March 25, 2017

The Ecclesiastes Attitude

walking_alone.jpgIt is the tradition of this web site to hear my confessions, my struggles and my emotions. “Confessional” blogging on my part has touched hundreds of readers and convinced one or two that I am unfit to be in the ministry or even a professing Christian. So be it. This is what’s set on my table these days. I can’t explain it to you; all I can do is write and pray. Trusting God is hard. His ways are not my ways, and his ways are unthinkably difficult for me right now.

So if you don’t understand these kinds of posts, I’m sorry. My journey. My struggles. My questions. My wrestling with God.

My Bible classes watch a lot of the “Turner” Bible movies. I’ve seen them all so many times that I frequently get them confused with scripture itself. Their storylines and scripts are embedded in my mind and I have to, occasionally, sort things out.

For example, in the movie “David,” the prophet Nathan tells David, “God makes it difficult to be a king.” Scripture never says that (at least not that I know of) but it is appropriate for the story of David and his particular failures.

Nathan is not just sounding prophetic; he’s interpreting some of the events and consequences David has brought on himself. It’s that mixture of causation that the Bible so easily tosses out from cover to cover: People do things, God does things. We have our purposes, influences and reasons. God has his purposes, motives and outcomes. The two “tracks” run alongside each other, and out there in the distance, they seem to come together. But no matter how far I walk in this life, it seems the two never come together. Beyond the horizon, they merge in God, but I am well on this side of the horizon.

Nathan could be speaking to my life or to yours. I made the choices; the consequences have arrived. I ate the food; I gained the weight. I was angry; people I love were affected. I wasted opportunities; they never returned. I sinned; I experienced the bitter fruit. Life happened; the results are there for all to see, written in my own hand and in God’s.

Of course, when you reflect on life, there is much that was beyond your control. Why was I born in America? Why was I the only child of Lee and Dorothy Spencer? Why were we poor? Why did Dad never take me to Little League? Why was dad depressed? Why were they fundamentalist Baptists? Why did I hear about the Bible, God, Jesus and “being saved” from the time I was an infant? And on and on.

“Whys” can put you over the edge of sanity. If you are intelligent and see connections and relationships, it can be overwhelming.

And then there’s God’s work, not quite as simple to understand or question. God’s causes. God’s choices. God’s purposes. I know that “track” is there. One of the intolerables of atheism for me is I cannot ignore the fact that this life that I cannot understand is still intelligible. It is the same life experience for me and the people in the room with me. If it were chaos without purpose or design, there is no reason experience would be intelligible to any of us. This, among many other reasons, compels me to believe that God has made reality purposeful, and that in ways I am not equipped to see, understand or describe, it makes sense to God.

Scripture speaks of this over and over, in example and affirmation. Does it explain God’s purposes? No….and it’s a good thing too. Like the brilliance of the sun, the illumination is tolerable; the direct view is not possible, at least not for us mortals.

Instead of direct knowledge, God sends his Word. In nature, reason, scripture and Jesus/Holy Spirit. And this Word is his announcement of his purposeful working in our lives.

“All things work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to his purpose…”

“Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”

“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.”

“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.”

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

The God of the Bible knows what he is doing. His work is, as scripture says, “past finding out.” He asks for no advice. He is not holding question and answer press conferences. He is not writing books of ten easy-to-understand bullet pointed explanations. He has spoken, and it is up to me to hear, believe and live accordingly.

And for me, at least, it’s difficult. It’s difficult knowing that I have failed in so many ways, hurt so many people, brought so many sinful consequences into my relationships…and God is at work- somehow- in all of it.

I want God’s purposes to be carried out through what I’ve done right. I’ve studied, preached, taught, served, counseled, led, encouraged and lived for the Gospel for more than 35 years. I want God’s purposes to be in response to all the sermons I’ve prepared. I don’t want God’s purposes to be about my failures, broken promises and abuses of others. I want to put what I want on the table, and I want God to work with that.

I’ve done a lot of things right, and I’d prefer God publish a list of how all of them are going to be rewarded. But that’s not the way it’s going to be. God is going to do what he wants to do, for reasons that can fit into a sentence in the Bible, but which are far too mysterious to wrap my mind around.

