The Axiom of Agnosis

I have written before about the concept of agnosis – that knowledge is always imperfect and we might at any time be wrong about anything. I would like to try and make the case that agnosis is axiomatic.

By my own standards to establish agnosis as an axiom, it must be derived from existing axioms. As I have been lax in exploring axioms, I have only Axiom Zero to work with. Axiom Zero is that all scripture is good for doctrine. I will, therefore, apply this axiom and the principles of testing that derive from it.

Agnosis defined

Rather than rehash what I have already said, I will quote it instead.

Man is ignorant and the full truth is inherently unknowable to us. All that we think we know is faulty due to our own limitations. Our own best knowledge, doctrines, and understanding are forever flawed and full of error. We seek to embrace metanoia – a change in our thinking – freely confessing our ignorance and, in doing so, we allow our nature to be changed into the nature of Yeshua.

Continue reading

Asking questions

questions

One of the oft-repeated truisms that I heard growing up was that asking questions was a sign of intelligence. Usually, this was uttered by the same sort of teachers that would say “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”

There is no such thing as a stupid question.

Teachers everywhere

It was with this in mind that I took myself to Tumblr where I began asking questions. If I am honest, I figured that I would use the questions to keep the Tumblr ticking over so that I could share posts from here.

Instead the whole thing took off in a big way. I was very quickly seeing a couple of hundred notes a day sometimes. In the grand scheme of things, I doubt that is very much but it seemed like a lot to me.

Instead of exploring issues deeply I found myself in conversation exploring other people’s perceptions of the same issues. The rapid turnover of posts has allowed me to discover many more questions about topics I thought I had previously understood.

This process of asking question had pretty much taken over my blogging. 

Sharing the questions

At some point during that time, the team back on this platform quietly rolled out a new editor. I think the old one might have supported embedding Tumblr posts, but the new editor makes it very easy. That is when I had a new idea.

What if, I thought, I shared some of the more popular questions back here and explored the implications of the answers I have received?

That is what I plan to do. I’m going to keep asking questions but also try to find some answers too.

All the steps of repentance

sorry

I wrote recently about what true repentance is but I did not attempt to cover all the steps of repentance.

In this post, I am going to try and break down all the steps of true repentance and explore what the Bible has to say about each one.

Introduction

Background reading: Metanoia, Sin, and Repentance

It is not enough to simply say sorry to God and think that the sin is dealt with. The offence (to God) of the sin may be forgotten. However, to be free from sin’s dominion, it’s nature and it’s trespass must be addressed too.

Sin is tri-part – hamartia (flaws and weakness), trespass (transgression), and offence (or guilt). This is addressed in Romans 5:20.

Grace covers our hamartia so that we are not an offence to God for our trespasses against Him. Love from our brothers and sisters in Christ fulfils a similar role (1 Peter 4:8).

None of this abnegates our responsibilities that stem from the trespass and offences that our hamartia has led us into. In other words, we still have to take personal responsibility. We still have a need to make a fundamental change in our thinking and our actions. This is what metanoia (repentance) literally means.

The 12 steps of repentance

You may recognise these steps of repentance as being somewhat based on the 12 steps of addiction recovery. I used the 12 steps as a template because they codify very well the stages of setting right what we have done wrong.

1. Admit

We admit our powerlessness over our weaknesses and failings (hamartia) recognising that without help we remain slaves to sin.

It may be tempting to say “I am no longer a slave to sin”. After all, that is the ultimate purpose of the atonement. However, Romans 6:16-20 tells us that we are slaves to whatever form of actions – sin or righteousness – we choose.

To put it in more human terms, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery.

In Ecclesiastes 7:20 and other passages, we read that we are all sinful. Therefore, none of us can claim to be without sin. To do so would simply be self-deception (1 John 1:8).

If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

2. Recognise our need for God

We place our faith in the understanding that God, being greater than ourselves, could restore us to righteousness.

Righteousness – a term that can be misused – means simply being flawlessly in the right. In other words, a settlement of guilt (offence) and a correction of trespass such that there is no outstanding debt.

3. Turn to God

Having recognised our need for God, we turn our will and our lives over to His care.

In Isaiah 45:22-25 God says turn to Him and be saved for there is no other.

Micah 7:7 says this:

But I will keep watching for the LORD; I will wait for the God who delivers me. My God will hear my lament.

