Saturday, September 22, 2007

My Deconversion Story – In Which we Learn to Color Inside the Lines

To me, the Bible (consisting of the 66 books including the Old Testament and New Testament) was the inspired, inerrant writing provided by God. There was no other. Not the Mormon Bible. Not “Our Daily Bread.” The Bible and only the Bible.

By inspiration, we meant that God, in some divine way, and unlike any other history, poetry, proverb, psalm or doctrinal statement, had somehow intervened in its creation. The “how” was not exactly clear. We recognized each author wrote in their own particular style, with their own purpose, and wrote to their particular place in history, with its particular problems.

God did not simply dictate these writings to certain people nor did God read them afterwards and say, “Hey, that’s pretty good—I will give it my stamp of approval.” God was actively involved at the moment it was pen-to-paper, yet the author was writing it as if is it was their own.

Look, we believed that God used a natural human (Mary) combined in some way with supernatural (Holy Spirit) to form a being that looked natural (Jesus the Human) but was also divine (Jesus the God.) It was equally conceivable God used a natural human (the authors) combined with supernatural to form a book that looked natural, but was also divine—the Bible.

We could argue over whether Roberts’ Rules of Orders were appropriate for Church business meetings. We could argue over whether to have trustees, deacons or elders. We could argue over whether to have Sunday Evening Service at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. But the ONE thing we CANNOT argue over is the Bible. That was the closest thing we have to objectively determining what God was saying. It defined “sacrosanct.”

By inerrancy, we meant that there were no internal or external contradictions to the Bible.

As I sit here and reflect on inerrancy, it is with wry amusement I see that in most discussions on inerrancy the skeptic and believer battle over facts. How did Judas die? What did Jesus say on the cross? The genealogies of Luke and Matthew. In retrospect, as Christians we very rarely discussed factual contradictions.

Maybe once in a great while, in a class of “How to Deal with the Skeptic” we would raise these “apparent” contradictions, and then provide a possible resolution. Guess what? We already bought the claim of inerrancy. Is it any surprise that we would happily jump on to any possible resolution and assume it to be true?

No—when it came to inerrancy the focus was on doctrinal issues. How do we resolve what one author said as compared to another? It was here that we spent our energy. The number of Solomon’s stalls (1 Kings 4:26; 2 Chron. 9:25) did not have any impact on my life.

Certainly not as much as present situations such as divorce or whether to call an opponent a name. What I did is pursue the Bible (remember, this GOD speaking!) to its lengths in order to resolve what it was God was declaring me to do. Not what God was saying as to Solomon’s stalls. It is easiest to show what I meant by using those two examples…


If you read much of my writing, you will see me, at times, refer to my former belief as “fundamentalist,” sometimes “conservative,” sometimes “Christian.” I am never sure quite the “package” I fit in. On some things, I would be considered quite liberal, on others I would be far more right than fundamentalists. Because I was not trying to conform my beliefs to any particular doctrine—I was conforming my beliefs to the Bible.

The churches I attended held that a person could divorce if their spouse committed adultery, and that upon divorce (regardless of the reason) the “hurt” or “innocent” party was free to re-marry. These are fundamentalist institutions.

After my study, I became convinced that the Bible teaches that no Christian may ever institute a divorce under any circumstances. Ever. If, however, a Christian did become divorced, they may only re-marry under two circumstances—if the divorce was initiated by an unbelieving spouse, OR if the divorce was caused by pornea. (Greek word.) Unfortunately, what pornea. is, exactly, is not…quite…clear.

Needless to say, I was involved in many a doctrinal fight with my fundamentalist co-horts, in which I was more conservative than they were! (Wow.) It would be instructive to demonstrate my thinking in this regard.

God hates divorce. Malachi 2:16. A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. Rom. 7:2. A woman must not separate from her husband. A husband must not divorce his wife. 1 Cor. 7:10. A believer cannot divorce an unbeliever. 1 Cor. 7:12-13. Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. Any woman who divorces her husband and marries another commits adultery. Mark 10:11. Luke 16:18.

If we stopped there, there would be little question. Divorce is forbidden. However, Matthew throws a wrench into the works. Matthew says that anyone who divorces his wife, except for pornea and marries another commits adultery. Matt. 5:32; 19:9.

(Don’t you hate those pastors that all of sudden pull out some Greek word and explain it as if our translators couldn’t figure out the interpretation, but HE (with the help of Strong’s, of course) is able to give us enlightenment as to how our English version is incorrect? So why, in true hypocritical fashion, am I referring to the Greek word? The problem is that moichao is the Greek word for adultery. In both Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, Jesus uses BOTH words, saying “Anyone who divorces his wife, except for pornea and marries another commits moichao.” Mark 7:21 also lists both words, in the same verse. If God’s word, and Jesus himself, distinctly utilizes the two words, even within the same sentence, they must mean something different. You will often hear people say that one can get divorced for adultery. NIV even translates it that way. I figured if Jesus (God) makes the distinction—so should I.)

