Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Jesus: The Alternative to Legalism


As I review the wild ride that the past two weeks have afforded me, I feel the need to recap for those who may have gotten lost in the details or on one of the side trails that seemed to materialize out of thin air. I will make my main points larger in an effort to promote clarity.

My original post took the form of a question, born out of the passion of an experience. Not a new experience, sadly, but an experience which with each new occurrence burns more deeply into my conscience a question for me… How can you remain silent? For many years it was not hard to remain silent. What difference would my voice make anyway? And what do I have to offer other than just my preference or my opinion?

Well, the years have come and gone. I have now experienced life in ways that at one time I only pondered from a distance. I have been a child, an adolescent, an adult, a student, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, and a seeker of truth. From the time I was in public Jr. High school the most important people in my life helped me insist on “squeezing” all of life to get out of it what is true and valuable. I have lived long enough to see some of the results of living that way. I have also carefully watched the lives of others who have chosen different paths, and I have now lived long enough to have learned somewhat from their experience as well as mine.

The issue that my original post was galvanized around has been described as a “hot-button” issue. Some have accused me of intentionally using it to create a ruckus. The fact is, while I am fully aware of the energy with which it is defended and condemned, I am also fully aware that there are honest-hearted people on both sides. There are those, who because of how they were raised, can’t imagine why anyone who is committed to purity, simplicity, and modestly would want to adorn themselves with gold; and there are those, who because of how they were raised, can’t imagine why anyone who is committed in marriage would not want to proclaim that fact to the world.

But my original post was carefully limited to those who fall in the first category--those who were raised without jewelry but who now want to make a change.

None of us can choose our own parents, but all of us must at some point choose our own path, and it is at this critical point that culture propagates or begins to disintegrate. Now, I am fully aware that just because a culture exists is no proof that it ought to. But on the other hand, just because most of the world is different is no proof that we should all be like them.

However, it has been my experience that for most people who change, it comes down to one thing; is it lawful? No matter what concerns are raised, the response is the same, “There is no law against it. It's only tradition.” To the concern raised about loss of past relationships, the answer is “There is no law against it. It's only tradition.” To the concern about future influence, the answer is “There is no law against it. It's only tradition.” To the concern that it opens a door of opportunity to the flesh, the answer is "There is no law against it. It's only tradition." To the concern that for some it becomes an item of idolatry, the answer is the same, “There is no law against it. It's only tradition.”

A troubling pattern has quickly become evident.  To this I say, wait a minute! Look at what you are doing! You are rejecting an old legalism as illegitimate only to embrace a new legalism which is more radical; a legalism which says not only “there is no law against it” but further says, “There is nothing else to consider but the issue of legality” and further “if I lose any relationships over this 'non-issue' they weren’t worth much anyway!” This is astonishing logic!

There is a strong tendency in conservative circles of most stripes to be generally suspicious of thinking and of people who advocate it. I dare say that more than one person reading this blog has been told, at some point in their life, something like, “You need to quit thinking and just do what you’re told.” This is a serious mistake. If we don’t develop and hone the skills of right thinking, the world and the conversation about truth will be dominated by Sophists and prejudice.

I have held off engaging in the following response to an earlier comment because I didn’t want to be overly harsh toward any particular commenter. As usual, I’m leaving the name off because my response is to the ideas not the personality. As I have previously stated, there are times I seek counsel when I blog. I have done so in the following response. The original comment is in blue, my response in black. Readers, you must understand, this is a direct response to ideas that challenge the validity and foundation of everything I have expressed. For me, the approach used by this commenter is an example of what gives "thinking" a bad name. My response is straightforward but from a heart that says, “Abba, I write in Your presence, fully aware that I am human and will stand corrected if I error in discernment. Since I have carefully, prayerfully pursued an understanding of what we are discussing here, I submit this with open palms, while fully convinced we are discussing ideas that have led many of my precious CHM comrades away.” I care. That is why I write.

A commenter (in blue) says:

I’d like you to examine the question even further than currently done, though. And please note: This is just for deeper reflection, and the sake of truth – following the Spirit of Truth into all truth, even when it is not comfortable for tradition. I respect your life, and respect your heart-felt dialogue with others – all this is being stated as a brother in Christ, with no desire to prove a point, other than all of us being better followers of Jesus.

First, please note a hidden assumption in your question: The question as framed necessarily implies that the item at issue [namely, NOT wearing wedding ring] is a valid principle of divine law/will. Otherwise it would not even be asked.


This is false. My original question was "was it worth it?" There is a wholly unhidden assumption which the context fully illuminates. That assumption is not that "the issue is a valid principle of divine law/will." That assumption is that "there is something of value to be lost by those who are raised this way and change." I explicitly label the issue as "valuable admonition;" this is neither the linguistic nor logic equivalent of "divine law/will." I explicitly characterize what is lost as "an influence over thousands of needy souls." This commenter's assertion has no basis in fact. There is no "necessity" that an issue be "a valid principle of divine law/will" in order to ask if it has value. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." I intentionally follow Paul's mind in my question by asserting there is something of value here beyond legal mindedness.

Second, flowing from the unspoken legitimacy given to the original issue in the question, it treats the wearer of the ring as the party guilty of breaking the covenantal fellowship. Very crucial, this unstated assumption and application!

If you strip all the logical red herring out of this paragraph you get something like this: Second, it treats the wearer of the ring as the party guilty of breaking the covenantal fellowship.”

OK, therefore what? The CHM is made up of a number of organizations. Organizations have rules. If you want to be a member of an organization you play by the rules. What is the commenter's point? Well, the choice of words and the use of bold type seem to suggest that to "treat the wearer of the ring as the party guilty of breaking the covenantal fellowship" is somehow wrong. In fact the commenter makes no cogent argument of any kind with this paragraph. But to the possible implication, I will say it is pure sophistry to argue literally or by innuendo that all members of an organization are somehow "guilty" if they refuse to accept one member's decision to change the rules.

Be aware that this is the precise logic that the religious elites of Jesus’ day used against Him. Among other things, they asked in not so many words:

• Jesus, is it worth it to break fellowship with your religious friends over healing on the Sabbath? Couldn’t you just as easily wait till Sunday or Monday to heal?
• Jesus, is it worth it to be ostracized for shucking corn on the Sabbath? After all, that is specifically mentioned in our traditional application of the law – you are needlessly breaking fellowship with the true church!
• Jesus, really, is it worth it to drink wine and eat with sinners? Everyone is calling you a winebibber and a glutton! You certainly aren’t reflecting well on our holy traditions, and you are risking your fellowship w. our conservative synagogues.


My friend, you are playing fast and loose with scripture here. I wish I could plead ignorance for you but that would be a hard case to make. I don't know what theologians call this kind of interpretation of scripture, but in the secular world professionals lose their jobs for tricks like this. Your prejudice has simply taken the original words and facts out and replaced them with the words and facts that make the point you want to make. Both of the first two incidents to which you refer involve the Pharisees. The Pharisees make no distinction between "tradition" and "law." For them their tradition is the law of God. In the text they specifically are concerned with whether the behaviors are "lawful." There is no textual justification for inserting the concepts of "breaking fellowship" or being "ostracized." This is simply a reckless attempt to create a parallel where there is none. In fact, the logic of the Pharisees is not "the precise logic" of my post. I have clearly claimed the issue involves something of value apart from "lawfulness." The only thing the Pharisees care about is "lawfulness."

Etc.

The necessary position of the religious elites is that their view of divine law/will is completely valid, therefore the breaking of fellowship is on the head of Jesus and NOT their own. Their necessary position is that Jesus is NOT doing these things for the sake of TRUTH [and truly following/revealing divine will] but for the sake of personal freedom – and woefully misguided in that, even to the eventual point where they blame Him for His own death. ‘He made himself to be God after all – and we know He couldn’t be from God, for He didn’t honor our traditions. He didn’t keep fellowship with us.’


The repeated insertion of the word "necessary" is a distraction. What is the point of saying it is a "necessary position to hold that one's view of divine law is completely valid"? Have you ever known someone to hold a view that they thought was invalid?

Their necessary position is that Jesus is NOT doing these things for the sake of TRUTH [and truly following/revealing divine will] but for the sake of personal freedom –

Not only is this not "necessary," it’s not even true. The Pharisees didn't think in terms of the categories "TRUTH" vs. "personal freedom." History is clear, scripture is clear; their only concern with regard to behavior was "is it lawful." Once again you have inserted the language you want to use into scripture. This does not transform your notions into being "scriptural."

Please note that I’m not putting the CHM on a level with the religious elites of Jesus day, Laura. I’m only showing that the underlying religious logic is the same, when for the sake of a wedding ring covenantal fellowship is broken, etc.

This is a wholly disingenuous contrivance. If I or the CHM or you or anyone is found to be using the same "precise logic" as the Pharisees, why wouldn't we be on the same level? It is wrong to demonize the Pharisees, to put them in a category that is so bad no one else could really be that way. We are the ones who crucified Jesus—we, the human race. And if we continue to refuse His mind and to think legalistically, we crucify Him anew.

So, with that in mind, I would respectfully say that the question you ask is flawed in assumption.

There is no flawed assumption behind my question "Is it worth it." It is based on 1Cor 6:12.

And for the sake of truth, I would ask a different question, hopefully one that you can agree with – even after much soul-searching. And here is the question:

Is it possible for a person to be truly holy – holy in the sense of divine holiness, and not traditional holiness – and break fellowship with another Christian over a wedding ring?


"And for the sake of truth"? I've yet to see any evidence of your interest in objective truth. However, at every opportunity you promote your prejudice. Again here we see not a neutral question offered for the sake of truth. This is a half-stated thesis dressed up in the garb of a question. It seems that what you want to say is "breaking fellowship with another Christian over a wedding ring is wrong." You then encumber the whole point with some sort of technical distinction between "true holiness" and "traditional holiness"... it seems that one of them is "divine"... wouldn't it be nice to be able to prove that the CHM doesn't even have "true holiness" since they break fellowship over a wedding ring? The whole thing is more of the same. A "new" legal opinion advanced for the purpose of pinning a label on someone else.

If you are really interested in a question "for the sake of truth" you will need to start out with no pre-judgment. No inclination. No preference. Then you need to ask, what is the question? Can I ask a question without prejudging or influencing the outcome?

The answer to that question calls into stark relief the entire house of cards of the CHM. The entire edifice of a movement that would ban people from its programs, platforms and fellowship over such a thing rests on the answer to this question.

The house of cards my post calls into question is not the CHM but legalism, whether inside the CHM or out; legalism, not as a fuzzy notion of “restrictions and bans” but legalism as a mode of thinking—a mode of thinking which bases right and wrong on law; a mode of thinking which says to God (or anyone), “You can’t criticize me; I did what you said;” a mode of thinking which in radical form even says, “You can’t criticize me…there is no law against what I am doing.”

Legalism is wrong for Christians not because it’s intrinsically evil. You can’t raise children or have an ordered society without it. Paul notes “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” Legalism is wrong for Christians because it’s not Christian. The Christian basis for right and wrong is Christ himself, not Christ as a new basis for law minded thinking, not the mind which says "if Jesus did it so can I" but the mind which says to the Father, "Yes, Daddy," a mind which says to God, "I trust fully in Your example of right thinking. I embrace Jesus as the only pattern of thinking by which to please you."

Now, if you begin to follow Jesus, you soon become aware of an entrenched obstacle…what I want, my will. Not just my will on a single decision but my will about what is valuable, what is good, how to treat those who don’t like me, in fact how to conduct myself in every aspect of life. Choosing to follow Jesus beyond this point will change everything about your life, because it requires you “to die.”   To die: to yourself, to all you have been, to all that you want to be.

It is only in following Jesus through the garden and to the cross, even to the point of dying, that we find new life as He did. With every step through the garden, every agonizing foot to the cross, in every drop of blood He shed, Jesus is speaking to the Father for the whole world to see, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

We sometimes overemphasize the sacrificial nature of Jesus’ death. Yes, He died for us, but He also died as God’s example of how we must die if we are to find life in Him.

My friend, from my experience, I can say you greatly misjudge the CHM.

Yes, we have plenty of baggage. Yes, we manage to camouflage the essential elements of the message to the point that often our own children don’t even get it. But also, yes, I find here a remnant who are living the truth that the only way to please God is with a heart and life that fully embraces God’s example for man; a heart and life which proclaim, “Not my will but Thine."

66 comments:

  1. Legalists obey the letter but not the spirit of the Law. Il-legalists obey neither. We are legal--we love the truth, love the Author of truth, and love to do truth. Pleasing God pleases us. Press on Laura.

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  2. Laura, Thanks so much for sharing and saying cogently what others have tried to express. I too "delight to do His will." To conform one's life to the revealed truth in God's word out of pure love for its author is hardly legalism. "if ye love me keep my commandments" has sadly been shelved with the deep piety of saintliness. Indeed the day of "the lawless one" is upon us, and we do well to beware. Please keep writing. Blessings.

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  3. Laura, Thanks for the continuation of this topic, and thanks for the clarification that you sought counsel on this post. I had assumed that was so, and it helps me to know that. However, I am concerned on a few points, have spent some sleepless hours over this, and am concerned enough to risk this comment, although, as you know, it's not my style...

