A meditation on religious conflict

[This is a prose poem that came out after I finished up writing brief about a particularly gnarly run in with original sin and the law that punishes it. Enjoy!]

“Religious War has signified the greatest advance of the masses so far, for it proves that the masses have begun to treat concepts with respect.  Religious War start only after more refined quarrels between sects have refined reason in general to the point where even the mob becomes subtle and takes trifles seriously and actually considers it possible that the “eternal salvation of the soul” might depend on small differences between concepts.” – F. Nietzsche

“But if all religious teachers were honest enough to renounce their pretensions to godliness when their ignorance of the knowledge of God is made manifest, they will all be as badly off as I am, at any rate; and you might just as well take the lives of other false teachers as that of mine. If any man is authorized to take away my life because he thinks and says I am a false teacher, then, upon the same principle, we should be justified in taking away the life of every false teacher, and where would be the end of blood? And who would not be the sufferer?” – J. Smith

Science tells us that our universe began as a single point, and that human beings are super-developed animals with incredible imaginations that in their limitless symbolizing and shaping of the world with their art spawned religion, civilization, and consciousness of our unfathomable beginning and becoming.

The orthodox catholic tells us that God is the unknowable Father that is the source of this point, but that he is nothing within it, that God is the substance of the man Jesus the Christ that became part of the created world, and the substance of the Holy Spirit that fills creation and the strange human souls that take on the the image of this substance but are condemned to be separated from it.

Mohammed tells us that man is nothing like God, and absolute and unknowable, who has no child and wills all that happens and all that exists, God is the final arbiter of this created reality and should be feared and loved.

The Buddha tells us that we are not separate souls, and God is irrelevant to our enlightenment to this fact; only in our giving up ourselves and our souls can we awake to the reality of God.

Paul tell us that man is a debased spirit separated from God, clothed in corrupt flesh but redeemed to God’s image through assent and capitulation to the reality of the single Christ, the God who submitted to death and suffering to save the world from it.

Moses tells us that there is a law from heaven that all must follow and that one people were chosen to proclaim it.

Joseph Smith tells us that God is the same as us: a single eternal soul living within the uncreated universe who discovered intelligence and then glory though the laws of reality that fill the immensity of space and makes all things as they are.

The Hindu tells us that we are all the shifting faces of God, the absolute reality that sits behind all appearances, and that only those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender themselves to other gods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own many natures.

Pilate tells us that truth is an illusion and then spilled the blood of the man the Christians call God by the power of the law and might of Rome.

Jesus tells us that God’s law and all other truth is swallowed in Christ, the mystery and promise of God’s love, that God’s kingdom has nothing to do with Rome that killed him, but is in midst of the love and joy that springs from His blood and suffering and ours.

The Evangelical tells us that we should proclaim this last Word above all others, and attests that there is no end to this blood that saves us.

It seems that in this blood there should be an end to the blood Nietzsche and Joseph Smith spoke of, but how remains its mystery.

 

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79 thoughts on “A meditation on religious conflict

  1. Jared, If I’m reading right, this is another lament for religious/ideological disunity in the world? I feel you brother, but I have to conclude that A. the Deist God has allowed this to happen through negligence or the Sovereign God intended for this before the foundation of the world. I believe we are agents in this world, but we’re hardly to blame for all this. We’re puny, frail humans, dropped out of the womb into a confusing, cruel and incredibly dark world. I believe God loves us and does in fact take an active role in world (somewhere between the 2 extremes) but that this morass we’ve been born into is wholly intentional.

  2. Christian, how is it intentional that God created us in freedom, we abuse that freedom, and we are now prideful?

    Its very easy to place blame elsewhere.

  3. cowboy, We think we know enough to make good choices. We don’t realize how completely clueless we are. We are dropped into a world as infants, completely helpless against cultural/familial/societal conditioning. *Maybe* we’re fortunate enough to be born into a safe, loving environment. *Maybe* you get pointed in the right direction. But, we’re all just looking through a glass darkly. I think I know right from wrong, but in 200 years someone might cringe at my own 2015 sense of morality, the same way I cringe at the ideas of yesteryear. I feel called to search for light, but I also believe that God must be endlessly merciful, to have created this world.

