June 8, 2014

Questioning the sincerity of Althouse's religion.

From the comments on my post "You know what's weird about all the pushback I'm getting on the Biblical reading I provided?," Mid-Life Lawyer said:
For many of us it is offensive when those who do not properly respect the scriptures or give them their proper authority, pull them out and use them out of context to make a political point....

I have read your site for several years, commenting occasionally, and I feel pretty confident that you don't take much stock in the whole Christianity thing.
The Godfather said:
I get the feeling that some Christian commenters don't think your citations of scripture are sincere. They think you're being a smart ass. It doesn't really bother me: You're a law prof, and my experience leads me to conclude that all law profs are smart asses.
And Jon Burack said:
As to Mid-Life Lawyer who is "offended" by people pulling Bible quotes out and not giving them the take approved by "proper authority," I think Martin Luther let that cat out of the bag a long time ago. Or maybe it was the printing press. The proper authority long ago went up in a puff of smoke.
That's all very interesting and fair, because just 2 days ago I blogged "I am pervasively skeptical that people actually believe the religion they profess to believe," linking to my own comments in an earlier thread:
Reading the Gospels, I see Jesus as challenging people about their beliefs, perceiving that they do not truly believe, and holding them to a much higher standard of what real belief is.

When I look at what purportedly religious people say and do, I question whether they are what they claim to be. Religion is used to serve human interests on earth, and all of that is pragmatic and social.

Show me the true believer. What would the true believer do and say?

158 comments:

Ann Althouse said...

For the record, I was raised in the culture of Protestants. My father's family were Presbyterians, and my mother's family were Methodists, including ministers.

somefeller said...

Show me the true believer. What would the true believer do and say?

Something tells me that No True Scotsman will make a few appearances in this thread.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Honestly, I don't even see why this statement provoked such controversy.

If Protestants actually believed what their churches teach, they wouldn't denomination hop.

And if more Catholics actually believed that Jesus was present in the Eucharist, they wouldn't miss Mass to catch a football game, because your Lord and Savior versus some guy with a ball?

Also, if people really believed what the church taught about sin, they'd hit the confessional more frequently.

As for Protestants-- in 1950, their churches didn't allow contraception or sterilization. Now, most denominations consider those things 'responsible parenting,' even though there's no support for contraception in scripture. What's the POINT of believing what your church teaches, if the teachings keep changing? If truth changes in response to fads, it's not truth, is it?

On the other hand, Pentecost is a great time to pray for the gift of Faith. I've found that the first step to believing what the Church teaches is just to say "I don't agree with this, but since I believe that this is the Church founded by Jesus, I'll accept it for now and try to figure out WHY you're saying this." (I was a teenage Women's Ordination freak.)

John Lynch said...

So... are we ignoring St. Paul and all of the Apostles? Are we ignoring the Old Testament? Both are extremely clear about homosexuality. There's no way around it. Do they not matter because they are inconvenient?

Christ, it seemed to me, had little use for people who justified their own sin. He forgave, but only when people admitted their faults.

It seems to me that He was reacting against the Hellenistic and Roman culture of permissiveness that he and the Jews lived in. At the time of his birth Judea and Galilee were part of the Roman Empire, and the most observant Jews lived out in the country. In the cities life was cosmopolitan, and in the ancient world sexual mores were about as relaxed as they are now. I can't see observant Jews, or Christ, condoning the sexual promiscuity and permissiveness that was common in the first century.

Remember the Christ that removed the money lenders from the temple with violence. He was not a cosmopolitan.

That doesn't mean much legally, but I cannot see a scriptural justification for gay marriage. It isn't there, and trying to find it isn't honest.

The Crack Emcee said...

"What would the true believer do and say?"

Everything I do and say - but with "God told me" added on,...

Strick said...

Meaning no offense, your comment about your background may say something about other peoples' religious beliefs (though nothing about their depth or sincerity) but it says nothing about yours. To be meaningful, you'd have to tell us what you profess.

Regardless, this is less about your intent than the appearance. So many of us have experienced non-religious people misquoting scripture to tell us what we're supposed to believe, it's no surprise that we assume that's what's happening when someone quotes scripture to us so, shall we say, where their intent is unclear? Intentionally not expressed?

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Having some passing familiarity with cultural Protestantism thanks to great-uncle Bob the minister doesn't change the fact that your pontifications on religion are generally juvenile and banal.

You're in patronizing Schoolmarm Ann mode on this topic but did you ever consider that people converse with you in this realm without revealing that they think you are bullshitting, dumb or delusional?

Ann Althouse said...

"Meaning no offense, your comment about your background may say something about other peoples' religious beliefs (though nothing about their depth or sincerity) but it says nothing about yours."

One's background is significant. It's evidence, particularly of one's willingness to read and interpret scripture for yourself (as opposed to feeling the need for an authority).

"To be meaningful, you'd have to tell us what you profess."

Well, then you are severely impaired in your search for meaning.

Note that my point is that I don't take people to believe what they profess to believe!

"… by their fruits you will know them."

Wilbur said...

Eric Hoffer had a few things to say about True Believers.

Ann Althouse said...

"You're in patronizing Schoolmarm Ann mode on this topic but did you ever consider that people converse with you in this realm without revealing that they think you are bullshitting, dumb or delusional?"

Since my point is to encourage people to doubt the face value of the statements people make about religion, I hope people do make the effort to apply that effort to any statements I make.

Think about how this corresponds to Strick's
concern about my failure to profess a religion.

I'm not a "professor" … in the sense of one who professes. But I am a professor or, as you feel moved to say, a "schoolmarm."

You know, Jesus was a teacher. Do you consider him schoolmarmish?

somefeller said...

Having some passing familiarity with cultural Protestantism thanks to great-uncle Bob the minister doesn't change the fact that your pontifications on religion are generally juvenile and banal.

As opposed to the great subtlety and depth one finds in the postings of I Have Misplaced My Pants. Perhaps she can give us the latest updates on her current crusades, at the local schoolhouse or elsewhere.

jr565 said...

Ann Althouse wrote:

Note that my point is that I don't take people to believe what they profess to believe!

Does that also go for secular humanists, and liberals/conservatives? If no one believes what they profess to believe that it's ultimately a null effect. Or are you just saying that this is a sin of religious folks.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Most bloggers would avoid subjects in which they have very little interest or experience.

For you that would include sports and religion.

jr565 said...

The argument that communists make is that it works, its just that no one has really tried REAL communism yet. In other words, all the communists are traitors.
Michael Moore, professes to be for the 1% and yet his divorce papers went public and he and his wife are fighting over a sprwaling 2 million dollar mansion. And he wants her to accout for every quilt that she has. And they have 9 residences. So, does he REALLY believe that capitalism is bad?

There are a lot of hypocrites to go around, religious or no.

John Lynch said...

One more thing-

Early Christianity arose in a cultural context very similar to our own. The Roman Empire was a decadent place, and sex was everywhere in all forms. Entertainment was a live version of what we see on TV- sex, violence, horror. People fought to the death, or were ripped apart by animals in the Coliseum. There's nothing happening now that early Christians weren't exposed to. It's ridiculous to think that they would change their minds if only they knew what we know now. There's nothing new under the sun.

It is naive to think that the early Church, which was a reaction to pagan liberality, was somehow wrong and should be ignored now that our modern world looks more and more like what they experienced themselves. If anything, the Apostles are becoming more, not less, relevant. History isn't moving forward, at least as far as morals. It's moving backward.

Looking at the similarities to the ancient and modern world, the Christian religion ought to be evolving back to what it was as the world moves closer to the environment that produced Christ and St. Paul in the first place. That's exactly what's happening, too. Reading the New Testament, does anyone think the Apostles would be surprised by anything that's happening now?

Jason said...

Jesus first had a firm grasp of what the scriptures said. And then he got his own house in order and lived according to what He preached, AND in congruence with scripture at that time.

And THEN he started with the lectures and the challenging.

You haven't done that yet, and you're in no position to "challenge" anyone else on it, because you've demonstrated yourself, repeatedly and over a prolonged period of time, to have a very cartoonish, distorted and downright false view of what these people actually believe.

You're not as good at this as you seem to think you are, professor.

Ann Althouse said...

"Most bloggers would avoid subjects in which they have very little interest or experience. For you that would include sports and religion."

1. I'm not "most bloggers."

2. I blog entirely based on what I'm interested in, so whatever I blog is something I am interested in.

3. You might want to try to understand the way I am interested in the things that I blog about, for example, I'm interested in human psychology and in rhetoric, particularly in the what people say and what they really mean and why they do what they do.

4. As for interest in religion, what is your knowledge about me that you base your statement on? Are you aware that I have taught a law school course in The Constitution and Religion for 13 years?

rhhardin said...

"I allow no one, not even Elohim, to doubt my sincerity."

Lautreamont

Alex said...

Christians are so easily offended! Buck up.

rhhardin said...

Useful etymology to know : animosity comes from Gk anemos, wind.

Propose anemometers to measure hostile work enviroment when it comes up in the next mandatory breast awareness seminar.

Anonymous said...

