Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Heresies Distressed

A commenter, Grace, and I have been talking circles around each other on this post, Make No Vow. It got a little sharp at the end when Grace asserted:
What you're doing is morally, and ethically wrong. And, not all are blind to see it.

You're using your position of trust, and authority, mouthing traditional sounding terminology, to introduce a radically different faith into the structure of the church, using the resources of the PCUSA.
I give her a point for bluntness. I think this is worth some discussion. I have heard this general observation (in this case criticism) from a variety of sources within our denomination. We use the same words but we don't mean the same thing.

While I don't think I am morally or ethically wrong, I can understand how evangelicals see it that way. We put a lot of effort in attaching a particular meaning to religious symbols. We look at a cross and we know what that means. We sing "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" and we know what that means. We participate in communion and we know what that means. We affirm that God created heaven and earth and we know what that means. The Bible is the word of God we say and we know what that means as well.

Or do we? We have invested meaning in these symbols, stories, hymns, and rites to the degree that we often cannot distinguish the symbol from the meaning, until someone comes along and offers a different interpretation. More often than not, that interpretation is upsetting, at least initially.

The task of theology is the interpretation of religious symbols. It has been its task since our ancestors made statues of the Earth Goddess (and probably long before that). Why are there so many different religions and denominations and differing views among people of the same denomination? It is because we are constantly reinterpreting symbols in our search for meaning. And we don't always see things in the same way.

Evangelical (or orthodox, I guess) folks believe in the "master narrative" of Christian history. According to this narrative, there was a time in which the essence of faith was pure. The truth of God was revealed perfectly. This was the time of the Apostles who got the real thing from Jesus and passed it on faithfully through the orthodox believers. From the perspective of the master narrative, theology is largely an exercise in keeping the story straight from the heretics on both the left and the right who keep messing it up. Innovation is wrong. Reinterpretation is not only an error, but of the devil.

This narrative continues through the Reformers, particularly Calvin. For Reformed thinkers, Calvin's theology is pure theology. He swept away (which was for him) all the papist nonsense that accumulated through the centuries and went back to the Bible, to the apostles, to the real thing. Calvin is the icon of Reformed Theology. If we want to be truly Reformed, we must believe as Calvin believed (or pretty darn close).

Evangelicals believe that this master narrative of Christian origins is the truth. So, when scholars criticize the validity of the master narrative (and show that it is an orthodox fiction), introduce higher criticism, embrace modern cosmology and evolution, study and compare Christianity with other religions, and on and on, evangelicals have a lot of heretics with whom to do battle. I don't envy their task.

For them, like Grace, religious symbols have a particular meaning that has been preserved by the master narrative of Christian history. By interpreting them for the 21st century, I am "introducing a radically different faith into the structure of the church." I am messing it up. Oh, and the Jesus Seminar is too. And that Bishop Spong. And feminists. And the liberation theologians. And Charles Darwin and his Darwinists. And the enemy list gets longer and longer.

I feel for Grace and for those in the PC(U.S.A.) who feel the need to put all their energies into securing church property, breaking away, or trying to change the church bureaucracy to keep the gospel pure. I feel for you but I am not interested in changing church structures to make you happy.

We have bigger issues. Ecology, Economy, War and Peace. It would be nice if the church would put its energies into helping out a bit there.


50 comments:

  1. For me, these arguments over and over again just come down to the only conclusion I can arrive at: I just don't think people are that stupid or that fragile.

    First of all, though I haven't been to your church, John, I find it hard to believe that people who attend for more than a couple weeks are too stupid to understand your particular take on matters of faith and theology. (And notice I separate the two.) So, if they hear it and agree with it fine. If they don't and are moved to leave, I'd wager there's another church just down the street, or another one after that, or another one after that in which they'll hear something more to their liking. Shutting you up (and everyone like you), however, as some would like to do, means the converse is not true. Those who attend your church (and those like it) would then have no where else to go.

    "My way or the highway" is not written in the Bible.

    And, unless I'm quite mistaken, no one is forcing anyone to sit and listen to you week after week, John, unless you've got a very scary Diaconate. :)

    Second, when did people become so fragile? My pastor, Chuck, and I disagree on several important matters of theology. So? He comes by his faith honestly, as do I. Am I supposed to be so fragile that if I do not hear exactly what I already believe for 20 minutes every Sunday I'm suddenly going to be led to the Dark Side? This isn't Star Wars melodrama, and there's no Sith Lord to seduce me. Faith is from God, not Pastor Shuck, nor Pastor Chuck. I find, actually, that I appreciate hearing things in Church with which I don't already agree. I'm not made of tissue paper, and my faith isn't going to tear apart and blow away if I'm challenged a bit.

    You know, this whole faith thing really isn't supposed to be easy.

    And if I only hear things from the pulpit with which I already agree, what's the point?

    It seems to me that at least half of the New Testament -- the Gospels, as well as and especially Paul's letters -- are about religious disagreement. Somehow all that disagreement actually led to the founding of the Church, not it's destruction. How is that possible? Because, I think, our forbearers of the faith were neither stupid, nor fragile.

    And what about "the other side" in the PCUSA? I use the term "salvation", and by it I'm referring to the traditional formula of "salvation by grace through faith." Lots of fundies in our denomination use those same words, but they clearly mean something completely different. All we have to do is look at the works-based righteousness, blatant clericism, and neo-fundamentalism of those who call themselves traditional or classical Presbyterians to see that, though they attempt to wear the orthodox mantle, they are actually far from it.

    You know what I do about them? Kick them out? Nope. Here's what I do: I don't go to their churches. And you know what else? They don't go to mine. Yet we can (if they actually wanted to) work together to support our strong tradition of education though our Presbyterian colleges, our strong tradition of health care, reinvigorate our mission work, feed the poor, etc., etc., etc. because the importance of that work is something on which we do indeed agree.

    When it comes to these internecine arguments, I always consider the fact that I don't agree with my older brothers on everything always, but I've never tried to kick them out of the family. And they've never tried to kick me out either ... you know because people might assume something about them, if they met me. I guess my brothers are neither stupid, nor fragile either. :)

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  2. Well put, Alan. I especially like how you differentiate theology and faith.

    I speak for myself (but I am certain that others who try to talk about theology would admit as well) that we overstate, make misstatements and categorize too neatly.

    People tell me when that happens. "I agree with you here but you missed this there."

    One of the things I appreciate about our particular club, the PCUSA, is that we offer great latitude for ministers like Chuck and Shuck to be wrong (or at least different).

    We value (not simply as a right) but as a greater good to doubt, question, explore, and reinterpret.

    Unless we express it and get feedback we cannot grow.

