Thought you might find this article about mega churches trying to "be cool" instead of teaching the Bible interesting:
The Perils of 'Wannabe Cool' Christianity
It just keeps getting worse and worse, doesn't it? You would think all the "discontent" out there with the absence of any solid meat in the contemporary mega-church would result in more searching for a good source of truth. Laodicea is becoming more apt as a designation for our era day by day it seems.
David Welles (quoted in the article criticizing the mega-church phenomenon) is a pretty good guy. I've read a couple of his books slamming "evangelicalism". He is ever bemoaning the loss of theology in the church (although by this he means the more traditional Calvinistic stuff).
The same seminary buddy who put me onto Welles years ago had this to say about last week's posting:
I read with interest your take on today's churches on privacy, sins etc. You got it right. That is one of the many issues that keeps us away from the locals. So much hypocrisy and superficiality. How can anyone who loves truth stand it!
So, anyway, I am happy to be able to supply some spiritual food via the website. Seems there is a need (if not a great demand).
Thanks for the link,
I did make an earnest search for the answer to my latest question on the Net. I often come across some bright champion of orthodoxy who has addressed an issue I am investigating and while there undoubtedly is one addressing my topic of today I was unable to 'Google' it up. In observing the rise of Laodicean church culture I have often focused on mainstream suburban megachurches and the like (not all of them are heretical but too many of the 'brand' name ones are if one is intellectually honest in applying the scripture to their methodologies and motivations and messages). But I have also recognised that the Culture of the Self (for that is at the heart of Laodicean culture) can also be found in the Emergent stream of the church. By Emergent I refer to those Gen X (and younger) churches which have an admirable ambition - to reach their own postmodern peers and, to achieve this, to place the unchanging wine of Truth in wineskins of postmodern language/understanding.
The more I come across such folk, however, the more I seem to experience the same thing: amazing insight after amazing insight and then, suddenly, an outrageous 'clanger' of a statement to the effect, say, that there are many paths to God. They seem to have undertaken a radical critique of themselves to the effect that they say none of us can claim certainty with regard to ultimate Truth - i.e. Knowing (with a big 'K') in their desire to avoid the pitfalls of epistemology as it has existed throughout history up to the start of postmodernism (i.e. certainty breeding inflexibility and even arrogance). Having carefully studied history in terms of philosophical belief, I am well aware that it was the scourge of Nazism that put paid to Objective Truth in the West (as university professors and philosophers began to see ALL notions of absolute truth as not only misguided but also outright dangerous - ironically, for these 'men of the mind', a very irrational over-reaction to an admittedly dark episode in human affairs).
Anyway, one can discern the same Culture of Self in Emergent Christianity because, as with the suburban Churchianity, it elevates the Self. In the latter, God exists to serve you and your dreams. In the former, it is the individual who discerns what 'truth' is right for them (so that Emergent Christians are like Al Gore - people of one 'faith tradition' who do not 'arrogantly' totalise their meta-narrative in imposing their 'certain belief systems' on other folk). Ironically, even though Emergents emerged as a reaction to the middle class suburban Churchianity, they are simply the flip side of the same coin. God remains sidelined and these folk are in thrall to the Self (albeit the heart and not the head).
In Emergentville, there is only tolerance (masquerading as love). In Churchianity there is this too but they have as their focus hedonistic pleasure and material acquisition (and God as the primary agent of feathering such a nest). Obviously, such Emergent folk are just as prone to deception as those they reacted against because if there is no absolute truth (or it there is Truth* with an asterisk - a 'cute' way of saying the same thing, let's face it) then if the Antichrist were to appear and claim to be the fulfilment of all religions (Messiah for the Jews, Jesus for the Christians, the 12th Imam for the Muslims, reincarnated Buddha for the Buddhists, an Avatar for the Hindus, Maitreya Christ for the New Agers, etc) it would fit with the beliefs of anyone whose view of truth is subjective. In the absence of a measuring stick (the Word) then they are left with their hearts ('deceitful above ALL things') and the Enemy will make light work of deceiving these hearts (pushing all the right buttons, saying things with the right nuances, etc - he is a cunning old devil after all).
So, after that long preamble, my question is this: Emergents can often critique the notion of scripture as the final arbiter of Truth by saying that fallible men gathered together 400 years after the fact to decide what should or shouldn't go in the Bible. They could also, for instance, point to the fact that Jude quotes the Book of Enoch and yet that Book is not in the Bible (I haven't come across anyone making this point but I was trying to inhabit their shoes and discern their line of thinking and argument). [I do take your point in response - on the website - that there is an original and long-lost Book of Enoch simply unavailable to the Church when it put together the Bible - and clearly not of vital importance that we have it or else God would have divinely preserved it; linked at "Issues of Canonicity: Apocrypha, Enoch, and Inspiration."]
My retort (to the Emergents) would be that we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and the Spirit guided those fallible men to gather inspired books into what we now enjoy as the Word (just as the Spirit guided the hearts and minds and hands of the writers of the books) and it is not for us to discern why, for instance, Enoch was left out (again, the original Book and not the counterfeit that utilised Jude's quote of the original to make it appear as the real thing).
But I was wondering if there was any other argument one could make to defend the authority of the Bible? Emergents are typically disdainful of simply invoking the Holy Spirit (seeing it as a 'magic wand' to dismiss all thought and enquiry)? I understand their point as God has often been invoked to shut down all discussion. And their question is a reasonable one. It is only their response (in the wake of not knowing, simply abandon the premise of scriptural authority - thereby transgressing all manner of wisdom and guidance in the scripture itself and opening themselves up to the bitter fruit that one reaps from sowing such bitter seeds), it is only their response that is misguided## and, finally, wrong and, for them, very dangerous (even though they would dismiss me saying such a thing as 'intolerant' and 'arrogantly asserting my opinion as ultimate Truth all must follow'). For all their talk of nuance they seem to consistently mistake one thing for another (tolerance for love, opinion of a scripture with what the scripture clearly says in semantic context - passage, chapter, book, consistency with the overall collection of books, etc...and so on...but I guess this is what happens when reason is abandoned in toto: confusion and even a form of insanity rule the roost).
##I note too that one could argue that as with Laodicean Churchianity folk (e.g. prosperity-addicted 'Christians' who gather unto themselves prosperity teachers to scratch their itchy ears), Emergent folk are similarly inclined to gather unto themselves teachers to scratch their itchy postmodern culture ears (if the endgame is not Loving God and Others - in practise [deeds not words] - but simply to feel good about oneSELF at day's end - which has to be the case if the Word is being effectively abandoned in the name of it not fitting with the culture and times and audience).
Always good to hear from you, my friend. Thank you for an excellent disputation on this phenomenon. To be honest, something about mega-churches of the sort you focus on here in part has always induced such an overwhelming nausea in me that I have been unable to go often enough or inquire deep enough to have this sort of insight. I only know that "something is rotten in Denmark" (to quote the Bard; to which I think the locus classicus is Sophocles O.T.). One only has to use one's eyes, one's ear's, one's nose to know that these places are not really doing anything of a particularly positive nature (at least in terms of spirituality, spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and spiritual production).
