The dark side of destiny

I recently listen to an interesting conversation between Chris Date (from RethinkingHell) and Greg Crofford about a new book of Greg entitled: The Dark Side of Destiny: Hell Re-Examined.

Chris Date is a Conservative Evangelical (and a Calvinist!) holding to the teaching of conditional immortality and hell meaning utter destruction.

He is a very brilliant, bright and insightful man and he represents the most defensible and respectable form of reformed theology I am aware of. His blog  http://www.theopologetics.com/ is worth checking out.

Greg pointed out that the doctrine of eternal torment gives us a very dark picture of God which emotionally hinders many people to seek a deeper communion with Him.

He laid out a pretty interesting argument against endless torture:

1) If God eternally tormented many of His creatures He would be a sadist
2) Jesus is the human face of God
3) Jesus was not a sadist
4) Therefore God won’t torment beings forever

He explained why the authors of the New Testament (if interpreted in their historical context) most likely saw immortality as God’s gift the wicked ones will not inherit.

I started out disagreeing with him as he began criticizing universalism, which he seems to equate with inclusivism, the view that non-Christians will be given a chance to respond to the Gospel after their deaths.
Both notions are, however, far from being identical.

I am an inclusivist but not an universalist because I consider it very likely that at least some people will reject God beyond the grave.

Conservative Evangelicals typically defend Exclusivism (only those dying as Christians will inherit eternal life) using the following reasoning:

1) The Bible is the full and unique revelation of God (which is the central pillar of Evangelicalism)
2) There is no Biblical evidence that people will have a chance to choose God after having passed away
3) Therefore only Christians will get to heaven

Yet as Randal Rauser pointed out, this is an extraordinarily offensive assertion.

“They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, ‘Boil there, you offspring of the devil!’”

Now against this backdrop turn to the encounter between a cacique (or tribal leader) and his Franciscan captors. In this encounter Hatuey, the cacique, has been told he will be executed (for no greater crime, it would seem, than not being Spanish), but that he can still save his soul before his body is slain:

“When tied to the stake, the cacique Hatuey was told by a Franciscan friar who was present, an artless rascal, something about the God of the Christians and of the articles of Faith. And he was told what he could do in the brief time that remained to him, in order to be saved and go to heaven. The cacique, who had never heard any of this before, and was told he would go to Inferno where, if he did not adopt the Christian Faith, he would suffer eternal torment, asked the Franciscan friar if Christians all went to Heaven. When told that they did he said he would prefer to go to Hell.”

It is extremely blasphemous to state that Hatuey won’t have any chance to reach heaven.

So I think that the above reasoning can be turned on its head:

1) As perfectly loving God must give a post-mortem chance to many of those who have died without Christ
2) There is no Biblical evidence that people will have a chance to choose God after having passed away
3) Therefore the Bible cannot be the full and unique revelation of God
4) Therefore Evangelicalism is wrong

(Of course many people would contest 2), thereby invalidating the conclusion).

Finally Greg pointed out that the parable of the foolish and wise virgins has to be taken at face value, thereby showing that people not having chosen Christ during this life won’t be given a second chance.

A huge problem is that as a conservative Protestant, there are quite a few things in the Bible that Greg cannot interpret literally.

The parable of the sheep and the goats illustrates that very well.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Taking this parable at face value would lead one to believe that works play an important role in salvation, a doctrine Evangelicals passionately detest.

More importantly perhaps, this parable teaches that people having never heard of Christ were serving Him while doing good deeds and will usher into His holy presence.

That aspect aside,Greg Crofford seems to be a good and sensible practical theologian and I advise my readers to take a look at his works.

Eric Seibert on Biblical atrocities

Lothringische Version: Eric Seibert iwer Biblische atrozitäte.

Unjust violence and misogyny in the  old testament

Progressive Evangelical theologian Randal Rauser interviewed Biblical Scholar Eric Seibert on the topic of violence in the Bible.

Eric Seibert

He did an excellent job showing why the usual strategies of Conservative Evangelicals such as Paul Copan and William Lane Craig completely fail to show that the god they worship is not a moral monster (or does not suffer under a split-brain disorder).

I don’t, however, share his pacifist convictions. I believe in Just War Theory and in the righteous retribution of wicked deeds.
So it is not the presence of violence within the Bible which shocks me but atrocities committed against innocents, such as Canaanite babies or toddlers, or a law stipulating that a raped woman having not dared scream should be stoned as a adulteress.

I think there is just no way one can defend such kinds of laws as stemming from God.

Now this raises lots of question concerning the inspiration of Scripture. If we know there are clearly parts of it which contradict God’s will, how can we trust the others?

I think that a paradigm shift is clearly necessary.

Evangelicals should stop seeing the Bible as being necessarily more inspired than other Christian and Jewish books, as I explained in a prior post a long time ago.

Such a change does not, however, inevitably implies embracing theological liberalism and anti-supernaturalism.

To take a concrete example, I read the books of the apostle Paul in the same way  I read books from C.S. Lewis: I believe that both were examplary Christians, great defenders of the faith and extraordinary men, and the presence of logical, empirical and theological errors in their writings does not prevent me at all to appreciate all the right things they figured out.

But if we don’t believe that the books within the Biblical Canon are more inspired than books outside it, how can we make the difference between right and wrong beliefs about God?

