October 18, 2018

When the child falls in the well… — On being too biblical

I love the Bible. I have come to have little patience with biblicism.

The most “biblical” Jews in Jesus’ day were the Pharisees. We commonly criticize them for their hypocrisy, for exalting human traditions over God’s Word, or for adding a multitude of rules in their attempt to interpret scripture for religious practice.

I think their real problem was that they were too “biblical.”

The Pharisees formed the group that valued Torah above all and saw meticulous keeping of Torah as the way to rescue Israel from exile and usher in the messianic age.

Ironically, it was the fact that they had their “noses stuck in the text” that caused them to miss Jesus the Messiah and the way of redemption.

You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 8:39-40)

Jesus also criticized them for a biblicism that placed ideas and doctrines above seeing other human beings through eyes of mercy and understanding their own connection with them in a common humanity. I think this is one point of Luke’s story about Jesus in Luke 14:

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. Just then, in front of him, there was a man who had dropsy. And Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’ But they were silent. So Jesus took him and healed him, and sent him away. Then he said to them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that has fallen into a well, will you not immediately pull it out on a sabbath day?’ And they could not reply to this.

Their concern was for the sanctity of the Sabbath. They couldn’t see the poor man in need of healing right before their eyes. They were incapable of rejoicing when Jesus healed him. And, worst of all, they couldn’t even answer a simple, common sense question about natural human concern that Jesus asked them.

Biblically correct, they were bankrupt when it came to real life. Everything had to be filtered through the Book. Every move had to be justified by chapter and verse. It paralyzed them from acting as normal human beings and seeing others with eyes of love.

I read an example of this the other day on the Mere Orthodoxy blog.

It was an article about how the #METOO movement has come to the Southern Baptist Church. Thankfully, the author offered a critique of the stupid pharisaical counsel Paige Patterson gave an abused woman when he was a pastor. This has been raising quite a stink among the Southern Baptists, and it should. And Brian Mesimer at Mere Orthodoxy correctly takes Patterson to task, suggesting that his comments were “at best unwise, and at worst, reckless.” Furthermore, he offers some pretty good counsel a couple of times in the piece, saying that, in such a case, a church should help a person suffering abuse to get to a place of safety in the short term.

However, then comes the biblicist move — Mesimer writes: And yet can he [i.e. Patterson] be proved wrong using Scripture?

What follows is theological analysis using Bible verses. What does the Bible teach about divorce? Is there a difference in the counsel we should give if both spouses are believers? What steps should be taken, according to Biblical teaching, to engage the abuser in a process of church discipline? In fact, Mesimer turns the whole thing into an argument for a more robust, “biblical” program of discipline by the church as a means of helping abusers change.

Herein lies the biblicist priority: not what’s actually happening to people and how we can help them, but what right ideas should we be thinking about, based on scripture.

The more I read, the more I cringed. The entire situation had been turned into a pharisaical debate about biblical teaching and how to most appropriately apply Bible verses to people’s lives.

Sorry, I don’t want any part of this approach any more. I don’t need the Bible to tell me what to do when a woman shows up at church with blackened eyes. I’m suggesting we get our noses out of the Book, forget “biblical principles,” show mercy, and advocate for the person in need. Jesus did not ask himself the question, “Can I prove these Pharisees wrong using Scripture?” Instead, he asked the Pharisees questions about common sense humanitarian concern. And they could not answer.

If a child falls into a well on the Sabbath, pull him out and get him the medical help he needs. Immediately.

If an ox falls into a well, get the neighbors to help you, rescue the poor beast, and call the vet. Right now.

If a woman comes to you and her husband has been beating her, tell her to get the heck out of there. Help her do it, if she’ll let you. Find her a safe place to stay. Contact the authorities and advocate for her. Help her heal. Help her get a divorce if she needs one to protect herself and/or her children. Stay with her over the long haul. Let the chips fall where they may and seek wisdom for how to deal with the abuser. Keep things case by case — don’t force everybody through your “biblical” program.

Act like a human being and help another human being.

You just might see more Jesus in that than in a thousand Bible verses.

Comments

  1. Christiane says:

    “Act like a human being and help another human being.

    You just might see more Jesus in that than in a thousand Bible verses.”

    Great post, Chaplain Mike
    One thing I have noticed on extremely conservative fundamentalist-evangelical posts is that ‘helping others’ is a part of ‘works salvation’ which they reject. It is not too surprising that ‘the common good’ and any type of real ‘social justice’ is also firmly rejected. Biblicism? Or something much worse?

    • I think it’s something much worse, baptized by biblicism. Ages ago, I participated in a Reformed theology email discussion list. In the aftermath of Columbine, a very heated discussion – by which I mean, an all out verbal war – broke out over public schools and whether Christians should participate in them. At the height of the conflict, I asked one of the hardliners if the schooling and learning environment of his non-Christian neighbors’ children mattered. His response (as near to an exact quote as I can remember) – “Absolutely not. My only responsibility before God is for my covenant children.” After that, I could only reply, “Then we have nothing more to discuss.”

      That war was a milestone on my journey out of Reformed circles, and eventually out of evangelicalism.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        At the height of the conflict, I asked one of the hardliners if the schooling and learning environment of his non-Christian neighbors’ children mattered. His response (as near to an exact quote as I can remember) – “Absolutely not. My only responsibility before God is for my covenant children.”

        The dynastic variant of the Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

        John Calvin meets Tywin Lannister.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Very selective. This guy’s Bible apparently omitted Matthew 22 and Mark 12.

        This is not especially unusual. If your idea of a hermeneutic is to support your desired conclusion by finding a snippet of text that seems to support it (without regard to anything that comes before or after that snippet) then you can “prove” anything you want. At that point someone who brings up those wide swaths of text that contradict your desired conclusion is arguing against something you just proved to be Biblicly true. How Un-Christian is that?

      • StuartB says:

        Screw that guy.

    • Robert F says:

      Let’s acknowledge that there are also Roman Catholic biblicists, a great number of them religious officials in Rome and elsewhere, who would fall right in line with the position of Paige Patterson, and the concerns of the Mere Orthodoxy writer. This is by no means a problem limited to fundamentalist Protestants, or salvation-by-faith alone Calvinists. It’s why divorce was prohibited by the constitution of Ireland until 1995, and is now only allowed under a set of very limited circumstances.

      • Christiane says:

        In older generations, the Church expected people to stay married, but in those days, most people did, even in terrible marriages where abuse occurred. Not so much today.

        Ireland? The Irish can out-Catholic the Pope sometimes. Had a close friend from Ireland who said that if her husband’s mother ever knew he missed mass, it would have killed her. My own father was a strict Catholic who wouldn’t even attend a Protestant wedding or funeral . . . he would sit in the car and wait for my mother . . . . then, in a Catholic assisted-living facility, the Methodist chaplain helped my father through grief counseling after my mother passed on, and my father would then attend both mass and the Methodist chaplain’s service on Wednesdays at the facility. I was proud of him for this because it had taken a lot for him to come to make that adjustment in his understanding.

