believers or non-believers

the dividing wall between believers and non-believers cartoon by nakedpastor

This one was difficult to draw.

Actually, this is a serious problem. The fact is that the bible says that there is no longer any dividing wall. They’ve all been torn down.

If there is a dividing wall, we built it with our fears and fantasies.

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23 Replies to “believers or non-believers”

  1. This one is curious. I can see where it would be hard to draw. The downward pointing arrow splits and in doing so represents and replicates the wall. I’m imagining in place of an arrow, beams of radiating Light, some landing on the ground, and some moving beyond the frame.

  2. God tore the wall down with His Son Jesus.

    The only division between sinnes (everyone) is that some believe…and some do not.

    Believers are still beggars. We just happen to know where the bread line forms.

  3. David, you sound like Thomas Merton in this post:

    An Adequate Faith

    “If I, as a Christian, believe that my first duty is to love and respect my fellow in his personal frailty and perplexity, in his own unique hazard and need for trust, then I think that the refusal to let him alone, to entrust him to God and his conscience, and the insistence on rejecting them as persons until they agree with me, is simply a sign that my own faith is inadequate.

    My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between believer and unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an unbeliever more or less.”
    ~ From “Apologies to an Unbeliever” by Thomas Merton

    “My good children, a theologian is one who converses with God and not one who studies theology.”
    – Elder Ephraim of Katounakia

    The life of the soul is not knowledge, it is love, since love is the act of the supreme faculty, the will, by which man is formally united to the final end of all his strivings–by which man becomes one with God.
    ….The heights that can be reached by metaphysical speculation introduce a man into a realm of pure and subtle pleasure that offers the most nearly permanent delights you can find in the natural order. When you go one step higher, and base your speculations on premises that are revealed, the pleasure gets deeper and more perfect still. Yet even though the subject matter may be the mysteries of the Christian faith, the manner of contemplating them, speculative and impersonal, may still not transcend the natural plane, at least as far as practical consequences go.
    –Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

  4. I know I have eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus as my Savior. Other people do not. When I realize this there must be a decision made. Will I think myself superior because of my stance in Christ or will I go to the Lord asking for those I love to be saved too. The first is a religious spirit. The second is the Heart of God being displayed in my life.

  5. Many believe, as do I, that ALL have eternal life through Jesus Christ. Dividing walls are absolutely incompatible with my belief that Jesus sacrifice was adequate to do exactly as He promised…to draw ALL people unto Himself.

  6. I, too, believe that Calvin’s doctrine of Limited Atonement is a heresy.

    Scripture reveals Jesus the Christ as Savior of the world. Catholicism reduces him to Savior of the Church and Protestantism further reduces him to Savior of the individual. Every so often someone recognized as a religious leader will have an “aha moment” and writes an “our God is too small book;” but the sectarian religious tribalism never seems to go away. The human ego, whether individualistic or collective, is a tough nut to crack.

    My son Paul, who shares my inclusivism (not to be confused with a universalism that denies human freedom) posted this on a blog in response to a “limited atonement” post:

    Those who are pursuing Love are pursuing God. Through His grace, this allows them to partake as they are able in the divine life and thus also partake in the redemptive work of Christ. It is not necessary for an individual to outwardly profess a particular set of theological dogmas for Christ’s work to be effective for redemption in that individual.

    This is what a comprehensive contextual reading of Scripture leads to, instead of having to balance apparently contradictory texts against each other when they are plucked out as “proof texts.”
    –Paul Sauberer

    “Text without context is pretext.” It is almost impossible to get some people to even consider the implications of the Pauline teaghing on the Cosmic Christ that were revealed most explicitly in Colossians. In the Latin/Western Churches the mystery of the Cosmic Christ is usually either neglected or forgotten.

  7. Those of us who do not believe in Jesus, do not believe for varied reasons. Some have never heard of him. Some were born into another faith. Some just find the story(s) unbelievable. And then there are some of us who even find the stories in the bible to be morally objectionable. We actually find the God of the bible to be lacking in many positive qualities, and possessing many qualities we find repulsive.

    Take me for instance. I find the atrocities endorsed and/or committed by the God of the Old testament sufficient evidence for a reasonable person (like me) to wonder why anyone would willingly worship that God.
    And the God of the New testament is not much better, and may be even worse, with the introduction of hell. When I consider such a place, I have to agree with Ingersoll – “If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now.

