An atheist’s testimony

There has been a lot of dialogue on the “I perceive you are very religious” post with Michael the Little Boot, who does not believe in God. In the course of it, I asked him about his life, his experiences with religion that he alludes to, and how he became an atheist. He gave, in effect, what evangelicals call his “testimony.” So that you didn’t miss it in the comment section, I thought I’d post it here. (It’s long, so I’ll continue it under “comments.”) I was struck with how closely it tracks with evangelical testimonies, only, of course, to the opposite effect.

This has many lessons for those of us who are Christians. Notice the role of the CHURCH in producing atheists. Michael grew up with a Christianity that was harsh and life denying, whose message was law, law, law. The gospel was even turned into law, and Christ was not manifested in a pervading climate of grace, mercy, and forgiveness. (Some Lutheran churches, despite their theology, create this same impression.) The church then mistreated Michael in some unspecified (though not sexual) way. Being anti-intellectual, his church apparently did nothing in the way of apologetics or even in explaining the faith in any kind of sophisticated way, so that even a lightweight Michener novel was enough to kick out all of the intellectual supports of Michael’s Christianity. Whereupon he then went to another atheist-maker, liberal Christianity, to a Christian liberal arts school that introduced him to the higher critical approach to the Bible and to the notion that all the world’s religions are essentially the same, whereupon he chucked the whole thing.

Michael asks, in return, for other readers of this blog to tell about THEIR lives and why they believe in Christianity. Take up the challenge.

My parents come from different religious backgrounds. My mother was raised Catholic, my father was raised Jewish. They later rejected both and began to float around. By the time I was born they were into Scientology. Thankfully, they gave that up, as they are not rich and could not keep up with the endless “requests” for money. After I was born we ran into a number of bad-luck issues (sister was born with spinal meningitis and almost died, father had his thumb cut off in a plumbing accident, etc.). My mother decided things were bad enough that we should start attending the local Baptist church with our neighbor. Father wasn’t down, but later relented to save his marriage (although now he considers himself born-again).

Don’t know what type of Baptist church it was (I wasn’t that savvy at the age of four); but here I was introduced to really uplifting ideas that make a child feel safe. Some of those are 1) eternal hell, full of fire and brimstone and this really scary dude called Satan; 2) that I am a wretch, and the closest I come to “righteousness” is the equivalent of a filthy sock; 3) that I have free will to choose whatever I want to do, although there is only one choice which will make me truly happy (which begs the question “How is that really a choice?”), even if I don’t “feel” happy when I make that choice; 4) original sin, or “Why I am responsible for a choice made millennia ago by people I will never meet (on Earth, anyway)”; 5) that the things my body tells me to do – other than eating, sleeping, or using the restroom – are bad, dirty activities, and really come from Satan as a result of The Fall…

[Click the "comments" to read the rest.]

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Michael the little boot continues:

    Okay, so I got on a roll there. That was a bit indulgent.

    I was what is referred to as a very compliant child. I did what I was told, when I was told, mostly without question (I’m human, after all, and did assert myself on rare occasions). So when I was told about God and Jesus and what they did and do, and what I should do for them, I dove in head first. Of course, I was still yelled at by adults, because you just can’t ever do enough right for some people – regardless of religion. I questioned things that made no sense to me, but only out of a sense of curiosity, and did so respectfully. But I was raised at the tail end of the era wherein children were not treated as people, so the fact that I had the audacity to question an adult AT ALL was not well-received. I, like many children of that time, was stifled, to put it mildly. It taught me that I was worthless, a point driven home by the things I was learning in church.

    As far as being wronged or hurt by the church, that came in high school, mostly – apart from the seriously detrimental things I was learning in Sunday School and from reading the Bible personally, which I would say have proven to be worse for me in the long run than the times I was hurt. I don’t blame that on Christianity as a whole, or God in general. It was the responsibility of the people who were adults at the time and made some really big mistakes. I won’t go into the specifics. It had to do with the hiring of a wildly inappropriate youth pastor. Suffice it to say it was not sexual in nature, nor physically abusive. In fact, most of the people in the church still think they were correct in their choices. There have been no apologies.

    I continued in my church and was very active throughout high school. Then I got to college. It was there, at a small, Christian, liberal arts school that I learned about a different Christianity. I was taught about evolution; comparative religions; philosophy of religion; and the history of the Church as well as the history of Theology. I was also introduced to devout instructors who were co-pastors of a local church, and who didn’t believe in the inerrancy of scripture. This blew my mind; but the way they taught this idea was so compelling, and opened my mind to possibilities of which I had never dreamed. So I decided to attend this church.

    But it was in a course entitled “The World of the Bible” where I would read a book which would change my perspective completely. That book is The Source by James Michener. It was such a vivid description of how the evolution of religion may have occurred, and I couldn’t deny it. Suddenly I was faced with a shocking discovery: if religion HAD evolved in this way, or in a similar way, how could all the religions other than Christianity be wrong? I mean, if they were all related (not in exactly the same way as DNA, but in a similar way, at least metaphorically), if they had simply diverged because of cultural or environmental pressures, how could I point to a reason why one was absolutely right and all the others wrong?

    I worked at a library then, as well, so I got to work requesting books from Interlibrary Loan (before there was an extra cost!). I got so many books on the topic I couldn’t finish them all. Then I came upon A History of God by Karen Armstrong, and I was faced with an even more horrible problem: if all of the monotheistic religions were valid, what do I do with Jesus? Either he was God, which seemed to make all the other religions at least LESS THAN Christianity, if not completely wrong; or he was NOT, which left the door open to the other religions. The latter was rapidly overtaking the former as more reasonable, in my mind. By the time the summer between my jr and sr years was over, so was my belonging to Christianity.

    I still believed in God. But the whole world, which had formerly been closed to me, opened like a library that had been shut for centuries. I learned about all sorts of new things, which, for someone who is insatiably curious, is like, well, opening the door to a Costco or Sam’s Club and giving a free pass to someone who’s been starving since birth. I got really into Buddhism (hence my nickname “Little Buddha” as I mentioned over on the “secret identity” post).

    This continued for years. At some point I realized that I wasn’t sure whether I even believed in God anymore. I read a lot of science – NOT Dawkins – and began to fall in love with the “grandeur in this view of life.” I saw myself as related to all living things, and then the universe opened even more. I looked into the eyes of a dog or cat and saw myself. I saw them as alive for the first time, rather than the robots I had always believed them to be. With this came an enthusiasm I had never had in the church.

    I can’t really say when I became comfortable with calling myself an atheist. Actually, I’m still not very comfortable with the term. I don’t like naming things in general. I think names usually diminish the thing they’re supposed to describe. There are two real reasons I call myself an atheist: 1) I don’t believe in God or anything that can be construed as a being or consciousness or energy which is in charge of our universe; and 2) it gives me a group to which I can belong.

    That’s one of the biggest problems I’ve had since I left the church. For anyone who has never left a church, you couldn’t begin to understand. To you – and I’m definitely generalizing here – it is the person leaving the church who is responsible for the rejection. But for someone like me, I was simply being true to myself. I came to a point where I could no longer honestly say I believed. It was not something I sought, but it came, ironically, simply by hearing. Once I heard, once the seed took root, what followed felt natural. It was like a liberation. It felt the way I had always heard the “conversion experience” described. I had never felt it, throughout my life. I had never experienced a feeling like it. As you know, the feelings are powerful, and very difficult to deny.

    For this reason, I felt the rejection come FROM the church, even as they felt that I was rejecting Christ. But I wasn’t! I was ACCEPTING MYSELF, and finally feeling what I had been seeking, what everyone in the church told me they had felt before. I had been mistaken in my faith, because it wasn’t me. My path was elsewhere; in order to recognize this, however, I was forced to let my family – the church – in on my secret. And they rejected me.

    I know this seems a crazy way to put it. How can someone who no longer believes the things for which the church stands expect to be accepted by the church? But that reduces the church to little more than a club. It wasn’t that, for me. It was my family. My friends. Everything I had ever known. In order to be true to myself, in order to be honest, I had to leave all of this, not because I chose to, but because they would not accept me as the changed person I had become. Ironically, I did this because I had faith IN GOD that I was doing the right thing. I know! Even crazier.

    Hopefully this sheds a little light on who I am. It’s kinda rambling. It’s too long. But that’s me! Are we opening up to share now? Do I get to be filled in on each of you, why you believe what you believe, and how you got to where you are today? That would be awesome.

    Thanks for the opportunity, Dr. Veith. I appreciate it. Hope it answers some of your questions! Please ask more if it is not adequate.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Michael the little boot continues:

    Okay, so I got on a roll there. That was a bit indulgent.

    I was what is referred to as a very compliant child. I did what I was told, when I was told, mostly without question (I’m human, after all, and did assert myself on rare occasions). So when I was told about God and Jesus and what they did and do, and what I should do for them, I dove in head first. Of course, I was still yelled at by adults, because you just can’t ever do enough right for some people – regardless of religion. I questioned things that made no sense to me, but only out of a sense of curiosity, and did so respectfully. But I was raised at the tail end of the era wherein children were not treated as people, so the fact that I had the audacity to question an adult AT ALL was not well-received. I, like many children of that time, was stifled, to put it mildly. It taught me that I was worthless, a point driven home by the things I was learning in church.

    As far as being wronged or hurt by the church, that came in high school, mostly – apart from the seriously detrimental things I was learning in Sunday School and from reading the Bible personally, which I would say have proven to be worse for me in the long run than the times I was hurt. I don’t blame that on Christianity as a whole, or God in general. It was the responsibility of the people who were adults at the time and made some really big mistakes. I won’t go into the specifics. It had to do with the hiring of a wildly inappropriate youth pastor. Suffice it to say it was not sexual in nature, nor physically abusive. In fact, most of the people in the church still think they were correct in their choices. There have been no apologies.

    I continued in my church and was very active throughout high school. Then I got to college. It was there, at a small, Christian, liberal arts school that I learned about a different Christianity. I was taught about evolution; comparative religions; philosophy of religion; and the history of the Church as well as the history of Theology. I was also introduced to devout instructors who were co-pastors of a local church, and who didn’t believe in the inerrancy of scripture. This blew my mind; but the way they taught this idea was so compelling, and opened my mind to possibilities of which I had never dreamed. So I decided to attend this church.

    But it was in a course entitled “The World of the Bible” where I would read a book which would change my perspective completely. That book is The Source by James Michener. It was such a vivid description of how the evolution of religion may have occurred, and I couldn’t deny it. Suddenly I was faced with a shocking discovery: if religion HAD evolved in this way, or in a similar way, how could all the religions other than Christianity be wrong? I mean, if they were all related (not in exactly the same way as DNA, but in a similar way, at least metaphorically), if they had simply diverged because of cultural or environmental pressures, how could I point to a reason why one was absolutely right and all the others wrong?

    I worked at a library then, as well, so I got to work requesting books from Interlibrary Loan (before there was an extra cost!). I got so many books on the topic I couldn’t finish them all. Then I came upon A History of God by Karen Armstrong, and I was faced with an even more horrible problem: if all of the monotheistic religions were valid, what do I do with Jesus? Either he was God, which seemed to make all the other religions at least LESS THAN Christianity, if not completely wrong; or he was NOT, which left the door open to the other religions. The latter was rapidly overtaking the former as more reasonable, in my mind. By the time the summer between my jr and sr years was over, so was my belonging to Christianity.

    I still believed in God. But the whole world, which had formerly been closed to me, opened like a library that had been shut for centuries. I learned about all sorts of new things, which, for someone who is insatiably curious, is like, well, opening the door to a Costco or Sam’s Club and giving a free pass to someone who’s been starving since birth. I got really into Buddhism (hence my nickname “Little Buddha” as I mentioned over on the “secret identity” post).

    This continued for years. At some point I realized that I wasn’t sure whether I even believed in God anymore. I read a lot of science – NOT Dawkins – and began to fall in love with the “grandeur in this view of life.” I saw myself as related to all living things, and then the universe opened even more. I looked into the eyes of a dog or cat and saw myself. I saw them as alive for the first time, rather than the robots I had always believed them to be. With this came an enthusiasm I had never had in the church.

    I can’t really say when I became comfortable with calling myself an atheist. Actually, I’m still not very comfortable with the term. I don’t like naming things in general. I think names usually diminish the thing they’re supposed to describe. There are two real reasons I call myself an atheist: 1) I don’t believe in God or anything that can be construed as a being or consciousness or energy which is in charge of our universe; and 2) it gives me a group to which I can belong.

    That’s one of the biggest problems I’ve had since I left the church. For anyone who has never left a church, you couldn’t begin to understand. To you – and I’m definitely generalizing here – it is the person leaving the church who is responsible for the rejection. But for someone like me, I was simply being true to myself. I came to a point where I could no longer honestly say I believed. It was not something I sought, but it came, ironically, simply by hearing. Once I heard, once the seed took root, what followed felt natural. It was like a liberation. It felt the way I had always heard the “conversion experience” described. I had never felt it, throughout my life. I had never experienced a feeling like it. As you know, the feelings are powerful, and very difficult to deny.

    For this reason, I felt the rejection come FROM the church, even as they felt that I was rejecting Christ. But I wasn’t! I was ACCEPTING MYSELF, and finally feeling what I had been seeking, what everyone in the church told me they had felt before. I had been mistaken in my faith, because it wasn’t me. My path was elsewhere; in order to recognize this, however, I was forced to let my family – the church – in on my secret. And they rejected me.

    I know this seems a crazy way to put it. How can someone who no longer believes the things for which the church stands expect to be accepted by the church? But that reduces the church to little more than a club. It wasn’t that, for me. It was my family. My friends. Everything I had ever known. In order to be true to myself, in order to be honest, I had to leave all of this, not because I chose to, but because they would not accept me as the changed person I had become. Ironically, I did this because I had faith IN GOD that I was doing the right thing. I know! Even crazier.

    Hopefully this sheds a little light on who I am. It’s kinda rambling. It’s too long. But that’s me! Are we opening up to share now? Do I get to be filled in on each of you, why you believe what you believe, and how you got to where you are today? That would be awesome.

    Thanks for the opportunity, Dr. Veith. I appreciate it. Hope it answers some of your questions! Please ask more if it is not adequate.

  • http://scott.andstuff.org/ Scott Moonen

    Dr. Veith, thank you for your blog; I read it regularly and find it both enjoyable and profitable. And Michael, thank you very much for sharing your story. I’ve often thought it would be very nice to see a series of congenial “letters between a Christian and an X,” and Dr. Veith’s blog has the right atmosphere for just that sort of thing.

    I’m posting a link below, not because I think you ought to read it, Michael, and not because I think you’d be persuaded if you chose to read it. But this writer (Cornelius Van Til) articulates in a way far better than I could put into thoughts, let alone words: first, a story similar to my own of growing up surrounded by Christianity and coming into belief; and second, a right way of putting that experience into perspective — not as some series of proofs of God’s existence, as though creatures could possibly reason across the infinite gap from themselves to their creator — but as so many gifts from God, revealing himself to me, teaching me of himself and my position and my responsibilities, and shaping me into who I am now. Thanks be to God! In other words, this perspective produces a gratitude and faith that are anchored in Christ rather than in myself or my experience or my reason, although all of those certainly have a bearing on the situation so that the faith I’m left with is not some naked leap of faith.

    Here is the link: http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/why_I_believe_cvt.html

  • http://scott.andstuff.org/ Scott Moonen

    Dr. Veith, thank you for your blog; I read it regularly and find it both enjoyable and profitable. And Michael, thank you very much for sharing your story. I’ve often thought it would be very nice to see a series of congenial “letters between a Christian and an X,” and Dr. Veith’s blog has the right atmosphere for just that sort of thing.

    I’m posting a link below, not because I think you ought to read it, Michael, and not because I think you’d be persuaded if you chose to read it. But this writer (Cornelius Van Til) articulates in a way far better than I could put into thoughts, let alone words: first, a story similar to my own of growing up surrounded by Christianity and coming into belief; and second, a right way of putting that experience into perspective — not as some series of proofs of God’s existence, as though creatures could possibly reason across the infinite gap from themselves to their creator — but as so many gifts from God, revealing himself to me, teaching me of himself and my position and my responsibilities, and shaping me into who I am now. Thanks be to God! In other words, this perspective produces a gratitude and faith that are anchored in Christ rather than in myself or my experience or my reason, although all of those certainly have a bearing on the situation so that the faith I’m left with is not some naked leap of faith.

    Here is the link: http://www.reformed.org/apologetics/why_I_believe_cvt.html

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the little boot,
    Thanks for opening up there. I haven’t been following the conversation previously. But I’ll break in here, and discuss with you what I believe, why, and how I got where I am now.
    Simply put I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive all my sins, even the ones I plan to commit in the future. Well I don’t really want to sin, but I am sure I will. I believe Jesus Christ rose from the grave thereby proving all that he said about himself previously. If he hadn’t done that I would write him off as a lunatic. But I have found no compelling reason to doubt that the various accounts of his resurrection in scripture are wrong. So I believe Jesus is God and Man, and has the power to forgive my sins. This is the gospel, it trumps law. Law is a heavy yoke, one I surmize was put on you by well intentioned pharisees, who would “travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte , would make him twice a child of hell as they are.” (paraphrase of Matt 23:15) That is the effect of the law, it breeds hypocrisy or despair, either way the person becomes a child of hell.
    But the gospel is the easy yoke of which Christ speaks. It is what I was raised with, and for a long time never understood. It is the forgiveness of sins, that says none of us need be a child of hell. Christ has accomplished everything for us, we have no reason to be proud, or to despair. I was raised with this, my dad was a faithful pastor who taught me this day in and day out, who preached it Sunday after Sunday as I slept in the pew. I took the gospel for granted, I did not understand its true importance. I thought all so-called Christian churches had it. That was until I joined the Air Force. In the Air Force I was forced by circumstance to go to church with other Christians, and here many different pastors. They were bothered with me. They couldn’t figure out how I could believe in the inerrency of the Bible, that Jesus Christ is God, died for my sins, and yet go to the bar 7 days a week, and be in church on Sunday morning. And the guys at the bar couldn’t figure out why I always went home alone, or got up in the morning to go to church. I couldn’t figure them out, they couldn’t figure me out. There were few Lutherans around. The liberals couldn’t figure out my subscription to the inerrancy of scripture. The fundamentalists couldn’t figure out my care free attitude. It was then I realized the importance of the Gospel. It dawned on me that both fundamentalists and liberals were likely to have gone to church their whole lives, and never have heard the Gospel. If they did hear the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, it was always with conditions attached, an upright life from here on out. The liberals typically tried to rationalize, and excuse sin, they never attempted to forgive it. The fundamentalists were always preaching the law, and get people to follow it. They were afraid of the Gospel. It might make more people like me. So I became a pastor so at least a few more people might here the Gospel, and understand they aren’t o.k. but they are forgiven. That includes you Michael, Jesus died for your sins too.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the little boot,
    Thanks for opening up there. I haven’t been following the conversation previously. But I’ll break in here, and discuss with you what I believe, why, and how I got where I am now.
    Simply put I believe Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive all my sins, even the ones I plan to commit in the future. Well I don’t really want to sin, but I am sure I will. I believe Jesus Christ rose from the grave thereby proving all that he said about himself previously. If he hadn’t done that I would write him off as a lunatic. But I have found no compelling reason to doubt that the various accounts of his resurrection in scripture are wrong. So I believe Jesus is God and Man, and has the power to forgive my sins. This is the gospel, it trumps law. Law is a heavy yoke, one I surmize was put on you by well intentioned pharisees, who would “travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte , would make him twice a child of hell as they are.” (paraphrase of Matt 23:15) That is the effect of the law, it breeds hypocrisy or despair, either way the person becomes a child of hell.
    But the gospel is the easy yoke of which Christ speaks. It is what I was raised with, and for a long time never understood. It is the forgiveness of sins, that says none of us need be a child of hell. Christ has accomplished everything for us, we have no reason to be proud, or to despair. I was raised with this, my dad was a faithful pastor who taught me this day in and day out, who preached it Sunday after Sunday as I slept in the pew. I took the gospel for granted, I did not understand its true importance. I thought all so-called Christian churches had it. That was until I joined the Air Force. In the Air Force I was forced by circumstance to go to church with other Christians, and here many different pastors. They were bothered with me. They couldn’t figure out how I could believe in the inerrency of the Bible, that Jesus Christ is God, died for my sins, and yet go to the bar 7 days a week, and be in church on Sunday morning. And the guys at the bar couldn’t figure out why I always went home alone, or got up in the morning to go to church. I couldn’t figure them out, they couldn’t figure me out. There were few Lutherans around. The liberals couldn’t figure out my subscription to the inerrancy of scripture. The fundamentalists couldn’t figure out my care free attitude. It was then I realized the importance of the Gospel. It dawned on me that both fundamentalists and liberals were likely to have gone to church their whole lives, and never have heard the Gospel. If they did hear the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, it was always with conditions attached, an upright life from here on out. The liberals typically tried to rationalize, and excuse sin, they never attempted to forgive it. The fundamentalists were always preaching the law, and get people to follow it. They were afraid of the Gospel. It might make more people like me. So I became a pastor so at least a few more people might here the Gospel, and understand they aren’t o.k. but they are forgiven. That includes you Michael, Jesus died for your sins too.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Scott Moonen,
    yikes!
    I don’t have a problem with the idea that creatures can’t reason across the infinite gap. But the inferred idea that God is equally incapable of doing the same.
    He gave us our reason. It is a blessed gift, and he can and does use it to bring us to him. Reasoning about Christ in light of the empty tomb, brings us to realize that Christ is God. When he stepped into time, and took on our human flesh, suffered and died with us in this world, he bridged that infinite gap for us.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Scott Moonen,
    yikes!
    I don’t have a problem with the idea that creatures can’t reason across the infinite gap. But the inferred idea that God is equally incapable of doing the same.
    He gave us our reason. It is a blessed gift, and he can and does use it to bring us to him. Reasoning about Christ in light of the empty tomb, brings us to realize that Christ is God. When he stepped into time, and took on our human flesh, suffered and died with us in this world, he bridged that infinite gap for us.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt

    After being raised in a good Christian home, I chose as an adult to follow different paths for about 25 years. In utter desperation, I found a pastor and church that told me the truth – that I chose these things, that I was a sinner , that Jesus died to save me years ago and that I needed to live my life in thanksgiving and start helping others. I spent the next couple of years working through Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. For a while, I blamed my former churches (mostly Baptist) for teaching me things that were not truth or were distortions of truth. Now, I’m at the point where I realize that I chose what I wanted to hear and learn and have stopped constantly blaming others and feeling hatred toward them. What has changed most for me is realizing that God is who He is no matter what I choose to believe about Him. He desperately loves His creation, allowed them to choose to bring sin into creation and provided a way to the new creation. He provides the seed of faith – baptism and His word – and provides a strengthening of faith through continued hearing His Word and partaking of Jesus’ body and blood. How cool is that? I’m done playing God in my life. He’s the doer and I’m now the listener.

    A much longer version of my on-going faith journey can be found at my blog (click on the link above).

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt

    After being raised in a good Christian home, I chose as an adult to follow different paths for about 25 years. In utter desperation, I found a pastor and church that told me the truth – that I chose these things, that I was a sinner , that Jesus died to save me years ago and that I needed to live my life in thanksgiving and start helping others. I spent the next couple of years working through Martin Luther’s Small Catechism. For a while, I blamed my former churches (mostly Baptist) for teaching me things that were not truth or were distortions of truth. Now, I’m at the point where I realize that I chose what I wanted to hear and learn and have stopped constantly blaming others and feeling hatred toward them. What has changed most for me is realizing that God is who He is no matter what I choose to believe about Him. He desperately loves His creation, allowed them to choose to bring sin into creation and provided a way to the new creation. He provides the seed of faith – baptism and His word – and provides a strengthening of faith through continued hearing His Word and partaking of Jesus’ body and blood. How cool is that? I’m done playing God in my life. He’s the doer and I’m now the listener.

    A much longer version of my on-going faith journey can be found at my blog (click on the link above).

  • http://scott.andstuff.org/ Scott Moonen

    Brother Erickson, amen. I wholeheartedly agree that the reverse of my statement is not at all true, and you might even notice that I referred to God’s revealing himself. As you point out, this revelation takes place primarily in Christ. Thanks for the clarification.

  • http://scott.andstuff.org/ Scott Moonen

    Brother Erickson, amen. I wholeheartedly agree that the reverse of my statement is not at all true, and you might even notice that I referred to God’s revealing himself. As you point out, this revelation takes place primarily in Christ. Thanks for the clarification.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    You have to forgive me Scott. I have been trained in evidential apologetics. In that training I have been given a nervous tick that puls the trigger when Van Til is mentioned. Van Til did not believe one could reason across the gap, but leap it instead. I cringe at fideism. my faith is in objective truth, for which there is evidence.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    You have to forgive me Scott. I have been trained in evidential apologetics. In that training I have been given a nervous tick that puls the trigger when Van Til is mentioned. Van Til did not believe one could reason across the gap, but leap it instead. I cringe at fideism. my faith is in objective truth, for which there is evidence.

  • The Jones

    Well, Michael, I applaud your intellectual honesty and I’m confident that if you keep that up, it’ll do wonders for you in the end.

    However, after reading how you came to your conclusions, I have to say I’ve come up with some of the opposite conclusions. Some of the actions of those in your church and around you in your past actually confirm the maxim that humans are wretches and are in desperate need of help. No amount of good morals or instruction on right and wrong can erase the nastiness that we can bring to ourselves. In fact, that nastiness can actually take the things which are supposed to help us deal with our nastiness (good morals and instruction) and turn it to a more sinister form of evil. We’re in quite a precarious position indeed. (However, if I read your story right, there’s a big difference between saying “We are no good and in desperate need of grace and forgiveness” and saying “YOU are no good and in desperate need of grace and forgiveness.” I’m guessing you got a lot of the later and not much of the former.)

    You bring up a good point about the evolution of religions. Now I have read a little Karen Armstrong, but I haven’t read any of the books you mention. I might not have quite the complete view of this as you do. But still, this is quite a sticking point for anybody. The way I’ve been able to deal with the evolution of religion between cultures is by recognizing the points that don’t change and see how starkly they compare to how individuals put their own spin on the church. Or to put it another way, there is a bit difference between what the gospel itself says about salvation and what other people say about salvation. People have always been trying to make God to affirm their own opinions and allegiances throughout history: From “The gospel is the same Jewish tradition” to “The language of scripture is now Latin and only Latin” to “God is English” to “God is Republican.” Yet scripture remains rather consistent: Man has run away from God and God is trying to bring him back to himself. No there are much more complex ways that this evolution plays out, but the difference between what changes and what doesn’t actually gives me confidence in what IS Christianity and what is NOT.

    Now I guess I should take up the actual challenge and talk about my life and why I believe in Christianity. I was born over two decades ago with cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic disease that clogs the lungs and a few other organs with thick and sticky mucus. It makes me quite prone to infection and in high school, it triggered Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent) to compound my problems. At the time I was born, average life expectancy for those in my situation was about 18. Things weren’t looking so hot at the time, and this ended up being a perfect picture of the Christian situation. This was a picture of the world: it was broken, full of nasty people, people are only getting nastier, and the future didn’t look too bright. Yet despite all this, God is doing work and bringing people to himself. Giving hope and putting forth the example of love and redemption.
    At 21, 3 years after my “due date,” I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon. Quite a crowning achievement to the previous blessings of health, welfare, happiness, and general good luck that the Lord had blessed me with up until that point. I am broken but God is fixing me to better than I ever hoped to be, in my soul and my body. This is an example of that playing out, and it is an assurance of the redemptive power that God has to sustain and bring back the world to himself.

  • The Jones

    Well, Michael, I applaud your intellectual honesty and I’m confident that if you keep that up, it’ll do wonders for you in the end.

    However, after reading how you came to your conclusions, I have to say I’ve come up with some of the opposite conclusions. Some of the actions of those in your church and around you in your past actually confirm the maxim that humans are wretches and are in desperate need of help. No amount of good morals or instruction on right and wrong can erase the nastiness that we can bring to ourselves. In fact, that nastiness can actually take the things which are supposed to help us deal with our nastiness (good morals and instruction) and turn it to a more sinister form of evil. We’re in quite a precarious position indeed. (However, if I read your story right, there’s a big difference between saying “We are no good and in desperate need of grace and forgiveness” and saying “YOU are no good and in desperate need of grace and forgiveness.” I’m guessing you got a lot of the later and not much of the former.)

    You bring up a good point about the evolution of religions. Now I have read a little Karen Armstrong, but I haven’t read any of the books you mention. I might not have quite the complete view of this as you do. But still, this is quite a sticking point for anybody. The way I’ve been able to deal with the evolution of religion between cultures is by recognizing the points that don’t change and see how starkly they compare to how individuals put their own spin on the church. Or to put it another way, there is a bit difference between what the gospel itself says about salvation and what other people say about salvation. People have always been trying to make God to affirm their own opinions and allegiances throughout history: From “The gospel is the same Jewish tradition” to “The language of scripture is now Latin and only Latin” to “God is English” to “God is Republican.” Yet scripture remains rather consistent: Man has run away from God and God is trying to bring him back to himself. No there are much more complex ways that this evolution plays out, but the difference between what changes and what doesn’t actually gives me confidence in what IS Christianity and what is NOT.

    Now I guess I should take up the actual challenge and talk about my life and why I believe in Christianity. I was born over two decades ago with cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic disease that clogs the lungs and a few other organs with thick and sticky mucus. It makes me quite prone to infection and in high school, it triggered Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent) to compound my problems. At the time I was born, average life expectancy for those in my situation was about 18. Things weren’t looking so hot at the time, and this ended up being a perfect picture of the Christian situation. This was a picture of the world: it was broken, full of nasty people, people are only getting nastier, and the future didn’t look too bright. Yet despite all this, God is doing work and bringing people to himself. Giving hope and putting forth the example of love and redemption.
    At 21, 3 years after my “due date,” I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon. Quite a crowning achievement to the previous blessings of health, welfare, happiness, and general good luck that the Lord had blessed me with up until that point. I am broken but God is fixing me to better than I ever hoped to be, in my soul and my body. This is an example of that playing out, and it is an assurance of the redemptive power that God has to sustain and bring back the world to himself.

  • Nathan

    Michael,

    It sounds like you had a rough experience! You seem sharp, so I will try to write sharply.

    I have been a believer in Christ since I was a baby. First of all, I see close correlations between Christ’s tender love for me and my parents love for me. Believe me, this will all connect.

    Let me start with my parents, who I *know* love me. Ultimately, I know they really do care deeply about me, have forgiven me time and again, always wanting to maintain a relationship with me, and have sacrificed for me over the years, even taking the consequences of my wrongs upon themselves, as “love covers over a multitude of sins” (showing me imperfectly in the flesh what Jesus looks like). So, I admit that I had a real happy childhood (and I’ll add that my parents really talked to me about Jesus a lot too, mostly in the context about how even though we did not love Him or His “little ones” like we should, He always loved us because of who He was, namely the God who absorbed on the cross all the evil that we brought upon ourselves), and my parents love has been “proven” to me.

    For me, this assumption about my mom and dad’s love is something that I absolutely refuse to question (more detail: I consider it valid knowledge – and a controlling assumption in my life; It would not be suitable / appropriate / possible to do “rigorous analysis” – so can’t I “prove” it to you; For my own “purposes”, certainly I don’t need to verify it with two witnesses; if I thought I needed to for no reason other than to question the assumption, would that be appropriate / wise?)

    Where am I going with this? Hang on, we’re getting there. Now, I won’t begin to question the extent of my parents care and concern for me and my good (their love) – *unless* you can persuade me to do so (question) with evidence that I find to be powerful and compelling… *Because*, though there is truth in me – intangible, unmeasureable aspects of reality that only I have access to – the “truth is out there” also (X-Files :)).

    I recently read this from an agnostic/atheist (not sure which):

    What I Know:
    “That about which
    I have not yet been shown
    to be wrong.”

    I think this is a very wise statement about knowledge. Now, how does this relate to my knowledge of Jesus? Well, ever since I’ve been little I was the curious type, like you. I asked a ton of questions about the faith, because it seemed like many did not believe (or believed differently) and I was persuaded with what seemed to me powerful and compelling evidence that I ought to question things (not quite the same as my parent’s love!). In any case I think by the end of high school I had more doubts than at any other time in my life, but in college, thanks to some Christians who were not afraid to ask questions, I started to come across decent material that put up a good defense of the Christian faith.

    To sum things up, the resurrection is what it all came down to (see N.T. Wright’s brilliant book on the resurrection, answering the *best* critics have to offer). I think what we see in the OT history with God’s dealings with His people finally comes to full flower in the fullness of time, in the Empirical Jesus Christ, who shares our world, and who Paul says gives us “proof” of the unknown God by His resurrection. The reality of this resurrection is established by much evidence in history as well as in the lives of those who know its power (having confirmed this I then see that I can trust Jesus about who He says He is and how He reads the OT Scriptures, namely, as God’s Word), hence my writing about my parents above. So, I see the proclamation from Paul in Acts 17 not so much as giving me proof so that I can make a decision (choose), but real evidence that has come down through history (shaping it, my parents before me, etc.) and that hunts me down and slays me in its glorious *facticity and meaning*, that I may also be raised to new life, with the absolution (forgiveness, life, and salvation) the resurrection brings.

    So to sum up, I think this happened in my baptism when I was “willing to be nothing but given to” and received it freely (gift) as a little baby. I was nurtured in that, but still have mercilessly questioned my faith against the seemingly powerful counter-evidence that people have tested me with in this skeptical age. In spite of this, I feel like the evidence for God is so strong, from so many quarters, that I would be a fool to deny it.

    I hope this helps.

  • Nathan

    Michael,

    It sounds like you had a rough experience! You seem sharp, so I will try to write sharply.

    I have been a believer in Christ since I was a baby. First of all, I see close correlations between Christ’s tender love for me and my parents love for me. Believe me, this will all connect.

