Religion

The Way International: Carol’s Story Part Five

guest post

What follows is the last part of Carol’s story about her involvement with The Way International and her journey out of it. I thought it would be interesting for readers to read the story of someone who journeyed out of a non-orthodox Christian religion. I hope you have enjoyed reading Carol’s story. (though it is hard to read this last post and say the word “enjoy.”)

In the summer of 2005, one of my counselors asked if I would write my health story to be included in a book. She asked a few of her clients this same request. She had specific topics she wanted covered…and thus the content of the following narrative, a rendition of what I submitted for the book.

It took me about nine months to write the narrative. At the time, varying factors made it an arduous tasks.

In the midst of writing it, I made the life-changing decision to exit The Way International to which I’d been a loyal follower for 28 years. I had gotten deeply involved with The Way in 1977 at the age of 18.

During my fourth year of Way loyalty, at age 22, I developed asthma and other symptoms of an over-responsive immune system. These symptoms worsened during subsequent years and continued for the following seventeen years. At the age of 41, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, a diagnosis which was later questioned with evidence that a more accurate diagnosis would be PTSD or C-PTSD.

In 1998 during my twenty-first year of Way loyalty, at 39 years old, out of desperation, I began to journal. In 2005, seven years and over a dozen journals later, I left The Way; I literally wrote my way out. I had allowed myself to begin to understand that certain Way doctrines had played a major role in my emotional suppression which manifested as chronic illness.

The Way teaches a health and wealth gospel.

Seeking Life Along The Way: III John 2 ?

(Addendum to Parts 1 through 4)

[Originally penned in 2005, with later adaptations.]

At 46 years old I sat across from my counselor. She looked in my eyes and stated, “Carol, I want you to start thinking like a well person.”

The statement stunned me. I felt nebulously lost within it having no concept of what her words meant. Over the next few days I rolled the statement over and over in my head and heart. The ensuing story is part of the journey endeavoring to discover what it means to think like a well person.

I choose the 39th year of my life as the threshold for the following meandering, a snippet of my journey. It was in that year that I began to submerge myself in ink and page, writing my way toward wellness. Journaling changed my course from death to life, from despair to hope.

At 39 years old I was married with two children, ages 8 and 10. For the last 17 years I had suffered with severe asthma; numerous bouts of pneumonia; multiple sinus surgeries; environmental, chemical, food, and inhalant allergies; hives, welts, and various skin disorders; systemic candida; depression; anxiety; mood swings; chronic fatigue; body aches; and a myriad of other symptoms that go with an over-responsive and depleted immune system. I had been pumped with intravenous drugs, swallowed or inhaled a host of pharmaceuticals (including 1000′s of doses of steroids), been pricked with needles 100′s (if not 1000′s) of times for various reasons, and received a myriad of allergy antigens. Alongside with conventional treatments, I had utilized alternative therapies including homeopathy, oral and intravenous vitamin/mineral supplementation, strict dietary protocols, acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, and some psychological counseling.

Exhaustion and depression were constant companions. I was caught in a sticky, mucous-coated, stagnant, thickened, stringy web that felt like it morphed in every tissue and cell beneath my skin. I felt trapped in my own body. I craved to breathe freely. I thirsted for fluid energy and to move without pain. I dreamed of running like a deer, graceful and free through the woods. I hungered for freedom.

I often felt like a complete failure as a believer, as a mother, as a person. Shame coursed through my veins. My suicide plan was foolproof, but I couldn’t leave my children with the legacy that their mother had committed suicide. My children were my saving grace, my reason to keep drawing one more breath, to keep trying.

Life was not always dreary; I had stretches of hope, using affirmations to convince myself of improvement. Yet now my hope was depleted; it was time to quit hoping. I had clung to a belief that, according to the scriptures, God’s will for me was complete health. It was time to give up the dream that I could actually get well; death seemed the only alternative for release. Instead of a pistol for death, I chose a pen and began to write.