    Don’t get me wrong – If the bible is incorrect, and there actually is a loving god/creator out there somewhere, and he has prepared a wonderful eternal place for us humans to spend “eternity”, then I am all for it. But as for the God of the Christian bible, I find “him” to be rather schizophrenic, cruel, prideful, demanding, egotistical, and in general, not worthy of my respect…even if “he” actually exists.

    So, any thoughts on what the future holds for me…Carol…Gary?

  8. Scripture not only reveals who God is in relationship with his/her people, it reveals who the people are in relationship with their God. OT Israel was a confederation of tribes not that different from the tribalistic Islamists of our own time and yet the Koran(as does the Judaic/Christian bible) proclaims that Allah/God is Compassionate and Merciful. “Text without context is pretext.”

    Our interpretation of Scripture depends on many things–temperamental tendencies, cultural conditioning, life experiences, etc.–besides context which is not always easily discerned.

    One good rule for biblical interpretation is that if it seems to reveal a God that is less loving and merciful than you, then your interpretation is not correct. You are right to state that it makes no sense to worship and/or obey a God who is less humane than oneself.

    “The problem with fundamentalists insisting on a literal interpretation of the Bible is that the meaning of words change. A prime example is ‘Spare the rod, spoil the child.’ A rod was a stick used by shepherds to guide their sheep to go in the desired direction. Shepherds did not use it to beat their sheep. The proper translation of the saying is ‘Give your child guidance, or they will go astray.’ It does not mean ‘Beat the shit out of your child or he will become rotten’ as many fundamentalist parents seem to believe.”~Author Unknown

    As for your future, that is up to you.

    “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”
    –Martin Luther

    “To everyone is given the key to the gates of heaven. The same key opens the gates of hell.”
    — Richard Feynman

    The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you’re the easiest person to fool. ~Richard Feynman

    “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
    –Susan B. Anthony

  9. Coincidentally, I got this in my mailbox today. Even those with good theological formation struggle with the meaning of Scripture:

    “Lead us not into temptation”
    by Richard Rohr, OFM

    This line (In Matthew’s version of the Our Father) has never made sense to me, although I continue to say it since this is the way it is usually translated; but I cannot really appeciate it as is. Sometimes, it is translated “do not put us to the test” (In Luke’s version), which still seems strange and problematic. Why would God “lead” us into temptation or “put us to the test” to begin with? Is human life an obstacle course, a testing ground? Are we all on trial? I thought God’s usual job was to lead us away from temptation! Why would we need to ask God to NOT lead us INTO temptation? Does he?
    Here is the way I can make sense out of the common translation, and then you do with it what you wish, which includes ignoring it if it is not helpful.
    I think Jesus is saying that we are BURDENED WITH FREEDOM, life is a constant decision, and thus it is always a “temptation” to choose the wrong thing or to believe that we have ever perfectly done the “right” thing. Free will itself is our constant temptation. Even when we choose the supposed good thing, it is seldom the perfect thing, and usually has many unwanted effects. We seldom do good things for totally pure motives. Maybe the only big temptation for religious people (who are the ones who would say such a prayer!) is to think that we, in fact, DO perfectly good things–for pure love of God and neighbor–and with clear motives? Do we ever do that? It is the illusion of people in the first half of life and of religion, it seems to me. With this interpretation, the final line of the Our Father now makes perfect sense–“at least, keep us from actually doing evil”! That is almost the most we can hope for, and indeed should be our honest and humble prayer (Similar to the Doctor’s principle, to at least “do no harm”!) I think the prayer was to keep religious people humble, honest, and unpretentious–and fully conscious of their own mixed motives and confused actions. Maybe it would best be translated “Lead us away from any illusions about ourselves, and at least keep us from doing downright evil” and calling it virtue. That is perhaps the best that we weak humans can hope for, it seems to me. At this point in history, far too much evil has been done by Christiian people who are absolutely convinced they are doing “God’s holy will”, when they are clearly doing their own. The Our Father, thus understood, was meant to keep us all self critical and truly open to another “Kingdom coming” instead of just our own. Remember, prayer is something that “religious” people do, and that is who he created it for. Jesus was not creating a prayer for the likes of Al Capone or Heinrich Himmler! Let’s give Jesus credit for the immense subtlety and attention to audience with which he taught. The major “temptation” that religious people fall into is illusion–and the outright evils done in its name.

    Richard Rohr, OFM | June 17, 2012 at 2:22 pm

  10. Carol, you said – “One good rule for biblical interpretation is that if it seems to reveal a God that is less loving and merciful than you, then your interpretation is not correct.