    Let me start with my parents, who I *know* love me. Ultimately, I know they really do care deeply about me, have forgiven me time and again, always wanting to maintain a relationship with me, and have sacrificed for me over the years, even taking the consequences of my wrongs upon themselves, as “love covers over a multitude of sins” (showing me imperfectly in the flesh what Jesus looks like). So, I admit that I had a real happy childhood (and I’ll add that my parents really talked to me about Jesus a lot too, mostly in the context about how even though we did not love Him or His “little ones” like we should, He always loved us because of who He was, namely the God who absorbed on the cross all the evil that we brought upon ourselves), and my parents love has been “proven” to me.

    For me, this assumption about my mom and dad’s love is something that I absolutely refuse to question (more detail: I consider it valid knowledge – and a controlling assumption in my life; It would not be suitable / appropriate / possible to do “rigorous analysis” – so can’t I “prove” it to you; For my own “purposes”, certainly I don’t need to verify it with two witnesses; if I thought I needed to for no reason other than to question the assumption, would that be appropriate / wise?)

    Where am I going with this? Hang on, we’re getting there. Now, I won’t begin to question the extent of my parents care and concern for me and my good (their love) – *unless* you can persuade me to do so (question) with evidence that I find to be powerful and compelling… *Because*, though there is truth in me – intangible, unmeasureable aspects of reality that only I have access to – the “truth is out there” also (X-Files :)).

    I recently read this from an agnostic/atheist (not sure which):

    What I Know:
    “That about which
    I have not yet been shown
    to be wrong.”

    I think this is a very wise statement about knowledge. Now, how does this relate to my knowledge of Jesus? Well, ever since I’ve been little I was the curious type, like you. I asked a ton of questions about the faith, because it seemed like many did not believe (or believed differently) and I was persuaded with what seemed to me powerful and compelling evidence that I ought to question things (not quite the same as my parent’s love!). In any case I think by the end of high school I had more doubts than at any other time in my life, but in college, thanks to some Christians who were not afraid to ask questions, I started to come across decent material that put up a good defense of the Christian faith.

    To sum things up, the resurrection is what it all came down to (see N.T. Wright’s brilliant book on the resurrection, answering the *best* critics have to offer). I think what we see in the OT history with God’s dealings with His people finally comes to full flower in the fullness of time, in the Empirical Jesus Christ, who shares our world, and who Paul says gives us “proof” of the unknown God by His resurrection. The reality of this resurrection is established by much evidence in history as well as in the lives of those who know its power (having confirmed this I then see that I can trust Jesus about who He says He is and how He reads the OT Scriptures, namely, as God’s Word), hence my writing about my parents above. So, I see the proclamation from Paul in Acts 17 not so much as giving me proof so that I can make a decision (choose), but real evidence that has come down through history (shaping it, my parents before me, etc.) and that hunts me down and slays me in its glorious *facticity and meaning*, that I may also be raised to new life, with the absolution (forgiveness, life, and salvation) the resurrection brings.

    So to sum up, I think this happened in my baptism when I was “willing to be nothing but given to” and received it freely (gift) as a little baby. I was nurtured in that, but still have mercilessly questioned my faith against the seemingly powerful counter-evidence that people have tested me with in this skeptical age. In spite of this, I feel like the evidence for God is so strong, from so many quarters, that I would be a fool to deny it.

    I hope this helps.

  • Manxman

    Michael,

    I don’t think you’ve taken your claims about the non-existence of God to the end of their logical consequences for your life & the rest of the world. If there is no God to order things, provide meaning, and to set standards of right and wrong, this existence is nothing but a Darwin, survival-of-the fittest struggle to the death. It all boils down to power and who weilds it. Is that what you believe? I doubt it. You know deep down that there’s right & wrong, justice and injustice, and more to life than just being as comfortable as you can until you die.

    The question you need to ask is if there’s a “god” out there worth believing in, would that “god” communicate real, solid truth to you – or would he play games with you & just leave you out there dangling in the wind? The Christian faith says that, as expected, our good God HAS revealed real truth in multicle, concrete ways to us about our lives, the world He created and what we must do to properly relate to Him and each other. Your problem is, will you accept what He has given you or not.

  • Manxman

    Michael,

    I don’t think you’ve taken your claims about the non-existence of God to the end of their logical consequences for your life & the rest of the world. If there is no God to order things, provide meaning, and to set standards of right and wrong, this existence is nothing but a Darwin, survival-of-the fittest struggle to the death. It all boils down to power and who weilds it. Is that what you believe? I doubt it. You know deep down that there’s right & wrong, justice and injustice, and more to life than just being as comfortable as you can until you die.

    The question you need to ask is if there’s a “god” out there worth believing in, would that “god” communicate real, solid truth to you – or would he play games with you & just leave you out there dangling in the wind? The Christian faith says that, as expected, our good God HAS revealed real truth in multicle, concrete ways to us about our lives, the world He created and what we must do to properly relate to Him and each other. Your problem is, will you accept what He has given you or not.

  • Nathan

    Michael,

    I understand your being uncomfortable with hell. I have reflected on this a bit lately, and give you some of my thoughts, born of (I hope – Dr. Veith, correct me if you think I’m wrong), my Lutheran understanding of the Scriptures:

    “…the concept of eternal punishment and suffering for those enemies of God who are finally unrepentant, is admittedly, rather difficult to take. In times of war, for example, most Christians do not think it an honorable and glorious thing to torture our enemies or cause them to suffer – for practical purposes in the temporal realm, much less no imaginable purposes in the eternal realm. By the accounts of some Reformed thinkers however, we ought not be ashamed of this, but rather glory in God’s righteous decision that unrepentant sinners suffer eternally. This is jarring, to say the least. It seems to strongly mitigate our concept of the God of love whom we serve.

    I think that these Reformed writers are right in that we do not understand the stakes involved here, for we seem to forget that we are at spiritual war. We have a serious tendency to mitigate the horrible effects of our sin. As T.S. Elliot said: “our offenses, infidelities, greed, lust, and violence ripple through families and communities, affecting people unto the third and fourth generation. We spend much of our time, both individually and corporately, protecting ourselves against this knowledge”. On the other hand, I would contend that it is because we have lacked serious reflection over God’s concept of love, and that correspondingly, we have neither understood nor appreciated what His glory means.

    For unlike us, God is not a destroyer of relationships. For example, even as a Christian delegated to do so administers the violence necessary to protect his neighbor, he is also to desire the ultimate salvation of the one being executed. Even if a person does not have repentance, this does not excuse us from forgiving him in our own hearts before God. Failing to desire that one’s relationship with the other would be rightly restored beyond the grave is a matter of grave consequence. “Why will you die, O house of Israel?” is not a rhetorical question for the one receiving God’s sword of judgment, but is meant to lead the sinner home. There is a good reason why his anger lasts only for a moment – it is because he came not to judge, but to save – mercy triumphs over judgment, indeed. Perhaps there is no chapter in the Bible that gets to the real crux of the matter as well as does Hosea 11, where God contends that he cannot help but seek out his beloved – yet again – precisely because He is God and not man. Herein lies the core of the word “holy”, and with it, honor and glory…

    Hell, or eternal separation from God, is indeed a place of fire and torment, but when Revelation 14 talks about persons suffering forever “in the presence of the Lamb”, I take comfort in knowing that He takes no joy in the death of the wicked… He would stand by them forever even if they would always reject Him. For this is the God who, in Christ, wept over Jerusalem before its destruction.

    We, not He, are those who destroy relationships. Rather than seeing others as those whom we can welcome and share life with – and who have significance outside our own desires and pursuit of happiness – we, often, would rather they simply not exist (for ours is not so much the age of anger and hatred, but apathy and indifference). Men might enjoy using this or that “God” for their own self-centered pursuits, but the flip side of this is that oftentimes, man, the fool, wishes the jealous and zealous God of Israel out of existence (Psalm 14:1). Perhaps this explains why there is eternal punishment with God, and not annihilation (the cessation of all personal existence, popular in Eastern conceptions such as Nirvana). Though God certainly expressed regret in the O.T. at creating man, He emphatically can not be said to “take life”, or “snuff out life” in order to be rid of relationships forever, dePersonalizing reality. Said differently, it is man who desires that God not exist, not God who desires that man not exist. Is man really so foolish that he would tell God what love is – namely treating others as if they do not exist, disregarding their presence, and ultimately destroying life, destroying relationships? Evidently. “Would you condemn me [to non-existence or otherwise] that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8). Indeed this is our problem.”

    Again, I hope this helps Michael. Unfortunately, I won’t have access to a computer until next Monday now, in case you wanted to interact.

  • Nathan

    Michael,

    I understand your being uncomfortable with hell. I have reflected on this a bit lately, and give you some of my thoughts, born of (I hope – Dr. Veith, correct me if you think I’m wrong), my Lutheran understanding of the Scriptures:

    “…the concept of eternal punishment and suffering for those enemies of God who are finally unrepentant, is admittedly, rather difficult to take. In times of war, for example, most Christians do not think it an honorable and glorious thing to torture our enemies or cause them to suffer – for practical purposes in the temporal realm, much less no imaginable purposes in the eternal realm. By the accounts of some Reformed thinkers however, we ought not be ashamed of this, but rather glory in God’s righteous decision that unrepentant sinners suffer eternally. This is jarring, to say the least. It seems to strongly mitigate our concept of the God of love whom we serve.

    I think that these Reformed writers are right in that we do not understand the stakes involved here, for we seem to forget that we are at spiritual war. We have a serious tendency to mitigate the horrible effects of our sin. As T.S. Elliot said: “our offenses, infidelities, greed, lust, and violence ripple through families and communities, affecting people unto the third and fourth generation. We spend much of our time, both individually and corporately, protecting ourselves against this knowledge”. On the other hand, I would contend that it is because we have lacked serious reflection over God’s concept of love, and that correspondingly, we have neither understood nor appreciated what His glory means.

    For unlike us, God is not a destroyer of relationships. For example, even as a Christian delegated to do so administers the violence necessary to protect his neighbor, he is also to desire the ultimate salvation of the one being executed. Even if a person does not have repentance, this does not excuse us from forgiving him in our own hearts before God. Failing to desire that one’s relationship with the other would be rightly restored beyond the grave is a matter of grave consequence. “Why will you die, O house of Israel?” is not a rhetorical question for the one receiving God’s sword of judgment, but is meant to lead the sinner home. There is a good reason why his anger lasts only for a moment – it is because he came not to judge, but to save – mercy triumphs over judgment, indeed. Perhaps there is no chapter in the Bible that gets to the real crux of the matter as well as does Hosea 11, where God contends that he cannot help but seek out his beloved – yet again – precisely because He is God and not man. Herein lies the core of the word “holy”, and with it, honor and glory…

    Hell, or eternal separation from God, is indeed a place of fire and torment, but when Revelation 14 talks about persons suffering forever “in the presence of the Lamb”, I take comfort in knowing that He takes no joy in the death of the wicked… He would stand by them forever even if they would always reject Him. For this is the God who, in Christ, wept over Jerusalem before its destruction.

    We, not He, are those who destroy relationships. Rather than seeing others as those whom we can welcome and share life with – and who have significance outside our own desires and pursuit of happiness – we, often, would rather they simply not exist (for ours is not so much the age of anger and hatred, but apathy and indifference). Men might enjoy using this or that “God” for their own self-centered pursuits, but the flip side of this is that oftentimes, man, the fool, wishes the jealous and zealous God of Israel out of existence (Psalm 14:1). Perhaps this explains why there is eternal punishment with God, and not annihilation (the cessation of all personal existence, popular in Eastern conceptions such as Nirvana). Though God certainly expressed regret in the O.T. at creating man, He emphatically can not be said to “take life”, or “snuff out life” in order to be rid of relationships forever, dePersonalizing reality. Said differently, it is man who desires that God not exist, not God who desires that man not exist. Is man really so foolish that he would tell God what love is – namely treating others as if they do not exist, disregarding their presence, and ultimately destroying life, destroying relationships? Evidently. “Would you condemn me [to non-existence or otherwise] that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8). Indeed this is our problem.”

    Again, I hope this helps Michael. Unfortunately, I won’t have access to a computer until next Monday now, in case you wanted to interact.

  • fw

    I am thinking that what michael is telling us is that he is on an existence-ial journey (nothing to do with sarte!). He feels that he has found himself, and in the process does not feel that christianity or other religions are able to identify or define who he is and therefore he cannot identify with those religions.

    I am not sure that I really understand yet all of what he is saying. I owe him a few emails… ( I promise to get to you soon dear michael!).

    It is interesting that most responses don’t seem to try to connect with the overarching reasons he lists for leaving christianity. I dont think that it was really because christians treated him badly if I understand him right. it was something much bigger and more integral than that I am hearing…. it would be good to hear more questions directed at him to try to understand what he is saying better …I am not sure I am sharp enough to do that….

    most or all of us here identify with a Person (that would be us lutherans with the person of Jesus), or with a set of propositions and doctrines (that would be the calvinists here, yes they identify with JC too but in a different way..) Michael, if I understand him rightly seems to be coming at all this from an entirely different angle that is more about who he is finding that HE is, that does not connect his pitch to our catch or vica versa. I sorta get what he is saying…. sort of. I would like to hear more…

    thanks for sharing Michael.

  • fw

    I am thinking that what michael is telling us is that he is on an existence-ial journey (nothing to do with sarte!). He feels that he has found himself, and in the process does not feel that christianity or other religions are able to identify or define who he is and therefore he cannot identify with those religions.

    I am not sure that I really understand yet all of what he is saying. I owe him a few emails… ( I promise to get to you soon dear michael!).

    It is interesting that most responses don’t seem to try to connect with the overarching reasons he lists for leaving christianity. I dont think that it was really because christians treated him badly if I understand him right. it was something much bigger and more integral than that I am hearing…. it would be good to hear more questions directed at him to try to understand what he is saying better …I am not sure I am sharp enough to do that….

    most or all of us here identify with a Person (that would be us lutherans with the person of Jesus), or with a set of propositions and doctrines (that would be the calvinists here, yes they identify with JC too but in a different way..) Michael, if I understand him rightly seems to be coming at all this from an entirely different angle that is more about who he is finding that HE is, that does not connect his pitch to our catch or vica versa. I sorta get what he is saying…. sort of. I would like to hear more…

    thanks for sharing Michael.

  • http://scott.andstuff.org/ Scott Moonen

    Brother Erickson — certainly! No offense taken.

    In my own reading of Van Til I have reached a different conclusion from you as to his own position on fideism, and it seems to me that he does see many appropriate uses for evidentialist apologetics. But I don’t dispute that it’s easy to read him otherwise, or that some of his admirers have taken that path. John Frame, in my opinion, does a much better job at laying Van Til’s position out than Van Til does.

    Regardless, you and I are in agreement as to fideism itself, and most importantly, as to the pre-eminence and purpose of Christ and his work!

    Blessings.

  • http://scott.andstuff.org/ Scott Moonen

    Brother Erickson — certainly! No offense taken.

    In my own reading of Van Til I have reached a different conclusion from you as to his own position on fideism, and it seems to me that he does see many appropriate uses for evidentialist apologetics. But I don’t dispute that it’s easy to read him otherwise, or that some of his admirers have taken that path. John Frame, in my opinion, does a much better job at laying Van Til’s position out than Van Til does.

    Regardless, you and I are in agreement as to fideism itself, and most importantly, as to the pre-eminence and purpose of Christ and his work!

    Blessings.

  • Michael the little boot

    In response to Dr. Veith’s statement “The gospel was even turned into law, and Christ was not manifested in a pervading climate of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.” I just wanted to ask this while it was on my mind: isn’t Jesus giving us grace and forgiveness for our “sinful nature” much like a mother chopping off her son’s foot, and then forgiving him for limping?

  • Michael the little boot

    In response to Dr. Veith’s statement “The gospel was even turned into law, and Christ was not manifested in a pervading climate of grace, mercy, and forgiveness.” I just wanted to ask this while it was on my mind: isn’t Jesus giving us grace and forgiveness for our “sinful nature” much like a mother chopping off her son’s foot, and then forgiving him for limping?

  • Michael the little boot

    Dr. Veith,

    Is there such a thing as a lightweight Michener novel? They’re all so THICK…

    All kidding aside, The Source came after I went to school. It started the process of rigorous questioning, and Armstrong’s A History of God finished it, which led me to cease being a Christian. Just wanted to correct the timeline. It’s in my post, but I didn’t want people to get it wrong. I may be overanalyzing, but I think the chronology is important.

  • Michael the little boot

    Dr. Veith,

    Is there such a thing as a lightweight Michener novel? They’re all so THICK…

    All kidding aside, The Source came after I went to school. It started the process of rigorous questioning, and Armstrong’s A History of God finished it, which led me to cease being a Christian. Just wanted to correct the timeline. It’s in my post, but I didn’t want people to get it wrong. I may be overanalyzing, but I think the chronology is important.

  • Michael the little boot

    Scott @ 2,

    Why couldn’t a creator make his/her/its creations so that they could “reason across the infinite gap from themselves to their creator”? Why is this such a ridiculous idea? Could it be that human beings have set up this axiom, but that it is not actually true? Why can’t we reason across this gap? Why is this gap infinite? IS there even a gap? If we don’t really understand God completely, couldn’t it be possible that we ARE able to reason across this gap, but deny this possibility because we just can’t believe it might be true?

  • Michael the little boot

    Scott @ 2,

    Why couldn’t a creator make his/her/its creations so that they could “reason across the infinite gap from themselves to their creator”? Why is this such a ridiculous idea? Could it be that human beings have set up this axiom, but that it is not actually true? Why can’t we reason across this gap? Why is this gap infinite? IS there even a gap? If we don’t really understand God completely, couldn’t it be possible that we ARE able to reason across this gap, but deny this possibility because we just can’t believe it might be true?

  • Michael the little boot

    I’m really enjoying this. Hope all of you are as well. Thanks, Dr. Veith.

    Unfortunately I am out of time. Not enough hours to get the work done AND reply to all of this interesting stuff! Will be back tomorrow…

  • Michael the little boot

    I’m really enjoying this. Hope all of you are as well. Thanks, Dr. Veith.

    Unfortunately I am out of time. Not enough hours to get the work done AND reply to all of this interesting stuff! Will be back tomorrow…

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael the little boot,

    I’m a PK too (plumber’s kid). My dad still has all digits but he did step in a bucket of acid once (don’t worry, he’s okay).

    Thanks for sharing so much! Quite daring.

    About myself, I grew up the oldest of three sons in a Lutheran household. My mom stayed with us boys, she grew up Lutheran, my dad converted before their marriage from a form of methodist-non-denominationalism. They both very much encouraged us in our questions about God and many other things. I remember very early on asking the question. What about other religions? I had a lot of LDS friends growing up. How was I to know whether or not I’m following after truth and who’s to say that others are not? Thankfully, my parents did not try to answer my questions too quickly.

    My first memorization assignment for confirmation class, I remember being assigned to learn the First Commandment. Well and good and easy enough but then we were to know the answer to the question: “What does this mean?” I remember not knowing that there was a simple-to-memorize answer to this Q already devised by Dr. Luther himself, so I memorized my own super long answer and boy was I embarrassed when I went to class to hear all the other boys and girls reciting the same short answer which I didn’t know: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

    All through my youth and adolescence, I knew that I was sinful (from what I was taught and by experience), but that Jesus died to take away my sin because of His (God’s) great love for me.

    Slowly somewhere along the line I stopped believing in the tooth fairy (he/she? came and visited my son last night), santa claus – I even figured that one out on my own, but though tested and wounded by my own stupid mistakes and also the cruelty of the world, my faith in Jesus and His abiding love for me and all people has remained by the power of the Word of God.

    You wrote about looking into the eyes of beasts and seeing them for something more that robots or something. That’s good – glad you figured that one out (wish a few more people would too). I am convinced that we can also see in their eyes their own yearning for the great reversal of the fall into inevitable death. Is not death unnatural – an unwelcome ever present terror?

    Why couldn’t the Creator make His creations so that they could perfectly commune with Him on their own? I think He did and believe that’s what the cross and resurrection of Jesus is all about – rebooting this creation to take away death and the lack of trust. What is is not what will be. That is my hope.

    In my path this morning was a dead little black bird all rolled up in the dirt and moistness of the path. I believe God knows what happened to that unfortunate bird. I didn’t want to see that, but after seeing it, my ears were opened to hear all the singing of the birds in the trees around me to which my mind had been closed before. I wonder if one of those birds knew the one that was now gone. God knows and He comforts. He opens ears to His Word by cross and sorrow.

    Just so you know I have not always been convinced that a Lutheran spirituality is the way to go. For a time I was wholeheartedly led by some sensational youth leaders and the belly button of my own emotions and enthusiasms. In college in the midst of almost consuming myself, a few dear friends helped me repent of my many pieties and self-pities so I could rest (and sing) in Jesus again.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael the little boot,

    I’m a PK too (plumber’s kid). My dad still has all digits but he did step in a bucket of acid once (don’t worry, he’s okay).

    Thanks for sharing so much! Quite daring.

    About myself, I grew up the oldest of three sons in a Lutheran household. My mom stayed with us boys, she grew up Lutheran, my dad converted before their marriage from a form of methodist-non-denominationalism. They both very much encouraged us in our questions about God and many other things. I remember very early on asking the question. What about other religions? I had a lot of LDS friends growing up. How was I to know whether or not I’m following after truth and who’s to say that others are not? Thankfully, my parents did not try to answer my questions too quickly.

    My first memorization assignment for confirmation class, I remember being assigned to learn the First Commandment. Well and good and easy enough but then we were to know the answer to the question: “What does this mean?” I remember not knowing that there was a simple-to-memorize answer to this Q already devised by Dr. Luther himself, so I memorized my own super long answer and boy was I embarrassed when I went to class to hear all the other boys and girls reciting the same short answer which I didn’t know: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”

    All through my youth and adolescence, I knew that I was sinful (from what I was taught and by experience), but that Jesus died to take away my sin because of His (God’s) great love for me.

    Slowly somewhere along the line I stopped believing in the tooth fairy (he/she? came and visited my son last night), santa claus – I even figured that one out on my own, but though tested and wounded by my own stupid mistakes and also the cruelty of the world, my faith in Jesus and His abiding love for me and all people has remained by the power of the Word of God.

    You wrote about looking into the eyes of beasts and seeing them for something more that robots or something. That’s good – glad you figured that one out (wish a few more people would too). I am convinced that we can also see in their eyes their own yearning for the great reversal of the fall into inevitable death. Is not death unnatural – an unwelcome ever present terror?

    Why couldn’t the Creator make His creations so that they could perfectly commune with Him on their own? I think He did and believe that’s what the cross and resurrection of Jesus is all about – rebooting this creation to take away death and the lack of trust. What is is not what will be. That is my hope.

    In my path this morning was a dead little black bird all rolled up in the dirt and moistness of the path. I believe God knows what happened to that unfortunate bird. I didn’t want to see that, but after seeing it, my ears were opened to hear all the singing of the birds in the trees around me to which my mind had been closed before. I wonder if one of those birds knew the one that was now gone. God knows and He comforts. He opens ears to His Word by cross and sorrow.

    Just so you know I have not always been convinced that a Lutheran spirituality is the way to go. For a time I was wholeheartedly led by some sensational youth leaders and the belly button of my own emotions and enthusiasms. In college in the midst of almost consuming myself, a few dear friends helped me repent of my many pieties and self-pities so I could rest (and sing) in Jesus again.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    Do not let people, especially God’s people, sour your taste for religion. One’s eternal destiny is not worth it. But if it is God that is not palatable to you, that is quite a different matter. No one can offer a better description of who God is, who we are, and what He requires of man than He has himself made clear in His word. This you seem to have rejected. There is no other offer on the table. And none else but Christ can persuade you.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    Do not let people, especially God’s people, sour your taste for religion. One’s eternal destiny is not worth it. But if it is God that is not palatable to you, that is quite a different matter. No one can offer a better description of who God is, who we are, and what He requires of man than He has himself made clear in His word. This you seem to have rejected. There is no other offer on the table. And none else but Christ can persuade you.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt

    Robert Landrum – excellent comment! It’s what I was trying to say, but came no where near saying. I’m saving that quote!

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt

    Robert Landrum – excellent comment! It’s what I was trying to say, but came no where near saying. I’m saving that quote!

  • kerner

    Michael Caligula* :

    Yours is an interesting story, but not a new one. Decades ago C.S. Lewis wrote an allegory called “the Great Divorce”. I haven’t been able to find my copy, and in the interest of responding before this thread expires, I will have to work from memory.

    In Lewis allegory, he argues that it is not God, so much , that sends people to Hell. Rather, people primarily choose Hell for themselves (as, incidently, you have done). Think about it. If God is the source of all happiness, beauty, pleasure, etc. When you turn from God to “accept yourself” what have you turned TO, except misery, ugliness and emptiness?

    In Lewis’ allegory most of the souls in Hell refuse to leave it, and at least one doesn’t even know that Hell is where he has been. The souls in Hell all have one thing in common. They could all have the “Joy” of the Lord, but they are too focused on their own “self”. There is some part of each soul’s “self” that must be given up to enter into “Joy”, and most of the souls simply can’t bring themselves to make the sacrifice. So they stay in Hell of their own volition. Lewis was right. No one whose “self” is more important than God will ever have the Joy of the Lord in Heaven. But it is not God who rejects them, it is they (in this case, you) that reject Him.

    But, even now my prodigal brother, He WILL take you back, if you will soften your heart and lose your self.

    The Great Divorce: it’s a good book (and much shorter than anything by Michener). I commend it to you.

    * “Caligula”: The Latin word meaning “little boots”

  • kerner

    Michael Caligula* :

    Yours is an interesting story, but not a new one. Decades ago C.S. Lewis wrote an allegory called “the Great Divorce”. I haven’t been able to find my copy, and in the interest of responding before this thread expires, I will have to work from memory.

    In Lewis allegory, he argues that it is not God, so much , that sends people to Hell. Rather, people primarily choose Hell for themselves (as, incidently, you have done). Think about it. If God is the source of all happiness, beauty, pleasure, etc. When you turn from God to “accept yourself” what have you turned TO, except misery, ugliness and emptiness?

    In Lewis’ allegory most of the souls in Hell refuse to leave it, and at least one doesn’t even know that Hell is where he has been. The souls in Hell all have one thing in common. They could all have the “Joy” of the Lord, but they are too focused on their own “self”. There is some part of each soul’s “self” that must be given up to enter into “Joy”, and most of the souls simply can’t bring themselves to make the sacrifice. So they stay in Hell of their own volition. Lewis was right. No one whose “self” is more important than God will ever have the Joy of the Lord in Heaven. But it is not God who rejects them, it is they (in this case, you) that reject Him.

    But, even now my prodigal brother, He WILL take you back, if you will soften your heart and lose your self.

    The Great Divorce: it’s a good book (and much shorter than anything by Michener). I commend it to you.

    * “Caligula”: The Latin word meaning “little boots”

  • http://scott.andstuff.org/ Scott Moonen

    Michael: re “Why couldn’t a creator make his/her/its creations so that they could ‘reason across. . .’”

    Well, in a way I would say that is just what God did, because of course we do see him and can know him. But in the end I think it’s still more correct to describe this as his willingly and graciously revealing himself to us, rather than our reasoning our way up to him tabula rasa.

    Think of it this way. Since God is transcendent, it’s better to understand him as an author such that we exist “in him”, than to say that he is simply another being (albeit the most powerful) sharing our universe. If a computer programmer crafts creatures to populate a simulation, or a storyteller imagines people living and loving and struggling and dying, or a painter conjures up fantastic creatures — in all of these creations, as much as the creatures may instinctively know there is an author who has made them, they cannot even begin to imagine what is utterly outside their world unless the creator reveals himself.

    And God has revealed himself. More than that, God did this by entering his creation in a way that Tolkien never could. Thus we speak of the immanence of Christ.

  • http://scott.andstuff.org/ Scott Moonen

    Michael: re “Why couldn’t a creator make his/her/its creations so that they could ‘reason across. . .’”

    Well, in a way I would say that is just what God did, because of course we do see him and can know him. But in the end I think it’s still more correct to describe this as his willingly and graciously revealing himself to us, rather than our reasoning our way up to him tabula rasa.

    Think of it this way. Since God is transcendent, it’s better to understand him as an author such that we exist “in him”, than to say that he is simply another being (albeit the most powerful) sharing our universe. If a computer programmer crafts creatures to populate a simulation, or a storyteller imagines people living and loving and struggling and dying, or a painter conjures up fantastic creatures — in all of these creations, as much as the creatures may instinctively know there is an author who has made them, they cannot even begin to imagine what is utterly outside their world unless the creator reveals himself.

    And God has revealed himself. More than that, God did this by entering his creation in a way that Tolkien never could. Thus we speak of the immanence of Christ.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 3,

    Yeah, liberals (I don’t consider myself one) tend to make excuses, be pretty spineless. Fundamentalists like to say they are not about the law, but that’s just a smokescreen, as you said. Once again, I think labels diminish things. Once you actually MEET a liberal or fundamentalist, they become a person, and it gets much more difficult to pin them down. But, in general, I agree with you.

    I think I’ve made it clear, here and elsewhere on this blog, that I don’t believe in sin. Maybe I haven’t said enough about it. The reason I’m bringing it up in response to you, Bror, is what you said at the end of your reply. “I became a pastor so at least a few more people might here [sic] the Gospel, and understand they aren’t o.k. but they are forgiven.” I think they ARE okay. What I mean by that is not that we don’t do things that hurt people, or hurt ourselves, or that we never take advantage of people or do “wrong,” etc. I believe everything one might define as sin occurs; I just don’t call it sin.

    Might I need to forgive someone for hurting me? Well, yeah, it would probably be a good idea. Why? I’m not totally sure. I don’t think it’s a vestige of my former faith. My reason to practice forgiveness at this point is for relationship maintanence. If I have wronged another person, I think it’s important for them as well as for me that I apologize and make amends in some way. I don’t think God would get involved. I don’t know why God would need to get involved.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 3,

    Yeah, liberals (I don’t consider myself one) tend to make excuses, be pretty spineless. Fundamentalists like to say they are not about the law, but that’s just a smokescreen, as you said. Once again, I think labels diminish things. Once you actually MEET a liberal or fundamentalist, they become a person, and it gets much more difficult to pin them down. But, in general, I agree with you.

    I think I’ve made it clear, here and elsewhere on this blog, that I don’t believe in sin. Maybe I haven’t said enough about it. The reason I’m bringing it up in response to you, Bror, is what you said at the end of your reply. “I became a pastor so at least a few more people might here [sic] the Gospel, and understand they aren’t o.k. but they are forgiven.” I think they ARE okay. What I mean by that is not that we don’t do things that hurt people, or hurt ourselves, or that we never take advantage of people or do “wrong,” etc. I believe everything one might define as sin occurs; I just don’t call it sin.

    Might I need to forgive someone for hurting me? Well, yeah, it would probably be a good idea. Why? I’m not totally sure. I don’t think it’s a vestige of my former faith. My reason to practice forgiveness at this point is for relationship maintanence. If I have wronged another person, I think it’s important for them as well as for me that I apologize and make amends in some way. I don’t think God would get involved. I don’t know why God would need to get involved.

  • Michael the little boot

    TKls2myhrt @ 5,

    Did you really choose those things? I’d be interested to hear the context in which you “chose” to “stray” from the church. I hate to see that line of reasoning sold to people who seem really gentle and nice. What if you’re a biological robot who can make a few really free choices, but who is mostly bound by physiology to do certain things? It’s just something to think about.

    A lot of the people on this blog like to tell me “the way things are,” like they’re giving me the writing on the wall. When I don’t accept their view, they like to tell me it doesn’t matter WHAT I accept, reality is what it is REGARDLESS of what I think. That’s true, I think. Reality is what it is, and what we may “think” it to be, or “believe” it to be, even what we may “wish” it to be – these are immaterial.

    So, to that end: what if the question I posed earlier IS reality? What scares you about that? If it IS true, why do you want it NOT to be true? These are all hypothetical, obviously. I’m not trying to tell you I believe the above to BE reality. Just wondered what people might think about it.

  • Michael the little boot

    TKls2myhrt @ 5,

    Did you really choose those things? I’d be interested to hear the context in which you “chose” to “stray” from the church. I hate to see that line of reasoning sold to people who seem really gentle and nice. What if you’re a biological robot who can make a few really free choices, but who is mostly bound by physiology to do certain things? It’s just something to think about.

    A lot of the people on this blog like to tell me “the way things are,” like they’re giving me the writing on the wall. When I don’t accept their view, they like to tell me it doesn’t matter WHAT I accept, reality is what it is REGARDLESS of what I think. That’s true, I think. Reality is what it is, and what we may “think” it to be, or “believe” it to be, even what we may “wish” it to be – these are immaterial.

    So, to that end: what if the question I posed earlier IS reality? What scares you about that? If it IS true, why do you want it NOT to be true? These are all hypothetical, obviously. I’m not trying to tell you I believe the above to BE reality. Just wondered what people might think about it.

  • Michael the little boot

    Something occurs to me, in response to no one in particular. I’ve heard before that I shouldn’t expect God to conform to my opinions of God, or my desires for God to be a certain thing, etc. I find it funny that God doesn’t conform to what I think about God, but God DOES conform to what a lot of people here think about God. And they get to say this “God doesn’t conform” line to me, all the while getting the God they believe to exist. Strikes me as kinda convenient. Anyone care to address this?

  • Michael the little boot

    Something occurs to me, in response to no one in particular. I’ve heard before that I shouldn’t expect God to conform to my opinions of God, or my desires for God to be a certain thing, etc. I find it funny that God doesn’t conform to what I think about God, but God DOES conform to what a lot of people here think about God. And they get to say this “God doesn’t conform” line to me, all the while getting the God they believe to exist. Strikes me as kinda convenient. Anyone care to address this?

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones @ 8,

    Before I respond, let me just say I’ve known a couple people with your affliction, and I’m glad to hear you are still alive! Such a difficult situation. Words fail.

