Jesus said what?

I was told as I grew up that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. It’s about having a relationship with Jesus, not about following rules. It would seem, then, that I was not raised with legalism, right? Wrong.

You see, my parents do not believe that Jesus would tell one person one thing and someone else something else. What Jesus says to one person in a given situation will not contradict what he tells another person. So since Jesus told my parents to hold certain standards of modesty, that adult daughters are to remain under their father’s authority, and that women should be homemakers and not have careers, well, he will tell everyone else the same thing.

In practice, then, anyone who doesn’t hold the same beliefs as my parents isn’t listening to Jesus. My parents would argue that it’s not about rules. It’s just that anyone who has a relationship with Jesus, reads the Bible, and listens to the Holy Spirit will come to the same conclusions about things like male authority, modesty, and courtship. It’s not rules. It’s a relationship, a relationship with Jesus.

Therefore, when I started to question young earth creationism and, eventually, Christian patriarchy, my parents told me that I wasn’t listening to Jesus, that I was listening to the world. The strange thing is that I had never felt closer to Jesus and more in his will than I did then. At the time I was questioning my parents’ beliefs, I was walking hand in hand with Jesus. I read the Bible and poured out my heart to Jesus, and I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to make my own decisions and follow what God wanted me to do rather than what my father wanted me to do. As I walked through the pain of leaving my parents’ beliefs, Jesus lead me to Catholicism, and comforted me when it all seemed to big for me, he wiped my tears and he held my hand.

My parents cannot fathom this because it would mean that Jesus was telling them things completely opposite from the things he was telling me. The way they see it, I put my fingers in my ears and stopped listening to Jesus. The truth is, my parents don’t think they have rules. They don’t think they were ordering me to follow rules. They think that they were simply urging me to listen to Jesus, and that if I had listened to Jesus he would have told me to do the same thing they were saying I should do. Except that I was listening to Jesus and he was telling me something very different. The fact is that imposing what you believe Jesus is telling you on others is a form of legalism.

But there is a bigger problem here too. How are we to understand that Jesus tells some people one thing and others another? How are we to account for the fact that there are eleventy thousand different Christian denominations with eleventy thousand different beliefs? How are we to account for the fact that Jesus tells some people told hold one standard of modesty and others to hold a different standard? how are we to account for the fact that Jesus tells some people to wear head coverings and others that they don’t need to? Why would Jesus tell one person one thing and the other another? Have you ever noticed this?

Perhaps because he does not exist and is for all practical purposes merely simply a figment of our imaginations.

It seems to me that if Jesus were real and really had a relationship with every Christian, then Christians would agree on matters of doctrine and practice. I was taught as a child that Jesus lives in the heart of every Christian. If this was so, why would he allow there to be such horrible disagreements between denominations and even family members? Wouldn’t Jesus tell every Christian the same thing? Before his death, didn’t he call for agreement among his followers rather than division? Isn’t he supposed to be all powerful and all knowing? Isn’t he capable of communicating the same ideas, beliefs, and practices to all of his followers? Something does not make sense here.

When I left religion, it all suddenly made sense to me in a new way. The way I see it, sincere and devout Christians disagree about what Jesus is telling them because Jesus is not real. This explains perfectly why sincere and devout people equally seek Jesus’ will and come up with different answers. It seems to me that the Christianity we would see if Jesus were real would look very different from the Christianity we see today, with all of its division and disagreement.

I see only two other options. First, you could conclude that Jesus tells different people different things. To me, though, that just seems odd. Why would Jesus contradict himself? Second, you could simply adopt my parents’ interpretation and believe that you are listening to Jesus and that any who disagree with what Jesus is telling you is not. But isn’t imposing what you believe Jesus is telling you on others simply another form of legalism? Or is there another understanding to be had? I personally don’t see one, but maybe I’m just missing it.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Let's say, for instance, that Ephesians 5 is "inspired by God"…Isn't everyone reading the same words? Hasn't God delivered the same message?The individual has to discern.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    But you're leaving out the variable of the inconsistency of people.

  • Anonymous

    @Lewis: uh… I'm asking WHY some interpretations are better than others. By what objectively verifiable criteria should we rank interpretations? (As in, not "because it speaks to me" or some nonsense like that.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    My parents tried hard to "discern." I tried hard to "discern." And we heard Jesus saying different things. THAT is my point.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis – "But you're leaving out the variable of the inconsistency of people."And you are leaving out the reality that God is supposed to be all powerful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    So you'd rather God impose his message on people, and remove personal responsibility for what they do with it from people?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I would rather God make what he wants clear enough that earnest and sincere people cannot unintentionally miss it, yes. My parents didn't miss his message through their own fault. They wanted nothing more than to hear his message. And they didn't. Or if they did, he was saying something different than what he said to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    My parents tried hard to "discern." I tried hard to "discern." And we heard Jesus saying different things. THAT is my point.But is that Jesus' fault?According to the gospels, a lot of people heard him speak the same words. Some understood him, some didn't. Some loved him, some others killed him. Were those discrepancies HIS fault? Or theirs?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis, we're not talking about looking at the same words and reaching two different conclusions, we're talking about listening to Jesus and hearing him SAY two different things. This isn't difference in interpretation. This is difference in revelation. THAT is the problem.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis, we're coming at this from two different perspectives. I don't think there is a God, and you are convinced that there is one. When we look at the problem of God seeming to say two different things to two different people, I say "well of course, that makes sense, because there is no God and it's just in people's minds anyway" and you – and most of the others on this thread, and, indeed, every Christian – say "there is a God, so it must be that people misunderstand him, and I'm the one who has it right." I personally find that argument incredibly arrogant. We're not going to agree, though, because we are coming to it from different perspectives.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    That's still interpretation, though, because your parents would suggest that everything they believe is based on the bible – the same bible others read and come away from with different conclusions. If your parents are fundamentalists, they don't believe Jesus would reveal anything to them that isn't in the bible.

