A Good Friday Reflection: You Are Not a Worm; You Are the Joy of Jesus.

Joy is the serious business of heaven -C. S. Lewis link


link

"I am a lowly worm."

I saw this in a comment section of a Calvinista leaning blog site. I wanted to reach out and reassure her that she was deeply beloved by a Jesus who takes joy in her. I knew my comment would not be appreciated so I held my tongue. I kept hoping that someone would tell her she is the joy of Jesus but, sadly, the acceptance of her comment is a sign of the circles that she is spinning in. 

So, today I write this reflection for her and for all of you who believe that you are lower than low and that God is eternally miffed at you. You see, I know all of us bear the burden of guilt at times and wonder, deep down inside, " Am I really forgiven? Am I really loved?"

I am here to tell you that you are joyfully loved and that Jesus thought Good Friday was worth it.

Is Good Friday only about sin salvation?

Kevin DeYoung posted ARE WE KEEPING THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING? and had this to say.

This is not the week for being savvy and sophisticated. This is the week for being simple. Sin and salvation. Death and resurrection. Let every preacher preach this gospel and every congregation hold fast to this word (1 Cor. 15:1-2).

 Sin and salvation…Isn't there anything more?

if your core message for this week is something other than “Christ died for our sins,” you’re doing Christianity wrong. If you want to preach about gender equality or social justice or progressive dispensationalism or the extra Calvinisticum, do it a different week. This week is about a substitute for our sin and an empty tomb for our justification.

Let’s not trade the glories of the cross for a mess of religious niceties, spiritual ambiguities, and moral uplift. It’s time to tell the old, old story once again–the story of sin atoned for, wrath appeased, heaven secured, and death conquered. No gimmicks, no trinkets, no goofy skits and video clips.

No moral uplift? Really? Many people get the sin and wrath part. So many people who visit our site are beaten down, worn out with a sinking feeling that maybe God really can't stand them.

Why did Jesus endure the Cross?

I want to thank my pastor who was the first one I have ever heard address joy in connection with the Cross. From Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

 For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

My pastor looked out at all of us and said "You are that joy!" I sat stunned and my mind starting going in all sorts of directions. Jesus scorned the shame of the Cross because He looked forward to the joy He has in his relationship with us. We are worth it to Him. We are not worms. We are His joy.

Does God need us?

I have heard this question raised many a time, just recently by one commenter followed by the tedious rejoinder "He has no need of us. He is fully complete in His Triune Self." I believe we are using the wrong words. There is a difference between *need* and *want.*

  • Did God *need* to create the universe in all of its infinite beauty?
  • Did God *need* to create all the strange, wonderful, beautiful and diverse animals of this world?
  • Did God *need* to create my silly pug dogs who make me laugh and my bluebirds who bless me with their multiple babies?
  • Did God need to create chocolate,  all kinds of music, poetry, the smell of freshly cut grass and honeysuckle and so many beautiful flowers?

God wants us.

God wanted to create a breathtaking universe. He wanted to revel in His beautiful animals, the gorgeous mountains, the nebulas, black holes, and things far beyond our imagination.

More than anything He wanted to be in a joyous relationship with us and He demonstrated that to us on the night He was betrayed. Knowing precisely what would be happening, did He ditch his disciples and go pray by Himself? Good gracious, NO! Fully knowing their weakness, He still wanted His friends with Him.

Matthew 26:36-56 (NIV) 

36 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled.38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

It gets even better.

During His ministry, He wanted to continue to relate to the people He loved who had already gone on to heaven. Surely you know the story of the Transfiguration. Matthew 17:1-5 (NIV)

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Think about it. He brought his friends along and let them see Elijah and Moses. Even the Father had something to say about this.

Jesus' ministry involved a joyful friendship with His disciples who were just as sinful and messed up as the rest of us. Yet Jesus found joy in His time with them. 

Jesus, on the Cross, communicated with John, the one He especially loved, and He made sure Mary was taken care of. It was His joy to love them during his suffering.

He did not *need* the presence of John and Mary. He wanted him there. He valued His friends and family that even on the Cross, He made sure to care for His mother. John 19:25-27 NIV.

Are these the acts of  Savior who views us as worms?

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” 27 and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Jesus, after the Resurrection, went and hung out with His friends once again

Think about it. Was Jesus' appearance to the disciples and others just a perfunctory "See, I'm alive, you ungrateful worms? Now, I am getting back to heaven and away from all of your wretched sinners." " No, in some respects it was a bit like a huge road trip and party. He rejoiced as they rejoiced. He wanted to be with them.

Here is a chronological list of his appearances from Community in Mission. I have not listed all of them from the post but you get the idea. He wanted to be with His friends. (For the women out there, He appeared first to the women and allowed them to be the first to declare His resurrection.)

I. Mary, lingering at the tomb weeps and is fearful. Peering into the tomb she sees this time two angels who wonder why she weeps. Jesus then approaches her from behind. Not looking directly at Jesus, she supposes him to be the gardener. Then he calls her by name, and Mary, recognizing his voice, turns and sees him. Filled with joy she clings to him. (APPEARANCE 1) (Jn 20:16)

J. Jesus sends her back to the apostles with the news to prepare them for his appearance later that day. (Jn 20:17)

K. The other women have departed the apostles and are on their way possibly back home. Jesus then appears to them (Mt 28:9) after he had dispatched Mary. He also sends them back to the apostles with the news that he had risen and that he would see them. (APPEARANCE 2)

II. The Afternoon and evening of day one.

A. Later that Day, two disciples on their way to Emmaus are pondering what they have heard about rumors of his resurrection. Jesus comes up behind them but they are prevented from recognizing him. First Jesus breaks open the word for them, then sits at table with them and celebrates the Eucharist whereupon their eyes are opened and they recognize him in the breaking of the bread. (APPEARANCE 3) (Lk 24:13-30)

B. The two disciples returned that evening to Jerusalem and went to the Eleven. At first the eleven disbelieved them just as they had the women (Mk 16:13). Nevertheless they continue to relate what they had experienced. At some point Peter drew apart from the others (perhaps for a walk?) And the Lord appeared to Peter (APPEARANCE 4)(Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5) who informed the other ten who then believed. Thus the disciples from Emmaus (still lingering with the apostles) were now told (perhaps by way of apology) that it was in indeed true that Jesus had risen (Lk 24:34).

C. Almost at the same moment Jesus appears to the small gathering of apostles and the two disciples from Emmaus. (APPEARANCE 5) Thomas was absent (although the Lucan text describes the appearance as to “the eleven” this is probably just a euphemism for “the apostles” as a group) They are startled but Jesus reassures them and opens the scriptures to them (Lk 24:36ff).

D. There is some debate as to whether he appeared to them a second time that night. The Johannine account has significantly different data about the appearance on the first Sunday evening from the Lucan account. Is it merely different data about the same account or is it a wholly separate appearance? It is not possible to say. Nevertheless since the data is so different we can call it (APPEARANCE 6) (Jn 20:19ff) though it is likely synonymous with appearance 5.

III. Interlude –

A. There is no biblical data that Jesus appeared to them during the week that followed. The next account of the resurrection says, “Eight days later” namely the following Sunday.

B. We do know that the apostles surely exclaimed to Thomas that they had seen the Lord but he refused to believe it. (Jn 20:24)

C. Were the apostles nervous that Jesus had not appeared again each day? Again we do not know, the data is simply silent as to what happened during this interlude.

IV. One week later, Sunday two.

A. Jesus appears once again (APPEARANCE 7) to the apostles gathered. This time Thomas is with them. He calls Thomas to faith who now confesses Jesus to be Lord and God. (Jn 20:24-29)

V. Interlude 2

A. The time frame of the next appearance is somewhat vague. John merely says “After this.” Likely it is a matter of days or a week at best. The scene is at the Sea of Galilee. Not all the Twelve are present. They have gone fishing, and Jesus summons them from the lakeside. They come to shore and see him (APPEARANCE 8 ) . Peter has a poignant discussion with Jesus in this appearance and is commissioned to tend the flock of Christ (Jn 21).

B. The Appearance to the 500. Of all the appearances you might think that this one would have been recorded in some detail since it was the most widely experienced appearance. Many accounts, it seems, would have existed and at least one would have made its way into the scriptures. Yet there is no account of it, other than it did in fact happen. Paul records the fact of this appearance: 1 Cor 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (APPEARANCE 9) Where did this take place. What was it like. What was the reaction? We simply do not know. Proof once again that the Bible is not a history book in the conventional sense. Rather it is a highly selective telling of what took place, not a complete account. The Bible makes no pretenses to be something it is not. It is quite clear that it is a selective book: (Jn 20:30).