    In my most recent post I said that belief in an afterlife is because of anxiety about not being. Someone challenged me and said no there is something else to it.

    That person gave me something to consider. But unless we explore the issue and take the risk of being wrong, we never know.

    Some of my colleagues are so afraid of "slipping into heresy" a phrase I have heard more than once, that they stifle their own growth by not speaking honestly of what they think at the moment.

    If folks don't agree with me this week, come back next week since I might have changed.

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  3. Grace is a witch. Get Palin's Kenyan minister to deal with her ASAP.

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  4. "My way or the highway" is not written in the Bible.

    Actually, Alan, it is:


    John 3:17-18
    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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.
    NIV

    John, your journey is your own, but to lead people astray is unforgivable. May God be with you and help you.

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  5. John, your journey is your own, but to lead people astray is unforgivable. May God be with you and help you.

    Stushie, I am going to use this comment as a teaching moment.

    I think this comment shows the pervasiveness of the psychic control that some parts of the church has had over people, both clergy and laity.

    This is not simply a matter of having a different approach or even of being wrong about the great questions of life, but a mythology that God is going to kick your tail for eternity for being wrong.

    For those who have grown up with this religious perspective, the psychic damage is intense. But people can and do move out of it.

    I hope you folks see why I feel the need to take this on, or to use Stushie's words, "lead people astray."

    Which I think is offering a broader vision of God.

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  6. Wow! You are sounding a lot like an atheist apologist.

    How is your worldview different from an atheist/agnostic? If there is little or no difference, why do you refer to your worldview as Christian (progressive, liberal or otherwise)? Why be Presbyterian with all the historical baggage that accompanies it? Why not start the First Progressive Humanist Sacred Temple?

    Is not your belief system more in line with atheism than it is to historic reformed protestantism? Why be at such odds with those you are yoked to, redefining everything that the group held dear for so long?

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  7. Why be at such odds with those you are yoked to, redefining everything that the group held dear for so long?

    I enjoy the covered dish suppers.

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  8. Ok, let's talk some more. I don't think everyone in the church has to agree either. I actually attend a pretty progressive piskie church. My priest, and I are friends, riding partners. We don't always agree. Heck, my own husband, and I have differences together. He is a huge proponent of "universal salvation," and feels very strongly. This is putting it mildly.

    I think there are tons of things where Christians might disagree, and we should be open to each other in the church. Christ prayed for us to be one in Him, not to divide over every issue that comes down the pike.

    I'm also very atuned to all the economic, and social concerns spoken about here. We might not always agree concerning the solution, but I deeply care. I'm actually a social worker by profession. I work with families, and needy or abused kids.

    My Christian faith is intertwined with all of this for me. Alan, and John, I think the central affirmation of the church,is that "Jesus Christ is Lord." God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. All Christian believers agree concerning this, and the truth of the incarnation. We are one in Him. Any other difference is relatively insignificant to me.

    You can be certain that if a church does not find it's unity in Christ, it will solidify around other issues, and eventually splinter into pieces.

    It is definitely not ok by me for our clergy to trash the gospel, and mock the cross of Christ. I realize that I'm not Presbyterian, but even I can see this is not what the signers of the Auburn Affirmation had in mind. Lord have mercy!

    John, you are offended, I know. And, trust me, I don't have it altogether either, or know every answer. I stumbled onto some of these progressive blogs about two years ago, and sometimes regret it. But, I"m here now, and seem to be caught up in the discussion.

    This is not all I do, or think about by far, but I'm here now, and feeling concerned. I think I would not be showing the love of Christ to you, or to anyone here without being blunt, and honest.

    Certainly, don't want to see you, or anyone ditched from the church,though, and hope you don't think that.

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  9. Grace,
    You said, "My Christian faith is intertwined with all of this for me. Alan, and John, I think the central affirmation of the church,is that "Jesus Christ is Lord." God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. All Christian believers agree concerning this, and the truth of the incarnation. We are one in Him. Any other difference is relatively insignificant to me."

    I think you need to understand that God has many names and so does Christ.
    When you throw out everything you have been told and wake up from the lullaby you've been hearing, suddenly you understand this. If you are unwilling or unable to disbelieve then you can not really say you believe. So try it.

    It's sort of like everyone having a song. Some people hear their own and others have their song drowned out by noise that someone says, "this is the song". But, if you turn off the noise, you begin to hear your song and other people's songs and you realize that their songs are different but yet it harmonizes with the one inside of you. Suddenly you find this magnificent orchestra and YOU are a part of it, always have been. But you can't get tuned into the orchestra until you turn down that noise that someone else tells you belongs to you.

    John is just trying to turn down the noise... not to speak for him, but that's how I see it.

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  10. let me offer you a teaching moment in return, John.

    It's not about psychic control John. It's about being loyal to Christ. It's about being humble as a servant, instead of trying to be an equal. Your journey seems to be about grasping divinity on your own, which is fine for you, John. But the people at Elizabethton are being led astray because you are putting your journey first.

    Most breakaway cults begin with your kind of leadership, John. At some point, you are going to find yourself at a crossroads. It may be good for you, but not for the sheep under your care.

    As for the orchestra allegory - that is universalist. I much prefer Christ being the Piper and we follow His tune.

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  11. In answer to Stushie:

    But the people at Elizabethton are being led astray because you are putting your journey first.

    Here's Alan:

    I just don't think people are that stupid or that fragile.

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  12. Mother Wit,

    You didn't speak for me because I could have never said anything so poetic. That was beautiful.

    Glad you are here.

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  13. I'm really excited, I've always wanted to join a cult! Seriously, I have said before, I don't agree with everything you say, but I certainly don't feel threatened by it. We are all working through our faiths in our own ways. Where you fit in my picture(or "song", awesome analogy) is, I see you working through the same things and having the strength to share the journey with us. I have been in churches where I don't even have a clue what the pastor believes. I understand that you and I probably don't fit the approved PCUSA mold. Does that mean we all have to leave? I appreciate your openness and willingness to share in this with us. I'm sure none of us have it right and God probably is getting a lot of amusement out our petty arguing. Now about that cult, can we have it on some tropical island? I can be packed by Tuesday.

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  14. Sara sez:

    I'm really excited, I've always wanted to join a cult!

    And I have always wanted to lead one!

    Tropical island sounds just fine. Got any friends? Female? Under 30?

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  15. The only thing that leads people astray is to keep lying to them about what you know and what you believe.

    To preach one thing and do another.

    To teach outdated philosophies as if they were God's truth, and to ask grown adults to live stunted spiritual lives, as if the faith and world view that they have as Seventh Graders is somehow appropriate when they are Fifty.

    Cult leaders say "Follow me, I know the Truth". Obviously, John is saying neither.

