Why Christians Fail

  • user warning: Table './listology/profile_values' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT f.name, f.type, v.value FROM profile_fields f INNER JOIN profile_values v ON f.fid = v.fid WHERE uid = 99980 in /usr/local/apache2/htdocs/listology.com/modules/profile/profile.module on line 229.
  • user warning: Table './listology/profile_values' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT f.name, f.type, v.value FROM profile_fields f INNER JOIN profile_values v ON f.fid = v.fid WHERE uid = 0 in /usr/local/apache2/htdocs/listology.com/modules/profile/profile.module on line 229.
Tags: 
  • Many Christians secretly find Jesus irrelevant.
  • We think He belongs to a different realm and time than the one we must deal with now. He is not considered to be a person of much ability or intelligence, but rather a magical pawn in a religious game. But how can we really commit our life to His words if we think He is irrelevant and any less than the smartest man who ever lived?

  • Many Christians only want to get to heaven.
  • Once we have "accepted Jesus into our heart" and are certain we'll go to heaven when we die, we do enough to feel we are good people (pray on occasion, perhaps go to church), but have little interest in living for Jesus.

  • Many Christians focus on boundaries.
  • We act as if being Christian means not smoking, drinking, swearing, committing adultery, etc. Or that it means going to church regularly, giving tithe, enrolling our children in a Christian school, etc. We don't bother to truly love God (his #1 command!) or learn from Jesus how to live.

  • Many Christians focus on doctrine.
  • Doctrinal focus proclaims "We must believe what is true!" and not "We must do what is good!" The result was centuries of division in the church over baptism, the nature of salvation, the end times, the trinity, predestination, and more, which is only now beginning to show signs of healing.

  • Many Christians focus on politics.
  • Christianity can easily become a political stance and a platform for social action rather than a devout apprenticeship to Jesus.

  • Most Christians severly misallocate money.
  • Like most people, we spend tons of cash on big homes, nice cars, expensive food and entertainment, vacations, and more. Our tithe is spent on gigantic, pretty buildings and impressive multimedia presentations. What if we spent just enough on ourselves to get by, met in homes as the early Christians did, and collectively gave the leftover $20 billion a year from the U.S. alone to feed the hungry as God commanded?

  • Most Christians severly misallocate time.
  • We have a black hole belly for entertainment, relaxation (without God-focus), vain pursuits, working for ourselves rather than God, and more. We spend more time consuming the destructive principles of our popular culture than the lifegiving principles of God.

  • Much of Christian evangelism has been salvation-centric rather than discipleship-centric.
  • "Let's just get their butts into heaven." It seems only recently that major missions organizations have been concerned with fostering Christian discipleship beyond the "salvation moment."

  • Many Christians oppose secularism more than they live as disciples of Jesus.
  • We arrogantly flaunt our intelligence in apologetics, verbally abuse homosexuals, pridefully shun "sinners", bomb planned parenthood clinics, and more.

  • Many Christians love the wrong way.
  • They equate "love" with unqualified acceptance and being nice. But God's love does not enter quiet collusion with other's sin, accept believers with major, obvious, continuing sin into positions of spiritual leadership, or sacrifice truth and holy edification for "being nice" to others.

  • Many Christian institutions of education, charity, evangelism, and commerce are poorly designed to promote discipleship to Jesus.
  • "Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting." And Christian schools, universities, churches, and other organizations are producing millions of Christians who live no differently than non-Christians. These institutions often inspire more boredom and contempt than spiritual fire, despite their good intentions.

  • Christianity is usually a religion or culture rather than a devout following of Jesus.
  • "I'm a Christian" means for many people that they attend church, pray before meals, wear a cross, wed before a priest, pay tithe, be nice to people, etc., rather than devote their lives to Jesus' way of life.

  • Most Christians say one thing and do another.
  • This is really a symptom of not actually believing what we are saying. If I truly believed throughout my entire being that Jesus had told me the way to be fulfilled and joyful, I wouldn't ever again cultivate lust to feel momentarily satisfied or waste time watching a silly movie rather than living in God's purposes. Somewhere within me I don't trust God's ways to be adequate or correct, and so I do not always act in accordance with my own words.

  • Many Christians misuse the Bible.
  • The Bible is not a scientific textbook, a complete guide to living, or factually inerrant, though it is often used as such. Sometimes, entire doctrines are pulled from a narrow-sighted exegesis of a single verse. These uses cause confusion and disappointment.

  • Some Christians have developed the idea that they are a persecuted minority.
  • Christianity is the most popular single worldview on the planet (including athiesm). It makes little sense for Christians to be so easily intimidated in "secular" settings like universities and workplaces, but many are.

  • Christians don't try to be special.
  • It's easy to be caught up in secular psychology, sociology, behavioral study, and the principles of "modern morality." Because it is extremely normal to allow negative thoughts, let our emotions rule, maintain "minor vices" and "white lies," etc., Christians become just as trapped in the patterns of slow self-destruction as everyone else. But we are called to be anything but normal.

Author Comments: 

The more articulate parts of this list are paraphrased from Dallas Willard. Few Christians are described by ALL of these criticisms, though nearly all are described by a few. The list is not complete.

i got one... most christians equate christianity with suffering and persecution causing their urge to constantly prove themselves, when no one really cares... actaully may not be a reason it fails but simply an observation.

i think the biggest reason christianity fails is a combination of the first one on your list and freedom of religion... I'm sure christianity was thriving much more when there were actual worldly consequences for not following the 'fairly meaningless boundaries'.

Thanks, I think your persecution thing fits in with what I've written above... I'll have to revise it.

Freedom of religion is great. When Constantine the Great made Christianity the official religion of Rome, the religion "thrived" in that more people slapped the label on themselves per capita than before, but I think it was the most disasterous thing ever to occur to Christianity. That's when Christianity became a label, a religion, a culture, rather than a devout sect of Jesus-lovers.

Very interesting list. Some points of debate...

I agree that loving God and your fellow man is a very important part of being a Christian. Yet I don't agree that giving to charity and abstaining from drugs or alcohol equates to "following fairly meaningless negative boundaries." Actions show whats in our heart. If you love Christ with all your heart, yet look the other way when seeing someone in need of help, I don't feel God will be very impressed. Sure, there are some people who help others or obey moral rules not because they want to, but because they're either afraid of Hell or else simply looking to get other people's approval. But just because some people do these things with an empty heart does not mean that gives you an excuse not to give to charity. Loving Christ with all your heart is great, but if you don't act on it, who cares?

My second point is wondering what you're getting at with the title of your list: "Why Christianity Fails." I see you're pointing out problems with many people that consider themselves Christians. But what exactly does the religion itself fail at? Is your point that Christianity is a great religion (based on its scriptures, prophets, and tenets) but it's not being followed properly today, especially in the U.S.? Maybe your title should be "Why Christianity Has Gone Wrong in Modern Society."

Haha! Christians are lazy? That seems to be generalizing a little to the extreme.

I agree that many Christians seem to have very little tolerance of other religions. I have certainly felt the emphasis on opposition or assimilation instead of loving non-Christians like brothers for who they are and what they choose to believe. I have a hard time accepting the claim that one religion's prophet is the only genuine article and all other religions' prophets are pretenders.

Additionally, I think many Christian sects feel that they can make the world a better place by limiting our freedoms. This includes banning profane books, movies, or art; outlawing flag burning, abortion, gambling, tobacco, and alcohol; and hassling non-Christians with missionaries because they'll go to Hell if they're not baptized. Generally, I think many Christian sects don't value the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as much as they should.

My responses, paragraph for paragraph...

Action is essential, and the natural result of a transformed heart. Problems arise when Christians try to "be Christian" by forcing themselves to do "good" things, which is like tying apples on the branches of an orange tree rather than growing an apple tree. And you've misquoted me... giving to charity wasn't part of the "fairly meaningless negative boundaries" list item. As for drugs an alcohol, they aren't definitively wrong - Jesus drank and even turned water into wine so others could drink - but there are few situations where taking drugs or getting drunk with alcohol would be useful for doing God's work. Just like watching Star Wars isn't definitively wrong, but it's not very useful for the Kingdom and a waste of time in that sense. Which brings up a very personal reason Christianity fails... Christians say one thing and do another.

