The Biggest Question

A big question requires a knowledgeable reply, but “The Biggest Question” necessitates the explanation of three men by hour-long video.

The DVD was sent to me by a friendly young minister in Texas who must have read my op-ed when it was reprinted in the Dallas Morning News. His return address revealed him to be Baptist, but the video itself makes no denominational claims. I imagine its producers reside somewhere on the current Christian frontier where such distinctions are downplayed. The accompanying card explained that the minister hoped the DVD would answer my questions from the “evangelical/protestant point of view.” I thought that wording was nice: he wasn’t saying it was right, just another perspective.

The video’s main narrator is a guy named Todd Friel who is apparently a popular evangelical figure. He hosts a daily two-hour Christian-themed radio show called “Wretched” that streams from Wretchedradio.com. The website offers videos and podcasts, all brought to you by Burning Bush Communications. You can sign up to join the Wretched club and receive your Wretched news. You may also buy a T-shirt and baseball cap and save by purchasing them as a “Wretched wear combo.”

Friel is a tall, skinny guy with the vocal stylings and over-the-top enthusiasm of a morning rush-hour DJ. He may be a few years older than the evangelicals I’ve seen in person, like Jackson and the Christian boy band members, but not by much. The backdrop “set” for the DVD (and the other videos that stream on the site) looks like an industrial warehouse loft filled with old-timey furnishings. I imagine it’s someone’s idea of where Shakespeare might live if he rose from the dead and took up residence in a former factory.

Friel wanders around the loft talking into the camera. Intermittently, the video cuts to two other men who help him explain stuff. The first is Kirk Cameron, a former teen heartthrob (he was on a popular TV sitcom called “Growing Pains” in the 1980’s) turned evangelical actor/spokesperson. He does his explaining from a leafy yard setting. The second is a young minister who goes by the name of R.W. Glenn. He speaks earnestly into the camera while walking the streets of an idyllic-looking suburban “downtown” devoid of pedestrians. In the alternate reality of the DVD, women seem to have no presence. If they exist, it is only as implied by the wedding bands on the men’s fingers. As such, their most lively moments come when the men use their hands to make a particularly important point.

Does what they have to say answer the biggest question, as its title suggests?

Most of the DVD is dedicated to explaining what they call the “Doctrine of Imputation.” Embrace this doctrine, they explain, and experience freedom. Never again must we feel lacking in goodness.

The detailed thesis, to which each man contributes, is this:

We are criminals and an enemy of God with nothing to offer but our filthiness. Ours is an infinite debt of sin. We can do nothing God requires. We are bound for the eternal torment of hell. Put in academic terms, we all have failing grades.

Luckily, Jesus lived the perfect life and then died the death we deserve. Because God loves people who recognize their deep badness, He—in His mercy—is willing to substitute Jesus’ grade (A+) for our own.

This swap is something Friel calls “Jesus as our propitiation” and serves as the heart of the Doctrine of Imputation, which can also be called the “Imputation of Jesus Righteousness.” It occurs as the result of an actual transaction, the specifics of which are also spelled out…

147 thoughts on “The Biggest Question

  1. Are you SURE it wasn’t “Doctrine of AMPUTATION”. .. as in, your brain. . .I’m stopping now and going back out to pull weeds. . . .
    SINCERELY,

    • good call, Carmen….
      What? Coming from Walt? the evangelical Christian who believes the Bible?? Yes. I’m thankful that Corinna has captured the way a lot of us come across when we share the gospel…..I refer to this as ‘Christianese’….I just now read Corinna’s post and your comment, and asking myself: do I want to go on? How far is it to your weed garden?

  2. Well, Corinna, this is a hard one for ME to stomach, what with my belief that people are most generally born with goodness in their hearts and spirits….they are wired to be good. I realize there are problems with that supposition—-like people who are psychopaths and sociopaths and who have defective wiring for some reason—-but filthiness of spirit before I even get out of the bassinet. OMG Why? Why? Why? And really, those are rhetorical questions, because I don’t think that I can deal with the answers. Just too far from my belief system.
    Merrill

    • Merrill….at the risk of giving you mental heartburn, and with no intention just yet of getting into this whole question, I have to tell you: there have been recent studies that show that the concept of ‘justice’, at least, IS present in children in their bassinets. Or close to. And it is not far from a concept of justice to that of right and wrong and then we get to good and bad and so on and so on.

      I, too am not quite ready to wrap my head around the concept of ‘the Bad Seed’, but there are some interesting things being studied right now.

      How they relate to Corinna’s post I am DEFINITELY not up to dealing with at the moment. I am frantically packing (for two) to get to Canada. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. “Kirk Cameron”? Uh-oh, as Chico Marx famously said, “That’s a no good….” Was he with Ray Comfort?

    Carmen, I’m pretty sure Corinna wrote “imputation”, but this is starting to sound like a get-rich ‘something-for-nothing’ scheme, one of those deals telling you how you can make money at home while lounging around in your underwear…. Trust me: they NEVER work! (Although there’s a new one coming out that I’m hearing good things about….)

  4. Heavily based on the pessamistic theology of John Calvin (and Augustine) however fortunately there are other theologians and more positive outlooks on human nature – which if I read Genesis correctly was created VERY GOOD. This is only one theological take on the meaning of the death/resurrection of Jesus. One medieval theologian even thought that he would have become incarnate even if Adam and Eve hadn’;t messed up. Just as a logical result of God’s self giving in the Creation.

    Wonder what their view of women is? Guess they stay home, cook and take care of the kids.

  5. Hey Corinna, I wanted to make a couple of clarifications if I could. First, you cannot imagine how excited I am that you are giving this presentation a look!

    Second, in your review you wrote “The accompanying card explained that the minister hoped the DVD would answer my questions from the “evangelical/protestant point of view.” I thought that wording was nice: he wasn’t saying it was right, just another perspective.”

    I just wanted to make sure that I was clear that I 100% believe that this is the true and only right way to salvation. Grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. That’s it. What I hope came across with my words is that you know, in the truest spirit of tolerance, that I cannot force my belief on you, nor would I want to force a response out of you or anyone. I believe that Jesus is the only way for salvation, I am so convinced of this that that is exactly why I sent you the initial email, and try, as the Lord permits, to hit the streets in my own community to take the same message to anyone… realizing that I myself am a sinner who is in daily need of God’s grace and want others to flee to the Savior’s side after seeing His kindness to save!

    I hope the tone in this email is coming across correctly, I do not want to sound condescending or unloving, I am hoping it comes across as just more loving discussion between two people with differing views.

    The next thing you mentioned that I feel I need to be sure I clarify was, “Because God loves people who recognize their deep badness, He—in His mercy—is willing to substitute Jesus’ grade (A+) for our own.” It isn’t that God loves those who recognize their badness. That wording would imply at least some sort of work on our part. It is that upon realizing our badness we ought to be awestruck at the kindness of God to love us anyway, though we have not loved Him.

    I hope that is more clear? God loves. That is why He sent Christ. It is why Christ chose to come and die for all your sin and mine. Because He loves. Realizing your sinfulness in light of His love when what we all deserved was everything opposite of love reveals the kindness of God to not deal with us according to His justice, rather He meters out His justice on Christ and deals with those who turn from sin and trust in Jesus according to His mercy instead.

    By default we are a selfish people. Oh sure some people commit good acts. Some people do nice things. I am not saying we are devoid of compassion at all. But by default, we are not basically good… we are basically bad… the Bible proves it with God’s Law. But as the weight of our sin begins to bear down on us in the face of God’s perfect Law we see we need a rescue. The problem is that there is no way for us to rescue ourselves!!! All is lost and then comes the truly good news of the Gospel . Having no way to save ourselves, God send Christ to keep the Law in our place, die the death we deserved in our place… so that we do nothing but surrender to Him. We respond to God’s gracious action.

    You sometimes hear Christians say that if you do not trust in Christ you will go to Hell. That’s true but it can be stated better than that. The truth is that anyone who goes to Hell will go there because they have sinned numerous times against that God who gave them life and in whose image they are made. Chiefly, no one goes to Hell for failing to trust Jesus. They go to Hell because of their sin. But anyone who is saved is only saved because Jesus has been kind enough to save them!

    Hope this helps! Can’t wait for part 2!

    • Well! That’s a first, Corinna – a real, live sermon on the media mount. . . ! I’m not responding to it because my ears are burning – that means I’m in a high state of P.O. . . .better go make supper. ..

    • Pastor Jason said:

      “It is that upon realizing our badness we ought to be awestruck at the kindness of God to love us anyway, though we have not loved Him.”

      So if I’m reading that correctly, you’re saying that it’s only after I realize how bad I am that I’m able to fully appreciate what a great guy God is for loving me? Huh, Interesting….

      I’m just wondering if that principle works in the other direction, too, eg it’s only after people accept their intrinsic goodness that they are awestruck over how utterly unnecessary the love from an imaginary being truly is?

      Signed,

      A ‘good’ atheist

      • Hey Dave, It is interesting that you would pose the question in that way. You said “I’m just wondering if that principle works in the other direction, too, eg it’s only after people accept their intrinsic goodness that they are awestruck over how utterly unnecessary the love from an imaginary being truly is?”

        People don’t need to accept an intrinsic goodness (that doesn’t exist by the way) because they do that by themselves by default. The Bible says that in our own thinking we think very highly of ourselves and see ourselves as very wise. But thinking ourselves wise, we become foolish.

        The problem isn’t with needing to value ourselves more, it is with needing to see God’s worth and value and honor it accordingly.

        You said that being loved by God is unnecessary. Prove it? Appeal to an authority that proves that man does not need saving. That we are basically good. You cannot use experience because experiences vary per person. You cannot use feelings for the same reason. You won’t be able to prove it any more than you can prove that God doesn’t exist because in fact all people know that God exists, even you, your God-given conscience bears witness to it. I know that inflection cannot be gauged well in an email so please know that I say this through eyes welled up with tears. I do not want to see anyone enter into eternity apart from Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I do not know you personally Dave, but I do care for you.

        • Hi PJ,

          Thanks for your response.

          “People don’t need to accept an intrinsic goodness (that doesn’t exist by the way) because they do that by themselves by default. The Bible says that in our own thinking we think very highly of ourselves and see ourselves as very wise. But thinking ourselves wise, we become foolish.”

          Yes, I’m well-aware that the Bible says stuff like “the beginning of wisdom is a fear of God”, and “man is not capable of choosing his own footsteps”, as if we are all toddlers. It starts browbeating humanity from the moment they’re made (God’s very first words to Adam with a sentence or two contained a death threat), and blames Adam and Eve for having been created by God as fools (lacking in wisdom, hence why Eve saw the fruit as desirable to eat, to gain wisdom). It also doesn’t explain why God made the serpent as clever (Hebrew word ‘arum’, translated as crafty, clever, prudent, even sensible) so it could dupe the foolish human pair.

          News-flash: clever animal tricks foolish humans into doing something foolish: news at 11.

          The OT is full of the stuff that Wayne and Garth parodied with their “I’m not wooorthy!!” excessively-gratuitous prostrations….

          That’s why I had to chuckle a few months ago when reading in another thread where someone claimed that God is a humanist: were they reading the same Bible as I did?

          “You said that being loved by God is unnecessary. Prove it?”

          Right over here: I don’t believe in ANY Gods, be it Ahuru Mazda, Zeus, Elohim (pl), Ba’al, etc. Doing just fine, thank you very much!

          “Appeal to an authority that proves that man does not need saving.”

          Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. The burden on proof falls on YOU to prove: 1) there is a risk that we face that we need “saving” from 2) your God can provide said salvation.

          Prove that, because otherwise you’re just another Chicken Little crying “the sky is falling!”, and think you have a chicken coop that could resist the impact of the sky falling on it.

          “That we are basically good. You cannot use experience because experiences vary per person. You cannot use feelings for the same reason. You won’t be able to prove it any more than you can prove that God doesn’t exist because in fact all people know that God exists, even you, your God-given conscience bears witness to it.”

          Interesting that you cite the VERY REASONS that Xians will cite to prove that God exists: their personal experiences of being saved, and their gut reaction (they just KNOW it in their hearts). I guess their personal testaments about Jesus are to be dismissed, as well?

          BTW, I’m a ‘hard atheist’ when it comes to YOUR God, the one found in the Bible: he doesn’t exist, and I CAN prove it, using the Bible (without even leaving Genesis). I remain an agnostic for a deistic being, since I have to keep an open mind to the possibility: if reason to believe (AKA evidence) arises, then I’ll be a believer. In fact, I’d HAVE to believe in something that actually has a tangible effect, eg I believe in radio waves, since we exploit their existence to our benefit. Until then, God(s) remain the grist of ancient mythology that’s stayed with us as a vestigial organ.

          “I know that inflection cannot be gauged well in an email so please know that I say this through eyes welled up with tears. I do not want to see anyone enter into eternity apart from Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I do not know you personally Dave, but I do care for you.”

          Sorry to hear that you’re in such an emotionally-labile state, but perhaps you might focus on building up your ego a bit? All that reading about hellfire in the Bible is toxic snuff-porn for the ego!

          And while Corinna’s blog is not exactly the WWF of religious discussions (we don’t throw folding metal chairs, since Corinna makes us play nice; no biting, either), you put an idea out there and you cannot expect it to go unchallenged. Some of us operate on rationality, and not just pure emotions.

          Regards,
          Dave

          • Hey Dave,

            Thanks for the reply. Ok so I will venture some answers to your questions.
            “Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. The burden on proof falls on YOU to prove: 1) there is a risk that we face that we need “saving” from 2) your God can provide said salvation.

            Prove that, because otherwise you’re just another Chicken Little crying “the sky is falling!”, and think you have a chicken coop that could resist the impact of the sky falling on it.”

            I have submitted my proof sir, God’s Word is sufficient. It is provable though I am sure you will trot out the tired “contradictions” in it. There are none. The supposed ones are all resolvable so let’s not insult one another by even going there. Sufficing to say that I cannot and will not give up my presupposition that the Bible is true any more than you would be willing to give up yours that God does not exist.

            To believe that there is absolutely no God of any kind whatsoever, as you have, you would have to have all knowable knowledge in the universe to make such a claim. I assume you don’t as I do not know anyone who does… that being the case your left with the only one option. The reality is that you do not believe in any gods. But you cannot KNOW for certain that He doesn’t exist without all knowledge. You can simply say that of everything you have studied and any searching you have done, you’ve never come across proof enough to believe that God, or any god for that matter, exists. That leaves you as an agnostic, not an atheist.

            How can I make the claim that God does exist without all knowledge? Simple, the way we make any knowledge claim of any kind in any scenario. To make the claim that God does exist I merely have to have found proof enough to believe it. I have. Through His Word He has revealed Himself in a knowable way. Which brings me to the other thing that you said that I wanted to address.

            “Interesting that you cite the VERY REASONS that Xians will cite to prove that God exists: their personal experiences of being saved, and their gut reaction (they just KNOW it in their hearts). I guess their personal testaments about Jesus are to be dismissed, as well?’

