Why Evangelicals Need to Stop Saying ‘It’s a Relationship, Not a Religion’

Why Evangelicals Need to Stop Saying ‘It’s a Relationship, Not a Religion’ October 15, 2018

There are movements within Evangelical Christianity that are loosening on the classical doctrines of God, namely Divine Simplicity. Rejecting Classical Theism’s doctrines of the immutability and impassibility of God, many operate within an economy that suggests there are aspects of God’s being that are subject to influence by the god-human relationship. While His essence and divine character may be holy and fixed, His relatability to humanity is capable of being swayed. To put it differently, God’s actuality adapts to humanity’s actions, prayers, sins, and cultural changes. He is divine, yet He is also relatable and personal. It is precisely this thinking that provides a foundation for the well-intentioned, but cringe-worthy, Christian catch-phrase, “It’s a relationship, not a religion”.

Aside from the fact that this relationship-centric Christian-ese phrase creates false contrariety – by suggesting one of these things is completely unlike the other – this logic is poor and stands opposed to the historic, Christian faith. Lest we forget, most heresies begin with an underlying error in the understanding of God’s being. The doctrine of God, and how we relate to him, is critical and worthy of regular discussion, contemplation, and prayer. What we know to be true of God will touch and drive every part of our spiritual life. There is no knowledge beyond God and truly, no greater task worth pursuing.

We must know God rightly if we are to know Him at all.

Let me begin by clarifying that not all evangelicals who deny the tenets of Classical Theism or Divine Simplicity are heretics. Personally, I think most are just uninformed and unaware that their framework for understanding how we relate to the divine is substantially skewed. They have unknowingly adopted Theistic Mutualism as their theological framework.

This was me at one point; I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  The assumptions I made about God’s being were not founded in scripture. I was unaware that I had been influenced by decades of misguided theologians and philosophers seeking to make God more personal and less transcendent (much of which, I’ll add, finds its roots all the way back to The Enlightenment).

At a glance, this relational-softening of God might seem attractive, logical, and maybe even biblical. We hear all the time that God is a personal God and we read in scripture evidences of God responding to situations with an appropriate display of compassion, anger, wrath, love, etc. In many cases, He even appears to change His position or plan, after some outside influence. Likewise, a fully transcendent God can be hard to grasp; He is big and abstract. It takes hard work and meditation to discern truth from fiction. It’s much easier to comprehend a God that is like, well, us.  Most of us want genuine interaction, but convince ourselves without a flexible, emotional, and relatable component to God this is impossible. After all, any meaningful human relationship is based on some balance of give-and-take. We pray and petition because we desire other realities in our life. We want God to hear us, change His mind, and honor our requests.

For reference, consider the following verses:

  • Psalm 106:23: “Therefore he said he would destroy them had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.”
  • Judges 2:18: “Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them.”
  • Genesis 6:6: “And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart”

So, what’s so controversial? Well, the problem centers in how we understand the driven force of these responses from God. If it’s only us and prayer, then the economy of influence we have with God is not too dissimilar from that of the gods found within Greek Mythology. We possess the power to draw some alternate desired reality from God. God, though in supply of infinite power and knowledge, is ours to try and manipulate. I use this word objectively, and not in a strictly negative sense, as often our prayers are for something good and just. Yet, like Moses in the verse above, we act because we want to revise God’s position on a matter.

Peradventure, let’s pretend we think God to not be compassionate enough in a certain situation, but after intense prayer, fasting, and reasoning with God, He complies and divinely expresses the desired and proper compassion. Logically, this means the petitioner possesses some unique insight into the situation that God must not have. This person has enlightened God’s understanding and convinced Him that He ought to be more compassionate, given this and that. In this scenario, God is not immutable and certainly not omniscient. Instead, He is adapting and by way of outside influence, becoming a more enlightened version of Himself.

Clearly, this is nonsense. God is eternally perfect in every way. He is the single standard by which we understand all things to be good and true. Yet, this is how many Christians practically carry out their relationship with God.

Consider these words by Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck on the errors of a relationship-driven human-god economy. He writes, “The difference between the creator and the creatures hinges on the contrast between being and becoming” (Reformed Dogmatics, 2:156).

If God is ever “becoming” anything else, then He is lacking something and not divine; He would not be God. This is a fundamental difference between what it means to be human and what it means to be God. One is “being” (eternal, unchanging, perfect, all-knowing) and other is always “becoming” something else based on his/her experiences.

Perhaps you’re beginning to see the problem with Mutual Theism and the “it’s a relationship, not a religion” mentality.

We must also not forget that when we misrepresent and misunderstand the God of scripture, we make an idol. Our sinful, finite minds are naturally opposed to the holy and exclusive. It makes us uneasy. So, we will ease our consciences and in sin, make Him more like us. Outside of biblical Christianity, almost every religion presents divinity as attainable. But there is only one God that is truly transcendent, divine, and holy. This is the God of the bible. Unlike other gods, His actions are not removed from His being. Rather, His will, His being, His essence, and His actions are eternally the same within God.

One might counter that God’s actions/responses are not connected to His being or essence. Meaning, He is not becoming something else when He responds with a temporal action.  But, that draws out complications related to how Christians historically understand God’s ontology. Christians understand God to be absolute. He is self-sustaining. All wisdom and knowledge is complete and found in Him. More than that, God is the source of all knowledge. No one can know anything unless God has revealed it to them. To suggest that God can know or become something different (if even only for an instant) that He once was not, undermines what it means to be God. God does not change. He is not subject to mood swings; He is always God with perfect understanding, knowledge, and action in every situation.

Furthermore, we must not attempt to understand God through a lens of attributes or behavior, rather, we must understand these attributes through the lens of God. God is not made up components – like the sum of many parts. He is not some complex mixture of love, wrath, grace, etc. He just is. He cannot become anything else because He has always been. For these reasons, we cannot separate God’s actions from His being. They’re unified; all in one. God just is and will forever be. His actions are always the perfect expressions of His being.

So how we do reconcile these emotionally-fueled responses from God  found with the fact that God is also immutable and impassable?

James Dolezal’s book All That is in God is very helpful here. He agrees with Bavinck who contends there is no place for affirming any change in God. The expressions from God we find in scripture are provided and written anthropomorphically. That is, they are written to give God human-like characteristics to help us better understand an aspect of God’s being or Law (the two can be separated). Verses, like those above, are packaged in in such a way that help a finite being understand the behavior of an infinite one.

As an example, has there ever been a point in time when God did not hate sin? No, of course not – yet we find in scripture how God is enraged at sinful behavior. However, He didn’t start the day calm and then become enraged once a sin was committed. No. His character and being have always hated that which is opposed to His righteousness. God is omniscient; He knows everything. He knew sin was going to happen. Nevertheless, scripture communicates God’s anger at sin to us in a way that is anthropomorphic and understandable. In fact, the only aspect of the human-divine “relationship”  that is subject to change is how we apply these eternal truths in our lives.

We must not forget that God created everything, even time. While God is eternal, He engages us with us in the temporal. He met us where we are. Bavinck helps us again when he explains, “He [God] remains eternal and inhabits eternity, but uses time with a view to manifesting His eternal thoughts and perfections” (Reformed Dogmatics, 2:164). It is as Reformed theologian Scott Clark once stated, “The historic Reformed view is that all of God’s revelation is accommodated. That is how it must be in the nature of divine-human relations.” The story of salvation is full of examples of God making Himself known to His people. This was perfectly manifested in the incarnation.

The problematic and prevalent relationship-first model of Christianity fails to paint the correct picture of the economy between God and man. God is God and we are not. We must not project a human relationship model onto the divine; this is precisely why Evangelicals need to abandon the, “It’s a relationship, not a religion” mentality.

That being said, none of what I have said means that we can’t know God and interact with Him. We absolutely can! Jesus has made this possible. But we must pursue a relationship that is honest to His being. Christianity is a religion, and it is the only religion that offers a covenantal relationship with the only true and living God.

In closing, I will again recommend a reading of James Dolezal’s book All That is in God. He deals with this topic in much more detail and effectiveness. It’s not as easy read, but it is rich in doctrine and thought and worthy of your time.

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  • TinnyWhistler

    “this logic is poor and stands opposed to the historic, Christian faith.”
    In my experience, this sort of thing (relationship not religion) is most heavily emphasized in circles that want to downplay the role of history in the formation of the modern church and various theologies. They tend to believe that their personal interpretation of the Bible is unblemished by any sort of bias or interpretation and that following a “Just read the words” method of Biblical scholarship is the fast-track to fully understanding the mind of God. They often believe that God will not allow them to interpret the Bible “incorrectly” because of their faith. Accordingly, they’re spread across a rather wide variety of Protestant and otherwise not-catholic or orthodox denominations.

    It should go without saying that they’re usually fond of biblical literalism combined with extreme selectiveness for where it should be applied.

    • Jack Lee

      I would agree with this observation.

    • Jan-Peter Schuring

      Exactly. I cannot count how many of my Christian brothers and sisters refuse to read “outside” of the Bible as taught in their particular church…thinking that they have the capacity to fully “understand” all the profound truth within.

      • Mary Lewis

        Jan-Peter, In my study of the Bible and comparing it to church doctrines I’ve learned that there is more “outside” than most want to admit. With a multitude of differences in doctrine, or I should say interpretation, it should be apparent to all believers that there is something very wrong when there is so much disagreement among them. If believers of Jesus cannot agree with each other, then they certainly are not agreeing with what Jesus taught. The Bible teaches unity in the Spirit of YHVH and to love him with all your heart, mind, and soul or strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. The basic principles of the Bible are very simple, but one must listen to its words and hear what the Spirit is teaching through them. That kind of knowledge does not come from “outside.” It comes from a deep “relationship” with YHVH and Jesus. I’ve published 23 books about Bible knowledge over the past 40 years. But, I think people want the complicated versions of understanding the Bible, which is really outside opinions or eisegesis. Satan’s temptations can often sound like truth, because he is a very cunning adversary. He is also very much “outside” with the intention of taking the place of YHVH and Jesus. I prefer to address our creator by his Hebrew personal name so there can be no confusion about which God I’m talking about, but that’s another topic.

        • Jan-Peter Schuring

          Actually we are in agreement. I was responding to the previous comment that made a point of people worshipping their doctrine over the Gospel. Yes the teachings of Christ are simple when not obfuscated by the heavy hand of indoctrination. That is where Satan is most destructive. It is by my utilizing such Christian writers as CS Lewis or A.W. Tozer that I learned how to avoid the trap of Gospel skewing doctrines. Obviously there is much “outside” reading that may not be so edifying.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      “Do not go beyond what is written.” 1 Cor. 4:6

      • TinnyWhistler

        Sorry, I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to say with this 🙂

        • Theodore A. Jones

          The saying isn’t from my origin. Suggest you determine why the writer of it has written it.

          • TinnyWhistler

            Sure, just like Proverbs 26:11 isn’t from me. I’m not in the habit of inserting it though, unless it has some relevance to the conversation.

            I’m asking you what relevance you though the verse had to the conversation, so that I don’t misunderstand *your* purpose in posting this verse in particular, rather than any random verse.

  • Lennie

    Though I’m not fond of the phrase myself, I believe most Christians who use it are well meaning and are trying to contrast the garden variety “religions” of the world that rely heavily or solely on “good works” for righteousness with the true relational grace gift of God through Jesus Christ.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13

      • Lennie

        “man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Galations 2

        “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing” Galatians 2

        “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10

        • Theodore A. Jones

          So then it is your belief that Paul’s statement of Rom. 2:13 is false?

          • Lennie

            Do you believe what Paul stated in Gal 2 and Rom 10 is false?

