December 14, 2017

Open Forum — April 25, 2012

This afternoon, I want to give you, our iMonk community, a chance to simply talk among yourselves.

I’m not going to suggest a topic or prime the pump, it’s up to you.

I still want you to play nice, but I also want you to have the chance to introduce a subject for discussion, ask a question of the community, or weigh in on something that we’ve been talking about lately.

Since we don’t have forums, consider this your chance to speak out in an open forum on Internet Monk.

Have fun, don’t trash the place, clean up after yourselves, and turn the lights out before you leave, OK?

…Oh, and if a baseball thread emerges, I might throw a few comments in.

Comments

  1. After reading so much here and in books about God, Christianity, Jesus…I am to the point where I just want to pare things down to the bare essentials:

    1. God loves us
    2. We forgot and we forget that God loves us
    3. Jesus reminds us of how much God loves us
    4. Go out and love others as Jesus loves you
    5. You will make mistakes…ask forgiveness…forgive others, keep on loving.
    6. Pray often.
    7. Don’t expect to understand God…but know that you are understood
    8. Gather together to pray, sing, learn, support one another, and realize more and more that God wants to fully enlighten us, love us, enjoy us.

    • Good, but how does this differentiate Christianity from a host of other world religions?

      • Good question.

      • Which other religions sound like that? I’m honestly curious. I can’t pretend to have looked into even a majority of the major ones, but thes ones I have seen focus hard on the stuff I’m s’posed to do. Gotta meditate, gotta stick to a certain diet, gotta pray, gotta be at a certain place at a certain time.

        • cermak_rd says:

          Well, Reform Judaism with its concept of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) which requires each person to make a commitment to fighting injustice and helping others.

          Differences with JoanieD’s list:

          It has a concept of Atonement rather than free forgiveness (one must make up to the best that he can for the harm he has caused).

          I’m not sure on the love aspect. I don’t believe the Almighty loves me personally or understands me personally.

          Obviously no Jesus.

      • Mike: The Jesus part. The forgiveness part. Joanie gave the nutshell version.

      • I think the reality of Jesus it expresses makes it quite different from other religions.

      • Michael Bell…I know that all Buddhist sects are not alike, but in general, you don’t have to believe in God to be a Buddhist. It is not an I-Thou relationship in Buddhism. And Christianity is nothing like Hinduism at all. Judaism and Islam do not have Jesus at the center of their religion the way Christianity does. As Christians, we know what God the Father is like because of Jesus. So, for me, Christianity is unlike any of the world religions. Any of the world religions that say “God is Love” have that part right, but as Christians we believe that it is because of Jesus that we can even begin to love the way God loves. Am I saying that only Christians can know God? No. I believe that anyone who seeks the Kingdom of God will find it. Jesus said so. So if a Hindu is seeking the Kingdom of God, it is Jesus who will make that happen. How he makes that happen is not my business. That is between Jesus and the seeker of God.

        • The point I was trying to make was…

          Those who believe that Jesus was just a good man can affirm all that you have written. I think we need a stronger statement of who Jesus is, for as he himself said….

          “Unless you believe that “I am” you will die in your sins.” – John 8:24.

          By “I am” it is understood that he was making a claim to deity.

          • Oh, OK, I understand, Michael Bell. Yes, Jesus was making a claim to deity and Jesus was and is God. That does need to be more emphasized in the little “list” I made. Thank you!

          • Thank God for Michael Bell: the self-important Heresy Hound! Heresy can run, but it can’t hide with Michael Bell hot on its trail!

          • Batman. Give me a break! I am sure the JoanieD, and most other regular readers of this blog know me better than that. I am certainly not a Heresy Hound or Hunter. My own blog, had you bothered to check, was started to celebrate the strengths that different Christian faith traditions have to offer to the body of believers as a whole.

          • Oh, I would never consider you a heresy hound, Michael Bell! I have always enjoyed your writings here. Batman probably just does not “know” you as well as some of us do.

    • Where is sin? What is sin? Where are God’s anger and judgment against sin and sinners? Why was it necessary for Jesus to die?

      • Stephen,…

        Sin…like the story of the prodigal son, we have all gone astray. The prodigal son only needed to realize he made a big mistake and turn back towards his father and his father took it from there, running to meet him and throwing a big party.

        Jesus was God in the flesh. He suffered as a human being with all the consciousness of God. His love was so great it was able to “absorb” all the sins of the world. I say “absorb” without really understanding what that means. Do you or does anyone REALLY understand what it means when we say that Jesus took all the sins of the world upon Himself? We hear that so often and we say it so easily, but I don’t think we can truly comprehend it. We are thankful for it, though, because we know that we are sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters with Jesus.

        This may be all I say on this, because like I said, I really don’t understand. I am just thankful to God and I pray that I can learn to walk like a true sister of Jesus. Most of the time, I am ashamed to have anyone think that I am the way a Christian is. Much of the time, I am sad, not particularly friendly, fearful. I don’t believe that is how Jesus would like me to be. Pray for me.

        • If you get a chance, read Kenneth Bailey’s book on the prodigal son. (http://www.eprodigals.com/ also check Amazon.com) In it he questions our reading that the son repents. The son returns to the father still intent on saving himself, and it’s the father’s humiliation that allows the reconciliation.

          Romans 5 also underscores that sin is more than just going astray, it is being an enemy of God. And yet God loves us and Jesus died for us. That it was necessary for him to die underscores the seriousness of our sin and rebellion and the seriousness of God’s holiness.

          So, I think that you left out a couple of bare essentials.

          • Stephen, I actually agree that when the prodigal son realized the big mistake he made, it wasn’t that he was realizing how he had hurt his father. He was realizing that he had it better back at his dad’s place and he was hoping that he could at least be treated like a servant by his father, rather than staying where he was and feeding the pigs. So he isn’t repenting due to feeling badly about how he treated his father, but he regrets the original action that he took in leaving his father. BUT…I do not agree that the father was humilated. The father was thrilled to have his son back. The father apparently did not care how or why his son chose to come back…he was just thrilled that he WAS back.

            And yes… sin IS the enemy of God…sin separates us from God. Thank God for Jesus!

          • I don’t think Joanie’s point was to present a detailed systematic theology…..

            BTW, Robert Capon does a wonderful job in his examination of the Father Who Lost Two Sons in his book Parables of Grace (chapt. 13). There is also an online transcript of a sermon he delivered on the same topic

            http://www.csec.org/csec/sermon/capon_4414.htm

        • If we understood the culture of the day, we would see that the actions of the father in accepting his son back were humiliating for the father. For example
          He runs to greet his son
          He ignores the deep insults that the son has given him in front of the entire community
          He places the family ring on his son’s finger, even though his son has no more legal standing in the family.
          and so on

          Bailey’s point is that for the son to be accepted, the father has to be willing to accept the humiliation of going against his village’s expectations and cultural norms. So too Jesus has undergone the humiliation that we deserved so that we can be accepted by God and restored to fellowship with him.

          And yes, sin is the enemy, but so are sinners.

          • IMO? Too much analysis. It’s a story. The observation Luke makes in the context makes it clear that the issue was the religious leaders scorning Jesus for accepting sinners. The prodigal son represents those sinners while the elder brother represents the religious leaders. God’s glad welcome of sinners who come home is the message and we need not analyze all these other details.

          • What CM said. Parables aren’t allegories or fables.

      • The original sin is the great divorce–man’s rebellion against God, choosing to be his/her own god. The knowing of good and evil for oneself as described in Gen. 3, which God justifiably begrudged humanity, is our assumed godlike defining good and evil by our own standards, rather than in relationship to God. The great sin is that we have “become like God” this way–we would be sovereign without any relaitonship to God. So it comes down to our being in a state and existing without loving God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds; and the (very) natural outcome is that we likewise tend to fail to love our neighbors. (That pervasive failure is broadly what constitutes pretty much ever act we would call sin–it’s always a failure in loving another person, be it God or human.)

        The outcome in the setting of this world is what the Bible continually describes as “the wrath of God.” God’s wrath is not a matter of him being particularly pissed off at any given individual (whom he first loved, unrequitedly by the way). It is the general state of decay, destruction, death, and any given form of mayhem personally, locally, globally, and even universally as it negatively affects personal (moral) beings–it is the only reasonable outcome of being independent of God (i.e., hell, be it here on earth, or in Eternity). People die from Tsunamis not because God is uniquely upset with them, but rather because this is “the wind” we demigods have inherited for ourselves when we would be the sovereigns of our reality, sans God.

