Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Who Knew? (Well, Besides Me and All My Friends...)


A new study out (recently covered in Christianity Today) shows that the more you actually read the Bible, the more likely you are to hold more progressive views on a variety of topics. Further, the more independent reading you do of the Bible, the more likely this is the case.

From Christianity Today (as reported in the story above - I can't see all of the CT article)...

Unlike some other religious practices, reading the Bible more often has some liberalizing effects—or at least makes the reader more prone to agree with liberals on certain issues. This is true even when accounting for factors such as political beliefs, education level, income level, gender, race, and religious measures (like which religious tradition one affiliates with, and one’s views of biblical literalism)...

“Support for abolishing the death penalty increased by about 45 percent for each increase on the five-point scale measuring Bible-reading frequency.”
“…the more someone reads the Bible, the more likely he or she is to believe science and religion are compatible. (For each increase on the five-point scale, the odds that they see religion and science as incompatible decrease by 22 percent.)”
“How important is it,” the survey asked, “to actively seek social and economic justice in order to be a good person?” Again, as would be expected, those with more liberal political leanings were more likely to say it’s very or somewhat important. And those who read the Bible more often were more likely to agree. Indeed, they were almost 35 percent more likely to agree… Those who are most engaged in their faith (by directly and frequently reading its source material) are those who are most supportive of social and economic justice. “
“For each increased level of Bible-reading frequency, support for the Patriot Act decreased by about 13 percent.”
Interesting report, with data that supports the reality for me and many of my friends. The more seriously we took the Bible, the more we read it and sought God's Ways, the more progressive we became, sometimes, almost kicking and screaming!

Of course, I have many friends from childhood (and maybe a few current friends) who I know to have also done a great deal of taking the Bible seriously and reading it independently who did not have this result that I had and that this study is reporting. Makes one wonder what the difference is.


Age of Reason

A relatively small excerpt from Thomas Paine's "Age of Reason..." While I may not always agree with Paine, he makes many perfectly rational points that are sustained by simple, common reason and, thus, I find I agree with Paine a great deal.

...Each of those churches show certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man. [emphasis, mine]

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it...

I'm not sure of any reason, rationally or biblically, to disagree with this common sense observation.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ring Them Bells

At my church, we begin Advent with a service where we ring bells, to ring in Advent, ring in the coming of a New Realm, where all are welcome and we stand side by side with one another, with the poor, with the marginalized, with our enemies.

A song from our service last week, Bob Dylan's Ring Them Bells.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Starry night

Beyond the shadows
of a thousand blackened trees
one billion stars shine

for Paris

Monday, November 9, 2015

...and now, for something a bit different...

This is, I believe, a 1920s era Stromberg Voisinet tenor guitar. It has no markings identifying it as such, but this shape (called "Venetian") was unique to them, so far as I've been able to figure out. If you're familiar with Kay Kraft guitars, Kay is the more well known company that bought out Stromberg Voisinet about 1930).

I got this at a junk store for a few bucks, had it restored for several more bucks and found out may be worth several hundred dollars, were I interested in selling, which I'm not.

The tenor guitar is similar to the octave mandolin, but with only four strings (whereas the octave mando has four courses of two strings, or eight strings all together). It's a very fun instrument to play. Unfortunately, I'm quite the amateur.

Here, I'm playing "Cluck Ol' Hen," a traditional tune. A third of the way in, I add in a guitar layer to round out the sound some.

Visit more junk stores. Enjoy.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Some questions for Marshall

Frequent commenter here, "Marshall Art" said recently, at another blog, that people like me are mistaken in how we portray Marshall (et al). He said....

I am "speaking for God" by restating the exact words that appear in Scripture, as if I made it up myself and merely claimed it is what God says, means or thinks. There's simply no need to do so when Scripture states things so clearly.

Nor is it "opinion" when having re-typed the words of Scripture, or even copy/pasted it from an on-line site that presents multiple Biblical version (KJV, NIV, ESV, etc.)