            Paul was showing the self-righteous Jews who judged the Gentiles that they were not able to keep a perfect standard, yet presumably thought they could. Actually, they were hypocrites. This is why Paul tells us in the very next chapter, in Romans 3:28, that we are justified by faith apart from the works of the Law – which includes the Law of loving God (Deut. 6:5), and loving your neighbor (Lev. 19:18). No one (apart from Jesus) is able to keep the Law. If you fail even once, then you become guilty of it all.

            James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
            Gal. 3:10, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”
            The Jews (and anyone else) can be justified before God by keeping the Law, but he or she has to be perfect in doing it. A person can’t fail even once – ever (James 2:10); otherwise, they are condemned (Gal. 3:10). But since all fail, that is why we have the gospel that tells us Jesus kept the Law perfectly (1 Pet. 2:22), and that we can be justified before God by faith in Him (Romans 4:3, 5; 5:1; John 1:12; 3:16).

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Rom. 10 and Gal. 2 are true statements, however the fact that you are failing to comprehend is that Rom. 2:13 is referencing the article of law that has been added in regard to the sin of murdering Jesus Christ. “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. Rom. 5:20 which is corroborated by Heb. 7:12 “change also of the law”.

          • Lennie

            We disagree as to interpretation and some selective reading. We each will stand before God either justified by our own righteousness by law keeping or justified by Christ’s righteousness imputed to us by faith apart from law. It really is our choice. I’ve made mine and so far it sounds like you have made yours. I pray that as you strive to perfectly keep “the whole law” without stumbling so as to be found worthy of eternal life that you will find that the law is “our schoolmaster” to teach us the utter inability of our rule keeping capability and lean solely on Jesus finished work at the cross. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. Amen and may God bless you.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “Jesus Paid it All” is the title of a religious song. The song’s title is an erroneous soteriological interpretation.

          • Lennie

            You ignore the substance of my post and focus on this? You are correct it is a Christian song. It is also my testimony and that of countless saints through the ages. Before you dismiss it out of hand please consider Τετέλεσται “(It is finished) the last words of Jesus on the cross. As some evidence shows this word/phrase was sometimes used on a legal document or bill as meaning “Paid in full”. This concept regarding our sins as paid in full by Christ on the cross and our sins that were as scarlet have been washed white as snow (and wool) is also seen in Isa 1:18. I sing and cry and testify to the Glory of God my Savior.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “It is finished.” His statement is only his acknowledgement of the fact that the sin of his murder was finished, i.e. completed.

          • Lennie

            It appears you have had some Bible study but not “with understanding”. I can’t go through the whole Bible with you in this format. The Holy Spirit working with human pastors and teachers can help you “rightly divide the word of Truth”.

            1 John 2:2 (among others) teaches: “He is the atoning sacrifice (propitiation/satisfaction) for our sins, and not for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “human pastors and teachers can help you “rightly divide the word of Truth”, perhaps, if hell freezes.

          • Lennie

            I started to laugh at your reply then I thought better. Sad to hear of your pride that God’s gifted pastors and teachers (Eph 4:11-13) who Jesus gave us to “equip” us” and “build us up” in the faith & knowledge of the Son until we reach unity and maturity and the fullness of Christ will be of no use to you until “hell freezes”. I pray that changes.

          • Glory

            Lennie. I read one or two of your posts and whether or not we have to obey the law is a very complex question in my opinion.

            You probably need to google all the Bible verses on the law and see if there are any key verses resolving the question.

            I have seen the pro and con of it very competently presented and I still have questions about it I need to resolve.

            In ancient Israel the kings were required by God to write down the law. All 613 mitzvot. So they would know it, I guess. But believe it or not the Book of the Law was almost lost by them.

            I just received a hater post from Theodore A. Jones so I would find a more worthy person to compare notes with on religion.

            Read Luke 6:45. The good heart brings out good things while the bad heart brings out bad things.

            You can have head knowledge without a change of heart.

            You can have a lot of knowledge of the Bible and not be s truly repentant Christian.

            Inspect your teachers for uprightness. It is hard to do that on here but sometimes you run into a Christian that displays spiritual pride or seem to have an unteachable spirit.

            I read those posts and they made an impression on me because I am meditating on whether or not we have to keep the law. Really I have heard great pro and con explanations on it.

            But I will have to google all the verses and study them myself more and pray on it.

            Like I said try to inspect your teachers for sincerity, love and truth because only God can read a heart. I could not understand why Jones hated on me in this thread but is definitely a sign of spiritual pride to me. So find someone better to consult.

            And meditate. Ponder in your own heart cf. Psalm 1.

            You should not be a hater if you let God change you by meditating on His Word.

            Jones hate is incomprehensible to me. So my advice to you is leave him alone. A lot of people have written in detail on the law question.

            And if you are a thorough workman you can google and look at all the verses in case you missed something. Just remember the Spirit is higher than the letter.

            Sorry, this is so long.

            I doubt I will return to this blog as I believe God is changing my path now but take care, check all the verses, inspect all the teachers for uprightness as far as possible and God Bless!

          • Lennie

            Glory, I appreciate that you considered my posts on law keeping for salvation. I have read & studied the entire Bible several times; some passages many times and other passages fewer times. So as to finding “key verses that resolve the question”; if those verses of Holy Scripture that I provided from Galatians 2 & 3, Romans 10, and James 2 do not resolve the question for you about whether you or anyone can so completely keep the whole law without stumbling and therefore fit yourselves for Heaven then I’m afraid that no one or nothing can convince you of the answer.

            I appreciate and share your desire to obey God and His commandments. I do find that some of the ceremonial commands from the OT were to a specific people for a specific time. I hope you no longer try to avoid shellfish or wearing garments of mixed cloth, etc believing that God forbids that today. But God never awarded Heaven/eternal life to anyone (OT or NT) on the basis of their keeping the law. Rewards..Yes but eternal salvation…NO. We see that from Genesis 15 and Romans 4 that father Abraham was not found righteous by his obedience to the law but was only justified by his faith (trust in God and His Redeemer, Savior, Messiah which we now know is Jesus). This has never changed nor will it as Jesus comes again in Glory.

            I think that’s why they call it “Amazing Grace” which means undeserved or unearned favor. John tells us that “the law came through Moses but Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ”. And Paul taught us that “if righteousness could come through obeying the law then Christ died in vain”. You understand that don’t you? The reason we need a Savior is that we can’t keep from sinning, at least for very long. He knows that. and has revealed that the purpose of His law was/is to be our “tutor” NAS or “schoolmaster” KJV “in order that we may be justified by faith” Gal 3. It’s through the law that we realize our sinfulness and utter inability to be justified apart from His pure grace in Christ our Redeemer and Savior; the propitiation for our sins. God bless your search for truth and understanding.

          • Glory

            Sorry, I just got this post to read. I don’t know why it was delayed. Maybe because I disenrolled then upset the disenrollment. I will re-read it but the question is still complex.

            If you read Stephen E Jones on the harmonization of Galatians and the Book of James you will see more on the question.

            Tipton has a counter view. Both are persuasive.

            Sometimes I think God uses the Bible to build judging capability in us so we can have the mind of Christ. That is why we have to become good at researching the Bible ourselves and storing up the info to make righteous decisions later. We will judge angels one day and that will require a God given supernaturally spiritual understanding to do that.

            I used to just absorb standard orthodox positions then came to find flaws in them so this one is taking me longer to resolve.

            Don’t discard the laws outright though. I believe God gave them to protect human genetics in addition to other spiritual purposes they serve. If you investigate the Old Testament dietary laws you will find they were well ahead of their time and medical doctors today endorse them as beneficial for human health.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2;13

          • Lennie

            When they asked Jesus: “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

            Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28,29

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Sport I’m not the author of Rom. 2:13. Since you contest the validity of his statement take your issue up with him.

          • Lennie

            The ultimate Author of Rom 2 is the same as John 6 and Gal 2 and Rom 10 that I provided to you. These verses are not in conflict and they are not invalid. Your issue is not with me but with the whole council of God which has been presented to you (Act 20:27).

          • Glory

            Lennie, it occurred to me a relationship with God demonstrates heart knowledge.

            There is a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge.

            Here is Tim Keller on it:

            I talk too much. Out of here. But Keller explains it well.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            All contemporary pastors are teaching a false soteriological doctrine. There is not any of today’s pastors anywhere who have been the recipient of any of the spiritual gifts.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Pal if you find any pastor of any contemporary church. an imman of any mosque or even an atheist who teaches a soteriological thesis which is not a direct objection against the soteriological doctrine Paul has stated in Rom. 2:13, the miracle of hell freezing will occur.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            According to 1 Cor. 2: 6-8, there was no possibility of determining what the actual reason for murdering Jesus Christ was to accomplish. For if that factor could have been determined from any source he would not have been murdered by crucifiction. To my knowledge of the scriptures, which is extensive, the soteriological assumption “Paid in full” has not been nor ever will be written in the scriptures. Even Jesus himself says that “When he comes he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin” Jn. 16:8, AFTER! the sin of murdering him by crucifixion which is fully antithetical to every soteriological conjecture of anything having been “Paid in full” by the sin of murdering Jesus Christ by crucifixion.

          • Lennie

            You may truly not know why Jesus was crucified. But this is not hidden from us, it is revealed to us in His holy scriptures. Isa 53 informs us “He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of My people ” John declared of Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Also re-read 1Jn 2:2. The answers are there for those who will see and hear.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            The reason why Jesus was to be murdered by crucifixion was not knowable nor known prior to him being murdered by crucifixion. For if anyone could have determined God’s purpose of why it was necessary for Jesus to be murdered by crucifixion Jesus would not have been murdered by crucifixion. 1 Cor. 2:6-8

          • Theodore A. Jones

            I assure you that I do understand the reason why Jesus Christ had to be murdered by crucifixion. However according to Paul’s instruction in 1 Cor. 2: 6-8 it was impossible for anyone to determine why Jesus Christ was going to be murdered by crucifixion prior to him being murdered by crucifixion. As Paul states the reason why was a secret known only to God himself. Your argument is against what is stated in 1 Cor. 2:6-8, and your defense places the scripture in a contradiction.

        • Theodore A. Jones

          “Galations” is spelled Galatians.

  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    I wonder if anyone knows who first started to say “It’s a Relationship, Not a Religion” and similar expressions, and why. I myself think it originally had nothing to do with erroneous anthropomorphic understandings of God. I think it was originally a corrective for people who thought of God as impersonal, and of Christianity comprising merely rules and rituals. I dislike the saying because Christianity is both a religion and a relationship. The Bible does not say that anything is wrong with religion per se. Thus I prefer the expression: “Christianity is a religion and a relationship”–the relationship being a personal relationship.

    The author says:

    The expressions from God we find in scripture are provided and written anthropomorphically. That is, they are written to give God human-like characteristics to help us better understand an aspect of God’s being or Law (the two can be separated). Verses, like those above, are packaged in such a way that help a finite being understand the behavior of an infinite one.

    This prompts the questions: Why has God given these expressions which are so easily prone to being misunderstood? Why did He not reveal Himself in ways which require no explanations, e.g. by using the explanations themselves? Could it be because He wants us to understand Him with their plain sense? Could it be that the ways in which He would have us to understand Him are paradoxical, and we cannot resolve the paradoxes?

    Regarding the paragraph that begins “Peradventure, let’s pretend we think God to not be compassionate enough in a certain situation”: Consider the narratives of the exorcism of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30).

    • Jack Lee

      Salvatore, I encourage you to read the book suggested in the article. Dolezal does a much better job at handling this subject that I ever could That being said, I think there are many things that will remain a mystery in this age. THankfully, we will have an eternity for God to reveal such things to the saints.

    • Karin Isbell

      Fully agree with Salvatore: Christianity is both a religion and relationship — the latter with Jesus Christ.

      • Glory

        Well Christianity is not a religion. The world just taught you to call your relationship a religion to dumb you down.

        Christianity is the way, the truth and the life and has been since Jesus Christ.

