In their excellent “The Rage Against God” book, Peter Hitchens notes how belonging to his local church congregation are many people older than himself and his family, similarly there are more youthful members of the gathering, however, believers around the same age as him or his wife aren’t a feature of the church. Unlike in the tale of the prodigal son, he mused, who upon arriving home is met by the open arms of their loving father, Peter returned home from his lengthy apostasy to no fanfare, no celebration, just a rundown Church of England which no longer even read from their wonderfully written King James translation of the Bible. The damage had been done. Or as any artist will tell you, a masterpiece can take decades to complete, yet only seconds to destroy. They had walked away from not just their God, but the community of believers, causing an exit from the community which has always been a delight of the militant faithless. Nonetheless, today this taste for “unchurching” isn’t simply the domain of the atheist, many self professing believers are now proclaiming from the housetops the joys of ditching church life. These people aren’t happy to merely stop going to church though, they’re asking you to stop going too! Such people insist on saying “The church isn’t a building, it’s the believers.” yet they’re extracting themselves not from buildings, but from gatherings of the faithful. The same sort aren’t avoiding the bricks and mortar, they’re not renouncing the alters and incense, instead they’re refusing to come together with people of the church so to praise the Lord, as these same church gatherings have somehow been deemed unworthy of the unchurched. Enter Jim Gordon (DWR), Jem and Kevin, writers and apparent unchurchers who have engaged me recently. Do they have Biblical justification for their life choices, let’s find out, after which I’m going to write an open letter to Jim Gordon directly, if they’re disinterested in rereading the entire conversation I hope they’ll at least read my closing words of encouragement to them. First however, the article which prompted my questions.
Jim wrote: I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that I do not want to be someone who is always against something. Seems so many christian people today speak out more about what they are against and who they are against.
Whatever that may be, against this sin or that sin, against particular lifestyles, against a particular denomination or Bible version, all the different subjects we Christians can think of that end up taking away our main focus….loving God and loving others. We will take the bible and twist interpretations and meanings or use verses out of context trying to prove our point.
Jesus told us in the New Covenant that His commands were to love God and love others. We do not have to agree with everyone to love them. We obviously all have our convictions of right and wrong and we are not going to agree on every one of them. We do not have to focus on those convictions or try to push our views on others. We are told to love others no matter what. We are not responsible for converting people, that is God’s job. We are told to love them.
When Jesus walked the earth He did not spend a lot of time with the religious people. He was out with the sick, poor, the neglected, and those the religious people did not want to be around.
I know I did it for a long time. I thought I was better than others because I went to church. I felt I had to stay away from those who did not believe because their sins would rub off on me. I would always hang out with my church friends and stay away from the “worldly” people.
I would spend more time trying to prove my points and my beliefs, telling people what was wrong and what to stay away from, rather than spend time with God and others.
Obviously God calls us to follow Him and that is going to be in different ways for each of us. Yet to spend more time arguing, condemning, trying to prove our views on the Bible, pointing out people’s mistakes and shortcomings does not do anything except turn people away from us.
When we begin to understand the freedom we have in Christ and start living through grace that Christ provided, we can be free to love and accept all those we come in contact with each day even in our differences. We can show the love of Christ to all by allowing the Spirit to live through us.
Do not worry so much about who is right and who is wrong. Do not always be against something. Be for Jesus. Be for love. Be for others. Follow Jesus and let him love through you. Let him be the central focus of your life and allow his love to flow out of you and touch those around you.
My reply read: I’m curious as to how your words (“We are not responsible for converting people, that is God’s job.”) makes sense in light of The Great Commission, which reads like so: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The Twelve, as explained by the above, are being told to teach, preach, baptize and cause others to no longer believe the things they once believed, instead both the unbelieving mind and as a consequence their actions would be transformed (conversion).
It appears as though you’re calling Biblical Christianity hateful.
Jim to my message replied: I honestly believe that it is the Spirit of God that convicts the world of sin. No one comes to Christ except the Father draws them. We are not told to convict the world of sin nor judge. We are told to love God and love others. The Spirit of God will convict and draw people to the Father. Once the Spirit draws them we are to walk along side them to encourage and built them in discipleship. I do not believe “Biblical Christianity” is hateful because God is love. That is why we are to love God and love others. Now the religion of christianity can be very hateful. There is a big difference. Thanks for the comment.
My reply wasn’t prompt in coming, largely because Jim finds it appropriate to repeatedly delete my messages before finally posting, nonetheless: Post my reply, DWR. Blocking and deleting when another poster shares Scripture shows there’s something seriously going wrong with your blog.