C. The Appearance to James. Here again we do not have a description of this appearance only a remark by Paul that it did in fact happen: 1 Cor 15:7 Then he appeared to James. (APPEARANCE 10) The time frame is not clear. Only that it happened after the appearance to the five hundred and before the final appearance to the apostles.

VII. The rest of the forty days.

A. Jesus certainly had other on-going appearances with the disciples. Luke attests to this in Acts when he writes: Acts 1:3 To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God.

B. During this time there is perhaps the one appearance we can attribute to this time period as recorded by Matthew (Mt 28:16ff) and Mark (Mk 16:14ff). It takes place an “a mountaintop in Galilee.” Mark adds that they were reclining at table. For these notes this appearance (time frame uncertain) is referred to as (APPEARANCE 11) It is here that he give the great commission

I hope that I am getting through to you. If you feel crushed down by sermons that emphasize your failures, pastors that pound you over the head with each and every thing that you mess up and do wrong, remember this. 2000 years ago, it was taken care of. It is done. It is finished and you can get on with the joy of your relationship with Jesus. Never forget that His relationship with you is why Good Friday occurred.

So, tonight as you sit and contemplate sin and salvation, do not forget about joy, the reason He endured the Cross.

The following is probably one of my favorite songs ever. It sums up this post quite nicely.


Comments

A Good Friday Reflection: You Are Not a Worm; You Are the Joy of Jesus. — 150 Comments

  1. Hebrews 12:2 (NIV) For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    My pastor looked out at all of us and said “You are that joy!” I sat stunned and my mind starting going in all sorts of directions. Jesus scorned the shame of the Cross because He looked forward to the joy He has in his relationship with us. We are worth it to Him. We are not worms. We are His joy.

    I love this!

  2. Jesus’ ministry involved a joyful friendship with His disciples who were just as sinful and messed up as the rest of us. Yet Jesus found joy in His time with them.

    Proof that Jesus cherished his friendship with his disciples even after His resurrection can be found in scripture in that He fixed breakfast for them on the beach!

    John 21:9  So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.

    John 21:12  Jesus *said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

    He calls us friends!
     

  3. Worm theology is pretty widespread. I hate the song that says “you are good, you are good, when there’s nothing good in me,…”
    If there is nothing good in me, and since Col 1:27 says “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” the only logical conclusions are 1) Christ is not in me, which makes the verse not true, or 2) Christ is not good. I’m going for option 3: the song sucks.

  4. Psalm 17:8 Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings.

    Proverbs 7:2 Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye.

    Zechariah 2:8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.”

  5. Would Jesus have suffered physical pain and died for a bunch of worms?
    Would Jesus celebrate with a bunch of worms?
    Would Jesus call a bunch of worms his “brethren”?
    Would God have poured out His Spirit on a bunch of worms?
    Would Jesus be preparing a place in His Father’s house for a bunch of worms?
    I believe not, not, not, not, and not!!!

    Sometimes I feel like a worm. Sometimes I behave worse than a worm. And sometimes, Lord forgive me, acting from anger or pain, I have treated another person like a worm. But I am not a worm, and I know it! None of us are worms.

  6. “tonight as you sit and contemplate sin and salvation, do not forget about joy, the reason He endured the Cross” (Dee)

    Amen!!

    The New Calvinist gospel does not bring good tidings of great joy for ALL people. The Gospel does.

  7. Nancy2 wrote:

    Ken F wrote:
    Worm theology is pretty widespread.
    Worms are hook bait. We are supposed to be fishers of men.

    You read my mind, Nancy2.

    Sincerely,

    Fellow Fisherwoman

  8. when I think of ‘joy’, I think of ‘The Canticle of the Turning’ one of our hymns
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=trhxP6VAOuc

    “My soul cries out with a joyful shout
    that the God of my heart is great,
    And my spirit sings of the wondrous things
    that you bring to the one who waits.
    You fixed your sight on the servant’s plight,
    and my weakness you did not spurn,
    So from east to west shall my name be blest.
    Could the world be about to turn?

    My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
    Let the fires of your justice burn.
    Wipe away all tears,
    For the dawn draws near,
    And the world is about to turn.

    Though I am small, my God, my all,
    you work great things in me.
    And your mercy will last from the depths of the past
    to the end of the age to be.
    Your very name puts the proud to shame,
    and those who would for you yearn,
    You will show your might, put the strong to flight,
    for the world is about to turn. (Refrain)

    From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
    not a stone will be left on stone.
    Let the king beware for your justice tears
    every tyrant from his throne.
    The hungry poor shall weep no more,
    for the food they can never earn;
    These are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
    for the world is about to turn. (Refrain)

    Though the nations rage from age to age,
    we remember who holds us fast:
    God’s mercy must deliver us
    from the conqueror’s crushing grasp.
    This saving word that our forbears heard
    is the promise that holds us bound,
    ‘Til the spear and rod be crushed by God,
    who is turning the world around. (Refrain)

  9. I can honestly say I never thought I was a worm in God’s eyes. I was raised that God loved us, no matter who we are. He really loves us. I know I have done things I’m not proud of in my past, but I also know beyond a shadow of doubt that I am forgiven. We are his joy, such a novel idea. A friend of mine, the word Joy is her special word. It describes her. I pray that others can say that about me. If we dwell on what Dee said here, that we really are his joy, what a difference it will make in our own life. There was a song out years ago in the Pentecostal circles that said, “I am his and he is mine and his banner over me is love”. I always liked that. Just think, we are his JOY, and his delight to him. He proclaims to the world that he loves us.

    Side note – I am slowly getting better from my surgery 3 weeks ago. Many thanks to all for your prayers. Shoulder surgery is no fun. I started physical therapy this afternoon. The place I am going to is the place everyone should want to go to. The sweetest, kindest people around.

    Happy Easter to the Joy of God.

  10. Maybe they’d tar me a heretic but I always thought the Good News of Resurrection Sunday was that death is defeated. Something strikes me as odd when the focus is upon what separates us rather than the celebration over the fact that God has made a way to never be separated and to enjoy Him forever along with others we dearly love.

  11. “My pastor looked out at all of us and said “You are that joy!” I sat stunned and my mind starting going in all sorts of directions. Jesus scorned the shame of the Cross because He looked forward to the joy He has in his relationship with us. We are worth it to Him. We are not worms. We are His joy.” – Dee

    Tears.

    Thank you, friend.

  12. mot wrote:

    They call it the Gospel Coalition, but it seems so lacking in God’s love.

    To the Gospel Coalition, Gospel = Calvinism. Have you ever met a group of Calvinists that when you left, you said “Man, love was all over that bunch!”? No, you haven’t. Calvinism is a cold religion focused on jots and tittles, not much love to go around.

  13. Max wrote:

    mot wrote:
    They call it the Gospel Coalition, but it seems so lacking in God’s love.
    To the Gospel Coalition, Gospel = Calvinism. Have you ever met a group of Calvinists that when you left, you said “Man, love was all over that bunch!”? No, you haven’t. Calvinism is a cold religion focused on jots and tittles, not much love to go around.

    Max wrote:

    mot wrote:
    They call it the Gospel Coalition, but it seems so lacking in God’s love.
    To the Gospel Coalition, Gospel = Calvinism. Have you ever met a group of Calvinists that when you left, you said “Man, love was all over that bunch!”? No, you haven’t. Calvinism is a cold religion focused on jots and tittles, not much love to go around.

    Preach it, Brother Max!

  14. I happen to be sitting in the same camp as Velour.

    “Tears.”

    Oh Dee, THANK-YOU for this wonderful post and that amazing hymn. I have never heard it before and I love it too. For many of us who have sat in a toxic church where the leadership receives all of the “perks” and “adoration,” I cannot think of a more joyful message than the Resurrection of our LORD Jesus Christ.

    I am reassured by the saints here, that indeed, I am loved by the King! I praise God for this internet ministry!

    Blessings to you Dee, my sister in Jesus Christ! You are loved.

  15. Victorious wrote:

    John 21:9 So when they got out on the land, they *saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread.

    John 21:12 Jesus *said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

    Thank you Victorious. That story has always moved me to tears for as long as I can remember.

  16. Genesis chapter 1, alone, guarantees that we are not worms. And that is only the beginning……..

  17. Nancy2 wrote:

    Genesis chapter 1, alone, guarantees that we are not worms. And that is only the beginning……..

    I guess it depends on which interpretation of Genesis 1 you listen to. The NeoCals would have you and me — mere women — as second class citizens in their *interpretation.* They’re beyond *rascals*.

  18. Velour wrote:

    I guess it depends on which interpretation of Genesis 1 you listen to. The NeoCals would have you and me — mere women — as second class citizens in their *interpretation.* They’re beyond *rascals*.