        All other religions the Bible calls false.

        So why would you want to classify Christianity with false religions by labeling it as such. Then you cannot tell Christianity apart from false religions like unbelievers can’t.

        Start using the language of the Bible for a change instead of using worldly terminology.

        Jesus is the only one worth having a relationship with as he is holy so stop calling him a religion.

        Jesus is not a set of ideas.

        He is the perfect embodiment of God.

        That is why people have a relationship and learn His family ways.

        I could not care less about religion. A true Jew is one inwardly.

        Religion is just outer baggage that confuses people.

        Have a blessed day!

        The Bible is God’s perspective so starting talking His ideas and language for a change and leave the worldliness to the people who don’t prize being a member of God’s own family.

    • Glory

      I would try and get away from conceptualizing Christianity as a religion.

      It is a way of life and being. It is the truth.

      Most religions are not the truth so why use a misnomer that doesn’t draw a distinction between Christianity and false religion?

      Christians are suppose to be set apart but some how we let the world get away with dragging us down into mass confusion with them at times.

      Misnomers are one of the things causing confusion.

      • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

        I do not think it is confusing to call Christianity a religion. It is both that and “a way of life and being” and “the truth”.

        If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
        Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
        –James 1:26-27 (ESV)

        We should have a religion which is “pure and undefiled before God the Father”.

        • Glory

          Go read Bill’s comment in this thread. He said it better than me.

          Peace Be With You!

  • Markus R

    We need more articles like this! The greatest comfort we can ever have is not in some idol we have created, but in the true God who can be trusted to never change. You have done an excellent job of discussing the deep attributes of God.

    • Jack Lee

      Markus, thank you for the kind words.

    • Glory

      Personal is one of the deepest attributes.

      Jesus is the Word and we are told to hide the Word in our heart.

      Can there be anything more personal than a god hidden in your heart?

  • Karin Isbell

    A constant awarenes of the Lord’s prayer keepsme on the right track.

  • Bill

    I agree with most everything the author said except the title of his article. In the garden of Eden the very thing God wanted was a relationship with His creation. In a genuine relationship, we know one another. We would agree that God, as David said in so many of his writings knows our thoughts and even knew us in our mother’s womb. If we truly know God than our awe, wonder and reverence for Him will only be more rich and vibrant through intimate relationship. Besides, the only place that I know of in the Bible that religion is spoken of even in a remotely positive light is James 1:27 and even it was proceeded by the words “pure and undefiled.”

    James 1:27 (NKJV)
    27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

    • Glory

      Loved this post.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      “and even knew us in our mother’s womb.” Ps. 139 is only specifically relevant to Jesus Christ himself for only he could have stated Ps. 139. No other human being has been created by God in their mother’s womb other than him. None of God’s children can have been or are produced by natural birth. Jn. 1:13

      • Glory

        Here is Jeremiah speaking of himself through divine inspiration. Every word of the scriptures is God breathed.

        English Standard Version
        Jeremiah 1:5

        “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

        • Theodore A. Jones

          You ain’t Jeremiah.

          • Glory

            No I am not but I showed your scriptural error.

            I am a child of God who God knew from the foundation of the world.

            Have a nice day dissing people.

            Since you are out teaching people to obey God’s commandments why don’t you start by obeying them yourself.

            1 John 4

            20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

            21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

    • bill wald

      Bill – You could be right about God’s intent but God didn’t seem to understand human nature.

      Thought experiment: God created Angels before he created humans. Did God want a personal relationship with Angels?

      • Bill

        LoL That is true! Moreover, we do not know precisely the relationship the angels have we God although 2/3’s of them I would say have a glorious one. However, man (humanity) was made in the image of God and Jesus Christ died for his sin and his sin alone. No other world but this one! No other species but this one. No other galaxy but this one in the seen and the unseen world! You can’t top that. Period! I would say humanity is unique to God! I would say as God came down in the cool of the evening to have “relationship” with Adam He desires that restored. I don’t know the answers as to why. I just know he does and I’m glad He does. King David said, ” What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? Psalm 8:4. God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, but the Lord who is the great King is also as David said my Shepherd, my comforter and a friend that sticks closer than a brother. It is not an either or issue; it is both!

  • phillip mutchell

    You insist that we can’t read the bible passages you quote ‘as is’ but must read them through your definition of who/what God is, each theology that occurs is making sense of God & Scripture according to whatever is the determining philosophy/practice of its age. Divine simplicity was hammered out by Aquinas in conversation with Islam and Aristotle, to insist on it when we no longer conceive of reality in such terms is in itself to practice a subtle idolatry substituting a God of one’s own understanding in place of grappling with Jacob to receive that blessing from the God who truly confronts us. If you’re recommending books I’ll shout out for Life in Christ a 2 vol intro to systematic theology by Klaus Wundberg which actually attempts to make God and Bible and Jesus real.

  • phillip mutchell

    Oops should have been Klaus Nurnberger

  • Linda Teuling

    Oh, dear. I have a warm, loving relationship with God but I guess I’m supposed to have a system.

    Ok. Goodbye intimacy. Goodbye joy. Hello, scholarship. And maybe the mote difficult and inscrutable, the better.

    How did I ever get the naive idea that God loves us? I guess I’ll retire the notes I’ve taken maybe burn them – because if I emphasize relationship over religion, then it’s a given that its something warm, moist, fuzzy and ineffective.

    Or is that a false dilemma? I’ve got news for you. I have a close loving personal relationship with God. And He doesn’t let me get away with anything. I know the Bible and the moving of the Holy Spirit too well.

    But since the relationship us warm and loving and I enjoy it, and don’t think of it as a “religion,” (a word that is seldom used in the Bible) I owe Patheos an apology. After all, we can’t be caught in the act of actually enjoying God can we?

    • Martin

      I’m really surprised that you’ve made the leaps you make in your reply here. Nowhere does this article say the things you’ve come up with.

    • John Purssey

      Your relationship with God is as warm as and is exemplified by your relationship with your neighbour.

      Christianity is both relationship and religion, if by religion we mean a spirituality shared by a community.

    • Glory

      Great post. Doctrine is nothing without the relationship.

      God comes to dwell in our hearts and we owe every good impulse to Him.

      I don’t know how someone gets through the day without some warm fuzzies from God but then I may be a more sensitive and empathic person as you probably are.

      Logic is only part of the answer. Perceiving with our hearts is just as important.

      Also God can lay things on our hearts and if He wasn’t personal then why would He do that?

      Sometimes we too narrowly construe God along the lines of our own experience but God is everywhere.

      Acts 17:28 King James Version (KJV)

      28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

      • barry

        “Doctrine is nothing without the relationship.”
        ———Yeah, but your “relationship” to God is also nothing without doctrine. Once again, you cannot have a “personal” relationship with God without the bible. Sort of like you cannot have a personal relationship with your spouse unless you limit your knowledge of them solely to a book they authored, exactly the way you limit your knowledge of God solely to what the bible says. Once again, the only way to make ‘god’ sound plausible is to insist on making numerous exceptions to the normative meaning of normative words and phrases. We all know what a “personal relationship” is, and it doesn’t mean limiting our experience of the other person to a book.

        it also doesn’t mean talking to them, hearing nothing back, then trying to divine their reply by going out in the world and looking for coincidences to interpret in self-serving fashion. “I asked my invisible wife what’s for dinner. Since a stranger talked to me about hamburgers about one hour later, surely that was my wife’s loving personal way of telling me what was for dinner! Isn’t Maria wonderful?”

        No, she is nothing but a figment of the imagination.

        I just need to face the fact that I have far less tolerance for blissful inconsistency and blind mysticism than most people. It’s these traits of mine that assure me that the Mormons, Jehovah’s WItnesses, Calvinists and Catholics have the wrong form of Christianity.

        So I have 100% trust that I am also able to correctly determine whether other religious claims are false.

  • raymond

    The idea that one must choose between a relationship or religion, ()which is not clearly explained other than something doctrinal,) is a false dilemma. Some beliefs systems have a relationship with a religion which is truly false. Muslims don’t have a relationship with Allah, but with his teaching. The uniqueness of Christianity is a “real” relationship with a “real Person.”
    Jesus was not against religion, per se, but false religion such as what the Jews were practicing. On the other hand he rebuked the Jews for searching the Scripture searching for eternal life. He clearly stated the Scripture spoke of him.
    (Jn 5:39). In fact, John’s Gospel is replete with Scriptures pointing toward a relationship with Jesus, by believing in Him and through believing finding life (Jn 20:31).
    If Christianity is not about a relationship with the person of Jesus it is not much more than any other rellgious system of beliefs. That said, doctrine is important, in fact, right doctrine is crucial. However, to denounce relationship is an error by emphasis.
    Once again, this article is the pendulum swinging to an extreme.

    • Glory

      Great post and well written, too.

  • Glory

    I have not read the whole article but by the title of it I am sure the author is wrong because God constantly mentions a relationship Himself by phrases like Bride and child of God and by personally training and disciplining His children.

    God’s children are given a right by God to be His children.

    Consult the word not tradition.

    Google all the verses that contain the words child of God and be sure to get the relationship not some second rate understanding coming from the mind of man.

    2 Tim 3:6, ESV
    All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

    Ephesians 4:13 King James Version (KJV)

    13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

    Google it. The Father says Christians are the sons of God in training. Maybe some people today are reading the Word more closely than the early days of Christianity when the Catholic popes tried to lock up and control spiritual growth by controlling the interpretation of scripture.

    Our hearts affect interpretation so how did we let Christianity get so institutionalized with false traditions of men? Why do we let the truth be replaced by manmade religion?

    Luke 6:45 King James Version (KJV)

    45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh

    • Martin

      It’s really too bad that you didn’t read and understand the whole post. I wonder if you saw something in the title or initial words that triggered a reaction.

      • Glory

        A reaction? There is no Christianity without relationship.
        Christianity isn’t a religion either.

        It is the way, the truth and the life founded on a bedrock relationship.

        All the loyalty in Christian adherence to Jesus is based on the relationship.

        Just because you have one doesn’t make God any less holy.

        Holy means set apart to God. What did God set people apart for if not a relationship?

        We are so related to Christ that we are told to abide in him cf. John 15.

        Have s blessed day!

        • Martin

          One potential problem with this, however, is that in order for us to have a relationship with the one God we need discipline in order to be certain we’re not following feelings. There’s no shortage of people who follow their deep, warm, powerful feelings right into the trashcan. Years and years ago I attended a “healing service” where an out of town “evangelist” preached feeling after feeling. When I asked a person near me what relevance the message had to the bible, I got this in response: “I don’t know and I don’t care! It feels so good!”

          Yes, our relationship with God can feel good. But it had better be more than that. Human nature gets easily misled.

          And I see that I’ve moved away from talking about relationship to something motivated by my past and concerns I’ve got about this sort of thing. I hope I’m not misrepresenting you. Part of my concern was that you appeared to have evaluated the article without reading the whole thing.

          • Glory

            Feelings are not necessarily wrong. I think some people have been trained to regard feelings as inferior to logic but feelings serve a rational function. We register things with our feelings like sensors and go on to process from that. Our consciences can trouble us and that can be a signal that are walk is not what it should be.

            Sometimes I wonder if the whole western world since the Age of Enlightenment is becoming more narcissistic.

            A narcissist is a person who lacks empathy but Christians are suppose to be compassionate and kind. Those things are experienced through the emotions.

            Brain science says narcissists are missing gray matter in an area of the brain responsible for empathy causing them to lack empathy/compassion.

            It makes me wonder how many narcissistic people are in positions of power teaching their empathy less way of thinking to people.

            When you start valuing the scriptures or logic robotically over love what the heck is that?

            The distinguishing characteristic of a Christian is suppose to be his love and you can’t express that without showing feeling.

