July 22, 2010

Unnatural Living


The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil that is in man. The Communist torturers often said, "There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish." I heard one torturer say, "I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart." He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.

Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand, p. 36, describing some of the tortures he endured from Communists in Romania because he was a Christian
We hear so much about "natural" living. Put the word "natural" in the name of a product, triple the price and you have a sale. Just about anything can be had that is natural and/or organic. Some people are downright fanatical about purchasing as many natural products as they can, especially foods and personal hygiene products. They are also careful about recycling and doing all sorts of natural, healthy things. This is called "natural living".

I want to talk to you about some things that are downright unnatural; at least, when it comes to human behavior.

What is the expected response when someone yells at you? Yell back! If he cuts you off in traffic? Regain your ground, or curse at him! When someone hits you? Hit back! (This fits in with Anton LaVey's brand of Satanism. He said, "If a man smite thee on one cheek, smash him on the other!") When you are given evil? Give evil back! Or even when you have been wronged, you want revenge. Or justice, at the very least.

Those are natural responses. Let's look at some unnatural responses.

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, chapters six and seven describe how Stephen preached the Gospel of Jesus. ("And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people." Acts 6.8 ESV) Since enemies could not refute what he was saying, they planted men to say that Stephen was speaking blasphemy against Moses and the prophets. So, he was dragged before the council. When they demanded an explanation, he gave them an excellent sermon. But it did not have a good result:
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60 ESV)

They stoned him to death. He had committed no crime, but with his dying breath, he forgave them. How do you explain this?

Another example from the book of Acts:
Then the mob joined in the attack against them, and the chief magistrates stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had inflicted many blows on them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to keep them securely guarded. Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains came loose.

When the jailer woke up and saw the doors of the prison open, he drew his sword and was going to kill himself, since he thought the prisoners had escaped.
But Paul called out in a loud voice, "Don't harm yourself, because all of us are here!" Then the jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he escorted them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

Acts 16.22-30 (HCSB)
Paul and Silas were preaching the Gospel and happened to cast a demon out of a girl. They were then arrested because of lies, beaten and imprisoned. What did they do? They sang hymns! When their chains fell off and the doors were opened, they stayed put instead of running off! The jailer was so impressed, he wanted to know about Jesus.

As we can see, persecution of Christians has existed from the beginning. There are reports of Christians being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and murdered. (Nero and other Roman emperors had great sport and killing Christians in the most horrific ways possible.) Christians, especially Protestants, who dared to go against the established religious-political institutions were persecuted and martyred throughout history. (Note: The word "martyr" has come to mean "someone who is killed for what they believe". More literally, it means, "witness", and came to mean someone who stands for the truth through suffering.)

The incident at the top is from Communist Romania. There are many reports of Christians being tortured by atheist regimes. Why? Charles Stanley pointed out that socialism (which is one step before Communism) has to wipe out the competition, and Christian principles are the opposite of what socialism teaches. That makes sense. (I have said many times that leftist politics are not often supported by Bible-believing Christians. Instead, we believe in free enterprise.) Today, countries that are active or pseudo-Communist are acting just like the Soviet Union and its satellite countries treated Christians during the era of the Iron Curtain.

I noticed that there are many reports from Muslim countries that Christians are savagely persecuted. This is as bad or worse than with the Communists. One system denies God, the other has an inflated moon god. Both want to force the world to live in their vicious systems.

And in all this, Christians are acting unnaturally.

In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand refuses to tell some of the things that he had seen and experienced from his Communist captors: "They are too terrible and obscene to put in writing". But he also said that he saw some beautiful things:
When one Christian was sentenced to death, he was allowed to see his wife before being executed. His last words to his wife were, "You must know that I die loving those who kill me. they don't know what they do and my last request of you is to love them, too. Don't have bitterness in your heart because they killed your beloved one. We will meet in heaven." (p.45)
There are several accounts in this book of similar stories, and of jailers who were moved to accept Christ themselves, knowing that they, too, would be tortured. What normally happens when someone is imprisoned with people he has wronged? Vengeance, of course. But the unnatural thing happened, they became brethren in Christ. John MacArthur said that God gives his grace so that his people can endure suffering. After all, God did not promise a life of ease or good times, but his people still experience joy and peace when they stay close to God.This is continuing today. You can check for yourself at the Voice of the Martyrs site. Sign up for the free publication. This is excellent for Christians to know what their brethren in Christ are going through, and where you can direct some of your prayers.

Someone asked me (my paraphrase) why it is that Christians can endure persecution and act Christlike in some circumstances, but get all upset and act in unchristian ways at other times. I gave that some thought, and have a few ideas:
  • Having life too easy, they do not really cling to Jesus; suffering causes growth
  • Not really converted, just Christian in name only, like the religious social clubs that pass as churches today
  • No depth to their spiritual lives, they need to take the Bible seriously or they may be "young" in the faith
  • Still acting in the "natural" ways, not living in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1.8, Galatians 5.22-25)
  • The expectations of individuals; each person has their own ideas or "standards" by which they judge Christians and expect us to act, but we cannot fit everyone's preconceived notions; you cannot expect every Christian to be perfect, just as you cannot expect perfection even in your own self
  • Religion; yes, you heard me, because Jesus spoke his harshest words against the religious leaders of his day; they were making things burdensome for people with man-made rituals and practices
  • Luke 8.12-18
Now I'm going to come to the hard part, and some of you will be angry. That's the breaks.
  • The natural man cannot understand the things of God (I Cor. 2.14-15 KJV). When someone has Christ living in him and empowering him, God can speak to him and then his word makes sense. Otherwise, no.
  • The natural man or woman belongs to Satan (Acts 26.18, John 8.44-47).
  • It's natural for you to hate us because we "stink" to you (2 Cor. 2.15-16).
The questioner that I mentioned earlier stated that he believes that there is something else going on because Christians are inconsistent. However, I believe I have given good reasons for the inconsistency of Christians. Also, God does not make robots. Just read the Bible. The personalities of the authors show through, as do the failings of God's people. C.S. Lewis called this the "ring of truth".One thing I hope that this article will do is to stir some embers in the hearts of unbelievers, so that they will want a relationship with the living God. Second, I hope that people will realize that their "religion" will not save them; instead, God wants a personal relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Finally, I hope that Christians reading this will get in gear to life more fully for Christ and walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5.16, 22-23). And live unnaturally.