Emotions crystallized into words upon the page detailing the self loathing, the asthma attacks, the pain that racked my body, the exhaustion, the anger, the murky darkness of it all. I felt such deep, deep shame and self-hatred. Day after day I filled the pages; I held nothing back. I poured it all onto paper, including dreams and hopes. I wrote because I had to; I did not know what else to do. I never imagined that by putting pen to parchment my circumstances would begin to change, but they did in a most powerful way.

Within a few months of starting to journal I was hospitalized yet again (October, 1998) and connected with a doctor that discovered I was suffering with mercury toxicity, a typical cause for immune dysfunction. In January, 1999, I was again hospitalized and connected with a different doctor who confirmed the mercury toxicity. That same month I began an intense two-year detox regimen which included oral chelation therapy, intravenous and oral vitamin and mineral therapy, hydrocolon therapy, low heat saunas, and coffee enemas. I continued to journal profusely and began to re-educate myself on healing; I began to have hope again. My doctors believed I could gain wellness. Unknown to me at that time, I suffered my last severe episode of asthma attacks.

After six months from the last asthma attacks, I was able to start addressing more definitively other symptoms: fatigue, mood swings, hives that crawled on and under my skin. Aches and pains surfaced all over my body, like chained prisoners desperately crying for release. Yet I was hopeful; the asthma was curbed. I had new treatments to try. Maybe my body could get well; if I could learn better how to listen to what it was trying to communicate to me, maybe I could allow it to heal itself. Maybe, maybe, just maybe….

The next regimen on my agenda was a treatment known as Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD), a complex treatment that approached the reprogramming of miscoded T-helper cells. Every eight weeks, for 1-1/2 years, I would receive an injection containing over 200 antigens mixed with an enzyme to penetrate the miscoded cells; go into quarantine for five days; and eat only venison, tapioca flour with water, and sweet potatoes. My health improved with EPD: a “sore spot” in my left lung that had been present since my last bout with pneumonia cleared; some skin conditions improved; my sense of smell was restored; allergic reactions and energy improved. My hope was growing. Then the FDA abruptly stopped the use of EPD in the United States. My sense of smell was stolen again and some allergy troubles resurfaced. But I remained hopeful that other doors would open for me.

With the improvements and hope, I pulled out books I had previously read regarding healing and reviewed them. I was led to new books and devoured them. During this time I was diagnosed with a herniated disc, confirmed with an MRI. A friend loaned me the book, Healing Back Pain, by Dr. John Sarno. Within six weeks of applying what I had read, the back spasms were 80% better; after five months they were completely gone.

Due to the improvements gained from applying what I had learned via Sarno’s work, I was prompted to delve more deeply into the relationship between my emotions and my physical illnesses, the effects of the dance between the two. How many of my illnesses and symptoms could be due to suppressed emotions? Was I honest enough to be able to open up and see what really lurked in my soul? In late 2000, I began weekly psychological counseling. This soul excavation was a gruesome task at times, but in the end was more than worth the effort.

Over the following four years, as I delved deeper into this excavation, I developed a support network and program which consisted of journaling, bibliotherapy, and relationships with a handful of people and professionals that I could call upon. The support network was vital for me. I grew in my ability to open up, to peek within and see the ugliness and the beauty. Of course I saw more ugliness than beauty. But I began to understand that even what I perceived as “ugly” was okay; I didn’t have to fear it. My hope grew. My life was changing.

During these four years my symptoms became less intense and then plateaued. I lived managing mood swings; hives and sneezing attacks a few times a week; and a hormone dysfunction that would manifest in severe aches, depression, and cognitive impairment at least five days per month. I continued my search for relief through conventional means (including medications for the depression), bodywork, nutrition, homeopathy, and energy medicine. I took about 50 pills a day in the form of supplements. I continued with counseling and journaling. I began to think that this was as well as I could get.

