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March 23, 2007




It's odd the gamut of emotions I feel as I read this post, feeling angry and bewildered at your statements and yet resonating with your honesty and doubts, finding some happiness in the fact that I am not the only one who feels such things.

I agree that when it all comes down to it, it is Jesus that really staggers me the most and yet there is something compelling about him. I appreciate what you're saying here, and I just wish the church had enough room for this kind of sheer honesty.



Believe it or not, I understand your position. I can't help you in your expecations, I just know He is. If you don't believe there is a God, you are a fool to follow Him, but if you know there is a God, you would have to be the greatest fool amongst all fools not to follow....

Isaiah said it best, "you are truly a God that hides yourself."

"Prof" Marty

If you're a heretic, just remember that the dissenting voices of history have always called the church to clarify her positions - and have led to reform within and without the church.


Points 5 and 9 really resonate with me. The promise of eternal life is almost cruel for beings who cannot fathom such a thing. Heaven is frightening, Hell is incomprehensible (and if anyone who'se not a masochist really truly believed in a palce of eternal punishment, I think the weight of such a thing would really prevent them from functioning).

Point 5 ... yeah. Living like Christ is the goal, for me. The rest is tangential. But it's clear that I'm not like Christ, nor will I be in the foreseeable future without divine intervention. My religious background tells me I've got that divine intervention going, but I'm not getting more like Christ so there's something wrong with the formula.

I'm not gonna claim I'm post-Christian, but there's certainly a lot I need to work through, personally.


I can totally understand your viewpoint because it's exactly what I've struggled with and more. At every single point, I was saying, "YES!" Especially your concluding paragraph about Jesus. I can't help but love that guy same as you. It's the church i can't stand. Thank you for sharing such a personal post.



...and I am ordained in a mainline denomination...

...the one point that I may even spark the energy to quibble with concerns the theodic response to natural evil (though moral evil is much more of a sticking point for me). There are some good theodic formulations out there that don't so much provide answers as they ask good questions. Two resources, if you are ever interested in reading more, Wendy Farley's "Tragic Vision and Divine Compassion" and Stephen Davis' "Encountering Evil" (another one comes from David Ray Griffin's "The Problem of Evil" (I think)). These have helped to spark my imagination as I continually re-construct what I believe in light of "touchstones of reality" like Katrina and the Holocaust. Not that it sounds like you want to read more, but they were good reads...

... peace...

... long live heretics, as my friends from seminary and I would often say, based on our beliefs one of us was driving the bus to hell while the others got to play with the radio. Of course the joke makes little sense because we don't believe in a literal hell...


Yeah...I don't really trust anything anyone says about God
anymore, including here, and I don't trust my own thoughts or instincts, either. I don't have many solid theological beliefs, and I don't really identify well with Christianity. I don't lead a lifestyle that seems compatible with the few solid beliefs I do have, and I can't make myself care enough to change. I'm not sure that trying to be so sincerely open minded and honest has
been good for me, but what the fuck else do you do? Holding on to things that don't seem real anymore can't be much better. It begs the question: If the road to hell is paved with
good intentions, then what
the hell did they pave the
road to heaven with? Nonetheless, and even though I would prefer not to at times, I believe in God, and I believe in Jesus, and I still think that is mostly a good thing.


I think Jesus is the only thing that keeps me hanging on, too.

Michael Rew

When most of us might imagine eternal life at first, we wonder what will eternity be worth after a while, since it lasts forever. We would die (or want to die again) of boredom. Instead, you touch on what eternal life would be like: "I can't let go of that guy." THAT is eternal life. Believers will know Jesus, be like Him, and live eternally in Him. That will never grow tiring or boring.


Phil Johnson has not linked to this post and asserted that I have left the room (Xianity?) with the wrong answers. Shocking coming from someone who believes in epistmeological certainty. And I wouldn't be surprised to find out he's a five-pointer. The thread is here:
It's quite a ways down the page and he's responding to Danny, whoever Danny is. I guess if conservative Christians think I have the wrong answers, I'm more okay than I thought I was.


