God – A God Of Judgment?

Since most of the comments to this post are dealing with God and His character, I decided to do away with the confusion. Hence I’ve retitled the article. However, the real content is in the comments section.

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 7:42 pm  Comments (49)  
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49 Comments

  1. I love fantasy too…that’s why I read the Bible.

    Kidding! 🙂 Though that’s probably what you think I think. Anyway, your ears might be burning, ’cause I mention you here in a followup to my (in)famous post last year. Mwa.

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  2. Hey, Mike, thanks for popping by.

    No, actually I’ve only heard atheists use the “Bible is fantasy” line. And no my ears weren’t burning. But now I see I’ve been derided for praying even as I was ridiculed for quoting the Bible over at Dissidents’ site. You two really have more in common than you know.

    I checked out your article, and I am once again struck by the fact that you are comfortable judging Mankind and God Himself by your standards.

    Mankind has “improved,” you say, because more people believe like you do, not like the warrior of old.

    God is evolving, you say, (or one of the other two choices you suggest) because he’s changing his ways and becoming more loving as you think he should be.

    Never mind that Old and New Testaments alike promise a day of the Lord yet to come that will include unimaginable wrath and judgment.

    Here’s the fourth option you haven’t included. God said what He means, means what He said, and gave believers His Holy Spirit to explain the Bible so we could understand what we need to know. In this case, our understanding actually does change as we grow closer to God. Like any relationship, the more we hang out with someone, the better we know them. The Bible affords us the opportunity to hang out with God. And as we draw near to Him, as He promised, He draws near to us.

    But that closeness, rather than altering the image of God as presented in both Testaments, provides the connecting pieces to bring the picture into focus a little better.

    You are right that we do continue to see through a glass darkly. Our vision isn’t clear because of sin. But God shows Himself more each day. His character is unchanging. He is just as opposed to idol worship today as He was when He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. He’s just as jealous—as any good husband would be who watches his beloved throw herself into an illicit relationship. He longs for us and loves us, wooing us and warning us, because He above all knows what’s at stake for us.

    How can we ignore the testimony of omniscience?

    Becky

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  3. Hi Rebecca,

    I wasn’t deriding you. I am bemused, to be sure, but it isn’t derision. Imagine that a group of Latter-Day Saints or Jehovah’s Witnesses told you, full of sincerity, that they were praying for you. On the one hand you’d be struck by their kindness; on the other hand you’d think that their prayers are off-focus, their god off-kilter, or some similar feeling would arise. You’d either get angry or laugh. I choose the latter. But it’s good-natured laughter.

    You’re right, there is a fourth option – and a fifth, too. The fourth is that which I described in the intro, “Many of us simply cannot go back to is what I call the Juggling Trapeze Artist version of God; this is where we juggle all of these conflicting biblical and experiential portraits of God, swinging from one pendulum to the other, desperately trying to make them form one coherent portrait.” I realize that you likely feel that this is a caricature of a more conservative evangelical or fundamentalist view – one that seeks to reconcile wildly disparate portraits of God – the God who blesses Moses’ marriage to Zipporah, or the God of Ezra who forbids intermarriage? It is not the biblically illiterate who wrestle with such things, but those who read Scripture faithfully. There are many such difficulties with God’s character as depicted in Holy Writ were you to try and create a composite character from these descriptions. (Now, it might surprise you to know that I, too, am irked by some liberals’ attempts to simply ‘flatten’ God’s character and mute it to a rather bland monochrome that happens to look just like them – but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation. The Christ-shaped God that I see given ultimate priority in Scripture still challenges me and makes me uncomfortable.)

    But I digress. Another option, to quote one of my atheist friends on my Facebook wall, is “If you really are seeking the truth, you should at least entertain the possibility of a fourth option: the concept of God was created by men to perform a function and over time that function has changed, thus, the concept of God has changed. Just my two cents.”

    So if my three options offended atheists and conservative evangelicals alike, I think I’m doing a decent job excavating a middle way. 🙂

    Still, your point about God evolving is well-taken: While I think it’s a defensible position – especially if you are trying to reconcile every aspect of God’s Scriptural depictions into one character-witness whole – it’s not terribly likely, is it? After all, if God originated a universe that is many billions of years old, and presided over millions of years of human evolution, it’s not terribly likely that He’d change his mind so drastically in the scope of biblical humanity, is it? After all, we’re talking a mere 10,000 since the advent of complex agriculture in Mesopotamia, where the whole biblical narrative takes shape. A mere eyeblink of God-time. It is far more likely that we’ve inscribed less than divine motives upon God due to our sin-stained, through-a-glass-darkly vision.

    But thank God, as you say, that “God shows Himself more each day.” When you ascribe my articulation of understanding God better due to mere “humanity improvement,” you’ve shown me a weakness in presenting all three of my alternatives. I did not adequately demonstrate how they all demonstrate a greater Christ-centeredness than the ‘flat’ reading of Scripture that both atheists and fundamentalists alike give our sacred text; I did not properly illuminate how it’s Jesus’ own teachings about the character of his Abba in the Gospels that cause us to question certain grotesque depictions of God in the OT, or Paul (and Heberews’) articulation of the glorious new-ness of New Covenant that is propelling any progress humanity might be enjoying in apprehending God’s true greatness – not blind advancement as such.

    So: With the Holy Spirit’s grace and help, I shall write a blog post clarifying these fortwith.

    Thank you, sister Rebecca, for being a faithful teacher and dialogue partner in this ongoing conversation. Iron truly does sharpen iron.

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  4. Mike, perhaps because you use gentle speech you don’t see how blasphemous you are. I can’t help but wonder if there is any fear of the Lord in you. Stating that Jesus would think His Father as depicted in the Old Testament is “grotesque,” demonstrates your shallow understanding of God.

    You have stripped Him of His right to judge, of His sovereignty over those who take a stand against Him, of His righteousness in doing so.

    You said:

    It is far more likely that we’ve inscribed less than divine motives upon God due to our sin-stained, through-a-glass-darkly vision.

    To hold this view you must dismiss the Old Testament as God’s revelation of Himself. You are, therefore, putting yourself in the position of God’s judge. You say, No, I know God would not act in this way. Therefore, even though God says this is what he did, it can’t be. Even though he proclaimed his character and purpose, it doesn’t meet my image of him, so it’s got to be wrong. Or else he must have changed.

    It’s kind of like me signing my name as “Becky” but you insisting on calling me “Rebecca.” You see my name in the sidebar and in the links—and of course that is my formal, full name. But my friends don’t call me “Rebecca.” I don’t sign my name here as “Rebecca” because I generally think of my visitors here as friends. I want them to know me.

    But you, Mike, have missed that. In the same way you have missed God’s disclosure of His character.

    I suspect this is because of your starting point. You do not believe, as Scripture clearly states, that we are all under a death sentence. All have sinned against our Holy God and come up eternally wanting. The price for such sin is death.

