November 20, 2017

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science.  A review of the book by Mike “Science Mike” McHargue.  Part 3.

Finding God in the Waves: How I Lost My Faith and Found It Again Through Science

Part 3

• • •

For 2 years Mike maintained a façade that he was still a Christian.  Why did he do that?  Both Christian and atheist might be tempted to view Mike contemptuously for his cowardly duplicity.  But is such a harsh judgement really just or humane?  I think not.  And here’s why.  In Mike’s sub-culture and society there is no provision for honest questioning.  His whole life was bound up in family, extended family, friends, co-workers, and church.  The benefits of an evangelical faith is that the church becomes community, and in a very real sense, extended family.  That, in and of itself, is a good thing.  The problem is that evangelical-ism (and maybe Protestantism as a whole) is an ideology.  Please note I’m stressing the –ism part of this equation.  So the down-side of this is that rather than being just a community of people gathered around a person—(Jesus said he would build his ecclesia, his group of people.  What is different about this group of people from other groups of people?  They are his group of people; they belong to HIM and he belongs to them.) –they become a community of ideas.

This propensity for having the most important aspect of one’s “spiritual” life be the thoughts in one’s mind is an outgrowth of modernity.  Its roots go back to movement away from classical thought to the rise of nominalism .  As Father Stephen Freeman says :

In our modern notion of the world what matters is ideas, thoughts and feelings. Ideas, thoughts and feelings are the stuff that makes up what we call relationships. Thus, to have a relationship with God is to have ideas, thoughts and feelings about God. You cannot have a relationship with an object, other than having some special affection for it. The sentiment is the thing.

This nominalism was an inevitable consequence of the Protestant Reformation as well.  Since Luther and the other reformers were now separated from the visible church, they had to re-conceive what it meant to be part of the “body of Christ”.  Which lead to the concept of the “invisible universal church” which only exists as an idea.

What now assumed most importance was ortho-doxy, right belief, rather than ortho-praxy, right practice.  If you’ve hung around in Southern Baptist circles any length of time, you heard stories of how someone who lived a “good” life, didn’t practice wrong-doing, tried to live right… maybe was even a religious church-going praying person (i.e. Roman Catholic)… died and went to hell because they didn’t believe the right beliefs.   Because you can do all the good works in the world, but if you don’t have the right ideas about God, you are condemned. Doesn’t the Bible say:

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

So as Mike began to have questions about his beliefs there was no way he could discuss them with anyone in his church because to do so was to break fellowship.  If you have fellowship around a set of ideas then to dissent from those ideas is, quite literally, to dis-fellowship or excommunicate one’s self.  Especially in American evangelicalism, the tendency is to both over-intellectualize and over-individualize the faith; i.e. “I’ve accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal lord and savior.”  Again from Father Freeman :

Thinking is among the most misleading things in the modern world, or, to be more precise, thinking about thinking is misleading. For a culture that puts such a great emphasis on materiality, our thinking about thought is decidedly spooky. The philosophy underlying our strangely-constructed modernity is called nominalism (of which there are many formal varieties). Its imaginary construct of the world consists of decidedly separate objects, united only by our thinking about them. There are things, and then are thoughts about things. But the thoughts have nothing to do with the things, except in our heads.

The result is the strange contradiction of living in a world we conceive of as sheer material, while only truly valuing thoughts, ideas and feelings that we conceive of as existing in our heads. I have described this in numerous articles and a book as the “two-storey universe.” We are certain of the material world, and though we only value the world of ideas and feelings, we’re not so sure that they really exist. We are indeed a troubled mind.

Mike’s other problem is endemic to Western Protestant Christianity since the modern project; and that is conceiving of God as a hypothesis of nature.  Every atheist I have interacted with makes this assumption.  That is why Richard Dawkins said, “Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist”.  That is why Lawrence Kraus wrote a book called “A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing”, why Stephen Hawking can exult that a fluctuation in a quantum vacuum explains the creation of the universe, and why Laplace said in a reply to Napoleon, who had asked why he hadn’t mentioned God in his book on astronomy, “I had no need of that hypothesis.”  This conception gave rise to “A Watchmaker God” and the whole Intelligent Design movement.  The problem is that such a God is not really God but a demiurge; and there is no empirical evidence for a demiurge.  Such a God does not exist.

