The Experience Factor

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175 Responses

  1. Nick says:

    Adding experience is the just historical Wesleyan quadrilateral. Most people who study theological method these days add a fifth: community (although it is intertwined with experience to a large degree)

  2. Michael says:

    Nick,

    Welcome!
    In many places evangelicalism rejects both experience and emotions…I’ll tackle emotions another day…

  3. Em says:

    I do not think that Christians are taught properly today. We are the representatives of God’s kingdom on a hostile world. We will be accused of every bad attitude and action in Satan’s playbook. The vile posing as Christians, exploiting the sheep for their own purposes will not enter into eternal rest, let alone the kingdom of redeemed souls.
    Yes, evangelicals are compromising the Faith, excusing men (generic) that the letters to those seven churches instruct us to get rid of … so have many other flocks… As the scenario cycles, God turning and overturning, one of the times will be the last cycle. As the old chorus goes, “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning…”

    fiction autobiographical ? 😳 i wrote a romance (with a msg.) for my teenage granddaughters that centered around a PBY in the Pacific theater of WW2. LOL. Another about a deluded young man who killed a woman by sabotaging her car… I am in deep psychological trouble…

    God keep all the Phoenix peeps – keep us growing in spirit and body

  4. Em says:

    FWIW
    I know that the easy and cliched response to the question of unanswered prayer is to say all prayers are heard, you didn’t pray correctly or you just didn’t notice the answer…
    For my part, what God does with our prayers is His business, but the greatest insult to our Father is to not pray, not bring everything of concern to Him…. 🙏

  5. Josh says:

    “It is only when you hear the Gospel as a wild and marvelous joke that you hear it at all. Heard as anything else, the Gospel is the church’s thing, the preacher’s thing, the lecturer’s thing…. Blessed are they, in other words, who get the joke.” —Frederick Buechner

    Just saw that quote on twitter. Weird thoughts. Interesting, for sure, but weird.

  6. Michael says:

    Em,

    It’s interesting that Anglicans pray more than most..I don’t know how much it brings intervention, but the process changes us.
    The Daily Office is an amazing anchor…

  7. Michael says:

    I have loved Buechners writing for years…here are more quotes…

    Faith is stepping out into the unknown with nothing to guide us but a hand just beyond our grasp.

    ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief’ is the best any of us can do really, but thank God it is enough.

    If we are to believe he is really alive with all that that implies, then we have to believe without proof. And of course that is the only way it could be. If it could be somehow proved, then we would have no choice but to believe. We would lose our freedom not to believe. And in the very moment that we lost that freedom, we would cease to be human beings. Our love of God would have been forced upon us, and love that is forced is of course not love at all. Love must be freely given. Love must live in the freedom not to love; it must take risks. Love must be prepared to suffer even as Jesus on the Cross suffered, and part of that suffering is doubt.

    And now brothers, I will ask you a terrible question, and God knows I ask it also of myself. Is the truth beyond all truths, beyond the stars, just this: that to live without him is the real death, that to die with him the only life?

    If you don’t have doubts you’re either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.

    Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

    To confess your sins to God is not to tell God anything God doesn’t already know. Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you. When you confess them, they become the Golden Gate Bridge.

    One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God.

  8. Josh says:

    Those are all really good.

  9. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    Spooky (thinking of yesterday)… and true.

    Now, for car repairs, St. Eligius and for Vet bills, St. James the Greater…

  10. Nick says:

    Michael, I would say it rejects it in word only. Experience has to do with more than emotions (as you stated), and many experiences affect theological conclusions – cessationism/continuationism is a classic example. I’m writing a masters dissertation on the topic of theological method and the quadrilateral/quintelateral right now actually.

  11. Jean says:

    Michael,

    Are you entertaining substantantive comments on the Buechner quotes?

  12. Michael says:

    Duane,

    They will hear from me this evening. 🙂

  13. Michael says:

    Nick,

    I’d love to read that when it’s done…

  14. Michael says:

    ‘Are you entertaining substantantive comments on the Buechner quotes?”

    No.

    I’m not the slightest bit interested in your critique of Buechner.
    If he’s not your cup of tea, don’t read him.

  15. Michael says:

    People like Buechner, Peterson, Brennan Manning, etc., bring a sense of spiritual reality, wisdom, and comfort, to many people, including me.
    There are always those who want to come along side the comforted and tell them why they really shouldn’t feel better because they perceive some theological flaw.

    Those people can go to hell.

  16. Josh says:

    “Those people can go to hell.”

    Like, eternally? 🙂

  17. Michael says:

    They may eventually be reconciled after the fire does its work… 🙂

  18. Michael says:

    When we had a lot of CC people here they took shots at all those guys constantly…it got really old and then I got done with it.
    If they’re still here they are very quiet now…

  19. Josh says:

    I like Peterson and Manning, despite disagreements with both. I’ve never read Beuchner. I’m sure I would find a lot enjoy, if not the couple of quotes posted here already. But that’s, kind of what is good about them, right. They invite discussion.

  20. pstrmike says:

    Thanks for this post Michael. I’ve shifted in much of my thinking about the faith and it has created quite a turbulence in my soul. I’ve started to identify what, at least in my opinion, doesn’t work. I’ve found there is also a lot of well meaning people who have attached themselves to theological systems that can’t carry the water for me. That realization has caused me to be both skeptical and more gracious, which is a strange combination in and of itself.

    I think there is much more about the faith that we really don’t know well enough about to be dogmatic. Xenia said something on another thread about Orthodoxy needing to be experienced, I feel the same way about our Christian faith regardless of what door we walk through or systematic we hold. We’ve become too cerebral in our faith at the expense of experiencing the mystery. When we can explain all things, the mystery ceases to have an impact.

