three in one

three in one September 22, 2012

the idolatrous usurpation
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If the bible and the church has too much authority in your life, then the god of this equation is false. Some would say they are all false.

Why did you give a book and an organization so much control over your life? Why are you afraid to say no to them? Why are you scared of your own spiritual independence?

I would suggest that only when you are free from the blinding authority of the bible and the church will any clarity come as to what “god” means.

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  • Beth

    I don’t object to God and the Bible being the ultimate authority in my life, just the incorporated church that has changed the facts about both of the above. We need to let the Book be the Truth we believe.

  • David, may be three circles with intersections are better than pluses?

    Something like

    (one of many examples from

  • cass

    mmm….considering most of the people the bible depicts had no book, only direct experience of Gd, i would disagree with Beth’s statement

  • Carol

    I have a friend who refers to the Ten Commandments as the Ten Suggestions. Of course, what she means is that they are valid as general guiding principles; but not always easily applied in specific concrete circumstances.

    No general principle can decide each concrete case; always secondary principles and special circumstances enter into consideration. –David Spitz, The New Conservatives

    Actually, the Trinity of American Civil Religion (a pseudo-Christianity) God, Church and Country is worse than the false Trinity of God, Bible and Church even though your Trinity often segues into a collective false Trinity.

    Individuals with a narcissistic spirituality may be a pain in the ass (PITA)to other individuals who share their immediate space; but it is collective religious narcissism that creates Inquisitions, Crusades, ethnic cleansings and nationalistic wars of imperial domination.

  • And of course, “God” must be written in English. It all must be in English.

  • The BIble shows us our need of a savior…and it shows us the Savior we need.

    The church is just a bunch of us sinners who have been brought together to hear that Word (of law and gospel), and receive Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

    Do many distort that with preoccupations with ‘the self’?

    They sure do.

  • Beth

    I guess I’m going to have to change my user name since I am not the same Beth as above and don’t want our comments to be confused with each other…

  • BW

    good point cass

  • BW

    David, I see my comment is awaiting moderation – just changed my name since there is another “Beth” on the site and don’t want us to be confused with each other.

  • got it. thanks beth!

  • @ Beth,
    Yeah, it is helpful to everyone to choose a unique, yet simple, user name on comment threads. I wish more would do it. Single common names only add confusion to threads. Let us know when you change!

  • Beth

    Thanks David. @ Sabio, changed from Beth to BW… Let’s see if that lasts 🙂

  • I always find it interesting how the bible gets a pass that other books don’t get. Try this… find a real good verse about God ordering the death of children or the rape of women. Then tell an American Christian it is from the Koran… they won’t know the difference since they don’t read the bible anyway. Watch as they light up, saying it makes sense that such violent scriptures produce such a violent religion. Then give them the book and verse reference and watch the back-peddling begin. Entertainment at its finest.

  • katiepearl

    I think your trinity only presents a problem when it’s a literalistic interpretation of the Bible, an authoritarian church, and an unhealthy concept of God. The same trinity can be presented in an entirely more healthy way.

    The unhealthy version doesn’t have all the attention over here in the UK as it seems to on your side of the pond; or is it that the unhealthy version gets all the attention?

  • BW

    I think it’s because the ‘unhealthy’ version is a large majority here, and the voices within are loud.

  • aDK

    How about, an erroneous concept of God (an idol), erroneous interpretation of the bible, and a concept of the “church” as an organization or something other than consisting of all of the believers in the world.

    The people in the new testament didn’t have the bible that we have. Obviously. But they did have scriptures, which were also all about Jesus.

    And Jesus made a big deal about people looking at the scriptures to see “Him”, rather than following them like a system. Like when John the Baptist was all upset and asked his friends to go ask Jesus if he was really the messiah. And Jesus wouldn’t answer the question but was like “Tell him to look back at the scriptures. Isn’t everything happening that they said would happen”? (Matthew 11).
    And also when some disciples were on the road to Emmaus after Jesus was resurrected (Luke 24: 13-27), and Jesus walked up next to them. But it says that Jesus restrained their eyes from seeing it was him. And Jesus started explaining to them all of stuff in the scriptures that was about Himself. Probably like how the Passover lamb was just a shadow of Himself and stuff like that.

    So what if the bible is an authority? It’s an authority on how to see your relationship with Jesus. Not an authority to be followed like a manual about how to live.

    But ultimately you’re right. If you hold anything at all as a higher authority in your life other than God, then He is not really your “God”.

    Someone once told me, “There are a lot of politics involved in being a minister. You have to do what the church wants, but you also have to balance it with what Jesus wants.” But that’s not right at all. Because if I “balance” what Jesus wants with anything else, then He is not my God, and I don’t worship Him.

