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March 21, 2007



Woohoo! Five points!



Sorry I don't qualify for your five points. DAMNIT!

When my mom was given her final diagnosis for cancer. We pretty much knew that it was going to be her last few days with us.

Really my only prayer at that time became, "Please don't let her suffer." Of course she suffered, and no one should have to listen to their mother on the phone crying from being in so much pain. But that became our new reality. When she finally passed I think my new prayer was, "What took you so long?" Of course I have my anger to deal with in all of this and it's been almost a year.

I want to believe that he was close to her during her final steps home. But I struggle with believing he was close to the rest of us during our tribulation.

I'm not sure what my point is, and sadly her name escapes me at this time, but I'm reminded of a quote I read one time, "My Lord if this is how you treat your friends no wonder you have so few."


"Oh my friends, there are no friends!"


As an afterthought, take points away from me for quoting philosopher(s) and not actually discussing content. But I'm too tired.


Greg, I have no idea what "me droogs" is. Please enlighten. I google'd it to no avail. But interestingly, this very post was already about the 10th result for "me droogs".

But yeah, I'm with you. I don't value the small groups that I participated in and led for many years. I don't think they structurally and culturally are capable of achieving what people are looking for.

And I'm in the "where is God when it hurts?" camp. Frankly, I'm much less anxious about everything since I ditched church and ditched my search for "god's will" and just started pursuing the things that interest me and feed my family. And I fully recognize that Leighton or any other atheist is as capable of acting as selflessly as I am while claiming to follow Christ's example.

So, here's the question---and I'm serious, 'cuz I'm wrestling with it. Why be a christian? What's the point? If you don't believe in heaven and hell, you don't believe in the value of the church as presently instituted, you recognize that god isn't listening when we or more painfully, our loved ones, are suffering, etc., why do you care?



That is a question I will answer fully on a separate post in the next couple days.

Me droogs is from Clockwork Orange. The ruffians used an odd mix of Russian and British English, so droogs (transliterated, of course) is Russian for friend with the "s" added for the English plural instead of droogee. It's still Kubrick's best movie.


Ah, shoulda known that. Been a while since I've seen it, though. Yes, definitely his best movie.

Looking forward to your answer in a few days---as long as you leave Philip Yancey out of it ; )


I can say this from personal experience. God literally pulled the rug out from under me some time back. It took that to show me that I actually trusted in everying but Him, and left me so destitute I could do no other than trust Him alone. It was then our relationship began. He has always kept His word to me, and I can trust His word explicitly.

I hate to say this, because I have no way to pass to anyone my experience, so I can only point to Him, and say, "maybe you need to re-evaluate your relationship with Him, and as Paul said, examine yourself to see if you really are trusting Him with all you are." It's easy to start following a checklist of do these things and don't do those things which has been sold to you as "the Way" to be a Christian. It's the hardest thing to escape from.


In Moldova, my language group had a discussion about friendship with our teachers and a few people from the community where we were living. It was interesting because Moldavians believe it is basically impossible for a person to have more than one or two friends. This shocked most of my group, but it became apparent why this was necessary later in the conversation when Galina (my Romanian teacher) asked if we would be willing to loan a large amount of money to a friend at need. Each of my classmates responded to the negative, going as far as to quote Shakespeare and talk about how much stress that would put on the relationship. All the Moldavians, on the other hand, said that for a friend they would freely give any amount they were capable of giving. In the poorest country in Europe, it's easy to see why one could not afford many friends, but limiting the circle of intimates seems wise to me even here where we have comparatively great wealth as the demands one ought to be willing to meet under the title 'friend' seem too great for most of us as it is.


Sometimes I am slow, but in the last paragraph are you trying to allude to the fact that Jesus fits your view of friendship? I like what you are saying, and I see how Jesus can fit your definition. I just want to make sure I am not connecting your whole definition, because of "lay down his life for you," if that was not your intent. Sorry if I am messing up your artistic allusiveness.



I don't know if Jesus fits the criteria, except in that one way. I never hung out with him, despite all the assurances that I'd have a personal relationship.


It works in a Kierkegaardian strength-of-the-absurd kind of way to have your "best" friend be someone who won't talk to you when you need it most (except for maybe that one time a while back, maybe), but that sure doesn't help the great many people who aren't looking for a prescriptive theology behind their frequent depressive moods.

dr dobson


I have to say that it appears you have imposed an expectation on friendship that was never intended--you are frustrated that so-called friendships haven't worked out for you or, dare I say, given you the desired return on your investment.