You have also hit the nail square on the head in regard to the issue: truth. Jesus is "the truth". If we would follow Jesus, we need to know where He is going, what He is saying, what He wants us to do, say, think. How do we get that truth without the Bible? And how do we get it out of the Bible without studying and teaching, learning and believing in the biblical way? And how can we ever progress in such a process if we do not accept the authority of the Bible and the authority of prepared men who teach the Bible (assuming we can find any)? For, after all, we cannot presently see Jesus, nor can we have face-to-face conversations with our Lord. What other source of the vital truth is there presently available to us except for the water of the Word? Anything we hear from a church or a pastor or a Bible teacher that may be true came not out of thin air but from the scriptures. Certainly, much that we may hear, indeed, perhaps the vast quantity of what is available and passes for Bible teaching today, is in error; but whatever is not in error, whatever is good and nourishing, must have come from the Bible, every verse of which is "useful for teaching, for admonishing, for correcting, and for training in righteousness" (2Tim.3:16).
The question is indeed one of authority. And you are right on the money in seeing the issue as one of self versus God. Are we an authority unto ourselves? That is Satan's position. Or do we put God first (as our Lord Jesus always put the Father's will first)? Are we seeking to please ourselves, or is God the One we are striving to please? Are we looking for a little something in this life, or have we turned our backs on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life in the hopes of reaping an eternal reward and earning a "well done" from our dear Lord on that great day of days?
"He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who
is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and
there is no unrighteousness in Him."
John 7:18 NASB
I don't think this is really a question of information or one of argument. I am happy to argue for the truth (BB 7 "Bibliology" will, when I get to it sadly many years hence, will contain a complete rundown of the information and arguments for canonicity and biblical authority), and I have written some on this in the past (see the links below), but I think you are exactly right when you discern that contemporary Christians are interested in pleasing themselves and not in pleasing God. That is why they are quick to dismiss the authority of the Bible – because they have in large part dismissed the authority of the Lord. If they were to accept what the Bible says, seeking out the truth, it would occasion some very painful adjustments to their lives and lifestyles. I think they realize this full well (even if that truth is suppressed), and that their lukewarmness and essential unwillingness to change is really what is at the heart of the matter. As I often say (in paraphrasing L.S. Chafer), the Bible is like no other book; no one who reads it with an open heart could ever fail to realize that it is the Word of God; and no one who has had he experience of tasting the genuine truth would ever mistake some other literature masquerading as the truth for the truth. The Spirit makes very sure of that – for all willing to respond to Him. The canon is the canon, and was from the moment the last word of Revelation was penned by the apostle John. That is so by the power and direction of God. All men have done is to recognize what God already did – or refuse to accept the Spirit's words.
Christian epistemology, canonicity, and bibliology generally are very important subjects and very beneficial to study . . . for growing Christians who have the humility to follow where Jesus Christ leads. Those who exhibit the behaviors and express the opinions you report have need of milk before such solid food will avail them much. More than that, they first need a fundamental change of heart, a 180 degree change of direction away from indulging self and embracing the world, turning back to God and setting themselves to march with us up the high road to Zion in the service of the One who died to liberate us from the world and its corruption, and from the death which allegiance to it surely brings.
Please have a look at the following links. They are somewhat far-ranging, but so is the question.
Satan's system of Satanic Lies (esp., #1, "I don't need God")
Bibliology (links page at present)
Read Your Bible
How do we know the Bible is true?
Characteristics of the New Religion of Antichrist
The persuasiveness of the tribulational false religion
The Anti-Christian Religion of the Tribulation
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord -- may He ever be our all in all.
It has been said that salvation is the free gift of GOD; Actually in what way is it free…
As to your question, you certainly have a point that salvation was not free to Jesus – He went into the darkness and faced the continual burning of hell to expiate all of our sins! But, as a result, it is indeed called the gift of God (e.g., Jn.4:10; Rom.5:16; Eph.2:8-9).
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let those who hear
say, "Come!" Let those who are thirsty come; and let all who
wish take the free gift of the water of life.
Revelation 22:17 TNIV
So I suppose it depends on one's perspective. Biblically speaking, it correct to say that salvation is the most expensive thing in the history of the universe; and also that it is even so free to us, since Christ paid the entire price for us.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hey Bob, How are you doing? I know I have not written you for awhile but there has not been any news on my end. Anyway, my hard topic now is eternal security. That is the biggest switch I would make. But even debating the subject in my own mind, while searching the Scriptures leaves me in a temporary quandary (at least I hope it is temporary), until I sort out a few crucial texts. I just assume you have done all of that over the years. But coming down on a position down on a position as yours would certainly rule out a lot of Christian fellowships, which could be a good thing (including a number of relatives). But I love the study and it is an everyday battle to find quality time and place to do this. Well, I want you to know there are a dozen or so topics we could talk about. For now one at a time. Take care brother.
On eternal security, I guess you know where I have come down. It truly is a difficult topic and probably would have been even without John Calvin. When Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 that we are saved by grace "through faith, and this is not of you – the gift is of God", even though the "this" is neuter (so that it can't refer to faith per se in my view), still the principle that everything good we have and are is of and from God cannot be denied in this passage or indeed anywhere and everywhere else in scripture. There are any number of other passages which can be similarly construed, but to me Ephesians 2:8 is the most pithy and pronounced on the subject. Yet at the same time it is true – and one need not look any further afield than Paul and even Ephesians (e.g., Eph.5:5-7) – that the whole tenor and tone of scripture, indeed a large part of the point of scripture, is designed to influence our behavior, turning us to Christ in the first place, and encouraging us to follow Him in the right way thereafter, with positive consequences for doing what is right and harsh, even disastrous consequences for turning aside and turning away. Since scripture speaks to our heart and demands a response, a doctrine which proclaims the result already "baked in the cake" regardless of our future response seems to fly in the face of the point of the message in first place. This may not be definitive, but I do believe it is indicative of where the true answer lies. I do believe that our salvation is "baked in the cake" in that it is all set solidly in the eternal plan of God, that He has known "who are His" since before the universe began; but I also believe that this "security" is based upon His prior knowledge that we would, that we did, maintain our faith in His Son firm until the end. Discussions of this sort always risk casting God in the role of determining who is saved and who is not or of reacting to events in time. Neither thing is true, of course. We have it on good authority from scripture that He wants all to be saved (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9). This suggests to me that there must be an element of "free will" in the decision (otherwise why aren't all saved if that is truly His will?) – and indeed I find that element of free will to be critical to explaining the entire plan of God, the satanic rebellion, and salvation in toto, from Christ's work to our individual salvation through His blood. And if that is the case, namely, that our free will truly is involved in this most critical decision we make, the reason we are here and why it is that we have "eternity written in our hearts" (Eccl.3:10-11) and why it is that the universe is constructed so that we might come to know Him (Rom.1:18-23), then it would seem odd that somehow that same free will would cease entirely to be any issue or a factor after salvation (or at least critical on the same life and death level). This too is not a dispositive argument, but it is also indicative of where scripture is truly pointing. Finally on the prolegomena, if we accept that there is true free will in salvation and that when scripture tells us that God as the potter can make vessels for honor and also for dishonor it is talking about His right as the Master-craftsman to allow creatures the free will to accept Him (and then necessarily the opportunity of abusing it by rejecting Him) and not that He has in any way predetermined the outcome to the extent that none of us really had any true choice in the matter, then it would seem to me that the most natural reading of all those many passages which suggest that apostasy is possible and that we should take care to avoid it (along with the practices which lead to it) ought to be understood in a similar light, to whit, we continue to have free will after salvation, that is, the opportunity of continuing to respond to God in a positive way, to grow and to serve Him as we should (but that the negative use of it to an extreme degree can cause faith to wither and die as in the parable of the Sower); for it is fair to ask if our level of reward is not predetermined but based upon continued and continuous effort, why our status should be so. It is not, of course, that God could not indeed provide the sort of "eternal security" we were brought up to believe in – indeed He could. But for me it is more the dual issue that 1) the passages which suggest there is no such absolute security are numerous and straightforward while, on the other hand, 2) the passages are claimed to show absolute eternal security do not seem to me to be inconsistent with the idea that this security is in fact conditional upon continued faith in Jesus Christ. Given that in my overall reading of scripture the principle of our free will, that is to say, the appeal to us as His creatures on every page of the Bible for us to respond to Him, is fundamental and in many ways assumed as the sine qua non of our existence here on earth, the direction pointed by passages 1) seems very clearly to me to trump the dubious claims for some biblical passages under #2). It is, however, all about the scriptures and their interpretation, individually as well as collectively, and I am certainly happy to correspond with you on this important topic "one thing at a time". In my experience that's the best way to go about these things in any case.