Now I'm told I am "assigning meaning" to words whose meanings are well known and easily verified by a look at any dictionary.

Just a few very simple clarifying questions, Marshall.

I. First of all, in spite of our disagreements, I am assuming the best of you, that you are a good and decent man, trying to do the right thing. I am assuming that  you would not intentionally misrepresent those who disagree with you.

Am I correct in my assumptions about your good will and honorable intent?

II. Proceeding on, then, I would posit that you do not believe what you just said. I would posit that you, like me, would agree that we need to and do interpret Scripture all the time. It's what reading is, for rational adults.

So, for instance, no one is disputing that Genesis 1 says "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." and all the rest of the text that sits in the book of Genesis in its various translations. The text says literally what it says. That's just a fact.

Do you recognize that we all agree with that fact?

III. From that point, then, we all use our reason - taking into consideration the source, the text and context, the apparent writing style, the time period, etc - to sort out, for instance, the genre involved. You (or others, if not you) look at the text and reason out that "this literal text that sits there waiting to be read is written in a style that is a literal history.

Others, also using their reason and taking into consideration all the same things, reach the conclusion, "this is NOT a literal history... it reads more like a mythic or figurative genre, given what we know of the text and given the data at hand..."

That is simply another observable fact: That both/all "sides" look at the text and use our reason to decide on the figurative or literal nature of the text, on the genre, on the meaning - if any - of the text involved.

Do you recognize that we all use our reason to sort out those sorts of conclusions?

IV. When you say, "I am "speaking for God" by restating the exact words that appear in Scripture, as if I made it up myself " do you recognize that we are, as a point of fact, NOT saying that when you quote Genesis 1 or any other passage, that we are claiming by that quote in and of itself, that you are speaking for God?

No, we do not say that when you say, "Genesis 1 says.. X" That is a demonstrable fact. Why would we? Clearly the text says what it says. No, we say that when you go from what the text literally says to what the text means. Thus, when you say Gen 1 says what it says and then proceed to say, "Therefore, it is a literal history..." THAT is when we say you are presuming to speak for God?

I know you've been busy lately, but hopefully, you'll find the time to answer these questions so that we can clarify your mistaken impression.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Teachings of Jesus

I was reading a conservative brother encouraging us to take Jesus at his word. To that, I can only shout, Amen!

Let us, please, take Jesus ExACTLY at his word, not adding to it things like "virgin birth," "sola Scriptura," "penal substitutionary atonement," "sometimes, it's okay for governments to bomb cities and kill innocents," "inerrancy," "you must take Genesis to be a literal history," "you must be opposed to gay folk getting married" and other nonsense that Jesus NEVER one time even mentioned, much less made an "essential"  component of his teachings (something that is never discussed by a teacher can not reasonably be called "essential...").

But let us please take Jesus at his word and take THAT word seriously, IF we are going to be followers of Jesus.

To that end, Jesus' words (some of them), as reminder:

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?

[D]o not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  ...Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Do not store up treasures here on earth.

You cannot serve God and money.

Sell your belongings, give to the poor.

When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.
Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
No one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Neither do I condemn you.

Sabbath was made for humanity, not humanity for the Sabbath.

Come to me ALL you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and keep close behind me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will save it. For what is the use of a man gaining the whole world if he loses or forfeits his own soul?

Anyone who accepts a little child in my name is really accepting me, and the man who accepts me is really accepting the one who sent me. It is the humblest among you all who is really the greatest.

You must not stop him. The man who is not against you is on your side.

Yes, and I do blame you experts in the Law! For you pile up back-breaking burdens for men to bear, but you yourselves will not raise a finger to lift them. Alas for you, for you build memorial tombs for the prophets - the very men whom your fathers murdered. You show clearly enough how you approve your father's actions. They did the actual killing and you put up a memorial to it...

Alas for you experts in the Law, for you have taken away the key of knowledge. You have never gone in yourselves and you have hindered everyone else who was at the door!

Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?!

