A LOVE SUPREME

I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Chapman and Warner - Rethinking Evangelism in the Old Testament

In my recent "manifesto" on church, The Church of The Underground, Melody and I engaged in a spirited debate on the nature of evangelism and the purpose of the church. One of the issues raised was whether the church should persuade nonbelievers. Also on the table was the whole point of evangelism: is it to "win souls"? Or is there something bigger???

Here are a few excerpts from the forthcoming issue of the Journal of Theological Interpretation that may be of interest. (JTI is a new theological/exegetical journal that comes from a somewhat conservative perspective and seeks to blend together the disciplines of theology and biblical exegesis, exploring the two as complimentary.....though they probably would not like me classifying them as "conservative"! Especially Vanhoozer, who is a self-described "postconservative.")

This article is by Stephen B. Chapman and Laceye C. Warner entitled, "Jonah and the Imitation of God: Rethinking Evangelism and the Old Testament." Chapman/Warner are interested in exploring the Old Testament concept of mission, but they desire to do this with a bit more care and concern for the context; rather than simply glossing the OT and "finding support" for a preconceived notion of mission, Chapman/Warner seem to want to sit and stew a bit and open up their paradigms to new ways of looking at the text, ultimately allowing the Old Testament to develop its own thoughts on mission. As such, they land on the story of Jonah. After discussing and sifting through the narrative, Chapman/Warner draw a few interesting conclusions. I list a few here:

(1) Like mission, evangelism is not in the first instance something that humans do but something God does....

(2) Evangelism is deeply related to a theology of creation and a doctrine of providence, rightly construed. We are all God’s creatures—evangelism rightly entails compassion for the earth and all its many inhabitants. Issues such as social justice, international development, nationalistic warfare, animal welfare, and global warming cannot be separated from the salvation of souls within the purview of Christian theology.

Some may object that evangelism is properly about saving souls and that neither the earth nor its nonhuman inhabitants have any. But we would argue that evangelism, viewed as human participation in God’s encompassing mission of reconciliation, must be about more than human soul-saving. After all, the OT envisions a covenant between God and “every living creature” (Gen 9:8–17) and the NT describes how “the creation itself will be set free” (Rom 8:21).

(3) Evangelism as imitatio dei therefore means, first and foremost, that Christians must embody God’s love for the world and display God’s desire for reconciliation with the whole world. They do this as individuals whose hearts and minds are inspired by God, but they do so most fully in communities of faith as the reconciled body of Christ....

(7) Christian evangelism is always centripetal as well as centrifugal because it always entails bringing people into community as well as sending people out from community. The double movement is constitutive of evangelism: people are sent out in order to return with others. In this way Christian community extends itself in order to remain itself. But “extending” does not mean the mere replication of the church’s character as an institution (i.e., without facing new challenges or allowing for increased diversity in membership)—in other words, growing just for the sake of growing. And “remaining” means preserving a faithful theological identity, not retaining the social profile of a congregation. In evangelism, the church preserves itself only by giving itself away, remaining hospitable and gracious to all, and not by seeking merely to maintain a homogenous membership.

In keeping with the double movement that the Bible envisions, evangelism is therefore better understood as “welcoming” or, better still, “enlisting” rather than as “winning” or “proclaiming” or even “inviting.”


Citation information:
Stephen B. Chapman and Laceye C. Warner, "Jonah and the Imitation of God: Rethinking Evangelism and the Old Testament" in Journal of Theological Interpretation 2.1 (2008), 44-69.

116 comments:

ktismatics said...

I'm curious how Chapman and Warner interpret the setting free of creation in Romans 8. And how does Jonah trigger this line of thinking -- is it because the sea is agitated when Jonah isn't seeing eye to eye with Yahweh?

ktismatics said...

Erdman have you read McLaren's latest book "Everything Must Change"? I just read it, which prompted me to go back and read your prior posts on McLaren's other books.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hey K,

I must confess to being quite curious on your McLaren thoughts.....perhaps you could blog on them??? Oh, that's right, your blog is dead. Maybe you could write up your thoughts and I could post them over here.....oh, but then Ktismatics would be alive......perhaps you could write up your thoughts and I could post them as though they were my own.....that might be interesting.....

I admit to becoming more and more skeptical to the Emerging church movement. The reason for this is the last word of the previous sentence: movement. I think the emergents are making a move at not only deconstructing the Establishment Church Institutions, but replacing it with....well, with themselves, of course! I guess that's fine, as far as it goes; it's hard to imagine anything worse than the current status quo of American Christianity. But the more the movement defines itself and grows, the less interest I have in it.

Here is a line from one of the Amazon reader reviews that goes to the above point: I've read many of McLaren's books ... and he always seemed to ask questions without giving many answers, which I guess is what the "Emergent Conversation" is supposed to be. However, in this book, McLaren appears to begin answering some of his questions

These next two paragraphs are from Amazon's promo line: Acclaimed author and Emergent church leader Brian McLaren states, "More and more Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who have recently dropped out of church, Christianity is a failed religion. Why? Because it has specialized in dealing with 'spiritual needs' to the exclusion of physical and social needs. It has focused on 'me' and 'my eternal destiny,' but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustice, poverty, and dysfunction."

McLaren asks, "Shouldn't a message purporting to be the best news in the world be doing better than this?" What he sets forth in this provocative, unsettling work is a "form of Christian faith that is holistic, integral, balanced, that offers good news for both the living and the dying, that speaks of God's grace at work both in this life and the life to come, both to individuals and to societies and the planet as a whole."


Sure, young people have taken to a mass exodus, and my criticisms on this blog in recent months have attempted to speak to the hypocrisy and God-less nature of the church as I have experienced it in my 30 years of life. As something of a Christian mystic, however, it pains me that McLaren wants to simply organize the church for greater social action. I'm all for that, of course, but then we are simply replacing one powerless/God-less form with another form. For example, need one actually encounter God to make a difference socially? Need one care about the Johannine union with Christ ("abide in me") or Paul's emphasis on the indwelling of the Spirit or "death to self" to join the church in social action? Perhaps this raises an even deeper theological question relevant to our day: if one cares about the world and those who live in it, is that, in itself, evidence of a deeper connection with the Living God. After all, the Samaritan actually stopped to help the man in need. His faith (as James says) was made evident by what he did, while the representative members of the religious establishment were so involved in their institution that they had no time for those in need. This, of course, is parallel to institutionalized Christianity in America today: sound and fury signifying nothing.

My primary polemic against the church is that it is a form of religion that we can do on our own, apart from the power of God. Most everything we do can be done without God, and I suggest that most of the time it is done without God. But how is McLaren's vision any different????

In any case, let me know your thoughts, K. Having read Everything Must Change, do you appreciate McLaren's global vision for change in the real world? His passion for protecting and preserving the environment????

ktismatics said...

I wrote some observations HERE. Generally I responded favorably to McLaren's ideas because he opens up the possibility that like-minded people can join forces even if they don't subscribe to the usual Christian proclamation of faith. If you read that post and my comments I'll be happy to engage in discussion here at the Theos Project.

The longer I hang around with your virtual self, Erdman, the farther away I sense we are ideologically. You seem particularly committed to establishing personal relationships with God and fellow Christians; I'm more interested in the collective justice and peace agenda of the Kingdom and personal relationships where love and honesty trump conscious professions of belief.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics: The longer I hang around with your virtual self, Erdman, the farther away I sense we are ideologically. You seem particularly committed to establishing personal relationships with God and fellow Christians; I'm more interested in the collective justice and peace agenda of the Kingdom and personal relationships where love and honesty trump conscious professions of belief.

I would say that's probably more or less accurate. But there is more to it than that.

Allow me to cite a quote you recently placed on your blog:
“The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena, the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore the screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality and reality is less than television.” Professor O’Blivion Videodrome

In the wonderful fantasy world of American Christianity, books/videos/CDs/sermons/sunday schools/etc. are reality and reality is less than the media we consume. For example, it is enough to go to church and hear a sermon making us feel guilty (but not too guilty) about not being a good Christian, but whether it influences the life is not truly relevant. So, we will consume media and pay teachers/preachers to tell us that we need to walk the walk and talk the talk. Why? Because we would rather live in the non-real world of guilt than to make a radical life change. The guilt passes, but the guilt suffices.

American Christianity is the ultimate example of James 1:23, "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror." The Word is supposed to act as a mirror into the soul; it should make one reflect on one's life. But we reflect on the Word and not on ourselves. As such, we can look in to the mirror (the Word) and walk away with no conception of who we are.

I'm just sick of the talk. I hear everyone talking about how church should be, etc., and it's all bullshit to me. If I start actually seeing people sell their possessions and move to places where they can help the oppressed and needy, then I will be far more pleased than if I read 8,000 books talking about a revolution for Jesus followers.

I'm interested in action, Ktismatics, and until I see real works I refuse to be impressed.

Talk is cheap. McLaren or anyone else who promises a global movement of change is just a painful ringing in my ears. Granted, I definately sympathize more with McLaren (and the various Emergiant Church movements) than I do with the traditional Institutions. That's why I sympathized with him so much in his first book, New Kind of Christian. I think McLaren was at his best in that book. Generous Orthodoxy seemed quite bland to me, and as you can tell I'm a bit skeptical of the Everything Must Change book, even though, yes, I do believe everything should change.

Also, as a note of qualification, I would agree that love and honesty should trump personal confessions of belief. My Church of the Underground idea suggests that confessions are overrated. What matters is where I stand Now, not what I said once in the past or what I might think I may possibly do in the future. And, the greatest achievement in the Now is love. This is a strong Johannine theme.

From your McLaren summary at Open Source Theology: According to McLaren, if enough people subscribe to Jesus’ core message of other-centeredness, society will gradually be transformed from within on a global scale.

Didn't they crucify Jesus?

Even Jesus couldn't get more than a disheveled group of 12 to subscribe to "the Jesus message" while he was on earth.

Back to your summary: If I was really convinced that someday I will be eternally resurrected into a society populated entirely by people who put their love for one another first, I might be willing to risk living the sort of radically other-oriented life Jesus talked about.

Jesus does say to "count the cost," but it seems to me as though the cost is everything. In other words, the call to discipleship is not just a call to plug in to something that may benefit you in the future. I can't help but think that McLaren is moving in the same direction as the rest of pop Christianity, which says that by-and-large if you follow Jesus you will be better off for it. That is, you will have joy and peace (Evangelicals), you can make a difference for the world (McLaren), or you can save your soul and enjoy heaven when you die (20th century mass evangelistic efforts).

Is it possible to escape making self the king of all decisions? Or does everything we do ultimately serve to serve ourselves? Is it even truly possible to give everything, Ktismatics, do you think???? Or is this just an ideal that is never instantiated?

Jonathan Erdman said...

