The ‘biblical worldview’ doesn’t come from the Bible

Paul at Disoriented. Reoriented has a nice post today on “The Toxic Assumption of the ‘Biblical Worldview.’

He’s reading through the book unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity … and Why It Matters, by David Kinnamon and Gabe Lyons of the evangelical Barna Group. Kinnamon and Lyons argue that a greater emphasis on a “biblical worldview” is what the church needs to stop hemorrhaging young people.

As Paul notes, this is a popular slogan, but an empty one. In the white evangelical subculture, “‘biblical worldview’ is something of a code for ‘conservative doctrine’ that treats the Bible as a fully applicable roadmap for life in the 21st century.”

The quest for a bit of content to such slogans often seems futile — a tour through an endless cycle of synonymous ciphers. What do you mean by “biblical”? Conservative. OK, then what do you mean by “conservative”? Orthodox. OK, then what do you mean by “orthodox”? Evangelical. OK, then what do you mean by “evangelical”? Biblical. …

Happily, Kinnamon and Lyons take the unusual step of actually enumerating what they mean by a “biblical worldview,” listing the eight essential vitamins and nutrients they say it must entail.

Unhappily, this list is, as Paul says, “a hot mess.”

Here is what they provide as the eight elements of a “biblical worldview”:

  1. Jesus Christ lived a sinless life.
  2. God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and he still rules it today.
  3. Salvation is a gift from God, and it cannot be earned.
  4. Satan is real.
  5. A Christian has a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people.
  6. The Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
  7. Unchanging moral truth exists.
  8. Such moral truth is defined by the Bible.

“Faith, hope, and love abide, these three,” the Apostle Paul wrote, “and the greatest of these is love.”

But faith, hope and love do not abide in this “biblical worldview.”

Love — the greatest of these, the most excellent way, the imperative of the greatest commandment and the second which is like unto it — is apparently not an essential element to a “biblical” worldview.

Seriously, what book were these guys reading? Because it sure wasn’t the Bible.

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God. … Not part of a “biblical worldview.”

For I was hungry and you fed me. … Not part of a “biblical worldview.”

For God so loved the world. … Not part of a “biblical worldview.”

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. … Not part of a “biblical worldview.”

Is not this the biblical worldview that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

We could also critique those elements that did make the cut in Kinnamon and Lyons’ list — such as the perverse choice to emphasize Jesus’ moral purity as his most essential attribute, as though this leper-hugging, Sabbath-breaking, woman-touching, dead-embracing friend of prostitutes and tax collectors wanted us to turn him into the standard-bearer for the very holiness-as-avoidance purity system he trespassed and trampled as routinely as breathing.

But there’s no need to nitpick. Kinnamon and Lyons took eight swings at the question of what constitutes a “biblical worldview” and whiffed on love every time. I am agape at this lack of agape.

If “the Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches,” then this idea of a “biblical worldview” that hath not love is a sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. It is nothing. It gains nothing. Whoever does not love does not know God.

This isn’t complicated. It’s not a trick question.


Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

Any discussion of a “biblical worldview” has to begin with love. And it has to end with love. Love is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end of it. He said so himself.

I don’t know where Kinnamon and Lyons got their “biblical worldview,” but it isn’t from the Bible.
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  • Ann Unemori

    Actually points 6, 7, 8 can and should encompass Faith, Hope, & Charity, emphasize that “I was hungry, and you fed me”, would proclaim indeed that God Loves The World. 
    Point 5 is another important one, and the best way to share faith is through helping others, considering others.
    It all depends how you interpret things.

    Also, call me a word-nazi, but are you using “agape” to mean “aghast”? Sounds to me like you’re trying to say “I am aghast at the lack of agape” or “I stand agape at the lack of agape.”

  • Jim Roberts

    When making rules, there should be considerably less intepretation than is necessary to read this list as endorsing love. After all, if you take these rules exactly literally (which you’re supposed to, see point 6), then that means you probably shouldn’t be telling Fred how to interpret Scripture, what with you being a woman and he being a man.

  • LoneWolf343

     “Agape” also means “mouth hanging open.”

  • Gyrofrog

    When I was young, our church had a weekly meeting called “Agape Circle.”  Whenever I saw that in the bulletin, it never failed to amuse me, the mental image of people sitting in a circle, mouths hanging open in unspecified astonishment…

  • Ann Unemori

    Thanx! I knew it also meant something like that, just pronounced dif-fer-ent-ly.

  • Immaterial

    um… what is its other meaning? *confused*

  • Invisible Neutrino

    In Greek, “agape” is one definition of love, and is pronounced, I believe, “ah-gah-pay”.

    Et voila.

  • Immaterial

    Thanks :) Found the discussion further into the thread, was just confused when on the front page people were all “Oh, the Greek meaning is the normal one, and the actual English one is the one we need to define when people don’t know there’s two meanings to it”

    I’m guessing it’s American Evangelical culture at work, where I’m just not aware of the normal words :P

    (Also, I took the pun to be meaning “I am shocked that they are not shocked by this”; it’s cleverer with the dual meaning, but it worked anyway).

  • Sgaile-Beairt

     agape = koine greek, three syllables, means “divine love’ in christian circles, has for a long long time, whne i was assistng youth ministry 20 yrs ago it was old news.

  • The Tom

    The writer is enjoying the pun.  “Agape” can be a Greek word for love, but it can also be the English word meaning “to gape at something”, as in with surprise or shock, similar to “aghast”.

  • Ann Unemori

    That’s what I thought, but it comes off rather clumsily in this case. 

  • P J Evans

    Salvation is a gift from God, and it cannot be earned.

    So, faith, but not works. Explains why they don’t seem to believe in any kind of giving to others.

  • Figs

     But…if without faith you are not saved, and once you get faith you are saved, isn’t faith earning you that salvation? Like, there’s a precondition to that gift from God. A price. That price is faith. Or am I wrong somehow?

  • Lliira

    Meh, my Lutheran church said it was faith, not works. However, they said that if you had faith, you would do works. Not doing works was proving that you had no faith. Further, look at the wonderful stuff God has given you, and God loves you, and God will be so very very disappointed in you if you don’t do good things. Lots of good things, only good things, live your life for others every second of every day, and kick yourself in the head whenever you fail to live up to perfection. God still loves you, even though you’re disgusting and make the baby Jesus cry. 

    The doctrine of faith, not works, means that nothing can ever be proven. That can lead to the idea lots of right-wing Christians seem to have, that works don’t matter and can in fact be a bad thing. Or it can lead to a constant nervousness and self-hatred because you aren’t good enough for God. A Puritan minister described it as like a spider held over a the flame of a candle. 

  • P J Evans

    ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ by Jonathan Edwards.

  • AnonymousSam

    Oh, oof. My American Thought and Literature teacher had us read that as one of the very first things in the class. I struggled so badly. Between that and a little poem which could be summarized as “my baby son died and this makes me very happy because he’s with God now”, I thought that class was going to be–no pun intended–Hell.

    Thankfully, then we got to Anne Bradstreet, who could be called the first published American feminist, and the instructor made it clear that she was his favorite writer of that era.

  • Makabit

    I used to teach “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” to my junior class. It’s a great piece. It’s hard to teach in a Catholic school, though. The kids think it’s blasphemous.

  • FearlessSon

    Meh, my Lutheran church said it was faith, not works. However, they said that if you had faith, you would do works.

    I always thought that the order of that was the other way around.  That is, you do good works in order to build faith.  The works are kind of a meditation, a way of making yourself more spiritually pure in the eyes of God, not because of your work itself, but because of the lessons you learned doing that work.  Do good works for other people, see the gratitude and love you spread in doing so, and know that you are a more faithful person for having done it.  

  • Jenny Islander

    And I was taught that both are true.

  • Coleslaw

    I think you do good works because they need doing. Hungry people need food. Cold people need a coat. Thirsty people need a drink. That’s true, whether there is a God or no.

    If good works are connected in any way with salvation, then other people become a means to an end. And I can’t see how using other people as a means to an end can be moral.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I can actually see works-produced-by-faith as possible without treating people as means instead of as people. If you’re saved, it’s because you’re the sort of person who sees that these things need doing and then does them. Salvation doesn’t come from good works, nor good works from salvation, but they both come from the same thing, which in this is probably God.