Addendum: Richard Wurmbrand is interviewed in this video, "A Church in Chains".

Now, rock out to a great video, or click here if you can't see it.

video

20 comments:

Chris B said...

Someone asked me (my paraphrase) why it is that Christians can endure persecution and act Christlike in some circumstances, but get all upset and act in unchristian ways at other times.


If you're referring to my comment, I don't think your paraphrase quite hits the point I was making: you seem to be implying that the same people can act differently in different circumstances; my point was that different people act differently, regardless of their professed faith, and that their faith therefore can not logically be held to be the key factor in determining their behavior.

Out of curiosity, how would you rate your comments over on Ray Comfort's blog, in terms of how closely they fit the teachings of Christ?


The questioner that I mentioned earlier stated that he believes that there is something else going on because Christians are inconsistent. However, I believe I have given good reasons for the inconsistency of Christians.

Well, you've given reasons why the less impressive Christians are not REAL Christians. Those sorts of excuses does not seem much more plausible to me than thinking that the differences are simply due to differences in personality quite apart from faith; indeed, the two explanations don't even seem incompatible to me.

The expectations of individuals; each person has their own ideas or "standards" by which they judge Christians and expect us to act, but we cannot fit everyone's preconceived notions; you cannot expect every Christian to be perfect, just as you cannot expect perfection even in your own self


Respectfully, you are the one who brought up the examples of "perfect" Christians loving and forgiving their torturers. I have no intention of holding Christians to an unfair standard, but if you're going to defend Christianity by bringing up examples like the above, I feel compelled to point out that these traits are far from universal amongst self-described Christians.


Christian principles are the opposite of what socialism teaches.

Can you explain this? From what I recall, Jesus frequently preached of the importance of giving to the poor, taking care of the sick, and sharing with the least amongst us as a matter of moral importance. This seems to me fully compatible with the social programs of modern socialism as seen, for example, in Western Europe. Conversely, free market capitalism seems far more concerned with individuals promoting their own self-interests than in the sort of charity Jesus preached and practiced. Where in the Bible did Jesus promote free enterprise or capitalism?

Stormbringer said...

Someone asked me (my paraphrase) why it is that Christians can endure persecution and act Christlike in some circumstances, but get all upset and act in unchristian ways at other times.


If you're referring to my comment, I don't think your paraphrase quite hits the point I was making: you seem to be implying that the same people can act differently in different circumstances; my point was that different people act differently, regardless of their professed faith, and that their faith therefore can not logically be held to be the key factor in determining their behavior.


Sorry this is so ugly. Hoping to get this done before the computer quits again.

Yes, it was your comment. I did not give you a direct quote because I did not know if you would be around to correct me if I misunderstood. I had that wrong on both counts.

While attempting to offer some explanations as to why people act differently, I want to emphasize that this unnatural behavior of loving and forgiving enemies must have some source. Alternating current works the same way, but people plug in differently, whether it is a television, blender or night light. Depends on the user.

Out of curiosity, how would you rate your comments over on Ray Comfort's blog, in terms of how closely they fit the teachings of Christ?

Why? So you can rate my rating? Perhaps judge my “Christianness”? As I have stated, people have different ideas about how a Christian should act, and many of those ideas are based on misinterpretations of the Scriptures, taking verses out of context, or even the Surfer Dude Peace, Love and Grooviness Jesus, not the robust he-man that he really was. I’ll speak the truth, and speak strongly because the wimpy love approach does not work with most of those people; like Muslims, kindness is seen as weakness in many cases. That is all I will discuss about other Weblogs now.

The questioner that I mentioned earlier stated that he believes that there is something else going on because Christians are inconsistent. However, I believe I have given good reasons for the inconsistency of Christians.

Well, you've given reasons why the less impressive Christians are not REAL Christians. Those sorts of excuses does not seem much more plausible to me than thinking that the differences are simply due to differences in personality quite apart from faith; indeed, the two explanations don't even seem incompatible to me.

I know of changed lives. The harshest of people have become the most loving and the most unnatural. “Personality types” does not answer why followers of Jesus who have been tied to crosses and smeared with feces will still love their tormentors. (Yes, that happened, too.) Or how people who are moved by love for those that are going to Hell will do open-air preaching, get humiliated and beaten, and then go back and do it again. (Chuck Swindoll told about open-air preaching. He got hit with a cabbage or something, his partner had two things hit him. He turned to Chuck and said, “Isn’t this great?”)

Stormbringer said...

The expectations of individuals; each person has their own ideas or "standards" by which they judge Christians and expect us to act, but we cannot fit everyone's preconceived notions; you cannot expect every Christian to be perfect, just as you cannot expect perfection even in your own self


Respectfully, you are the one who brought up the examples of "perfect" Christians loving and forgiving their torturers. I have no intention of holding Christians to an unfair standard, but if you're going to defend Christianity by bringing up examples like the above, I feel compelled to point out that these traits are far from universal amongst self-described Christians.

