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)

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

  1. So while Jesus said adultery is a godly reason to divorce, Lori says no and that you have to stay together. Seriously, who does she think she is setting herself up as an authority above Christ?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank-you Tim, for you have spoken what many of us are thinking right about now. The word “anti-Christ,” meaning “in place of Christ” sums up my perspective on Lori, Ken and their teachings, in my opinion.

    When the teachings and Ways of Jesus, the Christ, are rejected by those who profess to be believers/followers of Him, then other teachings must replace His teachings, which sound so good to the person searching for truth and hope within a dysfunctional marriage. I also believe Lori’s reality has been replaced by a virtual reality, so to speak, teaching a false joy theology instead of the true liberty, freedom, and light burden theology our LORD teaches.

    Matthew 23:8-10

    I hope Lori does not call herself a teacher.

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  3. I grew up with domestic violence in my home. As a child, it was terrifying-it just seemed like the significant adults in my life went berserk, one with violence and the other with fear. We all did whatever we could to keep my dad from losing it, but as with most batterers, he was very manipulative and could turn any situation into an excuse for being angry. We had police involvement and counseling. My dad scared the counselor at one session an we never went back (it was family counseling).

    I’ve known of a couple of cases of adultery/DV in my church that were actually resolved with a positive outcome, but it was a lot of hard work from the pastoral staff, professionals, and the couple. I need to give my church credit for providing safe places for the abused (it’s the first thing they do), being firm with abusers, and then looking for counseling resources. It’s always “safety first.”

    Finally, I don’t think Lori has a clue what abuse does not only to the affected spouse, but also to the children. My sister rebelled and it took years for her to get out of a very negative lifestyle (’nuff said). I was only home when necessary as a teen and espcaed to college 80 miles away where I totally reinvented myself. I didn’t face what the violence had done to me until I was well into my 40s. i had nightmares, I backed away from anything that appeared confrontational and I could hardly stand to be around my aging father. God is good-I have learned to be assertive without violence (my fear was that I might be like dad) and I’ve learned to forgive my dad without excusing his behavior. He is too old now to be able to do much physical damage, but I learned to enforce boundaries and I am able to use them when he is verbally abusive.

    DV is awful, and it occurs much more often than most people suspect. I do believe God can redeem any situation, but I also believe that happens when it is faced head-on. Sometimes, the only way to solve it is with a separation or divorce. The door always needs to be open for forgiveness, but the actual situation needs to be dealt with, too. We don’t let bank robbers become tellers; batterers shouldn’t be allowed to continue their violence.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This wackjob shouldn’t be allowed to advise anyone, period. I really don’t know how anyone with function above the brain stem could think that anything this looney pants has to say is anything remotely resembling common sense or Biblical in nature. Who does she think she is?!?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Even Jesus didn’t turn the other cheek when the temple guard hit him.

    Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” John 18:23 (NLT)

    Lori wants women to be silent.

    Jesus wants them to speak up.

    Lori wants them to just accept what happens.

    Jesus wants women to ask question and demand evidence.

    Katy, I love what you wrote here……. “The word “anti-Christ,” meaning “in place of Christ” sums up my perspective on Lori, Ken and their teachings, in my opinion.”

    That’s so true. I was just reading William Tyndale who said that the reason bad teachers in the church are so offended by the preaching of the real Gospel is because you can’t preach Christ without preaching against the anti-christs in the church.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. 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

    But, even though the bible is actually pretty ok with divorce for a number of reasons, I’m going to tell you to stick with your husband no matter how much he cheats on or beats you, because it will magically all be better or alternately you will die trying and that will be awesome.

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  7. Years ago, I made the mistake of reading a lot of Michael Pearl’s teachings including starting to read his wife’s book, I’m having a brain fart right now and can’t think of the name. It was something about being a helpmeet. I only got about halfway through it and wanted to throw it across the room. My memory is a bit foggy of my Kool aid drinking days but I could have sworn I read something either in that book or on the Pearls website about being in an abusive marriage and if the husband ends up killing the wife, she’ll be rewarded in heaven as a martyr. It’s terrifying to me that some people are so brainwashed and beaten down, that they believe that garbage.

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  8. @Sunshine

    If it’s a murder/suicide where will her demonic husband spend eternity? Considering the complementarian churches have let him off in every way so far, maybe
    they think he’ll be granted martyr status too due to his victim’s sanctifying influence.

    The only way to stop an abuser is to take the object of his abuse away from him.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Rachel when I read that I was totally dumbfounded. This is a hot button topic for me and I get extremely riled up. It pisses me off that a woman who is already being victimized will seek help from a jackass like Lori Alexander and get further victimized by being told that in order for her to please God, she has to stay with her abuser and allow herself to be a punching bag. People like Lori Alexander know how to prey on someone’s vulnerability in order to boost their own ego so they can pat themselves on the back, secure in the knowledge that they’re spreading God’s word. It makes me sick!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. People like Lori Alexander know how to prey on someone’s vulnerability in order to boost their own ego

    Lori doesn’t have to deal with the consequences of her advice. Nor do any of these male pastors, the Pearls (although it sounds like Debi was abused by her father and Michael doesn’t sound like a great guy either)…

    That is why it should be taken as ‘advice’. To be accepted or rejected on its merits. In this case, rejected, because it has no merit.

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  11. Sadly, Ms Alexander may be laughing all the way to the bank. In fact, she may not even be as stupid as she sounds. Likely, she knows that if she writes some highly controversial nonsense such as she has put forth, all manner of Christian persons will buy her book so as to be familiar with the content and comment upon it. Translation, the more outrageous commentary she writes, the more books she will sell and the more money she will make.

    So the bottom line is that if you feel compelled to read the idiotic content she puts forth, please buy a used copy of the book – available on Amazon. In that way she will not benefit from the sale – only the book seller will benefit. If you purchase a Kindle version or new copy of her book, she will get the royalties from that sale. It is hard to believe that anyone capable of writing this book would have an IQ low enough to believe the content found therein. More likely, she is looking to make money by luring people into purchasing her book and it would seem that, on some level, at least, she is succeeding.

    My educated guess is that she will make a killing on this book (lots of gullible Christians will buy it). Subsequently, if her own husband ever tried any of the adulterous stunts described, he’d be out the door so fast that it would make your head spin. When she is sitting pretty on lots of book royalties, she is not going to tolerate it.

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  12. LEB,

    If you look at the Amazon ranking for Lori’s book, it appears that very few if any people are buying it.

    Being ranked at “#463,495 Paid in Kindle Store” most likely means the book isn’t selling much.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Avid Reader, True, but it is just out late last year in 2016. It takes a while. Now she is getting press on this forum – word spreads. If one or more knit wit pastor starts promoting her book or else more people hear about it online, sales could pick up.

    The best tactic, if you want to read her book and you do not wish to support her mission, is to buy a used copy. Of course, the better question might be why anyone would want to read such nonsense, in the first place. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that adultery is not condoned by any major religion. Ms Alexander may also secure paid speaking engagements and the like based on having published this book. I think she is more calculating than we give her credit for being. Anyone who was truly that much of a doormat would not have the motivation nor the incentive to write a book. If nothing else, it takes a whole lot of time and effort to do so. She has significant financial gain in mind.

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  14. if you want to read her book

    I am quite content to let Kathi read it, thanks.

    I’m convinced a huge chunk of people reading her nonsense are basically people gawking at a car crash. The problem is not really Lori, it’s that these ideas [that women should sacrifice their lives in adulterous/abusive marriages because God Said So] have infiltrated far too many institutions. I just read a fantastic series on modesty culture that looked at the gothard/pearl/rushdooney/etc groups and how all this stuff travels together.

    Lori’s basically just regurgitating Debi Pearl, imo.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lea,
    Checking at Amazon, it would appear that Debi Pearl along with husband Michael Pearl have made quite a profitable venture for themselves via selling books and CDs. You may well be correct. Lori may be regurgitating their writings with the notion that if it worked to make the Pearls a hefty profit, perhaps it can do so for her, as well.

    It would seem that a certain number of people eat this stuff up – however unappetizing it may be to the rest of us. My guess is that these various women would tolerate a whole lot less in their own marriages as compared to what they recommend for you or I to put up with. Somehow, I think that if Michael Pearl were out there sampling the goods from a whole lot of women other than his wife, Mrs Pearl just might have something to say about it. I think it boils down to “do what I say (and which is profitable for me to write about) versus what I do.

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  16. Apparently in Lori’s facebook chatroom she was telling her followers to leave 5 star reviews of her book on Amazon to combat all the negative reviews. She didn’t care if they read the book yet she just couldn’t stand all the negative so she sent a team in to help her numbers. In the same breath, she also told her followers that she is going to leave her book in God’s hands. LOL, right? If that was the case she shouldn’t be telling people how to review her book. Its like she doesn’t trust God enough, she has to help give him a little nudge. You’ll see in the reviews after a few months of basically no one reviewing all of a sudden about 8 positive reviews on June 29. Its so obvious. Her Amazon page has become a battleground for those who love her and those who hate her.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I recently came across the notion of the “submitted wife.” Once in a while, I listen to the ramblings and preachings of Dave Ramsey, a money guru (and Christian evangelical) who helps people get out of debt. I don’t esp agree with his philosophy but he has some good things to say about managing monies. Somehow I managed to get to a seven figure net worth via breaking every single one of his rules but that is another matter – some of what he preaches does make sense esp for people who are currently out of control financially. Generally, however, he tends to get on my nerves so I listen to his programming only infrequently.

    Anyway, a woman called in to inquire how she could reconcile her financially irresponsible husband with also being a “submitted wife.” I don’t recall exactly how he answered her because this was the very first time I ever heard that term so I was focusing more on what it meant. I can just imagine having a husband who is totally irresponsible with money and then being told that God – if not Jesus – wants for you, the woman, to obediently “submit” to such folly. Sounds like a good way for the couple to go bankrupt. If women were not suppose to have brains and use them, why would we have evolved with any? It would have been redundant. Only men would have needed to have brains and we could have just followed their lead like our pet dogs do for us. Certainly, our dogs do not need to be as smart as we are in order to survive as pets in our household.

    I also wonder about the terminology of a “submitted” wife. Why was it not called a “submissive wife?” Why the distinction? I think perhaps because the people who came up with this notion believe that the wife need not be submissive until she marries and then she becomes “submitted” and to but one person, her husband. So, I would conclude that women may, in fact, have brains and utilize these brains for the good of all involved BUT only up until the point of marriage. At that point, she checks them in at the door and becomes “submitted.’ It also seems to me that such a system puts one heck of a lot of burden on the husband to know everything and do everything right.