Now we start dealing with an apparent contradiction. It is here Christians debated “inerrancy.” Not archeological issues with Exodus. Nope—how do we handle the prevalence of divorce in both our society and church?

Most Christians I dealt with simply presumed Matthew “trumps” Mark, Luke, Romans, 1 Corinthians and Malachi, providing an “out” for divorce through pornea. Whatever pornea is, it certainly included having an affair, so this seemed to be a simple enough solution. Tidy enough—one can get divorced if their spouse has an affair. (And a mention that under Mosaic Law, they would be dead anyway, so this is an “apparent” aligning with Romans 7. ‘Course we aren’t under Mosaic law. Little Problem.)

My problem is that this renders Mark, Luke, Romans, etc. as invalid. Is there a way to both keep them intact AND match up Matthew? But my problem was even worse…

We were taught, under the doctrine of original sin, that we were unholy creatures. That even our best efforts were the equivalent of “dirty rags” as compared to God’s holiness. Isaiah 64:6. We are so evil and immoral that God would be completely justified in tossing us in the Lake of Fire forever! I don’t know how bad you have ever been, but if the punishment fits the crime, this would make us really, really, really, REALLY rotten!

Yet as rotten and horrible as that is, Jesus loved us enough to die for us. Despite our infractions against Him and His Justice, he humbled himself to the point of performing the greatest sacrifice ever committed in the entire course of the universe’s history. (Phil. 2:5-11)

O.K. Do you have it? Perhaps an inkling as to the self-sacrifice that Jesus did for humanity? Ephesians 5:25-30 says that I must love my wife in the exact same way that Jesus loved us. How in the blue blazes could I honestly claim that, if my wife had an affair, I am “loving” her in the same way Jesus loved us by divorcing here? We have had countless affairs, and numerous other loves—did he divorce us?

Every time I was told that a person could divorce their spouse for having an affair, I would ask, “Can you explain how that would be the equivalent of Jesus loving us? Can you explain how that conforms to Ephesians 5?”

A quick reminder—the Bible was the word of God. While numerous authors wrote it, it was inspired by a single source. To me, this meant in some way, Matthew 5 & 19 must line up with Malachi 2:16, Rom. 7:2, 1 Cor. 7:10, Mark 10:1, Luke 16:18, Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 3:18 and 1 Peter 2:18-3:7. If I simply ignored Matthew, I would be just as guilty of those who ignored those passages. I would be using them to “trump” Matthew, like they used Matthew to “trump” them.

The only foreseeable solution was that Matthew was discussing remarriage. Not divorce. Matthew was in full agreement divorce was never an option. However, if it did occur, we now have two divorced people. The question before us was whether these two people could be re-married. The way to determine was to look back at the causes of the divorce. If it was pornea according to Matthew (or an unbeliever filing the divorce according to Paul) then, and only then, would it be acceptable to remarry.

While this left the troubling question of why Mark and Luke did not include this exception, but we have varying statements of Jesus on the cross between the Gospels, too. Figured the authors did not include everything Jesus said, and this was one more occurrence.

More importantly, it kept intact the love/submission requirements of Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Peter. It preserved the essence of God’s hating divorce.

Christians could not file divorce. Ever. If they were divorced, we looked back on what caused the divorce. Two situations would allow remarriage. All others would not.

I was asked, “What if they didn’t start the divorce, the divorce was not out of sexual issues, and the spouse who started the divorce is now remarried? Can the ‘innocent’ party get remarried?” My answer? To be consistent, I had to say, “No. There is no such thing as ‘innocent’ party according to the Bible. It is clear that we look at two things, and two things ONLY. If it does not qualify, this person can never remarry. Perhaps that is why the disciples were so shocked at the stringent requirements of Jesus in Matt. 19:10-12.”

(Just so you know, this only came up in those fun doctrinal discussions late at night. If I was talking to a person who was divorced, or was facing this situation, I kept my mouth shut. Regardless of my position on divorce, I figured “Love one another” required me to keep this particular belief quiet!)

I observed Christians wanting the verses to say something different. They wanted adultery to be an acceptable reason for divorce. They wanted a “hurt” party to be free to remarry. They wanted reasons to get a divorce. I recognized the inherent bias causing them to resolve a contradiction in their favor.

I could see they were resolving this contradiction, not by following the actual facts and what was in front of them, with the most plausible solution, but with desire and feeling, and prejudice based upon their situation. Little was I to know this was going to bite me back HARD someday when I saw myself doing the same thing with skeptics on the factual contradictions…

I had already been fully immersed in it on the doctrinal issues, and accused others of doing something. While one finger was pointing toward them, four fingers were pointed right back at me.

Calling a Pharisee a name

At this point, it should be clear I disagree with the methodology that picks and chooses. I wanted a doctrine that conformed to ALL of the Bible. That would satisfy EVERY verse—not simply a justification for what I want to do.