I did not say that anyone was perfect. Those traits are not universal, but the love of Jesus is available to them if they would let it work in their lives, and if they let God have his way with them. My purpose was to show that these things did, and do, happen, and that something supernatural is going on in the lives of these believers.

By the way, Christians are supposed to hold themselves to this unfair standard, by following the Bible’s teachings through the empowering of the Holy Spirit...but this is the area that I said the “natural man” cannot understand.


Christian principles are the opposite of what socialism teaches.

Can you explain this? From what I recall, Jesus frequently preached of the importance of giving to the poor, taking care of the sick, and sharing with the least amongst us as a matter of moral importance. This seems to me fully compatible with the social programs of modern socialism as seen, for example, in Western Europe. Conversely, free market capitalism seems far more concerned with individuals promoting their own self-interests than in the sort of charity Jesus preached and practiced. Where in the Bible did Jesus promote free enterprise or capitalism?

(Sigh) This comment, unfortunately, is typical of people who have a chip on their shoulders. Do you have a chip on your shoulder? I will put it back to you the other way: Where does the Bible teach socialism? NO, your example is not it. Socialism forces people to give up their goods, to redistribute their wealth. Jesus taught giving and set examples. There is no compulsory giving in the Bible. In fact, in American history, the Jamestown settlement was using socialistic principles, and failing. When they saw how the Christians further north were following the Biblical principles (including the non-socialist injunction against laziness, “The one who does not work should not eat”). Then Jamestown began to show a turn-around.

Again, my main point is that our natural inclination is for revenge, not for love.

Stormbringer said...

Just now, I blundered across this article discussing Charles Stanley's comments on socialism: http://xrl.in/5xvy

Chris B said...

While attempting to offer some explanations as to why people act differently, I want to emphasize that this unnatural behavior of loving and forgiving enemies must have some source.

Fair enough. What method do you propose for determining what this source is? Simply picking one factor (Christianity) and declaring it the cause without further research or contemplation seems to me like a questionable method.


Why? So you can rate my rating? Perhaps judge my “Christianness”?

No, I'm simply suggesting (not "demanding" or "whining", just suggesting) that you examine your own interactions with others in the context of the loving torture victims you speak so highly of. You will probably never be in a situation where you are held captive and tortured, so you will probably never have the chance to show the love that these Christians show, but you will be insulted and annoyed and harassed, and if showing love to your tormentors is something you aspire to, perhaps you should view your interactions as an opportunity for love, rather than for insults. Just a thought, take it or leave it as you see fit.


I’ll speak the truth, and speak strongly because the wimpy love approach does not work with most of those people; like Muslims, kindness is seen as weakness in many cases.

I'm confused; you seem to hold up Christians who love their tormentors as positive examples for other Christians, but you dismiss the "wimpy love approach" as ineffective and a sign of "weakness". Are you suggesting that Christians who are tortured should be less meek and speak more strongly? Or that passively loving tormentors is only admirable in certain contexts? I'm not trying to insult you or trap you, I'm just having a hard time wrapping my brain around what I see as an inconsistency. Can you clarify, please?


“Personality types” does not answer why followers of Jesus who have been tied to crosses and smeared with feces will still love their tormentors.

Why not?

Also, is the "love" in this context "wimpy", as you suggested earlier? Is it "weakness" to allow oneself to be tied to a cross and smeared with feces?


(Chuck Swindoll told about open-air preaching. He got hit with a cabbage or something, his partner had two things hit him. He turned to Chuck and said, “Isn’t this great?”)

Why is that "great"? Wouldn't it be better if the crowd was listening to and appreciating the Word of God? This almost sounds like someone who mainly enjoys the feeling of being persecuted for his faith, and takes pride in his ability to meekly take abuse more than he cares about the Salvation of others. But maybe I can't understand, being an agnostic.

Also, is this a situation where, as you mentioned above, "kindness" was seen as "weakness"?

Chris B said...

By the way, Christians are supposed to hold themselves to this unfair standard, by following the Bible’s teachings through the empowering of the Holy Spirit

Duly noted. If it's OK with you, I'm going to continue not holding Christians to an unfair standard, because every time I've done so in the past, I get attacked for unfairly expecting Christians to be "Perfect".


(Sigh) This comment, unfortunately, is typical of people who have a chip on their shoulders. Do you have a chip on your shoulder?

If I had a chip on my shoulder, wouldn't I have resorted to hostility and insults (or at least defensiveness) by now?

In my experience, a chip on the shoulder is not shown in the questions someone asks, but in how they react to the questions of others.


I will put it back to you the other way: Where does the Bible teach socialism?

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. - Acts 4:32-35

Since I've answered your question, perhaps you can take a stab at mine: "Where in the Bible did Jesus promote free enterprise or capitalism?" Again, no chip on my shoulder, just trying to understand the perspective of Christianity.



Jesus taught giving and set examples. There is no compulsory giving in the Bible.

Are you suggesting that, in the case of giving to the poor, Jesus' teachings were optional? I don't remember hearing many other Christians say that Jesus' words were simply suggestions. Christians don't seem to protest the laws enforcing other Biblical teachings (regarding murder, theft, homosexuality, etc). I guess I'm unclear on which teachings of the Bible are required, and which we are optional.


When they saw how the Christians further north were following the Biblical principles (including the non-socialist injunction against laziness, “The one who does not work should not eat”)

Is that a teaching of Jesus? Because I seem to recall Him doing a lot to feed people who weren't necessarily working.

If this is from the Old Testament, perhaps you can explain to me which Old Testament laws still apply after Jesus? Several Christians (including some fairly prominent ones) have said that the civil and ceremonial laws of the old Testament no longer apply.


