Monday, May 26, 2008

Back to church?

In the wake of my breakup I am doing some major (ahem) soul-searching. Not so much of the "who/where is God" variety as much as "whoa, I need to do some work on ME" variety.

As part of that work, I'm digging in to some childhood issues that I never knew I had but which have deeply affected the choices I make in men. It's a scary, hard process that feels a little hopeless right now, like I've just gotten a glimpse of myself as this incredibly broken person and who knows, really, if I can be fixed. I have started to get panicky that I am 34 and my mate-picker is all screwed up. So there's that. Yuck.

But another angle I am tackling is the hole, the gap, the existential loneliness that I have to admit I feel as I've let go of God. I miss community, I miss a sense of purpose, I miss connecting with people around questions of "how to be" in the world.

So I started wondering today if I might enjoy going to a Unitarian Universalist church. I'm not interested in dogma or theology. I'm not interested in the trappings of religion. I *am* interested in finding people who are trying to live meaningfully, whatever their concept of God is (and even if they have none, kinda like me right now). I'm a little afraid of finding a bunch of boring duds there. But I sort of think I have nothing to lose at this point. I just don't know where else to find that kind of community in real life.

59 comments:

jennypo said...

Slapdash,

As you know, I am in favor of anything that makes us take a hard look at ourselves and examine our flaws. At the same time, can I just remind you that it MIGHT not be your "mate-picker" that's at fault.

Because you were the one betrayed, in this case, your impulse is to blame yourself, to go back over the situation and see yourself as naive or gullible. Why didn't you see it coming? How could you have avoided it? These kinds of questions are unavoidable, and, to a certain extent, it's healthy to question our own involvement in any disaster. It is important to be careful of handing over our trust. We want, of course, to be open and sincere and to develop healthy intimacy in relationships, but we ought not to hand ourselves over fully to another human being because we are ALL too prone to letting each other (and ourselves!) down.

At the same time, keep this firmly in mind during your time of self-reflection: while I'm sure you aren't too much more perfect than any of the rest of us, the fact that someone betrayed you isn't a sign that you are messed up.

Jonathan Blake said...

I've heard good things about Quaker communities as well, if it helps to have more options.

Also, I forget where I heard it so take it for what it's worth, but I heard that people are more successful at picking a good mate when they've been through one or two serious relationships. The experience hones our ideas of what is good for us to have in a mate.

lowendaction said...

I'll be honest with you, I think that a uni-everything type place might be the last place you want to be. Usually those places are full of people who are simply to afraid to commit to anything. It is always easier to say I believe in everything, than nothing, or something specific.

Faith, not unlike relationships, requires risk. You find your ground, stand on it, and then gravitate to others of like grounded minds.

Sometimes, it's better to be a part of something that really stands for something, though it's wrought with flaws. When you join a group of floaters, than there is no risk of getting hurt, however you can also not expect to ever get anything in return...both spiritually and relationally.

I obviously don't know the place you are referring to, this is just a general observation based on my own experiences.

keep searching.

Slapdash said...

Hi LD. Wellll, I feel like you kind of missed the point of why I'm thinking about going to UU. I'm not looking for faith. I'm looking for community.

I have spent time in evangelical, Baptist, Catholic, Episcopical, and congregational churches over the years. The problem is, I can't sign on to what any of them stands for. And I'm tired of trying to. So if it's at all possible, I'd like to find a community where it's perfectly okay for me to be where I am at. It doesn't bother me in the least that these are people who "are afraid to commit to anything" - though I would certainly challenge your assumption that they're all fearful people or that it's some kind of lack of commitment. People usually settle in where they're comfortable, and that's just as true of Catholics and pentacostals as it is of more liberal spiritual folks.

Slapdash said...

jenny, thanks for the encouragement. The work I need to do is to figure out why I chose him, when he was giving signs from the start that indicated that he probably would not have been a good life partner for me. I could never have predicted the cheating, but I should have heeded my gut instincts much sooner. He was unprepared for and/or incapable of an emotionally intimate relationship.

Slapdash said...

Thanks jonathan. Yes, I've certainly learned a lot about what I want and need in a mate from this experience. That being said, this is my fourth significant relationship and I'd really like to avoid burning through four more before I find the right guy. :)

lowendaction said...

SD, I'm sorry if I came across as harsh or narrow-minded. I'm at work and I can't always spend as much time on my comments as I would like.

I actually wish for you, that you will find amazing, unique and individually strong people there. I was mearly giving you my honest perception based on personal experience.

I totally understand that it has nothing to do with religious faith, but the lack of faith, or the adoption of watered down faith (and I'm talking about faith in ANYTHING...not just God or religion), for me personally, signifies a persons weakness.

I'm also not saying that everyone needs to be rollin' around like Ironman either, we should all be vulnerable and sensitive, but only when it is balanced with streangth in what we believe.

As humans, I believe we are all called to love one another unconditionally (with or without Christ). But when you are joining a group that professes an open door policy to ALL regligious beliefs...what are they really saying? This isn't really a social gathering is it? Isn't it really people who are unwilling/able to take that leap of faith for anything? I have a really hard time believing that these people are honestly 'seeking' anything. And if you're not seeking...what are you doing?

However, I will gladly be proven wrong by you or anyone else regarding this fellowship. Ultimately, I wish nothing but the best for you, and so maybe this is me trying to save you from wasted time and energy. Find some people who are passionate about what they believe. Try it on, if it doesn't fit, than move on to the next group. I believe you will find that a lot more fulfilling.

good times had by all!

David Stoker said...

perhaps the "whoa, I need to do some work on ME" needs to be turned inside out to be "whoa, I need to do some work for others." Meaning serving, giving of yourself, sacrificing for those that have less. I think in that process you will find the Me becomes both addressed and enhanced.

lowendaction said...

D.S. I couldn't agree more!

OneSmallStep said...

Slapdash,

Maybe you're also missing a sense of common language? I would imagine that there's a whole different style of speaking in any sort of church, given the common denominator that links everyone. It almost instantly gives you a method of relating to another person.

**But when you are joining a group that professes an open door policy to ALL regligious beliefs...what are they really saying? This isn't really a social gathering is it? Isn't it really people who are unwilling/able to take that leap of faith for anything?**

Not necessarily. It depends how one defines "leap of faith." Religious pluraists would take the leap of faith that there is a God, and that God is loving/just. Faith that there's something bigger than yourself, something worth a great deal available out there. Faith that in turning the other cheek, it still works out okay. All of those still require an aspect of risk.

If the leap of faith requires specific doctrines, then it's another story.

lowendaction said...

babysteps:

All forms of belief require faith (even non-belief)...if I'm repeating myself I appologize, the side effects of multi-blogging.

I think however you would agree that all-inclusive religious universalism is pretty vague at the core.

I understand that for some people the complete acceptance of the mystical unknown is sufficient. And though my christian belief also requires a certain measure of mystical/scientifically unverifiable belief in things, I would consider it balanced with literature, reason, life expereiences, and science.

In that sense I guess you could say that I defintely qualify for the "doubting Thomas" type.

At the end of the day, each person must be able to look themsleves in the mirror and say: "Yes. I buy that. I believe that." And the rest will fall in line.

But if we are believing/following to compensate for a loss in our life, or in the hopes of finding social acceptance, I would caution that this new found belief is being built on very shaky ground. There will always be exceptions, but on the whole I believe this to be so.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

I'm assuming the last comment was directed at me ...

**I think however you would agree that all-inclusive religious universalism is pretty vague at the core.**

I don't, because even universalism is excluding in its own way. It doesn't accept those who promote hatred, terrorism, cruelty, and so forth. What it does is basically aim for the "fruits of the Spirit." For me, it states that God is love and just, and there are ways of knowing and interacting with God.

So it depends on the idea of "vague." Is it vague because it doesn't have doctrine like conservative Christianity? Why does doctrine determine the vagueness/lack of vagueness?

**But if we are believing/following to compensate for a loss in our life, or in the hopes of finding social acceptance, I would caution that this new found belief is being built on very shaky ground. **

But my impression is that Slapdash is simply looking for a community of people, not a new belief set. So what would Slapdash's new belief be?

Slapdash said...

To report back on what the UU church experience was like... it was "so-so". The interior of the church reminded me a lot of the congregational church I used to go to, so I had a weird sense of deja vu even though I'd never been there before. I must say I didn't care much for the service itself and I couldn't sit through the sermon, which was about the "wisdom of crowds" or something...a real snoozfest. The one nice thing I liked about it was the 'flower communion' - they bring flowers to the front of the sanctuary at the beginning of the service, then distribute them to parishioners at the end. Kind of a nice life-affirming thing to do. If I really want to explore the UU thing some more, I think I need to find some of the groups they have and go to some of those activities. I don't think the Sunday morning service is going to inspire me or help me create community.

jennypo said...

Slapdash,

I've been thinking a lot about this over the last little while. At first I couldn't really understand what the "draw" was for you in a church. But I think I understand that what you are really searching for is a sense of community and belonging.

Community is really built on shared experience. From what I see, this happens in two ways:
Often, the community shares an entire culture rooted in common beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors, and often, similar personalities. The more this culture is held in common, the stronger the community. This is the kind of community that forms the basis of nationalism and supports sports teams. It is a natural human need, and in most cases, is healthy and positive. In extreme cases, it is the longing for this kind of a bond that draws people to cults or results in racism.
Another kind of community can be built out of intense shared experience. This can reach across the things that divide and isolate, and can draw together people of different ages, personalities, and cultures.

The first kind of culture is often rallied in churches, but, while it draws congregations together, it is often inward-focussed and exclusive. Because it is dependent upon conformity, you have to take on the church culture in order to really "belong". This kind of community flourishes in churches because it draws on already-established communal ties like family and ethnicity, and therefore its adherents are highly motivated to conform.

The second kind - shared experience - is what ought to draw Christians together. It too-seldom does, but when it does, it brings together people who have nothing in common in their personalities, ethnic backgrounds, financial or social status, intellectual and educational situations, etc. Because a single experience binds them, they are free as individuals to depart from the 'norm'. If Christians are drawn together because they have encountered the Christ, this is something vastly different from being bound by conformity to a religious culture.

If community based on culture is what you are looking for, then a church may not be the place to look for it. Such a culture will demand that you conform to it. Otherwise, you can never truly "belong". Since you can not claim the central premise on which a church culture is based, you will almost always remain on the "outside" of the community. Is there anything that you believe in with such vehemence that you are willing to embrace a whole culture? Is there another kind of group that you could join?

Just my $0.02.

lowendaction said...

I completely agree that there are far to many churches that tend to create a "club" type atmosphere that can often lead to exclusivity...whether they know it or not.

I would however fist like to dispel something about "the church" that has been bugging me to no ends lately. It's this idea that the church...Christianity/God for that matter...is this happy-go-lucky group that resides on fluffy white clouds and rains down love on all creatures.

God gets angry. God is consequential. God tells us that VERY FEW will spend eternity with Him. He is love, but not the kind of love that Hanna Montana sings about. True love has thorns (as some of us know all to well!) and can dole out pain right along side joy. So even though I too hate the idea of doctrines, or rules, or conformity, God has made it quite clear that He wants us to prove ourselves through this short journey on earth, and a doctrine is mearly one groups attempt at keeping themsleves honest and responsible to why they do what they do.