    I usually do not consult my docile and obedient (sometimes) dog when I have important decisions to make. I make all important decisions myself knowing my dog cannot be of much help in these matters. My dog is, by nature, very docile and “submitted.” She is very much a beta dog. I had an alpha dog before her and actually, I liked that personality type better.

    Worse, truly weak and submissive women – women who are naturally that way – will also produce those qualities in their offspring regardless of gender. So do these men who ascribe to this philosophy also want to produce weak and submissive sons? Wives will contribute 50% of the genetic material for all of the children which the couple produces. Worse, you don’t get to say which gender of your children will inherit which of each parent’s attributes. The whole thing seems like a bad business plan to me.

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  18. Lea,

    You’re right that Lori is just copying Debi Pearl who is copying Elizabeth Elliott who was influenced by the book Me? Obey Him?

    It’s really scary how deep this kind of craziness runs. The book Me? Obey Him? was the one that teaches people that disobeying God is perfectly fine because the only thing that matters is obeying your husband.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. LEB,

    Of course, adults shouldn’t have to ask other adults for permission to make their own decisions. But we have an uphill battle in the church, trying to educate as many Christian woman as possible on how the Bible actually teaches women to take control of their own lives. We are working night and day to let them know that they don’t have to sacrifice their lives for all these crazy ideas floating around in the church.

    The problem is that we are up against too much pride and greed hiding in the pulpits, ignoring everything that the Bible actually says as they gloat over gaining control over women. No one wants to talk about how the Bible actually tells husbands to submit to their wives. Too many Christian leaders get offended when you knock their sacred cows off the pedestals.

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  20. Avid, If there is a God, I pretty much think this entity sort of had egalitarian relationships in mind where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts – at least that is how I think of my marriage. Brains are very costly from an evolutionary perspective. if women did not need them, they would not have developed any. I am sure there are a whole lot of sacred cows. I am real radical. I actually believe that Jesus was married but that women did not play much of a role in their husbands missions in those days. if he had a wife, which probability favors, she would not be up in the forefront. I have no issue with women supporting their husband’s mission, assuming it is a good one. I have no problem even with her being in the background. My issue comes with this whole submission issue. Both parities need to compromise with one another if a marriage is to work.

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  21. Linn, I believe it is the profit motive driving most of these writings. Look at how successful the Pearls are. I believe people want to cash in on some of this cow.

    Evangelical preaching can be very, very lucrative. Some of these folks amass considerable fortunes spreading “God’s word.” In the old days, when the revivalist preacher would come to town and set up his tent, some of them could shake up the whole valley. That pop song about it was not far from the truth, at all. A good Baptist evangelical minister with a powerful voice and a strong will can bring the house down. They are absolutely incredible performers. He can also collect a good deal of the monies folks have, as well. Some of them are downright thunderous once they get going – a good lightening and thunderstorm would have a hard time competing with some of these ministers, once they get on a roll.

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  22. My dad used to counsel battered wives when he preached. He had no problem telling them to leave abusive husbands, conservative as his beliefs are. His argument is David took an oath of allegiance to King Saul. Plus God had anointed Saul king and government is as legitimate an authority as a husband/parent/employer. Despite his loyalty David fled Saul to avoid his murderous rage. He remained loyal–but he refused to come back despite Saul’s promises of future good behavior. Sound familiar?

    King David wound up marrying Abigail after God had her abusive husband die. I guess they had something in common so they bonded when they met. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I see that Lori’s one week hiatus lasted only two days. She can’t stay away.
    The worst part of Lori’s attitude is that she believes she speaks for God. If someone challenges her (and not deleted) her go to response is, “You are not arguing against me, but against God”.
    Lori is very inconsistent as she often contradicts herself. Even when someone quotes scripture, if she doesn’t like the verse quoted, she will discount the scripture and quote from Biblical Comentaries from the 1800s. She says she doesn’t instruct men (as no woman should), yet she loves to correct male posters and loves💕💕💕when the men compliment her. There is just so much cray-cray!

    Liked by 3 people

  24. She gives all of these great examples of the women she mentors and how their lives have changed. I have yet to see her discuss the story of a woman who decided not to utilize her services.

    Ann, no, she can’t stay away. I think she likes the attention as she continually talks about her viral post a year ago and all of the comments she is receiving. She even said that she has had several posts go viral, which I don’t think is true. And, for someone who railed against the amount of time women spend on Facebook on her Always Learning page, she sure has spent a lot of time monitoring there lately. Even with her vacation and squad of moderators she’s still posting on social media.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. This lady is seriously full of her selfrighteous sht. First off she cannot come up with anything using her own brain. She would rather be lazy and parrot whatever nonsense she reads elsewhere.
    There are very good resources out there to find truth, historical truth, that lines up with scripture. There are some brainy people out there. One of them is Marge from Newlife.id.au. she is intelligent and hangs with equally smart people. I have been in her blog for days now. She is dispelling every concept the Pearl’s, Gothard’s, Duggars’s, and whomever else can dish out sh
    t that is theologically wrong.
    It is fascinating and liberating . It is life giving.
    This Lori is breeding death with every stroke of her pen, and click of the keyboard.

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  26. Avid Reader: Just a correction that “Me? Obey Him?” was written by Elizabeth Rice Handford (not Elisabeth Elliot). Although Elliot has written about “submission” too.

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  27. Lori is a fool and she is abusive, though it would seem she is a bit too proud to realize that right now. Perhaps she’ll wake up to the fact at the judgement seat when Christ doesn’t stand to applaud.

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  28. Bendeni,

    Thank you for the clarification. Maybe I should have made that more clear that when I wrote that Elizabeth Elliott was heavily influenced by this book—I thought people were aware she didn’t write Me? Obey Him? That was written by Elizabeth Rice Hanford the daughter of famous evangelist John Hanford.

    Now Recovering Grace (the blog for survivors of Bill Gothard nonsense) uncovered some really disturbing allegations about Rice’s father’s ministry that there was a member of his staff who was stealing from the ministry. According to “written accounts by the 1980 staff of Bill Gothard’s organization” the thief was caught by his own wife who kept the accounting records. When she exposed the embezzlement, he screamed unsubmissive wife, left her, remarried and was hired at Bill Gothard’s ministry. Everything was swept under the rug to keep the alleged thief in good standing.

    That’s the kind of nonsense that the Me? Obey Him? book promoted which heavily influenced Debi Pearl who influenced Lori. I’m still flabbergasted that Elizabeth Elliott would spend so much time on her radio program and newsletter promoting that kind of evil.

    If anyone wants to check the sources, here’s the link:
    http://www.recoveringgrace.org/media/John-Stancil-and-Bill-Gothards-Shared-Cover-Up.pdf

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Oh, sorry! I re-read your comment and now I see what you were saying. I read it too fast the first time. My bad.

    Yes, it’s clear there are chains of influence here, and a “handing down” of this toxic teaching.

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  30. When she exposed the embezzlement, he screamed unsubmissive wife, left her, remarried and was hired at Bill Gothard’s ministry.

    What??? Wow. That’s pretty…wow.

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  31. I am quite sure the vast majority of these submissive, adultery-tolerant wives have quite a different standard in their own marriages. I, for one, would like to know exactly how “tolerant” Mrs Pearl would be if she discovered her husband had adulterous affairs. My guess is that not only would she refuse to tolerate it but Mr Pearl would get raked over the coals in any divorce proceeding where division of marital assets was at hand. Ms Pearl and Ms Alexander have a great deal to say about how YOU should practice your marital skills. I doubt either of them would condone the behavior they promote in their own marriages. These women may well “humor” their husbands in one way or another – don’t we all at some time – but I seriously doubt either would be complacent with a serious infraction of the marital contract.

    Unless either of these women writes about her own personal experience in adultery or similar offenses – and how their benign approach to it worked out – I take anything they write with a grain of salt. It is one thing to say “Yes, Dear, when he insists on going out to dinner in one restaurant (when you wanted to dine elsewhere) and quite a different matter to be “obedient” when you discover he is having an affair with Mrs. Smith across the street (while you were at work doing a double shift) or that he has emptied out the marital bank account with a gambling addiction. These women are just looking to make a buck on a philosophy which they likely would not practice if truly put to the test. They are “obedient” in rather superficial ways. Let us see one of them be “obedient” if their husband wanted to empty one of these women’s bank accounts and spend all of their earnings on something very foolish for himself. Somehow, I don’t think so. I will believe it when I see it.

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  32. It’s different for them, but I’m sure they will scour the earth to find a woman or two who claim spiritual blessing from staying with their adulterous husbands.

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  33. Even a non-Christian like me knows that when there is a conflict between God and man, people are instructed to follow God. Reportedly, scripture instructs as much. Bottom line, as best I know, the God which Christians follow is not favorably disposed toward adultery. In fact, there is even a commandment to that effect – Thou shall not… etc. Now, Ms Alexander, it seems, is instructing wives to tolerate adulterous behavior on the part of their husbands. Does Ms Alexander know better than the God she claims to support? I think not. It is one thing to forgive one’s spouse if said person is truly remorseful for having been unfaithful. It is quite another thing to advise persons to put up with something which is so fundamentally wrong. What spiritual path anywhere condones adultery – none that I can think of. Even polygamists insist on a marriage being in force.

    If one part of her book can be so flawed, how can anyone trust anything else she puts forth. My own view is that both parties to a marriage should give-in and compromise with the other. One takes the lead in some areas; the spouse takes the lead in others. Each has his own skills and strengths – together the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. A good marriage does not strive to emulate the relationship one has with his dog. Rather, the two partners are equal and, ideally, best friends. Together they accomplish that which neither could do singly or alone.

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  34. For complementarians your husband is more important than God; you must obey man rather than God. I am not an egalitarian, but if your husband says one thing and God another, it’s obvious Who you should obey. Husbands are not God! Treating them as if they were is idolatry plain and simple.

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  35. Rachel,

    Good point. But I’m so tired of all the labels in the church. No one here is egalitarian. We are Christ followers.

    Too many of these Christian books sound like Pharaoh who only wants to let the Israelites go on his own terms. He keeps trying to set limits on what the Israelites can and can’t do. Does God need to ask permission from Pharaoh to set the people free?