Sunday night I’m going to preach on “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I know what the text means, but I can’t read it without thinking that I am, in a way, fearful of what God is up to. I read his ultimate purposes and I try to think of them, but I know that God has purposes now; purposes that involve my failures and the consequences he will not spare. God is not invested in hearing me say what I “need.” If he wants to take away, he will take away, and his purpose will be for me to go on without whatever he took away. The same with suffering, obscurity, humiliation and failure. God cannot be manipulated into carrying out my plans with my selected materials. He is about carrying out his plans with whatever materials he chooses.

The answer to encroaching cynicism is, I believe, Christian hedonism. The quest is not for understanding, but is for joy. The promise is not that God will do what he determines, but that he is determined to satisfy me forever with himself. Along the way of living this life, I have many more miles to travel. My heart is often hard, my mind fearful and my vision small. I am guilty of wanting God to make much of me rather than make me into a soul who makes much of him now and forever.

I am far more tempted with cynicism than I am with unbelief. I am far more inclined, as C.S. Lewis said, to see God as the experimenter than as the divine lover and heavenly Father. My prayer, and the prayers I ask for, is that I would trust God by exalting in his love, goodness and grace poured out in Christ and directed invincibly and irresistibly toward me.

There is a reason the book of Ecclesiastes is in the Bible. I have always been bothered by those who easily explained and expounded this book. It is a book that wanders in the same emotions that I have. The author counsels trust in God, but the struggle continues on every page. Over and over, he returns to the affirmation that life under the sun is meaningless and only God makes it meaningful. Only God is our hope in this world.

But Koheleth finds himself trusting a God who is never revealed in intimate loving terms. In Ecclesiastes, God seems sometimes to be more a deity of unavoidable fatalism rather than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I know something of this God. He gives. He takes away. He does not explain. He asks for faith, and for everything you thought you could never give up.

I do not know God’s ways. I can only put my hand over my mouth, look to the Word and the work of the Spirit, and press on. When all my wrestling is over, God remains.

Comments

  1. If you tell me I need to join your denomination, I’m going to edit your comment into something that will ruin your life and post it.

    Seriously, it’s writing. Let it be what it is.

  2. I’ve always found Ecclesiastes and Job two of my favorite books of the Bible.

    I think because they’re the two places where God meets me in my limited and slightly-mad perspective. Things don’t make sense under the sun. The only hope is God. It’s not very practical, it doesn’t fill me with “answers,” it doesn’t make everything neat. But the desire for answers is good–and if there’s no answer “under the sun,” we can hope that God has one.

    Keep up the writing.

  3. You should totally become a Jedi, dude. You’re halfway there. Just embrace the Force.

  4. Btw, your last paragraph is simply beautiful.

  5. Thank you for the inspired post… you’ve mirrored my own heart’s struggle to be sure and have reminded me WHY I should be thankful that God does not reveal His deepest plan, or His every reason with me. Thank you, you find me blessed.
    Cheers!
    – Jo
    http://followtheroadlesstravled.blogspot.com

  6. Or,maybe, you’re clinging to something you wish was real but know that it isn’t.

    I mean, come on. The list of unanswered questions I have would fill this little box, and that makes no sense.

    If God is real, then why is everything so complicated? Wouldn’t he want to simplify it so that everyone who wanted to would come?

  7. You know, it’s all fine and well for all of you to continue to promote Scripture. Because your lives are pretty much all about that.

    Try being me. Try attempting to win your husband over without a word, when all along I should have been having a word. I should have been standing up for my kids instead of allowing their father to fuck up their lives.

    If the New Testament isn’t a lie, it’s at least a poor example of living. My kids have walked away from the church and from our family after my so-called submissiveness.

    And I could have done differently. I hate everyone who preaches any kind of New Testament die to self bullshit. I wish I’d been a materialistic looking out for my kids kind of person all along.

  8. I’ve been in the Ecclesiastes frame of mind for a lot of my earlier life. It’s a hard place to be in. It’s certainly the place most consistent with plain, observable, material reality, but I think most people would agree that material reality is pretty bleak in the long run.

    I greatly admire you, Michael, for “daring” to put these thoughts out there for other people to comment on. They are no doubt more helpful than you will ever be able to know, because they show a real human being wrestling with faith and doubt, rather than the usual superficial religious piety.