    Most of what you said was your testimony, and as we disagree on the nature of reality, I just wanted to respond to one quote: “Some of the actions of those in your church and around you in your past actually confirm the maxim that humans are wretches and are in desperate need of help.” It hurts me that we think of ourselves in this way. What, besides the Bible, do you appeal to in order to come to this conclusion? I’m not trying to be unfair. If the Bible is where you get this view, I understand. I was wondering if you could find evidence for this outside the Bible. I agree we could, by looking at our actions, define ourselves as wretches. We could also just say we’re imperfect, and stop expecting perfection.

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones @ 8,

    Before I respond, let me just say I’ve known a couple people with your affliction, and I’m glad to hear you are still alive! Such a difficult situation. Words fail.

    Most of what you said was your testimony, and as we disagree on the nature of reality, I just wanted to respond to one quote: “Some of the actions of those in your church and around you in your past actually confirm the maxim that humans are wretches and are in desperate need of help.” It hurts me that we think of ourselves in this way. What, besides the Bible, do you appeal to in order to come to this conclusion? I’m not trying to be unfair. If the Bible is where you get this view, I understand. I was wondering if you could find evidence for this outside the Bible. I agree we could, by looking at our actions, define ourselves as wretches. We could also just say we’re imperfect, and stop expecting perfection.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt

    Michael,

    You ask if I really chose to stray. I’m thinking you don’t have teenagers or know many very well. Am I right? I suppose one could make the argument that our sin nature assures that we are all destined to sin at one time or another.

    With all due respect, Michael, I don’t believe for a minute that you are asking any of us our “stories” with much sincerity. Your testimony tells me that you closed your heart to people (and to God ) a while ago and aren’t interested in dialogue…just debate and refuting anything we might say. I’m sorry that you were abused at the hands of so-called Christians…you need to move on from that. Many of us also were abused by fellow Christians and are still dealing with it, but have come to realize that we have to take responsibility for our own choices in our lives. I could go in to detail, but I suspect you don’t really care. I’m not trying to insult you, I just don’t think you are being honest. It’s just my intuition.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt

    Michael,

    You ask if I really chose to stray. I’m thinking you don’t have teenagers or know many very well. Am I right? I suppose one could make the argument that our sin nature assures that we are all destined to sin at one time or another.

    With all due respect, Michael, I don’t believe for a minute that you are asking any of us our “stories” with much sincerity. Your testimony tells me that you closed your heart to people (and to God ) a while ago and aren’t interested in dialogue…just debate and refuting anything we might say. I’m sorry that you were abused at the hands of so-called Christians…you need to move on from that. Many of us also were abused by fellow Christians and are still dealing with it, but have come to realize that we have to take responsibility for our own choices in our lives. I could go in to detail, but I suspect you don’t really care. I’m not trying to insult you, I just don’t think you are being honest. It’s just my intuition.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Sometimes opening oneself up to telling one’s story is not the same as being honest.
    Blaming is fine, as far as it goes.
    But then, each of our lives touches other lives, no matter how hard we try to avoid touch and interaction.
    It’s a hard thing to realize that, through that interaction, we’ve given others as much opportunity to blame us, for things completely out of our knowledge, but for things that are real and lasting to those people.
    Everyone is a victim of others, and everyone is a victimizer, in some capacity.
    That’s exactly what Christ is about: He has no capacity for the latter, but was entirely the former, but for our sakes. He didn’t suffer silently for Himself, to glory in His status as ultimate victim, but for victims and victimizers alike.
    He’s wrapped Himself in our sufferings, so we don’t have to be so tightly bound by them, and to them, anymore.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Sometimes opening oneself up to telling one’s story is not the same as being honest.
    Blaming is fine, as far as it goes.
    But then, each of our lives touches other lives, no matter how hard we try to avoid touch and interaction.
    It’s a hard thing to realize that, through that interaction, we’ve given others as much opportunity to blame us, for things completely out of our knowledge, but for things that are real and lasting to those people.
    Everyone is a victim of others, and everyone is a victimizer, in some capacity.
    That’s exactly what Christ is about: He has no capacity for the latter, but was entirely the former, but for our sakes. He didn’t suffer silently for Himself, to glory in His status as ultimate victim, but for victims and victimizers alike.
    He’s wrapped Himself in our sufferings, so we don’t have to be so tightly bound by them, and to them, anymore.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, Michael, as Chesterton said, the doctrine of original sin is the only doctrine that really can be proven empirically. Why haven’t we ever created that perfect society in which everyone treats everyone well? That’s what people want, and yet why do we pervert it each and every time. Why do even people who try so hard to be moral–such as those of your old church–instead act so immorally?

    You keep asking us to prove what we say. For a time, let’s ask you to provide evidence for your high view of human nature.

    Also, you keep asking why God couldn’t have designed the universe so that we wouldn’t be in all of these dilemmas. Well, the answer is that He did and He will. The ideal creation DID exist before that mysterious catastrophe known as the Fall, that creation allowing however for one act of free obedience that could be transgressed.

    In the world to come, with the Resurrection of the Dead, even that one condition will be no more, and all will be as even our feeble ideals feel that it should be.

    What we have now is a brief “vale of soul-building” in which we are fitted, through trial and faith, for that paradise. But that eternal existence will last forever, compared to which human history will be an atom in an ocean. So that the eternal condition must have the ontological priority.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Well, Michael, as Chesterton said, the doctrine of original sin is the only doctrine that really can be proven empirically. Why haven’t we ever created that perfect society in which everyone treats everyone well? That’s what people want, and yet why do we pervert it each and every time. Why do even people who try so hard to be moral–such as those of your old church–instead act so immorally?

    You keep asking us to prove what we say. For a time, let’s ask you to provide evidence for your high view of human nature.

    Also, you keep asking why God couldn’t have designed the universe so that we wouldn’t be in all of these dilemmas. Well, the answer is that He did and He will. The ideal creation DID exist before that mysterious catastrophe known as the Fall, that creation allowing however for one act of free obedience that could be transgressed.

    In the world to come, with the Resurrection of the Dead, even that one condition will be no more, and all will be as even our feeble ideals feel that it should be.

    What we have now is a brief “vale of soul-building” in which we are fitted, through trial and faith, for that paradise. But that eternal existence will last forever, compared to which human history will be an atom in an ocean. So that the eternal condition must have the ontological priority.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the little boot,
    Permit me to show, at least from a Christian perspective, why God has to be the one forgiving. If you buy into the hypothesis of God, then when you sin against another person, you sin against God’s creation, you sin against God. It was in this context, the murderer and adulterous, who undoubtedly sinned against many people writes:Psalm 51:1-8 (ESV)
    To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

    Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
    according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
    [2] Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
    [3] For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
    [4] Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
    so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
    [5] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    [6] Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
    [7] Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
    [8] Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

    I quoted a bit more than I wanted, but you get the point I’m sure. So if we are all O.K. could you explain why we are always sinning against eachother? I know you don’t use that term, but really a rose by any other name. You know what I mean by sin, so tell me why are we doing that if we are o.k.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the little boot,
    Permit me to show, at least from a Christian perspective, why God has to be the one forgiving. If you buy into the hypothesis of God, then when you sin against another person, you sin against God’s creation, you sin against God. It was in this context, the murderer and adulterous, who undoubtedly sinned against many people writes:Psalm 51:1-8 (ESV)
    To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

    Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
    according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
    [2] Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!
    [3] For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is ever before me.
    [4] Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
    so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.
    [5] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
    and in sin did my mother conceive me.
    [6] Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
    and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
    [7] Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
    [8] Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

    I quoted a bit more than I wanted, but you get the point I’m sure. So if we are all O.K. could you explain why we are always sinning against eachother? I know you don’t use that term, but really a rose by any other name. You know what I mean by sin, so tell me why are we doing that if we are o.k.

  • Michael the little boot

    I must apologize that I haven’t been able to respond quickly. I only have access to a computer at work, and, as work must come first, I can only find a few minutes a day to answer what has been said. So I will try to get through as many as I can today, meaning the answers will be as brief as I can make them. In the interest of time and serving the dialogue.

  • Michael the little boot

    I must apologize that I haven’t been able to respond quickly. I only have access to a computer at work, and, as work must come first, I can only find a few minutes a day to answer what has been said. So I will try to get through as many as I can today, meaning the answers will be as brief as I can make them. In the interest of time and serving the dialogue.

  • Michael the little boot

    Nathan @ 9,

    I don’t want to persuade you of anything. It’s great that you had such a wonderful childhood. I can’t imagine what that must be like. If you have no reason to question your parent’s love for you, you are in the minority, it seems. Which is AWESOME! Seriously. I mean, I know my parents SAY they love me – and I have no doubt they do have feelings of affection and care – but it doesn’t enter into their actions. Which is a digression.

    But let me reiterate that I am not talking out of any mercenary motive. I have no desire to change any of your opinions. Anyone here, in any way. (Yes, I’m alluding to being called out by Tickles, and I’ll get to that one…) Just want to discuss and learn.

    I liked the quote you used:
    What I Know:
    “That about which
    I have not yet been shown
    to be wrong.”

    I think we would all be well served by keeping this in mind.

  • Michael the little boot

    Nathan @ 9,

    I don’t want to persuade you of anything. It’s great that you had such a wonderful childhood. I can’t imagine what that must be like. If you have no reason to question your parent’s love for you, you are in the minority, it seems. Which is AWESOME! Seriously. I mean, I know my parents SAY they love me – and I have no doubt they do have feelings of affection and care – but it doesn’t enter into their actions. Which is a digression.

    But let me reiterate that I am not talking out of any mercenary motive. I have no desire to change any of your opinions. Anyone here, in any way. (Yes, I’m alluding to being called out by Tickles, and I’ll get to that one…) Just want to discuss and learn.

    I liked the quote you used:
    What I Know:
    “That about which
    I have not yet been shown
    to be wrong.”

    I think we would all be well served by keeping this in mind.

  • Michael the little boot

    Manxman @ 10,

    Hello again! Sorry I’ve taken so long to get to your reply.

    I’ll begin with this quote: “If there is no God to order things, provide meaning, and to set standards of right and wrong, this existence is nothing but a Darwin [sic], survival-of-the fittest struggle to the death. It all boils down to power and who weilds it. Is that what you believe?” No. It’s not EXACTLY what I believe. I think we do, as being with brains capable of thinking in a certain way, have the opportunity not to live such competitive, power-based lives. We don’t generally choose to do that. I don’t think any of us knows why. I mean, we say it’s sin nature, or “survival of the fittest” (a phrase which actually didn’t come from Darwin), but we don’t actually KNOW why we choose to live basically as we always have – i.e., the people with the most power taking advantage of those with little to no power.

    What I find interesting is that, contrary to what I’ve said in a number of other replies, you think you can tell me what I believe. You doubt I see it as you – in full caricature mode – portray it in your reply. You continue, “You know deep down that there’s right & wrong, justice and injustice, and more to life than just being as comfortable as you can until you die.” While I generally agree with you last statement, I’m not so sure about the rest. Right and wrong seem to be fluid ideas. No two people have exactly the same view of what constitutes right or wrong. Now, there may BE absolute concepts at work here. I don’t have a view of it one way or the other. But I do think it’s dangerous to say that right and wrong are absolute ideas, and, more than that, to say one’s own ideas of right and wrong ARE the absolutes.

    You then ask if I think God would “play games with you & just leave you out there dangling in the wind?” Well, I would hope not. You say God doesn’t. “The Christian faith says that, as expected, our good God HAS revealed real truth in multicle [sic], concrete ways to us about our lives, the world He created and what we must do to properly relate to Him and each other. Your problem is, will you accept what He has given you or not.” Well, hiding the truth about the meaning of life in a little country in the middle east, and in books one may or may not read or even understand – in my opinion, that is a pretty good definition of playing games. I think if God actually cared about the way I live my day to day life, God would have given me very specific rules in plain view and in plain speech, so that I would not be able to make a mistake. But I’ve said this before, and I wasn’t the first when I did.

  • Michael the little boot

    Manxman @ 10,

    Hello again! Sorry I’ve taken so long to get to your reply.

    I’ll begin with this quote: “If there is no God to order things, provide meaning, and to set standards of right and wrong, this existence is nothing but a Darwin [sic], survival-of-the fittest struggle to the death. It all boils down to power and who weilds it. Is that what you believe?” No. It’s not EXACTLY what I believe. I think we do, as being with brains capable of thinking in a certain way, have the opportunity not to live such competitive, power-based lives. We don’t generally choose to do that. I don’t think any of us knows why. I mean, we say it’s sin nature, or “survival of the fittest” (a phrase which actually didn’t come from Darwin), but we don’t actually KNOW why we choose to live basically as we always have – i.e., the people with the most power taking advantage of those with little to no power.

    What I find interesting is that, contrary to what I’ve said in a number of other replies, you think you can tell me what I believe. You doubt I see it as you – in full caricature mode – portray it in your reply. You continue, “You know deep down that there’s right & wrong, justice and injustice, and more to life than just being as comfortable as you can until you die.” While I generally agree with you last statement, I’m not so sure about the rest. Right and wrong seem to be fluid ideas. No two people have exactly the same view of what constitutes right or wrong. Now, there may BE absolute concepts at work here. I don’t have a view of it one way or the other. But I do think it’s dangerous to say that right and wrong are absolute ideas, and, more than that, to say one’s own ideas of right and wrong ARE the absolutes.

    You then ask if I think God would “play games with you & just leave you out there dangling in the wind?” Well, I would hope not. You say God doesn’t. “The Christian faith says that, as expected, our good God HAS revealed real truth in multicle [sic], concrete ways to us about our lives, the world He created and what we must do to properly relate to Him and each other. Your problem is, will you accept what He has given you or not.” Well, hiding the truth about the meaning of life in a little country in the middle east, and in books one may or may not read or even understand – in my opinion, that is a pretty good definition of playing games. I think if God actually cared about the way I live my day to day life, God would have given me very specific rules in plain view and in plain speech, so that I would not be able to make a mistake. But I’ve said this before, and I wasn’t the first when I did.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K. (Tickles? Seriously? Yikes!)

    I am not, nor have I ever been, “Tickles”. Boy, do I ever need to change my screen name!!!

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K. (Tickles? Seriously? Yikes!)

    I am not, nor have I ever been, “Tickles”. Boy, do I ever need to change my screen name!!!

  • Michael the little boot

    Nathan @ 11,

    I like the route you’re taking with this discussion. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to find out I don’t resonate with your reply. There’s really nothing anyone can do to convince me hell is anything but counterproductive. If God wanted us to learn something, how is eternal punishment going to do that?

    This is why I think hell is actually just a representation of what WE desire: that, in the end, OUR enemies will GET THERE’S. This doesn’t seem compassionate to me. If we’re going with Lewis’s description in The Great Divorce (yes, I’ve read it) – the people who are in hell are there because they don’t realize they’re there, but that, if they can realize it, they have the opportunity to leave – well, I can get down with that a bit. But if there’s no room to realize your mistake, if you can’t grow, well, that sounds plain mean. To give a very limited being an extremely short number of years – nonexistent time, when compared with eternity – isn’t good enough. We would give our children more. The only answer anyone has to this so far is that we don’t know what the stakes are, as you put it.

    Which brings me to the last thing to which I wanted to respond: “Is man really so foolish that he would tell God what love is – namely treating others as if they do not exist, disregarding their presence, and ultimately destroying life, destroying relationships?” Why can’t we have a dialogue with God about love? Is God so insecure? God just makes a decree, and we can’t even ask a question? Correct me if I’m missing you here, please.

  • Michael the little boot

    Nathan @ 11,

    I like the route you’re taking with this discussion. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to find out I don’t resonate with your reply. There’s really nothing anyone can do to convince me hell is anything but counterproductive. If God wanted us to learn something, how is eternal punishment going to do that?

    This is why I think hell is actually just a representation of what WE desire: that, in the end, OUR enemies will GET THERE’S. This doesn’t seem compassionate to me. If we’re going with Lewis’s description in The Great Divorce (yes, I’ve read it) – the people who are in hell are there because they don’t realize they’re there, but that, if they can realize it, they have the opportunity to leave – well, I can get down with that a bit. But if there’s no room to realize your mistake, if you can’t grow, well, that sounds plain mean. To give a very limited being an extremely short number of years – nonexistent time, when compared with eternity – isn’t good enough. We would give our children more. The only answer anyone has to this so far is that we don’t know what the stakes are, as you put it.

    Which brings me to the last thing to which I wanted to respond: “Is man really so foolish that he would tell God what love is – namely treating others as if they do not exist, disregarding their presence, and ultimately destroying life, destroying relationships?” Why can’t we have a dialogue with God about love? Is God so insecure? God just makes a decree, and we can’t even ask a question? Correct me if I’m missing you here, please.

  • Michael the little boot

    Sorry, Theresa. I know you explained your name. I was just trying to be quick, and a little funny. Guess I missed on both counts. Apologies, once again (and in as genuine a manner as I can manage)!

  • Michael the little boot

    Sorry, Theresa. I know you explained your name. I was just trying to be quick, and a little funny. Guess I missed on both counts. Apologies, once again (and in as genuine a manner as I can manage)!

  • Michael the little boot

    fw @ 12,

    You are absolutely correct. I didn’t leave Christianity because I was treated badly. I think I spent a little too much time on that part, trying to explain that it WASN’T the most significant part of my “conversion,” and consequently sent the opposite message. My dad still thinks this, actually! Helps him sleep at night, I guess.

    However, I just want to make one slight correction. I don’t think I’ve found myself. I just spent most of my life being told to CHANGE myself rather than FIND myself, that, when I started listening to my inner voice, I realized I had been wrong. So I started the process of discovering myself. But it’s not over. You’re right to say that finding myself was a bigger reason to leave than any “abuse.”

    I actually think the biggest abuse I suffered in my life was simply being raised as a fundamentalist Christian. Not the only, but certainly the worst. It’s the only one I haven’t been able to get over yet.

    Thanks for the redirect, fw! I, too, wish there were more questions than statements…

    (And you can get to those emails at your convenience! Don’t want to rush you!)

  • Michael the little boot

    fw @ 12,

    You are absolutely correct. I didn’t leave Christianity because I was treated badly. I think I spent a little too much time on that part, trying to explain that it WASN’T the most significant part of my “conversion,” and consequently sent the opposite message. My dad still thinks this, actually! Helps him sleep at night, I guess.

    However, I just want to make one slight correction. I don’t think I’ve found myself. I just spent most of my life being told to CHANGE myself rather than FIND myself, that, when I started listening to my inner voice, I realized I had been wrong. So I started the process of discovering myself. But it’s not over. You’re right to say that finding myself was a bigger reason to leave than any “abuse.”

    I actually think the biggest abuse I suffered in my life was simply being raised as a fundamentalist Christian. Not the only, but certainly the worst. It’s the only one I haven’t been able to get over yet.

    Thanks for the redirect, fw! I, too, wish there were more questions than statements…

    (And you can get to those emails at your convenience! Don’t want to rush you!)

  • Michael the little boot

    Brian @ 18,

    A bucket of acid! I guess there’s a really good reason my dad didn’t want me to become a plumber! They do make better money than library assistants, though…

    Thank you for sharing, as well.

    I think I would’ve rather heard your too-long, ORIGINAL answer to the question of the meaning of the first commandment than a memorized regurgitation of Luther, no matter how good his statement. I would think the creator, who gave you your own brain, might have enjoyed it more, as well. Just my thoughts as a person interested in the few things each of us do which are actually original.

    “You wrote about looking into the eyes of beasts and seeing them for something more that [sic] robots or something. That’s good – glad you figured that one out (wish a few more people would too).” Yes! I wonder how you view this idea in light of your faith. Do you see humans as above the other animals? Not to digress, but I was fascinated by your thoughts. Especially what you said about the little dead bird. I’m extremely interested in the subject of animals.

    It seems to lead you to a conclusion I don’t agree with at all. “Is not death unnatural – an unwelcome ever present terror?” Death seems absolutely natural. How else would things grow and change? A 30 year old human has a hard enough time changing his/her mind (take me for example, though I am a little over 30…), let alone someone who has lived for a million! I don’t see death as being unnatural. If you believe in an afterlife, and you believe you’re heading to the GOOD version of it, why would death be unwelcome? After all, pain is fleeting in the face of death.

    “Why couldn’t the Creator make His creations so that they could perfectly commune with Him on their own? I think He did and believe that’s what the cross and resurrection of Jesus is all about – rebooting this creation to take away death and the lack of trust.” Um, death has been taken away? We must still die. You’re saying that AFTER death we have something to look forward to. Well, no one really knows that. Something like the opposite of Pascal’s wager seems appropriate here.

    My real question was: why couldn’t God have made creation able to commune with God WITHOUT the reboot?

  • Michael the little boot

    Brian @ 18,

    A bucket of acid! I guess there’s a really good reason my dad didn’t want me to become a plumber! They do make better money than library assistants, though…

    Thank you for sharing, as well.

    I think I would’ve rather heard your too-long, ORIGINAL answer to the question of the meaning of the first commandment than a memorized regurgitation of Luther, no matter how good his statement. I would think the creator, who gave you your own brain, might have enjoyed it more, as well. Just my thoughts as a person interested in the few things each of us do which are actually original.

    “You wrote about looking into the eyes of beasts and seeing them for something more that [sic] robots or something. That’s good – glad you figured that one out (wish a few more people would too).” Yes! I wonder how you view this idea in light of your faith. Do you see humans as above the other animals? Not to digress, but I was fascinated by your thoughts. Especially what you said about the little dead bird. I’m extremely interested in the subject of animals.

    It seems to lead you to a conclusion I don’t agree with at all. “Is not death unnatural – an unwelcome ever present terror?” Death seems absolutely natural. How else would things grow and change? A 30 year old human has a hard enough time changing his/her mind (take me for example, though I am a little over 30…), let alone someone who has lived for a million! I don’t see death as being unnatural. If you believe in an afterlife, and you believe you’re heading to the GOOD version of it, why would death be unwelcome? After all, pain is fleeting in the face of death.

    “Why couldn’t the Creator make His creations so that they could perfectly commune with Him on their own? I think He did and believe that’s what the cross and resurrection of Jesus is all about – rebooting this creation to take away death and the lack of trust.” Um, death has been taken away? We must still die. You’re saying that AFTER death we have something to look forward to. Well, no one really knows that. Something like the opposite of Pascal’s wager seems appropriate here.

    My real question was: why couldn’t God have made creation able to commune with God WITHOUT the reboot?

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 19,

    I wouldn’t say the idea of God is not palatable to me absolutely. I just don’t see why God is a necessary part of what exists. I could totally be wrong. At that point, my slight agnosticism kicks in, and I trust that a being who is so great, so powerful, so wise, would allow me to follow my own path HONESTLY. Or, perhaps God is a tyrant. I can get down with that definition, as well. Not that I like it, but, as many of you are fond of pointing out, life doesn’t always conform to what we like!

    The idea of God that is not palatable to me is the picture as it is presented in any given religious text. Believing in God is one thing, and I have no problems, intellectual or otherwise, with that. It’s in the extrapolation from belief in God to believing specific things ABOUT God where I find my trouble. I don’t find evidence for those things, not as they’re presented by any known religion which I’ve studied. I am human, imperfect – so it’s just my opinion.

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 19,

    I wouldn’t say the idea of God is not palatable to me absolutely. I just don’t see why God is a necessary part of what exists. I could totally be wrong. At that point, my slight agnosticism kicks in, and I trust that a being who is so great, so powerful, so wise, would allow me to follow my own path HONESTLY. Or, perhaps God is a tyrant. I can get down with that definition, as well. Not that I like it, but, as many of you are fond of pointing out, life doesn’t always conform to what we like!

    The idea of God that is not palatable to me is the picture as it is presented in any given religious text. Believing in God is one thing, and I have no problems, intellectual or otherwise, with that. It’s in the extrapolation from belief in God to believing specific things ABOUT God where I find my trouble. I don’t find evidence for those things, not as they’re presented by any known religion which I’ve studied. I am human, imperfect – so it’s just my opinion.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 21,

    As I said above, I have read The Great Divorce. A very interesting take on the subject.

    Thanks for calling my story interesting. Not new? Well, maybe not in broad strokes. Are any of our stories new in such general terms? But I think ALL of our stories are new when lived moment to moment. Not enough space to provide the breakdown here!

    “If God is the source of all happiness, beauty, pleasure, etc. When you turn from God to ‘accept yourself’ what have you turned TO, except misery, ugliness and emptiness?” Wow. I don’t even follow this line of thinking. I didn’t turn FROM God when I changed my mind, see? In my experience (at that time, anyway) I thought I was turning TOWARD God. I thought my exclusivist inclinations were keeping me from seeing the all-inclusive, compassionate God. So in leaving Christianity I was actually leaving an unhealthy state and embracing a better one. And I was being honest with myself to boot!

    As you were working from memory, I’d like to point out that the narrator of the story has actually left hell for heaven. Where is this ability in the Christian idea of heaven and hell? Nowhere to be found. Once one has crossed the threshold of death, there is no changing one’s mind. Not a very flexible God, in my opinion.

    It’s a common argument that WE choose hell, rather than that God send us there. I call this convenient. God set everything up, so it’s hard to see where – the rules of the game being what they are – God is not responsible.

    And why did God give me a self at all, if I’m supposed to lose it? I mean, I agree with trying to live as unselfish a life as I can live. But to completely deny self? This is counterintuitive. I would think HAVING A SELF suggests a balance of the two.

    (Thanks for adding that Caligula on there. After being introduced to the idea in the “explain your secret identity” thread, I must admit, the rebel in me finds it apt in these pages!)

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 21,

    As I said above, I have read The Great Divorce. A very interesting take on the subject.

    Thanks for calling my story interesting. Not new? Well, maybe not in broad strokes. Are any of our stories new in such general terms? But I think ALL of our stories are new when lived moment to moment. Not enough space to provide the breakdown here!

    “If God is the source of all happiness, beauty, pleasure, etc. When you turn from God to ‘accept yourself’ what have you turned TO, except misery, ugliness and emptiness?” Wow. I don’t even follow this line of thinking. I didn’t turn FROM God when I changed my mind, see? In my experience (at that time, anyway) I thought I was turning TOWARD God. I thought my exclusivist inclinations were keeping me from seeing the all-inclusive, compassionate God. So in leaving Christianity I was actually leaving an unhealthy state and embracing a better one. And I was being honest with myself to boot!

    As you were working from memory, I’d like to point out that the narrator of the story has actually left hell for heaven. Where is this ability in the Christian idea of heaven and hell? Nowhere to be found. Once one has crossed the threshold of death, there is no changing one’s mind. Not a very flexible God, in my opinion.

    It’s a common argument that WE choose hell, rather than that God send us there. I call this convenient. God set everything up, so it’s hard to see where – the rules of the game being what they are – God is not responsible.

    And why did God give me a self at all, if I’m supposed to lose it? I mean, I agree with trying to live as unselfish a life as I can live. But to completely deny self? This is counterintuitive. I would think HAVING A SELF suggests a balance of the two.

    (Thanks for adding that Caligula on there. After being introduced to the idea in the “explain your secret identity” thread, I must admit, the rebel in me finds it apt in these pages!)

  • Michael the little boot

    Scott @ 22,

    If God is the author, do we even HAVE a choice in anything we do? I mean, if we’re sort of like characters in a play (I understand you’re using this in the metaphorical sense), may we diverge from the script? I think it’s funny that so many Christians do not like the idea of determinism – mostly due to a faulty understanding of the concept – but don’t find it incongruous to make statements such as the one you make here.

  • Michael the little boot

    Scott @ 22,

    If God is the author, do we even HAVE a choice in anything we do? I mean, if we’re sort of like characters in a play (I understand you’re using this in the metaphorical sense), may we diverge from the script? I think it’s funny that so many Christians do not like the idea of determinism – mostly due to a faulty understanding of the concept – but don’t find it incongruous to make statements such as the one you make here.

  • Michael the little boot

    Theresa K. @ 27,

    First, let me reiterate that I wasn’t trying to offend with the “Tickles” reference. Someone had said something in the “secret identity” thread about reading your name “Tickles to my heart,” which I thought was cute. Profuse apologies here.

    You are correct in assuming I don’t have children; not so much on whether I know many teenagers well. I happen to be in charge of everything teen at the library where I work, and have contact on a daily basis with many teens. They often confide in me, and most have come to view me as a friend. Of course, you have no way of knowing this, so I don’t fault you. And I would never assume that being in contact with teens is ANYTHING like having teenage children of one’s own. Perhaps the fact that I don’t have children of my own is getting in the way of seeing what this has to do with our conversation, to the question of whether you really chose to stray? Please clarify.

    (I feel I must say here that NONE of the teens with which I have contact knows of my personal beliefs, as I am a public servant, and I would never assume to use my position to influence someone else’s CHILD. I love my job, and love being a public servant. I also love that we have free access to information in the U.S., and I would never refuse a patron what they have requested, even if I disagree with its contents. It is not appropriate to use my position in such a way.)

    I’m not sure that you’ll respond at all. You seem pretty angry in this reply. It’s hard to read emotion in print, so I could be totally wrong here.

    I’m not the first to point out that when one says “with all due respect,” they actually mean “with absolutely no respect at all.” Perhaps not in all cases, but it seems appropriately applied here. Why don’t you believe that I’m really, sincerely asking you all to tell me your stories? I think I’ve been upfront with the fact that I’m not open to the idea of God. Most people here have made it clear that they are not open to the idea of atheism. And here we all are, listening to each other’s stories!

    But where do you get that I’m not open to people? That throws me. Must one agree with and/or believe everything another says in order to be open to discussion? How is discussion of differing sides even possible if one can’t discuss anything with anyone without first agreeing with them? I find that I’m asking more questions of the rest of you than I am receiving. Could it be that, while I am OPENLY CLOSED-MINDED to the idea of God (it’s no secret!!), I am more open to talking about ideas with which I don’t agree than you, Theresa?

    Please don’t put too much stock in the portion of my “testimony” where I allude to abuse. It’s not the bit I thought I was highlighting. Unfortunately, print being what it is, I cannot go back and amend what I said. Oh well.

    If you’re not trying to insult me, please don’t be insulting! You accuse me of not being genuine. If you knew me, you would never have been able to make that statement. It is precisely BECAUSE of my fierce HONESTY that I left Christianity in the first place. fw seems to be able to grasp this – and let me assure you, he and I do not always agree; but he can at least accept that, even though he doesn’t agree with my conclusions, I have arrived at them honestly.

    Could it be that you NEED me to be disingenuous?

    I did want to highlight one thing you said specifically: “I suppose one could make the argument that our sin nature assures that we are all destined to sin at one time or another.” Yes. I make that argument. I’ve done so all over this blog. It is for this reason that I think the doctrine of original sin is so ludicrous. It is not, as was suggested by Pr B on the “I perceive you are very religious…” thread, the same as someone born with genetic predispositions. In those cases, there is not a choice involved. It is, as Pr B suggested, more like being born to a drug addicted mother, but only slightly. Once a baby is born, the addiction can be gotten rid of, and there isn’t a lingering addiction necessarily. My problem with original sin is we did nothing to receive it, can do nothing to avoid it, and it is yet our responsibility.

    If you respond – and I hope you do, as I enjoy DIALOGUE and DISCUSSION on the merits of each, rather than in a vain attempt to refute you – I hope you will be open. You don’t have to agree with me (I don’t think anyone here will be converted by these discussions, which is not my intention anyway), but we could just knock the ball around, couldn’t we?

  • Michael the little boot

    Theresa K. @ 27,

    First, let me reiterate that I wasn’t trying to offend with the “Tickles” reference. Someone had said something in the “secret identity” thread about reading your name “Tickles to my heart,” which I thought was cute. Profuse apologies here.

    You are correct in assuming I don’t have children; not so much on whether I know many teenagers well. I happen to be in charge of everything teen at the library where I work, and have contact on a daily basis with many teens. They often confide in me, and most have come to view me as a friend. Of course, you have no way of knowing this, so I don’t fault you. And I would never assume that being in contact with teens is ANYTHING like having teenage children of one’s own. Perhaps the fact that I don’t have children of my own is getting in the way of seeing what this has to do with our conversation, to the question of whether you really chose to stray? Please clarify.

    (I feel I must say here that NONE of the teens with which I have contact knows of my personal beliefs, as I am a public servant, and I would never assume to use my position to influence someone else’s CHILD. I love my job, and love being a public servant. I also love that we have free access to information in the U.S., and I would never refuse a patron what they have requested, even if I disagree with its contents. It is not appropriate to use my position in such a way.)

    I’m not sure that you’ll respond at all. You seem pretty angry in this reply. It’s hard to read emotion in print, so I could be totally wrong here.

    I’m not the first to point out that when one says “with all due respect,” they actually mean “with absolutely no respect at all.” Perhaps not in all cases, but it seems appropriately applied here. Why don’t you believe that I’m really, sincerely asking you all to tell me your stories? I think I’ve been upfront with the fact that I’m not open to the idea of God. Most people here have made it clear that they are not open to the idea of atheism. And here we all are, listening to each other’s stories!

    But where do you get that I’m not open to people? That throws me. Must one agree with and/or believe everything another says in order to be open to discussion? How is discussion of differing sides even possible if one can’t discuss anything with anyone without first agreeing with them? I find that I’m asking more questions of the rest of you than I am receiving. Could it be that, while I am OPENLY CLOSED-MINDED to the idea of God (it’s no secret!!), I am more open to talking about ideas with which I don’t agree than you, Theresa?

    Please don’t put too much stock in the portion of my “testimony” where I allude to abuse. It’s not the bit I thought I was highlighting. Unfortunately, print being what it is, I cannot go back and amend what I said. Oh well.

    If you’re not trying to insult me, please don’t be insulting! You accuse me of not being genuine. If you knew me, you would never have been able to make that statement. It is precisely BECAUSE of my fierce HONESTY that I left Christianity in the first place. fw seems to be able to grasp this – and let me assure you, he and I do not always agree; but he can at least accept that, even though he doesn’t agree with my conclusions, I have arrived at them honestly.

    Could it be that you NEED me to be disingenuous?

