Friday, March 21, 2008

Another Passion of the Christ

Not the movie....but an essay of the same name, on the God Quest site. Not too far into the article the author declares

And he (Jesus) did not undertake his sacrifice to shield us from a “wrathful” Father.[ This is the intimidating, threatening, and centuries-old claim of conventional Christianity. A fraud so well conceived that it has prevented millions of honest people from entering into a loving relationship with the Creator.

But then he takes an unexpected twist in the section titled, "Is God Entirely Guiltless?" in which he ponders the question of God's guilt in allowing evil into the world. He quotes Jack Miles in Christ, A Crisis in the Life of God expresses it this way:

The pathos of those artistic enactments—those masses and oratorios, passion plays and memorial liturgies, and above all those paintings and sculptures in which the unspeakable is left unspoken—is inseparable from the premise that God is inflicting this pain upon himself for a reason. ‘The real reason’, as Albert Camus wrote in his haunting novel The Fall, ‘is that he himself knew he was not altogether innocent.’”

Now there's a pretty heretical thought...God is not altogether innocent? John G says says something similar in one of his writings called a Legal Mentality....

When Christ died for us He was not paying dues to the law but, with love beyond measure, meeting us where we were in our mentality that said, "We demand justice. You let the serpent in the garden. You penned us all up in disobedience. The buck stops at your desk. You should pay" (Rom. 11:32). And pay He did.

The Passion Essay goes on to say:

The cross is the expression of God entering into his own story, meeting the terms of justice for the divine responsibility of letting evil loose within the universe.

and later:

The passion of the Christ is, ultimately, self-inflicted. That is, for a greater purpose and good, God has chosen to do it this way. The one true and wonderful God has ordained that all should suffer and die, including himself.

or as my friend Roy says:

Then, Christ came. God in the flesh. Man had always blamed the Father for the fall. Inwardly the blood rage is there.

God has never shirked his responsibility regardless of what religion teaches. Search the scriptures and see. Man tries to take responsibility for this fallen creation. But, ultimately, God has never shirked responsibility for anything He has done. He balanced the scales in Christ.

He came as Man. He said, "You rage against me? You want justice? You think I should be punished for all you have suffered? Here, take out your rage on me. Here is the blood you have been searching for, longing for. It is laid down freely. Rage on me. I won't lift a finger to stop you."

And, He took responsibility for all the evils that have befallen man that day. He gave His life. This has never been adequately appreciated by religion. It needs to be appreciated.

As I post these very diverse thoughts on the atonement here on my blog, perhaps it will become apparent that the PSA view is certainly not the only view that makes sense...and is not the only view that is supported in the scriptures.....

Wayne Jacobsen's View of the Cross

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I stumbled upon Wayne Jacobsen when I was researching different atonement theories last year. The Cross as Cure Not Punishment came up in the google search results. It is part 4 in a series of talks called Transitions. He also talks about this in his book He Loves Me.

....the unanswerable questions should invite us to reconsider our distorted view of the cross. Since Adam’s fall we have come to picture God not as a loving Father inviting us to trust him, but an exacting sovereign who must be appeased. When we start from that vantage point we miss God’s purpose on the cross. For his plan was not to satisfy some need in himself at his Son’s expense, but rather to satisfy a need in us at his own expense.

And it was not his plan to satisfy the requirements of the Law...nor is the atonement about the fulfillment of the OT sacrificial system. Later on in the book he says....

But I am deeply bothered by the thought that in some way God was able to separate himself at the cross. The popular understanding of the cross seems to be that God the Father executed wrath on God the Son while standing at some discrete distance.

Such thinking not only denies the essence of God’s nature but then distorts what happened at the cross. Paul wrote that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…” God was no distant observer, but a participant. He didn’t send Jesus to do what he would not do; but God himself acted through Jesus to bring about our redemption.

Some have taken Jesus’ cry that his Father had forsaken him to mean that at the darkest moment, the Father had to turn his back on the Son. God cannot bear to look on sin, they argue, so that when our sins were laid on him, God had to turn his face away from his Son.

God has never run from sinful humanity. He didn’t hide from Adam and Even in the Garden. They hid from him as he sought them out. It is not God who cannot bear to look on sin, but that we in our sin can’t bear to look on God. He’s not the one who hides. We are. God is powerful enough to look on sin and be untainted by it. He has always done so. He did so at the cross.