But to those brined in the liquor of fundamentalism and Biblicism, proving that hypothesis becomes the motive behind all scientific apologetics.  God of the Gaps IS the answer.  It is the reason behind the rise of the distinctly modernist Young Earth Creationism movement.  Father Freeman, once more :

In many ways, the answer to this question is an explanation of classical Protestant thought and the religious belief of contemporary Christians. For as Christianity began the journey away from its classical roots and into the world as imagined by modernity, what was required was a version of Christian theology that itself was disenchanted and devoid of mystery. The allegory of creation was replaced by a literalist view of the world, and all solutions were pressed into a psychological mode. Metaphysics became metapsychology – nothing more than our thoughts about the world and God’s thoughts about the world. Ideas and sentiment became the new faerie.

To help himself deal with the dual life he was now leading, Mike took to hanging out on atheist internet chat boards.  There he could get the intellectual validation he was seeking.  One atheist wrote him:

But let’s look at things with new eyes.  Was the sunrise any less beautiful today just because it won’t be around forever?  Is the time with your family worthless because you’ll die one day?   Is life any less of a gift just because it’s a result of physics?  So God gave you meaning.  Do you still care about the needy?  Do you still want to be a good father?  Then do those things, make them your life’s purpose.  You don’t need some God to tell you to be good—you can be good on your own.  And isn’t that more meaningful?  To love and to make the world a better place because you choose to?  You don’t need God to make a purpose for your life.  You can make a purpose for your own life—any purpose you choose.  There’s no angry man in the sky to smite you for making the wrong choice, and no savior to bail you out if you screw it up.  You get one life, one shot to find every beautiful sight, to help others, and to enjoy the odd series of events that allow a bag of organic molecules to know they exist.  Don’t waste it.

Although Mike’s adoption of secular humanism helped salvage the bits and pieces of his former faith, he still wondered if he really needed to stay camouflaged forever.  Was there a way to admit to what he believed while holding on to his family and friends?  So he posted on an open reddit forum, softening his language to say he was a Christian on the verge of atheism, in case someone figured out who was posting.  As he read the replies he noticed a distinct trend.  Atheists tended to be empathetic.  Many told him to keep his faith, if that made him happy.  The Christians were not as gracious as a group.  A few were kind and helpful, but most were vicious.  They told him he would burn in hell; that he was going to destroy his family, he was shocked and surprised by the intensity of their anger.  But that was all the data he needed to know that he had to keep hiding.  He could be himself online, but in person he had to maintain the façade, or everyone would turn on him.

Of course, the one person who knew Mike the best was eventually going to catch on; his wife.  At first she was angry, then she tried to evangelize him, then she considered leaving him because, to her, his atheism was putting their children in danger of eternal damnation.  Finally, she agreed that Mike needed to keep this secret; an agreement she kept for all of week before she told Mike’s mother.  Mom confronted him one night and the conversation went about as you would expect it to.  Evangelistic pleading and apologetic arguments and finally the realization that she wasn’t going to change his mind.  And so her parting shot: “Michael, I am going to pray that God will move so powerfully in your life that you can’t deny it’s Him.  So you’d better just hold on.”  Mike said:

Some skeptics are offended when people offer to pray for them.  I never was.  Sure, sometimes, “I’ll pray for you” is a passive-aggressive quip.  But more often, when someone says she’ll pray for you, she’s truly saying, “I care for you deeply, and I think about you a lot.  I’m going to ask the most powerful force in the universe to help you.”

Even if there’s no God at all, if a believer prays for you, it means she cares.  So I thanked Mom for caring, even though I felt bad for her.  Miracles did not really occur.  I knew her prayer would not be answered.

What can I say?  I’m a sucker for misplaced confidence.

Now usually, in stories like this, Mike’s unbelief would gradually leak out to his church and friends; like his wife and mother some would, at first, be sympathetic and try to evangelize and apologize.  But eventually the coldness and distance would set in; and even if the church didn’t directly ask him to leave, the shunning would realize its effect, and drive him off.