While I cannot speak for all progressive Christians, I believe that we should base our theology on the fact that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God. Even tough human beings are faillible creatures they are quite able to recognize perfection and to find out what is morally right and wrong as Saint Paul explains in the first chapters of the letter to the Romans.

Even if the books of C.S. Lewis are not inerrant, most Christians agree he was an extraordinary man of God, had many genuine spiritual experiences and reached profound insights in God’s nature.

But God did not directly speak through him, he used his own culturally-conditioned concepts to write about the Almighty, which involves he also got God wrong at times.

I view the Apostle Paul and other Biblical writers in exactly the same way: like modern Christian writers, they had genuine experiences with and thoughts about God they wrote down.

Of course such an approach does not eliminate all difficulties.

For why did people pretending to be believers commit atrocities they justified theologically? Conservative Protestants (and former ones) focus on the problem of atrocities in the Old Testament, but this is only one part of a more general difficulty: the problem of divine hideness.

Christian conquistadors viewing the slaughter of native Indians as the divine Will or isolated tribes routinely sacrificing their children to their deities are troubling as well.
For in all these situations, God allowed countless humans to have noxious and murderous false beliefs about Him.

While I cannot address such a huge problem with a few lines, I believe that God is able to redeem the suffering of all the victims of religious violence who just have to choose Him for an everlasting bliss.

Whilst this does not solve the problem, I find that this largely mitigates it.

Naked Calvinism: a reformed preacher at the doors of heaven and hell.

 

Mark Driscoll is one of the “New Calvinists”, a large movement of Evangelicals strongly emphasizing their belief in divine determinism and fighting religious liberalism as well as equal rights for women within the Church.

While Mark is not yet dead, God almighty showed me in a vision that he will have a strong surprise there.

What follows is part of the inerrant Gospel of Lotharson, delivered once and for all to all progressive saints.

The predestination of Mark Driscoll

Just before Mark’s feet were to reach the flames, an Angel took him away and placed him on a rock.

“What…what is going on?” he stuttered.
“In thirty minutes your eternal torment will begin. But in His grace, the Sovereign Lord Almighty wanted to grant you a short time period where all your earthly wishes will be fulfilled, as long as they are not sinful. I can summon this delicious vanilla ice you are such a huge fan of. The mighty God does you this favor because He loves you.”
Mark Driscoll gnashed his teeth before bursting out:
“That’s utterly ridiculous and disgusting! God cannot say He loves me just because he grants me an infinitely negligable amount of pleasure while He is going to torture me during billions and billions of years!”
The angel shook his head.
“Mark…Mark…You taught these very things during so many years…You kept telling to your sheep that God is infinitely gracious and loving to let rain fall upon the fields of the wicked ones. What is the matter now?”
Mark threw a hateful gaze at the heavenly being.
“What’s the matter??? God decided before the very foundation of the world I would be damned and suffer forever. He did not leave me any other choice!!!”
The angel smiled.
“Calm down manly boy ! Did you not repeatedly teach that single predestination is not the same as double predestination?
You told people that God just set up all parameters of the creation and let the reprobates slide towards hell but does not actively cause them to sin. You always taught that we should not ask why the reprobates are not saved but why God is so gracious to choose some of you.”
Mark moaned and whined.

“I realize now I was teaching bullshit during all these years. Please forgive me. Give me a chance!” he begged.
“You have always said that the people asserting there will be a second chance are Universalists who are contaminated by female teachings which are invading the Church.”
Driscoll wept bitterly.
“I was wrong. I was dead wrong. Please don’t throw me into the unquenchable fire. Have mercy on me!”.
The angel smiled again. Mark got stunned as he realized who He truly was.
“You see Mark, you have always put Me in a box, trying to tell Me what I am supposed to do or not to do. I am all too glad to announce you that you were indeed dead wrong. Despite all the falsehoods you taught about Me, I know you have a sincere desire to be with Me. And I love you, no matter what you did. The flames you see below are not going to kill you or torture you but will purify your heart…Yes, the heathen Roman Catholics got this right.” God said before stroking his cheeks.

driscollPiper

(I obviously was in a good mood as I wrote the end. But guess what? God predetermined my state of mind too).

Erlösung durch die Liebe

English version

NDE

Das Fundament meiner Theologie ist Gottes Vollkommenheit, denn Er muss perfekt sein, um Gott zu sein und Er ist zwangsläufig viel besser als die heiligste Person auf der Erde.

Wenn ich auf alle Religionen schaue, erscheint es mir wahrscheinlich, dass Gottes Offenbarung zum Menschen das Leben, Tod und Auferstehung von Jesus von Nazareth war, der uns gelehrt hat, sogar unsere schlimmsten Feinden zu lieben.
Während alle Christen immer an die Notwendigkeit von Gottes Gnade für das Heil geglaubt haben, glauben römische Katholiken, dass zusätzliche gute Werke nötig sind, wie es im Buch von Jakobus berichtet wird, während Protestanten weitaus das Buch von Jakobus ignorieren und sich auf Paulus konzentrieren, der vermeintlich lehrte, dass man durch reine Gnade errettet wird.

Unter Protestanten lehren Arminianer, dass man die freie Wahl treffen muss, Seine Gnade anzunehmen, während Calvinisten lehren, dass Gott manche Menschen zwingt, seine Gnade zu akzeptieren, während sich die anderen geradlinig zur Hölle bewegen.

