7 The Gospel MessageThat I Hear

Robert Wheeler: I had not intended to make of this page a forum for discussions of religion and social issues, but it is what it is – that is who I am and if anyone is offended they don’t have to visit, I suppose.

What I am saying in standing up to fundamentalism [as defined by Jimmy Carter in my post of Jul 26, 2011, titled “Fundamental” Problems]  was said long ago by a well known and respected Baptist minister, Tony Compolo. See http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2004/08/Evangelical-Christianity-Has-Been-Hijacked-An-Interview-With-Tony-Campolo.aspx

I had never thought of myself as an evangelist, but I suppose, in the best sense of the word as I view it [not of conversion to our brand of Christianity, but of the good news that we are invited to a full and rich life of love and compassion], that is what I have been. I just don’t see the gospel as being bound by religion, denomination or belief.  Rather, the good news is that the Kingdom of God is at hand – it relies upon each of us and is seen in our wonder of life (the heavens are telling the glory of God), in right relationships with others and all of life, and all that supports it. The message I get from the Gospels is that life is sacred – you are special just the way you are; cherished and loved.

7 The Gospel MessageThat I Hear

6 On Implications of a Dualistic World

Robert Wheeler: If I believed in a dualistic world, spirit above vs matter below, and in the notion that humankind lost its “image of God” to Original Sin, Frank’s argument (hmm . . . man’s logic getting in the way of living?) might be appealing. I see “righteousness,” not as a passing grade on God’s rules of the game test but as living in right relationship. We, again, will have to lovingly agree to disagree?

William Wheeler:  Of course we can disagree and I’m glad we’re both in agreement that disagreement does not equal hatred. But you have to admit, Frank accurately reflects what the Bible actually says, he didn’t make this up.

Dualism can mean a lot of things, not at all sure what you intend. Spirit above vs matter below seems to have a bit of a yin-yang connotation that is not at all how God reveals himself in His Word. By definition we are different from God, though uniquely created to be a reflection of God’s image, according to the Scriptures.

SMS: I haven’t had time to read any of the sermons, but hope to do so soon. However, your comment about humankind loosing it’s “image of God” to Original Sin is an interesting perspective. I think I can agree with that. Also, whoever is judging those who are homosexual had better be careful of their own sins. A sin is a sin is a sin is a sin!

William Wheeler:  SMS, you’ll find that you share Frank’s perspective that sin is sin, that’s critical to Frank’s point. The Gospel makes no sense apart from seeing what God reveals as his perspective of sin. His perfect holiness and perfect justice could only be reconciled with his love in Christ on the cross. The message of Scripture is not that SOME sins are not okay, but that ALL sin is not okay and we all have a problem of eternal magnitude in the coming judgement. Jesus said we are to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect – we all miss that mark and eventually discover we didn’t just miss, we were aiming the opposite direction. Unless God himself does something we’re doomed, and that’s exactly what he did do in Christ Jesus…offered to all who will repent and rest their hope in him.

According to Scripture we aren’t to judge those outside the church, we are to declare truth and offer them the hope of salvation and deliverance from their sins. For those in the church, we are commanded to build each other up in the grace and knowledge of God, encourage each other to holiness, obedience and dependance on Christ alone with an attitude of thanksgiving. Judgement begins with the household of God, says Paul.

6 On Implications of a Dualistic World

5 On Frank Turk

William Wheeler:  I appreciate the Frank Turk article I linked a week or so ago, Frank gets it right.

Robert Wheeler: I appreciate your taking the time to view this. I haven’t heard of Frank Turk – what’s the link?

William Wheeler: http://www.teampyro.org/2012/05/another-approach.html

Good job, Frank. Direct, to the point, and it makes people own what they are saying and doing. This gets people to the point where they have to make the decision of whether they truly believe or not.

