All posts by Tony

The Third Dratted Verse

There are several verses in the Bible that I wish weren’t there, because they have (of course!) been severely weaponised and abused, by vicious Christians, to beat broken people over the head. People who are damaged and sensitive, people who are hurting. People of whom that same Bible says in Isaiah 42:3,

A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice”.

In short, verses which have caused much suffering among ‘bruised reed’ people, and ‘smouldering wick’ people, when wielded by the ignorant; those ignorant of the goodness of God and also ignorant of how their words affect and damage others. Two other verses I have written about which fall into this category are here and here.

I call these verses the ‘dratted verses’.

So, today, I present the third such ‘dratted verse’, found at Matthew 10:28, “Fear Him who has the power to destroy both body and soul in Hell!”

Hmph. Ok, then.

For some years now, a young man named Jacob M. Wright has been posting a daily ‘thought’ on Facebook, and I highly recommend his work. I have quoted it before.

And today’s blog post on Flying in the Spirit is such a piece. A lot of infernalists[1] hold up the verse at Matt 10:28 as evidence of the existence of this blasphemous place, and, additionally, that we should fear God who, apparently on the merest whim, could cast us into such a place.

And they also use the verse to terrify others about what God is like.

Well, as is my custom on this gentle blog here (the only people I am even remotely harsh with are the religionists who are, of themselves, also just as harsh[2]) I offer here Jacob’s piece on why this passage of Scripture should not be used for fear purposes; indeed, the only way to do so is to rip it out of its context and present it in a contextually inaccurate light.

Here we go:


“Fear him who has the power to destroy both body and soul in hell!” (Matthew 10:28)

Ever hear someone quote this verse as the one time Jesus explicitly promotes being terrified of his Father? It’s not what it looks like. Well, only if it’s excluded from its context. Quoting this verse by itself would be like quoting what the friends of Job said about God and then excluding the fact that later on God says that they were wrong in what they said about him.

If you read the whole chapter, you will see the point Jesus is making. Let’s do a brief overview of the context leading up to Jesus’ words here. First he tells his disciples to go and proclaim the kingdom of God, the coming of which has the effects of restoring people, not destroying them:
“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:7-8) That’s what the kingdom coming looks like, restoring the broken world.

Since this kingdom is a kingdom of restoration and peace, it doesn’t come by violent means, so Jesus tells them he is sending them out as sheep among wolves. Wolves tear sheep to pieces. The powers of this world are established on violence. But the kingdom of God is established on martyrdom, because it is come to plant the seed of forgiveness and peace which will eventually be like leaven that works all through the dough. Jesus doesn’t tell them to fight. He tells them they will be flogged and persecuted in both the political and religious centers, and that they will stand before the powers of the world and declare in the power of the Spirit the true kingdom of God. Jesus tells them they will be put to death, but it’s okay, this is how the world treated him.

Then he tells them “Do not fear.” Do not fear these people that can kill you. Then comes the dreadful verse.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear the One who has power to destroy both soul and body in gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So fear not; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:28-31)

Wait a second, the verse didn’t end at fear? Nope. Notice how Jesus goes from one extreme to the other. First, if you’re gonna fear anyone, fear the One who has power to destroy you in gehenna (the valley of hinnom), but guess what, you don’t even have to fear him because he is a Father who loves and protects every hair on your head. So don’t fear. In other words, all these other guys may be able to kill your body, but there is only one who has power to destroy your actual person, and he would never dream of doing such a thing because he is your Father who cares for even the birds.

Jesus concludes with “Fear not” and affirming our immeasurable worth beyond that of birds. The words “Fear not” are the most repeated words of Jesus.


Brilliant, eh?

I must add something else here. In my search using Google Images for a suitable header picture to use on this post, I simply typed in ‘Matt 10:28’. Try it yourself and see what comes up. There is a some nondescript stuff, and some fairly bland. But there are two other result types that particularly stood out to me. One is where they have made the emphasis on Hell, and made it a fear thing. Essays on how you should be terrified of God. And the other is where they have kept the terror of the verse, but dressed it up to look all jolly, ho-ho-ho and ‘nice’, sometimes even involving cartoons, kids and rainbows???. To be honest, the whole thing makes me feel sick.

Christianity has come so far from Jesus in these times.

