Atheist evangelism

British atheists are launching a campaign to put ads on buses. They will read
“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”
.

It strikes me as odd that atheists think believing in God is a cause of worrying and not enjoying life. It supports my impression that many atheists are running away from God because of their guilt. They reject God so that they do not have to feel guilty, there being no one to judge them. That view of the God they do not believe in is sad, a reaction against a legalistic, law-only view of religion. They probably find it incomprehensible that belief in God–whom Christians see as gracious, forgiving, Incarnate, and redeeming–actually enables people to stop worrying and to enjoy their lives.

(I was in London recently and was struck by the advertisements for Islam on those buses. I guess those are the choices that the British see: Atheism or Islam.)

(Also, Michael the Little Boot, I don’t include you in the generalization about atheists above. I recall that you said that you wished you could believe. I also respect the atheists like Camus and Sartre who face up to the implications of their disbelief, recognizing that if God does not exist, then our own existence becomes meaningless. They would find that blithe poster-talk–there’s no God so now you can stop worrying and enjoy life–to be laughably contemptible, missing the very point even of honest atheism.)

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.

  • Bruce

    It will be interesting to read MLittleBoot’s comments on this, if he chooses to comment.

    I think that anyone would be an atheist if all he got from Christianity (or the Others) is raw, chafing, heart-killing law. Unfortunately, the sweet good news of the gospel is so often mixed, distorted, or not present in much or most of what is put forward as Christianity that all one gets is law. Bad dog! Live like THIS! What would Jesus do?? DO this, DO that…

    There may also be an issue of respect for those who are believers. This may also just be cloaking a running from God, but we often forget how…uninteresting, doltish, foolish…we come across as, to many unbelievers. Whether or not we can control it, we become stumbling blocks.

  • Sophie

    Atheism or Islam???
    like both choices is not reasonable?
    I think Atheism is , islam is a religion at the end of the day.

  • Manxman

    If there is no god, then there are no logical limits on how people can “enjoy their lives.” And, for many people, enjoying their lives involves doing things that destroy the lives of people around them.

    Not to worry though, in Big Brother-dominated England, you’ll be told what politically correct lifestyles you can choose – and they’ll have everything on tape to make sure yu comply.

  • MarkE

    Islamic ads on buses? What did they say? What does “seeker-sensitive” Islam look like?

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

    “They probably find it incomprehensible that belief in God–whom Christians see as gracious, forgiving, Incarnate, and redeeming–actually enables people to stop worrying and to enjoy their lives.”
    Problem is, Veith, I find few Christians who have this view of God. It is the picture God gives us in Scripture, but it isn’t always the one people come away with. Too many want to utilize God as a nice hypothesis that keeps us from “enjoying our lives any way we want.” That is the problem, Manxman, that is precisely what is driving these posters.
    Forgiveness of sins is so antithetical to who we are as sinners we have a hard time believing it. We love our sin so much we want to hold onto it at all costs. It is easier for us to believe that God can be three in one, than that he can forgive sins and be gracious to us.
    But gracious he is. Hard to argue that your sins are not forgiven when you realize God died to forgive them.
    However, I have to wonder how effective these signs will be. Probably is a tricky word that has gotten most of us in trouble more times than we can count. Probability has a habit of biting people on the backside. Probably leaves a lot of room for worrying what if.

  • Manxman

    Bror Erickson

    What is really driving those bus posters is the atheists’ correct observation gained from orthodox Christians that there is a God out there that has standards that apply to them. That God requires that they repent and live their lives according to a standard He has set. They don’t like any god holding them accountable. They want to live their lives any way they want to, and without guilt – hence the signs.

    “Gracious, forgiving, Incarnate, and redeeming” are only a part of the qualities that God possesses, and to even understand these qualities properly requires a radical change in thinking and values. You will not understand these terms unless you get to the point where you first realize that you’re in trouble and need to be reconciled to someone bigger than yourself.

    And, the truth of the matter is that once you’re reconciled, your life is not really your own anymore.

  • The jones

    What I want to know is, how is “There is PROBABLY no God,” a comforting statement when talking about escaping “judgement” and all. That’s like saying “Ignore the shadowy figure in the corner of the dark room. He PROBABLY won’t kill you.” How can you go about enjoying your life when “probably” is all you can know?

    This is more of an argument about the effectiveness of one’s rhetorical devices rather than an attack on the actual argument, but does anybody else find this funny?

  • Manxman

    The jones,

    Many atheist just don’t take their beliefs to their logical conclusions. To say there is PROBABLY no God has at least a ray of hope in it – that God who may be there might not want to do them harm, and may even be “good.”

    What should be much more disturbing for the atheist is the possibilty that there REALLY is no God. In that case, all there is, at least for this world, is MAN – and it should be very clear how scary tthings can be when life is reduced to a Darwinian power struggle with no real standard of right and wrong. However, because there really IS a God who doesn’t let evil totally take over the world, atheists get a free ride, even if they deny He exists, and never have to face the horrible consequences of a man-only world.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    The jones,

    I find the assertion that there’s “PROBABLY no God” very funny as well. Reminds me of many cartoon renditions of death personified. Yes, very funny, but not very comforting.

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

    Manxman,
    you write: ““Gracious, forgiving, Incarnate, and redeeming” are only a part of the qualities that God possesses.” Yes they are only some of the qualities, but they trump all the others, just as the Gospel trumps the Law. Forgiveness trumps sin, trumps judgment. If God forgives me, then he does not condemn me.
    God does not require, he forgives. I don’t know what God you believe in, mine died on a cross to forgive the sins of the world. He does not tell me that if I fail to follow his laws and standards I will go to hell. He knows that I can’t. So he tells me that though I haven’t followed his standards, he has forgiven me.
    Now that forgiveness, every once in a while does inspire me to try to live according to those standards he laid out, but it does not compel me to do so. And when I try I find I fail. Then I find that God giving me his body and blood on Sunday to make sure I know that He still forgives. It inspires me for a second again… I can’t go on making promises I can’t keep. But this forgiveness thing I think I can spend an eternity being forgiven.

  • Manxman

    Bror Erickson,

    If people really are lost and go to Hell as the Bible says they are, then it’s obvious that grace, forgiveness and redemption do not trump God’s other qualities in every situation. Jesus did indeed die for the sins of the whole world, but something has to happen to apply that redemption to the individual. This is where the rubber meets the road for the atheist. It has to happen on God’s terms. God condemns those who reject the salvation He has provided in Christ.

    As for standards for living after one is “saved,” these are not a matter of Heaven or Hell. They are a matter of pleasing your Heavenly Father, building up treasure in Heaven, living out our calling, and avoiding the destruction that comes from living a life not in keeping with what God has called us to. God has provided us with the means to do this, and will chastise us when we need to be corrected. Like any good Father, He wants to see us grow and mature, and wants to see that work completed in us. God sets standards for the believer which we may never totally attain (because the standard is to be conformed to the image of Jesus), but they exist nontheless.

  • Anon

    Bruce, yet Romans says that basic moral law is written on the hearts of those who don’t even have the Bible. They have law, they have conviction of sin, they have, by God’s grace, responsibility in either repenting and appealing to the unknown God for forgiveness, or hardening their hearts and choosing to continue in sin.

    Even God’s Law in the Bible is ‘good news’ to those from cultures that lack the Bible, for in God’s law they find objective justice, which even though it condemns and kills, is at least just, which is much more than can be said for the corruption in their culture, and in their false gods.

    And even then, Bruce, God’s law drives us to the Gospel, and it -does- show us how God wants us to live, and how society ought to be ordered, at least in general principles. It is as we do try to follow Christ that we have the light of God’s law shone on our sinfulness, which brings us to repentance and forgiveness. Since God’s law is objectively true for all that exists, this is a good thing. Finding out that you have a deadly disease, and joined with that finding the cure, is a much better thing than never finding out you have the disease until you die.

    Bror, the picture of God in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments is indeed, Good, loving, gracious, forgiving and kind. It is ALSO Holy, Just, Righteous and Wrathful. “For our God is a consuming fire.” There is a danger of slipping into Marcionism, universalism and anti-nomianism, not merely a danger of slipping into legalism. It is Law -and- Gospel, not Law versus Gospel.

    Manxman, you post an extremely important insight: The basics of there being an objective right and wrong, that meaning can be objective, that these things actually exist as something outside of ourselves and our and our groups’ preferences is something that many around us in this society have been taught to believe are impossible. The concepts don’t have a category in their minds. We have to address that first with them, before we can meet them with the Law and the Gospel. This in fact was Francis Schaeffer’s ‘method’ of apologetics and evangelism. Simply the realization that we have to make the existence of the Creator and His objectively real morality and justice plausible before someone will even be able to understand what we mean by the Gospel – which is one of the reasons why the lower case evangelical use of the phrase “accept Jesus into your heart” as being the Gospel itself, rather than shorthand for it, is so problematic.

    The Jones, yes, imagine a poster that said “you probably don’t have terminal cancer” Wow, that would go over well! :-) Or imagine one that said “You probably don’t have anything to worry about” and left it at that. That atheist poster might actually have a pre-evangelistic effect! :-)

    Bror, the God of the Bible, including our Lord Jesus Christ, -does- tell us that if we don’t live up to His standards perfectly, we will be justly judged and sent to Hell. However, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to die for us on the Cross, in our place, becoming sin for us, taking the penalty of the law and of covenant-breaking upon Himself that we might be forgiven, yet even then, if we shake our fist at God and refuse to repent, insist on living in rebellion against Him, we still will suffer the penalty of the law, of breaking the covenant. This is what the Bible teaches, and I would be shocked if the Book of Concord doesn’t teach the same thing. Well, I know that it does, even in the Small Catechism. Why else are we to have “daily contrition, faith and obedience”? We don’t believe in eternal security, and we don’t believe in universalism.

    And the reason we don’t believe them isn’t that we don’t -want- to, but because they aren’t -true-. We want to believe what is -true-. We don’t want to live in denial or other forms of self-deception, right?

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

    Yes,
    Manxman I see your point. In order to get the atheists to believe in the God they are scared of, we should present them with the God they are scared of. Yep sounds like a winning proposition to me.
    Or we might show them that whereas God can be the one they are scared of, the one that wants to take all the fun and joy out of life, and when it is all over send them to hell. He would rather them know that there sins have been forgiven. That He died for them on the cross so that they could enjoy life to the fullest now and for all eternity. That they don’t have to go through life under the proposition there “probably’ is no god, so do what thou wilt,” or “Stop worrying.” Rather they can go through life knowing; “There is a God, and He loves, you, has forgiven you, and has taken care of all the things you worry about with his death on the Cross, and resurrection from the tomb.”
    Or we can all go through life like you Manxman, ignoring the depth and significance of the cross, realizing there is a God and being as scared stiff of Him as the demons are that also know God is one, because Christ didn’t die for demons. He died for man.

