhaps that was a different man) then there is a correlation between the two events. It is not a coincidence – it is direct cause and effect. Once again, I am going to remind you that blessings are scattered liberally everywhere – just waiting to be found and discovered. If the goats are enjoying them it is because they are not hampered like the sheep are just trying to survive. Goats do not have all the baggage to carry about so they are more free to enjoy the blessings which abound.

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  26. Sorry, I find your argument inconsistent. You claim that God saving people independently of personal merit is stupid. Then you blame Christians for expecting some reward for being good.

    God has already saved me. Now I try to do what is right to please Him and help those made in His image. Earning Heaven is unnecessary.

    If I’m a billionaire’s child I will be glad to help Dad in the family business even though I already have plenty of money. The salary is not the issue.

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  27. Rachel, Let us be very clear about something. I did never call Christians “stupid.” I did say there is an element of irrationality about the basic dogma but I did not ever impugn the IQ of anyone who elects to follow it. If you expect no reward for “being good” then you and I are of like mind. I try to serve others, as apparently you do, and I also expect no reward for it. Where is the argument, then? We agree on this point. The only difference is that you are “saved” and I am not. To use Mark’s vernacular, you are a sheep and I am a goat – otherwise it sounds like we are of similar mindsets. You will not hear me call anyone “stupid” for his or her faith.

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  28. I think there is a spectrum, and, while I would consider what I experienced abuse, abuse doesn’t mean I got hit every day or that I had a sore bottom for weeks. Children who are in the environments you seem to be envisioning, are the ones that get identified pretty quickly by the schools (if they’re not homeschooled) and doctors.

    For the most part, I was disciplined for things I should have been disciplined for, but, yes, there were philosophical/theological things my parents bought into where I was disciplined too harshly for minor infractions, or disciplined for things that I didn’t do and that they had no evidence that I did just because someone had to pay the price.

    My anger in that case, which you? (same search conundrum) tried over and over to point at my father was that there was a specific doctrinal system within Evangelical Christianity, called authoritarianism, which became a philosophical and theological underpinning for those who either readily wanted to beat their children, or those who got duped one way or the other into thinking it was God’s Way Of Parenting(TM). I will say my parents were smack in the middle. They were duped in some ways, and in some ways it was just a continuation of what they experienced and believed.

    “It is not a coincidence – it is direct cause and effect.” Hmmm. I’ll agree that there is a natural tendency, but didn’t you just proclaim that each man should be punished for his own sin, and here you are trying to make a case that my stealing is somehow my dad’s sin.

    I think I can say that perhaps in a just society, the contributory factors would be weighed in my favor, but still, stealing is stealing. I’m not entitled to a pack of gum because my dad hits me. Neither did my dad’s spank propel my hand into the gum case and through the front door. He wasn’t even there.

    “Once again, I am going to remind you that blessings are scattered liberally everywhere – just waiting to be found and discovered.”

    I’ll concede this rabbit trail. I don’t think it adds to the discussion.

    I’m concerned that you’re merely trying to poke holes in Christianity at our expense. My understanding of Secular Humanism is that there is no belief in “justice” more than the sense of being kind because it’s the right thing to do. I think Dawkins started at ‘fighting our genetics’ and then arrived at the idea that somehow the genes themselves promote altruism because somehow altruistic people are more likely to procreate (hope this is his argument rather than a straw man of those wanting to poke holes). But, ultimately someone like Dawkins would say that there is no point in punishment or reward because we ultimately do what our genes and our environment are programmed to do (determinism is not a necessary consequence of Secular Humanism, but they seem to go hand-in-hand). It seems to me that justice for the Secular Humanist always gets wrapped around the axle because no one is so confident in his ideas of moral law that he feels right in inflicting that on another, or at least in theory. If Christian justice is sorely lacking, what is your alternative? How is social justice maintained, and how are those who “harm” others brought to justice? What hope would you bring to parents whose daughter was raped and murdered?

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  29. Rachel, I absolutely said that particular elements of classic Christian dogma were irrational. I never used the word stupid. Stupid and irrational are entirely different concepts. Fact is, Rachel, the vast majority of my comments are not intended to apply to persons such as yourself or Avid Reader or anyone else who is perfectly happy and fulfilled in practicing Christianity. Why would I, or anyone else, want to interfere with such or change your mind. So long as you are not stepping on my toes or harming an innocent victim – like beating up a defenseless child in our society – what difference does it make to me what religion you practice. if you are happy with it, I am happy on your behalf. You and Avid Reader are obviously happy campers. Great!

    Mark, it seems, is somewhat less of a happy camper and much of the discussion pertains to commentaries and insights which he has shared. He is very much the theologian and obviously quite schooled in religious dogma. I am addressing issues of the dogma primarily with him and looking at the various basic components of the cosmology involved. It is more of a theoretical discussion. I am looking at the basic underlying theology and relating it to particular outcomes. Because he is so knowledgeable in the fundamental ideology of one or another religion, such a discussion with him becomes very interesting. You are reading this commentary only to conclude that I am indicting you for your faith. Not so. If you are happy with it, then I am happy for you. However, one does not often get the opportunity to discuss theology with someone of his caliber of knowledge.

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  30. LEB, “If you expect no reward for “being good” then you and I are of like mind. I try to serve others, as apparently you do, and I also expect no reward for it.”

    I think this is another social/spiritual dichotomy. Jesus says, “store up treasures in heaven”. Jesus certainly condemns doing good so that we get kudos from those around us, but while I am sad that Mother Teresa became bitter because she didn’t see the specific blessings she wanted from her works, I wonder if Jesus was saying the whole time, I want to give you so much more but what you specifically want isn’t good. I don’t know. Maybe she did experience Jesus in profound ways that she didn’t realize until she entered glory. I don’t know.

    But, I’ve seen Christians take that too far, too. Like doing a youth project at a senior’s house and the leaders refuse money for ice cream or even cans of pop or glasses of lemonade for people who worked out all day in the sun. For me, again, that sort of thing rang of holier-than-thou thinking. Somehow to graciously receive something was a reward that invalidated the whole idea of ‘service’. To this day I have trouble receiving, just as I have trouble saying no to anyone in need.

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  31. Mark, Great points but I would like to delve into a few in more detail. Let’s talk about this whole issue of gum stealing. No you did not steal gum because your father was abusive toward you. You may have done so because you did not have the proper guidance and parenting. While he was busy beating the daylights out of you, in the name of Jesus, he was not teaching you much or fostering your education in how to behave within our society. Did he spend time with you fostering your growth or did he simply beat you when you did infract some rule. Children need to be parented not just disciplined. Perhaps if he spent more time explaining WHY you should not steal, you may not have done so. Did he encourage you to participate in any wholesome activities to help you become a better person. My parents encouraged academic achievement, after school activities, girl scouts, summer camp, YMCA, hobbies, etc. These are all wholesome avenues to help a child grow into a responsible member of a society. You don’t just beat up on kids when they do something wrong and call it a day. What did he do to foster your growth?

