Blasphemy on Sunday morning

“The misuse of meaningful songs, or even only a lack of understanding and feeling in singing them communally, has a devastating effect. When we sing them in real community with the Holy Spirit, we sense something of innermost holiness. Such songs should be sung only at very special moments, only at times of God-given experiences. To suggest songs that were once written in the Spirit, with the idea of producing an atmosphere that does not exist, to sing ‘God is present with us!’ when no one feels that God really is present, to dare to sing ‘Lord of all, to Thee we bow’ when there is no real honoring of God’s greatness in the atmosphere of the meeting is a misuse that borders on the sin against the Holy Spirit.”

— Eberhard Arnold, God’s Revolution: Justice, Community, and the Coming Kingdom

Sin will keep you from this book.

It’s a mistake to think that people choose their beliefs because of reason or revelation. Most people choose their beliefs for their own comfort.

B.F. Skinner remembers that his grandmother taught him about hell by showing him the glowing coals in the stove. He didn’t want to believe in a God like that, so he didn’t.

Mel White, who used to ghost-write for Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, is now a pro-homosexual activist. But according to his memoirs, the first step to his new career was not a renewed study of the Bible. It was his first sexual experience with a man, condoned by a Christian counselor. After that, somehow his beliefs seemed to change.

Other “Fundamentalists Anonymous”-type memoirs have a similar plot. Girl gets saved, girl joins evangelistic ministry, girl loses virginity, girl loses her faith. It was no crisis of faith, but a crisis of conscience. And faith lost.

John Bunyan wrote that the tempter often spoke to him, ‘”What, will you preach this? This condemns yourself; of this your own soul is guilty; wherefore preach not of this at all, or if you do, yet so mince it as to make way for your own escape; lest, instead of awakening others, you lay that guilt upon your own soul that you will never get from under.” But, I thank the Lord, I have been kept from consenting to these so horrid suggestions, and have rather, as Samson, bowed myself with all my might to condemn sin and transgression wherever I found it; yea, though therein also I did bring guilt upon my own conscience. Let me die, thought I, with the Philistines, Judg. 16: 30, rather than deal corruptly with the blessed word of God.’

Tortures not worth speaking of

“… There is but one remedy, one medicine, which can cure all their infirmities; and this remedy gives to me also strength, and life, and cheerfulness to suffer all these fears and afflictions, which are but momentary, and not worth speaking of; this is the hope which I have placed in heaven.”

– Algerius,Martyrs Mirror, p. 570-573

Well, are you satisfied?

“He who is satisfied has never truly craved, and he who craves for the light of God neglects his ease for ardor, his life for love, knowing that contentment is the shadow not the light. The great yearning that sweeps eternity is a yearning to praise, a yearning to serve. And when the waves of that yearning swell in our souls all the barriers are pushed aside: the crust of callousness, the hysteria of vanity, the orgies of arrogance.”

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man Is Not Alone

False conversion

Baptists usually believe in eternal security or persistence of the saints. That is, once you are saved, you’re always saved. Yet a Baptist prison chaplain says that he finds the same percentage of Baptists in jail as out of jail. Same percentage of Methodists, same percentage of Catholics.

So what’s the problem? A Baptist preacher once said, “We’ve spent too many years telling people they can never lose what they never had.”
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Ethnocentrism is the problem of thinking that your own sub-culture is right and that other sub-cultures are wrong. It’s a problem that leads to prejudice, bigotry, imperialism, even genocide. And it’s not completely avoidable. As much as you tell yourself that someone else acts differently because he was raised differently, you can’t always prevent feelings of impatience and judgementalism. And it’s even worse when you (and/or the other person) think you’re dealing with issues of absolute truth, not relative opinions, and won’t give in.
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The true countenance of God has been revealed over my life.

“The accomplishments, arts, or gifts which God has given me, were at first pleasant companions and recreations; now they yield me holy fruits. It is true, I have sweated, suffered cold, and as much as I was able, watched night and day; but this labor has tended and redounded to make me more perfect; there never passed a day or hour without some improvement. Behold, the true countenance of God has been revealed over my life, and the Lord has caused me to experience great joy in my heart. In Him alone I shall rest in peace.”

– Algerius, Martyrs Mirror, p. 570-573

A million good atheists in New York City?

CNN reports that a coalition of non-religious organizations is running a atheist ad campaign in New York city subways, “designed to raise awareness about people who don’t believe in a god.”

The advertisements ask the question, written simply over an image of a blue sky with wispy white clouds: “A million New Yorkers are good without God. Are you?”

The ads are actually misleading. That 2008 survey cited by the sponsors, American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population, didn’t ask people if they were good. The word “good” doesn’t even appear in the report. It just asked about religious affiliation. True, the 15% who said they had no religious affiliation weren’t saying they were Christians who hadn’t found a good church, but they weren’t saying they were atheists either. Only 7% said they were atheists.

The most startling claim, of course, is that New York City has a million good people, period. I mean, I think the Chasidic Jews only estimate a dozen or two really good people worldwide. Maybe good people are naturally attracted to New York City. Still, if I were you, I would keep alert on the subway, and lock  my car.

But the ads ask a good question, even if they begin with an inaccurate statement. That is, they ask, “Are you good?” I suspect that, if they think about it, that question will make a lot of New Yorkers a little uncomfortable. I know it did that for me. And if the answer is no, there are organizations in New York City that can help. But I don’t think they’re atheist organizations.