    I don’t where I will eventually end up, but for now, save me a seat on the back row of a conservative, evangelical Anglican communion, even if it is C4SO ): I may eventually end up there………

  21. Michael says:

    Josh,

    They invite thought and offer different perspectives.
    Discussion usually boils down to people who are edified by them and people who want to make you feel guilty for being edified.
    I already spoke to their fate here… 🙂

  22. Michael says:

    pstrmike,

    Well said…especially about the mystery…

  23. Xenia says:

    That’s a good post, Pastor Mike.

    A little story, not required reading.

    We know a former CC gentleman who “read his way into Orthodoxy.” That is to say, he read a lot of EO apologetic literature which you can find on the Internet. He decided Orthodoxy was the best rendition of Christianity and joined up. But he didn’t really like the Orthodox experience very much. He never did any of the EO thing, which he found burdensome, like AM and PM prayers, keeping the fasts, etc. He just kept reading books. He wanted to discuss the Uncreated Engergies with Fr. G. at the post-liturgy potlucks and Fr. G. wanted to talk about ice hockey. He didn’t mind reading apologia for the veneration of the Saints but was appalled to discover we actually did it. In short, he thought Orthodoxy looked good on paper but he didn’t like Orthodoxy in practice. He tried to change us, we resisted, he quit.

    And read himself into a Presbyterian church. But they fell short as well.

    So he came back to the Orthodox. But he did some more reading and thought the Lutherans had a good argument against Orthodoxy and what did I think? I told him I don’t read Lutheran lit, sorry.

    So back to some other kind of church and more reading. Didn’t last long so he…

    … came back to the Orthodox, said it was for good this time, read another book and I haven’t seen him since.

    All to say, you can read until you think you’ve found the perfect theology but when you begin attending a church with that theology, you may not find what you are looking for. Some people, like this guy, will never find what he’s looking for.

    Some people (like a person who used to post here years ago) will read themselves into Roman Catholicism and discover they really, really hate RC church life. The RC’s are interesting. They are either very conservative (and maybe superstitious) and spend time with the Rosary, Novenas and Eucharistic Adoration OR they are flaming liberals dancing with pagans in the Amazon OR they are indifferent and just coast along, affirming homosexual rights and abortion despite what their church teaches. For someone who just plain loves Catholic theology in theory, it’s hard to find a church where they are not advocating burying statues in the ground upside down on one hand or bowing before pagan idols on the other.

    Blessed are you who have found a church that you can stand. 🙂

  24. Michael says:

    Xenia,
    Brilliant…thank you.

  25. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    I’ve seen so many. They read Kallistos Ware and they are sure they want to be EO. They read John Henry Newman and they are sure they want to be RC. They read Althaus and and they want to be Lutheran. All too often, they don’t experience or enter into the life of the tradition.

    If I only went by what I read, I would probably be EO, but I recognize that my experience of Orthodoxy is rarified and, frankly, intellectual. Anglicanism, with all its warts and failures, simply works for me. I probably say some of the prayers in my sleep! And, best of all, I can still keep my “beautiful corner”!

    Blessed indeed are those who find a church where they can stand…😁

  26. Xenia says:

    Blessed indeed are those who find a church where they can stand<<<

    Hahaha! That's great. 🙂

  27. pstrmike says:

    “Blessed are you who have found a church that you can stand. 🙂”

    LoL.

    I prefer to sit…. 😉

    I wonder if there needs to be more of a distinction between our personal spiritual formation and ecclesial engagement. Granted, it has to be recognized that our spiritual development includes being a part of a community of faith, but we can draw from different traditions without having to abandon our current expression of faith and join another.

    I started reading beyond my own tradition about 12-15 years ago. I did so because the tradition that I was a part of couldn’t answer my questions. For the past 3+ years, I’ve read more works on spirituality than theology, and I have been able to incorporate some into my personal life and practice. I read a few Roman Catholics and several catholics from the Western tradition, but I could never see myself become a part of that church.

    I eventually left the movement that I was affiliated with, but I spent several years giving that idea lengthy consideration, prayer and seeking counsel from those whom I respect. As many of us have done here [on the blog], sometimes, you have to make that type of change, but often the case is that the changes we need are internal. Changing churches or even denominations can be nothing more than the “geographic” change that they talk about in AA. The surroundings are different, but we are still the same on the inside.

  28. Em says:

    Long, long ago a pastor told me that every denomination is corrupted to some degree with human viewpoint – works for me as i have never been able to identify with one. My reality is and always has been, since i accepted God’s offer of redemption, the fact of it. From death into life. From sightless to seeing. From scorn to hope. From wandering to tracking… I’m sure there is more, but…….. 🙆

  29. filbertz says:

    experience is often the quiet, real reason behind one’s expression, theology, and beliefs. It doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny and cross-examination, but fights dirty when challenged. It is powerful because it is personal–and has shaped my questions, answers, doubts, and assurances. Often experience is more accessible, focused, and potent than any system, verse, or perspective offered by another. It is my caveat, my trump card, my go-to. Experience can dismiss the most passionate of sermons or defenses with a mere wave of the hand and at the same time be next to impossible to put into words.

  30. filbertz says:

    Experience also limits the reach of our headlights–because I am male, I cannot fully consider complimentarianism vs. egalitarianism ; because I am white I cannot fully consider the plight or experience of minorities; because I am middle-class, I cannot engage information well on poverty; because I’m 60+, etc. The role of our own experience must be considered from a perspective of both assets and liabilities.

  31. Chris says:

    My experience in the evangelical/CC world is that people are constantly trying to “gain ground” in holiness, knowledge, obedience etc. what happens is they start inventing new ways to seemingly gain that ground, which is just legalism in disguise. Why can’t we just bask in the knowledge that we are sons and daughters of the God of the universe instead of finding a new way to turn that into slavery?

  32. Em says:

    I believe there is an underlying protocol for the redeemed as i have watched us in action in several denominations…
    I find i am jealous for God, for the respect due Him….. 🙆 ? ? ?