Again, my main point is that our natural inclination is for revenge, not for love.

Again, I agree. I guess what I'm unclear on is: a)what causes someone to choose love over revenge, and b)whether choosing love over revenge is viewed by Christianity as a noble choice, or whether the "wimpy love approach" "does not work" and is simply "seen as weakness in many cases".


Again, thank you for your kind reply.

Stormbringer said...

Chris, I’m going to respond in the more traditional way, the last one was ugly and awkward.

“Simply picking one factor (Christianity) and declaring it the cause [of this behavior] without further research or contemplation seems to me like a questionable method.”

I am not “simply picking one factor”; what I am doing is showing something that these people have in common, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Although you disbelieve in God, to reject “Christianity” seems that you would be rejecting a very plausible, most plausible, explanation. Also, remember that this is about more than picking a philosophy that someone wants to live by like selecting a book to read.

“Are you suggesting that Christians who are tortured should be less meek and speak more strongly?”

Different approaches in different circumstances. Jesus spoke strongly, as did the apostles, but also submitted to torture and death. If you have a child running out into the street, you will get its attention in any way possible if there is a truck speeding along. Other times, you would be Mr. Smiley Giggles. Different behavior in different circumstances, poor as the analogy is.

“...is the "love" in this context "wimpy", as you suggested earlier? Is it "weakness" to allow oneself to be tied to a cross and smeared with feces?”

I think you’re missing that point entirely, and I do not have time to repeat myself.

You quoted my reference to Chuck Swindoll’s friend saying, “Isn’t this great” when pelted with stuff during open-air preaching. The “great” part was that they were being obedient to the command of Jesus to preach the Gospel, and that they were suffering for it; he promised blessings when his people are persecuted for following his commands.

“If it's OK with you, I'm going to continue not holding Christians to an unfair standard, because every time I've done so in the past, I get attacked for unfairly expecting Christians to be ‘Perfect’.”

You know, you may be on to something there! For your purposes, I think you’re making the right choice.

By the way, I see that you referred to yourself as an agnostic. I thought you were an atheist. Just curious.

Stormbringer said...

You quoted the “living in common” section of the book of Acts 4. As I stated, there was no compulsory socialism in the Bible. But the Bible is not a handbook of economics. There are a very few sections that can be taken as socialism, but there is nothing resembling today’s socialism. No, capitalism is not taught in the Bible, either. It is strongly implied in many places (laborers getting paid, see Matthew 20, collecting interest on loans, God giving commands to respect the property of each other, etc.) Theologians, especially the liberal ones who compromise and accept Communism, socialism, the absurd blend that has gone by the name of “liberation theology” (I first heard of that in the 1970s) have accommodated forms of socialism.

I’ll refer you to the link I posted in a short comment, as well as this one: http://www.gotquestions.org/capitalism-Bible.html

By the way, there are aspects of capitalism that are antithetical to the Bible. By this I mean that “capitalism”, by itself, is not a cure-all.

Communists and socialists have sought to eradicate the Bible, Christianity and Christians for decades. The concepts of the Bible are opposed to the teachings of Communism. After all, the Bible does not promote loyalty to the state, but loyalty to God. Communists pretended to have “freedom of religion”, but also had compulsory atheism indoctrination, you had no choice. When people still believed, they were imprisoned and tortured. “Lucky” ones would simply be ostracized and discriminated against.

When I referred to “the man who does not work should not eat”, you missed my point. That was an directive from Paul against laziness; someone refused to work, just sponged off everyone else. That’s a far cry from Jesus feeding the thousands of people.

And you asked about the wimpy “love” being seen as “weakness”. Christians are to act, and walk in, love. Sometimes love has to be strong, and does not fit with the traditional concepts.

Again, I have to go back to my main point, that there is something greater at work when Christians are persecuted. It is unnatural. The natural man has a sinful nature. All have sinned against God. Even capitalists. I have sinned against God, and still do so. But I have seen that I have violated God’s moral laws. Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I repented from my sins and accepted him as my Lord and Savior. I pray that you, and others who read these words, will do the same. After all, this is life that I’m talking about, not just selecting a philosophy for intellectual exercise. Your eternal destiny is a serious matter. My other posts about computer stuff or whatever, when we intellectualize about them, nobody's spiritual state is in jeopardy.

Chris, I'm trying to show concern here! While it's kind of fun to discuss and debate, I'd like to meet you in Heaven. Like the man who says China does not exist because he has never been there, denying the existence of God or the validity of the Bible does not change those truths.

When I did evangelism before, I did not press this hard. I believe that we're running out of time. Yes, I could be wrong about eschatology and a pre-tribulation rapture, OK, fine. But this belief adds fire to my motivation.

I'd better stop before I start trying to sing "Think About What Jesus Said" over the Internet...

Chris B said...

I am not “simply picking one factor”; what I am doing is showing something that these people have in common, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


To my knowledge, there is no way to empirically measure or verify the presence of the Holy Spirit in any individual.

I can appreciate that one's words and actions can be seen as a way to evaluate such things, but in this context, that's actually circular logic: if you claim that people love their enemies because they have the Holy Spirit in them, and that you can tell the Holy Spirit is in them because they love their enemies, you're just going in circles.

Whether or not one self-identifies as Christian is a bit less ambiguous, but as you've noted, their is variation in the spiritual fulfillment of people who claim to be Christian, so that may not be a good test, either.

I understand that your position makes sense from where you stand, but hopefully you see why a skeptic thinking of this from outside Christianity might be hesitant to commit to one untestable explanation.


Different approaches in different circumstances. Jesus spoke strongly, as did the apostles, but also submitted to torture and death.