Now Boar's Head Tavern and Michale over at Internetmonk have linked to the piece. Michael's is by far the most respectful response, although Boar's Head isn't disrespectful. I struggle with the desire to respond to their points about my post, when all I really should say is, I don't have a dog in this fight. It's always amazing though how people assume the means whereby I've reached my conclusions. Welcome to the world of Christianity: we are right; you are wrong; here is the reason. Triumphalism is a pernicious disease.


Thanks for your honesty. Having grown up fundacostal myself, I can completely relate.

Lawrence of Arabia

you don't sound post-xn, you just sound like the radical reformation meets kierkegaard on speed :D



As a Catholic priest and hospital chaplain I admire your honesty but cannot agree with many of your conclusions. Yet I think your positive ending on the person of Jesus Christ is the key that unlocks all the doctrine and imperfect people you do not understand or identify with.

Jesus Christ is not a doctrine but a living experience, a person intensely alive whom we can experience. I hope you can move forward spiritually through that experience.

I do think you are a little hard on Christians. My almost 20 years of priesthood tells me there are a lot of good people out there, some real saints. Most of the sinners too are really open to God's grace, they just fade in and out on placing it first in their lives.

All the best, the yearning in your confession gives me hope for more deep thoughts from you.

Kevin Powell


Great post. To bastardize what rphjr60 said, Jesus Christ is not a doctrine, but a way of life. (I can get behind the experience thing - I have no idea what God "feels" like) At least that's what I see when I read the bible.

I wonder if we Christians (or "Christ followers") get too hung up on doctrine and forget that love is the heart of what Jesus taught.

It sounds like a hard journey you're on.


Ed Brenegar

There is a paradigmatic shift taking place. What we as Christians have lived with since a century or so after the first apostles is Christianity as abstraction. Sounds like you are moving beyond the abstraction to the concreteness of something that is less an idea and more an experience. If you try to put labels on it, you fall back into religion as abstraction. The trouble is, it would appear that you are still looking for proof of something. You aren't finding it the abstraction of theological/biblical formulations. I doubt you'll find it in some experience. From my own experience, I find that we have a choice of how we interpret our experience. In retrospect, I see things that have happened, that I can now associate with God's action in my life, but I have no proof. I simply believe that this is so, and it helps to link together many things into a meaningful pattern of behavior that I can call divine behavior. But there is no proof. For there to be proof, we would have found God the proof, not God the shadow. I think where you are is healthy, though it won't make being a part of the institutional church very much fun. I wish you well on your journey.


That teampyro blog link made me a little mad. First he's pitching a strawman argument about "humility", second he's making circular arguments about the authority of Scripture, third he's claiming commenters on this site are full of false humility because we're questioning the kinds of things he makes circular arguments about.

Score one for that guy's team. He's clearly got it all figured out... it's a big mystery why I find myself with doubts about his version of the faith after all.


Ed, et al.

Thanks for trying to understand.


He's a buddy of John MacArthur. Helped him write a couple books. That should tell you all you need to know.

Dave Rattigan

Hey, Greg. My only concern would be if you got suckered into actually thinking these developments were worth WORRYING over.

Oh and yeah, as someone else said, don't get suckered into the blanket "all Christians are hypocrites" thang, either. Pretty much like the world in general, it's a mixed bunch.

Keep sharing your heresies. Accumulating two or three new heresies a week is a nice number to aim for. Notify Phil Johnson of all heretical developments immediately, because his and others' reactions are keeping the rest of us entertained.



Not worried about them. And as the visiting priest mentioned, I do believe there are saints out there; I've even met a few. Pretty sure my granny was one of them. I still think I find more hypocrisy inside the church, but I'm aware that we're all broken in various ways in various places.