I understand you believe the above, insofar as it’s an overarching description of how you imagine it’s best to operate, however, that’s why I’m asking about specified portions of the Bible’s overreaching description. Because, let’s say for a for instance, having discovered your description of Christian duties didn’t confirm, or partial omitted (or worst still condemned), what the Bible describes as the totality of a believing person’s Christian duties, people would have to then consider you a false teacher (or at best someone writing “with zeal” though “not according to knowledge”).
You’re, at least insofar as your messages are reading, asking people to take the word of Jesus as found in Their follower’s oral histories seriously. You’re writing “Jesus commanded people to love!” as if to insist people ought to obey and love (though you aren’t constituting in any detail what it means to behave lovingly). Thankfully, the same histories, namely those of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John (in addition to others) are more thorough. In The Book of the Acts of the Apostles, for example, Jesus is quoted as saying: “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Jesus’ promise in the above is that Their followers are soon going to “receive power”, yet, what are the limits of the received “power”? Could love and love alone be everything believers are afforded, and if so, what does “love” look like. An answer isn’t long in arriving, as being “clothed with power from on high” explains.
Luke 24:44-49: Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Minor variant readings explain “repentance and forgiveness” in more exclusive terms in favor of repentance (I.e “repentance for forgiveness”). Upon being indwelt (or with power) by The Holy Spirit therefore, truly regeneration believers are destined not merely to be distinguished by their love, but rather through proclaiming repentance also.
“Repentance” in the New Testament context means quite uncompromisingly to turn, as in to reflect upon one’s wrong actions, feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs (with which people turn from their past misdeed).
‘In Biblical Hebrew, the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: shuv (to return) and nacham (to feel sorrow). In the New Testament, the word translated as ‘repentance’ is the Greek word (metanoia), “after/behind one’s mind”, which is a compound word of the preposition ‘meta’ (after, with), and the verb ‘noeo’ (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by ‘after’ and ‘different’; so that the whole compound means: ‘to think differently after’. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind and change of conduct, “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”‘
Once more, both you and I are taking the Gospels, the oral histories of Jesus’ early followers, very seriously. So, why aren’t the above behaviours, just as how love has been, being proscribed by way of your above material (or any of your teachings)? True believers upon their being clothed from upon high by The Holy Spirit do (in direct contradiction to the above article) preach against certain behaviours and even for people involved in such to repent, meaning to turn and be changed as the believer has experienced already.
The Great Commission, whereby Jesus authoritatively commands Their followers to preach repentance to every nation in Their name, which you felt it unnecessary to comment upon, appears only to be further confirmed by Peter’s Pentecost sermon, through which again people are asked that they repent:
“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”
Similarly, Saint Paul insisted by power not their own (having been clothed in righteousness), how people ought not to continue in their sinful ways, rather that they ought to be told truth in love, with which they’re actually allowed an opportunity to repent:
“You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
(1) Jesus’ words as found in Their early follower’s oral histories are to you and I authoritative.
(2) As authoritative Jesus’ command in The Great Commission and elsewhere to “preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins” and/or “preach repentance and forgiveness of sins” is an active command upon people clothed by The Holy Spirit.
(3) You by way of your material both insist you’re indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit (in addition to boldly insisting in other places certain believers who disagree with you aren’t really Christians). Therefore point (2) applies to yourself.
(4) Truly regenerate believers are commanded, even compelled by God’s Spirit, to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
(5) You appear to refuse preaching repentance either in love or otherwise, but more peculiarly, you also condemn everybody who does bravely ask that others would review and conform their sinful lifestyle into God’s own image, as you write:
“To me it is really disturbing to read some of the Christian extremists comments, a group who should be known for love and acceptance but are showing their true colors of hatred and unacceptance. These are not true Christians and it is a tragedy in itself that people will use the guise of Christianity to promote and spread their hatred and un-Christ-like ways.”
(6) The above, your own condemnation against people while in defense of the LGBT community (a reoccurring theme of yours), may, if I may be so bold as to suggest, be reminiscent of Jesus’ encounters against the famous Pharisees, in which they in their zeal attributed the material works of The Holy Spirit to Beelzebub. Opening The Gospel of Matthew:
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”‘
Religious/political elitists falsely claimed an operation of The Holy Spirit was an act of evil or produced by an unclean spirit having indwelt the Christ, of course it was their claims, their claims and not Jesus’ actions, which were shameful. You however, appear to condemn Christians being prompted by The Holy Spirit in that they preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Would you care to clarify?