However, this is not the usual story.  It was not Mike’s descent into unbelief and atheism, but the manner of his re-ascent to faith that drove the wedge between him and his former church friends.  His re-ascent did not fit the “script”.  But that is a story for next time.

Comments

  1. Robert F says:

    This nominalism was an inevitable consequence of the Protestant Reformation as well. Since Luther and the other reformers were now separated from the visible church, they had to re-conceive what it meant to be part of the “body of Christ”. Which lead to the concept of the “invisible universal church” which only exists as an idea.

    And the idea that visible church is the “real” church, and to be part of it is to be in communion with the the “real” church, does not only exist as an idea? It seems to me that nominalism was at work at the heart of the church and its theology long before it became explicit in the Reformation.

    • Robert F says:

      Btw, Mike, Father Freeman does not say in the text you quote from him that for modernism the what matters is the “thoughts in ones mind”. He says, “In our modern notion of the world what matters is ideas, thoughts and feelings.” This is different from saying that only ideas matter in nominalistic modernism, and as a correlative, that only ideas matter in Protestant understanding of God, church and ones relationship to them.

      • If you want a group that cares only for ideas and downplays emotions… try the Reformed. :-/

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > …group that cares only for ideas…

          A group that will argue concerning the interplay of stretched metaphors until every word is a weariness; still blearily boasting of their “insights” while, outside, the Samaritan steps down into the ditch to reach the beaten traveler.

          http://i1.wp.com/www.nakedpastor.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/the-theologians.jpg

          Ugh.

          • Mike the Geologist says:

            Adam– Exactly!!

          • But… even atheists can do “Good deeds”! Only the redeemed can have right theology!

            Don’t laugh… I once believed that. 🙁

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              Don’t we have the doctrines of Common Grace and Special Grace to paper over exactly that problem?

              And little is worse than listening to one of The Reformed try to explain that nonsense…. #tedium

            • Robert F says:

              That those who don’t profess the name of Jesus Christ can do the good deeds that he commends to those who do profess it, and not infrequently better than the professors, is proof that the church is invisible as well as visible. But wherever it is present, visible and invisible, it is always primarily present as human beings and human community, and only secondarily as institution.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Purity of Ideology, Comrades.

          Especially since in present-day Really Truly Reformed, Purity of Ideology is the only way to PROVE you are Truly of the Predestined Elect.

    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      It seems to me if you are looking for the “real” Church it consists of what it always has: not an abstract concept but the mass of ordinary Christians doing their best to seek God, for all that its leaders and hierarchies (who are way less important, in my view, than they think they are) insist on their particular brand.

  2. Robert F says:

    I will admit that it bothers me a when I see orthodoxy and orthopraxy spoken of in tension with each other, and when my own faith is indirectly criticized on the basis of the idea that there is a universal deficiency in Protestant forms of the Christian faith, as a result of there focus on the latter rather than the former. The belief that the church has come down to us from ancient times in an unbroken, consistent and continuous form of institutionalized practices continues to be a belief, even though it is covered over and hidden by that constellation of “correct practices” (orthopraxy); we have no direct evidence or experience of it. If we ask why these are “correct practices”, we are told that it has always been done so; if we ask how it’s known that the ancient church followed these same practices, we are told it must be believed on authority. If we question that, then we are called Protestants and modernists. The god of the gaps comes in more than one form; there is the god who is said to be operative only in places that have not been explored and explained by rational investigation yet, and there is the god who hides in the gap opened up by questioning the validity of systematic skepticism.

    • Robert F says:

      For the record, I’m a Protestant and modernist who is skeptical of claims to both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and mostly for the same reasons.

    • “it bothers me a when I see orthodoxy and orthopraxy spoken of in tension with each other, and when my own faith is indirectly criticized on the basis of the idea that there is a universal deficiency in Protestant forms of the Christian faith”

      We are a “self-critical” website. We are all – mostly – of Protestant and Evangelical extraction, wrestling with the problems that OUR tradition has promulgated. If you want a catalog of the flaws of Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, they too are easily come by. 😉

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > If you want a catalog of the flaws of

        And there are many places were such [other] self-criticism occurs. I’ve visited them.

