My Faith is Dead (I guess)

This from Josh S. (not Josh Sager – at least to my knowedge) over at Metalutheran:

I found the link at the site, Stupid Church People. It is the blog of two pastors who started off making fun of all the silly crap in evangelicalism, eventually despaired of the silliness, fakeness, and hypocrisy of evangelicalism, left the church environment entirely to find more authentic spirituality, and ended up renouncing the faith altogether. Read this post and realize that the very things this pastor is talking about eventually killed his faith. I find this stuff fascinating because in my opinion, evangelicalism is deadly. Yes, millions grow up in it just fine, learn to know Christ there, etc. But there are many who get caught in the eddies of everything wrong with it, and it is in those vortices that anything and everything that would incline them to pay attention to anything called “Christianity” is sucked right out of them.

And some comments:

John: …didn’t those two pastors endanger their faith when they created a blog to mock their brothers?

David: Not everyone who lives through kooky fundamentalism turns out that way. Those guys chose that path . They may have lived previously among the Stupid Church People , but now as the Stupid(er) Non-Church people I can’t imagine how they think they’re better off….

I sometimes wonder if people like these guys were always in the back of their mind looking for a way out and their focusing on the idiotic aspects of evangelical culture was the way they justified their leaving ? If you can demonize your former community then it’s much easier to leave….

I realize that I sound like I’m angry at them (by calling them Stupid Non-Church people) and I’m really not . I’m heartbroken . I’m angry at the evangelical weirdness that gives people the nudge towards God-hating and I’m angry at the God-haters (the Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens types) who so readily supply them with slick , superficial “reasons” for why they are right to reject everything about Christ…

Finally Josh S. comments: …they think they’re better off because anyone who changes his mind about anything thinks he was better off than before, since if he were to think that his previous beliefs were better than his current, he would still hold them.

In any case, right when they left the church, there is still genuine faith expressed in those blog posts. What you see, though, is this belief at the same time that the Church, Christianity as such, strictly identified with megachurch evangelicalism, has “failed,” so the authentic way of following Jesus is to be found outside of it. So they left. And died a few months later. Even in the worst of that evangelical circus, there is still something of Christ. But alone, you have nothing.

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So I’ve visited the site and left a couple of comments of my own, but I thought I should share this over here and let you guys in on it. Initially I was a bit defensive at some of these comments (hate when I do that knee-jerk thing), but its a good thing to read what others think you are representing.

As I told them… I am not declaring anything about my faith publicly on this site. I continue on this journey. I just enjoy sharing it publicly on the web. Certainly Josh S. (again not Sager) and his friends are free to comment on this site and declare my faith dead if they like. Church people make those types of determinations all the time based solely on limited information and externals…and Josh’s flavor of church people are just like all the rest when it boils down to it… even if they don’t think so.

28 thoughts on “My Faith is Dead (I guess)”

  1. <>There is a branch of the Lutheran church that seems to incorporate what is really bad about American Evangelicalism and that is the ELCA.<>You must not live in the same world that I do. In my experience, the ELCA has appropriated almost nothing from evangelicalism and a great deal from mainline Protestantism. The Lutheran church most aggressive about appropriating the ideas of evangelicalism is our own LCMS.

  2. Dang, I got busy in my work and wasn’t able to be around here…and I see that a lot has happened since I kicked the hornet’s nest. 😉In any case, too much to catch up here in the short time I have at the moment, but I did notice that Zecryphon asked for a link to my blog post on predestination and free will. It’s no opus, Zec, but if you want to give it a read, go here:http://holyhell.wordpress.com/2008/03/24/a-story-already-written/

  3. steve,i think i should let you that three years ago, when i stumbled across Stupid Church People, you guys made me feel like i was no longer alone. the healing process is long and hard, but the first initial step is the hardest. you guys had enough grace to say ‘hey, it’s ok, life doesn’t have to be like this’. so, Thank you for stupid church people. peace,petz