Meine eigenen auf Gottes Vollkommenheit basierten Gedanken führten mich zu den folgenden Schlussfolgerungen:

1) Gott will, dass jeder Mensch eine immer währende Beziehung mit Ihm erleben wird.
2) Menschen begehen viele Sünden, die Gott verletzen und die er nicht nur vergessen kann.
3) Deshalb wird Gott jede Sünde jedem vergeben, denn es ist die Liebe, die sein Wesen definiert
4) Gott wird jedem vorschlagen, die Ewigkeit mit Ihm zu verbringen

Bedeutet es, dass alle Menschen bei Gott im Himmel sein werden? Vermutlich nicht, denn zumindest einige Menschen, wie viele in den Evangelien beschriebenen Pharisäer den in Jesus von Nazareth offenbarten Gott ablehnen werden. Und Gott wird ihren freien Willen respektieren. Und wenn es gar keine Hoffnung auf Erlösung für sie gibt, werden sie letztendlich aufhören, zu existieren.

Ich persönlich weiß, dass ich im Himmel sein werde, weil Gott mich liebt, ich Ihn liebe und Seine Liebe viel größer als alle meine Übertretungen ist. Und ich habe den ehrlichen Wunsch, mich dieser ultimativen Liebe immer mehr zu nähern, indem ich Jesus Christus nachfolge, der den Tod und die Sünde am Kreuz und am leeren Grab besiegt hat.

Wüstenland

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Naked Calvinism: why the difference between single and double predestination does not matter

Youtube Version

 

predestination_tshirt-p235676991342392817u7by_400

According to the doctrine of double predestination, God actively works to save some people but also to damn others. The first ones will enjoy everlasting bliss in His presence while the others will suffer the eternal flames of hell.

Most Calvinists insist they just believe in single predestination, that is that God just works for saving His elects while abandoning all other people to their well-deserved fate.

In what follows, I will show through an analogy that, given Calvinist presuppositions, the difference between the two kinds of predestination is insignificant.

Let us consider a group of twenty children who are playing football besides the ocean. One girl (I can be very sexist at times)  shot the ball in the wrong direction. The children are so eager to pursue the game that they disobey the order of adults not to swim in this dangerous zone and soon all are in the water. Very quickly they are carried away by a formidable tide.

wallpapers-sea-life-drowning-aid-water-a-situation-man-hand-1366x768

Jerry Gooddeer happened to be there in his boat. He has the possibility to save all kids. Let us now consider two possibilities:

1) Jerry decides to save Mary, Lucy, John and Peter while pushing away all other children so that they cannot escape death.

2) Jerry decides to save Mary, Lucy, John and Peter while not helping the other kids reach his boat, thereby letting them drown.

Why 1) may be worse than 2), there is little doubt that no sensible person would call Jerry a loving man in the last case.

But let us now consider

2′) Jerry decides to save Mary, Lucy, John and Peter while not helping the other kids reach his boat, thereby letting them drown.
Before everything began, Jerry made it certain that the ball would escape to the children and that they would feel the irrestible desire to run and swim after it.

The injustice of being predetermined to hell

Morally and practically speaking, I fail to see any significant difference between 1) and 2′)

DoublePredestination

Evangelist Kerrigan Skelly gives us a complementary perspective on that question whereby he quotes John Calvin.

Naked Calvinism: motivation and methodology

Youtube Version

My first true confrontation with Calvinism was in a Calvary Chapel. A young pastor who is a huge fan of John Piper was talking about the “Biblical” obligation to unconditionally support the state of Israel. He said that the Israelites should have slaughtered ALL inhabitants of Caanan during the time of Joshua. According to him, the current Palestinians are their descendants and Israel has to deal with them because they failed in the past to carry out the genocidal commands of their deity. He finally said something which literally made my blood freeze:
The modern Palestinians call themselves the descendants of the Philistines but this is an outrageous lie. If God tells us in his Word that He utterly exterminated them, He really did it!“.
He did not pronounce the last sentence with a callous indifference but with a joyful excitement.

Zionist

Later on, I met another young Calvinist pastor who told me that my refusal to accept the justification of Biblical genocides was due to my sinful pride and refusal to give to God the glory He is worthy of.
Finally, I listen to a reformed theology student teaching that God passionately hates mankind since the Fall, that everyone is heading to hell due to his or her inborn sinful nature, and that God only predestined a few people to believe in Him and get saved. He recognized that according to all human standards, such a divine behavior is utterly repugnant and even atrocious. But we cannot judge God according to our morality. And after I asked him why we are supposed to worship such a being, he just answered me: “because He is God.”

Lake-of-Fire-Bg

All of this occurred within a short time span six months ago.

After having done a lot of research on Calvinism, I realized that this kind of assertions naturally springs out of this belief system.

A specific event prompted me to start this series of posts. It was the recent assertion of the very popular Calvinist preacher John McArthur that 500 millions of charismatics are pseudo-Christians and that a great number of them have sinned against the Holy Ghost (and that they were, consequently, predetermined by God to burn in hell forever).
I see it now as my duty to show the true face of Calvinism to the world.

Here follow the methodology and some practical aspects.

1) I think it is fair to say that Calvinism cannot really exist without Biblical inerrancy. Therefore if I can show that SOME Biblical passages are incompatible with reformed theology, I will have effectively refuted it.