If your brother offends you, take him to task about it, and if he is sorry, forgive him.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. You must go on living in my love. If you keep my commandments you will live in my love just as I have kept my Father's commandments and live in his love.

There is no greater love than this - that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I tell you to do. I shall not call you servants any longer, for a servant does not share his master's confidence. No, I call you friends, now...

May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day the bread we need, Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us. Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil...

Don't criticise people, and you will not be criticised. For you will be judged by the way you criticise others.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; ...He will do even greater things than these...

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

For I deserve mercy, not sacrifice.

Follow me.

...for starters.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I Can Do No Other...

I was recently asked to explain my objections to the theological theory of Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is the Protestant theory that the Bible is the sole or primary source of authority on matters of faith and morality - with some general debate about what specifically that means, but that's the gist of it.

It originated with the Protestant revolution and with some (in my opinion) good reason. The Catholic Church believed/believes that "Scripture AND human Tradition (specifically, the teachings/traditions of "the church," which can then be debated futher) are equally important. With the Protestant Reformation, the protestors were saying that some popes and church leaders were making up tradition out of whole cloth, contrary and apart from what the Bible had to say. Thus, in protest to these abuses of the church leaders, they cried "Sola Scriptura!" meaning that the popes couldn't just make up doctrine willy nilly. As an attempt to get away from abuses, it isn't wholly irrational.

Consider: At one point, the Catholic Church demanded that Martin Luther recant from some of his positions. His response...

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony from scripture or by evident reason - for I confide neither in the Pope nor in a Council alone, since it is certain they have often erred and contradicted themselves - I am held fast by the scriptures adduced by me, and my conscience is held captive by God’s Word, and I neither can nor will revoke anything, seeing it is not safe or right to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.“

Thus, sola scriptura was a noble attempt to defend religious liberty (or at least could be seen that way) from those who presumed to speak for God. But, I would argue that sola scriptura ended up being a way of just establishing a NEW and different tradition that wasn't the Catholic Church making the call, but that, in practice, still demanded that people heed what others thought the Bible was saying.

Because I object to sola scriptura theories, I was asked to espouse my alternative theory, and so...

An Alternative to the Human Theory/Tradition of Sola Scriptura, a Theory Never Espoused in the Bible or by Jesus or in any way called "essential" in the Bible, because it is not espoused in the Bible:

My Theory is what I will call the Rational Theory of Godly Inspiration

I. Regarding "sola scriptura..." theories

1. In the Bible (for those of us who take the Bible seriously as a book of wisdom), we find that God reveals God's Self and Ideas in many ways...

a. through Creation,
b. through God's Spirit,
c. through Jesus' direct teaching,
d. through "scripture" (almost always speaking specifically of OT teachings)
e. through "God's Word" or revelation (here, not speaking specifically of Bible books, but the over-arching notion of "every word out of God's mouth..." or the idea of God's Ways)
f. through God's Self revealed in our hearts, minds and/or being,
g. through our God-given reasoning,
h. through "special" or direct revelation (God speaking to someone, directly, audibly - and sometimes inaudibly)
i. through tradition,
j. ...and possibly others I'm not thinking of at the moment

2. At NO time in the Bible, do biblical authors, God or the text give one of these methods of revelation a priority over the others. It never happens.

3. At NO time in the Bible - and for followers of Jesus, more specifically, in Jesus' teachings - do we read about any direct notion of "sola scriptura," or the human theory that the 66 books of the Bible have a special, primary place of authority, in matters of theology or practice. It never happens, not for the 66 books of the Protestant Bible, nor for "Scripture," in general.

4. At NO time in the Bible is the notion of "sola scriptura" - never being directly taught by anyone in general or Jesus, specifically, not literally - called "essential" to Christian teaching. It never happens.