Psalm 130 says this:

From the deep water I cry out to you, O Lord.
O Lord, listen to me!
Pay attention to my plea for mercy!
If you, O Lord, were to keep track of sins,
O Lord, who could stand before you?
But you are willing to forgive,
so that you might be honoured
I rely on the Lord,
I rely on him with my whole being;
I wait for his assuring word.
I yearn for the Lord,
more than watchmen do for the morning,
yes, more than watchmen do for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord,
for the Lord exhibits loyal love,
and is more than willing to deliver.
He will deliver Israel
from all the consequences of their sins.

4. Examine ourselves

We make a full and honest examination of ourselves and our lives.

1 Corinthians 11:28-29, 2 Corinthians 13:5, and Galatians 6:4 all talk of examining oneself and one’s works. In other words, we must take moral stock of our actions so that we can recognise what we have done wrong.

Most 12 step programs phase it like this:

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Confess our sins

We admit to God, to ourselves, and to brothers and sisters the exact nature of our wrongs.

I mentioned this passage before but it continues into the next verse. 1 John 1:8-9 says this:

If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

This is where most people stop. Halfway through the fifth of twelve steps. If we want freedom from the power of sin, we must continue.

James 5:16 says:

So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.

Where is says “sins” here, the word is hamartias – flaws, failings, and guilt.

In Mark 1:5 and Matthew 3:6 we can read of people coming to John to confess their sins and be baptised. This practice continues. In Acts 19:18 we read that people confessed their sins to receive forgiveness.

Only when we are able to admit our flaws and failings to others, can we hope to be set free from them.

6. Be ready to change

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Metanoia requires change. Therefore we have to become willing to change. Saying sorry is not enough – that is just words. Words without actions mean very little if anything at all.

You can say every sinner’s prayer ever written but unless you are willing to change, it is only so much hot air.

Just as faith without works is dead faith, so words without actions are dead words (James 2:14-26). If you only say the right things but do not back them up with willing action, what have you achieved? This is a form of Godliness but without the power. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 describes such people in detail as dangerous. We should have absolutely nothing to do with them.

Without a willingness to change, the Bible says that we remain loaded down with sins, swayed by all kinds of evil desires. Slaves to sin, in every way. Don’t be that person.

7. Ask to be changed

Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

We acknowledged in steps one and two that we needed God. By step five we had confessed our failings and guilt to Him and to others. Now that we are ready to be changed we can enjoy the other part of 1 John 1:8-9, “cleansing us from all unrighteousness”.

In John 16:24 we read of Jesus saying that we should ask the father for what we need. In James 4:2, the writer talks of the strife within the community because people want but do not have. James says you have not because you did not ask God. In Luke 11:9, we find Jesus in the middle of teaching about asking God for what we need.

If you want to be changed, ask God for that change.

8. Recognise what must be put right

We make a list of all persons harmed by our failings, being willing to make amends to them all.

Too often we present a version of repentance that includes only settling our account with God as if we do not live in a community with other people. As we saw in step six, unless your words are backed up by actions demonstrating your change, your apology to God is hollow. God will not be fooled by it.

This is the step whereby you prepare to demonstrate to God, to yourself, and to those you have confessed your sins to, that you are serious about changing.

You have not repented until you have made every reasonable attempt to make right what you put wrong.

9. Put those things right

We make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus teaches that anger is as bad as murder. He tells us to settle all matters with others before we come to make offerings to God.

So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.

If you have faith in your prayer from step seven, where are your actions? Remember, faith without actions is not faith (James 2:26).

10. Allow change to be ongoing

We continue to take personal inventory. When we are wrong, we promptly admit it.

Change is not something that happens instantly. At least, not very often. Patience is required too (James 1:4-8).

Remember we said back in step four about examining ourselves. 2 Corinthians 13:5, says we must examine all our works. Step ten is step four but ongoing through the rest of our life.

Metanoia (repentance) is not something you do and then forget. It is a firm commitment to being different. A change in attitude and action.

11. Don’t stop changing

Through prayer and meditation, we seek to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Philippians 2:12-13 speaks of working out our salvation over time. This passage reminds us that it is God that works in you at his own pleasure. Hebrews 13:20-21 tells us that it is the peace of God that equips us for every good work.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

By ongoing assessment of our lives, our words, and our actions, we can see if we are truly changing into God’s likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18).

And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

God, having started a good work in you will bring it to fulfilment. Philippians 1:6 says:

For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Growth is a process. You planted a seed, now tend to it so that you can see a harvest.

12. Help others with the benefit of what you have learned

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps of repentance, we support others to do the same as we practice these principles in all areas of our life.

