What Place for Unbelief in Faith

Mormon Matters has an interesting post on unbelief and remaining in the LDS church. Just as interesting are a number of comments that respond to the post.  They raise an interesting question about the place of unbelief in a religious faith.

I don’t think I would say it as strongly as this, but this comment by Jettboy kind of resonates with me

With that said, I will say that I find your leaving the LDS Church because you no longer believe in it much more moral than those who stay within. They are spiritual liars and wolves in sheep clothing, and I am not afraid to say that. That is because I DO believe in its theology, authority, scriptures, divinity and Truth! My problem isn’t for those who have some faith and some doubts and are seeking for greater faith. My problem is for those who don’t believe, aren’t seeking to believe, and simply go through the motions. They make me very angry and I feel are getting in the way of blessings and the mission of Mormonism. My fear has never been that the LDS Church will lose members, but that its members will lose faith. I lost the quote (and if anyone can find it for me I would be very thankful), but a Brigham Young quote influenced me greatly. He said, paraphrasing from memory, he would rather be the last or among a handful to believe than have a huge number of members who don’t believe.

I think that if a church is made up of a large group of people who don’t actually believe the heart of the “story” you’ve got the makings of a dead church.  The church is at that point just minding the money of a social club that revolves around acting out some quaint traditions that used to mean a great deal to some one else.  There’s no impulse to evangelize or affect the culture around you.  It’s just acting out the worst parts of religion.

That anyone intentionally makes time to attend a liberal christian church just baffles me.  As Paul says, if it’s not true, we are fools to be pitied.  Why would you want to play the part of a fool? I have to think that unbelievers would actually be more satisfied outside of the church. I’m convinced life is lived better without a fascade.

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85 thoughts on “What Place for Unbelief in Faith

  1. as a simple litmus test I would define it as a church that doesn’t believe that Jesus rose physically from the grave or doesn’t believe miracles are possible.

    If the sign out front says “Jesus is alive in our hearts and minds” on Easter. . . you might just be at a liberal church.

    What I do not mean by liberal is politically liberal. I’m referring to liberal Christian theology.

  2. Not believing in inerrancy doesn’t make you liberal. There are plenty of people who believe in infallibility (probably me included). If you don’t even hold to infallibility you are probably who I’m talking about.

  3. pertinent quote:

    My problem is for those who don’t believe, aren’t seeking to believe, and simply go through the motions.

  4. I think that there might be something to be said for going to church anyway, for a number of reasons.

    1. Kullervo goes to church with me, and goes through the motions (he doesn’t take the sacrament or whatever it’s called in the non-Mormon world), because he loves me and supports me, and also because he likes the traditional and ritualistic elements of church.
    2. Let’s say I was a stay at home mom, but didn’t have a very strong belief system on my own. I am not in close touch with most of my friends from high school, and after my freshman year of college I got married which made me a leper at the party school. It might be nice to have that social element, where everyone is gathering together for a purpose other than to make you feel awkward because everyone knows that strollers for toddler boys are soooo last year and can you believe what Trixie dressed her daughter in to bring her outside?!

    Just a thought.

  5. So they can question the inerrancy of the Bible, but still maintain Christ’s resurrection and not be liberal?

    Tim could explain this much better than I, and to the surprise of …..NOBODY….the ev.’s have different views of “inerrant”. What is “inerrant” to one, might not be to the other. I’ll try and chase down a good source for this.
    Sooooo….two ev.’s can say “I believe in errancy” and be slightly apart, not so slightly apart, and miles apart…

    GERMIT

  6. I wouldn’t be so hard on the liberal Christians. I used to think much the same thing as Tim expressed (i.e., that they don’t really believe anything) until I was involved in several mainline Protestant churches over a decade as part of my falling out with evangelicalism. I don’t have time to elaborate now, but I’ll do so tomorrow.

  7. I liked this quote:

    I think that if a church is made up of a large group of people who don’t actually believe the heart of the “story” you’ve got the makings of a dead church.

    this could really describe lots of different types of groups, really, and could be the pre-amble for Spenser’s “Coming Collapse of Evangelicalism” It DOES beg the question of “what is the heart of the story…” but I think there are a variety of ways to dropkick the essence of the gospel.

    Liberal theology is certainly one way, but not nearly the only one. We could make a list here…

    GERMIT

  8. Okay, I don’t want to threadjack so I’ll just look up the difference between inerrancy and infallibility, since it sounds like there is one.

    Re: going through the motions…

    There are lots of reasons to go through the motions, though I expect that often the primary reason for staying despite doubts is family. For example, I know of people who are struggling mightily with their faith, but who stay anyway because they want their kids to grow up in a faith community…and the best way to ensure that happens is to lead by example.

    Then, once a person makes the decision to stay, they might
    “play the role publicly” for any number of reasons:

    1)–Viability within the community. For LDS, as an example, if you doubt in public you can’t hold callings, you’re treated with disrespect, suspicion, or even contempt, etc.

    2)–Charity for others. If you’ve made the decision to stay, for whatever the reason, it is unhelpful and uncharitable to constantly undermine the faith of others by complaining and questioning publicly. Some people aren’t ready to hear it and you are doing them a great disservice by so behaving.

    3)–Appreciating the positive. Some people try to hang on to the positive, uplifting, fulfilling, and rewarding aspects of a faith community, even when the belief is lacking.

    4)–Social relationships. This is kind of along the lines of viability, but maybe a little less self-serving. One might be interested in building positive social relationships with people in their congregation and you don’t do that by being a negative nelly.

    Anyway, just a few reasons off the top of my head that I can think of why someone might stay and go through the motions publicly despite doubts or lack of belief. I can certainly understand that perspective, and think people at all levels of belief should be welcomed regardless of their reasons–as long as they’re being positive, contributing members of the congregation.

  9. There is a disease in America: going through the motions.

    ironically, get enough people doing this in one building, and if they sing well enough, and perhaps give enough to where the building is cool, happenin’ etx… they will be described as a HEALTHY church…. that’s one to ponder.

