Attacks on God from Within

Yesterday I mentioned subtle attacks on God (and just a reminder, by “attack” I am referring to that which contradicts or distorts the truth about God as He has revealed Himself in the Bible). From what I see, the subtle version is most prevalent from within the body of professing Christians.

Sadly, it would seem that some identifying with the emerging church, are falling into this category. I almost don’t know where to begin.

Self-described wannabe mystic and prophet Mike Morrell wrote an article, “Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?” last November that illustrates the attack from the inside.

Note: this article is a result of reviewing some sessions from the 2004 Emerging Theological Conversation. The presenting scholar was Walter Brueggemann, and Brian McLaren, Tim Keel, Troy Bronsink were among those hosting dialogues. In other words, these ideas are not exclusive to Mr. Morrell.

While Mr. Brueggemann first advanced the idea that God is getting over his addiction to violence, Mr. Morrell uses Geoff Holsclaw’s summary to explain the position:

“By this he [Brueggemann] means that God used to think violence was a good idea, but then gave up on it. However, like all addicts, He has relapses. Of which the cross is either the final deliverance, or another relapse.”

In today’s society, of course, “violence” has come to mean any use of force. Consequently, God’s judgment—whether on nations or on His Son as He bore the sins of the world—is viewed as violence.

This position negates God’s role as judge, denies the goodness and immutability of His nature, and ignores His plan for the world.

In essence, while claiming to search for the mystery of spirituality (departing from certitude, dying to “answers/desires/scripts”), this position misses the transcendence of God.

On one hand, this view of God reduces him to human proportions, at least emotionally. He grows up, matures, battles to “recover” from how he’s treated man because, apparently, he knows better now. In addition, because we are in a personal relationship with him, that means he must learn from me just as I learn from him.

On the other hand, this view of God strips him of his personhood. Here’s the argument:

But when we’re faced with the disturbing truths that Brueggemann elucidates – God’s irascibility for instance – what do we do?

There are two ways to do handle this. One is the way of definitive, forceful – almost violent – denial that there is (or has ever been) anything troubling in God’s character or actions. It’s the route of trusting God via suppression.

But there is another route – more painful, more adult, more complex – but I think it can still end in deeply-rooted, childlike trust. It’s a path that I’ve learned from many guides over the years … And this is the path: As Grubb proposes a radically panentheistic reading of Holy Writ, there is only One Person in the Universe. (Y’know, like “I Am the Lord your God, there is no Other?”) Creation unfolds inside of God. And within this unfolding, it moves from gross [overt] to subtle to causal. (emphasis mine)

Notice, there is no argument against taking God at His word, just an accusation that to do so requires denial and suppression.

But here’s the conclusion:

I think that I can be an orthodox Trinitarian Christian with a high Christology, and still hold that the Universe is one important aspect of the unfolding of God – and that we are the co-unfolding of God within God.

The panentheism believes nature is God within God or that God is beyond God.

As Jay Michaelson explained it, God is the ocean and all else is the water.

Remember, Mr. Morrell is speaking as someone within the emerging church. He considers himself a Christian—one who looks at Scripture through the eye of a panentheist.

I call this an attack on God.

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Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 7:00 am  Comments (301)  
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301 Comments

  1. see assertion with aggression tends to be how society structures itself. cultural theory says we must divorces ourselves from what is acceptable to redefining it, for me, this is what i am doing. i am holding on to my beliefs, but not with two hands, but one. for me, the word assertion tends to be followed with aggression, an example is what you have written and have been writing sally. aggression is an attribute of most meta-narratives in the bigger historical story of humanity. i am not asserting with aggression because i want to rewrite a new one that is counter intitutive to the societal structures.

    yeah, i think the left behind series has really hurt a lot of people and have lied to many more. it isn’t that different to what went on with the ‘da vinci code’ and people were up in arms with that moreso than the LBseries…

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  2. YEE HAW I was the 200th poster. Becky there must be a prize for this. Can you make me a nifty button to put my site. Prizewinner! Biggest windbag! something along those lines?

    And while you’re at it, you may want to set your wordpress to break the comments up into pages of 25 or 50 or something or this page is going to take a long time to load.

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  3. George! Dude! I am like the most non-aggressive person around. I am so non-aggressive.

    I think that because I say Christianity is an exclusive religion and that only those that believe that Jesus died as a propitiation for sin, you believe that’s aggressive.

    Then you are gagging me so I can’t enter the conversation and tell you what I believe.

    Because I say people are going to hell does not mean I WANT them to go there. No, no, no. I desperately want them to turn and be saved.

    Now, some fundies are aggressive. To go to a funeral and picket with signs about hell is aggressive. I would never do that.

    But to join a blog discussion about Jesus and to say, “Your jesus isn’t my Jesus and your christianity isn’t my Christianity and so do not think I’m your sister,” is not aggressive. It’s simply me stating my beliefs.

    I’ve not been any more passionate than the other side has been. Mike says my God is a war criminal and I’m not whining about him being arrogant and shoving his beliefs down my throat. I fully expect him to tell me what he believes since we’re having a conversation about beliefs.

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  4. i think there might be an understanding. it isnt beliefs that are aggressive it is the way we present them, assert them that can be misconstrued as being aggressive. beliefs aren’t.

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  5. Rebecca,

    First, let me explain the harshness of my words. Some here have castigated the emerging types for lacking conviction, and insist on articulating their own convictions in the strongest possible terms, denouncing those who disagree as being deceived by Satan and so forth. Do I need to cull a list of such statements or do you understand what I mean? My (most likely futile and ill-conceived) point was to give as good as one gets. It’s not particularly congenial, but congeniality seems to have been tossed aside since before I even joined the conversation. Anyway, I was just seeking to man up, as it were.

    Now: “Ira, you know this to be true because you’ve been on the other side of death and are reporting first hand?”

    Of course not, and neither have you. You believe a particular set of ancient testimonies. Which brings me here:

    “Jesus came from the throne of glory and told all Mankind that a day would come when He Himself would separate the sheep and the goats—the latter to ‘eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.’ I trust His witness regarding life eternal.”

    Actually, you don’t. You trust the testimony of others regarding that witness.

    “But I suppose you, like George, will say the disciples simply added this verse later.”

    You can suppose what you like. Personally, I don’t presume to know such details. I don’t find the Gospels credible as historical sources (which is not to say they are devoid of historical content) and I don’t know how, precisely, they were developed any more than I know how any of the world’s religions sacred texts came to be. I find it quite plausible, however, that if there was an historical Jesus, he was an apocalyptic thinker who could have easily said those things. I guess the jury’s still in recess?

    “Let me ask you a question, then, since apparently emerging thinkers disdain the apostles and think they invented a lot of things Jesus never intended.”

    As a fiction writer, Rebecca, I think you can be more creative than to lump everything you don’t like under the “emerging” banner, and as a writer I would expect you to be a good enough reader to notice that I consistently refer to emergent types in the third person. This might steer you away from assuming, then, that I am part of the “emerging church” and that anything I might have to say is indicative of emerging/ent theology. For that matter, Morrell, no matter much he might identify with the emerging church (and God knows what else — he’s part of everything), cannot and does not claim to represent emerging theology.

    For me, fidelity to the original message of Jesus, if such a thing can be pieced together is not the issue. And not to quibble, but Paul did not start the church in Antioch, at least not according to the book of Acts. Barnabus takes Saul to Antioch, presumably for the first time, and there is already a band of believers there.

    As to the larger question of why bother, there are two jokes I like to tell in response to this question. The first is that I’m a Christian because God won’t let me be a Buddhist. Or an Episcopalean. [rimshot…]

    The other joke is that I’m actually a 5-point Calvinist — it’s just that I’m one of the damned and I’m a little bitter about it.

    The truth is, Christianity is a broad and varied tradition whose adherents hold a wide variety of contradictory views. And that’s just the Bible.

    [Okay, so that was three jokes.]

    Joking aside, Christianity really is a rich and diverse tradition, and even if one only takes in the compass of contemporary expressions, but especially if consider things in historical context, then the tradition really is quite broad and as much as we might castigate this version or that version as not being the true faith (and it is a common rhetorical strategy to do so), from a sociological standpoint none of us really gets to say what is or isn’t part of the tradition. By virtue of Christianity’s role in Western culture for good or ill, moreover, many of us end up with some kind of relationship to that tradition almost by default.

    There are elements of that tradition that remain attractive to me well beyond assertion to a particular set of metaphysical truth claims. Christianity possesses with in it trenchant critiques of power and a strong call to identify and make common cause with the poor, the marginalized, the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. That call resonates with me. I realize that this element may not be important to others or may not be meaningful without those elements — going to heaven when one dies, for instance — that I do not find meaningful.

    I realize that to many, I am no kind of Christian. And that’s fine. I’m really not into mushy language about how we’re all brothers and sisters or hand-wringing about why we can’t all get along or appeals for everyone to get on board with the true message of Jesus (for which there are as many definitions as there are people making the appeal).

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  6. Sorry — typing too fast. The “jury’s still in recess” comment alludes to Jesus’ miscalculation of the timing of the eschaton. I left that part out. Not that I really want to open that can of worms, considering some of our company.

    Also, I meant to specify Acts 9 as the source of my observation about the Antioch church predating Paul’s arrival.

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  7. Oh, and I misspelled “Episcopalian.” Egads.

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  8. Noun 1.eschaton – (New Testament) day at the end of time following Armageddon when God will decree the fates of all individual humans according to the good and evil of their earthly lives

    In case someone else wasn’t familiar with that word.

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  9. ‘Course … Jesus could’ve meant something different than our tradition has come up with. His “end of the age” could be quite different than our “end of the world.” Aion just never quite means “world” …

    I guess I’m heretical enough to believe that all are “saved”, all is fulfilled, and all are one.

    But, that’s just me.

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  10. A couple of things:

    1) George, it would be helpful to me if you either used caps when appropriate or put in spaces or something. I get dizzy reading your posts. I normally have to read them several times before I can piece where the sentences go.