        There I have not found “we are told it must be believed on authority”; I feel this is waving them away much too lightly. At least in the Catholic Church there are Church Historians who can detail the history – and changes – of pretty much everything. Such a demanding attitude may be the attitude of a lousy parish priest, but I have not seen it as an attitude of the institution. How could it be when the Catholic Church officially recognizes/contains groups who make distinct and contradictory assertions?. Of course, bullies and thugs are everywhere; but I do find this idea-ism to be a fairly distinct hallmark of both Evangelicalism[*1] and the Identity Left [and, oh, how much they hold in common…].

        [*1] I don’t know about Protestantism, as a whole – that is such a huge amorphous category; I wonder if anything universal can be said of Protestantism; it is more a historical category than anything else. Mr. Freeman’s critique of Protestantism is too far a reach for me; that needs some qualifiers.

    • Robert: All fair points you make. I know Father Freeman, being a convert from Protestant to Eastern Orthodox is often making his case for EO. Still, I think there is a validity to many of his criticisms despite his agenda of EO as the “pure unadulterated” form of the “faith once delivered”. There is no pure form of the faith in existence, and I’m OK with that, and I don’t think that makes the baby Jesus cry 🙂 The latest kerfuffle with Eugene Peterson shows what I’m talking about; a more faithful and caring pastor you’d be hard pressed to find. But because he waffles on one subsidiary idea; he gets the wrath of the gatekeepers down on his head. There is a good case to made for the more liturgical forms of the faith. Many at Imonk, including Chaplain MIke, have found a haven from the post-evangelical wilderness there. I, as yet, have not, but I deeply appreciate all the stories told by CM, Dana Ames, Tokah, Christiane, Numo and others; and I try to take some lesson or understanding from each of them. I have spent some time in Southern Baptist churches, and I keenly relate to what MIke is going through. Always appreciate you take on things and look forward to your comments.

      • Stephen Freeman strikes me as highly intelligent, highly knowledgeable, highly sincere, and fairly objective. He also strikes me as arrogant, self-righteous, elitist, exclusivist, and condescending. I don’t mind the many quotes that show up in these pages from him but I do object to the cult of Saint Stephen that comes along with them. I picture his Church next door to a fundamentalist Baptist Church, hurling veiled or not so veiled anathemas at one another, both as the one true original Church of Jesus, both as custodians of the original untainted teachings, both as the remnant treasured by Jesus in a world of apostasy and heresy and abandoned faith, both as gatekeepers with the true keys of the Kingdom of God, and no, you cannot eat at our table unless you kneel and accept the authority and requirements of our very private and exclusive club with all its customs and restrictions and hierarchy, tho you are more than welcome thru our loving grace to sit quietly in back and observe until you come to your senses. When Jesus returns, we will rule the world. Give me a break.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I picture his Church next door to a fundamentalist Baptist Church, hurling veiled or not so veiled anathemas at one another, both as the one true original Church of Jesus, both as custodians of the original untainted teachings, both as the remnant treasured by Jesus in a world of apostasy and heresy and abandoned faith…

          Remember the theoretical end state of Protestantism:
          Millions of One True Churches with Original Untainted Teachings, each consisting of only one member, each denouncing all the others as Heretics and Aposates.

          • Iain Lovejoy says:

            This is a standard denouncement of Protestantism, but really only says what every denomination says, western Catholic, eastern Orthodox, Coptic, Protestant or what-have-you: “the only reason why there are splits in the church is because you don’t all accept the obvious truth and agree with me”.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          While I don’t have a dog in either fight, I have to agree. The uppity snobbery of the purists, no matter how pretty their rituals or how old or new their liturgies, is quite galling.

          There is an old criticism I used, when still a Lutheran, while debating the young rabid sort of Calvinist: They had gone from believing in justification by faith, to believing in justification by believing in justification by faith. The same sort of criticism applies to purists like these – as well as Catholic fundies etc. Their object if belief is the superstructure of the purity of their faith. That is why they come across like that.