Jim Gordon replied: oldschoolcontemporary — Let me first say I appreciate your interest in my site and for taking the time to comment. Next, you and I have had a conversation before about what I write. It is only my opinion and I may be right or I may be wrong but it is how I feel at the moment. I trust God to lead me and teach me His truth in His timing. I also stated that I refuse to go back and forth in debate or trying to explain myself on what I write. You are certainly welcome to comment on my articles and I appreciate that you see some things differently. You are certainly entitled to have your opinion which also may be right or may be wrong. But on this site, I request that when commenting you keep your comments fairly short and to the point whether you agree or disagree. I prefer not posting extremely long comments from anyone because it takes up so much space. Again know that I am not going to debate or go back and forth defending my point. Also from now on I will not approve or post any extremely long comment on my articles due to the space it takes up. Thanks again for posting your thoughts and opinion.
My reply read: It also goes without saying (though I’ll write it anyways) I too appreciate anybody taking time from their day to reply or attempt to explain their viewpoint. You’re asking writers adding to the content and quality of your blog to in essence write what they believe without why they believe in the things which they do (For example: “But on this site, I request that when commenting you keep your comments fairly short and to the point whether you agree or disagree.”)
Insisting that people only write or share what belief statements as opposed to why statements has historically been the driving force behind people leaving their churches, they’re told by their church initially “We’re against (insert opposite view)”, though they’re never taught why in harmony with the what. You’re posting mostly what statements, with an odd why statement thrown in through Scripture, you’re doing the above in lengthy written articles, yet they’re asking posters to neither write why statements, nor to take up space (though you allow yourself the luxury to do both).
You’re asking writers to edit both the length and content of the messages they’re writing to you because you yourself either find the material “too space consuming” (as if the internet is going to run out of space), or because you have a distaste for taking part in friendly conversations over the subject. Due to the above I’m going to briefly add clarity by use of a couple of questions:
(1) What is an acceptable word count insofar as you’re concerned?
(2) You’re arguing for an interpretation of Scripture by way of your articles, yet insist people should stop arguing over interpretation of Scripture. In other words, you’re castigating people for insisting upon an interpretation of Scripture while insisting upon an interpretation of Scripture, in what way is the above not simply a basic error in logic?
A poster named Kevin contributed soon after: There’s a big difference, in my mind, between “discipling” and “converting.” Jesus didn’t instruct His disciples to convert people, save people, beat them over the head with the Torah (since there was no “Holy Bible” at the time) to convince them of anything. He told the disciples to go and BE His witnesses; go and tell people what they had witnessed. I suppose you could argue that when He said to “Go and make disciples” that He was talking about converting people, but let’s be real; we simply have no power to convert anyone. Only the Spirit, working in a person’s heart can truly convince them. We can only show up and be His witnesses. The problem we have today, is that, as Darin Hufford says, “People don’t witness, because they haven’t really witnessed anything.”
More about Darin Hufford later, although Gordon offers words of encouragement: Thanks Kevin. So true, God can work through us at times, but it is His Spirit that converts. We can encourage, build up and disciple those who are Hims but again, it is the Spirit the convicts and converts. Thanks for the comment.
My reply to Kevin then goes unanswered: With regards to your quotation however, which says “People don’t witness, because they haven’t really witnessed anything” I’d have to say I’m surprised, as wouldn’t they have their conversion experience to share by way of a testimony?! To say they haven’t witnessed anything is to me very interesting, haven’t they experienced the inner witness of the Holy Spirit upon their heart, that moment in which they truly knew Jesus?
Nobody, least of all Christ, was commanding people to brain jack a person, to take control of their mind and force contrition or conversion upon them, however They do clearly command that believes behave in such a way as to facilitate an unbeliever coming to that place of repentance (hence the Great Commission).
Jem: Why is it that you disrespect DWR, as you call him, OSC? Is that Christian? Is that loving? Stop posting long, argumentative comments on other folks blog sites. Run your own blog site then you can go on and on to your heart’s content, but to take over another blog site in such a manner is not good, whether your opinion is right or wrong. Please respect the blog site. Blessings in Christ’s name.
While I was tempted to remind Jem that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” I decided instead on simply asking some further questions: You’d have to very specifically explain where I have gone so far as to disrespect either Jim or Kevin, Jem. Please don’t be shy about quoting my replies if ever an argument or sentence happens to read as particularly aggressive, share the way in which you believe I’ve behaved disrespectfully.