Can I call my religious opponent a “pompous ass” according to the Bible?

No unwholesome talk should come out of my mouth, but only what is helpful for building up others, according to their needs. Eph. 4:29. Do what leads to peace mutual edification. Rom. 14:19. Titus 3:2. 1 Cor. 14:26. 1 Thess. 5:11.

Person A: You are a pompous ass.
Person B: Thank you! I was considering opposing you, but your kind instruction has brought peace between us. This was exactly what I needed. I feel so much more edified.

Are we kidding ourselves? There is also a humorous take on this—according to Phil. 2:3 we should, in humility, consider others better than ourselves. If I call another a pompous ass, and they are better than me, that makes me…

Does anyone want to be called a pompous ass? Really? Honestly? Then how can we “do to others what you would like have done to you” and call someone that? Matt. 7:12

Jesus requires so much love for our enemies (let alone our friends) that we should give to anyone who asks, if they sue you, give them MORE than they asked for, and if they demand from you, give them MORE than they demand. Matt. 5:38-48; Luke 6:27-36. Jesus requires us Christians (at least) to love each other as much as he loves them. John 13:34-35.

Do I need to repeat how much Jesus loved Christians? He died for you! Do you realize you are claiming you must be willing to die for a pompous ass? Does it make sense I could consider someone of such value I would be willing to give up my life, my life with my spouse, my life with my children for them, yet also consider them a pompous ass?

Come on—who is kidding who?

But, but, but…

We then have the famous passages where Jesus calls the Pharisees, scribes and Lawyers white-washed tombs, snakes, and vipers. Matthew 23; Luke 11:37-54. The argument is very simple—if Jesus (who never sinned) did it, then I can do it and not sin. The problem is that it makes a leap in methodology the same Christian would refuse to do elsewhere.

Premise One: Every action Jesus did was loving.
Premise Two: Jesus called the Pharisees “snakes.”
Conclusion: Jesus calling the Pharisees “snakes” was loving.

Fairly straightforward, correct? Makes sense. There is one problem—the person making this claim is NOT trying to justify Jesus calling the Pharisees a snake—they are attempting to justify themselves calling someone else a “pompous ass.”

See, the ONLY conclusion that necessarily follows from the premise is that Jesus was loving in calling Pharisees a snake. It says nothing about what we can call someone else. What the person is actually attempting to do is this:

Premise One: Every action Jesus did was loving.
Premise Two: Jesus called the Pharisees “snakes.”
Conclusion Two: I can call someone else a “pompous ass” and be loving.

Do you see the extraordinary leap made in conclusion two?

Yet, if I ignore the name-calling by Jesus, I would be equally guilty of ignoring verses or trying to trump one verse with another. Is there a solution whereby we can follow Eph. 4:29, Rom. 14:19, Titus 3:2,. 1 Cor. 14:26, 1 Thess. 5:11, Phil. 2:3, Matt. 5 and Luke 6, yet explain Jesus in Matthew 23 and Luke 11?

Certainly. Jesus was God. He can perform acts which appear to be unloving to our human eyes, but in reality actually are. What we need to do is follow his commandments, as laid out in the Bible, rather than attempt to justify it with “God can do it, so I can to.” Just because Jesus did it, does not mean I can.

Pretty weak, eh? Seems like…well.. a bit of a cop out. I would agree too, but this is the same method Christians use on other claims! If we use it elsewhere, why not here as well? Going back to our premise/conclusions:

Premise One: Every action Jesus did was loving.
Premise Two: Jesus ordered the genocide of the Midianites. Numbers 31
Conclusion One: Jesus ordering the genocide of the Midianites was loving.

But if we used the same Conclusion Two that the Christian wants to draw in the case of Jesus’ name-calling we end up with:

Premise One: Every action Jesus did was loving.
Premise Two: Jesus ordered the genocide of the Midianites. Numbers 31
Conclusion Two: I can order genocide and be loving.

Scary! No Christian holds to that! No, what we hear is, while genocide is normally not loving, but in the instances recorded in the Tanakh, these were special instances in which genocide WAS loving. And how do we know that? Because Jesus did it, and everything that Jesus did was loving.

Why is this same excuse (Jesus did it in a special circumstance, but we cannot) readily acceptable when it comes to genocide, but immediately tossed out the window when we want to call someone a name?

Again, what I saw were people attempting to justify what they wanted to do, so they used verses of Jesus’ action to “trump” the other verses that clearly counter calling someone a “pompous ass.” And I would ask (again) how they can do that, yet not violate Eph. 4:29, Rom. 14:19, Phil 2:3 and Matt. 7:12? They can’t! The easiest solution is to do what God says we do, not what God does.

Part of the reason my deconversion happened over such a short period (a matter of months) is that I had been having the same arguments for years. It was with other Christians over doctrinal issues as compared to skeptics over factual issues. But underneath I saw the same problems at play.