        My point: the old people have their ‘ways’, and the ethnic Catholics have their ‘ways’, and if an old person IS an ethnic Catholic, they can be VERY strict and reserved in their practice of the faith.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > In older generations,

          Notably, in “older generations” many fewer people got married in the first place. That is an all too often neglected bit of reality.

          The post war late industrial age saw marriage rates shoot from ~60-80% to +90%. That is a huge change is sociological terms. A couple decades later and the divorce rate spiked. Hmmmm.

          • Christiane says:

            no doubt the Post War Baby Boom created many a ‘necessary’ but unwise ‘quickie’ marriage to accommodate ‘circumstances’

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              Human gestation variability:
              “The first kid comes immediately after the wedding. All subsequent ones take nine months.”

  2. Yup. It seems to me Jesus spent His whole ministry correcting this kind of thinking. Deep inside I think we are still trying to earn it, this I find very true for me. No matter how hard I try I’m trying to score points with God. How much more holier are the sinful people who see others in need.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Bingo. I’ve come to the conclusion God doesn’t care if we get our theology EXACTLY RIGHT, but He does care if we get it EXACTLY WRONG!

      But even then, He’s always teaching, hoping we’ll learn.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        The post mentioning Mere Orthodoxy is spot on as an example of this; it is a site I both read and find extremely frustrating. The really bad thing is that it is VERY hard to be “rigorous” [rigid?] about one’s ideology and NOT insult people – and reduce them the simplified cartoons.

        There are some smart guys who write at MO, but boy howdy, speaking as a “Liberal” [I suppose] Urban citizen – MO sometimes refers to us|me as “Metropolitans” – I often feel that I have no idea who they are talking about; and that they are creating these boogymen ideologies as nearly nobody believes the things they extrapolate out that we|me must ‘obviously’ believe.

        It is hard to have a conversation or even find a peaceable existence with someone who is constantly saying things about you, that (a) are not true AND (B) they sincerely do not even recognize what they are doing – because Theology: they say that “A + B =C”, so you are C. And I’m like: “Huh?”

        • Patriciamc says:

          The one time I looked at the site, the writer that day was espousing every right wing conspiracy theory he could find. I don’t like extremism from the right or left, so I ran away and have never been back.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And every one of those Conspiracy Theories sounded exactly the same, didn’t they? All minor variations on the same theme?

            Nothing original?
            No Deros shining their Telaug Rays up from inside the Hollow Earth?
            No shapeshifting cannibal alien lizards from the planet Draco?
            No COMMUNIST GANGSTER COMPUTER GOD ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON PUPPETING PARROT GANGSTER ASSASSINS WITH FRANKENSTEIN EARPHONE RADIO CONTROLS?

    • Ronald Avra says:

      Scoring points rattles around in the back of my consciousness quite a bit. Even though it tends to keep a low profile, I suspect it is a major obsession that sticks its nose out of the water occasionally, but lurks continuously beneath the surface hoping for an opportunity to make a grand appearance. Most likely it will be finally dealt with when I’m dead.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “For in the Devil’s theology, the most important thing is to Be Absolutely Right and to prove everyone else to Be Absolutely Wrong.”
        — Thomas Merton, “Moral Theology of the Devil”

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          It is ironic: In the end it seems that Evil is the side obsessed with Purity.

          Perhaps Evil is best described as “missing the point”.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            –> “Perhaps Evil is best described as ‘missing the point’.”

            Maybe it goes beyond missing the point. Maybe it’s “…’missing the point, and causing others to miss the point, too.’

            Maybe?

  3. Robert F says:

    Act like a human being and help another human being.

    This is what I understand to be the core of liberal Christianity, and prefer it to orthodoxies of every kind.

    • Robert F says:

      Correction: This is what I understand to be the core of the ethics of liberal Christianity, and prefer it to orthodox ethics of every kind, including that of biblicists.

      • Stbndct says:

        I don’t see this as a liberal versus orthodox issue. I worked in a Catholic women’s prison ministry for 10 years where we not only attended to the womens needs but were advocates for them while in prison and when they got out. This is just a Christian issue. Either help people who need help like Christ or the truth of the matter is that to not help is not of Christ. Chaplin Mike is right. Just reach out to those who need it.This trandsends all Catholic, reformed, evangelical, left, right, labels we want to put on it.

        • “Just reach out to those who need it.This transcends all Catholic, reformed, evangelical, left, right, labels we want to put on it.” Yes. And commendations to you for your ministry.

          • Christiane says:

            I doubt the Good Samaritan stopped to ask the wounded man what religion he was before helping him. And, my goodness, the wounded man, left for dead, likely was not concerned about the label of belief that the Samaritan wore . . . .

            you had here a lesson from Christ Himself on the futility of ‘labels’ when it comes to the manner in which we are to live towards one another in this world. This is such a simple and beautiful parable that a small would likely understand it, and yet many grown people stumble over it . . . .

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Catholicism has a long liberal tradition, to go along with its conservative tradition. Given the RC’s authoritarian structure, the liberals often have to keep their heads down depending on the local bishop, but a women’s prison ministry is just where I would expect to find them.

        • Robert F says:

          Stbndct, I appreciate that as a Catholic Christian you would help a woman (or man) being abused to get out of the situation, and to get a divorce if that’s what they needed for their personal safety and well-being. I do wonder: If she subsequently remarried after not have been able to get an annulment, and the priest in your parish refused to serve her the Eucharist at the altar on the basis of her remarried state, would you support her desire to fully participate in the sacraments of the Church by remonstrating with your priest and the institutional Church to change their rules? After all, if it is acting like a human to help her get free of a dangerous situation, isn’t it equally acting like a human to insist that she be allowed to stand with you at the altar and receive the same gifts that you do?

          • Robert, it was for this very reason I left the Catholic church, but was told later that plenty of divorced get in line for the Eucharist. I can’t do that, but I wonder the effect of an “illegal” Eucharist?

            • Robert F says:

              They get in line, but they are not officially welcome at the table, even though they partake. Many priests will compassionately and pastorally turn a blind eye, even if they know the marital status of the communicant, but people can be turned away, by a priest warning them off, as one did at my mother’s funeral Mass, or by refusing to serve someone at the altar.

              • What do you believe is the value received?

                • Robert F says:

                  I don’t understand your question. Could you restate it?

                  • A divorced Catholic who is not supposed to take Communion, does anyway. Is that person’s benefit and renewal (value) the same as a church member in good standing, or because it’s not “valid”, is the Communion inert? I suspect the Church would somehow diminish it, but Jesus would maybe give that person a high five. lol Like others, I struggle to make thoughts coherent.

                    • Robert F says:

                      According to orthodox Catholic doctrine, the reception of the Eucharist by a person in such a state is a mortal sin, if done knowingly. In terms of official theology, such a person is not fit to partake, and should not be at the table.

                      Jesus, on the other hand, gave Judas himself his Body and Blood with his own hand, as well as all the other betraying sinners who sat at the first Communion table with him.

                    • Patriciamc says:

                      Yeah, Jesus would enthusiastically serve such a person.