5. Given all this, at a minimum, we need to start with the recognition that, as a point of fact:
a. sola scriptura is a human theory/tradition,
b. it is not an essential teaching of Jesus (or of the essence of Jesus' teachings)
c. that believers of good faith can disagree on this and that's okay

II. If not "sola scriptura," then what?

1. First of all, if we have no rational or biblical reason for Theory A, we are under no obligation to espouse an Alternative to Theory A. It is sufficient to say, Theory A is not sound or can not be supported by data in the real world. For instance, if someone says that we can "know" all Biblical inspiration comes from God via an alien race named Thetans and we can know this because of Ezekiel's story of the spinning wheel and a few other verses, it is sufficient to say "that is not a rational conclusion..." and if they respond, "then via what source do we receive God's inspiration?" we do not need to come up with an alternative theory to Thetan revelation. It is sufficient to say, "that is not a sound theory."

2. But, to answer the question, If not the theory of sola scriptura, then what? I respond: No theory at all, just Reason. Period.

But human reason is not perfect, is it? Hardly. The suggestion is laughable.

Understand, I'm not making the suggestion we should choose to embrace reason in questions of morality, faith, theology and religion. I'm saying that it's what we have. Plain and simple. It's not like we have a line of choices (Do we want to use the Bible, the Koran, Sagan's "Cosmos" or human reason to settle these matters? Let's use... hmmm, option A!") and must choose one and, if not one, then the other.

No, it's not like we have a choice and one answer is the best answer. Rather, we have our reason to sort through ALL the available data out there and do the best we can on matters that are not provable. If we like all or part of what the Bible has to say, we use and have used our reason to understand it. Without reason, it's just a bunch of text that is undecipherable gibberish. Whether we're speaking of the Bible, the Koran, Cosmos or Playboy.

If we highly value the Bible as a source of wisdom on matters of faith, then we hopefully used our reason to reach that conclusion and didn't just start off with "I highly value the Bible because someone else told me to do so..." That wouldn't be a very solid rational starting point for faith.

If we highly value the Bible as a source of wisdom, then we use our reason to sort it out. THIS passage is literal history, it seems to me based upon my best reasoning and the data I have available... THAT passage is likely more mythic in nature, based upon my best reasoning... This OTHER passage seems solidly poetic (as opposed to being a list of literal rules, for instance, or a model for perfect living, for instance). We all do this, beginning with our reasoning, because it's what we have. Those who embrace sola scriptura begin not from the Bible, but from reason, as do the rest of us.

Thus, the answer is, as a point of fact and not preference, that we all begin from a place of reason. It's not a question to be answered, but an observation that we can establish.

Now, all of our reasoning may not be as solid and well-thought-out as others and none of our reason is anything like perfect, but it IS our starting point, just as a point of fact. For all of us. Thus, sola scriptura is not the starting point, as a simple point of fact, our reason is.

And, using our reason, we see that the Bible's authors nowhere specifically push sola scriptura. Just as a point of fact. Further, while some people have, using their reason, taken some passages and reasoned out sola scriptura as a theory, it is a human theory derived using human reason. So, for those people, too, reason was the starting point, the "primary source," literally speaking.

I point back to Luther's quote which I cited early on...

"my conscience is held captive by God’s Word, and I neither can nor will revoke anything, seeing it is not safe or right to act against conscience."

What is Luther citing there? Nominally, "God's Word," presumably he meant the Bible. But, what is he actually citing? He's citing HIS UNDERSTANDING of what God wants. His primary appeal, then, is to his conscience, his reason, not primarily the Bible. Which is right, it's just the fact of the matter.

There's no harm in citing the reality that we are all beginning with our reason. I know there's more comfort and "certainty" if we can conflate our understanding of the Bible with fact or God's Word, but that's just not factual. Thus, let us cling to our fallible human reasoning and acknowledge it as such.

It's what we have.

And if someone were to demand that I recant from this "heretical" position, what would I do?
I would answer, with Luther, that this is right and good and factual, as best I understand it, and I must follow the good and right and factual (ie, God, to me) and can do no other. The difference between Luther and me, is I am making it clear that this is the good and right, as best I understand it, and I do not conflate my opinions and interpretations with God's Word.

It is a critical - the critical - difference.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

I love autumn in nature, and few people express a love and reverence for nature like John Muir. So, in honor of this beautiful time of the year, some Muir...