          Give this atheist a doubting anglican any day. Together we will do good things and have lots of laughs while we do it too.

          • Mike the Geologist says:

            “They had gone from believing in justification by faith, to believing in justification by believing in justification by faith.” Yes, that is what I was trying to critique.

            • Klasie Kraalogies says:

              Belief, he says. Belief shifts. People start out believing in the god and end up believing in the structure.

              Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

              • Robert F says:

                People start out believing in the god and end up believing in the structure…., or the institution.

        • Good thoughts, you just need a Pentecostal snake handling church around the corner. Father Freeman torches Protestant straw men with the gusto of the Inquisition.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Charley, I will respond to you because I believe you will hear me.

          Orthodoxy does not teach that we should throw anathemas at one another. We are taught not to judge others, to keep our eyes on ourselves and our own sins, and to ask God to make us humble enough to truly love others with his love. We aren’t taught that we’re “the faithful remnant” or that everyone else is “going to hell,” but rather that God is at work to bring everyone to himself. That some Orthodox do not understand this, or otherwise deny it or gainsay it, is is incredibly sad; they are shooting themselves in the foot. Your comments about exclusivity and hierarchy etc. reflect a very common attitude among Protestants, one that I used to have, and I understand. All I can say is that I’m Orthodox and I will never go back. If you want to sit down over a beverage some time, I’d be happy to have a conversation about all this.

          Fr Stephen wouldn’t want me to get involved in defending him, but I’m going to say a few words because his writings have helped me more than I can express. Not only have I read his blog from almost the beginning, but I have on several occasions spent actual ftf time with him. He’s a human being, like everyone else, and has flaws, foibles and sins. But I can confidently say that I know him to some degree, and you are caricaturing him. You may not agree with Orthodoxy – that’s fine. But please be careful not to set up your own straw men. I am sorry for whatever bad experiences you have had at the hands of liturgical church folks. Forgive me if I am in any way condescending or arrogant – I know I have those tendencies. But go down to TN and follow Fr Stephen around for a couple of days and talk to him before you draw such broad conclusions about him.

          Dana

          • I like Father Stephen a lot, not on the basis of his writings, but from him being our dean for a long time and the time we’ve spent together. I doubt someone who just read what he wrote would be able to pick him out in a group conversation if not introduced, and he himself seems unaware of his online following/fame. (The second time I saw him, he walked over to me and said, “Tokah*! I’m so glad you’re here! Do you remember me, I’m Father Stephen?” as if I could forget him. 😉

            I think he does come off poorly online sometimes, though, and that potential is there because he uses inside ball language in the inter-church discourse league. Eastern thought is often written of in a way that I got used to, but is starkly different from western – particularly the use of superlatives as not-superlative. If I were a protestant who’d never met him, that’d probably grate on me, too.

            I think Father Alexander Schmmeman was better at speaking in less inside-ball language while communicating the same good material.

            *Father Stephen knows me by my more legally-recognizable first name, heh.

            • Dana Ames says:

              Yes, you’re right. Well said. Although sometimes I really have to concentrate to follow Fr Alexander’s train of thought. But yes.

              D.

          • Dana, I consider the Orthodox Church to retain basic and most important teachings that the rest of the church has long forgotten, primarily our task of allowing and helping God to transform us spiritually into becoming ever more Godlike. What else is anywhere near as important? They also appear to be the main keepers of the tradition of contemplative meditation and probably understand it in a way most of the western world does not, tho that does seem to be changing. I believe they have kept important traditions and teachings relatively intact while they have been corrupted or lost in the west.

            I do not believe the Eastern traditions reflect the church of the apostles, but a later church. I don’t believe the apostles required people to call them “Father”, and probably would have considered it abhorrent, as do I, and as apparently did Jesus. I don’t believe the apostles wore funny hats or ornate costumes, nor did they conduct lengthy and convoluted services out of a book. All this came later. None of this is any skin off my nose any more than my Amish neighbors choosing to retain an earlier time, but neither, in my view, have better answers for me than the path I am on.