  4. But cowboy, original sin isn’t based on anything we’ve actually done. What’s we’ve done, in that context, is irrelevant.

  5. Every day I sin, because I’ve received a tremendous amount of light. But I’m incredibly blind in many other ways.

  6. I believe that Christ rescues me from sin and points in the right way, but there are billions who’ve never known that simple truth. I don’t believe in a God who spits fire at our ignorances. Its ludicrous.

  7. Ah, but are we all ignorant? I don’t think we are, but such a discussion is really a distraction. If you have sinned, and you have (as have I), a complaint about original sin is baseless.

  8. cowboy, here’s a for instance. I have a relative who was physically/emotionally abused by his father as a child. I grew up with loving parents. I believe that God views my struggle with anger, differently than my relative’s struggle with anger.

  9. “I believe that God views my struggle with anger, differently than my relative’s struggle with
    anger.”

    So what? That has nothing to do with whether you or I, or your relative, is naturally prone to sin. I have a sister who has been diagnosed with severe bi-polar disorder. I know she does things others wouldn’t normally do. She’s still a sinner, because even when she is in ‘right’ mind, she sins. I imagine your relative is the same.

    Of course, its easier to look at people like your relative and my sister and find excuses than it is to recognize God’s power and the reality that we all sin.

  10. hell no. acting against the light is inexcusable. acting in ignorance is not sin.

  11. “Acting in ignorance is not sin.” and “We’re all frail and weak and desperately ignorant *BY DESIGN*.”

    But you said you are ignorant on a host things, and there are people who can’t help themselves, and there are others who have never heard God’s word, so you are not accountable for all your transgressions, those who can’t help are not accountable, and those who have never heard are not accountable. How are you NOT excusing sin?

  12. I need you to explain how an ignorant person can commit an act and be condemned for it in the universe of a just and merciful God.

    Sin still exists. Jesus is still desperately needed. But his mercy is big enough for the ignorant.

  13. I’m not excusing sin because I define sin different than you. Obviously.

    I get that you feel the need to defend God’s honor, or something. But I assure you, God’s justice will be fulfilled. His mercy too. Regardless of what you or I believe.

    Bye.

  14. Christian, I define sin as something that goes against God’s will and his righteousness. Sin separates us from God. Now, anything that goes against God’s will will be consistent whether we know it or not. I think the easiest thing to compare it to is civil law in the US wherein ignorance of the law is not an excuse– you are just as guilty of speeding whether you knew the speed limit or not.

    Now, what is God’s position on those who don’t know God’s will or his righteousness? I can’t answer that. We are told that God reveals himself to all through at least nature, and that all will be judged according to his law, not ours. I, too, would like to think God may be more lenient on those who have not heard God’s word. But that is a side issue that does not address the impact of sin and the responsibility all have to not sin.

    The bottom line is that sin is sin, whether we know it or not. Questioning that is excusing or explaining away sin, which we ought not do. Doing so not only allows for sin, but it diminishes God Himself by equivocating on his expectations of us and his very person. God is sovereign, not us, and his word is his word, not ours. His expectations are his expectations, not ours. Sin is sin, and we don’t get to define what is sin and what is not.

  15. @Christian J

    The meditation is about the very different views of reality, how they overlap and leave gaps, why the Gospel did not seem to be enough to clarify things to the world, perhaps because those who proclaim it often demand more blood than the blood of Christ. I think a big part of this is due to how the Christian law has been formulated to leave out all kinds of wrongdoing in the name of the “right” the “good” and the “truth”.

    I get what you are saying about how God is the author of all this. The God of Job set all things up, including the fall, even if he merely opened the Pandora’s box of free will.

    The utter distance I feel from God is the reason I am a Christian, and the reality of reconciliation with God is why I accept that God is loving, I also can see that a great deal of the problems Christians have is because we forget the power of the love of God to redeem us and our children in every moment, in spite of the errors of others.

