The Matrix – Bondage

I went on a run with a good friend today. We used to train together when he lived in Kansas. He now lives in Arizona, but we get in a bit of training when he and his family are back visiting family. Our runs and rides were filled with conversation that covered the entire landscape from family to faith. I miss these training talks and cherish the few times a year that we are able to engage each other in this way.

Our conversation today wandered over to bondage. The bondage in which we find ourselves without realizing we are there. The bondage that, once we are aware of it, either has to be broken apart or submitted to. Watch the clip and then continue on with me. Sorry for the captions. It was the best visually that I could find.

We talked about the bondage that comes about from institutional church. Now hear me out. I am not claiming that institutional church is all bad. There is good stuff happening at most if not all churches. But we are fooling ourselves if we think that it is all just pristine and blessed by God. Some of it is just downright awful.

Churches are run like businesses. And in some respects, they have to be in order to survive. When a church has debt and paid staff and programs, they have to be funded. So there has to be some degree of everone falling in line, thinking in the same way, “doing and thinking about God” in the same way. If that doesn’t happen, no money. No money. No traditional church. And if we are not careful, just joining in to the collective mind can land us smack in the middle of bondage.

I suggest that in many such systems, there is an underlying message that is influenced by the needs the church has to stay afloat. For example, at a church I once attended, the pastor from the platform in front of the church stated that we should let God tell us to add an extra zero to our offerings. Well, I put my pen away and took away both the zeros and all the other digits. A small example of that which I speak but definitely an example.

As I began to have questions about God, faith, theology, doctrine, I realized that in the above scenario, I was never going to get an answer to an honest question that wasn’t influenced by the church as an institution. I wasn’t likely going to get an answer that went against what was needed for the institution to survive and for the masses to stay in line. So I bailed. I jumped off the likemindedness train and went out in search of answers. I took the red pill.

I think the take home is to be on your guard. A “splinter in your mind” may actually need to be taken seriously and not ignored. Just because someone with power claims that God is doing something or that God said something, this does not make it so. Don’t live in the bondage of a “prison for your mind.” Think for yourself. Ask difficult questions. Don’t fear your doubts.

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53 responses to “The Matrix – Bondage

  1. It seems to me one important key is purpose. As long as the church has a clear and great sense of mission that is the thing drawing us together. As long as people are contributing to the vision and the mission there is a great purpose we are all fulfilling together. When the sense of vision and mission dims the church drifts toward being an institution. It is the central task of leadership to keep clarifying and articulating that vision. A lost vision can be difficult to resurrect. And without it the institution is left to self-preservation.

  2. it’s such a paradox that me, not a fan of systems or institutions, is going to be a minister.

    i have a lot of thoughts on this subject, but i love how you’ve framed it and i’m SO happy we’re back to the matrix ;-D missed it!

    love the last lines too.. i’ll be back in a few days after i’ve pondered this… ttyl!

  3. Luke. You are obviously not going to be the typical kind of minister. From what I can tell, you are postmodern through and through. You will be in the system as an agent of change. I respect that in you.

  4. societyvs

    “Don’t live in the bondage of a “prison for your mind.” Think for yourself. Ask difficult questions. Don’t fear your doubts.” (Doug)

    The thing churches fear – doubt. Check it out – test it out – have questions – doubt the answers given – and boo-yah…your on the top 10 wanted list of the church (for needing help that is). You will have so many people paying attention to you it will boggle the mind.

    Truth is – the institution is the real problem now – it controls the people within it and not vice versa. It is not a democracy – usually it is held up by some small governing board that decide for everyone else and no rules really change (ever). If there is going to be change – some people will be sacrificed in the process.

    The church serves itself 50% of the time at least. The other 50% is connection with people – and sometimes this is honest connection and sometimes this is Sunday Service connection (whetever that even is?)…it ain’t true fellowship though.

    One cannot know this unless they have this Matrix experience – they open their eyes for one second – ask a few questions and then take the plunge into the depths of what is behind all of this…is it God? Is it man? Is it tradition? Is it culture? Is it business? Is it theatre?

    The red pill is a good thing – because a new generation of people need to arise to stop the machine from becoming more mechanic – and return it back to where it belongs – in the hands of people looking for real connections.

