Friday, January 9, 2009

Openness theology has tea with atheism

The paradoxes we live with. A few thoughts to ponder. If I live with “openness theology,” would I ever truly hold anyone to anything? Why would I assume any system of rules whether religious or logical? Would not a de-systemization be just as incongruent, for not knowing the future, and God not knowing it either, should truly mean nothing can be assumed, even such thoughts as “alienation within society.” On what grounds can “openness” doctrine predict future human behavior even predicated upon past human experience if the future truly is “open?”

If I am an atheist, why would I truly worry about anything? Is not life purely random? If so, on what grounds do I prioritize suddenly some higher value to something, such as “human rights?” If life is not “purely random” and no higher power has made it thus, on what grounds or from what source can purposefulness, attach greater value to one facet of life over another? Furthermore, since with this paradigm there is a homogeneity to life, making all things equal since all things are inherently random, whatever be the “value” attached to all things, how can this value be different from one atheist to another? What accounts for such a differentiation? I speak completely theoretically at this point, for I do not believe anyone has or ever will live treating all things as equally random.

However, if either the atheist or the openness theology candidate were to be consistent with their paradigms, I think the end result would be quite ironic. Both would live in the present, presuming nothing! Both would have no need to defend or fight for anything! But I've been wrong before. I wonder though, how right am I this time? One more thing, if I have misrepresented "openness theology" I think that is because it is open for debate:)

36 comments:

Christopher said...

Suneal,

I think it's important when dealing with openness theology that some creedance is given to the varying schools of thought even within open theism. For example, Gregory Boyd suggests that the future is not known by anyone, even God; the notion of knowing a future that isn't yet existent is akin to saying one knows about square circles.

On the other hand, some other open theists take a softer view, if you will, of God's foreknowledge and maintain that God knows what has already been determined for the future and remains open to human influence for those things that have not been determined. For example, Scripture makes it clear that sin was introduced into the world through the actions of Adam and Eve, and that sin has a determined end at the eschaton. Nevertheless, other aspects of our lives, such as love, friendship, etc. are not pre-determined events for our lives; a man may fall in love with a woman but that was not a pre-determination for his future based in the foreknowledge of God.

Personally, I have a hard time reconciling Boyd's position with what I've understood up to this point in my life. Not because Boyd doesn't have a point, but because, like so many theological paradigms, it disregards the middle distribution: what is the interlocking step between a God greater than which nothing can be conceived, and a future that isn't known by Him? And how is the notion of God irreconcilable with knowing the future such that it manifests a linear contradiction like square-circles?

So, if I were to sympathize with a form of openness it would more-than-likely be the more Calminianist (!) stance of the softer open theists.

That being said, I'd like to attempt an answer to some of your questions. Keep in mind, however, that none of my answers are conclusive, but remain 'open', as it were.

"If I live with 'openness theology,' would I ever truly hold anyone to anything?"

Yes. You are still a person with a moral centre. God is still a 'good' God. Unless you aren't part of the imago dei, you are holding people to common moral expectations inherent to all of humanity. Whether God knows the future or not does not preclude your present knowledge of human moral interaction.

"Why would I assume any system of rules whether religious or logical?"

Are you equating an unknown future with some form of amoral, apolitical anarchy? If you are, I would like you to connect the missing proposition, please:

P1. The future is unknown.
P2. ?
C: Ergo, no need for religious or logical rules.

"On what grounds can 'openness' doctrine predict future human behavior even predicated upon past human experience if the future truly is 'open?'"

On probabilistic grounds. That is, past actions can act as pattern recognition. Repeated past actions can indicate probable future actions, though in the future a new action may occur. This, of course, follows from the reasonable point that probabilities are not determinations; they imply the probability of 'other' responses.

"If I am an atheist, why would I truly worry about anything?"

Because being an atheist does not mean disbelieving in values.

"Is not life purely random?"

Depends on the flavour of atheism one holds to. Existential atheism isn't concerned so much with origins as it is with 'becoming'; life simply is, and we are to make the best of it, whatever that 'best' may be. Practical atheism, as far as I know, doesn't concern itself with these kinds of questions; they are useless in getting on with things. And what I call Fundamentalist, or Darwinian atheism would assert that life is not random, it is an accretion of intermittent processes of matter, the origins of which are presently indeterminate, but nonetheless irrefutable.

So, it really matters what kind of atheist you are dealing with as to what kind of answer you will receive to your question "Is not life purely random".

"If life is not “purely random” and no higher power has made it thus, on what grounds or from what source can purposefulness, attach greater value to one facet of life over another?"

Good question. Personally, I haven't read, or encountered a good answer to this question yet. Of the atheists I've read and talked to, none of them have been able to furnish an answer that a) shows how any eschelon in values can square with the evolutionary instinct to survive at all costs, and b) account for the origin of morality.

"Furthermore, since with this paradigm there is a homogeneity to life, making all things equal since all things are inherently random, whatever be the 'value' attached to all things, how can this value be different from one atheist to another? What accounts for such a differentiation?"

Well, logically, why shouldn't their be variation, or differentiation if all things are inherently random? Still, a lot of what an atheist would answer depends largely on what 'camp' of atheism s/he lives in.

"However, if either the atheist or the openness theology candidate were to be consistent with their paradigms, I think the end result would be quite ironic. Both would live in the present, presuming nothing! Both would have no need to defend or fight for anything!"

Are you sure this conclusion follows given the variation between not only openness theologians, but atheists also?

Good conversation, Suneal. Thank you for jumping in again. It's really nice to read from you once more.

Take care,
Christopher

toshido said...

"If I am an atheist, why would I truly worry about anything?"

Why would I not worry more? i do not believe that there is some mystical deity watching over me and taking care of my soul. That leads me to worry more. That leads me to more fear of death. more grief at the passing of loved ones.
I wish I did believe then I could stop worrying and be comforted by god's love.


"Is not life purely random?"

Absolutely not. But I do not believe that life is laid out for me. I believe that my life is based on my decisions, not randomness. I believe that I am in control of my decisions. That is d
certainly not random.

"If so, on what grounds do I prioritize suddenly some higher value to something, such as “human rights?”

You do not need to believe in God or some other deity to believe in human rights. or be morally upstanding, or be kind.
Actually I believe, whole heartedly, that religion actually teaches and demands the suppression of some human rights. Particularly right of religion.
I have been baptisms, i have attended church and witnessed dedications.
Both of those ceremonies had parents taking away the right of religion from their children.
I understand the importance of that rituals to those parents. I have attended on request to baptisms. Does not mean I need to agree.
Personally my children will have choice and I as their parent will support their choices in this matter.

suneal said...

Chris, thanks for your thoughts.

I agree that there are many differing paths to which my questions can go, given the variations you have pointed out, so let me say I meant to talk about the extremes. Personally, if one is not an extreme openness theologian (ex. God does not know the future), then one can not live their life consistently according to that paradigm, which was my whole point, if one could,then...

The same also applies to my understanding of atheism, that if one does not take it in the extreme, then one can not live their life consistently as an "atheist." Yes, they can live their life consistently to some admixture of atheism plus ________. But, again my point was according to absolute consistancy to the paradigm. To for example call life an "accident" or "happen chance" and then suddenly have "values" actually is inconsistant in my mind philosophically, although not necessarily pragmatically as such.

Chris said:
"This, of course, follows from the reasonable point that probabilities are not determinations; they imply the probability of 'other' responses."

Even if they do, so what? That is the opposite of not knowing the future and one step away from "extreme" or "pure" openness theology. It is "assuming," again the opposite of "not knowing" the future.

So, to reiterate without endless debate, the two extremes land me with the conclusion you think I should reconsider, that neither should assume anything, nor fight or defend anything.