    People like me who have been atheists and agnostics can tell you how repellant and depressing some of the standard Christian books are (including some of the earlier C. S. Lewis), as they practically radiate smugness. In my atheist days, trying and really wanting to get back to some Christian belief, I can remember reading “Mere Christianity” for some guidance and ending up throwing it across the room.

    How much better and more hope-inspiring it is to read of the actual struggles and questions of a true Christian like you, and to see that such struggles and questions are “allowed” within the framework of faith.

    For me, now a Christian, the way out of that bleak Ecclesiastes place is to look at Jesus Himself, not at dogmas or theology. Here was an actual person, who was born, grew up, lived and died. He came to show us the way we need to grow up and live and die. He is the Son of God, not a dogma or a theological proposition that we need to try and figure out. Neither is he the terrible, remote, awesome, uncaring deity that that The Preacher (and you?) seem to feel God to be. He is a person, tempted as we were, sometimes impatient, discouraged, scared, even rude (Imagine telling the poor Canaanite woman she was a dog!). Yet if our faith means anything, it is that He was the Son of God, and therefore the model for us. If we follow in His footsteps and try to do what He would do, today, we are in the “path of life.” Tomorrow will take care of itself.

    In other words, my faith, for whatever it’s worth, really does come down to bumper-sticker simplicity: What would Jesus do? And then I do that. (Or I don’t, and generally end up wishing I had.) I think trying to figure out God’s purposes would give me the same kind of headache it seems to be giving you.

    Jesus told us to address God as “Father,” or even “Daddy.” I try to think of God that way, as the loving Father that Jesus spoke of. Of course, that Father led Jesus to Gethsemane, but Jesus seems to have decided that even so, loving His Father was worth it. In a vastly lesser scale, God has led me into some very strange and hard places in this life, as He has most of us, I suppose. But being able to relate to Him as my Father has helped me through them.

    If thinking about God’s grand designs brings a person closer to God, then that’s a good thing to do. (Duh). But maybe not so much, if it leads to the conclusion that God is identical with an inexorable, remote, grim fate, that “If he wants to take away, he will take away, and his purpose will be for me to go on without whatever he took away. The same with suffering, obscurity, humiliation and failure.”

    If God *really* doesn’t care about us, except as pawns in His great and incomprehensible plans, then I honestly can’t see any reason that I would worship him. What’s to worship? It would be like worshipping gravity. If His ways are truly not our ways, and if what He thinks is good is what appears to us as evil and tragic, and if our sufferings and despair are basically irrelevant to Him, then why even bother trying to figure Him out? Such a God would be just one more natural disaster we’d have to cope with in this life, like Cat 5 hurricanes.

    The only way I can understand and worship God is through what I know of Him in Jesus. If I’ve got that wrong, I sure can’t replace it with “a deity of unavoidable fatalism.” I’d have to drift or dive back to atheism (and with “unavoidable fatalism” as my alternative, I’d do so gladly).

    Thank you again, Michael, for your courage in opening up this area for thought and comment. I hope you find the joy you spoke of.

  9. Michael,
    I really enjoyed this post and thank you for your honesty and thoughtfulness. It’s easy to be honest and complain about God and easy to be thoughtful and forget him.
    I wonder how Paul felt in prison. Did he know that he was writing letters that would be part of turning the world upside down or did he feel like he was on the sidelines, forgotten and useless. God is in the business of talking our mistakes, failures and screw ups and turning them to good. My greatest failures are the source of his greatest grace in my life. They have turned for my good and sometimes for the good of those around me.

  10. Thanks, Michael, for using your gift of being articulate to share so honestly from your heart. You said, “I can’t read it without thinking that I am, in a way, fearful of what God is up to. I read his ultimate purposes and I try to think of them, but I know that God has purposes now; purposes that involve my failures and the consequences he will not spare.”
    I’ve been thinking about that recently as I’ve read some posts on ancienthebrewpoetry about Job 28. As I reread that chapter, I was thinking a paradoxical theme of that book could be, “Safe in the Hands of a Frightening God.” I also am terrified of God’s will and purposes, even while I trust Him more deeply than I ever have before (meaning all my eggs are in one basket, and I’m not naive about what that means anymore).