  4. “Actually, the only thing strenuous study will give you, on any subject whether it be Christianity or Biology is textbook knowledge, that’s not saving faith” (Zec)No we are calling it ‘saving faith’? I think this is a little to inventive when talking about the term ‘faith’. It’s like someone can have faith – that’s nothing special – but to have ‘saving faith’ – now that’s special. Does Paul use the term ‘saving faith’?The point about study is quite easy – it means one must have the desire to want to know more about what they are learning. In this case it is about someone’s faith – or saving faith – and what that all means. I wouldn’t knock well studied people of the scriptures – for me – it also reveals their love of what they are doing. “but they were not saved in terms of having their sins forgiven by God. That’s what I’m talking about when I use the word, salvation.” (Zec)However, the Torah is given in the wilderness experience – which oddly enough – clarifies some things about atonement and forgiveness – and where letters by Paul borrow from to make their discussions on the topic. So yes, their sins were forgiven by God – or at the least – there was a pattern being set out – even at that point in time. Now salvation is a more interesting term – I am guessing you are using it to mean intro to ‘heaven’. The term salvation is very rarely used (if ever) like that in the Torah and Prophets. But there is some of this put on the messianic age – this idea of total salvation for the community of God. I am guessing that is where you are going with this and ‘saving faith’. And I think that salvation is ‘yet to come and is enacted here’ – we can make our lives better but only God can enact the messianic age. So, in some senses, I don’t think we are fully ‘saved’ yet – cause if so – ‘saved’ from what?“If you could earn your way back to God through good deeds, there would be no need for Christ to die on the cross.” (Zec)But that’s also a theological problem in my opinion – because this means Jesus plays vicarious substitute for us and we are generally ‘off the hook’. I mean, if the substitution theory is ‘true’ then there is no real need for me to do anything no matter what anyone says. Jesus died once and for all – it is finished/complete – there is not a single thing I can do to make that any more complete or to add to it. So what is my role? Salvation is done – I just need to basically ‘believe’ that and I have everything I need. That is totally problematic. It throws out the teachings about God – first and foremost – because they are only there for colorful scenery to the atonement act. Any religious rituals lose all their meaning – except for remembrance alone (which I tend to agree with). The church exists to only teach this one message. And in the end, our responsibility is totally usurped because why do we have to be righteous – someone else did that for us? I mean, what’s left? One act on a cross basically finished everything off and I would say – everyone is forgiven totally and completely – so yeah – you can stop witnessing. “I believe the law was given to show people their need for a savior.” (Zec)This seems to be a common Pauline letter idea – but you don’t see this in Jesus’ teachings at all. Jesus seems to both uphold the Torah and Prophets and proceeds to break them down and how this can be lived. “Or they will withstand the fire and be rewarded if our works were built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.” (Zec)You think there is more of a reward than just getting to heaven – being accepted and loved in God’s presence? What reward would you really want outside of God’s community? God can take all of my rewards for all I care – I’ll sleep on the doormats of people’s mansions if need be – just to be there with everyone. “Only when we are raised to life in bodies not contaminated by sin, will we be completely free from sin.” (Zec)Then doesn’t that put everyone in the same position irregardless of their faith in God or not? We can play semantics on what people know and don’t know without the faith – but to be honest – most of them know quite a bit about ‘right/wrong’…even if being tutored by their breaking of societal laws (and I think this is the point Paul usually makes – law can tutor us in faith). So no one is free from sin – in the now apparently – then why do we not need the law at this point? We still need a standard for living to bounce our ideas off of and to see what ‘mark’ we are missing – to live up to. I am not into the perfection aspect of faith personally – since this is way out of context when it is used – but if we are all sinners – under the same one time atonement – I don’t see how we are all the unique compared to anyone outside the label ‘Christian’. “Like you I’m still learning daily and don’t have all the answers” (Zec)I agree – I find the conversation quite fun to be perfectly honest.

  5. I just think it’s funny that you’re all using the same scriptures from the same book to defend your “pre-determined” theological stances – most of which you didn’t come to because you were convinced of their truth, but because you were told this is HOW IT WILL BE by your church/pastor/denomination etc. Systematic theology, while it has done some good, has also done a lot of divisive harm.

  6. “Where is the concept of man having a freewill in regards to salvation ever taught in the scriptures?” (Zec)Free-will is taught in the scriptures (and in reality also). Moses questions God at one point and gets God to change his mind. Abraham did the same thing. Were those 2 people acting in accordance with God’s will or on their own? I would also say it’s a plain fact we can choose to do or not to do something – no one actually needs to prove that. On the contrary, pre-destination and all humans not having free-will needs quite the backing story to make it ‘reality’. “Christ says that NO ONE can come to the Father unless they are drawn to him” (Shelly)But why would God not draw all of us to Him? Are we not created this way? I don’t see how God ‘drawing’ us to Him has anything to do with free will. In all honesty, we make choices and are judged by those choices in God’s court – we are not judged unfairly by the fact we were not drawn to God or could not make the right choices (that’s never a scenario in the end judgment scenes concerning God and humans). “Can one choose NOT to sin?” (Shelly)Yes, someone can choose not to sin. If you and I walk into a store together and I decide to steal something and ask you to join in on the ‘fun’ – you can choose not to…or is there some mechanism in you that says you have to sin always? It’s been my experience in life that even if we were born into sin – we still had the choice to steal the fruit from the tree or not. “God giving you a measure of faith is what allows you to even have a choice to make.” (Zec)However, what if you are actually born with that measure of faith already existent inside you upon creation? I mean it only makes sense if we believe there is a Creator of us – that we would be hard-wired to want to know that. “What you’re suggesting is that by doing something we can be saved” (Zec)Well, honestly…I would say ‘yes’ – we have to do something to be saved. Do you think the Hebrews magically appeared in Canaan even after all of God’s intervention on their behalves? Or did they have to walk and struggle for 40 years to get there? Noah watched the world slip away under the sea – but did he have to do something to ensure his safety or did God endue him with gills? Biblically, God is the cause of the salvation but we are never required to have nothing to do with our salvation (or being saved from something). I would suggest that an aspect of atonement was paid by Christ – was accepted by God – and took care of our ignorance towards God. But we have a part in that also – namely repentance and charity. If we wrong someone, does God come down and make things right on our behalves? Never seen it happen yet so I am guessing no He doesn’t. God requires that of us and basically – that’s the least we can do anyways for all the teachings God has given us.