          • Martin

            It would really be too bad if you were incapable of taking in what’s said and responding to that rather than a feeling that arises. I’ve never said, for example, that feelings are necessarily wrong. You’ve replied as though I did.

        • Theodore A. Jones

          “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 NIV

    • Jack Lee

      “I have not read the whole article but by the title of it I am sure the author is wrong…”


      • Glory

        I already made two posts on this for you to consider.

        Your article is well written but I am one of the people that believes Christians enjoy a relationship with God.

        Why must we be born again by the will of God if no relationship occurs?

        I agree that the philosophers got into Christianity and tinkered with it’s basic understanding of itself.

        But maybe our understanding of the scriptures has something to do with human nature. Some people are more empathic than others. The Bible is not all about cold hard logic.

        For some reason people want to base faith exclusively on logic ignoring perception, intuition and love have roles in the human heart’s ability to receive God’s revelation.

        Faith is by hearing whether faith is logical or not. Hearing is perception.

        I know all the absolutes of God’s nature so why does your logically reasoned conclusions get to override how my heart perceives God?

        Christianity is loaded with paradoxes. It is a paradoxical truth so maybe you have reached one of the paradoxes and must ponder it.

        Have a blessed day! If I seem too blunt it may be because I spent too long a time debating online atheists who can’t even grasp the existence of God. If so I apologize.

        God bless you. Have a great day!

        • bill wald

          Glory, Calvinists teach that regeneration precedes conversion and sanctification. People “become” Christians because the Holy Spirit is already changing them.Regeneration is an event but sanctification is a process. We can cooperate with God in our sanctification but not for our regeneration. That’s the big difference between Luther and Calvin.

          • Glory

            Could be I would have to compare them specifically.

            I believe in predestination but not the five points of Calvinism.

            James W Bruggemann explains the doctrine explaining the Sovereignty of God in his book Sacred Secrets of the Sovereignty of God connecting and explaining things clearly from the scriptures.

  • barry

    I’m an atheist, but the general point of the article is spot-on. Since Christians don’t dare say anything about Jesus if they think it that cannot be found in the bible, they really are lacking an intimate association with Jesus. Christians do not have a relationship with a person, they have a relationship with a book.

    • Jack Lee

      I think you missed a key component of the article – We can have a relationship with God, by the person and work of Jesus. But our “relationship” with him needs to be understood with the economy of how God defines Himself in scripture. Christians often project the human model of relationship on God because it’s what we know and what we think appropriate. But we add nothing to Him and we never will. As I said in the article, we must know God rightly if we are to know Him at all.

      Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

      • barry

        So if knowing God rightly requires that you don’t dare say anything about him not already supported in the bible, then it really doesn’t make sense to say your relationship with god is “personal”.

        Suppose I told everybody I have a ‘personal’ relationship with a neighbor down the street. Then they find out that I’ve never seen or heard this man personally, I only know whatever I know about him because of a book he described himself in, authored years ago.

        Most people would have difficulty agreeing that this “relationship” was “personal”…EVEN IF the author demanded that friendship with him be only on the condition that he be known solely through such book.

      • John Purssey

        IMHO God does not define Him/Herself in scripture, but people have attempted to write their and their community’s experience of God in the limits of propositions and the narratives and metaphors of their lives.

      • Glory

        Thanks for this comment. I am understanding your position better now but we all have to make some allowances for finite human understanding.

        Plus humans are spiritually blind to varying degrees and must lean on the scriptures to know God in part. A good read on this is “Blindness in Part” by Dr Stephen E Jones. He is a Christian universal restorationist but has spent several decades combing the scriptures gleaning God’s perspective.

    • Glory

      No they are not. Many Christians have personal testimonies. I know people who claim God healed them from various medical conditions.

      Most atheists’ problem is that they have been preconditioned to skepticism and will wave away another person’s experience with some learned pat explanation with out being there or considering the testimony.

      A lot of people have testimony of a supernatural nature. You just don’t move in those circles and have trained yourself to dismiss them instead of seeking God yourself.

      Why let other people’s evidence search for God and their conclusions control you when you can exercise your own mind and do your own. Josh McDowell did his and so have many other converted atheists. They broke free of the group and sought God on their own.

      Both atheism and theism contain dogma. So you must stand free of it and seek God on your own. The scriptures are supremely useful in doing that but why can’t you seek? God is a rewarder of seekers not arguers.

      That is my final response. I usually no longer exchange posts with atheists as I was vindictively trolled by them online for 15 years when I attempted to correct their views on the Gospel so they could be saved. Unfortunately, I usually ran into the angry ones who refused to use reason but preferred mocking and stereotypes to considering more thoroughly.

      Have a blessed day and may His grace abound to you!

      By the way, why did I evangelize atheists for 15 years? Because I know in my heart that God loves me and that knowledge is the seed knowledge of an unshakeable relationship where I sought to obey Him by performing the Great Commission.

      And I know He loves you, too, Barry! See John 3:16. But there are forces in this world that seek to block your understanding of that fact.

      God is love and the only thing that remains at the end of the whole spiritual journey is love. Read 1 Corinthians 13.

      What could be more personal than divine love sown in the human heart?

      • barry


        Many Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have personal testimonies and miracle stories too. Under your logic, they are all saved and healed. If you dare try to say those groups are wrong, you won’t be doing so on the basis of your personal testimony. You’ll be doing so on the basis of “what the bible says”. My point stands.

        I’ve been challenging Christians for years to supply me with the evidence they think shows Jesus communicates with them today. No takers. Including you, if you were being truthful in saying this would be your final reply to me.

        Yes. I dismiss testimony about invisible friends. I also dismiss testimony about fairies. It is actually stupid to never draw conclusions and simply constantly be open to the possibility of being wrong. YOU are not open to atheism possibly being true, so by your own dogmatism, apparently a person can be rational to decide that some metaphysical claim is true or false. They do not have to ceaselessly investigate the testimony of holy rollers any more than they need to ceaselessly investigate the claims of KJV Onlyists.

        I “moved” in Christian circles for decades before becoming an atheist. Since it was clear to me that their claims of supernatural healing were wishful thinking at best and total bullshit at worst, I saw no reason to hang around.

        I had to laugh when you cited to Josh McDowell. His “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” and all its reprints is just big misrepresentation of the rules of historiography, and it was proven such by multiple historians and scholars. Just google “The Jury Is In: The Ruling on McDowell’s “Evidence”., his crap has been refuted on the internet for the last 20 years, where have you been. Worse, McDowell has the unique distinction of never being willing to defend his theories in a debate with legitimately credentialed scholars. He never debates live, and I’m not aware of anything he has posted to the internet to defend his claims from specific criticism. Apparently, his popularity in the 70’s and 80’s was due to little more than the general public’s inability to easily access the other side of the scholarly story.

        “God” is an incoherent concept. You’ve approved so long of the concept that you don’t appreciate how weak it is to pretend that some invisible immaterial being “obviously” exists. You may as well say ghosts “obviously” exist. Did you ever notice that atheists and Christians don’t disagree that stars and galaxies exist? Apparently, yes, there is a major problem with the whole idea of “god”.

        You say God is a rewarder of seekers. You don’t know that…except of course because “the bible tells me so”. And there you go again…your relationship is not with a person, but a story character.

        After reading the rest of your post, I’ll do you a favor and leave you alone. I’m out to kill the theories of fundamentalist Christians. But if in my judgment one of them really isn’t hurting other people with that bullshit, I leave them alone. Continue telling yourself that God exists…about as often as you remind yourself that trees exist. Have a nice day.

        • Glory

          Good. Get lost and go hang out on a confused atheist blog where you belong.

          My personal supernatural experienes are just that personal and not subject to evidence reviews by you.

          They are God’s personal private revelations to me.

          I don’t care about Jehovah Witness or Mormon experiences because as Galatians 1 says there is only one Gospel. Plus both of those religions were started by freemasons. So they are Masonic counterfeits of Christianity.

          Since you are a spiritually blind as a bat skeptic who confesses against God who would expect YOU to be able to spot counterfeit religions.

          As far as God being a rewarder of seeker goes. Yes, He is. I sought evidence for lazy armchair atheists once upon a time and God rewarded me with it and various signs. Only to present the evidence to atheists and discover they were pompous evidence deniers who in many cases refused to review the evidence presented and were incapable of approaching it with new and fresh insight but only the old learned tripe they learned from God knows where without even inspecting that source for accuracy.
          They preferred their pompous arguments to actually reviewing new and fresh evidence.

          So get your own evidence and confine your arguments and conversational intolerance a la Sam Harris to atheist message boards and blogs where they belong.

          I know one atheist blog forum where the cowards run a “Not Safe For Work” thread in which they mock God and post blasphemous pics.

          So brave….lol. A not safe for work thread with roughly one and a half million cowardly hits. If they were brave that thread would not be labeled “Not Safe For Work”.

          Why don’t you test for yourself who the better people are. You feel safe on this Christian blog so you post here.

          Why don’t you get a new avatar name and impersonate a good Christian on a couple of dozen hardline atheist blogs and gage their reaction to you.

          Christians hands down are a lot nicer on their blogs to atheists than atheists are to Christians. I have witnessed it over and over firsthand delivering the Gospel in densely atheist populated forums.

          So go get your repeatable and testable personal evidence of human behavior. It should only take 1 to 2 years depending on how much time you take and don’t give in. Stand up to the atheists like a true Christian and watch how much mockery you have to surf.

          In certain judicious circles mockery would be considered a lack of social intelligence.

          I don’t argue any more so I will put you on block. You are quite capable of doing your own evidence search and seeking of God. You are an adult I presume.

          Have a blessed life gathering that evidence.

          • Martin

            “Good. Get lost and go hang out on a confused atheist blog where you belong.

            My personal supernatural experienes are just that personal and not subject to evidence reviews by you.

            They are God’s personal private revelations to me.”

            If you are a follower of Jesus one reason to avoid letting feelings rule your words is that a life based on feelings as a guide is similar to a ship without a rudder. We are to respond to the world and the people in it with love. Not feelings. And love, a verb, does not require feeling, it requires discipline.

          • Glory

            Feelings are not a ship without a rudder.

            Read the Book of James. The tongue can be a ship without a rudder.

            And since you are so eager to correct someone like me who has actually delivered the Gospel to people including many atheists why don’t you take yourself over to an atheist blog several times and attempt to correct them and see how they welcome you.

            I know exactly who Jesus Christ is but they deny him.

            You should know better then to side with unbelievers against believers but I guess you have no experience evangelizing them.

            That Barry fellow accused me and all Christians of fairy worship. Which a lot of them do.

            He needed the correction and I will answer to God not you.

            You had better get performing the Great Commission yourself and until you do save the corrections for yourself.

            Go look at the Christian Crier blog. It is overrun with angry atheists stalking the Pastor for several years and calling many Christians insane.

            Maybe you haven’t got the balls to point out their error but I used to for 15 years and now know debating them is a waste of time because they have evil heart issues that they need to address instead of trying to impose philosophical burdens on theists.

            I am attempting an anti-atheist propaganda campaign right now because you don’t exchange with them online there are too many hostile ones for polite dialog to ensue and I am not compromising my faith for a fear of man or to be a man pleaser.

            You get busy and stop minding my business and meddling in it.

            You have enough unbelievers online to correct without bothering me.

          • Martin

            Glory I’ll finish with this in a final, I think, hope of getting through. When you respond as you have to me with anger and false assumptions you are doing a far better, although unfortunate, job of showing just where acting on feelings and allowing them to control you goes wrong.

            “And since you are so eager to correct someone like me who has actually delivered the Gospel to people including many atheists why don’t you take yourself over to an atheist blog several times and attempt to correct them and see how they welcome you.

            I know exactly who Jesus Christ is but they deny him.”

            I have no idea where you came up with that, other than anger. It has absolutely nothing to do with any point I’ve been trying to make. It really sounds as though you believe it’s wrong to try to correct you.