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

    Anon,
    I don’t know where you get off reading either eternal security or universalism into what I wrote. In fact I believe that it is precisely this legalism, you keep espousing, that poses the biggest threat to our salvation.
    The Law does not save. It does not save before forgiveness, and it does not save after forgiveness. Neither do you lose your salvation by breaking God’s law. You lose it by forgetting the cross, and rejecting forgiveness, the very things the law often bids us to do.
    I don’t believe that all are going to heaven. But I do believe Christ died for all, for the whole world, and paid for all sins. Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, and faith saves. God would like all to have faith, but for various reason not all receive it. Some reject it. Some are never offered because they never hear the gospel. Some don’t hear the gospel because people like you feel the law is more important, and that if I tell someone there sins are forgiven, all of them, they will become more immoral than they already are and have an orgy in the street, or go on some murderous rampage. Funny never worked that way in the Bible. Thing is faith does not come by hearing the law, but the gospel! Everyone has the law already! you said so yourself. It is the law that scares the sh*t out of them in the “probably.” We have the law, we need the Gospel.

  • Manxman

    Bror Erickson,

    Are you sure the issue is that the atheists are scared of God? Or do they just don’t like anyone telling them that how they live their life is something that doesn’t just reside with them?

    To me, an honest presentation of the Gospel has to include getting the person to see their NEED to be reconciled to God, and this often has to be centered around the concept of sin. The good news of the Gospel isn’t good news at all to people who think they’re totally OK because they believe in no standard outside themselves. There may be different ways to get them to see the horrible position they’re in. But whatever the method that’s used, real repentance has to be achieved.

    From Acts 17 – “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

  • Michael the boot

    Before I read any other comments, a few of my own.

    I think proselytizing in general is garbage. Think of the last time you were convinced of ANYTHING because someone told you something about it, or someone harranged you for hours on end about their interests. It doesn’t work. The only time someone changes is when they’re ready to change. At that point they will go in whatever direction they do; but I am not convinced it has anything to do with things they are told.

    Many atheists feel a responsibility to speak out. I feel bad for them. They are not very secure in their own beliefs, it seems. They’re probably insecure in general. I don’t find many secure people need to convince others of anything. They are content to leave others be, and let them take care of and responsibility for their own lives.

    The “probably” in the statement is their nod to uncertainty. Atheists talk uncertainty a lot, and would be called out immediately for making a definitive statement about God’s existence. Also, they are rational enough to realize one cannot prove or disprove God.

    The problem I see is exactly what Dr. Veith pointed out: “[M]any atheists are running away from God because of their guilt. They reject God so that they do not have to feel guilty, there being no one to judge them.” This is the impression an ad like this gives. Atheists who speak out probably ARE running from this, at least partially. Those of us who are generally quiet do not look at things this way. We aren’t running from anything, nor toward anything. We feel no compulsion to talk to others about anything they SHOULD do. We aren’t angry, so we don’t have an ax to grind. These ad campaigns generally frustrate us as much as they frustrate others.

    Thanks for the nice comments Dr. Veith. Just so you know, though, I no longer want to believe. I did as a child. I yearned for it and it never came. I now realize it didn’t come because it’s not for me. I’ll have more to say in a bit about this nihilism everyone keeps mentioning…

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

    Manxman,
    When the atheist is too scared to say unequivocally that there is no God. It is that he is afraid of God.
    The skeptic, and famous modern day analytical Philospher of New York University, an atheist by the name of Thomas Nagel, even admits in “The Last Word” that it is fear that drives his atheism. Fear of a God who dictates what is right and wrong, who will hold him accountable. Funny thing is I imagine that this man is probably more ethical than I am. From his writing I sense in him far more patience and sympathy than I have.
    Furthermore, the God that they are afraid of is the one you want to present to them, the one that serves as nothing more than a standard outside themselves. They feel their guilt. Yet like I said about Thomas Nagel, the people are often already leading moral lives. We don’t need God to lead moral lives. They are living under the law whether they like it or not. What they need God for is to forgive their sin and remove their guilt so they can enjoy life to the fullest.
    Now I have never found away of presenting the gospel without also presenting the law. But the point isn’t to make them fall in line, or bow down to a standard outside of them. It is to make them aware of why they feel so guilty, and ashamed that they are trying to hide from God by denying his existence. But you aren’t going to get that ostrich to pull his head out of the sand by telling him the lion he is afraid of really does want to eat him for lunch. Rather you let him know it is a lion, but he has already eaten and is properly satisfied so that he is not at all interested in eating you. God’s wrath was satiated with Jesus on the Cross. Jesus reconciled the World to God. We don’t reconcile ourselves. The Lion has eaten his share. He doesn’t want to eat anymore. He wants to lay down by the lamb.
    The goal is not to make them afraid of God, that has already been acheived. The goal is to get them to love and trust in God.
    As for those who are wanting to have orgies in the street, this too is usually the working of the law, and a fear of death. I guess if I thought I was going to hell, or if nothing waited for me but death, and it was coming soon, I might want to drown my fears in drunken orgies too. It is the love of Christ, that keeps me from wanting to abuse others in that manner. I know that Christ loves them as much as he loves me, and I want them to know that too. I don’t refrain from abusing them in these manners because I am afraid of hell, but because I love them, as Christ loves me. There is no doubt in my mind that God would not hesitate to forgive me for falling to the temptation. But I am more concerned that they know they have been forgiven.

  • Anon

    Bror,
    “I don’t know where you get off” confusing my asking you if I’m reading you correctly with an accusation.

    I’m not espousing legalism! Far from it! Do you know what legalism even *is*? There are two meanings, one is the idea that law-keeping saves you, the other is making up man-made laws, like the Baptist “do not drink, do not dance” rules.

    How do you read me suggesting that the law saves? I very clearly say that it does not!

    And yes, you do lose your salvation by wilfully rebelling against God. The Bible teaches it, and that is why we have the Office of the Keys. At least in Lutheran theology. I’m no longer so sure what your theology is. That isn’t an accusation, that is a statement of my not being clear on where you are coming from, since you seem to have a tendency to misread me.

    The -Bible- says that God’s law is “holy, just and good.” It does NOT bid us reject forgiveness, on the contrary, it drives us to the Cross. At least, that is what Lutheran theology and the Apostle Paul in Romans, say.

    Faith is the channel, grace is the means, made possible by Christ’s death on the Cross, for God is just, and God’s justice will be served. Sola gratia, sole fide, solus Christus, as we Lutherans say.

    It is false, contrary to Scripture to say that the sins of the unrepentent are already forgiven. That -is- universalism, for if that were so, everyone without exception would be saved. No, it is through faith that we are saved, by grace, not of ourselves, nor our own works. Christ died for all, but sins are not forgiven for those who choose to remain in rebellion against God. But that offer of forgiveness is indeed for all, and if they will not reject God’s grace in giving them faith, they will repent and be saved.

    Perhaps you and I believe the same thing, and are just using words that confuse each other. But it sure sounds to me like you are teaching the heresies of antinomianism and universalism. You deny the latter one, but I don’t see how the denial fits the implications of what you are saying.

    I DO see that Lutheran young people, led astray by the heresy of antinomianism in Lutheran clothing, engaging in a lot of sexual immorality because the antinomianism gives them a rationalization for it.

    “Truly I tell you, it would be better for you to have a millstone tied round your neck, and be cast into the sea, than to lead one of these little ones into sin.” That was said by some legalist named Jesus Christ.

    While people have some of the moral law in their hearts, typically they harden their hearts against it, which is why that the Law needs to be preached, as the Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles did. As the Lutheran confessions teach. Not the Law alone, but the Law and the Gospel, which the Formula of Concord (or perhaps the Epitome) clearly states may both together be called “The Gospel.”

  • Anon

    Manxman, I think that different atheists have different reasons, and that in many cases, they aren’t aware of the underlying reasons.

    Studies show that atheists typically had bad relationships with their fathers.

    We must not underestimate the power of the teaching of atheism in various means by the government schools.

    Some atheists are simply mad at God because of a tragedy that happened, and they can’t deal with a reality where God let that happen, so it must be (to them) that He doesn’t exist. An excellent TV writer is self-confessedly in that camp, and presented that very powerfully through the character Galen in the series _Crusade_.

    Other atheists may be that way because they don’t want to be held accountable for their sins, and don’t get that God is eager to forgive them, if they would but turn from their sins, back to His rightful lordship, and be forgiven.

    Thank you for quoting to Bror the Biblical New Covenant teaching of repentance.

  • Michael the little boot

    The biggest stumbling block to unbelievers, the one which believers have the hardest time recognizing, is the very fact of their unbelief. Think of yourself, whoever you are: as a believer, do you find yourself able not to believe? Well, most unbelievers find they cannot be moved to believe. Even sitting in church, HEARING the word, etc. This flies in the face of the Lutheran belief that faith comes through hearing.

    I think this is the biggest reason Lutherans can’t accept someone legitimately does not believe in God. Since belief, in the Lutheran view, comes not through anything one can DO, but is given through faith, one cannot grasp a person sitting in the congregation, listening, and NOT receiving faith. The Lutheran MUST – by virtue of being Lutheran – react against these people, saying they actively rejected faith, or the Lutheran would be left to question whether this belief holds water.

    Are any of you willing to put aside your vested interests and step into the shoes of one who does not believe? To entertain the idea that some of us are not running or rejecting, but going toward something different, something that is true to our own sense of self? Recognize I have not ONCE evangelized for nonbelief on this blog. Can any of you trust God enough to allow your toe to dip slightly into this water?

  • Anon

    Michael,
    On the contrary, I was raised believing in the Arian heresy in a main-line protestant church. I always believed in God, always was ‘for’ Him, but I had no understanding of the Trinity nor of why Christ died upon the Cross, nor that the Bible was God’s word. It was through evidence, data and argumentation – through hearing – that I came to believe that it was true, and placed my faith in the God of the Bible. I know what it is like to disbelieve that this stuff is actually true. Been there, done that. But the only way to learn is to be humble enough to realize that you don’t know it all, and that some of what you do know, might not be true.