    In your first post, you clearly put the burden of the "relationship-breaking" on those who had changed and/or left. Again in this post you re-emphasized that point. This concerns me greatly, as it seems to be a continuation of the attitudes many experienced in the CHM, where everyone who leaves is the problem and the ones who stay are in the right. There are many who have left because in their search for truth they felt they could no longer stay and have honest dialog about issues such as you raised.

    And it is absolutely unfair for you to argue from the point of your "experience that for most people who change, it comes down to one thing; is it lawful?" Of course there is more to it than whether it is lawful. To make an obvious point - to base this argument on your experience limits you to your experience!

    But I'm even more concerned about your above response to the commentator - for your response attacked not merely their words and philosophies, but their person and credibility. I know in an earlier post something was said about the sharpness of the academic environment, and maybe I'm not used to this type of debate, but to attack any commentator on their "thinking" skills and accuse them of "playing fast and loose with scripture" damages their credibility, appears condescending on your part and again - seems to be a continuation of the superior attitudes so many experienced in the CHM.

    The particular vein of the CHM I was raised in did indeed discourage "thinking" and education in general. In spite of that, many of us following this conversation have endeavored to put that behind, have educated ourselves, and have been fairly successful in using our minds to make decisions regarding Truth and God's Will. Yet the continual tone coming from your responses is that unless we come to the same conclusions as you, there must be inferior thought processes. I'll freely admit I'm still learning and searching and could use some help. But I wonder if you think your truth is the only "logical" choice? Help me out here...

    I quite wholeheartedly agree with your bold paragraph near the end of the above post, which begins, "Legalism is wrong..." Absolutely what I believe. But it's a bit fantastic to me how you arrived there....

    Maybe if this discussion was centered on an issue the CHM has never made a part of their "list" the emotions would not be running so high - say, hair coverings, for example. Or maybe, even, the issues the early church faced and addressed in Acts 15 - namely, circumcision. But there again, in that same chapter, emotions got so high there was a parting of relationships for a bit...

    I don't think we can change anything now.... but that's the other question that comes to me as I read this post. How, exactly, do people change?

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    1. Sorry, Allen. I didn't realize I had a "spam" folder I should be checking. Your comment went there.

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  4. How can one bring a perspective to the table without prejudice? We all do, granted we hope that our prejudice is informed more so by Christ and Truth of Scripture than anything else.

    I think both Laura and everyone who comments will bring prejudice to this, and that's why I think it has come to a point being unproductive. As I said before, and I think (I am not sure but I think) everyone is on the same page that what we're discussing is an issue of conviction and calling of the Holy Spirit.

    As Laura said (maybe I inferred, I'm not sure), this conviction has been codified into an organization(s) "rules" and so everything in the discussion and the emotions and the feelings being hurt makes sense in that context.

    My conviction is that we as a church have created too many "rules." Not just CHM, it's everywhere, it's in our own lives, myself included. That was the point of my comment awhile back about tensions. As churches, we need to be able to not create rules if we acknowledge it is a matter of personal conviction. It limits the diversity of a local church body; that's why we have 50 churches in so many small cities across our country. It's because we can't come to grips with the fact that the Holy Spirit has placed different convictions on our hearts, and we CAN STILL FUNCTION IN HARMONY IN THE SAME CHURCH, even with those convictions.

    Or maybe down deep, it's a belief, NOT JUST FOR ME, but for everyone else, that not adorning myself is part of being set-apart and holy and is God's BEST for the entire Christian population. I'm frustrated, I'm tired by this conversation, and I don't mean that to be condescending because I'm the same way in many ways. For example.

    Last week I was conducting a funeral and one of the family members gave every indication that they were homosexual. I don't know whether they were or not, and that's not the point, but as soon as I realized that my mind went into condemnation mode. I was disappointed that I had to be the one conducting this funeral (I officiate multiple funerals every day for the Army). And I caught myself in that sinful mode of thinking. My heart should have been grateful for an oppurtunity to show Christ to someone who either doesn't now Christ or has walked away from the Truth of His Word. But I was critical before I was loving.

    I say that to say I'm the same way in so many ways, and I strive to be like Christ. But this frustrates me because I know Laura, and I know me, and I get the feeling from many of the commentors that they love the Lord with their heart. But what is upsetting is that even in our disagreements we couldn't be all apart of a CHM church because of some established rules. Now that may not be fair to say, but that's the vibe I get from all the posts and comments. And I'm only "picking" because this conversation is going, and I'm not casting the first stone because I acknowledge that there are plenty of planks in my own eye. But my feeling reading all of this is sadness because I love the diverse calling of Christ in the lives of his children, such as not wearing jewelry etc.

    Anyway, now I'm rambling. I love you all. I don't agree with you all. But I know that we are all seeking to live out, To God Be The Glory!

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  5. Dave, I have been very careful to address my concerns to those who have a common heritage in this area and who share a common theological background. I know you know you and I differ on some of the most fundamental points of perspective with regard to what Christianity is. As I have said before, I dearly love your family. I have tried to be very gentle and tolerant toward your comments because we come from such different backgrounds; in a sense, you are my guest here. However, it is unreasonable to expect unlimited graciousness toward uninhibited judgments and evaluations which are a direct consequence of a theological framework I reject.

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    1. Laura,
      You are gracious and I didn't mean to imply my frustrations are towards you. I was thinking last night about how "comments" can be somewhat deceiving because if I agree with 90% of what is written, I normally only comment about the %10 I disagree with!:)

      I'll observe from a distance the balance of the conversation. And even though I recognize that I am a guest in this conversation, it can't help but stir frustrations as I said above, not just in your church, but the broader church as a whole.

      Thanks for your graciousness, thanks for your love for the Lord. I'm moving from the "journalist" section of the stadium to the bleachers.

      PS: We got to hear our baby's heartbeat for the first time yesterday; pretty cool!:)

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    2. The attitude of your response here, Dave is inspiring and a beautiful example for us all. Thank you, and congratulations! I remember that incredible moment with our first! What joy. Blessings!

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  6. Laura,

    My name is Phil and I am a son of the Conservative Holiness Movement and after over 30 years with the CHM and many of those years spent in evangelistic ministry all across the movement and at the IHC, I now wear a wedding ring. So, I guess I’ll answer the question that you addressed to those like me. Otherwise, I have no advice to give. I can only offer my experiences.

    Here is how I learned about “standards” from the CHM. As a small child, teen and into my young adult years, the authority structures in my life said “we don’t wear jewelry because we are Christians.” For many years I felt that religious people were not Christians if they wore jewelry. The preachers at the churches we attended, the evangelists who came to preach revivals and campmeetings I attended and ministered in always seemed to have a “standards” message. The message had a few proof texts and anecdotal stories but mostly heavy criticism for the “worldly” churches the CHM had came from. More often than not the preacher also called into question the “young people who were always asking for the biblical book, chapter, and verse.” At this point, the tone of the messages became frustrated, even angry. Those who questioned the “standards” were then characterized as “spiritually dead, immature, un-sanctified, rebellious, worldly minded, contentious, and unwilling to walk in the light.” There was also the question of what people would think and how disappointed they would be if a person “compromised.” Later, in evangelistic work, I sat quietly on the sidelines and listened to the same kind of rhetoric in hundreds of settings - people’s homes, in the snack bars, with the other workers after services, in Sunday school Bible studies, etc. In retrospect, I have come to view those tactics of teaching as attempts to control by fear of people, fear for reputation, shame, and guilt. The issue of offense (1 Cor. 8:13) is another strong tool of coercion that the CHM likes to use to manipulate, and I heard it over and again. The offense mentioned is not simply a thing that someone does not like…it is something that would cause a person to sin and turn away from God. All those tools are effective, but they were damaging to me and have caused many kinds of weakness and pain.

    The above tactics worked until in my schooling and ministry I met the very kinds of people who had been so demonized for their jewelry and other “issues.” But, I found many devout Christians in their number. Some of them became friends. The questions multiplied.

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  7. CONTINUED from above....

    Then, I began to feel God’s call to church music ministry. After giving two years to a CHM church and nearly having a physical/emotional break trying to build a program as a volunteer, God opened the doors for me to serve outside the movement in a paid position that would allow me to support my family in ministry. Now, I not only had my own un-answered questions, but the people to whom I ministered began to ask questions among other things about why we did not wear jewelry. I had no good answers to give. I had never been given much of a biblical answer, and the prejudice against non-CHM Christians had long since been debunked.

    I was driven to God’s word for answers. Concerning jewelry, I found that the overwhelming part of scripture (Old and New Testaments) is positive about jewelry — even the remarks of Christ, which must not be discounted. It is negative when associated with pride and excess. I also came to understand that, while the two passages (I Peter 3, and I Timothy 2) that address women’s apparel say the woman’s adorning should not be her braided hair, neither actually prohibits braided hair. I came to see though that both prohibit excessively decorated hair. It seems likely, then, that this is the spirit of the other prohibitions in these two passages. That the references in the epistles are not prohibitions against all wearing of jewelry is underscored by the fact that “holy women in the past,” to whom the apostle points as examples of humility’s beauty (1 Peter 3:5), also wore jewelry (Genesis 24). Their true beauty however came from within.

    One example I will cite of a scripture passage that speaks in a positive way is Ezekiel 16: 10 - I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put leather sandals on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. 11 I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, 12 and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. 13 So you were adorned with gold and silver; your clothes were of fine linen and costly fabric and embroidered cloth. Your food was fine flour, honey and olive oil. You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen. 14 And your fame spread among the nations on account of your beauty, because the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD. (GOD was talking)

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  8. CONTINUED from above...

    I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that jewelry is not prohibited by God. It is not a sin. The teaching I received from the CHM has no biblical basis when the whole of scripture is considered alongside the proof-texts it uses to prohibit its membership from wearing jewelry.

    I actually care not on wit if the CHM wants to impose extra-biblical rules on its members for any reason be it tradition, identity or simply caution or all three. What I reject is when those rules for membership become tests of spirituality and when the standards set become the rule by which all who do not come under the organizational rules are measured and deemed “worldly” and “spiritually dead, immature, un-sanctified, rebellious, worldly minded, contentious, and unwilling to walk in the light.”

    At any rate, I now wear a wedding band. It is a sign of a sacred union that I want to remain true to, and I want all who see me to know I belong to my wife. Laura, you asked if it was worth it. I have to say yes…it was and is.

    Is it worth the relational distance it has placed between me and the CHM? Yes…for the reasons I’ve outlined, the culture of the CHM became toxic for me. In that sense it is worth it. Has walking away been easy? No…it was painful to leave. My identity was there. I was well known. People used to rush to greet me. I enjoyed my “fame.” Now, except for the few that care about relationships (and they work both ways) people seem to prefer to ignore me. Actually, that response began to happen when I began to work in a non-CHM church two years before we began to make any outward changes. It actually only takes “hobnobbing with the ‘worldly outfits’ to begin to feel the relationships cool. Being unknown in new circles had not always been easy, but I have realized identity is as a follower of Christ, and as a beloved son of God most importantly.

    Is it worth losing the platform of ministry in the CHM? The years I spent there were valid. The ministry there was real and it was worth it. But in stepping away from the CHM to follow God’s call to my present station of ministry it is worth it and I have “lost” nothing in that regard. The CHM has lost me.

    For many years I was a part of the “organization” and “played by the rules.” But, even as Paul and Barnabas parted ways…so have I. I have no hostility or bitterness towards the CHM. I’m just not a fan.

    Phil

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    1. Hi Phil, I am posting a response below.

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  9. Laura,

    I'm not surprised that you responded the way you did. And I don't judge you for your response. It's the truth "as you see it" and as others instruct you to see it, but it may not be the truth with a capital T -- the Truth in how Scripture presents it.

    In some respects your answer had to be what it is because the CHM denies Scripture as the ultimate authority and rule of life and replaces it with the rule of sub-culture and custom. Now, please be aware: I KNOW that you love Scripture personally! But at issue here is how a church movement cannot allow Scripture to interpret itself on pet rules and sets of extra-biblical standards, such as ring-wearing -- a movement that cannot allow Scripture to be the ULTIMATE, objective authority for its members, because it has stepped in to be that authority for them -- human, tradition-oriented authority that offers iron-clad customs as the definitive standards for fellowship: what it says becomes the "convictions" that guide the individual vs. their life in the Spirit, ordered by the Word of God.

    It "teaches for doctrine the traditions of men" -- patent legalism, even if that term be rejected by those in the movement, in its Scripture sense.

    You say that my "thinking" is not thinking. Well now, I refuse to take that bait. The real issue is the HERMENEUTICS being used; how Scripture is being treated by the CHM, to justify as teaching for doctrine the traditions of men...

    You say that I have judged the CHM unfairly. No, I have not -- with this distinction: I am not speaking about INDIVIDUALS within the CHM, but I am speaking about the effect of the movement as a whole on individuals. How in so many lives it has destroyed the fruit of the Gospel of Jesus, even as it purports to give the "true way."

    You asked what happened to so many young people. I will tell you, if you will give the integrity of listening and honesty of heart to hear.

    And understand, I can't emphasize enough: When I speak, I am not speaking against individuals in the CHM and definitely not against you. I am speaking against a movement that has become a spiritual Leviathan to so many people -- a movement that chews people up and spits them out, like little bits of broken children of God scattered across the last generation, flowers of the forest fallen under the auspices of "holiness" -- holiness that defines itself externally and rejects any person that dares not accept those external, extra-biblical standards.

