“Waffles?”

I could be wrong, but I believe this is a photo of Virginia Woolf.

As I sit here feeling for some terrible reason I sense but can’t grasp that I’m finally going to spill my morning cup of coffee all over my laptop that I never actually put on my lap because as much as I enjoy lounging and writing I hate it when my thighs get fried, I wonder: Am I such a great writer? Because if I was am were was am, wouldn’t I use punctuation at least every once in awhile? And wouldn’t I know if it’s “awhile” or “a while”? And wouldn’t I care?

Well, I don’t. And I’m still great. Details are for people who can’t see the big picture. And I can see the big picture. It’s right there on my living room wall. It’s of (I think) French people gaily drinking. I got it at Z Galarie. Galleririe. Gallaery.

God, no wonder no one can write anymore. If stores can’t spell, how the heck are we supposed to?

You know, when I think of the great writers of the past, I think of their pictures. A lot of them had beards. Including the women, though many of them hid it with make-up and fake bandages. There’s something about writing, I guess. Something powerful. Something elemental. Something  hirsutical.

Then again, it was harder to shave back when doing so meant rubbing your face against a tree. It was hard on the people; it was hard on the trees. And it also explains the bandages. Old people sure had it tough.

Speaking of God, let’s not. If you talk to people about God, they always get that look on their face that, if you’re careful and sensitive enough to pay attention to it, invariably reveals itself to be communicating, “If you don’t shut up right now I’m going to attack your head.” And that’s not a look I enjoy. The look I enjoy getting says, “I have a small live bird in my pocket,” or, “Waffle?” “I’m not sure what ‘myopia’ means” is a good one, though less common. Yesterday I got a look from a woman on the bus that I intuited meant, “God, I’m glad you’re not my child.” That was pretty uncomfortable. But I hugged her anyway. She responded by biting me on the chest. Joke’s on her, though. Her teeth got stuck on one of my buttons. My dry cleaner is going to freak. The poor guy’s already a little on the nervous side. Every time I go in there, he looks around real furtively, and then grabs me by the collar, practically yanks me over the counter, and whispers maniacally, “Waffle?” So I actually kind of like him. But this time he’s got to do his job. I can’t wear my shirt with dentures hanging off of it. It’s his job to remove them, not mine. I did my job. I pushed that lady off the bus. The rest is up to him.

But back to God. Yesterday, someone asked me, “John, is God really all-powerful and all-knowing? Because if he is, then when someone is born, doesn’t God already know that person’s ultimate fate? And if God knows that a person is going to end up spending eternity having the living flesh seared off his bones, couldn’t he have gotten him a desktop computer stopped that person from going to hell? And if God can stop someone from going to hell, but doesn’t, doesn’t that make God a complete dick?”

Can you believe my pastor had the nerve to ask me that? Who am I, Rasputin Erasmus? Aren’t I supposed to be asking him questions? That guy’s got the wrong job, for sure. I think he should be a construction worker, with his potty mouth. Except I’ve seen him use a hammer. Not pretty. That poor dog. Wrong place, wrong time to jump up for some pets. Now ol’ Barky’s got that slight dent in his head, and can’t walk more than a foot without drifting left. Pretty awful. Also pretty hard not to laugh when you play fetch with him. Which is why I never do anymore. Wrong is wrong.

Speaking of wrong, what about my pastor’s question?

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Kim de Geus

    I LOVE riding along on your stream of consciousness. It's so much more interesting than mine. I gotta get me some of that coffee.

    • AboundingJoy

      Amen!! It is a sheer delight to ride along, John. A sheer delight!

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Well, thanks, you guys. I appreciate that.

    • http://www.sheppardministries.com Greta Sheppard

      I'm with you, Kim…it's one wild ride when John Shore's at the wheel of writing..never know when he's gonna think left, right, backwards or forwards…sheeesh!!! I often wonder what he eats for breakfast…or whether he's in low blood sugar or high or any sugar at all..lol….but he sure knows how to stretch a thought…or milk it…or suddenly just leave it alone and jump on another one. The guy is brilliant with words. though… he's a soft cuddly teddy bear or he's a defensive mother bear with it's cub when his train of thought is threatened by an argumentive ignoramous who doesn't understand or beleive one word John 's talking about….He dares to think waaaay outside the box of normal, tedious thought. That's why I like him…especially when he digs his heels into God thoughts..

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Just to be clear, Greta: You're adopting me, right? And my wife? We're going to come live with you up in Canada, right? That's my current understanding. Hope it's yours, too, because we're packing this weekend. See ya soon!

    • denver

      I always say my train of thought is an Amtrak because it gets derailed all the time; what is your train? It seems to threaten derailing then rights itself and pulls into the station in the end. ;)

  • DR

    For me, it's simple; Those who are not up for completely cooperating on designing my life on my own terms is a complete dick – Including God. When He does not deliver, I write him off as an idea.

    I approach God much like I approach the buffet at the Royal Fork – skip the salad and go right for the cheese and meat under the lamp.

    • frank sonnek

      love your post. that´s it!

  • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

    Only a Rasputin would talk that way about my opia.

    I opia you think better of it next time.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Hey, don't I owe you a BOOK, Brian Shields??

  • Mary

    God time is Einsteinian, or some would say "relative". He does not live under the burden of the constant perception of linear time like we do. So, for God, all things are happening — past, present, and future — all at the same time. If this is indeed the case, then the cause and effect of sin doesn't work in God's mind quite the way it works in our puny minds and perceptions. Yes, God knows what we are going to do before we do it. He is all knowing. But for God, everything we are and everything we do happens all at once. If we try to grasp this concept of non-lineral time, the idea of free will and predestination becomes even more of a semantic discussion than it is for us already. It is a mystery — much line the mystery of the trinity — that requires faith (and the study of theoretical physics).

    • Diana

      Yeah, I can buy that. Must make it confusing for God (not that God is all that easily confused, but….)

  • Argybargy

    I'm pretty sure Virginia Woolf's beard was always a lot shorter and…I don't think she got that grey. Could be wrong.

    What was the question agai–?

    Oh look…waffles!

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      HAR! Dig it.

  • Christina

    My simplistic thinking is this… Salvation is a present God gives to everyone. He sits it down when we're born. People with Christian parents or Christians in their lives get that package shown to them at an early age. But no one can open it for them. People without Christians in their lives at a young age might not see that package until later. Either way, until the person chooses to open it, of their own free will, the present of salvation isn't theirs to keep.

    BUT, we don't know what happens in those unconscious seconds between life and death. I'm thinking God wants as many of us with Him as possible, and He can do anything He wants to do. He's not going to let someone not hearing about Him, or only hearing flawed human messages about Him, keep a single person away. Maybe an angel stops by with that bright, shiny box and tells us we forgot something. Or maybe God shows up personally. But I'm thinking however He does it, He still lets us choose. And He weeps if we choose not to be with Him.

    • frank sonnek

      Too complicated Christina. why? you are working without enough information. Now play back what you wrote imagining that you can only know anything about God and what he wants through and only through Jesus. What would change in what you wrote?

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        I like what she's said here. It's sweet.

      • http://www.blogger.com/home DR

        Would you like me to offer what Jesus said in the Latin, Hebrew or Greek?

        I can't believe I'm challenging you after you liked my first comment. My inner Sally "You LIKE ME!" Fields is at defcon "shut up".

      • denver

        But Frank, not everyone's belief is as yours – 100% proof Jesus. Simple. No questions. Some people have other theories, and that's all part of God's plan, is it not?

  • http://www.trinitylc.org Siri C. Erickson

    I am a Lutheran pastor (ELCA) and I agree with your pastor's line of questioning. God can't be both all-powerful (in the sense of controlling, coercive power) and all-good/all-loving. You have to choose between the two or you have to redefine the nature of God's power or BOTH.

    Is the highest form of power the ability to control things, or is the highest form of power the ability to love and persuade? Is the highest form of power the ability to predetermine the outcome of everything that is going to happen in the world, or is the highest form of power the ability to be in an influencing relationship with people and a world that has its own genuine freedom? Which type of power is more worthy of respect and awe.

    Personally, I think a loving, persuading, relating, influencing God is more worthy of respect than a power-hungry tyrant God who decides and causes everything – good and evil – to happen. The controlling God ends up being a morally questionable being who I would not want to have anything to do with.

    The future is open. God responds in real time with a call to the good as each moment is unfolding. Humans make real choices that have real consequences, both good and bad. God doesn't have a plan for everything that is going to happen in our lives before it happens. That whole line of thinking needs to be abandoned, in my opinion. Nobody really lives that way. Do you get up in the morning and think that God is causing you to eat pancakes instead of cheerios? Do you think God causes cancer or predetermines before birth which people are going to heaven or hell? What is the point of living at all if God has planned every moment of your life already? What fun would it be for God to know everything that is going to happen in your life before it happens? If God is genuinely in relationship with us, then God is affected by that relationship, responds to that relationship, and delights in the unfolding of that relationship in each moment.

