The challenge of keeping the Gospel simple

In the last discussion, Slowcowboy questioned whether we can over-think the Gospel.  It seems like those that struggle with understanding what Christians are trying to say overly complicate the questions and often seem to confuse themselves.  I agree completely. However I find that the way most people explain the Gospel involves extremely complicated concepts and relationships of facts.  This is especially true when they try to put the Gospel into a simple formula.  Putting the Gospel into simple words is not the same thing as thinking in the simple way that opens up the mind and heart to the salvation that Jesus was talking about.

Some attempt to convey the Gospel by teaching children to sing and believe that “Yes, Jesus loves me!” But the phrase “Jesus loves me” is as indecipherable to most as the equation E=mc^2.  I trust that the relationship between energy and mass that Einstein discovered is trustworthy, but I couldn’t coherently explain it to a trained physicist.  Similarly I could not explain “Jesus loves me” in a way that would make the phrase coherent and relevant to many non-Christians (I still don’t think the phrase is coherent).  My lack of a satisfying explanation does not make “E=mc^2” any less “true”. Likewise the fact that I cannot explain “Jesus loves me” in a coherent way doesn’t make the Gospel any less true. But if a person does not get a satisfying explanation the words will have no effect on the way they see the world.

My guess is that if I asked the average Christian what “Jesus loves me” means I would never be satisfied with the answers given because the words they would choose to describe what they meant are muddled and packed with assumptions that I cannot honestly make. This does not mean the words are not true, but just that they will always sound like irrelevant nonsense if they do not have a satisfying conceptual foundation.

Practically nobody has any idea what E = mc^2 actually means in relation to their experience. Only very few humans have ever really experienced the truth of the E = mc^2, even though it is universally recognized as the “truth”. This is probably why it took so long to discover it.  I think the experience of redemption can be as elusive and difficult for some to grasp, this is probably why it took so long for humans to discover.

At some point in my life I understood “Jesus loves me” and “God loves me”, my guess is I understood them in much the same way that most Evangelicals and Mormons do. But experience, education, and reflection changed the way I think about things so much that these phrases became nonsensical. To make matters worse, I had lost touch with the actual experience of the “love of God”. It was all completely hidden. The Gospel or the Good News is the pattern of thought that wakes me up to the experience of the love of God in the way that Jesus was attempting. Before my conversion, I heard and understood the ramifications of the Good News, and I understood the complex symbology used to convey it. I understood E=mc^2, but did not see the light of salvation.

The good news for me was that salvation was more clearly and forcefully conveyed with something as simple as 1+1=2. I had to forget the complexities of E=mc^2 and think more simply (child-like) for the words of the Gospel to satisfy my mind and open up my eyes.

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65 thoughts on “The challenge of keeping the Gospel simple

  1. “This does not mean the words are not true, but just that they will always sound like irrelevant nonsense if they do not have a satisfying conceptual foundation.”

    Sounds a lot like what Paul conveyed to the Corinthians:

    (1 Cor. 1: “18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”)

  2. Right, but it takes quite a bit of explanation to move the mind from the complicated nonsense of “I should understand I am saved because Jesus loves me” to the clarity of “I have seen salvation by hearing the word of the cross”. I don’t think “Jesus loves me” expresses the Gospel, even if it helps people remember and feel comfortable receiving the word.

  3. I am still not sure it does us much good to bend over backwards to find ways to make the message understandable to everyone. It can’t be done. The message “Jesus love us and wants us to love him” is straight forward. I can answer questions that derive from those nine words, and I can express the same message in different ways, but that message conveys everything one needs to know. Gaps in understanding can be filled in.

    But as scripture clearly says, not everyone will believe or can get it. This is a huge part of the election/free will discussion. How is it that some people get it can some don’t? I don’t know, personally, with enough certainty to express a strong opinion on whether it is fully God or whether we contribute to that end. What I do know is that God is strong enough to pull people in such that they do understand it.

    What I further know is that the message needs to be spread. If they never hear it, it is more difficult for them to come to know God. Its harder to even ask questions if you don’t hear the message to begin with.

  4. The message “Jesus love us and wants us to love him” is straight forward.

    It is only straightforward to those who already believe that Jesus is a person, that it is relevant that he loved us, and that loving him has any meaning whatsoever. I don’t think you could explain these things well enough for me to receive the Gospel message based on that formulation. They remain confusing to me.

  5. Jared, is our role to convert people or to open their minds to the possibility of God?

    The discussion of apologetics and proselytization I think should be open to the possibility that our role is not necessarily to convert but to spread the message. These questions are not new and have been addressed in countless ways. Each person hearing the message will respond in a different way. We have to be open to all possibilities of how they will respond. Some will be drawn into a mathematical equation. Others analogies. Others yet will respond to the straight words of God. Still others may need to be brought to their knees before they get it. And some will never, ever get it no matter what you say or do, or what happens to them.

  6. Jared, what is the point you are trying to make?

    Is it found in your statement here:

    “I had to forget the complexities of E=mc^2 and think more simply (child-like) for the words of the Gospel to satisfy my mind and open up my eyes.”

    I have no argument with that at all, and that is really my point. Keeping it simple is the better way to go. There is no absolute need to develop fancy analogies to show the Gospel, that Jesus loves us and wants us to love him back.

    You express confusion in those words. What confuses you?

  7. Our role is to do the will of God. With regard to the Gospel it is to convey the message of the Gospel in a way that those with ears to hear can understand. I submit that there are plenty with ears to hear that do not understand because of the clumsy way the Gospel is expressed.

    Most Christians repeat the Gospel in a clumsy and confusing way, orthodoxy is a methodology for keeping the message clear. However if orthodoxy does not follow the changes in the symbolic world of humanity, the force of the message will disappear and it will become empty words.

    The process of words losing their relevance reminds me of the extra-canonical parable in the Gospel of Thomas:

    Jesus says: “The Kingdom of the Father is like a woman who takes a vessel of flour and sets out on a long road. The handle of the vessel broke: the flour spilled out on the road behind her without her knowing it and stopping it. When she arrived at the house she put the vessel down and found it was empty.”

    When the handle to the vessel containing the goods breaks, the church loses the nourishment even though we continue to hold onto the vessel.

  8. There is no absolute need to develop fancy analogies to show the Gospel, that Jesus loves us and wants us to love him back.

    I think you are wrong because “Jesus loves us and wants us to love him back” is not the Gospel.

  9. The words “Jesus loves me” are confusing because they seem to be purely mythical and the myth does not point me to the Good News.

  10. No, the Gospel is that God loved us enough to come to earth in the form of Jesus to die on a cross to save all who believe in Him. The New Testament just speaks to this truth.

    And I am asking if Jesus loves you. So, does Jesus love you?

  11. My point in the OP and in this dialogue is that I have no idea how to honestly answer the question because I really don’t have a clear understanding of what you mean by the question.

    99% of all non-Christians would have this same problem, this is why the discussion of the Gospel in terms of whether Jesus loves us or whether we love him is extremely confusing.

