Why Christian evangelizers should stop

Why Christian evangelizers should stop June 17, 2015


Jesus Christ said this:

The most important law of all is: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:28-31)

Jesus himself declared this to be the Great Commandment.

Later, to his disciples, Jesus also said this:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:16-20)

Christians, not Jesus, declared this to be the Great Commission.

The Great Commission has always been the driving force behind Christian evangelization.

When Jesus spoke the words of the “Great Commission,” he was known by almost no one. So it was vitally important that his disciples get busy spreading his message at that time.

So they did. And it worked. And in America today you can barely throw a rock without it bouncing off a church.

Commission accomplished!

The message of Jesus’ Great Commandment boils down to this:

God loves you. I love you. You are worthy of unqualified, absolute love.

The message of the Great Commission boils down to this:

If you’re not a Christian, you should be.

When you combine those two messages—as every evangelizing Christian must—what you get is this:

You are super lovable. But you should totally change.

Which is an absurd message. It’s like saying, “Today is Tuesday, so yesterday was Friday,” or, “I love my legs, I wish they were gone.” One half cancels out the other.

If half your message negates the other half, and you wish to continue appearing sane, then half your message needs to go.

Christians who feel the need to evangelize should limit their message to, “God loves you; I love you; you are worthy of unqualified, absolute love.” If they feel the need to continue “witnessing,” then they must remember that the whole point of a witness is to answer questions when asked.

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  • Ben P

    Interesting thoughts. I believe as well that God loves everyone because all people are God’s children. We don’t have to do anything to earn that love, but isn’t there merit in at least acknowledging the source? “I love you, but you don’t have to believe in me.” That doesn’t sound right either.

    Ephesians 4:20-24 describes how we should react to God’s love and be transformed by Christ.

    Thanks for your posts John. This is really getting me thinking =)

  • It really is just “I love you.” That’s unconditional love. No additions or “buts” necessary. 🙂

  • BarbaraR

    “I love you, but you don’t have to believe in me.”
    That is unconditional love.

  • lymis

    Turn it around – “I won’t love you if you don’t believe in Me.”
    Does that sound right to you?

    And for many people, the words they put in God’s mouth aren’t even that – it’s “I won’t love you if you don’t believe in Me the right way.” – as though God is incapable of speaking to different people in different ways.

    God doesn’t need our belief, as much as it may be important to us to seek God in our lives and hearts and minds. We may need to believe, but God doesn’t need us to.

  • Lookingup73

    This is pretty confusing….I don’t know think the disciples misinterpreted the directive from jesus which was pretty clear (go baptize people in my name and make sure they obey everything I said). Sometimes we have this illusion that J.C. was nice. he was sometimes pretty imperative and nasty (didn’t talk to him mom (and dad) too nicely for instance). So why be surprised that people took (and take) it to heart and obey him by spreading his message and forcing people to convert? If you just spread the message of love you are failing in the mission! (He never said to spread the message of love. He said to make people obey everything he preached).

  • Lookingup73

    Yeah but then people are not saved (because they don’t accept J.C. as their personal lord and savior). Also, the moment you think that way you can’t honestly believe that your Christianity is the right religion (since everyone’s is equally valid). Once you get to that point, you can’t rationally believe in Christianity period. which is fine. But that is why most religious people don’t entertain such thoughts 🙂

  • BarbaraR

    Yeah, well, I never claimed to be rational 🙂

  • BarbaraR

    Uh, no.

  • Lookingup73

    Okay. LOL
    Excellent rebuttal!

  • Lookingup73

    You might want to re-read his commission. How did I get that wrong? It is pretty clear…

  • BarbaraR

    Matthew 22:36-40

    36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

    37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Jesus called it the great commandment, not commission.

    Further on in Matthew:

    Matthew 28: 16-20 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

    If Jesus has commanded us to love God and each other, that is the greatest thing we can do. Obviously some people believe that forcing others to convert is “love,” but I disagree with that.

  • Lookingup73

    yes that is the great commandment. The article was talking about the great “commission” – go convert folks. So in addition to getting other folks to love God and one another, those other folks had to be baptized. I agree with you that it is wrong, but it is there in the “book” so we can’t fault people for evangelizing (as distasteful as the practice is!).

  • BarbaraR

    The Great Commission is what certain Christians have decided to call it. No one can get someone else to love God or another person – that must come from within.

    As far as it being “in the book” as a directive, there are numerous things in the Bible that we don’t do. It is lazy to simply read the Bible at face value and say, “Well, it’s right there, plain as day. It’s perfectly clear.” The Bible is anything but clear.

  • Lookingup73

    Okay. That is definitely a weird statement and a strange stance to take as a Christian. Usually christians like to follow what Jesus said. If we ignore what he told his disciples on spreading the message, then why believe him on the love others as our selves? (Aside from the fact that it is not an original thought and just makes sense – the notion had been around in various cultures before Jesus “said” it).

    I tend to agree in principle however. I don’t take much in the Bible seriously because as you said it is anything but clear. Christianity doesn’t make a whole lot of sense though without the book…lol

  • BarbaraR

    What part is a weird statement?

  • Lookingup73

    Weird statement (for a Christian): “As far as it being “in the book” as a directive, there are numerous things in the Bible that we don’t do. It is lazy to simply read the Bible at face value and say, “Well, it’s right there, plain as day. It’s perfectly clear.” The Bible is anything but clear.”

  • BarbaraR

    Two small examples:
    Mark 10:11–12 “Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.”

    Women speaking in church:
    1 Corinthians 14:34 “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.”