    2) George, I am also frustrated in the fact that you tell people you want to learn from them, and that you don’t claim to have the answers. But then you systematically tell them what things DON’T mean. What? You know, it seems to me that asserting things don’t mean something is an identical mode of assertion to asserting they do mean something. It is a pattern of argument that is all to common in post-modern “discussions”.

    3) This discussion was interesting for a time, but now it seems to be mostly a contest of wills between a select few. It’s going around in circles now.

    4) I still would be interested in the discussion, but, if I listen to you, I expect to be listened to as well. It’s one of my quirks.

    🙂

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  11. i appreciate your concerns cameron. i am not a fan of systematics, and the traditional view of a systematic wordlview is that you need to accept everything in that view for it to be fully valid — this is why i can’t be a calvinist or armenianist. i share some linguistics (language) to create an even ground, not an uneven ground, because all too often when i might use the word (e.g., evangelism — which doesn’t mean telling others about jesus — linguistically speaking) you might hear it differently. so if you are assuming that i am coming off systematic, i apologize, but to further this conversation any longer, we all have to know what the terms are, not from my perspective or your perspective, but from the origin of its own development. and so if you are frustrated, i appreciate that, but i will continue to describe words in their context, because it might shed some light on where i might be wrong in my assessments and vice versa. and sorry, i don’t like all caps.

    and who says you are not being listened to? i see people responding to your blog posts.

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  12. I’m sorry, Cameron — were you saying something? (Joke…)

    Actually, your observation #3 is trenchant, and duly noted.

    George — you seem to be indicating a choice, on your part, between all caps and all lowercase. Is there a reason for that?

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  13. i agree with three as well…so– i think what it comes down to

    is worldview and personal interpretations of the biblical

    narrative construct. (maybe doube-space might work?)

    and there can’t be one right worldview. to think so, would

    advocate such things as ant-semitism and killing the Moors. to

    use two historical examples of peoples or people groups who were

    writing from a meta-narrative approach. i think we need a new

    narrative.

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  14. I’m with Dena on this. I trust my heavenly Father. There is nothing I can do to earn his love, and nothing I can do to lose his love. Aeon is not eternity, it’s an age. And hell, if there is a hell, and many here are hell-bent on having a hell, is corrective (like the dross being burned from silver and gold or the ceramics being perfected by fire) and not eternal. Otherwise GOD put us here, set us up to fall, and punished us for doing that which he set us up to do, which makes him a tyrant, not a just GOD.

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  15. […] series of posts began last Friday with an article discussing a provocative piece entitled “Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?” […]

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  16. Well, I switched the discussion format to allow the comments to load faster, but we lost the numbering. Now they are numbered per page. But that may not matter. It could be that this discussion is winding down and only I am interested in adding another thought or two.

    First I want to come back to something George has said a couple times:

    so he was telling the Pharisees that they need to be more like the lost sheep. that they aren’t journeying at all. that they need to get lost like the one sheep and he will come and find them.

    I don’t think reinterpreting the parable by using some Hebrew definition (especially since the gospels were not written in Hebrew) is necessary to understand what Jesus was saying. Obviously, George, you’ve gone to some other source to understand what Jesus said. How about going to the primary text and reading it? If you have, then I suspect you’ll find something similar to what you’re saying, just without the “journeying” angle.

    But here’s the point. Taken in conjunction with the rest of Scripture, with the other “lost” parables Jesus told, with His dialogue with Nicodemus and with the woman at the well, it’s apparent that we are all lost already. We don’t need to “get lost” so Jesus can come find us. We are lost.

    It’s also apparent that Jesus was willing to go to the max to bring us back. He’s already done the work. Now we have to recognize the face of our Shepherd and let Him take us home.

    There is nothing glorious about our wayward journey. We can’t find God on our own. That’s why the sheep metaphor was so potent. Lost sheep wander aimlessly because … well, they aren’t bright. They need to follow the leader. Alone they meander and put themselves in all kinds of danger. That is not a journey to laud or to revel in.

    Now the Shepherd, the glorious Shepherd, who is willing to carry us to safety, who will lead us to water and food for our souls and comfort and rest, He is worthy of adoration. He is worthy of our concentrated focus.

    Becky

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  17. jesus didn’t speak greek. there are extra-biblical resources that prove he didn’t. and so this story IF told by Jesus wasn’t spoken in greek, it was translated from the hebrew to the greek to english…as a linguistics professor, things are bound to get lost in translation. and the story was pointed to all of humanity, it was pointed to the pharisees who were mumbling about jesus hanging out with the outsiders. also in the first five words jesus gives the pharisees the middle finger by starting off a story by saying ‘suppose one of you’, in that culture you NEVER blamed a person, you blamed the object for getting lost. and jesus is directing the story at those who think it is about having the answers, and who haven’t arrived. again, challenge me, but i didnt make up the hebrew word for sheep. and when put into to context, which wasn’t directed at all of humanity, then jesus is saying with the meaning of the sheep that those who think they have the answers are lost. because it is about the journey. the sheep was a metaphor for the jewish peopl, again disagree with me, but go and talk to a rabbi or dig up jewish resources and see if i am lying, i have no problem being wrong, but then again it isnt about being right or wron, because i just don’t scripture as a plumbline…to do so would make God a tyrant…and I dont believe in a tyrranical god. like one of my friends said recently, scripture as we know, and i think we need a new word here, was written after the event. joshua didn’t tell a scribe to write scripture while a war was going on. but after the event. we cant get away from that reality. so then after the war, if they lost, well, then god wasn’t on their side…if they did win, then god was on their side. we still do that today, we are even doing that in this conversation. it was their theological worldview, not a right or wrong one, and once we go down that road, then we adopt our paradigm to a dualist worldview, a worldview that wasn’t around in the ancient times…it was nondualistic, there are also extra-biblica resources showing this as well…

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  18. Hi, Debra, I’m glad you’ve joined the conversation. I noted something you’ve said, and a couple others in various places, that I think is at the heart of our differences:

    Otherwise GOD put us here, set us up to fall, and punished us for doing that which he set us up to do, which makes him a tyrant, not a just GOD.

    I debate this from time to time with a Calvinist friend of mine. Suffice it to say, not all of us who believe the Bible look at His sovereignty the same way. Here’s my take, but I have to make it through analogy.

    For years I was a teacher and girls’ coach. As part of my teaching responsibilities I occasionally had yard duty. I was the “sovereign authority” over the playground. However, I didn’t order the students’ activities as I did when I coached. For my team there were specific drills, times when we practiced this or that skill, when we scrimmaged, when we faced opponents. I “sovereignly ordered” what took place. On the playground, no, though I was still in charge.

    I think my Calvinist friend sees God more like the coach and I see Him as the yard supervisor.

    But here’s the critical thing: even if He really is more like the coach, I bow to His right to do so because He is God. Who am I to tell Him He should or shouldn’t do with His world and His creatures what He pleases.

    What would you think if I barged into your house and said you weren’t maintaining it properly? You’d undoubtedly want to know what right I thought I had to tell you what to do with what you owned.

    The truth is, God does “own” us because He made us. He has every right to say what should or should not become of us. But that does not make Him a tyrant because He is just and righteous and merciful and long suffering and good.

    You say, no, he’s not those things. How could he be if he’s going to declare a portion of Mankind guilty and He knew from the start that they would be. I say, who are you or anyone else to barge into His house and tell Him how to run things?

    Such a view of God requires utter and complete giving up of my right to judge the Judge. I can do this only by faith, childlike faith that believes God is fair even though at times He doesn’t look fair.

    So I think our differences really boil down to whether or not we think God can be trusted to be in charge.

    Becky

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  19. i think the god of orthodoxy doesn’t trust whether he can be in charge.

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  20. George again:

    his audience weren’t expecting some jesus falling from the clouds experience one day in the future

    I suspect you’re right, but in fact after Jesus left, this is precisely what the Church was promised:

    They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”

    – Acts 1:11

    Mind you, I’m not sticking up for the Left Behind books. I’ve not read them, but I don’t think people should get their theology from fiction. It’s enough that fiction can make us think and even better if it causes us to pull out our Bibles and study the issues for ourselves.

    However, I didn’t want this Biblical truth to be disparaged along with the fictitious account of the end days.

    Becky

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  21. “i think the god of orthodoxy doesn’t trust whether he can be in charge.”

    George, why would you say this? God is perfect and complete. His judgments are sure. I can show you from Scripture how He reveals Himself as completely trustworthy. What do you have to make you think otherwise?

    Becky

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  22. “And not to quibble, but Paul did not start the church in Antioch, at least not according to the book of Acts.”

    😆

    But it is quibbling, Ira, and so is me pointing out that the church in Antioch is first mentioned in chapter 11. But you’re right, Paul didn’t start it, and of course that was never the issue.

    Frankly, I’m not interested in whether you are or are not within the glorious traditions of centuries ago. The fact is, error crept into the church in the first decades of its existence. So looking at tradition that was in error is like looking at US history and saying slavery must be OK because the founding fathers allowed it.

    What I’m asking is, why you want to be associated with people who believe so radically different from you. Whatever differences Christians have, we unite on this point—there is a body of essential beliefs that are inviolate. Without belief in those, a person professing “Christian” is doing so in name only.

    I just can’t figure out why a person denying those essentials would want to throw in with those who claim they are … well, essential!

    Becky

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  23. i will answer backwards. i don’t think is a fan of orthodoxy. but

    i also don’t he is a fan or convert of postmodernism. i don’t

    think he is a title or affiliation of any kind. yet, all of us,

    me include, get so passionate about our views and speaking in

    such a way that we know the mind of god. which would assume that

    either we are linked up with god or are god himself. which the latter

    i am fine with and think what jesus came to invite us to already

    realize — our divine potential.

    so the god of orthodoxy, postemodernism and labels should die.

    about the heaven thing. it is a very layered idea. for example,

    the idea of heaven wasnt a jewish idea. again, don’t believe me,

    go and jump into some research. heaven was the perfect earth.

    this is why the story starts in eden, a perfect earth. it isn’t

    about some place out there over the rainbow. it was rhetoric

    jesus was using that they would have caught on to as rhetoric.

    the jewish idea of a messiah was that is was humanity working

    together to bring in tikkun olam (google this). it was a

    messianic age that we all could bring in. and so heaven is here

    ‘on earth, as it is in heeaven’. and so i think its important

    to remember that we didn’t live then,and that we can all only

    at best surmise our understanding, rather than be authoritative

    about it. i could be wrong, but so could others. and i am okay

    with that. and so heaven is what we create in the here and now

    and that is why the kingdom of god is near (hebrew: within/inside).