    He is however sitting in the palm of God's hand, looking out not in. My own personal opinion is that he sees the world from a point of view that is closer to God's than if he had his rear to the world facing God.

    It's a question of lighting, isn't it?

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  16. "My way or the highway" is not written in the Bible.

    Actually, Alan, it is:

    John 3:17-18
    For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 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.
    NIV

    John, your journey is your own, but to lead people astray is unforgivable. May God be with you and help you.


    --------------------

    Now hold on just a minute! Let’s give this “my way or the highway” John 3:17-18 a little scrutiny to see if we can’t divorce it from the mentality of “you’re either in or out.”

    The traditional interpretation of this language, “whoever does not believe” is that we are definitely supposed to believe something about the particular being of who Jesus was (and is). The traditional mainstream Christian interpretation, reinforced by the Nicene Creed, is that we are supposed to accept that Jesus was literally the one and only Son of God, that Jesus is a deity. And the tradition follows, that if we believe that Jesus was (and is) the one and only Son of God, we’re in. But if we don’t, we’re out. However, this traditional interpretation is both weeny and insubstantial. It’s shallow, it’s grossly exclusive, it calls for accepting a fairy-tale notion at variance with reality as we know it, and it’s inconsistent with other language in the Bible. It’s a lazy interpretation, it’s not what Jesus intended, but it’s awfully convenient, and boy, is it ever popular.

    A stronger interpretation, on the other hand, is aimed at having faith in what Jesus said do. The verse, that God sent his son “to save the world through him,” is better interpreted as meaning that the salvation of world depends on having the faith to believe that Jesus was right about what he taught. While the first interpretation is simple, this one is tough! This latter interpretation requires a lot more faith and strength. It requires real, tangible, gut-level faith. It’s faith in the belief that the way Jesus said we should live is, indeed, the way we should live, even when it seems impossible, ridiculous, or absurd, which it often does. For example, Jesus said in Luke 6, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Man! This is truly difficult. It doesn’t sound right, or possible, or certainly not sustainable over a long period of time. People are simply not inclined to behave in this manner because it is flatly against our nature. But the effort of trying to follow these rules, to live in this manner, is exactly what is being talked about when we are called to have faith. John 3:16 -18 tells us to believe that Jesus was right. It doesn’t say “my way or the highway.” It says that if we want to save the world and ourselves, we should believe that Jesus has correctly told us how to behave. Jesus tells us to rise above our nature, to reach to a higher plane for the sake of each other. Even though it does not seem sound, we as Christians should have faith that Jesus was right in calling us to be more giving and forgiving than we were born to be. This is a stronger, more meaningful, more impacting-on-the-future-of-the-world interpretation of this bit of scripture than the comparatively shallow interpretation that we are simply supposed to proclaim that “Jesus is Lord.” The difficult interpretation leads to concrete changes toward a better world, while the easy interpretation leads to, well…smugness. For hundreds of years, millions of people have shown us how easy it is to join the club by proclaiming that Jesus is God. However, only a few have had the faith to believe that we should earnestly live out Jesus’ instructions.

    In the mainstream Christian tradition, this alternative interpretation of what John 3:16-18 means is heresy. But I hold that it is not. To put the point in mainstream Christian language, this hard interpretation is the way, the truth and the life. To live as Jesus said live is the narrow path, it is entering through the strait gate. When Jesus said (in Matthew 7) you will know them by their fruits he means you can tell those who are righteous because they are the ones that really do act in a righteous manner. And in the next verse (Matt 7:21) when Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,” he is referring to those who peg their righteousness more to what they believe than what they do.
    As a member of John Shuck’s congregation I’m confident that my words are in line with his ministry, and I’m sure that he’s on the right path with his call for social justice and inclusion of the world’s hated minorities of every stripe. First Presbyterian’s ministry is a beautiful, idealistic, thoughtful, hopeful, open and loving ministry. For any thumper who would condescendingly suggest that Rev. Shuck is unforgivably leading people astray, there is a perfect Bible verse, also from the 7th chapter of Matthew. It’s verse 5, and it begins with the wonderful words of Jesus, "You hypocrite…”

    Well now! I started off going after Bible thumping, and have quixotically ended up with my own brand of thumping. I guess the only graceful way out of this is to offer that all us thumpers join in a Christian act of repenting our sanctimony together.

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  17. Is the gospel an outdated philosophy?

    I agree that the Christian faith reflects something much deeper than intellectually think this way, and you're in, otherwise so-long, you're on your way to Hell in a handbasket. To me, this is a very immature view of the faith, and witness of the church.

    I think it's much more a matter of genuinely opening ourselves to God, and so coming to trust His work in Christ, being found in Him.

    Of course, this involves actually realizing human need, understanding the love of God, and seeing the reality of the cross.

    So, in this sense, yes, intellectual knowledge, and assent become part of it. But, the Christian faith is so much more than just filling in the proper, correct blanks, and parroting a creed every Sunday.

    And, I think a relationship with God in Christ is indeed reflected in how we walk out our lives, in how we treat each other, care for the earth, especially how we're able to respond to those who we might disagree with the most.

    So, often in visiting many of these radically progressive websites, I read what I would consider just a caricature of Christian orthodoxy presented, often a total misunderstanding, or at least a distortion.

    And, so I have to wonder what kind of job we have really been doing communicating the essence of Christian faith to seeking people out there.

    And, too often the church really has dropped the ball when it comes to actually showing compassion, respect for the earth, concern for indigenous peoples...

    People are hurting, and feeling disillusioned, searching. And, I think this can open a door which may either lead to a yielding, and knowledge of God, or to something else, even a counterfeit to fill the void.

    I want to honestly say that visiting many of these blogs has caused me to deeply search out what I truly believe, and stand for in my life, to look at my own heart, my Christian witness.

    God forbid that I would ever say or do anything to hinder someone from coming to Christ, or to drive them further from a sense of the love of God.

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  18. Thanks, Dr.!

    First Presbyterian’s ministry is a beautiful, idealistic, thoughtful, hopeful, open and loving ministry.

    And it was that long before I arrived. Not bad for a cult.

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  19. I wrote, "My way or the highway" is not written in the Bible.

    And Stushi incorrectly asserts, "Actually, Alan, it is"

    Wrong, Stushie, and this is *exactly* the problem.

    You do not, apparently, know the difference between GOD saying "My way or the highway" and sinful, totally depraved human beings like you or me saying "my way or the highway."

    When you're elected God of the Universe, Stushie, you may feel free to make those decisions.

    Good luck with that.

    But until then, seriously, and with respect, I hope you'll pardon me if I don't pay you no mind.

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  20. And Grace,

    I find it really hard to relate to your concern over the Church.