    • frank sonnek

      God chose you Siri, before the foundation of the world was laid.

      How do you know that? The bible says "in christ".

      How do you know that "in christ"? He baptized you. There you can know, with absolute certainty, that you were chosen to be with God from eternity. Wow. what a promise eh?

      But as a Lutheran pastor you know all this right?

      • http://www.trinitylc.org Siri C. Erickson

        We are ALL always with God: in life, in death and in life beyond death. I think that is the message Jesus came to show us and to wake us up to. NOT, that only people who believe in Jesus and have been baptized are chosen by God in Christ from the foundation of the world.

        • frank sonnek

          God, In Christ, messes with all our thinking doesn´t he? Amen Pastor Siri!

          Jesus didn´t come to merely wake us up. that sounds like "transformation". This makes the church a hospital and you doctor-as-pastor administering some word that will fix what is wrong with us. We can get better! Looks like that opening schick from the bionic man/woman "we will build it better!" now implanted with new holy-ghost-technology!

          not!

          The church is a hospice. It is where we go to die. There is no cure for what is wrong for us. "You were buried with christ by baptism into his death. " That is exactly what those words mean dear pastor siri yes?

          We need to die. There can be no NEW birth without a resurrection. The alternative is only a wakeup as in retread after hangover of trying to get better. This is a new old. Not a new new truly new. I suspect that alot of us here have been there and done that. we were hoping that the church could fix us. that the holy spirit would make us better. We were tired of us and others. so we thought church would be god-technology that would make things better. If only we could know the 10 steps to a more effective prayer life, or be more purpose driven…… or…..

          But we find that whereever we go, there we are! and we are still all fucked up.

          Note that I did not exclude anyone from what God´s will is in Christ. In christ! You did. Imagine that. How could you possibly even think this could be possible. It is not possible. It is IMpossible dear Siri! In Christ! Why would you ever even think to do that as a Lutheran pastor? Ok. I will stop scolding you now. :)

          "God was in christ, reconciling the world (!) to himself". "Christ died for us {and fully reconciled us to God] while we were yet sinners [ie before we could DO anything, such as believe or repent]".

          You did that with the UNLutheran gloss of implying that there is some work of believing in Jesus that we are actually able to do that earns heaven and separates the goats from the sheep and the wheat from the tares. You are Lutheran in label only at that point dear sister! "waking up" is simply not enough.

          I would point you to the 3rd article of Luther´s small catechism dear sister!

          Trust in christ. and tell anyone at all that. He died for the entire world. As a gay man you can trust me in knowing the impossibility and improbability of what I am saying.

          It is great news! spread it. announce it!

          • Matthew Tweedell

            No, John, no waffles for the Lutherans here.

            They're still coming off a strict Diet of Worms, imposed after they'd had their fill of some serious Papal bull. (I believe the bull was entitled Exsurge Domine.)

    • Diana

      Hi Siri!

      Have you ever read Thomas Talbott's "The Inescapable Love of God"? It addresses that whole (seeming) dichotomy between God's power/justice and God's love/mercy. I think it's pretty cool. It you've read it, what do you think?

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Whoa, Siri. Wow! What you've written is fantastic. What IS it with you people? It's amazing what you people write in BLOG COMMENTS. This little essay here is … crazy good.

    • http://www.blogger.com/home DR

      This is bananas good. Thank you, thank you. That last paragraph – wow.

  • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

    I generally try to avoid that whole predestination thing. Too messy. And I'm beginning to question the whole omniscient, omnipotent thing too. I'm still down with omnipresent though. It's very Zen.

    Here's the deal, for me. You can give yourself such an incredible mind cramp trying to figure all this stuff out that in the end it would have been much more pleasant to just rip off your corneas.

    Who are we to try to figure out all the intricate workings of the mind of God anyway? I think that's why they call it faith and not proof. Don't get me wrong, I am all for intellectual curiosity and searching for answers to questions that plague us. It is invaluable to our personal and spiritual growth. But it is when we as institutions and principalities and powers get together and try to determine what absolute truth is that we end up fighting about it and deciding who the heretics are and burning them at the stake. If not literally any longer, certainly still figuratively.

    Our minister has said of these unanswerable questions: "The right question is not why does God let bad things happen to people; but rather, when God has given us here on earth all that we need and the gift of each other why have we not figured out how to share our resources and get along with each other?"

    What I know is this. If you really pay attention, stuff really makes sense and there are signs and wonders that happen all the time all around us and they will point us in our own right direction…… especially when we stop trying to figure it all out and achieve certainty and just be still and now that the Divine Presence is God.

    • frank sonnek

      Jesus told the pastors and professional religious of his time:

      " You search the old testament because you think you will find eternal life there. That old testament is entirely a testimony about Me!"

      "I am the Bread of Life that comes down from heaven. He who trusts in me will never die."

      St John says "There are many things Jesus said and did that could fill many books, but these things are written that you might know Jesus is God and have your life in him. "

      Know Jesus, and you will know everything that God wants you to know about who he is and what is will and attitude is towards and about you.

      Christy, you can know for certainty that in christ, God loves you and will never ever ever turn away you or anyone else from him ever. He loves you. He not only loves you Christy. Jesus LIKES you.

      No need to do the cornea tear thing. and no need to try to figure out God without enough info. Look at Jesus. There, in that place, is everything you would ever want to know about God and more.

      • http://leap-of-fate.com/ Christy

        Thanks, Frank.

        Reassurances that you are preaching to the choir with me.

        Though I have trouble with the certainty thing too. As a recovering Fundamentalist certainty blinded my tradition to things like reason and scholarship……and as I mentioned, caused a great deal of martyrs down through the ages.

        I'm good with compassion though and as you said, when we see this in Christ, we know God.

        I think Anne Lamott has it right when she says the opposite of faith isn't doubt, it's certainty.

        I've heard thousands of sermons about the assurance of my salvation……..and it's not at all that I doubt it…….it's that I believe the need for it detracts from the gospel message. Can we be certain of our rightness and be humble at the same time? Can we be certain our traditions, practices, interpretations and dogma are the only true and correct ones while simultaneously being compassionate? (Note: These are rhetorical questions designed to make the reader think. I'm not asking them because I am confused).

        IMHO, the Church has turned certainty into a stumbling block to reinforce and justify their self-perceived correct beliefs and interpretations. To me this is grounded in ego, blocking the Christ-like compassion we say we seek to emulate.

        • frank sonnek

          The opposite of faith is sin. “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” is the way the bible puts it.

          most folk think that the opposite of sin is goodness. it´s not.

          • Christy

            You appear to be pretty certain of this.

            It would seem that it matters then how we define faith? Is faith belief? or living consistently with ones understanding of God? Because I think you are referencing Romans 14:23 here and if you take the passage literally then I see how you have come to your conclusion. However, with a closer look at this verse, "But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." it seems to say that if our actions do not match what we say we believe then it is sin.

            The reason Christians have a credibility problem with non-Christians is because what we say we believe on Sunday is not what we live out the other 6 days of the week. John, this John, not St. John, writes brilliantly about this point on a regular basis. When what we say we believe matches how we live, this is faith. When what we do does not match what we say we believe then this is sin. This would be one interpretation of Jesus' famous let your yes be yes and your no be no, as well as, "For him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (Sorry, 11 years of Baptist school -what's stuck in the memory banks is in KJV).

            One of the problems with the Church (Big C) is that we have turned the way of Jesus – a way of living in communion with God and each other that brings about the kingdom here and now – into a religion of "proper belief" that puts all of it's kingdom goals in the afterlife. This creates open season for the religious bookkeepers and accountants to pull out their weights and measures and witch dunking machines. If I recall, they are the ones Jesus had the most trouble with during his ministry.

            You seem to be a student of scripture.

            Matthew 23: 1-5a, 13, 15, 23-24

            1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 "Everything they do is done for men to see: '

            13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

            15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

            23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

            I think Jesus had some important things to say about how what we do should match what we believe.

            Blessings to you, my friend.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Excellent. You guys are killin this thread.

  • Patrice Wassmann

    I am a Christian Universalist. I don't believe there is a hell because God saves everyone.

  • Patrice Wassmann

    Frank S. I love your comments. Think I will become a Lutheran!

    • frank sonnek

      Dear sister Patrice,

      I believe that there is a hell because the scriptures inform me that there is one and even that christ descended there between his death and his resurrection.

      But I would note that hell was created for the devil and his angels. It was not created for mankind. Unfortunately some of us will end up there. Why that is is THE mystery that is dificult to understand. That this should happen we know for certain is totally against God´s will that we know by knowing Christ. It is utterly and darkly opposed to God´s will revealed in Christ. I really do not understand how that could even be possible. But it is.