    Couple that with the fact that God knows what we don’t know—the hearts of all mankind. He knows our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. Not just a little besmirched.

    If you believed that, you wouldn’t see “genocide” when people in opposition to God die. You wouldn’t see God as cruel or unkind or mean-spirited for any of the things He did in the Old Testament. Sad as they are, the real sadness is that those people persisted in opposition to God.

    However, you instead, apparently see mankind as “basically good,” innocent, even. Certainly not deserving of death.

    At the same time, Mike, you completely misrepresent my view of God. Here’s what you said:

    The fourth is that which I described in the intro, “Many of us simply cannot go back to is what I call the Juggling Trapeze Artist version of God; this is where we juggle all of these conflicting biblical and experiential portraits of God, swinging from one pendulum to the other, desperately trying to make them form one coherent portrait.” I realize that you likely feel that this is a caricature of a more conservative evangelical or fundamentalist view – one that seeks to reconcile wildly disparate portraits of God – the God who blesses Moses’ marriage to Zipporah, or the God of Ezra who forbids intermarriage? It is not the biblically illiterate who wrestle with such things, but those who read Scripture faithfully. There are many such difficulties with God’s character as depicted in Holy Writ were you to try and create a composite character from these descriptions. [I added the emphasis]

    Perhaps you’ve identified some segment of professing Christians, but not those like me who believe the Bible. Here’s what you’re missing. I am not in a position to “create a composite character” of God. That would put me as supreme, as the one over Him. Instead, I am only in the position of Ignorant One who would not know God at all unless He disclosed Himself.

    How can I then say that what He’s chosen to disclose is wrong? Or inconsistent? That would require me to have some knowledge about Him apart from what He’s said, and I don’t have any. In other words, because of God’s transcendence, I am dependent upon His self revelation.

    If something He tells me seems inconsistent with something else He tells me, I do not see the fault as lying with Him or with His message about Himself (“Holy Writ” as you call it). The fault lies with the very thing He told me was deceptive and desperately wicked—my sinful heart, my blind eyes, the darkness of my soul.

    You see, Mike, our two worldviews are diametrically opposed, which is why I’ve told you before, we are not (yet?) family members. You aren’t my brother in Christ because you don’t accept Him for who He is. I know this because He discloses the Father. If you knew Christ you wouldn’t say the outrageous things you say about God and you wouldn’t try to “re-image” Him.

    Honestly, the best thing I can say to you is, start where the Bible says to start: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

    Where is your fear of the Lord, Mike? Ironic that you freely admit to other fears, but you apparently have no fear of offending the Sovereign of the universe.

    Becky

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  5. Can I just pick up on what mike is doing and the idea of blasphemy? Mike is engaged in an epic wrestle with the goal of knowing god (this is eternal life – that you may know him). He’s doing something gutsy that most of us don’t have the intestinal fortitude to do it. He’s also taking perhaps a fairly non standard approach in that he’s thinking of all the possibilities before moving forward. I like it. And not all the possibilities will be appropriate but that doesn’t matter because they’re only possibilities. He’s got the “go wide” approach before becoming narrow.
    Because the approach is a bit unconventional and he does his iterations in public it doesn’t look too linear or refined but I think he is involving a community in the struggle and seeks to bring others who struggle similarly together. It’s much more fun than alone.
    As far as blasphemy goes – that’s a really big call. Basically we determine blasphemy by someone who insults our theology of who god is. I’m not sure it’s terribly useful (in fact it would probably be more amusing to mike than anything else). I think the blasphemy idea is really only useful as an adjective for someone who is peddaling and propagating a false image of god in a destructive way (cult leaders for example).
    Could I finish up by saying that probably all of becky’s theology probably comes from theologians who have been accused at some time of being heretics and no doubt in private grappled with some seriously “out there” ideas. While mike probably doesn’t identify as a theologian he is engaged in a similar process. It’s just he likes to do it in his undies (he puts it all out there for the world to see)

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  6. Hi Becky

    nice site.

    I am wondering, do you think God is easily offended by our views of him/her/it?

    Also, why do worldivews have to SEEM diametrically opposed? what about the authors of lamentations, job, psalms and others who wrestled with many worldviews and didnt necessarily come to any solid conclusions but left some of the narratives still wrestling?

    i think also the fear of the lord is different from a blind respect. take for example the conversation between abrahama and god (bartering for lot); moses basically telling god to send him to hell if he destroys israel, job questioning god, gideon backing off, elijah running away from the queen, jesus al most backing out of the cross…there are examples of people who lived in awe (the hebrew word for ‘fear’) but also considered god their equals enough to engage with them. and then also with cain and abel (which was most likely a metaphor/narrative/fantasy) god asks cain ‘where is your brother?’ – god is learning. god isn’t afraid to learn. in fact, the ancient hebrew idea defined perfection as something/someone who never stopped learning, once someone stopped learning they stopped being perfect. god learns with us, or maybe even before us.

    check on my piece on god’s plastic ontology: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-elerick/is-god-a-murderer_b_785634.html

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  7. I really think that Mike had some great things to say. God is a great mystery… God is in my brother and God is in me, we should all recognise that 🙂

    -Peace

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  8. Mike, not every stray bullet indictment warrants a response. Dealing with a premodern mythos in modern, rational terms is just beating your head against the wall. This is why so many online threads go into the ditch–so many worldviews interacting.
    A transrational mystical approach would meet others on their own terms, highlighting the sane kernel, such as Rebecca’s passion for truth, righteousness and defending God’s sovereignty, even though it goes astray into authoritarian literalism, while forgiving her absolutist rant that sounds as though she thinks her fierce warrior God paradoxically needs defending.
    Truly the mystery of the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas is beyond all our attempts to control it with just one orthodoxy.

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  9. Well, I find that friend Mike Morrell who hijacked this thread, renamed it “Why Mike Morrell Is a Blashphemous Heretic” (see his Facebook page).

    What mystifies me, though, is this comment he made to that wall post:

    Becky has shown herself time & again to be uninterested in dialogue.

    As Mike himself noted in his recent blog post, we had an extensive dialogue, involving nearly 300 comments and another three or four posts here on my site.

    Of course, I appreciate him sending his friends here to respond to my response to his assertions about God. I have no problem discussing these with Mike or anyone of his mindset. It may take me a few days, though I hope not. Could there be a more important topic than how we view God?

    Becky

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  10. “Could there be a more important topic than how we view God?”

    Just a cursory look at where Jesus focused his attention shows me that he was far, far more interested in how we treat each other, than if we have dotted every “i” and crossed every “t” in the Systematic Theology book.

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  11. Jim, I’ll answer this one, then I do have to get to work.

    When they asked Jesus what the most important command was, what did He say? Love God. That’s not to take anything away from command number two (love your neighbor). But command one is what makes command two possible.

    Of course Jesus went on to say later that only those who know the Son know the Father: “He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me” (John12:45). See also John 14. It seems clear you can’t love someone you don’t know.