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves...

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike...

Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean...

As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

For I was a Stranger...

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me"

In my small circle of friends, I am dear friends with five people - from two households - who are in here in the US because their lives were threatened in the places from which they come. I, myself, am descended from Huguenots, who came to America to escape being killed in Europe.

In my church today, we heard prayer concerns about a family friend who had escaped from Latin America to the US - again, to save his own life - only to be promptly arrested and placed in a for-profit detainee center. We also heard about a recent trip to Hungary that just happened to occur at the same time that thousands of people fled from the Middle East to escape life-threatening danger there.

In all these cases, I have heard how family members and friends of all these people had already been killed. They risked boats over-turning and death and they left all they had behind, they left friends and family behind... all to escape persecution, death... real, imminent dangers. They didn't do it as a fluke. They didn't do it to get "free stuff" from other nations. They did it - are doing it - to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

This is not a conservative/liberal issue. It's not a democrat/republican issue. It's not a Christian, Jewish, Muslim or non-theist issue. This is a human issue, because it's a human problem. We MUST change our policies.

When someone crosses our borders and says they were escaping from wherever to save their lives, our first response as human beings concerned with human rights and justice, MUST be to say, "Welcome" and let them in. Now, if we have reason to suspect foul play, by all means, we can investigate. But part of our great tradition in the free world is the notion that we are innocent until proven guilty. If someone is running for their lives, we are obliged by simple human decency and a thirst for justice and righteousness to help them.

We are our neighbor's keeper. For, as God reminds us in the Bible, we - all of us - were and are and have been and will be an immigrant at some point in time. I'm not talking about being "aw, isn't that nice" or simple charity, I'm talking about justice and basic decency. It is past time that we, the people, demand policies that work for justice for the immigrant, because this is justice for ourselves.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

No, Thank You Very Much

Latest idea that is not very well thought through... a conservative blogger is making the case that the answer to the question of "Do you REALLY want to have civic rules based on what a particular religion thinks should be rules?" should be Yes. Stan at Winging It (and as always, I'm not picking on Stan, I'm talking about the idea he is expressing) said...

And, frankly. I'd much rather have a religion instituted and documented by God with values instituted and documented by God to serve as the basis for laws in this (or any) country than the completely arbitrary, unsubstantiated, baseless values of the alternative of non-religious systems. 

The problem with this thinking, of course, is the completely self-unaware hubris, arrogance, self-righteousness and lack of grace in it. He appears to THINK that, "IF we institute a nation based on rules that I AND PEOPLE LIKE ME believe to be what God wants, then that's better than relying upon other people's opinions about gods..." But then, if that is the rational rule, then the extremist Mormon, extremist Muslim, the extremist religion-based racist and the extremist fundamentalist Christians are all on equally valid footing for making the case that THEIR HUNCHES about what God wants is what ought to be Law, not because of them, but because of "god," which god they fail to see is NOT a god, but only a not very clever version of themselves.

So, the answer to his question is, "NO, I do not want a state to implement the rules YOU THINK God wants where people should just go along with you because you say you speak for God." And just as true is that I don't want a state to implement rules just because I might think God wants it.

We make our case based on reason and logic and what makes sense, what promotes good and diminishes harm, oppression or what strikes against human liberty. If you happen to ALSO think that God wants this rule or that, that's fine with me, but don't try to make that the standard by which people should bow to your will, because YOU speak for God.

It's not that I don't trust God or want what God wants. It's that I/we don't trust YOU (or me) telling us that you speak for God and therefore, we must listen to you. That is one of the geniuses on the part of many Baptists, anabaptists and many others who fought for human liberty and human rights all those years ago and, apparently, still today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Love is always blessed
and in all ways
a blessing

May we support love
not criticize it
May we encourage love
not tear it down.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

It's Just Not That Hard, Friends...

Regarding Kentucky's own Kim Davis and her many zany religious right defenders:

Friends, it's just not that hard.

