Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dropping "J" bombs to stiffle the ecumenical terror attacks.

This past week I watched “Jesus Camp” twice. Both times I was alarmed at the language being used to describe and define the world to which Evangelical America exists. Phrases such as “are you with us or against us?” and “Muslims are our enemies” scared me and moved me to think about my faith and the physical manifestation it has on this world. Is this the seed of the final conflict desired by many to bring forth the rapture and the reign of Christ?

I am not to sure why this strikes fear in my heart. Is it that I am unsure of my faith and salvation? Could it be the terrible bloodshed that would transpire when the fundamental radical armies of Christendom and Islam meet in this battle? Is it that these evangelical Christians are openly using children as players in this ebb and flow of soul conversion and tallying them like one would tally a high score in a video game?

It looks very irresponsible to me to indoctrinate children into a demanding, guilt ridden sense of existence to appease a God that is ever watching, waiting for them to mess up. A God that will remove the blessings in their life if they do not walk the straight and narrow path. I am not condoning a life of sin and hedonism. I am asking, “What happened to grace?” I shout, “Is your salvation dependent upon your actions or the power in the blood of Christ?” The latter seems to be the message offered by this Christian perspective…yet they are not practicing it.

It breaks my heart to see hundreds of small children crying and begging God for forgiveness. They are weeping and hoping they are not lost in the despair of the “dead churches” or dashed away in the fallen avalanche of dance, joy, or playfulness. What desperation brings forth this understanding?

I can only relate to them with my experience of worshipping and living in an evangelical community for six years as a young man. I never felt safe. I never felt good enough. I always felt like God was keeping track of me and marking against my salvation. I was disappointed I did not and could not speak in tongues or hold the wisdom others held in the community. I wanted to be near God, yet I was so afraid to be.

It was two years after I left the evangelical community that I finally realized I did not have to be perfect to be near God. We were provided for in Christ to be safe in the arms of our Counselor, our Comforter, our Creator. It is by grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone that we are saved. I am not certain I am saved. I trust in, have faith in the promise of God to creation that in Christ Jesus we are saved. No action of mine brings me closer to this or further from this.

When will we move from the language of terror (ecumenical terrorism?) to the language of hope? Jesus came to love us, to bring us into the community of God, to offer us completion. Terror only begets more terror. Salvation, faith, comfort, hope, joy, peace…these things can never be brought to us in terror. Only in the still calm of a swaddling infant can salvation, faith, comfort, hope, joy, peace is brought be to the world. A mentor of mine told me, “You can build a church with seekers of truth. You can never build a church with possessors of the truth!”

I am not aware that any Christian perspective is better than any other. I find it beautiful that God speaks too many where they are at. Christ saves all regardless of their condition. We must radically love to combat this growing hate and fear. We must reach out to our neighbors. We must extend to those in conflict our honest and sincere hearts. We must be a place of healing, especially in midst of our difficulties. Even in “dead churches” God exists and can move and bring forth life.


John Shuck said...

Thank you for this review and for your comments. I have not seen this film yet as it has not been released in our area. I have read reviews and seen the trailer.

I grew up in a church that was heavy on God's judgment. I remember as a child, nine or ten, going up front again and again afraid that I was a "backslider" and constantly in need of forgiveness for whatever sins a nine or ten year old commits!

Thanks also for your quote: “You can build a church with seekers of truth. You can never build a church with possessors of the truth!”


Gannet Girl said...

I wrote about it on Oct 6 and again on Oct 7. The movie reflects an appalling vision of Christianity, but it does raise some good questions.

Pappy McVulgar said...

I trust there is a purpose beyond my understanding for this perspective to exist. God is mysterious...I tremble at the complexity of my mind trying to grasp this. John I have been baptized three times and confirmed in the Lutheran and Roman Catholic gotta cover your arse and get the fire insurance.

Thak you both for your comments.

Stushie said...

You stated: "Christ saves all regardless of their condition."

Where do you find this in the Bible?

This is universalism, not Christianity.

Pappy McVulgar said...