  7. Zec…<>Just a quick question, Shelly. Do you believe in Universal Reconciliation?<>I do. I still believe sin exists; and that although all were redeemed at the cross, not all are saved (yet! there is a difference between the two). Those who aren’t saved at the second coming will experience eonian separation from God and will “reap what they’ve sown”, as opposed to eternal damnation in hell. (Both “eternal/everlasting/forever [and ever]” and “hell” have been mistranslated throughout the NT…a glance through a concordance confirms this.) Only after the reaping happens will the rest be saved.Part of my coming to this belief came due a couple things.1) I came to a point where I wasn’t sure if I could accept what the majority of mainstream Christianity has taught for centuries anymore–that those who don’t say some magical sinner’s prayer at some point in their lives will end up being doomed to hell forever. This happened back in 2002-ish, when I started questioning my perceptions of God, and even my beliefs as a whole in regards to Christianity.2) Researching what proponents of Universal Restoration/Reconciliation had to say, to see if it all lined up and made any sense–going through the Bible (the Bible Gateway website was a huge help), reading those given verses, and learning how to use a concordance (a huge asset). This was in late 2006/early 2007.To me, there’s just too much evidence to support it. Also, let’s consider John 10:10…<>The thief is not coming except that he should be stealing and sacrificing and destroying. I [Jesus] came that they may have life eonian, and have it superabundantly.<> (Concordant Literal New Testament)If Christ’s (God’s) purpose was to give us life, then how can one also believe that same God will either annihilate or damn most of the world for eternity? To me, that’s nonsense. It would make God no better than Satan himself!Society…<>Yes, someone can choose not to sin. If you and I walk into a store together and I decide to steal something and ask you to join in on the ‘fun’ – you can choose not to…or is there some mechanism in you that says you have to sin always?<>We were born into a sinful nature. The flesh ALWAYS wants to rebel against God’s will. Paul wrote that, even after his conversion, he still sinned and struggled with sin. Romans 3:23 says that ALL have sinned.As for the scenario, stealing is a sin only if you know it is but do it anyway. But what if you don’t know it’s wrong? If one does not know stealing is wrong, to them, it’s not sin. They don’t know any better.<>To him therefore who knows how to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.<> (James 4:17, DT)<>Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He that does good is of God. He that does evil has not seen God.<> (3 John 11, DT)Again, not doing good is a sin <>only<> to those who know to do good (in this case, not stealing), but don’t–those who are “of God”. This would include all of Christendom. (It doesn’t mean that moral non-Christians don’t exist. They do. But I’m talking solely about Christians.)The following is an excerpt from an essay I’ve started working on about free will…<>As a little girl, I did not have the ability to judge where I was in space correctly. This meant I repeatedly bumped into things. I would always <>miss<> where I was going. In school, I would answer questions (sometimes lots of them) on homework and tests incorrectly; I would <>miss the correct answers<>. Musically, I’ve <>missed<> notes–both in singing and in playing piano or guitar…. [T]he Greek word for the verb “sin” means “to miss (the mark)”.<>I did not choose to have problems determining where I was in space; I didn’t choose to answer test and homework questions incorrectly; I’ve never chosen to hit wrong notes while singing or playing instruments. All that stuff just happened. Why? So I could learn from it all.If Adam and Eve didn’t eat from the forbidden tree, none of us would’ve needed a Saviour. However, it was all part of God’s ultimate master plan.<>and all that dwell on the earth shall do it homage, [every one] whose name had not been written <>from [the] founding of [the] world<> in the book of life of the slain Lamb.<> (Revelation 13:8, DT, emphasis mine)<>For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my (God’s) ways higher than your (man’s) ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.<> (Isaiah 55:9, DT)Society continues…<>Paul is also telling us not to ‘sin’ (or commit actions against God and our neighbor) – and that requires something on out part.<>Right–a desire, and the grace, not to, which is given ONLY to those who are of God.

  8. Zec – I get what you are saying. I certainly appreciate your input… and I think he starts by giving us a compliment then backhands that compliment with an assessment of our personal faith as an example of what’s wrong with evangelicalism… but that’s his right to do so if he chooses.I don’t think my faith crisis has ANYTHING to do with the evangelical movement. Granted, I believe life is systemic so all things weave together in the fabric of your journey…but my questions of God aren’t based out of the stupid stuff the church growth movement does. I happen to focus on that a lot because that is what I know, but I went over to the LCMS site and I am sure if I dig around I can bring up a few things I think are “stupid” over there.Evangelicals don’t have the market on “stupid”. They don’t have a market on hypocrisy, fakeness or silliness as his original post implies. The Lutheran Church has plenty and more of all of that…and getting to know Josh and his friends will only prove that point eventually.They, like us, are Stupid Church People… and yes we probably will agree on a lot of things as we get to know each other better.

  9. Zecryphon, the God you describe is one who has decided to pick and choose from among the billions whom will go to heaven and whom to hell. Jesus died for the sake of us ALL…not for God to show love to some and not to others. That’s a hateful God you believe in, not a righteous one. the Holy Spirit becomes a part of us once we’ve accepted and acknowledged Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. Why were there evangelists if no one needs to be reached to make a decision? Why are we called upon to spread the gospel if God has already made his chocies? Clearly, we’re not going to see eye to eye on this, so I’ll stop now…but the kind of God you describe and the attitude you have is precisely why so many people turn off their ears when Chrisitians try to tell them about anything related to God.

  10. “As for the scenario, stealing is a sin only if you know it is but do it anyway” (Shelly)But that’s the problem isn’t it…we know a lot of things are ‘wrong’ to do and we still do them – even after we know this. As for those that are ignorant to the ‘wrong’ – they can answer for themselves – as for me – I know stealing was wrong when I took what I did not pay for. Now the scenario lays out the problem – what about this action – how do we atone for something that simple?“[T]he Greek word for the verb “sin” means “to miss (the mark)”” (Shelly)If ‘sin’ means to ‘miss the mark’ – then aren’t we aiming at something here? I am guessing this idea comes from the Judaic scriptures first and foremost – then we find it in Christian scriptures later on. Now the Judaic community would have used what as the ‘mark/standard’ we were aiming at? Could it be the Torah? Sin as a definition exists because there was a standard to keep that both existed for our benefit and safety. As a non-Judaic person I have not grown up with the Torah – but I have grown up with knowledge of what ‘law’ means and it uses. Is law really that bad a thing – the one that governs affairs in society? Humans use law because it helps to maintain order in a society and for the benefit of all people in society…that is not necessarily a bad thing. Sin can be used to explain ‘missing the mark’ of the standard that is best suited for us. As for your point about learning from our mistakes – I agree 100%. Even from darkness can come light apparently. “Right–a desire, and the grace, not to, which is given ONLY to those who are of God.” (Shelly)I disagree. Basically all we need is the awareness of how to ‘do good’ and that is not something we have to ask for from God. God gives each of us a conscience also. That sentence above seems to want to place certain people in an ‘elect’ category before God – and breaks up community into some ‘us and them’ mentality (on some level). I see Jesus as removing that barrier to God – so all can come freely and wherever they are…no one is more elect than the next (in my opinion). If Jesus died once for all – than all have that grace already available to them – they just need to know about it.