    You call my thinking into account, but I ask you to put your words beneath the Word of God. I ask you humbly: ARE YOU WILLING TO LET THE WORD OF GOD BE THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY ON WEARING RINGS? If so, then please present your Scriptural case as to why NOT wearing rings is the proper standard of of the people of God -- the standard that the CHM prescribes as "the truth," and which it is willing to dis-fellowship people over.

    In this will be wisdom, if you so choose. In this will be the beginnings of an answer to what has happened to the last generation of CHM. Consider yourself challenged, Laura, in a very healthy sense. Is the Word of God the proper authority of Christian life? If so, you should be very open and willing to give a biblical argument [not a subjective, specious argument] as to why wearing rings is wrong, and why wearers of rings are worthy of being dis-fellowshiped, and worthy of being asked such questions, "Is it worth it, what will happen to you if you dare put on that ring?"

    And... if you are NOT willing to produce a biblical argument, shouldn't that be clear evidence as to whom is thinking clearly? As to whom is being biblical?

    Consider yourself challenged to write a BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF RING-WEARING. I will do the same. And we will let Scripture judge our thinking as right or wrong... and this for the sake of highest Truth.

    God bless you, Laura!

    Yours in Christ,

    Loy

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  10. P.S. Laura, in my request for you to write a Biblical Theology of Ring-Wearing, I know full well that you wrote a blog post related to your personal acceptance of this issue. I am not talking about such a reply.

    In some respects, in the context of this discussion, such a reply is evasion, for this reason: The CHM has made the issue an objective issue: It is an external and measurable standard that is used to control fellowship. A subjective reply, when asked for the biblical justification of an objective issue, is evasion. It cloaks itself in personal spirituality when asked for the biblical foundations of the group’s objective standards.

    So, when I speak of a Biblical Theology on this issue, Laura, I am not asking for more subjective thoughts on your part – you’ve already answered how you as an individual live with the rule, with some personal appeal to general Scriptural standards, etc. That is not the issue, though, because the standard has been put forward objectively as a valid delineation of fellowship. For the sake of honest spiritual life, the issue is now in the realm where objective biblical teaching must be offered to back up the standard that is presented as objective by the group [it is external, measurable, and all in full fellowship w. the group must adhere to it].

    In fact, it is considered SO objective by the group that the CHM feels comfortable asking the question, “Is it worth it, what will happen to you if you put on a ring?” “We all will see this objective standard, and we will treat you accordingly…”

    Now, what is so deadly and so revealing of the toxicity bound up in the CHM, is when a person turns to the CHM and asks for biblical theology of their external standards – standards that are presented as objective and measurable. See how the argument then is treated in vastly subjective terms -- and how far away from the issue full Scripture is removed!

    See, and learn. There is much wisdom for a person to see the response from the CHM when asked for biblical foundations of objective claims. If anyone wonders about the death in the pot, here it is...

    Anyway, just to clarify what I’m asking in asking for a Biblical Theology of Ring Wearing. I’m asking for a real biblical foundation for how this standard is used objectively. I’m not asking for how you subjectively manage such a standard in your personal life. How does a GROUP properly treat all within its bounds by this standard, according to the Bible?

    Again, many blessings to you and yours, tonight!

    Loy

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  11. Laura,

    The Lord has chastened me for being too hard on you, and I must ask your forgiveness for my tone -- again!

    Yes, I am a flawed person! I've been known use a hammer to remove a horsefly from the forehead of a friend: helpful job; wrong tool; hurt friend.

    So I ask you to forgive my tone that is not helpful; I have let the perceived failures of the CHM bleed through in language toward you, and that is not fair or good. I'm sure you are a good person who is honestly dealing w. the issue as you see fit. From what I can tell from a distance, you are noble and trustworthy and kind -- and not deserving of accusatory tone or improper attack via language. So if you can find it in your heart to forgive me, it would help me. :-)

    I believe my underlying questions to you are just -- the treatment of Scripture, the retreat into subjectivity when the objective issue is at stake, the lack of a biblical theology of the issue, etc. -- but my tone and language toward you was not just. And not helpful. Forgive my use of a hammer when a fan would have sufficed!

    God bless you and keep you in your inner person, as you struggle w. this issue!

    Yours in Christ,

    Loy

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    Replies
    1. Loy, I am not easily offended. Forgive you? Absolutely.

      Delete
  12. Thank you, Laura -- thankfully you're not easily offended. And that you have a tough forehead, where the ball-peen hammer can bounce off, lol.

    One thing that has not been stated [or at least I have not seen it stated] in this discussion is this principle, which underlies the whole debate: Does the Holy Spirit lead contrary to the Word of God

    I strongly believe, with the Reformers, that it is impossible for the Holy Spirit to speak contrary to the Word of God. For valid Christian life, Word and Spirit must go hand in hand. The Word without the Spirit is a dead letter; the Spirit apart from the Word leads to unbounded emotionalism and the false rule of self. On both sides there is error and bondage.

    At any rate, I believe that to promote a spirituality where the Spirit leads a person or group apart from the Word of God is patently dangerous. It is unbalanced, and will lead to “toxic faith” 100 percent of the time -- toxicity expanding across the generations.

    For many people, this is the CHM: in the very things that it chooses to define itself by, in those things it departs from Scripture, yet claims to be Spirit led in those matters, promoting such standards as an objective, measurable signs of spiritual life. And, when asked for the Biblical Theology of such teachings, it either twists Scripture to fit the claim, or makes it a non-Scriptural, subjective issue of a private faith-walk.

    Both responses are not healthy: Proof-texting and twisting Scripture is unhealthy every time. And, just as [potentially] hurtful is the other option: retreat into subjective faith-walk language, when asked for the justification for the objective standard.

    Imagine how unjust this is: On one hand to claim that ring-wearing [or other standard] is a personal conviction; and then, on the other hand, turn around and use that standard as an objective judgment on others – and then treat as valid the dis-fellowshiping and silent ostracizing of that person from full common life.

    This is the frustration that you hear, Laura. There is a shell game being played for many people here: On one hand this issue of ring-wearing is treated as a valid, Scriptural standard of fellowship; but on the other hand, when asked for biblical justification, it is pretended to be a personal conviction.

    Please understand that people have been beat up by this kind of hypocrisy for years. There are thousands of people who have experienced the spiritual devastation that eventually occurs here, when what is claimed as Spirit Life and holy standard is divorced from the Word of God… and such extra-biblical standards are pushed on searching young people – people honestly trying to find God's will in the matter. And then they are treated with subtle coercion and outright ostracization, when not "toeing the line."

    It is an eventually deadly construct, that removes the clear teaching of the Word of God from what is claimed as Spirit life.

    This is where the toxicity has been mixed in the pot, and here is where the people broken by the CHM are wounded: They have merely asked for what is claimed as a true, biblical, objective standard to be backed up by the Word of God – and found themselves subjected to intense psychological pressure, painful personal judgment, excoriation, and vicious political power plays... even the question, “Is it worth it, how you will be treated if you put on that ring?” is a very subtle power play…

    Thousands have experienced those exact things, Laura – and many lie broken alongside the road, wounded, bleeding and feeling alone, by the voracious machine called the CHM: A machine made up of good individuals, but with deadly effect, as good individuals try to maintain extra-biblical standards as the definitive, objective measure of fellowship.

    CONTINUED BELOW...

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  13. So, Laura, when people ask you for a biblical theology, this is what is behind it. Can the Spirit of God truly lead and define a people apart from the Word of God? For the sake of spiritual health, Word and Spirit must go together.

    It is unconscionable to define another person by an objective standard and then refuse to give objective biblical answer for that standard. It's definitely not life in Word and Spirit together.

    Anyway, long way to try to give you more of the issue, in the minds of many of your readers, and clarify the subject in language that is respectful to you as a person made in the Image of Abba and trying to follow the Son. :-)

    Have a good day and God bless you!

    Loy

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  14. Phil,
    Thanks for speaking from your heart.

    You have answered my question per your experience... that's all I could ask in that regard.

    I do have another question. You mention, "In retrospect, I have come to view those tactics of teaching as attempts to control by fear of people, fear for reputation, shame, and guilt."

    Do you view my approach and my question as an attempt to control by fear of people, fear for reputation, shame, and guilt?

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  15. Loy, there are some things you should know.

    1. With regard to your apology; while your aim seems directed more at the CHM and less at me personally in the most recent comments, it’s still more of the same. http://fergyfamforum.blogspot.com/2012/04/what-i-mean-by-legalism-most-prominent.html

    2. You are misjudging me on numerous accounts.

    3. Either you are not reading what I have written, or you understand it and vigorously want my line of thought silenced or redirected at any cost.

    4. You are beginning to sound like an Internet troll.

    5. I cannot permit you to use this platform to spew slanderous unfounded accusations against people you don’t even know. (You haven’t been a member of the CHM for years; your accusations are all-inclusive.)

    6. There are some readers who would really like to know what it is I’m trying to say. If you want to listen in while we examine the issues, you’re welcome, and when we are through I’ll try to come back and try to address your concerns. In the meantime, I’m not going to be distracted by your diversions. I understand your agenda.

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  16. Laura,

    Please give your definition of an "Internet troll".

    Thank you,

    D.

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  17. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll

    Internet troll: a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,[2] extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response[3] or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

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  18. Laura, I am grieved that accuse me of false agenda. My agenda, if I have one is 1. Treatment of Scripture, and 2. Treatment of hurting people. I am trying to respond honestly to issues you've put forward here, respecting you and others who may be reading. Lots of hurting people! And I am trying to help matters, Laura. Not hurt. And I have no agenda, other than what I have stated. In my mind, EVERYONE is helped by honest discussion -- you, me and all of us. Things of bondage hate the light of day. Lesser truths hate to be challenged.

    In your treatment of my posts and accusations against me, you are not being just. Please do not do what the CHM does when asked for biblical theology: It attacks the one asking the questions. I have given honest challenges to your positions and I have striven to NOT make it personal [because it isn't at all, in the larger issue].

    Let me give you an example of how you are treating my clear questions, and then you will see how difficult it is for me to respond to your replies [on that same level], because your reply changes the question and discards the essence: it atomizes the language into pieces, responds to the pieces and ignores the whole.

    Here's how you treated one of my important questions: I asked you if a person "can be holy -- in sense of divine holiness, and not in the sense of traditional holiness -- and break fellowship with another Christian over wearing a ring."

    Now, the reason I framed the question thus was this: There is a holiness that comes from God and there is a type of holiness that is defined by man; these two are not the same thing.

    I framed the question thus because I did not want it to be misunderstood: A person can easily break fellowship with another Christian over a ring if she or he is claiming humanly-defined holiness as their banner [vs. possessing what God calls righteousness]. In the name of humanly-defined holiness, a person can shatter a church, destroy someone's character, create a whisper campaign [I saw Dr. So-and-So in short sleeves... we need to get him off the board of directors, etc. etc.]. And be held up all along as a paragon of holiness.

    It's sad that I even had to make the distinction in the question! But that's why I framed it like I did.

    But you did not read it or hear it on that level. Nor did you address the issue to which it speaks. Instead, you atomized the question, pulled out pieces and made them say things apart from the context of the discussion -- which they never could have meant in a fair reading. And thus the question was evaded. But not answered.

    I ask you: How was that a fair reading of my question -- your response? Please hear it again. This time I will re-frame it to where it cannot be misunderstood or atomized out of context: Laura, I ask you before God: Is it possible to be holy as God defines holiness and break fellowship with another Christian over wearing a ring?

    It is a completely honest and clear question, my friend. Please, can you answer it on the level it is intended, without attacking me as a person?

    Also, when I ask for a biblical theology for your position, I am asking honestly -- and willing to write a theology on my part... to take of my time, put forth real effort, for the sake of truth -- for you, for me and all others, who seek truth.

    I get nothing out of this discussion, Laura, other than striving for the Kingdom. Hearts and minds NEED the true Bread of Heaven in the House of God. People are starving for true bread, and getting a cellophane wrapper called bread.

    Please do not mischaracterize my actions here, my friend! I know that I am not perfect, as I mentioned before, and sometimes my tone is wrong. But my questions have been clear and with real meaning behind them. Please at least treat me as a brother in Christ, even if you think I am a misguided one. And please, be honest with my questions. Please do not make them what they are not!

    God bless you and keep you tonight! :-)

    Loy

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  19. Loy,

    You have now written more on this blog post than the blogger. Something is clearly wrong with this picture. She is too kind to go into personal defense, but I am not too kind to defend my wife. Up to this point, I have made only the most incidental contributions to her posts, but since she has gone to bed for the night and is weary of trying to keep you on topic, I am responding.

    Loy, you are welcome to argue with the leaders of the CHM about their theory of hermeneutics and whether their position on rings is right and yours justifying rings is not, and to do so in a public forum, such as on your blog: http://loymershimer.blogspot.com/. You might even want to respond to this (my) comment, there, for I believe Laura has now blocked your comments to her posts, at least for awhile.

    She posed a clear question which asks people to examine their own values. What is worth more to you and to each reader: wearing a ring or maintaining a voice and influence in a group that has rules against wearing rings. There are at least three major reasons your comments are persistently off-topic:

    1. The question she posed asks you to think about the issues from an angle that you are apparently not interested in. An angle specifically based on 1 Corinthians 6:12. You claimed, falsely, that she had hidden assumptions. You claim that she is engaged in a power play. Again, simply false.

