Christian Era |OT| W.W.J.D

I certainly haven't studied enough about the history of Universal Torment, but I wouldn't be surprised if the concept was introduced later history.

However, I am not sure there is much support that everything/one will be reunited with God. I certainly would like to hear what parts of scripture and tradition that concept comes from, for sure.

I think eternal separation will always be the worst thing possible for humans/creation - what that looks like in practice? I have no idea. But eternal fire has always seemed redundant to me.
 

duckroll

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Oct 25, 2017
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It's pretty debatable whether Origen was a universalist though. Much of his original work is lost, and there are dubious historical claims about what he did and what he specifically wrote. St Jerome, in particular, accused him of a lot of stuff that might not, in fact, be attributed to his philosophy.
 

Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
1,488
So I'm finally reading Revelations for myself for the first time. Last page, I called Hegel hardmode philosophy. I would wager that Revelations is hardmode Scripture. It's so different from everything that comes before, and it's so rife with allusion and symbolic content. Even the sort of vibe I get reading the text is just... different for me from the previous sections of the NT. The seven spirits of the seven churches... it's no wonder Revelations has been the inspiration for so much. Random fun fact: did you know Revelations is important to more than just Christian denominations? It's true. I wonder if Ezekiel is like that in the OT, or if Revelations stands alone within the Christian canon.

On the previous topic, I have rather complex thoughts on Universalism. I would boil it down to "I think it's OK to hope for a Universal salvation, but you'll never find any firm support for it just in the Scripture. Only God and His saints know-- but the way those some of those saints act keeps that hope alive for me."
 

Goya

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Nov 11, 2017
13
DBH's pro-universalism argument is irrefutable really. God wills the salvation of all, and God being God achieves what he wants. And the balance of scriptural support is in favor of universalism rather than infernalism.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,255


have you guys read this by David Bentley Hart. its getting talked about alot on the twitter sphere debates about Universalism
I am aware of this book, although I have not read it. Hart's writing strikes me as consistently supremely arrogant and void of charity towards anyone he disagrees with. That doesn't mean his arguments are wrong, of course, but it does mean I'm reluctant to read him at length. Reading him makes me feel like I'm back in the hothouse atmosphere of Twitter.

I have read some reviews of the book. This review seems particularly careful and thoughtful. I say this with the caveat that I have not read the book, but from the quotes and summaries of his arguments, as well as what I've seen in some of his published essays, Hart's argument for universalism seems to give up far too much. I put great value on God's sovereignty, but Hart's claim that God's sovereign will essentially obliterates any distinct human is beyond where I'm willing to go. I don't think his claim that evil is fine as long as it vanishes eventually - as I've seen him write elsewhere, that present suffering isn't something God makes use of but is simply an irredeemable evil that God will decisively eliminate at the end of history - gets him out of the problem of evil as much as he thinks it does. Especially when combined with this extreme view of God's sovereignty, it seems to just make the existence of evil all the more arbitrary and pointless, as if God is simply toying with us for no good reason. Wiping our minds after he's done toying with us wouldn't get God off the hook.

I don't buy Hart's argument that people can't be ultimately culpable for the evil they do either. He seems to take a Platonist view that evil is essentially ignorance - something which I cannot accept based simply on my own propensity to do evil even when I know better - and people shouldn't be eternally punished when they just didn't know any better (or couldn't help). But this elimination of culpability undermines all of Christianity. If, in the end, there are no sinners, what did Jesus come for? What's with all his talk of sin and repentance, all his warnings of coming judgement and needing to be prepared to avoid destruction? Hart seems to wave his hands when it comes to these sorts of Biblical passages, saying that they're "meant as much to disorient as to instruct," but that strikes me as evasive. Hart wants to maintain the Bible as authoritative but is he really honestly dealing with the passages that cut against what he's claiming?

I can understand why universalism is attractive, but I'm not persuaded that it can be reconciled with any form of Christianity that considers the Bible authoritative and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus meaningful. Certainly not if it requires the elimination of human will and moral culpability.
 

Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
1,488
Having not read the book either, I can't speak authoritatively either. I will say this much, though-- like Goya said, if God wills salvation for all... I'm leaning towards God's will not getting denied. It'd be the first time it happens.

I again can't speak to Hart's specific Universalist formulation, however, I will be willing to stick my neck out to say not every formulation of a Universalist argument necessarily render's Jesus's life, death, and resurrection meaningless. If ultimately Jesus remains the key to salvation, the only path through which all are saved-- then a Universalist argument doesn't diminish Jesus.

I would say that Paul's discourse in... one of his Epistles, I'm SO bad at this (I think one of the Corinthians?) where he refers to vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath does tend to indicate that, on some level, there's a certain hard level at which human beings can have their moral outcomes for agency truncated by the material conditions in which they were born. Jesus's parables of seeds where they fell in different places would also indicate this-- the right conditions are necessary for true faith to take root. Does that abolish all human agency? I certainly don't think so. John the Baptist indicates that there is such a thing as bearing fruits worthy of repentance when he chastises the scribes and Pharisees, after all, and Jesus Himself also calls all to repent. But I'd say the interplay between human agency and God's eternal Will and deliberate placement of each human that has been in the world is one of those ineffable mysteries-- an interplay of the human and divine that can't really be truly understood without divine aid that is perhaps crucial to our existence as image-bearers of God.

Like Hosanna says, though, Jesus is pretty explicit in His exhortations to avoid destruction, and doesn't shy away in His parables from depicting death, or eternal torment, or the outer darkness. A Universalist argument has to take that SERIOUSLY-- and I'll be real, a lot of them don't in my sight. That is why I talk about my belief being hope in Universalism-- that through some secret of God, the genuine threat of destruction passes people by. I could propose mechanisms by which both destruction, death, outer darkness, etc. come to pass while Universal salvation also comes to pass, but those are just speculative mechanisms, about as valid as suggesting there's NO mechanism. Only God and those whom God wills to reveal His plan to know the truth. Speaking of Revelations, Revelations is pretty explicit in descriptions of destruction-- however, I wouldn't be surprised about Hart's claim about education and disorientation both being the point in that specific case.

St. Julian or Norwich's famous declaration that Christ told her "all manner of thing shall be made well" always keeps that hope alive for me. That the world, fragile thing that it is, is kept alive by God's love? That's a powerful thing for me.
 

sphagnum

Member
Oct 25, 2017
10,292
So I'm finally reading Revelations for myself for the first time. Last page, I called Hegel hardmode philosophy. I would wager that Revelations is hardmode Scripture. It's so different from everything that comes before, and it's so rife with allusion and symbolic content. Even the sort of vibe I get reading the text is just... different for me from the previous sections of the NT. The seven spirits of the seven churches... it's no wonder Revelations has been the inspiration for so much. Random fun fact: did you know Revelations is important to more than just Christian denominations? It's true. I wonder if Ezekiel is like that in the OT, or if Revelations stands alone within the Christian canon.
Revelation (no s!) is just one example of an apocalypse, which was a whole genre. It just happens to be the only NT apocalypse that was accepted as canonical.

But it's still the one with the best visuals.
 

Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
1,488
Revelation (no s!) is just one example of an apocalypse, which was a whole genre. It just happens to be the only NT apocalypse that was accepted as canonical.

But it's still the one with the best visuals.
Well hey, didn't expect to see you here, sphagnum. You're right on the "no S" bit. It's "The Revelation of Jesus Christ," after all. I'm vaguely aware of the apocryphal apocalypses-- are they a part of the Nag Hammadi corpus or are there any in the Dead Sea Scrolls? I wonder if 3rd Enoch counts as an Apocalypse.
 

sphagnum

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Oct 25, 2017
10,292
Well hey, didn't expect to see you here, sphagnum. You're right on the "no S" bit. It's "The Revelation of Jesus Christ," after all. I'm vaguely aware of the apocryphal apocalypses-- are they a part of the Nag Hammadi corpus or are there any in the Dead Sea Scrolls? I wonder if 3rd Enoch counts as an Apocalypse.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are primarily OT and Essene based, but the Nag Hammadi library does indeed have some apocalypses (much of which is gnostic stuff, which is unsurprising considering the type of material found otherwise in the codices). It has apocalypses of Adam, Peter, Paul, and two of James.

There's another Apocalypse of Paul that IIRC Bart Ehrman likes a lot because of its interesting depictions of Hell. Personally I think the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel is fascinating as a later Jewish text influenced by the Byzantine/Sassanis struggle.
 

Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
1,488
The Dead Sea Scrolls are primarily OT and Essene based, but the Nag Hammadi library does indeed have some apocalypses (much of which is gnostic stuff, which is unsurprising considering the type of material found otherwise in the codices). It has apocalypses of Adam, Peter, Paul, and two of James.

There's another Apocalypse of Paul that IIRC Bart Ehrman likes a lot because of its interesting depictions of Hell. Personally I think the Apocalypse of Zerubbabel is fascinating as a later Jewish text influenced by the Byzantine/Sassanis struggle.
That DOES sound neat. I really need to dig into the apocryphal texts-- I was thinking of starting once I'm done with Revelation, but with the Gospel of Thomas rather than the apocalypses.