  33. Em says:

    Maybe, i should clarify my 5:25 … It does not include inflicting physical mayhem on the disrespectful ….. 😁

  34. Jim says:

    Re prayer, Michael said, “I don’t know how much it brings intervention, but the process changes us.” I feel exactly the same way, and my time in prayer is communion with God. I expect nothing from Him.

    I’ve personally experienced a verifiable life-saving miracle, and have also experienced life-changing tragedy from which I’ll never recover.

    I’m good with whatever comes from His hand, and both “good” and “bad” strengthen my faith. My experience, including the horrific, only assures me that God is good.

  35. Jtk says:

    I was just thinking about how many of my experiences contradict what I KNOW scripture says, and, I think fortunately, many of them speak of God’s gracious dealings with men in sin.

    One in particular deals with man’s sin and how badly he fell away, in which it is impossible to deny his initial regenerative experience.

    Perhaps we just don’t have enough facts.

    And although we know we shouldn’t let experience be our guide, we sure let it so often.

    May the Lord and His Word deal graciously with us. And everyone else.

  36. Josh says:

    Jim – well said.

    It seems that prayer is the process of bringing my will into line with God’s will.

  37. Michael says:

    “It seems that prayer is the process of bringing my will into line with God’s will.”

    I would submit that phrase is a pious rationalization to explain unanswered prayer.
    It may well be true, but it isn’t found in Scripture.
    The NT model is asking and receiving and it extols the power of one person in prayer.
    We may not (and almost certainly do not) have all the facts…but one indisputable fact is that the “promises” regarding prayer are not literally true all the time.
    We use sanctified reason to explain this which is seemingly forbidden to be applied in other matters…

  38. Josh says:

    “I would submit that phrase is a pious rationalization to explain unanswered prayer.”

    That’s not a very kind response. Maybe we have had different experiences? If I start posting bible verses to explain my view are you gonna get heated again?

  39. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – “I would submit that phrase is a pious rationalization to explain unanswered prayer.”

    For someone who believes in progressive sanctification as strongly as you do – I find this statement a bit puzzling. Why wouldn’t God be working on your sanctification by diverting your prayer list?

  40. Michael says:

    What was unkind, Josh?
    I understand your view and I’m sure that you understand that I could post bible verses that support what I’m saying as well.
    It’s paradox and mystery.

  41. Josh says:

    You called it a “Pious rationalization” rather than assuming that I had good reasons for believing that.

    “I’m sure that you understand that I could post bible verses that support what I’m saying as well.”

    As usual, scriptural back-up not welcome. I’ll admit I’m a little handicapped after that.

    The truth is, so many people by into a sort of a prosperity gospel. I’m sure that is very disappointing when one finds it to be untrue.

  42. Josh says:

    “It’s paradox and mystery.”

    I disagree. We receive everything we ask that is in accord with His will.

  43. Michael says:

    I’m not talking about anything close to a prosperity gospel and I assume you know it.

  44. Duane Arnold says:

    I must confess, I do find prayer to be a mystery. Nonetheless, I keep praying. I do not pray on the basis of God answering prayers or not (or the normal explanations for either). I simply pray on the basis of the character of God as the ultimate good. Nevertheless, I have to be honest that bad things happen to good people… regardless of prayer and, conversely, good things happen to bad people… regardless of prayer. On a pastoral level, I think it is best to be honest as to what we know and what we don’t know, unless we want to join the ranks of Job’s comforters. When you have prayed at the bedside of a child who dies regardless of the prayers, there are no easy answers to give to the parent. All you can really say is that what has happened is a tragedy and, somehow, trust in the nature of God as good, even in the midst of a fallen world.

  45. Josh says:

    I do not know it. Your views on prayer don’t line up with scripture, as I see it.

    Like, I feel like if I even ask questions or give different options you’re gonna get upset.

    What scripture do you point to that says God owes you a working truck, for instance?

  46. Josh says:

    Duane, I agree – that is perfectly in line with my sentence that Michael took exception to:

    “It seems that prayer is the process of bringing my will into line with God’s will.”

  47. filbertz says:

    one can easily see, then, how a person’s experience with God can easily tip towards unbelief given the right circumstances. Doubt, disappointment, and struggle with one’s faith can be handled by others with more of a sense of grace and understanding, especially considering how often prayers go “unanswered” and God seems to remain silent and motionless. Preaching up high expectations sets many up for an over-promised, under-delivered experience in the church.

  48. Josh says:

    “Preaching up high expectations sets many up for an over-promised, under-delivered experience in the church.”

    I agree – which is what I mean by a sort of prosperity gospel.

  49. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    It’s not so much aligning my will with God’s (although that might be part of it), but rather trusting in God as an ultimate good, even when circumstances seem otherwise…

  50. Josh says:

    Duane – I see that as the same thing. “Not my will but thine be done.”

  51. Michael says:

    “What scripture do you point to that says God owes you a working truck, for instance?”

    I wasn’t upset at all, just conversing while I waited for my godson to get ready for work.
    Now, I’m upset.
    I never said anything about God owing me anything.
    The people I pastor that struggle with this issue don’t either.
    There is obviously no need to continue this conversation.

  52. Josh says:

    I’m sorry you are upset, and I see myself being set-up as the bad guy. Once again.

    Keep in mind, you took exception to my view of prayer, not the other way around.

    Duane and fil are saying the same thing in longer, more vague ways.

    But I’m the go-to bad guy now.

  53. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    Additionally, this is the dissonance. I prayed… I anointed the child with oil; the mother prayed… nevertheless, the child died. It causes me to approach scripture in a different manner, i.e. it is not formulaic. It is not, “if I do this, God will do that”. Yet, that is what some passages seem to say. There is the dissonance… at least for me.

  54. Michael says:

    ““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
    (Matthew 7:7–11 ESV)

    “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”
    (James 5:13–18 ESV)

  55. Jean says:

    If God cannot be trusted about what He says regarding prayer, then how does one ascertain where He may be trusted? How does one distinguish the true parts from the not always true parts? Does such a division provide a workable paradigm for the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

  56. Josh says:

    Duane – Again, I agree and, of course, I have prayed for healing for many who have died. It is disappointing and heartbreaking.