I'm where greg is. I've been here for a while. greg articulates in a real way where I'm at. I see the mystery of God in Jesus, but the rest of it...well, bleh.

If I think about going to church, I think about how I'm bored 90% of the time. Church in no way reminds me of the agape feasts of the earliest Christians (although they had problems there as well).

I don't know where the road goes next.


greg: as to your detractors, it's all 'sound and fury, signifying nothing.'

They don't expose themselves and their doubts. They surround themselves with walls and moats and the "whole armor of god" but they don't talk about their inner doubts and frustrations. To me, it's all hollow and for naught. I can read an entire thread and come away thinking that they're doing the 21st century Calvinist version of arguing about how many angels dance on the head of a pin. There is no heart, only head.

Don't let these guys get you down.


A group of friends I can trust, a couple bottles of wine, and a good meal. This is the church I'm interested in.


I think what irks me the most about what some of this post's critics are saying elsewhere is that they've read this and immediately jumped to the conclusion that you just read something by Crossan and then wrote this a week later. In reality, I and so many others who have followed this blog for 2 years and longer know how long and hard you've wrestled with these issues (not to mention the wealth of knowledge and experience you've gained before this blog existed).

Well, as others have said, it doesn't matter what they think. Chalk it up to a liberal conspiracy or an emergent conspiracy or an anti-Calvinist conspiracy or whatever other favorite axe people have to grind. Your list hasn't come fast or easy, whether I or others agree or not.

Meantime, keep on trying to figure out what this Jesus guy is all about.


A few things I have learned after almost 20 years of hanging around evangelical churches:

  • the bible *may* be infallible, but people aren't
  • therefore, someone's interpretation of the bible should always be open to question (esp. literalism)
  • the kingdom of god is very different from the visible church. i think Bono is great because he's not "witnessing" or promoting "the gospel", he's just seeking
  • serving church programmes != serving god. a lot of church activity is time-eating, life-consuming, manipulative froth that interferes with your personal space and wellbeing
  • a wise person said: a Father does not keep his child in perpetual boyhood, he shows him how to grow into a man. The church is much like a mother. I find the Father's presence through challenges -- surfing, jogging, little tests of courage in everyday things
  • rage against the machine! since jesus there are actually NO RULES ANYMORE.. anyone who says different is probably trying to control you. You are meant to be FREE
  • despite all this there are some wonderful people at church. I think God is OK too

  • dr dobson


    great post, as always.

    I think that until the church realizes that it is they who nailed Jesus to the cross, we have a long way to go.

    To quote a recent theology grad student, "I don't know if God exists, but if he does, I hope he looks alot like Jesus."

    Jeff CC

    Thanks for sharing. It's all so real.

    Here's a couple reactions that I have in reading your post.

    1. Jesus railed against the logic and rules of the representatives of God's chosen people of the day. Logic isn't the way of, or to, I AM. Stories are, lives are. So it was a relief to get to the last point and find out that the story of Jesus is what works for you! That's exactly the point!!!

    2. I think that entry into heaven will be somewhat of a negotiated decision (God, after all, asked us to make a Mercy Seat for him). Do you want to spend eternity praising the Almighty and Maker of the Universe (and Saver of Us All)? If not, then maybe it's not the place for you. That wasn't an easy decision for me when I first thought about it like that. Since then, I've worked hard at lifting my voice in praise. And it's been amazing; I feel like I become part of something beyond description. And yes, loving friends and neighbors, reconciliation, waiting on God and his timing and provision, etc., is the only way to live if you really want to praise Him.

    Thanks again for sharing.



    For me, I know that whatever gets chiselled off this this awkward, uneven, unsteady rock of my belief, at the centre stands a Rabbi, quietly but insistently whispering something along the lines of: 'First: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Second: Love your neighbour as yourself. That is all".

    Yes, I need to figure out exactly what that looks like but, if that's all that's left in the end, then I think I can still do this thing; then I still want to do this thing.