  11. <>God doesn’t just make it happen to whomever he randomly preordained. People still have to choose to come to God.<>Did Paul (then Saul) choose to be accosted by Christ on the road to Damascus?Did the original twelve disciples choose to have their everyday lives interrupted by Christ?Did Moses choose to see a burning bush?Did Pharoah choose to have his heart hardened?Did you choose to be born into sin?Can one choose NOT to sin?The answer to all of those is a resounding NO.In Romans, it says that NO ONE is seeking God (3:11). Later in that same book (11:32) it says…wait for it… that it is <>God<> who locks ALL people into stubbornness (or disobedience), so that he may show them mercy. In the Gospels, Christ says that NO ONE can come to the Father unless they are <>drawn<> to him (John 6:44).Zec…<>But there is only a select group that will be saved, that is clear in the scriptures. Not everyone will be saved.<>There are also verses that say God’s will is that ALL WILL be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), that EVERYONE will acknowledge Christ is Lord and bow their knees to him in acknowledgement (Romans 14:11 and Phillipians 2:10-11), that he will become ALL IN ALL (Revelation), that ALL will be made new (Revelation 21:5). And if God ALWAYS accomplishes his will, then–as I see it–that means what I’ve described WILL happen.If not, then God is a liar and is not worthy of our devotion, and we should all deconvert right now.

  12. *Zecryphon, what about Romans 10:9? …confess Jesus with your mouth to be saved.*Is it by your own power that you confess Jesus is Lord? Or is it by the power of the Holy Spirit that you are able to make that confession? Like when Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. What did Jesus say to him? He said that it was the Father in Heaven who revealed this to Peter. Peter did not confess that Jesus is Lord by some free will decision. Where is the concept of man having a freewill in regards to salvation ever taught in the scriptures?*I admit that the passage from a couple chapters earlier you cite may make it sound like God has chosen everyone beforehand who is going to be saved, but I don’t buy it.*Okay, but you’re not “buying it” doesn’t mean it isn’t true.“Something is wrong with that interpretation. If God handpicks who’s going to be saved and who isn’t, where’s the free will?”Why do you think you have a freewill choice in your salvation? We are all born with a sinful nature, and because of that, we can only act in accordance with that nature. The sinful nature rejects God and wants nothing to do with God. See Romans 3:11, there is none who seeks after God. God came to earth seeking us in the person of Jesus Christ. It is only when God acts that we can be saved, we have no choice in the matter. We have a bound will, not a free will.“Hell, where’s the point of doing anything if God has already decided?”You would have to know for yourself what God has decided in relation to yourself before you could answer that question. I have no idea what God has decided in relation to you. I have no answer for you. It sounds like you want to know how you can be certain you are part of the elect. This is one of the problems with Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, knowing if you are or are not part of the elect. To get around this problem Calvin argued that “you would know them by their works”. If you produced good works, good fruit, that was evidence that you are saved.

  13. Shelly, thanks for your answer of “I do” to my question. I’ve spent the last three months debating Universal Salvation over at: http://christianforums.com and I really don’t want to get in another debate about it with you. So I will just not comment on your reasons, if that’s okay with you.

  14. “and I think he starts by giving us a compliment then backhands that compliment with an assessment of our personal faith” (Steve)I had a dog and his name was…BINGO!According to Josh I am not a Christian, inventing a new religion, making a new God, a mr. know it all, and arrogant…and that’s just the entree’s. LOL. I figure when he wants to have a grown-up conversation he can come and find me and we can wrestle with theological issues and enjoy the company in doing that – I have no problem with discussion on any issue. But that might be a long way off – those insults he’s slinging are worse the worst darts I have felt on my shield of faith in some time…and he wants to play verbal chess about who is going to win the game of faith.Oh well, can’t say I don’t egg that stuff on – I enjoy a good theoligical session about pretty much anything – maybe I deserve the treatment…I wouldn’t put it past me.

  15. <>“If man really did have free will, then God is impotent, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he is unworthy of our praise and worship.”<>One of the greatest evils that systematic theology has wrought is this either/or mindset that tragically mistakes patience for impotence. It does not logically follow that forbearance should equal helplessness. It’s like the ridiculous fundamentalist notion that if you don’t believe every word in the bible, then you can’t believe any of it.One is entirely independent of the other.

