Bible Blog Theology

Dear Lord – Can I Have Another Word?

I write a lot of articles for other websites/publications – but there are several reasons I maintain this blog.  One of which is that websites and publications of organisations are sometimes loathe to publish what they consider too controversial or edgy – they after all have their brand and stakeholders to think of.  Having neither a brand nor stakeholders gives me a certain freedom.  This follow up article to Dear Lord, Can I Have a Word? A Letter from a Contemporary Clergyman…  was not worthy of publication…so here it is!   Maybe it’s trying to be too clever – but I read this kind of gibberish every week – from those who profess to be clever followers of Christ and yet who mangle and/or ignore his word.  See what you think! 

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Dear Lord,

Can I have another word? https://www.christiantoday.com/article/dear.lord.can.i.have.a.word/134278.htm

You will be pleased to know that there was a considerable response from my first letter. But not a word from you. We now move on to Matthew chapter six. I realize that when you ‘preached’ the Sermon on the Mound, you did not speak in chapters or indeed verses. But, until I write my revised Woke Bible 2.0, we will stick with the convention. I am also aware that my question – ‘can I have another word?’ can have a double meaning. Does it refer to my speaking to you, or to your giving me another word? In this latter sense the problem is, as one of my correspondents pointed out after my first letter was published; how do we know what your word is?   My correspondent told me that their local parish minister has a simple solution – if they agree with what it written, they say that you said it, if they don’t, they say it was just an interpolation.   It’s a neat solution but does seem to open us up to the charge of just making up our words as yours.   But can I ask you? Did you really say the words in this chapter?

Don’t get me wrong – they are full of cracking tweetable material.   But my problem is that when I start examining them in context and thinking about what you actually mean, they create more problems than solutions.

Rewards in Heaven

For example I’m not sure about this ‘rewards in heaven’ thing. It seems a bit simplistic. I’m not sure how our Evangelical friends cope with it either – after all to them it is all about grace and nothing to do with ‘rewards’.   I have a great deal of sympathy with them. For me I quite like the idea of getting a decent reward here on earth – instead of some unknown possibly mythical future life.

‘Where your treasure is there your heart is’? Did you get that right? Did you not mean it the other way round – where your heart is, there your treasure is?   That’s the way we have always interpreted it. Then it allows us to have literal treasure on earth whilst claiming our heart is elsewhere. I’ve just seen Terence Malik’s A Hidden Life – https://theweeflea.com/2020/02/22/saturday-review-17-a-hidden-life-the-book-of-job-on-film/

I thought the advice the priest gave to the hero of the story was spot on – “God doesn’t care what you say, only what’s in your heart.”     But here you really seem to be saying that God does care what we say, and do, and store.

The Lord’s Prayer

You continue with this secret prayer theme by teaching us ‘the Lord’s Prayer”. There are so many questions I have about it but lets stick with this one. What is ‘babbling like pagans’?   What do you have against pagans? Are they not just seekers after the same truth? You seem quite dismissive of them – in todays world you would get banned from Twitter – too much ‘hate speech’!   And what’s babbling?   Do you mean what our charismatic friends call ‘tongues’? Or what we call the ‘just’ prayers (‘Lord, we just want to thank you, we just want to ask you etc.)? Surely you cannot be referring to our wonderfully written, deeply poetic, exquisitely crafted, sermons in prayer that we use in our Sunday services? (By the way your advice to keep these prayers secret does not really cut it – why should we deprive others of their beauty and wisdom – and ourselves of the kudos and cash when they are published?).

I noticed a mistake at the end of the Lord’s Prayer bit. You stated that we have to forgive or our Father will not forgive us. How does that make sense? I thought God always forgave – as that prophet of old (Rousseau) said: – ‘God will forgive me, that’s his job”. You seem to be rejecting the doctrine of unconditional forgiveness?

Fasting

I loved the bit about fasting.   My booklet on the spiritual disciplines talks a lot about fasting – it’s not something I do myself but it’s a lovely idea – all those Celtic monks fasting in their splendid isolation and drawing nearer to Nature.

Watch Your Eyes

But then I struggled with understanding your statement that ‘the eye is the light of the body’. Are you suggesting that we need to be careful what we read and look at? Don’t you trust us to be able to judge and discern?  Even worse is the idea that the whole body will filled with darkness if we don’t watch what we watch…that sounds a lot like the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. And we all know you were not a Calvinist – you would never say ‘you did not choose me, but I chose you’!

The Birds and the Flowers.