There is nothing wrong with focusing on positivity and appreciating nature, but God would rather we turn away from Him completely then ride the fence (I'm not accusing or judging anyone). If you wish to know God...then REALLY get to know Him. Let us not half ass it with the creator. If you don't want to accept that, great...leave it be.

I'm not trying to be an asshole here, but I get so sick an tired of watered down Christianity. We are called to love everyone unconditionally, but love is not the same as acceptance. Meaning, I can love you completely, but in that love I am also going to tell you if you not on track...according to what I/we beleive.

If there are no real consequences to our actions (ie. Hell), then what's the motivation? I'm not saying that we should all believe in God in fear of Hell, but I do think we must begin seeing God for who/what He really is. I don't know what kind of Bibles are floating around out there, but I've never ever read anything describing Him as the jolly old guy with the long white beard chilling on fluffy clouds...

This criticism is first and foremost for those calling themselves Christians but our promoting such empty crap. But it is also for those who stand outside and poke with their skeptic sticks. Be careful who you reference to build your picture of Christians/Church. There are far more bad examples of Christ out there than good...but that does not negate God.

See now...you got me a riled up again.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**He is love, but not the kind of love that Hanna Montana sings about.**

The problem is that I find this a false comparison. Any pluraist or universalist I know doesn't go with the idea that God is a happy-go-lucky guy. They don't go with the idea that God's a pushover, or made of flowers and candy. Or anywhere close to Hannah Montana. They do hold that there are consequences to actions, but God, in His love, works for redemption. He doesn't say "anything goes." He does get angry over suffering and injustice.

Removing eternal suffering from the equation doesn't automatically reduce God to a Hannah Montana comparison.

There is suffering. The suffering is simply not eternal, and is meant to produce redemption. Not simply punishment.

**If there are no real consequences to our actions (ie. Hell), then what's the motivation? **

Why can't you do the right thing simply because it's the right thing to do? Why does there need to be some negative consequence attached to it? I know in times there does have to be a consequence, but not every single time someone makes the right choice.

If you only follow God, or do the right thing, to avoid "hell," then aren't you simply doing that out of selfish reasons? To avoid suffering eternally? I know you said that you aren't saying we should all follow God out of fear, but I don't see anyway around that as soon as the idea floats around of "Without hell, why bother doing right/following God/so forth." The messages seems to be "Love/know Me, or go to hell."

To ask another question -- if hell wasn't on the table, would you still follow God?

** a doctrine is mearly one groups attempt at keeping themsleves honest and responsible to why they do what they do.**

Here's my problem with the Christian doctrine: how many doctrines sum up the greatest commandments? How many focus on the judgement criteria? Sheep/goats? In any method I use to determine true Christians, or to see what a church believse, I find that it almost always includes a belief set, and might or might not include behavior-set, or how to treat other people.

Does the doctrine hold people accountable to a belief set, or behavior?

jennypo said...

"To ask another question -- if hell wasn't on the table, would you still follow God? " (OneSmallStep)

Anyone with the vaguest concept of who God is; anyone who had ever had the barest glimpse of him would go flying after him in a heartbeat. Hell is merely what God is NOT - and the absence of him whose name is Faithful and True is a horrifying thing. It rightfully makes us afraid. Our problem - MY problem - is that I let laziness and selfishness keep me from learning who is that dear and holy One before whom the angels fly with covered face and feet.

Is a mountain better than a downtown club? Is the ocean better than a hotel pool? Is the sweep of sky above worth more than the comfort of my car? There is no question which is more beautiful, more precious, more real. And yet, were it not for the fear of the eventual absence of the natural goodness that surrounds us, would we ever sacrifice our comfort for them? And so it is that we sometimes learn fear before we learn to value what is good.

OneSmallStep said...

Jenny,

Myself, I'm not sure there is a place where God is "not." There are verses speaking to God's omniprescence -- such as a Psalms saying that no matter where he goes, either to the heavens or the depths of Sheol, or a Jeremiah verse asking if God does not fill both heaven and earth, or the idea of where sin abounds, grace much more abounds, God's idea that God will eventually be all-in-all, or even Paul saying that we live and move and breathe in God.

** And yet, were it not for the fear of the eventual absence of the natural goodness that surrounds us, would we ever sacrifice our comfort for them? **

Some people would, yes, because they prefer the outdoors to the indoors (and for some people, the pool/club/car might actually be more beautiful than the outdoors, and not because of any comfort level. It would depend on the definition of beautiful/precious/real. Perhaps the club is more on all three, because it allows you to see your children play in safety for a time, or allows you to meet friends, or so forth).

I guess the problem for me is that if you're following something good because you'll afraid of something else ... that just taints the whole process. The whole "following" concept. There's a difference between the idea of not having something would be hellish, such as not having the truth or love or light or anything beautiful. Being stripped of dignity would be hellish. Being unloved would be hellish, and so forth.

And then there's the idea of the only idea we follow God, or cling to love/light/truth is because we're afraid of hell, or because the choice generally becomes, "If you don't choose Me, then you're going to hell." Christianity too often seems to borders on the latter aspect, especially when the idea that every single person deserves eternal torment is thrown into the mix.

And I'm not sure how your response deals with the idea of there are lots of times when people do the right thing simply beccause it's the right thing to do, and not just to avoid consequences. Does everyone need a sense of hell in order to always want to follow after God, or can it just be that people are at times drawn to God naturally?

jennypo said...

"Does everyone need a sense of hell in order to always want to follow after God, or can it just be that people are at times drawn to God naturally? "

OneSmallStep,
This is exactly what I am saying. To the extent that any of us have the vaguest knowledge of who God is, we ARE drawn to him. SOMETIMES we learn what God is not before we learn what he is, but being afraid of hell is not being drawn to God, nor is it of any use to us at all unless it drives us to a knowledge of God.

lowendaction said...

OSS, show me one thing...just one thing in nature that isn't balanced. Everything around us exists in perfect balance...that is why hell makes sense to me. If God is even half as beautiful and awe inspiring as you describe Him, what keeps that in balance?

I do not choose to love and learn more about God out of fear of Hell. My acceptance of hell is just another facet of understanding the mystery of God;s character. If you removed hell I would still love and admire God, but it completes the picture for me.

I am saddened by the lazy and unfortunate Christian throw-away line that's been far too often used and abused: "If you were to die tonight, where would you go?" Stupid question. The real question is, "When you end up before God, what will the legacy of your life say about you?"

It sounds like I still have a thing or two to learn about the universalists...maybe you can enlighten me. I would challenge you (and I realize that i should very well be applying this to myself!) to seek the good, the scriptual, and the Godliness in those churches and doctrines that you examine, as opposed to focusing on the negative (that doesn't mean ignore, just balance). If your searching for perfection, I hate to give away the ending, but as long as there are humans involved, that is never going to happen!

This whole thing is far more than just making good and bad choices, and the possibility of those consequences. God charged us with one single mission: love. So first we must learn for oursleves what love really means/is. I think once we really start getting it, then we begin involuntarily infecting others with it. It's not a sales pitch, or a check mark on my do-goody chart...its doing the one thing God created us for, and I think it's the least we could do for the creator...

If you take the bible to be the truth, how do you explain away hell? Would you really love, strive, and be as vigilant if you knew there are no "bad" consequences waiting after death? Again, I'm not sayin it is nor should be a sole motivater, but damn it sure helps me!

Slapdash said...

In my breakup haze I'm not very able to rally to participate in the conversation. However, I'm very glad to see you all dialoguing about this stuff. Carry on. :)

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**If God is even half as beautiful and awe inspiring as you describe Him, what keeps that in balance?**

I'm not sure where you're going with this ... God needs hell to keep the beauty in balance? But if God created hell (either through withdrawing or a literal creation), then how does the balance factor even apply? Not only that, but if one goes by the Eden story literally, where was the balance then? Or just the idea that everything was originally created fully good.

**If you take the bible to be the truth, how do you explain away hell?**

Rather easily, actually, in terms of eternal torment. The concept of an eternal torment in the afterlife is not present in ancient Judaism, and is barely present in the Tanakh. When they prayed for salvation, they weren't speaking of escaping something after death, but for something to occur in this life. Salvation could refer to rescue from one's enemies, or for health.

The words translated as "hell" in the New Testament -- at least the main ones -- are Gehenna and Sheol/Hades. Gehenna was referring to a literal trash dump outside of Jersualem, where it did breed a certain sort of worms and the fires burned constantly to eliminate the trash. The point of Gehenna was to eliminate trash -- a permanent end, not suffering.

Sheol/Hades -- it was pretty much a place where everyone went after death in the Tanakh. It was also translated into grave/pit, and never referred to a place of torment.

That, and what I referenced to Jenny, in terms of God omnipresent: Psalms 139, Jeremiah 23, Paul saying that we live and move and have our being in God, Jesus saying that he is in "the least of these (for some of those "least" were no doubt goats. Would Jesus cast himself away?), or where sin abounds, grace much more abounds.

It can get trickier with the parables, such as the sheep/goats idea. But if we take that it refers to a literal hell, then I'm not sure how we can explain away the criteria for who "gets in." It had nothing to do with faith, and everything to do with behavior.

Or the fact that when Jesus speaks of salvation, he doesn't seem to tie it to "salvation from eternal torment." Such as Luke chapters 1-4. Does the salvation used there refer to being saved from hell?

Plus, the contrast seems to be between life and death. If Jesus offers eternal life, then the opposite to that is death, not suffering. If God so loved the world in that He wanted to give it eternal life, so that no one perished, then that implies an "end." Not suffering.

Same with Paul -- he speaks more of a contrast between life/death, and never once mentions the word hell. In Acts, I don't believe they mentioned hell, either.

**Would you really love, strive, and be as vigilant if you knew there are no "bad" consequences waiting after death?**

Yes. Because to do otherwise not only hurts the people here, but the future generation. If I'm doing so because I don't want to face bad consequences, then I'm focusing on myself and what I get out of the deal.

**to seek the good, the scriptual, and the Godliness in those churches and doctrines that you examine, as opposed to focusing on the negative **

But what doctrine refers to the great commandments? What doctrine refers to behavior at all? And I'm in the mindset right now where if the doctrines speak of an eternal torment for all the "unsaved," then I can't give it credence. If people deserve to go to hell, then I have no grounds on which to tell a friend that she doesn't deserve to be raped. Or mutilated. Or abused. If they deserve the infinitely worse thing -- hell -- then all the lessers should also be deserved. Compassion shouldn't stop after the grave.

I don't find Godliness in doctrines, I find Godliness in behavior.

I'm not looking for perfection. But in looking at history, most atrocities seem to be committed under the belief that the "other" not only didn't deserve to live, but deserved to be punished. And I find Christian doctrines espousing the same thing, and it's disturbing.

jennypo said...

"Would you really love, strive, and be as vigilant if you knew there are no "bad" consequences waiting after death?" (lowendaction)

Please clarify, lowendaction. Surely you do not fear hell, if you have the Christ? I am no universalist, and I confess that I do often fail to love, strive, and be vigilant, but having been forgiven in Christ, I have no fear of hell. What I do I do in pursuit of One who is all that my deep heart longs for. That I fail is that I fail to see him and know him, not that I fail to fear.

lowendaction said...