  16. Regarding whether we are prone to sin. I can attest that I am. I really have no idea why I am, I can’t say that I want it any differently because I seem to want to do the things that many people feel are sinful, even if I regret doing them later. If you judge my love of God by my sin track record, I am pretty much in open rebellion and don’t see a reasonable way to step away from the barricades. My only hope is Christ.

  17. I suppose part of the point of OP is that lots of divergent groups say reasonable things about God, which seems to be the heart of a lot of the conflict.

  18. Nobody sins ignorantly.

    Just to make sure I am understanding you correctly, do you mean that no one sins ignorantly because . . .

    (1) sin cannot be imputed to someone who does something (otherwise sinful) in ignorance;

    Or

    (2) everyone has some knowledge – whether by conscience or knowledge of the law – that they sin against;

    Or

    (3) something else altogether?

  19. (I assume you are referring to Romans 2:12-16 – option 2 – but wanted to be sure.)

  20. Its an interesting observation to make that some diverging positions within differing faiths are reasonable. Its sort of a truism, though, isn’t it?

    And many lots of things are reasonable, but not all of those reasonable things are correct. Your observation begs the question as to what is right and what reasonable, and whether they are always compatible, in matters of faith.

    Though I would advocate my faith is the correct faith, and that reasonable and correct are not necessarily compatible, I would never urge death to those who disagree.

  21. “Sin is sin, and we don’t get to define what is sin and what is not.”

    cowboy, You’re doing it again. Speaking of your own interpretation (or your tradition’s interpretation) as though its the default. As though its all there ever has been or will ever be. We, every single last one of us, decide what we think God’s definition of sin is. The way modern orthodox Christians define sin is not the same as orthodox Christians have defined it throughout history. Its not debatable. Its words on a page. Your inability to acknowledge your place as an interpreter ( or a follower of a particular interpretation) in the grand timeline makes it very difficult to have a reasonable conversation with you.

  22. Quite a claim. Provide me evidence that the definition of sin has changed apart from: “…. sin [is] something that goes against God’s will and his righteousness. Sin separates us from God.”

    And yes, those words on a page are pretty clear, if you ask me.

    By way of comparison: is the Constitution a living document, or do the words written by the Founders have specific meaning?

  23. Christian, the distinction between a mortal and a venial sin in Catholicism, as far as I can tell, is that mortal sin is one of degree. Both are wrong and should be avoided, and can result in permanent separation from God. One of the big differences is that mortal sin immediately produces that separation, whereas constant, willful venial sin separates, though a single venial sin merely reduces the luster of a venial sinner and does not produce separation.

    I guess you can quibble with my more absolute position on the matter, but all sin separates if left untouched and un-repented. An un-repetented sin is likely to be constant and repeated.

    As I have maintained, and continue to maintain, sin is sin. And as I said at the start of my discussion with you, its much easier to explain sin away than it is to accept that we are fully, 100% sinners. Whether we conclude that one is ignorant of a particular sin is irrelevant. Whether we conclude that a particular act is sinful currently is also ultimately irrelevant. Whether we are born in sin or merely prone to it is a semantic issue.

    The bottom line, the absolute, that I am trying to get you to understand is that we are all sinners. Like it or not, we are all sinners. If you don’t wish to go there and find that difficult to understand, so be it. But that is what I see as the truth. If you find more nuance in who is a sinner and what constitutes as a sin, great, but the point that we all sin is separate from those nuances.

  24. Sin as something that goes against God is not at all in dispute, but what sin looks like. Even if we can agree that the Bible is the word of God as a starting point, there are still so many ways of interpreting. Some seem really clear. Many others are not. Example: Is a failure to turn the other cheek a sin? Do you realize that the Christian tradition has has a wide variety of interpretations of that verse? Do you realize that there were influential early Christians who would consider our American-style attitudes toward military service a sin?

  25. I’m not even interested in who’s interpretation is correct, just an acknowledgment from you that the other interpretations exist(ed). From real deal Christians.

  26. “Sin as something that goes against God is not at all in dispute…”

    Exactly, and that is my point. You focusing on things that are apart from that simply muddy the waters concerning this basic point. Once we agree that sin is something that separates from God we can move on.