    Jesus also stated that He didn’t say anything apart from what the Father gave Him to say. Clearly, Jesus thought it was pretty important that people heard God’s words, understood Him, obeyed Him, loved Him, and they could only do that through Christ.

    In that regard, nothing’s changed.

    Becky

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  12. Interestingly enough, he was often drawing how we should treat each other directly from the character of God. The only people he seemed to get frustrated with was those who had the very careful theology.

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  13. I’m sorry, Becky – I’m confused. If you’re saying that Mike is bending God to say what he wants, and you’re saying that God’s main priority is judgment and wrath, are we to emulate God’s judgment and wrathfulness as his faithful servants? Or is God the sole agent of wrath? Is God’s leading character trait love, forgiveness, and compassion — or control, law enforcement, and punishment? Am I wasting my time with the love your neighbor stuff and charitable works? Do I need to get out there and strike fear of the Lord into people so they may, as Scripture requires, begin to learn wisdom? Is beheading people too severe a place to start as a societal correction tool, or are blog entries laying out people’s blasphemies and coming punishment enough? Should I begin with a jihad against Mike, or do you recommend a better starting place? Who did Jesus condemn and kill? Which world populations suffering genocide now are in opposition to God’s Will? Surely God was just as kind in his slaughter and dismemberment of his children during OT times as he is today – after all, he was spiritually correcting them through painful death. I can’t believe we intervened during the Holocaust! But perhaps we shouldn’t have. Our society appears to have been in decline sharply since World War II ended. Maybe that’s where America went wrong. Maybe we should have sided with the Nazis. After all, they were the better, more faithful servants of an ordered, judgmental, wrathful God. Maybe we should be more like them.

    Are you sure that you have not bent Scripture to say what you prefer? Please advise.

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  14. Jacob, thanks for your comment. I suppose some people will think this is just semantics, but I don’t believe God is a mystery at all. Rather, He’s transcendent. The idea of mystery carries the connotation that if we keep at it, we can get this thing solved. God, on the other hand, can’t be solved. He is Other and therefore beyond our reach, unless He reveals Himself to us—which He has.

    Becky

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  15. Cassidy, you said

    you’re saying that God’s main priority is judgment and wrath

    Actually, no, I’m not saying that at all. The part of my second response to Mike that includes judgment was this:

    You have stripped Him of His right to judge, of His sovereignty over those who take a stand against Him, of His righteousness in doing so.

    Does recognizing God’s position as a righteous, sovereign judge negate His love and mercy and grace and forgiveness and kindness and patience and gentleness and goodness? Not at all.

    Because I don’t understand how the (seemingly conflicting) parts all fit together does not mean that one or more of them is therefore untrue. It simply means God is bigger than I am and can be both wrathful and loving. Merciful and vengeful.

    Abraham got this. The Bible commends his faith and points to his willingness to sacrifice his son as evidence of it. But here’s what Abraham faced. God had promised him this son, Isaac, would be the beginning of a great nation. Now God was telling him to give this miracle child back. So which was Abraham to believe—the promise or the command? He believed both. He simply (though I doubt if it was simple at all) took God at His word—both of them. Isaac would be the child of promise and he would be the sacrifice.

    God, in His mercy, redeemed Isaac on the spot. But Abraham’s example of faith shows the way. We don’t have to figure out how the hard things go together. We certainly don’t have to choose to believe one over the other. Rather, we have to believe God, even when we don’t get it, when we don’t see how He can come through, how His decisions fit with the other things He’s told us. In other words, we believe in God’s goodness and righteousness and love and grace and forgiveness even when we look straight into the face of His justice and wrath.

    I’ll say again, Cassidy, though it’s not my line but God’s: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. So much makes sense when we start by saying God is God. Who am I to correct Him or condemn Him or tell Him He isn’t running the world aright.

    Becky

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  16. As I read through this thread and various others I can’t help but think, does this break God’s heart? We are supposed to be reflective of God. Yet we take such stabs at each other. Are we really iron sharpening iron or just trying to be right? We have put ourselves in the judgement seat rather then appreciate the other and their wrestle to understand God. I read through this trying to put myself in Becky’s shoes and then in Mike’s. Either way I feel attacked. Is this reflective at all of God? What does this say about us as Christians for non-Christians to see this? If Becky is right and Mike is totally wrong and blasphemous shouldn’t we love him first and foremost and support his wrestle to find God? If Mike is right and Becky wrong how is labeling her and pitting online communities against her helpful or loving in any way? Maybe instead of grappling with theology we just need to learn to love one another where we are at. There is of course the possibility that I am misunderstanding everything that is being said and the heart behind it. If so, sorry disregard the comment. However, if I am misunderstanding the language used, who else is? Who else is using this as a prime example why they won’t go near Christians with a 10 foot pole? Maybe we should all stop trying to feel justified or defend our positions and start understanding each other. Really understanding not just thinking we get them by understanding their theology. Just my thoughts….

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  17. […] The previous post under this title took a turn away from this topic, so I decided to create a separate article, […]

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  18. Anonymous, I’m sorry you think we’re taking stabs at one another in this thread and whatever others you’ve read. I happen to think that the people who have commented have been respectful for the most part, though Cassidy’s sarcasm might seem like stabbing to some I suppose.

    I don’t think that disagreeing with one another is stabbing. I especially don’t believe warning someone of a danger is stabbing.

    What would you think if I stood by and watched someone drive off a cliff because I didn’t want to be too offensive and tell him he was going the wrong way?

    Your premise—that this discussion is not a good reflection of God—would only be true if God isn’t particular about truth.

    On the other hand, if He cares about truth, and we choose to go along to get along instead, then we aren’t reflecting Him.

    By the way, the metaphor of iron sharpening iron works because of friction.

    All that to say, I appreciate the sentiment behind not “pitting online communities” against one another, I really do! But here’s the thing (and I’ve told Mike this before), I pray that God will bring who He wants to this blog. If He chooses to use a Facebook plea to come comment about something I said, I’m OK with that. I don’t feel “pitted against.” 😉

    Thank you for your heart-felt concern for all of us and for God’s reputation.

    Becky

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  19. The only people he seemed to get frustrated with was those who had the very careful theology.
    -Jim Wehde’s comment Dec. 18, 4:22

    Actually, Jim, He got mad, not frustrated, took whips to some and called others names. And these weren’t ones who had “very careful theology.” They were ones who had made up their own theology—who added to the Law, who twisted parts to serve themselves, then ignored other parts to make a buck off sincere worshipers.

    Somehow this idea that Pharisees were “good religious folk” and that the reason Jesus tore into them was they were too legalistic, has spread. The problem is, it doesn’t fit the facts.

    The Pharisees were legalistic to the degree that they thought their law keeping was what earned them right standing with God. But they were prideful cheats. Jesus called them out for putting their tradition over God’s Law, among other things.

    So in that regard, I guess anyone who ignores what God says in His word might be considered a Pharisee.