This page lists reasons why Christianity fails at being what it was meant to be... devout, loving servanthood to God. And these problems aren't unique to modern society.

Obviously, these criticisms don't apply to all Christians, just "some" or "most" Christians. And these criticisms don't necessarily apply more to Christians than to other people. These aren't universal problems, they just contribute significantly to the failure of Christianity.

I think the kind of "tolerance" of other religions you've referenced is silly. Killing Muslims in the Crusades and bombing planned pregnancy centers and bashing gays and more is wrong, but "tolerating" other religions by agreeing that they may be correct is as silly as relative truth. There is absolute truth in the world. When I tolerate someone who believes the earth is flat, it means I still accept them as a valuable human being, but I don't accept that they may be right about the earth being flat. If all religions were equally capable of being correct, it would mean they were all wrong. Most prophets have to be dead wrong, by definition of truth.

Christians don't value the 1st Amendment because they respond to a higher law; the law of God. Complete freedom of speech is quite a new idea in human history, and not necessarily the best one. That being said, I like freedom of speech to some extent in political lawbooks, and when someone starts using it to destroy our society with immorality and corrupt thinking, then I'll oppose it. It's their right to speak what they will (as it is mine), and it's everybody's responsibility to say "What he says is true!" or "What he says is false!" or "What he says is irrelevant!"

"If all religions were equally capable of being correct, it would mean they were all wrong."

Actually, this would be pantheism. You find/found it most commonly in Hinduism. No doubt it drove missionaries crazy. They would go in and say they have the truth and salvation of God and Jesus the Christ, and the Hindus would say, fine, set up your temple over there next to the others. They would see it as just another path to the one divine.

Let's look at the most popular tenets of the four most popular faiths.

Christianity: Salvation from spiritual death is available through the grace of God and Christ's vicarious atonement alone.
Islam: Only God is worthy of worship and salvation is available through the revelation brought by Muhammad.
Athiesm: There is no God, and no salvation.
Hinduism: Liberation of the soul is attained only through improving karma by good actions through several cycles of reincarnation.

How can all of these simultaneously be correct? To modify them so that all can be right makes each of them meaningless and powerless.

What if there are different standards for salvation depending on what religion you are? Then all religions would be partially wrong in terms of their exclusiveness but partially right in terms of their personal standards. That's one element of my personal conception of heaven. I don't believe a just deity would keep the righteous out of heaven just because they chose the wrong religion.

My mind isn't capable of comprehending an infinte being. And I think such a wishy-washy and, frankly, weak conception of God's justice or love is uninspiring, and more importantly, incorrect. My goal here isn't to be "intolerant", and I'm sure you realize that if you are convinced of the truth, and you see others who are putting themselves in jeapardy because they believe something false, you'll want to alert them of the truth. If I see the building's on fire and you don't believe me, I'm going to do my damndest to thrown your ass out the (first-story) window.

I don't think you're being intolerant, but I still think that's a weak analogy. You may be personally convinced of the beliefs of your religion, but there's no way you can possibly be 100% certain of the forces that control the world and their circumstances for salvation. What makes you think that followers of other religions are any less convinced than you are? If you don't physically see, feel, smell, taste, or hear the fire, but just get a personal (albeit convincing) sense that the fire's in the building, and you throw my ass out the window, I'm gonna be pretty pissed off. If you can't prove that there's a fire, I'll stick to my long-held belief that the fire doesn't exist. But hey, if you wanna jump out the window, feel free.

Ah, discussing theology and defenestration on a Saturday night. If there's more to life than this, I don't wanna know about it.

Naturally, many others will be just as convinced that they know the truth.

I'll concede mine was a poor analogy, but it makes just a bit more sense if you consider that every observation is based on varying degrees of faith. I may not see the first, but I may see smoke or smell fire. Or, I may faintly hear someone in the distance calling "fire!" I believe in subatomic particles even though they have never been seen or directly observed. Sometimes, even when trained scientists observe something in a carefully controlled laboratory setting, their observations still turn out to be wrong 10 years later. Everything we observe must be taken on faith. And my faith in God and his nature as loving, just, omniscient, and more is based on more than what others tell me and a vague feeling. I have experienced him and seen him working in my life. I can't measure him with a dosimeter, but he's there.

And of course I won't actually throw you out the window - I couldn't if I wanted to - but I'll at least try to coax you trust me.

Wow, look at all those typos. Let may not see the first be may not see the fire and try to coax you trust me be try to coax you to trust me.

A bit of a rant; if you're a religious Christian, you may not want to read unless you're lukeprog or as difficult to offend as he is:

But why do you think the other person hasn't felt the exact same things telling him there was no fire? Do you think that Christianity is the only religion that someone can find spiritually fulfilling? It may not be a reason why Christianity fails, but it always annoys me when Christians assume that since they're the ones who are correct, everyone else's religion is just giving them a false sense of security. "Those poor misguided souls; I sure hope they find Jesus soon!" It's not intolerant, but it is pretty cocky and condescending.

I'm having an especially difficult time conveying my heart on this issue. It's a touchy subject with lots of pain and anger on both sides.

Modern thinkers are understandably irritated with failing Christians. Christians, like all types of people, have often been arrogant, condescending, narrow-minded, and far worse in the name of what they believe.

But modern thinkers will inevitably be irritated by the most loving and mature Christians, too. They are irritated that these "otherwise" intelligent, wise, loving, considerate, mature people think God's truth is greater than man's reason and the accelerated enlightenment our times.

When the "civilized" world made an about-face on thousands of years of accepted slavery, they were irritated with a faith that instructed slaves to obey their masters "with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart" (Ephesians 6:5) and with a God who issued laws about how slaves may be purchased (Leviticus 25:44-46) or enslaved as punishment (Exodus 22:2-3). That God expected merciful, generous and fair treatment of slaves (Ephesians 6:9) or demanded alternatives to slavery where slavery was expected (Deuteronomy 21:10-14, Leviticus 25:39) hardly diminished a secular person's disgust. 1

When the Western world decided to make men and women equal 2, they were irritated with a people who believed woman was created as a "helper" for man (Genesis 2:20-21). Feminist-influenced women were insulted by those who said their role in marriage was to submit to their husbands (Colossians 3:18), even if men's role was to "love [their] wives and... not be harsh with them" (verse 19). 3

In a time when 99% of scientists species evolved from nothing to current complexity over billions of years, atheists have little respect for Christians who "ignorantly" believe God created all the world's species a 10,000 years ago. 4

Most relevantly, in a time when prevailing Western moral thought is - unlike most of human history or other cultures - not principally concerned with one's responsibility to be moral and good, but with one's right to believe and act however one chooses, people are irritated with Christians who remain devoted to responsible ethics and absolute truth. They say, "How dare you impose your beliefs and morality on me? I've got rights!" Christians respond, "How dare you neglect morality and truth? You've got responsibilities!"

Because the fallen human harping about responsibilities isn't living up to his responsibilities, he's a hypocrite and easily dismissed. Because the speaker concerned with rights claims no responsibility and expects none of others, his way is nearly incapable of hypocrisy by definition. Label this concept "tolerance," "acceptance," or even "love," and you can see why it's a popular worldview: it's easy, flexible, avoids conflict, and is very, very nice. But that doesn't mean it is best.

Furthermore, the loving Christian does not see a deceived world as amusingly misguided or pitifully dependent on a false sense of security, but as ruthlessly attacked by the great liar Satan. And it is not a matter of a sighing, "I sure hope they find Jesus...", it is a matter that demands (Matthew 28:18-20) a Christian's relentless spiritual warfare against the enemy on behalf of those God created and loves.