    I would start the discussion by saying that it is not us who gets to decide what is sin and what is not sin. The trouble with man trying to interpret it that our pride gets in the way. The context was slightly different, but my first post in this thread said humans are apt to sin. And we are.

    And we can debate for centuries (as humans have) on what things may be sin and what things may not be sin. It is pointless and will only infuriate and divide. The better solution is not to engage in this type of discussion, but to set our sights on Jesus and not let differences in opinion on whether it is a sin to fight back get in the way of following him. Its better to always act on the side of prudence.

    If one wishes to get into a discussion of what is prudent in a discussion of what is sinful and what is not, I would argue this person has priorities outside of God’s. This position must include a tolerance of other opinions and a trust that God sees one’s heart and judges accordingly.

    It should be noted that there are things which are clearly sinful. However, you are right to suggest there are things that are not so clear, such as whether it is OK to have a beer or a glass of wine. Whether many of these questionable activities are in fact sinful would be contextual, and providing an absolute answer may be dangerous.

    Even the granting of those nuances does not alter the absolute I have presented.

    Do you disagree?

  27. “I’m not even interested in who’s interpretation is correct, just an acknowledgment from you that the other interpretations exist(ed). From real deal Christians.”

    See my immediately previous post.

  28. Oh, and Christian, it is one thing to discuss what specific actions may be sinful in a context of determining what is God’s will and another to excuse certain behaviors. By this, I mean to suggest that getting into the weeds to say something is really OK is excusing sin, explaining it away.

    The difference here is that in the former scenario one is closely in tune with God and what he desires in the given situation and acts accordingly. The latter actively seeks out ways to suggest an action is not sinful and acts accordingly. This distinction may be very subtle but it is there. One is to follow God’s will and the other is to excuse a behavior.

    Make sense?

  29. “The trouble with man trying to interpret it that our pride gets in the way.”

    Not interpreting is impossible. No one is not interpreting. Ever. Truth exists and you may believe that your interpretation best reflects it. Its still an interpretation.

    About us all being sinners, it looks like I agree, but depart drastically in the following ways:

    – I don’t believe children are accountable for their choices. I don’t believe they are sinners.
    – I believe all of mankind will have a formal opportunity to explicitly reject Jesus before they are given a final judgement.
    -I believe that those who reject Jesus will be in a sort of hell, but only according to their accountability and choices. The worst murderers and rapists will not be existing in the same state as everyone else.

    I’m guessing you think that I’m diminishing the severity of sin through these nuances. You believe I’m diminishing the role of Jesus in the process. I think the opposite.

  30. No, I don’t disagree with everything you have said here.

    I think the danger in taking a position that we are always interpreting, all of us, is that it leads to a relativist position, which I reject.

    As to all of us being sinners, 1) there are many who believe in an age of accountability, but I take no strong opinion either way because its one of those things that I don’t think does much good to focus on. God, I think, is merciful, and will judge children accordingly, whether that be by the standards of an adult or by the standards of children. I don’t know what that will be. 2) Probably room for a consideration of a formal opportunity to stand before God to accept or reject Jesus. But I don’t think it is likely, as such a position makes what we do in this lifetime irrelevant. 3) I do think the difference between heaven and hell will be stark, and even if I were to grant differing levels of hell, the torment will be unbearable such that any distinction is worthless. Just the same, a heaven divided into parts is meaningless because the joy of being eternally with Jesus is supreme. (That said, one could argue, as I have as it relates to Mormonism, if we see others do better in heaven (ie, get their own kingdoms when others don’t), eternity will be spent in regret and a virtual hell, even if everything else is honky dory.)

    And I’ll end by stating that even here you don’t really address the merits of my discussion. You bring up a specific class of those people who take on questions at death and in sin, you bring up a way out of sin, and discuss a consequence of sin.

    I’ll end by asking again whether you are a sinner, to which you answered above that you are a sinner. If you are a sinner, you need a savior.

    I am a sinner, for what is worth.