Because of some of the responses to the last chapter, I thought I would make a parenthetical chapter explaining how I treated the Bible. I wanted every action I made to conform to every verse. Not just the ones I wanted, to the exclusion of those that did not support what I wanted to do…

Chapter 5


  1. Hi,

    I am a Catholic and I really want to comment on your article because I think you will be surprised what you hear.

    First off, regarding the divorce issue, the fact is the Catholic Church does NOT allow divorce, and we are in fact the only major Christian group that teaches this. As you pointed out the Bible is very clear divorce and remarriage is not allowed.

    Divorce is not allowed even if a spouse commits adultery, as you already showed that Matt passage uses a different word than 'adultery'. As you pointed out the greek does not say "except for ADULTERY, commits ADULTERY". But "except for [PORNEA] commits adultery".

    REMARRIAGE is only allowed under two circumstances as the Bible explicitly teaches, the first is if one spouse dies, the second is if the spouse was NEVER a Christian and abandons you.

    Now for the Matthew "except" clause...Catholics believe this refers to a marriage that was invalid, in short it never was a true marriage. A marriage can be invalid for many reasons, for example:
    -a Catholic getting married outside the Church,
    -a marriage where one party was forced to get married
    -a marriage where one spouse is already married to another person
    -a marriage where one spouse refuses to consummate the marriage

    There is in fact Biblical support for the Catholic claim, it is no mistake that the same Gospel (Matt) that gives the "except" clause is also the one that makes mention of such a divorce. Mat 1:18-19 shows the Jewish system of marriage that consisted in two "phases", the first is the pledge to be married and the second was when the officially move in together. Before they officially moved in together as the passage teaches Joseph found Mary was pregnant, He was justified in seeking a divorce which fits the "except" clause. In modern terminology the Catholic Church would say that marriage was "invalid" though on the outside it appeared to be (eg they were pledged to be married and the only thing left was to move in). Another example, a person getting married to someone who was already married to someone else, on the outside everyone can see they had a wedding ceremony and made their vows, but on the "inside" the fact is it was invalid because on party was already married.

    As you already noted the various protestant groups justifying divorce, that should tell you there is a serious flaw in their system of authority. The Catholic Church doesnt suffer from this problem because it lays down teachings that cant be discarded, and those in authority must be obeyed. The Catholic Church officially teaches marriage is a Sacrament and cannot be dissolved.

    I hope what I said above made a little bit of sense.

    Next the "pompous ass" issue. Whether what Dave did was a sin or not does not make Christianity untrue. Christianity should be evaluated based on the teachings, not on how any given member acts.

  2. Thank you, Nicholas, for your comment. Too often in these discussions we…primarily I…focus on the differences—not the similarities. It is refreshing to point out where we agree.

    Sadly, my view of marriage is different than Catholicism, and would disqualify me, methinks.

    As to Dave Armstrong’s calling someone a “pompous ass,” I was using that as a springboard for two reasons (since we were discussing what my Christianity looked like prior to my deconversion):

    1) To demonstrate I focused on Christian application, rather than precisely worded, theologically correct dogmas. I was more interested in what I did as a Christian in my loving one another, than re-affirming the Nicene Creed every day.

    2) To contrast (see? Told you I was more guilty than most.) my belief with Dave Armstrong’s. If he wants to know what I believe, I am pointing out how it varies from what he does.

    I do have a question, though, on a bit of a tangent.

    Nicholas: Christianity should be evaluated based on the teachings, not on how any given member acts.

    But isn’t the part of the teachings of Christianity that its given members act differently? We often hear testimonies of violent, drug-selling, horrid people who “found Jesus” and became wonderful citizens. Is not, in some part, the idea that Christianity is validated by a divine ability to do that which a human could not—change this individual?

    And, as a deconvert, we are often dissected as to what particular “sin” we care to indulge in as the basis of our deconversion. Is that not, in some part, the idea that to maintain Christianity, we recognize the necessity to avoid sinning?

    If Christianity is true, regardless of how its members act, then the drug dealer could remain a drug dealer and still be a Christian—true? I could freely indulge in all manners of sin and remain a Christian. Deconversion would be unnecessary.

    Further, the Bible repeatedly contrasts the actions of Christians as to non-Christians. Rom. 1:24-32. Gal. 5:16-26. Eph. 5:3-8. Col. 3:5-14. Not to mention the most important of all—that we will know who Jesus’ disciples are by their love for one another. John. 13:35. Jesus has already indicated it is unremarkably for a person to love those who live him/her. Hey, even the unbelievers can do that! It is love for an enemy—THAT is a mark of a divinely changed individual.

    I am well aware that Christians are not expected to be sin-free. Rom. 7:7-25. They still struggle with sin. So…what is the difference between a non-believer who struggles with violating their own moral code (we all do) or a believer that struggles with violating their own moral code?