    I did want to highlight one thing you said specifically: “I suppose one could make the argument that our sin nature assures that we are all destined to sin at one time or another.” Yes. I make that argument. I’ve done so all over this blog. It is for this reason that I think the doctrine of original sin is so ludicrous. It is not, as was suggested by Pr B on the “I perceive you are very religious…” thread, the same as someone born with genetic predispositions. In those cases, there is not a choice involved. It is, as Pr B suggested, more like being born to a drug addicted mother, but only slightly. Once a baby is born, the addiction can be gotten rid of, and there isn’t a lingering addiction necessarily. My problem with original sin is we did nothing to receive it, can do nothing to avoid it, and it is yet our responsibility.

    If you respond – and I hope you do, as I enjoy DIALOGUE and DISCUSSION on the merits of each, rather than in a vain attempt to refute you – I hope you will be open. You don’t have to agree with me (I don’t think anyone here will be converted by these discussions, which is not my intention anyway), but we could just knock the ball around, couldn’t we?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 28,

    Bravo. We do touch each other in ways we couldn’t even know. Especially since the only interaction many of us have with others on this blog is ON THIS BLOG.

    Could you explain a bit how “[s]ometimes opening oneself up to telling one’s story is not the same as being honest”? That’s an intriguing thought.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 28,

    Bravo. We do touch each other in ways we couldn’t even know. Especially since the only interaction many of us have with others on this blog is ON THIS BLOG.

    Could you explain a bit how “[s]ometimes opening oneself up to telling one’s story is not the same as being honest”? That’s an intriguing thought.

  • Michael the little boot

    Dr. Veith @ 29,

    Yes!! At last, the one I was itching to get to ALL DAY…

    Can you point me to any place on your blog where I’ve said I believe, or even alluded to believing, that people are good? I’d be happy to provide evidence if I HAD any! I don’t believe people are basically good, as it seems is the common misconception about those of us who don’t believe in sin. As I said above, I do believe in the BAD THINGS WE DO – I just don’t call them sin. I call them each by the name given. If I hurt someone, I’ve hurt them. If I lie, I’ve lied. A murderer, in my opinion, is not a sinner. You can’t even say they are only a murderer. They are who they are, and, once again, we use names and definitions to reduce them – in this case, so we can throw them in jail, out of our sight.

    Which is to say: Chesterton was wrong. Original sin cannot be proven empirically – only that we are all imperfect. An idea with which I would not only agree, but would champion. Once one accepts this idea, there is no more striving for the unachievable, which produces only exhaustion. We would be left simply to do our best, which is all we can do.

    It’s like the idea of giving 110% (one of my girlfriend’s pet peeves). No one can give more than 100% of what they can give. But that’s what humans do: we place impossibly high standards on ourselves, and then get angry and feel like failures when we don’t achieve what we never would have been able to achieve in the first place!

    This is the answer to your questions: “Why haven’t we ever created that perfect society in which everyone treats everyone well? That’s what people want, and yet why do we pervert it each and every time. Why do even people who try so hard to be moral–such as those of your old church–instead act so immorally?” We are imperfect. Simple as that. We cannot help but be less than ideal.

    I’m left to wonder why – since you know a bit of my story now – when I ask about God’s reasons for creating things this way, you give me a pretty standard answer. I don’t mean any disrespect (that may seem funny in light of my comments to Theresa K.). It’s just interesting to me. I was VERY dedicated as a Christian, and I read my Bible till the pages were falling out. I do understand why Christians believe this, so perhaps I shouldn’t have asked the question without expecting this answer. Just thought I might get a different, more nuanced, take on the question.

    But I find this interesting: “In the world to come, with the Resurrection of the Dead, even that one condition will be no more, and all will be as even our feeble ideals feel that it should be.” Why, if even our feeble ideals will eventually be reality, can’t it be like that NOW? But I suspect it has something to do with The Fall, which just doesn’t do it for me. Is there something I’m missing? Or have I just closed my mind too much to what I’ve known for so long?

    If the brief, atom-of-a-moment that is our existence, is less important than eternity, why do we get so little time and information with which to make this momentous decision?

  • Michael the little boot

    Dr. Veith @ 29,

    Yes!! At last, the one I was itching to get to ALL DAY…

    Can you point me to any place on your blog where I’ve said I believe, or even alluded to believing, that people are good? I’d be happy to provide evidence if I HAD any! I don’t believe people are basically good, as it seems is the common misconception about those of us who don’t believe in sin. As I said above, I do believe in the BAD THINGS WE DO – I just don’t call them sin. I call them each by the name given. If I hurt someone, I’ve hurt them. If I lie, I’ve lied. A murderer, in my opinion, is not a sinner. You can’t even say they are only a murderer. They are who they are, and, once again, we use names and definitions to reduce them – in this case, so we can throw them in jail, out of our sight.

    Which is to say: Chesterton was wrong. Original sin cannot be proven empirically – only that we are all imperfect. An idea with which I would not only agree, but would champion. Once one accepts this idea, there is no more striving for the unachievable, which produces only exhaustion. We would be left simply to do our best, which is all we can do.

    It’s like the idea of giving 110% (one of my girlfriend’s pet peeves). No one can give more than 100% of what they can give. But that’s what humans do: we place impossibly high standards on ourselves, and then get angry and feel like failures when we don’t achieve what we never would have been able to achieve in the first place!

    This is the answer to your questions: “Why haven’t we ever created that perfect society in which everyone treats everyone well? That’s what people want, and yet why do we pervert it each and every time. Why do even people who try so hard to be moral–such as those of your old church–instead act so immorally?” We are imperfect. Simple as that. We cannot help but be less than ideal.

    I’m left to wonder why – since you know a bit of my story now – when I ask about God’s reasons for creating things this way, you give me a pretty standard answer. I don’t mean any disrespect (that may seem funny in light of my comments to Theresa K.). It’s just interesting to me. I was VERY dedicated as a Christian, and I read my Bible till the pages were falling out. I do understand why Christians believe this, so perhaps I shouldn’t have asked the question without expecting this answer. Just thought I might get a different, more nuanced, take on the question.

    But I find this interesting: “In the world to come, with the Resurrection of the Dead, even that one condition will be no more, and all will be as even our feeble ideals feel that it should be.” Why, if even our feeble ideals will eventually be reality, can’t it be like that NOW? But I suspect it has something to do with The Fall, which just doesn’t do it for me. Is there something I’m missing? Or have I just closed my mind too much to what I’ve known for so long?

    If the brief, atom-of-a-moment that is our existence, is less important than eternity, why do we get so little time and information with which to make this momentous decision?

  • Matt

    I’m new to this discussion, and it really has provoked a lot of good thoughts.

    Each particular statement that the Bible makes can lead to a hundred different questions about the hows and whys of God. It’s frustererating to me not to have the answers and sometimes the man-made answers that result are only a regurgitation of one’s own personal philosophy.

    While it’s not really a logical rebuttal to any of the questions posed here, what comforts me is Paul’s proclamation that the message of the cross is a certain type of foolishness – it’s foolishness to those who are perishing. I bet though, a lot of times it’s more than a little confusing to the Christian as well – for me that’s certainly true.

    To rely on faith is not so much an appeal to logic as to the exact opposite. It’s not that I don’t believe Christianity is logical. It’s that to rely completely on faith is to hold on to Jesus as Savior even if it does not seem like that is the logical stance to take. Again I’m sure any of you could think of million ways how God could have made things easier for us to grasp – I know I’m thinking of a few myself as I write this.

    Nevertheless, Paul tells us that “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” and we are told God’s ways are not our ways. I believe that Jesus is my Savior and while it’s always tempting to try and create a philosophy that elaborate and goes further than the Bible’s own words, it seems for the most part it’s a fool erand. I keep having to come back to the crux of the matter; God loves me and sent His Son to die for me.

  • Matt

    I’m new to this discussion, and it really has provoked a lot of good thoughts.

    Each particular statement that the Bible makes can lead to a hundred different questions about the hows and whys of God. It’s frustererating to me not to have the answers and sometimes the man-made answers that result are only a regurgitation of one’s own personal philosophy.

    While it’s not really a logical rebuttal to any of the questions posed here, what comforts me is Paul’s proclamation that the message of the cross is a certain type of foolishness – it’s foolishness to those who are perishing. I bet though, a lot of times it’s more than a little confusing to the Christian as well – for me that’s certainly true.

    To rely on faith is not so much an appeal to logic as to the exact opposite. It’s not that I don’t believe Christianity is logical. It’s that to rely completely on faith is to hold on to Jesus as Savior even if it does not seem like that is the logical stance to take. Again I’m sure any of you could think of million ways how God could have made things easier for us to grasp – I know I’m thinking of a few myself as I write this.

    Nevertheless, Paul tells us that “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” and we are told God’s ways are not our ways. I believe that Jesus is my Savior and while it’s always tempting to try and create a philosophy that elaborate and goes further than the Bible’s own words, it seems for the most part it’s a fool erand. I keep having to come back to the crux of the matter; God loves me and sent His Son to die for me.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt (Theresa K.)

    It’s late and I can’t sleep, so I’ll attempt an answer to your reply, Michael. I was watching Matrix Reloaded on TV and it made me think of you. The way the Architect spoke reminded me of something you said, but I don’t remember what.

    First of all, we are in agreement that a blog (and then written word) can be a terrible way to communicate because we can’t see a smile or a frown or an intonation of the voice. Any anger you sense is an interpretation on your part; there’s nothing in our conversations on this blog to get angry about (at least none that come to mind). Oh well, we manage along anyway.

    I found the tickles thing funny, but freaky. Good feedback for me; I was oblivious to that interpretation. Tickles as a moniker is right up there with Bunny or Cutesy. No apologies necessary what so ever…I hope others got a chuckle out of it!

    The only clarification necessary regarding children is that they are often a really great way to finally understand what is meant by our sin nature. I’ve worked with kids and teens for 30 years, but nothing compares with seeing my own children from infancy to adulthood. Nothing to debate here, really. Just my POV.

    No, I don’t need you to be disingenuousness (sp?); I don’t need you to be anything. I do believe YOU believe you are being genuine, if that makes any sense. I’m sure you are a very interesting, intelligent, nice, responsible guy and are to be commended for knowing that it is not your place to try and influence teens, beyond just being a responsible citizen, through your position. Many Christians would do well to remember that!

    Regarding dialogue and discussion, I think that is why we all hang out here. I think part of the behavior of dialogue and discussion is accepting the fact that I have something to learn from others, if only to understand where they are coming from. Many times on this blog, I’ve seen others write something to the effect of, “I never thought of it like that. Perhaps I have been wrong on that matter. I will consider it further in private.” I don’t see you engaging in the behavior of self-reflection on this blog (your choice, of course). Each point that someone tries to make, you refute. (Please don’t ask me to clarify…there are many examples in the comments above. You do not understand the concept of sin. That’s OK. It might take a while, perhaps years, but human history tells me that you will one day encounter it.

    One more point about dialogue, if you are, as you say, “… OPENLY CLOSED-MINDED to the idea of God (it’s no secret!!)”, then what is the point? This whole blog is about dialoguing about God in our daily vocations. If you are closed to the idea of God, then why do you give a *&#@ what we think? (said with a smile!) That’s why I don’t you believe that you are really, sincerely asking others to tell you their stories? It’s like you are from another planet studying us with no emotion. You can’t dialogue with someone if you don’t share even one similar point of view on something.

    Regarding the concept of sin, I think it is a common thread through all these comments. It’s up to God to explain sin to you, not me. For myself, my understanding of sin certainly changed over the years and I expect it to continue to change, deepen, evolve, etc. When I was a kid, it was being “naughty”. In my “born-again” years, it was something I used to do before I “chose” to become a Christian. That theory was blown out of the water by the many so-called Christians who continued to sin but made up new names for it. I lost my chosen faith a few years ago, after losing any hope of becoming good enough for God. It was then, after giving up on God and Christians, that God was able to get through to me and show me what sin is (the very fabric of this flawed creation) and how He saved me from it (the passion of Christ). There is no decision to be made. Salvation from sin has already been provided.

    One other thing…do you follow the work of August Berkshire at all? I had a brief email exchange with him a few years back. I wrote about it a while ago: http://www.gpiper.org/katiesbeer/2006/03/01/whats-missing-from-august-berkshires-list/

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt (Theresa K.)

    It’s late and I can’t sleep, so I’ll attempt an answer to your reply, Michael. I was watching Matrix Reloaded on TV and it made me think of you. The way the Architect spoke reminded me of something you said, but I don’t remember what.

    First of all, we are in agreement that a blog (and then written word) can be a terrible way to communicate because we can’t see a smile or a frown or an intonation of the voice. Any anger you sense is an interpretation on your part; there’s nothing in our conversations on this blog to get angry about (at least none that come to mind). Oh well, we manage along anyway.

    I found the tickles thing funny, but freaky. Good feedback for me; I was oblivious to that interpretation. Tickles as a moniker is right up there with Bunny or Cutesy. No apologies necessary what so ever…I hope others got a chuckle out of it!

    The only clarification necessary regarding children is that they are often a really great way to finally understand what is meant by our sin nature. I’ve worked with kids and teens for 30 years, but nothing compares with seeing my own children from infancy to adulthood. Nothing to debate here, really. Just my POV.

    No, I don’t need you to be disingenuousness (sp?); I don’t need you to be anything. I do believe YOU believe you are being genuine, if that makes any sense. I’m sure you are a very interesting, intelligent, nice, responsible guy and are to be commended for knowing that it is not your place to try and influence teens, beyond just being a responsible citizen, through your position. Many Christians would do well to remember that!

    Regarding dialogue and discussion, I think that is why we all hang out here. I think part of the behavior of dialogue and discussion is accepting the fact that I have something to learn from others, if only to understand where they are coming from. Many times on this blog, I’ve seen others write something to the effect of, “I never thought of it like that. Perhaps I have been wrong on that matter. I will consider it further in private.” I don’t see you engaging in the behavior of self-reflection on this blog (your choice, of course). Each point that someone tries to make, you refute. (Please don’t ask me to clarify…there are many examples in the comments above. You do not understand the concept of sin. That’s OK. It might take a while, perhaps years, but human history tells me that you will one day encounter it.

    One more point about dialogue, if you are, as you say, “… OPENLY CLOSED-MINDED to the idea of God (it’s no secret!!)”, then what is the point? This whole blog is about dialoguing about God in our daily vocations. If you are closed to the idea of God, then why do you give a *&#@ what we think? (said with a smile!) That’s why I don’t you believe that you are really, sincerely asking others to tell you their stories? It’s like you are from another planet studying us with no emotion. You can’t dialogue with someone if you don’t share even one similar point of view on something.

    Regarding the concept of sin, I think it is a common thread through all these comments. It’s up to God to explain sin to you, not me. For myself, my understanding of sin certainly changed over the years and I expect it to continue to change, deepen, evolve, etc. When I was a kid, it was being “naughty”. In my “born-again” years, it was something I used to do before I “chose” to become a Christian. That theory was blown out of the water by the many so-called Christians who continued to sin but made up new names for it. I lost my chosen faith a few years ago, after losing any hope of becoming good enough for God. It was then, after giving up on God and Christians, that God was able to get through to me and show me what sin is (the very fabric of this flawed creation) and how He saved me from it (the passion of Christ). There is no decision to be made. Salvation from sin has already been provided.

    One other thing…do you follow the work of August Berkshire at all? I had a brief email exchange with him a few years back. I wrote about it a while ago: http://www.gpiper.org/katiesbeer/2006/03/01/whats-missing-from-august-berkshires-list/

  • Susan aka organshoes

    You write:
    ‘I was VERY dedicated as a Christian’
    I don’t know what being a very dedicated Christian means, outside of devoting time and energy to trying to please God; depending upon one’s own efforts. Lots of Christians think they feed their faith this way–through their deeds or their demeanor–but that’s an error. I don’t know if that’s you in your former Christian life, though saying you read your Bible with zeal and commitment suggests it.
    As for believing you have opened yourself up truthfully, by disclosing more of your background: well, that is only subjective. It’s all true in your eyes, but there are others involved who likely see things in their own ways.
    With respect (and I’m not fudging here by saying that, though you accuse us otherwise), personal stories are all subjective, and serve mainly as stumbling blocks. They only serve to justify our anger, and our failures and our sins.
    For what it’s worth, I justify myself all day long: why I hold a grudge, why I fail to do something, or fail to restrain myself in doing other things. The story of me is the story of a sinner who fails to accomplish her own faith, her own righteousness. The best I could do would be to get over myself; but I can’t. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit gets past me.
    But I’m still here, struggling.
    You ask why that perfection can’t occur now: well, we’ve said, but you don’t believe it. It’s because we’re still in these bodies, in this temporal life. We can change our circumstances, and overcome or succumb to lots of incidents and situations, etc. But we can’t change our natures, or the nature of life itself. Life is what it is. It was given to us, as it is. It’s our folly to think it’s something other than what it is, and that we’re more or less than what we are, which is made creatures.
    To resent the blows of life is useless, and is a trap. There’s no hope to be found in righting past wrongs and insults and cruelty. There’s only having them overcome by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, for the sake of those wrongs done to you. That’s when we move on, and find the past completely irrelevant in defining who we are and what life is, and what our lives are about.
    You need to turn off the past that apparently still echoes in your head and hurts you to your bones, and to listen instead. I hope and pray you’ll find a confessional pastor who’ll preach Christ’s life to your life. I know that sounds smug and probably useless to you–but there you go. Otherwise, you’re stuck in your past, which is a wilderness.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    You write:
    ‘I was VERY dedicated as a Christian’
    I don’t know what being a very dedicated Christian means, outside of devoting time and energy to trying to please God; depending upon one’s own efforts. Lots of Christians think they feed their faith this way–through their deeds or their demeanor–but that’s an error. I don’t know if that’s you in your former Christian life, though saying you read your Bible with zeal and commitment suggests it.
    As for believing you have opened yourself up truthfully, by disclosing more of your background: well, that is only subjective. It’s all true in your eyes, but there are others involved who likely see things in their own ways.
    With respect (and I’m not fudging here by saying that, though you accuse us otherwise), personal stories are all subjective, and serve mainly as stumbling blocks. They only serve to justify our anger, and our failures and our sins.
    For what it’s worth, I justify myself all day long: why I hold a grudge, why I fail to do something, or fail to restrain myself in doing other things. The story of me is the story of a sinner who fails to accomplish her own faith, her own righteousness. The best I could do would be to get over myself; but I can’t. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit gets past me.
    But I’m still here, struggling.
    You ask why that perfection can’t occur now: well, we’ve said, but you don’t believe it. It’s because we’re still in these bodies, in this temporal life. We can change our circumstances, and overcome or succumb to lots of incidents and situations, etc. But we can’t change our natures, or the nature of life itself. Life is what it is. It was given to us, as it is. It’s our folly to think it’s something other than what it is, and that we’re more or less than what we are, which is made creatures.
    To resent the blows of life is useless, and is a trap. There’s no hope to be found in righting past wrongs and insults and cruelty. There’s only having them overcome by the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ, for the sake of those wrongs done to you. That’s when we move on, and find the past completely irrelevant in defining who we are and what life is, and what our lives are about.
    You need to turn off the past that apparently still echoes in your head and hurts you to your bones, and to listen instead. I hope and pray you’ll find a confessional pastor who’ll preach Christ’s life to your life. I know that sounds smug and probably useless to you–but there you go. Otherwise, you’re stuck in your past, which is a wilderness.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the little boot,
    You ask:Why, if even our feeble ideals will eventually be reality, can’t it be like that NOW? But I suspect it has something to do with The Fall, which just doesn’t do it for me. Is there something I’m missing? Or have I just closed my mind too much to what I’ve known for so long?
    Every day we live in this world is a day of grace, when God has put off that second and final coming, we Christians long for. He could come back today, tommorrow, He could have come back yesterday, and many of us would not be living in that perfect world. But you wouldn’t be, which is why God gave us another day of grace. It is another day when we could yet again share our standard answers about the fall with you and remind you of a man who did live the perfect life, and gave his all for you, so that even though you are imperfect, you might be made to be perfect in the world to come. God wants all men to be saved, that is it. That is why the world isn’t perfect yet. He is holding out for one more soul.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the little boot,
    You ask:Why, if even our feeble ideals will eventually be reality, can’t it be like that NOW? But I suspect it has something to do with The Fall, which just doesn’t do it for me. Is there something I’m missing? Or have I just closed my mind too much to what I’ve known for so long?
    Every day we live in this world is a day of grace, when God has put off that second and final coming, we Christians long for. He could come back today, tommorrow, He could have come back yesterday, and many of us would not be living in that perfect world. But you wouldn’t be, which is why God gave us another day of grace. It is another day when we could yet again share our standard answers about the fall with you and remind you of a man who did live the perfect life, and gave his all for you, so that even though you are imperfect, you might be made to be perfect in the world to come. God wants all men to be saved, that is it. That is why the world isn’t perfect yet. He is holding out for one more soul.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael the little boot,

    What if there is a God and he made all there is in perfect harmony with everything else and with him, but death and violence, war and bloodshed, and all decay are all one giant disease which has tainted the whole code so much so that it appears to be the only way it is all around and even within oneself? What is unnatural and uncreated appears to be natural and ordinary while the life and relationships we most deeply desire remain light-years beyond our grasp.

    You can love death as natural all you want, although the thought of that is disgusting to me.

    I however will continue to rebel against death by trying to live in (frustratingly I fail in this every day, but the new beginning or new song is there every morning and God puts that new song onto me through the baptism I received a while back) and trying to reveal the true nature of how things are through the person and work of Christ.

    Maybe, just maybe, the animals “know” somewhere deep down (by instinct?) that this is not the end (or the beginning) world which God makes for them or for us. And that is why you and they feel so awkward when we look into the other’s eyes. There is life there, which is sad at death, and a will to rebel against it. I hate candy-coated death. Americans are great at sanitizing it so that we can ignore how bloody and ignoble it is.

    But God uses that very doom upon His own person (death) to trump this terrifying disease and begin the great reversal which is here (in a hidden way behind frustrating and penetrating words and crosses) and He promises that the new song will not always remain hidden.

    I look forward to that day when you and I will see clearly into all that is in the others’ eyes including God’s, Your’s, my Neighbors, the Dog’s, and the little Bird singing such a lovely morning song. My hope in Christ is that someday all will be seen clearly and the new song will be the nature we all best understand and live.

    People ought to look into other eyes more, I think. I remember the first time I was in Chicago and my friend told me I shouldn’t look at the people around me. I still think that’s strange!

    And thanks. I wish I could remember all that I was thinking about “What it means”. Today I mostly remember how foolish I felt. Funny how the things that kill stick to the memory rather than a word which brings life. I know I can still talk a lot about the First Commandment now in my teaching if I let myself. But their eyes glass over and I know I better move on to another question. :) We’re not all so inquisitive and that’s okay.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael the little boot,

    What if there is a God and he made all there is in perfect harmony with everything else and with him, but death and violence, war and bloodshed, and all decay are all one giant disease which has tainted the whole code so much so that it appears to be the only way it is all around and even within oneself? What is unnatural and uncreated appears to be natural and ordinary while the life and relationships we most deeply desire remain light-years beyond our grasp.

    You can love death as natural all you want, although the thought of that is disgusting to me.

    I however will continue to rebel against death by trying to live in (frustratingly I fail in this every day, but the new beginning or new song is there every morning and God puts that new song onto me through the baptism I received a while back) and trying to reveal the true nature of how things are through the person and work of Christ.

    Maybe, just maybe, the animals “know” somewhere deep down (by instinct?) that this is not the end (or the beginning) world which God makes for them or for us. And that is why you and they feel so awkward when we look into the other’s eyes. There is life there, which is sad at death, and a will to rebel against it. I hate candy-coated death. Americans are great at sanitizing it so that we can ignore how bloody and ignoble it is.

    But God uses that very doom upon His own person (death) to trump this terrifying disease and begin the great reversal which is here (in a hidden way behind frustrating and penetrating words and crosses) and He promises that the new song will not always remain hidden.

    I look forward to that day when you and I will see clearly into all that is in the others’ eyes including God’s, Your’s, my Neighbors, the Dog’s, and the little Bird singing such a lovely morning song. My hope in Christ is that someday all will be seen clearly and the new song will be the nature we all best understand and live.

    People ought to look into other eyes more, I think. I remember the first time I was in Chicago and my friend told me I shouldn’t look at the people around me. I still think that’s strange!

    And thanks. I wish I could remember all that I was thinking about “What it means”. Today I mostly remember how foolish I felt. Funny how the things that kill stick to the memory rather than a word which brings life. I know I can still talk a lot about the First Commandment now in my teaching if I let myself. But their eyes glass over and I know I better move on to another question. :) We’re not all so inquisitive and that’s okay.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 30,

    I see your point, as far as it applies to Christians who accept the traditional understanding of any sin as a “sin against God.” I still don’t see why – even if we do sin against God when we do any number of bad things to others – we need to suffer if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness. Additionally, I don’t see why God can’t be cool and not make it such a big deal. When my brother hurts me, he then apologizes. I forgive him without a thought, because he is my brother and I love him. Also, it helps ME to get over my hurt feelings when I forgive him.

    Maybe God doesn’t need this aspect, since God probably is beyond getting hurt feelings. But then, if that’s the case, I’m left wondering why God cares when we sin against God. I guess I just don’t think of the Supreme Being as having such a problem with insecurity. And simply punishing us doesn’t teach us anything, if that’s God’s purpose. I’m having a hard time seeing the purpose, to tell you the truth. Unless this is just another “God’s ways are higher than our ways” block, in which case I’m not buying it. It occurs to me that any creator worth his/her/its salt would endow his/her/its creatures with the ability to understand enough to make sense of the universe into which he/she/it placed them all.

    As far as why we’re all okay…I must admit that I have not explained my position well. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered, because no matter how many times or different ways I say it, very few people here understand what I’m saying. What you describe as sin, to an extent – i.e., excluding things like taking the lord’s name in vain, keeping the sabbath, etc. – DO happen. For example, I have hurt people’s feelings in the past. I acknowledge that I’ve done this, that I will probably do it in the future. I’ve lied. Think of a common example of “sinning against another” – one that includes only that, and does not include the sins against God which are idiosyncratic of the religions from which they arise (i.e., not as universal as “hurting another’s feelings”) – and I’m sure most of us could be included in every category.

    The point that is missed over and over again here is this: we do all these things – which you define as sin and which I do not – and we are YET OKAY. So it’s not somehow in spite of what we do, or by some act of Divine Forgiveness, that we are okay. We are people who are imperfect, who cannot help but do things imperfectly. So we continue to act as such, AND at the same time, are okay. There is nothing in nature that can show us our imperfections have removed us from God, or that our imperfections are BAD. We are left only with the fact that we are imperfect. THIS is actually what can be proven empirically; to call it “sin” is to extrapolate from reality, and I see no evidence for it other than in certain religious texts and traditions.

    But I suspect what I mean by “okay” and what you mean are two different things. I don’t mean that we do all these imperfect things, but we’re still going to heaven, or are in God’s grace, or anything like that. I just mean we shouldn’t feel so bad for being what we are – i.e., imperfect.

    Now, as to what you say @ 48…it makes no sense to me. If I go by your line of reasoning there, Jesus will NEVER come back. There will ALWAYS be one more soul to save, Bror. Sounds like another justification for your beliefs. I’m glad you’re so confident you’re right. That’s a distinction between us: I’m not confident that I’m right so much as that you’re wrong.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 30,

    I see your point, as far as it applies to Christians who accept the traditional understanding of any sin as a “sin against God.” I still don’t see why – even if we do sin against God when we do any number of bad things to others – we need to suffer if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness. Additionally, I don’t see why God can’t be cool and not make it such a big deal. When my brother hurts me, he then apologizes. I forgive him without a thought, because he is my brother and I love him. Also, it helps ME to get over my hurt feelings when I forgive him.

    Maybe God doesn’t need this aspect, since God probably is beyond getting hurt feelings. But then, if that’s the case, I’m left wondering why God cares when we sin against God. I guess I just don’t think of the Supreme Being as having such a problem with insecurity. And simply punishing us doesn’t teach us anything, if that’s God’s purpose. I’m having a hard time seeing the purpose, to tell you the truth. Unless this is just another “God’s ways are higher than our ways” block, in which case I’m not buying it. It occurs to me that any creator worth his/her/its salt would endow his/her/its creatures with the ability to understand enough to make sense of the universe into which he/she/it placed them all.

    As far as why we’re all okay…I must admit that I have not explained my position well. At least, that’s what I’ve gathered, because no matter how many times or different ways I say it, very few people here understand what I’m saying. What you describe as sin, to an extent – i.e., excluding things like taking the lord’s name in vain, keeping the sabbath, etc. – DO happen. For example, I have hurt people’s feelings in the past. I acknowledge that I’ve done this, that I will probably do it in the future. I’ve lied. Think of a common example of “sinning against another” – one that includes only that, and does not include the sins against God which are idiosyncratic of the religions from which they arise (i.e., not as universal as “hurting another’s feelings”) – and I’m sure most of us could be included in every category.

    The point that is missed over and over again here is this: we do all these things – which you define as sin and which I do not – and we are YET OKAY. So it’s not somehow in spite of what we do, or by some act of Divine Forgiveness, that we are okay. We are people who are imperfect, who cannot help but do things imperfectly. So we continue to act as such, AND at the same time, are okay. There is nothing in nature that can show us our imperfections have removed us from God, or that our imperfections are BAD. We are left only with the fact that we are imperfect. THIS is actually what can be proven empirically; to call it “sin” is to extrapolate from reality, and I see no evidence for it other than in certain religious texts and traditions.

    But I suspect what I mean by “okay” and what you mean are two different things. I don’t mean that we do all these imperfect things, but we’re still going to heaven, or are in God’s grace, or anything like that. I just mean we shouldn’t feel so bad for being what we are – i.e., imperfect.

    Now, as to what you say @ 48…it makes no sense to me. If I go by your line of reasoning there, Jesus will NEVER come back. There will ALWAYS be one more soul to save, Bror. Sounds like another justification for your beliefs. I’m glad you’re so confident you’re right. That’s a distinction between us: I’m not confident that I’m right so much as that you’re wrong.

  • Michael the little boot

    TK @ 46,

    If you like the Matrix Reloaded, we have more in common than I thought! It’s my favorite of the trilogy. I get a lot of grief for that…

    As I said, I don’t have children. So I’m a bit puzzled by your suggestion that they are “often a great way to finally understand what is meant by our sin nature.” Would I be a pest to ask for further clarification? The only kid I’ve ever watched grow up from birth to adulthood was my brother, though I’m only seven years older than him and not his parent. Not trying to debate this, just not totally understanding what you mean.

    I am open to learning something new. That is why I’m here. I’m on a Christian blog AS A NONCHRISTIAN not to refute people and feel like a big dog. I’m actually trying to be responsible, trying to pry my mind open with a crowbar. One way to do that is to constantly expose myself to ideas with which I don’t agree. But it’s also important to be upfront with you, not to deceive you. So I said I am openly closed-minded to God in the interest of full disclosure.

    I don’t feel I’m refuting people, just offering my point of view. It happens that my opinions appear to be in opposition to most of the opinions here, but I do not offer them in refutation. I am actually trying to learn something. I have said a few times around this blog that I hadn’t thought of something the way others had put it. But I’m not going to say that when it’s not true. So I reserve that for when it’s actually true.

    I don’t get the feeling many people here believe I ever was a Christian, even if some do believe I went to church from young childhood through young adulthood. It seems that since I didn’t get “it” – I didn’t get “real” Christianity – that people feel the need to fill me in on what “real” Christianity is. So I keep hearing answers that you must realize I’ve heard since I was about 3 and 1/2 years old. None of these answers ever made sense to me. That may make me a lost soul; it doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the concepts.

    For example, you say I don’t understand the concept of sin. Why is that? Is it because I don’t agree that it is true or real? That I have a different interpretation than the Lutheran one? I’m not sure why you are saying this, or how you can justify it if you’ve read what I’ve said even a little.

    I give a *&#@ what you say here, Theresa, because I’m interested in dialogue, not in being right, or even wrong, for that matter. I’m interested in what you have to say because I’M INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY. That’s all. You don’t have to understand it, or think I’m being honest about it. You don’t even have to respond, though I hope you will! Why can’t I dialogue with someone if I don’t share any opinions with them? Isn’t the dialogue enough to share?

    You’re not the first to say “It’s like you are from another planet studying us with no emotion.” In fact, my girlfriend says it all the time!

    Read your stuff about August Berkshire. Interesting. Hadn’t heard of him, which is weird since I read Pharyngula!

  • Michael the little boot

    TK @ 46,

    If you like the Matrix Reloaded, we have more in common than I thought! It’s my favorite of the trilogy. I get a lot of grief for that…

    As I said, I don’t have children. So I’m a bit puzzled by your suggestion that they are “often a great way to finally understand what is meant by our sin nature.” Would I be a pest to ask for further clarification? The only kid I’ve ever watched grow up from birth to adulthood was my brother, though I’m only seven years older than him and not his parent. Not trying to debate this, just not totally understanding what you mean.

    I am open to learning something new. That is why I’m here. I’m on a Christian blog AS A NONCHRISTIAN not to refute people and feel like a big dog. I’m actually trying to be responsible, trying to pry my mind open with a crowbar. One way to do that is to constantly expose myself to ideas with which I don’t agree. But it’s also important to be upfront with you, not to deceive you. So I said I am openly closed-minded to God in the interest of full disclosure.

    I don’t feel I’m refuting people, just offering my point of view. It happens that my opinions appear to be in opposition to most of the opinions here, but I do not offer them in refutation. I am actually trying to learn something. I have said a few times around this blog that I hadn’t thought of something the way others had put it. But I’m not going to say that when it’s not true. So I reserve that for when it’s actually true.

    I don’t get the feeling many people here believe I ever was a Christian, even if some do believe I went to church from young childhood through young adulthood. It seems that since I didn’t get “it” – I didn’t get “real” Christianity – that people feel the need to fill me in on what “real” Christianity is. So I keep hearing answers that you must realize I’ve heard since I was about 3 and 1/2 years old. None of these answers ever made sense to me. That may make me a lost soul; it doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the concepts.