If you are judging a friend, love, church or any belief system for that matter on such criteria, then you are always going to be disappointed.

On the other hand, if you view friendship, and by the context of this medium I intend to focus on authentic Christian friendship, then any participant therein will be disappointed if their inherent belief in such convention is self-based, i.e. on what return they are receiving.

This seems to be one of the most evil traps of evangelical Christianity. I've said it before here: it continues to be the Oprahfication of Jesus--"what will this do for me?" is the only standard espoused. This is not necessarily recited outright, but by virtue of our hopes, aspirations, beliefs and disappointment, all we judge such friendships by is the standard associated with betterment of self.

This is not the goal of the Gospel message. I read the following quote yesterday and it seems to fit here (this was given in a different context, yet germane to the concept of relationship/friendship):

"It is incumbent upon us as disciples to do our best to follow Jesus in the increasing experience of the leading of the Holy Spirit. We fully understand that others in the Communion believe the same, but we do not believe that Jesus leads us to break our relationships. We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision."

Do we "depart" from friendship with others with regret and sorrow or glee? Are we able to have healthy relationships that non-possessively delight in the other? Or, are we concerned with self-preservation or betterment?

I submit that until we can become great friends to others, we can never expect to have great friends ourselves. The Gospel message, in all of its meanings and intentionalities, is at least concerned with walking toward others in authentic friendship even when noone seems to be walking toward us.


Dr. D,

I think I didn't make my point clearly. I do have those relationships in my life, and they aren't based on an imposition I've made upon someone else; they're based on a growing commitment to love and trust the other. My point was to answer the question "what is a friend," which I think I did. It had nothing to do with how it benefitted me, as much as to say that both people in the relationship need to be willing to give utterly for the other. This rarely happens, so if it doesn't, I'm curious as to why it doesn't. Your quote does nothing but introduce nebulous spirit talk into the conversation and again avoids the question of "what is a friend." It's pointless to accuse me of misdefining a term that you don't bother to define.

It also has nothing to do with non-possessively delighting in the other; that can be done outside the context of friendship, as when we see a child at play or an athlete exhibiting great grace or even by spending a few moments in conversation with a complete stranger about how much we love Macs, which I just did. Those have nothing to do with friendship.

This post also has nothing to do with the Oprahfication of Jesus. I'm going to post an answer to Z's and Jessica's questions this week about why I'm a Christian and what I think about Jesus. My critique is not really directed at Jesus; it's directed at the way salvation has been portrayed in the Church and the way friendship has been conceived by


Doc Dob,
You should define a term like "authentic Christian friendship" if you are going to randomly thow it out there. I mean what is authentic? What is christian? What defines a friendship? What do those three words mean when put together?

If you say Jesus fits "lay down life" then it is not a stretch to accept some of the others. I did think you would have to do some nice dancing to fit a couple. I figured you are done dancing, and that is why I asked.

dr dobson


As to nebulous spirit talk in the context of defining the meaning of "friend," I disagree--the very essence of friendship is at least in getting along with one another. However deep (or shallow, as it were) that intent is will certainly define the friendship and, therefore, what "friend" means. I think I defined what friendship is, perhaps to your disliking.

In my opinion, friendship is defined by the process of participating in such friendship, expecting nothing in return. E.g., a friend asks for a loan. I give the money expecting nothing in return, or I loan the money and expect a return in due time. The former is friendship, the latter is business.

The quote I provided in my previous post, though not specifically addressed to your posting, is exactly on point to your query. In short, the quote relates to a very real issue of relationship and the battering against such within the Anglican Communion. It involves a very real issue of specifics, but is overshadowing the notion of simply deciding to get along with one another. One group has decided that portions of the other group should not belong. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, anyone who wishes not to preserve the relationship is acting against relationship/anti-friendship.

Friendship is a spiritual endeavor governed by covenant relationship. The difference between your ad hoc conversation about a Mac (they are way cool) with a total stranger and the relationship you would define as "friendship" is paradoxically both different and similar. Different in the sense that you understand and know your "friends" on a deeper level than you do the stranger (and utterly give to them in any way possible); similar in that you view both the friend and stranger as spiritual beings deserving of your dignity, grace and relationship, free of any "possessive" undertaking you wish to get in return from them.

To attempt to define what a friend is in a single or series of posts seems to be nebulous at best--it's very tough to do outside of a healthy understanding of what it is to be in covenant with the other, stranger and acquaintance alike.