    I have to say, (as gently as I possibly can, yet maintain an honest assessment) that your statement is one that reveals how profoundly deluded religious faith is, or can be. If anything, it is evidence that believers make it up as they go along. I shan’t waste any time siting examples and comparisons because I doubt that you will be able to see just how completely unreasonable your statement is. it is essentially a conversation stopper of the first order. My gosh! What is wrong with you people? My gosh!

    As for your future, that is up to you.

    Thanks for nothing.

  11. Hi, bob. On this point, I have to agree with you. That one line of Carol’s struck me the wrong way as well and I wanted to respond.

    For starters, that kind of principle will inevitably mean that those who study the bible beliving in it will think it says something completely different than others who read it. We are much more humane the the societies which produced the bible, so it will likely also mean that, using that principle of interpretation, we’ll also get something entirely different than the original authors intended.

    But there are a fair number of people who view the bible as a fallible – if still useful – document. They may say, “One good rule for theology is that when the bible reveals a God that is less loving and merciful than you, then feel free to not follow that part…” or “…then don’t consider that part a description of who God actually is”. Perhaps these stances are more reasonable?

    As for you personally, bob, I can’t pretend to know anything for anyone. But I can say I’d be pretty pissed at a god that would send someone to hell for thinking the bible is morally objectionble.

  12. I suppose, being raised “unchurched,” I “read” the Scriptures a bit differently than many “people of the Book.”

    I remember when, as an adult, I first began reading the bible I couldn’t put it down! I heard my father, a scientist and an agnostic, say to my mother one evening when he came home from work, “Where is the Jesus freak, in her room reading her bible?” Mother’s response, as a person with an intuitive not formal faith, was, “Hush, Bill.” Many of her friends’ daughters had also returned home from a broken marriage with a child or two that they dumped on their parents while they were out “catting around” in a futile tragic attempt to heal their bruised egos and Mother was quite thankful that I spent my after work hours in my room reading my bible.

    The bible has always been a “means of Grace” for me, never an “object of worship.” The “fallibility” or “infallibility” of the Bible is not a meaningful issue for me, since my understanding of Scripture is not infallible. I have met many Protestants who, rightly I believe, reject the Catholic doctrine of Papal infallibility; but have no doubts about their own infallibility when it comes to interpreting the bible. As the Catholic apologist John “Hard” Knox pointed out, “Every Protestant has a Pope in his belly.”

    Reading the Westminster Confession, I could understand why “bibliolatry” was so common among Evangelicals. It seems to me that in the very beginning the Confession tends to confuse the Living Word with the Written Word.

    “Religious faith” isn’t deluded; but religious people are. So are people of no faith/religion. That is why there are so many religious Traditions and sects within each Tradition. The human intellect has its limitations.

    I find that most people only recognize one theological discipline, dogmatic theology. There is also speculative theology and contemplative theology. I know a lot of people who are very dogmatic about theological beliefs that may or may not be valid “private revelations.” Most Protestants (and perhaps many Catholics, also) consider belief in the Marian appearances at Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, etc. to be official Catholic teaching. They are not. These are devotions based on “private revelations” not doctrine. The Roman Magisterium has only officially declared that believing in these Marian appearances that is harmful to the faith. Believing and participating, or not, in these popular devotional practices is a matter of personal choice for Catholics.

    Christine expressed what I was trying to say much better than I:

    But there are a fair number of people who view the bible as a fallible – if still useful – document. They may say, “One good rule for theology is that when the bible reveals a God that is less loving and merciful than you, then feel free to not follow that part…” or “…then don’t consider that part a description of who God actually is”. Perhaps these stances are more reasonable?

  13. I should have said that believing in the Marian appearances have been declared NOT harmful to the faith. That’s what I get for posting before getting ready for work. Mea culpa!

  14. As for your future, that is up to you.

    Thanks for nothing.

    Bob, I wasn’t trying to be “flip” with that statement. I value freedom very highly and believing that God has entrusted us with freedom even knowing how badly we would screw things up is one of the reasons I trust God. I also believe that responsibility, not entitlement, is the converse side of freedom.

    For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good?
    – Augustine, Enchiridion (Marcus Dods translation, 1876)

    God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist.
    Saint Augustine

    He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent.
    Saint Augustine

    “The willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life is the source from which self-respect springs.”
    –Joan Didion

    “The more you are willing to accept responsibility for your actions, the more credibility you will have.”
    –Brian Koslow

    “Core moral concepts, such as freedom, conscience, obedience, and fidelity, can have very different meanings and importance. These differing meanings depend on if our concern is with conformity, fulfilling norms, and subordination, or instead if our focus is radical thinking infused with the spirit of God blowing as it wills and marked by grown-up, freely affirmed responsibility.” –Bernard Haering, The Virtues of an Authentic Life (1997), p. 53.

