It’s bound to happen, seems like almost every year—one of our children is invited by a friend to their Vacation Bible School. We seek to respect and trust the Spirit’s work in our children’s lives enough to allow them a variety of faith experiences. Yes, we are Christian parents who love Jesus, no less. Our children know Him well, pray and sing songs, and hopefully see Him most clearly in our life examples.
It hasn’t happen yet, but this summer could be the year when one of them rushes home and declares, “Guess what mom and dad, I got saved at Vacation Bible School.” If that day should come, here’s what I can’t wait to tell them.
A Long Time Ago, In An Eternity Far Far Away—God Had Already Saved You- I’m not trying steal any thunder or bring down the moment, but that’s the really good news—the one and only true Gospel! You’ve been in Christ’s arms since the very beginning. There’s not a chance He’d ever take a chance in letting you go. He loves you that much—always has, always will. Sure we make mistakes, even lose our way. But, forgiveness isn’t an event, it’s a forever reality that can’t be taken away—God made it so, before you and beyond you, when you didn’t even know. You don’t even have to ask for it or earn it in any way, just embrace it’s already there and always has been, each and every day. That will keep your heart clean from useless shame and guilt and free you to want to do good purely for the sake of doing good. I’m glad you “got saved” but there was no need to, you already were—completely and thoroughly. That’s the real awakening that’s taken place, now you can fully breathe—the air of true freedom.
God Is Only Love, Not A Monster To Fear- He’s not keeping score, there’s not even a test. Life is not an exam, it’s a rest. You don’t have to earn anything, do anything, or appease Him in any way. It’s Christ’s performance that defines your life, not yours. He doesn’t love you one moment and turn His back the next. There can never be distance between you, He is in you every step of the way. When people talk about wrath, hell, and doom and gloom, you can be sure that all of that has been highly confused. God is only Love, pure as pure can be. His heart has nothing but affection for you and all humanity. Rest in the flower bed of His Grace and enjoy the smell of true life, now and everlasting. You don’t have to live with one eye open, God is only out to bless you and exceed your best expectations—no matter what.
God Didn’t Kill Jesus, Religious Villains Did The Trick– Jesus didn’t die to save you from an angry God, but to save you from living a life believing He is or ever could be—angry with you. Jesus didn’t die because it is was required to forgive you, Jesus died because He already had it in His heart to do so. The way of Jesus is non-violent, gracious, kind, sacrificial, and serving. The way of religion is condemning, self-righteous, prideful, and greedy. Jesus takes all of our religious inclinations, rebellion, pride, gracelessness, and self-righteous addiction, and allows us to murder Him with it instead of punishing us, destroying us, and seeking revenge. In doing so, Jesus takes our entire being and fills it with His perfection, showing to all the world on a cross, that we have been made perfectly perfect and Grace ultimately wins.
Hell Is The Terrible Feeling Religious People Get When Unconditional Love Wins- No, it’s not a place where people burn in horrible pain forever—God would never do that nor allow it. Yet some people can become so selfish, conditional, unforgiving, hateful, judgmental, self-righteous, religious, and insistent on their own way, that when God turns up the heat of His white-hot unconditional love and Grace, and pours it on them and everyone else without restraint, it frustrates and shakes them to their core, burning their self-righteous flesh. To them, pure love and Grace feels like excruciating pain because their true heart is exposed and all their religiosity is derailed. For nothing feels more torturous than spending an eternity immersed in wall to wall Grace when you hate nearly everything about it, and everyone is getting it, equally and regardless.
Jesus Is What’s Important, Not A Book- Here’s an inside secret you should surely know, when people say, “this is what the Bible says,” what they really mean is, “this is what I think the Bible says”—see the difference? Some Christians worship the Bible and use it as a weapon—hurting people, judging people, and Lording it all over them. For them it’s all about control, fear, and bringing people into religious conformity and submission. The Bible is beautiful, but not perfect. It leads us into our own encounter with Jesus, but should never become His replacement. The writers had their own human sense and perceived experiences of God, not always understanding what’s happening nor Who is doing it, though they might have believed and even wrote that they did. Read the Scriptures, learn to love them passionately, but only let Jesus be the one true guide of your interpretation, use, and understanding of them. That way, you’ll discover over time, all the ways Jesus redefines, reinterprets, and even discards some of what’s written—and you should too.