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

    Anon,
    If you were asking me a question when you brought up Eternal Security and Universalism then I missed it. I did see you asked me a question in the next paragraph I assumed to be rhetorical.

    Here is the question, Anon. Is Christ the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world? or just those who believe in him and try to live a proper life according to it?
    The objective fact is that their sins have been forgiven. Justification is objective. I hate to use the term subjective because it is often confused with the idea that I the subject have to accept or something along those lines to be saved. But this objective justification has to be applied individually to the subjects. God does that he applies the forgiveness of sins to his subjects, he gives them faith. But this faith comes from hearing the GOSPEL not the law. Not all have faith, but the sins of all have been forgiven. We as Christians believe in an objective fact. We don’t make our salvation happen by our subjective belief.
    When you believe that you lose your salvation by sinning, even after you become a Christian, you are a legalist. Plain and simple. When you live your life in fear of the gospel you are a legalist. The gospel is the the forgiveness of sins, all sins, no sin to great to be forgiven. We have the office of keys to forgive people. We can also use them to bind, but then the hope is that we will be able to forgive them later. I have had to use it both ways. (Hardly an antinomian, in that sense of the word.)
    It is not contrary to say that the unrepentant are already forgiven. From what I understand that was taken care of two thousand years ago when the lamb of God was sacrificed. The problem is that unrepentance reveals lack of faith. Faith and repentance go hand in hand. Judas didn’t have it, Peter did. When you bind ones sins, It is to crush unrepentance and bring them to faith. Unrepentance and unbelief are one in the same.
    As for Lutheran kid’s engaging in sexual sins. Well that seems to be a problem across the board these days in every denomination. Believe you me, I see it as a problem. I’m quite famous, around my parts for my addressing of it too. Ask Bryan. But we don’t get them to stop by hammering them with the law alone, that will just excite more sin. That is the tendency of the law, Paul says so. Thankfully Christ did forgive them. And that has to be emphasized. Has to be. Only the gospel frees one from the bondage to sin and the law, which go hand in hand.
    Forgiving sin is not condoning sin! Excusing sin, turning a blind eye to sin, pointing at other sins that is condoning sin, and leading one to sin. Forgiving Sin is what Christ has called me to do! I won’t repent of it. I won’t repent of telling people that their sins have been taken care of. I won’t be ashamed of the Gospel which is the forgiveness of sins.

  • Manxman

    Anon,

    No doubt about it – there are different reasons why people reject God. I focused in on lifestyle here because the bus thing made that the issue. Back in the 60′s when I was in college & in the Navy, I bought into the lies that were exploding at that time, lived a very immoral lifestyle and considered myself an atheist, and was especially hostile to Biblical Christianity. My Catholic upbringing, where I had been very close to God, was jettisoned partly because belief in Him conflicted with how I was living, and because I couldn’t reconcile a world that was so screwed up with the God I had learned about earlier. I didn’t really feel any guilt – I was very angry and disillusioned. If someone had come to me at that time with a sappy, Mr. Rogers type God who was all about love, love, love they would have gotten nowhere. I wanted truth and answers & something I could be part of that would give meaning to my life.

    Michael’s right when he says that timing is everything, but he’s wrong when he says that people who attempt to get you to see the truth are wasting their time. Those people lay a foundation for what may come later when the Gospel is finally articulated in a way that causes the light bulb to come on. When the circumstances of my life humbled me to the point where I was ready to finally listen to the gospel, everything came together – both past and present.

  • Michael the boot

    Bror @ 17,

    “When the atheist is too scared to say unequivocally that there is no God. It is that he is afraid of God.”

    Sorry, Bror, but it just ain’t the case. Those of us who are not convinced there is a God won’t say we KNOW there is no God because we DON’T. We find the existence of God to be highly improbable, but are humble enough to understand the limits of our own minds. We leave room for ourselves to be wrong, because we are not so intellectually dishonest as to think we know something which can’t be known. God can’t be proved nor disproved. So that leaves you and me in the same uncertain spot; you’re the only one of the two of us acting like you’re somewhere else.

  • Michael the boot

    Dr. Veith,

    (Apologies. This is off topic.)

    Why no mention of your colleague’s appearance on The Colbert Report? Thought he did pretty well!

  • Michael the boot

    Anon @ 21,

    “But the only way to learn is to be humble enough to realize that you don’t know it all, and that some of what you do know, might not be true.” YOU’RE RIGHT! That’s what I’ve been saying. I’m saying YOU and people like you who say “Been there, done that” are too confident that things you know are true. I’M NOT THE CONFIDENT ONE. I’m not the one who thinks I know things I don’t know. It’s precisely that I DON’T know which causes me simply to be honest and SAY THAT.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    I actually love this campaign; by assuring people that they can “relax and enjoy life,” they’re more or less affirming what Christian thinkers have been asserting for centuries; without the knowledge of God, moral restraint goes right out the window. You can “enjoy life” however you want.

    Of course, it doesn’t work out that way in practice, but that is the implicit promise held out by these guys. What a great concession that they never intended to make!

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

    Sorry Michael,
    When a man who claimed to be God, dies and comes back to life, I tend to believe him.

  • Michael the boot

    Anon @ 19,

    “Studies show that atheists typically had bad relationships with their fathers.”

    Studies of your comments on this blog show you typically say things like this and give no evidence in support. So, support it. Or stop making unsupported statements like they are facts.

  • Michael the boot

    Bror @ 28,

    “When a man who claimed to be God, dies and comes back to life, I tend to believe him.”

    I would too, were there evidence to support it. As it is, there are only stories, and belief. I tend not to believe everything I read.

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

    Bike Bubba,
    I don’t know what Christian thinkers you have been reading. But not acknowledging a God, does not necessarily lead to throwing moral restraint out the window.
    Epicurious for instance was a very moral man. There are plenty of atheists out there who refrain from all sorts of immoral activity, for many different reasons. Christians do not have the marked on moral restraint. Actually, early on one of the main reasons for the persecution of Christians, was that people thought our doctrine of the forgiveness of sins would lead to unbridled immorality.

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

    Michael,
    There is a difference between eye witness testimony and stories. What you right off as stories present themselves as eyewitness testimonies. So is there any reason you disbelieve that they are what they claim they are? Or are you just more comfortable believing they are stories?

  • Michael the boot

    Bror @ 31,

    Nice. Thanks for mentioning that.

  • Manxman

    Michael,

    The problem everyone who lives has is that no matter who they are or what they believe, they have to live in the the world the way God has created it. If death, judgment, heaven & hell are real as the Bible claims, it becomes critical that you understand what the ramifications of those things are for you. If you shrug them off, and you’re wrong, than you could end up in a horrible way. The scariest thing you seem to say in your posts is that you don’t think this God thing is a big deal to you.

    If you are concerned, where do you start? At some point you’re going to have to ask yourself, “If there is a God, has He communicated real truth to men and how?” You’ll have to draw some conclusions about Jesus Christ and the things He had to say. You’ll have to explain the source of the order in the universe, both physical and moral.

    The reasons people like me are so sure about all these things is that with God’s help and the help of the teaching ministry in the Church, we have found that Biblical Christianity is a sweet, very logical and reasonable system which describe life in this crazy world very well. I have spent decades trying to understand these matters, and the longer I live, the more sense it makes. Also, I have had the advantage of dramatic answers to prayer at various times in my life. Some believers may not have things like that. I have and they make a big difference. A good place for you to start would be to ask this God who you don’t believe in now to reveal Himself to you and see what happens.

  • Michael the boot

    Bror @ 32,

    We’ve gone over this before, but it was a while ago. The most widely accepted dates for the writing of the canonical gospels puts the earliest at 70 CE, which at LIBERAL estimates places it around forty years after Jesus death, at conservative estimates even more. The rest were written after that, with the latest – most scholars say it’s the gospel according to John – being written between 90-110 CE. Even using the earliest dates here, we would be hard pressed to think of someone at that time who would have been a contemporary of Jesus and lived long enough to have written the earliest, based on dates as well as on life expectancy at that time. Then there are the other gospels which are even later. At best the people writing were second generation believers. They may have known people who knew Jesus; but the evidence does not support these being eyewitness accounts.

    If you put this into historical context, it’s even more understandable that these were presented as “eyewitness” accounts. Back then they were not living in a 24 hour news cycle. They did not have journalists. “History” was written by people with agendas, and not always reported very accurately. Plus, it was common practice to attribute authorship of a work to a famous persona, so that it would have greater “circulation.”

    Tell me, Bror: do you believe every work which presents itself as an eyewitness acount IS what it purports to be?

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

    Michael,
    First off, the earliest accounts we have of the resurrection are Paul’s and His letters were mostly written between by conservative estimates 48-64.
    Second many conservative scholars believe that the synoptic Gospels were completed by 60 A.D.
    John being the only one who lived to die of old age wrote his before 90 A.D.
    All with in the first century after Christ’s death. And all in a plausible time frame to be accounts written by those who knew Christ. ie written by those who claim to be the authors of these texts.
    Those who date them after 70 A.D. normally do so from circular reasoning that says Christ could not have predicted the destruction of the Temple. Therefore he didn’t. Since the destruction happened in 70 A.D. these texts that predict that must have been written after.
    Second, I understand that journalism was not quite the same in the first century as it is now. By all accounts it was probably more truthful, especially given the fact that there was not the pressure to hype something for 24 hours a day seven days a week. But that is aside from the point. The truth is we accept on face value many histories written at that time, having no reason to disregard them. We accept Caesar’s account of the Gallic Wars for instance. Though he obviously had an agenda to show the people how great he was.
    So why do you discount these accounts as mere stories?
    No I don’t believe every work claiming to be an eyewitness account is what it purports to be. But I like to have a reason to discount them. Say the Book of Mormon which claims to be a history, yet records horses being here before Columbus. We know there weren’t so we know it is not a history.
    On the other hand the gospels do a bang up job presenting life as we know it actually was at the time, recording events and people we know to have existed at that time, etc. And they don’t mention any light bulbs.

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

    I’ll continue this with you Tuesday if you want. Will be gone for the rest of the weekend. Unless someone else would like to continue it with you. Then I’ll just jump in when I get back.

  • Manxman

    Michael,

    If the God of the Bible is as powerful as He is described, then it is not illogical to think that He could take whatever steps were necessary to ensure that scripture is set down accurately for us as He intended.