            “You should know better then to side with unbelievers against believers but I guess you have no experience evangelizing them.”

            Once again, you’ve allowed your feelings to distort your thinking and have come up with a statement claiming that because I’ve been trying to point out an idea, a concept, to you – doing that somehow equates to siding with unbelievers against you? You’ve also allowed your feelings to deceive you into believing you know enough about me to know what my experience is.

            Seriously, take a look at what you’ve claimed to know about me and, please, consider what basis you’ve got for thinking you could possibly know that. There just isn’t any way for you to know that sort of thing. You say you guess I’ve got no experience sharing Christ with people who don’t believe. From what evidence? I try to convince you of a concept and therefore it’s unlikely I share my faith. Actually, that’s exactly the opposite of that would make sense to me.

            “That Barry fellow accused me and all Christians of fairy worship. Which a lot of them do.

            He needed the correction and I will answer to God not you.

            You had better get performing the Great Commission yourself and until you do save the corrections for yourself.”

            Yet another unfortunate distortion. Who the heck is “that Barry fellow” and why is he here in our discussion? And, your feelings have misdirected you into thinking that, 1, anyone is expecting you to answer to me and, 2, that I need to get performing the great commission. Where in the world did you come up with either of those? And yet, you post them here. Look at what sort of mistakes your feelings take you to!

            “You get busy and stop minding my business and meddling in it.

            You have enough unbelievers online to correct without bothering me.”

            I could go on but I don’t believe I need to. From your statements it appears you don’t believe you or your ideas should be held accountable. You tell me to get busy and stop minding your business…” That business, trying to correct someone who has gone wayward, is exactly the business of the body of Christ. We are actually told to do just that. Who else, if not the Church, will correct us when we go wrong? And we all do, in one way or another.

            You are following feelings and ignoring, as demonstrated in your attacks and anger at being questioned, the bible you might believe you follow. People who don’t believe are not going to respect Christians if we behave like that. And, our enemy simply loves it.

            Following our feelings, rather than being aware of them and incorporating information from them, easily leads to a string of angry, broken relationships that clutter the pathways of our lives. I wish you better than following your feelings and giving reign to them. I hope you will learn to do just that.

          • Glory

            Outta here. Too much critical spirit for me to say more.

          • Martin

            That’s too bad. Maybe too much accountability.

          • Glory

            I don’t owe you accountability. I only owe that to God.

            You were riding my first post criticizing from the very first trying to control my conclusion even before that atheist Barry started calling Christianity fairy worship.

            By the way a troll atheist that I blocked for calling Christians insane has followed me to this thread. Apparently he doesn’t know I cannot read him.

            But he intends to try and manipulate me and force an argument. That happens all the time with them. Them wanting to force arguments on theists even those who say they don’t want to argue because they want to cast verbal stones.

            Why is he here? To cast stones and insult me. If he were well mannered then he would stick to atheist blogs but he is a stone thrower who can’t take no for an answer anxious to xenophobically criticize and verbally abuse Christians.

            I block the verbally abusive ones now because evil is communicable and I obey God who says come out from among them and be ye separate and I will receive you.

            You do have a critical spirit, Martin and you were busy bodying trying to force your thinking on me from the first.

            How do I know you aren’t an empathyless narcissist forcing your narcissistic interpretation of the text on to me.

            Do You Have A Critical Spirit

            If I were you I would learn to keep my mouth closed when you don’t know other posters history.

            I make you accountable. Start delivering the Gospel to Barry et al or be quiet.

            What you are afraid you might get trolled by the nasty mouthed atheists.

            I have news for you sonny. I am an old lady and could die any day now if my doctors continue to screw up. These doctors that the atheists like to idolize through their false science idol.

            But these nasty mouth, nasty minded people still don’t scare me. And I have received online death threats from them on one of their blogs. I feed them the Gospel and the corrections every chance I get only now I block them when they show they are reprobates with critical and/or unreachable spirits or simply out of their minds with evil. God said to deliver the Gospel twice to unbelievers per Book of Titus but if He let them turn reprobate how am I going to overturn that. I am just a messenger. The Holy Spirit convicts them and can pass people over. My putting up with their evil isn’t doing anything but allowing evil a soap box and air time it does not deserve.

            Look at the Germans. They allowed evil Hitler to communicate evil and his evil spread to them like from one bad apple to the rest of the barrel.

            Like I said. Grow a set of balls and actually deliver the Gospel to them and see how they react. In most cases it won’t be pretty.

            Show some spirit and deliver it.

            Who are you to correct anybody on such short acquaintance on this topic?

            That is your spiritual pride talking.

            I hope you learn not to stumble Christians to serve your pride. That is worse than losing your temper at evil people occasionally.

            The prophets stood up against evil and received all kinds of persecution.

            Go deliver the Gospel to these intellectual savages ie atheists online and you will find out.

            Now are you going to stop busybodying in a quarrel you don’t understand or do I have to put you on block like an atheist?

          • Martin

            Tragic. Paul speaks of not boasting to the Ephesians about what he’s done and says he prefers to let others see what he’s done rather than bragging about it. And, once again, you are allowing your feelings to tell you all sorts of things that simply are not true. But it doesn’t sound as though you see yourself as a member of a body that truly is accountable to one another.

          • Glory


          • Glory

            Oh so you made the snarky comment “tragic”. Then went back and edited the whole post so you could criticize more.

            I never bragged. I simply related a few true experiences online with rough mannered atheists.

            I think you had better get the beam out of your own eye and examine yourself for that critical spirit.

            It seems you have an even bigger problem accepting that some people won’t agree with you than I do.

            Sometimes you just have to let it go.

            I am not a member of your congregation so don’t treat me like one. I have been on the front line of evangelism with just the Holy Spirit and me for a long time now as most religious groups I joined just stunted my spiritual education.

            When I got actually delivering the Gospel is when I actually learned a lot more things.

            Like the Bible says be a doer of the Word. I did. I did not claim to do it well. So no I did not brag.

            So stop the faultfinding and investigate yourself for a critical spirit.

            I answer to God period and I am putting you on block now because I am not arguing with you again.

            Bragging? You weren’t even there so why are you throwing stones?

            Would you rather be the accuser of the brethren then examine yourself for a fault?

            How would anyone know any of my online history if I did not speak of it. Unlike Paul’s time nobody can see me on here.

            Are you even a repentant Christian?

            You had better examine yourself or ask God to reveal your fault to you.

            Because I gave a very limited partial testimony and you called it a brag.

            This isn’t Puritan times where you put other believers in the stocks because they disagree with you y’know.

            I am blocking you now. I did not like your slick edit post job after you made the one word snarky response “Tragic” but I let it go and left only to return and see you faultfinding behind my back after you thought I had left. But I had another poster to respond to.

            Judge not lest ye be judged.

          • Martin

            Yes, I edited my post and from how you’ve responded in the past I have little hope you will allow any explanation other than the one you’ve already decided on. But I’ll tell you anyway that I edited my post because I realized I’d not done a good job of explaining what I meant.

          • Glory

            Yeah and you were flat out wrong to correct me. Good church elders correct people in private.

            No one in my entire life has ever accused me of bragging and if I were I would have said a lot more than I did.

            But that’s all right. God can read my heart. You can’t.

            Have a blessed day! I am waiting on disqus to disenroll me.

            I always tried to protect the brothers online especially in some of the roughest Internet forums and I am not used to a Christian attacking me with a critical spirit. So I am definitely leaving Patheos. There are other things to do for God besides nitpick scripture with theists who can’t keep things straight.

            I am tired of correcting atheist Nazi trolls online, too. I want to spend some time resting in God now for a good long while.

            Thanks for reading. God Bless!

          • Which atheist Nazi trolls are you referring to?

          • TinnyWhistler

            If this is Glory, I probably count.

          • Glory

            5 Indicators of an evil and wicked heart:


            I have had more than my fair share of dialoging with evil and wicked hearted people.

            I suggest you consider the above article before taking people to task on internet message boards.

            If anyone ever tells you that you worship fairies then that might be a sign of a heart steeped and hardened in evil.

            Have a blessed day!

          • Martin

            Well Glory, I’ve come to a point where I see no reason to continue trying to speak with you. I hope your pain can be resolved somehow.

          • Glory

            I have no pain.

            You should have been out delivering the Gospel then you would realize what it means when an atheist draws a false analogy between your belief in God and fairy worship.

            It’s not my fault some of these people are reprobates and can’t be won by love.

            Believe me if anyone tried to win them over for God that person was me but all they want to do is argue.

            Seriously, you have never seen how they twist the scriptures that they get offended by and refuse to understand them?

            That is God’s perspective they refused to understand then most refuse the correction, too.

            That is a heart issue they have.

            They need to be told to examine themselves before they judge God so negativistically but that doesn’t go over well with them either.

            Seriously, you never saw the constant complaining and continuous mockery coming from them? The internet is where they display this behavior the most because they feel they can get away with things.

            If you want to know the Bible. Try delivering it to an unbeliever. If anything confirms every word about unbelief in the Bible is true that will.

            I don’t know why God sends so many unbelievers my way when I dislike blasphemy so much but it could be that He knows if anybody will be truthful with them it is me and most of them need a complete overhaul of their belief system.

            Still God loves everyone all the time even the hard cases. Didn’t he protect Cain?

            I am taking off. Still too much to do at home and relish my peace too much these days to discuss with atheists on the Bible.

            I just mainly tell them to examine and repent or become seekers these days.

            God rewards seekers not arguers.

            Really who is so foolish as to judge a holy, loving God without acknowledging they are sinners and that sin exists? But most of them do exactly that. You can tell by their questions designed to draw you in and attempt to dispossess you of your faith.

            You have to be spiritually strongminded or leave them alone. That is how you never let Satan get a foothold in your thoughtlife.

            Hope all this helps. Conversion comes from God. People are only His serving instruments. Remember Moses? God said he could cure Moses social anxiety and make him speak if He wanted to but decided to give him Aaron instead.

          • Glory

            Go read kyuss in Christian Criers blog article How To Forgive Like God Does.

            Atheists are acting out like nazis all over that blog.

            They preach tolerance but don’t practice it.

            At the same time ignoring that love is a better standard than tolerance.

            But they are like toxic, angry children out of control of themselves who need to be put on time out.

            Seriously, I am going to allow their evil ideas into my head?

            Why I would end up just as chaotic and peaceless as they are.

            I carry the Gospel to bring God’s peace among them and into their hearts but not many are salvageable at this time.

            The atheist propaganda, lies and confusion runs too deep in their minds and hearts.

            Many of them have unteachable and vehemently critical spirits, too.

            Boundaries will have to be established or you have to leave off reeducating them. Plus forums are inefficient places to educate but I give them the godly wake up call when I can.

          • Glory

            I don’t usually follow Ken Ham but I agree the atheist propaganda is all over social media. Propaganda isn’t critical thinking either. It is lies repeated over and over until people accept them as truth.

            Google We Need to Respond to Atheist Propaganda by Ken Ham.

            Unfortunately, people get entrenched in positions. Evolution, young earth or old earth creationism or intelligent design. They are all people’s articulated understanding of a big origins question but nothing is impossible with God. God can use any of these methods in creating the world and He could even combine them in some sophisticated way that it is hard for people to perceive. So I never cared for the origins debate because it is deceptive. It is enough for me that God said He did it and focus on the real reason for the Bible: spiritual birth and education through Jesus Christ.

            Why lose out on your spiritual birth chasing the origins question? In my opinion no one has solved how God created everything and will not solve it because God will not allow sinners that kind of powerful knowledge. But God’s claim that people are all sinners is irrefutable.

            But there is not a single thing wrong with resting on God’s Word and promises while the rest of the world runs around dazed, confused and questioning. They should have consulted the most legitimate source on the planet: God Himself in His Word.