    One way of dealing with an uncomfortable question, Loy, is to point the questioner’s attention at someone else, and your efforts have been heroic: “But what about the CHM? What about them? They are doing something wrong too!” Have you actually answered the question posed to you? Rather than consider thoughtfully one’s own choices, it is always much less threatening to look around and say it is the other guy’s fault.

    If you want to write a blog post about the faults of the CHM and why you are justified in leaving and doing whatever you think is right, go right ahead. As a matter of fact, if you are so certain that you gained by putting on a ring and that the people of the CHM are evil (consider the descriptions you have used of them, below) and ‘good riddance’ from your life, the question would have been easily answered!

    2. Not only do you try to deflect the question toward others rather than answer it, you press further and demand that Laura provide, as though she now represents the CHM at whom you are pointing the finger, “why wearing rings is wrong.” This is not the topic she raised, and to the early demands that she speak for them, she replied:. “For those of you who insist I render it a legal opinion, I have nothing that you will consider new. But I do offer the words of the Apostle Paul as a tool to understanding the questions. “All things are lawful to me but all things are not expedient…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...”” (Still Small Voice)

    You say you want to respond to the issues, but you have yet to grasp (or else you urgently seek to avoid) the issue that Laura is raising. You have never even addressed her thesis. Read 1 Cor 6:12 again, which says “all things are lawful” and conclude what you want about whether it is lawful to wear a ring. Then move to the issue she asks: is it expedient? More precisely, in light of what is to be gained and lost, can I justify this decision using Jesus’ “not my will” mind as my example?
    [continued]

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  20. 3. You specifically ignore her point about legalism as a mode of thinking, and tenaciously keep returning to it! You ignore the dictionary definition, which is the mode of thinking she is challenging, then move on as though she said nothing. When in a discussion which includes definitions of words and concepts, there is no point in moving ahead if you are talking about two different things while using the same word. Loy, I don’t think you get a major point yet: by the dictionary definition, the mode of thinking you keep demonstrating is legalistic! This is an objective definitions. Laura has disavowed legalism as a mode of thinking. She is not going to engage in a legal argument about whether wearing a ring is permitted or banned by chapter and verse. You can go find those arguments elsewhere, and of course, you already have made your mind up on that issue. She has (a) no intention of trying to change your mind, and (b) no desire to engage in that mode of thinking.

    Your agenda is to take this conversation down the above paths, rather than engage the blogger in the topics she has raised.

    Clear questions seeking truth? You have not yet asked a neutral question, Loy, which would be a question that is seeking to help discover truth. Your questions are all heavily loaded with your agenda, with the precise result you demand built in, and designed to redirect the discussion as described above. A clear, valid question might be, “what is holiness?” “what does it mean to be holy?” “Is there any connection between holiness and breaking (or maintaining) relationships?”

    Your ultimate question is a great example of loaded, agenda-driven posturing and it is not clear, either. Do you mean “is it possible for someone to be holy and put on a ring, knowing that it will cause a breach of fellowship with other sincere believers?” In the context of all your discussions, that question certainly occurred to me. Or, do you mean “Is it possible for a person to be holy and break fellowship with another person because the other person refuses to put on a ring?” Or, do you mean, “Is it possible for a person to be holy and break fellowship with another person because the other person put on a ring?”

    If the latter, then why not ask what you really mean: “How can you claim to be holy and break fellowship with another person because that other person puts on a ring?” And if that is your question, as I believe it to be, how can you say that is an “honest” question? I don’t know what “honest” means when you used that word, because your definitions are hard to find, but a question that is carefully designed to pin a person to an untenable position would not be what I call an honest question. It would not be a question that is honestly allowing truth to be exposed; the question “on the level it is intended” is one designed to force exposure of what you already think the truth is, what you have prejudged the truth to be. That is my honest assessment of your question, and other questions you have posed. You know what you think the truth is, and you contrive these theses in the form of questions to try to make someone agree with you. That is simply not truth-seeking. It is thinly-disguised telling.
    [continued]

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  21. In the courtroom this is called leading the witness. A leading question suggests the answer within the question. From the words you use, your whole approach here appears evident. You pose every question (and twist and restate Laura’s) in order to bring about this result: that the people who have chosen to put on a ring feel justified, and those who would break fellowship with them will be condemned.

    How can you claim these are honest questions?

    In order to make your case, you even rephrase Laura’s question so as to cast aspersions on the group. Specifically, “Is it worth it, how you will be treated if you dare put on that ring?” You again point the finger at the group, suggesting that the actor is the group that remains respectful of whatever the group has decided upon. You then say Laura engages in a “power play…” with HER question! Have you heard the one about the pot calling the kettle? You also equate her with the CHM, as though she represents them in asking her question.

    You disparage a large group of people with words like “specious argument” “toxicity bound up in the CHM” “death in the pot” “it departs from Scripture, yet claims to be Spirit led in those matters” “twists Scripture to fit the claim” “people have been beat up by this kind of hypocrisy” “divorced from the Word of God” “people honestly trying to find God's will in the matter. And then they are treated with subtle coercion and outright ostracization” “intense psychological pressure, painful personal judgment, excoriation, and vicious political power plays” leaving people “broken alongside the road, wounded, bleeding and feeling alone, by the voracious machine called the CHM”…You need to engage in this sort of thing on your own blog, or in response to (or in support of) someone who is blogging about it. Laura is not. If you want to help those people, then breaking their rules and leaving the group and calling them these names cannot be very profitable means of advancing that cause.

    I agree that no-one who wants to wear a ring and still hang onto ties to the CHM likes Laura’s question. Because it makes them think about their value judgments. And thinking is hard. So much easier to just have a clearly-spelled out doctrine of dos and don’ts, that you can check off and forget about, and go on living your life as you please. But is that the mind of Jesus?

    Since you refuse to discuss the issue presented, and occupy massive amounts of comment space and time trying to redirect Laura’s discussion to your agenda, you henceforth will need to write on your own blog for awhile. Maybe Laura or I will find time to come visit and engage in the topic you want to discuss.

    Sincerely, Curt

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  22. Looking at that last post, I want to make clear that it is a continuation of the prior one. I was talking about Loy's questions, not Laura's when I describe "leading" questions.
    Curt

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  23. If your wife is not able to handle discussions...maybe she shouldn't be asking questions like she did on her very public blog & referring to people we all know & welcoming everyones comments. I guess the game is over when she has had enough. I also, think you have been very offensive to Loy. Anyone who read his comments could see his humility & honesty & his ability to clearly ask some questions of Laura that the rest of
    us were trying to articulate. Anyone who knows Loy knows his godly spirit & humble way. I would now say that Laura has spoken out against 2 men of God. Perhaps she should refrain from further blogging if it cannot be done without attempts to undo someone's godly influence & character. Unfortunately, her blog post hasn't improved her reputation either.

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  24. Laura, when I read this particular post - and before any of the above comments - I was astounded and deeply disturbed. I see my comments finally made it through, so I wont belabor those points any more, but as I have followed this conversation I will have to say that I have had to fight an amazingly fierce battle against spiritual forces that came against me in the form of discouragement and hopelessness. Not your problem and certainly not your fault, but let me explain...

    The discouragement that has come - has come of all places - from your use and defense of logic and thinking to make all of this sound legitimate and righteous. I agree completely that many people either have not been trained how or refuse to engage in the hard work which a thoughtful life requires. The CHM in particular had many strains, flavors and methods to discourage thinking, to ridicule educated people, and to put aside the questions that were repeatedly asked by those like myself. My own education and spiritual life has been a constant strain to learn how to think, how to overcome the "non-thinking" of my past and how to teach my children how to think.I haven't always done well in this regard, but I consider myself a constant learner, and love to learn. I don't mind your educational bents - I welcome them... but in your use of such language, tone and attitude in this discussion you have come to the exact same point where you started.....

    And that is this - it seems people are being "dis-fellowshiped" over legitimate questions. This is your blog and I am your guest and you certainly have the right to administer this forum in such a way as to stay on target. But you see, as those of us know who have left the CHM or are in the process of leaving, each and every time when an attempt was made to engage in thoughtful discussion, ask legitimate questions or seek to find and know the Truth, we were accused of twisting scripture, of desiring something other than tradition, of having hidden agendas, of wanting to break relationships long bound by our history and journey and of rebelling against the "rules."

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    1. Allen,
      Please consider with me the net result of your communication.

      As I read over your comment, I notice the following:

      A. You take the opportunity to land some hits on the CHM:

      “The CHM…had many strains, flavors and methods to discourage thinking, to ridicule educated people ….Many…were accused of twisting scripture…desiring something other than tradition…having hidden agendas…wanting to break relationships… rebelling against the 'rules.' Long, drawn out arguments were made…false assumptions…Rarely was there…an honest discussion… The movement that declared itself to be based on scripture…made the scriptures non-essential..we've come to expect to be disfellowshipped… barred from pulpits… asked to step out of ministry, to be shunned and whispered about in circles…"

      As a “stream of consciousness” composition, we are hearing your thoughts, but these “hits” don't seem to contribute logically to any position. What should the reader conclude?

      B. However, you appear to have three principle complaints with me:

      1. You don't like the “language, tone and attitude in this discussion;”

      As for tone (or attitude): please note that tone doesn't change the substance of logic. Tone is a description of the emotional impact of language. I understand some people don't like their truth raw or unadorned. Some to this day criticize the tone of Jesus in Matthew 23. But tone does not change the truth of what is spoken.

      2. Also, you add, “…you have come to the exact same point where you started.”

      On this, Allen, I just don't know what you are complaining about here. If it is something you want me to respond to, you'll need to restate it.

      3. It seems people are “being "dis-fellowshiped" over legitimate questions.”

      You have not complained about the logic of any of my conclusions, so my conclusions stand. I haven't dis-fellowshipped anybody, and I have made it clear that the only reason I have limited commenters is when they take advantage of this space to make unfounded accusations or when they insist on taking the discussion to a different topic.

      Allen, whatever you feel like you have experienced in the past with the CHM, you didn't experience from me, and I submit, it is wrong to hold me guilty for somebody else's wrong. I am certainly not the poster child for the CHM!

      What legitimate questions are you talking about?

      C. To your estimated “several hundred people following this conversation from all over the USA” you say, “I do speak against the entire movement, just as you spoke against the entire group of people who have chosen to leave.”

      First, I didn't “speak against” an entire group; I asked them a question. Turns out that the most vociferous response to such an introspective question has been, “let's talk about something else!” (as evidenced by another anonymous comment at 6:01 p.m.)

      Second--even if I had spoken against an entire group--are you saying you would be just in doing the same thing? It is an extreme position to suggest that there is absolute uniformity (uniform abuse or uniform virtue) in any group. Surely there are some genuine Christians in any group that preaches Christ.

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  25. Hi Laura,

    The approach and question from your original post do feel shame-based. First, you made it clear that your post was directed to people like me. Then you spoke of having a heavy heart and you noted that you cried. That put the whole discussion on an emotional level, and for all intents and purposes, within the context of your approach, it is I who hurt you and made you cry. You then gave a list of people who taught values that I no longer ascribe fully to. You imply that I am doing “wrong” in their eyes now. The whole appeal - based on emotion, with implied disappointment, reference to severed relationships, and the implication that I am now doing “wrong” feels very shame and guilt-based. Your appeal mirrors the appeals that I heard in my past...complete with with the same Timothy text quoted outside the context of the whole council of God's Word.

    Phil

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  26. continuation...

    Long, drawn out arguments were made that were based on experience, tradition or false assumptions against the things we honestly were wanting knowledge on. Rarely was there ever an honest discussion of what the Scripture meant, what the author intended or the what the style of writing indicated or how we should live as a result. All of this in the name of Holiness and Love. The movement that declared itself to be based on scripture has in many ways made the scriptures non-essential. And so we've come to expect to be disfellowshipped, to be barred from pulpits, to be asked to step out of ministry, to be shunned and whispered about in circles while we deeply and earnestly seek the Life, the Truth and the Way.

    Lest you say I make accusations against people I do not know, I beg to differ. I grew up in the movement, have spoken in or performed in, and had associations and direct connections for more than 40 years with almost every brand, college and group that comprises the CHM. I have countless hours of research on the CHM, hundreds of hours counseling those hurt by the CHM and a personal journey of recovery and redemption from a life that threatened to destroy me and all I held dear. I do speak against the entire movement, just as you spoke against the entire group of people who have chosen to leave. And I have maintained my connections and credentials with the group in which I grew up, hoping against hope that one day they would truly seek to follow Christ and Christ alone, not the traditions of men, and to see true revival come back to our land. I'm not so sure at this point when that will ever happen.

    The battle I mentioned earlier has come and gone. Christ is Victor and I am at peace. I am not writing any of this in anger or bitterness. I thank you again for this discussion, for it has greatly illuminated many of us on both sides of the issue.

    Based on my years of research in web development and web statistics, and based on the number of comments, as well as the number who have visited my blog from yours, I know there are/have been several hundred people following this conversation from all over the USA. It is not my desire to deepen anyone's pain, nor to confuse the matter more, so this will probably be my last comment. Unless you desire differently...

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  27. I think Allen is right. There ARE hundreds of people following this conversation who are intensely interested in some honest, thoughtful discussion about this issue which you refuse to address. That being, why do relationships suffer when convictions change and should this (chilly relationships) be happening amongst Christians? This is your blog, so you have the absolute right to choose the direction the conversation takes, but it is extremely disappointing to watch you, who claim to be a seeker of the truth, refuse to discuss a difficult issue with which many are struggling. Even worse when you accuse someone you don't even know (or maybe you do?) of being a troll with an agenda. Even if this person IS a troll with an agenda, they asked questions that I and many others would legitimately be interested in some honest answers.