  12. “Jesus” -> not clear what you mean
    “Loves” -> not clear what you mean
    “Me” -> not clear what you mean

    Without a consistent framework that gives these terms meaning, whatever answer I give will be talking past you.

    Are you asking if Jesus of Nazereth held an attitude of love in his heart for me personally? I think the question is completely beside the point of the Gospel, and the reasonable answer is “No.”

  13. Jared, my answer to you was expressed above. Not everyone will get it. That does not mean the message has to change, or that the statement that Jesus loves us is irrelevant.

    As to what I mean by the question is right in the face of the question. There’s nothing hidden in it. You are looking for something that is not there. At most, the question assumes a ‘Jesus’ existed, but with that assumption, do you think Jesus loves you? Do you deny that Jesus ever existed? The verb ‘love’ is pretty straight forward in this context, or do you even question that?

    So, does Jesus love you?

    And if you still want to state that the Gospel is not what I presented, and echo that it is the message of the New Testament, what is the message of the New Testament? Be specific.

  14. “Are you asking if Jesus of Nazereth held an attitude of love in his heart for me personally? I think the question is completely beside the point of the Gospel, and the reasonable answer is “No.””

    Then what is the point of the Gospel, and I don’t care what a reasonable answer is. I want to know specifically, personally, deeply, if you think Jesus loves you: Jared C, appeals attorney and father.

    Whether you answer me directly here is a secondary issue, but that is the issue you have to figure out personally. You have to answer that question, as it gets to the heart of Christianity.

    I can tell you that Jesus does love you, personally and fully. Do you disagree?

  15. Slow Cowboy,

    Of course some people don’t get it. My thesis is that they don’t get it because people try to explain the Gospel in a way that is incoherent to most people. I think blaming the listener is a total cop out if you actually think you have the Truth.

    I think the burden is on you to explain why something as simple as “Jesus loves me” is the message of the New Testament.

    If you want me to answer the question, tell me what the word “Jesus” means in the question, what the world “loves” means and what the word “me” means. and why it is relevant.

  16. Jared, you told me the Gospel is the message of the New Testament. Talk about a cop out.

    I won’t be held hostage here. As I said, you really don’t have to answer me directly here, but you do need to consider whether Jesus loves you, deeply, personally, intentionally, and within reality.

    I can’t make you believe anything, and I cannot alone convince you of these things. I can present the truth and the relevant points. As this all relates to your original post, I do think you are thinking too much.

    And if you would like my honest feedback on your words that led you to find that changing the equation to 1+1=2 and the rationale behind your conversion has confused me greatly. You never really state what the equation means and what it is you have found. I am honestly not sure you even know what that means. If you think the Gospel is the vague notion that it is the message of the New Testament, you don’t know what the Gospel is.

    Maybe you know exactly what you mean, but your presentation has left me with far more questions than a presentation that states “Jesus loves me and wants me to love him back”.

    Now, returning to cop outs and such, if you are really, honestly confused by the terms Jesus, love, and me, let’s work through those, but don’t dismiss the message for failure to understand those words.

  17. SlowCowboy,

    I honestly don’t know how to explain the Good News to most people. I am not trying to explain the Good News to you. The entire purpose of this discussion is to seek both simplicity and CLARITY in the way we explain the Gospel.

    My only point is that the phrase “Jesus loves me and wants me to love him back”. leaves me completely cold. It literally doesn’t make sense because it is not clear what you are referring to and why it is even relevant to the discussion. My guess is this is how most secular non-believers and children are going to hear what you are saying.

    Because it is incoherent to me, and because I believe the message of the New Testament is coherent to me, I am going to deny that you are expressing the Gospel clearly.

    Because you are trying to explain something to me by the phrase ” “Jesus loves me and wants me to love him back” It is up to you to clear up my confusion before you can tell me that you have informed me of the Gospel with such a confusing statement.

  18. “The entire purpose of this discussion is to seek both simplicity and CLARITY in the way we explain the Gospel.”

    But you see, you have to be able to explain the Gospel at all before it can be done either simply or with clarity. If you cannot even do that, what the hell are you rambling on for? I have given a simple statement that you have chosen to pick apart. Anyone can pick apart anything. I at least provided the statement from which we can work.

    You, at best, gave the extremely vague and unsatisfying the Gospel is the message of the New Testament. Well, no kidding, so now, tell us what that means simply and with clarity.

    If you can’t do that your point in your original post is moot and hypocritical. If you criticize a simple statement for being unclear, you have to be able to provide a more clear, concise solution. You have failed to do so.

    I have even offered that the words can be explained and gaps in understanding filled, even suggested that there can be other ways to express this simple truth. You won’t even tell us what you think the Gospel is.

    Come on, Jared, you can do better. You said, “I honestly don’t know how to explain the Good News to most people.” Then a) you better get an answer and b) don’t criticize someone for offering an explanation.

    If you seek clarity and simplicity, saying you don’t know how to explain the Gospel is perhaps the farthest thing from simplicity and clarity that one can get.

  19. And yes, Jared, Jesus loves you. Whether that leaves you cold is up to you, but Jesus loves you and wants you to love him. Jesus wants you to be a part of his family. By love, I mean love akin to how you love your children. By family, I mean you can be adopted as a child to the one, true God.

  20. Slowcowboy,

    I don’t think you get it. You have advocated using simple straightforward language and offer the phrase ” Jesus loves me and wants me to love him back” as an example of this.

    This is nonsense to me and most people without a solid conceptual framework, and I do not think it is actually put that way in the New Testament. I don’t think you an fill the gaps in understanding that you are opening up by saying that this is the Gospel.

    I am not doubting that you have received the Gospel — your reception of the Gospel (or mine) is beside the point. I am only doubting that you are explaining it clearly and simply. Whether or not I can honestly explain the gospel in a “straightforward” has nothing to do with whether your explanation is confusing vs. effective.

  21. Jared, if you are going to say mine is not clear, provide something more clear. Don’t just say this is unclear without providing a solution, especially if your point is that the message needs to be clearer.

    I am prepared to engage in a discussion of my statement, but you don’t really seem interested in pursuing it.

    Anyway, since you don’t think it is put that way in the New Testament, let me provide some examples:

    Romans 5:8– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
    John 3:16– For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
    2 Cor. 5:21– For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
    1 Cor 15:3–3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,
    Romans 1:16– 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,
    Mark 10:45–45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
    Acts 10:43– 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. [Peter speaking]
    1 Peter 2:24– 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
    1 John 4:7-9–7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

    There are others. You’ll notice I quoted Paul, Peter, John, and Jesus himself. What we see is a love of God through Jesus for us and that we are to trust and love in God.

    Now, I will reiterate that my simple statement can be expounded upon, stated differently, and gaps filled in.

    I will also reiterate that you have said the Gospel is something different from what I have stated. Your reluctance to answer what you think the Gospel is becomes wholly relevant at that point. It is relevant because it helps gauge why you think my definition is not helpful. Not giving your definition means you can essentially say whatever you want about my definition and any attempt by me to clarify can likewise be tossed aside with ease. However, if you state your definition, we then have something to compare and you are not so free to say whatever you want. We have like ideas by which to set up side by side. Further, it aids me in seeing what you do not get and where you are in your understanding of my statement. Without something specific and tangible showing your understanding, you are free to say whatever the hell you want.