    Mah, the neo-Cals don’t get fired up until chapter 2.

    Oh, Velour …. Jack (Jackson the puppy) found an old, glass gallon pickle jar that was sitting at the corner of a shed today. He stuck his head in it …….. He’s smart. He just wanted the but in the bottom of the jar sooooo badly…….. We couldn’t get the jar off of his head! We had to take him to the vet(11 miles) to get the pickle jar off of his head! It all ended well. Jokes from the vet and his other patrons.
    Uhm, do you still want to babysit him? Allie and I may need a break soon! ; ^ )

  19. Nancy2 wrote:

    Mah, the neo-Cals don’t get fired up until chapter 2.

    The NeoCals I know were raring to go at Genesis 1. Man was created in God’s image.
    Women are just derivatives. Sigh.

  20. Nancy2 wrote:

    Oh, Velour …. Jack (Jackson the puppy) found an old, glass gallon pickle jar that was sitting at the corner of a shed today. He stuck his head in it …….. He’s smart. He just wanted the but in the bottom of the jar sooooo badly…….. We couldn’t get the jar off of his head! We had to take him to the vet(11 miles) to get the pickle jar off of his head! It all ended well. Jokes from the vet and his other patrons.
    Uhm, do you still want to babysit him? Allie and I may need a break soon! ; ^ )

    My nephew got into a wee bit of trouble did he?

    He and Allie will be our mascots for Camp Backbone, just like the rest of us troublemakers!

    Signed,

    Your Dog Nanny

    Velour in California (packin’ my bags)

  21. “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)

    This post has really blessed me – thank you!

  22. One of the things that peaked my interest in seminary is that “lowly worm” theology has no basis in Scripture, and more especially in the Hebrew religion from which Christianity developed. It is truly a late middle-ages invention. Don’t want those peasants getting uppity, now, do we? John Dominic Crossan once wrote a wonderful article warning readers about what their theology says about their god. “Lowly worm” theology is not only psychologically harmful, it makes god out to be little more than a fear or pain to be avoided. Lot’s of christian theology through the ages has been Stockholmish, but this one might be the capstone.

  23. Ken F wrote:

    Worm theology is pretty widespread. I hate the song that says “you are good, you are good, when there’s nothing good in me,…”
    If there is nothing good in me, and since Col 1:27 says “Christ in you, the hope of glory,” the only logical conclusions are 1) Christ is not in me, which makes the verse not true, or 2) Christ is not good. I’m going for option 3: the song sucks.

    Christ is anything but a worm! If the old man (a worm) has passed away and Christ is formed in us, we are a new man (no more worm). Calvinists may prefer to think of themselves as worms far below their distant sovereign God, but I’ll take peace and joy in my relationship with Christ any day! Worm theology appeals to “Christ-followers” who prefer a belief system that supports what they feel about themselves and desire to hunker down with others of like-mind, wallowing in worm sweat. That’s why you leave New Calvinist gatherings feeling “Wow, they were not a friendly bunch, no love there, no joy in the Lord.”

    As for me and my house, we choose peace and joy. From the words of an old campfire song:

    I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
    Down in my heart (Where?)
    Down in my heart (Where?)
    Down in my heart
    I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy
    Down in my heart
    Down in my heart to stay

    Hmmmm … I wonder if New Calvinists think that song sucks?

  24. IO (not entirely unrelated N:

    Item 1 of 2: Climbing
    Flashed a new 6b at the climbing wall last night, and my fingers are all fine this morning, so injury rehab is going well.

    Item 2 of 2:Astronomy
    AWWBA, the Event Horizon Telescope project has been actively observing for some months now, though in fact it’s been 20 years in the making. The idea, of course, is that by using a technique known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry, it is possible to combine observations from telescopes thousands of miles apart, to reproduce the resolving power of a telescope thousands of miles across – albeit requiring months of observing to reproduce the light-gathering properties of such a monster.

    The resulting virtual telescope has a resolution on the order of a few tens of microarcseconds. This has been likened to observing a golf ball on the moon. More significantly, it should be possible to resolve the immediate environment of the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

    That will be interesting.

  25. Monica – we used Zephaniah 3:17 on the back of my late mother-in-law’s funeral program. I had never heard of it before till my mom told me about it. Such a beautiful verse.

  26. Max wrote:

    Hmmmm … I wonder if New Calvinists think that song sucks?

    Do they ever experience joy in their “christian’ lives?

  27. Max wrote:

    Christ is anything but a worm!

    This worm theology has so many bad consequences. For one, if we are such unworthy maggots, it demeans what Jesus did on the cross – it mans he basically died for scum. That is not what the Bible teaches. But combining worm theology with other aspects of reformed theology results in blasphemous conclusions – this is the worst example I have seen yet, and it comes (naturally) from John Piper’s site: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-fathers-cup-good-friday. The is gospel(tm) porn at its worst. Why anyone could think this is appropriate completely escapes me.

  28. mot wrote:

    Do they ever experience joy in their “christian’ lives?

    Perhaps they experience joy when they treat non-Calvinists with arrogance. As the “elect” they are far above non-Calvinists, who must surely be the non-elect. They may feel like a worm before God, but they walk in arrogance before men – smug in their electedness … perhaps that gives them great joy.

  29. mot wrote:

    Do they ever experience joy in their “christian’ lives?

    I get the sense that they only “experience” it by whipping themselves into it – a fabricated feeling.

  30. Harley wrote:

    we used Zephaniah 3:17 on the back of my late mother-in-law’s funeral program

    A great verse. I particularly like it in the Amplified version of the Bible:

    “The Lord your God is in your midst,
    A Warrior who saves.
    He will rejoice over you with joy;
    He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins],
    He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.”

    If Jesus is shouting over us with joy, perhaps we ought to join in!

  31. Now that is a rare find a Calvinista leaning blog site that will let you leave a comment.

  32. Max wrote:

    feel like a worm before God, but they walk in arrogance before men – smug in their electedness … perhaps that gives them great joy

    One-upmanship, the thrill.

  33. Here is an interesting thought about “Jacob you worm” – http://www.kabbalah.info/eng/content/view/frame/86783?/eng/content/view/full/86783&main

    “Fear not, you worm of Jacob.” No other creature in the world is like that silk-weaving worm, from which all the garments of honor come, the attire of kings. And after weaving, she seeds and dies. Afterwards, from that very seed, she is revived as before and lives again. Such are Israel. Like that worm, even when they die, they come back and live in the world as before.

  34. Great reminder – it flies in the face of the idea I have heard preached at an A29 church – we can only really see how good God is in contrast to how bad we are. I may have internalized it incorrectly but it always makes me wonder – does despising myself really help me love God more?

  35. Ken F wrote:

    mot wrote:
    Do they ever experience joy in their “christian’ lives?
    I get the sense that they only “experience” it by whipping themselves into it – a fabricated feeling.

    Joy is a choice.

    Also a guilt-inducer. As in, “Why am I not feeling joyful? There must be something wrong with me. Or in me.” Certainly it almost never occurs to you that something is wrong with or in the church.

  36. (meant to say that “joy is a choice” is sort of a teaching, maybe an unwritten law, or maybe actually taught out loud. My memories of that place are fading. Thankfully.)

  37. This will date me, but back in the day in our local SBC we were taught there is no such critter as “original sin.” Babies were born innocents, and only as we were old enough to choose good or evil do our actions begin to be sin. Now, we sure as shootin were taught the Bible says and we can see all are just flat out going to choose to sin.

    We were told “we believe we are sinners because we sin. The Presbyterians believe we sin because we are sinners.”

    This meant as Baptists there was no need to baptize babies, as they have no original sin to be purged or dealt with.

    Came the NIV (in Wesleyan circles the Nazarene Inspired Version) changing “flesh” to “sin nature” so we wouldn’t sound too much like some ancient Greeks who thought the body was evil and the spirit good, hence bodily sin of no importance and we were off and running.

    Now you generally will find every SBC church teaching “we sin because we are sinners.” I’ve heard “baby dedications” turn from asking God to help us lead this child to Christ to asking God to forgive this baby’s sin. I always want to shout out a huge NO!

    Call me a heretic, a Pelagian, or whatever you want, but my Bible still says when God created all, including man, it was very good. And nowhere does it tell me now we are created evil. (Yes, I know the verses where they get the idea we are all born guilty since we were all “in Adam” when he sinned.) But I also know the verses that tell me sin, any sin, all sin, whatever sin, is a choice with a penalty attached, leaving me needing a Savior.

    Not a worm. A good creation of God’s that has strayed, sinned, and needs a Savior. But certainly not a worm.

