July 12, 2020

Open Forum — July 16, 2014


While Gail and I enjoy the hospitality of IM reader Ted and his wife here in Maine, I will leave it to you all to come up with today’s topics in an open forum.

Be civil.

Don’t dominate the discussion.

Listen well.

Enjoy God’s gift of conversation.

If the site holds your comment for some reason, be patient — I may not be able to release it for awhile.



  1. That is one place (Maine) that I have always wanted to visit. Have a great time there, Mike.


    I wanted to share this brief but outstanding (IMHO) message, that I believe all denominations and non-denominational types will appreciate:


    It’s under 15 min. Just listen to 2 min.worth and you’ll see what I mean.


  2. Should we set the poor Nigerian pastor up with the “Collection Plate” guy and solve both of their problems???

    0 😉

  3. You had great weather in Vermont. I hope the rainy weather now does not interrupt your plans too much, Mike and Gail. Ted’s part of Maine is beautiful no matter what the weather is anyway. Have fun!

    • Got some good fog pictures from the ferry yesterday. Walked to church in a downpour this morning, but didn’t melt. Love it here.

      • Radagast says

        Every time I think of Ted the fisherman A Salty Dog by Procol Harum plays in my head…. other times its more like Pete Seeger or Peter, Paul and Mary……. gotta be some great picture material up there, CM please share if you get a chance….. Oh, almost forgot… Murder She Wrote – Cabot Cove…..

        By the way, I am quite sure that Ted was probably good friends with the Bush’s of Kennebunkport since his politics swings that way ; )

        • A Salty Dog. Procol Harum. Yes!

        • Not really a fan of the Bushes, Radagast, you know that; but I’ve mellowed out on Bush Sr. since his retirement and some of the worthwhile things he’s done since then. Just wish he’d retired decades earlier. And Bush Jr would have stayed in Texas.

          Mike and Gail excellent house guests but they brought the rain and fog.

          • Ted, since it’s Open forum, tell us more about your fishing. Is it vocational, or recreational, or both?
            Salt or fresh? Bait or fly? Etc.

          • Lobster fishing. Commercial (vocational, as in, I’ve never had a better job offer and I’m otherwise unemployable. And my dad and grand-dad were mixed up in this so what else was I going to do?). I would never call this recreational, but I do have a light rod aboard in case a see a school of mackerel alongside the float while waiting for a tardy family member. But I never use it. Salt water. Definitely salt water, but after this morning’s downpour it’s at lot fresher.

    • I’ve never understood why some think rain ruins a vacation. If I’m in the Maine area, or Florida, or overseas, and I don’t get a little rain, I’d be disappointed. Rain just changes the landscape so completely and makes everything peaceful, it’s one of the greatest joys in my life.

      • Stuart, I don’t mind some rain if I have a number of days off to enjoy a vacation. But, if you are doing something like climbing around on rocks, rain can make it more dangerous. Or, if you are taking photos, a pouring rain can be problematic for the camera. If it’s COLD and rainy, you can even get hypothermic depending upon what is going on. But, in general, I enjoy seeing, feeling, hearing the rain. It also saves me time watering the gardens!

      • Randy Thompson says

        I agree, Stuart.
        A rainy vacation day is an excellent excuse to stay in and read something fun.

      • I’m from Southern California.

        What is this thing you call, “rain”?

        It sounds vaguely familiar.

  4. Robert F says

    Jesus speaks about hell far more often than any other voice in the Bible. Why does Jesus speak so often about hell? What was Jesus referring to when he spoke about hell? A place of everlasting torment of the lost? Something else? How do we avoid understanding faith as something motivated by fear when the author and finisher of our faith spoke so much about hell?

    • Robert- Have you been following the series of posts over at Jesus Creed? Scot McKnight has hosted a number of discussions about the 3 main views: Eternal Conscious Torment, Conditional Immortality or Annihilation, and Universalism. There is some interesting exegesis of Jesus’ use of “Gehenna”.

    • William Martin says

      If I spoke to you about how it is possible to experience hell on earth would you except it. If I can experience a piece of Heaven on earth why not the opposite. If I told you about the darkness that surrounded me in addictions and my endless struggle to try and fulfill myself by every means other than God and the swirling hole of that toilet would you be able to see the contrast and my now extreme gratitude for the one who saves me from it even now. In my last days of using where shadows swirled around me in the seemingly endless torment of my souls agony where I cut myself and ripped barbed hooks out of my body just to feel better. If it is possible for sickness to drive us into a prison where we filled separated by totally focusing on how horrible we feel then it too is possible for pain to distract us from the horribleness of the complete agony of our spirit. I know if I had the time to totally explain everything I saw and the complete torment of living in self alone trying desperately to feel better and never being able to do it others might see the incredible hopelessness of what an enemy wants us to join it in. Everything is totally opposite of what God is. Maybe in the contrast we could see what our King was trying to tell us. I know what hell is and inside me is this incredible love that wants no one to go there. I can feel Him in this and I catch the glimpses of what He was trying to say. Wish I had time this morning to tell of circumstances and such that put me there but a hard day awaits. Many are experiencing pieces of hell on earth today. Maybe if one crosses our path we can speak of the good news or just at the very least a tangible blessing of some kindness. I know guilt and shame would never be a motive for me to have someone come to Him. I would only ever testify of what I personally know and how that effected my heart and who I am today because of it. He went so far as to hang there for me so I would not have to go there forever. Such love like this breaks the chains forever. If I could describe the greater degrees of freedom I live in with each passing day then the contrast of light and darkness could be clearly seen. Our precious Savior. Expressed in the deepest love…….Bill All mistakes are mine

      • Rick Ro. says

        I meant to say this earlier after I first read it…

        Thanks for sharing your story, Bill.I like the way you’ve described your journey and your thoughts.

    • Michael Z says

      He was following the tradition of the prophets, who used “hellfire and brimstone” imagery quite frequently as a rhetorical device to condemn those who oppressed the poor and marginalized. So, those passages are perhaps best understood not as a theological explanation of life after death, but rather as a prophetic attack on the injustices he saw around him.

      • And a warning of the coming fall of Jerusalem. See Andrew Perriman’s blog — some thought-provoking stuff there.

        • It’s amazing how sometimes all that fall of Jerusalem in Scripture stuff just all of a sudden clicks and you see it. Even after years of conditioning saying the opposite.

      • “condemn those who oppressed the poor and marginalized. “

        This makes it sound like a social condemnation. It is more than that, it is a warning on personal behavior. Even the poor can “oppress the poor”.

        As an aside, I did a cursory search of the word “hell” in the gospels and Acts and found from 11 to17 references, depending on the version, and most of them were in the sermon on the mount and in the condemnation of the scribes and pharisee.

        • Indeed, Jesus seems pretty intent on telling folks what he thinks of people steeped in religiosity and churchianity, and it ain’t pretty.

        • Robert F says

          That’s interesting, oscar. Very interesting.

        • As I understand, it was Jesus who introduced the idea of hell as we know it. His model was “Gehenna,” or the Valley of Hinnom on the south side of Jerusalem. It was used as the city dump, unlike the Valley of Kidron to the east, through which one passed to get to the garden of Gethsemane.

          Gehenna, the dump, was filled with dung, animal corpses, bones, rot, flies, rats, dogs, vultures, fire, smoke, stench. A vivid, 3-dimensional, multi-sensory image. Abandon hope, ye who enter (no, that was Dante, but he got the idea from Jesus).

    • My take on it is this:
      Jesus is all about Good News. I try to read most of what Jesus says within that context. He didn’t come to condemn. He didn’t come to create fear. He came to share Good News.

      So what’s the Good News in mentioning hell? The Good News is that he loves us so much he wants to warn us about some eternal consequences. It’s as if he’s standing in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, saying, “Look, you really don’t want to eat from that Tree.”

    • The way I see it is this: If there is no hell, what on earth is Jesus saving me from?
      I don’t really care for the exact details of hell: conscious physical torment, mental anguish, annihilationism… they are all ways for us to try to understand a realm on a higher (or lower) plane of reality. Our ability to understand the awfulness of hell falls as short as our ability to understand the bliss of paradise. I can only conclude these things with certainty: It is a terrible place, I certainly do not want to be there, and I shouldn’t wish it on my worst enemies.

      When the language of Jesus to describe it sounds unnecessarily cryptic to my cynical ears, I lean on the language of the creeds, especially the Athanasian. Here at least I have an understanding that, though limited, is historical and catholic. I don’t expect to improve upon it with all my modern enlightenment.

      How do we avoid understanding faith as something motivated by fear when the author and finisher of our faith spoke so much about hell?

      If faith is based on a decision you make, there is no way. There is no improper means to motivate that decision, so long as it is made, say the revivalists.

      If faith is not a decision we make, but rather, a conviction that something is in fact true (that Jesus is risen from the dead), then fear has no bearing on this reality. The fact that you or I have come to this conviction is not the result of our personal brilliance or merit. This enlightenment, if we posses it, is a gift, given from above, through the church. Fear can never cause faith, it can only lead to despair. Faith is wrought of grace, and the believing heart will fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        Yeah, your first sentence is kind of the crux for me. I would add that I can’t imagine a good God who does not behave retributively. When I think about Pol Pot, Adolph Hitler – heck, Adam Lanza – I have to believe that there is justice for them in the next life. What this looks like, exactly, is not transparent to me, but I’m not at all sure i would want to go to a heaven run by a God who decided to give people like this a free pass.