Grace and Peace to you

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 In short, people who believe in Hell; an everlasting place of fiery punishment for those who die without conforming to their particular belief structure
2 This is what Jesus did. He was gentle with the needy, the damaged and brokenhearted, but he came down hard on the religious

The White Throne Judgment

“I wish that it wasn’t called “The White Throne Judgement” the way it describes it. The way it’s been described.
“We each stand before God. Who weighs every thing we have done in life. And determines our reward.
“It sounds terrifying. To be before everyone. And have them see my life. To be on display.
“And the word judgement just seems so ominous.
“It makes me scared. Like nothing. No matter how hard I try here on earth. There will be nothing besides disappointment”.

The above is a quotation from a very worried Christian lady, writing it as a post in a Facebook group I am in. And this present piece is intended to encourage any who find themselves in a similar place with regards to worry about any future judgment[1].

There is a concept in some Christian circles called the ‘Great White Throne’ Judgment. It’s based on the passage in Revelation 20:11ff which says,

“Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened—the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds”.

And it goes on to say that anyone whose name was not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life, etc. etc. will be thrown into the ‘lake of fire’. Or something.

To give just one illustration of how many unfounded doctrines are based on this section of Scripture, let’s just consider this one point: that there are some who say that this judgment is only for unbelievers. Well, in its defence, the passage does not say this at all, nor do the following verses; quite the opposite in fact, if you study them correctly. So straight away we can see that the passage, and its modern interpretation, is not only very dangerous in terms of emotional health, but it also has the potential for massive misinterpretation by believers of all flavours. And I won’t even give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are ‘well-meaning’ believers, either, because usually their objective is to instill fear in their readers/listeners. Which, when we are dealing with a God of Love (1Jn4:8b), in Whom there is no darkness (1Jn1:5), and Whose perfect Love drives out fear, (1Jn4:18) has to be a non-starter.

So.

Let’s just say that I noticed the cry of distress in my sister’s Facebook posting and, amongst other gentle-hearted believers, I too tried to add my version of comfort to the help she was being given.

Here was my first response:

“I make light of the White Throne Judgment for two reasons:

1) It is an exaggeration made up by vicious people who want Christians to live in fear, extrapolated from a single, obscure verse (Rev 20:11ff) in the most obscure book of the Bible*, and

2) A great white throne is actually a toilet[2], so I really can’t take it seriously like, ever.

*Regarding Revelation, I was made aware of this caveat by a friend on FB (whom I am still badgering for the original reference):

‘[The early church fathers, when considering whether to include the book of Revelation into the canon], decided NOT TO DO IT without the following strict conditions: 1) It was not to be used for any major doctrine or in any liturgy of the church; 2) It did not have the canonical authority of the other New Testament writings; and 3) It was never to be taken literally in any way, but only metaphorically, as an encouragement for Christians about to undergo major persecution and bloodshed’.[3]

“Whether or not this information is apocryphal, I do think it is a reasonable way of interpreting any passage in Revelation, especially since it is obviously written in an Apocalyptic style which means it is essentially a cryptic message written for those who were originally to receive it. And they would have understood the cryptic meaning. For us, nearly 2,000 years later, any exegesis of the book must at least take that factor into account and, bringing us back to that original quote, our application of the book must be done with that in mind. Note that I am not suggesting, even for a microsecond, that Revelation should not be in the canon; far from it. But, to me, those three principles, supposedly given by the early Church Fathers, should be borne in mind. Especially since this is the only book in the canon where we find almost blasphemous caricatures of Jesus, and his purported horrific end-time activities, that do not fit even slightly with the rest of the New Testament’s accounts of Him”.


I also wrote this in a separate comment, after further pondering:

“There is no Scripture that says that your entire life will be played back in IMAX quality for everyone to see. Fearmongering preachers have tried to twist Jesus’s words about ‘nothing shall remain hidden’ in order to scare people into thinking this…could I suggest that ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? If those thoughts are causing you worry and sadness and fear, then those thoughts are not from God? Therefore, the people who put them there were not speaking words from God.

As a believing Christian for whom Jesus died and dealt with your ‘sin’, could it be that those sins have been removed forever, as far as the east is from the west, and that God shall ‘remember your sins no more’?

Yes! That’s all true! Why should you live in fear, which perfect love casts out? Why let the curse laid on you all those years ago, by those fear-selling preachers, why let it dominate your life now? Walk free of it, sister. The part in Hebrews 12:1, where it refers to the ‘sin that so easily entangles’, well I believe that this passage is referring to the entanglement caused by the constant fretting and worrying about ‘sin’; ‘Did I do something wrong today?’ and so on[4]. You are allowed, nay, you are required to throw off that worrying about ‘sin’.