          • Stbndct says:

            If she had not been able to get an annulment I would have support d her. However I think your comments have more to do with not liking me than you are willing to admit, Not.very Christian

            • Robert F says:

              Actually, it has nothing to do with liking or not liking you. It has to do with the fact that I’m a former Catholic married to a wife previously divorced, and though we both have an interest in the Catholic Church as an ecclesial home, we are not welcome there. It is painful to be excluded; that’s what accounts for the tone of anger you may hear in my comment, and think is meant for you.

            • Robert F says:

              What’s with the questioning someone’s identity as a Christian based on your judgment about the motivation of their comments? Is that very Christian, according to your dead reckoning?

  4. The Pharisees were rank hypocrites, meaning they were unbelievers posing as true believers. They were righteous, in their own eyes, because they believed themselves to be not only legitimate members of God’s family, but superiors one’s at that, because of their so-called superior insight into God’s Law. I think there is a word of caution for all believers here, but especially those formally trained theologians and it is this: We can mistake that a good academic understanding of Scripture alone gives one a special insight into a theoretical life and pass for godly wisdom. I do believe that it starts with a right understanding of Scripture, but that understanding comes from the Holy Spirit, who enlightens us to who we are: sinners. The Holy Spirit also imparts the ever growing fruits of Christian living: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Godly wisdom is ultimately obtained in an ever increasing measure of humility and service to others, by being conformed to the image of Christ, through the passage of experience and time under the shadow of the cross in this life.

    • Christiane says:

      David, this is beautiful:

      “The Holy Spirit also imparts the ever growing fruits of Christian living: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Godly wisdom is ultimately obtained in an ever increasing measure of humility and service to others, by being conformed to the image of Christ, through the passage of experience and time under the shadow of the cross in this life.”

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “The Pharisees were rank hypocrites, meaning they were unbelievers posing as true believers.”

      Be careful there, David. We’ve all got planks in our own eye, there are none that are good, and all that. I’m a walking hypocrite myself; I think we all are.

      • The word translated “hypocrite” as Jesus spoke it against the Pharisees is a Greek theatrical term that infers purposely wearing a mask to disguise true character, it is knowingly deceiving others, like an actor plays a part that is not true to his/her real life character. it does not mean to struggle or fail to live up to the standards you believe to be right. Christians cannot be hypocrites in the sense Jesus used the word, simply because they have faith and believe, so they are not being deceptive about what they believe, but are still sinners and sin. The Pharisees that Jesus over and over again rebuked were unbelievers, because only unbelievers can be hypocrites, and they claimed to be the spiritual guides to Israel. They were peddlers of death and hell. That is different than an unbeliever who doesn’t claim to know God and doesn’t try to lead others into evil by claiming they know the way to salvation and hypocrites. Jesus thought the false teachers of Israel were the worse because they turned the people away from God by their teachings.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Oh, I wear plenty of masks…

          • Jesus says in Matthew 5:20

            ” For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

            I think that is indisputable evidence that the Pharisees were unbelievers, because Jesus is God and he would know who were believers and unbelievers. I think it would be a logical conclusion that if the Pharisees taught others this works-righteousness doctrine than those people would not enter the Kingdom of heaven as well.

            The difference between hypocrite and non-hypocrite is God given faith in Jesus as our savior not what we do or say.

            • Rick Ro. says:

              Ok, I hear what you’re saying now! 🙂

            • I don’t think Jesus’ battles with the Pharisees are about “believers” vs. “unbelievers.” I think that’s kind of a Christian theological way of approaching it. Rather, this conflict reflects divisions within Judaism about how to maintain their identity under foreign domination and how to usher in the new messianic age of God’s blessing under God’s rule in their own land. What would bring about the promised rule of God to restore Israel?

              The Pharisees advocated meticulous observance of the Torah. Groups like the Saduccees advocated a measure of cooperation and compromise with their oppressors. Ascetic communities like the Essenes favored monastic like withdrawal from society. Zealots urged violent resistance.

              Jesus came along and claimed to be the promised one who would restore Israel and, indeed, bring God’s blessing to all the world. It’s true that people like Pharisees failed to believe Jesus and these claims, but it wasn’t always because they were “unbelievers.” By and large, most believed in the God of Israel, the scriptures, and God’s promises. But they missed the moment God came to take the throne, and found it impossible to accept the method by which Jesus said he would do so.

              Now certainly, in their zeal to promote their way of restoration, many went overboard and became hypocritical religious tyrants, and Jesus roundly condemned them for that. But all of that is kind of different than merely saying someone was a believer or not.

  5. Roger Olson dealt with such gray areas this week, in his “Should Abused Women or Men Stay with Their Spouces?” post.

    “As I have explained here several times before, I believe in what I call “the necessary” by which I mean moral emergencies in which a disciple of Jesus Christ must do something less than ideal—to protect himself/herself or others. Otherwise, I would be a pacifist. I’m not. “The necessary,” a “moral emergency,” is a situation in which the action is neither right nor wrong but simply necessary. It participates in both right and wrong but transcends the dichotomy. It is forgivable precisely because it is necessary. Sometimes separation and divorce are necessary even when the particular cause is not spelled out in the Bible as an exception to the otherwise unbreakable covenant of marriage…I would call such a situation of abuse within a marriage a “moral emergency” that could lead eventually to dissolution of the marriage if the abuser continues to be unrepentant and refuses to get the needed counseling to change…Does the Bible support my position and policy? Not explicitly. But is it consistent with biblical concern for the vulnerable, the weak, the suffering? I believe it is.”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2018/05/should-abused-women-or-men-stay-with-their-spouses/

    • I like this, but doesn’t the very fact that Olsen had to argue and justify his view tell us something about the mentality among the biblicists? It betrays the ongoing mentality that the Bible is our “answer book” to which we must constantly refer before we can act. Where is the Spirit? Where is the concept of wisdom? Where is our humanity?

      I say these things with shame, because this was my way of thinking for years.

      • “Where is the Spirit?”

        Is not the Spirit who inspired it (“as carried along”) the same one who helps guide us in the gray areas?

        If, as Protestants who hold to Sola Scriptura, Prima Scriptura, the Wesleyan Quad, etc… (or even RC or EO along w/ their tradition), should we not look to Scripture to make sure we are acting faithfully?

        Does not Scripture help shape us to make wise decisions?

        However, I understand where you are coming from- Scripture is not meant to be an instruction manual, nor should it have to be referenced for obvious situations.

        • Yes. I make a distinction between biblical wisdom and Biblicism.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Bibilicism is when Bible becomes a grimoire of one-verse magick spells or a Party Line to be recited without engaging any neuron above the brainstem.

          • +1

            Indirectly related to this, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Andy Stanley’s latest dust-up, regarding the Old Testament.

          • This distinction is important…if I understand your meaning of the two terms. After all, I think it is precisely biblical wisdom that instructs you to protect the battered woman of your example without needing a list of rules. A kind of nuanced difference but one that can lead to very different way of dealing with people and situations.

            • I think you’re right, Brian. Biblical wisdom does teach us that, but so does our basic human nature. After all, much of biblical “wisdom” teaching is based on observations from life. For example, scripture tells us Solomon collected proverbs and wisdom sayings from all over the world. The fact that many people outside the faith can practice incredible acts of love and sacrifice also testify to this. And Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is a rebuke to those who have the scriptures that even those we consider to be in false religious traditions have the heart and ability to be good neighbors, often better than the faithful do.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I like this, but doesn’t the very fact that Olsen had to argue and justify his view tell us something about the mentality among the biblicists?

        i.e.
        “I HAVE TO HAVE A VERSE! I HAVE TO HAVE A VERSE!
        SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!”