            I am not dismissing personal testimony as invalid. The story of how God has rescued a sinner from their sin is always something worthwhile. I am asserting that my feelings in and of themselves do not prove anything. Have I personally experienced God in a knowable way? Yes, I have. I know Him. I know that I know Him. As any Christian can attest, they can look at their life and see areas that God is working on in them and changing in them. I am not perfect. Not by any stretch of the imagination… but I praise God and thank Him alone that I am not who I once was…

            But my experience could be looked on as subjective since many people claim to experience many different things every day and two people rarely experience anything in the same way as one another… So we need something more concrete than my, or any one else’s, testimony.

            God’s Holy Word is sufficient to prove Him. One need only look in them to see that.

            • Hi PJ,

              You said:

              I have submitted my proof sir, God’s Word is sufficient.”

              So the book you use for gauge it’s veracity is ALSO the book which informed you of your sinful nature and the path to salvation, in the first place? WOW…. If you got an e-mail from a rich prince in Nigeria who offered to pay you a princely sum to help him launder $$$, you’d expect him to offer to provide fraudulent information to back his claim. See, most people would use INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION, i.e. evidence obtained from an outside uninvolved SOURCE (that is, if we don’t simply delete the e-mail: the ‘Nigerian 419’ scam is well-known and can be dismissed out of hand, since while it’s NOT impossible, the odds of a rich prince spamming total strangers in foreign countries and asking for their assistance is extremely low).

              “It is provable though I am sure you will trot out the tired “contradictions” in it. There are none. The supposed ones are all resolvable so let’s not insult one another by even going there.”

              Heh, here’s one, which popped up in this very thread when it was mentioned by another poster:

              In Romans 3:10, Paul says: “as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE”

              As the words “as it is written” imply, Paul was paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 7:20. However, Paul stretched the original claim past it’s breaking point, since the author of Ecclesiastes wasn’t saying that there were no righteous people on Earth, but that even righteous people sin. Paul shifted it slightly to claim that no righteous people exist, which contradicts the evidence found in the Bible, eg off the top of my head, the Torah declares Noah and Abraham as “righteous men”, directly contradicting Hebrews 3:10.

              Noah was saved BECAUSE of his righteousness, where a sense of right and wrong is needed in order to establish and enforce a system of law, right after God delegated Divine Authority to Noah in order to enforce his newly-crafted “no bloodshed” prohibition (Genesis 9:5-6).

              2nd Peter declares Lot as a “righteous man”, which contradicts the Genesis 19 narrative which does everything within it’s power to make Lot out to be unworthy (without taking the extra step of actually SAYING that Lot WAS unrighteous), The Genesis narrative even goes out of it’s way to make the point that Lot was delivered from Sodom due to the righteousness of ABRAHAM, and NOT due to Lot’s own righteousness (Gene 19:29).

              So there’s another contradiction for you. I’m just getting started: need more?

              Claiming there’s no contradictions in the Bible applies ONLY to those who aren’t able and/or willing to see them; to anyone who is half-way capable of evaluating the claim in a non-biased manner using their intellect, yours is an easily-disprovable claim.

              “Sufficing to say that I cannot and will not give up my presupposition that the Bible is true any more than you would be willing to give up yours that God does not exist.”

              Wow PJ, way to present compelling self-incriminating evidence that shows you don’t actually KNOW what the term “presupposition” means. For if you DID, you wouldn’t use it in that manner.

              The term ‘presupposition’ is a philosophical term of art that describes that which must be accepted and assumed as truth, take for granted BEFORE constructing an argument on which it’s based. Problem is, the premise itself MUST be true, or the conclusion may be flawed/invalid.

              So your statement above implies that you rely on the assumption that the Bible is true to support your belief in God, which leads to an endless cycle of internal self-referential validation, something that every Christian does to support their belief in God. As the old saying goes, assuming makes an arse out of you, AND possibly me, if I accept your assumptions without independently questioning the validity of such assumptions, verifying on my own.

              Now, MY presupposition of God’s existence is NOT a presupposition: I didn’t ASSUME God doesn’t exist, so don’t create a false equivalency by conflating your faith in God’s existence with my disbelief, since mine is NOT an assumption, but is a belief based on verifiable evidence which, ironically enough, often comes from the Bible itself (eg internal contradictions found in the Bible, the scientific ignorance displayed in the Bible, etc).

              Fact is, I grew up as a believer (a JW), but as I developed rationality I started to question and dig deeply into the Bible and went thru the process of BECOMING an atheist, ie REJECTING the claim that supernatural beings exist. And even though I didn’t even know its name, the question of theodicy the problem if evil) was the first to arise in my mind at age 12, and the answers I got just didn’t make any sense. How a “perfect” God could produce not only imperfect humans, animals, and plants (hence, why God wiped them out in a Flood), spirit beings (angels AND demons), etc. just didn’t point to perfection. I came to learn that Hebrews didn’t originally CONCEIVE of YHWH as a “perfect” omniscient being, as those claims only came later as the need arose (where one Nation would trash-talk about how their God was the one with the mostest, at least until the claim was tested on the battlefield and YHWH lost; their land was repeatedly conquered in military conquest, and the inhabitants taken into captivity).

              “To believe that there is absolutely no God of any kind whatsoever, as you have, you would have to have all knowable knowledge in the universe to make such a claim.”

              Eric Hovind, is that you? 🙂

              That’s one of silliest arguments I’ve ever heard, and the amazing thing is it probably seems like an intelligent line of reasoning to some people who are easily bamboozled by BS.

              For ONE, you ASSUME that there is a being who KNOWS everything. Unfortunately for that claim, God isn’t even able to anticipate His reactions to future developments, eg Genesis 6 has God regretting making mankind (AND animals AND plants). Why would a being who claims to possess foreknowledge (needed to make prophecies of future events) NOT be able to predict his own emotional reactions? God not only regretted making mankind, he then regretted carrying out the Flood, so promised never to do that! That’s a double-gainer flip-flop of which any politician would be proud!

              See, regret is a ‘surprise’ emotion, the very basis of which is premised on NOT knowing the future. The author of the account slipped up by adapting an ancient Sumerian myth to YHWH, not possessing the foreknowledge that later authors would want to make the YHWH character in that direction.

              For TWO, God doesn’t even KNOW the basics of human anatomy, speaking of thoughts of the heart, wisdom being found in the kidneys, lungs being organs of hearing (eg the word ‘inspired’ comes from the long-disproven belief that words enter the body of someone else to be absorbed into the lungs). He doesn’t know where rain and hail comes from, or that there’s not a firm dome (Hebrew word is ‘tariq’, AKA firmament) to which the Sun, Moon, and distant stars are suspended from, etc.

              So we have a ‘designer’ who doesn’t even KNOW the basic elements of ‘his’ design? Like Paley’s argument, it would be like finding a watch and taking it to a watch shop, and asking a guy who is standing in front and claims to be the watch-maker to explain elements of the various parts of “his” design (eg hands, wrist strap). If they don’t KNOW, then we can safely assume that they’re not the watchmaker, much less an “Intelligent” designer.

              “I assume you don’t as I do not know anyone who does… that being the case your left with the only one option. The reality is that you do not believe in any gods. But you cannot KNOW for certain that He doesn’t exist without all knowledge. You can simply say that of everything you have studied and any searching you have done, you’ve never come across proof enough to believe that God, or any god for that matter, exists. That leaves you as an agnostic, not an atheist.”

              Nonsense. It is impossible to KNOW everything, and you’re hypothesizing such a being existing without offering even a tattered shred of evidence to support the hypothesis.

              Fortunately, mankind has adopted a rational approach to answering questions, as demonstrated by using ‘scientific method’: as boring as it is to not fill one’s minds with unicorns, fairies, Zeus and the like, only ideas which are VERIFIABLE, TESTABLE, and DEMONSTRABLE are allowed into my brain. I believe in radio waves, since although they’re invisible, they are MEASURABLE (with test equipment), REPEATABLE (anyone who doubts their existence can build/buy a radio) and have utility (cell phones, MRI/CAT scans, etc).

              “How can I make the claim that God does exist without all knowledge? Simple, the way we make any knowledge claim of any kind in any scenario. To make the claim that God does exist I merely have to have found proof enough to believe it. I have. Through His Word He has revealed Himself in a knowable way. Which brings me to the other thing that you said that I wanted to address.”

              Sorry, but I don’t speak schizophasia, AKA ‘theological word salad’. Can you rephrase that thought into actual ideas that can be conveyed in English? As a start, you might consider taking a philosophy course or two (logic/rhetoric is advised), even if at the local J.C.

              “I am not dismissing personal testimony as invalid. The story of how God has rescued a sinner from their sin is always something worthwhile. I am asserting that my feelings in and of themselves do not prove anything. Have I personally experienced God in a knowable way? Yes, I have. I know Him. I know that I know Him. As any Christian can attest, they can look at their life and see areas that God is working on in them and changing in them. I am not perfect. Not by any stretch of the imagination… but I praise God and thank Him alone that I am not who I once was…”

              What you’re doing is relying on the logical fallacy known as “special pleading”, asking for personal testimony to be used as evidence to support YOUR belief in God, but not allowing it when it goes AGAINST your God case. Sorry, but what’s good for the goose is applicable to the gander: that’s how logical arguments work

              “But my experience could be looked on as subjective since many people claim to experience many different things every day and two people rarely experience anything in the same way as one another… So we need something more concrete than my, or any one else’s, testimony.”

              Newsflash for ya’: the brain will tend to protect its beliefs from those that threaten, even actively suppressing evidence to the contrary that it isn’t willing to accept. It’s called ‘delusion’ and is not even a conscious process, but the result of how the brain has developed mechanisms which tend to protect itself from challenges (as if a fundamental tendency towards conservatism).

              “God’s Holy Word is sufficient to prove Him. One need only look in them to see that.”

              Not even the creation about us? I thought THAT pointed to God’s existence (eg as Paul claimed).

              I guess it’s smart to give up on that approach after the whole “Banana Man” Ray Comfort fiasco, and someone realized it’s probably smart NOT to look for evidence anywhere but inside the Bible. 🙂

              Dave

              • Dave

                Wow. Such venom. You have not only defeated your own argument. You’ve proved mine.

                Without God you don’t have rationale. You can’t have logic. And I will not engage in a discussion with someone who uses such insult tactics towards me. I’m being civil and have not insulted you once. You’ve misapplied several scriptures and painted nice little strawman arguments which is not an appropriate tactic for discussion or debate. Reply all you like to me, I see no further reason to discuss with you if you insist on getting so personally nasty with me.

    • Hi Jason. Welcome to the blog. I think you’ll find that your comments are stirring up the pot a bit.
      I’d like to suggest you’d take some time and read over some of what’s be on the blog. There’s some great folks here who are looking for answers, and many who are satisfied that they have found their answers and are not used to hearing some traditional pulpit messages. This place is more akin to sitting around a table at Starbucks. Grab a latte and take a seat.

  6. Yes, this sort of doctrine is one of the main reasons I have little interest in evangelical Christianity. Also, it should be noted that the Doctrine of Imputation is a direct outgrowth of the Doctrine of Original Sin. It means that Jesus is there to solve a problem that did not exist in Judaism in Jesus’ time. There was and is no Doctrine of Original Sin in Judaism, the parent religion of Christianity. Even though the Book of Genesis originated within Judaism, Jewish theology does not recognize Original Sin as an acceptable doctrinal interpretation of Genesis. So, does that sort of make one think of Christian writers such as St. Paul and St. Augustine as being akin to Professor Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man’, who invents a problem in order to solve it? It’s tempting.

  7. I TRIED to watch one of the videos of Wretched TV just now, Corinna. I have to hand it to you, if you watched an hour of this you are one special person. The only positive thing I’d give them is they got the adjective correct. . .

    • Frank,
      If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother responding. It breaks my heart that anyone would consider hell as a viable alternative to the message of Salvation. I don’t understand how you can joke about hell in one breath, but then quote Bible verses in your past replies. It doesn’t add up.

      • Jo L……Thanks for the depth of feeling. I know how desperately you would like to have me enfold myself in the arms of Salvation in the way you experience it. As for my remark about hell as a viable alternative, I don’t believe in hell although I have experienced it several times in this lifetime. I have no quarrel with Christianity except in the way Pastor Jason and his ilk describe it and the lack of authenticity as persons bringing it to the world. They are very good actors who know the script well. By the time they get through ragging on the human race I can think of only one scripture: “Jesus wept.” As with everyone else on this list I encourage you to hold on to your beliefs as they nurture you and allow you to feel the grace of salvation. I feel the grace, too. It’s just not in the same way you do. You’re a beautiful human being and a beautiful God being.

        • Thank you for saying that, Frank. That is what I was trying to tell Jo in the last thread, but in my clumsy, bamboozling way. .. Jo, YOU ARE GOOD. Give yourself a break.

        • Frank said: “…..and his ilk….”

          Uh-oh: Now look what PJ has done…. He got Frank riled up enough to use the “ilk” name against him. 🙂

          I saw that study which hit the mainstream media (it was on ’60 Minutes’) a few years ago which suggested that infants as young as 1 yr. (maybe 6 mo? Can’t recall…) display a basic sense of fairness, but I’m rather doubtful of the validity of the study (I saw some obvious problems with their methods shown in the video, for one).

          My prior education on the subject of child development says that new-born infants are not even able to differentiate ‘self’ from ‘other’, and hence their World revolves around THEIR needs, which they don’t even recognize as “theirs”. Their world revolves around suckling their Mothers breast, which is their “God”, a source of that which makes them contented although they aren’t consciously thinking about it.

          Dave

        • Hey Frank,

          I do believe you, sir, are judging me. You are not making any claim to the validity of what I have said… you are merely accusing me and my “ilk” to be actors with a rehearsed message… While I will concede that some see evangelism and such as just something we have to do and see people as marks rather than actual real people it is unfair of you to generalize and assume, with no real knowledge of who I am, that I am among those. However, even if I was spewing a rehearsed message and even if all of my “ilk” were giving the same speech over and over… as distasteful and disingenuous and that would be, it still wouldn’t prove that the message wasn’t true.

          I am flawed. I am not even close to perfect. I am a wretched sinner saved by grace. So I will ask you, please… don’t make your evaluation of the claims of Christ based on an examination of me… I will fail you and fall short every time.

  8. I liked this one, Frank. You seem to be able to pull out just exactly the right response.

    Pastor Jason says he doesn’t want to sound condescending or unloving…….frankly in this case, I really don’t mind being either of those myself. I personally think this is the worst case scenario of the Christian belief system…..Anyone who thinks so poorly of humans should not be in any pulpit. I can’t use any Gospel to support my opinions……but I do know that you don’t have to thrown valuable human beings in the garbage and then tell them that if they are good….but good just by your standards!!….. you will help them get out…..What a reprehensible thing to do to people who are just looking for support along their paths. I don’t want or need any response from Pastor Jason. I am Good to the Bone. Always have been . Always will be.

    I intend to be out of this thread. I don’t want to give of my time to Pastor Jason—or any of his constituents— who are trying to convince us that this destructive message is actually good for us. We are good. Love is good. I am good. Love you as you are.
    Merrill

    • Merrill,
      I am so sorry that you feel this message is destructive. It’s just the opposite. Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written there is no one righteous, not even one. Rom. 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This sounds like doom and gloom….but if you keep reading in Romans 3:24-25a it says, “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.