    Obviously these verses have been the subject of great re-examination and reinterpretation in modern life, with some denominations completely rejecting them as written in English. Other denominations take them strictly at face value.

  • Lookingup73

    Very true. The verse most people ignore as well is the one where j.c. said a rich man can’t get into heaven. I would like to follow that one if I took the bible as meaningful. Guess we are all cherry pickers! (And hypocrites if we say we follow any of it).

  • Forcing people to convert??? making people obey???


  • Lookingup73

    “Dude” – i would have said the same thing to Jesus himself lol! Your religion and faith, not mine anymore.

  • I think the “great commission” was completed long before the new testament was compiled. That people think they have to force or make people comply to any religious idea is abhorrent to me.

  • Lookingup73

    Oh it is totally abhorrent to me to! But it makes sense that people feel they have to do it since j.c. told them too. Also there were millions of non Christians at the time of the new testament. Heck the Americas were not even discovered by Christians yet! Not to mention the European barbarians.

  • I didn’t say the disciples misinterpreted the directive from Jesus. I said … exactly the opposite of that.


  • Lookingup73

    Right. But then you suggested there was a problem with folks interpreting it the same way currently. There are still millions of people who don’t know Jesus..why was it okay to follow the directive 2000 years ago but not now?

  • amynrob

    Lookingup73: you are describing one kind of Christian, the kind most people think of as basic (or fundamental) Christianity. But there are (and pretty much always have been) people who call themselves Christian, who claim to feel God’s love and believe Christ’s message, who do NOT subscribe to the fairly simplistic version of Christianity you describe. (I’m among them.) Plenty of conservative Christians might not accept this liberal version of Christianity as true, but we do self-identify as Christians, so who are others to reject us as false Christians? Since we agree that pretty much all modern Christians are guilty of cherry-picking, who is to say that one variety of cherry-picking is better or worse than another?

  • amynrob

    I would like to restate some of John’s point in another way that’s clearer to me (and perhaps others). The commandment to love God and love one another (the greatest commandment) is true for all times and places and people–it is ahistorical. The Great Commission (an evangelical call to make sure all people have heard the good news) was very essential but it had its place in history. It was a historically based commandment that was wildly successful (at least in terms of getting the story of Christ known in the world) but is not needed so much anymore. (I’d argue the evangelical mission was also for many years quite problematic because of the wars and deaths and forced conversions that played a large role in the spread of Christianity.) So today, while it is very true that not all people are Christians, it’s also true that almost everyone has HEARD of Christianity. The fact that the whole world isn’t instantly converted upon hearing the Good News can be puzzling to simplistic Christians, but to many of us it’s to be expected (especially given the widespread hypocrisy and corruption in the Church in the past 2000 years). Moreover, the problems of the modern world do NOT appear to lie in the failure of Christians to convert all people to believe in Christ, but in the still incomplete understanding of that message of love–among Christians and non-Christians alike. I am a completely non-evangelizing Christian, and I know that that makes me NOT following the parts of the Bible that many Christians believe to be absolutely central.

  • Ben P

    But if none of them is right then all of them are wrong. Would a muslim want me to identify as muslim, but not practice the five pillars? I believe there are essential beliefs to Christianity that aren’t cherry picked.

    And to be honest, I think that identifying as a type of Christian among many other possible variations degrades your beliefs. I only say this because you have called your more complex beliefs superior to a conservatives “simple” beliefs.

  • BarbaraR

    But if none of them is right then all of them are wrong.
    God is big enough for a variety of beliefs.

  • Lookingup73

    Totally agree that everyone is cherry picking. I was not describing only fundamentalists. I mean even liberal Christians believe in Jesus and somehow think following him is important. If that religious view is not grounded in some biblical source (it has to be because otherwise there is no such thing as Jesus) then on some level, even the most liberal Christian takes some part of the bible literally. I don’t think there are “false Christians” but I think it is wrong to think that liberal Christians are any less fundamentalist. For instance, many loving Christians still say they do things because they are Christian. (They act a certain way because of it). But if they are basing their actions on their particular reading of the bible (for instance a verse about giving to the poor or turning the other cheek) they are doing the same thing that a Christian who takes Jesus’ message to evangelize to heart and goes on a mission.
    If one truly believes that there religion isn’t “the one” it makes very little sense to still practice said religion. IF one is honest and truly THINKS about it. (Once you realize that Christianity is just a religion like any other, you realize it is a system of myths and legends that every culture has, and has the same cultural meaning as the Greek gods, Hindu gods, etc. so at the end of the day it can’t be that believing in Jesus makes any real difference.)

  • Lookingup73

    Well said. Obviously they all have cultural meaning. Religions pop up as cultural expressions of a way for people to seek the truth. None of them can be the one true religion. It is arrogant for anyone to think that.

  • lymis

    “Also, the moment you think that way you can’t honestly believe that your Christianity is the right religion (since everyone’s is equally valid). Once you get to that point, you can’t rationally believe in Christianity period. ”

    Not true.

    It may be true that one you realize that you aren’t God, and that God is infinitely capable of having you unique and individual relationships with each and every one of God’s creations, that you lose the ability to tell others that their experience of God and their walk with God is wrong.

    But this simplistic view that there is only one possible right religion is as ridiculous as saying that there’s only one right place to live or one right color to paint one’s living room or only one right kind of music to find inspiring.

    It’s perfectly fine to feel that – for you – living in a thriving multicultural big city surrounded by a variety of social and cultural options is ideal. That doesn’t mean you can rationally claim that someone who finds that living in a small town or out in the country is therefore wrong. You may just find you aren’t going to be their immediate neighbor.