Then, in latter-2004, I was introduced to a nutritional product that had more life-changing effects. Within nine months of consuming this product my hives completely disappeared. The mood swings and debilitating hormone dysfunction were probably 85% better. I was able to get off my daily psychiatric medications. My energy was more stable. I went from feeling I was hit by an 18-wheeler at least five days a month to being hit by a bicycle a few days a month. I was beginning to taste freedom.

It was during this time, when I began to taste freedom, that my counselor stated those unforgettable words , “Carol I want you to start thinking like a well person.” My adult life had revolved around sickness – a science of schedules and charts and foods and medications and tests and treatments. This new experience of wellness was scary. Oddly I found myself wanting to break down, but couldn’t. I thought I would run free once liberated from this tyranny of entrapment. Yet, I was in new territory, unfamiliar, uncomfortable. What was I to do with myself now? It took me six to eight months to become comfortable with being “well.”

In the fall of 2005 I was well enough to make some major religious/spiritual changes; after 28 years of involvement, I chose to leave, what I had slowly come to see, was an abusive religious organization. In hindsight, I have no doubt that certain doctrines and practices of this group were a major contributor to the chronic illnesses with which I had been ensnared. Without the wellness I had been granted by 2005, I don’t know if I could have made the break from that organization; it took much resolve and energy that I didn’t have prior to 2004.

Since divorcing the organization, personal relationships that were shunned from decades past have been renewed; crevices I had sealed have been exhumed; step by step hidden bubbles have surfaced and closet doors have opened. Certain of these exposures allowed my heart a resuscitation, new life. I came face to face with neglect and abandonment issues, grief, and loss. I see with greater clarity underlying emotional causes that contributed to those decades of illness from the age of 22 until I was 46. My relationship with my husband has been restored. Music and poetry have become integral parts of my life. I have been able to tap into my heart again.

What are my maintenance practices? Decent nutrition, medications as needed, rest; movement, nature, play; mindfulness, reading, writing; music, movies, laughter; and relationships. Relationships with myself, my environment, and loved ones are the fabric of life instilling hope and encouragement, even when times look dim and dark and when it seems the sun will not rise again. When I experience physiological symptoms or tumultuous emotions I endeavor to seek self-awareness and then to listen and follow the paths that offer relief.

What does it mean to think like a well person? It means I recognize that I am significant, worthy of love, fully human, and a vital member of the human family. I am not an appliance that requires fixing; rather, I am a yearning individual with an innate need for love, acknowledgment, and to know my value.

 Notes

The book, Healing Back Pain (mentioned above), prompted me to dig deeper for a specific program to help guide me in uncovering emotional causes for physical symptoms.  That search led me to MindBodyMedicine.com by Dr. David Schechter. Dr. Schechter, has a specifically designed journaling, reading, and education program that enabled me to better tap into emotional causes that had prompted certain physical symptoms, thus providing healing and relief in those areas.

Addendum to the addendum

  • In 2008, at age 49, I had full, left hip replacement surgery. Doctors speculate that my left hip bone degeneration was brought on by the high doses of steroids I consumed in the past – consumed to keep me breathing. That said, all in all under the circumstances, my bones are in good shape
  • In 2010, I contracted MRSA, which erupted 4 different times that year.
  • In 2011, I developed an “idiosyncratic serum sickness like response” to oral terbinafine.
  • In May, 2013, the “serum sickness like response” diagnosis was changed to drug-induced peripheral neuropathy, specifically polyradiculitus (inflammation of the nerve roots), which has produced nerve damage in all my limbs. My body and brain and heart are still coming to terms with the nerve damage as I continue to seek answers.

Published: April 16, 2014 | Comments: 10

Women, Don’t You Feel Special?

women in the home

In the early 1980′s, I heard Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist Baptist pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, say, We don’t believe in equal rights for women, we believe in superior rights. Falwell went on to say that the Bible actually elevates women on a pedestal and that equal rights for women would actually be a step down for them.  Evidently, Falwell’s Bible didn’t have the verses that gave approval to men treating women as property or the verses that countless Evangelical preachers have used to justify their “women should be ignorant, barefoot, pregnant, keepers of the home” belief.