OK; if I'm understanding you correctly, I'm going to assume that your belief is that a certain degree of spiritual discernment is necessary to choose the proper approach for any given context, since there are apparently no hard and fast rules. Would that be correct? My question would probably be: how can you tell if you're using spiritual discernment via the Holy Spirit, or your own human judgment?


I think you’re missing that point entirely, and I do not have time to repeat myself.

That's unfortunate, I was quite keen to have this point clarified. I suppose I'll just think upon it further.


The “great” part was that they were being obedient to the command of Jesus to preach the Gospel, and that they were suffering for it; he promised blessings when his people are persecuted for following his commands.

So the people in your example, and perhaps, by extension, other Christians who love and forgive their tormentors, believe that they will be rewarded for accepting their suffering and responding to hatred with Love. Right?

Well, I don't mean to be insulting, but to bring this back to your original point...what's unnatural or extraordinary about that? Behaving a certain way in anticipation of a reward seems like perfectly natural, well-known human behavior to me. Right? Doesn't this solve the mystery you allude to in this post? Christians act this way because they believe God instructed them to, and that they will be rewarded for it. Right?

If anything, the implication seems to be that it's unnatural for atheists, who do not believe in any sort of afterlife, do behave in such a way.


By the way, I see that you referred to yourself as an agnostic. I thought you were an atheist. Just curious.

Yeah, there's a lot of nuance and variation in the definitions of those terms. As I understand it, the distinction is:

-I am an Atheist, simply because I don't believe in God.
-However, I am also an agnostic, because I neither know nor claim to know with any certainty whether or not God exists. I fully admit that I might be wrong, and that there might be a God; however, this does not strike me as especially likely.
-Mind you, while I am not entirely close-minded to the idea of a God, I have rejected Christianity, based on research and contemplation. There may or may not be a God, but I'm fairly convinced it is not the God of the Bible. I'm less familiar with other religions, but see no reason to worry too much about them so far. I remain open to, but skeptical of, various other notions (deism, pantheism, various non-theistic spiritual systems).


(Apologies if I've double-posted this, Blogger has been giving me some attitude lately...)

Chris B said...

As I stated, there was no compulsory socialism in the Bible.

Can you define "compulsory"? It doesn't seem like the rules on murder or adultery or homosexuality are "compulsory", in that there's nothing actually preventing people from breaking them...just consequences for those who do. So are the teachings of Jesus on giving to the poor (and the endorsement of the pseudo-socialist lifestyle by the apostles in Acts) instructions that we are meant to follow just as we are meant to follow the other rules? And if so, is there anything wrong in that giving being managed within the context of an infrastructure built and maintained by a democratically elected government?

Also, even if there is no compulsory giving in the Bible, is that really an endorsement of the opposite? There's a great deal in the Bible on what we should NOT do, but shouldn't Christians take notice of such a consistent suggestion of what we SHOULD do?

And doesn't opposing socialism on the basis of the lack of compulsory socialism in the Bible basically boil down to siding with the wealthy who refuse to share, over the poor and needy? Wasn't Jesus' custom to side more with the latter than the former?


No, capitalism is not taught in the Bible, either. It is strongly implied in many places (laborers getting paid, see Matthew 20, collecting interest on loans, God giving commands to respect the property of each other, etc.)

Is it compulsory? If it's implied, but not compulsory, doesn't that mean the Bible is basically neutral on this economic issue?

By the way, there are aspects of capitalism that are antithetical to the Bible. By this I mean that “capitalism”, by itself, is not a cure-all.

Agreed. For what it's worth, I find ups and downs in both capitalism and (limited) socialism. I see no reason why some cross between the two can't work effectively.


Communists and socialists have sought to eradicate the Bible, Christianity and Christians for decades.

Well, any totalitarian government will naturally want to eliminate competition for the minds of its subjects. Perhaps this was more a result of the governing style than the economic style?


Christians are to act, and walk in, love. Sometimes love has to be strong, and does not fit with the traditional concepts.

Fair enough. If I may ask a question that might seem stupid, but (I think) deserves some consideration: how can one distinguish strong love from hatred?


Again, I have to go back to my main point, that there is something greater at work when Christians are persecuted. It is unnatural.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't see either people persecuting other people, or people accepting persecution gladly when they believe they will be rewarded for it, as particularly "unnatural".


After all, this is life that I’m talking about, not just selecting a philosophy for intellectual exercise.

Well, if you're right, then it is indeed a serious matter; however, if I'm right, the influence on our lives and deaths is significantly less.


Chris, I'm trying to show concern here!

Understood and appreciated; thank you.


Like the man who says China does not exist because he has never been there, denying the existence of God or the validity of the Bible does not change those truths.

Likewise, asserting the existence of God or the validity of the Bible does not change those truths.


When I did evangelism before, I did not press this hard. I believe that we're running out of time. Yes, I could be wrong about eschatology and a pre-tribulation rapture, OK, fine. But this belief adds fire to my motivation.

Fair enough. Keep in mind, though, that people often tend to be wary of the "hard sell".


Anyway, thanks again for your response, have a pleasant day.

Stormbringer said...

When I get my new Weblog up and running (it will be directed primarily toward Christians and church matters, but not locked away), I will mention how I think God brought you along to challenge me. More on that another time.

I’m going to disengage from the socialism/capitalism discussion. Sure, it’s interesting and an intellectual workout, but I really think this will go in circles, especially since greater minds than mine have debated both sides of the issue for a long time. What I do wish to leave you with, however, is that the giving in the Bible was not compulsory. It was strongly advised, but nobody came to your house and took it from you (“God loves a cheerful giver”).