"For the record, I was raised in the culture of Protestants. My father's family were Presbyterians, and my mother's family were Methodists, including ministers."

That certainly shows, cherry picking as a theology.

"I think Martin Luther let that cat out of the bag a long time ago."
Martin Luther also found that polygamy was biblical. So what if in every polygamic society women have become a poor second. "I see Jesus as challenging people about their beliefs", and as such they shouldn't oppose anything.
Unless it's saying racist things about obama phones or something, that's clearly beyond the pale.

What is amusing is that miss protestant cherry pickster is a professor of law, that judgemental "science".

rhhardin said...

I think Eric Hoffer had a little 50s paperback The True Believer, cover showing a guy with balloons coming out of his head.

Checking amazon...

Here's one but not the original cover, which was less stylized.

Sharc said...

"You know, Jesus was a teacher. Do you consider him schoolmarmish?"

Not sure that's really a comparison you want to draw.

"I don't take people to believe what they profess to believe."

Not too profound to say merely that there are hypocrites. But based on the prior quote, I'm pretty sure you don't understand what most Christians believe.

miller said...

For what it's worth, this is an excellent observation:
I am pervasively skeptical that people actually believe the religion they profess to believe.

It's not disparaging religion or faith. It's saying that religion and faith, in order to be treated as a serious occupation, should show its importance by the behavior of the people who profess belief in religion and faith.

Seems that most faith is theological hand-waving. Actual faith would involve observable, measurable results.

A religion that has as a central premise that "God is love," for example, would be expected to show love as a central behavior. And when the central behavior is not love, then the question is: what is the real religion being displayed?

Bruce Hayden said...

One's background is significant. It's evidence, particularly of one's willingness to read and interpret scripture for yourself (as opposed to feeling the need for an authority).

Ann does make a good point here. We (at least I, but it appears she too) come from a tradition that questions biblical interpretations. One of the things that arguably drove the Reformation was that people could read the Bible themselves, and no longer were dependent upon the priesthood, et al., for finding out what was in the scriptures, and, ultimately, what they mean.

Still, I don't pretend to know how seriously people here, or really anywhere, take their religious learnings. This is in their heads, and between them and their God. I am not a mind reader, no matter how much so many women want us guys to be.

Still, I do sometimes wonder, when members of an authoritarian church, like the Roman Catholic one, espouse, and work counter to, the required teachings of their faiths. I am thinking in particular of prominent people claiming to be Roman Catholic, who work in favor of more open abortion, etc.

But, I am of a couple minds here. On the one hand, their authoritarian church has mandated a certain belief system to be a real member of that church. But, on the other hand, raised in the mainstream Protestant tradition, I don't accept that the leadership in authoritarian churches have any sort of divine right to speak for their deity. Still, church membership is a voluntary association, and you join such based on the rules and regulations in place at that time, which in the RC case, includes acceptance of the Pope and high clergy as determining these matters.

Much easier to be a Protestant, where it is really none of our clergy's business what we really believe. Their beliefs are of more importance, because they might impact whether they get hired, or in the less top down denominations, fired. After all, if you are pro-choice, you don't want to spend every church service hearing about the evils of abortion. Rather, you either ultimately switch churches, or the church switches ministers.

BrianE said...

Paul

I'm curious if your parents were religious?

I've often noticed you fairly represent Christian doctrine, so I, along with others, was somewhat surprised by your use of 1 John 4 in the context of that post.
My impression is though you do not believe the basic thesis of Christianity, you also do not attack it.

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God."
and later:

"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments."

and still later:

"Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself....And this is the testimony that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life."
-from 1 John 4 and 5

Should Christians spend more time objecting to the rampant debauchery that by all appearances is celebrated in popular culture-- be it in the music or film or our cult of personality? Guilty.

But from my viewpoint, there has been somewhat of a bait and switch. We've entered a new narrative. The mere mention of sin and homosexuality in the same sentence branded you as a homophobe. It's a meaningless charge in most cases, but it has it's emotional effect.
Now defending the institution of marriage from a re-definition that will fundamentally change that construct and render the term marriage meaningless in the context of a stable nuclear family casts that person as a pariah.

The family should be the place where certain characteristics provide the nurturing quality that leads to healthy, emotionally balanced children. Those characteristics should include trust, fidelity, emotional vulnerability, physical security.

Marriage has been severely damaged by the casual attitude our society has taken. And it's our children that have suffered the brunt of the damage. Infidelity, selfishness, neglect are rampant.

To the extent that Christians lose focus on the Good News that God loves us and willing sent His Son to be our sacrifice that we might have new life, your charge that we don't believe what we profess to believe is true.

Alex said...

Notice the threatening comments from Christians. They're so humble and Jesus-like.

Chuck said...

I'd really like to see religion left out of the legal fight over the normalization of homosexuality under federal law.

I have never thought that my religion informed my view of the 14th Amendment's purview of state laws on marriage and sexual conduct.

I really think it is a loser's argument; to say that the state's ultimate limit on regulation of matters traditionally and securely conceded to the states (marriage rules, to name just one) only stop at the edge of First Amendment religious freedom gives very little respect to the several states.

I do not care about Professor Althouse's religious views. Or even any lack thereof.

What I still want to know is why, after more than 210 years of a U.S. Constitution that clearly contained no federal right to homosexual acts or homosexual marriage, Justice Kennedy and his bare majority on the Court have suddenly found such a right?

The answer to that question ought to be within Althouse's job description, whereas theology would not be.

Ann Althouse said...

"Does that also go for secular humanists, and liberals/conservatives? If no one believes what they profess to believe that it's ultimately a null effect. Or are you just saying that this is a sin of religious folks."

It applies to everything.

For example, I know a lot of male lefties who purport to believe in feminism. I've never taken that at face value.

I'd say it about things like taste in music and in the interest in traveling, going to the beach, and reading.

I'd say it about professed love of family and country and belief in equality.

Everything.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...

"One's background is significant. It's evidence, particularly of one's willingness to read and interpret scripture for yourself (as opposed to feeling the need for an authority). "

It's evidence of nothing. One's religion might be a hand-me-down but faith is realized between the individual and God.

Contrary to what you appear to think, most believers don't need an authority to interpret scripture. What is clear is clear, what is obscure or contradictory will be understood in time. Or it won't.

It isn't a law text, and even if you're Billy Graham's love child, it will be essentially empty if you don't bring a longing for faith to it's reading.

Ann Althouse said...

"Not sure that's really a comparison you want to draw."

The issue is: Is it bad to be teacher-like. Not: Isn't Althouse a lot like Jesus.

On the other hand, anyone who asks "What would Jesus do?" is comparing himself to Jesus. Are you saying that's presumptuous and wrong?"

***

"I said, 'You know they refused Jesus too,' and he said, 'You're not him.'"

George M. Spencer said...

"What would the true believer do and say?"

Love.

Ann Althouse said...

Jesus said: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Was Jesus telling us we were supposed to compare ourselves to God? Would you say he shouldn't have said that?

Ann Althouse said...

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."

Didn't Jesus tell encourage becoming teachers?

traditionalguy said...

The Presbyterians had a good service this morning, and we talked about the Jesus followers waiting in Jerusalem for Jesus' predicted gift that Jesus called the Promise of the Father. It arrived on the Feast Day of Pentecost.

That is what is still needed to finally convert men into Christ-ians. The Spirit of Truth.

So when theology teachers create confusion, it is time to re-read John's Gospel and his First Epistle that put all focus onto God's love in the man Jesus and the power it brings to us.

BTW, nobody is ashamed of power.

Strick said...

Richard Dawkins's family were probably Anglican. Let's just say it proves nothing to any intelligent person.

And if you want us to go by what we can see of your fruit here, you can't really complain if many people don't see much that makes them think of you as a practicing Christian. No offense once again, your just getting an unenviable chance to see how others see you. As much as you want to believe we're the problem, perhaps you should look closer to home.

hombre said...

"Religion is used to serve human interests on earth, and all of that is pragmatic and social."

Regardless of how it may be "used," there is no reason to believe God intended that the purpose of Christianity be to "serve human interests on earth." That perspective is, however, central to the argument of secular progressives who subvert the faith to promote a political agenda.

"Show me the true believer. What would the true believer do and say?"

"True believer" is a term of disparagement when applied to the Christian faithful, as here.

The two statements provide evidence that, as Christians go, Althouse is neither competent, nor sincere.

There's a surprise. LOL.

Saint Croix said...

When I look at what purportedly religious people say and do, I question whether they are what they claim to be. Religion is used to serve human interests on earth, and all of that is pragmatic and social.

Ugh, atheism makes you boring, Althouse!

Religious people, first and foremost, believe in an afterlife. If you listen to them, or read their books, religious people talk about the afterlife all the time. They talk about souls, about spirituality, they talk about things that are not pragmatic at all.

I'll give you an example of how religious people think. Religious people aren't worried about babies who are aborted. Aborted babies are with God.

Religious people are worried about the people who are killing the baby. They're worried about the mother, the father, the doctor, the judge who have all conspired to kill the baby.