Be Yourself, You’re God’s Perfect Plan- If you want be a doctor, be a doctor. If you want to fly to Mars and form its first colony, go red or go home. If it turns out you’re gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender in orientation or gender, be that without fear or intimidation. You are God’s perfect plan, you are the revival He is bringing to the world—as is. You, just be you, one hundred percent. There will always be haters and those who label and dissect. Listen to the Christ within you, the Light He has placed in every human. Don’t worry about living some perfect will, dream, or “big thing” God has planned for you. Know this for sure—you are the dream, you are the plan, you are the big thing God is doing. Do what you love to do in ways that honor God and serve people—He is always for you and by your side. The canvas of God’s life for you is loaded with potential and countless possibilities, don’t let anyone paint it for you, nor convince you that you’ve ruined it or wasted it all together. The pursuit and expectation of perfection should always be your enemy and never your friend. You are God’s perfect plan, so now just go and live—free. Do you, everyone else is taken.
You Aren’t Any Better Than Anyone Else- Just because you’re “saved”, a “Christian,” or whatever people want to call it, doesn’t mean you’re better or can look down upon any human. Grace is not only what saved you, but is the great equalizer. All of us are different, but none of us are better. Different people believe and do things differently. Our job is to love unconditionally and trust the Spirit to do any needed correcting. Set healthy boundaries, set a good example, and be the best you that you already are in Jesus, but never believe that in doing so, that makes yourself any better than the least of these. The way of Jesus is to serve, listen, understand, respect, welcome, and desire community with all people. Human equality is not just a social value or ideal, it’s what the Gospel looks like when truly manifested upon the earth. Everyone is created in His image, not just you.
Grace Is God’s Super Power- Not punishment, correction, discipline, condemnation, rule-keeping, guilt, shame, fear, sin-management, spiritual commitment, or rededication ever made anyone Holy. All any of that does is further imprison us to the futile insufficiency of our own performance that can never measure up. Grace is the only power to heal, change, and transform anything or anyone. Run, as fast as you can, from any person, pastor, or message that would seek to convince you that Grace is too soft, slippery, dangerous, or incomplete. It’s God’s kindness that truly changes hearts and minds, nothing else. The Christian life is never about becoming something tomorrow that you aren’t today, but rather about your actions effortlessly catching up with your perfect, unblemished identity in Jesus Christ. All is Grace. Grace is the Gospel—period, full stop. Nothing else matters, nothing else works.
You Are The Church, Earth Is The Sanctuary- If church becomes a place you go on Sundays, you’ll never get there. All the stuff that looks so cool—worship screens, smoke, and lights, buildings, cafes, camps, and conferences, can all be highly overrated and deceptive. We all want to belong and that’s so important, but hanging out in a club of like-minded people to get all spiritual about Jesus, isn’t the sum of what He has in mind for His followers—I dare to say, it’s not even a priority. You are the church, and the earth (not a building) your sanctuary. Wherever you are, there’s the church. Community in Jesus can be found with anyone, anywhere—even among those who believe differently. Mutual respect is the glue that creates authentic, spiritual relationships and true community. Jesus is all and in all, that’s the most important thing you’ll ever see about what it means to be a Christian, be the church, and live in community with your fellow humanity.
Christians Can Be Scary- Just because someone is a “Christian” doesn’t mean they’re on the side of Jesus—that’s a very important distinction. I know it sounds weird, but Christians can be some of the most hurtful, hateful people. It’s not something to get all judgmental about, but rather deserving of our deepest sorrow and empathy. You’ll never go wrong standing in solidarity, defense, and support of those whom some Christians will hurt, condemn, and even put to death—spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Religious oppression is everywhere and rampant among American Christianity. In fact it’s one of our planet’s greatest evils. Sadly, the people who will oppose your heart for Jesus, the freedom you seek to live, and the Grace you seek to give will be the Christians around you—and they will do so aggressively. Be not afraid, God’s grace is sufficient. Greater is He that is in you, than in their religious, worldly religiosity.
I’m glad you “got saved” at VBS this year. Now, may true salvation come as this little saying, I pray, becomes your life motto…
Grace is brave. Be brave.
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In Leatherbound Terrorism, Chris chases the evils of conservative Evangelicalism out of the shadows and gives powerful voice to the cries of the religiously oppressed. Confronting issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, religious greed, hypocrisy, nationalism, white supremacy, privilege, and the weaponizing of the Bible, Leatherbound Terrorism pulls no punches. Endorsed by best selling authors Steve McVey and Baxter Kruger, Leatherbound Terrorism will challenge you, inspire you, and most certainly cause you to rethink your faith and life.