Maybe I am hinting at the possibility that all theology that holds us accountable is truly only eschatalogical, and that the extreme or pure form of openness theology can therefore not contain it. For example, Jesus preached the "kingdom of God has come upon you." If everything of the Gospl is just the Gospel of the kingdom, which Scripturally is provable, then everything of the Gospel concerns the coming of the this kingdom, which ultimately puts eschatology as embracing the whole of faith. The future has come now in the kingdom, and it carries us forward, so the end is nearer and has been since Christ than we might have thought.

The Christian "now" is also the eschatolgical "now" which comes from the future. Any end, except it intrudes into the now, is no end, merely a part.

So the imago dei, is it also eschatological, and therefore derives "meaning" as such primarily from its end? "The end of man is to glorify God." Without teleos, without the end in mind, which implies an end known, then does the imago dei mean anything?

suneal said...

Toshido, I enjoyed reading your response.

I am not here to label any type of atheism as Chris has pointed variations out. Nothing wrong either with what Chris has done, but it is not my focus.

Toshido said to my question-"If I am an atheist, why would I truly worry about anything?"

"Why would I not worry more? i do not believe that there is some mystical deity watching over me and taking care of my soul. That leads me to worry more. That leads me to more fear of death. more grief at the passing of loved ones.
I wish I did believe then I could stop worrying and be comforted by god's love."

I as a fellow human being completely relate and share your fears of death, grief, loss of loved ones. Experientially, you bleed, so do I. As an "atheist," to be consistant as I see it and as I have endeavered to further elaborate above, I think you have nothing to worry about at all. Nothing awaits you, nor your loved ones as far as I can see you would believe, so why fear? However, if there is fear that can not be gotten rid of, then why not take that as a sign your belief in no-god is not so solid a belief?

Toshido said to my question "
"Is not life purely random?"

"Absolutely not. But I do not believe that life is laid out for me. I believe that my life is based on my decisions, not randomness. I believe that I am in control of my decisions. That is d
certainly not random."

Again, Toshido, I am not trying to put any particular kind of "atheism" on you, but rather say that what you believe about "unrandomness" fits more a "theistic paradigm" than not, from a purely philosophical viewpoint. I am personally happy you experience such meaning in life as an atheist or otherwise.

I wonder though, if you say life is absolutely not random, yet pure atheism identifies no source for the ordered unrandom cosmos and life we partake of, then how can you "believe" in atheism at all? Design theory which incorporates Evolution at least addresses this dilemma. To me, the inability as Chris has also told above (I did not know this before) of atheism to answer this question, makes atheism hard to believe in. It must take a great step of faith.

Toshido said,

"You do not need to believe in God or some other deity to believe in human rights. or be morally upstanding, or be kind.

Agreed Toshido! But my point was that any accidental forming of life has randomness as its reason for ever happening. If life was not "accidental" then there is a higher power implied somewhere. What in "accidentalness" implies a standard (and universal at that) of "human rights, ..moral upstandedness...kindness?" Survival of the fittest, if one believes in evolution, does not really properly account for these "virtues," nor for "beauty" for that matter. Again, maybe one can not believe in "evolution" and also be an atheist, I don't know.

Toshido said:

Actually I believe, whole heartedly, that religion actually teaches and demands the suppression of some human rights. Particularly right of religion."

I am sure you have valid reasons for your beliefs here. I will say often unfortunately you are correct.

Thanks for the input.

toshido said...

"I think you have nothing to worry about at all. Nothing awaits you, nor your loved ones as far as I can see you would believe, so why fear?"

Why would you not fear the end of being? Not seeing your children grow. Not seeing your grandchildren. Not attempting your next challenge. Not finishing your current challenges. Never seeing friends and loved ones again.
These are much more fearful then knowing you will be embraced by god and let into heaven and be surrounded by your loved ones and be forever happy.

"I wonder though, if you say life is absolutely not random, yet pure atheism identifies no source for the ordered unrandom cosmos and life we partake of, then how can you "believe" in atheism at all?"

Atheism is simply not believing in a deity.
Why does there have to be a higher source determining the outcomes of our decisions? Why can't we simply just be?
Atheism is not something you believe in. Not for me anyways. It is something I accept. I do not believe in a deity therefore I am an atheist.
This is something I think most Christians have a hard time with.
Best example I can think if would be something like bigfoot. If you do not believe in bigfoot, does that mean you worship the fact there is not bigfoot?
I know it sounds rediculous int hat sense but it does apply. Once many years ago Chris showed me a play he thought was funny and his church was going to do with the youth in that church. The whole play centered around people running around worshipping Zero (OH I think is what they called it). Everything right down to making a big zero above their heads and bowing down to it.

"Agreed Toshido! But my point was that any accidental forming of life has randomness as its reason for ever happening. If life was not "accidental" then there is a higher power implied somewhere. What in "accidentalness" implies a standard (and universal at that) of "human rights, ..moral upstandedness...kindness?" Survival of the fittest, if one believes in evolution, does not really properly account for these "virtues," nor for "beauty" for that matter. Again, maybe one can not believe in "evolution" and also be an atheist, I don't know."

I believe that culture and society has more to do with these things then religion.
Different cultures have differing opinions of beauty and justice. Societies change over time and those values change with the society.
If these values were dictated by the bible we would have still things like stoning a wife on her wedding day if she was not a virgin!
So no I don't think there has to a be a higher power for morality, beauty, etc... I think those things are dictated by society. Beauty and justice would be easiest to display though.
I am bound to think of african tribes (I think) that enlongate their earlobes or necks. Chinese women (I believe) that bind their feet to mutilate them into little more then hooves. American women wearing a corset. Which I personally like in moderation, but when taken to extremes involves removing ribs or at least malforming them and interior organs.
These are cultural embodiments of beauty, not religous in nature.

toshido said...

"one knows about square circles."

Boxing ring. See i know of a square circle. :)

toshido said...

"If life is not “purely random” and no higher power has made it thus, on what grounds or from what source can purposefulness, attach greater value to one facet of life over another?"

Good question. Personally, I haven't read, or encountered a good answer to this question yet. Of the atheists I've read and talked to, none of them have been able to furnish an answer that a) shows how any eschelon in values can square with the evolutionary instinct to survive at all costs, and b) account for the origin of morality.

............

Allow me to offer some thoughts. Obviously not as well researched as Chris' more or less just what I would consider common sense.
Values and morality tie in directly with survival. I am sure our ancestors learned very early on that differing people excelled in different fields.
Knowing this it is simple next step for groups to start working together. Use these people specializations to make life better for the whole.
Of course this is contradictory to a purely selfish instinct to survive at all costs.
For example. Good hunters would not give away food to poor hunters. Good farmers would not give away harvest to poor farmers. Strong men would not risk themselves or their families to defend the weak.
Of course if you forgo purely selfish thought then it is simple to see if everyone works together and shares in each others strengths everyone lives better as a whole.
Now that everyone knows they need to live together to make survival easier and more comfortable in the whole then you need ways to interact with each other.
Again the purely selfish way would be the strong to take from the weak.
Again commonsense kicks in here and realizes that pretty soon the strong would have killed off the weak but more skilled among them.
So then again people need a way to interact.
This is where people start placing value on each other. pretty soon people are treating each other the way they want to be treated and everyone starts living all happy together. In utopia of course.
We all know this is not a utopia though. Human nature kicks in and jealousy, greed, etc.. Creeps in there and soon you have people wanting something that someone else deserves and thus has.
Now we come to where there needs to be a system of dealing with these disagreeances, hence justice systems. Simple or complex it happens.
of course it grows from there as communities get larger and more complex, money appears and so on until it evolves into todays systems of values and morality and justice.

suneal said...

"Atheism is simply not believing in a deity.
Why does there have to be a higher source determining the outcomes of our decisions? Why can't we simply just be?
Atheism is not something you believe in. Not for me anyways. It is something I accept."

Thanks Toshido again for your input. Being in theology is known as "ontology." I don't really care about the big words, just thought I'd add that. Budhism is big on "being" a human "being."