    You can find that country music inspires you deeply. That doesn’t mean that the person who finds that opera is what takes them out of themselves is wrong, or that you can’t deeply enjoy your kind of music without condemning what speaks to someone else. You may just find that you go to different concerts.

    If the Holy Spirit speaks to you through Scripture and a doctrinally-based close community of believers who share the same interpretation of Scripture, then that’s how the Holy Spirit speaks to you, and you’d be right to take issue with someone who tells you that your spiritual experience is wrong or invalid.

    But someone else may find that time alone in nature is what opens them to the same Spirit, and that time in church or noodling out fine distinctions in Scripture shuts them down, bores them, or makes them so judgmental of others that they can’t hear the voice of the Spirit in their heart.

    Someone else may find that celebrating the individual experience of God in a variety of ways among people who don’t share identical beliefs is what most allows them to be open to the infinite Love of God.

    Someone else may have had so toxic an experience of organized religion that God has led them away from it and into a place where they look inside themselves to find the Holy Spirit speaking within them.

    It’s ludicrous to say that recognizing that God may speak to someone else differently than the way God speaks to you means you can’t believe in your own experience of God.

    You can definitely find that Christianity is God’s path for you, and never doubt it, while still being completely open to the idea that it’s not your job to define God’s voice for someone else.

    Certainly, if someone is placed in your path who is struggling to find that voice and sees in you something they want for themselves, sharing your own experience, your own beliefs, and your own insights and path may be an incredible opportunity to be God’s prophetic voice in their life. I hope that other believers have been that for you, and that your own belief in Christianity is based on having found that what others shared spoke to you.

    But it’s not faith that causes people to judge others’ experience of God. It’s arrogance – placing yourself above God. It’s fear – that allowing others their own path undercuts your own. It’s laziness and cowardice – that someone else’s rich experience of God in a different way may cause you to question specifics of your own path, and the misplaced idea that if everyone else was forced (or shamed) into pretending to believe exactly what you believe, you don’t have to seek your own personal path.

    I can know that my home, my marriage, my friendships, my life choices are, in fact, deeply right for me without having to condemn anyone else’s different choices.

    Look at the story of Mary and Martha – where Jesus makes it clear that two different people can have validly different ways of serving God and experiencing God, without either one being wrong.

    Look at Jesus’s clear statement that the Father’s House has many mansions, and that Jesus has sheep who are not all in the same fold.

    Look at Jesus’s individual and personal call to the rich man who had studied and followed the Scripture all his life to set that aside, give up his previous understanding of the right way to follow God, and follow Jesus more personally and directly.

    Look at the parable where Jesus makes it clear that the Samaritan – condemned by the Jews for having a different religious tradition – is the one who was most truly in God’s favor for helping the man in need, rather than those who followed the strict requirements of their own religious tradition and left him by the side of the road.

    You don’t have to agree that everyone’s path is “equally valid” and pretend that the unhappy judgmental, hypocritical busybodies around you are “getting it just as right” or that the people who refuse to even consider that there is more to life than pleasure aren’t missing out on something important.

    You just have to start from the proposition that it’s not your job to police other people’s spiritual paths – even to the extent of feeling smug and superior. Jesus’s command was to love them, not police them. It’s not your job to tell others that their path is wrong. It’s your job to get your own path as right as you can get it. Which often, paradoxically, means also being open to the possibility that God is putting them in front of you to be His prophetic voice to you by showing you another way to consider.

    I’ve always found that it shows a deep and fundamental LACK of faith in God to declare that your way is the only right way for others, even if your way is the one true and right way for you.

  • lymis

    ‘But if none of them is right then all of them are wrong. ‘

    Again, not true.

    What’s the right color to paint a house? What’s the right way to cook chicken? What’s the right music to listen to that raises your spirits? Who’s the right spouse? What’s the right job? Who is the right friend?

    None of them will be “right” for everyone. It doesn’t follow that all of them are therefore wrong for everyone. Something or someone that is right for someone may be wrong for someone else.

    The call to a deep and enriching relationship with our Creator may well be something that each of us shares. But it does not follow that the call is identical for everyone. And it absolutely does not follow that we all share the same path to find the truest expression of that in our own lives.

    And, in fact, trying to cut off other people’s right answers, to tell them that if they don’t share your path that they can’t look elsewhere, is actively and deliberately attempting to cut them off from God, in a lot of cases.

    It doesn’t take much effort to find that the single biggest reason that most of the people who completely discount the possibility of even the existence of God, much less an interest in organized Christianity, is the horrible treatment they see people getting from people speaking in the name of God.

    God is infinite. ANY view that puts God in a box and declares that God is constrained in how God can speak in the lives of others is not only inferior. It’s not only merely wrong. It actively works against the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.

  • Lookingup73

    Well put – great food for thought. I guess I have always wondered what would keep someone going in a faith when they realize it is just a myth that arose in a particular culture. For instance, we would kind of laugh at someone for believing in Greek Gods at this moment in history. But believing in J.C. is the same thing. With time it would probably change and disappear. In order to believe in J.C. one has to believe in the Bible. If one believes in the Bible then one believes that it contains a message that is somehow unique. By doing so, one inherently thinks their faith is better than someone else’s. if it is not unique it is somewhat a waste of time.

  • lymis

    “(Once you realize that Christianity is just a religion like any other, … at the end of the day it can’t be that believing in Jesus makes any real difference.)”

    Hogwash. It means that God is able to truly, deeply, and validly speak to different people in different ways.

    He’s allowed to.