Your friend and brother in Jesus,
Thanks for your reply. Yes you are so correct about keeping our focus on what scripture has to say and not getting caught up in extra Biblical events.
If I could also ask your advise on a matter relating to my church that I am concerned about. Last Sunday My Pastor gave a sermon all about how God needs us, that he seeks us out, looks for us. The only scripture he mentioned was when God went looking for Adam and Eve in the garden when they had hid themselves, that he was seeking them because he needed them.
I really disagree with this. Gods ways are not are ways. I see 'need' as a human weakness, the first thing Adam and Eve needed after they had eaten the forbidden fruit was something to cloth themselves with, they had sinned and were now aware of all their weaknesses such as need, want etc. Putting God in the same category as us is like saying he has weaknesses too. My concern is that anyone new to the Bible is getting the wrong message from a sermon like this. If I am missing the point on this message and you think I am wrong and agree with my Pastor can you please explain to me then what I am not understanding. I haven't spoken about this concern with my Pastor yet, if you would rather not comment on this matter I will really understand.
The other concern about my church occurred that afternoon at a church meeting, when the big topic was the changing of the church name. The thinking behind it is to encourage more people to the church by not really calling ourselves a church having small groups on different days around the city, social groups etc, for people that would otherwise not come to a church at all. I think the concept is great to try and commission more people to Jesus. But to not call ourselves a church and the name change to [misleading secular name], I believe once people realise we are still trying to get people to read the Bible is misleading and not honest. I also believe if you start making changes to appease people you will eventually start making other changes to make the Gospel more attractive, you will start looking at all the values in the Bible, like Love one another, all the commandments etc. but package them so that they eventually miss out on key names like Jesus, God and Prayer. And the name is terrible it sounds more like a train service. The name is up for debate, but it is just the thinking behind it. I know that the importance is not in a name but how we have relationships with people, I just do not see why we cannot still do all these great things and keep the name with church in it and be proud to be a church, regardless of if this is in a building, in a field or at someones home. [Misleading secular name] just sounds too worldly to me. Again if I am missing the point let we know.
We are on the same "wave-length" on both of these questions. First off, "We need God – God doesn't need us" is a hallmark teaching of this ministry. We are helpless and hopeless without God; He has saved and provided for us in every way. He had no need to do it – and that is what is grace is all about. On the other hand if He needed us, then we would be providing something in return (that false notion is what legalism is all about). In part 4 of the Satanic Rebellion series, I characterize these as the "book end" essential truths of life in terms of the general revelation which all human beings by nature understand, but which the devil seeks to reverse in our thinking in order to keep us from God:
1) We need God (we cannot turn death into life).
2) We are not God (we cannot expiate our own sin).
3) God does not need us (we cannot substitute anything for His Word so as to help Him).
This is all covered in much greater detail at the link under section IV. Satan's World-System: Tactical Doctrine.
I find the fact that a pastor has this fundamental spiritual truth absolutely backwards very disturbing. In his defense, he is probably in very good company on that score at present, given the current state of the church-visible.
On the second point, I also entirely agree. Deception in the service of truth is something that any righteous soul should find disturbing. And, as you rightly suppose, people drawn in under false pretenses are not going to become good Christians just because of their physical presence. That may work for Communist cells and satanic cults, but it never works where the truth is concerned. Again, the fact that a church could be contemplating such tactics sends shivers up my spine and I cannot help but wonder how far removed from the truth they must be overall. I certainly defer to your judgment in this.
In short, far from "missing the point" in these matters, it seems to me that you are dead on the point. The fact that others are not as taken aback as you are by these obvious departures from basic Christian truth and spiritual common sense says a lot, both about your own level of spiritual maturity and also about their lack thereof. So there is certainly much opportunity for someone like yourself to supply a genuine, biblical perspective on these matters. Whether or not that voice is responded to or is instead treated as a "voice in the wilderness" is something I cannot predict. But whatever happens, stay true to the Spirit, your conscience, and the truths of the Word of God as they are revealed to you in scripture – I am confident that you will do so.
In our dear Lord Jesus, the One and only One who fulfills are every deepest need.
Thank you so much. I do take much comfort and encouragement in knowing that someone agrees with me.
I had really thought I had found a strong church until last week, and I did feel guided to it, maybe to help them. I will certainly do my best for God to try and stop them stumbling. I haven't spoken to my Pastor of my concern about his sermon yet, but I will do. But I have already expressed my concern about the changes to the church, this he cannot understand as he believes he is really moving the church forward with the times? He has the backing of a very enthusiastic congregation that really believe they will be doing good. Only two others have expressed concern but they were coerced quite easily after discussion. We have four weeks to discuss everything and come back to a final agreement meeting, but I think the devils got their vote so far. The pastor says he takes my concerns very seriously especially about the name change, we will see. I really believe this church is being spiritually targeted by satan.
It is so hard to find a good church, I actually travel an hour to this church. most of the churches where I am are Baptist, Church of Christ then there are churches that love clapping and singing all the while. I'm afraid I don't like too much emotional outbursts at church. I do spend a lot of alone time talking to God. UK born I now live in a beautiful rural area in _______ Australia and I will go off into a field and sit on a rock or by the stream where it is so peaceful and really listen and connect with God and pray. I think a lot of Christians don't put enough alone time with God, and so don't have a spiritual armour to protect themselves and this is when the devil trips them up.
I will prayer for my church, but if change becomes imminent then I will have to leave.