Repentance is a lifestyle. One we should be happy to share with others.

When Jesus first sent out his disciples to preach (Matthew 10:8), he told them this, “Freely you have received; freely give.” Having learned how to repent and, having put it into practice, be willing to support others going through the same process.

Galatians 6:1-10 talks about doing this.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

I would strongly suggest that you be in no hurry to set yourself up as either an expert nor the central support for new Christians. However, sooner or later you will find yourself connecting with someone who has gone through what you have gone through. If they are open to your support, be willing to offer it. This leads us into a whole other topic – discernment – which is best addressed at a later time.

Conclusions on the steps of repentance

Repentance is not and never has been “simply saying sorry to God”. Christ did not come to absolve us of our debts to each other.

Owe no one anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

These steps of repentance are not intended as any sort of hard and fast set of rules. I have simply laid them out this way as a guide to putting into practice what the Bible means when it says to repent of your sins.

We have explored the three parts of sin – personal flaws (hamartia), the wrongdoings (trespass), and the debts (offence). We have also looked at how each can be addressed with God’s help.

Let me know if this has been helpful to you.

Wrestle with God

church

I believe it is time we Christians relearned how to wrestle with God. Too often we paint God as dictating terms to us but the Bible shows us a God that wants to talk things over. These passages of scripture show how reason and understanding form the foundation of spiritual discernment and love.

Blind faith not needed

We often act as if blind faith in God were necessary for a righteous life but in Genesis 32:22-32 Jacob is commended for physically wrestling with God. As a result, he is told: “No longer will your name be Jacob, but Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have prevailed.”

Solomon was praised and rewarded for desiring wisdom and discernment (sound reasoning).

1 Thessalonians 5:21 says to test all things (especially prophecy). 1 Corinthians 13:2 talks of having the gift of prophecy an the ability to prophecy, and fathom all mysteries and all knowledge (but without love, that’s still nothing).

Clearly, God’s intention is for us to apply reason (another word for discernment) and to ask questions. Especially hard questions. Even if those inquiries cast doubts on dearly held beliefs.

Wisdom is found in the words of the discerning person, but the one who lacks wisdom will be disciplined.

Proverbs 10:13 New English Translation (NET Bible).

Have a  full-on morality debate with God

In Genesis 18:16-32 Abraham has a full-on moral debate with God on the subject of God’s morality in judging Sodom. Abraham, a mere mortal, did not just say “thy will be done” but he actually questioned that will and debated it with God.

Not only that but he got God to agree to withhold judgement if just one righteous an could be found in the city.

God stuck to that agreement too and did not bring judgement until after He evacuated the righteous man in question.

Similarly, Moses talked God out of smiting the entire nation of Israel over the whole golden calf affair.

Both men were prepared to wrestle with God over these matters and lives were saved as a result.

God is happy to debate with us

In the first chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:18) God says “let us reason together”. According to my language tool, this is SG3198 to test and prove. Rendered variously as “argue”, “reprove”, “dispute”, “rebuke”, and “render decisions”. Later in Isaiah 43:26 it says this:

Remind me of what happened! Let’s debate!
You, prove to me that you are right!

Test God rigorously

In Malachi 3:10 God says “test me in this”. The prophet Malachi is literally telling us that the Almighty not only wants but fully expects you to investigate if He is being truthful.

This teaches us an important and key concept. Take your favourite ideas, doctrines, and prophecies and see if they can stand up under less favourable conditions. In fact, give them the least favourable possible conditions and let them fail. What is true and good will not fail but that which is flawed, untrue, or false will fall apart in front of you.

Christians should question God on injustice

Lord, you have always been fair
whenever I have complained to you.
However, I would like to speak with you about the disposition of justice.
Why are wicked people successful?
Why do all dishonest people have such easy lives?

Jeremiah 12:1 New English Translation (NET Bible).

Strong reasoning skills needed

Passively accepting whatever teaching is delivered to you is a recipe for being misled. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 directs us to apply reasoning and logic to light a fire under doctrine to see if it can hold up. Instead of defending our doctrines we should try to see if we can demolish them. God-given doctrine will hold up under such scrutiny.

Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said.

1 Corinthians 14:29 New English Translation (NET Bible).

Love and understanding go together

1 Corinthians 13:2 says that the ability to fathom all mysteries and all knowledge without love is meaningless.

Philippians 1:9-11 (NET) has Paul praying that love will abound with understanding :

And I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

Discernment and understanding require practice

There is a reason why a degree from a good university is valued by employers. It shows that the owner of the degree has put in the practice required to understand something. Doctrine is no different.