Phew. We can quibble over details, but are you starting to understand the big picture in my heart?

1 Many Christians believe that God's regulations for societal issues like slavery and divorce, the result of hard hearts (Matthew 19:8), did not encourage such practices but were practical ways of dealing with realities of the time.
2 The rampant misuse and glorification of "equality" (again, a very recent development in human history) has caused great misunderstanding and bitterness. God loves all people equally, we should love all people equally, and all people are equally valuable. But that doesn't mean all people are the same. I can't think of a reason skin color alone should differentiate treatment, but men and women (for example) are clearly different in significant ways. These differences don't imply superiority or inferiority, merely difference. Let's consider a marriage. We know that women are typically better at detecting others' feelings, inferring intentions, empathizing, and communicating with language. A woman's X chromosome gives her advantages in child rearing and conducting social engagements that a man lacks. Likewise, we know that men are typically better with logic, systemizing, objective details, spacial cognition, heavy lifting, and opening pickle jars. The man's Y chromosome gives him advantages in rational decision-making and manual labor that a woman lacks. To expect "equality" between men and women is naive and destructive. Let the sexes use their strengths to compliment each other rather than compete, and you will have a head start on a successful marriage. Naturally, we must recognize when personal qualities do not fit the genetic norm and compensate; I know several women who could beat me up and manage finances better than I, and a few who I'd hate to see raise a child.
3 If both parties clung to their given responsibilities, this would work. Decisions are best made non-democratically, which encourages trust, responsibility, wisdom, and swiftness, and discourages conflict. And if the husband truly loves his wife and is not "harsh" with her, he will continually make decisions that favor and bless his wife, and, with God's wisdom, are best for the family unit. When husbands do not stand up for their responsibility, it can be tough or even unwise for wives to always submit to their husbands.
4 For the record, that's not what I believe, but I'm not dicussing it any more for now.

Same rules apply as before: if you're Christian, don't read unless you're lukeprog or difficult to offend.

I'm not really sure about some of the points you've made in regards to this issue. I'm not really talking about the clash between religion and scientific reason. I was sort of excluding atheists in my original post, but hey, who knows, maybe some atheists can feel spiritually fulfilled by believing in no deities. And I'm certainly not excusing people who think they have no ethical responsibility.

On the other hand, I don't think your 9th paragraph's distinction is all that different from what I was saying (though I thank you for clarifying). In fact, I guess I was even sugarcoating the topic by saying "false sense of security" rather than saying some Christians believe that all other religions are based on lies.

And I don't even think it's a rights issue. I do believe people should have the right to freedom of religion, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I’m talking about the entire Christian viewpoint of other religions, which has just caused you to refer to those other religions as the "deceived world" and to the reasons why people believe in other religions as "ruthless attacks by the great liar Satan.” That I can at least live with, but I object to how that view is imposed in everyday life.

But that’s what we believe… Well, so what? Joe Schmoe could form a religion that says people of all other religions are worthless douchebags. He should have the right to believe whatever he wants religiously, but that doesn’t mean he should impose that view on other people or go around preaching his version of the gospel. Note that this is different from societal or political issues. If Joe’s religion also claims that it is immoral to be named “John Kerry” and he voted for Bush because of that, I will disagree with his moral stance but at least accept that he can base his decisions on what he wants. But if Joe Schmoe goes on TV to encourage others to convert to his religion because otherwise they run the risk of being worthless douchebags, that is not cool with me.

And you know what? Maybe I’m just taking a weaker side due to the rights/responsibility issue you talked about earlier. If I was more bold, perhaps I would say that Christians shouldn’t have the right to think that way, that Christians should have a responsibility to not just respect people of other religions, but to respect their religions, rather than treating them like total falsehoods based on Satanic deception. After all – I would say if I weren’t so introverted – is your religion really any stronger than any other? Sure, we would scoff at anyone who still believed in ancient Greek mythology, but does the Bible really make more sense than the tales of Mount Olympus? What makes you so sure Christianity is correct? Some book written two thousand years ago? Or feelings that Jesus works in all our lives because of personal experiences? If you had never heard of Jesus, would you treat these feelings as religious awakenings? Or are you really just trying to mold your experiences to what you already believe? If you believed in the sun god Ra, wouldn’t these feelings just make you more certain of Ra’s existence?

I would continue if I were more ballsy: Or on the other hand, are you just using selective memory to prove to yourself that your religion is correct and glossing over the complex struggles that have been plaguing Christian theologians for many times? Don’t you remember saying this: “I'm surprised not to have been zapped by lightning when I occasionally wish God and the Bible didn’t exist. Then I wouldn't have to reconcile observations in the physical world (evolution, ancient earth) with a literal interpretation of the Bible (everything created in 6 days, 6000 years ago). I wouldn't have to reconcile God's principles (homosexuality is sin, God's power can forgive and heal the sin) with psychological surveys (reparative therapy fails 99.9% of the time)”? You know what? I think it’s okay to be uncertain. To wonder why God does certain things rather than just accepting that He works in ways incomprehensible to man. To ask yourself difficult questions and not really have the answers. Faith isn’t about being 100% sure of yourself. In fact, I don’t believe you really are.

Luckily I’m not so bold and would not make those points. All I will say is that I love being a Jew. And in my own personal conception of life, the universe, and everything, Judiasm makes a lot more sense to me than Christianity – though that certainly doesn’t mean I think I’m right or you’re wrong. I understand where you’re coming from, but hopefully I’ve explained myself clearly enough to show you the big picture in my heart as well.

I agree with your comments here, AJ. You mentioned Faith so I just had to share my perception. To me, I like to beleive that we all existed as souls in a pre-mortal life. That when we are born on earth, we have no memory of that existence. And we go through life experiencing the highs and lows of joy and suffering (the two sides of the same coin). And it is how we deal with life that matters. And one of the most important things is enduring in our Faith of God. To believe in something for which we cannot see or prove, and to remain so dedicated especially during the greatest tragedis, truly sets us apart as something more than animals. To me, this is the only way we can grow and become something more than the spirits we originally were.

Do you think we could really evolve as spirits if we couldn't know pain, emotion, or simply not knowing if there is a God or afterlife? I feel our lives on earth are a valuable and worthwhile experience in themselves that, when we're done, leaves us as something more.

But this is my belief. I would think it's cool if you agreed with me. But I would never force you to accept it, no matter how much I felt it was true. Because the most oppressionist, despotic, dystopian governments arise not from a desire to take away people's freedom, but rather a desire to make them realize the "truth": that they know more than you.

Dang. I meant to say "Do you think we could really evolve as spirits if we couldn't know pain, emotion, or already knew the facts of God/afterlife/meaning of life/etc.?" I think not knowing if there is a God, and knowing what it feels to love and lose is what makes life a rich existence.

I'm personally not entirely sure about your third and fourth sentences, but I definitely agree with pretty much everything else you said. Thanks for sharing your viewpoint!

I am reminded of an Emo Philips joke:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"
He said, "Like what?"
I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"
He said, "Religious."
I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"
He said, "Christian."
I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
He said, "Protestant."
I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
He said, "Baptist!"
I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
He said, "Baptist Church of God!"
I said, "Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!"
I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
I said, "Die, heretic scum!" and pushed him off the bridge.

SPOILER - highlight to read
The use of spoilers should bring these questions to mind: Does it need to be said? Should it be said? And why would people be better off by not reading what has been said?

Which leads to: Why say it at all?.. no matter how difficult or easy it is to offend anyone.
I just thought that needed to be said... and heard.

That joke was hilarious, by the way.

In response to your comments about spoiler tags: I mainly design my comments for lukeprog, who I already know has pretty thick skin, so I feel comfortable talking about controversial topics with him. I post them on the site (rather than arguing through e-mail) so that those who are interested can read them. But someone who has an emotional connection to the subject and is more easily offended than lukeprog might take umbrage at some of the stuff I'm saying. Hence the spoiler tags and warnings. I don't know how if any people on the site really feel that they'd be better off not reading my comments, but I'd understand if they did. I mean, Luke and I have talked about issues like evolution, gay marriage, and abortion before, but I feel like this is a touchier subject than any of them.