    In the last analysis, the individual person is responsible for living his own life and for finding himself. If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence.
    – Thomas Merton

    The difficulty we have in accepting responsibility for our behavior lies in the desire to avoid the pain of the consequences of that behavior.
    M. Scott Peck

    “Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will – his personal responsibility in the realm of faith and morals.”
    –Albert Schweitzer

    As human beings, we are endowed with freedom of choice, and we cannot
    shuffle off our responsibility upon the shoulders of God or nature.
    We must shoulder it ourselves. It is our responsibility.
    – Arnold J. Toynbee

    Whenever we seek to avoid the responsibility for our own behavior, we do so by attempting to give that responsibility to some other individual or organization or entity. But this means we then give away our power to that entity.
    M. Scott Peck

    “There is no worse present than freedom. To view freedom as a privilege is to surrender to the absurd ideology that man is free by nature, that he is made for freedom, and that only minor obstacles like economic or political constraint prevent him from being fully free. This fails to take into account that whenever man has made a beginning of liberty he has taken fright, retreated, renounced his freedom, and sighed with relief at being able to put his destiny finally in the hands of someone else. Freedom is the most crushing burden that one can lay on man. In his vanity and boasting man pretends that he wants to be free. He also has a visceral fear of confinement, conditioning, and servitude. What he calls his love of freedom, however, is really his rejection of imprisonment. It is a revolt against slavery, which he cannot tolerate. Once a little freedom is offered him, however, he starts back at the sight of the void which he must now fill, the meaning he must now provide, and the responsibility he must now carry. He prefers the happy state of belonging to a group. He wants a mediocre happiness which brings no risks.”
    –Jacques Ellul
    The Ethics of Freedom

  15. Christine, you said – “But there are a fair number of people who view the bible as a fallible – if still useful – document. They may say, “One good rule for theology is that when the bible reveals a God that is less loving and merciful than you, then feel free to not follow that part…” or “…then don’t consider that part a description of who God actually is”. Perhaps these stances are more reasonable?“.

    Of course, I can find fault in those approaches as well, but they are more “gentle” than what I quoted Carol as saying earlier. (no worries Carol – my initial frustrations have subsided).

    I guess I just feel that, if we don’t know, as in – we do not have “knowledge” concerning the personalty of the God of the bible, other than what is printed on the pages of the bible, then, if a person is going to claim to worship the God of the bible, he/she ought to be willing to explain or answer reasonable questions that arise from reading (from the bible) about the God of the bible. Answering “…when the bible reveals a God that is less loving and merciful than you, then feel free to not follow that part.” or “…then don’t consider that part a description of who God actually is.” does not answer any questions. All it does is offer permission to the one asking the question to just ignore those attributes they feel are objectionable – and/or – just make up your own god and worship it as you please.

    That’s fine, but I just wish believers had the integrity to recognize and admit what they are doing.

  16. The “Bible only” approach to Christian theological/spiritual formation is relatively new in the history of the Church. The Augustinian monk Martin Luther definitely did not hold it:

    “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”
    –Martin Luther

    It is not only Western religion; but also Western science that has become simplistic and reductionistic as a result of post-Enlightenment rationalism (not to be confused with reason).

    ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.
    We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’
    –A. Einstein

    Like all sacred art, legends are for the feeling; and it is more important to feel what one knows—even if it is only one thing—than to know with the head alone a mass of theories and facts. When modern people assume that we have made so much progress over ancient or nonindustrialized cultures, they forget this point. It is far, far better to understand a central truth with the whole of oneself than it is to know many things only with the mind. When one knows only with the mind, and the feelings are not integrated into the knowing, then the knowledge one has becomes harmful. Technology without ethics is the result of having knowledge without developing the instrument of ethical perception, the feelings. As it was said long ago, “The mind is for seeing what is true; the feelings are for understanding what is good.”
    –Jacob Needleman, Money and the Meaning of Life

    The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom. -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

