The Endearing God
If hell did not exist, would it change one thing about your relationship or passion to follow Jesus? Rob Bell's latest crusade put him on the cover of TIME magazine, and some of the comments in that article spur Wayne and Brad to further discuss the existence of hell and it's use by religion to manipulate people's fears to try to make them better people. Why is Christianity so preoccupied with the hell conversation when Jesus us gave us far better reasons to come inside a relationship with him and his Father? What does salvation really mean, and in response to a listener's question how can people really know whether they are saved or not?
TIME Article, Is Hell Dead?
Orphanage Relocation in KenyaИкони
Hello Wayne & Brad —
This is David in Nashville — hope you guys have been doing well! Tried to send you an email, but my computer blew up awhile back and I can’t find your email address.
Anyhoo…thank you for this podcast. All your comments about what it feels like to have all the trappings of religion broken down and removed — the confusion, the feeling of betrayal, the questions — were spot on. My wife and I have been in this transition for almost 2 years now, and from experience, I can tell you that you never really can know your relationship with the Father until everything else is gone and it’s just Him and you. It’s an scary, but awesome, point to come to.
Right in the middle of this transition, my mom was diagosed with cancer and moved in with my wife and I while she was receiving treatments. During that six month period, I’m not sure if I even had one “quiet time” yet I never felt abandoned by God for not puting a “check in the box” every morning. I didn’t know what to say to him, but I never doubted he was there.
During this time, regardless of how many people I knew and had taught at our former church (100’s), I was amazed and hurt that I did not hear from hardly any of them. Instead, a new group of caring folks from all walks of life and all religious backgrounds started to form around us. There were less than 20 now compared to the 100’s before, but the ones that were “there for us” really did care for us during this time. Now that mom has gone to be with the Father, that new small group remains…and what a blessing they were when we needed them most, as well as now.
And, whether there is or is not a hell, I wonder if it could be much worse that what I went through watching my mom die and realizing that none of my former church “friends” seemed to care. Thank God for restoring our faith by sending caring people to us to help us during this time.
When God takes you back to square one where it’s about loving him and loving other people, it feels like a new day…refreshing in a way. As you said, there are bumpy days, but there are so many more opportunities to watch God work, as well.
Thank you guys for all you do!
David in Nashville
“River of Fire” link http://www.orthodoxpress.org/parish/river_of_fire.htm
Thanks guys. As I face challenges and pressures…it feels like water to someone who is very thirsty when you point us back to the love of who Father is and who Jesus is in His portrayal of the Father. I want very much to turn away from all of my human effort and rest in Him. Thanks again for the cool refreshing glass of water and encouraging our freedom in Him. He is indeed worth knowing just for Himself. Blessings
If there was no hell my relationship would change becuase there is no more consequnce for my actions eternally. Jesus would just be another teacher of the Jews then. I would take Pauls advice then in the bible then Eat drink and being marry for tommorow i die. But as Christains Hell was defeated on the cross for those who are save by the blood of the cross. So i really dont know what kind of churches teach these Heirsy you guys speak of dureing youre searies if this was the case. You guys should step up to the plate then and teach men of the world the right wayn
So just because “hell” is not understood, would we throw the subject out even though Jesus spoke of it ? and warned people of it?
either take all his words as true or none; but spare us the pick and choose of which words of his you happen to like best—–all true or none true, really.
since his words are spirit and life, then his words on hell are also spirit and life and will cause one to know the father better. Avoiding the distortions on hell is no reason to dismiss the entire topic. If we cannot handle it, then following jesus is not what we really want is it ?
Good word guys, appreciate your hearts, I think the key comment in all of your thoughts was touched on in Jn,.17:3. I’ve been blessed for 30yrs. of marriage and 8 great kids…..our journey as a family continues and grows as grandkids are added, we are truly blessed……I love the cards and letters I received over the years from my wife on all the different holidays, b-days, just because days…etc. and even this past weekend as she was out of town I worked hard and heavy to bless her on her “honey do” list she has made for me over the years……”human doing”. I’ve kept all of the cards and letters but I prefer her presence……”human being” together, talking, walking, sleeping, cuddling, working, driving, just being. The Word became flesh and lived among us……….that same Spirit lives and abides within us……….our “human being” produces our “human doing” of this Jn. 17:3 journey, or at least should. I love the written word of God, my relationship is with the Author of the book not the book itself. I once heard a brother say “the Word without the Spirit you’ll dry up, the Spirit without the Word you’ll blow-up, the Word and Spirit you’ll grow-up”. I love the letters but I prefer the real thing!