When you talk of "accepting" not believing, you might want to consider the big Christian catch phrase of "I've accepted Christ." Personally, accepting to me is a form of "believing." If you accept something you believe it! Some Christians speak of instant awareness of accepting the reality of Christ as God in their lives, others speak of a gradual process. But "accepting" is then universal from believers to atheists regarding their way of life.

Regarding a "higher power determining the outcome of our lives," and you immediately attaching that to "faith," seems to indicate control of your life by another source is not a personal preference for you. Don't blame you for that, I relate. But, that immediate connection is not what Christianity is about. It is a negative assumption. Personally, I wished God controlled my life more, then I wouldn't have to bother about alot of things!!! But He doesn't, so your statement or observation does not apply in my life as a Christian at all. I hope you can free yourself of some of your erroneous assumptions of Christianity as I also can regarding atheists, and then we can both be better informed and hopefully better off.

Christopher said...

Suneal,

"But, again my point was according to absolute consistancy to the paradigm."

Okay. If we consider the paradigms for atheism and openness theology that you layed out in your original article, then and absolute consistency to the way you've described them would most likley end in the conclusions you've cited.

I suppose I needed to explore the paradigms of both of those philosophical stances on reality in consideration of their varying degrees. In doing so, I think the conclusions to the alternate paradigms end in different places than the considerations you've made.

suneal said...

Chris, it is completely fair what you have done. Actually, what you are doing is taking into account the human element inherent in any philosophical or religious based system.

This is where blogging gets difficult, because are we discussing primarily the logic of a paradigm in this case for example, or perhaps more as you have done?

I think it very interesting to note this, Christians are often judged for their inconsistency to their paradigm of Christ. We also falter in reflecting "pure" Christianity. I think of all paradigms ours may be the hardest to actually keep consistent with! So, my point was to not consider the adherents to a philosophy or religion so much as the idealogies themselves. Whether we keep all God's commandments for example, is about the same as asking an atheist to stay true completely to their philosphy. But as Toshido has made quite clear, he does not live as an atheist primarily for reasons of philosophical logic, but more because he just is one!

I am fine with that, so long as then atheists cut us the same slack whether logically or with regards consistency of lifstyle to a philosophy, that they extend to themselves, whether knowingly or not.

Christopher said...

"This is where blogging gets difficult, because are we discussing primarily the logic of a paradigm in this case for example, or perhaps more as you have done?

Well, honestly, when it comes to philosophical paradigms, I find it difficult to deal with them logically unless I'm aware of the variables that make them. That being said, I don't think a person has to have an exhaustive knowledge of the variables to have a reasonable conversation. But I do think that a general sweep over a subject warrants a closer examination of the details if I'm going to respond with integrity. I suppose I automatically want to pare things down into their consituent parts so I can see how they fit together as a whole, rather than acknowledging a whole as it is. It helps me to know what I'm looking at a little better.

"But as Toshido has made quite clear, he does not live as an atheist primarily for reasons of philosophical logic, but more because he just is one!"

Right. Still I find the stance that one simply is an atheist a giant inconsistency: how is one a non-believer unless by conscious rejection of the alternative? It implies an ontological status that is pre-determined for the person, absent of their choice, and then makes a definitional stance against its own ontology, which would require awareness.

The Christian testimony accounts for a person having a knowledge of sorts build into them, as part of their ontological make-up. That is, we are created in the image of God (imago dei), and thus cannot escape His influence in our lives. The atheist, if we go by the assertion that one simply is (ontologically speaking) one, cannot account for their non-belief.

I'm probably not expressing my thoughts clearly enough. I might have to return to this point. Sorry.

"I am fine with that, so long as then atheists cut us the same slack whether logically or with regards consistency of lifstyle to a philosophy, that they extend to themselves, whether knowingly or not."

Agreed. But this is the whole problem with competing worldviews: the fact that competition breeds judgment, and Christians and Atheists are wont to judge each other while thinking their shi** smells sweeter than the other's. And thus the reason I think Sarah's article Can't See God for Christianity bears so much importance on the way Christians and Atheists dialogue with each other. However, I think I'll stop there and let Sarah reveal her own thoughts on the nature of Judging and how it affects people. She has quite a profound understanding of the issue, and I, personally, very much look forward to reading her ideas in black and white.

toshido said...

Sunneal

"Regarding a "higher power determining the outcome of our lives," and you immediately attaching that to "faith," seems to indicate control of your life by another source is not a personal preference for you. Don't blame you for that, I relate. But, that immediate connection is not what Christianity is about."

Sorry if I came across as sounding like God was controlling.
I was actually responding to your original blog post primarily about a "higher power made it thus"
I understand that you have free will. It is one of the greatest gifts that god bestowed on man. It also led to all sorts of mayhem :)

toshido said...

"Right. Still I find the stance that one simply is an atheist a giant inconsistency: how is one a non-believer unless by conscious rejection of the alternative?"

It is a conscious choice, just not a voluntary one.

"The Christian testimony accounts for a person having a knowledge of sorts build into them, as part of their ontological make-up."

Thats right, the CHRISTIAN testimony. If you believe that you are already Christian.

"That is, we are created in the image of God (imago dei), and thus cannot escape His influence in our lives."

Again a purely Christian belief.

"The atheist, if we go by the assertion that one simply is (ontologically speaking) one, cannot account for their non-belief"

Again very true. it actually sucks in a way. I would love to believe in God, Christ, Jesus. i would love to believe that the bible is God's word, well mostly. I can see how it is very comforting.
I would love the social aspects of the church We can all use more friends.
Problem is I don't believe. Being true to myself means I accept that I do not believe.
If i had to truly "account" for not believing I would point my finger at inconsistencies and hypocrisy within the bible and the church. I simply cannot lead my life according to a book that I believe is the word of God then pick and choose what to follow within that book.
I also cannot live my life based on book with so many differing translations and so much ill feeling between the followers of those different translations.
But when it comes down to it, I simply do not believe. And since I do not believe in God, I am therefor an Atheist.

suneal said...

Toshido:
"Sorry if I came across as sounding like God was controlling."

Thank you for saying this. God may have control (speaking objectively), and yet not be "controlling."

Toshido
"If i had to truly "account" for not believing I would point my finger at inconsistencies and hypocrisy within the bible and the church. I simply cannot lead my life according to a book that I believe is the word of God then pick and choose what to follow within that book."

You are obviously honest enough to stay true to your "convictions" of atheism. If you remember, my whole point about "atheism" or "openness theology" was that if THAT were consistently followed, the difference between the two in practice would be unrecognizable. Since in reality they are not even close, obviously all openness theolgians or practitioners and all atheists are just as inconsistent in the practice of their philosophy/world outlook/beliefs (which ever one prefers) as the other "Christians" and Bible you can not believe in because of "inconsistencies."

I could therefore say "That is why I am not an Atheist:)"

But in reality it is not the weaknessess of your belief system making me an believer or contributing to it. I am not an atheist, because I am a believer! I believe not because your system is "inconsistent" which inconsistencies you have not at all tried to defend or "account" for. Rather, I believe because as Jesus said to many Jews during His time:

"You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me;
and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life" (John 5:39-40).

I believe Ghandi truly admired Christ to an incredible degree, but critiques His followers. He personally called the sermon on the Mount the greatest ethical summation ever (Mt 5-7). Yet, Ghandi did not understand the Old Testament God. Jesus Christ completely saw Himself in the light of THAT God, declaring "salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22).

Now I could take Jesus from His context, and be incredibly "inconsistant," similarly to how Mahatma Ghandi did, yet highly respect and honor Christ by lifestyle like Ghandi did. I believe only because of "Christ." The Christ who "saved me" by faith in His name, by confessing my sin to Him, by acknowleging to Him and eventually others that "He is risen from the dead bodily," THAT Christ holds me to this consistancy, "I am" ...."the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob" or in other words the God of the Old Testament as well as the New.