    It has lasted 2000 years without you standing by to protect it. However in the world did it survive?! I ask that not sarcastically, but to hammer home the point that God does not need your protection, nor does His Church. And frankly, who do you think you are that you could even provide such protection anyway? Do you not see the arrogance inherent in such a position?

    Again, because you haven't explained yourself, at least so I can understand it, exactly whom do you think John (or anyone else with whom you disagree) is leading "astray?" Name names. This general "you may lead someone astray" charge is pretty serious. Find someone. Anyone. Then demonstrate how they've lost their salvation by listening to John. Evidence, rather than random unsubstantiated charges ... that doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it?

    Do you honestly think that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will allow one of his Lambs to be led astray, if he didn't wish it? Do you honestly think our Triune God is that powerless?

    Or, do you honestly believe that salvation is by grace through faith, not through Shuck? Because everything you say seems to indicate that you believe people are saved based on which local church they happen to attend. Could you give me a list, so I know I'm going to the right ones?

    Seriously, I just don't understand your concerns. It's like worrying whether or not a mountain that has been around for millions of years is suddenly going to pitch over on its side because John Shuck yelled at it.

    Maybe I just don't spend my time worried about such improbabilities. Or maybe, in addition to being neither stupid nor fragile, I've learned to trust God a little bit.

    You talk about words meaning things Grace, and how different people use them differently. Perhaps when you think about trusting "His work in Christ", you just mean something completely different than I do.

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  21. Grace,

    "Is the gospel an outdated philosophy? "

    That depends on whose definition of the Gospel you are using. If you use the one Jesus used, probably not.

    But is that the one you mean when you say "gospel"?

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  22. Will you share your faith with me Alan, and Jodie? How did you come to trust Christ? What does it mean for you to be a Christian?

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  23. Will you share your faith with me Alan, and Jodie? How did you come to trust Christ? What does it mean for you to be a Christian?

    What's the point, Grace? If you treat them like you did me, you won't believe them anyway.

    But I will let Alan and Jodie answer for themselves.

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  24. John, how have I not believed you? Where have I treated you wrongly?

    Do you think my concern is off base, or unjust?

    I'm off right now to exercise my wild Border Collie who is driving me totally crazy. But, I"ll be back later, either tonight or tommorrow.

    I care, and I'm open to you, or I wouldn't even hang out here at all. Is there something that I"ve totally misunderstand that you want to share?

    You see, I"m asking Alan to share especially because I can sense a defensiveness, and even hostility. I'm trying very much to understand where these guys are coming from, why??

    So hopefully let's talk.

    Ok, off to the woods.

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  25. Grace,

    Are you totally oblivious as to what you say and how you come across?

    What you're doing is morally, and ethically wrong. And, not all are blind to see it.

    You're using your position of trust, and authority, mouthing traditional sounding terminology, to introduce a radically different faith into the structure of the church, using the resources of the PCUSA.


    Why do you suppose that you sense hostility and defensiveness from others? No clue?

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  26. I"m so very sorry for your hurt, John, more than you can know.

    And, wish so much this was just a minor misunderstanding, only a matter of semantics, and the use of symbolism. (I would gladly admit to being wrong about everything, all my concerns.)

    But, we can still hold on to each other in the church, and choose to trust God.

    God's peace, and blessings on your rest tonight, and hope to hear from Alan, and Jodie later.

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  27. Grace, I am not hurt. I am annoyed. Your evaluation doesn't matter to me that much.

    The reason I mentioned it in this post is that it represents a voice in the church that is annoying.

    It represents a version of Christianity that either seeks to separate from others or convert them to its way of thinking.

    It makes a big freaking stink about who can be a member. This is how the whole conversation started with the St. Andrews church thing and Amendment A.

    These Christians are not 'mocked' as you say, because they hold fast to the truth of Christ. They are 'mocked' because they are annoying, pushy, rude, and self-righteous.

    They confuse their version of God for God. All of us do, of course, but they insist. That is annoying. Stop it.

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  28. grace,

    Perhaps it is easier to think you sense hostility or defensiveness where there is neither because it allows you a reason to dismiss others. I suppose that might be easier than real humiliity and giving up real trust to God.

    And then you ask me for an account of my faith? For what reason? To make sure I measure up? That alone seems to be your concern. You want me to recite the Apostle's Creed for you? And then what? You'll just find another reason to discount it? Nah... Not interested. Thanks.

    Nope. No hostility nor defensiveness here at all, regardless of what you think you sense. The whole point of what I've written so far is that I have no reason to defend myself to you.

    Faith is from God and it doesn't require corroboration from you. That's pretty much the point of what I've written here already ... Twice. And you still don't get it.

    You need to stop trying to be in control and trust God.

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  29. Grace,
    The dance you are doing with the guys on this blog reminds me of this:

    My mother-in-law comes to visit every now and then and stays at our house for two or three days. She starts to clean as soon as she gets here even though we fuss and say "sit down and play with the kids". She says, "But I like to clean" and then she hands me a stack of my papers from the kitchen counter and asks me to go through them.
    I say, "I want them where they are." She doesn't believe me so she picks up each one and says, "This is from _____, is that important?"

    1) I can't go on with what I was doing because she wants me to deal with something that I've already dealt with.

    2) She can't enjoy her time here because she's so busy trying to tidy up that she's missing out on playing with the kids.

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  30. OK Grace. I'll bite.

    You wrote:

    Is the gospel an outdated philosophy?

    Nope. But mainstream interpretations are pretty tired. And they've really come across as ugly.

    You wrote:

    I agree that the Christian faith reflects something much deeper than intellectually think this way, and you're in, otherwise so-long, you're on your way to Hell in a handbasket. To me, this is a very immature view of the faith, and witness of the church.

    It is immature, and it's common as dirt.

    You wrote;

    I think it's much more a matter of genuinely opening ourselves to God, and so coming to trust His work in Christ, being found in Him.

    Of course, this involves actually realizing human need, understanding the love of God, and seeing the reality of the cross.


    You've got some personal revelation going on here. That's great. As a progressive Christian, such revelation doesn't mean much to me. I'm guessing that you see this as the center of your Christian world, and if this is what works for you, go for it. However, it has a flavor of disingenuousness for me. This is likely the basis of our differences

    So, in this sense, yes, intellectual knowledge, and assent become part of it. But, the Christian faith is so much more than just filling in the proper, correct blanks, and parroting a creed every Sunday.

    You can say that again!

    And, I think a relationship with God in Christ is indeed reflected in how we walk out our lives, in how we treat each other, care for the earth, especially how we're able to respond to those who we might disagree with the most.