What you say makes eminently good sense. Some churches substitute ritual for the study of the Word, other substitute emotionalism, others occupy their members with "work". But there is no substitute for reading the Bible, doing serious Bible study, praying and concentrating on walking with the Lord – then helping others do likewise in accordance with one's own particular gifts. The substitutes are easy. The real thing takes commitment, consistency, humility, and spiritual courage, especially when it comes to the point of putting our faith on the line in the ministries we have been given (as you are doing). Best wishes in all your good efforts for the Lord. May He grant you wisdom and discernment in all these challenges.
The last correspondent on your latest email postings was a real nutcase, and he's not your friend either. He was probably screaming at the screen as he typed his responses (I'm assuming it was a guy). I see him as frothing at the mouth wearing a string of garlic and wolf bane while banging on the keyboard; I would say that he was waiving a silver crucifix and throwing holy water on the screen but apparently he doesn't go for that Jesus stuff. Hope your site doesn't get hacked or assaulted by some computer bug or worm. You can always tell a well-trained RC cause they're gonna have Mary involved one way or the other. They obviously don't know much ancient history (or Biblical doctrine) or they'd concerned about the mother goddess thing. Still, they seemed interested which puts them ahead of most people going to Protestant churches today. I have some friends who fall in the same category as they come up with the Mary stuff at times when I talk to them; the RC must really work on instilling the Mary concept. I'm just too Protestant. No doubt I would be a stake candidate if this was 400 years ago in Spain or France.
You have a way with words for sure. And it's always good to know you've got my back.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend.
Here's to remembering.
Your bud in Jesus,
You must have a plethora of kooks sending you emails on scripture. Your latest posting where the guy argues about what day the crucifixion occurred and the monastery gospel is a good example. I looked at his website and besides having a jumble of information, his confusing thesis on salvation shows how far he misses the mark. It is one of those "what did he just say?" type of writings. Well written nonsense is still nonsense; poorly written nonsense is irritating.
You have no idea. Still, it occasionally leads me to helpful places, believe it or not. Shamelessly, I usually save myself the time when it comes to investigating the writings of such persons in any great depth.
Stay tuned for more kookiness next week.
Your pal in Jesus,
Bob, I don't understand why a person with a Ph.D can't simply explain the finite nature of our universe, and the true nature of what exists beyond our linear perceptions of it. This universe had a beginning point. And from that point, everything within this universe has followed the pattern of birth to death. The universe itself will potentially collapse, or expand beyond it's ability to maintain molecular cohesion. This does not jive with an eternal everything paradigm. And everything is exactly what must exist. Science doesn't like the term absolute, but that is precisely what NOTHING is. It is NOT empty space, nor is it anything our linear minds can imagine. Nothing is the absence of all. Therefore creation could not come from nothing. What exists, has, and always will exist. The alternative to nothing is everything -- all or nothing. The problem with man is that he can't perceive everything that exists...any more than he can perceive God.
The physical dimensions perceived by the human brain are height, width and depth. Some believe time to be a dimension as well, and if that is so, then we are capable of perceiving four physical dimensions. Whether the number is three, four or twenty, what we can perceive is not even a fraction of what actually exists.
Color, for instance, is how our brain interprets light. The human eye can see radiation at a wavelength of 380 nanometers to 740 nanometers. This is called the visible spectrum. Issac Newton listed the pure spectrum of colors seen by the human eye as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Thomas Young, on the other hand, proposed that the human eye is only capable of seeing three colors -- red, blue, and yellow, while other colors were just combinations of the primary colors. Ewald Hering theorized that there are four unique hues: red, green, yellow, and blue, which, when mixed with each other, or with white or black, represent all possible colors perceived by the human brain.
Equally limited is our ability to perceive sound. We can hear sounds from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Cats perceive sounds up to 25 kHz, Dogs to 35 kHz, while dolphins and bats perceive sound up to 100 kHz. The point is this: the human brain is extremely limited in what it can process. Because of this, we are only able to perceive a micro fraction of a micro fraction of what is really there.
The human brain is incapable of perceiving anything that does not conform to the laws of linear progression. The scientific symbol for infinity, the figure eight, is an excellent example. With an endless supply of fuel, a person could drive a car around a figure eight track forever...if he lived that long. However, once the car completed one lap, everything beyond that point would simply be repetition. That is NOT infinity. Even if the most extraordinary minds in human history tried to imagine infinity, they would fail. They simply have no point of reference to draw from. I actually heard a scientist naively state that infinity reaches in all directions, suggesting a starting point from which straight lines of perception reach out across the cosmos. Direction, however, requires space, and space requires time to go from one point to another. Time and space are entirely linear, infinity is not. Infinity, or rather eternity, is never ending…more importantly, it is also without beginning. And what has no beginning, and no end, does not conform to linear laws of time and space. Such constraints should not exist. Eternity would be both timeless, and boundless; therefore, most of what we perceive as real should not exist in the manner in which it is perceived.
Matter, for example, is actually energy, bound by rates of vibration which give it form and mass. The foundation of all matter is energy; the very energy that forms the ether of creation. It is the essence of our perceived "reality." Yet, if this prime energy is the true state of things like matter, what caused it to take a form that is contrary to its natural state? Why not remain in its true form?
We are limited in what we can perceive, yet there is no limit to things like sound, or color. The limitations lay within us. Existence, however, is not contingent upon the determinate nature of our five senses, or our elementary understanding of reality. In spite of this, we do, sometimes, have our moments.
Science claims that what exists can neither be created nor destroyed, which would be the logical nature of eternity. If everything does exist eternally, then it cannot be created or destroyed...only changed. This would be true of all things. Perception exists…therefore it too must be eternal. In fact, it is my belief that perception is the key ingredient in the grand design. After all, what is perception but cognitive understanding of what is being perceived. In other words…sentience. It exists within you, me, and everyone else; to deny that would be na ve; and yet, completely in sync with the nature of sentience. And if something exists, it must be part of the eternal force. Perception makes the concept of "everything" possible. If matter is perceived to be solid, or fire is perceived to be hot, then that is what they will be to the observer. Keeping that in mind, is it really so difficult to imagine intelligence being behind the design of realities like ours? Are we really so arrogant to believe that things like reality, and sentience, are limited to OUR understanding of them?
Take a look around the room you're sitting in. Perhaps you'll see a television, a book or magazine, a stereo, a couch or a table. I'm sure you're aware that no subatomic particle within any of these objects touches another, yet they all work together to maintain the structural integrity of the object. The same is true of our bodies. The brain sends signals to the various limbs and appendages, telling them to move here or there, and they do. From our perspective it's perfectly normal. From a subatomic perspective, however, it might seem a little strange since no particle connects to another physically. Yet the signal generated by the clusters of individual particles that form your brain, manages to jump from particle to particle, until every last one receives the message and does what it's told. Now I don't know about you, but I for one appreciate a subatomic particle that does what I tell it to do. And I'm extremely grateful that the prime energy that makes up ALL matter understands the message my brain sends. I sometimes wonder if matter could sustain itself, especially organic matter, if subatomic particles were simply lifeless objects. Would anything conform to our collective perception of reality, if sentient perception and the forces that shape our reality were not part of the eternal ether that is "EVERYTHING?"