      Fact: whether people go to heaven or hell has nothing to do with what they do or are able to believe or their sincerity or repentence or lack thereof. If we could do something that would have made that difference, even something like make a decision or believe, then Jesus could have saved himself alot of work! But we could not do what needed to be done. We needed a rescue from outside of ourselves!

      That is why Jesus tells Nicodemus that we must be born from above. we need a NEW birth. flesh gives birth to flesh. Follow that metaphor. it is not a metaphor. You do not chose to be born. and you cannot do a single thing to make that fleshly birth happen. Ditto your new birth where you put on christ. You do not have it in you to believe in God or trust Christ.

      I believe that the parables try to tell us why and how this could possibly happen. In the parable of 10 wise and unwise virgins, note that the unwise virgins have been invited. Their place settings are inside with the party favors and name tags and reservations. Everyone is equally and fully accessorized with their seafoam green party dresses and matching pumps and clutches.

      Everything hinges on the oil. Not!

      People say that the oil is something we need to have to get into the party. Rome says it is our good works. Protestants say it is faith and repentence (more works we do!!) I reject that. The other odd thing is that the "wise" virgins were sort of selfish b**ches in my view and wouldn´t share the extra oil they had drug along in those bleach bottles… not to chic eh? And they would not share. Now how "good" is that? but they got into the party! So getting into the party is not about being good or even being prepared. Bring extra oil to a party. think about it. how uncool. especially the party of all parties! Keep it classy. please.

      Now what if everyone had just run outta that oil and when they woke up after falling asleep they simply said "oops! no oil!".

      would Jesus have let them in?

      Of COURSE he would have. And that is the point. It doesn´t matter what we do or what we bring in hand. Our reservations are set.

      Now then. If we insist on ruining the party for everyone else by doing what WE think we need to do to get ready for the party and so miss the shuttle bus to the party then well…..

      But none of this is about anything we can do or should do. It is really quite the opposite of that thinking isn´t it? And that IS the point of the story. Our thinking gets turned completely on it´s head. God is not just in the parables. He is UNreasonably good.

      Jesus says "I would have you go and find out what it means when God says he wants mercy and not sacrifice". We want to sacrifice. God does not want or need our sacrifice. He wants us to die to all that.

  • Susan Prescott

    You're insan – er, brilliant. And I love you. In that I-love-John-Shore's-writing-he's-awesome kind of way. Not the I-love-John-Shore-I-shall-stalk-him kind of way.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      You can stalk me. In fact, I’ll leave my hours out by my mailbox, so you’ll know the best hours to show up with your binoculars and everything.

  • Gina Powers

    Ok, I cheated; hubby is here with me. His take on it: he says since his perspective is from the Reformed tradition that he recommends reading the Westminster Confession (if you can stand it), some John Calvin for a classic–for a recent theologian, read Carl Barth or Shirley Guthrie. God's ways are not our ways, and we will never completely understand all there is to know about God and why God allows certain things to happen.

    (Did I mention how absolutely ANNOYING it is to be typing with hubster over my shoulder–no matter how Presbyterian Pastor he is? Kidding, hubby….sorta).

    Frank S., I too am loving your comments! As well as everyone else's–Brian Shields, you made me LOL….thanks, I needed that!!

  • Mark Lattimore

    Wow! That was a wild trip through your mind. All I could think of when reading this were the dogs in the movie "Up" who, when (often) distracted would yell "Squirrel!" Henceforth, John, you shall be known as "Doug."

  • Mark Lattimore

    Oops. My nine year old son just corrected my movie reference. John, you shall henceforth be known as "Dug."

  • phil simpson

    He appears to be holding one of the first

    Vuvuzela – one of the first Americans to support 'Soccer'

    - sorry

  • Leslie

    Just a thought: Why do people assume that the fires of hell are real instead of metaphorical? Why can't we just see hell as a place where one has chosen oneself over God, and is therefore a cold, tiny, empty, lonely place completely outside of God? If a person does NOT choose God, he has chosen himself; there's no middle option.

    • frank sonnek

      Well Leslie. This is because the bible says a few things. They do not all fall together in some neat , little logical package but there it is.

      1) Hell as an uncomfortable place: In the story of the rich man and lazarus (you can google it) Jesus makes clear that hell is a place of torment. There IS room for metaphor I think here, but at the same time, it does not sound like a fun place.

      2) chosing or not chosing God. The bible is clear in telling us that we have no power to choose God. The bible says that by nature we are God´s enemies and hate God and flee from him. We are not neutral. What this means in practical terms is that even when we are good, we would be bad if we knew there were no consequences or we are good because it strokes our ego or we get something out of it. It is about us as the center of the universe. Goodness is a learned behavior the bible is saying, or practiced second nature, not first nature. it does not come to us naturally.

      3) God is present even in hell. He is everywhere.

      4) Jesus came to overcome all of that. Jesus has won the victory over sin death hell and the devil. It is totally contrary to God´s will that even one single person should not be with him at the end. We know this by seeing his only beloved son hanging dead on the cross. God is serious about saving you and me and everyone. Further, this does not depend on what you decide or not, or what you do or not. It does not depend on you! Not in even the very smallest way!

      Trust Jesus. He is faithful even if you and I are not. Just trust him ok? He loves and likes you and desires you with his entire heart Leslie! Hell is nothing that God wants for anyone.

      • Leslie

        Frank,

        Certainly hell would seem uncomfy to one who desires God above all things, but I really feel that to someone who would choose anything over God, hell would be preferable to spending eternity with the blinding, searing love that God offers.

        I don't cotton to the idea that God is present in hell, either. I would think that hell is the only place in creation that God is NOT. It wouldn't be hell if He were there. Darkness cannot exist if even one small light is present.

        You're absolutely correct that Jesus has overcome death and hell; I certainly do choose Him over darkness. Many others, however, will choose differently God, in His divine love, will not force anyone to love Him. As C. S. Lewis put it (paraphrased), "There are those who say to God, 'Thy will be done' and those to whom God will say, 'Thy will be done.'"

        • frank sonnek

          ok. We just bump up against certain truths that the blble claims to be truth. Like the omniprescence of God.

          So I am puzzled as much as you are by thinking that God could be present in hell.

          But I would rather just ponder this in my heart rather than reject something that seems pretty clear but does not fit into some neat theory I have.

          I feel what you are saying. I really do. And I have had similar thoughts over time. For years I supposed, as a gay man, that I would be loving Jesus, still, but in hell.

          Glad I got over that!

          • Leslie

            Please forgive my obtuseness, Frank, I'm not trying to be difficult. Please explain where I've bumped against the truth of the Bible. To me, and it's not MY pet theory, is that once a soul has completely rejected God, he would indeed be completely separated from God. Hence, hell is devoid of anything that would smack of God.

          • Diana

            Here's my two cents: I agree with Frank that God is everywhere, including in Hell, though I can't explain it. And yet, I can see how Hell would continue to be a tormenting place for the soul that insists upon living there.

            To me, Hell is the very absence of God. Yet the nature of God is that he is never absent, he is always present. So how can Hell be?

            Think about mentally ill people who suffer from delusions and hallucinations. They see what isn't there and fail to see what is there. Could this be, ultimately, what Hell is–the product of a spiritually ill soul living in darkness, failing to see the Light that is right there?

            And yet, I believe that God can and will conquer even that. I can't explain my beliefs–but I do believe.

          • Leslie

            Maybe "torment" is the wrong word. From the perspective of one who does NOT want to go there, torment is appropriate. From the perspective of one running away from God, it would be sweet relief.

            Another way of looking at it is this: If the souls in heaven gain the beatific vision, is it possible that God allows the souls in hell to finally gain the … infernal … vision? To finally see what they've thrown away, and THAT becomes their torment? Pure conjecture on my part. :)

          • Matthew Tweedell

            If Frank won't mind my answering in his stead, here's were you (as well as he) bump against what the Bible has to say:

            "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed." (2 Thes. 8-10) Obviously, this is not a physical place, but a state of everlasting destruction, never reaching fully destroyed, because otherwise how "[m]ay their sins always remain before the LORD, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth," (Psalms 109:15) indicating, if it were a physical place the LORD's immediate presence, just as "[t]he eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good" (Prov. 15:3)? And if God now is present even with the wicked why would ever He decrease Himself, removing Himself from some part of physical space, when He clearly asserted, "I the LORD do not change," (Malachi 3:6) "[b]ecause God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear…" (Herbrews 6:17)?

      • Matthew Tweedell

        I have a minor critique for point 3: God's being everywhere is not the same as God's being *in* everything. His omnipresence means that there is no place in the universe where God isn’t. Hell, however, is not place physical. Hell bounds a certain spiritual space (in which material substance, such as flesh, can indeed exist as well, just as it occupies some certain physical space). Now, not every spirit is of God—the omnipresence of God does not imply pantheism—and the spirits that are in Hell are none of them divine; none of them is God.