    If we are ALL struggling the same, then where is the mark of divinity in Christianity? Is one of the teachings of Christianity that we all struggle the same?

  3. Hi Dagoods
    This is very good stuff. I read this article and the one preceding it in full but not the others in your deconversion series.

    A few points;

    This sounds more like a change from intellectual assent into intellectual dissent. A deconversion would be the loss of the assurance one had before, in this case, of a God who was personally involved in one's life.

    There is a sense here that the Bible is a set of rules that we must live by. Yet the most recurring rule of the Bible is that we cannot live by them. Man's perfect state doesn't make it through one chapter (Gen-3) and the greatest apostle can't think straight on his own (Rom 7:24). Jesus says in Matt 15:9 and Mark 7:7 "They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men". Every human with the exception of Jesus is hopelessly screwed up (Rom 3:23).

    My resolution would be that the Bible gives us clear guidance of what is right and wrong, but that is in third place. Second place is occupied IMHO by how we should think and first place is how we should love God.

    That first place is key to a peaceful life as a Christian because if you love God you will love other people. Jesus said all the Law and the Prophets (i.e. the Bible) hung on these two commands, love God, love your neighbor. How can they hang together? Because they are the same love. Love is not divided.

    That doesn't mean you should not play your best in softball so as not to bruise the egos on the other side. You are letting them believe a lie, that they are better than they are. The question they asked (are you Christian?) was based on your team's rudeness, not on the fact that they lost (from my vantage point).

    Here's my real-life example: I have a tenant who has been paying his rent late, months late at times, and after two years I still accept his excuses, I don't bother him on the weekends or holidays. I tell him I'm praying for him to do better. The result? He gets caught up twice a year when I send the sheriff over. I've let him go as much as 5 months late while I borrow to keep the mortgage current. After all, I don't want to throw him, his wife and two young children out on the street...Where is he now? He's late! Why? Because I'm an IDIOT who has no balls, not because I'm a Christian. I've been enabling him, not helping him. He needs to move into an apartment and get out of my 3/2 house. Appeasement is not love. That's the lesson I've learned. Sorry - frustration...

    BTW Sometimes you have to call a pompous ass a pompous ass. A pompass Christian leads others astray (i.e. away from God). A pompous atheist is sometimes a better evangelist...

  4. Hi again,

    First off, how is your view of marriage different than the Catholic view? If we both believe it cannot be dissolved except by death we cant be that far apart.

    Next you talked about being more concerned about what you did as a Christian than simply affirming the dogmas.
    Im not really sure what to say except for the fact you cant paint Christianity as teaching utter perfection and sinlessness is required. What is required is doing our best. Jesus told us to pray "forgive us our trespasses" indicating we would still have struggles and even slip ups. The parable of the prodigal son teaches no matter how far we have fallen the Father will welcome us back if we turn back.

    Also you said you were contrasting your view of the acceptability of "ass" vs Dave's view. The issue appears to be: is there a line between name calling and rebuking others in defense of the Gospel? I believe there is such a line, and it is clear men in authority all through the Bible (including Jesus) rebuked others with harsh language. I re-read your article and you only mentioned Jesus, yet there are clear examples of authorities rebuking in Scripture:
    1)St Stephen calls the Jews "You stiff-necked people" in Acts 7:51. In fact "stiff necked" was a favorite phrase for the Jews in the OT, Im pretty sure Moses spoke like that. I would argue "stiff necked" is equivalent to "pompous ass".
    Same for places like 2 Pt 2:12, 2:22.

    2)Other examples of rebuking come to mind Mt 18:17; Acts 8:23; 13:9-10; 2 Cor 7:8, 13:10; Gal 2:11, 3:1; Ti 1:9-13, 2:15; James 4:4

    You went onto say that Christianity teaches its members are to strive to live holy lives, this is true. But just because any given member does not does not mean Christianity is false. No religion, apart from absolute relativism, is free from members who disobey its teachings.

    You then mentioned: "If Christianity is true, regardless of how its members act, then the drug dealer could remain a drug dealer and still be a Christian—true? I could freely indulge in all manners of sin and remain a Christian."

    No because Christianity teaches engaging in sinful actions actually separates you from Christ to various degrees and thus a person cant be living in a state of grave sin and be a Christian in good standing. Whether a member is acting in conformity with the teachings of Christianity doesnt determine the truth of Christianity. Using your logic I could say a mathematician who deliberately writes out incorrect calculations proves geometry is wrong.