For example: every aspect of a dream is dependent upon perception. Because of this, a dream can appear as real as life itself. Everything within the dream conforms to the observer's perception. Matter appears solid, the sky looks blue, gravity exists, and other people interact with the observer. Since our waking minds are only capable of perceiving a minute fraction of "everything," then, like a dream, reality is shaped by what the perceiving mind can understand and accept. And we are very accepting of what our five senses tell us is real, and very unaccepting of things we can't perceive...such as God.
Science is the study of things perceived by our five human senses, and understood by very limited intellects. Stepping outside of that box is not the nature of science. Everything science believes, must conform to human understanding, limiting it to this level of perception. Like our five senses, science cannot hear beyond its ability to perceive sound, or see beyond its ability to perceive color. To accept the interpretations, and explanations of science, in regards to the nature of reality, would be akin to a goldfish accepting that reality was limited to the confines of its aquarium.
Logically, God must exist. The building blocks of our reality include sentient thought. Science suggests that what exists cannot be created or destroyed...only changed. Therefore, sentience cannot come from nothing, which leads us to the conclusion that sentience is part of the building blocks...part of "everything". It suggests that sentience IS "everything". Which supports the theological idea that God is all things. See...simple.
In your opening paragraph you make two statements which are not only untrue (or at the very least, to take an argumentative position, unknowable), but which also do not logically follow from the reasoning you present. First, when you say "this (i.e., the fact of the universe having a beginning) does not jive [sic] with an eternal paradigm", that would only be so in a materialistic "eternal paradigm" of your own construction (and is certainly not proved from anything said here). Secondly, when you say "Nothing is the absence of all. Therefore creation could not come from nothing", you are indulging in a sort Platonic discourse which does not bear up under close inspection. This is a corollary to your first false assumption. From a materialistic point of view, perhaps this makes some logical sense; it does not, however, make theological sense. God has always existed; but He has always existed independent of space and time; He is not material; He is spiritual. Spirituality cannot be identified through materialistic means (the only means available to science); therefore science, if it be honest, cannot really opine about what spirituality might be. You are certainly free to believe that there is no such thing, but that is a belief, not a fact. You have to have faith that there is no God, just as you have to have faith that there is a God. In fact, it takes much more faith to believe that there is no God. That is because you were born with "eternity in your heart", and because the entire universe was created in both macro- and microcosm in a way that declares God's glory. Simply put, admit it or not, there was a time when you knew God existed. It took conscious effort and deliberate decisions on you part to suppress and blot that knowledge out. Atheism and paganism are merely two sides of the same coin. They both proffer substitutes for the real God (because they do not wish to accept His authority).
I would prefer to deal with above before deconstructing your epistemological arguments in detail. Your understanding here is typical, and I will admit that most Christians are "foggy" on what true spiritual perception is and its ramifications for the materialistic arguments you advance. Simply put, not being material, God is not constrained by the material restrictions you catalog. All human beings, yourself included, are spirit as well as matter. We receive a non-material human spirit at birth, and it is that part of our being which is eternal (although it will never be without a body, merely an eternal one be it for blessing or cursing depending on our choice of heaven or hell). God teaches our spirit by means of His Spirit (when we respond to the truth). This process of spiritual epistemology thus arcs across all material restraint and produces salvation for the unbeliever who turns to the truth of the gospel, and spiritual growth for believers who choose to drink in the water of life. Nothing could be more important, even if science is, by definition, unable to discern it. Please see the following links:
Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth.
Pursuing a Deeper Relationship with Jesus and Christian Epistemology.
Epistemology and Epignosis
The Mind of Christ
We are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, true God become true man, who came into the world and died for all of our sins that we might be forgiven and have eternal life.
We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2nd Corinthians 5:20 NIV
Written in the love of Jesus, who gave His all that you might not perish but have eternal life.
Either you didn't read my explanation, or you didn't understand it. Since you're assuming that I don't believe in God, I'm inclined to go with the former...you didn't read it. If you had, you would have noticed that I began the final paragraph with the words: "Logically, God must exist." Obviously, you didn't understand what little you did read, because the ability to get something from nothing would support the paradigms of science. Therefore, what you're doing is making a case for the other side. What I'm saying is this: because it is absolute, there could never have been NOTHING. What I'm saying is: Something (and I use this in the broadest sense of the word) is the only possible paradigm that works. "Something" is a word used by humans to describe, in this context, infinite everything. "God" is also a word used by humans to describe infinite everything. God is, after all, ALL things. Correct? If you would have sat down, and read what I presented, instead of judging me an atheist, before getting past the first sentence, I wouldn't have to explain this again. In 1992, I had a near death experience. Prior to that, I was an agnostic. After it, however, I felt compelled to learn about God. In spite of this desire to learn, I was still a skeptic. That's just how non-believers think. They accept logic, not faith. You can't approach them with "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the bible tells me so" and expect them to listen. I didn't! So God showed me a different path; one that non-believers could wrap their minds around. I found that path while attempting to prove that God wasn't logical. God knew what He was doing though. He knew I was honest, and wouldn't create my own logic, just so I wouldn't have to believe, even though that's just what I wanted to do. Not believing is easy, and it carries no responsibilities, which is the primary reason why people don't want to believe. It's just less work if you don't. But honesty is very important to me, so I listened, every time God showed me the truth. When I tried to prove that the Big Bang was logical...God showed me that you cant get something from nothing. When I tried to prove that Jesus could just as easily have been a man, just like everybody else, God opened my eyes. He said, don't look at what is written about Jesus, look at what is written about those who followed Jesus.
People have one of two reactions to dangerous situations...fight, or flight. Imagine a man walking into a bank, and finding armed gunmen robbing it. Our protagonist is unarmed, so he hurries back out the door just as the shooting begins. Will he go back into that bank unarmed? Of course not! He might call the police, but he's going to stay where it's safe. The 12 disciples ran and hid themselves when Christ was taken into custody. John witnessed our Savior's torture, and crucifixion, but he didn't shout to the authorities: "Hey, I'm with Him!" He stayed safe, just like all the others did. That's just human nature. What isn't human nature, is going back into the bank, unarmed. People just don't do that. Through their actions, during the crucifixion, the disciples proved they were afraid for their own safety. They left the bank (metaphor). Yet, a few days after their teacher was murdered, they were out in the streets doing the very thing that got Him killed. That is not human nature. Something HAD to happen, something big, to turn lambs into lions. A non-believer asks you why he should believe in Jesus, and you say: "Because He died for you." When they ask me, I explain human nature, along with the rest of this analogy. Why? Because I remember what convinced me, and it wasn't "because He died for you." Even though it's true, that answer isn't going to convince someone who doesn't really want to believe. But give them something logical, that they can wrap their minds around, and they'll listen. "Trust me, God exists, and Jesus was His Son" works for those who want, or need, to believe in something, but it does not work on those who don't. Logic, on the other hand, does...I'm living proof of that. I just hope you read everything this time, and stop implying that I'm something I'm not.