        By the way, Leslie, it seems to me that the eternal fire of hell is real but that the question is: what exactly is fire?

        • Leslie

          Well put, Matthew, though I tend to think that hell will at the end of time be a physical place as well as a spiritual plane. It may indeed be a physical place now; I don't know — I haven't visited. ;) C. S. Lewis wrote a short piece called "The Great Divorce" — in the style of Dante's "Inferno." I don't want to clog the blog with a summary of it.

          I think the fires of hell should be considered metaphorical in the same way that the harps, pearly gates, and cloud recliners of heaven should be considered metaphorical. The only torment to a soul in hell would be … himself. Imagine how horrible it would be to be locked up inside one's own person. The damned soul becomes the complete center of everything to himself. Ugh. Hellish indeed.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I hope you will pardon my questions, and I beg your indulgence as I proceed.

            When is this "end of time," if hell is eternal? And how are (3-D) physical bodies going be found in a (2-D) physical plane?

            It seems you are using some unorthodox meaning of these terms, in which case, it isn't exactly correct to think that, without specifically defining it first.

            You might begin with what you mean by a soul and why you seem to attribute to it some sort of immortality by default (and whether this then applies to other beings, such as dogs or dolphins).

            Now if the fire is purely metaphorical, then what exaclty do you see it being a metaphor for and what way is it particularly suited as a metaphor for what you suppose it represents?

          • Leslie

            I apologize for being unclear. I don't mind your questions at all. I just hope I can express myself adequately and not ramble senselessly. :)

            I simply meant Time as a human construct — a way that we living humans mark the passage of our lives. When Christ comes again for the final judgement, then time will not be needed, and will no longer exist. To God, everything happens in the "eternal present" so to speak. He's not bound by time as we are. And hell will be the eternal consequence for choosing oneself over God.

            One's soul is the incorporeal part of a person. St Augustine said that the soul is a "special substance endowed to rule the body with reason" (paraphrased). It is the part of us that responds to God's grace.

            If at the moment of death the body and the soul separate, then we can assume that the souls of the damned are in hell, and their bodies remain for now in their graves. At the end of time — the final judgement — their bodies and souls will be rejoined; hence, hell will be a physical place as well as a spiritual plane. Matter requires physical space; spirits do not. So I just don't know if hell is 2D or 3D right now.

            I alluded to the torments of hell in my earlier post. Let me try it this way:

            If I were to go to hell right now in a state of mortal sin, I would be locked up inside myself, knowing I chose myself over Infinite Love and Grace. I have only Me. Tiny, selfish, sinful, ugly, unpleasant, dorky, sinful, little Me. My whole existence now revolves around Me. There is no light, no grace, no love, no happy memories, no chance to escape the claustrophobic sense of Self. I don't think that people in hell are necessarily surrounded by others. Nothing good, no remnant of good, can remain in hell. Fellowship with others would appear, to my unschooled mind, to be impossible. Hell is the ultimate Me.

            I hope this clarifies my thinking. :)

          • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

            Whether or not anyone does or doesn't agree with you, Leslie, no one can deny that this is exceptionally well said. Excellent.

          • Leslie

            Why, thank you, sir. You're very kind. :)

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Agreed! Excellently put indeed!

          • Leslie

            *bows* thank you :)

          • http://none Don Rappe

            I especially like "Hell is the ultimate Me."

          • frank sonnek

            I am curious why it feels so important to define hell. The bible really doesn´t have all that much to say about it, and God has made it very awesomely clear in Christ that this is not the destiny that he intends or wills for anyone.

            We can do alot of guessing and conjecturing about what hell is like and why but it is all … well. pretty much all conjecture isn´t it? and for what purpose?

          • http://www.blogger.com/home DR

            Like anything that scares us, the first step in making it less scary is understand it. When we understand it, we can avoid it.

            I'm not sure about the details of hell (well I am a little bit more after the collective set of amazing comments), but fear is always easier to manage when its source is defined.

          • Leslie

            DR, good point. I think it's helpful for the discussion at hand if we all understand what each person brings to the table regarding what hell means; our understanding of hell and heaven inform our theology. :)

          • Matthew Tweedell

            There are a couple of minor problems though, the way I see it.

            If the soul is that which rules over the body with reason, then without a body, what is a soul? Who is a king when a kingdom is obliterated? By what feature is it distinct from some other substance, by what partition separated from any other departed soul, to retain its identity in this way?

            Also, then, every reasoning body has a soul, be it a computer or an ape!

            I believe what is reunited with your body is your spirit, not the individual mortal soul. Jesus can't save you there. "The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him." (Ezekiel 18:20)

            But the spirit is another matter. "For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

            The soul lives for a time—for some souls that time is eternal—but this is not what the resurrection is about. Like Martha, you say, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." [John 11:24-25]

            "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'"

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Oh, I forgot to mention: I still don't see why the Bible would (on almost every occasion) mention fire in association with this then.

          • Leslie

            Interesting points, Matthew. I think that soul and spirit are possibly distinct. Maybe the soul is the eternal portion of a human, and the spirit is the life force — the "thing" that animates and moves and causes us to think and debate. :) I dunno for sure, though. Pure guess on my part. Perhaps they're just two words for one thing.

            Regarding the fire mentioned in the Bible, I seem to recall that most of the time it's mentioned, it IS metaphorical. Think of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is referred to as a flame; in Exodus when God is a pillar of fire. Maybe that's literal, but maybe not. I'm low on time (getting my children ready for bed) or I'd look it up, but I think I also remember the Bible mentioning fire as a purgative, refining element, in the metaphorical sense.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Thank you for your detailed and insightful responses, Leslie!

            The refining by fire could be quite literal, the way I understand it.

            As for the Holy Spirit, it is indeed very much like a flame; in fact, perhaps the only objection to the literal truth of this is if you require flames to have a temperature greater than than that of the surrounding medium.

            About the pillar of fire, I admit that I am not learned enough to understand it right now–I think I'll have to look into it some time–but I'm sure there's a reason it's called "fire" here.

            Yet as for hell, I see no reason to call it fire unless we are to understand it has behaving as a fire does, sharing some essential nature with the substance of a flame.

            For example, as in Diane's description above, where the spiritual darkness refuses to recognize the physcially present Light, the flame of the Spirit could itself be the very fire of Hell.

          • http://none Don Rappe

            Fire is the power of complete and total destruction.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I understand that. I meant not that I don't see the connection of fire with traditional/Biblical notions of Hell, but that I don't see how fire is relavent to a description of Hell like Leslie's.

            I'm not sure if you were trying to answer my question from a few posts up ("what is fire?") or if I just didn't make clear enough what I was referring to. Either way, thank you, Mr. Rappe.

          • Leslie

            Don, in the Bible, fire doesn't ALWAYS destroy — think of the burning bush and the pillar of fire in the OT and the flames of the Holy Spirit in the NT. Those fires burn without consuming anything. But are they literal fires? I confess I don't know.

            Matthew, I like what you and Dianne alluded to above — that the fires of hell could be the flame of the Holy Spirit. That's a very interesting thought.

          • amelia

            @Leslie, Matthew and Dianne: what's your take on Isaiah 4:2-6 (especially verse 4 in re:fire)?

  • nelma e.

    *** Yes, Jesus is the Good news…but most of the message is BAD NEWS. It is totally horrifying…makes people psychotic just thinking about it. It's beyond our capacity to fathom. Most people just block it out, because it's such a horrific, terrifying thought…TO BURN FOREVER. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND IT, BUT I AM SURE I DON'T WANT TO GO THERE. So I … asked Jesus to take over my life and He really made Himself REAL.(By His Holy Spirit.) He gives me hope of life after death. I don't want to be dying and have no idea of where I will go. Thank You Jesus that you are *really real*. Please help the world see Who You really are. (This was one of the main reasons I "got saved" and became "born again". I knew my sins were so despicable and was convinced ("convicted") if there was a place called hell, I would certainly be there. Jesus is the only answer to (my realization of) forgiveness. He gives a sense of feeling clean and un-condemned. Yet, this new life is an on-going process…often difficult for me to fully comprehend.

    • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

      I don't mean to offend but what's the difference between this and what the victim of an extortionist would say?

  • nelma e.

    extort – obtain through intimidation

    extort – obtain by coercion or intimidation; "They extorted money from the executive by threatening to reveal his past to the company boss"; "They squeezed money from the owner of the business by threatening him"

    extort – get or cause to become in a difficult or laborious manner

    wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn It does sort of sound like extortion, doesn't it? But I have learned about the love & mercy of God since then. That was all I knew at the time i know perceive God as more merciful.

  • nelma e.