Let not the sin-police take away your peace. Don’t listen to the accuser, who also wants to steal, kill and destroy: Steal your peace, kill your joy, and destroy your freedom. Don’t listen to him”.


And I think there is a lot more to be said, too, but I didn’t say it. Instead, let me finish by quoting another dear sister on that thread who was equally encouraging, but from a different angle:



“I am curious, what are you basing the idea that everyone would see all that [having the life on display].

I have pondered that moment a lot. But never put that angle on it. I tend to think we cannot fully project what that will be. I usually project it as me before God, & it’s my mind/soul that is enlightened, & sees myself fully as God always has. A major paradigm shift that is not possible here in this life.
 
If I do ponder other souls present in heaven I recall that they will also have been changed by seeing themselves & by extension others as God sees them. None of us will have our limited prejudices we do now. I think humility would be the overriding attitude of all in the Kingdom of Heaven. Pride, & our limited knowledge really does prejudice & limit everyone’s thinking & perspectives here. That won’t be an issue there. Whatever people do see & know would be tempered by seeing themselves & their own life in God’s view.
I my life experience the more clearly I see myself in truth that helps me be more empathetic with others shortcomings.
 
But again I have my doubts others would be so privy to our own judgment before God. I would rather not know all that about everyone. I just have a hard time believing that shame or guilt lasts long in the presence of God. It would be quickly consumed leaving redemption & love in its place. I do want to build up unconditional love, goodness, all the fruit of the Spirit in myself because I think that is what survives before the all consuming presence of God. I pretty much know I will not perfect that in this life.
 
So many people for centuries have tried to control others by using guilt & shame to attempt to control behavior. I see that as a failing in the Church. It is a failing that many of the best theologians have discussed throughout time. Some Prophets & Rabbis even before Christ had a glimpse of this truth.
 
I believe there has been this “Continuing Grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” in play since he was physically here. There is always this controlling element out there pushing to bring condemnation back onto us. Then there is another element that pushes us to grow past that attitude & live with God in full control in our hearts. That pushes for more freedom of the believer. It goes back & forth, but for instance look at how much & how incredibly brutal the Ancient World was in the use of capital punishment. Not just death but torturous death on the idea of setting fear of punishment onto people.
 
Statistically today we have hard data that corporal punishment is not an effective deterrent. Reform, treatment for mental & behavioral health & retraining has a stronger effect, but there is no perfect system certainly not yet.
 
I think shame & laying guilt into others is highly ineffective as it never deals with the cause. But we are surrounded by control freaks who believe heavily in it. True guilt when we have it, tends to motivate us to change. We might struggle with that in the process. Shame always gets in the way of real growth & repentance. God is more interested in true guilt. Evil wants us mired in shame & feeling incapable of change. This is not direct onto the specific topic of our judgement. But this issue of shame versus true clear guilt plays into how we tend to see that Judgement.
 
People put shame onto us for being different, for things they perceive as flaws, but every flaw has a flip side that is a strength to it that needs redirected. Often people shame us for things that are not a flaw at all. It’s just something they are ignorant about as a rule.
 
My goal for 3 decades now has been to throw off shame & false guilt laid on me by other people. I have found many aspects of myself that either need treatment or support, but with treatment & support have strength that has always been there. But for a good portion of my life I felt shame about my strengths because they were different than the expected norms. That is not my fault. That is societies ignorance in play. If people persist in ignorance once something like the autism spectrum is concerned they are in the wrong.
 
I am still intimidated at the idea of standing before an all-knowing God. But my confidence in how he loves me, made me with strengths & even delights in me at times has been mostly growing deeper & stronger.
 
I do go through tough times that really test that a lot. But often come out understanding God’s perspective better & his perspective is just a relief once I grasp it than what I projected it to be. I think wherever I am at the moment in that process the judgement will be more of a stripping away of things that have weighed me down, & a healing. More like a diagnosis & treatment for my soul.”
 

Wow. Well, that’s a lot to think about and take on board, so I’ll leave it there. But I sincerely hope that this piece has encouraged you, especially if you were in any way in fear of judgment. There is no room for fear in the Gospel; none at all. Walk free of it!

Grace and Peace to you

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 I believe that the ‘Judgement of God’ that the Bible speaks of is actually a Heavenly judgement of restoration and relationship, not one of wrath and punishment.
2 Hence, my use of a toilet for the header image for this post. Well, I think it’s funny, at least 😉
3 I have quoted this before, in my article ‘Apocalypse
4 I once preached a sermon on this very topic; the reference is here

The God Jesus Reveals

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series Speaking Truth to Power
The God Jesus Reveals.