Some interesting comments above, for sure.
To Joshua: I hope that your relationship *would* change as a result of not having the idea of a hell dangling over your head. God never intended that kind of relationship. Think of it in terms of marriage: if you don’t cheat on your wife because you fear the consequences of doing so, then your relationship with your wife is not very deep. How much better is it if you don’t cheat on her because she is so precious to you that even the thought of cheating is repulsive. Better yet, you are not even thinking of cheating because those thoughts have been displaced by a growing desire to please her and be with her. That is the transformative work of the Spirit in our hearts that frees us from a fear-based religion.
To Tim: I don’t think anyone is talking about throwing the topic of hell out entirely. If Papa has put it on your heart to make a special study of it and plumb the depths of its mysteries, go for it. For me, I just do not hear him urging the subject of hell on me. Maybe I am deaf and no doubt he will get through in his time, but in the meantime, I find there is plenty of life and health to be found each day just listening for him and learning to know him better. For all of the passages where Jesus talked about hell, I do not think that hell, itself, was central to Jesus’ message. It seems a bit extreme to say that we should abandon our walk with Jesus if we find some things Jesus said hard to handle. Do you really think Jesus is like this?
Jesus was a great teacher and attracted large audiences because He was interesting to listen to. Yet some claim that everything He said was always literal and the words He used (like hell) had exactly the same meaning for His audience as they do for us today. For literalists, Jesus was never allowed to use metaphor, humor, fiction etc when He taught.
For example Jesus builds a fictional story (Luke 16:19-31) using a metaphorical image (Luke 16:23) that is a hybrid between Greek mythology (Hades) and an Apocryphal view of Gehenna (1 Enoch). The main point was not a literal doctrine on hell, but a story that people could be drawn into based on mental images of their day and that subtly and humorously exposed the Pharisees (Luke 16:14). If this pre-Daunte vision of hell was literal, I don’t think that water dipped on the tip of a finger could quench your thirst. If Jesus always spoke literally, He would have been as boring as a robot. Instead, His story telling style and humor amplified His relational character, and possibly provided a glimpse of the ongoing fun amongst the Trinity.
Still, I think there is much coin to be had by imposing Daunte’s hell on Jesus’ words. Might be a good place to promote my concept of Inverse-Universalism (i.e. everyone is going to hell except me).
Maybe I’m reading into it, but is the Bible not filled with “rules” and do’s and don’ts? I mean if it wasn’t there probably would not be as much confusion as there is about it. I find it very difficult to read more than 3 pages of the Bible without seeing at least one thing being given to do or not do. I wish it weren’t so, but I can totally see how the Bible gets portrayed as it does. To not focus on behavior management you’d need to stop reading the Bible. I find it incredibly difficult to read the Bible and see anything but an enormous concern with behavior and a call to live a certain way. Every single book of the Bible has comments about the behavior of people or a person and usually is in the context of showing some type of behavior that’s wrong and some type of behavior that should be done to replace the wrong behavior. So is it no wonder then that people read the Bible and become focused on their own behavior? Even Jesus, in the sermon on the mount for instance (but also in many other places), dealt with proper behavior and improper behavior extensively. He also talked about relationship for sure but he seemed to use more words to talk about behavior than he did about relationship. Proper behavior seemed to be pretty important to Him.
Part of me wishes this whole relationship stuff was easier but one of the reasons I think it’s so difficult is because if you read the Bible at first glance it does not seem to elevate relationship over behavior but rather seems to go in favor of changing behavior, maybe in the context of a relationship, as the primary concern. If this weren’t the case why do we have so many people, honest and genuine people, who don’t want it to be so but can’t see it any other way? And the same goes for the “threatening” aspect of God. If it didn’t appear to be in the Bible people wouldn’t think it was. But is this not the same God who demanded people be stoned for adultery or a genocide or Abraham to sacrifice his son to him? The God of the Bible seems to be a God who has no problem threatening His people to get them to do what He wants. The first 3 chapters of Genesis for instance include a major do and don’t about the tree of knowledge and then, once Adam and Eve disobeyed, God gives a list of things He’s going to cause Adam and Eve to suffer because they ate the fruit. Every translation I’ve looked at seems to indicate God as saying “He will cause” what’s going to fall upon Adam and Eve. It does not seem to indicate that what happened was only an unfortunate result of their choice apart from God causing it. It seems God directly says in Genesis chapter 3 that He himself is the cause, as in they’re being punished for what they’ve done.