    So, Jared, do you wish to move forward on a productive discussion on what the gospel is, or are you going to continue to make the vague and unhelpful claim that the Gospel message can be confusing? (Of course it can be, or everyone would believe, but that does not mean that a simple statement cannot be used to begin a discussion.)

  22. So, Jared, do you wish to move forward on a productive discussion on what the gospel is, or are you going to continue to make the vague and unhelpful claim that the Gospel message can be confusing?

    We are not in a discussion about what the Gospel is, we are in a discussion about how to explain the Gospel.

    It is patently obvious that the Gospel message can be confusing. What I think is silly is to blame the person receiving the ancient, hotly contest, translated message without a better explanation than: “This man that lived a long time ago, who people claim has risen from the dead, loves you and wants you to love him.”

    My point is that being clumsy in your language makes it even more confusing. Reducing the gospel to a single formulation, especially an unorthodox one, is not going to help people see the light, and leads to more confusion.

  23. And Jared, I am telling you it is easy to say what you have said. Its much harder to offer a solution. Your initial post asking for simple analogies to help explain the Gospel to your kids opened the discussion up to other ways to simply explain the Gospel. I offered one. Then you tell me I am being too simplistic, and do so without telling me what you think the Gospel is.

    I’m not convinced of what it is you are trying to argue. I think we can over think the Gospel. I think simple sayings can describe the Gospel. What I don’t think you understand about my point is that these sayings represent starting points and not the end of the discussion. Yes, I think they are bottom lines, but certainly not a barrier for continuing the conversation.

    I’ve said several times that there are multiple ways to describe the Gospel. I am not sure why you don’t take me at my word for that.

    Anyway, Jared, I do have questions on what your beliefs are. You brought up some serious issues that need to be addressed and you now won’t. You also seem to infer my positions are not orthodox but offer nothing specific. I think your find if you would engage further rather than shut down the discussion my positions are really quite in line with orthodoxy.

  24. I am going to encourage you to be a bit less argumentative. I am talking about something very specific, i.e. talking about the Gospel in terms of whether Jesus loves us, etc. — and you seem to be taking it as a personal challenge. I am sure you could come up with a dozen better explanations for the Gospel than “Jesus loves me and wants me to love him”, but this is a standard sunday-school answer that doesn’t fly with 90% of those who don’t willingly go to sunday school.

    I am also encouraging you to try to explain your beliefs to a Mormon audience rather than worry about whether any particular Mormon is a proper Christian. From my own experience, it is unquestionable that many Mormons are plenty Christian, and I determining who is a proper Christian is not what this blog is about.

  25. “I am talking about something very specific, i.e. talking about the Gospel in terms of whether Jesus loves us, etc.”

    And all you’ve done is say that is too simple. That’s not a very good reason as to why it being Sunday school fodder means it can’t be considered or true. And whether it flies with 90% of those not willingly going to Sunday school is irrelevant.

    And who mentioned anything about whether Mormons are Christians as it pertains to the current thread? I certainly didn’t. Do you think that because I do not consider Mormons Christian I cannot discuss anything fairly here? That makes it seem like you are somehow biased against that view and therefore me; that anything I say is tainted. That makes it seem that saying that sometimes a simple, direct statement can be more effective than an analogy, becomes offensive to you.

    Now, you’ve gone to great lengths to avoid the merits of the statement I made about Jesus’ love. Fair enough. You want to state that the Gospel, whatever you think that is, is much more complicated than focusing on Jesus’ love and how we are to love him just the same. While it is in fact more complicated, there’s nothing wrong with starting there and moving out from there. And from there, we get to Jesus dying on the cross because we need help. We get into Jesus’ death and resurrection, and what that means. We get into what it means to love Jesus and how that affects our lives. And much, much more. It gets very deep, yes!

    But it also remains very simple: God loves his creation and all he asks in return that we recognize God for who he is. He created us to commune with him, and that is what he wants now.
    ——————————-
    As to being too argumentative, my apologies. This topic and how it presented my argument I felt deserved clarification. I hope always to be respectful and to represent the opposing argument as accurately as possible. If I crossed a line here, forgive me.

  26. As an outsider, this conversation looks something like:

    Slowcowboy: “Do you disagree that snarglesfu divvnths miatrus?”

    Jared: “That sort of statement doesn’t move a lot of people. Unless you already know what “snarglesfu” “divvnths” and “miatrus” mean, and the context, language, etc., etc., it won’t do much for you. Even more, even though we have vague ideas about these terms (“snarglesfu” is probably a proper noun and subject, “divvnths” seems like a verb…”miatrus” seems like the object of the verb.), these things are bound up with cultural ideas that make it harder to understand the truth about the statement.

    Slowcowboy: “Well, certainly, scriptures predict that not everyone will agree that snarglesfu divvnths miatrus”

    Jared: “But it doesn’t make sense to blame that on scripture when instead we could try to translate to languages that people are more familiar with, provide analogies, etc.,”

    Slowcowboy: “Well, I’m saying this as simply as possible. Snarglesfu. Divvnths. Miatrus. You can’t get any simpler than that, can you?”

    Jared: “Well, I think I get what the scriptures are saying…I recognize a change in me…but the words “snarglesfu divvnths miatrus” don’t do anything for me, so I don’t think that’s the end-all be-all of the discussion.”

    Slowcowboy: “How can you criticize my simple statement without offering anything further? If you disagree, put up something simpler or tell me where I’ve gone wrong.”

    Jared: “But since I don’t even known what snarglesfu divvnths miatrus is even trying to say, I can’t comment on it other than to say that it doesn’t do anything for me.”

    IMO, it seems that slowcowboy takes anyone’s admission that “snarglesfu divvnths miatrus” is indecipherable and says, “Well, the scriptures say that this will happen….” Whereas Jared is saying, “Well, maybe there are other ways to state that that will make more sense. Slowcowboy is resistant to doing this because it’s not as “simple.” But you know, if you’re trying to translate between languages, sometimes a concept that takes one word in one language will take several in another. Sometimes, trying to do one word for one word just isn’t possible, and you have to be more wordy, more verbose, more detailed to capture the sentiment.

  27. Ah, Andrew, did you not read my statement that the concept I outlined can be expanded upon? That more can be added and the concepts clarified and gaps filled in?

    What irks me on this post here is that no one seems to acknowledge that. You make me seem like a simpleton not cognizant of the depth of the concept I have presented. However deep an argument, it can be reduced to simple terms and ideas. And just because one actually tries to reduce it to a simple statement and concept does not mean that the person is incapable of recognizing or addressing the deeper arguments.

    Not even recognizing the efficacy of the simple statement is an arrogance that suggests that you won’t take seriously the concept behind the simple statement. That is true even when you don’t understand the simple statement. Its like saying I don’t understand Japanese so everything said in Japanese is rubbish.