Now, surely all this can be construed as unnecessary on my part if I merely take Christ as a great human being, of incredible virtue and apparent miraculous healing and miracle working power. Or I can say his followers have made the biggest scam of all time (which would be more unbelievable than saying George Bush personally planned 911 so he he could go to war with Iraq all by himself:)). Or I can say Jesus was a "madman," but when I read the Gospels and Jesus' words, I encounter..I really do! I encounter a living, incredibly "other" person than just a "human being." This "otherness" Ghandi missed, and so do all who do not lay hold of what Jesus said as I quoted earlier. If you do not come to Him of whom and of which specifically the Scriptures testify, then of course, like Ghandi, it will seem quite "inconsistent" and confusing a belief system. All because, the "otherness" of God is not embraced alongside of Jesus' humanity.

But to recap, although you have "apologized if..," your apology might need to go further, because you have an "aversion" to my belief system based on "inconstencies," which might keep you from believing it. I admit I have an aversion at a philosophical one to atheism but that is not why I am not an atheist.

Now to back off for a sec...I am merely speaking of consistency of beliefs, I don't need any apology:) You don't offend me at all and I appreciate your humility and candidness.

Sarah said...

Suneal: "If I live with 'openness theology,' would I ever truly hold anyone to anything?"

Christopher: "Yes. You are still a person with a moral centre. God is still a 'good' God. Unless you aren't part of the imago dei, you are holding people to common moral expectations inherent to all of humanity. Whether God knows the future or not does not preclude your present knowledge of human moral interaction."

Having just finished reading Boyd's Repenting of Religion, I have to credit him for what has been stirring around in me for a while but is now better formed. So here goes:

As creatures and not the Creator Himself, it has never been our responsibility to "hold" anyone to anything, to determine good from evil, to judge our brethren (and sistren); indeed, this is the essence of the fall, that we would become 'wise... knowing good and evil.' This is not the way to salvation or even sanctification. What *would* happen if we didn't "hold" anyone accountable for their sins? Who would judge their actions? How would they be conformed to the image of Christ?

Well, do we trust the Holy Spirit to do His work, or do we only trust our own ability to set things 'right?' Are we better equipped and more knowledgable to do this work of transforming the spirit of another? Seeing that expectations of behaviour produce an external expression which conforms to our personal sensitivities which may or may not be in line with those of our Lord Jesus, I cannot agree that it is in any way my place to do anything than to love and be loved, to live in absolute and amoral ambiguity.

Pointing to kindness and loving actions by actually DOING them is infinitely more beneficial than judging the actions and intentions of others. Judgment is final and presupposes no action, nor is it at all conducive to it. It is static. It never points to Jesus when executed by human beings who are not God, and were meant to know neither evil, nor GOOD! We were meant simply to live in goodness, not to question it or to distinguish it from what we weren't supposed to know either- evil.

The pharisees hated this reality during the ministry of Jesus, and they hate it now too. Just try to act according to this, and you'll see how quickly they'll let you know! I have been called a false-teacher, a blasphemer, arrogant, an unbeliever, a compromiser, a cultist, etc... just in the past few months since acting from the Love (that God is) I receive as well as I am able (and learning to stop the conscience in me that acts on behalf of this forbidden knowledge).

Suneal: "Why would I assume any system of rules whether religious or logical?"

YES YES YES!!! WHY would you???!!! And here's the potential for change!

Jesus was the bane of morality, rules, 'religious' activity/expectations, logic, and systems. You can be too!!! Being crucified or stoned for that is no small task, especially with so much tolerance these days. You'd have to love so outrageously that it would be impossible for others to ignore it to achieve this. It really isn't as easy as it might seem. ;) lol

I doubt there are many instances of people actually being persecuted for His name's sake- actually, and not just claiming it for their cause as though it belonged to Jesus. I estimate the relative rarity of this sort of love. But *someone* demonstrated it to the world already, so here we have an example of how it's done! :)

Suneal, brother, this is no criticism of you; it is a criticism of the way we've been oppressed by religious ideas that have no place in the life of the faithful. I share this in love, sincerely, as a repentant though notorious sinner (the latter like everyone else :)

suneal said...

"Judgement begins with the household of God" has to mean more than finding a way around it altogether in the name of "love."

"No place" for who? For ....?fill in the blanks if you will. But, realize, your Bible does not support one opinion and "one read."

That is my "judgement." I guess you also have yours, Sarah:)

Christopher said...

Unfortunately, Suneal. I don't think you've understood the import of what Sarah was saying. I'd encourage you to re-read her comment.

suneal said...

O.k. Chris, I did. Now what?

suneal said...

Sarah said:

"Well, do we trust the Holy Spirit to do His work, or do we only trust our own ability to set things 'right?' Are we better equipped and more knowledgable to do this work of transforming the spirit of another?"

Is there also a third alternative, that we trust the Spirit's work in others while we "warn, teach, rebuke, admonish, or give the 'hard truth'" when needed? If we are indeed the hands and feet of Christ in His love at times, then why not also be His mouth at times?

What I am struggling with here Chris, is the exclusivism of such statements as the one I quoted. The idea also of the original sin being primarily one of "judging" also has me wondering. I am sure there is an element of that, but certainly it is much too exclusivistic to the other elements such as pride, independance from God, "disobedience", separation from God's life; to say "therefore never ever judge, just love." Maybe Sarah is not saying that, but upon my 5th read, I still get that out of it.

We are to judge at times according to the standard of our new lives in Christ. Since Christ's life (in us) is so amazing, is that too much to ask??? To judge according to "the tree of good and evil," is what Pharisaic religion does, but that does not make all judging "evil." The "judging" of Matthew 7, well, that is another thing and is what Sarah describes, however, it is not right to be "exlcusivistic" with this word. That is my point. Rebuke if you want. By so doing, you prove my point:) Chris, even by saying I missed Sarah's point, you "judged me." We can't get away from it, can we? Any judgment implies a standard, a doctrinal core. Believing we should never "judge," becomes a criteria by which we can "judge" those who overtly "judge."

Sarah said...

Suneal, you are not allowing for any distinctions to be made and lumping anything that is with 'judgment.' For instance, observation and discernment are not necessarily judgment, although they can be used to be. Consider the following:

Your close friend with whom you have shared many life circumstances, many years, and who is someone with whom you are intimately acquainted, has been been drinking and often to intoxication. Within the context of your close friendship, you sit with him and tell him that you're concerned that he is drinking almost every night, and leaving his wife alone at home with their children. His wife has withdrawn from spending time with yours as she used to, and his children seem sad to you. You tell him that you know he has pain in his life, that you know and relate to his desire to numb it for a while, but that now that he's been doing this for a while, you would like to help him work through the stuff he's trying to drown out rather than see him and his family suffering so much.

He agrees and tells you a bit of what he's feeling and that he'll talk some more when he's up to it. Then he continues to drink for the next two months and is on the verge of losing his job.

Now the people at the church are noticing. Someone brings it up in prayer group and says that he needs prayer. Then a few more weeks go by. The congregants of the church have started to leave a few chairs surrounding his and his family's seats, even seeming to prefer standing at the back rather than sit next to them. The pastor is now preaching about drunkenness and the requirement of sobriety of a good Christian, the deleterious effects of drinking and the total healing of the Lord for those who believe. Your friend gets up and leaves; his wife and children need a ride home, which someone offers after service.

You recive a call from the pastor of the church and he wants to know what's going on with your friend. You tell him that your friend is suffering from some pain right now, but share nothing else since what you know was shared in confidence between two close friends.

After another week, the pastor calls you and says that he's arranged a meeting with your friend and would like you to be present for it. You agree, of course, and attend. You are clearly there in the position of not knowing the purpose of the meeting, just like your friend as you both sit faced with a panel of elders and the pastor.