    I am not “trying to poke holes in Christianity at our expense.” Why would I care what you believe or don’t believe. I am trying to have an interesting and theoretical debate with you because it is not often that I run across someone with your level of knowledge concerning religion with whom I can debate. It is the debate which is of interest to me but debate is only fun if the other person is knowledgeable and challenging. You are.

    Christian justice is not lacking because we live in a society of separation of church and state. Our justice does not depend on theology. We construct a set of laws in society which we all agree to live by. We have legislators to make laws and courts to interpret them. We have plenty of ways to bring about justice for the parents of the woman who is raped and murdered. We have very stiff penalties for this sort of wrong-doing.I think what you mean to say is what consolation can you offer them after the fact. True, religion comes in handy for those times. Such does not necessarily make it “true” but I will agree, it does offer some comfort to the afflicted. To coin your phrase, I will concede this rabbit trail..

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  32. Rachel, You said that you sense Jesus’ presence and that you talk to him every day – several times per day. Mother Theresa would have given her right arm for that. For whatever reason, he did not come to her or, if he did, she did not sense it. She desperately wanted what you have and she became bitter that she did not have it. She resented that he did not come to her and affirm her mission and she whined and whined about it to her superiors. She certainly did a whole lot of good but she wanted “credit” for it from God and Jesus and it did not come to her – at least not in a way she could appreciate. To make matters worse, some of the sisters working under her were like you. They DID feel Jesus’ presence in their life and they were very happy for it. They would tell her about their experiences with Jesus and how grateful they were for it and she would become all the more miserable because it was not happening to her.

    You are absolutely correct. Graciously accepting appropriate rewards is a blessing to those who want to bestow them on you. I would never take money directly from a patient who I had gone out of my way to help but often they would bring me little gifts. Perhaps a charming little porcelain dish or a handmade crocheted item or whatever. A little angel figurine. I have each and every one of these little treasures today and the patients who gave them to me are very near and dear in my heart. You hit the nail on the head with this one. There is nothing wrong with accepting small tokens of appreciation but it should not be money – that is sort of different. Lemonade and ice cream are fine.

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  33. Not a happy camper is probably a reasonable assessment. I’d say I spent much of my life like how you describe Mother Teresa. My church was authoritarian and legalistic, but very theologically sophisticated. The churches were mostly engineers, lawyers, doctors, professors and if not college-educated, voracious readers of the honor roll of Reformed scholars.

    Everything theologically, though, was transactional rather than relational. We were transactionally guilty, transactionally saved and transactionally sanctified. Love in parenting was following the correct transactional formula by which godly children were produced. We were told that God loved us, but it was like the Fiddler on the Roof where the Tevye asks, “Do you love me?” and Golde responds, “For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked your cow”.

    And, yes, I can debate you on transactional theology till the cows come home, but transactions are not the point. When I give my kid a birthday present, the money came from my employer, went into a bank account, and paid off the credit card bill for the credit card I used to buy the gift and the gift bag, and while all of that has to work for the gift to truly be a legitimate gift, the point of the gift is that I love my kid and I want good things for her. In the same way, I couldn’t see God’s love for me because I was too busy figuring out which bank accounts which sin, which righteousness, which whatever, came from to make it all legitimate. The point of God’s gift is that he wants amazing things for me and he wants a relationship. He wants me to get past trying to earn my way into Heaven because he’s already bought that for me.

    So, the process of becoming a happy camper is letting the transactional theological baggage become secondary to desiring a deeper relationship with this really amazing father, son and spirit. Some days are better than others. I’m not sure about Avid Reader’s and Rachel’s journey, but I was attracted to SSB because I’m not the only one on who’s been there, and I appreciate the encouragement from those who have been able to find that kind of relationship.

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  34. Mark, It sounds like the Church from Hell. Obviously, such was not a good fit for you. I very much hope you find the relationship with God which you desire. Others have found it so why not you. Keep trying.

    For me, well I am agnostic. I don’t know whether God does or does not exist. The God i believe in – to the extent that I do – does not want any relationship with me. The only thing this God “wants” from me is that I selflessly serve others and not worry about my own needs (within reason). This God wants service from me and little else. This God also wants a “pure heart” which is sort of hard to explain but not so hard to perform. I ask for absolutely nothing from this God and, for whatever reason, said entity seems to shower me with gifts and blessings and abundance. I don’t objectively deserve it all but somehow I get it, anyway. Damned if I can figure out why that is. Meanwhile, I strive to continue to serve in whatever ways I can find to do so. I seem to do OK on the “service part” but sometimes I need to work on the “purity of heart” part. I sometimes get a bit impatient with people and should not do so. I am working on it. I have made some progress.

    I am having a few issues now because since I have retired – to accommodate my husband’s desire for two residences – I have not been able to maintain full-time employment taking care of patients as I have done my whole working career. I am a nurse practitioner and I sort of specialize in the “St Jude’s people” – folks who are despairing and feeling there is no where to turn. Now I am feeling just a bit guilty because there is a whole lot more service in me and a whole of of Jude’s patients who need me but I am no longer out there for them. They still need me and here I am retired – not good. It is not about the money. I have plenty of that. It is not about being bored – my days are very, very busy and rarely can I get everything done. No it is just about the service. I am suppose to be “serving” but instead I am enjoying this wonderful lifestyle and gorgeous 40 acres i have been blessed with.

    My mother admonishes me that 43 years is enough service but I say no. I am suppose to serve still more. It was too soon for me to not be taking care of these people. They still need me and where am I? I did a lot of good for people in all of those years. I am still healthy and I still have lots of medical skills. I should be using these skills to help people. I don’t yet feel “entitled” to retire and enjoy life in the way I am doing now. One should work until they absolutely no longer can do so or else until they drop dead. Most of my colleagues are still out there taking care of patients. They are all still working hard but I am not. I am instead now enjoying life doing all of the things I never had time to do before. Can you say “feeling guilty.”

    God? Well, if God does exists and wants me to continue tending to the flock, medically, then he, she or it had better find some way for that to happen. I am teaching three courses online this fall so I guess that is a form of service but it is not like directly taking care of people who are in medical need. It is not the same level of commitment but I suppose it is better than nothing. . So there you have it – now you know about my dilemma and spiritual challenges.

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  35. LEB, “What did he do to foster your growth?”

    He took his family to church whenever the doors were opened. I will concede that we were taught more about what was right or wrong than why something was right or wrong. But, you were the one who brought up the abusive dad. Are you going somewhere constructive with this or is this just an exercise in making me relive some of my darkest memories?

    Let me make my point a different way. Have you… ever knowingly broken the speed limit? ever violated a software license agreement? ever ripped the tag off a mattress ;)? Ever carved your name into a school desk? Ever cheated on a test?

