(my response in italics)
One thing three years of blogging has taught me…
A lot of Christians are know-it-all’s. They have got it figured out. They KNOW they are right and they KNOW I am wrong and they even KNOW why I ended up where I am today.
Take Britta, a commenter on the Welcome post:
Hi Bruce – I think I see how you ended up here. I’ve not read all of your posts, but it seems that your path is similar to a lot of folks: entrenched in some legalistic sect (borderline cults, really), then fleeing from that absurd burden you are comforted by those espousing that “the well is poisoned” (liberals of the old mainline groups), until finally you have to ditch it all. I can’t say I blame you too much – it’s exhausting to be tossed about on every wave.
Britta read all of about 15 posts. She didn’t read one post in the My Journey section. Based on 15 blog posts she came to the conclusions she did. Truly amazing, I must say. Many Christians have a magical gift of being able to pass judgment on most anybody using the slimmest of information. Of course this is directly opposite of what the Bible teaches. A Christian should never make any judgment before hearing (reading) the whole story.
But I don’t believe that you’re an athiest. Sure, you say you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, but you do believe in a god. You. Perfectly reasonable, actually. There is no other choice. I know that know other god is going to show up and pronounce himself as such — and you know it, too, despite your protestations — and so you get to stay god of your world. Tah-dah! (Atheism is really disingenuous.)
Britta evidently thinks that there is no such thing as an atheist. Either a person believes in the Christian God or they are their own God. Atheists need not apply.
No matter how many times Christians like Britta assert there is no such thing as an atheist……..here we are. And our numbers are growing. Pretending something doesn’t exist doesn’t make it so.
If by God, Britta means the person in control, then yes, I am my own God. It is my life, who else would be in control of my life?
Christians are no different. Oh, they “say” God is in control of their lives but they, for the most part, don’t live any differently than the atheist. Christians and atheists alike are….human and act as humans act. Are Christians morally superior than atheists? The evidence suggest they are not. Day in and day out Christians and atheists alike live their lives the best they know how. The Christian is every bit as much the God of his world as the atheist. (contrary to what the Bible says) The Christians speaks about a God who is in control of everything but then turns around and lives as if God is not not in control at all. (except for an occasional winning touchdown or election win)
Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps, despite your own time in the pulpit, you never understood the simplicity of grace. It really is foolishness to the perishing, but life to those being saved, so here ’tis, for good measure:
Britta now gets down to what she really thinks……Despite 50 years in the Christian church, despite 25 years in the pastorate…..I never understood the simplicity of grace.
Of course the unstated point here is that Britta understands what I do not. She proves her point by loosely quoting a Bible verse. It is all foolishness to me because I am perishing. (lost, headed for hell) It is life to her because she is one of the saved. (or one that is being saved)
You (and me and all of us) are not perfect. A God worth worshiping IS perfect. Perfection rightly demands perfection, and since none of us can attain perfection, God offered himself in our place to be that perfection. Nothing we do merits his gift. All we have to do is accept it — that is, bend a knee and admit that we are lost without God and his gift of grace.
Britta and I agree on one thing……none of us are perfect. However, Britta’s comment betrays an arrogance found among many Christians. While they may not be perfect they seem to think their interpretation of the Bible is perfect.
Britta asserts God is perfect. What proof does she have that God is perfect? The Bible? Surely not. God should never have written the Bible. By putting it all down on the printed page he opened himself up to charges that he is far from perfect. In fact, God is quite capricious. He even changes his mind. I would think a perfect being would get it right the first time. God fucked it up from the start. He couldn’t even get creation right.
Evidently Britta has not read James. James seems to contradict Britta’s assertion that salvation is a free gift and that all we have to do is receive it. James says, faith without works is dead. So which is it? Faith alone? Faith plus works?
(and I should add that Britta does a poor job at presenting the Christian gospel. Her presentation is incomplete, to say the least.)
It’s an easy burden — but the crank legalist won’t allow it, neither will an ersatz intellectual grasp it. I’m sorry both camps have been so hard on you. (Really, I am sorry – no snark.) It takes the Spirit of God to discern things of the spirit. I’ll pray that God will open His Word to you.
Britta betrays the true nature of much of modern Christianity. It is nothing more the good, old fashioned Gnosticism. You see, a person can’t discern the Bible, the things of the Spirit, unless the Spirit of God gives them the ability to do so. On one hand people are told they must repent and believe the gospel but on the other hand they are told they can’t even discern what God wants unless God lets them.