  • Anonymous

    And you still haven't given a reason better than "because I feel like it" why one interpretation is better than another.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    @anon…Give me an objectively verifiable reason why one steak is better than another, or why some people think "The Simpsons" is the best animated show on television.When in doubt, common sense is a good place to start on any issue, and discerning should be something you want to do for yourself. Interpret it yourself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    I could tell you "look at the fruit a particular interpretation produces" – but that went off on a rabbit trail that had nothing to do with nothing already. If you're dead-set against ANY interpretation, nothing I can say will satisfy you.

  • Anonymous

    Sure. Medium-rare steak is better than well-done steak because it's juicier and more tender. There's your criterion. Whether it's good is up for debate, but at least it's better than "Because I say so."But I'm kind of surprised that you equate matters of truth to matters of taste. Is any belief about what God commands as subjective as preferences in steak or television? Or is it a matter of fact — either God commands thus, or he does not?

  • Anonymous

    I'm not dead-set against any interpretation. I have my own views about which interpretations are superior, but what I'm seeing so far in this discussion is, "Libby's parents had the wrong view of what God commands / the wrong interpretation of the Bible, because … I say so." And that just makes no sense.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    "Libby's parents had the wrong view of what God commands / the wrong interpretation of the Bible, because … I say so."And you've seen this from me where exactly?

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and, "look at the fruit a particular interpretation produces" is much, much better than nothing.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    But I'm kind of surprised that you equate matters of truth to matters of taste. Is any belief about what God commands as subjective as preferences in steak or television? Or is it a matter of fact — either God commands thus, or he does not?I don't worship the bible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Anonymous…Would it satisfy you if I told you that the things Libby's parents believe beat the hell out of my life? Because they did. It's not like I just decided one day to pull speaking against P/QF out of my caracas.

  • Anonymous

    What's that got to do with anything?

  • Anonymous

    I mean, what's you not worshiping the Bible got to do with anything?