      I am not pointing a finger at you or anyone else on this thread. God knows everyone’s heart…not me. On the last thread, some didn’t like it that I referred to myself as a lousy sinner. Well, I am. I sin everyday and therefore I am a sinner. It doesn’t matter if my good outweighs my bad. I’m still a sinner and will always be one until I die and go to Heaven. The difference is that my sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ. Salvation is a completely free gift to anyone, so it’s hard for me to understand what could be destructive about that.

      There has been a lot of poking fun at and criticism happening on this thread. Many of you have talked about loving each other being what’s most important. I don’t believe that I or any others who proclaim to be Christians have ever made fun of your different beliefs on this blog. Just a thought.

      • Jo–I think most of us respect you and your views–I certainly do. But the kind of “fire and brimstone’ hellfire peddling on the DVD really does hold itself up for ridicule. Among other thngs, Jesus preached against the sin of presumption and arrogance. I DO NOT think that’s a sin of which you’re guilty, and I agree we all sin on a regular basis. But I think we can legitimately question how God’s redemptive action reveals itself to us.

      • Good 4th you, Jo and Tim, and to us all!
        Jo I’m glad you see yourself as a ‘lousy sinner’….I say the same thing, but it’s difficult to hear voice inflections in print. If you read what I commented elsewhere to the effect that God does NOT ‘classify’ his children as ‘sinners’, you might get a better idea of where I’m coming from–I’ve counseled many Christians who love Christ and serve the church but are uncertain about their acceptance by the Father. The words ‘sin’ and ‘sinner’ carry a lot of baggage in American culture such that using the word often defeats whatever else we may want to communicate because the audience has already been clubbed over the head with it.

        I find it interesting that the first words out of Jesus’ mouth in the Sermon on the Mount were, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the Kingdom of God is theirs.” ie, he was speaking of those who recognize their spiritual poverty and their need of God. He was speaking such words to a population of people who were under the hammer and thumb of proud and hypocritical religious leaders who were always telling them that they needed to be like them–and had the arrogance to ‘thank’ God that they were not like the poor common people! Jesus brought good news, indeed!

        Tim, I didn’t listen to any of this material that Corinna was referring to, so I’m not sure what other theological baggage they might be adding to the word ‘imputation’ (adding to the gospel?). The word impute simply means to count, consider, etc., as in God was no longer counting our sins against us. Christ died for our sins, as Isaiah wrote (chapter 53): ‘he (God) has laid on him (Christ) the iniquity of us all’. I know the Bible pretty well, but I’m not sure of the subtleties of theological nuance (AKA mental gymnastics) between different schools and denominations on imputation or even original sin–I just know that I need the Lord and Jesus paid for ALL my sins–that’s enough for me. I love the Father and want to obey him, but I can never presume to pay for any of my sin, a la balance scale justice. Christ alone is worthy and (I’m with Jo here) his blood (his willing, violent sacrifice on the cross on my behalf) covers it all.

        Sorry for the tome. Love you all. Walt

  9. First, thanks for Pastor Jason for stepping up and clarifying/confirming his beliefs. He did so in an intelligent, calm, and rational manner. Too often, evangelical ministers are portrayed as all fire and brimstone and no respect for others of different opinions. As we are entitled to divergent and more diverse opinions, he certainly has the right to his, and makes an effort not to impose on someone what he or she doesn’t believe.

    In keeping with that introduction, I do agree grace is unearned and un-earnable, yet freely given. Its one of the more challenging concepts in Christianity, that God would so love us He wipes out our sins (or mistakes, or misdeeds) merely at the asking. Its an overwhelming, exhilarating, and occasionally frightening thought that we could be loved so much. But ultimately it is quite liberating. It says that no matter what you’ve done in the past, there is always a future thatch an be better if you choose that path.

    After that point, Pastor Jason and I part ways. The Doctrine of Imputation sounds an awful like the old-line Protestant theology of Total Depravity; that humans, through original sin and abuse of our gift of free will, have moved so far from God’s will, it is only by unearned grace we can be returned to salvation. First, I disagree on the intuitive level. Why would God create humans just to condemn them? A believer in the Doctrine of Imputation may say God doesn’t condemn us; we do that ourselves through sin. But the end result is the same, “eternal conscious torment”, (to borrow a Catholic term for hell). The Bible says we were created as “a little less than angels’. We are God’s greatest and most wonderful creation, so how could we be “totally depraved” at the same time? If we were that far gone, God’s grace would be worthless to us.

    Second, the entire concept of eternal condemnation (at least for temporal sins), runs counter to God’s perfect nature. Jesus made it quite clear God is perfect and perfect love. Those of us who believe in the Trinity believe the love between Father and Son is so perfect and powerful it created a third and equal person in the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t accept factory seconds. Using literal imagery from the Bible as applied by many evangelicals, God created a perfect world for Adam and Eve, where mankind lived in perfect union with Him, until the Fall. If you follow some of the more strict evangelical/fundamentalist doctrine, few among us will be saved. So, God “settles” for a less-than-perfect situation, where most of the humans He created wind up in torment, instead of the perfect paradise He first created? That is completely contradictory to the perfection He expects and desires, and confounds the idea of unearned grace.

    For several years, I struggled with the idea of the Fall and Hell as it relates to Jesus’ ministry of mercy and salvation. The idea that humankind would forever be under the cloud of Adam and Eve’s “original sin” makes God look like the ultimate hillbilly, fighting an unending feud in a cosmic version of the Hatfields and McCoys. The Fall is an allegory for mankind’s chronic problem of exalting free will over God’s plan. God offers us a path but makes nobody follow it. With a few infamous exceptions, I can think of no-one who deserves eternal damnation for whatever transient sins they may commit during the few years we’re given here on earth. The conventional idea of hell most of us picture grew out of Medieval theories about the afterlife and are only loosely based on the Bible. That picture reduces God to a Cosmic Accountant, weighing our good deeds against our sins, so that avoiding hell becomes more important than creating God’s kingdom on earth.

    I like C.S. Lewis’ idea of hell. God respects our free will to the point where He’s set aside a place for those who can’t abide His prescience, who actively reject His grace and message. He sends no-one there; they go of their own stubborn free will. As Lewis said, the doors of Hell are locked from the inside.

    As for Kirk Cameron, I’m familiar with his popularity as an evangelical actor. When he was on Growing Pains, he got an actress playing his girlfriend fired because she once did a nude scene (or posed naked in Playboy or whatever), and he refused to work with her. How one reconciles that with Jesus’ sitting down to dine with prostitutes and sinners is beyond me.

    • Tim:
      I appreciate your comments, especially what you had to say about grace.
      I think we’re all going to need a little grace on this one. 😐
      Can you clarify this: ” there is always a future thatch an be better if you choose that path.” I think you meant “a future that can be better”?? Thanks.

    • Hey Tim,

      Thank you for your kind words. You did not ask for a response from me for your post but I hope you will not mind if I pose a few things in reply to your post.

      ” First, I disagree on the intuitive level. Why would God create humans just to condemn them? A believer in the Doctrine of Imputation may say God doesn’t condemn us; we do that ourselves through sin. But the end result is the same, “eternal conscious torment”, (to borrow a Catholic term for hell). The Bible says we were created as “a little less than angels’. We are God’s greatest and most wonderful creation, so how could we be “totally depraved” at the same time? If we were that far gone, God’s grace would be worthless to us.”

      We are God’s crown creation if you will. We are the only part of His creation that was created in His image. However, to get from us what He desired from us, namely the right and worthy worship for His Name, we had to be made with free will. Prior to the fall of man in Genesis 3 man possessed an entirely free will. We were able to choose to obey God or disobey God. It was not a flaw in God’s creation that caused us to choose disobedience, it was necessary that we have the choice. Otherwise God would be forcing us to worship Him and quite frankly that isn’t love. So man chose disobedience. When we did the world was thrown into a terrible captivity to our sin natures. It is because we are that far gone that God’s grace is so absolutely vital and necessary for us! It is only by His grace that there is hope for any of us!

      “Second, the entire concept of eternal condemnation (at least for temporal sins), runs counter to God’s perfect nature. Jesus made it quite clear God is perfect and perfect love. Those of us who believe in the Trinity believe the love between Father and Son is so perfect and powerful it created a third and equal person in the Godhead, the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t accept factory seconds. Using literal imagery from the Bible as applied by many evangelicals, God created a perfect world for Adam and Eve, where mankind lived in perfect union with Him, until the Fall. If you follow some of the more strict evangelical/fundamentalist doctrine, few among us will be saved. So, God “settles” for a less-than-perfect situation, where most of the humans He created wind up in torment, instead of the perfect paradise He first created? That is completely contradictory to the perfection He expects and desires, and confounds the idea of unearned grace.”

      Actually the Biblical doctrine of Hell runs entirely in sync with God’s character. As I said in an earlier post, yes, God is love. The Bible says so. But what sort of love does God have? Certainly not a human love, because even our deepest love for another person tends to be subject to conditions…
      There is only one attribute of God that is repeated three times in the same verse. It comes from Isaiah 6:3 says that God is Holy, Holy, Holy. God is Holy. Perfectly Holy. So His love, compassion, wrath, judgment, righteousness, anger, etc… all of His other attributes, all of them are informed by His perfect Holiness.

      So what sort of love does God have/show? Perfect Holy love. It is why Christians say that God loves sinners just as they are, but He loves them too much to leave them that way. What sort of wrath does God have? Holy wrath… and so on.

      So God cannot leave sin unpunished. None of it. Not the serial killer or the habitual liar. This is not hellfire and brimstone preaching. I actually disagree with that tactic. God is not looking for people to turn from sin and trust in Christ because they are afraid of Hell… He’s looking for those who are coming to Christ because Jesus is a good Savior and God is a kind God.

      Hell is justice for those who have chosen to reject God’s offer of salvation from their own sin. Everyone deserves justice, but God offers mercy to any who will come to Christ! As it has been suggested that I am “putting God in a box” and that I “have Him all figured out” I assure you I am not endeavoring to do so. I have never claimed to have God completely figured out. But the Gospel is spelled out clearly in Scripture. Christ’s first words of public ministry couldn’t be more clear on the subject. Mark 1:15. Repent and believe the Gospel!

      “For several years, I struggled with the idea of the Fall and Hell as it relates to Jesus’ ministry of mercy and salvation. The idea that humankind would forever be under the cloud of Adam and Eve’s “original sin” makes God look like the ultimate hillbilly, fighting an unending feud in a cosmic version of the Hatfields and McCoys. The Fall is an allegory for mankind’s chronic problem of exalting free will over God’s plan. God offers us a path but makes nobody follow it. With a few infamous exceptions, I can think of no-one who deserves eternal damnation for whatever transient sins they may commit during the few years we’re given here on earth. The conventional idea of hell most of us picture grew out of Medieval theories about the afterlife and are only loosely based on the Bible. That picture reduces God to a Cosmic Accountant, weighing our good deeds against our sins, so that avoiding hell becomes more important than creating God’s kingdom on earth. ”

      Nope, the Bible doesn’t present the Fall as allegory, it is presented as literal. It must be taken as such since no indication is given to the contrary. God isn’t weighing our good deeds verses our bad ones. In fact the Bible says that by comparison to God’s perfect holiness all my righteousness… my good deeds… are as filthy rags to God…
      But make no mistake… our bad deeds… our sin… that is accounted for. And it is that a person will pay for in eternity UNLESS they turn from their sin and trust in Christ who has been so loving as to have taken our sin on Himself so that God can clear our guilty verdict!

      We recoil at the idea that God will hold us accountable for our sin. That is strange to me because we hold people on this earth to that same standard. When someone commits a crime they receive a punishment according to what the law prescribes for that crime. If I steal something from a store I get arrested and prosecuted and probably released after a short stay in jail. If I steal from a bank and I’m going away for a long time but I will probably eventually get paroled. If I try and steal some government artifact (say the Declaration of Independence ((forgive me, I’ve just watched National Treasure)), I do that and I am probably never getting out of prison. Same crime… but the punishment differs according to the crime.

      We have 0 problems with that standard amongst humans but for some reason believe God, who is the ultimate Law giver, has no right to judge His own creation?

      • Jason, I find it strange, but almost universal, that Christians, who know something about the holiness and righteousness of God, still seem to see God as their judge more than as their Father. The most dedicated Christians are often the most performance minded.

  10. Corinna, when I read your blog and briefly looked up these people, I thought, oh boy, your friends here are going to give you hell about this one…!

    Well, Todd Friel is trying to do one thing — make some sort of name for himself. And notice the other pastor (R.W. Glenn). If the one you are talking about is from a church in MN, his website shows him as having no credentials. So you are not dealing with a full deck here. And, not sure you are going to have much of a dialogue with them. They got all the answers!

    But PLEASE, PLEASE do not associate this kind of thought with Calvin. Or Augustine.

    The reasons for Jesus’ death on the cross are many and complex, and cannot be reduced to a simple package with seventh grade descriptors such as people are “all bad” and “everyone’s going to hell that doesn’t do this.” When answers are reduced in such a way, things get distorted resulting in a skewed version, maybe with a little bit of truth but very truncated. But there are really wonderful theologians and scholars out there who can speak with intelligence and depth of thought and engage in a reasonable discussion and conversation.

    Have a great 4th!

    • Yes, Ginger, yes! Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was about redemption, obedience, the triumph over death, and so much more. The Doctrine of Imputation reduces it to an effort to stay out of hell. Its been a successful tactic for centuries, probably because there is nothing more horrifying than the idea of eternal torture. Fear is a powerful motivator. What I’m not seeing in Corrina’s description of the DVD, nor in Pastor Jason’s posts, is the whole other part of Jesus’ message; to help the poor and lift up the powerless. He wasn’t satisfied with us flying under the radar until we die just so we can go to Heaven. We need to assertively and affirmative do good here on earth.

      • I couldn’t agree more that Jesus does not just tell us to be saved and then just sit idly by waiting for our day to go to Heaven. We are to primarily preach the Good News of the Gospel, we are to love others as Christ has loved us, we are to help the poor… the widow… the orphan.. etc… If a person counts themselves saved but then sits idly by doing nothing the Bible says that that person is not actually born again.

        I did not address any of that in my initial posts as they just weren’t a part of what I was trying to communicate. Sorry if that made it seem I had otherwise omitted that truth.

  11. Walt asked:
    there is always a future thatch an be better if you choose that path
    Yes, it should be “always a future that can be better”. Apparently. grace doesn’t extend to typing skills!
    Although, I was looking at the roof on my cotttage, and the thatch could use some improvement…..

  12. Hoo boy. Well. I feel like our little peaceful community of acceptance has had a visit from…um… I will admit that my feeling when I read Pastor Jason’s first sermon or whatever was nausea. I feel like I’ve just experienced a drive-by shooting. The thing that bothers me most is the “my way or the highway” stuff. And that it’s represented as the way God sees it. The ONLY way God sees it.