    Grace and peace to you Greg. If there's anything I can possibly do to help ease your burdens, whatever they may be, just ask.

    Tom Hinkle

    I'm the culprit who posted the link at the BHT hoping to get some discussion going on this post. I really had the best of intentions. I'm a regular reader of this blog, and, indeed have my own blog that doesn't get as much traffic as this one or the BHT. I recently rejoined the BHT after taking over a year off, and I was getting a little bored over some of the conversations over there. This blog has the stuff of real life, to me anyway. I may not agree with all of your points, but most of them resonate with me at least in some respect.

    One thing I didn't think about, as a previous commenter said, was that the people at the BHT, except for me, generally are not readers of "The Parish" and are not familiar with your journey. Therefore, it might have been unfair of me just to drop this as a bombshell on their playground. I apologize if I opened up a can of worms. I certainly didn't mean to hold you up for personal criticism; I just wanted some of those points discussed. To me, it's a lot more relevant to real life than what John MacArthur said at some conference about premillenialism.



    Thanks for your honesty. It's not a problem, really. I understand how the best of intentions go awry in blog-land.


    "If Gandhi and Mother Teresa aren't Christians, it's a club I don't want to be a part of."

    Gandhi once said, "if I could ever see a Christian, I would be one.." I submit he never took a close look at Paul. But of course I don't think Gandhi ever took at a close look at Jesus either...

    Mother Teresa was Catholic, placing her smack dab in the middle of Christianity.



    Gandhi attempted to go to church in South Africa when he lived and worked there. He was turned away because of his brown skin. Imagine. And I don't think Paul is appealing to most people, especially slaves and women.

    Greg (not that Greg)

    "a heretic at best."
    I feel sorry for you.


    Ah, thanks other Greg. That's exactly what I was going for.


    Gandhi said he could accept Jesus "as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher, but not as the most perfect man ever born. His death on the Cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept."

    He read the bible as a fuilfillment he made to a friend, but he never embraced Christianity beyond what struck him from the Sermon on the Mount. He never looked at what Jesus said about Himself. He certainly rejected that Jesus was God incarnate.

    Concerning Paul, we look at the word "slave" with such disregard. I'm a willfull slave, to a despot who bought me. Slavery is not always a bad thing. Marriage is a willfull slavery. And I don't think I have met a woman in my personal life that, if seen aright, had any issue with Paul or his message.


    And come to think of it, I don't ever remember Mother Teresa writing the Pope and telling him he needed to sell the pope-mobile, his plane, sell of the art at Rome, empty the coffers in the streets for the poor and take the same path God called her to take. Hmmmmm....



    Not sure what your point is. My point was that if a faith excludes people like Gandhi for failing to make some cognitive assent, then it is no faith worth following. If someone can pretty much live a redemptive life that manifests the kingdom and then be rejected based on a decision, then the faith is perverse.

    It would not have been necessary for Gandhi to reject Jesus as God incarnate, since avatars are part of the Hindu faith. In that sense, Jesus could certainly have been Vishnu. It's not a stretch for Hindu theology.


    The message of Jesus that Mark reports in his 4th chapter, as well as Matthew in his 13th chapter gives an eloquent explaination. Some just cannot accept what Jesus said about Himself, or mankind.

    Well said Isaiah, in seeing they shall not see, and hearing they shall not hear, in fear that they would see and hear and God would heal them....

    Greg (not that greg)

    Well that's usually why people post these types of whining, sniveling, and yet astonishingly arrogant posts to begin with; isn't it? It's all about you greg (with a little g)



    You're now a troll, and I'm sure you're a Christian as well, as can be clearly seen by your marvelous compassion and well thought out entry into this blog.


    That Isaiah was a smart cookie. We've got an entire movement called Christianity that fits his description very well.


    Greg, in many respects yes. You should know, above any the implications of Jesus' words here, and if you know what and why God said that to Isaiah, it is not only those who are outside the camp, but those who started inside the camp, and gave up.