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  24. What I’m asking is, why you want to be associated with people who believe so radically different from you. Whatever differences Christians have, we unite on this point—there is a body of essential beliefs that are inviolate. Without belief in those, a person professing “Christian” is doing so in name only.

    So, rebecca, where is the verse that says this verbatim??

    i can show you ancient documents of men and women who came together and told others they should be following this…

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  25. George again:

    the messianic age was more of a concept, not a person. that is why the OT is not a story about one person, but a group of people learning what it looks like to live with the divine and also out of the divine within. and if you notice in your context, the content jesus is talking about isn’t about separating for some doomsday event one day when. it was that those who took care of the other were going to be chosen and set aside as holy and special. those that did not, were the goats who were lost in their own demise. basically, jesus was using metaphor, again, remember he was part of a hebrew culture covered in metaphor.

    Jesus spent 40 days with His followers explaining that He was in fact the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets.

    Jesus was most certainly talking about separating people in a day of judgment. This last parable is part of a long discourse that started when His disciples asked Jesus: “Tell us hen will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

    The actions of the “sheep” and the “goats” in that final story reveal what each thinks of Jesus.

    And finally, George, weren’t you one of the first that said some of those disagreeing with your position were condescending? Then what do you think it is when you explain that Jesus was using a metaphor in this story? 😆 You didn’t think I knew that?

    Becky

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  26. So in other words, George, you have no reason. You don’t believe the Bible but rather your thoughts about the Bible. Interesting.

    Here’s another question, for you and for others (I can’t find exact quotes in all this discussion) who believe that there are many roads to God, that we shouldn’t limit ourselves to one book, and that Jesus, when He said He was the way to God somehow meant He was journeying to God:

      If all roads lead to God, why didn’t He say so? Why would He instead say His people are to have no other gods before them? Why did Jesus endorse this “no other gods” when He talked to people like the rich young ruler and told him to keep the commandments. Why would He say that to love God and love your neighbor as yourself comprised the entire law—including to have no other gods before you?

    Becky

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  27. what’s interesting is your quoting jesus as if he is the ultimate authority, yet many places he quotes he has none apart from god…so how do you know that he wasn’t using jewish rhetoric outside of being influenced from god….the answer is that you nor i can know the answer to that fully — we were not in his brain. to assume so would make yourself god, and from what i have heard so far,you are not ready to go that far. however, i think that is what jesus meant when he used to phrase son of god for all of us. i don’t believe i was the one who was talking about condescenscion.

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  28. Rebecca: If GOD is capricious, and can do anything he wants outside of his own goodness/love/holiness, then I don’t want anything to do with Him anyway. If I have to believe that GOD is the way he is portrayed in the Old Testament, capricious, jealous, temperamental, schizophrenic to bi-polar, then he ISN’T GOD, he’s no better than, no holier than, no more stable or trustworthy than mankind. I reject that he is all these things.

    I believe GOD is goodness and love and because I have come to know his character, THIS is why I came to know he is just and righteous and merciful and long suffering and good. I don’t believe he set us up in a lose/lose situation and then condemned all of mankind to lose. I believe WE screwed it up. OUR perceptions are wrong, OUR interpretations of how the OT writers saw GOD is skewed by the very FACT of it being THEIR INTERPRETATIONS. I don’t believe the OT writers “channeled” GOD and only wrote what he said/did. I believe they used GOD as a scapegoat to justify any and all wrongdoing by “GOD said”. I believe the Bible is a great book to study, and a book with some wisdom, but the GOD-breathed Word of GOD? No. Sorry.

    I tried so hard to believe this. I tried so hard to fit in the box. I almost split myself in half to believe because I was told I had to believe this or be lost forever. But as I’ve stepped out of that pigeon-hole, as I’ve gotten closer to GOD and trusted more in the Holy Spirit to lead me, I’ve come closer to knowing the nature of GOD and how badly we’ve besmirched his name. And I’ve come to rest in the goodness of GOD. And for the first time in my life, I no longer fear GOD…which is a huge step toward maybe coming to a place where I can trust GOD. Which I have never, ever been able to do.

    I understand that FOR YOU, this doesn’t work. FOR YOU you find me a raving heretic. But FOR ME this was a way to take back my sanity, step out of my fear-based religion and fully rest in GOD.

    I am now comfortable with PEOPLE thinking I’m wrong…

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  29. From George: so the god of orthodoxy, postemodernism and labels should die. about the heaven thing. it is a very layered idea. for example, the idea of heaven wasnt a jewish idea. again, don’t believe me, go and jump into some research. heaven was the perfect earth. this is why the story starts in eden, a perfect earth. it isn’t about some place out there over the rainbow. it was rhetoric jesus was using that they would have caught on to as rhetoric. the jewish idea of a messiah was that is was humanity working together to bring in tikkun olam (google this). it was a messianic age that we all could bring in. and so heaven is here ‘on earth, as it is in heeaven’. and so i think its important to remember that we didn’t live then,and that we can all only at best surmise our understanding, rather than be authoritative about it. i could be wrong, but so could others. and i am okay with that. and so heaven is what we create in the here and now and that is why the kingdom of god is near (hebrew: within/inside).

    I wish I lived close to you George, or knew you on an e-group because this piece you just wrote is fabulous and touched my heart so deeply!!! Thank you

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  30. jesus was inviting people in relationship with the divine. and the assumption is that there is truth or the divine in all things. everywhere. and jesus was saying that there is one god above them all. which is a play on an OT idea of a pantheon of gods. and so jesus is dealing with the idea of idolatry in terms of serving other entities other than real god. or ideas or systems. we hear gods and we think he was just referring to other wooden carvings, which was a part of it, but also other systems, religion being one of them. i think jesus was asserting that god was everywhere, in all things, not pantheism. but, he did quote confucius in quoting the golden rule, thereby stating that there is truth there. he also quotes the greek philsophers, if he was so black and white like most people might think he was, than why would he quote other religious figures, why would paul, peter and jude? because god isn’t in the religions, he is in people. it is the religions that lead us to this kind of reality. to assume i have no reason would be aggressive. i think reason is the enemy of god. not reason in general, christian reason. i talk about this in my book. most of our theology is birthed out of the enlightenment, not because it needed to be, but because we found it suitable. and so we adopt enlightenment views on god, which is reason, it was also a time in the age of reason in the Enl. era. and so that kind of reason needs to go. and i am more on par with ambiguity and mystery. see, i think we might be on opposite ends of the spectrum because i have since left the assertion that one the bible was written to make sense of all of its contradictions, and that it is a book of answers. it is important, but it is not my center. the divine is, this is the danger when we constantly go to scripture for answers, we become shaped by pages and not the divine. life becomes a big problem that we go to the bible to find answers for, which to me, cheapens why we were created. i think it is about us writing theology in our relationship with god.

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  31. George:

    First, thank you for (sometimes) making a bit more of an effort to be “readable”. After all, howwoulditaffectyouifsomebodywrote likethisallthetime?

    Second, responding to someone indicates BOTH listening and NOT listening. You are very articulate at both. It’s the calculated NOT listening that becomes the problem. Remember, just as you do not accept some people’s premises, others do not accept yours. True dialogue necessarily forces us to deal with that in order to actually get anywhere with the dialogue. Otherwise you end up with this sort of non-dialogue: (symbols: — is person 1; ** is person 2.

    –God needs to be spanked.

    **God is perfect.

    –God would probably spank godsself.

    **God is perfect; why punish perfection?

    –There is no evidence that God claimed specifically to be perfect

    **(out-of-context proof-text)

    –(rebuttal to proof-text, followed by a different out-of-context proof text)

    and so on.

    Third, there are other linguists who participate in this forum. (or just read it, as the case may be). They prefer to level the playing field by engaging on common ground, not demanding that non-linguists spontaneously become linguists. Flaunting linguistics can be so satisfying, as with any field of expertise. But, unless you engage someone who also has that same expertise, all it does is confuse the discussion. Besides, another linguist may disagree with your linguistic perspective. The same is true with other forms of scholarship. Satisfying for the scholar, perhaps, but not engaging for those who don’t speak the language.

    EVERYBODY ELSE: I’m not just picking on George. The principles apply to everybody. There are Christians who don’t take any stock in the “authority of Scripture.” No amount of assertion can change that. You might actually be a bit more open to alternative insight once you can realise where there is commonality, and work from there.

    There still is much good discussion to be had 🙂

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  32. thanks debra!

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  33. cameron. the way you talk is very condescending, if it continues, then you know why you are not being listened to.

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  34. Geo said:
    to assume i have no reason would be aggressive

    And Sally had to pop in to chuckle and say, “Thanks, Geo, for condescending to educate us all. It’s big of you!”

    and then Geo said:
    cameron. the way you talk is very condescending, if it continues, then you know why you are not being listened to.

    And Sally’s chuckle turned to complete hysterical amazement.

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  35. I apologize if I come across as condescending.

    I’m trying to make a point.

    Fascinating response to my efforts!

    Just out of curiosity, is there anybody else whose ego I have bruised?

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  36. Hi, Debra,

    So I just want to be clear:

    I don’t believe the OT writers “channeled” GOD and only wrote what he said/did … I believe the Bible is a great book to study, and a book with some wisdom, but the GOD-breathed Word of GOD? No. Sorry.

    …But as I’ve stepped out of that pigeon-hole, as I’ve gotten closer to GOD and trusted more in the Holy Spirit to lead me, I’ve come closer to knowing the nature of GOD

    So you don’t believe that God led the Old Testament writers but he leads you. And your experience is valid because … ?