  • Anonymous

    I'm sorry to read that you had an ugly brush with P/QF, but why would that "satisfy" me? What makes you think that I'd find that "satisfying" or that I need "satisfying" in the first place?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "You have no idea what impression(s) I may or may not be under." ~ LewisGiven your insistence over and over that I am simply the other side of some "fundamentalist" coin and that I have dismissed Christianity because I "DESIRE"(your word, caps added) Christianity to be a "black and white" issue, yes, I am being perfectly reasonable to believe that this is your impression. If you want retract what you said previously and clarify, then fine, feel free."I can understand your issues with the fundamentalist (or otherwise) doctrines of hell." ~ LewisGood. Some common ground. And you'd hopefully agree that any belief system that uses threats for non-compliance highly suggests a "black and white" mentality. "It's your second reason that isn't a logical one." ~ LewisMy second reason: Why was I reading that "Jesus" was the ONLY way to ONLY one "God"?(rhetorically asked) "Rhetorical or not – the answer for MOST people in a similar situation is that they're committed to "the bible", not to Christ." ~ LewisUntil you clarify your position once and for all on whether or not you believe "the bible" is the "Word of God", I see this as equivocation. Either "Christ" condones the central tenets of the Christian doctrine, including, "Hell", or he doesn't. Either "Jesus" is the one and only way to "God", or he isn't. Please stop equivocating and make your position crystal clear on this: Does "Christ" support "Hell", or not? Is "Jesus" the only way to the one and only "God", or not? Yes or no? And BTW, what you offer, above, is a false dichotomy. One can be "committed" to both "Christ" and "the bible"(God's supposed written word). I was. "Whether that applies to you, I don't know, but much of what you've said here suggests it does." ~ LewisI'll say it again: During the phases of my deconversion, I attempted to divorce "Christ" from the parts of the bible that made me uncomfortable and seemed illogical. I was a Universalist at one point. This worked for a while, until I finally realized that "Christ" was just me self-projecting as "God", which, today, is what I believe all "God"-belief is. To me, this much, much better explains why believers don't hear "Jesus" the same.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    I'm sorry to read that you had an ugly brush with P/QF, but why would that "satisfy" me? What makes you think that I'd find that "satisfying" or that I need "satisfying" in the first place?Earlier you said…I'm asking WHY some interpretations are better than others. By what objectively verifiable criteria should we rank interpretations? (As in, not "because it speaks to me" or some nonsense like that.)My personal experience should "satisfy" your request – being that it serves as verifiable evidence (I can even show you its effects in photo) that the patriarchal interpretation sucks. It's certainly all the evidence I need.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    boomSLANG…"Until you clarify your position once and for all on whether or not you believe "the bible" is the "Word of God", I see this as equivocation."I don't believe the bible is the "Word of God". I also don't see it as all or nothing. I accept personal responsibility for discerning its contents and where and how they apply to me.And BTW, what you offer, above, is a false dichotomy. One can be "committed" to both "Christ" and "the bible"(God's supposed written word). I was. If you're committed to both, your Christ can be no larger than your bible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Oh… "2) why there isn't consensus among those who claim to be hearing "Jesus"(the topic)"…was the second of the two reasons you gave as to why you left Christianity.Generally, I'd say there IS a consensus about the basic aspects of the faith, just not a unanimous verdict. It's on the non-essentials that Christians seem to be divided. Patriarchal parents, for instance, build their entire faith and lifestyle around non-essential issues – but most of Christianity considers the patriarchal movement to be fringe and somewhat cultic. I'm a well-traveled middle-aged man with much life experience, and I'd never even heard of it until about 4 years ago.If your expectation is for all Christians to agree on everything, to all interpret everything identically, that's not a realistic expectation. That's what I was referring to as illogical. That simply isn't gonna happen, whether in matters of faith or in any other area of life outside of Christianity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "I don't believe the bible is the 'Word of God'." ~ LewisFair enough. And while that would normally be enough info' as far as traditional Christian beliefs go, I trust that I need to be more thorough, in your case. With that said, is the above an admission that *no* part of the bible is "God-breathed", AKA, the "Word of God", even the "Commandments"? Yes, or no? "I also don't see it as all or nothing." ~ LewisYes, I know. You choose to choose which parts appeal to your senses, and the parts that don't(or the parts that people take issue with), you have excuses for why the face-value language means something other than what it says.Previously, me: And BTW, what you offer, above, is a false dichotomy. One can be "committed" to both "Christ" and "the bible"(God's supposed written word). I was. You respond: "If you're committed to both, your Christ can be no larger than your bible."In fact, my version of "Christ" was bigger than the bible, which is what allowed me to throw out the doctrine of "hell" and a "God" who plays favorites. I was still very committed to the other parts of the bible. In your own words: I didn't see it as all or nothing. "If your expectation is for all Christians to agree on everything, to all interpret everything identically, that's not a realistic expectation."Yet, I don't believe it's unrealistic for believers to at least agree on the social issues of the day if they're all presumably channeling the same "God". Like blog owner Libby Anne said.."[...]we're coming at this from two different perspectives. I don't think there is a God, and you are convinced that there is one."I don't believe that invisible, conscious beings exist and that they guide people and/or give them advice. To me, that Christians can't agree on the social issues of the day makes perfect sense. You, on the other hand, have to point your finger at others, second-guess them, and do things like pretend to know what they do and don't "desire" to believe. I know you mean well, but as far as I'm concerned, you're only strengthening my belief that there is no "Jesus" guiding you, or anyone else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    "In fact, my version of "Christ" was bigger than the bible, which is what allowed me to throw out the doctrine of "hell" and a "God" who plays favorites. I was still very committed to the other parts of the bible. In your own words: I didn't see it as all or nothing."Then where did this come from?