          • Glory

            I suggest Martin that you go over to the Christian Crier blog to this thread:
            Why Are Many Called But Few Chosen?

            Then you can see the atheist nazi troll pud in action in the comments section. He just repeatedly called a believer mentally unstable then used profanity against him when disqus should have removed him. He has been reported by more than one person yet he continues to act out on that blog.

          • I called you “insane” (and those who are so self-righteous and completely certain that they, and only they who think like them, are right), not all other Christians. So please stop misrepresenting me. I am sorry that if you have received any death threats, but none came from me (and I wonder whether you are lying or not). I am not trying to manipulate you, but I am trying to hold you accountable for misrepresenting atheists. It seems that you hate being questioned. You say that you are only accountable to God, not to atheists, and apparently not to other Christians.

            But if your certitude is bringing the church into disrepute, why can’t other Christians hold you accountable? Do you think that your continual misrepresentation of atheists is glorifying to God, if the God of Jesus exists? And if other Christians try to correct you, you reject their suggestions for correction, but you are quick to correct them, then you say that you will put them on block like an atheist. What arrogance on your part! The church could do without disciples like you.

          • Did Jesus call atheists “intellectual savages”? Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples to be compassionate just as your father in heaven is compassionate, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked? Don’t you follow Jesus? So is it kind to call atheists “intellectual savages”? Is that what the God who is said to be revealed in Jesus Christ called atheists? Your arrogance turns atheists off. We don’t claim to have the “fruit of the Spirit”, but you do. If you read the list in Galatians ch.5, ask yourself whether this list applies to you, in any way? I think that you have been so blinded by your anger, that you are unable to see how far removed from Jesus that you actually are.

          • Glory

            Pastor Wellman of the Christian Crier’s blog’s conclusion from his latest article.


            One church that was shrinking and dying may have been dying because they did not evangelize. They were as one man said, “The Frozen Chosen.” He said, evangelize or fossilize, and he’s right. Since God has chosen us from before the foundation or the creation of the world (Eph 1), it is our duty to seek out others who may also be chosen. We may not know who they are, but God will use us as a means to reach them. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:1-2), and today, He speaks to us and tells us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:19-20).

            Evangelize or fossilize.

            Be a doer of the Word. The Church always needs more evangelists than internal social critics.

            If Christ commissions his followers to evangelize then that is a very important thing to do.

            Sometimes you have to dive into it head first not knowing where you are going just knowing the Spirit is in the lead.

            For a more proper introduction to the crazier side of atheism I suggest you visit the Christian Crier comments section where you can bible quote to your heart’s content to pud, John Arthur and several other militantly minded atheists who have over run that evangelical blog and refuse to leave.

            But beware the scripture twisting. You have to be a true believer to be able to surf all their deception and deliberate scripture twisting.

            I understand if you don’t feel strong enough in the Lord to face down a horde of atheists like I did for the Lord for 15 years.

            It is much easier to set yourself up as Christian social critic on a safe blog then it is to refute angry, mocking atheists.

            But do it anyway for the deathbed conversions. The Word will not return void.

            Besides then you can really test if you have the Fruit of the spirit of self control or not. It’s easy to fault find other Christians. Quite another to put ourselves to test for the Lord.

            Meditate on it cf. Psalm 1 and have a blessed day!

          • bill wald

            Old “business economics” saying, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.”

          • Glory

            Sorry, I don’t see it that way.

          • Barry didn’t accuse you or any Christian of believing in fairy worship. What he was saying is that there is no substantive evidence for invisible beings like fairies or for gods. He was saying that you are not able to produce any. You are so self-righteous that you are a disgrace to the Christ that you profess to believe. Where is your Christian humility. Don’t you “see through a glass darkly”? If so, why are you so certain and dogmatic about your beliefs? Isn’t the fruit of the Spirit supposed to be love, joy, peace, etc? Isn’t your, what seems to be what you think is your inerrant interpretation of God, presenting a gospel that is repugnant? Whatever happened to the lowly, suffering servant Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee? Apparently you don’t follow him but your own made up Jesus.

          • You are so sanctimonious! Your personal private revelations, you say, are not subject to evidence. Well, Benny Hinn claims personal private revelations from God. So do Joyce Myer, Jesse DuPlantis Kenneth Copeland and a host of other deluded Pentecostal and Charismatic prosperity preachers. Do you believe that their private revelations are not subject to evidence?

            And if you disagree with them and their supposed revelations and say that they are not from God, how do you know without subjecting them to evidence? Why shouldn’t your supposed private revelations from God also be subject to testing? Are you infallible? If you say that God is infallible, how do we know that you are hearing from God? What, just on your say so? If you say the bible, then hasn’t the bible been variously interpreted down through Christian history? And how do you know that your interpretation of the bible is the correct one?

      • bill wald

        Ever here this phrase, “If this is how God treats his friends . . . ? We all know people who have been healed but there should be some statistical evidence. The ones who are not healed don’t return and complain.

        • Glory

          I don’t know what I am suppose to say in response to that. I guess it comes down to whether or not you believe God has the power to heal people or not because people don’t keep official records on this.

          • bill wald

            People who request prayer to heal cancer and subsequently die . . . I heard a person in church give thanks to God for healing his bad back and the next week he asked for prayer to heal his bad back. We do keep statistical records on mortality rates for various sub-sets of people. The LDS claims that God grants their members a longer life span but they don’t take credit for banning alcohol and cigarettes. There have been large statistical studies of the effect of prayer. The standard Christian response is that “NO” is God’s answer to many prayers.

          • Glory

            I don’t know how we got onto this side topic. But I am not particularly convinced by statistics. I prefer to see people as people.

            Unbelievers cherrypick statistics that appear to favor them on certain topics then use them to make arguments against Christianity.

            Doctors use statistics as if they are controlling treatment outcomes sometimes disregarding the human factor. Some people are in a position to fight cancer harder than others and prayer gives them more hope to fight better.

            Why is it today so many people are oblivious to the will of God. They want God to be their bellhop as J I. Packer calls it. Maybe that is the result of living in an overly materialistic society that want things now. Hyperfocus on the individual is one result of the Enlightenment, I believe.

            James 4, NLT

            13Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16Otherwise you are boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.
            17Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

            I really don’t want to discuss statistics because they don’t control things. The will of God does and He can say no to me and I will accept it. Not necessarily without pain but I will accept it.

            We are very worldly in the West now and I wish more Christians lived like they know God is in control instead of merely paying lip service to Him.

            Have a blessed day!

          • bill wald

            I’ve taken some college level statistics and probability and understand the basics. Most people forget the basics even if they ever knew them. This includes “scientists.” It is easy to lie with statistics. An obvious example, Some Mormons claim they are statistically healthier because God blesses them. More likely, it is because their religion prohibits smoking alcohol, coffee, and carbonated beverages. In other words, they follow standard recommended medical advice.

            Statistics don’t control anything. They document past events. Probability doesn’t control anything. It estimates the odds that an event will re-occur.

          • Glory

            Good observations.

          • Glory

            God is > statistics.

            God is Sovereign over us, Michael W Smith


        • Glory

          Mr. Wald, google and read:
          “Responding to atheist propaganda” on the answerinsgenesis site.

          People have been the targets of atheist propaganda for a while now but if you stick to Jesus and the good book you see the lies of this world a little bit more each day.

          The secularists are every bit as dogmatic as theists but where we seek to tell the truth, pray and persuade they seek to manipulate. Maybe because they were manipulated themselves but don’t realize it.

          The only Person in this world that you can count on that never lies is God.

          So be sure to study and meditate on His Word cf. Psalm 1.

          See Jeremiah 9:23 for the only human accomplishment that has worth in God’s eyes.

          Peace Be With You!

      • What do you say to the person who says that they have a personal relationship with Zeus? The person feels the presence of Zeus, and has an inward certainty that Zeus exists, just like you believe that you have a relationship with Jesus. They claim to be in a love relationship with Zeus, just like you claim with Jesus .So why is that person wrong and you claim to be right? If you say that its the book (bible), then if Jesus is still dead, are you not having a relationship with a book?

        • Mike Stidham

          The last time anyone had a love relationship with Zeus, we got Hercules. No thanks.

  • One of the best articles I’ve read on Patheos in too long a time. Thank you, Mr. Lee, for a very well thought out presentation. I’ll have to read it through again, I think, but I tend to agree. We humans *do* need to anthropomorphize the divine to “wrap our heads around” it, and the Bible is replete with such instances, but such thinking *can* be a slippery slope to us projecting our finite minds onto the mind of the divine and the person of God. Perhaps this is why it’s such weak faith that doesn’t know how to properly pray, or gets confused or dejected when “my prayers” aren’t answered immediately and to my satisfaction. After all, I have a relationship with a spouse, and when I ask him/her to do something, he/she will do it. God’s economy is so different from our own in this plane of existence that I think most times we can barely comprehend it. And for good reason. I have many more things to tell you, Jesus said, but you cannot bear them now. A helper will come to you soon, though. As believers we need to constantly seek the person of God in our lives and live that life habitually.

    Thanks also for the book recommendations!

    • Jack Lee

      Robert, thank you for reading and the thoughtful response. It’s very easy (by way of our fallen nature) to project our relationship model on to God. Not only that, it’s convenient to do so. But, that doesn’t make it right. Thinking through such things has given me a deeper appreciation fro God, the gospel, and the incarnation. He is truly unlike us and that is a wonderful thing.

    • Glory

      Yes, answers to prayers can be puzzling.

      But best to pray in the will of God knowing He sees what is best for us and also our futures while spouses cannot do that.

      Have a blessed day!

      • bill wald

        Serious question: If Jesus doesn’t return and Christianity still exists 500 years from now, will the Church still be preaching “pie in the sky, by and by?”

        • Glory

          I’ve never heard that phrase applied to Christianity before so I don’t know what you mean.

          I think Jesus’ return is a lot closer than 500 years so keep watching for him.

          • bill wald

            You you must be a young person. Your grandparents knew. It refers to Christians getting their rewards from doing good deeds in the next life. I have heard preachers say that giving money to the church is “saving it for your benefit in heaven e.g. higher status in Heaven.

          • Glory

            I am not particularly young. I just don’t understand where you are going with that question it came across as cynical.

          • bill wald

            I am cynical.

          • Glory

            Well I don’t know if online posting is good for you or not then. It might deepen your cynicism because there are a lot of rough people posting in open religious online forums.

            As the Bible says bad company corrupts good character.

          • bill wald

            I agree with the dictum that if a claim can’t be falsified then there no reason to accept it as truth. For example, NASA demonstrated that the moon was not made out of green cheese.

          • Glory

            Are you a Christian? I never know on Patheos unless I ask because there are so many groups on here.

            I am going to bow out of the conversation because I don’t like to view Christianity through the perspective of science or philosophy. I think theology has it’s own perspective: God’s so why apply a false perspective to it when I need to learn God’s.

            My main regret is I was never able to learn Hebrew and I may be retiring from religious discussions soon to focus on it if health permits. I was never that strong in foreign languages and I believe there are problems in Christianity today because very few learned God’s language so that puts too much power into the hands of organized religion and sooner or later tradition sets in. I would rather have my own personal relationship with God than manmade religion.

            I also decided I may not have the personality type to wade around in this sea of mixed up religion here on Patheos and the Net. I learned to like to pick my own path to God in conjunction with the scriptures and I find atheism to be total drivel and am fed up with them trying to force their opinions on Christians via debate.

            You can’t even bow out of a debate with some of them by explaining you no longer debate. They will run behind you online like a yapping dog trying to force a confrontation. That is not civil discourse in my opinion and I get tired of it. I already discoursed with nearly 400 atheists and I don’t find them convincing. Now I am waiting for Jesus to come and expect the theory of evolution will be refuted by science itself unless it changes do drastically that it is no longer recognizable.
            I suspect the great majority of scientists and science majors are pressured by the courts and educational system into giving up thinking for themselves or risk social ostracization from their peers and possible loss of income. Science in bed with politics could end up more deleterious for people than religion in bed with politics.