    Part of the problem in this forum is that it is English, and we all speak English. We are talking about a topic that we all know something about, and as Andrew said earlier, carries baggage. The simple statement I made about Jesus loving us and wanting our love in return carries with it baggage and preconceived notions Even my definitions (and I did provide definitions, Andrew) are ignored because the translation is not agreed upon.

    And Jesus and his love are loaded ideas. Jesus is a powerful figure, for his message, for who some claim he is, and for the passions that arise in people when his name comes up. And then you have me as the messenger, an admitted Evangelical Christian. What I say is therefore tainted with the preconceived notion that I may somehow be biased and un-thoughtful in what I say. (I certainly hope there is not this bias here, but it is not uncommon so it is a possibility.) Evangelicals, it is often assumed, are nutty and reactive.

    So, you have a situation here where the topic is loaded with baggage and a messenger from a particular point of view concerning the topic makes a point about how to present the Gospel. This messenger makes another point about how we tend to over complicate the matter. The problem has to lie with the messenger, even though the messenger has admitted what is being accused and also provided the definitions asked for. The problem has to be on the side of the messenger, even if it is not the messenger himself, because well, that’s how it works, and it works this way without ever providing an alternative answer or point of view.

    Here, more immediately, the message of Jesus love and the possibility of overthinking the Gospel, are just way too basic and simple to take seriously. The Gospel (undefined, of course) just has to be more complicated and any attempt to simplify it is gibberish. Even though the words have been defined and there is an acknowledgement that there is much depth there, the simple message can be discarded as nonsensical.

    Where, Andrew, is the openness to consider all points of view? Where, Andrew, is the honesty to take the words and definitions at face value and offer a response and/or alternative? Do you already know that the message provided is false? If so, just say it. If not, do you find it worthwhile to find the answer? If don’t care, then be honest about that, too.

    But do not assume or infer that the simple statement is just gibberish and the messenger is incapable of providing more. Believe it or not, there is much behind the message and you really ought not dismiss because it is “too simple” or “indecipherable” to you at the current time. The question, I suppose, for you, Andrew, is do you care enough to acknowledge at least that much and consider what is being said? Or alternatively, are you open enough to actually pay attention, or do you already know that you will dismiss whatever is presented?

  28. I agree with Andrew’s characterization. The most maddening thing about the Gospel is that it is very difficult to convey it in a comprehensible way to those who grew up without any acceptance of Christian metaphysics.

  29. And that is why I suggest starting with something simple as an alternative to worrying too much about the depth and complexity. We can get lost in the vastness of God and in the myriad of possibilities. It can be overwhelming, especially when you are intimately involved with a competing viewpoint.

    All we can do is convey it. I quoted Paul earlier, and his words ring true even now: not everyone will get it. Not to sound too harsh, but so what? Not everyone is going to vote for the same guy for president, either. It doesn’t make them bad people or dumb or even evil (though as to president, some might think that today). Paul said that his job was to plant, while others watered, and then God grew their efforts.

    That’s our job: to plant and to water. That is to say we are to spread the Gospel and let God work in the hearts of those who hear. It should be clear, I would think, that we cannot get inside someone and flip a switch. All we can do is present what we know.

    Of course, we have to know what the Gospel is, which is why, Jared, I pushed you to describe the Gospel in your eyes. If your concept of the Gospel is complicated, it will be more difficult to express it to others. You have to know it before you can share it.

    Frankly, I don’t care if you use a bumper-sticker-saying or a treatise or an analogy to spread the Gospel. The likelihood is that you will have to use all the tools in the task. What I have objected to in this thread is the proposition that the Gospel cannot be described using short, simple statements. To gather a full understanding of it and to mature in Christ, one better go beyond “Jesus loves me” but there is nothing untrue in that statement and it serves us well to see that Jesus in fact loves us. That IS a part of the Gospel and should therefore be considered as a tool to spread the Gospel.

    Anything presented to an audience, though, should be backed up and the messenger should be ready to answer questions and objections. Its like going to court– you need to be prepared and to anticipate a judge’s questions or the opposing side’s arguments with cases and authorities and facts that support your position. There’s a lot to it, and a lot to know.

    But we should not be afraid to speak up, despite the depth of the issues of Jesus, the Gospel, and us. As such, I stated that the simple statement “Jesus loves us and wants us to love him back” is an alternative to creative analogies.

    How folks react specifically to those words is up to them…

  30. slowcowboy,

    The problem isn’t in expanding upon your concept. It’s that your basic concept is not currently intelligible.

    You need to translate the concept, not go into detail. You disagree on both this topic and the previous as to the value of analogies because you note that analogies can get people off track, but what you still don’t seem to realize is that what you see as the “simple statement and concept” already gets people off track, because it doesn’t mean anything to a lot of people.

    Not even recognizing the efficacy of the simple statement is an arrogance that suggests that you won’t take seriously the concept behind the simple statement. That is true even when you don’t understand the simple statement. Its like saying I don’t understand Japanese so everything said in Japanese is rubbish.

    The success of communication is a context-specific matter. You can’t just say a statement has efficacy. It has efficacy only to the extent that it conveys the message that the speaker wants it to convey to the listener. So, it decisively is not true “even when you don’t understand the simple statement.” Not understanding the simple statement is EXTREMELY important context.

    If I don’t understand Japanese, then everything said in Japanese to me is rubbish. (Note: I am not saying that there is no context in which Japanese is not rubbish — obviously, to two speakers of Japanese, it is not rubbish. [Although, I’ll note that even two people who are nominally speakers of the same language can have misunderstandings, so this is a simplification of the relevant context.])

    Where, Andrew, is the openness to consider all points of view? Where, Andrew, is the honesty to take the words and definitions at face value and offer a response and/or alternative? Do you already know that the message provided is false? If so, just say it. If not, do you find it worthwhile to find the answer? If don’t care, then be honest about that, too.

    The openness to consider all points of view is there. Like, I’m open to learning Japanese. But that takes time and effort. In the meanwhile, I can understand PLENTY of Japanese anime and manga because they are either dubbed or subtitled.

    If I take “Jesus loves you” at face value, I have this: “Some guy, who I have never met and who has never met me, engages in certain psychological emotions to me, and wants me to reciprocate.” So, is it like a long distance relationship? Is it like online gay dating? I thought y’all were against that. (See? You’re probably going to say it’s not eros love anyway. But your statement isn’t clear about that. Your “simple” English statement leaves us open to these confusions.)

    But you don’t want to translate. You don’t want to subtitle or dub. And, having refused to do that, and being unwilling to teach Japanese, you think that the problem is that others aren’t willing to learn. That if you just keep repeating your simple statements in Japanese…perhaps more slowly…that that is all that is required of you. “Iesu Kirisuto wa anata o aishite….Iesu Kirisuto wa anata o aishite.”

    And, now that you are in this position, you insist that it’s because other people are unwilling and unopen. That they are not honest. That they “already know” that the message provided (which again, people are saying that they don’t UNDERSTAND what the message provided is…so how could they draw conclusions???) is false.