The one passage I did not expect to have trouble with was that beautiful section at the end of the chapter – the one all about birds and flowers and not worrying. It really made me worry.   It just seemed so impractical – and paternalistic – it sounds as though you are telling the poor just to be content with their lot and trust that God will provide.     The language is a bit unwise in today’s culture as well. I mean we all know that you do not literally feed the birds – and that it is a result of a random evolutionary progress as nature winds its way onwards and upwards – but a lot of fundamentalists don’t grasp that. Before you know it they will be sitting at their windows waiting for the ravens to fly in through their windows with their shopping – rather than relying on the State to give them their daily bread.  They might even start praying for rain in the midst of drought, rather than seeking to control the climate themselves.

The Kingdom of Righteousness

Finally (for now) lets just finish with your telling us to seek first your kingdom and righteousness. That’s fine providing we get to define what the kingdom is (we have written hundreds of books on it) and to determine righteousness so that it’s not over righteous.   I’m also concerned that you seem to be veering towards either the prosperity gospel or a kind of compliant pietism when you tell us that if we seek you first, everything else will be given to us.

Don’t Worry

I know worry is bad…and we need to chill a bit…but if we don’t get to think about what to do tomorrow then what will we do today?   I spend most of my present planning for the future – are you going to take that pleasure from me?

As I said at the beginning maybe it is better if we can have another word? I hope you won’t mind if we rewrite your word, so that it becomes more appropriate for today. After all is that not what they did in the first century?

Yours in doubt and certainty,

Clericus

Quantum 83 – Drag Queens; David Steele; Tyson Fury; Maya Forstater; Sex ‘work’; Domestic Violence; Harry Miller; Woke Novels; The Great Escape ; Hagi Sofia

 

18 comments

  1. As for “rewards in Heaven”
    – ultimately, “all is grace”. As St Augustine points out. Including (what we call) “our” merits and rewards. How can any Christian think of, desire, or incline to, or intend, or will, or perform, or persevere in, or be perfected in, the slightest good, if not by the grace of God ?

    God was Abraham’s “shield and exceeding great reward”, by the antecedent grace, providence, counsel and disposition of God Who had elected and called him – not because of anything in Abraham. What source has any good in creatures, but God alone ?

    Scripture uses the concept of reward, in both Testaments; so our human theologies, if they profess to be informed and moulded by Scripture, must submit to what Scripture says, contains & means. Our Churches & theological traditions are not Lord; Christ is Lord.

  2. Another cracker. You have really missed your calling.
    These posts do more for showing just how untenable Christianity ( and the bible) is and echo what non-believers point out and deconverts come to realise.

    Again.

    Well done .

      1. In the absence of evidence how is atheism untenable?

        This implies that Islam for example or any other religion that believes in a god/s is tenable.

        I know this isn’t your position so how do you demonstrate that Christianity is tenable but Judaism is not?

      2. <blockquote|There is no absence of evidence
        A claim all believers make.

        So, putting aside Christianity for a moment, please explain what evidence there is to demonstrate the veracity of the claims of Islam?

        And if your immediate thought was to answer either: I don’t know, there is none, or ask a Muslim, then I’m afraid your are in the same boat as they are.

    1. Douglas,
      You really don’t understand.
      But you could find a home and blend in, in the church of Clericus and his covenant with confusion, and confusion marketing.

      1. @Geoff

        You really don’t understand.

        Clearly this much seems apparent to you.
        Feel free to explain how I am not understanding. And if you can please avoid quoting Scripture – for obvious reasons – so much the better.

        Regards
        Ark

    2. A true claim all believers make.

      There, I fixed that for you. 🙂

      “So, putting aside Christianity for a moment, please explain what evidence there is to demonstrate the veracity of the claims of Islam?”
      Disagreeing with your apparent claim that there is no evidence for any (non-atheistic) religion does not imply that there is evidence for all (non-atheistic) religions. So asking David to provide evidence for one you nominate does not mean that he should or can do that.

      Going beyond that point, it’s not actually clear what your request is. Are you asking for evidence that Christianity (for example) exists? That would be a no-brainer. Or that it’s true in some respect? I doubt that you would disagree with it on every single point. Or that it’s true in every respect? That’s not simply a question about evidence. Your question appears to be too vague to be meanginful.

      1. You’re a clever bloke – after all you consider the world to be no more than 10K years old, so I suggest you fill in the answer to your own question.
        Irrespective of what answer I provide you likely will at any rate.
        The I recommend you go an bone-up on the Wedge Document. There may be a test later.
        Have a marvelous dinosaur-hugging day, Philip!

        Regards
        Ark.

      2. “I suggest you fill in the answer to your own question.”
        I’m supposed to answer my own question about what you meant by your request??

        I’ve read the Wedge document. It is of course a document from the ID movement, not from biblical creationists, so I’m not sure of it’s relevance here.

        If only I could hug a dinosaur, but they are extinct.

      3. If only I could hug a dinosaur, but they are extinct.

        Indeed they did go extinct -approximately 65 million years ago – as the fossil record shows.