During this meeting, your friend is told things he couldn't NOT know- drinking is harmful to his family, to him and to the church. He must stop and now because this cannot be allowed in the church for two reasons- the first is that it is not a good christian thing to do and the second is that it sets a bad example for the world. Scripture is clear that drunkenness is unacceptable and as a congregation, they have to set limits and expectations! They can't just have everyone running around drinking and acting badly. The world can't be told that this behaviour is okay! Christians are supposed to act like them, and be conformed to the image of Christ, who was not a drunkard.

When you talked to your friend and offered your support, and stayed by his side, you were not judging him; you saw his need, his pain, his 'old Adam' and extended Love to him without expectation. Your understanding of his behaviour flowed from Love as an observation from someone who knows him, not a judgment from an apparent stranger with an agenda/title.

The church looked at his behaviour and decided that he is acting badly, a poor example of what a Christian should be, and must be stopped, that his old Adam must go underground and at whatever cost to him since the congregation was now involved. He is a drunkard and negligent of his duties to his wife and children and to the Body of Christ. If he doesn't shape up, he'll have to be disciplined.

This is trial and verdict with pending sentence; it is judgment, and we have no such place in the lives of others. We have no such command as to uphold the ideals of the particular congregations to which we 'belong.' No peron who is overweight would be treated this way, no person who is unemployed and depressed spending all of his time on the couch would be either, as long as he was cheerful at church.

We CANNOT be judges BECAUSE our judgments are NOT JUST!!! We choose which particular sins are upsetting enough to us to determine the verdict and sentence, and ignore those that aren't. We choose according to our particular sets of sensitivities. Few people deal with an inclination toward homosexuality, so that's on the list since it's a sin almost all can point their finger at; few people struggle with pedophilia and a few more pornography. MANY struggle with or accept gluttony in all of its forms in our society, and yet we don't have meetings about these people because we'd be meeting every hour of every day if that were the case.

It is not a question of harm either: Boyd points out the disparity in the harm caused by gluttony as opposed to homosexuality in North America; clearly the former is of MUCH greater consequence and harm than the latter which affects only 1 to 2 % of the population.

The point is that if we are going so sit as judges and proclaim others as drunkards, selfish, lazy, apathetic and rude, or otherwise, then we'd better realise that we stand equally condemned and none of this judgment and condemnation brings about any change in the heart! THAT is the job of the Holy Spirit; it is also His work to inform us, and He does that. It is often also Him who tells us when our friend is struggling. The point is that any and all of our thoughts and actions must flow from love and NOT judgment since we do not know the hearts of men-- we are not God-- and we have no business instituting a hierarchy of sin with which we can judge and condemn others.

Jesus tells us to cover the sins of others with Love, to ignore the speck in their eye until we remove the log in our own (which will not happen earth-side). So we are to view the sins of others as specks and humbly come to them knowing that; if they are in need of our love to get past particular struggles, we come not as judges, but fellows with the same amount and severity of bad habits to break. We are to see our sins and theirs as the action that causes a stubbed toe; nobody judges people for stubbing their toes. If it was perpetual, we would work on balance, removing the object that keeps being tripped over, but we would never blame or shame or judge someone for such an accidental act or habitual one as stubbing a toe, right?

In the case of having to remove someone from a fellowship, it is also not done in judgment, but with sorrow and hope. It is an event wherein the group has no alternative for the well-being of the group but to remove the person whose sin is causing grief so insurmountable that s/he must not return until s/he has been able to work through the process of breaking the habit of committing it. No judgment-- remember the prodigal son?

There is not a single situation wherein it is necessary or even possible to adequately and justly judge a another person or even ourselves. ALL judgment belongs to God, and not to us. The forbidden knowledge wasn't just of evil, but also of 'good' and we don't have the capacity to carry out the judgment of which is which. It is not the purpose of the church to keep the evil out and keep the good in; we are not the keepers of all that is 'good' or of maintaining or executing 'proper formation of conscience' as so many have believed and in whose name many have been slaughtered and worse.

Love is all there is for us. The extent to which we judge is the extent to which we are not extending the Love of Christ (Boyd).

suneal said...

O.k. Sarah, thank you for elaborating on what you first said. It is much clearer now. I think it proves exactly what I said, according to Matthew 7. Now, I would love to see you go through the rest of the Bible using the same Greek word, "krino." I am obligated based on Scripture to stick with the word "judge" to mean a great many things more than you lend much credence to. Again, exactly my point from the beginning. I acknowlege your point, well said, but as I said before, overdone, or rather "too exclusivistic." Love is not my only duty Sarah, or rather, not the "love" you describe. More than this, to say my comment to "hold someone to something" and then conclude that is judgement, boy, that is quite a broad-sweeping jump. Yet, that is where this all started from.

Here is some Scripture Sarah that proves there is a significant place for "judging" (krino word is used-same as Matthew 7:1).

I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave the world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to JUDGE (krino) those outside the church? Are YOU not to JUDGE those inside? God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you"" (I cor 5:9-13).

To clarify, "the old Adam going underground" is not what I was referring to regarding new life in Christ. I am not saying you said this to counteract what I said, for I don;t know your intentions, but just to clear that up. Otherwise, I do not wish to knit-pick your example here. But that does not mean I agree with everything in it. Your example again can only highlight certain truths regarding judging, not all of them! Some of what you do not high-light or mention is what actually opposes your exclusivistic sentence against all "judging in another's life." I do agree with most of it though in your example for what it is! As such it makes a great sermon!

Sarah, you make a great point regarding the shallowness of Christian love in the Body of Christ. Amen to what you have said. Very well written example, and very plausible. It happens alot as you describe. I can learn from what you have written in the above comments and I WILL. I hope you also have the humility to get proper persepective and learn from both myself and the Bible. We can submit ourselves to one another, or we may not here. I do not wish to hammer this out with you any further. So if you choose to stay to your absolutism position, fine. If you choose to actually acknowledge the credence of what I say regarding judging as being Christian at times as the Apostle Paul so clearly enunciates in Scripture, I think the kingdom would be better served in the end. And of course, you bringing the emphasis of love you have, into a more balanced perspective of such topics as "judging," the kingdom greatly needs.

Best regards,
Suneal

Christopher said...

"I hope you also have the humility to get proper persepective and learn from both myself and the Bible."

Suneal, I'm really concerned with what it seems you're implying in your statement above. Can you please elaborate your thinking a little more?

Thank you,
Christopher

suneal said...

Hi Chris,

Sure. Sarah's overall "import" I have acknowledged, which Chris was your original concern many comments back now. Now I ask Sarah to acknowledge what Biblical scholarship and the Word of God present as a balanced perspective on both the topic and the particular Greek word in Scripture describing "judging." In particular, I am focusing on the word "krino," to show its various nuances and its explicit "judging" implication, not merely an "observation or discernment," although I do concur with Sarah that can indeed be one of its nuances found in the Greek text. In my estimation, based on past experience, such an acknowledgement often requires humility to admit error to some degree, although I am not saying to any great degree in this case. But to be clear, yes, error to some degree.

Now to make it clear yet again (I think I have been clear enough) I have said there is a legitimate place for Christian judging and Sarah has said;

"In the case of having to remove someone from a fellowship, it is also not done in judgment, but with sorrow and hope...

...There is not a single situation wherein it is necessary or even possible to adequately and justly judge another person or even ourselves. ALL judgment belongs to God, and not to us."

With regards Sarah's first statement, although I appreciate the spirit from which Sarah has spoken, it is simply not true, as the Scripture I quoted above makes amply evident. Paul uses the term "judge" in I Cor 5:9-13, the same word used in Matthew 7 which in that case refers to judgment, most of which is evil, yet some of which is still good, therefore Jesus says after one has removed the log from their own eye then one can know how to remove the speck from their brother's eye (Mt 7:5) (again Jesus teaches contrary to Sarah who said that this could not happen "this side of heaven," but Jesus says that rather yes! it can). So, both good and bad judging exists for the Christian based on Matthew 7, and based on I Corinthians 5:9-13, it is only "good judging." It is not merely what Sarah has called it, something done "in sorrow and hope, not judgment." It is indeed done in that case, in "sorrow and hope" as Paul makes evident in the II Corinthian letter (II Cor 2:3-10) but as Paul originally said it was ALSO done in this manner, "You (church) are to JUDGE those inside (the church)." Now, I think it unwise to contradict Scripture. And to make sure either you Chris or Sarah think I am giving you a distorted opinion on Scriptural interpretation, I will finish this comment with quoting from a Commentary.