Last year, in a post titled, Why Would Any Woman Want to Be and Evangelical Christian, I wrote:

Why would any woman want to be a Christian? If the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by God, and every word is true, why would any modern, thinking woman ever darken the door of an Evangelical church?

Over the past hundred years women have continued to gain rights and privileges kept from them by men, law, and social propriety. The right to vote. Equal pay for equal work. The right to use birth control. The right to have an abortion. The right to divorce.  While women do not yet have equal rights and privileges in this country, huge progress has been made to that end.

Why don’t women have true equal rights and privileges in America? Don’t deceive yourself into thinking they do. There are still places in our society where the signs say Men Only.

The primary reason women are denied basic civil rights and social privileges is the teachings of the Christian Bible. While we rightly criticize the patriarchy movement, the basic tenets of the movement were common practice a hundred years ago.

Christianity teaches that women are inferior to men. The Bible calls women a weaker vessel. The Bible teaches women are to be married, keepers of the home, bearers of children, and sex partners for their husband. (unless the husband goes Old Testament and has multiple wives and concubines). Quite simply, the Bible teaches that the world of women revolves around husband, food, children, and sex.

If the Bible is meant to be taken as written, women have no part in the governance of society or the church. Women are relegated to teaching children, and, as women age, they are given the task of teaching younger women how to be a good wife…

You can read the entire post here.

Derick Dickens, in an article for the The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, takes the same approach Falwell did thirty years ago. (Dickens is a graduate of Liberty University)  Dickens  thinks that women, the weaker vessel, should received high honor rather than equal rights. He goes on to blame many of the woes women have on feminism and their demand for equality. Dickens writes:

…It demands us to ask some serious questions.  Has the last century of women’s rights not touched the home?  Has women’s equality not turned the tide of divorce?  Has it not lifted women out of poverty instead of sinking them further into poverty?  Women’s equality has failed precisely because it is misplaced from the Biblical understanding of women.  It has failed precisely because it misunderstands the honor God has given to women.

In short, if you think women are equal to men, then you have too low of a view of women.  Women are not merely equal, they are to be honored and esteemed unlike that of a man.

Honoring women is not merely my opinion, but this is the Christian ethic.  It is why men traditionally bent on one knee to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, men would open the door for her, and men willingly sacrificed their life to save a woman.

Granted, abuses have often taken place in our culture and previous cultures.  However, this should not be looked at with the ever critical eye that fails to realize all the facts of the situation.  There were abuses of the past because of mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality.

Rather than see these abuses subside, they have escalated in modern times.  For instance, women account for 75% of all people trapped in the slave trade.  For every three childhood victims of human trafficking, two are girls (Source: UNODC).  The heinous injustice brought upon girls and women should make our blood boil in anger and every decent human being cry out for the eradication of this evil.

The abuses that are easier to “live with” are those couched in the language of modernity.  Women, for profit and sale, are treated as sex objects on magazines and television.  Being remade to look nothing like they appear, women are donned in scant bikinis to sell products like beer, cars, football, and even tools.  Parts of our society have made women utilitarian.  This may be better than the sex slave trade but only by degree (Matthew 5:28)

What may be an attempt by some overreacting to abuses towards women has been an effort to make women completely the same as men.  In some cases, this has forced women to be a clone of their male counterparts, or in other cases forced men to be exactly like women.  In both cases, this is a travesty to women.

Women do not find their greatest worth in being like men but in being a woman.  It is her uniqueness that should be cherished, but not to the extremes either side tends to push her.  One celebrates the woman as having a utilitarian purpose in satisfying the sinful lusts of man, the other celebrates her distinct from her sexuality.

Both are wrong.  Both seek to diminish women from being what they were created to be–a woman.

In turning to the Scripture, we extinguish the often cited critique that women are not as smart or capable as men.  Proverbs 31, for instance, shows the virtuous woman as possessing gifts that would make most men jealous.  She is intelligent, resourceful, hard working, and respectful–a tremendous force of dignity and wisdom.