2) It is a common cognitive error to believe that once you have shown that something is possible, you have also shown it is not implausible. But there are many things which are logically possible but extremely unlikely.

3)  I will leave aside many Calvinist proof-texts and let my readers decide by themselves if they are plausibly interpretable within an Arminian framework or if they can’t, thereby showing the existence of contradictions within the Bible.

For example, let us say that the books of Hebrew and James are incompatible with divine determinism. This leaves two possibilities:

A) the books of Paul are not at odds with Arminianism
B) the books of Paul teach Calvinism which in turn shows that Biblical inerrancy is false.

In both cases, Calvinism is wrong or utterly implausible.

4) I will use many philosophical arguments too, even though I am well aware that this won’t move hardcore fundamentalists who hold the self-refuting view that philosophy is a folly.

5) I shall also argue that Calvinism is completely unlivable. There are no true consistent Calvinists out there (even if some are dangerously close to achieving this).

6) I am going to use extremely hard words against reformed theology but I want to be clear I (try to) love all Calvinists as my fellow human beings. Therefore I won’t tolerate personal attacks against Calvinists who are going to comment on my blog, unless they behave like assholes.

 

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Afterlife, near death experiences, fundamentalism and Christianity

Alex Tsakiris, the creator of the paranormal website Skeptiko, interviewed recently a new guest on his show, Kevin Williams, the author of one of the main websites aiming at scientifically defending the existence of a life after death.

In many respects Kevin is a very interesting fellow. I greatly admire his courage to have admitted suffering under a bipolar disorder at the beginning of the show. Having myself ADHD, I know all too well that coming out having a psychiatric or psychological disorder can often be much more risky than coming out as gay within a Western society completely obsessed by performance.

Kevin is a former Christian fundamentalist, who was traumatized by the idea of hell and left the faith behind. However, unlike most people in such a situation in a American context he did not become an angry and resentful atheist but adopted a kind of New Age philosophy where eternal bliss is the inevitable fate of everyone.

I believe that the existence of eternal conscious torments is logically incompatible with the love of God, given the definitions of words, this concept is as meaningful as a married bachelor.

So if Kevin was honestly persuaded this is what Christianity is, then I am very glad he has stopped worshipping such a fiend even if this meant giving up the faith altogether.

While I believe that a small minority of Near Death Experiences seriously challenges materialism, I think we have overwhelming grounds for thinking that the numerous contradictory accounts of heaven (or hell for that matter) are creations of the mind.

It is therefore as unwarranted to use NDEs as proof of heaven than it is to use them as evidence of reincarnation or of widespread torture by gruesome demons.

But I do believe that this feeling of unconditional love experienced in NDEs and in many other contexts is a genuine reflection of God’s love.

And this leads me to a tension in the worldview of Alex and Kevin. Like me, both believe in libertarian free-will, that is that the soul is a necessary and sufficient cause of many things. But if it so, what should God do if he encounters a person (like, say, the late Christopher Hitchen or for that matter Fred Phelps)  who utterly rejects his love? If God is the ultimate love, goodness and joy, spending eternity without him would logically entail ever-lasting torments.
God could turn him (or her) into a new creature who could do nothing else than desiring Him. I find this solution very unappealing, both rationally and morally, because I cannot consider love to be a meaningful concept if the lover coerces the loved one into loving him.

This is why I consider it extremely likely that God will respect the wish of an individual not desiring Him and that he or she will eventually cease to exist.

A Lesbian coming out as a commited Christian

Interview with Kimberly Knight about progressive faith and tolerance

I had the immense opportunity to have a chat conversation with Kimberly Knight, who spoke of her experience as being a passionate follower of Christ while being gay in an American context.

https://i1.wp.com/wildgoosefestival.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/WGF13-Kimberly-Knight.jpg

I report it as vividly as it happened. Both of us would be glad if her testimony would be of help for other struggling Christians.

Kimberly Knight: Hi there, so sorry. I took a little nap and it went a bit longer than I planned :$

Lothars Sohn: Alright I know that all too well :=) One feels kind of frustrated after that, doesn’t one? 😉

Kimberly Knight: 🙂

Lothars Sohn: Anyway I’m so glad and thankful you’ve accepted my invitation!

Kimberly Knight: my pleasure

Lothars Sohn: So I would like this to be more a conversation than an interview. So if you wish you can ask me things back

Kimberly Knight: ok – sounds good

Lothars Sohn: What would you tell us if you were to sum up the most important steps of your life?

Kimberly Knight: Wow, that is a big question…When asked, a few key places in my journey come to my mind: my childhood with my parents, though not perfect, was formative in good and challenging ways.I was fortunate to have both of my parents together until the day my mother died in her 60s…

Lothars Sohn: I’m sorry for that…it must have been very painful

Kimberly Knight: I was raised in the southern US and much of our lives revolved around food – holidays, daily meals, friendships.

Lothars Sohn: Is that not the case EVERYWHERE in America? 😉

Kimberly Knight: indeed but there’s nothing as good as southern fried chicken, buttermilk cornbread and a huge potof collard greens…I felt loved by my parents even if over the years it was clear we were so very different.

Lothars Sohn: I know that feeling all too well.

An important part of my faith journey happened when I was a teenager, we attended a church named Confederate Ave. A Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta. We worshiped with an all white congregation and I really felt like I belonged there, I loved the church, the youth group and the Wednesday night suppers.