    I’m not sure where in this people fall who do good works sometimes but are selfish other times–which is all of us who aren’t working ourselves to death to help others; selfish is not inherently bad.

  • Jon Maki

    Meh, my Lutheran church said it was faith, not works. However, they said that if you had faith, you would do works.

    I got more or less the same message in my Lutheran church, though it was more along the lines of “Jesus was nice enough to die for your sins, so honestly, the least you can do is try to be a good person.  Jesus would like that.”  There was also an admission that, sure, you could get away with being a reprobate, technically, but they were pretty sure that if you have faith you’ll feel motivated to do good works.

  • Ann Unemori

    Helps if you grew up in Lake Woebegon.

  • Jon Maki

    Well, close enough, though even Lake Woebegon would seem like a bustling metropolis compared to where I did grow up.

  • Tricksterson

    Even at the height of my arachnaphobia I never would have tortured a spider, just squished it, quick and clean.

  • josh barkey

    I’d wager a guess that their omission of love might have something to do with the fact that — as much as these sorts of chaps will try to avoid admitting it to themselves — people who are NOT just exactly like them, theologically, still seem to be somehow capable of loving.

    They’ll wordplay their “general atonement” garbage all day if you call them on it, but it’s a sticky point better off left at the periphery. Too hard to legislate. Too hard to CONTROL. And if there’s one thing our young people need… it’s to be controlled.

  • Boze Herrington

    Sigh. We build these communities centered around one person’s interpretation of the Bible, and then anyone who reads the Bible as it was intended is attacking the Bible.

  • John Magnum

    Points six, seven, and eight are a single point, biblical inerrancy, smeared out over nearly half the list. And since they’re attempting to explain and define the substance of the Biblical worldview, saying “The Biblical worldview is do what the Bible says” is not enormously helpful. Note that their list isn’t saying “The Bible inerrantly proclaims that the greatest principle is love”, just “The Bible inerrantly proclaims”. There’s nothing in there about the substance of those principles and moral truths, just the metatextual assertion that the Bible contains them.

  • walden

    That’s a terrible list for a “biblical worldview”. 
    I actually think only #3 is fully consistent with such a view – and that, only if paired with “faith without works is dead”.
    Almost everything else on this list is bibliolatry of a particularly narrow sort….

    I don’t even think the first one is accurate — although necessary for certain views of atonement that require JC to be the lamb without spot.

    This list doesn’t even contain the basics of Christian doctrine: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”  Nor the “good news”.   Bleaahhhhh.

  • Marcion

    To be extremely generous to Kinnamon and Lyons, they might be trying to work the Old Testament into their “Biblical Worldview.” Love is… Less emphasized there. That being said, if that’s the case, then staying away from mixed fibers, shellfish and menstruating women needs to be somewhere on that list. Maybe in the next edition.

    What really surprises me is that the bible blatantly contradicts itself on something like half of those points, but they still say that the bible is inerrant. Did they even read the bible before defining their “Biblical Worldview”?

  • extremities

    Here I take issue.  I agree with you that love is a superior path, but I don’t agree that it’s the Biblical path.  Some people take the Bible, and, like you, use it to justify the basic goodness within themselves.  Some people, like Al Mohler let’s say, take the same Bible and use it to justify their own prejudice, bigotry, tribalism, and lust for power.

    Who am I to decide between them?  Biblegod orders genocide, and also sent his own son to die for us … to save us from what he would have had to do to us otherwise.  The Bible ascribes both wise moral commandments and some of the vilest atrocities imaginable to its chief character; the only way to avoid seeing the contradiction is to come to the table precommitted to the notions that god is good and the Bible is an important route to connecting with him.   Abandon those–or at least question them–and you can avoid the mental backflips and view it as a conflicted, man-made historical artifact.
    Let me come at the question more pithily: “biblical” morality or “biblical” thinking is a incoherent mess which no one follows in toto.  Everyone lives by their own inner lights and use the Bible to justify them after the fact; liberals admit this, conservatives deny it.  Liberal believers like to exegesis their way out of all the nasty things the Bible it says.  Conservatives just deny that they are, in fact, nasty.

  • flat

    hello God, Flat here: sorry that we suck so much at doing your will.

  • JRoth95

    I laughed out loud (boy that’s a lot of typing; I should try to shorten that) at “agape at this lack of agape.” I was also reminded of the first time I saw the word written, which was on hand-lettered signs with arrows stapled to telephone poles in a industrial/warehouse area of Miami. My RCC church was charismatic enough that I’d heard the word, but had no idea how it was spelled (I was about 10), and either my parents hadn’t either or they just thought it was funny to play along. Anyway, it was simply hilarious to see these signs directing drivers to someplace that either was or would cause them to be agape.

  • Makabit

    I once read a delightful list of  ‘ways a Christian woman ends a relationship’. My favorites were: “I feel called to the ministry…somewhere very far away from you,” and “Of course I love you, but it’s just agape between us now.”

  • Enoch Root

    Quoth: “Kinnamon and Lyons argue that a greater emphasis on a “biblical worldview” is what the church needs to stop hemorrhaging young people.”

    I argue that a greater emphasis on understanding the divine and oneself is what a person and their community might need in order to have a better life.

    Within the context of keeping an institution full of people, however, it might make total sense to avoid cultivating compassion and understanding. After all, look at North Korea.

  • Lliira

    5. A Christian has a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people.

    When someone asks, what does faith in Christ mean, what can anyone following this list answer? There is nothing about what Jesus taught on it. 

    6. The Bible is accurate in all of the principles it teaches.

    Stone disobedient children. Love thy neighbor. Judge not lest ye be judged. Kill thy neighbor and all they neighbor’s children and cattle and sow thy neighbor’s field with salt. Women are filthy about 1/4 of the time. Slaves, obey your masters. It is as likely for a rich man to get into heaven as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. There is no longer male nor female. God has shown me I should call no one unclean.  Honor thy father and they mother. Leave your father’s dead body to rot and follow me. 

    How do they expect to keep any children in their church after said children become literate? Or do they expect said children to never ever read the Bible, even though the Bible is supposed to be so important? It’s been at least a couple hundred years since reading the Bible was the province of an elite few, but that is the only way they can possibly succeed in this. Which, to this former Lutheran, looks like medieval Catholicism, not related to Protestant teachings at all.

  • AnonymousSam

    Let’s see. I wonder which message kids, teenagers and young adults are most likely to respond to?

    1) God has a list of rules. He wants you to follow all of them, and trust me, you don’t want to find out what happens if you break them. And you will break them. You’ll break every single one of them, because you’re a disgusting, vile piece of dung beneath God’s notice, and only fervent, desperate prayer on your part can pull you out of that. Good luck!

    2) God loves you, kid. You and every beaten, tired, bullied sod out there. In the end, he always sides with you. These other people? They get their shot, and who knows, maybe they don’t learn from it. You know the great secret, though. In the end, they’re never the ones who win.

    I know which one I’d have preferred to hear when I was young.
    I know which one kept me a Christian-hating atheist until I found this blog.

  • Lliira

    I believed in #2 when I was a teenager. It did me no good, and in fact probably did me harm. Teaching people that they’re better than others always does harm. Also, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people all the time. I guess “in the end” could mean “after you’re dead”, but I’ve never exactly found that inspirational. I didn’t want my enemies to burn in hell (I didn’t believe in hell anyway), I wanted them to stop hurting me now. And Christianity never led me to a way to know how to do that, or even to allow me to want them to do that.

    I only found love when I became an atheist. Because that is when I started to believe I was allowed to love myself and do what I needed to do to stop other people from hurting me.

  • AnonymousSam

    First of all: I wish you could have had a better youth, and that it hadn’t led into a life of constantly knowing that there are people how would pat themselves on the back while taking away your rights and the treatment you need. My life took a pretty steep dive while in school and I know all about having enemies you can’t stop or escape. Being different has always put me in a situation where the vast majority of people have no empathy for my situation and think I brought it on myself. You’re right that religion, when misused, can aggravate one’s feelings of helplessness.