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Baudrillard, a "strong simulacrist," claims that in the media and consumer society, people are caught up in the play of images, spectacles, and simulacra, that have less and less relationship to an outside, to an external "reality," to such an extent that the very concepts of the social, political, or even "reality" no longer seem to have any meaning. And the narcoticized and mesmerized (some of Baudrillard's metaphors) media-saturated consciousness is in such a state of fascination with image and spectacle that the concept of meaning itself (which depends on stable boundaries, fixed structures, shared consensus) dissolves. In this alarming and novel postmodern situation, the referent, the behind and the outside, along with depth, essence, and reality all disappear, and with their disappearance, the possibility of all potential opposition vanishes as well. As simulations proliferate, they come to refer only to themselves: a carnival of mirrors reflecting images projected from other mirrors onto the omnipresent television and computer screen and the screen of consciousness, which in turn refers the image to its previous storehouse of images also produced by simulatory mirrors. Caught up in the universe of simulations, the "masses" are "bathed in a media massage" without messages or meaning, a mass age where classes disappear, and politics is dead, as are the grand dreams of disalienation, liberation, and revolution. from Baurdrillard

Note, particularly, the last sentence: politics is dead, as are the grand dreams of disalienation, liberation, and revolution.

ktismatics said...

Dude, this is BIG! I gotta cook dinner then go to the caucus (I'll be the guy wearing the Mardi Gras mask), so I might not get back to you till tomorrow. Maybe somebody else will weigh in...

chris van allsburg said...

N.T. Wright, in his book, Simply Christian, opens with a chapter on the theme of justice. The title of the chapter is "Setting the world Aright," as I recall.

Jon, I am very concerned with social justice and a wholistic approach to evangelism: caring for the elderly and the orphan, rescuing the thousands (millions) of children in the sex-slave trade, conserving energy and food, providing clean water, rescuing persecuted christians (and all the oppressed)--the list goes on and on.

And I seem to have taken a deeper interest in this since I became largely postmillennial in my view of history, having read mostly from reformed theologians.

You mentioned the cultural mandate with a dispensationalist brother a few posts ago. I definitely see the cultural mandate and the dominion involved in the command as fulfilled in the great commission, where the church preaches the gospel to the WHOLE man: both physically and spiritually.

I'd also like you to comment further about selling possessions and moving to places to help those who are oppressed. I ask sincerly, have you considered this for yourself, I wonder?

One thing I know regarding this is that Paul tells us make it our ambition to lead quiet lives and work with our hands so that we do not have to depend on anyone (1 Thes 4:11); he also commands us to do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:v=?).

I wonder if the concept of christian calling is very important here: is it that some are called to remain where they are and support those who are sent by means of prayer and finances and go on mission trips much the same way the church does now? What would your vision be?

thanks,
chris

Melody said...

For example, it is enough to go to church and hear a sermon making us feel guilty (but not too guilty) about not being a good Christian, but whether it influences the life is not truly relevant.

When I was a camp counselor we always used to joke about all the "decisions" made at the end of camp, because you know that 95% of those kids aren't changing anything, because camp isn't real. They just go home feeling good about their decision.

On the other hand there's that 5%.
And that's why we were there.

So, my question is this:
If only a handful of people go beyond the guilt and live changed lives as a result of our television-Christianity, how is that different than only a handful of people living changed lives because what Christ asks is too inconvenient to them?

ktismatics said...

I'm not sure we're living in a post-Christian society, but I personally am a post-Christian. I dont' believe there is a God, I don't believe that those who worship him are doing anything of value, I don't believe God transforms individual lives, I don't believe that God will bring about a new heaven and earth. But I can't be 100% sure. I understand that there are Christian theories about why some people don't believe these things, but I don't believe those theories either. You say this:

"Perhaps this raises an even deeper theological question relevant to our day: if one cares about the world and those who live in it, is that, in itself, evidence of a deeper connection with the Living God."

Some subscribers to the Christian faith care about the world and those who live in it; some don't. Likewise with subscribers to other religions as well as those who hold no religious beliefs: some care, some don't. Do those who care have more in common with one another than those who believe the same things? Is it possible for Christianity to orient itself around heart and action more than around creeds?

I'm not fully on board with the specifics of how McLaren wants to change the world. Still, I can imagine joining forces with him without having to deny what I do and do not believe. Maybe Christians who care are achieving some form of true humanity; maybe non-Christians who care are being transformed by the Holy Spirit without their even realizing it. Either way, the transformation is happening.

"My primary polemic against the church is that it is a form of religion that we can do on our own, apart from the power of God. Most everything we do can be done without God, and I suggest that most of the time it is done without God. But how is McLaren's vision any different????"

A lot of what you'd like to see happen inside the church isn't happening. Similarly, a lot of what McLaren wants to see happen in society at large isn't happening either. So maybe these things aren't that different after all: not enough power of God, not enough transformation of lives toward caring.

"Jesus does say to "count the cost," but it seems to me as though the cost is everything."

You're sounding Catholic here Erdman. What about "my yoke is easy and my burden is light"? I'd think that if there was some sort of true fellowship, supporting one another in living the transformed life, it would ease the burden. Still, I agree that there is a big cost in Jesus' framing story, and McLaren kind of waters it down by turning it into a sort of liberal social program. The people who don't care aren't just passive; they actively push back economically, psychologically, militarily. I can see how in theory some sort of collective would be helpful, but I tend to find associating with groups of people to be more disheartening than invigorating (like going to the Democratic caucus last night). It sounds like that's your experience of the church. I think it's good to resist the temptation to think it's your own stand-offishness that's at fault. The fellowship ought to support the mission, rather than being an end in itself as a sort of social club.

"Is it possible to escape making self the king of all decisions? Or does everything we do ultimately serve to serve ourselves? Is it even truly possible to give everything, Ktismatics, do you think?"

I commented on this a bit at OST -- let me go track it down... ok, here it is: Maybe self-absorption is as much a result of destructive societal forces as it is an innate human tendency. Even the self-centered individual keeps an eye on the other person as a source of comparison and competition. This was presumably Eve’s problem: the forbidden fruit appealed to her self-indulgent appetites because it would make her more like someone she admired; namely, Yahweh. Maybe the Serpent was a carrier of this sort of comparative social orientation and he "infected" Eve with it. In our culture the controllers of the marketplace actively stimulate consumerism throughout society, and "keeping up with the Joneses" (American idiom?) is a powerful motivation to keep everyone spending money and earning profits for the corporate stockholders. Social stratification between rich and poor isn’t just a consequence of self-centeredness: it’s more desirable to attain higher status relative to others, to be rich when others aren't so rich. Likewise with military might: there’s an undeniable sadistic satisfaction to be attained by subjugating others. So self-indulgence is as much a consequence as a cause of particular kinds of societal arrangements. Perhaps if the kind of peaceful and voluntary egalitarian society could actually be established, its members would be infected with the kind of collective ethos that’s needed to perpetuate that alternative social system.

I may return later with further thoughts on Videodrome and Baudrillard. For now, though, I don't think Max or Professor O'Blivion or Barry Convex was on the right track.

Melody said...

I hear everyone talking about how church should be, etc., and it's all bullshit to me. If I start actually seeing people sell their possessions and move to places where they can help the oppressed and needy, then...

...then why aren't we hearing about you selling all your posessions and moving to other places to help the oppressed and the needy?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Because, Melody, according to my religious tradition, I have to go out and raise support money, get the blessing of a mission board, and garner "prayer support" from a local church that I call my "home church." It's a very long process now. It's not just like it was in the old days when one could just drop your nets and follow after Jesus.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics: Is it possible for Christianity to orient itself around heart and action more than around creeds?

I would tentatively say yes. I have began to read a bit about the Quakers recently. In the early days they were non-creedal. That idea appeals to me.....perhaps not to be completely non-creedal, b/c after all, Paul seems to set up a creed. However, it was very basic and elementary. Perhaps it wasn't even a creed. Anyway, here is what we have from 1 Cor. 15

3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Can those who confess this work alongside those who do not confess to make the world a better place???
Yes.

Have creeds served to divide people (Christian and non) into teams, and have creeds distracted people from making the world a better place b/c we are so focused on beating the other team that we lose track of the mission to make a difference???
Well, yes, the answer is obvious.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics: You're sounding Catholic here Erdman. What about "my yoke is easy and my burden is light"?

The yoke is easy. Easy, at least, for those who have surrendered everything. From my limited experience of living the Christian life, when I fully live in light of God's forgiveness and grace and when I surrender everything, that is the time when things are easy and the burden is light.

ktismatics said...

Forgiveness for what, I wonder? That seems like one of the defining distinctions McLaren is pushing: emphasis on one's own sinfulness and forgiveness is core to the "traditional story" and just gets in the way of the"emerging" story of social transformation. So if someone were to come under serious conviction to live the Jesus life of radically egalitarian communalism, then all attempts to arrive at a feeling of individual forgiveness would just be a distraction from doing the right thing. Do it, and then you'll feel better about yourself. You're already redeemed and guaranteed eternal life -- that should make you free to take bigger risks in this one.

The big dispute at Open Source Theology is the extent to which Jesus' life and message is to be regarded as normative today. Some say that Jesus was called specifically as a prophet to the Jews under Roman rule, trying to get them to change their lives in light of the impending judgment from God, to be meted out by the Romans on Israel. That moment in history is long past: the Temple was destroyed, the Jews were dispersed, the Christians infiltrated the Roman Empire and achieved peaceful coexistence, and perhaps even dominance within the Empire. History has moved on and so has God. What would Jesus do in contemporary culture? It might not be what he did way back then. This is the unscripted fifth act of redemptive history, says NT Wright (though I haven't read him), so it's up to the Christians to figure out what's next rather than relying on these old models.

The other issue is whether Christ really is trying to save the world, or whether he's interested in a subset of the world. Israel was separated off from the other nations, the Church is separated off from the world. If people from the world hear the call of God's separate microworld, then they're welcome to join. But the Church has no mission toward the larger world other than demonstrating among themselves what godly living is like, and keeping an open invitation to the outsiders to come in.

That whole version of the church as microworld, preferred above all others by a God who has in effect relegated the world at large to destruction, is what I find most problematic. In some ways it's more PoMo than the universal version, where in a post-Christian world the church becomes one utopian project among countless others. But this version of God still claims to be the creator of the universe, and he's still prepared to destroy the rest of the world while leaving the church standing, and he's going to offer eternal life only to those who join the church. In that case this presumed exemplary microworld within a pluralistic society is still the same old hegemonous metanarrative of premodern tribal Israel, which was prepared to destroy its enemies in genocidal indifference if God gave them the go-ahead.

chris van allsburg said...