Okay, let me first apologize for getting us hung up on the definitions of hell. Let us agree upon this: Hell (or if you prefer: life after death for those who have not chosen Christ) = the absence of God, which in my book is far worse than any lava-flowing-pitchfork-wielding imagery Frank Peretti could conjur.

And no, I believe that my salvation is secure in Christ, therefore I do not need to fear "hell". However I fear it in reverence for those who do not choose Christ. Let me use our host as an example. And please let me be clear, this is for examples sake only, I would never think to judge her or any person for that matter.

So lets assume that her salvation, prior to her recent change of heart (for lack of a better term), was genuine and secure. If now she chooses to completely reject God (again, I'm not assuming anything, this is only an example!), I personally believe that she will no longer share eternity with God. But only if she makes that deliberate choice. The rest is between her and God.

Balance: Even in Eden there was the tree of life. I'm not implying that it was evil, however there were some very real/negative consequences tied to it. We can't really talk about time/space before earth, because that is an entireley different dimension with parameters we can't even begin to understand. I was attempting to point out the amazing balance that exists between all living things, the universe...everything, which to me is a direct refelction of God's character.

Doing good vs evil: another example of my poor eloquence. With the understanding that our ultimate goal should be to draw closer to God (limited here on earth, ulitimately in heaven) when we do or don't do things that do not build that relationship, it retards our progress. That could be considered to be "bad". Doing "good things" should ultimately be an extension of our selves as we discover more about God's character. I don't think the motivating factor should be the satisfaction or pleasure of others.

Please look at a few of these doctrines, and help me understand your aversion to them:

MarsHill

CAEagle Rock

What's beautiful about all of this, I don't really think that either of us is right or wrong. Each of us share a personal relationship with God, and what we consider to be His truth can only be varified between God and ourselves.

I appreciate the insights you've shared about hell. I am at the stage now where certain concepts I have always simply accepted as basic truths are now being re-evaluted according to what I am daily learning about the creator.

good times.

lowendaction said...

blaugh....I suk at html.

try these:

CA Eagle Rock

Mars Hill Bible Church

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**Hell (or if you prefer: life after death for those who have not chosen Christ) = the absence of God**

I am curious, though ... how do you account for the idea that God is everywhere? How can God then be absent from a certain place? I tie this to Psalms 139, or Jeremiah 23, or Acts 17? Or even 1 Corinthians 15, with God will eventually be All-in-all? (I realize I'm opening a door with this, because you can easily counter with "how can you believe [this] based on [that] verse?" ;)

Even the idea of life after death ... I don't think that was too tied to early Hebrew thought.

**If now she chooses to completely reject God (again, I'm not assuming anything, this is only an example!), I personally believe that she will no longer share eternity with God**

Here's the catch for me: I think it's harder to reject God then many profess, and it's not just as easy as saying "I reject God." If someone pursues a life of truth, or a life of compassion, or any of that, they are choosing God, even if an atheist.

**Balance: Even in Eden there was the tree of life. I'm not implying that it was evil, however there were some very real/negative consequences tied to it. We can't really talk about time**

But where is the balance in God, I guess is my question? Before all was created, there was just God, and thus no evil. The balance itself is not eternal. In order for creation to be a direct reflection of God's character, doesn't God need some sort of evil to Himself?

**I don't think the motivating factor should be the satisfaction or pleasure of others.**

How are you defining this? If the motivating factor is to make life better for other people, then I would see that as a God-factor, especially if treating others well is like treating God/Jesus well.

**Please look at a few of these doctrines, and help me understand your aversion to them**

I do like these doctrines better than some of the conservative ones I've seen. :) However, does Rob Bell count as a liberal Christian?

Christian Assembly: I'm glad that they pull at least half the quotes from the gospels themselves, rather than the Epistles.

I would question their use of Mark 1:12, because given how often salvation was used in the Gospels, how often was it tied to the death/resurrection motif? When the crowds heard Jesus speaking of the good news, and when salvation was spoken of, what were they thinking? What was their impression? A redemption/resuce of some sort, yes. But I don't think it was a person coming to serve as a sin sacrifice.

It also doesn't mention that we all deserve eternal torment.

It also doesn't mention the two greatest commandments, nor any sort of social justice.

Mars Hill Church: they mention care of the oppressed, and the fact that all creation will be redeemed. They are focused on the physical as well as the spiritual, which I find important. For part of that redemption, as I see it, will include the physical bodies.

Actually, I don't think I can find anything for that one. The great commandments aren't specifically mentioned, but I see them woven into the shared values. And I also really like that there are books on that site from all sorts of Christian perspectives.

So would those count as doctrines? I define "doctrines" as God is Triune, virgin birth, BIble is inerrant, penal substitution atonement, second coming, and then pretty much cutting off there. It's all about you and what you believe.

jennypo said...

"How can God then be absent from a certain place?"

This has more to do with what God is not than where God is not.

OneSmallStep said...

Jenny,

**This has more to do with what God is not than where God is not.**

I'm unsure of what you mean here, considering that you seemed to define hell earlier as "Hell is merely what God is NOT - and the absence of him whose name is Faithful and True is a horrifying thing."

While you clarified it as what God is not, you seemed to include in that clarification it's what God is not because it involves the absence of God. The idea seems to be that if someone is in hell, they aren't in the presence of God, because God's not there.

Nate said...

If you are ooking for a community of people that are "deconstructed christians," and are looking for non-judgemental community to begin understanding where you and God fit together, please let me suggest these ladies to you. They are cool, and really.... um how to put it... just real. They are just who they are, and understands that God loves them just the way they are, and so they don't try to be anything else. They are also rediculously supportive, kind and fun.

Erin
Wendy/Valorosa is a pseudonym
Michelle

Good girls all, and they seem to be able to connect with one another in a way, that as a guy, I don't really get. But if you choose not to, cool as well.

lowendaction said...

oss - I think it really comes down to understanding God as best we can for ourselves. I hear what you're saying, and I'm definitely absorbing it. But then I also wheigh that against what I've come to accept as the truth, and to me there are just mysterious things about God that we're never going to completely understand. As long as I can look myself in the eye and say: "yes, that's what I believe." then that works for me. That does no have to be the same as you, and yet I am open to the idea that we might both share eternity with God...that's how amazing he is. However, I also have a (what I would consider) healthy fear of God.

As long as we are searching and learning, a wholeheartedly believe that God will reveal Himself to us, if only in fractions, but just enough for us mear mortals.

shelly said...

Lowend: (or if you prefer: life after death for those who have not chosen Christ)

I believe no one chooses Christ. Also, I say that either God is the saviour of all mankind (1 Timothy 4:10), that he took away the sin of the world (John 1:29), that God's will is for the salvation of ALL (1 Timothy 2:4), or none of that is true, which would make God a liar (which he is not), and all of us who are Christians now should deconvert.

Salvation comes by God's grace, through his faith, and it is a gift, having nothing to do with ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-9). In Phillippians it says salvation/belief in Christ is a gift. Romans 12:3 says God gives each person a measure of faith.

There are also passages throughout scripture that state that it is God who hardens people's hearts towards him and his people, so that he can reveal himself in his power and his mercy (Exodus 10:1-2; Romans 8:19-21, 9:16-18, 11:7-8,30-32).

OSS: The concept of an eternal torment in the afterlife is not present in ancient Judaism, and is barely present in the Tanakh.

It's also not really present in the New Testament, either. The words "everlasting" and "eternal", not to mention the phrase "forever and ever" do not appear anywhere in the original Greek. The Greek word for "everlasting" and "eternal" is "aionos", which is the adjective form of "aion", which is where we get our English word "eon" (a pre-determined period of time, with a beginning and an end). The Concordant Literal New Testament uses the word "eonian" when using "eon" in adjective form; Young's Literal Translation uses "age-during".

The phrase "forever and ever" is really "for the eons of the eons".

In order for creation to be a direct reflection of God's character, doesn't God need some sort of evil to Himself?

Yes; and I believe God provided it himself.

Revelation 13:8 states that God's plan of salvation was in place "from the foundation of the world". We also know, from Genesis, that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was put smack-dab in the middle of the Garden. If it weren't placed there, IMO, Adam and Eve may not have eaten from it, and none of us would be in need of a saviour. I think they, pretty much, had to eat it.

Anyhoo, I believe there will be something in store for those who don't believe in Christ: eonian (not eternal) separation from God, when the sin will be purged from their lives, and they will learn that God's ways are best. Afterwards, the consummation (as described in 1 Corinthians 15) will take place, God will restore everyone to himself and will be all in all. That is Universal Restoration/Reconciliation in a nutshell.

lowendaction said...

shelly,

What you pointed out to me is valid, except for the fact that any healthy relationship can not be one sided. Thus there is some response required from us. I do not disagree that we have no active part in grace, salvation, forgiveness, or God's love, but He does ask that we "receive" it. If God's love is a gift, do we not have to first receive it to then enjoy its contents? I believe in complete freedom of choice as part of God's design.

Honestly Shelly, your last paragraph just makes absolutely no sense to my understanding of God's character (limited as it may be).

Surely you must agree that we (Christians) are called to suffer here on earth...according to you, what's the point? Why do anything...good or bad, if in the end we're all going to be one big happy family anyway?

I use what God has put before my eyes to understand these things. Nature shows us that there are clear consequences for our actions. I believe this is a direct reflection of who God is. He lays it out before us to examine and study...then we must make a choice. It's either Him, or not Him. Both choices are exact opposites with polar consequences.

The God I've come to learn about is fair, just, and loving. None of that applies to your summary of Universal Restoration/Reconciliation.

I'm sorry if I sound harsh, but it's a little hard for me to understand how someone with your biblical knowledge can come to such conclusions...I Chorinthians 15 IMO is talking about those who have chosen/believe Christ. I do not believes this applies to ALL the dead.

How's this for mindblowing. If we consider that God created time and lives in infinity (or another dimension), if I die today, I will be in His presence at the exact same time as Moses 'arrives' and my future grandkids decades from now. Time does not exist as we know it here with God...at least that's my best guess anyway...

OneSmallStep said...

**Surely you must agree that we (Christians) are called to suffer here on earth...according to you, what's the point? Why do anything...good or bad, if in the end we're all going to be one big happy family anyway?**

But Shelly did say that those who don't choose initially do have bad consequences. They aren't eternal ones, but the sin is eventually purged.

Lowendaction, a question -- it sounds like you think the consequences aren't "valid" enough unless they're eternal? Why do the consequences have to be eternal? Why can't they be for a period of time, instead?

**I Chorinthians 15 IMO is talking about those who have chosen/believe Christ. I do not believes this applies to ALL the dead.**

I can understand where this is coming from -- it pulls from the verse that as in Adam all die, so shall in Christ all be made alive. It also pulls from "But in each his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who bleong to Christ. Then comes the end/rest (assuming this modifies those who were "unsaved")." And then with all things being in subjection -- the idea there is that no one will not want to be in subjection, because then you can't truly be subjected to another person/God if there's a part of you that is "rebelling." And then the idea of God being all-in-all.

lowendaction said...

the reason I believe in eternal consequences, is that God is eternal. He exist external of our one dimensional time line.