    Lastly, yet still important, you said: "what is the difference between a non-believer who struggles with violating their own moral code (we all do)"

    This leads to a very critical question: Is the truth, especially morality, relative?
    If you say 'no' then that means there is ONE "moral code" and that its truthfulness is independent of our personal opinions. Christianity believes there is one moral code and all are bound to it, whether they realize it or not. Non-Believers on the other hand are in a bit of a bind because each member decides what they feel is "moral". In the case of those with hedonistic philosophies, there is no "struggle with violating" because whatever feels good is the way to go. For others what is "moral" to them is "immoral" to another, thus an action is good or evil simply depending on who you are. Some might say cheating on your wife is not a "sin", some might say child abuse is not a "sin", some might say "theft is only theft if you get caught". Which is it, and how do you even make laws for society if ultimately the truth, especially morality, is relative? You cant.
    If you answer, "yes, morality is relative" then the concept of "moral code" and "struggling" mean nothing ultimately.

    I hope I answered all your questions.

  5. Jim Jordan: That doesn't mean you should not play your best in softball so as not to bruise the egos on the other side. You are letting them believe a lie, that they are better than they are.

    A tragic indictment against the very brand of Christianity I struggled with, both personally and corporately. I watched numerous Christians in numerous ways make very, VERY certain other Christians were crystal clear that the other Christians was not better than the other Christian thought they were. Phil 2:3 says I should consider others better than myself. NOT that I should make sure the other Christians are informed as to how much worse they are than me.

    It is funny, or not so funny, really, how Christians hope…no… demand Jesus treat them better than they are, but cannot offer the same consideration to others. In a stupid softball game.

    Do you honestly believe, in the 6000 years of recorded history, in the 14 Billion years of events that have happened in the course of the Universe, in the trillions of tragedies of famine, disease, death, pain, hurts and calamities—out of all those events at the Great White Throne of Judgment, Jesus would chastise our softball team for allowing a person to get to first base when we could have thrown them out? Seriously? Because we were letting them believe they were “better than they are”?

    Oh how grand in doctrine Christianity has become and pitiful in application.

    Jim Jordan, I always struggled with the concept of “Love God.” What does that mean? I understand what it means to love a spouse, or love a pet, or even to love chocolate. But how, precisely, does one go about “loving” a supernatural being? Especially a God? I can’t give him financial support—doesn’t need it. Can’t give him time—he created it. Can’t give him physical help—it is not like God needs help moving furniture this Saturday! He doesn’t need my emotional support. Doesn’t need my friendship. He doesn’t need anything from me at all. I can’t see him, I can’t interact with him (except on an extremely limited basis) and I get no feedback whether I am pleasing him, angering him, or not making any impact on him.

    The only thing I could rely upon was John 14:14—“If you love me; keep my commandments.” Of course, the commandment I worked on was “Love one another. Love your enemy.” The way I figured it, doing those two things was a full-time job, encompassing 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    As to your tenant: If Jesus was your tenant, would you call the sheriff on him? Matt. 25:40.

    More: I've let him go as much as 5 months late while I borrow to keep the mortgage current.

    Do you not have faith that God will provide? Matt. 6:24-34; Matt. 10:29-31. Neither you or I have faith that your God will take care of you. The difference is you still say there is such a God.

    Don’t get me wrong, Jim Jordan—as a Christian I would not have had a problem with tossing a non-paying tenant. (Nor do I have a problem with it now.) But as a Christian, I would have been convicted in my heart that I was NOT relying upon God. I was NOT being Loving. I certain was not following the dictates of Matthew 5, 6, 10, 25 or Luke 6.

    Imagine the power of being “tapped in” to God. Like having President Bush, Bill Gates, and Albert Einstein, as your parent. And being promised that no matter where you are, no matter what the financial situation you are in, no matter what the problem—not to worry. They will take care of you.

    If Bill Gates was your parent, and said to bring ALL your financial worries to him—would you be borrowing to pay the mortgage? Would you be worrying about some late-paying tenant? The song states, “He owns the cattle on a thousand hills” yet Christians worry about how they will get tonight’s hamburger.

    As I looked at myself primarily, and other Christians, I saw that we worried just as much about financial problems as they do. We had marriage problems, just like they do. We got sick, got well, sometimes died, just like they do. We failed to love one another just like they do. Where is the divine spark? Where is the difference?

  6. Nicholas,

    Notice the difference in methodologies regarding name-calling. I point out commandments and doctrines as to its prohibition, while those who justify it (and I am not saying you do) point out examples as to its allowance. Again, I would note that no argument has been provided as to how one can call another a “pompous ass” and NOT violate the Golden rule. Start there, we will work to the other verses as we go along.

    Do you want to be called a “pompous ass?” If not, regardless of what Jesus, or St. Stephen, or St. Paul, or St. Peter did, how can you call someone a “pompous ass” and be treating them the way you want to be treated?

    Can we use examples for a way to determine application? Dangerous ground, in my opinion. I’ll point out the problem. Again. The Bible commands “You shall not murder.” Ex. 20:13. Yet God commands the murder of Baby boys in Numbers 31:17. In this instance we have:

    Command: Do not Murder.
    Example: Murder of baby boys.