    Y’know, I don’t think it is the way God sees it, but I don’t KNOW FOR SURE, so I’m going to hold it in abeyance. This guy, and there are sooooooo many just like him, know everything for sure, are absolutely certain who’s going to hell and who’s going to heaven because there’s this checklist, see, it’s all these Bible verses, and if you measure up to them you’re in, and if you don’t, you’re out. And he would say right now, “I don’t decide who’s in or out, that depends on YOU and what you believe.” Your performance, your lining up with his idea of salvation, An answer for everything. That’s what frosts my pumpkin. The smugness. One of God’s big things in the Bible is humility. (“He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”)(for example) And humility is teachable. Humility says, “I don’t have all the answers, but my eyes are open, my ears are open, my heart is open to learn.” Learn maybe from someone who believes things that AREN’T IN THE BIBLE?

    I think humility is maybe more important than anything except love. And you know what we are if we don’t have love. A noisy cymbal. This guy could have come from an approach to LEARN from Corinna, even from us freakin’ sinners here.

    Tim, you were in fine form up there, when you said this: “Why would God create humans just to condemn them?” Yeah, really. And you know I love CS Lewis.

    The only thing I agree with, that Pastor Jason said is, “God loves.” Sorry to be sort of strident, but this is the reason I quit going to church, stuff like this.

    • Great essay, homewithin. What you made me think of is a relationship. If you approached your marriage with — well, you have to do this, you have to believe that in order to be acceptable to your spouse — what kind of relationship would that be? I see God as wanting a relationship with us, so something generated by fear and a checklist as you say is no relationship at all. And what Tim says below about forgiveness fits right into that. God is full of forgiveness when we fail and we humbly turn to Him. That’s what I love most about God. That brings great peace and what could be more hopeful? God is all about hope.

    • I am sorry that I caused your pumpkin to be frosted.. I apologize if I came across as smug. I know of myself that humility is something I struggle to have. My flesh is very prideful and with no cause to be so.

      I do not claim to know who is going to heaven and who is not other that to say with Scripture that the Bible says that it is those who repent and trust in Christ that will be saved. If you disagree with that then you disagree with Scripture, not my opinions.

      “and if you measure up to them you’re in, and if you don’t, you’re out. And he would say right now, “I don’t decide who’s in or out, that depends on YOU and what you believe.” Your performance, your lining up with his idea of salvation, An answer for everything. That’s what frosts my pumpkin. The smugness. One of God’s big things in the Bible is humility. (“He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”)(for example) And humility is teachable. Humility says, “I don’t have all the answers, but my eyes are open, my ears are open, my heart is open to learn.” Learn maybe from someone who believes things that AREN’T IN THE BIBLE? ”

      No where in all of Scripture does the Bible teach that you must measure up in order to be saved. In fact, we can’t measure up (Romans 3:23) that’s the whole problem! We need Christ who perfectly measures up in every way! My good works, deeds, or any other thing is totally insufficient to provide salvation. We need Christ and Christ alone!

      It isn’t “my way or the highway”, it is God’s way and none else.

      • Hi Jason:
        let me put down some cards here… The others here know I am a Christian..I have been a Christian since 1971. I wholeheartedly agree with you saying “those who repent and trust in Christ will be saved.” Saying that, I must add that one of the things I learned with a vengeance about communicating Christian terminology when we served as linguists and translators among a small people group in Senegal was to realize how much that words can mean different things to different people. The word ‘repent’ has tremendous baggage–and some very different baggage–among the various ones on the blog. It’s a great challenge, but a most rewarding endeavor, to try to communicate with folks where they’e at. This is likely one of the reasons you’re sensing opposition to some of what you say. Please don’t write it off as opposition to the gospel or God people not wanting to hear “the word.” There is much hunger and thirst here, and it’s the reason for this blog in the first place. But, like it or not, it is true what Tim Keller, Gandhi, and others have said about Christians being the a big reason people walk away from “Christianity”.
        Let me quote back your last line and add a phrase that some here will read it as saying: It isn’t “my way or the highway”, it is God’s way and none else. [@ your interpretation of God’s way]. There’s been many people here hurt by others who said “this is God’s way,” including yours truly.

  13. Okay, first I have a confession to make—a deep, dark secret I’ve been keeping from my blog-mates. I’m a certified GOVERNMENT AUDITOR. No, not the IRS kind, so you don’t need to worry about me spying on you, even if you’re a member of the Tea Party, the Coffee Party, or the Mickey Mouse Club. I’m actually a performance auditor and work for a local government agency. Anyway, the reason I mention this is because auditors are trained to look for evidence at its source. So, I checked out a few of Wretched TV’s episodes to see if the hoopla we’re making on this post is justified. At first, it seemed innocuous enough—like Corrina said, a slick set, snazzy graphics and a semi-hipster host. They even did a critical piece on spiritual huckster Benny Hinn. But a few minutes in, I started getting the feeling this was the same rigid fundamentalism in a shiny new box. My auditor’s fraud alarm started buzzing in my head. That usually happens when I’m seeing something that isn’t what it seems to be. Maybe it was the way the host kept saying the word “Gospel” the way people in old moves say “gun”, as in “back off, ya mug, I got a gun.” The more I listened, the more I realized how alienating the message was.

    The essence of the message was the same old fundamentalist approach: for there to be an “us”, there has to be a “them”. And “they” are wrong and therefore doomed. And “we” have to be constantly reminded we’re “under attack”. These are the same kind of people who see Satanic conspiracies everywhere: the Harry Potter books really promote witchcraft; yoga is an insidious method to indoctrinate godless Hinduism into school children; the Procter & Gamble logo is a Satanic symbol. blah, blah, blah. Well, my very traditional Anglican rector was a fourth-degree black belt in Korean karate, and I don’t recall being lectured in Buddhism during his class (although it was a great incentive to be on time for Mass).

    I do believe Jesus came to bring forgiveness for our sins, but in the sense of tearing away the veil between God and His people. If we are truly worthless, would our Savior stoop to wash the feet of His disciples? Yes, Paul wrote a lot about unearned grace. But he also said about himself he was a murderer of God’s people, yet no longer felt guilty because he embraced the power of forgiveness. There is a difference between guilt and remorse. Guilt is a millstone that never gets lighter; remorse is seeing your error for what it is, trying to make it right, and learning from your mistakes. Guilt teaches us nothing but self-loathing, while remorse makes us stronger. I choose to revel in God’s love and forgiveness, and try to emulate it in the way I treat others who have wronged me. And every time I stumble, which I do often, I know He’s there to help me back up, telling me to shake it off and get on with my journey. He’s not reminding me how wretched I am; He’s reminding me how much I’m loved because I’m His creation.

    • Tim:
      Thanks for your comments. I very much appreciated, in your comments to Ginger, the need to live justly, etc. Jesus came to bring us the kingdom and to redeem us–not simply to buy for us a ticket to heaven so we can slough it here for the next xx-number of years. We are to be love and light IN THIS WORLD, which I’m certain that Jason wouldn’t deny, but sometimes, in evangelical preaching, it does sound as though the message is all about me going to heaven.

      I forgot who mentioned about our worth (or worthlessness) to God. One thing that is absolutely an encouragement to me to remember is the fact that, not only did God love the world–yes, even you Merrill, believe it or don’t–but the measure of our worth to him is the blood of his Son. 🙂

      I hope you all can celebrate the 4th of July. As the other Tim (Tiny Tim) says, “God bless us, every one.”

  14. As usual, I’m in awe of the thoughtful, intelligent, and extremely wise comments from the ‘merry miners’
    – Happy Independence Day, friends! Hope you are celebrating!
    P.S. My ears aren’t burning anymore!

  15. Since its the fourth, I was struck by a feeling of pride while reading this eclectic discussion. It is awesome that we can have it, free and open, without fear. Happy Fourth of July! Take sometime to think about how lucky we are to live in a place and time where we are free to believe, and that our founders saw the wisdom in placing barriers between government and religion. We are very far from perfect as a nation, but in this avenue we had the right idea, and have more or less stuck with it.

    • Amen to that one, Lac. God bless and keep us and keeps us SEPARATE from our state. That is what I will be celebrating today. Happy Fourth of July, all.

  16. Tim, once again you nail it to the wall. Your discernment, or as you call it, your fraud alarm, is spot on. Mine goes off too, whenever a speaker of any type not just religious, starts up with “us” and “them”. SSDD, or as you put it, same old fundamentalism, shiny new box.
    Merry Miners!!! Carmen, I love it! Walt, you are right, we are to be love and light in this world, that’s so well put.

    Some time ago I read an essay about being married to the truth that God Is Love. Not just dating it, not just flirting with it, but making a permanent commitment to it. When I look at the Bible, at life, at my fellow humans, at nature — through God-is-love-colored glasses, it changes everything. God’s nature is love, it is who he is. He can’t do anything apart from love. I think Jesus taking on an earth suit, dying and rising was part of a love conspiracy he had with his Father to open the way for us, to tear down the walls. I don’t need to remind myself constantly what a worm I am, how dreadfully sinful and wretched, in order to appreciate God’s love.

    Ginger brought up the marriage relationship and that’s a metaphor that keeps showing up throughout the Bible, the bride and her husband. We’re the bride (even if you’re a guy) who’s being courted and drawn to Love himself. And if we are the bride, if our groom has written us on the palms of his hands and done so much to drawn us in, why would he want to cast us away? Just because we refuse to say the right words? when he knows what our hearts mean to say? Why would the God of the Bible keep referring to our relationship with him as a marriage, if he didn’t mean it mean HE was committed to US? If God has spent ages loving humanity, caring for his creation, why would he bring us this far just to shove us off the table? I think fundamentalists make God too small, tame him to their specifications, put him in a box, and then try to get everybody else to do the same. Well, I refuse to worship a false god.

    Now I realize I’m coming from a perspective that’s different from Merrill’s, Frank’s, Carmen’s, Dave’s, others’. So I want to say clearly, in the words of Dennis Miller when he was still a comedian: “That’s my opinion, I could be wrong.”

  17. Thanks, Lac, for reminding us how fortunate we are in this world today to be in this lively discussion on religion—all the bells of freedom ringing a different note/tone—-but don’t they sound great together. MET

  18. homewithin, I am right there with you that fundamentalists put God in too small a box. I don’t necessarily understand the box He IS in, but I know that I am best off if I let Him worry about it. Not me. Sometimes I think that when I do start to worry about it, that is when wrongness (i.e. that word we all hate), sin, comes into it.

    I agree with you on the marriage metaphor, very much so. You and Ginger have really put it beautifully. The only thing I would say is this….and I’ve been married 37 years….sometimes, I, as a spouse, can be REALLY, REALLY nasty. I can be vindictive, ugly and because I know my husband better than anyone, I know how to hurt him the most. So, even in a marriage, there can be problems.

    What I am making here is a corollary to how I think we humans sometimes appear and to what I see as the ‘sin’ that separates us from God. God does NOT leave us. WE leave God. And some times we require help getting back into that relationship with Him that IS the perfect reflection of love.

    My head is so tired from thinking of all this – original sin….the implications of the theology espoused by Pastor Jason….the basis of my own theology, which has certainly been brought to the front of my mind during this whole ‘Corinna’ experience….how I feel about all of you whom I now count as friends……

    I am going to take a HOLIDAY. And there couldn’t be a better one than the 4th. I give you all my best wishes and my thoughts and prayers. And I will talk to you tomorrow.

    Much love, mine and Christ’s!
    Patti

  19. Have a carefree and wondrous holiday, Patti! My husband and I are going hiking in the woods to celebrate. Hope whatever any of you do, you do it with a whole heart.

  20. It’s a lovely southern California morning. The bird songs are echoing from one hillside to the other. I love to look out at the palm trees, the agapanthus and the lemon lilies and roses. My doors are open and there’s a soft cool morning breeze whispering in as I stretch out in my big living room chair which goes almost all the way back. I close my eyes and listen to the silence. Loving my country and loving humanity and knowing that that soft inner glow is simply God letting me be. Life is good……and getting better. Happy 4th.

  21. Amen to those who are thankful we live in the USA on thus beautiful 4th. (Although, Frank I must confess I turned on the A/C about an hour ago)!Tonight we’re spending time with friends from church who own a house on a hill so we’ll have a great view of several fireworks displays, and remember how thankful we should be. Life is wonderful indeed!

  22. I have attempted to reply to several individual comments. I apologize if anyone asked for a direct reply that I did not make and I did try and respect the wishes of those who specifically said that they did not desire a reply.

    As I read through some of the comments I cannot get over how angry some have become with me, or church, or God, or Christianity in general. I am sorrowful over that because the reality is that most of you, particularly those who have mentioned that they have stopped going to church and such, have likely encountered a brand of Christianity that would be foreign to the true exposition of Scripture.

    There are many false gospels being preached out there that are branded as Christianity. There are also many so called Christians who act no differently than the world system they preach against. That is hypocrisy. I am sure, no I am certain, that I too have been guilty of being a hypocrite at more times in my life than I care to think about. I am even more certain that there have been times among those where my hypocrisy has caused great damage to the Christ I serve. I am an unworthy servant. If any of my remarks here or replies have come off as unloving, I apologize.

    I hope that you all had a great time celebrating the 4th with your families! Assuming that everyone here is in America and recognizes this wonderful holiday! I am thankful for those who have fought and died so that we have this freedom to come even online and discuss our varying ideas.

    I think that someone suggested that I should not claim to be sure of what I believe. But you are claiming the same thing… You are claiming to be sure about being unsure… we hold the same strength of conviction… just with differing worldviews. If I were not sure about what I believe I wouldn’t bother debating them.

    I did want to make an offer. If anyone would like a copy of the DVD that I sent Corinna I would be happy to send one to you as well. You can watch with the intent to debunk or just so that you have a better frame of reference for the exact material she is referring to. Your reasons for watching are of course your business. If you are interested however, please let me know, I would be happy to send you one.

  23. Good morning all. I hope your Fourth was as happily spent as ours, and that it was a day of rest for all.

    Pastor Jason, thank you for your offer, and you have a point that it is always good to have a frame of reference. I think that because most of the people I have encountered on this blog are very, very well educated in theology, they have a pretty substantial concept of your material already. If you are connected in any way with the LaHaye “Left Behind’ movement, also called Premillennial dispensationalism, you will find that many of Christians on this site do not subscribe to it, though I do not presume to speak for all of them or any non-Christians. Since I am tolerably familiar with the discussion, I respectfully decline your offer.

    But I thank you also for being willing to discuss, even if it is uncomfortable. Doing that is a huge part of what this blog is all about. Many of us disagree. We must all continue to attempt to do so in a civil and caring manner.

    Yours in Christ,

  24. Good Morning All, and to Pastor Jason as well..

    Thanks you for taking the time to reply to so many of us. I think Patti did an excellent job of explaining how most of us approach the ideas shared on this blog. I’m on my way out the door, but I do have a question for Pastor Jason: Did Gandhi go to Heaven? Will the Jewish godmother to my son, who has sworn to bring him up according to our Christian faith?