    Marcia, I also deeply appreciate your honesty, even though what you’ve walked through and the fallout you still face from that breaks my heart. I separated from an abusive husband and that is also (like staying in such a relationship) a complicated choice with huge implications for my kids. Your questions echo some of my own, and demonstrate a tension I know I live with and cannot defend. There are times I realize I could resolve the tensions and missing pieces and what seems to make sense as intolerable contradictions by giving up on trust and walking away from God. What I can’t explain and defend or persuade another person of is why, time after time, I do not give up and walk away, why I continue to trust God in spite of it all. Michael’s post here articulates well part of why I keep trusting. But I don’t say that flippantly, and I feel acutely and painfully and have a great respect for why, from your perspective it is a crazy, self-destructive choice. I do not agree, but neither can I argue with you–how do I argue on one level from experience and trust against your questions and suffering, when those questions in light of your suffering make sense to me on another level. I feel this tension within myself. I suppose I resolve it by choosing to live with the tension and the contradictions and still trust.

  11. Nicholas Anton says:

    As it seems, many of us have gone through or are going through the “Job” syndrome. Many of us who believe and trust in Jesus find the world crashing around us, with no indication as to why or for what, and when it will end. What does one do when the optimism of youth and the passion of adolescence are backed against an invisible, unmovable impenetrable barrier of darkness? Yes, the memories of the past remain intact and continue to give hope, but the present is unable to duplicate and experience their former grandeur. The glorious cathedrals of the human imagination become nothing more than memories in the permafrost of an unending Antarctic night into which one enters and from which one does not return. When one cries along with others like Goethe, “I, miserable Atlas, I must carry the weight of the world on my shoulders”. Then finally, a coming to terms with that fate.
    Michael, I understand. Many understand. And yet, on the other hand, we will always be misunderstood and castigated by the supposed “spiritually strong” majority. I have personally endured sixty years of depression, of which the vast majority have been severe. I know of no cause to the problem other than that it is genetic based, part of my fallen human nature. No one on earth knows the depth of my depression, not even those dearest to me. And while I have given up on a future reprieve on earth, I have learned to live with the problem successfully for the most part.
    And yet, God has been so good. He has given me a wonderful wife with whom I share three wonderful children who all believe. Because of depression, God has also given me many insights which I would never had known otherwise. I will conclude with the great exclamation of Paul after discussing election, which you also posted, and which along with the books of Job and Hebrews are some of my favorite passages in Scripture;
    Rom 11:33-36;
    “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”

  12. This is a hard topic. It seems to me when I read the Old Testament everything has a purpose in God. When Israel is destroyed, it is because they disobeyed God. But it is hard to look at things that happen and say that it was God’s plan. Who would say that the holocaust was God’s plan or tell a rape victim that it was God’s will that they were raped? As a Christian I struggle with this constantly. And what people are saying is true, that God works beyond what we can understand. It is also true that we are fallen; we live in a world away from God where horrible things happen. But I think there is a very important answer here, Christ. That God loves us so much that became one of us and suffered for us. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t want what is best for us and that we shouldn’t stand up for ourselves. It seems to me that the Gospel that Jesus preaches is an offensive one that calls us to stand for Justice against the “traditional values” of society. Part of Love is truth. But that in our failures and in our questions and our doubts that God loves us. If we give it to God He can heal our wounds so that by brokenness we can become closer to God.

  13. If you tell me I need to join your denomination, I’m going to edit your comment into something that will ruin your life and post it.

    Got targeted for “sheep-rustling” one time too many, IMonk?

    (That’s the Christianese version of the various SF fandoms’ “One Fanboy Too Many”…)

  14. Michael:

    I mostly just lurk here, because given the quality of the posts and comments, I never feel like I have anything useful to contribute. Better just sit quietly cross-legged on the floor of the classroom. But thanks for this one. You will never, at least on this side of the horizon, know what a help you have been to strangers.

    Also, Nicholas, thanks for your comment. My experience has been very similar to yours. And I’ve never been able to talk about it to anyone outside my immediate family, and that includes other Christians. How do you explain something like that? How could they understand? Am I not praying enough? Just lacking in faith? Why would a new creature in Christ need meds? Should they let me teach Sunday School? Heck, I don’t understand it. But my maker does. And I can still be salt and light. Salt and light – those words are my lifeline right now.