AJ, we're playing hard now and that's okay; I feel comfortable playing hard with you because I trust your maturity. I won't spoilerize all this, but: anybody who hasn't been following this dialogue or doesn't want feathers ruffled, please read something else.

"I'm not really talking about the clash between religion and scientific reason." Neither am I. Paragraphs 4-7 were examples of why people may be irritated that mature, loving Christians can "think God's truth is greater than man's reason." Science was just an example; the other examples concerned modern moral ideas.

BTW, I skirted the issue of people feeling spiritually fulfilled because I don't think it's very important. I can have a "religious experience" when the fifth movement of Philip Glass' 3rd string quartet begins (and I have, and it felt great), but feeling spiritual is not as important as actually attaining spiritual sanctification. Your arguments seem to be cenetered around what "works" for different people, what makes them feel fulfilled. I'm more concerned with what I believe actually brings them salvation, fulfillment, etc. I have no doubt that some Buddhist monks achieve bliss in their better moments of meditation, but they aren't actually closer to salvation or discipleship to the living God. That's why I'm not satisfied with them feeling spiritual.

Yes, other faiths are based on lies. Wouldn't you, who believes wholeheartedly the world is round, consider those who believe in a flat earth deceived?

God didn't want programmed love, so he gave us free will; even the will to curse his name or deny his existence altogether! He even gave us the free will to make up other religions and gather followers. But we don't have the power to actually make God not exist, or to change what Jesus did, or to create real new gods to worship. Muhammed was very effective in gathering adherants to his faith, but after all his writing and evangelizing, an "Allah" God still doesn't actually exist. Believing something doesn't make it true; truth makes something worth believing. The Sphinx has spoken.

"Note that this is different from societal or political issues." Why? I believe what I believe. It's my worldview. What I believe "spiritually" is inseperable from what I believe socially or politically. This is why I hate the term "religion", though I must use it on occasion to communicate with people about faith. "Religion" is a thing you do or an organization you join, and is potentially seperable from the rest of your life. My worldview that God is working today and everything else is inseperable from my politics and my social encounters; it is all a single way of approaching life and I can't turn it on and off for different situations. I like to use "religion" to mean "worldview" (a more useful idea, I think), which is why I listed athiests here.

Luckily I’m not so bold and would not make those points. Well, in spending nearly half of your post on them, you kinda sorta (but just pretend!) did. I can't think of another reason for you to write them, so I will respond. Besides, I think they are valid, common issues worth clarifying.

"Christians should have the responsibility to not just respect people of other religions but to respect their religions, rather than treating them as [false]." I respect other people, I respect the appeal and success of religions, but you're saying that "respect other religions" means to say they are true, which I will not do. That's not what respect means.

"...is your religion really any stronger than any other?" By this you mean: "Can man's reason provide better proof for Christianity than it can for athiesm or Islam?" We've already discussed how faith is required for any belief, and I've already acknowledged your frustration with the idea that "God's truth is greater than man's reason."

I'm beyond proving God to myself, and I know God's ways are often incomprehensible to man. I do gloss over "complex struggles that have been plaguing Christian theologians" because I have more pressing concerns (How can I learn to love God more than music? How can I train myself in sexual purity? How can I know God's plan for my life and put it into action?), because if those dudes couldn't figure it out I probably can't either, and because some things I frankly don't care about (try diagramming this sentence). If God created the earth a few thousand years ago, fine. If God created a complex set of rules that could create a functioning universe and complex human life over billions of years relatively unattended... even more impressive! Praise God! But I really don't give a you-know-what; it doesn't bear on my life today. There's book called Heaven everybody seems to be reading. I couldn't care less about that, either, I just need to know it's better than hell.

Yikes. I'm glad we're online and you can't throw something at me.

I respect much of what you are saying, but in my humble opinion, there is one major fallacy in your argument, and one point which you misinterpreted what I was saying (which may well have been my fault).

I simply cannot fathom how you can compare a fire or the fact that the earth is round to your belief in Jesus. These things function on completely separate planes of existence. The earth's roundness was proven over 500 years ago, and anyone who still believes in a flat earth today is just plain uneducated. However, great thinkers have been debating over the existence of higher forces in the universe for, well, forever. Sure, I've never personally flown on a rocket that orbited the earth, so there's some degree of faith there, but one's religious beliefs are completely different.

The other point I wanted to make is this. You said: "You're saying that 'respect other religions' means to say they are true." I absolutely do not think anyone has to say that all other religions are true. I guess this is kind of related to my first point, because if you compare your religion to the fact that the earth is round, then you will probably not see the distinction here. But I think that respecting someone else's religion means admitting that, since your own religion is your faith-based belief and not a universal fact of life, other religions could possibly be true and not merely definite falsehoods that should just be dismissed.

I am in a bit of a rush, so I don't really have time to refine and expand on those points, but hopefully I've gotten the basic meaning across.

The only necessary ingredient for my analogy with a round earth is that it be something you believe wholeheartedly to be correct; that was the point. The "evidence" is peripheral because - can you guess? - "God's truth is greater than man's reason."

I think it makes sense that as a Christian, I wholeheartedly feel that what I know to be the truth about God is both faith-based and a universal fact of life. Gravity is a universal fact of life without its existence being proved or its nature fully understood (which was the motivating factor behind the even less provable string theory). Sure, it angers scientists that they haven't trapped gravity in their little boxes of systematic analysis, but they see it at work and accept it. I'm even further from proving God, but my inability to prove God does not threaten his actual existence, nor does it make the existence of other gods more likely. (Just as the earth was spherical even when mankind lacked the tools to observe it as such.)

So you're saying you would think the same thing of a non-Christian as someone who believed the earth was flat? Or who didn't believe in any fact? Someone who says that two plus two equals 142,857 is the same to you as a non-Christian? Someone who claims human beings are made of marshmallows is the same as someone who doesn't believe Jesus was the Messiah? Someone who says that Jesus was actually a well-trained chimpanzee who enjoyed flinging his own feces around is the same as someone who says Jesus was not the son of God?

Well, in any case, you and I have different opinions of God's truth, and that trumps all, so methinks this conversation will be going nowhere fast. It's hard to argue about such differences. I'd just like to say that, if my 10th grade physics class is any indication, scientists seem to have made more progress with gravity than you're giving them credit for, but I know that's not the point.

Happy new year, by the way. :-)

"So you're saying you would think the same thing of a non-Christian as someone who believed the earth was flat? [Etc. Etc. Etc. Jesus is a poo-flinging ape.]" Yeah, I think both are deceived. And though I think

To clarify, math isn't related to fact, it's simply human defined. It's like me making up a new word, "clistrophane", defining it as the saliva that builds up on a dog's tongue, and then having someone spuriously claim it's actually a synonym for television. Aaaaaanyhoo...

Do you have a New Year's Resolution? Or have you already realized the silliness of that practice?

Did you post prematurely here? It looks like your first paragraph was cut off.

As for the new year's resolution, I gave that up a while ago after I realized that I wasn't going to follow through if I resolved to make the huge life changes that my life needed and that making an easier resolution is just being lazy.

Oh, and by the way, has the music that I sent you turned out alright?

Damn. I think I was going to say something about how the roundness of the earth is more easily evident than the ongoing work of a loving God, but just as true.

"Ah, discussing theology and defenestration on a Saturday night. If there's more to life than this, I don't wanna know about it"

Don't you know it! unless of course it is practicing the art of spiritual direction with a mentoree and seeing God move in their life in a remarkable way.

'prog, you've got some good comments here. I'm not trying to tear down your points here, just offering a different point of view.