If I submit to Him being the creator, than I must consider possibilities that are fare beyond what we can perceive in the here and now. My God is so huge, that my pathetic attempt at understanding these things don't even stracth the surface of what it really is like.

Anytime someone shows me their God nicely packaged inside their box of understanding...well I just don't believe that God can be put in any kind of box. His mysteries should not be seen as negatives. Our selfish need for understanding has nothing to do with God's plan. That does not mean we should live in ignorance. But there are obviously a number of things that are always going to be beyond our human comprehension...and that's okay.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**the reason I believe in eternal consequences, is that God is eternal. **

I'm unsure of how you're combining the two. Is this in relation to since God is eternal, anything He does is eternal as well?

**Anytime someone shows me their God nicely packaged inside their box of understanding...well I just don't believe that God can be put in any kind of box.**

But couldn't someone argue that to believe only those who accept Christ are saved is also placing God in a box, nicely packaged? Isn't that the same type of understanding being critiqued in Shelly's UR explanation?

jennypo said...

lowend,

There remains the possibility that I agree with what you think, but I have to take issue with what you say. It is one thing to say that God is not fully comprehended by human powers of reason, it is another thing to suggest that God is incomprehensible. Any God who would create humans as creatures defined by reason, and place them in a world so fitted to reason, MUST be (and the God of the Bible IS,) reasonable, even if he is also much more than merely reasonable.

shelly,

I am interested by your explanation of things. For one, it makes me feel a heck of a lot better (Excuse the pun). It takes the scary finality out of things. In general, it seems a much more comfortable way of looking at eternity. But after having another look at it, I can't make this explanation match up with the rest of the Bible. Nor can I accept your disturbing representation of a God who forces his creatures to disobey him and then blames them for it. Do you have some Biblical basis for this rationale?

The God you describe appears irrational, despotic, even evil. Can you honestly say that you look around at the evil and pain in our world and think, "God created this", and worship goes from your heart toward him? This doesn't make any sense to me.

I also took a look at the words "forever", "everlasting" and "evermore" as they appear in the Bible. I am not a scholar of ancient Greek, but I can read a dictionary, and I have studied enough linguistics to know that the first thing to do when a meaning is unclear is to look for consistency. So, is the word used in other places in the text? What is its meaning in those places?

Here is "forever and ever" in relation to the lake of fire:
"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever," (Rev. 20:10).

The writer has previously used the word that is translated into English as "forever and ever", and in the same book:
"and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer," (Rev. 10:6).

If "forever and ever" is indeed an unknown period of time, then what is known is that the length of torment is equivalent to the length of time that God lives.

Please show me how the Bible accords with your view, and how you can possibly reconcile such an idea with a God who is good. I have given this a fair bit of thought, but I fail to see either Biblical or rational support for it. Certainly, as you point out, the God of the Bible has both provided for the salvation of all, and is unwilling that any should perish without that salvation. But we are still left with two possibilities here: either God is not good and everything is as he wants it, or he is good and is not getting everything he wants.

OneSmallStep said...

Jenny,

**If "forever and ever" is indeed an unknown period of time, then what is known is that the length of torment is equivalent to the length of time that God lives. **

From what I'm seeing, the words translated "forever and ever" literally mean "unto the ages of the ages" and can work with a limited time. I think much of it depends on context, and who the "unto the ages of the ages" is addressed.

I don't know if you'd want to look at this, but it might give a more in-depth analysis of the word "aionis."
http://www.tentmaker.org/books/asw/

I believe the Tentmaker link is of the UR thought, but it does quote many scholars to support it's view. Chapter 5 does touch on Revelations 10:6, in terms of the translation of "forever and ever" that it's saying "the eons of the eons."

This link is also interesting:
http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html

This link addresses the Revelation 10:6

http://concordant.org/expohtml/HisAchievement/HisAchievement015.html

Even if you don't agree, I still find that it's fascinating reading.

lowendaction said...

oss, I believe, that once our time on earth is done: death, we are then subject to God's dimension, and what I undertand that to be is: timelessness, omnipotence, omniscience...all the omnis with none of our current restrictions of space and time.

As far as Christ being a limiting factor, I think one must first determin ones view towards the bible. If you believe the bible as God's complete word/truth, than this is really a non-issue.

jp, careful...you tred on dangerous grounds if you wish to enter the dark caverness reagons of my mind......;)

I totally agree with you. There must be some parts of God that we can grasp with reason and logic...trust me, if God hadn't given us a few of those gems, forget about it. God makes sense to me on a vary foundational, logical and natural basis. However, there are many more parts of Him that are complete mysteries, and those I believe may very well remain until my time on earth is over...and THAT takes nothing away of God's character in my mind.

I'll tell you what...our slap-happy host is missing out on some heavy stuff here.

I'm not telling her what to do, but this might just be the perfect thing to distract you from your love-pains...hope you're healing well my friend.

Slapdash said...

"I'll tell you what...our slap-happy host is missing out on some heavy stuff here. I'm not telling her what to do, but this might just be the perfect thing to distract you from your love-pains...hope you're healing well my friend."

Hi all. I'm following the conversation, passively anyway. I'm a bit in hibernation mode while I lick my wounds...though I admit I perked up when talk turned to eternal punishment (hmmm, does lying and cheating qualify for that?)

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**death, we are then subject to God's dimension, and what I undertand that to be is**
Then are you putting both heaven and hell as God's dimension?

**As far as Christ being a limiting factor, I think one must first determin ones view towards the bible. If you believe the bible as God's complete word/truth, than this is really a non-issue.**

But why doesn't holding the Bible to be the complete word/truth qualify as putting God in a nice, neat package? I assumed this comment was in relation to Shelly's idea of UR, which she gets from her interpretation of the Bible, and you found that to be a nice, neat box. If one holds that the Bible holds a "complete" picture of God, why isn't that also putting God in a box?

lowendaction said...

Slapdash...as far as I'm concerned, the flames of Hell are already licking at his feet! Nothin' like a little hell humor to lighten the mood eh? Didn't mean to rouse you from your hyperbaric chamber, take all the time you need.

oss, Heaven/Hell are concepts that are ultimately absract and can never be fully explained/understood. I build my view of them based on what I learn of God's character. Whether Hell is a "parallel" universe to Heaven, or simply the absence of everything...including God, it's not good.

As far as the bible being the box...the more I read/study, the deeper the mystery that is this book becomes. I almost had to stifle a laugh when you said that, because to me there is NO greater mystery THAN the bible. I know some will read this say: "Well...if this is God's word, wouldn't he want to make it easy for everyone to read/get?" And the short answer is no. From everything I've read, He really wants us to dig around to discover who He is. I don't see anything that references cookie-cut Christianity, or bite-sized dogma. The reality that only a few from all of humanity will share eternity with Him is something the bible is quite clear on.

I am becoming less and less patient with this modern idea that God/Christianity/Faith/Religiosity is this feel-good-rose-colored thingy that embraces everyone in a warm downy blanket of acceptance. Yes God is love...but what is love really...all of it? This does not excuse me to become a "God Hate's Fag's" Church kinda guy...but what does it really mean to "fear God"? Nobody likes to talk about that one. "Don't scare the non-believers away!" "Take all the creepy parts out so they come back to our church." Bullshit!

I love my wife. And that love sometimes comes at a very real price...slapdash knows that better than anyone right now. Except God's love wouldn't have dumped her on the curb. Just as mine doesn't my wife, because I love God first, and His Grace is bigger than ALL of this.

The church family I am a part of right now is so on point, I've been wondering where they've been all my life. They are so transperant/real and simply basking in His Grace. Check out what grace is really all about. Funny thing about it though...it only works for those who accept/recognize it. Meaning that it's there for everyone, but it's kind of like magic ink, it only works when you breathe on it. If you pretend it's not there, or ignore it, you don't get none!

Alright...you done got me up on my pulpit again...I'll have the band quitely fade in as I give my alter call...and cue emotions....and everyone lives happily ever after....and cut.

good times.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

What's your position on the New Earth, then? And the fact that all are to be resurrected, to enjoy a new creation? I've never read the Bible as the idea is to escape after death, or go somewhere else. Rather, the idea is to defeat death and resurrection, and enjoy a new creation.

**I don't see anything that references cookie-cut Christianity, or bite-sized dogma. The reality that only a few from all of humanity will share eternity with Him is something the bible is quite clear on.**
So ... the Bible's a mystery, except for this part? That's what I mean about the box. To you, it's very clear-cut that only a few spend eternity with God, and the method to do so is accepting Christ as one's Savior. Even if you don't get anything else, and spend the rest of your life struggling with the journey, you still have done what was needed to be saved. I mostly pull this from an earlier response of yours in reference to Slapdash, where if she truly rejects God, she will go to Hell. If the decision of where someone eternally resides rests on the acceptence/rejection of God, then I see that as a box.

I'm not trying to be sarcastic here, or attack you, or anything like that. But I feel like I'm getting the message of "The Bible is a mystery, except for the part about how to be saved and where most people end up." The salvation part alone is a pretty big part of Christianity, and so the mystery can be to try and figure out how all the qualities of God reconcile (which challenges a universalist just as much), or how to best do God's will. But there's still some sort of package there.

**I am becoming less and less patient with this modern idea that God/Christianity/Faith/Religiosity is this feel-good-rose-colored thingy that embraces everyone in a warm downy blanket of acceptance.**

If this is in reference to Shelly's explanation of UR, then that's not what she said. If it was blanket acceptence, then there'd be no redemption of people or creation, because you'd accept them in their current state. Love by it's very nature demands the highest of the recepient, because it wants the best for the recepient.

And I hold to "fear God" is to hold God in awe, and to remain humble.

lowendaction said...

Mysteries are designed to be unraveled, the question is which ones will we achieve while still trapped in this human form? I personally have accepted a few more items as truth pillars than the two referenced here. My whole mystery point was about how I believe the bible should be approached: not as a sound byte reference or manual, but as a complex mosaic of God's character. I believe that there are certain fundamental truths that are quite obvious and transperant to all who seek it, however almost everything in the bible begs for deeper study and will reveal more truths and mysteries.

The same goes for the New Earth and all that. These to me are really just fascinating musings when compared to the more vital foundations. IOW, though it is very interesting to wonder about these things, what really matters is my salvation and those upon whom I can make an impact.

I believe that salvation is not limited to a singular event/descision, but is in fact the totality of ones life (please reference link for more on this).

I can't help but notice that you seem to equate anything suggesting rules, harsh consequences, or structure with a box or package. Though the history of the church has distorted so much, I don't think that we should rebel with some sort of flower-power type approach. That isn't just a response to UR btw.

My "blanket" statement was actually far more directed towards "traditional" christian churches of today...however I would say that this mentality certainly does apply to UR as well.

Yes, fear of God does mean awe, however I think it can also refer to His consequential qualities as well. IOW God is not someone I would want to piss off. There is a thing or two about His anger in the bible, and I tend to take those pretty serious. If He can create the Universe, what could He do to me? Does that mean that I sit in the corner cowering in fear of God's wrath? No, He has covered me in Grace, but only after I accepted/recognized it. And should I decide to no longer love Him...well, I'd rather not find out. It's the kind of fear you might have of you italian cousin Vinnie. He would take a bullet for you, but woe be to his enemies...or you if you cross him. And no...this does not mean that God is the mob!