My best friend, that I have know for 25+ yrs is in process of garnering a position with Wycliffe Bible Translators in their I.T. dept. He is married and has 3 little ones. Things are moving along, and it will take perhaps years to raise their support, but their patience, prayers and determination are leading them down this road. One can say they in process of dropping their nets and following Jesus.
And they don't mind asking people for prayer support or financial support either. But, we'll see. They still need to raise funds. Nevertheless, they are on this road, and good things are happening via confirmation after confirmation.

Melody said...

Because, Melody, according to my religious tradition...

I find this excuse midleading.
It implies you actually give a shit about your religious tradition.

Besides, what do you need with support? You're selling everything, right? That'll totally get you to the amazon or China or wherever.

Melody said...

The yoke is easy. Easy, at least, for those who have surrendered everything. From my limited experience of living the Christian life, when I fully live in light of God's forgiveness and grace and when I surrender everything, that is the time when things are easy and the burden is light.

Hold the phone, we dicussed this concept around Christmas and you called it "Conveniently American."
Duplicitous much?

chris van allsburg said...

Ktismatics asks about God's ultimate plan to save:

i'm pretty sure jesus wants to save the universe. that would include his elect, and the planet and everything in it.

now for a little fun--
"...such as the animals and such as, like in Iraq and South Africa, such as, where they don't have maps, like in our educational system, such as, which is why our students don't have maps.

ktismatics said...

Chris, I'm afraid you lost me on the fun part. Can you clarify?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics: What would Jesus do in contemporary culture? It might not be what he did way back then. This is the unscripted fifth act of redemptive history, says NT Wright (though I haven't read him), so it's up to the Christians to figure out what's next rather than relying on these old models.

I agree with this statement, taken at face value.

ktismatics said...

So, might God decide to launch Jihad like in the old testament days? Might he decide to slaughter and enslave the unchosen like in the old testament days? Is Yahweh a situation-ethics kind of God, unpredictable and possibly dangerous to ordinary non-elect, non-regenerated, non-eternal humans like me?

Jonathan Erdman said...

K: So, might God decide to launch Jihad like in the old testament days? Might he decide to slaughter and enslave the unchosen like in the old testament days? Is Yahweh a situation-ethics kind of God, unpredictable and possibly dangerous to ordinary non-elect, non-regenerated, non-eternal humans like me?

He might.....I would say yes to all of the above. It isn't something I am terribly fond of, and if God were to do something of that nature, I would have problems with him, perhaps even taking him to task on my blog....however, a sovereign, unpredictable, and even violent God seems to square with the Book, particularly the Apocalyptic images and themes in Revelation. In Revelation, the wrath of God is carried forward from the OT into the New.

chris van allsburg said...

ktismatics,

the "FUN" part was a spoof on Miss S. Carolina. If you go to youtube, and type in Miss S. Carolina, you'll not know whether to laugh or cry.

About God's OT genocides, my understanding is that the Old Covenant system is done away with and is replaced with the new. We are not under the law of Moses as a way of life. In fact, the law of Moses does not prescribe genocide of enemies as a continual way of life for Israelites. Rather, the Old Covenant way of life was involved in Temple worship, sacrifices, Levitical and civil law.

Concerning war, Israel was to be tested, and to protect its borders, and there would be wars due to that, but the genocides were once and for all, really, until they had taken the land (this, you will recall, they did not fulfill).

The New Covenant is a great commission to take over the earth by means of the message of the gospel, which I think is why Paul says our war is not against flesh and blood, and that we have a spiritual battle with spiritual weapons (Eph 5).

Many atheists I have spoken with debate this point and wonder if God would call Christians to wage physical war against unbelievers. Aforementioned is the reason why I have confidence that the answer is "no."

The book of Revelation and the wrath of God are complex, but I think that the Great Tribulation happened in AD 70.

And I see the wrath of God fulfilled in Christ for the elect, and fulfilled against the unrepentant on judgment day. Of course, unbelievers are already under his wrath, per Romans 1 and John 3. And I do think God brings judgment against nations for ungodliness as an OT precedent.

However, I would not say that Christians will be called to wage war against unbelievers. The Lord will do this on his own without any human agent, as described above. In the current mode of history, he may use natural distasters, or one nation to war against another, or he may allow a culture to desintegrate as a result of forsaking him. (I wouldn't die on that hill, but there is the OT precedent).

But Christians waging war against unbelievers is absolutely foreign to the NT--and I dare say to the OT as well. OT commandments are to love the neighbor and the foreigner. The only time war was to be waged was when foreigners threatened Israel by means of infiltration & aggression or because Israel had not completed its task of eradicating the nations in the promised land.

also, ktismatics, I am very interested in reasons why people leave the faith. if you have any posts on that, I'd like to read it. thanks.

Chris


jon, no answer as to your thoughts on selling all and living among the poor. there's an old article in xtianity today (1-2 yrs old) about a recent movement of asetists doing this in the big cities.

ktismatics said...

"When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you... For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth." (Deut. 7:1-6)

So would you say that Yahweh himself uttered this commmand? The Canaanites never did anything to the Jews. And to slaughter them all, men, women and children? I can see the Jews falsely invoking the name of their god to justify their slaughter of competing tribes in order to take over their land. But for the Almighty himself to issue such a command?

"Of course, unbelievers are already under his wrath... However, I would not say that Christians will be called to wage war against unbelievers. The Lord will do this on his own without any human agent, as described above."

Well that's a relief: Christians get to take over the earth without getting their hands bloody. Christians make up about a third of the earth's population, assuming that everyone who calls him/herself Christian is "in the fold." That leaves about 4.5 billion people alive today who are under God's wrath and subject to violent destruction. Hey, I guess everybody's got to go sometime. But the Christians, and only the Christians, get to live forever.

The idea of God as genocidal perpetrator of crimes against humanity wasn't one of the prime reasons I stopped believing in God. However, I'd say it's a good reason that if I did believe I couldn't support an evangelical interpretation of Scripture, whether dispensational or covenantal, premillenial or postmillenial, preterist or whatever the opposite of preterist is. If God is really like this, I'd say he's worth fighting, even if, as the Borg say, resistance is futile.

McLaren gets right up to the edge of disavowing the genocidal God of the Old Testament. I suspect if pushed to the wall he'd say these were the motivations of humans attributed to God, and that Jesus' humanitarianism represents a more enlightened view of God. In that regard I'd say McLaren is moving from evangelicalism into liberal territory. I say good for him.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics,

Now that I've leveled with you about my understand of God, could you level with me?

I'm curious about your hostility toward violence in general. Do you believe, for example, that all killing is inherently "evil" or "wrong" in some moral sense? If so, how do you support that (being one who requires evidence and support for one's belief!)? But maybe your irritation with violence is not so much a moral issue as much as simply a personal preference. Perhaps violence just violates your sensibilities.

The ramifications are obvious in terms of one's political viewpoint toward war and also the way in which one views God (both Old and New Testaments).

chris van allsburg said...

K,

you may understand a vast majority of the world as "subject to violent destruction," but I would submit that God actually WANTS to save the world and all the people in it.

I have, at various times, been so frustrated w/ God b/c of the evil in the world, and b/c of the doctrine of eternal punishment (leaving aside annihilation as a viable option). My pastor empathized w/ me, and he also said that I could either "honor God or hate him."

I'm choosing to honor him.

Your contention against the character of God regarding the genocides is no small issue. I am disturbed when I read those accounts as well. However, I also understand that it wasn't a war between Israel and the other "ites." It was God's judgment against sinful, wicked peolple. The Scripture even says that God waited for their sin to reach a certain level before he subjected them to destruction (Late Gen, early Exodus?). Anyway...

The Canaanites were engaged in child sacrifice, demon worship, orgies. But I think, from the passage you quoted above, that it is WORSHIP that is most dear to God's heart. He wants us to worship him, and he wants that worship to be out of genuine love in a mutual relationship of communion and union in the bonds of that love.

What God hates, he hates with a great passion, and what he loves, he loves with a great passion.

None of us deserve to be alive b/c of our sin, so I submit that the Canaanites and the other nations were not innocent, like we imagine the Greeks to have been, child molestors though they were.

Sin is a grave matter, and God's desire to be worshipped is of utmost importance. That God saves any is due to his mercy. But God DOES want to save the human race, and he will. Those who refuse, will suffer, and that is a terrible, awful thing to imagine. However, God does want to save, and that is why Jesus lived as a man of sorrows, suffered, died a horrible death, and rose again.

Again, if you have any posts or personal memoirs on your reasons for leaving the faith, I'd really like to read that (not asking for a debate or even a "dialogue," just interested).

thanks,
chris

ktismatics said...

My understanding of McLaren is that he regards Jesus as antiwar, and that he also regards Jesus' way of being in the world as normative. As I said in my OST response, I think McLaren is speaking from a position of privilege, hoping to persuade one American Protestant at a time to be more giving, less supportive of US imperialism, etc. I think he does not acknowledge the possible need to force the hand of the recalcitrant rich and powerful, either through democratic process or through violence.

So I'd say I'm not antiwar on principle. I'm against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on principle, and I was against the Vietnam war on principle. I could imagine the US participating in a war of liberation for Iraq, or even leading such a war. E.g., I'd rather have heard Colin Powell address the UN not about the imminent threat Saddam posed to the world through his (nonexistsnt) WMDs, but rather the threat he posed to his own people. I would like to have heard whether Powell would have been prepared to allow a popular government to emerge that might be Islamic fundamentalist or that might not be pro-West. Also, the Iraq war ended in a week 4 years ago -- now the US is a foreign occupying force. And we're going to declare Iran a terrorist state because they supply weapons to Iraqi insurgents? That really takes balls.

Anyhow, no I'm not antiwar on principle. Jesus seemed to be, and McLaren seems to gesture in that direction.

ktismatics said...

"I could either honor God or hate him."

I choose to dismiss him as imaginary.

"He wants us to worship him, and he wants that worship to be out of genuine love in a mutual relationship of communion and union in the bonds of that love."

Otherwise he'll kill your ass? I suppose you're right Chris: IF God exists, and IF he insists on worship and obedience, and IF he destroys those who don't worship and obey him, THEN you can either fight him or honor him. I just don't think any of this is true, but if I did, then I would regard God as a psychopathic killer and fight him.

I haven't written any posts about why I stopped believing. I was agnostic before I was born again, and I'm agnostic again now and have been for many years.

chris van allsburg said...

K--

Thank-you for your candor. I suppose you could say that God says, worship me or I'll kill your ass. That does jive with Jesus' teaching. You may recall his teaching regarding the tower of Siloam, "repent, or you too will parish." And he said many things like that.

As far as God being a psychopathic killer, well, I'm like to think you're being colorful, and not making a theological statement. After all, IF Yahweh is, then he created us out of his love and mercy. It's our own fault for hating him (upon the acceptance of original sin doctrine).