I can understand the notion that if you strongly believe in your religion as the truth, then you'd want to spread that realization to others. The only problem is that religion is not based on fact/proof, but rather it's based on faith/feeling. You cannot KNOW your religion is the only true religion, you can only beleive it is the only true religion. Thus, it's not a good analogy to say it's like seeing a building is on fire and throwing someone out of the building to save them. Because neither person can prove that the fire does/doesn't exist. To throw the other person out of the building because you BELIEVE there is a fire is imposing your beliefs on the freedom of others, just like the Crusades.

I also have to disagree with your earlier comment that accepting other religions as a path to God is the same as believing in relative truth. I agree that there are absolute truths. But why can there only be one religion that is the correct one? The prophets of the major religions (Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, etc.) never explicitly state that the others are imposters. They never say "I am the one true prophet of God." It's the followers of these religions that propogate this notion that theirs is the one true way. Isn't it possible that God sends prophets to all different cultures and peoples, providing different paths to get to the same place? I'm not saying that EVERY religion is valid. I think some of the criteria for a religion to be authentic include:
- a prophet that is discriminated or martyred
- holy scripture or teachings
- moral values
- a belief in a Creator and afterlife
- a large population of followers
- endures over centuries

And what about atheists/agnostics? Shouldn't they have the right not to beleive? The 1st Amendment is critical ESPECIALLY when it allows people to say things that you don't like. In some ways I prefer the Libertarian view: you should have the freedom to do whatever you want, as long as it doesn't seriously impose on the freedoms of others.

I'm a little confused. How did you come up with your criteria for which religions are valid? Do you really think a critical point of absolute truth is subject to your criterion? And the 1st amendment is a political issue, not a truth issue. I also have the right to believe the earth is flat, but that doesn't make the world flat or even the view that the earth is flat one of several correct answers.

1. I came up with the above points as a SUGGESTED criteria for a valid religion. These are aspects shared by the major worldwide religions. As there is no authority on earth as to say which religions are true or false, I, like everyone, must form my opinions on the matter. Thus, I have the same right as anyone to come up with criteria for what I beleive are valid religions.

2. Of course I don't think a "critical point of absolute truth is subject to [my] criterion." This is simply a perspective of mine. Just because I think or beleive something is a certain way, doesn't mean reality conforms to my point of view. Nor does it conform to your point of view or anyone's. The simple fact is that no one is omniscient. The biggest barrier in this discussion is your refusal to admit that other people's perspective's on reality are as correct or more correct than your own.

3. "And the 1st Amendment is a political issue, not a truth issue." Since we're talking about religion, we're also talking about the civil right to freedom of religion. Or at least, I thought we were talking about religion. You might feel that we're talking about truth and understanding reality. As I said before, humans are not omniscient, thus we cannot know the core truths of reality (e.g. what happens after death, is there a God, the purpose of life, etc.). In place of omniscience is religion/faith and science. We try to understand the things around us directly through scientific evidence, while making intuitive jumps and beliefs through faith and religion. Thus, to discuss truth of reality, we inherently must bring in science and religion due to the very fact we are not omniscient. And in ALL cases, when you argue a point, you need evidence to back up your argument. That is, if you're trying to persuade others to understand and agree with you. If not, then all you're doing is telling others you beleive yourself to be omniscient or arbitrarily smarter.

4. Yes, anyone has the right to believe whatever they want, even if it goes against the most obvious factual scientific evidence (such as the earth is flat). And I agree with you, as I said before: reality does not obey your point of view (just because you think the earth is flat, doesn't mean it is flat). But on the other hand, isn't it possible that the earth is flat, regardless of how infintesimal the probability? (i.e. if you haven't been into space, you haven't seen the earth first hand and all those photos of the earth could have been made up). Of course, because of science and technology, everyone accepts the earth is round, as do I. But the weakness in your analogy is that religion does not have these same universally accepted truths, such as "the earth is round." And with no universally accepted truths from religion, to say that you know that a particular Christian sect is the one true faith is just the same as being back in the Stone Age and declaring to everyone that the world is round without showing any evidence such as sailing around the world or taking satellite photos from earth's orbit. Granted, you may be right, but why should the other cavemen believe you? You are no more special or important than another human being, so why do you beleive that you are right and everyone else is wrong? Why can't you consider the possibility that other people could be right and you could be wrong? It's fine to defend what you believe and convince others of that, but the minute you start tearing down other people's beliefs without offering any evidence as to why they're wrong, that's when you've become a nuisance as opposed to a philosopher. Use evidence and logic, and I believe you'll yield much more interesting discussions.

Gotcha. I think we agree on our approach to ideas and truth, even if we don't agree on the same truth about the non-natural world. I'm not sure if evidence and logic is the best way to talk about the supernatural, though, since evidence and logic are native only to the natural world. Unfortunately, that's what I've been trying to do. Maybe it's best to speak of the supernatural in terms of one's personal experience with it. Or perhaps it's best not to talk at all, and rather live a life of irresistable joy, purity, and effectiveness. I may talk big, but I don't have this stuff figured out! Thanks for helping me get there.

It's certainly cool that your list has become a forum for a wide spectrum of ideas from plenty of Listologists. Along with money and politics, religion is one of those things you avoid at the dinner table as people can easily get carried away. You've done a good job of piquing people's interest and their willingness to contribute their posts. Onto more of my ideas...

I think evidence and logic still can be applied to spirituality. Not in direct proof but rather indirect proof, such as the resulting actions or events in the physical world from a spiritual phenomenon. Of course, indirect proof requires an intuitive leap because the cause and effect relationship is not apparent to our physical senses. But it is a good starting point that can at least persuade others to consider the possible connection.

I agree with you that it's good to speak of the supernatural from personal experience as well. Of course, it's difficult to explain these experiences to others in verbal communication. So you must try to create analogies that others can relate to, at least to get across the essence of your personal spiritual experience. What are some of your most memorable spiritual experiences? I have some if you're interested.

I respect those who are agnostics and decide not to worry about religion, but rather focus their efforts on living for joy, purity, and effectiveness. Living well is awesome, whether you're motivation is spiritual or moral. Nevertheless, I usually have more respect for open-minded spiritual minded people. That is because I believe faith to be the greatest test of human life and the only way to grow beyond what we are. I think God judges us both on our faith as well as the morality of our actions. To have excelled in both is to return to the closest possible presence with God. To have excelled in one is to go to Heaven but be denied God's closest company. I like the following notion because it appeals to my logical side: for every wrong we do without wholeheartedly repenting, and for every temptation we give into, and for every commandment of the Lord's that we disobey, we are stained with greater guilt in the afterlife. And it is that great shame that keeps us away from the Lord, because we understand we are not worthy to return to his presence of perfect love and charity. It would be unbearable to stand before Him with every unrepented sin of our lives in plain view and witness against our worthiness.

My memorable experiences with God either relate to feelings (which are untrustworthy and inexplicable) or witnessing miraculous healing first-hand. For example, my friend Eddie was hit by a jeep at 5 years of age, had a massive hole in his skull, wasn't supposed to live the night. Survived the night, was supposed to be a vegetable. Demonstrated movement capabilities, wasn't supposed to walk. Started walking, wasn't supposed to drive or play basketball. Now does both.

Or, more instantaneous healings such as a deaf woman instantly able to hear everything during a prayer, etc. I guess I've seen half a dozen of these. And heard hundreds of these stories from witnesses very close to me.

I'd be very interested to heart some of your most memorable spiritual experiences.

As I may have mentioned earlier, I think the complexity and beauty of the universe is in itself a huge testimony the existence of God. But consider my personal spiritual experiences, I have my own unique testimony. I really should sit down and spend some remembering such experiences and writing them down so I can look back to them when my faith lulls. Because faith is a wave of inconsistency with highs and lows and it's good to remember the blessings in our life the Lord had a hand in.

