Magi Mike's Blog

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Whatever happened to loving one another?

with 4 comments

That is the question the Rev Howard Bess (email), a retired American Baptist minister, asks in the Wasila, Alaska, Frontiersman.

He comes to it from a discussion of the 45 pastors of large Presbyterian churches who wrote an open letter with a litany of the problems of their declining church, and their proposed solutions. Besides Presbyterians, United Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Mormons and Baptists of every kind, including Southern Baptists are, Rev Bess says, losing members. Baptisms are down by half from their peak last century, if Presbyterians are typical.

For the 45 ministers who are speaking out, the key issues are about theology and basic beliefs. Princeton Theological Seminary, related to the Presbyterian denomination, from its theological debates gave birth to American Fundamentalism. The Christian Faith was refined into five fundamentals. The 45 Presbyterian ministers seem to be beckoning the entire denomination into fundamentalism.

One aspect of the Princeton debates was the call from modern church scholars that the bible be read and interpreted as a book written by human beings in a historical context. Neither God nor the Holy Ghost sat down and wrote out the bible perfectly in a perfect place, before delivering it into the cesspit of the material world, where it miraculously remained perfect. Whatever role theirs was in the writing of the bible, it was done through imperfect human hands. Any reasonable Christian must agree, but many if not most of them are not reasonable, and they insisted the bible, as the divine word of God, could not be read critically or historically. It just was.

The debaters also considered Darwin’s approach towards a theory explaining evolution. The same unreasoning churchmen, as many still do, saw it to be declaring the biblical creation stories as false, and therefore Christianity itself—dependent as it is on the myth of Adam’s Fall. Howard Bess sensibly writes:

Evolution speaks of the ongoing, developing nature of life, but even more, evolution speaks to our understanding of God. All static understandings of God goes away. Even God is evolving and changing.

He goes on to point out that we all are in the communications age. The internet is bringing more and more people out of isolation. The events in Cairo perhaps demonstrate it best. It means that more than ever…

everyone is our neighbor.

We can all talk to everyone else. The letter of the Presbyterian clergy entered the network and can now be read by anyone interested. These Presbyterian clergymen seem intent on forming their own purer version of Presbyterianism, united in theology and practice. First, though, they have to get some churches. People might swap denominations but the churches themselves, the hardware, belong to the parent denomination as a corporate entity. The dissident vicars therefore include among their proposals that all property be given to the local congregations!

Rev Bess was left wondering how how correct theology and the ownership of church property became so important to Christians, putative followers of the words and deeds of Christ.

I thought following Jesus was about loving, serving, giving, kindness, and peace making.

Maybe the reverend Bess is not saying openly that the God of US Christians is not God or Jesus Christ. But one infers that Jesus is a nosegay to hide the smell of their true God, capitalism—the Mammon of the bible—who has tempted them into the selfishness, greed and acquisitiveness of the age, without their ever knowing. The boiling anger of fanatical fundamentalists is a result of their own unexpressed guilt at their abandonment of the uncomplicated human morality of Christ.

Their rage is to mask their subliminal knowledge that they have abandoned their God and every principle he told them they must hold to, to be rewarded. For Christian belief makes zero sense if salvation is not a reward, but simply an automatic perquisite of those who decide to award themselves it by calling themselves saints!

Indeed, to return to theology, salvation for anyone is not, and cannot be, certain, for if it were, God would not be omnipotent! Even a genuine saint cannot be certain of entering God’s kingdom, and since humility was essential to Christ, according to the gospels, it follows that anyone who expects to be saved is assuredly not. Those people have forgotten that the first are last, and the last first. Reverend Bess seems to be one of the few Christians who remember some Christian principles.

The Evolution of Faith

Written by mikemagee

11 February, 2011 at 8:09 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Mike,

    I can’t say that I agree with 100% of what you write but I will admit this… You make very strong points. Many of which demand an answer. I hope you do not mind if I refer to some of your writings on my on blog from time to time.

    I do have one question about this article.

    You say, “salvation for anyone is not, and cannot be, certain, for if it were, God would not be omnipotent!”

    I do not agree with you here. Salvation can be certain, if and only if, an omnipotent God assures it. If this all-powerful being assures salvation to someone then there is no other force that can remove that salvation, save for the all-powerful God Himself who has already assured it.

    The real question to ask then, seems to be, has God assured salvation for anyone?


    17 February, 2011 at 4:58 pm

  2. Hello Alan,

    Naturally you can refer to anything I say. You can copy it all verbatim, if you wish, though in that case a link would be appreciated :-), but is not obligatory. We speak in the hope of learning something, surely, and if we think what we learn is worth something, then we’ll want to pass it on. I doubt that I say anything original. It’s just unfashionable for many people, especially many Christians!

    Regarding the certainty of salvation, the Christian begins with the assumption that there is a God, and no Christian has any proof of it. Then that He has indeed made such a promise. I am saying God could not do so, because his omnipotence goes as soon as He make the promise. He no longer has the power to deny that person salvation. You say He can still deny it, but that would make God a liar. His promise is worthless, so He loses His omnibenevolence. He must be able to break it to retain His omnipotence, but then the promise is not an assurance.

    Modern Pauline Christians assume they are saved simply because they have agreed that God is their saviour, and therefore He will save them. They need do nothing other than profess Christianity, and, in exchange, they will be saved. It is what I mean when I say often that Christians think God is an idiot.

    If Jesus Christ is meant to be God, as Christians are supposed to believe, then He is clear that salvation is bound up with strict conditions and not merely the need to “have faith”. The conditions are moral rules, the rules that replaced the Law of Moses, the core of which is to love your neighbor as if he and she were you yourself, and even God Himself. Christ knew it was a terribly difficult thing to do, yet modern Pauline pastors assure their flocks that salvation is a cinch — as long as they keep their minister well fed!

    So, those who believe there is a God ought to be realistic. He can promise salvation subject to strict conditions, of which He remains the judge. And no good God can possibly want rogues and liars sharing heaven with Him, can He? when He has provided a more suitable place for them, we are led to believe!

    Mike Magee

    18 February, 2011 at 1:16 am

  3. If “No good God can possibly want rogues and liars sharing heaven with Him…”

    Then what hope would there be for any and all of humanity? Aren’t we all rogues and liars to one degree or another?


    18 February, 2011 at 3:11 am

  4. Hello again, Alan,

    Yes, we are to some degree or other rogues and liars, that is to say, we are not like Mary Poppins, perfect people, but God wants only perfect people in heaven, otherwise heaven could not be a perfect place, could it?

    John the Baptist and Jesus required people to repent. Their mission was to call for repentance, because only by genuine repentence could ordinary people (at that time Jews in fact), sinners as they are, enter God’s kingdom. Moreover, having repented, they had to take care not to sin before the Kingdom came. People like Constantine chose to be converted on their deathbed so that they did not have the chance to sin again after they had repented and before they died.

    These are all basic things that falsely taught modern Christians do not understand. They seem to think that heaven is full of sinners, but the gate to heaven was narrow and that to hell was broad, and that is where most people ended up, faith or no faith if they had not sincerely repented and remained thereafter sinless.

    Mike Magee

    18 February, 2011 at 7:49 pm

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