        2 +2 = 4 has to have a Verse in order to be true.

        Just like PastorRaulReesCalvaryChapelWestCovina with his reflex comeback to any attempt to reason with him:
        “SHOW ME SCRIPTURE!”

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > doesn’t the very fact that Olsen had to argue and justify his view tell

        Yep.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I have essentially the same view as Olsen, but put it a different way. The union of husband and wife is like the union of Christ and the church, but with one huge difference: in the first union, both parties are sinful. A broken marriage is broken due to our sin. To be clear, I am not using “sin” here in the sense of specific actions, but in the sense of our human condition. Because of this condition, all marriages are imperfect to a greater or lesser degree. Divorce is always a tragedy, but some marriages are so imperfect as to render divorce less of a tragedy than would be continuing the marriage.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Sometimes the only choice is between a bunch of bad alternatives, and the best you can do is the least bad alternative.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I like this, but doesn’t the very fact that Olsen had to argue and justify his view tell us something about the mentality among the biblicists?

        Anecdote from my writing partner (the burned-out preacher):

        Some years ago he mentioned a Christian adventure/thriller novel he had read, and gave it a favorable review. He specifically mentioned the hero (who was active-duty Navy) settling the matter at the climax with his service pistol. Sounded like pretty good action-adventure, the way he was impressed by it.

        However, he mentioned the novel included an appendix — a Bible Study Guide based on the story. We both scratched our heads over that one; his theory was that the Christianese publisher must have insisted on it. As if storytelling (or any other creative act) only had value if it could be used for Bible Study.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > “The necessary,” a “moral emergency,” is a situation in which the action is neither
      > right nor wrong but simply necessary

      It is probably necessary to codify/define this to discuss it in academy.

      On the other hand, I am confident that the great majority of Humanity just knows this; it is obvious. A great deal of energy is expended by the Religious Academy to argue against this notion.

    • Patriciamc says:

      I like what Olsen says here. Paige Patterson and other extreme literalists say that Christ allows divorce only for adultery (“unfaithfulness” in some translations). So, they believe that one spouse having sex with another person is grounds for divorce, but one spouse physically or emotionally abusing the other spouse is not grounds for divorce in God’s eyes. I say that anyone who takes that particular view doesn’t really know God and God’s attitude of love towards us. Unfaithfulness covers much more than just adultery.

  6. john barry says:

    Unfortunately all denominations of any size get into power, leadership and political struggles that do not advance the cause of faith as it becomes the issue rather than real issue which is Jesus. This is true from the beginning or organized religion and will thus ever be.
    Having many friends in the SBC and being raised in the SBC I know there is a big disconnect and gulf between the pew sitters and the leadership that the average SBC members are unaware of. The Paige Patterson issue is more political in motivation than a true reflective, soul searching issue.

    I do not believe that any average SBC member would agree with Paige or anyone who would advocate staying in an abusive relationship in 2018 but 54 years ago when the original counseling was given it was not out of the norm for any major religion to defend the sanctity of marriage to the extreme. This was based not only on the Bible but economic, social and cultural reasons.

    Many a divorced , single woman has attended , been accepted and comforted in almost every SBC church I am aware of based on the members using their common sense, upbringing and compassion. I do not believe that the vast majority of SBC “preachers” for the past 30 to 40 years would counsel a woman in an abusive relationship as it seems Patterson did 54 years ago. So why now, would be the question? This does not mean that the issue does not need to be brought forward but in this man’s case it would seem to be denominational politics. Again , this is not unique to the SBC, unfortunately.

    Meantime the average SBC or you can substitute almost any denomination member, has worked out the issue using common sense and their faith to produce a livable doctrine . There is a reverence and faith in the sacrament of marriage that people of faith have but real world reality have brought us to a new place. To paraphrase a battle cry from the Bill Clinton era divorce should be safe, legal and rare. I find most members of the SBC are trying hard to and do not want to be legalist in the strict sense but grapple with the balancing of following the commandments/teachings of the Bible and upholding their faithfulness.

    This is SBC politics at its core but the issue is real and has been being addressed at the local level for years.

    • Radagast says:

      John,

      That was a nice, real world, common-sense explanation.

      • john barry says:

        Radagast, I really do thank you as I am as they say thick of tongue and also head. It is hard to articulate and address briefly a complex real life issue. Many people look to score points to support their viewpoint or belief when the truth is we are all trying to do what is the right thing according to our faith. I do think that many on this site have an open mind and an open heart on their journey. So thank you for your feedback as I have many a doubt on my ability to convey my thoughts.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        That was a nice, real world, common-sense explanation.

        Which means it HAS to be Worldly, Fleshly, and UNBIBLICAL.

    • John, this why Jesus preferred to spend his time among the ordinary folks of Israel, nominal and inconsistent though their piety may have been, than with the leaders who had their noses stuck in the book.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Sometimes my only hope is remembering that Rabbi from Nazareth snubbed the Righteous God Squadders and hanging out with freaks and losers like me and the guys I run with.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > hanging out with freaks and losers like me and the guys I run with.

          Plus, the God Squadders are no fun. Ugh.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            –> “Plus, the God Squadders are no fun.”

            THIS! I’m not advocating being a heathen, but who wants to hang out with self-righteous curmudgeons?

  7. Susan Dumbrell says:

    We had our first snow flurries of the Winter last night.
    Lost power for a time during the night.
    Nice photos on the newspaper sites but the event was just a tasting of the Winter weather to come.
    Winter doesn’t start until June. Early snow.
    So my preliminary haiku follow.

    soft snow falls gently,
    masking an array of sins,
    swirl all about us.

    we deny our sins
    under our feet they are mud
    wash us white as snow

  8. senecagriggs says:

    The world, and many, many church attenders, would prefer the theology of “Sportin’ Life” from Porgy and Bess.

    “It ain’t necessarily so.
    It ain’t necessarily so.
    The things that you liable
    to read in the Bible,
    Well it ain’t necessarily so.”

    Rick Ro seems to imply you need to separate the Trinity from their Words.

    Conservative Evangelicals say, you can’t separate the author from His book.

    But you’ve got to like “Sportin’ Life” who share the Burger King philosophy.

    “Have it your way.”

    • Seneca, you are the king of false dichotomies around here.

      • Burro (Mule) says:

        I can see his point sometimes, CM.

        It can get really, really hard to use the Bible these days as a source for ethical decisions, even the New Testament. In the passion for jettisoning it and hewing to the canons of common sense, how do we get corrected? Who can correct us? Is our ‘common sense’ infallible? Thirty, sixty, eighty years ago the canons of common sense were different. Have we gotten them right now?

        I remember at the end of one of Peter Enns’ podcasts he asked one of his correspondents ‘just how does the Bible inform our moral vision?’ Enns’ and his sock puppet hummed and hawed, then agreed that we should support redistributive governmental initiatives when they come up for referenda. I threw my hands up in the air and never went back.