            I hope this helps. I really don’t agree with applying manmade philosophy to God topics. It only opens the door for carnal man to make and lay false burdens of proof on Christians when the Cross is the final proof and God rested victoriously on the Cross and that is the only proof He needs and wants us to pay attention to as it glorifies His Son and draws attention to resurrection. So why do people resort to philosophical games and let unbelievers call the shots?

            Have a blessed day!

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Retire by noon. We will all be blessed.

          • Glory

            You troll. Earned the block.
            A hater, too.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            It is your idea to retire and soon we hope.

          • Glory

            And you are still deficient in love. Yes, I am leaving soon if disqus will get things done.

            That’s all right. I forgive you. Now go ask God to forgive you and straighten your deficiency out.

            God knows I fought the good fight whatever you conclude because He can read hearts. You can’t.

            “We hope?” What are you royalty?

            Have a blessed day anyway! Spiritual pride is the worst.

          • Theodore A. Jones

            I am sure Discus has no problem with you leaving and probably the rest of us won’t shed a tear either.

          • Glory

            I don’t expect anyone to shed a tear.

            Like I said you are deficient in love. Quote all the verses to lord it over people like you are better than them but don’t love them.

            1If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
            4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
            8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

            I will pray for you. God bless!

          • Theodore A. Jones

            Save your breath.

          • bill wald

            Yes, I’ve been a Christian since 1953 or so. Went to mostly Baptist type churches, the EFC for 8 years and the Christian Reformed Church for 25 years. I’ve been thinking about such things for 60 years. We moved to a new area, mostly quit driving, and plain don’t want to start meeting with a new church. I quit going to church end of last year and feel at peace with God. I like to converse about the forbidden subjects, religion, politics, philosophy, economics . . . but “church” people don’t want to talk about religion. They want to instruct me.

          • Glory

            Well don’t let them turn you cynical. I broke away from a Bible believing church several years ago. A Christian Missionary Alliance Church because I investigated eternal torment doctrine and no longer believe it but decided I had trouble staying silent so to avoid dissension in that church I left when I could see the pastor could not follow my line of thinking which I received from some very devout teachers who practically live, eat and breathe Bible. The pastor was a good man but could not seem to grasp the significance of a translation error in the Bible.

            I am seriously starting to think some people are set in their ways and incapable of changing their minds after a certain point probably for multiple reasons. But Einstein said an intelligent person can change his mind and I believe growth could be dependent on change.

            You may be interested in different topics than me. I really wanted to understand the deeper mysteries of the Bible and was bogged down trying to understand prophecy more accurately when I got involved in trying to re-educate a group of hostile anti-religion atheists who were thoroughly indoctrinated with anti-religion propaganda. The argument went on with them for roughly 8 years until some newly chosen atheist moderator who was practically a philosophy professor decided to ban me. If he could not control me then he could axe me as if there were not at least 5 to 10 atheists more verbally abusive than I ever was on that board.

            I don’t at this time know what to say about these instructor types but maybe if you out study them and show your learning they will leave you alone. Besides you win God’s approval that way.

            Have a blessed day!

          • Glory

            I can understand why you feel at peace with God. I ran across a quote recently it goes something like this: Going to church every Sunday no more makes you a Christian than going into a garage makes you a car. I forget who said it. But I laughed as I know a few Christians who seem to think weekly church attendance is enough.

            But God dwells in us 24/7. We are his temples in and out of church. It just takes a while for that understanding that the church attendance helps plant in us to take root.

            I may be taking off soon. I am losing interest in online religious posting and it is time to do something else for a while. Nice meeting you.

          • bill wald

            Pax vobiscum!

          • Glory

            I think you are jaded more than cynical and who wouldn’t be hearing all that hellfire preaching out of the Baptists.

            You seem to be seeking the truth. Google and read a Christian Universalist Restorationist for a change.

            Start with The restoration of All Things by Stephen E Jones. You can google the work online. Then read what I consider to be his masterpiece Creation’s Jubilee.

            Two great essays to read: If God Could Save Everyone, Would He?

            Aion-Aionios by John Wesley Hanson

            IMHO the Christian Universal Restorationists are the most loving group of all Christians. They are the only ones that unmasked the popes’ mistranslation of the Greek aion. They changed aion into a Latin word that it does not mean. Hanson explains it well.

            If you are going to go with a Christian group then go with the one with the lovingest, least schizophrenic doctrine.

            Unfortunately, there are not many of their churches around partly due to s split when the Unitarian Universalists tried to take them over back in the 60’s and meddled with and changed core doctrine.

            1 Cor. 15:22, Berean Study Bible
            For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

            I am so sick of the hell fire doctrine. It comes straight from the pagans. The word hell is not even found in the ancient texts but thanks to the 1400 years of papacy inculcation we have this abominable doctrine making God out to look like Molech all over mainstream Christianity.

            Is there anything too hard for God? NO!

            God can save everyone and He already has but the doctrine on it is long and a bit complicated to understand so start with Hanson and Jones.

            Peace Be With You and thanks for reading!

            The truly inquiring seeking minds want to know the truth and will settle for nothing less.

          • bill wald

            Glory, Thanks for the url. Interesting. Bill

          • Glory

            You’re welcome. Have a blessed day.

          • Well Glory,

            This is one topic with which I agree. There is no hellfire in the bible.

  • Martin

    A wonderful, refreshing article that demonstrates the importance and power of careful thought. Thank you!

    • Jack Lee

      Martin, thank you very much for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  • john Johnson

    Christian doctrine has changed greatly since the 1st century. Marriage wasn’t declared 1 of the 7 Sacraments of Catholicism until the Council of Trent (circa 1547). And still more recently for Protestantism. For hundreds of years or so the Church considered it primarily a secular matter.

    • Glory

      Don’t get me started on the Church. I am still trying to decide if Dr Ernest L Martin is right or not about Simon Magus impersonating Peter to enter the Roman Church and join Babylonianism to it.

      Read “The Pagan Origin of the Catholic Church” online essay by Ernest L Martin. He makes quite a powerful and scriptural case.

      As if the Babylonians weren’t enough, philosophy particularly Platonism, got in as well. Some of the early church fathers discarded God’s Hebraic perspective of the Bible and replaced it with a Latinized philosophical one as if purity of ideas was not important.

      Priestly celibacy was not known in the Catholic Church until a pope decreed it about a thousand years into Christianity before then the lay priests married.

      • john Johnson

        Ah, but the Micrah suffered its share if revision before finally being written down. Somewhere along the way Jehovah lost his Consort (Ashera). Actually we know approximately when, but I lost my notes about a month ago.

        • Glory

          Are you a believer? Because your comment reminds me of the mythicism that atheists try to replace Christianity with.

          I am not a believer in myths but it doesn’t mean Simon Magus couldn’t have invaded Christianity trying to change core doctrines.

          • john Johnson

            I am a researcher with a wide range of interests. Including occultism and religions and their history.

            I didn’t say anything about Simon Magus. I pointed out the the Hebrew theological foundation for Christianity changed over a course of thousands of years. So, there is little solid to act as a foundation.
            The Micrah is Jewish mythology canonized. Archeology shows that Ashera was worshipped alongside Yahweh for centuries throughout the region. And yet she has been reduced in stature to little understood references to Ashera posts, and trees.

          • Glory

            Well you are very learned John and I appreciate your comment. If you get a chance read Ernest Martin’s work.

            Both man and woman are made in the image of God so perhaps God contains both male and female.

            One of the Old Testament names for God is El Shaddai and this could be considered a feminine name for God because of the meaning of the word “shad”.

            Perhaps, we are passing a spiritual stage now that requires a Father’s discipline and parenting.

            Have a blessed day!

          • bill wald

            Jewish (some) traditional theology recognizes the male and female aspects of God.

      • bill wald

        Greek/Russian Orthodox practice and dogma seems more authentic and logical but they are no more successful at spreading the Gospel e.g. good news than the Ancient Jews were.

    • Glory

      Thanks for this post. Most don’t even consider that there are spiritual and carnal marriages.

      Look at Catholicism controlling divorce as if the pope had the final say. Just imagine the spiritual people who got locked into an unholy union with abusive partners. I read a book of a Christian woman once who was almost killed by her husband because her religious beliefs made her not seek a divorce. Her book is online and her name iirc is Jocelyn Andersen. It is called “Woman Submit! Christians and Domestic Violence”.

      A good book to read on this is “Old and New Covenant Marriage” by Stephen E Jones.

      Or “The Bible Says: Divorce and Remarriage is Not Adultery” by Stephen E Jones

  • bill wald

    Know God? “God” is a generic word for any sort of god even if we capitalize it. Our God (to differentiate him from all other gods) doesn’t even want us to know his name. When Moses asked God his name, God responded, “I am what I am. Tell them “I am” sent you.” An obvious refusal to tell Moses his name. The ancient Jews understood this and used obvious invented euphemisms to refer to God in writing such as “YHWH.” I understand when reciting Torah, Jews use the equivalent of “the Lord,” another generic name. Our Bible uses “The God of Abraham” in the same way that I might say “Jack Lee’s god.”

    Take a look at “Knew:”

    Anyway, I have concluded that God is “totally other” and we can’t “know” him. That doesn’t stop me from trusting the Trinity e.g. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit . . . and my Guardian Angel. Not that I can comprehend “Trinity.” The Athanasian Creed is the most comprehensive example of “legal-eze” I have read. It has no loop holes.

    I have learned over my 70 years that there are many things about which I have no “need to know” and are better off not knowing them. It doesn’t bother me.

    • John Purssey

      Perhaps that is why some talk of being known by God rather than knowing God. I have yet to enter into that mystery, if it is a truth.

      • bill wald

        Personally agree with that observation. But on an academic level of “knowing,” the various stories make sense but taken as a whole, God’s “CV” doesn’t compute. God not appear consistent in his statements and actions. His justice seems arbitrary.

        In the OT, Job shows this universe as a computer game between God and Satan. In the NT, Jesus is person I can trust. Acts is believable as a history. Chapter 1, only the present exists. As time passes, the “event horizon” increases and the future becomes more important than the past. The theology of Paul’s early writings with a bottom-up organization of egalitarian (?) leaders evolves to a top-down Roman Catholic system. I don’t believe that Paul wrote the Pastorals.

        In this century, this world seems balanced between good and evil. If the theology is correct, there seems to be no statistical evidence that prayer has any influence on events . . . back to the computer game.

        My family seems miraculously in good hands and I don’t know why. I am convinced that I have Guardian Angel and my wife agrees. It is NOT because we work harder, smarter, and longer than other Christians or the general public. Or more holy/spiritual. We are thankful to God and try to be good neighbors.

        I see no evidence that any denomination except the Plymouth Brethren that come close to working at following Jesus’ teachings but their eschatology drives me nuts. I quit going to any church last Dec. and have never felt more at peace with God. I only want to trust God, don’t want to listen to any more sermons that don’t compute.

  • NorrinRadd

    I’m thankful to God that I have spent none of my 58+ years — 38+ as a believer — among Christians who emphasize Creeds and Confessions, or a lot of the other egghead stuff in that linked article by Dolezal. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve encountered the terms, “Divine Simplicity” or “Simplicity of God,” and they would all have been in online discussions.

    Regarding the title of the article, my experiences comport with the sentiments of some of the previous posters: Whatever the origins of the expression, I have mainly heard it used as a contrast to those who view Christianity as a collection of rules and dogmas. It’s not an expression I use, because I consider that too narrow a definition of “religion,” but I agree with the sentiment.