We have religious liberties in this nation. And that is a very good thing. No one can take away our right to worship or follow God as we see fit, the government can not come in and force you to have an abortion against your will, or force you guys to marry a guy if you don't want, or force you to abandon your religious beliefs in any way. That is not happening in this country.

To those who whine and worry about "losses" of religious liberties because of cases like Davis, stop it. It makes you appear whiny, impotent and irrational. We're all embarrassed for you. Just stop it, for your own sake. If you truly believe what you believe, then learn to say it in a different way, you're undermining your own case by presenting yourself as whiny, irrational and immoral. Make your case on a respectful adult level, not appealing to false demons and socialist tyrant boogety-men.

We have religious liberties in this nation. Those who are saying that Davis needs to do her job are defending religious liberties. Do you understand this? Because it appears you don't (see point II).

Your religious freedom is something you rightly enjoy. You ARE FREE to make your own decisions for yourself based upon your personal values and beliefs. Congratulations. We live in a free nation.

BUT (and this is the vital point), your religious freedoms end at you getting to make your own decisions for yourself. You do NOT have the religious "liberty" to tell other people how they must act and what they can and cannot do. IF your religious views insist that you get to tell other people how to live, well, in that case, you do not have that specific religious liberty. Sorry, but you don't (as long as the others' behavior is not causing harm, anyway).


So, if you are in a job whose responsibilities involving providing alcohol licenses and you don't believe in alcohol being available: YOU DO NOT GET TO REFUSE TO PROVIDE ALCOHOL LICENSES. If you don't believe in selling alcohol, you do have the religious liberty to step down from that job (or not take it in the first place), but you do not have the religious liberty to make that call for others. You just don't.

If you enroll in the army and you are a Quaker or Amish or other Peace Religion, you do NOT GET TO SAY, "I WON'T DO THIS JOB." You are free to resign from the army as an CO, but you don't get to keep the job and simultaneously refuse to do the job. You just don't have that religious liberty.

IF you are in a job that, initially, you could perform the duties within your religious belief system, but the job changes (or your views change), you have the religious liberty to resign from the job so you don't have to do what is against your beliefs, but you don't have the religious liberty to keep the job and refuse to perform the duties of that job. You just don't have that religious liberty.

In conclusion:
It's just not that difficult.
You DO have religious liberty.
You are NOT being oppressed.
Don't claim that you are being oppressed, it makes you look wimpy and irrational.
You have religious liberty to make decisions for yourself, but not for others.
If your job has duties that conflict with  your religious values, you have the freedom to NOT perform those duties. You do this by finding other work, not by insisting the world should bend to your religious idiosyncrasies.

It's just not that difficult. Now that it's been explained, I hope you understand and we can just move on in peace and neighborly community.

God bless you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Orange Sky

I saw an orange sky
broken by strange blue lightning
and then the deep weirdness began...

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


A conservative blogger - Stan, over at Winging It -  recently posted about Jesus and judgmentalism. Some liberalish people will point to Jesus' "judge not, lest you be judged..." and proceed to tell people "Jesus said 'don't judge!'"

Many, many conservativish people will jump on that and say, "You're missing the point! Jesus and the church made judgments all the time!" Stan had this to say this time...

"So, which did Jesus do in the John 8 story? They tell me He did neither [judge AGAINST, harshly or judge as in "form an opinion about" -dt]. I disagree.

In John 8:11 He says, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." The question was "Should we stone her?" (John 8:4-6). Stoning would be condemning. Jesus didn't condemn her, didn't sentence her to punishment, didn't judge against her. But He did judge her. He told her, "From now on sin no more." That is, "You have sinned; don't do it anymore."

The world wants us to shut up about sin. They try to point to Jesus for that. It just doesn't work."

Two things:

1. I think these type of conservatives are missing the point. No one is seriously saying "don't make judgments about anything..." We ALL want people to judge harshly that the drunk driver needs to be stopped, the pedophile needs to be stopped, the oppressive tyrant needs to be stopped, the murderer, rapist, molester, abuser NEEDS to be stopped. We have judged these behaviors to be clearly harmful and decided/agreed that they need to be stopped. So, when more conservative people assume that people are saying "don't make judgments about anything," they assume incorrectly, if that's what they're doing.