    ReplyDelete
  28. The Anonymous above said pretty much what I've wanted to say. I don't know Loy personally, but I have appreciated his attitude, his wisdom, and his haste to apologize at the slightest indication that he may have been sharp in his tone. Honestly, I've seen more of that willingness in him than in you, Laura. You were completely rude to Loy. However, it's your blog so you make the rules.

    You have never apologized nor retracted your statement to Mary Ellen which was proven to be false. Here is your comment to her: "Mary Ellen, We must think beyond emotion. No particular people are the topic of conversation here. I regret that you are trying to make this a matter of personalities instead of a search for understanding." You WERE referring to a specific individual and situation. Most of us know that. You refuse to admit it.

    Curt and Laura, you refuse to see the point that many of us have tried to make. We've said it til we're nearly "blue in the face" and you STILL don't get it. YES, we understand what Laura was trying to say. But the point remains that jewelry is actually referred to positively in the Bible, is never condemned except in excess, and so should NOT be a cause for any relationship to be strained or severed, nor should it be a cause for someone to lose his or her influence. PERIOD. Are you greater than God? Have the rules and traditions of the CHM taken the place of God's Word? (And please don't start with the word studies again here. It hurts my uneducated head. Thank the Lord we don't have to have a Doctorate to understand the Bible enough to live by it.)

    I am still, at present, in the CHM. I was raised in it. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. More and more, I see the control issue that is becoming a HUGE problem. Also, I agree with what someone said in another comment about the CHM discouraging education and honest seeking for truth. Our people are afraid to give voice to the questions they have for fear of being accused of being worldly-minded and unspiritual. If you deny that, you have your head in the sand.

    I'm basically repeating what others have said so much better than I can. I'm just getting more and more frustrated. You have skirted the issue and played word games in an admirable way. I've never seen someone avoid answering the real issue so eloquently.

    I will say this again, however. The decision of an individual to wear a wedding ring was the reason for your tears and heartache. You obviously can understand why this person has lost his influence because he chose to wear the ring. You weep for that loss. I ask YOU, is it worth it to you to never be able to influence the TRUE, core of the CHM? Those who hold an even closer line than you? There are hundreds and maybe more over whom you could have no influence and to whom you could be of no help, because you have the internet and wear short sleeves. And they can give you Scripture for that. Sort of. Try going to Camp Gilead or Dixon, Missouri or any of the ultra-conservative camp meetings/churches and taking part in the services. Hundreds of people, the best of the best of the CHM, but you could NOT take part in their services. At all. Curt, you couldn't even be an usher. They're holding the line. They're ministering to hundreds. Is it worth it to you to keep wearing your short sleeves and using the internet? If you went there, you would face the same criticism that the person to whom you referred in your very first blog post have felt. Think about it. I mean REALLY think about it. I hope you will finally see how hypocritical and self-righteous you sound. I don't mean that in an unkind way. I'm just tired of all the labeling and pointing of fingers.

    This. Is. Not. What. Holiness. Is. About.

    God help us all.

    J

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    Replies
    1. "The Anonymous above said pretty much what I've wanted to say. I don't know Loy personally, but I have appreciated his attitude, his wisdom, and his haste to apologize at the slightest indication that he may have been sharp in his tone. Honestly, I've seen more of that willingness in him than in you, Laura. You were completely rude to Loy. However, it's your blog so you make the rules. "

      J, you judge unjustly. Did you notice his haste to resume unsupported attacks on others as soon as his apology was accepted? Did you even notice I was responding to an aggressive attempt to use falsity in fact to discredit me and my position? Do you have no jealousy for the truth? Does it not cause indignation in you when someone attempts to use scripture for their own purposes by substituting their own words for what is actually written?

      If you look at the world through rose colored glasses, everything is rose colored.

      

"You have never apologized nor retracted your statement to Mary Ellen which was proven to be false. Here is your comment to her: "Mary Ellen, We must think beyond emotion. No particular people are the topic of conversation here. I regret that you are trying to make this a matter of personalities instead of a search for understanding." You WERE referring to a specific individual and situation. Most of us know that. You refuse to admit it."

      Whenever language loses its meaning, communication becomes impossible. If you insist on imposing your meanings on another person's words you can make anybody a liar in your own mind. But anyone without prejudice can recognize that there is a difference between saying "I wasn't referring to a specific individual" and in saying "No particular people are the topic of conversation here." In fact, if you would have judged me as you would like to be judged, you would have reasoned something like " You know, chances are good that Laura is not going to intentionally contradict what she has obviously made a point of communicating to the whole world. Probably, I should think a little more carefully about the words she used to see if they might mean something else." Your comment here is foolishness. Of course my original post was inspired by an experience that involved a specific individual... I wrote the post... it was my experience... what can you possibly mean by "I refuse to admit it"... I published it on my blog. But I have made it abundantly clear that what I want to talk about is not that person but the value judgments that are represented by situations of this type.

      Delete
  29. continued

    "Curt and Laura, you refuse to see the point that many of us have tried to make. We've said it til we're nearly "blue in the face" and you STILL don't get it. YES, we understand what Laura was trying to say. But the point remains that jewelry is actually referred to positively in the Bible, is never condemned except in excess, and so should NOT be a cause for any relationship to be strained or severed, nor should it be a cause for someone to lose his or her influence. PERIOD. Are you greater than God? Have the rules and traditions of the CHM taken the place of God's Word? (And please don't start with the word studies again here. It hurts my uneducated head. Thank the Lord we don't have to have a Doctorate to understand the Bible enough to live by it.)"

    This is more pure legalism... I get that. Galatians 2:21 ... for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. I am not defending the rules and traditions of the CHM. I am defending salvation by faith in God's example... Jesus Christ the righteous which you don't get. One of the consequences of refusing to attempt to understand words, is that you can carefully control what God is able to say to you. You see, He can't mean anything that you don't want to hear.

    

"I am still, at present, in the CHM. I was raised in it. I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. More and more, I see the control issue that is becoming a HUGE problem. Also, I agree with what someone said in another comment about the CHM discouraging education and honest seeking for truth. Our people are afraid to give voice to the questions they have for fear of being accused of being worldly-minded and unspiritual. If you deny that, you have your head in the sand."

    I believe I was the one who started asking questions here. But you're going to have a difficult time understanding the answers even if they are given to you, if you don't make an effort to understand the use of language.

    

"I'm basically repeating what others have said so much better than I can. I'm just getting more and more frustrated. You have skirted the issue and played word games in an admirable way. I've never seen someone avoid answering the real issue so eloquently."

    I have no interest in being eloquent, though I suspect that wasn't intended as a complement. I am sorry you are frustrated, perhaps if you invested a little time to understanding what words mean and how to use them to communicate, it all would make more sense. At any rate in that case you wouldn't accuse me of skirting the issue because you would realize that in refusing to engage in a rabbinic debate over lawfulness, I was just being consistent with my repeated contention that Christianity isn't a system of legalism.

    ReplyDelete
  30. continued

    "I will say this again, however. The decision of an individual to wear a wedding ring was the reason for your tears and heartache. You obviously can understand why this person has lost his influence because he chose to wear the ring. You weep for that loss. I ask YOU, is it worth it to you to never be able to influence the TRUE, core of the CHM? Those who hold an even closer line than you? There are hundreds and maybe more over whom you could have no influence and to whom you could be of no help, because you have the internet and wear short sleeves. And they can give you Scripture for that. Sort of. Try going to Camp Gilead or Dixon, Missouri or any of the ultra-conservative camp meetings/churches and taking part in the services. Hundreds of people, the best of the best of the CHM, but you could NOT take part in their services. At all. Curt, you couldn't even be an usher. They're holding the line. They're ministering to hundreds. Is it worth it to you to keep wearing your short sleeves and using the internet? If you went there, you would face the same criticism that the person to whom you referred in your very first blog post have felt. Think about it. I mean REALLY think about it. I hope you will finally see how hypocritical and self-righteous you sound. I don't mean that in an unkind way. I'm just tired of all the labeling and pointing of fingers."

    You see once again, you have either failed to grasp the essential elements of my original post or you willfully ignore them by creating a false parallel. I don't know the people or the organizations to which you refer. I have no relationship with them. I have no influence over them. The standards which you judge me to have, reflect what is acceptable in the circles in which I live. If I were to live elsewhere and I valued building a relationship with that particular subculture I would naturally need to reevaluate my standards. But I wouldn't confront them with a new law which says, "You can't be a Christian if you don't accept what I want to do on issues that I have determined the Bible fails to strongly denounce.

    "

This. Is. Not. What. Holiness. Is. About."

    I don't think we are ready to talk about holiness. We can't even agree on what Christianity is.

    "

God help us all. J"

    ReplyDelete
  31. To Anonymous of 6:01 pm

    To suggest that Laura refuses to discuss a difficult issue with which many struggle seems a bit harsh. Her original post, “is it worth it?” tackled the question at its very heart. From her understanding of Christianity I know she would admit it was hard for her to see what significant benefit there would be for a person to add a ring when they were raised in the CHM. Nevertheless, her question was sincere, and created an opportunity for all who did find it worth it to offer their account.

    My memory may be failing me, but I don’t recall anyone giving a single example of a way the Kingdom of God has been advanced because of their decision to wear the ring. From the handful who did specifically answer, the benefits of wearing a ring were things like: I felt free from bondage, it helped deter predatory women, it reminded me of my marriage covenant, and I didn’t get asked a question I felt embarrassed to answer. I hope I am not missing any. I thought maybe someone would say something a little meatier, a little more compelling. No-one said that they were denied the right to any sort of Kingdom-building opportunity until they put the ring on, nor that they were ever un-Christianized for not having one on.

    When you really add up the “value added” by putting on a ring there wasn’t much there. I am serious about this and open to be corrected. Standing starkly in their own words, the value added to the Kingdom of God by adding a ring just doesn’t look like much more than “it made me feel better”…I didn’t feel as abnormal and conspicuous.

    Now contrast that with the fact that there are many, indisputable accounts of loss of relationships as a result of putting on a ring. Sadly, some treated those lost relationships as “good riddance” but others sincerely seem to lament the loss of closeness with family or long-time friends. It seems to me there is a genuine loss being incurred.

    So there is very questionable value added, but real loss incurred. Is it worth it? Could you place your question in that context? Starting from wherever you are in life, you have to choose whether to change. And if you change, you either have to convince those with whom you have close relationships to change with you, or else you have to choose between what you want to do—wear a ring in this instance—or maintain the relationships.
    When posed with this decision, what do you think Jesus would do if He were in your shoes?

    Now, many readers want to say, “but that’s not fair! I shouldn’t have to choose! I should be able to have my relationships AND wear the ring!”
    [continued below]

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  32. [continued to Anon 6:01]

    This then gets us to a whole different issue. When does one person who claims to be a Christian become entitled to the power to dictate to the rest of their peers what all have to believe? Notice that I am not talking about people with whom you have no relationships. I am talking about where you are when you realize that eternal life comes from trusting Christ…from submitting your will to His, from surrendering any and all “I wants” to a much higher standard of inquiry.
    You might be about the first to pose the question in terms of “when convictions change”…so whose convictions? One person changes convictions. Are you saying that means they get to demand everyone change convictions?

    How about homosexuality…in this country it seems that convictions are changing on this issue. I have a business acquaintance who is gay, lives with his lover, and attends church faithfully and claims to be a devout Christian. Is your real intention here to set up a means of unchristianizing those who are willing to “break fellowship” on this issue too? Polygamy is making a comeback in some areas? How about concubines? Or slavery?

    When comments pose questions that are loaded, leading questions, she should not answer them. You suggest this impeaches Laura’s claim to be a seeker of truth? A leading question is not something used in the honest pursuit of truth. A leading question is used to try to force another person to verbally assent to the questioner’s viewpoint. Those who engage in that sort of tactic can surround it with all sorts of flowery sanctimony, but it doesn’t change the facts or their agenda.

    In order to avoid “chilly relationships” it seems that much of the church world chooses one of two legalistic paths: make ever-more detailed rules or make “thou shalt unquestionably affirm anyone who claims to be Christian” the new, supreme law. Laura has proposed a Christ-following alternative to such mode of thinking.

    Finally (for this morning) there cannot be honest, thoughtful discussion when the words used mean wildly different things to the people using them.

    Curt

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  33. As I re-read my comment I was appalled at how many grammatical errors I found. My comment was poorly written. I wrote it in haste, but that's a poor excuse.

    I wasn't trying to say that words aren't important. I'm fascinated by words and their meanings and I realize how vital it is to use them correctly. Again, you missed the point.

    Laura, Camp Gilead is, or at least was, the IHC (if you will) of the CHM. And by "CHM" I mean the core group, the most conservative, if you're looking at this by degrees. I was simply trying to point out that just as you and others shake your heads and grieve over choices that this man has made, others from the more conservative part of the movement could do the same when considering choices that you have made. Just as this man has, as you see it, lost his influence, so YOU have, in effect, lost any chance of being an influence in their circles. So, who is right? (That's a rhetorical question, of course.)