    If you do some study, you’ll learn that His Son was born into a culture that was unbelievably anal about accurately recording and passing on what God revealed to them from generation to generation. This faithfulness can be seen in the fact that the Dead Sea scrolls have no substantial differences from the text of the Bible we use today.

    Jesus’ disciples and other Jewish believers were part of that same culture where textual accuracy was a way of life.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Good points, Bror. Just thought I would jump in here and say how much I’m enjoying this discussion today. Have a good weekend, Bror.

  • Joe

    Michael wrote:

    “I think this is the biggest reason Lutherans can’t accept someone legitimately does not believe in God. Since belief, in the Lutheran view, comes not through anything one can DO, but is given through faith, one cannot grasp a person sitting in the congregation, listening, and NOT receiving faith. The Lutheran MUST – by virtue of being Lutheran – react against these people, saying they actively rejected faith, or the Lutheran would be left to question whether this belief holds water.”

    I think you are making a logical, yet incorrect, leap here. I am a Lutheran. I confess that I cannot come to faith by myself and that it is the work of the Holy Spirit. This, however, does not mean that anyone who does not believe is actively rejecting Christ. Instead, it means that for whatever reason and whatever purpose, the Holy Spirit has not yet gotten to you yet. I pray for the day when he does. (I mean that).

  • Michael the little boot

    Manxman @ 38,

    Wow. You and I have been reading different experts.

    “If the God of the Bible is as powerful as He is described, then it is not illogical to think that He could take whatever steps were necessary to ensure that scripture is set down accurately for us as He intended.” Sure, IF – and it’s the big IF, hence the caps – the God of the Bible is as powerful as portrayed, it is logical God could take whatever steps in God’s power to accomplish whatever goals God wanted to achieve. But I’m not interested in the big IFs. I try not to live my life preparing for contingencies. I’m not down with Pascal, nor do I find his wager compelling.

    “If you do some study, you’ll learn that His Son was born into a culture that was unbelievably anal about accurately recording and passing on what God revealed to them from generation to generation.” Really? My research (I like that you assume I’ve not done any) shows they had a more fluid view of this revelation. In fact, at one point many Jewish scholars resisted a canon of scripture, saying it would cause Jews to become too rigid in their views. And where do you get your information regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls?

    “Jesus’ disciples and other Jewish believers were part of that same culture where textual accuracy was a way of life.” If that’s the case, why was it COMMON PRACTICE to attribute works to OTHER, MORE FAMOUS people? This was done often. You seem to disagree. Why?

  • Michael the little boot

    Joe @ 40,

    “I confess that I cannot come to faith by myself and that it is the work of the Holy Spirit. This, however, does not mean that anyone who does not believe is actively rejecting Christ. Instead, it means that for whatever reason and whatever purpose, the Holy Spirit has not yet gotten to you yet.”

    If I’m making a logical leap, it is because the only knowledge of Lutheran theology I have comes from people on this blog. I have been told many times I am actively rejecting God. I appreciate you are not making this accusation. I also appreciate your sincerity.

  • Michael the little boot

    Sorry. I have been told many times ON CRANACH I am actively rejecting God.

  • Manxman

    Michael @41

    The point you need to take away from the “IF” thing is that when it comes to the accuracy and content of scripture, the whole thing is not necessarily up to man – that God could be actively involved in the transmitting & preservation process. The active involvement of God in the world is part of our equation and part of our argument. There is no reason the whole thing has to be argued based on the assumption that God is not allowed to be part of the system. It’s a possibility whether you accept it or not.

    As part of your on-going research sometime, pick up Chaim Potok’s book The Chosen. This will make the point about how orthodox Jews revere, study and preserve the word of God better than anything I could say. I want you to observe their values & attitudes and admit that these same attitudes were probably part of how the Jews of Jesus’ time were likely to treat communications from God. What the Jews wanted in the canon is not the issue – the accuracy of the actual texts transmitted from generation to generation is the issue.

    The references to the Dead Sea scrolls lining up with the OT Bible texts we use are numerous.

  • Anon

    Bror,
    I don’t understand how it is that you are not rejecting all three uses of the Law.

    Show me?

    When I use words like if, seem and appear, I mean them, and not rhetorically. They are conditional operators.

    Yes, Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, and yes, He died pantwn anthrwpwn and pantwn kosmwn. But that doesn’t mean that the sins of those who are still ‘lost’ are yet forgiven. They can be. But they aren’t until and unless they (by God’s grace working invisibly) believe and repent of their sins. The willful remaining in sins after knowledge of the Gospel has come is what God the Holy Spirit is talking about in Hebrews 6.

    If the sins of all are forgiven, as you say, then no one has any guilt before God, and God could not justly condemn anyone to Hell, or extract any other punishment whatsoever. And God is Just. This is why what you are saying looks like universalism. Universalism is the necessary conclusion of your assertion as stated.

    Atonement has been made, but if they remain unrepentant, if they remain in their sinful condition and rejection of the Gospel and God’s rightful lordship over them, they do not have that atonement applied to them.

    Lutherans believe that you can “turn your back on your baptism”. Lutherans do not believe in eternal security. You appear to be teaching eternal security when you say that a legalist is one who says that someone can lose their salvation by rejecting God and chooing sin and self-lordship instead of Him. Of course that *isn’t* legalism at all, it is the teaching of Lutheranism and of the Bible.

    I never said to use the law alone. I have consistently said Law and Gospel, and that one of the uses of the Gospel is to show a light on our sin and guilt to drive us to the Cross. We are to “comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable” Those who are comfortable in their sins need to hear the Law (in a way which is understandable and credible to them), and those who are afflicted by their guilt, need to hear the Gospel. This is most certainly true.

    Again, if all sins are already forgiven, applied to everyone, apart from faith and repentance, to those still in their state of rebellion against God, then there is no guilt, and where there is no guilt, there is no punishment, and all are necessarily thus saved. In which case most people would choose to indulge their passions, would they not? Is that not why Lutheran college students often misuse “sin boldly” as an excuse for sin, imagining that God wants them to go ahead and sin on the basis of this antinomian teaching?

    It isn’t clear to me that what you are teaching *is* the Gospel.

  • Anon

    Manxman, #23, I agree. Exactly. That is part of what Bror is not understanding. It seems.

    Michael, you say that God’s existence can neither be proved or disproved. Do you mean that you don’t consider the matter solved, or are you saying that it is impossible for God to communicate knowledge of His existence to us?

    I am confident because I have wrestled in thought and study with these things, and I’m confident as a result that God exists and that the Bible is true, further, as an aside, that the Book of Concord is an accurate summary, whereas Calvinism, the RC magisterium, Scofield’s notes and so forth lack accuracy in different ways and in differing degrees. I also know God personally, am aware of His presence, as is the case with most Christians, though our salvation is not based upon this awareness. Is it possible that I’m wrong? Perhaps about some things, but they would have to be -proven- to me, I think I have very much sufficient reason in believing that what I believe is actually so. I’m not one to believe something because the group believes it, or because it is helpful for me to say that I believe it, or because I wish it were so. Of course, that doesn’t prove anything about the existence of God to you, it just tells you a little about myself and where I’m coming from.

    Michael, I did not say that -you- didn’t have a good relationship with your father. “Most’ or ‘many’ != ‘all’. My source appears to be Paul Vitz, the excellent psychologist.

    You are right to ask for sufficient evidence for the resurrection. It does exist. My merely stating so isn’t enough, of course. I understand that. Books have been written on that subject. I’m not sure how to summarize that into a post, let alone into a paragraph in a post.

  • Anon

    Michael,
    In the British Museum there is a section of a codex of the Gospel of Matthew. It is penned in Greek, and the orthography shows that it had to have been penned *within* roughly 13 years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. When Paul refers to Luke as “the brother who is renowned for the Gospel” the internal evidence suggests that Luke had already written down the gospel named for him, and Paul was taking it with him on his journeys, to be copied at each new Christian congregation. Mark appears to have been written by John Mark in Rome, shortly following Peter’s departure after his first visit there, so that the Christians there would have a record of Peter’s teachings. John was indeed written later, possibly as late as A. D. 70. Textual analysis shows that there is no literary dependence between the Synoptic Gospels. Both the verbal inspiration by God the Holy Spirit and the fact that rabbis of that day had their disciples take notes and repeat back the rabbi’s sayings until the got them right. This is consistent with the similarities between the Synoptics, yet the differences of such nature that rule out literary dependence.

    These texts, as well as Paul’s letters, were written when there were hundreds of eyewitnesses of the resurrection still alive, and many thousands more in Judea and Galilee who had seen Jesus during His earthly ministry. They could have *easily* been refuted by eyewitnesses if they weren’t true. But no such contemporaneous eyewitness refutation exists, nor is there record of any.

    I -do- believe that everything in the Bible which purports to be an eyewitness account, *is* an eyewitness account, and archaeology, literary references, papyrii and ostraca from the first century all reaffirm this for me.

    Manxman re #38, indeed the cultures of the ANE held anything thought to be a divine oracle to be so sacred that not accurately copying them was grounds for execution: It wasn’t even just the Jews.

    Michael, while there are issues with Pascal’s Wager, is it not the case that it is worth adequately investigating, in case the God of the Bible might really exist? The consequences are pretty extreme. Surely serious investigation is a reasonable response.

  • Michael the boot

    Manxman @ 44,

    “The point you need to take away from the ‘IF’ thing is that when it comes to the accuracy and content of scripture, the whole thing is not necessarily up to man – that God could be actively involved in the transmitting & preservation process.” That’s fundamentally what one is getting at when one asks an “IF” question. Isn’t it? I do understand if God exists God might have the ability to interact in this way. But that’s an even bigger “IF,” in my opinion. My question to you would be: why do you use an “IF” as a major part of your argument?

    “The active involvement of God in the world is part of our equation and part of our argument. There is no reason the whole thing has to be argued based on the assumption that God is not allowed to be part of the system. It’s a possibility whether you accept it or not.” It’s a possibility whether you accept it or not? But it is an assumption. It is not based on evidence, but on interpretation of supposed evidence. I’m not saying the evidence isn’t NECESSARILY evidence, but it may not be. Since this is a case of maybe/maybe not, I would think we would just leave those that believe it to believe it, and those that don’t, not to believe it. But making an argument based on a belief is not very solid, nor very credible. At least it’s not credible to those who disagree, and, since that’s the group with which you’re arguing I’d think you’d want to attempt arguments they wouldn’t dismiss out-of-hand.