        That state of being independent from God is the only eternal thing that matters–all other sins we do are merely symptoms, consequences, of that tragic state of being divorced from God. This is so much the case that even when we do good, it is still filthy rags because we are divorced–that’s what matters far more to God than performance, and for good reason. After all, being in love relationship with God is the sole meaning of any human’s existence–it’s why we were created, and it alone is what can “glorify” God.

        The reason Jesus, then, died was to reach across the chasm of divorce. Our creator, whom we have betrayed and from whom we have remained alienated (from birth), himself sacrificially steps into our existence of suffering and death that we’ve brought upon ourselves by being our own gods, and experiences the consequences of that reality known as “sin,” even the on a cross. And he did it, not so that he could know what it’s like for himself (he’s omniscient and knows it all better than we who experience it ever could), but simply for our sake. He took on our death to break through our alienation from him, to capture our attention and our hearts.

        He’s like a betrayed lover who rushes in front of the oncoming car and takes the hit that should have been the fate of the drunken, derisive loved who defiantly dances about freely in oncoming (wrath of God) traffic . . . because only then does the rebel fool realize just how much he was loved.

        Except the self-sacrificing lover in the Gospel story resurrects from the death for the particular purpose that the two can become united and love . . . happily ever after, as everyone knows it should be: comedy, not tragedy.

        The only question that remains in any given story is, will the loved accept the love expressed and proven? Or will he/she refuse or deny that it even happened, or suspect the identity of the supposed lover, instead pretending the act was just a bad-luck, senseless accident.

    • Late to the party but wanted to say I like your little list, JoanieD

  2. Baseball? I can’t really talk baseball right now…I’m a Royals fan and they’ve crushed my spring optimism like they’re trying to make fine wine out of it.

    Anyway, I recently read an article, and I can’t remember where it was – may have been an iMonk link, but in the midst of the article the author was advocating for the Catholic view of the afterlife because it is rooted in Jewish views on the afterlife. This was an offhand comment in the article as it wasn’t the main point, but I’d like to understand the rationale behind this statement. Can anyone help? Maybe there’s some references on the subject I could read?

    Thanks!

    Matt

    • How about those Cubbies??? Two in a row, and both of them walk-offs wins- and against the World Champion Cardinals. This may be the high water mark of the season for us Cub fans! It all may be over after today’s game, but celebrate the moment! I have learned much spiritually by being a Cub fan-suffering, dissappointment, etc. but also learning to live in the present-not in regret for the 104 years since the last world series win or in a pollyannish hope for the upcoming season, but in the little things that bring daily joy, such as a Brian LaHair home run or a Joe Mather base hit. Go, Cubs, go!

      • cermak_rd says:

        I was actually thinking about a spirituality of baseball. After all it has rituals, (opening day traditions, goat on the field in Wrigley Field), sacred spaces (Wrigley, Fenway), hymns (“Take Me Out to the Ball Park”, “Centerfield”, “Willie, Mickey, and the Duke”, “A Dying Cub Fans Last Request”, and that annoying “Hey, hey, goodbye” song. It has mystery (how did the Cubs manage to blow a 2 run lead in the 9th inning),

      • My sister will be thrilled, die-hard Cubbies fan that she is. Me, I pull for the Red Sox when I bother to pull for anyone in baseball.

      • Cubs????, or sorry, I was looking for a thread on baseball. I guess I’m in the wrong place. 🙂

        Go Sox, the REAL baseball team in Chicago.

  3. Jesus is the difference. He is all in all.

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      but like Rob Bell irritatingly asks: “Which Jesus?” “Who’s Jesus?” “Why that Jesus?”

      too many versions of Jesus thrown at us every day from every angle & every media source/type…

      hard to discover the Jesus that is the divinely Different One…

      Lord, have mercy… 🙁

      • The Previous Dan says:

        That reminds me of Downhere’s song “The Real Jesus.”

        Watched Him on the silver screen
        Bought the action figurine
        But Jesus is the only name that makes you flinch
        Oh, can anybody show me the real Jesus?
        Oh, let Your love unveil the mystery of the real Jesus

        Here is the Youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CjzpCIOLyg

        Love that band.

        • Joseph (the original) says:

          yeah…will the Real Jesus please stand up???

          to be honest though, all i have is My Jesus. although i can engage with others about Jesus, all i have to go on is my Jesus. i can only relate to Jesus as an individual, although i am also part of that greater communion of saints all having their individual relationships with Him…

          Revelation 2:17
          He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

          that individual relationship will continue throughout all eternity. that divinely unique ‘knowing’ between Creator & creature. amazing consideration, no?

          so, i must be very, very careful how i engage others that claim to also know this Jesus of whom we speak. yet my Jesus will always be filtered through that WWJD question when applied to every aspect of this existence i am wanting to express Him accurately to. if only it were more simple than that…

          • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

            Are we allowed to have a “personal” Jesus (no Marilyn Manson lyrics, please)? A “my” Jesus? It seems that while we can (and should) have a personal relationship with Jesus, once we start separating Jesus and the Church, we’re veering into dangerous territory. I mean, everything we know about him comes from the Church. The Bible is a product of the Church. The Liturgy is a product of the Church. Even the concepts of His divinity, two natures, and relationship with the Trinity was given to us through the Church. Individuals aren’t called his Bride; the Church is. Heck, by His own words, He guarantees His presence when “two or three are gathered in [His] name.”

            Of course, I’m admittedly much more ecclesiological than I used to be, so I don’t think I’m objective here.

          • Joseph (the original) says:

            Isaac (or possibly Obed): it is not a matter of whether a personal Jesus is permitted, it is simply the way we as individuals interact with Him. we do not interact with the Jesus of others, only the Jesus we know.

            you are correct in this: we do not live our Christian lives in a vacuum. we do belong to a family & it is the greater Family identity that we share in common. and this does help us define & recognize this Jesus we claim to worship/follow (see my response to Miguel).

            all of my experience with Jesus is internal. all my theological considerations external. i must somehow internalize what is taught about Jesus. and this includes how He is displayed thru example more than words. we need something of substance in our understanding, yet it will be filtered thru my mental/intellectual faculties. i don’t believe in Miguel’s Jesus, or your Jesus. i believe because i had a personal encounter with Him unique from yours. how this fits into the greater body of Christ analogy is not so easy to quantify, is it???

          • Isaac/ Obed, “Personal Jesus” was a Depeche Mode song.

          • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says:

            Steve, I can’t believe I fell for the old trap of thinking a Manson cover was a Manson original! I should know better than that! /whapself

        • Tom Waits has a chocolate Jesus.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wfamPW3Eaw

        • Christiane says:

          very old song . . . can’t remember who wrote it, Judy Collins sang it in the sixties

          . . . ‘ Jesus was a sailor when He walked upon the water,
          and He spent a long time watching from a lonely wooden tower,
          and when He knew for certain only drowning men could see Him,
          He said ‘all men must be sailors then, until the sea shall free them . . . ‘

          that part ‘only drowning men could see Him’ didn’t make sense to me when I was young

          it does now

      • humanslug says:

        “He’s just a ghost who can’t be seen without the eyes of faith.”
        The Lost Dogs.

        • “…and you know it.” Love that song to death. And the whole darned record.

          • humanslug says:

            Yeah. I hate I missed em’ and the whole Cornerstone festival last year. All work and no play makes humanslug a grumpy mollusk.

        • humanslug:

          For some reason I feel like I should let you know that my driver’s ed instructor, lo, a quarter-century ago, was fond of opining that “We’re ALL just average slugs at best.”

      • …and of course the only answer to Rob Bell’s irritating question is: Your own personal Jesus. The god created in your image.

        • Joseph (the original) says:

          Miguel: i do disagree with your evaluation of Bell’s approach. i did not find Bell trying to construct a Jesus apart from orthodox Christian tradition, rather he simply was addressing the very thing you find distasteful: there are too many Jesuses vying for prominence.

          maybe his approach a bit too cavalier? he does not help identify the Real Jesus of the original thread, but only provokes us to look for Him anew???

          and i do think that anyone here wanting to create a deity in their image would definitely not use Jesus as the archetype, do you? i think most of the misrepresentations of Jesus simply one of an over-emphasis on certain aspects of His life, words, works, ministry, intent, historical references, etc.

          does Bell advocate such idolatry? i did not find his book Love Wins rife with heresy as some insist. but then this does beg the question of how we as individuals perceive Jesus as presented to us in whatever faith tradition we embrace…

          • Joseph (the original) writes about Rob Bell, “i did not find his book Love Wins rife with heresy as some insist.”