Well, there is one Sunday that I will never forget.  The church was packed, more than I had ever seen. This was in the early 80s and people who had been members but not attending for some time were present. The reason that everyone came that day was to vote about a membership request and behold, the custodian for the church, an elderly black man, wanted to join the church. I understood that to mean he wanted to give his life to Christ that is how we talked about it, joining the church meant giving your life to Christ.

But when I witnessed the congregation voting, by a show of hands in the sanctuary, whether or not he would be allowed to join, I was devastated because it seemed to my young self that they were deciding whether or not he could give his life to Christ.

So in that instant I understood for the first time what religion looked like – and it looked like humans deciding who was worthy of God and who was not.

Lothars Sohn: Yes!

So I walked away from the church that day not to return for a decade but – i went to college and studied religion

Lothars Sohn: to a secular college?

Kimberly Knight: yes I thought a wholly academic approach would appease my mind and my heart

[Lothars Sohn: I had a similar feeling…

Kimberly Knight: well, that is what i told myself

Lothars Sohn: you were young…

Kimberly Knight: yes so I took my sweet time in undergraduate school and I was starting to understand who I was – well, i was confused and was trying to NOT understand who I was Through a series of bad and then somewhat better choices I was now attending a United Methodist church in my neighborhood

Lothars Sohn: and then you probably wondered: does God really want that for my earthly life?….

And my pastor (who would later come out too and start a UCC church) introduced me to my now partner and it was like God smacked me in the head with a cosmic frying pan. As I began to enter seminary I also started coming out and  I could feel God walking with me in such a tangible way like I had never felt before. 

When I kissed my wife for the very first time, I knew I was home though I kept waiting for it to feel bad, dirty and wrong – gross even, but it only felt more right every time she kissed or touched me and so I began the long process of shedding my old life and claiming the next part of my journey as God wanted it for me.

That is a long answer and there are many more points on the journey but – there you go

Lothars Sohn: of course, it was very poetically described :=)

Kimberly Knight: thank you – I have never blogged about that – not yet but likely will soon

Lothars Sohn: I’m looking forward to it! Now would be my next question

It is clear that (conservative) Evangelicalism in America is facing a great crisis. An increasing number of clever young people are leaving conservative and fundamentalist churches and oftentimes become very resentful atheists. What are your thoughts on this phenomenon?

Kimberly Knight: That we are in a great shift….some are calling it another Great Awakening in America

Lothars Sohn: For me it would be a Awakening if those folks gave up their wicked theological beliefs and worshiped a truly loving God instead of becoming militant atheists.

Kimberly Knight: I believe some people, with hungry minds and open hearts are engaging the Bible in ways they were specifically trained not to – with questions and faith rather than certitude and dogma

Lothars Sohn: I hope so, but I have experienced all too often how people who were fundamentalists turned into nasty antitheists who want to destroy every religion and oftentimes even Socialism for that matter

Kimberly Knight: indeed but that is not what I am seeing in the Emergent movement

There are plenty of atheists who are really just angry at religion and God but in the emergent movement something else is happening and it is becoming more progressive and it is moving toward activism.

Lothars Sohn: That’s also what I am aiming at with my blog.

Kimberly Knight: me too, exactly

Lothars Sohn: I am sure that fundamentalism is destroying Christianity

Kimberly Knight: well, in some ways – but it also may end up saving it, that is a weird thing to say, let me explain… perhaps the best thing to happen for LGBT rights is Westboro Baptist nonsense

Lothars Sohn: I understand but feel sad about them, often angry but also sad. I wish them to get “saved” from their wickedness.

Kimberly Knight: me too…but, if American Christianity had just idled along as bland and ineffective that might have killed it and was killing it, since that is not Christian either. But with the willful ignorance and the twisted rendering of the bible, people had something to get mad at – to awake from and were so tied to a life within the church they had to seek for answers that still equaled God

Lothars Sohn: This leads us to my next question

On of the purposes of my blog is to defend a form of progressive Christianity which is intellectually honest and rationally and morally acceptable.

One complaint of militant atheists (the so-called New Atheists) is that liberal and progressive Christians are dangerous because they legitimize the existence of fundamentalism. I believe that in quite a few cases they are unfortunately right since many liberals AVOID confrontations to preserve “the Christian unity“.

What should we do about that?

Kimberly Knight: Oh, well I do not avoid confrontation as you see 🙂

Lothars Sohn: yep!

Kimberly Knight: and yes, plenty of my progressive sisters and brothers criticize me for not being gentle and loving (which I am) or for not being a bridge builder (which I am)

Lothars Sohn: but Jesus was confronting some of the pharisees of his time all the time those who had a wicked theology and behavior

Kimberly Knight: I feel called, in no uncertain terms, to confront that which has hijacked the gospel. not that God needs little me to defend God but because I feel called to be very clear that what many Americans think about Christians, God and Jesus are obsoletely wrong and it is wrong for me to remain silent when I can speak up

Lothars Sohn: For the readers, could you please put the NALT project in a nutshell?