And, since he became a man and suffered a horrible death at the hands of his OWN psychopatic creatures, we don't have any reason to hate him. You have to admit that what Jesus did (if it's true) is the most amazing thing ever.

Concerning belief, I was thinking today, that if I wasn't a Christian--for whatever reason--I would probably be a Deist. After all, the beauty of creation, from the vast cosmos to the inner workings of the human body and mind, are too wonderful to be as Carl Sagan pontificated.

btw--I understand that you are a psychologist. You may be interested to know that I have been doing some reading on anxiety disorders and OCD. There is some very helpful stuff out there. I am very appreciative of the sciences in this area. It has been extremely helpful, almost to the point of revolutionary.

Also, for being agnostic you seem to know a lot about Christian theology. Do you still read it?

Thanks,
chris

chris van allsburg said...

I meant PERISH. I knew I was spelling it wrongly went I thought of the Detroit Tigers catcher from the 1980's. I was like, "Huh. Lance Parish. That's funny."

chris van allsburg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chris van allsburg said...

the comment i deleted was a repeat of the previous one. just wanted to throw that out there so know one would think I am hiding anything for lack of a better thought.

And, I should correct myself by saying that God created us for his own glory, as well as out of his love and mercy, the glory being most prominent, as I understand the Bible.

Now that I have commented 3x in a row, I shall no more comment for 3 weeks out of fairness to others. well....

daniel said...

Jon said right near the top:

My primary polemic against the church is that it is a form of religion that we can do on our own, apart from the power of God. Most everything we do can be done without God, and I suggest that most of the time it is done without God.

"Having a form of Godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim 3:5) - still the biggest blindspot of the Church, and you are doing a great job Jon sofar as focussing on this point. Keep it up! Its always challenging and its a most worthwhile cause.

What I am still pondering is where the power is. And how is it measured? Where is the supernatural power of God in our lives? Key is the teaching, prophetic, apostolic, sheperding, and evangelizing ministry described in Ephesians 4:12. As this is restored to the Church, in all the fullness that God intended, we will see the power of God manifest in our lives. As we each discover our gifting, imo.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4:12

Check out this blog: http://dlsands.blogspot.com
/2007/12/having-form-of-godliness-
but-denying.html

ktismatics said...

"IF Yahweh is, then he created us out of his love and mercy."

Earlier in his career Yahweh seemed content to be a local deity; only later did he claim to be the only God. I'm not sure I remember where it says that god created humanity motivated by love and mercy. And maybe he changed his tune later, when he repented of having made man (somewhere just before wiping nearly everyone out in the Flood, as I recall). Anyhow, if God exists, I'm skeptical that the Bible is a very accurate testimony to what he is like.

"It's our own fault for hating him (upon the acceptance of original sin doctrine)."

I think it's to our credit to hate a God who would wipe out whole populations of people because they don't worship or obey him, or because they stand in the way of a particular nation's geographic expansion, or in order to prove that he is a bigger badder god than somebody else's god. I suspect that the local politicians and P.R. men decided to invoke God's blessing on all sorts of activities that benefited themselves at the expense of others.

I've not read any of McLaren's other stuff, but I have a sense that his version of God is more to my liking. I'm afraid, however, that that's precisely what the evangelicals don't like about him. It's kind of like telling republicans that the French are against the Iraq war.

ktismatics said...

So Chris, what's your obsession/compulsion? Me, I'm more prone to depression with intermittent bouts of rage. Too bad we can't all hang out at a pub drinking beers discussing our theologies and personality flaws.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Daniel: What I am still pondering is where the power is. And how is it measured? Where is the supernatural power of God in our lives? Key is the teaching, prophetic, apostolic, sheperding, and evangelizing ministry described in Ephesians 4:12. As this is restored to the Church, in all the fullness that God intended, we will see the power of God manifest in our lives. As we each discover our gifting, imo.

In terms of where my thinking is at this point, I tend to think that any objective measurement of God's power will become an end in itself. For example, let's say that someone feels a calling to publicly preach the Gospel. She does so, and let's hypothetically suggest that many people respond to the preaching and that the power of God is at work in that place.

So, what next?

Well, then well-meaning people suggest that the evangelist take her message on the road and preach to others. Those with money step forward to finance the operation. So, she goes on the road

But over time, the power is gone, but the ministry is as big as its ever been. But people keep coming forward at each invitation. So, the objective measurement is still there. Ministry and prayer letters go out and they tell of the "success" of the ministry: 10,000 people have responded to the Gospel this year, praise God! The ministry is too big to be stopped. The money is coming in and souls are being "saved." The only problem is that God's not really there.

So, I'm a bit skeptical of any attempts to measure, particularly using things like teaching or preaching as a basis. The experience in my current church (of which I am a member) is that the preaching becomes an end in and of itself. Our primary energies and efforts go into a Sunday morning production that focuses primarily on the preaching of one man (never a woman). So, one man is spotlighted; someone who wears nice clothes and spends many many hours preparing a well-polished homily. The pastors always pray that the Spirit will move through the Word, and they always encourage others to do the same, but I don't think the Spirit is a part of it. That's just my personal observation, but I wonder if God might want to do something radically different. What if, for example, God would want to speak through the voices of those who didn't look polished? Or what if God has something for our church to hear through the voice of someone who doesn't speak well? Or what if God wants to speak through someone who has bad theology but has a true heart that is passionate for God's kingdom? What then? We have so "objectified" God's work that anything new is impossible. We have one way of doing things and we believe God will only work through that one way.

I was recently challenged about whether or not there is a New Testament mandate for preaching to believers. We see preaching to unbelievers, but the NT concept of "teaching" might be much more along the lines of a dialog than our current, American way of polished, three-point sermons.

ktismatics said...

So are you prepared to abandon evangelistic preaching per your Manifesto and move toward a more Friends-style service inside the church, where if the Spirit moves someone to speak they get up and speak?

ktismatics said...

Back to McLaren. On pp. 78-80 of Everything Must Change he contrasts the "conventional" view of the gospel with the "emerging" view:

Conventional View: God created the world as perfect, but because our primal ancestors, Adam and Eve, did not maintain the absolute perfection demanded by God, God has irrevocably determined that the entire universe and all it contains will be destroyed, and the souls of all human beings -- except for those specifically exempted, will be forever punished for their imperfection in hell. Since everyone is doomed to hell, Jesus seeks to answer one or both of these questions: How can individuals be saved from eternal punishment in hell and instead go to heaven after they die? How can God help individuals be happy and successful until then? Jesus says, in essence, "If you want to be among those specifically qualified to escape being forever punished for your sins in hell, you must repent of your individual sins and believe that my Father punished me on the cross so he won't have to punish you in hell. Only if you believe this will you go to heaven when the earth is destroyed and everyone else is banished to hell." This is the good news. Jesus came to solve the problem of "original sin," meaning that he helps qualified individuals not to be sent to hell for their sin or imperfection. In a sense, Jesus saves these people from God, or more specifically, from the righteous wrath of God, which sinful humans deserve because they have not perfectly fulfilled God's just expectations, expressed in God's moral laws. This escape from punishment is not they earn or achieve, but rather a free gift they receive as an expression of God's grace and love. Those who receive it enjoy a personal relationship with God and seek to serve and obey God, which produces a happier life on earth and more rewards in heaven.

Emerging View: God created the world as good, but human beings -- as individuals, and as groups -- have rebelled against God and filled the world with evil and injustice. God wants to save humanity and heal it of its injustice, but humanity is hopelessly lost and confused. Left to themselves, human beings will spiral downward in sickness and evil. Since the human race is in such desperate trouble, Jesus seeks to answer this question: What must be done about the mess we're in? The "mess" refers both to the general human condition and to its specific outworking among his contemporaries living under domination by the Roman Empire and who were confused and conflicted as to what they should do to be liberated. Jesus says, in essence, "I have been sent by God with this good news — that God loves humanity, even in its lostness and sin. God graciously invites everyone and anyone to turn from his or her current path and follow a new way. Trust me and become my disciple, and you will be transformed, and you will participate in the transformation of the world, which is possible, beginning right now." …Jesus came to become the Savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of human evil… All who find in Jesus God’s hope and truth discover the privilege of participating in his ongoing work of personal and global transformation of the world, which is possible, beginning right now." This is the good news. Jesus came to become the savior of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of human evil. Through his life and teaching, through his suffering, death, and resurrection, he inserted into human history a seed of grace, truth, and hope that can never be defeated. This seed will, against all opposition and odds, prevail over the evil and injustice of humanity and lead to the world's ongoing transformation and liberation from evil and injustice. As part of his transforming community, they experience liberation from the fear of death and condemnation. This is not something they earn or achieve, but rather a free gift they receive as an expression of God's grace and love.


Which version do you like better?

daniel said...

Kt, both are true.

ktismatics said...

Oops, I see I double-typed part of the emerging view. Is it because I unconsciously wanted to re-emphasize it, or because I think it sounds like double-talk?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics: So are you prepared to abandon evangelistic preaching per your Manifesto and move toward a more Friends-style service inside the church, where if the Spirit moves someone to speak they get up and speak?

Yes to the first part: I have abandoned going to services where only a select few of the spiritual elite are deemed worthy to share. In terms of where I would move from there, I suppose I would favor something that embraced the diversity of the Body. I'm not completely against structure in a service, but at this point I would suggest that the services at my church have essentially scripted God out of the picture.

chris van allsburg said...

K--

My OCD, at the core, has consisted in having unwanted images of horror that get stuck in my head. And, there's more details, but I'd rather share that with you in a private email. My email is at chrisvanallsburg@yahoo.com.

Thankfully, I'm getting help from many venues: exercise, diet, a psych, some meds, and from reading books on the power of the brain--which means I have made great gains in recognizing OCD for what it is, and then choosing to think good thoughts, rather than focus on the bad ones in a deeping spiral of fear.

Anxiety disorder + OCD= a bad life.
But I'm getting better! My thanks to the medical community, both MD's and psych's.
thank-you!

Melody said...

but at this point I would suggest that the services at my church have essentially scripted God out of the picture.

I think you're being a bit harsh. No, it's not a perfect church. Shocker. But they're trying to make God the focus and that's not any less than you can claim.

ktismatics said...

Thanks Chris, sounds like a struggle but you're making headway. I'll drop you a line tomorrow.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody: I think you're being a bit harsh. No, it's not a perfect church. Shocker. But they're trying to make God the focus and that's not any less than you can claim.

Remember, all I'm suggesting is that they are trying to get God by scripting him in. I'm not making a I've-got-a-better-way-to-do-church kind of claim. That's not the point. The point is, if God wanted to do something new and outside of the norm, he couldn't do it at CCC b/c we format and script our every move. We can't even have response times at the end of the service or anything that resembles an "alter call" b/c that would be far too emotional for certain members of the CCC spiritual elite.