        The Pharisees get a bad, bad rap, but I remember Jesus praising certain Pharisees who “got it”. ‘You are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven’ He told one of them, and in another place he said that a Pharisee trained in the things of the Kingdom was like someone who could bring forth from his storehouse treasures both old and new. Certainly preferable to the ongoing current project of moral redefinition which has rendered not only acceptable, but even desirable, a number of behaviors which would have made our ancestors blanch.

        I’ve often wondered what devout Jews of Elijah’s time thought when the prophet went to shack up with a Baal-worshiping widow. If some preacher tried to justify moving in with a stripper using that as a proof-test, I’d make popcorn for the resulting fireworks.

        • Remember the baby and the bath water, Mule.

          The Bible is a source for great moral wisdom, but a chapter and verse biblicism, in my view, is a mark of immaturity and an unwillingness to let scripture form us into full human beings who act freely in Christ.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Yep. As I suggested in an earlier comment, I think it’s in trying to get Scriptures EXACTLY RIGHT that people drift into getting it EXACTLY WRONG. The Pharisees seemed to do this. Some Christians, too, for sure. 😉

          • Burro (Mule) says:

            I don’t think you’ve addressed my concerns.

            Let me express my dark side a bit. Who corrects ol’ Falangist Mule, who basically wants a calm, polite, sexually repressed, and orderly bourgeois society? Nadia Bolz-Weber? On what basis? Who is the “full human being who acts freely in Christ?” Who is “mature”?

            When do we get to cast off the chapter-and-verse-biblicism? Who decides? “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” Maybe case law is an exrension of this chapter-and-verse Biblicism. It certainly appears to me to be what replaced it

            In the case of the abusive husband and his wife, the quickest and most sensible thing is to get the woman to safety, but the worst ass-kicking I’ve ever received is when I white-knighted my way between a man striking a woman. They both turned on me and gave me a drubbing I probably roundly deserved for sticking my nose in where it didn’t belong.

            • First, there’s a difference between the situation you described as “white-knighting” your way into a volatile situation and a woman coming to a pastor for help. The essence of wisdom is making such distinctions and figuring out how to act in a way that will make whatever the situation is better. And that is the essence of love, which, in NT terms, is the capstone of all virtues we ought to be pursuing. I understand love to be “being present in such a way that I will benefit others and enhance shalom.”

              I have no objection to people freely submitting themselves to a religious tradition and allowing the structure and norms (in other words, the discipline) of that tradition to shape and form them. To some extent, we all need that. This is not an individualistic free-for-all, and that is the false dichotomy Seneca was setting forth. It is not: either (1) practice a chapter and verse Biblicism, or (2) live completely as I choose. Nor do we need others telling us that it’s this particular way or the highway for everyone, defining the pious life for all of us.

              Instead, it is: seek wisdom and love. It is Micah 6:8 spirituality: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

              That gives us tremendous freedom within broad, but well-defined, moral limits. The pity of biblicism is that it doesn’t trust that the Spirit can keep us within those limits without giving us a required list and a program, which inevitably is filled with a lot of our own ideas and priorities and is often abused so as to lord it over others.

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                >is the false dichotomy Seneca was setting forth.

                “Fallacy of extremes” might be a better description.

                When presented by someone with an option A, or an option B, I still have the option “Neither”.

              • Burro (Mule) says:

                Finally, the fox is flushed and running across the field.

                The essence of wisdom is making such distinctions and figuring out how to act in a way that will make whatever the situation is better.

                Rather than being tempted to lecture on the perils of Situation Ethics, I am reminded of a quote by Lesslie Newbigin. It should strike terror into the heart of anyone who hears it:

                must we not say that it is part of the deep sickness of our culture that ever since Descartes, we have been seduced by the idea of a kind of knowledge which could not be doubted, in which we would be absolutely secure from personal risk?

                And has not this seduction taken(my words) at least two forms which, even if they disclaim all relationship with each other, are really twin brothers? One is biblical fundamentalism which supposes that adherence to the text of the Bible frees me from the risk of error and therefore gives me a security which does not depend on my own discernment of the truth.

                The other is a type of scientism which supposes that science is simply a transcript of reality, of the “facts” which simply have to be accepted and call for no personal decision on my part, a kind of knowledge which is “objective” and free from all the bias of subjectivity.

                Whoever we are and however we have come to know what we believe we know, we will never escape the necessity of discernment, and all the risk which that entails.

                • To love is to risk. Always. We inevitably have to lay down at least a bit of our own life to practice tikkun olam. That’s the moral imperative: the cross.

                  • Robert F says:

                    There may or may not be “tough love”, I’m not sure, but there is certainly no risk-free love.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              > the worst ass-kicking I’ve ever received is when I white-knighted

              Sometimes things will go badly.
              The best plans can go astray.
              The best intentions crater.
              Theology will not prevent that.

              • Robert F says:

                Failure is always an option, with ass-kicking thrown in for the bargain. For rank-and-file followers of Christ, this is part of taking up our cross and carrying it. Or we can choose to not take up our cross, as we do so often.

              • “Sometimes things will go badly.
                The best plans can go astray.
                The best intentions crater.
                Theology will not prevent that.”

                And those who argue otherwise end up in the same place as Job’s comforters. And as I recall, God was none too pleased with those guys.

        • David H says:

          What you wrote Burro is good food for thought and discussion.

          The only “point” made in what Seneca wrote (“But you’ve got to like “Sportin’ Life” who share the Burger King philosophy. “Have it your way””) is how to terminate any chance of an open dialog by belittling others and refusing to show understanding or empathy.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            In 19th Century Chicago “The Sporting Life” referred to hitting the red-light district to do a few prostitutes.

            There were even “Sporting Gazettes” rating and recommending prosties and houses and passing on all the juicy gossip of the district.

          • Patriciamc says:

            The goal was not to engage others and discuss an issue but to lift himself up as holier than others.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “Rick Ro seems to imply you need to separate the Trinity from their Words.”

      It’s a Trinity: “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”…

      Not a Quadity: “Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Scripture.”

  9. Stephen says:

    I forget the source, alas, but remember a great quote:

    Never let your morality prevent you from doing the right thing.

    • Very wise words. The “moral code” changes dramatically in moments of tremendous stress, extraordinary difficulty or times of war. Lying is wrong but not if it saves the lives of 100 Jews who are being sought out by Nazis.

    • “If you can’t do something smart, do something right.” -Shepherd Derrial Book

  10. CM,
    I was moved with a sense of compassion as I read that. It rings so true. In a similar vein to yesterday’s post you might say it is about the moral of the story much more than the details that get you there. If we are using the Bible as a guide but trip over it and miss mercy, kindness, compassion, love and all the fruits of the Spirit, we’re clanging symbols. Excellent!

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Biblically correct, they were bankrupt when it came to real life. Everything had to be filtered through the Book. Every move had to be justified by chapter and verse. It paralyzed them from acting as normal human beings and seeing others with eyes of love.

    “I know I’m Right —
    I HAVE A VERSE!”

    However, then comes the biblicist move — Mesimer writes: And yet can he [i.e. Patterson] be proved wrong using Scripture?