    If anything, THAT is the baggage you bring as an evangelical. It’s because you, as an evangelical, are programmed to believe that you have the truth and if others don’t, it’s their fault. So, you don’t think you have to do any work because you already think that it’s the job of God or whatever. You don’t consider (and Jared’s been trying to flesh this out) that there’s another possibility…yes, it might be God…yes…it might be someone’s hard heart…yes…but it also might be you.

    But do not assume or infer that the simple statement is just gibberish and the messenger is incapable of providing more. Believe it or not, there is much behind the message and you really ought not dismiss because it is “too simple” or “indecipherable” to you at the current time. The question, I suppose, for you, Andrew, is do you care enough to acknowledge at least that much and consider what is being said? Or alternatively, are you open enough to actually pay attention, or do you already know that you will dismiss whatever is presented?

    I do not ASSUME or INFER that the simple statement is gibberish. No, that is a result based on the available data. It is provisional, meaning precisely that it is open to change upon new data. I do not ASSUME or INFER that the messenger is incapable of providing more. Despite all of these dead end conversations (again, that’s not “inference” or “assumption”….that is DATA), I do not ASSUME or INFER that the messenger is INCAPABLE of providing more information because if I did assume that, then I would no longer participate in these conversations. My participation in this conversation is not based on the assumption that the messenger is incapable of providing more. No, my participation in this conversation and others is based on the assumption that even if every other conversation in the past has not gone as well as hoped for, that maybe in the future things will change.

    This may end up to be a sisyphean task, rolling up the hill when it will just fall down again. But each day, I continue to roll the stone up the hill.

  31. Jared,

    I am not sure that I have a good answer for your original post. Truthfully, if I could give you a satisfying bumper sticker synopsis of gospel it would be nonsensical to the person next to you or irrelevant in six months. Any formula that tries to encompass the apostolic Kerygma, reconciliation and union with the one true God through the cross, into a simple thesis is going to demand explanation.

    Honestly isn’t that built into the system? The relationships and communion are the central requirements to Christianity where the great commission is to make disciples not slogans.

  32. My difficulty is that the “system” is almost impossible to decipher for those who do not share the assumptions of the apostles and evangelists. I am not for slogans, I am for analogies and metaphors that wake people up to a Christ-conscious way of looking at things.

    I suppose it is arguable that the Kerygma cannot be reduced beyond a restatement of the entire New Testament. But I think the text shows that the message can be conveyed with many different literary and rhetorical methods, trying to nudge people to finding words to describe the reality of Christ that make sense to them. If theology is worth anything it should be up to the task of explaining the Gospel in terms that those who are bent by later ways of thinking can grasp.

    Karl Barth explained:
    “But theology is the function of the Church. The church confesses God as it talks about God… But in so doing it recognizes and takes up as an active Church the further human task of criticizing and revising its speech about God”

    As Andrew explains more succinctly than I do, I think statements inviting us to “Love Jesus” or assurances that “Jesus loves us” mean nothing unless the hearer has bought in to the mystery of the hypostatic union. Without assuming that mystery, the love of Jesus won’t appear relevant to grasping the Kingdom of Heaven, and invoking the love of Jesus may only confuse the question.

  33. Doesn’t a metaphor require previous common knowledge for the comparison to be effective? And how do we come to a common knowledge apart from first having discipleship/fellowship?

    Barth explained:

    “The Church confesses God as it talks about God. It does so first by its existence in the action of each individual believer. And it does so secondly by its specific action as a fellowship, in proclamation by preaching and the administration of the sacraments, in worship, in its internal and external mission including works of love amongst the sick, the weak and those in jeopardy. Fortunately the reality of the Church does not coincide with its action. But its action coincides with the fact that alike in its existence in believers and its communal existence as such it speaks about God. Its action is “theology” in both the broader and the narrower sense.”

    Barth, K., Bromiley, G. W., & Torrance, T. F. (2004). Church dogmatics: The doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1 (Vol. 1, p. 3). London; New York: T&T Clark.

  34. I agree tend to agree, but I am still convinced that those within the fellowship should continue to seek language that opens contemporary minds to the Kergyma.

  35. Certainly, I’m a Protestant with a high view of the effective power of the word to show “the grace of the One whose strength is mighty in weakness.”

  36. Andrew, first of all, you know enough of the words to explain what they mean. Calling them gibberish is a bit of an overstatement, no? You know enough to get an idea about what it is I am talking about, which should be enough to begin a conversation about what the statement means in more depth.

    You further accuse me of not wanting to translate. This is ridiculous, as I have given definition of the terms and been very honest about the need to state more. I am not even sure where you get the idea I am not willing to translate. What does going into more depth mean, and what does the need to fill in gaps in understanding mean if that does not include translation?

    I do doubt your openness, to be frank. If you were open, you would not feel it is akin to Mr. Sisyphus and his rock. By the way, what do you hope to get out of these conversations, anyway?

  37. “I agree tend to agree, but I am still convinced that those within the fellowship should continue to seek language that opens contemporary minds to the Kergyma.”

    I think we should strive to communicate as best we can to all who can hear. But we ought not rely on one form of communication in excess. We also not let the depth of the question get in the way of our attempts. As I said, we need to have the confidence speak the truth, despite the challenges.

    In my opinion, using short sweet statements can be a tool in one’s arsenal. But the message does not stop there… We do have to supplement them, but we can begin with something simple. There’s nothing wrong with that as far as I can tell.

  38. slowcowboy,

    Probably the main weakness of the language analogy is that because these appear to be English words, it’s easy to think that we know what the terms mean.

    But words have different meanings in different contexts. They are context-laden. And I’m saying you haven’t given that context. Indeed, you insist that a simple statement like “Jesus loves me” contains all context needed. But that’s really not the case. In this case, I can’t actually be sure whether “I understand what you’re saying but simply do not agree” or if “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”

    I have the intellectual humility to say that the latter is a real possibility. Further more, it’s what you continually say. Because although you recently say:

    You know enough to get an idea about what it is I am talking about, which should be enough to begin a conversation about what the statement means in more depth.

    Earlier you say:

    I am still not sure it does us much good to bend over backwards to find ways to make the message understandable to everyone. It can’t be done….But as scripture clearly says, not everyone will believe or can get it.

    So, sometimes you want to say, “You have an idea of what it is I’m talking about” and then other times you say “per scripture, not everyone can get it.”

    You continually talk about those who can and can’t hear, etc., So yeah, I accuse you of not wanting to translate. It’s not ridiculous — it’s something you continually rely upon because scripture tells you to. If you think otherwise, that you have tried to translate, can you point me back to times when you have given definitions, analogies, tried to reach out, tried to explain rather than just talking about “the simple message” and insisted that instead of analogies, you only need the “simple statement” and insisted that people who don’t get the “simple statement” simple aren’t open?

    I do doubt your openness, to be frank. If you were open, you would not feel it is akin to Mr. Sisyphus and his rock. By the way, what do you hope to get out of these conversations, anyway?

    Someone who is not like Sisyphus no longer rolls the rock uphill. That would be a lack of openness. They see, “This stone has rolled down hill every single time; I’m going to stop even trying.”

    To be like Sisyphus is to be open ot the idea that one day, the rock won’t roll back downhill. And that’s what I’m hoping to get out of these conversations. That maybe, one day, someone will say things in a way that makes sense.