    And I’m not down on everything big, but Jesus sure knew how to thin out a crowd (John 6)….

  10. Katy – Kullervo would definitely not be who I am talking about. He doesn’t call himself a Christian. Nobody is confusing him as one. He’s a welcomed guest at your church. The same goes for Jack. She attends LDS services regularly but doesn’t call herself a Mormon. Jack’s husband goes to her church regularly but doesn’t tell people he’s an Evangelical. Observing the faith of others is different that participating in the faith of others.

    Katie – I don’t know that it’s a great moral example to be wear a mask. Join the Unitarians, they’re at least upfront about their lack of belief. I’m not sure what value there is in being in a faith community where there is no faith. You seem to be lacking interest in the very thing that binds the group together.

    And a person can certainly leave quietly without disrespecting anyone or challenging the faith of others. But I agree, if you’re going to stick around, you should keep quiet and not take any leadership positions.

  11. Katie : I liked your (usual) honesty in your post, and I’ve got a few observations;

    1) as to setting the example for the kids; well, MERELY going to church and not causing too much trouble might work for awhile, but after awhile Jr. will figure out that mom, and/ dad is not on board with the guts of the message….and then what…what kind of “example” will that be ? Go to church, even if you don’t basically agree with it ?? As smart , and perceptive (JACK’s little ass-smacker…..) as kids are, how old will they be when they connect the dots ?

    2) there’s a difference between voicing legitimate “Job-like” questions and just being a continual sour puss. I think this article is pointing to people who aren’t connected to their faith to even have, or voice, these serious doubts. I’ll put it this way: serious doubts questioned and confronted is not the same as glossed over and considered “no big deal”. Peter, THomas, Job, and Augustine had tremendous doubts..and tremendous insight after that season was over.

    3) your points kind of ignore one brutal truth: JESUS didnt come and die to call “church goers” HIS interest is in DISCIPLES. Most, or all, the “positives” you mentioned could be done by someone and still not commit to discipleship. That’s really what JESUS is all about, and yes, doing church stuff can help with that , but it’s two different things.

  12. I see the general point on all of this, but I think it also opens a dangerous door for various groups trying to call out who are the “real” Christians. For example, i read a great book by a man who self-identifies as Episcopalian but denies the existence of miracles. He reads the Bible in a very metaphorical way, but holds to its truthfulness as a means of knowing how to grow closer to God. I think he easily falls into the camp of “liberal Christian,” and many here would take serious issue with his theology. So he goes through the traditional motions of an Episcopalian service, but I think his own beliefs may well qualify as “unbelief” in some people’s eyes. At what point does serious disagreement on theology disqualify someone from formally associating with a church where they feel comfortable despite the theology?

    (Ironically, it just struck me that I could technically use the same rationale for getting baptized LDS despite clinging to some core Methodist/Protestant beliefs. Hmmmm…I guess there has to be a line somewhere in there….)

  13. Whitney, an organization has the right to draw the line wherever it wants. In the absence of such a line, or in “muddier” cases such as the one you mention, I might suggest that the line is wherever the believer draws it. In other words, if as a nontraditional believer, you can contribute positively to the group (instead of bringing it down), as well as glean a sense of satisfaction, purpose, etc. in your own life through your participation, I don’t see why you should be discouraged from doing so.

    Other more traditional believers might not be able to understand why you’re doing it, but as long as you’re contributing–or at the very least not detracting–I think it’s your choice.

    Tim and Germit, I agree that wearing a mask can come back and bite you in the ass and is probably not the best or healthiest approach generally. I’m simply suggesting that there are lots of reasons people choose to wear them, and I can understand where they’re coming from when they do.

  14. From my experience, there is a lot of pressure in the LDS church to swallow back any doubts, and ignore them, or get really busy doing all the right and proper things so that you forget your doubts, or ignore them because helping other people feels good and doing what you’re supposed to is a lot easier.

    Kullervo’s family was very clear in what they thought their sons should do with their doubts–and when Kullervo and Racticas left the church anyway, there was serious fallout. Both of the guys were on serious quests for truth and spirituality and all that–and their family pretty much said that it was fine to have doubts, but they should sit around fasting and praying until God told them that the church was true.

    So, staying in might be a lot easier for a lot of people. All that to say that Katie is True.

  15. Whitney, the guy you describe is the kind of person that it baffles me that he attends a church at all. I’m NOT saying he can’t attend or that we need to wipe out all churches that believe as he does. Just that I’m baffled by them.

    I doubt that dude would have a great time at my church. I’m imagining he’d be generally disgruntled by the things we focus on or don’t focus enough on.

    If he were to up the ante even more and not believe at all (as is the case of the linked article) I think he’d be MUCH happier and healthier out of the church and the church would be healthier and happier without him. I’m not advocating witch hunts or apostasy trials. But when people ask themselves “am I in or am I out?” if the answer is “out” then they should live it.

  16. I think Jettboy’s comments are a bit self-righteous.

    “They are spiritual liars and wolves in sheep clothing, and I am not afraid to say that. . . They make me very angry and I feel are getting in the way of blessings and the mission of Mormonism.”

    Mormonism has always been a cultural way of life as well as a religion. And, arguably, the doctrine allows for all kinds of believers. Many people profitably participate in the church that don’t believe in the same way Jettboy does, and simply can’t. Alma 32 explains that you don’t have to believe at all to have faith. I know many faithful Mormons who may not be able to swear by the theology and dogma the way Jettboy seems so proud to be able to do.

    The question is, how good a believer do you have to be to pass muster?

    It seems somewhat ridiculous to be angry at people who are going to church because they aren’t earnest enough. Getting in the way of the mission? that is just silly. If anything, if the gospel is true and powerful it may change them by their contact with the “true believers”.

    Christianity is not for the few and the proud.

  17. Jettboy’s comments are usually a bit self-righteous, or otherwise inflammatory. Case in point

    I have further thoughts on these issues, but I’m busy. Sigh. Too many thoughts, not enough time to vomit them out onto hapless blogs.