  16. “God giving you a measure of faith is what allows you to even have a choice to make.” (Zec)*However, what if you are actually born with that measure of faith already existent inside you upon creation?*If you were born with it then you would seek after God on your own. Scripture teaches the exact opposite of that.*I mean it only makes sense if we believe there is a Creator of us – that we would be hard-wired to want to know that.*But there’s a difference between wanting to know if there is a creator and having faith in the one true God. The Bible is clear where faith comes from, it is a gift from God. Ephesians 2. “What you’re suggesting is that by doing something we can be saved” (Zec)*Well, honestly…I would say ‘yes’ –we have to do something to be saved. Do you think the Hebrews magically appeared in Canaan even after all of God’s intervention on their behalves?*Did appearing in Canaan save the Hebrews? Are all Hebrews saved because their ancestors appeared in Canaan?*Or did they have to walk and struggle for 40 years to get there?*Why were they walking around for forty years? Because they were being punished by God for disobedience. Also, eventually arriving in the promised land didn’t save them. Faith in the promise of God regarding the future messiah, is what would save them. After the messiah came, it is faith in that messiah that would save future generations, not something they did.*Noah watched the world slip away under the sea – but did he have to do something to ensure his safety or did God endue him with gills?*Why was Noah building the ark again? Who told Noah to build the ark and how to do it? Noah and his family would have drowned with everybody else had God not acted first.*Biblically, God is the cause of the salvation but we are never required to have nothing to do with our salvation (or being saved from something). I would suggest that an aspect of atonement was paid by Christ – was accepted by God – and took care of our ignorance towards God.*If Christ’s atonement took care of our ignorance towards God, how come we still have atheists and other various non-believers who say that there is no God. Clearly, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross did not take care of man’s ignorance about God. Also, ignorance about God is not man’s problem anyway. Sin and it’s consequences are the problem.*But we have a part in that also – namely repentance and charity. If we wrong someone, does God come down and make things right on our behalves? Never seen it happen yet so I am guessing no He doesn’t.*No, God gave you a conscience, that lets you know when you do something wrong. When we feel guilt for doing something wrong it is the Holy Spirit pricking our conscience that lets us know that. See Romans 2:15, the law of God is written on the heart of the believer. Where did that come from? It had to be given to us. We weren’t just born with that.

  17. *If faith is a gift from God – then how is it that people outside the faith can even so much as have an idol?*Perhaps I should have been more clear. I meant saving faith in the one true God. You don’t need faith to have an idol. Anything can be an idol. Anything that takes your focus of off God and becomes more important than God is an idol. For instance, playing video games could become an idol. *Is it possible that faith exists from birth? I think back to when I was a child and my mother would make me attend Sunday school – and I enjoyed it. It seems to me faith was as much something nurtured as learning to be a disciplined child was.*I think you might be confusing faith with societal influence. “The Bible is clear where faith comes from, it is a gift from God” (Zec)*Again, if it is a ‘gift from God’ then why is it the early Israelites are surrounded by cultures who worship idols (ie: other gods)?*See above.*That takes some amount of ‘faith’ in my opinion. Now coming to the belief in the One God – I can see that taking some strenuous study and enlightenment – but that’s not talking about having faith so much as having a ‘certain faith’.*Actually, the only thing strenuous study will give you, on any subject whether it be Christianity or Biology is textbook knowledge, that’s not saving faith. “Did appearing in Canaan save the Hebrews? Are all Hebrews saved because their ancestors appeared in Canaan?” (Zec)*Yes, they were ‘saved’ in as much as that term was used in that context concerning their freedom from slavery in Egypt to inhabiting a new land – in which they developed a society with laws and freedoms. If you check into the Exodus event salvation as a term is used twice – Exodus 14:13 and 15:2 – both times in regards to ‘God’s salvation’. So yes, they were ‘saved’ by God in their times of distress and suffering.*But that salvation is not the salvation that is the overarcing point of the Bible as a whole. How does that story further the whole story of scripture, which is Christ crucified and resurrected for your sins? You’re right, the Israelites were saved in the sense that they were safe from the Egyptians, but they were not saved in terms of having their sins forgiven by God. That’s what I’m talking about when I use the word, salvation. “Why were they walking around for forty years? Because they were being punished by God for disobedience” (Zec)*So God free’s them from the chains of slavery to simply punish them? That, for some odd reason to me, doesn’t seem like the loving kindness of a God they were to follow for some 4000 centuries after this event.*No, Moses and Aaron were being punished for something they did after God freed the nation of Israel. See Numbers 20:2-12. *I am more than sure they were disciplined at times but that was not the sole purpose of 40 years in the wilderness – maybe being challenged for their new existence as a community might be a better way to view this episode.*Read Numbers 20:2-12 and you will have your answer to this question. Whether or not you will accept it, I do not know. “After the messiah came, it is faith in that messiah that would save future generations, not something they did.” (Zec)*Explain what you mean by ‘faith in the messiah’? Do we mean faith as in following the teachings of the ‘messiah’ or believing that Jesus is simply ‘the messiah’?*I mean having faith that Jesus is who He claimed to be, the Son of God and the messiah. Having faith that His work on the cross is sufficient to pay for your sin and wash them away, when you by the power of the Holy Spirit repent of your sins and are given saving faith by God.*Now the latter we know the Judaic faith rejects – for good reasons – but as for the former – I am not sure they directly break any of Jesus’ teachings – and I would say are far more progressive than most Christian denominations when it comes to keeping and elaborating on the commandments (especially in the light of history).*I do know one reason that the Jews rejected Jesus as their messiah. It is written that the messiah of the Jewish people would overthrow Israel’s oppressors. Jesus, clearly didn’t do that as He was put on a cross, as far as the Jews could tell, by the Romans who were Israel’s oppressor. So since this “messiah” was killed by Romans, He clearly could not be the warrior messiah they are waiting for. So they’re still waiting.“Noah and his family would have drowned with everybody else had God not acted first” (Zec)*True…but did Noah do something in response? Yes he did and this is clear from the story…he built an ark, rounded up the animals, and sailed the boat. Basically his ‘faith’ meant he had to ‘do’ something in response – even in the case of ‘salvation’ from the flood.*Yes, but my problem with people who say “I asked Jesus to save me and He did” or any variation thereof is that it puts us in the wrong position in relation to God. A statement like that makes it sound like “I asked God to save me and He did.” Like God is at our beck and call and has to do what WE say. It reverses the servant/master relationship. “Clearly, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross did not take care of man’s ignorance about God” (Zec)*That’s an opinion and I respect it. Check out Hebrews 9:7 (in direct relation to Lev 4):“…only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” The sacrifice was not intended for intentional sins – but sins committed in ‘error’ or ‘ignorance’. Christ’s atonement takes care of the sacrificial system once and for all – and allows all to enter into meeting with God. Before we came to God we were quite ignorant of our actions – not having the teachings to learn from – but now we have the teachings are not so innocent anymore.* I agree and this is why I use the law and gospel approach when I witness to people. So that they will know why they need a savior. Just telling people “Come to Jesus, and everything will be great”, which is a pretty common message in Evangelicalism today, does nothing to let people know why they need a savior and it cheapens the gospel message.*Heb 10:26 “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”I always found this an interesting and scary passage. But it is not really that scary when put it into some perspective. There was no sacrifice for intentional sins except for the other aspects of Judaic atonement – repentance and charity (acts we participate in). People are responsible for the actions they commit against another – when knowing better not to do so. And Jesus himself teaches this in his very first teaching in Matthew ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’. Interesting how repentance was so important to the Messiah.*I’ve always said the Christian life is one of daily repentance. *Even if the law of God is written on our hearts – and how that gets there – well your guess is as good as mine (born with it?) – is it not on us to do what is ‘right’ to be justified by God?*No, because there is nothing you can do. Prior to regeneration your good deeds are like filthy rags to Him. If you could earn your way back to God through good deeds, there would be no need for Christ to die on the cross.* “for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified” (Romans 2:13).*But what was the purpose of the law? Was it given for salvation purposes? Or was it given to show people that they could never by their own power keep the law? I believe the law was given to show people their need for a savior. *I don’t see Paul quite rejecting this idea either as he finishes this portion of scripture off with “in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom 2:15-16). What is God judging on ‘that day’ exactly?*The works of believers in Christ. I believe what Paul is talking about is what is commonly referred to by Christians as the Bema Seat Judgment. This is a separate judgment from the Great White Throne Judgment that those who are not saved by faith in Christ will face. At the Bema Seat Judgment our works will be tested by fire and they will either be burned up, if our works were done with selfish motives. Or they will withstand the fire and be rewarded if our works were built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.*What people decide to do with their knowledge of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Romans is a long letter mind you and this convo can go down many roads but what is known ‘May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:2). Paul is also telling us not to ‘sin’ (or commit actions against God and our neighbor) – and that requires something on out part.*But the power to do that does not come from us, it comes from God. The Christian after regeneration is really in a screwed position if you think about it. Because now instead of just eing a slave to the old sinful nature that resides in our flesh, we now have this new holy nature, a nature that seeks to do what God commands, that is constantly at war with the old nature. Only when we are raised to life in bodies not contaminated by sin, will we be completely free from sin. That’s why the Christian life is such a daily struggle and why we are commanded to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow after Jesus.I hope that my answers to your questions are not “final” in any way, shape or form. Like you I’m still learning daily and don’t have all the answers. I believe the only true answers are found in the scriptures and that’s where we should be seeking answers while praying for guidance and revelation from God.