  31. “I think the danger in taking a position that we are always interpreting, all of us, is that it leads to a relativist position, which I reject.”

    cowboy, is it sinful to join the military? If you say yes, then Tertullian would call you a relativist. He would say “killing a human being is always wrong”.

    I’m not saying all of us *should be* interpreting. I’m saying its impossible to not be interpreting.

  32. “eternity will be spent in regret and a virtual hell, even if everything else is honky dory.”

    like 99.9% percent of Mormon eschatology, progression between the kingdoms is completely speculative, but the idea that we can progress is certainly there. My own belief is that God wants us all to return and so only the truly rebellious will be cast out. JS thought the same thing.

  33. Here we go into the spinning world of trying to give examples.

    OK, maybe this will help:

    My philosophy concerning life and the existence of absolutes is that there are indeed absolutes. We ought not deny them. They always exist, just like the chair I am sitting in, or the God in heaven. I can’t deny their existence.

    However, I can deny that my chair is uncomfortable, or that God is a good God. (I do think my chair is OK, and that God is good, but the point is that how we view these truths is something that can be discussed.) In this sense, I do allow for relativistic points of view. How we view things is different, but we ought not deny certain truths exist.

    Is joining the military a sin? I see no prohibition in the Bible against it, and see examples where God’s people fought for its country. I cannot say that joining the military is sinful. I also cannot agree with Tertullian that all killing of humans is wrong. God allowed it, and even commanded it, in certain situations. I think it would be a mistake to make an absolute statement that ALL killing is wrong. However, killing is generally wrong, and we should be punished accordingly (whatever that may mean) when we wrongly kill others.

    If you go back and read some of my above posts, I posit that these questions are often situational and cannot be answered with a blanket yes or no. If you would like to put an absolute in the context of the military, wrongful killing is a sin, and one should not join the military just so he or she can kill others. That would be sinful. However, if one joined the military with the intent to help others by way of medical or spiritual care, or building roads and bridges for other peoples, and might occasionally be called upon to kill others in defense of those efforts, where is the sin?

    I realize the openness of the word “wrongful”, but this is where we need to be in tune with God and his will when we determine what is wrongful. I cannot over emphasize this point of this discussion: constant communion with God and adherence of his will with our actions is THE SINGLE most important thing.

    Now, I think we can learn from the likes of a Tertullian, but he is no more authoritative on any issue than anyone else. This means, in this context, that I am not bound by what he says. We are free to disagree with past and present Christian leaders, even those yet to come.

    Returning to the idea that there are absolutes and putting it in the context of sin, sinning is going against God’s will. God’s will never changes. Sin therefore never changes. We can argue all day and night about what specifically constitutes a sin, but the absolute truth is that it is God who answers that question, not us.

    Our ignorance, therefore, is irrelevant to whether something is within God’s will, because God’s will is God’s, not ours. We can go against it whether we know it or not.

    The subjective, relative part of this is that we don’t know what God will have mercy on and what he won’t. I think we would both agree that the blatant sins he will have little patience with. Whether a three year old is to be punished for telling a lie is a question I can’t answer with certainty, and therefore allow other opinions. Whether, in defending my family, I grievously harm another, is a sin, I cannot answer and would rely upon the mercy of God, and allow for disagreement from others.

    All I can do is focus on the absolute truth of God’s existence and righteousness and hope always to act within the boundaries of what he expects. All I can do is submit to his will above my own. Unfortunately, I know I will fail, and do fail daily, however, I rest comfortably knowing that I have a savior there to set me straight and rescue me.

  34. “cowboy, is it sinful to join the military? If you say yes, then Tertullian would call you a relativist. He would say “killing a human being is always wrong”

    Of course I meant that if you say no to killing in the military being a sin then he would call you a relativist. Because he would say its not situational in the teachings of Jesus. And all I was trying to illustrate was the fact that even orthodox Christians have different interpretations of what is sin. That doesn’t mean we throw up our hands. It just means that calling a different interpretation “excusing sin”, is not reasonable. There are people who do this, but not everyone that disagrees with your understanding of God’s will.