  39. Andrew, that you were able to get enough to begin a conversation is all I care about. You may never find God or fully understand the words. But you want something that I am not advocating. I am not asking that you get everything right here an now. I am asking that you get enough out of those words to be able to a) agree b) disagree or c) ask questions, or start a discussion, to figure out what is meant. Whether you ever fully understand enough to accept God is not something I can even guess on. I can hope that you understand enough to fully consider the options, but I know that not everyone will ‘get it’ enough to accept God.

    What I hear you saying is that you just don’t understand any of it, which you clearly do. Its not all nonsense to you, so you overstate the case when you say it is all gibberish.

    So, first point: you get enough to have a conversation about the statement ‘Jesus loves us’.
    Second point: not everyone will ‘understand’ enough to accept God, no matter how much they might ‘understand’ the concept and the language associated (or not understand).

    The question, as applied to you is whether you understand enough to accept God, since you already understand enough to have a conversation about it. As applied to others, sure, we have to communicate in a way that is meaningful.

    Returning to you, I am not sure where the objection lies to my point, really. You accuse me of speaking gibberish and that most people won’t get it, including you. However, you DO get it enough to provide a farcical interpretation but indicate you likely know precisely what I mean. It just seems a trick to avoid discussing what is meant when you object that its all gibberish. It seems you put expectations too high or really don’t want to seriously consider that a person who lived about 2000 years ago might actually be living and have some form of affinity for you and want to form a relationship. I am not sure which.

    Either way, you’ve made it far too complicated, (it being my suggesting simple words can be used to capture the Gospel). Further, you seem to have conceded the point that people do need understand the context, and that the messenger needs to provide the context:

    “The success of communication is a context-specific matter. You can’t just say a statement has efficacy. It has efficacy only to the extent that it conveys the message that the speaker wants it to convey to the listener.”

    A short, deliberate and concise statement provides the message. The context can be filled in with further discussion. You want to close out the conversation before context can be provided. Making matters more confusing to me concerning your objection is that you clearly know more context than you admitted, which makes me wonder what your intentions are in this discussion.

    Certainly makes it feel like using a short statement to discuss the Gospel is off limits. Worse, you offer no other insight into how to initiate or explain the Gospel, aside from perhaps using analogy, but those are subject the exact same problems you bring up here.

    So, I do wonder what your purpose is here, whether it is the hope that something might make sense, or whether it is to shut down the discussion before even having it.

    (Definitions: see my May 4 post at 1:55 and 1:03 on the same day, and elsewhere. In numerous places, additionally, I fully admit that gaining greater understanding, which requires greater expansion of the simple concept conveyed, is a vital piece of the process. )

  40. When I say “I don’t understand it,” what I am saying (and what I have said is) are asking the following questions:

    1) What is meant by “Jesus”?

    2) What is meant by “love”?

    3) What is meant by “me”?

    4) How can and do these things interact in a way that is meaningful?

    So you say, you are asking me to ask questions. But I am already asking questions. You say my interpretation is farcical. But see: that doesn’t mean that I know what you mean. That means precisely that I don’t know what you mean. I think you’re confused in that I at least recognize that I don’t get what you’re saying, instead of insisting that I do.

    Worse, you offer no other insight into how to initiate or explain the Gospel, aside from perhaps using analogy, but those are subject the exact same problems you bring up here.

    My insight is that your simple statement is inadequate, and in my experience, analogies are far more likely to be effective.

    Thanks for pointing me to the other comments though. I did not see those…although I don’t think they answered everything. I will make a few statement w/r/t to a few things there:

    By love, I mean love akin to how you love your children.

    How do “I” love my children (given that I don’t have children)? Because my guess of how I love my children is that I wouldn’t try to be outside of their lives, hidden, out of sight, etc., I would not hide myself and then make things a “test” for my children to see how well they could figure me out based on limited or no data. And I wouldn’t call any of that “love”.

    At most, the question assumes a ‘Jesus’ existed, but with that assumption, do you think Jesus loves you? Do you deny that Jesus ever existed? The verb ‘love’ is pretty straight forward in this context, or do you even question that?

    You’re assuming that a dead guy who has never met you can love you. So, that’s an additional assumption.

    I don’t get that. It doesn’t make sense to say, “A dead guy who never met you or ever heard of you loves you.”

    Note, I’m not saying “I disagree with that.” I’m not saying, “I reject that.” I’m saying, as it is written, it is unintelligible. It doesn’t make sense to me to say that a dead guy who has never met with me, never heard of me, never interacted with me, etc., could “love me.”

  41. I still say you are overstating the unintelligible line. It clearly is intelligible, as you can pick out parts of it. Whether it is adequate to your tastes and desire to fully understand is a different matter. That’s my primary objection to your posts. What I wrote is something that meaning can be gleaned from. You’ve done it. The full concept may elude you, but it is not gibberish because you get enough to get an idea of what it is I said.

    I never said my answers addressed everything. I have said that each of those needs greater detail, though. Books have been written for centuries describing those three words. They won’t stop being written today, either. It is a deep topic, however simple the concept that Jesus (whoever he is) loves (how and in what way, and what does that men as it applies to humans) us (who is us? those who already believe or everyone? how do we know?).

    So, Jesus loves us.

    I am indeed asserting that someone named Jesus (who apparently lived about 2000 years ago)loves us, now and in the present. First of all, I would argue that Jesus is not dead. Second, in direct response to your objections to ‘love’, Jesus does not hide himself, nor does he have some test. All he asks is that we love him back. I guess if you want to call that a test, that is your prerogative; I certainly don’t. But Jesus is there to be seen and to interact with. That you may not see him is hardly proof that he does not exist, hiding, or that he does not love us. He has heard of you, Andrew, too. In fact, he created you.

    “It doesn’t make sense to me to say that a dead guy who has never met with me, never heard of me, never interacted with me, etc., could “love me.”” Why not? Of course, if an all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present God exists, why isn’t this possible?

    “My insight is that your simple statement is inadequate, and in my experience, analogies are far more likely to be effective.” Fair enough, but apparently you don’t get the concept any better when applied through analogies, do you? We are all entitled to opinion and preference on modes of communication. I find analogies often lack clarity and never fully address the situation. Few scenarios can be so analogous to fully describe everything one needs to convey an idea. I can pick apart differences in scenarios involved in analogies so that they lose their meaning. They don’t help me as much as they apparently help you. (I prefer direct statements.) That’s fine– we don’t need to have the same preference and mode of learning.

    Anyway, I grant that the comment “Jesus loves us” is ultimately inadequate to fully describe the Gospel, but at the same time, I do think it adequately captures much of the tone and message of the Gospel. I also think that we need to be prepared to present ideas in more than one way, and the Gospel is especially true in that regard.

    Jesus loves us. Indeed, he does. If you still have questions on those three words, I am happy to explain more, as I have been from the beginning of this discussion. If you still don’t get my reasons for preferring these simple statements over analogies or complicated thoughts when describing the Gospel, well, maybe its time we move on 🙂 I’m not sure what else I can add…

  42. You say:

    It clearly is intelligible, as you can pick out parts of it.