Church at CCC is a nice place for nice people to hear nice sermons and sing nice songs and smile nicely at the other people. I see problems with that, but if that's what you're into, then go for it. I won't judge!

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics,

I'm with Daniel in that I don't see the two at odds with each other. Am I missing something?

Melody said...

Remember, all I'm suggesting is that they are trying to get God by scripting him in.

You said they'd scripted Him out.

The point is, if God wanted to do something new and outside of the norm, he couldn't do it at CCC b/c we format and script our every move.

Aw, poor God, the church folk won't let Him do what He wants.

We can't even have response times at the end of the service or anything that resembles an "alter call" b/c that would be far too emotional for certain members of the CCC spiritual elite.

Really? Is that why we don't have that? That's one of my favorite things about CCC (so not joking). I hate the alter call. And the blasted pastors that drag the thing out and call out through the singing, "If God's moving in YOUR heart tonight, please don't ignore HIS call. COME now..."

Right. That's totally the spirit moving and not just some poor martyr trying to make the pastor shut the feck up.

Not that I have strong feelings about it or anything.

Church at CCC is a nice place for nice people to hear nice sermons and sing nice songs and smile nicely at the other people.

God can't work in a place where people listen to nice sermon and sing nice songs and smiley nicely?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Melody,

I think you are way missing my point.

Yes, alter calls can be a form of manipulating the masses and of manipulating God....been there, done that.....the point is to never reduce God to a form of "doing church" or to assume that because we are "doing church the right way" that God is among us.

The point is never to be content with going through the motions, regardless of what those motions are. I think at CCC we are very religious but very uninterested in God's presence. Anymore, we only talk about God being with us.

ktismatics said...

Well I suppose reading the book would help, but the bit I excerpted should suffice. Start with the introductory phrase of each view. Traditional: "God created the world as perfect." Emerging: "God created the world as good." The point in common: God created the world. As you know, I don't believe that one. But we'll move on: perfect, or good? Do you think that the world and human beings used to be better than they are now? From what standpoint? Do you think that, whether God had anything to do with it or not, man evolved from apes? If so, would you say that human cultural artifacts like language, reason, tool-making, ethical decision-making etc. represent enhancements on raw genetic humanity, or corruptions? Or do you believe that, after evolution, God endowed humanity with all these higher-order capabilities in their perfect form and that subsequently humanity has backslidden from this perfect God-imbued human culture?

And so on. As an outsider to the faith I regard the traditional reading of the gospel as hostile, whereas McLaren's "extra crispy recipe" is more to my tastes. That doesn't mean the traditional version isn't Biblical. But my agenda isn't to become Christian or to reform Christianity: it's to see if there's any possible common cause between myself and Christians, which is how I introduced my interest in McLaren's book way up near the top of this thread.

And regarding that quote from Deut. 7 I put in as a comment on this thread: do you believe that God did in fact call on the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites man, woman, and child?

Melody said...

The point is never to be content with going through the motions, regardless of what those motions are. I think at CCC we are very religious but very uninterested in God's presence. Anymore, we only talk about God being with us.

Ok, well I guess I just don't agree.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Ktismatics,

Thanks for the clarification. In general, I guess I have interpreted the "e"merging trend as moving toward dropping the "e" and just merging with the mainstream to create something of a hybrid. Call it Hegel's synthesis or perhaps just politics (like how in the general election both presidential candidates will say the exact same thing and each one will essentially say, "Well, no he doesn't really believe that--he's far more liberal/conservative than he's letting on!").

Your Questions:
Emerging: "God created the world as good." The point in common: God created the world. As you know, I don't believe that one. But we'll move on: perfect, or good?

I don't see a biblical motif for a "perfect" creation. Furthermore, the sticky thing for traditionalists is that they have to 'splain how a "perfect" Eve wound up with all of this very imperfect desires.

Do you think that the world and human beings used to be better than they are now? From what standpoint? Do you think that, whether God had anything to do with it or not, man evolved from apes? If so, would you say that human cultural artifacts like language, reason, tool-making, ethical decision-making etc. represent enhancements on raw genetic humanity, or corruptions? Or do you believe that, after evolution, God endowed humanity with all these higher-order capabilities in their perfect form and that subsequently humanity has backslidden from this perfect God-imbued human culture?

You know, I honestly haven't considered this very much, which is odd considering how much time I've spent reading and thinking through linguistic related issues. I've just always considered such cultural artifacts as relevant only as we have them in current form. However, having said that, I think these are both enhancements and corruptions: how do you like that answer??!!?

I tend to believe that we did not evolve from lower species. I believe we were created as we are. (God created the chicken, not the egg!) However, I respect differences on this, and if I were more familiar with the science of evolution, I might change my mind. From a biblical standpoint, I think the literature does not preclude holding to evolution.

And regarding that quote from Deut. 7 I put in as a comment on this thread: do you believe that God did in fact call on the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites man, woman, and child?

Sorry. I guess I thought I had commented on that. Yes, I believe that was a God-ordained event. Is it possible that it was not? That the Israelites (ab)used their position and claimed it was in the name of God when, in fact, it was not? Is that possible? I would say yes.

ktismatics said...

Okay good, thanks for your response. From inside evangelicalism McLaren's traditional and extra crispy recipes are both true, but from outside Christianity certain aspects of evangelicalism are more incompatible or noxious than others.

So, for example, if you get the feeling that maybe your God wants to launch a crusade or a pogrom, you might want to engage in discussion with the rest of the Christians before you consign the infidels to the flames, but you're not going to be on the receiving end because you're on God's team. If you decide that the genocidal phase of Israel's history was a tragic misunderstanding or willful misrepresentation of God's intentions, that's a good message to convey to modern-day Canaanites and their kind. If you decide that the nationalist dispensation is over and done with, it's not great but at least peaceful coexistence is possible. If you believe that God really could have commanded mass murder of the infidels and that He might do it again, then you represent a danger to non-Christians, just as Dawkins and Sam Harris say.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Fair points.

I see what you are going for now, and that seems reasonable to me.

How do you feel about my noncommittal responses???

ktismatics said...

McLaren hedges his bets too. He talks about the incident where Jesus casts the demon out of the daughter of the Canaanite woman in Mt. 15. In Deut. 7 the idea is that the Canaanite daughters will infect the sons of Israel with their false gods, but here Jesus doesn't kill the woman and her daughter but does a miracle for them, even though they're not Jews. Immediately after this healing comes the feeding of the 4,000 which, says McC, is probably a group of Gentiles, based on the geography. The 7 baskets of leftovers he associates symbolically with the 7 Canaanite tribes in Deut. 7: instead of killing them, Jesus feeds them. BUT... McLaren never says what he thinks about the Deut. 7 story: did God really want everyone dead, or was it a big misunderstanding? Did God realize that he'd been too much of a hot-head and change his tune? McC never commits himself.

daniel said...

Kt, In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was neither good nor perfect. It was formless and void. God created chaos before creating the cosmos. So if you want to make theology out of whether the original creation was "good" or "perfect", that's gonna be difficult. The importance of acknowledging God creating order out of confusion is telling because that's what he does in our lives - at an individual and corporate level. So Jesus came to save us personally and also so that we could disciple or lead the nations.

"every good giving, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the lights, with whom is no variation, or shadow of turning" James 1:17

Ultimately, it is only in connection with God that things are good and perfect. Left to ourselves, or apart from God, things go wrong, corrupt and decay. This is the lesson that Adam and Eve learnt after being seperated from God. So I agree with Jon that the central issue is God's presence and whether we are doing things on our own (i.e. without God) or not. If we go it alone, we are doomed - that's reality.

daniel said...

John Wesley's notes on the above scripture (James 1:17)

(the web rocks!)

1:17 No evil, but every good gift - Whatever tends to holiness. And every perfect gift - Whatever tends to glory. Descendeth from the Father of lights - The appellation of Father is here used with peculiar propriety. It follows, he begat us. He is the Father of all light, material or spiritual, in the kingdom of grace and of glory. With whom is no variableness - No change in his understanding. Or shadow of turning - in his will. He infallibly discerns all good and evil; and invariably loves one, and hates the other. There is, in both the Greek words, a metaphor taken from the stars, particularly proper where the Father of lights is mentioned. Both are applicable to any celestial body, which has a daily vicissitude of day and night, and sometimes longer days, sometimes longer nights. In God is nothing of this kind. He is mere light. If there Is any such vicissitude, it is in ourselves, not in him.

ktismatics said...

Okay Daniel, let's say that two alternative inferences about humanity can be drawn from James 1:17: (1) Unless a person acknowledges God as the source of all goodness, that person can do nothing good. (2) Every good thing that a person does ultimately comes from God, whether the person recognizes it or not. If you believe (1), then you can have no common cause with the unbeliever or vice versa; if you believe (2), then you can. I'd say that when I was an evangelical that variant (1) was was the usual message. Which version do yo believe, Daniel?

daniel said...

That's interesting, Kt. I'm inclined to believe #2 as well, i.e. that all goodness belongs to God.

But surely believing this leads one to acknowledging Him in all one does (#1)... stepping up into his righteousness, and not relying on one's own understanding.

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

ktismatics said...

Let me try again. I'm not saying that I believe (2) -- I believe there is no God, that we are on our own, that whatever goodness there might be in humanity is man's own doing. I'm not trying to get you to believe what I do, nor am I asking you to persuade me of your beliefs. The question is whether you as a Christian and I as a non-Christian can work together for toward peace and justice, can love one another, can find joy together in the celebration of good things, regardless of what either of us believes.

Can someone compose excellent music or play artistically without believing that God is the source of beauty? Can someone perform acts of kindness without attributing that kindness to God? Can someone offer you friendship and support who doesn't believe in God? If you believe (2), then you might attribute these acts of human goodness to God regardless of what the person who does them believes. If so, then you have a basis for fellowship together with the unbeliever, even if that unbeliever never changes his or her beliefs. If, on the other hand, you believe (1) -- only someone who acknowledges God as the source of all goodness can do any good -- then what might seem like good music really isn't, what might seem like kindness really isn't, what might seem like love really isn't. Because they stem from an unbelieving heart these are actually acts of self-reliance, and therefore bad rather than good. There is then no basis for you to have fellowship with the unbeliever, because you regard everything that person does as bad.

Do you see what I'm getting at? Does your Christianity impose a barrier between you and the unbeliever that can only be bridged if the other person comes into the faith? That's certainly been the traditional Christian position. I'm wondering if there is an alternative emerging version of Christianity where what the person consciously believes is less important than what s/he does, feels, values. If not, then all we can do is either try to convert each other, ignore one another, or fight one another.

daniel said...