  18. *I have no illusions that some people, in fact MANY people…probably the majority of people, will not be saved. But people still have to choose to embrace God. You seem to think that because God KNOWS the future, that means we don’t choose anything or have free will when it comes to salvation.*You misunderstand my position on this. Whether or not God knows the future or not has nothing to do with the freewill choice you think man has in regards to salvation. My point with my statement about God knowing who will and will not come back to him was in reference to an “elect” group that has been preordained by God to be saved. That’s a completely different issue from freewill. You don’t have a freewill when it comes to your salvation. You have a bound will. Your will is bound by your sinful nature, before regeneration in Christ you can do nothing but reject God. Remember there is none who seeks after Christ. No one can come to the Father unless the Father draws him. So no you don’t have a freewill to just choose God whenever you want or when you hear a gospel presenation. God acts first, you react to God’s action. God giving you a measure of faith is what allows you to even have a choice to make.*Knowing the future and MAKING the future are two VERY different things. In fact, I just posted about this a couple days ago on my blog.*Can I have a link to the article. I think I’d like to read it.*No, we cannot save ourselves by our own power. I agree with you 100% on that. But it is when we accept our sinful nature and desire forgivnesss and to be born again in the spirit that it happens.*And how does that happen? It happens because God is at work, behind the scenes so to speak. He is working through His written word, through the Holy Spirit and through evangelists, long before you are ever faced with a choice to make.*God doesn’t just make it happen to whomever he randomly preordained. People still have to choose to come to God.*And the people that do come to God because of what God has done are the elect that the Bible speaks of. Those who do not come back to God and die in their sins, are not part of the elect and it’s safe to say were not preordained by God to be saved.*The future is known to God but that doesn’t mean he wrote a script picking and choosing who would be saved.*That’s funny, I thought God was the author of all creation and everything that happens, happens for the glory of God. Maybe we do worship two different gods.

  19. Not Zec, but…<>I admit that the passage from a couple chapters earlier you cite may make it sound like God has chosen everyone beforehand who is going to be saved, but I don’t buy it. Something is wrong with that interpretation. If God handpicks who’s going to be saved and who isn’t, where’s the free will? Hell, where’s the point of doing anything if God has already decided?<>It also says in the Bible that it’s God’s will that ALL be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and that God’s will is always accomplished. Elsewhere, it’s written that EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.In Acts, Paul and Silas told the jailer (after they were freed from jail) that all he needed to do to be saved was to believe. No magic “sinner’s prayer” or anything.Personally, I don’t believe man has “free will”; it’s only an illusion. If man really did have free will, then God is impotent, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he is unworthy of our praise and worship.I like what < HREF="http://www.martinzender.com/Zenderature/free_will_and_the_oh_well_creed.htm" REL="nofollow">Martin Zender<> has to say about “free will”. Ditto for < HREF="http://www.goodnewsaboutgod.com/studies/freewill2.htm" REL="nofollow">Good News About God<>.