Why is it that a lot of believers do not believe the way God is revealed in Jesus Christ and are more comfortable with the way they see the God of the Old Testament? A killing, warring, revengeful, man-hating and a punishing God that is watching our every move to beat us back in line with the big stick of sickness, disease and poverty and eventually to everlasting suffering in hell.

Why people recoil from the God who tells them to love their enemies and to overcome good with evil as Jesus (the express image of God) reveals, and refuse to believe that He will reconcile the world unto Himself, is ironic indeed.

Many man-influenced believers believe in retribution. They want a God who tells them that there should be an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life, and they become upset when anyone suggests a God who asks them to be merciful, loving, compassionate and forgiving. The God of grace is not to their liking. Instead, they want a God who punishes people beyond a just punishment for their wrong doings, they want a God who will provide infinite punishment for limited sin.

The God of grace revealed in Jesus Christ is far too generous. He gives His all in love for others, so we could do the same. Such a God is too sissified for most believers. They want one that only requires a tithe and a one hour time slot on a Sunday and then live for self the rest of the week with a spot of Bible reading and prayer here and there. Ultimately, they want a God who declares as an abomination all of those who offend their established traditions.

They don’t like the God who touches lepers, embraces Samaritans, declares women equals, and has the audacity to say to gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and bisexuals, “Whosoever will may come.” They don’t like the God that Jesus reveals because He embraces those whom they want to reject and disrespect. They prefer the God viewed in the Old Testament; the God who declares certain races unclean and would render women who are menstruating as unacceptable in the temple.

They want a God who, when they march off to war, will be on their side and they reject the God revealed through Jesus who warns that those who live by the sword will die by the sword.

When people promote the grace gospel, the rejection that is so strongly realized should have been expected because most believers feel more comfortable with a God that is like most people…vengeful, judgmental, and ready to mete out torture to those who do not conform to expectations…torture that goes on forever and ever. The God revealed in fullness in the Jesus is not to their liking at all.

The Bible says that God created us in His own image. Unfortunately, man has coated a God in their own image. There is no doubt that most Christians want a God of their own making, but that’s not the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ.

God is not the God of Jonathan Edwards who said…”The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his Wrath towards you burns like Fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the Fire; he is of purer Eyes than to bear to have you in his Sight; you are ten thousand Times so abominable in his Eyes as the most hateful venomous Serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn Rebel did his Prince: and yet ‘tis nothing but his Hand that holds you from falling into the Fire every Moment: ‘Tis to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to Hell the last Night; that you was suffer’d to awake again in this World, after you closed your Eyes to sleep: and there is no other Reason to be given why you have not dropped into Hell since you arose in the Morning, but that God’s Hand has held you up: There is no other reason to be given why you hadn’t gone to Hell since you have sat here in the House of God, provoking his pure Eyes by your sinful wicked Manner of attending his solemn Worship: Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a Reason why you don’t this very Moment drop down into Hell.”[1]

Instead, He is the God of love and mercy found the Beatitudes [2], the God Jesus reveals!

STOP THE MADNESS!

The practice of end time fear mongering has been around for hundreds of years projecting infectious insanity regarding end time prophecies, causing many people to rationalize the irrational and act irrationally. Such irrational behavior has been the cause of suicides, religious oppression and isolation not to mention otherwise rational people selling off everything they own because they believe the deluded end time fear-mongers, who gain power and control over people and who profit financially by preaching and selling books about end time gloom and doom.

Every religion has their very own fear-mongering prophets of doom and gloom, so far, none of these insane fear mongers have been right about anything, the only thing they have proven is how wrong they are, and how easy it is to stampede the people the have control over with fear, which has always been the hottest selling product of every religion…FEAR…THREATS…BLAME…SHAME…AND GUILT.

Thus the only truth that all the fear mongers share and have revealed, is the stupidity of wrong belief patterns in keeping on believing and preaching the same wrong beliefs over and over again even though such beliefs keep proving to be wrong.

The potential of such insanity is that more people believe their insanity of fear causing an eruption in violence and instability among and between the people and nations; irrational behavior that could lead to an unnecessary war, at the end of which people will become more disillusioned because the end time rapture did not happen.

TO STOP THE MADNESS SIMPLY STOP LISTENING TO THE FEAR-MONGERING FEAR MONGERS.

Fear is not of God. “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15).

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7).