    Was what you were taught a more progressive message, or the standard “Christians are better than non-Christians” message? I was aiming for more something like what Fred would want to pass down to his kids if they were in the kinds of situations that kids and teens have to deal with all the time (see that bullying thread earlier today). I know if I had to do it all over again, a progressive Christian message might have helped me a great deal, and certainly better than the threat of divine retribution on top of everything else.

    I still count myself as an atheist, albeit one with a creed. The best I can do is hypothesize what message might have caused that to not be the case, and for me, it would have had to be a positive one, as my life had very few positives. Feeling like someone was on my side might have helped a great deal, since it often seemed like no one else was.

  • Lliira

    I was taught a progressive message. My grandfather was a member of the Communist Party, my mother told me there was no hell, I was taught “we are all one in Jesus Christ” (like it or not), women and men are equal, racism is evil, it’s okay to have sex before marriage, contraception is very good, abortion is acceptable, it’s our job to take care of the environment, there’s nothing wrong with being a sexuality other than straight, help the poor and the sick and the disabled, violence is always wrong, Hindus and atheists go to heaven too, etc. It was pretty much Fred Clark’s message, except with an explicit “sex before marriage is more than perfectly fine, it is recommended” rider. 

    It wasn’t that I was better because I believed in Christ. Both the Lutheran church I was raised in and the liberal Baptist-ish church of my grandparents that I often went to taught that, since I knew Jesus’ message, and I had enough to eat and clothes to wear and a roof over my head, I was *much* worse than everyone who did not have those things if I did not follow it every waking moment. (Also, that I should probably feel guilty about my dreams, too.) If I did follow it, I was better, but that was due to God, not to me. Every good thing was from God; every bad thing was my own fault. And to prove I was better than my enemies, and that therefore God was not horribly disappointed in me, I had to forgive them. More than that: I had to go out of my way to give everyone the benefit of the doubt no matter what. And as with all philosophies that rest on the idea that you’re better than those people over there, there’s always a tension: am I really? 

    It wasn’t the Christian idea of salvation I rejected. I was agnostic about that nearly my whole life. I figured, whether Jesus was divine or not, everyone went to heaven, because the alternative made  zero sense. What I finally rejected, and what led me to realize that religion was an unnecessary postulate in my life, was the philosophy — forgive everyone, do not judge, always do unto others as you would have them do unto you — because it was hurting me. In my life, Christianity was making me passive and self-hating. Besides, I realized that the supposed comfort that I was a better person than the people hurting me was no comfort at all. Allowing myself anger, allowing myself to not forgive — that freed me. It canceled my enemies’ emotional power over me.

  • AnonymousSam

    Hmm… not to pick, but do you think Fred is that way? Passive, not allowing himself to be angry?

    I can see where it went wrong for you, but I think a part of it was not having the perspective yet to see that forgiveness isn’t something that you should grant arbitrarily to anyone who wrongs you or others, much something you should blame yourself for if you are unable to provide. I’m pretty sure we’ve discussed that here on more than one occasion.

    Personally, dropping out of the hypothetical “what would have been better/what could have been?” discussion, I’m glad you found something that worked for you, regardless of what led you to it. I often wonder whether I would be different if I hadn’t hated Christianity so much for so long, and then I think, “I’m not so bad now, so apparently it worked out well enough.” Wherever you go, there you are.

  • Lliira

    Hmm… not to pick, but do you think Fred is that way? Passive, not allowing himself to be angry?

    Nope. The Christianity he was brought up in was different. Also, he’s a man, and was a boy. Girls and women have a much harder time giving themselves permission to be angry, because society says they are always wrong to be.

  • AnonymousSam

    Fair point about sex and permissible emotional displays. At least when you finally felt allowed to express anger, it was ultimately to your benefit. Many people wind up bottling up their anger to the point that bad things happen when it finally comes out.

  • Lunch Meat

    The Bible is not the gospel, nor is it the foundation for a Christian life.

    Actually points 6, 7, 8 can and should encompass Faith, Hope, &
    Charity, emphasize that “I was hungry, and you fed me”, would proclaim
    indeed that God Loves The World.
    Point 5 is another important one, and the best way to share faith is through helping others, considering others.
    It all depends how you interpret things.

    The problem is that “unchanging moral truth in the Bible” is code for “gays, feminists, environmentalists, and liberals are evil”, not “love each other and feed the hungry.”

    This reminds me of the time I posted a hypothetical question on facebook, “If you and a group of people were stranded on a desert island with no books or other sources for morality and/or philosophy, what 3-5 principles would you want to make sure your kids learned, above all others?” (The idea being that if we distill the Christian faith down to the most important points that we absolutely could not go without, a lot of the stuff we focus on wouldn’t be there.) One person replied, “the 10 commandments as the foundation of morality.” I tried to explain the point is that you can’t refer to the ten commandments without having the text of the ten commandments. He didn’t get it.

  • Tricksterson

    While “gays, feminists enviironmentalists and liberals are evil” can certainly be taken as the message and is probably the one intended it speaks well of Ana that she can get love your neighbor and help the needy” out of it.

  • Carstonio

    None of the items in Kinnamon and Lyons’ alleged “biblical worldview” have anything about the kind of world the worldview-holder wants to live in. I would welcome a world where folks follow the principles listed in the Isaiah quote (and I only know the source from from Googling) whether they belong to Christianity or Judaism or any other religion.

  • Deird

     The people who tend to come up with lists like this often refer to people who don’t believe them as “wishy-washy” people who believe “anything” – those new age, hippie types who don’t actually value truth at all and think all religions are the same. (In other words, your typical non-RTC in the Left Behind books.)

    Well… I quite often go to church and recite the Apostle’s Creed. Which I firmly believe to be the truth. It’s not that I don’t value truth – it’s just that I don’t agree with their particular “biblical worldview” list.

    Unfortunately, if I told them that, I doubt they’d believe me. After all, if I valued truth, I’d obviously think they were right.

  • Gotchaye

     Absolutely.  I’m no longer surprised when someone tells me with a straight face that they “believe there’s an objective morality” as if that’s somehow interesting or useful information after they get some push-back on some particular claim about homosexuality or women or the evils of socialism.

    To my mind, this is the best evidence there is for the usefulness of a strong liberal arts education.  Lots of people obviously care a great deal about questions like “what sort of thing is morality?” and “what do other people think about morality?”  It pains me that they so thoroughly lack the intellectual tools needed to think about those questions, even as they (correctly, IMO) believe that the answers to these questions are among the most important things to know.

  • P J Evans

     The class where we got into that kind of question was intro to political philosophy – although it was ethics we were discussing.

  • Will Hennessy

    Fred, you subversive little shit. Don’t you know what a dangerous game you’re playing here? I mean, Jesus talked about love all the time, and LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM.

  • Will Hennessy

    Or, to put it another way:

    “Peter Pumpkinhead put to shame
    Governments who would slur his name,
    Plots and sex scandals failed outright,
    Peter merely said, ‘Any kind of love is alright.'”


  • Tricksterson

    Then again:

    No pearly gates
    No thorny crown
    You’re always letting us humans down

  • Lunch Meat

    By the way, unless you posit an extreme view of biblical inspiration, that God literally dictated the words of the Bible to the writers, then 6 and 8 definitely cannot be true. The Bible did not exist when the Bible was written, so the Bible cannot say anything about itself, unless one of the writers knew not only that their own book would be canonized but also the identity of and information contained in every other book canonized. This would only be true if God had given said writer a prophesy, which we have no reason to believe.

  • Lunch Meat

    I should clarify; 6 and 8 could be true, but it could not be true that “the Bible says 6 and 8.”

  • AnonymousSam

    Possibly? IIRC there’s a bit in Exodus where God commands Moses to celebrate the completion of the Torah. You know, that collection of books, none of which were written when he said that?

  • Green Eggs and Ham

    And to compound your point, there is the problem of the various canons of the various Churches.

  • WayofCats

    To me, stuff like this explains why so many fundamentalists don’t think too much, and can’t apply logic and reason. What they are required to believe does not lend itself to thinking.

  • Ross


    To me, stuff like this explains why so many fundamentalists don’t think
    too much, and can’t apply logic and reason. What they are required to
    believe does not lend itself to thinking.

    Not exactly. It doesn’t lend itself to thinking to believe something that is merely incoherent. But to believe things which are actively and patently opposed to easily observable reality actually requires quite a lot of thinking. Constant mental gymnastics in order to keep reality out.