  38. linda wrote:

    Call me a heretic, a Pelagian, or whatever you want, but my Bible still says when God created all, including man, it was very good. And nowhere does it tell me now we are created evil.

    The charge of heresy gets thrown around quite freely these days. No, I don’t consider you a heretic. Not long ago I learned that the Orthodox don’t believe in original sin in the same way that the West tends to believe. They teach that we did not inherit guilt or a sinful nature from Adam and Eve. Rather, we inherited mortality (Rom 5:12 – “and so death spread to all men”). This agrees with what you wrote – we were created mortal, not evil. So why do we sin? Our fear of death: Heb 2:14-15 – “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” This makes each of us responsible for our own sin (no one escapes this). Note also that it says Jesus died to render death powerless, not to satisfy the wrath of God. So bottom line, you are not heretical or heterodox for what you believe. It’s very good news that worm theologians don’t get to define heresy for the rest of us.

  39. Thank you for this.

    I am reminded of two very different church services I’ve attended as a guest.
    One was in a very strict Calvinist church where there was a strong emphasis on the gravity of our sin. I remember thinking, “I can’t disagree with anything they are saying, but nobody seems happy to be here.” I also thought, “I bet everyone is having a great time at my church back home.”

    The other was Easter Vigil at a Catholic church, where my son was being confirmed. The pastor began his homily by saying, “We like to think of the Resurrection as the happy ending of the Easter story. But it’s not the end — it’s the beginning. It’s the happy beginning of the story!” I’ve never forgotten that.

  40. @ linda:
    Good news! It looks like RC Sproul has solved the problem for all of us: “It’s amazing to me the tremendous amount of agreement there is among Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, and Edwards—the recognized titans of church history. I always consult those because they’re the best. If you want to know something, go to the pros.” (see http://www.ligonier.org/blog/how-do-i-know-whos-right/).

    So there is no need to consult the non-titans such Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement, Athanasius, Ireneaus, Origen, Ambrose, Jerome, Wesley, Barth, etc. We only have to narrow it down to a narrow perspective so that we don’t have to be bothered by contrary ideas. Very good news indeed!

  41. Tears of joy are OK, right? I certainly hope so! Hebrews 12 is one of my favorites and this post just gave me another reason why. Very encouraging.

    Reminds me of another simple campfire song we can add to the playlist: “Jesus loves me, this I know…”

    We aren’t worms–thanks for the reminder!

  42. Ken–yes! Thank you! Wesley was very influenced by the Orthodox. His (not his followers) thoughts on entire sanctification sound very much like kenosis. I appreciate your list of theologians. Our little oilfield SBC often taught what those men, or some of them at least, had taught.

    Personally I’ve always felt the SBC did need to back peddle on liberalism (hence the CR) BUT equally strongly avoid fundamentalism.

    We all know I lost that war, and am now Wesleyan. Shoot, John and Charles even held out the hope of final salvation for all (we don’t know but hope) and hope for cleansing for whatever sin besets us. But mainly it was a breath of fresh air for me to go from what the SBC had become, focused on God being a tyrant willing to burn even our babies for His supposed glory, and into a church that focuses on His magnificent grace and love that would even die for us.

  43. @ refugee:

    “Joy is a choice.

    Also a guilt-inducer. As in, “Why am I not feeling joyful? There must be something wrong with me. Or in me.” Certainly it almost never occurs to you that something is wrong with or in the church.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++

    also a paranoia-inducer. As in,

    “This makes me happy. I’m feeling happy. I’m enjoying feeling happy. gasp, OH NO! I’M FEELING HAPPY! they told me happiness is counterfeit joy! it’s a bad thing! God doesn’t like it! it’s a sure sign of my lack spiritual maturity! how could i let this happen! i let my guard down! i must stop this at once! i must snuff this happy feeling and cease this happy activity.”

    (i’m exaggerating, but not by much)

  44. Off-topic.

    Hi Max,

    I am going to make your biscuit recipe tomorrow morning. (At the top of the page under the Interesting tab, the Cooking tab.)

    I am going to make GovPappy’s Sour Cream Pound Cake for my neighbors and their three children. (Also at the top of the page.)

  45. linda wrote:

    We were told “we believe we are sinners because we sin. The Presbyterians believe we sin because we are sinners.”

    Yes they did say that; I had forgotten that. I have not been actually SBC for so long now that I find it hard to realize what they have become, though I do believe what you all are saying. It hurts my heart.

    My new denom baptizes babies, but I have made if a point to not ask too many 'why' questions because I really don't want to have to bog my life down with one more 'issue'.

    Like you, I went from Baptist to Methodist, but for me it was only a while. I like especially Wesley's quadrilateral as opposed to Hooker's three legged stool, but nobody can make somebody give up their beliefs just because they switch denoms for some reason or the other. There is right much to be learned from the Wesleys.

    (continued)

  46. (continued, part 2)

    Right now I am dealing with a non-religious issue on easter sunday, which is just one more holiday disaster for me. I got a hole in a water pipe which leaked into a was, spread out across the downstairs ceiling and which required an emergency plumbing call at an exorbitant price. The plumbers could not immediately identify the source of the leak so now I have holes cut into walls at various places and holes cut into two places in the down stairs ceiling. They have found the lead, and cut it off but for now I have not water in the kitchen and the plumbers can’t come back until Tuesday. After that the After Disaster people will come contract out the repairs. My insurance company has been nice to deal with so far.

    And just now my son texted me a picture of his youngest at the church easter egg hunt right after I had just read on line about are Jesus and the bunny best pals, reference apparently something on BBC.

    My lips are sealed. We are headed out to eat lunch with ‘the lawyers’ as we call them along with their children and their easter eggs. My lips are sealed. Can you even imagine what strength of resolve it takes for me to be silent around ‘the lawyers’? And right when my defenses are down because of the house disaster.

    But, He is Risen. We can all agree on that.

  47. Thank you so much for this post.

    I have to admit, my past interactions with different “churches” and “Christians” has left me with a lot of anxieties and confusion regarding my faith. I appreciate the fact that blogs like yours and Tim Fall’s exist so I can have some sense of good grounding in my faith. Believe it or not, it’s taken me a good six years to finally start to recognize Jesus’ voice from the others.

    I get frustrated when pastors et al. harp on meaningless rules and regulations that try to confuse believers. If we all went back to the heart of the matter, we’d see the body of Christ moving forward and changing hearts and minds.

    Amen.

  48. @ Sam:

    “I get frustrated when pastors et al. harp on meaningless rules and regulations that try to confuse believers. If we all went back to the heart of the matter, we’d see the body of Christ moving forward and changing hearts and minds.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    your whole comment, me too.

    so, as you see it, what is the heart of the matter?

    I’ve also been trying to reduce the accumulation of gunk down to the shiny… whatever it is. not everyone finds the same shiny whatever-it-is — which leads me to believe that there is still yet more gunk to polish off.

  49. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    This has been likened to observing a golf ball on the moon. More significantly, it should be possible to resolve the immediate environment of the event horizon of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.
    That will be interesting.

    Fascinating. I thought about how light from that horizon was over 90% of the way here when Christ arose. And His return is soon, especially if you think in astronomical terms.
    Then my black-hole-ophobia kicked in. We think it’s over 20k light years away because– that’s where it was long ago. But what if Sag A* reached a tipping point 20k years ago and began sucking in the galaxy and we wouldn’t know it cause we’re still getting the light of long-flattened stars? Any day now….. 🙁 Hope Jesus comes first!

  50. Sam wrote:

    If we all went back to the heart of the matter, we’d see the body of Christ moving forward and changing hearts and minds.

    This might be the main emphasis for the next reformation. I’m hoping 500 years is the maximum shelf life for reformations – that would be good and timely news.

  51. Okrapod–hope things get better for you quickly!

    I’m not Methodist, I’m in a Church of the Nazarene. But I’ve been Methodist in the past, and due to geography Lutheran for a while. Nazarenes talk the quadrilateral but really the main leg of the stool is Scripture.

    Service this morning was those good old Easter hymns, a contemporary song that fit, Communion with some of the liturgy, a sermon, and ended with a “go in peace and serve the Lord” to which some of us gave the “thanks be to God” answer. We also did a fair amount of call and response.

    I would still be SBC if I did not have to sign a covenant (walked out when my active membership would be ended if I did not sign), affirm the tulip, sign on to YEC, and promise not to ever speak negatively of any happening at church. The only other Baptist choices in our town are hyper fundy, YEC, one even the Duggar look for ladies.

    I’m very conservative myself, but not fundamentalist. And I refuse to attend where the pastor is not cool if I dissent a bit from the standard teachings. But I’m “modified Wesleyan” in that I do not believe in loss of salvation since I do believe in the final restoration of all. You can google evangelical universalists that believe hell has an expiration date but is very full real and hot at the moment. Comes close to what I see in the Bible.