    Becky

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  20. Truly the mystery of the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas is beyond all our attempts to control it with just one orthodoxy.
    – Darin, Dec. 18, 1:56

    Darin, I agree with you—no person can control the Incarnation or anything else God does or says. Which is really the point I was making to Mike. God alone gets to say who He is and what He’s like. That He did so in the Bible, then followed up with the Incarnation, and with His Holy Spirit, seems to me convincing evidence that He wants to be known.

    But if I pick and choose what I wish to from what He’s said, then I’m doing exactly what you say His transcendence does not allow—man’s control.

    And you’re right. God doesn’t need my defense. But then He doesn’t need my love, either. I just happen to think that friends stick up for one another. 😀

    Becky

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  21. Jack, I should have started with the first comments first rather than working backwards. You may not still be reading any more, but for what it’s worth, I wanted to answer what I consider the key statement in your comment.

    You see, I have no problem with people conversing about their beliefs. I do it all the time, here, in private, at other blog sites. So I don’t fault Mike for writing articles about what he believes.

    One other point before I address Mr. Key Statement. You probably are unaware that Mike and I have had previous discussions here, at his site, and at a “neutral” site that was attacking Mike for … long story. Anyway, suffice it to say, I have a grasp on what Mike believes.

    So here’s what you said:

    I think the blasphemy idea is really only useful as an adjective for someone who is peddaling and propagating a false image of god in a destructive way

    Jack, you hit it precisely. I believe Mike is in fact propagating a false image of god in a destructive way. Because he does not recognize God’s sovereign right to act as a righteous judge who metes out justice to those opposed to Him as the Old Testament describes and the New Testament affirms, Mike is saying things that are untrue of God and dangerous to anyone who believes like he does.

    And since I believe this passionately, why would I remain silent? I could play the “let’s all get along” game and refrain from calling “God is grotesque” blasphemous. But would that be loving? Would I be loving God to let lies about Him go unchallenged? Would I be loving my neighbor by letting Mike think it’s OK to dismiss a key component of God’s character because it offends our 21st century sensibilities?

    The only legitimate response, as far as I see, is to tell Mike the truth. Hopefully in a loving way. Apparently I didn’t do such a good job of that last part because anonymous thought we were stabbing at each other.

    That was not my intent.

    I actually do care about Mike and I actually do pray for him, much as it amuses him to hear it.

    Anyway, Jack, thanks for taking the time to drop by and comment.

    Becky

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  22. 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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  23. Hi, Cassidy, thanks for your reply. First off, I want to say that I am sorry for whatever comment I made that communicated an unloving attitude to you. As I said to Jack above, that was not my intent.

    But here’s what I don’t understand. If my saying to Mike, God has a right to be Judge and He is not grotesque in exercising His justice, therefore you are speaking falsely about Him when you say otherwise—if that position is unloving in your eyes, why then is it OK for you to condemn me?

    From what you said later in your comment, I get the idea that you realized the inconsistency. Perhaps we can come to an understanding, then, that holding differing opinions is not in and of itself unloving.

    But here’s the main point I want to address. You said

    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. (I added the emphasis)

    Cassidy, I’m not talking about God’s will. I’m talking about God’s character. You’re right to say, as you do a little further down, that I cannot discern God’s will any better than any other person. I have no special line of communication with God that isn’t available to everyone else.

    However, the matter of God’s character isn’t open for debate, or shouldn’t be, because He disclosed His character in His Word, then displayed His character through His Son.

    I’m not sure how my believing what God said makes me self-righteous, Cassidy. Maybe it’s the way I explained it, and I’m really sorry. I don’t want to get in the way of what God says. I don’t want people to miss His self-disclosure because of me.

    You’re absolutely right to say that God has called us to love our neighbors, and even to love our enemies, and strangers. You might be interested to know that I wrote several blog posts last August (on the 9th and 11th) about how Christians are to love, as a response to the way another blogger was writing about Mike (and others). I say that because I want you to understand, Cassidy, I find it reprehensible when someone claiming Christ’s name chooses to slam others.

    But there’s a difference between slamming (or stabbing as anonymous said, or hammering, as you said) and stating the truth. I’m not trying to be mean to Mike when I say that God is a righteous, just Judge or when I say that Mike is blasphemous to say God, as He revealed Himself in the Old Testament, is grotesque.

    These are not my judgments. They are the pronouncements of Scripture. God Himself identifies Himself as Judge (“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” James 4:12)

    In addition, Jesus says He shows us the Father:

    He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. John 14:9b-10

    Of course, many of the things Jesus said point to God’s position as Judge. Here’s an example: “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5)

    So Jesus Himself identifies God as the One who metes out justice.

    Thank God He is not only just. Thank God He is also merciful and loving, kind and good.

    But if He were not just, why would we need His mercy? The two work together perfectly, which shouldn’t be surprising from a perfect God.

    Becky

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  24. Hi, George, I don’t know if you’re still reading or not, but I wanted to thank you for stopping by again. Yes, the site had a bit of a face-lift since you were here a year ago. Thanks for noticing.

    So, back to the discussion. As I said to Jack, I really should have started responding to the first comments first. Instead I opted for answering some of the shorter ones first, and now you probably have given up expecting to hear a response. A mistake on my part. So sorry.

    Where to begin? Thanks for sharing the link to your article. I like this line:

    God as the mascot for the moral majority and God as the liberal surfing Jesus who is a fan of the outcast cannot co-exist,

    Since I don’t view God as anybody’s mascot, I thought that was exceptional.

    But I see why we disagree, George. It goes back to our understanding of the Bible. You see it as writings from the Hebrew people. I see it as God’s Word written through inspired Hebrew people to all the world.

    Obviously that starting place takes us in divergent directions. Consequently, I don’t see what you see in Lamentations or Job or Psalms. I see a consistent worldview—sinners in need of a savior in relationship with the God of the universe who steps up to be that Savior.

    I agree that the fear of the Lord is different from blind respect. God doesn’t want blind loyalty or love or fear. That’s why He made Himself known.

    You mentioned a number of people in the Bible to illustrate this. I’m not sure I understand what you think their relationship with God was. Abraham, who God called His friend, asked God to be merciful, and He promised He would be. “Daring” to ask your friend such a think isn’t contradictory to the reverential awe—the fear—of the Lord Abraham experienced.

    Moses’s situation was similar, but he asked God to be merciful for His own Name’s sake.

    Job, in the end, was on his face repenting. Of what? Throughout the book, he’d claimed he hadn’t sinned. He repented of saying he knew God when in fact he didn’t know Him at all until He disclosed Himself. Gideon? Not sure what you mean by him backing off. Elijah ran because he was afraid of the queen and her threat to kill him. Not sure how that relates to a fear of the Lord. And Jesus almost backing out? Not if He is God as He claims to be. His will and the Father’s is the same which is why He did go to the cross. He demonstrated for us how to submit to God.

    Cain and Abel—God didn’t ask Cain about his brother because He didn’t know. The context of the true story makes that clear.