    Thanks for listening.

  15. Thanks for sharing your heart with us Mr. Spencer; you bless me.

    I can also relate to cynicism. I might describe this as dreading divine providence. A friend once said to me, it’s as though I play blindman’s bluff for the entertainment of a capricious diety sitting on a throne somewhere.

    Two thoughts:
    1. I think you are right about Christian hedonism being an antidote to this attitude. If I am most satisfied in God–if I have this joy–then there is a lot less room for dread (especially in the midst of trials).

    2. God is more intimately connected with us than we realize. John 14:20 says that we are in Him and He is in us. So love (and joy and peace) are a lot closer than we think too. All we have to do is open our hearts…

  16. Oh, and Marcia, I’m sorry you have so grossly misinterpreted the New Testament with regards to women and submissiveness. This is a fine illustration of how important theology can be.

    Submission is NOT agreeing with everything a husband says or always following him (into sin, for example). It is NOT avoiding every effort to change a husband or leaving your brain and decision-making power switched off. In fact, it is the opposite. Submission is a means of strength, fearlessness, hope, and influence (the most powerful kind, actually).

    These thoughts are from John Piper’s Sermon, “The Beautiful Faith of Fearless Submission,” should you want to eat more. It is good, practical stuff for families.

    Peace to you…

  17. WOW! Don’t we all wonder about why the bad things happen? I’ve had many such discussions with God–and I am grateful for His mercy. My son almost died at birth; then I was told that he would be a vegetable, unable to contribute. Yet over the years, God has shown me that this “imperfect” creation (in man’s eyes)can be used for His perfect will. My son has exemplified God’s perfect love in sooo many ways. While I struggle with my flaws, and how disappointing I must be God’s eyes, my son just loves, as God tells us to love one another. So many have been touched by this boy who can’t run (some days struggles to walk) and can’t do many of the things his peers are capable of.

    We worry so much about what our failures are (and we should try not to repeat them). But we forget that our purpose is to be salt and light to a fallen world, to love with a pure heart, and to share that love with the world. God’s Son was sent so that our earthly flaws, our sins, would be removed from judgement. We should try to do that with those around us. Are there consequences for actions? Yes. Is there pain? Yes. But we should try to get past that and have grace for others.

  18. Eclexia–thanks. I truly appreciate your response.

    Chris–nice try. Keep on beating women down, bud. God will be proud of you.

  19. Marcia,

    I can’t imagine the pain you’ve gone through, both from your marriage and your church. Nothing can be said to fix that. I can only say that requiring a wife to submit to her husband without mentioning that a husband is also supposed to submit to his wife is misguided at best. Requiring one-way submission in a broken marriage is dangerous. My church background strongly promotes this view of marriage, without acknowledging the affects sin can have on that relationship (or just dismissing them–“If you’d just submit, everything would be fine!”). I don’t have any solutions for you, just deep heartbreak for your pain. I hope that you can find some of the answers to your questions. I hope that you can find help for where you are now in life, with its complexities and hardships. I hope that maybe, someday, you can again consider faith in God. (I hope you don’t take all this wrongly, but as a poor attempt to put what’s in my heart into this box.)

    Matt

  20. I have great difficulty with this idea. On the one hand, I struggle because I’ve come to deeply disagree with my church on many issues, including how the Bible should be approached and whether “real” Christians are allowed to have doubts. On the other hand, my upbringing in church serves as a powerful deterrent to expressing these doubts, lest I be branded an unbeliever or added to the weekly prayer list under “Spiritual Needs.” (As if there are any of us who couldn’t stand to go on that list.) As I’ve struggled with my struggles, I’ve been grateful for my wife, who lets me talk things out without calling me a heretic (well, at least she doesn’t mean it when she does call me a heretic), and for this blog, which seems to collect readers and commenters who have had struggles similar to mine. It pains me that I cannot find acceptance or support from my local church, but have to hide my doubts from them.