    (correction: 'know' should be 'now'… and a period after 'time')

  • Christine Kesling

    Gee, I’m trying to diet and now you have me thinking of waffles – thanks. The question you ask, or rather, your pastor poses, is central to my non-belief. I liken it to having Bill Gates for a father. He is worth billions, but says none of the money will be left to his children. He has the opportunity to ease their way in life. Will they learn the lesson he hopes? Perhaps, but I can tell you what else they will learn: My dad sucks. (If that gets me censored, please change the word to vacuum cleans.) If there is a god and he allows not only me but those I love to flounder unnecessarily and suffer greatly, then I have no use for him. I have enough “earthly” people to do that to me. We would throw in prison any father who would let his young child run out in traffic and be hit by a car who said, “Well, my child knew the rules. Why should I stop them?” Why would I worship a god that figuratively does the same? I am tired of losing the good guys in my life – my brother-in-law, my father, and hopefully not, but perhaps my husband – and having Christians tell me, “It is all part of God’s plan.” You know what – God’s plan vacuum cleans.

    • vj

      I see God not as the father of a *young* child playing in traffic, but as the father of a *grown* child who has become trapped in a life of drug addiction/prostitution/other self-debasement.

      His heart breaks for the child, He seeks out the child, He never stops loving the child, He never stops wanting the child to come home, He tries any number of methods to get through to the child, He agonizes over every self-destructive choice the child makes, He tries to heal/rescue/save the child, He sees that the child is on a path to self-destruction, He provides a safe haven for the child to return to, He gets friends and family members involved in getting the Message to the child, He leaves the Light on and the Door open day and night, longing for the child, HIS child, to *choose* to come in out of the Darkness.

      The one thing He won't do is 'kidnap' the child in order to achieve any of the above…

      • Argybargy

        *sniff*

        This was beautiful. Seriously, this was really beautiful. What a wonderful allegory. I'd like to think it's this way, too. Very well put.

        • amelia

          Beautiful.

      • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

        @ vj: Okay. I gotta ask: are you saying all who do not believe in this god are equivalant to a drug addict or prostitute??

        I dont think that is what you intended. But, if you did, well…

        • vj

          Good grief, no! I just think God *grieves* over every 'lost' person in the same way (well, probably more) that we can imagine ourselves grieving over a 'lost' child – it's the intensity of the pain of separation, of broken relationship, rather than the specifics of the cause. That's why Jesus was willing to suffer the pain of the Cross in order to make a way for the broken relationship to be restored.

          Eleven years ago I was desperate for my infant niece, born with anencephaly, to survive/be healed (she lived for 2 days). I would have done *anything* to make that happen. That longing in me gave me, I think, a small insight into what God might feel about every person that is being lost to Him (even though I believe she went straight into His presence).

  • Kim

    Yes, God can stop us from going to hell, but we can stop ourselves from going there. God is giving us the opportunity to choose life after life…and all He wants is for us to use the free will He gifted us with to choose it. Is it complicated? Yes, but I really relate to the Bill Gates analogy above – in a different way. Parents are not supposed to carry their children through life…we are supposed to give them the tools to work their own way through, and when they truly need us we step up. If I was handed all my parents riches through life, or all of God’s salvation, without doing any work towards it, what appreciation would I have? None. Yes, some of us will enter Hell, but of our own fault, not God’s.

    • Argybargy

      But isn't the difference that most parents don't also then pass judgment on their kids' choices and then send them to work in the boiler for eternity? I don't mean the boiler room, I mean the boiler.

      "You're right, sweetie. It's your life and you decide how you live (from the age of 18 onwards). Just remember, that when we have our exit interview, I'll decide whether you royally f***** it up enough to make you a crispy critter. But remember, I love you always…."

      • frank sonnek

        Fact: How we live and what we do will have no eternal consequences. None.

        Biblical proof: Romans 8.

        Flesh/body vs spirit. everything we can do with our bodies, believe, do good works and even all outward right-eousness is included in that "flesh/body". We look for eternity in love. Listen to romantic songs and tell me I am wrong. Love is the fulfillment of the Law. And when we are honest, we know that Love is about carrot and stick. Intense love can turn to intense hate when what we want does not happen there. And paul says that this will all perish with the earth along with all who try to find life there.

        But then there is a Righteousness that is invisible and over and above that earthly (and God pleasing!) righteousness that is spirit.. This righteousness is meaningless on earth except to God and troubled consciences. What I am saying here is that St james is exactly right here: "tell me your faith, and I will SHOW you my works!" Here on earth, it is works that make us righteous! try taking your faith into a courtroom!

        But it is that heavenly invisible righteousness of faith that matters to God. God wants our heart. He does not want us making the sacrifice of doing stuff for him begrudgingly or to avoid hell or such…..Imagine a spouse trying to please you only out of fear or obedience, and she/he does, but he/she also happens to loath and resent having to do all that for you. Or you do everything, but withhold sex and intimacy and the most important part of yourself. Your works look like that to God.

        so: no one goes to heaven or hell because of what they do or even what they believe here on earth.

        http://www.ccel.org/l/luther/romans/pref_romans.h

        • Mary

          I knew ever before I scrolled down that there was another Lutheran about.

        • Diana

          Cool! Thank you!

  • Leslie

    God loves us, and therefore won’t force us to love Him in return. Our free will ensures that we can choose our own fate; just because He may foresee it doesn’t mean He will change it. As C. S. Lewis put it very simply, “All those in hell chose it.” God wants all of us to choose Him, but knows that many of us won’t. Just my two cents. :)

    • amelia

      I like this Leslie, along with your other posts. :)

      • Leslie

        Thank you, ma'am :)

  • frank sonnek

    John. I am Lutheran so we are more interested in the waffles. … and a good beer. I am sure your 5 point calvinist readers here will have lots to say.

    We Lutherans only have Jesus to say.

    We stick to the idea that, looking at Jesus dead on the cross, we just KNOW that God´s will for each and every jerk like you (amd me) is to have you be with him eternally. Yes that is YOU (and your pastor) John. You can know this is YOU personally because you were personally baptised!

    This is why Lutherans still include crucifixes as part of their standard gear. Easy to look at an empty cross and think victorious thoughts about how Jesus rose from the dead and so has that easter victory and now wants us to live a VICTORIOUS christian life (stop hitting dogs is what that means John!).

    Pretty hard to think those thoughts looking at that dead jew on on a cross. Happy clappy? Not so much.

    So we Lutherans stay stuck at Good Friday and know from that that God really is pretty fucking serious with tje “God was in christ reconciling the WORLD” stuff. And so we can then trust that the resurrection is pure good news. For everyone. EVERY knee will bow and tongue confess…..

    Evil is a great mystery. Why do some chose the slavery of drugs or other forms of self abuse? Why does evil happen? It should not be. But that God does will the good for everyone is certain.

    Christians call this the great Mystery. A Christian Mystery is something “hidden” in plain sight of everyone! Jesus is that Holy Mystery. Only in Him can we see God´s Will. In Him dwells the fulness of the Godhead in human form. In former times God spoke through the prophets. Now in these later days God has spoken to us by his Son!

    So my advice to you and your pastor: Start thinking like a Lutheran christian. Stop thinking that you can know anything about God apart from he who “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was made man” (Nicean Creed). There is NOTHING you can know about God apart from Jesus.

    And would Jesus ever ever refuse anyone or turn anyone away?

    No. Never.

    If you don´t believe in Jesus, then that is OK. Jesus died for people like you. Trust him. Cling to him in spite of your not being able to believe. Hold God to his promise, to you, in your baptism, that Jesus is FOR YOY personally. Forget faith. forget repentance. forget anything that you can do or think you should or must do. Let the god you know apart from Jesus die.

    Cling to that dead jew hanging dead on that cross. For you. Though your sins be red as crimson they are now white as snow. Trust. Jesus. for. everything.

    Cling to Jesus. Know Him alone. He loves you John. He loves your pastor, your cleaner, the woman missing her dentures because of you and me too.

    • Argybargy

      Sorry…I think God wanted me to undertand a little more than "[s]top thinking that you can know anything about God apart from he who “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was made man” (Nicean Creed)." Much has to be taken on faith, obviously, and no, we don't need a colour-by-numbers activity book of life's answers either, but dammit, I think I"m entitled to know a little bit more! And yes, I realize that God doesn't have to do that. He's God. But He wants me to want to love him blindly? Or shouldn't this be a relationship that is a step up from a dog and his master?

      I'm afraid that God made me this way…not satisfied with just a few scraps of information. I have no illusions I'm going to get the answers I think I'm entitled to, but if I am a child of God, I think we're entitled to more answers than we've gotten.

      • frank sonnek

        Your post is cool arbybargy!

        The world is huge. No one knows how big the universe is. There is so very much to know and be curious about.

        What John asks about in his post is God´s will. Why do people go to hell? Why would God allow that? Why would he not stop that?