    The same sun – the one we cannot look at directly for too long without hurting ourselves, the one we cannot live without, but at the same time could not survive if we were actually directly inside it – shines through two different stained glass windows and illuminates different pictures and different colors. It’s the same sun, but our experience of it through different windows may well be very different.

    NO religion can be a full, complete, and direct experience of the totality of all that is God. We as humans are far to limited. But our limitations are not God’s limitations.

    What we may become has not yet come to light. It’s very possible that our experience of God once we set aside our human bodies and the limitations of our human minds will be far more complete and far more direct, and that the differences that seem so glaring between human religions will reconcile themselves in that clearer light.

    But whatever may or may not be true then is not what is true for us now. NO religion has the monopoly on God, but it’s entirely possible that God speaks through each religion in ways that are entirely valid, even if the colors and pictures that the followers of any given religion are different.

    But just because the light illuminating different stained glass windows manifests differently to our eyes doesn’t mean that the answer is to claim that the only option is to choose a single window or sit in the dark.

  • Lookingup73

    Oh I have no problem with God speaking to folks in a different manner. I said that believing in Jesus makes no difference. God is entirely different matter. But Jesus is not better than “earth goddess”, “mohamed”, “insert name of any other important religious figure that gets you to god”

  • lymis

    If someone honestly believes that they were directed by God himself to make disciples of everyone in the world, wouldn’t it follow that they have a responsibility to try to do so in a way that actually works?

    Knowing that beating someone over the head with the Bible, telling them they are horrible sinners destined to hell if they don’t believe, and that the approach taken by many Christians is the single biggest thing driving people away from God, wouldn’t continuing to do so be the single best way to utterly fail at that commission?

    Wouldn’t looking for another way be the right answer?

  • Lookingup73

    but the article just pointed out that people took the command seriously. Some express it in non-loving terms but the evangelical message has ALWAYS been, your way is wrong, this way is right. Otherwise you wouldn’t try to convert people – it would be unnecessary.

  • lymis

    “In order to believe in J.C. one has to believe in the Bible.”

    Not so. That’s only true if you believe that when Jesus died, he ceased to exist, and lost the ability to interact with people as individuals, and the only way Jesus speaks to us is through the words in the Bible. And, far more often than not, the phrase “believe in the Bible” is code for believing specific and particular things about the Bible, which is an entirely different matter.

    The Bible is a path to God for many people. For many, who are equally strong in their own faith, it’s the record of a particular group of people’s experience of God in their lives. I don’t have to believe each and every word in the Bible, or even to agree that the authors got everything right, to see in their words a valid reflection of their walk with the same God who walks with me, now, today, in my own life.

    I could even believe that God graced the authors, editors, translators and publishers of the Bible with unique and special abilities to accurately describe their own walk with God as perfectly as it might be possible to do so, without necessarily believing that God is calling me to walk exactly the same path.

    In my case, I don’t believe that they were infallible. I believe that they got a lot of things deeply wrong – among them the idea that slavery was okay and that God calls on us to war with our neighbors – but that what they were reaching to communicate was their own very real experience of the same God who operates directly in the world today.

  • Lookingup73

    Well, I don’t believe much in the bible at all. Therefore, I don’t believe in Jesus as a savior. I think it is a nice story, but it just illustrates some good ways we should treat others. As well as some bad ways – I would never talk to my parents as Jesus did for instance. So if someone thinks that Jesus is somehow important, the ONLY way to think that is to believe that SOME of the bible is correct. Otherwise, Jesus is nothing. He only derives his existence as a divine being from the bible. You cannot even know of him without the Bible.

  • lymis

    “You cannot even know of him without the Bible.”

    You can make that case about the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth, to the degree that the Bible is in any way a factual account of his life.

    But to the degree that the Christ is the eternal reality of the presence of God among us, it’s entirely possible to know him without ever even hearing about the Bible.

    What you’re saying is like saying that without a math textbook, mathematics has no reality, and that without it nobody could ever learn to count.

  • Lookingup73

    Wow, now we are really into the realm of mystical gobble-d-gook. I guess Jesus does appear in tortillas and such so why couldn’t he appear to people all around the world without them ever having heard of him…I stand corrected.

  • Lookingup73

    Your math example is excellent. So if 2+2=4 would you accept that someone who says 2+2=5 is correct? What you are saying is that even though I have no math textbook, I can find out that 2+2=4 since it is a reality. Similarly, even though I have no Bible, Jesus exists and I can find out about him – he is the 2+2=4. I may have been raised to believe in 2+2=5 but I might find the truth somehow…interesting.

  • Chelsea Peer

    I agree with you. While I agree with most things progressive authors discuss on this site, I think this is a rare example of when they actually, as the fundamentalists call, “make the Bible say what they want it to say.” The argument that the Great Commission is no longer relevant holds no water. Large numbers of people still haven’t heard of J.C. same as then. There’s no historical explanation to question the traditional interpretation like there is for the clubber passages or hell passages, etc. “We don’t follow everything in the Bible” no duh, that doesn’t make it not a commission. And finally, in a literary sense, it’s clear the Commission is important, as it appears in multiple books, and multiple authors choose to put it as one of the last thing Jesus says before ascending and/or last thing in the book.

    That being said, I don’t believe forced conversion is a fulfillment of that commission. I believe the best way to carry out the Great Commission is to let the story be heard and serve as a good example. If people find Christianity appealing, they’ll come asking, if they don’t, they continue with what belief system speaks to them.

  • lymis

    I’m beginning to feel you’re being deliberately obtuse.