These qualities, though, should not make us treat women like men.  Women are to be treated distinctly like a woman.  Husbands are called to reflect towards these women a demonstration of the greatest love ever shown, a love that willingly died in her place (Ephesians 5:25).  For a man, he should represent her as a person worthy enough for us to die for, to present as pure, to uplift as glorious, and acknowledged as magnificent…

…In the Biblical Worldview, women have a dignity all their own that allows us, men, to selflessly serve until our dying days.  They are bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, but they are much more.  They are women and for that reason we should give them a greater honor.

You can read entire article here.

Dickens speaks in glowing terms about how women are treated when the Biblical pattern for the sexes is followed. According to Professor Dickens, our culture’s unwillingness to follow this pattern has resulted in women being far worse off today than they were before equal rights for women and modern feminism convinced women that they had equal status in our culture. (and equality for women is still an unrealized goal, like with racism, we have come a long way, but we have a long way to go before we can say, women are equal)

Dickens seems deliberately ignorant of history, both ancient history and American history. Rather than seeing the Bible and Christianity as the source of many of abuses and ill-treatment women have received, Dickens thinks “mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality” is the problem. Evidently, he can not see that perhaps Christianity and Bible wedded to “mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality” is the real explanation for the deplorable treatment of women throughout much of the history of the United States.

Dickens article is a poignant reminder that little has changed for Evangelical women. Their overlords continue to use the Bible to subjugate and control them. Sadly, for many Evangelical women, including my wife for many years, they know of no other world but one where the Derick Dickens of the world are their lords. These lords convince them, through words supposedly from the mouth of God, that their highest calling in life is to be a weaker vessel, a wife, a mother, and a keeper of the home. Wanting any other kind of life is a step away from God’s wonderful, super-super plan for their life.

So what do you think readers? I am especially interested in hearing from female readers. Do you desire to return to days before equality and feminism? Now that you are free from the strictures of Bible, how has your life changed? For the better, for the worse? Please share your thoughts!!

Notes

Dickens teaches business for Santa Barbara Business College and Geneva College.

Derick Dickens blog

Derick Dickens Twitter

Published: April 16, 2014 | Comments: 5

If Jesus Had a Wife

The Christian world is buzzing with the news that Jesus might have had a wife. You can read about the debate here. This debate doesn’t interest me much, but a recently discovered First Century video clip sure does. It’s hard to believe, but video archeologists have found a video tape of the married Jesus with his wife:

YouTube Preview Image

 

Published: April 16, 2014 | Comments: 2

The Creationist COSMOS

Ever wonder what a Creationist COSMOS would look like? Perhaps it would look like this:

Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments: 3

Jesus is the Only One That Matters

all about jesus

In a recent Gospel Coalition article, Nancy Guthrie had this to say:

…We were an hour and fifteen minutes in to today’s funeral before anyone read from the scriptures, and further in until there was a prayer. Resurrection wasn’t mentioned until the benediction. There were too many funny stories to tell about the deceased, too many recollections, too many good things to say about the things he accomplished to speak of what Christ has accomplished on his behalf.

But then this wasn’t a funeral. It was a “Celebration of Life.” In fact there was really little mention of death or of the ugly way sickness slowly robbed our friend of everything. Christ and his saving benefits could not be made much of because death and its cruelties were largely ignored…

Guthrie, like many Evangelical Christians, believes that the only thing/person that matters in life is Jesus. Even in the most personal of moments, a funeral, Guthrie wants everything to be about Jesus. The person in the coffin is of no consequence. The life they lived mattered little, because without Jesus they had no life. Without Jesus, their life had no meaning or purpose.

Guthrie, the good Calvinist she is, wallows in her depravity. She sees herself as a loathsome, vile worm, a putrid corpse of sin and defilement. That is, until Jesus regenerated her and gave her new life. From that moment forward, her life was not about her but about Jesus. From the moment of her new birth to the moment she dies, she is a nobody. Only Jesus matters.