…"I'll say it again: During the phases of my deconversion, I attempted to divorce "Christ" from the parts of the bible that made me uncomfortable and seemed illogical. I was a Universalist at one point. This worked for a while, until I finally realized that "Christ" was just me self-projecting as "God", which, today, is what I believe all "God"-belief is. To me, this much, much better explains why believers don't hear "Jesus" the same."To an outsider, this looks like you didn't like the combination of Christ AND the bible, so you tried to separate Christ FROM the bible, and then you couldn't reconcile what you came away with, so you decided he just doesn't exist. Earlier, you stated that you didn't think Christ always acted properly or nobly, so you obviously were unable to separate Christ from a narrow interpretation of at least ONE passage from the bible.You choose to choose which parts appeal to your senses, and the parts that don't(or the parts that people take issue with), you have excuses for why the face-value language means something other than what it says.Are you sure? You might be surprised to hear me say "I don't know" on more issues than you might expect. I don't rationalize the bible. I have no commitment to it. Yes, I believe it unwise to accept a great deal of it at face-value. Some of it requires an application of common sense, some of it has to be discerned within a larger framework, and some of it, frankly, I have no clue what it means.You, on the other hand, have to point your finger at others, second-guess them, and do things like pretend to know what they do and don't "desire" to believe. I know you mean well, but as far as I'm concerned, you're only strengthening my belief that there is no "Jesus" guiding you, or anyone else.Wow. Don't go making it personal or anything.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    You choose to choose which parts appeal to your senses, and the parts that don't(or the parts that people take issue with), you have excuses for why the face-value language means something other than what it says.I also need to ask, if the bible isn't (or wasn't) being worshiped, and isn't (or wasn't) being treated equally with God Himself, why would the above even be an issue?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis, if you are stating that the Bible is not infallible and cannot necessarily be trusted, what are you making your decisions based on? Do you believe that God is speaking to you personally, through your relationship with Jesus, or something like that? How do you determine what God actually wants? How do you know you are right? The problem, as I see it, is that there is no answer to these questions except "I use discernment," and I still have no idea what you actually mean by that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Libby…It's like I've said before, Jesus never promised us a bible to lead us into truth. In the gospel of John (and reinforced elsewhere), Jesus promised believers the Holy Spirit to guide them…and that guidance would include guiding them through religious texts. I believe that God DOES speak to believers personally – but sometimes His is just one voice among many, and it's up to us to figure out the difference. If the first place we turn is to the bible, that's a symptom of religious addiction rather than a guarantee of success. One of the books within the bible even speaks to the need to "rightly divide" the texts, which means that face-value isn't always a good idea.Very few fundamentalists practice their faith through being "lead into all truth" by the Holy Spirit. EVERYTHING is measured by a surface, literalistic reading of the bible. "The bible says its so, so it IS so." This is why their tail starts to hurt when someone points out a contradiction or a discrepancy in the contents of the bible. They're worshipping, in practice even if not intent, the bible. There are more Christians actually worshiping the bible than not, in essence using it as a rulebook. ALL fundamentalists do. Heck, bible worship itself is one of their fundamentals.Even back when I used to refer to the bible as "God's Word", I didn't see it as a rulebook, but rather a book largely about discipline, moderation, and personal responsibility. I still see it that way, but I also see it in what I consider it's rightful place – as a supplement to my faith, not the absolute be all and end all of it. It's a book with SOME of God's words, SOME of Christ's words, some words about God and Christ, some history, some words about people, a handful of songs and proverbs, much of it inspired (which doesn't necessarily mean perfect), some of it the personal opinions of the authors, all of it having filtered through a plethora of human handlers and translators.As far as discernment, we once discussed the situation you had in college. Trying to discern and actually discerning are two different things. This is why I say sincerity and intent aren't the issue. Actually accomplishing the differentiation, and doing so correctly, is what discernment is. Not a single one of us always get it right.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis, my parents listened to the Holy Spirit too. They believed in the Holy Spirit and sought every day to be guided by it and by Jesus, with whom they each had very personal relationships. Every time they read the Bible, they prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide them and help them understand what God was teaching them. If God could talk to anyone and expect to be heard, it was them, because they wanted nothing more but to listen. All I'm hearing you say is "those people who disagree with me weren't listening/discerning right. In contrast, I am listening/discerning right." That is the exact same thing my parents would say about you. All am saying is that if there is an all-powerful God and that God cares about communicating with humans, it is logically follows that he wouldn't get his wires crossed. Say what you want about people misunderstanding, to infer that everyone who "doesn't get it" is not actually listening to God and seeking his will above all else is silly and, I would argue, arrogant. Why would God allow people to seek to listen to him and desire to do his will, and yet not make his will clear? It makes no sense. You needn't rehash your position again. I hear what you're saying, I simply don't think it makes sense. We are coming at it from different perspectives. You are trying to explain what you see based on your belief in God, and to do so you have to say that everyone hearing something from God different from you is wrong. I get that. I, however, am coming from a different perspective. I look at the world without the assumption of a God, and behold, it makes sense. No wonder "God" "tells" people different things! That there being no God to begin with explains the disagreements between Christians perfectly! Suffice it to say, I don't think we're going to agree.