    Becky

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  37. Rebecca — I quibbled because often, in these kinds of discussion, knowledge of Bible specifics carries a kind of cachet, and people like me are sometimes assumed to be biblically illiterate or ignorant (which is not to say you were making such an assumption) so I took the opportunity to show that I’m neither — a project that would have been remarkably more successful had I not put down the wrong chapter. Acts 9, of course is Saul’s conversion. Serves me right.

    “Frankly, I’m not interested in whether you are or are not within the glorious traditions of centuries ago.”

    I don’t think that’s what I said. I was just pointing out that Christianity’s an awfully big boat.

    “The fact is, error crept into the church in the first decades of its existence.”

    So, since you most likely assume your brand of Christianity to be a faithful re-creation of the earliest church, you’re trying to copy a religious expression that couldn’t hold it together for more than a couple of decades?

    Okay, so that was snarky, but here’s a less snarky question: if the church was beset by error within a few decades, which books of the Bible do you accept and why?

    “So looking at tradition that was in error is like looking at US history and saying slavery must be OK because the founding fathers allowed it.”

    I’m really not following that. I mean, I get the point, but I don’t think the analogy actually works.

    “Whatever differences Christians have, we unite on this point—there is a body of essential beliefs that are inviolate.”

    No, you don’t. This might describe the people you regard as Christians, but that’s begging the question, because you only regard as Christian those who agree on those essentials.

    I already explained why I choose to remain, and I’m sorry that wasn’t clear, though I doubt very much I can give you a satisfying answer. Let me offer some additional reasons. One is that despite my misgivings, I have not given up on Christianity as source of hope and inspiration. Another is that if people like me do not remain part of the tradition it will be increasingly defined by its most conservative element, and that seems sad to me. And finally, I’m not sure that a purely secular response is enough to help us imagine a world in which the rich no longer exploit the poor, the strong no longer prey on the weak, and the stranger is welcome at the table.

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  38. Led is fine. I can believe they believed they were led by GOD. Just as I am led by GOD. And you’d no more take my word as gospel than I do theirs. :^)

    And just think of all the terror and horror and oppression people who “feel led by GOD” have committed in the world…

    If it harms other people, it’s not of GOD. It is my personal experience with GOD, that GOD would not ORDER genocide, matricide, fratricide, slavery and rape…or suicide bombings, or the crusades, or crashing planes into buildings for that matter. Nor would he orchestrate tsunamis and earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to destroy people who don’t fit into the “Christian box”.

    I have never believed GOD was a Christian. I know you probably do. That makes us fundamentally different in our outlook on the world and our attitude toward people.

    Debra

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  39. Whew! I was a busy girl yesterday, and couldn’t keep up … today I tried – but I’m only seeing the last few posts here, and they’re re-numbered from 1-13 … where are the other 200+ I was wanting to read whie eating my lunch..?

    Or is AOL tormenting me again….?

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  40. She separated the pages, Dena. Click on Older Comments at the bottom left.

    Debra

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  41. I have never believed GOD was a Christian. I know you probably do. That makes us fundamentally different in our outlook on the world and our attitude toward people.

    Debra, of course God is not a Christian. A Christian is a sinner saved by grace through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

    This talk about suicide bombers and crusades and crashing planes into buildings sure makes a case for a tyrant god. Except none of that is ascribed to God in the Bible. The Inquisition, witch burnings, all the stuff atheists like Christopher Hitchens point to as reasons not to believe in God are inappropriately ascribed to Him because somebody claimed to speak for him. As you do.

    Why not let Him speak for Himself? Ah, but that would require belief in the mystical work of the Holy Spirit through other people.

    No matter how you cut it, you and others who believe as you do find it permissible to judge the Judge.

    Who then is god?

    Becky

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  42. OK, I’m working backwards. Debra, another one: If GOD is capricious, and can do anything he wants outside of his own goodness/love/holiness …

    He’s not capricious. This premise is wrong. He does nothing outside His goodness/love/holiness/righteousness/justice/mercy. Nothing.

    So when I read the Bible, I read it understanding that God is God. What I don’t understand—the hard things that don’t seem loving or whatever—don’t change the facts about God. It’s my perception that’s off, not Him. Not His character. I don’t need to re-image Him by ignoring these hard things.

    This is what a number of us have said. Your god is too small. You make him fit your idea of what a nice god should look like.

    Becky

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  43. “As for the towns of these peoples that Yahweh your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them–the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites–just as Yahweh your God has commanded.” (Deut 20:16-17)

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  44. You read the bible and see GOD as GOD. I read it and see GOD as a tyrant. *shrug*

    I do believe in the mystical work of the Holy Spirit, by the way. I met GOD as a child in the woods near my home, long before I ever met a Christian or saw a bible.

    God is the creator. I don’t need him to be nice. But I do need him to be rational. Not capricious or violent or raging. Schizophrenic if you look at the GOD/Christ issue.

    But this is pointless. I understand a brick wall when I hit one. I cannot make you understand why I cannot worship a violent, capricious, raging, maniacal, schizophrenic GOD, and you cannot make me understand that “it’s just GOD”. If I had to believe how you do…and I did at one point early in my Christianity…I’d go insane OR I’d come to reject GOD utterly and choose to be an Athiest.

    I am eternally grateful that I knew GOD before I knew Christianity…and that once I’d been kicked out of the Mormon church and then kicked out of the Southern Baptist church, I turned back and returned again to the GOD I knew, the GOD that inspired trust. The GOD that I wouldn’t have to fear, as I feared my violent, capricious mother. GOD HAS to be better than that. He simply has to. Or we might as well all blow our brains out today, because we are seriously doomed.

    Debra

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  45. hey guys.

    i am going to be signing off. i have a book deadline i need to focus on and got only a few weeks to finish it in and this conversation has got me thinking of a few things i might need to add. thanks for the conversation. i wish you all well in your journey towards discovering the divine within.

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  46. Ira, just to finish up, you asked: which books of the Bible do you accept and why? The 66 books of the Protestant Bible and here’s the standards used to accept them as Scripture:

    1. Apostolic Origin — attributed to and based upon the preaching/teaching of the first-generation apostles (or their close companions).
    2. Universal Acceptance — acknowledged by all major Christian communities in the ancient world (by the end of the fourth century).
    3. Liturgical Use — read publicly when early Christian communities gathered for the Lord’s Supper (their weekly worship services).
    4. Consistent Message — containing a theological outlook similar to or complementary to other accepted Christian writings.

    Wikipedia

    In response to the Deuteronomy passage you quoted, take a look at this from Leviticus 18, especially the part I’ve emphasized in boldface type:

    The nakedness of your sister, {either} your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter … The nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter … The nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter … the nakedness of your father’s sister … the nakedness of your mother’s sister, … the nakedness of your father’s brother … the nakedness of your daughter-in-law … the nakedness of your brother’s wife [you shall not uncover]

    You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, nor shall you take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; they are blood relatives. It is lewdness

    You shall not marry a woman in addition to her sister as a rival while she is alive, to uncover her nakedness …

    You shall not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her.

    You shall not give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.

    You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.

    Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.

    Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled.

    For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants.

    I don’t think God’s punishment on nations that ascribed to incest, child abuse and murder, bestiality, adultery and the like, makes Him the tyrant and ogre you paint Him to be.

    Apparently you look at the people He punished as good, innocent even. They were not. We are not. We are sinners, and it so happened the sins of the people in Deuteronomy reached a point of no return. Only God is qualified to say when that time comes, and we have no right to judge Him for saying enough is enough.

    We can ask Him for mercy, as Abraham did for the city Lot lived in. But to say about God the things some of these commenters have said is blasphemous. He is God, sovereign and holy and awe-inspiring and perfect and faithful and righteous, even in His judgments.

    Where is the broken and contrite heart God desires? Name-calling doesn’t look like contrition. Arrogant insistence that God wouldn’t do this or be that, and if He would, then I want no part of Him, doesn’t look like contrition.

    But to have contrition, first a person must recognize there is something in his life that doesn’t measure up to God’s perfect standards, that actually does put him under God’s righteous judgment. Without that admission, how can anyone receive God’s grace and mercy extended to Him because of Christ?

    No dirt on my hands, no need to wash.

    Becky

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  47. I’m not suggesting you have dirt on your hands, Becky. And I’m not judging God. If God exists, then God is what God is and there’s nothing I can do about it.

    But I don’t see a whole lot of difference between a group of people who believed that their God told them to brutally exterminate their neighbors down to every last man, woman, and child, and people who believe their God told them to fly a plane into a building.

    The fact that group A happened to record their claim in a text held by later generations to be holy writ is not terribly decisive for me.

    The philosophical and theological gymnastics by which those later generations try to make themselves okay with that is not terribly interesting to me.

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  48. “Arrogant insistence that God wouldn’t do that or be that, and if He would, then I want no part of Him doesn’t look like contrition.”

    Back up the truck here. Not making strong claims is seen as weak, but making strong claims is seen as arrogant — unless one agrees with you.

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  49. I’m sorry, Becky, I think I might have misinterpreted the “blood on my hands” comment. I’m now seeing that it wasn’t a personal declaration (the use of first person notwithstanding) but a pithy summary of the position you were just describing in which people like me reject God, or a particular view of God, because they don’t take cotton to being held accountable to a cosmic standard. And of course that must seem arrogant.

    Moreover, my claim to not being judging God but a particular God-concept must seem like useless semantics when the God-concept in question is the God you worship — but I maintain that my concern (I can’t speak for others) is not about what God is or isn’t, or can or can’t be, because I don’t know such things. My concern is that how we conceptualize God can have a very real bearing on how we conceptualize the meaning of justice.

    I should also mention that yours is one of the more moderate and gracious voices in this discussion, and you deserve props for that, as well as for your hospitality in suffering such a motley collection of fools (a designation to which I am admitting no exceptions).

