The saved

Some members of this congregation may look like Nones, but they’re actually sort of the opposite. Unlike Nones, who tend to marry later in life and have fewer children, these exceptionally fruitful multipliers start early. But the differences are more fundamental than that. They see humanity as divided into two groups: the “saved” vs. the “not saved.”

According to Calvin’s theory of “double predestination,” God sorted and tagged us before we were born. Those who are saved have done nothing in particular to deserve their special status and can do nothing to mess it up; on the flip side, the damned cannot be saved not matter how good their behavior or how devout their faith. While mainstream Presbyterians have officially given double predestination the boot, I think it still surfaces from time to time in some congregations. I can’t help but sense its presence here, like everyone is sizing me up wondering where I’m headed when I die because they’re for sure in the saved group.

A man approaches the lectern and we stand. So, this is the infamous pastor. Oh, the imaginary debate I’ve had with him regarding his alleged pro-slavery comments. It culminates when I shout, “What happened to ‘Do unto others?’ Do you want to be enslaved?!” (“Thank you,” I say, bowing to thundering applause.)

In person, he is not so beastly—middle-aged, sporting a well-groomed beard, dressed in a suit. I hate to admit it, but his face looks extremely kind. His eyes shine with sympathy.

First, he announces the engagement of a couple who met in church. The happy pair stands and I can’t help but notice how very young—I’d say just out of high school. Everyone applauds. A robed choir I hadn’t noticed springs to life, singing “Hallelujah Praise the Lord,” a traditional hymn dating back to 1562.

Then it’s time for confession. The congregation falls silent; for several minutes, the underlying symphony of baby babble surfaces.

Today’s sermon topic is Old Testament Psalm 54. To accompany the talk, everyone has received an ordinary sheet of paper of 8.5” x 11’’ printed single-spaced on both sides. The psalm is six lines; the pastor’s “summary of the text” is three times that length.

The psalm is a quote of David talking to God after he’s been informed that he will be turned over to the tyrant Saul. The minister dissects the text, looks at it this way and that. He carefully examines its thorny minutia, unswayed by antsy children or squawking babies to skip parts or cut to the chase. His talk spins off into elaborate discussions of atheism and judgment.

The pastor brings up the “troublesome issue of works.” This is the old Calvinist Catch-22: why bother doing good things when God has already made up his mind about who’s saved? The pastor explains that rewards and punishments will be distributed among the saved based on “how we live our lives.”

Eventually we get to communion. Today I plan to participate.

Much to Luther’s chagrin, Calvin argued that the bread and wine do not actually turn into Jesus; Christ’s presence is purely symbolic and pours a “life-giving power” into those who partake. With this new interpretation, I feel I won’t besmirch the sacred act with my lack of understanding. Besides, communion is also about the people around you. I looked it up and it comes from the Latin word for “mutual participation.” Somehow, this feels like the right time and place to partake in my first communion. It will be a gesture of fellowship with this group of people I have kept at arm’s length. I’m pretty sure Jesus would approve.

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64 thoughts on “The saved

  1. I don’t know why your story made me smile. I appreciate your writing style. You have a nice way of respecting the beliefs, history and current thoughts while maintaining a sense of lightness. I’m guessing it is authentically you. How grand.

  2. I always enjoyed Luther’s concept of predestination. As I understood it from my catechism days, God intends ALL to be saved, though some will choose to ignore that Grace. This always seemed to me the kinder, gentler way.

    I am enjoying your journey. God’s Grace and peace to you.

    • Hi Patti, Thank you for reading and commenting. Perhaps others can chime in, but my understanding is that Luther’s idea was “salvation by faith alone” so, basically, if you believed then that’s all you needed. John Calvin put his own spin on this with the “double predestination” idea, which was that one’s “saved status” is determined before birth and can never be changed–the only probelm is that no one knows for sure which group they’re in or which group anyone else is in.

      • Luther did say ‘salvation by faith alone’. But you, as a person, must accept that ‘Grace’. It is an option for every human, and God’s desire is that ALL accept that salvation, through acknowledgement of sin, repentance and faith in the efficacy of Jesus’ death for your sins and resurrection to life.

        The ‘by faith alone’ part was about needing that faith only. I quote the Reverend Harold Jacobsmeyer, deceased, “There is nothing that you can DO to win salvation – you can’t buy it, you can’t earn it, you can only accept it. IT IS A GIFT. You can accept the gift or not.” Works cannot achieve salvation for you; being a ‘good’ person can’t achieve it; faith in Jesus’ atonement and your accepting it is all that is required. The Lutherans call it ‘single predestination’, (in that God wishes all to be saved) versus Calvin’s ‘double predestination of some who are doomed to be damned. So, while you as an individual can practice your free will and choose not to be destined for salvation, God still wants you to be.

        There are no ‘destined to damnation’ in Lutheranism. There are only those who choose to turn away from God, and for those He grieves.

        I am enjoying your writing immensely, and keep you in my prayers.

  3. You do indeed have an underlying sense of the humor here, but without making fun….very cool indeed. Calvin did unfortunately interpret the Scripture in this “double predestination” manner: some are predestined for salvation and some for hell….The only good thing about this is that is keeps some people’s logic in tact, supposedly. I’m more like Luther when it comes to this….the invitation is for all, and God certainly wants us to come to him, but does not force us. He does pursue us, and we see the shadows of that in what you were writing about when you mentioned “salvation history.”
    So….what did you think of communion? For me, communion is a special time to remember what Jesus did for me on the cross, his promise of redemption. It’s also a witness to our children around us (Paul calls it, “proclaiming his death”). I’ve been writing some on my my own journey. I’m on hold for a few days as I’m getting ready to send a thesis to the grammarian for final read-through…..