    In the church we are still dealing with too many Pharaohs who feel entitled to making long lists of rules that women can and can’t do while missing the whole point—God wanted the people to be free so that they could SERVE GOD.

    No matter how they try to slice it, Complementarianism forces adults to become children who have to ask permission from parents. There’s a reason that Jesus told us adults to act like adults and not to treat anyone like a parent, meaning not acting like children anymore. (Matthew 23:9 also see 1Cor 13:11)

    There’s too many lives getting destroyed by this nonsense. And too many Christian leaders with their necks in the sand. Ok, now I’m getting off the soapbox.

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  36. Avid Reader, Not being a Christian, I had to look up these two words to see what the concepts mean. I guess I would fit more into the complementarian view because I believe men and women have different abilities and talents but together they form a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. Having said that, however, one of the two is not more important or more deserving of “authority” than the other. They are equally valuable and they have equal authority. The way they get along is by respecting one another and giving in – each of them – as much as possible when there is a conflict.

    I am not sure how “complementarianism” forces me to assume the role of a child. I know that my husband excels at certain aspects of life and so I defer to him about those matters. He knows I excel in certain other aspects and so he defers to me in those matters. Now if he were to insist on something – even in his area of expertise – which I knew to be wrong, I would not give in and visa versa. Each of us has veto power over any matter so if one person wants to do something wherein the other objects, the person favoring the issue needs to convince the other party.

    I will tell you, it would appear that he is smarter than I because when I buck him on things – which is very often – I tend to see the light and come around to his way of thinking sooner, or later. He often says (and I agree with him) “I don’t know why you always fight me on things. In the end you realize I am right and you always come around.” I respond: “Yeah you are right. I suppose I should just listen to you in the first place. It seems like you are always right in the long run.” The point being, he is smarter than I but he does not have more authority. I “always come around” not because he has more authority but because he has more brains. Eventually, I see where his way was, in fact, the better way. Of course, were he not smarter than I, then I would never have married him. The superior brain power is what attracted me in the first place.

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  37. LEB,

    That’s a great question which deserves a much more indepth response—beyond the scope of this thread. With respect to Julie Anne and Kathy, I don’t want to drift too far off topic so I’ll just post the cliff notes version:

    If you’re interested in reading the Comp position, here’s the primary textbook that is used to train Christian leaders on it:

    https://www.amazon.com/review/R2VX1SIIUS1IIM/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00265VGGO

    If you’re interested in reading the other side—the book Ten Lies The Church Tells Women is a great choice.

    Now both sides believe that men and women are different. However, what you described is actually the Egalitarian side where both spouses defer to each other. Decisions are made by evaluating information not by one spouse automatically getting their way every time.

    LEB wrote,
    “Now if he were to insist on something – even in his area of expertise – which I knew to be wrong, I would not give in and visa versa. Each of us has veto power over any matter so if one person wants to do something wherein the other objects, the person favoring the issue needs to convince the other party.”

    Comp theology would never allow you to have veto power. For example, Stuart Scott wrote in The Exemplary Husband,

    “Your wife must obey you unless you ask her to sin.” (p. 119)

    “We must not sit back and let our wives do the evaluating and the decision making. We should certainly enlist their input but the evaluating and the decision making are our own responsibility.” (p. 122)

    That’s Comp theology in a nutshell. Of course they try to deny that but the root of Comp theology is taking away the ability of adults to make their own choices. If another adult disagrees, then you have to obey that adult regardless of whether they even know what is best. Doesn’t matter who’s actually qualified or who knows what they’re talking about. While both sides believe that men and women are different, Comps grant authority according to physical characteristics—the only thing we can’t change about ourselves.

    Think about this. If the plumbing were to break on your house, would you find the most qualified plumber to fix it? Someone with years of experience and maybe some technical training? Of course.

    Imagine that someone else sees a broken pipe and decides that they only want a redhead plumber to fix it. Doesn’t matter how much experience or training, all they need is red hair.

    That’s what Comp theology does. It shuts the door on thousands of highly qualified people to give authority to others based on physical characteristics. We just saw how Bill Gothard’s organization overlooked thousands of better qualified people to hire someone with a very questionable background. It turns adults into children by taking away from us the very difference between adults and children—the ability to make our own decisions and be held responsible for them.

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  38. Avid Reader, Excellent commentary. I realize the whole point of this forum is to discuss spiritual abuse. The part I am still not understanding is how the church leadership manages to get people to do what is contrary to common sense. Does it all boil down to the beaten children who are harshly punished for any and all infractions of the rules. Is that how it starts? I do know of any number of beaten children – esp boys – whose goal was to grow stronger than their Dads and give as good as they got. It happens if not physically then psychosocially. My grandfather was violent and abusive. Only one son, the youngest, who he favored the most, grew up to be like him – violent and abusive. The rest of the four sons, did not. The family goal was for some of the sons to grow up to the point where my grandmother and the children could escape from them. That happened. The sons grew old enough to assist their Mom and siblings run away to NYC where they got their own apartment and my grandfather was but a guest if he showed up. He could no longer make the rules.

    I’ve known many boys to say they are lifting weights to they would bulk up and their fathers could no longer beat them. So where does all this Christian stuff fit in? How are the Christian leaders able to effect a different course than what everyone else in sane society does. Maybe many leave the flock when when are old enough to do so and the ones who remain are the people who buy into this stuff. Could this whole thing be a self-selecting process. The ones who buy into it are the ones who stuck around to continue to implement it?

    It seems to me these Christian men who believe this stuff can’t have too much on the ball. If they had sufficient brains and skills, they could lead the family naturally without having to force people into following their will. Maybe they are lacking and this is the only way they can do it. I simply can’t imagine my father having to beat me so as to comply with common sense rules. I can’t imagine him beating my mother or forcing her to comply. These things were unfathomable in my family of origin. Maybe we just all shared the same values so everyone was in agreement with what needed to be done. I wanted all As as much as they did want me to get it. No one had to beat me to do my homework. Same with staying out late, not smoking, not drinking, not having sex with boys, whatever. Good grief, who the heck wanted to do any of that stuff,anyway – not me for sure and not any of the friends I hung out with. I am trying to wrap my head around this whole thing of Church leaders forcing people to do stupid things and I still have not seen the light. How do they do it?

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  39. LEB,

    If you’re interested in reading more about the “how” and “why” there’s a great book by Steven Hassan called Combating Cult Mind Control.

    There was also a fascinating documentary that recently aired on CNN called Holy Hell—showed how one guru can take control of a group of very smart people. It has the former group members all discussing what drew them in and kept them connected to the group for so long.

    There have always been and always will be evil people in the world. If Jesus had never existed, evil people would still find ways to hurt others.

    Some people will ask why we still believe in Christ with all the evil people doing damage in the church. Well, we can see the difference between the teachings of Jesus and all the junk that people try to add to it. We believe in Christ without believing in the wolves who will use anything to take advantage of others. And we continue to fight the uphill battle of driving that evil out of the church.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Avid Reader, I am writing down those references now and I am going to read/view them. Good suggestions. Regarding the uphill battle, wouldn’t it be easier to simply join a church without all of this nonsense. Surely, there are good ministers out there who lead sane congregations. They can’t all be bad. My husband had a client who was a local minister. He seemed nice enough – rough around the edges sort of guy but he seemed OK to me. I think he was one of those tough love sorts but that is OK. Some of these youth need just that. I was married by a Baptist minister, even. I chose him because he worked for the hospital where I was employed and he seemed nice enough. I invited him to the reception and sat him at a table with other hospital employees. He had a great time with everyone. I had no church affiliation of my own so I needed someone to marry us. I requested a traditional service which, being Baptist, he was more than qualified to deliver. He did a great job. No notes, nothing. He knew it all by heart. If there is one thing these Baptist ministers do well, it is public speaking. He was the right man for the job.

    There is a whole lot of good about Christianity and I know there are good ministers who teach sensible religion. Why don’t more people just join their churches and leave the abusive ministers high and dry. I am writing down your references now and I am going to acquire that book.

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  41. Someone above asked how complementarian treats women like children.

    I’ve written a post or two on my Daisy blog about it, such as this one:
    _Yes, Complementarianism Infantilizes Women_

    Basically, complementarianism teaches women not to trust themselves, trust their intellect, and tells them not to make choices for themselves, but to continually look to men in their lives (husbands, brothers, uncles, pastors, whomever) to direct their lives for them (the Bible teaches absolutely nothing like this).

    Comp treats women like they are over-grown toddlers.

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  42. If Jesus actually spoke all of the things he is alleged to have said, he would be the biggest micro-manager in the history of the world. I am quite certain that Jesus did not teach any of this stuff such as complementarianism or wife-spanking or any of the other nonsense. He dealt in broad concepts not the nitty-gritty details. People also forget that Jesus did not write down anything – not one single word and neither did he speak the King James English. He spoke Aramaic and much has been lost in the translation. For example the actual original text says “young girl” not “virgin” – the two concepts are not entirely synonymous not withstanding the fact that the vast majority of young girls – esp then – are, in fact, virgins. First we have trucking for Jesus, then warehousing for Jesus, next spanking for Jesus and now infantalization of women, also for Jesus. Let’s not forget burning women at the stake for Jesus or torturing people in his name. What is next? Where does it stop? If the man walked the earth today and learned of any or all of this nonsense, he would be absolutely appalled.

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  43. Leb, I believe Jesus looks down from Heaven and He is appalled. But not surprised. In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Jesus describes Himself returning to Earth as a righteous Judge. Many people will come up to Him calling Him Lord, but because they neglected the poor, the sick, and the outcasts Jesus will tell them, “Go away. I never knew you.”

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  44. @LEB

    “It seems to me these Christian men who believe this stuff can’t have too much on the ball. If they had sufficient brains and skills, they could lead the family naturally without having to force people into following their will. ”

    This is my experience.

    Men who get a thrill out of demeaning and hurting women and children are turned on by Christianity. Men who are extremely insecure about their manhoods are attracted to Christianity and the Bible. Men who know they are the kind of men women and girls want to say “no” to and escape; are attracted to Christianity.

    My father was a wife beater. Christianity told him everything he wanted to be true; women were created to serve men and never escape them. People should preach hatred towards women and elevate men. My father hated women so much; he hated toddler baby girls.

    The man who repeatedly sexually abused me as a little girl adored everything the Bible said about women. He loved all the wife submission Bible verses and he loved the misogyny in the bible. The Bible benefitted him.