I do wonder how the apocrypha really came about. Given their frequently conflicting natures, especially the Gnostic ones, it does make one wonder why people wrote them.
 

sphagnum

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Oct 25, 2017
10,292
There are some apocalyptic texts in the DSS by the way, but I forgot what their names were so I had to look them up. Luckily Wikipedia just lists them all:


Apocryphal texts developed because different people had different ideas about who Jesus really was and what his message really meant. Sometimes it's just fan fiction, sometimes they might have heard stories and the stories got expanded like a game of telephone. Sometimes you get crazy stuff like the Gospel of Nicodemus. But ultimately, early Christianity was a free-for-all of ideas because Jesus didn't write anything down, and neither did his disciples, at least for the first few decades (unless Q pops up eventually). It took years - centuries - for the doctrines of the Trinity and the hypostatic union to be hammered out, with many schisms and excommunications in between, and it took, again, centuries for the established canon to be accepted as it was. It can be argued that the canon only even exists because the Gnostics (Marcion specifically, I believe) were putting out their own canon lists first, which spurred the church-that-became-orthodox to combat it.

Gnosticism specifically boils down to two points: people who can't see how Jesus and OT God can be one being because they are too distinctly different, and people who love mystery religions. Gnosticism provided a clean break from the OT with the concept of the demiurge and the sense of specialness that comes with being "in the club", since the whole point of Gnosticism is being granted secret knowledge. Interestingly there seems to be some sort of link to the Secret Gospel of Mark here, not that we know whether or not that was real (I'm still pulling for it).

Then you get crazy stuff like the Peratic Gnostics, who believed in the Greek gods and that Jesus was the serpent in the Garden of Eden and is hanging out in the constellation Draco and so forth.
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
There are some apocalyptic texts in the DSS by the way, but I forgot what their names were so I had to look them up. Luckily Wikipedia just lists them all:


Apocryphal texts developed because different people had different ideas about who Jesus really was and what his message really meant. Sometimes it's just fan fiction, sometimes they might have heard stories and the stories got expanded like a game of telephone. Sometimes you get crazy stuff like the Gospel of Nicodemus. But ultimately, early Christianity was a free-for-all of ideas because Jesus didn't write anything down, and neither did his disciples, at least for the first few decades (unless Q pops up eventually). It took years - centuries - for the doctrines of the Trinity and the hypostatic union to be hammered out, with many schisms and excommunications in between, and it took, again, centuries for the established canon to be accepted as it was. It can be argued that the canon only even exists because the Gnostics (Marcion specifically, I believe) were putting out their own canon lists first, which spurred the church-that-became-orthodox to combat it.

Gnosticism specifically boils down to two points: people who can't see how Jesus and OT God can be one being because they are too distinctly different, and people who love mystery religions. Gnosticism provided a clean break from the OT with the concept of the demiurge and the sense of specialness that comes with being "in the club", since the whole point of Gnosticism is being granted secret knowledge. Interestingly there seems to be some sort of link to the Secret Gospel of Mark here, not that we know whether or not that was real (I'm still pulling for it).

Then you get crazy stuff like the Peratic Gnostics, who believed in the Greek gods and that Jesus was the serpent in the Garden of Eden and is hanging out in the constellation Draco and so forth.
Cool! I thought I remembered there being DSS apocalyptic texts. I suppose there being a bunch of conflicting information about Jesus makes sense, given the oral tradition. I guess I always find the decision to attribute such-and-such apocryphal text to a figure that couldn't have written it as a bit confusing... but at the same time, that makes sense too, in that the oral tradition has to have some provenance, however real it may have been.
I remember reading about the Marcionite heresy. It always felt like there should be a distinction between the demiurge-centric Gnostic offshoots and the Gnostic traditions that just kind of went off into outer space. Speaking of that, I never drew a connection between the Ophite heresy and the constellation Draco, but it actually makes sense-- the constellation Draco shows up referred to as the dragon in at least one early Kabbalistic text, with its own correspondences to matter and immanence with a position as the axis mundi. Given references to serpents in the Greek Magical Papyri and the Jewish currents of those texts, it's perhaps unsurprising the astrological connection would persist in whatever strange offshoot of the Greek Mystery schools the Gnostics represent.
 

DarkDetective

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,694
The Netherlands
So I'm finally reading Revelations for myself for the first time. Last page, I called Hegel hardmode philosophy. I would wager that Revelations is hardmode Scripture. It's so different from everything that comes before, and it's so rife with allusion and symbolic content. Even the sort of vibe I get reading the text is just... different for me from the previous sections of the NT. The seven spirits of the seven churches... it's no wonder Revelations has been the inspiration for so much. Random fun fact: did you know Revelations is important to more than just Christian denominations? It's true. I wonder if Ezekiel is like that in the OT, or if Revelations stands alone within the Christian canon.
There's a big parallel between Revelation 12 and beyond and Daniel.
 

Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
1,488
Yeah, but the parallel is a lot biger than just the little horn. But I don't have my Bible with me right now, and I don't know which chapters are all involved from the top of my head. I think it's 12 through 15 or so.
I'll keep that in mind. I gotta read through the OT sometime. I got through Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Proverbs, Genesis, Exodus, some of Deuteronomy, I'm pretty sure, Hosea, Habakkuk, and... I think that's it. The OT is very big. I feel like I should read at least Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel at some point. I mean, I should read the whole thing at some point, but those are the ones I feel I should do in the near future. Given my glacial pace, though, I'm not sure what to do, especially since I want to go off the beaten path and read a little bit of the Gnostics.
 

theodoranil

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Aug 2, 2019
214
Oxford / Melbourne
Started learning about Orthodoxy via Byzantine history via Roman history. Ended up rather intruiged and drawn to the mysticism. So you could say I'm trying out Christianity after a life of vague paganism/pantheism. It's difficult as a trans feminine sex worker to feel welcome though.

I'm not sure if my reasons are genuine at all, so much as I'm just dealing with a lot of very difficult life circumstances, and when learning about the Bible as a part of English literature was rather blown away by Pslam 91 (LXX, 90). I thought, "I wish I could feel so safe, and so loved; all my hardships would feel surmountable, rather than likely to overthrow me".

I know I don't like Calvinist strains of thinking at all, though suspect from who I am Anglicanism is my only likely home if I can let myself believe without hesitation or embarrassment that I should believe in one set of stories over another... especially since there are times that the history of YHWH as a national/tribal god, rather than the God appears quite explicit in the Psalms. Almost as if the gods of the Greeks and Romans were real, perhaps angels, but they let him down.

Can you tell I'm confused? Back to reading the books of The Book, I suppose...
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
Started learning about Orthodoxy via Byzantine history via Roman history. Ended up rather intruiged and drawn to the mysticism. So you could say I'm trying out Christianity after a life of vague paganism/pantheism. It's difficult as a trans feminine sex worker to feel welcome though.

I'm not sure if my reasons are genuine at all, so much as I'm just dealing with a lot of very difficult life circumstances, and when learning about the Bible as a part of English literature was rather blown away by Pslam 91 (LXX, 90). I thought, "I wish I could feel so safe, and so loved; all my hardships would feel surmountable, rather than likely to overthrow me".

I know I don't like Calvinist strains of thinking at all, though suspect from who I am Anglicanism is my only likely home if I can let myself believe without hesitation or embarrassment that I should believe in one set of stories over another... especially since there are times that the history of YHWH as a national/tribal god, rather than the God appears quite explicit in the Psalms. Almost as if the gods of the Greeks and Romans were real, perhaps angels, but they let him down.

Can you tell I'm confused? Back to reading the books of The Book, I suppose...
Welcome, welcome! I'd like to let you know that I'm bi, so I totally get the feelings of alienation. I wouldn't suggest that your reasons aren't genuine at all-- coming to religion in troubling times is absolutely a valid thing, and frankly, having the actual Scripture impact you is indicative of being sincere in your pursuit or attraction. I'd say a lot of people on here aren't big fans of Calvinism, even when they contend that salvation is God's plan for a person rather than something they can control themselves.

The bit about the tribal and national nature of the OT (and, by extension, the Psalms) has been throwing people for a loop for thousands of years, so don't feel bad. Hell, we were talking about Marcion just a few posts ago-- people have had a hard time accepting it for forever. Personally, I prefer to think of it as the perspectives on God shifting after Jesus, rather than God Himself changing modalities-- His plan has always been, though it was concealed in part, so people doubled down on the nationalistic aspect despite the cosmopolitan implications of the OT (such as how strangers coming to the Temple are supposed to be treated). It's important to remember that Jesus's enemies were, in part, nationalistic in their belief in the Messiah. Their unwillingness to abandon this notion in the face of the miracles they witnessed from Jesus is part of what drove them to persecute Him-- at least, in my opinion.

Don't feel bad for having your own uncertainties, and don't feel bad either about being attracted by the mysticism. Lord knows I've got my own history with all things esoteric. Just focus on building your relationship with Jesus, and trust that all else will stem from there. If all else fails, remember the advice of St. Augustine of Hippo which you've no doubt heard before though you might not have known it: "Love, and do what thou wilt."
 

theodoranil

Member
Aug 2, 2019
214
Oxford / Melbourne
Welcome, welcome! I'd like to let you know that I'm bi, so I totally get the feelings of alienation. I wouldn't suggest that your reasons aren't genuine at all-- coming to religion in troubling times is absolutely a valid thing, and frankly, having the actual Scripture impact you is indicative of being sincere in your pursuit or attraction. I'd say a lot of people on here aren't big fans of Calvinism, even when they contend that salvation is God's plan for a person rather than something they can control themselves.

