Monday, August 24, 2015

Glory Bound

Special music from church Sunday. We've been considering stages of our lives, with the latest theme being grieving and loss. This song is a beautiful song by a group called the Wailin' Jennies (clever, eh?) that sounds very much like a traditional old hymn... It's called "Glory Bound."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Different Gospels?

So, some more from the file of "I want to ask these conservative friends questions about their claims/opinions/hunches but they are having none of it..." so, I'm posting here. In this case, the people over at Winging It is speaking of the various "gospels" found in the Bible, noting that Jesus seemed to preach about the "gospel of the kingdom" and John, in Revelation, preached about an "eternal gospel," and that these are different than the gospel evangelicals mean by THE Gospel. Here, he's speaking of the Revelation "eternal gospel" and then concludes...

This good news [in Revelation] was that God's judgment was arriving and He would be glorified.

Not the same gospel we think of when we think of the word.

No, the gospel you and I think about is what is termed "the gospel of the grace of God." That gospel, in fact, wasn't known clearly until Paul brought it up (Gal 2:2). Now, it wasn't new to Paul -- Paul didn't originate it (Gal 3:8) -- but it wasn't known in that form. Paul calls it "my gospel..."

Why is this a critical and strange teaching to me? What questions do I have?

The problem that people like this have, it seems to me, is that we have four wonderful books full of the Teachings of Jesus, the four books of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And in those four books, we have many teachings and sermons from Jesus. In fact, Jesus clearly states that he is preaching the "good news of the Kingdom of God..." Repeatedly, Jesus and his disciples preach this Gospel story.

The problem for evangelicals? Not a single time does Jesus present "the Gospel" as evangelicals understand it. For evangelicals, "the gospel" is the news that

Humans are sinners, doomed to hell because of our sin
God is a loving God, but a Just God, who can't/won't abide our sin... in the famous words of Jonathan Edwards, we are sinners in the hands of an angry God
BUT, God's anger can be appeased by a perfect blood sacrifice
AND the "Good News" (or Gospel) is that Jesus died to shed his blood to sort of literally pay for our sins and save us from an eternity of torture.

Or as the people at Ligonier Ministries put it...

...that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.

This is what has been called the Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement, and ONLY by affirming this specific Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement (or something pretty close to it) can we actually be saved. Believing in Jesus and his teachings? Insufficient. Being a follower of Jesus' teachings? Insufficient. Accepting God's grace? Insufficient. Repenting of our sins and accepting God's grace? Insufficient. IF you do not affirm the Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement, which many derive indirectly from Paul's teachings (and specifically not from Jesus' teachings), then you can not be saved, at least according to many modern conservative evangelicals.

So, while Paul or no one else in the Bible, specifically speak of the Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement, it is something that many find in Paul's teaching of the Gospel. For instance, this passage in Romans 5...

But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

So, the problem for these more fundamentalist types is that Jesus and the disciples are recorded repeatedly as preaching the gospel, but not one time does the notion of blood sacrifice to appease an angry God come up in the four Gospel books. How do these more fundamentalist/conservative evangelicals deal with it? Well, I've tried asking that question many times and never have received an answer. But the people at Winging It have resolved it by DISMISSING the Gospel Jesus taught as not the "real" Gospel that Christians mean by "Gospel..."!

I have often suspected that many more conservative evangelical types prefer Paul to Jesus and will make Jesus' teachings subservient to both Pauline and OT teachings, but I've rarely seen any so openly admit it. What are we to make of that?

The problem I have with this is that, as a follower of Jesus, I am a follower of Jesus' words, his teachings. Thus, when I read the Bible, I (and traditional Baptists, Anabaptists and many others) interpret all of biblical teaching through the lens of Jesus' specific teachings. We believe that Jesus is the ultimate and best representation of God to humanity and so, when I want to best understand a teaching or text in the Bible, I take what Jesus had to say as first priority and then interpret the other, through Jesus' teachings, and the obscure through the clear. It's basic biblical exegesis and has been for many years.

Am I hearing this person incorrectly? Is he not dismissing Jesus' gospel as not THE gospel, but only Paul's is the "actual" Gospel and Jesus' teachings are some lesser, small "g" gospel? Help me understand this.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Help Me Understand. Help Harder.