    • Hi Tim,
      I know you asked for Pastor Jason’s input on this one, but I thought that I would put my 2 cents worth in on this one. Only God knows a person’s heart. It is not for any of us to say who will or will not be in Heaven. (thank goodness that doesn’t rest on our shoulders!) If anyone confesses the name of Jesus and believes that He died and rose again, they will be saved (Romans 10:9-10) I’m sure we will be surprised at some of the people who are in Heaven because our Salvation is not based on works. Even the thief on the cross believed and was told by Jesus that today he would be with Him in paradise (Luke 23:42-43). He didn’t have time to do good works or even get baptized. What mattered was that he believed.

      • I agree with Jo. Be it Ghandi or anyone else. If they turn from sin and trust Christ the Bible promises they will be saved. If they do not, the Bible is clear that they won’t be no matter what their works on earth were. I’m not otherwise able to say who is in and who is out. I don’t know people’s hearts…

        • Just for clarification, you’re saying that no matter what good things people do, they cannot get to Heaven (according to your Bible) if they haven’t confessed. So does that mean that people like the Castro fellow in the news of late will probably go to Heaven if he just confesses to his sins??? Very illuminating!

          • Hi Carmen,
            John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” My interpretation of “whosoever” means anyone. It doesn’t say whosoever….except murderers, thieves, etc. Again, thank goodness I’m not the judge!

            Here’s something to think about. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” So, say if I have hatred in my heart towards another person, is that any less of a sin in God’s eyes as if someone actually murders someone? My answer is “no” because sin is sin in God’s eyes. Now there are obviously different consequences here on earth for different “degrees” of sin. However, the consequences with God are the same. Rom. 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In His great love and mercy He has provided a way out for us. Do I understand all this or even think that it is fair? No, but I do know that the Bible says that God is just and that is what I can rest in.

            • Jo, see what I mean about you being a wonderful person? You’re even willing to extend an olive branch to the “heathen”! . . smile. .
              Believe it or not, John 3:16 is the ONLY Bible verse I know – well, besides “Jesus wept.” Know why? I was ‘brought up’ in the Baptist church. (Mum was in the choir and we kids would line up in a pew. If we started to fidget or she thought we weren’t paying attention, we’d get the frown and the pointed index finger). We had to memorize verses every week (when I got to be about 10) and that’s the one that has stuck in my head ever since.
              We could argue the rest of this evening about ‘degrees of sin’ – again, I think of this as making mistakes, typical human folly – but the idea of getting up in the morning, convinced that you are going to sin is not (in my mind) a positive way to start the day. I suggest a latte (something I’ve never had – I know, culturally deprived or what?. . ) and a hug.
              Cheers!

  25. Pastor Jason says, “The Bible says that it is those who repent and trust in Christ that will be saved. If you disagree with that then you disagree with Scripture, not my opinions.”

    No, I don’t disagree with Scripture. I disagree with YOUR INTERPRETATION of Scripture.

    and “It isn’t ‘my way or the highway’, it is God’s way and none else.” No, it’s YOUR INTERPRETATION of God’s way.

    Earlier you argued with Dave that he didn’t have all available knowledge, and therefore couldn’t definitively say that there was no God. That makes sense to me. It seems to me to also make sense that you don’t have all available knowledge, so you can’t definitively say there is a God or that he is who you say he is. But you say, “To make the claim that God does exist I merely have to have found proof enough to believe it. I have. Through His Word He has revealed Himself in a knowable way.” Back to the Word again–no, not the Word– your interpretation of the Word.

    Let me try to give an example. Let’s say you interpret Genesis 1:28, where God tells the first two humans to “have dominion” over the other living creatures, to mean that humans are to use plants, animals and natural resources for whatever ends they please. And let’s say I interpret it to mean that humans are to protect and steward the other creatures and resources. Now, your interpretation may have been influenced by the fact that your family for generations have been hunters, or coal miners. And my interpretation may have been influenced by the fact that my family has been gardeners and biologists. However we’ve acquired our filters, you have found “proof” for your actions and I have found “proof” for mine. Who’s right and who’s wrong? Who says?

    “Proof enough to believe it” — that’s all any of us have found to come up with our own set of beliefs. I’m glad that you, Pastor Jason, have found your proof. Many of us here have not found the same proof you have, but are our beliefs less valid, less true than yours? If any of us have found proof in sources other than the Bible, are our beliefs less valid than yours?

    This is, I think, the biggest reason I disagree with Pastor Jason: his adamant stance that his interpretation is true, and my interpretation (or any of ours) is false. I know I come to my beliefs through all the experiences and teachings and filters of a lifetime, as I think all people do. There is no human who can say, “All my beliefs are correct, and I completely understand God.” I’m not saying Pastor Jason’s beliefs are wrong, not at all. I’m advocating a respect for the beliefs of others, an openness and willingness to learn from them and to find common ground, and a kindness that is not condescension.

    Shelley

    • I am firm in my belief as you are firm in yours. Your belief is not invalid because it is different than mine, but one of us is wrong and one is right or we are both wrong, but we can’t both be right. That’s subjective truth and there is no such thing.

    • Shelley said:

      “Earlier you argued with Dave that he didn’t have all available knowledge, and therefore couldn’t definitively say that there was no God. That makes sense to me. It seems to me to also make sense that you don’t have all available knowledge, so you can’t definitively say there is a God or that he is who you say he is. But you say, “To make the claim that God does exist I merely have to have found proof enough to believe it. I have. Through His Word He has revealed Himself in a knowable way.” Back to the Word again–no, not the Word– your interpretation of the Word.”

      I guess PJ’s projecting his own venom against me (it’s called an ad hominem, PJ) and is taking his ball and going home, but you (Shelley) are bringing up a point I wanted to mention.

      PJ engages in much effort to claim how imperfect men are unable to guide their own footsteps due to their inherently flawed moral compass, as if we should all trust God.

      The fly in the ointment is that the argument overlooks that people have to USE their flawed moral compass in order to DECIDE to “let go and let God”, and rely on his “perfect Word” in order to decide he’s worthy of their trust to allow Him to make their decisions for them!

      So it’s a self-defeating approach, since how can those who accept the premise of a faulty compass decide that God is in fact deserving of such trust, when they’ve just ADMITTED they’re unable to make proper decisions on their own?

      That is basically another example of the paradox of Adam and Eve: how did Eve know it was wrong to disobey God, when she lacked the wisdom to recognize it WAS wrong? Note the account says Eve’s eyes were opened only AFTER they ate of the fruit, which is a common element found in many ancient Greek tragedies: “anagnorisis”, the tragic recognition or insight that the protagonist really screwed up this time, but that insight only occurs AFTER it’s too late to do anything about it (think of an “I could’ve had a V-8!” moment).

      And as Shelley said, the Bible is nebulous enough to require exercising judgment to discern if one’s interpretation is what was actually meant: therefore, we are at the same result, where everyone is using their OWN moral compass to arrive at decisions on their actions, a situation that smells suspiciously more like moral relativity than absolute.

      The ONLY way we’d have anything different would be if the Bible were so clearly-worded in such a concrete manner that there’s NO subtlety, NO ROOM for misinterpretation, no room for creative ‘stretching’. But then you’re up against the other issue that if compliance with its mandates were obligatory, “or else you go to Hell”, then we’ve obliterated any possible pretenses of “free will” and instead we’re into the realm of having only “freedom of choice” (which connotes that people have the freedom not to comply, but will face the consequences of their choice), where the “free will” domain has been reduced to an empty set.

      Dave

  26. Corinna,
    As manager of the On None Starbucks (see Walt’s comment way back!), I wish that you would invite Pastor Jason to leave the store. He is going from table to table and is offending and agitating your long time customers.
    Merrill

    • Patti…Apparently that has been our problem……believing there are filters. Jeesh. Be quiet, and PastorJ will tell you how to get to heaven. Period. End of story. LOL MET

  27. Merrill….will you not hit me if I ask that Pastor Jason can stay? I have said this privately and I will say it publicly, now…..what he says, in bare bones, is not that different from what I believe. Would you ask me to leave the table? Some of what Dave says deeply offends me (sorry Dave, lol), but he has the right to say it.

    I’m not trying to cause problems, just comment on my personal take on things. I am sorry that his presence is causing you discomfort, and you know I love you.

    Yours in Christ

    • Yeah, if PJ wants to stay, I say the more, the merrier: I’m a BIG supporter of free speech, and don’t shy away from engaging in discussions which MAY offend others as then you’re censoring on the basis of protecting someone’s fragile peelings, which places them in control. It’s a big internetz: it’s insincere to seek out discussions, but then complaining with your fragile ego gets bruised by the mean bullies who use assault you with (gasp!) logic.

      However, the assumption of ANY discussion is that people need to come to the discusion with an open mind, and at least be WILLING to engage in the discussion to recognize the valid arguments of another, with the intellectual honesty to not just SPEAK (AKA preach), but to LISTEN, and then RESPOND to what the other person says. That’s the FORM of a discussion: give and take.

      BTW, PJ dismissed ALL of my points without explanation, so that’s NOT a good sign pointing towards a willingness to engage in this conversation in “good faith” (oh, the irony of THAT statement!). That’s NOT going to work, but the decision is up to him and Corinna.

      And no offense Patti, but you’ve said NOTHING that I find offensive, as you’ve not really offered anything other than devotional feel-good sentiments, etc. I can’t really say anything to that, since it’s not an actual claim, or offering evidence, but just you stating the conclusion you came to with any explanation of HOW you came to it. Hence I don’t bother disagreeing with what you’ve posted, since I don’t have any reason to doubt that it’s NOT your conclusion. (And to his credit, PJ at least has attempted to offer HIS explanation for why he believes what he does, at least until the point where he decided to beat a hasty retreat).

      BTW, Patti, in your latest post you speak about whether I or anyone else can PROVE their beliefs, and act as if we’re all on equal ground here. That’s a common fallacy held by believers, since in the real-world we know that ABSOLUTES often don’t exist, hence why the ‘language’ of science relies on probabilities and statistics, NOT absolutes. The ones who offer the comfort of absolutist thinking are often religionists, where people claim they KNOW without DOUBT that which is entirely based on FAITH (defined in Hebrews as a total and complete lack of evidence which is based on HOPE, and unseen evidence).

      ‘Unseen evidence’ is an example of how words can be assembled in a manner that obeys the rules of grammar and syntax, but it doesn’t mean that it makes any logical sense. ALL evidence MUST be presented in court so it’s available to be challenged and cross-examined by the other side. A lawyer would be laughed out of court if he tried to present imaginary evidence to defend his client, and the other side couldn’t challenge it. Note that Paul was the one offering another imaginary mental construct to protect ANOTHER mental construct.

      So don’t conflate my DISBELIEF in God with the claim a BELIEF in God: the odds of the existence of God is NOT 50:50, as if it’s a coin-toss.

      As far as absolutes, you’re demanding of certainty that doesn’t even exist in the real World, eg juries acquit or convict based on preponderance of evidence or reasonable doubt; the judge doesn’t demand the jury absolutely KNOW their verdict is correct: that would be IMPOSSIBLE GOAL to obtain, as real life is NOT like proving a math theorem, where the word “proof” means the equation results in a harmonious agreement and agrees with other theorems. Real-life doesn’t offer the opportunity for certainty that is offered (if not demanded) with mental constructs like math and religion.

      I’ve presented a number of pieces of evidence pointing towards the Bible being an uninspired work of mortals, so you’re likely unwilling to examine evidence that dares to disprove what you WANT to believe, and only looking at that which supports it, even if it’s fabricated (AKA cherry-picking evidence). There’s no words I can offer, or evidence I can present, that will penetrate the mind of those who’ve already come to THEIR conclusion, and will believe ONLY that evidence which confirms what they WANT to believe.

      Dave

        • Dave, I’m curious, and please try to answer without resorting to YELLING….

          You’ve said several of us were bigoted or ignorant for stating our beliefs. Now you say Patti is just offering devotional feel-good sentiments, and others are just self-censoring to avoid offending others, so we’re not defending our beliefs. To use one of your favorite phrases, you can’t have it both ways. If we’re doing one, we can’t be doing the other. Do you think, perhaps, we are trying to avoid offending others out of simple respect for differing opinions? Just asking…

          And by the way, 90% of what you write is refutation of what others say or believe. Can you tell us, in a positive and affirmative way, what you believe in? In your worldview, why should we treat each other decently and compassionately? I’d be interested in hearing your views. Thanks

          • “Dave, I’m curious, and please try to answer without resorting to YELLING….”

            Uh, Tim, I assure you I’m not yelling, as much as you may accuse me of doing so (I’m not screeching, ranting, etc). I may put a word in all caps in an attempt to stress a certain word, BUT YOU’D BE UNABLE TO FIND A CASE WHERE DAVE USES ALL CAPS IN THIS MANNER, SINCE HE KNOWS THAT ON THE INTERNETZ IT’S THE WAY PEOPLE INDICATE THAT THEY’RE YELLING (AS IS USING MULTIPLE EXCLAMATION POINTS)!!!!! I don’t do that.

            Tim said:

            “You’ve said several of us were bigoted or ignorant for stating our beliefs. Now you say Patti is just offering devotional feel-good sentiments, and others are just self-censoring to avoid offending others, so we’re not defending our beliefs. To use one of your favorite phrases, you can’t have it both ways. If we’re doing one, we can’t be doing the other. Do you think, perhaps, we are trying to avoid offending others out of simple respect for differing opinions? Just asking…”

            Read again and you’ll see what I SAID was that Patti doesn’t typically share more than “amen” comments, which is fine, it’s just that there’s not a lot of “meat” on dem’ bones on which to chew. I fully understand that in forums, some people like to comment to say “I agree!” or “I disagree!”, without bothering to explain WHY they feel the way they do, as if they’re simply voting on YouTube videos (thumbs up/down). That’s fine, but it’s not helpful to encouraging discussion, which is needed to get a complete airing of an issue.

            ‘Avoiding offense’ is another way of saying ‘engaging in political correctness’ IMO, and it’s about as boring as you can get when people are not willing to stand up for their beliefs. Early Christians like Paul and Peter were martyred for their beliefs, or died in an arena by being eaten by lions, but some are afraid of boo-booing another commenter’s peelings? M’kay…. I say people need to gird their loins for battle, and be willing to present a sound logical argument, as Paul tried to do when standing in the market of Athens.

            And I’ve NEVER said that anyone was ignorant for STATING their beliefs; the problem is many people are unable to dissociate the ideas they express from themselves, and hence they react as if ANY challenge to the beliefs they hold IS a personal attack. That’s the problem with engaging in an debate with those who’ve never done it in college, etc or without moderation; people just don’t know the art of debating, so most on-line discussions become like no-holds-barred WWF where people get upset.

            And YES, since there’s many individuals participating, it’s hard to paint with such broad strokes as saying, “you can’t have it both ways”; all individuals stand on their own feet, so what applies to Patti doesn’t necessary apply to Tim or PJ or Walt or Chuck, etc.

            “And by the way, 90% of what you write is refutation of what others say or believe. Can you tell us, in a positive and affirmative way, what you believe in? In your worldview, why should we treat each other decently and compassionately? I’d be interested in hearing your views. Thanks”

            I wish I didn’t HAVE to refute as much, since the fact is I believe that ALL of us, believers or not, are using our OWN moral compasses, faulty or not, in which to make moral decisions. ALL of US do.