Just the Title brings up my Baptist roots and for now I choose not to even read it. I dont think I can. I dont even really know or understand what that is or means really nor why it is presented that way. It just brings up too much really. thanks for putting it out there though.
I understand, Sara.
I attended ‘enquirer’s class’ in the Episcopal church some years back. Another of the attendees, an elderly man, said that he was on a life-long mission to recover from his Baptist upbringing.
This is pure GOSPEL: GOOD NEWS.
Loij, amen to that! Grace wins!
No, it’s not a place where people burn in horrible pain forever—God would never do that nor allow it.
Are we talking about the same God that drowned all those people?
Noah’s ark is a myth a retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh a Samaritan tale that predates the old testament by far. As the poster said in the post, the Bible is not infallible. If you read literalism into the Bible then you will miss the story of grace.
I think you mean Sumerian not Samaritan.
The Aramaic word for hell that is used in the gospels is not the same as the Greek understanding of the word. There are differences in the meaning of the narrative ways that Eastern languages are used, and the mathematical or scientific nature of Western languages. It’s worth taking a look at what Jesus and the disciples would have considered hell to be.
“God is not obligated to punish sin, He is obligated to destroy it”
Wow. So all of the pastors down through the years; the ones like Charles Spurgeon, and John Wesley, and Billy Graham are all wrong because they (and I) believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God and is truth? And the discussion that Jesus had with Nicodemus was a myth and you really don’t need to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, nor were Jesus’ admonitions about hell to be believed because only “some” of the Bible is true? How arrogant of you to disparage the great men of God because you think you know the truth and they didn’t. I’m not sure having read some of your posts whether you are just desperate for a following or just simply deluded and in turn deluding others into thinking they don’t need salvation, that Jesus died, not to provide a pathway to salvation through His blood but just because He “had it in His heart”, i.e He just felt like it. If there is no sin that can separate us from God, and there is no hell, and everyone goes to heaven even if they reject Jesus, then nearly all of Christian belief is wrong in your view. Jim Jones and David Koresh tried to put their opinions above the teachings of the Bible too by the way. That turned out badly not just for them, but for those who were deluded by them.
Thanks Paul for reading and commenting, say “hello” to Joy for me.
Well said, Paul. Thank you! Of course God has already saved all of humanity, but do all humans choose to receive this gift? No! Perhaps instead of calling it “getting saved” it should be called “receiving God’s gift of salvation”. The author’s teaching borders on heresy. That being said, I love him, God loves him, and I pray he spends a little more time studying his Bible before he leads too many people astray.
Becky, thanks for commenting and sharing. As a pastor of 22 years, I have studied the Scriptures extensively. What I would encourage you to realize is that the tenets of Universal Salvation have been taught within Christianity for centuries and were considered to be normative doctrine during several periods along the way. The concept of “inviting Jesus into your heart” is nowhere to be found in Scriptures. In fact, Calvinism, (which I do not support) the leading Christian doctrine among conservative Christians in America and beyond, teaches that faith is a gift from God and God saves regardless of the choice or response of the person. Universalism merely takes that very Biblical theology and applies it to all instead of a few “elect” God chose in eternity past. The idea that faith is a gift, not a decision, acceptance, or “receiving” is all over Paul’s teachings. In fact, the Scripture also teaches that it is the faith of Christ in us that believes in and on our behalf. We do not choose God, God chose us. No, I’m not going to hand hold you by referencing all the passages. I would encourage you and Paul Miller to study it out for yourselves.
Some other notes from Paul’s teachings: Roman’s 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” In Jesus’ words Luke 13:3 “I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” Repentance from what? If there is no sin, then what do we repent for? Jesus admonished the woman caught in adultery “Repent and sin no more” The Bible is full of calls to repentance, to turn away from sin. Jesus told Nicodemus “You must be born again” and John 3:18 says that “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already” and Paul agreed Romans 8:1 “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” All of this is pretty clear that salvation or being born again (or in common vernacular “asking Jesus into your heart”) and repentance is required for salvation. You yourself said that God saves (universally??) and my question is this: saves from what? If Hell is just a bad feeling, then what does Jesus save us from, a bad feeling? No kidding, He went to the cross to save us from a bad feeling? I would rather believe the word of Jesus Himself who described the rich man in Luke 16:23 “and being in torments in Hades….24….for I am tormented in this flame”. So you plan to tell your son that Hell is a bad feeling in direct contradiction to the words of Jesus Himself who said it is a place of flames and torment. If that doesn’t qualify you as a false teacher I can’t imagine what would; you tell people they don’t need to accept Christ, they are saved from birth anyway, that there is no sin or a need for repentance and that Hell is not a place of torment, all in direct contradiction to the words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul. But, as long as the people to whom your messages of universal salvation (from what??) are directed, those that desire to remain in their sin and reject repentance, are applauding your false teachings, you have your reward here on earth. How sad, I used to admire you as a teacher.