  • AnonymousSam

    Not sure about that. When something forces itself upon them, maybe. I’ve seen a number of fundamentalists who seem to view even thinking about something as challenging the moral authority of their leaders/the Bible/God, though. And then there’s people like Ginny, who boast about not listening…

  • Ann Unemori

    It might give hope to see that more than a few Christians are wising up to such a loveless, legalistic approach, I always get some hope, and often a laugh, whenever I visit the Stuff Fundies Like website,

  • walden

    the apparent Biblical Worldview (or at least Kinnamon/Lyons tests 6-8):

    “For everything there is a prooftext
    And a verse for every purpose under heaven.”

  • walden

    And this one is just weird: “Satan is real”

    Required belief in satan? A character who at most shows up in an occasional book, and doesn’t appear in most.   I can see these guys want to update the creed (“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…..and in that other guy, the really bad one with the evil laugh”)

  • Jenny Islander

    Yeah, that one made me blink.  What, Satan is a primary deity or something?  Even the very stiff and conservative Lutheran pastor who led me through confirmation class felt comfortable explaining the different Christian opinions re personified evil.  He said plainly that  you don’t have to believe that evil has a name, only that there is an inclination to evil abroad in the world, which anybody can plainly see just by cracking a history book.

  • JonathanPelikan

    I came to slacktivist before you started in on  the first LB movie; I’d say you were most of the way through book 1 when I leapt aboard… and ever since then, Fred, I’ve been reading pretty steadily. I can’t thank you enough, because I’ve gone from an atheist with more than a little intolerance towards Christianity because I’d been seeing and feeling the blunter, dumber, antiChristian end of it… to the sort of atheist who can scroll that list and, before reading any of your commentary, poked some of the major issues with it, such as the absence of love or hope in this set of Christian rules.

    It reads a lot like what a Judge Dredd sort of Lawful Neutral deity might lay out. Here are The Rules; feel how you like, have hope or not, I don’t give a shit, but so fucking help you if you break The Rules… Which, when you come down to it, is a startlingly frank and honest admission about something that fundies typically try to always hide and soften and lie (often to themselves) about.

    I’m actually surprised that ‘Hell exists’ wasn’t on that list somewhere to make the ‘or else’ even more explicit, even though the point still gets across rather well.

  • Ralovett

    I have just discovered that I must be a flaming liberal. I just assumed that “love” and the other things Fred mentions were what numbers 6, 7, and 8 were about. That is, that these were the accurate, unchanging, moral truths defined by the Bible. 

  • Geds

    A Christian has a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people.

    This struck me in a way that the idea has never really struck me before.  This is, really, one of the key ideas of Evangelical Christianity and it’s also the most ass-backwards way of doing things I can imagine.

    Ever since I left the church I’ve realized more and more that I am, in fact, an evangelist for all kinds of things.  I tell people about bands I like and books that I enjoyed and TV shows that are great.  But never once has it occurred to me to say that the appropriate way to get people to listen to a band is by stopping at sharing my enjoyment of the band with that person.

    I could sit here all day and say, “Man, Sons of Bill is an awesome band.  I love listening to their music.”  I could tell you about the times I’ve seen them.  I could talk until I’m blue in the face about my appreciation for Sons of Bill and it won’t actually matter.  If I’m only sharing my particular appreciation for Sons of Bill I’m just using Sons of Bill as a vehicle to talk about myself.  So you might walk away thinking, “Man, that guy really likes Sons of Bill,” but you’re not walking away thinking about Sons of Bill.  That seems like an important nuance, doncha think?

    It’s a much more effective tactic to say, “Hey, you know what band is awesome?  Sons of Bill.  Get you some:”

    (And, yes, I see what I did there.)

  • Will Hennessy

    On another note (perhaps a more serious and pointed one), I’m finding it both amusing and sickening at this trend in “non-denominational”  Evangelical churches of proclaiming themselves things like ‘the church of love’ or ‘the chapel of love’ (though, I think they missed the connection to the song from back in the day), when their behavior outside of their little right-wing evangelical box is anything but loving. At best they’re openly condemning of behavior that they don’t consider “pure” and, at worst, they’re faux-loving, pretending to care for the well-being of their gay or Wiccan or simply non-believer neighbors while calmly insinuating that they believe you’re a sinner bound for hell because of your lifestyle. Deceptively loving. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it.

  • Makabit

    “I am FILLED with Christ’s love! You are just jealous of my success in the Lord.”

  • Thebewilderness

    That is so weird, cuz that is of what they are currently teaching and doing that is not working to fill the church with the young.

  • Geds

     That is so weird, cuz that is of what they are currently teaching and
    doing that is not working to fill the church with the young.

    The overlap between Evangelicals and Republicans is most obvious when you realize they’re response to pretty much everything is, “Do the same thing, but do it harder this time!”

    And, erm, feel free to acknowledge the sexual innuendo there.  Or innuendon’t.

  • John

    Dear Geds, you have converted me to your Sons of Bill religion. Thanks for showing me the way!

  • Geds

     Dear Geds, you have converted me to your Sons of Bill religion. Thanks for showing me the way!

    Woohoo!  This will surely get me a spot next to the stage at the great dive bar in the sky where Miller Lite is always on special and Sam Adams Boston Lager is a $6.50 import for some reason.

  • Jon Maki

    I can’t see any reason to list out anything other than 2 and 3, as they trump everything else.

    I mean, if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, is running the show, and you can’t earn salvation from him, why does anything else matter?

    Seriously, fuck it.  Do what you want – God is just going to sort it out anyway, so what difference does it make?  You’re not going to earn brownie points by emulating the sinless life of Jesus, or by sharing your faith, or by sticking to those unchanging moral principles.  As for Satan, refer back to number 2.  Satan’s existence or non-existence is irrelevant in the face of the all-powerful God who is in charge.

    ETA: Now, if they had opted to add a qualifier to 3 and phrased it something like, “Salvation is a gift from God, and it cannot be earned; however, there are certain prerequisites you must meet to qualify for receiving that gift,” then it would have made sense to go on and list those prerequisites. Of course, then they should have listed 2 as 1 and 3 as 2. They also would still need to add some sort of reason for mentioning the sinless life of Jesus, because even then, as now, it sort of leads one to think, “That’s nice. And?”

    Of course, even with that, to Fred’s point, they’d end up missing the boat and trying to find a way to emulate Jesus’s ability to walk on water…

  • Ross

    I am agape at this lack of agape.

    Okay, give it up, guys. The best sentence of 2013 has been written.

  • FearlessSon

    As I pointed out in another recent thread, Altemeyer noted that what fundamentalist Christians are doing is not so much defending what the Bible actually says but what they think it should be about, and nothing, not even the Bible itself will make them think otherwise.  

    This does remind me of something that happened to me one Sunday afternoon few weeks ago, when a guy tried witnessing to me at the bus stop (ironically I was heading to see the musical The Book of Mormon at that time.)  I engaged with the fellow a bit, rather than rebuke him out of hand, because I did not want him to feel like his efforts were wasted, and I did not want to push him further into his hole of religious security by chasing him away from the heathen “Other”.  We went back and forth, and I explained to him a few things I had learned from this very blog (thank you Fred!)  

    However, what I could not really figure out was exactly what it was he wanted from me.  He made his assertions about Jesus being sinless and dying for our sins, etc, but I did not really understand what he was asking me to believe or do.  What was the point?  I suspected that the conversation would have gone on indefinitely if my bus had not arrived.  

  • FearlessSon

    Kinnamon and Lyons argue that a greater emphasis on a “biblical worldview” is what the church needs to stop hemorrhaging young people.

    Altemeyer had something to say on this too, as to why the church loses young people as much as it does, despite putting so much emphasis on this “Biblical worldview”:

    What then gnawed away so mercilessly at the apostates that they could no longer overpower doubt with faith?

    Their families will say it was Satan. But we thought, after interviewing dozens of  “amazing apostates,” that (most ironically) their religious training had made them leave. Their church had told them it was God’s true religion. That’s what made it so right, so much better than all the others. It had the truth, it spoke the truth, it was The Truth. But that emphasis can create in some people a tremendous valuing of  truth per se, especially among highly intelligent youth who have been rewarded all their lives for getting “the right answer.” So if the religion itself begins making less and less sense, it  fails by the very criterion that it set up to show its superiority.