    And we go into Dueling SCRIPTURES — do I hear a banjo?

    “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
    “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
    “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
    “QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE! QUOTE!”
    (Guitar/banjo riff as they go for each others throats with fingernails & teeth…)

    Just like Calvary Chapel-bots and that regular Trump-fanatic troll on Eagle’s blog.

  12. senecagriggs says:

    My a-priori – God is the author, His Scripture is the Judge of all human behavior and morality.. If you want to know wisdom, know Scripture.

    [ Does God speak thru impression/feelings? Interesting question. However, I would deny that any feelings/impressions could ever be of God if they contradict Scripture.]

    Jesus, in His brief time on Earth acted as if Scripture was the be-all and end-all of philosophy and thought. He never suggested the Pharisees were wrong to turn to Scripture, but they were wrong in how they interpreted some of the passages. As noted in past posts – Jesus quotes 27 different Old Testament books.

    The New Testament books fulfilled and explained the ancient Scriptures. God, in His wisdom, chose this short, wizened Jew, Paul, to lay out in words mankind could understand, how to reverence and serve God in the coming years.
    ____________

    I DO BELIEVE C.M. reverences Scriptures, as I do.
    I also believe, as does C.M., that not all Scripture is easily explainable [but about 95% is].

    Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, famously wrote, “Whatever became of Sin? [ 1973 – available on Amazon ]
    We’re still asking that question and the answer is, Sin is still a huge problem. Scripture provides understanding and lays out the answer to deal with sin in our own lives.

    You want wisdom? Read Scripture. It certainly tells you, “How then shall we live?” Schaeffer

    My belief? Scripture is the PRIMARY source of all true wisdom and knowledge.

    • Nice theological statement. What does it have to do with pulling the child out of the well?

      I would argue very little to nothing.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “If you want to know wisdom, know Scripture.”

      So… Nothing from life experiences? Nothing from what others have experienced?I mean, dang… even Solomon, who penned Ecclesiastes, wrote from EXPERIENCE! The scripture you hold so highly wouldn’t exist if Solomon said, “I gain wisdom from Scripture only!”

      • senecagriggs says:

        Rick Ro, – different topic referencing something you wrote a few days past about Nazarene beliefs.

        A long time ago I was celebrating a friend’s graduation with he, his Nazarene pastor and the pastor’s wife over dinner. I had been reading about the Nazarene’s doctrine about salvation and said to the pastor,

        “So Jim, the Nazarenes believe that though you have lived as a believer your whole life; if you just had walked out of a motel after having committed ADULTERY and got run over by a bus before you had a chance to repent you would die lost and in your sins and end up in Hell.”

        The pastor’s wife turned towards me and said, “Seneca, that’s not what we believe.” And Jim said, “Joyce, that’s exactly what we believe.”

        I had to laugh, even the pastor’s wife seemed unaware of the finer points of official Nazarene doctrine.
        __________

        My daughter, who lives a longs ways away, currently attends a Nazarene Church, and my parents did for a number of years. Though I am a “once saved always saved” kinda guy, I have a lot of respect for the Nazarenes.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          That’s a funny story!!! And yes, that was exactly the point I was trying to make with our men’s group visitor.

          Many, many years ago, the pastor took me to lunch, hoping to convince me and my family to join. I said, “Well, there are many things I agree with, but a few I don’t.” So the question became, “Do you want me to join even if I don’t consider myself a full-blooded Nazarene?”

          When I didn’t get a clear answer on that, I declined.

          So at the time I said, “No, thanks.”

          Since then, I’ve come around to “though I’m not full-blooded Nazarene, I agree with most of their theology, and I consider it my church home.” So we’re now members, though I don’t subscribe to it all.

          And frankly, I would venture to guess most other members are like me, too: not 100% onboard with everything Nazarene.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > I would venture to guess most other members are like me

            Yep.

          • senecagriggs says:

            I was an elder at my church for awhile. While elders pretty much had to subscribe to the doctrines of our church/denomination, members were never held to the same doctrinal standards. We didn’t think it a big deal that the general membership might not hold to the same exact beliefs.

            [ Even with the elders, it always wasn’t 100 percent other than they had to be serious about following Jesus Christ. That was non negotiable. ]

      • senecagriggs says:

        Rick, key phrase, “Primary Source.”

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Seneca, you crack me up! I know you’ve written the word “Primary,” but when I factor it with everything else you say, I read it as “Only.”

          I’ll try to take you for your written word next time.

    • I think there are at least two basic problems with biblicism. The first, as Christian Smith points out in his book ‘The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture’ is that it simply doesn’t work. If the Bible is clear (and authoritative) on all issues why are there so many ‘four views’ and ‘three views’ books, written by serious faithful scholars who disagree on essential, fundamental issues – like ‘Four Views on the Atonement’ (and dozens of other books, and issues Smith notes)? If it’s not clear on first-order issues, how can it be expected to provide all answers to other issues (like the example CM noted)? What good is an inerrant Bible if God has not given us the ability to inerrantly understand it (and, yes, I AM a broken record on this one). Seneca, can you answer this one?

      Second, the very nature of the Bible is one of growing understanding and changing views. Pete Enns points this out quite well, but Luke Timothy Johnson, in his ‘The Revelatory Body’, argues that God continues to give truth beyond, and in some cases in opposition to, the Bible (slavery, women’s rights, civil rights, being examples he cites). Given the culture-bound nature of the Bible it is only natural that, as in the Bible itself, understanding of truth would grow beyond what the Bible says (as Johnson notes, slavery being a prime example). Even looking at the issue of divorce, we have Jesus’ teaching in the SOTM (which, rather than case law, consists of examples or illustrations of principles – often using hyperbole to make the point) wherein divorce is allowed for only one reason – sexual infidelity (if that is even what he means – much scholarly ink has been spilled on that one), while Paul adds another exception – an unbelieving spouse abandoning a believing spouse. Even within the New Testament we see an evolving understanding of this issue, one that became necessary as the faith spread and encountered ‘real-life’ situations. (Not to mention the wholesale re-evaluation of the Old Testament the early Christians had to do in light of the Jesus event! And on some of those issues even the Apostles don’t agree!) The view that all truth (and perhaps even all revelation) ended at the end of the first century (as I was taught in my 30+ years in fundamental SBC circles) is to ignore the patterns we see in the Bible itself! The essential conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees is that they saw the Old Testament (their Scriptures) as the final word and Jesus came announcing that God was doing something new – something that went beyond not only their understanding of those Scriptures, but beyond the Old Testament itself (sometimes even contradicting it – ‘you have heard . . . but I say to you’).

      ‘The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it’ requires a lot of qualifiers to have any real value, like ‘I think (given my limited understanding of ancient social structures, value systems, languages, etc., just to begin listing the issues involved) this is what the Bible said to those people in their situation but what would God say to us in ours?’ To take the ‘The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it’ approach really doesn’t take the Bible seriously at all. It also often ends up producing an ethical system that looks very little like Jesus himself (as CM notes). As I look at my wife’s FB page (I don’t have one of my own – for obvious reasons!) I am astounded at the unChristian things posted by my wife’s mostly Christian friends (people we’ve known from churches over the years). The posts are full of bigotry, lack of compassion, and hate, usually supported by a Scripture verse, and the old standby – ‘Well, Hillary was worse’!