  4. Yes, I know that Jesus would be very happy that you took communion. Not only is communion a special time to remember Jesus and his sacrifice for us, I feel that it is a witness to our forgiveness of others as well as acceptance of forgiveness. God wants us to love one another as He loved us. As Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” How can we carry lack of forgivenss in our hearts after acknowledging his great sacrificial love?

    • Mary Lee: good point….I find that, when I’m completely honest with the Lord (and myself) before taking communion, the Holy Spirit seems to thwack me with things/people I need to forgive…or to acknowledge before the Father. And the cycle goes on….

  5. Indeed, I feel different vibration in your post! I’ve meditated on this subject of religion again since your posts. I’ve noticed the root of religion means “to bind back.”

    Since the beginning time there have been the enlightened ones? They knew we needed to be as a little child to bypass our outer mind and tap our inner source. So “religions” were drawn up as a cipher, a coded ritual to access that inner source.

    I’ve looked back over my copy of “The Secret Doctrine”—a book Einstein had on his desk. It is an integration of the world’s religions. An attempt was made by its authors to help illumine mankind in the true origins of religion and help us all see commonalities rather than differences in each true religion.

    I hope to post later on my ideas of predestination of those “saved”. I believe it relates to the fear vibration we feel with regards to those who are “dammed” from the point of the fall– those who’s origins are from beyond this world. I feel completely turned off by a preacher preaching to me as though I fit in that category!

    • Hi Jeffrey, You speak like a scientist. Sometimes I wonder how all of this plays out on the sub-atomic level, where everything is tiny “strings” either with the ends coming together in a loop or danging open. On that level, it is all about vibrations, which is what I think you’re referring to. Sometimes I wonder why it seems science and religion are percieved as being at odds. Nothing makes me more curious about God as science and math and geology and all that stuff I once thought was so BORING in school but now realize is the most fascinating stuff there is.

      • Yes Corinna, string theory and sub-atomic psychics is quiet fascinating as it merges with religion! For example, exploring Pythagorean Geometry in the right frame of mind will unlock the inner mysteries of the universe—which is why he was murdered.

        I’m thinking of those vibrations we pick up with our 6 senses like when we meditate on the inner mysteries of God listening to Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Or that which warns us of charlatans and trouble in River City.

        Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto uses a dark field microscope to photograph frozen water crystals. Water with words spoken over it like peace, love, harmony & compassion has beautiful patterns of crystals. Crystals formed with words spoken over like anger, hate, greed & murder are ugly. Beautiful music played over water will also form corresponding crystals. But downward spiral music like the Christian Rock beat produce ugly crystals. After careful experimentation as a scientist in the laboratory of my soul I quit listening to music that dragged me down. I don’t participate in religious services that use forms of music that goes against my better attunement. Our soul awareness can be in tune with our inner guru, the comforter (I call my Christ Self or Mind of Christ) that Jesus said would come unto us after his ascension.

        • It would be interesting to see what effect Hildegarde Von Bingam’s chants produced, or Gregorian chants or Plainsong. My guess is – magnificent. If you ever have the chance, listen to some ‘Sacred Harp’ music – a capella Christian music that goes back to Colonial times. It was highlighted in the movie “Cold Mountain.” It is not always beautiful, as we would think of Mozart or Bach, but it produces a vibration in the soul that I can only call the Holy Spirit, and I have sometimes thought that being in the midst of a choir of cherubim and seraphim would sound this way.

  6. Interested to hear your “outsider’s” view of Calvin and predestination. Calvin’s view was actually an attempt to answer a question that was current in the 16th-17th centuries: “If God’s will cannot be over-ruled, then does a human being have freedom to choose to believe (and thus receive salvation)?” Calvin answered the question by emphasizing the sovereignty of God. Arminius (not Luther) answered the question by emphasizing the free will of humanity. The tension between the truth that God is sovereign and the truth that mankind is free to choose–is called an “antinomy” (rather than a paradox). That is, it is two things that are both true, yet are difficult to reconcile. It is like looking at the front of a house and thinking the roof is blue. But when I look at the back, the roof is white. I cannot be in both the front yard and back yard at the same time to reconcile the two. God looks down from above and sees the roof as it is joined at the peak, both white and blue. So, yes, the Bible says that God “elects, foreknows, predestines, etc…” And yes, it also says that we must choose. Should we be so hard on Calvin, seeing that the controversy has been going for 500 years and is still not settled? :-)

    • Hi Mark, Thank you for your comment. Funny enough, the more I explore Buddhism, the more my understanding of what some of these wise theologians were trying to work out and communicate develops. It’s quite common for two things that seem opposite or at odds to both be true in Buddhism. So this idea of being free to choose and, at the same time, everything having been somehow determined before any of us got here…I’m beginning to see how maybe both are true. It’s still early stages of me trying to wrap my head around it, though. However, I would like to go on record as expressing my deepest gratitude to all of the courageous people who risked being ridiculed and doubted and every other bad thing to leave a record of how they understood or struggled with these issues of life and death and God. I may struggle with some of the ideas they put forth, but mostly I’m just thankful to them.

      • More food for thought along these lines:

        Frank Maitoza
        From another forum: Interested to hear your “outsider’s” view of Calvin and p…
        9:22 PM (11 hours ago)
        Noel McInnis

        12:25 AM (8 hours ago)

        to me
        Dear Frank,

        I really appreciate your asking me about this, because it is something to which I have long given seriously playful thought.

        To begin with, antonomies, just like doxes, also come in pairs, and the last word (scientifically) on antinomies is accorded to Niels Bohr’s statement that “The opposite of a true statement is a false statement; but the opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth.”