    Similarly, pretending to believe the unbelievable violated the integrity that had brought praise to the amazing apostates as children. Their consciences, thoroughly developed by their upbringing, made it hard for them to bear false witness. So again they were essentially trapped by their religious training. It had worked too well for them to stay in the home religion, given the problems they saw with it.

  • jamesprobis

    Honestly, I think “agape” is a big part of the problem. By which I mean the nitpicking invented terminology Christianity uses when plain English would work. But you can’t use plain English to denounce love while pretending to celebrate love, so you have to invent mind-numbing technobabble that you can split hairs about.

  • Jenny Islander

    I thought we Christians borrowed the analysis of love from a pagan Greek philosopher.

  • Guest

    “Agape” is a Koine Greek loanword, not an invented word.

    Greek had several nuanced words for different kinds of the thing we call “love” in English, and they are used to differentiate between, say, unconditional love for your fellow humans and romantic love for your wife.

  • Jenny Islander

    IIRC, there are four.  Eros is a yearning to be closer, not necessarily sexually; it can also mean crushes, hero worship, etc.  Fervent fans are experiencing eros.  Storge is affection, fondness, familiar/familial love, a natural, animal feeling–puppies and old dogs have it too.  Philia is friendship, and was classically considered the best and purest love between two people because it is the least physical.  (Nowadays the opposite view is more prevalent, hence fannish shipping wars.)  Agape is unconditional love, charity, love that outpours without end, the love of God.

  • Ross

     “Agape” is Koine Greek. You know, the language that the New Testament was written in. I hope you’ll excuse them “inventing” a word to use in place of “plain English”, as it would be another twelve hundred years before someone invented the “plain English” word love.

  • Lliira

    “Agape” not only is not “invented terminology”; it does, in fact, mean something more specific than “love”. Complaining about it is sort of like complaining about “stream” when we have the word “river” already.

    English is very terrible about words for love. We’ve got… oh, one. Other languages have more. I wish we’d snarf pretty much all of them. 

  • Makabit

    English doesn’t have just one word for ANYTHING.

  • FearlessSon

    English is very terrible about words for love. We’ve got… oh, one. Other languages have more. I wish we’d snarf pretty much all of them. 

    That is a big pet peeve of mine.  English has a lot of words, a lot of ways of expressing things with different degrees of subtly and meaning which can make for some great poetry.  However, there are certain concepts that it just cannot handle well.  We have very few words to describe love, despite love being a many splendored thing with quite a few gradients and variations that often need linguistic distinction.  

    Interestingly, English does have quite a few words to describe intellectual deficiency on the part of another person.  I think that maybe says something unpleasant about the kind of environment we inhabit.  

  • Ross

    Interestingly, English does have quite a few words to describe
    intellectual deficiency on the part of another person.  I think that
    maybe says something unpleasant about the kind of environment we

    Also, boy howdy do we have a lot of words for our genitals. (In fact, I believe “boy howdy” is one of them)

  • AnonaMiss

    Interestingly, English does have quite a few words to describe intellectual deficiency on the part of another person.  I think that maybe says something unpleasant about the kind of environment we inhabit.  

    Please pardon the slight necro but I just saw this and I find it fascinating.

    The really interesting thing to me about it is that we have a number of words to describe intellectual deficiency, but that we don’t have a lot of shades of intellectual deficiency. They all basically synonymous in current usage, with the exception of whatever’s newest at the time.

    This points back to the way that in English, we keep coming up with new “value-neutral” ways of saying ‘intellectually deficient’, when the previous way becomes sufficiently corrupted by general usage. Which could be construed as a positive or a negative depending on what you think the baseline is: is it bad, because the value-neutral term keeps being overtaken with insult connotations? Or is it good, because when a term becomes sufficiently hurtful, a subset of us go out of our way to find a new one?

    Would a language with only one word for ‘intellectually deficient’ point to a more accepting culture, in which the word is not used as an insult enough to prompt language change; or a less accepting culture, in which no one even tries to talk about such people without insult?

  • The_L1985

     Er, no, that’s ancient Greek.  The language the NT was originally written in.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Serious question. Is “Jesus Christ lived a sinless life” a Biblical statement? Is there a proof text for this?

  • Deird

    “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

    There are others too, I think, but I can’t remember where. I found that one by searching for “without sin” in the NIV.

  • Kubricks_Rube


  • stardreamer42

    And yet, according to what many churches teach, temptation is itself sin — that whole “adultery in your heart” thing. Is this another place where they aren’t really paying attention to what the Bible says, or another case of doublethink belief, or what?

  • Deird

    Doublethink, I’d say.

    Re the “adultery in your heart”:
    “Lust”, in this case, is not intended to mean just looking at someone and thinking “wow, she’s hot”. It’s much more of an objectification thing. That being the case, temptation to sleep with someone – even adulterously – isn’t sinful; treating them (even in your thoughts) as nothing more than a body you could do things to is sinful.

  • walden

     ‘”without sin”
    Yes, there is indeed a proof text or two or three (although in the epistles, not the gospels). And it figures in an understanding of atonement.  But should we believe it?  Why is it important?  Is it consistent with Jesus’ impatience, working on the sabbath, initial failure to heal the Cyrenian (sp?) woman until she shamed him into it? 
    Not clear why this should be a core “biblical worldview” doctrine — although clearly a dominant one in the history of Christian thought.

  • stardreamer42

    “It reminds me of hearing Republican Party leaders talk about how they
    need to change their “message” and “tone” after getting shellacked in
    the 2012 elections without seeming to understand that voters have
    decisively rejected their policies.”

    There is so much overlap between the two groups now that this doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  • jamesprobis

    I am aware that agape is from the Greek. I am also very aware that Christians will blather on about agape while denouncing love. And I am damned well aware that Christian agape is ANYTHING BUT unconditional love.

  • Foelhe

    I don’t think forcing Christians to use the word “love” fixes any of those problems, though.

  • jamesprobis

     It makes their hypocrisy more apparent. It prevents the hairsplitting “hate the sin” bullshit. Christians resort to obscure terminology to obfuscate their meaning in a desperate attempt to pretend to themselves that the vile hatred they spew is “love”, let them try to do that using common language.

    It’s a cheap rhetorical trick to dazzle the easily fooled.

  • Deird

    Christians … pretend to themselves that the vile hatred they
    spew is “love”

    Gosh. Thanks.

  • jamesprobis

     Don’t fucking cherry pick and remove context from what I said. I am very clearly referring to anti-gay Christians, and their supposed love is nothing but the vilest hatred. If you count yourself among their number You are an enemy of humanity and an enemy of love. If you don’t count yourself among their number, well congratulations on nitpicking and whining about any and all objection to Christians bigotry- people like you are the reason Christianity has a bad name.

  • Deird

    I am very clearly referring to anti-gay Christians, and their supposed love is nothing but the vilest hatred.

    Actually, you’re not “very clearly”. That was kinda my point.

  • Foelhe

    You really need to explicitly say these things when you’re talking about how much a group sucks. I wasn’t even totally sure you were talking about gay rights until this post.

  • Lliira

    You keep saying things you posted were clear that were anything but, claiming you didn’t say things you did very clearly say, and yelling at people who respond to the things you said as if they should be responding to something else entirely. 

    “Gay rights” are not the only love in the world that a certain SUBset of Christians opposes. Not by a long shot. So no, you were anything but clear.

  • BringTheNoise

    people like you are the reason Christianity has a bad name.

    No, I’m fairly sure that’s still the bigots’ fault.

    Also: this is why precise language is a good thing. Avoids confusion, y’see.

  • The_L1985

    Then say “anti-gay Christians.”  You didn’t say that.  You just said “Christians,” implying that that is something that all Christians do. It is not something that all Christians do, as you should damn well know given that this is a Christian blog, and Fred is a Christian.

  • jamesprobis

    Or, you know, people could maybe give me the benefit of the doubt rather than immediately defaulting to whining about how horribly oppressed Christians are by my horrifically imprecise language and what an awful person I am for ever objecting to religiously motivated bigotry directed against me.