I could not agree with this more. God was IN Christ reconciling the world to himself. Kind of hard to turn his head away if he was (as the Amplified renders it) personally present. And is not our great God omnipresent? Is there anywhere he is not? How is it then that he could not look upon sin? Even if I make my bed in hell, behold, he is there? He has been looking on sin throughout the ages. He personally (in the incarnated Christ) walked among sin on a daily basis.

God is not a wimp...he is not too delicate to look upon sin. He does not have to turn away from sin and in fact there is no hell hole too dark, no evil place too wicked...nowhere that he will not go to rescue his children. The Cross should show us that....

He didn’t just deal with our sins, but with the very nature of sin itself. By allowing sin to touch his person through the Son, he would be able to prevail in himself over that which we were powerless to fight. Through the physical body of Jesus, sin came face to face with the power of God, and as we shall see, God prevailed over sin completely.

He goes on to talk about God's wrath as a type of chemotherapy which was vented against Sin (the disease) and he see the cross as the antidote for Sin. Also check out his God Journey site. There are lots of resources there and a bunch of podcasts of conversations between Wayne and his side kick Brad Cummings. The podcasts are a hoot...and very edifying. He has an emergent church kind of spin on things. Oh...and he is not a universalist....but that one little detail is just a matter of time :)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sharktacos View of the Atonement

On Derek Flood's site, The Rebel God, there is another really good article that espouses a different view of the atonement called Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor. It is a long article that deals in depth with the Christus Victor view of the atonement and how it compares with the PSA view. It has been a while since I read this article and if I get a chance this weekend I just may go back and read it again. After all the reading I've done about the atonement and the discussions I've been a part of, it may have a stronger impact than it did the first time around. If I do, I may post some thoughts I have.

There are several other writings on this web site that are well worth reading. Human Suffering and the Silence of God is an article that takes a look at the age old question of theodicy. How can there be such intense suffering in the world if there is a good God ruling over it? One of my favorite "quotes" comes from that article, although it may be too long to qualify as a excerpt perhaps...

I am posting it below with my thanks to Derek Flood (Sharktacos) who is the author of the following thoughts......

Since the question of Theodicy is essentially a question of the character of God, we are going to look at Jesus who is the embodiment of the very heart of God. It is my prayer that as you read this and meditate over it, that the truth of who God is as seen in Christ will go beyond mere concepts and theories and become a living reality in your heart and life. So I would ask that you would open your heart to God to encounter you, and that you would read on prayerfully.
We find in the gospel account of the resurrection of Lazarus profound insight into the nature and character of God in our lives in times of silence:

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
It is clear from the text that Mary knew that Jesus loved her and her brother. It tells us that she is the same Mary who washed Jesus' feet with her tears, and in the letter the sisters refer to Lazarus as "the one you love", so the familiarity and trust between them is quite evident. But Jesus chose to remain where he was for two days. He only conveyed the message "This sickness will not end in death".
When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

Jesus did not come. Her brother died. Mary was absolutely devastated.

When she has most needed God's help he was inactive, and his promise that the sickness would not end in death turned out to be, in Mary's eyes, false. She felt abandoned, alone, helpless, and without hope. Even if we know that God loves us as Mary did, silence is crushing.

Four days after Lazarus' death, Jesus came. There were people all around who had come to comfort the sisters in the loss of their brother. Mary fell at his feet in tears and said to him "Lord if you had been here, he wouldn't have died".

Partially because we know the story and its outcome already we half-expect Jesus to respond by saying something like "Oh ye of little faith did you not know that this is for the glory of God?". But he doesn't. His response is extraordinary and offers great insight into God's character.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

The Greek word translated in the English as "deeply moved" means to make the snorting noise of a horse. In other words he was so overwhelmed with the sorrow that it literally knocked the wind out of him. It was the kind of pain where you can't catch your breath. Christ's second response is to be "troubled", the Greek word translated here conveys a feeling of outrage or anger- in his heart Jesus was instinctually insulted at the injustice of suffering. To anyone familiar with grief, these two reactions: on the one hand shock - an intellectual and spiritual numbness, and on the other hand anger at the evil of suffering - are exactly how we feel. And at the same time it mirrors God's heart as seen in throughout the Old Testament in the prophets. Jeremiah writes,

My grief is beyond healing, my heart is sickened within me, because of the plight of the daughter of my people from the length of the land to he breadth of the land. For the would of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded. I mourn and dismay has taken hold of me. Declares the Lord.