NOTE: This is a repost of a blog entry from a few years ago. It is a fairly long and, in my mind, bizarre conversation between me and a more conservative fella. I do not post it again to embarrass the individual, but just to set it out there as just how weird conversations can be. For your consideration...

I have a question about HOW to conduct conversation and I'd like to post an example of how a real conversation proceeded, to serve as a reference point. My question in THIS post is not about the topic being discussed, but about how to get a straight answer to a reasonable question.

So, recently one of our conservative friends had a post all about Israel's attack of the Amalekites found in the OT. This is one of those stories where it appears God is commanding Israel to wipe out everyone in the city - including the children and infants. In striving to justify a literal interpretation of this passage, this writer stated a point which I tried to ask about.

Below, I have copied and pasted the pertinent parts of our conversation. I'm just wondering what I could have done to successfully communicated with this person, to successfully get an answer to a reasonable question. This is how our conversation went (with him in italics and me in bold)...

He said on his blog entry:

Everyone deserves to die. Horribly. Without mercy. Even me. Even you. That is not mean or evil or unkind. It is justice.

I emailed, asking:

So WHERE, in the Amalekite story, do you see the justice of killing infants? What did they do to "deserve to die..." "Horribly"?

I'd be interested in your answer.

Note: I have made no accusation. I have not called him wrong or mistaken. I have not called him names or doubted his Christian faith. He simply stated that everyone deserves to die. Horribly. HIS words.

To which I responded with the I-think reasonable question to such a position: Where in the story cited was the justice in killing infants? I was wanting his answer to THAT question. The conversation continued via email...

In answer, then, to your question, I obviously believe that all human beings are sinners, justly condemned, because they do not seek first the kingdom of God, do not seek first the glory of God, do not operate first from faith. That's my answer. I don't think it's vague or evasive.


My question was...

So WHERE, in the Amalekite story, do you see the justice of killing infants? What did they do to "deserve to die..." "Horribly"?

And you are saying that because a ONE DAY OLD INFANT has not chosen to seek first God's kingdom, they deserve to die a horrible death? Is that your actual position?

Note: I THINK I see his answer to my question, but since it seems rather hard to believe, I repeat what I think his answer is and ask him if, indeed that is his answer...

Since you and I DISAGREE that "sin" is defined as a willful rebellion, a knowing act against a known right/wrong, then, of course, we don't agree from the start. You see "choose" as one key component of "sin" and I do not. Frankly, neither does the Bible, but that's neither here nor there. In order for me to agree with you, I would have to redefine sin to coincide with your definition. Do you not see that, as I have repeatedly stated, we do not agree AT THE BASE? Our disagreement starts long before the Amalekite question.

Okay, what if we look at this apparent disagreement for a minute, if you'd like...

From the Bible answer website, "Got Questions?" we get this information about sin...

"Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18)."

Do you agree that these are good, solid biblical understandings of "sin"? That sin is transgressing God's law?

That sin is rebellion against God?

If so, how do you think a newborn babe rebels against God? How do you think a babe transgresses God's law?

Let's see ... you complain that I don't answer your questions directly. Going to your questions directly ...

"Do you agree that these are good, solid biblical understandings of 'sin'?" No.

"That sin is transgressing God's law?" No.

"That sin is rebellion against God?" No.

I think that "Got Questions" got it wrong. 1 John 3:4 does not say that sin is the transgression of the law of God. It says, "Sin is lawlessness".

...John wrote "Sin is lawlessness." (See ESV, NASB, NIV, Green's Literal Translation, Young's Literal Translation, oh, just about any translation at all including the New King James, with the apparent sole exception of the King James.) Sin is the absence of God's Law. Therefore, I disagree with you and with "Got Questions" and I agree with Paul, the psalmist, Isaiah, John, and others...

I am agreeing that newborns or even infants have not murdered or committed adultery or the like, but it is inconceivable that you would argue that they actively and fully operate to the glory of God, work from faith, or love God with their entire being. The biblical definition of sin is lawlessness. That is the absence of God's Law. I don't see how an infant can be defined as operating on anything but that absence. Or, to put it in the terms you've been suggesting, sin is not the choice to violate God's Law and, as long as that Law is not violated, has not occurred. Sin is the the absence of perfect submission to God's Law. Righteousness is active, not merely the absence of sin.

