How Dare You!

Questioning the orthodox position on morally dubious doctrines like hell is unsettling to some and heresy to others but it is a spiritually honorable practice. The OT prophets did it for a living and paid the price. Jesus did it concerning core concepts of Judaism like holiness (Mark 7:1-23) and election (John 10:14-16) and we all know how that turned out. The reformers did in the face of the Holy Roman Empire and earned temporal flames and timeless fame for their troubles.

Take slavery, racism and misogyny as examples. For centuries they were taught from Scripture by a well-meaning clergy and obeyed by a compliant Church. However, a thoughtful minority grappled with the inherent anomalies of such un-loving, un-graceful and un-Christlike behaviors and forced their peers to do the same.

The verses used to support these beliefs are still in the Bible but we interpret them differently now and see their earlier exegesis as misguided at best and barbaric at worst. Perhaps the doctrine of eternal perdition will one day be regarded by an enlightened faith in the same way.

Bottom line: Reality is based on God’s perception, not ours. What we think doesn’t change what is, but that doesn’t mean we should stop thinking.

3 thoughts on “How Dare You!

  1. Mike,
    As a tenured “fellow struggler” I wish I had the answers to these weighty matters. However, the longer I try to follow Christ, I discover that I have fewer answers. I envy the theologues who have and readily offer the answers. Hope you can pardon my simple faith in regard to this post and the previous one on hell, but this is why I’m so glad God is God and we are not! Isa. 55:8-9 drives many crazy, but it gives me great comfort in this regard.

    Sovereignty sounds restrictive and narrow to many, but it can be extremely liberating. It doesn’t relieve me of thinking, questioning, debating and discussing (e.g., “come let us reason together”), but it does give me peace and help on subjects like this and the whole matter of evil and suffering. For me, sovereignty means that I trust God to be God. I know theologians have tried to complicate this for years, but either we trust God, or we don’t. Years of living as a deeply flawed, “ragamuffin” smothered by the undeserving grace of God has allowed me to accept that God doesn’t owe me an explanation for anything, including my recent medical journey. His presence in the journey is far more important to me than whether or not hell exists, who goes there, etc. It doesn’t mean I don’t ever question God, shake my fist, or get frustrated. It just means I’ve come to a place where for me, it’ more important to attempt to follow Christ. Trust me that’s enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life. I’ll leave these weighty matters to the pro’s and their prose. As always, your comments are thought-provoking and enlightening! And no, you have not offended me or my faith by questioning this doctrine, or any other.

    I know you’re not a fan of easy answers or the simplistic, but I can’t improve on the great German theologian’s (Barth) response when he was asked to share the most profound theological truth he had learned: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Praying as you wrestle and unpack these weighty matters. And by the way, I’ve got an army praying for your stem cell journey now! AMDG, Monty in Carolina

  2. Did you get a lot of push back on that last post? I agree that I think it’s important to dig & question when it appears there may be a discrepancy b/w what the culture is *claiming* scripture says. . and what it really says.

    Obviously, I don’t know the hearts of all individuals you mentioned in these examples, but I think that’s the most important part of this kind of digging: is the person’s heart really seeking to know the truth and make changes based on that truth?

    If so, then that’s one thing that God seems to gladly respond to: “seek me, ask me, search me out. . . you’ll find me, and I will give you tell you great and unsearchable things that you do not know.” (Scripture mashup of Jer 29 & 33 🙂 ) I believe he wants us to search these out with the right heart.

    One of my favorite proverbs is: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. But to seek out that matter, the glory of kings.” (Proverbs 25:2)

    Praying for you as you continue to seek the truth, secrets, and crazy-depths of scripture and God’s heart.

    1. Hi Mike–Am keeping up with your blog and praying for you as I do so.

      I had a recent health crisis–a very narrow brush with cord stroke/quadraplegia that was headed off by neck surgery, replacement of the C6 vertebrae followed by a summer of enforced rest and a neck brace–among the silver linings is a chance to read. Richard John Neuhaus’ “Death on a Friday Afternoon: Meditations on the Words of Christ from the Cross” has been intellectually stimulating (despite pain meds), and spiritually nourishing. Neuhaus’ explorations about Christ’s word to the thief and “I thirst” offered some very interesting implications that may give you some good dialogue on your subject here. The final two chapters also compare theories of the atonement, with Neuhaus leaning toward some kind of “ultimate representative” take on it as opposed to substitutionary atonement and others. I think you’d enjoy the read, as well as the fellowship of another man who loves God and is dis-satisfied with easy answers.

      My prognosis–by summer’s end (if I follow orders) I’ll have lost only 10% mobility in my neck, will return to driving and other normal activities. I’m grateful for the reprieve, and wondering what God has for our future.

      Nancy Bergner

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