            Some like to hide behind the apron of an imaginary being, as if that gives them the power to say things to others that they wouldn’t say otherwise, or use an excuse (eg, “Well, it’s not ME saying do such and such, it’s God’s word”). That kind of thing is logic is called an “appeal to authority”, except it’s not the garden-variety fallacy: it’s the BIGGEST appeal of authority possible, since it’s an “appeal to the Divine Authority”, some God. It’s an attempt to win arguments, saying God wants you to do such-and-such, but the problem is, it’s flawed argument.

            My point is that we ARE alone, there is NO God who’ll save us from the threats and challenges we actually DO face, and all of the time and energy wasted on discussing Gods and beliefs is, while quite fun and entertaining, ultimately a colossal and narcissistic waste of energy, focusing on OUR wants and needs, not actual problems.

            Dave

            • This has nothing to do with the above post but I just thought I’d toss in that I love Dove chocolate also. But in preference on that I’m a universalist. Dark or milk. I live them both!

              • I suppose if pushed, I’d have to reaffirm my propensity for diversity and vote for Reeses peanut butter and chocolate cups!

            • Thank you for the reply, Dave. Obviously you and I will not agree on this issue, nor is agreement necessary. But you only answered half the question. I asked you what the basis of your objective measure of treating people decently is. You seemed to have slipped back into telling us why you don’t believe in God, which is fine, but not what I asked. How do you define good versus bad, or acceptable versus unacceptable, moral behavior. Is it based on a certain philosophic approach (e.g. Kant to Rousseau)? I’m assuming it isn’t merely your personal definition, because then we’d all be free to define “proper” behavior for ourselves with no regard for its effect on others. Regardless of whether or not you believe in a higher being, most of us seem to be able to define some objective standards, external of their own personal definition. That’s where I was going with my question.

              • By the way, Dave, the my reply above should be taken to suggest atheists cannot live objectively moral lives. Like I said, most people I know, across the spiritual spectrum, can point to some influence or influences that formed their moral foundation. I’d just like to know what yours are.

              • Hi Tim,

                “I asked you what the basis of your objective measure of treating people decently is. You seemed to have slipped back into telling us why you don’t believe in God, which is fine, but not what I asked. How do you define good versus bad, or acceptable versus unacceptable, moral behavior. Is it based on a certain philosophic approach (e.g. Kant to Rousseau)? I’m assuming it isn’t merely your personal definition, because then we’d all be free to define “proper” behavior for ourselves with no regard for its effect on others. Regardless of whether or not you believe in a higher being, most of us seem to be able to define some objective standards, external of their own personal definition. That’s where I was going with my question.”

                Just realize that your question is loaded with questionable assumptions, since eg all humans define “decently” quite differently, depending on their culture, eg a husband beating his wife is seen as an not just “decent”, but as an expression of love for his wife in many African countries in 2013; the wife will even feel unloved if she’s NOT beaten (“he doesn’t love me!”). The attitude is quite different in the United States, where most states have domestic abuse laws.

                Also, you assume that morality exists as an absolute, when there’s absolutely NO evidence for that claim, and TONS of evidence to suggest that morality IS relative (as my example above points out). That’s what I was referring to when I pointed out the fantasy of engaging in absolutist thinking: it creates false expectations of some perfect answer existing, if ONLY everyone would accept it. Unfortunately, that answer is simply not the case.

                (Which is a good thing, in MY book: if the OT is a book of absolute morality which endorses genocide of enemies, slavery, mass-extinction events (Flood? Armageddon?), dashing the babies of one’s enemies on rocks in blind rage and retaliation, misogyny, etc. then I really don’t want to meet the amoral guys!)

                You asked about my view, which is based on the observation that broadly speaking, homo sapiens are a highly-social species, where cooperation amongst members has been one of the components that has contributed to our success. We live under a system of laws which are modifiable for the needs of the greater good of group, and as we see in the U.S., an activity that is considered legal in one state (eg smoking pot) is not legal in another. Even that’s an example of how morality (where laws are based on community standards) is relative, since laws are. It’s a beautiful thing, where people are able to modify laws based on local needs.

                Part of being a social creature is that individuals need to possess social skills to succeed individually for the overall benefit of group, since as most people here SHOULD know by now, people don’t succeed as individuals without having other people around them who WANT them to succeed (inheritance and trust-fund kids like Paris Hilton: don’t worry, this rule doesn’t apply to you). It’s often the social/work/family networking that matters, the connections that you have and/or make. It doesn’t matter WHAT career you’re in, whether a rock musician or a scientist: if you’re not a good “hang” (a pleasant personality to be around who is kind, considerate of the feelings of others) then you’ve got to be incredibly talented/freakishly genius-like to succeed (eg individuals dealing with aspbergers often have to WORK at social skills that come rather easily to others). It really boils down to the old “all I needed to know I learned in kindergarten” truism, and remembering one’s basic manners.

                The cold clinical “textbook” way to describe altruistic (selfless) acts is to say that altruism has a survival benefit to the group overall, where these acts are rewarded and/or held out as exemplary which results in perpetuation of the meme and/or survival of those individuals most likely to display the trait. It’s definitely a “team-building” scenario, where individual members may not survive by throwing themselves on a hand grenade to save their squad, but the team carries on and the IDEA persists: hence why it’s given the highest honor in the military.

                The funny thing is, the difficulty or challenge of instilling morality in children is WAY overblown: raise kids to have a shred of compassion for their fellow humans, be empathetic of others, all without casting it in a fear-based threat of an eternal life spent in Hell if they don’t. The PROBLEM is that it’s a bluff: there is no Hell, and since a child has been raised in an authoritarian manner (following orders), they often go off the deep-end once they “lose their religion”. It’s quite like opening a can of soda that’s been shaken, and people freak out when they’re suddenly forced to make even basic moral decisions under their own steam. Frank knows what I’m talking about, as he’s worked with ex-JWs: they’ve been morally-handicapped their entire lives by having their morality spoon-fed to them, and hence they often question the entire basis of their morality since they’ve never thought about it before (esp if young adults).

                Here’s an interesting show on atheist parenting, from the show “Atheist Experience”:

                I know that most churches are told from the pulpit that all atheists are anarchists who believe in “survival of the fittest” (which is utter nonsense, BTW, even when it’s expressed in the correct but less-dramatic form (“survival of those who actually survive”, where sometimes ALL organisms will survive and proliferate, even the unfit ones, if the environmental challenge is set low enough; sometimes ALL will die, even the “fittest”, if the bar is set too high, eg ALL dinosaurs were wiped out by the Yucatan meteor strike). The idea is that atheists are cold-hearted amoral individuals, which is more likely a case of projection.

                I keep it pretty simple: as Aldous Huxley (author of dystopian ‘Brave New World’ and ‘1984’) said on his deathbed, “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’

                That, in a nutshell, is as complicated as it gets with me. Simply because words can be formed into a grammatically-correct sentence and stated in the form of a question does NOT mean that the impersonal Universe OWES us an answer or that there even IS a Universally-applicable answer. And that misbelief has been the entire basis of man’s attempts to claims of KNOWING the answer to such questions.

                Point is, there’s lessons to be learned from ALL cultures, even those that have totally FUBAR (eg Nazi justification of genocide of Jews, based on centuries of hatred by Christianity fueled by the old blood libel myth which Martin Luther helped perpetuate, centuries before). If Judaism had only accepted older Vedic beliefs from the Indus Valley, we wouldn’t see a Jewish sacrificial system based on YHWH’s giving animal blood to atone for human sins; rather, we’d see people who have the highest respect for animals, a principle found in Mahabharata where the protagonist (Yudhishthira) refuses to enter Heaven if it means abandoning the loyal stray dog who’d accompanied him during his journey. Of course, Yudhishthira was rewarded his having respect for ALL life: compare that to an angry judgmental God YHWH who wipes out ALL animals AND humans in a Flood. I’ll take Yudhishthira as my role model over Jesus, any day; Jesus used parables of beating slaves to death in such an off-handed manner that it was clear that he didn’t disapprove of slavery.

                As is often stated, it’s not so much the destination, but the JOURNEY that matters, and many people stop searching after having been told they found “The Truth”: why ask questions if they’ve already found it? Instead, they focus on digging a deep trench of delusion and hunker down inside to protect their “truth”, even seeing it as demonic attacks against their faith….

                Just this morning, I helped a guy who hit a curb and crushed his wheel, busting the suspension underneath. I saw it happen, and there’s always that temptation to just keep on driving, but there’s a stronger instinct to want to help someone who’s in a tight spot, since the idea is that you’d want someone to do the same for you if YOU were in that situation. Call it Karma, principle of reciprocity, social contract, etc. It existed long before Jesus, and it’s just common sense.

                My having that basic instinct is what drove me to become a health-care provider, having respect for those who studied and sacrificed years out of their lives to be in a position to actually help (rather than simply praying and faith-healing by laying hands on the sick). So I helped him get his car out of the way (we had to tie a rope to my hitch and drag his car to a parking lot nearby, as the wheel sheared off), let him use my cell phone to call family, etc. I didn’t need the hope of being rewarded by a God in Heaven to get me to do the “right” thing (and if anything, people who help others with that idea in the back of their minds undermine the value of what they do since they’re using it to score Brownie points with the guy upstairs, so it’s self-serving).

                I’m not saying this to brag, just to point out that being an atheist doesn’t automatically mean becoming a self-centered arse; that’s the claim that’s often MADE by preachers on the pulpit who need a congregation full of worshipers ($$) to pay their salaries, and of course the Bible provides ammunition to justify hatred and derision of atheists (“the fool in their heart says there is no God”).

                There’s an old truism, “the hardest belief for a man to accept is one that threatens his very career”. So true. Selling religiosity to others has become not just a cottage industry, but a HUGE tax-exempt business.

                • Thank you for stating what you do believe. I can’t agree with you, but I appreciate that you stated it clearly and took the time to reply to Tim.

                • Good Morning, Dave

                  Sorry for not replying sooner—its been a busy weekend. Thank you for your explanation. I’d like to address one point you made in your reply. You said “most churches teach from the pulpit that atheists are anarchists…” . That may or may not be true, since I don’t attend most churches. I can only speak from personal experience. First, our Episcopal priest (now retired) used to discuss an atheist friend fairly often during his sermons. They’d been friends for many years—since college. Rather than saying , “here’s what’s wrong with being an atheist”, he called his friend one of the most godly men he knew, at least in terms of his compassion towards others and his general philosophy. As for me personally, I’ve never viewed atheists as somehow ”broken”. For one thing, I try not to judge any individual by the group he may belong to. It’s a free country, after all. As I said in an earlier post, perhaps atheists tend to be active in social justice issues because they’re unfettered by the limitations of religious denominations, and they can relate to others simply as humans.

                  I’m sure you’ve run across more than your share of Christians who feel a need to “fix” you spiritually. Those of us who are Christians have been trying to “fix” each other at least since the Reformation. As I said many times before, I don’t presume to know the mind of God and how He works.

                  And just so you don’t think I’m descending into smarmy feel-good fuzziness, I still don’t agree with atheism in general, and with you specifically on many issues. I believe in God just as strongly as you don’t. We will never change each other’s minds, so I think we owe it to each other to explain our differing views as clearly and confidently as possible, and let our thoughts land where they will. It is indeed a fee country, and our views of one another should not be colored by where we are on a given Sunday morning. Its what we do the other six days of the week that really count.

                  • Hi Tim,

                    “First, our Episcopal priest (now retired) used to discuss an atheist friend fairly often during his sermons. They’d been friends for many years—since college. Rather than saying , “here’s what’s wrong with being an atheist”, he called his friend one of the most godly men he knew, at least in terms of his compassion towards others and his general philosophy.”

                    So your priest actually said, “some of my best friends are atheists”? What a tolerant guy!! I think Paula Deen said she had many black friends, too: isn’t that kinda the same dynamic on display, only using a slightly-modified version of the same cliche’? It’s like telling a minority they’re “a credit to their race”: such statements reveal the person who says it harbors racist thinking deep-down, whether they admit and/or realize it themselves.

                    In the case of Christian’s biases against atheists, it’s not hard to figure out the source: the Bible ITSELF contains screeds and rants against atheists (remember scriptures like, “the fool in their heart says there is no God”? The Bible CALLS atheists “fools”, hence God thinks atheists ARE fools, and condemned for denying His existence). Try as much as you like, you cannot will away the questionable and angry statements in the Bible, overlooking them as if they don’t exist: that’s cherry-picking, which ironically is the same thing Xians accuse others of when they protest in a knee-jerk manner with, “But you took that scripture out of context!”.

                    And then an atheist points out the true ugly sentiments found inside “God’s Word”, THEY’RE accused of being angry (as witnessed in this very thread), when the Bible itself contains much evidence of having been written by individuals with truly dark souls filled with venom (unless dashing the infants of one’s enemies onto rocks to die of massive brain injuries seems loving of one’s fellow man. It’s excused as “merciful”).

                    “As for me personally, I’ve never viewed atheists as somehow ”broken”. For one thing, I try not to judge any individual by the group he may belong to.”

                    You probably know this, but atheism isn’t a GROUP: it’s a belief where there’s no group you MUST join. It’s NOT a religion, either, just as science is not a religion (as much as theists claim it is). Just saying, your biases are on display, likely unintentionally (as most biases ARE hidden from those who hold them).

                    “It’s a free country, after all. As I said in an earlier post, perhaps atheists tend to be active in social justice issues because they’re unfettered by the limitations of religious denominations, and they can relate to others simply as humans.”

                    The funny thing is those Christians who are more accepting of other beliefs have just as much scriptural justifications for THEIR beliefs as the more-conservative hard-liners (such as PJ or JWs) do. Why? The Bible shot-guns theology, and users are free to cheery-pick what scriptures they want to use to justify their beliefs, as if it’s a spiritual smorgasborg.

                    Jesus said there’d be false prophets, many would seek entry into Heaven but few would achieve entry, and individuals needs to be selective of what they believe since the Devil would mislead by presenting himself as an angel of Light. On the other hand, unitarians focus on the more-nonjudgmental passages, and ignore the unmistakeable death threats and Mafioso ultimatums found in Sodom and Gomorrah and the Flood (“do what I say, or else”).

                    The situation is quite like the three blind men who touch a different aspect of an elephant, and one declares it to be a tree (touching its leg), one says it a snake (touching its trunk), another says it’s a palm leaf (touches its ear). But instead of being a single organism, the Bible contains enough elasticity to be able to stretch it to support ANY desired interpretation and no one can say boo, since that’s being ‘judgmental’ (a violation of contemporary liberal social norms, which most people respect).

                    Jesus refused to throw the first stone at the adulteress (unitarians love this to show Jesus’ forgiving nature), but he also overturned the tables of moneychangers at some point in his ministry (either at the beginning or ending, depending on who’s Gospel you believe): the judgmental types love this one, since it shows Jesus kicking booty and taking names, “cleaning up his Father’s house”. You’ve got the same plasticity found in the aphorisms of Aesop’s Fables, which offers BOTH “he who hesitates is lost” and “look before you leap”. Both are contradictory, and knowing WHICH applies to YOUR situation requires exercising YOUR free-moral agency so you’re STILL on your own….