I apologize for my lack of understanding here, So if I may clarify... When I ask:

In what way do you think these infants are lawless and thus, deserving of a horrible death?

Your answer is that because infants do not - at the age of, say, one day old - do not "actively and fully operate to the glory of God," that this is lawlessness and deserving of a horrible death?

I'm just trying to get a clear understanding of your position.

Yeah, I get that you don't get it ... because your idea is that they are innocent and my idea is that God in all His glory deserves to be glorified and honored and loved from the birth of one of His creations. You are unable to understand this idea because you cannot define "sin" as anything but "violating God's law". As long as "sin" is "something I choose to do to violate God's law" as your premise, then none of this will make any sense to you. Oddly enough, despite my constant attempts to explain that disparity between how I see the biblical definition of sin and how you are defining it, you can't seem to see it. Either that or (as I highly suspect not because of simply Dan Trabue, but because of human nature) your view of God is fairly tame ... kind of like I indicated in the post.

NOTE: At this point, I have not offered any opinions about infants or their innocence in this conversation. I have not offered my opinions about sin. I've just asked a question in various ways trying to get a clear answer. I THOUGHT when I quoted him, I'd be able to get a "Yes, that IS my position," but no.

I continued...

I'm just trying to get a straightforward answer to a straightforward question.

When I ask:
in what way do you think these infants are lawless and thus, deserving of a horrible death?

Your answer is...

because infants do not - at the age of, say, one day old - do not actively and fully operate to the glory of God, that this is lawlessness and deserving of a horrible death...

IS THAT YOUR POSITION? If not, could you please re-state your answer to THAT ^ question for me?

Because infants are lawless.

Again, I'm sorry. Maybe I'm not asking the question right. I'm wondering IN WHAT WAY do you think infants are lawless?

What does a "lawless" infant look like?

What are they doing that indicates they are lawless and, thus deserving of a horrible death?


Apparently I lack the words in the English language to express a thought that you can comprehend. I've explained it as a lack of law. I've explained it as the absence of God's law. I've explained that righteousness is active, not merely passive. I've explained that sin is not active violation, but the absence of God's Law.

And so, I summed up your position thusly...

because infants do not - at the age of, say, one day old - do not actively and fully operate to the glory of God, that this is lawlessness and deserving of a horrible death...

Is my summation incorrect? It refers to what is absent (ie, "they DO NOT actively and fully operate to the glory of God"), not what they do.

So, is my summation (which, after all, comes from your direct words) correct? Because infants do not actively operate to the glory of God, they are deserving of a horrible death?

They do not love God. They do not glorify God. They ... according to the Bible ... tell lies. But, of course, you're still operating on the do concept. What do they do that is sin. I am speaking of the absence of the Law in them. They do not love God or glorify Him as a result of this absence. You're talking about what they do and I'm talking about what they lack. That's why your summation falls short. There is no positive righteousness in an infant.

And my question remains: How do you TELL there is an "absence of law in them..."? What does that look like? Or are you just saying, "I KNOW there's an absence of law in them, take my word for it..."?

As to "there is no positive righteousness in an infant," would it then be fair to sum up your position as:

Because there is NO POSITIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS in a newborn infant (ie, they haven't done anything 'good,'), they deserve to die a horrible death?

I guess I might also ask, what do you mean by positive righteousness? Merely that they haven't done anything righteous at one day old?

...Also, "according to the bible," a one day old infant TELLS LIES? Do you really think this is true? (ie, both that the Bible teaches that and that a one day old infant is capable of telling lies?)

I get it. It won't be getting through. There is a language barrier or something, a fundamental disconnect. That the Bible says they lie from the womb and that there is not a single one righteous and that all have sinned all favor my view. That sin is defined as the absence of law favors my view. That the Church has historically declared this to be so favors my view... These facts, however, are irrelevant. I cannot get this across to you. You cannot think in terms of anything except "what they do". Even in the attempt to use "positive righteousness" you ask "that they haven't done anything...?"