    I'd have said this in the opposite way. How we walk out our lives reflects what we believe about God and Jesus. But it's what we do that matters far more than what we believe. This is where you and I really part company. You believe that your relationship with Jesus takes primacy over everything else. I believe that if you love kindness, and mercy, your relationship with God will fall into place.

    So, often in visiting many of these radically progressive websites, I read what I would consider just a caricature of Christian orthodoxy presented, often a total misunderstanding, or at least a distortion.

    Yep. And I believe that orthodox Christainity is a distortion of Jesus' intent, and the distortion started with Iraneas and really got reved up by Athanasius in the 4th century. And orthodoxy Christianity reached it's absolute low in modern times in 1999 when George Bush embraced his love of Jesus at an Iowa debate, and rode it to war in Iraq 4 years later.

    And, so I have to wonder what kind of job we have really been doing communicating the essence of Christian faith to seeking people out there.

    Well...it hasn't been a good job. And this is so obvious that it's ridiculous. You can't be serious about this. And if you are, close your eyes and visualize the faces of Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Hagee, Billy James Hargis, Rod Parsley...

    And, too often the church really has dropped the ball when it comes to actually showing compassion, respect for the earth, concern for indigenous peoples...

    I'm at a loss here. I'm stuck between saying, "which church?"
    or "Duh!"

    People are hurting, and feeling disillusioned, searching. And, I think this can open a door which may either lead to a yielding, and knowledge of God, or to something else, even a counterfeit to fill the void.

    You seem to talk a lot about hurting and voids. I guess this explains more to me than anything else. Maybe it is the fact that millions of people feel so empty that they easily turn to mystical, personal revelations and place a lot of emphasis on the personal relatonships with Jesus, and pay so little attention to the world around them. This is kind of an epiphany to me. I don't think about hurt or voids very much.

    I want to honestly say that visiting many of these blogs has caused me to deeply search out what I truly believe, and stand for in my life, to look at my own heart, my Christian witness.

    Great!

    God forbid that I would ever say or do anything to hinder someone from coming to Christ, or to drive them further from a sense of the love of God.

    I think you've heard some pretty direct feedback on this point. Maybe you could listen a little more thoughtfully. Good luck.

    Good luck.

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  31. Alan, you don't know me at all, but I'm very different than what you're thinking. I'm sorry that you're feeling in this way.

    Of course, we should not be anxious, and all trust God. Who would disagree?

    But, does this mean that as Christian believers we should never voice our concern for the witness of the church, and express our deepest conviction, bury our heads in the sand? I can't see this as righteous, or at all reflecting the witness of Jesus, or the Scripture. We are the body, the voice of Christ in the world.

    Do you feel the same about speaking out against things like homophobia in the church? Should we make the argument that God is in control anyway, and that He doesn't need our help here. Or, that if the church became more gay, and lesbian inclusive, some folks might leave, and then what??

    I know that you would never take such a position. How much more should we care if the truth of the gospel is preached in all our denominations, and that people are encouraged toward faith in Christ.

    From my perspective, it would be better if people never darkened the door of the church at all, if they are not going to hear Jesus proclaimed as Lord, and the truth of the "good news," when they get there.

    John, if I have misunderstood, or slandered you in anyway at all, I'm more than open to hear, and make it right.

    I'll say it again, I think you are a wonderful, caring person, and I would like nothing more than to be wrong about all of this.

    Dr. and Mother Wit, I don't know what to say. I think we have a gap here together that my words can't begin to bridge.

    Dr. these preachers that you mentioned are about as alien, and strange to my way of thinking as chalk is to cheese. I think at least some of them have mental health issues.

    God have mercy! And, thanks for the direct feedback.

    Respectfully,
    Grace./

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  32. Grace,

    **How much more should we care if the truth of the gospel is preached in all our denominations, and that people are encouraged toward faith in Christ.

    From my perspective, it would be better if people never darkened the door of the church at all, if they are not going to hear Jesus proclaimed as Lord, and the truth of the "good news," when they get there.**

    Is this truly how you feel? If you have a person who absolutely cannot connect to a faith as you define it, but maybe found the progressive faith to be a wonderful means of helping them through life, that they feel they've found God through a progressive faith that means they don't see Jesus as God ... you truly think it would be better for them to have no faith at all? To feel empty and alone?

    Because how I'm reading this statement is that you're saying the following: "It would be better for people to never come to church/have faith at all if it's not the faith as I define it."

    You don't think that's going to cause people to react a certain way to you?

    Homophobia in the church directly hurts the people here, and can be a form of bigotry. We can see that in the reactions from those who are homosexual. Can you find the same correlation with those who don't believe a certain fact about Jesus?

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  33. grace wrote, "Alan, you don't know me at all, but I'm very different than what you're thinking. I'm sorry that you're feeling in this way."

    grace, you are right, I don't now you. Nor do I pretend to. All I know is what you wrote, "But the people at Elizabethton are being led astray because you are putting your journey first." and "What you're doing is morally, and ethically wrong. And, not all are blind to see it. " So if you're words mean other than what I think they mean, grace, I can only say that's because I read your words and take them seriously. That is, I assume you mean them, which is unfortunate.

    grace wrote, "Do you feel the same about speaking out against things like homophobia in the church? Should we make the argument that God is in control anyway, and that He doesn't need our help here. "

    No, He does not need our help there either.

    But your argument is apples and oranges. I do not believe a single homophobe should be kicked out of the church nor denied membership, whether they repent of their sin of homophobia or not. I do not believe that there is some magic incantation of LGBT inclusion that everyone should be coerced into saying in order to get in.

    So yes, I call out homophobia where I see it, but I know that I will never change a single mind, ever. Nor do I think that homophobic ministers are leading their congregations astray. I don't think people are such sheep. If people are homophobic, it is not because their pastor made them that way. For indeed, plenty of us heard such messages from the pulpit and were neither so stupid, nor so fragile as to believe them. We were led, by God, not by someone in a clerical collar, to a greater understanding. So, I place my trust in Him, not in some person in a clerical collar, nor some magic incantation of tolerance.

    You seem to assume that some pastors have got it right and others, like John have got it wrong. The problem, grace, is that no one has got it right, not one. If pastors have the power to lead people astray, then every single pastor on the planet is leading people astray in some way or another.

    I have been led to believe, based on the promises we read in the Word, that God doesn't have to rely on us getting it right, because even our faith is not our own doing, but is a gift from God through his Grace.

    You appear to believe that forcing those who enter our doors must already agree with us before they enter in, and if they don't, they should be left out in the cold. But grace, people were not made for the Church, but the Church for people. And we know that just saying "Lord! Lord!" isn't enough, as the Jesus clearly tells us in Scripture.