The bit about the tribal and national nature of the OT (and, by extension, the Psalms) has been throwing people for a loop for thousands of years, so don't feel bad. Hell, we were talking about Marcion just a few posts ago-- people have had a hard time accepting it for forever. Personally, I prefer to think of it as the perspectives on God shifting after Jesus, rather than God Himself changing modalities-- His plan has always been, though it was concealed in part, so people doubled down on the nationalistic aspect despite the cosmopolitan implications of the OT (such as how strangers coming to the Temple are supposed to be treated). It's important to remember that Jesus's enemies were, in part, nationalistic in their belief in the Messiah. Their unwillingness to abandon this notion in the face of the miracles they witnessed from Jesus is part of what drove them to persecute Him-- at least, in my opinion.

Don't feel bad for having your own uncertainties, and don't feel bad either about being attracted by the mysticism. Lord knows I've got my own history with all things esoteric. Just focus on building your relationship with Jesus, and trust that all else will stem from there. If all else fails, remember the advice of St. Augustine of Hippo which you've no doubt heard before though you might not have known it: "Love, and do what thou wilt."
Thank you πŸ’šπŸ’š and haha, I was quoting the Confessions to myself earlier... fecisti nos ad te [Domine] et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te. (I.1) Though I might have been abusing it a tad, wishing to accelerate my presence in another world.

I appreciate hearing I am nothing too odd, at least on here. I'm too used to very boring Christians from growing up in Northern Ireland, who put any notion of loving one's neighbour to shame.

I think I often get confused how I'm told by many in Orthodoxy that the Church is the most important thing, communion within the Church, etc. yet so many of its most notable saints and characters isolated themselves in the deserts of Egypt or forests of Russia.

It's all rather afronting because I'd come to be a Nihilist (via post-left Anarchism and the likes of Max Stirner), disbelieving in morality as anything objective; and especially rejecting Marxists as confused because they and humanists are both reproducing Christian values with a forced secularism with seemingly no awareness. And for the longest time I thought it too absurd that any set of values could come from above, but then thinking about it, that we exist at all is so strange I know longer know what to think (but I'm still holding out that Dionysus might be ultimately the one worth my time πŸ˜…).

I'm rambling a bit and don't exactly no why, but that you responded so to much I thought too niche and awkward in most Christian company to begin with. Maybe I'm sharing even more awkward points to see what happens.

But yes, thank you again for your reply. It was helpful to hear, and I'm going to note bits of it in my diary. (And it's great to hear you were talking about figures like Marcion! It's so refreshing to find such a critical space in the context of Christ.)
 

Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
1,488
Thank you πŸ’šπŸ’š and haha, I was quoting the Confessions to myself earlier... fecisti nos ad te [Domine] et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te. (I.1) Though I might have been abusing it a tad, wishing to accelerate my presence in another world.

I appreciate hearing I am nothing too odd, at least on here. I'm too used to very boring Christians from growing up in Northern Ireland, who put any notion of loving one's neighbour to shame.

I think I often get confused how I'm told by many in Orthodoxy that the Church is the most important thing, communion within the Church, etc. yet so many of its most notable saints and characters isolated themselves in the deserts of Egypt or forests of Russia.

It's all rather afronting because I'd come to be a Nihilist (via post-left Anarchism and the likes of Max Stirner), disbelieving in morality as anything objective; and especially rejecting Marxists as confused because they and humanists are both reproducing Christian values with a forced secularism with seemingly no awareness. And for the longest time I thought it too absurd that any set of values could come from above, but then thinking about it, that we exist at all is so strange I know longer know what to think (but I'm still holding out that Dionysus might be ultimately the one worth my time πŸ˜…).
Fancy that! I'm an anarchist too, but more on the socialist side. I tend to think of Stirner in much the same way I think of dialectical materialism-- another tool in the toolbox. Sometimes it's helpful to put on the Spooky Glasses and see how arbitrary constructs in society alter our behavior. At the end of the day I tend to think of it in terms of there being a fundamental division between the law of God, the law of liberty, and the laws of man-- and the latter don't justify themselves. Unjust laws being no laws at all, as Augustine would say. It's important to recognize that, much like Hegel's writing, there's some kind of mystical core to Stirner's ideas. Just like Marx, though, I'm not sure Stirner recognized quite how significant those mystical ideals were to the philosophy.

As for the Dionysus bit-- I take that to mean you were searching for a primary patron and Jesus became something of a draw by way of the Orthodox tradition? That's been known to happen! You certainly aren't alone in that. I've always been Christian, but I know of more than a few people who've been drawn to Christ in this way-- from multiple paradigms, too. Wiccans, Thelemites, Chaotes, it happens.

I'd be interested to hear more about what you were hoping to do with the Confessions. You could PM me about it if you wanted to.
 

theodoranil

Member
Aug 2, 2019
214
Oxford / Melbourne
Fancy that! I'm an anarchist too, but more on the socialist side. I tend to think of Stirner in much the same way I think of dialectical materialism-- another tool in the toolbox. Sometimes it's helpful to put on the Spooky Glasses and see how arbitrary constructs in society alter our behavior. At the end of the day I tend to think of it in terms of there being a fundamental division between the law of God, the law of liberty, and the laws of man-- and the latter don't justify themselves. Unjust laws being no laws at all, as Augustine would say. It's important to recognize that, much like Hegel's writing, there's some kind of mystical core to Stirner's ideas. Just like Marx, though, I'm not sure Stirner recognized quite how significant those mystical ideals were to the philosophy.

As for the Dionysus bit-- I take that to mean you were searching for a primary patron and Jesus became something of a draw by way of the Orthodox tradition? That's been known to happen! You certainly aren't alone in that. I've always been Christian, but I know of more than a few people who've been drawn to Christ in this way-- from multiple paradigms, too. Wiccans, Thelemites, Chaotes, it happens.

I'd be interested to hear more about what you were hoping to do with the Confessions. You could PM me about it if you wanted to.
I'll message you about anarchism etc. (lovely surprise!) when I'm a bit more awake (aka not near 4am).

Could you elaborate on what you mean "by way of the Orthodox tradition"... I'm not really sure what I'm doing besides spinning really. I think I try to find, forgive the term, idols expressing a life well lived. Dionysius is nothing if not that (and certainly those of the Bacchants), or hell even someone like Caesar for dreaming so wildly. In equal term I've long idolised Julian the Apostate, though an awkward one to bring up here and perhaps confusing in light of the Orthodox comment. At least in this light, Christ has never been one to appeal to me as a personal guide in the same way (outside Christianity itself), though I struggle to separate him often from the words of Paul, often complaining about sexual excess and distraction from the spiritual life; which in the modern Anglo-Protestant world is often seemingly simplified to "gays are bad" (and goodness, as a non-binary, currently non-op trans woman who 100% has the same brain as a cis woman, I have no idea what that is -- probably because this whole categoric identity thing is a farce to begin with).
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
I'll message you about anarchism etc. (lovely surprise!) when I'm a bit more awake (aka not near 4am).

Could you elaborate on what you mean "by way of the Orthodox tradition"... I'm not really sure what I'm doing besides spinning really. I think I try to find, forgive the term, idols expressing a life well lived. Dionysius is nothing if not that (and certainly those of the Bacchants), or hell even someone like Caesar for dreaming so wildly. In equal term I've long idolised Julian the Apostate, though an awkward one to bring up here and perhaps confusing in light of the Orthodox comment. At least in this light, Christ has never been one to appeal to me as a personal guide in the same way (outside Christianity itself), though I struggle to separate him often from the words of Paul, often complaining about sexual excess and distraction from the spiritual life; which in the modern Anglo-Protestant world is often seemingly simplified to "gays are bad" (and goodness, as a non-binary, currently non-op trans woman who 100% has the same brain as a cis woman, I have no idea what that is -- probably because this whole categoric identity thing is a farce to begin with).
Well, mostly I just meant that the Orthodox tradition was your introduction to the mysticism of the Christian tradition. It does, after all, have its own mystical tradition like many other denominations that is unique to itself-- hesychasm, the works of Joseph the Visionary, etc. I thought that you might have been referring to that mysticism specifically into your introductory post.

I totally understand what you mean about the pagan gods. I think it's possible to have an appreciation for them as archetypal figures without really worshipping them. Sometimes, they can tie in fluidly with the Christian identity, even. I mean, you're Irish, read up on Saint Brigid-- she's awesome.

As for Paul... yeah, I think it's normal to give Paul the side-eye at least once if you don't fit in the traditionally recognized or understood categories of gender or sexuality. I will point out that, as I've discovered while discussing here, some of those admonitions were rather specific to individuals and frictions within the early church, they don't bear universal weight. And often, the English translations of Paul's words have been especially unkind. Even so, I think Jesus's words and Paul's words have a distinct... presence apart from each other, if that makes any sense. The Gospels hit an emotional resonance for me that perhaps the Epistles don't.
 

DarkDetective

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,694
The Netherlands
I've been reading the book "Letters from a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father's Questions about Christianity" by Dr. Gregory Boyd and his father Edward Boyd.
https://www.amazon.com/Letters-Skeptic-Wrestles-Questions-Christianity/dp/1434799808
Gregory Boyd was raised agnostic and became a Christian when he was grown up. His father is still a non-believer, while Greg studied his way up in academic circles and has become a professor teaching Christian apologetics at Bethel University. He regularly participates in philosophical debates with people who think differently, such as islamic teachers and agnostic philosophers. He invites his dad to write him letters with all his questions about Christianity, why God does/did certain things, and why the church on Earth did certain things. Greg gives very clear and accessible answers to a lot of fundamental questions that his dad asks. While I don't always agree with his explanations, I think Greg does a very great job at explaining many things about fundamental questions that I personally had a hard time answering. The book is just a collection of letters sent from a strong non-believer to his believing son, but it's interesting to see how the tone and kind of questions change as Edward begins to understand his son more and more, and at the end of the book gives his life to God (spoilers lol). Regardless of that conclusion, I think the book is a good read for both Christians and non-believers who may have a lot of ethical/moral questions about the Christian belief.