        • Huh. I don’t really get when people talk about a “free pass,” as though Jesus’ death & resurrection wasn’t a big deal.

          I know this leads directly to a theories of atonement conversation, and maybe we should go there, but in the meantime….geez. If Jesus accomplished more on the cross than we might realize, is that something we’re going to fight against?

          • It’s not so much that calling it a “free pass” treats Christ’s work as insignificant. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. To object to the free pass means it IS ok to treat the death and resurrection of Christ as incidental. Either it needs to be believed in, or it is safe to ignore. I don’t think you can have it both ways.

          • I respectfully disagree Miguel… and I’m surprised at your take, given your aversion to free will/choice and the like. It kinda, almost seems to imply that the death & resurrection event is only relevant if belief in it occurs, and that it didn’t accomplish anything on its own merit.

            Emphasis on “kinda, almost” because I know better than to think you think this. It’s just the language.

          • Sean, what are you saying that the death and resurrection of Christ accomplished for the believers? I know that to the faithful, Christ says “This is my body, which is given for you.” But does the unbeliever receive this benefit? If so, that makes faith, in Christ’s death and resurrection, of no worth.

            Don’t get me wrong, Lutherans believe in universal atonement. But the food in your fridge does you little good if you don’t actually eat it. And by “eat,” we mean “believe,” not necessarily “choose.”

          • Yikes! Should have read “what are you saying the death and resurrection of Christ accomplished for non-believers?”

        • flatrocker says

          As opposed to the free pass for “people like us?”

          I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we look at hell from two distinctly different perspectives.

          Do we believe there is a hell and we pray it is empty.
          Do we believe there is a hell and it damn well better be full.

          How we line up with these two views seems to expose our view of the interplay between mercy and justice.

          For all the canonization hoopla the Catholic Church puts itself through, there is one aspect I find intriguing with the process. They presume to definitively know who is in heaven through canonization of certain individuals. But never in all their years have they proclaimed any one individual to be definitively in hell. This does not lessen the reality of justice as much as it allows for the power of mercy.

          Maybe there’s hope for people like us and them.

          • I propose a third perspective on hell to you: There is a hell and it will be filled only with the wicked, and a paradise to be filled only with the righteous. Wouldn’t that be justice?

          • Robert F says

            Yes, flatrocker, I have to agree with you. If we want God to be “just” with Hitler and others as obviously evil as him, then we will have to accept God also being “just” with us, and that’s frightening, given how Jesus seemed to draw a kind of equivalence between sins that are enacted only in the heart and sins that we commit in an obvious and external way. If we want mercy for ourselves, we necessarily have to accept that mercy is open to Hitler as well.

          • flatrocker says

            Your third perspective is actually contained within the first. Shouldn’t our prayer be that the wicked can be redeemed? This does not preclude the existence nor the justification for hell. It is simply a prayer that even the most heinous of individuals might reside in the Lord. His mercy allows for this possibility. Why can not mercy pay the debt owed to justice without diminishing one for the other?

          • I’m with Miguel on the justice part. Hell is not meant to put fear into everyone, only those who oppress others or trash the living God. But somehow they feel themselves justified, even blame the victims, so it’s unlikely that they’ll fear hell until they see it.

            In the meantime, hell offers the rest of us hope that justice will be done in God’s kingdom, if not on earth then at least in heaven.

          • Robert F says

            “In the meantime, hell offers the rest of us hope that justice will be done in God’s kingdom, if not on earth then at least in heaven.”

            Hell offers me no hope, and I find the idea that we should take comfort in God’s justice being visited on other people frighteningly supportive of Nietzsche’s claim that Christianity is a slave religion built on resentment, in which God is put in the role of enacting the revenge that Christians are too timid and soul-weak to take themselves. In this way, our desire for revenge is projected onto a cosmic screen while our secret hatred of our enemies masquerades as love, all the while awaiting the day when the shit will hit the fan, and we get front row seats to our enemies’ spiritual evisceration by a God who does our dirty work.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            I’m just being honest. I honestly wouldn’t want to be part of a heaven that included Pot, Hitler, or Mao. And I find the idea that all sins are the same to be absurd (not to mention completely at odds with Scripture). So, yeah, I’m not sure I would at all be on friendly terms with a God who not only allowed these men to commit that kind of suffering (the same God who had no trouble taking out the relatively insignificant Herod), and then welcomed them into heaven. No thanks.

          • Robert F says

            Dr. Fundystan, I’m just being honest, too, when I say that I find your comment shocking. If the sins of everyone but Hitler, Pot, et al. are in fact so pedestrian, why did Jesus have to die on the cross for them? If we are not a Pot, Hitler, et al., then what could you, or I, possibly have done that was so bad that Jesus had to die for us?

            Or was Patti Smith, quoting Oscar Wilde, correct when she said: “Jesus died for someone’s sins, but not for mine”?

          • Robert F – I very much agree with you, especially in light of many of the comments on the recent post on the death penalty.

            The idea of people who are doomed to “get what’s coming to them” fills me with dread. Not that I believe that God shouldn’t judge evil. That would be false.

            But eternal damnation/eternal conscious torment just don’t seem to jibe with the NT.

            I sometimes think that we (humans) tend to see heaven/paradise/whatever we call it as a kind of celestial gated community, where Our Kind are welcome, but Those People (whoever “those people” happen to be) are forever outside, hands on the bars of that gate, looking in while we have a giant block party to which they very clearly weren’t invited. And nobody, but nobody, who is inside the gates has the “gall” to pass even a single drink of water or slice of cake or piece of fruit to those outside, let alone an entire meal.

            Just thinking aloud here, really… I’ve been leaning more and more toward an xtian version of universalism over the past several years, as I can no longer accept the idea of eternal conscious torment, don’t believe in annhilationism (it seems contrary to mercy) and am not at all certain that “hell” is actually in the Bible.

          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            I’m sorry Robert, but I didn’t say everyone else’s sin was so pedestrian. Nor can it be logically inferred from what I did write.

          • Michael Pahl in his book “The Beginning and the End” lays out three propositions on judgment which are essential and outside of which there is room for speculation and discussion:
            – Only through Jesus will salvation in any of its dimensions come about.
            – Those who trust in Jesus are given assurance by God that they are saved.
            – Those who directly oppose God’s saving, life-giving purposes in Jesus will one day experience God’s condemnation.

            One interesting bit that’s easy to miss at the end of Revelation is that, after everything has been neatly sorted out between the good and bad, the “kings of the earth” (who are clearly bad guys in the rest of the book and much of the Bible) and “the nations” will bring their glory into the heavenly city. There are other broad-sounding passages in both the NT and the OT, more than just a handful, and questions like how people in the OT were saved.

            But then there are plenty of judgment texts that need to be taken seriously and I don’t think we can just sweep those parts under the rug. I won’t absolutely rule out universalism as a theoretical possibility, but I think it’s very unlikely. I believe in some form of hell (whether it’s annihilation or Dante-esque or something in-between like the Great Divorce is another matter) and I think it should be taught, though not overemphasized, as a real danger. But I am wary of making definitive pronouncements on its population.

            Postmortem conversion I am agnostic on – there are texts that seem to speak against it like that famous verse in Hebrews, but there are some that may hint in that direction too.

          • Ted,

            Hell is not meant to put fear into everyone, only those who oppress others or trash the living God.

            Actually, that would include us all. Hell is meant for all men. Except that God chooses to have mercy on some. We are not entering heaven because our righteousness has surpassed that of Hitler. We are entering heaven because of the righteousness of Christ given to us, which he offers to Hitler as well (though we could reasonably assume he persisted in refusing it).


            Shouldn’t our prayer be that the wicked can be redeemed?

            Yes, but to a point. I do not think we should be mourning the eternal destruction of Hitler any longer. The time for judgement has past (since he has died), and to a certain extent, God’s wrath, though it is terrible, is also a good thing. Even in His judgement and destruction, God is not evil. The object of God’s destruction is evil.

            Why can not mercy pay the debt owed to justice without diminishing one for the other?

            It does, thank God. That’s what the cross was all about. Atonement is full and free for all men, even if some refuse to join the feast.

          • Robert F,
            Yes, hell offers no hope, because it is the ultimate expression of the Law. The idea of a ultimate justice for all sin can only leave us to fear that this justice is meant for us. Only the promise of paradise, the final culmination of the Gospel, for the faithful gives hope.

            Yes, the sinful man loves the idea of God taking vengeance upon our enemies, as the imprecatory Psalms say. But he forgets who the true enemies of the Christian are: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Oh that we would heap such contempt upon our own sin!

            Dr. Fundystan,
            The thought of Hitler in heaven disturbs me too, but we nonetheless must still confess that Christ died for Hitler. An atonement for some can give certainty to none. Sure his sins were more heinous than yours or mine, but ours our still heinous to merit us eternal damnation. We aren’t saved by the virtue of our own merits.