I get mad about baby-killing, but that's not me being religious. That's me being secular! Religious people pray for lost souls, and love their enemies.

If we focus on souls, the baby is fine. It's the killers who are in trouble, who are lost, who are truly separated from God.

Jim said...

Ann, given your comments in this thread, it appears you are not familiar with the concepts of "law" and "gospel". Do some research before asserting any authority in matters of faith. A little understanding would go a long way toward making you appear less ignorant on this topic.

Saint Croix said...

When you accept the afterlife as a reality, you have no fear of death. And the problems of this life are largely irrelevant. They are nothing compared to concepts like infinity or eternity.

You might wonder, why didn't Jesus condemn slavery? Why didn't he condemn abortion? Why didn't he warn us about Karl Marx or National Socialism? Why didn't Jesus lay out a whole political platform of laws?

Answer: he wasn't worried about slavery, or infanticide, or economics, or any of that secular stuff. You think Jesus was worried about death? Death is nothing to the religious. He's not worried about economic collapse, or unemployment, or the proper form of government.

It might seem bizarre to us. Communism killed 93 million people. Why didn't Jesus warn us? Think of all those lives that would have been saved.

But of course everybody dies. We all die. You save somebody's life, and then they are hit by a truck and die anyway.

Consider death from the point of view of God. We're all going to die. God is not worried about us dying. He's worried about us not making it to the afterlife.

That's where Jesus wants us to focus. And this focus is not "pragmatic" or "social." That's why Marx hated the church. All those happy Christians who don't care if they are poor? It made him livid.

Sharc said...

"[A]nyone who asks 'What would Jesus do?' is comparing himself to Jesus."

False premise. Such people are striving imperfectly to be without sin, out of a desire to be worthy of Christ's sacrifice. They are not "comparing themselves to Christ."

I appreciate that it's tough to do socratic method concerning religion without coming across as nonchalant about deeply-held beliefs, but there is a difference between being interesting and merely provocative.

Ann Althouse said...

What miller said at 11:49 made me want to go look up this quote:

"Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear."

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

This is certainly an interesting discussion. I think that as far as commenting, I am going to hold where I am. I'm kind of still in a swoon over having an Althouse tag.

I reserve the right to re-enter the discussion later when the euphoria from this morning's Lutheran Pentecost service in combination with the Althouse tagging, dies down a little, or a lot. Spiritual intoxication is a dangerous thing.

Sharc said...

"Was Jesus telling us we were supposed to compare ourselves to God?"

If I ask how big your feet are, am I comparing you to a yardstick?

Ann Althouse said...

"You're not as good at this as you seem to think you are, professor."

Your use of the word "seem" shows that you know you are talking about the inside of your own head and that it would be dishonest to assert that I had ever said that I think I'm "good."

I have, on the other hand, often expressed my annoyance at the way other people seem to think they are good, so I know how you feel.

Ann Althouse said...

Or… I should say: I feel like I know.

sean said...

Prof. Althouse is making up special rules for religion, under which the only thing that qualifies as belief is belief that (i) proceeds from prolonged and profound reasoning and analysis and (ii) produces dramatic behavioral changes. Obviously most beliefs held by most humans, whether philosophical, moral, or political, don't satisfy this standard. Prof. Althouse's argument is a good example of "private definition" fallacy, in which the speaker is able to make provocative statements, which turn out, once the private definition is revealed, to be distinctly unsurprising.

This is a good example of "profsplaining," in which the speaker combines rhetorical fallacy (in this case the "private definition" fallacy) with disdain (as in the regular use of the interjection "ridiculous"). Profsplaining works on students, who are powerless, often ignorant, and eager to please, but it doesn't work on those of us who have J.D. degrees of our own.

BrianE said...

Jesus said: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Was Jesus telling us we were supposed to compare ourselves to God? Would you say he shouldn't have said that?

I'm not familiar with that verse. Can you provide the reference?

Thanks

Ann Althouse said...

""True believer" is a term of disparagement when applied to the Christian faithful, as here."

That's your overlay of fear and defensiveness. I didn't mean it as disparagement at all, and I'd be surprised if any or many sympathetic readers would think of what I said that way.

You should walk that back.

Sharc said...

Alex: "Notice the threatening comments from Christians. They're so humble and Jesus-like."

"Threatening"? Citation please?

But while we're at it, "Jesus-like"="humble"? Citation please?

Ann Althouse said...

@Strick You are so far from understanding my purpose that it would take me a long time to respond to your comment, but the degree of hostility is such that I'm not going to take that time. If you would look at what I have actually said and try to understand that, instead of going off half-cocked, I might respond.

Jason said...

Your use of the word "seem" shows that you know you are talking about the inside of your own head

Umm, no it doesn't. It means I'm not as presumptuous about knowing what other people are thinking as you are.

and that it would be dishonest to assert that I had ever said that I think I'm "good."

True. Condescending schoolmarms demonstrate that by their actions, rather than their own admissions. For example, by acting like a condescending schoolmarm, and accusing others expressing sincerely held beliefs as holding "delusions."

hombre said...

Chuck: "I'd really like to see religion left out of the legal fight over the normalization of homosexuality under federal law."

As with abortion, if religion is left out, facts come into play that proponents don't want discussed, e.g., life expectancy of male homosexuals, disproportionate incidence of HIV-AIDs among male homosexuals, consequences of single-sex parenting, etc.

It's easier just to relegate the issues to the domain of religion and argue, "You can't shove your faith down our throats" (so to speak).

Ann Althouse said...

"I'm not familiar with that verse. Can you provide the reference?"

It would be easier to Google it than to ask me to Google it for you.

It's the most conspicuous text in Christianity: The Sermon on the Mount.

If you are a Christian, I would think you would have it inscribed on your heart.

C R Krieger said...

Ah, Church is a hospital for souls damaged and struggling.  It is not the Opera for those who have achieved infused contemplation.

I see Professor Althouse as someone who is looking and thus those of us who have some thin thread on hope (hope was in the second reading at the Vigil Mass last night (St Paul to the Romans) should pray for her and try to offer her a good example..

Religion should be about looking for the lost, not booting the heretics. Few of us are in a position to cast stones.

Regards  —  Cliff

SJ said...

Jesus was a teacher.

But was he only a teacher?

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus;

Who, though He existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped,
But emptied Himself, taking on the form of a bond-servant and being made in the likeness of men.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


Jesus held people to a higher standard in many ways.

But he also preached a Kingdom that is not of this world, and a new way for humanity to interact with their Creator.

And His death was part of the spiritual transaction that changed the terms-of-meeting between sinful humans and a perfect God.

Ann Althouse said...

Matthew 5

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Ann Althouse said...

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic,[h] let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Saint Croix said...

"You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Maybe Jesus wants us to avoid the trap of thinking that we are right with God. He was criticizing his A+ students who follow all the Commandments and believe they are the best of the best.

He is challenging people to do the impossible. Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

Is it possible? Can we love our enemies?

You don't earn your way to heaven with your good deeds and your brownie points. It's not like a race and you're trying to out-compete all the sinners and step on those bad people while you win your place at God's side.

We often act like this, do we not? We are vying for superiority. We want the rewards. Reward the good, punish the bad, I am better than he is.

But what if we are all children of God. What if God loves all of us, as a father loves all his children?

"For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust, too."

Strick said...

As far as I bother to care, you're just being pedantic.

The bigger question is, why on earth do you assume there's any hostility in this? Mildly annoyance, perhaps... Are you sure you aren't projecting? I'm serious, I'm baffled by your over reaction to all this.

Peace, Professor, it's only a tempest in a teapot on the Internet.

Sharc said...

"If you are a Christian, I would think you would have it inscribed on your heart."

Wow, that's just mean.

Krumhorn said...

I'd say it about things like taste in music and in the interest in traveling, going to the beach, and reading.

I'd say it about professed love of family and country and belief in equality.

Everything.


Hmmm...I think you are making an excellent point, Ann, but this may overstate the case. People can be somewhat reliable stating their true beliefs and governing principles when there isn't much that conflicts with walking the talk.

People can declare that they are Christian, but fail in the (weak) struggle with their sinfulness because the consequences of sin are seemingly remote, and what they believe cannot win that contest. For example, I assert that I know that smoking causes cancer, but I am undeterred in reaching for a cigar.

I believe that the institution of marriage between a man and a women is as important to the historical success of Western civilization as is Christianity, but that doesn't stop me from visiting my girlfriend every chance I get.

People saying they love football creates no conflict (except maybe with the old ball and chain), so it's likely to be true. I profess that I enjoy your blog. Since I am unlikely to find any contradictory or conflicting elements of my life that would suggest I am insincere, I'm inclined to believe me.

I do not like lima beans, calves liver or tomato aspict. You can take that to the bank......so long as I'm not starving.

While none of us lives our lives consistent with our professed beliefs, our society clearly benefits, overall, by the generalized ethical and moral influence of our Christian and Jewish heritage. This, the lefties would like to change.