You don't like that I threw in "that they haven't done anything..."? Then say so and throw it out and answer the question I asked with that revision.

Here, let me ask again without that line, using mostly your own words...

Because "there is NO POSITIVE RIGHTEOUSNESS in a [newborn] infant", they "deserve to die" "horribly" - IS THAT YOUR POSITION?

You can see that those are mostly your own words, I'm just restating it to see if I'm understanding you correctly.

I've answered your question repeatedly. You just don't accept the answer. My answer is that all human beings are sinners, that this includes infants, that the Bible says this is the case. My answer is that infants are also sinners, that there is only one, singular-for-all-of-history exception to that fact, and that would be Jesus. My answer is that infants violate the command of God to glorify Him, they lie from their mothers' wombs, they fail to love God with all their hearts. My answer is that infants and toddlers and children and teens and adults are sinners at their very core. And my answer is that God is so perfect, so high, so holy, so inviolable that any transgression or failure or omission or inaction on the part of His creation merits the penalty of eternal death.

Does my position (my position that is the historic position of the Church, the Bible, the Anabaptists, etc.) sound horrible? Undoubtedly. It probably sounds like foolishness on one hand and an offense on the other ... you know, like the Bible says it would. So I'm not equivocating and I'm not avoiding answering direct questions (a favorite mindless accusation of yours for which I would recommend you look to yourself) because of that. You're just not seeing the answers as clearly as they're given. And the Bible has an explanation for that, too.

"I've answered your question repeatedly. You just don't accept the answer."

But you haven't, not directly. Allow me to demonstrate and, if you can see that you are answering questions that I haven't asked, maybe you'll try to answer the question I DID ask.

Here is what YOU say your answers are...

"My answer is that all human beings are sinners, that this includes infants, that the Bible says this is the case."

And that WOULD be an answer to the question, "Are all human beings sinners?" But THAT WAS NOT MY QUESTION...

"My answer is that infants are also sinners, that there is only one, singular-for-all-of-history exception to that fact, and that would be Jesus."

And that WOULD be an answer to the question, "Are infants sinners?" But THAT WAS NOT MY QUESTION...

"My answer is that infants violate the command of God to glorify Him, they lie from their mothers' wombs, they fail to love God with all their hearts."

This might be closer. My actual question was:


and so, are you saying your answer (YOUR WORDS) to THIS question is

No, it is NOT my position that because there is no positive righteousness in newborn infants, they deserve to die a horrible death. Rather my position is "[BECAUSE] infants violate the command of God to glorify Him, they lie from their mothers' wombs, they fail to love God with all their hearts..." they deserve to die horribly."

Is THAT the answer to the question asked?

the reason I do not take the bold-faced question you ask and repeat it back to you with a "yes" or a "no" is because you have made it into a simplistic, false statement (read "lie"). You did it (repeatedly) with the whole "So, you believe that God approves of killing your enemies' children?" A lie. It is a naked, out of context, unexplained and therefore misunderstood statement. You were so very quick to misquote me before ("I only took your words and put them out there"). It will not go well here, either.

Do I think that everyone ought to die horribly? Not what I said. Do I think that babies ought to die horribly? Not what I said. Certainly not what I meant. The context was the justice of God that is forgotten...

I believe that all human beings from age 0 up are sinners, guilty of not keeping God's law either consciously or not either positively or not. I believe that God, as just and holy, has the right (that is, it would be right) to put all human beings to death for this guilt. But, of course, that won't satisfy you. Therefore, since I won't play your game and you won't accept an answer, we're done.

IF it's a false statement, then why don't you answer, "No, that is not my position..."? and clarify with your actual position? It would seem like it would have to be pretty close to your actual position because THEY'RE YOUR ACTUAL WORDS.

" You did it (repeatedly) with the whole "So, you believe that God approves of killing your enemies' children?" A lie. It is a naked, out of context, unexplained and therefore misunderstood statement."

It is A QUESTION. IS THIS YOUR POSITION? Notice the question mark at the end. It is a question, seeking to clarify your position (and, hopefully, seeking to help you see how wrong-headed that position is).