    One of the enduring merits of Christian theology is that it offers a kind of realism about the human condition. Metaphysics aside, there’s something healthy about recognizing that on one hand we are fallen and deserving of punishment, while on the other hand we are apparently worth saving — not intrinsically, perhaps, but this worth is imputed to us by virtue of God’s willingness to save us. I don’t find this plausible as an ontology, but the theological description bears a poetics that the language of anthropology or social science can’t quite muster.

    We all have blood on our hands. As humans we have a lot to answer for, whether it is to a righteous God, as you would say, or to the future generations that will inherit what we’ve made of ourselves and the world, as I would say. There may be a gossamer thread of commonality there, for what it’s worth. (I almost wrote “thread of common ground,” which would have a horrible mixed metaphor — perhaps we can agree on that as well!)

    I’d like to apologize for showing up without any real intention of engaging in dialog or conversation (and for not knowing well enough when these are not likely in the first place), but to antagonize, prod, goad, and provoke, to spar simply for the exercise. I came not to convince anyone of anything (which would be remarkably naive) but also without any openness to having my own mind changed. I really only expected to be confirmed in my own views and my assessment of what I like to uncharitably call the self-proclaimed defenders of orthodoxy, and that expectation has been met. But that fruit, I find, is bitter. The bread of this snarky feast turns to ash in my mouth, the vine to vinegar. I have wasted your time, and mine.

    The truth is, your position is not incoherent, given the premises that make it intelligible. The plural is important here, because there is not single premise on which all else hangs, no definitive linchpin, but a constellation of mutually supporting truth claims (which is to say that to you they are truths, whereas to me they are claims).

    I don’t fully understand the process by which I abandoned a similar constellation of claims (they may not have been exactly the same) to embrace a different set, nor do I presume that the path from one to the other is by any means normative. People have just as easily gone the other direction.

    If you’re right — and of course I don’t think you are — then God is offering a set of terms. Among those terms appear to be believing certain things about God and not saying otherwise (not blaspheming, in other words), giving assent to certain metaphysical assumptions and accepting certain truth claims, as well as belonging to a particular kind of church (maybe not a particular denomination, but one that safeguards that constellation of premises I addressed earlier), and so on.

    I’m rejecting those terms, and I’m sure there’s an implicit judgment of God in there but that was God’s gambit, wasn’t it? To grant us free will that we might freely choose God? Or, if we’re operating from a Reformed perspective, I’m not really making the choice anyway, just trafficking in the illusion of choice.

    Even if you’re right and there is a God expecting those things of me, I’m not playing along, and I’m willing to accept the consequences. And you have the advantage, actually. If you’re right, then someday I will know that you were right, and so will you. If I’m right, then someday we’ll just both be dead, which is a lot less satisfying. 🙂

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  50. Ira, you show a refreshingly high amount of dialogue and conversation.

    By the way, you can’t reject terms with God unless you discuss them with God. I can guarantee discussing terms will be the last thing on your mind when you have that conversation.

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  51. Can’t begging be seen as a form of discussion?

    Of course you have a point. Actually the terms aren’t with God, necessarily, but with evangelicalism. That discussion has been going on most of my life, actually.

    Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

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  52. Actually, I have no problem with evengelicalism, as long as it doesn’t spring monolithically from any text. If one is to spread the Good News, that news transcends any dusty tome. Of course, we all havoe our proff texts to debate that.

    My biggest issue is with apologetics. I find both extremes use circular logic.

    Once again, Ira, thanks for putting reins on the circular logic, and “condescending” to discussion. And, yes, that is a slam; just not to you, Ira.

    Cheers!

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  53. Sorry… “proof texts”

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  54. Debra, you said: I cannot make you understand why I cannot worship a violent, capricious, raging, maniacal, schizophrenic GOD, and you cannot make me understand that “it’s just GOD”. If I had to believe how you do…and I did at one point early in my Christianity…I’d go insane OR I’d come to reject GOD utterly and choose to be an Athiest.

    I understand exactly why you cannot worship a violent, capricious, raging, maniacal, schizophrenic GOD. I wouldn’t worship such a being either. How heinous!

    My point is, the God of the Bible, Old Testament and New, is not the person you accuse Him of being. You think he is because you don’t understand His holiness or goodness. I don’t understand perfectly either, but I get that we have offended Him more than we can imagine. And continue to offend.

    It seems apparent to me, you don’t think we do anything so bad that would require God’s judgment.

    I see God as perfectly just in sentencing us to death. He told Adam and Eve that they’d die if they ate of the tree He commanded them not to touch. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. Why then should we think God is mean when the things He warned us against, happen?

    The truly surprising thing is that He willingly died in my place. I’m the one who offended, He’s the one who paid. This is goodness and love I can’t ever fully grasp.

    Becky

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  55. Ira, I thought you said some really helpful things. I don’t know if I can address them all, but let me start with this one: but I maintain that my concern (I can’t speak for others) is not about what God is or isn’t, or can or can’t be, because I don’t know such things. My concern is that how we conceptualize God can have a very real bearing on how we conceptualize the meaning of justice.

    I think this is significant because I believe we can know what God is or isn’t, simply because He told us about Himself.

    Here’s the thing, Ira. I can conceptualize you all I want, but my images might be completely wrong. If you tell me about yourself, I can either believe you’ve told me who you really are or I can discount what you say. Maybe I think a hacker has changed your posts or someone is using your computer to say things about you that aren’t true. I can have all kinds of reasons to reject your statements about yourself. But my response would not change who you are.

    That’s how I see this part of the argument. Our concepts of God are not as important as what He’s said about Himself. Until we say, OK, I want to find out what He’s told me to think about Him, and take Him at His word, then we’ll never know Him.

    Becky

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  56. AISI, hackers *did* invade the scriptures and write all manner of things about God that are not true OF God. So too did hackers invade Christianity … (and we could debate about whether Christianity was ever Jesus’ idea in the first place — AISI the Christian life makes a poor substitute for the Abundant life).

    When we experience God as He is … the lies about God stand out, and are easily disbelieved. HE becomes more real than the rumors about Him, and the explanations that attempt to define Him.

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  57. This would be an interesting series for all parties to read together & discuss: The Voice of the Scapegoat series. Very biblically-rooted, and eye-opening. It’s come the closest to anything I’ve read yet to how I’m seeing atonement these days…

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  58. Girard is uber-brilliant … causes so many loose and floaty pieces to nicely fall into place…!

    (been reading *many* of your recommendations lately … got much to foist on folks!) 😉

    (go to my FB page and watch the video I posted)

    (nevermind, here’s the link for everyone to enjoy: http://www.thedoorpost.com/hope/The%20Butterfly%20Circus/ )

    I’m sitting here, crying. I do not cry easily.

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  59. “I believe we can know what God is or isn’t, simply because He told us about Himself.”

    I appreciate that, but I disagree. While I respect and value the Bible as our tradition’s sacred text, I nevertheless see it as a collection of other peoples’ speculation about the divine, from those of an ancient tribal warrior culture, to the Axial age musings of that culture’s latter prophets, to those of a Hellenistic apocalyptic offshoot of that culture, and so on. That’s putting it a bit crassly, but the gist is that I’m not granting the Bible an exception when it comes to knowing what’s beyond, even though I hold in esteem as part of our tradition. I’m sure that sounds batty, but that’s where I live.

    We agree, in a sense, that our concepts don’t touch God. Where we differ is that you’re accepting the Bible as reliable self-revelation (which, I point out, requires an interpretation, and there are lots of those). I look at it one of those conceptualizations — actually a number of such conceptualizations, as they changed over time. Unlike Dena and others, I’m not claiming to have direct knowledge of God that stands in contrast to the Bible’s testimony. Nor am I, with the atheist, claiming to know without a doubt that God does not exist. I’m claiming I don’t know. Well, more than that: I’m claiming I can’t know.

    The “really real” could be anything. It could be God, or not-God, or endless variations of God or not-God. To hold the Bible up as God’s unique self-revelation is to arbitrarily choose one culture’s speculations about the “Real” over all others. Of course that’s not what it feels like to the true believer, but that’s what it looks like to the rest of us. Well, to me anyway.

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  60. Dena you said: AISI, hackers *did* invade the scriptures and write all manner of things about God that are not true OF God.

    On the other hand, I choose to believe a hacker wrote that comment and the next one with your name on it. In reality, I believe you think Girard is stupid and you never read any of Mike’s recommendations.

    And don’t try to tell me otherwise. I’ve looked at your other comments, and I’m sure this one is not from you.

    Becky, with tongue firmly in cheek 😀

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  61. Ira, you said: While I respect and value the Bible as our tradition’s sacred text, I nevertheless see it as a collection of other peoples’ speculation about the divine

    I think it’s on point to note that you have no uncertainty about the Bible while you say you don’t know—can’t know God.

    OK, for sake of discussion, I’d like to reason deductively. Since you aren’t saying there is no God, I’ll assume you believe He had a hand in creation some way or other. Science and experience teaches that nothing lesser conceives of something greater. Hence, I can learn something of God simply by looking around me at what He had a hand in making.

    I see the grandeur of the mountains and can deduce that grandeur is of God. I see the beauty of a flower and can deduce there is a beauty about God. I see the power of the ocean and deduce God is powerful. I see animals, especially humans, communicate and deduce God is a communicator.

    Are we to think, then, that a God who is powerful and communicative does not communicate with His creatures?

    To say that we cannot know God is already saying we know he is either too weak to communicate with his creatures or not a communicator. In other words, you have already drawn conclusions about Him.

    My question is, what is the starting place that would lead you to those conclusions?

    Becky

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  62. “Since you aren’t saying there is no God, I’ll assume you believe He had a hand in creation some way or other.”

    Nope. I’m saying I don’t know. To say that there is a God, or that there is no God, or that there is something other than God, or that this God or not-God or other-than-God has such-and-such correspondence to the universe — these are all speculation. Worthy speculation perhaps, speculation that we can’t help but make, but speculation nonetheless.

    “To say that we cannot know God is already saying we know he is either too weak to communicate with his creatures or not a communicator. In other words, you have already drawn conclusions about Him.”

    It’s a good point, but it only works if I’m saying that God definitely exists but can’t be known. I’m not even willing to go that far. I am making conclusions about what can and can’t be known, and freely admit that.