    I don’t think Jesus appears on tortillas, and I don’t think that without the Bible, people would magically intuit the historical life of Jesus.

    But I also don’t think that a factual grasp of the historical life of Jesus – if the Bible even is such a thing – is required to experience the presence of God in our lives. If every copy of the Bible and every Christian Church were to disappear in an instant, people would still find a way to connect to God. The human trappings would be different, but the underlying understanding that the greatest human connection to God is through love of neighbor would arise again – as it has in some form in every human culture.

    You have decided to limit “Jesus” to mean the human life that is reported to have happened for 33 years 2000 years ago. Some of us don’t.

  • Lookingup73

    You keep confusing Jesus with God. God can make himself present in a variety of ways (they say). Jesus is a particular being who has been touted for centuries as the son of God. That means he is somehow important. The ONLY way for anyone to think he IS important is through the Bible. Without the bible there is no such thing as Jesus. That does NOT mean there is no God (necessarily – that is a different discussion). Thinking that there is “jesus” aside from what is written in the Bible is definitely logically flawed.

    I don’t think being able to understand the basic logic involved in knowing who Jesus was and what he represents is being “obtuse”. 🙂

  • Lookingup73

    This is a good summary. Many may have heard of Christianity throughout the world, but not necessarily of Jesus. I don’t think the two are the same.

  • lymis

    “Thinking that there is “jesus” aside from what is written in the Bible is definitely logically flawed.”

    And on that note, I’ll leave you to your opinions.

  • Lookingup73

    Thank you. Only – not really an opinion, but a verifiable fact. If you can show where Jesus comes from otherwise, have at it! It will be the greatest discovery of modern times!

  • Ben P

    Believing that Christ is the only way to God is something that won’t be done by my explanations. If I thought that then my explanations would be as good or greater than the Bible itself. That is something I definitely don’t believe.

    I would encourage all of us to continue to learn about God by reading his inspired word.

  • Ben P

    Then you’re view is right and mine is wrong? Most commenters on this blog argue for acceptance of all beliefs. But when someone gets on and disagrees here and there, they are wrong? I am not pointing the finger, but saying that that sounds hypocritical.

    I was actually blocked from the blog after John told me he was intolerant of my views.

  • Lookingup73

    I don’t understand your comment in the context of my comment. I admit.

    I agree with you – I believe in acceptance of everyone’s beliefs. That is why it is clear from my comments that I believe evangelizing is wrong. To think one’s belief in Jesus is the only way is arrogant. Think about the missionaries to the Americas and South Pacific. The people were fine the way they were in their beliefs. But they forced them to convert.

    So not sure where I am hypocritical.

    I do question how someone can believe that all religions are equal and then still maintain that their belief is the right one. Which, if one practices their religion, is exactly what they are doing! THAT seems hypocritical.

  • charlesburchfield

    For one who suffers on the margins of society jusus is a door that has an exit sign over it. How does one find that door? One finds it thru one’s brokeness I think.

  • charlesburchfield

    yeah looking up looking up’s profile I suspect he or she is being obtuse & disingenuous.
    This is entertainment for a troll I think.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    And it seems to be that so many subscribe to a binary reduction… if all have certain aspects wrong, then the whole package is worthless…

    More likely that each is the finite attempting to apprehend the Infinite, and, therefore, each will be by definition wrong about so much… Does being wrong in some parts make the whole invalid? Sorry, but I’m not willing to be quite that presumptious, thanks…

  • Without Malice

    Your right, Jesus was at times down right mean spirited. And at times he was down right ignorant – thinking that diseases, and mental illness, and epilepsy were caused by evil spirits and demons. And at times he was wrong, telling his own disciples that he would set up the kingdom of God on earth before they had gone over the land of Israel – didn’t happen. In other words, he was just another ignorant Jew with a messianic complex that got him killed. As for his teachings, the only ones that rise above the mediocre are the ones he stole from someone else. The man was of so small importance that no one wrote a word about him till decades after he was gone, and then through the happenstance of the Emperor – who was most probably raised a Christian by his mother – stepping in to help the spread of the gospel, Christianity was able to beat into submission most of the opposition.

  • Without Malice

    How would you know whether they did or not, since none of them wrote a word about him.

  • Lookingup73

    Wow, great summary!

  • Snooterpoot

    I would encourage all of us to continue to learn about God by reading his inspired word.

    That presumes, Ben, that people who disagree with you haven’t read the Bible. I completed a three year, seminary-based course of study. It is because of that course that I came to believe that the Bible is not the inspired or inerrant word of god.

    I believe the Bible to be an anthology of poetry, allegory, fables and proverbs written by ancient and fallible men who described their writings as the word of god, primarily as a means of control. There are many contradictions and even the books of the Gospels don’t agree.

    I think everyone interprets the Bible as we read it. That means everyone cherry picks scripture that tends to support their own point of view.

    That fundamentalist/evangelical Christians push their interpretations as the only valid ones is problematic. It is my view that they willingly use the Bible as weapon to prove their superiority over people of whom they disapprove. They come across as mean, hateful and angry people who play the victim card and claim persecution when people disagree with them or insist they obey laws they don’t like.

    I don’t see how in the world these people who behave so badly think they reflect the love of Christ or a living, loving god.

  • amynrob

    I said earlier that the “Great Commission” is no LONGER as important as it was at the time–that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a commission back then, and important back then. And where are these large numbers of people who haven’t heard of Christ? (It’s possible, but I have the impression that pretty much the whole world has been crawling with missionaries for centuries). Obviously there are many places in the world where Christianity is not dominant, but even the most faithful Muslims or more intransigent atheists have HEARD of Christ and Christianity, or so it seems to me. And it appears prominently in all the gospels because it WAS important at that time. Note also that the canon (the list of books that are considered the bible, which is not all the writings by followers of Christ, of course), was not fully established until around 400 years after Christ’s death. History (and in this case, the Bible) is written by the victors.