    So, no, God isn’t learning. And He isn’t changing. Yet He is perfect. The Hebrew definition you cited could not apply to omniscience. You’re saying then, that the ancient Hebrew scholars didn’t believe in God’s omniscience, but Psalm 139 alone refutes that.

    In your article you talked about how we’ve killed God by our many versions of “her.” You see, I don’t have many versions because I believe the one God disclosed about Himself. Especially because He followed up by sending Jesus who said He showed the Father. And spoke what the Father gave Him to speak.

    But that puts us back to the starting point, George. I believe the Bible to be authoritative, and you don’t. I’m not sure why you don’t since you seem sincere in your desire to know God.

    Becky

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  25. […] retitled the original post, “Why I Love Fantasy,” so that it now reads “God – A God Of Judgment?” The heart of the discussion, as I see it, lies in this comment I made to sometime-visitor […]

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  26. So many wrong beliefs and actions result when those professing to be Christians build on flawed foundations. Instead of wanting to know and imitate God as He has revealed Himself, they fall all over themselves trying to be better than Christians of the past, or ask “what do others think” more frequently than “what does God think”? These leads to legalism, contradiction, and worst of all, lack of joy in God.

    From many “emergent” folks in this discussion, the kinds who seem to enjoying congratulating themselves for being such naughty naughty bad boys: you seem to think that everyone else exists with only the goal of fighting supposed heretics and maintaining boundaries. I’m sure those folks are out there, but if you think all orthodox Christians are like that, you are a) naive, b) projecting.

    Now consider: what would happen if all your opponents somehow mysteriously vanished? I fear you’d have nothing to do. You’d be bored. No more “bad guys” to fight and accuse of being intolerant, judgmental, arrogant, etc. Consider the Biblical promises of a New Heavens and New Earth, where all His people will be freed to do nothing but worship Him through their gifts through all eternity. Nothing but joy and bliss found, not in fights, not in Helping the Poor or promoting harmony, but in Him. Honestly, consider this: would you be bored?

    Meanwhile, all that “ha ha look at me I’m a heretic” stuff shows not only bizarre immaturity and self-focus, but a sad lack of comprehension about beliefs’ consequences, or worse, a profound hatred of those who take seriously the Bible’s constant admonitions to watch out for false teachings.

    This again reminds me of The Joker, from The Dark Knight, wryly asking “Why so serious?” and then shooting innocent people, thinking it’s funny.

    False teachings hurt people. Consider the little old ladies deceived by televangelists who claim they can perform miracles and are “God’s” messengers on Earth — should we take seriously the real-life heresy they teach? Should we thus condemn them and urge them to repent? Or should we mock and make fun of people like Justin Peters, a wheelchair-bound evangelist who goes about the country revealing “faith healers’ “, and laugh at him for taking things way too seriously, and urge him just to make nice with the lying televangelists?

    “Oh no, the unbelievers will see and think that all those Christians want to do is fight with one another.” Spare me. Those same unbelievers react in outrage (and rightfully so) when “Christian” leaders cover up sins like child-abuse and adultery in the same of preserving a peaceful facade. An un-Biblical idea of “peace,” falling all over ourselves to impress people more than God, not only won’t help, but arrogantly ignores God’s own revelation in favor of one’s own oh-so-enlightened opinions.

    Alas. Some folks seem to prefer constant spiritual wandering (which just happens to be cool, you see!) and why-so-serious references to themselves as victims, rather than humbly recognizing God was wise and loving enough to make clear to us some truths about Himself, and not so cruel or so much an idiot to leave us stumbling around. The shtick does get a little old. And to call it a more “loving” kind of lifestyle is just sad: as Becky has said, it is not love to ignore perfect justice and overlook evil.

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  27. Thanks, Stephen. Interestingly, in support of what you just wrote, Mike Morrell posted this on his Facebook wall, re-writing part of my article:

    Most of the regular visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are likely unaware that a discussion cropped up a couple weeks ago on an unrelated post, centered on God’s justice. That arch-heretic, Mike Morrell, strikes again… (emphasis added)

    Here’s what I actually said:

    Most of the regular visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are likely unaware that a discussion cropped up a couple weeks ago on an unrelated post, centered on God’s justice. I’ve retitled the original post, “Why I Love Fantasy,” so that it now reads “God – A God Of Judgment?” The heart of the discussion, as I see it, lies in this comment I made to sometime-visitor and emergent-church conversationalist Mike Morrell (emphasis added).

    My question to him was why he has to take my article discussing God’s character and turn it into an attack on Mike. I find your comments speak to that issue, Stephen.

    Becky

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  28. Hi, Jacob. I know I’ve taken a long time to get to your comment, but I haven’t forgotten it. You said

    I really think that Mike had some great things to say. God is a great mystery… God is in my brother and God is in me, we should all recognise that

    First, I disagree with you that God is a great mystery. He would be if He hadn’t chosen to reveal Himself to Mankind. He is certainly more than we can comprehend and more than we can contain. However, He kindly has told us about Himself in terms we can understand.

    I think of our relationship with God sort of like a person’s relationship to a colony of ants. Well, there is no relationship. The ants don’t know—or rather, can’t know—that the person exists. But what if the person gave a message in ant language through a spokes-ant to the colony? What if he gave many messages, even gave a permanent record, then set aside his human body and came into the colony in the form of an ant? Would it then be possible for the ants to know the man? Only in the ways the man chose to show himself. If the ants continued to declare the man a mystery or non-existent, or declared him to be something other than what he showed them, or embraced part while ignoring other aspects, they would not know the man, even as he had shown himself to be.

    Jacob, I also disagree that God is in your brother and is in you. I understand you to be saying that you, your brother, presumably all people contain god’s nature. That makes god part of creation, not a Creator outside the thing He has made.

    In contrast, God revealed Himself to be before all things, apart from that which is made, and in fact, the One who brought all else into being. That makes Him far greater than Mankind, far beyond us, far greater in power and purpose and authority.

    The key is that God lets us know these things about Himself. They aren’t things we imagine. Otherwise one person could believe God was all loving and another person could imagine him to be all justice and a third could say he is evil. No one would be right or wrong because they are only stating their impressions of god. But if He in fact did tell us what He’s really like, then we can’t make up our own image of Him—unless we decide to ignore what He’s said about Himself.

    So, Jacob, my suggestion—rather than listening to what people say about God, why not read what He’s said about Himself?

    Becky

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  29. E Steve, I agree actually: false teachings hurt people. Which is why false teachings depicting God as tyrant have poisoned fundamentalist Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. We should just say “No” to corrosive images of God.

    I know you probably never will, but I’d recommend The Human Faces of God if you’re interested in a serious, respectful engagement with the conservative Christian doctrine of biblical innerancy – and why scrupulous readers of the bible simply cannot regard it as God’s unvarnished self-disclosure of Godself.