            I agree with you, Joseph. I read three of his books so far and like what he says and how he says it.

          • Sorry ’bout the confusion, but that wasn’t meant necessarily as a critique of Bell so much as it was for build-it-yourself Evangelicalism, of which he is a guru. Haven’t read any of his books, though I listened to his podcast for about a year before I got bored. Playing off what you said, we get too many different “niche Jesuses” thrown at us every day, and the general tendency of sinful man is to reach for the one most like him that demands the least change. I don’t suppose Bell is any more guilty of this than the rest of us, though it does seem like he’s trying to be a universalist and a particularist at the same time. He doesn’t come off as cavalier so much as slightly restorationist: He thinks it’s terribly clever and orignal to question orthodoxy as if he would be the first to somehow improve it. But from what I’ve heard, he doesn’t exactly answer his own questions, so he doesn’t quite cross the heresy line. It would seem he’s just trying to create a more ambiguous and welcoming space for those who aren’t comfortable with all of orthodoxy. But he does have a few real zingers of insight, I’ll honestly admit in the Bible class I teach I’ve borrowed from him on numerous occasions (especially from the portion from “Everything Is Spiritual” that deals with creation, which I usually present as a perspectival antithesis to some of R.C. Sproul’s thoughts).

          • Joseph (the original) says:

            Miguel: the niche Jesus description a valid generalization. i am not sure Bell is a guru of such, but he is addressing that very issue albeit from a very fuzzy direction.

            speaking for myself, i would take issue with your claim that our ‘sinful’ tendency is for a Jesus demanding the least bit of change. i have no idea how to envision such a Jesus. my view is very clear & i will confess my sometimes lack of affinity for all those very things Jesus says i should be doing or not doing. it is my outright defiance & work-in-process sanctification that i experience daily…

            although there are those that do give mental assent to a version of Jesus, the Jesus i do recognize is not made in my image, nor would i have any interest in such a deity. He showed me what He is & then called me to follow. seems simple enough, but it has been the most challenging element of my faith journey. i know where i compromise, but the Jesus i follow does not ignore such things. it is all being addressed, but maybe not all things concurrently. He seems to have His priorities. my only choice is to embrace Him or reject Him. i cannot make a new Jesus in my image to assuage my guilt & appease my conscience…

            build-it-yourself Evangelicalism is simply another catch-all label for believe-it-yourself-Christianity regardless of faith tradition. this cherry-picking skill not reserved just to the Evangelical camp only. it is at the individual level where we discover how we live out the Jesus we claim to know, love, serve, follow…

            Bell makes sweeping assumptions & offers only vague possiblities, but he does encourage the seeking & questioning that is the very essence of those encountering God throughout the biblical narrative. God has no problem with questions. each generation should revisit the key issues & engage in lively discussion/debate to make sure their faith is tested, not resting on the laurels of previous Jacobs that wrestled with the very same angel of the Lord before He blessed them…

      • It’s not so different from knowing another human–take my wife, for instance (and I’m not going to say, “please”). I know her in particular and in ways that her parents cannot know her. And yet they too know here in ways I do not. She has many friends who likewise know her in their particular ways–some more, some less, some are just acquaintances. We’re all getting to know here better over time, providing we are at all in relationship with her first of all, and provided we continue to engage and communicate with her (essential to any relationship).

        Our varied relationships with her are (by definition) relative. After all, a relationship cannot be otherwise than relative–it’s contingent upon relating.

        Nevertheless, none of our perceptions and relationshipos with her make her other than the person she is. Her identity is not contingent upon how I or anyone else perceives her. She is who she is, regardless of how or if anyone relates to her. If she says she is a certain way and she has done certain things, it makes no rational or sane sense for me to deny it simply because she doesn’t align with what I want her to be. Personal identity is absolute, even if we change how we think and believe and with whom we relate. We remain who we are.

        So much more so the personal God in whose likeness he created us–the great “I am that I am.”

        Regardless of how any given individual relates to or perceives him, he is the person who made you and then who became one of you so that he could sacrificially die for you, just so that you could know him for who he is. Coming up with alternative identities and stories can never contribute to that goal of knowing him for who he is . . . not if he is who he says he is or did what he says he did.

  4. I think that apart from Jesus christianity does look like so many world religions. That could be the reason that many in evangelical churches don’t believe Jesus is the only way. I think that is why Imonk got started in the first place. There is a lot of nonsense and even some good advice promoted within evangelicalism but when you are missing “Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins” it really makes more sense to go be a Buddhist.

    • Is it that Christianity looks like other world religions, or that God, being the author of all truth, leaves pieces of Himself everywhere, like a bread crumb trail to lead us to Christ? Not that any religion will qualify us for Heaven, but that if one is earnestly seeking to know God, one will find Him and ultimately find Christ as well.

      • CJ-

        Good way to express the concept of the seeds of the Gospel! 🙂

      • Someone once said, “Apart from Jesus Christ, God might as well be the Devil.”

        I agree with that statement.

        • I disagree with that statement.

          I disagree with it because I think it’s the kind of thing Marcion could have said. Do you really think the Jews before Christ might as well have been worshipping the Devil? I take a look at the Old Testament. Then I take a look at the religion of the Canaanites and Phoenicians. The contrast is striking.

          It is true that Jesus Christ is the full and sufficient revelation of Who God is, but that revelation does not stand in contradiction to what revelation had preceded it.

          • Why then, the cross?

            Why bother?

            Apart from Christ Jesus, there is no salvation. So says the Bible. I believe it. Otherwise why send Him?

          • There’s a huge difference between saying the Cross and Resurrection of Christ are the definitive revelation of a loving God, and saying that everything else God has revealed of Himself up to but not including Christ might as well have been the work of the Devil.

    • The Christian difference is justification by faith. Christianity says God saves saves those who receive his free grace through faith, which is recieved only through passively hearing the Word and passively receiving the sacraments. Our relationship to God is first one of passivity. We actively respond by giving thanks and doing good works, but in no way are God’s gifts conditional on our active response.

      That’s the difference. Every other religion, and many types of Christianity, make God’s gifts conditional on works or decisions or emotions or particular acts in worship or something Christians do. That’s not Christianity. In the end, God rejects no one, except those who reject God and refuse his free gifts.

      • Every other religion? What about the ones that have many gods? Or that don’t even care whether or not there is a God?

        This idea that other religions are based on working your way to God are Christian projections, in my opinion.

      • “God rejects no one, except …” is that a rejection or a willingness to let creatures be creatures and go their own way? I struggle with your wording and wonder if you really meant what you said. Because, if so, I’m not getting that from what Jesus says and does. God may punish and condemn, but God rejects no one; otherwise why die for us – for the whole world – when we were yet (and still are) sinners?

        Our rejection of God is a different plate of lutefisk.

    • This is true. Churchianity turns our faith into a mere religion, like all the others: based on getting to heaven/God/etc. by doing X, Y, and Z. What makes Christianity different is the fact that we aren’t capable of ‘getting there,’ and Jesus did it for us. This is a radically different message than every other religion has ever preached, and when Christianity loses this as its heart, it becomes a hollow shell. And properly understanding this reveals that our motivation toward good behavior has a completely different foundation – one of love, not fear.

  5. Just watched an HBO documentary, “Saving Africa’s Witch Children.” Really, really, really, disturbing. A good example of the misuse or religion. It also raises questions in my mind about the dangers of the Pentecostal movement. I would be curious if anyone who is from a Pentecostal or Charismatic tradition what they think of this kind of stuff. How do you avoid this kind of thing from spreading? Are there Christian organizations trying to stop this kind of stuff? Just curious, the film has really bothered me to be honest.

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      i have exited the Pentecostal/Hyper-Charismatic camps & now consider myself post-charismatic. it was the abuses i experienced in the so-called Prophetic Movement (1995-2002) that literally ‘moved’ me out of it…

      so, for those on the outside looking into such things, it can be, well, really weird. for those that have been involved in it & have elected to move out of it, there can be some perspectives and/or understanding that can be shared. not sure what it is you are addressing, but most things misunderstood will be bothersome whether or not such religious practices incorporate syncretic elements of local non-Christian religions/superstitions.

      what, in particular, is most worrisome for you???