    “As part of your on-going research sometime, pick up Chaim Potok’s book The Chosen. This will make the point about how orthodox Jews revere, study and preserve the word of God better than anything I could say.” I really hate to continually make the point, but I’m Jewish. I have a bit of knowledge in this area. I can say with confidence the Jews portrayed in the gospels and those portrayed in The Chosen are not very alike as far as the comparison you’re trying to draw. Do you believe Judaism hasn’t changed in the last 2,000 years? In fact, it has. Those Jews alive today who call themselves Orthodox would have found no analogue during the gospel period. Modern Orthodox Judaism came into being after the Jews were dispersed throughout the world following the destruction of Jerusalem. It was a reaction to having no home in the world, and it was one of many responses. Not trying to play the “Jew card,” but since I am one, I thought I’d share. Unfortunately, because of the Christian interpretation of scripture, Christians often assume erroneous things about Jews.

    I find it funny that you refer me to a book of fiction to back up your claim, though. It’s very telling, when looked at in light of your view of scripture.

    “I want you to observe their values & attitudes and admit that these same attitudes were probably part of how the Jews of Jesus’ time were likely to treat communications from God.” Um. No. I won’t admit it, because it’s not the case. You used the word “probably” in there, as well, which shows you know you’re not certain this is true. You don’t have to take my word for it, but Judaism has changed numerous times over the last two millennia.

    “What the Jews wanted in the canon is not the issue – the accuracy of the actual texts transmitted from generation to generation is the issue.” Right. But I was trying to highlight the fact that many rabbis did not want there to BE a canon because they thought it would lead to rigid thinking. This goes toward establishing the attitude of more ancient Jews in regard to accuracy. That is, they didn’t value “True” stories as much as they valued “Truth” stories. They weren’t interested in reporting the facts, but the “spirit” of what happened was very important.

    “The references to the Dead Sea scrolls lining up with the OT Bible texts we use are numerous.” Cool. Care to point me in a direction with one actual citation? Seriously, just one. I’m not trying to bury you in discovery.

  • Michael the little boot

    Anon @ 47,

    I have to respond to this out of order. An emotional imperative.

    “Michael, while there are issues with Pascal’s Wager, is it not the case that it is worth adequately investigating, in case the God of the Bible might really exist? The consequences are pretty extreme. Surely serious investigation is a reasonable response.”

    We don’t know each other personally, and you have not been around long, so let me clue you in: I am nearly 33 years old. I was a Christian for nearly 20 of those years. Do you think serious investigation wasn’t part of my journey? In fact, close examination was part of what led me away from Christianity. Do I sound like a person who does flippant and lazy research? Of course I can’t have looked at all the evidence. Who has? But I have looked, and continue to look, at evidence. I am actively engaged on this blog almost daily, and it’s not so I can tell a bunch of Christians they’re wrong. I like to talk about things with groups of people who do not share my beliefs and opinions. It helps me transcend myself as much as I can. I like that you make assumptions the way you do, though. I like that you think I’ve not pondered Pascal’s childish wager.

    That’s the thing. If the compelling part of Pascal’s dubious gambling threat is “God MAY exist, and MAY be really mad if you don’t believe, so MAYBE you should, just in case,” then that’s why I don’t find it moves me to action. If God is interested in my beliefs, God should make that apparent to me. God hasn’t. So even if God exists, it appears God doesn’t care whether I believe. And if God DOES care, but has provided NOTHING which moves me, and is still angry I do not believe on the basis of this flimsy evidence, then that God is a child and I will gladly walk to hell and dive in rather than kowtow to such a brat.

    What you said at the end is most telling. “The consequences are pretty extreme.” Right. Which leads me to ask you: why do you LIKE the idea of believing in such a tyrant?

  • Michael the little boot

    Anon @ 46,

    “[Y]ou say that God’s existence can neither be proved or disproved. Do you mean that you don’t consider the matter solved, or are you saying that it is impossible for God to communicate knowledge of His existence to us?” I don’t believe in God, Anon. Remember? So you can apply that to all your questions about what I believe regarding God. I do not consider the matter solved BECAUSE I don’t believe God can be proved or disproved. It’s why I have stopped calling myself an atheist. I definitely do not find the existence of God to be probable, but I understand my own limitations enough to stop short of certainty. I don’t have it. I don’t believe anyone has it. That’s not the subject of this thread, though.

    “I am confident because I have wrestled in thought and study with these things, and I’m confident as a result that God exists and that the Bible is true, further, as an aside, that the Book of Concord is an accurate summary, whereas Calvinism, the RC magisterium, Scofield’s notes and so forth lack accuracy in different ways and in differing degrees.” Okay. Slow down, dude. Why can you call on your own wrestling, your own study, to show how you’ve come to believe what you do, yet discount my own? Also, you find the theology of Lutheranism compelling. You are aware most Christians do not? That is, most Christians are not Lutherans. So you are relying on your own mind, your own interpretations, even as you say they come from God. Are you then discounting the experience of the majority of other Christians, too?

    “I also know God personally, am aware of His presence, as is the case with most Christians, though our salvation is not based upon this awareness. Is it possible that I’m wrong? Perhaps about some things, but they would have to be -proven- to me, I think I have very much sufficient reason in believing that what I believe is actually so.” Are you also aware the human brain is an excellent hallucination machine? And that much of what you see is your brain telling you what you see, not something you actually see? You may be interpreting your experiences wrongly, that’s all. If you think these things come from God, how can anyone prove it otherwise?

    “Michael, I did not say that -you- didn’t have a good relationship with your father. “Most’ or ‘many’ != ‘all’. My source appears to be Paul Vitz, the excellent psychologist.” I didn’t say you did. I asked you to support your statement. I’ve looked up the paper in question and will read it tonight. It’s intriguing to me you said “studies show” and then referred to one individual. He’s also a Christian, which doesn’t at all discount his research; but it does show his bias. I’ll keep my eye out for it.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    @25 Michael the Little Boot, off topic: Yes, Mike Farris did acquit himself well on the Colbert Report. Thanks for noticing. I think a winsome, open to humor stance proves very effective. I did sort of comment on it in a post on about colleges the other day.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ steve martin

    Excuse me for being late to the party.
    Great topic. Interesting discussion.

    When it comes to belief in the Living God, I’ve always found that formulas do not work. Who comes to faith and why is God’s business.

    I thought what Bror siad about the Law and Gospel being necessary was absolutely correct. And I liked what he said about “the ‘gospel’ always trumping the ‘law’.”

    ‘The law’ is at work in everyone’s life and as someone else mentioned (forgive me for not recalling who it was) they might not need a whole lot of it (the law) from a well intentioned believer attempting to bring them to faith. Any preacher can easily administer the law anytime. The key, I believe, is to make it relevant and fresh. I like to find out where this particular person (in a one on one) is being had by the world, the flesh, or the devil, and then relate to them how I am being had by the same thing (often it is) or similar bad circumstances in my life. Then I speak of the One who will put an end to this, who has already done something about this, on the cross, and in the person’s baptism. I speak of a future with no more tears, no more pain, no more suffering…because of what Jesus has done..FOR THEM! And then I let it go.And I pray that the Lord will use my poor words that the person’s heart might be changed, and that the Lord would have mercy and bring this person to faith. I don’t continue to hammer them with facts and figures and with “you need to believe”. The law and the gospel will do it’s work on them.
    And then I leave. That’s just how I do it, some of the time.

    The universe doesn’t revolve around whether these people come to faith or not. Jesus told us Himself that if we don’t get a good response…then move on. There’s plenty more to talk to. And we don’t know, anyway. What we said to that person may, by God’s grace, resonate with them and years later they may become believers.

    That so many do not believe is nothing new. The outward signs and bald hostility to Christianity may be new to us, but it was like that and worse in the early days of the Church.

    And there has always been a faithful remnant. There will always just be a faithful remnant until that final Day.

    Anyway…my 2 cents.

    Thanks!

    – Steve Martin

  • allen

    There’s probably no God?

    Probability is a branch of mathematics. Maybe the equation wouldn’t fit on the side of the bus? Maybe it would cost extra for all that?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Bror @#10:
    ‘Now that forgiveness…does inspire me to try to live according to those standards he laid out, but it does not compel me to do so.’
    If I could shout anything to not only the atheist (who despises the law same as the believer) or to the hypocrite (who claims to love and to live by the law), it would be that: forgiveness requires nothing of us. We clutter it up ourselves, with our claims (our egos), whether we’re believers or un-.
    Thank you for that, and for much of what you’ve written in this thread.
    What good is a gift if it means I’m responsible for its use? That’s like my husband giving me a vacuum cleaner as a birthday gift instead of a mink coat.
    Forgiveness–grace–is not a tool we’re given, for us to then take and use to improve our lives or our environments. Forgiveness–grace–is more like an adornment put upon us because we’re the beloved of the giver, and because we need the powers of the gift for protection from the cold and from our own ugliness.
    God tells us this so plainly, but we so prefer to see His word thru our own eyes, and to continue in our thinking that He’s either irrelevant, non-existent, or busy counting up our good deeds and observing our godly living.
    There *is* a god who doesn’t exist: the one who asks me to come to him, tells me I’m welcome, but then starts measuring my goodness. I’d call that god a liar and his gift of welcome a mere ruse. Bait and switch.

  • Michael the little boot

    Dr. Veith,

    Thanks. Apologies for having missed the earlier post! I agree: the humor was what pushed him over-the-top. He didn’t seem to take himself TOO seriously.

  • john

    I don’t think God is upset that I am an atheist.

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

    John, then you’ve never understood passion.

  • Michael the little boot

    john @ 56,

    Hello! New here? Welcome to the party!

    Hope you’re not just making a joke…I think it’s pretty funny for an atheist to say something like that…akin to Vonnegut’s favorite saying in reference to the recently deceased: “He/she’s up in heaven now…”

    (Just in case anyone’s wondering, Vonnegut was an atheist, too. Honorary pres of the American Humanist Society for a while, if I’m not mistaken.)

  • Michael the little boot

    Theresa,

    Do you know john personally? I would say if you think God DOES care john is an atheist, you are the one who doesn’t understand passion, as it seems you’ve got that word’s definition mixed up with another: “obsession.” But that’s my opinion. See how this works?

  • Michael the little boot

    Steve @ 52,

    “That so many do not believe is nothing new. The outward signs and bald hostility to Christianity may be new to us, but it was like that and worse in the early days of the Church.”