Maybe you fear that you’re not good enough or prepared enough for the end times, maybe you fear that you’ll fold under the pressure or not be “perfect” enough, or maybe you fear what’s happening in the religious world and are reacting in a phobic way because of it. Yes, we are most definitely to watch and pray. But we are not to fear. Fear is of the devil. Hope and trust is of God. Trust that the same God who started the work will complete it…not only in you but in the world also (Phil. 1:6).

Like Paul, we can say “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). What ever ‘that day’ is.

 – Glenn Regular – Used with his kind permission. Glenn is the gentleman pictured in the header photo.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 This is from a sermon by Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the hands of an Angry God“. The description on Amazon reads thus: ‘ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is a sermon written by British Colonial Christian theologian Jonathan Edwards, preached to his own congregation in Northampton, Massachusetts to unknown effect, and again on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut. Like Edwards’ other works, it combines vivid imagery of Hell with observations of the world and citations of the scripture. It is Edwards’ most famous written work, is a fitting representation of his preaching style, and is widely studied by Christians and historians, providing a glimpse into the theology of the Great Awakening of c. 1730–1755. This is a typical sermon of the Great Awakening, emphasizing the belief that Hell is a real place. Edwards hoped that the imagery and language of his sermon would awaken audiences to the horrific reality that he believed awaited them should they continue life without devotion to Christ. The underlying point is that God has given humanity a chance to rectify their sins. Edwards says that it is the will of God that keeps wicked men from the depths of Hell. This act of restraint has given humanity a chance to mend their ways and return to Christ’.

I sometimes think that the sermon’s brutality is somewhat misrepresented in that he genuinely thought that he was preaching the truth as he knew it, and he was making a sincere and impassioned attempt to waken his audiences from their lethargy, hoping to present the idea of Hell in all its full horror. He certainly did a good job of that!
2 Mt 5:3-12

Deconstruction and Dogma

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

This is an older piece by Jeff Turner, from eight years ago but which is nevertheless still just as relevant today as it ever was.

More nowadays than ever before, ‘deconstruction’ has become a well-known term in Christian circles, and is of course a polarising term because it has been pirated, twisted and misinterpreted so much as to be meaningless[1]. For me, deconstruction means the stripping away of superfluous beliefs, attitudes and/or practices, which may or may not return the deconstructing person to a place of simpler faith or indeed no faith at all. It’s a product of the honest criticism of one’s tenets of faith which, if those tenets were man-made or man-inflicted, are actually better to be rid of despite the cost in terms of the faith life. The faith life will regrow, and it will most likely not look anything like the old life in a similar way to how a butterfly does not look like a caterpillar[2].

Anyway, over to Jeff:


If you ever manage to construct a faith that is not deconstructable, firstly, you’ve not actually constructed anything, as anything constructed must, by necessity, be deconstructable. But if you do manage to piece something together that is so immovable and rigid that it, well, can’t be moved, you’ve eliminated the possibility of future reform and are essentially claiming to have arrived.

Systems like this are not reformable, since they’ve been constructed in a shoddy, house of cards-like manner, and will crumble as a whole in the presence of even the smallest of questions or when faced with even gentle dissent. I think that’s one reason why so many people lose faith altogether once they begin a process of deconstruction, as modern, Western approaches to Christianity are founded on dogmatic claims to certainty, which, by their very nature are non-deconstructable. They are, in fact, *only* destructible. They’re incapable of changing or being reformed, and can only be destroyed or violently reinforced when challenged.

What we are seeing today is the toppling of a system that was built on a dangerously dogmatic foundation.

In the future, whatever Christianity comes to look like, we must construct something that is inherently deconstructable, or when future reforms come, and come they will, we will only once more experience destruction.

Build a life of faith that is pliable, supple and open to change! Live a life that is founded on the premise of “I could be wrong,” because if you do not, you aren’t actually constructing anything. You are creating an illusory world that is destined for destruction.

But then again, I could be wrong.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 I used to think that this pirating and twisting phenomenon was the preserve only of religious people. But I have since realised that, actually, people from all walks of life do it, in religious and non-religious groups, taking others’ terminology and adopting/usurping it for their own use.
2 See my series, ‘The Stages of Spiritual Growth’  for an in-depth treatment of the idea of ‘deconstruction’ and how it works; also this post about deconstruction from another perspective.