    My point was simply, I knew something was wrong and I did it anyway. I typically drive 5mph over the speed limit. I can get into all sorts of social contract theories about how the state violates its own law by setting an arbitrary speed limit that does not match statistical data, how no one is “harmed” by my speeding, and how I don’t call or text while I’m driving, but when the layers of self-righteous justification are removed, I know it’s wrong and I do it anyway. When I get pulled over, I pay my societal debt and life continues. From a spiritual sense, it’s not that easy, and I’m somewhat thankful that’s not the battle the Holy Spirit has chosen in my life.

    “Our justice does not depend on theology. We construct a set of laws in society which we all agree to live by.”

    Another rabbit trail… If justice is not absolute, then from what point of reference can anyone say that it is unjust for a police officer to shoot a black man in the back and not go to jail? From what perspective to we call spanking kids with plexiglas paddles so that they hurt, but don’t leave marks unjust? Are there unjust things that are not illegal, or just things that are?

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  36. Mark, I guess I don’t much like your father and I am railing out against him. He pisses me off immensely for what he did. He also represents a whole lot of Christians who act like him and also piss me off. He is sort of the poster child for religious people I don’t like. Now having said that, you are correct. There is nothing constructive for you in me huffing and puffing about how awful he is. Not all Christians are even like him but one hell of a lot of them who are do post on line and I have read their posts. You do make a valid point in that discussing him causes you pain so why should we do it. You don’t need to re-suffer the whole thing because I wish to speak out about how wrong he is/was OK, then, we drop the issue. I have nothing constructive and you say it hurts you so then it is done.

    Yup, I have done some of the bad things you mention. For some reason I don’t feel too guilty about them but sure I have done some of them. Worse, I even fed some wild animals in National Parks. I once fed a chipmonk a French fry and I know THAT was wrong. Even worse, I am unrepentant and would do it again. So yes, I have done some bad things. I DID leave the tag on my mattress, however. I am not THAT bad, mind you.

    Why is it that it is not that easy from a spiritual sense? What is the difference? To answer the questions posed in your last paragraph, we use our brains. We figure out what is right and wrong in any given circumstance based on the evidence and our ability to interpret the evidence so as to come to a just conclusion. I teach ethics as one of my online courses. As you might imagine, there are many different perspectives and philosophies as to what constitutes ethical behavior. We cover lots of them in class.

    I am a firm believer in the notion that we do have brains and we ought use them. If we don’t have enough information to make a proper decision or if we lack expertise to do so, then we need bring in more facts and/or get persons with adequate knowledge so as to assist us to come to just conclusions. Do you not feel that people are capable of analyzing facts and coming to just conclusions? One other thing – you say you want a deep relationship with God. So what, then, is stopping you from having one? People here tell me that God wants a loving relationship with us. You tell me you want a loving relationship with God – OK sounds like a match to me. What is the problem?

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  37. I wouldn’t say church from Hell. I think JA’s former church is much more like that. I was smart and I figured out how to play the game. That got me by until I switched to a more abusive church where the game changed.

    Can I ask, why would God shower you with gifts, but not desire a relationship? You’re really the kind of person I’ve been hoping for in that regard. A paper in my former church said that we can only be converted when we are brought to the end of our selves, and that just didn’t sit well. Jesus taught truth about sin, but his message was gracious. He showed such amazing kindness, and the only people he seemed consistently angry with were the Jewish religious leaders who were spiritually abusing the Jews.

    I have to believe that there are those who are brought into the “sheep” fold, not from suffering and fear, but from joy and love. Maybe like John the Baptist who jumped for joy at the voice of Jesus’s mother.

    My pastor teaches that God gives us gifts to bless the world. We enjoy them, too, but we experience more blessing ourselves when we bless others. That said, as our life circumstances change, the way we serve changes. When my kids were young, much of my blessing was directed towards them, and I simply didn’t have the time, energy or means to help others. So, what that service looks like has changed over the years, I don’t move heavy things up and down stairs anymore like I did in my 20’s.

    And, I think that’s a healthy and wise conversation to have with God. God, if you want me to do this thing, please clear the roadblocks. I’m in the midst of something like that. I’m terrified of failure, but I’m regularly being asked to be involved in very visible things that are also often chaotic. So, I have the ability, I have the time, but it’s very stressful. I don’t even know what to ask for. “God, put me in this position and then let me fail over and over so I won’t be afraid of failure????!!!!” “God, you can put me in this position as long as you never let me fail?” I’d definitely like to get over the stress, but facing it head on… not my idea of a good time.

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  38. “What is the problem?”

    Abuse in general and abuse in his name specifically. Even if I knew what to work through, there is a lot to work through.

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  39. LEB, “Do you not feel that people are capable of analyzing facts and coming to just conclusions?”

    Not really. I have a science background. Science is taught as this wonderful, consistent meritocracy. Of course, we all hear about Galileo, the scientist persecuted by evil religious zealots. We don’t hear so much about Ignaz Semmelweis. Semmelweis lived in a day where doctors performed autopsies and then went about their business. They delivered babies, then the mom and baby got diseases and died. Semmelweis put two and two together and came up with this notion that doctors should wash their hands with lime between the autopsies and the births. The death rate went down something like 90%. But, this didn’t jive with the disease theory of the day, so his scientific peers ridiculed him. He got transferred to another hospital, redid the experiment, and again, death rate went down significantly. Semmelweis was so ridiculed and panned by his scientific peers that he suffered a nervous breakdown and had to quit medicine.

    Lest you think we’ve graduated. There was a post-doc researcher whose name escapes me right now. He was doing experiments and discovered something completely unexpected. He took measurements and showed his boss. The boss fired him for falsifying data. The guy ended up working somewhere else, and eventually found that he had discovered a completely new phenomenon. He ended up with a Nobel Prize.

    Since the government started funding research through NSF, this has become worse, not better. NSF funds promising research, which, of course, is research that lines up with the conclusions that have already been determined. The government now owns the academies, too. Should we be more offended that Elena Kagan, as a White House lawyer, corrected the proposed language about Partial Birth Abortion from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology to make it fit the President’s view, that the ACOG adopted her correction as it’s official position, or that she later opposed the ban in front of the Supreme Court using the language she had written, claiming it was scientific opinion? I think ACOG is also the organization that redefined the definition of conception from “fertilization” to “implantation”, so that the pill* could be sold as a contraceptive. (* Note that despite Evangelicals’ opposition to hormone-based contraceptives, recent studies are now suggesting that they are only effective when they prevent ovulation. Their theorized effect in preventing implantation which Evangelicals oppose has been found statistically insignificant)

    Overall, I think this is why all the money circling our state and national capitals is so dangerous to our justice. It doesn’t take many officials swayed by money to deprive people of their legal rights. So, even if people could rationally come to an objective legal standard, money alone would make it not so.