    In this instance the Christian states following the example is incorrect; following the command is correct. In the name-calling we have:

    Command: Treat others as you would want to be treated. Consider others better than yourself
    Example: Call certain people snakes and vipers.

    In this instance the Christian states following the example is correct; following the command is incorrect.

    Why the change in methodology? Can I propose, as a skeptic, it appears to me to be a change for convenience only? It is inconvenient to promulgate a religion supporting genocide. It is convenient to “trump” the example with the command. It is desired to call someone a “pompous ass.” It becomes convenient to “trump” the command with the example.

    Honestly? I am not buying it. I didn’t buy it as a Christian; I buy it even less now.

    Nicholas: No because Christianity teaches engaging in sinful actions actually separates you from Christ to various degrees and thus a person cant be living in a state of grave sin and be a Christian in good standing.

    I am uncertain as to the difference between “sinful actions” and “grave sin” as well as the difference between “Christian” and “Christian in good standing.” The question is this: Does Christianity claim, due to Godly influence, that Christians are more moral than non-Christians or does Christianity say that believers and non-believers are the same, morally?

    More: Is the truth, especially morality, relative?

    Not to go on too much of a tangent (although I started it. *grin*) “Truth” is a comparison of reality to claim; morality is a concept. They are not equivalent. It is mixing apples and oranges.

    Even as a moral relativist, I have a moral code. It may be my opinion, it may be hard-wired in by DNA; it may be due to my upbringing. But it exists. (It is a different question, and not one I would fully explore here, as to how or whether to impose my moral code on others.) And I can violate my own moral code. In my opinion, I should never lose my temper. I, on occasion, lose my temper. I have violated my own moral code.

    Exactly as I did when I was a Christian.

    Does the indwelling of the Holy Spirit change a person, or do they struggle with morals, just like a non-indwelt person? Or do you think that moral relativists do not struggle with morals? That we all think, “anything goes”?

    And I also can’t help but note the claim that Christians believe in “one moral code” is questionable in light of the fact we cannot seem to agree whether calling someone a “pompous ass” is acceptable.

    As to marriage, I held to the following: (Remember, I was sola sciptura through-and-through.)

    Marriage is defined as two people “leaving their parents, cleaving to each other and becoming one flesh.” Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31. I would define each of those items:

    1. Leave parents: This would be setting up a separate and distinct household. It does not have to be necessarily a separate house, but it does have to be recognition of distinctly separate family unit.

    2. Cleave: This would be recognition of a life-long commitment to each other, with the intention of remaining committed for the remainder of your life.

    3. Become one flesh: sex. (Despite beautiful poetry to the contrary, Paul defines “one flesh” as sex. 1 Cor. 6:16.)

    There could also, arguably, be a fourth requirement in following the rules of government, (Romans 13:1) and if a ceremony or certificate is required, then that, too, would be required.

    Taking our three requirements—two teenagers who vowed to love each other forever, and had sex, but were living in their separate parents’ homes would not qualify. Two people living together for a year to see how it works out would not qualify. A bride calling it off on the night of the wedding (pre-sex) would not qualify.

    Has to be all three.

    If the couple is married, the Christian cannot initiate divorce. If divorced, the Christian can re-marry if her spouse both initiated the divorce AND is an unbeliever. If divorced because of pornea, they can re-marry. (Curiously, there is no limitation on the initiator, or non-initiator.)

    However, I would also state that if remarriage occurred outside those parameters, this would constitute one (1) sin. Not a continuing sin. Because now you have a new marriage. I have no requirement of being married in a church. Further, there are no “invalid marriages.” One is either married or not. Marriage can be dissolved by divorce. It just shouldn’t be.

    Like I said—probably not qualify for Catholic here.

  7. Hi Dagood
    how can you call someone a “pompous ass” and be treating them the way you want to be treated?

    You've never had anyone rebuke you and then later you realized they were absolutely right? Perhaps it even woke you up to something you were doing wrong.

    I think you are applying our culturally popular idea of "love every one for who they are (sigh)". Love doesn't mean making everybody look good or feel good about themselves.

    I liked what you had to say about having the right Dad. Many believers forget that.

    As I looked at myself primarily, and other Christians, I saw that we worried just as much about financial problems as they do. We had marriage problems, just like they do. We got sick, got well, sometimes died, just like they do. We failed to love one another just like they do. Where is the divine spark? Where is the difference?

    Accounting. That's the difference. I did a balance sheet this morning as part of my daughter's Bible lesson. I made a list of blessings on one side; my daughter's name first, my wife, our friends and family, our health, the fact we were born in a free country, and of course Jesus. I made a list of curses on the other side; financial problems, sickness, death, anger, bad moods, etc. The blessings side we called 'X' while the curse side we called 'Y'.

    Then I asked my daughter if she could calculate which side was greater. Since her name was on the blessings side, it made the math a lot easier. Thus the value of 'X minus Y' is ALWAYS greater than 'zero'. If not, how much can we value those people who we see as blessings?