            My beef here is not with the Eastern Church but with Stephen Freeman, who too often exhibits the attitude shown in the proselytizing brochure Mule posted recently, which very specifically said that the Orthodox Church “boasts” about its special status. I have the utmost regard and respect for you and Mule and Tokah as fellow Christians, but if you started boasting about your superior status that would change in a hurry. It is quite true that I find being excluded officially from your table to be highly offensive, and I hope I would die before kneeling before one of your priests, but those matters don’t intrude here except as Stephen Freeman brings them. I’m glad you have found a way suitable for you. I recognize the value of much of what the Eastern Church has kept, but the surface trappings are not my way. Probably much like the Galileans and the Jerusalem Temple.

    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      “I will admit that it bothers me a when I see orthodoxy and orthopraxy spoken of in tension with each other, and when my own faith is indirectly criticized on the basis of the idea that there is a universal deficiency in Protestant forms of the Christian faith, as a result of there focus on the latter rather than the former.”
      Am I misunderstanding, or are “latter” and “former” the wrong way round in this sentence?
      It seems to me that the “problem” with Protestantism (and I speak as an Anglican, so I am nearly a Protestant) is that after Luther’s initial insight it fell straight back into exactly the same error that he criticised, albeit in a modified form. The western Catholic church can insist on both orthodoxy and orthopraxy by claiming (with some but by no means total) accuracy continuous tradition. Protestant can insist on orthodoxy by reference to the Bible, but this gives few hints on orthopraxy, hence the difference, but I think however it is merely a cosmetic one. Both are attempts at demarcation at what makes a “proper” Christian by setting out rules to which members must conform or acquiesce in order to be in good standing with God. Only the specific rules are different.
      I am not an expert on Luther’s theology, so I am willing to be corrected, but my understanding of his initial insight, that we are “justified by faith”, had nothing to do with orthodoxy. He did not assert that we are justified by assenting to a particular theological position statement but solely by abandoning all else and placing complete trust in God himself. This is neither orthodoxy nor orthopraxy but (one of my favourite words) orthokardia, having the right heart towards God.
      If I am right about Luther, and Luther was right about justification by faith, then orthodoxy is relevant in informing the nature of the God we are to place our trust in, but secondary to the basis of salvation, and disputes over orthopraxis, while important, are conducted on the wrong basis: the issue is not whose practices are the “correct” ones, but what practices best cultivate a right heart towards God.

      • Robert F says:

        Yes, I wrote those words wrong way around. And I thought I was being so careful to get them right! Fuzzy mind, early morn, blame it on Rio…

        Good comment. I totally agree: Luther fell back into the very error he revolted against, and the other magisterial Reformers reflexively followed his example. I think Luther panicked when he saw the proliferation of Protestant sects that followed in the wake of his movement, and as a result picked up the ecclesial whip he had wrested from Roman Catholicism. The insight he had was nevertheless correct: we are not saved by our own correct deeds, our orthopraxy. The problem is that he didn’t clearly enough articulate, and likely was in doubt of, the second part that you express: we are not saved by our orthodoxy; he likely increasingly doubted it as he saw the unfolding fractiousness and divisiveness of the movement he had inaugurated.

        • Iain Lovejoy says:

          Protestantism (and Luther) unfortunately inherited the addiction to an insistence on doctrinal conformity. Let us by all means stand up for the truth, and be willing to tell those we think wrong that they are wrong in no uncertain terms, but why refuse to pray and take bread and wine with them afterwards? That’s where the source of division lies, in my view.

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    “”””But to those brined in the liquor of fundamentalism and Biblicism, proving that hypothesis becomes the motive behind all scientific apologetics. “”””

    Wow, great statement and imagery; that’s worth of the moniker: Literature. You’ve captured so much in that one sentence.

  4. “Since Luther and the other reformers were now separated from the visible church, they had to re-conceive what it meant to be part of the “body of Christ”. Which lead to the concept of the “invisible universal church” which only exists as an idea.”

    To be fair to Robert (and to the magisterial Reformers) the old idea of the “visible church” – ESPECIALLY as wedded to and overlapping with civil society – needed abandoning. It still does…

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      Fair point, Eeyore. But the other extreme I’m criticising is shown here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nT70cA-7qMk

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “CRIKEY!”