  • Anonymous

    It all becomes clear. Looks to me like "discernment" means that God tells you whatever you want him to tell you; nobody can double-check or verify.Since you don't care about the truth of what God teaches,* why do you care whether or not the P/QF people are getting it right? Why not just focus on the harm they do, with no regard to whether they have the truth of God's teachings or not?* Since you're replacing verifiable observation with your own subjective impressions and truth is precisely that which is objectively verifiable, I conclude that you do not care about truth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Lewis, my parents listened to the Holy Spirit too. They believed in the Holy Spirit and sought every day to be guided by it and by Jesus, with whom they each had very personal relationships. Every time they read the Bible, they prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide them and help them understand what God was teaching them. If God could talk to anyone and expect to be heard, it was them, because they wanted nothing more but to listen.Sincerity and intent have to come off the table.All I'm hearing you say is "those people who disagree with me weren't listening/discerning right. In contrast, I am listening/discerning right."That's not what I've said at all. In my last comment I even said "Actually accomplishing the differentiation, and doing so correctly, is what discernment is. Not a single one of us always get it right." Regarding your parents, I've said from the beginning "look at the fruit", not at the intent.All am saying is that if there is an all-powerful God and that God cares about communicating with humans, it is logically follows that he wouldn't get his wires crossed.This, IMO, is where we talk past each other on this. You're assigning the blame for crossed wires on a God you don't believe exists. I'm saying people are people, and people get things wrong.Say what you want about people misunderstanding, to infer that everyone who "doesn't get it" is not actually listening to God and seeking his will above all else is silly and, I would argue, arrogant.I haven't said that OR inferred it. I've said to look at the fruit of patriarchal belief (much of which you write about here on this blog) and see if you believe your parents heard from God. The position you're taking puts God in a box – either he exists and is a patriarchal asshat, or he doesn't exist – and you're basing this on the sincerity and intent of your parents (which I don't doubt) when sincerity and intent AREN'T guarantees, or even reliable markers, of quality or accuracy.Why would God allow people to seek to listen to him and desire to do his will, and yet not make his will clear? It makes no sense. Ask Him ;) Why do you assume he hasn't or didn't?You are trying to explain what you see based on your belief in God, and to do so you have to say that everyone hearing something from God different from you is wrong.I haven't said anything like this.Suffice it to say, I don't think we're going to agree. Probably not, but it isn't personal. We're just exchanging ideas, opinions, and beliefs.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Still following this discussion with much interest! And while I see plenty of good points on both sides, it seems like there's some unnecessary piling on Lewis going on here. So just some assorted thoughts–here goes."All I'm hearing you say is "those people who disagree with me weren't listening/discerning right. In contrast, I am listening/discerning right." That is the exact same thing my parents would say about you."But just to play the devil's advocate (perhaps an unfortunate metaphor in this case!), what if Lewis IS right and your parents are wrong? Just because both parties make the same claim (that they are discerning correctly and the other is discerning incorrectly) doesn't mean that it is equally true in both cases or that there is no actual truth to be discerned. That kind of thinking seems overly relativistic to me. To use the much-earlier example of the Obama speech that was being tossed around, two people can hear very different things from the same speech and each can think that their interpretation is correct and the other is incorrect. If those two people were to actually talk to Obama about the ideas he was trying to communicate in his speech, most likely one person would have the correct or at least more-correct interpretation than the other person. Or,I suppose, in another scenario, both could be completely wrong. But the point is, Obama definitely had certain intentions behind those words, intentions would could theoretically be correctly interpreted by a discerning person. And the ability of that person to discern the true intended meaning of those words wouldn't necessarily have anything to do with how earnestly s/he wanted to understand.Of course the big difference with the bible is that, assuming that it is divinely inspired, there is no way to positively verify one's interpretation and prove beyond doubt that one has discerned properly because we can't talk to God like we can (theoretically, at least) talk to Obama. But that doesn't mean that there isn't a correct interpretation and that some people have it right and others have it wrong. Btw, I don't believe that the bible is divinely inspired and the part of it that's up for the most discussion, the New Testament, isn't even part of my religion at all. I'm just saying that I find nothing illogical about saying that there are right and wrong answers about what certain religious teachings mean and nothing wrong with believing that you have figured out what those meanings are. I see nothing wrong with having a strong conviction that you are right about something, as long as you see that conviction as a calling to do good in the world as opposed to a calling to, say, oppress people and limit their rights. All of us believe that we are right and others are wrong about certain things, and not necessarily things that have, easy, objective answers. (Like pretty much any moral question.) Are we all arrogant?"All am saying is that if there is an all-powerful God and that God cares about communicating with humans, it is logically follows that he wouldn't get his wires crossed."What if God is not quite so all-powerful as that? What if God is just one powerful voice among many other powerful voices and s/he/it IS powerless to guarantee that wires will not get crossed? Again, I'm not saying I necessarily believe this (I don't actually believe in a God that "speaks" to people as such), I'm just pointing out that this is a perfectly logically consistent position and I do know many people who hold it. My point is that believing in God doesn't necessarily mean accepting an entire packaged deal of fundamentalist ideas about God. There are as many ways to believe in God as there are people. You may disagree with this particular position but I don't think you can fairly say that it doesn't "make sense."