  • @aDK,
    “Relationship with Jesus” is such a common phrase among Evangelicals. I’m curious where it comes from. Just as you rightfully point out that the early Church didn’t have NT scriptures, maybe they didn’t have the idea of a “relationship with Jesus” either. “Your own personal buddy Jesus” might be a rather new idea.

  • Byron Haflich

    God -> People -> Tradition -> Scripture -> Post-scriptural tradition

  • aDK

    @Sabio Lantz,
    When people say “relationship with Jesus”, it means just that. It’s not a complicated “idea”. Same as you would experience a relationship with your friend/brother/girlfriend/husband/wife/dad/cousin/uncle/sister. That’s what people are talking about. It’s just you have a relationship with a Divine Creator Spirit Deity thing. Simple.
    The NT believers had a concept of it, because they experienced it. They wrote about it. John 17:3 says Jesus came to give eternal life, and that eternal life is “knowing” God. The word “know” is the same used throughout the bible to describe an intimate relationship. Like, Adam “knew” his wife and they conceived a child. Adam didn’t just know intellectual information about his wife. That would not produce a child. Not intellectual knowledge, but experiential.

  • BW

    The whole relationship with Jesus is a tough one for me too….can’t see him, don’t hear him, can’t touch him. That is unlike any relationship I could possibly have with a ‘friend/brother/girlfriend/husband/wife/dad/cousin/uncle/sister’. And it is a newish concept in Christianity. Even devout Christians will admit it.

  • When someone talks to someone who isn’t there. Hears voices speaking to them. Has a relationship with someone no one can see, hear, or touch

    we have a word for that.

    Please, if you have such a relationship, understand that many feel toward you THE SAME WAY you would feel if someone told you that had a deep, personal relationship with Julius Caesar. You would smile and nod politely, try not to make any sudden moves, and hope the person does not have any concealed weapons.

  • Well, aDK, that is three of us so far that think such thinking is wackoo. But you are not alone imagining real relationships with imaginary people in your head. I pity your real relationships if they are like your relationship with Jesus — just one-sided communication, no touching, no seeing, no real feedback. But I must admit. It sounds very safe.

    Much of the American Christian Evangelical world would say “Amen” to your theology, so I guess that can be comforting too.

  • Gary

    The smug condescending attitude of superiority is dripping in this thread.

  • I agree, Gary, when someone proclaims that they have a special, unique, personal relationship with the creator of the whole universe and others don’t, “the smug condescending attitude of superiority” certainly is a bit much.

  • Gary

    I used to think the fundamentalists were the meanest most arrogant assholes. Here presently it seems to be the atheists.

  • I was wondering how long it would take you to start swearing and name calling.

  • One of the things I realized as my beliefs started changing and my mind went through it’s own transformation… and continues to do so… is that I could never use my personal experience as a validation of the reality of what I experienced. That is, when an atheist friend of mine would ask, “How do you know?” I couldn’t say “I just know, because I’ve experienced it!” I mean, I could say that, but it is meaningless to others. Plus, as time goes on, I realize that my experience is very subjective and can actually be shaped by preconceived erroneous notions of what’s true.

  • Gary

    I embrace the subjectivity David and have no issue with such questions.

    However…there is no allowance for the questions on display here by the resident atheists. They openly declare that believers only imagine or make it up in their heads as if it was a mental disease.

    “But you are not alone imagining real relationships with imaginary people in your head.”

    “When someone talks to someone who isn’t there. Hears voices speaking to them. Has a relationship with someone no one can see, hear, or touch

    we have a word for that.”

    These are not questions…they are mocking. They are insulting attacks. They are ugly. I personally think a conversation on this subject could be very helpful. That is, right up to the point the mockers show up and begin insulting the intelligence of others for their beliefs. (God of otherwise)

    Fundamentalism produces bad behavior no matter what belief system supports it.

  • It’s true fundamentalism knows no bounds.

  • Gary if someone told you they had a relationship with someone who wasn’t there, what would your response be? I assume it would be as I indicated – polite perhaps, but guarded nonetheless. The problem is, as is often the case, you want one set of standards for your religion’s actions and behaviors, and a completely different standard for everyone else. Put another way, you get frustrated and offended if people treat you the way you would treat others in similar circumstances.

    I watch here in Salt Lake as Evangelicals “mock” Mormons, over the same behaviors that they themselves participate in… can’t they see there is no difference? No, they really can’t because in religion you are trained to bypass leaps of logic you yourself are making while being trained to condemn it in others.

    You may consider my comment insulting, but I put it to you… how would you react to a friend who always wanted to tell you about his personal relationship with Abe Lincoln… and wanted to tell your children about how Abe speaks to his heart and can speak to them too. In all sincerity, what would your reaction to this friend be?