  5. Jason. That is very well said. And thanks for giving me this affirmation. I wasn’t seeking it but appreciate it. As is obvious, I agree that there are many motives driving what happens at church. And I don’t mean to stay that they are all intentional motives either. Some motives may not even be noticed. A good example is right here in lowly Wichita, Kansas. As you may or may not be aware, a prominent abortion doctor was murdered while at church last Sunday right here in town. I have been in a discussion on the blog of a good friend whom also happens to be the spiritual leader of the church my family attends. This doctor’s revenues from doing abortions are in the multi-millions of dollars each year. My friend asked me if I thought he would be doing it if the clinic were not making money or even losing money. My answer is that he would probably say that yes he would. But I’m not so sure. Money taints our motives, even when we think it doesn’t. So it could very well be, and probably is true, that there are unrealized motives behind some or even a lot of what happens in our churches.

  6. I understand the idea being expressed about the church, but anyone is free to leave if they need to, so I’m not sure bondage is the best term. Doesn’t bondage imply captivity and being held against one’s will? Also, the church has to serve itself to some degree just as we have to take basic care of ourselves to carry out our purpose.
    Balance and the strong sense of mission is the key.

  7. Understood that people do have the freedom to leave. But, there is tremendous pressure within the culture of the church to stay and fall in line instead of leaving. And when someone does leave what they are often met with is that they are being prayed for because they have fallen away from God. I don’t think bondage is too strong a term, but I’m willing to be open-minded to other suggestions.

  8. Freestyle,

    I like where you are going here. As someone who decided to “unplug” from institutional religion a few years ago, I can say that “bondage” is an accurate term. The bondage is downright impossible to see when one is in the middle of it, but becomes clear when you are able to get some distance and look back. This makes sense if you take into account different altitudes of worldview.

    You may find that as you unplug from one “system”, more will follow….it just depends on how far you want to deconstruct.

    Peace!

  9. I’ve just seen your comment on Jim’s blog. I find the comments here about mid-life crises amusing – I’m 73 and I’m still having them!

    I’ve never watched the Matrix but now I understand the meaning of the red pill.

    I’ve had an interesting journey outside the walls of traditional Christianity for some 40 years and I’ve got a bit of a reputation for asking the awkward questions to which there are no easy answers – as a result of which I don’t have many friends!

    My blog is an introduction to my journey but after glancing at your blog I’d like to ask what you think of “The Rise and Fall of Christendom” which can be found at http://uk.geocities.com/oldpete66/christendom.html

  10. I understand the idea being expressed about the church, but anyone is free to leave if they need to, so I’m not sure bondage is the best term(Larry)

    When elephants are young and are being trained for the circus they use large chains around their legs which are fastened to the ground. No matter how hard the young ones try they cannot break free. They eventually learn it is useless to struggle. They are held in “bondage”. When the elephants are older a large chain is no longer needed, just a rope. The elephant feels the restraint and remembers the chain, even though they could easily break free of the rope they were well trained and rarely if ever try to break free. I ask you to think what its like for a child who grows up being taught a certain way and wants to break free, but feels the chains of their “trained belief system”. Im sure its just as powerful as the elephants.

  11. I have been in touch with hundreds of “Out of Church Christians” since I first stumbled on that expression in 2003. I can assure you that FEAR generated within about what might happen to those who leave is a very serious problem.

    My wife still wants to attend church and would be unable to if I didn’t take her. She is away this weekend with my daughter and this is the first Saturday that I have not attended ‘church’ by choice for a very long time! It’s been an interesting experience!

  12. Old Pete. Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you. There is tremendous fear in not complying. Larry, who’s comments are getting this reaction, is a retired minister. His perspective is not going to be the same as the rest of us who were not on the paid staff side, and he may not have the experience that we have had. Maybe this discussion will give him a new perspective. Enjoy your free Saturday!

  13. Roger. Agree completely. It is hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes. Not many have followed me directly to this point, but I have noticed a few peaking around the corner so to speak to see what I’m up to and how I am doing. Thanks for checking in and hope to see you back.

  14. John. Excellent analogy. I would expect nothing less from you. I see you are living up to what you said you were going to do. Enjoy. I will. I’m ready to go back to Punta Cana.