    Let's not forget that plenty of people who refused to affirm their church's fundamental tenants and were called heretics then are today the founders of our faith traditions: Calvin and Luther, for example. And the Episcopal Church was founded by a serial adulterer and murderer, Henry VIII. Now I'm not comparing John Shuck to John Calvin, nor Henry VIII -- much, I suspect, to John's relief. :) What I am saying is that the Church Universal is big enough and strong enough to survive disagreement, even serious disagreement, and that those views which God blesses will survive, and those that He does not will not thrive. He can work even though a guy like Henry VIII to bring people to an understanding of the Good News!

    Let's also remember that I, a Calvinist, would find plenty of disagreement on so-called "essential" matters of theology with you, an Episcopalian. Let's not pretend that we the term "orthodox Christian" has any meaning. There are vast differences of opinion between "orthodox" members of different denominations, and yet you don't seem to have the same problem with those inter-denominational differences as you have with intra-denominational differences. So before you start complaining about heterodoxy from others, remember that you likely hold beliefs with which I disagree. But I don't feel any particular need to force people to agree with me, no matter how wrong they are. ;)

    So sure, grace, speak out your disagreement all you want! But don't force someone else to agree with you and say some magic words before you will be in fellowship with them.

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  34. Alan, thanks for coming back, and hanging in for the conversation. I did not say the first part of this statement about "putting your own journey first." I can't judge that, not knowing John's heart, or what's going on in his mind.

    Also, I agree with you that we should not require orthodox litmus tests at the door before folks sit beside us in the pews.

    That's not what church is about either.

    But, what I am saying is that we should have a concern about what's actually being preached from our pulpits once folks are sharing fellowship with us. I don't mean this in some narrow, judgemental, inquisitional kind of way, as if we can't disagree about anything, or have any freedom of thought.

    Our unity is in Christ. He is Lord. We certainly don't have to agree with every issue out there. Look at my posts again. It does matter to me if our clergy are being honest,and faithful to their ordination vows.

    Alan, I can't agree with you about some of these homophobic clergy who preach God hates gay people. Oh no. They are inciting folks to violence, and if I had my way, every single one of them would have their ordination revoked, and be out of the pulpit. (I'm not talking about caring people who might struggle with the blessing of SSU, or the definition of marriage, or some of these controversies in the church.)

    One, it's just good to hear from you again, even if we don't always agree. :)

    At any rate, we've probably went on about this enough, and I wonder if it's been the best discussion to even have on a public blogspot. John has been good to hang in, and allow it.

    We'll have to agree to disagree, and leave it to God then. Ultimately, he is the judge, and discerner of our hearts.

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  35. "Alan, I can't agree with you about some of these homophobic clergy who preach God hates gay people. Oh no. They are inciting folks to violence, and if I had my way, every single one of them would have their ordination revoked, and be out of the pulpit. "

    Yup, I disagree. If someone commits such an act of violence, unless they are mentally incompetent, it is their responsibility. It's easier, I think, to blame preachers or video games or that evil rock and roll music because it's so difficult to look directly at the face of evil and say, "Yup, this person is responsible for their own actions."

    "We'll have to agree to disagree, and leave it to God then. Ultimately, he is the judge, and discerner of our hearts."

    Well, unless conservatives in the PCUSA get their way and the amendment John discussed gets passed. Then they're the judge, which is the point at which this whole conversation started in the previous blog post.

    Sorry, grace, in my opinion, you can't at one point say the things you've already said in this thread and the previous one, and then simply pull an about-face and say "Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree" because the two sentiments are mutually exclusive.

    Yes, I believe it is possible to agree to disagree with brothers and sisters in the Church, which is why I have argued against membership litmus tests in these threads. Now you're arguing against them, when you previously argued for them.

    Or perhaps I just have not understood a single word you've written.

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  36. Alan, I have a feeling that maybe we have really been talking past each other here big time, or maybe not. I'm not certain, or maybe we're both confused about where each other are at. :)

    But, I'm the last person that wants to keep seeking folks from hangin out in church, or to hinder them from coming to faith in Christ. No way. As far as I'm concerned, I'll sit in the pew next to the old devil himself, if that's going to help. That's not the concern or the issues that I'm honestly trying to share. Could be I'm just doing this terrible job of it??

    It seems to me though, that alot of space has been taken here discussin this. Please e-mail me personally if you want to talk some more. My address is:

    romebecky@yahoo.com

    Thanks.

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  37. Grace,

    I'm glad that you're happy to hear from me, but I'd also be interested in an answer to my question/s. Do you truly think it's better for people to not go to church at all if they aren't going to hear the faith that you determine to be correct? You can say that you're the last person who wants to keep seeking people from the church, but at the same time, I don't think many are able to seperate the idea of believing those like John should step down/not be teaching, while at the same time, saying everyone is welcome in church. I'm sure that everyone at John's church is well aware of his views. Maybe that's what they find attractive in the first place. They have a gathering place with others who are at the same location as they are in their journeys.

    If you say that those in this frame of mind should step down, then probably many who hold to the same views as he does will find that you are saying they have no place in the church, as they do not pass a certain type of litmus test. If all pastors/those in charge must conform to what you see is right, then how are progressive people supposed to feel welcome in the first place? There's no pastors to speak to them and where they are, there are only pastors telling them what they must change in order to "be correct."

    If there's a litmus test on the pastor, then I think many of us are seeing a litmus test applied to all those who might seek out the churches and find a sense of belonging.

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  38. I'm not sure, One. And, I struggle mightily to try to respond to your question.

    I mean ideally, and on the surface of things, it does make little sense for someone to be baptized, join the Christian church, and receive holy communion without also confessing Jesus as Lord, and Savior. Why?

    And, in all honesty, I think it very unlikely that this kind of situation would often happen where the good news is being lovingly, and clearly presented without compromise, or where seeking people are actually recieving good spiritual formation. People would either be drawn to us or not.

    But, we don't always have this ideal situation. And, I have to say that I think it better even for a non-Christian to be welcomed to join the church, than for us to take any action that might help push someone further away from the Lord, or harm them spiritually in anyway. In other words, I would much rather have the heretics sitting next to me in church, than pushed out the door forever.

    I'm not sure about asking non-believing or heretical clergy to step down either. So often, it seems that when clergy are brought under the discipline of the church, they end up becoming bitter, and disillusioned, and leave us altogether, further from the faith than before. On the other hand, we surely need to have a care, and responsiblity for the witness of all of our churches, and for the preaching of our Lord's gospel, too. Ordination vows matter.

    A couple of years ago in TEC, there was a wonderful priest who became involved in the practice of druidry, devotion to the ancient Celtic gods, pagan fertility rites, etc. He was disciplined by the bishop, and to make a long story short, ended up leaving TEC, and became the leader of a pagan grove. (Although, I've heard since that he has returned to the church, although not as a priest.)