  • Well, Andrew, Abe Lincoln would be a new one. Although God or Jesus is not. I’ve never heard or met anyone claiming to have a personal relationship with Lincoln. But I’ve met tons of people and there have been billions of people claiming to know God or Jesus. That whole Spaghetti Monster in the Sky argument is just as foolish to me as the “just because you can’t see the internet doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist” argument. People haven’t claimed to know the Spaghetti Monster, but millions or billions have claimed to know God. Including intelligent people.

    Personally, I think the confession “We know we don’t know!” is the closest to certainty we have.

    And your point about evangelicals mocking Mormons is true. But there’s no shortage of mockers out there among the religious or non-religious. I think it is humanity’s favorite sport.

  • Gary

    Andrew you don’t know me and as such your assumptions about what I believe or want are entirely false. And your comparisons between the existence of God and any very human historical figure are dishonest as even without a belief in God…you can tell the difference in the mindset. Your continued portrayal as akin to mental illness is only meant to insult.

    I don’t imply you are a fool for rejecting a belief in God. When you choose to make that assumption about me for believing in God I will confront your rhetoric and call it what it is.

  • @ David (& Andrew & Gary),

    If someone claims they are talking to and have a personal relationship with a being which is all-knowing and all-powerful and has control over personal and national destinies. Then that person has access to amazing information and possible authority — much different than talking to Abe or Elvis (we can ignore those folks). And then, with all the cognitive manipulative tools at their disposal, they can use their God-talk power to use God as a remote control.

    The claim to be talking to and privy to the thoughts of the all-knowing controller of the universe is a pernicious idea.

    Well, unless you neuter that deity or play down exactly what “personal relationship” means. Because we know what that phrase normally means.

  • Still, I would submit that it is mere societal and cultural intertia that allows the one belief to be acceptable but the other one kind of kooky.

    If someone wants to believe in God… ok, they are hedging their bet that someone did all this… I lean that way myself… but I don’t tell people he said something to me this morning.

    Any behavior can become normalized if people do it long enough. But I also think we have the rational ability to step back and look at our actions. I used to use the phrases “God told me” and “Jesus said to me”. Why? Because in my Christian community it was culturally acceptable and encouraged to do so. But at some point I had to say, “No, God didn’t speak to me, so why am I talking this way?!”

    You may consider Jesus and Abraham Lincoln to be oh so different. But it would be easy to get a group of people talking about Lincoln the way we do Jesus if we taught them from childhood to do such and made it rewarding for them socially to do so.

  • I totally agree with everything you said there Andrew. Exactly! Which is why I think honest self-critique of our thinking is crucial.

    And Sabio, I agree with you too. But now we’re talking not about the belief in a god, but the ramifications or theology or philosophical dealing with that idea.

  • Gary

    Anyone who knows me also knows I do not use my beliefs in God as any type of “remote control” over other people’s actions. NOTHING could be further from the truth.

    My point is simple. Ridiculing and mocking others in the way that has been demonstrated in this thread is ugly. Now there is much back peddling going on to sty to sterilize it. This sends my bullshit-o-meter right over the top. And now that I have used another bit of profanity…Sabio can have at his continued snide remarks about my choice of words.

  • @ nakedpastor,
    Thanx for understanding. This is the most I have seen you engage in conversations of this sort here. Perhaps with your other site where supportive, self-searching happens, you feel free more comfortable with this site being for analytic debate.

    @ Gary,
    Nah, you go ahead and cuss and name call — we’ve come to expect it of you.

    No “back peddling” here. I started out saying that if someone claims to be having a real relationship with a god in their head with real conversations then they are delusional about that issue (not in general, but about that phenomena). And worse than delusional, believing you have access to the thoughts of an all-knowing being is pernicious (and NP said he agreed — if I understood him correctly).

    As David says, it is not belief in a god, that is an issue, but the particular of that belief that has real implications. And I think huge number of Christians claim they talk to that god and get guidance from him. That claim, if looked at very carefully is very dangerous and feeds the God-as-Remote-Control phenomena that David so aptly criticised today. The intimate connection behind those two is important to understand.

    But yes, of course, YMMV.

  • Gary

    And I have no problem with your point Sabio…actually agree myself. It is when the tone turned to mocking ridicule and silly straw man comparisons that you and Andrew became just like all the evangelical fundamentalists I have known in the past.

    The fact of the matter is…millions (if not billions) believe that God does seek to communicate with the spirit of men on a very personal level. Debating this belief is fine and even healthy. Mocking it reveals a genuine lack of character.

  • @ Gary,
    So you agree that “…believing you have access to the thoughts of an all-knowing being is pernicious” ?