I’ve both posed questions to my kind host and quoted Scripture so that the author and their readers can read, study, enjoy and understand, you’re however displeased by the above.
Are you really annoyed/angry/incensed by the length of words on a public online comments section, or perhaps the content (or both), maybe you’re simply taking exception because posters often appear to dislike being contradicted? For which you come to their support.
You’re making demands with regards to how I ought to behave as if to quote the Bible was criminal, even going so far as to write I may “go on and on” as though God’s Word was an old prattling annoyance to you, just background noise “going on and on” while you’re busy doing something more valuable.
Could there be an outside possibility that you’re very much misreading my messages, and that people can disagree, and have an ongoing conversation about those same disagreements, without coming from an angle of disrespect, condemnation or hatred, but rather being motivated by curiosity, love, studiousness and an openness to the things of God?
As you could guess, nobody continued writing to me, not Jim, Jem or Kevin. This however is the verdict, and my challenge to the people behind Done with religion: “I’m going to unchurch” But what does this mean, and why the campaign against people who do continue to gather in God’s name, Jim? You’re going after congregations of goodly people, you’re attacking a family, people gathering to worship and celebrate the love of God in their lives. Is there no congregation worthy of you? Is no “Church” good enough to fulfill the needs of generation special snowflake? The answer is no, and why? Because it’s community itself that the unchurched people have rebelled against. For some reason they’re so against that feeling of community, either for fear of being policed by the majority, or cries of elitism, or being conformed to the group dynamic, that they’re actually against a coming together of God’s people. Yet, don’t the Scriptures teach a house divided against itself can’t stand? Though here you are, a man ignoring many of Jesus’ words asking that the house divide on your say so. You’re renouncing church authorities who are more skilled in these matters than you, and even throwing out the reliability of the Bible, but in favour of who? For the rhetoric of authors like Darin Hufford, Rob Bell and LGBT activists, men and women who read the Scriptures with an eye closed (in essence rejecting many of the words of Jesus Himself).
Mixing the truth of Scripture with lies only makes a more poisonous seduction, Jim. Is what you’re doing any less dishonest than when people read the Bible, then returned with the verdict that black skin colour was the mark put upon Cain by God, or that the friendship of David and Saul’s son Johnathan is proof of homosexual romance in the Old Testament, don’t you see how wrong it is for you to be a small part of this group which bombard people with lies? Unlike your message, Jesus didn’t say “accept” every other word, that’s common LGBT activist lexicon (are you an activist against the church?). It’s not that I’ve shared any of the above so to shame you, but I have read, and firmly believe, Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. You’re at a point in life however where you won’t write about what Scripture says in an online comments section. You’re closing the door on people learning about God’s Word. Isn’t any part of the above causing you pause for thought? Paul upon mars hill didn’t reply to the question of the “unknown God” by silence, instead he risked himself by saying something true (albeit controversial). Your views by contrast are as hemlock, you’re unlike the unbelieving public in only the most superficial ways, whereas the similarities appear from the outside looking in to cut right through down to the center.
You agree with the Bible only when the Bible agrees with you, even interpretating its content in light of your convictions, those and not the convictions of the original authors. Do you interpret written text in light of the author’s views, or in light of your views? So, why read from a Bible in the first place, the portions which you agree with are only those which already tickle your fancy, whereas the rest, the portions which don’t agree with you, by which the portions which appear to agree are given proper context, are thrown out. If a person’s religious outlook has been reduced to a collection of culturally pre-approved platitudes, while ejecting the inconvenient rest, why bother pretending your views are made up of anything other than the politically correct platitudes themselves. Isn’t such a person as this merely shoehorning into today’s social mores whatever aspects of Christianity they can misuse, they’re not critiquing the culture by way of a Christian worldview, that’s because to them the Christian message isn’t of prime concern, instead they’re marshalling a case in defense of modern culture through picking the bones of everything in the Christian viewpoint with the appearance of having harmony with the irreligious secular norms.
My ask of you, if you’re sincere, if you really believe in Jesus Christ as more than just a man in a book, but as the living Prince of peace and Lord of love, is this: Prayerfully consider His words as a part of His community, not as a loner, not as someone outside of the community reading from Paul Ellis or Darin Hufford, but rather join the congregation, break bread with people in the church building, share your worries and return to your roots. That doesn’t mean going back to the same people, or the same church, but rather just find people who love the Lord in what’s commonly called the church setting, for isn’t it written: “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”?
― T. C. M