But before I do, to address Sarah's second sentence I above quoted, "There is not a single situation wherein it is necessary or even possible to adequately and justly judge a another person or even ourselves," I am saying to Sarah, and unfortunately it may at this point seem harsh, because now I am being somewhat forced to take it out from my original comment which was for the most part complementary regarding Sarah's last comment; I am saying that this statement simply is not true. For this statement in particular I was hoping that Sarah would be able to change her opinion so as to get "a proper perspective" thereby "learning from both myself and the Bible." I was also clear to tell Sarah that I WILL learn from her comments, that along a certain line of thought ("bad" or "hypocritical judging" as described in detail in Matthew 7:1-5a, to now be more clear and specific for you Chris) Sarah has practically preached a great sermon!! And I do not regard myself "above" this message at all. On the contrary.

Finally, if Sarah can temper her wording and understanding (perspective) then it was my opinion that not only I, but the kingdom at large would find her more useful to it. I mean here "God's kingdom," not the "Pharisaic kingdom" of men.

Chris, I hope this helps you to understand and relieves your concerns.

Now I will quote from The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. I do not consider commentaries equal in authority to the Bible, but I think it helps. By the way, other commentaries I have read are even stronger on supporting my points. But this will suffice.

"Now Jesus addresses the subject of one's attitude toward others and God (7:1-12). He initially broaches the subject of judging others. Some judging is sinful while other is righteous. With sinful judging the judge is a hypocrite (v.5): he appears to be righteous but is really unrighteous. Although probably guilty of the very sins he condemns (cf. Rom 2:17-24), he is blind to his own sin and preoccupied with the brother's. Such self-righteousness, says Jesus, is the worst sin of all (see Luke 18:9); compared to others, it is a "plank" to a "speck of sawdust" (v. 3). The judge has used the right standard (the law) and has exposed real sin. Let him understand, however, that in the final judgment God will employ that very standard to bring his own sin to light (v. 2).
Righteous judgment differs from that above. Once the judge is aware of his own sin (v. 5) and of the judgment that awaits it (v. 2), he can understand his brother's sin and help him deal with it (v. 5). Despite the warnings of verses 1-5, there is a place for judging the spiritual condition of others (v. 6; cfv.15). The "dogs" and "pigs" are unbelievers who repeatedly hear Jesus' teaching, yet persist in rejecting it."

I Corinthian 5:9-6:3 section:

"In 5:9-6:11 Paul reminds the Corinthians that he has written to them before not to associate with "sexually immoral people" (5:9). His counsel, however, has been misunderstood by the church, which took it to apply to the advisability of contact with the 'people of this world' (v. 10) and therefore neglected it as an impossibly rigorous and impractical standard. Adherence to such a standard would involve the Christian community's complete withdrawal from the world, and this possibility Paul does not even pause to contemplate. Rather, he writes again, more fully and clearly, what he wrote before: 'you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is' as the Greek text and the specific case indicate, habitually 'sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater, or a slanderer, a drunkard, or a swindler' (v. 11). And then, lest someone say that his judgment is unbalanced in its selectivity, Paul reminds his readers that his refusal to 'judge those outside the church.' while compelling judgment for those inside, stems from the sure promise that 'God will judge those outside' and certainly impose upon them a sentence that is both harsher and more permanent (2 Thes 1:8-9) than that which he now imposes upon his own.
However, in calling Christian brothers and sisters to judgment for their behavior, the secular law court (see 6:6) is hardly the appropriate setting. The place for such disputes, if they arise at all (6:7), should be ‘before the saints’ (6:1). Indeed, as before, the Corinthians have acted exactly contrary to what is true, namely, that the saints will judge the world and even the angels who have fallen (see also Matt. 19:28; 25:41; 2 Pet 2:4; Rev 20:4). In light of their role in these ultimate judgments, they are certainly qualified to ‘judge’ trivial; cases that concern ‘the things of this life.’”

Christopher said...

"I hope you also have the humility to get proper persepective and learn from both myself and the Bible."

I'm not sure you addressed my concerns when you last wrote, Suneal. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

In any case, it seems from the quote I've listed above again, that you are saying Sarah a) lacks humility, and b) would do well to put herself under your tutelage.

Is this what you are saying? And if not, can you please explain what you are saying in the statement I've quoted?

suneal said...

Consider the extreme alernatives Chris to your extreme conclusions, "Sarah is perfectly humble and should not listen to a word I say."

Is that what you are saying Chris? If it is I am "very concerned" also.

I have explained it man!

suneal said...

Chris,

Now that I have exposed your conclusions about my sentence as being too extreme as to have any bearing on the actual topic Sarah and I have been conversing on, "judging;"


Let's get to the point:

(1) If either you or Sarah at all acknowledge I am correct to say based on Scripture that there is a legitimate place for the word and concept of "judging" as the Greek New Testament makes abundantly clear, then:

(1) come out and admit that Sarah is wrong to say with such an absolute statement that:

"There is not a single situation wherein it is necessary or even possible to adequately and justly judge a another person or even ourselves."

(2) and if either of you or both of you, can not admit I am correct about my claim and the Bible's claim, (for all intense purposes they are the same on this issue);

**then what else on this planet would stop such an admittance other than pride?**

After all, my position acknowledges the "import" of Sarah's argument but also goes beyond it and that of Boyd's-I suppose being the source of some of the ideas; and shows Sarah's position or belief about judging is too narrow, too absolute, and too unbalanced in light of a complete Biblical witness for her to conclude that; "There is not a single situation wherein it is necessary or even possible to adequately and justly judge a another person or even ourselves."

That is my point, I have not declared Sarah is "lacking humility," but I have left the possibility that on this issue she may be if she does not admit she is wrong, because I can see no other reason stopping such an admittance other than either (a) pride due to losing face, or(b) she actually still believes she is doctrinally and theologically correct, meaning she can not see the obvious Greek and Scriptural declarations that outright explicitly deny her absolute claim that all judging has no place in the life of the church and that therefore all that is left for us is love.

The love I believe in "rejoices in the truth" (I Cor 13:6). Why not rejoice with me by admitting in this case I and the Bible (because I am merely echoing it) are correct on this issue?

When Boyd said this:

"The extent to which we judge is the extent to which we are not extending the Love of Christ"

I guess the Apostle Paul can be forgiven, for in II Corinthians 2:4 he actually thought, stupid man that he was, speaking the truth and judging can all be an expression of love!!! "For I wrote you out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain, but to let you know THE ABUNDANT LOVE THAT I HAVE FOR YOU."

Let us forgive Paul because Boyd was not around to show Paul the right teaching regarding this, or...

Let us realize anyone making such statements as Boyd's are mere light-weights theologically and doctrinally, and in this case are actually teaching heresy. Either love includes "speaking and rejoicing in the truth" and "judging" when needed, or else the Beatles and Boyd are wrong, love is not all you need:)

Christopher said...

"Consider the extreme alernatives Chris to your extreme conclusions, "Sarah is perfectly humble and should not listen to a word I say."

Is that what you are saying Chris? If it is I am "very concerned" also."


No, I think I was only asking a simple question, Suneal. I wasn't making an apologetic for my wife's virtues. So there's no need to try and undermine my concern by attempting to turn the tables on me.

Christopher said...

Suneal,

You wrote:

"Now that I have exposed your conclusions about my sentence as being too extreme as to have any bearing on the actual topic Sarah and I have been conversing on, "judging;"

I didn't make any conclusions, Suneal. I asked a question. Questions are markedly different than conclusions in that they require an answer to be concluded. Wouldn't you agree?