    For example, you say I don’t understand the concept of sin. Why is that? Is it because I don’t agree that it is true or real? That I have a different interpretation than the Lutheran one? I’m not sure why you are saying this, or how you can justify it if you’ve read what I’ve said even a little.

    I give a *&#@ what you say here, Theresa, because I’m interested in dialogue, not in being right, or even wrong, for that matter. I’m interested in what you have to say because I’M INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY. That’s all. You don’t have to understand it, or think I’m being honest about it. You don’t even have to respond, though I hope you will! Why can’t I dialogue with someone if I don’t share any opinions with them? Isn’t the dialogue enough to share?

    You’re not the first to say “It’s like you are from another planet studying us with no emotion.” In fact, my girlfriend says it all the time!

    Read your stuff about August Berkshire. Interesting. Hadn’t heard of him, which is weird since I read Pharyngula!

  • kerner

    Michael Caligula @41:

    As you know, Lewis’ book “The Great Divorce” is an allegory. Lewis was not suggesting that souls can choose Heaven or Hell after death. Rather he was demonstrating how those same souls choose Hell in this life. The purpose of the allegory was to rebut the argument that people choose Hell ignorantly. In the story, Heaven and Hell are clearly there to choose between, and yet so many souls choose Hell anyway. The question then becomes: Why would anyone choose Hell over heaven?

    You hit very close to the answer when you suggest that losing your self is counterintuitive. Christ said that he who seeks to save his life shall lose it, but he that loses his life for My sake shall find it. He also said that we should seek first the kingdom of God, and that all other things would then be added unto us. And also that if anyone would follow Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow [Jesus]. The intuitive method of finding something is to seek it. The counterintuitive (and Christian) method of finding eternal life, or the joy of the Lord (Heaven, if you will), is to NOT seek it. Rather, we are told to seek first the Kingdom of God. Well, what is that?

    Christ also called Himself the vine and us the branches. St. Paul says we are the body of Christ. This is not to balance God and self. This is to subordinate self to God, to become part of God’s body, and thus become more really yourself, in Christ, than you ever could otherwise be.

    This is why the souls in the allegory are choosing Hell. The are so committed to trying to exalt themselves (or hang on to some part of themselves that they just can’t relinquish) that they refuse to accept Heaven when it is right there for the taking. Like you, these souls that have chosen Hell claim that God is not fair. They “don’t believe” in a God who would insist that eternal Joy be available only on certain terms. They “believe in a God of love”, by which they mean a God will let them hang onto the very things that keep them out of Heaven, and still have heaven. But they ask the impossible. If someone wants to enter Wisconsin, he must first leave Illinois (or whatever adjacent place he is). So too, if he wants to enter heaven, he must leave his corrupt self behind.

    Try to remember how flawed our “selves” are. by saying “the bad things we do” instead of “sin”, you are only using semantics. You concede that people are not basicly good and that we all do bad things. Well, justice would seem to require that somebody pay a penalty for those bad things. So God paid the penalty Himself, and thereby makes His mercy available to us.

    This arrangement is not so much counterintuitive to most people as it is distasteful. Most people want to believe that they are, or at least can be, good people by their own reason or strength. Nobody wants to believe that he is a charity case, freeloading on the good will of Somebody else. So, it becomes very attractive to deny the existence of God, or to pretend not to be able to know anything about Him, because we are then relieved of any responsibility to Him for our “bad deeds”. Nor must we find ourselves commanded to love Him with all our hearts. Sorry David, but you are the one believing in the “convenient” theory, not us.

    But another part of your story troubles me. The Christian life is not one of constantly trying to measure up to high moral standards, and never feeling quite good enough. The Gospel is that we are free from all that. That Christ will work in us, even though our old natures will always trouble us in this life. We KNOW we are not “good enough”, we simply trust that Christ has washed away “the bad things we do”.

  • kerner

    Michael Caligula @41:

    As you know, Lewis’ book “The Great Divorce” is an allegory. Lewis was not suggesting that souls can choose Heaven or Hell after death. Rather he was demonstrating how those same souls choose Hell in this life. The purpose of the allegory was to rebut the argument that people choose Hell ignorantly. In the story, Heaven and Hell are clearly there to choose between, and yet so many souls choose Hell anyway. The question then becomes: Why would anyone choose Hell over heaven?

    You hit very close to the answer when you suggest that losing your self is counterintuitive. Christ said that he who seeks to save his life shall lose it, but he that loses his life for My sake shall find it. He also said that we should seek first the kingdom of God, and that all other things would then be added unto us. And also that if anyone would follow Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow [Jesus]. The intuitive method of finding something is to seek it. The counterintuitive (and Christian) method of finding eternal life, or the joy of the Lord (Heaven, if you will), is to NOT seek it. Rather, we are told to seek first the Kingdom of God. Well, what is that?

    Christ also called Himself the vine and us the branches. St. Paul says we are the body of Christ. This is not to balance God and self. This is to subordinate self to God, to become part of God’s body, and thus become more really yourself, in Christ, than you ever could otherwise be.

    This is why the souls in the allegory are choosing Hell. The are so committed to trying to exalt themselves (or hang on to some part of themselves that they just can’t relinquish) that they refuse to accept Heaven when it is right there for the taking. Like you, these souls that have chosen Hell claim that God is not fair. They “don’t believe” in a God who would insist that eternal Joy be available only on certain terms. They “believe in a God of love”, by which they mean a God will let them hang onto the very things that keep them out of Heaven, and still have heaven. But they ask the impossible. If someone wants to enter Wisconsin, he must first leave Illinois (or whatever adjacent place he is). So too, if he wants to enter heaven, he must leave his corrupt self behind.

    Try to remember how flawed our “selves” are. by saying “the bad things we do” instead of “sin”, you are only using semantics. You concede that people are not basicly good and that we all do bad things. Well, justice would seem to require that somebody pay a penalty for those bad things. So God paid the penalty Himself, and thereby makes His mercy available to us.

    This arrangement is not so much counterintuitive to most people as it is distasteful. Most people want to believe that they are, or at least can be, good people by their own reason or strength. Nobody wants to believe that he is a charity case, freeloading on the good will of Somebody else. So, it becomes very attractive to deny the existence of God, or to pretend not to be able to know anything about Him, because we are then relieved of any responsibility to Him for our “bad deeds”. Nor must we find ourselves commanded to love Him with all our hearts. Sorry David, but you are the one believing in the “convenient” theory, not us.

    But another part of your story troubles me. The Christian life is not one of constantly trying to measure up to high moral standards, and never feeling quite good enough. The Gospel is that we are free from all that. That Christ will work in us, even though our old natures will always trouble us in this life. We KNOW we are not “good enough”, we simply trust that Christ has washed away “the bad things we do”.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    What makes you so certain WE don’t understand YOU?
    I’m pretty certain the shoe is on the other foot, and YOU do not comprehend US.
    In fact, I don’t think you see past your own nose.
    You will have God your way. You will try to say you have no God, or that you don’t believe in one, or have no use for this or that aspect of God–well, in the end, regardless of all the rhetoric atheists use to refute the notion of God, and no matter how many $10 words or concepts are used, it comes down to this: It’s not that atheists don’t believe in God. They just don’t like Him. It’s not belief they’re rejecting, but the reality of who God truly is.
    If God can’t play by the atheists’ rules, or humbly submit Himself to a few atheistic tweakings–if only He’d stop using such language as ‘sin’ and ‘sinner’ and ‘salvation’ and ‘eternal damnation’–then maybe He’d be a God an atheist could live with.
    Atheists can never disprove God; only deny Him, and most often in increments: He’s too un-loving for one who invented love; He’s too rigid, too distant, too disnterested, too nosy.
    After all is said and done, an atheist’s only argument against God is the atheist’s own disapproval of God behaving, not like His creation, but like the Creator of Everything.
    What bothers the atheist is that God won’t become what the atheist wants Him to be: beholden to the desires of His own creatures.
    What bothers the atheist is that he, the atheist, is not God and cannot be God. So he has to despise the God that Is. It’s the only thing he can do, to remain so autonomous and free, though he is really no more than self-absorbed.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    What makes you so certain WE don’t understand YOU?
    I’m pretty certain the shoe is on the other foot, and YOU do not comprehend US.
    In fact, I don’t think you see past your own nose.
    You will have God your way. You will try to say you have no God, or that you don’t believe in one, or have no use for this or that aspect of God–well, in the end, regardless of all the rhetoric atheists use to refute the notion of God, and no matter how many $10 words or concepts are used, it comes down to this: It’s not that atheists don’t believe in God. They just don’t like Him. It’s not belief they’re rejecting, but the reality of who God truly is.
    If God can’t play by the atheists’ rules, or humbly submit Himself to a few atheistic tweakings–if only He’d stop using such language as ‘sin’ and ‘sinner’ and ‘salvation’ and ‘eternal damnation’–then maybe He’d be a God an atheist could live with.
    Atheists can never disprove God; only deny Him, and most often in increments: He’s too un-loving for one who invented love; He’s too rigid, too distant, too disnterested, too nosy.
    After all is said and done, an atheist’s only argument against God is the atheist’s own disapproval of God behaving, not like His creation, but like the Creator of Everything.
    What bothers the atheist is that God won’t become what the atheist wants Him to be: beholden to the desires of His own creatures.
    What bothers the atheist is that he, the atheist, is not God and cannot be God. So he has to despise the God that Is. It’s the only thing he can do, to remain so autonomous and free, though he is really no more than self-absorbed.

  • Don S

    Michael, in your post @ #50, you stated the following, to Bror: “I still don’t see why – even if we do sin against God when we do any number of bad things to others – we need to suffer if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness. Additionally, I don’t see why God can’t be cool and not make it such a big deal. When my brother hurts me, he then apologizes. I forgive him without a thought, because he is my brother and I love him. Also, it helps ME to get over my hurt feelings when I forgive him.”

    This is a curious example. First, you state that you don’t see why we need to suffer if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness. Then, you state that when your brother hurts you, he apologizes, and then you forgive him because he is your brother and you love him.

    So what you are actually saying is that God doesn’t deserve the courtesy and respect we give to one another. You forgive your brother when he apologizes, but you refuse to apologize to God. However, even though you are too stubborn to even apologize, you just expect Him to “be cool” and forgive you. If your brother didn’t apologize, would you be so “cool” about it?

    I John 1:9 — “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. There is no question that God is “cool” about our sins. He loved us enough to sacrifice His Son so that we could be forgiven. But you’re the one who has denied Him and denied that you have wronged Him.

    So, who is the one who is not being “cool”?

  • Don S

    Michael, in your post @ #50, you stated the following, to Bror: “I still don’t see why – even if we do sin against God when we do any number of bad things to others – we need to suffer if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness. Additionally, I don’t see why God can’t be cool and not make it such a big deal. When my brother hurts me, he then apologizes. I forgive him without a thought, because he is my brother and I love him. Also, it helps ME to get over my hurt feelings when I forgive him.”

    This is a curious example. First, you state that you don’t see why we need to suffer if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness. Then, you state that when your brother hurts you, he apologizes, and then you forgive him because he is your brother and you love him.

    So what you are actually saying is that God doesn’t deserve the courtesy and respect we give to one another. You forgive your brother when he apologizes, but you refuse to apologize to God. However, even though you are too stubborn to even apologize, you just expect Him to “be cool” and forgive you. If your brother didn’t apologize, would you be so “cool” about it?

    I John 1:9 — “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. There is no question that God is “cool” about our sins. He loved us enough to sacrifice His Son so that we could be forgiven. But you’re the one who has denied Him and denied that you have wronged Him.

    So, who is the one who is not being “cool”?

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    Michael,

    I am a huge SciFi fan. I grew up thinking I would be working on the Enterprise one day. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I realized that most likely wouldn’t be happening! I bought Matrix Reloaded because I needed more time to study it a bit. I can’t find Revolutions, but have it on order. Is it as good as Reloaded? I watched some of the special features on Reloaded and it sounds like making the movie was a religious experience for all involved (Carrie-Anne Moss’ words, not mine). The movie intrigues me, in part because of the unmistakable messianic theme, but also because I love movies that speculate on the future. I found the role of the Architect to also be intriguing.

    About the children and sin thing, I think that you’ll just have to experience it. I suppose one example could be when a young child (say 3 or 4) is driven to do something merely because you told them not to and they do it with a sparkle in their eyes. I remember being like that and my motivation was merely to defy my parents…as if to say, “You can’t control me!”. To me, that illustrates what our sin nature does.

    You should consider that it might appear selfish to want to “constantly expose myself to ideas with which I don’t agree” while being “upfront with you (regarding being close-minded to God)”. That action on your part is bound to offend others, even though you don’t intend it that way. It comes off as refuting, not as offering a point of view. That’s just human nature. I am glad that you are “actually trying to learn something.” But you need to understand that your comments don’t always come off that way. (my opinion, of course, and not certified truth).

    Be well and come here often!

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    Michael,

    I am a huge SciFi fan. I grew up thinking I would be working on the Enterprise one day. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I realized that most likely wouldn’t be happening! I bought Matrix Reloaded because I needed more time to study it a bit. I can’t find Revolutions, but have it on order. Is it as good as Reloaded? I watched some of the special features on Reloaded and it sounds like making the movie was a religious experience for all involved (Carrie-Anne Moss’ words, not mine). The movie intrigues me, in part because of the unmistakable messianic theme, but also because I love movies that speculate on the future. I found the role of the Architect to also be intriguing.

    About the children and sin thing, I think that you’ll just have to experience it. I suppose one example could be when a young child (say 3 or 4) is driven to do something merely because you told them not to and they do it with a sparkle in their eyes. I remember being like that and my motivation was merely to defy my parents…as if to say, “You can’t control me!”. To me, that illustrates what our sin nature does.

    You should consider that it might appear selfish to want to “constantly expose myself to ideas with which I don’t agree” while being “upfront with you (regarding being close-minded to God)”. That action on your part is bound to offend others, even though you don’t intend it that way. It comes off as refuting, not as offering a point of view. That’s just human nature. I am glad that you are “actually trying to learn something.” But you need to understand that your comments don’t always come off that way. (my opinion, of course, and not certified truth).

    Be well and come here often!

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan @ 49,

    (Sorry, I think I misspelled your name last time…)

    We don’t agree about death, which is cool. Not sure there’s much to discuss there. But I really liked this: “People ought to look into other eyes more, I think. I remember the first time I was in Chicago and my friend told me I shouldn’t look at the people around me. I still think that’s strange!” Me too! Sometimes I find myself looking at my girlfriend, and I realize I’ve been doing it for a while. Then she turns to me and says “Stop staring at me!” Which I find odd, since she’s my girlfriend! If I’m not allowed to stare at her, who can I stare at?

    My mom is a marriage/family/child therapist, and she says there is research which shows babies whose parents look them in the eye often for long periods without breaking contact have better self-esteem as adults than those who didn’t get that kind of eye contact. Not sure about it, but it’s interesting.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan @ 49,

    (Sorry, I think I misspelled your name last time…)

    We don’t agree about death, which is cool. Not sure there’s much to discuss there. But I really liked this: “People ought to look into other eyes more, I think. I remember the first time I was in Chicago and my friend told me I shouldn’t look at the people around me. I still think that’s strange!” Me too! Sometimes I find myself looking at my girlfriend, and I realize I’ve been doing it for a while. Then she turns to me and says “Stop staring at me!” Which I find odd, since she’s my girlfriend! If I’m not allowed to stare at her, who can I stare at?

    My mom is a marriage/family/child therapist, and she says there is research which shows babies whose parents look them in the eye often for long periods without breaking contact have better self-esteem as adults than those who didn’t get that kind of eye contact. Not sure about it, but it’s interesting.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 52,

    I agree Lewis’ book is an allegory; so why take some parts literally and others as metaphors? And why does Lewis set things in Heaven and Hell, mess around, and then call it something else? He could have just as easily set things in some other place and made it easier to understand. This way, if I read it as you do, he just muddies things. Besides, I’ve read his autobiography, and I don’t think he was an exclusivist Christian at all. I think the idea behind The Great Divorce was, in Lewis’ mind, fairly literal.

    How can one lose oneself if one does not know oneself? It would be a random giving up of things without reason. If I should give myself up, cool, but how would I know that I’m giving up the right things – the things that are ME – without first learning who I am? I’m not saying that I refuse to give something up. (I actually don’t think I’ve said that anywhere, but if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.) I’m saying that I have come to know things about myself that I didn’t know before because I was hampered by so much dogma. I couldn’t have known it prior to leaving the dogma of Christianity, and, therefore, couldn’t have given myself up.

    Why is it, if I read this blog correctly, that life is so OPPOSITE of what it SEEMS to be? This is the genius of religion: if the tenets of the faith are so confounding as to preclude argumentation, believers will always be able to appeal to ignorance. Hence, no religious person will ever have to admit they may have been mistaken if one of their beliefs turns out not to square with reality. They can just say, as so many have here, that our ways are not God’s ways; that those who ask questions are arrogant and somehow put themselves at God’s level. Incomprehensibility is the hallmark of religion.

    I’ll ask again: why is God so insecure as to keep me from asking whatever honest question I have? God knows I’m imperfect. Why do I have to put everything respectfully? My dad is a total jerk. Even he was sometimes able to see past my immaturity when I asked a question in a rude or impatient way. But to God, that’s a sin. Period the end. Hard and fast rule. I would think the Supreme Being would be a little more flexible. I think I’ve said that before…

    I dig what you’re saying about becoming more of yourself through death. It’s kinda like the Hindu idea of dying – which makes sense, since Judaism began as an eastern religion. My favorite Hindu description of the concept is this: in life, you’re like a drop of rain falling from a cloud. Death is like landing in the ocean. We in the west tend to see that as losing our self, whereas those in the east tend to see it as becoming themselves.

    All that to say: I do agree we should do more giving up of ourselves. I’m just not sure how to give myself up without knowing myself.

    This is fun, too: “Try to remember how flawed our ‘selves’ are. by saying ‘the bad things we do’ instead of ‘sin’, you are only using semantics. You concede that people are not basicly [sic] good and that we all do bad things. Well, justice would seem to require that somebody pay a penalty for those bad things.” It does? What if one doesn’t believe in justice? Can you prove to me justice isn’t just our yearning for life to be fair? I put my faith in personal responsibility more than justice. I don’t expect others to do for me what I can do for myself. If I am wronged, sometimes there is no “justice.” What do I do then? Move on. Deal with it. (Incidently, all the things a few people – though NOT YOU, kerner – have told me I need to do!) I find the definition of justice changes depending on who’s got the power. It’s hard to agree on what it is. So I don’t put much stock in justice. It’s a concept, like rights. Both only work when people take personal responsibility to make sure they are actively pursuing each.

    But this next line is the BEST: “So God paid the penalty Himself, and thereby makes His mercy available to us.” I love this line of reasoning. If God already paid the price, the price is paid. If we’re talking about the “debt” being “paid,” perhaps we need to find a new metaphor, because this one doesn’t just limp – it needs a wheelchair!

    The problem is this: if one has a debt which must be paid, and it is satisfied through payment by a third party, the debt is forgiven. The debtor can either recognize this, or choose not to do so; but the debt is done. If Jesus paid my debt, whether I acknowledge it or not is immaterial. Of course, it would be NICE for me to acknowledge it. (I mean, if Jesus came to me and told me he did this, really, in the flesh, and showed me proof, I’d be pretty rude if I didn’t at least say thanks.) It is simply not necessary.

    I hate to say it, but we’re all charity cases. Every single one of us is a part of our planet. Each part of the planet depends on all the other parts to function. We’re not closed systems unto ourselves. I don’t deny the existence of God because I have a problem relying on – or even FREELOADING FROM – a Supreme Being. I deny the existence of a personal God (and I actually would only qualify as an agnostic or weak atheist, because I don’t think I KNOW God doesn’t exist) because it makes little sense to me. There could be a creator. I’ll totally give you that. I’m not so arrogant as to say I know for a fact how the universe began. I just don’t think the creator is a personal God, if there is one (which doesn’t really make that much sense to me, anyway).

    Oh, and my name’s not David. Are you confusing me with some other “atheist”? (I’m using quotes now, trying to get REALLY confusing…)

    How is it me who believes in the convenient theory rather than you? First of all, you believe in an hypothesis, not a theory. Second, most of what you’ve talked about is an extrapolation from reality, which means to me you may have invented a lot of stuff. What have I invented? You can only point to the Bible for your answers. I can point to many other sources. I can also THROW OUT ALL SOURCES, without fearing for my life or eternal soul.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 52,

    I agree Lewis’ book is an allegory; so why take some parts literally and others as metaphors? And why does Lewis set things in Heaven and Hell, mess around, and then call it something else? He could have just as easily set things in some other place and made it easier to understand. This way, if I read it as you do, he just muddies things. Besides, I’ve read his autobiography, and I don’t think he was an exclusivist Christian at all. I think the idea behind The Great Divorce was, in Lewis’ mind, fairly literal.

    How can one lose oneself if one does not know oneself? It would be a random giving up of things without reason. If I should give myself up, cool, but how would I know that I’m giving up the right things – the things that are ME – without first learning who I am? I’m not saying that I refuse to give something up. (I actually don’t think I’ve said that anywhere, but if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.) I’m saying that I have come to know things about myself that I didn’t know before because I was hampered by so much dogma. I couldn’t have known it prior to leaving the dogma of Christianity, and, therefore, couldn’t have given myself up.

    Why is it, if I read this blog correctly, that life is so OPPOSITE of what it SEEMS to be? This is the genius of religion: if the tenets of the faith are so confounding as to preclude argumentation, believers will always be able to appeal to ignorance. Hence, no religious person will ever have to admit they may have been mistaken if one of their beliefs turns out not to square with reality. They can just say, as so many have here, that our ways are not God’s ways; that those who ask questions are arrogant and somehow put themselves at God’s level. Incomprehensibility is the hallmark of religion.

    I’ll ask again: why is God so insecure as to keep me from asking whatever honest question I have? God knows I’m imperfect. Why do I have to put everything respectfully? My dad is a total jerk. Even he was sometimes able to see past my immaturity when I asked a question in a rude or impatient way. But to God, that’s a sin. Period the end. Hard and fast rule. I would think the Supreme Being would be a little more flexible. I think I’ve said that before…

    I dig what you’re saying about becoming more of yourself through death. It’s kinda like the Hindu idea of dying – which makes sense, since Judaism began as an eastern religion. My favorite Hindu description of the concept is this: in life, you’re like a drop of rain falling from a cloud. Death is like landing in the ocean. We in the west tend to see that as losing our self, whereas those in the east tend to see it as becoming themselves.

    All that to say: I do agree we should do more giving up of ourselves. I’m just not sure how to give myself up without knowing myself.

    This is fun, too: “Try to remember how flawed our ‘selves’ are. by saying ‘the bad things we do’ instead of ‘sin’, you are only using semantics. You concede that people are not basicly [sic] good and that we all do bad things. Well, justice would seem to require that somebody pay a penalty for those bad things.” It does? What if one doesn’t believe in justice? Can you prove to me justice isn’t just our yearning for life to be fair? I put my faith in personal responsibility more than justice. I don’t expect others to do for me what I can do for myself. If I am wronged, sometimes there is no “justice.” What do I do then? Move on. Deal with it. (Incidently, all the things a few people – though NOT YOU, kerner – have told me I need to do!) I find the definition of justice changes depending on who’s got the power. It’s hard to agree on what it is. So I don’t put much stock in justice. It’s a concept, like rights. Both only work when people take personal responsibility to make sure they are actively pursuing each.

    But this next line is the BEST: “So God paid the penalty Himself, and thereby makes His mercy available to us.” I love this line of reasoning. If God already paid the price, the price is paid. If we’re talking about the “debt” being “paid,” perhaps we need to find a new metaphor, because this one doesn’t just limp – it needs a wheelchair!

    The problem is this: if one has a debt which must be paid, and it is satisfied through payment by a third party, the debt is forgiven. The debtor can either recognize this, or choose not to do so; but the debt is done. If Jesus paid my debt, whether I acknowledge it or not is immaterial. Of course, it would be NICE for me to acknowledge it. (I mean, if Jesus came to me and told me he did this, really, in the flesh, and showed me proof, I’d be pretty rude if I didn’t at least say thanks.) It is simply not necessary.

    I hate to say it, but we’re all charity cases. Every single one of us is a part of our planet. Each part of the planet depends on all the other parts to function. We’re not closed systems unto ourselves. I don’t deny the existence of God because I have a problem relying on – or even FREELOADING FROM – a Supreme Being. I deny the existence of a personal God (and I actually would only qualify as an agnostic or weak atheist, because I don’t think I KNOW God doesn’t exist) because it makes little sense to me. There could be a creator. I’ll totally give you that. I’m not so arrogant as to say I know for a fact how the universe began. I just don’t think the creator is a personal God, if there is one (which doesn’t really make that much sense to me, anyway).

    Oh, and my name’s not David. Are you confusing me with some other “atheist”? (I’m using quotes now, trying to get REALLY confusing…)

    How is it me who believes in the convenient theory rather than you? First of all, you believe in an hypothesis, not a theory. Second, most of what you’ve talked about is an extrapolation from reality, which means to me you may have invented a lot of stuff. What have I invented? You can only point to the Bible for your answers. I can point to many other sources. I can also THROW OUT ALL SOURCES, without fearing for my life or eternal soul.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 53,

    And now we come to it. The REASON why atheists deny God. Yes. Exactly. Because we hate God. We just want to be little hedonists and do whatever we want. We’re anarchists too. We just want to travel all over the place contributing to the deliquency of minors and running over puppies.

    Yes, we really do know that there’s a God, but we don’t like this, so, for the price of our eternal soul – and knowing we will GO TO HELL FOR IT – we just created a consipiracy to make sure YOUR kids don’t get to heaven. You know, just to stick it to God REAL GOOD. And if we get to have some fun for a few years on this planet, well, an eternity of teeth-gnashing is a fair trade.

    I actually thought you were reasonable, Susan. But I’m glad you said this, because it highlights what most religious people think of atheists.

    I will have God my way? What about you? I’ve asked this here, and gotten no response. Isn’t it convenient that YOU ALL get the God you believe in, and get to say “Too bad, so sad,” to the rest of us?

    I must say, I was completely thrown by this response. I’ve never gotten anywhere near this kind of treatment on The Blog of Veith. Guess being filled with the love of Christ doesn’t make people act nicer. Which is fine, since, as an atheist, I HATE niceness. Ha!

    What makes me think you don’t understand me? Your responses to me, for one. But I’m not CERTAIN you ALL don’t understand me. I just THINK some of you don’t. If I can’t see past my nose (which I’d be happy to admit!), you can’t see past your GOD. Your DOGMA.

    See, I have told you all that I came by my beliefs through no fault of my own. I opened a book one day and my mind changed. I didn’t do it as rebellion. It was a book assigned by my CHRISTIAN professor at the CHRISTIAN college I attended. I’m not so pompous as to think I have total control of my mind. It went where it went. If there is a God, I would think that God would have sympathy for me and my struggles, rather than forcing me – the ORIGINAL creature HE made – into a one-size-fits-all mold.

    You don’t believe I came by my beliefs this way. You say I hate God and I’ve rejected God as a consequence of this hatred. I can’t disprove that. But it’s not the case. You’ll have to take my word for it. Which you haven’t yet, so I’ll assume you won’t.

    I cannot disprove the existence God. You’re absolutely right. I’ve never claimed this, so I don’t know why you’re bringing it up. The atheist who says God CAN be disproven is just arrogant AND ignorant. Neither can anyone prove the existence of God. I don’t think many theists believe in God because they know of proof (I seem to remember a lot of talk about “faith”…). Likewise, it is the idiotic atheist who disbelieves because he/she thinks God has been disproven. Perhaps you’ve been talking to idiots.

    This is devolving rapidly. I think I’ll say g’night, Susan. Feel free not to respond to me anymore.

    Are any of you loving, compassionate Christians gonna let her get away with a response like this? Or am I just gonna get jumped on for my satirical take at the beginning of this reply? Come on, kids. We’re all God’s children. Right? Anyone gonna defend me? Or am I here all alone? Anyone? Anyone? fw? Bueller?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 53,

    And now we come to it. The REASON why atheists deny God. Yes. Exactly. Because we hate God. We just want to be little hedonists and do whatever we want. We’re anarchists too. We just want to travel all over the place contributing to the deliquency of minors and running over puppies.

    Yes, we really do know that there’s a God, but we don’t like this, so, for the price of our eternal soul – and knowing we will GO TO HELL FOR IT – we just created a consipiracy to make sure YOUR kids don’t get to heaven. You know, just to stick it to God REAL GOOD. And if we get to have some fun for a few years on this planet, well, an eternity of teeth-gnashing is a fair trade.

    I actually thought you were reasonable, Susan. But I’m glad you said this, because it highlights what most religious people think of atheists.

    I will have God my way? What about you? I’ve asked this here, and gotten no response. Isn’t it convenient that YOU ALL get the God you believe in, and get to say “Too bad, so sad,” to the rest of us?

    I must say, I was completely thrown by this response. I’ve never gotten anywhere near this kind of treatment on The Blog of Veith. Guess being filled with the love of Christ doesn’t make people act nicer. Which is fine, since, as an atheist, I HATE niceness. Ha!

    What makes me think you don’t understand me? Your responses to me, for one. But I’m not CERTAIN you ALL don’t understand me. I just THINK some of you don’t. If I can’t see past my nose (which I’d be happy to admit!), you can’t see past your GOD. Your DOGMA.

    See, I have told you all that I came by my beliefs through no fault of my own. I opened a book one day and my mind changed. I didn’t do it as rebellion. It was a book assigned by my CHRISTIAN professor at the CHRISTIAN college I attended. I’m not so pompous as to think I have total control of my mind. It went where it went. If there is a God, I would think that God would have sympathy for me and my struggles, rather than forcing me – the ORIGINAL creature HE made – into a one-size-fits-all mold.

    You don’t believe I came by my beliefs this way. You say I hate God and I’ve rejected God as a consequence of this hatred. I can’t disprove that. But it’s not the case. You’ll have to take my word for it. Which you haven’t yet, so I’ll assume you won’t.

    I cannot disprove the existence God. You’re absolutely right. I’ve never claimed this, so I don’t know why you’re bringing it up. The atheist who says God CAN be disproven is just arrogant AND ignorant. Neither can anyone prove the existence of God. I don’t think many theists believe in God because they know of proof (I seem to remember a lot of talk about “faith”…). Likewise, it is the idiotic atheist who disbelieves because he/she thinks God has been disproven. Perhaps you’ve been talking to idiots.

    This is devolving rapidly. I think I’ll say g’night, Susan. Feel free not to respond to me anymore.

    Are any of you loving, compassionate Christians gonna let her get away with a response like this? Or am I just gonna get jumped on for my satirical take at the beginning of this reply? Come on, kids. We’re all God’s children. Right? Anyone gonna defend me? Or am I here all alone? Anyone? Anyone? fw? Bueller?

  • Michael the little boot

    Don @ 54,

    You missed my point. Perhaps I didn’t explain it well enough. I was putting myself in the position of the “forgiver” (yes, in God’s position – though not EQUATING myself with God) to give an example. If I can forgive my brother, whom I love, but who is not a person created by me, nor even my child, why can God not find it within Godself to forgive me without my having to jump through endless hoops?

    So I’m not saying God doesn’t deserve the respect we give each other. Don’t know how you read it that way, really. I’m saying, I can be cool to my brother; why can’t God be cool to me? I’m not too stubborn to apologize to my brother, and he’s not too stubborn to apologize to me. We both forgive freely. Why does God attach so many strings?

    And, yes, if my brother didn’t apologize, I would be cool about it. Maybe after a long talk, or even a loud talk, or – gasp! – a fight. But I would be cool about it in the end. And I’m not even perfect. I’d expect more of God.

  • Michael the little boot

    Don @ 54,

    You missed my point. Perhaps I didn’t explain it well enough. I was putting myself in the position of the “forgiver” (yes, in God’s position – though not EQUATING myself with God) to give an example. If I can forgive my brother, whom I love, but who is not a person created by me, nor even my child, why can God not find it within Godself to forgive me without my having to jump through endless hoops?

    So I’m not saying God doesn’t deserve the respect we give each other. Don’t know how you read it that way, really. I’m saying, I can be cool to my brother; why can’t God be cool to me? I’m not too stubborn to apologize to my brother, and he’s not too stubborn to apologize to me. We both forgive freely. Why does God attach so many strings?

    And, yes, if my brother didn’t apologize, I would be cool about it. Maybe after a long talk, or even a loud talk, or – gasp! – a fight. But I would be cool about it in the end. And I’m not even perfect. I’d expect more of God.

  • Michael the little boot

    Theresa @ 55,

    Oh no. In a perfect world, you and I wouldn’t be talking about this stuff here. We’d be laughing about it over some synthohol in Ten-forward.

    Yup. I’m THAT nerdy.

    I really enjoyed the whole Matrix trilogy. Many people say Reloaded and Revolutions are horrible. I disagree. But the ending is definitely a “thinker.” I like that the filmmakers didn’t kowtow to what the audience wanted.

    I’ve seen kids do what you’re talking about. I wonder: why do you see what they do as bad? I mean, I know it’s not good for kids to disobey in general. It could cause them harm, etc. When is doing what you described trying to spread your wings, and when is it outright defiance? Or are you just talking about the outright defiance? It would definitely be easier to understand if I had kids. Alas, those are not in my future…

    You’re right to say I can come off as selfish. I know I offend people. I’m very aggressive in debate and dialogue. I’ve tried to tone it down (if you can believe that!). I guess I just hope that reasonable people will be able to see past my bluster if they’re really interested in the discussion. But if they go because I’m too much, or I’ve hurt them, well, I understand that as well. And I try to apologize as much as I can!

    My comments do not always come off as nice and such. It may seem that I’m just trying to refute. I think that’s simply my passion, my aggressiveness. It can REALLY be off-putting, to say the least. But I am very passionate about my points of view, as are people here. I feel it would be a disservice to anyone committed to dialogue NOT to give it my all.