I think the book may be very useful for theodoranil as well. I will try to give an answer to your question on why God seems to behave like a national/tribal god in the Psalms with a lot of references to Bible verses, but I'm kind of short on time right now, so I'll present you another (bigger) wall of text later - it may be today, but there's a good chance you'll have to wait until after the weekend.
 

theodoranil

Member
Aug 2, 2019
214
Oxford / Melbourne
Well, mostly I just meant that the Orthodox tradition was your introduction to the mysticism of the Christian tradition. It does, after all, have its own mystical tradition like many other denominations that is unique to itself-- hesychasm, the works of Joseph the Visionary, etc. I thought that you might have been referring to that mysticism specifically into your introductory post.

I totally understand what you mean about the pagan gods. I think it's possible to have an appreciation for them as archetypal figures without really worshipping them. Sometimes, they can tie in fluidly with the Christian identity, even. I mean, you're Irish, read up on Saint Brigid-- she's awesome.

As for Paul... yeah, I think it's normal to give Paul the side-eye at least once if you don't fit in the traditionally recognized or understood categories of gender or sexuality. I will point out that, as I've discovered while discussing here, some of those admonitions were rather specific to individuals and frictions within the early church, they don't bear universal weight. And often, the English translations of Paul's words have been especially unkind. Even so, I think Jesus's words and Paul's words have a distinct... presence apart from each other, if that makes any sense. The Gospels hit an emotional resonance for me that perhaps the Epistles don't.
The Epistles of Paul certainly stand out as an oddity in their received authenticity in Protestant traditions. I just find Paul's voice prescriptive, which almost feels antithetical to Christ's stance at times. I understand his place as Christianity being a religion of the gentiles rather than the Jews (though we have folks like Vespasian and Hadrian to 'thank' for that too), but I'm honestly wary of anyone focusing on that too much.

And yes, sorry, I was overthinking it; it wasn't simply hesychasm or any one element, but the combination of icons, the much less legalistic ideas than in Roman Catholicism, and honestly in many ways the beauty in the Hagia Sophia, which does truly feel divinely inspired even in its delapidated state, and heavy ... reorganisation under the Ottomans.

I didn't want to be extremely predictable and scream "Jung!" over and over, re: pagan gods, but there's certainly something core that they resonate with in us, to have lasted so long in their own context, and to persist in appreciation long after neo-classsicalism is dead (if anything, average reaction to the Classical world seems awfully negative, condemning it for the likes of Boris Johnson studying it... as if any of us wanted the likes of him).

I think the book may be very useful for theodoranil as well. I will try to give an answer to your question on why God seems to behave like a national/tribal god in the Psalms with a lot of references to Bible verses, but I'm kind of short on time right now, so I'll present you another (bigger) wall of text later - it may be today, but there's a good chance you'll have to wait until after the weekend.
My my! I look forward to it! 😊
 

duckroll

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,684
Singapore
I gotta say, it's pretty weird reading about people being "wary" of St Paul's letters and even questioning if they have a place in the Bible, in a Christian thread of all places. I just don't get it. This is the sort of stuff I expect to find in philosophy and theology debates with secular people questioning the faith. Being Christian can't just be identifying as someone who likes the teachings of Christ in isolation. It's problematic to think that anyone and everyone can reinterpret what God's revelations mean and what is or isn't divinely inspired in Sacred Scripture. The Bible cannot be just a collection of books which we pick and choose to accept more or less of. That would be nonsensical for the tradition of what our faith is.

It's definitely important to know the historical context and that enriches our ability to better read and understand Sacred Scripture when reflecting on it or trying to draw something from it, but the historical context should never be used to cast doubt or create a contradiction. Implying that St Paul's epistles were written entirely by his human nature and that he does not speak with the divine inspiration of God, is to suggest that the Bible is just another book. Maybe this is why these days pretty much anyone can just get up and decide to start a church somewhere on their own, declare themselves a pastor, and call it Christianity. I feel we should be wary of that. Not of St Paul, who after all actually lived in the time of the Apostles and was led by God through conversion to build up the early Church.

Not to mention all the talk about pagan gods and Gnosticism here. Is this "Christian Era" or is this "Talk about Christianity Era"?
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
I gotta say, it's pretty weird reading about people being "wary" of St Paul's letters and even questioning if they have a place in the Bible, in a Christian thread of all places. I just don't get it. This is the sort of stuff I expect to find in philosophy and theology debates with secular people questioning the faith. Being Christian can't just be identifying as someone who likes the teachings of Christ in isolation. It's problematic to think that anyone and everyone can reinterpret what God's revelations mean and what is or isn't divinely inspired in Sacred Scripture. The Bible cannot be just a collection of books which we pick and choose to accept more or less of. That would be nonsensical for the tradition of what our faith is.

It's definitely important to know the historical context and that enriches our ability to better read and understand Sacred Scripture when reflecting on it or trying to draw something from it, but the historical context should never be used to cast doubt or create a contradiction. Implying that St Paul's epistles were written entirely by his human nature and that he does not speak with the divine inspiration of God, is to suggest that the Bible is just another book. Maybe this is why these days pretty much anyone can just get up and decide to start a church somewhere on their own, declare themselves a pastor, and call it Christianity. I feel we should be wary of that. Not of St Paul, who after all actually lived in the time of the Apostles and was led by God through conversion to build up the early Church.

Not to mention all the talk about pagan gods and Gnosticism here. Is this "Christian Era" or is this "Talk about Christianity Era"?
I feel like you've maybe misunderstood some posts-- at least, some of mine, as I can't speak for everyone else. I don't think the Epistles aren't holy or divinely inspired. I'm saying that, as a queer person, I can sympathize with being put off by them initially in a way the Gospels just don't. Heck, this is a conversation we've had before-- didn't you participate in it last time? I think it's only a page or three back at most. A lot of that discussion was edifying, when it came to the epistles, and showed that by putting them in their proper context that feeling becomes unfounded and you don't have to be scared off. But it doesn't erase the initial experience, which I think we should be sympathetic to. I, at least, am sympathetic to it, because I've been there, and I'm not now after having studied it a bit more.

As for the complaints about pagan gods and Gnosticism... I'm not sure what you want me to tell you, buddy. Someone decided to drop by to talk about Revelation and share their knowledge about similar subjects. I decided to engage them because they're my friend and they know a lot about the subject. Should I have told them we can't talk about that here? Would that have been the right choice? Furthermore, if we're just saying that Gnosticism isn't an apt topic of discussion, are we going to disallow Mormons from participating too? How about Jehovah's Witnesses (at least, I think it's the Witnesses I'm thinking of)? And if your reply is that Gnosticism is a dead religion... well, I mean, it isn't. That's incorrect. I'm not sure what the implication should be regarding "Christian ERA" versus "Talk about Christianity ERA."
 

duckroll

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,684
Singapore
I feel that I misread the room and let my pride speak before using my heart. I apologize for the tone of my post. We should definitely welcome curiosities about our faith without using an accusatory tone.

I will put some effort to replying to some of these topics with much more charity when I have more time in the coming week and hope we can have some good discussions about St Paul's language and intent, along with some of my thoughts on gnosticism and the appeal of pagan gods. The latter in particular could be fairly interesting to talk about especially in light of how this is a gaming forum first and foremost, and I personally love Shin Megami Tensei.

I hope my poor attempt at trying to set stuff "straight" hasn't turned anyone off from sharing openly about their faith journey and challenges.
 

theodoranil

Member
Aug 2, 2019
214
Oxford / Melbourne
I feel that I misread the room and let my pride speak before using my heart. I apologize for the tone of my post. We should definitely welcome curiosities about our faith without using an accusatory tone.

I will put some effort to replying to some of these topics with much more charity when I have more time in the coming week and hope we can have some good discussions about St Paul's language and intent, along with some of my thoughts on gnosticism and the appeal of pagan gods. The latter in particular could be fairly interesting to talk about especially in light of how this is a gaming forum first and foremost, and I personally love Shin Megami Tensei.

I hope my poor attempt at trying to set stuff "straight" hasn't turned anyone off from sharing openly about their faith journey and challenges.
Honesty, such a humble followup is very impressive, and does you great credit. β˜€ πŸ’œ

One thing I might suggest, with paganism, pantheism, shinto, etc. -- ignoring the suggestion that such might have originally been lesser divinities who failed to fulfil their purpose, or whatever that psalmic moment is getting at -- as someone exploring Christianity, it is other kinds of spirituality which opened me up the idea of the spiritual in the first place. The post-industrial world naturally lends itself little to any sort of religion; so if I was a Christian hoping to spread the faith, I think I'd at least be very open a general return to spiritual thinking as a positive compared to an atheistic alternative. At least in the Anglo-sphere, I think a lot of people are put off Christianity because Calvinism is very much the prevalent model, and also one of the most punitive and ironically in my eyes least spiritually engaging for those outside it.