                    “I’m sure you’ve run across more than your share of Christians who feel a need to “fix” you spiritually. Those of us who are Christians have been trying to “fix” each other at least since the Reformation. As I said many times before, I don’t presume to know the mind of God and how He works.”

                    Heh, I just read a comment where you claimed to KNOW God’s rules, eg just today:

                    “God wants the same thing for all of us, to “gather all nations to Him”.

                    AND

                    ‘There are no complicated rules, NO transaction; just faith and the fact God knows our hearts.’

                    Now, not to pick on you, but those are example of KNOWLEDGE claims, where you claim to KNOW something about God’s thinking, which contradicts what you’re said above about not knowing his mind/methods. Granted, some people just don’t feel the need to be consistent in their statements, but it’s generally considered a desirable trait to possess.

                    “And just so you don’t think I’m descending into smarmy feel-good fuzziness, I still don’t agree with atheism in general, and with you specifically on many issues.”

                    Well, everyone is free to have their opinions, however outrageous and unfounded or contrary to available evidence their beliefs may be. As an extreme example, there’s many people who GENUINELY believe the Earth is flat (Flat Earth Society), in spite of the fact that astronauts have taken pictures, satellites depend on a spherical shape to orbit, etc. Untangling their delusional beliefs requires re-examining the evidence that apparently they’re misreading.

                    But as for you, is there any SPECIFIC EXAMPLE of what I’ve presented that you disagree with? See, it’s overly-broad to say you don’t agree with me on issues without stating WHICH issues: maybe you misunderstood the claim I made and/or evidence, etc.

                    My stating I’m an atheist is pointless, as it’s a CONCLUSION: I wouldn’t expect you to accept MY conclusion anymore than I’d accept YOUR conclusion based on your simply asserting it’s YOUR belief (and hence an appeal to personal authority, saying I should believe your way, since YOU say so). That rarely works, nor should it: I don’t want people to take MY word for it, but to do the hard work themselves of researching the issues, etc. Instead, we need to present the evidence that led us to arrive at our respective conclusions.

                    “I believe in God just as strongly as you don’t. We will never change each other’s minds, so I think we owe it to each other to explain our differing views as clearly and confidently as possible, and let our thoughts land where they will”

                    I suspect the difference between you and I is I’m approaching the dialogue with an open mind: I COULD be convinced to become a theist by seeing even a shred of evidence that indicates God exists. That’s the only mandate of rationalism: seeking the TRUTH. I’d be violating that principle by refusing to examine potential evidence.

                    But just as a thought experiment, what theoretical or potential evidence could be presented to convince you that God does NOT exist?

                    Would evidence of fraud in the NT convince you, or perhaps clear evidence of uninspired authorship of the Torah? WHAT potentially could convince you?

                    I find it an interesting question to ask believers, as MOST have never even stopped to consider the question: the more honest ones will admit that there’s NO EVIDENCE that could convince them God isn’t real, since they BELIEVE in their hearts. THAT’S a problem, IMO, since that’s the hallmark of delusion, holding beliefs that are totally-resilient to challenge by ALL evidence, much like the Flat Earthers.

                    “It is indeed a fee country, and our views of one another should not be colored by where we are on a given Sunday morning. Its what we do the other six days of the week that really count.”

                    It IS a fee country, esp if you spent the long holiday weekend at a National Park, where you’ve got to pay a fee to visit! 🙂

                    But yeah, we agree that actions speak louder than words, 24/7.

                    Dave

                    • Dave, all I can say is I took my best shot to reach out to you and establish some kind of common understanding. You chose to take it someplace else, which you have an absolute right to do. You say atheists are not a group, yet you’re quick to lump al Christians into the same negative pile. THAT, my friend, is bigoted thinking. I could respond to each of your points, but I’m sure you’d just bring up additional arguments, which is merely arguing—not debating. You’re free to believe or disbelieve as you choose, but projecting that onto others is neither constructive nor instructive.

                    • Tim said:

                      “Dave, all I can say is I took my best shot to reach out to you and establish some kind of common understanding. You chose to take it someplace else, which you have an absolute right to do. You say atheists are not a group, yet you’re quick to lump al Christians into the same negative pile. THAT, my friend, is bigoted thinking.”

                      Holy simoly, Tim….

                      BY DEFINITION, Christianity is a RELIGION centered on Jesus Christ (hence the name) with 33,000 denominations, the overwhelming majority of which are organized into GROUPS, based on Jesus’ words of building his church on St Peter. Churches have members, buildings, meeting times, etc: those are GROUPS, however you cut it. If you don’t want to be accused of being a member of a group, don’t blame me for joining a group!

                      (And sure, someone is free to read the Bible, pray to God, etc on their own as a DIY project, and MAY self-identify as a Christian, but it’s rather rare: most people I’ve encountered ARE affiliated with a church, primarily for the benefits of belonging to a group which they take their families to, etc.)

                      I’m an atheist, but I don’t associate with other atheists. Why not? The reason is not hard to understand: according to Gallup research polls, 9/10 people believe in God. 1/10 are “nones” (without religious affiliation), and many of those haven’t bothered to even consider the question of the existence of God, since they just manage to live their lives, having no reason to consider Jehovah (anymore than they consider Ahuru Mazda, Amaterasu, Thor, etc). Only 6% of the U.S. population self-identify as ‘atheist/agnostic’.

                      Sure, there’s meet-ups group for atheists, etc, but it’s not worth the gas IMO, since unlike Christianity, atheism has no mandate to “Go thereforth and make atheists, unbaptizing them in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Darwin, and Richard Dawkins.” There’s no theology that members must accept as tenets of faith, doctrinal lines drawn in the sand, etc. There’s no mandate for beliefs, but most atheists pay homage to logic and rationalism (not all: I’d suspect some who self-identify as atheists likely are theists who don’t WANT God to exist, just like there’s lazy theists who don’t know their own theology but WANT God to exist). The few atheist groups I’ve seen welcome “atheist-friendly” believers to social gatherings (i.e. believers who don’t try to convert them, or “save them”: that stuff gets tiresome). If I lived in Austin, TX, I’d probably be active with the group there (the people who run the atheist experience cable TV show), but I don’t, so oh, well….

                      But by and large, most atheists don’t feel the need to be IN a formal group.

                      There’s also groups formed around secular humanism, but that’s another deal.

                      “I could respond to each of your points, but I’m sure you’d just bring up additional arguments, which is merely arguing—not debating. You’re free to believe or disbelieve as you choose, but projecting that onto others is neither constructive nor instructive.”

                      Look in the mirror, bud, as I just provided verifiable evidence to support my argument. You might consider projecting more of that type of stuff (actual evidence), rather than simply throwing out ad hominems (which is what your “bigot” claim was; I showed that my beliefs are far from bigoted, but grounded in verifiable evidence).

                      Dave

                    • Hi Dave:
                      I have to say ditto to Tim’s response. I know you say you’re an atheist when it comes to “YOUR” God (I guess that’s mine and Tim’s et al, but an agnostic in general. I continue to hope you’ll respond in some version of politeness. I feel exactly the same as Tim does but have not always said it as clearly or succinctly or without rancor as Tim has. I would say that he used ‘bigot’ to fit your responses correctly. If you don’t believe you are that, then we’d all like to see you respond accordingly.
                      Thanks,
                      Walt

                    • Dave—

                      It’ll do no good because you are so intransigent in your conviction that Christians are inherently and consistently wrong, but here goes:

                      You said:

                      1. “So your priest actually said, “some of my best friends are atheists”? What a tolerant guy!! I think Paula Deen said she had many black friends, too: isn’t that kinda the same dynamic on display, only using a slightly-modified version of the same cliche’? It’s like telling a minority they’re “a credit to their race”: such statements reveal the person who says it harbors racist thinking deep-down, whether they admit and/or realize it themselves.”

                      You are putting words in my mouth and that of the priest. He said no such thing. He said he had a friend who happened to be an atheist, whom he knew from college-before he was a priest. He spoke about him as an illustration that “different” and wrong are not the same. You’re assuming a prejudiced view where there is none.

                      2. Heh, I just read a comment where you claimed to KNOW God’s rules, eg just today:
                      “God wants the same thing for all of us, to “gather all nations to Him”.
                      AND
                      ‘There are no complicated rules, NO transaction; just faith and the fact God knows our hearts.’
                      You choose to take things out of context. I was quoting Biblical text (cherry-picking as you call it) to illustrate my belief that God ‘s grace is meant for everyone. You may want things to be more complicated so you can pick away at them, but its pretty simple, really.
                      3. “I suspect the difference between you and I is I’m approaching the dialogue with an open mind: I COULD be convinced to become a theist by seeing even a shred of evidence that indicates God exists.”
                      Really, Dave? All I can say is maybe you need to look in the mirror yourself on this one.
                      As to whether or not God exists, there is no evidence either of us can offer as to His existence or non-existence. As you say, its up to each person. You and I can both look at a nebula thousands of light-years away and both agree on the objective nature of what it is: a huge cloud of gas in which, over billions of years, stars and planetary systems form. We can both look back at our evolutionary lineage and agree that somewhere, modern primates and human share a common ancestor. I could site dozens of additional examples. In my view, God put these things in motion for us to discover and wonder at. He gave us the invaluable gift of intelligence and then set out an entire universe for us to explore.
                      I’m sure you are a kind and decent person—nothing I’ve seen suggest otherwise. But, I just don’t understand the vehemence of your posts. I don’t believe in ghosts, UFO’s, or Bigfoot. Some people I know do. I don’t feel it necessary to get in protracted and picayune debates with them every time the subject comes up.
                      In any case, this is Corrina’s blog about her search for universal truth, and I see no point in continuing a tête-à-tête over our opposing belief systems at the expense of her journey.

  28. Patti, he can stay at your table if you wish….of course. He just needs to keep his voice down. We bothknow that you and I don’t hold the same beliefs………and sometimes sparks fly across the store from one table to the next, if I can continue the metaphor. But somehow we have all managed to speak our truths while maintaining our personal relationships. Tomorrow you and I will probably come in and sit together and have our lattes. I know what you believe….and I understand that it is not so far from Jason’s ideas…..but he has come in as some ultimate authority…..none of us has done that. We have just spoken our own truths. And that works, for me, at least. Love you, kind lady. Merrill

    • There is nothing unkind or unloving about believing your belief to be absolutely certain. I don’t think anyone to be of less intelligence than me, in fact many of you probably posses a great deal more intelligence than I.

      But in my investigations nothing has ever disproved to me what I believe. I cannot apologize for that. I’ve been accused of being loud and needing to keep my voice down, but I have not once accosted anyone’s character here though my motives have been questioned in almost every thread.

      I appreciate differing views. All of them. I appreciate Dave’s acknowledging that I am laying out at least an explanation. As I said I appreciate all views. And I have many friends whose views range from what I would label as liberal theology to atheism. I live and respect them all. We discuss and sometimes ha e to agree to disagree. But I am entitled to believe that my view is correct and others are incorrect just as some of you believe your view is correct and mine isn’t.

      If we can’t all have a discussion with the strength and resolve of personal conviction and firm belief then it seems a discussion that isn’t leading to any beneficial outcome.

      I do not believe that my debating will change a mind. As someone else said a changed mind towards sin, God, etc comes only from a work of grace and I am not God.

      I hope that you all know that I intend no condescension. Anything I say, I pray, is only words full of passionate zeal for my beliefs. I see all of yours in that way.

  29. I love you back, Merrill. And I have been cogitating and contemplating (both difficult to do on the day after a holiday) why PJ’s remarks make me uncomfortable, as well. I guess where I would disagree with him the most is that, for me, at least, my convictions have always been attended by a consciousness of the fact that there are some things you simply, as a human being, CANNOT know. You can believe them. But you cannot say you have proof of them, because all proof of faith is either subjective or circular reasoning. Therefore I disagree with both PJ AND Dave, when either of them say that they can PROVE anything they have said. Does that explain the need to ‘keep his voice down?”

    That doesn’t mean I don’t believe what I say isn’t true. Or that PJ doesn’t believe or that Dave doesn’t believe what they say isn’t true.. Where Pastor Jason and I would disagree, I think, is that I don’t think he can PROVE his beliefs, nor can Dave and neither can I.

    And if anyone does come to believe, based on what I say, it will be purely through the work of Grace, not I. Now, I do agree with PJ on that!

    Yours in Christ.

    • Thank you,Patti. I think it is partly, for me, because Jason came into the Starbucks as some authority….I mean, he has his own CD! None of us has done that. Despite what Jason professes, no logic or Bible verses or loud voice will prove him to be right. I thought that was what the Leap of Faith was about……MET

  30. Nobody wins in this discussion nor in any discussion when one side believes they have the only way to salvation. It does not matter to them that few if any are listening. Like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons and other evangelical fundamentalists they just continue with the same old words dressed with some new accoutrements. I don’t know anyone in the Western World who has not heard the story of Jesus death on the cross but they have a particular filter or perception that they want you to hear it through again and again. I believe that one of the reasons they do that is a way of retelling themselves the same story for the internal support they need to keep believing it. If they stop talking about it they don’t trust themselves to continue to believe it. It would seem so much easier to be able to say: “He came, he ministered, he died on the cross for my sins and I’m appreciative. Thank you.” and go about their lives. But, they can’t. I don’t see how a repetition of the same old rhetoric leads to a life of grace. It leads instead to a constant condemnation of ones self as a sinner needing redemption. There is no “grace” in that.

        • Patti said:

          “Dave! Can you feel a cyber space thunk upside the head here??????”

          Is that was that was? Why yes, I do believe I felt something around 12:30pm, but I just thought it was a case of indigestion! 🙂

          BTW, did you actually read the article? I noticed this part, which is very revealing of human nature, as if a universal trait:

          “The Japanese are mostly Buddhist or Shintoist, and, in a nation of 127.8 million, about 1 percent identify themselves as Christian. The country harbors a large floating population of folk religionists enchanted by the mysterious, the uncanny and the counter-intuitive. “They find spiritual fulfillment in being eclectic,” says Richard Fox Young, a professor of religious history at the Princeton Theological Seminary. “That is, you can have it all: A feeling of closeness—to Jesus and Buddha and many, many other divine figures—without any of the obligations that come from a more singular religious orientation.”

          That’s nice, being able to assemble beliefs into a mish-mash in one’s brain: sounds more like the work of men, though, when each individual gets to choose which beliefs they accept? So once again, we’re at moral relativism, where each person has to use their OWN sense of morality.

          One PROBLEM with believing in supernatural forces is that a large percentage in our society have an extremely difficult time discerning reality from fantasy (eg those susceptible to bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc) and for them delusional beliefs are not a benign coping mechanism that gives them comfort, but a SOURCE of their fears and anxiety, esp those who are scared out of their wits by the threat of Hell. I’m thinking of that mother who killed her son and then herself, since she reasoned via Christian theology (quite correctly, if it actually WERE reality) that by killing the son she loved that she’d be guaranteeing his admittance into Heaven, while committing herself to Hell. THAT’S the danger of delusional beliefs: some people actually DO believe, and make decisions on the basis of old mythologies. Entire countries go to war in the name of religions, people are dying in Syria TODAY due to sectarian in-fighting, based on arguing which angel on the head of a pin is righteous when there’s no more evidence for the existence of Allah than there is for ANY OTHER God. It’s sheer madness….