            But eternal damnation/eternal conscious torment just don’t seem to jibe with the NT.

            I dunno about that one. I haven’t studied the topic with incredible depth, but the idea of torment seemed a reasonable conclusion from the text for the vast majority of theologians in the history of the church. I feel that it is our discomfort with the idea that leads us to reject it more than our exegesis. But I’m certainly still open to the exegetical case against it.

            Heaven and hell are about so much more than “us vs. them.” It’s about the one true judge of the universe declaring the final distinction between the righteous and the wicked. Sure, we can never know for sure and our criteria is always flawed by ulterior motives and cultural blinders. But the omniscient ruler of the universe is not subject to our limitations in that respect. Whatever he decides in the matter will be the definition of truth. If there is no condemnation for those who are not in Christ, then in what sense is Christ the judge of all, as the Scriptures say?

      • “If faith is not a decision we make, but rather, a conviction that something is in fact true (that Jesus is risen from the dead), then fear has no bearing on this reality. ”

        That’s where I find myself. I realized a few years back that my faith is basically dead, killed or taken from me by past experiences, and I’m in the process of figuring out what means. Clearly I’m still around so something is there, but I don’t know what, nor do I know if I should even care anymore. Moving away from a fundamentalist paradigm into something other has been helpful, but faith itself seems nonexistent.

      • I’ve not yet settled this topic in my own mind, but my starting point for wrestling with it lies in defining who God is. Is God justice, or is God love? Mercy is a quality of love. Justice, by definition, is retributive in indeterminate and often in irregularly measured and dispensed degrees. Differing from Dr F, I can only imagine a good God acting without retribution. What we deserve has nothing to do with it.

    • I will say this: I’ve come back around to a belief in a literal, physical hell because of my recent experiences with spiritual warfare & the demonic.

      Now I get the whole “place prepared for the devil and his angels thing.”

      How that plays out for people, though, I’m still trying to work out…

      • I would be curious to hear about the experiences you mention. I have a stubbornly persistent belief in the reality of the demonic, despite being skeptical about the details of the cases of which I’ve heard/read.

        • Yeah, there is plenty reason to be skeptical because of the foolishness perpetrated by Christians. But there is more reason to buy it.

          Lots of people need help that they can’t find anywhere else.

          My church has a healing prayer ministry. It’s become strangely common to deal with the spiritual dark side at this point. I have my own stories after 8 months of experience. One brief anecdote: a young man in his early 20’s who’s been seen by multiple psychiatrists, admitted repeatedly to mental health facilities, etc. His most recent provider stated “I can’t do anything else for him, take him to a priest.” The doctor was secular, as far as I know.

          I’m not sure how to start talking about it in this environment, so I’ll say this:

          -Jesus dealt with it
          -This kind of ministry isn’t a replacement for counseling to other mental health treatment
          -It greatly helps to be in an environment where it’s not sensationalized, and people are treated like people
          -A robust theology of power/authority is needed — as is the humility and character to go with it
          -“Eyes to see, ears to ear” are good prayers to pray. Listening prayer is a good discipline to practice

          Books to check out if interested: Spiritual Warfare by Karl Payne, Authority Encounter by Chuck Davis

  5. So, to any and all of my fellow gaming nerds… Any thoughts on the new “5th” Edition (of D&D, for the non-gaming nerds)? I’m kinda intrigued, but have no intention to switch systems…

    • Hmmm, still PC’n it.

    • I feel like a game system really need 5 years to mature into it’s proper state. At that point it has a variety of common, well tested house rules, a library of splat books to pick and choose from, and whatever was missing from it’s original books has been filled in officially or unofficially.

      With the 3 to 3.5 to 4 to 5 schedule, D&D has been destroying it’s products just as they almost reach that point. Pathfinder is sort of 3.75 and has shown that even the 3rd edition arc could mature into something quite good, it just took longer because it wasn’t even a little backwards compatible with previous editions. So I wasn’t interested in 3rd edition when it came out, but I did look forward to the day when it was as well lived-in as 2nd edition had become. Pathfinder at this point is that.

      With the loss of the OGL combined with their edition changing schedule and continued lack of any backward compatability, I fear that neither 4th or 5th edition will ever gain the chance to become truly worth playing over any other.

    • If it translates well to video games, I’m all for it. I’ve owned this little game called Baldur’s Gate since it released, and I still can’t wrap my head around 2.5 or whatever it’s running. You mean I need to take a rest after I cast every spell? Isn’t there a pill for that?

    • Richard Hershberger says

      My D&D days were in the late 1970s (I was an early adopter) and 1980s. My opinion at the time was that the original D&D (three booklets in a box, plus the Greyhawk supplement to make the system actually workable) was a first generation version of the fantasy role playing game genre, and it showed. Then AD&D (three hardback books: The Players’ Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide) came along. It was a vast improvement, but it was conceptually constrained by the original D&D. This meant that it was merely an incremental improvement, albeit a big increment: Version 1.5, not 2.0. In the meantime, other companies were having good ideas of their own and developing them. By the early 1980s AD&D was a first generation game competing with second and third generation games. (I was a Runequest man myself, but tastes varied.) The main thing it had going for it was it got there first. If you played two systems, one of them was AD&D, and you could get up a game wherever there were gamers.

      I haven’t played a role playing game in some twenty years, so I have no idea how much of this is still true today.

      • I haven’t played in about that long, either. I do miss my D&D days. Some fun times…

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          Ditto. The early generates did have the advantage of simplicity. it would be harder for a newbie to get up to speed with all these editions and packages of rules.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            Simple vs complex systems was a discussion back in the day. Some of the best campaigns I played in was a superhero system where the players’ identities in real life were their superhero secret identities in the game. The rules were in a single booklet. I don’t recall how long it was, but it was small enough to be held together by staples down the middle. (In fairness, it probably relied on commonly understood assumptions about how role playing games worked, were the original D&D didn’t have that luxury.)

            This approach works great with a good GM and cooperative players. These campaigns were played within a tight-knit group of college friends. No one was trying to game the system or bully the GM. I see more complicated systems as some combination of armor and crutch for less functional groups and GMs: The character is running up stairs while barefoot? Roll the dice and refer to the Stubbed-Toe Probability Chart on page 587: no need to argue, or even discuss, the matter further.

            This also is why I fell out of role playing games. I see it fundamentally as a very specialized social activity. Joining in a campaign is not only a huge time commitment; it is a commitment to socialize with this group for many many hours. With exactly the right group, this is a wonderful thing. With not exactly the right group, it is a dreadful prospect. Let’s go to the ballpark and catch a game instead.

    • It’s okay. It’s an improvement over both 4th edition and over 3/3.5/Pathfinder, both of which are ridiculously shot-through with Feats and Skills and Special Abilities and a million and one special-ruled Special Powers. Splatbooked to death. Feats in 5E are kept to a minimum and they’re optional.

      I also appreciate the step back from maps-and-minis, which are nice and can be fun but which need to be dialed back from what they’ve become in 4E and Pathfinder.

      On the strong positives side, I really *like* the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic whereby with the Advantage (which you can grant to another character by assisting them) they roll 2d20 and pick the higher one and vice versa for Disadvantage.

      Thing is, once they publish the basic books, I wonder what they’re going to sell. Once more, we’ll all by PHB, DMG, and the Monster Manual. And another Monster Manual. And then . . . well, we’re probably off to the races with the splatbooks again. Classes will get extra feats. Extra spells. Extra items. Then MORE extra spells. Min/max players will find the exotic, broken combos and insist on using them and throw a snit if you refuse to incorporate them.

      But then again, I’m skeptical of *all* gaming systems that aren’t the West End Games 1989 version of “Star Wars”. So take what I say with a grain of salt.

  6. IndianaMike says

    A “polar vortex” is a much better experience in July than it is in January.

    • …unless you’re in British Columbia, where the effect is a heat wave and our forests in an inferno. Smoke everywhere.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      True, but oddly people seem to achieve an equal same level of complaining.

    • Is that what was responsible for Hurricane Arthur last week? It dropped a maple tree on my house.

      WAY too early for hurricanes on a 4th of July weekend.

  7. Since there is a diverse community here, what do people think of the Church of England now allowing women bishops? For those that come from Anglican, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox churches, what is your take on it in regards to the long church tradition on that matter?

    • flatrocker says

      I’ve got some ten foot poles in the back shed if anyone wants to anwser.

    • The Anglican Communion has ceased to be catholic in any meaningful sense of paying attention to the Long Tradition. They have been sola cultura for a long time.

      The Orthodox have abandoned any serious ecumenical work with them since the ordination of women. I don;t know about Rome. The ECLA will have them, but then, the Long Tradition is at least an option in the ECLA, whereas it is more and more not so in the CoE.

      • Randy Thompson says

        I agree, Mule.

        My experience in the (American) Episcopal Church led me to believe that there’s an Anglican aesthetic but not much of an Anglican spirituality. The spirituality that was there was largely a Catholic import. I suspect some will disagree with me on that, and that’s OK by me..