This all culminates in what Jesus does next: two powerful words:

Jesus wept.

Even though he knows that in a few minutes Lazarus will rise from the dead, the next thing he does is to weep. Not some pious controlled socially appropriate tears, but hot honest choking tears. He is deeply and intimately involved with us in our pain. God suffers with us, feels every anguish, knows every doubt. Being infinite does not mean merely infinitely large, but infinitely small as well, so that he understands and experiences our silence, our pain with us, not just in a theoretical way, but deeply and completely. Sometimes in our suffering, in the midst of silence we have the wind knocked out of us, and there is nothing left to pray with. God knows this, and you can be sure that he is at that moment praying for you.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Penal Substitution - The Core of Christianity??

I have been posting on the Tentmaker message board from time to time since August. It is a busy place with lots of interesting, thought provoking threads. One could spend a lot of time there reading and responding. I usually restrict my posting to Emerging Universalist because of real time responsibilities (like work, and kids, and chores...if "unlimited"internet access only came with unlimited time to access it, I would be a happy girl indeed) So because of real life intruding, I usually only pipe up when one of the following topics are discussed--the atonement, the OT sacrificial system, free will/determinism, the OT atrocities.

A month or so ago, someone started a thread called Who Jesus Is/The Cross and its Effect. It is in the Member's Section so you will have to joint to access it. The thread was based on a writing by Stephen Jones on the God's Kingdom Ministries site called The Cross and its Effect. I have heard of Stephen Jones before. I think I may have watched bits and pieces of a DVD sermon by him at an Inclusion Conference. I don't know enough about him or his writings to make any kind of overall judgement but I do seriously and adamantly disagree with this article. He begins by saying:

In the beginning, the book of Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve sinned, and as a consequence, were cast out of the garden. History, then, has been the story of man’s re-instatement into the position and calling that was his from the beginning.

But to do this required dealing with the offense against God. There was a lawful procedure by which this had to take place, and any other procedure was ineffective. It had to be God’s way to have merit before God. False religion, then, is “false” specifically because it attempts to restore a right relationship with God in an unlawful manner.

This sets the tone, it seems, for the whole writing. It assumes that God views us through the eyes of a a legal way...or as John Gavazzoni declares in his writing "My Dad, God" it takes God out of the family room and puts him into the courtroom. And God has never, and will never (in my very adamant opinion) view his children through a legal lens. Which the article goes on to proclaim:

Those who equate sin with ignorance are attempting to resolve the problem in a classroom, rather than in a courtroom. But teaching people not to sin does not resolve the root problem. Sin must be dealt with by the blood of sacrifice, not by passing a written or oral examination.

There are many scriptures that boldly declare God did not want sacrifice. God does not need a pound of flesh to forgive us...he does not need the blood of bulls or goats....or his innocent son to flow in order to be able to have a relationship with us. He does not have to get the requirements of the law out of the way before he can get on with the business of being our father. We are the bloodthirsty ones...not God. We are the ones steeped in a legal mind set...our bellies full of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We have the tit for a tat, eye for an eye legal mind set...not God. It is that legal mind set that made up 613 or so intricate, tedious, impossible to keep laws...when Jesus summed it up simply with love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.

He goes on to say:

The core of Christianity—and the reason it is different from other religions—is that it views sin through the eyes of the law and resolves the problem by the law. All false religion tries to resolve this legal problem through teaching and education, either by teaching men correct behavior or teaching them correct (usually "positive") thinking.

and again:

When we come to the core of biblical Christianity, it comes down to the manner of one's defense before God's bar of justice.

The core of biblical Christianity is this. God is light and in him there is no darkness. The core of biblical Christianity is that God, in the person of Jesus, came and dwelt among us..the Word made show us the heart of the Father. To tear down the walls of alienation (in OUR minds.) Jesus did not show us a harsh judge. Jesus did not show us a Father who must have his sense of justice appeased in order to forgive us. On the cross, among other things, I think Jesus showed us the depths, and breadth and width that God will go to in order to reconcile his lost children. It is an unfathomable love to me. It is the beginning of the release from the fear of coming to him, naked, defenseless, trusting.... knowing that he will do as he said in Genesis...he will make man in his image and likeness. That begins not in the courtroom...not with legal jargon and requirements of the Law...not with Jesus as our attorney...pleading his innocent blood to his father, God, the judge....but within our Father's heart. Before anything else, he is our Father....