The Judgmental

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

 

Above is yet another excellent post by Chris Kratzer. He has a real talent for seeing through the smokescreens and calling out religious judgmentalism where he sees it. And before anyone accuses him of judging others, which he shouldn’t be doing, then remember the words of Jesus saying not to judge others because if you do then you’ll get the same back in spades (Mt 7:1-5)

Well, I’ve said this before, but sadly, and indeed damagingly for most of humanity, it seems that the sole purpose that some people exist is purely to judge others. That’s it. Nothing else. Not to eat, sleep and reproduce. Not to do works of good service. Nothing, except to judge others.

It makes me wonder if their lives are so tiny, so dull, so samey, so boring, so grey, that this is the only thing that keeps their tiny, empty minds occupied. Just to judge others.

If so, I pity them.

And it’s also likely the reason that the main things that they attack are the joyful things: people having a drink, people loving others, people enjoying themselves, people being happy. They are so deprived of the basic joys in life – probably because of religious prohibitions and hang-ups – that they hate to see others having fun.

And therefore they label it as ‘sin’. If you are happy, then you must be ‘sinning’. Or, to put it another way, the only way you can be happy is to ‘sin’. And because you’re not allowed to do that, then you are not allowed to be happy. So the only thing that remains in life is to project that on to others as well, by judging them and expecting them to follow the judgmentals’ miserable mould. Because you’re not allowed to enjoy anything else.

Oh, I should maybe mention that for a spiritual person (however you decide to define that), you can judge all things, but you yourself are not subject to merely human judgments. And yes that is in their Rulebook, at 1 Corinthians 2:15.

So, a far as I am concerned, the judgmental can all go and take a hike[1]. And when they get there, they can keep right on going.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 I was going to use a more colourful phrase, but some people might be distracted by it

Just Stop It

Dear Christian.

Have you ever wondered why it is that you believe in Hell?

I mean, who in their right mind would just assume that this is the way the universe works?

It’s likely that you were taught to believe it from when you were a small child.

You were conditioned to believe it.

Deep down inside you know that it is a false teaching, after all you are not a sociopath. That is why you can live a normal life without being haunted by the thought of billions of souls being tormented by a god who claims to be love.

The idea of an all powerful being punishing his creatures infinitely in unthinkable agony for eternity for finite crimes is not tenable scripturally, morally or philosophically.

The idea of being harshly punished for committing a crime against one higher in position than you comes not from scripture, but from medieval justice (gee, thanks Anselm and Calvin)

The concept of Hell you were taught to believe is not even in scripture. Any serious student of Koine Greek and ancient near east culture who is familiar with metaphors and euphemisms of the time can tell you this. (A couple of fantastic resources on this subject are: “Her gates will never be shut” by Dr. Bradley Jersak and “That all shall be saved” by Dr. David Bentley Hart)

Dear Christian pastors and teachers. Teaching people about eternal Hell is not gospel. It has nothing to do with the life and teachings of Jesus. It is religious abuse. I understand that you teach it out of fear as you yourself experienced religious abuse. Now is the time for healing. You can stop the cycle. You know that your teaching traumatizes, is manipulative, harmful and plain wrong.

Just stop it.

– Ryan Harbidge
Used here with his kind permission

GAN TV – Grace Awakening Network

I want to let you know about a completely free online TV channel called ‘Grace Awakening Network TV’

On this channel, you get completely free content[1] consisting of videos made by people who have experienced the Grace Walk[2]. I’m not into name dropping, and I won’t do it here. However, you may have heard of some of the people on the GAN channel, and there is a list of the participants on the first page.

You can click the graphic below to get to the channel:

I’d suggest that if you are already walking in Grace, or you are looking into the idea, or even researching the concept, then you will get lots of information and encouragement from listening to the speakers on there. You will need to sign up for a username and password, but you will not need anything like payment details or anything like that. Not all the speakers will jive with you. I personally was watching it when a bloke came on who started shouting. There’s never any need for that sort of behaviour, so I skipped him and went on to another speaker. Plus there are some whose ideas you may not agree with, such is the spectrum of speakers on the channel. They are diverse enough in terms of opinion that the adage ‘it takes all sorts’ becomes very real. But what they all have in common is the idea of a Grace-based Gospel, not a Gospel of divine wrath and retribution and punishment. And they support their arguments with lots of Scripture, for those who might be worried that these people do not present a ‘Bible-based’ belief system.

Anyway, feel free to visit the site. I’m really enjoying it, myself.

Grace and Peace to you.