        A famous antinomial question that was also raised in Calvin’s era inquired, “Can God make a stone so large that God can’t lift it?” One answer to this question is derived from the scriptural passage “I am the same yesterday, today and tomorrow,” which suggests that while God is free to self-contradict [notice how I avoided gendering God by using the word "himself"], God chooses nonetheless NOT to self-contradict.

        Another “outsider’s” view of antinomianism (which signifies, among other things, against-naming) occurred to me the day I wrote a Revised Slandered Version of the creation story:

        In the beginning, there was no idea about God.
        Verily, this was a good thing.
        Had there been an idea about God in the beginning, God would have been limited to the beginning idea. Yet God is limited in no way whatsoever.
        And so it is with God’s Creation.
        Amidst the unlimited possibilities of this Creation, creatures emerged in whom ideas about God could abound. As this process reached fruition, the Creation was named “universe” by those in whom no end of naming abounded.
        It was also named “cosmos.”
        Once ideas about God took form, there was no end of them, even unto God’s last name becoming “Dammit.”
        God hast not been the same for those who conceive ideas about God, nay, not even from one day to the next; for their experience consistently confoundeth their latest limiting idea.
        Nor hast sameness graced their earthly situation, which alternately evolveth or deteriorateth, whichever cometh first.
        And so it is that God, with no conceivable need for such evidence, is generously supplied with daily reminders of the limitations inherent in ideas about God.
        And so it also is that we honor the Lord with bountiful praise and joyous thanksgiving that the mixed blessing of ideas about God is left entirely to the whimsy of his creatures. .

        • Hi Frank, This reminds me of “koans” in Buddhism, which are little brain teasers that are supposed to make you see things in a new way. One of my favorites that I’ve read is, “What did your face look like before your grandmother was born?”

  7. Predestination is sort of an odd place from which to explore the faith. It kind of resembles a porcupine; you can’t always see the center for the sharp spines! It causes us to judge, for one, and in so doing we stand on the outside looking in, trying to figure out such mysteries as, who gets in? Who doesn’t? What about Uncle Joe? Aunt Kim? The icky neighbor down the street? What about me? It creates anxiety and self-consciousness. We shift into a rational mode toward God, rather than engaging with God’s story. It tempts us to view God as having acted once (making some sort of predetermined plan for our lives), but the question must be asked, what about God’s free, active participation in our lives today? And, what about our free, active response to what God is doing in us now?

    The word Gospel means “good news.” There is nothing about the Good News that is not good news. So the Good News is not good for some and bad for others. I’m sure you have been at a ballpark and read these words on the outfield wall (at least in Texas!): “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whosoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Whosoever believes. That theme is throughout Scripture. Abraham heard God’s voice and he believed it. (see Genesis 15:1-6) The Bible says that’s what made him acceptable to God. We are not meant to be passive but responsive. Abraham made big mistakes at times, because things got tough and he failed. But it’s about a journey with God in which we are actively involved together, and in which God is completely and utterly loyal to us.

    I wonder what made you feel “sized up” at the church? I hope folks don’t feel that way in my church. How would I or anyone know whether a guest believes or not? There are plenty of regular churchgoers who do not believe, and lots of folks have ups and downs in their faith. So glad that you joined with them and took communion.

    You are certainly giving me food for thought, Corinna. So much that is said by Christians, perhaps casually, can be misinterpreted. Thanks for being so very honest and transparent about how you feel and what you observe and hear. Your attitude is decidedly open and I can’t wait to see what you have to say next!

    Blessings, Ginger

    • Hi Ginger, Of course, I also must take responsibility for my own feelings–I can see that my perception has everything to do with my own insecurities, my own worries that I’m not knowledgeable enough or good enough. It’s such a difficult proposition to need or ask of others (regardless of who they are) to some how compensate for those feelings inside of me. But I think just having this all out in the open and talking about it is an excellent step forward.

  8. When someone says, “Follow me on the spiritual path; I’ve got the answer,” it’s often time to run the other way. Spirituality is a personal experience, not an exclusive one.” ~ Christian Sorenson

  9. Corinna, I’m enjoying the account of your journey and can relate. Please allow me to suggest this thought: your journey is one of sight. Begin your spiritual journey where God declared His love for all of us-a hill outside Jerusalem where His only begotten Son was crucified for us. Bill

  10. …just caught up on a few posts….My unfortunate experience has been that those who are the most confident that they have “correct doctrine” have been the most judgmental…(sizing you up). The following statement from Jesus has been a constant reminder to me not to “size up” people by my own assumptions: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, NLT). This has been without a doubt Christians’ (including yours truly) greatest failure, and why ‘nones’ are growing by leaps and bounds.

    • My last response my have been a wee bit curt, Frank. One of the things I find enchanting about being a follower of Jesus is that he loves without guile. When I look to him, I don’t have to worry about identifying him as the source of my love for others. I think what strikes me about watching Jesus is that his love touches lives in such a way that we can’t help but love others–albeit in a highly imperfect way. His disciples then (as well as now, I hope), when they at last came to understand how much they were loved, also loved. It was the same when I began to understand that the Father delights in me as a child of his and, because I know I am loved, I am free to genuinely love others. “We love because he first loved us,” says John in a letter, not because I have to follow a code. Granted, there are way too many who have felt obligated to “love” others, whether they wanted to or not….

    • Corinna has prodded me to think about getting over this idea of apologizing for letting the chips fall where they may– as long as it is stated in the vibration of love. Each stands under their own vine and fig tree, Walt?