John Gavazzoni (whom you may have noticed is a favorite kingdom minister of mine) says it this way:

One thing stands out clearly to me when I compare my father's relationship with his children to the way our Heavenly Father is presented in conventional orthodox theology. It is simply this: Lou Gavazzoni's relationship with me was paternal, not legal. Whatever factors came into play, all was built on a familial, not a forensic foundation. There may at times have been a friendship element, associate-in-business element, fellow-musician element, boss-employee element, even lord-servant element and yes, the element of judgment came up as well. But, I never stood before one who was essentially a judge, who might, after legal matters were settled, then allow himself to be fatherly.
I stood before my father who might, as necessary, act in a firm, unyielding and corrective judgment as part of his love for me. Yet, it seems clear to me, that most of Christianity assumes that a relationship with God is only possible after legal matters are settled. Our minds are so entangled with what we perceive to be legal, judicial and forensic necessities that we miss the Father-heart of God.

Praise God for his Father-heart....

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Non-Violent Atonement

Preaching Peace is a web site I stumbled upon while researching Rene' Girard's mimetic theory...sometimes referred to as the Anthropology of the Cross. This is the website of a nonprofit organization based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In the Introductory section there are articles that give a basic overview of the works of Girard. In the Occasional section there are more in depth articles. About a year ago, I ordered the series of DVDs from their 2006 Atonement Conference. Sharon Baker was one of my favorites speakers. It was a conference...and not a sermon, so the style was a bit dry. Many of them "read their papers" and some did a better job than others. The question and answer sessions at the end of each DVD were the best part.


On the website, the DVD's from the 2007 conference are available for purchase. Also, the following 20 or so minute presentation samples are available. They all deal with different aspects of "non-violent atonement" which is a phrase coined by J. Denny Weaver from his book called....The Nonviolent Atonement (link leads to Google Books with a fairly extensive review of the book with sample sections and related articles)

play session 5 Session 5: Nonviolent interpretive methods - Tony Bartlett
play session 5 Session 6: A Biblical anthropology - Micahel Hardin
play session 5 Session 8: Passion accounts in the Bible - Tony Bartlett
play session 5 Session 10: How do we apply this - Greg Boyd

Greg Boyd's talk was my favorite. Lofty ideals and abstract concepts are often hard to put into practice...but he briefly gives his views on how to apply this understanding. He is probably best known for his writings on open theism. His blog is called Random Reflections.

Preaching Peace is definitey worth a visit. You will find lots of off the beaten path views of the atonement, peace church theology and links to other sites that see things from the same perspective.

The Atonement

Since this is the week leading up to Easter, I thought I would perhaps try my hand at another series of posts...this time on the atonement. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the traditional view of the atonement (penal substitution) has never seemed right to me. Even as a new Christian, I found myself questioning it and seeking the guidance of other more mature Christians. After all, I was just a milk drinking baby Christian...and I turned to all those who had graduated to the real meat of things to explain it to me. I sought out several pastors I respected but their explanations rang hollow to me. It just did not feel right. My first glimmer of truth came from an article I happened upon by John Gavazonni called The Great Misrepresentation. In it, he said:

True divine justice does not take an obstinate stance of condemnation until it gets its pound of flesh. True divine justice justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). Why? Because at the heart of the message of the cross of Christ is the truth that God takes responsibility for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6). "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (II Cor. 5:19). God in human form permitted us to murder Him to convince us that He is resolute and steadfast in His love for us. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the ultimate friend of sinners.
In the old covenant, we begin to see the meaning of the blood when Jehovah says to the Israelites, "I have given you the blood upon the altar" (Lev. 17:11). We need the blood, not God! The Lord spoke these words to me as He unfolded the meaning of reconciliation. he said, "I am not the god who demands blood. I am the God who gives blood" Oh, precious words!

There are ways of understanding the atonement other than what is often referred to as penal substitution. There is Christus Victor, Moral Influence, the Governmental view, Recapitualation. Rene' Girard's anthropology of the cross. There are bits and pieces of truth in all the different views….it is just that modern Christianity has adopted Anselm's view of the atonement almost exclusively. To disregard that view casts one into the "not Christian" category in the view of most believers. As a universalist, I know so well that just because "everyone" believes something that does not necessarily make it so.