The best way to sum up my spiritual experiences is that prayer is powerful. Many times I have asked God for help in some way and He has answered my prayers in more ways than I could possibly realize. Because God answers our prayers according to his will, rather than ours, it means we don't always get the answers we expected in the time frame we expected. Here are some of things I prayed for and truly felt were bestowed upon me by God:
- to find true love
- to graduate West Point
- to graduate Airborne School in August
- to find truth in religion
- to help me endure the physical pains and exertions of road marches, the elements (the 3-headed beast: cold/wet/windy), long and fast formation runs, not drowning during water survival training, etc.
- to help my wife find a good job
- to protect me and guide me in leading others in combat engagements
- to help me solve a problem I can't figure out (e.g. I got something stuck in the barrel of my rifle and dreaded the embarassment of having to take it to the armorer... after I spent a couple hours on and off trying different things, right after I gave up, I heard the answer in a whisper and fixed it... a prime example of God answering things in his time and letting us face the struggles of life that enable us to grow)
- my Grandmother has recovered from cancer and other huge obstacles only to come back stronger

Despite how much God answers our prayers, it's also important to pray to communicate your gratitude rather than always asking for things. Additionally, a fulfilling life isn't found in asking God to provide what you want as much as it's found in asking God to guide you on the path to fulfilling God's will for you. As in Milton's "Paradise Lost"... servitude to Him is true freedom.

Thanks so much for taking the opportunity to share that with me!

Certainly you see how all of these fit within Hinduism, which can be pantheistic depending on its interpretation.

A Hindu might seek aspects of Christianity or Islam as a means of following the order, the dharma, in an attempt to become closer to the divine. A Hindu that denies the divine and denies the order of things and becomes atheist obviously would be expected to drop in caste during the next reincarnation.

Note: Hindu is more ethnic than creedal, so it's possible for someone to be both Hindu and an atheist. This is not true of creedal religions like Christianity, where you subscribe to a creed and if you don't, you are outside that creed.

I was just reading about the feast of tabernacles as interesting as i thought it was i keep my religion to my self and don't really discuss it with friends. Politics the same thing. But a lot of people have a hard time keeping their beliefs on both subjects to themselves.

Very interesting list. I've always been impressed by your ability to have perspective on a religion you associate yourself with.

Regarding the "Christians love the wrong way" - what is the right way? Or is that question not really answerable?

A suggestion, add if you see fit. Since I'm not a Christian, I'll spoilerize. I'm sure Luke won't be offended, but to all others, please don't read if you think you'll be offended: Christians attempt to use the Bible as a scientific textbook instead of a guide to morality.

Yup, excellent suggestion.

"How can Christians love the right way?" is an answerable question, but perhaps not by me. Indeed, finding that out and putting it into action could be seen as the central aim of my life. The Bible gives me a head start in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." Jeff Buckley (lol) gives another insight about love for God in his cover of "Hallelujah": "Love is not a victory march, it's a cold and it's a broken 'Hallelujah'." This, of course, means that love is not an emotion or joyful response to blessing; it's a choice. Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy has been giving me additional tips, though I'll probably need to read the book again to articulate them. One, for example, might be stated as "Love God first, then others. This means your love for others is filtered through your love for God, and doing what's best for others means doing what's best from God's perspective, whether it's giving them the shirt off your back or confronting them about a sin issue.

"Christians love the wrong way, equating love with unqualified acceptance and being nice."

Take the board out of your own eye, man.

I was auto-notified of your post before it passed moderation, so I've already updated the "Author Comments" section with the following: "As a Christian, I'm naturally implicating myself, too."

If the only people allowed to critique society and morality were those without some dust or even a plank in their eye, nobody could say anything. And that's just not very useful, is it?

Well, take the dust speck out then, and email me. I don't bite. At least, not in cyberspace.

Oh, I'm working on the dust, but it's taking a while. There always seems to be more of it.

The dualism of body and soul that most see in Christianity is the underlying problem that creates many of these. If we're to see ourselves as not being of this world - that this existence is purely temporary (or illusion as many Hindus feel) and that when we die, the soul (the mystical life force, or whatever, in us) leaves the body and becomes one with the divine, then you're definitely going to have ridiculous protectionism (shielding yourself and others from that which might dirty the soul) like not watching R-rated movies.

It creates this love-imbued sense of the world where all things are nice and sanitary instead of a world of embodiment, where we are to live our own lives and have our own narratives - like Jesus the Christ. I see this idea of creating your own narrative as being the true nature of what is meant by following Jesus the Christ. Living your own life (having free will), finding your own faults (self-conscious), and finding your own salvation. There is no pre-set path of things

Of course, in believing in embodiment I tend to reject the fundamental idea of the magical Heaven, and I see death as resulting in a loss of nefesh, which is often translated as 'soul' but is better translated as 'life' or 'breath'. And with the loss of life or breath, we cease to exist. Then, when Jesus comes back, I'll pop back up as a zombie or something. =)

Thank you for sharing your beliefs, though I disagree with them. I pray that God reveals to us his absolute truth.

The Judeo-Christian God is a God that is in relationship with us and loves us. And being a God that loves us, he wouldn't force or impose absolutes on us, because that's not what beings in love do. As beings in love, we would seek to understand each other and accept each other as we are.

Your interpretation may, of course, vary.

Yeah, like I wrote above, I don't think love is about unquestioned acceptance or being nice. God's love is a stronger love than that, one that wants us to know the truth. But God loves himself more than he loves us. And he loves us "as we are", but he loves us enough that he wants us to grow and change and fulfill the destiny we were created for: to love Him!

I have another suggestion for the list. :-)

(By the way, click on the goat's head a few times.)

That's as bad as that one "story" you posted and I now can't find about the devilish instructor who is defeated by a child's logic about faith.

BTW, if that was real it'd be an extremely entertaining (seriously, I read through the page like 3 times) example of "Your system is perfectly designed to bring the results you are getting." Even in my Christian high school there were many lessons that had better presentation but the substance was, if you really thought about it, quite silly and naively destructive of its subjects.

Gee, that site never ends! Ladies, be sure to get your own abstinence thongs.

I hate to break it to you, but that is real. Go to the original site and you'll find a perfectly legitimate Christian ministries site. It's crazy what some people teach their kids.

I'm certain it's a very thorough parody. Some reasons:

1. This page about a Christian parody site for "Landover Baptist" just winks too much at the reader. For example, "Complaints can be sent to Americhrist Ltd. (though I doubt they will respond) at..."
2. About that talking goat: who would expect kids to know Madalyn Murray O'Hair?
3. This page shows a diagram of how kangaroos could have migrated to Australia across Pangaea, which includes a route across water as a "possible rafting path." A little over the top, don't you think?
4. Several of the staff photographs look Photoshopped.
5. On the Zounds page, you can see a concert schedule and that the band plays at "Mt. Fellowship Baptist Auditorium." But there are no directions, let alone an address or even a state provided for where that is.
6. Lots more.

Would any Christian Listologists care to comment? Especially concerning point #1; do you truly find Jesus relevant to your daily living? How?

Great list idea, and very interesting topics for discussion. I agree with pretty much everything you've pointed out here. I myself am agnostic, but love a good discussion on religion as long as it doesn't aim to sway me toward the beliefs of whomever I discuss it with. You seem like you'd be a good person to have a decent, intelligent conversation with on the topic.

I infer from your agreement that the items on this list help to make Christianity unattractive to you. What qualities, if widespread among Christians, would make Christianity attractive to you?

The number one thing would have to be tolerance. And there is entirely too much hypocrisy involved; that would have to go too. People not "preaching", but living their beliefs.

I'm with you on people living what they are saying. What, specifically, do you mean by tolerance? I hope you don't mean that Christians should say that all religions are true and each is a path to salvation or fulfillment. (I begin discussing that here.)

Generally, Christians tend to judge people with "alternate" lifestyles and preach that only those who "accept Christ" are going to earn heaven. I find that these beliefs do not tolerate or respect that which may come to manifest naturally in another person's mind and heart. I have at least as many Jewish friends as so-called Christian ones, and they more "live" their faith and give respect to those of outside faiths (or none at all) to go ahead and believe as they will without condemnation less so than what I find in the people I know who call themselves "Christian".