    I still believe that God is good and true to His word.

  57. Michael says:

    Josh,

    I don’t know what your issue is, but you have never been considered the bad guy here.
    In reality, you have been a beloved member of this community.
    Something has changed and despite my efforts to engage with you on that basis this conflict continues.
    I obviously can’t fit it, so I’ll simply cease engaging.

  58. Josh says:

    You get terribly upset at everything I post. That’s it as far as I see it. And I haven’t changed the kind of stuff I post.

  59. Michael says:

    Josh,

    I’ll say it again…I wasn’t upset at all.
    I don’t agree with you often, but that doesn’t equate to any sort of emotional conflict.

  60. Josh says:

    You tell me…often…how upset I have made you. I’m trigger shy.

  61. Michael says:

    Do I believe God is good?
    Yes.
    Do I believe that all the Scriptures are always “literally” true?
    No.
    How do I explain that dissonance?
    We all have different ways of doing so…

  62. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    Then how do you deal with those portions of Scripture (such as Michael cited) that seem to be formulaic or transactional?

  63. Josh says:

    “We all have different ways of doing so…”

    Sure we do. That doesn’t mean that all are correct.

    And if course, as far as I know, no one is claiming that the bible is always “literally” true.

  64. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Again we put God in the dock – we accuse and cross examine God for his failures all along never considering that the failure is on our end.

    Are you so spiritually in tune that you recognize when God answers prayer?

  65. Michael says:

    God is not in the dock, our ways of understanding His work are.

  66. Michael says:

    “Then how do you deal with those portions of Scripture (such as Michael cited) that seem to be formulaic or transactional?”

    There are many more beside those two…and this is the question I’ve asked over and over again.

  67. Josh says:

    Duane – Glad you asked. Now the answer to that is longer than anyone here will want to read, so I’ll give a quick summary, then answer further as needed.

    1.) If I see those passages as formulaic, I recognize that my understanding of Scripture is limited, and perhaps God did not intend it to mean what I took from it. I’ve had to change my understanding of passages many times, and some passages I simply don’t understand…not yet, anyway. It could simply be that I got these wrong.

    2. ) I weigh those passages against other passages. A quick one here would be Jesus’ prayer in the garden “Thy will not my will”. IF even Jesus had to incur some bad circumstances, then it seems a better understanding of the aforementioned passages would included this caveat.

    3.) I recognize that God is bigger than me and is using all things, yes ALL things, for my good. Even the things I hate, He is using. I may not understand now, but it is still right and good.

    4.) When I don’t see things answered the way I would like, experience has shown me that sometimes, not always, I can see in the rearview how God was right and used those things. THis causes me to trust him more, even when I don’t understand.

    5.) Hopefully though this, I am becoming more like Him and becoming more able to discern His will. When I pray according to His will, it will be answered 100% of the time.

    Thus: “Prayer is the process of bringing my will into line with God’s will.”

  68. Jean says:

    Excellent list, Josh. I concur.

  69. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “Then how do you deal with those portions of Scripture (such as Michael cited) that seem to be formulaic or transactional?”

    I don’t think anyone here (including Duane & Michael) think these are “formulaic or transactional” – if we did we would teach the formulas and transactions to our listeners.

    Does anyone teach this? If not then we all realize that what seems to be is not true. So I would start there. A true teacher would guide his students away from “formulaic or transactional” on day one.

  70. Michael says:

    I can only laugh…those some of the most “clear passages of Scripture” that there are.
    Instead of confessing that there is paradox and mystery we have to find ways that they are “true”.
    If it works for you…I’m all for it.

    Does anyone teach this?
    Ask your Christian bookseller how many “Bible promise” books they sell in a week…

  71. Josh says:

    And to be clear – if we teach them as formulaic, how is that different than the Prosperity Gospel?

  72. filbertz says:

    to clarify, I’m not knocking God and his ways. I’m saying experiences and expectations are on the human side of the relationship. Some of us handle scripture in a way that raises expectations and anticipation beyond what God will deliver. The fault isn’t His, it is with those who normalize a faith in which God generously provides what one may need or want. How scripture is interpreted is suspect in this area and many human “systems” of theology are as well. Our view of scripture and its purposes may be overdue for review.

  73. Michael says:

    Fil,

    Thank you for your input the last couple of days…you need to come on staff. 🙂

  74. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    Let me summarize your points:

    1) I don’t understand this or that passage.
    2) I need a better understanding.
    3) I don’t understand
    4) I don’t understand now, it will become clear later
    5) I don’t know His will

    For me, it is simpler, and an exercise in humility to simply say, “I don’t know”. Such as in, “I don’t know why God allowed your child to die. I don’t have any answers. It’s incomprehensible, but we need to trust in the goodness of God.”

  75. Michael says:

    Josh,

    If we believe that every jot and tittle are from the mouth of God how else would you interpret those passages except to say that they were literally true?

    Now the implications of what you wrote are staggering.
    It was God’s will that the child died.
    It was God’s will that the cancer ate the person alive.
    It was God’s will that the person was not healed of mental illness and lost their family.
    It was God’s will that a job was not found and the family is homeless.

    On and on…

    I much prefer mystery, thank you.

  76. Josh says:

    Duane – I think my own thoughts are closer to representing…my own thoughts…uh, but enjoy yourself.

    Second, as to what one would say to a grieving parent, I totally agree with you, and that would be true. I may not even say a word, just sit and cry. I’m not in anyway selling the idea that bad things don’t happen or that we will ever understand them.

  77. Josh says:

    Michael – your alternative is that God has lost control.

    And that god is not God.