    I am ever so fucking sorry that you folks are so deeply offended by my pain. I’ll try to refrain from ever voicing my objection to bigotry in your presence again.

    But hey, at least you’ve all managed to completely ignore my point, so congratulations on that.

  • The_L1985

     Nobody said that Christians were oppressed.  We are simply taking exception to your apparent insistence that all Christians were anti-gay.  An insistence that all A are B can be disproved by a single counter-example: if you find even a single example of an A that is not B, then clearly the statement “all A are B” is false.  This blog is written by a Christian who is not in any way anti-gay, so the idea that “all Christians are anti-gay bigots” is false.

    …J_, is that you?

  • jamesprobis

    And once again, I don’t think that all Christians are anti-gay bigots. The fact I’m posting at this blog could provide some evidence of that for those who aren’t predetermined to assume the worst of anything I ever say.

    I am ever so sorry my language isn’t precise enough for you. Clearly that is the biggest injustice any human being ever has or will face.

    NOW can we talk about the real problem? Or is there yet another thing that I’ve done terribly wrong that we can discuss instead?

  • EllieMurasaki

    What do you want to talk about? That Christianity often is, that many people want a defining feature of Christianity to be, hurting people like you and me for having the wrong sexuality? We’re…all agreed on that. We don’t seem to be all agreed on the fact that you saying all Christians are anti-queer is hurtful to those Christians present who aren’t. That’s a problem too.

  • jamesprobis

    Fine, you’re all special fucking snowflakes. I am ever so fucking sorry that I didn’t split enough hairs to please everyone. Get out the sackcloth and ashes.

    The problem I was trying to address is that meaningless technicalities are used to obfuscate the issue. The problem is that quite frankly love is love, and pretending otherwise doesn’t change that. Denying love is denying love, no matter if you use ancient greek words in a desperate attempt to split hairs.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You do realize that you’re attempting to deny the existence of the love-for-one’s-fellow-humans and often familial and/or friendly love and (shockingly) sometimes even romantic love felt for queer people by the pro-queer Christians who you’re hurting by saying they don’t exist. You do realize that, right?

  • jamesprobis

    I am not denying they exist. I am denying the need for fucking bullshit code words to set one kind of love aside. The fact is that denying any one of those is denying love. You cannot have one without the other, despite the pretense of speaking ancient Greek in order to pretend they are unrelated.

  • EllieMurasaki

    News flash, James. I love you. I do not know you real well, so I can say with absolute confidence that I do not feel familial or romantic love for you, and I do not like what I have seen of you, so I can say with absolute confidence that I do not feel friendly love for you. But I do love you.
    Those distinctions in types of love are IMPORTANT. English is, on this subject, LIMITED.

    Are we done yet?

  • jamesprobis

     Newsflash- you don’t fucking *know* me.

    This is what I’m talking about, this mindless platitude in place of real love. Just  be fucking honest with yourself. You don’t love me, you don’t even know me. You clearly don’t like me. Just be fucking honest for once in your life.

    I am so goddamned sick and tired of having people who hate me blather on endlessly about how much they love me when their every action demonstrates what a lie that is.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So are you denying that ‘love for one’s fellow human’ is a thing or simply that I feel it for you? Or have you just never heard (from someone whose love for you you cannot deny) that ‘I love you but right now I don’t like you very much’?

  • The_L1985

     This is why I’m glad that, as a Wiccan, I’m not obligated to love everybody.

  • P J Evans

     Maybe you could turn down your anger for five minutes and listen to what people here are telling you about how poorly you’ve expressed your thoughts. because it’s more complicated than that.

  • jamesprobis

     Maybe you folks could stop presuming the worst about me and putting words in my mouth and LISTEN TO WHAT I AM SAYING RATHER THAN WHAT YOU WANT TO PRETEND I’M SAYING.

    Mindless platitudes aren’t love. When you love someone you treat them with respect at the very least.

    When anti-gay Christians blather on about how much they love me while demanding legal discrimination against me, THAT ISN’T LOVE. When supposedly pro-gay Christians would rather spit on me than listen to me that isn’t love. When you split hairs and parse words until you find some way to pretend I’m saying I hate all Christians that is not love. Refusing to give a person any benefit of the doubt is not the way you act towards someone you love. And it sure as fuck isn’t unconditional.

    Just because Christians like to pretend they speak ancient Greek doesn’t mean when you spit on someone you are showing them love.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Let’s go back to your second post on this thread. Quoted in full:

    I am aware that agape is from the Greek. I am also very aware that Christians will blather on about agape while denouncing love. And I am damned well aware that Christian agape is ANYTHING BUT unconditional love.

    Yeah, that does sound like you distinguishing between Christians who love you and Christians who merely claim to, and can’t possibly be taken to be you spitting on all Christians regardless of their feelings about you.

  • jamesprobis

     Christians I know who actually show love don’t blather on pretending they speak ancient Greek. Christians I know who actually demonstrate their love for their fellow man don’t feel the need to split hairs because they AREN’T DENYING LOVE in the first place.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I have officially lost sight of your point.

  • jamesprobis

     You never fucking saw my point to begin with, just a strawman of your own construction.

  • BringTheNoise

    I believe it’s “When I said “All Christians are hateful bigots” I clearly was only referring to Christians who are, in fact, hateful bigots and YOU IZ OPPRESSING ME BY TWISTING MY WORDS TO SAY OTHERWISE”.

    Which, I hardly need to tell anyone, is a bad argument and very poor use of the English language.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No, that’s not where it started. I think he might be criticizing our use of the word ‘agape’ to describe a thing he doesn’t seem to think exists.

  • Dave

    So, OK, if I’m following you, you consider the very act defining different types of love (e.g. agape) to be suspect behavior… anyone who goes around doing this is, on your view, probably not showing the kind of inclusive, all-embracing love that we’d prefer, even if they claim to.

    Yes? Did I get that right?

    And, in particular, Christians who go around doing this probably hate gay people… yes?

    I can appreciate that view. It doesn’t quite jive with my experience, but then, I hang out with a lot of pedants, some of whom value making fine distinctions among categories solely for the sake of expressing themselves more clearly and precisely. Heck, I’m one of them. Some of them are Christians.

    And since I’m an out gay man myself, and not inclined to hang out much with people who don’t treat me and my husband with decency and respect, it’s unsurprising that the Christian pedants I hang out with treat me and my husband with decency and respect and, dare I say it, love. I don’t tolerate anything else from my friends, and my friends don’t tolerate anything else from their friends.

    I recognize I’m very fortunate in this, and that they may well be atypical of Christians, or Christian pedants, as a class. Certainly my friends are atypical more generally, so that wouldn’t be surprising.

    Regardless, you are repeatedly passing sweeping and incorrect moral judgments on no small number of my loving Christian pedant friends, and you’re doing so in very loud and hostile ways, so it really isn’t surprising that you’ve gotten my back up in the process.

    I realize you don’t think that’s especially important, and I don’t expect you to stop doing it, and I don’t think it’s necessary to talk about it. If you’d rather talk about the unloving Christian homophobic haters, by all means, go ahead… they certainly exist. And if you’d rather talk about them in language that makes them seem like the norm, rather than treating them as exceptions, you’re free to do that as well.

  • Jenny Islander

    Christians I know who actually show love don’t blather on pretending they speak ancient Greek. Christians I know who actually demonstrate their love for their fellow man don’t feel the need to split hairs because they AREN’T DENYING LOVE in the first place.

    So if we attempt to understand how our language falls short in describing the depth, breadth, intensity, and power of love, we aren’t showing love?  Arguable, I suppose, in the sense that talking may preclude doing instead of prepare for doing.  But I don’t understand your second sentence.  Is attempting to understand love denying love?  If I am attempting to understand something, am I not acknowledging that it exists?

  • Jenny Islander

    Also, nobody here is pretending to speak ancient Greek.  Haven’t you noticed how many words in this language were borrowed from other languages?  Passion, affection, infatuation, and ardor, to name four.  We’ve been doing it since England became a land of sailors and we’ll keep on doing it as long as there is free exchange of ideas.  If we tried to stick to words that are provably purely English, we would sound utterly strange.  (Anybody out there have a link to that physics paper that somebody wrote using only words with Anglo-Saxon roots?)