    “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”

    Picking out the pieces in this sentence doesn’t make the sentence intelligible.

    You have to establish how a “green idea” could be “colorless”, and how an “idea” could “sleep” and how “sleep” can be done “furiously”.

    Since dead people don’t have never met or known us don’t love us, it seems pretty equivalent to the ideas sleeping…unless you redefine “love”, redefine “Jesus”, or redefine “us”.

  43. Andrew, I am confused as to why you continue to push.

    I could go multiple ways in response to your 12:54 post on May 6, showing perhaps that your sentence can make sense, if not needing clarification (which is right in line with what I have been saying about my sentence); or I could demonstrate the distinct differences in the statements, such as mine identifies a distinct name that we are all familiar with , an emotion, and a pronoun, with no descriptors messing up the equation and how even the grammatical form of both sentences is distinctly different, leading to vastly different readability issues. Either way, your analogy here does not work.

    What you are arguing, whether you recognize it or not, is a rejection of my message that Jesus loves us. You seem to reject that Jesus lives and therefor reject how he could possibly love anyone, and that it would be impossible because you have never spoken on the phone with a Jesus or shaken his hand. You don’t think my statement is even possible, so it is a rejection of the message.

    If were open to the idea, you would not continue to try to pick apart the statement. If you were open to the idea, you would work through it. If you were open to the idea, you would not quote Chomsky, who is also quoted as saying “What is it that I’m supposed to not believe in? Until you can answer that question I can’t tell you whether I’m an atheist,” when asked if he was an atheist.

    But you have continued to try to pick apart the statement. You are not working through it, and you quoted Chomsky, who is no conservative in apparently any way. Perhaps you are open, but you also seem to be using a predefined play book to address my argument.

    No, Andrew, until you can show me otherwise, I think your mind is made.

  44. You seem to reject that Jesus lives and therefor reject how he could possibly love anyone,

    But see here how you are adding new ideas to your statement. Now, it’s not just “Jesus loves us.” It’s “Jesus lives and loves us.”

    But you have to redefine lives outside of how most people understand it for that to work.

    If you were open to the idea, you would not quote Chomsky, who is also quoted as saying “What is it that I’m supposed to not believe in? Until you can answer that question I can’t tell you whether I’m an atheist,” when asked if he was an atheist.

    But I am precisely making that sort of theologically noncognitivist remark. I actually agree with Chomsky here in that: to the extent I don’t know what I’m supposed to not believe in, I can’t know for sure if I don’t believe in it. But I take the position that if I can’t comprehend a comment, then regardless of whether I believe it or not, I cannot self-identify as believing in it.

  45. I added nothing. I was responding to your statement, Andrew, who you said that Jesus is dead. Nothing was added.

    Your position on understanding a comment is fair enough. But you understand the statement that Jesus loves you enough to form an opinion. I think you have done that, and you reject the message. Your use of the understanding argument is a ruse. You reject it because you don’t think Jesus lives and therefore can’t know you let alone love you.

    Not understanding or believing Jesus lives is not the same as understanding the statement that Jesus loves you. Not understanding that Jesus lives is a very specific objection. Sure, Jesus has to live to love you, as dead folks don’t love. The first question, then, is how can Jesus live, not that he does not love you. If he lives, he can love you. The second question, is how can he love you (set aside for a moment the type of love). Both of these have answers.

    Now, I don’t expect you to accept the answers. As I said, I think you’re mind is already made. The answers, though, are there. Are you willing to consider them, or again, have you already made up your mind? I won’t waste our time if this is just a ruse…

  46. Your position on understanding a comment is fair enough. But you understand the statement that Jesus loves you enough to form an opinion. I think you have done that, and you reject the message. Your use of the understanding argument is a ruse. You reject it because you don’t think Jesus lives and therefore can’t know you let alone love you.

    Let me say this:

    If you think of the way that Jared C has phrased things thusly:

    My only point is that the phrase “Jesus loves me and wants me to love him back”. leaves me completely cold. It literally doesn’t make sense because it is not clear what you are referring to and why it is even relevant to the discussion. My guess is this is how most secular non-believers and children are going to hear what you are saying.

    is a statement of rejection, then yeah, you’re going to say that my statement is a rejection. Because I’m totally identifying with Jared here. There’s nothing to feel, nothing to process, nothing to experience from the statement, “Jesus loves me”.

    So, it’s important to note that as long as people don’t feel anything from the statement, “Jesus loves me,” that is not a good statement.

  47. Andrew, now you have moved to not liking the statement because it leaves you cold. Which is it? Does it not make sense or does it leave you cold?

    If it leaves you cold, you understand it but don’t like it. And you’ve shown you understand it, if not fully.

    If its not a good statement because it leaves someone cold, that begs the question that I was pushing Jared for an answer to: what’s better? Its not a good strategy to tear apart a statement on how best to describe the Gospel by saying something is cold without providing a better way to do it.

    Without an answer, without providing something you think is better, one wonders what your intent really is.

    Perhaps a better question for you at this point is:

    “Why does the statement leave you cold?” Be specific if you choose to answer. Generalities won’t help a thing.

    A final point, and one I have started alluding to: why do you object to the statement that ‘Jesus loves us’ as much as you have? If we are arguing about whether that is a good statement, then we are arguing about preference. If its something else, what exactly is it? (By the way, is it a bit odd to have a non-believer telling us what constitutes a good statement of the Gospel, anyway?)

  48. slowcowboy,

    Things that don’t make sense to me do leave me cold. It’s not either/or. That’s a big problem I have in your last comment — you want to force it into an either/or when it’s a both/and situation.

    Remember — I am a subjective guy. i am an experiential guy. You say, “Jesus loves me.” I feel nothing from the statement but the LDS “stupor of thought.” I don’t feel “love”. I don’t experience “Jesus”. I don’t know what is meant by “me” that is loved. The statement leaves me cold because I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with it, much less what i’m supposed to feel from it.

    I’m reporting my experience here.

  49. Well, Andrew, I would submit that a Christian understanding of Jesus is very different from the LDS. Its in large part what this blog is dedicated to. Often, it seems to be focused on Mormonism rather than traditional Christianity such that Christianity is not discussed on its own. That’s good, mind you. I am not criticizing that in slightest. It is good to compare and contrast, but if you don’t have a good understanding of one side, in this case traditional Christianity, the terms do not mean the same. Its one of my biggest points in Mormon/traditional Christian discourse: same words, different meanings, and a lot of confusion as a result.

    I can’t relate directly to what you feel about a reaction to the words “Jesus loves me”. I won’t pretend to. But I will attempt to briefly explain the concepts here for you to consider. I am not asking you to buy into them, but to present the ideas:

    Jesus does love you, in a very real and personal way, and you’re right, its more of an ever present, unconditional love. Agape is the term used, though the term is not as important to know as its meaning: basically, unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love (the type where you would give all to protect the person loved). It is this type of love that Jesus, as God, has for us.