  78. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – in your quest to be right you read right past the qualifier of my statement. I said “I don’t think anyone here (including Duane & Michael) think these are “formulaic or transactional”

    I am speaking directly to those here – not what happens in a bookstore – unless you determine correct theology by the number of books published on a topic.

    So my question – Do YOU teach these passages as “formulaic or transactional” – as I said, if you don’t then you don’t believe them to be either.

    Our job as teachers is to overcome the crap in the bookstores, on the radio, TV and internet – not give cover for them.

  79. Josh says:

    And the bookstores are overrun with the prosperity gospel.

  80. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh
    I wasn’t trying to recast your thoughts, just to say that here we are very much in the area of “I don’t know”. I sometimes think that the more we try to explain it, the more we fail…

  81. Jean says:

    Sin is a staggering matter, with staggering consequences – for all die in Adam.

    If we try to ascertain the will of God outside his Word, we run into either a non-existent God or a devil-god. This will is hidden and it capable of the story of Job.

    But there is the will of God in Christ, which proclaims grace, forgiveness of sins, eternal life…here, now, and forevermore. It was God’s will in Christ to reconcile all the hurt, sin, suffering and pain that mankind has brought upon itself in the Son, on the Cross. He bore our pain, so we may participate in His life. He is our life. In Him, all tears are washed away.

  82. Michael says:

    Josh,

    My alternative is to admit I don’t understand and to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

    We hear constantly here about the “plain teaching of Scripture”.
    So how would you teach those incredibly clear passages to your people?

    If you would add a “sometimes this is true” rejoinder, why wouldn’t you do so on other doctrines?

    Those promises are as clear as “baptism saves” and much clearer than a pretrib rapture…

  83. Duane Arnold says:

    The phrase was, “… that seem to be formulaic or transactional?”

  84. Josh says:

    Duane – that’s fine. Obviously not what I said, but you guys are set to come at me.

  85. Josh says:

    Michael – I just quote myself:

    “Second, as to what one would say to a grieving parent, I totally agree with you, and that would be true. I may not even say a word, just sit and cry. I’m not in anyway selling the idea that bad things don’t happen or that we will ever understand them.”

  86. Michael says:

    Josh,

    We keep asking…how would you teach those passages?

  87. Josh says:

    A sermon on one of those passages would generally be about 8 pages, double spaced. Notes leading to that sermon would take 30-40 pages.

    So how would I preach it? With the utmost care. I wouldn’t shy away from telling people the pitfalls that could come from taking these verses out of context.

  88. Josh says:

    As far as what my direction would be…you should see it in my comments here.

  89. Michael says:

    Josh,

    The context of those passages simply reinforce that they are promises and appear to be transactional in nature.

    So you would tell your people that they are conditional promises?

  90. Michael says:

    Josh,

    No one is set to come at you.
    I think these are critical issues both personally and pastorally and deserve vigorous examination.

  91. Josh says:

    The greater context is that of all scripture. I would teach them in that context.

    Conditional? If the condition is “being in God’s will”, then I guess they are.

    The Matthew passage is an easy one to reason:
    “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

    I had a daughter who asked to eat cotton candy for supper every night for about 6 years.
    I did not give her cotton candy.
    Would I have been a good father if I had given her cotton candy every night?
    For years, she thought I was mean for not giving her cotton candy.

  92. Josh says:

    “I think these are critical issues both personally and pastorally and deserve vigorous examination.”

    Which is what I am doing. Duane purposefully misrepresented me in a very dismissive way. It wasn’t appreciated.

  93. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I will be teaching on the James 5 passage a week from this Friday – come to Arizona and listen how I do it. (I have been in James more than 6 months)
    Hey, you cannot just take that verse – above it James is talking of patience in suffering, the suffering of Job, the allusion to the folks in Hebrews 11 – and in verse 12 he speaks of our confession, truth yes be yes no be no.
    The he asks questions in v.13 and then speaks of the prayer of faith and in the same verse speaks to being raised up and he speaks of forgiveness of sin.

    In 17-18 he speaks of the power of prayer and in 19-20 it seems to be the direction of prayer.
    If a Christian dies from an illness all the above passages still apply – hey even a Lutheran can see the Good News in James.

  94. Jean says:

    The Matthew 7 passage in particular punctuates not only the invitation to prayer (ask, seek, knock), but the answer to prayer (given, find, open) but the certainty of God’s answer in the comparison of the evil disciples to the goodness of our heavenly Father.

    The question at the heart is what does Jesus mean by “good things?”

    Here, in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, we may look back to the Lord’s Prayer for the good things that Jesus teaches us to pray for. The last 4 petitions: (eucharistic) bread; forgiveness of sins; security or safety from temptations; and deliverance from Satan.

    Luke substitutes “Holy Spirit” for “good things.”

    When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we have certainty that those petitions are His will for us.

  95. Michael says:

    “For years, she thought I was mean for not giving her cotton candy.”
    Comparing this to a family struggling with illness or homelessness is absurd.

    I don’t know anyone who prays passionately for trivial matters.

  96. Josh says:

    Where did I compare that?

  97. Michael says:

    Jean,

    I’m not going to engage with you beyond this but the idea that Jesus is teaching people to pray for Eucharistic bread rather than life provision is ludicrous.

  98. Josh says:

    Furthermore, I’ve already answered how I respond to death and family grief multiple times.

  99. Josh says:

    But like I said, you guys are set to come at me.

  100. Michael says:

    MLD,

    If you ever see me in a Lutheran church, you can safely assume that I’m lost.

  101. Michael says:

    Josh,

    No one is coming at you personally.
    I have huge differences with you theologically and it’s those theological differences that are being expressed here, not personal enmity.

  102. Josh says:

    Why do you guys misrepresent me? Did you honestly think I was comparing cotton candy to a child’s death? Really?

  103. Michael says:

    “The Matthew passage is an easy one to reason:
    “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

    I had a daughter who asked to eat cotton candy for supper every night for about 6 years.
    I did not give her cotton candy.”