    • Richard Hershberger says

      The very early church had women in important leadership roles. This was fine for an obscure weirdo sect, but simply wouldn’t do for a mainstream religion, so this aspect of Christianity was suppressed, even going so far as to (incompletely) alter texts to accommodate the new party line. Some denominations are belatedly returning to the older tradition.

      Those whose sense of “tradition” only extends to the later era are protesting against this, but this is hardly a persuasive argument.

      • Leadership roles, yes, but a bishoprick? I can’t see an example of that in the New Testament, so maybe there is some reference to it in the early church fathers’ writings. But I’m not aware of it. Seeing as you seem to be well read perhaps you can direct us to some sources which refer to women as bishops or even pastors, other than the epistles’ references to “so and so and those who meet at her house”, which only shows a hosting role and not necessarily a female pastorate.

        • Some, such as Scot McKnight, would say that Junia was an apostle, for example.

        • Richard Hershberger says

          Trying to map New Testament accounts to modern ecclesiastical structure is a mug’s game. It invariably turns out that, mirabile dictu, the New Testament church matches whatever denomination the person doing the mapping happens to favor. The New Testament isn’t a guidebook to church organization, complete with sample by-laws and constitution. This is even before we get to the question of why we should believe that the various early churches were organized in the same way: an assumption whose truth is not at all obvious, either intuitively or textually.

          The word “bishop” only occurs a handful of times, most of them in the context of the moral prerequisites for the office (which I trust no one is claiming excludes women). What exactly this office was is not stated. It is wildly unlikely that it bore any but a distant relationship to the modern office with its funny hat and stick. So yes, it is true that those handful of passing mentions of the office of bishop don’t include an endorsement of gender equality. No, we can’t conclude much of anything from this.

          Beyond this, there are the usual examples such as Junia and Lydia. The suggestion that Lydia’s role in the baptism of her household was limited to providing a hot dish afterwards is a mighty piece of interpretation to arrive at the desired end.

          It is always worth also recalling that the first humans to proclaim Jesus’s resurrection were women. Also worth recalling is the disciples’ reaction of patting them on the head and mansplaining at them.

          • Mule Is Spoiling For A Scrap Today says

            It is wildly unlikely that it bore any but a distant relationship to the modern office with its funny hat and stick.

            So we can do as seems best to us.

            So yes, it is true that those handful of passing mentions of the office of bishop don’t include an endorsement of gender equality.

            People who adore the ambiguity of Koiné Greek tend to overlook the ecclesiastical life of those descended from the people who originally spoke this language. In a Greek parish, a diakonissa is the wife of a deacon. She shares in his charism and ministry. St Junia and St Andronicus were relatives of St Paul and early missionaries (in Greek, apostoloi) to Pannonia and Dalmatia.

            No, we can’t conclude much of anything from this. We-exclusive, I presume, not we-inclusive

            Why are you all pushing this so hard? Trying to get the Cathodox to accept women’s ordination is like a swimmer pushing against the dock expecting the dock to move.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            “Why are you all pushing this so hard? Trying to get the Cathodox to accept women’s ordination is like a swimmer pushing against the dock expecting the dock to move.”

            I’m not pushing it, for the Catholic or Orthodox churches. If they don’t wish to ordain women, that is their business. The discussion at hand is about the Church of England, and whether their ordaining female bishops is but one step removed from their painting themselves blue and running naked through the woods.

          • I’m not pushing it, for the Catholic or Orthodox churches. If they don’t wish to ordain women, that is their business

            It is nice to see someone openly admit to preferring unusquisque quod sibi rectum videbatur to quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est, but I don’t know if I would elevate it to a principle by which to establish Catholicity

            ..painting themselves blue and running naked through the woods.

            Do they have any hermeneutical principles that would rule this out?

        • “Leadership roles, yes, but a bishoprick?” Bishoprick? That’s what it’s called? Well, that more or less settles the argument, doesn’t it. I suppose Pope Joan might quibble.

          • Dana Ames says

            Actually, it’s bishopric (no k), which can also refer to the territory comprising a bishop’s diocese.

            First of all, I have a problem with defining people holding church offices as having “leadership roles” – that’s 20th century business terminology with all the attendant connotations. Can’t find that term or connotations in scripture.

            Secondly, there’s hardly anything in the NT about what worship was like or exactly how things were organized, except for a few instances in St. Paul – one of which was his use of the word “letourgia” which was an ordered (liturgical) time of public worship. Those folks were Jews, after all; they didn’t willy-nilly abandon everything they believed God had given them, and one of those things was the structure of their worship.

            Thirdly, we do have some written records of how “the next generation” did things: the writings of the Apostolic Fathers. Yes, the details of the worship service were different for a time, according to local usage, but the overall structure was the same: a Jewish-style prayer service, followed by the Eucharist (and often a whole regular meal). And the relationship between the episkopos/bishop/oversee-er and the people was very organic, meant to be a living icon revealing the relationship of Christ and the Church. There is no reason not to believe that they were carrying on what had been given them by the first generation.

            Fourthly, if we’re talking about “ordination” then women were ordained – there were ordained women deacons into the 4th century. The role of a deacon developed into a person who would oversee the distribution of clothing, food, money etc. to the needy, and to help with baptisms, the women helping the women. (The Orthodox Deacon today may do that, but primarily his service is a worship function in tandem with the priest.) This “ordination” petered out as the baptismal candidates increasingly wore clothing during baptism, and women monastics undertook the bulk of the “charitable work”.

            I investigated this all very thoroughly on my way into the Orthodox Church, because this issue was a make-or-break one for me, especially after having been involved in truly patriarchal Protestant churches with their wretched (supposedly “biblical”) doctrine. What I found was that in the Orthodox tradition, there have always been women in positions of responsibility, and they have done and still do everything that men do, except preside at the Eucharist – and most males are not called to that, either. And there is absolutely none of the wretched doctrine of Protestant patriarchy that ultimately de-humanizes women.

            In general, he structure of the Orthodox Church is different than in the R. Catholic church – much flatter, and based on different theological presuppositions. The similarities between the two are mostly on the surface. Most of the differences are very deep and not apparent unless one actually dives into those depths.

            As to women bishops, it is as Mule wrote. There has only been polite discussion, nothing serious, since the Anglicans ordained women as priests, and that will continue to be the status quo.


          • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

            We also have the Didache, and other writings. I don’t think the real question is “what did the early church do”, but “is it right”? In other words, if ordaining women is right, then we need to do it,regardless of the practices in the early church (we also, for example, do not own slaves, contra early church). Denoms that don’t ordain women (mine among them) argue that our religious documents proscribe the pastoral office to males. Those denoms that do ordain women mostly disagree with this interpretation (there are some that agree with the interpretation and reject it, but as far as I can tell they are a minority). I can’t personally find a way to read the texts that demands male only leadership, and I think those that pretend it is clear are being dishonest and/or lack reading comprehension. But a lack of explicit, beat you over the head, not so subtle 20th century engineering manual law doesn’t mean the idea isn’t there. Otherwise, we have a pretty glaring problem with bestiality. It seems like a more nuanced conversation. As for CoE, I think they should follow their conscience, being aware of the consequences.

          • Absolutely true this.

            I don’t see any patriarchy in the Orthodox Church. I see men and women, though.

            I don’t see any inclusive-language “people”.

          • Dana-

            One big concern of Anglicans who oppose w/o (and being bishops), is that accepting it risks damaging the relationship (and hopefully unity) with EO (they see EO as opposing it). Do you see that as an unfounded concern?

          • Dana Ames says


            Most Orthodox bishops/metropolitans do see value in keeping communication open, so I expect everyone will keep talking. Unity is not possible with w/o. Though things sometimes devolve into power struggles and control issues, power and control by anyone called to serve in the O. Church have no basis in O. theology. So ordination is not about “who has the power” or who is in control; women not being ordained is not about denying them anything, or a statement about their capabilities.

            Met. Kallistos Ware would like to see more theological delineation in the matter of w/o. I believe he is also in favor of re-establishing an ordained diaconate for women. If that were to happen, it would still be quite rare for a woman to be in the altar, because of the iconic view of what worship by humans entails.

            As mule wrote above, priests’ and deacons’ wives can be viewed as being in “team ministry” with their husbands. Some will have different interests and areas of ministry; for example, our priest’s wife has an Art degree and is a trained iconographer; she also oversees the upkeep of the landscaping of the church property. She is also one of the most mentally, emotionally and spiritually stable people I have ever met. They couldn’t do what they do as well as they do it without each other. Same goes for our deacons. (All is not perfect in EO; one of our assigned bivocational priests just left his wife and college-age children for another woman. He has been defrocked.)

            If you’re interested, Fr Thomas Hopko has a 2-part podcast on AFR detailing what he believes would be necessary steps for reunion of EO and RC, with the Pope as the spokesperson for the united Church. See June 20 on this page: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko


          • Radagast says


            Thank you for the link. Since this is one of my hobbies (eastern church thought) I found the podcasts enjoyable. Additionally Father Thomas is only about 45 minutes from me outside the Pittsburgh area so there could be an opportunity to see him in person. Thanks again.