Kt, I'm interested in your interest in Christianity. Although you are not a Christian, you want to be friends with Christians, or find common cause with them... and you feel strongly Christians should find common cause with you as an unbeliever? You also mentioned on your blog you want to counsel Christian pastors specifically.

You don't want us to fight, ignore, or convert one another?

You feel that "doing good" is the reason for us all to hang out together?

It may surprise you to hear me state that Christianity is not about doing good. Humanism yes, Christianity... no.

Christianity is about presenting ourselves to God through His son Jesus Christ. We are a sweet aroma to God because of Jesus and not because of anything we have done, will do or indeed can do.

This is not morality - this is the cosmic reconciliation of sinful man with a holy God.

There is beauty and kindness and all these things in the world, that can be appreciated at our human level - especially to the extent that our interests are best served. At an ego level or whatever. There is also a realm beyond this. As followers of Christ, once we taste eternity, things of the world "grow strangely dim".

Strangely, our values change. For example, suffering has value. It's an upside down Kingdom.

So please let me know a bit more about your ongoing interest in Christianity and Christians.

I'm genuinely interested in your motives, and not to be rude. Also, may I ask you from your perspective why you think Jesus was crucified? Just want to join a few dots before engaging further.

ktismatics said...

"You also mentioned on your blog you want to counsel Christian pastors specifically."

I vaguely recall a discussion along these lines, to the effect that it might be awkward for pastors to seek psychological help from inside their own church. I certainly wouldn't exclude Christian pastors from my practice, nor would I try to talk them out of their Christianity. There would be some pastors who'd think I couldn't be of any help precisely because I'm not Christian, and those I suspect wouldn't come at all. There may be pastors who doubt their faith, just as there may be ordinary churchgoers who doubt, and they might find it more helpful to talk to someone who isn't going to think less highly of them for their doubt.

"You don't want us to fight, ignore, or convert one another? You feel that "doing good" is the reason for us all to hang out together?"

Right. How about you?


"It may surprise you to hear me state that Christianity is not about doing good. Humanism yes, Christianity... no."

It disappoints me, but it doesn't surprise me. It's one of my concerns, as illustrated by Deut. 7: would Christians advocate crimes against humanity in the name of God? If so, then for the rest of the human race Christianity constitutes a danger. Certainly some who call themselves Christians believe that God would never have advocated genocide, and that attributing such motives to God is evil.

Frankly I'm concerned about a religion that's not about doing good. I'm not talking about justifying yourself; I'm talking about goodness for its own sake, doing it because it is true or beautiful or just. I'm also concerned about a religion that says that only its followers can do good, because they've been imbued with a supernatural supplement that lifts them above the level of ordinary, fallen, depraved natural humanity.

There might be a realm beyond human goodness, as you say, but there are those who deny human goodness and regard it as evil precisely because it is human. You seem to gesture in that direction, referring to it as self-serving and an ego thing. Then you say these things grow strangely dim, as if ordinary human goodness just isn't worth bothering with.

What are my motives? Humanistic mostly, though I suppose I'm partly trying to convince myself that something I used to believe isn't as bad as a lot of non-Christians think it is.

I think Jesus was crucified because the leaders of his people felt threatened by him and wanted him out of the way.

ktismatics said...

I neglected to mention another important motivation for buddying up to the evangelicals. I wrote a book about Genesis 1, reading it literally yet in entirely humanistic terms, in hopes that this book might become well-read and attract attention both to my fiction and to my psychology practice. So after I finished the book I started the blog, seeing if, say, evangelicals could consider the possibility that their God didn't create the material world after all (not surprisingly, they couldn't, though guys like Augustine and Aquinas had a hard time with the notion). So I keep trying to find common ground, bridges across the divide, and any other metaphorical links I can find between Christian and non-Christian that doesn't require the one to become the other or vice versa. So far I'd say the quest hasn't been very fruitful -- maybe that's because for me most of the time the cup is nearly empty.

Melody said...

It may surprise you to hear me state that Christianity is not about doing good. Humanism yes, Christianity... no.

Ok, well Ktistmatics may not be surprised to see you say that, but I am.

We're saved by grace through faith and now we're God's workmanship, created in Christ do do good works. (Eph. 2:8-10)

The difference between Christianity and Humanism is not a call to good works, but that Christians believe we find our strength to do good in Christ and Humanists believe we find it in ourselves.

No, our works don't save us, but what is the point in being saved if we don't do the work of our Father who is the author of all good things?

As for this sweet aroma stuff, the term is always used in reference to a sacrifice to God.
The OT bits pretty much involve burnt animals, but in NT we have

Ephesians 5:1-2 "Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma."

The other NT mention is in Phillipians and references them sending aid to Paul.

So I don't really feel that you've understood the passages correctly when you go about saying things like,
We are a sweet aroma to God because of Jesus and not because of anything we have done, will do or indeed can do.

Sweet smells seem to come with doing...and nothing else as far as I can see.

Sorry about burning your eyes out on italics, they just seemed necessary.

chris van allsburg said...

Ktismatics (hey buddy),

I would say that xtians and non-xtians should definitely work together to bring peace, justice and beauty to this world. They can and they should. Whether my Buddhist friend ackowledges Christ makes no difference to me if we are helping rape victims recover in a hospital ward (see the latest, awful news from Kenya).

I would also submit that yes, I can attribute goodness to someone who composes a symphony or great piece of art, or acts with compassion toward their neighbor. Daniel mentioned goodness on a human level, but I'd rather call it common grace. There's less of a dichotomy that way. Anyhow...

Because of Common Grace, there is indeed a "common ground" between me and someone who disbelieves what I hold dear (the Apostle's Creed--can anyone say, Apollo Creed?). I'm guessing you're familiar with this notion, however.

And I don't know why Daniel would say that Christianity isn't about doing good. Melody is right: we are called to do good. It's on every page of the Bible.

The problem with evangelicalism, and I've posted about this, is that it tends to be very Gnostic. It's too "soulish." It doesn't preach to the "whole man." It's about soul-saving, and not about recontructing slums into vibrant market places. Christ came in a body after all.

And it draws a line in the sand between grace and good works. That's bunk. Saving faith is a living active, obedient faith, and a faith without works is dead (James 2:12-23).

So yes, we have a basis for fellowship with the unbeliever. The imago Dei is the theological reason serving as foundational to common grace, in my opinion.

And that's enough reason for me to do good works with anyone who wants to do the same.

Sincerely,
chris



gitterdone.

daniel said...

The problem with our so-called "good works" is that we take pride in them. In God's presence, we realize how meaningless they are. As Christians, God has called us to do "God works" - good works he has prepared for us - not works that are merely good, but truly good through Him.

Sometimes these works God has called us to don't seem to be good in the eyes of the world. Converting people is an example of something the world does not consider good. Yet in God's book, every conversion is a soul saved from the fires of hell.

I'm sticking to my guns on this one.

BTW Ktismatics, thanks for your reply. You said:

I neglected to mention another important motivation for buddying up to the evangelicals. I wrote a book about Genesis 1, reading it literally yet in entirely humanistic terms, in hopes that this book might become well-read and attract attention both to my fiction and to my psychology practice. So after I finished the book I started the blog, seeing if, say, evangelicals could consider the possibility that their God didn't create the material world after all (not surprisingly, they couldn't, though guys like Augustine and Aquinas had a hard time with the notion). So I keep trying to find common ground, bridges across the divide, and any other metaphorical links I can find between Christian and non-Christian that doesn't require the one to become the other or vice versa. So far I'd say the quest hasn't been very fruitful -- maybe that's because for me most of the time the cup is nearly empty.

I'd be keen to read your book. Matter interests me but the problem is it always goes backwards, in other words it decays. Only spiritual things have forward momentum, that is they last forever. Is this the problem Augustine and Aquinas wrestled with?

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

chris van allsburg said...

Daniel, there actually is no problem at all with good works. Good works are commanded by God and they are labeled as such by God. "God works?" No, the Bible says they are good works.

**Of course we are not to take sinful pride in our good works. But good works are not removable from saving faith.**

King David says,

"For I have kept the way of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For allhis rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt. So the Lord has rewarded my according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight," (Psalm 18:24).

Faith without works is dead.

You also said, only spiritual things last forever, which is Gnosticism, and you prove my point.

Jesus came in a body, rose in a body, will come back in a body, and will resurrect our bodies. Then we will drink wine and eat and be merry.

chris van allsburg said...

Daniel, you also said that as Christians God has called us to do "God works," and you use the example of converting people is a good work. My question is, who does the converting? Christians, or God himself? If Christians, that's simply not supported by the Bible. Christians preach the gospel, but God converts, doesn't he? If it is indeed God, then it's not a "God work" that Christians do.

You also said we realize how meaningless our good works are when we are in God's presence.

But on the last day, in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the righteous are those who are welcomed into eternal life for visiting the Lord's "least of these," and acting as unto the Lord. They are commended for their good works and welcomed to inherit the kingdom. And they are done so while in the presence of the Lord.

But you say being in the presence of the Lord would reveal our good works as meaningless?

daniel said...

Humanism = tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Christianity = tree of life.

Chris, our good works will be revealed as meaningless if we have not done them in obedience to Christ and in relationship with Him. He will say, "depart from me because I do not know you" (Matt 25:41). And the do-gooder may than say, "I did this and that in your name" etc.

So God does the converting, but we need to do the preaching. We are God's body on earth.

If, as members of the body, we are more concerned with doing what is right in our own eyes, we are gonna miss it completely.

Don't trust your own judgement!

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Matthew 24:35-36

Melody said...

The problem with our so-called "good works" is that we take pride in them.

If I became puffed up about saving a baby from a burning building, would the problem be with saving the baby or with my attitude?

And given this heart problem, should I then save no more babies or should I ask God for an attitude adjustment?

The passage you quote is not to say that we do not do good works, the point is let them be good like gold, silver, and precious stones. Things that last.

Good works point the way to God

Matthew 5:16
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Paul warns Titus of people who profess to know God, but deny Him with their works. (Titus 1:16) He goes on to say that Jesus saved us that we might be a pure people zelous for good works (Titus 2:14)and that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. (Titus 3:8).

The author of Hebrews asks to to stir each other up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:34).

James has that whole passage where he essentially says, So you believe God big-freakin'-deal. So do the demons. Prove it with what you do.

Peter says that when we do good we will silence the foolish and ignorant and will cause unbelievers to glorify God. (1 Peter 2)

People talk a lot lately about how our purpose here on earth is to glorify God. How else do we glorify a God of goodness and love, but by being good and loving ourselves?

That's the sacrifice. That's the sweet aroma.

Melody said...

If, as members of the body, we are more concerned with doing what is right in our own eyes, we are gonna miss it completely.

Don't trust your own judgement!