But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil.

Hebrews 5:14 New English Translation (NET Bible).

Seek wisdom like silver

My child, if you receive my words,
and store up my commands within you,
by making your ear attentive to wisdom,
and by turning your heart to understanding,
indeed, if you call out for discernment—
raise your voice for understanding—
if you seek it like silver,
and search for it like hidden treasure,
then you will understand how to fear the Lord,
and you will discover knowledge about God.
For the Lord gives wisdom,
and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.
He stores up effective counsel for the upright,
and is like a shield for those who live with integrity,
to guard the paths of the righteous
and to protect the way of his pious ones.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity—every good way.

Proverbs 2:1-8 New English Translation (NET Bible).

Pharisee is a word too often on our lips

words have power

I have come to perceive a shortcoming in my choice of language – the way I use the word Pharisee. Specifically, my readiness to use the term Pharisee when really I mean legalist. It was such a ready term that I never stopped to consider the emotional weight it carried.

Our use of “Pharisee” in modern Christianity to denote those that lean on the law is commonplace. Yet it ignores the fact that not all of the Pharisees were like that. But there are two entirely separate deeper reasons for dropping this term from use.

  1. Respect for our Jewish brothers
  2. Accessibility for newcomers

We Christians are slow to realise that our faith was, once, a Jewish faith. We share a common set of roots with the Jewish communities of today. We should be aware that Rabbinic Judaism has been the mainstream form of Judaism since the 6th century. Rabbinic Judaism grew out of Pharisaic Judaism. Therefore, when we use the word Pharisee as a slur what does that say about our respect (or lack thereof) to an entire community? It does not speak well of us.

words have powerSince learning of this, I have grown uncomfortable with the way we use words drawn from Biblical texts. Historic Christianity has already made itself a by-word for the oppression of the Jewish people. Why should we compound this with careless speech and wording?

We must also consider what our word choice says to newcomers to the faith. Not only does the use of insider jargon make us harder to understand but we run the risk of passing on antisemitic biases without ever realising it. If we mean “legalism” or “legalist” why not use those words instead?

As a result, from now on I plan to stop using the word Pharisee outside of discussions about the actual Pharisees (which is not at all often). Even then, I plan to be a whole lot more careful. I have already begun revising the words I use as tags to reflect my new understanding.

I wish to apologise to the entire Jewish community for my use of words that might have suggested any bias or ill-feeling towards them. It is not my intention to dismiss the validity of your culture nor do I seek to replace you in any way. I was simply careless and ill-informed. I am sorry.

Legalism is killing the church

Legalism – and the legalists that preach it – are like cancer in the church. Until we remove the infection, it will continue to drain our strength and corrupt our good works.

There are legalists in all strands of the church. They serve only to weaken us and leave the body ineffective. We decry the decline of church numbers and the apparent disintegration of morality in the world around us. It is not some outside force that is to blame but the legalists that we have allowed into the body.

Legalists that trade the purity of Christ’s teachings of love and grace for a return to a doctrine of impossible laws. Laws like, “agree with me or you will go to hell”. Laws that place the teachings of the legalists beyond reproach and above question. Laws that condemn anything that differs from the culture the legalists wants to create.

Legalism can never be a form of true Christianity

However, they dress it up, however righteous the legalists claim to be – and they so frequently do – and however cleverly they defend their teachings with Bible quotes, what they preach should never be called Christianity. It has the trappings of the faith but has sold its soul for power and pride (2 Timothy 3:1-7).

Christianity means being like Christ. Christianity means following all of His teachings. Teachings like, “love your enemies” (Luke 6:27-36). Teachings that say truly loving God and a complete love of your neighbour fulfil all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40). Teachings that show that true Christians and fake Christians are separated only by the good they do for those most in need (Matthew 25:31-46).

The legalists pay lip service to the doctrine of grace (Ephesians 2:8-10) but see no disunity with placing ever greater burdens for salvation on the individual. The legalists boast in their self-appointed status as “God’s elect” due to their keeping of laws they have made for themselves. As the prophet, Isaiah says – they honour God with their lips but their hearts are far off (Isaiah 29:13).

Legalism neglects mercy

Puffed up with pride, the legalists neglect mercy because they look with disdain upon any that fail to achieve their impossible standards. There is no grace for the humble sinner, no love to cover a multitude of sins – there is only condemnation and with it hate dressed up as righteousness.