Kimberly Knight: Hmm, well that is not my project and I have not even recorded a video yet but i can try: it is a project, inspired by the It Gets Better video project where progressive Christians are invited to share a video talking about how they understand their faith, primarily in terms of love and radical hospitality

Lothars Sohn: that speaks to my heart 🙂

Kimberly Knight: Create a video, upload it to YouTube and tag it with the appropriate words and key pharses and then let NALT know it is out there

Lothars Sohn: I am sure this is going to have much success

Kimberly Knight: I hope so and I know it has been criticized (exactly for why you mentioned)

Lothars Sohn: and I hope this will also show to the non-Christian world that we don’t agree with what fundamentalists are doing

Kimberly Knight: but I am a fan of the project if it saves one life, prevents one person from believing that God hates them

So here is a question for you: why the name Lothars Sohn?

Lothars Sohn: I come from Lorraine/Lothringen, a region in France with a German-speaking part, expect that the French government destroyed our culture and language

 Kimberly Knight: I am sorry to hear that

Lothars Sohn: I am proud of my root and have taken “Lothar’s son” as name in honor of king Lothar the founder of my region.

And like the Israelite are sometimes described as being the children of Abraham I am a child of Lothar 🙂

Kimberly Knight: cool

Lothars Sohn: Did you take a look at my theological argument for the acceptance of homosexuality? I think it is extremely compelling

Kimberly Knight: I have not yet, I am sorry – can you resend the link…this latest blog post about my seminary has taken a great deal more energy than I imagined

 Lothars Sohn: Alright! No problem.

Kimberly Knight: and now I am supposed to be writing a sermon for tomorrow

Lothars Sohn: You can perhaps hope that the Holy Ghost will transfer all words to your brain tomorrow at 09 am 😉

Kimberly Knight: that is apparently what I am counting on

Lothars Sohn: But let’s move forward if that’s the case.

Many conservative Christians agrees that homophobia is morally wrong while holding fast on the idea that homosexuality is inherently sinful. They teach that the desires are not sinful but that God demands from homosexual to always remain single but that one should encounter them with compassion.

What is your response to this widely held belief?

Kimberly Knight: LOL, well, that they are wrong

Well, here is why – I believe in a created universe and us as creatures created by our creator in that universe and I know that God – who is love – did not create millions of people that are expcted to remain single and in pain for their whole lives. We are created for relationships.

Lothars Sohn: yeah, I often say to grow in our ability to give and receive love

Kimberly Knight: and some are created to love people of a different gender and some are create to love people of the same gender and there are scads and scads of biblical arguments we could engage in but if in the end we are not acting out of love and compassion, then the answer is always wrong

Lothars Sohn: That’s no problem for homosexuality but I am struggling a lot

with pedophilia which is undoubtedly harmful (unlike homosexuality or trans sexuality)

and people never choose a pedophilic orientation

Kimberly Knight: right

Lothars Sohn: why would a good God allow that…I struggle a lot with that problem…

Kimberly Knight: but that is an orientation that is based on predatory behavior…Ah – that is a good question and that is the theodicy question right?

why does God allow cancer or earthquakes or rape or domestic violence?

Lothars Sohn: it’s part of it but it’s more than that

because human evil is supposed to stem from our free will

but many psychopaths and pedophiles have no such free will, they are evil from their early childhood onwards.

How can God, how can we hold them accountable, if they were wired that way so to speak?

Kimberly Knight: because what they do robs another of their humanity and anything that robs another of their humanity – anything that causes such pain or death even…

One can only be guilty if one have had the choice to do otherwise and psychopaths seem to be machines which have been programmed to kill.

Kimberly Knight: not really and there is a difference between guilt and evil or guilty and wrong

Lothars Sohn: yeah I would say it’s bad, terribly bad what they do

Kimberly Knight: and so, they must be stopped by other humans with free will who understand that what they do harms innocent people

Lothars Sohn: Yes but I believe that no psychopath will end up in hell for having done what his brain was programmed to, God will redeem him

Kimberly Knight: well, I am not sure what I think about heaven and hell

Lothars Sohn: Welcome to the club, I am also unsure about heaven and hell 🙂

Kimberly Knight: All I know is that the life we have to live should be lived with love and compassion and yes, I may have compassion for the murderer and understand that they were broken by the evil free will of others likely

Lothars Sohn: sometimes yes

Kimberly Knight: but I can still believe they must be stopped from perpetuating the cycle

Lothars Sohn: Of course! And I try to take very seriously Jesus call to love our FOES

Kimberly Knight: yes, that is the hardest of all

Lothars Sohn: But to my mind God can only be just and good if He offered eternal life to everyone truly desiring him

I don’t know that but I diligently hope it is true 🙂

Kimberly Knight: me too

Lothars Sohn: Otherwise I am dumbstruck by the fact that conservative American Christians focus most of their attention on homosexuality and abortion. But when I ask them about the communism within the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles, they say it was bound to a specific time and place and is no longer valid today.

How do they manage doing this?

Kimberly Knight: the way all humans do – we see what we want and we ignore what we do not, they read the bible through the lens of their desire

Lothars Sohn: Is it not ironic that they pretend they are the ones who take EVERYTHING in the Bible seriously

Kimberly Knight: yes

Lothars Sohn: the people holding the view that homosexuality is sinful are often good persons who are wrong and sometimes even brainwashed. How can we encounter them in a spirit of love while not hesitating to point out their errors?