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    "It all becomes clear. Looks to me like "discernment" means that God tells you whatever you want him to tell you; nobody can double-check or verify."That's not what I've been hearing from him at all. Perhaps I'm failing to discern HIS words correctly (that would be ironic!) but what he seems to be saying is that the soundness of a belief can be evaluated based on the actual effects it has in the world. (the "fruit") Fundamentalist Christian beliefs have caused him, and others, a great deal of needless personal suffering and so he judges them to be unsound. This is perfectly valid. In fact, examining the real-world implications of various positions and judging their moral soundness on this basis is an accepted practice on moral philosophy."Since you're replacing verifiable observation with your own subjective impressions and truth is precisely that which is objectively verifiable, I conclude that you do not care about truth."This seems mighty unfair and incendiary of you. I think you're getting a little nasty which neither your hostess (who seems largely on your side) or your opponent have done. Also, I find the statement that "truth is precisely that which is objectively verifiable" to be very simplistic and problematic. Objective verification, a la the scientific method, is just one way–albeit a very important one–to find a certain kind of truth. It is the truth that I love my family but this truth is not objectively verifiable. There is no objective standard for what love is and no way to verify whether or not a person feels it. There are all kinds of other examples like this. I'm not going anywhere in particular with this but I just wanted to point out that if you're going to accuse somebody of "not caring about truth" you should probably have a better thought out definition of truth. Philosophers have written whole books about the nature of this sticky concept. I hardly think it's something that can be summed up so glibly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Anonymous…This doesn't need to become personal.Why not just focus on the harm they do, with no regard to whether they have the truth of God's teachings or not?Wow. If you're a Christian, you'd seriously be the FIRST to ever make this suggestion to me. I actually get a ton of flak for not being "theological" or "doctrinal" enough in my writing. My philosophy is that if all someone's gonna do with a bible is beat someone else over the head with it, they may as well just use it to wipe their fundament (pun intended). Seldom do I delve into the doctrinal baloney of patriarchy. Seldom do I delve into any doctrinal position at all, unless considering non-essentials to be non-essentials would be considered "doctrine".I deal with the fallout of patriarchy, Christian homeschooling, and religious addictions. Just because I profess faith in Christ, don't assume that I bathe everything I write in scripture or put all my focus on theology. The P/QF crowd won't be moved by any theological debate. Their theology is black and white. Any shade of gray gets the volume set to mute.I'm not out to evangelize the world through my writing. I'm actually trying to help some people survive and escape a twisted sect of Christianity and religious addiction. I've been fortunate to help a few get out of some bad, and sometimes dangerous, situations.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    First, I understand the reality of human error. Second, I never said this was some foolproof proof that there is no God, simply that I find that an atheist perspective explains the division among Christians better than a Christian perspective. I'm going to restate what I've been saying one more time and leave it at that: it seems to me that if there is an all powerful God who speaks to humans and cares what they are doing, he should be able to communicate the same thing to every person who is trying to listen to him. There shouldn't be this huge confusion and disagreement about what God says or wants. Lewis, you keep speaking of fruit. Remember that I come from a very HIGHLY functional family when compared to the experience you went through. My parents aren't crazy nutjobs. In fact, they go to an evangelical megachurch and appear to be normal evangelicals, praying and reading the Bible, fellowshipping with others, sharing their love of God with their children, giving lots of money to charity and working with the underprivileged, etc. They're great people. They just happen to think that in addition to all those wonderful things God has also told them that adult daughters are to remain under their fathers' authority, that they should authorize their older children to spank the younger ones, that women's place is in the home, etc. But you wouldn't know any of that just to look at them. They by all appearances are dynamic Christians who love Jesus and live out Christ's love on earth. I know, I know, you're going to say that "sincerity doesn't cut it." But why not? Why can't God communicate what he wants to anyone sincerely following him? You don't have to answer, because I'm sure you'll again point to human error and say my parents were wrong. Well la di da. They would say the same about you. I personally am not arrogant enough to question that either of you really is trying first to serve God and listen to his voice. I just think what you're serving is simply a figment of your imagination. Feel free to disagree, that's just my opinion, and I have every right to have it. Petticoat Philosopher: "But just to play the devil's advocate (perhaps an unfortunate metaphor in this case!), what if Lewis IS right and your parents are wrong? Just because both parties make the same claim (that they are discerning correctly and the other is discerning incorrectly) doesn't mean that it is equally true in both cases or that there is no actual truth to be discerned." Except that I never said that. Sure, my parents might be wrong and Lewis is right, or perhaps Lewis is wrong and my parents are right. But both Lewis and my parents are seeking God with all their hearts and listening to him as hard as they can, I have to ask why they are coming to such drastically different conclusions, both believing that their views are what God has personally told them. If God cares about talking with humans, why would he not make sure each heard the same thing? That was my point here. Again, I never said I was magically proving that their is no God. I mean, perhaps there is a God but he doesn't communicate with humans, or he's not all powerful, or he doesn't care what humans believe, or he wants humans to figure out issues like patriarchy by themselves, etc. I'm simply responding to the idea that both Lewis and my parents have personal relationships with Jesus and seek to listen to the Holy Spirit…and STILL can't agree. That just seems wacky to me!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    Previously, me: "In fact, my version of "Christ" was bigger than the bible, which is what allowed me to throw out the doctrine of "hell" and a "God" who plays favorites. I was still very committed to the other parts of the bible. In your own words: I didn't see it as all or nothing."Lewis wants to know…."Then where did this come from?…""During the phases of my deconversion, I attempted to divorce 'Christ' from the parts of the bible that made me uncomfortable and seemed illogical. I was a Universalist at one point. This worked for a while, until I finally realized that 'Christ' was just me self-projecting as 'God', which, today, is what I believe all 'God'-belief is. To me, this much, much better explains why believers don't hear 'Jesus' the same." ~ me, previously*There's no inconsistency at all, Lewis. I didn't say I divorced the ENTIRE bible; I said that I tried to divorce…>>the parts of the bible that made me uncomfortable and seemed illogical<<. Remember, according to you, it doesn't have to be "all or nothing". Those are your words. I was committed to both "Christ"(whom I made BIGGER and BETTER than the bible), while at the same time, I was committed to the parts of the bible that aligned with the "Jesus" I so desperately wanted to be real. No inconsistency at all."To an outsider, this looks like you didn't like the combination of Christ AND the bible, so you tried to separate Christ FROM the bible, and then you couldn't reconcile what you came away with, so you decided he just doesn't exist."See here*, above. "Earlier, you stated that you didn't think Christ always acted properly or nobly, so you obviously were unable to separate Christ from a narrow interpretation of at least ONE passage from the bible." ~ LewisLewis, I did NOT deconvert overnight. You spoke of common sense, right? Please use some, here. Former believers don't wake up one day and decide that they "desire" to not believe anymore.I'll say it again(for a third time): Before, when I was still a believer, I would IGNORE (or create bloated rationalizations for) ANY passage that made me uncomfortable. Now, as nonbeliever, I have no need to take the "ONE passage" to which you refer and make excuses for "Jesus" and his various childish behaviors."I don't rationalize the bible. I have no commitment to it."Then if you're not committed to it, I don't quite see how you are in a position to be grilling people who were committed to it, whether in full, or in part. In any case, you've attempted to show inconsistency on my part, and you've failed at that. The readership can scroll up and read the exchange, including the flaws in your charges against me. "Yes, I believe it unwise to accept a great deal of it at face-value. Some of it requires an application of common sense, some of it has to be discerned within a larger framework, and some of it, frankly, I have no clue what it means."Fair enough..i.e.."I don't know". However, that might not be good enough for those who believe(d) the bible is "Divinely-inspired", and it's certainly not good enough for any belief-system that promises to incincerate people for nonconformity. The stakes are too high to sit around saying, "I don't know"."Wow. Don't go making it personal or anything."It's very revealing that you'd accuse me of making it "personal", while you evidently cannot recognize that your blatant second-guessing people's personal experiences is making it very personal, not-to-mention, the arrogance it requires to do so.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "Why can't God communicate what he wants to anyone sincerely following him? You don't have to answer, because I'm sure you'll again point to human error and say my parents were wrong"~ L. AnneAgreed on the, "Why can't God communicate what he wants to anyone sincerely following him?" And how anyone can sit there and tell me with a straight face that "sincerity" and "intent" need to come off the table, is beyond me. Astounding.In any event, yes, the believer can only blame those who don't see things their way. This is why this discussion will go no where. Let's give Lewis the last word and be done with it.