  18. Jared you pointed out the very sentences I thought were stated too strongly. I agree that prolonged contact with true believers may influence someone.

    I was thinking through the description of people rooting a person on to leave the church. If you’re rooting for other people to resign, is it really the place for you?

    Or what about Grant Palmer endorsing the ministry of an Evangelical which challenges Mormonism? At that point, is the LDS Church really where you belong?

  19. Many good points in these posts. It’s one thing to show someone the door because they are sexually stalking the middle schoolers, it’s another thing to give someone the boot because they are basically a ‘pew sitter’. As Jared pointed out, this is not a contest or the setting for the holy huddle. I dont think Jesus kicked anyone out of anything, but HE was very honest about what it would mean to follow HIM. Pulling on that thought, really only Jesus knows for sure if someone is following HIM , or not.

    What to do with those “going through the motions” ?? i don’t think you can ‘cut them” or “fire them” or “trade them”. Somewhere in Thessolonians it says something about ‘warn the idle, encourage the fainthearted, be patient with all men”. Maybe figure out WHY Joe or Jill is just a spectator, and try to encourage them to get involved….this is tricky because this can become the religious activity dog and pony show, with the most Wed. night services attended getting the orange blazer….

    I’m still thinking that most people, if they actually SAW someone living like JESUS, would WANT to live that way, and want to learn how to live that way…maybe I’m naive with this;

    the life of JESUS was attractive….is ours ??

  20. TIM: some people attend church for no other reason than there are people there, it’s something to do, and as long as they don’t do something really vile, they aren’t likely to get kicked out. This is esp. true if they are socially or culturally “odd”, where in most cases, they are literally driven out of social interaction. Of course not everyone who fits the article fits this description either.

  21. Tim said:

    I think that if a church is made up of a large group of people who don’t actually believe the heart of the “story” you’ve got the makings of a dead church. The church is at that point just minding the money of a social club that revolves around acting out some quaint traditions that used to mean a great deal to someone else. There’s no impulse to evangelize or affect the culture around you. It’s just acting out the worst parts of religion.

    That anyone intentionally makes time to attend a liberal christian church just baffles me. As Paul says, if it’s not true, we are fools to be pitied. Why would you want to play the part of a fool? I have to think that unbelievers would actually be more satisfied outside of the church.

    That’s pretty much what I used to think back before I spent a number of years being involved with mainline/liberal Protestant churches. (My 25 or so years as an adult before joining the LDS church were spent mostal in evangelical churches but were broken up by about 10 years in mainline churches.)

    I think that what Tim may not understand is that liberal Christians do believe the heart of the story — they just don’t believe it in the literal way that Mormons and evangelicals do. (For this reason I find Mormonism more similar to evangelicalism than mainline Protestantism is to evangelicalism, so I wonder why some evangelicals spend so much time working against us rather than, for example, against Episcopalians, but that’s a whole other subject for another time.)

    I have to distingish a bit between mainline pastors and the people in the pews, who often may be more literal-minded than mainline clergy. In any case, what I found in mainline churches is that the people who are active in them are every bit as serious about living a Christlike life as Mormons and evangelicals are.

    What I wouldn’t say is that they “don’t actually believe.” It’s much more complicated than that. They definitely believe in a loving, personal God who has worked through history, and they see Jesus as one who revealed God in a real way. It’s hard to generalize much beyond that, but the symbols of the church — the cross, the Bible, the communion table, the liturgial calendar among them — are seen as pointers to a reality that is greater than we can realize.

    In liberal Christian thought, the fact that some key events (the biggest one being the resurrection) might not be literal doesn’t make them any less true. That may be kind of hard for the evangelical/Mormon mind to grasp, but that’s what I saw among those who believed and practiced their liberal faith. The reality of God and the Holy Spirit still provided these people with something that was more than a social club.

    Although I think they’re misguided in many ways, I still have a great deal of respect for many of the theological liberals. In some cases, they’re in that place because they struggle with believing some of these things literally, so they’re responding to the part of the gospel that they’re able to. I don’t see them as the hypocrites the original post suggests.

    All that said, the mainline churches face serious problems, and they do relate to some of what Tim said. For the children who drop out when they become adults, it is often because they see little there other than “quaint traditions.” Full of gray hair, these churches are literally dying. In many ways, I find it sad.

  22. Very well said, Eric. You articulated that much better than I did. However I would note that despite the problems both you and Tim mention with “dying” churches, liberal Christianity actually plays an important role in keeping some people in a life of faith.

    The author I mentioned, for instance, actually became atheist for a time once he decided that the church he knew as a child (e.g., the Bible was taken quite literally) simply wasn’t true. However, he rediscovered his faith upon learning how to read the Bible metaphorically, as you described so well, Eric. For that author, it’s about living your life in a way that allows you to draw closer to the Divine (he is particularly wowed by what he calls Paul’s “mystic” experiences)–he doesn’t need the Bible to be literal, he just needs it to point the way for him, and he is absolutely convinced of the Truth that Christianity offers.

  23. he is absolutely convinced of the Truth that Christianity offers.

    But part of the truth Christianity offers is that Jesus physically rose from the grave and is alive to this day. If you don’t have that, all you’ve got is a morality club. To boot, that morality isn’t centered on anything more than your own preference for it.

    Eric -There are plenty of Evangelicals who are upset by the Episcopal church. Some who even say they are non-Christian.

    The reason Evangelicals don’t go after Anglicans is because they aren’t sending missionaries out trying to convert us. They’re a non-threat. By the Episcopal church’s own reporting they will lose 95% of their membership in the next 30 years. They’ve already done all the work already. Non-denominational churches are filled with people that used to be in mainline denominations.