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Obviously these things do cost money for someone, somewhere, so there are links on the site to let you support them financially if you wish. But the links for this are at the bottom of the pages of the site, and are not displayed ostentatiously at all. I like this. It gives the viewer the choice but only if they are looking for it,  and there’s no pressure at all. Also some of the speakers have short advertisements for their books and/or courses, embedded in some of their videos. But that’s it.
2 That is, the life of people who have walked in the Grace of God rather than legalism

A Parable: The Saving of Mr. Pintle

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series Speaking Truth to Power

Here’s a parable/short story I wrote a good few years ago now. Like all good parables, it has layers of meaning and lots to give in terms of wisdom.

Enjoy!

The Saving of Mr. Pintle

If Mr. Horace Pintle could be said to love anything, it was his job. Having been promoted to Enforcement Management Officer, Dog Fouling, a couple of months ago, he’d gone to work with a vengeance, and now his town was a much better place for it. Granted, he’d had to work hard and had had some very unpleasant arguments with many awkward and powerful people, but he was confident that his job was being done properly, as it ought to. Besides, he loved the aura of power that he felt when he won his ‘discussions’ with people whom he was sure thought they were better than he was. Dog Fouling Enforcement was a most important job, and since the new ‘Council Initiatives to Combat Dog Fouling’, he knew that he had the full force of the Law behind him. Oh, he was a powerful man indeed, more powerful even than the man he had come to see today and in whose office he now sat, sipping an excellent coffee from a proper coffee cup, not those cheap plasticky ones he was forced to use from the coffee machine at the Council offices. The little things like this – he liked to think of them as ‘perks’ – were something he enjoyed immensely.

“Dr. Adams, the law is quite clear on the matter. Under Subsection 5.8.8.2 of the ‘Pavements, Fouling of by Dogs Order, 2008’, the dog must be destroyed if the owners fail to comply with the instructions of the relevant authority. That authority is of course myself, and these people were obstructive and rude when I confronted them with their offence. And since you are the dog’s veterinary surgeon, you are the most suitable candidate for the task. Clearly, it is in the dog’s best interests.”

Dr. Dave Adams steepled his long, sensitive fingers and looked at the little man at the other side of his desk. His clear grey eyes took in Mr. Pintle’s little moustache, his pince-nez spectacles and his thinning hair, carefully combed across his balding head. In another age, Dr. Adams thought, he’d have also been wearing a bowler hat and a pinstripe suit; such was the type of person he had in his office at that moment.

“Mr. Pintle, it is a completely disproportionate response to destroy a dog, simply because its owners failed to pick up completely the last vestige of faeces from the pavement. Did the Martins not explain to you that their dog had a tummy upset that day, and that although they used four separate bags and did their very best, that they simply could not collect all of the mess because it was simply impossible?”

“That is none of my concern”, said Mr. Pintle. “In any case, it is simply out of my hands. The law is very clear on the issue: these people are clearly not fit to own a dog if they cannot be bothered to clear up after it. It is a simple matter of cruelty, Dr. Adams. The dog is obviously not happy with people like these who cannot be bothered to obey the law. It is simply more than my job is worth to allow this situation to continue.”

Dr. Adams thought of Jeffrey and Martha Martin, the couple sitting anxiously in the waiting-room outside his office with their ten-year-old daughter Lucie. Only six months previously, Dave Adams had put to sleep their precious ten-year-old dog, Saladin, whose arthritis was so bad that he simply couldn’t get up any more. Mr. and Mrs. Martin had paid for only the best veterinary treatment in order to do their best for the animal, but to no avail, because the arthritis had been so far advanced by the time it was detected. Lucie had of course been particularly devastated when the dog had died; she’d grown up with him there all her life. Their new dog, Lollipop, was a shaggy brown mongrel who absolutely doted on Lucie and would certainly lay down his life for her, and who was now lying forlornly in a cage at the other side of Dr. Adams’s office, observing them both through soft, intelligent eyes. These people, Dr. Adams thought, were born to be dog owners. He felt he’d grown close to them on a professional level, while treating Saladin, to know that fact quite clearly.

Dave Adams spread his hands placatingly. “Mr. Pintle, I have taken a professional oath to not do any harm. I cannot simply put a dog to sleep because you demand it; there has to be a proper medical reason. And you must consider the family. The little girl dotes on the dog. Her life would not be the same without him. I’m appealing to your humanity, your sense of decency. Surely you’re a good man, with feelings too? This is tearing them apart!”