      The mercy of Jesus mission is what he did as he broke the Mosaic Law of an eye for an eye. He held back our karma while we learned our lessons of the last 2,000 years of embodying on earth. That is different from vicarious atonement in Jesus Crucifixion– which is a sham lie that sets the stage for the lie of “Share the Wealth” in socialism. We must balance every jot and tittle of the law until we learn our lesson and God sees we have sufficiently learned the lesson of our error. It is only then that the Grace of God will possibly intervene to make up the difference of unpaid karma in mercy. That is cosmic law.

      • Jeffrey, I’m not sure if you’ve read much of what Jesus said on this stuff, nor how old you are (I’m 65, been a Christian 40+ years)….I’ve realized the truth that there’s NO WAY I can ever make up for or balance every jot and tittle of the Law that I have violated. (The main commandment of said Law is to love God and love my neighbor–meanwhile I’ve grown up mostly self-focused and lived that way much of my life). Contrary to the ‘share the wealth’ idea, for a person to honestly accept the mercy and grace of God is basically impossible–because our pride has blinded us to the fact that we cannot do it on our own. God freely forgives, but he DID demand satisfaction for our sin, one that we can never pay: that’s why Jesus did it for us. Now I’m free to love and be loved and to work for my Father. As John Newton learned–as expressed in the hymn he wrote “Amazing Grace” (he had been a slave ship captain)–God’s grace is so incredibly amazing because he precisely does not wait for us to make up for or balance all the bad stuff we’ve done…God is certainly holy, and his standards are absolute, but because he loves (NT actually says, “God is love”) he is not the vengeful judge of most people’s imaginations, ready to rain down fire and brimstone. He wants us to come to him freely and trust him and acknowledge who he is, and those who truly do so are provided the resources to live the kind of lives that he intended for us from the beginning–the kind of life that will do away with hate, and murder, and human trafficking, and child abuse, etc., etc, that will love him and love others. Jesus never did break the Mosaic Law, which he lived under as a Jew, and he even said that not one jot or tittle (i.e., the smallest, seemingly most insignificant commands) of the Law would not pass away until everything is fulfilled. Rather, he actually taught and demonstrated how impossible it is to keep because it’s NOT the outward conformity to that Law that God judges but the heart motivation. He at one point said, “this people acknowledges me with the mouth, but their heart is far from me.” I hope this makes sense, and I hope you’ll give this serious consideration.

        • Walt,

          The important point I was making is regarding idea of vicarious atonement. This was not Jesus message! I would be interested to see where this idea originated. Maybe it was at the Council of Niccaea in 325 when Roman Emperor Constantine spoke among the Bishops? Or at the Fifth General Council, anathema was attached to the pre-existence of souls (reincarnation) during the rein of Emperor Theodosius. Maybe it was then that power politics of Christianity escalated and drove out teachings they didn’t like?

          In understand Jesus could have wiped out all the Sanhedrin back then, but the law of karma only allowed him to intervene while his flock prepared for the final battle of armageddon when they would have the power to invoke Archangel Michael’s intervention for the final judgment of the Godless and his sending the fallen angels to their second death. There’s more to the story that includes Satin’s binding,etc. obviously.

          I’m glad we are in the same camp discussing exciting theology!

          I’ve heard it said and experienced that humility is absolute knowledge of self in God.

  11. Ok, Jeffrey….I’m going to chime in with my two cents worth here, as I have been both a karmic embracing metaphysical embracing person and now am your basic garden variety Christian. Hopefully, I have my biblical facts straight and I am sure will be corrected if I don’t (lol.)

    In each of the Gospels there seems to me to be a pretty continuous concept among the writers that Jesus has come to be the Redeemer, a propitiation for our sins., Matthew 26, 28 “this is my blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Each gospel has a variation of these words for the Passover feast, along with “this is my body, broken for you”.

    Here are dates showing the current scholarship as to the writing of each gospel:
    1) Mark (late 60’s, early 70’s) thus around 40 years after the most commonly accepted dates for the death of Jesus.
    2) Matthew’s after Mark’s, but before Luke’s Gospel, generally considered to have been written in the 80s CE. This means that it was probably written more than 50 years after the death of Jesus.
    3) Luke’s, generally considered to have been written in the 90s CE, but could well be from early in the second century. It comes some 70 years after the death of Jesus, and long after all his contemporaries were dead.
    4) John is generally considered to have been written a little after Luke, and a date early in the second century is probable. Once again, this Gospel is dated more than 70 years after the generally accepted date of the crucifixion

    These dates are obviously much earlier than the Council dates you mentioned and I think can be taken as fairly acceptable proof that Jesus as Savior was a VERY early concept.

    When I think of those dates, especially the earliest, Mark, which was 40 years after the death of Jesus, I think of my mother, who had vivid memories going back to her childhood. She remembered as though it were current events that had happened when she was 6. My husband remembers what happened when he was 3. If you think I digress, the point I am making is that these gospels were written by people who had access to first hand witnesses. A person 70 when Mark was written would have easily remembered events that happened when he was 30.

    My point is that I believe that those who wrote the gospels, which proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior, had access to living memories. We are not dependent on beliefs that were formulated in 325 BC or 700 BC or any of the councils of the second century onward.

    So I would propose that the idea of vicarious atonement is a VERY, VERY early one.

    As to Karmic balance, I can only speak as one who attempted that path and fairly early on realized that an attempt to keep ‘perfect’ karmic balance was a path that led to insanity. My most vivid remembrance of accepting the Good News was “FINALLY – I can step off the wheel.”

    Please believe I am not attempting to argue. These are simply facts as I see them about the timing of the theology of which you speak.