  15. I had an amazing day yesterday!

    I’ve just written about it on my other blog – http://theroomofgrace.blogspot.com

  16. Old Pete. I was able to look at your link, agree with it for the most part, and this is what I would say in response to it. I have quoted Rob Bell on my blog and in other places, and he has an idea that is pertinent here. In his latest book, “Jesus Wants to Save Christians,” he states that we should be very nervous when we see the flag and the bible holding hands. I agree completely with that and would even take it a step further. He obviously is saying in this section of the book that we should not be using the bible to justify our political and military statements and actions. Whatever Constantine did back in the 4th century (there definitely seems to be valid questions concerning his motivation, etc), it seemed to involve a politicizing of Christianity and establishment of it as a mainstream force. I would have to say that this seems to me to be something generated by men, not God. Christians on the one hand often argue for separation of church and state when what they really mean is that the US (and I realize you are from the UK) is founded on Christianity. According to Rob Bell, not only should we not be using scripture to justify our actions, but I believe we shouldn’t be hiding behind it either. If it’s improper to use it to justify our political and military action, it’s equally improper to use it to justify our lack of action on hard issues. Holding hands goes two ways. I think much of what passes for “Christendom” today has nothing to do with God advancing God’s Kingdom in the world. This is something God does, not people. We are invited to join in that work, but we are not responsible for it. It is not a kingdom of power and numbers and dominance. It is a kingdom of grace and love and restoration. The best way we can jump on board is to provide that to each other, grace and love and restoration.

  17. “You are obviously not going to be the typical kind of minister.”

    well, thanks! i needed that!

    “The church serves itself 50% of the time at least. The other 50% is connection with people ”
    -Jason

    yeah! but think about, that’s 40% better than i do on a day-to-day basis. i think i operate at a 90%/10% ratio. i’m working on this. Plus the UCC is a democrasy as it’s congregationally led, so i guess i’m in the right denomination… but the ratio is still there because you gotta pay the bills and keep the building updated… so even in this model things aren’t perfect, nor will they be 100% “pure” by any stretch of the imagination.

    TfT i LOVE the elephant analogy. great stuff! my version of “church” is about pulling up those stakes, not reinforce’n them! i think that’s what really needs to change in the church as institution.

    anywho… i’m coming to the understanding that maybe churches should shrink, not grow. these megachurches do a great job at reaching the “unChurched” and being relevent. but they get sloppy and preach prosperity and a traditional theology… so i can’t go that route… yet the standard 200 member church seems always to be at the limit of things, always over-budget, always worried about $$. maybe it’s best to rent, or meet in a basement somewhere… church is a business, partly, and the administrative part is usually neglected for pastoral concerns.

    however, i think that if a pastor makes no bones about the budget and is being truthful to the congregation’s mission statement and vision, as well as continually growing and stretching (both in terms of new members and in terms of theological learning), the money will come because people will support things they love and has done them good.

    at least, in my ideal world.

  18. “I think much of what passes for “Christendom” today has nothing to do with God advancing God’s Kingdom in the world. This is something God does, not people. It is a kingdom of grace and love and restoration”.

    I would agree with that except perhaps the last word. What do you understand by restoration?

  19. I have come to see “God’s Kingdom” much as NT Wright describes it in Surprised by Hope. There is the physical realm, that which we touch and see and hear where we largely exist, and then there is the spiritual realm, that part that we can sense is there but where God largely exists. God’s Kingdom coming to earth is about those two realms gradually overlapping more and more with the end result eventually being a restoration, a recreation, of what God has intended it to be all along, heaven coming to earth in a way that is more real than what we now experience (much like CS Lewis’ description in The Great Divorce).

  20. As a former Anglican I like a lot of NT Wright’s thoughts – especially when he suggests that 25% may be wrong, but he doesn’t know which.
    The Great Divorce is very much part of my paradigm.
    Where I would tend to differ is on the restoration of what God intended. Could it be that God knew the way things would turn out – and knew that Adam would rebel? After all Jesus is described as the redeemer of the world BEFORE ADAM. I know I’m opening a can of worms with that – but maybe it’s food for thought.