    I should probably try to write with a smile more often. Oh well. Extra room for me to grow.

    (Resisting the urge to say “Live long and…”)

  • Michael the little boot

    Theresa @ 55,

    Oh no. In a perfect world, you and I wouldn’t be talking about this stuff here. We’d be laughing about it over some synthohol in Ten-forward.

    Yup. I’m THAT nerdy.

    I really enjoyed the whole Matrix trilogy. Many people say Reloaded and Revolutions are horrible. I disagree. But the ending is definitely a “thinker.” I like that the filmmakers didn’t kowtow to what the audience wanted.

    I’ve seen kids do what you’re talking about. I wonder: why do you see what they do as bad? I mean, I know it’s not good for kids to disobey in general. It could cause them harm, etc. When is doing what you described trying to spread your wings, and when is it outright defiance? Or are you just talking about the outright defiance? It would definitely be easier to understand if I had kids. Alas, those are not in my future…

    You’re right to say I can come off as selfish. I know I offend people. I’m very aggressive in debate and dialogue. I’ve tried to tone it down (if you can believe that!). I guess I just hope that reasonable people will be able to see past my bluster if they’re really interested in the discussion. But if they go because I’m too much, or I’ve hurt them, well, I understand that as well. And I try to apologize as much as I can!

    My comments do not always come off as nice and such. It may seem that I’m just trying to refute. I think that’s simply my passion, my aggressiveness. It can REALLY be off-putting, to say the least. But I am very passionate about my points of view, as are people here. I feel it would be a disservice to anyone committed to dialogue NOT to give it my all.

    I should probably try to write with a smile more often. Oh well. Extra room for me to grow.

    (Resisting the urge to say “Live long and…”)

  • BKW

    I must admit that my jaw dropped while reading Susan’s reply @53. Too bad. To me you seem to be genuinely searching for answers to the questions you pose. I too share the unfortunate experience of asking questions, having a dialogue, and then being accused of only wanting to disprove God. (And I do believe in God, but I also do thoughtfully wonder about things from time to time. And I haven’t found a “Christian” to share this type of dialogue with. Or who will honestly admit that they “wonder” at times as well).

  • BKW

    I must admit that my jaw dropped while reading Susan’s reply @53. Too bad. To me you seem to be genuinely searching for answers to the questions you pose. I too share the unfortunate experience of asking questions, having a dialogue, and then being accused of only wanting to disprove God. (And I do believe in God, but I also do thoughtfully wonder about things from time to time. And I haven’t found a “Christian” to share this type of dialogue with. Or who will honestly admit that they “wonder” at times as well).

  • Susan aka organshoes

    You are right: we have come to the nub of it, or very near: the accusation that Christians are not nice because they don’t speak tolerantly of unbelief.
    I didn’t call atheists hedonists. So dial that back a little.
    Lots of atheists are very moral people. Law-abiding, even. You sound moral and perfectly harmless.
    But you will indeed lead people astray, by convincing them that faith is impossible or wrong or harmful or untrue, or that God is not real or that Christ did not die for their sins.
    You’re the one accusing God of not being cool; not doing as you think He ought to do. You’re the one in disagreement with God. You’re the one not seeking Him, not believing Him, not trusting Him, and denying Him, expecting ‘more’ of Him. You’re the one setting the standard for what God ought to be.
    So, claims to the contrary, you’re not an example of tolerance, let alone love, for God.
    I pretty much feel free to respond or not on this blog or any others where invited to respond. It’s what we do.
    And that’s entirely not true, that you’ve gotten no response to how we believe what we believe about God. We believe the revelation of Him, by Him, through the holy scriptures. Not through voices in our heads or visions, but through the scriptures. They’re the only source He’s given us. They are the inspired, inerrant revelation of His work and His plan for our salvation. He’s added nothing new to the revelation of Himself. He doesn’t speak new words or give new meanings to old words–at least, that’s the Lutheran belief.
    There may be, from among those upon whom you’ve called to defend you, who will call me harsh or my words too strong, but I don’t see where they can say I’m wrong, so far at least, about our beliefs, including our beliefs about atheists.
    Yes, we have those beliefs as well.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    You are right: we have come to the nub of it, or very near: the accusation that Christians are not nice because they don’t speak tolerantly of unbelief.
    I didn’t call atheists hedonists. So dial that back a little.
    Lots of atheists are very moral people. Law-abiding, even. You sound moral and perfectly harmless.
    But you will indeed lead people astray, by convincing them that faith is impossible or wrong or harmful or untrue, or that God is not real or that Christ did not die for their sins.
    You’re the one accusing God of not being cool; not doing as you think He ought to do. You’re the one in disagreement with God. You’re the one not seeking Him, not believing Him, not trusting Him, and denying Him, expecting ‘more’ of Him. You’re the one setting the standard for what God ought to be.
    So, claims to the contrary, you’re not an example of tolerance, let alone love, for God.
    I pretty much feel free to respond or not on this blog or any others where invited to respond. It’s what we do.
    And that’s entirely not true, that you’ve gotten no response to how we believe what we believe about God. We believe the revelation of Him, by Him, through the holy scriptures. Not through voices in our heads or visions, but through the scriptures. They’re the only source He’s given us. They are the inspired, inerrant revelation of His work and His plan for our salvation. He’s added nothing new to the revelation of Himself. He doesn’t speak new words or give new meanings to old words–at least, that’s the Lutheran belief.
    There may be, from among those upon whom you’ve called to defend you, who will call me harsh or my words too strong, but I don’t see where they can say I’m wrong, so far at least, about our beliefs, including our beliefs about atheists.
    Yes, we have those beliefs as well.

  • Don S

    Michael @ 59 — Yes, but you also missed my point. The ONLY point I was making is that forgiveness follows an apology — an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Yet, you expect God to forgive you without such an acknowledgment, nor even an acknowledgment that He exists at all. While you may not be too stubborn to freely acknowledge wrongdoing to your brother, you admit no wrongdoing to the Creator. You state that you would even forgive your brother if he didn’t apologize, after a long talk or fight. But you don’t engage God at all.

    I don’t see how you think God attaches “so many strings”. The gift of salvation is freely given. All we need to do is believe. There are no strings. Now, I’m not saying that men have not attempted to impose a lot of strings in the name of God, but those are not of God.

  • Don S

    Michael @ 59 — Yes, but you also missed my point. The ONLY point I was making is that forgiveness follows an apology — an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Yet, you expect God to forgive you without such an acknowledgment, nor even an acknowledgment that He exists at all. While you may not be too stubborn to freely acknowledge wrongdoing to your brother, you admit no wrongdoing to the Creator. You state that you would even forgive your brother if he didn’t apologize, after a long talk or fight. But you don’t engage God at all.

    I don’t see how you think God attaches “so many strings”. The gift of salvation is freely given. All we need to do is believe. There are no strings. Now, I’m not saying that men have not attempted to impose a lot of strings in the name of God, but those are not of God.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Where you see God attaching lots of strings in order for you (or some other person) to receive His promises, perhaps I would actually prefer to think of God actually fighting with you since you want to do your little mortal vs. divine combat anyway. I’m not afraid of you (or me) fighting God as we get a bit frustrated with not being able to get our minds around all that we would like. What if God did bind us with something in order to fight us out of ourselves? Doesn’t seem that unreasonable: The patient must have parts (or even the whole person) numbed in order to stand the incision and the pursuant operation. In fact, I believe God really does do this in order to not only cut away the cords (or whatever you want to call what we believe God does to us by the killing action of His words of Law) but actually to remake us to receive a reordered sort of new life (or whatever you want to call what we believe God does to us by the enlivening and freeing action of His words of Gospel) toward God and toward the whole world (Man, Animal, Environment) around us. This is where faith comes in, believing these promises, while the old life (death and the Law) is still being shaken off (by God, not by us).

    I know you don’t think much of the Bible, but this whole collection of books is for me quite a treasure of wisdom from generations past. In particular I wonder if you have considered Job’s strife with God; or Jacob’s wrestling match; David’s life (pointed out by Bror, above) is a good example; also both Moses and Elijah certainly thought it stank how God would pick on them the way He did; And Paul can also be seen as having an intense wrestling match with God which many have complained at how could he possibly be okay with the way God resolved it. Yet all these people are considered to be people of great faith (examples to us, even). I don’t think any of them would claim much of it was great fun. I assume you are familiar with these episodes from the history of God’s people. What do you think we Christians do when we have similar problems with God? What did you do with them when you were a Christian? Now that you don’t have any frustrations with God because you are liberated from belief, do you ever get frustrated with the readily evident meaningless to life? Maybe you don’t. But if you do what do you do with that?

    A lot of Christians think they can hide their problems with God from God, but that’s just bull spit. I have a problem with how God “lets” such “spit” happen to people whom I love. I don’t understand it and I often have a problem with God about it. So I pray to God, yes talk to him about such things (after all, He already knows about it, if its gonna hurt His feelings or something, its already too late for me to get too concerned about that). These are the problems that I lay down in confession to God. I am learning to pray boldly for God to change these problems. If they change, I will praise Him. If they don’t, I’m sure I’ll have more to confess. But I believe His promises. And I trust His answer for cutting all the chords and strings and things that hinder and kill and suck life and faith from people. And tomorrow morning its another new day, unless Christ comes tonight to take me home, liberated from this “spitty” struggle.

    Yep, I’m using Him for a crutch. But He takes the crutch away, so that I actually trust the new life and the Center of His promise – the Words which bring new life.

    Just trying to describe what I do with my problems – hope its helpful to the discussion.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Where you see God attaching lots of strings in order for you (or some other person) to receive His promises, perhaps I would actually prefer to think of God actually fighting with you since you want to do your little mortal vs. divine combat anyway. I’m not afraid of you (or me) fighting God as we get a bit frustrated with not being able to get our minds around all that we would like. What if God did bind us with something in order to fight us out of ourselves? Doesn’t seem that unreasonable: The patient must have parts (or even the whole person) numbed in order to stand the incision and the pursuant operation. In fact, I believe God really does do this in order to not only cut away the cords (or whatever you want to call what we believe God does to us by the killing action of His words of Law) but actually to remake us to receive a reordered sort of new life (or whatever you want to call what we believe God does to us by the enlivening and freeing action of His words of Gospel) toward God and toward the whole world (Man, Animal, Environment) around us. This is where faith comes in, believing these promises, while the old life (death and the Law) is still being shaken off (by God, not by us).

    I know you don’t think much of the Bible, but this whole collection of books is for me quite a treasure of wisdom from generations past. In particular I wonder if you have considered Job’s strife with God; or Jacob’s wrestling match; David’s life (pointed out by Bror, above) is a good example; also both Moses and Elijah certainly thought it stank how God would pick on them the way He did; And Paul can also be seen as having an intense wrestling match with God which many have complained at how could he possibly be okay with the way God resolved it. Yet all these people are considered to be people of great faith (examples to us, even). I don’t think any of them would claim much of it was great fun. I assume you are familiar with these episodes from the history of God’s people. What do you think we Christians do when we have similar problems with God? What did you do with them when you were a Christian? Now that you don’t have any frustrations with God because you are liberated from belief, do you ever get frustrated with the readily evident meaningless to life? Maybe you don’t. But if you do what do you do with that?

    A lot of Christians think they can hide their problems with God from God, but that’s just bull spit. I have a problem with how God “lets” such “spit” happen to people whom I love. I don’t understand it and I often have a problem with God about it. So I pray to God, yes talk to him about such things (after all, He already knows about it, if its gonna hurt His feelings or something, its already too late for me to get too concerned about that). These are the problems that I lay down in confession to God. I am learning to pray boldly for God to change these problems. If they change, I will praise Him. If they don’t, I’m sure I’ll have more to confess. But I believe His promises. And I trust His answer for cutting all the chords and strings and things that hinder and kill and suck life and faith from people. And tomorrow morning its another new day, unless Christ comes tonight to take me home, liberated from this “spitty” struggle.

    Yep, I’m using Him for a crutch. But He takes the crutch away, so that I actually trust the new life and the Center of His promise – the Words which bring new life.

    Just trying to describe what I do with my problems – hope its helpful to the discussion.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt (Theresa K.)

    One more thought, Michael. You seem to be equating this group of Christians with more fundamentalist Christians. Lutherans are “fundamentally” different from most Christians. It would help if you became more familiar with our beliefs. For Lutheran Christians, there are no strings (as in NONE), no decisions, no behavior police, no list of rules, etc. Sometimes I get the impression that you want to debate the Christians of your younger years, but we aren’t them. If anything, we are as much against those people as you are.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt (Theresa K.)

    One more thought, Michael. You seem to be equating this group of Christians with more fundamentalist Christians. Lutherans are “fundamentally” different from most Christians. It would help if you became more familiar with our beliefs. For Lutheran Christians, there are no strings (as in NONE), no decisions, no behavior police, no list of rules, etc. Sometimes I get the impression that you want to debate the Christians of your younger years, but we aren’t them. If anything, we are as much against those people as you are.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Aha! You catch me in two of my imperfections. First, I am a notoriously bad speller. Just ask my mother, or anyone who has had the misfortune to correspond with me. Second (and less well known), since early childhood I have confused the names “Michael” and “David”. Since these are not similar names, I have no idea why this is so. Perhaps we can agree that at least some of our imperfections are not necessarilly sins. On the other hand, I fear I have offended you by the name confusion imperfection. Sorry. But I digress.

    You question the concept of Christ paying our debt on the cross, because you don’t understand how we could still suffer hell if the debt was actually paid. If the debt were truly paid, you argue, whether we acknowledge it or not should be irrelevant. I was about to write an extended analogy about how paying someone’s mortgage does not help that person, if he refuses to live in the paid off house. I still think it’s a pretty good analogy, but I begin to think we regulars on this blog may be missing part of your point.

    We may have been arguing with you as if you were a life long unbeliever, rather than an apostate. You do not see yourself as someone who has refused to enter the house. Rather, you see yourself as someone who has lived in the house, but then decided that the house is no house at all, but an illusion. Hm.

    It is difficult for me to address your situation with the limited knowledge we have of your history. Not that you haven’t tried to share your history, but it isn’t easy to cram your life’s story into the comment section of a blog. Some of the things I do perceive is that your upbringing in a conservative Baptist church ws very dogmatic and authoritarian, and that you were compliant as a child. Your father was a “jerk” but even he was understanding of some of your questions, even when rudely expressed. There was also a youth pastor, who was in the wrong vocation, who offended you in some way. But, you say that none of the jerk like behavior you encountered in your childhood in the church amounted to abuse (maybe it wasn’t even mistreatment). But it WAS bad behavior and it was part of the reason that you reject Christianity. Another reason you have mentioned more than once is your attendance at a “Christian” college, where you were taught that Christianity is not the exclusive way to salvation, and that Judaism and Christianity are simply part of the evolution of Indo-European spiritual thought that has developed in numerous different directions, and that there is therefore nothing special about Christianity as a spiritual perspective. Ultimately, you have decided that Christianity “doesn’t make sense” to you, and you have asked us to explain our beliefs in a way that does make sense, if we can.

    Am I more or less right so far? If not, please clarify any points I have misunderstood. I have to think about this for a bit, and I’ll continue later.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Aha! You catch me in two of my imperfections. First, I am a notoriously bad speller. Just ask my mother, or anyone who has had the misfortune to correspond with me. Second (and less well known), since early childhood I have confused the names “Michael” and “David”. Since these are not similar names, I have no idea why this is so. Perhaps we can agree that at least some of our imperfections are not necessarilly sins. On the other hand, I fear I have offended you by the name confusion imperfection. Sorry. But I digress.

    You question the concept of Christ paying our debt on the cross, because you don’t understand how we could still suffer hell if the debt was actually paid. If the debt were truly paid, you argue, whether we acknowledge it or not should be irrelevant. I was about to write an extended analogy about how paying someone’s mortgage does not help that person, if he refuses to live in the paid off house. I still think it’s a pretty good analogy, but I begin to think we regulars on this blog may be missing part of your point.

    We may have been arguing with you as if you were a life long unbeliever, rather than an apostate. You do not see yourself as someone who has refused to enter the house. Rather, you see yourself as someone who has lived in the house, but then decided that the house is no house at all, but an illusion. Hm.

    It is difficult for me to address your situation with the limited knowledge we have of your history. Not that you haven’t tried to share your history, but it isn’t easy to cram your life’s story into the comment section of a blog. Some of the things I do perceive is that your upbringing in a conservative Baptist church ws very dogmatic and authoritarian, and that you were compliant as a child. Your father was a “jerk” but even he was understanding of some of your questions, even when rudely expressed. There was also a youth pastor, who was in the wrong vocation, who offended you in some way. But, you say that none of the jerk like behavior you encountered in your childhood in the church amounted to abuse (maybe it wasn’t even mistreatment). But it WAS bad behavior and it was part of the reason that you reject Christianity. Another reason you have mentioned more than once is your attendance at a “Christian” college, where you were taught that Christianity is not the exclusive way to salvation, and that Judaism and Christianity are simply part of the evolution of Indo-European spiritual thought that has developed in numerous different directions, and that there is therefore nothing special about Christianity as a spiritual perspective. Ultimately, you have decided that Christianity “doesn’t make sense” to you, and you have asked us to explain our beliefs in a way that does make sense, if we can.

    Am I more or less right so far? If not, please clarify any points I have misunderstood. I have to think about this for a bit, and I’ll continue later.

  • Michael the little boot

    Don @ 63,

    (Forgive me for jumping out of order here a bit. Just wanted to answer this RIGHT NOW.)

    I didn’t miss your point. I didn’t see it as addressing what we were talking about, so I tried to show you how you missed mine. Sorry if I just got confused!

    The only thing I can say is – if I believed in God – I wouldn’t expect God to forgive me without my apologizing, if in fact I did sin against God. But I think hurting my brother is just hurting my brother. So we disagree on definitions. I would think God might leave an argument between siblings to the parties involved – and I wouldn’t consider God to BE one of those parties.

    But, to get right down to it, I “don’t engage God at all” because I don’t believe in God. So everything you’re saying is, as concerns myself, irrelevant. I know you don’t think so, and I respect that. I don’t think we’re going to see eye-to-eye here.

    I find it funny that you actually MENTION the biggest string God attaches to the “free” gift of salvation in your attempt to show that God attaches no strings: BELIEF. I know it’s hard for you to see, but that is a HUGE string attached to salvation. Some of us find ourselves to be INCAPABLE of the kind of belief enjoyed by many here. I’ve brought this up, and been told that I am refusing to believe, or somehow putting up roadblocks. The only reason I see for this idea being either ignored or lambasted by believers is that you can’t believe it to be true, because it flies in the face of what you believe.

    Can no one here understand that people are different? Christians who don’t believe in evolution believe that God created all creatures once, and they are basically now as they were then. Am I correct in this assumption? If that’s the case, once again, why this one-size-fits-all answer to the meaning of life? Are we not all individuals? God is a personal God, right? But not so personal as to allow each of us to work out our own faith with fear and trembling? Or is it simply that we get to do it as long as we color inside the lines?

  • Michael the little boot

    Don @ 63,

    (Forgive me for jumping out of order here a bit. Just wanted to answer this RIGHT NOW.)

    I didn’t miss your point. I didn’t see it as addressing what we were talking about, so I tried to show you how you missed mine. Sorry if I just got confused!

    The only thing I can say is – if I believed in God – I wouldn’t expect God to forgive me without my apologizing, if in fact I did sin against God. But I think hurting my brother is just hurting my brother. So we disagree on definitions. I would think God might leave an argument between siblings to the parties involved – and I wouldn’t consider God to BE one of those parties.

    But, to get right down to it, I “don’t engage God at all” because I don’t believe in God. So everything you’re saying is, as concerns myself, irrelevant. I know you don’t think so, and I respect that. I don’t think we’re going to see eye-to-eye here.

    I find it funny that you actually MENTION the biggest string God attaches to the “free” gift of salvation in your attempt to show that God attaches no strings: BELIEF. I know it’s hard for you to see, but that is a HUGE string attached to salvation. Some of us find ourselves to be INCAPABLE of the kind of belief enjoyed by many here. I’ve brought this up, and been told that I am refusing to believe, or somehow putting up roadblocks. The only reason I see for this idea being either ignored or lambasted by believers is that you can’t believe it to be true, because it flies in the face of what you believe.

    Can no one here understand that people are different? Christians who don’t believe in evolution believe that God created all creatures once, and they are basically now as they were then. Am I correct in this assumption? If that’s the case, once again, why this one-size-fits-all answer to the meaning of life? Are we not all individuals? God is a personal God, right? But not so personal as to allow each of us to work out our own faith with fear and trembling? Or is it simply that we get to do it as long as we color inside the lines?

  • Michael the little boot

    BKW @ 61,

    Thank you. SOOO much. I’m not a Christian, as you know, but would like to carry on whatever conversation you’d wish to have about this subject. I mean, if you are intrigued by anything we’re discussing.

    (I’ll have a conversation about most anything, really. Just didn’t want to get off-topic!)

    I agree that it’s hard to ask real – and really difficult – questions about this stuff in certain contexts. I could speculate as to why, but fear I’d be inviting further ridicule…

    NOT, however, from you! :)

  • Michael the little boot

    BKW @ 61,

    Thank you. SOOO much. I’m not a Christian, as you know, but would like to carry on whatever conversation you’d wish to have about this subject. I mean, if you are intrigued by anything we’re discussing.

    (I’ll have a conversation about most anything, really. Just didn’t want to get off-topic!)

    I agree that it’s hard to ask real – and really difficult – questions about this stuff in certain contexts. I could speculate as to why, but fear I’d be inviting further ridicule…

    NOT, however, from you! :)

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    “Some of us find ourselves to be INCAPABLE of the kind of belief enjoyed by many here.”

    We are ALL incapable of belief in God. God provides the faith, not us. We can’t choose to believe, but we can choose to reject. I never chose to believe in God, but his words got to me anyway. You say you choose not to engage God at all; to me that is the same as rejecting.

    Belief in God is not a string. Who’s saying that? I must be missing something.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com Theresa K.

    “Some of us find ourselves to be INCAPABLE of the kind of belief enjoyed by many here.”

    We are ALL incapable of belief in God. God provides the faith, not us. We can’t choose to believe, but we can choose to reject. I never chose to believe in God, but his words got to me anyway. You say you choose not to engage God at all; to me that is the same as rejecting.

    Belief in God is not a string. Who’s saying that? I must be missing something.

  • fw

    Michael. interesting discussion. would LOVE to see the christians here ask you more questions designed to understand your views better.

    As a Lutheran christian, I can toss a few things out that might muddy the water in an interesting way.

    it is a fact that Lutherans believe, as a matter of formal dogma, that everyone is completely powerless to believe. (the exact words of Luther` s small catechism are … I believe that i cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus christ my lord nor come to him…..

    so as to faith we are all in exactly the same boat according to lutheran christians. the difference between being saved or lost is not in our faith. the difference is in jesus christ.

    for lutherans there is absolutely nothing at all transactional about being saved.

    This should make no sense at all to you as a former evangelical.

    I think that your faith as an evangelical christian actually did need to die.

    hope all is well with you michael. I miss our exchanges.

  • fw

    Michael. interesting discussion. would LOVE to see the christians here ask you more questions designed to understand your views better.

    As a Lutheran christian, I can toss a few things out that might muddy the water in an interesting way.

    it is a fact that Lutherans believe, as a matter of formal dogma, that everyone is completely powerless to believe. (the exact words of Luther` s small catechism are … I believe that i cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus christ my lord nor come to him…..

    so as to faith we are all in exactly the same boat according to lutheran christians. the difference between being saved or lost is not in our faith. the difference is in jesus christ.

    for lutherans there is absolutely nothing at all transactional about being saved.

    This should make no sense at all to you as a former evangelical.

    I think that your faith as an evangelical christian actually did need to die.

    hope all is well with you michael. I miss our exchanges.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 62,

    I didn’t accuse Christians of not being nice. I accused YOU of not being nice. Which is fine. You don’t have to be. It just took me by surprise, because, as I’ve said, I thought you were reasonable; and especially since it seemed a very personal attack (seemed being the operative word, as I admit I could just be taking it personally). The only thing I’ve said about Christians around here that even comes close to your rudeness is when I said most believers believe becaue they really want to be RIGHT – and I felt bad all night for putting it that way. I don’t think it really compares to what you said, though.

    Look, when a nonbeliever puts things to believers in the manner in which you put things to me, we’re accused of being intolerant and told to shut up. So, now the shoe’s on the other foot. You should be tolerant of nonbelievers. We all have to live in this world, and, as YOU said, most atheists are perfectly harmless, law-abiding people. So it would stand to reason that since we are not trampling your rights – we ARE a minority, after all – you should live and let live.

    This was a good opportunity for you to practice the compassion Jesus speaks about in the gospels. You know, loving your enemy and such. Not that I consider us enemies. It seems obvious you consider all nonbelievers to be your enemies, though.

    As far as the hedonist line goes…well, didn’t you get the sarcasm? I don’t think one can dial sarcasm BACK at all.

    I don’t PREACH anything. This is a blog, so we’re discussing ideas. In my life, no one but those close to me know my personal beliefs. I’m not going to tell anyone that faith is impossible or wrong or harmful or untrue. I don’t think I’ve even alluded to anything like that. If someone asks me if God isn’t real, I say “I don’t think God is real,” the operative word being “think.” If they can’t make up their own mind, they shouldn’t have asked me the question. But I don’t proffer opinions without solicitation.

    Also, as others have mentioned, people are generally not persuaded by arguments or discussions. So I don’t think my opinions are going to lead anyone astray.

    I don’t really know that I MADE any claims to the contrary; but how am I not being tolerant of YOU by not liking the Christian idea of God? Most people here disagree with my opinions, but act very tolerant toward me. I thought we were just discussing things here. Dr. Veith ASKED me to share. I’m glad he allows people the leeway to say the things you said; I just didn’t expect you to say them.

    It actually IS true that I’ve gotten NO response to the question I asked. It was not “how [do you] believe what [you] believe about God?” but rather “WHY is it Christians get the God they WANT?” You say it is from the Bible and that the Bible is the word of God. THAT’S the answer? I’m saying, ELABORATE. What is it ABOUT the Bible that makes you realize (without, as you say, a voice in your head TELLING you it is so) it is the true revelation of God, instead of the myriad OTHER books which make the same claim? What, beside your faith which is grounded in the Bible, tells you the Bible is inspired, the inerrant word of God? If not a voice in your head, then what else?

    By the way, God may not have added to scripture, but God has changed bits. In fact, your Martin Luther did it. It’s called the Apocrypha. Perhaps you should check it out. It was an accepted part of the Bible until your man got his hands on it. What do you do with that? If the Lutheran belief is that God doesn’t add new meanings to old words, what do you do with the fact that Luther decided to change scripture?

    And I don’t doubt many people here share your beliefs about atheists. These beliefs are not grounded in anything but speculation and anger. You don’t have proof. You don’t even have evidence. You just have your beliefs, which you must defend with your every breath – in this case by saying that the only real reason a person could be an atheist is because of a hatred for God. Which is just absurd.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 62,

    I didn’t accuse Christians of not being nice. I accused YOU of not being nice. Which is fine. You don’t have to be. It just took me by surprise, because, as I’ve said, I thought you were reasonable; and especially since it seemed a very personal attack (seemed being the operative word, as I admit I could just be taking it personally). The only thing I’ve said about Christians around here that even comes close to your rudeness is when I said most believers believe becaue they really want to be RIGHT – and I felt bad all night for putting it that way. I don’t think it really compares to what you said, though.

    Look, when a nonbeliever puts things to believers in the manner in which you put things to me, we’re accused of being intolerant and told to shut up. So, now the shoe’s on the other foot. You should be tolerant of nonbelievers. We all have to live in this world, and, as YOU said, most atheists are perfectly harmless, law-abiding people. So it would stand to reason that since we are not trampling your rights – we ARE a minority, after all – you should live and let live.

    This was a good opportunity for you to practice the compassion Jesus speaks about in the gospels. You know, loving your enemy and such. Not that I consider us enemies. It seems obvious you consider all nonbelievers to be your enemies, though.

    As far as the hedonist line goes…well, didn’t you get the sarcasm? I don’t think one can dial sarcasm BACK at all.

    I don’t PREACH anything. This is a blog, so we’re discussing ideas. In my life, no one but those close to me know my personal beliefs. I’m not going to tell anyone that faith is impossible or wrong or harmful or untrue. I don’t think I’ve even alluded to anything like that. If someone asks me if God isn’t real, I say “I don’t think God is real,” the operative word being “think.” If they can’t make up their own mind, they shouldn’t have asked me the question. But I don’t proffer opinions without solicitation.

    Also, as others have mentioned, people are generally not persuaded by arguments or discussions. So I don’t think my opinions are going to lead anyone astray.

    I don’t really know that I MADE any claims to the contrary; but how am I not being tolerant of YOU by not liking the Christian idea of God? Most people here disagree with my opinions, but act very tolerant toward me. I thought we were just discussing things here. Dr. Veith ASKED me to share. I’m glad he allows people the leeway to say the things you said; I just didn’t expect you to say them.

    It actually IS true that I’ve gotten NO response to the question I asked. It was not “how [do you] believe what [you] believe about God?” but rather “WHY is it Christians get the God they WANT?” You say it is from the Bible and that the Bible is the word of God. THAT’S the answer? I’m saying, ELABORATE. What is it ABOUT the Bible that makes you realize (without, as you say, a voice in your head TELLING you it is so) it is the true revelation of God, instead of the myriad OTHER books which make the same claim? What, beside your faith which is grounded in the Bible, tells you the Bible is inspired, the inerrant word of God? If not a voice in your head, then what else?

    By the way, God may not have added to scripture, but God has changed bits. In fact, your Martin Luther did it. It’s called the Apocrypha. Perhaps you should check it out. It was an accepted part of the Bible until your man got his hands on it. What do you do with that? If the Lutheran belief is that God doesn’t add new meanings to old words, what do you do with the fact that Luther decided to change scripture?

    And I don’t doubt many people here share your beliefs about atheists. These beliefs are not grounded in anything but speculation and anger. You don’t have proof. You don’t even have evidence. You just have your beliefs, which you must defend with your every breath – in this case by saying that the only real reason a person could be an atheist is because of a hatred for God. Which is just absurd.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan @ 64,

    I didn’t mean to give the impression I don’t think much of the Bible. Apologies if I did. I don’t see it as God’s word or revelation, but I think it’s DEFINITELY valuable for exactly the reason you give: it’s a treasure from the past. Some of it I would say is wisdom, some not so much (remember, only my opinion here). It’s funny you say this, because my new boss and I were just talking about why we find the Bible to be valuable. We agreed that it’s a window to what life was like then. As a view to the past, it’s actually beyond valuable, in my opinion.

    Your idea of God fighting with me is cool. If God is comfortable engaging us in this way, then many of the things I’ve been accused of – running from God, denying God, etc. – are part and parcel of the wrestling match. And, since the little agnostic part of me still speaks up every now and again, my faith that, if there is a God, that God is calm and forgiving and flexible, will get me through the fight to the other side.

    I don’t find it is “readily evident” that life is meaningless. Meaning could possibly be a human invention, after all. Or it could be real. I don’t think we’ve gotten near – humanity, that is – to figuring out the question of meaning. What I do like about the life liberated from belief in God is that I get to choose to pursue the things I find meaningful, rather than being limited to things that are supposed to be meaningful, but don’t actually give ME meaning in my life.

    Lots of people on this blog have alluded to “cookie-cutter Christianity.” I find religion to be “cookie-cutter living” because you don’t get to make up your own mind. God’s given us many methods to find meaning throughout creation. Why limit ourselves? The vacuum which is life can be filled with all sorts of things.

    Which isn’t to say life doesn’t sometimes feel meaningless. Does it ever feel that way to you, even though you have belief and faith? If so, what do you do in those times?

    Nice mention of the crutch idea at the end, and nice tweak of the traditional idea. I think we all use crutches. I DEFINITELY use them whenever I must. I don’t find the “religion is just a crutch” argument to be very compelling, although, unfortunately, many nonbelievers do.

    Thanks, Bryan! I’m really enjoying this.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan @ 64,

    I didn’t mean to give the impression I don’t think much of the Bible. Apologies if I did. I don’t see it as God’s word or revelation, but I think it’s DEFINITELY valuable for exactly the reason you give: it’s a treasure from the past. Some of it I would say is wisdom, some not so much (remember, only my opinion here). It’s funny you say this, because my new boss and I were just talking about why we find the Bible to be valuable. We agreed that it’s a window to what life was like then. As a view to the past, it’s actually beyond valuable, in my opinion.

    Your idea of God fighting with me is cool. If God is comfortable engaging us in this way, then many of the things I’ve been accused of – running from God, denying God, etc. – are part and parcel of the wrestling match. And, since the little agnostic part of me still speaks up every now and again, my faith that, if there is a God, that God is calm and forgiving and flexible, will get me through the fight to the other side.

    I don’t find it is “readily evident” that life is meaningless. Meaning could possibly be a human invention, after all. Or it could be real. I don’t think we’ve gotten near – humanity, that is – to figuring out the question of meaning. What I do like about the life liberated from belief in God is that I get to choose to pursue the things I find meaningful, rather than being limited to things that are supposed to be meaningful, but don’t actually give ME meaning in my life.

    Lots of people on this blog have alluded to “cookie-cutter Christianity.” I find religion to be “cookie-cutter living” because you don’t get to make up your own mind. God’s given us many methods to find meaning throughout creation. Why limit ourselves? The vacuum which is life can be filled with all sorts of things.

    Which isn’t to say life doesn’t sometimes feel meaningless. Does it ever feel that way to you, even though you have belief and faith? If so, what do you do in those times?

    Nice mention of the crutch idea at the end, and nice tweak of the traditional idea. I think we all use crutches. I DEFINITELY use them whenever I must. I don’t find the “religion is just a crutch” argument to be very compelling, although, unfortunately, many nonbelievers do.

