January 23, 2014

"I can imagine some proponents of religion saying that the true believer, doing anything God requires, feels free and joyful."

"God may seem to be saying what old-school parents say to children: You're going to do it and you're going to like it."

That's just something I said at the end of a long update to yesterday's post about marriage. I wanted to start a new post on this new day because I imagine readers only seeing the posts with today's date and because there are already 99 comments on that and they all predate the update, which I thought could use a fresh comments thread.


SJ said...

I don't find myself required to enjoy the things God requires.

I find that the more I get to know God, the more I understand about myself, others, and the pleasure of His Presence.

The pleasure of His Presence, even if the cost is a life of setting aside my desires and re-shaping my life after His moral code, is better than the life of not having His Presence.

But if you don't believe He exists or that I (or you) can have a relationship with Him, this probably means nothing to you.

dbp said...

I think Althouse is missing the point.

In life, much of the stress we feel is from doubts about decisions--should I buy this house? Marry this woman? Have kids? Take that new Job? etc. I think everyone has felt a sense of relief whenever a big decision has finally been made: Now one can just focus on the doing part, it is very freeing.

If the major decisions are made by God then that would be especially freeing. First of all, the decision is made and second and more importantly, there can be no doubt about the correctness either.

Meade said...

"I guess you can say that WaPo made the Democrats look like lefties who pounce on anything to push the old war-on-women theme, but let some Democrats step forward then and trash Pearce for reading the Bible and trying to understand it in the context of a loving, equality-minded couple. What Pearce is saying is the typical stuff of modern American church sermons, and liberals have heard and absorbed these sermons too."

The Democrats' old war-on-women theme is old and worn out. Republicans would be wise to revise, expand, and reform it. Democrat women: free yourselves from the oppression of political correctness. Acknowledge and own your sexual fantasies and desires. Cast off those partisan chains and experience the freedom of sexual ecstasy.

Unknown said...

God does not "require." Like a marriage, God leads. unlike a marriage, God is ALWAYS right. We are free to follow or not; if we choose not, then there are consequences -- not imposed, but natural.

DKWalser said...

This thread is for "commenting on the new material" that Althouse added to "the wife is to voluntarily submit" post from last night. One of Althouse's new discussion points ask "Are the lefties criticizing [the couple]?" I don't believe that the TPM article she linked to was criticising the couple. However, if you read the comments, TPM's commenters are very critical of the article. So, I think we can answer Althouse's question in the affirmative.

The left often claims to be in favor of tolerance. At the same time, they are also frequently in favor of laws requiring us to "do the right thing". So their calls for tolerance are chiefly calls for society to accept behaviors that run counter of traditional mores -- until the left is successful in getting public opinion to shift in favor of what was once thought by the majority as unacceptable. Once that shift has been made, the left is all too willing to enshrine the new morality in law as simply requiring people to do the right thing.

They are only in favor of allowing spouses to order their own marriage for so long as it takes for the traditional spousal roles to be out of favor with a majority. Once that tipping point has been reached, they'll move to criminalize as abusive relationships that were considered the norm 30 years or so ago.

Laslo Spatula said...

Cast off those partisan chains and try these furry pink handcuffs.

Meade said...

"Cast off those partisan chains and try these furry pink handcuffs."

Exactly! But it's 2014. Those furry handcuffs can be any color. Even rainbow. :-)

Renee said...

People obsess about submission, no one talks about the sacrifices husbands have to make.

I'm Catholic and we use Natural Family Planning. First the Sacrament of Marriage has to be done with free will, of ones choosing by both the man and woman. Second sex is consentual, or else it isn't an act of love.

The Church has men charting their wives cervical mucus.... NFP is taught as a couple, and for men to have a complete understandingof the female body this is how we facilitate that knowledge.

I will have refind it, but in developing countries the rate of domestic violence has gone down with NFP participants. When men understand women's bodies they respect them. The more respect, the more likely he will have a wife who actually WANTS to have sex with him.

Renee said...


Link to the research.

Anonymous said...

Here's the question: does God's law constrain us or protect us.

Everything I've experienced in life so far tells me that God's law does constrain us in the immediate and in some things, but in the long run, and with broad reach, has the effect of freeing us from things far worse than the "bad" of having first given something up.

In other words, God's law is more his observation and loving warning than an edict, the violation of which will bring down His wrath.

Or as my good Mormon friend says, "With God, there really is no punishment, there are only consequences, which He warns you about, which He hopes you'll figure out yourself, and (over time and to save yourself a lot of trouble) start to implicitly trust Him about."

And God's strongest warnings come in areas which, if not done right, result the most intractable and most incessantly sorrowful consequences.