- Krumhorn

hombre said...

miller (11:49): "Actual faith would involve observable, measurable results. A religion that has as a central premise that "God is love," for example, would be expected.... "

"Observable" by whom? "Expected" by whom? The fallibility of a secular worldview is the presumption by those who hold it that the efficacy of Christianity is defined by man, particularly politically correct man.

Thus, "love" would be manifested, for example, by embracing homosexuality, but not by noticing that it's unrepentant practice may put the immortal soul of the homosexual at risk.

Ah, the convenience of secular religion.

m stone said...

Seems we're playing word games here and using faulty reasoning to devalue the Judeo-Christian God by judging the performance of church-goers---even those raised in a family of Presbyterians and Methodists.

Classic illogic: Religion---therefore faith---is not true (belief) because we find fault with those who profess a faith.

Tough to measure up with "Be Perfect," especially when you don't understand what He is saying. It's context and emphasis on one word, rather than a standard we must subscribe to.

I say that to understand scripture, you must first come to the realization that you are helpless to save yourself. The relational aspect of Christian faith pervades scripture, but is never mentioned on this blog to my knowledge. Relation is the essence of Christian faith. And, again, it is supernatural, not easily packaged in words.

Skeptics abound. But no skeptic is excused in the long run.

Sharc said...

Well, obviously it's not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

cold pizza said...

Men are, that they might have joy. -CP

jimbino said...

Deidre Mundy @10:42 said, "If Protestants actually believed what their churches teach, they wouldn't denomination hop."

This statement is typical of the Roman Catholic misunderstanding of Protestantism. Along with "Justification by Faith," Martin Luther preached the "Priesthood of Believers," which holds that there is no intermediary between the believer and God: no priest who holds the truth or could intercede with God on his behalf.

The Protestant need not observe the doctrine of his denomination; he cannot be excommunicated; he will settle into a denomination in which he feels comfortable. Indeed, Unitarians and the UCC welcome non-believers, and the "doctrine" of Unitarians is determined by polling its members, among whom are counted loads of Jews and atheists.

All this is relevant to the big problem we had with the faith of John Kennedy and still have with the Roman Catholic majority on SCOTUS, for one example.

Either they don't subscribe to the doctrine of their own church or they are not fit to hold public office. I don't think we've resolved that; we just go on trusting that they are in fact bad Catholics, which they no doubt are.

That's important: if we ever elect a Muslim to high office, we'd have to hope to God he's a very bad Muslim.

Unknown said...

Matthew 10:14 "And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town."

In other words, "Fuck 'em! Don't waste your time."

You're right Althouse. Not even JESUS believed what he was saying.

Renee said...

How does our ability to discern if there is a God or not, help out socially?

Today many people keep their religion personal and private.

Jon Burack said...

Enjoying this greatly. I am a Jew. I consider myself deeply religious, but I also think Christ was right about everything, as well. Go figure. Actually my theology was taught to me by my father, with a simply image I am pretty sure he got from someone else.

Imagine, he said, a dog roaming a beach looking out to sea. What that dog understands about the nature, size, cause and essence of that ocean is VASTLY greater than what we understand about God and the universe he gave us. Live with it. Or as Blood, Sweat and Tears put it, "I'll never know by living, only my dying will tell."

In the meantime, as a committed heterosexual I defer to homosexuals on all things homosexual. Or as I said earlier, "love is all there is."

Tyrone Slothrop said...

People that actually do believe what they profess to believe have been known to fly airplanes into tall buildings.

Anonymous said...

Commenting on the Wrong Post Drunk Guy says:

When I walk down the street dressed as a woman the men invariably look at me with longing and lust, followed by confusion and anger and shame, shame at the anger and confusion and shame at the lust and the longing. I cannot help it that my blue eyes and youthful features make me a pretty girl. I think it is wrong for you to comment on things you really don’t know about.

hombre said...

Althouse (1:03): "'True believer" is a term of disparagement when applied to the Christian faithful, as here.'

That's your overlay of fear and defensiveness. I didn't mean it as disparagement at all, and I'd be surprised if any or many sympathetic readers would think of what I said that way. You should walk that back."

My "overlay of fear and defensiveness?" I had no idea. It must have been produced by a combination of the exalted stature of this blog and my status as "true believer." LOL!

Nevertheless, "true believer" has evolved to term of art in religion and politics and I think you know it. Here are typical examples of definitions from a variety of sources:

"The term "true believer" was used earlier by Eric Hoffer in his 1951 book The True Believer to describe the psychological roots of fanatical groups." Wikipedia

"true believer
noun
1. a person who has been thoroughly convinced of something.
2. a fanatic, especially a religious or political one." Dictionary.com

"True Believer
A person who earnestly believes in something, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. Usually used as a derogatory term to imply the lack of critical thinking and/or intelligence on part of the true believer." Urban Dictionary

I don't think I'll be "walking that back." - whatever that means.

Strick said...

OK, part of what you said is fair, and I take back some of what I just said. I'm not bothering to read the rest of the comments because arguing religion on the Internet is a fools errand.

Can't be much fun on your end. Just don't assume any hostility on mine.

Unknown said...

the fact that you have taught a law school course in The Constitution and Religion for 13 years is somewhat scary.

Alex said...

Wow, that's just mean.

Yeah how dare we hold Christians to their beliefs.

66 said...

Ms. Althouse --

First, thanks for the multiple posts on this topic. Religion is such a personal and sensitive topic that people sometimes shy away from critical examination of religious beliefs. This has been a fascinating discussion to follow and it is altogether predictable that it would generate some passionate responses.

Ultimately, though, I continue to believe that your skepticism that people believe what they say they believe is unwarranted (or at least I have not seen evidence to warrant such skepticism). My experience has been that, for the most part, people mean what they say. I agree that this is not always true, and I'm not suggesting that people never lie or distort, but I think generally when someone expresses her beliefs, there is a least a kernel of honesty in what she is saying.

Whether a person is able to conform his actions to his beliefs is, in my view, a completely different question. Do actions fall short of beliefs? Often. Maybe always. You quote Jesus instructing us to be perfect as God the Father is perfect. This is a perfect illustration of my point. Does Jesus expect us to be perfect? Of course not. In fact he knows that it is not possible for us fallible human beings to be perfect. Yet despite that, we must continually strive, despite our imperfections, to get closer to the perfection that Jesus showed us while on earth.

Æthelflæd said...

Not all Protestants, or even most, are anti-authoritarian. The reformers believed that Scripture was the ultimate authority, not the only authority (hence the catechisms, confessions, sessions, synods, etc). The extreme individualist streak in some circles came through the later anabaptists.

Also, there is a vast chasm between mainline and orthodox protestantism. Apparently church growth requires true believers, not a la carte shoulder shruggery.

Ann Althouse said...

"Wow, that's just mean."

I was restraining myself.

Here's someone who doesn't recognize a line -- the last line, it happens -- of the Sermon on the Mount and asks me about it as if I'd put up something obscure… doesn't even Google to check if it's something that would be embarrassing not to know.

I'm listening for days to comment after comment about how terribly clear Christianity is about homosexuality, and I find myself talking to people who pose as Christian, but do not know the most central and inspiring passages in the Bible.

But you do know that homosexuality is wrong and marriage is between and man and a woman.

I'm telling you I am restraining myself. But you think I'm being mean.

Absurd.

Mark O said...

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matt 5.48)

This is a heavy, impossibly difficult commandment Jesus delivers.

Anyone who accepts it, believes it, professes it, is a true believer that it is the thing to do, will fall short.

It does not take much intellect or insight to point out the divide between belief in perfection and failure to be perfect. Ann, other than provoking conversation, why have you such passion to show that almost no one can measure up?

Angle-Dyne, Samurai Buzzard said...

AA: For the record, I was raised in the culture of Protestants. My father's family were Presbyterians, and my mother's family were Methodists, including ministers.

Knock me over with a feather.

That's your overlay of fear and defensiveness. I didn't mean [true believer] as disparagement at all, and I'd be surprised if any or many sympathetic readers would think of what I said that way.

I've never seen the term "true believer" used as anything but a pejorative, so I wouldn't be surprised if even sympathetic readers found this "fear and defensiveness" response a bit snide and passive-aggressive.

Æthelflæd said...


"I'm listening for days to comment after comment about how terribly clear Christianity is about homosexuality, and I find myself talking to people who pose as Christian, but do not know the most central and inspiring passages in the Bible. "

Ah, this an argument with your hermeneutics, people. Your interpretive principles are all wrong. Go sit at the feet of the Rev. Dr. Althouse and get it right.

Joan said...

While the Sermon on the Mount is among the most controversial scriptures, I'd call the Lord's Prayer the most conspicuous.

it would be dishonest to assert that I had ever said that I think I'm "good."

Of course it would. Nevertheless, we are all perfectly capable of discerning at least this much without you having to explicitly state it.

Renee said...

The Bible is very clear on heterosexuality, but most of us ignore those teachings.

Ann Althouse said...

@Mark O

I have not been talking about actions and whether actions fall short of what are believed to be the standards.

I have been talking about whether people really believe the religion they profess to believe, that is, their state of mind.