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**The same goes for the New Earth and all that. These to me are really just fascinating musings when compared to the more vital foundations.**

Depending on which Biblical scholar one reads, the new earth does become a vital foundation to understanding salvation. It's exactly why salvation in the Tanakh doesn't mean "to go to heaven" and ties into the whole eternal torment idea being very vague in the Tanakh itself.

**I believe that salvation is not limited to a singular event/descision**

I would agree, especially given the root word is 'salve,' which ties to healing. I have never seen salvation as designed around "rescue from hell," because then a lot of Psalms alone don't make sense.

**I can't help but notice that you seem to equate anything suggesting rules, harsh consequences, or structure with a box or package.**
I'm probably now about to get a bit frustrated with this next comment, but this feels like the third or fourth time I've said that rejecting eternal damnation does not mean accepting a flower-power type God. Saying that one believes in UR does not mean that one also believes there are no harsh consequences. The two choices are *not* eternal seperation or anything goes.

Besides, if we do follow the flower-power approach, we'd have no way of being "not overcome with evil, but overcoming evil with good."

I don't know, I suppose I'm reading your comments that you believe a viewpoint that holds all will be saved (or even a lot more than a few) or there is no eternal damnation is the same as a "flower-power" approach. Again, it's not an either/or position. Because in every serious UR book I've ever read, they took sin and its removal very seriously. They took the consequences of sin very seriously.

Even if the seperation is not eternal, there can still be harsh consequences. Say you've hurt someone deeply, and one day become aware of it. You ask the person's forgiveness, and they grant it. Even though you've been forgiven, even though that person has not sought out to impose consequences on you, can you truly say that there are no consequences? No. Because there's still struggling with your involvement in the action, and what you did to hurt the other person.

It would ultimately come down to the purpose behind the consequence. Is it to punish or to reform? Or who's to say it can't accomplish both, in that the whole purpose of the consequence is to introduce some sort of reformation?

And the thing is, any religion has its own box. It's inevitable. As soon as a word is used to describe something, such as God, that's a box. It's a package. If you hold that God is love, that's describing the 'box' that God is in. If you hold that God is just, that's also describing the 'box' around God. We all need that box when describing our religion, or the words become meaningless.

So I'm always puzzled when I see someone say that they are suspicious when they see God presented in a nice, neat box, because we all have those boxes. There will always be mysteries within those boxes as well -- that's inevitable, given that we're speaking of an infinite, lots of omni character. While I see the UR has a neat package in its core truths, I also see that your viewpoint has the package with its core truths. My viewpoint has the package with its core truths.

**And should I decide to no longer love Him...well, I'd rather not find out. It's the kind of fear you might have of you italian cousin Vinnie. He would take a bullet for you, but woe be to his enemies...or you if you cross him.**

The problem I have with this statement is that it comes across as you'll be loved only so long as you stay on the person's good side. If that's the case, then the love has become conditional. You must do something in order to remain in that love. In this case, it's accept the grace of God, and then you're okay.

How much of a "free" choice is it really? I'm reminded of a novel I read, where Person A was describing an option for Person B. One was to walk away and let ten people die, the other was to risk his life to save the people. Person A argued that person B was not in fact "free" to make a choice, because to let the people die was simply not an option, due to the consequences attached.

lowendaction said...

I think it must be said that as much as I am founded in my beliefs, I can also accept the possibility that God is large enough for many different interpretaions of who He is. However, this does not mean "anything goes"...not saying that's what UR or you are (that was weird). I think it all comes down to the individual being able to face themselves in honesty and accept their truth completely.

I share what I've learned, you share what you have, and maybe through such fellowship we all learn a little more about God, oursleves, and this silly world we live in.

Whether we're talking about a new earth that's actually a 2.0 version of earth, or some other dimension, what really matters is spending eternity with or without God.

Actually I was refering to salvation as it's commonly refered to: "I knelt down and prayed, and then I was saved." I don't doubt that this might be the beginning of this persons journey, however I believe that God will judge our salvation not on one singular event, but on the whole of our salvation journey/life. However, I do believe that salvation is the one thing that will award us eternity with God, and save us from separation.

I guess when it comes to consequences I tend to back quite a bit and take a more long term view. Whatever earthly events we experience will be as the blink of an eye compared to eternity. So when I think of significant consequences in Godly terms...stuff here on earth just doesn't cut it. So let's say we've got a young man who has lived a priveledged life, and rises to stardom and fame early on, and with all the wealth and popularity his whole life revolves around pleasing himself. He can't be bothered with God, much less other human beings around him. With complete abandon he lives the "perfect sinners life" if you will. Let's say he dies at 30...before any of this living could catch up with him. What kind of consequences does he face?

Though I hear what you're saying about the whole box thing, I hate putting any limiting devices on the one who is and created everything. Actually, to deny/remove God is to limit ones self. I believe it is harder to explain Him away than to submit to His reality. We may not like Him or understand Him, but exsitance is overwhelming...to me anyway;).

I knew the Vinnie thing was going to backfire on me...of course God's love is unconditional and thus THAT part breaks down. I gues I was trying to illustrate that part of God's character is also sharp, painful, and not pretty. It's the kind of fear I used to have of my dad. He never abused me, and was always loving, but when he needed to discipline me I had a healthy fear of that spaking.

The free choice thing...well that really only works for those with a healthy conscience, right? Short of any legal ramifications, one would really "only" have to deal with ones moral barometer by walking away to let them die. Even this person however, is covered by God's grace...provided that they CHOOSE to accept it.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**However, this does not mean "anything goes"...not saying that's what UR or you are (that was weird).**

I do agree with you that it's not an anything goes. I think we both find common ground on the fact that if it were anything goes, there wouldn't be a change required, or a call to repent, or even a cry to fight against evil. Why bother, since it doesn't matter what you do?

**what really matters is spending eternity with or without God.**
This is what I'm not sure about, and I again reference the Tanakh. The Hebrew religion doesn't seem to focus on the hereafter, but rather on the now. Salvation in the now, in terms of protection from enemies, or deliverence from slavery.

**So when I think of significant consequences in Godly terms...stuff here on earth just doesn't cut it.**
I guess I see this as while stuff on Earth is like the blink of an eye, it's also enough to condemn someone for an eternity. If so, then it would matter more than the blink of an eye.

The other reason is that it essentialy (to me) reduces this life to making the right choice only. And I don't get that from the Bible. Events in this "time" do matter a great deal, do carry importance in the grand scheme of things, and do carry huge repercussions.

**Let's say he dies at 30...before any of this living could catch up with him. What kind of consequences does he face?**
While I can't describe the exact consequences, I do believe he'd face something. For starters, he wouldn't be acting as he was originally created to act -- the image and likeness of God. So I think something would happen in order to produce a change, or heal him.

My thing with my UR leanings is that I don't think the man you described goes to "heaven" or a better life after death. I do think he'd face harsh consequences. But not a permanent seperation from God.

But I'd end up with what would be the purpose of eternally condemning him? What would it serve, to put him in a place that would make him even more wretched then he was on Earth?

**I hate putting any limiting devices on the one who is and created everything.**

That's understandable, but I think it's unavoidable as soon as we say God is love. :)

**of course God's love is unconditional and thus THAT part breaks down.**

It wasn't so much the Vinnie part, but your line of you wouldn't like what happened if you decided to not love God. That, to me, makes God's love conditional, because you'll only experience if if you make the right choice. Even if you hadn't used the Vinnie example, I still would've had the same response. If receiving God's love/grace is dependent upon your action, then there is a condition attached to it. A truly unconditional situation would be me handing you a book and saying, "Do whatever you want with it, it's a gift." I've attached no conditions to your response of my gift.

**Short of any legal ramifications, one would really "only" have to deal with ones moral barometer by walking away to let them die.**

There are many for whom the moral barometer would induce a worse punishment than a legal one. That was the point in the novel. Due to this person's moral barometer, leaving them to die was not a choice. He had no choice in saving them, because there was only one option.

shelly said...

This is what I said in a previous comment (emphasis added this time), in regards to UR...

Anyhoo, I believe there will be something in store for those who don't believe in Christ: eonian (not eternal) separation from God, when the sin will be purged from their lives, and they will learn that God's ways are best. Afterwards, the consummation (as described in 1 Corinthians 15) will take place, God will restore everyone to himself and will be all in all. That is Universal Restoration/Reconciliation in a nutshell.

This would also go for "the wicked".

* * * * *

"Consequently, then, it is not of him who is willing, nor of him who is racing, but of God, the Merciful. For the scripture is saying to Pharaoh that 'For this selfsame thing I rouse you up, so that I should be displaying in you My power, and so that My name should be published in the entire earth.' Consequently, then, to whom He will, He is merciful, yet whom He will, He is hardening." (Romans 9:16-18, Concordant Literal New Testament, emphasis added)

"What then? What Israel is seeking for, this she did not encounter, yet the chosen encountered it. Now the rest were calloused, even as it is written, God gives them a spirit of stupor, eyes not to be observing, and ears not to be hearing, till this very day." (Romans 11:7-8, CLNT, emphasis added)

"For even as you once were stubborn toward God, yet now were shown mercy at their stubbornness, thus these also are now stubborn to this mercy of yours, that now they also may be shown mercy. For God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all." (Romans 11:30-32, CLNT, emphasis added)

"For the anxious looking out of the creature expects the revelation of the sons of God: for the creature has been made subject to vanity, not of its will, but by reason of him who has subjected [the same], in hope that the creature itself also shall be set free from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God." (Romans 8:19-21, Darby Translation, emphasis added)

"Only be citizens walking worthily of the evangel of Christ, that, whether coming and making your acquaintance, or being absent, I should be hearing of your concerns, that you are standing firm in one spirit, one soul, competing together in the faith of the evangel, and not being startled by those who are opposing in anything, which is to them a proof of destruction, yet of your salvation, and this from God, for to you it (salvation/belief) is graciously granted, for Christ's sake, not only to be believing on Him, but to be suffering for His sake also, having the same struggle such as you are perceiving in me, and now are hearing to be in me." (Phillippians 1:27-30, CLNT, emphasis added)

"For I am saying, through the grace which is given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to be overweening, beyond what your disposition must be, but to be of a sane disposition, as God parts to each the measure of faith." (Romans 12:3, CLNT, emphasis added)

"And Jehovah said to Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his bondmen, that I might do these my signs in their midst, and that thou mightest tell in the ears of thy son and thy son's son what I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah." (Exodus 10:1-2, DT, emphasis added)

"At that time, Jesus answering said, I praise thee, Father, Lord of the heaven and of the earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to babes." (Matthew 11:25, DT)

"And the disciples came up and said to him, Why speakest thou to them in parables?