  • Chelsea Peer

    Your arguments really don’t counter mine. The history of the writing of the Bible doesn’t affect the way the literary placement of the Commission means the authors considered it an important part of the story (do you honestly think I read this website and don’t know about canon or the various human authors/vast historical timeline of the Bible?). Also, it’s a stretch to say everybody has heard of Jesus. There of course is the classic “tribesman in the Amazon jungle” scenario, and in addition there are governments in this world that control everything their citzens see and hear, and Christianity is usually not on the “OK” list. Plus, I myself grew up in the American South with parents that were raised Christian and celebrated Christmas and still had no idea who the kid in the manger was until I was older. To say everyone has heard of him is very idealistic. And to round back to the point, even though the population that hasn’t heard the story of Jesus is vastly smaller, that has no effect on the importance of possibly changing a life.

    You can disagree with me, this issue isn’t a huge deal, but your arguments hold little water from my vantage point.

  • Presumably because if they didn’t, Christianity would have died out centuries ago. Which is what John said in the post.

  • Mike Goetz

    I think there is a distinction between ‘making disciples’ and ‘evangelizing’. The way I have come to understand the Great Commission has more to do with developing the faith and trust of those who have already accepted Jesus. Jesus’ description of disciple-making is to baptize and teach — I read these not as instructions to coerce or convince someone who is not interested; rather I think these are the things we do as the church to deepen one another’s faith in Jesus.

    So I don’t see the two commands to be contradictory. To those who opt not to follow Jesus, we show unconditional love and acceptance. To those that choose to follow Jesus, we teach and encourage to develop a deeper faith that goes beyond just ‘belief’.

    To put it another way, I don’t think Jesus’ words in the great commission really say anything about how to evangelize.

  • Worthless Beast

    Laughing at people for believing in the Greek gods… I really hope you don’t do that when you visit the Pagan channel on Patheos….

    It always kind of intrigues me that whenever I see someone “evangelizing” atheism or just crowing about how their atheism makes them smart here on the Progressive Christian channels, they inevitably reveal their ignorance of the existence of modern Pagans – or maybe as much as we silly Christians/Jews/Muslims are beneath you, the polytheists are just beneath you more, not even worth acknowledging, let along engaging?

  • Lookingup73

    Wow, so much wrong with your comment.

    A) where did I “crow about how my atheism makes me smart”?
    B) where did I “evangelize” atheism? (I don’t care what anyone else believes. You might want to scroll up and read the article – it is about evangelizing*. Which Christians do all the time. Not atheists, and certainly not me.)
    C) You believe in the Greek Gods? Pagans believe in the Greek Gods? I think many people WOULD laugh at that belief. And probably justifiably. There is not a god that is creating the thunder and lightning…We know that for a fact. So I would find it odd for someone to believe there is a god doing that.
    D) Why do I have to engage pagans with regard to this article? Kind of an odd request on your part.
    E) Where did I say Christians/Jews/Muslims were beneath me in my comment?

    *EDIT – removed “in the workplace” – got all these article titles confused.

    Perhaps a good explanation might be that you had an ax to grind today and didn’t like something I said. But you certainly didn’t “respond” to my comment’s contents…

  • Worthless Beast

    If I come across as peeved, I am a bit tired and, well other people have handled you better and I think, rightly came to the conclusion that you’re just one of the many trolls that appear on here from time to time for kicks.

    I am not personally into the Hellenistic pantheon, nor the Norse, or Celtic, but I do actually read things from time to time from people who are. The way people believe in those things is actually rather nuanced and interesting – which you might actually come to know if you take a little stroll to the Pagan channel every now and again or encounter people on forums where you might have to shut up and listen to them instead of whinging to them about how wrong you think they are. It’s kind of like how I’ve never been Catholic, but like to read some of the blogs there with respect to learn how other people see life. I’ve read some Buddhist offerings, and some Atheist take on ethics… You see, I actually like to READ and FIND OUT what people actually believe before I lob off rounds about how I think they’re all just “fools following myths.” (In fact, I don’t do the latter insulting part at all).

    You didn’t need to state that we were beneath you. Your attitude shows it in spades… especially the parts where I see you adamantly not listening to some of the regulars here who are trying to explain the non-literal view of Bible-stuff that is typical of the Progressive Christian Channel rainbow. If nothing in Christianity in any form is for you, fine. Whoopie dingle do. But while you are a guest at a blog of a particular persuasion, with a particular subset of regulars, it’s nice to wipe your feet before you step through the door. Accuse and berate less, listen more.

    That’s all I have to say now. I’ve seen people like you around on this very blog more months and years than I care to remember. In the words of Impa from The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Warriors “Frankly, I think you are beneath my fighting ability.”

  • Lookingup73

    Funny, I did not think a troll was someone who just pointed out inconsistencies with thoughts and ideas that people were forcing others to adhere to. my mistake. I will wear that name as a badge of honor because it shows I wish to engage rationally and reasonable with the concepts. I have no problem with Christianity in general. heck I was raised Christian and went to the seminary for two years. Chances are pretty high I know theological thought more than the average “superior progressive christian” on these blogs. I don’t accuse or berate anyone. I cannot stand by though when someone claims that progressive christians are somehow different from fundamentalists in the fact that they believe they get their message from the bible. there is no rational way to believe in Christianity without believing that Jesus is the lord and savior. Right? If you don’t believe that then why would one be a Christian. Now if one wants to follow the “treat others as you would yourself” that is fine. It is an axiom that pre-dates J.C. himself. I live that way.