When someone professes to be a Christian, I don't know what he thinks he's saying he believes, and it's quite possible that he's trying to say that he believes in a form of Christianity that doesn't take that part of the teachings of Jesus seriously.

But if that is what he's trying to say, then my issue is whether he really believes that God demands that he hold himself to a standard of perfection.

It's is a separate question how hard he really tries to be perfect (and how close he gets) , and I've only been talking about that in the context of seeing action as evidence of belief.

Person #1 might profess belief that an effort at perfection is required by God and fall way short, in action, of perfection. I might say that I wonder if he really believes what he said, because wouldn't he have done better if he really believed that.

Person #2 may say he doesn't believe that aspiring toward perfection is a religious requirement but he may get much closer to perfection. If we're judging action, he'd get a high mark, and we might say perhaps he really does believe perfection is required, since he seems to act as if it is, but we'd probably just think he was choosing good actions for other reasons.

In short: I'm talking about whether people believe what they profess to believe.

Mark O said...

"In short: I'm talking about whether people believe what they profess to believe."

Good luck untangling that.

Marc said...

AA, your citation of Blessed Teresa is a good one, and clever. No one doubts her faith, in the sense her belief, her holding to the truths taught by the Catholic religion, and yet she lived many years, apparently, without feeling 'the truth', without receiving any of sensible/emotional comforts that many of us experience as we profess that we are believers. So would one have been right to be pervasively skeptical during those years of the assertion that she was a faithful believer? Of course not. Faith, from the Catholic perspective, involves both the objective realities of the Person of Christ (and the truths that can be articulated about Him i.e. the Credo and so forth) and the objective and subjective facets of our individual response to and participation in the Lord: which is why doing the works of love (cf the Apostle in his First Letter to the Corinthians, as you posted) is sometimes the only senisble/experiential/existential means I may have available to know that my faith is... not worthy of being cause for pervasive skepticism. The historic Protestant churches see this business from a different perspective, as has been pointed out.

I met Mother once, when volunteering for her Sisters for a couple of years.

CStanley said...

Jesus said we were to be perfect but also knew that we are unable to be perfect without our Father's grace. I understand that line to mean that we will be "perfected", if we choose to accept that gift of grace...which is much different even from understanding it as a command to strive for perfection.

Also, consider that the disciples themselves, who lived and traveled with Jesus for three years, heard all His teachings and witnessed the miracles, still fell short. Was Thomas insincere in his belief, since he had to feel the wounds in Jesus' side before he could believe? Was Peter a failure in his faith because he denied Jesus three times?

I think that applying this impossible standard is to deny human nature. That misses the whole point of Christianity which is that we can't achieve perfection without God.

Marc said...

Pft. I seem to be incapable of reading. Had already fixed in my mind before writing that AA posted St Paul 1 Cor 13, not St Mark 5-- usually I try to concentrate on reading and not on commenting. :-).

"Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury...."

traditionalguy said...

I think we should thank the Professor for having the courage to defend her quote from The Apostle John's first epistle.

She is somewhat akin to the Apostle John in spirit.

While John was called "the disciple Jesus loved," the mild and gentle John and his brother James were also said to thunder like an angry storm when faced with untruth . They once urged Jesus to call down fire to burn up a Samaritan village that dared to reject Jesus.

After John's special assignment to care for the Lord's Mother Mary ended, the Romans exiled John from Ephesus to Patmos Island to silence his teaching. But that only got them back the blog post we call Revelation, which is still being commented on today.

It seems Jesus loved John so much that He planned for him live on into his nineties out living the other Apostles.

CStanley said...

Ann Althouse @3:12:
How about person #3, who knows that perfection isn't possible and also knows that God is merciful, so Jesus couldn't possibly have meant that perfection is required?

I believe we're meant to do the best we can and then present ourselves with humility and contrition when we fall short, and ask to be cleansed of our sins and filled with grace to go out and do better the next time.

Again, Jesus could not have possibly meant that as a command without being internal inconsistent. This interpretation also makes much more sense in the overall context of the Sermon on the Mount, in my view.

Alex said...

The fact that Shouting Thomas gets so agitated proves that Ann is doing the right thing. She really knows how to get the patriarchal church "fathers" panties in a twist.

Ann Althouse said...

Jon Burack said: "Enjoying this greatly. I am a Jew... Or as Blood, Sweat and Tears put it, "I'll never know by living, only my dying will tell."

The song was written by Laura Nyro, who was also Jewish, by the way.

She has a song with that has an interesting use of the word "religion," one of my favorite songs, "New York Tendaberry":

"Sidewalk and pigeon
You look like a city
But you feel like religion to me"

I'll bet there are other songs/poems that rhyme religion and pigeon.

Ann Althouse said...

"Good luck untangling that."

Like life itself, it's a work in progress.

Unknown said...

I haven't read through the entire thread, so I apologize for the redundancy if someone has already brought this up, but the issue of Christian belief vs behavior is not exactly new.

A good portion of Paul's epistles address this issue. People in the various churches he founded acting in ways that are not Christ-like.

And of course there is Romans 7:19

"For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing."

Now that's not to say there aren't cultural Christians. People who go to Church for social reasons, but have no interest in spiritual growth. But who are we to judge whether or not someone is insincere in their belief or just struggling with God?

Genesis 32:22-32

"22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel,[a] because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[b] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[c] and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon."

miller said...

It's weird how your point of "show me your religion by what you do" doesn't seem to be getting across.

Even weirder to see this conversation before I left for church, to hear a sermon from my pastor on the importance of behaving as you believe, and then to return and to find the same misunderstanding going on.

This is not hard to figure out. Show me your faith by your works. What you do shows what you really believe in.

Ann Althouse said...

"AA, your citation of Blessed Teresa is a good one, and clever. No one doubts her faith, in the sense her belief, her holding to the truths taught by the Catholic religion, and yet she lived many years, apparently, without feeling 'the truth', without receiving any of sensible/emotional comforts that many of us experience as we profess that we are believers."

In other words, there were (apparently) long periods within her life when she professed but did not truly believe. She wanted to believe, she tried to believe, and she continued to take actions that would be read as embodiments of belief.

How much more should we doubt the beliefs of those who profess and do precious little in the way of action?

Ann Althouse said...

"Also, consider that the disciples themselves, who lived and traveled with Jesus for three years, heard all His teachings and witnessed the miracles, still fell short. Was Thomas insincere in his belief, since he had to feel the wounds in Jesus' side before he could believe? Was Peter a failure in his faith because he denied Jesus three times? I think that applying this impossible standard is to deny human nature. That misses the whole point of Christianity which is that we can't achieve perfection without God."

Again, I'm not judging anyone a failure or talking about their outward imperfections other than as evidence of their inward state of mind, which I am skeptical about. Did they really believe?

That's my question here. I don't know why people won't stick on that foundational premise of the discussion. I guess it's the usual reason for fighting the straw man: He doesn't put up a fight!

m stone said...

tradguy:

I think we should thank the Professor for having the courage to defend her quote from The Apostle John's first epistle.

She is somewhat akin to the Apostle John in spirit.


I think Ann should get that comment bronzed and framed.

Looking at the post title have you established what your "religion" is, Ann? I don't want to infer or offend.

Always be prepared to state your worldview, I've been taught.

wildswan said...

To "be perfect" in that quote is to love your enemies, not just your friends. But it is hard even to love your friends all the time and some find it hard to love themselves ever. That is reality, or, as a Catholic would say, that is original sin. I don't find it hard to see how one can believe and still be a sinner. You see the goal but you aren't there.

People often talk about Christians who fight for a cause such as abortion as if the Christians were unaware of all the traps out there - the temptation to anger and hatred, the temptation to lie for the greater good, the disgust at the way politicians use us and the lies the media tells, the temptation to sell out to the world for money. A great cause is a great thing to have in your life but Catholicism is greater - you have to keep that balance if you want to remain a person who is serving a cause and not become someone who makes the cause serve you.

I know people who are shining examples of belief in Christ and who help me hold on to faith. But such people are often quiet. You have to turn toward belief before you can see what they are doing.

Alex said...

Ann - you demand too much. This isn't your classroom where you can demand attention to the topic you want discussed. However it does point to the fact that people have their own agendas.

Renee said...

I don't feel it most days, but I believe. I recently shared this in a conversation on Facebook.


" I could easily be an atheist, as well or another faith. I can only talk about my own experience.

Now I take it as matter of faith when the Holy Spirit is present. I don't feel anything in almost every occasion. Except for a few incidences. The major one was after a confession. Or I consider 'The Confession'. It was 2002 and it was years (since my confirmation) I did one. I made a appointment and spilled the beans and laid it all out. It isn't the guilt, but the stupidity of my sins that wreaked havoc. Nothing miraculous happen, but I just haven't been the same since. It was an overwhelming sense relief, and at the same time totally freaked out that you are at peace.

That feeling did happen again recently. Earlier this month, on May 11th. It was during the Black Mass thing going at Harvard, and I was at Saint Michaels at the 9am Mass. They had First Communion the day prior, but one girl couldn't make it. So she was in the front pew. Before everyone received, she walked up steps in front of the altar to receive the Eucharist. I started crying, and it wasn't even my own kid. I was embarrassed. Heck I'm embarrassed telling you that I believe in the Eucharist and that experience.