    "Does it not cause indignation in you when someone attempts to use scripture for their own purposes by substituting their own words for what is actually written?" Yes. Yes, it does.

    "I have no interest in being eloquent, though I suspect that wasn't intended as a complement. I am sorry you are frustrated, perhaps if you invested a little time to understanding what words mean and how to use them to communicate, it all would make more sense." I did mean that as a compliment, though I gave the compliment with a bit of sarcasm. I wish I could communicate more effectively. However, I would never want to lose the ability to communicate in a manner that can be easily understood. Your entire tone is and has been condescending.

    "I don't think we are ready to talk about holiness. We can't even agree on what Christianity is." So...there is true Christianity apart from holiness? I think not.
    continued below...

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  34. continued...
    Curt, in your response to Anonymous you said, "You might be about the first to pose the question in terms of “when convictions change”…so whose convictions? One person changes convictions. Are you saying that means they get to demand everyone change convictions?" Exactly. That's why it's so important to live by the Word and not simply by tradition. In so many instances the problem has come when someone has been given a personal conviction (or THOUGHT he was given one) and has then tried to impose that conviction on others.

    "How about homosexuality…in this country it seems that convictions are changing on this issue. I have a business acquaintance who is gay, lives with his lover, and attends church faithfully and claims to be a devout Christian. Is your real intention here to set up a means of unchristianizing those who are willing to “break fellowship” on this issue too? Polygamy is making a comeback in some areas? How about concubines? Or slavery?" Seriously? You're comparing this to a conviction about a wedding ring? I'm sure you know far more about the Bible than I do, but I DO know that the things you mentioned are either specifically condemned in scripture, or the principle is there. Big difference. No comparison.

    I feel much like a poodle must feel in a stand-off with a German Shepherd. I'm no match to you with respect to intellect and education.

    I only wish that you and the entire CHM could see the harm that is being done by attitudes like yours. There is an exodus of truth seekers from the CHM. For those who are earnest and honest it's not about being able to do anything they want to do and still claim to be a Christian. If that were the case these people could find any nominal church, do anything and everything they could possibly dream of, and remain "Christians". Admittedly, some have been side-tracked and that is what they have done. But many (and I would say most) are NOT. So, you see, it's not about trying to living according to "I wants". To these seekers, it's about living as God would have them live without being bound by traditions held up as requirements to salvation. It's about being able to be an influence over far more than those in the CHM. It's about knowing and living in truth. If the CHM is willing to wave goodbye to people like that, then they're in deeper trouble than they can possibly realize.

    This comment isn't well-written either, but I hope you'll look beyond that and try to understand what I'm attempting (despite distractions and other hindrances) to say.

    And with that, this poodle surrenders.

    J

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    Replies
    1. Dear anonymous J,

      I don't feel superior. Once again, I feel sad.

      I don't accept your self-categorization as a poodle. However, in spite of your concerns about the quality of your efforts to communicate, the poodle picture is a rather clever way to reduce the emotional temperature of the dialog. It is much easier to think clearly when we are not "barking" wildly.

      At least two things you say are of particular concern to me.

      1.You wrote: "Your entire tone is and has been condescending." You offer this as an item of objective truth. However, it is impossible for someone to objectively defend themselves against a charge of being "condescending." Further, any criticism of tone is going to be relative. You might objectively note that my tone is loud or long or fast—these can be objective measurements—but only as compared to something else. On the other hand, "condescending," "humorous," "snooty," and the like, are labels which express a judgment, not a measurement. "Condescending" is a particularly troublesome label because it expresses not only a judgment of how words feel to you but also a judgment of how the writer perceives him/herself. I could attempt to defend my tone by saying, "look at that to which I was responding," but that consists of using my judgment of your tone to defend against your judgment of my tone which accomplishes nothing logically. As a consequence, I want to note—at the risk of appearing to you as though I know stuff—what seems to me to be readily discernible just by looking; tone adds no logical content to an argument. Whether I shout it or whisper it doesn't change the substance. Now of course, the whole experience for you varies greatly based on how you perceive my tone, but the integrity of my message doesn’t. As a result, I hold myself accountable to truth even if it comes to my attention by someone who is yelling it or whom I disagree with on all other points.

      2.You state: “I only wish that you and the entire CHM could see the harm that is being done by attitudes like yours.” What is this attitude that’s creating the problem? And do you honestly think that if I change this—whatever it is—things will be better?

      Delete
  35. Laura,

    As to Point A: You're absolutely right. I apologize for using your forum to "land some hits on the CHM" - As I read your posts and responses in the flow of the conversation, it appeared that you were defending the CHM, and/or speaking for it. In fact, you have done the opposite and my particular comments do not add to your conclusions. I maintain that your responses have mirrored hundreds of responses heard before from many within the CHM, but I should not have made the leap to assume this was the place to speak against those, nor to include you in my charges. I have never experienced any of that from you or your family, so please forgive me.

    As to Point B-1: I'm not being pedantic here, just trying to make my point.You say "language, tone and attitude" may not change the substance of the logic or the truth, but they certainly affect the reader's understanding and interpretation of the meanings of the words we use. Granted - tone and attitude are a bit subjective when it comes to reading text on a page, but they are still conveyed by how we write. In order for the reader to believe the truth the writer is attempting to convey, the reader must trust the writer. If the only thing they have to go on are the writer's words alone, which convey a certain tone and attitude, assumptions are made, conclusions are drawn, and that trust is either established or damaged. The reader then has the opportunity to accept, deny or attack the "truth."

    I think it is safe to say, from all the comments and responses, your readers can handle all the truth you declare. In fact, I'd say they desire it and want to have this conversation. So let me be a bit clearer... I'm trying to say that, at least for me, I'm having an extremely hard time following your logic, and seeing "truth" because I'm not sure I trust you. Please know that I am not being harsh here - just a plain confession. That's what I was attempting to say before about tone and attitude, but it ended up as something else in my haste.

    As to Point B-2 & 3: In your very first post, and again in this post, you write about relationships being broken and people leaving fellowship with each other... When I said "you have come to the exact same point where you started" I was specifically speaking about your and Curt's response to Loy in this comment thread. As I review those, I see that in your first post, relationships were broken when people left of their own choice, and here in this thread, it was you who initiated the break. (I allow that I may be wrong here, but I equate that to 'being dis-fellowshiped").

    As you've said before in this conversation, (and I paraphrase) "If you want to be a member, you should play by the rules..." - No problem there, and again, you have the right to do that.... but because I know him and the kind of man he is, I believe rather strongly that he DID ask a number of legitimate questions without malicious intent, as did several others, IN AN ATTEMPT to clarify your understanding. But when you asked him to leave the forum, AFTER directly attacking his character, it still seems beyond the pale for who I believe you to be. You certainly don't have to answer to me on this or address it here at all, I just can hardly believe it happened.... I invited him into this conversation only to see him dismissed out of hand, so I admit, it's a bit emotional (personal) for me.

    I'd love to continue the conversation, as would many others, but for now I think I need to hang out on the bleachers with ChaplainDice, or over on my blog at www.allenpatterson.com. I believe in you, I believe you are a Christian and an earnest seeker of Truth and I don't want anyone to think I don't. I too, am Pondering the Path....

    AP

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  36. Regarding Loy’s dismissal:

    Several have expressed disappointment. Please go back up and read the extensive reasons given by me (May 12, 8:21pm) and Curt (3 comments starting May 14 at 1:49am).

    I will not allow people to make sweeping, unfounded accusations against others here, which he repeatedly insisted on doing. While he used words like “truth seeking” extensively, his methods do not match his words. His tactics and logic were examined and responded to at length. His agenda was clear and exposed, then he persisted in more of the same.

    Here, words have meaning. For instance, the most inaccurate characterization of my treatment of Loy is that he was “dismissed out of hand.” To be sure, I checked the definition of that idiom (“without any more thought”) and found it a gross mischaracterization of how Loy was treated here. His comments were given careful, open-minded thought and were responded to, both in comment form and in a significant part of this post on the basis of their substance. By quick count, he posted 16 comments before I suggested he pause, after which came another long one of the same type. Even his purported apologies carried more of the same.

    If he was raising legitimate questions that you have, you are invited to restate them in neutral, truth-seeking language, and I will continue our attempts to learn together with you.

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  37. Phil,

    Of all the comments I received, yours stands out. Thank you for taking the time to offer a thoughtful response.

    You mention that all you have to offer are your experiences. In fact, Phil, you offer more…surely you realize this. If all you had to offer were your experiences, the only way I would feel called to respond would be, “Thank you for sharing… I’m very sorry.” But in addition to your experiences, you include judgment and commentary on the people involved, and you render a broad legal opinion complete with references in support of your position.

    With regard to the former, I didn’t share your experiences, so I am not in a position to challenge you on the details. But after several readings, each with an earnest attempt to be open-minded and to objectively receive what you offer, I am left with the overwhelming impression that you struggle to find anything redeeming in your upbringing, that you have been the victim of control, that you lived in fear and were damaged and made weak by it all.

    I understand your comments were not intended to be a complete autobiography. But is this picture real? Phil, in your youth, did no one ever tell you Jesus loves you, did no one impress you with the idea that to please Him you must give your heart and life totally to Him? Did no one stress the dangers of living after the flesh? Are standards the only thing you got out of your heritage? I certainly hope not.

    Concerning your legal opinion on jewelry in general, you have executed an amazing transition. In debunking the prohibition of the wearing of gold and silver, you give the nod to those that demand a book, chapter, and verse but don't receive it. However, once you have freed yourself from such restrictive notions, you note that it appears to you that the Bible “is positive about jewelry…” Is this not a double standard? (For a restriction to be valid, requires a direct prohibition, but for a freedom to be considered endorsed by God, it is enough that some passage somewhere be construed as positive.) Is this a fair representation of “the whole council of God”?

    Phil, you clearly feel fully justified in your legal opinion. Unfortunately, the law-minded paradigm you apparently were raised with isn’t something you have sought freedom from. But there is freedom in choosing to trust in the life of Christ. And in contrast, Paul writes “If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." And “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.”

    Your response to my question about how you perceived my approach surprised me. You showed me no mercy, Phil. It seems you have put me in the same category with those from your past who attempted to impose certain behaviors on you. I ask, “Do you want to be equated with those who make comments to me like “I’m off to Loy’s blog…sorry I ever stopped by” just because it appears you have come to the same position as they are on the issue of jewelry? I doubt it. I certainly haven’t put you in the same category in my mind. In like manner, I don’t deserve judgment by feeling and association. Our relationship goes back many years, and I have never imposed quilt or shame on you in reference to this issue. I don’t intend to start now.

    In the end, we always do what we value. I accept the fact of what your values are. I hope you will not be offended if I don’t share with you the same opinion about where value truly lies.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Laura,

      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

      First:
      I want to reiterate what I said: it was my only intent to share my personal experiences. They shaped my thinking and gave context for my present location outside the CHM. My experiences were broader than most, but if I need to clarify myself, I did not intend to paint every individual that makes up the CHM into the same box. Anything that you think you read between the lines of my writing that “include judgment and commentary on the people involved”, is surmise and fabrication that you are imposing on my words. If I did not say it, it is not meant to be there.


      Second:
      It is not entirely accurate to gather that I find nothing “redeeming” from my upbringing. One thing that I value is a sense of careful concern for my relationship with the Lord, and a desire to commit fully to heed His leadership in my life. It is entirely accurate to also say that I have a lot of garbage theologically and spiritually that I have to sift through. I pass no judgment on the spirituality or the purity of the motives of those who used shame/guilt/fear based tools to manipulate me. While I am frustrated by the damage to my faith and belief system caused by these tactics, I don’t feel that the people who employed such tactics are not Christians or that they had malicious intent. Neither is acknowledging the damage done passing judgment. What was done is not ok, but it is what it is, and I am moving on to the best of my ability.

      Delete
    2. Continued from above...

      Third, on to the issue of the wedding band:
      Do you feel that I am bending Scripture and imposing a “double standard” from my own thinking on it? I am not sure I understand your question. I do not believe that God contradicts Himself. Scripture should be interpreted by Scripture. By quick count, I see 42 scriptures in the Old and New Testaments that mention jewelry in a positive way. I agree…the Timothy passage you cite in your original post on this issue sounds prohibitive by itself, but in the context of the whole of Scripture, where is there grounds for prohibition (the kind that says “Christians don’t wear jewelry” or that calls into question those who do)? Am I a “legalist” or still suffering from a “law mindedness” in your book because I look at more than one biblical passage and disagree with you? Am I a legalist in your book because I choose to run my system of beliefs through God’s Word and then attempt to obey it? By the way, a legalist is also one who counts on conformity to the law as a means of salvation. To quote the hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” And again, “In my hands no price I bring; simply to the cross I cling.” Label me as you like. I am secure in the knowledge that God is quite fond of me, and my personal worth is not found in agreeing with people and being accepted by them. I find my worth in the fact that I am God’s beloved son, and His Spirit bears witness to me that with me He is well pleased.

      Further, you should not believe that I nod and give a pass to those who ask for book/chapter/verse and once seein,g then choose to ignore what is clear. If there is room for difference in interpretation, I will not consciously break fellowship or send vibes that I question the spirituality of the one with whom I disagree either. If I feel those vibes coming my way though, I choose to distance myself if the relationship becomes toxic and damaging.