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  30. Kinda changed the subject there, but thanks for the clarification that this actually isn’t about the “pro-unity” people against the “anti-unity” people, but whether either “side” will be united around one systems of beliefs or another. Therefore any rhetoric that claims to be a caring-kinder-gentler-Christianity is either ill-informed or deceptive.

    I shan’t presume the latter against anyone here. Only you folks know — and God, of course.

    Perhaps I’ll check into assaults on inerrancy sometime. However, those who claim the Bible isn’t God’s word and we really ought to move past that stuff might wish to consider:

    1) Do they really want to call God an idiot for not being able to preserve His revelation about Himself and His story, or cruel for not bothering?

    2) What do they want to put in its place? Their own opinions? Offer an alternative besides human beliefs.

    3) Let’s see, God as “tyrant,” that is, Someone Who is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, all-love and all-holy, Who has the right to judge sin and define “love,” and not have love defined on Him — versus mortal men who set themselves up above God’s word and try to trump His grace, becoming religious tyrants quite well on their own. I’ll stick with what you apparently call a “tyrannical” God.

    If God has not revealed some things about Himself:

    a) He is incompetent, and not worth knowing.

    b) He does not exist, and thus we should all shut up.

    c) He is a cruel tyrant indeed, not willing to be known by anyone, and prefers watching them stumble about while He refuses to speak clearly. Thus He is, again, not worth knowing; or we should hate Him.

    Now, a few closing questions (we love questions, and not so much potential answers, right?).

    1) Define “tyranny.” Is a parent who spanks a child a “tyrant”? What about a God Who punishes evildoers? Again the Pelagian slips are showing: man, it seems, is morally “neutral” rather than sinful. Very popular idea, though not very original!

    2) Explain, and perhaps backtrack from, the misquote of Becky’s post on your Facebook wall, changing her words as if they appeared to be name-checking you?

    Hey Mike, I know this online debating can be enjoyable, but as in our previous discussions, it seems you naturally can’t fathom the concept that people might be doing it for reasons different from your personal perspective: they are not merely defending boundaries, or their peeps, or trying to fight bad guys for fun and profit, but because we actually want to point others to the perfect truth and joy found only in God’s Word and in Who He has revealed Himself to be.

    That’s why I haven’t been about your Facebook page a lot lately. It gets frightfully dull. Scrambling about with a center of Trying to Fix the World’s Problems, more than Delight in God’s Glories, is a perfect little self-centered existence with plenty of busywork, but ultimately it’s a miserable life.

    Pursuing joy in God, for Who He has revealed Himself to be, should take us to many places and phases of growth — not just beating bad-guy fundies, or emergents, or Saving the Poor, or Fighting Intolerance or whatever. It’s not all about you, or me, or fance rhetoric, or a spiritual “quest” or us saving ourselves. It’s about His plan, Himself.

    And too many professing Christians, regardless of their political leanings or various desperation to Fix the World’s Problems, just haven’t got a clue about that. Those who love Him, because He first loved us, will have eternity to keep learning how.

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  31. I hate to be trite. But rather than pitting one another against each other in the name of an invisible third other who is not physically present to defend herself what about working together with not through our differences. The fighting is getting really boring cant we all get along:)

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  32. More trite and boring is to ignore what’s been already said in favor of platitudes. Also, calling God a “her” just to try spooking reactions is kind of silly. As soon as anyone has a professed self-revelation from the supposed she-god, I’d love to see it.

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  33. Aw, c’mon, E Steve – you really think G-D has a d–k?

    How ’bout some biblical revelation from a feminine God? The truth may surprise you.

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  34. Cute, Mike. 🙂 That straw man’s been toppled over for years; do I really need to kick at the debris again? Bible-believing Christians already know God is Spirit, but simply recognize the Bible describes Him as a He. Other Biblical ideas are more difficult to accept. So why live as if enslaved to mocking God’s masculine references? What’s the point of it?

    Again, living one’s life based on fighting the supposed “bad guys,” rather than seeing battles as the means to a glorious victory and living in light of that, is a miserable existence that emphasizes self as god. That’s why I take part in these discussions sporadically, while hoping to recognize that God is quite capable of defending Himself, yet is so kind not to leave that up to some kind of fatalism, but blesses His people with the ability to participate in His plans and spreading His Gospel.

    The accidental sexism in your link is interesting, as if any description of God’s lovingkindness toward His people, or emotional care, must automatically mean that God is feminine — as if those attributes are limited to women and can’t also be masculine.

    Shall we go the whole way in our accidental-sexist reasoning, then, and presume that any other descriptions of God as powerful, wise, hard-working, creative, etc., must mean He is male — as if we think only men, cough cough, are powerful, wise, hard-working and creative, while the women simply keep in the kitchen to love and nurture?

    I don’t assume that author intends sexism. It just happens by accident. Also, why should I believe anything one writes about supposed proof of God’s attributes in the Bible, if I accept your claim that the Bible is flawed? and thus by proxy that God is an idiot or cruel for not revealing at least some about Himself, and our own opinions are superior?

    (Still waiting for a reply on that one, but I also understand that we do have jobs here. … Still, to skip past those in favor of more rhetoric, as if no replies were already given, could show a lot …)

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  35. your response speaks volumes about how much you don’t care about getting a long side your neighbour/enemy but are more dedicated to defending a view point.

    she. god isn’t a she or a he. but encompasses both.

    the word shekinah in hebrew is a female aspect of god. the kabbalah speaks of sophia the wisdom of god, who is female. the psalms speak of god as a she…need i go on…

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  36. Aw George, if you knew me I think you’d find I’m quite a swell sort of person, more apt to want to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender episodes or work on a novel outline rather than spend all day fighting. Please reference my comments above about that, rather than going on as if I didn’t offer them?

    I really don’t have anything to go on about God being he/she/it/whatever besides your opinion. And I don’t know you either, so, I’ve no cause to take your view about God’s nature on faith, above taking the Bible’s view about God’s nature on faith.

    Not sure what the heck you’re talking about with the Psalms speaking of God as a “she,” but I suspect I’ve already rebutted it above. Attributes of love and caring are not limited to femininity, any more than strength and justice are limited to masculinity.

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  37. Again, let me act as a mirror and show you your ‘justified’ – “loving” behaviour:

    “Please reference my comments above about that, rather than going on as if I didn’t offer them?”

    – in the above where does is say, I really want to know why you believe this way? – it wreaks of distance and pedantic patronization.

    here’s a question: do you KNOW God? or ‘God’ referred to in the Bible, I can’t seem to make the distinction through the rude platitudes.

    luke 13:34; “”O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

    i have share previous verses in their original language, and have also talked to rabbi’s who speak hebrew was their native language. god has attributes of both.

    honestly, does it really matter if god is a she or a he or isn’t it more important that we love our neighbour; unfortunately, it seems theology has and probably will get in the midst of this crucial point once again.
    my question isn’t who’s right or what’s wrong, but how are we better loving one another? isn’t that’s what its all about or is it that we’re all hell bound because we don’t tick the boxes?