  24. Whitney wrote:

    Very well said, Eric. You articulated that much better than I did. However I would note that despite the problems both you and Tim mention with “dying” churches, liberal Christianity actually plays an important role in keeping some people in a life of faith

    OK, snarky time (a little). Yes, “a life of faith…” but faith in WHAT or in WHOM if the resurrection did not indeed happen ?? And in this respect, I’m in agreement with Jettboy, applying his principle to MY situation: a gospel that does not preach a literal ressurrection is a surrogate, a fake, a lie…..and does , eventually, more harm than good.. Yes, that’s sounding really mean, but how can some kind of metaphorical ressurection lead to anything other than a metaphorical gospel ?? Obviously, they have the freedom to believe, and teach , whatever they consider to be christianity.

    busy day…..more later
    GERMIT

  25. wow….TIM and I were racing to get a response out on this last one 🙂 and TIM is faster……smarter…….handsomer…

    GERMIT the SECOND

  26. My daughter goes to an Episcopal school, and I attend chapel with her. I’ve never heard anyone there say that Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead. If they did, I wouldn’t allow her to attend school there. I’ve talked with Nadine’s vicar. He told me he’s an Evangelical. (Before that I didn’t know Episcopals had Evangelicals) But, he told me he didn’t believe in getting “in people’s faces.” He’s a great guy. Really nice. It’s just my opinion, but from the mainline denominations I’ve attended, I’ve found that the people in the pews can be very conservative about the Bible. They just don’t get “in your face” the way I feel (just my opinion) many Evangelicals do. It’s the Episcopal leadership that is way liberal. The Episcopal Church in the USA is splitting up. It won’t die.

  27. Yes, there are big qualifiers when in comes to describing the Episcopal church. Honestly I can’t sort them all out. “Church of England” would have been a better term for me to use.

  28. The reason Evangelicals don’t go after Anglicans is because they aren’t sending missionaries out trying to convert us.

    Don’t want to pound at this, but it amazes me still that some LDS don’t quite get this: my involvment on this blog and others is precisely what TIM has mentioned, our churches are being evangelized to another gospel. that’s something that few mainline liberal churches do…..as noted, they are all dying slowly (not counting the RC’s and Eastern Orth.)

  29. There are definitely evangelical pastors (and parishioners) among the mainline denominations. There are also intense debates in many of the denominations over biblical authority (often sparked by debates over sexuality, but at the core of the dispute is how to understand the Bible).

    The main reason in some cases that the evangelicals haven’t left the mainline denominations is because they’re under lot of pressure not to. The evangelically oriented churches are often much larger than the others and contribute more money, so they’re often tolerated by the theological liberals.

    For what it’s worth, one of the Christian writers I like, John Ortberg, is an evangelical pastor in a mainline denomination.

    Tim said:

    The reason Evangelicals don’t go after Anglicans is because they aren’t sending missionaries out trying to convert us. They’re a non-threat.

    Oh, I know that’s the reason. But are we Mormons really that much of a threat? (This is a serious question.) Although I was an active evangelical at one time and converted, I’m a rarity. From what I’ve seen, most of our U.S. converts (and the numbers aren’t as high as we’d like to think) seem to be people who have some church background but haven’t stepped foot in a church in years. We get more growth by “reactivating” inactive members than by snatching active members of other churches.

  30. Tim,

    Your post conjured up in my mind the church at Laodicea from the Book of Revelations….

    “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth”. Rev.3:15&16 NIV

    The Lord then chastens the Church at exorts them to be “zealous” and repent from their luke warmness. ( verse 19)

    I think this categorizes many churches in America today and that crosses denominational and religious boundaries.

    Sad but true.

    I would that Christian Churches would be like the Church at Philadelpia or the poor Christians in the church at Smyrna.

    Spiritual apathy is alive and well in America and it doesn’t do anyone a bit of good.

    Just my .02,

    gloria

  31. Hi, Eric. You mentioned you were an active participant of the Evangelical faith at one tme. May I ask what caused you to join the LDS? My experience is the opposite of yours, and I am just curious to your experience and conversion to mormonism.

    Hope that’s not too personal to ask.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  32. Eric: appreciate your posts and insight; maybe this thought will help shed some light, at least from GERMIT’s point of view.

    I dont’ mind , that much , losing people to ANY group under the “orthodox umbrella” and that’s covering a lot of territory. I very much mind seeing potential converts going to a group that offers something that is just not the gospel at all (as I see it). So , in a sense, we are both fishing for some of the same people: I’d like to see some of those “inactives” you mentioned find a home within orthodoxy. If they find YOU first, I’m out of ….providential encounter…(almost said “luck”). So in that respect, yes, we are certainly ‘competing’ in a way that I am not with a wide variety of “sister” churches. To add to my thot, though, I wouldn’t be any happier if my prospect wound up at Joel Osteens’ palace….so there are other competitors as well.

    I’m trying to be straightforward and not in your grille rude….I hope I’m succeeding.

    GERMIT

  33. ” Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matt 28:19-20 NIV

    ” And repentence and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations ” Luke 24:47

    I am not sure about you all — but didn’t Jesus tell us to get into people’s faces and shar the good news?

    Sharing the good news is a commission all Christians have been given by our Lord.

    Shout it from the housetops, .. as Jesus said, we must confess Him before all men. No secret disciples.

    Gloria

  34. Germit,

    I agree with your comments about potential converts ending up in Olsteen’s camp….. his message is concerning. ( a false gospel in my estimation) .

    I noticed recently at the local walmart book section that his wife and he have their “own” study bible…. that is their own commentary attached to a bible. Yikes.

    Kind regards,

    gloria

  35. Well, Tim and Germit, I obviously can’t argue the point as well as the author did, but I think he makes an important point. The book is “Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: How to Take the Bible Seriously but not Literally.”

    And, I might add, I noted in my first comment that this type of concern just devolves into an argument of who has the real claim on the Truth.

    Honestly, part of the reason I choose not to identify as an evangelical Christian is because almost every evangelical church I come across seems to allow very little room for more liberal interpretations of the Bible. I know that my denomination is facing the same problems as others, but I and the others who attend my local church place a high value on the intellectual debates that we have regarding some of the questions that arise from more liberal interpretations. Frankly I would have a very hard time maintaining faith if I attended a church that regularly told me I have to adopt certain literal views, because some of us just can’t quite conceptualize those things. I’m obviously not willing to go as far as the author was, but I can see why he’d get there, and I see value in his position. Are intellectual debates beside the point? Sure, to a certain extent. But given the passion I see on these boards for trying to defend various perspectives on faith, I don’t think you can totally dismiss how certain people go about trying to understand why they believe what they do and what it means.