          Dave

    • Frank, I know that I often and often find myself in doubt. And there may be some validity in what you say about needing to say it over and over again. There may be some who DO that. But many of us who say it over and over again do so because we find it to be the truth, and a truth that is so important we hate to see anyone without it. Often, though, we forget that WE are not the ones who do the convicting, and we get strident and loud with it.

      The only thing I would change of your statement “He came, he ministered, he died on the cross for my sins and I’m appreciative” is the adjective you use. For me, appreciative doesn’t quite come close enough. Profoundly grateful is probably better.

      I think that keeping a concept of ourselves as ‘sinners needing redemption’ is one of the ways that Christians find a yardstick to keep themselves attempting to live what Jesus preached. If, however, we forget that that redemption is achieved, done, and accepted, we don’t get on with the life of Grace and get over constant wailing. That doesn’t mean I forget that I often fail. It just means that I shouldn’t wallow in it.

      As usual, your thoughts make me think about what I believe. Thank you.

      Yours in Christ

  31. Frank, in my case, I have to keep retelling myself what I believe because I’m getting old enough to forget from day to day! I do think there’s value in repetition of our “creeds”, whatever they might be. But I also think that you can keep yourself stuck if you never question those creeds to see if they still hold water.

    I very much have enjoyed the exercise of having my creeds challenged here. When I was a kid I used to wonder why the Communists had to put up walls to keep people in, if they really thought their way was the greatest? The Catholic kids in my neighborhood weren’t allowed to come to my church (pre-Vatican II) but I could go to theirs. That struck me the same way. It’s been good for me to have Dave challenge my belief in God, to have Frank and Merrill give me new angles to think about, to hear how much being in church means to Tim and Patti and Walt, and to be challenged again by P.Jason. So Merrill, I guess I would let anyone in our coffee shop, unless they start trying to force something hot down my throat!

    • You guys are just so darned open-minded and generous. I have to love you for that. So I guess I may have to concede. So Jason, come on in and sit down at a table (just not mine, thanks) and carry on a conversation. Please don’t wander around….preaching your “gloomy theology” to everyone. My Mother taught me good manners, and I will play nice LOL

      Merrill

  32. Not liking to be kept in suspense, and left to my own devises, I have come up with what must be The Biggest Question: How many Dove Dark Chocolates do I have to eat before I am gloriously sated?
    MET

  33. There are not enough Dove Dark Chocolates in the world to do that, as far as I am concerned. 🙂 But it would be SUCH a delight to try!

    • Okay, now we have a real debate on our hands. Who needs Dove Dark Chocolates when you can have Nacho Doritos?!?

  34. Merill said:
    You guys are just so darned open-minded and generous. I have to love you for that. So I guess I may have to concede. So Jason, come on in and sit down at a table (just not mine, thanks) and carry on a conversation. Please don’t wander around….preaching your “gloomy theology” to everyone. My Mother taught me good manners, and I will play nice LOL

    Jason can sit at my table, but I may have to ask him to stick to decaf–LOL!

    I think Jason’s viewpoint is valuable as a challenge to those of us who call themselves traditional Christians. As Patti said earlier, he states the bare bones of what we believe; Christ is the way and the truth. The challenge to me, (and why I asked the question about Gandhi), is how we reconcile that belief with people we know to be good yet who are not Christians. Jason is correct when he says we can’t know what’s in people’s hearts, and works alone do not bring salvation. However, Jesus also said bad trees cannot bear good fruit. I happen to believe, once again paraphrasing C,S, Lewis, that those who do His work are blessed by His grace. I also question the “when, how, and if” of confessing Christ. Jason raised a good point about the thief on the cross. Again, Lewis said there is not one soul to whom the Gospel was preached. His book The Great Divorce is based on the premise that even the dead are given a chance at redemption. Again, its their free will that determines the choice.

    Finally, Jason said eternal damnation is consistent with God’s nature. My counterpoint is that judgment without mercy is merely revenge, and mercy without judgment has no meaning. We are all given the chance to see our errors for what they are. How often, when, and where those chances are given I leave in God’s hands.

    So, I’m trying to take Jason’s views as an opportunity for me to “put up or shut up” about my faith. If I call myself a Christian, then I must recognize Christ as Savior. If I call myself a compassionate human, I must accept He can work His salvation for those who follow Him in any way he chooses.

    And I will gladly smack anyone who tells me to my face my son’s godmother is destined for paradise.

    • Thanks! I can’t afford too many Doritos–we have Stations of the Cross tonight and it wouldn’t do to go with orange fingers!

  35. You won’t ever have to smack me, Tim. I know you’re a CS Lewis fan, so have you read The Last Battle? There’s a young fellow in the book, Emeth, a Calormen, which I think would be sort of like a Muslim. He has devoutly worshipped Tash (false god) all his life and served him with all his heart. And when Emeth meets Aslan at last, he knows immediately that he has given his allegiance to the wrong deity. But Aslan says to him that he has credited to himself the services that were done to Tash,because they were done (my interpretation) with a pure heart. “And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash that he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.” Then Emeth cries out that he has been seeking Tash all his days. And Aslan replies, “Beloved, unless your desire had been for me, you would not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek.”

    I always think of this story when people ask if the Jews or the Muslims can be saved. This is just my opinion and I could be wrong, but I believe it’s the heart that matters. Not the “right” words (whatever those are; some Christians act like Jesus’ name is the same as Abracadabra.) All find what they truly seek.

    Jason said that it’s because God is holy that makes eternal damnation consistent with his nature. Again, HE defines holy, he decides what that word means. In his worldview “holy” means perfect, therefore God can’t have anyone spend eternity with him who isn’t perfect, and the only way you get perfect is to be covered by the blood of Christ, and the only way you get covered with that blood is by repenting and believing. So it IS then based upon something you do. Does “repenting” and “believing” always look the same for every person? I say no. I say it’s in the heart and that’s God’s business. That’s my opinion, I could be wrong.

    • Hi SHELLEY (I got it right)!
      I haven’t read the Last Battle, but I’ve read that passage before, That idea is exactly what I was talking about. In earlier posts, I’m sure you’ve seen me quote Paul about the Gentiles: “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them”. If God puts that sense of right and wrong in all our hearts, and if we choose to follow the right, then how can we say non-Christians are condemned? I don’t know view that as a convenient “Pass Go” card into Heaven; when I read that passage in the context of others, such as “God will bring all nations to Him” and “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and condemn whom I condemn”, and finally “Gods thoughts are not man’s”, what I hear Him telling us is that, yes, in the New Testament He’s laid out a path to Him through His son, and told us on what terms we should live our lives, but don’t presume to limit Him on how He brings us all to Him. Condemnation, in whatever form that may take, is reserved for those who willfully and voluntarily ignore those “thoughts accusing them and other time defending them.”

  36. Corrina, I sense we’re on the threshold of a major theological argument over chocolate. You may need to start another blog on your search for the perfect chocolate bar. I’ve always been partial to Ghiradelli’s. 🙂

    • Well, that’s just the thing, Tim. I LOVE chocolate and I’m not too particular on what brand (am I a “None” where chocolate is concerned too?). However, I do draw the line at chocolate that’s been made with poor ingredients–like that really cheap kind that’s mostly wax. Other than that, it’s hard to mess up chocolate in my opinion!

      • I should send you some home-made chocolate a mom of one of my son’s friends makes. It’s as close to paradise as you can get! Doesn’t mix well with Doritos, though….

  37. Really appreciated the well-thought out and carefully measured responses from Dave, Tim and Shelley today. All of you came from a different perspective, but each had interesting things to say.

    Lest you think that I am just sitting here trying to figure out how to convince Tim that he doesn’t have to be partial to Ghiradelli’s chocolate just because it comes out of California, I really have been considering just exactly what “The Biggest Question” might be….not only for Jason and his group……but also for myself. It occurs to me that The Biggest Question might probably differ for each of us, just as our religious theologies….or lack thereof… differ. After skimming over the original blog and some of Jason’s explanations, it seems that his” Biggest Question” will be : How can I get to Heaven…..or it could be: Can you help me avoid Hell….seriously, I am not certain which is most important to Jason and his flock. I am thinking the first. But I am still confused by that teter-toter sense I feel when I read his words….or perhaps it is a merry-go-round. It seemed to be one thing from the CD, but another when he wrote directly. Anyone care to conjecture knowing more about Christianity—of the fundamentalist evangelical variety?

    I did get playful and mischievous with the idea today…I have a very creative mind, so I came up with lots of personal takes on it: Will my shimmery angel wings detract from or complement my shimmery silver hair? Will they have stuff to make ‘smores in Hell? Silly stuff. But the bottom line is that we all have Big Questions….and those ran around in my head today, too: Since I was kind of on a heaven and hell topic, these popped up: What will they say about me when I am dead….would it make me proud…..will it line up with the kind of life I think I have led? What if I am wrong? What if I am right? Does it make any difference?

    So even if I don’t agree with Jason’s theological stance, it has made me think…..for that I will say thanks.

    Peace, be still.
    Merrill

    • I like Merrill’s fun. No need to wait to go somewhere to get your angel’s wings. I’ll bet you could find a pair of shimmery ones at a local thrift shop. Just pin them on your shoulders and look in the mirror and voila! you can tell right away if they go with your shimmery hair. Pick up a couple of boxes of “s’mores” and start nibbling. Make a little voice recording on which you record all the things you think people will say about you after your dead or write them as journal entries. Only write down things that make you feel proud. Write across the top, “I DON’T HAVE TO KNOW IF I WAS RIGHT OR WRONG. THE BIBLE (had to throw that in) SAYS, IT CAME TO PASS. LET IT PASS.” Then list the ways you are currently making a difference. Then see if you have the stamina to sing the song below cuz it’s really all about you:

      • Frank. I will be heading out to the Thrift stores today….I don’t know about finding angel wings…..the conservative Christian’s here in Yakima are probably holding tightly to any that they may own….. but won’t the search be fun!

        I actually do not worry too much about what other people will say when I am gone, for they often say it to me now…..I surround myself with open and generous people, and we try to show our appreciation, not just by doing, but also by telling…….the hardest thing for me, as you probably know, is the receiving of these compliments…..as it is for most of us. But we remind each other to smile and say thank you. But, you are right that it is good to say these things to oneself…..who better to know what I am proud of? I have been back writing in a journal. I was a heavy journal writer in my 20’s but then with a husband and kids, I didn’t have the time, energy, or courage to keep writing. After James died in 2007, I started writing again as a way to making sense of my life. I am, by nature, reflective, and writing kept me out of circular, crazy thinking, and allowed me to move forward. Time devoted to this Blog has had me short-changing my own journalling….perhaps I might want to look at that!

        I DON’T HAVE TO KNOW IF I WAS RIGHT OR WRONG……that’s a hard one for me in in everyday life…..not so in my religious beliefs. I do live as I believe…. and what happens happens. I will know that I have done enough…that I will have tried my best….(.and I do see the irony in that, Frank.) Even though I have a VERY hard time understanding why people would join in with the likes of Pastor Jason, I do understand that living can be a daunting task…..People look for answers wherever they can find them. What to me looks horrifying, to them looks like safety….knowing the Answers.

        It is not easy to face life as an existential being…….but it is where I am…..and although I am by myself on the path, I am not alone. Whatever The Biggest Question may be for Jason, and I am sure we are soon to find out, I personally like coming up with my own Big Questions. Now, has anyone see that package of Hershey bars and the marshmallows?
        MET

        PS I don’t have my own “Frank file”….but I will put the words IT CAME TO PASS….LET IT PASS in my journal.

  38. And then there are the ones that my older sister brought to my attention a few months back: Have I done enough? Have I made enough difference in the World?

  39. Imagine my surprise when I read Merrill’s new Blog entry. I was working on a response and had included a story about a person who really HAS made a big difference in the world – she’s a retired Social Worker. I’ll continue with my original post.
    Dave referred to the ‘madness’ of belief and it made me sad. Here’s why:
    I, too, have been troubled – for some time – about the negative aspects of what some people believe to be true based on their interpretation of what is written in a 2000-yr-old book. Like Shelley, I take great exception to some of these interpretations. Further, I think we all should.
    I’ll try to illustrate what I mean by giving you a contemporary example. We have a lady in her mid-sixties living in our community who just could not be any nicer. I would refer to her as a true Christian – she’s a member of the United Church I attend. She always tries to see the best in people, is very soft-spoken and kind and she’s also what I would consider to be extraordinarily wise. Like me, she is a mother and grandmother. I saw her on the road the other day (I was out for my morning ‘tramp’) and she wanted to give me a message – keep in mind that two of our children live in the village. She said, “I just had to stop and tell you that, the more I get to know your children, the more respect I have for you as a parent”. Now, I don’t share this story to ‘blow my own horn” (as I told her that I felt I had made MANY mistakes, believe me – mistakes, not SINS) but rather to point out her character – how many people would do that? I’m by no means the only person who has benefitted from her gracious compliments – that’s just the way she is. We all know people just like her, I’m betting. This respectable, thoroughly good person, however, would be considered ‘sinful’ by many, as she has a same-sex partner.
    Now, as we’ve already established on this Blog, everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs. Some people, however, (JW’s, Mormons, evangelical ‘Christians’, etc) use their interpretation of the scriptures to wave the ‘God’s on our side’ flag and justify their message of hate. I find that deplorable. I cannot, for the life of me, understand religious intolerance. For me, it’s an oxymoron.
    I don’t want to get started on what these same ‘sects’ see as WOMEN’S ROLES – I’d write pages on those exclusionary doctrines. Again, doctrines based on their (per)versions of the Bible. I’ll stop now – but no chocolate for me!
    Hope the merry miners are having a lovely Saturday – I’m writing this as our little granddaughter sleeps upstairs. When she wakes up that’ll be the end of the computer-gazing!

  40. oh my! It’s Saturday a.m. and I was gone all day yesterday, so I have some reading cut out for me. What hath Corinna wrought!
    As Arnold was wont to say, “I’ll be back!” D.V. (my add). 🙂
    I’m also helping a friend move today so….

  41. Good morning all. Hi Walt! Today I will be frantically trying to cram last minute ‘forgots’ into our car so that we can leave at 6am tomorrow and head for beautiful Nova Scotia. My energy is all directed into getting safely on the road, without forgetting something vitally important, like I did the last time. I brought my CPAP and left the cord!! Luckily, we were only 2 hours from home. Carmen is a bit further away, lol.

    Have a great Saturday. You won’t be hearing much from me in the next three weeks. When we are connected to WiFi, I will be checking the blog, but mostly I will be…..simply being. You will all be in my thoughts.

    Yours in Christ

    • Patti, I offer you my numero uno favorite philosophy of life: Be Here Now. If you can manage even short bursts of time when you are here now, it will be a worthy vacation. It’s so hard to just be present in the moment, why is that? But my theory (just my theory, I could be wrong) is that God does not exist in space or time — is not in the past or the future — God inhabits the now. And the more we can be there too, the more we can be with God.

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