"And he answering said to them, Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens, but to them it is not given; for whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall be caused to be in abundance; but he who has not, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

"For this cause I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear nor understand; and in them is filled up the prophecy of Esaias, which says, Hearing ye shall hear and shall not understand, and beholding ye shall behold and not see; for the heart of this people has grown fat, and they have heard heavily with their ears, and they have closed their eyes as asleep, lest they should see with the eyes, and hear with the ears, and understand with the heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." (Matthew 13:10-15, DT)

"And as [Jesus] drew near, seeing [Jerusalem], he wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, even at least in this thy day, the things that are for thy peace: but now they are hid from thine eyes; for days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall make a palisaded mound about thee, and shall close thee around, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children in thee; and shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone: because thou knewest not the season of thy visitation." (Luke 19:41-44, DT)

I'd say that's pretty good scriptural evidence that God grants unbelief as well as belief to people, not to mention God locking people up in stubbornness and hardening people's hearts. Yet, he creates opposition to himself--I believe--to make himself known. If you look at the Exodus reference, the reason God hardened the hearts of Pharoah and his bondsmen were so he (God) could show off his mighty power, and so the Israelites would give him the praise.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says that God makes everything beautiful "in his time". John 6:44 tells us no one can come to Christ unless they're drawn to him by the Father. In order to believe in the free will of man, you have to reject ALL of those scriptures, and you'd have to believe that Christ's work on the cross was not a finished one, not to mention to believe in free will is to (IMO) reject the divinity and sovereignty of God, which is wrong.

lowendaction said...

oss, they way I see humanities relation with God OT vs NT is quite different. I have no real basis for this, but is it possible that the nature of God's relation with OT people was built on a completely different basis than what we have today?

I think you misunderstood my point about the relevance of earth-bound events. What we do here on earth is vastyl important, and IMO far more than a singular discision/action equaling salvation. We are promised "crowns" or "rewards" in heaven, so obviously our performance as a whole matters a great deal. I was specifically talking about the consequences aspect. What is a few blinks of "punishment" on earth compared to eternity? This is the fear of God that I was referring to. To me it seems like we're clipping God's wings by not granting Him eternal consequences for loving/not loving Him.

"For starters, he wouldn't be acting as he was originally created to act -- the image and likeness of God. So I think something would happen in order to produce a change, or heal him."

When? Is this the earlier referenced "2nd chance rehab" that everyone who didn't get it the first time can excpect? I really don't mean to be dismisive, but I related my beliefs to what I see around me. Look at the animal kingdom. Do you see any of this play out there? Mostly it's a brutal and final existance.

Even an uncoditional gift must be received. More on this in my response to shelly.

lowendaction said...

shelly, I would like to respond to some of your wonderful scriptural references.

Romans 9:16-18 - I still do not think this means that man is spiritually inanimat until God chooses us. We are ALL forgiven with grace abounding, however I still think we must receive this truth to "activate" it in our lives.

Romans 11:30-32 - There should be little arguement that what we consider "freedoms" can always be overridden by God...as with anything. However I do believe that the design default is our freedoms. Did not Adam and Eve have the freedom to choose?

Romans 8:19-21 - "18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay." New Living Transaltion -- Nothing is for certain, so of course we all wait in anticipation, however I would venture to say that God is making his selction based on...what? If not our having received His grace then what? If this was some arbirtrary decision pre-time...what's the point? Of course now we're dealing with dimensions and realms beyond our understanding, but I like to think that God created us to see what we'd do. Why else would He grow angry, or happy for that matter? Why do you get angry at something you have guided?

Phillippians 1:27-30 - Again, granted...awaiting a receiver.

Romans 12:3 - I like to think of this being part of all human design...preprogrammed if you will. However we must still double click the old .exe (.dmg for our Mac brothers & sisters). If this was not the case wouldn't the whole world have said faith?

Exodus 10:1-2 - this is just God doin' His thing when/how/why/where He pleases...

Matthew 11:25 - Jesus is of course talking about this previous warning: "23 “And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead.[g] For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. 24 I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.”" And He is in essence thanking God for the ignorance of being a stuborn "know-it-all" adult. It shows that God is really looking for certain qualities in those He will then call His Children. These are obviously people God does not have a vested interest in. I would also like to point out Jesus's direct reference to Hell here...this aint no trash heap people!

Matthew 13:10-15 - So who are we to question who God's chooses or why? Again though, for those who have been "chosen" they are then challenged to open their eyes and ears. It is interesting to muse as to why some are chosen and others are not. Is there something that could change this status, or is it predetermined (unchangable)?

Luke 19:41-44 - I'm sorry, but your translations are almost unreadable for me. Allow me: "42 “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes. 43 Before long your enemies will build ramparts against your walls and encircle you and close in on you from every side. 44 They will crush you into the ground, and your children with you. Your enemies will not leave a single stone in place, because you did not accept your opportunity for salvation.”" New Living Translation
I'm not sure if there's much more I can add to that.

"I'd say that's pretty good scriptural evidence that God grants unbelief as well as belief to people, ..."

So as I said before, I can not agree that this universally applies to belief. I believe He conditions or prepares our hearts, but He then waits for us to reciprocate. Isn't this the very foundation of a relationship? Do you pick people you wish to be friends with and then manipulate their hearts to your whim? No, relationships must develop and require regualr reciprocal interaction to be healthy.

"44 For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up." In John 6:44 Jesus is responding to their complaints about Him being just a man. This is Him basically giving Himself street-cred via God. Ultimately He "will rasie them up", only after "everyone who believes in Him" makes their choice to do so...given the opportunity to do so by God.

So in light of this discussion I will revise my statement to say, I believe in free will with an asterisks, and that being the overriding will of God.

This has been great. As far as I'm concerned, I tend to get more out of these type of discussions than most church services any day!

good times.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**is it possible that the nature of God's relation with OT people was built on a completely different basis than what we have today?**
If this is the case, this would cause me to question what relevance the Tanakh would hold today, and why follow it. The relation that God would have with the Tanakh people would be directly related to how they wrote the Tanakh, which in turn would influence how the NT was written, as well.

** What is a few blinks of "punishment" on earth compared to eternity? This is the fear of God that I was referring to.**
But it again comes down to the purpose of the punishment – what does it accomplish if it’s just for the sake of punishment itself? Do you think that if there’s only a few blinks of punishment, the person would get off to easily? I don’t know, it’s like the events that occur here are important, except in the consequence area. Then the consequences aren’t “enough” or are “too small.”

** Look at the animal kingdom. Do you see any of this play out there? Mostly it's a brutal and final existance.**
I would ask why you’re using the animal kingdom to determine how human consequences should play out. Especially if it’s a final existence, because then the whole eternal aspect becomes a moot point. :) And do we really want to base the hereafter on half of what goes on today in the first place?

I don't know when the final redemption would occur for the man you described. But if God is to be all-in-all, and all of creation is to be redeemed, and sin is to be eradicated completely, I think it has to happen.

I think this is still coming back to the idea that you feel there’s no point if everyone will be redeemed? Almost like you don’t think there’s anything keeping people in line, unless there are eternal consequences involved? Tell me something, who would you rather befriend or trust? Someone who does the right thing because s/he doesn’t want to cause pain to others, or someone who does the right thing because s/he doesn’t want to suffer the legal consequences? Which person is less selfish? Which person is motivated by pure motives?
This reminds me of a quote I once saw, between a Baptist and a UR. The Baptist tells the UR that if there’s no hell, there’s nothing preventing the Baptist from murdering the UR. The UR replies that if the Bapist were a UR, such things would never occur to him in the first place.

I tend to look at it this way: say someone steals from me, and the punishment is that I cut off his arm. What did I accomplish? How did I redeem the situation, or bring out any sort of goodness? Yes, I'd like the thief to be chasisted, but in a way that helps him (bold words now, since I'm speaking in hypotheticals. I know I'd have a much harder time putting this into practice). If I just essentially return an "eye for an eye," how does that make me a better person?

That's how I view hell. It's the eye for an eye mentality. People spit on God, or hate God, and so God sends them to hell. It's a horrible cycle, and reduces everything to a matter of revenge.

**Even an uncoditional gift must be received. More on this in my response to shelly.**
But I quote you on the “we’re clipping God’s wings by not granting Him eternal consequences for loving/not loving Him.” That love is attached to conditions. The love is dependent upon our response, and that’s the very definition of conditional. To say on the one hand that God’s love is unconditional, and then on the other hand that you need to watch out if you decide not to love God anymore is something that I find to be contradictory. To go back to my book example, I would say it should really be “I’ve attached no conditions on your response to my gift.” There's a difference between saying an unconditional gift must be received, and that rejecting the gift means eternal torment.

lowendaction said...

oss,

How would you reconcile the Tanakh and the new order/law that Jesus brought? I see the history of humanities relationship with God as a sort of adolesance for us. Early on the rules were very strict and strucutred because we were young and needed more discipline. Now (post Christ) we have been given more "freedom", but the responsibility/consequences are more severe. This is really more of an abstract theory at this point, but it does sort of make sense to me.

I use the animal kingdom and nature as an example because it is God's creation, and therefore will have elements and traces of His character displayed. Of course I was only using it as a partial visual. It can be very difficult to explains ones entire view in these tiny little comment boxes...so much gets lost. Of course the finality has nothing to do with the eternity issue directly, but what I meant to point out was, it's not like in a video game, if you get killed you really still have 5 lives left. Nature is God's design and can show us volumes about God's character.

Surely there is more that keeps us "in line" than just where we end up after we die. As I mentioned, our daily actions have a direct impact on the quality and nature of our relationship with God. But EVERYTHING we do is to the glory of God, or to use the relationship example, to build and streangthen our relationship to Him. So if we are "good" to our fellow human being, it is FIRST out of our love to God, and second out of love for them. So in essence it is the combination of working out our salvation (growing in relation to God) as well of being mindful of the end-game (eternity).

God created a universe in which action and reaction determins everything. Just because we don't care for either, doesn't make it any less real or valid. Especially throughout the Tanakh God's punishment is real and violent. I'm curious how you are able to remove these qualities from Him now?

Unconditional love - well, what's interesting is that this is never actually referenced as such in the bible. We have deduced this from our greater understanding of His love, but as a direct term it does not exist. And I think there's a reason for this. Unconditional love is I think man's attempt at summarizing God's amazing love/grace, but is it really unconditional? I still contend that God waits on us to reciprocate His love, and thus we can not fully enjoy it without first accepting it. So by definition, I would say you're right, it isn't unconditional. And you know what...that doesn't diminish God one bit in my book. If anything, it makes Him more real. What other religion or belief system is built un such intimate interaction?

It's almost like the father that plays hide and seek with his young child. The father sits in the corner with his hands over his eyes waiting for his child to find him. He can hear the little foot steps and the giggling, and yet he chooses to keep his eyes covered until his child taps on his shoulder and says: "You're it." And then, in that moment he turns in surprise (even if he's not really that surprised) and enjoys a blissfull embrace and relishes the joy the childs discovery has brought. That's the God that I'm looking for every day. Sometimes I'm not really looking very hard at all, but none the less He is waiting patiently for me to find Him, so that WE might celebrate the love we have for one another.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**How would you reconcile the Tanakh and the new order/law that Jesus brought?**

Here's the thing. What I often see is Christianity presents Judaism as a very rule-based organization, that demands perfection from the followers. What I've read about Judaism itself is that the Torah was followed out of love, and out of gratitude for God providing it in the first place. Salvation was always a matter of God's mercy. So they still would've found lots of freedom. But look at Psalms 119 -- they loved the Torah, they relished it, they were incredibly grateful for it. Nothing about that Psalms shows that it was a burden, or that they needed more "freedom" provided by Christ.