    The subsequent study came from the book of Job with the memory verse (in my daughter's idiom), "Even though u r killing me, yet will I trust in you."ex

  8. Jim Jordan,

    In my professional life, I rebuke opponents all the time. And they rebuke me. Forcefully, dogmatically, and with great fervor. Unlike Christians, we have no intention of “edifying” or encouraging while we do it.

    Yet even in the extremely secular legal institution, we do so without resorting to calling our opponent names. This is for a variety of reasons; a sense of decorum, it shows a loss of control, it shows a loss of ability to frame a good argument, and (sanctimoniously) we think we are above name-calling. I want to best my opposition without needless resorting to sophomoric tavern-type tactics.

    Amazingly, what non-Christian participants would never do; Christians rationalize. Don’t you think it is possible to rebuke, edify and discuss with a fellow Christian in love and actually avoid the words, “pompous ass”?

    Going back to the Golden rule—If a fellow Christian was to rebuke you, would you prefer they call you a “pompous ass” or would you prefer they rebuke you without using that term?

    There’s your answer.

  9. **Don’t you think it is possible to rebuke, edify and discuss with a fellow Christian in love and actually avoid the words, “pompous ass”?**

    That's what I was going to ask, as well. Rebuking someone isn't the same as calling them as "pompous ass." If anything, that type of attitude will make the person less likely to listen to you.

    There are ways of identifying inappropriate behavior in a loving fashion. I don't use love here in the sense of a warm fuzzy feeling. But you can sit down with someone and say, "Here's where I think you're off. Let's talk about it." The tone and words are kind and compassionate -- but they are also calling things for what they are.

  10. Sounds like "South Park Jesus" is very popular these days. You know Him, the 90-pound weakling that looks like no match for the gigantic Satan character.

    What is the difference between saying "you are being pompous" and "you are a pompous ass"? I agree that the former sounds better and I would prefer it, but the sentiment is the same. Asses are pompous/prideful and when you are pompous, you're being an ass. How can you say one is wrong and the other right if it is the same thing?

    "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you". Hmmm. So if I were single and see a hot woman I'd start making out with her, because that's what I'd like her to do with me..?

    What's wrong with that? The missing ingredient is that the Golden Rule is theistic. It isn't "hey, I give you money because if I were you I'd want money", but it demands that we do unto others as God wills. Prior to this commandment was the unambiguous call to belong to God.

  11. JIm,

    **What is the difference between saying "you are being pompous" and "you are a pompous ass"?**
    Because one's an insult? Because the addition is unnecessary? Even if the insult is true, that doesn't make any less of an insult. No one here is saying that Jesus is some 90 pound weakling. Both DagoodS and I spoke of calling things as they are, and rebuking. But if someone is already being pompous, calling them an "ass" is simply going to compound the problem (using the word "pompous" probably isn't going to help much either, given how negative the word is). Whereas if you rebuke calmly, and say, "Here's where your behavior is off," which is the person more likely to listen to? Which is more likely to potentially make the person change? You can be firm and not tolerate the behavior while still avoiding name calling.

    **"Do unto others what you would have them do unto you". Hmmm. So if I were single and see a hot woman I'd start making out with her, because that's what I'd like her to do with me..?**

    No one's saying that, either. Part of how the Golden Rule is interpreted, or should be, even in a secular setting, is taking the other viewpoint into consideration. DagoodS has a "Platinum Rule," which along the lines of doing to others as they would like to be treated. The Golden Rule is along a non-selfish line, and so part of the necessity in interpreting that is taking the other viewpoint into consideration, and about compassion. It's about stepping outside the viewpoint of the self. You seem to be saying, with this example, that people interpret it as the woman should think about what you would like first and anything she wants isn't taken into consideration. I see it more along the lines of, "If this person were in my situation, but still that person, what would that person want?"

    Even the commands that surround the Golden Rule in Luke -- do good to those who hate you, turn the other cheek, if your coat is taken offer your shirt, give to everyone who asks, and when something of yours is taken, don't demand it back. The purpose of all those commands is to shame the person into realizing their incorrect behavior while still behaving much better than the person ever would -- which would include avoiding the name-calling. It's using the person's own pride and the rules of society against the person.

  12. Jim Jordan: What is the difference between saying "you are being pompous" and "you are a pompous ass"? I agree that the former sounds better and I would prefer it (emphasis added)

    And should be the end of the discussion.

    As to sexually molesting random women; the Golden Rule is not the only moral direction in the Bible. Romans 13:1-8 requires Christians to refrain from committing 15-year felonies as well. (And I should add you are NOT treating others as you would want to be treated. Would you want some random woman grabbing you and making out? Or a homosexual guy? You don’t want random people making out with you on their whim; so in the same fashion, to treat others as you would want to be treated, you should not be grabbing random people and making out with them. Although heather said it better.)