      • Rick Ro. says:

        –> “As I look at my wife’s FB page (I don’t have one of my own – for obvious reasons!) I am astounded at the unChristian things posted by my wife’s mostly Christian friends (people we’ve known from churches over the years). The posts are full of bigotry, lack of compassion, and hate, usually supported by a Scripture verse…”

        I’ve noticed the same thing. Many of my Christian FB friends’ knee-jerk reaction to things going on in the world is very ungracious and lacking in compassion. I want to scream, “Hey, when someone shoots up a school, put your Second Amendment rights in your back pocket for a few days, eh, and say, ‘That sucks! What can I do to help?'”

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          +1

        • Rick Ro. says:

          And here’s something that stands out even more, solidifying this point…

          My wife’s mother passed away yesterday. I’ve posted the details at FB, stating she’s now in heaven and was greeted by rejoicing angels.

          Do you know who has NOT said ANYTHING about my post? My atheist and agnostic friends, that’s who. Yes, that’s right, even they have enough sense and compassion to refrain from making a point about their beliefs/non-beliefs during someone else’s grieving. Not one person has said, “Well, you know she’s not really in heaven because there is no god…”

          But we Christians just can’t seem to help ourselves. Even in the midst of other people’s pain, we feel the need to blather on about OUR beliefs and our need to make a point. “Well, you know this person isn’t really going to heaven because…” and “Don’t dare take my guns away!”

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            I have experienced much the same kind of thing. One almost wants to post something like that with a disclaimer that you are not interested in having a theological/political/philosophical debate about what you just said. … Should “friends” need disclaimers?

          • Burro (Mule) says:

            Memory eternal for your mother-in-law, Rick.
            May she rest in peace, in a place of verdure and comfort.

          • Robert F says:

            May she R.I.P, Rick, and may you, your wife and family feel God’s comfort.

            • Rick Ro. says:

              Thanks, Robert! I won’t bore you with details, but the quickness of her passing was a blessing, while the speed of it was shocking and surreal at the same time.

          • What a lovely image of your mother-in-law being greeted in heaven by rejoicing angels. May you and your wife feel the Lord’s comforting embrace and healing in your grief. I’m so sorry for your loss, Rick Ro.

          • Patriciamc says:

            First, I’m so sorry for your loss. My own father passed away a couple of weeks ago.

            Your comment highlighted how there’s a self-centeredness in evangelical culture. So many are so working on their personal relationship with Christ that they forget about other people’s suffering and other people’s views and make everything about themselves and their views and their need to set other people straight.

          • Rick Ro said,

            Do you know who has NOT said ANYTHING about my post? My atheist and agnostic friends, that’s who. Yes, that’s right, even they have enough sense and compassion to refrain from making a point about their beliefs/non-beliefs during someone else’s grieving. Not one person has said, “Well, you know she’s not really in heaven because there is no god…”

            I’ve found this to be true in some contexts, yes.

            I’ve noticed when talking to Non-Christian online friends (or sometimes in person) that usually, the Non-Christian person, when you are telling them about a tragedy or stressful event you’re under-going, will just listen quietly and then make a few empathetic comments – which is quite helpful.

            Most Christians however, want to boil everything down to a Bible or theology lesson and victim-blame you in some way, which can leave you feeling more terrible than before you confided in them.

            Even some of the “Nicer” Christians I’ve run into are guilty of doing that.

            Since my mother passed, I’ve tried talking to Christians – there’s one Christian lady who is in some ways quite nice, but any time there’s a lull in the conversation when I meet with her, she tends to steer it to theology and ask me if I “know” Jesus (as if to imply I was never really saved), and this bothers and grieves me. And it makes things turn awkward quickly.

            I just need this person to be a friend and listen and be there for me.

            I don’t want to be her project, or for her to act as though I need to “be saved.” I don’t need or want every conversation to be turned into a Bible lesson.

            The atheists and other Non-Christians who I already know and talk to can be very kind-hearted, but the ones I don’t know and bump into online can be just as hateful or judgmental to me as some Christians have been, so this is another area where neither side is great.

            What reaction you get from one side or the other depends on how well you know the person and so on.

            • Rick Ro. says:

              Exactly, Daisy. Very well said, and probably better said than my attempt at this topic!

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              I don’t want to be her project, or for her to act as though I need to “be saved.” I don’t need or want every conversation to be turned into a Bible lesson.

              i.e. You don’t want to be just another notch on their Bible for brownie points at the bema.

        • Patriciamc says:

          Look on Christianity Today’s Facebook page. Oh my goodness, so many people are extremely hard-hearted and even downright off their rockers.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            So many people on Social Media ARE hard-hearted and off their rockers in general.

            It’s called “Net Drunk Syndrome”.

            • Patriciamc says:

              Sadly, true. I read the trade journal The Hollywood Reporter, and I’m amazed at the loonies who post there, there and on any news site.

            • @ HUG
              One key to not going nuts on social media is to take breaks from it, which I do.

              Also because the constant fighting and vitriol is exhausting.

              I have one social media account where I only follow or friend “fun” non-political, non-religious people or groups, and that makes a big difference. (As in, maybe accounts that just publish cute photos of puppies or pretty waterfall photos.)

              There are some people who live on social media 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or on blogs or forums all the time. Even though I sometimes take breaks from all this online stuff, when I get back on, I can see from the time stamps on other people’s posts that they are not taking breaks.

        • Rick Ro said,

          “I’ve noticed the same thing. Many of my Christian FB friends’ knee-jerk reaction to things going on in the world is very ungracious and lacking in compassion. I want to scream, “Hey, when someone shoots up a school, put your Second Amendment rights in your back pocket for a few days, eh, and say, ‘That sucks! What can I do to help?’”

          I see what you mean, but please, let’s get honest and fair here – the anti- gun crowd (usually liberals) also politicizes public shootings.

          The minute a mass shooting happens, my social media feed is clogged with anti-Gun types (usually liberals) who start screaming about banning all fire-arms.

          Also, the few atheists I’m friends with on Facebook start attacking Christians for saying maybe school shootings wouldn’t happen if prayer wasn’t removed from public schools – but as far as I can see, the atheists are saying this before any Christians are even making the public school prayer argument.

          I do agree that some Christians care more about holding correct doctrine or defending some point or another than they do in showing compassion to others. I myself have been on the receiving end of that, especially after my mother died, and it’s terrible, so I’m not in total disagreement with your observation.

          I just wanted to say that those on the opposing side can sometimes be guilty of the same behaviors or attitudes (I’ve seen it happen before).

          • Rick Ro. says:

            Just as a counterpoint…

            I believe a plea to ban guns following a school shooting “feels” more sympathetic than crying “Don’t you dare take my guns away!” It at least acknowledges the devastation of the ordeal and thus feels less politicized.

            And how about the sarcastic gun-control response to non-gun mass killings, like the guys who plow through crowds with their vans. “Oh, are they gonna take away our vehicles now, too?”