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  40. Mark, if God exists, he she or it DOES want something back. That something is service to others. What you call God wants you to serve others and put their needs ahead of your own. If you do that and not worry about what God can give you or what is your “relationship” with God, you will get more back that you can ever imagine. Forget about YOU in this dynamic. Think only about what service can you perform which will improve the world and/or help someone else. That is what God “wants” from you. God wants a server and a worker. He she or it wants you to help tend the flock. The key is to have a few needs as possible – the less the better – and give as much as you have to offer. Don’t be a Mother Theresa looking for God to return your love. That is not going to happen. God does not want needy people. God does not want self-absorbed people. The more needs you have, the less useful you are. God wants workers and servants – there is much work to be done. Do the work and you will be provided for.

    One other thing, try to keep your heart as pure as possible. That is the hard part – doing the service and the work is the easy part. Keeping a pure heart is difficult. I struggle with it ever. So the bottom line is give as much service as you possibly can, keep your needs as simple and limited as possible and work on having a pure heart. If you can do these three things, you will be showered with more blessings than you can ever have hoped for. The less you want and the more you give, the more you get.

    Your ‘relationship” with God is not at all about you. It is about what can you do so as to tend to the flock. BTW, these same principles apply to marriages, as well. To sum it all up – give everything you possible can; have as few needs as is humanly possible i.e. ask for nothing, expect nothing for your efforts and then be very, very grateful when the packages i.e. the blessings arrive. They will come. Don’t worry about having a “relationship” with God. That is a selfish need. It is nonsense, in fact. This whole thing is not about you. There is much work to be done – very much work to be done. Any neediness you have just gets in the way. The flock needs much tending. Accordingly, just do the work and accept with a grateful heart what you get back. Trust me, it will be far more than you deserve.

    It is late – more tomorrow.

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  41. But, that’s just coming full circle back to a transactional, impersonal God. That is not Jesus. Jesus was a human who laughed, who cried, who chose twelve men to pour himself into in a very special and unique way. And, I agree, he wanted those twelve to serve and to work to bless others, but he also wanted a relationship.

    There’s an image many miss in Jesus’s death. The veil was torn between the holy place and the holy of holies in the Temple. The holy of holies was where the ark, which symbolized God’s presence, was kept, and the priest could only enter that place once per year, on the day of atonement, to appease God for the sins of the people. The veil represented what kept us from God’s presence – perhaps his holiness or our sin. It was what kept us from having a personal relationship, and kept everything transactional. But, that veil was torn. What kept us from experiencing God’s presence has now been removed.

    If God was happy with all of the transactional sacrifices of the old covenant, and the forced distance between him and us provided by the veil, why did he send his son to be a real person who had real relationships, and why did that son sacrifice himself to remove the barriers separating us from the father?

    The Bible doesn’t sneer at Moses because he talked with God face to face. In fact, that is one of the things that made Moses great. He had this amazing relationship with God.

    Another Biblical picture. Jesus is hanging out at Mary and Martha’s house. Martha is, like you propose, busy tending the flock – making sure everyone’s needs are taken care of. Mary, on the other hand, is sitting and conversing with Jesus with the disciples. Finally, Martha gets fed up with Mary and asks Jesus to make Mary serve and work like she’s supposed to. She says, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” Listen to Jesus’s response: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

    Then, what is the good part, relationship or service?

    Yes, we are called to serve, but more than that, we are called to have relationship. Perhaps Mother Teresa was a Martha. She thought that Jesus would shine down on her as she tended the flock, but she missed the good part. For all the good she did, she was trying to earn a relationship she already had, and like Martha, the works themselves kept her away from his presence.

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  42. No, Mark, you are missing it. The work I am asking you to do and the work Martha was doing is not the same thing. If you are an accountant, I am not asking you to do more tax returns and if you are a plumber, I am not asking you to take on more clients. That is not it at all. I am asking you to tend to the flock – meaning spiritual work. Now in my case it was easy because I was a nurse and, moreover, I was assigned to take care of drug addicts in an inner city hospital who were indigent and dying of HIV disease. My job was to treat them with dignity and respect as well as to take care of them so they died with the least suffering possible. Later, i became a nurse practitioner and my “assignment” was to tend to the folks who were despairing and no one else had time for. Now I had gotten even more skills so I could help and serve the people in more ways than ever before. I had even more ability to serve. The hours were very long, the work very hard and much of it unpaid because we only get paid for 8 hours yet the jobs took much more than that to complete – typically 10 hours or more so effectively we “volunteered” for 2-3 hours per day only it was forced volunteering. We didn’t get paid for it and we had no choice in the matter. The work had to get done; the people were needing us. We routinely get called in on our days off – often times there are no days off. Still I loved it and it was my privilege to serve in this way. I did not always love everything I had to do but I was doing the sort of work which I believe needed to be done.

    Now, if your own work does not lend itself to taking card of “God’s neediest” – maybe you are a manager in a furniture store, for example – then you have to go out of your way to find this sort of service. Join a church, work for a community group, do volunteer work somewhere such that you are serving the neediest. Serve people who are less fortunate and help pull them up to where you are. The neediest are all around us and they need lots of help. I had no choice in the matter. Duty called me and plunged me right in the middle of it all. I had no choice. There were too many needy and not enough workers. I did not have to go out looking for people to help. I was swamped under with them. You may need to make the effort to find them depending on what you do for a living. If your profession does not involve serving the neediest then you need to go out and find where they are and serve them. Churches are great for providing those sorts of opportunities.

    Most importantly, you need to STOP worrying about your relationship with God in all of this. This is not about YOU so do not make it about you. So long as you are focusing on you and what you are getting or not getting from God, the work is not getting done. The needy and the flock are not being tended to. Take yourself and your needs out of this picture entirely and just roll up your sleeves and start doing the work which needs to get done. This is not about getting brownie points or gold stars from God. God is busy taking care of these people, also. Don’t be one of the needy – there are enough of them already. Be one of the persons who tend to the needy.

    Now I was much luckier than you. I did not have abusive parents and I did not have abusive clergy in my life. I was spared all of that and I was given a good start right from the get go. I was able to hit the ground running. You were not but that is all over for you now. You have grown up and escaped these malevolent persons who once plagued you. You bear the scars from what they did to you, for sure, but it is time to move on. Put in its simplest terms, I was fortunate and you were not but that does not mean you have to let these people ruin the rest of your life.

    Since you want religion in your life, find a church were the pastor is involved in helping others and has that sort of mindset. My own suggestion would be NOT to choose an evangelical or fundamentalist brand of theology – they typically carry too much baggage and you have had way too much of that, thus far. This avenue is the wrong choice for someone like you. The last thing someone like you needs is one of these brands of religion. Try a more enlightened approach. Unitarianism is good. Presbyterians tend to be OK, also. Even consider Roman Catholic theology and churches. Honestly, they are great and they carry none of the baggage from your past. They can offer you much which is not available to protestants. If you do these things, I promise you will find what you are seeking. Right now you are absolutely like the song from the movie Urban Cowboy: “Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places.” In your case, you are and you have been “Looking for God in all the Wrong Places.” Based on where and how you are looking, no wonder you aren’t finding what you want and what you need. .