    Areil Castro spirited men are learning Christianity offers them all they want out of women and little girls. These men are figuring out that they will not have to go to jail, be hated, have fear, feel guilt, or shame for their sadistic-fetishes and loser-man-insecurities. They can use Chriaitanty to make their wives and daughters have guilt, feel shame, have fear, and feel hated if we don’t do what these men want.

    Christianity taught me to hate myself for being female and that I could not disappoint men. Christianity taught the man who raped me that men should be in charge of women.

    As a sexually abused little girl, my biggest dream was to be able to tell men NO! Christian men are preaching that they should never have to hear “no” from a female. Areil Castro was not into women being able to tell him “no” either.

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  45. Avid Reader said “Doesn’t matter who’s actually qualified or who knows what they’re talking about. While both sides believe that men and women are different, Comps grant authority according to physical characteristics—the only thing we can’t change about ourselves.”

    Exactly! Piper says this all the time: “It’s not about competency.” (For example, the ridiculous parable he spins about the guy dating a woman who has a black belt, being responsible to defend her from an attack.) He’s the leader and she’s the follower, ’cause the Bible says so, end of story. Doesn’t matter if he’s careless, incompetent, abusive, or whatever. Blech.

    (Nice review of RBMW by the way. Piper et al always say “the Bible defines gender roles for the church and the home,” but as you point out in the review, Piper takes it way beyond that into the workplace too.)

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  46. Lori Alexander is a sexually sadistic pervert. And she has the same misogynistic fetishes as the Christian man that repeatedly sexually abused me as a little girl.

    I do believe Lori Alexander hates women so much she is trying to make sure the Ariel Castro spirited men of America get what they want out of women without having to go to jail for it.

    The perverted truth is in my experience with women like Lori; they are turned on by men like Areil Castro. It is so creepy how these sexually sadistic women can’t live their pervert lives by themselves. Why they want other women to live a degrading pervert life with them. These women are perverts, and the worst kind of perverts, their perversion has abuse in it. Oh, but they pretend it isn’t abuse, it is biblical.

    It is people with S&M fetishes trying to spread their fetish to other families and no child or woman is allowed a safe word.

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  47. @ bendeni

    John Piper is so paranoid and insecure about his manhood. If there is anything I learned from boys when I was fourteen it was if a guy starts going on about manhoods he is a ridiculous poser.

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  48. Christianity Hurts, This man who abused you is the most despicable of all creatures. My condolences to you for having fallen prey to such a creature. He distorts Christian doctrine to suit his evil ends. The sad truth is that it really would not matter what religion he affiliated with, he would find some way to distort the doctrines to meet his own ends. As much as I don’t esp favor these evangelical Christian pastors, I am reasonably sure that if he told any one of them what he was doing to you, even they would condemn him. Even they are not that bad.

    It is very hard to come to the knowledge that there are men who walk the earth who would commit such atrocities against children. Christianity may well hurt but these evil persons would distort any religion they happened upon. Look at what the Muslim radicals are doing now. If they are not slamming planes into the WTC, they are beheading innocent persons or drowning them in metal cages – all in the name of God – in their case God is called Allah. It is all the same. They are evil persons looking for a stage on which to conduct their criminal activities. Sadly, you crossed paths with one such evil individual and he exacted his torment upon you. I hope someday you will find peace and heal from the evil which has been perpetrated upon you. We must bear the scars of these villains who walk in our midst.

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  49. Christianity Hurts, That has been my take on the whole wife-spanking CDD. The participants have S and M fetishes and they are sexually turned on by it. Where I differ from you is that it is not only the men with these fetishes. It is the women, also. If you read some of the blogs where these women post and sort of brag about their punishments – one upping one another – it becomes quite obvious that they have the fetish, as well as their partner. The Church gives them a legitimate expression of something they want to do anyway.

    I guarantee you that if one of these women grew tired of the lifestyle and/or lost interest in staying with her husband, she’d have him booked on domestic violence in a heartbeat. It is staged but if any of these women decide, for whatever reason, to turn on the man, he is in BIG trouble. All she would have to tell the authorities was that she clearly and openly withdrew consent and he hit her anyway. She could also say that she never gave consent in the first place but that he abused her anyway and finally she just got to a place where she decided to report it to the police. These men are not only sadistic, they are supremely stupid, as well. They have no idea of how this “behavior” could be turned against them with grave consequences. They have no idea of how much legal hot water they could find themselves in given the current sociopolitical climate on this issue. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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  50. Rachel, I not so sure of that. If it were possible to look down from heaven to observe atrocities and if one had God-like powers, that person would never allow the atrocities to take place for some 2000 or more years. If such a scenario as you described were possible, then it would make the observer (who could stop the activities but did not do so) almost as guilty as the individuals doing the evils. Evils abound – we hear of them and witness some of them all the time. Some of us even have fallen victim to particular evils through no fault of our own. No divine entity would passively witness them and allow persons to suffer in this manner. Heck, I am certainly no divine entity and I could not even bear to witness my cat kill a mouse. I intervened and saved the mouse – which I now have as a pet in a cage, waiting to be let go when I find the right spot where I think it will be safe. Problem is that the mouse is very cute and I can’t think of one place where it is going to be safe. I wanted to release it in one of our outdoor sheds where no predator can get in but my husband caught wind of the idea and absolutely blew a gasket over the idea. So it remains in the cage, eating cat food, sleeping in the ceramic house I bought for it and running around on the little mouse wheel. I could not stand not to intervene even in that trivial circumstance let alone a God entity witnessing human suffering at the hands of an evil doer and doing nothing. It is unfathomable.

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  51. LEB,

    This afternoon, we had a wonderful summer lunch of fried chicken, potato salad, macaroni salad, chocolate chip cookies and lemonade. Of course we should have been eating healthier, but we didn’t really care. It’s summer time! There’s nothing like a cold glass of lemonade on a hot day!

    When I choose to eat junk food, I know its not good for my health. Should someone grab the fried chicken out of my hands and make me eat kale and tofu? Let’s go one step further. If I choose to consistently eat unhealthy food, never exercise, and never see a doctor, can I blame God if I end up with illness? Every time I pick up a plate of fried chicken, should God magically transform it into broccoli and tuna to help me be healthier?

    If I chose to start smoking, should God knock the cigarette out of my hand to prevent me from getting lung cancer?

    Let’s go another step further. If I need money and choose to rob a bank, should God zap me with lightning to stop me from robbing the bank? Or is it my responsibility to make better choices? When robbing that bank results in bad consequences, can I blame God for not stopping me from making that bad choice?

    These are tough issues to consider. Should God interfere with our personal choices? When? How often? Can we really make our own choices if God automatically steps in and prevents us from making mistakes?

    In the church we are often taught that God is in control of everything. Well if that’s true He sure messed up everything. There’s so much evil in the world. Innocent people suffer every day. Children suffer the most. That’s why I believe that when God gave us the ability to make choices, He chooses not to “control” those choices. Therefore, because He WON’T make our own choices for us, God is NOT in control of everything—whether we eat fried chicken, or tofu or do a thousand other things. We get to be in control of our lives everyday, even if we choose to mess up everything.

    None of us want to see people suffer. We give generously to charities, hoping to help suffering children around the world. But when greed takes charitable resources and wastes them, is that God’s fault?

    All of us wonder how a loving God can see the horrific evil out there without jumping in. But if God is supposed to interfere with our personal choices, then we wouldn’t be able to make choices at all.

    There are many innocent people that suffer from the evil choices of others. That’s why we believe that eternity is when God rights the wrongs that happen in this life. Heaven is where people get to enjoy all the good things that may have been withheld from them down here due to the evil choices of others. Heaven gives us hope to keep dealing with the evil world that we all face everyday.

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  52. Piper says this all the time: “It’s not about competency.”

    I’m amazed that people didn’t write him off from that moment because it is so self evidently stupid.

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  53. Avid Reader, Yes but the part that is missing in all of this is allowing the innocent to suffer. It is one thing for you to mess up your health (I like fried chicken also and truthfully tofu is also good when prepared properly). I have no problem with that part. If God exists, absolutely this entity should allow you to exercise free will. BUT having said that, permitting innocent persons to suffer is an entirely different matter. Here there is no issue of free will or choice or any such notion.

    Your last paragraph sums it up nicely but it is just all too pat for me. I suppose it is a nice thought and certainly helps the mental health of those who are suffering. It just seems too much of “Deus ex machina” to me or translated “God in a Box” sort of thing. That is when a writer does not think through the conclusion of his book and, instead, just comes up with a sudden, out of the blue and implausible fix all solution to everything so as to end the novel on a high note. Sort of like the Gary Larsen cartoon where a variety of professors ares standing about a room full of blackboards and all of the blackboards have figures on them. At the bottom of one of the blackboards is an inscription “and then a miracle happens” after which the figures continue and it all ends up with a happy conclusion where everything works out. The one professor says to the other “I think we need to look a bit more closely at this part” as he points to the inscription.

    The whole heaven/hell thing just does not cut it for me. On the other hand, if someone is deriving solace and comfort from it, who am I to interfere and say it shouldn’t be so. In the end I am a believer in the “what ever works” philosophy in life. If it helps someone cope, so much the better. This particular notion, however, just does not “work” for me

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  54. Rachel, Your logic assumes that you don’t deserve to exist. There is nothing to suggest that such is so. Why should you not be allowed to exist? What have you done which is so terrible that the world would be better off without you? Maybe Hitler should ask that question or the terrorists who blew up the WTC but you? What great evil have you done?

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  55. I just looked up neo-calvinism on wiki. I guess it would be safe to say, I don’t well relate to it. I also looked up Piper, thanks to your convenient link. Can’t say as I relate well to him, either. His philosophy seems a bit irrational to me. I think the bottom line is one either believes this stuff or he does not. I seem to be in the “does not” category which is not to say I am all knowing and everyone else is wrong. I just don’t buy what these folks are hawking. Sort of gets back to the “whatever works” philosophy of mine. For me, anyway, this stuff just does not “work.”

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  56. LEB – If you put John Piper’s name in the search bar on the right you can see some of the posts that have been written about him here.