Kimberly Knight: i suppose it depends on their posture and by that I mean, if they are content to love and not try to create secular laws based on their religion and are not about hurting or changing anyone, then we can likely be in relationship and being in relationship does more to point out errors than telling them so

Lothars Sohn: True enough! But even people wanting to turn America into a theocracy can have a good heart even if they are terribly misguided…

Kimberly Knight: oh yes, and I have met them many times and there is rarely a thing I can say to change their mind so sometimes relationship is not even possible

Lothars Sohn: that’s the real tragedy of fundamentalism of any kind, religious and secular alike

Kimberly Knight: yes and that is what makes it unChristian because if we can not be in relationship and find a way to love one another then we are going against the will of God as revealed in the Incarnation

Lothars Sohn: And they often bully emotionally those they view as their enemies

Kimberly Knight: oh yes

Lothars Sohn: but many militant atheists who are former fundamentalists bully their enemies in the same way, in a very unrighteous manner

Kimberly Knight: yep, equally as wrong

Lothars Sohn: How should we react as Christians when confronted with such bullies?

Kimberly Knight: sometimes it is walking away, sometimes it is confronting them

Lothars Sohn: Consider someone for instance who says that in the LONG term, he wishes “fags” to be put to death. The Westboro baptists aren’t the only ones out there who want the state to murder homosexuals.

Kimberly Knight: then I confront them with truth and then walk away

Lothars Sohn: yes, Jesus did that!

My honest investigation of the Bible has led me to the conclusion that the books considered as Canonical are NOT more inspired than other religious books.

What is your own view of the Bible?

I know it’s a big one 🙂

Kimberly Knight: oh I agree, I have for a very long time…I am reading (off and on) The New New Testament. an interesting collection

Lothars Sohn: and what is the NNT?

Kimberly Knight: a compilation of canonical and non-canonical texts into a new canon but of course it leaves out plenty that could be there

Lothars Sohn: And what kind of texts are those?

Kimberly Knight: it is an extended version of the New Testament including very early Christian texts having been rejected by the Church. Sleep well!

Now we have touched on many topics during this conversation and we would be extremely glad to learn what our readers think about all of this.

 

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Tribalism, love and God’s shameless ploy: a response to Cyngus and Valdobiade

A fellow called “Cyngus“ took me to task for having pointing out that influential evolutionary psychologists like Joshua Greene think, from an atheistic standpoint, that any objective morality is an illusion.

His response was very emotional and confused and I reproduced it here:

Dear Lothar,

Glad you mention Joshua Greene, he is a very smart guy and he discovered that the human brain is evolved for tribal life. The morals of a tribe applies inside the tribe, outside the tribe you can lie, kill and rape. Read your Bible, God condoned lack of morality of his chosen tribe, the Israelites, when it came to deal with other tribes.

God’s “objective morality” told his people to hate his enemies, then there came his beloved son “Jesus” who put his foot in the mouth of his father by saying: “love your enemies”. Isn’t that cute? But don’t fall for this trick, it is used to make the whole humanity be like one tribe under the same old crappy God. Don’t want to be in the “tribe” of God, then burn in hell.

Think about that: “Love your enemies”. In order to have enemies you have to hate, be hated or both. If you stop hating your enemies by saying that you love them, you have a chance to make them drop the guard. With their guard down you give them your love, if they don’t accept it, you send them in hell. Such a mischievous plan of “Jesus is love” could be thought only by the “tribe” of Christians.

Try to use your brains when you read the Bible. You quote a lot from Bible in your blog, but you don’t think, you just interpret it to serve your own Christian “denominated” tribe. You have no morals if your morals are to serve an immoral God.”

Since the whole comment reeks of rudeness, lack of respect and incoherence in thinking, I wanted to utterly ignore it.

But then another blogger called „Valdobiade„ came along and urged me to write a response, saying that:

I found the comment rough too, but the idea that seems true in the comment is that “love”, in Christian sense, is used to “divide and conquer”.

Many Christians denominations are understanding “love” in such a way that are put at odds with each other. You can even say that some Christians are enemies and they will love their “enemies” with the condition of the “love” as they interpret by their Christian denomination.

Another idea I found true, is that up to Jesus, God did not say to love the enemies but destroy them. However, even if Jesus said to love enemies, it did not change the fact that we become “enemies” by ignoring the “love”, thus those who don’t accept the “love” will be destroyed.

I don’t find this “love” being fair. Please make new post about this kind of “love”. I’d like to read your opinion.

Thanks.

There are many things I could go into here.

Glad you mention Joshua Greene, he is a very smart guy and he discovered that the human brain is evolved for tribal life. The morals of a tribe applies inside the tribe, outside the tribe you can lie, kill and rape.“

This is only one part of the story. Whilst it is clear that the inner demands of morality are stronger within our own tribe or in-group, we also dispose of a strong sense of empathy wich allows us to feel and understand the pain of all other human beings or for that matter sentient animals.

Read your Bible, God condoned lack of morality of his chosen tribe, the Israelites, when it came to deal with other tribes.“

Here Cyngus speaks like of a fundamentalist of THE whole Bible where God is consistently portrayed as a tribal deity and an evil monster.

But that’s demonstrably false. I view the Bible as a collection of human thoughts about God reflecting the worldview, fears and hopes of people at that time and I see there contradictory views on God’s morality, tribalism, exclusivism, forgiveness, sin and so on and so forth, as well documented by Thom Stark in his book „The Human Faces of God“.

Seeing the Old Testament as a consistent book containing only evil things is exactly the way Nazi theologians interpreted it during the Third Reich.

.