Friend, there is a large expanse seperating the OT "and in that day every man did what was right in his own eyes" concept and the concept of doing what is good. The former refers to doing whatever you feel like and the latter refers to doing what God has called good.

We are not talking about doing whatever we see fit, we are talking about doing what is undeniably right and good!

daniel said...

The balance comes in here:

(Jesus speaking)

"By their fruits you shall know them".(Matthew 7:16)

"Abide in me, for apart from me you can do nothing (nothing)". (John 15)

There are good works prepared for us as Christians to do. Are they the same good works that non-Christians do? Are the two within the same definition of "good"?

Do we even know what is really good without the Spirit of God active in our lives after we are born again?

Don't become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants-what is good, pleasing, and perfect. Romans 12:2

Melody said...

There are good works prepared for us as Christians to do. Are they the same good works that non-Christians do? Are the two within the same definition of "good"?

What you call something doesn't change what it is. I'm not interested in what someone defines an act as - I'm only interested in whether it is right.

Will non-Christians define "good works" differently than us? Maybe.
Does that change what is good? No.
Can we do the good things with non-Christians, whatever it is being called? Yes.

Do we even know what is really good without the Spirit of God active in our lives after we are born again?

Well Jesus seems to think so when he talks about how even men, being evil, know how to give good gifts to their children. (Matt. 7:9-11, Luke 11:13).

And I know from my own experience that I'm just as capable of mixing up right and wrong as anyone else.

Being a Christian hasn't imbued me with a magic ability to always do right.

I don't think any of us will fully understand goodness until we are able to stand in God's presence, but that does not mean we can't do good things...any more than not having a full understanding of mathmatics means I can't add two and two.

daniel said...

Melody, let me ask you a question.

If doing helpful things for the orphans of Mexico takes you away from God's plan, is it still good?

Is it still good if you are running away from a challenging situation at home and using the "good work" to cover that up?

How good are our good works done in the flesh really?

As far as I can tell, they are *worthless*!

Melody said...

If doing helpful things for the orphans of Mexico takes you away from God's plan, is it still good?

I think that this is kind of like the, "But what if my parents ask me to do something wrong" question all children ask in Sunday School - highly implausable and besides the point.

I don't think God has some secret plan for our lives where we have to fast and pray to find out if God wants us doing His will in Samariah or Judiah or the ends of the earth.

I think He wants us to do His will. Period. And He's already told us what that is. The where and the how figure themselves out.

I don't think there's such a thing as doing God's will in the wrong place.

How good are our good works done in the flesh really?

We can't serve two masters. Either I'm doing something good and serving God or I'm doing something bad and serving the flesh.

If someone who does not believe in God does something good, yeah, I believe that honors God whether they mean it to or not.
Everything good comes from God.
The devil cannot produce something good.

daniel said...

Chris, your charge of gnosticism is mystifying. Yes, our bodies will be raised and we shall receive resurrection bodies. But only because we have been born again by the spirit of God. It's not every body that will be raised - please clarify exactly how you read gnosticism into a distinction between spiritual things and things of this world.

And what do you make of Galatians 6:8? (For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life).

In our church we have a saying: If its not practical, its not spiritual. I'm speaking here against "dead works", not works per se that are the natural outworking of our faith and loving relationship with God (Hebrews 6).

Joining the humanist in good works cannot be on the terms of merely doing socalled good deeds. The eternal perspective needs to be engaged.

Otherwise its like you get into a car with someone and you happen to know the road leads to sheer destruction - only you are to busy boosting one anothers feelings of self worth by the doing of good to bother to warn them of the death at the end.

(God speaking)

"When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand."
(Ezekiel 3:18)

daniel said...

Melody, I agree with you. The devil can't produce anything good. But he can produce a counterfeit goodness that will distract us from God's will. It will appear good. But it won't be truly good.

Melody said...

Daniel, that in no way negates the truth that we are called by God to do good works.

chris van allsburg said...

Daniel. Both the righteous and the wicked will have resurrection bodies, "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection fo life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection fo judgment," (Jonn 5:28-29).

You said, not every body will be raised, and Jesus refutes this point here.

Also, the charge of Gnosticism was made because you said that "only spiritual things will last forever." Perhaps you should be more careful with your words. Maybe you mean, "spiritual bodies." If so, ok. But as it stands, when you say, "only spiritual things will last forever," it smacks of Gnosticism.

In the nutshell, Gnosticism says,

"spirit good, matter evil."

And when evangelicals talk about saving souls and not helping people with food, clothing and shelter, it's because they're thinking gnostically. Jesus healed people, fed people. The church is to do good to all people, esp those of the household of faith (Gal 6:10).

As far as my understanding of verse 8 in this chapter, I would submit verse 9 as well: "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

You still haven't answered our charges against you when you said Christianity was NOT about doing good. So, what do you do with verse 9 then? The verse just after the verse upon which you want me to comment.

Verse 8, in speaking of sowing to the flesh and spirit respectively, means that people who live according to their sinful lusts will be condemned. And people who seek to live under the power of the Holy Spirit will be given eternal life. When Paul talks about the flesh in a negative way, he isn't saying that matter is bad, he's saying that breaking God's law is bad--such a person is a lawbreaker.

And, I'd like your response about our good works being meaningless in God's presence. In the parable the sheep and goats, the righteous are commended for their good works IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD.

You wrote, "Joining the humanist in good works cannot be on the terms of merely doing socalled good deeds. The eternal perspective needs to be engaged."

So, if I help a rape victim recover in a hospital with a Buddhist, and don't preach the gospel to the Buddhist, it isn't a good deed that we've done?

I understand that because of our sin that God doesn't reckon good deeds to the unregenerate as grounds for justification. But do you really think the God of compassion thinks the aforementioned deed is a wicked deed and not a good one?

daniel said...

Chris, I take correction. Some are raised to everlasting life, and others to everlasting punishment.

I understand your gnosticism criticism better now too.

Throughout my responses, I've had the first principles of Christianity outlined in Hebrews 6in mind, notably repentance from dead works.

In response to Melody, my emphasis is: we are called to do good works that God prepared for us in advance. The implication being there are supposedly good works that God has not prepared for us, that could in fact distract us from our purpose in Him.

Morality and humanism are twin movements. Morality is the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Humanism would have Jesus the good moral teacher. Humanism is about knowing right from wrong and being like the gods (Genesis 3:5).

Christianity is life in Christ. It is acknowledging that we do not have the power to do good on our own apart from God.

Noting this, I am not for a moment suggesting we shouldn't be fulfilling our Christianity in good works and being good. Goodness is moreover one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22).

I'm just questioning the assumption that one can do good works without being in connection with God.

How would you know what is good without God?

For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phillippians 2:13)

daniel said...

Going back to Jonah. When God called him to Nineveh, and he decided instead to go to Tarshish.

It is very probable that Jonah, being a prophet, was planning to do good works in Tarshish - even though he was fleeing from God. Maybe he had already planned a preaching crusade there. Or maybe he was going to join some friends and help the destitute of the city.

Or maybe he was just going to do evil in Tarshish - we don't know.

Nonetheless, the story of Jonah illustrates that God requires our obedience.

By listening to God, and following his instruction, with faith in our hearts, we please Him and do what is right in His sight. Sometimes God's Word comes to us and it is so challenging, it may even seem wrong. God says do this, but because of fear or insecurity we opt to do something "good" instead.

That's why the Bible says we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phillippians 2:12).

Problem is many of us are brought up in churches that make it seem we must work out our salvation with groovy music and sugar-coated words of encouragement from the pastor.

(These things are fine, but sometimes its gonna hurt to be a Christian. Like when you do unpopular things like evangelizing.)

Melody said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melody said...

Chris, love the Galations 6:9 reference.

Daniel, I don't think you've thought this through all the way,

The implication being there are supposedly good works that God has not prepared for us, that could in fact distract us from our purpose in Him.

What on earth would these "supposedly good works" be?

Woops! Wrong widow, wrong orphan - sorry God! I mean, it's not like God wants to show His love to all men!

Why are these sneaky pseudo good-works mentioned no where else?

I see God telling us, "Yes, I've had in mind all along for you to do good works; I've been preparing for you to do good works since before you even knew me!"

Goodness is moreover one of the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22).

Goodness is a fruit of the Spirit - so true. So are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control.

Would you like to imply that non-Christians are never patient? Never loving? Never kind? Never have self-control?

How would you know what is good without God?

How would I know anything without God?

Just because someone is not worshipping God does not mean that they are not affected by Him or are not created in His image. It doesn't mean He hasn't given them a conscience.

It is very probable that Jonah, being a prophet, was planning to do good works in Tarshish - even though he was fleeing from God.

Um. You do understand that you're just making stuff up at this point, yes?

Nonetheless, the story of Jonah illustrates that God requires our obedience.

Yes. Yes He does. And since God has called us to love and good works, what do you suppose being obedient would look like for us?

Sometimes God's Word comes to us and it is so challenging, it may even seem wrong.

I find this a bit far fetched.

God says do this, but because of fear or insecurity we opt to do something "good" instead.

Yeah, because of fear or insecurity not, "God's telling me to do this, but it seems sinful and wrong!"

And I defy you to find an example - take your time to browse through all of history - of someone who runs from God to do something good.

When I run from God it's never to do something good, it's to do something easy and/or self seeking.

(sorry for the delted post - small edit)

ktismatics said...

Just a note to say that I haven't gone away. I've been reading along with the discussion -- very thought-provoking and gracious.

ktismatics said...

"I have an abiding intuition that somehow the world of the Bible is a literally real but veiled landscape, never changing, hidden from our sight, but available to us by revelation. That is all I can come up with—a mixture of mystical experience, reasoning, and faith. I would like to say something about the traits of the authentic human, though; in this quest I have had more plausible answers.

"The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and, in addition, he will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not.

"The power of spurious realities battering at us today—these deliberately manufactured fakes never penetrate to the heart of true human beings. I watch the children watching TV and at first I am afraid of what they are being taught, and then I realize, They can't be corrupted or destroyed. They watch, they listen, they understand, and, then, where and when it is necessary, they reject. There is something enormously powerful in a child's ability to withstand the fraudulent. A child has the clearest eye, the steadiest hand. The hucksters, the promoters, are appealing for the allegiance of these small people in vain. True, the cereal companies may be able to market huge quantities of junk breakfasts; the hamburger and hot dog chains may sell endless numbers of unreal fast-food items to the children, but the deep heart beats firmly, unreached and unreasoned with. A child of today can detect a lie quicker than the wisest adult of two decades ago. When I want to know what is true, I ask my children. They do not ask me; I turn to them."


- Philip K. Dick

chris van allsburg said...

Daniel wrote,
"Morality is the tree of knowledge of good and evil."

Maybe you are saying the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (tkge) signifies a moral decision on the part of our 1st parents. This is correct.