  • Anonymous

    Lewis- This isn't personal, we're just arguing about beliefs. :)I'm glad you've helped people out of that insanity. What I'm taking issue with is that your ultimate standard for the truth of what God commands is "discernment," which can only be code for "whatever I want it to be." That's a very cavalier attitude to take toward truth, so I concluded you don't care about truth when it comes to God.Which is all well and good, but then you shouldn't be arguing that Libby's parents are arrogant or worship the Bible. You have admitted that you have no grounds for saying that they're doctrinally wrong besides your own "discernment," i.e., your own say-so.What Libby and jemand and (I guess) boomSLANG have been saying is, so what? Libby's parents, via their own process of discernment, arrived at a different truth. What makes your process of discernment superior to theirs, when it comes to discovering truth? Nothing. You're putting your "because I say so" up against their "because I say so" and nobody has any clue what the truth of the matter is.So since you don't really care (I infer, as above, from your cavalier attitude toward truth) about what God is actually commanding, I was wondering why you even bother with that kind of argument, instead of helping people who were harmed. I'm glad to hear that you don't do this hermeneutical nonsense often, and that the majority of the work and blogging you do is about helping people, especially women, who have been deeply harmed by P/QF. That's something that everybody, atheist and liberal Christian alike, can come together to do.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    And how anyone can sit there and tell me with a straight face that "sincerity" and "intent" need to come off the table, is beyond me. Astounding.boomSLANG…Then don't pretend to be coming at this issue logically rather than emotionally.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    You have admitted that you have no grounds for saying that they're doctrinally wrong besides your own "discernment," i.e., your own say-so.I've made no such admission. Don't misrepresent my words or try to contort them into what you prefer them to say.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "Then don't pretend to be coming at this issue logically rather than emotionally."..::sigh::I'm coming at from both, thanks. It seems that you desire to make it black and white. 'Sound familiar?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    boomSLANG…I'm only trying to determine what your arguments are. If you think sincerity and intent play a significant role in determining right and wrong or truth, there's no logic to be found there, and logic isn't an important component of whatever you do or don't believe. Sincerity and intent determine sincerity and intent – and not much else. Truth isn't determined by either, and face-value dismissals and poor handling of religious text can't be considered a genuine search for truth. Whether you believe God exists or not, our personal responsibility to be able to differentiate if we genuinely seek truth remains. An all or nothing approach to "the bible" once again dismisses the responsibility of the individual to discern, and negates the litany of ancillary issues that went into its formation and content – all of which are important when considering it and discerning it. I don't think there's been a tremendous amount of intellectual honesty in this discussion, and I think a lot of people are ignoring some pretty obvious things to remain committed to whatever level of personal comfort or discomfort they've found on the issues discussed. Look at all the conclusions of fundamentalist faith you've ascribed to me – on nothing more than your own face-value application of the bible. I mean…However, that might not be good enough for those who believe(d) the bible is "Divinely-inspired", and it's certainly not good enough for any belief-system that promises to incincerate people for nonconformity. The stakes are too high to sit around saying, "I don't know".…Isn't that an appeal to fear or emotion rather than evidence of a genuine desire to understand both the surface AND the undercurrent/background of any particular text, or what that text might actually mean?Look at Anonymous' last post, for instance, and all of the positions this person claims I've taken – which I haven't taken – and makes some major assumptions with no real basis. For instance…What I'm taking issue with is that your ultimate standard for the truth of what God commands is "discernment," which can only be code for "whatever I want it to be." That's a very cavalier attitude to take toward truth, so I concluded you don't care about truth when it comes to God.There's no genuine desire to discern anything I've said evident there.Which is all well and good, but then you shouldn't be arguing that Libby's parents are arrogant or worship the Bible.To my knowledge, I haven't even so much as hinted that they're arrogant. Being wrong or misguided about something isn't arrogance. Disagreement isn't arrogance. Arrogance is arrogance.You have admitted that you have no grounds for saying that they're doctrinally wrong besides your own "discernment," i.e., your own say-so.Totally dishonest.What Libby and jemand and (I guess) boomSLANG have been saying is, so what? Libby's parents, via their own process of discernment, arrived at a different truth. What makes your process of discernment superior to theirs, when it comes to discovering truth? Nothing. You're putting your "because I say so" up against their "because I say so" and nobody has any clue what the truth of the matter is.From the beginning I've said "look at the fruit". The fruit? Look no further than the description of this blog and the general subject matter discussed here.So since you don't really care (I infer, as above, from your cavalier attitude toward truth) about what God is actually commanding, I was wondering why you even bother with that kind of argument, instead of helping people who were harmed.That isn't very honest.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00499236427446909328 Ron Amundson