    I’ve gone back to what I used to see in the Bible before dispensationalism, then Calvinism and patriarchy took over. Time was in the SBC you could hold your own theology. I just cannot seem to get over that habit.

    Ham is baking, birthday gifts wrapped for grandkid, family including the ex of one of my kids due here soon. See, he found Jesus, who changed him completely, and now even the new husband is buddies with the ex.

    He is risen indeed!

  52. Dave A A wrote:

    But what if Sag A* reached a tipping point 20k years ago and began sucking in the galaxy…

    There’s every reason to believe that black holes don’t work like that. Once you’re at a distance, they’re just masses like any other object, and they have the equivalent gravity; they can’t actually suck! That’s why the handful of stars at the centre of the galaxy have been observed orbiting it, which is how it was actually identified in the first place.

    If, for instance the sun were to be compressed down to a few miles across (this would involve an unprecedented tantrum on God’s part, or something, because that’s not possible physically) it would become a black hole with… the mass of the sun. It’d be very dark and we’d all freeze, but planet earth would continue on its orbit exactly as it is now.

  53. okrapod wrote:

    And right when my defenses are down because of the house disaster.

    But, He is Risen. We can all agree on that.

    Amen.

    What a story about your house. My son bought a beautiful home only twenty years old. After six months residence, he came home from work to find a torrent of water coming from the water heater upstairs, down through the ceiling fan and ruining wood flooring ….. a mess …. he got great help from his USAA (he’s Coast Guard) insurance, thank God, and after tons of work, the place looks even better than before.
    No fun.
    You need a good plumber and (forgive me), a nice large chocolate bunny for joy. You don’t deserve this trouble, no. This too, shall pass.

  54. @ Ken F:
    Was thinking that the ‘reformation’ started with St. Francis of Assisi, but likely there were reformers all along the way, making course corrections here and there. The divisions?
    Been thinking that IF they will one day be healed, they might have been a providential way to caste a wider net, but I likely will not live to see the healing come.

    The ‘next’ Reformation ?
    ….. may it begin within hearts and minds with an awareness towards the Presence of Our Lord in the suffering people of this world….

  55. elastigirl wrote:

    your thoughts on what the heart of the matter is.

    My thoughts are difficult to boil it down to something short enough to post here, but here are a few of my suggestions on the heart of the matter (not exhaustive and in no particular order):
    – Re-discovering the beliefs and teachings of ancient Christians (this should be mandatory reading: http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/athanasius/incarnation/incarnation.c.htm).
    – Re-examining the meaning of God’s holiness (being set apart). Is it merely moral/legal purity or is it the self-giving other-centered love and relationship enjoyed by the Father, Son and Spirit from all eternity. What does it mean for us to be holy in that sense?
    – Shifting the understanding of sin from mere moral/legal infraction to our turning away in independence from our only source of life.
    – Christian fellowship characterized more by conversation than having to strictly agree on favored doctrines.
    – Viewing God’s wrath as his love in action against everything that stands between us and him, rather than as mere moral, punitive anger.
    – Emphasizing God’s justice as restorative (setting things right) rather than punitive (merely punishing wrongdoers).

    Lots more could be added to the list. And after we’ve been fed on 1000+ page documents on systematic theology, the conversations will likely require more words than can be summarized in comments such as this. Still, TWW is a great place for such conversations to get started.

  56. @ Ken F:

    is this the heart of the matter?

    -treating people the way you want to be treated (love your neighbor as yourself)
    -Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

    the 2nd one leaves tons of room for subjective application & interpretation — which scares me already.

    but perhaps it is qualified, bound and limited by the 1st one — which gives me some relief. This does seem to me like a very good candidate for the sum total of the heart of the matter.

    but is anything missing? i hate to even ask, because the whole point of my question is to keep it as pared down as possible. i’m babbling now.

  57. Thanks for all the kind very helpful words things look much brighter today. I hope everyone has a very nice week.

  58. elastigirl wrote:

    i’m babbling now.

    No, your input is always good. Encouraging one another to think out loud is an important part of the conversation. So is asking hard questions.

    As to paring it down, I think the main filter has to be through the truth that God IS love. A theology that says god is glorified by choosing ahead of time to damn certain people for all eternity has to be challenged.

  59. Velour wrote:

    Off-topic.

    Hi Max,

    I am going to make your biscuit recipe tomorrow morning.

    Hope they turned out OK, since I forgot to add a very important thing to the recipe: you have to hold your mouth right when you drop them onto the baking sheet.

  60. Christiane wrote:

    The ‘next’ Reformation ?

    I’m still waiting for a transformation of the Church, rather than a reformation … when it takes on the image of Christ.

  61. Max wrote:

    Christiane wrote:

    The ‘next’ Reformation ?

    I’m still waiting for a transformation of the Church, rather than a reformation … when it takes on the image of Christ.

    maybe it happens in small steps, individually, one at a time,
    ‘worm by worm’ 🙂

    I suspect we are all ‘worms in progress’

    I’m going to try to worm my way out of this comment now.

  62. Max wrote:

    I’m still waiting for a transformation of the Church, rather than a reformation … when it takes on the image of Christ.

    I think as long as we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can be encouraged. But in a world where numbers and money and power and control are what people look for to determine success, people are blind to the Kingdom of God. It’s like that hymn ‘I Vow to Thee, My Country’ ….’And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
    Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
    We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
    Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
    And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
    And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.”
    Not exactly the stuff of mega-Christianity, is it? But that’s okay. All shall be well in the Kingdom of Our Lord.

  63. @ Ken F:

    and maybe that just because “God” is love doesn’t mean this “love” is of necessity an exalted to the point of other and alien kind of love.

    I think ‘made in God’s image’ means we all ‘speak the same language’ — where right, wrong, and love are concerned. no one needs that lesson on the different kinds of love (eros, agape, phileo) — it’s plain as day. every normal and healthy person ever born already knows and understands love as described in Corinthians 13.

    what i’m getting at is I think all the accumulated gunk that needs to be pared down stems from the assumption that God is so “other” that finding God and living a life worthy of God are complex and complicated matters that require official and formalized steps, procedures, and all manner of requirements.

    like a crazily contorted golf swing. it might help so&so get a hole in one, but it won’t work for everyone.

    i could develop my thoughts further…. were they not petering out, here.

  64. I have heard this question raised many a time, just recently by one commenter followed by the tedious rejoinder “He has no need of us. He is fully complete in His Triune Self.”

    So God does nothing except snap Selfie after Selfie of His Own Glory?
    (To the Twitter ‘Aaaaamen!’s by a Drama Queen with fluttering hands…)

  65. Max wrote:

    Calvinism is a cold religion focused on jots and tittles, not much love to go around.

    “The Cold, Grim, Grey, Hard, Joyless path of Salvation.”
    — James Michener, Hawaii

  66. Becca N wrote:

    Great reminder – it flies in the face of the idea I have heard preached at an A29 church – we can only really see how good God is in contrast to how bad we are.

    Lord Farquard from Shrek (an acondrophlasic dwarf) decreeing that all His subjects shall have their legs amputated so none can be taller than their Lord.

  67. Max wrote:

    Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    a black hole

    Back to the topic, New Calvinist worm theology is a black hole.

    And Black Holes SUCK.

  68. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    I have heard this question raised many a time, just recently by one commenter followed by the tedious rejoinder “He has no need of us. He is fully complete in His Triune Self.”
    So God does nothing except snap Selfie after Selfie of His Own Glory?
    (To the Twitter ‘Aaaaamen!’s by a Drama Queen with fluttering hands…)

    I suppose that the idea that God needs us ‘feels’ different to people who think they can fulfill some requirements that God may have for the person in order to satisfy that need. Meanwhile those who think that they cannot meet the obligations of some need that God may have might feel differently.

    Like back in the day when some writer was losing his sight…

    ‘God doth not need either man’s work or His own gifts, who best bear his milk yoke, they serve him best. His state is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed and post o’er Land and Ocean without rest. They also serve who only stand and wait.’ John Milton (On His Blindness ) (excerpt)

  69. @ elastigirl:

    I suppose the way I see it (and your thoughts may vary) being a Christian means that one believes in Jesus and believes that He died for our sins so we could have the gift of eternal life. If we believe in Jesus, that means we believes in everything he said and did. In my opinion, a focus on this would prevent Christians from seeing themselves as an exclusive club and more as a group of persons that realize that they are forever indebted to a higher power. In addition, they might realize that the only thing that separates them from the drunk on the corner is Jesus, not their own moral superiority. Like I said, things would be very different.