"Do I think that everyone ought to die horribly? Not what I said. Do I think that babies ought to die horribly? Not what I said. Certainly not what I meant."

Here is what YOU said in the context of the paragraph...

"When asked about the Galileans killed by Pilate, He assured His listeners, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:2-3). The message? Everyone deserves to die. Horribly. Without mercy. Even me. Even you. That is not mean or evil or unkind. It is justice."

You said, "EVERYONE deserves to die. Horribly. Without mercy."

So, let's drop the baby part for a second and deal with your comment.

DID you say "everyone deserves to die. Horribly..."? Well, of course that is a silly question. It IS what you said, I just quoted you.

So, moving on, Did you MEAN to say that everyone deserves to die horribly?

Did you MEAN to say that infants deserve to die horribly?

If not, why did you say it?

"The context was the justice of God that is forgotten. I don't have the option of carrying out God's justice, so this isn't what I recommend. It is what I believe we cannot see. As a matter of fact, you can't, can you?"

And my question to you was and remains, do you think it is the "justice of God" that babies should die horribly?

Given YOUR WORDS, it is a fair and reasonable question.

If it's NOT your position, just say, No, I don't think so.

"To you, "sin" in EVERY APPLICATION is only when I choose to knowingly violate God's commands. Apparently, the only method of lying is when we speak as well. There are no other forms of lies. So we have radically different definitions of both sin and lies. (Like I said, a recent SECULAR study indicated that they detected lies in 6-month-old babies. You must figure they're pretty stupid, too, since children that age don't speak.)"

So, you think a one day old infant is LYING? Then my question is HOW? What does that look like? In WHAT WAY does a one day old infant lie?

Again, this is a reasonable question to the position, "babies are lying from the womb..." - a statement that sounds on the face of it like poetic hyperbole, why should we take it literally?

And that was the end of that ongoing conversation. No more answers.

My question is: What could I have done to have gotten a DIRECT answer to my actual question(s)? For a large part of that conversation, I was simply quoting him and asking, "Is this (ie, what you just said) your actual position?"

My second question is: Do those on the further Right side of things see how this seems to be avoiding a simple question and as if they are avoiding confirming their own actual words because those words sound so horrible? As if they WANT to say it, but they don't want to confirm that it's their actual position?

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The "Definition" of "Sin..."

So, continuing on with some attempt to at least partially explain himself (even if he won't fully attempt to do so), here's some more explanation from Stan at Winging It, who said said that there was no sense in explaining himself, that I "couldn't understand" because we are using words differently. I replied, well then, if you are using non-standard definitions of terms, you can explain yourself, just define the word as you are using it (and really, how is this difficult in an adult conversation?) Stan replied...

 I'm not using "justice" in a non-standard way. But "sin" appears to be a new concept to you. You're thinking "stealing cookies" or "not always completely honest" while I'm thinking "Cosmic Treason against the Most High". Nor is it a matter of "I'm too smart for you." As I said ... as I've always said ... we're defining terms differently. "Love", "sin", even "Christian" mean different things to me than to you. You "love the Word of God" and then explain it away based on your own experiences and perceptions and I "love the Word of God" and use it to figure out where my experiences and perceptions need to be corrected. Not the same concept.

Look, you ARE using "justice" in a non-standard way. You are saying that ONE "sin" (more on that later) is worthy of an eternity of torture. Your children DESERVE to be tortured for an eternity because of only one "sin" in their life. Whatever that sin is, that would be a disproportionate punishment for the crime.

Where specifically am I mistaken?

Now, you have attempted to define "sin" (which you are also using in a non-standard English way) to explain yourself. So see, you can explain yourself. You are able to define words you are using in a non-standard way and thus, make at least a little more sense.

So, as to this "sin," "cosmic treason..." hmm. That of course, is not the standard understanding/definition of the term. It is not how the word is used biblically (at all, not one time is anything of the sort mentioned ever) or defined in the Hebrew or Aramaic. I guess you just "feel" like that is not the definition, so you are asserting it is reality. Which is fine if that's how you feel, but do you have anything reality-based to support that feeling?