OP: “Sadly, the people who will oppose your heart for Jesus, the freedom you seek to live, and the Grace you seek to give will be the Christians around you—and they will do so aggressively. Be not afraid, God’s grace is sufficient. Greater is He that is in you, than in their religious, worldly religiosity.”.
Well, predictably, here’s the first case in point.
wow so what is your definition of truth? Some of the Bible happened, some is allegory, some is poetry. there are many stories of how the Jews saw themselves and God and what was happening to them. there was no Jonah and no whale literally. It does not matter for truth about God and us. If you get bogged down in it was literal truth, there you will stay. saving kids at VBS is abuse in my opinion and so many too young to even understand or know. often it is done through guilt and not insight. I dont think Chris was arrogant at all but shedding much needed light
Yes, Charles Spurgeon, and John Wesley, and Billy Graham were wrong about certain, significant things because they were captive to the religious thinking of their milieu–just as we all are. In my view, nearly all of Reformed theology is wrong because it begins with Augustine’s erroneous views of God influenced by his earlier Manichaeanism. We would have been better off if Pelagius had won the debate. If you understand the short-hand references I’ve made–good, even if you disagree with my conclusions. If you don’t then I’ve given you something to study and ponder and perhaps a reason to not be so sure of yourself in your criticism of Chris–who’s views are more in line with theologians of the Western Church prior to Augustine.
The neat thing about the real Good News is that we’re forgiven, have been forgiven, and will be forgiven our various systematic theologies–which always fall short of the reality of God who is infinite and essentially ineffable.
And, I have no idea what you mean by “the Bible is the inspired word of God.” However, I do think the collection of writings we call the Bible were the result of persons writing and recording their impressions and experiences of God and His Word–the Son.
Hi- you don’t need to publish the comment, Kris, but I have a question/ suggestion.
I like this a great deal, even though your child will barely understand a quarter of it!
I see what you mean, but you might like to clarify it:
“Hell Is The Terrible Feeling Religious People Get When Unconditional Love Wins.” (???)
I’m not sure how you define “religious people”, or if you meant to say something else…
At the very least you might want to say “*some* religious people.”
A wonderful article! I agree that perhaps your child who just “got saved” might not understand all the language you use, so you might have to simplify it a bit. But you are articulating a position that I have been discovering over the last 10-15 years after a life-time of service in the church. I only wish I had known this really GOOD NEW when I was young. Instead I was traumatized with dreams of falling into hell just because I was born, for Pete’s sake! Only this past year have I found profound emotional, spiritual and physical healing brought on by this trauma. Jesus came and took it all away! Hallelujah, I am free and God is Good and God is LOVE!
Jack, thanks for reading and commenting! The style of this writing is one where the reader is led to see me as addressing my child but also uses the language of adult communication for the benefit of the adult reader of article. I am so glad to hear you have been able to move past a few-based view of hell. Thanks again!
Thank you Jack. I am on The same path, just a ways behind you. What you said really resonates with me. I have finally come to the realization that it is all about love.
You are leading people down the wrong path. The Bible is the word of God and we read it and quote it and memorize it because the Bible says His word will not return void. No. Not everyone will go to heaven, why? Because from the time when Adam and Eve sinned, they let sin enter the world. So we are all sinners who need to be saved by Grace. No, we can not Do anything to get to heaven, but we do need to accept his free gift of Salvation. Yes, I will quote the Bible here, Romans 6:23,”For the wages of sin is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Let me back up and say, “Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So1. We are sinners. 2. Our punishment is eternal death. 3. God offers a gift to us through Jesus. 4. “Romans 10:9-10 ” If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe In your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” No works, but you do have to believe with your heart and not just head knowledge . I truly pray that you will believe this and your children too.
Jennifer, thanks for reading and commenting, and for articulating the “Romans Road.” Sadly, I am very familiar with your views as I used to share them (I was a conservative pastor), but you are not with mine, as it seems you are unwilling to gain the perspective of one who loves Jesus, values the Bible, and is a seeker of truth just as much as you, but interprets the Scriptures differently. Not unlike, and in the same way, that many have done so throughout Christian history. Before you cast stones at me, perhaps you should do some homework and learn of other faithful perspectives such as mine. Because, as of right now, you are simply serving as an example a typical conservative Evangelical who knows nothing else to do but punch what you don’t understand.