(I think that was a bit windy but I hope it made sense!)

To say that it is correct for anyone to believe anything religiously or philosophically is to say that there is not absolute truth with the supernatural realm like there is with the physical realm. You would not, I hope, think it is correct for anyone to believe whatever they like about the existence of molecules or oxygen. Just because something can't be proved by science (science was never meant to describe the supernatural realm) doesn't mean it isn't absolutely true. I may not be able to convince you that a Christian view is the correct one about the extra-natural universe, but it can't be that everybody is simultaneously correct about the extra-natural universe.

Luke, I think you should stop pigeonholing these arguments into "every religion is right" arguments. That's an easy concept to attack, but I really don't think that's what frenzee is saying.

In addition, I'm sorry, but if there is an absolute truth of the supernatural realm, you don't know what it is. You can't possibly know it definitively, no matter how strongly you feel about it.

If that't true, then I misunderstood frenzee.

In your opinion, AJ, is the scientific method the only way to know something definitively? Or is there a way to know just about everything definitively except the supernatural realm?

I retain that knowing or not knowing something does nothing to alter the actual realities of the universe.

Again, I apologize, but I refuse to get into a discussion about the meaning of knowledge. I suspect you know what I mean anyway, so let's not start nitpicking. I contend that (1) you do not definitively know that Jesus was the Messiah, (2) you do not definitively know that Christianity is the right religions, and (3) you do not definitively know that only those who believe in Jesus can get into Heaven. I contend these points no matter what definition of "know" you use.

Yes, I agree with your last sentence, but if you don't know the actual realities of the universe, how can you make any definitive statements about them?

Sorry to shoehorn my way into your argument, frenzee. I can never resist a religious discussion with lukeprog. As for what (I think) frenzee said, she talked about "giv[ing] respect to those of outside faiths (or none at all) to go ahead and believe as they will without condemnation." That is very different from actually believing those outside faiths are true. She also talked about disliking the notion that only those who believe in Jesus get into Heaven, so I guess she feels (as I do) that that's one unappealing aspect of Christianity that one can't blame on its followers.

Okay, I see what you are saying about knowledge.

As for the rest... the point of Christians not wanting other faiths "to go ahead and believe as they will" is not to condemn or irritate, but because we genuinely believe people of other faiths are going to miss out on God's fantastic gift. And, loving them (that's the ideal, anyway), we really don't want people of other faiths to miss out on salvation or all that a life as Jesus' apprentice on earth has to offer.

First of all, many Christians do condemn anyway, so that's something you can blame on its followers.

But perhaps more importantly, if you do see what I am saying about knowledge, then hopefully you'll understand what I mean when I say that this very notion of Christianity's salvation is inherently irritating to people who are strong in their non-Christian faiths. Because given that you don't know definitively how the supernatural realm works, why should someone give up their faith in order to become Jesus's apprentice? (there's a Donald Trump joke here, but I'm not gonna make it) See it from a non-Christian's perspective: if you don't know the definitive nature of God, and I don't know the definitive nature of God, why should I give up my beliefs to take on yours? (yeesh, I oughta get sued for saying this one...) An abusive husband may say he beats his wife because he loves her, but that won't give her any comfort.

And if Jesus truly loved us, why would he give a crap about free will? Why wouldn't he come right now, knock on my door, perform some miracles, say "Stop being Jewish, or else you'll go to hell", and then move on to the next non-Christian's room? If that happened, I would be convinced. Isn't love more important than my freedom to make up my own mind?

This question of "Why Christ?" is a tough one. I can tell people what Jesus has done in my life (especially recently). I can tell people what I've seen him do in others' lives (even more amazing stuff). I can try to address misconceptions they may have about Christianity or God. I can try to live a life of undeniably attractive joy, effectiveness, and singularity. I can pray for the Holy Spirit to touch their lives in such a way they can't ignore God anymore. I work for all these things (not often enough), and that's all I got. As we've discussed, I cannot prove I'm right.

As for free will: God created us for his pleasure. He loves us very much, but he loves himself even more. If he appeared in the sky all over the earth and demonstrated his complete mastery of the universe, that wouldn't be much more interesting for him than if he'd created us as robots programmed to love him in the first place. Free will is there because he wants a special relationship of followers that truly love him, seek after him, discover him, revel in his mystery - even when they could just as easily to pursue fleeting, earthly pleasures and false gods. That's much more meaningful to him.

He does occasionally appear to people in blinding light from the sky or at their doorstep, but he would never say "Stop being Jewish, or else you'll go to hell." He might, though, say, "Come follow me. I have so much I want to show and give you!"

that wouldn't be much more interesting for him than if he'd created us as robots programmed to love him in the first place

So you're saying that those who don't believe in Jesus are going to suffer in hellfire for all eternity, and that Jesus loves us all, but he won't tell us to believe in him because that wouldn't be interesting? Dude, I'm sorry, but your Messiah doesn't really make sense to me. I'm very glad your life is positively affected by Christianity though!

Oh, he tells most people (everyone, perhaps; I couldn't know that). You've certainly been exposed to the option you have to accept God's love. Because Christianity is by far the most popular and well-exposed faith on the planet, there are few people who will live their lives without hearing Jesus' truth and having the option to accept it.

But the Bible does not address what happens to people who never hear about Jesus or experience a personal revelation of him. It would be kinda weird for any book of the Bible to include a section titled, "This section is for everyone who will never have access to this book."

God is pretty prideful and in love with himself. This can sound wrong to us lowly humans because we don't have justification for feeling so prideful and self-centered. But for God it's different; he really is the most awesome being in the universe, and he has all the reason in the world to be so in love with himself.

I am trying to make "my Messiah" make sense to you and anyone else reading, but I'll admit I haven't got much experience or training in it. Doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying, though :-)

Yeah, it's nice to hear other people talk about how great Jesus is, but I'm talking about something much more overt. If Jesus really is the Messiah and he really loves me, as you claim, he'd be a lot more obvious. Because as you can see, I'm not convinced.

By the way, in case anyone is curious, I found an essay/poem of sorts in the back of a Jewish prayer book that exemplifies what I see as the Jewish view of other religions. It is very similar to my personal beliefs, and I think it is beautifully written. Notice that nowhere in it does it say that every religion is correct.

No Religion is an Island

No religion is an island;
There is no monopoly on holiness.

We are companions of all who revere God
We rejoice when God’s Name is praised.

No religion is an island;
We share the kinship of humanity,
The capacity for compassion.

The hand of God is extended to all who seek Him.
God is near to all who call upon Him in truth.

God’s spirit rests upon all, Jew and Gentile,
Man or woman, in consonance with their deeds.

The creation of one Adam promotes peace.
No one can claim: my ancestry is nobler than yours.

There is no monopoly on holiness;
There is no truth without humility.

We are diverse in our devotion and commitment.
We must unite in working now for the rule of God.

God is near to all who call upon Him in truth.
There can be disagreement without disrespect.

Let us help one another overcome hardness of heart,
Opening minds to the challenges of faith.

Should we hope for each other’s failure?
Or should we pray for each other’s welfare?

Let mutual concern replace remnants of mutual contempt,
As we share the precarious position of being human.

Have we not all one Father? Are we not all God’s children?

Let us not be guided by ignorance or disdain.
Let lives of holiness illumine all our paths.

The hand of God is extended to all who seek Him.
Let our deeds reflect that we share the image of God.

Let those who revere the Lord speak to one another,
Leading everyone to acknowledge the splendor of God and His Creation.

I, for one, agree with every line except the first two (and when they are repeated). :-) The 1st might conflict with my belief that the only way to salvation is through Jesus. The second might conflict with my belief that God alone is holy. Depends how one interprets poetic language. Anyway, thanks for sharing that.

I believe Jesus does love you, but he's not going to force his hand. He wants to be sought, loved, and believed. If he gets really desperate he might appear in the clouds to you, but he seems to do that rarely.

If I was God, I'd do things differently. But I'm not, and it's good enough for me that he loves me so much.