So, in your mind, your child, when they were of an age of accountability, decided to deliberately commit "cosmic treason" against God, is that what you're saying? When was that? Do you have any data to support that? I rather doubt you do. In fact, I would bet you absolutely do not have any data to support that claim. I, for my part, have never, not once decided, "I'm going to commit 'cosmic treason' against God." So, your claim, your feelings about that idea appear to be unsupportable by data in the real world, but you tell me.

But, let's suppose that some child somewhere actually DID decide to commit "cosmic treason..." What does that look like, exactly? I'll have to guess, unless you're speaking of R.C. Sproul's reference to the term that he apparently coined from thin air (certainly not from the Bible)...

Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.”

So, for someone to decide (if it actually happens in the real world, which I rather doubt) that "My judgment is better than God's," and decide to do something that, in THEIR mind, is the right thing to do, even if it is opposed by God... What are they doing in that case? They are trying to do the right thing, as best they understand it in their mind/psyche/soul. They are deciding that, even if they have to disagree with God, they will still strive to do this right thing.

And let's further assume that they were mistaken. In trying to what they thought was correct, they were wrong and "rebelled" against God. A sin, then, from error, it would appear. In their fallen human nature, they made a mistake and chose the wrong instead of the right.

And for that, you think that an appropriate and "just" punishment is an eternity of torture.

How so? Okay, so they "rebelled" against God, they chose incorrectly. They are HUMAN, of COURSE, we choose incorrectly sometimes. Is being imperfect (which is our very nature, unfortunately) justly punished by an eternity of torture? How so?

You are able to define your words when you use them in a non-standard way, Stan. You've demonstrated that with your "cosmic treason" definition of sin you and Sproul made up. You can explain yourself. Apparently, this is a very important issue, if people are possibly going to be tortured for an eternity for even one mistake/"cosmic treason..." Why would you not explain yourself?

(And, in a note to Stan, I wrote to him):
I'll take this comment to my blog, since I'm not very hopeful you will actually try to defend your feelings about this idea, fyi. Maybe someone there will try to defend your rather silly-sounding and wholly unsupported claims. 

And to be clear, "silly-sounding claims" is not an attack on YOU, Stan, it is a mocking of the idea that sounds silly or crazy and which you are not willing to even try to defend, nor is it contrary to me believing in you, which I do. Just because I disagree with you does not mean I don't believe in you or your ability to defend yourself/make your case, nor does it mean I don't love you as a brother in Christ, which I do. Just to be clear.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Dangers of Indoctrination

Once you've been thoroughly indoctrinated, it becomes very difficult to escape a given way of thinking, even when that way of thinking is thoroughly crazy. Consider the latest from Stan at his Winging It blog (and, as always, I'm not picking on Stan... he's just sometimes saying things I have believed in the past... I'm just trying to make up for my mistakes and clearing up why I was mistaken in the past and Stan's words happen to be handy...)

Fair? You want fair? Fair would be eternal damnation for every single one of us. Fair would be receiving what we have each and every one of us earned -- a one way ticket to hell.

Now, this is standard evangelical teaching and there is a point to it... the point being, we want GRACE, not justice, not fairness. When we make mistakes, we are very appreciative if we have a chance to deal with that in the context of grace, not harsh legalistic justice. So, that is, in my mind, the good side of this kind of reasoning.

The bad side is when you take that imagery that celebrates grace and make it a legalistic and literal "truth..." Consider what people are saying with this sort of reasoning...

1. God is a God of perfect love and perfect justice.
2. That because God is perfectly just, the reasoning goes, God can not "abide" or put up with ANY sin.
3. So, because God is SO "just," even one little lie is sufficient cause for God to send a person to an eternal torment and torture, as a matter of "justice..."

The problem with this reasoning is that it is not speaking of justice, as we know and understand justice. Part of the notion of justice includes proportionate punishment for sins/mistakes/crimes.
Thus, while a parent is not at all being unjust to punish their 8 year old for taking a box of cookies that didn't belong to them - say, sending them to time out or making them work extra to pay for the stolen cookies - the parent would be monstrously unjust to cut off their hand to punish them or to kill them by way of punishment. The punishment does not measure up to the level of the crime. It is, in fact, so far out of proportion to the crime that the punishment, itself, is unjust. Monstrous, not loving or just at all.