  70. Sam wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Ugh. *Shudder*. Didn’t need that mental image.

    The above comment was with regards to the divine selfie mental image.

  71. Well taken point from Hebrews 12. But we need to remember that the Psalmist proclaimed: “I am a worm, and no man” (Ps 22:6). And the suffering Servant of the Lord rejoices (Is 53:10-12) after He was wounded for our rebellions and bruised for our perversions (Is 53:5) and after God laid on Him the iniquity of all of us (Is 53:6). The substitutionary nature of the cross, and the awfulness of sin cannot be minimized in a consideration of Christ’s suffering.

  72. Sam wrote:

    In my opinion, a focus on this would prevent Christians from seeing themselves as an exclusive club and more as a group of persons that realize that they are forever indebted to a higher power. In addition, they might realize that the only thing that separates them from the drunk on the corner is Jesus, not their own moral superiority. Like I said, things would be very different.

    In the mystery that is the Incarnation of Jesus, these prideful people are brought into union with ‘the drunk on the corner’ in His Incarnation ….

    ““” We now know that we have been taken up and borne in the humanity of Jesus, and therefore that new nature we now enjoy means that we too must bear the sins and sorrows of others. The Incarnate Lord makes His followers the brothers and sisters of all humanity. ” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

    Christianity doesn’t set aside a class of ‘the elect’ to judge the failures of broken people and cast stones at them, no ……. He brings all humanity into Himself, assuming to Himself that which can be healed.

    In the words of Jean Vanier, ‘ one Body –
    with the poorest and weakest among us at the heart,
    those that we judge the most despicable, honoured;
    where each person is important because all are necessary.’

  73. Christiane wrote:

    I think as long as we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can be encouraged. But in a world where numbers and money and power and control are what people look for to determine success, people are blind to the Kingdom of God.

    Agreed. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is evidence that the Kingdom of God is at work on earth. I just wished we would see more of it in church! But, I’ve lived long enough to know that all who go to church ain’t the Church. There has always been the Church within the church … narrow is the way.

  74. @ Max:

    “The fruit of the Holy Spirit is evidence that the Kingdom of God is at work on earth. I just wished we would see more of it in church! But, I’ve lived long enough to know that all who go to church ain’t the Church. There has always been the Church within the church”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    what do you make of the fact that people everywhere, of all faiths or no faith, exhibit the same ‘fruit’ of the spirit as is described in Galatians? often in a superior way to most christians (in quantity and quality — sincerely and naturally as opposed to a begrudging obligation)?

  75. Christiane wrote:

    I think as long as we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can be encouraged.

    And I assume by “fruit of the Holy Spirit” you don’t mean running around in circles babbling in Tongues! Tongues! Tongues! Tongues! Tongues!

  76. Ken F wrote:

    And after we’ve been fed on 1000+ page documents on systematic theology,

    “1000+ page documents on systematic theology” sounds like:
    1) someone with WAY too much time on his hands,
    2) hyperdetailed Medieval Angelology and Demonology, and/or
    3) the “Never-ending Story” school of bad fanfic.

  77. Sam wrote:

    Sam wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Ugh. *Shudder*. Didn’t need that mental image.

    The above comment was with regards to the divine selfie mental image.

    Powerful image, and accurate to the Utterly Perfect Twitter Theology of He of the Fluttering Hands and Fear of Muscular Women.

  78. elastigirl wrote:

    what do you make of the fact that people everywhere, of all faiths or no faith, exhibit the same ‘fruit’ of the spirit as is described in Galatians? often in a superior way to most christians

    It is true that there are good folks everywhere who are not Christians who out-do “Christians” in word and deed. Some of the best folks on the planet go to church, but some of the meanest ones do, too! But, whether they are in church or out of church, both are lost souls without God or His Son if they do not know Jesus. Human goodness will not secure anyone a place in Heaven come Judgment Day … the only thing that will count is what we do with Jesus on this side of death … accepting or rejecting Him determines our eternal destiny.

  79. I cannot tell you how life changingly freeing it was to me to learn there are other orthodox options to penal substitutionary atonement. Yes, I believe in substitutionary atonement but without the penal.

    If you really want to dig deep in theology but with uplift to your soul, not condemnation, seriously study the Christus Victor theory of the atonement.

    Once I got that–Jesus defeated Satan–JESUS defeated Satan–JESUS DEFEATED SATAN I was able to move on into the love, joy, and just giddy good news of the real gospel (non trademarked version.)

    Now THAT will hay your wagon.

    Once you get past the dogma beaten into your brain that you are a worm.

  80. Max wrote:

    … the only thing that will count is what we do with Jesus on this side of death … accepting or rejecting Him determines our eternal destiny.

    Max, that all-too-easily slips into “Say-the-Magic-Words” Salvation.

    Which there is already way too much of in the Fundagelical Bubble.

  81. linda wrote:

    If you really want to dig deep in theology but with uplift to your soul, not condemnation, seriously study the Christus Victor theory of the atonement.

    Which I understand these days you find primarily in the Eastern Rites.
    (Warning to all cage-phase Net Orthodox who are suddenly geased to come out of the woodwork…)

  82. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Max, that all-too-easily slips into “Say-the-Magic-Words” Salvation.

    Agreed. But some of those who say the words know in their knower that they have become a child of God … that they have truly been born-again. While many who say the words in response to a manipulated pulpit plea, or because mama expects me to be a Christian, or other such reason don’t experience salvation at all. O.C.S. Wallace used to put it this way “Salvation comes to the soul that comes to salvation. Forgiving Savior and penitent sinner meet.”

  83. Max wrote:

    Human goodness will not secure anyone a place in Heaven come Judgment Day … the only thing that will count is what we do with Jesus on this side of death … accepting or rejecting Him determines our eternal destiny.

    Jesus Christ saves, yes. But HOW He saves is a part of the Paschal Mystery. Please consider this viewpoint:

    “But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.

    For this reason the Council, after affirming the centrality of the Paschal Mystery, went on to declare that “this applies not only to Christians but to all people of good will in whose hearts grace is secretly at work. Since Christ died for everyone, and since the ultimate calling of each of us comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in this Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God.” (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio)

  84. @ Christiane:

    Hmmm. That addresses the issue of what about those in the proverbial ‘darkest Africa’. It does not address the issue of what about those who both hear and apparently ‘understand’ but who then must choose either Christ or not, and choose ‘not’.

    Note the use of the term ‘free cooperation’ in the section you cited. It does not address the issue of people who choose to just say no.

    This issue of course is batted back and forth in protestantism also, without much agreement of course.

  85. Max wrote:

    But some of those who say the words know in their knower that they have become a child of God … that they have truly been born-again. While many who say the words in response to a manipulated pulpit plea, or because mama expects me to be a Christian, or other such reason don’t experience salvation at all.

    At which point, you’re starting to drift into the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

  86. @ Max:

    Sure and I have said the words and/or some words on occasion.

    I don’t have a problem with ‘say the words’ actually. We say ‘I do’ when we get married; we say ‘I will’ at confirmation and renew ‘baptismal vows’ at the same time. We put our agreements to things in written words every time we buy a house or sign an operative permit or join the military, all of which have huge and significant consequences.

    And indeed scripture says ‘if we confess with our mouths…’

    I just don’t feel inclined to apologize for the use of words as though that were something to be ashamed of. In my mind, people can get over it (or not) if they don’t like it, and I think I may be talking to Bro. Platt; didn’t he get into the anti words movement? Or am I mistaken about him on this?

    Any day now people are going to take to objecting to the sunrise when they run out of things to object to.

  87. okrapod wrote:

    Hmmm. That addresses the issue of what about those in the proverbial ‘darkest Africa’. It does not address the issue of what about those who both hear and apparently ‘understand’ but who then must choose either Christ or not, and choose ‘not’.

    Note the use of the term ‘free cooperation’ in the section you cited. It does not address the issue of people who choose to just say no.

    This issue of course is batted back and forth in protestantism also, without much agreement of course.

    maybe we need to take a look at the ‘fruit of the Holy Spirit’ and redefine ‘accepting’ Christ ….. I suggest there is some connection in people who don’t follow the Christian tradition, yet exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in their lives …..

    however deep or shallow or wide or narrow our ‘understanding’ of Jesus Christ is;
    maybe the real measure of our ‘acceptance’ of Him is not something as cut and dried as we thought?

    Certainly the Incarnation itself offers all mankind a connection to Our Lord that we do not even begin to comprehend.

    The ‘Paschal’ Mystery. The Incarnation. The Resurrection.
    How COULD we ‘understand’? How indeed?