    Liked by 1 person

  57. He sounds like someone whose teachings I am not going to like. I must tell you that being an agnostic and secular humanist, as I am, has certain advantages in that you get spared having to deal with all of these jerks. You can still do all the “good stuff” and practice spiritual growth to your heart’s content BUT you don’t have to deal with all these turkeys and their weird ideas. I have to tell you, however, that of all the stuff I have read about on this site, the CDD with its wife spanking really takes the cake. Before stumbling onto this site – quite accidentally – I never even knew about spiritual abuse. It was one form of abuse I had never heard of. I came here in a very strange way. My husband forwarded me a comment made by a woman who it seems has her own blog. Something about “people like your spawn” or something like that. I don’t remember all the details of her post but somehow, I ended up here and began to learn about spiritual abuse. You just never know what the new day brings in terms of learning opportunities. To say this place has been an eye-opener is the understatement of the year.

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  58. LEB wrote,

    “If God exists, absolutely this entity should allow you to exercise free will. BUT having said that, permitting innocent persons to suffer is an entirely different matter. Here there is no issue of free will or choice or any such notion.”

    That line of reasoning doesn’t work.

    If I choose to text and drive and end up in a car accident that hurts someone else can I blame God for allowing that innocent person to suffer? Is it God’s responsibility to prevent the car accident from happening if it was my choice to take my eyes off the road?

    Again these are tough issues to consider. It would be terrible if some innocent person was hurt because someone else chose to take their eyes off the road but here’s the thing—the line of reasoning that blames God for allowing people to suffer is actually demanding that God make our choices for us. If God starts making our choices for us, then we wouldn’t be able to make our own choices at all. Accepting reality means accepting the fact that every decision we make affects others. Accepting the fact that we have the ability to choose between good and evil. If we choose evil, then innocent people will suffer.

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  59. @ Avid Reader

    I prayed as a little girl and asked God not to let me get sexually abused again.

    What does God get out of not answering the prayers, cries, and begs of a raped child who goes to church three times a week and believes Jesus loves her?

    When I was still a Christian I read an article about a refugee African woman begging Allah to stop her from being gang raped. Obviously, Allah did not answer her begs as she was being gang raped. I was distraught as to why my God would not stop it from happening to her. She could not help that she was born in the wrong part of the world. That she was brainwashed to worship the wrong God. Could my God not have mercy and hate gang rape enough to help the woman?

    One of my cousin’s husband who is an adulterer, a drunk driver, and abandoned her and her kids; he saw a little girl suffering. He immediately jumped up and rescued the little girl. Even a man like this could not sit and watch something awful happen to a child.

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  60. Christianity Hurts,

    We appreciate your willingness to share very personal details about your life to help other survivors.

    This world is such an evil place. There are so many evil people hurting others. Society as a whole has a responsibility to protect the innocent. There are so many hard working social services people out there laboring night and day to rescue children from that type of evil. But no matter how many good people are in the world, there’s still so much pain and suffering caused by evil people.

    Have you been able to file charges against that person that hurt you?

    Have you had the chance to speak to an attorney about filing a civil lawsuit for the damages that he caused you?

    You will never be powerless again. You are a very strong person with a big heart to help others.

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  61. Avid Reader, That is why certain people like me are either agnostic or atheistic because neither scenario makes much sense. As much as I do not really like the outcome, the one that makes the most logical sense is that there is no God and there is no afterlife. I don’t esp like it but, truthfully, it is the most logical conclusion. On some level, the whole reincarnation and karma thing makes some sense BUT there are a lot of problems with that one also. What do we tell someone like Chrisitianity Hurts who was sexually abused as an innocent child? Do we tell her that such was her karma from past lives. I don’t think so – that does not work too well for me. it certainly would not work well for her.

    It is absolutely comforting to think that rewards and punishments will follow after death in a heaven/hell scenario. The problem for some of us is that we have to suspend too much disbelief and logic for that to be true. If it works for you, I say great – go for it. I am not against persons having religion. It simple does not work for me. I have to discount too much evidence to buy it. So I say, go ahead and do the right thing anyway – promote good, fight evil – do what you can. No one is any the worse off for that approach and some might even benefit. That is what it means to be a secular humanist. I strive to do all the same things you do BUT I do them for their own sake – to better the world and/or better myself. You and I are in agreement re what should be done. We just do the things for different reasons.

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  62. It’s a dangerous game to compare myself to Hitler or Saddam Hussein or Ariel Castro. But when I think of how far I have fallen from what God wanted me to be, moral perfection, I am indeed a sinner in need of mercy from God.

    We are all sinners. While Castro and Ted Bundy are extreme cases we all have the same spiritual deformity that they did. The Bible says as much. That is a major problem the Westboro Baptists have.

    For all have sinned and come short of the grace of God.

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  63. Rachel,

    Have you seen the movie—The Shack? If you have, would love to hear your thoughts on it.

    For me, what I DIDN’T like about the movie is that they don’t recognize evil for what it really is. They made excuses for evil. To be honest, that movie made me really uncomfortable.

    There’s a huge difference between good people like yourself that make mistakes from time to time but generally try to treat others right and evil people who willfully choose to hurt others. I was flabbergasted by how that movie made it sound like everyone is the same so we’re supposed to be more understanding and sympathetic to evil people.

    Yes, I agree with you that no one is perfect and we all need Christ as savior but give yourself some credit for trying to do the right thing. You are nothing like Ted Bundy or Ariel Castro.

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  64. Sure, Rachel, we all do – but need we beat ourselves up over it. Could we not simply dust ourselves off and try harder to be good persons. Surely some good has come from your life and efforts. Did you give birth to children and try to raise them into being good and productive persons? Did you do anything to help those less fortunate than yourself? Have you learned and perfected any skills which serve to help your fellow citizens. I am sure you have done at least something good in your life. How much true evil have you actually committed?

    No, you are not perfect, I am not perfect, Avid Reader is not perfect but is there any reason we have to dwell on our imperfections? Would not our time be better spend correcting our flaws and also focusing our energies on helping our fellow man. How is wallowing in your sins going to do any good for anyone?

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  65. LEB wrote,

    “Do we tell her that such was her karma from past lives. I don’t think so.”

    Totally agree with you there. I can’t accept the idea of reincarnation for the same reasons that you reject it as well.

    “Christianity Hurts” deserves credit for her courage in overcoming some very cruel things and her courage in seeking to help others.

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  66. Good post Avid Reader. There is too much “victimhood” going around as an excuse for doing bad things.

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  67. Avid Reader, Absolutely she does. It is very hard to deal with the injustices of life. The whole heaven/hell thing is one way to deal with it but that belief system just does not do it for me. I have to suspend to much of my critical thinking mind to swallow this whole package put forth by religion.

    On the other hand, if it does “do it” for someone, I say great. If someone is becoming a better person because of it and if someone is helping others because of it – making the world a better place – I also say great. Whatever it takes to get the job done – helping others, improving the world, stamping out evil, etc. etc. – is fine with me. As long as people are striving to do the right thing, I really don’t care why they are doing it – just so the work gets done.

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  68. LEB,

    Have you ever served on a jury? Most of us have gotten called for it at one time or another. We all understand how that process works. People on a jury have to review the evidence presented, listen to arguments on both sides and then make a decision about what they think actually happened.

    Jurors can decide that there’s not enough evidence available to make a decision, but that’s still making a decision about the evidence presented.

    Logic and critical thinking is why I believe in God. People of faith are people of logic and critical thinking skills. We do our research and form our conclusions based on what makes sense to us. We look at the complexity of human DNA and have to make a decision on whether that’s an accident of nature or design by a loving Creator. Of course, you’re welcome to disagree with me but all of us have to make that choice whether we choose to believe in Christ or not.

    All I’m saying is that people of faith are still people of logic and critical thinking. There’s a totally unfair line of reasoning that says that the only way to believe in God is to suspend your logic and reasoning. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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  69. Avid Reader, perhaps so. I certainly have no interest in dissuading you from your faith. If it helps you to be a better person and do the right things in life, absolutely you should continue with this line of thinking. You are correct in what you say. You look at the evidence and come to one conclusion. I look at the same evidence and come to a different conclusion. Who is to say who is correct and who is wrong. It really does not matter, anyway. It only matters what we do after we come to said conclusion.

    Odds are that you and I would do the same things in any given scenario where action was needed on our part. We might, however, being doing these things for different reasons. We would both fall short of the goal and we would both have many flaws – making many mistakes – in the process but so long as we are working toward a given goal – and that goal is positive – it is fine. We simply do not interpret what we see in life in the same way. I am going to theorize that probably 80% if the time, we would agree on what is the best course of action to deal with a given problem or a given scenario. Where we will differ is in those cases where particular actions are based on portions of scripture wherein I have major issues. Those are the areas wherein you and I are going to differ as to what is the best courses of action for a given scenario. Mostly, however, such is not going to be the case.

    To be perfectly honest with you, given a choice, I’ll take a good fundamentalist Christian – with whom I disagree – any day over some of these off-the-wall liberals (like Code Pink, for but one example). The left has gotten so far out of line in some instances that the Christians are a huge bargain, in comparison. I also have huge issues with persons who want to rain on their parade so to speak. What difference does it make if the Christians want to put up religious icons at Christmastime or whatever it is that they like to do. No one is forcing me to look at it or participate in the process. I say, leave them alone. They are not bothering anyone.

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  70. All, I think this is a really hard and confusing issue, which is why it is hard to come up with a satisfactory answer. I guess to start with, there is the question of whether where we are is a fall from a better state, or whether we are in an endless cycle of might-makes-right. I think our desire to seek justice suggests the former – we recognize and reject evil and we have a pretty good idea what is evil when we see it. I would suspect that if our minds were the result of a repeated cycle of natural selection and survival of the fittest, then rather than rejecting the use of brute force to manipulate and control, we would celebrate it as ‘fitness’.

    That said, the alternative is hard to fathom. A God who has the ability to miraculously intervene to protect the good and judge the evil who yet does not.

    I’ve been challenged recently by the parable of the wheat and the tares. The master of the field says, don’t pull the tares, because in doing so some of the wheat may be uprooted. I wonder if that is the sad/blessed reality – that God so much loves his own that he allows evil to persist so that they come to salvation.

    For example, an evil rapist may impregnate a women, and the child of that evil rape may become a Christian. So, the tare rapes the wheat and a wheat is produced. If God had uprooted the tare, the wheat would not have been produced. We mourn and detest the evil acts of the tares, yet we are faced with the paradox that in some respects the end result of this evil act is blessing brought by God.

    In my life, I would say that I mourn and detest the emotional and spiritual abuse that was inflicted on me, but yet, if it were not for that abuse, I probably would be still be a Pharisee, completely lacking in grace. Paradoxically, I’ve found it’s only those who have been abused by my former church that recognize how cultic and abusive it is.