    Thus, it wouldn’t be a good thing to heal?
    It wouldn’t be a good thing to provide necessary things for life?

    You said this, I just quoted it.

  104. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “If you ever see me in a Lutheran church, you can safely assume that I’m lost.”

    And seeking salvation? 🙂

  105. Michael says:

    And seeking salvation? 🙂

    Probably in the opinion of many…

  106. Josh says:

    No you didn’t Michael. You added something I diNOT say
    “Comparing this to a family struggling with illness or homelessness is absurd.”

  107. Michael says:

    Here’s my bottom line.
    There are no good explanations for this…just a submission to mystery and a persevering faith in the goodness of God despite what we see.

  108. Jean says:

    “As the prayer goes forward, we ask and say, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ And this may be understood both spiritually and literally, because either way of understanding it is rich in divine usefulness to our salvation. For Christ is the bread of life; and this bread does not belong to all men, but it is ours. And according as we say, ‘Our Father,’ because He is the Father of those who understand and believe; so also we call it ‘our bread,’ because Christ is the bread of those who are in union with His body. And we ask that this bread should be given to us daily, that we who are in Christ, and daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation, may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin, by being prevented, as withheld and not communicating, from partaking of the heavenly bread, be separated from Christ’s body, as He Himself predicts, and warns, ‘I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. If any man eat of my bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’ ”

    – Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, died 258 AD

  109. Michael says:

    Josh,

    We’ve been speaking all morning of serious prayers about serious issues…and you start talking about cotton candy and kids.
    It makes no sense whatsoever.

  110. Michael says:

    Jean,

    We can look back and make an allegorical interpretation.
    I doubt that’s what the disciples heard…or what most of the church has heard for 2000 years.
    When your gut is full and the bills are paid you can afford allegory…

  111. Josh says:

    You asked me about a passage, NOT about how I would deal with a grieving family.

    Then you decided to mix the two so that you could smear me.

    To all on this thread – NO that you are to act as if you are talking to a family who lost a child, not answering random inquisitions on a blog.

  112. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – “There are no good explanations for this…just a submission to mystery and a persevering faith in the goodness of God despite what we see.”

    I think we all agree with this 100% – everyone except you and this is why you come across as miserable and disappointed with your prayer life. Just accept it as you state and move on.

  113. Josh says:

    “When your gut is full and the bills are paid you can afford allegory…”

    Comparing your discomfort with the grief of someone who has just lost a child is downright evil.

  114. Michael says:

    “Then you decided to mix the two so that you could smear me.”

    Josh that was not my intent, but if you believe that you need to move on for your own sake.
    Smearing you has never even crossed my mind.

  115. Josh says:

    Ah there it is – the invitation to leave.

  116. Michael says:

    “I think we all agree with this 100% – everyone except you and this is why you come across as miserable and disappointed with your prayer life. Just accept it as you state and move on.”

    No.

    If the content of discussion disturbs you, you move on.

  117. Michael says:

    Josh,

    You believe I harbor ill will and bad intentions toward you.
    Nothing could be farther from the truth.
    I can’t convince you, so I’m at a loss for how to engage you.
    I do know that the constant strife is taking a toll on both of us.

  118. Josh says:

    You are the only one who seems disturbed by discussion. You always said you didn’t want an echo chamber, but God forbid someone disagree.

  119. Josh says:

    You could just apologize for misrepresenting my words.

  120. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The context of this conversation has been fabricated. The actual context is your dissatisfaction … which is OK.

  121. Josh says:

    Just a reminder, this is what triggered the daily fury:

    “Jim – well said.

    It seems that prayer is the process of bringing my will into line with God’s will.”

    Did I insult someone there? Did I even mention anyone other than my agreement with Jim? Nope.

    But I don’t care about dead babies. Got it.

  122. Michael says:

    Josh,
    I quoted your words.
    Perhaps you can clarify how denying cotton candy to a child is comparable to God denying prayers for health and necessities.

  123. Michael says:

    “But I don’t care about dead babies.”

    No one said that.
    No one would think about saying that.
    I simply pointed out the difficulties with a blanket statement in light of what appear to be biblical promises.

  124. Josh says:

    “Perhaps you can clarify how denying cotton candy to a child is comparable to God denying prayers for health and necessities.”

    Why would I do that, unless I had made the point in the first place?!?

  125. Josh says:

    Do you think truck problems are comparable with dead children?

  126. Michael says:

    “Do you think truck problems are comparable with dead children?”

    I never came close to saying such a ludicrous thing and you know it.

    This what you wrote, not me.

    “The Matthew passage is an easy one to reason:
    “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

    I had a daughter who asked to eat cotton candy for supper every night for about 6 years.
    I did not give her cotton candy.
    Would I have been a good father if I had given her cotton candy every night?
    For years, she thought I was mean for not giving her cotton candy.”

    Thus, I said… “Perhaps you can clarify how denying cotton candy to a child is comparable to God denying prayers for health and necessities.”

    What is unreasonable, uncharitable, or slanderous about that question?

  127. Josh says:

    I my quote – where did I compare cotton candy to prayers fro ANYTHING else?

    “I never came close to saying such a ludicrous thing and you know it.”

  128. Michael says:

    Josh,

    Explain to me then what the cotton candy analogy was all about, because it makes no sense unless you were saying that God sometimes determines that the help we ask for is not always a “good” thing in his eyes…

  129. Josh says:

    ““For years, she thought I was mean for not giving her cotton candy.”
    Comparing this to a family struggling with illness or homelessness is absurd.”

    That is a very uncharitable take. Ludicrous.

  130. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    I genuinely wasn’t seeking to be dismissive. I was simply pointing out that most of the categories that you listed point toward, “I don’t know” or “I don’t understand”. Which is what I was saying…

  131. Josh says:

    “Explain to me then what the cotton candy analogy was all about, because it makes no sense unless you were saying that God sometimes determines that the help we ask for is not always a “good” thing in his eyes…”

    I’ve prayed for a million dollars to show up in y mailbox before. Spoiler alert: It didn’t show up. God did not break His word in denying such a request.