So, while human beings are all sinful or imperfect in nature, do most of us do something so monstrous in our life as to merit an eternity in torment as an equitable "just" punishment? Most of us do not kill, do not cheat, do not steal that which isn't ours, do not rape, do not commit genocide... so, is a lifetime of mistakes that include lying, being less than honest, gossiping, speeding in our car, etc... are these rightly considered awful enough to justly merit a punishment of eternal torment? Is that rational? Moral?

Or, consider that we have been created imperfect by God (for those who believe we are created by God...) Is it rational or just that God creates us imperfect and then demands that we be perfect or else we'll be punished with eternal torment for being imperfect, as God made us!? No, of course not.

The problem with this view of a loving and just God is that it undermines the notion of a loving and just God. God becomes whimsical, monstrous, unjust, uncaring... not the God most believers think of as a loving God.

I would ask Stan or others who have made these sorts of statements: What specifically have you done to merit a "one way ticket to hell..."? Would you consider another human being who even just tortured for a few days one of your loved ones for their sins to be just and loving? Or would you consider them to be insane?

The obvious answer is "insane..." We recognize it when speaking of human on human action, but some of us are so indoctrinated that we fail to see it when we slander God thusly. Something to consider for those who have ears to hear.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Where Humility and Reality Meet Positive Thinking...

"You can do anything you set your mind to," they told me.

Unfortunately, they underestimated what I could set my mind to.

Friday, July 10, 2015

How we know right and wrong...

Stan, at the Winging It blog, recently was disparaging/critiquing his more progressive friends, complaining that our reasoning is off. Of course, he was critiquing a strawman version of our reasoning, not the real thing, so that was a problem right off. I'll deal with it here because it is an oft-repeated mistake.

He suggested we say that...

"Wrong" is doing harm, and we know what "harm" is (despite the repeated failures of humankind to anticipate harm).
We know what "good" is (even if it conflicts with what God, "the judge of all the earth" (Gen 18:25), says it is.
Oddly, it puts them [liberals who disagree with Stan] in the driver's seat of morality as if they're much better at figuring out how the human being works than the Maker is. It's odd because it comes from folk who claim to love God.
A few thoughts, to clarify his misunderstanding about our positions. (I do it here because, A, he does not deal with my comments on his blog and, B, as I often note, it's not really about Stan and his error, it's about the ideas involved, and these ideas are often misunderstood by conservative types, so, my thoughts...)
1. We don't know perfectly what harm is, any more than you or I know perfectly how to interpret the Bible's every page.
How is imperfectly reading the Bible and understanding it any more reliable than imperfectly recognizing harm?
2. We don't know perfectly what "good" is, any more than you (any of us) know how to interpret the Bible perfectly or how perfectly to know God's will.
3. At the same time, most reasonable people can generally agree on both "harm" and "good..." I just don't think it's that hard. For instance...
The potential for harm when driving drunk is great, so it is not a moral good to drive impaired. We don't need the Bible to tell us this, we are rational and moral creatures. Is there anything to disagree with there? If so, what?
Even though the Bible never specifically condemns dropping nuclear bombs on a city of civilians during war time, we know that it causes horrific harm and is not a moral good. We are rational and moral creatures and this is obvious, we don't need the Bible to tell us it's wrong. Again, what is wrong with this line of reasoning, because I do not see it. This seems like something all people of good will can agree upon.
4. We are not in "the driver's seat" nor are we claiming to be. What we're claiming is this:
We are responsible for our behavior, for understanding - as best we can - right and wrong. We can't and shouldn't simply say, "Dan (or Stan or whoever), YOU decide for the rest of us what is right or wrong..." NO! God forbid, no!
Rather, we are saying that we each need to strive to do the right and avoid the wrong, because we are each reasonable, moral agents. I'm (we're) absolutely NOT saying we know better than the Maker. We're saying "I don't trust another human to tell me what is and isn't right." That is, we're not saying No to the Maker, we're saying No to Stan or anyone else who would presume to speak for the Maker.
Again, this seems like something all of us should be able to agree upon.
5. At the very least, he got the last claim right: We DO love God (not merely claim to love God...). It is precisely because we love God that we don't want to leave it to some guy on the internet to tell us what is right and wrong.
But this is just reasonable, is it not?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Based on WHAT?