**Of course the finality has nothing to do with the eternity issue directly**

I know you're saying that the fact that there's a death doesn't impact the eternity issue, but I'm still going to have complications using nature as a lens into how God treats consequences. It's like -- okay, you know how God so loved the world that He sent His son so that none would perish? Things that perish have an end. They're destroyed. They don't live on somewhere in eternity. So when reading John, I'm getting a huge contrast between life/death, not life/hell. So to use nature to show the consequences, I'm going to say the consequence is death, and death only.

**Surely there is more that keeps us "in line" than just where we end up after we die.**
I would hope so. But do you understand the resistence to the eternal consequence in the first place? Or the contrast between trusting someone who does the right thing so no one gets hurt, compared to the what's the legal consequence?

**So if we are "good" to our fellow human being, it is FIRST out of our love to God, and second out of love for them.**

Do you hold this even with atheists/agnostics?

**I'm curious how you are able to remove these qualities from Him now?**
In a way, I think we look at the Tanakh the same way, yet using a different lens. I believe that in the Tanakh, what we see is people attempting to understand God, and so applying their own mentality, in a way.

For example -- let's say that back then, God told the Hebrews that men and women were equal. Based on their understanding of "who God was," they would've felt the thought did not, in fact, come from God. Or today -- if you had a "vision" from someone claiming to be God, and He told you to go blow up a school, you would know such a message did not come from God, because He wouldn't order the murder of children.

So in the Tanakh, when we hear about God's anger of that scale, or the atrocities He orders, is it God, or people's perception of God at that time?

The reason why I don't think we can apply this to hell is because it's a rather critical teaching in Christianity, and a huge consequence. If this were the case, and if people required salvation from hell, then why wouldn't it be a dominate theme in the Tanakh as well?

**I still contend that God waits on us to reciprocate His love, and thus we can not fully enjoy it without first accepting it. So by definition, I would say you're right, it isn't unconditional.**

I'm going to keel over in shock that we came to an agreement on something. ;)

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

Another question I'm hoping you could address -- say someone steals from me, and the punishment is that I cut off his arm. What did I accomplish? How did I redeem the situation, or bring out any sort of goodness? Yes, I'd like the thief to be chasisted, but in a way that helps him (bold words now, since I'm speaking in hypotheticals. I know I'd have a much harder time putting this into practice). If I just essentially return an "eye for an eye," how does that make me a better person?

This is how I see hell. Someone rejected God (and by this, I mean doesn't believe in Jesus, yet has lived a good life), and therefore, the person will go to hell. It's the eye for an eye mentality. You reject God, so He punishes you.

If we are called to go beyond that, is it unrealistic to expect the same from God? How does punishing people for an eternity accomplish anything?

lowendaction said...

oss,

Sometimes I can't decide what would have been better, to have lived during OT times with the off chance of actually SEEING God make one His amazing appearances, but not really having the one-on-one that we have today...tough one.

"Nothing about that Psalms shows that it was a burden, or that they needed more "freedom" provided by Christ."

The dynamics of the relationship between God and man simply had different paramaters than. By sending His son, He not only changed this dynamic, but also fullfilled the prophesies.

"It's like -- okay, you know how God so loved the world that He sent His son so that none would perish?"

So I have to correct you on that one, because it's kind of key to the discussion:

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

Everything in nature has rules, so to God has established rules for us. And the one simple rule is: love me. To not obey that rule...well we've covered that already...

What would be worse death ending in nothing but ultimately seperated from God, or Hell (whatever from, but still seperated from God)? Of course this is retorical, because being seperated from God by whatever means is the worst fate for any person. So if it turns out there is no Hell, but we just poof into nothingness...without God, it ALL sucks!

"Or the contrast between trusting someone who does the right thing so no one gets hurt, compared to the what's the legal consequence?"

Sure, these are the natural side products of love, which we come to understand in even greater deapth as we learn more about God.

"Do you hold this even with atheists/agnostics?"

Absolutely, if not more so. Why should I love them any less? Because they don't share the same values/ideals/beliefs as me? It's not my job to judge (though we all do it...), but only to love.

"So in the Tanakh, when we hear about God's anger of that scale, or the atrocities He orders, is it God, or people's perception of God at that time?"

So how does that work with the flood, Sodom and Gamorrah, the Red Sea, just to name a few. I'm pretty sure those weren't man made.

"If this were the case, and if people required salvation from hell, then why wouldn't it be a dominate theme in the Tanakh as well?"

The way I have this make sense in my head, is that the nature/dynamic of God's relationship with man was simply different then. God chose to build a new kind of relationship based on different/modified rules. He creatd it all, so who am I to question it?

With God - wonders never cease...and that includes us finding common ground!!

Well, how do you know that by chopping off his arm, you don't set him on a path of amazing spiritual discovery which then leads him to spread the gospel to all he meats, using his stump as a reminder/witness to those he meets?

There must be some kind of order, and thus there must also be some kind of punishment.

"This is how I see hell. Someone rejected God (and by this, I mean doesn't believe in Jesus, yet has lived a good life), and therefore, the person will go to hell. It's the eye for an eye mentality. You reject God, so He punishes you."

I don't believe in a "good" life. I believe in a Godly life. They might apear to be similar, but are in fact quite different. I like to use this extreme example. The little old lady in the corner house, who has never done anything "bad" and has done nothing but "good things" for those around her, and yet she willfully chose not to love/follow God. And you have the serial rapist who, after 50 plus years of horrible offenses to humanity, accepts Christ. The rapist dies shortly after his genuine accepting of God's love. The little old lady dies also, never having accepted God. She going to Hell, and he's going to heaven. Period.

God really isn't vague on this matter. He doesn't set elaborate conditions and loop holes. It's love me or leave me, the choice is yours, as is the resulting consequence.

You may think of me as a rather dismal and pessimistic chap...I like to call myself a realist. You strike me as far more kindhearted, trusting, and optimistically oriented. Neither is good or bad...it's just the way we are. However, I do not see anything that changes the basic rules of the game.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**The dynamics of the relationship between God and man simply had different paramaters than. By sending His son, He not only changed this dynamic, but also fullfilled the prophesies.**

But what do you mean by dynamics? We started out with your question of the Tanakh offering severe rules and discipline, and Jesus offering a new law/order. So are you saying that the concept of what the Torah is changed between the TAnakh and the NT? And how are you defining the "paramters" back then?

Because we still end up with the dynamic of the Torah wasn't meant to be oppressive. It was a sign of love, and received with gratitude.

**So if it turns out there is no Hell, but we just poof into nothingness...without God, it ALL sucks!**

But my point here was the word "perish." It signifies an absolute end. If you're still existing in hell, you don't have an "end." You're still alive. You haven't "perished." If you do believe, you have eternal life. You "live forever." The opposite of living forever is to not exist. The verse does not say, "He gave His only Son so that those who believe don't end up in hell."

And if those who don't believe just poof into nothingness, then it can't really "suck," because you aren't aware of anything. You simply don't exist.

**Absolutely, if not more so. Why should I love them any less? **

My point with atheists/agnostics is that if they love their fellow humans, how can that spring out of love for God if you feel they willfully deny God? They demonstrate the same fruit as Christians do. If we do loving acts towards people, yet it is a result of loving God, then are you saying all the non-Christians who do acts aren't truly doing loving acts?

**So how does that work with the flood, Sodom and Gamorrah, the Red Sea, just to name a few. I'm pretty sure those weren't man made. **

It's not a matter of man-made, it's seeing occurances, and trying to put a rational explanation on them. As it is, I don't hold that the Bible is literally true (for instance, I believe most archelogists say that there is no proof of the mass Exodus, or Hebres living in Egypt, and such). So there might've been a story of how there was a liberation of sort, and people, "knowing" how God behaved, "knew" what God did in that instance.

**God chose to build a new kind of relationship based on different/modified rules. He creatd it all, so who am I to question it?**
But then if you say the Bible clearly says that very few spend eternity with God ... how can you pull from the whole Bible if the NT changes the dynamics/rules?

**Well, how do you know that by chopping off his arm, you don't set him on a path of amazing spiritual discovery which then leads him to spread the gospel to all he meats, using his stump as a reminder/witness to those he meets?**

So then I'm justified in using the eye for an eye approach, even though I'm specifically commanded not to? Because I still don't see how this would tie into what eternal punishment accomplishes, or punishment for the sake of punishment itself.

**I don't believe in a "good" life. I believe in a Godly life. They might apear to be similar, but are in fact quite different.**

I don't think you can seperate the two, though. If God defines what is good, and people do what is good, how can the two be divided?
The Bible very clearly defines what is good, and "good" is not defined by who does the action, it is defined by the action itself. Such as the fruits of the Spirit, or the sheep/goats parable, or many of the prophets in the TAnakh calling on social justice. That is good.

So how can the two be divided like that?

As it is, with your example, I find us once again back to the idea of the only thing that matters is believing the right things. You earlier referenced that the things we do here do matter, and, to quote, "What we do here on earth is vastyl important, and IMO far more than a singular discision/action equaling salvation."

Yet the rapist essentially did the singular decision, and is in heaven. The woman did do good things, she did live a Christ-like life ... and yet that doesn't matter at all? Nothing she did mattered, except her faith?

Plus, based on the sheep/goats, or the Samaritain, I don't think it works like that. Or even based on how Judaism operates.

**It's love me or leave me, the choice is yours, as is the resulting consequence.**

But how is this honestly love? It's the same as having a parent say, "Love me, or I'll beat you to death." That's not love, that's a threat. It's saying "Love me, or else." If love becomes a rule to follow like that, rather than a natural developement ... how can it retain any sense of what love truly means?

If you changed the context of that situation to *any* other situation, can you find a way to not define it as a threat?

lowendaction said...

I don't cheat on my wife because I fear her leaving me. I don't cheat on my wife because I love her. That doesn't mean that if I should cheat the consequence of her possibly leaving goes away? Along the same lines, you don't go around NOT shooting people because to do so is against the law. You don't do it because you value their lives. I love God and choose to please Him because I know it will streangthen our relationship, and I want Him to take delight in that. I do not do these things out of fear of His wrath. This however does not take away that side of His character. It makes up part of who He is...IMO.

"So are you saying that the concept of what the Torah is changed between the TAnakh and the NT?"

I think perhaps its role/function changed, yes. Jesus relaxed many of the rules/laws, and the whole "through Him to God" thing was also new. Whereas the OT was a very strict guideline for the pre-Christians, for us it provide prospective and insight in to God's character. I'm pretty sure the NT is rather clear which areas clearly carry over and which ones do not. I'm not nearly as bible literate as I would like to be, and thus I can not bust out a slew of reference right now.

death - trying to conjur images of what existance beyond this life is like borders on futility. I do think that time and space as we know it will either not exist, or be on a dimensional level we can not grasp. So when we "perish" is that our human body only, or does it include our soul? What is our soul? How/where/when does/will it exist? The only thing that seems clear to me through all of this is being in God's presence, or being seperated from Him. All the how's and why's really don't matter after that.