Even Hell wouldn’t be such a big deal if it wasn’t easy to interpret Jesus’s sayings in such a way that seemed to support Him promoting it. The language He chose to use certainly comes off as threatening, and if this was not His goal, why did He not take extra measures to ensure that’s not what it would be interpreted as? Especially knowing history would be shaped by people who interpret it exactly that way?
It seems like sometimes we do more than Jesus, and others in the Bible, in trying to make sense of the Bible. In my heart, I wish it weren’t so but I can’t help but see that God in the Bible especially if I am taking the Bible seriously and at face value. In order to see it some other way it seems like a whole lot of explaining is necessary in order to make sense out of texts that don’t mean what they appear to be saying they mean. If God really wants His creation to know Him I think He’d make it as easy as possible. So if all this explaining is necessary, and we need all these teachers to tell us how to truly see the Bible for what it’s meant to be, that seems to be a pretty complicated approach to understanding God. What’s the point of giving us the Bible if we need all of these other people, books, etc. to make sense out of it? But if we take it at face value we’ll get a different God than seems to be talked about on this podcast. But if the Bible is indeed the true revelation about God and was given to us so that we might know Him and His plans for mankind then perhaps that God the Bible appears to support is in fact the true God, and maybe those threats and commands should be taken seriously.
I’m not arguing and forgive me if I’m coming off as argumentative. I am frustrated, but not with anyone here. I believe I’ve experienced God outside of the Bible but He doesn’t seem to be anything like the God I experience when I read the Bible. So I’m left with a dilemma, which one is true?
It’s not as easy as some would make it out to be. The God of the Bible does seem to be a very “religious” God. Taken at face value it does seem to require more hoop jumping to get away from that God than it does to support Him. Logic would say then that the “religious” version is the correct version, if the Bible is to be taken seriously as a revelation of God.
I wish it weren’t so and I welcome anyone’s insight that might help me to see it differently. I don’t want to see it like this but if I’m honest then I have to admit that I can’t see it any other way, when trying to make sense of the Bible.
Thinking about this further, I guess the flip side would be, what if the commands and threats, and concern with behavior are legitimate, but they come from a heart of love?
Balance…perhaps the answer is somewhere in the middle.
@Erkki: To me it seems that of lot of our views about the bible stem from the Reformation era where, intentionally or unintentionally, the Word of God (Jesus) was slowly replaced by the word of God (bible) as the primary source of truth. Under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit guides us in our relationship with our Creator. I think if God wanted us to use the bible for our relationship with Him, we would have been born with one stapled to our head.
I also think that when you experienced “God outside of the Bible” that was the real New Covenant deal. The Bible definitely has some value, but if we are truthful there are a lot of things like the days of creation (young earth vs old earth), hell etc. that are not very clear. It is a document that came down to us via the voting (canonization) process. Some would like us to believe that the Holy Spirit would possess a bible author’s hand while their eyes rolled up so that you could only see their whites, then force them to write down exact words while possessed. Maybe, but I’m banking more on the Holy Spirit living in you and not in the various authors pens. Caution: my opinion only.
Hi everyone, maybe the following is the result of the consumption of too much CH3CH2OH, but you can also blame Erkki in part for inspiring such a thought. All that read this may want to stand back a couple of meters or feet from their computer screen in case they are hit by a bolt of lightning and Wayne & Brad may want to delete this comment, but here it goes anyway: Based on the effort involved in creating this universe and all of the sufferings that humans have cumulatively endured, combined with the gruesome execution of one of the members of the Trinity that became one of us, it would really be a trivial, dumb-ass god if he is more interested with the choice between obedience or hell rather than intimate relationship. I think that even IPOD could design an Obedience App if that’s all that’s required. It’s got to be more complex than just blind obedience or hell, especially from God’s side. Shoot me now or shoot me later.