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  71. Mark, Good post but then there is an equal if not more probable scenario wherein the child so conceived will inherit much of his father’s qualities and turn out to be not such a great human being. Maybe his mother is great and he will inherit her qualities so it is a crap shoot, at best – likely he will fall somewhere between the two. I am ever amazed when patients have come to me complaining about qualities of their teenage children who are doing bad things and running wild. Of course, always, they are separated from the father or else never married to him, in the first place. I tend to calmly inquire: “So what was his father like?” Most frequently, I get the answer: “He was the very same way!” or else “He is no good!” I quietly respond: “That is a shame” or “Gosh, that is terrible.” What I am really thinking is “What were you thinking having children with this man – of course, they are going to be a lot like their father.” Needless to say, I don’t express any such sentiments.

    Now, rape is another thing. I will be damned if I would ever bring an evil rapist child into world. That man has defiled my body and I would want no part of him growing inside of me. You had better believe I would abort a rapist’s child. I don’t believe I have enough good genes to overcome his evil ones or at least I would not chance it. Accidental pregnancy with an otherwise good man, well that is another matter. I probably would have that child. If God wanted more Christians so badly that he allowed a rapist defile me, he had just better find some other way to increase his flock cause I am having no part of it.

    Here is my take on the whole wheat and tare parable thing which you say may bring persons to salvation. If God wants these persons to come to salvation, he had better find some other way to do it versus causing harm to me because I am most definitely not cooperating. Because it might cause some jerk comes to “salvation” is absolutely no reason to harm someone else. For these reasons and many others just like them, I am a firm agnostic and secular humanist. Now if you want to talk about forgiving the rapist and helping him reform, then we might have something to talk about. I am all for forgiveness and service to this person so as to help him turn their life around. Sustaining personal harm on his behalf – hell no!

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  72. Mark,

    Just read this today:

    “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the LORD.”
    Proverbs 19:3(NLT)

    It sounds like what you were trying to say about the parable of the wheat and tares is that God gives each one of us time to grow, change and become a better person. If God instantly zapped us the moment we did something wrong, then we wouldn’t have time to learn from our mistakes. Through the years of our lives, we have all become better people than we were when we first started out. The wheat and tares parable seems to describe how the mercy of God is giving people extra time for repentance. No one gets away with anything. The end of the parable is judgment coming on evil people.

    By the way we have to be careful about these church doctrines that try to make excuses for evil people, saying that somehow this evil person’s choice was part of God’s plan. NOOOO! The Bible specifically warns against the idea of doing evil to cause good to happen.

    “Or can we say—as some people slander us by claiming that we say—”Let’s do evil that good may result”? They deserve to be condemned!”
    Romans 3:8 (ISV)

    Even Jesus grieved over the stubbornness of people because He couldn’t help them unless they allowed Him to. (Matthew 23:37)

    Part of us wants to believe that God is in control—meaning that no matter what we choose to do—somehow it was all part of God’s mysterious plan. We want to have it both ways where we get to make our choices and then if anything goes wrong, we want to blame God for not intervening—demanding that God make our choices for us. Can’t have it both ways.

    Instead, we all need to recognize the power we have to wake up every morning and do something!!!!

    “For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of POWER and LOVE and
    SELF-CONTROL.”
    2Timothy 1:7(NET)

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  73. Mark,

    Thought you might like this one too:

    “One thing I have learned: God made people good, but they have found all kinds of ways to be bad.”
    Ecclesiastes 7:29(NCV)

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  74. Avid Reader,

    Sorry, but I don’t think this particular parable is a good one and I think your interpretation of it is off the mark. It has several major flaws inherent in its design. First of all the tares (weeds) have no option to become wheat. They can’t “redeem” themselves. Second of all, they did not invade the wheat field – i.e. become invasive – of their own power. Rather, they were put there by someone else i.e. “the enemy.” . It wasn’t “their fault” that they were there but they got burned anyway. They paid the price for someone else’s misdoings.

    Perhaps someone might say that “revenge is best served cold” but that is not it either because the “enemy” who planted the tares is no worse off for the fact that the tares got burnt. Perhaps the poor tares are suffering but not the “enemy.” For all we know, he is enjoying the bon fire, giggling away at all the extra work he caused to be done. Anyway, lots of people actually like bon fires which is why they are so popular.

    As for the revenge angle, I personally happen to like the concept of “vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.” much better. So the bottom line is that the tares got “punished” for something which someone else did. They had no choice but to be tares. Your theory suggests that they could have turned themselves into wheat which, of course, in preposterous…..and worse, the “enemy” is totally off the hook. He causes havoc in the wheat field yet he gets away scott free.

    Sounds more like a scenario wherein the master is saying that “if we deal with this problem now, more harm than good will come of so better we deal with it later when we can do so more safely.” Not especially inspiring, no? Sort of mundane.

    Sorry but I think whoever wrote this parable struck out with it, big time. This one should have gone back to the drawing board before it made the cut. There are some great parables but this is not one of them. Now, not to be overly negative, the parable I like best is the one about not seating yourself at the head of the table. That is an example of a good parable.

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  75. LEB,

    My comment was a reply to Mark. I’d love to hear his response on that.

    By the way, try to keep an open mind. You’re very quick to tell everyone else that they’re wrong. Just remember that other people have perspectives too.

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  76. I am keeping an open mind and I also want to hear other people’s perspectives. That is how we all learn. I also would like to hear Mark’s interpretation. I am simply saying that the parable is flawed for the reasons I outlined. I absolutely want to hear other people’s perspectives but they don’t always share them.

    As long as I have your attention,however, I would like to address another point with you. You and I both have said that the notion of reincarnation and karma does not quite do it for us. We both have some issues with it. I have been told that there is a reference in the bible where someone says – in the presence of Jesus – that Jesus is the reincarnation of John the Baptist. Now since you are obviously a biblical scholar, you would know better than I about if this passage exists and where. I am simply reporting to you what I learned on the topic from someone else. Allegedly, the statement was made and Jesus did nothing to correct the person who referenced reincarnation i.e. it was not true or some such thing. Should not Jesus have said something if the statement were false. Also this same person (she was the instructor in a class I was taking once) stated that in the early days of Christianity – when it was completely under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church (long before Protestantism came about) there was a belief in this concept – somehow it got dropped along the way.

    Now it happens that in my class was a Roman Catholic priest who had been to seminary – the whole nine yards. He was fully ordained. He said that in the seminary they are taught about the history – as you might expect would be the case – and that such is true. They did espouse it at one time. He also said that a good deal of the other content which the instructor was teaching was also true but it was deep in the Vatican libraries and hidden from the public.

    Again, you seem to be an expert on the Bible. Are you at all familiar with what this instructor was referencing?

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  77. Avid Reader,

    While waiting for your reply, I did some google searching on my own. It seems the whole reincarnation notion about John the Baptist is not in reference to Jesus but to Elijah (whoever he was). It seems my memory does not serve me entirely correctly but I took this class many years ago. I do remember the instructor said that the issue came up.

    About the whole reincarnation being dropped from Christianity, I did find a reference which supports that notion. Here is what I found

    On the subject of reincarnation, Indian philosophy seems at odds with Christian teachings. But in fact this doctrine is denied only in the prevailing interpretations of the Bible, and not in the Bible itself. Reincarnation is not an un-Christian teaching. Nor, for that matter, is it an un-Jewish one. It was taught by some of the great early Christian Fathers, including Origen (A.D. 185 – 254) who claimed to have received it in an unbroken tradition “from apostolic times.” Indeed, it was not until five centuries after Christ, in 553 A.D., at the Second Council of Constantinople, that this doctrine was finally removed from Christian dogma. The anathema that was pronounced against it was a consequence of political maneuverings, not of theological purism. Scholars have recently discovered that Pope Vigilius, although present in Constantinople at that time, took no part in pronouncing the anathema, and in fact boycotted the Council altogether. http://www.waystofreedom.com/insights/reincarnation.html

    Again, I am not pushing the whole reincarnation thing. I am simply saying that at one time, it was part of Christian dogma and that it was officially removed from the teachings in 553 AD – more than five centuries after the death of Jesus. Perhaps that is why Jesus did not speak out against the notion. It was apparently part of the religious dogma at the time he lived. I do also know that the book which we call the Bible today represents specific books which a particular Pope chose from a larger group of books and gospels. He – meaning this Pope – decided which books should be included in the compendium which we today refer to as the Bible. Evidently, some of the books and gospels did not make the cut but the problem I have with this whole thing is that it was a single person – the then pope – who made this decision

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  78. Good morning LEB,

    Just woke up this morning and realized that you were waiting for a reply. Sorry to keep you waiting.

    I’d love to have the chance to visit the Vatican and study the artifacts in their archives. It must be really cool for the lucky people who get to study all the history they have preserved. What that instructor was describing sounds like an early Gnostic Gospel. We believe that the early church was infiltrated by lots of heresies so the Apostle Paul wrote much of the New Testament rebutting those heresies.

    There are many early writings that sound like someone making up stuff to sell books so naturally someone could have started a rumor that Jesus was the reincarnation of Elijah or John the Baptist. That rumor could have easily spread through the early church and become part of church dogma.

    The Bible addresses the concept of reincarnation by saying that people die only once and then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

    But I’m with you on looking at this from a logical perspective. The thing about reincarnation that bothers me the most is the idea that we lose everything about ourselves and have to become someone else. What about all the good we did in our lives? Shouldn’t we be rewarded for that? If we become six other people then we’ve lost our personal identity. Instead I’d rather believe that God keeps a “book of remembrance” recording everything good that we did to reward us. (Malachi 3:16)

    By the way, I’m just a nobody who loves to read. Thanks for the compliment. 🙂

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  79. LEB, it’s easy to get caught up in the details of the parable and miss the point (not seeing the forest for the trees). I think the Bible says that we are all tares, and it is through the work of the Holy Spirit and Christ that our nature is changed from tares to wheat. But… that is beside the point.

    What I’m saying is that in our fallen world evil, disgusting, terrible things happen. We don’t understand how those evil things can be in “God’s plan”. That’s the “problem of evil”. There are two approaches to the problem of evil. The first approach is the typical Evangelical approach. Flip the question. “It’s not ‘how do evil things happen to good people’, but ‘how do good things happen to evil people'” I think there is very little benefit to that approach.