        I am saying that we will have nothing true to say about any of that apart from an answer that comes directly from knowing one Jesus of Nazareth who is anatomically correct. Not one of those action figures that is a pretender.

        Imagine the Lord of the Universe complete with penis, assh*le and sweat. He is completely 100% human. and he is God almighty as well. There only is the answer to John´s question I am saying. And you are saying that this God´s coming down for YOU makes you into his dog? Ya lost me there! Please tell me how that is.

        I am saying that the Bible claims that no one can know anything at all about that apart from one Jesus of Nazareth, who made the amazing claim that he existed before Abraham did, and is in fact the Lord and Creator of the universe.

        Imagine that God appearing as a baby who could not control his bladder or feed himself or even speak. And there is not alot to know and ponder if such a crazy ass story is actually true?

        And then that God could actually die? And that God would permit that to happen rather than be like Peter thought and draw sword and fight against that evil? The bible says that this Jesus was and is totally and utterly victorious against all sin, death, and the powers of the devil by doing what? He showed up as a study in passivity, let people nail his arms outstreched to embrace the world, and died. He died. That is how he conquered everything. What a plan. Crazy? Crazy.

        What about the fact that Jesus always had to be pointed out in a crowd? the fact that the bible says Jesus was plain or even ugly "there was nothing about him that man should want him"? If MOI should show up on the planet as a perfectly good human being who had not only god-like power, but HAD the power of God, I would think someone would notice. I would be miffed if that did not happen in fact. I would show up with my angel legions ready to, penticostal style, whup some major demon ass! But he chose to do, deliberate, the very exact opposite of what we would do didn´t he? Crazy. It.does.not.make.any.sense.

        And then he chose the 12 stooges, er… apostles…. to be his followers to be witnesses to all he said and did after he would withdraw his visible presence. He made Judas the treasurer for God´s sake. stupid. why would he do stuff like that?

        Christians like me who trust in Jesus are not at all afraid to ask all questions. to pursue truth wherever it leads. I trust that in the end it will all be ok Arbybargy.

        In that dead jew hanging dead on the cross, everything will be ok! I know this because only there can I know God´s will for me and for you and for John.

        • Diana

          1) The twelve stooges–I like that!

          2) "Christians like me who trust in Jesus are not at all afraid to ask all questions. to pursue truth wherever it leads. I trust that in the end it will all be ok Arbybargy.

          In that dead jew hanging dead on the cross, everything will be ok!"–frank sonnek

          "Lord Jesus, I have heard you say: 'Sin is necessary but all will be well, and all will be well, and every kind of thing will be well'."–Julian of Norwich. (source- -http://mariannedorman.homestead.com/JulianofNorwich.html)

          It sounds to me as though you have been strongly influenced by Julian of Norwich's teachings–is this true? I'm no expert, I'm just curious.

          Anyway Frank, once again it appears that you've hit the nail on the head.

          • frank sonnek

            I have never heard of julian or norwich. I obviously though am a HUGE fan of Jesus. I will check out your link diana thanks!

            Jesus became sin for us the Bible says. I am pretty certain that Jesus would not see sin as necessary in any way. But He did away with it on the cross.

          • Christy

            Unfortunately many to most of us have never heard of Julian of Norwich. Likely because she was a she and a Christian mystic who lived in the 14th century. Had her version of compassionate theology been spread far and wide rather than that of an angry God of fear and punishment, we might very well live in a far different world today.

          • DR

            I adore Julian of Norwich. Those teachings are so incredible.

    • Diana

      I actually find a lot with which to agree in this. I think, in fact, that you've taken the words of my faith right out of my mouth. Thank you for sharing this.

    • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

      "We Lutherans only have Jesus to say."

      Statement like these are an example of what drive me to drink. Sure, it's a lemon drop and I can only have one before I start dancing on tables, but when any denomination boils down their particular interpretation to pure, distilled, nothing but Jesus, we turn the experience of Liberation that every denomination experiences as a result of him into competition. I'm sure I'm nit picking but I've been told the devil is in the details. I also believe he lives in Fife, Washington but that's an entirely other matter.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Nice…

        • http://www.blogger.com/home DR

          I should've softened that up with a Guffman quote, I bet that landed me on the moderated list (AGAIN).

  • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

    For us to assume that the mind of God is linear seems reasonable at first. We're told that we're made in the image of God, so the leap to thinking we could even answer this question is understandable.

    The interactions on this forum have made me really think about the consideration sets we bring to the table based on what we lean on to define "true". Science is part of one's consideration set, science and faith part of another's. Add the Bible as a third. Add one's denomination as another.

    The point being is we've no way of considering the way things are using God's data. We've no idea how there could be a God who has predestined every single thing that occurs, yet still create human free will and choice that wrenches us away from the rest of the evolutionary path.

    For me, a nun I used to know answered this question about Hell in a way that made sense for someone who has a deep appreciation for consistency;

    "The choices we make are more than selecting option a vs. b. They are the instruments by which we carve out the very path of each aspect of our lives. Emotional, spiritual, professional. There are those who choose a variety of things that snuff out any possibility of entertaining a Loving God. They hold themselves hostage to evil people who damaged them beyond words by dragging that pain into every Present moment, allowing them to rob their joy again and again and again. And then make it their job to deliberately rob the joy and peace of others so everyone will be as miserable as they are.

    So for some, hell is not a place to which they are *sent*. Hell is a place they RUN to, it is the option they select. They have every moment after death to abandon themselves of Love, but the thought of being in Love's actual presence is so distasteful, so unfamiliar, they far prefer a place completely devoid of it. So hell is simply the final resting place for those who have absolutely no interest in finding Rest.

    • Leslie

      I love the way your nun acquaintance put it. Beautifully stated. :)

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Amazing. Another complete winner.

      • http://www.blogger.com/home DR

        Damn it, I should have said that was me.

    • http://none Don Rappe

      Amen, Sister.

  • http://soiledwings.com Sherry Meneley

    the ramble… always up for that. (makes me feel far more normal)

  • Don Whitt

    John. I loved this. Thank you.

    For me, the core of all of this is "waffle". Seriously. Like Vonnegut's "poo-tee tweet" it's a nonsensical expletive – a zen koan for us waffle-eating, hash-brown sucking Americans that interrupts our rational thought by pouring maple syrup where it counts.

    It jerks our brains side-ways for a moment and stops our reason. It's a bit like how you need to look from the corner of your eye, sideways, side-long, to see a faint star in the night sky. We need to stop thinking about all this human, rational, reasonable, logical dogma and doctrine to see the faint, but powerful sublime from the corner of our being. That gut-wrenching thing that sits at the nucleus of everything and is so beautiful it makes us cry with joy.

    We glimpse it, but then we try to explain it, cultivate canon, have Bible study groups, make up rules, decide who gets into heaven, who goes to hell, what those places are and why people get to go there.

    Personally, I think that's all a bunch crap. Sorry. You all think you know Jesus Christ. We know jack s&^%.

    But we can intensely feel the sublime. It's there, but the second you try to capture it, codify it, you cheapen it and have the opposite effect you intended to have – you further obscure it.

    We're like fish trying to describe the taste of water – too immersed in it all to accurately capture the essence of it.

    I read the Bible and, in my head, I start going "truly, truly I say to you…blah blah blah". Then I read something like the Gospel of Thomas and think, "okay, now that's more like it." It's confused, mystical. Like life. Give me more of that. Confuse me.

    Shout "waffle" in my face so I stop thinking for a second and start feeling.

    • Don Whitt

      Or the plural "waffles", that works, too.

    • Christy

      Beautiful…..love it.

      • Don Whitt

        Christy, Thank you, sincerely. I tried to give you kudos back there on your comments and my comment seemed to "un-nest" and so I didn't. I absolutely agree with what you wrote and think I just sorta rewrote what you said, in a fashion.

    • http://www.blogger.com/home DR

      Beautiful.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Thank you, Don, for this very sensitive reading. Since you've thus indulged me, I'll tell you that I chose that as the title of the piece for exactly the vibe you mention. If I can (and basically I'm pretty unkeen on essentially explaining what in the privacy of my heart I sometimes dare to imagine as Actual Art), I ALSO chose that word, "Waffles" for its literal denotation, relative to pointing to the way we are so naturally sort of stuck being inconclusive about these sorts of things. Where we desperately want surety, we end up having, sooner or later, to waffle.

    Anyway, thanks again, for the insight into what I was meaning to do here particularly (and, to be clear, I also just wanted to have some fun this morning), and for your statement here generally, which is very well done.