    Admit that you expressed yourself poorly.  You’re free to do so at any time.  Then stick around for the conversation. 

  • Rowen

    “Now, gimme a word, any word, and I’ll show you how the root of that word is Greek. . . .”

    “Ok, Mr. Portokalos. How about the word ‘kimono?'”

    That’s all I’m really thinking about in this conversation. It’s horrible, I know.

  • BringTheNoise

    Or you could perhaps listen to the many people (not all of them Christian, might I add) telling you that you are not expressing yourself clearly, and work to improve your communication skills, rather than throwing a temper tantrum like a tired two-year-old.

    As Ellie noted earlier: No one here is denying that some Christians act in very unloving ways toward LGBT people, and that such actions need to stop. However, it’s not universal and painting everyone with the same brush (even unintentionally, because intent is NOT magic) is hurtful and should be avoided.

  • jamesprobis

    Jesus motherfucking Christ, I apologize for ever standing up for myself. Clearly you are all on my side, that’s why you’re fucking crucifying me rather than listening to what I have to say. I’m fucking sorry you people can’t give me the slightest benefit of the doubt.

    THIS, this is what Christian “love” looks like. Drive out the outsider! He’s not one of us! That’s why you need to put on a shitty act and pretend you speak Ancient Greek, because the only way to pretend you are demonstrating love is to obfuscate.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But you could be. All you have to do is realize that the Christians who hurt you are not a representative sample of all Christians.

  • BringTheNoise

    Being asked to use more precise language is being “crucified”, is it? THAT puts a whole new spin on the Gospels.

  • Beroli

    Jesus motherfucking Christ, I apologize for ever standing up for myself.

    Your concept of “standing up for yourself” looks a whole lot like flaming everyone else.

    I’m not a Christian. I feel no obligation, as such, to love anyone. I don’t find the way you’re acting here to inspire love.

  • The_L1985

     Um, several of the people who have corrected your lack of clarity in expressing your thoughts are not Christian.  Dierd is.  I’m not.  I don’t remember whether Ellie is or not.

    Nobody is crucifying you.  We are simply reminding you that if you wish to be respectful of others, you must be mindful of how you say the things that you say.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Not. Emphatically not. Atheist. I celebrate Christmas because it’s fun and because my family does, but other than that, not Christian at all.

  • Eminnith

    Why do you expect people do give you the benefit of the doubt when you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt?

  • The_L1985

     1. Nobody is pretending you said anything other than what you said.
    2. You are right that mindless platitudes are not the same thing as respect.
    3. Nobody is “splitting hairs.”  We were simply pointing out that you did not treat Christianity with that same respect in the way that you spoke.

  • vsm

    Why do you assume your culture’s ideas about love are superior to the ideas of another, particularly when discussing a theological concept invented by members of the latter?

  • Ross

     As a father of a small child, let me give you some advice:

    You want to make a sort of “Huu!” noise on the inhale, so that it comes out as “Huu-Waaaah! Huu-Waaah! Huu-Waaaah!”  It makes you sound more plaintive and needy. If the “Huu” isn’t there, it’s a lot easier to tell when you’re just trying to get attention as opposed to actually being upset.

  • Foelhe

    … Again, I really don’t see how.

    It’s possible I’m not familiar with this rhetorical trick, though. I can’t remember anyone ever explicitly saying they’re against love. And in honesty, I can’t imagine that going over well even if the person in question is using agape to contrast it.

    If they did, it would be easy enough to contrast “love” and “false love” or “selfish love” or something equally ominous. Why wouldn’t they just say that instead? I don’t know, if you could give me examples I might be better able to grasp your point, but as it is I’m not seeing it.

  • jamesprobis

     Pretty much every anti-gay Christian ever will claim their vile denunciation of the love between two people is OK because they are objecting to eros, rather than agape. I have personally heard this argument many times. As though demanding a person never love and be loved in return is somehow an expression of unconditional, selfless love. As though destroying families were an expression of unconditional, selfless love.

  • Foelhe

    (Crap, you edited while I was responding.)

    I’m not Christian, but I have been known to use the word agape from time to time. It’s more precise. Granted I was raised Christian, so I might have gotten the word from Christian culture, but it’s useful and worth adopting. And I’m too much of a semantics nerd to complain when people use a precise word over a vague one.

  • jamesprobis

     (Crap, you edited while I was responding.)> sorry about that.

  • jamesprobis

    I edited my post and added the last two paragraphs. But I have to ask what exactly you thought I was talking about when I specifically mentioned the “hate the sin” bullshit. Frankly I think the first paragraph makes it abundantly clear I am talking about anti-gay bigots.

  • Foelhe

    That was my guess, I just wasn’t sure. You specifically said that you didn’t like Christians who stood against love. Gay rights was the safe bet, but there are a lot of topics some Christians take stances on that could’ve fallen under that argument.

    My point, though, was that it’s hard to be clear you’re only talking about anti-gay bigots when you don’t even say that gay people are who you’re talking about.

  • Deird

    Not from over here. As someone raised in Christian culture, I have heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” applied to almost every so-called vice I can think of. It’s not something that’s going to make me jump straight to gay rights – because, honestly? the first thing it makes me think of is alcoholism.

  • The_L1985

     No, it makes it clear that you’re talking about anti-gay bigots in the first paragraph.  It doesn’t make clear that in the second paragraph, you’re not insisting that all Christians fall under that category.

  • Lana


  • Rebecca

    “I am agape at this lack of agape.”
    Beautiful. I know we say this all the time, but you should have a book… :D

    @Jenny Islander: wait, Christians also talk about yetzer hara?

  • Jenny Islander

    Yup, some Christians do talk about yetzer hara.  IIRC this was an acceptable theological idea as far back as medieval Europe if not farther, although I can’t recall whether the theologians in question could read Hebrew or arrived at the idea independently.  Of course, when you’re talking about billions of Christians in hundreds of denominations, you’re going to find some groups in which the notion is anathema and others in which it’s the only acceptable belief as well as groups that are not anxious to be definite on the subject.

  • Carstonio

    I would have also assumed that Christians were required never to get angry.

    Why would the alternative to a universal heaven make zero sense? Eternal suffering after death as a punishment might be horrifically cruel, but it’s entirely reasonable to expect any being in charge of the universe to favor such a punishment. If anything, it’s universal heaven that doesn’t make sense because it seems too good to be true. The same goes with unconditional love, which very likely doesn’t exist. By that I mean that even the people who profess to love me still make me afraid by getting angry at me. Maybe my idea of true unconditional love would be loved ones reacting by patiently explaining what I did wrong in such instances and how I can improve in the future.

  • Jenny Islander

    Considering how pissed off Jesus got on a regular basis–not only flipping tables in the Temple, but also things like “How long do I have to put up with you people?” I really don’t like the “keep sweet” culture of certain Christian denominations.

    There is one argument against a universal Heaven that I think holds water.  It involves free will.  That is, if, when presented with all joy, all pleasure, all fulfillment, all satisfaction, and all love, somebody chooses to go off and sulk, they have to be free to go.  The cause of their denial, as C.S. Lewis points out, is generally not some great thumping sin, just something small that they won’t let go of.  (His analysis of Napoleon in Hell: A little man in fancy clothes in a big empty house, always pacing and muttering about whose fault it is that he lost–never his own.) Hell might be seen as the pallid gloom that is left when a person denies everything that is of God, which is everything that is good.  Or it might be seen as the inability of a soul infected by sin to bear the Presence; this is an Orthodox theological hypothesis, that the light of Heaven and Hellfire are identical, it’s the condition of the soul that makes them feel different.  The solution in both cases is repentance, that is, “I’m sorry.  I was wrong to _____.  Please help me.”  Lewis argues that even the damned can enter Heaven; they just have to be willing to lay down whatever got them damned in the first place.

  • Carstonio

    Lewis is talking about one particular concept of heaven and free will within Christianity, and there are other concepts in the religion where heaven and hell are punishments for sins. His argument works only if one assumes that “all joy, all pleasure, all fulfillment, all satisfaction, and all love” exist, and that’s a massive leap.  I’ve never experienced any interaction with others that would give me cause to suspect that those things exist.