“There's a great deal in the Bible on what we should NOT do, but shouldn't Christians take notice of such a consistent suggestion of what we SHOULD do? “

In my readings, there is more emphasis on what we SHOULD do, so, I will say yes to that question. Further, when led by the Spirit, our good qualities of character and deeds are developed, and it becomes “natural” to the Christian.

“And doesn't opposing socialism on the basis of the lack of compulsory socialism in the Bible basically boil down to siding with the wealthy who refuse to share, over the poor and needy?”

I’m not into what is referred to as “argument from silence”; if the Bible does not say it, then... (I heard a Roman Catholic say that since the Bible does not say anything about Mary’s assumption into Heaven, then it’s OK to believe that. Agonizing!) I oppose socialism for many reasons, and noted later that the Bible seems to support capitalism more than socialism.

“If I may ask a question that might seem stupid, but (I think) deserves some consideration: how can one distinguish strong love from hatred?”

Not a stupid question. I can’t give you anything Biblical on that, however.

Wait. Let me stop and remind you and others of some things, or tell you for the first time if you did not see my writing about this before: I have been absent from my faith, and rudely put God on the back burner for about 15 years. Since April, I’ve been regaining lost ground. Also, I have never claimed to have all the answers; I know that they exist and I do what I can with my knowledge. I’m learning and growing. Funny how the more I learn, the more I see that I do not know...

OK. Love and hatred. I really don’t know. My speculation is that it depends on the motivation.

“I don't see either people persecuting other people, or people accepting persecution gladly when they believe they will be rewarded for it, as particularly ‘unnatural’.”

I’m rather surprised at that. Most people would want to go Mad Max on their persecutors instead of loving them, praying for them, and even seeing them converted.

“Keep in mind, though, that people often tend to be wary of the ‘hard sell’.”

I have to do some of it to show my earnestness, and having the hope that maybe something will get into your spirit. But I will not do the “real” hard sell very often, that’s for sure. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of sales pitches, and doing a bit of Golden Rule, I know what I don’t like to have done to me.

Stormbringer said...

I'll respond to your second comment later on, have to go back to work now. No, you did not double post. Blogger has been giving me problems, too. My last reply got an error, then it showed up anyway.

Stormbringer said...

“I can appreciate that one's words and actions can be seen as a way to evaluate such things, but in this context, that's actually circular logic: if you claim that people love their enemies because they have the Holy Spirit in them, and that you can tell the Holy Spirit is in them because they love their enemies, you're just going in circles.”

What I am attempting to communicate is that God is the most likely explanation for people going against “normal” behavior by showing love and kindness, and persecutors being converted, even to the point of becoming persecutees themselves. I have been around a while, and I have had life experience, personal studies (including psychology) and other things, and I am saying that the indwelling of God should not be automatically rejected as an explanation. You may not like it since you do not believe that there is a God, and I think that is why it is difficult for you to consider.

“I understand that your position makes sense from where you stand, but hopefully you see why a skeptic thinking of this from outside Christianity might be hesitant to commit to one untestable explanation.”

Yes, I see that because this is not a standard science, or even typical behavior on the parts of individuals.

“My question would probably be: how can you tell if you're using spiritual discernment via the Holy Spirit, or your own human judgment?”

Dunno.

Oh, you want more? I’ve struggled with this, and even called a pastor for advice on something similar: God’s will. Is God leading me, is Satan tempting me in a new direction, am I just being ambitious over the thing in question? It turns out that it takes a great deal of getting to know God, recognizing his leading within. But this is extremely subjective, I know. At any rate, it gets cloudy sometimes, and with experience, it becomes clearer. There were times that I did nothing when I would have responded differently to a situation. My planned response was something that I know God had led me into in the past, and I also recognized that he told me to clam up and do nothing. It’s a learning experience, and gets very interesting at times.

“Christians act this way because they believe God instructed them to, and that they will be rewarded for it. Right?”

Yes and no. On the yes side, if I offer you the keys to a fabulous car and say, “This will be yours upon completion of a task”, that is typical human faith. The reward and the task are both clearly defined. Faith in the unseen God and taking him at his word is a different story; we do not know what the rewards are in addition to Heaven, and we do not have all that clear an idea of what Heaven looks like. Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven.

On the “no” side, people are acting in a forgiving manner because they want to please God, and because their natures have been changed on the inside. But this is Scriptural stuff that makes no sense to the “natural” man.

To have a go at your atheist and agnostic definitions, I become wearied at the changes and nuances. I have come across people who seem to change the definition on the spot and say, ‘You don’t know what an atheist is!”, or, “No, you’re thinking of an anti-theist!” To those people I say, “Spare me”. The traditional definitions seem to work best, namely, that an atheist is someone who believes that there is no God (very specific there), and an agnostic is unsure that God exists, or that we can communicate with him.

Not that I care, just showing you what works best for me.

OK, I’ve been composing these responses online at Google Docs in case the computer quits and I lose everything. Hitting the “save “ button often (betcha love that, thinking of you while I keep hitting “save” lol). Now to see if it fits at Blogger.

Listen, I hope I’ve given you some useful information and don’t seem like I’m dodging. I don’t want to bluster through on something important when I don’t have the answer.

Chris B said...

I’m going to disengage from the socialism/capitalism discussion. Sure, it’s interesting and an intellectual workout, but I really think this will go in circles, especially since greater minds than mine have debated both sides of the issue for a long time.

Fair enough. I don’t really have a dog in this fight, since I don’t have much ideological dedication to either side: I recognize that each has its strengths and weaknesses. A planned economy can’t touch the free market when it comes to efficiently deciding what goods to produce, what price to sell them at, etc; at the same time, a free market economy, left unchecked, lends itself to short-sightedness and inequality. But we can move on (forgive my digression; I’ve just gone back to school, and I’ve been taking business and economics courses, so this stuff is all fairly fresh in my mind).