    Yet, what Jesus is saying in this parable is that there is a bigger picture. There are ripples. The stone of the rape thrown into the pond causes ripples. The immediate ripple is the evil and pain of the rape itself, but only God knows and understands the ultimate effects, and perhaps what the parable is saying is that this short-term evil brings long-term good in God’s plan. That is, that removing the stone, while it looks good on the surface, actually removes the ripples.

    I want to be very careful because I think it can lead us to very trite answers (Evangelicals are again very great at this). “You shouldn’t be upset that you were raped and are now pregnant because God means this for good.” But, I think what Jesus is teaching is that if it weren’t for that rape, some person who God loves and has called to himself might not exist.

    For example, if it weren’t for Pharoah’s evil order, Moses wouldn’t have been trained to be a leader. If Joseph’s brothers hadn’t sold him into slavery, they would have died in famine. We still can be disgusted and horrified by these evil actions, yet recognize that eventually, good came from them.

    I think that is a big aspect of the punishment of Satan. He works and works and works to make something bad happen, like Judas betraying Jesus, yet the end result is that more good comes from the bad he does. Like the Merchant of Venice where evil Shylock not only doesn’t get his revenge on the hero, but the very tool (the Venetian law) he desires to manipulate against the hero gets turned back on him.

    Avid Reader, I think also in the parable is that there are evil and good. The tares are tares in an ultimate sense, rather than initially. It’s not that (in this parable) the tares will learn their lesson and change. It’s that uprooting the tares will damage the wheat – those who will ultimately accept Christ.

    Remember that Jesus preaches against the Pharisees, who claimed that they wouldn’t have killed the prophets. He says not only are they guilty because they would have killed the prophets of old, but that he was going to send prophets that they were actually going to kill so that they had no excuse.

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  80. LEB: “I have been told that there is a reference in the bible where someone says – in the presence of Jesus – that Jesus is the reincarnation of John the Baptist.”

    That is what the people think – they think he is the reincarnation of John the Baptist.

    The question is really, who is Elijah. Elijah in the Old Testament was a great prophet, but Elisha, his understudy, receives a double portion of his spirit when he is taken from Earth in a heavenly chariot. Elisha does even more amazing things than Elijah, culminating in a situation after Elisha is dead where a man’s body is placed in Elisha’s grave and the dead man comes back to live.

    The Bible is full of what theologians call “Types”. For example, Jesus says, just as the bronze serpent was lifted up, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up. The bronze serpent was a symbolic representation of Jesus. The Israelites had to look to the bronze serpent to be saved from death.

    In fact, the REAL Elijah appears with Jesus in the transfiguration. On the way down from the mountain, Jesus says, don’t tell anyone about this until I’m risen. The disciples wonder because they see this as a fulfillment of the prophecy that Elijah would come first, but then they realize that it is, in fact, John the Baptist that is the “Elijah” prophesied. So, Biblically speaking, Elijah was a “type”, a forerunner, of which John the Baptist was the fulfillment, and Elisha was a “type” which Jesus fulfilled. Elisha brought two back from the dead – one while alive and one after his death. Jesus brought people back from the dead, and when he died, he not only brought many saints back from the dead, but also raised himself.

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  81. Avid Reader,

    Some strange thought occurred to me as I was drifting across to sleep last night. If the notion of reincarnation was purged from the official church dogma in 554 AC that would mean that Jesus – who lived five centuries before that time – would have believed in it, if such was the religious teachings of the time. Effectively then, today, we are believing – if we are believers – something different in terms of dogma than what he was taught – and presumably – believe. That is sort of weird. The other thing which I find troublesome is that the Nician counsel around the same time determined which books were to be official Canon law i.e. the Bible and which were to be discarded. I was doing quite a bit of reading about how the bible came into being last night. It seems that the books gradually evolved and that eventually, to settle controversy, this papal counsel decided on the final version. There was also a chart published which shows which books – of the ones that were in existence then and still now – are accepted by which religions. It seems, which I did not know, that there are differences in which books are accepted by Catholics vs Protestants. Their respective bibles differ but they also listed a whole bunch of other books and stated which sects accept which books.

    So the bottom line is that some Pope and his counsel in 554 AC made the decision as to which books would be included in what we now consider to be “God’s word.” Of course, the Catholics believe the Pope is infallible so they have no problem with this notion. The protestants and esp evangelical ones are not thrilled with the pope and so called papists yet they read and study the very choices which a pope deemed correct so many centuries ago.

    Now onto reincarnation, this 12 series course which I took back in the mid-80s was based on reincarnation and karma. Basically it taught what is essentially the teaching of the Theosophists and the Theosophisical Society. The version of reincarnation which they teach includes the “Askoshic records” which include all the good and bad deeds anyone did in any lifetime. One’s karma in any given lifetime is supposedly a reflection of what he has or has not done. The Eastern religions believe this concept as well. The way they explain someone like Chrisitianity Hurts – here on this forum – is not to say that she did bad things in a previous lifetime but rather that she is an advanced soul who is taking on suffering for the betterment of society and her fellow man. We are not to assume that someone like her is being punished for past lifetime sins but rather that she is an evolved soul. She has chosen a difficult path so she can help others come to enlightenment

    That being said, there are people who are, in fact, being punished for past sins. The person who abused her is creating the need to suffer in a future life so as to “understand” the pain he has caused others. Rewards and punishments follow with you from lifetime to lifetime, according to this system. If one causes harm to another he creates a debt which must be paid off. Her abuser has created a huge debt which he will have to pay off via suffering the pain he caused unto her. Having said that one is also not to assume that someone suffering in this lifetime was necessarily bad in another. He may be paying off a debt but just as likely he might also be an enlightened or advanced soul who has come into a life which will involve suffering so as enlightening and help others. She may have chosen a painful life to advance her fellow humans in their progression. In between lives one reflects and studies what has happened. People chose the life they will come into but their options are limited by their karma

    According to this theory, one continues to reincarnate until he pays off past debts and lives in purity until he reaches a level where is worthy to return unto God. The goal is to live in holiness and purity until he is eventually worthy to return unto God from whence he came. Sins must be atoned for absolutely and one does get credit for good deeds. The believers of this philosophy hold that it takes many, many lifetimes before one can achieve a status wherein he has purified his soul sufficiently to return to God.

    Again, I don’t say I necessarily agree but this is what the Eastern religions believe and this is what the Christians and Jews believed before the Nicean councel.

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  82. Mark,
    So in a way, you are confirming the notion I had as I drifted off to sleep. Jesus believe a religious dogma which is different than what his “followers,” i.e. the Christians today, believed. Jesus was not necessarily opposed to the notion of reincarnation because it was part of the dogma of the time when he lived. The idea got purged from the “official” belief system i.e. the official religion in 554 AD when some pope and his counsel decided it must go. It is not like Jesus did this purging. He did not decried the doctrine Rather, somebody, namely the pope who was in office at the time, literally more than 5 centuries after Jesus lived, is the one who made that decision.

    So there is no small irony in the fact that the very folks who decry “papists” – primarily the evangelicals – are effectively following the edicts of one such papist namely the pope in power in 554 AD. That man and not Jesus set the policy. Jesus, who it seems had a whole lot to say about a whole bunch of matters pertaining to religion, never came out and condemned the policy or the notion of reincarnation.

    Here is the part I find even more disturbing. Evangelicals are very “into” the Bible believing it is the word of God. OK fine, but it was a pope – the very type of person they claim to detest – who chose which of various conflicting books was, in fact, the actual word of God. Different individuals wrote scripture and doctrines concerning the happening surrounding the life of Jesus – some of these conflict with one another. Some are considered true while others are considered false. The fact is, however, that some pope i.e. some HUMAN MAN made the decision as to which ones were right and which ones were wrong. So unless the Evangelicals agree with the Catholics that the pope is infallible – which they don’t – they are basing their entire religious faith on the choices made by a pope and other other powerful church officials of the Roman Catholic church. It is a bit disturbing, at best.

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  83. LEB, there was a much more substantial process in discovering/choosing the canon than simply the Pope infallibly ruling it. By the time there was a council to determine the books, there was little controversy over what those books were.

    And, it was not a Pope’s decision. In fact, the Mormon’s objection to the canon is that it was Constantine who called the council. It seems disputed that this council actually determined the Canon. Wikipedia has an article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

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  84. Maybe Jesus was addressing the topic of reincarnation when He told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” If Jesus had believed in reincarnation then He would have said “Today you will become a frog.” 🙂

    Now how do we know that Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth? Eyewitnesses. No one disputes that because of all the eyewitnesses whose testimony was recorded for history. So when I read the accounts of people who walked with Jesus, describing what they saw and heard, I’d rather believe the people who were there and saw what happened.

    Of course we should never base our faith on what any one religious leader said. In modern times we all have access to those early writings that were excluded from the Bible (Apocrypha, Gospel of Thomas, etc.) By all means you should read them and decide for yourself if they were inspired by God or just made up to sell books. Personally, I thought the Apocrypha was boring and the Gospel of Thomas just didn’t sound like the way God would speak to us.

    I was just reading a fascinating Catholic book about a nun who had visions of Christ. The devil also appeared to her, trying to imitate Christ. The book describes how she learned to recognize the difference between the two—even when the devil was appearing like the stereotypical Christ figure. She described that when the real Christ spoke to her, there was warmth and tremendous love. When the devil tried to mimic Christ, there was a coldness and condescending attitude.

    Reading through the book you have to decide for yourself if it sounds like the way Christ would speak to us. Here’s an example—in the vision she describes Christ as saying to her,

    “Do not regard your littleness, Josefa look rather at the power of My heart sustaining you. I am your strength and I will give you courage for anything I ask you to endure….”

    “How great are the sins of men but what distresses me the most is that they blindly fling themselves into Hell. Do you understand my grief, Josefa? To see those souls that have cost Me My life, lost forever. It oppresses Me to think that for them My blood was shed all in vain….not only are they oblivious of Me, those souls that have cost Me so dear but they even make Me an object of contempt and mockery….why do they treat Me thus? Have I not given them enough proofs of love?….They trample Me underfoot and ridicule Me, frustrating the designs of My love on them.”