    I appreciate you engaging. I will likely not be able to address the rest of your recent comment anytime soon.

  35. Christian,

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems you are objecting to my position so that you can allow for certain sins. By trying to establish that Christians have different interpretations of sin, it seems you are arguing that somethings may not be sin. You even said somethings you hold now may be seen as abhorrent in the future. I can’t accept this way of thinking.

  36. I’m not objecting to your view. I’m objecting to the idea that your view is to be granted an elevated status in line with absolute truth – within this discussion. You seem to dismiss out of hand that you and those you agree with are also interpreting, the same as everyone else.

    Pointing out that orthodox Christians have held varying interpretations on matters as serious as murder, is only to show you this one point.

    If my view is looked at with abhorrence in the future, it’s likely because I am wrong today, not because the truth changed. We are all clinging to interpretations that have evolved. In good ways and bad. Hopefully we keep searching. I think that’s the point.

  37. Yes, I do hold my absolute above other positions. Why should I sent that sin is sin? It’s as clear as day to me and is actually more consistent with an ultimate truth. You do believe in an ultimate truth, right?

    Oh? And why do you push on my elevation of an absolute truth that sin is sin? What, precisely, makes you uncomfortable with that sentiment?

  38. Ok, let me try it like this:

    Why do you excuse the sin of murder by claiming that it depends on the situation? Jesus clearly taught how we should respond to our enemies. Its moral relativism on your part – killing is killing. Its a clear, absolute truth. Don’t you believe in absolute truth?

  39. Entering a game, Christian. Not a good place to be. Yet, Jesus also got quite angry at the merchants in the Temple. Jesus wasn’t as nice as many people say. He never addressed the defense of one’s home and loved ones.

    Killing another is also allowed in other parts of the Bible. What I think we can glean from those is that there MAY arguably be instances where killing is not sinful.

    But that does not change the absolute.

  40. He never addressed the defense of one’s home and loved ones.

    He never addressed homosexuality or gay marriage either.

  41. An interesting study on self defense:

    http://www.biblestudy.org/question/what-does-bible-say-about-self-defense.html

    An brief outline: yes, it is OK to defend ourselves.

    Contrary to opinion posted here, Jesus does infer that self defense is OK. See Matt. 24 42-43, which uses the example of a guy protecting his house. Also note Ecc. 3:3. What is listed here? A time to kill…

    There are other examples, but I will stick to my position that there is no blanket condemnation on those who kill aside from killing without a justifiable reason. In other words, though shall not murder. (Jared, you should understand the legal terminology there.)

  42. I actually have a huge problem with how Paul and Moses are used to justify the participation in government-sponsored slaughter in the name of self-protection and used equally to discriminate against homosexuality. In my experience Christians (and Deists) are prone to justify war death at the drop of a hat but strain at the gnat when it comes to touching of private parts.

  43. You really see it that way? The author of Ecclesiastes certainly had no problem saying there was a time to kill. He was neither Moses nor Paul.

  44. Not to mention more than one author is clear homosexuality is an abomination.

    Sorry, Jared, but I find it clear both ways. There is room for certain killings and homosexual behavior is sinful.

  45. I think a review of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s talk on grace from today’s LDS general conference from an evangelical perspective would be an interesting future post.

  46. “What I think we can glean from those is that there MAY arguably be instances where killing is not sinful.”

    cowboy, I’m glad we can now both agree that ever single one of us participates in the task of interpreting, when we glean anything from the Bible. Just like you did there. That’s really my point.

    But I would also caution you to not take lightly the example of Jesus, his apostles, early disciples and many more since concerning the principle of non-violence. If turning the other cheek is not a call to real persecution and sacrifice on our part, they didn’t seem to get the memo. You seem to be engaging in a kind of moral relativism, parsing the command against modern American ethics. I see little difference between your tradition and the gay affirming progressives.

  47. Just to be clear, I accept your interpretation as legitimate and reasonable. I think God wants us to defend our homes, our children and the vulnerable in our society, from violence – even if we have to engage in violence. I just think that according to your own standards of not engaging in
    modern moral relativism, your certainly guilty of it in this case.