      • What worries me is how easy it was for very nasty con-artists to set themselves up as preachers and make a living exploiting the fear of witches. I mean Pentecostalism seems rife with this kind of thing. In the States it isn’t witch children, but you still get people like Cindy Jacobs, or Lou Engle, who form the outside just scream hucksters. At least looking on the outside.

        As far as the witch children issue in Nigeria, what bothered me is that some of these ‘preachers’ have come and spoken at churches in the States and England. I mean are there organizations that try to expose these people to other Christians? When a claimed witch hunter can come from Africa where he or she has been accusing children as young as 2 years old of being witches and speak in a church in America, that bothers me.

        That’s why I wanted someone in the tradition to respond. How do you expose these kinds of people in Pentecostalism? Or am I just being influenced by an outsiders perspective and the problem really isn’t that big of a deal except in a few places?

        • I grew up in the AoG (a pastor’s son, actually), so while I’ve been in Pentecostal circles most of my life, I’ve always been a step removed from the most of the very weird Charismatic stuff. Of course, some people won’t differentiate between the two at all, but I think there is a difference. I’m actually haven’t been involved in an AoG church for a while now, but the last church we were was Pentecostal. The pastor there was simply superb, though. I’ve really not anyone who could balance reason and being sensitive to the Spirit.

          As far as how to stop abuses, the first thing I would say is that telling people that every spiritual experience they have is fake or made up isn’t going to work. I believe there are real spiritual experiences that people are having, and even the ones I’m skeptical of, the people would say they’re real. The typical western way has been to try to throw doubt on all of them. I think we need to try to educate people but yet not squelch their spiritual hunger. It’s a balancing act to a degree. I know many African Christians, personally, and they aren’t stupid by any means. I think we need to approach people as brothers and sisters and be open to having a true give and take relationship with them.

        • Joseph (the original) says:

          the loudest nay-sayers will be of course, cesationist, non-charismatic camps that do have a valid bone-to-pick as those that perceive wack claims to be, well, wacky…

          there are some within the charismatic tradition that do ‘speak out’ against abuses, or more commonly, over-emphasis (unbalanced) approaches to what i term supra-spiritual stuff. this can include manifestations, claims, teachings, what i came to know as hyper-urban legends. it is in the camps of those that insist on hyper-spiritual ‘normalcy’ that most abuses will occur. i have witness some craziness trying to be passed off as Holy Spirit inspired, but was simply human response to expectations & a one-upmanship atmosphere where the individual’s worth/spirituality/favor of God resided with those that had the most ‘experiences’ and/or ‘manifestations’…

          i have been in services/meetings where so-called prophets coming from Africa had their sensationalist spooky-spiritual stories meant to validate their credentials & amaze the gullible. it is not unlike the Mike Warnke expose that does not convince everyone. he still has a ‘ministry’ to those that invite him to speak & share his ‘testimony’ today.

          the Pentecostal/Hyper-Charismatic high profile types loath to call out their peers since doing so casts doubt on their so-called claims. heck, this is no different than any group or individual in the spotlight. i might think you are over-the-top in your claims, but then if i speak out against it i automatically nullify my claims. there is a ‘good ol’ boy’ tacit approval given by those of the X-treme prophetic/apostolic/faith-healing crowd that does not want to detract from their own bread-and-butter ministry organization.

          however, there is currently more of a grass-roots trend that does a much better job at exposing such types thru internet postings: blogs, videos, message forums, survivor sites, etc. i believe it was such vigilance that deflated the Lakeland fiasco right as it started & exposed Bentley for the fraud that he is. so, it does work albeit imperfectly. no matter how diligent the watchmen there will always be a fan base enchanted by the Next Big Move of God & those that claim to be manifesting the newest Holy Ghost kookiness. wish there were more of a magisterium watch dog oversight for such abuses, but the entire Pentecostal/charismatic camps intensely independent & would never do anything to “quench the Spirit.”

          Lord, have mercy… 🙁

          • Thank you for your responses. I had never thought of the idea that ” the Pentecostal/Hyper-Charismatic high profile types loath to call out their peers since doing so casts doubt on their so-called claims.”
            That makes a lot of sense. It is also true that the internet is giving us the tools to expose this kind of stuff. It was good that Bentley was exposed and i had forgotten it.

            My initial post was a rather visceral reaction to the documentary, I meant no insult to Pentecostals/Charismatic people. Considering that they are one of the fastest going religious movements in the world, when you see things like witch children it makes one worry a bit about the state of Christianity in the world.

          • I want to add my voice to yours Joseph.

            I came out of a Pentecostal background and for 10 years was in the Pentecostal/Hyper-Charismatic stream, that is the Lakeland/Brownsville/Toronto Airport crowd I think they are called 3rd wave by some.

            I think some regular Pentecostals viewed us with some suspicion, and I would say justifiably so.
            I met some very good, well grounded people. But there were quite a number of kooks. I used to wonder why those in leadership tolerated some of the nonsense in their cohorts. I wondered about Bentley from day 1. The bottom line I concluded is that they depend on one another for help in their bread and butter ministry.
            It goes something like this:

            Person X is a good teacher who is discovered by one of the more public teachers (say Todd Bentley). He/she is invited to speak at a regional conference, in which he/she begins to be known. Once his ministry gets big, he now starts to invite the rest of them to his conference where they draw 2000 people. If you track these things, you will find they travel all over the place inviting one another to speak. I would argue that they are hesitant to speak up about imbalances because it threatens their own ministry.

            I am not saying that they are bad people or anything like that. As Joseph points out, the problem is that they lack oversight. And in the case of my church, they went to each other for a covering!

  6. Joseph (the original) says:

    When I was younger I saw things in black and white
    Now all I see is a sad, hazy gray
    Sometimes I see a narrow flash of light
    Sometimes I look and you show me the way…

    ~Bruce Hornsby, Fields of Gray

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      In the middle of my mourning
      Sits joy like a happy child
      In the middle of this death
      I must cry with life for a while

      And death is great
      We are in his keep, laughing and whole
      When we feel deep in life
      He dares weep, deep in our soul
      And you are gone
      But you are perfect now
      And you like to dress
      You wear dresses that never fade

      And you are gone
      (my mother cried she said you’d gone away)
      But you are perfect now
      (and now a part of me must do the same)
      And you like to dress
      (but I know I must be thankful)
      You wear dresses that never fade
      You wear dresses that never fade…

      ~Sixpence None the Richer, Dresses

  7. What is the question that, if you knew the answer to, would set you free?

  8. I hear this all the time. Catholics add on to what Christ did. Would someone who is Catholic please explain the Catholic perspective of salvation and works. In simple language. No Called to Communion apologia please.

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      Don: for a Catholic, there is no issue regarding Jesus’ finished work vs. how it is lived out by faith thru good works. and these good works prepared in advance for the faithful to lovingly particpate in (Eph 2:10).

      there will be no easy, sucinct, Reader’s Digest Condensed version to help non-Catholics of differing theological perspectives grasp it from the Catholic perspective. however, there are many recent discussions on this site that have addressed those issues & have done so in such a way as to clarify some of the most common misunderstandings.

      Martha of Ireland has addressed many of these. and the Catholic responders have also added their personal perspectives of the concepts you mention. it could be those Catholics not wanting to revisit the exhaustive postings that have been done already, so maybe they could just point out which articles+responses best help answer your question.

      blessings…

    • “the Catholic perspective of salvation and works”

      Christ’s free grace gets you in the door, but that’s just enough grace to give you the ability to do good works. After that, you gotta earn salvation with good works. Good works earn merit towards salvation from God and make you an inherently better person. Likewise the sacraments, you earn grace by participating and going to church. Most likely you will be saved if you are Catholic–but you never know so keep doing good works!– but you’ll probably have to burn off a couple millenia in purgatory first to make you truly justified.

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13407a.htm
      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10202b.htm
      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08573a.htm

      Trent spells it out in super detail, but many, often very devout, Catholics don’t really believe what Trent says and will try to convince you it says something different, often along the lines of what Lutherans say: that good works necessarily follow faith. I almost converted until I actually read Trent and the Lutheran response, Examination of Trent by Martin Chemnitz.