Jim, thanks a lot for taking the time to share your thoughts. I really appreciate this.
I just picked up a copy of the Eastern Orthodox Study Bible. I’m curious to see how Scripture has been interpreted outside of the West, where perhaps, like you say, the Reformation has not had the same effect as it has here.
From what I understand so far, it’s far different from how we see the Bible here in the West, and paints a much better picture of God.
And there won’t be any bullets coming from me, I like where you’re going 😉
Erkki, many thanks to you for opening up from your heart a topic for serious New Covenant discussion that is probably on the mind of a lot of people. Luv it, and hope that you will post your findings as you go along. Also if any trouble starts over this, it is Wayne and Brad that should take the fall and not us – i.e. the shack should take the smack (sorry Paul) or sometrhing like that.
From what I’ve seen so far, there are some real beautiful writings from within the Eastern Orthodox church. Overall, they seem to have good “theory” around relationship, love, and wrath as purification, rather than anger, but it still seems…off. They also seem to interpret the Bible in perspective of a relationship with the Trinity, and within the Trinity, and view “harsh” Scriptures in a not so harsh way, if that makes sense. In other words, they seem to see things through a bit of a better lens.
That said, I’ll probably be returning the Bible. While they seem to get a lot more right there also seems to be a deep lacking of intimacy and overall it feels kind of stiff, and not very relational. Beautiful in thought but hard for the heart to feel. And there’s also all sorts of other very “churchy” things, in some ways even more so than what we’ve seen here in the West. All in all it seems like just another religion, but a nicer one.
I guess that’s one of the problems I find with much of theology today. I love thinking about theology, even though it kills me sometimes, but I find it’s usually very far removed from a language of the heart, one that makes sense to our deepest longings and is still satisfying to the mind. I’m looking for a more intimate theology I guess. I find it hard to believe that the truth is anything but that. I imagine we are wrapped up, in a very relational manner, to the purposes and plans of God, as our Father, and when we discover the truth as it is I figured it would feed the heart while also satisfying the mind, in a way that is not necessarily academic, but is deep and personal.
I know many of us were taught not to follow our hearts but lately I’ve been wondering if that is indeed where the truth is.
I spent time in an organization that focused on literal Biblical specifics (including Saturday Sabbath). Now to me the OT solely applies to Israel’s covenant. There are a few prophetic lines about Jesus, but if you accept Him you gain no additional insights from the OT. Then in the NT, the gospels are not the beginning of the new covenant, rather they cover Jesus’ interactions with old covenant people with Him slipping in glimpses of the new covenant when possible. Probably the new covenant technically begins with the arrival of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). The writer of Hebrews acknowledges that a new covenant is legally initiated by the death of a mediator (Heb 9:17). Then a bit of early ecclesia history is followed by some letters from Paul to churches dealing with their specific issues. The Bible closes out with an apocalyptic book written primarily to churches in Asia Minor (which dispensationalists have gone wild with). In the second century AD, the ideas of clergy/liturgy begin to take form and dominate the next 1800 years or so.
The Bible contains good history along with some info on how the early brothers and sisters viewed things (some of which you probably had to be there to fully grasp the context). Along with the cultural separation, we are also separated by language (translations). For eg, something as simple as the seemingly ungraceful statement in the last part of Mark 14:21, was the “him” referring to Judas or Jesus?
All this to say that I’m also confused by the role of the Bible vs relationship. After all, Jesus never prophesied that we would get a Bible by 300 AD or even require one. But somehow it has become a major block to the relationship that Jesus implies regarding the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Erkki – I was also pounded in the past with the not trusting the evil heart line (established from the old covenant in Jer 17:9). I am totally with you on your last line, and it seems weird that God living in you would be ineffectual at flicking off the evil switch in your heart and beginning to fill it with new thoughts.
What you say makes a lot of sense to me. Recently, I really felt like God was letting me know I can just put my Bible down, that there’s not much use for it now that I was enjoying a relationship with Him. So I did, and it was great, almost too good to be true. I felt like God helped me sort through a lot of what you stated above. But then I thought, this is nothing like the God of the Bible, got scared, and ended up denying the whole experience, and now here I am treadmill of trying to make sense of the Bible again.