One example: for all the celebration of creative proclivities and seeming concentration of talent in the gay communities, a work of art, the design of a living room, or even the production of a Broadway play is absolutely paltry compared to the voluntarily act of creating a new human being, which only heterosexual sexual unions can do.

So maybe, just maybe, a church's warning about gay marriage is really a loving warning about lost joy and lost opportunity - the opportunity to astoundingly be creative and joy in that creation, and to joy in the unending creation that can flow therefrom in perpetuity.

Is that too high of a concept for us all to grasp?

Trashhauler said...

Our host has the premise wrong. God doesn't require us to do anything. Oh, sure, He gives us plenty of guidance about what we should do. But He also gave us free will. We can choose to live as close to or far from His teachings as we wish.

Here is the mystery - perhaps the irony - of exercising free will. Every time I use my will in ways of which God would not approve, I eventually and inevitably wind up being less happy. Whenever I do things the way I've been taught that God would approve, I find myself being happier.

It takes an over-reliance on one's education to not understand what God wants. He wants us to not hurt people, if it can be avoided. He wants us help others. He wants us to be honest with ourselves and others. He wants us to love one another. These are things he wants from us personally, through the exercise of our free will. I get no credit for being a bastard personally while requiring others to do things I should do.

Richard Dolan said...

This struck me as odd: "WaPo quotes the Bible passage ("the book of Ephesians says wives should 'submit to their husbands in everything'") ..."

Who calls Paul's epistle 'the book of Ephesians'? Probably not someone who spends much time reading it.

Anonymous said...

It's not exactly unknown, even among secular people, to get a lift out of doing some onerous thing just because you believe it's what you ought to be doing. Something is keeping all those people going back to the gym every week.

"Obedience is teh r0xx0r lol!" -- Paul's tweet to the Ephesians

Ann Althouse said...

@Trashhauler I don't see how you're taking a position different from what I'm saying. Yeah, there is free will in that you are capable of violating the requirements. It's like the way you are free to commit crimes, but there still are legal requirements. God's requirements are harder to figure out and the punishments are not swift and sure and pardons may be given to favorites. Lots of things that in law would be seen as a violation of due process. But you seem to think the requirements are easy to see and to comply with. I don't think so, and I say that as someone who has read the Sermon on the Mount enough times to have memorized it.

Ann Althouse said...

"Who calls Paul's epistle 'the book of Ephesians'? Probably not someone who spends much time reading it."

It's standard to refer to "the books of the Bible," meaning every collection of chapters. I suspect that the motivation to write "the book of Ephesians" was to make it less apparent that the quote was not something Jesus said.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Paul's letter to the Ephesians" would make more sense.

Trashhauler said...

@Althouse: Perhaps you're right, professor. When it comes to God, I do tend to simplify things for myself, lest I fall into Screwtape-like fallacies.

I note, however, that due process is designed to limit the harm caused by human failings. Theologically, an omniscient deity does not operate under such limitations.

As for determining what God wants or requires, I agree that the devil can (literally) be in the details and that, in turn, requires me to stay humble in my exercise of free will - not an easy task for someone with my oversize ego. It takes practice and I fail regularly.

As a general guideline, I try to follow a precept of a well-known program - just do the next right thing. Works surprisingly well.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if someone has already contributed this, but one of my favorite prayers of St. Augustine:

O thou, who art the light of the minds that know thee, the life of the souls that love thee, and the strength of the wills that serve thee; help us so to know thee that we may truly love thee; so to love thee that we may fully serve thee, whom to serve is perfect freedom.

Dr Weevil said...

Sorry, but anyone who could write "Book of Ephesians" is too ignorant to be writing about anything connected in any way with religion - probably thinks 'Beatitudes' is three syllables and is part of the Dr Dre line of headphones.

And shouldn't this post and the last one have the 'Dr Weevil' tag? It still has that 'new tag' smell, since it's only been used three times before.

Anonymous said...

"God's requirements are harder to figure out..."

True, but not impossible. Christ said the highest objective was love god and to love your fellow man as yourself.

On this hangs, or in other words to this end exists, all the law and the prophets.

The sole and whole purpose of the law and all that the prophets did and said, was and is designed to enable us to love more fully, more constantly, and more widely.

Christ made clear, and in hid own inestimable way Bob Dylan echoed, that everyone is a servant to someone or something.

Which is why a rejection of or aversion to subservience is a delusion.

How ironic that the most ardent feminist who rejects any whiff of subservience in the home might strive and yearn to be in a high position, only to voluntarily be subservient to the capital markets and to shareholders. Can we grasp the deep irony: would rather serve a wall street portfolio manager than a husband and children right next to her.