    • Hi Don,

      I’ll take a stab at it. Salvation is through grace and love; works are useless unless they are done for the love of God. It’s the love of God that we add to faith in God that differs from the “Solas”. Works are properly understood as the fruits of love. God has need of nothing from us but we love Him and want some way to show Him. Since He commanded that we exercise love of neighbor through works we can demonstrate to Him our love by obeying his command. Love is sometimes translated as charity. It’s simple logic if you love God you want to act to please Him you perform works that you know he seeks. If these works are done at least partly in love they help the faithful persevere to the end (note many Protestants may differ with the idea of perseverance). Some people however do get caught up with the works and neglect God, if this is the case then those works are not the good fruits God seeks.

  9. Can anybody who names themself World Peace keep that name after doing this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjCGlsoRMAo I thought a seven game suspension was too easy, but I could be a little biased.

    • I thought the punishment could have gone either way. It’s hard to judge intent in that situation.

  10. David Cornwell says:

    In baseball, I am impressed by Yu Darvish’s shut down of the Yankees, striking out 10 of them. Only three games for him, and too early to know anything for sure, but he may have what it takes.

  11. I wanted to discuss John Piper’s errant and dud of a book “Bloodlines” but we were told to play nicely. 🙂

  12. cermak_rd says:

    I’m not trying to offend here, but this scenario tickled me. You have a pair of baseball announcers (A1 & A2) and various holy figures from different religions coming up to bat against Satan. How would the game (or even the inning) end? Who would come up next? I was thinking that at some time the Almighty would come up and they would say something like he doesn’t believe in a lot of the other fellows.

    A1:First up, it’s Jesus Christ, he’s carrying some heavy lumber.
    A2:Yes, Christ went 2 and 0 against the Sadduccees and the Pharisees.
    A1: High and outside, it’s 1 and 0
    A2: Satan is throwing some heat today!
    A1: here comes the 0 1 pitch. Hit…Christ is trying for 2 and he’s in with a stand up double.
    A2: here comes Buddha to the plate.
    A1: some folks have said he needs to get into better shape. Where’s his bat?
    A2: he doesn’t use one, claims he only became attached to it.
    A1: OK, but Satan throws hard.
    A2: And it’s low and inside, ball 1.
    A1: That’s not a very good crouch he’s got going, I think he needs a hitter’s workshop.
    A2: Here it comes, inside again. Ball 2.
    A1: Seriously, how’s he gonna hit the ball?
    A2: 2-0 count, looks inside, it hit him! Hit batsperson, he’ll take his base.
    A1: That Satan don’t play fair. This could cause a rumble.
    A2: Buddha’s not likely to take action, he’s a peaceable guy.
    A1: so runners on 1rst and 2nd, here comes Krishna, that’s a funny looking bat
    A2: it’s a cricket bat
    A1: so why a cricket bat?
    A2: because when we told him the game’s not cricket he seemed disappointed in us.

  13. What missing from Joan’s list is the creed based statements that Jesus is lord and God and that He is risen. It’s not enough to say Jesus reminds us that God loves us – Moses did that too.

    • David, you’re making a case for transubstantiation (and I just said don’t get Martha started…).

      The point: if it’s not enough to say that Jesus reminds us that God loves us, is it also not enough to say “Do this in remembrance of me” but rather to favor the literal part of the eucharist, “This is my body”?

      • I agree with transubstantiation but I don’t follow that I’m making the case here, that’s to me a separable issue. You’ll have to connect it for me. I don’t follow you there.

        What I saying is a specific public declaration faith that Jesus is God is required to be Christian. I amazed that would be controversial.

        • The connection is in the word “reminds”.

          If it’s not enough that Jesus reminds us of God, rather that we should receive him into our lives, then is that also the case with the eucharist? That it’s not enough to be reminded (as in my baptist/congregationalist tradition, which I’m finding kinda lame) but that we should receive the elements as if they were, in essence, Jesus (Roman Catholic tradition)?

          I’m hoping Martha can bail me out here.

          • Ted,
            I see your point, although I’m not convinced that’s the only interpretation. I found the original statement too weak, not because “Jesus reminds” was used rather than Jesus is the bread of life (which I believe, I am Catholic). Rather I disagreed with the statement because of what was missing rather than what was there. There was no declaration of Christ’s Divinity. Any lay person can remind of us to love God, but only faith in Christ as God saves. Now I totally believe John 6:53 and the Real Presence, but that’s the single biggest dividing line between Catholics and our “separated brethren” as viewed from the Catholic side. In fact we define the Church as where the Eucharist can be found. From the Protestant side I’d guess justification is the big stumbling block/big controversy judging from comments.

      • Sorry that last comment was very poorly edited should read:

        “What I am saying is that a specific public declaration of faith that Jesus is God is required to be Christian”

        • I had reached the same conclusions above, but posted after you.

        • “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”

          “. . . . whosoever believes in him shall be saved.”

          All that is required to be in right relationship with God (i.e., Christian) is to believe in who he Christ claims to be and what his Gospel story claims he did for you. How else could anyone be in relationship with anyone except by knowing a person for who he/she is and what he/she has done? You can’t relate to the authentic God while pretending he is someone other than who he says he is or denying the loving act he has done for you.

          You can’t come up with other paths to relationship with a person if it means denying who who that person is and ignoring the love that person expresses for you–not even love between humans can work that way.

          But publically declaring love does not make the relationship. One might reasonably expect the wife to affirm publically her marriage to and love for her husband. But that doesn’t make her married.

          Peformance and actions come out of love, they don’t make or define love.

          And love for God is the sum total of everything else theological and Gospel in Scripotures–and Christianity. But I agree, you can’t love God and deny who he is and what he has done out of love so that you might love him. Straw-man gods are nonetheless idols.

          • The public requirement comes from Matthew 10:32-33. I agree of course that public statements must be sincere but only God can know that for sure.

          • Matthew 10:32-33 is not a condition for salvation. It is describing a particular scenario in which Jesus sent the twelve out to evangelize (v. 5). In that context, he’s telling them not to be afraid when they face resistance that is certain to come (v. 31). That’s the “acknowledging” that is going on–between the sharing of and hearing of the gospel, people will acknowledge or disown Jesus for who he is. This is actually much more likely about the Jewish Leader (Pharisees, et al) audiences than the disciples themselves (though the pronoun “whoever” is vague). Jesus is speaking to how the Gospel is received when spoken by and before men.

            This has nothing to do with a public confession being some supposed contingency of salvation. If there is any question as to the point Jesus is making with this reference, look to vv. 40-42. This is all about how preachers of the gospel are receive, not accomplishing salvation by public confession.

            The performance of public confession is necessarily one more works-oriented salvation. Good works do not make faith; good works come out of authentic faith. Faith’s being deaid without works is not because it takes works to make faith true–it’s the reverse. Works are the sign, the symptom, of life. So you confess Christ in Christ not in order to be saved, but for the very reason that you have (already) been saved. It’s an effect, not a cause.

          • This whole faith/works obsession is really tedious. I’m Catholic, I don’t subscribe to the solas. Sure faith is essential and works follow after; that’s a given. However works can open new experiences in God and deepen the faith, growing and enriching it. It’s not a strictly one way affair; it’s a positive feedback loop. Of course you do believe in spiritual growth right? Or do you imagine that once you profess your faith your done?

  14. Here’s what I hope the Internet Monk can discuss. This was a shocker…AND please tell me I am not the only one.

    I read in the news about Tom White the Executive Director for Voice of the Martyrs committing suicide at VOM HQ. He was under investigation for child molesttaion. VOM was one of the few Christian ministries I really respected. Even now…while outside the faith (or wrestling through it…I don’t know….) I have a slew of questions that really eat at my core about this situation.

    1. How does someone reconcile the situation of someone committing an enormous crime with the years of service that they did? When someone comes crashing down like this and chooses to destroy themself. How should one react?

    2. I am so neasutaed at reading a few atheist blogs and almost detecting a sublime glee over the situation. Who could do such a thing? Why the delight at the hypocrsiy? This was someone’s daughter! Tom White was a father, a husband, etc…

    3. When it comes to child molestation why are some Christian media outlets not discussing the full story? Is this an issue they wish they can sweep under the carpet?

    4. Why arn’t Christians more concerned for this young girl? A 10 year old being molested?!? By the head of one of the leading Christian ministries. This wasn’t Hertiage USA or Campus Crusade. VOM was in a league of its own. When I was a Christian I used ot tithe to them.