In seeing what you wrote above, it’s given me the encouragement that it was indeed God guiding me. I think maybe we make the Bible out to be more than it was. I wonder if any of the writers had any idea their letters would be considered the “Bible” one day and I wonder if they would be appreciate their writing being thought of as infallible, the way so many think of them today.
Like you say, perhaps God Himself, is the surefire way to come to know Him, and not a book. Maybe He reaches us and teaches us with or without a book. Maybe it’s not as big a deal to Him as it seems to be to us. Perhaps the writers of the Bible, like us today, often projected their own feelings on to God and sometimes God him right, but other times wrong. Maybe it’s no different than the conversation you and I are having right now, and it takes the Holy Spirit to help discern what we’re getting right and what we’re getting wrong. I’ve certainly read some things in the Bible that I know are from our Father, but then there are some other things that I have a really hard time accepting.
Anyways, thanks a lot for sharing with me. I find your comments to be really helpful, especially that last one.
And I apologize to everyone else for hijacking the comment thread here. Hopefully more people than Jim and I are enjoying the conversation 🙂
I don’t know if people are enjoying the conversation or not. The Scriptures are such, even the Old Testament Scriptures, reveal the work and plan of Jesus. That’s why the Bereans could search the Old Testament to see if what Paul was teaching them was true. (Acts 17). I don’t think we need to throw out the Scriptures be read them with different eyes. If all you see is the obligation of religion in them, then you’re not seeing what is really there. The Old speaks to the coming of Jesus and in him it all fits together as a marvelous unveiling of God’s love. I’m going to do a series on all of this next week in Indianapolis, because I don’t think there is any conflict between Jesus as the Truth, and the truth that Scripture speaks. It has been distorted for so long by people bent on propping up their false religion, that its meaning has been stolen from us…
Thanks for chiming in. Certainly, some things in the Bible don’t seem to portray God all that nice and loving. I think most people would agree with that. For me, that’s conflict. For anyone who has been taught to fear God greatly, using the Bible as the tool to accomplish this, it would be very difficult and painful to try and see anything but that in the Bible again.
I will refrain from commenting further and leave the conversation open for others.
I detect Wayne is thrilled with the conversation, so I too will shut my yapper/keyboard after one last desperate gasp – I wonder if the people in Berea that Paul was referring to regarding searching the Masoretic (or possibility Septuagint) scriptures were mainly the Helenistic Jews in the city. They would have had access to the scrolls at the local synagogue and the OT would have been familiar to them as part of their heritage. I am totally speculating, but not sure whether many of the Greek Christians in Berea would line up for this – it might have been more fun for them at the Fast Food Sacrificed to Idols Deli than going over Heb History 101?
Promise, no further spewing. Peace out.
Unfortunately I think you’re both missing the point. My chiming in was not to limit conversation, but to point it to a fresh direction. Just because the Bible has been misused by others, doesn’t make it useless. It is the most important book in my life and is completely in sync with the God I am coming to know in Christ. No, it doesn’t present a God that is only sweetness and niceness, but a God who is light as well as love, who takes the destruction of our sin seriously and was willing to go to the depths of our pain to bring redemption. I don’t want to leave that story out of my life, nor that part of his character…
I wasn’t suggesting that God is only “sweetness and niceness” in the way that I feel you might be insinuating here. I think there is a nice way to present truth and light, and that’s what I meant when I said there are images of God in the Bible that seem to be the opposite of both niceness and love. For instance, if I have a friend who is acting in a way that is harmful to himself or others I would definitely call him out on it, for the good of himself and those around him, but I would do it in a way that was gentle enough that it didn’t crush him or hurt him further. I would want him to know that my motive was love and I would make every attempt to not to commit any actions that resembled anything that seemed like I wanted to harm him or was the opposite of my love and care for him. To me, that’s nice.