    As a person who’s seen both sides – that is, as a person who has been a Christian AND a nonbeliever – I have to say I feel MUCH more hostility from other humans NOW than I ever did before. Even though religions differ, and fight amongst each other, all religions unite against the nonbeliever. It’s the reason a person can claim ANY religion – or none at all – and run for office in the state of Texas, as long as one believe in a “Supreme Being.” That’s law in Texas. It’s the reason George H.W. Bush said he didn’t think atheists should be considered citizens of the United States.

    It’s the real reason religious people (other than religious moderates) do not like evolution. It’s not because it is a denial of God. Plenty of people believe in God and accept evolution. But, if we were not created as humans, as we are now, that means at some point in the past we were probably animals who did not have language. That means we weren’t created specially. It means religion came about in some way OTHER than the ways religions have described. Finally, it means no religion can claim to be the one true religion, since no religion came about through the creation of humans. They all came later, and they all evolved.

    Atheists are the only minority it is still okay to persecute in the United States. Would that ALL signs were taken off buses all over the world, including the stupid ads. I wish Red Bull would stop proselytizing as much as I wish Christians, Mormons and atheists would quit it.

  • Michael the little boot

    allen @ 53,

    “Probability is a branch of mathematics. Maybe the equation wouldn’t fit on the side of the bus? Maybe it would cost extra for all that?” Nice. Although, in this case, “probably” is a nod to philosophical uncertainty. One cannot disprove a negative, so an atheist would not be able to provide an equation showing the probability of God’s existence, as atheists believe God doesn’t exist. Therefore, “God” in this case would be a negative proposition.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 54,

    “Forgiveness–grace–is not a tool we’re given, for us to then take and use to improve our lives or our environments. Forgiveness–grace–is more like an adornment put upon us because we’re the beloved of the giver, and because we need the powers of the gift for protection from the cold and from our own ugliness.
    God tells us this so plainly, but we so prefer to see His word thru our own eyes…” Are you not seeing God’s word through your own eyes here? I went to many churches growing up. Baptists do not see things exactly this way. Charasmatics do not see it at ALL the way you see it. There is room for interpretation, at least enough to allow for as many denominations as we currently enjoy. I bring this up often, and no one gives me their answer as to why LUTHERAN theology is absolutely correct, and others are not. Would you be so kind, Susan?

    I’m not even going to get started on the problems with seeing yourself as ugly…

  • kerner

    Joe @40:

    The reason so many of us say that Michael is rejecting belief is because he has often told us that he believed as a child, but he doesn’t believe anymore (I hope I got this right Michael, I don’t want to misquote you). That sounds like rejecting the faith to me.

    Michael:

    See, Manxman’s testimony on this thread, particularly @23, is what gives me hope for you. My prayer is that someday you will grow up to be Manxman ;)

  • allen

    Michael the little boot #61

    “One cannot disprove a negative, so an atheist would not be able to provide an equation showing the probability of God’s existence, as atheists believe God doesn’t exist.”

    Right. That’s what I don’t get about atheism. I can understand agnosticism. But to actually believe that there is no God seems, well, to savor of something like an eccentric desire to avoid a certain “wishy-washiness” perceived to obtain in agnosticism. Of course there is no law that a person has to have a reason to believe something. Perhaps this is why “the riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    Man, you come dangerously close to the line with that one! :) I do hope to grow up someday, at least in certain ways…

    “The reason so many of us say that Michael is rejecting belief is because he has often told us that he believed as a child, but he doesn’t believe anymore (I hope I got this right Michael, I don’t want to misquote you).” It’s okay, but you did kinda miss what I’ve said. The thing is, I TRIED to believe. I used to be a Christian only because that’s how my parents raised me. Not that I denied it then, but it never worked for me. It was only as a very young adult that I began to trust “God” enough to venture outside my little world, and see that it was bigger, that it encompassed more things than I had been led to believe. So I didn’t reject belief in order to arrive at my current philosophical position. Rather, my belief has been modified, and continues to be modified. I left the church because it no longer made sense, and I wanted to be honest with myself as well as God.

    That’s a former position, though. I no longer believe in God, as I’ve said. Just didn’t want to leave it open.

  • Michael the little boot

    allen @ 64,

    Just wanted to take a second to clear something up. Atheism and agnosticism are not two positions about the same thing. Atheism is the belief there is no God. Agnosticism is a belief about knowledge. The gnostic believes one CAN know things which are outside time and space, and the agnostic does not. Most people – including a lot of atheists and agnostics – have yet to grasp the distinction. I was only made aware of it recently.

    That being said, I wonder why you find certainty about God’s nonexistence to be a problem, but don’t take that thought to its logical conclusion and apply it to certainty about God’s existence. I find certainty about these metaphysical questions to be rather annoying, myself. Could you enlighten me as to your perspective?

  • allen

    Michael the little boot#66

    I can try. The universe exists. It cannot have always existed because infinity is not a number. That is, there can be no infinite number of years, or Planck time units, or whatever, backward in time.

    Some, not you of course, have posited the prior existence of another universe which ours replaced, or a meta-universe which calves off “local universes” of which ours is one. But this sort of thinking amounts to merely changing the definition of the word, or pushing back the origin.

    So, either the universe is an effect without a cause, or it was created by Someone whose identity fits the definition of God.

    There is also the matter of humans experiencing reality subjectively. Even the more intelligent animals have something like a sense of fittingness or proportionality. It’s for real.

    I know that such thoughts are not exactly enlightening. But in my humble estimation they form a preponderance of evidence in favor of God’s existence.

    And of course none of this takes into account His proclamation of Himself to us over the ages.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ steve martin

    Michael the litle Boot,

    That’s just flat out not true. “Athesists are persecuted in the United States.” That’s B.S.
    If someone says something about you that you don’t like, you call that persescution? Gimme a break.

    The media makes fun of atheists all the time. Right. It’s Christians that ridiculed.

    Our views of reality are very different.

  • john

    A belief in Krishna is as valid as a belief in God is it not?

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ steve martin

    There is only one, true, Living God. He goes by the name of Jesus Christ.

    It is a valid belief to believe in Krishna. It is just not a valid Christian belief. And it is a valid belief in a false god.

  • kerner

    john @69:

    One line of atheist argument that is illogical is what appears to me to be the conclusion that, because there are so many different religious beleifs, there can be no religious truth. This is simply not correct. Either Christ is God made flesh who died for our sins, or He wasn’t and He didn’t. One of us is right about that.

    This is a little like a large group of people trying to guess the number of beans in a big jar. Just because there are a lot of different guesses (some more obviously wrong than others) doesn’t mean there is no jar and/or no beans. There is a definite answer to that question. You can even get pretty close to the correct answer if you start with correct assumptions about the volume the jar will hold, the average volume of a bean, and the space between the beans due to their irregular shape.

    In the sense that people are entitled to believe what they want, I guess you could say that a belief in Krishna is as “valid” as a belief in Christ. But, only one of those two beliefs can be “valid” in the sense of being true (although both could be wrong, and thus invalid). Of course, the same applies to atheism. When you say there is no God (or there is no Krishna), either you are right or you’re not.

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

    Anon,
    You write “Yes, Jesus is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, and yes, He died pantwn anthrwpwn and pantwn kosmwn. But that doesn’t mean that the sins of those who are still ‘lost’ are yet forgiven. They can be. But they aren’t until and unless they (by God’s grace working invisibly) believe and repent of their sins. The willful remaining in sins after knowledge of the Gospel has come is what God the Holy Spirit is talking about in Hebrews 6.”

    You talk out of both sides of your mouth. Either Christ died for all and all are forgiven, or Christ did not die for all, and not all are forgiven. See you make the forgiveness dependent on faith. But Faith merely takes hold of the forgiveness of sins, the Gospel. Faith does not make it true, faith does nothing but hold onto the objective fact. Faith is a gift. You make faith a condition for forgiveness. Rather than an acknowledgment of being forgiven. Then you want to monitor whether or not someone has faith or not by how they behave.
    There are times when Christians have to step in an correct the behavior of a Christian. And unrepentance is a sign of unbelief. However, people, including you, never live a perfect life in this world. People also often sin out of ignorance, sometimes it is also merely a matter of weakness. One has to be careful in dealing with them. You just may snuff out a smoldering wick.
    But take Paul in His letter to the Corinthians, as awful as that church is he calls them saints. I am often amazed by 1 Corinthians 6, when he says such were some of you, but you have been washed… He wouldn’t have to have written that letter if those very same people who had been washed were not still doing those very same things. Paul though realizes something very profound, as he is wont to do, these people have an identity in Christ, they have been forgiven. It isn’t the law that gives them the power to leave these sins behind, but the gospel, they have been washed! Should Paul merely rant with the law, and tell them shape up or you are going to hell, he would have done nothing but drive them to despair, and other great shame and vice, including the false belief that there was no forgiveness for them.
    So you don’t make forgiveness dependent on whether or not one believes. Like it or not this makes faith a work that they do. You proclaim the Gospel, the objective fact that Christ died for all, and has forgiven the sins of all, has reconciled the WORLD to God. That is, Anon, unless you want to start denying scripture, that the WORLD has been reconciled to God. And those who believe take hold of that fact and find comfort there. Those who do not believe, find no comfort there, do not trust in God’s word, and they will be judged by their own words. It isn’t that they haven’t been reconciled to God, but they will not be reconciled.
    You might go and read Walther “The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel.” If I was a universal, I’d find a better paying job. I just don’t believe preaching the law creates faith. Preaching Law and Gospel does, but it is the work of the Gospel, not the law.

  • Anon

    Bror,
    You don’t understand me. My understanding of Law and Gospel is officially, synodically, validated.

    The idea that if Christ died for all, and that therefore everyone is already forgiven *is* the heresy of universalism.

    You miscomprehend what I am saying. Please show me from the Scripture that I’m wrong. Show me from the Book of Concord that my views aren’t orthodox, confessional Lutheran.

    Faith itself is a gift. The Bible says we are to discern fruit. The Bible says that not all are saved, and that Christ died for all. The Book of Concord also says this. You would have it that all are saved, for all are forgiven. That is contrary to both the Book of Concord and the Bible.

    I agree that we sin daily, and that we need to have daily contrition, faith and obedience. did not Luther say so in the Small Catechism?

    Of course one must deal wisely with each individual. Just as if one publically denounces God’s Law as evil, and to bej rejected in all three uses, that one must be corrected publically.