    “Not sure what the heck you’re talking about with the Psalms speaking of God as a “she,” but I suspect I’ve already rebutted it above.”

    again, the fact that you are more concerned and probably will respond with some sort of rebuttal tells me a lot about how you dont desire to get to know anyone else but only judge them based on your understanding of a criteria that somehow makes you think you need to/feel justified to judge others in the name of some deluded/verbally violent form of love…

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  38. George, without knowing something about God, why should I love my neighbor? Loving my neighbor is important, but God commands His people in Scripture to love him first. It seems you have different standards for figuring out who God is. What if I was sitting in my neighbors’ living room, trying to get to know them to love them, and ignored everything they told me about themselves?

    That’s why your question about whether I love God, or love a version of God as “referred to in the Bible,” is not only a false dichotomy, but seems Gnostic and legalistic. You don’t know me; I don’t know you, and all we have are what we say here. That’s why I point back to what I’ve said before, trusting in words (more or less) to communicate the intents of their authors. That’s also why I point back to God’s Word to tell me what He is like. And as a corollary, that leads to critiquing others’ views that skim past that in favor of personal beliefs, the words of rabbis who reject the reason for the Old Testament, Christ Himself, Who is greater than all else as Hebrews says.

    I’d love to hear about the reasons for your beliefs, but so long as we have such deep differences — when your worldviews are not based in the Word of God and dismisses that Word — can we really get very far? Ignoring God’s Word about Himself would be like me claiming I want to get to know you and love you as my “neighbor,” and then ignoring everything you told me about yourself even while irritatingly explaining that no, I want to get to know the “real” you. 🙂

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  39. again, you don’t want to know any of us if you keep basing knowledge or pressupose that the bible is meant to be a rubric for friendship measurement. the ancient jews (the authors, not us) thought that each verse had upto different interpretations…70! – so why the need to defend one interpretation; and also you have presupposed i don’t follow a ‘biblical’ model (which has now become rhetoric for ‘how i personally interpret the bible and have objectified that interpretation’) – again, you don;t want to get to know me, because i dont FIT your view(s) and assume so much already and then don’t give any of us chance because basically we don’t follow YOUR (human) interpretation of the bible…hmmm…

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  40. so in terms of quoting rabbi’s -that too is a false dichotomy. it leaves only room for non-contextual interpretation based on certain aspects of preconceived truth. and am i to understand since you discount the jewish authors, that context isn’t important then? hmmmm

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  41. Hmm, all right, let’s pursue this and see what happens. Your claim is that I have my own interpretation of the Bible, and yet various other meanings exist that mean by view of a Biblical truth could be the wrong one.

    Here is Hebrews 6: 1-2, a New Testament passage (written in Greek, outside of rabbis’ purview).

    “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”

    And because context is vital to understanding something, one might look up the reason for the author’s “therefore” and discern what it refers to: because, the author says earlier, Christians must move beyond the basics of Old Testament beliefs.

    What is your interpretation of this text? Does it have a plain meaning? Or more than one plain meaning? And conversely, does it have a not-this meaning? If not, doesn’t language itself lose meaning?

    Just a few questions to consider! 🙂

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  42. Meanwhile, I do tend to write these responses rapid-fire, while most often focusing on main work-related tasks. Though that’s not an excuse for being rude, please remember that over the internet, briefness can often resemble rudeness; also, it seems you already have an assumption that anyone who adheres to the Bible is rigid, uncaring, liking ideas about God rather than God Himself, etc. Please feel free to think beyond those assumptions, and I shall attempt the same.

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  43. George, you said to Stephen

    your response speaks volumes about how much you don’t care about getting a long side your neighbour/enemy but are more dedicated to defending a view point.

    Out of curiosity, what does ignoring a person’s response say about getting along side your neighbor or enemy? Just wondering how loving it is or how little of defending a point of view is involved in speaking to one person while acting as if the other person hasn’t spoken.

    Becky

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  44. Stephen, I think you’ve hit right on what’s wrong about both the “orthodox” and the emergent — the orthodox are certain they’ve got the orthodoxy correctly discerned; the emergent can delight in their revolutionary-ness and become smug. Of course, the orthodox can become convinced of their own correctness, and conclude that those who disagree with them are in error.

    There’s actually a term for this — “reification.” Reification is when you create an idea or interpretation of reality, accept it, and then forgot you created it. Sometimes people inherit reified ideas. Orthodoxies are usually reified ideas. The orthodoxies that last are the ones that are most valid to most people, most of the time.

    What the emergent folks are doing is pointing out that several forms of orthodoxy are reified ideas that are no longer valid for some seeking God in the 21st century. The emergent folks are seeking a truer form of faith; a spiritually truer orthodoxy that brings people to Christ and to God’s work more effectively than the orthodoxies we have available now. The orthodox tend to view this search as sinful and dangerous to the spiritual well-being of believers and non-believers alike.

    My overall fear is that the orthodox will become so attached to their own reified ideas that they will (1) conclude that those who hold to other theologies are in error, (2) judge and condemn them, and then (3) work to marginalize and/or kill them as heretics who are dangerous to the faith, to God, and to society. We see that process under way here in some of the comments we’ve made, though of course there are no murderers here. But the same process, when it takes place at the larger level, creates holy warriors and jihadists.

    Fundamentalists and liberals BOTH can pursue conflict to give their lives meaning; they would be bored and lack meaning without a war. This is why we’ve had such spectacular culture wars in recent decades.

    This is the point of the book I wrote, The Knight and The Gardener. Knights — on both the Left and Right — thrive on conflict and use warfare frameworks to interpret the world around them. Gardeners are problem solvers and creators. Most of the critical conflicts we’re involved in now on the world stage are Knight vs. Knight conflicts. The book is designed to take the weapons out of Knights’ minds.

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  45. in terms of interpretation there is always room for one more at the inn.

    one of my labors of love is linguistics, working on book number on this very subject. a fellow linguist, cultural theorist julia kristeva says language (in general, as a system) exiles us from the object of our desire. so i propose that language needs to culturally (and universally) implode, it needs to have an expiration date lest it become green and moldy and useless.

    and to answer your question, yes, i think there is always more than one interpretation, which i defer back to the above quote about the jews (the context-givers/writers) believed there to be 70 interpretations for each verse.
    and the hebrews authors was dealing with not the OT (there is no direct reference to the Jesus Christ then) but rather what has been informed up to that point, so another point of that passage is that our theology must progress and evolve or be useless…

    and becky. to ask a question with a question isn’t avoiding the answer, jesus/jews did this. i strive to do the same, not perfectly mind you, i get it wrong, and i am okay with it. it is in imperfection that we find perfection…

    must go…moving

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  46. and to answer your question, yes, i think there is always more than one interpretation

    But that wasn’t my only question. Actually I asked:

    What is your interpretation of this text? Does it have a plain meaning? Or more than one plain meaning? And conversely, does it have a not-this meaning?