Talking about feeling that presence is well embarrassing, because yeah it's nuts.."

C R Krieger said...

The first Comment is Professor Althouse saying she was raised in the culture of Protestants.  Yet she often "signals" a Roman Catholic background, as when, a while ago she made a comment about The Cloud of Unknowing, a comment that maybe is applicable here.

From Wikipedia:

"The underlying message of this work proposes that the only way to truly "know" God is to abandon all preconceived notions and beliefs or “knowledge” about God and be courageous enough to surrender your mind and ego to the realm of "unknowingness," at which point, you begin to glimpse the true nature of God."

Regards  —  Cliff

Ann Althouse said...

"How about person #3, who knows that perfection isn't possible and also knows that God is merciful, so Jesus couldn't possibly have meant that perfection is required?"

How is he different from Person #2? I feel like you're trying to look for a way that a person could be a Christian and reject a simple and clear "must" statement from Jesus. I never said Person #2 wasn't that kind of guy.

Now, there are many interpretations of statements, and as a lawyer, it's easy for me to see how someone who wants to take Jesus seriously could figure out how to say Jesus didn't really mean for that to be taken seriously.

Once you go there, you should be able to see how people can claim to be Christian and want to normalize homosexuality and give gay marriage equal dignity.

Now, separate professing that interpretation from actually believing it. Is it something Person #3/#2 says because he wants it to be true or because he wants others to think he is a Christian or does he genuinely believe it?

And remember, my Person #1, who professed to believe God requires perfection, still raised a question for me whether he really believes it. He might say he does, but really believe some watered down, realistic form of the belief, like Person #3/#2, which is just that you ought to try pretty hard to be virtuous, but of course, God/Jesus knows you will fall short and you don't have to worry about that because you'll be saved by your faith.

Which gets us back to Square 1: Do you have faith?

retired said...

Ann you are mocking our religion and our treating our holy book with disrespect, of course we are offended. It's part of your blog as a big troll.

Work on explaining yourself as someone with a serious personal philosophy and set of consistent beliefs before you start bashing others'.

Unknown said...

Re your 4:09 I think you misunderstood my point. I'm saying that the outward actions aren't necessarily in tune with the inner beliefs no matter how strong those are, so what is the basis for your skepticism?

Æthelflæd said...

There are plenty of people who believe that smoking will kill them, and yet continue. I am not sure "correct" action always correlates with belief.

miller said...

"Is it something Person #3/#2 says because he wants it to be true or because he wants others to think he is a Christian or does he genuinely believe it?"

Another great observation. It's as if faith is about what you say believe, not what you do in your private moments when no one's looking.

Ann Althouse said...

"Ultimately, though, I continue to believe that your skepticism that people believe what they say they believe is unwarranted (or at least I have not seen evidence to warrant such skepticism)."

I could say I don't believe you really believe what you say you believe, but you have that "or" statement at the end, which I read as a practical presumption that you use because it serves your interests getting along in life. Take people at their word. It's a good policy. But I think it's a pragmatic policy, not something based on actual belief. We always must go forward on insufficient evidence, especially about what's in other people's minds. It's a good working approach to believe people until they betray your faith in them. Why should you preoccupy yourself trying to figure out what you can't know, especially since they're not going to like being seen as insincere?

"My experience has been that, for the most part, people mean what they say. I agree that this is not always true, and I'm not suggesting that people never lie or distort, but I think generally when someone expresses her beliefs, there is a least a kernel of honesty in what she is saying."

Hard to disagree with "generally… a least a kernel of honesty…."

I'd just say listening to what people say is valuable, and you sometimes it's worth figuring out the likelihood that it's true.

Ann Althouse said...

On that pigeon/religion rhyme:

"But it's not against any religion/To want to dispose of a pigeon."

Ann Althouse said...

"But he's animalistic and his rhyming is sadistic
Sacrificing pigeons in the name of our religion"

Ann Althouse said...

"Re your 4:09 I think you misunderstood my point. I'm saying that the outward actions aren't necessarily in tune with the inner beliefs no matter how strong those are, so what is the basis for your skepticism?"

1. I think it's hard to really believe the substance of any religion, and there are many motivations to go along with whatever is the religion of your family and associates, so I don't take the assertion of belief as meaning very much (except when it's an assertion against the speaker's interest).

2. When one's fate in the afterlife is at stake, if you really believed in heaven and hell, you'd have a tremendous amount of pressure to take care. That people put so little effort into living their lives to ensure that they don't go to hell makes me infer that they don't think that's really going to happen. They may like to comfort themselves with religion sometimes, but they're still blithely going along from day to day, doing what they like, serving their lust and gluttony and greed. It's probative of nonbelief.

Æthelflæd said...

"I think it's hard to really believe the substance of any religion, "


Ah. Now we'really getting somewhere.

hombre said...

miller (4:04): "This is not hard to figure out. Show me your faith by your works. What you do shows what you really believe in."

It's not hard to figure out because it's a gross oversimplification.

Our faith is defined by our relationship with god. Period! It may not produce "works" that are cognizable by man.

Saint Croix said...

I'm not judging anyone a failure or talking about their outward imperfections other than as evidence of their inward state of mind, which I am skeptical about. Did they really believe?

Are we talking about the disciples? 11 of them were murdered for Christ. (John stuck around long enough to write the Book of John).

Birkel said...

Let's have a conversation about which we can all agree: the fact that voters were forced to choose between John McCain (presumed to be destined for presidential failure) and Barack Obama (currently demonstrating himself to be the worst US president to date) was a horrible event.

Oh, and Althouse voted for this loser, Obama, for reasons I must presume she didn't really believe. Because I have been taught to question all such protestations of belief. Also, any defense Althouse offers for herself, she is unlikely to actually believe. Because: Logic!

hombre said...

Althouse (4:51): "They may like to comfort themselves with religion sometimes, but they're still blithely going along from day to day, doing what they like, serving their lust and gluttony and greed. It's probative of nonbelief."

Gross overgeneralization notwithstanding, I think you mean "evidence," not "probative."

It is not surprising that professing Christians in your world behave as you describe. I cannot help but wonder if you actually know anyone with a Christian worldview. Hint: They are not to be found in the hermetic progressive provincialism of academe.

BTW, we don't earn our way to heaven with our behavior. We are saved by the grace of God through faith. Ephesians 2:8&9

Carl Pham said...

Show me the true believer. What would the true believer do and say?

That reminds me of a completely unrelated concern of mine. What with all this constant bickering by learned law professors about what the Constitution -- not exactly a long and complex document -- says, with the President of the United States -- the nation's chief LEO! -- openly defying statutes, and with the recent stories in the news of Brooklyn prosecutors suppressing exculpatory evidence that could've prevented a man from going to prison for 24 years for a crime he couldn't possibly have committed -- I have come to conclude that the virtue and integrity of the law that is routinely preached in classrooms is preached cynically. It cannot be that those who preach it believe in it, given the abject failures and hypocrisies of so many of its apostles. I find myself wondering where there might be a true believer, someone whose actions might prove the merit of the whole belief system.

Off-topic, I know. Sorry!

ken in tx said...

I am gratified that I guessed pretty close. I figured Ann to be a backsliding Methodist. I am a Presbyterian, but the Presbyterian church as a whole is backsliding now. I may have to slide over myself in the future.

Scott M said...

What would the true believer do and say

WWTTBDAS doesn't make for a snappy bracelet.

The Cracker Emcee Refulgent said...


"Yeah how dare we hold Christians to their beliefs."

If you have no real understanding of what it means to even try to be a Christian how can you hold them to their beliefs?

Saint Croix said...

That people put so little effort into living their lives to ensure that they don't go to hell makes me infer that they don't think that's really going to happen.

Yes, I think a lot of people think they're going to heaven. So they're not worried about their behavior, or the state of their souls, because God loves them. "I'm not going to hell" is not saying the same thing as "I do not believe in God." It might be clueless optimism as opposed to disbelief.

Saint Croix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JackWayne said...

Ann, you need to read an economics blog by Ben Hunt. Maybe then you'll understand that this thread is nonsense.

Unknown said...

Ha. God's humor...I just went to Mass and the choir sang the dreckish hymn, "They Will know We Are Christians by Our Love" ( not a song they usually do.)

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

"2. When one's fate in the afterlife is at stake, if you really believed in heaven and hell, you'd have a tremendous amount of pressure to take care. That people put so little effort into living their lives to ensure that they don't go to hell makes me infer that they don't think that's really going to happen. They may like to comfort themselves with religion sometimes, but they're still blithely going along from day to day, doing what they like, serving their lust and gluttony and greed. It's probative of nonbelief."

Or it could be evidence of "the Old Adam" or original sin. That even with the belief that Jesus died for your sins, that you are going to live forever in heaven as a result of this act which you have been called to believe in, even with your sincere believe in this and your sincere desire to act accordingly, your sinful nature is such that you cannot keep "the law". Thank God for "the gospel" or we would all be screwed.