That was an ad hominem attack on the person, you never adressed why she was wrong. Probably because you can’t argue with Jesus’ actual words.
Thanks Bob for sharing you views.
The bible is not the Word of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Jesus Christ existed before the Bible was even conceptualized. Christ existed before he himself was even born. “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God. He was already with God in the beginning.
Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him.
He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity.
The light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it.[a]
God sent a man named John to be his messenger. John came to declare the truth about the light so that everyone would become believers through his message. John was not the light, but he came to declare the truth about the light.
The real light, which shines on everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into existence through him. Yet, the world didn’t recognize him. He went to his own people, and his own people didn’t accept him. However, he gave the right to become God’s children to everyone who believed in him. These people didn’t become God’s children in a physical way—from a human impulse or from a husband’s desire to have a child. They were born from God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of Grace and Truth.” John 1:1, 14 Taken right out of the Bible!
******Your own book which you claim is God’s Word is telling you that Christ is the Word!***********
Once you read this you no longer need the Bible. Religion destroyed in one sentence. God bless. Love.
Jennifer K, if there was no sin in the world, how was eating a forbidden apple a sin? If they didn’t know right from wrong, why would they be punished and found guilty? Punishing someone for eating forbidden fruit in a world where right and wrong is unknown is like punishing an infant for throwing and breaking their bottle.
I agree with the author in that the Bible is obviously valuable but not perfect and not meant to be taken literally at times.
This is why I’m now an atheist. When you have to contradict the Bible in order to justify Christianity to your children, you’re only about two steps away from the realization that there is no omniscient, omnipotent being out there. I encourage you to further examine this thinking that led you to reject Biblical authority.
Breed, thanks for your comment and for reading. I am not rejecting Biblical authority anymore than did Jesus. I am rather placing in its proper level of authority and calling for its interpretation and application to be through the lenses of Grace and the example of Jesus.
When did Jesus ever contradict teachings found within the Bible. He certainly warned those such as the Pharisees and overturned the status quo and fulfilled many prophesies, but he never said “the Bible is wrong here here and here.” Many of your arguments aren’t really backed up and instead of providing references, you shame people for not understanding your perspective immediately. That sounds pretty hypocritical to me. Where do you find out about Jesus if not from the Bible?
Thanks Bob for sharing your views.
Here’s three examples;
Moses said food can make you unclean/defiled. Jesus said it can’t. Jesus said this to those “under the law”. Matt. 15:11
Does God dry up the rain of the wicked (Deut 28) or send rain on both the wicked and righteous (Matt 5:45)?
Does the Day of Jubilee include “the day of vengeance of our God (Isa 61:2) or not (Luke 4)?
I can tell you some ways, but I’d rather have you think about it by asking you a question; Where/how did people find out about Jesus BEFORE there was the Bible?
Bob, I don’t find Chris “hypocritical”, rather I think he’s very honest and genuine.
However, I find your charge of hypocrisy very ignorant. (I’ve stopped using the word “stupid” in this comment thread because it seems to be a very disturbing word to Cait.)
It isn’t “hypocrisy” or “ad hominem to have an opposing or different view/interpretation. Your problem is that you object to someone thinking and speaking outside of your limited theological box.
Do you even realize what you are saying? “This is why I am an atheist…”
You’re literally taking someone else’s experience with Christianity and interpretations of the Bible and making them you’re own and therefore coming to a conclusion that is not authentic to who you are. I’m not sure you see it happening.
Instead, why not experience God on your own through your own eyes and not through the experiences of others before coming to such a conclusion that God doesn’t even exist? You are an individual human being. You have a heart and mind all on your own.
God bless. Love.
Beautifully written. Thank you.
Demian, thank you! Appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment.
As someone who was raised a Christian and as an adult have embraced my Jewish roots (Jewish mother raised secular and converted to marry my Christian father), I applaud this article and you for telling it like it is. Perhaps if my church had been this “real’ I would have been content to stay there.
Keep speaking the truth and G-d bless you.
Has no one else noticed that there are ten statements in the article, not nine?
And seven of them are certainly non-Christian.
My comment to the author is that if you think differently than 2000 years of accepted Church teaching, why are you certain that you are right and everyone else is wrong?