I am wondering if you understood the point I am trying to make. "I am not aware that any Christian perspective is better than any other. I find it beautiful that God speaks too many where they are at. Christ saves all regardless of their condition. We must radically love to combat this growing hate and fear. We must reach out to our neighbors. We must extend to those in conflict our honest and sincere hearts. We must be a place of healing, especially in midst of our difficulties. Even in “dead churches” God exists and can move and bring forth life.
Please read the line you mentioned in context. I make this statement unaware that Christ’s death on the cross excluded anyone or thing in creation. This allows me to write this. If you call the all powerful, all encompassing grace and forgiveness that follows in the shed blood of Christ “universalism” than yes I agree. I no where mention that there is any other means to a relationship with God outside of Christ. Which is what I believe you meant when you offered, “This is universalism, not Christianity”?
In the column I am challenging us as the Body of Christ to be aware of the various perspectives of Christology. I can fondly look to my evangelical experience, encountering many more positive experiences than negative, and be thankful that I was blessed with them. They helped me through a difficult time in my life.
Specifically I am warning anyone that proclaims the authority and possession of sole truth when involved in the mystery of God. Look to the book of Job and answer me what the hippos do? Then perhaps sole position of truth and interpretation can be made.
As for Biblical reference, please look to perhaps the most famous verse used as bullets…John 3:16.

Stushie said...

He died for all, but not all are saved. Or are you saying that all are saved???

You are right about John 3:16 ...that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Only those who believe in Christ are saved...are you saying otherwise?

John Shuck said...

"He died for all but not all are saved." So Jesus didn't get the job done, eh? Maybe he ought to come and die again.

How do you know who believes in Christ and who doesn't? What does that even mean?

How do you know that everyone doesn't already believe in Christ? You can't know.

You can't know what God will do or will not do. Or can you?

Stushie said...

Are you now saying, John, that the scriptures don't reveal to us what God intends? Are we walking around in the dark?

You are so far off the path and one day will fall over the edge.

Jesus did get the work of salvation done. he died for all, but the scriptures remind us again and again that not all are saved. To preach anything else is not Christianity, it is universalism.

John Shuck said...

I think that your interpretation and selection of scriptures reveals what you think God intends. Not that there is anything evil, sinister or wrong with that. We all do it.

I have a different opinion than yours regarding your interpretion and elevation of certain texts. As far as I am concerned, we are both Christian.

Whether or not you think I am Christian is your opinion.

As far as other people and whether or not they are saved, I happen to think John 10:16 says as much:

"I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."

All in God's time.


Stushie said...

The other flock meant the soon-to-be converted Gentile Christians.

The interpretation that you give is one that the Universalist Unitarians support. And, funnily enough, was also used by Mohammed to his supporters, to let them know that he had replaced Christ. it's a Gnostic fallacy.

Once again, it's not what you or I think that is important. It's what Christ has actually said.

Call yourself what you want, John, but Christian is not one of them.

John Shuck said...

We are in disagreement over this interpretation of John. I am glad that you will not be the judge of my soul. I will leave that to Christ.


Stushie said...

John, read "Jesus of Suburbia" by Mike Erre.

If I was to be the judge of your soul, I'd probably let you away with everything. As it is, Christ is our judge, and He is no pushover.

John Shuck said...


I found this helpful from the study catechism of the PCUSA:

Question 49. Will all human beings be saved?

No one will be lost who can be saved. The limits to salvation, whatever they may be, are known only to God. Three truths above all are certain. God is a holy God who is not to be trifled with. No one will be saved except by grace alone. And no judge could possibly be more gracious than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Heb 10:31 "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Rom. 11:32 "For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all."
Matt. 18:12-14 "What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost."
Eph. 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."
1 Tim. 2:3-4 "This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
John 3:17-18 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
Ezek. 18:32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live."
2 Cor. 5:14-15 "Because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them."

Question 50. Is Christianity the only true religion?

Religion is a complex matter. When used as a means to promote self-justification, war-mongering or prejudice, it is a form of sin. Too often all religions—and not least Christianity—have been twisted in this way. Nevertheless, by grace, despite all disobedience, Christianity offers the truth of the gospel. Although other religions may enshrine various truths, no other can or does affirm the name of Jesus Christ as the hope of the world.

Matt 7:3 "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"
James 1:26 "If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless."
James 1:27 "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
Acts 4:12 "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved." John 14:6 "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"
Rom. 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
2 Cor. 4:7 "But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us."

Question 51. How will God deal with the followers of other religions?

God has made salvation available to all human beings through Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. How God will deal with those who do not know or follow Christ, but who follow another tradition, we cannot finally say. We can say, however, that God is gracious and merciful, and that God will not deal with people in any other way than we see in Jesus Christ, who came as the Savior of the world.