I agree that it looks like almost no one believes in Heaven and Hell. I say that all the time, that if I REALLY believed this, I would act differently. Faith the size of a mustard seed. But how do you know how much effort people put into it? I can go out right now in the neighborhood and run as hard as I can, and I will not run very fast. If you drive by, you will think I am running slow, but I might be running as fast as I can. It's the same with human nature. Some of us are born with sunny dispositions, a "good digestion" as C.S. Lewis would say, or a life of privilege etc. and things may just come a little easier for them. With little effort these people may waltz through life with their greatest visible sin being their snapping at a shop clerk. Others may be wired such, or have had such terrible circumstances, that not killing someone is an incredible act of faith. Their break down and murdering another may be less of a sin in God's eyes than the privileged person's snapping at another person. This is mostly paraphrased C.S. Lewis. The point is, we cannot obey "the law" and that is why "the gospel" is necessary. We are all screwed, we all fall short at some level. I refer to this as my being "infinitely sinful." Whenever I have a victory of some sort, I immediately claim it on some level even when I have prayed to God for guidance or relief etc., and when I realize it and admit it, then I immediately feel so proud that I am so humble or smart or "spiritual" to see it. And so on ad infinitum.

I came to realize that if having faith or being a Christian was a matter of IQ, then we would just take a test to get into heaven or to be a Christian. Faith is the great equalizer. Personally, I belief I was called, or compelled by the Holy Spirit, into my faith, as fragile as it is. At times in my life I have resisted and at times I didn't feel a call. But ultimately I have had no choice it seems. I can't take credit for it. I don't pretend to know what it is like for others. I don't know if a person is being worked on by God and not responding or they are not being called or they were called, responded, and then lost faith. I don't know. It's beyond my understanding. Others know more about it and I have thrown my lot in with them. That's the best I can do.

Ann Althouse said...

"I am gratified that I guessed pretty close. I figured Ann to be a backsliding Methodist. I am a Presbyterian, but the Presbyterian church as a whole is backsliding now. I may have to slide over myself in the future."

I've never attended even one Methodist service (I don't think). As I child, I was taken to Westminster Presbyterian Church, in Wilmington, Delaware. Later, we moved to a community in the same area where there was a new Episcopal Church, and the priest befriended a lot of people there, including my father, and we started going there. (It was only about a block away from our new house.) After that, I always attended Episcopal Churches.

Pianoman said...

@AA: "For example, I know a lot of male lefties who purport to believe in feminism. I've never taken that at face value. "

Fen's Law.

But within the context of this discussion, the Professor is pointing out that this is true of the Left, the Right, the Athiest, the Christian, etc.

Cruel Neutrality.

It's a mashup! Fen's Cruel Neutrality Law!

Roughcoat said...

Hi, gang! I've been outside all day working with livestock. What're we talking about?

...

What? We are?

*runs back outside*

Freeman Hunt said...

"They may like to comfort themselves with religion sometimes, but they're still blithely going along from day to day, doing what they like, serving their lust and gluttony and greed. It's probative of nonbelief."

Nearly this exact idea is mentioned in my church almost every Sunday. Nearly because the teacher wouldn't be saying "they." It's all "I" and "you." "If I/you like to comfort my/yourself..."

m stone said...

AA: When one's fate in the afterlife is at stake, if you really believed in heaven and hell, you'd have a tremendous amount of pressure to take care.

"to take care"?

If I were to believe in the Living God, because of fear, that is not genuine belief. More like survival, false at that. That you even bring the idea up, amazes me. Most people are fooled and most people are not fools.

No one comes to the Father but by love and total hopelessness in his or her condition. (Of course, that condition can clearly go on for years at the expense of a lot of rationalization and pride.)

He is still working on you. Probably not during this thread.

CStanley said...

1. I think it's hard to really believe the substance of any religion, and there are many motivations to go along with whatever is the religion of your family and associates, so I don't take the assertion of belief as meaning very much (except when it's an assertion against the speaker's interest).

I agree that it is hard to believe, and even harder to order one's actions toward that belief. I look at it from the opposite direction though. Since it is so hard, it's pretty amazing that there are people whose behaviors don't make sense unless they believe, and to some extent don't make sense unless those beliefs are true. Martyrs, and everyday people doing things that go against their selfish interests, for instance, are evidence on the positive side.

I also can't figure out why this matters to you. If you were convinced that people genuinely believed, would you see that as greater evidence of the truth of God and the Christian gospels, or are you just making observations about people because you find it interesting?


2. When one's fate in the afterlife is at stake, if you really believed in heaven and hell, you'd have a tremendous amount of pressure to take care. That people put so little effort into living their lives to ensure that they don't go to hell makes me infer that they don't think that's really going to happen. They may like to comfort themselves with religion sometimes, but they're still blithely going along from day to day, doing what they like, serving their lust and gluttony and greed. It's probative of nonbelief.
It's odd if you really have put time into reading the Bible, that you could so thoroughly miss the central concept of God's mercy.

John henry said...

As for interest in religion, what is your knowledge about me that you base your statement on? Are you aware that I have taught a law school course in The Constitution and Religion for 13 years?

I've been reading this blog for 7-8 years now and this has to be the most ridiculous thing you have ever said.

What does a a course in The Constitution and religion have to do with Bible extracts? Or your interest in the Bible? Or more particularly in your knowledge of the Bible?

I've never seen you as being particularly interested or knowledgeable about the Bible. Or disinterested or unknowledgable either, for that matter. You have, for the most part, ignored it in the Blog and that is fine.

Now you want to quote scripture to suit your purpose (to paraphrase Daniel Webster)And you come across, to me and apparently others here, as not particularly knowledgeable about it.

Are you knowledgeable about the Bible? Have you actually read it? Not snippets but the entire thing? Or at least the New Testament since that seems to be what we are talking about.

It is really none of my business and that is more of a rhetorical question. Feel free to answer or not.

As others have mentioned, I too find it annoying when people who are not particularly knowledgeable about the Bible want to cherry pick pieces of it to slap me in the face with like a wet fish.

I know that you have an emotional attachment to gay marriage that seems trump reason. Not a problem for me but you do not seem to realize that you are arguing from emotion rather than reason. And you, a law professor! (Sorry, couldn't resist)


John Henry

Guildofcannonballs said...

The true believer is more likely to live in a red state, that is to say, a state with less income inequality than progressive-run, blue state income-prisons.

This is the result of true believers' actions based on their faith.

This is the proof you need, right here:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/06/blue-state-policies.html

John henry said...

Why would anyone question the sincerity of another's religious beliefs? I can see doing it with an individual whose professions may be at odds with their actions. Think Christopher Moltosante or Carmela Soprano for example.

But to say as a general statement that Christians do not really believe what they profess? That seems completely out of bounds.

If someone tells me that they believe in the Bible and Christianity, Koran and Ismlam, Talmud and Judaism I will always take them at their word unless they give me reason to believe otherwise.

As for how they believe, that is fine with me. Catholic, SDA, Lutheran, Orthodox, reform, Shia, Sunni, Zoroaster whatever. It's all good. Perhaps not what I believe but all good.

John Henry

John henry said...

Hombre said:

I don't think I'll be "walking that back." - whatever that means.

Amen, Amen, and Amen.

"True believer", especially in the context that Ann and others are using it here comes across as condescending and insulting. Downright nasty in some instances.

Ann, you are smart enough to realize that this is how the term is often used. If you did not intend us to take that meaning you should have used different phrasing.

Rather than telling Hombre to walk it back, you should be apologizing.

Just because you preempted "disingenuous" in the first comment doesn't mean that you are not guilty of it in spades here. The fact that you had to try to get out in front of it indicates that you are well aware of it.

John Henry

Unknown said...

When I was an atheist I too played this game. Assign beliefs to Christians, condemn them when they didn't behave as I thought perfect Christians should behave.

I'm a protestant. Once more, I'm a Lutheran. Salvation is a gift, freely given. I cannot earn salvation, I can only accept it.

Everyone falls short. You, me, Mother Teresa.

Judge not lest you be judged.

John henry said...

For what it is worth, I have no problem with Gays, lesbians, trannies, or others getting "married" in any quantity or combination they might desire. Normal heterosexual couples too, of course. I don't think it should be done by govt, though.

If I could be king for the day I would take the state out of the marriage business. The state could issue a standard contract but marriage would be the province of private organizations.

This was in my platform when I ran for President in 1988 so is nothing new for me.

I am a liberal and pro-choice. People can choose to live their lives as they please subject only to causing me no harm.

John Henry

CStanley said...

"How about person #3, who knows that perfection isn't possible and also knows that God is merciful, so Jesus couldn't possibly have meant that perfection is required?"

How is he different from Person #2? I feel like you're trying to look for a way that a person could be a Christian and reject a simple and clear "must" statement from Jesus. I never said Person #2 wasn't that kind of guy.

Now, there are many interpretations of statements, and as a lawyer, it's easy for me to see how someone who wants to take Jesus seriously could figure out how to say Jesus didn't really mean for that to be taken seriously.