    It would be helpful for you to learn yourself what makes a Christian. It is more than “love everyone”. It is a patently agressive religion that treats all non-Christians as beneath it.

  • Lookingup73

    It is funny that two people on here now don’t understand the meaning of “obtuse”. Just for the record: annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand. Neither of which I have been. If someone can’t realize that Jesus comes from the Bible, I believe THAT is the person you should be calling obtuse. Pretty clear. And certainly my profile doesn’t indicate it. have a great day!

  • Worthless Beast

    Newsflash: ALL philosophies/religions/stances has people treating others as “beneath.” Among Progressive Christians, yes, I see all the time where there’s a sense that “we’re better than the Fundies.” Conversely, they see themselves (apparently as you see them) as the only “true” Christianity. There are Muslims who think I’m going to Hell. I met a Buddhist once on a forum who said that he though of all Christians as Spirituality’s “short bus.” And, with perhaps the exception of a few close friends (who have enough other issues to “balance things out”) I don’t think I’ve ever met a committed atheist who didn’t see anyone who believes in any kind of God or spiritually as not at least a little bit beneath them.

    So, if you’re worried about “aggressive religion” and evangelizing, pause to look in the mirror every once in a while. I think eveyrone should. The root problem is human nature, in the end.

    I run in circles where people aggressively evangelize favorite television shows/anime/movies and their personal interpretations of characters. I lost a friend because of aggressive “shipping” once. I’ve witnessed the Video Game Console Wars. STUFF THAT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER!

    Can’t get away from being beneath or above. Sorry kid. Humans will never be equal until we’re in the cemetery. Deal with it.

  • Lookingup73

    Good reply and lots of good comments. I can see since you never responded to my other comment about all the accusations you lodged against me that we must agree you were off base on that. So we are on the same ground now. I love myths and folklore and stories and am an avid reader of all religious traditions and stories!

    I would suggest that I do not view anyone as beneath me based on religious beliefs at all. I DO have a problem when people misrepresent those beliefs or push them without understanding them. Which has been the case for those replying to me here (except for you – we went on an entirely different topic).

  • Worthless Beast

    I think part of your problem is is that you staggered into a Progressive Chrstian forum. Progressive Christianity actually has belief-structures that are all over the map and don’t entirely resemble the traditional churches. After converting, I started out with Baptists and… I’m not sure my former self would recognize the me that is now. (She’d ask something like “What? You don’t believe in Hell anymore”)? And that’s how a lot of people are here.

    If we cherry-pick, it’s probably because everyone does it. I’m actually pretty sure Shore has something on that somewhere, specifically… (And I once had an atheist friend who told me she cherry-picked her beliefs. It surprised me until she started talking about ethics and science-history and how she did not think that “for science!” is enough of a measure of why humans should do something). We’re kind of like that here with the dusty old books. “Stuff about love” winds up trumping “stuff against gay” and so forth. It’s a kind of… “We draw from this well, but we discern its contents.” Also, as I think it was lymis who said… we tend to have a sense for “living water,” beliefs not always hide bound to pages bound in hides.

    We might actually be different than normal Christian religion, but don’t really have a name other than what we’ve got yet. Understanding this place is like understanding how ketchup and marinara sauce are both made from tomatoes but are not the same thing.

    I hope I’m communicating alright?

  • Lookingup73

    Well said (much clearer than lymis et al who did not convey that well). I agree that we are all on a journey and pick what we like from many traditions. i do that a lot. Having grown up Catholic I can’t deny the influence that has had on my ethics. As an atheist, I know many of my ethics would certainly align with Christian values and most definitely with pagan values.

    My only point initially was that it was odd to criticize folks for evangelizing when Jesus said to. But if progressive christians don’t believe in that message from jesus, so be it. I do think Progressive Christians are in a tough position. They are very loving, rational people but still can’t shake the belief in the bible. But I totally respect their actions. That doesn’t mean I can’t question the logic by which they get there. (btw, yes, I am new to the blog. if you don’t want visitors, then tell Patheos to not put this blog on the main page…it became public at that point).

  • Lookingup73

    P.S. I have never heard of an atheist using “for science” as a measure of why humans should do something. That is not part of humanist/atheist ethics thought at all.

  • Worthless Beast

    Well, what she said to me was more complex than that, I just needed a shorthand. I enjoy the site TV Tropes and “For Science!” is one of the tropes that gets used in media, usually sarcastically or for comedy, so I went with that.

  • Worthless Beast

    It’s not my blog. I’m just saying how things usually go here. I’m an on and off poster on this an an alternate name when I can get unstuck from this stupid one. I have been a reader for years and, well, just the entire Progressive channel here has a different feel any other experiences with Christian-gathering.

    I think what the original blog was getting at was interpreting the Great Commission as essentially spreading a message of love and equality rather than the “Jesus is your get out of Hell free card” that most are familiar with. Elsewise, perhaps it is getting more at “this particular mission to tell people that Jesus was a thing has been done, we need to concentrate on other stuff now.” I’m not sure… I’m not Mr. Shore, this is just how I saw it.