    Your exegesis of 1 Corinthians 6 needs to be laid out. Since Paul elsewhere clearly writes that if someone wilfully remains in sin, they are not saved, there would be a contradiction if your exegesis were correct. I believe that your exegesis is incorrect, but I give you the opportunity to explain it.

    You use the Law to call for repentance, not merely say “you are going to hell, period” It is if you wilfully refuse God that you go to hell. Do you claim that the Bible does not say so?

    The Holy Spirit creates Faith, normally by joining Himself to the Word read or preached, for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”

    The Formula of Concord says that the Law and Gospel together are also rightly called the Gospel.

    The Law is a guide, a curb and a mirror. You have in your posts appeared to have rejected all three uses of the Law. How is that not a correct perception? You have seemed to condemn the Law as evil, yet the Law is righteous, just and good (Romans). The Law mirrors God’s very character, how can hating it not be a hating of God Himself?

    You err in thinking that I am merely condemning people, rather than calling them to repentance, to not resist the Holy Spirit working in them.

    You might want to read some of Walther’s sermons. Or Galatians 6. Or 1 John, or Hebrews.

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

    Anon,
    First off you read way to much into my posts.
    I do not advocate, nor have I ever advocated universalism. I do believe faith saves, and faith alone. And those who do not have faith are not saved. I don’t know where you are getting it in your head that I say anything else. I just believe that that faith is in the objective fact that Christ died for the sins of the whole world including mine. Rejecting God does not mean falling off the wagon, but rejecting his grace in Jesus Christ, not believing.
    Furthermore I do not reject all three uses of the law, The first one being the curb. For the record I uphold whole heartedly the right of the government to prosecute criminals, lock them up or lop off their heads. I don’t know how anything I have said can be construed so as to deny that. Except maybe you and I disagree on this, that I don’t believe the government needs to use the Bible to come up with perfectly good and just laws. Why? Romans 13 was written in regard to a pagan government for starters.
    2. I do believe that you use the law as a mirror to show people their sins. I have said over and over again that you can’t honestly present the gospel without also presenting the law. It’s just that the Gospel trumps the law. The law being a rock, The gospel being paper. It covers the rock, every time. It atones the sin, that is covers it. That is what atonement means in Hebrew to cover. Hide. Gospel forgives sin, it takes the sting out of death which is sin, the power of which being the law.
    In the third place. I do believe that the law serves as a guide for Christian living. Unfortunately we fail to live by that guide, and then the second use comes back into play, and the gospel again has to trump. I do not see the third use as it is so often misconstrued today, as a vehicle for sanctification. It is not that. We are sanctified in the same way we are justified, when we are washed. 1 Corinthians 6. Neither does use denote how we should use it. We don’t get to choose how we use the law, as if it were a blond bimbo at the bar on Friday night. The Holy Spirit uses the law on us anyway He pleases. But one thing is certain: the law always condemns. The Gospel always forgives.
    Faith comes from hearing, hearing the Gospel. It does not come from hearing the law. So I have to present the law in order to present the Gospel, but it is the Gospel that creates faith and saves, not the law. I don’t present the Gospel by saying “If you believe then your sins are forgiven.” That turns the man back into himself, back to what he is doing. He has to ask “Do I believe? Am I believing hard enough? What does it mean to believe?”
    Rather I say Your sins are forgiven, Christ died for you? And this is true whether he believes it or not. Yet it is only efficacious for him if he does believe. Thing is he doesn’t have to ask himself “Do I believe? Am I believing hard enough? what does it mean to believe?” He merely hears it and the Holy Spirit leads him to put his trust in it. And that is what it means to believe. Convicted of his sin, and knowing that it is forgiven, he will try to steer clear for that sin.
    The law offers a conditional promise. The Gospel offers life unconditionally.
    However, the law, is the power of Sin! and that is Paul, not me.

  • Anon

    What did you mean then when you said that all were saved, if not universalism?

    God’s grace saves, and Grace alone through faith alone, because of Christ alone. Do you disagree with that?

    When we do already have God’s Law, is it not reasonable to look to it for wisdom in the civil sphere? For that which is pleasing to God? This would fall under the usage of ‘curb’.

    Your 2 is interesting, it seemed pretty clear from earlier statements that you disagreed vehemently with this. I’m glad to see that you didn’t really mean to communicate that.

    The Law condemns only if we are guilty (which we are) we are condemned because we are -guilty-. The Law itself is pure, righteous and good. do you disagree with that?

    Perhaps there is a terminological semantic domain issue here. What about the law as a vehicle to sanctification are you rejecting? More importantly, what do you mean by that? Surely as we practice trying to obey God, on the whole we get better, more conformed to Christ. It is God’s grace which does this, of course. How are you using these terms?

    Peter told the crowd on Pentecost to repent and be baptized. We mustn’t forget the place of repentance/contrition, which is very prominent in the New Testament. What do you see as the place or role of repentance as opposed to intentional unrepentance?

    The way I understand these terms, when you say that all are forgiven, including those who refuse repentance and refuse faith, you are teaching universalism. If all are forgiven, then there is no guilt. Where there is no guilt, there is no punishment, and thus all are saved, eternally. That is what universalism means.

    You do continue to read into what I’ve written positions which I do not hold.

    Perhaps that is going both ways, though I must say the way you have phrased things would persuade most Christians that you were teaching universalism.

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

    Anon,
    I see, when ever I say all sins have been forgiven by Christ, and the world has been reconciled to God etc. You read all have been saved. And yet that is not at all what I teach. If I thought anyone could be saved without faith in the objective fact that their sins have been forgiven by Christ’s work on the cross, then I would find a different occupation.
    I do not at all disagree with the heart of the Reformation: that Grace saves, and grace alone through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. I don’t know how you could read disagreement with that into anything I have posted above.
    This Grace that we are talking about here, That is the forgiveness of sins, first and foremost. That is the Grace of God that he has forgiven the sins of the world in Christ, but this grace saves only through faith Anon, with that I have no disagreement. Faith too though is a gift that comes from hearing the Gospel, Grace, “your sins have been forgiven.” It is proclaiming this gospel that creates faith, the saving knowledge AND trust in Christ’s work on the cross.
    As for my number 2. I never have vehemently disagreed with the second use of the law. I only vehemently disagree that this creates faith. Only the gospel creates faith.
    Do I believe that God’s law is Holy? yes. Do I believe it in anyway saves us? no!!!!!! It condemns us.
    The Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are vehicles of sanctification. Not the law. We do not conform to Christ by trying to follow the law. If we were able to do that than Christ would not have had to die for us on the cross. Grace conforms us to Christ, not the law. I think the only thing we could hope to gain by trying to follow the law in the manner you suggest is to come to a greater knowledge of just how sinful we are. We do not on the whole get better by trying to follow the law. Perhaps we get more hypocritical, and self-righteous, more blind to our sin. (Anon, I’m beginning to wonder where you have studied Lutheran doctrine, or if you have.) Law incites sin:Romans 5:20 (ESV)
    Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, ”
    And
    Romans 7:7-9 (ESV)
    “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” [8] But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. [9] I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.”

    Repentance is one aspect of faith. Faith and repentance go hand in hand. To repent is to believe in the way Peter uses it in Acts. Only in faith is repentance true repentance. I don’t even know where you are going with that question. However, the greatest sin we have to repent of is unbelief, not trusting in the grace of God. We don’t save ourselves by repenting, but the Holy Spirit causes us to repent when He brings us to faith in Christ.

    Teaching that everyones sins have been forgiven on the cross, is precisely the vehicle by which God removes guilt and creates faith. So I teach it to everyone. I have no qualms standing up on Sunday and proclaiming to the whole congregation that their sins have been forgiven in Christ. I know that is only efficacious for them if they believe, but I don’t have to know whether or not they believe in order to say it. It is true regardless of whether or not they believe. It just may not be efficacious for them. . It is the same in regards to the Lord’s Supper, it is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ given for the forgiveness of their sins, regardless of whether or not they believe. However it is only efficacious for them if they believe. I don’t know how to make it much clearer for you Anon. Perhaps you need to order Veith’s book, “Spirituality of the Cross.”

    I think you have been the only Christian here to misconstrue what I have said to be universalism.

    Finally you write: When we do already have God’s Law, is it not reasonable to look to it for wisdom in the civil sphere? For that which is pleasing to God? This would fall under the usage of ‘curb’.”
    Here you assume that the purpose of the law in the secular realm is to get people to please God. I don’t see it that way. So I don’t think that the Bible is necessarily the best place to look for wisdom in the civil sphere. In fact I believe that can be very detrimental to society. Only in faith can one please God. A country cannot believe, only a person can. Faith doesn’t come from the law, so no one will please God through the law. Rather I believe the use of the Law in the civil sphere is to be a curb, to keep the peace, perhaps even to create a climate in which the Gospel can be proclaimed. This is why the New Testament is all but silent on how a nation should or should not be governed. If we were to go by what the Old Testament says we would be left with either Anarchy, no government beyond the basic family unit, (judges) which is what God preferred by the way, or Monarchy. I’m not exactly opposed to a Monarchy, but I don’t think it is necessary, nor any more pleasing to God than any other form of government.
    Furthermore Ceaser, and the Roman Senate were able to come up with perfectly viable laws, that God seemed to have approved of. If I thought the law had value for salvation or even for appeasing God, I might agree with you. But it is precisely when you are trying to appease God with the law that you are sinning by the law.

  • Anon

    Bror,
    I think it is hopeful that we speak different jargons, but believe the same thing. Not proven, but hopeful. You did say that you thanked God that you didn’t have to go to the Bible to find out how to use money. Perhaps in the future it will be more helpful if I quote you when I think you are saying something way out, and then you can help me understand what you actually meant. I can learn. . .eventually :-)

    I think that learning just how sinful we are *is* important. And Jesus did indeed say that we must take up our crosses and follow Him. He also said that there were those who called Him “Lord, Lord” but would not do the things that He said. He will say that He never knew them. We are indeed to do our utmost to conform to Christ, and thus by the teaching of the Law as to what really is right and wrong. That doesn’t save us, as you point out, it helps us realize just how much we need our Savior! We are to daily (I would say moment by moment) live in contrition, faith and obedience. As we are transformed in our minds (Romans 12:1-2) as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” we become more Christlike. This does not save us nor does it atone for our sins. It is however obedience to God. Roman Catholicism would teach that it is God’s grace helping us do that that then makes us perfect so that we can see Christ. Therefore they feel that they have to invent purgatory because there isn’t enough time in this life. The Bible on the other hand says that when we see Him face to face, then we shall be made like Him. We are saved by grace and not by works, but then we are to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus doing our best to do all that He said, and when we fail – not if, when – we repent, ask His forgiveness, receive His forgiveness, get up on our feet and trudge on. Not to save us, but because that is what we do. That is our calling. To refuse that is to ratify the Rebellion of the Fall.