    However, I can assure you that he’d throw your snark right back at you by asking why it’s so necessary to cling to mythical stories from your childhood that are usually demonstrably false when viewed in light of scientific evidence.

    I disagree with that particular spin on it, but I personally have a hard time figuring out why some people think it’s all literal or nothing. And I’m sure some of those people would gladly label me a non-believer for saying so. All shades of gray.

  36. I should also note that another reason I choose not to be “evangelical” because I’m not a very good salesman, and I just don’t have that fire in me to talk religion like the rest of the evangelicals I meet. (Blogs don’t count in my book…I’m more interested in sharing perspectives rather than making a pitch.) Maybe God will roast me in hell for my lukewarm heart, but it’s just not something I’ve never been comfortable doing in an overt manner.

  37. Whitney,

    I don’t think God will roast you at all. 🙂

    I think that the ability to share the good news in a way that is effective is truly a spiritual gift … the gift of “evangelism”… and not everyone has that gift, but hey paul tells us it’s ok to ask for it, seek after it and yes, even “covet it”.

    So, it’s totally understandable if you dont’ feel inclined to really share Jesus with people, because some have the gift to do that and others don’t and plus I suspect God has blessed you with other gifts. 🙂
    One body, various gifts.

    God bless!
    gloria

  38. Whitney said:
    I personally have a hard time figuring out why some people think it’s all literal or nothing.

    I don’t take everything in the Bible literaly. I take the Bible as being literal only when it intends to be taken literal. Just as I don’t read the Opinion, Comics and Sports sections in all the same way when I read the newspaper.

    Taking everything literally is the same sort of error as taking everything metaphorically. I emphatically agree that some things in the Bible are meant to be metaphors (perhaps even the entire book of Jonah), the resurrection is not one of them. To take the Bible seriously is to take it on it’s own terms, otherwise you are only taking what you like about it seriously.

  39. Whitney: touche , with this….

    I disagree with that particular spin on it, but I personally have a hard time figuring out why some people think it’s all literal or nothing.

    Absolutely….I am fine with this, as an illustration:

    some 25 yrs or so ago, a very prominent YEC’r (young earth creationist) told the small audience he was talking to, myself there, as one of his sponsors, that to NOT accept his version of creation was tantamount to not accepting JESUS at all……even back then , I knew this wasn’t right, though I couldn’t explain it….

    BUT: shouldn’t CAUTION regarding literalism have some limit to it ?? I’m not keen on ‘theo evo” or theistic evolution, but I’m not going to withhold the hand of christian fellowship to someone who holds that view…..the physical resurrection of JESUS the CHRIST is in another category….or to suggest that NONE of the miracles took place….. does this make sense ??

    granted: probably too much is made of “border patrol” within the KINGDOM, spending large amounts of GOD given breath and activity figuring out who’s ‘not in’. This card has probably been over played….but that doesn’t mean it isn’t in the deck. See !st , 2cd, and 3rd JOHN…

    GERMIT

  40. TIM: if we’re going to share a brain, shouldn’t we work out some kind of time table ?? ……and I think you’re getting the crappy end of the deal….

    🙂 the GERMSTER

  41. Ha, Tim, I was just responding, and Germit beat me with a story almost exactly like the one I was writing.

    Anyway, I agree with both of you that adopting either extreme is problematic. But for me, if we’re going to be tolerant of those who adopt such a literal view that it’s simply not reality (at least in the world according to me), and say, “at least they’re worshiping and trying to draw closer to God,” why not extend the same courtesy to liberal Christians whose approach is equally mindblowing (though necessarily far more abstract)?

  42. Also, the author of the book I mentioned also wrote one called “Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.” I haven’t read it, and I’m sure I’d disagree with his conclusions, but he clearly thinks there’s a very defensible way to respond to your arguments on this. I’m just proving to be a very poor devil’s advocate.

    No pun intended.

  43. Gloria,

    What I mean by getting “in your face” is by being deliberately rude or provacative. Growing up RLDS, I had more than one instance of getting to know people, talking to them, feeling like everything was fine and that they were nice people, until they asked me what church I went to. The minute I said, “RLDS” they would turn cold, their voice would get curt, and they would say, “Oh. I’ve heard of that CULT.” and then they wouldn’t speak to me anymore. I have no problem with you sharing your “good news” just treat me like a human being with basic civility and courtesy, that’s all I ask.

  44. OK , one more quick story….there is a preacher guy on YOU tube , from Tx somewhere….who adamantly maintains that ANYONE who pees sitting down is 1)not much of a man 2)is misrepresenting Christ and the gospel …. I know…truth stranger than fiction….

    so we have “Thou shalt not, according to GOD’s HOLY WORD, pee sitting down…” on one extreme….

    .and then you have “JESUS did not necessarily REALLY rise from the dead, and many/all of HIS miracles were just neat stories to illustrate a point (that GOD is a really good liar, in every sense of the word, I guess…)

    As you’ve pointed out, Whitney, we can find ourselves somewhere between Thomas Jefferson and the ‘standing piddler’……hopefully not TOO close Mr.Texas….. 🙂

    GERMIT

  45. GLORIA: tell your kids, friends, everyone that OSTEEN is nuts (or worse) and explain patiently WHY you say so…. his message is smooth, exactly what our flesh wants to hear “GOD has a smoother road ahead for me….wants me to $$ prosper…. suffering is for losers….” Guess the early believers just didn’t get his book or CD…. sucks to be them, I guess….

    I’m confident that Osteen’s errors can be combatted with a message that is filled with optimism and hope…..minus the bull-poopy..