    Perhaps it is those who think they are the camp?

    Greg (not that greg)

    Who's that walking over my blog? Sounds like you are the angry troll here mini-g. :) I am merely a weary traveler. Your post reminds me of a theological version one of those really bad country songs. Sort of a "some-god-y done somebody wrong song". You poor baby....

    I'm not sure why you think self styled heretics are somehow owed compassion buy Christians but then you seem to pull all of your beliefs out of your hat so what's one more?

    "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us."


    All I know to say to that is this, thank God He isn't hiding Himself from those who are trusting Him....He said I will never leave you, nor forsake you.

    Mrs. Pilgrim

    I've got a crazy question: How can you believe anything about Jesus if you reject the Book that makes the single source of information about Him? Where are you getting your info? Or are you picking cherries from a Book you hate so much when it disagrees with you?

    Yeah, it's that logic thing again--"Logic isn't the way of...I AM," I guess, as one of your fans wrote you. But I suppose you'll have to forgive me that horrible handicap (or sin) of using that faculty which I will risk excoriation for claiming "God bestowed on me": my mind. After all, I -am- only an oppressed fundamentalist Pentecostal Christian woman...

    (Oh, and incidentally, I not only would enjoy praising God every moment of Eternity, but I certainly wish I could do it every day of my temporal existence without ceasing, which sometimes I neglect. But then, I count it a privilege to know those I love, so it's a pleasure to get to say nice things about them. That counts God, especially.)


    Interesting post--and that's a compliment.

    I think big "G (not that greg) Greg" should learn a little about kindness vs. rudeness (1 Cor. 13).

    Greg (yes, that greg): I don't understand your plight completely. I appreciate it though. You are correct, the person of Jesus is the core. As far as "doctrine" (an overused and misunderstood word) goes, I thought "Love God and love neighbor" was the essence of Christian (and Jewish) doctrine/teaching.

    "IS there a good theodic response to natural evil?" Is there ANY good response period to natural evil? Personally I'm fairly comfortable with paradox, having some experience with natural evil in my own life (very close loved ones dying at various ages young and old, nearly dying, living very limited lives physically, etc.) I don't think any philosophy or world religion will ever penetrate this mystery to the satisfaction of everyone. Sorry 'bout that. You either accept it or don't.
    All the same, greg, I do think you're a little tough on Christians--especially since it is impossible for you to have experienced every Christian past, present or future! I'd add Henri Nouwen in the mix among several other unknown saints who are the most unselfish people I've ever known--who love and serve in obscurity and would never say a harsh thing about anyone!

    Not trying to convince, just adding my own perspective.


    When has Greg ever said he hated the Bible? I've never heard him say anything like that. And, seriously, how does logic fit into Christianity at all? You believe or you don't, but it has nothing to do with a rational, provable assertion. It's either faith or social conditioning. It's certainly not math.


    Funny how Christians want to assert how logical they are until there is a contradiction in Scripture, then it's "his thoughts are not our thoughts" or "his ways are higher than our ways" or better "a finite mind can't comprehend an infinite God" or best yet "how unsearchable are your judgments, O God..." Sheesh. Yeah. Thanks for reminding me why I wrote this post in the first place.


    Oh and "Greg (not that greg)":

    Everybody is owed compassion by all who claim to be Christ followers.


    we can't escape logic. (i tried to escape it once, but ended up in an algebra class). unfortunately, logic has its limits--no matter whether you are an atheist, Christ follower, Buddhist, or whatever. i really hate it, but there it is.

    and i hope this isn't perceived as trying to run from a difficult issue. i just don't see any philosophy or religion that answers these questions perfectly to everyone's satisfaction. granted, i am not an expert in all the religions of the world... Jesus answers these issues to my satisfaction. i believe he offers and is the ultimate answer. you've struggled with this, and i suppose you will have to continue struggling with it.

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