    You then say some things that I hope I am misunderstanding.

    I agree with what you now say about repentance. I grew up where we were told that we were all saved (except maybe Hitler). That we didn’t need to repent because we were already saved. That what the Bible says about sin is just what primitive men wrote down. When I read it said that one preaches forgiveness without repentance, the red flags from that experience go up.

    When you leave out the bits about repentance and efficacious only to those who believe and repent (I agree that if we try to parse out the ordo salutus we are going to get ourselves in trouble) you do give the impression of teaching universalism, indeed the liberalism described by I think either Karl Barth (the Swiss) or one of the Neibuhr’s about a Christ without a Cross coming to save men without sin. I don’t have the quote memorized.

    I’ve certainly read that book by Dr. Veith and several others.

    I don’t know how you read into what I wrote about the use of the law as a curb as being using the law to try to get people to please God. That simply isn’t what that means. But to curb evil you have to know what evil is, and what righteousness is, and that is revealed in God’s Law. Further as 1 Tim 1 says, the Law has that teaching purpose in civil society, not only as a curb and a guide, but then as we fail we see our need for the Savior, seeing our guilt in the mirror of the Law. The civil government doesn’t provide the blessings of the Savior, the Church does.

    Since God is the All-Wise I cannot imagine a better One to go to for wisdom. Does not Proverbs teach this most clearly? And what revelation from God do we have but the Bible? And what part of the Bible teaches what it is that pleases God in terms of behavior and civil society (not in terms of truly pleasing God which is only through faith). I find the idea of rejecting God’s wisdom for man’s wisdom to be exactly the original sin of the Fall itself. And to be idolatry.

    I wonder what you think of the Old Testament.

    I think I see gaps in your education (as there are gaps in mine!). Our Republic was based upon the model of the Commonwealth of Israel, but instead of the collapse of order, submission of all, including the “elders” – Congress, President and Judges to God’s Law was actually followed in theory. Israel under the judges experienced a collapse of order so that the moot of the elders that Moses established (at Jethro’s advice) doesn’t appear to have met and ruled, requiring God to raise up shophetim, which are an emergency action rather than the ordered way of doing things

    Romans 13 does not mean that any regulation imposed by men with swords or guns is therefore holy, just and to be obeyed. Romans 1-3 does indicate that even the gentiles without the Bible have a basic understanding of right and wrong, what C. S. Lewis rather oddly called the ‘Tao’. Those elements of Roman law were valid. But then they reflected God’s law, though they did not know Him. It is never the case that that which is good is against any valid law, so any law forbidding doing good or commanding doing evil is no law. Nor is any action of a government which does not restrain or punish evil-doing and commend and bless righteousness a valid government action to be obeyed. Obviously Lutherans in Germany didn’t understand that, which is why they did not rise up against the National Socialists before Hitler banned firearms when he was promoted from Kanzler to Fuehrer. They didn’t understand that the God of the left hand is that same God of the right hand. They didn’t understand the rule of law over the rule of men, they falsely imagined that the civil society was completely and rightfully independent of God. Obviously that wasn’t all of them; there was the Synod of Barmen. But we Lutherans labor under that tarnished record to this day.

    I DO NOT say that the law saves or atones for sin. I wish you could understand that..

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

    No anon,
    this is what you ask if you don’t say it:
    “When we do already have God’s Law, is it not reasonable to look to it for wisdom in the civil sphere? For that which is pleasing to God? This would fall under the usage of ‘curb’.”
    Specifically I took aim on the question “for that which is pleasing to God?” Now you can’t please God by following the law. Not at all. Only in faith can anyone please God.
    Furthermore, our government is far from based on any “common wealth of Israel”. There is no such thing in the Old Testament. You have either the anarchy akin to that which now reigns in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Or you have an absolute anarchy. My guess is you read some book somewhere along the lines that distorts the History of Israel and the History of the United States to make the two look like they relatives. There are too many books out there like that. Personally, I think Jefferson was much more influenced by The Greek state of Athens then he was anything that was written in the Bible he took a pair of scissors to.
    Quite frankly the laws that God meted out to Israel did not even work well for Israel. It wasn’t God’s fault it was Israel’s. But that was also the point, God was showing the world how awful a task master the law is.
    We as Lutherans believe that God gives all people there daily bread even all evil people. This daily bread includes government, at least good government. What this tells me is that we can have good government without the Bible, we can have good laws without the Bible. I prefer that. I’ll follow the Bible best I can in my own life. But I am not going to saddle my neighbor with that. When it comes to secular law, separation between Church and state is something I cherish, not only as an American, but most especially as a Christian specifically as a Lutheran. So I leave the Bible off the bargaining table.
    Using the laws of the Bible to bind unbelievers to things they don’t understand is to reveal Christianity as a tyrant. It makes about as much sense as the Mormons around my parts trying to make me conform to the “doctrine and covenants” of Joseph Smith. It does not endear me to their religion. It actually makes me quite pissed when ever a meeting runs late and I don’t make it to the liquor store by seven. Perhaps if they would just keep their quirky laws to themselves more people around these parts would be open to listening to them.
    I see the same thing with Christianity, and the Bible. It wasn’t meant to be a blue print for government and it makes quite a poor one. It wasn’t God’s intention. God doesn’t want every nation out there to be some reflection of Israel either. The sooner we get that through our heads the sooner we can move on in our dialogue with unbelievers and give them something worth while. Not a law about stoning homosexuals, but the gospel that says the sexual sins of our neighbors and ourselves have been forgiven on the cross. This is probably the first and foremost reason I think trying to use the Bible as a guide for secular law is just a bad idea.
    As for your discussion on WWII, realize this by the time Hitler came along the Prussian Union had all but destroyed Lutheranism in Germany. It is not us Lutherans that should be laboring under the tarnished record, but the Calvinists who taught the same theology of the left hand kingdom you teach. Which is actually quite distinctly different from what Luther taught. It is sick and twisted turn of fate and utter confusion concerning history that puts the blame on Luther. Those places where there were Lutherans were often the hotbeds of resistance. Those Countries that were more properly Lutheran at the time, also did a much better job of resisting, I think of places like Denmark and Norway.
    That is enough for now Anon.

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

    oh and the Synod of Barmen was evil. It all but gave the final coup de grace to Confessional Lutheranism in Germany. A man like you could do to read a little Sasse.

  • Anon

    The Synod of Barman was evil? Whaaat?

    Sasse isn’t confessionally-binding. In case you didn’t know. But if you will break the Scriptures in order to uphold your traditions of men. . .

    Yeah, I should read some Sasse, but I can’t imagine trusting the judgment of anyone who thinks that the defying of the German Christian movement and Hitler by insisting on the authority of God’s word and God’s uniqueness as God is evil. I can only hope that such a one cannot tell his left hand from his right, for there is a curse on those who call evil good, and good evil.

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

    Anon,
    The Synod of Barmen was Evil precisely because it compromised the word of God. It wasn’t that it was standing up to evil that made it bad. It was that it was an unholy alliance between to very differing confessions of faith, that made Lutherans compromise on the word of God, and lose their confession before all of Germany that made it evil.

  • Michael the little boot

    Steve Martin @ 68,

    “That’s just flat out not true. ‘Athesists are persecuted in the United States.’ That’s B.S.” Really? Ever try BEING an atheist and TALKING about your beliefs? We are considered evil, immoral, basically the scum of the earth. If you want to say it’s not true, that’s totally up to you. You give me nothing to ask you about, nothing to further the discussion, so I wonder why you said it. Just to say it? You provide no evidence. Which is fine, but it doesn’t prove your point. However, personally, I have experienced both sides. I can now that most of the persecution I felt as a Christian was imagined. I saw myself as “in the world, not of it,” so I expected persecution. More often than not, though, people admired my convictions. They stopped using “foul” language when I was around. They called each other out for name-calling, etc. It’s like I was literally morality embodied to them.

    Now, on the other hand, if I EVER mention I do not believe in God, the BEST I get is a sad “Really?” and then the subject is quickly changed – NOT by me. At worst, the second party takes it personally – as if I refuse to believe in God as an affront to THEIR beliefs, rather than as an acknowledgement of my own – and proceeds to get angry with me. Sometimes there are responses in the middle of that, but there are ONLY positive responses from others who do not believe in God. And, statistically, that’s a small group.

    “If someone says something about you that you don’t like, you call that persescution? Gimme a break.” No. I call THIS persecution (or bigotry, at the very least): “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God. (George H.W. Bush to Robert I. Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal.)” Right. Except that “One nation under God” refers to something ADDED to the Pledge of Allegience between ’54 and ’55. The Pledge wasn’t even written until 1892. So his reference falls flat; it does show H.W.’s “allegience,” though.

    “The media makes fun of atheists all the time. Right. It’s Christians that ridiculed.” No, Steve, as you pointed out, that’s just someone saying things about me I don’t like. But when a president says atheists shouldn’t be considered as patriots or as citizens, THAT crosses the line. I thought citizens of the United States were free to believe whatever we believe – or don’t – about God. Has that changed?

    “Our views of reality are very different.” Now on THAT we can agree.

  • Michael the little boot

    Anon,

    Read a paper by Vitz called “The Psychology of Atheism.” Not only are you TOTALLY WRONG as to the nature of these studies, but there haven’t BEEN any studies. Vitz calls his idea the “Defective Father HYPOTHESIS” precisely BECAUSE he has NO PROOF BY WHICH TO MAKE HIS ASSERTION. He even says so. He does use some anecdotal “evidence” to show many FAMOUS atheists have had poor relationships to their fathers; what he DOES NOT show is how these famous people, these obviously OUTSIDE THE NORM types, show any behaviors which could be considered typical of atheists in general.

    The reason is clear: famous atheists are like OTHER famous people, but not so much like average people. Which includes non-famous, average atheists, too. You know, those people who don’t believe in God, but who don’t care to write books about why YOU shouldn’t believe in God, either.

    I know this is late, but I didn’t want you to think I didn’t read what you suggested.


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