    “The world of my childhood
    was filled with wonder and magic.
    Enchantment was the order of the day.
    Mechanistic science has no place
    for enchantment. If it can’t be
    measured, it doesn’t exist.
    The problem is, the important things
    cannot be measured….”
    –Anne Wilson Schaef (Cherokee)
    Author- Native Wisdom for White Minds
    From rear cover:
    What is a white mind? White minds are trapped in a closed system of thinking that sees life in black and white, either/or terms; they are hierarchical and mechanistic; they see nature as a force to be tamed and people as objects to be controlled with no regard for the future.
    This worldview is not shared by most Native Peoples. Anne shares the richness poured out to her by Native Americans, Aborigines, Africans, Maoris and others. In the words of Native peoples themselves, we come to understand Native ideas about our earth, spirituality, family, work, loneliness and change. For in every area of our lives we have the capacity to transcend our white minds – we simply need to listen with open hearts and open minds to other voices, other perceptions, other cultures.
    Anne often heard Elders from a wide variety of Native peoples say, “Our legends tell us that a time will come when our wisdom and way of living will be necessary to save the planet, and that time is now.”

  17. The idea of “the God of the bible” – that the bible is not only infallible, but a sole and sufficient understanding of God – is not what all of us actually claim. You can have “the God Who is referred to in th bible” without “the God as described in the bible”. You are completely right about other sources being used, then, to understand God. Absolutely.

    What I would posit – and I think what you are getting at – is that everyone already does this. You can make the bible say whatev you want it to, so in order to derive a theology from the bible, you will inevitably (intentionally or otherwise) draw on sources outaide of the bible in order to land with one interpretation or another.

    In terms of answers about why the bible says what it does sometimes, recognizing that the bible has human authors can provide one straightforward explanation: people can be assholes.

  18. Bibliolatry became a problem when, confusing traditionalism with Tradition, the Protestant Reformers claimed the Bible as the ONLY binding authority for faith and morals:

    “Tradition is the living faith of the dead;
    traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.
    Tradition lives in conversation with the past,
    while remembering where we are and when we are and that it is we who have to decide.
    Traditionalism supposes that nothing should ever
    be done for the first time, so all that is needed to solve any problem is to arrive at the supposedly unanimous testimony of this homogenized tradition.”–Jaroslav Pelikan

    Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy recognize at least three sources of Authority:

    Cardinal Newman said there were three authorities in the Church: the authority of tradition, the authority of reason and the authority of experience,which he placed respectively in the hierarchy, the university
    and the body of the faithful. He added that if one of these three became too dominant, the right
    exercise of authority in the Church risked being compromised. Each needs to be strong; for example, the theological faculties have their
    authority. Charismatic movements, for example, easily tend to give too much authority to experience. There have been moments when reason appeared to be absolutized, as in some countries in eighteenth-century Europe. Today, I think that some groups within the Church give too exclusive a stress to tradition, to the detriment
    of reason and experience.
    —Timothy Radcliffe, OP

    The Bible belongs to the Church, not the other way around:

    The sacred history of redemption is still going on. It is now the history of the Church that is the Body of Christ. The Spirit-Comforter is already abiding in the Church. No complete system of Christian faith is yet possible, for the Church is still on her pilgrimage. And the Bible is kept by the Church as a book of history to remind believers of the dynamic nature of the divine revelation, “at sundry times and in divers manners.”~Georges V. Florovsky, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View

    After the Great Schism in 1054, the Roman Catholic (Latin/Western) Church became increasingly Roman and less and less catholic. More of the “deposit of faith” was lost with each additional schism, until much of what is taught and practiced in the Western Churches has become the opposite of what was taught and practiced in the Early Church:

    Evangelical Christianity, as everyone knows, is founded upon hate, as the Christianity of Christ was founded upon love. –H. L. Mencken

    Becoming a Christian is not so much inviting Christ into one’s life as getting oneself into Christ’s life. ~Orthodox Study Bible

  19. I don’t have much useful to say here in terms of the previous discussion, I’m just not sure I can communicate on Facebook openly about personal problems and I need a place to have conversation.

    When I was young my Father would tell me that I was unconditionally loved. But the duties of a man of economic religion and British demurity was voice of this unconditional love. I didn’t think that Elvis would have felt safe to Rock and Roll in his presence. A child could not play. It was the impulse of a man who learned that He himself desperately needed this unconditional love.

    And so here I am, unsure if personal responsibility also means “kill myself to fulfill The Dream or ELSE …my life is over!” 🙂

    Honestly, I don’t know, at least at first, if believing the Good News will actually change the world. But as I go along I’m finding the boldness to actually believe that the News is both Good and Unconditional.

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