          • It looks like the Russian Orthodox Church has spoken:

            “The decision to ordain women, which the Church of England took in 1992, damaged the relationships between our Churches, and the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy. Such practice contradicts the centuries-old church tradition going back to the early Christian community. In the Christian tradition, bishops have always been regarded as direct spiritual successors of the apostles, from whom they received special grace to guide the people of God and special responsibility to protect the purity of faith, to be symbols and guarantors of the unity of the Church. The consecration of women bishops runs counter to the mode of life of the Saviour Himself and the holy apostles, as well as to the practice of the Early Church.”

        • It is hard to kick against the bishopricks, though sometimes the laity need to do just that.

    • Anglican covers a wide spectrum – some being Anglo-catholic high church, others being more evangelical. To the rest of us it seems anything goes in this faith tradition so while I appreciate the similarities in some groups to catholic tradition (even having monastics), I wonder if they will just fade into kind of a new age view of Christianity where any interpretation whether real or symbolic, real or just a story with good moral messages is accepted.

      Also, when progressive Catholics rally for women in ordination, married priests, etc, as a means of increasing those in the priesthood or even increasing the number of parishioners I simply point them to this group as an example of what is working and what is not.

    • Any church that produces NT Wright has got to be doing something right.

      Come to think of it, nearly every author or pastor I respect belongs to a denomination or church group other than my own. Yet I’m not easily comfortable attending any of their churches. Why is that.

      • —> “Any church that produces NT Wright has got to be doing something right.”

        Well, I’d say he’s more a product of God, Christ and the Holy Spirit than the church. Right? Same with any author or pastor who writes and preaches the Word and Good News. In fact, maybe it’s IN SPITE OF CHURCHES that some folks get it right…

        • Excellent point!

        • I think we cannot overlook that church traditions have intellectual/spiritual soils in which people grow. Some soils are sterile and produce very little in terms of theology/teaching whereas others produce quite a lot.

          I think Wright would likely say that the environment of the CoE has had a profound influence on him.

          • —> “I think Wright would likely say that the environment of the CoE has had a profound influence on him.”

            True. And I could be wrong, but I bet if you got him in a pub with an ale in hand, he might share what CoE issues he had to wade through to get to where he is regarding the Good News. (Just as I’ve had to do with the denomination I’m in (Nazarene).)

          • A lot of good people have come out of the Church of England.

            Rowan Williams is high on my list of C of E people for which I have great regard. Of course, one can also note just how much fun he had trying to be Archbishop.

          • … er, not “trying to be Archbishop.” He was the Archbishop.

          • Dana Ames says

            Ken, Wright has actually said that, especially regarding the daily worship cycle based on the singing of the Psalms.

            Rick, in most instances, how else is God going to “work on” someone except through people? One of the things I had to re-think – and I began this even before I was on my way into EO – was, What does being the church mean? Even the Evangelical churches I was part of treated “the church” as dispensable… But doctrine on ecclesiology aside, I don’t get that picture from scripture. Both Christ and St Paul see the Church as really important. One of the main points of Wright’s new 2-volume Paul book is exactly how important Paul believed the Church to be.


          • Rick Ro. says

            A lot of good people come from China, too. Is it because of the Chinese system or in spite of it?

            By the way, my original post wasn’t intended to be snarky and neither is this one. Just trying to make a point about “cause and effect.” I’m sure a lot of good is done in the Church of England, just as something good came from Nazareth. 😉

          • Actually Rick, I think it has a lot more influence that one might think. And it also may be because of it.

            Anglicans (of which I am one) have been profoundly influenced by Prayer Book culture. We have also had to live with at least 3 streams high church (Anglo-Catholic), latitudinarians (liberals) and low church(Evangelicals). This breeds some tolerance for differences of opinion, perhaps more than many other traditions.

            it is no miracle at all to me that it has bred guys like Wright, Stott, Packer, Gumbel, McGrath and CS Lewis

        • He is *very* C of E, no question. In so many ways.

      • every author or pastor I respect belongs to a denomination or church group other than my own. Yet I’m not easily comfortable attending any of their churches.

        Been there. Take a more careful look at their different church’s doctrinal writings and listen carefully to their own apologists. Try to understand their teaching from the position of an insider. You may be surprised where that journey takes you.

    • This is the most irrelevant, overrated church political rendering I have ever heard of. If you allow women as Priests, there is absolutely no reason to deny them as bishops, period. This causes no rift between Anglicans and the Cathodox world that wasn’t already there: Female clergy at all is an insurmountable barrier. At least they no longer have a double standard: It was hypocritical to say “we’ll ordain you, but only so far.” Either you believe in women’s ordination, or you don’t. I bet that the Anglicans who voted against it would also have voted against women’s ordination at all to begin with. Or, I am missing a whole angle to this that is unique to the Anglican world.

      • I don’t disagree, but am wondering if this is a problem because it is about being a top level leader (over men).

        Just a guess.

        • Possibly. If that is the case, then this was a vote against misogyny, and a win for the church. If it was about a theology of the priesthood, then that ship had already sailed. The distinction between pastoral office as a spiritual responsibility and leadership as a position of authority is a very Reformed thing, and not something their Cathodox friends are going to share or understand. Some traditionalists would have a problem with women CEO’s, and use the Bible to justify it. To them, I suppose, a woman Bishop is a church CEO. I can’t think of a worse reason to object to it.

          • I think the biggest concerns are the challenge to how they interpret certain passages in Scripture, and having to say that the church has gotten it wrong for 1,500-2,000 years.

          • Agreed. But that line was crossed with women priests, not with women bishops. If you already have one, you might as well have the other, imo. The inconsistency is not a fair sort of “middle ground.”

        • RDavid – absolutely!

      • I heard an interesting twist on this. I became a Christian in a tradition where women in ministry was normal, and had many church-planters. And these women worked as hard as any man in some difficult circumstances.

        When I became an Anglican someone brought up the issue and I asked why women in ministry was an issue. In his experience as an Episcopalian he felt that the women he had see doing it were feminists who had a point to prove, and that they did not seem to last long. This took me aback. In my pentecostal past women went into the work because they felt called and were often quite the preachers.

    • Anyone who remembers what comments on gender issues tend to contain can guess my position: I’m supportive of the Anglican church’s decision.

      The only (brief) thing I can say about “tradition” is that I care very much about it, but I also think it is more complicated than conservative voices allow. Traditionalists like to believe their view is ahistorical and eternal; from my point of view, everything is historically rooted. Both positions are “cultural.”

      I also maintain that important conversations about sex and gender have occurred in recent history, and I do not think those these conversations should be dismissed as mere rebellion against divine order, or as spurious. The questions raised relate to human dignity and justice. So I welcome the church grappling with these questions, even if not everyone answers those questions in the same way.

      Does my position on gender issues (this or others) place me outside “tradition”? This is a painful question.

      Gender & Christianity is a topic I’ve studied and struggled over for a long time. Ultimately, I call things as I see them, and I won’t as a matter of conscience pretend I see them differently. The issues matter too much to people, for me to shrug them off. If necessary, I would submit to traditionalist leadership. In such a case, I would offer principled dissent.

      Uncertainty on the question of whether principled dissent has a place in Catholicism and Orthodoxy has a lot to do with why, after leaving the evangelical world, I ultimately found myself in the orbit of Anglican/Episcopal Churches and the ELCA. (The other half of that equation is theological; I’m still somewhat Protestant in thinking.) In the later orbit, I know there is no contradiction between my theological/social views or explorations, which at this time I can’t disavow with sincerity, and my full participation with a clear conscience. So here I am. The fact I’m not positive about my situation in the Catholic context is troubling to me, as is the conversation about whether Anglican/Episcopal churches or the ELCA are “really” in conversation with “tradition.” But I can neither disavow my concern for tradition or my concern for compassion or justice. I can only admit to my own likely faults, observe that the world is broken, and hope the tent is large.

      • *Anyone who remembers what MY comments on gender issues tend to contain can guess my position: …

        Forgive the other typos. I’m sure they are there. (I type very quickly on breaks.)

      • Gender & Christianity is a topic I’ve studied and struggled over for a long time. Ultimately, I call things as I see them, and I won’t as a matter of conscience pretend I see them differently just so people will think I am a get-along kind of guy. The issues matter too much to people, for me to shrug them off. There will always be traditionalist leadership self-dentifying as catholic. I will be there.

        • Danielle says

          I hope it is evident that I acknowledge that others will hold different positions from mine. While I maintain my own convictions, I do not expect anyone else to go against conscience. So I would expect your comment to mirror mine, only place you in a different location.

          • Charlotte says

            Danielle, as a former evangelical, now Episcopalian seeking holy orders, I appreciate your generous voice here so much! Thank you for naming your own location, as nuanced as it might be, and inviting others to speak from theirs. The tent is indeed a very large one, the table has room for all, and there’s food and drink aplenty. We’ll all be “wrong” about some things and “right” about others. In all of it, Christ binds us together.

      • Eloquent comments, Danielle. We are all placed as moderns having to choose from among an array of options in regard to the issue of institutional church identity; you, myself and Mule included. We, hopefully, make that choice using our best judgement, and with God’s help.