    • denver

      I agree, Don, thank you for what I feel is the best post of the thread (and I'm not saying that to suck up to John ;) ). I had to stop reading some of the back-and-forth because it was the stuff that so irks me personally… and this is me, obviously, as so many seemed to enjoy the very comments that grated me… but certainty about such things, to me is not only presumptuous but not-humble (inhumble? unhumble? lacking in the humbleness department?) and it drives me away. Especially the contradictory statements that people don't seem to find contradictory ("Even if you don't believe in Jesus, embrace him"? You're supposed to embrace a being you don't believe exists? Does anyone else see the flaw in that logic? You are telling someone "you're wrong, he exists, even though you don't believe me, worship him anyway, because I'm right." Isn't that what "I'm OK" is about?). In my experience, if anyone is that certain of anything you cannot be that certain about, they are trying to sell you something, and that something may not cost money, but the purchase is generally not good for you. Perhaps I have had some bad experiences, and I don't mean to insult anyone. But… belongs squarely on the "what non-xtians want xtians to hear" thread, IMHO… if you magically know the unknowable that humans have been trying to figure out for millennia, then you must be the second coming of Christ, eh? My reaction is: save the snake oil and smooth talking for someone that is wooed by your loquaciousness enough to not actually pay attention to the words coming out of your mouth. It's just… condescending.

      I'm sorry, that seemed to get a little angry, there. I meant this to be a "thank you, Don, for bringing the conversation back to a spiritual and humble level that more people can relate to, I thought that was beautiful" comment.

      But I'm going to go ahead and post anyway, since we're engaging dissenting voices too, yeah? ^.^*

  • Don Whitt

    Yep, being a word-play sorta guy, I picked-up on the indecisive aspect of the term waffle – very nice touch, John.

    • http://www.whitenoisemetal.com Brian Shields

      I've heard the first King of Belgium wasn't sure if he wanted the job because he said it rained too much there… making his the first Belgian Waffle.

      • Don Whitt

        He was scared, too, i think, which also makes him the first chicken and waffle…

  • http://safeharborint.wordpress.com Safe Harbor

    Every time, John Shore.

    You get me every time.

  • http://www.chaseandre.com Chase

    Everytime, John Shore.

    You get me everytime.

  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    Maybe I am wrong but…

    I would think that to know the mind of God is to be on God's level.

    Since no one I know is on that level, everything we believe of God is just conjecture and speculation at best and blind guesses at worst. This to me means that studying things like the bible and other faiths can lead one to some understanding and glimpses into God’s mind, sure. But ultimately, I think, one just needs to do one thing: Live life fully.

    All I have is this body and this life. All I have in my life is others like me and the world around me. I try to treat it all with love and kindness and live my life well. I think living a life of wonder where we never cease to be amazed and fascinated by life around us is a good way to live and learn about each other and our world. Respect and kindness for me are the way to do so.

    I just don’t think God really wants books written about Him/Her/It. We just end up fighting and squabbling over each others' claims of want God wants.

    I don’t think God really wants nor needs a fan club and groupies.

    I just think God would just like us to grow up and play nice with each other and take care of world. So far, we really suck at that. We humans sure have a lot of growing up to do.

    I think that is what God would like.

    And if that gets me a one way ticket to hell, well, I guess that is just the way it will be.

    But, I will still try to play nice with the other kids…..

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Allow me to address your pastor’s questions one at a time:

    1) Is God really all-powerful and all-knowing?

    God is all-powerful, but not every power is from God.

    God is all-knowing, but not all knowledge is of God.

    When we say that God is omnipotent, what we mean is in no way is God impotent.

    When we say that God is omniscient, what we me is in no way is God ignorant.

    We cannot mean anything else, for we cannot fathom the infinite—we cannot conceive of what it could mean, for example, to know everything. Just trying to conjecture on any arguments involving this attribute, we are really just multiplying the infinite, or equivalently dividing by zero—on operation prohibited for good reason in any rigorous logic. God cannot be properly understood to possess any positive attributes, given His Divine Simplicity: God is absolute—the stateless state. We are trying to peer around the inherent mystery that is the Lord, and in so doing, we must ever fail.

    The powers of evil and the knowledge thereof are not of God, yet God is omnipotent and omniscient; how is this? Well guess what: to the natural world, those things aren’t real! They are conceived in the minds of men. Yet that doesn’t mean the Lord does not know them: for the Lord was made man!

    2) Because if he is, then when someone is born, doesn’t God already know that person’s ultimate fate?

    Yes, I believe so.

    3) And if God knows that a person is going to end up spending eternity having the living flesh seared off his bones, couldn’t he have Xgotten him a desktop computerX stopped that person from going to hell?

    Yes…

    4) And if God can stop someone from going to hell, but doesn’t, doesn’t that make God a complete dick?

    There it is! There’s the proof that that knowledge of good vs. evil is made fresh daily in the minds of men! THAT would be *your* opinion, sir.

    Ok, so it sounds like a pretty legitimate opinion, right?

    Those who don’t know God, those who don’t receive the Light of men, those who do not have the Holy Spirit within them, are destined to go Hell; hell, they were even *made* to go to Hell, in a sense.

    “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’” (Romans 9:15)

    It may seems unjust to *you* that God would fate a man for the furies of everlasting destruction, and yet another for the glories of everlasting Life, “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” (Romans 9:20)

    In other words, where do you get off conjuring this idea on how, or even if, you are to decide what is truly just?

    “He hardens whom he wants to harden.” (Romans 9:18) So the one with a hard heart does not what is right, and then deserves indeed the punishment ordained. (You would likely not argue that a mass murderer shouldn’t be locked up since he had a rough childhood and that hardened his heart to the pain he inflicted on others.)

    “Does not the potter have a right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:21)

    Ok; enough espousing exegesis to a qualified pastor—here’s the deal: While the fate of the damned might seem unjust to you, you don’t have a very well-defined notion of what they are really, right? They themselves haven’t even fully thought out the nature of their “self”, and that’s the problem. What of them is lost really, in their damnation? (I already mentioned that the powers of “evil” are not exactly in “the reality”–that is, the body that is of Christ–or the world once you remove (wo)men’s subjectivity.)

    What is your soul? Whose is your spirit? Should the ego, any man’s ego, *deserve* to survive? Are not we all to become dead to this world? How then is that unfair to anyone? By what measure shall we judge what is fair? Is it unfair to burn a dead tree? to squash an annoying bug? to throw out an old computer? to unplug a robot? How is a slave to sin—a (wo)man to whom there is nothing other their selfish physical self—just some body guided by its fate—really any different?

    The fact that some matter is made into a robot while some other matter—into a man, doesn’t mean that heap of scrap we call a robot was treated unfairly.

    What makes a person is the spirit possessing some body. In the same way as with material substance though, if that spirit just isn’t of the sort that endures (that is, the Spirit that is Truth and Love and so much more), is there something wrong with its demise? Have you done wrong in throwing away a wrapper only meant for a single use — to seal it over in some landfill pit or incinerate it in the fire? Do you worry about how that’s unfair since some other things were made to be recycled? That’s just the nature of the thing. Fair or unfair is just the judgment you’ve projected onto it.

    No waffles, John, thanks.

    I’m a pancake man myself (в смысле – блинчики… с творогом :)

    Hey, Don W.: WAFFLE!

    • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

      I'd rather have french toast….

  • Matthew Tweedell

    Posted by amelia on June 26, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    @Leslie, Matthew and Dianne: what’s your take on Isaiah 4:2-6 (especially verse 4 in re:fire)?

    Wow… that’s pretty heady stuff, Amelia. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. The smoke by day and fire by night (in vs. 5) clearly hark back to the pillars that guide Israel through the wilderness until she reach the promised land, which is where she is now in the day described here in Isaiah; as mentioned above, I’m not exactly sure right now how to interpret those in their original context even.

    Now, the word translated as “spirit” here (vs. 4) means, in literal terms, “wind” or “breath”; I would have to take the “spirit of fire” here as the breath of fire—breathed from the mouth of “the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil”—since a wind of fire would be a contradiction of terms because wind and fire are two separate elements in the ancient Middle-Eastern understanding of things. Some translations interpret this to be the same spirit with that of judgment mentioned immediately before it—not two spirits, but one described by two attributes.

    verse 2: the Branch of the Lord — the vine of David (and of Jesse); when we drink of the fruit of the vine, it is the blood of Christ Jesus the Nazarene (from another word for “branch” also used in Isaiah, in 11:1, which shares the same consonants (the only sounds originally recorded in written Hebrew) with a root meaning to watch/guard/keep). And the fruit of the land:

    “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (note: besides grapes as already mentioned, the fig tree also has special meaning: a symbol for Israel and authority—also, sitting under it is an idiom for studying Torah; the forbidden fruit in the garden, according to Jewish legend, was fig; Bethany means “house of figs”. On a related note, Gathsemene, the garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, means “olive-oil press”; olive is another fruit of special significance; its oil is burned in lamps, such as the menorah, as well as being used in the making of (unleavened) bread. Speaking of which, Bethlehem means “house of bread/flesh”—Jesus came from there since he was of the house of David. By the way, the fruit of the tree of life, according to Jewish legend, was of bread(manna). But do beware the yeast of the Pharisees when THEY try to feed the five-thousand.)