    TO MAKE IT CLEAR – my asking for a million dollars is in NO WAY related to anyone sufferieng with the loss of a child.

  132. Michael says:

    Josh,

    I’ll say this again.
    I was not discussing frivolous or outrageous prayer requests.
    I have been consistently discussing issues of health and provision necessary for life.
    It appears that you attempted to explain that with your cotton candy analogy.
    What am I missing here?

  133. Josh says:

    Duane – you were dismissive. You guys beg me to explain, then when I do, you reduce it to “I don’t know”.

    I’ve already said multiple times that you and I are saying the same thing, basically. You are the one who was terrified to be seen in agreement with me.

    But I appreciate you stating your intent. No problems.

  134. Josh says:

    “What am I missing here?”

    My 4,000 explanations?

    You asked me about a passage, not about how I would relate it to those who were homeless or severely ill. I did not mention either in my post about the passage. You decided that the passage could only be speaking about homelessness or illness, not me. Yes, a very uncharitable take.

  135. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    I’ll disagree slightly with Michael. There is an argument, especially among those who hold to a late dating of the Gospels, that the Lord’s Prayer is, in fact, part of an early Church eucharistic prayer. I love the theology, but it presents other issues in terms of dating and, additionally, we have two versions. Interestingly enough, it is already in common use in the Didache, which seems to place it outside of the eucharistic setting by placing it as a prayer common to all Christians that could be said three times daily.

  136. Duane Arnold says:

    Josh

    I should have said “we” rather than “I”… as in “we don’t understand”. It wasn’t pointed at you.

  137. Michael says:

    Josh,

    One more time.
    the passage talks about a promise that God will give us all good things.
    To me healing and provision are good things.
    You used a cotton candy/child analogy to explain why God doesn’t always provide according to a simple understanding of the passage.
    I find this confusing, yet you find me uncharitable.
    I will be content in confusion, I guess.

  138. Jean says:

    Duane,

    My objective is not to win an argument. Only to share how the prayer passage in Matt. Chapter 7 has been interpreted and received in the Church by non-ludicrous sources. The prayer passages are not a new development. Christians have been interpreting them for almost 2,000 years. Somehow, many down through the history of the church have placed them within the Word of God. I don’t think we need to be angry, dismissive or disrespectful (not accusing anyone) of Christians today, who continue to trust those passages.

  139. Josh says:

    I’ve stated many, many times that I was not talking about that, but you refuse to believe me. That is uncharitable. Usually, in such cases a friendly voice says “Sorry I misunderstood, and interpreted it in the worst possible way”. Yet, you proceed.

  140. Jean says:

    The way I interpreted Josh is that the cotton candy analogy means that if we ask God for something that is not God’s will for us, he does not give us that request for our own good (because His will is better).

    Is that your intent, Josh?

  141. Josh says:

    Obviously. Did you think that is how I would counsel a grieving family?

  142. Michael says:

    To MLD’s charge of disappointment and misery.
    Guilty.
    Not just on my own behalf, but on behalf of all those I know personally and who write me and call me asking for prayer for countless afflictions and for who things like death and homelessness are not theoretical.
    Life can be brutal and finding the goodness of God in circumstances difficult.
    Some people lose their faith in light of that pain.
    Some are barely hanging on.
    My heart is with them…

  143. Josh says:

    “My heart is with them…”

    Me too. And i deal with them every single day.

  144. Michael says:

    “The way I interpreted Josh is that the cotton candy analogy means that if we ask God for something that is not God’s will for us, he does not give us that request for our own good (because His will is better).”

    Then own what you’re saying…that in the counsels of heaven it was better than someone remain sick or die or end up on the street.

    I find that hard to believe and will continue to look for something better.

  145. Josh says:

    “Then own what you’re saying…”

    I’ve tried multiple times, but you keep changing what I’ve said..for some reason.

    Now, if you want to ask me is God in charge of who lives and who dies? Yes, unapologetically, He is.

  146. Josh says:

    “I find that hard to believe and will continue to look for something better.”

    I have found the “something better”. It is trusting in God and His word. It is rarely an easy life. Tragedies still occur, but it is so, so much better than the alternative.

  147. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    Another good one is Tertullian, “On Prayer”…

  148. Jean says:

    Duane,

    When I wrote a series of articles a few years ago on the entire Lord’s Prayer, I studied the church fathers and found their insights very helpful. My main objective in that series was to hold up the Lord’s Prayer for its use today. It, like much of the historic liturgy and rituals of the church have fallen into neglect or abandonment in much of contemporary Christianity.

  149. Josh says:

    That was a very good series, Jean. Opened my eyes to several things.

    As an outsider to liturgical practice, could I say that one of the reasons those things have fallen out in modern churches is because people don’t understand them. So, to them it is an empty ritual. I would guess that almost any tradition could be redeemed for use in the contemporary church if the meaning were taught, mush in the way you did with the Lord’s Prayer.

  150. Jean says:

    Josh,

    “one of the reasons those things have fallen out in modern churches is because people don’t understand them. So, to them it is an empty ritual.”

    That is a real contributing factor. Even in my church, one must be intentional if he or she is going to learn and capture all the richness of the liturgy. I would place myself as a very young pupil of the liturgy.

  151. Em says:

    It has been said that God is not a vending machine into which we insert a prayer and, voila! out comes what we want… Paul didn’t get what he prayed for.
    IMX, IF God cannot comply, He will give you strength and grace to get through anyway. He is God, so learn to lean on that … Trust and Faith. 🙏

  152. Xenia says:

    Here’s how I see it. Jesus said we will suffer, and He says when we are persecuted, we should rejoice.