Jay, thanks for reading and commenting, and may I extend a special congratulations on your abilities to read an article and reduce it to the number of points it makes. Well done! You will do well to know that Universalism and other scriptural tenets in this article have been adopted throughout the history of Christianity. I know that doesn’t favor conservative talking points nor the way some may want to twist the Christian narrative to serve their ideology, but it is nonetheless true. Here is an article, among many, to illuminate your mind. http://richardwaynegarganta.com/first500years.htm#I
STOP attacking everybody who disagrees with you on a personal level. It is not Christian whatsoever!! You condem judging yet judge much more than everybody else on this forum!
Thanks Bob for sharing your views.
I like the concept and have been kind of living that way myself without putting it into words and totally agree that people who call themselves “Christians” are some of the most judgmental non ‘Jesus like’ people you’ll ever meet . However when you say “Read the Scriptures, learn to love them passionately, but only let Jesus be the one true guide of your interpretation, use, and understanding of them.” Isnt that what they think they are doing too? In fact everyone interprets it the way they want to and think they are being led by the Spirit.
PJ, thanks for reading and commenting. Perhaps everyone feels led by the Spirit in their interpretation, but seeing Jesus as Grace, and looking at the Scriptures through the lenses of the new covenant of Grace and the person of Jesus brings an alignment with the work of the Spirit.
I don’t care so much about the theological points, Mr. Kratzer, but this post is worrisome for a few reasons. 1) It is harsh and judgmental toward reformed theology – which, while you may not agree with it, has been meaningful for many. Your comment about hell and religious people is in very poor taste – and is unloving, IMO
2) More concerning than that judgmentalism, is you imposition of your doctrine onto a child. It seems to me that when Jesus said ‘Let the little children come unto Me” he was talking about everyone, children included, having to come to their own spiritual understanding on matters of faith. If your child or anyone’s child has the experience of “being saved”, that experience should be honored as part of the spiritual journey. Many a great religious figure has had to struggle with the faith in such a way. It seems to me by trying to interfere, intervene, and in general “re-interpret” the child’s experience to fit your own theological flavor, you are taking away something quite precious and necessary from that soul’s journey to God. You might even find that you are being somewhat of a millstone…
Diana, thanks for reading and commenting. 1) I am glad you are reading this to be harsh at reformed theology as Calvinism is perhaps the most evil doctrine on the planet, in my opinion. 2) I don’t owe you an explanation nor justification for how I raise my children. That said, teaching children is not the same as imposing, big difference. Furthermore, apparently you didn’t even read the article as I do communicate a sense of “honoring” to a “I got saved” experience, if that would occur. Next time, with all due respect, perhaps read the actual article instead of reading into your own bias and agenda.
Thanks, Mr. Kratzer for reading my response. I think you took it as more of an ad hominem criticism than anything I intended. That said, I can see that ” *you* being a millstone…” comment might be read that way. So, I retract that , with due respect.
I did in fact read the actual article, which is how I was able to pull out your comment about hell being what religious people experience when unconditional love wins. Which is in bold letters as a subject heading… so that was obviously a major point to you. It is true that your honoring the (hypothetical) child’s experience really did not come across very well to me. I mean, when your whole article is about what you have to tell them if they come home “saved”, why are you surprised that the big takeaway I get from the article is your need/desire/duty to correct them if they come home saying “I got saved at VBS?”
I’m game. Just how *did* you want me to read this article?
Interesting that you would criticize Chris for “imposition of doctrine” yet not recognize the actual imposition of doctrine (in this hypothetical story) by the VBS hosting church. The only way I can conceive of explaining your hypocrisy is that you must think your systematic theology is the one and only “true” way of speaking of God and “salvation.” It isn’t, btw…
Tom, I think my larger point was that Mr. Kratzer is revolted by the imposition of the VBS putting their theology on his child (hypothetical) child, but that he is potentially blind about his own (hypothetical) actions also being an imposition. I’m seeing some hypocrisy at work, as well, you might say, within the confines of the article, at least in how I understand what he is saying.
You are incorrect about me having a systematic theology, let alone a one true way one, but I find it interesting that somehow you took my words to be hypocritical. When someone considers me to have spoken and/or acted hypocritically, I take it seriously as something I need to look at, and if accurate, repent and reform from. Even if it’s not accurate in the final analysis, at a minimum it means my message didn’t come across. So I will consider this prayerfully, and thank you for giving me an opportunity to consider my words and actions.
Whenever anyone speaks to express a spiritual understanding they are doing so from some systematic perspective. We all have a systematic theology, even if it may not be well organized.