In Guthrie’s mind, the best funeral is one where the minister says, Joe Smith lived, knew Jesus, and died. Now let me tell you about Jesus, his death and resurrection, and the ugliness of sin and death. In other words, Guthrie wants the funeral to be like a church service, a passive event where Jesus is praised and everyone and everything else doesn’t matter.

This approach is dehumanizing and it robs the dead person of all that made them who and what they are. If they lived a full life then they left behind countless memories and stories that certainly ought to be told. Why not celebrate the dead person’s life? Why not, one last time, remember them for what they said and did?

Guthrie sees funerals as an opportunity to be reminded of our worthlessness and the awesomeness of Jesus. Any talk of the good works and good life of the deceased is too humanistic, too worldly for her. Rather than making much of the deceased, she desires a service where the dead person is just a pretext to talk about the man of the hour, Jesus.

If the funeral service is really all about Jesus, perhaps it is proper to ask exactly what Jesus did for Guthrie’s friend whose ugly sickness slowly robbed them of everything? Did Jesus physically comfort and aid her friend?  Did he have the power to heal her friend? Did Jesus do so? Of course not, her friend died.

Suppose a friend of yours died in a car accident. Your friend could have been saved by a doctor who stopped to gawk at the accident. The doctor offered no aid and made no attempt to save your friend from death. He had to hurry home to help his wife find her car keys. Everyone in your town knows the doctor could have saved your friends life, yet he did nothing. Does anyone think that the doctor should be the guest of honor at your friend’s funeral? Of course not. How is this any different from praising a deity who sat idly by while Guthrie’s friend suffered and died? This deity had “all power” yet did nothing.

Guthrie betrays the fact that she is really just like us unwashed, uncircumcised, celebration of life, Philistines when she writes “In fact there was really little mention of death or of the ugly way sickness slowly robbed our friend of everything.” Robbed her friend of everything? Wait a minute, I thought JESUS was E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G? Isn’t everything else about their life, even their suffering, just the minutia of life? Why bother to even mention the deceased? Are they not just a prop used to preach the gospel to those who came to the service thinking they were attending so-and-so’s celebration of life?

I was once like Guthrie. I saw funerals as an opportunity to preach the gospel, to witness to people who would not likely darken the doors of the church I pastored. While I did spend some time reflecting on the life of the deceased, that is if they were a Christian, my main focus was preaching the gospel. In one church, a dear, close friend of mine, a devoted follower of Jesus, died at the age of 40. His funeral was held at the church and for 40 minutes I hammered his Catholic and Methodist family with the Calvinistic gospel. I even told them that the deceased had specifically asked me to preach at his funeral, knowing that it likely would be the last time they would ever hear the gospel.

What did I accomplish? Nothing. I thoroughly offended my friend’s family and from that day forward I was, to many of them, Pastor Son-of-a-bitch. In Guthrie’s eyes, I did the right thing. I exalted Jesus. I made the funeral about sin, death, and resurrection. But in the eyes of my friend’s family, I made their loved one’s life of little to no consequence. The life their brother/uncle/father/friend lived, his good works, his commitment to his family and his job, none of these things really mattered. According to the Bible “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” Any good this man did was because of Jesus and any bad he did was due to his sinful, carnal nature.

Simply put, Jesus ALWAYS gets top billing.  This is why I have, for the most part, stopped going to Evangelical funerals. Since the deceased is of no consequence, why should I subject myself to the prattle of a preacher as he tries to use guilt (sin) and fear (death) to coerce people, at a time when they are emotionally vulnerable, to become a Christian?

Published: April 15, 2014 | Comments: 6

Dear Thom Brennaman

Thom Brennaman is a TV/Radio sportscaster for the Cincinnati Reds. He is the son of legendary Reds sportscaster Marty Brennaman. He has been a sportscaster with the Reds since the 2007 season.