    But the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Even a small child like my Down Syndrome son knew to show kindness to someone less fortunate than himself in placing a musical toy very, very gently into the hands of a stretcher-bound friend in his group home. Understanding? Something ELSE is going on there. Something wonderful.

  88. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Max wrote:

    Nick Bulbeck wrote:
    a black hole</blockquote
    Back to the topic, New Calvinist worm theology is a black hole.

    And Black Holes SUCK.

    Predatory theologies suck in a way that black holes don’t. Black holes are passive gravity wells; they swallow what falls into them, but only what falls into them. Young, rebellious and “reformed” neo-calvinism is a virus; acquisitive, insidious and deceitful, determined to evade the immune-systems (such as they are) of host churches, in order to turn them into factories to make copies of itself.

  89. @ okrapod:
    Please don’t read my response to HUG wrong. As I read Scripture, our words are indeed important; confessing with our mouth that we believe is necessary. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). The attitude of the heart coupled with our words determine our destiny. “Everyone who publicly acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). However, just saying words without a heart genuinely turned to Christ in faith results in false assurance of salvation.

    Yes, David Platt caused quite a stir in Southern Baptist ranks a few years ago by saying that a “sinner’s prayer” and “accepting Christ” were just “superstition.” That, of course, approached blasphemy to soul-winning Southern Baptists, but it didn’t seem to hurt the young reformer much – he is now President of SBC’s International Mission Board!

  90. Max wrote:

    Yes, David Platt caused quite a stir in Southern Baptist ranks a few years ago by saying that a “sinner’s prayer” and “accepting Christ” were just “superstition.” That, of course, approached blasphemy to soul-winning Southern Baptists,

    Of course, if one preaches ‘decision’ like Billy Graham did that is recognizing the role of the individual in his/her own life in choosing to follow or not follow Christ, and we really can’t tolerate anything like that which might let the individual think that they are anything except one more faceless bio-organism in the Borg, and one which needs constant oversight by the Borg of course.

    I just see that attitude as so destructive of people’s very humanity.

  91. @ okrapod:
    not at all ….. all goodness comes from God, all grace comes from God …. but that ‘choice’ were were given to ‘choose’ the good or not to choose the good, that choice stands

    I’ve read a lot about people ‘leaving the Church’ or ‘losing faith’ but I think many of them are rejecting the hypocrisy and the ‘mean-ness’ AND certainly the abuse they have either experience, witnessed, or heard of. That is not the same as walking away from Christ. And yet some do not accept Christ. Oh, they may SAY they ‘believe’, and they may go to Church and be as righteous as they come on the surface, but they will turn on people in a heart-beat if they can benefit from it personally, socially or financially, or politically even …. so ‘Christian’ doesn’t mean ‘Christ follower’ on the surface anymore. (no self-sacrificing service there) A lot of people find out a self-professed ‘Christian’ is a total jerk to others, and they still are willing to include him in the ‘club’, but I wouldn’t do it, if they are actively engaged in abusing others and therefore denying in their behavior everything Our Lord stood for ….

    People can turn away from God. Many of us do this when we sin, but our consciences call us to account and to repentance. And we return to Him.

    Choices? Yes, God help us, we have them….. the blessing and the curse of them and God have mercy on us.

    That’s why I said to look at a person’s life to see evidence of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. . . . . it comes from grace which is given to the humble. I think if we want to ‘redefine’ who is living ‘in Christ’, that might be something we could rely on better than a person’s ‘Lord, Lord’ in the face of their abuse of others. Your thoughts?

  92. Christus Victor is alive and well in many Wesleyan connection churches and many more Lutheran ones. Sorry Piper, but not everyone is penal substitutionary atonement.

  93. Fred Moritz wrote:

    But we need to remember that the Psalmist proclaimed: “I am a worm, and no man” (Ps 22:6).

    Who is the speaker of that statement in the Psalm and what is the context of that statement? This passage does not support worm theology as taught by current worm theologians.

  94. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Max, that all-too-easily slips into “Say-the-Magic-Words” Salvation.

    That’s why to me it is a combination of faith (believing and receiving Christ) evidenced by works (James speaks on this subject).

  95. Max wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Max, that all-too-easily slips into “Say-the-Magic-Words” Salvation.

    Agreed. But some of those who say the words know in their knower that they have become a child of God … that they have truly been born-again.

    I said “Magic Words.” They were written in the last chapter of David Wilkerson’s book, “The Cross and the Switchblade.” The change was almost immediate and my husband inquired several days later what in the world had happened to me. 🙂

    I had never opened a Bible, but because of the book and what I read, thought I might give one a try….smile. What I read there truly blessed me and that was over 40 yrs. ago.

    I personally advocate the “ask…seek…knock” method of salvation and trust the Lord will honor and respond to the search-er.

    I believe that regardless of the words spoken or not spoken, it’s one’s heart that is the deciding factor if you will.

  96. Victorious wrote:

    I said “Magic Words” … The change was almost immediate and my husband inquired several days later what in the world had happened to me … I personally advocate the “ask…seek…knock” method of salvation and trust the Lord will honor and respond to the search-er … I believe that regardless of the words spoken or not spoken, it’s one’s heart that is the deciding factor

    Amen! And your new name is now Victorious!

    Scripture speaks of a heart-mouth connection in salvation:

    “If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is believing in the heart that makes a man righteous before God, and it is stating his belief by his own mouth that confirms his salvation” (Romans 10:9-10 Phillips)

  97. @ Max:
    As an aside…the Broadway Musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar” was instrumental in my search as well. I know some think it was blasphemous, but I could relate to a Jesus who wore blue jeans and that peaked my interest. I searched for about 1 1/2 yrs. trying to find out if Jesus was real and if there really was a God. And my family background was Catholic.

  98. @ Max:

    Victorious wrote: “I said “Magic Words” … The change was almost immediate.”

    Max wrote: “Scripture speaks of a heart-mouth connection in salvation”
    +++++++++++++++++

    That’s really great, Victorious!

    on the other hand, my parents have a friend, D, who has a thriving spiritual life with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. he never went through any motions, never recited anything, wasn’t in church, wasn’t in any kind of ‘christian’ group… he just sort of started paying attention. and through the process of time and experience, he got to know God, and God got to know him.

    Of course God already knew him inside and out — but i think when a person interacts with God, God begins to know the person on a different level. i have no doubt it’s fun and rewarding for God. In the same way that we get enjoyment and enrichment from knowing people and experiencing things together with them.

  99. elastigirl wrote:

    my parents have a friend, D, who has a thriving spiritual life with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. he never went through any motions, never recited anything, wasn’t in church, wasn’t in any kind of ‘christian’ group… he just sort of started paying attention. and through the process of time and experience, he got to know God, and God got to know him.

    My wife has the same testimony! God desires a personal relationship with each of us and weaves Jesus into our lives one soul at a time. We can’t assign a one-size-fits-all method to salvation. Once He gets our attention … once we start exhibiting belief and faith in Christ … He can move in our hearts, whether we are in church or not!

    My wife found Christ after the tragic death of her mother. As a non-believer, she began to search for answers and eventually picked up a New Testament. She read it over and over and came to faith in Christ without ever visiting a church or hearing a sermon! She didn’t say the “magic words”, but had an encounter with the living Lord nevertheless. When she eventually started attending church, she was baptized on her statement of faith in Christ … no other stuff necessary.

  100. elastigirl wrote:

    @ Max:
    Victorious wrote: “I said “Magic Words” … The change was almost immediate.”
    Max wrote: “Scripture speaks of a heart-mouth connection in salvation”
    +++++++++++++++++
    That’s really great, Victorious!
    on the other hand, my parents have a friend, D, who has a thriving spiritual life with God/Jesus/Holy Spirit. he never went through any motions, never recited anything, wasn’t in church, wasn’t in any kind of ‘christian’ group… he just sort of started paying attention. and through the process of time and experience, he got to know God, and God got to know him.

    Victorious, Max, Elastigirl:

    Both the “Say-the-Magic-Words-at-the-Altar Call” and the gradual growth and catechism Elastigirl describes are valid conversion experiences; my church (RCC) acknowledges both types as valid.

    Problem is, Fundagelicalism has gotten tunnel-visioned on the first method (Victorious & Max’s) and compeletely ignored the second (Elastigirl’s). This creates a “Can You Top This?” testimony feedback loop where more and more spectacular Damascus Road Testimonies dominate (to the point of exaggerating/faking it or Be Left Behind). This also reinforces the simplistic “Say The Magic Words” sales-pitch paradigm you find in every Four Spiritual Laws, Roman Road, and Jack Chick tract. And forces a glib “I Have A Verse!” reaction to everything until you become like Job’s Counselors.