Jesus warned of such people, calling them false prophets. Outwardly they look like sheep but inwardly they are hungry wolves (Matthew 7:15-20). Often they will dazzle you with their fierce passion for “the truth” and rise to leadership roles. Rather than protect the sheep, these shepherds will savage and abuse them. In place of pastoral care, there will be only guilt, condemnation, and a heavy burden.

The legalists do not strengthen the weak. They do not heal the sick. They never bring back the strays but condemn them for straying. They rule over the church with cruelty and verbal violence. Jeremiah spoke out against such shepherds in the harshest of terms (Jeremiah 23:1-2). So too did Ezekiel (Ezekiel 34:1-4).

It was perhaps these legalists – the false prophets we were warned about – that, from the third century until the present day, have led the church into institutionalised racism in the name of the faith. A lingering Christian anti-semitism that has tarnished the church and has yet to be rooted out and purged from our ranks.

Legalism is the enemy of grace

It is tempting to see the legalists and their law-heavy teachings as simply a misapplied passion for the Gospel. This is not the case. Legalism is a poison that corrupts and defiles the church. Even a little spoils the whole body (Galatians 5:7-9).

The fruits of legalism are heaviness, divisions, elitism, pride, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, heresies, envy, and many other things that stand in opposition to the nature of Christ and the work of grace (Galatians 5:16-26). In place of love comes harsh rebuke. In place of peace comes conflict. In place of humility comes boasting dressed as righteousness.

It is not true that legalists are simply overly enthusiastic Christians. The Bible calls them servants of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). There can be no place for legalism in our churches.

A call to repentance

Repentance worked in Holiness and humble compassion are what we need. It is in that spirit we must root out all forms of legalism. First within ourselves and then within the church. We must recognise that legalism is a grave sin that brings certain death both to the credibility of our witness and to the body of Christ – the church.

If we desire to see a change in this world. If we are to see the day when righteousness is the rule and not the exception. If we desire what some are happy to call revival then we must humble ourselves in repentance (2 Chronicles 7:14). This must not be a lip-service repentance, for a faith without resultant works is dead (James 2:14-26), there must be true change.

This may mean taking a winnowing fork to long cherish doctrines. Your church may shrink as the legalists depart for easier prey elsewhere. It might be painful to give up the righteousness that is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It may also mean selling or giving up the signs of wealth within your church (Luke 12:32-34) in order to care for those in need. But when the legalism is gone, and only then, will the Holy Spirit be free to usher in true Christianity.

It is time for our churches to call on the Name of the Lord and be saved.

Christian cybermisogyny and hate speech has to end

fire

There is a trend that the church simply cannot afford to ignore – cybermisogyny and harassment of women “in the name of Christ”. I wish I was joking.

I’ve talked before about what I call “Trolls For Christ” – the worst kind of ill-informed Pharisee determined to spill hate in defence of the church. Just recently I penned an open letter to a church leader engaged in cybermisogyny dressed up as a book review.

This “defending the church” argument in support of cybermisogyny (because it targets women far more than men) is wrong on two grounds – a minor point but the church does not need us to defend it (that’s taken care of, read the Bible) but more importantly – because hate speech should have no part in Christian living. Not ever.

Jesus talked about being meek, turning the other cheek, forgiving sins, and healing people. Somehow we have made it all about defending our rights. Did we forget that he said over and over that when someone tries to trample your rights – help them to do it? If they sue you for your coat, give them also your shirt. If someone compels you to go a mile, go two miles. That is literally where the expression “to go the extra mile” comes from.

How bad is cybermisogyny?

The Guardian reports that women writers are facing unprecedented levels of harassment, rape threats, and abuse.

In 2014 there was an organised campaign of harassment that became known as GamerGate. The harassment campaign targeted several women in the video game industry; notably game developers Zoë Quinn, Brianna Wu, and media critic Anita Sarkeesian.

Account upon account of the online harassment of women continues to pile up.

WMC report that this can include defamation and accusations of blasphemy. Defamation, in this case, can include coordinated attempts where a person, or, sometimes, organized groups deliberately flood Google, social media and review sites with negative and defamatory information.

As for the blasphemy charges…

Women face online threats globally, but they run a unique risk in conservative religious countries, where, in blasphemy is against the law and where honor killings are a serious threat. Accusing someone of blasphemy can become, itself, an act of violence.

A 2013 report from the organisation Working to Halt Abuse Online showed that 72.5% of those who reported being abused on the internet were female. That, right there, is cybermisogyny.

This all culminated in a campaign under the hashtag #MeToo. How did the church respond?