I have heard multiple times from multiple sources over the years that one reason I need to change my position on one topic or another is because "the elders" or tradition has spoken and decided the matter. Most recently, I have visited Ed at his reformedreasons blog and asked the oft-asked/rarely answered question: On what basis is your interpretation/opinion about the meaning of a passage or the "correct" position on a particular opinion the one that must be heeded?

As is generally true, Ed has mostly refused to even acknowledge the question was asked, much less provide an answer. When he did acknowledge the question, his response was...

You clearly do not understand that when we say Scripture is its own basis, it is self-authenticating, it is the final authority, that there is no other basis. My opinion has nothing to do with it. Either you accept that Scripture is self-authenticating, binding, and our final authority and that Scripture is its own ground for this position or you do not. You clearly do not.

You demand something more. There is nothing more. There must be a final authority if there is to be any authority at all. Why can't you understand that? We could say "based on who's authority" ad infinitum" you know.

So, what happened there was he repeated that "Scripture is its own basis..." which is not the question I asked. He repeated that it is self-authenticating, it is the "final authority," etc... all of which does not answer my question.

Look, I love, honor, cherish, read and take seriously the teachings in the Bible. I give it plenty of "authority" (I do not give the words in the Bible "final authority" because that belongs to God, and I will not make a god out of the Bible, as doing so is contrary to the teachings of the Bible, not to mention irrational).

The question is not "will we take the Bible seriously," but WHOSE intepretation on various topics/passages is "right" or whether any mortal can state authoritatively, "I hold the One True Interpretation..."

So, when we read Genesis 1 and Ed (or others) say, "This is a literal history..." on what basis is his opinion on the matter any more weighty or authoritative than mine? It's a very reasonable question.


Some topics where there are disagreements, they are relatively simple disagreements. I happen to think that Gen. 1 is told in a more figurative/mythic style and others think it is more literal history. If Ed or anyone else wants to disagree with me, they are welcome to do so. If they insist that I must agree with them, I'll politely decline, as I find their case wanting. I don't think Ed or anyone else is immoral for believing in a 6,000 year old earth, just ridiculously mistaken.

But for other topics - war, how we spend our money, human rights, gay rights, etc - for them to ask or demand that I MUST change my position is asking me to take a stand against morality and rationality. If someone insisted that I, as a Christian, MUST take up arms to fight and kill in wartime, they would be asking me to partake in what I consider to be obviously evil. If someone insists that Christians "must" denounce homosexual marriages, they are asking me to partaken in what I consider to be obviously evil.

So, when someone says, "Here is MY interpretation of various passages as it relates to war or to homosexuality," I hope you can understand how very deadly serious is the question... "On what basis should I abandon what I think is moral in favor of what I believe to be clearly evil?"

The sum total of Ed's argument has been a baseless and irrational appeal to the authority of SOME group of particular believers. Ed said, for instance...

You left a body of elders and sought out a fake group of elders.

My question is ON WHAT BASIS would I know that the first group of "elders" is the "right" group and not the second? Especially when, as far as I can see, the first group of elders is clearly morally and rationally mistaken on the points in question.

If anyone is reading and inclined to answer, I'd welcome them: Regardless of my conclusions, do you recognize the very weightiness of the problem you have when you ask someone to abandon what appears to be Godly and moral and rational in favor of what appears to be immoral, unGodly, unbiblical, irrational and flimsy as hell?

Do you think you should be prepared to answer, "On what basis should I abandon the moral in favor of the immoral?" Or would you counsel me to follow my understanding of God, the Bible, morality as best I can, even if you disagree with my conclusions? Since Ed is not answering these questions, I'm putting it out there for anyone else to take a shot.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Conservative Lamentation About Charleston shooting?

Just wondering: Can anyone find a conservative blog that is lamenting the tragic events in Charleston or offering support for our brothers and sisters at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church or otherwise speaking out about this great evil?

I ask because I've looked around and cannot find any.

If not, why not?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Remembering Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

"It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky

It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gon' come, oh yes it will"

~The Great Sam Cooke