    • Patti, I can see you are very sincere. I have a desire to penetrate history and find truth. There is part of what I stared in my post I might have not expounded upon fully enough. The law states we must pay every jot and tittle of our karmic debt because it is a scientific law of energy. THIS is where science and religion meet!

      Science Part:
      Thoughts are electromagnetic impulses traveling through ganglia, nerve fibers. Emotion is energy in motion. Evil is part of an energy veil– the negative stuff we send out takes on a life of its own and gathers more of its kind to return to our own doorstep.

      Spiritual Part:
      Jesus has so much attainment he could take on a portion of our sin (our karma) and put his hand between karmic law for millions of people that would normally have never been able to handle their accumulated karmic debt according the timetables of both the fallen angels and the rest of us drew to a close. Other religions like Buddhism (where doctrine had not been so manipulated) spell out this period as 25,800 years that ended last year.

      This is where mercy of the law enters. Jesus has the ability to take on our karmic debt and pay it for us. HOWEVER, if you re-read through the entire new testament again with this in mind you will see a difference. You will find a more spherical message than linear. Obviously, Jesus knew all the major religions of the time and the major philosophical teachings. We must keep in mind what he was doing from age 12 to the beginning of this mission. His mom and dad took him around world to each major focus of religion at the time and I’ve read the documents to prove it!

      Would you pay the debt of your child if he were in a very sincere place and needed help but also needed to learn a lesson? I have a daughter that we almost never help financially because she does not budget or spend wisely and is always is asking for money. I have another child that I may treat differently when the time comes because of the necessity of building a momentum on being a co-creator with God.

      So that his where the mystery of grace enters.

      I’ve had the occasion to study snippets of the origin of Christian doctrine and the history and formation of the bible from direct sources. These direct sources differ from intellectual scholars that include the sincere children of God. In other cases I believe it was a deliberate changing the flow of the river of information and then declaring a drought so they could sell us their corrupted water. The Sanhedrin have reincarnated through history and have yet to all go to their second death.

      • Jeffrey, all I can tell you (and with complete sincerity) is that I have to stay at the KISS level: Keep it simple, stupid! I studied variations of what you are talking about for years and it’s just way too complicated for me, personally.

        I work best with “whosoever believeth on me shall not die but have eternal life.”

        Yours in Christ,

              • Frank, I agree with Patti, so we’re ganging up on you!! I realize there are a lot of really strange interpretations of Scripture, but most of it is pretty straight forward–if people would just take it at face value. God invented language, and he (much more than Ronald Reagan even) is the Great Communicator. I’m not so naive as to believe people don’t disagree radically on the meaning of the Bible, but I think that Jesus’ words are quite plain (assuming you were commenting on Patti’s rendition of what John 3:16 tells us….The chief problems that I run into are usually to do with taking things out of context, or strange ideas about how the Bible was put together, or the texts revised. So, with Patti, I’d ask, “which book are you reading?”

                • I don’t feel ganged up on at all. It just seems to me that many people read Jesus words as if there was someone sitting there taking dictation of his very word when in fact the earliest writing seems to have taken place seventy years after his death and while it’s nice to think that it is all inspired and kept in order by God there is also a possibility that we are relying on someone’s memory from seven decades previous. It is also agreed by most modern scholars that the person identified in the Bible as the writer of a particular gospel or letter didn’t write it at all but was well known in the history of the community and since the writer wanted it read and believed he invoked their name as writer. Research done by Marcus Borg in his book titled, “Reading The Bible Again For The First Time” is quite enlightening in these areas of the writing and the writers and how some areas easily show that a different writing style can show up in the same book indicative of contributions by more than one writer. Mostly I’m just enjoying everyone’s opinions about God and Jesus in Corinna’s blog and enjoy the freedom to express my own without expecting agreement or disagreement. Just is.

                  • Hi Frank. If you’ve read Borg’s book (which I confess I haven’t), you’ve likely run across the name N.T. Wright (or Tom Wright). Borg is smart and he and Wright have engaged in on-going debates about some of these very issues (ie, the reliability of the New Testament writings, who wrote what, what is authentic, etc.). Wright took on the “Jesus seminar,” which was a group of liberal biblical scholars who thought they (arrogantly, I would say) had the wisdom and ability to parse Jesus’ words in the four Gospels and make decisions on what was authentic and what not. (I don’t remember if Borg was part of that). Wright took them on with thorough-going, meticulous scholarship–when most conservative scholars would not, and we are in his debt. I’ll see if I can get a reference to recommend.
                    Sorry I have not been able to be very attentive to the comments here for the last two weeks–was wrapping up another project and heavy schedule, blah blah blah, but hopefully I’m back……The wedge in the debate with your comment about men writing 70 years after Jesus (actually, much of it was sooner) is the Holy Spirit, the promise that God made to Israel of a “new covenant/new testament” and was fulfilled shortly after Jesus returned to the Father. I don’t believe the New Testament was “dictated” to the writers, either by Jesus or by the Spirit, but there is a remarkable mystery here which many have tried to explain. The Bible is not part of the “Trinity” (which some seem to be gravitating toward (practically speaking of a “Father, Son, and Holy Scripture,”), but is quite the center of much of the discussion….ciao!

                    • Walt & Patti,

                      I saw your comments to Frank. Can we agree that Jesus message and the bible was a “cipher” with a formula to get us into a direct relationship with the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom he said would come to us after he ascended to the Father? I see the major corruption of the Christian Religion is worshiping Jesus the flesh rather than the indwelling Christ Consciousnesses that he demonstrated in its fullest.

                      Constantinople, a power-hungry murderer, and those early Bishops –among some of them who may have been perverted pedophiles– all formulated the Nicaea Creed to make Jesus a God and the people unworthy! To take out the teachings of reincarnation, and other important doctrine!