Perhaps nice was the wrong word. I meant it in the sense that the opposite would be the word “mean”. That’s the word I think of sometimes when I think of a God who commanded people to be killed for adultery, or that someone sacrifice their son to Him, or commanded a genocide that included women, children, and babies. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would assume that that’s nice, or love, or light, no matter how you interpret the words. Why are we so afraid to call that behavior exactly what it is? We have no problem doing it when we see it displayed in the world today but then we turn to our Bible and try to justify it. This too me is enormously troubling. Or what about using the expression “tying a millstone around someone’s neck and chucking them into the sea”? I get the point, but isn’t that bit of an extreme? It reminds me of something Tony Soprano would say, not God. Maybe I’m just being too picky here but I think it’s very easy to read “threat” into that statement.
Or a much easier example, what about the death of Ananias and Saphira in the book of Acts? On the one hand, in a few books previous, Jesus rebuked Peter for wanting to call fire down on a town because they refused to listen to their message. I think Jesus said something around the context of not coming to judge and that Peter didn’t understand. Yet, here in Acts, God is killing people, right in front of Peter, for lying to the Holy Spirit. Seems to be a contradiction. Maybe I’m missing something, but to me that certainly poses conflict. Especially considering that Christ basically said to Peter earlier, when asked how many times do we forgive people who wrong us, He said, pretty much, that we never stop. Didn’t Christ also say to turn the other cheek? But then He kills someone for a lie? I’m certainly open to the fact that there is not a contradiction here but can we at least be honest and say that, at first glance, it is troubling? I think it requires a lot of explaining to make sense of it, hence my point in my first comment.
Just assuming that the Bible is never wrong, therefore there must be a good reason God did these things, in my opinion, is terrible. Ananias and Sapphira died for a lie. Children were killed, innocent children, in a genocide that God supposedly commanded. I know the Bible says they weren’t innocent, but they were children, how guilty could they possibly be, enough to deserve death…by the sword? And what are the psychological effects of having your father raise a stake to your heart, to offer you as a sacrifice to God, and how would you ever recover from that? Imagine trying to justify that type of behavior today?
I feel slightly “shunned”, maybe that’s too strong of a word, because I question these things and refuse to accept them. But are these not valid questions and concerns? Isn’t it even more troubling to simply accept such behavior as goodness, or as you say, light and love? I also take the destruction of sin very seriously and have seen lives ruined by it, including my own at one time, but no matter the case I would never resort to such atrocities in the name of bringing healing. Not accepting such behavior as reflective of God has nothing to do with not taking sin seriously, or believing that God does, rather it’s the opposite. I think God takes it very seriously which is why I don’t think He would commit it Himself. I don’t presume to think I know more than God, but I don’t think God would really do such a thing, that’s my point. It seems like an oxymoron. Justifiable sin to prevent further sin. To accept such behavior as okay is to ignore our consciences. Perhaps it’s easier to read it on paper and justify it, but imagine seeing it face to face? Would we make the same attempts then?
Is it really wrong to questions that?
Wayne, I’ve appreciated much of what you’ve had to say, and you’ve helped me immensely, but I’m a little taken back with your responses here. I don’t have some sort of agenda to get rid of the Bible or make God out to be something that resembles the easter bunny, rather than who God truly is, I came here with genuine concerns and tried to be honest in what I was reading, seeing, and feeling. I seek the truth, in love, and nothing less. I thought that’s what the “journey” and “conversation” was about; to process together, discern together, and share together. But I feel slightly like I’ve been backed into a corner here and the concerns raised will not get fair treatment, because rather than deal with the issue at hand, there seems to be a greater concern with maintaining and defending the consistency and infallibility of the Bible, perhaps even at the cost of the truth. That is my observation only; and admittedly, I might be reading too much into your comments. They were brief, so some reading into them was required but I got the same vibe as Jim, that you weren’t entirely thrilled with where things were going. And even with your response, I still get that vibe. I thought you might have been a little more understanding with the reality that there are some difficulties in the Bible that are very troubling, but to me you seem more concerned with just defending it, and please know that I say this respectfully realizing that I could be wrong. I hope that you will sometime consider the psychological effect these Scriptures have on people and the need for transparent and unbiased dialog in working through them, as well as honesty in facing, what appears to be, very troubling texts, even if it’s only at a first glance. And if you’ve already done this elsewhere, or if this is what you’re going to do when you speak on the Bible in a few weeks, then I’m sorry for jumping the gun.
I am curious to know how you interpret the Bible and I look forward to hearing you speak about it.