    Thanks, Bryan! I’m really enjoying this.

  • Michael the little boot

    TK @ 65,

    I’ve been accused of this before. I will again admit that I have little knowledge or understanding of Lutheran theology. If I had more time, I’d learn as much as I could. It would help, since I read this blog. fw’s told me before that I get a lot of things wrong by thinking Lutherans are the same as the Christians with which I was raised.

    Can you point me to something which might give me a quick but full description of what I’m missing? I do work in a library, as I’ve said, so it might even be AROUND here somewhere…

  • Michael the little boot

    TK @ 65,

    I’ve been accused of this before. I will again admit that I have little knowledge or understanding of Lutheran theology. If I had more time, I’d learn as much as I could. It would help, since I read this blog. fw’s told me before that I get a lot of things wrong by thinking Lutherans are the same as the Christians with which I was raised.

    Can you point me to something which might give me a quick but full description of what I’m missing? I do work in a library, as I’ve said, so it might even be AROUND here somewhere…

  • Susan aka organshoes

    You might listen to Issues, Etc., broadcast daily from 3 pm central to 5 pm via this web address:
    http://www.issuesetc.org/
    They talk about lots of things–it’s Lutheran talk radio–but always with a Lutheran perspective.
    Also, attend a confessional church. Hear the word.
    Listening is your best bet; better than reading, better than thrusting and parrying on a Christian blog.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    You might listen to Issues, Etc., broadcast daily from 3 pm central to 5 pm via this web address:
    http://www.issuesetc.org/
    They talk about lots of things–it’s Lutheran talk radio–but always with a Lutheran perspective.
    Also, attend a confessional church. Hear the word.
    Listening is your best bet; better than reading, better than thrusting and parrying on a Christian blog.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 66,

    You did not offend me. And I wasn’t trying to catch you! Sorry if I came off that way. I was just kidding. You can call me David if you’d like! I have no attachment to my name. Call me “Hey!” if you want. Sometimes I’ve been known to answer to that. Other not so nice words, as well…

    You have TOTALLY gotten what I’m describing when you said “We may have been arguing with you as if you were a life long unbeliever, rather than an apostate. You do not see yourself as someone who has refused to enter the house. Rather, you see yourself as someone who has lived in the house, but then decided that the house is no house at all, but an illusion.” Okay, not totally. It’s an illusion for me. Obviously not for you. I’m not speaking to the reality of it, just our personal beliefs. But you’re about 99% right on.

    So, to clarify: I went to a Baptist church until I was 13. Then we moved to a new town, and started going to a nondenominational church (loosely affiliated with – ugh! – the Foursquare denomination).

    My dad was and is a jerk (I could use worse words). He wasn’t understanding of my questions really. I used him as an example to say that, if even a huge meany like him was understanding of my occasional rudeness, I would think God could have that capacity as well. But, no, my dad is not an understanding fellow.

    The youth pastor…yeah. He ruined a lot of lives just by preaching the wrong stuff. If I could tell you how many kids I knew from the Foursquare church I attended who ended up drug addicts, murdered (yes, really), alcoholics, or who committed suicide as a result of the garbage he was handing out…well, it would be too much of a bummer for this blog.

    The bad behavior of Christians I’ve known has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the reasons I left Christianity. Nothing at all. I thought I had made this clear earlier. No big deal.

    The college I went to wasn’t a “Christian” college. It was a Christian college, no quotes. It’s called Greenville College, and it’s located in Greenville, Illinois. Check it out online if you want to know more about it. I wasn’t taught Christianity isn’t the only way to salvation. I was taught that Jesus is not a hateful guy who will send me to hell for following my own path.

    But you got most of it, yeah. Think some. Can’t wait to read what you have to say.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 66,

    You did not offend me. And I wasn’t trying to catch you! Sorry if I came off that way. I was just kidding. You can call me David if you’d like! I have no attachment to my name. Call me “Hey!” if you want. Sometimes I’ve been known to answer to that. Other not so nice words, as well…

    You have TOTALLY gotten what I’m describing when you said “We may have been arguing with you as if you were a life long unbeliever, rather than an apostate. You do not see yourself as someone who has refused to enter the house. Rather, you see yourself as someone who has lived in the house, but then decided that the house is no house at all, but an illusion.” Okay, not totally. It’s an illusion for me. Obviously not for you. I’m not speaking to the reality of it, just our personal beliefs. But you’re about 99% right on.

    So, to clarify: I went to a Baptist church until I was 13. Then we moved to a new town, and started going to a nondenominational church (loosely affiliated with – ugh! – the Foursquare denomination).

    My dad was and is a jerk (I could use worse words). He wasn’t understanding of my questions really. I used him as an example to say that, if even a huge meany like him was understanding of my occasional rudeness, I would think God could have that capacity as well. But, no, my dad is not an understanding fellow.

    The youth pastor…yeah. He ruined a lot of lives just by preaching the wrong stuff. If I could tell you how many kids I knew from the Foursquare church I attended who ended up drug addicts, murdered (yes, really), alcoholics, or who committed suicide as a result of the garbage he was handing out…well, it would be too much of a bummer for this blog.

    The bad behavior of Christians I’ve known has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the reasons I left Christianity. Nothing at all. I thought I had made this clear earlier. No big deal.

    The college I went to wasn’t a “Christian” college. It was a Christian college, no quotes. It’s called Greenville College, and it’s located in Greenville, Illinois. Check it out online if you want to know more about it. I wasn’t taught Christianity isn’t the only way to salvation. I was taught that Jesus is not a hateful guy who will send me to hell for following my own path.

    But you got most of it, yeah. Think some. Can’t wait to read what you have to say.

  • Anne of Green Gables

    Hi, Michael–

    I read Dr. Veith’s blog occasionally and this is a very interesting discussion!

    I wanted to respond to this remark you made: ‘It actually IS true that I’ve gotten NO response to the question I asked. It was not “how [do you] believe what [you] believe about God?” but rather “WHY is it Christians get the God they WANT?”’

    It really made me think. Is Jesus the God I want? Not really. I would prefer a God who is more genie-like, granting my wishes, removing obstacles from my path, smiting my enemies, and generally giving me whatever I want. Okay, so I guess the god I want is me.

    That’s what led Adam and Eve into sin–they wanted to be “like God,” which is another way of saying they wanted to *be* God. Unfortunately, the god they got by sinning was Satan, the “prince of this world.” The default setting for humanity ever since has been “Sinner: Condemned to Die.” We are born without hope.

    Except . . . well, you are probably familiar with the Bible verse John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

    Through the faith He creates in us at baptism, God covers us with the sinlessness of Jesus, as if we had been born sinless. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever sin, but it means that God doesn’t hold it against those who believe in Him. Psalm 103 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

    Michael, I hope my comments are helpful in answering your question. If not, just ignore me.

  • Anne of Green Gables

    Hi, Michael–

    I read Dr. Veith’s blog occasionally and this is a very interesting discussion!

    I wanted to respond to this remark you made: ‘It actually IS true that I’ve gotten NO response to the question I asked. It was not “how [do you] believe what [you] believe about God?” but rather “WHY is it Christians get the God they WANT?”’

    It really made me think. Is Jesus the God I want? Not really. I would prefer a God who is more genie-like, granting my wishes, removing obstacles from my path, smiting my enemies, and generally giving me whatever I want. Okay, so I guess the god I want is me.

    That’s what led Adam and Eve into sin–they wanted to be “like God,” which is another way of saying they wanted to *be* God. Unfortunately, the god they got by sinning was Satan, the “prince of this world.” The default setting for humanity ever since has been “Sinner: Condemned to Die.” We are born without hope.

    Except . . . well, you are probably familiar with the Bible verse John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

    Through the faith He creates in us at baptism, God covers us with the sinlessness of Jesus, as if we had been born sinless. That doesn’t mean we don’t ever sin, but it means that God doesn’t hold it against those who believe in Him. Psalm 103 says, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

    Michael, I hope my comments are helpful in answering your question. If not, just ignore me.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Thankfully, the faith given to us ties us to the God we need, though never in this life do we cease to want a different God.
    When we see Him face to face, we’ll be nothing but pleased with the God we have, and all we thought we wanted will be a bucket of ashes.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Thankfully, the faith given to us ties us to the God we need, though never in this life do we cease to want a different God.
    When we see Him face to face, we’ll be nothing but pleased with the God we have, and all we thought we wanted will be a bucket of ashes.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    I didn’t realize this debate was still current. Wow!

    All people (including atheists) are open to the notion of god. You may be open to having a taste for god but it is only according to your pre-determined preferences and under your conditions and on your terms that you would be willing to do so; accounting what the true God has to offer for your sampling as repugnant. Such an openness to god is only according to the image you would make him out to be, i.e. you are open to the idea of there being an idol within you that you can fashion with your own imaginations. This is what is appealing to you, though defiant to God, and not a God that would have you bow before his majesty. God is no tyrant but he is a King; rather, the King of Kings and one day we will all bow our knee and pay homage to him. Friend it is easy to be a skeptic, it carries with it a false sense of pride, but it is hard to have a face to face encounter with humility. Humble yourself and have faith in the true and living God who is able to save your soul being both Lord and savior, and ever remains so whether you acknowledge him to be or not. Have faith and your eyes will be opened to that which you do not fully understand. The particulars of debate cannot be settled, though may be proven, apart from faith.
    Let this be a challenge to look to Christ and not an excuse to further harden your heart. The welfare of your soul is no academic matter, but a matter of faith.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    I didn’t realize this debate was still current. Wow!

    All people (including atheists) are open to the notion of god. You may be open to having a taste for god but it is only according to your pre-determined preferences and under your conditions and on your terms that you would be willing to do so; accounting what the true God has to offer for your sampling as repugnant. Such an openness to god is only according to the image you would make him out to be, i.e. you are open to the idea of there being an idol within you that you can fashion with your own imaginations. This is what is appealing to you, though defiant to God, and not a God that would have you bow before his majesty. God is no tyrant but he is a King; rather, the King of Kings and one day we will all bow our knee and pay homage to him. Friend it is easy to be a skeptic, it carries with it a false sense of pride, but it is hard to have a face to face encounter with humility. Humble yourself and have faith in the true and living God who is able to save your soul being both Lord and savior, and ever remains so whether you acknowledge him to be or not. Have faith and your eyes will be opened to that which you do not fully understand. The particulars of debate cannot be settled, though may be proven, apart from faith.
    Let this be a challenge to look to Christ and not an excuse to further harden your heart. The welfare of your soul is no academic matter, but a matter of faith.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael,
    Sorry to delay so long in getting back to you. My son is in town, and I don’t like to be at the office much when he is around.
    First your write: “see your point, as far as it applies to Christians who accept the traditional understanding of any sin as a “sin against God.” I still don’t see why – even if we do sin against God when we do any number of bad things to others – we need to suffer if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness. Additionally, I don’t see why God can’t be cool and not make it such a big deal. When my brother hurts me, he then apologizes. I forgive him without a thought, because he is my brother and I love him. Also, it helps ME to get over my hurt feelings when I forgive him”
    Maybe God can’t be as cool as we are, because he isn’t a sinner like us. He is holy, righteous and just. We aren’t. I think the more major thing here is that he has done what he can for us to spare us punishment. He doesn’t want to punish us, or send us to hell. But some of us are intent on going there, any way. I think it is telling that hell was not created for man, but the Devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41).

    So were not o.k. We are just imperfect. Great. Yet this implies that we know what perfect is supposed to be, and we aren’t it. Why not?

    As for Christ and when he comes back. He will. He has promised to do so. When is up to him. And as long as he lets this painful and imperfect world continue, I can only assume it is out of love for the people he died to save. There is another soul he would have saved. I imagine though his patience is running thin.

    Michael,
    I’ve been reading the other posts here. It seems to me you are hurt deeply. May be more than you realize. You want to take it out on God, and Christians of any stripe. From all I can tell part of you wants to believe (otherwise why even have the discussion) but you refuse to believe. You have preconceived notions of who God is, or should be. You are mad you don’t get the God you want. You think us Christians do. We don’t. Some “christians” though have been able to fashion a god according to there image, and call him God. Yes even those who are in the church can be guilty of Idolatry, even with out a statue of Mary. I am not one to be so arrogant as to tell God how he should be, or what he should be like. I take God at his word, as recorded in Scripture, verified by his son who rose from the dead. God says he is Jealous, that he hates sin, that he hates wickedness. Jealous isn’t quite the way I want to think of God. Jealousy is not considered a good trait in most people. Of course then, a guy who lets his girlfriend of wife run around and does not do anything about it, is not jealous for her, and does not love her. So I supose given that God loves me enough to send his son to die for me, who has invested that much of his love in me, has a right to be a little more jealous than the husband who bought his wife a $1500 dollar trinket. May be he has a reason to be upset with me when I reject his grace, because he doesn’t live up to my expectations, when he doesn’t conform to my way of thinking.
    Yes I believe I am right. Some would say I am belligerent about it. It isn’t enough for you to say you don’t believe I am right. See I don’t care that much about your personal opinions concerning who God should be if he existed. Your personal opinions will die with you, like grass withering in the hot sun. What I care about is the Bible and what it says, I care about Christ’s opinion. when you come back from the dead, I’ll take your opinion into consideration. Right now I’m betting on the guy who left an empty tomb, that is what gives me the confidence to say I’m right.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael,
    Sorry to delay so long in getting back to you. My son is in town, and I don’t like to be at the office much when he is around.
    First your write: “see your point, as far as it applies to Christians who accept the traditional understanding of any sin as a “sin against God.” I still don’t see why – even if we do sin against God when we do any number of bad things to others – we need to suffer if we don’t seek God’s forgiveness. Additionally, I don’t see why God can’t be cool and not make it such a big deal. When my brother hurts me, he then apologizes. I forgive him without a thought, because he is my brother and I love him. Also, it helps ME to get over my hurt feelings when I forgive him”
    Maybe God can’t be as cool as we are, because he isn’t a sinner like us. He is holy, righteous and just. We aren’t. I think the more major thing here is that he has done what he can for us to spare us punishment. He doesn’t want to punish us, or send us to hell. But some of us are intent on going there, any way. I think it is telling that hell was not created for man, but the Devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41).

    So were not o.k. We are just imperfect. Great. Yet this implies that we know what perfect is supposed to be, and we aren’t it. Why not?

    As for Christ and when he comes back. He will. He has promised to do so. When is up to him. And as long as he lets this painful and imperfect world continue, I can only assume it is out of love for the people he died to save. There is another soul he would have saved. I imagine though his patience is running thin.

    Michael,
    I’ve been reading the other posts here. It seems to me you are hurt deeply. May be more than you realize. You want to take it out on God, and Christians of any stripe. From all I can tell part of you wants to believe (otherwise why even have the discussion) but you refuse to believe. You have preconceived notions of who God is, or should be. You are mad you don’t get the God you want. You think us Christians do. We don’t. Some “christians” though have been able to fashion a god according to there image, and call him God. Yes even those who are in the church can be guilty of Idolatry, even with out a statue of Mary. I am not one to be so arrogant as to tell God how he should be, or what he should be like. I take God at his word, as recorded in Scripture, verified by his son who rose from the dead. God says he is Jealous, that he hates sin, that he hates wickedness. Jealous isn’t quite the way I want to think of God. Jealousy is not considered a good trait in most people. Of course then, a guy who lets his girlfriend of wife run around and does not do anything about it, is not jealous for her, and does not love her. So I supose given that God loves me enough to send his son to die for me, who has invested that much of his love in me, has a right to be a little more jealous than the husband who bought his wife a $1500 dollar trinket. May be he has a reason to be upset with me when I reject his grace, because he doesn’t live up to my expectations, when he doesn’t conform to my way of thinking.
    Yes I believe I am right. Some would say I am belligerent about it. It isn’t enough for you to say you don’t believe I am right. See I don’t care that much about your personal opinions concerning who God should be if he existed. Your personal opinions will die with you, like grass withering in the hot sun. What I care about is the Bible and what it says, I care about Christ’s opinion. when you come back from the dead, I’ll take your opinion into consideration. Right now I’m betting on the guy who left an empty tomb, that is what gives me the confidence to say I’m right.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    The devotion for today in my Meditations booklet (from NPH) is eerily reminiscent of this very thread. Here’s an excerpt:

    “All are forgiven, but not everyone will enter eternal life. Is this because God does not desire everyone’s salvation? Consider that question in the light of Jesus’ crucifixion. No, the damned are ultimately responsible for their own fate.

    God is both just and loving, as it is written: “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” Numbers 14:18

    The problem is not God’s lack of love but their own hard hearts that refuse to be loved. And so, after continual rejections or indifference to the gospel, the gospel will stand as a testimony against them, as Jesus himself says, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” John 12:48

    There is a mystery here, to be sure. Only God can break through the hardness of a person’s heart. Yet people are condemned for having hard hearts. How can that be? Scripture does not answer that question. Scripture only holds before us God’s universal will for all people and points us to the Word, God’s powerful tool to break through hard hearts and lead people to repent and believe. “My word that goes out from my mouth: it will…achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11″

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    The devotion for today in my Meditations booklet (from NPH) is eerily reminiscent of this very thread. Here’s an excerpt:

    “All are forgiven, but not everyone will enter eternal life. Is this because God does not desire everyone’s salvation? Consider that question in the light of Jesus’ crucifixion. No, the damned are ultimately responsible for their own fate.

    God is both just and loving, as it is written: “The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” Numbers 14:18

    The problem is not God’s lack of love but their own hard hearts that refuse to be loved. And so, after continual rejections or indifference to the gospel, the gospel will stand as a testimony against them, as Jesus himself says, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” John 12:48

    There is a mystery here, to be sure. Only God can break through the hardness of a person’s heart. Yet people are condemned for having hard hearts. How can that be? Scripture does not answer that question. Scripture only holds before us God’s universal will for all people and points us to the Word, God’s powerful tool to break through hard hearts and lead people to repent and believe. “My word that goes out from my mouth: it will…achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11″

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Oddly, Theresa, none of us think our hearts are hard, or hardening, because our hearts are so tender towards ourselves.
    We have our own notions of now we think we should be loved, but God choosing to die for us isn’t among those notions, in our earthly sense of love.
    The reality is, only Jesus loves us as we’d choose to be loved by others, if we ever really understood how much love, and what manner of love, we needed.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Oddly, Theresa, none of us think our hearts are hard, or hardening, because our hearts are so tender towards ourselves.
    We have our own notions of now we think we should be loved, but God choosing to die for us isn’t among those notions, in our earthly sense of love.
    The reality is, only Jesus loves us as we’d choose to be loved by others, if we ever really understood how much love, and what manner of love, we needed.

  • Michael the little boot

    TK @ 69,

    I reject that we can’t choose to believe but can choose to reject. I do that because it’s arbitrary and mean. God set up all these rules, so God could have set them up differently. Everytime I say this, the only answer I get (besides “look in the Bible” which all of you must know I’ve done, but I’m not going to do anymore) is that “If we could know the mind of God, we would know, even though the way it’s set up doesn’t make sense to our HUMAN minds, that it makes ultimate sense. God sees the big picture. We don’t.” Why wouldn’t God make a creation which is intelligible to the creatures in it?

    I chose not to engage God after nearly twenty years of engaging and getting nothing. (Not totally true: I left the church because I thought I was following a truer God than that of the Bible. It wasn’t until later, after trusting God to show me the truth, that my “faith” led me to cease believing in a personal God.) I’ve been told here this means I wasn’t really engaging, which I find to be an inconsiderate way of looking at it – it’s just a puzzle of logic, designed to confound. I’ve also been told we can’t engage, that God has to do the engaging. So I can do NOTHING to get to where all of you are, but I CAN do something to reject.

    No matter the reason I come up with for why I don’t believe, none of it is good enough for anyone here (with the exception of fw, who believes it was necessary for my faith to die so I could come to authentic faith). And that’s cool, since we’re only talking theory here. If any of you actually knew me in person and tried to pull this kind of, um, STUFF…well, none of you do, so no biggie.

    As far as belief in God not being a string, I don’t think you’re missing anything. No one was saying that but me. Someone said there are no strings attached. Salvation is a free gift. All one must do is believe. I’m saying I can’t believe. You say, THAT’S TRUE! I must trust God, God will give me belief. I’m asking: what does one do after a lifetime of trusting God and getting nothing? THIS IS A VERY REAL CONCERN AND SHOULD NOT BE ANSWERED WITH BIBLE VERSES AND SUCH. But none of you know me and are making assumptions. I find that, like fw, I wish we were all just asking each other more questions. While mine may be framed in an aggressive way, I am definitely asking more questions of everyone else than I am getting.

    I’m sorry, Theresa, that this came out in my reply to you. It’s not directed at you. I am frustrated. Each time I reply on this blog, it turns into a bunch of people jumping on me (just a feeling, so please don’t all of you only reply to this one line). Which I sorta understand – I mean, why would a nonbeliever post on a Christian (Lutheran!!) blog and expect anything else? But very rarely does anyone treat my problems as though they are real. They just say “You’re lost, and if you refuse to be found, that’s your fault.” Just dismiss me, or, even worse, tell me things that are just church jargon or dogma which I’ve been hearing all my life. If it didn’t work then, why would it work now? Why not try a different tactic? I know you all think I grew up in a church which was totally different than yours, but THESE THINGS YOU ARE TELLING ME are the things I heard from them, as well.

    Think about if you were in a situation like mine, where you were FORCED (remember, put yourself in my shoes, suspend your disbelief – don’t worry, God’ll keep you safe) to leave the community you’d always known because you found yourself not believing anymore. And then on top of it you were told that it was your fault. Listen: I CRACKED A BOOK. It was assigned to me. I had no choice but to read it (if I wanted to pass), and no knowledge of its’ contents prior to opening it. Remember, this was a class called THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE!! Why would I fear a class like that? And I didn’t DO anything myself in my mind to change it. I wasn’t looking for it to change. But, once the mind goes somewhere, once things don’t make sense the old way, how does one go back?

    Theresa, I believe you are a nice, compassionate person who actually wants to help. But not everyone here is like you. Some really WANT me to be the caricature of atheists in which they’ve always believed. I’M NOT. As I’ve said before, I’m not even really an atheist. Yeah, I don’t even fit into that category, either. I’m the guy who’s always in the middle. Too religious for my nonbelieving friends, too nonreligious for my religious friends. As they say: I can’t win for losing.

  • Michael the little boot

    TK @ 69,

    I reject that we can’t choose to believe but can choose to reject. I do that because it’s arbitrary and mean. God set up all these rules, so God could have set them up differently. Everytime I say this, the only answer I get (besides “look in the Bible” which all of you must know I’ve done, but I’m not going to do anymore) is that “If we could know the mind of God, we would know, even though the way it’s set up doesn’t make sense to our HUMAN minds, that it makes ultimate sense. God sees the big picture. We don’t.” Why wouldn’t God make a creation which is intelligible to the creatures in it?

    I chose not to engage God after nearly twenty years of engaging and getting nothing. (Not totally true: I left the church because I thought I was following a truer God than that of the Bible. It wasn’t until later, after trusting God to show me the truth, that my “faith” led me to cease believing in a personal God.) I’ve been told here this means I wasn’t really engaging, which I find to be an inconsiderate way of looking at it – it’s just a puzzle of logic, designed to confound. I’ve also been told we can’t engage, that God has to do the engaging. So I can do NOTHING to get to where all of you are, but I CAN do something to reject.

    No matter the reason I come up with for why I don’t believe, none of it is good enough for anyone here (with the exception of fw, who believes it was necessary for my faith to die so I could come to authentic faith). And that’s cool, since we’re only talking theory here. If any of you actually knew me in person and tried to pull this kind of, um, STUFF…well, none of you do, so no biggie.

    As far as belief in God not being a string, I don’t think you’re missing anything. No one was saying that but me. Someone said there are no strings attached. Salvation is a free gift. All one must do is believe. I’m saying I can’t believe. You say, THAT’S TRUE! I must trust God, God will give me belief. I’m asking: what does one do after a lifetime of trusting God and getting nothing? THIS IS A VERY REAL CONCERN AND SHOULD NOT BE ANSWERED WITH BIBLE VERSES AND SUCH. But none of you know me and are making assumptions. I find that, like fw, I wish we were all just asking each other more questions. While mine may be framed in an aggressive way, I am definitely asking more questions of everyone else than I am getting.

    I’m sorry, Theresa, that this came out in my reply to you. It’s not directed at you. I am frustrated. Each time I reply on this blog, it turns into a bunch of people jumping on me (just a feeling, so please don’t all of you only reply to this one line). Which I sorta understand – I mean, why would a nonbeliever post on a Christian (Lutheran!!) blog and expect anything else? But very rarely does anyone treat my problems as though they are real. They just say “You’re lost, and if you refuse to be found, that’s your fault.” Just dismiss me, or, even worse, tell me things that are just church jargon or dogma which I’ve been hearing all my life. If it didn’t work then, why would it work now? Why not try a different tactic? I know you all think I grew up in a church which was totally different than yours, but THESE THINGS YOU ARE TELLING ME are the things I heard from them, as well.

    Think about if you were in a situation like mine, where you were FORCED (remember, put yourself in my shoes, suspend your disbelief – don’t worry, God’ll keep you safe) to leave the community you’d always known because you found yourself not believing anymore. And then on top of it you were told that it was your fault. Listen: I CRACKED A BOOK. It was assigned to me. I had no choice but to read it (if I wanted to pass), and no knowledge of its’ contents prior to opening it. Remember, this was a class called THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE!! Why would I fear a class like that? And I didn’t DO anything myself in my mind to change it. I wasn’t looking for it to change. But, once the mind goes somewhere, once things don’t make sense the old way, how does one go back?

    Theresa, I believe you are a nice, compassionate person who actually wants to help. But not everyone here is like you. Some really WANT me to be the caricature of atheists in which they’ve always believed. I’M NOT. As I’ve said before, I’m not even really an atheist. Yeah, I don’t even fit into that category, either. I’m the guy who’s always in the middle. Too religious for my nonbelieving friends, too nonreligious for my religious friends. As they say: I can’t win for losing.

  • Michael the little boot

    fw @ 70,

    My friend. Thank you. I, too, miss our exchanges. Ah, life, getting in the way of important things…

    Could you explain in a bit more detail what you mean when you say “for lutherans there is absolutely nothing at all transactional about being saved”? As a former evangelical, I’m not following. As you predicted! Your mud IS interesting, but I would hope for some settling in the water so I can find understanding.

  • Michael the little boot

    fw @ 70,

    My friend. Thank you. I, too, miss our exchanges. Ah, life, getting in the way of important things…

    Could you explain in a bit more detail what you mean when you say “for lutherans there is absolutely nothing at all transactional about being saved”? As a former evangelical, I’m not following. As you predicted! Your mud IS interesting, but I would hope for some settling in the water so I can find understanding.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 74,

    Is there any way I could listen on an actual radio? :) I know, such an old-fashioned youngster…I don’t have a computer of my own, and, while there is no official policy on blog replies while at work, listening to internet radio is frowned upon at the library. Also, where would I find a confessional Lutheran church in my area? Should I just search those terms online? Think that would work?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 74,

    Is there any way I could listen on an actual radio? :) I know, such an old-fashioned youngster…I don’t have a computer of my own, and, while there is no official policy on blog replies while at work, listening to internet radio is frowned upon at the library. Also, where would I find a confessional Lutheran church in my area? Should I just search those terms online? Think that would work?

  • Michael the little boot

    Anne of GG @ 76,

    If the God you want is you, I have a question. Do you think this could be what people are thinking I’m trying to say? That God’s not as good a God as I could be? I just want to clarify: I DON’T want to be God. I didn’t even want a management position when I worked for Hertz Rent-a-car! I just wonder why God is afraid of dialogue with God’s creation.

    If we are allowed to question our government officials, who are most definitely just as insecure as any of us, why can we not question God? I would think God might approve of this method. Not a Jacob-and-the-angel wrestling match type thing. Just a sit down. If Jesus was okay to quell Thomas’ doubts by allowing Thomas to see the evidence of his resurrection, why are the rest of us “Doubting-Thomases” left swinging in the breeze?

    I’m not asking for a Genie. I don’t want any wishes granted. I’d just like a God who doesn’t cut me off at the pass all the time. Because, honestly, you’ve never met someone who was more open to God than me. That may sound pompous. I just mean that from the time I was three till I was about twenty-one, there was nothing more important in my life. I don’t see how I could have gone so wrong so quickly, especially since I wasn’t looking to do that.

    Has anyone ever talked to you about how arbitrary and uncool it was for God to put his two most curious creations in a garden with two trees, and then tell them not to eat one? When someone tells you not to do something, doesn’t it become hard for you to think of doing anything else? THIS is human nature, the nature with which everyone here is saying God endowed us; but, somehow, it is not seen as mean or cruel or at least odd that God gave us curiousity, and then gave us an immediate choice which God MUST have known it would be next to impossible to make correctly. It was like putting a chocoholic in a room with celery and a chocolate cake and saying “do NOT eat the cake.” Come on. We all know what the chocoholic is gonna do.

    Oh, and I WAS born sinless. Don’t know about you. I never sinned in my mother’s womb.

  • Michael the little boot

    Anne of GG @ 76,

    If the God you want is you, I have a question. Do you think this could be what people are thinking I’m trying to say? That God’s not as good a God as I could be? I just want to clarify: I DON’T want to be God. I didn’t even want a management position when I worked for Hertz Rent-a-car! I just wonder why God is afraid of dialogue with God’s creation.

    If we are allowed to question our government officials, who are most definitely just as insecure as any of us, why can we not question God? I would think God might approve of this method. Not a Jacob-and-the-angel wrestling match type thing. Just a sit down. If Jesus was okay to quell Thomas’ doubts by allowing Thomas to see the evidence of his resurrection, why are the rest of us “Doubting-Thomases” left swinging in the breeze?

    I’m not asking for a Genie. I don’t want any wishes granted. I’d just like a God who doesn’t cut me off at the pass all the time. Because, honestly, you’ve never met someone who was more open to God than me. That may sound pompous. I just mean that from the time I was three till I was about twenty-one, there was nothing more important in my life. I don’t see how I could have gone so wrong so quickly, especially since I wasn’t looking to do that.

    Has anyone ever talked to you about how arbitrary and uncool it was for God to put his two most curious creations in a garden with two trees, and then tell them not to eat one? When someone tells you not to do something, doesn’t it become hard for you to think of doing anything else? THIS is human nature, the nature with which everyone here is saying God endowed us; but, somehow, it is not seen as mean or cruel or at least odd that God gave us curiousity, and then gave us an immediate choice which God MUST have known it would be next to impossible to make correctly. It was like putting a chocoholic in a room with celery and a chocolate cake and saying “do NOT eat the cake.” Come on. We all know what the chocoholic is gonna do.

    Oh, and I WAS born sinless. Don’t know about you. I never sinned in my mother’s womb.

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 78,

    You said “God is no tyrant but he is a King; rather, the King of Kings and one day we will all bow our knee and pay homage to him.” What you’re describing here absolutely squares with my definition of a tyrant. Remember, God told the Israelites they needed no king. (Well, no king but GOD. Hmmmm.) In my opinion, a king is BY DEFINITION a tyrant. Anyone trying to force their will on others – even if they are the Ultimate Transcendent Reality, the King of kings, the Almighty Lord – is a tyrant. So you just served to prove my point. If God wanted people to believe, God would just have to make God’s presence known. Really known, as in the way I make myself known to my brother when I knock on his door, he opens it, and I say “Hello.”

    But then that would undermine the fact that God wants us to CHOOSE to love God. So God has to put up all these weird, capricious roadblocks.

    You said “Friend it is easy to be a skeptic, it carries with it a false sense of pride, but it is hard to have a face to face encounter with humility.” With the overconfidence evident in that statement, I think you’re right, at least in part: you haven’t had a face to face encounter with humility any more than I have. It’s not easy to be a skeptic. It takes constant awareness, slow examination. It forces you to rethink your opinions. It precludes overconfidence. Every time I make a statement of which I think I’m pretty sure, I automatically hear a “voice” that says “Really? Couldn’t the opposite be true? What if it is? Or what if neither is true, and the answer is something which you’ve never considered? What if there is no answer?” Does that sound easy? No, friend, being a skeptic is not easy. But it is responsible.

    Why don’t YOU humble YOURSELF and look at things from a different perspective?

    In light of what others have said here, I’m going to assume you’re not a Lutheran, since you say THIS: “Have faith and your eyes will be opened to that which you do not fully understand.” Because everyone else here says I can’t have faith; I can only be granted faith. I really wish you people would get on the same page. This gets difficult.

    My heart isn’t hard to God, and it never has been. (My saying I’m closed-minded to God is shorthand for being closed-minded to the God described in the religions of the world. NOT the real God, if there is such a thing.) If God is really interested in me believing, God’s got to help me out.

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 78,

    You said “God is no tyrant but he is a King; rather, the King of Kings and one day we will all bow our knee and pay homage to him.” What you’re describing here absolutely squares with my definition of a tyrant. Remember, God told the Israelites they needed no king. (Well, no king but GOD. Hmmmm.) In my opinion, a king is BY DEFINITION a tyrant. Anyone trying to force their will on others – even if they are the Ultimate Transcendent Reality, the King of kings, the Almighty Lord – is a tyrant. So you just served to prove my point. If God wanted people to believe, God would just have to make God’s presence known. Really known, as in the way I make myself known to my brother when I knock on his door, he opens it, and I say “Hello.”

    But then that would undermine the fact that God wants us to CHOOSE to love God. So God has to put up all these weird, capricious roadblocks.

    You said “Friend it is easy to be a skeptic, it carries with it a false sense of pride, but it is hard to have a face to face encounter with humility.” With the overconfidence evident in that statement, I think you’re right, at least in part: you haven’t had a face to face encounter with humility any more than I have. It’s not easy to be a skeptic. It takes constant awareness, slow examination. It forces you to rethink your opinions. It precludes overconfidence. Every time I make a statement of which I think I’m pretty sure, I automatically hear a “voice” that says “Really? Couldn’t the opposite be true? What if it is? Or what if neither is true, and the answer is something which you’ve never considered? What if there is no answer?” Does that sound easy? No, friend, being a skeptic is not easy. But it is responsible.