My sincerest apologies if I have offended you in any way. It certainly was not obvious from your email that you are a believer in Jesus. I did read it, and did not miss the bit about the logic of God's existence. However, as a Christian you surely understand that belief in God is of no particular use, in and of itself. "Even the demons believe that, and shudder" (Jas.2:19). Saving faith requires acceptance and allegiance to the Person and work of Jesus Christ. So it was not clear to me from what you had to say that you were any more saved than a deist or a Mormon or a pagan of whatever stripe. It is no novelty in the history of the world to reduce God to god, demoting Him in one's thinking to some lesser thing rather than what He is, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. If someone has "boxed God" within the puny material universe, they have necessarily reduced Him in their thinking to something inferior to that time/space construct. I would agree that who and what He is is something far above our present ability to understand, but scripture gives us very clear information about that in principle. As related in the prior email, He is Spirit (not material); and He was before "all" came to be. In our limited understanding of the material universe, perhaps it is correct to say that "something cannot come from nothing", but God is not "nothing"; He just cannot be reduced to "something". Scripture, moreover, is replete with instances of creation from, for want of a better word, "nothing". Every time a baby is born into the world a new human spirit is created – from nothing. It is not material in any way, shape or form. It cannot be detected by science. It will survive the coming, complete annihilation of the present heavens and the present earth. It will exist forever, though before being created by God it did not exist.
I certainly do not mean to discourage or diminish anything you are doing for the Name of Jesus Christ, and if you have a unique way to witness to those of the materialistic persuasion, I rejoice and wish and pray for your success. Truth, however, is important, and the only truth we can know, apart from the (voluminous) revelation God has imparted to the natural world, is what is found in the Bible. Scripture is unequivocal about the fact that Jesus is God and always was God since before there was any time or any space. Jesus is the One who, in accordance with the Father's will, created time and space, and He is also the One who sustains it. But for His Word of power, all we discern would immediately cease to exist (Hebrews 1:1-3a). A correct understanding of just who exactly Jesus is (true God and, since the incarnation, a genuine human being in One Person now and forever), and what precisely He did for us (being judged on the cross in the darkness of Calvary for all the sins of mankind) are the essential complements of saving faith. Simply put, there are many avenues to gaining a hearing with an unbeliever; after they start to listen, only the gospel message accepted in faith will save.
My apologies in advance if I am mis-understanding you on any of this. It may very well be that we understand these things in the same precise way and are just quibbling over definitions. However, this conversation began with your complaint: "Bob, I don't understand why a person with a Ph.D can't simply explain the finite nature of our universe, and the true nature of what exists beyond our linear perceptions of it."
Perhaps you could elucidate precisely where it is that you find fault.
Best wishes for all your ministrations on behalf our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
What then do you believe a deist, Mormon, Jew or pagan deserves? What do Seventh Day Adventist, Pentecostals, Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, and Jehovah's Witnesses deserve? If I choose not to denominate, and do not affiliate myself with a particular church, what should happen to me? Will I be saved? Who are the true Christians? And who deserves to be among the 144,000, that some Christians believe will be Raptured?
I did not invent the gospel. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). Belief means accepting who He is and what He has done. It means giving Him – Jesus, the God-Man – your allegiance, then following Him faithfully to the end. It means accepting what He did for you: paying the price for all your sins in the darkness on Calvary's cross.
We are all written in the book of life, because Christ died for all. Rejecting Christ causes a person's name to be blotted out of God's book at the point of that firm rejection, and failing to make use of the opportunity of life to come to Christ results in a person's name being blotted out of God's book when life comes to an end.
We all deserve hell. But all of us who choose to stand on the work of Jesus Christ instead of on our own work receive eternal life. This is not something we could ever deserve. This is mercy given by God's grace to all who respond to Jesus in simple, humble faith.
For you have been saved by (God's) grace through faith (in
Christ); and this did not come from you –
it is God's gift. Nor
did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
I beg you as I would beg any of them, in case you do not belong to Jesus (only you and He know), to be reconciled to God through faith in Him.
In the One whose Name is the only one given under heaven by which we may be saved, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"as a Christian you surely understand that belief in God is of no particular use, in and of itself."
"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved"
These appear to contradict themselves.
"So it was not clear to me from what you had to say that you were any more saved than a deist or a Mormon or a pagan of whatever stripe."
In my experience, most people who call themselves Christian rarely practice what they preach. It's easy to don the face of piety when you're mingling with others who wear that face, but one can't wear it 24-7 if it's only a mask. Who they really are behind that mask is always revealed when that person is doing some small, insignificant thing that they don't expect to be witnessed. For example: You go to the supermarket for some groceries. On isle one, you select a couple of cans of chicken noodle, vegetable beef, and lentil soup. However, by the time you reach isle seventeen, you notice that you accidentally grabbed a can of bean with bacon by mistake. Rather than take the can back to where you got it, you leave it next to the toothpaste on isle seventeen. When you finish shopping, and load your groceries into the car, you push the shopping cart aside, or hook it's front wheels to a curb, and drive off. Even though the shopping cart caddie was only a few spaces away. These actions are lazy and inconsiderate, and speak volumes on your character, and what is really in your heart. Some make the argument that the store employs people to pick up after them. Of course they do! If they didn't there would be no place to park, that wasn't blocked by shopping carts, and you wouldn't be able to find anything in the store, because items would be distributed chaotically about the store. Even so, is it right to increase the burden of another, simply because you don't want to take it back? The bible instructs us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. But if we don't want to do something that we leave for the store clerk to handle, aren't we doing unto another what we do not wish to do ourselves?
"In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
If the store clerk were Jesus, would they still leave these things for Him to do? Would they increase His burden further? Nit picky right? Seems like such a small thing, compared to the truly evil things that go on in this world, doesn't it? But isn't the world the battleground on which these offences take place, material actions, with spiritual consequences? Measurements of material severity compel us to assume that we somehow know how great, or small the spiritual consequence will be. But we both know that God transcends our finite, linear perceptions. The commandments, and scripture define the severity of certain offenses, but not all. The book of Job warns us against putting words in God's mouth, or assuming that we know how His will might play out, but the truth is, God will do what God will do, and nothing we do or say will change that. I caution everyone about putting expectations on God. If we reach heaven and find Adolf Hitler sharing in God's salvation, how would we react? Would we be offended? Who are we to be offended by God's choices. If we expect Hitler to burn...somewhere down deep, that's what we want his fate to be. After all, he didn't follow the rules and we did. So where would our offence come from? Wouldn't we then be acting like the Prodigal Son's brother? If, in the end, God saved everyone...even Lucifer, would we resent Him? And if we did, would it be because we spent our lives denying the flesh, instead of indulging it? Who are we that we would presume so much? Things like good and evil cannot exist without choice. What would be their purpose if not to present a path of choice? You say that people box God in a cube of human understanding when they reduce Him to the material universe. So what are we doing when we label him with human terms like spirit? God simply IS. We call him spirit because we can't see Him, or touch Him, or interact with Him with the only means we have to communicate...our five senses. god can be defined by our words, and definitions, but GOD can't. He's no more spirit or material than He is a "HE". God is...while we are less than amoeba attempting to reign Him into our tiny little realm of perception. Even doing that when making comparisons to spirit and flesh. We assume that "Spirit" can define what IS. We are so small to think so much of ourselves. Rather that comparing our "good", and "righteous" lives to those of the deists, Mormons or pagans, perhaps we would be better off knowing our place, and leave matters of salvation to God. Because honestly, I trust "HIM", and "HIS" plan far more than I trust my own, or anyone else's judgment. What we know, and what we THINK we know is as nothing.