    “My question is, what is the starting place that would lead you to those conclusions?”

    Since I’m not a foundationalist, I’m not sure the question of a starting place makes much sense to me. Our way of seeing the world is always contingent — there is no view from nowhere, no agreed-upon starting point. I hate to be difficult, but I’m really not sure how to answer the question.

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  63. […] Worldview of Fiction a week or so ago, you know there was an active discussion generated by my post “Attacks on God from Within.” I answered some of the points raised by those with an opposing view in ensuing posts and some in […]

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  64. It’s a good point, but it only works if I’m saying that God definitely exists but can’t be known. I’m not even willing to go that far. I am making conclusions about what can and can’t be known, and freely admit that.

    OK, Ira, I understand what you’re saying—a little different than what I first thought.

    Here’s how I now see your position. It’s as if you are standing in a room with four solid brick walls and a ceiling. You look at the walls and say, I can’t know if there is anyone on the other side.

    Is that a fair estimation of you view?

    But what if there is someone on the other side and he’s calling or knocking on the wall. What if someone inside the room with you says he hears a voice, a knock. Wouldn’t it be logical for you to at least investigate rather than holding to the view that you can’t know if someone is on the other side?

    Maybe I’m presuming too much and you feel you have investigated, only to come up with the idea that all these other people who claim there is someone on the other side are merely speculating.

    But that raises another question. Why is your perception (I can’t know; they are speculating) to be believed over their perception (I hear a voice, a knock)?

    Becky

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  65. I could ask the same question in reverse: why is theirs to be believed over mine? They have their reasons; I have my reasons.

    Now, I make no particular claim that my reasons are somehow uniquely free from the vagaries of my own existence — when and where I was born, the experiences I’ve had, whatever genetic predispositions I might have. I cannot, ultimately, counter the claim that I believe (or don’t believe) what I do simply because I want to, on some level. But then, neither can anyone else. If I claim any edge, it is this: most perspectives must, at some point, hide or deny their own contingency or else their bedrock crumbles; mine not only embraces its own contingency but predicts it.

    I certainly feel as though I’ve done due diligence in investigating, and have come honestly to the conclusion that the others are speculating. I don’t doubt, however, that others have come to different conclusions just as honestly, nor do I doubt that the speculators earnestly believe they are in contact with something definite on the other side.

    In your analogy, I would say that the difficulty is that we have no reliable means of breaching the wall and finding out for certain what all that noise on the other side might be. At which point, you might say “Ah! — but we don’t need to because God has already done it.” And this comports well with Christian theology.

    I would say that, actually, what we have is that some people, a long time ago and several rooms away, claimed one of their own as a special messenger from the other side, God himself breaching the wall, and the truth is there are lots of relatively similar claims — not in detail, of course, but in substance inasmuch as they are claiming some kind of clear indication of what’s on the other side.

    So we end up with a cacophony of competing claims to know what’s on the other side of the wall, and some of these claims make more sense than others. Some are more plausible than others. Some are more beautiful than others. Some seem more likely to engender, in the person believing the claims, attributes we want to encourage. And so on. So I’m not saying all claims are equal, or that there aren’t decent reasons to choose some over others, or even that there aren’t reasons to choose one rather than, like me, claim not to choose at all. But none of those choices necessarily reflects what’s really on the other side of that wall.

    The analogy breaks down, as all do. But that’s roughly where I’m at.

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  66. Ira, regarding the “breaching of the wall”.

    There are two distinctive parts of this dialogue, as I see them.

    The first is the dominant one, and the one that seeks to conclude. It is the theoretical, or systematic, or apologetic approach. It seems to prop up its adherents on multiple sides of the discussions, based on what system “works” the best. For some, a system of historical apologetics works the best. They are comfortable defending the dusty tome itself. Others are motivated by a more decidedly Zeitgeist approach. What was “relevant” 1500 years ago is not “relevant” today.

    The second is the approach that does not seek to conclude. There are many variations in this school of thought as well. An agnostic can be comfortably agnostic in this group. However, a believer can just as easily be a believer. Within this group, somer people can claim to know God in a way that seems impossible in the first group.

    The breach of the wall appears to be more at home in the second group. The main reason is that there are no conditions in this second group. You don’t require an argument to have the experience. The first group requires an argument. In that first group, claims are meaningless without substantiation. And there is premium importance placed on the intrinsic soundness of the substantiation.

    Consider the perspective of the second group, if but for an instant, Ira. Consider the possibility that someone claiming an encounter with God actually had an encounter with God, as they claim. I would suggest that, when that happens, there is no need to prove it to anybody, much less defend it with a soundly structured argument.

    I mentioned before that I had a “burning bush” experience. I have invited people to speak privately to me about it. The only thing I want to say publicly about it is that, in my situation, I was invited to breach the wall. It is interesting to note that I chose not to at the time, although I saw “what” was on the other side.

    It is not my intention to use any of my experiences as an argumentative or apologetic interjection into any discussion. However, I will suggest that it makes sense that, when you meet someone, you no longer are compelled to debate their existence. Certainly there are those whom you would like to introduce to each other, and you would like to talk about the exciting people you know.

    It’s not always about the claim.

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  67. I’m not sure I can so easily be located in your first group, Cameron, though I’m sure it sounds like it at times.

    At the same time, I don’t think you can get out of the “claim game” quite so easily. You claim to have breached the wall, or to have had an experience of such a breach. I don’t doubt that you had a profound experience of some kind. Perhaps, had I the same experience, I would interpret it the same way. Perhaps not. I don’t know.

    I, too, have had a profound, even mystical, experience that has shaped me. Part of this experience was the unshakable realization that there is no conscious afterlife. Maybe, if you had the same experience, you’d conclude the same thing. Maybe not. I don’t know.

    I’m not being facetious here, nor am I suggesting that my experience trumps yours, except inasmuch as mine is more meaningful to me. Maybe it’s not true at all. Maybe I just need, for some reason, to believe there’s no afterlife whether there is one or not. Maybe you need to believe, for some reason, that there is a God whom you’ve met whether there is or not. Maybe there’s some larger perspective that makes sense of both our perspectives and experiences, maybe there’s only as much meaning as we bring to it. Again, I don’t know.

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  68. Ira, to stay on point, I’m going to pick up our discussion before your interchange with Cameron. I am reading your remarks to each other, but I feel a bit scattered if I try to respond to what the two of you are saying to each other.

    Consequently, I want to go back to the four-brick-walls-and-a-ceiling analogy, to which you’ve added a place several rooms away (and I’ve imagined a hall leading to it 😉 ). That’s fine. Honestly, I reach the same conclusion you do. If all I had to go on was other people saying they had an experience with someone I could not see or hear, I’d be … suspicious at best.

    You’re also right that Man cannot breach the wall. No matter what we do, we can’t knock it down or even make a crack to peer through.

    But you’re also right to suggest that I believe God did what man could not.

    While I respect your statement that you have investigated the claims of those who say they have knowledge of God, I can’t help but wonder. As you yourself said, you embrace your contingency. In so doing, it seems to me you have made your choice not to know.

    So I can say, People for centuries heard someone calling from the other side of the wall, even knocking. And then this guy showed up saying he was in fact the one who’d been calling, more so, that he was the one who made the room, and he had plans to get everyone out. All they needed was to let him show the way.

    Some believed him. Others didn’t. Those who believed laid out their case and thousands more believed. As a result, they began communicating with this guy when he left the room and returned to the other side of the wall.

    Meanwhile, lots of others claimed they too were communicating with someone on the other side of the wall. But which of those had actually come into the room?

    Of course, all we have to verify that the guy on the other side entered the room is the witness of a bunch of Jewish fishermen, a tax collector or two, a Samaritan women of questionable reputation, a couple members of the Sanhedrin, a terrorist, a few lepers—or former lepers—and some other once-infirmed people, a group of moms, a crowd of 5000 not-so-hungry-any-more people, and more. But they probably made it up, right? Or the men who recorded it all did.

    But here’s my point. Why throw out the testimony of those who say, We know because we’ve talked face to face with God-come-in-the-flesh. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the only reason to discount such is because of a predisposed position that contradicts their message.

    The atheist says, They can’t be telling the truth because there is no God. Ira, I hear you saying very much the same thing: They can’t be telling the truth because we can’t know.

    It seems to me the only evidence you have is that many people make contradictory claims about God. That some people hold wrong views doesn’t mean that all people hold wrong views. If some hold views that are true, then they must have a way of discovering truth.

    Ira, I’m not trying to be unkind, but it seems to me your position is an easy way to avoid a possible confrontation with God.

    Becky

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  69. “I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the only reason to discount such is because of a predisposed position that contradicts their message.”

    By the same token, the most convincing reason to believe them is that you’re already inclined to think they’re right.

    In fact, a good bit of what you write presumes that God exists, that Jesus is God in the flesh, and the Biblical record accurately and adequately records this. And that’s fine.

    You’re not unkind; you’re just convinced. I’m not — or I’ve become convinced of other things.

    Maybe my position is an easy way to avoid a possible confrontation with God. Maybe your position is an easy way to avoid a possible confrontation with our radical uncertainty. Looks like an impasse to me.

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  70. You’re right, Ira, we may be at an impasse—but I guess we both knew it would come to that at some point.

    You said: In fact, a good bit of what you write presumes that God exists, that Jesus is God in the flesh, and the Biblical record accurately and adequately records this. And that’s fine.

    I guess I see our positions as different in this respect. You are certain about one thing—that we can’t be certain. Holding to your premise contradicts your premise.

    At some point, I do make the decision to believe the Bible, not as some leap in the dark but because of reasoned judgment and child-like faith. What follows is my personal experience that aligns with and verifies what I’ve read. So I’m not believing any more because of what others said but because of what I know.

    However, I understand that my saying this to you is just so much noise coming from one of the many making similar claims.

    That’s why I encouraged you to investigate. But to do so, you’d have to put aside your presupposition and say, Maybe I can know.