    5. Why isn’t VOM stepping up to the plate and committing to help this 10 year old. If they can smuggle Bibles into China and provide medical care in the Sudan….can’t they provide counseling and help for a 10 year old in Oklahoma harmed by this situation.

    This situation with VOM was a shocker. As I’ve railed at before….

    1. The televangelsits are sleezy…you know what’s coming when you watch TBN.
    2. Ted Haggard embraced politics and the culture war. Railing against homeosexuality while practicing it is not as big a deal. People tend to rail about the part of themself they hate.

    But this just blew my shocks off……

    Do others of you reasonate? Do you understand? For me this gets back to the problem of evil whihc knaws at me so deeply.

    • Tokahfang says:

      I am in shock, I don’t keep up with the right news to have known that. But I get VotM’s newsletter every month, they are one of my last evangelical-type contacts. I’ll come back later though and try and struggle through your questions, though, because they’re good ones.

      • Tokah Fang says:

        So, I took the night to think and pray about it. The articles I read were terribly vague, lots of “appeared to” and “under investigation for”, but you know, even if they weren’t, that wouldn’t mean I would know if they were right or not.

        So, on a personal level, I prayed. I prayed for Tom, and for an unknown 10 year old, and anyone else who may or may not have been involved. That’s the “judge not lest ye be judged” part of it… I certainly wouldn’t want to be judged by me.

        I’m still grappling with the discernment side of things. I think a lot of how VotM manages the situation, how truthful they are, etc, will influence our financial relationship. At present, I don’t see how they could provide services to an anonymous child, and even if they could, wouldn’t that be seen as trying to influence her? It’s complicated, and I hope they suceed at showing integrity as an organisation in the coming months.

    • Yep – I know what you mean Eagle.
      Just heard about this story and the first thing that came to my mind was: what about the 10 year old girl? It may be that the situation can’t be properly reported because her identity may get revealed if too much is said and I don’t think you can assume that Christians aren’t passive in this – for all we know Christians may be very much involved in providing love and compassion at the moment. I don’t think we need to jump to the conclusion they have walked away from the alleged victim and her family.
      As far as reconciling how someone in his position with years of service could do this – that’s really hard. I suppose I conclude we are all sinners, forgiven but still flawed and prone to sin and those who are in the public eye are often the ones whose sin becomes public property in way those of us who are private individuals never have to face.
      My conclusion: we should pray a lot more for those in positions in the public eye, that they will have the strength to resist the temptation to sin and that their integrity can be maintained as well as recognising that God can use flawed individuals to do great things for him and giving thanks for that.

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        wow. just finished perusing articles covering the Tom White story/scandal…

        this is an interesting twist to the Chuck Colson reactions/responses to his death. wonder what the responses will be via the blogsphere about White’s apparent suicide…

        Lord, have mercy… 🙁

    • The Previous Dan says:

      I have read sources that claim that the majority of male child molesters were themselves molested or abused in some dramatic way. One psychiatrist wrote that it is out of a desire for the person to relive that helpless situation, but this time control it in a way they never could as a child.

      Bottom line, IF the accusation is true (the IF is important. Just the accusation itself is enough to ruin a person today) you still don’t know what kind of a personal hell Mr. White may have been struggling with. Being stuck in his plastic evangelical world, he may not have seen any help available to him. This whole d*** world sucks and each of us are ruined people in one way or another.

      That God thought it was worth it to create this place I’ll never understand. But He believes that in the end it will all have been worth it, so I chose to trust in that. Let’s just pray that that little girl isn’t scarred for life. Wouldn’t it be nice if Rob Bell is right and Love Wins for everyone?

    • Wait … what … ?

      I had not yet heard this news.

      Well, I think your questions are good ones, and I don’t know that I have answers. I will say that child molestation is far more common than most people realize or acknowledge, and evangelicals are certainly not exempt from the ranks of the guilty. Nobody wants to discuss the issue, because its horrific and taboo; but since it is also common, it needs discussion.

      I am guessing that Christians are loathe to discuss molestation in their ranks because it is such an unpleasant topic–and because they have a stake in pretending its not going on among them. It’s the stuff of shame to an individual; it’s a downright scandal when a pastor, a church elder, an educator, or well-known leader turns out to be fault.

      The result? I guess there’s two casualties here — first, there’s the fact that no one wants to discuss the victim, so that leaves her out to dry, so to speak. (And there’s still a disturbing tendency on the part of people to blame victims for what happens to them…) Second, there’s the perpetrator. This must harm him in some way too, even if indirectly…and I imagine that White must have been pretty miserable about the situation, since he killed himself. Although my sympathies naturally run toward the girl, I also think of what an abyss it must be to have a problem that you could never, ever admit to admit anyone, and that, when it comes to light, you know nobody is going forgive you for.

      The only thing I can think to say is that we need to be more willing to admit to the deep pain people are in, and to discuss things openly. As it is, we’re as mute or muter than everyone else.

    • Those who are attracted to children will find the means to get close to them. It doesn’t matter whether it is a christian organization or not… and it should not be a reflection on that organization – unless they try to cover it up. That is why it is so important to have policies and procedures in place and if you witness behavior that makes you feel like something isn’t quite right, chances are its not.

      Its just harder to see in our christian organizations.

      But there is always the chance that it is an unfounded accusation. It only takes an accusation in this area to completely ruin someone unless addressed quickly anfd publicly. Last year a man applied for work in our diocese who had some kind of distant connection with the Bishop. When he was turned down for the job (things in his background check) he wrote on his facebook that the Bishop had sexually assaulted him while he was a senior in high school and the bishop was a young priest. The Bishop went public with the comments and it was determined that the comments were made to defame the Bishop because he did not get the Diocesan job.

      I pray for the innocent in you story who lost her innocense. And as a Father of both boys and girls I can’t even understand this behavior – so I pray for those who do struggle for whatever reason….

      • … also – since I am Catholic and had to deal with story after story, even locally, that shook my faith a bit for a time until I started educating myself on this issue – it sickens me… and then I read a story like Ted’s friend, a guy he’s known for a long time and I think, what if my best buddy were to come out like this? For me, its the taking advantage of someone who is vulnerable for ones own pleasure that gets me, especially when the molester has a family to go home to, to allow the lust to take hold and risk everything… I don’t know, I guess I’ll never understand.

        • I don’t think I’ll ever understand either, Radagast.

          What you’ve said is true. Those attracted to children wil find the means to get close to them, and it is up to the rest of us to be aware of that and to have policies in place to prevent abuse.

          I’m also sensitive to the problem of the false accusation, as you’ve mentioned. That can destroy a person unjustly.

    • Hi Eagle,

      As a Catholic we have all had to face the reality of extremely grave sin such as this, and understandably people have left over it. However my faith is not in my Bishop or Pope or priest, but in Christ. The Church, as my priest tells me, is a hospital for sinners and not a museum of saints. We are going to struggle and some who did authentic good in the past will eventually fail, but Christ is still in His Church and salvation is still available through Him independent of the weak vessel that brought Him to you. May God bless you as you struggle with faith, don’t stop seeking the Truth.

    • I don’t think it actually needs to be reconciled. People have this expectation that mature Christians don’t battle sin anymore, and that’s just not true. The line between sinner and saint is a lot thinner than people realize, because the only line there is Christ. A person trying to follow God, who happened to be in a position of leadership, messed up. It’s hard to read the breadth of the Bible and still find this surprising.

  15. Just a couple of things,

    what’s so bad about being a universalist? (one of those universal reconcilliation types). Why can’t you believe that everyone or almost everyone will be reconcilled to God eventually?

    Why do we (some of us) believe that only a few people will be saved? of the 7 billion people who are alive now which is over half the number of people who have ever lived, 2 billion are recognised christians. Some of those christians would say that others were not actually christians. In any case, that’s a lot of people who will end up in Hell, whatever that might be.

    Is God so powerless, how is this good news?

    • “of the 7 billion people who are alive now which is over half the number of people who have ever lived,”

      Sorry, but that was an idea that came out in the 70s which has been shown statistically to be very inaccurate.

      Those living on earth today are only a small percentage of those who have ever lived.