I'm curious what you mean wrt SMT? I tried 4 and found it direly hard, but its lore and character ('enemy'?) design was so good.
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
Well, this promises to be a fun set of discussions! I'm glad things are on a more positive track.

While I'm sure we'll get into it later, after we discuss the Pauline stuff in greater detail, I do want to say I agree with theodoranil in that, when talking to atheistic people, helping them be more receptive to spiritual stuff makes talking about Christianity easier.

And trust me, SMT isn't the only place we'll go if we want to talk gaming with regards to the pagan and Gnostic stuff. There's plenty of room for discussion there!

EDIT: Goya, that video is quite enlightening! Particularly the bit about "hypostases" not necessarily being equivalent to "personalities." I always love a good shake of the Koine Greek. I was also entertained by the decision on the interviewer's part to use the Vedas as an example of incompatibility. The Vedas in particular eat incompatibilities for lunch. Just ask the Ottoman empire.
 
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Goya

Member
Nov 11, 2017
13
found very instructional the part where he discusses God's relational nature through the depth of mind metaphor
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
found very instructional the part where he discusses God's relational nature through the depth of mind metaphor
I agree. I found his emphasis on it being a metaphor very crucial to the point he was making as well-- brilliantly well-constructed phrasing on his part, and a good-faith attempt to recover a conceptual core that has traversed so many languages.
 

duckroll

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,684
Singapore
I'm curious what you mean wrt SMT? I tried 4 and found it direly hard, but its lore and character ('enemy'?) design was so good.
The SMT series has a tradition of using mythology, religion, occult, theology, metaphysics, etc in really bleak ways but it's super appealing to me. Especially when I make it a deliberate point to go Law route no matter how "bad" or "wrong" they try to make it, lol. Lots to talk about, especially how different SMT games paint God as a being and how they portray the divine and the demonic.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,255
Considering how the overall atmosphere of this forum is, at best, skeptical of religion, I'm happy enough to interact with people who don't immediately dismiss Christianity before a discussion can even begin.

Following up on David Bentley Hart, reading this dismissively contemptuous response of him towards his critics, perhaps the crudest example of what about him repels me, I'm convinced that I'd rather read an extended argument for universalism from just about anyone else. Even if I bracket his tone and rhetoric, his attempt to use a skeptical historical approach to the Old Testament derived from 19th century German textual criticism as justification for allegorical readings of the Old Testament in the patristic style (which, while certainly done by Paul and the early church fathers, were not done to the exclusion of historical readings) strikes me as bizarre.

About the subject of Jesus vs. Paul, I'll reiterate what I said before when the subject came up: I think much of the tension people see between them comes from selective readings of the Gospels and Epistles, that overlook the more uncomfortable passages in the Gospels while fixating on the most uncomfortable passages from Paul's Epistles. There are certainly passages of Paul that are very grating to modern ears, but there are passages of Jesus that should sound just as grating if we're paying attention. I don't think those passages from either Jesus or Paul should be disregarded simply because they're uncomfortable, at least if we're going to believe in a God that's not of our own making. Meanwhile, there are many passages from Paul that I find profoundly comforting. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1) is a verse I repeat to myself on a nearly daily basis.

Honesty, such a humble followup is very impressive, and does you great credit. β˜€ πŸ’œ

One thing I might suggest, with paganism, pantheism, shinto, etc. -- ignoring the suggestion that such might have originally been lesser divinities who failed to fulfil their purpose, or whatever that psalmic moment is getting at -- as someone exploring Christianity, it is other kinds of spirituality which opened me up the idea of the spiritual in the first place. The post-industrial world naturally lends itself little to any sort of religion; so if I was a Christian hoping to spread the faith, I think I'd at least be very open a general return to spiritual thinking as a positive compared to an atheistic alternative. At least in the Anglo-sphere, I think a lot of people are put off Christianity because Calvinism is very much the prevalent model, and also one of the most punitive and ironically in my eyes least spiritually engaging for those outside it.

I'm curious what you mean wrt SMT? I tried 4 and found it direly hard, but its lore and character ('enemy'?) design was so good.
Speaking as a Calvinist, I don't agree that Calvinism is the prevalent model of Christianity today - at least in the US. (I have less knowledge about the UK or other English-speaking countries.) The prevalent model of Christianity is some combination of Baptist-style pietism and prosperity gospel preaching (and in the US particularly a kind of cultural nationalist Christianity is unfortunately very visible).

I find the most interesting thing about SMT from a religious perspective is not so much how the series grabs bits and pieces from religions and mythologies across the world, but how the traditional Law and Chaos routes play as a crude exaggeration of the debate between prioritizing God's sovereignty and prioritizing human free will. They're a clear expression of two extreme positions in that debate: Law has God brainwash everyone into unthinking obedience to maintain order and virtue, while Chaos presents an anarchy in which sheer force is the only thing that can exert authority.
 

Goya

Member
Nov 11, 2017
13
Have to admit I enjoy Hart's tone. Perverse of me but as a spectator, debate is always more fun if it's gladiatorial (and if I'm on the side with the better arguments). Besides, the question remains, how can one read the accounts of divine violence historically and still believe that God is good?

I agree with you on Paul and Jesus. In fact, most of our images of hell come from Jesus. They are entirely absent from Paul's writings.
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
Oh, I agree there's definitely challenging parts to the Gospels and very comforting parts to the Epistles. I feel like I must have been vague or poor in my description. The way I tend to feel about it is-- each book of the Bible has its own unique... like, I don't wanna get orb gang on y'all, but... a sort of energy to it? Maybe it comes down to differences in tone and subject, but part of me feels like there might be some spiritual element to it. See my bit on Revelation towards the top of this page or the bottom of last-- I think that's the book where it feels most apparent to people. And even though the Gospels are where Hell is described, and our Good Lord is not shy about describing people getting killed or suffering, there's this sort of presence to the four Gospels that I think helps people process those things. The Epistles, by comparison, are... well, more direct sort of challenges to people who are already in the faith to better themselves and to strengthen the unity of the early church. I think confronting the uncomfortable in a more direct way is perhaps part of the point-- Jesus' exhortations to repentance, while vivid, are tempered by universal reconciliation. Paul asks that, having entered into that promise, you not lose it-- oh and also please don't let the church fragment into a billion pieces or have us all arrested as seditionists, please and thanks. Given how language and the loss of context have frequently been unkind to the Epistles in particular, I think that character can lead to discomfort for some. There are plenty of calls in the Pauline Epistles that are more amenable to modern tastes than before, even-- think about Paul asking for one of the churches to give. I think that's Thessalonians? Or is it the one after. I'm so bad at this. After Corinthians, I believe. Anyways, the point is, a call to redistribution, to share the bounty with those in the faith who are poor-- these days, that's going to have a more positive response than it has in decades. So why don't people pick up on that aspect of things? Why don't they remember that bit? We could say, "well, we only remember the bad" but then the Gospels have plenty of not-fluffy elements. It's... very curious to me.

Speaking specifically of the Pauline Epistles with that one, of course. I think we all understood that intuitively, though-- the Johannine Epistles also exhort to do the right thing, but they have their own different presence as well.

Maybe it boils down to personal preference or resonance with certain books, I don't know-- but it's something that I've discussed with other people so I maybe presented it in a way that was more universal than it really was.
 

duckroll

Member
Oct 25, 2017
7,684
Singapore
Paul's epistles can be annoying to read in modern context if you go in with certain expectations and feel attacked by them. Yes, he goes into a lot of specifics for each of the churches he writes to in terms of behaviour and disposition, especially in worship and community interaction. But I don't think it's really any harder than the challenge Christ gives us directly in the Gospels.

Let's look at Matthew for example. In Mt 5:17-48, Christ basically says that sinning in your mind and heart is bad too, not just avoiding the actual acts. He goes on to create a high bar for forgiveness that is probably too much for any of us to truly accept. And He says this knowingly, because in Mt 10:34-36 He acknowledges the division He will bring to people because the calling is high and not everyone will agree with everything. There will be division because what holiness is, is separation. The Israelites as a chosen people were chosen because there needed to be a people set apart from others, to even attempt the cultivation of the holiness God desires for His people. When Christ brought the fullness of redemption to all people, that call of separation is given to us all.

How many are truly willing to set ourselves apart - to do and say things which would separate us from others because they disagree? Is it not easier to just fit in, or to moderate our faith to be accepted as a "normal Christian" who isn't "too much" for a social group? But Christ says otherwise. The call isn't "be good enough and enjoy the company of friends" it is "be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect". And remember, no one can truly follow Christ unless they leave their families, friends, and possessions behind. To cut oneself off from everything else and center your life around God. Ouch.

Something to consider. :)

On a side note, has anyone here studied Duns Scotus enough to talk about the univocal concept of being and haecceitas? Trying to brush up a group presentation for Friday and would appreciate some simple discussion about certain points to clarify my own understanding if possible. Thanks!
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
I don't really think I disagree with any of your scriptural interpretations. Yes, the Gospels actively do challenge us in ways that might actually be harder than anything Paul puts forward (some stuff of which was specific to a particular church or person, and not general prescriptions). I don't really get why these stronger challenges don't really hit as hard.