      Fourth:
      I simply responded to your question: “Do you view my approach and my question as an attempt to control by fear of people, fear for reputation, shame, and guilt?” If you reread my answer, you will see that I did not “impose those behaviors on you” at all. As you have said, words are important. In my response to your question I said your approach and question…SEEMED…fear/shame/guilt – based. In my mind, there is a great gulf fixed between the word “SEEM” and “IS.” Sorry you misunderstood, but I have not categorized you. There is all the mercy in the world in my answer. I gave you an honest answer in an open-ended way that gave you a complete pass if you choose to take it

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    3. Continued from above...

      Finally:
      As I wrote before, I am not offended by those who have different beliefs than I hold. What I reject is when those beliefs are purported to be “biblical” (when the claim is tenuous) and are then used as a measuring stick to ascertain my spiritual standing with God. To that, I do take offense. To the best of my ability, I will not hold bitterness towards those who judge me or condemn me on faulty grounds, but I will not be around to be a sermon illustration in the flesh either.

      Kind regards to you and yours,
      Phil

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  38. A clarification on my "Fourth" response above...

    I did NOT use the word "SEEM" in my answer to your question. I misquoted myself...lol. Rather, I used the word "FEEL.” Nonetheless, my response was still open ended, full of grace, and without “imposing those behaviors” on you. Otherwise, I would have used the word “ARE.” (Words are important, so I'll use the ones I used. Ha!)

    Phil

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    1. Phil,
      Thanks for your note.

      I am working on a response to your last comment, but I am glad you caught the oversight before I responded.

      It had occurred to me when I first noticed it that such a mistake was not characteristic of you but I wasn't going to make a big deal about it since there is little substantive difference between talking about how something "seems" and how it "feels."

      In fact, I would have to adopt a legalistic mode of thinking to find major fault with you on this.

      "...for the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life."

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  39. Phil,

    Thank you for your consideration in responding.

    With regard to your first point, I am a bit surprised that you would think I would have to “read between the lines” in order to make note that you have mixed judgment with fact in your account of your experience. Please understand I do not presume to be a teacher of the meaning of concepts; I feel called to explain my understanding in defense of what I said. The word “judgment” seems to be creating problems. I appeal to the ancient understanding as used in scripture. The word (krino) meant first to separate, distinguish, and then to pick out, choose, therefore to decide and come to an opinion and in the case of a negative opinion, to condemn. I used the word judgment in my response to your original comment to distinguish between your activity of recalling experience (facts) as opposed to expressing opinion that certain facts belong to categories like coercion and manipulation.

    To say 'when I was a child I was not allowed to wear jewelry' would be a statement of fact concerning your experience. But to say “the issue of offense is another strong tool of coercion the CHM like to use to manipulate” is not an objective statement of fact. It is a judgment on your part. It may be true, but knowing it to be true requires you to know the motives of the people involved. Whatever their motive was, I seriously doubt they viewed their efforts to train you as coercion and manipulation.

    I’m glad to hear you may have something you can regard as “redeeming” from your upbringing. But your use of language here is incredible. You say you pass no judgment on the “spirituality” or “purity of motive” of people from your past, and yet in the same sentence you assert the same people “manipulated” you. In your earlier comment you added the term "coerce" to describe those in your past. Let’s remind ourselves of what those words mean from Webster:

    (manipulate-to mange or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner
    coerce-to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, especially without regard for individual desire or volition)

    While you may be able to claim you have passed no judgment on “spirituality” or “purity of motive,” yet to assess someone’s action as “manipulation” or “coercion” (because of what those words mean) is to judge what their motive is. You seem to be working hard to avoid it, but the inescapable truth is that if you were coerced and manipulated, it wasn’t done by people who were like Christ. To claim otherwise is to tarnish His glory.

    Phil, I have gone to considerable pains to make it clear that my discussion of law-mindedness was not for the truly worthless purpose of labeling people. I have tried diligently to talk about legalism as a method of thinking—a method (as I understand it) that is thoroughly discredited by Christ and the writers of the New Testament. If I am wrong about this, I really do need to know it. But if this understanding is valid, then the method you’re using—call it what you like—will not lead to the truth about what pleases God. (continued below)

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    1. Sorry about the typo on the manipulate definition. Should be "to manage".

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  40. First, you offer a new criterion for determining the will of God: the notion of finding scripture that mentions the issue you’re concerned with in a “positive way.” By your method, 42 so-called “positive” references cancel out one negative reference. The whole matter is determined by a hearing of all scripture you judge to be related to the topic and any consideration not included therein is judged “unbiblical.” This is not the method Jesus used. This is not a method Paul or Peter or John used. Further, even your demonstration of the method contains fundamental errors. Here once again you confuse fact with judgment. You state as a fact that Ezekiel 16 is a passage that speaks in a positive way about jewelry. This is not a fact. This is a judgment you have made. Ezekiel 16 is not about the merits of jewelry in God’s eyes. Ezekiel states very plainly God’s target in this passage “son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations…” The language about ornaments is metaphorical… he is speaking to a city after all. In this metaphor, God says that because He has prospered and blessed Jerusalem, she has become attractive to the surrounding nations just as man is attracted by ornaments and fine apparel and outward beauty. The metaphor appeals to the attractive power of precious stones and shiny metal. This is not a suggestion that God feels this attraction; it is an attraction that man in the flesh feels. It is an attraction which is associated with the appeal of the harlot. Ezek. 23:40-42. Again, with John’s description of the “Great Whore” in Rev. 17, he describes her as “arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls…” In my judgment, there is nothing here that suggests that from God’s perspective there is anything attractive or “positive” about jewelry. It is the flesh that experiences this attraction.

    In stark contrast, a huge motif of divine revelation is 'God is not of flesh'. The things that He finds valuable are not of flesh. While He may for purposes of communication make metaphorical comparisons to experiences of men in the flesh, the message is clear. He is calling us to higher things.

    The jewels He has for us are, for instance, salvation and righteousness, not metal and stone. (Isaiah 61:10) Likewise, the New Jerusalem is not pictured as a bride arrayed after the flesh but rather adorned with “the Glory of God and her light like unto a stone most precious.” (Rev. 21:11) It is an error in logic to conclude that because scripture makes a metaphorical comparison to an experience of the flesh without stopping to express any reservations, that we can say this scripture contains some sort of implied approval of the topic involved. (Slavery? Monarchy? Concubinage?Polygamy?)

    Are you “suffering from law-mindedness because” you “look at more than one biblical passage and disagree with” me? No, Phil. If it is accurate to describe you as “suffering from law-mindedness” it would be because the pattern of thinking you are using is specified by the definition of “law-mindedness.” It would be because you read a passage like 1 Timothy 2:9 and ask yourself, “Is this a prohibition that I am liable for? If so, to what extent? If not, how do I work around it?” and after processing it to your satisfaction feeling justified in that position, since after all, as you see it, "It is biblical." (continued below)

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  41. But as I understand it (and maybe I don’t get it) the message of the gospel is at odds with that paradigm. As I understand it, we are not deemed just in God’s eyes because we are “biblical.” We are deemed just because we have trusted in His example of life rightly lived. And to truly trust in Him alone is to abandon our trust in all else including our notions of what we want and what we value and what we prefer and what others think, i.e. all else. To truly trust in Him is to receive His Spirit…the spirit of “Father, not my will, but Thine be done.” In health, in sickness… Thy will be done. In hard times and in easy… Thy will be done. In prosperity or in poverty… Thy will be done. The response of Christ in every circumstance of life even unto death… Thy will be done. Paul is very to the point, (Rom 8:9) “Now if any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”

    If we read 1 Timothy 2:9 with this mind (in contrast to a law-minded approach), the response is not the impulse to establish this passage as a new law, nor is it the impulse to strike it down or neutralize it by using some sort of law-based reasoning. Rather the impulse is to ask, “What question does this answer?” and therefore, “What truth about the will of God does this reveal?” If we are in fact embracing the mind of Christ, our response to this question--even before we know the answer--will be… "Thy will be done. I don't care what the outcome is; I care about what You want from me."

    "Am I a legalist because I choose to run my system of beliefs through God's word and then attempt to obey it?"

    No, this suggests a different problem altogether, although again it is a problem with method. If you start with a "system of beliefs" and then "run them through God's word," human nature is such that those beliefs will always survive largely in tact. Unfortunately, in the process, they tend to pick up the label of "biblical." The message of Jesus is that we must abandon all our preconceived notions and "beliefs" and trust in Him alone.

    Phil, I am not interested in labeling you. I don't see myself as being on a higher level looking down at you. I am but a human being struggling through the confusion of a dark world and trying to understand truth. Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you what I believe to be true? Would I be your friend if I thought you were wrong and didn't say so? I have in no way challenged your value as a person. Why do you feel called to defend your self worth? Unfortunately, in attempting to establish your worth, you make claims found nowhere in scripture that I know of. The very next line of the song you quote is, "I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus name." This is consistent with scriptural language, but you state "I am secure in the knowledge that God is quite fond of me." There are two problems here. First, trusting, i.e."wholly leaning" on Jesus's name, is fundamentally incompatible with being "secure in knowledge". Second, how can you justify from the revelation of "the word made flesh" the mindset of being "secure in the knowledge that God is fond" of you… surely you're not suggesting that God's love=to be fond of. You state, "I find my worth in the fact that I am God's beloved son…" Phil, this is a pretty radical application of language the scripture reserves for expressions by God about His only begotten Son. (continued below)

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  42. God has established our worth by His Word and by His actions in history. By His Word, He loves us (we must inquire what that means)... By His actions... He sent His beloved Son to live even unto death for us. He established that we have worth even before we were reconciled to Him. But we are not reconciled unto Him because He loves us, we are reconciled because we trust in His example of righteousness.

    As far as whether you have had some sort of private communication from God to the effect that He is "well pleased" with you, I am hardly in a position to contradict what you claim as your own personal private experience. God, after all, is free to do as He chooses. But I can say that if this is as you say, you have quite an extraordinary relationship with God and one not anticipated by New Testament writers.

    Phil, with your fourth point about your response to my question (and I can't tell whether this is intentional or not) your discussion circumvents the issue. I did not ask you if my approach "was" an attempt to control… I asked how do you "view" my approach. I have no doubt that you answered honestly. But there is nothing open-ended in your conclusion. You state, "Your appeal mirrors the appeals that I heard in my past...complete with the same Timothy text quoted outside the context of the whole council of God's Word."

    Additionally, the fact is, it is not accurate to say that my original post is based on an appeal to emotion. Did the experience I related affect my emotions--yes. Did the post stir up the emotions of a lot of readers--yes. But by the end of the post, my appeal and my question was a rational question of values. I did not ask, "How can you hurt me in this way?" I asked in light of what there is to lose, in light of what you have to gain, "Is it worth it?".

    My assertion that "you showed me no mercy" was a protest against your going with how things made you "feel" without regard for the real substance of my question or the nature of our past relationship.

    Finally, I am glad to read that you don't embrace bitterness. As I'm sure you know, it only destroys the souls who harbor it. But, I plead with you to recognize the difference between making a "judgment" and "condemning." In this response I have made various judgments about ideas you have expressed and their compatibility with what I judge to be ideas expressed in scripture. This is not equivalent to "condemning" you nor is it equivalent to "ascertaining" your spiritual standing. If you have truly accepted God's evaluation of your worth, then this activity should not make you feel that your worth has been seriously challenged. I am far from infallible, but I am in earnest. I care about you and yours.

    Laura

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  43. Laura,

    This conversation has been many things. I’ll generalize and say it’s been thought-provoking.

    I am in high hopes that you misspoke when you said we are “saved by faith in Christ’s example.” That is actually heresy. We are not saved by faith in His example, neither are we saved by striving to be like Him. Our works are filthy rags. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

    As I look back on what I wrote, I guess I felt the need to defend my worth because of the consequences of conversations like these when I was a part of the CHM. When I was by another’s estimation “wrong” in the light of what they believe to be scriptural, I was walking against light. If I persisted I was sinning. If I persisted in what was perceived to be sin, it followed that I began to walk in condemnation.

    I regret that I defended my self-worth because I opened myself up to your sarcasm and incredulity in an area of human weakness in which I continue to struggle. And you did not miss the opportunity to take some well-aimed jabs. I spoke more for my own heart, and need not have said anything in defense of my self-worth. But I’ll hazard another attempt to explain myself.

    The culture in which I came up gave me a skewed view of God. I saw Him as a distant father with rigid rules and a strict measurement. His love was evident in His recompense of my wrongs. He did not spare the rod and spoil me. He was there primarily to smite...so I could become a perfect image of Him.

    Through His word, I have come to see God as an intensely loving Father. You often use the Aramaic word “Abba” in your conversations here. I hope your attack on my expression of how lovingly He views His adopted children does not indicate distance you feel in your own relationship with him. I am learning to call Him Abba as well. I admit it is quite a journey from where I have been to where I am now to be able to say and mean “Daddy” when I refer to my Heavenly Father…and to be able to accept all the tenderness, mercy, grace, and unconditional love that kind of relationship affords.

    In the Bible, I see the Father is the One who does not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax. He is the Father who runs to embrace the prodigal who returns, even when the prodigal's motive was not love or desire for the Father, but was primarily self-preservation. I see a God that loves without condition and when we begin to confess our sin and ask for a humble position, He interrupts and calls for a party, and restores us to our position not with the servants, but with the family.