Anything taught to a child or a correction to a child is an “imposition” because it comes from what is extrinsic to the child. “Doctrines” are teaching, and any VBS by definition will “impose” doctrine in various ways. That in and of itself is neither good or bad — it’s just a fact. In Chris’s example the systematic theology/doctrine presented/imposed to/upon the child is a version of Reform Theology which has roots in the Protestant Reformation. Prior to the 17th to 18th century no one would have presented the Gospel as illustrated in Chris’s example.
If you do not see or understand this fact then at worst you are hypocritical or at best just uninformed — and after interacting with you I suspect it is the latter. Or, maybe you are of the opinion children should not be taught but rather should be allowed to discover everything on their own?
Hi Tom, thanks again for responding – or I should say, thanks for sticking with me.
It’s a truth that I found this article difficult. At this point, I think I’m going to take some of that on myself. Whether I was just not getting the hypothetical nature of the article, or something else, I think maybe the idea he was trying to convey just somehow is escaping me.
So to that end, I will continue to keep watching myself to try and avoid hypocrisy, and also to keep informed. Perhaps intellectually, the problem is that while I can recognize that Kratzer seems to be referring to evangelical and/or Calvinistic/Reform theology as “the bad guy”, I am uninformed on what school exactly he *is* speaking for.
Historically, Catholicism & Orthodox church theology precedes Protestantism, but I’m not sure those are exactly represented herein. At least what I can tell about them from Catholics I know. I’ll grant you, I don’t know much about Orthodoxy or the Church Fathers, at all…
So, if you’re the praying type, pray for me as I struggle with hypocrisy and/or misinformation, and if not, please wish me well, then!
I do not think you are a hypocrite. When I originally used the term in my initial response it appeared to me that you were purposefully not recognizing that a VBS would not operate out of a particular systematic theology. I’m sorry and apologize for that misperception of you.
As I understand Chris–and my understanding is certainly limited and not infallible–his theological system reflects more of a Franciscan and Early Church Father’s perspective with a large dose of the “New Perspective On Paul” with overtones of Apocalyptic theology (L. Martyn as an example). Generally, his perspective might be closer to E. Orthodox than Roman Catholic. He has moved well away from Reformational categories. I view all of that as a positive. This latest post represents a reaction to American Evangelicalism (Reformational) and a clarification/redefinition of the typical Reformed categories (“salvation”, “sanctification”, “election”, etc.). He is also moving beyond a flat literalistic reading of Scripture and interpretation that fails to recognize the dynamics of the cultures from which it was produced. IOW, it is no longer possible to say flippantly, “The Bible says it. I believe it.”
I do wish you well.
I also desire that you grow in knowledge and wisdom as you evidently have grown in your experience of our Father’s love.
This was a very interesting read. I was “saved” and then baptized when I was 12 years old and at that point began a relationship with God. I am beginning to see that salvation is an event AND an ongoing process not just one or the other. I’ve learned a lot in the past 17 years and let go of many fundamentalist ideas that had no place in scripture or reason but I question your own quick judgment toward people who “get saved” since Christ himself talked about being “born again” and belief followed by baptism and forgiveness of sins. When I study scripture, and read the gospels Christ makes it clear to me that I must turn from my sins and turn to Christ for salvation and a relationship with him. To me, that began the day I “got saved” and Christ has been perfecting His work in me ever since. Repentance and a time of beginning salvation have merit in scripture but you may not feel that is a good point since you don’t believe the Bible as God’s Word or at least something to be taken seriously. For the record I don’t take the Bible literally but I believe that the words of Christ are important and have utmost value and because of that I have to believe what he says about salvation. I hope I’m not coming off as judgmental I just feel as though you are misunderstanding us “get saved” folk.
Also, I’m confused as to why your child is going to a VBS program at a church whose theology you obviously don’t agree with. If you don’t want your child “getting saved”, perhaps you should send him to programs that support your religious/spiritual beliefs.
Cait, with all due respect, are you trying to miss the point? Seems like it. Did you even read the article? The beginning speaks of my child being invited by a friend to VBS and that we allow our children a variety of spiritual experiences. It’s as simple and clear as that.