What I do wish to leave you with, however, is that the giving in the Bible was not compulsory. It was strongly advised, but nobody came to your house and took it from you

Well, there were tax collectors (one of whom Jesus hand-picked to be a disciple), but I see what you mean. But once again, nobody came to your house and physically prevented you from killing or stealing or committing adultery, either.


I oppose socialism for many reasons, and noted later that the Bible seems to support capitalism more than socialism.

OK. My reading suggests that Jesus was more concerned about, and sympathetic to, the “have-nots”, rather than the “haves”; conversely, opposition to socialism strikes me as being the precise opposite (protecting the “haves” from having their wealth redistributed to the “have-nots”). But if you don’t think this conversation is productive, we can agree to disagree and move on.


OK. Love and hatred. I really don’t know. My speculation is that it depends on the motivation.

In my experience, motivations are complex and subtle things...not to mention, fairly tough for the outside observer to accurately read. Fred Phelps and his “God Hates Fags” cult (not saying I think you sympathize with them, just using an example) will claim that they are acting out of love (or, at least, concern) rather than hatred; maybe some of them have even convinced themselves that that’s true. But if picketing funerals can be rationalized as loving (more or less) then what can’t? My point: I don’t think it’s impossible for hateful people to convince themselves that they’re being caring or helpful. And I don’t think it’s impossible for genuinely loving people to do things that are seen as hateful by those on the receiving end. Perhaps the lesson is that we should all put extra effort into contemplating both our motivations (our true motivations, not just our rationalizations for them), and the effect our actions and words will have on others.

Chris B said...

I’m rather surprised at that. Most people would want to go Mad Max on their persecutors instead of loving them, praying for them, and even seeing them converted.

Well, yeah, IF the choice is only between getting slapped around or slapping others around, with no apparent long-term consequences.

But our choices are based on ALL the information we have, and a Christian works from an entirely different set of information than an unbeliever: to a sincere Christian, the choice becomes one between “going Mad Max” and getting some degree of brief satisfaction from that (that God will probably frown upon), or enduring a finite period of suffering now and being rewarded infinitely later on. The return on investment for the latter, is, well, infinite. The promised reward is so great that it (theoretically) neutralizes any concern over the temporary suffering, and outweighs any potential appeal of hatred or revenge instead of forgiveness.


What I am attempting to communicate is that God is the most likely explanation for people going against “normal” behavior by showing love and kindness, and persecutors being converted, even to the point of becoming persecutees themselves.

Well, let’s back up a step: I’m willing to contemplate God as a possible explanation, but it seems to me that the fairest way to find the Most Likely Explanation is to examine ALL possible explanations before choosing one as the best.


I am saying that the indwelling of God should not be automatically rejected as an explanation.

Agreed. However, I see a difference between “automatically” rejecting something, and contemplating and investigating something and eventually coming to the conclusion that it is less plausible than other explanations. Please don’t assume I’ve done the former, rather than the latter.

Chris B said...

Faith in the unseen God and taking him at his word is a different story; we do not know what the rewards are in addition to Heaven, and we do not have all that clear an idea of what Heaven looks like.

But you believe in Heaven, and you believe it’s a lot greater than anything that can be offered to you here. Right? Isn’t that enough to base a decision on?

If your point is that there is some doubt or uncertainty in God that mitigates the appeal of that choice...well, that’s possible, but I came here via Ray Comfort’s blog, and he and many other Christians argue that a True Christian is someone who KNOWS God, and anyone who does not is only a False Convert. So unless you have some significant theological differences with him, this argument would not make sense to me. Of course, I may be completely misreading your argument; my apologies, if so.


Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven.

That seems kinda weird to me. Does that seem weird to you? Just wondering.


To have a go at your atheist and agnostic definitions, I become wearied at the changes and nuances.

Totally understandable. If it helps, you can view atheism as a spectrum from “Strong Atheism” (“I am absolutely certain that God does not exist!!!”) to “Weak Atheism” (“I don’t know if there’s a God or not”). This seems like a good system to me, since the beliefs and opinions of atheists and agnostics cover a wide range that isn’t easily collapsed into two distinct categories.

Or you could add to your “atheist” and “agnostic” definitions the concept of “skeptic”, which I think covers the thinking behind the ideas a lot more clearly: skepticism is the philosophy that any idea or belief, whether it be God, UFOs, ESP, acupuncture, conspiracy theories, etc, should be examined and contemplated with critical thinking, that its empirical evidence should be strong enough to withstand scrutiny, and that, if necessary, it should be discarded in favor of a more parsimonious idea that fits all of the available evidence.

I’ll admit that some people are atheists for reasons that have little or nothing to do with this sort of skepticism; as a rule, these people are hard to have discussions with, and quick to insult. Conversely, skeptics are generally glad to have a serious, well-informed conversation, and will only occasionally resort to insult when this option does not seem doable.


Listen, I hope I’ve given you some useful information and don’t seem like I’m dodging. I don’t want to bluster through on something important when I don’t have the answer.

No worries, your responses have been very interesting, and I will gladly take someone who can admit his ignorance or uncertainty of certain things over someone who will try to bluff or weasel his way through such things.

Stormbringer said...

"If your point is that there is some doubt or uncertainty in God that mitigates the appeal of that choice...well, that’s possible, but I came here via Ray Comfort’s blog, and he and many other Christians argue that a True Christian is someone who KNOWS God, and anyone who does not is only a False Convert. So unless you have some significant theological differences with him, this argument would not make sense to me. Of course, I may be completely misreading your argument; my apologies, if so."