I'm glad you liked the poem even if you didn't agree with all of it.

So, if I may make a probably blasphemous analogy, Jesus is kinda like that introverted girl at the high school dance. She's hot, and she might dance with her friends a little bit, but she wants to dance with some guys she doesn't know too, and she's too shy to approach them herself. She's waiting for the guys to do the legwork. Whereas I want Jesus to be more like that outgoing girl who dances with everyone and everything because that's what she wants to do.

This might make an interesting topic at a Bible study meeting. Think about it. ;-)

These types of analogies are more entertaining than accurate, but gosh, they're irresistably pictorial. Pardon me for sexing this up a bit. Maybe Jesus is young hottie who knows that full revelation of her beauty would be irresistable to any boy. And that's not very special or romantic. She'd rather be romanced by boys who chase after her for just a whiff of her beauty. So she wears baggy pants and a thick sweater and holds scraggly hair over his face with a baseball cap. Will someone love her then? That would be romantic, not every boy spraying his shorts at sight of her tight double-Ds.

This girl doesn't exist on earth, but even Jesus when he walked the earth was kinda out of this world.

What may be a more accurate description of the truth is perhaps more boring. Satan wishes to absorb all humans into himself, and their thoughts into his. Jesus wants every human to stand on their two feet and choose to be like him of their free will. To overwhelm their free will with an undeniable revelation of his omnipotence would be simply to absorb everyone like Satan.

Here's another look at why God lets us hurt ourselves and other people, quoted from one of several introductions to The Spiritual Reformation Bible:

Adam and Eve "fell" because, though innocent, they lacked character. Innocence is not virtue. Innoccence, for all its beauty, is a form of ignorance and lack of character. God certainly could have stood over Adam and Eve... and prevented them from succumbing to Satan's clever appeals. Instead, God arranged for them to be "on their own," and the result was then expressed in what they did. This allowing us to be "on our own" in order to develop character within us in an arrangement God still abides by and respects.

To develop Adam's and Eve's character - and ours too - God has to be "absent" as well as present in human life. Just as our parents care for us around the clock in infancy and early cihldhood and then gradually withdraw their presence from us as we physically mature, so God is intently present to us at our spiritual infancy and then allows us to be increasingly "on our own" as we spiritually mature.

The passage is more focused on the presence of God in a believer's life than a nonbeliever's life, but I think the idea still comes through.

Thanks, you're right.

What I'm saying is, for something that CAN'T be proven, everyone needs to be allowed tolerance and respect to believe what comes naturally to him/her. It's exactly the POINT that no one can "prove" any one thing right that is the reason everything needs to be tolerated until it can be, if ever it can. Obviously we all can't be right, but determining the one who is, is pretty impossible, so to each their own, and with respect.

Some Christians have developed the idea that they are a persecuted minority.

I remember discussing this with you about a year ago, and I actually think I now have a good understanding of what causes this phenomenon. Christianity may be the most popular worldview in the world, but in many professional settings (such as universities), the Democrat's worldview is far more popular than the Republican's. And because certain Republican politicians try to garner support from the Christian right by trying to convince us to associate their beliefs with Christian beliefs, I could see how Christians could think animosity towards conservatives means animosity towards Christians. This was far more overt right after the election; I remember you mentioned reading some derogatory things about Christians written online by Bush-haters. I personally think this is more Bush's fault than the liberals' fault. He has worked very hard to convince people that his worldview is identical to the Christian worldview - but alas, that is a two-way street. I think Christians should stop letting Bush do this, but hey, that's probably just my liberal bias talking.

That's a good point. Another reason may be that at a secular university in particular, Darwinian evolution is very widely accepted and preached. Because many or most Christians consider evolution a non-Christian belief, they feel that everyone who agrees with evolution is not Christian, and that an environment so saturated with the acceptance of evolution is inherently anti-Christian.

I'd better steer clear of discussing Bush and his brainwashees or I'll end up entertaining immense hate throughout extended blabberings.

Did anyone see that crazy "Christian" woman on Fox's WifeSwap this last week?

Not I. What was up with her?

Oops. I got my "wife-swapping" TV shows confused. It was actualy Trading Spouses on Fox.

Here's a episode synopsis.

My wife and I spent most of the episode aghast at what we were seeing and couldn't believe that Fox filmed it.

Yikes. And I guess it must have been as bad as it sounds if you're surprised Fox filmed it.

My church has a crappy website. I designed it 3 years ago, and just now updated it for the first time. I don't have time to do it better, and it works well enough. And they don't have money to pay anybody for a real web page.

But, I am proud of wiring the church for digital audio recording. Now all sermons will be available for MP3 download from this page. If you're curious to hear what my church and (to some degree) my beliefs are like, give the sermon from last Sunday a try. It's about corporate worship and the proper use of gifts like tongues and especially prophecy. I think you'll find it enlightening and genuine. The audio quality will be better next time.

That is all.

Some Christians do this.

Heh, yeah, that doesn't help either. December 25th was a pagan holidy first, anyway. Looking forward to Christmukkuah in 2016?

Nah, I like it better when it's earlier in December. Ending on January 2nd this year, what is that? I love Jewish holidays, but I hate the Jewish calendar. Any system that gives you 7 leap years out of a 19-year cycle and forces each leap year to have an entire extra month in it, is not very practical.

"HARRY: That's right. Yeah, I've had a team working on (The meaning of life) over the past few weeks, and, uh, what we've come up with can be reduced into two fundamental concepts:

1. People are not wearing enough hats.

2. Matter is energy. In the universe there are many energy fields which we cannot normally perceive. Some energies have a spiritual source which act upon a person's soul. However, this soul does not exist ab initio, as orthodox Christianity teaches. It has to be brought into existence by a process of guided self-observation. However this is rarely achieved owing to man's unique ability to be distracted from spiritual matters by everyday trivia.

BERT: What was all that about hats again?"

- Monty Python and the Meaning of Life

hahahaha

I should watch that again.

Erwin McManus quote of the day:

We create [so] many theologies to explain why [most] people in the church don't know God... You know, Christianity is a world religion just like Hinduism, and Islam, and Buddhism, and it's more dangerous than those because it's more subtle, and it's so close to the truth that it leads people in a lie.

And somewhere, I hope someone more articulate than myself has written about how The Bible traps God in a cage. It's too uncertain, dangerous, and unfathomable to live under God's lordship, so Christians erect a closed canon of early Christian writings as their god, their idol, and try to squeeze God into a leather-bound box, because he's more consumable that way. With the Bible, not God (and his continuing revelation), governing Christians, the church is a static institution, not a radical movement. (Nevertheless, the books of the Bible (and many important Christian writings since then) contain great truth, wisdom, and encouragement, and are the most important books pointing the way to a relationship with God.)

What a great list. About one point:
"Many Christian institutions of education, charity, evangelism, and commerce are poorly designed to promote discipleship to Jesus."

I go to a school that rebels against this, and I am so thankful for it. They teach the shocking notion that the gospel is about God and not man. That Christianity is a lifestyle dedicated to serving God and finding pleasure in God rather than just a free ticket to heaven.

I think part of the reason the church focuses more on the "salvation-centric rather than discipleship-centric" gospel is because the latter isn't appealing to sinful man. "You mean I have to make God #1 in my life? I have to SUMBIT to Him? What!?" Very few really want that. We all want to serve ourselves. So churches feel that by making the gospel more man-centered, they will get more people in the churches and more proclaiming Christianity, and hey, having people in church counts for something, right? But the reality is, it would be so much better if the church today would present the true gospel, the gospel that makes God the center and gives all the glory to God. Because man doesn't deserve glory.

I was a failing Christian for a long time. Heck, I still am. And I won't truly escape that until I get to heaven. But I'm trying harder to keep my focus more on God, seeking to learn more about Him, seeking to serve Him in any way I can. Living for God and not myself is the most fulfilling life I can possibly have.

That's great! Thanks for posting.