    I’ll say again, because some are speculating about God and don’t actually know Him does not mean all who claim knowledge of God are speculating. It’s an erroneous assumption.

    Becky

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  71. Once I said to God, “I want to be a Christian but I can’t be. I can’t know you. I don’t know Jesus. I can’t see him. If you want me to follow him, you have to introduce him to me.”

    The next night, I met him. I didn’t have any visions or hear any voices. I just knew, in my heart, that I had met him. And it changed my life radically.

    I don’t think you can come as an adult to belief in the Bible until you are ready to admit that you can’t fix things on your own. You can’t add one day to your life or one inch to your height. We keep trying to fix things. We keep thinking we can bring in peace on earth and we can prolong our lives by exercise and healthy eating. The truth is that we are not in control of so many things.

    When you are ready to relinquish control, to admit you’ve made a mess of things and you can’t save yourself, then you are ready to meet God, I think.

    Is God a crutch for the weak? Sure thing. More than a crutch. He carries me.

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  72. Becky, Sally,

    I get that. I really do. But let me wax autobiographical for a moment:

    I’ve been convinced. I’ve been certain. I’ve been faithful. I’ve searched the Scriptures. I’ve spent nights on my knees in prayer. I have a Bible college degree. I have ministry experience. If we were have a contest of theological literacy or Biblical knowledge, I think I would probably surprise you. I’ve had profound experiences of God’s provision and care, of God speaking to me from the depths. I’ve seen prayers answered and lives changed. And these things are, in their own way, wonderful parts of the human experience. More importantly, they are wonderful parts of my own life, and I don’t regret them.

    The framework in which those things are intelligible as I’ve just described them no longer exists for me. I can’t explain that, nor do I assume that a similar experience awaits you.

    There’s an awful lot of the toothpaste that won’t go back in the tube for me, and I don’t want it to. Am I stubborn? Perhaps? Deluded? Perhaps. Personally, I think I’m rather lucid. To go back would mean, on some level, trying to substitute a willful suspension of disbelief for genuine belief. I don’t think that’s right. Moreover, to go back would mean giving up something precious to me: a clarity and peace I didn’t have before.

    Of course you don’t see it that way. If you did, we’d be having a very different conversation.

    So, an impasse it is. I wish you well.

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  73. You’ve done an excellent job of putting the indescribable into mere human words, Ira.

    Thank you.

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  74. Dena, I have to admit, your last comment mystifies me more than any of these others. Ira has made his case for agnosticism, but you claim to have had a deep experience with God, yet you laud his “excellent job of putting the indescribable into mere human words.” What he said, in essence, is that you and I both are merely speculating about the existence of God. In what way did his views elucidate your own beliefs?

    Becky

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  75. Ira, I appreciate your candid and personal account. I’ve appreciated this frank discussion.

    Of course I have no way of knowing what brought down the framework which made prayer, ministry, Bible study meaningful for you. But as I look at the lives of men like Joseph and Daniel, Job and Abraham, David and Moses, I see adversity—sometimes of their own making, but most of the time, not—cementing their faith, not tearing it down. Even when their ideas were challenged, when God seemed against them, they hung on. Isn’t that the real test of faith?

    So while you might consider a serious look at the claims of Christ as putting the toothpaste back in the tube, I wonder if it wouldn’t be more like going to the dentist for a smile make-over. 😀

    Seriously, if you find Christ in a way that cannot be shaken, I doubt if it would be anything like what you once had. My prayers for you, Ira.

    Becky

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  76. He put the process of honest questioning in very clear terms … he revealed the integrity of vulnerability …

    Until I began to honestly and relentlessly question all that I thought (& even was convinced!) that I knew, I couldn’t make room for the “much more”.

    My list of absolutes used to fill a book, and I could, and did, defend them to the hilt.

    My list of absolutes has shrunk to “God IS.”

    It’s a process … Ira has bravely and humbly described part of the process.

    I admire him.

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  77. Ira, I am trying to understand but simply cannot. You have said you can’t know that there is a god and you have said you’ve experienced God’s provision and answer to prayer and you’ve heard him speak.

    Which is it?

    Either you’ve heard him speak and you know he exists or you never heard him speak. Or…what?

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  78. I’m sorry, Sally, I didn’t mean to be obtuse. I experienced things that, given who I was at the time, it made perfect sense to narrate as God’s provision, though I now understand those differently — or don’t try to understand them.

    But honestly, I’d really like to let this go and let Beck have the last word. It’s her blog, and I’ve encroached far too long.

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  79. Becky, not Beck.

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  80. I call her Beck all the time. I don’t think she minds.

    I hope she doesn’t. Maybe I’m just an insensitive lout.

    OK Ira, I won’t ask you any more. I add my prayers to Becky’s that you will one day meet and know the love of the One God who was and is and is to come.

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  81. My list of absolutes has shrunk to “God IS.”

    Dena, you don’t know how sad this makes me. God in Christ revealed Himself to us. He wants us to know Him, wants us to have the assurance of His Spirit and knowledge of His character, so that we know we will find Him faithful tomorrow even as He is today.

    God promises that those who seek Him will find Him. I am assured that the God who is, also is the God who does not lie. So I trust Him and rest in Him and KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am His. I can only wish and pray that others such as you, Dena, would discover the truth.

    Becky

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  82. Have you asked God if He wants you to be sad on my behalf…? 😉

    *God IS* magnifies Him … He is All in All. Everywhere I look, there He IS — permeating everything. In Him we live and move and have our being. He fills creation.

    How can I not know Him…? He’s doing what He said He’d do … drawing all men to Himself, and leading us into all truth. I *know* He doesn’t lie. 🙂

    If HE tells you to be sad, and to worry about me, then by all means, do so.

    However, I notice He most often says to be of great cheer, and to *not* worry (He got pretty insistent about that one, when He spoke through Jesus).

    But that’s all between God and you. Not my business.

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    • Dena, I’m surprised you are so glib about communication with God. I thought you believed in meeting Him, at least, even if you don’t think you can do so in the pages of Scripture.

      I don’t think I said anything about “worry” or not being of great cheer. I’m sad for you. Generally I don’t ask God what emotion I should feel. I do ask Him to help me control my feelings or to help me move beyond a certain feeling.

      If you know God doesn’t lie, Dena, then why don’t you take Him at His word? He says His Word abides forever. He says not one letter of His law will go unfulfilled. He says all Scripture is inspired.

      On one hand you say He doesn’t lie, then dismiss, change, or ignore the very truth He’s given us. I don’t see how anyone can reconcile the two positions.

      Becky

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  83. What if you mistake glibness for freedom?

    What if you mistake Word as written print on page, for Word/Dabhar Still Small Voice within?

    What if you mistake when/how the law was (already) fulfilled?

    I do not mistake your feelings/thoughts/judgemnts about me with “my business.”

    What you think of me is none of my business — enjoy your sadness. Meanwhile, I’m off to enjoy this abundant life.

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  84. What if you mistake glibness for freedom? Dena, you were poking fun at the idea that I pray. How does that make you concerned about freedom?

    God’s Still Small Voice within—His Holy Spirit—will never contradict His written word. If there is a difference, then I know the voice is something from a person or a different spirit, not from God.

    Not sure what you’re saying about the law being fulfilled—my point was that Jesus believed in the Law down to the last letter. He spent His time here while in His resurrected body explaining the Law and the prophets to his followers so they, empowered by the Holy Spirit, could make disciples.

    Again, Dena, your “enjoy your sadness” misses the point, but maybe compassion isn’t something emerging thinkers can understand.

    Becky

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  85. I really don’t know — you’d have to ask an emerging thinker (whatever that is). I’m just a friend of Mike’s. I enjoy having conversations, but not conversions. Unfortunately, the conversation is happening here — telling people that they are wrong, rather than honestly desiring to inquire about what they see/think/feel/believe, cuts the conversation down to a lecture.

    If you were seriously interested in what I believe and why, you can check out a talk I recently gave on just that … http://www.knowingtodaysgod — in a few weeks, the link to the talks will be available there. Dena Brehm is my real name.

    But no pressure — do as the Spirit leads you. As for me, this has become a non-productive way to spend my limited time. I wish you every blessing … and you might be surprised at my capacity for compassion.

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  86. Dena, I find it interesting that I’m the one asking questions, but when I respond to your answers you claim I’m giving a lecture. Perhaps to qualify as participating in a conversation I need to be humorously dismissive. Hmm. I’ll have to practice up on that. 😆

    But seriously, Dena, if you want a conversation, why do you cut people down? Why do you play the role of a sycophant to those with whom you agree? Why don’t you explore what people with opposing views think?

    I’ve said more than once on this thread, and those that are related, that I’ve learned a lot about what those in the emergent conversation (is that better?) like you and Mike and what an agnostic like Ira are thinking.

    I appreciate the time and effort it takes to put thoughts about such serious issues down for others to read. Thank you for the things you said that clarified what you believe.

    Becky

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  87. Negating/dismissing someone’s answers is not responding to them.

    Please show me where I’ve cut any person down. If I’ve done so, I’d like to make amends. I do make a distinction between disagreeing with a person’s perspective or saying I dislike a mindset vs. cutting a person down. Again, if I’ve done the latter, I need to know — so please don’t just make the accusation, please show me where I’ve done that. That would be the kind thing to do.

    I see you seem to need to put people into categories, such as “emergent” or “agnostic” … I find categories to be egoic attempts to draw dividing lines of exclusion — to justify dismissing or discounting what such a categorized person might say.

    I am not “emergent” … though it’s such a loosely defined/understood term, that just about anyone could “fit”. Shouldn’t we all be emerging from what we used to think, into whatever the Spirit shows us? Isn’t renewal of the mind what we’re to be participating in? Is growth not the point of life?

    I just call myself human. I’m also female, and caucasian, and petite, and a mother, and a wife, and a US citizen, and a writer, and an artist, and a passionate student of truth, and a reader, and an addicted garage-sale hunter, and a collector, and an unschooler, and an actor, and a dancer, and a singer, and a speaker, and a member of a few boards, and the list goes on.