Over the years, I have put up with Brennaman’s incessant babbling about his former gig with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Every time the Reds play the Diamondbacks, my sons and I predict how long into the game Brennaman will go before he says, When I was with the Diamondbacks….

A couple of years back, Brennaman was roundly ridiculed for what he said about Tim Tebow while broadcasting the 2009 NCAA National College Football Championship Game:

YouTube Preview Image

Video Link

Like many people, Brennaman had/has one huge man crush on Tim Tebow. So much so that there is a slang word now associated with Brennaman’s love for Tim Tebow:

tebowner

After listening to Brennaman hundreds of times over the past seven years, it is clear to me that Brennaman is a devout Christian of some sort. His religiosity is subtle but it does graphically show itself from time to time. Two weeks ago, the Reds hosted the St. Louis Cardinals. During the game a Reds batter fouled a ball off and Cardinal first baseman Matt Adams went into the first base stands to try to catch the ball. Before Adams could catch the ball a fan grabbed it and Adams shoved the fan with his glove. (according to stadium rules, a fan has a right to catch any ball that comes into the stands)  After the Adams started to return to first base, the fan, in wonderful, classic, we hate the f*&%)*&g Cardinals fashion, did this:

reds fans giving the finger

You can view  a GIF of the play here.

The fan displaying the national hand sign for love caused Brennaman to launch into a sermon about how it is ALWAYS inappropriate to give anyone the finger, especially while worshiping at Great American Ballpark Church. Brennaman couldn’t see me, but I gave HIM a double-barreled salute in response to his moralizing. As Mike Wilbon, on Pardon the Interruption, said the day after the game, the only thing better would have been if the fan had given Adams and the Cardinals a double-barreled salute. Unlike Brennaman, Michael Wilbon understands the Reds-Cardinals rivalry and he loves and appreciates the passion the fan showed on national TV.

Which brings me to last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. If you are a baseball fan you might remember that the Tampa Bay RAYS were once called the Tampa Bay DEVIL RAYS. Brennaman decided to launch into a sermon, worthy of any fundamentalist Baptist preacher, about how Tampa Bay only started winning a lot of games and championships AFTER they dropped the word DEVIL from their name.  I kid you not.

Brennaman again reveals the religiosity that lurks just below the surface waiting to explode any time Brennaman’s moral sensibilities are offended. Does he seriously believe they won more games just by changing their name? What…was God sitting in heaven just waiting to bless them with a MLB championship once they saw the light and changed their name? (the year after changing their name, Tamp Bay went 97-65 and made it to the World Series)

Here’s what I want to say to Thom Brennaman…

Shut up. I am not interested in your religious beliefs or moralizing. I am a Reds baseball fan and what I want to hear is BASEBALL not sermonizing or moralizing. I am not interested in your opinion about Reds fans, Tim Tebow, or whether God is concerned with what name a baseball team has. What I want to hear is stats and commentary about the game, the Reds, and the opposing team. If I want to  hear a sermon, I will flip over to one of the dozen religious channels that I receive with my satellite service.

Published: April 14, 2014 | Comments: 2

Has the Christian Church Always Believed In Salvation by Right Belief?

trinity

To hear liberal/progressive/mainline Christians tell it, it is modern Evangelicals that have corrupted the doctrine of salvation and turned it into salvation by right belief. Evangelicals, following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, preach a gospel of believe this and thou shalt live. Liberal/progressive Christians like to think that they are the Jesus party, focusing on good works rather than right beliefs. This is not to say, of course, that liberal/progressive Christians have no beliefs. They do, but their list of things that must be believed is a lot smaller.

As I was finishing up the book A.D. 381: Heretics, Pagans, and the Dawn of the Monotheistic State by Charles Freeman, I read a quote from the Athanasian Creed, one of the historic church creeds that many Christians, especially liberal/progressive/mainline Christians, consider statements of the Holy Christian faith. As I read the quote it became very clear to me that liberal/progressive/mainline Christians are really no different from their Evangelical brethren when it comes to salvation by right belief.