Horace Pintle felt the delicious flare in his chest that he usually experienced when people put on what he called their ‘be nice to Horace’ veneer. People had to be nice to him, or at least show him some respect. Even if it was only on the surface, they had to do this in the hope that he would decide to be nice to them; in case he felt like being lenient – to perhaps not come down as hard on them as he could. This was another aspect of the power that he loved. People knew that unless they at least maintained a façade of being civil with him, they had no chance of any leniency whatever; if they were rude to him then, well, they’d get no favours from him. Oh, no. They knew it, and he knew that they knew. He’d learned it during his time as a traffic enforcement officer. People had often been obsequious and wheedling, trying to avoid a simple parking ticket, that they could easily afford with their flash cars, families and nice coats. Posh old ladies who’d overstayed their car park tickets by ‘it’s only ten minutes, love’. One young mother in particular he remembered – obviously with a rich husband, of course – struggling with an expensive buggy packed with screaming kids and laden with heavy shopping bags; almost in tears as she’d pleaded with him while he gleefully pinned their fixed-penalty notices under her windscreen wiper the regulation eight minutes after her ticket had expired. Oh, yes, he knew what power was, and he enjoyed it to the full. He hated children and families, young families especially, with their dogs and buggies, nappies and shopping bags. They offended his sense of the order of the universe, the rightness of everything that was properly ordered and set out nice and neat and in accordance with the regulations. Dog mess on the pavement was an affront to him, not because it could infect young children with some unpronounceable disease or other, but because it just was plain wrong. Everyone in the world knew that.

“You remember our advertising campaign, Dr. Adams. We have received text messages from bystanders reporting this family committing this offence; we have surveillance cameras which corroborate their stories. I have made this my personal crusade – to eradicate dog waste from the streets. I have taken personal charge of this case and I intend to pursue it to completion. You realise that I can have your licence to practice revoked, Dr. Adams. I’m sure we both want to avoid any unpleasantness. Naturally, all your professional fees will be paid by the Martin family. It’s in everyone’s best interests, and from what I hear of your professionalism, it won’t feel a thing”. He smiled at Dr. Adams with his mouth only, not his eyes, of course. That would be too unprofessional on his part.

Dave Adams lowered his eyes and looked at his desktop, as if surrendering the point and the interview. Pondering for only a few seconds, he appeared to come to a decision. “Very well, Mr. Pintle. I had hoped it would not come to this; that perhaps we could come to some agreement; some sort of reprieve. I can see now that unfortunately you leave me no choice. No doubt you would like to observe and see that your wishes are carried out. Would you like some more coffee while I make the necessary arrangements?” With that, he stood up slowly, almost tiredly, from his chair, and went across to the place on his workbench that held the coffee-pot, near his dispensary cabinet. While the coffee was brewing, Dr. Adams opened the cabinet and began to make up the required drugs. Bringing across Horace’s fresh coffee, he placed it on the desk in front of Horace and then turned back to the cabinet to continue his work. Glancing down for a moment at Lollipop in his cage, Dave, always the compassionate vet, he tried to give him a wan smile of encouragement.

Savouring for a moment in his mind the recent application he’d put in to become an auditor of large professional companies, Horace Pintle re-stirred the hot coffee in his cup – it had to be properly mixed; anything else just was not proper – and took a good long swallow. Hmm. It was definitely a good brew, smoky, dark and delicious. Hopefully his career record would be immeasurably enhanced by this successful campaign, and give him a good chance to impose his own kind of order into yet more people’s lives. For the moment, though, he was feeling particularly tired. These arguments, or ‘discussions’ as he preferred to think of them, he always found tiring, but the inevitable victory at the end was always sweeter for that. In fact, this one had made him particularly drowsy, and, despite the good strong coffee, he was having difficulty keeping his eyes open. Ah, it looked as if Dr. Adams had finished his preparations and was ready to administer the injection. The vet turned slowly, heavily, from his dispensary towards the dog, and the syringe filled with blue liquid and fitted with a long, sharp needle came into view…..

Outside, in the waiting room, the tension reached its peak as Dave quietly opened his door and came out to confront the Martin family. Lucie was red-eyed with weeping, as were her parents, and the three of them had formed a close, family huddle in their moment of need. Dave closed the frosted-glass door of his office behind him and leaned tiredly against the frame. “That’s something I hope I never have to do again. But it was peaceful in the end; he didn’t feel a thing.” He turned, reopened his office door, and clicked his tongue. Lollipop trotted gamely out to meet his beloved family, and Dave, glancing back over his shoulder, said, “Don’t worry, it’s all been sorted out”, as he went back into his office where Mr. Horace Pintle had finally been put out of his misery.