    Now, I used the phrase “as God” in that last sentence. This is where a living Jesus comes into play. Jesus, to traditional Christians, is fully 100% God, and this is usually expressed in the formulation of the Trinity. Much has been discussed on this, but the idea of the Trinity is that God exists in three separate forms or persons, and that each is fully God and fully separate, but together form only one, single, united God. We can nitpick about my presentation here, but that is basically it: a 3-in-1 God, of which Jesus is a part.

    If Jesus then is a part of the Trinity, which is but one God, Jesus is God. If you believe in a living God, then it is easy to conclude Jesus is living now. If you have questions about God and whether he exists, understanding that Jesus is a) God and b) currently alive are harder to grasp, but the concept is that Jesus is living as God, as much God as the Father. One can get lost in the formulation (remember me suggesting we can make it all too complicated?), but the conclusion is that Jesus is God and alive now.

    So, we have that Jesus loves us, Jesus is God, and yes, Jesus loves us, which includes you, and me, and everyone else out there. He created us. He, like anyone, loves his creation. This can be hard to accept, after all,it is hard to for us to grasp how he can love us, for a variety of reasons which are too many to list here. And it is amazing to think how he can love us, hard to fathom, perhaps. But it is true. And that includes you, and me. Its not some esoteric thought but universal and fully inclusive. (I think I would be irresponsible to suggest that this universal and inclusive love mandates universal salvation, as God is also just and perfect, which requires some to be excluded from his presence into eternity, but just like a parent (here’s an analogy) he still loves his creation and is saddened when they don’t come to him. This is why Jesus died on the cross, for what it is worth.) But Jesus, as God, loves everyone.

    Its simple, but its not. A few months ago I suggested that the Gospel is simple, and it is, but man, it really can become deep and complicated. However, I do think the three words “Jesus loves us” captures much of the Gospel right there. As I said above, this post is not to convince you, but to perhaps give some perspective. You already know all of this, you might not. You may have read such things before and it went in one ear and out the other in terms of actually understanding it. It may be the same here, But I presenting the explanation to you in a more complete form.

    If you have more questions, I will be happy to answer. I am not enamored of games, though, and don’t want to waste everyone’s time playing them. I hope, though, you find this post helpful rather than counter productive.

  50. Consider this: if two close religions as Mormonism and Christianity cannot even interpret the same terms, concepts, etc., the same, then you’re going to have a whole lot more problems asserting the simplicity or straightforwardness of the terms to non-Christians and non-Mormons.

    Not putting that out as a question or to be counterproductive. Just as a statement to consider.

  51. Andrew, that’s precisely why I think it is important to differentiate Mormon and Christian terminology. It is not the same, and it can lead to confusion.

  52. Andrew, this has been bugging me for this last week. I do strongly believe in clarification for precisely the reasons expressed, but don’t feel the implications and my response was adequately brought up. I know how this will sound to a non-believer, but feel it worth expressing, and only for the purpose of sharing an insight, not to argue.

    I believe the Mormon religion confuses people as to what true Christianity is and what it means. Its not just Mormonism alone in this regard, as other views do the same, but Mormonism is more powerful in that it DOES use much of the same terminology to describe very different points of view. Its compounded by the Mormon claim that they are not very different after all.

    I think you may be a great example of this confusion caused by Mormon teaching, and Jared may be in the same camp. I can’t blame anyone for being confused coming out of Mormonism.

    I do think the Christian message is very simple: trust in God, who died for us on the Cross. Any believer will get it. However, to the non-believer, it can seem like we are talking a different language, so it seems like the message is “Its simple, but you can’t and won’t get it.” A bold and mind-boggling claim. If it is really simple, everyone should be able to understand it, right? Well, yes, and everyone can.

    The trouble is that this message is less of an intellectual message directed to philosophers and the logically inclined than it is to the spiritual and those who have accepted the Spirit of God. In other words, once you accept the Spirit of God, you take on the mind of God (at least in part), and can understand certain spiritual things you could not before you accepted the Spirit of God. You can understand these things because you have God in you, who gives you greater understanding.

    I understand that this sounds perhaps wacko and exclusive and arrogant and a bit off. However, I do think there is truth there, and the concept should be considered and understood even if it is not agreed upon. I can explain it in a million different ways but until the hearer of my words accepts the gift of the Holy Spirit into their hearts, the message will never make sense.

    What has the injection of Mormon thought done here? It has confused the message and intellectually and spiritually driven people away from accepting the Holy Spirit. As I said above, maybe you are an example of this in action. I say that not to demean, but to point out an tangible example.

    And that result, too, is why I feel it is important that accurate distinctions are made and that Mormon terms be clear.

    I hope you accept this as it is, and not argumentative. Its not meant to be argumentative, but explanatory.

  53. The basic issue that your use of Mormonism highlights is how your vocabulary isn’t enough. If Mormons can be so confused or confusing on the issue, then the mere words are not enough. Because Mormons *also* believe that “trust in God, who died for us on the Cross.” But that apparently is not enough of a description, because you’ll adamantly point out that Mormons don’t get it.

    You say any believer will get it: but remember — Mormons consider themselves believers. So that is not sufficient here.

  54. Andrew, you essentially demonstrate my point. And again, I am not offering this to argue, but as information to consider. You say my vocabulary is not enough, and that may be so. Hence the point in stating this is a spiritual issue, not an intellectual one. As I said, I can make the argument millions of ways but that alone will not reach someone until something happens with them spiritually.

    You may now, or may not, I don’t know, understand intellectually what I said, but until you grasp it spiritually, it will still be confusing to you in a sense akin to “what do I do with it.”

    I really don’t want to spend another week discussing…

  55. Hence the point in stating this is a spiritual issue, not an intellectual one.

    For most former Mormons, the starting point has to be intellectual. We must be able to explain Christ to the mind in order to have people open their eyes.

  56. IMO, unless you can figure out a way to communicate spiritually, the words you use will always engage intellectually, and per your own statements, they will fail.

  57. Who is to say what I have told you is not a spiritual communication? Sometimes, what the hearer hears is not what was communicated. My original statement, ‘Jesus loves us’ is very much a spiritual truth.

    Also, please note that nowhere have I said that intellectual thought is absent in Christian evangelism and understanding. I have only said that understanding is ultimately a spiritual exercise. Nothing in that implies that intellectual arguments cannot aid in spiritual understanding.

    Again, I ask that you really consider the insight here and accept that my intent is not to argue.

  58. Here’s something that has been bothering me for awhile now:

    How else do we communicate our spiritual experiences, but by listing and describing them using words or images? I suppose we could use the other senses but our language in words is the most common way of doing so. Words are inherently intellectual, though. So, for those who ask to be communicated to concerning spiritual matters, do you have any suggestions that would help you understand spiritual matters?

    If not, how do you know you are open to the spiritual if you do not accept the language describing spiritual matters?

    Consider Jesus for a moment. He once healed a man paralyzed and asked the question: “Which is easier, to forgive sins or to tell the paralyzed man to get up and walk?” In the context of my question in the previous paragraph, really think about what Jesus is saying here. And don’t let Jesus as the source of the question impede your consideration, for if you do, your openness is indeed in question.

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