    Folks are all in different phases of growth, spiritual or otherwise. Some may feel a need for a set of rules in one way, others in another, some with many rules, some with very few. If one desires great authenticity and conformity within a given group, it is relatively easy to prooftext the Bible to support any number of doctrines and practices… the same could likely be said about seeking God's will, personal experience and tradition have a huge influence on what we choose to hear or not hear. Thus, 35,000 different beliefs amongst Christian churches in the US alone, and probably millions in the pews.Yes, Jesus prayed for unity, but alas His creation is exceedingly diverse. Perhaps the unity he was referring to is vastly different than what we in the 21st century want it to be… Would the wondrous diversity in nature not carry over to diversity in human action and practice? What about Paul and Barnabus in their separating of ways in the scriptures.. both no doubt seeked God's will, unity is most certainly God's will, yet they each went on different paths? I tend to think unity surrounds the big deal things the early church fathers hammered out, bearing in mind there was significant diversity of opinion in the fringes of the big deal issues.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis – "I don't think there's been a tremendous amount of intellectual honesty in this discussion, and I think a lot of people are ignoring some pretty obvious things to remain committed to whatever level of personal comfort or discomfort they've found on the issues discussed."Lewis, STOP. You are starting to make some pretty strong accusations here! You other two stop too, Lewis isn't the only one throwing around accusations. I personally think this is a very bad way of going about debating something, at least, if you want the debate to be productive. You all have your lances out and your shields up. Lewis, just accept that we disagree with you. We have listened to you and we don't think your arguments explain what you're trying to explain. You think they do, we think they don't. If we're going to change our minds on this, it won't be here. Now if you guys don't all stop, I'm going to close this thread!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    And to be clear, I was referring to Lewis, boomSLANG, and anonymous, not Ron. If anyone else reading this post wants to provide their thoughts, feel free, but please, keep it to your thoughts and reactions or simple questions and let's avoid this turning into another circular debate.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Lewis, STOP. You are starting to make some pretty strong accusations here! Are they inaccurate?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    "Lewis, STOP. You are starting to make some pretty strong accusations here!" "Are they inaccurate?"Yes, I absolutely think they are inaccurate! If it makes you happy, I don't think everything that boomSLANG or anonymous said was 100% accurate either. This was turning into a dueling match rather than a discussion, and if you guys want to go beat your chests and roar at each other, feel free, but please, not on my blog. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07630805993208700804 Sara Amis

    OK, since I have commented several times on this blog and no one responds, I believe I'll stop. However, I do have a solution to the argument y'all seem to be having, and it's in my original comment above: Look at the results you're getting. If you think Jesus is telling you something, or a particular interpretation of the Bible is the right one…apply that, and see what happens. If the interpretation is good, then the results should be good. Yes, you do have to think deeply about what "good" is…but isn't that kind of the point of leading a religious life?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Sara – I'm sorry if I haven't been reply to your comments – it hasn't been intentional. I did respond to the "good fruits" point when Lewis made it. Basically, my parents' family looks perfect. The kids are happy, hard working, creative, and obedient. The family home is full of fun and love. My mom is beautiful, happy, and entrepreneurial, and my father is dependable, intelligent, engaged, and lots of fun. Their fruit is all there. Except that I changed my beliefs in college and didn't let my parents control my relationship. If I hadn't done these things, all would still appear perfect and beautiful. So to my parents, the fruit is there – their way of life works – except that I "stopped following God and started serving myself." In their view, the fruit is there and their is no problems with their views or their theology. The problem is with me, and that I left their theology. If I had stayed with their theology I would have had the same wonderful fruits that they did, except that I jumped ship. This is the problem I have with the "look at the fruit" argument. I mean, would you tell that to the Botkins? Their fruit is all good! A loving family, married sons, obedient, hard working, entrepreneurial daughters. The fruit is there. So yeah, that argument is not persuasive to me. Plus, it assumes that there is a God out there. I don't think there is. It also assumes that that God can't communicate with their followers, in that each follower is just kind of guessing and then the "fruits" will tell. This just seems odd to me. Why, if there is a personal God who wants a relationship with each of his followers, doesn't he make his desires clear? That is what makes no sense to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    But Sara, don't stop commenting, I enjoy everyone's thoughts whether I agree with them or not and whether I directly respond to them or not! Really! :-)

  • Joseph O Polanco

    β€œThe vulgar modern argument used against religion, and lately against common decency, would be absolutely fatal to any idea of liberty. It is perpetually said that because there are a hundred religions claiming to be true, it is therefore impossible that one of them should really be true.

    The argument would appear on the face of it to be illogical, if anyone nowadays troubled about logic. It would be as reasonable to say that because some people thought the earth was flat, and others (rather less incorrectly) imagined it was round, and because anybody is free to say that it is triangular or hexagonal, or a rhomboid, therefore it has no shape at all; or its shape can never be discovered; and, anyhow, modern science must be wrong in saying it is an oblate spheroid. The world must be some shape, and it must be that shape and no other; and it is not self-evident that nobody can possibly hit on the right one.

    What so obviously applies to the material shape of the world equally applies to the moral shape of the universe. The man who describes it may not be right, but it is no argument against his rightness that a number of other people must be wrong.”

    ― G.K. Chesterton


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