Either way, I do appreciate your work and I feel, from listening and reading you as long as I have, that you have a great heart. I appreciate you. And please forgive me if I’m way off track here.
Never meant to imply that the Bible is totally useless. I was coming more from the viewpoint of the Holy Spirit teaching you all things (via indwelling/heart) bearing a bit more weight than revelation/relationship totally via scripture (i.e sola scriptura approach).
I think that it is cool that you are at the place where the Bible is in sync with your knowledge of Christ. I wish I was there, and it is not because I’m looking for a Biblical teddy bear god that only gives out candy either.
I wish someone could do a new translation of the Bible to highlight the grace components more clearly in some places where the translators went in the opposite direction. Many of the recent translations are either English updates (NIV 2011, etc) or paraphrases (Message). This would be helpful for people like me who tend to default to literalism.
I think it’s important to also mention that, there are any people who have been hurt by church or religion, and in many of those cases, the Bible has been used and can be compared to the fist of the husband who abuses his wife. And usually, when there’s Bible beating happening, it’s the fearful texts, similar to the one’s I mentioned, that are used. I speak from experience.
Some people deny God entirely because of this. Some will choose to keep believing in God but will never again go near a Bible. I’ve met many people like this in my own life. And for those who believe the Bible is useful, and is a revelation of God, I think it’s even more important for the sake of those who’ve been beaten by it, to help them see it in it’s correct light, if there is one.
I personally don’t think it’s necessary. I guess that was my point behind this whole thing. I think God will, and does, meet people outside of the Bible, even if they choose to never read the Bible again. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything’s wrong with the Bible, but I also think it shows that it’s not imperative. I think people can come to know God even without ever reading the Bible, since God exists outside of the Bible and existed before the Bible.
And I guess, in light of some of the texts that I mentioned, I can understand how some people use it the way they do, even though I think it’s wrong. If you believe it, you’ll resemble it. That’s my point, the Bible does seem to support some of that type of “abusive religion”. Certainly, not the whole thing, but a good amount of its parts do. At least enough that many people are turned off by it.
I personally will probably not be reading my Bible too much anymore, but I do wish those who view it as a positive would focus more attention on its difficulties for the sake of those who want to find light and truth in it but can’t due to the shame, guilt, and fear it creates in them because of past abuse, along with those texts that are morally repulsive. I also don’t think people should feel guilty for feeling like that about the Bible. Seeing what’s been done with the Bible to some people, I would say the way people feel about it is entirely justified. Is it really that important to God that they embrace it wholeheartedly again?
Wayne, I love the God you and Brad talk about. I feel like I know Him and I believe that’s the true God. But truthfully, I find it very difficult to reconcile that God with the God of the Bible.
Anyways, I feel like I’m writing a book so I’m going to stop now. Apologies to all. This is a passionate subject for me.
If nothing else, I hope this conversation has at least created more awareness to the fact that while the Bible, no doubt, has blessed many people, it’s also been used to shatter many others.
And Jim, it was great talking with you. I wish you peace on your journey, my friend.
Erkki: I really valued your comments and totally appreciated your openness. May you continue to grow in the knowledge of God’s agape for you.
I think you misunderstood my remarks. I wasn’t trying to silence the conversation, i was trying to unsilent it, though there’s far more here than I can read in detail. I don’t mind people asking these questions, but the only “answers” I was hearing is that the Bible must be flawed. I don’t agree that it is. I think people are flawed who use it to flail people with their legalisms. The Bible is a story of God revealing himself in history. Through much of that history people MISunderstand who he is, which is why Jesus came to show us the Father, how loving he is, even in the midst of our brokenness. I just wanted to add to the conversation that it may not be that the Bible is flawed, but that we’ve been taught to read it and use it in ways that its unfaithful to what it is. It’s like using a hammer to punish your children. What a horrible use of a hammer, but if you’re building a house, a hammer is a pretty important tool. The abuse of something doesn’t devalue the something, it only reveals the heart of those who want to abuse others…
I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear. I wasn’t trying to say the questions weren’t valid Only that there are other answers than the ones that were being suggested. I hope that’s OK.
Wayne, thank you for the clarification. Your point is well received and my apologies for the misunderstanding. I think I have a little more clarity now as to what you’re getting at.