Britta thinks she has a special, inside track with God. She is praying that God will open up the Bible to me. What is God going to show me that I haven’t already seen? Is there some secret message, some secret code that has somehow eluded me all these years? How will I know if God opens up the Bible to me? Will I start speaking Aramaic Greek?
I wish you the best, sir…
What if “best” is where I am now? Does Britta genuinely wish me the best? Of course not. There is no “best” without Jesus. (or Britta’s version of Jesus)
Next is a comment from Jason who commented on the What Do Christians Really Believe about God, Jesus and the Bible post.
I have no doubt that there are “Christians” that don’t understand a lot. Many of them, as you say, may be inclined to blindly follow. However, I don’t agree that this is true of most or any “real” Christians. Those actively reading God’s word and being involved in church groups would not follow these categories. The “Christians” you are referring to in these statements are the ones who are simply professing Christians.
Right away Jason lets me know that there are two types of Christians, professing Christians and REAL Christians. Of course Jason is a REAL Christian. I find it interesting that every Christian who takes this approach always thinks they are one of the REAL Christians. Calvinists do the same. I have never met a Calvinist who didn’t say they were one of the elects. Seems quite self-serving.
About this statement:
“Christians are confused about what salvation is. Of course this is understandable because the Bible teaches many different plans of salvation.”
I don’t quite understand what you mean by the Bible teaches many different plans of salvation. It says clearly that Jesus is the only way to God the Father in John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me’”. The Bible also explains in Romans 5:8 that Jesus did in our place and wiped our sin clean “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” It’s beyond me what other kind of “plan of salvation” could be.
Jason is perplexed by my statement that the Bible teaches many different plans of salvation. I know Jason has been “taught” that there is only one plan of salvation but he might want to read the Good Book again.
In the Old Testament how were people saved? By keeping the law.
In the New Testament how were people saved? Paul said by faith. James said by faith and works. In Acts the early Church concluded that certain works were required for Gentiles to be saved.
There are hundreds of Christian sects. Every sect has their own take on salvation. Is it by faith alone? If it by faith and works? Is it by baptism for the remission of sins? Must a person speak in tongues as evidence of salvation? Must a person persevere to the end to be saved?
Supposedly, the salvation message is so simple that even a child can understand it. If so, why is there so much confusion in Christianity? If, as Britta says above, the Holy Spirit gives discernment, why is there so much confusion? Maybe the Holy Spirit needs to be relieved of his duties. Perhaps God should do away with the Bible and put out a FAQ. In the FAQ God should state very clearly his demands. Use as few words as possible. Surely God wants everyone to know the simple gospel message. Oh wait, no he doesn’t since he created some people so he could damn them and he even makes some people spiritually deaf so they will not hear the gospel. What kind of God says to a deaf man, HEAR?
I understand that you, as a former pastor, may have been faced with many people that fell under the categories listed, but I reassure you that Christians, like myself, who, really in their hearts believe that Jesus is their savior and make that effort to learn more about Him, don’t really fit the description.
Jason wants me to know that he is not like those other Christians. He is a sincere Christian. He is a devoted Christian. He really, really believes in his heart and he makes an effort to know more about Jesus…..not like those other “not real” Christians.
I am sure Jason means well. I have no doubt he is sincere in his belief. That said, my only advice to him is to read as many books as possible that challenge the version of Christianity he thinks is the “way, truth, and life.” Carefully read the Bible. Forget what you have been taught. What if Paul, Peter, and James really taught three different plans of salvation? What if there really are multiple Gods in the Old Testament? Instead of interpreting everything through a Trinitarian Protestant lens, take a look at the text as written. When the Bible says “Let US make man in our image” don’t assume US means the Trinitarian Protestant God. Maybe it means multiple Gods. Polytheism can be found all over the Old Testament if a person takes off their Trinitarian Protestant blinders.
Every Christian thinks they are right. Their God is the right God. Their plan of salvation is the right plan. Their interpretation of the Bible is the right interpretation. Uncertainty and doubt are the tools of Satan. Maybe, I am a Satanist after all. If I can get Christians to at least profess a healthy dose of uncertainty and doubt they will be better off and so will everyone else. (Certainty often brings death and destruction) If so, I am indeed doing Satan’s work. (or the Devil, or Lucifer, of Beelzebub, or whatever the heaven his name is)