However, duckroll... I have to say, there's bits of your formulation I somewhat object to. Primarily, your decision to emphasize separation. The rest I think is good. While holiness does produce separation, and it's true God set apart a people for Himself, there are issues associated with the focus on separation that come to the heart of the New Testament. You ever looked at the etymology behind the word "Pharisee?" It comes from the Greek "Pharisaios," which is from the Persian "Perisa." Perisa means "set apart, separated." See, the word "Pharisee" is effectively their nickname due to their... well, rather rigorous interpretation of the Torah. And, specifically, their decision to cut off people they deemed impure. They cut themselves off mentally from others, and put themselves on a pedestal compared to others. This also does make the question of making the reader or listener's righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees a bit of a multidimensional thing in Matthew 5. From the perspective of rigorous adherence to the law, it is difficult. From the perspective of casting aside pride, it is a far more accessible charge. That's a bit beside the point though.

You say rightly that Jesus describes the rifts caused by His creed. I don't think you're calling for us to be the ones doing the separating, either; you're rightly appraising that others will separate themselves from us if we walk in Truth. It is written to happen. But I'm not sure I believe that holiness itself is separation. Jesus Himself dined among sinners and tax collectors, after all. At the same time, He called all people to His creed, and said His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mt 11:30). This is, in my estimation, one of the mysteries of Christ and of Christendom-- the profundity of His calling to excellence and the stakes are contrasted with His universal love for His people-- all of humankind. I believe that God placed the Messiah in a certain point in history, as opposed to all the others, because the historical circumstances in which our Lord found Himself are universally applicable-- and consequently, His persecutions by those who thought themselves set above others has resonance even beyond the closing of the Second Temple era or the diaspora which made obsolete those relational elements. And the Epistles, I think, begin to shine light on this mystery.

Paul himself rightly sees the new Law as the Law of Liberty-- freedom from sin, it is true, is becoming a bondservant of God, allowing Christ to live His life in us, but this is real freedom. And as much as this present discussion stems from those parts of Paul which aren't palatable to modern audiences, he never loses sight of that. Contrarily, he illuminates that! It is impossible for us to follow the Old Law. But the Old Law passes away, and the New Law, the law of liberty, dawns. Paul is central to the full extent of this understanding. And whatever else we may say about what is uncomfortable in Paul, I am pretty certain few people will find those passages where he addresses this to be objectionable.

You yourself speak to a gradual divinization of the world (or at least of the people in it)-- and in an odd way, this conversation ties back directly to the previous about Universalism. Because we hope for others to be brought into this law of liberty. Because we understand for ourselves picking up Christ is not dropping responsibility. Because at the same time, the struggle with sin doesn't end in conversion to Christ. It endures, and so does the tension that comes from that. We know the expiation of sins, but we know too that the race is not done, the crown is not yet won, and the things we build will be tested with fire. These tensions are central to the faith. We live our lives; culture changes, as it must. With each permutation of our own lives and our own cultures new challenges arise, and more interpretations of Scripture come about or drop in and out of fashion. But through it all, the mechanism for righteousness in the law of liberty remains unchanged. I think it's important to guide people through that. I think it's important to make sure we aren't cutting ourselves off from the world even if the world cuts itself off from us. To deal mercifully with everyone and to hope we are doing right. To leave aside judgment that judgment may not come upon us. I think we shouldn't recoil when people say they find Paul difficult. I still do sometimes. But the way I find to push past that is to remind myself that Paul was the one who first called it the law of liberty. That Paul said there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That Paul exhorted us to love and to forgiveness, just as Christ did. Scholarly study is all well and good for seeing the resolution of the conflicts in Paul... but these are stronger reminders still of what Paul was, I think, really getting at, and a stronger guide for what was meant for the early churches.

This isn't really a rebuttal of your points, duckroll-- because on some level you're quite right. But the use of the word "separation" made me feel like I ought to write something, and before you know it I had all this. I hope it serves a purpose.

EDIT: Come to think of it... doesn't Paul never cut someone off permanently from the Church in any of his Epistles, explicitly framing his callouts as a chance to forgive?
 

Kinggroin

Avenger
Oct 26, 2017
4,110
Uranus, get it?!? YOUR. ANUS.
I have nothing of substance to contribute, and I think that, as a Christian, I sometimes strongly dislike the religion I was indoctrinated into (but I love Jesus...so figure that one out).

I'm keeping an eye on this thread. There's real value for me here.
 

DarkDetective

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,694
The Netherlands
I have nothing of substance to contribute, and I think that, as a Christian, I sometimes strongly dislike the religion I was indoctrinated into (but I love Jesus...so figure that one out).
I like to separate "religion" and "faith"/belief.

Religion is a set of cultural rules and doctrine, based on a certain view of how the world works and how society should work.
Faith/belief is your trust in something or someone.

Faith is usually the input of the machine that is called "(sub)culture". Then, people try to interpret it, then try to adapt it for the best of the people or misuse it for own good, make legislation - whether that's law or social rules - based upon that semi-manufactured/partial product, and then religion is the output.

I totally understand what you mean.

---

I have a distaste of religion in the meaning I've given it above. I try to stay as close to the Bible as possible, and stay far away from human fabrications that may or may not have a Biblical origin but are mostly used to comfort the people in power, or to comfort people in self-justification. That doesn't mean I think gay people aren't welcome in the church, or that everyone should be circumcised or whatever (for the people who think so, perhaps read the New Testament again, especially the letter to the Romans). It does mean, however, that I have a personal aversion to some things, which I've put in the spoiler in order to give people the option not to be potentially offended:
- the Pope or any 'deputy head of the church on earth', or anyone who thinks they speak with the authority of God Himself.
- the idea that you need to do good things, or live well in order to be added to the general catholic church (in my native language, there's a different word used in the Bible for 'church' in the King James Version ('Gemeente' -> municipality, community) then the word we use to describe our local church ('kerk' -> church); and in this case I'm talking about the former). I believe living well is good, and you will be rewarded for that (however, not for living in accordance to the Law of Moses), but it's not your ticket to enter heaven.
- the idea that everyone, whether they believe in Jesus Christ or not, will be saved in the end.
- child baptism, or the idea that believing in Jesus Christ - and, as a result, your saving - is not a personal decision and responsibility.
- the idea that only a select group of church ('kerk') members are allowed to partake in the celebration of the Lord's Supper - which, unfortunately, is quite common around here.
- the idea that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate entities. I believe they are three different aspects/roles within God, which is one entity.

And then there are a couple of things that are generally accepted in certain branches of Christianity that I don't agree with, but they either require a lot more explanation or I'm not feeling that strongly about them, so it's rather material for productive discussion.

Of course I respect everyone as a person and especially as a fellow Christian, but the things listed in the spoiler above are some things I personally have a lot of aversion to, because I don't read those things in the Bible.
 

Deffers

Member
Mar 4, 2018
1,488
I have nothing of substance to contribute, and I think that, as a Christian, I sometimes strongly dislike the religion I was indoctrinated into (but I love Jesus...so figure that one out).

I'm keeping an eye on this thread. There's real value for me here.
Welcome, welcome! I certainly hope that this thread can be helpful to you. As you can clearly see, you're not the first to express feelings like that. I think the important thing to do when you find yourself in that spot is to focus on that love for Christ and Jesus, and center your religious expression on that. The rest stems from there. God is love, after all.

DarkDetective's laying down some pretty good stuff, too, on this topic. I of course don't agree with everything in his spoiler, but everything beyond that is... is pretty solid. He's talked about the spiritual Ecclesia, a sort of invisible spiritual church encompassing all denominations, before, I believe, and I think that's a higher principle to aspire to.

The sentiment reflected in Kinggroin's post does make me feel like saying this:

People trying to reconcile their love for and draw towards Christ with their disdain or active hostility to religion is a phenomenon that, like it or not, is part of Christian life now. It's not an anomaly or a small segment of the population-- it's a growing segment of the population if anything. It isn't gonna slow down. It's important to be prepared for that.
 

DarkDetective

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,694
The Netherlands
DarkDetective's laying down some pretty good stuff, too, on this topic. I of course don't agree with everything in his spoiler, but everything beyond that is... is pretty solid. He's talked about the spiritual Ecclesia, a sort of invisible spiritual church encompassing all denominations, before, I believe, and I think that's a higher principle to aspire to.
I indeed believe the church that the Bible is talking about is indeed the gathering of all individuals who have lived/live between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his 'Second Coming' and who have personally believed from one point in their life until their death that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He has died and taken responsibility for our sins in the process (Galatians 2:16 and 2:20) and resurrected from death. Regardless of denomination. Whether you're a Roman Catholic, an Evangelical, something different, or have never joined a church on earth at all but believe with your heart in the above.

Edit: Oh, and I totally respect that you don't agree with everything in the spoiler. That's just what I personally very strongly believe.
 

Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
1,488
I indeed believe the church that the Bible is talking about is indeed the gathering of all individuals who have lived/live between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his 'Second Coming' and who have personally believed from one point in their life until their death that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He has died and taken responsibility for our sins in the process (Galatians 2:16 and 2:20) and resurrected from death. Regardless of denomination. Whether you're a Roman Catholic, an Evangelical, something different, or have never joined a church on earth at all but believe with your heart in the above.

Edit: Oh, and I totally respect that you don't agree with everything in the spoiler. That's just what I personally very strongly believe.
Don't worry, that was understood. I feel you.

Sometimes in my life, I've felt that sense of Ecclesia as a tangible thing. I really hope I wasn't just imagining things.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,255
Just some quick points that I may expand upon later:

Have to admit I enjoy Hart's tone. Perverse of me but as a spectator, debate is always more fun if it's gladiatorial (and if I'm on the side with the better arguments). Besides, the question remains, how can one read the accounts of divine violence historically and still believe that God is good?