      • Danielle-

        Good thoughts. I can relate to much of what you expressed.

    • Christiane says

      As a Catholic woman, I am thrilled at the news.
      The Church (catholic) as the Body of Christ can only be stronger for this decision. As for the relationship between the Anglican C of E and Rome, I imagine there will be fire works, but give two or three centuries down the line, perhaps women will no longer be defined as persons in the same way our world sees them today. It’s not a move away from tradition, it’s a move away from fundamentalism, which is fine by me.

      Want to see the harm of misogyny within the Church?
      Look at patriarchy and the devastation it has wreaked in the lives of its victims. Look at groups like the followers of Gothard and followers of the CBMW cult. Scary stuff, when devaluing women as human persons made in the image of God takes a back seat to male idolatry.

      • Christiane – you got it right.

        Back in the 70s, I knew nuns who did tremendous pastoral work with those who were ill (in hospitals and elsewhere), the elderly etc. etc. etc. but God help them if anyone actually stated outright that they were actually doing pastoral work, because that was the province of men alone.

        Except… not so much. Then and now. (Some of those same women are still doing what amounts to pastoral work in all but name. Go figure.)

        • Christiane says

          looking back in my life, it’s not the priests I remember as much as the nuns . . . they made a difference in my life for good, and I am a better human being for their help . . . a nun who lives humbly in Our Lord IS one of the most powerful influences on this Earth for young people in my opinion

          come to think of it, one of the great Doctors of the Church is the little St. Therese of Lisieux, of blessed memory, who died at twenty-four of tuberculosis . . . so even the Church already formally acknowledges what it cannot yet fully celebrate

      • Radagast says


        What is the CBMW cult?

        • Christiane says

          it celebrates a kind of patristic homage to the male sex and in order to justify and strengthen its teachings, it developed an unusual doctrine about the Holy Trinity called ‘the Eternal Subordination of the Son’ (ESS)

          the ‘CBMW’ stands for the ‘Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’

          Wartburg Watch has some information concerning them:

          I recommend reading all of the literature concerning it, pro and con, and making up your own mind about it, but you can tell that I am not a fan . . . not of CBMW or of ESS, which I see as an attack on the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity

    • I’m proud to be a member of the Anglican Communion, and I applaud the C of E in its decision to allow women bishops.

  8. Marcus Johnson says

    How can commenters post an avatar (e.g., face pic) with their comments (see IndianaMike, Chaplain Mike, etc.) Do you need to include a website with your post?

  9. Richard Hershberger says

    I somehow went through my life without realizing until recently that Paul and/or Luke quoted from Greek plays. In Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus Jesus said ” I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5) or, if you prefer, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 26:14). (I wonder how the inerrant literalism crowd reconciles these, but that is a different matter.) The phrase “kick against the pricks” is from Aeschylus’s _Agamemnon_ and Euripidies’ _The Bacchae_.

    In _The Bacchae_, female worshipers of Dionysus have grown powerful in ecstatic raptures. This naturally terrifies the men, and the king of Thebes prepares to send out his soldiers against the women. In the meantime Dionysus is present, disguised as a human. He advises the king against sending the soldiers:

    “You are mortal, he is a god. If I were you, I would control my rage and sacrifice to him, rather than kick against the pricks”

    The image is familiar to anyone who handles livestock. The “prick” is a goad, used to direct the animal where you want it to go. If it doesn’t want to go there, it might kick against the prick. When it is a god holding the prick, however, kicking is futile.

    The expression is used exactly the same way in Paul’s conversion story. I don’t know if this was a specific literary reference intended to evoke the source, or if it was a common catchphrase. Either way, it is a striking illustration of the impossibility of reading Scripture removed from its cultural context. Even if it was mere catchphrase, it still would carry a load of cultural baggage with it. Strip this cultural baggage out and you have changed the understanding of the text.

  10. Has Tullian gone off the deep end or is he on the right track? I’m still looking for clarity in the whole matter, and hearing my PCA friends roast him over the coals doesn’t help, when all I hear from Tullian’s mouth is the gospel.

    Also, anyone else interested in a Christian Basics 101 course here on IM? After having so many paradigm shifts in my life, and more all the time from this site and Michael’s old essays, I sometimes wonder where things fit together. You mean insane evangelism isn’t the goal of the Christian life? Where then where does it fit? You mean salvation isn’t the hope of God not leaving us behind? Well what do we have to look forward to then? etc…

    • That last point makes me wonder. How many would abandon or lose their faith or have a giant crisis if there wasn’t anything to look forward to, ie Jesus’ imminent return and burn it all eschatology. Can people even handle “live here and work and keep quiet”?

      • Perhaps related, here’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed that sometimes happens…

        There are some Christians who have a giant crisis (say, a baby dies) and fall away from the faith, while there are some non-believers who have a giant crisis (same event) and come TO the faith. So in the first case, we have people who believe in God either attributing God with the event (He caused it) or coming to believe He doesn’t exist (He didn’t fix the problem), while in the latter case we have non-believers realizing they need help getting through the pain (we need Him). I’m not sure what to make of that, but I find it interesting.

      • That is so funny, Stuart. Reminds me of an old saying when taking little kids to school or wherever…..”Get in. Sit down, shut up!” Before seat belts.

    • If all you hear out of a person’s mouth is the gospel, and a religious group is criticizing him, there’s your answer.

      • +1. Additionally, if all you hear out of a person’s mouth is gospel, you should really expect a religious group to be criticizing him.

    • PCA is a hybrid of confessional presbyterianism and revivalistic evangelicalism. The latter has little tolerance for grace without legalism. The more confessional reformed don’t take so much issue with Tullian. If he is “off the deep end,” then so is the entire Lutheran church, and many others. But you don’t see some of the more articulate Reformed leaders, such as Mike Horton, joining in on the roast. Horton understands Law and Gospel, and many Reformed are finally leaving revivalism to return to it. Additionally, I don’t hear Sproul or Keller badmouthing Tullian. Though the Gospel Coalition kicked him out, Keller has not been very forthcoming about the details (that I am aware of). I think we all know that their theological differences were not the true reason for it, and if Keller was going to provide an articulate critique of Tullian’s teaching (which he is damned well capable of), he’d of done it long ago.

      • This is strange. I spent this morning trying to get up to speed on what Tullian is saying. He does sound like he’d be better off as a Lutheran.

        But then, I think the dichotomy between justification and sanctification needs to be jettisoned as quickly as possible. It makes Protestants act beastly towards each other, and as long as we can jettison a lot of other Scriptural material on the basis of having evolved beyond it, we can do so with this as well.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        Agree completely.

      • I imagine they’d bristle at your comparison, but then again they follow the same fundygelical logic of “that’s a caricature and not really us”, except 99% of the time….

        I don’t talk to them as often anymore, as it just left me angry and frustrated. I’m not married to the Westminster Confession over the Bible, nor will I ever be.

        Lutheranism, in it’s view of Law/Gospel, appears to be where I’m heading. Yet I either need to go “liberal” Lutheran or hyper conservative, and I’ve had enough fundamentalism in my life.

        • You will find large portions of the ELCA and the LCMS to be rather moderate, with liberal or conservative fringes, respectively. I would wager that with its higher view of the confessions, the LCMS is more likely to practice Law/Gospel in preaching, though it is unfortunately not common enough, and Tullian puts to shame too many of our preachers. We’re hoping that Tullian is headed into Lutheranism too, but he’s gonna have to get over his hangups with the sacraments. 😛

          • Robert F says

            He could just as easily become a Barthian, continue as a Reformed evangelical to practice law/gospel preaching, and keep his hang-ups about the sacraments.

          • That may be what has already happened. But Lutherans have their cross-hairs painted on people like him and Horton who seem to get Law and Gospel better than many of our own. These two specifically have developed a keen skill to dodging the question of the Sacraments. I’ve listened to Tullian change the subject with brilliant and strategic subtlety. I’ve also asked Horton why him and Rosenbladt (his Lutheran radio co-host) always agree so much and never debate, and received and equally evasive answer. There is speculation that they secretly question the Reformed position but can’t risk having their ordination stripped by admitting it. Horton especially talks a lot about “Word and Sacrament” ministry, a paradigm that otherwise does not seem to receive a ton of traction in Calvinism generally. Just sayin… 😀

          • Although I’m not familiar with either Horton’s or Tullian’s sacramental theology, I wonder, based on what you’re saying, if they’re actually moving closer to Calvin himself; the reformer, after all, actually had a pretty high view of the sacraments, although it was influenced by his rationalism and soteriology in ways that distance it from the more paradoxical Lutheran position.

            I quite appreciate Calvin’s views on the sacraments, and think it unfortunate that modern calvinism has distanced itself from the doctrines of its founder in this matter. Of course, there’s always Federal Vision.