  48. Jared, to me, if we accept that way of thinking, ie, that we can discount things from a certain age because we don’t like it now, why believe anything at all? I think that destroys any foundation in hope and faith. Why? Because it becomes a symptom of the age, not a permanent truth. (The it is that in which we place our faith.)

    Discounting a belief because it simply was in a different time is not a very strong argument. Some things transcend time.

  49. Christian, it is interesting that you object to my insistence on there being an absolute and make the claim that even in my interpretation (of which I have never said we don’t interpret) there is a moral relativism.

    At the risk of making this into a philosophical debate, I have to say that if you are correct, we can never escape moral relativism. If that is true, no one can ever make a claim to truth.

    Do you think finding truth is possible?

  50. JT if you are interested in writing something on the LDS view of grace based on the talk, I will post it for discussion.

  51. At the risk of making this into a philosophical debate, I have to say that if you are correct, we can never escape moral relativism. If that is true, no one can ever make a claim to truth.

    Is it ever not a philosophical debate. 🙂

    I think that the Sermon on the Mount establishes that, from the Christian perspective, there is no moral relativism, only relative immorality. As he said, if you do His will, you will know of the doctrine. Tolstoy/Ghandi and others dramatically pointed out that the Sermon on the Mount could be lived with little compromise with amazing results.

    Perhaps it can be argued that Jesus never explicitly tells us the truth, but only dramatically pointed out the path to it. His disciples didn’t seem to fully “get it” until after his crucifixion.

  52. cowboy, you’ve spoken repeatedly as though your understanding of the Bible (or your tradition’s) is synonymous with “the truth”. It started when you claimed I was excusing sin. I said that I was not, that I have a different definition of sin – as every faith tradition does (even within orthodox Christianity). I certainly believe in an ultimate truth. And speaking about your particular understanding of truth in a matter of fact way is perfectly appropriate for the pulpit or in a discussion where “truth” is specifically the topic. But for this particular discussion, it really shuts down dialogue.

    Even theoldadam prefaces a lot of his statements with “we Lutherans see it this way…..etc.”

    I see this a lot from “non-denominational” or “bible based” congregations, who try to strip themselves of the appearance of a sectarian faith tradition, but who’s theology has all its markings.

  53. cowboy, please make all the truth statements you like. But, I’m no longer going to respond to “the Bible says so.”

  54. “I certainly believe in an ultimate truth.”

    What is it and how do you discern it? Further, do you wish others to know this ultimate truth?

  55. Scripture, tradition, experience, and reason.

    Do you want others to know about your truth, which comes from scripture (what scripture, and how do you know it is scripture?), tradition (whose tradition and how does this relate to scripture?), experience (whose experience and how does it relate to scripture and tradition?), and reason (is your reasoning grounded in scripture, tradition, and experience?).

  56. Here’s the point, Christian, unless those four attributes are linked and found in a solid, identifiable truth, they can be tossed around like the waves in the ocean. If you base truth from scripture, scripture has to mean something and reason has to flow from it. Experience must come from reason and tradition, too, not to mention scripture. If you take liberties on one, the others fall apart. If you are able to explain away certain parts of scripture, its no longer scripture and scripture becomes something that exists only to support your own thinking.

    I don’t think scripture exists like that. I think its truth stands despite whatever we may think about it personally. I think the Judeo/Christian faith family would fall apart if we were to take scripture apart from reason and define it the way we want.

    You may agree with me, but you have to take a stand at some point on it all. This is why I ask if you want others to know about the ultimate truth you believe exists. If you don’t, is it an ultimate truth, or just something YOU BELIEVE and others are free to think something different?

  57. “If you are able to explain away certain parts of scripture, its no longer scripture and scripture becomes something that exists only to support your own thinking.”

    But no one doesn’t do this. The person who does not explain away parts of scripture does not exist. Your mistake is thinking that you hold up the Bible as the ultimate truth, but you don’t. no one does. We all interpret it through a lens. And all of us consider tradition, experience and reason. All of us. You just did it when you used the OT(!) to override some pretty plain language from Jesus about turning the other cheek. You don’t want to be that person, but you are. We all are.