I agree with you on Paul and Jesus. In fact, most of our images of hell come from Jesus. They are entirely absent from Paul's writings.
Sure, if you think you're on the right side, you can get a lot of pleasure out of "owning" your opponents with caustic takedowns. But Hart's mode of rhetoric (I find it ironic that he claims people calling his rhetoric harsh is a misrepresentation even as he amply demonstrates the truth of the description) is less useful for persuasion of the unconvinced such as myself and more useful for asserting his own superiority to himself and anyone already inclined to agree with him.

I can understand why the violence described in the Bible, particularly in the actions of the Israelites towards the peoples they fought in and around the Promised Land, bothers people. I would say briefly that judgement of evil is not incompatible with a good God, and that violence is not exclusive to the Old Testament as is often asserted. The case of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5, in which God kills a couple on the spot for lying to the apostles, is not as dramatic as Old Testament warfare but still hard to reconcile with the image of a God who completely refrains from violence.

I don't really think I disagree with any of your scriptural interpretations. Yes, the Gospels actively do challenge us in ways that might actually be harder than anything Paul puts forward (some stuff of which was specific to a particular church or person, and not general prescriptions). I don't really get why these stronger challenges don't really hit as hard.

However, duckroll... I have to say, there's bits of your formulation I somewhat object to. Primarily, your decision to emphasize separation. The rest I think is good. While holiness does produce separation, and it's true God set apart a people for Himself, there are issues associated with the focus on separation that come to the heart of the New Testament. You ever looked at the etymology behind the word "Pharisee?" It comes from the Greek "Pharisaios," which is from the Persian "Perisa." Perisa means "set apart, separated." See, the word "Pharisee" is effectively their nickname due to their... well, rather rigorous interpretation of the Torah. And, specifically, their decision to cut off people they deemed impure. They cut themselves off mentally from others, and put themselves on a pedestal compared to others. This also does make the question of making the reader or listener's righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees a bit of a multidimensional thing in Matthew 5. From the perspective of rigorous adherence to the law, it is difficult. From the perspective of casting aside pride, it is a far more accessible charge. That's a bit beside the point though.

You say rightly that Jesus describes the rifts caused by His creed. I don't think you're calling for us to be the ones doing the separating, either; you're rightly appraising that others will separate themselves from us if we walk in Truth. It is written to happen. But I'm not sure I believe that holiness itself is separation. Jesus Himself dined among sinners and tax collectors, after all. At the same time, He called all people to His creed, and said His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mt 11:30). This is, in my estimation, one of the mysteries of Christ and of Christendom-- the profundity of His calling to excellence and the stakes are contrasted with His universal love for His people-- all of humankind. I believe that God placed the Messiah in a certain point in history, as opposed to all the others, because the historical circumstances in which our Lord found Himself are universally applicable-- and consequently, His persecutions by those who thought themselves set above others has resonance even beyond the closing of the Second Temple era or the diaspora which made obsolete those relational elements. And the Epistles, I think, begin to shine light on this mystery.
I think here you're misunderstanding the idea of separation duckroll is talking about. It is not separation in terms of not associating with non-Christians, but separation in terms of not being indistinguishable from non-Christians. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, but he did not sin or collect taxes Himself. Jesus was keeping Himself for the work of His Father. Holiness does mean separation in this sense - being set apart from common use for a higher, special use. That is what God has claimed us for through the death and resurrection of Christ. The phrase "in the world but not of the world" captures this dynamic.

Paul himself rightly sees the new Law as the Law of Liberty-- freedom from sin, it is true, is becoming a bondservant of God, allowing Christ to live His life in us, but this is real freedom. And as much as this present discussion stems from those parts of Paul which aren't palatable to modern audiences, he never loses sight of that. Contrarily, he illuminates that! It is impossible for us to follow the Old Law. But the Old Law passes away, and the New Law, the law of liberty, dawns. Paul is central to the full extent of this understanding. And whatever else we may say about what is uncomfortable in Paul, I am pretty certain few people will find those passages where he addresses this to be objectionable.
I don't think a distinction between an Old Law and a New Law can be seen in Paul's language (although James does talk about a "law of liberty"). Rather, Paul talks about passing from the law altogether to the freedom to serve God found in the gospel and the Spirit. "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." (Romans 7:6)
 

duckroll

Member
Oct 25, 2017
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Singapore
While holiness does produce separation, and it's true God set apart a people for Himself, there are issues associated with the focus on separation that come to the heart of the New Testament. You ever looked at the etymology behind the word "Pharisee?" It comes from the Greek "Pharisaios," which is from the Persian "Perisa." Perisa means "set apart, separated." See, the word "Pharisee" is effectively their nickname due to their... well, rather rigorous interpretation of the Torah. And, specifically, their decision to cut off people they deemed impure. They cut themselves off mentally from others, and put themselves on a pedestal compared to others.
I don't think holiness produces separation, but rather that it is a form of separation. This isn't an odd or extreme idea, it's all over the Biblical text. To be holy is to belong to God. Which is to be set apart from those who do not belong to God. What is sin? Sin is separation from God. To profane what is holy. This division exists in several dimensions no matter how we look at it. It can be very easy when we, the company we are work, and the content we consume are all aligned with God. Reading religious books, going to Church, serving in ministries, etc. But what about the times we are not? Do we see that separation between what is our faith and what is not? Or do we compromise out of convenience telling ourselves it is respect for others? This separation doesn't mean avoiding people who are not as "holy" as we are. Not in the least. We are called to evangelize and to bring the Good News to everyone. To be witnesses of Christ. We are called to help all sinners. Our neighbour is not just fellow Christians but also anyone who can be helped. But that's totally different from letting personal friendships, family, personal taste, or work dynamics compromise our faith. This happens all the time, even to me. I'm just reflecting on having that self-awareness to know that the call of discipleship is higher than that.

I have a distaste of religion in the meaning I've given it above. I try to stay as close to the Bible as possible, and stay far away from human fabrications that may or may not have a Biblical origin but are mostly used to comfort the people in power, or to comfort people in self-justification.
I feel this doesn't really line up entirely with being true to Biblical origin. The Bible is not just about the teachings of Jesus Christ or the covenants and prophecies leading to His coming. It is a whole story of Salvation History that continues on. The idea that we can stick to the Bible and not believe or trust in any sort of human institution that represents God runs counter to Christ's mission and how the Bible concludes. Jesus established a Church on earth, He appointed leaders, He gave authorities and rites, and after He ascended into heaven, the work continued. Christianity itself is an institution. Jesus did not say "take whatever I said and go do whatever, don't stick together because power is bad, trust no one", nay, He told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem together until the Holy Spirit came upon them. He wanted them to stick together and to build something up. To say that individual faith alone with one's own interpretation of the Bible is enough without any sort of Church, community, or structure is not the way of the Bible. It would be akin to ripping out Acts, all the Letters, and Revelations - which in fact very much shows that in the end of days, there is still expected to be a Church and a Liturgy. A structure and order to how we are to worship God and to worship him together, not alone.

I indeed believe the church that the Bible is talking about is indeed the gathering of all individuals who have lived/live between the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his 'Second Coming' and who have personally believed from one point in their life until their death that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He has died and taken responsibility for our sins in the process (Galatians 2:16 and 2:20) and resurrected from death. Regardless of denomination. Whether you're a Roman Catholic, an Evangelical, something different, or have never joined a church on earth at all but believe with your heart in the above.
This though, I don't really have an issue with. Obviously, I wouldn't speak for God to say that I know who He will save and who He will not. I always felt such debate is unbecoming of Christians when we focus too much on trying to think like God rather to just understand God and His plan for us. I love theology, but God's specific mode of knowing is unknowable for us and we are never invited to attempt that in any scriptural reference. We are in fact called not to judge each other, and that God alone has the providence to judge, and He is true, good, wise, and almighty. But on the concept of ecumenism? I agree completely. It is something we have to desire and instead of looking to condemn each other about who will or will not be saved, we need to work harder to unite all the faithful no matter how fractured and broken. Something I have personally felt strongly about and pray about all the time. Again though, such unity does require community and structure as well. We should not use structure to oppress or turn people away, but show love in a unified way that one individual cannot.

I don't think a distinction between an Old Law and a New Law can be seen in Paul's language (although James does talk about a "law of liberty"). Rather, Paul talks about passing from the law altogether to the freedom to serve God found in the gospel and the Spirit. "But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." (Romans 7:6)
Paul also quotes from Jeremiah in his letter to the Hebrews and I think that's one great example of how he contextualizes Old Law with New Law through an Old Testament prophet and it's all tied together neatly.

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

It's not about changing the law so much as changing the context of how people must engage in following the law. A maturity of understanding in worship and faith. No longer will they just be written on stone to be read and followed blindly, but to be understood in our minds and hearts and followed willingly because we love God.
 
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Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
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I'm still not entirely convinced that holiness is separation as such-- rather, that holiness brings with it separation as a consequence. Is anybody familiar with the doctrine that a saint's ability to be internally untouched by temptation is a divine gift? I'm pretty sure that's not something I made up but something I read about,

I'm not sure the law doesn't change from Old to New. I mean, we're not bound by the kashrut, after all. But by that same token I also can't disagree that part of the New Law involves a new relation to the law involved around understanding in minds and hearts.