            Crimony, just table it, would ya!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        The posts are full of bigotry, lack of compassion, and hate, usually supported by a Scripture verse, and the old standby – ‘Well, Hillary was worse’!

        Dude, the “WHAT ABOUT THE CLINTONS? THE CLINTONE! THE CLINTONS!” rant is always followed by the “TRUMP CAN DO NO WRONG!” rant.

        If Christianese, “Every Knee Shall Bow, Every Tongue Confess, Donald Trump Is LORD!”

        Eagle and I are both puzzled over why Born-Again Bible-Believing Christians are the most Fanatical of Trump Fanatics. His blog has a regular troll who is a Trump Fanatic (and I mean FANATIC) who’s always ready with barrages of bible verses and threats of being Cast into Hell on the Last Day. (I have Eagle’s OK to counter-troll the F out of that guy.)

        Our working hypothesis is that Trump’s behavior is very similar to the Celebrity Lead Pastors who end up on the wrong end of spiritual abuse watchblogs such as Wartburg Watch and Spiritual Sounding Board. Twitters like Piper, hypermasculine as Driscoll, full of himself as Furtick or Mahaney or a host of others. (Never mind the womanizing reputation.) Behavior which the pew-warmers of such Pastor/Apostles have been groomed to see as God’s Anointing. (“TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED!”)

        And here comes someone who carries those behaviors and attitudes to a new level. Like the kid raised in a Holiness church who converted to Mormonism because “Mormons don’t drink or smoke” (i.e. displayed the behaviors he’d been catechized to believe were the signs of a Real Christian), they view him as “he must be MORE Anointed”.

        • Patriciamc says:

          “Eagle and I are both puzzled over why Born-Again Bible-Believing Christians are the most Fanatical of Trump Fanatics.”

          I’ve been around evangelical culture long enough to see that a large part of it is the sinful culture repackaged to make it look holy. Racism, sexism, privilege, the need for power, the need for exclusivity, etc. have all been candy-coated by out-of-context scripture or certain interpretations so that all of the sudden, these things are God’s will and are holy, plus much of the structures of evangelicalism have been created to uphold these disguised sins.

        • Reply to HUG.

          Is that the same Eagle who used to post at TWW but for whatever reason feel out with Dee a few months ago, so he stopped posting there (or they put him on slow mod?)

          If so. I want to preface this by saying I did not vote for anyone in the 2016 elections, so I don’t quite have a pony in this race.

          As many who post to blogs like this are liberals – I’m not one – the liberal Anti Trumpuers and Republican Never-Trumpers are just as bad as the guys who worship Trump.

          The Anti Trumpers (and Never Trumpers) rant all day, every day, on my social media about how much they cannot stand Trump, and they rant about evangelicals who voted for the guy, too.

          The Eagle (who once posted to TWW) is just un-glued over Trump, as are many of the Christians I used to follow on various social media. The Anti Trump rhetoric gets very tiresome to the point I had to put many people on Mute after Trump won.

          When Eagle posts standard exposes on his blog discussing churches who mistreat people, he does some great work, but non-stop Trump bashing (or bashing on people who voted for Trump) as he is wont to do looks just as mean spirited and petty as the Trump haters say Trump is.

          I personally don’t care who anyone voted for, but I am really tired of people bashing other people for who they voted for, be it Hillary or Trump.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Is that the same Eagle who used to post at TWW but for whatever reason fell out with Dee a few months ago, so he stopped posting there (or they put him on slow mod?)

            Same Eagle.

            Still blogging (mostly abusive/corrupt church exposes with some sides into politics) over at https://wonderingeagle.wordpress.com/

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        ‘The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it’ approach…

        Substitute “Trump Tweeted it” for “The Bible Says it” and you explain a lot of American Evangelicals today.

        “Remember ‘The Coming Evangelical Collapse’? Well, this is It.”

    • Patriciamc says:

      Scripture, yes, but the interpretation of scripture can get pretty wacky – and yes, we all interpret.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Scripture, yes, but the interpretation of scripture can get pretty wacky

        Survivor of The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay and Dake’s Annotated Bible here.

        You want to talk about Art Bell at 3 Ayem-level WEIRDNESS…

    • Robert F says:

      Your are certain about many things, seneca. I don’t really understand how one gets to so much certainty honestly.

  13. StuartB says:

    Which came first, the Rule or the Reason?

    • Exactly! The Reason. And if one starts with the premise that God cares about people (more than rules – as we see in Jesus) one should ask ‘why did God command this to these people?’ (assuming God DID command this or that). Sometimes it’s simply because in their culture or economic system that was needed (as the levirate marriage law, for example, or the 10th commandment for that matter). Given that many of the commands (not only in the OT, but in the NT as well) are clearly culture-bound (or culture-specific) it should caution us against taking them as ‘eternal truth’ and valid and binding for all time and all people in all cultures and all situations.

      • StuartB says:

        And if the Reasons change, so too must the Rules, no matter how time tested and baptized in blood and divinity those Rules were.

  14. Beakerj says:

    Such a great post. I find it heartbreaking that so many labelled Christian have to find some explicit verse to tell them to do any tiny little thing – where is the huge generosity of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, the open invitation to be humane & loving to all? It’s this stilted, robotic, dusty, painful obedience to Scripture as an exhaustive script that chiils me…as what gets done is so austere, so stingy, so cold.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Here’s what our comment reminded me of:

      According to Slacktivist’s page-by-page snark of Left Behind, Jesus comes onstage at the Second Coming/Armageddon/Judgment Seat scenes in Volume 12.

      Now I know that big-G God is pretty much impossible to work as a character, but the End Times checklist called for it. Apparently Jerry “Buck” Jenkins (the guy who really wrote most of the series) was terrified of “putting words in Christ’s mouth”, so (according to Slack) every line of Jesus’ dialogue in these scenes is a chapter-and-verse recitation from the Bible. Chapter and Verse. Makes the Second Person of the Trinity come across as a dummy stuffed with straw with an MP3 playback for a mouth.

      That thumping sound you hear is this creative banging his head against the nearest wall.

    • Great words.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      It’s this stilted, robotic, dusty, painful obedience to Scripture as an exhaustive script that chiils me…as what gets done is so austere, so stingy, so cold.

      “The hard, grey, drab, joyless path of Salvation.”
      — James Michener, Hawaii, describing New England Calvinist missionaries to “Owhyhee”

  15. Rick Ro. says:

    CM, I’m not sure that you’ve noticed, but you’ve had some really great posts lately, ones that have spurred good discussion… like with comments numbering the 100-150+ mark. And the flavor and feel of them? Jesus-shaped spirituality. Thanks for your efforts blogging here!

  16. There is a song on the latest Hillsong United album (please don’t hate on me for the Hillsong reference) where, during the fade at the end, a little boy is talking about what the song is about and says something to the effect of “I don’t know what freedom is but I do know what love is. It’s…love.” The point being: Some things, like love, even the littlest of little people know what they are.

    Some things, you don’t need chapter and verse for. If you’re a decent human being, or a human being at all, you already know.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      I’m with ya, Joe. Not really anti-Hillsong, either. Heck, I even like “Oceans”!