      • Someone please help me out here. The guy in the apparently heterosexual couple of this video spoof sends all the gaydar gauges off the Richter Scale. Is this on purpose? Is this a part of the humor that I’m not sophisticated enough to get? Is this part of the current drive for bending gender beyond all recognition and common sense? Is this an attack on political correctness or is it an attack on the other side? Was this equal opportunity casting or am I just not supposed to notice? Is the woman a beard and part of a plot to bring down churches? Is this just a monster generation gap? Weird way beyond the weirdness of the spoof itself, which was a bit overdone for my tastes to be funny, or for me to endure episode two…

        • Rick Ro. says:

          I personally think the satire is hilarious. Favorite line: “This church identifies as interdenom-denominational.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Hmmmm…. But what *IS* an Invisible Church that does not overlap with civil society?

      • A small persecuted minority of freaks and outsiders. IOW, the New Testament view of the church. 😉

        • Burro [Mule] says:

          The Resistance

        • Robert F says:

          You left out one thing essential to the New Testament view of the church: A small persecuted minority of freaks and outsiders, waiting for the imminent eschaton in their lifetime. I’m not sure we can, or should, recreate this church; we see many of those who have tried around us: End Times prognosticators, pie-in-the-sky Christian cults….They are part of the problem, not its solution.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And as the years went on and the Apostles died one by one and still no Eschaton, the church realized it would have to dig in for the long haul. And that meant organization and institution.

  5. “As he read the replies he noticed a distinct trend. Atheists tended to be empathetic. Many told him to keep his faith, if that made him happy. The Christians were not as gracious as a group.”

    Oh. Yes. Been there. Done that. Bought the T-shirt. Ate the burger. I “did” theology on various online forums for over 10 years. I saw this sad principle in action far too many times to count.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      The thought of mixing Theology and Reddit . . . chilling.

      • I bailed on online theology WAS WAY before Reddit. Not quite of the dial-up BBS generation… but close.;-)

    • Of course to do this properly you’d have to experiment with an atheist in the throes of conversion, and see how HE is treated by both ‘sides’.

  6. T.S.Gay says:

    This post trashes nominalism. We all need to take a close look at the problem of universals. The scholasticism of the thirteenth century was based on universalism, and even then there were detractors. William of Ockham was one, and it would better to say he was a terminist, not nominalist. He anticipated the scientific renaissance, church/state separation, property rights, accountability to people.
    At heart, this is about essence, and whether that is fixed and determined or as products of change. Of course nothing would be further from the spirit of scholasticism than evolution.
    I sincerely believe that what people have called open theism is a misnomer, actually being open future. A pilgrimmage, therefore, far from being unusual or slightly dishonorable, is what we would expect of followers who are aware of the limitations of experience. All this highlights that major issues in modern theology are based around universal, exclusive, or inclusive. The last being most misunderstood.
    I have shorrtened each paragraph and think it would be better to give examples of people today enamored of each philosophy and the implications. For example….Rod Dreher and the Benedict Option as universalist/scholastic. Or Franklin Graham and The Sower as exclusive…….Roger Olson and The Journey of Modern theology and inclusion.

    • So… taking the principle of “both/and” seriously, the Church must therefore be universal, inclusive, AND exclusive simultaneously. How do we work that out?

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      You touch on one thing I was also about to mention. The post got the order wrong – nominalism made the Protestant Reformation possible, not the other way round.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Orthodoxy had some interaction with Scholasticism, but Orthodox theologians rejected it.

      Dana

  7. The re-ascent is usually unsettling to the old group because it must by the very nature of the process take on a new form with different words and direction. That blossoming into new form is the cycle of life and the whole point.

  8. In keeping with the study of psychology and today’s post, here is an article on how the personality trait of openness changes perception:

    http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/07/18/open-minded-literally-changes-way-see-world-says-new-research/

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    The Christians were not as gracious as a group.  A few were kind and helpful, but most were vicious.  They told him he would burn in hell; that he was going to destroy his family, he was shocked and surprised by the intensity of their anger.

    Defenders of the Faith who have Acquired the Fire(TM).