    Why don’t YOU humble YOURSELF and look at things from a different perspective?

    In light of what others have said here, I’m going to assume you’re not a Lutheran, since you say THIS: “Have faith and your eyes will be opened to that which you do not fully understand.” Because everyone else here says I can’t have faith; I can only be granted faith. I really wish you people would get on the same page. This gets difficult.

    My heart isn’t hard to God, and it never has been. (My saying I’m closed-minded to God is shorthand for being closed-minded to the God described in the religions of the world. NOT the real God, if there is such a thing.) If God is really interested in me believing, God’s got to help me out.

  • Michael the little boot

    To EVERYONE,

    If Robert says what he says above (@ 78, as well as quoted by me @ 86), that I should have faith and my eyes will be opened, is Robert saved? I mean, he believes differently than you. Right? As I believe differently than you. Yet I am not saved. Is Robert? What bits are the important bits, and what can one get rid of without losing one’s soul?

  • Michael the little boot

    To EVERYONE,

    If Robert says what he says above (@ 78, as well as quoted by me @ 86), that I should have faith and my eyes will be opened, is Robert saved? I mean, he believes differently than you. Right? As I believe differently than you. Yet I am not saved. Is Robert? What bits are the important bits, and what can one get rid of without losing one’s soul?

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 79,

    Family first. Absolutely. No worries. Get back when you get back.

    You say “I think the more major thing here is that he has done what he can for us to spare us punishment. He doesn’t want to punish us, or send us to hell.” Yet God does. God could have just given it all to us in a plain way, and in a way EVERYONE would understand it, regardless of race, culture, upbringing, etc. If it is being a sinner that makes me nice, then being a sinner is the highest virtue.

    The God you’re describing sounds like the architect who built a movie theater. There was a fire in the theater, and almost everyone inside was burned alive. When questioned about the lack of available exits, the architect said “But I put one in there. The half-door, low to the ground in the main screening room. You mean, people didn’t think to LOOK for it there? I didn’t think I needed to put any signs in. I mean, I put it in the most obvious place. It’s their fault. They just refused to SEE it.”

    Well, sorry if I “refuse” to see it. I’m no architect, and I’m not privy to what the “obvious” places must be.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 79,

    Family first. Absolutely. No worries. Get back when you get back.

    You say “I think the more major thing here is that he has done what he can for us to spare us punishment. He doesn’t want to punish us, or send us to hell.” Yet God does. God could have just given it all to us in a plain way, and in a way EVERYONE would understand it, regardless of race, culture, upbringing, etc. If it is being a sinner that makes me nice, then being a sinner is the highest virtue.

    The God you’re describing sounds like the architect who built a movie theater. There was a fire in the theater, and almost everyone inside was burned alive. When questioned about the lack of available exits, the architect said “But I put one in there. The half-door, low to the ground in the main screening room. You mean, people didn’t think to LOOK for it there? I didn’t think I needed to put any signs in. I mean, I put it in the most obvious place. It’s their fault. They just refused to SEE it.”

    Well, sorry if I “refuse” to see it. I’m no architect, and I’m not privy to what the “obvious” places must be.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 79 (again),

    I hit submit and neglected to finish answering your reply. Apologies!

    I AM hurt deeply. It’s definitely possible it’s more than I realize, though that would mean it’s like a bottomless pit! But this hurt has nothing to do with my having left the church. I don’t blame God for what the humans in my church did. I have not been totally able to let go of my feelings toward the aforementioned ugly-bags-of-mostly-water (ooooh, obscure reference…who’s gonna get it?), especially my parents. But as far as anger at God…well, I’ve already said I’m not angry at God. If I’m not aware that I am, well, I’ll just have to wait until I become aware.

    I don’t take it out on Christians of any stripe. Did I start off here yelling and screaming at everyone? I thought I just asked questions. I’m not taking ANYTHING out on you, nor anyone here. If you take it that way, well, perhaps you have a preconceived idea which is leading you to that end. I just don’t think it’s cool to make statements without evidence, which is what I believe people of all religions do. So I ask for the evidence. And the Bible is not evidence. It’s a book which needs evidence to corroborate its claims. I don’t see any evidence. You do.

    It is not that part of me wants to believe or doesn’t. It’s that I don’t find anything compelling me to believe. None of the Christian beliefs I have ever had explained to me have made sense. I participate here because I want to, I want to learn from you all and have an interesting dialogue. You can take me at my word if you’d like. Most people here have posted replies which lead me to believe that my word is worthless on The Blog of Veith. I don’t know that anyone thinks my experience is genuine. It’s been dismissed in so many different ways, by so many different people.

    I don’t know why you’re not so arrogant to tell the ruler of the universe what you think he/she/it should be like if you’re so arrogant to think you’re right simply on the claims of a book. Give me evidence external to scripture which shows Jesus rose from the dead. Give me one instance. I’ve heard a lot, so be careful! All of the claims to external evidence I’ve heard of have been shown (even by many Christian scholars!) to be false.

    What I mean by Christians getting “the God you want” is not that you get to create God with a punchcard or from a checklist or something. I mean, God, as “He” is described in scripture, makes sense to you. Lucky for you, right? What about those of us to whom that picture of God rings false? We’re not so lucky as you, if belief in that one, specific deity is what we’re supposed to be pursuing.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 79 (again),

    I hit submit and neglected to finish answering your reply. Apologies!

    I AM hurt deeply. It’s definitely possible it’s more than I realize, though that would mean it’s like a bottomless pit! But this hurt has nothing to do with my having left the church. I don’t blame God for what the humans in my church did. I have not been totally able to let go of my feelings toward the aforementioned ugly-bags-of-mostly-water (ooooh, obscure reference…who’s gonna get it?), especially my parents. But as far as anger at God…well, I’ve already said I’m not angry at God. If I’m not aware that I am, well, I’ll just have to wait until I become aware.

    I don’t take it out on Christians of any stripe. Did I start off here yelling and screaming at everyone? I thought I just asked questions. I’m not taking ANYTHING out on you, nor anyone here. If you take it that way, well, perhaps you have a preconceived idea which is leading you to that end. I just don’t think it’s cool to make statements without evidence, which is what I believe people of all religions do. So I ask for the evidence. And the Bible is not evidence. It’s a book which needs evidence to corroborate its claims. I don’t see any evidence. You do.

    It is not that part of me wants to believe or doesn’t. It’s that I don’t find anything compelling me to believe. None of the Christian beliefs I have ever had explained to me have made sense. I participate here because I want to, I want to learn from you all and have an interesting dialogue. You can take me at my word if you’d like. Most people here have posted replies which lead me to believe that my word is worthless on The Blog of Veith. I don’t know that anyone thinks my experience is genuine. It’s been dismissed in so many different ways, by so many different people.

    I don’t know why you’re not so arrogant to tell the ruler of the universe what you think he/she/it should be like if you’re so arrogant to think you’re right simply on the claims of a book. Give me evidence external to scripture which shows Jesus rose from the dead. Give me one instance. I’ve heard a lot, so be careful! All of the claims to external evidence I’ve heard of have been shown (even by many Christian scholars!) to be false.

    What I mean by Christians getting “the God you want” is not that you get to create God with a punchcard or from a checklist or something. I mean, God, as “He” is described in scripture, makes sense to you. Lucky for you, right? What about those of us to whom that picture of God rings false? We’re not so lucky as you, if belief in that one, specific deity is what we’re supposed to be pursuing.

  • Anne of Green Gables

    Hi, again, Michael. Just wanted to reply to a couple of your comments.

    “Oh, and I WAS born sinless. Don’t know about you. I never sinned in my mother’s womb.”

    The Bible teaches that all people are, in fact, sinful from conception. It is called “original sin.” Lutherans baptize babies. Lutherans do not believe in an “age of accountability” as far as original sin goes. I was not born sinless, and neither were you. This is why we need a savior, Jesus.

    “Give me evidence external to scripture which shows Jesus rose from the dead. ”

    Like Thomas the Apostle, you desire proof. There are eyewitness accounts recorded in the Bible. In our Lutheran liturgy we remind ourselves of this when we sing: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Other than a written account, I’m not sure what other evidence there could be. What sort of thing would be convincing to you?

    I hope I don’t sound mean to you, Michael. I don’t want to. I’m trying to answer as best I can. ( My beloved husband is an unbeliever, also. He knows that I love him whether he is a believer or not, because I told him so.)

  • Anne of Green Gables

    Hi, again, Michael. Just wanted to reply to a couple of your comments.

    “Oh, and I WAS born sinless. Don’t know about you. I never sinned in my mother’s womb.”

    The Bible teaches that all people are, in fact, sinful from conception. It is called “original sin.” Lutherans baptize babies. Lutherans do not believe in an “age of accountability” as far as original sin goes. I was not born sinless, and neither were you. This is why we need a savior, Jesus.

    “Give me evidence external to scripture which shows Jesus rose from the dead. ”

    Like Thomas the Apostle, you desire proof. There are eyewitness accounts recorded in the Bible. In our Lutheran liturgy we remind ourselves of this when we sing: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Other than a written account, I’m not sure what other evidence there could be. What sort of thing would be convincing to you?

    I hope I don’t sound mean to you, Michael. I don’t want to. I’m trying to answer as best I can. ( My beloved husband is an unbeliever, also. He knows that I love him whether he is a believer or not, because I told him so.)

  • BKW

    Michael @ 87 – “What bits are the important bits, and what can one get rid of without losing one’s soul?”

    Great question – I have so often wondered this very same thing. For example, Lutherans baptize babies – Baptists don’t. What happens if a Baptist dies before they are baptized? Will they go to hell? I’ve been taught that it is through my baptism that I received faith – so the Baptist who was never baptized – should I assume that they then don’t have the gift of faith and are therefore doomed? I am asking this to all as a serious question because I have been perplexed by this very issue that Michael raises.

  • BKW

    Michael @ 87 – “What bits are the important bits, and what can one get rid of without losing one’s soul?”

    Great question – I have so often wondered this very same thing. For example, Lutherans baptize babies – Baptists don’t. What happens if a Baptist dies before they are baptized? Will they go to hell? I’ve been taught that it is through my baptism that I received faith – so the Baptist who was never baptized – should I assume that they then don’t have the gift of faith and are therefore doomed? I am asking this to all as a serious question because I have been perplexed by this very issue that Michael raises.

  • BKW

    Just to clarify my question. If say, a 7 year old Baptist who hasn’t reached the “age of accountability” would die – then would that child go to hell according to Lutheran doctrine? (But would not go to hell according to the Baptists).

  • BKW

    Just to clarify my question. If say, a 7 year old Baptist who hasn’t reached the “age of accountability” would die – then would that child go to hell according to Lutheran doctrine? (But would not go to hell according to the Baptists).

  • kerner

    Hey Michael:

    This is a difficult conversation to follow, there being so many voices in it. You seem to be doing pretty well, but it boggles me. Something to remember: when Dr. Veith posts another article or two, this thread will pass into the archives, and will be harder to find. I wonder if there is anything he can do to preserve it.

    You identify your Christian college as Greenville College, and invite me to look it up online. I did. Did you know the guys in “Jars of Clay”, or were they there after you graduated? Also, I have read that Hogue Hall (the first building on the campus) is being demolished due to structural problems caused by the passage of time. I further note that the “Theological Assumptions” of Greenville College mention the cross of Christ only once (when the statement thereof quotes the Apostles Creed); see here:

    http://www.greenville.edu/content/view/838/262/

    That may seem like a small thing to you, but to me (and to a lot of Lutherans I expect) it seems significant.

    You ask where you can find Lutheran doctrine. I suggest here:

    http://www.bookofconcord.org/whatisalutheran.html

    The Book of Concord is of course also available in print form, and contains all those documents we refer to as the Lutheran Confessions. You may not agree with what’s contained in them, but I hope you will agree with me that Lutheran theology is remarkably interconnected and internally consistent. This aspect of Lutheran theology is one of the major reasons I am a Lutheran, even though Lutheranism fits much less neatly into my national culture than many of the religious choices available to me.

    I agree with you that it might be helpful if we responded more to the questions you ask and ask you questions of our own. For example, you ask @85 why it is not ok to question God, or have a “sit down” with God, or have a God that doesn’t “cut you off at the pass” all the time. You say you are not asking for a Genie. What exactly ARE you asking for?

    I think you mean that God does not communicate with you in a way that you can accept, but I hope you can see why this has flown right past most of us. You see, we DO think God communicates with us through His Word and sacraments by the power of His Holy Spirit. I don’t expect God to send me a personal e-mail with specific dialogue like this one. On the other hand, “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth…”. See Luther’s Small Catechism, 3rd article of the Apostles Creed. In this way, by leaving us His Word and working in us through His sacraments, God communicates with me all the time. If this is not enough of a “sit down” for you, what is it that you want?

    You say we should not quote the Bible to you, because you have read it. I’m not sure how we are discuss our faith and beliefs without mentioning the Bible. You say we have no proof, but the Bible consists largely of the testimony of witnesses reduced to writing. This is in fact the kind of “proof” that is accepted by people who have to make decisions about events at which they were not present all the time. Why is this not enough for you?

    You say Christians get the God they want. I said earlier that Christians get the kind of God that most people DON’T want, including us. The truth is, if I had my way (in my fallen nature) God would not be what He is. He would conform to my idea of what a God should be like. He would set up a system that I could fulfill without any help from Him so I wouldn’t have to feel like such a charity case. I haven’t taken a poll or anything, but I think that this is what most people want from God, which is why most religions are works based.

    Last time you responded to me directly, you suggested that God, if there is one, ought not punish you for following your own path. But a path, by definition, leads toward a destination and away from other destinations. If you choose to follow a path that leads away from God, heaven, joy, etc., and that leads towards Hell, how is it God’s fault if Hell is where you ultimately arrive?

    One last thing. You keep saying that the harm we cause to others may be sins against those other people, but not against God. Don’t you think that God should care if we harm other people? Aren’t they His creation too? Shouldn’t the welfare of God’s other children be important enough for Him to feel that He is harmed if they are harmed?

    This is a good conversation. I hope we can keep it going next week.

  • kerner

    Hey Michael:

    This is a difficult conversation to follow, there being so many voices in it. You seem to be doing pretty well, but it boggles me. Something to remember: when Dr. Veith posts another article or two, this thread will pass into the archives, and will be harder to find. I wonder if there is anything he can do to preserve it.

    You identify your Christian college as Greenville College, and invite me to look it up online. I did. Did you know the guys in “Jars of Clay”, or were they there after you graduated? Also, I have read that Hogue Hall (the first building on the campus) is being demolished due to structural problems caused by the passage of time. I further note that the “Theological Assumptions” of Greenville College mention the cross of Christ only once (when the statement thereof quotes the Apostles Creed); see here:

    http://www.greenville.edu/content/view/838/262/

    That may seem like a small thing to you, but to me (and to a lot of Lutherans I expect) it seems significant.

    You ask where you can find Lutheran doctrine. I suggest here:

    http://www.bookofconcord.org/whatisalutheran.html

    The Book of Concord is of course also available in print form, and contains all those documents we refer to as the Lutheran Confessions. You may not agree with what’s contained in them, but I hope you will agree with me that Lutheran theology is remarkably interconnected and internally consistent. This aspect of Lutheran theology is one of the major reasons I am a Lutheran, even though Lutheranism fits much less neatly into my national culture than many of the religious choices available to me.

    I agree with you that it might be helpful if we responded more to the questions you ask and ask you questions of our own. For example, you ask @85 why it is not ok to question God, or have a “sit down” with God, or have a God that doesn’t “cut you off at the pass” all the time. You say you are not asking for a Genie. What exactly ARE you asking for?

    I think you mean that God does not communicate with you in a way that you can accept, but I hope you can see why this has flown right past most of us. You see, we DO think God communicates with us through His Word and sacraments by the power of His Holy Spirit. I don’t expect God to send me a personal e-mail with specific dialogue like this one. On the other hand, “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth…”. See Luther’s Small Catechism, 3rd article of the Apostles Creed. In this way, by leaving us His Word and working in us through His sacraments, God communicates with me all the time. If this is not enough of a “sit down” for you, what is it that you want?

    You say we should not quote the Bible to you, because you have read it. I’m not sure how we are discuss our faith and beliefs without mentioning the Bible. You say we have no proof, but the Bible consists largely of the testimony of witnesses reduced to writing. This is in fact the kind of “proof” that is accepted by people who have to make decisions about events at which they were not present all the time. Why is this not enough for you?

    You say Christians get the God they want. I said earlier that Christians get the kind of God that most people DON’T want, including us. The truth is, if I had my way (in my fallen nature) God would not be what He is. He would conform to my idea of what a God should be like. He would set up a system that I could fulfill without any help from Him so I wouldn’t have to feel like such a charity case. I haven’t taken a poll or anything, but I think that this is what most people want from God, which is why most religions are works based.

    Last time you responded to me directly, you suggested that God, if there is one, ought not punish you for following your own path. But a path, by definition, leads toward a destination and away from other destinations. If you choose to follow a path that leads away from God, heaven, joy, etc., and that leads towards Hell, how is it God’s fault if Hell is where you ultimately arrive?

    One last thing. You keep saying that the harm we cause to others may be sins against those other people, but not against God. Don’t you think that God should care if we harm other people? Aren’t they His creation too? Shouldn’t the welfare of God’s other children be important enough for Him to feel that He is harmed if they are harmed?

    This is a good conversation. I hope we can keep it going next week.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael,
    I don’t have much time, preparing for church right now.
    just want to explain what I meant by “taking it out.” It seems to me, here, that you do not hear what many of the people are trying to say. You hear what you think they have said, based on what you heard when you were growing up.
    You say you go up against all religions. Do you? Really?
    The bible is a Book, I will agree with you there. How much external evidence does it need to corroborrate its claims? It has much more evidence backing it than most historical books of antiquity. There are four testimonies. Now if I give my testimonie in court, the rule isn’t to dismiss the testimony till I prove it true. The rule is that if the prosecution wants to discredit my testimony, they have to show why and where it is false.
    Taking for instance the Book of Mormon. There are things of which it speaks we know to be untrue. Horses in America for instance, before Columbus came. It talks of cities that can’t be found anywhere. It proves itself to be fiction. The Bible doesn’t have any of that. Except that it makes a claim to an historical event that is outside our normal parameters of human existence. We don’t see people come out of the grave every day. But then if we did see that happening everyday, the whole resurrection thing wouldn’t be all that meaningful to us would it? So why again do you doubt this? Is it because you haven’t seen it before?
    more later

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael,
    I don’t have much time, preparing for church right now.
    just want to explain what I meant by “taking it out.” It seems to me, here, that you do not hear what many of the people are trying to say. You hear what you think they have said, based on what you heard when you were growing up.
    You say you go up against all religions. Do you? Really?
    The bible is a Book, I will agree with you there. How much external evidence does it need to corroborrate its claims? It has much more evidence backing it than most historical books of antiquity. There are four testimonies. Now if I give my testimonie in court, the rule isn’t to dismiss the testimony till I prove it true. The rule is that if the prosecution wants to discredit my testimony, they have to show why and where it is false.
    Taking for instance the Book of Mormon. There are things of which it speaks we know to be untrue. Horses in America for instance, before Columbus came. It talks of cities that can’t be found anywhere. It proves itself to be fiction. The Bible doesn’t have any of that. Except that it makes a claim to an historical event that is outside our normal parameters of human existence. We don’t see people come out of the grave every day. But then if we did see that happening everyday, the whole resurrection thing wouldn’t be all that meaningful to us would it? So why again do you doubt this? Is it because you haven’t seen it before?
    more later

  • Bryan Lindemood

    About Lutheran and Baptist teaching of Salvation in conjunction with or without God’s gift of baptism:

    We are all saved by believing in Jesus death and resurrection as satisfaction for our sins – a substitutionary atonement. Lutherans and Baptists both say they believe this in their formal statements of faith. Lutheran’s believe that Baptism is one of the means through which God gives belief. Baptist’s have a believer’s baptism because they know that Jesus commanded Baptism and don’t want to disobey Scripture (gotta admit I’m a little unclear as to any other reason why Baptists want to be baptized – please, any baptists are welcome to enlighten me here as to official baptist teachings). Anyway, let’s just assume that the 7 year old baptist does hear the Gospel of Jesus death and resurrection for the forgiveness of his/her sins – if the Baptist family and their church are worth their salt the seven year old has thoroughly been taught the substitutionary atonement. Assuming that the seven year old believes that this is true (again by God’s working faith in the boy by the power of His efficacious Word). Then He is saved. The Lutheran will always long for the assurance of Baptismal regeneration for this boy, but we do not absolutely need it to give comfort to the parents and family of this poor child who died. We know the child died in the faith because he/she was a believer.

    Let’s go younger. We have comfort for the Lutheran family too, when their child dies before he/she can be baptized. We have less specific promise in God’s Word, but we have some comfort from the Word of God, especially Jesus’ own words to parents who are deathly afraid for their children’s life. In several instances the children do not hear Jesus’ Word, are not touched by Him, but the prayers and pleading of the parents on behalf of their child are answered by Christ (by God).

    It is important to keep the comfort that we give to families as faithful to what the Bible actually says. These unfortunate instances always keep us on our toes so that we stick to what God’s Word actually says without overreaching with what we wish God’s Word would promise.

    Great question. Hope this helps you (BKW #91, 92) see how my faith in God’s life-giving word helps me to comfort folks who do go through these things. Unfortunately these questions are too often much more than hypothetical.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    About Lutheran and Baptist teaching of Salvation in conjunction with or without God’s gift of baptism:

    We are all saved by believing in Jesus death and resurrection as satisfaction for our sins – a substitutionary atonement. Lutherans and Baptists both say they believe this in their formal statements of faith. Lutheran’s believe that Baptism is one of the means through which God gives belief. Baptist’s have a believer’s baptism because they know that Jesus commanded Baptism and don’t want to disobey Scripture (gotta admit I’m a little unclear as to any other reason why Baptists want to be baptized – please, any baptists are welcome to enlighten me here as to official baptist teachings). Anyway, let’s just assume that the 7 year old baptist does hear the Gospel of Jesus death and resurrection for the forgiveness of his/her sins – if the Baptist family and their church are worth their salt the seven year old has thoroughly been taught the substitutionary atonement. Assuming that the seven year old believes that this is true (again by God’s working faith in the boy by the power of His efficacious Word). Then He is saved. The Lutheran will always long for the assurance of Baptismal regeneration for this boy, but we do not absolutely need it to give comfort to the parents and family of this poor child who died. We know the child died in the faith because he/she was a believer.

    Let’s go younger. We have comfort for the Lutheran family too, when their child dies before he/she can be baptized. We have less specific promise in God’s Word, but we have some comfort from the Word of God, especially Jesus’ own words to parents who are deathly afraid for their children’s life. In several instances the children do not hear Jesus’ Word, are not touched by Him, but the prayers and pleading of the parents on behalf of their child are answered by Christ (by God).

    It is important to keep the comfort that we give to families as faithful to what the Bible actually says. These unfortunate instances always keep us on our toes so that we stick to what God’s Word actually says without overreaching with what we wish God’s Word would promise.

    Great question. Hope this helps you (BKW #91, 92) see how my faith in God’s life-giving word helps me to comfort folks who do go through these things. Unfortunately these questions are too often much more than hypothetical.

  • BKW

    Thank you Bryan. That is a wonderful explanation to help me understand this – I really appreciate that you took the time to answer me so thoughtfully.

    Michael – thank you for being so open to sharing your life on this blog. Even though we may not be on the same page as far as our beliefs go, I appreciate how much you think about these issues. The questions you ask are questions I have as well – this particular blog entry has been enlightening for me.

  • BKW

    Thank you Bryan. That is a wonderful explanation to help me understand this – I really appreciate that you took the time to answer me so thoughtfully.

    Michael – thank you for being so open to sharing your life on this blog. Even though we may not be on the same page as far as our beliefs go, I appreciate how much you think about these issues. The questions you ask are questions I have as well – this particular blog entry has been enlightening for me.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael,

    I also have really appreciated these conversations (also between the others).

    I appreciate Bror’s comment about the Word in #93. I wonder what you will say to that in light of our little interchange about how highly you value the Word of the Bible. Thank you for clarifying that a bit for me.

    As for meaning, I do not buy the “spit” that we create our own meaning. I believe in objective truth after all. Its all around in the world you and I live in. Those who want to create their own meaning find themselves disobeying their own worldview everytime the bills have to be paid.

    I want to suggest that you buy and download Dr. Rosenbladt’s lecture “The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church” available at http://www.newreformationpress.com/
    You could listen to it at your own leisure away from work sometime.

    You might also be able to find it in print form somewhere, but I would very much like to hear whether or not you think it speaks to you and to your situation.

    To answer your question, in times when I am confronted with meaninglessness in life, I usually sit a stew for a while and then when I’m finally over myself, I again turn to God’s Word and Sacrament and let Him comfort me in His way which I’ll think I understand at the time but then later, I will marvel in that I hardly knew what was going on at all.

    It sounds like you have grown as a person through your own experiences and trials. Wonderful. I think most people usually do no matter what their background or faith. You find you have grown into yourself through being liberated from belief. I have grown into myself through a different sort of liberating Work. Lot’s of churches today mess up the New Life in Christ by creating their own hegemony of Christian personality. I think that runs contrary to what the freedom of a Christian can actually do for the individual. Of course believers are all one in Christ, but each one is to celebrate the other-ness of each person (and I don’t think we need to limit this to Christians either). When God fills the believer with new life, we are not only in perfect relationship with our Creator, but also the reordered relationship with other people, creatures, and things (as I think I have hinted at above) ought to be seen as beginning to be made new as well. I guess I’m just trying to say that we ought not try to change you or anybody else with faith. I believe God does this shaping as He works in this world through the vocation of every person (whether or not we acknowledge His “hand” in it all or not).

    Thanks for being open and honest. I appreciate it.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael,

    I also have really appreciated these conversations (also between the others).

    I appreciate Bror’s comment about the Word in #93. I wonder what you will say to that in light of our little interchange about how highly you value the Word of the Bible. Thank you for clarifying that a bit for me.

    As for meaning, I do not buy the “spit” that we create our own meaning. I believe in objective truth after all. Its all around in the world you and I live in. Those who want to create their own meaning find themselves disobeying their own worldview everytime the bills have to be paid.

    I want to suggest that you buy and download Dr. Rosenbladt’s lecture “The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church” available at http://www.newreformationpress.com/
    You could listen to it at your own leisure away from work sometime.

    You might also be able to find it in print form somewhere, but I would very much like to hear whether or not you think it speaks to you and to your situation.

    To answer your question, in times when I am confronted with meaninglessness in life, I usually sit a stew for a while and then when I’m finally over myself, I again turn to God’s Word and Sacrament and let Him comfort me in His way which I’ll think I understand at the time but then later, I will marvel in that I hardly knew what was going on at all.

    It sounds like you have grown as a person through your own experiences and trials. Wonderful. I think most people usually do no matter what their background or faith. You find you have grown into yourself through being liberated from belief. I have grown into myself through a different sort of liberating Work. Lot’s of churches today mess up the New Life in Christ by creating their own hegemony of Christian personality. I think that runs contrary to what the freedom of a Christian can actually do for the individual. Of course believers are all one in Christ, but each one is to celebrate the other-ness of each person (and I don’t think we need to limit this to Christians either). When God fills the believer with new life, we are not only in perfect relationship with our Creator, but also the reordered relationship with other people, creatures, and things (as I think I have hinted at above) ought to be seen as beginning to be made new as well. I guess I’m just trying to say that we ought not try to change you or anybody else with faith. I believe God does this shaping as He works in this world through the vocation of every person (whether or not we acknowledge His “hand” in it all or not).

    Thanks for being open and honest. I appreciate it.

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  • Susan aka organshoes

    Unfortunately for you, Issues, Etc. is only available via internet unless you live in the St. Louis area.
    If you would visit the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, you’d find a directory of LC-MS churches throughout the country.
    Lutherans have a distinctive view of the scriptures, of faith, of church, of Christ Himself. We’re so prepared to argue arcane points of pious speculation with other Lutherans, but have difficulty making basic points on our distinctives with other Christians from other confessions (which may not be entirely our fault). We speak from different understandings of nearly everything about Christianity.
    But, in conversations with atheists, we are speaking from two different worlds, so it’s more than doubly difficult.
    And, sooner or later, we Lutherans begin to echo one another. I appreciate all you’ve done to keep up with everything said to you here, but you won’t find answers to satisfy you, because you’re perhaps looking for a particular form of satisfaction: namely, an admission on our part that we don’t understand you, and that by not understanding you, we’re letting you down.
    Rev. Paul McCain has on his blog Cyberbrethren an essay written by a convert, about his realization that the Lutheran church was indeed for him, and some reasons why. Here’s a snippet:
    ‘…because Lutherans have all the answers? No. Lutheranism thrives on paradox. Lutheranism can only tell you what it has been told by Scripture. Lutherans have the fewest answers of any Christian confession. They don’t know squat because they don’t make stuff up when things do not make sense.

    I confess this confession because no one has been able to show me where it is objectively false….I confess it because of the human speculation and opinion that it lacks. I confess it because it is the clearest path to my Crucified and now Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Nothing will come between me and this true expression of Christianity… including Lutherans.’

    We can only tell you, and invite you. We can’t convince you of anything, even as we stand completely convinced.
    Once again, I’m going to sound harsh amd mean to you, but you are arguing entirely from your point of view and your own reason, and we are not. Thus there is that chasm between not only two worldviews, but two worlds. You seem to think we’re telling you ‘we’re right; you’re wrong’, when what we’re telling you is what our faith tells us, from outside ourselves and our own reason. Indeed, in spite of ourselves and our own reason.
    We didn’t even achieve getting over ourselves to arrive at this; we’ve achieved nothing.
    But I and others can only tell you this, and the only explanation we can offer is that we heard it and continue to hear it. We didn’t just think about it or conclude, or even look for it, in many cases. What many of us looked for–especially us converts–was something entirely different that what has found us.
    There’s really nothing that answers all your doubts and questions and arguments, but the Word itself, if you hear it. And, if you are to hear it, you must be where it’s preached, sung, and spoken.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Unfortunately for you, Issues, Etc. is only available via internet unless you live in the St. Louis area.
    If you would visit the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod website, you’d find a directory of LC-MS churches throughout the country.
    Lutherans have a distinctive view of the scriptures, of faith, of church, of Christ Himself. We’re so prepared to argue arcane points of pious speculation with other Lutherans, but have difficulty making basic points on our distinctives with other Christians from other confessions (which may not be entirely our fault). We speak from different understandings of nearly everything about Christianity.
    But, in conversations with atheists, we are speaking from two different worlds, so it’s more than doubly difficult.
    And, sooner or later, we Lutherans begin to echo one another. I appreciate all you’ve done to keep up with everything said to you here, but you won’t find answers to satisfy you, because you’re perhaps looking for a particular form of satisfaction: namely, an admission on our part that we don’t understand you, and that by not understanding you, we’re letting you down.
    Rev. Paul McCain has on his blog Cyberbrethren an essay written by a convert, about his realization that the Lutheran church was indeed for him, and some reasons why. Here’s a snippet:
    ‘…because Lutherans have all the answers? No. Lutheranism thrives on paradox. Lutheranism can only tell you what it has been told by Scripture. Lutherans have the fewest answers of any Christian confession. They don’t know squat because they don’t make stuff up when things do not make sense.

    I confess this confession because no one has been able to show me where it is objectively false….I confess it because of the human speculation and opinion that it lacks. I confess it because it is the clearest path to my Crucified and now Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

    Nothing will come between me and this true expression of Christianity… including Lutherans.’

    We can only tell you, and invite you. We can’t convince you of anything, even as we stand completely convinced.
    Once again, I’m going to sound harsh amd mean to you, but you are arguing entirely from your point of view and your own reason, and we are not. Thus there is that chasm between not only two worldviews, but two worlds. You seem to think we’re telling you ‘we’re right; you’re wrong’, when what we’re telling you is what our faith tells us, from outside ourselves and our own reason. Indeed, in spite of ourselves and our own reason.
    We didn’t even achieve getting over ourselves to arrive at this; we’ve achieved nothing.
    But I and others can only tell you this, and the only explanation we can offer is that we heard it and continue to hear it. We didn’t just think about it or conclude, or even look for it, in many cases. What many of us looked for–especially us converts–was something entirely different that what has found us.
    There’s really nothing that answers all your doubts and questions and arguments, but the Word itself, if you hear it. And, if you are to hear it, you must be where it’s preached, sung, and spoken.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt (Theresa K.)

    BKW, in my fundamentalist days, I refused to baptize my own children (to my great shame). (I even rejected my husband and mother’s insistence that they be baptized as infants.) Thankfully, a good Lutheran pastor and family friend patiently worked on me with God’s Word and our kids were finally baptized at ages 10 and 8. Yes, it is very possible my children would have been lost if they had died early on, but God’s Word has the ability to work faith in hearts and my kids DID hear God’s Word from Day One of their lives. So I believe my kids were saved by God’s Word, in spite of their mother’s foolishness. In summary, faith comes from God’s Word and doesn’t necessarily require baptism, though it is foolish not to take full advantage of God’s gift of baptism which is has no age restrictions, per scripture.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt (Theresa K.)

    BKW, in my fundamentalist days, I refused to baptize my own children (to my great shame). (I even rejected my husband and mother’s insistence that they be baptized as infants.) Thankfully, a good Lutheran pastor and family friend patiently worked on me with God’s Word and our kids were finally baptized at ages 10 and 8. Yes, it is very possible my children would have been lost if they had died early on, but God’s Word has the ability to work faith in hearts and my kids DID hear God’s Word from Day One of their lives. So I believe my kids were saved by God’s Word, in spite of their mother’s foolishness. In summary, faith comes from God’s Word and doesn’t necessarily require baptism, though it is foolish not to take full advantage of God’s gift of baptism which is has no age restrictions, per scripture.

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