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  43. Mark,

    One more thing. There is a church out there and a brand of theology which is absolutely perfect for you. Now, you just have to find it. When my significant other died, I was devastated. I was absolutely having no success in finding a replacement and I was very, very unhappy. It seemed like there was no one for me and no one would become available. I was wrong. I eventually found the perfect husband. Same with jobs. At times I though I could never find what I was looking for. I doubted, at times, that it even existed. Then I found the absolutely perfect job which I loved and which made use of all of my skills without the hassles I was previously experiencing. I found a job on an Indian reservation providing primary care and I loved it. I loved the job; they loved me – it was a perfect fit. I had suffered through a whole lot of not so perfect fits before that and I suffered through a whole lot of not so perfect fits for a partner in my life also. Eventually I found a great fit for both.

    You need to find a great fit for a church and a brand of religion. You have not hit on your right match yet and I would submit it is because you are not looking in the right places. Keep looking; keep searching but do so with your head not just your heart. Analyze what you want and where you are most likely to find it. Check out each opportunity which presents carefully and don’t jump to conclusions. Sometimes the one that is the best is not the most obvious at first glance. Avoid knee-jerk reactions and avoid preconceived notions.

    Somewhere, Mark, there is a minister, a church and a brand of theology which is just perfect for you. It is not coming knocking at your door, however. You have to go out there and find it. As we women are often want to say (this is not really applicable to men but the principle is the same) – “you have to kiss a lot of frogs until you find your prince.”

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  44. @ Mark

    It’s interesting you have a background in science. As a victim of iatrogenic damage I distrust doctors and even scientists. Most will say anything–with carefully skewed reports, surveys, data, etc.–to preserve their own wealth and prestige. Don’t get me started on the pharmaceutical industry.

    I’m not anti-medicine or anti-science. But with all the fraud and corruption, I find it hard to trust many “experts.” An intelligent, well educated doctor who lies is less trustworthy than a janitor who always tells the truth.

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  45. Absolutely true, Rachel. There are many providers of medical services who leave much to be desired. We are not all like that, however. Many of us genuinely care about the patient and try to serve them to the best of our abilities. It is sort of like the way many of you point out to me that not all Christians are like the stereotypes which give the evangelical faithful a bad image. Sadly, the bad apples in any field seem to stand out.

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  46. LEB, I appreciate your experience, but I think we are just not going to agree. What you are talking about is essentially Deism. It’s like a train set god. He built this amazing train set and now he enjoys watching the trains go around. He’s disappointed when one of the trains goes off the tracks and happy when another train helps out, but the trains, to him are nothing.

    I don’t think this is the God who created our universe. The God who created our universe is personally involved. Yes, just like the deist god, he wants us to help others, but life is more than the social gospel. I agree it’s not easy to understand, and it fractured the broader church essentially between the doers and the thinkers. It’s not either or, but both and. I completely agree with you. God did not create us to bask in his glory and have a life that revolves around feeding ourselves so that we can focus on theology books, Bible reading and worship services, but neither did God create us to pour ourselves into others in a purely social gospel way.

    The Bible is full of examples and counterexamples of this. Moses, for example, was a national leader who was pouring himself out every day. Yet, he spent time in the tent of meeting with God and had such an amazing relationship that his face physically showed the glory of God by shining.

    I also don’t think it’s wise to single out a specific calling (i.e. the one your find fulfilling) as THE spiritual calling. Pastors get caught in this trap all the time. They think that their calling is spiritual ministry and everyone else is in a lower calling, but that’s not the case. I had a big response about transactional vs. relational, and I think the temptation is for people in typically transactional fields to avoid the relational aspects. For example, in nursing, relationship is very important, but I guess that many think that they can do their job better by treating it transactionally, which creates this immense vacuum that people like you need to fill. But, ask yourself this… why would a God that eschews relationship create people so dependent on it?

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  47. @Rachel,

    It’s a pretty well-spread fallacy that scientists somehow operate based on facts alone. Even in the field, there is “data”, “hypothesis”, “theory” and “law”. In our lingo, they correspond roughly to “facts/experiences”, “predictions”, “knowledge” and “wisdom”. The higher you go towards wisdom, the more distant you are from the facts and the closer you are to gut feelings and intuition. Of course, scientists would not acknowledge that because it makes them and their conclusions weaker.

    Scientists bring their presuppositions to bear when making hypotheses. A creationist joke is, “Two men stand looking out over the Grand Canyon. The evolutionist says ‘look what a little bit of water can do over a long period of time.’ The creationist says, ‘look what a lot of water can do over a short period of time.’

    But, more than that, what I think you’re talking about is common in any field. I generally listen for something like ‘I don’t know’ when I’m talking with an expert. No one knows everything, and when you’re talking to a doctor and he knows everything, he probably knows less than the guy down the hall who has more knowledge, but is less afraid of that being exposed. The first doctor is going to recommend some stupid treatment, and then his reputation will depend on using his position to somehow ‘prove’ that it was not stupid advice in the first place. The second doctor may recommend the same stupid treatment, but he’ll go back and research and come back and say, ‘my first recommendation was wrong. I did some research and I think this is the better way.’ There are WAY too many doctors, scientists, pastors, etc., who are in the first camp.

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  48. Mark, The issue I have with your concerns and philosophy is that it is too centered about you and what you need from a God, should such exist. What I am trying to tell you is that it is not about you – rather it is about the whole and what brings about the best results for the whole. I keep hearing about what you need from God – not much about what you can do for God. I am no Kennedy, fan, not by a long shot, by JFK nailed it when he said “ask not what you country can do for you; ask, instead, what you can do for your country.” This continual focus on your needs and what you are wanting from God is the source of your issues. Essentially you have the same issues as Mother Theresa. You want God to reveal himself to you in a personal way which fulfills your needs. This whole thing is not about your needs.

    Now, why is it that Rachel or Avid Reader or any of the other posters here is able to sense God and have this relationship with he, she or it. It is because these people accept the way that God presents himself to them. These persons accept the manner in which God presents and, then, they go on from there. They don’t demand or whine because God is now manifesting in a particular manner which is agreeable and appropriate by their own ideology. Perhaps you have preconceived notions about how God should present that you are missing what is right in front of your nose. Remember the allegory of the man who drowned waiting for God to save him. People kept coming along with row boats to take him away from the rising waters but he kept turning down their offers waiting for God to save him, as God had promised he would do. Finally the man drowns and meets . He asks God – why did you not save me, as you promised you would do. God replies – I sent you three row boats and you refused to get into any of them.