    “When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.”

    “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

    “And God saith, ‘Let the earth yield tender grass, herb sowing seed, fruit-tree (whose seed [is] in itself) making fruit after its kind, on the earth:’ and it is so.

    “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

    “And there is an evening, and there is a morning — day [is] third.” (i.e. on the third day)

    “And there is an evening, and there is a morning — day [is] one.” (Jewish day refers to the solar day {though the sun is made when “day [is] fourth”} and in that sense there is just one continuous day that different parts of the earth pass in and out of.)

    The (moral) filth of the daughters of Zion/Jerusalem (vs. 4) — I don’t know, but perhaps take a look at Ezekiel 16.

    Finally (vs. 6) “It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” — That is, the ark (of Noah’s, and of the Noahide covenant) that sheltered men from the previous destruction of the world, which was by the element of water, as well as from the day when the heat of the next refining — by the element of fire — will be felt.

    Probably the pillars of fire and smoke are alluded to as an indication of the Lord’s immediate presence in the new Jerusalem, the Kingdom, come as the Holy of Holies, dwelling-place(tabernacle) of the Lord, where the Son of Man has a place to lay his head, but now on a global scale (as described in Rev. 21), on the “Zion” mentioned by Isaiah (from which the Mount of Olives is at the right hand {with the valley of death–Gehenna–outside the walls of the city, where the fire to Molech is set up}, and in whose bosom is the traditional site of the tomb of David)—not just an ordinary mountain, but the place where one might find the Most High.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      On a more base level, if the filth of Jerusalem’s daughters is as described in Ezekiel, then the spirit of their judgment — the spirit of "fire"–more literally, the spirit of "burning"– can be a communicable venereal disease.

      • Matthew Tweedell

        (BTW, guess what the serpent breathing it is in that case….)

      • DR

        Thinking that the "filth of Zion" refers to VD is a stretch- one dimensional at best and….I'm not even sure what to call it at worst. I'm no scholar of Scripture nor do I claim to be, but I don't think I have to be to assume that the Word of the Lord is going to focus on Clamidia when there are some systemic, institutional, tribal Sin that gets passed down from generation to generation to worry about. Perhaps that was a joke. Here's hoping. I think the daughters of Zion have a bit more to worry about than peeing in a cup.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          No–no–no: it is only that which comes from within that make the daughters of Zion unclean—their sexual immorality, as describes repeatedly throughout the Old Testament (with repeated warnings addressed to them in Song of Solomon). Why else would it be specifically Jerusalem’s daughters, if not to allude to this in the same way as all those other passages, at the most fundamental level of their truth? The “filth” is NOT the STD though—this infernal burning spirit that’s spread among their daughters is!

          Why would you expect their only educational texts to contain absolutely nothing warning about such common dangers (especially as it’s such convincing support for why the Law of Moses is adhered to in the first place: the consequences of disobedience, which to them where concerned with the here-and-now, as they didn’t speak of “going to heaven/hell” in those days)? How do you suppose their sex ed. was conducted? (Hint: Song of Solomon was mandatory for parents to read to the kids.)

          Now what exactly are you referring to them worrying about, especially as they approach Promised Land in the day of the LORD!?

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            OK. I'm still a bit lost as to what it is you're actually trying to communicate, but in part, I'm not terribly interested (which is my own issue). Not in your Matthew, but the discussion about the Daughters of Zion and their immoral sexual impurity as a rule – particularly since that type of approach toward women being the root cause of all sexual immorality is so present in our world today. I kind of wonder who historically has been passing the actual VD around if it's the women who continue to be stoned to death in some cultures if they even reveal their ankle to a man who is not their husband. Regardless of how this kind of text was intended, for me (and I suspect most women) it represents hundreds of years where we were demonized for "tempting men" and have to watch fellow women in other countries get their clitoris removed as a result of what continues to be passed down as a result of this kind of education. DISCLAIMER: I am not suggesting that you or anyone else agree with it or that you don't care about it. But sex and how it often shows up in how women are marginalized while men are given a pass is an awfully sensitive subject. I'm sure you agree.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            I should clarify – when I say "I'm not terribly interested" it's because I need to take some responsibility in why I perhaps don't understand the train of thought. I'm probably not trying to hard enough.

            But it's also because it's sunny and there are seals outside who are begging me to watch them frolic. Did you know seals beg? Maybe they are the actual daughters of zion, with their constant need for attention. Someone should get them to act more like humans.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I am well aware of the chauvinistic, male-dominated, blame-the-woman society of the time—it’s well reflected in the Bible, and though I do not agree with that worldview, allowing ourselves to see things from this perspective is part of what makes it seem plausible that Isaiah's audience would have read that into this passage.

            We may find the culture quite a bit distasteful—we may disagree with stoning people to death—we may not like the concept of slavery—but that doesn't mean that the Bible doesn't reflect such cultural realities while simultaneously communicating much deeper truths.

            I am *not* saying that the primary intent of the text here has anything in particular to due with sexual practices. Clearly the principle meaning of this passage is something far more abstract & metaphorical. In the same way, the primary intent of the first chapter of Genesis is clearly not to provide a scientific report on natural history, but Biblical passages can be considered true on many different levels!

            In fact, very often in general I've found that what is true, is true in more ways than I'll ever know.

            It's interesting to note that nowhere else is judgment identified with a "burning" vapor/spirit. More commonly it would rather be identified with actual "fire". In the Masoretic text, I see no artistic advantage to be gained in an alternative word choice here (unless there's something numerological to it). In the Septuagint, it's interesting to note that the translators used a word that's not normally used in connection with the heat of a fire, but with the heat of the sun (or sunburn) and dry scorching wind (or, in this context, “spirit”).

            I guess seals' being the daughters of Zion is as good a guess as any; I'd be interested to see the sort of theology that would be developed starting with that hypothesis :)!

          • Matthew Tweedell

            (By the way, I think, given the historical context, it was most likely, most often, gonorrhea. I believe it was perpetuated more by the practice of prostitution than, as you seem to imply, homosexual behavior. Also, this could be the reason for the association of congenital blindness with the sins of one's father or mother.)

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            I’ve absolutely no idea how you got the notion that I was bringing up homosexual behavior. Men have penises, women have vaginas and sexual disease can transfer that way and does so quite commonly (as does the reverse).

          • Matthew Tweedell

            You wrote:

            "I kind of wonder who historically has been passing the actual VD around if it’s the women who continue to be stoned to death in some cultures if they even reveal their ankle to a man who is not their husband."

            If not from woman, then, aren't you implying that men must have picked it up from other men? Or is this a reference to bestiality (although most infectious deseases are quite picky about what species they infect)?

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            Dude. Bestiality? What?

            Here's the point, I'm going to offer this one more time then be done with it because this is kind of a stupid argument (sorry, I'm judgmental but some things should be judged and this topic is one of them).

            Women in that day and age got killed for sleeping around. They still do., Youtube "13 year olds, stoning, adultery" and you'll see dozens of videos in current day culture where women – girls – are killed for adultery. Even when raped, the most recent new story. So the likelihood of the ladies spreading the diseases around via multiple partners is pretty unlikely, given they get killed for having multiple partners. That's the point.

            Men in the OT times had concubines, all manner of sexual liasons. It's a fairly valid conclusion to draw that the men were the ones spreading the disease as they "spread their seed".

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Right… sure… so if the woman & girls NEVER had multiple partners to spread disease among, where did the men get their diseases from?? It takes two to tango, but you leave only other men, animals, or mysterious divine intervention. Sorry but my vote's for the more routine divine intervention that takes place at a prostitute's cervix! It's *your* argument that's stupid! All my side of it says on this is that the logical conclusion of your saying that it was the *men* who spread the diseases is that it was the *men* that people got their venereal diseases from! And though that observation was as a parenthetical phrase within a parenthical comment, you seem to identify this with the heart of my argument!

            I would not imply that women are solely to blame—neither would I allow the implication that homosexuals are solely to blame—for the spread of venereal diseases.

          • http://dianer.blogspot.com/ DR

            Right. Prostitution was created by women, for women, used by women to pleasure women so of course it is easy to infer that the daughters of Zion prostitutes are as equally as responsible for the disease spread by having sex. Logically, that is.

            Oh wait…

          • Matthew Tweedell

            How is moral culpability really pertinent to this point of factual causation? I adhere to the germ theory of disease, not spontaneous generation, so if the ladies were so monogamous as you would have us believe, how could a man have an STD unless he got it from other men or animals? It’s not a "valid conclusion to draw that the men were the ones spreading the disease as they 'spread their seed'" unless you can show how men actually had any diseases to be spreading.


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