I'm not at all trying to be evasive, but I guess I struggle to define "friend" or "friendship" outside of the experiential sense of participating in it. The definition or debate about "love" comes to mind here.

Hopefully, all Christians agree that life is gift. We should extend that agreement to the point of seeing friends as gifts. Unfortunately, not everyone (Christians included, certainly) view life as gift. Therefore, we don't all see friendship as gift. If we did, I guarantee that friendship would be much easier to define because it would be evident in all that we do as friends.



The debate about love is sort of exactly the point. Xians manage to define love as an abstract feeling that I can even manage to feel toward Iraqis that I'm killing. So, to say that friendship at least means getting along is a bit evasive. Sometimes friendship means muddling through when you're not getting along. If friendship can mean anything within the context of covenant, then it means precisely nothing. It's like defining art as anything you create. If every relationship in which I participate that could eventually lead to friendship is actually friendship, then why even use the word?

And spirit talk annoys me because it can't be quantified or qualified, so I can make any assertion under the banner of spirit.


In the subtle exchange, which can bee seen in the greek between Peter and Christ, as Peter is so caught up looking at John, Jesus said, "Peter, do you agape me?" Peter responds, "you know I phileo you.." Again, Peter do you agape me, and again the responce you know I phileo you. Jesus stooped to his level and then said do you phileo me...

So much of what we look see is phileo, you do for me, I do for you. But as soon as I see you phileo me, my mind says, "what is this person looking to get from me..." and I shut down phileo. As long as we seek self, and the return from it, you cannot have agape. And you can have no true agape, without the freedom of the object being loved, the freedom to reject that love. We have a word in our culture when you try to impose a twisted view of love on another not wishing to have it, we call that rape.

If you can end your life with no more than a handful of those whom you can call true friends, rather than aquaintences, you are truly a blessed person, but in the end, I really need only one, and that is Christ.


Rev_M, where are you getting that reading of John? Bauer/Gingrich, et al. don't support your reading of the difference between agape and phileo in John 21 and note that they should be read as equivalent. Just curious.



Never let scholarship get in the way of a good sermon.


This is just a guess, but I think anyone seriously willing to follow Jesus's example would take a shank in prison for someone they consider their enemy, much less someone they consider their friend.

The sad thing is I don't know anyone who's like Jesus... which is the primary reason I think the church (institutional) has failed the Church (universal).


Michael and Greg,

Both codex sinaiticus and alexandrino support exactly what I said. And it was not the exclusice domain of the bible that those were used. They are not the same. I would say never let poor scholarship hide the truth of the scripture, but let poor scholarship be set aright by good scholarship.


Let me say it like this, you can take a Yogu and a Bently and park them side by side. Both have 4 wheels, doors, a steering wheel, a motor and tranny. The both qualify as automobiles. But they are light years removed in quality, price and luxury.

Same analogy holds true in the difference between agape and phileo. And while eros is also translated as love, I'm not sure any here would compare erotic love (eros) to the love of a mother for her child.

dr dobson


I see your points, but I want to emphasize that the very root of friendship (read: relationship) at least from a Christian perspective is a spiritual endeavor. We don't like discussing issues as directly as this one--in friendships, we are either serving or expecting to be served. From a Christian perspective, participating in friendship should mean that we have no expectation of return.

I'm totally with you on the horrible misappropriation of "feeling" or "word from God" or "vision" or whatever else Richard Roberts wants to make me think is "the Spirit".

My only point I hope I've made is that friendship, and thus the core of every relationship, is the very real spiritual exercise of participating in the rhythm of life with the other.

You stated, "Sometimes friendship means muddling through when you're not getting along." You've made my point: healthy friendships require that we maintain relationship when we aren't getting along, i.e. we at least get along with one another.

Viewing "both the friend and stranger as spiritual beings deserving of your dignity, grace and relationship, free of any "possessive" undertaking you wish to get in return from them" seems to be a pretty damn good way to be a friend.

As you know, I no longer live in OKC. Do I still have friends there with whom I consider myself in healthy relationship? Of course. Do I get pissed off when they might not return my phone calls or emails? Of course. Does that mean that I discontinue the relationship or bond that I have with them? I guess that depends on how I inherently view my participation with them in life and they with me--if I'm honest with myself and if I have a healthy understanding of friendship, I continue in that endeavor. If I'm in it for gain for whatever reason, then I sort of drift away and the friendship is lost. To "muddle" through seems to be what we are called to do as Christians participating in relationship with one another; friendship or even participating in the larger context of community doesn't seem to be much different than that.