    Well was this the right course of action? I can honestly say that I did not sense alot of the love of Christ in these folks who were incensed by his actions.

    Awhile back, I had conversation with another of our clergy who is a "high church atheist," and as far as I can see, has nothing but scorn, and contempt for the faith of the church. Should he be asked to step down?

    Personally, One, I'm glad that I'm not in the position to make some of these decisions. I can't give a clear, and definitive answer to your question.

    The only thing I can tell you is that I want to show Christ's love to people, and that I also care for the preaching of the truth of the gospel in our churches. I would not want to do anything that might hinder anyone from seeking, and knowing the Lord.

    Does this help, One, and make sense? Or, does it all seem as clear as mud. I wouldn't blame you, if you're feeling confused.

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  39. Grace,

    **it does make little sense for someone to be baptized, join the Christian church, and receive holy communion without also confessing Jesus as Lord, and Savior. Why?**

    It makes little sense to you. That doesn't mean it makes little sense to everyone. That also depends on how each church/denomination handles baptism, joining a church, receiving communion and how they understand the words Lord and Savior.

    **I think it very unlikely that this kind of situation would often happen where the good news is being lovingly, and clearly presented without compromise, or where seeking people are actually recieving good spiritual formation. People would either be drawn to us or not.**

    I would have to disagree with this one, because even in this situation, there is a huge judgemental aspect. Again, the faith of the heretic is deemed less than the faith of the orthodox. The orthodox person is convinced that the heretic has not had a true encounter with God, or with Christ, or with any of that. No one is really in a position to judge another situation in that fashion.

    **And, I have to say that I think it better even for a non-Christian to be welcomed to join the church**
    But welcomed in what way? It can't be argued that the church is accepting people just as they are, if the church is also hoping that these non-Christians will be converted. The hope is that the very core identity of the non-Christian will be altered in some way, made to match the Christian. That alone can cause a great deal of hinderance and harm. It is asking for a massive transformation of who the person is, and for those who are happy where they are, have found some sort of peace with the divine ... that's going to cause a hinderance. There is a difference between telling people, "Let me tell you about this great joyous thing I found, let me hear about yours" and telling people "The joy you claim to expereience is false, and only I can tell you about the true joy."

    **On the other hand, we surely need to have a care, and responsiblity for the witness of all of our churches, and for the preaching of our Lord's gospel, too. Ordination vows matter.**
    But if the pastor is upfront about his views, and about how he preaches in the church, then we can hardly say he's leading anyone astray. Especially if he presents the viewpoint from the other side. The people who listen/join understand who he is, where he comes from, and maybe be flocking to his church because they have found a home. They have found someone who understands their struggles with Christianity.

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  40. grace wrote, "But, I'm the last person that wants to keep seeking folks from hangin out in church, or to hinder them from coming to faith in Christ. No way."

    But earlier grace wrote, "From my perspective, it would be better if people never darkened the door of the church at all, if they are not going to hear Jesus proclaimed as Lord, and the truth of the "good news," when they get there."

    To quote those great philosophers of our time, Dead or Alive, "You spin me right round baby, right round, like a record baby, right round round round." :)

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  41. Lord, I get away from access to a computer for a couple days and I miss the party!

    I will say as someone who admires John Calvin (a la Karl Barth and Jack Rogers) that while I do NOT think that "Calvin's theology is pure theology," I do think that we are inheritors of Calvin's propensity to sweep away "all the papist nonsense that accumulated through the centuries and went back to the Bible, to the apostles, to the real thing." It's a valuable trait, and one that can be crucial to the integrity of the Church.

    I call it my inner Martin Luther: the instinct to nail a list of complaints to the door of the Church.

    One of the problems with Calvin and those who followed him (in addition to the atrocious distortions of those who merged Calvin with Social Darwinism) is the tendency to throw baby out with bathwater. In the desire to undo the material excesses of the Roman church, the reformers threw out centuries of religious art and music, something that took centuries to reclaim (in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, they still only allow the a capella singing of Psalms--no "Amazing Grace", no organ). In their zeal to cleanse the Church of centuries of theological patchwork (purgatory and limbo spring to mind), they ended up becoming as unforgiving of new points of view as the Inquisition.

    For all the problems I may have with the Westminster Confession of Faith, one of its most brilliant contributions is the acknowledgment that "God alone is Lord of the conscience" and that "the Synods and Councils do err". "Liberty of conscience" is a divine gift, and that we are only beholden to the Word (John 1) of God. As noted above, God's way is NOT J. Gresham Machen's way or Stushie's way or Grace's way or Alan's way or John's way or Flycandler's way.

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  42. **As noted above, God's way is NOT J. Gresham Machen's way or Stushie's way or Grace's way or Alan's way or John's way or Flycandler's way.**

    Since I was left off this list, do I get to conclude that my way is also God's way? :)

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  43. Alan, I hope they're hanging out in a church where the gospel is being preached. Otherwise, from my perspective as a Christian, how are they actually being helped spiritually?

    One, I can see what you're saying. I really can. It's true, people may not feel wholly welcomed if they feel pressure to change, or their views challenged.

    I'm definitely not someone that wants to be insensitive, or to beat people over the head with the Scripture. This generally doesn' t yield alot of fruit. Who can bring people to faith but God's spirit.

    But, at the sametime, I can't pretend that I don't care, One. Or, that it doesn't matter if our clergy think the Christian faith is basically a fairy tale.

    I honestly don't know how to be truthful, share Christ, love people, and never cause possible offense to someone.

    I'm all for listening, and trying to understand where folks are at. And, I"m open to anyone's in put, how I can do a better job of being sensitive, and open, without living a lie.

    Part of the problem here I'm sensing, and I might be wrong is a differing view of truth. For me, truth is not pluriform. I don't feel that all contradictory views can be equally true, and valid, because I don't think truth can contradict itself.

    Just look at early church history, for instance. The view of the gnostics, and the view of the orthodox were very different. From where I stand, it would be impossible for all contradictory opinons to be true. And, I"m feeling that a loving God over time guided the church to truth, as He still does today. For me, this seems very reasonable.

    Fly and Alan, it's true that God is Lord of the conscience, and that Christians may differ today about many things. But, this doesn't mean that there are no parameters at all, and we differ about everything, either. We agree that Jesus is Lord, and concerning the reality of the incarnation.

    This has been historically true across our mainline denominations for centuries. It was for this reason that the unitarian-universalist association has never become a member of the WWC.

    I think we need to find a balance between being open, allowing people to question, not just turning them away, and allowing our institutions to turn into just another religious cult.