In my next post, I am going to talk about a writing by Stephen Jones that declares the penal substitutionary view of the atonement is the core of Christianity. I could not disagree more. In the Great Misrepresentation, John Gavazonni goes on to

"emphatically declare my allegiance to the great cardinal tenets of the historic Christian faith. I have held them and will continue to hold them dear to my heart. I hold nothing more precious than the Christ of whom they speak. I am one in conviction with you if you affirm the true deity and humanity of our Lord; His virgin birth; the necessity of His sacrificial death for the reconciling of the world; His bodily resurrection from the dead; His glorious appearing to judge the living and the dead and to the God-breathed normative record of this good news given to us in holy scripture!"

I agree with the sentiments expressed. I do not discount the blood of Christ in any way. It is all the more precious to me because "God was in Christ" and willingly endured the worst that humanity had to dish out. Was that a payment to himself? Does that make sense? Did the atonement change God's mind so that he was able to finally forgive us? Was it God who needed the OT sacrificial system…or was it mankind who needed it? These are just a few questions to ponder when considering the atonement.

Bloody sacrifice is in OUR heart….as proven by the history of human sacrifice. The Mayans, the Aztecs, the worshippers of Baal and Molech. The children of Israel sacrificed their own children in a sick, perverted ritual to Baal. The need for blood sacrifice…the need to appease an angry deity is in the heart of man…NOT the heart of God. God makes that declaration in many places throughout the OT. He did not desire sacrifice…nor did he require it and he says he abhors it. He did not feed a bigger, better sacrifice into the sacrificial machinery to end sacrifice once and for all. Blood sacrifice is the antithesis of what God desires from us.

It is not possible to even scratch the surface of the atonement in a single post, It is something that needs prayerfully explored and studied. John Gavazzoni has written several short writings on the crucifixion and the meaning of the atonement. They can be found on Serious Seminal Samplings on the Greater Emmanuel website. I suggest you begin with The Great Misrepresentation. Among others that you might want to check out are:

My Dad, God

A Legal Mentality

The Necessity of Christ's Death

The Atonement

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Do Not Harden Your Hearts

In Psalm 95 (vs 7) David declares:

Today, if you will hear His voice: "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As [in] the day of trial in the wilderness,

It is repeated in Hebrews 4:7

He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS."

Implied in these verses (to my way of thinking) is the warning that if you harden your hearts a smidgen today, by not listening to his voice, then tomorrow, you will be more inclined to ignore that still small voice yet again….until your heart is so calloused, it becomes almost inevitable that you will choose to be disobedient, rebellious and stray yet farther from the ways of God.

CS Lewis , in his book Mere Christianity puts it this way:

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, "If you keep a lot of rules, I'll reward you, and if you don't, I'll do the other thing." I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

The more we ignore him, the more estranged we become. Now...being a universalist, I know that God can...and will....perform the spiritual equivalent of hitting us over the head with a 2 x4 hard enough to get our attention and stop the momentum of the downward spiral. I am living this right now with one of my children. Right now it is one step forward and two steps back....but I have hope that he is still speaking to her heart and still calling her to be his daughter...the daughter she is destined to be sooner or later. I am encouraged by the way the Message translates the verse in Hebrews:

God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David's psalm, centuries later than the original invitation: Today, please listen, don't turn a deaf ear . . .

Can't you hear him calling, Beth?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Who Said That?

On Tentmaker recently there was a discussion in a thread called The God I Know about hearing God...and whether it is God we hear or just our imagination. There has been an atheist hanging out at TM...very well read, well versed in scripture and Christianity and many religions...and well mannered. He is not there to simply stir up trouble. He has been there for a while and participated in quite a few threads. He goes by the name Transponder. His avatar is a water bottle which he (tongue in cheek) claims represents the water bottle sitting on his desk...the one he is waiting for God to turn into wine. There were several quotes in the thread about hearing from God that tickled me. He said about the "still small voice"

I have also had this relationship with the voice in my head with which I commune, debate, reason, discuss and share my life. It is me.

And he went on to say:

....the fact that they all occur 'in the head' would indicate, would it not, that it all emanates from the head? In fact, even before I had heard of the studies on 'voices' which indicated a mental origin, reading deconversion stories gave me quite a lot of evidence that - as one deconvert put it in a way that I regard as summing it all up - "I thought for so long that I was talking to God, but I realized in the end that I was just talking to myself".