However, if you mean that morality is one and the same as tkge, then this makes no sense.

The tkge signified our 1st parents' ability to choose their own ethic or to choose God's ethic. The tkge also signified Adam and Eve's ability to interpret reality as autonomous or by means of God's interpretation. So the tkge serves as an ethical and epistemological significance.

But saying that morality and the tkge are one and the same, "is," doesn't make any sense. It's as if you made a predicate between morality and the tkge.

Morality is best described as the quality of being in accord with certain standards of conduct (dicionary.com).

If you want to say that what happened in the garden represents secular humanism, you may say that with great force. But please be more specific.


Melody, thanks!

daniel said...

Last night I attended a magnificent concert by two young Frenchmen, pianist and 'cellist. It was so good, it was breathtaking. It was as if they shared a heart, and the heart beat was the music. They played Bach, Schubert, and Prokofiev, plus a world premiere of a new work by a new generation French composer.

The Prokofiev sonata was particularly moving, written at a time when his wife was sent to a labour camp and his children declared illegitimate by the Soviets - yet music full of desire and rigourous hope.

I left the concert more convinced than ever that aesthetics, morality, and the whole bunch of human goodness is tree of knowledge stuff. And that we have an eternal choice, and God wants us to choose Him over all of this, as good as it may be humanly speaking.

I'm not trying to short change goodness. I'm fully conscious of the dillemma. The main problem with human goodness is that its end is man, it glorifies man.

Also, I believe God can redeem it - has redeemed it through Christ. And in some mysterious way, the "fall" was part of His glorious plan for humanity right from the start.

I realize that in this conversation, there are many barriers to effective communication, between myself and Chris and Melody on the one hand, and myself and Ktismatics on the other. I apologize for being contentious. I have not changed my view, admit I have not put it across particularly well, but still in the process of discussing it with you I have strengthened and refined it at least for myself.
Thank you for engaging with me.

Things being as they are, I'm sure we'll have another opportunity to go over the same ground. In fact I remember similiar discussions not to long ago in the "single devotion" thread and the "pomo narrative" thread, not to mention an imago dei thread a bit further back.

For now I'm gonna restrain myself from further posting. Not that it's not good to post here, but I have to pursue something else that should take priority for a time.

best regards,

Daniel

chris van allsburg said...

Daniel, thank-you for your humility. The concert sounds wonderful. I had an experience with beauty today also. My wife made an appointment for me at a medical spa and salon for an eyebrow waxing and a massage. Now, my eyebrows only needed a light touch-up b/c I've already worked on them recently, and the girl doing the touch-up commented that perhaps I didn't want to get too "metro."

I said, "Oh I don't mind at all. I'm as hetero as you can get, but I don't mind a little metro at all."

Now, the massage was just plain good. It made me think of the importance of the body and how good pleasure is. There is a theology of bodily care, pleasure and beauty.

I brought a book of John Donne's sermons with me b/c there was time for relaxing and green tea.

I thought to myself, this place is a place of beauty and pleasure. Moreover, just about everyone who worked there was young and attractive. Nothing wrong with that! Beauty? Good.

I even was able to strike up a very interesting conversation at check out due to my copy of Donne's sermons. The girl behind the counter was educated at Calvin and practices as a physician's assistant at two local hospitals. She too, was very attractive, and it made me appreciate beauty of mind, body, and experience (the spa).

I don't think this is at all meaningless and simply humanistic drivel. These are things the Lord has given to us. He has given us beauty, grace and truth. And instead of saying it's all meaningless in light of the coming judgment of Christ, we rejoice at the beauty and pleasure in this world and thank God for it.

Daniel, I used to think the same way. But now I see that God, in his providence and in providing these things for us, wants us to enjoy them for what they are and live in thankfulness to him.

So what if the people at the concert aren't Christians. That's between them and God. The right venue for evangelism is elsewhere. Let's enjoy what God has given. God is a God of pleasure, beauty, grace and truth. And thanking him for these things is worship. Enjoy the symphonies he provides: sunsets, snow covered hills and trees. Still nights and the moon. A beautiful woman. An elegant car (art in automobile form).

We worship God by thanking him for the good things he gives us. "Give us this day our daily bread."

daniel said...

I know I'm meant to be on leave, but I came across this recent quote from Rick Warren.

"People are so worried churches are going to be about conversion," he said, "but everyone has a motive. Everyone has a world view. Christianity is a world view. ... I don't care why you do good as long as you do good".

Just putting it out there. I personally believe, contrary to Rick in this quote, why one does something is more important than what one does somehow. Only God can cleanse us in our inner man, in our motives.

And I truly believe conversion to signify this change on the inside.

I also found this article by James M. Schultz on the CG Jung Page very interesting, on Jung's text "Answer to Job". It's here:

http://www.cgjungpage.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=799&Itemid=40

Chris, your last post was thought provoking - I'll give it all more consideration, along with the other posts. And keep reading my Bible :)

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris,

Having known you personally from a few years back, I kept waiting for you to reveal the fact that your trip to a spa for a beauty makeover was just a joke. I kept waiting for you to turn the tables and ridicule even the very idea. But no.

I am quite surprised that you would pursue such a Metro course of action. Truly, you are an inspiration to all men.

Also, good points on beauty. Beauty has an incredible ability to awaken strong passions for both worship or fleshly indulgence. A fascinating topic.

chris van allsburg said...

Jon,
Yeah dude, you didn't know that? I'm incredibly vain! I was always concerned about my physical appearance, hence the trips to the gym and the cutoff tshirts. No more trips to the gym and no more cutoffs, and I'm making gains in decreasing my vanity (i think).

But, approaching the body and such things like clothing from the right perspective, beauty good.

I'd say, compared to a guy in NYC who is like, TOTALLY metro, I'm probably 25% there.

Most importantly, the trip to the spa was a gift from my most excellent wife.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, you always were a good looking fella.

Have you ever relied on your good looks to compensate for insecure feelings?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, you always were a good looking fella.

Have you ever relied on your good looks to compensate for insecure feelings?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Well, you always were a good looking fella.

Have you ever relied on your good looks to compensate for insecure feelings?

chris van allsburg said...

Yes.

chris van allsburg said...

Yes.

chris van allsburg said...

Yes.

ktismatics said...

Daniel, I see from your blog that you live in South Africa, and I see from your photo that you're white, so I suppose you've had to consider this question before: Was dismantling apartheid the right thing to do regardless of the motivations of those who made it happen?

daniel said...

Kt, what is a more interesting question is to consider why many people believed Apartheid to be good in the first place.

But I'll think about your question, I haven't thought of it like that before. Apart from considering the fact that there have been some strange bedfellows who united in the fight against Apartheid - and we now face the consequences of the confusion of mixed motives as we reconstruct a new South Africa.

chris van allsburg said...

100th comment! woo hoo!!

ktismatics said...

Nice play for immortality dude. You think Erdman will send you a toaster or some other valuable prize?

chris van allsburg said...

Yeah man. I'd like somethin'. You know, a toaster, maybe a card, or some royalties some day.
gitit!

ktismatics said...

"what is a more interesting question is to consider why many people believed Apartheid to be good in the first place."

I don't know much about South African history, but I presume the whites in particular believed apartheid was good, mostly for purposes of economic exploitation. I can imagine the colonial whites arguing that the blacks weren't ready for self-rule, that they weren't civilized enough, perhaps also not Christian enough, that in fact the white rulers were doing a good deed in stabilizing the region, extracting underutilized resources, providing jobs, etc.

On a related note, I just read an article describing how the US is trying to teach the Iraqi government the "rule of law." According to the Americans interviewed the Iraqis have a long way to go before they can rule themselves in a civilized and just manner. Hey, we're just there to help. This in the Tigris-Euphrates valley, the cradle of civilization.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris can have a signed copy of my blog.

Jonathan Erdman said...

We left the cradle a long time ago. Now we have to return and help out the infants.

ktismatics said...

"We left the cradle a long time ago. Now we have to return and help out the infants."

Hermeneutically speaking, nothing in this brief text suggests that the author is speaking ironically or satirically. Is the reader to infer that the statement accurately reflects the author's opinion?

Jonathan Erdman said...

But you do have hermeneutical grounds for interpreting it satirically.

ktismatics said...

I'd say it's bivalent, ambiguous, undecidable on strictly textual grounds.

Jonathan Erdman said...

But don't you get the feeling (and feeling is a good deal of what hermeneutics is about) that I'm not a racist or bigoted bastard?

ktismatics said...

Yes I do get the feeling. But at the same time I get your assertion that God may well have commanded genocidal eradication of whole populations and that he might decide to do it again, and that you worship this God. And I know that a lot of evangelicals -- heck, a lot of Democrats -- believe that the Iraqis (non-Christian, non-Western, swarthy of complexion) aren't capable of self-rule. And there's the history of our own country, where even after the Civil War white Protestants in the South maintained a de facto policy of apartheid. And I suspect that there remains a considerable ambivalence among South African whites about whether the current rather stagnant, corrupt and unsettled political-economic situation is better than what used to be.

daniel said...

The ambivalence you speak of Kt isn't confined to so-called "whites".

Every one is entitled to their own opinion. However I don't think there are many people around ready to give a spirited defense of Apartheid. World opinion has changed.

Or maybe not that much judging by what you contend regarding Iraq Kt. Well, we can safely say racism is on the decline in the directly applicable discrimanatory sense perfected by Apartheid legislation.

I have a question for Melody if she is still visiting this thread. What do you think of American celebrities adopting kids from poor nations? Is this a good thing.

Melody said...

I have a question for Melody if she is still visiting this thread. What do you think of American celebrities adopting kids from poor nations? Is this a good thing.

I think that it's much too complicated an issue to simply stamp "good" or "bad".

daniel said...

Your answer is both good and bad too! Because it's true that it is too complex to state whether its good or bad, but a better answer would engage with this complexity.

What would make it good to adopt an infant? What would make it bad?

I'm glad you agree that adoption isn't in itself automatically good (or bad).

Does one need to be a good person to make a good adoptive parent? What does it mean to be a good person? etc. etc.

Well, thanks for responding.

Melody said...

a better answer would engage with this complexity.

A longer answer would have. I started to write one, but it just gets verbose and in the end the only possible conclusion is that it depends on the individual situations.

Why are we even discussing adoption? What does that have to do with anything?

daniel said...

What is going on in Iraq is adoption on a larger scale, of one nation's destiny by another.

That's one way of looking at it. It was suggested by Jon and Ktismatics' exchange earlier.

ktismatics said...

"What is going on in Iraq is adoption on a larger scale, of one nation's destiny by another."

In this analogy the adoptive parent says that the adult in its care is really an infant, incapable of taking care of itself. And the adoptive parent wants to be publicly praised as having done a good deed by taking this adult infant under its protection and raising it properly.