Rev. 7:9 "And there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands."
Ps. 103:8 "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."
John 3:19 "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil."
Titus 2:11 "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all."

Karen Wagner said...

In line with Calvin's doctrine of double predestination, we don't know who is elect and who is not. In light of that, is it not best to treat everyone as elect and let God sort out the sheep and the goats?

Stushie said...

Acts 4:12 "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved."

This verse says it's either Jesus or nothing.

Anonymous said...

You heard it here first, folks: universalism definitively refuted by proof-texting.

Seriously, though, can we not at least acknowledge that there exists within the canon considerable tension between a universal salvation brought about by the Christ-event and the notion salvation via a particular kind of reception of that event? Given that tension, it seems to me that the best way to approach the issue of "who is saved" is with humility. I think we're kidding ourselves if we think we can ever have it all figured out. And, personally, given that humility and acknowledgement of our own human inability to have perfect knowledge, I would approach my fellow human being with the more gracious, generous position of a universalism (which I do not believe, prima facie, to be antithetical to Christianity) rather than the more exclusivist position of "it's either Jesus or nothing."

Stushie said...

You know what gets to me is that if Presbyterians had universal ideas like you and such a blase attitude about it, there would be no Presbyterian church. Come to think of it, new testament Christians wouldn't have died for their faith either. After all, if everyoen was saved, who cares about dying in the arena for saying that "Jesus is Lord."

This new generation of universalists that think they represent a post-modern, emergent Christianity should start to read real theology instead of the bunk that is being expressed by seminaries today.

Try apologetics even..CS Lewis's Mere Christianity would be a good place to start...but heaven forbid that you read Calvin's Institutes or take the Gospel at face value. That would just not suit your Capernaum life-style.

Pappy McVulgar said...

I have read your comments and have prayed about how I can answer your questions. I am at a loss. I would love to speak to you directly and understand you more. If you are open to this please email me at appreciate and value your opinion as well as the other perspectives voiced in this discourse. My original opinion is still that we cannot build a church with possessors of the truth...only seekers of truth. Brother Christ is the entrance to salvation and God will judge rightly and with justice. I am not sole proprietor of this information. I am a depraved man seeking to walk in faith and be a vessel of the Lord. In whatever form or mission this takes I trust in my redeemer to sustain me in this task. I do not have to understand it or define it. The church is bigger than you and I, bugger than Catholics and Presbyterians, bigger than my depraved and finite mind can handle. So call me ignorant, universalistic, or heathen...I trust you can successfully and faithfully see my depravity through the spectacles of your depravity. Blessings to you.

Anonymous said...


Right on!


Believe it or not, I *have* read Calvin and Lewis. Just because I do not necessarily agree fully with everything in the Institutes does not mean that I am ignorant of them. Your apparent negative attitude toward seminaries bothers me greatly. Perhaps you could say more about what your problem with these insitutions is.

Stushie said...

Why do I feel so negative about seminaries? because in the first five years of ministry, a majority of new ministers will leave ministry altogether. Obviously what seminary is teaching is irrelevant to grass roots faith. Everybody is getting into emergent and cultural theology as if it's the perfect solution to the church's woes.

Bunkum! The demographics of our nation show that the majority of people in society in the next five years will be over the age of sixty-five, so the church will be full of the same. Instead of funding Senior High ministries, we should be building up Senior Adult Ministries. Instead of looking for the emergent church, we should be dealing with the majority of people who are already there!

From what I've seen of what the seminaries have produced in the last several years, faith-seeker saplings is what I'd call them, with no strong roots. I've been ministering for 20 years and in every church that I have served, the congregation has kept growing!And, after all is said and done, isn't that what the Great Commission is all about???

John Shuck said...


Thank you for your thoughts. I agree, in part, that we should minister to those who are already in our churches. But it seems to go against the great commission to limit our ministry to those in our congregations.

I think that each of us has a particular passion and way of communicating to different populations of people. Like Peter to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles, God calls us to communicate the gospel in different ways to different people.

I am interested in those who have left the church, or have never attended church, or have been patiently waiting in the church, for something that connects with their experience.

For instance, I loved seminary. I loved studying the Bible and history and Jesus. I was especially interested in higher criticism and in ways to make worship meaningful and expressive.

It has been the grassroots folks who have introduced me to books by Marcus Borg etc. These are folks who are interested in the search and who have not been satisfied with the answers they have heard from the pulpit or their Sunday School classes.


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