      4. The fossil record doesn’t come with dates attached, so no, the fossil record doesn’t show that.

        And there is plenty of evidence that they have been around a lot more recently than that, including historical depictions and intact tissue.

      5. The fossil record doesn’t come with dates attached, so no, the fossil record doesn’t show that./blockquote>

        Oh, dear…. so you don’t know how dinosaur fossils are dated, do you Philip?

        And there is plenty of evidence that they have been around a lot more recently than that, including historical depictions and intact tissue.

        Are you truly going to cite the Mary Schweitzer find and the soft tissue in the bones of a T-Rex?
        Please don’t – for your own sake.
        And were you also going to include the infamous depiction of a supposed-stegosaurus in your next reply?

      6. “Oh, dear…. so you don’t know how dinosaur fossils are dated, do you Philip?”
        I DO know, and I also know that the dating methods are based on naturalistic presuppositions, have been shown to not be reliable, and have been shown to not be accepted as reliable by mainstream scientists.

        And I missed something last time:
        “Indeed they did go extinct -approximately 65 million years ago – as the fossil record shows.”
        How could the fossil record possibly show that even if the 65 million years was correct?
        That there are (believed to be) no more recent fossils is an argument from a lack of evidence. Surely you know that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence? And it’s not as though we should necessarily expect to find more recent fossils if they lived more recently. After all, we know of other fossils dated as old or much older with no more recent examples but they still exist today, including the Coelacanth and the Wollemi Pine.

        “Are you truly going to cite the Mary Schweitzer find and the soft tissue in the bones of a T-Rex? Please don’t – for your own sake.”
        So I make reference to scientific evidence, and you don’t want me to talk about it? Don’t you care about actual evidence?

        “And were you also going to include the infamous depiction of a supposed-stegosaurus in your next reply?”
        Well, I can’t post pictures here, so no. But that stegosaurus (which I’m sure nobody would doubt if it were not for being in conflict with the evolutionary worldview), is just one of numerous depictions and descriptions. In fact a whole book has been published illustrating such, called Untold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons.

      7. Before I continue, you have mentioned the terms naturalist science and naturalistic presuppositions,.
        As you obviously have a patent objection to naturalist science – a term I was baffled by when I first came across it, can you please tell us what other science you are alluding to?

        The silly YEC T-Rex ”claims” have all been debunked and even Mary Schweitzer, herself a Christian, seemed embarrassed by the hijacking of her work for ideological reasons by Young Earth Creationists..
        And if all you are going to do is accept YEC claims in the face of scientific evidence then you are simply being blatantly dishonest.

        Untold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons.
        You reference a YEC book from AIG? Are you serious?

        Philip, there is a biblical saying about throwing Pearls before swine that many Christians are fond of dishing out to non-believers.
        I reckon this is a very good time for me to reference your holy book and say: ”Back atcha!”

      8. “Before I continue, you have mentioned the terms naturalist science…”
        Naturalistic actually.

        “As you obviously have a patent objection to naturalist science – a term I was baffled by when I first came across it, can you please tell us what other science you are alluding to?”
        It should be self-evident if you understand what naturalistic science is, which I have already explained. If naturalistic science is science that only accepts natural, i.e. not supernatural, explanations. I guess in theory you could have supernaturalistic science that only accepts supernatural explanations, but that would be just as bad. So clearly what science should do is go with the evidence, regardless of whether that evidence points to natural or supernatural explanations.

        “The silly YEC T-Rex ”claims” have all been debunked…”
        What claims? Mary Schweitzer’s?

        “…even Mary Schweitzer, herself a Christian, seemed embarrassed by the hijacking of her work for ideological reasons by Young Earth Creationists.”
        What “hijacking”? Creationists merely highlighted the implications of the research, which even evolutionists recognised. When the news first came out I saw a commenter on P.Z. Myers’ blog say that the creationists would love this, because even they recognised the implications of it.

        “And if all you are going to do is accept YEC claims in the face of scientific evidence then you are simply being blatantly dishonest.”
        If all you are going to do is accept evolutionist claims in the face of scientific evidence then you are simply being blatantly dishonest.

        “You reference a YEC book from AIG? Are you serious?”
        You want evidence for a creationist claim, but refuse to consider evidence put forward by the creationists? Isn’t that an extreme form of confirmation bias? “Don’t bother with evidence, I don’t want to see it!”
        Also, I don’t think it’s published by AiG.

  3. Well done David – reminds me a bit of the ‘Screwtape letters’ where we get a peep into how the other side view the Truth. In your ‘can I have a word Lord?’ articles I have to imagine myself coming from a biblical stance which is not my own – enlightening and sometimes terrifying (‘I hope you won’t mind if we re-write your Word’)! Keep up the good work.

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