  • I don’t think I was back-pedaling. I was merely clarifying what I said, as opposed to what Gary interpreted. Somewhere Gary made the equation that I tied a belief in a god to someone believing that god talks to them. I did not. I think those are two different things. For myself, I think a belief in a god is debate-able… whereas, I do confess I feel that believing that god is talking to you and that you have a “relationship” with it is just another form of talking to yourself and it weirds me out.

  • Gary

    “So you agree that “…believing you have access to the thoughts of an all-knowing being is pernicious” ?”

    Yes absolutely. And I object to anyone trying to claim such and use it as a means of control over others. I believe God exists…of course I do not believe I have access to His thoughts.

    I do believe He has chosen to reveal Himself to us in various ways. I even believe He attempts to communicate with us through our unique God given spirit. This does not make me insane or indicate a severe lack of mental proficiency. Nor does it mean in any way that I believe I “have access to the thoughts” of God. But to think I truly understand what that means for me, let alone for anyone else, is way beyond my personal beliefs.

  • @ Gary,
    So I am confused:

    You say: “I even believe He attempts to communicate with us through our unique God given spirit.”

    and yet you say, you agree with:

    ” “…believing you have access to the thoughts of an all-knowing being is pernicious”

    God is “tring to communicate with you?” Why would a god have to “try” — it should be easy enough. And if he is “communicating” , in the normal sense of that word, he is trying to give you access to his thoughts.”

    Do you see how these seem contrary. I am confused.

    By the way, just because any person believes something bizarre does not make them a bizarre person — we all have compartmentalized bizarre beliefs.

  • “we all have compartmentalized bizarre beliefs.”

    I agree… and also things we just don’t realize as bizzare.. yet. Most people have experienced or know someone whose family had a quirky behavior or tradition that they never thought of as quirky, until they became exposed to other families and their traditions. Anything can seem appropriate when it is the only thing you know.

  • Gary

    No you are not confused…you attempt to twist my meaning. Access to His thoughts is entirely different than His attempt to communicate with me. Even when you communicate with clear words in a language we both share…I most certainly do not have access to your thoughts. There would never be any misunderstanding between us if I did. (Oh where is the Vulcan mind meld when we need it?) And of course God must “try” since I am so often not listening. And no I have no desire to get into the whole free will debate with you.

  • @ Andrew,
    I agree.

    @ Gary,
    There goes Gary again, accusing of his meaning being twisted. I merely repeated the quotes and told you why I found them confusing and asked you for clarification.

    But I must admit, your explanation made no sense to me. Sometimes fundies make more sense than the liberals who want to have it both ways.

    Language and communication in the normal sense is certainly an attempt to share what is in our minds. You are dancing around the obvious problem here. You rightfully want to condemn others who say they hear God and are telling you & others what they should do, yet you want to still say that God does communicate to you.

    Now, if someone says that “God inspires me to be a better person, to be more forgiving …” and that sort of thing, I get that. But that is different from knowledge being imparted. The OT guys got knowledge from God — and I think that was hogwash too. So the fundies who say God is giving knowledge to them are just part of a great tradition which I disagree with, though I use to believe.

  • Gary

    No you clearly are the one dancing around here and you know it. You still attempt to put words in my mouth. You asked me a very specific question and I gave you a direct answer. Then I elaborated on the difference between thinking we know the mind of God and God communicating with us. One, knowing His mind, (which is of course impossible) would bring absolute knowledge (which many wrongly declare) while the other is much more like our own attempts to communicate with each other where the meaning is often not clearly understood based upon our own limitations and personal experiences and beliefs.

    When I teach communication to my college students we spend much time discussing the perceptual screens that disrupt the clarity of the communication process. But see…I know you understand this clearly. You are simply attempting to make my point something which you know it is not.

  • Gary

    BTW Sabio it might interest you to know that I agree with you concerning the absolute word from God as portrayed in the OT through the prophets. I firmly believe even their “word from God” was transferred through their own perceptual screens, many times with very tragic results. In other words…I think the understanding you present (they had absolute knowledge) is hogwash as well.

    “Now, if someone says that “God inspires me to be a better person, to be more forgiving …” and that sort of thing, I get that.”

    Me too, even though I embrace a more active participation by God in the process of inspiration.

  • A Different Michelle

    IMO, to discuss the level of authority these things have or are to have in a christian’s life is to miss the point.

    For trinitarian christians, the trinity is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    What we have here is 1/3 some sort of God,
    a book which certainly is not God,
    and a human organization.

    Which the comic seems to be indicating are what is actually being worshipped, rather than the triune God that they claim they are worshipping.

    I agree. It is not by any means the case with all christians, but some certainly have inadvertently and unknowingly (in most cases) placed church attendance/society/culture/leadership and a particular book (the Bible) on the same level as they God they claim to worship. I thought their God was a jealous God? I’d be careful holding that book…especially during storms…