    (And desperate to peck the defective to death in the barnyard before he could infect them.)

    And so her parting shot: “Michael, I am going to pray that God will move so powerfully in your life that you can’t deny it’s Him.  So you’d better just hold on.”

    1) Note the fluent Christianese.
    2) “Pray for you” is a common Christianese putdown, i.e. “I’m Right, You’re NOT. And once you admit that and Agrtee Completely With Me, We Won’t Have a Problem, Will We?” So much of Evangelicalism is a one-upmanship game.
    3) Plain to see the REAL husband she hath cleaved to, and it isn’t him.

  10. Rick Rosenkranz says:

    –> “Please note I’m stressing the –ism part of this equation. So the down-side of this is that rather than being just a community of people gathered around a person…they become a community of ideas.”

    I was talking about this very thing last night with a friend after a men’s study. We were discussing the “idea” of salvation, specifically the three kinds of thoughts: “once saved, always saved” vs. “a person can be saved, but can ‘backslide’ and lose their salvation” vs. “if a person ‘backslides, they weren’t really saved anyway.” (I threw up a little writing those; sorry.) Anyway, I made the comment that for some reason we Christians attempt to apply LOGIC to the branch of salvation that we believe in because we just can’t accept the mystery. So those who believe “once saved, always saved” have their little logic diagram all drawn up (with scripture verses supporting it, of course), as do those who believe “a person can backslide and lose their salvation” as do those who believe “a backslider was never saved anyway.”

    Now notice what happens then! We are no longer discussing the person of Jesus, we are discussing a set of IDEAS and beliefs! Ugh!!!

    The discussion with my friend was fun. We concluded: Aren’t you glad for Jesus!?

    BTW…my Calvinist friends, in promoting Calvin-ISM, continue to point out the individual verses that they believe should sway me to join the club. “Look, Rick…it says here that we believers are predestined and chosen…”

    Please, leave me alone! I believe in Jesus. Let’s talk about HIM!

  11. I have no problem believing in a God who is everywhere present and filling all things and in whom we live and move and have our being at the same time as I believe in the things we have discovered about the origin of the universe, the formation of stars and planets, and the evolution of species, including man. Our knowledge of origins and processes and forces remains incomplete, but is always growing. We know an awful lot more today than we once did and that continues to be true. I’ve always wondered at the sort of God in which people believed that they found a conflict where I’ve never seen one. Of course you can’t “prove” such a God, but if it’s the God of love we see in Christ who becomes one of us so we can know him, there wouldn’t be. That God isn’t try to “prove” anything to us or get us to “believe” anything. That only desire we see in the God who becomes flesh is a desire to draw humanity into communion.

    So I’ve never understood the supposed “conflict” between faith and science. I’ve mostly given up trying to understand it.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Amen.

      • Hmmm. “I have no problem believing” was perhaps too strong a statement, though. It would be accurate to say my struggles with belief in the God we see revealed in Christ, such as they are, have absolutely nothing to do with science or anything we have or are discovering about the nature of reality. 🙂

  12. While so true, at the same time, it is a sad commentary on us Christians that those without certainty, must go into hiding. I have been there as many of us have. Somehow we need to break-wall of grace, behind which, saints can doubt with great candor. It is poisonous to the soul and mind to live in a world where there is only the pretense of certainty, or the immorality of “doubt.” How did we get in this mess? There is no way that you can know that God is there with any confidence unless you have the freedom to consider he is not. Those who say they have that confidence, out of a spiritual faith, and never question anything, may be the closest of us all to the “Christian”-atheist.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Great post.

      –> “There is no way that you can know that God is there with any confidence unless you have the freedom to consider he is not.”

      Enough really good Christians and non-Christians have died in really horrible ways for anyone to truly claim with utmost certainty “there is a God who cares.”

      Jesus’ life and death at least allow me to believe there might be a God who cares.

  13. Robert F says:

    I look for God in the waves, and sometimes I think I get glimpses, but I suspect that I will only really find him under them.

  14. Robert F says:

    RIP, Chester Bennington. May light perpetual shine upon you, and may waves of grace lift you up into God’s life.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzNRl6emK90