                      It’s so obvious when one breaks out of the coats of skin into the spherical mind of God! To have the DIRECT connection and out of programmed dogma! To throw off these mortal coils into the company of the immortals!

                    • It is good that there are scholarly debates about who and when and how it is to be interpreted. It opens the mind to greater internal dialogue. It usually turns out that the believer’s mind is unchanged on both sides. It was ever thus and out of it thousands of
                      “Christian” religious sects have arisen including the interesting “non-denominational”. In this hodgepodge there is something for everybody. It is probably of more value to follow Jesus advice to go into one’s closet to pray, unseen rather than to stand in the public square banging on our chest to promote the idea of being a sinner.

                • A thought occurred to me when I was thinking about Frank’s ‘ah yes, I remember it well….’, and it pertains to current news…not news that a Matthew or Mark or Luke or John might have been writing about so many years after the fact. Have you ever gone on Google and read a news article and then read a different one on the same subject, and then another? It’s about the same story, but often the information deviates or has a different slant, one story from another. The Gospels are kind of like that. In fact, I have often considered the New Testament to have a very “news coverage-ish” kind of flavor. As opposed to the Old Testament, which is more like a Cecille B. Demille epic. I am not being blasphemous, just commenting on style, lol.

                  You can’t help but notice differences when you read the different gospels. I have a Bible that shows four different editions of the Bible – King James, Standard Revised, Good News and one other (I can’t remember) in columns, side by side. I find it very interesting sometimes to see what a different ‘flavor’ a verse is given by the different translations. Then, if you read the Aramaic translation, you get still another. I agree with Frank on this. BUT, and it’s an important BUT……the basic ‘good news’ does not change. If you filter out everything else, that concept comes through pretty clearly. Or at least it seems to me to pretty much come to the same conclusion.

                  I’m not a Bible scholar, just a person who has read for many, many years (I’m 63) and tried to understand. I often get confused during scholarly arguments over things such as whether regeneration in Baptism makes a moral change in a person, or just allows God to consider him changed and justified (no kidding, I just got through reading about a huge schism that opened in the Anglican church over that subject in Civil War days). So I ignore what I cannot totally understand and attempt to understand as a four year old would when told “come to me and you are loved and safe.”

                  Not trying to be simplistic, just saying there is some stuff we will never understand and I personally do not have any desire for my brain to explode while I attempt to explain a mystery. :)

                  yours in Christ,

                  • I agree. In my younger years as a Bible fundamentalist I spent years trying to figure out what the Bible book of the Revelation was trying to tell us. Now, no longer tied to the idea that there is something there that must be intellectually understood. I breathed a sigh of relief when a modern Bible scholar simply said, “Read it as if you were attending an opera.” What a relief. A little of Hamlet, a little MacBeth, a little Terandot and Romeo and Juliet…….with great visuals and color. About three years ago I had the privilege of cruising to the island of Patmos and walking in the supposed cave where John had his vision. What a lovely place to have his vision whether or not he was in the cave.

                    • I envy you the chance to see Patmos.

                      When I hear of someone ‘interpreting’ Revelation (which I admire and appreciate for the imagery and understand not at all) I want to remind them to pay attention to the last line about not changing one jot or tittle. To me, that has always been an admonition to just read and enjoy and let it be what it is. Luther would have preferred that it not even be included in the Bible because it was not Christ-centric.

                      As I said, the imagery grips my imagination (the white robed saints), and I have seen watercolors of events in Revelation (I believe) at the Tate, by William Blake, that spontaneously brought tears to my eyes.

                      But understand it? Not in the least, at all, whatsoever. Not one jot or tittle. I think it falls into the exploding head category. :)

  12. Patti: Thanks for this. Great points re the Gospels. I would go back even further, and add Isaiah 53, (Isaiah, according to info in the text, began his prophetic ministry in 740 BCE). He wrote this (quoted from NLT, Isa. 53:3-6, “He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” There’s more, but that gives the gist.
    Jeffrey, I’m not totally sure of your question, whether it’s just about the use of “vicarious” to describe it, or what. There are several explicit statements that Jesus died “for us.” Substitutionary sacrifice is very explicitly taught throughout Scripture, starting at least with Abraham and his son going up the mountain and God’s provision of a ram to take the place of the son…Theologians and church officials got together at the various church councils you mentioned to “clarify” what they thought the Scripture says, but those sometimes serve to cloud the issue a bit by being so specific. So to avoid not scratching where it itches, could you elaborate a little, please?
    Yes, I enjoy this theology discussion, too. Thanks!

    • Walt, One must read that history of “church fathers” and the corruption at the Niccaea to more fully understand what happened. Constantine at the time of the council had not bent the knee to Christ. He was murdering in cold blood both before and after the council. It was his declaration of penalty of death to those Bishops and congregations that did not go along with the doctrine he wanted. He rewarded those Bishops that submitted to his will during the council.

      Constantine expressed he was concerned for his immorality and waited until eminent death to be baptised into Christianity. Up to that point he was using the religion to consolidate power. He declared his belief that anyone baptised would have all their sin wiped away. So that is why it appears he started this misconception regarding Jesus complete atonement for sin.

      There has been much discussion about political wrangling about what when into the bible and what did not. Also, certain extractions of words and complete sections that help make the full picture difficult.

      This discussion is more for the sake of truth than fear and trembling over our sin tumbling down upon us instantly becoming due causing our untimely death like times of the old testament.