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  85. Mark, This is an excellent article you have cited. I have learned a good deal of info from it. You hold that there was widespread agreement as to which books were “true” and which were “false” by the time of the counsel. OK I will take that as a given and the article supports this contention, as well. BUT, having conceded that point, there is still the issue that man or men chose the books. There were many to choose from and I would venture a guess that not everyone qualified agreed with the final choices. In fact, there is still disagreement today thus different bibles for different religious sects. So the Bible is the word of God as it has been decided upon by man or men (I am quite sure no women were involved in this process). If you hold that the men involved were infallible – as the Catholics like to believe – then everything is peachy keen. If you will not grant that any man – other than Jesus – was infallible then it is not so OK.

    No matter how you slice it up, Popes and Bishops had a huge say in this matter. Whether one pope or several popes along with some bishops the final choices are still decisions made by men. Any incorrect choices or else choices made for the wrong reasons then represent adherence to incorrect doctrine – if there is even any such thing as absolutely correct doctrine, in the first place. Jesus has absolutely nothing to say about this process because he was long dead. He was dead for literally centuries. The only way it would make even remote sense is if you believe in Divine intervention for the benefit of the “choosers” and then we get back to that whole sticky Catholic infallibility thing.

    Fact is that Protestantism – of which evangelicals are but one sect – did not even begin until 1517 almost 1000 years after Nicean counsel. One thousand years – that is one heck of a long time. Even, then, Martin Luther had the notion that Catholicism was fraught with all manner of errors. Errors pervade this whole thing. I just can’t see how given this long and protracted history, people can take the Bible literally as the end all and be all. At best it is a guide and a clue to what is going on. It is far from a direct account of the words right out of the mouth of Jesus. To hear some folks tell it, you would think that Jesus sat down and wrote out the Bible. He never wrote one single word in his entire life – not one word. We do not know one way or another whether he was even literate. It just blows my mind that people take this stuff so literally as though Jesus were standing at a lectern somewhere tell them how to live every minute of their lives. My own feelings – the Bible has some very good content which people are well served to implement and it also contains some totally erroneous content. It is a mixed bag from my perspective.

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  86. Avid Reader,

    To be fair, reincarnation is not about people assuming animal form – that is called transmigration and it is not generally accepted. Actually, there is controversy surrounding the assassination of Lincoln and the fact is that not all of the eyewitnesses to Jesus were in agreement. That is where this whole discussion as between Mark and myself comes from – meaning who decides which versions of the stories told by the eye witnesses are correct. They did not all agree.

    I have many times heard the various sayings which allegedly come from Jesus and I just can’t relate to them. They come across to me as so vain, so grandiose. He apparently believed he was the son of God and you all believe he is the son of God so it all sits well with you folks. If you don’t happen to accept that fact, as a given, then he comes across as self-aggrandizing.

    For that reason, I try to avoid reading these things because I don’t like having a negative view of a man who so many people venerate. Proclaiming oneself in this manner does not sit well with me. I suppose I have more of a Jewish take on this whole thing although I am not Jewish. He speaks to people as though he were God – which apparently he and you all do actually believe.

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  87. LEB,

    Even with videotape evidence, there’s still people who refuse to believe that we landed on the moon. Their disbelief doesn’t change what actually happened. Even if these people had the chance to interview the astronauts that actually landed on the moon, they would still refuse to believe. Sometimes “controversy” just means that some people are in denial.

    There are endless ways to analyze religion. There are many different gods to pick from. Generally speaking, these gods tell you to do this and do that and maybe you will be good enough to get into Heaven. They want you to sacrifice for them. That’s why the only God that I’m interested in is the one that already did the sacrificing for us.

    When it comes to Christ—there’s three perspectives:

    1) Jesus was a liar

    2) Jesus was mentally ill

    3) Jesus was telling the truth when He said—I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.

    Part of us wants to believe that Jesus was only speaking the truth when He said the things we want to believe. But that assumes Jesus was lying the rest of the time. Either Jesus told the truth the whole time and He really was what He said or He was a liar. Can’t have it both ways.

    By now, we’ve explored this topic pretty extensively. You’ve shared where you stand on these issues and you’ve been willing to listen to what most of us here believe so maybe it’s time to draw this discussion to a close after you have a chance to share any final thoughts.

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  88. LEB, one interesting counterpoint is that Jesus himself did not debate what was and wasn’t scripture. He refers to “the law and the prophets”, and when talking about martyrs, he talks about Abel and Zechariah, who were the first and last martyrs in the Septuagint (IIRC). So, whatever process came up with the scriptures of the Old Testament was fine by Jesus.

    As Avid Reader says, we should be able to hear the voice of God through the scriptures. There are other kinds of tests that were used – do they have a prophetic or apostolic origin, were they written at the same time as the events they speak about, are they internally consistent with other books that are recognized, do other books in the Bible reference them, were they recognized as scripture by those in the time or soon after, etc.,

    My understanding is that only a few books were under contention. James seemingly failed the internally consistent test, until scholars realized that James’s definition of “faith” was not the same as Paul’s, and that a definition of faith as “intellectual assent” rather than “saving belief” made them consistent. Jude was also under contention – it was short, the authorship was questionable and there wasn’t much in terms of consistency to test. The Wikipedia articles on the Canon are pretty good.

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  89. Well, we can certainly draw the conversation to a close if such is your preference. I am disappointed, however, in that I was just finding you absolutely fascinating to talk to. But if you are growing tired of it, fine. I can accept that. It is very hard to find people with whom you can have these sorts of discussions, anyway. Maybe Mark wants to continue the discussion. Maybe not. I am sure he will tell us.

    One thing to be clear about, however, is that I am not trying to change your mind. I just enjoy exchange of ideas. I know a whole lot more about this entire subject than before we started getting to know one another. I now know about spiritual abuse. Honestly, I had no idea it existed. I am getting a better feel for why things which seem so easy to me are not so easy from another person’s perspective. Mark is exposing me to a whole lot of very interesting church history which I never knew about. So, OK, you and I don’t have to discuss this topic any more. Let’s see how Mark feels about it. If he is also growing tired of the conversation, then we shall call it quits. I am about to read his post next.

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  90. LEB, also, the errors that have crept into the church are the same errors that have crept into society. Men seeking power and control over other men by whatever means necessary. If you look at Martin Luther’s 95 theses, many of them were about how the Catholic church was using peoples’ superstitions, fears and guilt against them. In Jesus’s time, the Pharisees controlled and manipulated the Jewish nation by fear of being cast out of the fellowship.

    The rise of bishops and archbishops and ultimately, the Pope (originally the archbishop of Rome) probably seemed a great idea at the time, but it was really elevating men over men. It was one thing to defer to a wiser person. It was yet another to create an office and power for that wiser person.

    Much of protestantism was a rebellion against the Catholic power structure and abuses. Yet, not more than 200 years later, John Milton wrote, “new Presbyter is but old Priest writ large.” So, for all its work to break the heavy chains of Catholic authority, protestants fell back into it, just more localized.

    I would say it’s okay to continue the discussion, although we are way off topic and at some point JA will probably condemn us to the off topic dungeon.

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  91. Mark, As I was just saying to Avid Reader, I am really enjoying these conversations and learning a lot. I am hoping you are not quite ready to call it quits. Now, one HUGE problem I have with this whole thing is the notion of eye witness. We all know how inaccurate eye witness testimony is. I have experienced it at least twice first hand and I was appalled at how faulty was my recollections. I was once called to give testimony at a deposition and then at a trial involving a law suit. I was working in the hospital and a man guarding one of the prisoners who was hospitalized fell off a chair and seriously injured himself. I witnessed others fall off this same chair. So at the deposition, the lawyer asks me to give a description of the chair. I am under oath. I do the best I can. I describe the chair in vivid detail as I recall it. I speak of the color, the micropore fabric from which it was upholstered. I speak of the pattern, the design. I am rather glad I had such good recollections of it for something as important as this trial and deposition.

    So now comes the trial. The chair is sitting up front in open court. I am absolutely appalled. The chair is made of hard plastic. There is no upholstery. There is no micropore fabric. There is no pattern or design. It is a simple hard plastic chair. I can hardly believe what I am seeing. This sort of thing has happened to me on other occasions as well – at least two other times that I know of. I was shocked to see actual evidence of something which I recalled as being entirely differently. So I am not entirely convinced as to how accurate eye witness testimony was or is. Things tend to get embellished over time. Also people often have an “agenda” to push. Facts often are modified to fit said agenda.

    I think the old testament is pretty much OK with me also. It is, in fact, more the new testament that I have more issues with. I do have great difficulty with persons who take it way out of context. To me, it is largely allegorical – often very poetic and beautiful in its style. 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. We have hard core evidence that the earth is billions of years old. The whole Genesis thing is a beautiful story but I don’t think it was ever meant to be taken literally. Do people literally believe the entire human race could stem from two individuals or that Noah could possibly take two of every animal on a boat? The vast majority of insects have not even been cataloged yet and their are animals living under deep sea pressure which could never survive near the surface. It is so insane and preposterous BUT it is a very nice allegory. These are beautiful allegories which are meant to inspire. It floors me that people could take them literally.

    So, Mark, what can you tell me of the Gnostic bible? I have read a few wiki articles but I still do not understand it. Who wrote them and are these some of the “rejected” books or is this something entirely different. I am interested in this subject. What can you tell me about them.

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  92. Mark, you comment about church errors being similar to society errors are spot on. That is what I meant about the “agendas” I think there were a whole lot of agendas put forth by a variety of powerful church leaders which did not have a solid basis in factor or history. They served the purpose i.e. the agenda of the individual promulgating them.

    You said that Luther indicated that the Church was using people’s fears, superstitions and guilt against them i.e. manipulating the people. That is exactly what I see the fundamentalists of today doing – with their hell, fire and brimestone approach. They capitalize on people’s fears and insecurities toward their own end. How is that so different from what the church was doing way back then. It seems like it is the same thing to me – same manipulation only differing in time and place. It worked then and it works now.

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  93. 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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  94. 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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  95. 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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  96. 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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  97. 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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  98. 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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  99. 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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  100. 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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  101. 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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  102. 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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  103. 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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  104. 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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  105. 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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  106. 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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  107. 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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  108. 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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  109. 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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  110. 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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  111. 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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  112. 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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  113. “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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  114. 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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  115. 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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  116. 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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  117. 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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  118. 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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  119. 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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  120. 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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  121. 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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  122. 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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  123. 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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  124. 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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  125. 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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  126. 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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  127. 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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  128. 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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  129. 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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  130. “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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  131. 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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  132. 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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  133. 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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  134. 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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  135. 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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  136. @ 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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  137. 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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  138. 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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  139. @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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