  20. societyvs, I’m hardly not some kind of radical for understanding the Christian faith in trinitarian terms. Please.Anyway, Steve, I certainly do not say that evangelicals have a corner on hypocrisy. Or stupidity. Or shallowness. Or bureaucratic skulduggery. Trust me. If you don’t trust me, read my archives–I criticize Lutherans as much or more than anyone else. It shouldn’t be a surprise, as a significant portion Lutherans are human beings.So obviously, that’s not the Lutheran difference. If it were, then I’d either be delusional or not a Lutheran. I do hope to talk about it some more.

  21. “If you were born with it then you would seek after God on your own. Scripture teaches the exact opposite of that.” (Zec)If faith is a gift from God – then how is it that people outside the faith can even so much as have an idol? Is it possible that faith exists from birth? I think back to when I was a child and my mother would make me attend Sunday school – and I enjoyed it. It seems to me faith was as much something nurtured as learning to be a disciplined child was. “The Bible is clear where faith comes from, it is a gift from God” (Zec)Again, if it is a ‘gift from God’ then why is it the early Israelites are surrounded by cultures who worship idols (ie: other gods)? That takes some amount of ‘faith’ in my opinion. Now coming to the belief in the One God – I can see that taking some strenuous study and enlightenment – but that’s not talking about having faith so much as having a ‘certain faith’. “Did appearing in Canaan save the Hebrews? Are all Hebrews saved because their ancestors appeared in Canaan?” (Zec)Yes, they were ‘saved’ in as much as that term was used in that context concerning their freedom from slavery in Egypt to inhabiting a new land – in which they developed a society with laws and freedoms. If you check into the Exodus event salvation as a term is used twice – Exodus 14:13 and 15:2 – both times in regards to ‘God’s salvation’. So yes, they were ‘saved’ by God in their times of distress and suffering. “Why were they walking around for forty years? Because they were being punished by God for disobedience” (Zec)So God free’s them from the chains of slavery to simply punish them? That, for some odd reason to me, doesn’t seem like the loving kindness of a God they were to follow for some 4000 centuries after this event. I am more than sure they were disciplined at times but that was not the sole purpose of 40 years in the wilderness – maybe being challenged for their new existence as a community might be a better way to view this episode. “After the messiah came, it is faith in that messiah that would save future generations, not something they did.” (Zec)Explain what you mean by ‘faith in the messiah’? Do we mean faith as in following the teachings of the ‘messiah’ or believing that Jesus is simply ‘the messiah’? Now the latter we know the Judaic faith rejects – for good reasons – but as for the former – I am not sure they directly break any of Jesus’ teachings – and I would say are far more progressive than most Christian denominations when it comes to keeping and elaborating on the commandments (especially in the light of history). “Noah and his family would have drowned with everybody else had God not acted first” (Zec)True…but did Noah do something in response? Yes he did and this is clear from the story…he built an ark, rounded up the animals, and sailed the boat. Basically his ‘faith’ meant he had to ‘do’ something in response – even in the case of ‘salvation’ from the flood. “Clearly, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross did not take care of man’s ignorance about God” (Zec)That’s an opinion and I respect it. Check out Hebrews 9:7 (in direct relation to Lev 4):“…only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance” The sacrifice was not intended for intentional sins – but sins committed in ‘error’ or ‘ignorance’. Christ’s atonement takes care of the sacrificial system once and for all – and allows all to enter into meeting with God. Before we came to God we were quite ignorant of our actions – not having the teachings to learn from – but now we have the teachings are not so innocent anymore. Heb 10:26 “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins”I always found this an interesting and scary passage. But it is not really that scary when put it into some perspective. There was no sacrifice for intentional sins except for the other aspects of Judaic atonement – repentance and charity (acts we participate in). People are responsible for the actions they commit against another – when knowing better not to do so. And Jesus himself teaches this in his very first teaching in Matthew ‘repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’. Interesting how repentance was so important to the Messiah. Even if the law of God is written on our hearts – and how that gets there – well your guess is as good as mine (born with it?) – is it not on us to do what is ‘right’ to be justified by God? “for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified” (Romans 2:13). I don’t see Paul quite rejecting this idea either as he finishes this portion of scripture off with “in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom 2:15-16). What is God judging on ‘that day’ exactly? What people decide to do with their knowledge of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Romans is a long letter mind you and this convo can go down many roads but what is known ‘May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom 6:2). Paul is also telling us not to ‘sin’ (or commit actions against God and our neighbor) – and that requires something on out part.