Robert Wheeler: I see you have linked on your Facebook page Frank Turk’s “conversation” on beliefs relating to morality, homosexuality and Hell . Very witty. I like Dad’s statement a number of years ago, “Christians think that Christianity is all about dying and going to Heaven. I say absolutely not. It is about living a life of eternal significance.” He referred to Jesus’ story of the separation of the sheep from the goats . . . “inasmuch as you did it/ did not do it . . .”

William Wheeler: There we go. Be sure to read Tom Chantry’s responses to Hannah at 8:16AM & 8:30AM. Tom deals with what love really looks like and does when facing critical situations.

Frank is witty, agreed, but he honestly deals with the real issues and Tom Chantry shines a bright light on it with his comments in the meta.

William Wheeler: I would agree that this is about much more than some day dying and going to heaven. But that doesn’t address Frank’s comments in any way. The characterization of Frank’s comments as pertaining to “morality, homosexuality and Hell” is a distortion of what Frank intended…which is what he clearly said: all of us have a problem before the judgment throne of God, not just homosexuals.

The much more than is that if “any man is in Christ, he is a new creation.” Eternal life, and it starts now.

5 On Frank Turk

4 On Adam Hamilton: Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White

Robert Wheeler: Yesterday in Sunday School I was introduced to Adam Hamilton in a video series on his book, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. What I have only dared intimate of my acknowledgement of a world in which there is no division between …spirit and matter or science and religion, where “right belief” does not trump “good fruits,” and where atheism may be nothing more than a rejection of an idolized, static God of “mainstream Christianity, he addresses openly with the zeal that has become associated with tele-evangelists. I am enjoying his sermon on Science and Religion and a number of his archived sermons from 1999 to the present, which may be found at http://www.cor.org/worship/sermon-archives/show/sermons/Science-and-God/

I happened upon a site that expresses better than I did why a Christian, in my view, must love and not judge others on matters of sexual orientation: http://www.cor.org/worship/sermon-archives/show/sermons/When-Dealing-with-Sinners-Anti-Homosexual-Judgemental/

William Wheeler:  Listening as I have time. Right off, I agree that it is a problem that Christians are perceived in this culture as “anti-homosexual” that we have a “special contempt for homosexuals.” In fact, it is not true of Christianity. Done for now, I’ll comment from a Christian perspective when I’ve had a chance to finish listening and digest this.

4 On Adam Hamilton: Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White

3 Compassion, Accountability, and Forgiveness

Robert Wheeler:  In the discussion of this past weekend some issues were raised about unconditional love, forgiveness and sin. The question was whether, under my definition of unconditional love, there can be any meaning of forgiveness. It IS a problem of definition. A few years ago, my brother, Richard, referred me to a book titled Philosophy in the Flesh, by Lakoff and Johnson. It posited the problem, as the authors saw it, of philosophy, and I would also say theology, treating ideas as though they were objects like any other physical thing that we can manipulate. I see a number of religious ideas as subject to that problem. I have been asked what I have meant by certain statements. Indulge me to explain my meaning of my statements concerning compassion by starting with definitions.
Sin: “anything that separates us from the love of God” (thank you, Dr. Nida)
Compassion: “the ability to see, to be sensitive to, and to share the joy as well is suffering of another”
Forgiveness: “a gift we give ourselves to restore us to a relationship with another”
Accountability: “a just, dispassionate adjustment of accounts through rational, generally accepted practices ”
And finally, one of my favorites, Righteousness: “a dynamic of right relationships, and not a ‘thing’ to be possessed.”
From my view, Jesus, the “love of God,” and “the kingdom that is at hand,” have everything to do with right relationships; and meaningful relationships are compassionate ones.
Albert Schweitzer was once asked about his notion of “respect for life:” do you use antibiotics? “Yes I do, but I do not use them lightly.” Elsewhere he has been quoted, “By having a reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world. By practicing reverence for life we become good, deep, and alive.” . . .