    You must be attuned to the small things and keep a sharp eye out. How did God, if God exists, present to me. All manner of ways. Just a few days ago, I stayed up late and baked a batch of blueberry muffins for my husband. I was tired and wanted to go to bed but he was hoping for the muffins for his breakfast the following morning. So I baked them all, cooled them down and put them on a large plate, covered with a wicker basket then I put the entire thing next to his place at the table so he would find them there the next morning. He always gets up before I do. During the night, the two cats wanted to eat the muffins. I did not know that cats like blueberry muffins but they do. They tried to get at them and knocked the entire thing to the floor. Miraculously, the plate did not break and the basket stayed on top of the muffins so they were not nibbled on by cats. Cats don’t eat one muffin, the would have nibbled on all of them, ruining all the muffins. What were the odds that the plate would fall to the floor in that manner – not breaking and, them, with the basket, loosely resting on top – falling in place protecting the muffins.

    Another example. I had a new job in 2014. We had a break room and the manager of that clinic stocked the break room with items which she knew the employees would like to eat or drink. One employee liked Chai tea. I never tried it before. When I did – I loved it and bought a box of my own to drink lots of it at home and at work. I did not want to drink up all of the tea she bought so I brought in my own for work use as well. Well it happens that Chai tea has an ingredient in it which is estrogenic – quite so, in fact. So the estrogenic agent fed the estrogen-dependent cancer which was, unbeknownst to me, growing in my uterus. I began to bleed and went to the doctor. I was many years past menopause so no bleeding should have been occurring under any circumstance – but bleed I did. The tea exacerbated the tumor. Accordingly, the cancer was discovered in time before it spread anywhere else in my body and the doctor simply removed the uterus, solving the problem before it spread elsewhere. Were it not for the tea, I probably would not have bleed and the cancer would have grown. It was discovered early enough such that I needed no chemo nor radiation and I was on my merry way.

    Even more dramatic, I was in AZ at the time and was there only a few months. In AZ, nearby where I was living, was a doctor with robotic surgery skills and he could remove the uterus with minimum invasiveness – virtually no pain and a tiny little surgical wound. I was fine in a few days. Had I bled here in rural and remote PA (where I normally live), there is no such doctor and no such robotic instrument available. I would have needed a standard hysterectomy which is painful and debilitating. Was all of this the handiwork of God? Maybe so. If God exists that is how he manifested himself to me and I am very grateful. These are examples of how God could reveal his presence to me. I gave you examples of both the trivial and great.

    Maybe God does manifest to you but you are not satisfied with the presentation. You want some other way. It is not your place to decide how the manifestation should be. You are suppose to be mindful enough that you recognize the presentation and, then, be grateful for it. Once again, it is not about you and it is not about what you want. It is about what God wants and what is needed FROM you – not FOR you. Don’t be a whiny sheep, refusing to move forward and get with the program. Apparently God has sent a goat to butt you in the rear, hoping to move you along with the rest of the flock. We don’t need for you to be lagging behind, falling prey to the wolves who are looking for vulnerable sheep – sheep who are not keeping up with the flock because they think they know better than the shepherd (God) as to how things are to be managed. YOU are NOT in charge of this operation. YOU don’t make the rules.

    BTW, I do not consider my profession to be superior to anyone else’s profession. It simply provides me with a convenient way to serve. It is convenience which is the key concept not superiority. I don’t need to find ways to serve or go out of my way searching for them. I simply need to report to work and I am then overwhelmed with them. Someone else needs to go out and find ways to serve. I am given convenience.

    Try to take your needs out of this picture and focus on the needs of others. Try to focus not on what you want or need in a relationship with God but rather how you might be needed. Look around at what is and has happened in your life. Maybe God was there all along and you simply did not see it. Have you been spiritually drowning simply because you have been turning away the rowboats?

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  49. PS – one more thing, Mark. Since when do the sheep make the rules and tell the shepherd how to run the show? It is not your place and that is precisely what you are trying to do – whining because the rules are not structured as to suit how you view the cosmology. Who put you in charge? Even a goat like me knows better than that. Even I know enough to follow the rules and not demand they be changed for my benefit. The rules were very clearly spelled out for you in what you Christians view as the end all and be all – namely the Bible. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in there which gives you the right to make new rules or change existing ones …..NADA.

    What you are saying is that I am willing to follow the rules BUT I need xyz in return and it should be presented to me in ABC manner. That is not how it all works. You are to do as you are told i.e. serve others and the shepherd decides how, when and in what manner your needs are met……and they will be met. You do not dictate to the shepherd how this flock operates and that is precisely what you are doing when you whine about what you want in terms of your idea of how God should manifest unto you. You are one of the sheep, remember?

    You asked me once why God would shower me with blessings and not want anything in return. It is because I follow instructions and I do what I am told. You, for, whatever reason, want to dictate how the operation runs. That is not your place; try to remember that concept. The shepherd does not need whiny and needy sheep. Even goats, like me, who, follow the rules – or at least try to do so – are a better deal . I am not perfect. I make many mistakes in following the rules and I break lots of them but at least I know my place. Apparently you don’t and you want to change the rules. I am far from perfect. I am riddled with countless flaws – I am, after all a goat, no – but, at least, I don’t try to tell the shepherd how to do his job.

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  50. LEB, I left a spiritually abusive church and came to my current church. One of the sermons that was instrumental in my healing was on Ruth. Actually, it was on Naomi. Naomi returned to Israel broken and bitter – she lost her husband and two sons – her entire world, culturally speaking.

    Now there were two life-changing messages – first, bitterness is not the “unforgivable sin” like the Evangelical church likes to proclaim. Naomi did not sugar-coat her circumstances. Second, God brought circumstances around in Naomi’s life. At the end of Ruth, the women around Naomi are astonished – wasn’t Ruth better than a son, and didn’t God bring amazing things to bear.

    The sheep don’t make the rules, no, but if God says he wants a relationship and we say we don’t, who is making the rules? I think it’s the goats who want to make the rules and the sheep spend their time trying to understand what the rules are.

    In Hosea, God uses Hosea’s wife, Gomer, as an allegory of his relationship to Israel. Gomer is an unfaithful wife, just as Israel is unfaithful. Yet Hosea/God repeatedly rescues Gomer/Israel out of the natural consequences and restores the relationship.

    If God wants to have an arms-length relationship, then why would that relationship ever be portrayed as a marriage? I think Ezekiel 16 is the clearest picture of how God loved the people of Jerusalem, portrayed as raising her up like a father, then marrying her and treating her like royalty, only to find her prostituting herself to every other god.

    My problem is that I was in a “goat” religious system. The gospel was preached, but the actions were fear and shame driven legalism. The fear and shame legalism proclaimed a different god than the sheep god. As, I said, a loveless transactional god. Just like you have no interest in a god who actually desires a personal relationship with you, I have no interest in a god who is an impersonal force.