  22. *Zecryphon, the God you describe is one who has decided to pick and choose from among the billions whom will go to heaven and whom to hell.*No, the God I describe is one who knows who will come back to Him through Jesus and who will not come back to Him. I believe there is an elect group of people that will be saved by the preaching of the law and gospel of Jesus Christ. God knows who will come back to Him, we do not. So we preach Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of mankind to as many people as we can. *Jesus died for the sake of us ALL…not for God to show love to some and not to others.*The free gift of salvation is offered to all, it’s not offered to only a select group. But there is only a select group that will be saved, that is clear in the scriptures. Not everyone will be saved.*That’s a hateful God you believe in, not a righteous one.*Yeah, you don’t understand a concept in the Bible, so God has to be the one that is hateful, right? Please. Face it, you can’t stand the fact that not everyone will be saved. The truth of the matter is that no one deserves to be saved. We all deserve to burn in Hell for eternity, but since God loved us first, He acted first, by sending His Son to live a perfect life, die a horrible death that He did not deserve, and be resurrected to eternal life to allow mankind to be saved. That is a loving God and also a righteous one, because the penalty of death that is demanded by the law of God for sin, has been paid by the only one who could satisfy the demands of the law. God’s law demanded a perfect and unblemished sacrifice to pay for sin. That sacrifice is Jesus Christ. There is no other name under Heaven by which man is saved. *the Holy Spirit becomes a part of us once we’ve accepted and acknowledged Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.*But by your own power, you can not do that. It’s only when God has acted first, by giving you a measure of faith and by your hearing the gospel of Christ preached and by an act of the Holy Spirit working in you to show you your sin, that you can do that. This whole freewill of man concept teaches that man can at any time by his own power, just choose Christ. That is not true. It’s only by God acting first, that we can react. *Why were there evangelists if no one needs to be reached to make a decision?* There are evangelists because salvation comes by hearing God’s word. But what is driving people to go out and evangelize in the first place? God uses evangelists to reach the world and spread His message. Talk to any evangelist. They’ll tell you they are being led by the Holy Spirit to do that work, they aren’t doing it of themselves or by their own power. The desire to share the gospel of Christ comes from God, not ourselves.*Why are we called upon to spread the gospel if God has already made his chocies? Clearly, we’re not going to see eye to eye on this, so I’ll stop now…but the kind of God you describe and the attitude you have is precisely why so many people turn off their ears when Chrisitians try to tell them about anything related to God.*Yeah, it would have to be the Christian’s fault wouldn’t it? It couldn’t possibly be that sinful nature everyone is born with that rejects God and anything to do with God until God acts in their life to save them. Yeah, that has to be it.

  23. Well, not having had a church home to speak of for more than six years now, and never having been part of a denomination per se…and my pastor when I became born again having been the sort who really recommends reading the Bible your damned self and being non-denominational himself…well, I can’t speak for anyone else but I don’t get my God from anyone’s “system.” I do my best to listen to the Holy Spirit and not let myself get in my own way. For whatever that’s worth.

  24. Zecryphon, what about Romans 10:9? …confess Jesus with your mouth to be saved. I admit that the passage from a couple chapters earlier you cite may make it sound like God has chosen everyone beforehand who is going to be saved, but I don’t buy it. Something is wrong with that interpretation. If God handpicks who’s going to be saved and who isn’t, where’s the free will? Hell, where’s the point of doing anything if God has already decided?

  25. Steve,Perhaps I have a different understanding of Josh S.’s comments. I will say he went too far in declaring your faith “dead”. You’re right, no one can make that determination based upon a couple lines of text posted on an internet site. But the whole point of his post, to me anyways, is that he doesn’t want to see the LCMS become a circus the way American Evangelicalism has, in some ways. The Lutheran church, at least the more conservative synods, like the LCMS and the WELS care about presenting the Law and Gospel of Christ to the world. They are not focused on church growth, attracting new members, being relevant to the society and bringing the society at large to the church. They see a lot of the dangerous teaching in Evangelicalism too. One of the teachings that really sticks in their side is “decision theology”. We hate it when people utter the phrase “you have to make a choice for Jesus”. That concept isn’t taught anywhere in scripture as far as I can tell and to me, Romans 8:29-30 tells us that God does it all. So if God is doing it all, as far as salvation of sinners is concerned, what do WE need to do again? Make a choice? It goes against the plain teaching of scripture on this issue.I think Josh sees a lot of the practices of American Evangelicalism trying to creep into the Lutheran church and it scares him. There is a branch of the Lutheran church that seems to incorporate what is really bad about American Evangelicalism and that is the ELCA. I think in the end you both would agree upon alot more than you would disagree upon. You both have problems with the “silliness” of Evangelicalism. You and Josh (Sager) spent the early years of the podcast and blog exposing the more ridiculous aspects. And because people like you and Josh have exposed those things, people like us Lutherans can analyze it and say, “yeah, we don’t want that stuff coming into our church”. In the end I think that’s Metalutherans real point here. It’s unfortunate that that point got lost when the host of that site declared your faith dead.

  26. Zecryphon, I don’t know if we’re just saying the same thing way differently or not. Or maybe we define things differently.I have no illusions that some people, in fact MANY people…probably the majority of people, will not be saved. But people still have to choose to embrace God. You seem to think that because God KNOWS the future, that means we don’t choose anything or have free will when it comes to salvation.Knowing the future and MAKING the future are two VERY different things. In fact, I just posted about this a couple days ago on my blog.No, we cannot save ourselves by our own power. I agree with you 100% on that. But it is when we accept our sinful nature and desire forgivnesss and to be born again in the spirit that it happens. God doesn’t just make it happen to whomever he randomly preordained. People still have to choose to come to God.The future is known to God but that doesn’t mean he wrote a script picking and choosing who would be saved.

  27. *There are also verses that say God’s will is that ALL WILL be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), that EVERYONE will acknowledge Christ is Lord and bow their knees to him in acknowledgement (Romans 14:11 and Phillipians 2:10-11), that he will become ALL IN ALL (Revelation), that ALL will be made new (Revelation 21:5). And if God ALWAYS accomplishes his will, then–as I see it–that means what I’ve described WILL happen.If not, then God is a liar and is not worthy of our devotion, and we should all deconvert right now.*Okay, but everyone bowing the knee and confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord is not necessarily saved. Because Romans 10:9 says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved. Simply bowing and stating the obvious is not enough to save you. It is by faith you are saved, and this is an act of God, not of yourselves. What you’re suggesting is that by doing something we can be saved. If we just kneel and confess with our mouths, we will be saved. I disagree and apparently so does Paul. Just a quick question, Shelly. Do you believe in Universal Reconciliation?

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