Forgetting has nothing to do with forgiveness. Forgiveness and accountability are two separate matters. That is the reason that we can “discipline” our children and still unconditionally love them (which does not have to be a negative action, and must not be destructive). After we have disciplined our own children, do we go about looking for other children to discipline? No. They are not our responsibility although it may be our responsibility to protect other helpless persons that we see harmed with no power to protect themselves. Even that has some limits of social responsibility. This is what I meant when I suggested that the only person who has the right to decide whether their sexual orientation or how they act upon it is sin or not, is good or bad, or is right or wrong is that person and the one with whom they are in relationship.

3 Compassion, Accountability, and Forgiveness

2 On Compassion and Forgiveness

[Someone responded by asking what was “unconditional and unrestrained compassion,”  and what, then, would be the purpose of forgiveness?]

Robert Wheeler: I wasn’t expecting a question, but, I suppose as a Wheeler kid, I welcome it. It challenges me to examine what I have said. I think that today it is, perhaps has always been, socially acceptable to reserve our love for family, community, or nation and to withhold it from those viewed as outsiders or otherwise different from ourselves.  As members of that society, I believe that is probably applicable to Christians as well. It is always difficult to know the source of the ideas that we come to “alone.” I know that Tolstoy, a century ago, noted that established Christianity, even then, sanitized Jesus command to love and to give “all you have” to the poor, or to whomever your needy neighbor is. Tolstoy criticized the organized church, in all its forms and flavors of that time, of suggesting that Jesus didn’t really mean what he demanded. What I find interesting about modern Christianity is that it is politically popular for it to demand a literal reading of the Bible, even if it conflicts with science, reason, experience, or even other parts of the Bible; but it treats the commands of Jesus as metaphorical, not to be taken literally. I think that is what I mean by “unconditional and unrestrained compassion.” Love and compassion are unlimited “commodities,” unlike natural resources such as oil, gas, coal, even time.  It seems that mom and dad are an example for us kids of unconditional and unrestrained compassion: their love has been all that we kids needed and more, it knew no boundaries and it was given unconditionally.

I am sure that I derived some level of this conviction from the compassionate messages of Marcus Borg, Dominic Crossan, Karen Armstrong, even Eric Fromm, and especially from Mom and Dad. I think that “unconditional and unrestrained compassion” is a milder form of the former Episcopalian Bishop, John Shelby Spong, who suggested that a Christian “love wastefully.”

SMS:  The individual who thinks they need to forgive someone else because of a lifestyle choice seems rather pompous to me. It is our job to love one another and leave the validity of others choices up to God! He is the parent/judge we are the children! Could our judging the choices made by others be interpreted as “tattling”?  Don’t worry about the “sliver” and another person side until you have managed to remove the “log” from your own.

TB: there are some sick puppies out there, and I see a few of them up close and personal in a prison daily. If you allow them the freedom to determine “good or bad, right or wrong, sin or not,” with a religious stamp of approval, you are giving them a license to wreak havoc on the rest of the world.

SMS:  I don’t have a problem with holding people responsible for their actions. As a matter of fact, I believe very strongly that they SHOULD be held accountable. I am not validating any actions, I am just saying it is not our place to “judge” the act. I also believe the instance to which Rob was referring is not a criminal act!

2 On Compassion and Forgiveness

1 On Gay Marriage: Love and Do Not Judge

Robert Wheeler: . . . I know there has been a lot of discussion about gay marriage long before Pres. Obama recently supported it. I have many friends who have been harmed by social exclusion because of their sexuality or orientation. I have a blog that I posted about a year ago that addresses the assumptions that we make about the GLBT community, about the science relating to it and scriptural principles that have been applied to it. In a nutshell, the ethic of Christianity is unconditional and unrestrained compassion. To those who read passages from the scriptures to support their right to judge another, I ask whether you can both love unconditionally and judge fairly the circumstances and practices of another person. That, again, affirms a comment common to all of my blogs: “by their fruits you will know them.” My blog site is Love and Do Not Judge, which may be found at https://lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/

1 On Gay Marriage: Love and Do Not Judge