          • I haven’t read Calvin on the sacraments, but I imagine he couldn’t have been too far from Zwingli on the matter, and our confessionals today stand with Luther when he said Zwingli was “of another spirit.” I can buy that Calvin had a higher view than most of Evangelicalism today, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but wasn’t his view the one where in the Lord’s Supper we ascend into heaven by faith to commune with Christ in our hearts? I just have no idea where that teaching comes from, it just sounds a bit silly on the surface. Lutheranism is, in some ways, the opposite of this. We say rather that Christ himself descends through grace to commune with us through the elements. And I don’t care what the PCA or URCNA says, I think the Federal Vision was a step in the right direction!

          • Yes, Calvin did say something like that, but you have to take it in context. I’m not as familiar with his views on baptism (it has to do with bringing the baptized under the covenant of grace) but I’m more well-versed in his theology of communion. Calvin taught that Christ’s body and blood were present spiritually, not physically, in the Lord’s Supper, and thus retained the belief that the sacrament is an efficacious sign and not a mere symbol. His hangup with the real presence (and the reason for the teaching you mentioned) had to do with his belief that, since, Christ’s body had physically ascended into heaven, it could not also be present locally here on earth in the sacrament because of the limitations of Christ’s human nature. Thus, the doctrine that the Holy Spirit rather lifts us spiritually up to heaven in the Supper to partake of Christ.

            The rationalism that pervades this doctrine is obviously a problem from a Lutheran perspective but I don’t think it’s really fair to group him with Zwingli, given that he affirmed the efficacy of the Supper and at least acknowledged the spiritual presence of Christ in the Sacrament.

            Federal Vision is a great step for their sacramental theology but some of the other stuff gets really weird, at least in my (albeit limited) experience.

  11. Ok, I’ll throw out another, since this is one of the few places I can have deep discussions.

    Is Christianity faith based or fact based? Do we have faith in Jesus? Or do we just accept a series of facts (that all the world knows to be true internally) and that is what saves?

    • It’s reality-based, but not necessarily “fact-based”.

    • I think it’s primarily faith-based, with a series of facts helping support our faith. First, the scriptures are representative of some historical facts: there were Israelites, there were times when kingdoms existed and warred, there was a time when Rome ruled over the Middle East, there were real people like Herod and Jesus, and yes, Jerusalem was sacked by Rome. There’s pretty good evidence telling us that a lot of what we read in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) really happened. (Archeologists use the Bible as a reference to look for ancient ruins and such.)

      Then the faith part comes into it. What role does God play in all that is factual in the Bible. Is there a God? Did He send this guy Jesus to earth? Was Jesus His son? If this guy Jesus was crucified, did He live again? Faith is a marriage of what is factual with what can’t be proven.

      • “Is there a God?”

        Why do you need faith if you already know it to be true? And everyone knows it to be true? Those who say otherwise are deceived or willfully lying to themselves.

        See my point?

        • I guess I don’t see your point exactly. See if this helps frame why I don’t.

          1+1=2. That is truth. Anyone who doesn’t believe it is, as you say, either deceived or willfully lying to themselves.

          1+1=God. That is premise. You and I might say it’s truth (or to steal Mule’s term, “Reality-based”), but clearly it is not as truthful or real as a pure math equation.

        • Stuart,

          How you define “faith” comes into play here. If you define it as simple belief in the truthfulness of something, then yes, there’s a contradiction there. But I think that a definition of “faith” truer to what it actually means in the NT would be, essentially, trust. You can intellectually assent to the idea that Jesus is the Son of God, was crucified for our sins and rose from the dead, and yet still not have faith. “Even the demons believe, and tremble!” But faith is rather trust in God that relies on Him alone for salvation. I think Luther put it well when he said that faith is “the beggar’s hand.”

    • A few years back, Stanley Fish had a great column in the NY Times blog where he said that every epistemology, including rationalism, is faith-based. (I would add, revelation-based.) I liked this quote:

      “To torpedo faith is to destroy the roots of . . . any system of knowledge . . . I challenge anyone to construct an argument proving reason’s legitimacy without presupposing it . . . Faith is the base, completely unavoidable. Get used to it. It’s the human condition.”


      • This is good. Yes, even non-faith based aspects of life require faith, sometimes lots of it, and more than non-faith-based people would like to admit, I’m sure. Not to get too far into this, but I’ve often argued that the theory of evolution requires just as much faith as does the theory of creation. For the believer, God is the magic wand that created all things. For the evolutionist, the magic wand is “time.” Basically, using time as a form of God (“over billions of years ANYTHING can happen”).

      • Robert F says

        Every epistemology is also rooted in a set of metaphysical assumptions, whether they are explicit or implicit, and whether they are acknowledged or not.

    • I’d agree that the basis of Christianity is reality. As far as we approach it, we have to walk the line between faith and what we perceive as fact. The resurrection of Christ is the most reasonable conclusion from the historical evidence we have. That doesn’t necessarily prove it beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt. So faith bridges the gap both there, and in the leap from the Resurrection to the divinity of Christ and infallibility of his teachings, but it is a reasonable faith that is rooted in factual events. My 2 cents.

      • Yes, I like yours and Mule’s use of the word “reality.” Reminds me of The Matrix. We can either take the blue pill and continue to live in the illusion, or take the red pill and live in “the truth of reality.”

        I love when secular movies either knowingly or unknowingly present clear, spiritual isses.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      To start that discussion you’d need to get a general consensus on what a Fact is, and then what Faith is.

      • Sunday school definitions would be that faith is believing something to be true regardless if you have facts to back it up or knowledge of it being true. Fact is something more concrete that you can prove.

        This is born out of my discussions with atheists, and many’s common “you just deny truth” objection to them, as if they secretly, deeply, internally know what TRUTH is but choose to actively deny it for various reasons. Doesn’t hold up, IMO. Faith is accepting Jesus existed and died for you. Facts is saying “ok” to a get out of hell transaction.

    • Randy Thompson says

      Fact or faith?

      A little from Column A, and a little from Column B.

  12. Do headless unicorns have souls?

  13. Movies…let’s see…

    Loved the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Some of the scenes with the masses of apes flying through the trees and such were astounding. I also liked how much the filmmakers conveyed emotion on the faces of the apes. Caesar’s son, for example…I marveled at how his face conveyed the angst he felt later in the movie as things played out.

    Loved American Hustle. Yes, profanity alert!!! But it had a sly, fun vibe going through it. I had no idea going in that it was based on Abscam. Christian Bale was great, as were the other actors and actresses (even Louis CK!). The soundtrack is great, too!

    Loved Edge of Tomorrow. A bit silly at times. A bit “Just go with it, Rick…ignore the potential plot holes.” The military body suits were AWESOME. Good popcorn movie.

    Saw the preview to the new Moses movie (with Christian Bale as Moses). Wow, looks spectacular, and it looks like they stick to the “known” story.

    • Randy Thompson says

      I liked “American Hustle,” but loved (!) Wes Anderson’s “Grand Budapest Hotel.”

  14. Randy Thompson says

    Despite the lofty subjects that have been and are still being addressed here, I have one more important subject to add, especially since no one has posted anything baseball-related. (I think.)

    Derek Jeter.

    I really have nothing significant to say about Derek Jeter, but since last night was his last All Star Game (where he had two hits and scored one run), he deserves a prominent if passing mention here.

    Thanks for indulging me.

    Let the conversation continue. . .

  15. Ok, totally non-religious book topic – the ending of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series

    So… if the tower holds together all of existence and reset’s Roland’s quest to save it, does that mean that it is putting itself (and all of existence) in jeopardy again? Or if all-of-existance isn’t really in jeopardy, then what was the point of the epic 7+ book quest?

  16. Vega Magnus says

    I noticed that the last church I sorta/not really attended regularly is doing a series about disputes within the church. I’m working my way through the sermon archive now to see what the deal is. They are pretty standard conservative Baptists, but the pastor is a nice enough guy. I hope he doesn’t say anything Wartburg Watch worthy.


    • Vega Magnus says

      June 15th sermon is standard “hellfire on ‘Murica if we don’t culture war” sermon. Yaaaawn.

      • Rick Ro. says

        LOL. Sounds like the title to a Christian conference some friends tried to talk me into attending. No thanks.

      • Yes yes yes. “Culture war” as a verb. This will work well on ironic protest signs.

  17. Lutheran friends: I overheard a discussion which was quoting a (probably apocryphal) humorous conversation between Lutherans. I don’t recall the punch line, but it had something to do with a young pastor being scolded for not preaching a Law/Gospel sermon.

    “But I preached the text, and the text didn’t have Law”
    “Doesn’t matter!”

    Something like that.

    So what is the Lutheran experience like? Is the Law/Gospel paradigm mandatory for every sermon? Do people get up in arms if it’s too much on one side or the other? Genuinely curious.

    • In a word, no. I’m a lifelong Lutheran, and have yet to hear a single sermon that revolves around the topic you mention.

    • Lol, most Lutheran parishoners are only vaguely aware of the difference, and many have never heard of Law/Gospel.

      Law/Gospel is not a paradigm we bring to the Scriptures. It is something the Scripture do to us, because it is their substance. The point for the preacher is to be careful to rightly distinguish the two. All that entails, in the rough sense, is not to proclaim God’s requirement on our behavior as good news, and not to turn God’s free offer of grace into some sort of an obligation on our part. Let the instruction be instruction, and let the joyful proclamation of full and free forgiveness be a joyful proclamation.