  21. Yeah, that is a can of worms but an important one indeed.. Yes, I certainly think it is possible. But I don’t quite know yet what I think of God knowing the future. If God does know the future, then we don’t really have free will. That’s where the God existing outside of time and being able to watch it all at all points simultaneously fits into the mix. I’m just not sure I buy all of that yet. Got to think through it and read about it some more. And then if God knew ahead of time all of the pain and suffering and tragedy that was to come, why did he create us and allow all that to happen? And if there is a literal hell and he knew that a large portion of his creation would end up there, how could he allow that to happen? Or is universalism really true instead of all the hoop jumping and conditions I’ve been taught? And what does God’s foreknowledge of all this muck and mire say about his mercy and love and graciousness? And is the Adam and Eve and the talking�snake�story not desribing an actual event? And did God actually create evil? A can of worms indeed. � But I’m not sure how that affects a restoration or a recreation. Either way, it doesn’t seem to me that the world is the way it is supposed to be. Something is wrong that needs to be fixed. I’m not sure where your disagreement is in all that. Could you explain it more or differently?

  22. I understand a lot of what you are saying – been there thought that – and I’ve ended up with a paradigm that makes sense to me (bearing in mind NT Wright’s 25%).

    “The story of life – possible scenarios” – see http://uk.geocities.com/oldpete66/scenario.html – will give you an indication of my thoughts.

    I would suggest that God does know the future – that his plan and purpose will be completed after the return of Jesus – and that all the choices that we have all made throughout our lives will be part of the overall picture.

    Food for thought?

  23. If I can ask you guys something with respect?

    How would any of those issues (Universalism, God’s forknowledge etc.) change how you live life right NOW? Would they change how you interact with the physical world, or with neighbors, or in your inner life? Or, or they just mental excercises? Just curious.

  24. “How would any of those issues (Universalism, God’s forknowledge etc.) change how you live life right NOW? ”

    right NOW? what’s the hurry?

  25. Roger. I appreciate the question. And I will answer it two ways. First, it doesn’t make much difference in how I interact with the world now. But that doesn’t mean that the questions and mental exercises are not important. They help me know myself, God, and others better, and I enjoy the philosophy of it all. Second, it makes all the difference in how I interact with the world now. When you grow up thinking that about 5 people are going to make it to heaven, that everyone else will be in hell, and that I better work awfully hard to be one of the 5 and jump through all the hoops twice, asking these kinds of questions is a way out of that hell on earth.

  26. Well said. Just taking life as it comes.

  27. Luke, Now is all you have.

    Freestyle,
    I see what you are saying. I guess as I chose a more allegorical/mystical interpretation of the Bible a lot of those issues went away.

  28. Roger
    I came to the conclusion quite a long time ago that divisive theology is something to be ignored (it’s the ideas of men). We do not KNOW what the future holds – we may have our own paradigms – we are all at different stages of the journey – and we don’t all have the same intellectual abilities. I am not by nature a student but I was forced to reconsider just about everything that I ever believed.

    I was a member of a church that not unreasonably had been described as both a cult and a sect. There was one teaching that I latched onto in the late 1970’s that is still firmly part of my paradigm – “This is not the only Day of Salvation”. I have never accepted UR but I do believe that everyone will have the chance of choosing eternal life – when they hear and understand the REAL TRUTH – and that will not be in this life.

    I know only too well that many see that as an heretical view.

  29. The challenge I see with many peoples beliefs(Christians in general) is that it is all still based both solidly and loosely on the idea of an eternal Heaven or Hell or a combination of both. What makes this a little unpalatable for me is its origins are based on the assumption that we are inherently bad and need some kind of redemption. Even if you believe in UR it still has in it the roots of “bad first, in need of saviour second”. It really is too bad that we choose to see our weaknesses first and our strengths second. Philosophy is all fine and dandy, but what is your core thoughts on who you are?

  30. Roger. I have chosena similar interpretation but only within the last couple of years. I am finding that it takes a great effort to break some of the misconceptions that were imprinted on me over and over again. But I’m being patient with myself, giving myself time, taking it a day at a time, and learning more and more from conversations with guys like you. I will say more about biblical interpretation in my response to the comment left here by my good friend TFT so look there for a bit of continuation.