I'm not sure if you're grasping exactly what Ray and Co. are saying. While I agree with them, there are also degrees of knowing. And sometimes, someone falls away when the heat is on, showing that their conversion was superficial at best.

The fact that Jesus spoke more about Hell than Heaven is not weird to me. "Hey! Bad place ahead! You're headed right for it, and it may be too late soon!" I can get along with that idea.

I like your comments about the definitions of the words, and adding "skeptic". They all get mixed around a bit. Paul Kurtz is a "skeptic", but to hear him in a debate, he really is an atheist; in his case, I think it's an escape word because he backs off when cornered.

Saw a discussion in an atheist forum that seemed to be dropped from lack of interest: Do atheists have to be skeptics about ghosts, UFOs, spirits, etc.? Saying that there is no God is one thing, what about the rest? I'm not asking you to answer that, but I was hoping that group would have pursued it further.

Thanks for your kind words and your participation.

Chris B said...

I'm not sure if you're grasping exactly what Ray and Co. are saying. While I agree with them, there are also degrees of knowing. And sometimes, someone falls away when the heat is on, showing that their conversion was superficial at best.


Right; what I take away from that is that a REAL Christian has none of the doubts you seem to allude to, and therefore has no real doubts about their reward for whatever persecution they endure, and therefore endure it for the completely natural and very human reason of anticipating a reward. Mind you, I'm not saying that people who have the patience and love to love and forgive their torturers aren't good people (they are) or doing something far beyond what I'm capable of (they are). Only that I don't see it as either "unnatural" or unambiguously indicative of divine influence.


Saw a discussion in an atheist forum that seemed to be dropped from lack of interest: Do atheists have to be skeptics about ghosts, UFOs, spirits, etc.? Saying that there is no God is one thing, what about the rest?

Good question.

Technically, being an "atheist" indicates only a lack of belief in God, and does not speak to anything else. In the earliest days of my atheism (I personally progressed from Christianity to a sort of Unitarianism to unskeptical atheism to skepticism, in case you were wondering), I still believed in (or was at least receptive to and curious about) ESP, spirits and spirituality, magick, reincarnation, and so on. I didn't believe in a God as such, but was very into "energy"-type stuff, Buddhism and Taoism, and the like; I saw it as an unexplained and unknown aspect of nature, rather than a "supernatural" phenomenon per se, but still believed in it based on intuition and hearsay rather than science and empirical evidence.

So, no, atheists aren't necessarily skeptics about everything. Even skeptics don't quite agree on everything: there are deist skeptics, skeptics who remain skeptical of global warming, and a wide range of opinions on social and political issues. Basically, skepticism, as a movement and/or community (it is out there, closely linked to, but not quite the same as, the "New Atheist" movement) is less concerned about what one believes than about why they believe it and how they reasoned their way to that belief. People aren't "defrocked" from skepticism for believing something, but they are inviting debate about why they believe in it!


Thanks for your kind words and your participation.

And thank you. Please remember this positive experience of dealing with an atheist/agnostic/skeptic as a contrast to whatever negative experiences you've had.

Stormbringer said...

I was going to clam up and let you have the last word, but still have to add on.

First, there are about three atheists/agnostics/skeptics online that I believe will not give me vicious attacks, so I've had plenty of bad experiences. Frankly, I do not see why intelligent, even-tempered unbelievers want to associate with the obscene lot. It may be similar to the fact that there are some Christians (or "so-called") that I want to distance myself from, but those are not generally nasty.

As to your first part of this comment, guess what? I get some negative things resembling doubts. They do not last long, and there are several reasons that I can think of. First, when I am doing something right, Satan knows it and wants to bring me down. I bet that's why two college nymphos moved into the upstairs apartment. Kidding on that, but some of the point remains: When a Christian is making spiritual waves, he's a target for Satan. HOWEVER, that is one thing, and not always the first or best explanation. Too many people blame the devil for their problems; he's glad to take credit, but was busy watching reruns of "CSI" when the incident happened. Just like a sensible UFO or ghost hunter, natural explanations should be sought first.

Other reasons are much more natural, including fatigue, depression (a condition for which I have been diagnosed), other medical (chemical) imbalances (I'm diabetic as well), rough day at work and so forth.

At any rate, when I (and other Christians I've heard about) get doubts, they are fleeting. Good spiritual counseling, Bible reading, praying God's promises back to him and other things put them away if they do not dissipate soon.

Chris B said...

I was going to clam up and let you have the last word, but still have to add on.

Well, I seem to have forgotten the gist of our discussion over the weekend, so I think I'll let it rest here. :)


Frankly, I do not see why intelligent, even-tempered unbelievers want to associate with the obscene lot.

Nor I; I don't really like to associate myself with a lot of the current atheist movement (which is why I generally identify as "agnostic"...except in cases where "atheists" or "atheism" are being attacked in a manner I see as unfair, in which case I will play defense). I don't think prominent atheists like, for example, Richard Dawkins are quite as mean-spirited or obsessive as some people make them out to be, but I think many of their fans are.

But for what it's worth, in my personal life I tend to not associate with the sorts of atheists you seem to object to most strongly. Most of my friends are fairly mild-mannered agnostics, or non-religiously spiritual.


At any rate, when I (and other Christians I've heard about) get doubts, they are fleeting. Good spiritual counseling, Bible reading, praying God's promises back to him and other things put them away if they do not dissipate soon.

Perhaps that was my mistake; rather than immerse myself in people and texts who could reinforce my faith, I thought about it independently. And it was eventually gone. In case you're curious, I don't particularly miss it.

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