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  44. My view of the kind of perfection that I was supposed to achieve was also skewed. Now I see a God who calls for us to strive for perfection and yet expects us to fall even more that we expect to fall ourselves. That is clear from the story between Christ and Peter before Peter's betrayal. Yet, Christ reached out with tender compassion and unconditional love and made Peter know that he was still accepted and forgiven.

    Peter had fallen to the fear of people and he denied even knowing his Friend. Later in life, he had the same character defect. As a successful evangelist and mature believer, Peter again sinned, denied God’s revealed truth, and rushed off to the kosher table in fear of people...even though he was eating meat that God Himself had said was clean.

    I hear Paul claim in the latter part of His life and ministry "I am (present tense) chief of sinners." I am comforted as I read his strong warnings about Christians and sin that he tempered his warning with the promised hope that if we do sin we have an Advocate - Jesus Christ, the righteous, who is faithful and just and forgives us when we sin and confess to it.
    In the knowledge of this kind of love and acceptance, in spite of my sin and character defects that sometimes still get the best of me, in the light of sins forgiven, I find acceptance, sonship, and my sense of worth. I find hope that gives me strength to continue to "strive to enter in." To some, this will sound like cheap grace. But grace is not cheap...it is free. And you are right. My personal worth was estimated before the foundations of the world, and was affirmed by Christ’s death on the cross for me, and God’s willingness to make the provision.

    I am intrigued by your process of logic. Though it is amazing, it is also imperfect and given to inconsistency. In one of your responses you revealed a bottom-line truth about how you process the “issues” of the CHM. You said “The standards which you judge me to have, reflect what is acceptable in the circles in which I live. If I were to live elsewhere and I valued building a relationship with that particular subculture I would naturally need to reevaluate my standards.” When Sherilyn shared that was the process she and her husband used to make choices about standards because of where he worked, you accused her of being “rabbinic.” A mode of thinking you don’t agree with.

    I am also intrigued with how you handle Scripture. You purposely ignored my point in using Ezekiel 16 as a positive reference to jewelry. You discredit it on the grounds that it’s not prescriptive and that it is only a metaphor. I think your logic is weak. If God intended jewelry to be a taboo, I would not expect Him to use it as a glowing metaphor to help His people understand the beauty of His lavish blessings. He would have used another metaphor. There are other non-metaphoric positive and neutral examples I could give, but I suspect that you are not open to interpretation other than your own. Since the “Great Whore” metaphor works so handily for you, do you also accept it’s negative reference to the colors of purple and scarlet as prescriptive for your choices in clothing? Or are you satisfied to ignore that aspect of the metaphor and just beat me up with the Whore’s jewels?

    I have spent hundreds of hours in Bible reading, study of commentaries, listening to sermons, and in conversation with godly Christians who work hard to understand Scripture. Those who interpret Scripture from the context of the whole counsel of God’s word, and from the historical/cultural context in which it was written, are the ones that have seemed the most reliable to me. Those who pass over biblical, cultural, and historical context, and simply interpret from the surface level of the ink on the page are suspect to me. Those who rely heavily on the expectations of their religious culture are suspect to me from the get-go as well.

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  45. I am not going to just let you get away with the claim that your approach was not emotional, but rational. If it had been rational, you would have posed your question simply as “I have noted over the years that some of my Christian friends who once refrained from wearing a wedding ring are now wearing them. Why the change? I am interested in the process you used in making the decision.” That is not what you did.

    You started by putting those who depart from CHM norms in a negative light (And you expect no stir of emotion?). Then you use a family many of us know as an example (And you expect no stir of emotion?). Then you quote a Scripture that those of us who also think and study have found to be a weak support of the absolute rule the CHM has made for its members. Then you ask “Is it worth it?” just to have a piece of metal wrapped around one of our fingers (Your words are dismissive and make it apparent that what is a sacred symbol to us is foolishness to you. And you expect no emotion?) Then you point out the losses that those of us who have changed have experienced (And you expect no stir of emotion?). Then you ask “Is it worth it?” when we gaze at the face of Jesus (a vague spiritual reference that can be taken a number of ways). I am glad that you allow us to gaze at the face of Jesus in the end. But do you really think in Heaven we’ll be asking the question you pose? Kind of an odd suggestion if you ask me. At any rate, I can’t accept your insistence that your appeal was rational and not based on emotion. Furthermore, you’ve raised issues on your blog before that elicited emotional responses. You knew what was coming. I think you are fortunate that you did get some rational responses.

    At the end of your original post, you stated your purpose was to call those of us who have changed to return, and to try to dissuade those who were contemplating change. At first it was easier to accept that you were speaking out of a caring heart. As you continued to engage those who responded, your gracious words became cutting, sarcastic, arrogant, dismissive, and authoritarian. You have had moments of kindness, but the negative has outweighed the positive. You have repeatedly suggested the attitude should be “Lord, your will be done.” And that leads to the conclusion that you feel that we are not following the Lord’s will. You have repeatedly suggested that our decision has been made “after the flesh” and not “after the spirit.” Your tactics have been anything but winsome.

    It is clear that in spite of the fallibility you acknowledge, the only time that you have been wrong in your own eyes was the time you thought you were wrong, but were really right. Every person you have engaged has been wrong by Scripture, by logic, and by Webster. There are others who are far more intelligent than me, who are very biblically grounded whose logic and application of biblical knowledge have crumbled in the presence of yours. It has truly been amazing to see. You have succeeded in making me think. I have definitely reconsidered my positions. But in the end, all I have heard is the voice of Laura. The still, small Voice has not spoken to me from this conversation on your blog.

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  46. I can see that your personality thrives on debate, deep thinking, and divisive issues. Maybe that is why we have been wrong, wrong, and wrong again. But if you are the friend you claim to be, and if you truly care about relationships, I would think you’d stop tearing us down point by point and build us up with clear statements of the truth you must have on this issue. Your refusal to make a clear statement of your position on the wedding ring leads me to believe that you know deep down that the issue is one in which there is room for differences. I suspect you know your position is not one of strength without bringing peripheral issues of relationship, influence, or ministry opportunity as a kind of leverage.

    I feel that the issue of the wedding ring (among others) is one with room for differences. That is why I feel that Christian charity should rule the day. You would be welcome to minister in my setting. Your appearance would not make my people reject your ministry and influence. It would not deter relationships. That is why I am where I am and why I will stay. That is why I left.

    Phil

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  47. And...I recognized after I pressed "publish" that I gave Paul credit for something John said. Ah well...I don't think they are too offended by it.

    :)

    Phil

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  48. Phil,

    I am saddened that your correspondence has developed such an adversarial tone. I am beginning to think that I may owe you an apology for drawing you into a dialogue which examines, with a frankness that you’re uncomfortable with, the ideas you have exposed. I have not attacked you. I have not offered you “jabs.” I have not intended anything I’ve said with sarcasm.

    Your concern about heresy has missed the mark. The quote you attribute to me was not a part of my comments.

    There is a lot of territory between the harsh image of God you say you grew up with and the image of a God that is always looking for a reason to party. It seems the pendulum doth swing. From my own experience, I can testify that when we formulate reality out of reaction to an extreme position, we almost always overshoot. Somewhere between the extremes of rigid rule and unconditional acceptance is the voice of Jesus calling “Follow Me.” Somewhere there is the holy ground of total surrender, the place of unconditional commitment. For the:

    “Captain” of our salvation was made “perfect through sufferings.” And we, “if children, then heirs… if so be that we suffer with Him that we may be also glorified together.” “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus who… made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant and... humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

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  49. Phil, you have made it abundantly clear that you really don’t want to hear anything from me that challenges your truth statements. As much as possible I will try to avoid going where I’m not wanted. I will refrain from commenting on what is “clear” to you from the story of Peter as well as your synopsis of the message of Paul aka John. :)

    With regard to my logic, I readily acknowledge that I am capable and sometimes even guilty of inconsistency. Assuming that you point to this example in a good faith attempt to be helpful, I am appreciative. But it seems that in this case we have an example of failure in communication rather than of logical inconsistency. My comment about a rabbinic mindset was directed at the statement I had just quoted, i.e.

    “we try to make a distinction between God’s commands and men’s traditions.”

    There is nothing Rabbinic about being sensitive to the rules you have committed to abide by as a part of your job. But if you opt for a paradigm which divides everything up into what is lawful and what is not, that, in my opinion, puts you in close proximity to the paradigm of Rabbinic Judaism.

    With regard to Ezekiel 16, the expectations that you use to extrapolate from Ezekiel to the mind of God are consistent with the image of God as a

    “distant father with rigid rules and a strict measure.” continued

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  50. I understand part of the power this passage has for you if you read it from that paradigm. I rather imagine that the first time it came to your attention it was rather shocking. But as you freely admit, this view of God is not accurate, and without that misconception this passage is not shocking. The Old Testament just is what it is. It shows people at their worst as well as their best. God repeatedly laments that the Israelites are “stiff-necked,” yet He has chosen to bring Messiah into the world through them. However, they should not be eulogized as the example of what God is pleased with.

    You wrote:

    “There are other non-metaphoric positive and neutral examples I could give, but I suspect that you are not open to interpretation other than your own.”

    This is an unnecessary cheap shot. It does not contribute to your position or your witness. As I have expressed, except for the initial post and a few minor comments, what I have shared on this topic is not my interpretation but a community effort that involves extensive peer review.

    You also wrote:

    “Since the Great Whore metaphor works so handily for you, do you also accept its negative reference to the colors of purple and scarlet as prescriptive for your choices in clothing?”

    continued

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  51. Phil, I am assuming that you mean “proscriptive” unless you intend to offer me an extreme insult. In either case, it seems that you have lost track of the flow of logic in this discussion. You are the one trying to use biblical metaphor to prove what the mind of God is on the issue. It has been my specific point in numerous posts and comments that the only path to pleasing God on this issue or any other is the path that proceeds from trusting Christ and His mind as the one in whom God is well pleased, and this path specifically precludes seeking to establish the lawfulness or unlawfulness of human behavior as the measure of acceptance with God.

    You wrote,

    “I am not going to let you get away with the claim that your post was not emotional, but rational.”

    First of all, let me say that if we are each just trying to “get away with” our preferred spin, then this discussion is worthless. I am not interested in creating favorable "spin." I am not interested in having my words "spun." And I certainly am not going to abide without protest when you choose to shadow box with what you imagine I said. What I wrote was,

    “…the fact is, it is not accurate to say that my original post is based on an appeal to emotion. Did the experience I related affect my emotions--yes. Did the post stir up the emotions of a lot of readers--yes. But by the end of the post, my appeal and my question was a rational question of values. I did not ask, ‘How can you hurt me in this way?’ I asked in light of what there is to lose, in light of what you have to gain, ‘Is it worth it?’".

    continued

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  52. I clearly allow that there is an emotional component to my post, but you can strip all that out and the issues of value are still there.

    Concerning the question you offer as an alternative to “Is it worth it?”, let me offer some observations about that particular combination of words… what they might suggest and whether they express what I was asking. I am not considering here what you may have been thinking or intended by writing them but simply what the words suggest to me and why I might or might not want to use them.

    First, the question,

    “I have noted over the years that some of my Christian friends who once refrained from wearing a wedding ring are now wearing them. Why the change?”

    This question is not more rational than the question,“Is it worth it?”. In fact, as far as the question alone is concerned, (without my personal experience) it is not less emotional. As a result of the responses on this topic, I am fully persuaded that if I had asked the question as you pose it rather than “Is it worth it?”, some of my readers would have still been emotionally enflamed because to ask “why the change?” would suggest to them that I have already put them in bad light by suggesting they have changed.

    But the words as you suggest them strike me as distinct from mine in at least two other ways. First,

    “I have noted over the years that some of my Christian friends who once refrained from wearing a wedding ring are now wearing them. Why the change?”

    incorporates a potential bias on the issue; you see it’s just natural to wear one… those who don’t are “refraining”… otherwise everybody would just do it. Secondly, the question appears to arise solely out of a detached curiosity. It seems to assure us that there is nothing of real value at stake here… that whatever reason we give will be ours and therefore acceptable.

    continued

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  53. For me to ask the question as you pose it would be dishonest. I am not motivated by a detached curiosity, and if I have anything to say it is:

    “There is something of value here… there is something to be lost… there is something to gain.”

    So why are we even arguing about the role of emotions in my original post? Well, for my part, I am resisting what I saw as an attempt by you to dismiss the whole topic as an appeal to emotions. I am well aware of the abuse of emotional appeal in religion, and the tendency to equate emotion with spirituality. I actively reject the validity of appeal to emotions in my own mind and life and in my post. The function that relating my emotional experience played in the logic of the post was to explain why I was even bothering the rest of the world with the topic. I had been deeply moved by the whole experience.

    You can add “naïve” or perhaps “ignorant” to the list of adjectives you have accumulated for my words if you like, but the truth is, I had no idea of the type, the volume, or the intensity of response my post would generate. I did not know what was coming. Your willingness to assert without qualification that “you knew what was coming” is yet another example of confusing judgment with fact.

    My position is of no consequence in the big picture. I have tried to faithfully point to Jesus as the only man of whom God has said, “In whom I am well pleased.” With Him, issues of relationship, influence, and ministry are not "peripheral."

    Phil, it seems we’ve come full-circle. By your own words, you testify that there is nothing that you are currently doing for God that you couldn’t do without wearing jewelry. The question that crosses my mind once again is… “Is it worth it?”.

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