    GERMIT

  46. Germit,

    Remember the last thread where you said alot of Evangelicals were “pew sitters” and that it was a problem in the Church? I’ll bet that’s one of the reasons why people go inactive. Why should I go to church if I’m just going to sit in the pew and stand in line to shake the pastor’s hand afterwards? I could be going fishing… Or, perhaps they feel judged. Perhaps the rampant judgmentalism in some churches has made them feel so uncomfortable, they no longer wish to attend. Perhaps they feel their talents and abililties are not wanted, and there is nothing for them to do, so why not sleep in? The LDS have home and visit teachers, so if someone is having a problem, it will likely be found out, and a solution can be worked on. The RLDS church when I was growing up had what was called a “Friendly Visitor” whose only job was to visit households in the congregation. Who visits the homes in Evangelical churches? I could visit 20 different Ev churches over the next few months, and if I signed the visitor’s book, maybe I would get a letter thanking me for my visit. If I so much as put one little toe inside an LDS ward and signed the book as a visitor, within 10 days to two weeks the missionaries would be on my doorstep. What’s stopping the Evangelicals from having a missionary corps? What’s stopping Ev’s from having seminary classes in the mornings before school so that high school aged Christians could have a firm foundation in their faith? A long time ago, Tim once said that the Evangelicals too often made converts and not disciples. That’s true. It’s not the fault of the LDS church that in so many cases, Ev’s have dropped the ball in one way or another. I think it’s lame to blame the LDS, and it absolves Ev’s of taking responsibility to look after the sheep they have in their congregations. In short, the LDS did not “steal” your sheep. In too many cases, you didn’t want them. Only when the LDS found them, then all of a sudden you became interested in them. Not because you care about them as a person, but because the big bad LDS were going to get them.
    Now Germit, please don’t be offended. I do really like you. 🙂 I’m just calling it like I see it.

  47. Gloria asked:

    You mentioned you were an active participant of the Evangelical faith at one tme. May I ask what caused you to join the LDS?

    It’s a long story. The basic story is that for many years I had a hard stomaching some evangelical doctrines (the biggest one being that a loving God would sent people to hell if they had never heard of him, although in the last 40 years many, many evangelicals have backed away from that teaching). Eventually I married a Mormon, or I never would have given the church a serious look. I didn’t join the church for a dozen years later, so it wasn’t something I rushed into or was compelled to do.

    Eventually, I saw that much of what the church taught (the biggest being that salvation is a process, not an event) was what I already believed. Ultimately, the choice to join the church became a very easy one to make. It is just right in so many ways.

    That’s it in a nutshell.

  48. Tim, responding to Whitney, said:

    Taking everything literally is the same sort of error as taking everything metaphorically. I emphatically agree that some things in the Bible are meant to be metaphors (perhaps even the entire book of Jonah), the resurrection is not one of them. To take the Bible seriously is to take it on it’s own terms

    I’d pretty much agree with that. I’d even add to that Job and to some extent the first chapters of Genesis. I think it’s more important to look at what type of people scriptures tell us to be rather than get hung up on what is literal or not.

    But that approach does have its limits. Although Tim and I have different understandings of what the gospel is, I can say unequivocally that for both of us it’s hard to reconcile our beliefs with something other than a physical resurrection. That’s about as key as can be for both evangelicals and Mormons.

    In comparison, whether the Flood was a worldwide event or a local one (or even if Noah really existed) pales in importance. Take away the resurrection, and … well, the faith either becomes a different religion or else something close to it.

  49. LISA: awesome post….and I’m not at all offended, you hit more home runs there than (insert favorite steroid-filled slugger H-E-R-E) you are SO on the money. and if you hang around GERmIT long enough, you will know that I’m 10 times as harsh on “my own” for ALL the reasons you cited.

    you asked “who visits the homes in Ev. churches….?”
    many times , the answer is NOBODY, or perhaps the over-worked pastor (or his triple over-worked wife)

    another true story: a very good friend of mine, father of three girls, left our church and was contacted 6 months later, BY MAIL, asking him (with his wife) to volunteer for kids’ church as a volunteer…… he thot that was perversly funny….. he graciously declined…

    I’m no sucker as to the state of the ev. church in general, and my church in particlular (we’ve cleaned up some of that mess since my friend left…) BUT, I’m still not going to sit still for people finding there way into churches that claim to have the good news…and don’t. I’m trying to do something about ALL you are talking about (and your perceptions are VERY on the mark) AND evangelize when possible…..

    and watch some ESPN when my wife is not looking….though she KNOWS when the channel has been changed w/o her permission and she’s in the other room…..prophetic gifting maybe ???

    GERMIT

  50. Oops. I hit Enter before I finished my message.

    I was just going to add that having a different faith — “liberal” Christian or even non-Christian — doesn’t make someone a bad person or make the person less worthy of respect. From my LDS perspective, those who are seeking God and/or seeking to do good are a lot closer to salvation than those of who either know the truth and don’t act on it or who are faithful church members but don’t have the sort of love that Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 13.

    It’s important to keep in mind that the people Jesus criticized the most were the most religious people of the day. There’s something in that that can be quite humbling.

  51. ERIC; very good post above……DITTO to your main comments about the resurrection happening literally…..if this is negotiable, then ANYTHING can be called “christianity” and no one can demur…..

  52. Lisa,
    I think you are absolutely right on the money — the motive for sharing the good news should always be love and hopefully we are courteous too. 🙂

    Your experience reminds me of my sister who is not LDS and moved to a very LDS neighborhood is Sandy, UT. When the neighbors found out she wasn’t interested in becoming LDS or taking the missionary discussions, they basically ingored her for the few years she lived there and then her son who at the time was in grade school, was beat up on the play ground because he wore a cross and the kids said “this is mormon country”. She learned quickly and she and her family moved to a more diverse area of Salt Lake City that they enjoy.

    Ill behavior, disrespect and a lack of love knows no boundaries… it happens in all camps and religions and it’s plain wrong. I think Christians are just as guilty of this kind of crap. It’s wrong.

    I think it was Eric who said above all we should be known for our love, whether we are LDS, Christian or Jew. Hopefully people will be able to feel love and respect from us.