You are looking at this interpretation as a lawyer, in the sense of assuming someone would be parsing words in order to find loopholes. But that is not the only reason for looking for a different interpretation. To me, the more direct literal interpretation that you are making by looking at that statement in isolation does not make sense in the context of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, nor with Christ's mission- so the inconsistency Is the reason for seeking a different way of understanding that passage.

Once you go there, you should be able to see how people can claim to be Christian and want to normalize homosexuality and give gay marriage equal dignity.
I didn't have to go anywhere. I think it's perfectly obvious that people can and do have those views. I respectfully disagree, but I want to be given the sane respect in return.

Now, separate professing that interpretation from actually believing it. Is it something Person #3/#2 says because he wants it to be true or because he wants others to think he is a Christian or does he genuinely believe it?
Probably different for different people, and for each person on any given day, I would think.

And remember, my Person #1, who professed to believe God requires perfection, still raised a question for me whether he really believes it. He might say he does, but really believe some watered down, realistic form of the belief, like Person #3/#2, which is just that you ought to try pretty hard to be virtuous, but of course, God/Jesus knows you will fall short and you don't have to worry about that because you'll be saved by your faith.
Sorry but I just can't agree that this is a watered down version. I think you are missing the most profound part of Christian teaching, so if anything this alternate interpretation (that God actually does NOT demand perfect behavior from us in order for us to experience communion with Him) is beefier, not watered down at all. Your interpretation is actually more like the Pharisees (which is what I meant when I said I find it inconsistent with the overall theme of the Sermon on the Mount.)

Which gets us back to Square 1: Do you have faith? Yes, though not enough.

BrianE said...

"You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

I'm not exactly sure what it says about me that I didn't recognize the verse, other than my memory isn't what it once was.

I'll remember that google thingee.

As to your question, Jesus statement is preceeded by how we should treat our enemies,etc. "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven...."

To what extent does God require us to meet the standard of conduct established in the Beatitudes?

Good question.

Jesus set an impossible standard from a human perspective. He certainly didn't expect us to cut off our hands or poke out our eyes.

Does that absolve us of our obligation to allow the Holy Spirit to work within us to conform us to His image? No. But God recognizes our frailties, and the sacrifice of Jesus does cover our sins.

"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7

Lydia said...

This discussion reminded me of something Evelyn Waugh once said:

"Once, when [Waugh] had behaved with particular rudeness to a young French intellectual at a dinner party in Paris at the home of Nancy Mitford, Miss Mitford, angry at his social brutality, asked him how he could behave so meanly and yet consider himself a believing and practicing Catholic.

'You have no idea,' Waugh returned, 'how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being'."

Alex said...

John - please explain the relevance of "The Bible" to our lives. It's just another book of fairy tales.

caplight45 said...

I admit that I just now got to my Sunday blog reading and so have not read through all 139 comments on whether or not the Professor is the “The Bible Answer Man” or something. However, I have, through the years, been appreciative of her use of scriptures which is often used more genuine than you will find in many pulpits on Sunday mornings. I admire the breadth of knowledge which she displays of applicable scripture that demonstrates a biblical awareness of texts that I could wish for any of my congregations. Frankly, I find it refreshing that a member of the Academy has that much familiarity with one of the greatest, if not the greatest, foundational works of Western culture. On a personal level I have never found her to be anything but respectful of my faith, my work and my viewpoints on issues, even those which are informed by my Christian beliefs.
Just in case anyone wants to call me a suck-up, allow me in advance to tell you, “bullshit.”

Meade said...

Suck-up.

caplight45 said...

Damn!
I didn't see that one coming.

Meade said...

Bullshit.

Now sincerely — nice comment.

James in Belgrade said...

Mark 9:23

"Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief!"

Anonymous said...

The thing I would question is the assertion that religion's purpose is to serve human interests on earth.

That's true if there is in fact no deity to speak of, but if it's assumed there is a deity out there, presumably the deity intends religion to serve some supernatural purpose. Describing religion as something pragmatic and social suggests to me a much more secular-style "social justice" religion without much by way of the spiritual.

From the Catholic tradition, the best example of true believers are saints. There is a wide diversity of personalities in that group, but the defining characteristic of them all is love of God trumps every other consideration, most notably in those who opted to die rather than renounce God. Basically, Great Commandment in action - God first, others second, you third. Granted, not every saint was quite so good about the loving others or self part, but nobody's perfect.

As to what the true believer would do and say, I think the primary actions are going to be prayer. It sounds cliche, but something like "God loves you and I will pray for you" is often a much better response than trying to have a logical argument on an emotional topic.

Unknown said...

"they're still blithely going along from day to day, doing what they like, serving their lust and gluttony and greed. It's probative of nonbelief."

Just how "spiritual" does a Christian have to be before you think they really believe?

Do they have to give up their job and spend all their time serving the poor? Find some lepers so they can wash their wounds?

Following Christ is hard. All Christians are going to fall short.

Are you familiar with the term sanctification? As in the work the holy spirit does in you to make you conform more to the image of Christ. It doesn't happen instantaneously and does not happen at the same rate for all believers. And its work won't end once you die.

Unknown said...

Carl Pham (6/8/14) well said. And on topic (I think) about people actually believing what they profess to believe. IMO the difference between law (and the Constitution) and the Bible is that law is written by humans for humans, and it is within the capacity of humans to live by it; therefore the choice to live in violation after swearing to uphold it (insert any of the numerous examples in current administration) has no valid excuse. OTOH, the religion in the Bible acknowledges that it is impossibly to live perfectly in compliance, and asks for us to incorporate the attitude of Christ (New Testament and old), motivated by, driven by, and courtesy of the Holy Spirit.

BTW, it is not recorded that Jesus ever commented on homosexuality, although the scriptures are unambiguous. Neither did He comment on bestiality, pedophilia, plural marriages, income inequality (except - one could say - that if you are on the upper end of it, you have responsibilities), firearms, etc. However, the scriptures are unambiguous on homosexuality -- not homosexual marriage. My fundamental objection to homosexual "marraige" is the degradation of language. A few years ago if you were married (or gay), it had a very specific meaning. Being married, I fit that original meaning. Now marriage is a class of things, only one of which applies to me. Maybe you don't care, but the language that applies to me is being changed, and I don't see another word on the horizon that I can use to tell someone my personal marital state. Maybe you don't care, but it's part of my identity.

It is frightening to me that someone who appears to not understand the fundamental aspects of Christianity (sin, and man's inability to overcome it, God's grace in providing alternative justice) is teaching it in conjunction with the Constitution.

John henry said...

Alex asks me to explain the relevance of the Bible to "our" lives.

Sorry, can't do it. You will have to determine its relevance to your life. As do each of us. The answer may be different for each of us, in your case it sounds like the answer is "no relevance" and I am fine with that. Each of us must make our own way in life.

As for relevance to me, that is a pretty personal question that I have been wrestling with for many years. I do not choose to discuss it, certainly not publicly.

I can say that, fairy tales or not, the Bible does provide a pretty good roadmap for living a useful, decent, productive, life. Not the only one, perhaps but it works for me.

Pascual's wager says that using the Bible for a roadmap has a huge upside (eternal life) and no downside. The rational way to bet is that it is true.

I lose nothing by believing in the Bible. Or trying to believe, sometimes it can be difficult. That is what faith is about.

John Henry

John henry said...

Ann made an interesting point about Mother Teresa that I had not considered before.

When she had periods of doubt, or even unbelief, did that make her a "non-believer" at that time?

I think I would say no, since, as far as I know, she never renounced her beliefs or left the church.(Did she?)

I suspect that she continued trying to overcome her doubts. As so many of us believers do. I don't think she gave up.

I don't think having doubts makes one an unbeliever, even temporarily.

But, it is something I'd not considered before and an interesting point.

John Henry

Phil said...

"Show me the true believer. What would the true believer do and say?"

Do, plenty. Say, not much.

Molly said...

Show you a true believer?

Abraham

Moses

King David

Jesus Christ

St. Paul

St. Peter

--that's one of the things the Bible is "for"

Ann Althouse said...

@caplight45

Thanks.

And hi.

Hope all is well.

MFindlay said...

While my first reaction/instinct to Ann's post about being skeptical of religious/Christian belief was to be defensive and reason/argue, if only with myself, that she was wrong, I'm wondering now if she is really saying anything different than Jesus himself?

Matthew 7:21-23
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

or;

Matthew 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy[a] angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him,[b] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Is it just possible that for those of us that consider ourselves Christians that the Holy Spirit is using Ann's post to convict us and re-call us to doing a better job of living our faith?

I don't know, but I do know I've been at far less thought provoking/challenging Bible studies and/or prayer meetings.

Unknown said...

Please note that only one name on Blogger Molly's list did not on occasion act in a manner inconsistent with their beliefs. (Among other behaviors the list includes liars, failures, drunkards, and adulterers -- might have been a homosexual act too, but not marriage).


And in the outlier-case, the person actually asked God for relief from an event designed an set in motion by God Himself.

Naut Right said...

Do we blame the math when the mathemetician errs? Or the student does?