  31. Old Pete. I’d like to know how you are so sure of that. After reading The Great Divorce I have certainly been hopeful that this is the case. How do you know?

  32. John. As always, I appreciate your challenges and will do my best to rise to the occassion. We have talked about the bible being a book about how certain individuals experienced and related to God. I have understood you to agree, at least to some extent, with that description of what scripture is. With that in mind, the first few chapters of Genesis have to mean something. What that thing is, as we all are very well aware, has been the subject of many theologies and doctrines. Thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands. And the whole lot full of controversy. I don’t any longer believe that there was an actual Adam and an actual Eve and an actual talking snake. But I do believe that the story is a description of a God who created this place and the things that fill it including us. And further, that story seems to indicate that in some way, this place is not exactly right. We are not exactly in the state God intended us to be. We are not exactly in the kind of relationship that God desires with us. How that happened I am not sure (I’m pretty sure it wasn’t all centered around an apple), but it really doesn’t matter all that much how it came to be. It is what it is, and we are left to deal with things the way they are. Now that doesn’t have to mean that I look at humanity as inherently evil, and in fact, I don’t. We certainly have the capacity for evil, and maybe that is what the Adam and Eve story is all about. But I don’t walk around thinking of myself as depraved and horrid and in need of someone to save me. I do think that there is better way to be in relationship with God and a not as good way to be in relationship with God and probably a whole lot of points in between those two extremes. If there is a that God created us, then we are all in relationship with that God in some way whether we want to be or not. Now this fits nicely with what Jesus says about God’s kingdom coming to earth. Influenced by what NT Wright and Brian McLarnen and Rob Bell have to say in their writings on this stuff, I think that heaven is God’s work of recreating the world into what he intended, fixing whatever it was that went awry way back there and then. We can choose to follow that same path and bring heaven to earth, right now, or we can go against it and bring hell to earth, right now. I don’t really hold too much any more to a literal heaven and hell as separate locations that we will be wisked off to or banished to after this present existence. But if God is a relational being and we, as humans, are most fulfilled when we are in a right relationship with this God who is responsible for creating us, then when we choose to go against that we may be placing ourselves in a living hell. I like how Brian McLaren describes it in I think the third of his trilogy, The Next Word and The Word After That, the entire series of which I recommended for your reading pleasure if you recall. If, for example, God can be represented as light and you have chosen to live your entire life in the dark (some Matrix themes embedded here too), then when you finally are in God’s proximity, that would seem like hell to you. So in the end I am moving towards a belief where we will all be in proximity to the Creator one day, no matter path of faith or lack of it we have chosen in this life, and how we have lived this life will determine whether that existence in God’s proximity is heavenish, as God intends, or hellish, as God does not. But I don’t think of myself as inherently evil an in need of redemption. I think Christ’s work on the cross was more about God showing us the way to bring heaven to earth, the kind of life we ought to be leading to join God in bringing heaven to earth.

  33. I would agree with TFT that the beliefs of the majority of Christians are based on an eternal heaven or hell or a combination of both, and they put their weaknesses first and their strengths second. But I would want to question what he means by inherently bad and in need of some kind of redemption.

    One of the major lessons I have been learning over the last few years is why people believe what they believe (often based on the divisive aspects of theology). I would have to say that my faith until about three years ago was based almost entirely on HEAD KNOWLEDGE despite what I wrote about 12 years agao after reading “God of Surprises” by Gerard Hughes:

    I picked up on this quote:
    But if we insist that we must first prove that God exists before we turn to him we shall never find him.

    This one statement from the book has had a significant impact on my own thinking. It is the sort of comment we read over until it suddenly hits us! It raises the question of the ‘Catch 22’ situation – do we have to accept God before we can begin to understand God? This is something that is neither rational nor logical – it is something we as human beings cannot come to terms with without help – and that I believe is the beginning of faith! [God appears to call some through ‘the head’ and some through ‘the heart’ – intellect or relationships – we need to allow for both!]

    The God of philosophers is remote and impersonal – the real God is like a two edged sword – a mystery that finite minds will never adequately grasp – any precise and clear definition of God will be a false one. We need to find God first with our heart (or is this when God finds us?) – only then can we really find him with our minds. We need a felt knowledge of God which affects the way we see ourselves, other people and the world around us – freeing us from the constrictions which our upbringing and present environment are imposing on us – freeing us from the ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ which were part of winning the approval of others and which inhibited the development of our own personality – which leads to a frustrated and anxious life without knowing the reason why.