    In writing the phrase is “show, not tell.” You’ve told a lot about your views on language, etc. — a lot of edu-speak — but now please show, for the benefit of others, how you apply all this book-learnin’ when you’re reading the Book.

    In other words, when you have free moments (apart from moving), please let me know what you think that text is saying. I agree that words can have more than one meaning, or nuance of meaning (as several of the Psalms, which also predict what Christ would do, show). No one denies that (and it’s naive or deceptive to claim anyone opposing an uber-fluid view of language does). But conversely a text, no matter how much language “evolves,” can have a not-this meaning. (If I say, “I think, therefore I am,” we might find various shades of meaning there, but not anything like “I don’t think, therefore I am.”)

    Otherwise language is absolutely meaningless and those who’ve written things in the past are absolutely vulnerable to the arrogant assumptions, and misinterpretations of their intents, held by those in the present. I.e.: Newer is always better; discrimination against the dead is okay. As you might guess, I do not hold to that.

    And neither do you, in many other methods of communication: traffic signs, barbecue grill instruction manuals, textbooks, nutrition information, this very blog comment — and you naturally expect others to read what you write “literally,” trying to respect your original intent.

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  47. Hi all,

    I’m sorry that my light-hearted summary was so offensive – truly. When someone *actually* calls me an ‘arch-heretic,’ I laugh out loud; those aren’t ‘fighting words’ to me, but silly hyperbole. (I think I’ve only been called that once, by Ken Silva over at Apprising) Hardly anyone reads those light-grey boxes; I think you, Becky, and one other person were the only ones who noticed it before you drew attention to it. I will leave a clarifying comment on my Facebook wall under that post to let folks know it was a satirical summary and not meant to be taken literally. Mea culpa. (And Becky, you still haven’t told me how you have such intimate knowledge of my FB wall when we’re not “friends”! I guess my privacy settings are pretty low…)

    E Steve, I find it fascinating that this demonstrates to you just how ‘hideous’ new-fangled forms of love can sink, whilst mocking God’s biblical revelation of Her feminine aspects as some kind of sub-par “she-god” is perfectly acceptable.

    So part of me wants to go back and respond, point by point, to your varied and sundry points and questions about God’s character, theories of biblical revelation, why I’ve come to see God as I do, etc… And perhaps someday I shall be able to – maybe even sometime in 2011. But as Becky has noted,and E Steve has railed about, and even Cassidy has pointed out with his Knight & Gardner motifs – perhaps I am not yet mature enough to do so without resorting to either a.) Over-defensiveness on the one hand, or b.) Satire and mirthful response on the other hand.

    The fact is, we’re speaking two very different languages and coming from two very different reference points. It’s like people speaking Sanskrit and Japanese trying to have a meaningful conversation. And this is what lays bare my lack of skill: My convictions about God, my relationship to God in Christ via the Holy Spirit, has been formed over many years of asking, seeking, knocking; many years of prayer, fellowship, reading, conversation, and study; and above all, a wide-eyed, open, curious stance toward the great Mystery and Revelation that God illumines in the unlikliest places. I can’t possibly hope to regurgitate upon the pixellated page in a few moments what’s taken me years to live out and discover. If we were together over a cup of tea, perhaps, or a pint of Guinness; but the medium (through no particular fault of your own) is hostile to the message. There’s no way I can sincerely tell you my story without resorting to either a.) Defensiveness or b.) Snark. And yet, Peter’s admonition to always be ready to explain the hope that is within stands as a challenge to me, so I’ll keep working on it. 🙂

    I’ll leave you with some sage words from George MacDonald when he was questioned for his deviations from Scottish Presbyterian ‘orthodoxy.’ He says things far better than I:

    “Have you really been reading my books, and at this time ask me what have I lost of the old faith? Much have I rejected of the new, but I have never rejected anything I could keep, and have never turned to gather again what I had once cast away. With the faith itself to be found in the old Scottish manse I trust I have a true sympathy. With many of the forms gathered around that faith and supposed by the faithful to set forth and explain their faith, I have none. At a very early age I had begun to cast them from me; but all the time my faith in Jesus as the Son of the Father of men and the Savior of us all, has been growing. If it were not for the fear of its sounding unkind, I would say that if you had been a disciple of his instead of mine, you would not have mistaken me so much. Do not suppose that I believe in Jesus because it is said so-and-so in a book. I believe in him because he is himself. The vision of him in that book, and, I trust, his own living power in me, have enabled me to understand him, to look him in the face, as it were, and accept him as my Master and Savior, in following whom I shall come to the rest of the Father’s peace. The Bible is to me the most precious thing in the world, because it tells me his story; and what good men thought about him who know him and accepted him. But, the common theory of the inspiration of the words, instead of the breathing of God’s truth into the hearts and souls of those who wrote it, and who then did their best with it, is degrading and evil; and they who hold it are in danger of worshipping the letter instead of living in the Spirit, of being idolaters of the Bible instead of disciples of Jesus…. It is Jesus who is the Revelation of God, not the Bible; that is but a means to a mighty eternal end. The book is indeed sent us by God, but it nowhere claims to be His very word. If it were—and it would be no irreverence to say it—it would have been a good deal better written. Yet even it’s errors and blunders do not touch the truth, and are the merest trifles—dear as the little spot of earth on the whiteness of the snowdrop. Jesus alone is The Word of God.

    With all sorts of doubt I am familiar, and the result of them is, has been, and will be, a widening of my heart and soul and mind to greater glories of the truth—the truth that is in Jesus—and not in Calvin or Luther or St. Paul or St. John, save as they got it from Him, from whom every simple heart may have it, and can alone get it. You cannot have such proof of the existence of God or the truth of the Gospel story as you can have of a proposition in Euclid or a chemical experiment. But the man who will order his way by the word of the Master shall partake of his peace, and shall have in himself a growing conviction that in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge….

    One thing more I must say: though the Bible contains many an utterance of the will of God, we do not need to go there to find how to begin to do his will. In every heart there is a consciousness of some duty or other required of it: that is the will of God. He who would be saved must get up and do that will—if it be but to sweep a room or make an apology, or pay a debt. It was he who had kept the commandments whom Jesus invited to be his follower in poverty and labour …

    From your letter it seems that to be assured of my faith would be a help to you. I cannot say I never doubt, nor until I hold the very heart of good as my very own in Him, can I wish not to doubt. For doubt is the hammer that breaks the windows clouded with human fancies, and lets in the pure light. But I do say that all my hope, all my joy, all my strength are in the Lord Christ and his Father; that all my theories of life and growth are rooted in him; that his truth is gradually clearing up the mysteries of this world…. To Him I belong heart and soul and body, and he may do with me as he will-nay, nay—I pray him to do with me as he wills: for that is my only well-being and freedom.”

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  48. For a few of my thoughts about Mike’s reply, reference my comment posted earlier in reply to his copied comment there. Yet if it helps, I can also copy my own comment to this discussion.

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  49. And likewise, I reply to E Steve’s comment over there.

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