      This discussion does lead to prayer and the value of prayer, fasting and penance as a means of behavior modification and appealing the mercy of God. It also leads to the activities that benefit life like clustered nuns giving the rosary or singing Gregorian chants. It goes further to a discussion on the power of the spoken word actually having energy rather than just “rote” and worthless as declared by those who broke away from the Catholic Church. Or those who do not understand Buddhist or Hindu Mantra. That can be a way to balance karmic debt and holds another deep discussion topic within its walls.

  13. I came across your blog today & wanted first to say that I appreciate the thoughtful approach you have taken with this project. Please know that I do not intend any of what follows in a disparaging manner. My goal is to warn you against something that is potentially spiritually harmful to yourself & possibly very offensive to the people whom you intend to better understand.

    Perhaps the particular church you attended that morning wouldn’t mind, but in general it would be best to ask before the service, if possible, whether communion will be celebrated & whether you would be able to partake, or else refrain altogether. In my conservative Presbyterian denomination, only baptized Christians who have publicly professed their faith & who are members in good standing of an evangelical church may partake (this is called “fencing the table”). The meal is a holy act of worship & fellowship for Christians united to Christ in his death & resurrection. Those who do not understand the meaning of the Lord’s Supper or who don’t believe it, & those who are walking in sin without repentance, should not partake lest they make themselves subject to God’s judgement (cf. 1 Co 11:27-29). This is how Calvin understood it:

    “For men of this description, who without any spark of faith, without any zeal for charity [Christian love], rush forward like swine to seize the Lord’s Supper, do not at all discern the Lord’s body. For, inasmuch as they do not believe that body to be their life, they put every possible affront upon it, stripping it of all its dignity, and profane and contaminate it by so receiving; inasmuch as while alienated and estranged from their brethren, they dare to mingle the sacred symbol of Christ’s body with their dissensions. No thanks to them if the body of Christ is not rent and torn to pieces. Wherefore they are justly held guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, which, with sacrilegious impiety, they so vilely pollute. By this unworthy eating, they bring judgment on themselves. For while they have no faith in Christ, yet, by receiving the sacrament, they profess to place their salvation only in him, and abjure all other confidence. Wherefore they themselves are their own accusers; they bear witness against themselves; they seal their own condemnation. Next being divided and separated by hatred and ill-will from their brethren, that is, from the members of Christ, they have no part in Christ, and yet they declare that the only safety is to communicate with Christ, and be united to him” (Institutes 4:17:40).

    You cannot have Christian fellowship unless you have first been united to Christ by faith, & unless you have been so united & have repented of your sins as is a proper fruit of such union, you should not participate in the Lord’s Supper which is the sacrament of Christian fellowship. Different churches will have different restrictions on communion – some will not restrict access at all – but please bear this in mind in the future, if for no other reason than to avoid any potential offense.

    • It is this kind of “christian” judgment where an assumption is made that a well-meaning stranger walking though the door has no faith, no zeal and no charity and cannot discern the Lord’s body that keeps me out of membership in a “christian” church and encourages me to use a small “c” when referring to them.

      • Frank,

        I am not assuming anything. Ms. Nicolau is not a professing Christian. She doesn’t have “faith” in Jesus Christ as the only-begotten Son of God & the propitiation for sin. She doesn’t have a “zeal for charity [Christian love],” which is characterized first & foremost by a love of Christ as Savior & Lord. She is not a member of Christ’s body & therefore cannot at all discern the body rightly. There’s nothing wrong with her being a well-meaning stranger – the vast majority of churches will gladly welcome her to join them for worship – & I certainly understand her desire to express some kind of solidarity with the folks she’s trying to understand. But the fact remains that she is not a Christian, while the Lord’s Table is rightly reserved for professing Christians.

        • 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[c] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

          36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

          37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

          Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise

          • Frank,

            It is an excellent parable, though not quite relevant. Paul’s epistle is exceedingly clear that unworthy partakers of the Supper bring judgement on their own heads. In the same epistle he is also clear

            Moreover, Jesus also said: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” Though in truth the application is as broad as the general principle – for example, the gospel message may be withheld from scoffers who have repeatedly shown themselves unreceptive – the ancient church long regarded this saying as having specific application to the Lord’s Supper.

            Again, none of this is meant to disparage Ms. Nicolau’s person in any way.

            • The principle is the same. The Jews looked down on the Samaritans and they were understood to be unclean. Jesus was illustrating the need for non-judgmental positive regard or as you might put it, “charity”. I can only imagine that in your church whenever communion time comes and a stranger is in your midst rather than thinking charitable thoughts the membership is wondering whether or not a “dog” or “swine”, so to speak, has entered in. How disparaging is that. The good Samaritan set the Christ like example and gave no room in his heart for such perverse thoughts. There is no room for me at such churches.

              • Frank,

                You take me to task for making assumptions I didn’t make, & now you make assumptions about my church. As it happens, we warmly welcome all visitors to join us for worship – you would be most welcome to join us if ever you happened to be in town (& I might suggest the 3rd Sunday of the month so you can enjoy the church luncheon!). However, prior to celebrating the sacrament, the minister verbally states that anyone seeking to partake of the elements must meet the aforesaid requirements, due to Paul’s warning of divine judgement against unworthy receiving. (Is it charitable not to warn unbelievers of God’s wrath? For their own sake, those who are not Christians should not be admitted to the Table. “Our God is a consuming fire” – he is not to be approached carelessly, & especially not in the most intimate & holy act of Christian worship.) With that, the minister then also says that those who do not receive should feel drawn to the fellowship with Christ by faith which the sacrament signifies.