Christ said that thr greatest among us was the one who served the most, in numbers and acts.

We all have a choice who we will serve, from the "sex addict" who serves only a narrow portion of him or her physical selves all thr way to Christ who voluntarily served every living soul.

We can choose in that range who and how much, "but you gotta serve somebody."

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typos, I'm at lunch typing on my phone. I hope the essential message got through.

David R. Graham said...

The BCP reference - service/perfect freedom - refers to service to God, the one without a second, not service to a lesser, such as wife, family, country, etc. Service - really, forebearing interaction - to the latter is also perfect freedom when following from the former service - really, trust without the separation of interaction. The phenomenon is existential, not speculative.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Bob and Ann. It should be "your gonna have to serve somebody."

David R. Graham said...

"But you seem to think the requirements are easy to see and to comply with. I don't think so, and I say that as someone who has read the Sermon on the Mount enough times to have memorized it."

They are impossible to comply with, and yes, far beyond anything that could be considered due process, especially fair due process.

But they are not requirements, they are descriptions. Their provenance is not law, morality or even custom and tradition. Their provenance is the gifting of freedom. The lifting of burden. We see the Bible oppositely to the way it reads.

Trashhauler said...

"Can we grasp the deep irony: would rather serve a wall street portfolio manager than a husband and children right next to her."

I disagree with this, pretty strongly. God gave us our talents to use, not to bury. We all make choices, compromise on life decisions, try to find the right balance. That is not to say that we each of us cannot do better. Those who believe in God have an easier time of it - they can seek guidance through prayer.

None of us should cast stones or take the measure of another's soul. That's not our job.

David R. Graham said...

Related: http://theological-geography.net/?p=615

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Trashhauler, my main point was to note the irony of a rejection of subservience BECAUSE it is subservience in one place, but a willing acceptance of subservience somewhere else, with apparently no issue with subservience in that context.

And it isn't judging or casting stones to discuss theology, principals, or practice, all of which are aspirational.

Fact is my mother worked on Wall Street - literally on Wall Street at 2 Wall Street - and it kept her sane, so I have no issue with where someone serves.

My point is if one says the reject all subservience it is delusion. No one escapes subservience. No one escapes having a master. We just choose which master we want, but we get the wages of that master certain and sure.

Trashhauler said...

@Quayle: Stated that way, I'll roger up to it.

etbass said...

"It's standard to refer to "the books of the Bible," meaning every collection of chapters."

Argue with whether it is technically correct, but the Professor is correct. It is very common phraseology in the evangelical church. The book of Philippians, The book of Romans, etc. Sure, it is Paul's letter to the Ephesians. But it is also called the book of Ephesians. And they're all part of the book of the New Testament.

Unknown said...

"God's requirements are harder to figure out..."

Not really. They aren't requirements, they are instructions. It's what God wants -- not requires. It's not about rules. (I kind of think rules is Catholic thing.)

But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

And it's linear.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

IMO the root of the problem is we all (myself included) start from "This is what I want." It is hard to "understand what God wants" when our nature is to justify ourselves. We want rules.

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.

The verse that goes "There is a way that seems right to a man, and it leads to death" doesn't day God is going to kill him for punishment.

The Godfather said...

Gosh it's good to find so much intelligent, thoughtful commentary about religion on a secular blog. Thanks, Althouse, and keep posting things that encourage such comments.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

The idea that doing God's will is itself a joy, quite apart from the fact that it also usually leads to temporal happiness, is the theme of C.S. Lewis' Perelandra.

The idea is that God mostly commanded things easily seen to be good in themselves, but made one rule for which there was no pragmatic reason. In our world, that was the bit about the apple; in Perelandra (Venus), it was a rule about never sleeping on the "Fixed Land." (In Lewis' Venus, most of the "land" is actually big floating islands made of plant material.) The prohibition is never explained (well, until the end of the book), but the idea seems to be that here is something for which your forgoing it has no cause other than God's bidding you not to do it. As Ransom (the protagonist) puts it, you can't walk out of the will of God, but He has given you a way to walk out of your own will.

n.n said...

God is the strictest of parents. There are few people willing to follow or trust his guidance. Original sin was rebellion with cause but without a clue. We have been treading water ever since.

Also, religion is a philosophy of morality, which is based on reasoned or self-evident articles of faith. The Christian religion is a model of the physical universe and metaphysical afterlife designed to optimize human development.

Trashhauler said...

"your gonna have to serve somebody."

This brings to mind what a priest once told me about serving God.

"Most people want to serve God. Trouble is, too many want to serve Him strictly in an advisory capacity."