So you haven't exposed anything other than what seems to me to be a hasty path into argumentation.

Further to that, I haven't any need to admit the rightness or wrongness of my position on the issue of "judging" since I haven't stated my case on the issue.

You have been having a dialogue-of-sorts with Sarah on the topic of 'judgment'. My concern is that because you disagree with Sarah, you seem to find it permissable to imply ad hominem attacks on her character. And from having read Sarah's comments, that would make you guilty of the very thing she's speaking against: unwarranted, and unjust judgment.

I believe you when you say you caught the import of Sarah's comments, but even if you disagree with her, is it necessary to make this topic so personal and potentially hurtful?

Sarah said...

Suneal, in spite of your insistence that you do not want to hammer this out anymore with me, I would still like to participate since the discussion has continued in my absence.

You have required of me that I show humility and admit to you that I am in error. There are three rather significant issues that must be addressed in this. The first is that humility is not something we put on or 'show' as you say; it is the incidental albeit obvious expression of recognition of truth.

Your requirement that I show humility without recognition of my error is absurd. So the second issue is that I must recognise my error. Any sane human being will not and cannot recognise error without evidence that convinces the one in error.

The third issue is that you seem to think that we have a relationship wherein you can call me to account and I should 'admit' my error to *you.* This is also absurd, Suneal, especially given the sudden change in your tone toward me, your presumption of accusations from me where there were none and your subsequent obvious lack of welcome for me to the extent that you think it is appropriate to quiet me with your apparent unwillingness to discuss directly with me, but continue to discuss *about* me anyway.

There is no accountability between human beings in the absence of intimate/loving relationship. I have shared my heart and my enthusiasm for new learning, and in your responses, you have not given me an equal vulnerability which would bring the confidence necessary for building the sort of relationship wherein accountability would simply be a natural part of living in one another's midst.

I didn't expect or require you to share vulnerability with me, but given your subsequent calling to account, I must point to the glaring lack of place you have in my life to demand such a thing from me. Indeed, your assumptions about me and your implicit labeling and judging of my character, having clearly not enough contact with me to even make such judgments with any degree of accuracy, point to the reason that I gave for not engaging in judgment of others-- because as this situation illustrates "There is not a single situation wherein it is necessary or even possible to adequately and justly judge another person or even ourselves."

Regarding my non-admission of error, I will tell you that given the evidence you provided, there is no such evidence as would convince me of an error in what I wrote or what I believe concerning judgment, since your interpretation of the verses is quite different than what I have understood.

In Matthew 7 1-5, Jesus teaches that we are not to judge, and in hyperbole, in order to show the absurdity of the idea that we ever thought we could or should do so, he says:

3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

An examination of this to me does not yeild a check-list after which we are able to accurately and justly judge, as you have expressed; rather when YOU have removed the plank from your own eye, THEN you can be a judge, but until then, not so. Since neither YOU nor I can remove the plank, but only Christ, we are therefore NEVER in the place that He describes wherein we may judge others.

This passage demonstrates how the removal of the plank by our own volition will never happen:

James 2
10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11For he who said, "Do not commit adultery,"[b] also said, "Do not murder."[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

Also, it is a warning, not a prerequisite or protocol, that if we choose to judge, we also will stand condemned as the ones we judge are in our own hearts and minds. I cannot figure out how He could have more clearly told us not to judge one another. If he was laying out the criteria for judgment, I'm sure it would have been clear as in other situations where such criteria were made clear.

In order to check this interpretation, I compare it with what Jesus taught elsewhere. I read over and over again His admonition to refrain from judging:

John 8:7-11 But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

11"No one, sir," she said.
"Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared.
"Go now and leave your life of sin."

John 8, 14-16
14 Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.


And Paul writes in confirmation of Jesus' teachings:

Romans 2
1You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?

Romans 14:3-4 (New International Version)
3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.


Romans 14:9-11 (New International Version)
9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. 11It is written:
" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' "

1 Corinthians 4:2-5 (New International Version)
2Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

5Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts.
At that time each will receive his praise from God.

BUT THEN PAUL WRITES in CONTRADICTION...

1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (New International Version)
11But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.

12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you."

And back to his usual confirmation of Jesus' teaching...
1 Corinthians 10:28-30 (New International Version)
28But if anyone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake[a]— 29the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? 30If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?


James 4:10-12 (New International Version)
10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

11Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?


And here is a reason for not relying on our theology to set up the arbitrary standards by which many Christians think they are justly, righteously judging one another. Theology is one of those human traditions:

Colossians 2
20Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? 22These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.


Suneal, if you knew me, you would know that when I am convinced of error (and I am readily corrected, but the correction must be sound!), I am so quick to turn away from my error and begin in my new understanding that it annoys those close to me.

Christopher has plead with me to wait for him, to slow down my repentance because it is immediate and he is not always ready. I have been called fickle because of this trait, but I thank the Lord for the gifts of humility and discernment that allow for such complete changes in me to happen so quickly.

I am sure that this does not come across very well in writing, but I haven't any other recourse to help you understand better where I am at. I feel a need to tell you because it seems in your responses to me that you are addressing someone completely unlike me or as if there is someone else in the room monitoring your responses to me and who expects to see a heavy handed rebuke from you. I am not saying that is the case, just that it feels in writing like it would feel in person in that sort of situation.

I am happy or daunted- depending when I'm asked- to discuss my perspective and yours; it is my hope that it could be fruitful and demonstrative of love and charity. I do value your perspective, and I am sure that I can and do learn from you; I would just prefer that it is not under duress, but rather friendship.

Sarah

suneal said...

Sarah,
Some things are worth the risk. I was more vulnerable than you know by doing what I did.

What have I lost, the person I don't know? Why don't I know you Sarah, great question?

I think you guys don't get me very well either. You want to sit here and play intellectual political correctess? Is that "vulnerability"? My "tone" breaks down for several comments and I'm a villian. If only it were that simple Sarah. Yet such simplicity you want extended to yourself. I can do that. You have no idea Sarah, none. You are merely doing what you have to do. I don't care if you learn from me, for this wasn't about me at all, that was really my point. I know what I did was not "blogging protocol." That's also my point, screw protocol, get to something flesh and blood. Do you really think Sarah, I thought I could demand anything from you? No. I never thought so. I thought I would try once. Now it is done. I know where I stand, well outside the Freeman house. All is safe and sound now.

Christopher said...

Suneal,

I mean this with the utmost respect: what are you on about? You're really not making any sense, as far as I can see. Maybe I don't see far enough? I don't know.

In any case, why are you taking this tact all of a sudden? It seems like you're just spouting off more than dealing with the topic, or engaging in meaningful dialogue. And what do you mean by "blogging protocol"? I'm unaware of any 'protocol' in blogging. I'm also totally unaware of any 'protocol' between you and I when I invited you to write for this blog.

I really have no idea how you got to the place you're in, and why you've decided to use that to come-off so harshly toward us. And for no discernible reason that I can see.

If you feel you stand outside the Freeman house, please be assured that you've let yourself out but the door's still open. You can just as easily walk back in.

And what do you mean by "All is safe and sound now"? Was there a threat previously?

I think you should offer up some explanation, Suneal. Right now, I'm not sure who you are, or what your intentions are, and it's making me a little uncomfortable. Do you care to take any of this up in private correspondence; say, by email?

Let me know.
Christopher

suneal said...

Chris and Sarah,

I reread Sarah's post and realize we are missing each others points to a great deal.

For example when Sarah said,
"your subsequent obvious lack of welcome for me to the extent that you think it is appropriate to quiet me with your apparent unwillingness to discuss directly with me, but continue to discuss *about* me anyway."