(Funny story about me leaning on the "law of liberty" bit for my big post, by the way-- I was pretty sure that came from paul, so I decided to Google it. For some reason the usual sites that have Bible verses didn't come up but a giant essay primarily quoting Paul did show up. Imagine my surprised Pikachu face when it's from James instead. I am so bad at chapter and verse stuff. I am just so, so terrible at it. If I got any worse, I'd say "John 3:16" and start quoting the Upanishads. Why am I like this. However, I stand by my point, inasmuch as I believe Paul still does describe a distinction from the Mosaic law. Which is, of course, distinct from antinomianism.)
 

DarkDetective

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Oct 25, 2017
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The Netherlands
I feel this doesn't really line up entirely with being true to Biblical origin. The Bible is not just about the teachings of Jesus Christ or the covenants and prophecies leading to His coming. It is a whole story of Salvation History that continues on. The idea that we can stick to the Bible and not believe or trust in any sort of human institution that represents God runs counter to Christ's mission and how the Bible concludes. Jesus established a Church on earth, He appointed leaders, He gave authorities and rites, and after He ascended into heaven, the work continued. Christianity itself is an institution. Jesus did not say "take whatever I said and go do whatever, don't stick together because power is bad, trust no one", nay, He told the apostles to stay in Jerusalem together until the Holy Spirit came upon them. He wanted them to stick together and to build something up. To say that individual faith alone with one's own interpretation of the Bible is enough without any sort of Church, community, or structure is not the way of the Bible. It would be akin to ripping out Acts, all the Letters, and Revelations - which in fact very much shows that in the end of days, there is still expected to be a Church and a Liturgy. A structure and order to how we are to worship God and to worship him together, not alone
Maybe I've worded my case too strongly. I agree with you that organisation is important to keep us strong in the faith and to keep the community alive.

What I meant is that, when I look at people around me, there are churches who basically added a lot of rules and traditions that I can't find in my Bible at all. When a teacher says I should do something, I try to find Biblical ground for it. Things like "don't work on Sunday" or "you can't watch TV because it's heretic" (this one isn't common anymore, fortunately) are/were very common in some areas of my country, which is very calvinistic. And there's a lot of similar "rules". Some make more sense than others, but I can get very frustrated about a lot of those things when I speak to people who actually care a lot about those rules "because that's what the preacher says" or "because that's what the church teaches us", rather than looking in their Bible.

I apologise that my words were interpretable in a very different way than I meant to. I have no problem with institutions in general. I just want people to compare what is being said in church with what the Bible teaches.
 

Deffers

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Mar 4, 2018
1,488
I'm going to point something out. While duckroll rightly says that Jesus left behind a Church, with rites, and not for nothing but for the continuance of the work, we can also look to Mark 9, where Jesus says "whoever is not against us is for us," referring to someone driving out demons in Jesus' name whom the apostles told to stop. Maybe my interpretation is off here, but to me that certainly indicates that there were people even within Jesus' lifetime using His name to do good works outside of the apostolic structure which would develop into the church. In my opinion-- and that's just that, an opinion-- it endorses the possibility that there are those who choose to follow Christ's teachings and act in Jesus's name on a more solitary or individual basis without casting them all as antinomians right off the bat. At the same time, the person in question was successfully driving out demons, so like... they were bearing good fruit, doing good works in Christ's name. So that's something to consider as well.

I'm not of the opinion no hierarchy can exist. A church body that's well-functioning self-justifies both by the fruits it bears and the Scriptural reference to elders and teachers and deacons within the church. I mean, there's the Church Fathers all the way back in the second century. It's been a thing. We have one Teacher, and are all brethren, it's true; but instruction and correction from those who know better does everyone good. It holds up to scrutiny pretty thoroughly.

That said, honestly, I'm often of the opinion that no church is better than bad church. People growing up in a household where people can't watch TV because it's heretical are gonna... probably gonna lash out at some point, to riff on DarkDetective's example, rather than going to the grim ones... especially because from a numerical perspective I think that we do lose a lot to churches that pursue overly-strict doctrines as well as big church scandals. We lose a lot to toxic churches and institutions, as a faith. And a rigorous analysis of the social dynamic at play within a given church isn't a bad thing.

Also, it's fundamentally true that after the dozens and dozens and dozens of schisms that have happened to the earthly churches of the world, not every person is a good fit for every church.
 

duckroll

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Oct 25, 2017
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I agree that we should not blindly follow what is preached without any sort of reflection or discernment on our part. Which is why personal formation is very important once we reach a mature point in our faith and find ourselves actively serving, evangelizing, teaching, ministering to others, etc. Christianity isn't meant to be a blind religious devotion. Such devotions will not bear fruits because it would be faith formed without true understanding. And I'm not saying here that those who just pray a lot and lead very spiritual lives without actively "doing" things are bad either - because those people often have a deep understanding of their faith and know what they are devoting their prayers too. But those who simply accept everything at face value and don't dig any deeper, content with the outward appearance of ritual without even understanding the significance, those who mouth prayers and creeds out of habit and memory without ever thinking about what they are actually saying, those are the ones who need to challenge themselves a bit more and actually consider and reason their faith. This is also why community is important in providing outlets and encouragement for that.

On the issue of no church being better than a bad church, I don't feel it should be an either-or. That would be like saying that having no home is better than having one with leaking pipes and rats all over. When someone has a bad housing problem, no one suggests that they should just abandon it and live on the streets instead. If we were to compare living on the street for a day and living in that sort of house for a day, sure we could say that one is better than the other in various ways. But we don't suggest it as an alternative because it's not a solution at all. Instead, we would suggest ways for the person to find a better place to stay as soon as possible. In the same way, a person in a bad church environment would be better off with a better community and a church environment that isn't toxic, and that should be the goal. Suggesting that not having a church is better seems to be looking at a solution in a very narrow individualistic way that is entirely focused on the immediate disposition of the person towards faith, rather than a more holistic view of what would be best for a person spiritually and long term.

For Mark 9, I think that's certainly an interesting passage, but if we take specific oddities on their own, we can draw conclusions which might not line up with the rest of the Bible. This is why the Bible is best read with reference to other parts of it to affirm messages or clarify them. In this case, we are looking at an "outsider" who is not part of the group doing things in the name of Christ, presumably doing it properly too. What does this call to mind? For me, it instantly reminds me of two other events - one in the Old Testament and one in the New.

In Numbers 11, the spirit fell upon the 70 elders Moses selected, but two men outside the tent in the camp also received the spirit and prophesied. Joshua told Moses to stop them because they were not "included" but he said that if only all of God's people were prophets, and not to be jealous for his sake. Very similar to the incident in Mark. The common thread here isn't people believing in God and worshipping him independently. It is rather an indication that gifts from God are given by God and not for us to hold on to exclusively in some special club. There is no indication that the man in Mark 9 was not part of any community that believed in Jesus, rather he was simply not in the group of disciples following Jesus around, and John felt that he wasn't one of them. Jesus rightly points out that if he is able to cast out demons in the name of Christ, he's not going to be some heretic because he has power invested in him by God, and more importantly he is doing it in the name of Christ - hence doing it in the proper way.

What's the other thing this reminded me of? Simon the magician in Acts. Here we have a guy who used to impress people with magic, but then accepted the teachings of the apostles along with other. He sees the power the apostles have and is impressed by their signs and wonders. Then he tries to offer money to buy this power, and is rebuked strongly. God's power cannot be bought by man, it cannot be owned by man for man's sake, and any attempt to think that on our own with our own capabilities we can acquire what is God's in our own way is foolishness. The intent is important. Whenever one thinks that it is possible for an individual to follow Christ in a totally solitary way, you need to consider your intent in that. Why? Is it pride or is there an actual good reason? What could that reason be? I'm not speaking of judging others but considering our own views about this. There is always the temptation that with so much corruption and uncertainty in society, that we alone can make the "right" choice that everyone else might not be making. Is that God's way though, or do we just want to think we know better than anyone else?

Why do I feel so strongly that having a community and structure is important for Christianity? Here's what Paul says in Romans 10:

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?


Evangelization starts with being sent, then proclaiming the Word based on your own experiences, others here this testimony and believe, and when they believe and grow that personal relationship with God they too will be sent. We all receive our faith from someone, more so than just from reading it the Bible. Even if reading the Bible on our own accord is how we first discovered God's Word, it cannot truly stir our hearts until we see how it stirred others. From these others living or dead, we see God working in their lives and can then relate to how God has worked in our lives. So how can faith in Christ Jesus truly be solitary if there is already that human connection? If someone else's testimony draws us closer to God, there is already that connection. Instead of trying to just work it out alone, should we not then reflect on what it is that stirred in us, and explore more in that direction, finding a community that reflects that stirring and finding belonging? This isn't just about finding the "right" church, but honestly, the right place that God wants us to be. Church/community/ministry/vocation/order/spirituality. Every aspect of our lives has a place which will fit best with God's plan for us and it's a lifelong journey of discovering that more and more. When we are fully aligned with that, it is also where we find the most joy. When we speak of solitude in Christian faith it should never be about being truly alone or disconnected, but you can have a solitary sort of life if that is your calling, yet it would still be within a framework where you can support others, help others, find support from others. Some religious orders have very solitary and isolated lifestyles, but they are still orders and communities. That's why I feel so strongly about arguing for having a church rather than entertaining the idea that maybe not having a church can be better in some situations.