    Thanks for sharing with us,
    gloria

  53. Ill behavior, disrespect and a lack of love knows no boundaries… it happens in all camps and religions and it’s plain wrong.

    Yep, it’s called protecting your turf and everyone does it. I grew up Mormon in a Mormon community and some folks were still mean to me because I was an artistic geek and didn’t like football. (Though now I LOVE football. Buff guys in spanky shorts. What could be better?)

    I’ve discovered that when confronted with it, the best thing to do is to let it slide off your back. Dwelling on it and judging entire communities based on the way some morons treated you is less than healthy and will damage your spirit more than the abuses.

  54. (Though now I LOVE football. Buff guys in spanky shorts. What could be better?)

    my wife has heard me say that our team has the best tight end in football…..she looked at the screen….looked again, and said…..”Oh, yeaaaaahhhhh……..we sure do…….”

    what a perv……

    GERMIT

  55. Katie,
    Good points. My nephew by the way moved far away from UT as soon as he graduated from college… he now enjoys living in very diverse Seattle. I don’t blame him. In fact, all my sis’s 4 children moved to the Northwest.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  56. Gloria: when given the opportunity ask some of your sister’s yunguns what they think of Mark Driscoll, if they know who he is…..I’d be curious what they’d say.

  57. Yes, but if they wore suits you’d be throwing big ass Superbowl parties.

    is that like a ZZ Top “Sharp Dressed Man” kind of thing ??

  58. I’ll tell you what I think of Mark Driscoll.

    is that like a ZZ Top “Sharp Dressed Man” kind of thing ??

    No, just something we’ve covered on my blog. Men in suits are like walking pornography to me. I’ve respectfully requested that they wear stained blue sweatsuits from Wal-Mart to church instead to help me keep my thoughts pure.

  59. Germit,

    I’ll do so…

    I have listened to his sermons and I’ve enjoyed his preaching style… he’s doing amazing things for Jesus out there. Would love to sit in one of his sermons when I am out there visting.. although I don’t like the idea of satellite sermons to the satellite churches… reminds me too much of Stake Conference being broadcast from Utah — I always found those impersonal. So I think I would prefer real face to face preaching.

    Kind remarks,
    gloria

  60. Jack,

    so what do you think of Mark Driscoll and Mars church? Have you been to one of his services? I know you live/lived in WA state – so maybe you have attended some of his services?

    Gloria

  61. WoW, JACK….that was so REAL…..that’s how to use a visual….and so understated……nice….

    funny, but egalitarianism aside, you are really a whole lot like Driscoll….you probably think this is the most back handed compliment you’ve ever gotten. I won’t bother to explain my comment unless it interests you.

    Here’s hoping the guys at service respect your “formal is a no=no=no” rule….

  62. Gloria ~ I attended Mars Hill once with our very own BrianJ. Brian did a post on it at his blog here.

    Germit ~ Actually, I’ve known for some time that I’m a lot like Mark Driscoll, and I think that’s part of why I don’t like him. It’s always a bad thing when egocentric buttheads collide.

    How’s that for a visual?

  63. well, that’s PART of the very apt comparison, but there is ALSO the pastoral heart, the keen mind, the refusal to succumb to some kind of candy ass platonism, the moxie, and from what I’ve HEARD, you both look good in jeans.

    Haven’t seen his thong pic, so the comparison might not go THAT far….

    seriously, I think you are BOTH getting used in the KINGDOM to reach the unreached in very powerful ways, and that’s a fact.

    GERMIT

  64. Oh, and my comment on men in suits is really more of a “back atcha” to LDS leaders who preach on how women who dress “immodestly” are pornography to the men who see them. I really hate hearing how women are responsible for men’s impure thoughts. I know there is some level of biblical backing to the teaching (I forget the passage), but I think it’s been taken way too far and too much responsibility laid at the feet of women.

    I think men in suits are damn hot, so I guess under the same principle, men should refrain from wearing them to help me keep my thoughts pure.

  65. Haven’t seen his thong pic, so the comparison might not go THAT far….

    LOL.

    Germit, I confess, I thought you were a little flaky when I first began reading your comments (honesty here), but since then you’ve become one of my favorite online people. Don’t ever change.

  66. Gloria said:

    When the neighbors found out she wasn’t interested in becoming LDS or taking the missionary discussions, they basically ignored her for the few years she lived there and then her son who at the time was in grade school, was beat up on the play ground because he wore a cross and the kids said “this is mormon country”.

    Stories like that make me angry.

    A better story involves my son a few years ago when he was in middle school and invited a three friends over to a sleepover for his birthday. It was almost funny. In that group were a practicing Catholic who wasn’t eating pizza for Lent, a Pentecostal whose parents were more strict about which videogames he could play than we were and someone else whose religion (I don’t remember what it was, but it might have been Adventist) imposed some sort of restriction on what he could do while at our house. And they got along wonderfully and accommodated each other’s beliefs (or, in this case, probably their parents’ beliefs).

    And I think every single one of them had a better idea of what it means to live the gospel than do parents who somehow convey to their kids that it’s OK to mistreat people of another religion.

  67. Tim~ “As Paul says, if it’s not true, we are fools to be pitied. Why would you want to play the part of a fool?”

    Simple answer, two words: OSTEEN RULES

    (admit it, his smile is enchanting)

    Germit on Jack ~ “the refusal to succumb to some kind of candy ass platonism”

    She has succumb to just such an idealism: i.e. the ideal candy ass is that which is covered by a three piece suit.

  68. JACK; thanks, and I hope to stay flakey, and still have something worth saying. That’s a tough balance. One thing I respect about your posts is that you take issues and theology seriously without taking yourself too seriously.

    this morning I meet with my kid sister Mary, in from Omaha. She’s a pretty good writer, and somewhat of a maverick within her Catholic circles. I’m going to give her a nudge to your website, you guys are cut from the same weird and resilient fabric.

    JardC: the smile is CREEPY…but I’m probably just jealous because the guy is rail thin and can still bench over 300…allegedly…..I’d like to be his “spotter” and find out…..OOOPSIES, sorry Mr.O…….should I get a gauze pad for that ?? His popularity is staggering, I could give you stories on that.