    After going through your article a few times and doing a bit of mental sifting and sorting, I’m left with the following impression: You interpret Scripture and understand God through the framework of your theology and philosophy, but you believe you are seeing “the” correct, unfiltered view of God. (Yes, I suppose to some extent we all do this.) You acknowledge that the “relationship” view of God can “seem… Biblical,” but to you it ONLY “seems” so. Your view takes all the Scripture passages that show God’s “transcendence” at face value, but relegate the relational and “immanent” passages to mere anthropomorphic concessions to our limited nature, void of any reality. It means we can’t take at all seriously any of the passages about prayer, any of the passages where we are called God’s children, any of the passages where we call Him “Abba,” any of the passages where we are referred to as “friends” and even “brothers” of Jesus. They do not really mean anything close to what they say, but are only there to mock us. Why, then, should we take seriously ANYTHING in Scripture?

    • Jack Lee

      I am not saying God is not a personal God with whom we cannot have a relationship and none of what I says negates the passages where we are referred to God’s children and such as you mentioned. On the contrary is elevates the incarnation and kindness of God to unfathomable depths. The beauty of Divine Simplicity is that we don’t have to try and make those things fit to be true. They are tied to God’s transcendent eternal being and are by necessity absolute and true.

      My “framework” (as you put it) is very Christian and very historical. While it is impossible to read scripture without some personal bias, the topic here is not original to me.

      • The wonderful thing about Open Theism is that it reconciles all the puzzling scriptures (e.g.,God changing His mind and also being able to fulfill His prophecies even with man having free will). Basically, we need to simply let God be God! God like any good Father is more than happy to adjust His major corporate plans to allow our participation with prayer, ministry, etc.!

    • FromOverHere

      You are correct. The author says….”In many cases, He even appears to change His position or plan, after some outside influence.” Notice “appears”. But he will deny that God does …. He only “appears to.” He downplays having a personal relationship while saying (paraphrase) “I’m not saying we can’t have a personal relationship.”

      What’s the point? To get us back to Reformed Calvinism…. impassible God with no feelings, emotions (bring on the Pink and Boettner to interpret for us!). Yeah, no thanks. Plenty in the Bible debunks that. Oh sorry, plenty of verses in the Bible “appear” to debunk that, but we need the doctors of Reformed theology to help us interpret (priests anyone?)

  • Emily Elizabeth Windsor-Cragg

    Evidently, the author of this article is not in any personal relationship with our Father, God, which many of us ARE.

    • Jack Lee

      Evidently, you have not read the article. wow. I suggest reading the article more closely and perhaps some other articles on this blog.

  • Sharon Lindenburger

    The point I think you’re making is that God is apophatic….not fully knowable. Most people are not comfortable with that. They need to anthropomorphize God, and in doing so, they commit idolatry. The apophatic theologians got it right. Alas, most evangelicals don’t have a clue about the apophatic, so it’s no wonder they have to unconsciously defend against it by creating the “relationship model.” As the apophatic theologian Jean-Luc Marion says, there is a “givenness” from God to us, or as Northrop Frye put it years ago, a kerygma. But that doesn’t mean that we know the entirety of God…we can’t know 100% of God, no matter how much you want to claim “a personal relationship with Jesus.” Keep in mind that there were many things that Jesus did NOT tell his disciples. Read the apophatics, and stop with the hysterical evangelizing going on here.

  • RC

    The confusion lies with people who have a relationship with a religion. It is a relationship with God through Jesus, our Lord. In another sense we shouldn’t believe in a false religion. However, where I think most people make the mistake is not realizing Jesus was not against religion, just false religion.

  • Myles

    Mitrai thanks you but Thor is raising his hammer.

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  • What does it mean to be “In Christ”?
    What is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”?

    How does the author define “religion”?

    What is “appearing to be religious”?

    What is “true religion and undefiled before God?”

    Answering these questions brings me to a place of appreciation for all Christians who distinguish “a relationship with God” over and above being a part of anyone’s religion. This is because I define religion from our culture–how they understand and practice religion–APPEASEMENT OF A god. Do religious acts and be a good boy or girl until he/she/it is no longer angry. This is how I win enough approval to make it into heaven someday.

    My new relationship with God is that of “child”, “sheep”, “new creation”. It is His pleasure, not my appeasing good works (religion) that make me an adoptee and an heir.

    It’s a family thing
    It’s a relationship of family and kingdom

    If I had the luxury of defining “religion” biblically, I would. Society trumps me. Until then, I care not for anybody’s religion.

  • keepitreal

    Usually this is a part of the whole ‘be the church,’ mentality which then turns into a covert excuse to be worshipped by others. A way to sneakily turn religiosity into a shrine unto oneself.

    • linc

      May I ask, “What is the risen Christs body?”

  • Gregory Smith

    Excellent article. Spot on. I think Evangelicals need to reconsider the idea of worship as opposed to friendship (although nothing wrong with having a friend in Jesus). God is knowable to a point, but your article points out that to overly humanize God I think is to show you truly do not understand who/what God is. I think if you continue on your theological quest, you’ll eventually end up Catholic. God bless.

  • FromOverHere

    Notice both the author and Mr Smith “as opposed to friendship” (but then add “nothing wrong with that”). Hey let’s get away from it…. but it’s okay really. So…. we can be friends with God or not? If so…. only Rigid Reformers can tell us to what level. I do not know who made Reformed Calvinists the gatekeepers.

    Fifty times more verses about God relenting, changing his plan, changing His mind, and yet this author and Phil Johnson (similar article) declare that this would “go against traditional theology” so must not be as it says (and usually bring out the two verses in Number and 1 Samuel to “prove” it).

    The whole Reformation was based on “going against traditional theology.” Somehow it was good then but not to challenge anything now. Kinda like the Reformers got it right…. exactly… and now to stray from them is wrong.

    Yeah, that’s what Rome said about the reformers.

    • Jack Lee

      As I mentioned in another comment, a few moments ago. Divine Simplicity and Classical Theism are not doctrines from the Reformation. They existed long before. Try seeing what Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas had to say in such issues.

  • FromOverHere

    The author says this:

    “Logically, this means the petitioner possesses some unique insight into the situation that God must not have. This person has enlightened God’s understanding and convinced Him that He ought to be more compassionate, given this and that.”

    Why? Who said? You? Are you making up the rules?

    Some hundreds of times people petition God, and His word says He responds to their prayers and you say … “Clearly, this is nonsense.”

    What is nonsense? The straw man you just set up? Indeed.

    I spent years being a Calvinist and daily saying “that passage can’t mean what it says…. cuz we know better…. and that would be nonsense.” Nah, just read it…. and forget about the doctors of theology (Catholic first, then Reformers)

    • A perfect response to a high and mighty (in his own mind) Calvinist!

      • Jack Lee

        I am the chief of sinners, Stephen. I do not know what about this article gave you the impression I am “high and mighty”

        • Theodore A. Jones

          “(I am the chief of sinners,)” J. Lee Oh yeah?

        • That’s part of the problem. You don’t realize how you come across. This is true of many high calvinist reformed folks. In your article, don’t you realize that you make it sound like anyone who doesn’t agree with you is uneducated and unenlightened? Actually, your brand of theology has no corner whatsoever on historical Christianity. That is educated fact.

          Concerning your theology, one quick pushback that many theologians not of your theology would give you, is to state God uses anthropomorphic language concerning himself, and then say it has no real meaning for Himself, but is only for our benefit, sort of flies in the face of the truth that we are made in God’s image. We are not God, but we are made in His image.

          So, no space to develop it more, but I for one love the phrase you are fighting against.

          • Jack Lee

            Can you provide an example of how I suggest anyone who doesn’t agree with me is uneducated?

            Beyond that, the content of this article is based on classical Christian theism. It has nothing to do with Calvinism. It predates the reformers by many many years. So say my theology has “no corner” is an absurd statement – in terms of this article (as it isn’t very catholic) and historically. Protestantism was birthed in Calvinistic theology.

            I am also not following your logic regarding the God made in our image comments.

          • I am not interested in discrediting you at all, just your arguments. I think they are harmful overall in helping people understand the God-human relationship, especially with your title. So I push back on that when I come across it (as Patheos pushed your post.)

            As to my uneducated observation, you state… “This was me at one point; I didn’t know what I didn’t know. The assumptions I made about God’s being were not founded in scripture. I was unaware that I had been influenced by decades of misguided theologians and philosophers…” So is this not a strong statement that all these other theologians and yourself were simply beneath the truth until you were better educated in the Scripture and became more enlightened?

            As to Calvinism I assumed that from your reformed reference. My apologies if you are not. Perhaps you are not?

            As to the image of God. Emotion is part of the human experience. In Scripture it is also part of the divine. Image relates to that. It is certainly very nuanced or equal, and we are not God, but a raw impassibility divorces that and makes image questionable.

            As to classical theism and Christian history and impassibility, your focus, let’s take the whole of Christian history. I don’t think a raw impassibility has any corner on what is “true Christian doctrine”
            at all, and that it is wrong to say so.

    • Jack Lee

      The irony of your comment is that the doctrine of Divine Simplicity finds its roots, not in the reformers, but in the Catholic Church. Thomas Aquinas wrote a great deal on the topic. Classical Theism finds roots in the Church Fathers.

  • David Swann

    Reading this many days after the initial post, and then the ensuing comments, I find myself at a crossroads of seeing intellectualism to explain the unknowable God, and the knowable God as Savior. Does God desire complexity so as to keep the knowledge of the Almighty a mystery? Or does He suggest the glimpse of Himself in the person of Jesus so that we can have a relationship with Him, in a way only He can allow? When we, finite and limited, portend to have a answer to the omnipotent Creator of all and His permitted vision of Himself, we slide toward the very fatality of Lucifer – pride. This is where I have the greatest issue with religious intellectualism (my phrase). If God gave a wholly simple view of Himself, we would have a diminished regard, yet if we assign only the dance of academic and intellectualism as a means of worship, we eliminate the relationship of Jesus’ teachings. A joyous verse to pierce the veil of a unknowable Deity is Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 11:25 – 30. God is; He permits: He provides Jesus to reveal to those He deems to; and then Jesus provides a relationship beyond the unknowable, to “take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus takes us from the permitted that God allows, to the relationship that Jesus gives. Why, ultimately, do we force a discussion that can be antagonistic to one another. I choose a very simple philosophy – “As for me and my house – we will serve the Lord!”

    • Theodore A. Jones

      First the yoke he references must be understood and then one must learn the only way it can be put on.

  • Richard Treptow

    Why on earth does this one article keep getting republished? I’ve seen it at least a half dozen times. Is Patheos on a crusade to push this particular theology?

  • tovlogos

    This is quite a post, Jack — I have to agree…it’s as simple as that.

    • Jack Lee

      Thank you!

  • rtgmath

    You say that God doesn’t change, that he is immutable. Yet there was a time before Jesus. There was a time before God became man.

    You get the “God doesn’t change” crap from two or three verses taken entirely out of context. God was in relationship with Abraham. It was not “God’s way or the highway.” God listened to Abraham, even accepted a reminder to his position and responsibility. God accepted the rebuke of Moses, when God would have violated his own covenant with Israel and destroyed them to make a nation out of Moses.

    God changes. God has changed. The ultimate change was in taking on human form.

    Grief! You are so hidebound in your theology you can’t even see what the Scripture as a whole has to say.

    And that is why your churches are dying, you have no real growth as Christians, and you can’t see the pit you have dug for yourselves.

    • Lennie

      God’s nature, His character never changes and never will. Yes there was a change when the Son of God took on flesh and became a man (incarnation). He never lost His divine nature. He added to it human nature without the curse of sin. He is the unique God/man Jesus. Called Son of God, Son of man. Immanuel meaning God with us. Whether churches are growing in numbers or not, His “invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1. I hope you find Him as Saviour and Lord.

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