Dr Dobson,

I appreciate your viewpoint, and concerning Greg's original comment about "relationship" with Jesus is what my comment before was addressing. A lot of Christinaity today is primarily motivated by the position of what will Jesus do for you. That's nice well and dandy, and the lament I have heard here as well as decades inside the congregations, is that this type of motivation stems from our viewpoint of "phileo." People, falsely motivated look out to have God be a genie in a bottle, and when things aren't looking so well, they run to their lamp, rub on it a few times to get God to come out and solve the issue, when it doesn't happen, they turn on God and say, "well why would I serve a God who isn't my magic genie?" Phileo always starts with the premise of I do for you, then you do for me. It's conditional on the response. Agape on the other hand starts with the premis of an intrinsic value seen in the object of that love and gives without expectation or calculations.

And this is one of the reasons I quoted the little portion of scripture above. It speaks eloquently to the position of so many who call themselves Christian. They have been motivated by the salesmanship of "phileo" the never rise to "agape." Peter reveals this in his responces to Jesus, first by looking over to his neighbor and saying, "well what about him?" Selfish internalized motivation. (and also seen as so many who call themselves Christian looking at their neighbor and saying the same) As well, he never rises to the level Jesus asked of him, and in that, it is also a message of hope to us, that Jesus would stoop down and take Peter where he was in his selfish viewpoint of his following Jesus. (that's what is missed by those who treat the John 21 as the same in it rendering the word "love") Paul said you can give everything you have and own, even over to the point of giving your body as a living sacrifice to be burned at the stake, and if it is not from the motivation of agape, then it is useless. Isn't it time we stop looking at a relationship with Jesus as some sort of friendship, where He has to meet our criteria of "friendship" and start worshipping Him for who He is? Creator of the universe.

By the way, why is it when anyone on this site uses scripture as a refernce point to the conversation, its treated with such callose disregard, and demeaning responces?

dr dobson

Rev Mike

To address your last question first, I can only say that to defend a point or definition by offering an interpretive remark in the context of scripture (or, as some have done here, often out of context), it wreaks of a fundamentalist "let go and let God" mentality. While that viewpoint is certainly espoused by some on here, it is shunned by most others. I'm not suggesting you are engaging in such, but just be aware that to offer only the scriptural without the tradition, knowledge or experiential will bring with it the possibility of placing you in the former camp.

We are all human, each with our own experiences, understanding, prejudices and predispositions--you have tried to explain friendship using scriptural references; I have tried using experiences as have Greg and many others here.

The answer, I guess, is that it can't be defined in a vacuum.


Rev_M, I was not disputing that agape and phileo are used in the order that you used them. That seems undisputed from the textual evidence. I'm referring to the way you translate them and the weight that your translation holds. The Bauer lexicon of NT Greek tends to be considered pretty "good" scholarship, if not the authority for translating NT material. If you are using a non-NT lexicon to make your point I was just curious which one it is. However, as one moves away from NT based lexicons, the weight of agape tends to diminish, so I would find this surprising, and just wanted to check it out.



Bauer is a good reference in a lot of it's scholarship. Wuest is in direct contrast to Bauer on this issue, and Wuest is also a good reference.

When you look at both words in scripture, you find some writers, who in the records of the same event, have even used both words interchangably. I submit it depends on your viewpoint.

Phileo both inside and outside of scripture has an inward motivation at it's core. Agape however is always focused outward, and is expressed without the inward satisfaction of whether there is a response back or not. It doesn't calcualte the return of that love being given.


Rev. Mike & Michael
While not wanting to take up Greg's space with an extended exegetical study of the passage, the structure of the passage indicates that John is making a distinction between the two words even though he often uses them interchangably. The progression:

Do you agape me more than these?
Do you agape me?
Do you phileo me?

Is Peter cut to the heart because Jesus asked him three times or because Jesus kept lowering the standard of what he was asking?

In the long run, regardless of how you interpret the words, the message is pretty clear, if you say you love Jesus (to any degree) you have responsibility for feeding the sheep. Now we can discuss what he meant by that. Unfortunately in the church I attend, upwards of 90% of those who think about it at all would limit it to spiritual feeding. It's amazing that people who cling to literal interpretation get real spiritual when it means getting out of the pew and doing something.

Tim Sean

I thought I was your best friend. :)

Tim Sean

I thought I was your best friend. :)

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