    This leads me into FRT’s question of how do I know? The answer has to be that I have a paradigm that makes sense – it answers all the questions I feel I need to know – there are many unanswered questions – and I know that others who have been encouraged to think for themselves are peeling back different layers of the onion. We are individually only seeing part of the picture – iron sharpens iron – and some of the answers appear to be contradictory, but we mustn’t forget that we are considering a mystery beyond human comprehension.

    To put it another way – I have written an article entitled “Stages of Faith” – http://uk.geocities.com/oldpete66/4stages.html – I find myself close to being an integrated way finder – but that might well have something to do with the fact that I am well over 70!

  34. Doug

    Maybe the story or stories of the bible are supposed to be geared to what is already here, not what we’re supposedly missing. In fact, perception plays a large part in how we view the world. Rather than thinking that we need to bring heaven to earth through Christ, maybe the purpose is to open our eyes to see that it is already here.

    Luke 17:21 (English Standard Version)

    nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of G-d is in the midst of you.”

  35. John. I think these are good ideas, but they don’t make what I have put forth untrue. I think we need to be working on both and that scripture speaks to us about both, what is to come and what is right before us now. The Kingdom of God is both here and now and there and then, and we must consider both aspects.

  36. “Luke, Now is all you have.”

    Roger, not if you believe in an afterlife… or infinity or a nonlinear time sequence. well, on the last one, technically you’re right, NOW is all we have and all we’ll ever have.

    i guess i’m more into the process of unfolding. nothing will happen NOW as in immediately but your views will change over time. for me, and i can only speak for me, universalism has helped me be a little more patient with people. i didn’t use to be. and the world could use a little more understanding.

  37. Luke. Well said. I don’t feel as far along down the path to being fully accepting of universalism as you are. I see the value of which you speak. Where can I learn more? You sent to a paper one of your classmates wrote, and I found it helpful. Do you think Rob Bell and NT Wright and Brian McLaren believe such? I have come across some others such as C. Baxter Kruger who believe it to be true.

  38. But I would want to question what he means by inherently bad and in need of some kind of redemption.(Old Pete)

    The motif that drives the story of Christ as the redeemer is the one that has Adam(Eve) as the sinner or disobeyer or “bad one”.
    If there is no originator of bad or one that disconnects us from the creator, then what would be the need for one that connects us back? I dont believe that we ever left the connection of source. I think what happened was that we forgot how we were connected. In my opinion the strength of the stories is how to recognize our connection, not why we dont belong. Perception is everything.

  39. I would agree that one of the foundations of Christianity is the fall of Adam. Why is it that theologians ignore the scriptures that Jesus is referred to as the redeemer BEFORE creation? It seems obvious to me that the creator has never broken the connection (or turned his back).

    Could it be that God knew that mankind would fail and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil rather than the tree of life – that man would (without the guidance of the Holy Spirit) choose to go his own way – instead of eating of the tree of life?

    Could it be that the history of God’s chosen race had two major purposes? One would be to show what happens when men go their own way, and the other was the message of the coming Messiah.

    I have expanded on these thoughts in “The story of life – possible scenarios” – http://uk.geocities.com/oldpete66/scenario.html – just another perspective but one that seems to make sense to me!

  40. FSRT – I’m surprised to see you suggest that Baxter Kruger accepts UR. I’m familiar with some of his material but I don’t remember anything that would suggest this – do you know offhand where he refers to it?