  • Jenny Islander

    Carstonio, you’ve said many things like this over the time I’ve seen you here.  Do you have depression?  Because from the outside, it sounds a lot like the way I feel when I’m down in the pits of depression.  The color and music leech out of the world.

    Also, why does interaction with others come into the picture?  Accomplishing something all by myself can be a very great cause of satisfaction and seeing something beautiful all by myself can almost pierce my heart with joy–when I’m not depressed.

  • Carstonio

    You and I are talking about two different things. I felt incredible joy at the moments when my children were born, and I get enormous satisfaction out of creating things, such as projects at home.

    My point is about how I’m treated by others and how much I’m at fault for that treatment. I have no reason to trust that any explicit promise of all joy or all love will be fulfilled. I can very easy make people hate me or turn indifferent to me if I mistreat them, and that’s probably true for anyone. The difference with me is that I don’t seem to know how to prevent people from ever getting angry or upset with me. My experience with my father taught me that anyone is capable at any time of going from a low simmer to a full boil where anger is concerned. No matter what the reason for the anger, it creates the perception of a hostile environment. Anyone’s love for me is mine to lose.

  • jamesprobis

    Certainly there are plenty of Christians who are not bigots. I’d grant that most if not all of the commenters here are among that number.

    Honestly, the point I was trying to make goes beyond just anti-gay Christians. Fred has posted before about “speaking fundie.” I happen to feel the word agape is a particularly egregious example of that phenomenon. Fred was using it in a clever turn of phrase, if you look through this blog however you will note that most often he uses the word love.

    I find it extremely creepy that love has been turned into a mindless platitude, that people who treat you as unlovingly as possible will say with a straight face they love you. And in my experience “agape” is a big part of that. It’s not a coincidence that is the one you always hear from Christians who use ancient Greek to obfuscate their real meaning.

    Love has a meaning, love can be seen in how you treat people. Agape is a mindless platitude used when real love isn’t present.

  • Dave

    Love has a meaning, love can be seen in how you treat people. Agape is a mindless platitude used when real love isn’t present.

    (shrug) Sure. The thing is, “love” is also frequently — perhaps even typically — a mindless platitude used when real love isn’t present.

    But, sure, I certainly believe that genuinely loving people talk about “love” far, far, far more often than they talk about “agape.” Or, for that matter, “romantic love,” “filial love,” “monoamorous love”, “polyamorous love,” etc. I believe this mostly because people talk about “love” far, far, far more often than they talk about those various special-case words.

    It doesn’t follow that people using those special-case words aren’t loving people, and indeed, that isn’t true in my experience, though I accept that it’s true in yours.

    Nor does it follow that they are less likely to be loving people than those who don’t use those words, although for all I know that might be true.

    Regardless, my own preference is to focus my attention on whether or not love is present. And, as you say, that can be seen in how people behave; I don’t have to rely on analyzing their use of non-use of words like “agape.”

  • vsm

    You are, of course, right in that as non-Koine Greek speakers “agape” is going to sound less meaningful to us than “love” ( actually, as an ESL speaker, I think “love” sounds kind of banal, but that’s neither here or there). Most people don’t have a very good handle on “agape” either, so the insincere among us can equivocate about it better than about “love”. This is condemnable, as agape means universal and unselfish love.

    However, just because someone misuses the word doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of it or consider it. If nothing else, it means we’re trying to understand scripture in relation to the culture that produced it, which is hardly typical of Fundamentalism. “Love” is generally the better word to use when speaking English, especially when we’re trying to be persuasive, but “agape” has its place in Christian discourse.

  • LoneWolf

     Anti-gay measures are usually framed as “tough love” or something. Haven’t seen people engaging in nerdy Greek distictions for that.

  • Damascus

    A whole lot of evangelical Christian-Right bashing going on these days!  And most of it by the progressive, unfundamentalist Christians who proclaim their love for all people! There’s something amiss here.

    “That they may be one, as we are one,” Jesus said in his prayer recorded in John 17. While I agree with a lot of what the new cult of liberation advances, I think an insufferable arrogance is beginning to take over. I think, too, that we need to remember that a lot of “doing” is taking place on all fronts of the gospel proclaiming business, and that not all evangelicals are gun-toting Republicans. I am an Anglican, conservatively progressive, I would say, and not very quick to sink every dogma the church has ever held, as so many seem to be. A little modesty, my fellow liberators. A little more modesty and humility. We’re all searching, and we’re all in this together. Today, give a cup of cold water to an evangelical “Bible-believing” Christian. You will be serving Christ.

  • EllieMurasaki

    A whole lot of evangelical Christian-Right bashing going on these days! And most of it by the progressive, unfundamentalist Christians who proclaim their love for all people! There’s something amiss here.

    Yeah, there is. When the Christian Right stops saying gays shouldn’t marry, gay sex is akin to pedophilia, transgender and genderqueer people are horrible aberrations or else horribly mistaken about ourselves, people with uteruses can’t be trusted and should have their body invaded in all manner of legal ways (hello mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds and “boys will be boys” rape defenses), etc, I’ll be delighted to stop “bashing” the Christian Right.

  • Deird

    Today, give a cup of cold water to an evangelical “Bible-believing” Christian. You will be serving Christ.

    Err, yes. Much as I would be serving Christ if I gave a cup of cold water to pretty much anyone who needed one.

    I’m starting to really hate the term “bashing”. It’s started to become a way of dismissing whoever you’re talking about. Fred’s not giving thoughtful commentary on ways in which the evangelical church is failing to be Christ-like; he’s just “bashing” them!

  • jamesprobis

     I guess I missed the part where Fred beat a member of the religious right, tied them to a fencepost and left them to die. Surely that’s what you mean by “bashing” the religious right. Surely you wouldn’t be belittling the very real violence some folks face by comparing it to a post on the internet.

  • Invisible Neutrino

    Ok, that is rhetorical sophistry and purposely slanting the interpretation of a word to suit your case and that is not on.

    “Bashing” has damn well been used metaphorically, or have you never heard the term “poor-bashing” before, usually applied to the way politicians trash them verbally in their stump speeches?

  • Deird

    that’s why you’re fucking crucifying me rather than listening to what I have to say

    Surely you wouldn’t be belittling the very real violence some folks face by comparing it to a comment on the internet?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Now, now, Deird, comments like that are why you are the one giving Christianity a bad name. Not the Crusades or abuse crisis or American Presidents bombing the everliving shit out of foreigners because God told them to; you, mainstream progressive Deird of Australia with your apposite comments on the internet. No more snark from you, please, we have a PR campaign to win.

  • Ann Unemori

    Did he put this on YouTube? That I gotta see.

  • Brock Freeman

    Good analysis of how the researchers in this book are being blinded by their own perspective of how people’s faith should look like. In fact, Jesus does not ask us to have a “biblical worldview” but asked us to have a Jesus view and imitate him and his love for us. I believe there is a HUGE difference in those views and that will in turn greatly affect how you live your life and treat others around you.

  • Mordicai

    What does “Satan is real” mean?  Like I get how you might need to enumerate it, since there isn’t like any sort of consistent portrait of Satan in the book, but then ENUMERATE IT.  

  • AnonymousSam

    That’s because they’re not going by Bible canon for that. They need a version of God and Satan that allows God to influence a man to go on a shooting spree in an elementary school, but who has nothing to do with abortion clinics. Satan is the name they use when the only alternative is saying that sometimes God does things they don’t like.

  • Patrick McGraw

    In college, the two books that had the most profound effect on me were Gene Outka’s Agape: An Ethical Analysis and Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Sexism and God-Talk. Both helped shape me into a person whose feminism and pro-equal-rights positions are because of my religious beliefs about agape, not in spite of them.

  • Greg Dill

    The “biblical worldview” touted by many conservative evangelical Christians is really no different than the way conservative evangelicals have made the Gospel into a soterian message about eternal salvation. The Roman Road. When in fact the Gospel is so much more than eternal salvation, escaping hell, and yada, yada, yada. It’s about abundant life, here and now. It’s about being the whole person that God originally intended for all of us to be… now. It’s about loving God, and loving others. Helping the poor, the least of these, and correcting injustices. While it seems to me the “biblical worldview” is more of a biblical emphasis on academics and culture and nothing more.