God has made His point of view very clear in the Bible; these are not "human" terms, unless you see the Bible as a "human" document (a grave error). Do you accept the authority of scripture? If not, there is not much point in this conversation. The hypocrisy of others is not a recommendation of one's own materialistic rationalizations. There are many Christians whose "work" will burned up before the judgment seat of Christ, but as those who truly did believe in Jesus they will be saved "yet as though through fire". On the other hand, there are plenty of decent, good, law-abiding, patriotic, honest, charitable unbelievers who are going to spend eternity in the lake of fire – because they refused to accept the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no separating the Father from the Son for those willing to be saved.
Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the
one he has sent."
John 6:29 NIV
And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does
not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me."
John 12:44 NIV
"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever
rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on
John 3:36 NIV
"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him
who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has
crossed over from death to life."
John 5:24 NIV
"For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son
and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise
him up at the last day."
John 6:40 NIV
"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does
not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed
in the name of God's one and only Son."
John 3:18 NIV
"And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning
me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does
his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent."
John 5:37-38 NIV
"God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and
John 4:24 NIV
We ask you in Jesus' Name: be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ!
In the Name of the only One through whom we may be saved, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Do you accept the authority of scripture?
Of course I do. I accept GOD's authority in ALL things.
"God has made His point of view very clear in the Bible; these are not "human" terms, unless you see the Bible as a "human" document"
Oh I don't believe the bible is human...I believe you are. I believe I am. I believe that neither you nor I KNOW GOD's point of view. If God shared the full measure of His point of view, we would no more understand it than an amoeba understands ours; and we are FAR smaller by comparison. You assume that the bible gives you some kind of insight into the mind of GOD. That is your folly. It is also your folly to believe that your "human" perspective has any clue who God is. You don't even know who you are. I'd be interested in seeing how you might answer that question though. So tell me Bob, WHO are you?
Based on what you've said so far, you believe that Mormons, pagans, deists, and all those decent, good, law-abiding, patriotic, honest, charitable unbelievers should be cast into the lake of fire, for making the spiritual choices they've made in life. So I wonder...If Adolf Hitler should burn in hell for killing millions, how should God deal with you for EXPECTING damnation to be visited upon billions? If kind, charitable people, who never leave anything for others to clean up after them, must burn for not believing, what should be done to you for being a believer...and wanting these tribulations to come to pass?
I've heard other ministers say that people like David, Moses, Abraham, Noah, and Joseph, believed in Jesus through their spiritual connection with God, despite their temporal location in time. What about those decent, good, law-abiding, patriotic, honest, charitable people who weren't told about Him in dreams, visions or any other spiritual way? They worshiped God, and even read about a coming Messiah, but they couldn't accept a sacrifice that hadn't happened yet. Unlike you, they couldn't transcend the material world, they were still subject to the linear laws of time and space. These people were Jews, not Christians.
If you serve God, why have you not left me in awe of the wisdom you speak? I love GOD, but I'm not hearing His wisdom coming from you. You speak as though you have no materialistic perspective...like you're above such things, and yet, you live in a house that you have faith in, to keep you dry, warm, and comfortable. You have faith in your car to get you where you need to go. You have faith in your PhD to inspire people to listen to you, as an authority. These are material things. What is the point of listing earthly credentials in a spiritual forum? You approached me as a professor would a lay person. You began by TRYING to refute what I'd said, as if you were the authority. Even saying that God is not material; He is spiritual, suggesting that the material exists separate, or independent from God. Nothing exists independent of God; He is all things. You said that belief in God is of no particular use, in and of itself, then responded to my question by saying that one need only believe in Jesus Christ to be saved.
From the very beginning of this conversation, I felt judged. You assumed that I wasn't saved, because I explained the logic of God in material terms...which is the way everybody, except...apparently...you, thinks. You approached me as a saved person, pontificating to one who is not saved, and later, one who is working at salvation. And you offended me. I've been a Christian minister since 1997, and I don't offend easily, but you managed to do it. Is that GOD's work, putting people off like that, or is it Satan's? Are you really as clean as you THINK you are? Are you really as transcendent as you conveyed to me? It's easy enough to prove. Just leave your material dependencies behind. Go home, sell all you have, and take your ministry on the road. Preach on street corners, and trust GOD to keep you warm, dry, and comfortable, while HE get's you where you need to go. I spent 9 months on the road, and He took care of me. So I know He protects His servants. But if you can't let go of material things like houses, automobiles, and people, then you're trying to serve two masters. And you know what scripture says about that.
I certainly apologize if you feel I have been judging you. That was never my intention. What I have been trying to do is to understand you and your position – and you have not made that easy. Why? The more I insist on salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, the angrier you seem to become. Why? I suspect – but cannot say for certain yet because you are still not forthcoming with your true beliefs – that the reason is because you believe in some sort of universal salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ. If that is the case, then salvation is the only subject we should be discussing. Because no matter how moral or dedicated to God you may assume yourself to be, God has set the requirements for eternal life: faith in the Person and work of His beloved Son, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.
I am nothing, and I am certainly not the issue here; I never suggested I was anything, and it would be very dangerous for you to assume that a disagreement with me cuts you any slack with the Lord when it comes to fundamental issues of truth. You don't need a Ph.D. or a genius I.Q. or a life-changing experience or special communication from the Almighty to read the gospel of John (e.g.) and see expressed over and over again in unequivocal terms what God requires for salvation. I notice you ignore these passages in your response, leading me to believe that the practical answer to my question is that you believe that your own insights about God are superior to what any fifth-grader could get out of the gospel of John (e.g.), and/or that the knowledge contained in the Bible is "so deep" it somehow can't be understood. All such approaches always end in the practical rejection of the authority of scripture, even if they loudly proclaim adherence to it "in principle".
The bottom line is this: either you accept what the scripture clearly says, or you put yourself and your "insight" above it. The former results in salvation and faithful following of Jesus Christ; the latter is just one the devil's six-hundred and sixty six ways to hell.
Please be honest and answer the question directly, "What think ye of Christ?" Then perhaps we can have a straight-forward conversation about things that really matter. I am happy to do so because I know that God wants all to be saved (Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.12:47; 1Tim.2:4; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9), that Christ died for all so that all could be saved (Jn.1:29; 12:47; 2Cor.5:19; 1Tim.2:4-6; 1Jn.2:2), and that even so many will not be saved in spite of the Father's desire and the Son's sacrifice (cf. Matt.25:41-46; 2Thes.1:5-10; Rev.20:11-15). This is because God will not force you to accept and follow His Son; that has to come from you; to make that fundamental choice is the reason why we are all here in this world in the first place.