"If we do loving acts towards people, yet it is a result of loving God, then are you saying all the non-Christians who do acts aren't truly doing loving acts?"

This is based on my what I understand the definition of love to be: "God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them." 1 John 4:16. Please reference 1 John 4: 7-21 for a more complete picture. So when you speak about a love between two people who are not with God, then is it still love? Well, love by another name perhaps. I'm sure that they might practice many aspects of love but never all. With such love I am called to infect the world...something I really suck at, but that doesn't keep me from trying!

non-literal bible - well...that's a personal choice that I respect. I tend to lean towards giving God the benifit of the doubt versus limiting Him, but that never stops me from questioning, valitdating, and searching for the truth. If I buy off on Him having created everything, is there really anything He can't do?

"So then I'm justified in using the eye for an eye approach, even though I'm specifically commanded not to?"

I assumed that this was a legal question. IOW, if the lawful punishment was chopping off his arm, than we are called to follow the law of the land.

"punishment for the sake of punishment itself" is really just abuse. And I don't see God as an abusive parent. He corrects out of love and/or His will.

goog life - I was trying to say that by living according to Christ example, good is an automatic. It then really comes down to...why do good? Motivation is huge with God. Do we do good to make oursleves feel better or to be looked on more favorably? Maybe it is purely out of charity for others...nothing wrong with that. But none of is an issue when our actions are Godly actions. Obviously people to "good" things and do not believe in God. Again I would examine motive...as with anyone, but just because one does not do all things for the glory of God (as we are called to) does not equate them or their behavior as bad. From a God perspective however, they are still off mark.

"The woman did do good things, she did live a Christ-like life ... and yet that doesn't matter at all? Nothing she did mattered, except her faith?"

Some of her actions might have, but NO ONE gets to the Father but through Christ. There's nothing vague about that one. And this is precicely why "good" alone does not make up for seperation from God.

"Nothing she did mattered, except her faith?"

Everything matters. God uses people and their actions who will have nothing to do with Him all the time. But regarding her eternal status...nope, not one bit.

Again, just because the Samaritan did a good deed does not erase salvation through Christ.

If I tell you that you are going to die, is that a threat? No, it's reality. Everyone dies...period. So too is it with God's love. It is there and available for EVERYONE...but to not choose it carries very real consequences. Again, this should never be a motivator for accepting/recognizing this love, but it's there whether you like it or not.

I've just got to say this, and I honestly don't mean this as an insult, but I don't think I've ever met (not that we've actually met) anyone with a more positive and non....anything negative view of God. It facinates me, to the point that it makes me curious how you have come to form this view of God. I'm just curious and if I'm prying I appologize and please feel no pressure to answer that.

thanks for challenging me and forcing me to dig around my own belief system.

OneSmallStep said...

Lowendaction,

**That doesn't mean that if I should cheat the consequence of her possibly leaving goes away? **

I wasn't sure how this first paragraph related to the rest of our discussion. Could you clarify?

**I think perhaps its role/function changed, yes.**

Then how did you see its original role or function? You mention that it was a very strict guideline for pre-Christians (although, I don't believe that's true. Non-Jews were under no obligation to follow the Torah. They went more with the seven Noahide Laws. The Torah wasn't meant for everyone). You've also said that it was during a time when we were in the "adolescnet" stage and needed more discipline ... yet I still can't reconcile that with what I see in Psalms 119, or other places in the Tanakh where the law is praised.

**So when we "perish" is that our human body only, or does it include our soul? What is our soul? How/where/when does/will it exist?**

Well ... actually, in early Judaism, I don't think there was a division between body/soul. When you died, your soul didn't "escape" the body. The two were merged. That's why the idea of a physical resurrection is important to many, because the idea isn't to get to heaven when one dies, but that the body is physically resurrected, because of the body/soul merging. Such as Genesis, chapter 1. One of the ways in describing the creatures that were created is a "living soul."

So when you see the idea of eternal life in the fourth gospel, you don't take the opposite as death? It seems then that you can't take eternal "life" literally, as in living forever. Because if perish is only refering to the body, then what does that mean for eternal life? The eternal life is only focused on the body? In that sentence, what applies to one would have to apply to other, but I think you'd say the life applies to the soul?

**Well, love by another name perhaps. I'm sure that they might practice many aspects of love but never all.**

I want to make sure I'm understanding you correctly. Are you saying that all non-Christians are incapable of loving to the degree that the Bible describes? Such as your two reference points? Or that they're incapable of displaying the fruits of the Spirit?

I'm not sure how you can point to real "live" examples as proof of this, though. We can see atheists acting just as "good" as Christians, and both with the right motivations (to express love).

**IOW, if the lawful punishment was chopping off his arm, than we are called to follow the law of the land.**

No, it was asking how returning an "eye for an eye" makes me a better person.

**"punishment for the sake of punishment itself" is really just abuse. And I don't see God as an abusive parent. He corrects out of love and/or His will.**

This is how I see eternal torment. Those who are in hell no longer have the option of redemption, so it's just punishment for the sake of punishment. There's no correction there, there's no purpose to it, really. It is an "eye for an eye." Someone rejects God, so God says they have to go to hell. That's the very thing we're *not* suppose to do, because to forego the eye for an eye makes us like God. Yet God does it?

**There's nothing vague about that one.**

It depends on how you read the Bible, though. If you just take the Tanakh, a good 66% of the Bible, then faith in Christ doesn't do it. If you take sections of the NT, faith in Christ doesn't do it. Even if you take that line from the Gospel of John, it depends on interpretation.

I'm also curious about the fact that "good" alone doesn't work, since you can only get to God through Christ (which is assuming that Jesus' line in that refers to faith in him. Maybe it's to contrast the Adam-man verses the Christ-man. You must reject the Adam-man). Are you saying this because it's what the Bible says? As in, "Obviously to be good isn't enough, because Jesus says it's only through him."

**But regarding her eternal status...nope, not one bit.**
This is what I don't understand -- you earlier say that salvation is essentially a process, and it's not just reciting words in order to get to heaven. Yet if the rapist dies soon after being saved, then I see the situation occuring exactly like how you said it wouldn't. Everything he did was nothing compared to his one singular action in having faith in Christ. He had the right faith, and that was it. That's all he needed. If he repented three seconds before dying, then he's in heaven.

Another question for you, in terms of justice. Foregoing the whole UR I have, let's talk about the idea of justice for a moment. Say the rapist converts, and goes to heaven. Let's say his victims don't, and so go to hell. What "justice" do the rapists victims have?

The answer of Jesus taking the punishment doens't satisfy me, because Jesus didn't rape the victims, the rapist did. Given how the legal system fucntions, you are accountable for your own actions. Another can't take the punishment in your place, because that violates what justice means.

**Again, just because the Samaritan did a good deed does not erase salvation through Christ.**

Well, the point of the Samaritan is that he was the one praised, and yet he had the wrong faith. If we applied that parable today, it would be like Jesus praising a Wiccan, or something. Faith in Christ didn't factor in. Same with the sheep/goats parable. The sheep aren't singled out for their faith, they're singled out for their actions.

**If I tell you that you are going to die, is that a threat? No, it's reality. Everyone dies...period. **

Well, I don't think these are comparable. Death is simply how reality functions. You telling me I'm going to die isn't a threat (unless you're threatening to kill me) because you have no control over that. It simply happens at a point in time.

Whereas God set up the rules. He set up the rule itself that says, "If you don't love Me, then you go to hell." He set up the consequences, how the whole structure functions.

So I don't see the death as the same context as God's love vs. hell.

**It facinates me, to the point that it makes me curious how you have come to form this view of God.**

It comes from trying to reconcile reality to the Bible (you will probably appreciate this). When I look at all the "negative" qualities associated with God, such as hatred, or wrath, I try and find a comparison the way I would with the positive qualities. I can see why love is a positive quality, or compassion, or forgivness. I have concrete examples I can point to.

I can't do the same with hatred, or wrath. In a lot of cases, those feelings serve to destroy. Hatred eithers destroys the person eternally, or causes pain for other people. It perpetuates a cycle. One of the big reasons I think Christians are called to forgive, to let go of the hate, is because of healing cycle. Hatred doesn't heal. It's even listed as a "fruit of the flesh." If we are encouraged to let go of it, if we are encouraged to forgive, to love, if to do those things is to be in the image of God, then how do I reconcile hatred with God?

If every single thing I see, and hatred I've encountered in myself, and seen in others, shows me that there's almost nothing redeeming in it ... how can it be part of a Creator who is good?

This isn't to say that there is huge validity in terms of someone holding righteous anger. There are times when crap happens that people absolutely don't deserve. If your country is invaded, you have a right to be angry. If you're cheated on, you have a right to be angry. In this case, I would see "forgiveness" as working in the sense of letting go of that anger, so it doesn't rule your life.

shelly said...

Did not Adam and Eve have the freedom to choose?

No. People just think they did. But there was something, or someone, else at work.

Think about this: If you don't want a little child playing with breakable objects, you don't put them in their reach. If God didn't want Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden tree, don't you think that he would've put it off in some obscure corner somewhere in the Garden, where they couldn't get to it?

Yet, he didn't. Again, he put it right in the middle of the Garden...in plain sight!

Again, if God's plan for salvation was formed at Creation, both sin and death had to enter the world at some point. Otherwise, Adam and Eve would've remained unashamed, perfect, and immortal; and there would've been no need for Jesus to become an incarnate being to redeem everyone from their sin.

Meanwhile, someone posted a passage from Job on another blog. I think it's relevant to this, so I'm going to repost it here, only a little more context...

Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything. Nothing and no one can upset your plans.

You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?'

I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head.

You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.'

I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears! I'm sorry—forgive me. I'll never do that again, I promise! I'll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor."
(Job 42:1-6, The Message, emphasis mine)

In Chapters 39-41, God is--for all practical purposes--ripping Job a new one, challenging him after Job starts questioning what's going on (beginning toward the end of Chapter 30), and after Elihu gives his three speeches which seem to go in one ear and out the other. By this time, Job is acknowledging that it was God who was responsible for putting him through everything that had happened to him.

To me, either God knows what he's doing and is completely sovereign, or he's completely impotent, and all of us Christians should deconvert, because he would no longer be worth of our praise, worship, and devotion.

This has been great. As far as I'm concerned, I tend to get more out of these type of discussions than most church services any day!

This I can wholeheartedly agree with! :D

Spiritbear said...

Slapdash, I hope you are successful in coming to terms with your struggle and find your faith (if thats what your looking for).

Shelly, I didnt know you were such a Calvinist. I believe God is in control but I dont go around blaming him for all the bad things that happen. People make choices and have free will. If we didnt we would be robots. If we are God-bots, then we do evil wouldnt that make God one twisted dude?

I believe God is all powerful but I believe he chooses to give us freewill. Otherwise nobody loves God. Anymore than my computer loves me if I tell it to say that.

I am interested in how you can come to grips with human suffering and evil if you believe that everything that happens is God controlled?

I am sorry if I came off harsh. I would love a good debate about this.