What people are objecting to is the harsh judgmentalism and condemnation of people's lesser (ie, non-harmful to others) foibles. Whether that's the avid environmentalist/bicyclist who goes around judging harshly all those who drive and condemn them for their choices or the conservative religionist who goes around judging harshly all others' sexual opinions/practices. That sort of judgmentalism is off-putting, arrogant and counter-productive.

We're all in this generally striving together to generally do the right thing. No one wants to embrace a wrong behavior. We all can do better and we all make mistakes, being harshly judgmental about minor foibles (or what WE perceive to be a "sin") is not the way to help people out.

And note: Again, I'm not speaking of overtly harmful behavior. Yes! We should speak out and stop the pedophile, the rapist, the abuser, the drunk driver. And we don't need a line from the Bible or sacred text to tell us to stop those behaviors - they are overtly harmful behaviors that potentially or actually take away people's liberties, health and/or lives. We stop those behaviors precisely because they are harmful to life and liberty.

But how did Jesus handle the woman caught in a sexual "sin..."? Did he judge her harshly? No! Did he condemn her or the supposed sin? No! In fact, he specifically did NOT condemn her. Literally saying, "neither do I condemn you..."

Whose behavior did Jesus chastise? The ones who would have killed a woman for a supposed sin.

The religious zealots were embracing actual harmful behavior to KILL someone who may have been involved in a sexual foible... a non-harmful or less-harmful behavior. Assuming the man involved consented, they were prepared to kill - take away a life - for a consensual act.

THAT harmful behavior was indirectly rebuked in the story cited here, not the supposed "sin" of this woman, who was specifically not condemned.

So, again, the point is people are not saying "don't make judgments about anything!" It is still okay to stop and condemn actually harmful behavior, to save a life and to promote liberty. No, when people say, "don't judge," they are speaking of the harsh, condemning sorts of behavior.

So, where Stan said...

The world wants us to shut up about sin. They try to point to Jesus for that. It just doesn't work."

The point is, NO one - including "the world" - wants us to "shut up" about or give up on stopping actually harmful behavior. PLEASE let us work together to find graceful ways to stop harmful behavior. On the other hand, when you (or I) hold personal opinions about what God may or may not think about non-harmful behavior - what we do or don't do in our bedrooms, for instance - please, keep them to yourselves and/or express your concern in an humble and respectful manner AS a concern, and then only when asked. That's what people are wanting, at least in my experience.

2. The second thing: I don't know that I've ever heard a conservative take up the notion of "Neither do I condemn you..." in this story. This is a woman caught in what was, biblically (taken literally) a capital crime, a "sin" so heinous that the ancients believed that God wanted people killed for this sin. But Jesus quite literally - given a direct chance to do so - did NOT condemn her or her behavior. Given the chance, Jesus did not embrace the OT law literally. He chased away the would-be killers and said, "neither do I condemn you...". He DID go on to say, "Go and sin no more..." but he left it to the woman's judgment as to what that would be.

What I'd like to see our more conservative friends embrace is this "neither do I condemn you" attitude literally from Jesus. If you want to take something literally in the bible, embrace that literally. And if two gay folk get married, in love say (to yourself, preferably, unless asked), "neither do I condemn you..." even if you happen to think it is a wrong thing to do. Or if a child moves in with a partner without marrying, repeat after Jesus (again, to yourself unless asked), "Neither do I condemn you..."
If you're in your sunday school class and someone starts talking about a transgender neighbor and they ask your opinion, say, "Neither do I condemn them!"

It is my opinion that "neither do I condemn you" is another way of saying, Grace. Grace to you. Grace to you in your decisions. You are an adult, I grace-fully respect your right and duty to choose for yourself what is the Right Thing to do.


It's a great attitude to embrace literally, seems to me.