    • humanslug says:

      I wouldn’t exactly call myself a universalist, but when it comes to the eternal fate of other people, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m just not qualified to judge other people’s souls — or even speculate about that. And I don’t think there are any religious leaders, councils, or institutions that are fully qualified for that either. I do believe that God is qualified, and when it comes to Hindus or secularists or pluralists or people who lived and died and never got a chance to hear the gospel — I can only trust Him to judge justly and fairly and with mercy and compassion in such a way that uncovers the bedrock truth of who a person is. I don’t think anyone’s going to wind up in hell on a religious technicality. And if heaven is primarily about being in the presence of the living God in such an intimate way that it leaves no room whatsoever for any kind of self-deception, egocentrism, vanity, or wickedness — then I think there are going to be a lot of people trampling each other trying to find the quickest exit out of His presence.

  16. Regarding the bit about Jesus reminding us that God love us…what I mean is that when Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish leaders were teaching in ways that made it difficult for the people to see that God is Love. Jesus brought that reminder back to his people. Jesus healed people, forgave people and asked God’s forgiveness even for those who were nailing them to the cross. When we read the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John we are reminded by Jesus that God loves us. This wasn’t about the Eucharist. #8 in my list was actually more in referring to the sacramental life. But remember…I was trying to keep my list SIMPLE because I am a simple person. 🙂

    • You’re not that simple, Joanie. 🙂

      Sorry, I’m the one who brought up the eucharist. The remark was to compare what David said, that being “reminded” by Jesus that God loves us isn’t enough. So I changed the subject and asked if my baptist/congregationalist tradition is enough concerning communion (or the Lord’s supper; we really don’t call it eucharist, and God forbid we call it mass). Is it enough merely to be “reminded” (Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me”, and that’s the only part we baptists get) or should we go a step further, as you Roman Catholics do, and recognize that he also said “This is my body / This is my blood” as if it were more than a metaphor?

      In John 6 Jesus spends a lot of time calling himself the Bread of Life, even comparing himself (or identifying himself?) with the manna in the wilderness that came down from Heaven. in 6:53 he says, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

      It’s been pointed out to me that the phrase “unless you…” (or “except ye…”, KJV) in reference to eating/drinking his flesh/blood is the same in the Greek as the “unless” (or “except”) in John 3:3, “Jesus answered him [Nicodemus], ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”

      So, how seriously should we baptists take the words of Jesus? Is there more to the Lord’s supper than a reminder? I mean, we take “born again” dead seriously, though not literally; but we’re not really giving the Catholic interpretation of the Lord’s supper (communion, eucharist, mass, God-forbid-I-call-it-that) a second glance. And that wasn’t even an issue in the Reformation, at least not in the early days.

      I still think your comment at the top was a great first comment to break the ice for an open forum.

      • Ted, no need to apologize for bringing up the Eucharist. You are asking interesting questions. Are you wondering yourself if the answer to your question “Is there more to the Lord’s supper than a reminder?” may be “yes?” There could be many Baptists who “take communion” and have decided that it IS more than a reminder. And there may be many Catholics who “receive the Eucharist” who only believe that they are re-enacting the Last Supper as a “reminder” even though that is not what they have been taught. I choose to believe that it IS more than a reminder and that God has given us this way of being touched by him in a special way and that it is something that we cannot do on our own. We must come together for Holy Communion. If it is only a reminder, so are many other things. I think Holy Communion is set apart as something very, very special indeed.

        • “There could be many Baptists who “take communion” and have decided that it IS more than a reminder. ”

          Mark me down as being one of those Baptists.

          • All I can add is that the act of taking Christ Himself into my own body is the high point of my week, a chance to communicate with Him and get spiritual food that is VERY hard to explain.

            PLEASE don’t think I am being offensive or trying to pull a Mark Driscoll with the following, but here goes (an allegory, OK?)

            The Eucharist is a moment of loving union that is not unlike marital relations….it is the joy and togetherness, a celebration. The love is there all week in the day-to-day tasks, but both of these acts are mountaintop experiences that nourish through another week of slogging through the valley.

          • Thanks, Joanie, Mike and Pattie.

  17. I’ve just read the spoof blog on CBE and TGC by John Stackhouse that CM has posted on the Bulletin Board – an absolute joy. It’s definitely worth a read.

    • My desire still stands!!! I want to see John Piper and Tim Challis tell Margaret Thatcher that she can’t read scripture in front of a man in their church. Man I’d buy tickets to see Thatcher lean into Challis and Piper!! 😀

      • I don’t think she’d even bother with them – mere minions – way down on her list of people to worry about!

      • It’d have to be Maggie in her prime though Eagle, like she was in the 80’s. These days she is very elderly, quite unwell lady. Sad to see, despite despising her politics.

        • Yes, this would never happen. Just because American evangelicals imagine the entire world revolves around them does not require the rest of the world to share in that delusion. I seriously doubt Dame Thatcher would be impressed with those names; then again she likely has difficulty with many others given her advanced state. I am not a Thatcher fan; have a “Brassed Off” sort of view, because of her political bent. Might I suggest Ian Paisley as an appropriate substitute?

      • Ditto, dude. ;o)

  18. I do have a comment to make…

    I don’t think we discussed Mark Driscoll’s book on “Real Marriage” enough. Can we open discussion on that?
    I’m all game! 😀

  19. petrushka1611 says:

    I thought of something yesterday that I would love to ask on here, and of course I’ve forgotten it.

    But for now, I could use a LOT of prayer for wisdom, grace, and patience.

    • petrushka1611 says:

      And Eagle, forgive me if I missed something you posted more recently, but how is your dad doing?

      • My family has a long haul ahead of them. Its been an emtional see-saw. One MRI shows the tumor not being there…another doctor thinks differently. I’ve been on an emtional roller coaster ride I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.

        I love my Dad so much…I could not have had a better father.

  20. I will take this opportunity to get on my soapbox and call for all members of the Imonk East-Coast Community to make themselves known.

    Are you sick of the self-loathing of these Cubs, Reds, and Colts fans? Don’t you want to gloat a little bit about the Giants and have some good old-fashioned Yanks-Red Sox debate?

    New York metro area & New England, stand up!

    How cool would an east coast meetup be??

    • I started my Imonk journey in Connecticut, and am now continuing in seminary in NY, just outside of NYC.

    • I’d be game….you come down to Washington, D.C, Sean and we can see a Nationals game or an Oriels game in Baltimore!!!! 😀

      • …and if on May 5th you happen to see about 125 eighth graders from Pittsburgh checking out the Lincoln Memorial, you will probably run into me as well (I’ll the the one in the Red Sox cap turned backwards… the hat that is…)

      • Just now it’s about 50/50 that I’ll be at the Phillis game on May 5. Contact me via the TWW contacts if you want to go.

    • A warm Hello to all from Baltimore!

      (Go Ravens)

      • That Other Jean says:

        And another. How ’bout them O’s?

      • Another one from Baltimore!! Trying to stay awake for the NFL draft – Ravens at 29th pick. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, except maybe hold out until 2:00 am.

  21. Is there any site kind of like iMonk, but less conservative? I enjoy the discussion, but I’m afraid the coverage is not very balanced. I don’t expect the site owners here to treat, for example, mainstream Episcopalians on a par with the schismatic Anglicans–let alone give serious consideration to radical deconstruction of the Bible and Christianity–because that’s just not your theological milieu. But perhaps you know of “sister sites” representing other points on the ideological spectrum. Do you?

    One thing you might consider doing (and I would say this to any religious group) is genuine interfaith dialogue. By this I don’t mean cherry-picking five like-minded friends who happen to belong to different churches, I mean reaching out to the most different possible religious groups (especially your traditional “enemies,” and you could go various ways with this) and having a genuine discussion. Besides liberal Christians, I know that there are atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, and even Satanists who would respond positively to such overtures. We should all do this more, IMHO, otherwise we end up just talking to ourselves.

    • don’t expect the site owners here to treat, for example, mainstream Episcopalians on a par with the schismatic Anglicans

      From what I’ve read the Episcopalians in the US are considered to be the schismatic ones in relation to the world wide Anglican community. Most Anglicans in the world seem to feel this way.

      • The Previous Dan says:

        I think she is talking about the Continuing Anglican Movement. From what I understand they are a splinter from the Episcopal Church here in America. They are the “conservative” branch.

        • I’m fairly sure he’s referring to the groups like AMIA. It is a bit confused just now but what he calls the schismatics, they call themselves the true believers and have allies in the vast majority of the world wide Anglican community.