    And we’re back to square one, so I’ll probably step our with this:

    “It’s only the proclivities of modernity that make personal experience a bad thing to be transcended in an interpretive process because the illusive goal of modernity is “objectivity,” granting ourselves the magical omniscience of not having a particular vantage point. To deny the place of personal experience in interpretation does not concern the sovereignty of the text, but the sovereignty of the interpreter. We want to own God’s truth exhaustively in our mystery-free Bibles so that we can be the gatekeepers of His knowledge.”

    Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mercynotsacrifice/2013/05/15/wesleyan-quadrilateral/#ixzz3WZ39QTdq

  58. This discussion apparently has become about how we view scripture.

    “Your mistake is thinking that you hold up the Bible as the ultimate truth, but you don’t. no one does.” No, I can reconcile Jesus’ statements with the OT quite well and not lose his message. This is in contrast to you waffling on gay marriage due to experience and reason.

    There is a consistency here that you don’t want to recognize. I have been open about interpretation. You don’t want to talk about some of the important aspects necessary in this discussion. There are several questions I have asked that you have not answered, questions that get to the heart of the matter.

    Most recently, it is do you want to share what you say you believe to be an ultimate truth. You said there is one, but you’ve given no inclination as to why I should believe you that you think it is an ultimate truth. All you’ve done is chastise me for holding to an ultimate truth. If there is an ultimate truth, don’t you want to share that with others?

  59. “No, I can reconcile Jesus’ statements with the OT quite well and not lose his message.”

    It’s telling that you contextualize the words of Jesus with the OT, but I doubt you would ever do that with Paul.

    And I still maintain that arguing for a pro gay marriage message is a heavy lift, if you stem from the Protestant tradition. I was simply acknowledging the existence of interpretation in defining sin. And your dismissal of early Christian interpretations on non-violence and murder illustrate clearly that its not just progressives who are influenced by experience and reason.

    I actually participate in a faith tradition that does not accept gay marriage or homosexual relationships as God’s will, so there’s that as well.

    I skipped your questions about ultimate truth, because it would involve writing a small book. Suffice it to say, I’ve frequently mentioned that I think Jesus as God, Messiah, Savior of our souls, the only way to life and light, is an ultimate truth. I accept this, not just because the scriptures say so, but because I’ve tested his words and seen my very nature change. And yes, I do share that with anyone who will listen. As much as my faint courage will allow. Most everything else in this world is a process for me and I’m ok with that.

  60. Its quite an assumption to state that a) I contextualize Jesus’ words and b) don’t contextualize Paul’s. (Its vital to recognize the Epistles as personal letters addressed to real people.) Jesus means we are to turn the other cheek. He means we are not to lash out at bullies and those who will persecute us. I’ve never said anything different. What I have said is that there are situations where killing another MAY not be sinful, and turning our cheek does not alter that.

    How do you define sin? This is another of those questions that have gone unanswered. I have basically said that sin is action that separates us from God. I have said that what is sinful is sinful, and nothing changes that. I mean, think about it, if God never changes, (we are told that God never changes), then he does not change his opinion on what is OK and what is not. But how do you define sin?

    Glad to hear that you think Jesus is an ultimate truth. Is what Jesus embodies reflect ultimate truth? For consideration, when Jesus spoke of marriage as between a man and a woman, is that something you take seriously, or do you explain that away? Further, when Jesus uses a man awake protecting his house as an example in a parable, is that something that fits with his narrative of turning the cheek?

    You are correct on the interpretation issue. We all can view things differently. That does not diminish the underlying truth. And we have to be honest about that. We have to be honest about certain things concerning our faith. Sometimes, we have to conclude differently than what we want. I don’t want to acknowledge that it is not sinful to kill, but I see no other option. I don’t want to tell practicing gays they are living a sinful life, but I see no other option. I wish I could tell others believe what you want, and that it all leads to the same place, but I can’t do that because of the truths I know to be true.

    Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the discussion…

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