    Personally, I fail to see a problem with not shaking a “belief in the Bible.” I like and draw wisdom from lots of books. I’ve drawn some interesting spiritual notions from “The Last Unicorn” and “The Lord of the Rings.” I’ve drawn wit and witticism from Stephen Colbert’s political humor books. As for deeper things, well, I can’t shake ’em. I’m fond of saying that “Jesus is camped out on a couch in my mind eating Cheetoes and he won’t leave.” If you’ve ever heard stories of the guy who goes to service and prays and tries, tries, tries to believe and just can’t? Some of us are the mirror-counterpart to that. I figure, I’m a madwoman, anyway, so might as well embrace it.

  • Lookingup73

    I really enjoy your posts! Thanks for the dialogue. I completely agree on drawing from all sources possible. One distinction you should see is that you do not uphold Lord of the rings characters as somehow “the one”. That is point I was making originally. Christians by definition hold up Jesus as the “one”. If one does not then it makes zero sense to be “Christian”. I love Colbert. I am not a colbertian.

  • charlesburchfield

    i apologize for my bad attitude abt your being a troll. I don’t like. If you are a troll you are doing a good job of being nice. I guess trolls are on a scale of degrees of
    manipulation. My main insight abt jesus is that a relationship is possible w him outside of the book.

  • Lookingup73

    I apologize for being sarcastic. I was a bit defensive of being called a troll since I have remained on topic (evangelizing christians) and have not said anything “just to provoke” people. I am sincere in the logic behind my comments. I hold no ill will towards anyone for believing in Jesus. However, my point before was just without the bible there is no Jesus. If missionaries never came to Tahiti, Tahitian natives would have never heard of Jesus. If there was no Bible, there never would have been any missionaries who felt it necessary to spread the word of Jesus. There is no word of jesus without the Bible. So my point was only that one some level, anyone who accepts that Jesus is somehow a meaningful figure with a divine nature, also accepts those parts of the Bible that describe him and his teachings. And then, if one is willing to accept those parts, how can one admonish others (fundamentalists, evangelicals) for accepting other parts?

    Some examples:
    I have inlaws who are born agains. They love and cherish me and my partner. They are very liberal, good people. I suppose they are progressive in some regard, but they sincerely believe that J.C. is there lord and savior. That salvation is through him alone.

    I believe in many of Jesus’ teachings. I help the poor, I never lie about others, I am looking out for my fellow beings as best I can or know how. But I don’t believe in the Bible. I believe it is a story. So for me personally, it makes no sense to base my actions on the “teaching” of Jesus anymore than the wise actions and words of Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (there is actually more clear morality in that than anything in the Bible). So I am not stuck in a catch-22 with regard to the Bible.

    A friend of mine who is very liberal still goes to Catholic Church but is totally progressive and challenges the church on many issues. She says she pushes for her views to be heard because that is what “Jesus” said, etc. I love her actions and agree with all of her views. But I keep reminding her that the Church ALSO believes they are doing the work of Jesus and following the Bible. And they are. So you can’t get bent out of shape that they use some parts and you use some parts. Until you free yourself from the Bible, you have no leg to stand on.

  • charlesburchfield

    I think there is a person we are all talking abt that exists. Sure, the bible gets real specific but ppl in other cultures who never heard of him have been known to say when the missioaries come that: ‘oh yeah that guy! We know him!
    we just don’t call him jesus.’

  • Lookingup73

    Wait, you lost me. I do not think, actually I know for sure based on travel writings from the period of Jesuit conquests of natives, that they did NOT say “we know him, we don’t call him Jesus”…. They had no concept of a man dying on a cross, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, etc. I’m sorry, but that is a weird re-writing of history.

  • charlesburchfield

    You are a presence here today on the blog asking some intelligent questions & Respectfully evaluating ppl’s comments. My own observation abt the bible is that it’s annecdotal. I just want you to know, corney tho it sounds, I have a friend in jesus. You don’t know him like I do. All anyone who claimes to know him can give you is their story I think.

  • Not being very familiar with the Bible, my memory juxtaposed two different suggestions pertaining to this question.

    1.) Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. (turns out this was advice about how to help the poor.)

    2.) Don’t worry beforehand about what you will say. For it is not you speaking, but rather the Holy Spirit. (turns out this is for when you are being arrested.)

    However, …. I think that a hybrid attitude of the two, would be good advice for when opening people up to the WAY.

  • The trouble with Rote learning is that it leaves people practically catatonic.

    The life of the Spirit is anything but that.

  • Let’s say heaven is that condition where one has the freedom to experience anything one wishes, including visiting God. This freedom is unlimited perception as an individual. A person who has accumulations tends to have attention on them which automatically limits perception and freedom. This would not be just the rich but anyone who is unconsciously attached to things in this world. It is not requisite to be poor to reach understanding, but it is required to be willing to let go of anything in this life.

  • Let’s say love manifests through attention. Full attention out is our personal expression of love as individuals. No attention on oneself, full attention on the other. Parents with a new born are a good example.
    However that sort of love is not always easy.
    Let’s say a loved one is at a distance. One can write and send cookies but keeping full attention on that person while living daily is not possible. We could call that “love as help”.
    Then after a time we get tired of letters and cookies but still do it because we “ought to”. We could call this “love as duty”. There is some attention on the other person but more upon oneself.

    Then, one writes the “it’s not you, it’s me”, letter. Which is true.
    One has attention on oneself and one’s own needs and little or none on the other person. There is no morality, it is just what is going on.
    However this is where conversion can get a bad reputation. When there is no love for the other person, one needs the other person’s attention on oneself. A proslytizer generally needs attention. One can bring the process of conversion up to help, but really, the best one can do for another is love IMO. When in person, attention out. Life gets a lot less serious as well. My experience.

  • webejustsayin

    well said. Bravo!