And trust me, I really do want the Bible to make sense. Like Jim said, I’m glad that it does for you and I really do hope that one day I will also see it as supportive of the God that I’m coming to know, and that’s talked about here. It’s just that, at this point I’m having difficulty seeing it that way.
I look forward to hearing more of what you think. I hope those recordings from Indianapolis will be made available online at some point.
Do you mind if I take this conversation back to hell! Just a little thought I had,of when I was a young girl. My family had some absolute horrid and sad times as I was growing up but through it all I’ve known Jesus and God to always be with me which has been a great comfort and help and wonderful.There was a very short time when I wondered what hell was like,and I talked to God about my thoughts,and came to the conclusion that hell is where there is no God .I think it’s a place where God is not there.Very lonely and sad,where people who don’t want to be with him go. What do think? I don’t think about hell at all really only when others bring up the conversation.
Hi Merry: You’ve just made a big mistake in asking what we think. Now I have been invited again to launch into writing several more pages of bullpoop. After previously “dissing” the Bible, there are two interesting texts that may relate to your question (1) Rev 14:10 where the fire and brimstone are in the presence of the Lamb and (2) Rev 15:2 the sea of glass in John’s vision (Rev 4:6) was mixed with fire. These texts imply that “hell” is right at Jesus’ feet (in His presence). This is how Erkki and I first got off on the Bible tangent anyway. If you are a legalist then it’s barbeque time (justice) in front of God. On the other hand if you go the grace route, this fire could be Christ’s purity and burning determination for reconciliation. You’re thoughts?
My thoughts are the only thing that is pure is Jesus and his love for all people,and if we want to be with him we can,if we don’t want to be with him he won’t make us, he only asks us to follow him,and he says he will never leaves us ,so for me I’m not afraid of fire and brimstone or Gods justice,and I will be very happy to see my Fathers face at the end of my life.
I’m not perfect nor do I have much understanding of the afterlife ,I just feel so confident that I am with God and he with me and I am confident of his working in my life because I know him and I am glad he knows me [including the bits of me that are selfish and hateful]. I hope for others to know his love and acceptance.God is safe to me I feel secure in his love for me and I know every other person can feel safe with him too and I hope that people who don’t know God would call out to him and know Him.
I do find bits of the bible hard to grasp but when I look at Jesus I see God and I trust he will reveal to me who he is in his time I just hope I listen to him when he shows me but God is so clever in helping me, despite me getting in the way!
Really can’t top your answer. It’s coming straight from your heart and that’s all that really matters .Your relationship with Jesus shines through all the technical stuff.
Oh, Merry, your thoughts are so similar to my own.
On the topic of hell, I do think that God once gave me a small inkling of what hell must be like. In the early ‘70’s I experimented with LSD. My arms stretched upward, my spirit reaching out to God, although I couldn’t at the time have put it into words. I suddenly had a feeling of ‘knowing’ that if I brought my hands together, when the tips of my index fingers touched, then I would see myself as I really was. It was a truly terrifying experience. There I was, all that was good in me and all that was bad, frozen, forever unchanging in some eternity of stillness. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t escape myself. I was forever condemned to ‘myself’. There was no ‘other.’ I’ve never felt so truly alone and without hope. I stumbled into the other room and fell to the floor wishing myself out of existence. A candle hung from the ceiling in a macramé of rope. In desperation, I willed my spirit to climb the rope, looking for escape. When I reached the top, I changed into a dove and flew away. Then I was free. The Holy Spirit was trying so hard to tell me—to show me, and indeed, it was not much longer before I came to know the Lord, without church, without other Christians—with only the Lord to lead me.
He was inside me all along. Even before I knew who He was, there was something in me that knew Him. I think He’s inside each one of us like that from the very beginning, drawing us to Himself. We’re never without Him—never truly alone until the final death. And because He’s in us, we can never imagine the absolute loneliness and hopelessness of being in an eternity without Him. If I had to be without Him, then I would indeed fall at Jesus’ feet and beg for fire to consume me out of existence. But those who live and know Him will never die. When my time comes to leave this body, I’ll gladly leave it all behind and leap into His arms. In Him there’s everlasting life because He IS everlasting life. In Him there can be no death. The two can simply not co-exist.