What is the church doing about cybermisogyny?

Is the church speaking up those that have no voice like the scriptures say (Proverbs 31:8)? Do we weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15-18)? Do we, as God’s law command, protect the fatherless and the widow (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)?

No. No, we do not.

We don’t do this because the church is too busy joining in with the cybermisogyny. We cannot condemn the sin because we are the sin.

Australian Christian news website, Eternity News, shared an article dedicated to ordinary women revealing sexual harassment by Christians.

#MeToo: Christian women share stories of assault at the hands of Christian men

And we wonder why the church is not seen as relevant any more?

Disagreeing with you is not a sin, church

I hate to have to be the one pointing this out because I thought we were past these basics but disagreeing with someone while being a woman is not a sin; harassing a person you disagree with is a sin, though.

Treating women like something you can own is a sin.

This cybermisogyny, protecting cybermisogyny, and failing to speak out against cybermisogyny from Christians are all sins too.

It is not okay to call women all kinds of names, to suggest their character, their faith, or their life is anything less than it is just because the way they interpret the Bible or chose to live their lives, differs from the way you do.

Jesus said, in John 13:35, that it would be our love for each other that would show we are his disciples. This behaviour shows that we are not His disciples. Maybe few of us ever were.

The church needs to repent, and fast

The moment #MeToo started to break headlines, church groups the world over should have joined with the oppressed and cried out for justice. We did not and that is to our shame.

Our churches must, most urgently, change how we address sexual violence. So far we have done too poor a job of even recognising that it exists. We have failed to be salt and light. I think we all know all that salt which is no longer salty is good for?

I don’t pretend to have a plan for how we can change but Eugene Hung has some strong suggestions.

  1. Ministers and their churches need to address sexual violence on a regular basis.
  2. Ministers and churches must not neglect biblical passages that describe sexual violence.
  3. Churches need to bring more women into upper levels of leadership and decision-making authority.
  4. Church leaders must refuse to be party to conspiracies of silence.

We need to change and we need to change fast.

Fixing Calvinism but you might not like it

There may be a way of fixing Calvinism and the problems that Limited Atonement introduce but I do not think its supporters would like it at all. 

I wrote recently about what I see as the fatal flaw – a hamartia if you will – in Calvinistic doctrine. Today, I’d like to propose a way to correct it.

My problem with the forms of Calvinism (that I have encountered) are the variations on the doctrine of Limited Atonement. More specifically, the behaviour it seems to produce in its adherents. These doctrines that limit the atonement to only God’s elect that are exposed to doctrinal tests go on to fail at every turn.

Calvinism sets up as a core belief that Grace is irresistible. It has to wrestle with the fact that while Philippians 2:10 talks about every knee bowing at the Name of Jesus when very few actually seem to do so. This is where Limited Atonement comes in. It says that God only picks those of us he loves and wants to save – everyone else was born for hell. It is not exactly conducive to loving people unconditionally. Why love those God hates?

As I have indicated before, this can produce a spiritual smugness – “God likes me, but you He hates”. That little bit of the yeast of the Pharisees goes on to corrupt the whole doctrinal system, its believers, and the church as a whole.

The fix (but you might not like it)

The fix to this problem was prosed sometime around the start of the seventeenth century by Moses Amyraut (1596–1664). I’ve talked about this person before when I tried (and utterly failed) to accurately define Amyraldism. My mistake was in not understanding Moses Amyraut’s idea that we are all the elect; everyone will be saved in the end.

Clearly then, I do not understand this doctrine as well as I thought I did. However, it does provide a form of Calvinism that can exist without the Biblically questionable doctrines that God only wishes to save some of us. Of course, you then have to accept a doctrine of the eventual salvation of all mankind. A doctrine is more commonly known as Universal Salvation.

This much wider and more inclusive Calvinism is, at least, more internally consistent, and less at odds with scripture. It would require you to abandon any doctrine of eternal punishment in hell too. In short, it calls for a full dose of metanoia. Which is okay because a change of mind is a vital part of repentance. Something we Christians should be comfortable with.

I am undecided about Calvinism but this way of fixing Calvinism at least leaves it doctrinally coherent.

Testing Doctrines: Limited atonement

In this post, I will try to apply the Testable Doctrine Theory to the doctrine of limited atonement.

Testable Doctrine Theory is an idea I put forward that says that a sound doctrine should be able to stand up to a series of tests and that only sound doctrine would pass these tests.

Limited atonement is the idea that Christ only died for some people and not others.

Continue reading