I hijacked the topic and posted it on Emerging Universalist for discussion and asked for comments from my buds there about how they discern whether it is the voice of God speaking to them or just the voices in their heads. Brian related an amusing anecdote...

LOL...the last comment reminds me of a piece of dialog from a movie I saw about 30 years ago, can't even remember its name. There was a guy in it who was having delusions - he thought he was God. A psychiatrist asked him how he knew he was God and I remember his reply : "Because when I pray to God, I find that I'm talking to myself".

Hmmmmmm....sometimes prayer does seem a bit that way doesn't it?

My friend annie said:

i'm sure there's a balance and i'm sure folks like jim jones and david koresh weren't hearing from God. but their error shouldn't make us shy away from the still small voice that speaks truth to our hearts. and without that, do we REALLY KNOW God? or do we just know what we've read about him in a book, the testimonies of others who claimed to know him? in a court of law, secondhand testimony or "hearsay" is not allowed?

if we're going to make the PERSON of Christ our foundation (1 cor 3.11), then we're going to have to have some sort of personal experience aisi and not just go with other folks say so... but we must test the spirits and i think the best test of that is against the historical record we have of Jesus. if the voice in our head told us to kill someone, we can know it to be false, for God as revealed in Jesus said, "love your enemies... bless... pray for... do good".

Dena said:

I also see that we're told to test the spirits...
I assume that means that there are both good and bad spirits who can speak to us (in our thoughts, in other things/people). I see that I need to ask for discernment -- and He gives it as a gift. I see that I have to trust Him to confirm that a thing is either of Him, or not of Him... and I can also test things by the fruit they bear.

I read many posts on message boards where people claim to have had all kinds of experiences, conversations, teachings, leadings and extraordinary experiences with God. Like on a minute by minute basis. Although I know he is always with me and that I always have his ear, I also am a bit skeptical of all the "God told me, God showed, God taught me, God gave me this experience and that experience" Sometimes I think it is a bit more fanciful thinking than anything. I have had one extraordinary experience with God...when I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was him who tapped my shoulder and whispered into my ear. I have had numerous less dramatic experiences...some I am certain were him. Sometimes, when the thought that pops into my mind is something that totally takes me by surprise....and often gives me an insight into a situation or a conflict or annoying behavior by someone I am at odds with that hadn't occurred to me and probably would never have occurred to me otherwise. The insight is always a softer, gentler thought than anything I might come up with. I think he has spoken to me through scripture, through the words of my online buddies, through the words in a movie or a quote...and often in opinions that I vehemently disagree with (hell, total determinism, the party line view of the atonement) when he whispers in my don't really believe that about me do you? Reminds me of the scripture that promises...and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, this is the way, walk ye in it........

Deus ad intra - Deus ad extra

On the Beautiful Heresy board a week or so ago...a new member posted the following in her intro....

Many proponents of the doctrine of eternal hell argue that it is just part of God's nature that we don't understand. But there's this principle in theology called Deus ad intra/Deus ad extra that says that how God reveals himself to us does not contradict his inner nature, even if it is not fully known to us. Saying that a loving God would torment people forever is like saying that an all-powerful God can make is just absurd. God has revealed through creation that he is a God of order, and he has revealed through the Incarnate Christ that he is a God of unconditional love and infinite grace.

Although I didn't know there was a specific theological term for it, I knew by intuition that God would not violate his character and nature displayed for all the world to see in the "Incarnate Christ." Always have. Well, at least since I became a Christian. Hell never made much sense to me because it seemed to so contradict the character and nature of God. (not to mention the fact that it is so incredibly unfair) Being a new and ignorant Christian, I knew that scripture declared it to be so (or so I thought) but in my heart, I knew better. The OT atrocities many consider orchestrated, ordered and ordained by God also totally contradict the image of the invisible God we see in Jesus. The bloody OT Sacrificial system, believed to be initiated by God as a "type and shadow" of the bigger, better sacrifice he intends to feed into the sacrificial machine with Jesus....also violates the character and nature we see so perfectly demonstrated in the image of the invisible God we see in Jesus. It reminds me of the old can't get blood out of a turnip. God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. No matter how those who believe the aforementioned heinous doctrines try to twist scripture to say prove that there is.