    But I’m a human who gets my primary identity in Christ. See, we get to define ourselves. We are not obliged to be under the authority of another’s definition, label or category. That’s a type of enslavement … Jesus said he came to set the captives free.

    Of course, you can put any sort of label you want on me … but it exists only in your own mind — it has no affect on me. When you insist that I “am” this or that, it reminds me of the Peanuts cartoons, with the teacher saying,”Blah-blah-blah, blah-blah…” Whatever floats your boat…! 🙂

    Ultimately, you know a small portion of what Mike, or Ira, or I, or anyone who commented here is thinking. You know what you have interpretted in your own mind about what each of us may be saying – as shown by your corrections of us. Your thoughts may have some, little, or no bearing on reality. To think that you now know what a nebulous “group” that some refer to as “emergent” are thinking, because of your interpretation of what some individuals (who don’t even see eye to eye, nor feel the need to) are saying … is pretty stinkin’ funny! But again, you’ve got to live with your thoughts — they don’t affect me, and are none of my business.

    I came over here because someone I know and love was getting unfairly and unrealistically bashed by someone who doesn’t even know him. This was about justice for me. I’d pretty much realized, within the first couple paragraghs of your blog, that you weren’t very open to considering anything other than your own current perspective.

    What I got out of this was getting to hear a bit more from Ira and George … and making a new friend. And that’s always a good thing.

    Life is always good, really … depending on the beholder’s perspective. Enjoy the heck out of yours, today…!

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  88. Dena!? You get your primary identity in Christ?

    Which Christ would that be? The Son of the Most High who loved and obeyed his Father perfectly? The one who said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The Christ that said, “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” The one that loved sinner so much that he gave his life to reconcile them to God?

    That Christ?

    Or the one that told you that God doesn’t judge people and sin doesn’t separate us from God?

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  89. The Christ I’m experiencing, Sandy. The Christ which is transforming me from the inside-out, renewing my mind, replacing all fear with perfect love, leading me into all truth, enabling me to love God and other humans, causing me to wake up each morning in bubbling-over joy and desire to serve.

    That Christ.

    Thanks for asking – I love to describe (with mere feeble words) what this One, who is all in all, is doing in and through me! What Love!

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  90. Dena, I’m only doing this because you asked (Please show me where I’ve cut any person down.). Apparently you don’t “hear yourself,” or realize how your words sound.

    From your last comment to me:
    * I see you seem to need to put people into categories … I find categories to be egoic attempts … Perhaps you don’t consider labeling someone’s thinking as “egoic” a put-down. If that’s the case, then we don’t see what is and isn’t an insult in the same way.

    * When you insist that I “am” this or that, it reminds me of the Peanuts cartoons, with the teacher saying,”Blah-blah-blah, blah-blah…” Whatever floats your boat…! Put the smiley next to this, but it is still dismissive. (Especially since I wasn’t “insisting” on anything, but rather trying to accommodate your obvious displeasure with the term “emerging thinkers”).

    * I came over here because someone I know and love was getting unfairly and unrealistically bashed

    *Life is always good, really … depending on the beholder’s perspective. Enjoy the heck out of yours, today…! You don’t think this is dismissive? A put down? Just because you use implication rather than direct insult, do you think I am smiling at your kind wishes for my day? 🙄

    * I’d pretty much realized, within the first couple paragraghs of your blog, that you weren’t very open to considering anything other than your own current perspective.

    See, Dena, this is what I mean. You say one thing (I want conversation) but then make a dismissive claim after reading the first couple paragraphs of my blog. Apparently when it comes to having a conversation with me you don’t agree with Ira: [I should also mention that yours is one of the more moderate and gracious voices in this discussion, and you deserve props for that, as well as for your hospitality in suffering such a motley collection of fools (a designation to which I am admitting no exceptions).]

    Which is fine, you being human and all, free to choose not to be labeled, even as you label others.

    Do you really not see how you say one thing and do another?

    Becky

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  91. With the exception of the last point, which I admit is about you, the rest are observations of general behavior. You misunderstood, and therefore misinterpreted, my comments.

    Yes, I can see how you could take the last point as a put down, though I meant it as an observation. I regret making that statement — it was insensitive and personal. Please forgive me for that.

    But please recall that you made this claim about me prior to this last post. All of your examples came from the post that followed your claim.

    My experience here is that of you telling me that my perspective and experience with God is invalid. I’ve not said that about you. What I’m critiquing is the interactions here, not your relationship with God.

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  92. Dena, do you really want me to go through your other comments and point out the ways you cut others down? I thought using the last one would serve the purpose, especially since you knew I found your remarks dismissive and glib. Yet you still said what you said.

    Here’s another one without having to go far back: Unfortunately, the conversation is happening here — telling people that they are wrong, rather than honestly desiring to inquire about what they see/think/feel/believe, cuts the conversation down to a lecture.

    Back to what you wrote this evening, you said: With the exception of the last point, which I admit is about you, the rest are observations of general behavior. I must have misunderstood when you said to show where you’d cut any person down. I didn’t think it mattered particularly if you were slicing at my legs or someone else’s.

    Thank you for your apology regarding the last item. I wasn’t injured by your remarks, but I accept your apology certainly. At the same time, I’m curious where you stand. Did you indeed dismiss the conversation here because you felt you already knew what I believe? Or are you genuinely interested in a discussion about spiritual matters?

    And if the latter, then where are the probing questions in these nearly 300 comments?

    As to your last paragraph, I think you must look at your own comments through rose-colored glasses, Dena. What am I to make of your opinion about my beliefs when you write such things as this:

    AISI, hackers *did* invade the scriptures and write all manner of things about God that are not true OF God. So too did hackers invade Christianity … (and we could debate about whether Christianity was ever Jesus’ idea in the first place — AISI the Christian life makes a poor substitute for the Abundant life).

    When we experience God as He is … the lies about God stand out, and are easily disbelieved. HE becomes more real than the rumors about Him, and the explanations that attempt to define Him.

    Ira and I came to understand we were at an impasse. We had a fundamental disagreement about whether or not God can be known.

    I think you and I are at an impasse too, Dena. You rely on the experience you’ve had and think the Bible is rubbish. I rely on the Bible and the experiences I’ve had that are consistent with what it says.

    Since you don’t, and apparently don’t have any interest in learning why I do, I don’t know that our conversation can go any further.

    You can say all day long that you know God, but you have only your word to back it up, and frankly, I’ll take the Apostle Paul’s word over yours. I’m not trying to be mean. I just happen to believe that Paul didn’t speak of his own accord but by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    Since what you say is contradictory to what he said, how can I pretend that it’s all good, that we’re on the same path to the same experience of God? We’re not, so I can’t pretend we are.

    It would be criminal for me not to try and pull you back from the edge of a cliff, Dena, and I honestly believe you are headed for a spiritual cliff. Pitching over the edge is a much bigger deal than anything you’ll encounter in this lifetime. So why wouldn’t I want to put out a hand and say let’s head away from the cliff onto that sure path over there.

    If that makes me some kind of a monster in your eyes, then so be it, I had to at least try.

    Becky

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  93. […] ago, a group of people sparked a lengthy discussion in the comments section to one of my posts, “Attacks on God from Within.” Our differing views served as the catalyst for at least three additional […]

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  94. […] of Jesus, (I met some professing Christians here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction back in January, you might recall, who were “re-imaging Jesus”) and the sad fact is, there will be a […]

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  95. […] Practitioner of Violence?” was the catalyst for my post (and the ensuing pages of comments) “Attacks on God from Within” (followed by two related posts “The Emerging Heresy” and “Attacks against God […]

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  96. […] Ultimately the “Man is good” position becomes a refrain: “Anything god can do, Man can do better.” Until, one day someone saying he is a Christian wonders whether or not he is perhaps nicer than god. Much of my original impetus for writing the blog post originally under discussion (the ‘Is God a Recovering Practitioner of Violence?’ post) was because of several years of heart-stirrings following a lifetime of reading Scripture. Namely, the question that continually came up in prayer, in reflection, and in life, is “Am I somehow ‘nicer’ than God? – Mike Morrell, Comment #64, page 1, “Attacks on God from Within” […]

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  97. Becky, you’re right, I SHOULD tell people when they’re driving off a moral and spiritual cliff in defiance of God’s Will. So, Becky… You’re driving off a moral and spiritual cliff. You’re in defiance of God’s Will for you to be loving and compassionate toward those who disagree with you about what God’s Will is. I don’t want you to go to hell, but you’re blinded by your own self-righteousness. You’re at risk. God will hold you to account.

    You haven’t accurately discerned God’s Will any more than the rest of us have, which is why many of us err toward trying to be as grace-full as possible toward those who have already been beaten down all their lives by well-intentioned Christians. If you’re defending God from attacks on him, then the rest of us are defending God’s children–in the name of God–from self-righteous, judgmental Christians that drive people away from God rather than toward him. I’m sure some people respond to being hit in the head over and over with theological hammers and wind up loving an (apparently abusive) God, but the theological hammer approach wasn’t Jesus’.

    Most of us understand that “orthodox Christianity” is whatever our form of the faith is, and whoever disagrees with us therefore must be in opposition of God’s Will. 😉 Everybody believes they are “orthodox.” May God forgive you for your syncretism as he does the rest of us.

    (Self: Go easier on people like Becky otherwise you will go over a moral and spiritual cliff yourself.)

    Becky, I’m not just snarking here — I wrote a book earlier this year that covers the basic differences between your theological outlook and Mike’s. The book is called “The Knight and The Gardener,” and it’s at http://www.knightandgardener.com In the book’s parlance, you’re a “Knight” theologically, and Mike is a “Gardener.” Hope you find it helpful.

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  98. Sorry, Becky. I posted this under the wrong entry. My point nevertheless stands about yours and Mike’s differences in theological orientation.

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  99. No problem, Cassidy, I’ll reply at the other thread.

    Becky

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  100. […] they must “re-image” Christ (see for example the discussion that would not die – “Attacks On God From Within”). In the end, they are no different than those of the liberal persuasion who bowed to higher […]

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