  69. Tim,

    One point I don’t feel has been addressed on this thread, but I don’t think that it has is this. To what extent to believers cause this problem?

    Obviously this is a free country and people can leave free associations, such as religions, any time they wish, so ultimately the unbeliever is to blame for sticking around when they no longer believe.

    However, my observation is that unbelievers tend to stick around because believers make it hard for them to leave. Believers to greater or lesser degrees shun, ostracise, and are judgemental towards those who no longer believe. This can be overt, covert, conscious, or unconscious. Sometimes believers can’t even see they are doing it. Unbelievers usually stay because family situations make it so hard to leave that sticking around is just the path of least resistance, and most people will just follow that path.

    Am I misdiagnosing here? If not, what is the believer’s responsibility towards those who no longer believe? And in what circumstances do believers actually live up to those responsibilities?

  70. David Clark: When I first read the post I thought there was something wrong but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I thought about it for a while and concluded that it’s really hard to disagree with the crux of the message: that there is a problem with “…those who don’t believe, aren’t seeking to believe, and simply go through the motions”? Still, something didn’t feel right.

    Being unable to identify any other cause for my concern, I determined that my discomfort was probably just due to who was quoted: I regularly disagree (to put it mildly) with Jettboy, so if he said it then it must be wrong!

    But no, you uncovered what was bothering me. Well done and well stated.

  71. So what you are saying is that believers too harshly ostracize those that leave? If an unbeliever wants to stay in relationship with a believer, the only way to do it is to stick around.

    With the caveat that different religious cultures exist and it’s impossible to speak to all of them, I think it’s not really fair to put this all on the believer. It’s a very natural consequence. If you join a chess club and then stop playing chess altogether I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume that you will see less of your friends that are still in the chess club. You’ve lost the common interest between you. They’re not really ostracizing you if all they want to do when they get together is play chess. You’re welcome to come play chess with them.

    But on the other hand, if they’re refusing to talk to you just because you prefer checkers, it’s on them.

    Perhaps Mormons need to recognize the double edge sword of their own culture. You’re quite adept at applying family and cultural pressure to get people to conform. But that means that Jettboy can expect to see some people conforming that he’d rather not see in the bishopric.

  72. Dave wrote:

    However, my observation is that unbelievers tend to stick around because believers make it hard for them to leave. Believers to greater or lesser degrees shun, ostracise, and are judgemental towards those who no longer believe.

    Not sure what the point is here, in my experience, when people are treated poorly, they typically find the door. Either the back door , and say “Bye Jerks….I’m leaving…” or more probably thru the side door, and don’t say much. If you’re saying that the believers bear a responsibility to act like JESUS , then I’d agree. BUT, my experience is that there is a large percentage of self-absorbed folks who are always an eyelash away from being “judged” whether it’s happening or not. And in a church culture like the evangelical world, it’s very easy to get and stay ‘wounded’ and then trade in the offending church for a new one…..again….and again….

    I still come back to “be patient with all men” but patience doesn’t mean we have to settle for anything, or put up with everyone’s complaint, valid or not. Relationships are HARD WORK, and many are oblivious that church , real church, will mean just that.

  73. Unbelievers usually stay because family situations make it so hard to leave that sticking around is just the path of least resistance, and most people will just follow that path.

    David, I think you make an excellent point. And when family gets involved, it becomes even more complex than just the “path of least resistance”–especially when you’re talking about spouses and children.

    I mean, look. We’ve all heard stories where doubting spouses are told by their significant others that if they stop believing, they will lose their families. And honestly, what’s worth losing your family over? Can you fake it for a couple of hours on Sunday to keep peace in your home? Shouldn’t you? I think you could make a strong case that if faking it means preserving your marriage and the stability of your children’s home, you have a moral imperative to do so.

    So if being “true to oneself” is of paramount importance, then believers need to back it up by being supportive, accepting, and loving toward those who find their truth elsewhere. Otherwise, we are creating an environment in which dishonesty is rewarded and honesty shunned.

  74. So what you are saying is that believers too harshly ostracize those that leave? In some circumstances, yes. This varies from situation to situation and from denomination to denomination. Jettboy’s original comment had a lot of bluster in it and quite frankly I think he wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to pretend like all of the social and cultural controls in Mormonism are 100% benign and have no downsides for anyone, i.e. that they don’t affect unbelievers in the slightest and they should just pack up and move on because there’s zero downside for them. Such a sentiment is is just flat out wrong. If Jettboy wants doesn’t want the door to hit the unbelievers in the backside on the way out, he needs to hold the door open for them.

    I think it’s not really fair to put this all on the believer. Agreed. Ultimately, the choice is 100% on the unbeliever, since everyone is free. My only point is that if Jettboy really wants the unbelievers to exit, he needs to make sure the cost/benefit analysis is favorable for them to do so.

    Perhaps Mormons need to recognize the double edge sword of their own culture. You’re quite adept at applying family and cultural pressure to get people to conform. But that means that Jettboy can expect to see some people conforming that he’d rather not see in the bishopric. I agree again, and Jettboy needs to realize this too. “Families can be together forever” means on the upside less likelihood of divorce and a high esteem for marriage and family life. On the downside it means that religious beliefs are integrated into the family unit itself, which means that unbelief is guaranteed to change family dynamics for the worse. The length and severity of this change will vary from family to family. However, as you said, double edged sword.

  75. Look God gave us the bible to lean on when we are in need of his help, he created us to be equal without judgement. He created our knowledge to seek his advice and to pursue answers to our own understanding and tell the world. So is the bible really someones story on how they saw God or is it a book that God gave us about him and his life. If he walked the earth once he can do it again, well in fact he does everyday.
    The bible is a bibliography but to bad no one wants to hear the truth.

  76. What right does a man have to judge another if he cannot follow Gods commandment:That thou shall not judge. Every man has a right because God gave us free will and free will is choice by doing whatevery you want but their are consequences for what ever you do.

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