Cait, I am a pastor of 22 years, many of which was as a conservative, Evangelical pastor, I know full well the “get saved” process and experience. Unfortunately, the “born again” references is a bad translation to the greek which actually means, “born from above.” Furthermore, I take the Bible very seriously, just because my interpretation differs from yours doesn’t mean that I do not. Perhaps, that is one fundamentalist idea you haven’t let go of yet. Repentance “metanoia” in Grk means a change of mind, nothing more. Faith is awakening to what we already have in Christ. You mention Jesus teaching about salvation, you must have in mind these verses, right…
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John 12:32
“As in Adam all die even so, in Christ, shall all be made alive.” I Cor. 15:22
“And having made peace through the blood of the cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in heaven or things on earth.” Col. 1:20
“Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in him.” Eph. 1:9,10
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” 1 Tim. 2:3-4
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” 2 Pet. 3:9
Cait, if you don’t “take the Bible literally” why did you make all the assertions you did in your above comment based on a type of literalism and then accuse Chris of not being serious with the Bible?
Chris, I’m at a loss to understand why you expose yourself to so much FundagelicalStupidness as you do in the comments. You’re a very patient man…
Patient? Yes. A robot? No. I’m human–learning as I go. 🙂
Tom, your comment was rude and quite unnecessary. If you want to win me over from my fundamentalist stupidness perhaps showing grace instead of name calling and insulting (kind of like Jesus) is in order. You don’t know where I come from or what I used to believe. What you don’t see is how far I’ve come and that I’m trying to understand why a person would write an article about how “being saved” is basically BS but then send their child to a program to receive that teching. But by all means just insult my intelligence and name call because nothing says love and tolerance better than putting down another person’s beliefs and calling in to question their character and intentions instead of giving a loving response. Please don’t bother telling me that you were referring to ALL of the fundamentalist stupid people on here and that your comment wasn’t directing specifically toward me.
I can be very rude in the presence of stupid. However, I haven’t yet reached the same level as Jesus when it comes to rude—I’m just not as good at it as he was.
I have no intention of “win(ning) you over” to anything. That kind of idea comes out of your religious indoctrination.
We’re all in process, and, none of us actually get there, wherever “there” is. The fact that you responded to my comment to Chris indicates a sore spot in yourself—focus on that.
The fact that you keep needing to refer to people as stupid says a lot about your own character and beliefs. Maybe YOU should focus on THAT.
Looks like we both have plenty to focus on, Cait.
I would give anything to have been taught this as a child instead of the opposite message I got. It truly would have saved me years of grief and frustration, with both myself and with God.
Thank you for teaching your children a better Christianity than I was born and raised into. Someday, they’ll thank you for it as well.
Anna, thanks for reading and commenting. I share in your feelings!
As I have gone along my spiritual journey, I have learned that WHAT you believe about Holy writings is not nearly as important as HOW you live. It is hard to be brave when others tell you that your beliefs are wrong. But who is the judge of what is right and Holy? Surely not me. Or any other human. I like your writing because it true to you and honors God’s Grace. That, to me, is more important than religion.
The Aramaic word for hell that is used in the gospels is not the same as the Greek understanding of the word. There are differences in the meaning of the narrative ways that Eastern languages are used, and the mathematical or scientific nature of Western languages. It’s worth taking a look at what Jesus and the disciples would have considered hell to be.
“God is not obligated to punish sin, He is obligated to destroy it”
I remember my oldest daughter being invited by her maternal grandmother to a Missionary Baptist VBS several years ago. The “preacher” informed her that her Methodist baptism “sprinkling” and salvation “confirmation” weren’t good enough. People like that test my application of Jesus’s teachings on non- violence.
That was, however, one of the important milestones in my transition towards a Universalist belief system. I still at times struggle with my religious deconstruction, but articles like this help. The one good thing is that my children will never have to go this same deconstruction.
Waiting to see a single Scripture to back any of this theology…
My suggestion, read the entire Bible, it’s all there.
I wish I had had your wisdom when my 5 year old came home crying because a home schooled “Christian” child had told him he was going to hell because he wasn’t saved. I told him he most definitely was saved long ago and we made sure he was a Christian by having him baptized as an infant.
My daughter went to Baptist Vacation Bible School at age 7. There was an altar call at parents’ night and I thought sure she would go forward with her class to be “saved”. I was almost worried when she didn’t! But our dentist came and knelt in front of her and asked “Don’t you want Jesus to come into your heart?” She patted him on the shoulder and said “Don’t worry Dr. Evans, Jesus has been in my heart for a long time.” What a good little Lutheran she already was!
I was going to ask “Do you even Bible” but you answered that. You don’t. Your suggestion to interpret the Bible in light of Jesus would be great, if there were any way to know Jesus apart from the Bible.