    Enough said.

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  44. Grace,

    **Otherwise, from my perspective as a Christian, how are they actually being helped spiritually?**
    Except it's the idea behind this. I am in absolutely no position to judge how valid your encounters with God are, because I haven't had them. I can't tell you how true they are or not, because I haven't had them. At the same time ... I feel that you are telling someone who doesn't have your faith what their experiences are, by saying that they aren't being served spiritually if the church isn't a faith you deem to be true. How can you possibly make that determination for another person? How could any of us? And I'm not sure you understand the concerns others have regarding this.

    **It's true, people may not feel wholly welcomed if they feel pressure to change, or their views challenged. **
    There is a difference between questioning/challenging someone's view, such as asking if the person is sure, or asking the person to compare that with the experience of another, and then saying that another person's encounter with God is incomplete, or not true, because it doesn't match yours. It's the latter situation that is going to cause difficulties.

    **But, at the sametime, I can't pretend that I don't care, One. Or, that it doesn't matter if our clergy think the Christian faith is basically a fairy tale.**
    But it doesn't matter for who? I completely understand that it matters to you a great deal, and that you will not be served or find value in a church that doesn't believe as you do. But that's not something you can decide for other people. And as soon as you start recommending that clergy step down for this very reason, regardless of how many people the clergy has helped, then it's forcing a decision upon other people.

    I'm not telling you to not care, and I'm not telling you to not share with people the joy that you've found, or even trying to forbid you from inviting them to your church. But John's views, and what he preaches, are not harming you, or forcing you to change. Insisting that he, or clergy like him, step down will harm others, because it gives them no voices, and no place to go.

    **For me, truth is not pluriform. I don't feel that all contradictory views can be equally true, and valid, because I don't think truth can contradict itself.**
    I know we've had this discussion before, but who is to say what is contradictory to us is also contradictory to God? (This argument requires care, because one of the things I hate about inerrancy claims of the Bible is the whole "our ways are not God's ways" and just because we don't get it, doesn't mean it's not true, it just means that the truth is above us or something).

    I mean, look at the very nature of the Trinity. It's a mathematical contradiction, and yet it's claimed as a truth by orthodox Christians. Or the idea of Jesus being man and God. Part of defining what a man is to exluding the idea of God. Man is finite, has a beginning, has an end, is mortal, is not omnipotent or all-knowing or any of that. Part of being God is that God is infinite, has no beginning/end, you get the idea. So it's saying that Jesus is both finite and infinite. Is that not also a contradiction?

    So why can't the contradiction be stretched further? Granted, you need lines somewhere. If we're going to define God as "love," then we can't also say God goes around throwing people out into space for sheer thrills, just because He likes depriving people of oxygen.

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  45. "One, I can see what you're saying. I really can. It's true, people may not feel wholly welcomed if they feel pressure to change, or their views challenged. "

    Wherever do you think that you've read THAT from me? Seriously, what the heck??

    In fact I stated quite the opposite in my very first comment on this thread, "I find, actually, that I appreciate hearing things in Church with which I don't already agree. I'm not made of tissue paper, and my faith isn't going to tear apart and blow away if I'm challenged a bit. "

    I'm just not sure how many times I have to say that I don't believe people are that fragile, and yet you come away with the notion that I mean exactly the opposite?

    I do try hard to read and understand what you've written, and I'm sure I'm failing at it. And I admit that this medium often encourages misunderstanding. But how someone can read what I've written and so consistently come up with the exact opposite meaning is beyond me -- unless they are only reading what they want to read, not what I've actually written.

    "Part of the problem here I'm sensing, and I might be wrong is a differing view of truth. For me, truth is not pluriform. I don't feel that all contradictory views can be equally true, and valid, because I don't think truth can contradict itself. "

    Yes you are wrong.

    I have never said, nor believed such a thing. I believe there is Truth, capital T. And I am absolutely sure you don't have it. And neither do I.

    "Just look at early church history, for instance. The view of the gnostics, and the view of the orthodox were very different. From where I stand, it would be impossible for all contradictory opinons to be true. And, I"m feeling that a loving God over time guided the church to truth, as He still does today. "

    As He still does today? You mean, "As He still does today as long as grace gets to be the gatekeeper." You say the right words, but it doesn't appear like you mean them. If you did, you'd trust Him to guide the church today too, and not spend your time trying to decide who deserves a membership card and who does not.

    "I think we need to find a balance between being open, allowing people to question, not just turning them away, and allowing our institutions to turn into just another religious cult."

    Hey as long as you feel comfortable making the rules, you go right ahead, but don't be too offended if people ignore your sinful attempts to Lord your opinion over those who disagree with you. Kick people out if you wish, grace. But be sure to mention that they're always welcome at my church, and John's too. I'll send your our brochures. I, for one, don't need the powertrip of only being in fellowship with people who always agree with me. I'm not that fragile.

    "Enough said."

    That's the one thing you've said that I both understand and agree with.

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  46. Alan,

    I believe the the comments following the paragraph below were addressed to me. She just abbreviated my name to "One."

    **"One, I can see what you're saying. I really can. It's true, people may not feel wholly welcomed if they feel pressure to change, or their views challenged. "**

    Hence, Grace wasn't reading that statement from your comments, she was getting them from mine.

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  47. Alan,

    I have to say this again. You've been around, I think, unloving, legalistic people who claim to be orthodox, and are confusing them with me. The last thing I want is to cruelly kick people out of the church, to the curb. As far as I'm concerned, we don't eat our wounded, either.

    But, this doesn't mean we don't care, and don't have to address these concerns with each other.

    I don't know what else to say, brother. And, thank you, One.

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  48. "The last thing I want is to cruelly kick people out of the church"

    That's good... So you can understand my concern when you say things like this: "From my perspective, it would be better if people never darkened the door of the church at all, if they are not going to hear Jesus proclaimed as Lord, and the truth of the "good news," when they get there."

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  49. Alan, I'm not seeing my comments as contradictory. But, if you want to talk some more feel free to e-mail. I'm open to talk anytime.

    Sincerely,
    Grace.

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  50. I have to say this again. You've been around, I think, unloving, legalistic people who claim to be orthodox, and are confusing them with me.

    Grace, I think you honestly believe this, but I have to point out that in the particular context of this discussion, you are advocating a LEGAL requirement be added to our Constitution that provides a list of "Right Beliefs" that has to be sworn to.

    You throw the "cult" term about a lot, but a "cult" tends to have an authoritarian structure with strict dogma and a "if you don't agree to all this, you're out of the group" mentality. If anything, the "doomsday" scenario you envision (that we would all become like the Unitarians---NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!) is the antithesis of a cult.

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