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April 22, 2011



Too often, "grace" in supposedly mature believers is defined in terms of freedom from the moral perfectionism they never would have suffered under had they not grown up in the religious environment they did. (Moral perfectionism as in, I was angry and said an unkind thing to a friend who accidentally speed-dialed me at 3 a.m., therefore I'm no better than Stalin and Pol Pot. When it's understood in this sense, holiness is less a principle than a pathology.) It's not bad that they escape it, but freedom from the psychological excesses of one idiosyncratic subculture doesn't exactly make for a universal message.

People's journeys are complicated things, but I never have quite understood why many of my peers stuck with the same broken organization that raised us and broke us. When the same doctor poisons you, keeps you sick for decades and then one day cures you, I'm pretty sure gratitude for the antidote isn't the right response.


Howdy. I stumbled upon your blog via a 2007 post entitled "No Longer Nazarene," and I really like it. Unlike you, though, I am still a Nazarene. You are absolutely right about the vacuous interpretations of grace and love, and the fear of tolerance-minded evangelicals to take it one step farther and examine the implications of attenuating these sacred words. Also, spot on with the Bronze Age attitudes comment. It's pretty outlandish to try to twist the NT to say that LGBT sexual behavior would be just dandy. I would say: why not take in stride all the research and say what's obvious - that orientation is a pretty permanent condition and that God damning a gay person is very similar to God damning someone born with down syndrome or blind. Of course then you have to say that Paul and others were wrong, which invalidates the authority of the Scriptures. You then get at the real reason why certain Christians choose to manhandle passages to make them palatable and relevant to our sensibilities: because as a friend of mine recently commented, it's much easier to add to a sacred text than to take away. You can add commentary till the cows come home, and the text retains its sacred status. But you cannot take away from it, for then you put yourself over the text and it ceases to be sacred. I sincerely think that this acceptability of addition and impermissibility of subtraction is true and forcefully applied.

As for being stuck to screw up in a world you didn't create or choose...that's a little above our pay grade, isn't it? If the Christian God is real, then I suppose that's about as useless as disliking being born. Except of course you can't be unborn, but you can choose not to follow Jesus.

Anyway, I think I'd like to start following your musings. You're a great counterweight to all these emergent people I'm reading right now that are like, "To believe in God is also not to believe in God," yadda yadda. Much love,

Jessica Campbell

Westophanes - I really liked your first paragraph and then you lost me on your second. It's hard to get past the first sentence - what exactly is it you're saying is above our pay grade? It sounds like one of those "humans are lowly creatures that don't have the right to question and/or reject the ways of God because we can not understand God's ways with our tiny finite human brains." Is that what you're saying?

In your second sentence you say, "If the Christian God is real, then I suppose THAT's about as useless as disliking being born." What's "THAT" because you didn't lay it out in the first sentence but now you're referring to it.

Finally - your third sentence - you equate disliking being born, which you refer to in your 2nd sentence, to being unborn. You're ignoring the option of suicide- if someone were to really dislike being born - and they feel this world is screwed up and useless - they could kill themselves. Finally - you toss in the typical "but you can choose not to follow Jesus" - it doesn't really arrive logically in that place - it feels like a cheesy Jr. High Youth Pastor reminding his kids that it's their responsibility to choose Jesus despite their doubts. "You didn't get to choose your life kids, but you can choose to follow Jesus ....." leaving out the hidden premise that somehow in so choosing Jesus that will make life living - whereas now it is not? Further, for people who don't have a belief about the nature of God and disagree about the system that has been created in which we live - it's sort of silly to skip straight to Jesus. Granted - within the system, Christians see Jesus as the most important part - and the most definitive - however - the system still sucks and if hell is a possibility even with Jesus having "died for our sins" then the system is still unjust.

You seem like a really great person - open and loving and full of grace ;-) hehe - the reason I'm picking at your 2nd para. is because that's when you're trying to impart some sort of theology or belief in a positive nature and yet it's the part when you're most vague, obscure and illogical. Your ideas are not complete, the sentiment is bizarre and the conclusion is trite. - I don't know - just something that stuck out to me - something to think about. Maybe you were just tired of writing after that very nice first paragraph.


Haha, too true. I was tired I think, and didn't take the time to explain myself. So I'll try to.

The "higher than our pay-grade" means pretty much exactly what you thought it did: at a fundamental level (and I agree with Barth here and a host of others) God's deity is completely other. Acceptance of the divine prerogative is essential to faith, even if you think it sounds campy. Deep down I suspect the assumption is that it would be unfair for God to be or create anything that we really couldn't understand. Not that I'm labeling you so, but that's one of the dangers of theology and religion in the i-World. Hypercapitalism and hyperconsumerism has taken mass production one step farther and tailored the products to our very most particular tastes. Shouldn't, then, faith be the same? No! In a very real sense, we should join God in what he is doing, not the other way around.

Back to the system: I feel very flexibly about the necessity of having people understand the Jewish atonement system. I probably do not fully understand it, and I certainly don't fully feel it. What I do feel, and yearn to feel more, is the love of God. I feel it as I write this response. As for life, why we're here, why God does not act to end all suffering, why the idea of eternal punishment has to rear it's ugly head, why God doesn't talk to me audibly, why other religions exist and seem to have quite valid spiritual experiences embedded in them, I don't know. These are for a less tired, more intelligent people to discuss. And I'd love to, and will, pick them apart myself as I have been doing since reaching adulthood. My constant throughout is to, with Paul, be crucified with Christ and nail my ego, selfishness, and vanity on that same cross. I can't explain resurrection, but I sure hope it happens.

Haha, I'm sorry, you caught me tired again! Have a blessed Easter. Love,


You say, "Deep down I suspect the assumption is that it would be unfair for God to be or create anything that we really couldn't understand." That's not quite right (at least for me. I'll not pretend to speak for Jessica). The assumption is that creating our minds such that they respond to reasons and then providing no reasons for belief would be unfair. Now, you might say that your experience of the love of God is a reason for you to believe. I'm not sure if it is or not, having no analogous experience. I'm nearly certain, however, barring further description of that feeling as a reason, that it is not a reason for me to believe.


This is off topic, but have you Okies thought about having a five-minute stretch where you don't beat the crap out of the Nuggets? Just a suggestion.


Thanks for posting this Greg.

I've decided that the authority of Scripture is THE overriding issue when it comes to things I've struggled with - LBGT, women, theodicy, etc. And I've noticed that there seems to be some intellectual gymnastics with problematic verses in Scripture, so it's good that you point this out.

As I'm choosing to stay within this crazy mess called Xianity, I want to be honest and not interpret something out of the Bible when it doesn't truly say what I want it to say.


Ask and ye shall receive, Leighton. You're welcome.


Cheek, thanks for the brief respite. You all still suck, but I'll pull for you against LA. And Miami if it comes to it. Though I would pull for Doctor Doom against Miami.

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