          I looked into this a few years back when I considered joining a “schismatic” church. Or at least that’s what he would call it.

    • cermak_rd says:

      I don’t know, iMonk is pretty balanced as far as it goes. Let’s face it, if you look at evangelical Christianity in the US, it’s a conservative thing. And the original iMonk was an evangelical Baptist.

      You might consider Street Prophets, they at least might be able to point you to a community that’s more friendly to your outlook.

    • This is conservative??? 🙂

      You might try Rachel Evans’ blog. I only go there occasionally, so I don’t know what it’s like overall, but she has had a series of interviews called “Ask a…” that looks pretty good. I’ve read the “Ask a Unitarian-Universalist” interview and found it very good. Here’s the link to the series:
      http://rachelheldevans.com/topics?tags=ask+a&start=0

      • Ted, I love Rachel’s “Ask A_____” series. I also enjoyed her book Evolving in Monkey Town. She has a good sense of humor and she attempts to be very honest and I think she succeeds. She’s an excellent writer.

    • Noelle, we definitely have a point of view and at this time don’t intend to broaden things as much as you suggest. Rachel Held Evans has had some of that on her blog that you might want to check out. She has an “Ask a…” category you might search. The Patheos portal contains a wide swath of different religious viewpoints but I’m not sure how much interaction there is between the various religious perspectives. If I think of any other ideas, I’ll post them.

      How about the rest of you?

      • CM….I learn so much here. This is not only my favorite site, but the only one that I support in other ways, because I trust how you and Jeff and Denise and the rest of the crew act as stewards.

        I love the current balance….talk about a book or controversy, reflect on scripture, throw around current events, and give a voice to the deep yearnings of our hearts as we grow in Christ…..and the big mash up of ideas and news on the weekends (Thanks, Ramblers!)

        I-Monk IS my small study group, my coffee club, the folks I hang with in a cyber-pub to shoot the breeze, and many of the people I pray for.

        Thanks for all that you do…..I have grown so much being here! I have found books and authors (Ragamuffins Unite) that have changed my life, and learned about others faith and struggles. Keep it coming!!

      • I haven’t been here very long but I appreciate that at least the word “liberal” isn’t thrown around as an insult. That’s as much as I can hope for on most Christian sites. 🙂

      • Tokah Fang says:

        Imonk is where I discovered eastern orthodoxy was still a going concern, and where I got to “meet” practicing, thinking catholics. Nowadays, it has the extra purpose of keeping me aware of the evangelical world I left, but still love. I appreciate what you guys do very, very much. It is the only blog I check daily anymore.

    • Actually I think I made the comment once that it seems as folks here wander deeper in the Post evangelical wilderness the more liberal they become – sometimes I find there is much more conservative bashing here lately… but then I turn the other cheek or take cover under a rock for a while…

      • I think that is a valid point. Church history since the reformation seems to be a tension between returning to centralized, hierarchal faith and a gradual drift toward universalism. A lot of American Evangelicalism is caught in the no-mans land in between those extremes.

  22. Joseph (the original) says:

    well iMonk groovy guys & groovy gals…

    off to my Wednesday nite Theology on Tap class going over Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins…

    the class held at an old tavern landmark here in town. we take over the entire 2nd floor…

    as i told the teacher of the class: theological discussions are always much more enjoyable with a bible in one hand & a beer in the other…

    blessings! 😉

  23. So who here is a Mark Heard fan? I don’t listen to much “Christian music”, but in the past year I’ve absolutely fallen in love with him. I actually discovered him through Michael Spencer…two great Christian men who died before their time. Heard’s last three albums in the early 90s really are remarkable. Once he got out of the 80s and started producing his own music he struck gold and hit a period of remarkable creativity with the albums Satellite Sky (my favorite), Second Hand, and Dry Bones Dance. His lyrics had a rare combination of for thoughtful and honest introspection, vivid imagery, and insightful social critique. He was a brilliant songwriter, not just for “Christian music” but by any standards.

    It’s so sad that he died at his peak when he may have been close to hitting it big and probably had many more great albums ahead of him. I wish more people knew about him. I’m doing my part by learning to play some of his songs!

    • I’m a big fan. I know several others here are, too. I’m surprised you haven’t had more responses.

  24. Tokah Fang says:

    Random question for the catholics:

    Pattie has said repeatedly that y’all don’t have “services”, you have mass. But what about things that are not mass. I know catholicism still have various services of the hours (vespers, compline, nocturne, etc). What are they called, if not services?

    • TF….

      Ok, you have me in a corner, and are 100% correct! 🙂

      I guess I get on my soapbox about what happens on Sundays (actually, every day except Good Friday) being MASS that I overlooked…in all honesty, the “other stuff”. You even have the names right, the liturgy of the hours has different names for the same type of communal prayers (psalms, songs, and scripture reads) based on the hour of the day.

      There are also communion services (pre-consecrated host distributed when there is no priest), plus gazillions of kinds of study groups, communal penance services, and other times when two or more Cathlics pary together.

      So, mea culpa for my totally unintentional error!

      So, correctly, where MOST Catholics go on Sundays or Saturday nights is Mass!

      I will go give myself a time out now……

      • Tokah Fang says:

        No time out necessary, I was honestly curious. I’ve just always felt it wasn’t worth derailing any of those previous threads over.

  25. (My last comment on my first comment) It was a list for me as a Christian. It was not a list for a person wondering what Christianity is about and whether they should be a Christian, etc. The list starts with it already a known as to who Jesus is and what He did.

  26. Here’s a late comment to throw in the mix:
    Theists often make the criticism of atheists that they lack a moral standard, i.e. if there is no God, then all that matters is self-preservation and self-indulgence.

    I actually have begun to wonder if the argument can be reveresed, that it is the atheist who has a higher morality than the theist. The reason is that the theist – particularly those of the personal peity and manifest destiny type – believe God is in control, loves us so much, and has designed creation so intelligently that nothing bad can ever happen to us (leap from the pinacle of the temple and the angels will catch you). For whatever reason, theism seems to lead us into the same self-indulgent, narcissistic, reckless behaviors of which we accuse atheists.

    In contrast, the Atheist knows there is no safety net, that what we release into our aquarium is what we will eventually have to drink. The atheist will be more concerned about destruction of “creation” and the gene pool and will assume more responsibility for the preservation of the species and the world at large. The atheist will be concerned about the wealthy and powerful destroying the weak, because wealth does not necessarily promote the best of the gene pool. The atheist has no death wish for the global thermal nuclear war that is supposed to usher the return of a messiah (how bizarre!).

    Just a thought. Maybe I have listened to too many campaign speeches praising God out of one side and praising war and the exploitation out of the other. Maybe I just can’t hear an alternate voice of reason within Christian circles anymore, where the cross is mightier than violence, that love is more powerful than fear, that responsibility and stewardship are not equal to tree-hugging.

    • I think you’re right on, DO. But I still affirm also that it’s typically hard to hear the significant population of believers who would affirm (with their “voices of angels”) that love does win and that all else hangs on as much–it’s especially difficult to hear them over the increasingly harsh clamor of legalism’s squeeky wheels and clanging cymbals. It can be difficult to think other than there’s nothing left out there but the meanginless noise.

      But there is always a remnant, quietly going about the only meaningful work of love.

    • Well, ultimately, though, there’s nothing to give the atheist position any real meaning. Why is existence better than non-existence? There’s nothing saying that preserving our species is better than not preserving it. An atheist can point to self-preservation as an ideal, but he can’t explain why it’s better than the alternative.

      • Personally, I think this is a straw argument we theists like to use. The atheist can always say, “to exist is better because I want to exist, and because I can create meaning.” There may be something bittersweet to the finiteness of the world as I experience it at that moment, and of my own life, but it is still possible to affirm meaning, beauty, and justice. And in fact, many people do just this thing.

        The atheist might also point out that the theist can use his longing for “another world” as an excuse to denigrate this one.

        I choose to see the stubborn beauty of the world and my own longing for transcendence as a reason to believe there is something more Ultimate out there, and I take that even further and affirm the Nicene Creed. It calls out to me; I answer. But ultimately I think that’s an existential leap, a kind of faith in the midst of absurdity, in much the same way as waking up in the morning and deciding, “the day is beautiful and I find meaning in it.”

  27. Am looking for someone who has read Cahn”s Harbinger. Wish Imonk would comment on it or someone else,please…..