    I am of the second method (Elastigirl’s). Do you understand just how destructive it can be to be the second when everyone and everything around you hypes the first and ONLY the first? Where since everyone Said the Magic Words their lives have been God on speed-dial, unicorns farting rainbows, and free ice cream every day, all delivered with serene smug simplicity?

    Many-many years ago, I read a book by a Swiss Christian psychologist names Paul Tournier. (I think the title was The Strong and the Weak. In it, he claims that our base personalities and emotional makeup influence our conversion experience/testimony and the “Since I Said the Magic Words, I Have Never Doubted” testimony breaks the bruised reed of those of us whose personality and emotions are wired differently.

  101. Victorious wrote:

    I said “Magic Words.” They were written in the last chapter of David Wilkerson’s book, “The Cross and the Switchblade.” The change was almost immediate and my husband inquired several days later what in the world had happened to me.

    You sound WAY too much like The Righteous on Testimony Night. Never a bruised reed or smoldering wick, always Victorious(TM).

    That change may have been immediate for you; it sure wasn’t for me, and I ended up as a notch on between half a dozen and a dozen Bibles of those whose conversion was like yours. Half a dozen to a dozen times whipped to my knees by Four Spiritual Laws or Jack Chick or underhanded Bible-in-hand Witnessing scare jobs and made to recite The Magic Words. Only to have the next Bible-in-hand Witness destroy what little assurance I had so HE could do the same and put a notch in his Bible for brownie points at the Great White Throne. After this happens to you over and over you start to figure it’s all BS.

  102. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Predatory theologies suck in a way that black holes don’t. Black holes are passive gravity wells; they swallow what falls into them, but only what falls into them. Young, rebellious and “reformed” neo-calvinism is a virus; acquisitive, insidious and deceitful, determined to evade the immune-systems (such as they are) of host churches, in order to turn them into factories to make copies of itself.

    A virus.
    Like Smallpox and Ebola.

    “For you cross land and sea to make a single convert, and when you do you turn them into twice the child of Hell as yourselves!”
    — some Rabbi from Nazareth

  103. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    You sound WAY too much like The Righteous on Testimony Night. Never a bruised reed or smoldering wick, always Victorious(TM).

    That change may have been immediate for you; it sure wasn’t for me, and I ended up as a notch on between half a dozen and a dozen Bibles of those whose conversion was like yours

    Well, don’t forget that the “immediate change” followed a concentrated 1 1/2 yr. search. When my father died, I asked my mother where he was. She said, “he’s in heaven.” I asked her how she knew and her reply was, “you gotta have faith.” My final question (to which she had no answer) was, “where do you get it???”

    Following the funeral, on the plane ride home, I determined to find out once and for all if there truly was a God. That began a very difficult, confusing search…after all, where does one look for God (who is a Spirit)??

    Bottom line is, there were many disappointments in my search and few “sparks” that kept me going. So forgive the shortened version of a very long, arduous, determined road that culminated in what I called an “immediate” transformation. There were certainly bruises along the way and lots of uncertainties as David Wilkerson’s book and the testimonies therein didn’t mesh with my catholic upbringing.

    And finally, it wasn’t me who had a hallelujah moment until my husband noticed a rather dramatic change in my behavior and attitude previously sad, negative, and depressed.

  104. Victorious wrote:

    Well, don’t forget that the “immediate change” followed a concentrated 1 1/2 yr. search.

    OK. That was not clear in your initial comment.
    The “immediate change” Conversion story carries default baggage of a spectacular ZAP! on the Damascus Road.

    Aside: According to the comment thread over at Slacktivist, the end of Left Behind: Volume 16 (last book in the “Antichrist’s Baby Pictures” prequel trilogy) is set among the Raptured in Heaven, and portrays Heaven as a Never-Ending Revival Meeting/Testimony Night where all the Raptured worship bots Witness to each other about Jesus nonstop. (i.e. One of those visions of Heaven that makes Hell look good.)

  105. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:

    “Where since everyone Said the Magic Words their lives have been God on speed-dial, unicorns farting rainbows, and free ice cream every day, all delivered with serene smug simplicity?”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++

    well, if it’s any consolation we know they’re pretending, if not lying to themselves as well. it’s a great feeling to not lower oneself to such behavior.

    (none of my comment pertains to Victoria — you strike me as very much the real deal, V)
    ————————-

    “…a Swiss Christian psychologist names Paul Tournier. …he claims that our base personalities and emotional makeup influence our conversion experience/testimony and the “Since I Said the Magic Words, I Have Never Doubted” testimony breaks the bruised reed of those of us whose personality and emotions are wired differently.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++

    sort of like “God has no use for introverts and neither do we” — heavily implied by many a church and professional christian.

  106. elastigirl wrote:

    well, if it’s any consolation we know they’re pretending, if not lying to themselves as well. it’s a great feeling to not lower oneself to such behavior.

    (none of my comment pertains to Victoria — you strike me as very much the real deal, V)

    Agreed. Only the Almighty knows the heart, the inward parts. Who can say whether or not the magic words took root in so and so, in this dude or in that lady?
    I do believe this though:
    “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
    I believe also that the parable of the sower comes into play.
    In my opinion it can sometimes take years for the seed to germinate and bear good crops, the kind of crops that build a better world.

  107. elastigirl wrote:

    sort of like “God has no use for introverts and neither do we” — heavily implied by many a church and professional christian.

    “But Mary kept all these things,
    and pondered them
    in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

  108. @ Muff Potter:

    “…it can sometimes take years for the seed to germinate and bear good crops, the kind of crops that build a better world.”
    ++++++++++

    yes — a better world. one that is life-giving, as opposed to theologically systematized.
    good crops that nourish energy and brilliance to solve problems of human suffering, instead of pouring it into the institution for the sake of the institution.

    but this is old news.

  109. elastigirl wrote:

    sort of like “God has no use for introverts and neither do we” — heavily implied by many a church and professional christian.

    Yeah. Internet Monk didn’t coin the term “The Evangelical Circus” out of nothing. Too many of these churches are optimized for the back-slapping, glad-handing used car salesman at the expense of guys like us. I wonder if this is a long-delayed aftereffect of the Reformation Wars; since enemy Christians (the RCC) does “contemplation”, we have to do the total opposite — Three Ring Circus, all the time.

  110. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    I never did get the objections to the contemplative life or to meditation. I always wondered how the people who objected got that way and a long time ago, I thought maybe it was BECAUSE of Mary, who ‘pondered’ things in her heart, as it was Mary who seemed to be somehow a problem to them (I never got that either).

    So you think it was a ‘re-action’ inherited from the time of the Reformation? All I can think of is ‘baby-bath water’ in that case.

  111. @ Christiane:

    “I never did get the objections to the contemplative life or to meditation.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    leftovers from the cultural shifts from ’60s early ’70s?

    meaning, a fear & prejudice against the word “meditation” on the part of Judaeo Christians who were adults in the 60’s-70s? (memories of John Lennon, George Harrison, everything “feeling” out of control, etc.)

    and the next generation of Judaeo Christians has inherited that fear & prejudice, without filtering it through critical thinking, perhaps.

  112. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    HUG, as I mentioned upstream, there is no one-size-fits-all salvation methodology. Everyone’s encounter with Christ is different … that’s why they call it a personal experience.

  113. JYJames wrote:

    @ Max:
    And each testimony is amazing.

    The REAL Problem is when only ONE kind of Testimony is permitted.

  114. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    The REAL Problem is when only ONE kind of Testimony is permitted.

    And it has to be the victorious end product. Not allowed to be hurting or struggling in any significant way..

  115. May I respectfully suggest that, historically, the Eastern and Western concepts — or, rather, perhaps I should say, the Orthodox and Catholic concepts — of Original Sin have not been as far apart as Eastern polemicists claim? No, I certainly do NOT endorse Calvinism, not by a long shot. I think Calvinism is evil, in fact. But when people start counterposing “Christus Victor”: to “satisfaction for sin” (as if it must be Either/Or), I get very antsy. These are very recent polemical arguments born of acute anti-Westernism. From what I understand (which admittedly ain’t much), the early Fathers, both Eastern and Western, held a variety of views on Original Sin and the Atonement.

    Among others, the Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart has completely dismantled Frederica Matthewes-Greene’s rabidly anti-Catholic/anti-Western take on this topic:

    http://holyresurrection.areavoices.com/2014/11/30/the-minimum-reading-list-post-1-anselm-of-canterbury/

    I know Hart is a controversial figure within Orthodoxy. (So is FMG, for that matter.) I also do NOT agree with him about everything, not by a long shot. But he has a heck of a lot more scholarly credentials than FMG and her polemicist buddies. Just my two cents’ worth.

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