Before you guys started tag-teaming me, I was expecting Sarah to have the last say, and I was going to leave it at that, many comments ago. I never expected her not to correspond anymore, either before or after Chris engaged. So there has been a big misunderstanding there, that I was trying to quiet Sarah. I was not. I felt she would participate as usual.

Also, I speak emotionally a lot more than either of you, so either because blogging fails to communicate that or because of personality differences, what I have been saying is easily not getting across. I completely wrote the last comment from my heart without any animosity, except the last sentence, therefore, I can not accept Chris, I am sorry, the way you are trying to pen my words. As such I will not defend them.

Regarding "Sticking to the topic," I understand totally Chris that I have taken a different tact, but honestly, I have not felt between the two of you, that the "topic" was always the conversation. That is why I tried to get back to the topic. After Sarah got back to it, I feel this will go no where, because we will be picking apart this and that, and in the end, what will be gained? That was originally why I left it open for her to have the last say. In the interum things got bogged down with more "personal accusations, " apparently on both sides.

Obviously, my comment "offended" both of you, because it was understood as a character attack. I never meant it that way, and as it stands in writing, I don't think it really implies what Sarah has recently said. But, I can appreciate your concerns over it. I apolagize for that being the message you both received from it.

With regards me saying,

"What have I lost, the person I don't know? Why don't I know you Sarah, great question?... I think you guys don't get me very well either," I was making reference to Sarah saying "Suneal, if you knew me, you would know that when I am convinced of error." Now maybe I took what Sarah said to far, but remember, I am not speaking in this comment from my head so much as from my heart. I feel our friendship has been dimishing for sometime now, but again, that could be me, while you guys feel the door is wide open as Chris has said.

When I said, "All is safe and sound now," yes Chris, you are correct there, I was being facetious. I feel if I don't say things perfectly here, then off with my head. But right now, as you can probably tell by my withdrawal from this blog of many of my posts, I am not at all satisfied with such "unemotional" converstation. But where else can I know you guys? Email is not my favorite. Chris, you take it that I am being harsh, but I feel it as though I am being raw, real, and vulnerable. For me, vulnerability is more than new ideas. I do appreciate what Sarah said too about being vulnerable, but I think where I am to where you guys are, is very different.

Chris, I don't want to get into explaining anymore than I have. I keep trying and things keep getting more complicated. Please Chris, I ask this one really big favor of you, please don't reduce me to explanations, justifications before you for your sake, or pure logical argumentation. Know this, we have often in this been on different pages, although I still feel this is worth it somehow.

I am only responding here to try clear up a few things to alleviate some of your uncomfortableness. Sorry, I can't do much more.

Christopher said...

Suneal,

That's fine, bud. I know we've been on different pages for a long time as regards how we react to the world around us. Like you've pointed out, you tend to be much more emotionally centred than I am, and that's perfectly respectable. I have no difficulty with that part of who you are. In fact, I really have no difficulties with you at all. I just wanted to know where you were coming from in your comments because your tone was confusing me. Thus the reason for me asking about it.

Anyway, I think we should just pick up and move on. There's no need to perpetuate any tensions that may have arisen between us by continuing to hammer on them. Please feel welcome in my life, on this board, and in any other way that we communicate. I'm not against you; we're on the same path to the same Saviour, so let's keep walking.

sarah said...

Suneal, it would be very relieving to me at least, if we could just start over or resume where last you felt welcome and loved.

I honestly have been continually baffled by your responses- which is no criticism of you or your posts, but just my real, raw reaction- and had no idea that in my posts I was inflaming a wound. I sincerely did not have any idea whatsoever. I am now very sorry for that oversight; I am not an emotionally-oriented person, although I have very deep feelings- it's just not my steering wheel, if you get my meaning. I oftentimes wish it was so that I wouldn't find myself in these sorts of situations where I'm made aware that I've bulldozed someone's heart. Please forgive me; I would be genuinely sick of heart to lose your friendship.

I still don't know where we are in this particular discussion, but I am quite happy to leave it alone. I guess my tone conveys an insistent intellectualism, but that is not who I am entirely; I do have lots of room for, and most of the time prefer, a more balanced sort of communication than happens here.

I have been for months now working out whether or not to leave the internet as 'read-only' because it seems that it is too poor a substitute for real, live connection and where there could have been a real relationship, often things end up going badly that in person wouldn't have even happened, or if they did, would be immediately cleared up. Such as this.

So, can you forgive me and let us have a friendship wherein you retain confidence that you are forever welcome (giving some much-needed leeway for my lack of emotional expression)? Your friendship is very important to both Christopher and me. I too wish it were possible to communicate another way, and I also don't care for email.

Telephone would be better, but difficult to arrange- not impossible- until Christopher's work schedule is more integrated into our currently very hectic life. Can we consider some solutions? It does seem a bit silly to persist in using a medium that causes us more confusion than understanding, such as the internet.

I'm going to think about this some more, and in anticipation of your desire to still be friends of course. :)

Sarah

suneal said...

I value both of your friendships too, yet I am struggling with where to go from here to be honest.

Years ago I retreated into an intellectual place where I could deaden certain pain. To be utterly honest, I don't think I would have got into blogging if Chris had not talked me into it. It still seems to me to be something I am at odds with somehow, despite all my efforts at it. I kind of did it more for the friendship with you both than for any other reason. I value highly good thinking and argument, but that has been my problem, I almost have valued it too highly. I feel God is healing me so I can be more complete in the real world, not just half in tune with myself.

Despite my "emotionalism," believe it or not, there is so much of my emotional self that has been pent up for years. That might seem scary to you, I don't know. I am glad even to have felt the recent sadness of our discussions with a higher goal of friendship in mind. How is that for an oxymoron? I would rather be sad and closer to God and truer to myself and ultimate truth and reality, than win a debate or argument and convince someone I am right. Not to say the latter excludes the former, but the former precludes those factors one can control, and not being able to control other's responses, while being vulnerable and real to your own feelings, well, that is both victory and sometimes sadness all wrapped up in one. "Blessed" then "are they that mourn." That is where even taking the risk to try and control another's response, yet to leave it at some point, is actually brave living. It is not the ulimate goal in such a case to control, but to risk in hope.

Sarah, I am glad you see the bigger picture. Sorry I could not just come out a long time ago and tell you, if I did, it would have ruined it all for me. I forgive you, but I must admit I do not know all I forgive for, because all the pain I am gradually taking definite steps to encounter, I have yet to fully decipher. You and Chris (sorry Chris) may merely be the lightning rod (sorry) for so much more than you need ask forgiveness for. To forgive you all the way, could take a lot, therefore.

Regarding the particular discussion, that was merely the upper layer to the underlying one that Sarah you have picked up on. I wanted for you Sarah to have the last word, and I hope you feel you have on the judging topic. In terms of needing you to agree with me, it is only so in a more problematic fashion regarding our friendships. Implied is the "freedom" or not to oppose, to express where I think you or Chris may be off. This could be personal advice or in doctrine. Also, just the general tenure of Christian friendship, knowing on what we stand united and on what separate. I could just gloss this all over and keep this as sentimental muck, but what is the point of that after all the hard work and perhaps pain on both sides of this post? Better to make that pain at least stand for something, other than reconciliation unto the beginning point. "That something," to reassure you both, I am not saying need be here agreeance, but rather that freedom I spoke of. As of now, I dare not venture on such a journey with either of you. I hope you both realize I say this not to inflame but to really let you know where I am at.

So Sarah, please accept the "jury is not out yet." I need to process my feelings, the thoughts are easy for me and come much quicker.

Thank you both for understanding at the next level. It is hard to squish a tree onto the computer screen and have it come out either bearing fruit or looking three dimensional. Do you know what I mean?

suneal said...

Just to let you both know, Chris and Sarah, all is well with me now. I am cool resuming as usual or even unusually in our friendships. Blessings on you both. To let you know, the reason I have gone to all this trouble is because there are not many friends I know in the faith, as insightful, thoughtful and genuine as both of you. With love, Suneal.