Ask any liberal/progressive/mainline Christian if they affirm and embrace the teaching of the Athanasian Creed and they will likely say yes. If this is so, I would love for them to explain how this:

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly…

…This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

is any different from what Evangelicals say? Since practitioners of  Sabellianism, Arianism, and Unitarianism are found yet today, are these people Christians?  After all, they worship Jesus and they believe their teachings come straight from the Bible, just like the Trinitarians. Can they still be Christians and have beliefs that the Church declared heretical and worthy of damnation and hellfire almost 1,600 years ago?

The Evangelical is often clear about what MUST be believed in order to be saved. The liberal/progressive Christian, at least from my exposure to them on this blog, seem hesitant to say that anything MUST be believed in order to be saved. But, does not this position make a mockery of the Athanasian Creed they profess is a historic statement of their faith?

Published: April 14, 2014 | Comments: 8

Augustine’s Lack of Curiosity About the Natural World

augustine

Hang around Calvinists long enough and you will find out that next to the Apostle Paul, the first Calvinist, Augustine is their favorite church father. Augustine, the bishop of Hippo in the 4th and 5th century, developed the concept of original sin and was a defender of predestination and Nicene theology. Many Calvinists, who fawn over Augustine, love to say that Christianity can be defended on rational grounds. I wonder if they realize Augustine did not think Christianity could be defended rationally. Speaking of Trinity, Augustine wrote:

(The Trinity is) a mystery of faith, one of those mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God…God’s inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone. (A.D. 381 by Charles Freeman, page 168)

According to historian Charles Freeman, Augustine had little interest in reason or the study of the natural world:

Augustine was not sympathetic towards the study of the natural world. In his Soliloquia, an early work, he asks himself the rhetorical question of what he wishes to know. “I desire to know God and the soul. Nothing besides? Nothing whatsoever.”  As so often with Augustine, his attitude darkens with time, not least in his approach to the natural world. One can see the development of his thought through a study of the way he uses the term curiositas, what Aristotle would have seen as the healthy “desire to know”, above all to explore and understand the world available to the senses. To Augustine, curiositas is always unhealthy in so far that it diverts attention away from God. In the Confessions, he provides a critique of the term as essentially sinful. “There is another form of temptation, even more fraught with danger. This is the disease of curiosity…It is this which drives us to try and discover the secrets of nature, these secrets which are beyond our understanding, which can avail us nothing, and which man should not wish to learn.”…The weight of original sin is such, he argues, that it has left no more than a tiny spark of reason intact in the human mind.  His views—and here he has much in common with the eastern theologians of the day—led, in one the words of one scholar, to a “preoccupation with the minutiae of theological doctrine, as well as a distaste, sometimes bordering on the pathological, for the speculations and investigations of worldly natural science.” (A.D. 381 by Charles Freeman, page 169)

Freeman concludes:

There are still those who argue that Christian thought was in some way more sophisticated  than that of the pagan world, even that medieval Christianity initiated modern science, but this argument is difficult to sustain when the most influential of western theologians, Augustine, takes such a jaundiced view of the study of the natural world and the use of reason based on empirical observation that goes with it. It took Thomas Aquinas to restore faith in the power of the reasoning mind to Christian theology, while Augustine’s works remained the first call of those who opposed his endeavor. (A.D. 381 by Charles Freeman, page 169, 170)

As  I shared in a previous post, Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait, many Evangelicals are not very curious. Many of you shared in the comments about your experiences with Evangelicals who have little curiosity, who like  Augustine, “desire to know God and the soul. Nothing besides? Nothing whatsoever.”  As I said in my post “Curiosity may kill the cat, but trust me Evangelicals, it won’t kill you.” Curiosity may, as Augustine feared, lead a person away from the Christian faith, but if truth is the objective then a searching, curious mind is absolutely necessary.  It means being willing to look outside the box. (see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it All Make Sense When You Are in a Box and  What I Found When I Left the Box)

Published: April 11, 2014 | Comments: 5