    Now, the real distance between us is how we arrive at truth. Since I left the legalistic tradition, I place much more value in my personal experience, but I still weigh scripture higher than that. It’s just that I don’t defer to someone else’s (e.g. Calvin’s) interpretation of the scripture, because my experience and reason drive me to different conclusions. However, I’m not going to throw out scripture just because you feel your reason and experience should somehow hold some authority over me. That is not my experience and that is not my reason. You can’t have your feet in both absolute and relative truth. If you hold relative truth, then your reason and your experience and the truth you derive from that is wonderful and meaningful, yet it’s YOURS. When you try and tell someone else what THEIR truth should be, then you are now claiming absolute truth – you are putting your truth as an authority over someone else. If, on the other hand, you want to argue that there is an absolute truth, and you understand that absolute truth better than I, then that is a lot harder road to travel.

    As for your experiences. I think that is an amazing testimony! We just have different lenses through which we view the data. Again, if you read the Ezekiel chapter, it seems that all these great gifts God gives Jerusalem are evidence of personal love and a desire to have a relationship, whereas you seem to be claiming that they are evidence that you have the right theology that God is rewarding people who are doing the right things and not preoccupied with relationship.

    If this is the case, we are at an impasse. I don’t believe your lens and you don’t believe mine, and our lenses do not give us common ground from which to arrive at some agreement.

    This does not sound like an impersonal relationship being described…
    “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:11-16)

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  51. Mark,

    Ok, so to summarize, you want an warm and fuzzy relationship with God and, moreover, you believe – according to your interpretation of scripture – that God wants a warm and fuzzy relationship with you. Great, we have a match. In that case, why are we even having this conversation? We can only be having it for one of two reasons.

    You are not getting said warm and fuzzy relationship which you advise me that both God and you want……and we need to figure out why that is. What is going wrong?
    You are getting said warm and fuzzy relationship causing both you and God to be happy as a pig in ____ (you know what) BUT you also feel the need to bring about change in other persons (like me) on God’s behalf.

    So then, let us look at #2 first. Your happy, God is happy – where is the problem? As for me, I don’t want and need this sort of relationship and I tell you I am also very happy. Moreover, I also tell you that I have had incredible good fortune in my life – both past and present. I have been showered with blessings and I live in surroundings which would put the Garden of Eden to shame. In return, I see it as my duty and responsibility to serve the least of God’s creatures, esp the least of them. I take that responsibility very seriously. I try very hard to serve. I am fortunate enough to have a profession which makes it very easy for me to do so and, while I am at it, I try to serve anyone and everyone else which comes my way. I am all about “service to others.”

    I believe service to others is the most important thing in life. Although I am not a Christian, I do take a whole lot of the edicts to heart and I believe they are the way to go. I try to follow “the rules.” I believe in living very simply – as much so as possible – and serving until you drop. In return, I believe my needs will be taken care of and so far, such seems to be the case. In fact, I got one heck of a lot more than I ever deserved. I ask to be shown what else I am suppose to do and, surely, I shall try to do it. Because, I did not follow Christian doctrine to the fullest, however, I am, in fact, actually one of the goats. Now, it seems that according to you (and others) I shall be damned for all eternity, burning in the everlasting fires of hell.

    You tell me that I am doing it all wrong. God wants more from me than he, she or it is getting. It is not enough for me to do what I am told and follow the rules – or at least try to do so. Rather, I must want a close and intimate relationship with God. You want that. Rachel wants that and she got it. Did you see me trying to change her mind or tell her she is doing it all wrong? If Rachel is happy with her personal relationship with Jesus then I am happy for her. I celebrate her joy. Who am I to tell her what to do?

    Now, if she had come to me and told me she was unhappy, I would try to help her analyze the root of the problem to see what went wrong. That is not what happened. You, however, come across as a tad bit unhappy. All is not quite rosy in your camp. It sounds like something you want is not quite happening for you. I stumble upon a somewhat unhappy sheep (you) and it is only natural to see what, if anything, I might do for that sheep. Sometimes, in fact, goats can be helpful esp if they see a solution which the sheep has somehow missed.

    So, then, perhaps, then, God is more tolerant of diversity than you have previously imagined. There are millions upon millions of people in the world who are not Christians. There are Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhist people. The globe is full of people who did not accept Jesus Christ as their ‘personal savior’ and neither do they have a “personal relationship” with him. So you think all of these billions of people, past and present, have been created only to be damned to eternal hellfire because they did not believe precisely as you do? I think not. Perhaps some of your thinking is a bit “flawed.” It does happen.

    Now let us look at Scenario #1. You want this relationship – close, personal and involved – and you are not getting it. In that case, I have already spoken to that issue in my previous two emails. To sum it up – and to paraphrase JFK – ask not what God can do for you – rather as what you can do for God. My answer to anyone who would express such a sentiment would be to stop worrying about what you are not getting and worry more about what else you can be doing for both God and others. The quick and dirty “it is not about you!” My previous emails expound on that principle.

    Was Ruth better than a son? I am not so sure of that. It depends on what Naomi wants. If she wants companionship and service, yes, Ruth will do that better than a male would. If she needs someone strong to run the farm, so to speak, no Ruth will not compare favorably. How much of a blessing Ruth is will be a function of what Naomi needs. Losing a child is among the very most painful experiences in life so Ruth, no matter what she is or does, will not make up for that great pain. At best, Ruth can be a consolation but she cannot substitute for the loss of a child. Naomi, for her part, must accept the will of God (assuming God exists) and try to make the best of her life. Serving others will help but losing a son is one heck of a tall order for any woman to swallow. With or without Ruth, it is no easy task which she has been given. My heart goes out to Naomi and I credit Ruth for trying to help her.

    RE: (John 10:11-16). That is John’s version of what God said or was it John’s version of what Jesus allegedly said? It is hearsay. I don’t put much stock in what any of the apostles said. They are but mortal men. Eye witness testimony is notoriously unreliable and translations are equally unreliable. If God exists, I need something a whole lot more reliable than what a dozen or so mortal men claim has transpired some 2000 years ago. I take most of the new testament in that light. I don’t put much stock in it.

    So the bottom line, Mark, is that if you want xyz relationship with God or Jesus and you are getting that relationship, as is the case with Rachel, I will celebrate your good fortune. If you are happy with the results then I am happy for you. Just realize that what is right for you is not necessarily right for another. There are many paths up the mountain. One is not necessarily more valid than another.

    Pain is a clue that you are on the wrong path. If you are hurting spiritually, it is a sign that you need to make a change. In that case I would best serve you to help you analyze where you are going wrong and how you might get on the right path to bring about the goal you desire. If you are happy and fulfilled, your best course is to share you fortune with others and help them to achieve what you have found. You must choose the beneficiaries of your efforts carefully, however. As you search for persons to help, you would look for persons who are in pain and show them the way out of the pain they are experiencing. You would go to places where people are suffering and you would try to lead them out of the pain. You would not be wasting your time with happy goats (me) upon whom God is showering much in the way of blessings…….and who are trying to repay for those blessings via service to others, including the least of said God’s creatures. That is called wasting your time and energies while other need you.