  41. Old Pete. I have read Jesus and The Undoing of Adam and while I would agree that he doesn’t just come out and say he is a universalist, a great of what he has to say walks very close to it. My wife has read another of his that I have yet to get to called I think The Dance of the Trinity. That title may not be spot on. She says that it is much more in support of a universalist stance. I have asked her to reply to your comment if she has time so keep your eyes open for that. One of my mentors, Dr. Paul Fitzgerald, is very much in support of Kruger and Young. I have understood him to think similar things about a universalist view. For myself as I hope I have indicated with some degree of clarity, I am exploring it. Is it true? Is it not true? And why or why not? Could it be that in our post-Enlightenment scientific rational reading of scripture that we have gotten it wrong that there are all these hoops that have to be jumped through to gain eternal acceptance from a gracious and loving god? That, in my core, does not feel right and in fact sometimes sounds ridiculous. Are all the hoops just a way for clerical elite to keep power and control over the masses or is that the way God really intended it to be? It sure seems to me that if all the hoops were necessary, God would have spelled it out more certainly instead of leaving it to us to piece it all together from a book that at many points seems to contradict itself. And what about all the peoples who were just unlucky enough to be born at a time and in a location that they didn’t know about all the hoops? It is a bit frustrating for me that no one really seems to come out and say (except for my good buddy Luke), “I believe in universal salvation and here is why and here is where I get it from.” Maybe I am just not reading the right stuff. It seems like a big secret for some reason.

  42. “I don’t feel as far along down the path to being fully accepting of universalism as you are. I see the value of which you speak. Where can I learn more?”

    i don’t know.. i think McLaren and Bell would be about it, but i’m not sure. i still believe in a hell, but it’s one we put ourselves in. if we choose what we do and interpret on this side of the veil (aka Free Will), why wouldn’t the otherside be any different?

    Robert Capon wrote some stuff about it, there’s also “If Grace is True” and “What’s so Amazing about Grace.” a great blog that has some wonderful Capon quote can be found here: http://www.christianheretic.com/2007/06/christianity-is-not-religion_04.html

    i’m a Universalist mainly because i believe in the love of God for all people regardless of faith. also it’s a way to keep me from worrying about the afterlife, something i exhausted myself doing when i was Catholic. if we all get there, there’s no need to get metaphysical and judgmental about others. it worked for me, might not work for everyone.. which is the irony of the term “universalist” because it seems not to be too universal. too many people want to tell others how to act, how to interpret, and what the afterlife holds in store… i hold all of these loosely with no interest in the afterlife part as we’ll all find out sooner or later and hopefully for all our sakes, it’s later rather than sooner ;-)

  43. Hey, Old Pete. In response to this…”The God of philosophers is remote and impersonal…” …I thought you might like Peter Rollins.

  44. Doug

    Go get the “Inescapable Love of God” by Thomas Talbott. He lays out the concept of Universal Salvation quite succinctly.

  45. Ok. That all makes sense and is essentially the same that I have thought. I’ve read What’s So Amazing About Grace and have heard of the other. But what do you do with God’s so called side of “justice?” Sure, God can love everybody regardless of faith. But it doesn’t seem to me that you can hold both justice and mercy tightly at the same time.

  46. John. I am amazed. You recommending a book to further my dive into a part of Christianity that I don’t yet understand real well. I would expect you to be steering me the other direction perhaps. Thanks. I will check it out.

  47. Doug

    I see you still wanting Jesus to work, this book may help you in that quest. :)

  48. the question of God’s justice must be re-thought in light of Christ. Jesus didn’t run around yelling at sinners and judging them, he forgave them.

    God’s justice is not one that’s punative or retributive. Divine justice is much more than we expect or comprehend. think of the prodical son’s return, that’s the layout of the kin-dom of heaven. we can’t be like the other brother and keep records, it won’t do us any good.

    God’s justice is God’s mercy, you can’t separate the two as they are one in the same.

  49. Hi Doug
    Have you read any of Martin Zender’s books? As TitforTat put it, I am still wanting Jesus to work too! (Hi John!).
    Julia

  50. Luke. Thanks for your words. Your mention of the prodigal son story is important for me. I think you are right on there, and I will be thinking about that and considering it more. Thanks a bunch. RAWK!

  51. Julia. I have read Zender, but thanks for suggesting it. I just started a book last night called The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark, and it seems like it may be right down this ally. I’ll let you know.

  52. hey Doug, no problem.

    and it’s great chat’n with Karmen and finally getting to see you and your beautiful family. and i just thought that John was being figurative when he said he’d be taking time off like you were… low and behold, y’all met up! how cool! i’m not always the most perceptive ;-)

  53. John and Doug and family met up – connections connections – never doubt the power of the on-line community and it’s persuasive powers! Man, gotta love a group like the canon.

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