God’s “objective morality” told his people to hate his enemies, then there came his beloved son “Jesus” who put his foot in the mouth of his father by saying: “love your enemies”. Isn’t that cute? But don’t fall for this trick, it is used to make the whole humanity be like one tribe under the same old crappy God.“

This emotional outburst is certainly very efficient rhetorically, but rationally I fear it rings rather hollow. Actually, it’s even hard to understand what the argument is supposed to be.

“ When God teaches us to love our enemies, it is a shameless ploy so that he will impose His dictatorship upon all of us.“

Really? Would he need to teach us love in order to become our absolute tyrant? Is it not a much more likely explanation that Jesus was moved by genuine compassion transcending tribalism as he taught that?

At the very least Cyngus and his fellow antitheists have the burden of proof to show why Jesus was being manipulative as he uttered such statements.

Don’t want to be in the “tribe” of God, then burn in hell.“

I completely reject hell as being a place of eternal suffering.

That said, I believe that God created us as free beings and that he won’t force anyone to get to heaven if she does not truly desires Him and even believes that live is more meaningful if it is limited in time.

Think about that: “Love your enemies”. In order to have enemies you have to hate, be hated or both. If you stop hating your enemies by saying that you love them, you have a chance to make them drop the guard. With their guard down you give them your love, if they don’t accept it, you send them in hell. Such a mischievous plan of “Jesus is love” could be thought only by the “tribe” of Christians.“

Given my conception of hell, I don’t feel threatened at all by this new outburst.

Try to use your brains when you read the Bible. You quote a lot from Bible in your blog, but you don’t think, you just interpret it to serve your own Christian “denominated” tribe.“

I view the Bible as a collection of religious texts, similar in its nature to books from many religious traditions. I analyse it critically and see both truths and errors within its pages and I quote it in the same way I quote Christian authors such as C.S Lewis or John Wesley or even Muslim authors.

Cyngus has just written an unproven assertion about my person.

Since he knows almost nothing about me, this leads to the strong suscpicion I think of himeself as possesing some extra-sensory perceptions (I should probably contact the CSICOP to investigate his case.)

You have no morals if your morals are to serve an immoral God.”

I agree there are many religious persons who do that and I constantly criticize them on my blog for that sin. I will quote C.S. Lewis here:

„The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two. Indeed, only that doctrine renders this worship of Him obligatory or even permissible. „

Frankly speaking there are quite a few atheists I love to read and feel challenged by, but Cyngus and all bullying village antitheists don’t belong to them.

Now back to „ Valdobiade“

I found the comment rough too, but the idea that seems true in the comment is that “love”, in Christian sense, is used to “divide and conquer”.

Many Christians denominations are understanding “love” in such a way that are put at odds with each other. You can even say that some Christians are enemies and they will love their “enemies” with the condition of the “love” as they interpret by their Christian denomination.“

Actually almost all modern Christian denominations agree that you not only have to love (in an intutively human sense) the people in other Christian groups but in non-Christian movements as well.

Another idea I found true, is that up to Jesus, God did not say to love the enemies but destroy them.“

No, as mentioned above you will find both conflicting trends within the pages of the OT, and of other Near-Eastern religious texts, or about Zeus in the Greek mythology for that matter.

However, even if Jesus said to love enemies, it did not change the fact that we become “enemies” by ignoring the “love”, thus those who don’t accept the “love” will be destroyed.

I don’t find this “love” being fair. Please make new post about this kind of “love”. I’d like to read your opinion.

Thanks.“

https://i0.wp.com/patrickwanis.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/Why-people-reject-love1-199x300.jpg

I don’t want to give the impression this is an easy question for any Christian. According to my view, hell is not a place of eternal torment but the utter disappearance of persons not desiring to live eternally with God. God does want them to be saved, but if they refuse He is not going to violate their will. God’s Love always respects the decision of its object but wishes to offer him or her eternal bliss.

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Salvation by love

Deutsche Version.      

       Salvation by love

NDE

The foundation of my theology is that God has to be perfect in order for Him to be God, that He has to be far better than the holiest person on earth.
While looking at all religions, it seems likely to me that God’s revelation to man was the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who taught us to even love our worst enemies.
Whilst all Christians have always believed that God’s grace is necessary for salvation, Roman Catholics believe that additional good works are necessary, as written in the book of James, whilst Protestants largely ignore the book of James and focus on Paul who allegedly taught one is saved by pure grace.
Among Protestants, Arminians teach that one must make the free choice to accept this grace whereas Calvinist teach that God forces some people to accept His grace whereas the others are still heading to hell.
My own thoughts based on the perfection of God have led me to the following reasoning:

1) God wants every human to enjoy an everlasting relationship with him
2) Humans commit many sins which are hurting God and which He cannot merely forget
3) Thus, God is going to ultimately forgive every sin to everyone for it is Love which defines His being
4) God will propose to everybody to spend eternity with Him

Does that mean that everyone will be in Heaven? Probably not, because at least some humans, like many Pharisees described in the Gospels, are going to reject the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
And God will respect their free will. And if there is absolutely no hope of redemption for them, they will eventually cease to exist.

I personally know that I will be in Heaven because God loves me, I love Him and His love is far greater than all my transgressions. And I have the genuine desire to get closer to this ultimate Love by following Jesus Christ who defeated death and sin at the cross and the empty tomb.

Wüstenland
Wüstenland

 

 

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