    Just as an example, a couple days ago I heard the song “Lost in the Stars.” It’s a sadly beautiful song with this basic idea: A star once got lost, and God went out and found it and brought it back to its place and promised to look after it forever; but space is really big, and sometimes I wonder if God’s forgotten His promise, and whether we’re just on our own, lost in the stars. I don’t think I’m the only one to ever wonder if God is still involved in my life, or to feel alone with God far away. But if I even mention these thoughts at church, or refer to the song in a positive way, I’ll have a barrage of Scripture verses quoted at me and be put on our local heresy watchlist. People will pull their children close when I walk by and their dogs will growl threateningly at me. My face will be plastered on “Theology’s Most Wanted” posters in the lobby. (“This suspect is armed with dangerously heretical beliefs and may send your children straight to Hell!”)

    I guess I’m not open with my thoughts at church because I like to pretend that I still belong. I sometimes despair of finding a church that teaches the Bible clearly without making every issue a test of orthodoxy. (Especially things that aren’t even part of the Bible. Like vaccinations, or movies, or wearing a tie to church.) Do such churches really exist? (I’m not looking for a denominational conversion; I’m looking for a sign that good churches really exist. Somewhere in the world. Maybe.)

  21. Matt, thank you. I genuinely appreciate you taking the time to share your actual thoughts instead of doing the puppet march and pointing me to, say, Piper.

  22. Matt P.

    If you find one, please let all of us know. I’d still like to find one myself. I’m a better fit theologically where I am now, but have found different problems. Confusion between Catholic culture and Catholic teachings (I’ve actually been accused of not being Catholic because I don’t pray the rosary); a problem that the friendlier places tend to be flakier in theology and liturgy, etc.

  23. Anna said: “friendlier places tend to be flakier in theology…”

    I have heard this from many. I wonder why? If you’re reading Michael, I’d love to see you blog on it (or maybe direct us to something you’ve already written).

    Marcia, I am not sure how I offended you, but I do apologize. I wish this wasn’t off topic or inappropriate for this website, because I would love to read more of your story and dialogue with you. Alas, these pesky sidenotes (yours with f-bombs and angry stereotypes and mine with piper-isms) simply don’t work as well as I would like. My heart breaks, and I genuinely wish you the best.

    ~Chris

  24. Chris, thanks for the apology. No dialogue, though; I’d never shut up.

  25. Chris,

    I have neither a blog, nor anything written about the whys of what I (and others) have observed.

    I do have some guesses. Frequently, the term “social Justice” tends to indicate whether a group is more concerned about liturgy and worship or about people and their needs. If there is more concern with people, of course they will tend to be friendlier. If the parish tends to be more God orientated, then less friendly.

    Personally, there needs to be a balance, but I haven’t seen it in practice. (The social aspects are the biggest thing that I miss from the Baptist Church. )

  26. Chris, I think the problem was you told Marcia “You misinterpreted Scripute on submission. You should have stuck up for yourself!” when it was Marcia’s husband who was the one with the problem, not Marcia.

    It’s something that, frankly, boggles me because it’s not on the Catholic radar (we’ve got other problems). But from what I’ve seen, it’s men who are telling women to be submissive; men who are angsting over their ‘headship’ and are they properly leading their families; an example I think Michael gave in an earlier post about a father lamenting that his daughter wanted to be an EMT instead of – as he conceived it – a proper Christian wife and mother who would stay at home and raise her family (what the girl is supposed to do in the interval between leaving school and landing a husband, I don’t know).

    Marcia, I won’t give you any advice about what you should have/could have done. I’ll just say that Scripture can be manipulated by jerks to put other people down and make the jerks look good because they’re ‘Godly’ folk living by ‘God’s word’. That ain’t necessarily so.

  27. “Scripute”? That should, of course, have been “Scripture”. See what happens when wimmin git uppity, Chris? 😉

  28. “we live in a world away from God where horrible things happen. But I think there is a very important answer here, Christ. That God loves us so much that became one of us and suffered for us.”

    Joe,

    Narrative like yours drives me mad. Am I the only one who feels like this is a classic non sequitur? If God loves us soooooooooooooo much that he became one of us and suffered for us, then why would God allow allow horrible things happen to us. The older I get (I am 33 now) the more I feel Christian talk is all hyperbole.

  29. Matt P., if the church you attend teaches that “real” Christians are not allowed to have doubts, maybe there are no (or very few) “real” Christians in your church.

  30. Kevin:
    “the older I get the more I feel Christian talk is all hyperbole”

    But it’s ok for you to use hyperbole, I gather.