In the One who is the only Way: the Truth and the Life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
"because you believe in some sort of universal salvation apart from faith in Jesus Christ."
What I believe in… is that God does what God does, and His will does not conform to ours.
"If that is the case, then salvation is the only subject we should be discussing."
Why is that? Is it because my beliefs are the ones that need changing?
"The more I insist on salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone, the angrier you seem to become."
Actually…I'm offended by the "I'm saved, you're not" attitude. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him. Not me…and certainly not you.
"Because no matter how moral or dedicated to God you may assume yourself to be."
Assume myself to be? And this doesn't seem the least bit condescending or sanctimonious to you? Again, my issue isn't with God…I trust Him completely. My issue isn't with Christ Jesus…everything I am is in His hands. My issue is with ministers with good intentions, driving people who could have been saved, into hell. My issue is with people who act better, smarter, or more righteous than those they're trying to "save." My issue is with lambs pretending to be shepherds, and in the process, offending people to the point where they never want to hear about God again! Saying things like:
"I am nothing, and I am certainly not the issue here; I never suggested I was, and it would be very dangerous for you to assume that a disagreement with me cuts you any slack with the Lord when it comes to fundamental issues of truth."
You're CERTAINLY not the issue here, and NEVER were? Well, that leaves only me that the ISSUE must be about! And I better watch out, because pointing out your pride won't cut ME any slack with the Lord! And by the way, what makes you THINK you know any fundamental issues on truth?
"You don't need a Ph.D. or a genius I.Q. or a life-changing experience or special communication from the Almighty"
No…you don't, but it's nice to exalt yourself with such things in order to establish yourself as a shepherd, rather than sheep.
"I notice you ignore these passages in your response, leading me to believe that the practical answer to my question is that you believe that your own insights about God are superior to what any fifth-grader could get out of the gospel of John"
Don't you mean, leading you to assume? That is what you're doing, isn't it? What should I assume of you for not answering some of my questions? Should I assume that you think you're not the issue here…and I am? The truth is, I don't have to assume. You've already revealed this to me. Maybe I just don't get it. Is that it?
"the knowledge contained in the Bible is "so deep" it somehow can't be understood."
But it's not so deep that you can't paint an image of God, and His will in your mind, right? I understand the words…just like any 5th grader, but I'm not so presumptuous to assume that I KNOW GOD's will, or His mind, or His intentions toward us. God is not some force of nature that a dust mot like you, or I could predict. Do you really think that a thief, who spent his whole life taking, rather than giving; who didn't know Jesus, beyond what he'd heard, was clean enough to enter into the kingdom of heaven? He knew that his punishment was just, which means that he also knew he was doing wrong when he committed his crimes. All he asked Jesus to do was remember him, and Jesus saved him. He didn't acknowledge Jesus as his savior, nor was he baptized in our Lord's name, yet he was saved. Saul would have continued killing Christians for the rest of his life, and died with nothing but blood on his soul. But Jesus directly intervened, and changed his entire paradigm. Why not just let the man make the same choices that anyone else would have to make? God chooses whom He chooses…period. And no matter who you think is saved, and who you think is damned…it isn't over until HE says it's over.
"Please be honest and answer the question directly, "What think ye of Christ?"
Did I not say I love God? What? Do you think Christ is separate from God?
"The bottom line is this: either you accept what the scripture clearly says, or you put yourself and your "insight" above it. The former results in salvation and faithful following of Jesus Christ; the latter is just one the devil's six-hundred and sixty six ways to hell."
The bottom line? Wow. So tell me Bob, with all of this Wicca malarkey becoming so politically correct these days, should I suffer a witch to live? Should I stone my adulterous wife? God is God, and He'll do what he does, and I refuse to burden him with my expectations. What we do understand about the bible can't even begin to scratch the surface of God's will. But I can tell you this, those of us who THINK we're saved, but push others away from God with our pompous, self-righteousness, are going to be in for a shock when the time comes to bear up.
So now I am thoroughly confused. Apparently we do not differ on any major doctrinal issues. That is wonderful. So what are we arguing about?
You initiated this conversation with a criticism of this ministry that it seems I have misunderstood entirely.
Why don't we begin again. If you have a question, I would be happy to do what I can to answer it. If you have a criticism, please be as specific, detailed and clear as possible in expressing it, and I will do my best to address it.
I am sure we both have better things to do with our time than waste it on pointless mis-communication.
as confusing as all of this might seem to you; your lack of response to any of the issues raised, is quite typical. After all, Proverbs 21:2 warns that "all of a man's ways seem right...to him". But what does his opinion matter, when his heart is weighed by the Lord? This exchange has never been about God, or His will. It has always been about us, and the way we do things. But the humble spirit is sorely lacking among today's Christians, and their self-proclaimed shepherds. And THERE is where the biggest problem lies. If a flock is corrupted, all the other sheep will avoid them...even when that flock believes it is clean. The Holy Spirit is unimpeachable. If God's spirit speaks through you, every word will be filled with wisdom. False prophets always sound wise to themselves, but the damage they do speaks for itself. Shepherds become shepherds, because they want to lead, and not be led. They must maintain control over their destiny. They interpret the Bible in literal terms, or figurative terms; whichever suits their goal of leadership, and gives them whatever measure of control they wish to hold on to. And they rarely ever see any sin in this, because they convince themselves that they must be in control, they must be the leader, in order to best serve God. All the while, these "leaders" live in nice EARTHLY houses, drive expensive EARTHLY cars, and cleave to EARTHLY riches. They are devided, serving mammon, God, and their own worldly, and spiritual goals. Their goal is to lead on earth, to be first among their peers, and to reach the highest spiritual point attainable; to be with God. Motivations, and what is really in the heart is what this is about. Not just this conversation, but this life. Our very existence is about who we really are behind our game faces...our masks. A prideful soul will always deny that he wears a mask, but living in a world like ours, masks are necessary. The stumbling block comes in the form of pride's desire to be better than one's peers. To say "I'm not like all the rest, I'm better than that". That is the trap. And you will never be an effective minister until you UNDERSTAND that this is about you, and always has been.
I am open to criticism, both personally and in terms of this ministry. However, to be of any use, criticism must 1) be clear (I have to be able to understand what you are talking about), and 2) have at least some basis in reality. For example, in the last couple of emails you have been emphasizing the evils of earthly gain. This seems to be directed against me, but if so that would be most unfair and inappropriate. You seem to have failed to notice that this is a grace ministry, and that every part of it is offered free of charge; this ministry does not accept donations (there is not even a way to donate to it). Since you know nothing about me personally, and since this ministry in no way seeks financial gain (not even legitimate support), and since the teachings of this ministry are entirely focused on how to gain eternal rather than earthly riches, I think you owe me an apology here.
If you have some legitimate criticism, feel free to lodge it, provided you do so in an understandable way and with some indication that it flows from something you have read at Ichthys (rather than from your suppositions about what I might teach). Otherwise, I am afraid this will have to be our final communication.
Warn divisive people once, and then warn them a second time.
After that, have nothing to do with them.
In Jesus whom we serve,