    He did not say “Pray to me and I will take your sufferings and persecutions away from you so you can live pain-free and care-free lives.” He expects us to suffer. This seems to be a New Testament theme. Even St. Paul didn’t get his prayers answered to his liking.

    I don’t know who Jesus was talking to, or what time and place He had in mind, but what he said about mustard seed faith and moving mountains is true, but not in a way we might think and if we take it as meaning we can pray away all trials, then that contradicts other things He’s said. Jesus said a lot of things that are hard to understand. But looking around, what do we see: we see pains and sufferings that do not seem to respond to prayer in the way we hoped. Therefore, I conclude that we are not getting the real meaning behind what Jesus said, or what He said was for a certain time, etc. YET, as Josh said, prayer changes US. That is valid for today and is not pious blather. This I believe with my whole heart.

    For some reason, God has planned it so that we struggle with faith. Patience in receiving answers to prayer- which may not be the answer we want- is part of the process of our conforming to the Image of Christ.

    Personally, I have found that people who are full of gratitude for the prayers God has answered are more likely to find many prayers answered. Of course, people with this attitude see God’s hand at work everywhere.

  153. Xenia says:

    that in the counsels of heaven it was better than someone remain sick or die or end up on the street.<<<

    Yes, sometimes this is true. There is nothing that is better.

  154. Josh says:

    Good stuff, Xenia.

  155. Josh says:

    My new gravatar should make it a little tougher to get mad at me.

  156. Michael says:

    There is much I’d like to say, but it would fall on deaf ears.
    You all have defended your Scriptures and your traditions well.
    For what’s left of my soul. I will step away.

  157. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “You all have defended your Scriptures”
    I can’t speak for others here, but my scriptures are the Holy Bible – do you have a different source you are trying to defend?

    I looked at my notes for my lesson on Oct 18 – to speak to the passage on James 5:14-15 you must go back up to at least verse 7. This whole passage is speaking of being patient – that we are to endure – why? because “You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”

    All of this, our attitude, the impatience that sickens us, our sin – be patient and endure because Jesus is coming back. It is within that context that we read the later verses.
    If we take v.14-15 in isolation, you might as well be cracking open a fortune cookie.

  158. Josh says:

    “There is much I’d like to say, but it would fall on deaf ears.
    You all have defended your Scriptures and your traditions well.
    For what’s left of my soul. I will step away.”

    But what’s the point? To STOP believing the Scriptures? That’s just not an option.

    Do you think that we don’t deal with disappointment, loss, and pain? I do, on a daily basis. I hope to point people towards the truth that I have found that has built my faith through those times. What else should I do?

  159. Josh says:

    “be patient and endure because Jesus is coming back”

    in a pre-trib rapture, nonetheless.

  160. Jean says:

    Regarding your new gravatar, Josh, are you on the phone with the Holy Spirit?

  161. Josh says:

    Jean – maybe. It was my one and only modeling gig. They said, “Pick up that phone and pretend to talk”.

    When you look at that picture, you can’t take the guy saying the stuff too seriously.

  162. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I don’t know – perhaps I am weird, but I read the scriptures and I get pumped. Now life may deflate me by the end of each day, but then I do it over again (kind of like that daily bread thing)

    It must be terrible to read scriptures and be depressed by them.

    *** A note – I don’t read the scriptures much at all – but I do listen as I walk. I will finish the Bible next week – 9 month tour. Faith come by hearing, so I listen! 🙂

  163. Kevin H says:

    “My new gravatar should make it a little tougher to get mad at me.”

    Josh, I’m still mad at you for having ditched the gravatar of the trophy I had made and given to you some years back. 🙂

  164. Jean says:

    Josh, you appear slightly transfigured.

  165. Josh says:

    Alright, now I’m mad.

  166. Josh says:

    Tried to change it again. Sorry the joke fell flat.

  167. Jim says:

    Josh is being picked on, and Michael is in a foul mood. I think my friend needs a vacation.

  168. MM says:

    Michael wrote:

    “I’ve spent decades exposing the corrupt and the venal in the church…and have yet to see God bring justice to perpetrator or victim.”

    I think the answer isn’t whether or not “justice” is somehow doled out, but in the personal process and life experiences a person goes through while seeking justice for the oppressed and weak.

    While it’s easy for me to write this it is far more difficult to actually live it out, but I’ve learned over the years one’s confession is basically worthless if their actual walk through life invalidates it. Seeking justice for the people around us is a righteous act in it self and it shows what is inside the hearts of those who do such things.

    I could confess all day, to anyone who is willing to listen, my faith in God, my knowledge of the text, and how much I love Him. However, if I fail to seek justice, help the weak, or demonstrate love for my neighbor I am nothing more than a faker, a hypocrite or some other adjective we love to use about others.

    Michael thanks for the tireless work on behalf of so many. I’m sorry it hasn’t panned out the way you would like to see. You are an example for those who believe in Hm.

  169. Michael says:

    I see that some people who don’t like me took the cue from this thread and are now claiming that I am a proponent of the “prosperity Gospel”.
    The fun never ends in the “community of faith”.

  170. Josh says:

    Who? It wasn’t me.

  171. Michael says:

    Nope, it wasn’t you.
    They just took your implication and ran with it.
    Some of the lurkers are less than kind.
    It’s all good…I learned some hard lessons yesterday and it’s up to me to make the changes I need to make or not.

  172. Josh says:

    Well, I’m sorry some dummy did that. If they are using my thoughts in this thread as evidence, at least they won’t get very far.

    For the lurkers- I did not say that Michael was a proponent of the prosperity gospel. What I said was:
    “The truth is, so many people by into a sort of a prosperity gospel. ”

    Which is true. If you are Baptist, you absolutely come into contact with it. My guess would be the lurker is more guilty of what I was talking about than Michael.

  173. filbertz says:

    haters just gotta hate. trolls troll. turds…stink.

    the skunks are just being true to their stripes. If your kingdom is that vulnerable, it should invest in better watchdogs.

    mixedmetaphorfil

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