    At this point, I am not certain whether you are getting what you seek from God. If you are getting what you seek and need, then you can pretty much disregard everything I have told you. I have no role in telling happy sheep what to do. I did sort of get the impression that you were not the happiest of campers. Somehow that notion – rightly or wrongly – came across to me. If you are, indeed, not getting the spiritual fulfillment you are seeking, then you need to consider my suggestions somewhat more thoroughly. For all you know, I was sent along to try to get you onto the right path. What is that old adage: God works in mysterious ways…..hmmm. Perhaps goats do have some purpose, after all.

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  52. LEB, “Because, I did not follow Christian doctrine to the fullest, however, I am, in fact, actually one of the goats. Now, it seems that according to you (and others) I shall be damned for all eternity, burning in the everlasting fires of hell.”

    I think what you have said is that you reject Christian doctrine. I think we’re each accountable for the lives that we live, and I think there is absolute truth, but I can respect you and hear your wisdom regardless of where you stand from a faith perspective. However, there is a point where we cannot speak into each others’ lives. I’m not going to convince you that God wants a personal relationship with you, and you’re not going to convince me that he doesn’t want one with me.

    [As a side note, I believe that much of the cultural progress has happened with the organized church being dragged kicking and screaming – positive parenting, political correctness(the respect part, at least), respect for women in the workplace and in the public sphere, etc.]

    “Perhaps goats do have some purpose, after all.”

    I have really enjoyed this conversation and I appreciate how you have chosen to bless others around you and see blessings in your life. And it does help – I can honestly look at what you find fulfilling and say, that’s just not me. Not that there is something inherently bad about what you do, just that I wouldn’t find that rewarding in the same way you do, and neither would I want to try to dig inside myself to find the strength to do that.

    “That is called wasting your time and energies while other need you.”

    I think you find great fulfillment in helping people in need. Even within what you’ve told me, what if your God had different roles for each person to fill, and created them to find their role enjoyable? For every person who is on the front lines pouring themselves out for others in need, there are also people in the background who provide the technology, support and tools to enable that. If every human were out on the front lines, who would build the hospitals? Who would discover newer and better medicines? Who would make sure there was adequate infrastructure to provide clean drinking water and stable electricity?

    “Pain is a clue that you are on the wrong path. If you are hurting spiritually, it is a sign that you need to make a change.”

    This can go both ways. We celebrate the one light bulb Edison made work the first time, but we don’t celebrate the years and years of painful failure. Pain can be an indicator that something is wrong, but pain can also be caused by exercising something in a different way than before. Fixing my bad golf swing would be painful. There is a significant part of competing at a high level athletically that is learning to work through pain. For example, at first, much of strength training is ‘recruitment’ – getting existing muscles to work together, but after that, strength requires pushing muscles to the point of damage ‘micro-tears’ so that they grow back stronger, which generally involves pain.

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  53. Mark, I am about to make history and let you have the last word in this debate. I don’t think it ever happened before! I have very much enjoyed looking into these spiritual issues with you. It helps both of us to clarify our respective positions. It is good for both goats and sheep to get together now and again and talk over some important issues. Better yet, since our conversations appear on the internet, other goats and other sheep can read them at sometime in the future and help clarify their issues, as well. It has been an overall very positive experience and I have learned about a new concept called spiritual abuse. I never knew it existed before. If you are one of those who have helped to provide some of the infrastructure which is, indeed, vitally needed, thank you very much. We absolutely DO need these contributions. Your contributions and those of others like you are among the many which prove that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

    I shall leave you with a Gary Larson cartoon which I love. Do a google search on one of the two phrases to bring up the cartoon. It shows two frames, one on top of the other, where people are in que on Judgement Day, waiting their turn for either St. Peter (top frame) or the Devil (bottom frame), respectively. The caption for the top frame reads: “Welcome to heaven here is your harp.” The caption for the bottom frame reads “Welcome to hell, here is your accordian.” Sort of apropos, no?

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  54. One has to wonder what the poor goat ever did to earn such a bad rap.

    They make great cheese. Better than sheep 🙂

    Also, baby goats in pajamas are basically the cutest thing ever.

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  55. I just looked up baby goats in pajamas and you are correct. They absolutely ARE the cutest thing ever: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfxUt9UM0nc I think the whole goat thing is just one of those metaphors. Goats have a reputation for leading sheep to slaughter so maybe that is where it came from. I love watching videos of border collies herding sheep. In one video, the border collie breaks up a log-jam of sheep via running across the sheep backs until the very front of the flock where the log jam was occurring – too many sheep trying to pass through a narrow pathway, all at the same time. He breaks up the jam and then all the all the sheep pass through. In another video, a stubborn ram will not walk up the ramp into the trailer which was ready to transport the sheep. The other sheep had all run up the ramp and were in the trailer as they were suppose to do. This ram kept turning around to butt the dog head on. So the dog ran to the other end of the animal where the ram’s head was. The dog then grabbed the ram’s ear and then pulled him forcefully up the ramp and into the trailer. He had never been taught this maneuver, he figured it out on his own.

    I was looking at more Gary Larsen cartoons about damned souls in hell. In one cartoon Satan’s mother is serving the condemned souls milk and homemade cookies which she is carrying on a tray. Satan is running up to her yelling “No, Mom, No!” In another cartoon, the damned souls are milling around a room in hell where the fires shown here and there. In the room is a table on which has been placed coffee urns and cups. The cartoon depicts condemned souls helping themselves to coffee. The caption reads: “The coffee is cold – damn they thought of absolutely everything!” Finally there is a cartoon where various condemned souls are working in hell. Some are shoveling coal into the hell fires to feed the flames. One man, however, is pushing a wheel barrow laden with coal toward the flames. He is looking happy and he is whistling while he works. Satan is standing next to another devil as both are looking over at the man. The caption reads: “Damn, we are just not getting to that guy.”

    On a more serious note, I viewed the film called “Holy Hell” last night on You Tube. It was recommended by someone on this thread. It was shocking – a real eye opener. The cult leader managed to manipulate the people for well over 20 years. The whole thing reminded me of the Ashram in MA which I described in one or another thread. I described how shocked I was at the way the people were behaving in this place. Actually, they were behaving pretty much the same as the folks were in this video. This particular guru was not quite as destructive as was the guru in Holy Hell but the principle is the same. It was a real eye-opener into human nature. Neither that film nor the folks at the Ashram, however, really got into exactly what motivates people to follow these leaders. They must see something in these leaders which the groupies see but rest of us do not perceive. As I looked at both the guru at the Ashram I visited or the guru in the film, Holy Hell, I could perceive nothing about either of these characters which would make me want to follow them. I thought both of them were rather bizarre people, all things considered. They both ruined a whole lot of lives in the process of their self-absorbed reality.

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