      I did chuckle a little at that joke. But the misunderstanding is that there are texts which contain only the Law or only the Gospel. I myself am not an expert at this distinction (it is an art form that is learned in the school of experience rather than an exact science learned in the classroom), but I believe that in every pericope there are things that can be inferred as imperatives and things that can be received as gifts. Especially if it is considered in light of other passages which reflect on it/reference it/deal with the same general subject material.

      The definitive tome on making the disconnection between Law and Gospel is C. F. W. Walther’s “Law and Gospel.” I wouldn’t expect non-Lutherans to spend a ton of time with it, it is fairly hefty and I haven’t read it myself. But you can read the executive summary, the 25 theses which for which the book is a lecture defending each, in five minutes. It’s well worth your time if you’re generally curious about the topic, but let me warn you, some of the theses have taken me years to wrestle with and come to understand. You can view them here: http://lutherantheology.com/uploads/works/walther/LG/theses.html

      • Walther’s book is the next one on my reading list. It will be my second attempt.

        • Best of luck to you, my friend. It is a dense, tough book. I just stick to the theses and meditate on them. I may eventually begin to work through it, but for now, I’m trying to recover from my 10 year non-fiction binge. Revisiting Tolkien and trying to knock out a few classics before I take another stab at theologians writing hopelessly above my pay grade.

      • Thanks for the link, Miguel. Helpful. Though interesting that the majority of the thesis are stated negatively.

      • “The definitive tome on making the disconnection between Law and Gospel is C. F. W. Walther’s “Law and Gospel.” I wouldn’t expect non-Lutherans to spend a ton of time with it, it is fairly hefty and I haven’t read it myself. ”

        Heretic. :p

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > many have never heard of Law/Gospel.

        HOW CAN THAT BE? Law/Gospel is essentially the definitive doctrine of Lutheranism. Law vs. Gospel is all Lutherans seem to talk about, and the paradigm though which the entire universe is observed.

  18. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    I think Dr. Fudy needs to read the Great Divorce. In it, there is someone who is not allowed to enter into heaven because he just flat out refused when he realized that a murderer was there and he didn’t think it was right.

    While I think it’s unlikely that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc will be in heaven, if they are – I’m completely cool with it. Who am I to question God? I find this idea that we can come to God with a list of demands to be unsettling at best and downright arrogant at worst.

    Or shall I tell you my mom’s vision of the judgement when Hitler arrives at the judgement seat. In her vision the Lord says to Hitler, “You poor syphilitic, insane, demon possessed man…. enter into rest…. Now where is the person who told you those anti-semetic jokes? Where are the people who allowed you to do what you did?”

    • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

      I’ve read the great divorce. I’d also like to think that a) I can share my feelings openly in this forum, and b) there are others who are waiting to admit that they feel the same way. There are just some people who are so wicked that I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Who knows, maybe some day I’ll be on the outside of Lewis’ heaven refusing to enter. Which would actually sort of prove my point.

      • “There are just some people who are so wicked that I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

        Maybe Jesus prayed these words, referring to you and me, in the garden of Gethsemane. But I thank God that he did not say them on the cross.

      • MelissatheRagamuffin says

        Maybe heaven is so big that if someone is there that really bugs you that you will be able to just stay away from them.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > a) I can share my feelings openly in this forum

        Sharing makes room for push-back. So long as it is civil and on-point [and does not become ad-homonym]

        > b) there are others who are waiting to admit that they feel the same way

        +1 And I am confident 99.44% of the population feels the same way.

        I am one screwed up soul, miles from any sign reading “perfection”, I have chronic sins, I have prejudices. But if someone can’t see the distance between my, and just about everyone else’s, fallen sinful corrupted state and the location of unmitigated monstrosity – of an implementer of unapologetic industrial-scale evil – .. I am afraid of their participation in my society.

        If it fine to say “a sin is a sin” and the thieving pick-pocket is “as much a sinner” as the captain in charge of a death camp. But, really? Theologians can have such statements, I think they are worthless and meaningless. And as a believer in Universal Damnation [which I am] I see no paradox there. A can be A, and B still be distinctly B while both A & B are C [C=Damned].

        • Robert F says

          Adam, perhaps if you could see the real darkness of my soul, the gargantuan evil imaginings, “the industrial-scale evil” not lived out only because of fear, timidity, etc., if you could see the things that God can see, maybe I wouldn’t make the cut of those you would consider safe to participate in your heavenly society, maybe I wouldn’t make the cut of those you consider worthy for heaven…And I’m sure there are many, many like me…

      • Danielle says

        I want to see evil destroyed, and not so much evil people. What if the evil can be gotten out of the man? Would you feel differently then?

        (I suppose there’s a slight of hand in my question. If you can heal an extremely evil person, are they recognizable?)

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          > What if the evil can be gotten out of the man?

          I believe it can. I believe I have seen [at least some] evil removed from a man. And there are those I have personally met where such a thing is almost unthinkable; there are cruel and greedy men, and there are men who have, for lack of a better metaphor, swallowed cruelty and greed. Where that `line` is I have no idea, and I have little interest in trying to draw it, but somewhere in the mist – it is there.

          Can someone be dragged back over the line? I don’t know, I hope so, but it will be a matter of dragging – of that I have no doubt. Of course, God is sovereign, and he can drag as many souls over that line as he chooses; there is no requirement for my consent or even realization of such. In either case – he does or he doesn’t – I am convinced the boundary exists.

          Aside: I also do not live in fear of The Evil Man. Society has mechanisms for dealing with Evil, Evil in any concentrated form, however ugly and destructive, tends to fairly rapidly consume itself. Society should *NOT* be constructed around an axis of fear-of-evil.

          > I suppose there’s a slight of hand in my question. If you can heal an
          > extremely evil person, are they recognizable?

          A thing is defined by its properties, remove/change enough properties from/of a thing and it is something else entirely. When is a man redeemed or reborn verses when does he just cease to exist?

          Try to Imagine a soft diamond [it wouldn’t be a diamond].

        • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

          Huh. I never thought about it that way before, Danielle. I suppose I would be just fine with that, although it is so alien to my experience that I’m not sure what it would look like.

      • I tend to think that it would be wonderful for Hitler to be in heaven.

        Of course, it would have to have been a last-minute conversion with a mighty period of purgation before he could enter into the full presence of God. But can you imagine a sinner who would be more grateful for God’s grace than someone like Hitler? He would probably be the most humble person in heaven, and sing the loudest in the eternal choir.

  19. This morning I was interviewing someone for a slot on a county leadership program. When asked about her service/community activities she kept mentioning that much of what she did in this respect was done through her church. Out of curiosity I asked her which church she attended. She replied that it was ELCA Lutheran. I mentioned that I was a little more familiar with LCMS, to which she replied that “they’re too strict.” I think I know what she meant by this but would rather some of you who who are more familiar with ELCA/LCMS differences might weigh in. Just curious.

    • That’s rather vague to comment a whole lot. For too many parishes in the LCMS, “strict” is the worst of all possible words to describe them. Of course, progressives usually see conservatives as “strict,” but neither stereotype is quite so universal in either denomination. She would really have to elaborate on what she meant, ’cause there’s a large number of things that could have been meant by that. Theologically speaking, I’d say we’re stricter across the board (requiring full confessional subscription), but the vast majority of laity have no clue about that.

      • Yes, I think “strict” could be an applicable term for the official doctrine of the LCMS, which is quite firm on both its confessions and its policies on inerrancy, sexual ethics, and myriads of other controversial issues, while the ELCA, officially speaking, tends not to take very many firm stances. But as Miguel said, when it comes to individual congregations it’s a mixed bag.

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says

        Keep in mind that LCMS is congregational. Think of it like baptist – whatever their theology in theory, you are going to get some pretty huge differences depending on which congregation you visit. We have a local that is just a mega church. You can barely tell it’s Lutheran.

    • Well when the PCAs and fundys hold up the LCMS as the “good guys”…yeah. Strict is a good word. I think I’ve known one my whole life who I’d classify as a “normal person”, the rest were pretty dour.

      • Sample size: Minnesota.

        Maybe it’s different out east.

      • If the PCA and “fundy’s” hold up the LCMS as “good guys,” it is most likely because we use the word “inerrancy.” But oh boy, let me tell you, do we mean something entirely different by it. We never adopted the Chicago statement, and there’s a good reason for that.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > to which she replied that “they’re too strict.”

      Meh, it is likely just a shibboleth of her community. I wouldn’t put too much thought into it.

      I’ve chased that cat – generally it comes down to a prominent yet operationally marginal issue or two where people in community A disagree with those in community B.

  20. Rick Ro. says

    This was an awesome open forum, by the way. Some great topics and discussion!!!

  21. Rick Ro. says

    This was a great open forum, by the way. Some great topics and discussion!!

    • Rick Ro. says

      Sorry for the duplicate. I couldn’t see where it placed my original post. Apparently it got put before the blog bot’s deleted post.

  22. Hey just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly.

    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried
    it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.