                To address a few other items, I’ve specified before that “charity” means “Christian love,” which is in fact distinct from your “non-judgmental positive regard” because it is a love that is founded first & foremost on a love of God in Jesus Christ. The lesson of the Good Samaritan is that the Samaritan’s mercy on his Jewish neighbor was illustrative of a true love of God, which the Jewish priest & Levite in the parable (not to mention the lawyer whom Jesus was answering) lacked. The Jews regarded the Samaritans as sinners excluded from the people of God by virtue of their ethnicity, but Jesus illustrated that the true mark of the people of God is not ethnicity, but love of God. As for “dogs” & “swine,” I refer you to the words of Christ himself in that respect. If you find his words disparaging, so be it.

    • As a member of a closed communion church, I understand what you are saying. I also know that once, as a frequent and ongoing visitor to a closed communion church (this was known by the pastor) I was given communion. I went to the rail for my usual blessing, and to my surprise and joy, he offered me the host.

      Technically, I was non-Christian. I was not ‘in fellowship’. I had been going to the church for months, and I was allowing my daughter to go to school there and to take religion classes, but I was NOT a member in good standing.

      The upshot of this gift of Grace was that I shortly afterward came to request catechism class, instruction and entrance into the Christian community of that church. All because that pastor chose to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His commands.

      So, I am saying that everything you said is true, but sometimes the Holy Ghost is, for want of a better word, “truer”!

      Thank you for expressing the reasoning and scriptural presence behind closed communion so well and so gently. But as I said, sometimes God trumps theology.

        • It was truly a turning point in my life. To this day, I don’t know what Pastor Jacobsmeyer saw in my face or why he decided to place the host on my tongue (he offered, I opened!), but it was his action that gave Christ a foot in the door that I had been very seriously closing for many years.

          At one point in this post I have said that Corinna shouldn’t feel bad about taking communion; that if Jesus wouldn’t turn away children, why would he turn a way a seeker. And I believe that. I also believe in what KJS says about the seriousness of taking communion and the need to be in preparation for it. But I know that the Holy Ghost sometimes jumps out an shouts BOO!, and pray God that many priests and pastors, of the ilk of the one I met, exist. :)

      • Patti,

        Thanks for your comments. You are quite right that the Holy Spirit may work as he will. Sometimes circumstances may call for rules to be “bent,” so to speak. Far be it from me to pass any judgement on how your pastor handled your particular circumstances – I’m sure he has not been called as a pastor without reason, after all! Praise be to God for His mercy on you.

        • Hi KJS, Patti, and Frank (and Corinna, of course). I was just rereading the passage that you were addressing, KJS. It is common for churches to interpret 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 as you mentioned. I would invite you to look at the context of the verses. They are not a context in and of themselves, but part of a larger context (really, the entire letter), but at least vv 17-34. The Corinthian Christians were indeed one of the most interesting of groups to receive one of Paul’s letters–they certainly weren’t acting like anything we might wish for those who claim the name of Christ. Paul’s letter to them contains some fabulous lessons for us regarding the grace of God, right from the beginning of the letter, where he calls these people “saints” (ie, sanctified ones, set apart as belonging to God, holy ones, etc.), who were caught up in division and tolerating much unholy stuff.
          The specific situation that Paul was addressing was the fact that when the Corinthians were “celebrating” the Lord’s supper, some were going ahead without waiting for others (some were actually eating an entire meal before the part that we usually think of as ‘communion’ and not including some of the others who didn’t have enough food to get by), some were even getting drunk….certainly unholy actions for holy people. Could you imagine seeing this in a church today? Really? They were indeed incurring judgment (i.e., discipline, not condemnation or going to hell) from the Father upon those who belonged to him, his children. The issue for them was NOT whether they were professing Christ or not–they all did, apparently. But what they were doing that was so wrong (unworthy) was that they were supposedly celebrating Jesus’ sacrifice of himself (his broken body and his shed blood) in such a way that the message they communicated publicly was that “it’s no big thing” when in fact the cross is the central fact of history. They were taking the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner–not that they weren’t believers. There is nothing that I see in this passage that would apply to a person such as Corinna, whether believer or not, who is honestly searching to figure out this thing we so often lightly do at the “communion table.” Patti, I’m with you on the comment about Jesus welcoming children.
          Additionally, I would challenge any of us who take communion (or mass) seriously to NOT sin in some way from the time we leave the pew to the time we partake of the elements (host, etc.). I couldn’t tell you how many times I searched my heart to make sure there was nothing between me and the Lord, but then ran up to take the elements, meanwhile thinking about people watching me go up and thinking how “spiritual” I was. I am genuinely amazed by the grace of God: I don’t have to hold my “breath” by trying not to sin before I can get the elements into my face. God knows I am dust. I love the Lord and I love what he did for me, and when I take the bread and wine (or whatever might be served), I am proclaiming to those around me the grace of God to me through the cross–My sin (and not only mine) is the whole reason he had to allow himself to be crucified. We can never make up for all the bad stuff. I have never been and never will be so loved….
          This is one of the reasons when I tell people, when they are reading Scripture, not to miss the forest for the trees–i.e., not focus so much on particular verses that they miss the whole point. We don’t do this with secular literature. How much more should we not do it with sacred literature?….sermon over….

          • Walt,

            Thanks for your comments. I’m aware of the context in which Paul was writing. The Corinthians were plagued with divisions & behavior indicative of worldly attitudes, & Paul expends a great many words correcting them. If the worldly behavior of believers is a problem when approaching the Lord’s Table, such that they are failing to discern the body rightly, how much more so is it problematic for a professed unbeliever, who “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:14), to partake. It’s not a matter of being sinless, but having a proper understanding of one’s own position before God & within the body of Christ. Unbelievers are not members of Christ’s body & for them to declare themselves members through the Lord’s Supper is a lie.

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