Why Jesus Will Not Save You: A Short Spiritual Autobiography

December 20, 2005 | 68 comments
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When I look at my life and pick out its most significant spiritual events, one that stands out is a night when, unbidden and unexpected, God told me that he was angry because I was reading the New Testament. The experience came in my freshman year of college. I had spent much of my earlier life skimming along the surface of Mormonism, but I largely avoided dealing with the basic questions that I had about my faith because by an accident of birth certain issues within Mormonism were entwined in my mind with the divorce of my parents, who are both deeply involved in Mormon studies in their deeply different ways. I felt that the delicate system of emotional and familial arrangements that I had built up in the aftermath of that event was threatened if I became involved in what I regarded as the intellectual quagmire of Mormonism, especially Mormon history and scripture. This was one of the chief reasons that I chose to major in philosophy rather than history at BYU. I wanted to avoid getting sucked into the world of the Smith Institute, BYU Studies, Dialogue, the Mormon History Association, Sunstone, and endless squabbles about Book of Mormon historicity, polygamy, or Joseph Smith’s money digging. So I turned my energy to Hume, Descartes, and Jim Faulconer’s excoriations of both in class.

College at BYU provided for me, however, what college is supposed to provide: some intellectual independence. Ironically, it was only after I had made a conscious decision to turn away from the intellectual issues of Mormonism that I began to engage them seriously . I spent hours in the Harold B. Lee Library’s excellent collection on Mormonism reading almost at random. This was the early 1990s, and after a decade or two of gestation the debates about Book of Mormon historicity had reached a white-hot maelstrom, and I found that again and again I was being thrown back to the Book of Mormon. I read the Book of Mormon. I read scores of articles about the Book of Mormon. I thought and I prayed and I grew exhausted, so for a while I simply gave up. I stopped reading the Book of Mormon and started reading only the New Testament. The easy historicity of first-century Palestine was reassuring, and Christ seemed like such an unthreatening and easy focus of religious energy.

One night as I read the New Testament, however, the Spirit of God came to me in anger. I am not a particularly spiritual person. In the absence of Mormonism, I would most likely be a cheerful, anti-foundationalist empiricist. Barring atheism or agnosticism, I would be drawn to either something like the intricate rationalism of Thomism or the playful hermeneutics of the Talmud. What I cannot imagine, however, is Nathan as mystic — New Age or otherwise — or as a quester for intense “spiritual experiences.” I say this as a way of emphasizing the surprise of my experience that night. It is not the sort of thing that I expect, and it has seldom been repeated in my life. The other source of my surprise came from the fact that I had been taught to expect the Spirit of God as something warm and reassuring. There was a powerful love in the spirit of that room, but it was not the accepting and unconditionally empathic love that our therapeutic age had taught me to expect from the Divine. It was a sterner, more powerful love calling me to hearken and promising the discomfort of repentance and transformation.

At the time, I interpreted the experience as a command to return to the Book of Mormon, which I did, reading passages in Alma to my great and lasting benefit. (There were several visits of the Holy Spirit to my closet that night.) Upon reflection, however, I have another interpretation of God’s wrath toward me that night. I had turned to the New Testament because it was safe. In particular, I had turned to Jesus because I didn’t expect him to make any difficult demands on me. To be sure, I regarded — and still regard — the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount as impossibly difficult. But I didn’t think of them as being intellectually or spiritually challenging. It was simply that being nice to people is hard.

For me Christ was easy because of the way that I thought about his perfection. At the end of the day, I thought — in my conceit — that Christ, while offering an unattainable ideal, basically offered me everything that I already believed. In other words, Christ would save me from my wrestle with doubts and demands on my soul. I am basically a nice guy, I reasoned, and all that Christ demands is that I be nicer than I am. Hence, I could turn to the New Testament with the assurance that it would make nothing more than ethical demands on me.

I think that this is part of what angered God that night. Speaking of Christ, C.S. Lewis observed, “He is not a tame lion.” Ethics and morality are tame. They are difficult and demanding to be sure, but they are not dangerous. Christ, however, strikes me as a dangerous figure. He calls for more than good behavior. He calls for a wrestle with sin and redemption. He makes wild and crazy claims about death and salvation. His worship requires a host of improbable beliefs about the past. He offers love — unconditional love, even — but I am convinced that it is not the therapeutic love of perfect acceptance. Christ does not accept us as we are. He has far, far greater ambitions and plans for us. To be sure, those that are heavy laden can go to him and find rest; his yoke is easy and his burden is light. But it is still a burden of struggle and doubt, and no amount of panegyrics over the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount can rescue one from the terrible questions of faith and allegiance. In this sense, belief in Christ is just as improbable and difficult as belief in Joseph Smith; indeed much more so. Joseph merely claimed to be a prophet. Jesus claims to be the Only Begotten Son of God, the Resurrection, the Way, the Truth, the Life and the Savior of All Mankind.

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68 Responses to Why Jesus Will Not Save You: A Short Spiritual Autobiography

  1. Adam Greenwood on December 20, 2005 at 11:37 am

    Amen to all that. And Amen to the babe in the manger and to the risen Lord.

  2. Russell Arben Fox on December 20, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Indeed. Thanks, Nate.

  3. b bell on December 20, 2005 at 12:09 pm

    “In this sense, belief in Christ is just as improbable and difficult as belief in Joseph Smith; indeed much more so. Joseph merely claimed to be a prophet. Jesus claims to be the Only Begotten Son of God, the Resurrection, the Way, the Truth, the Life and the Savior of All Mankind”

    Amen to this. Its as much a leap of faith to believe that Jesus was born of a virgin and rose from the dead as it is to believe in the prophetic call of JS.

    In some ways a testimony of the BOM leads one to believe that much more in Jesus.

  4. kris on December 20, 2005 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you, Nate.

  5. Rusty on December 20, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    I love it. Thanks Nate.

  6. tracy m on December 20, 2005 at 12:53 pm

    Wow! Thank you so much…

  7. CS Eric on December 20, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    I realize I am a relative latecomer to the Bloggernacle, but Nate, I think this is your best post. Thank you. I needed to read this.

  8. manaen on December 20, 2005 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you, Nate.
    .
    Jacob wrestles with the angel of the Lord and is renamed Israel — “IE He perseveres (with) God; it may also mean, Let God prevail.” (Bible Dictionary).
    Enos wrestles with the Lord.
    Jonah resists.
    Alma the Younger.
    Peter’s three denials of Christ before two crows of the cock.
    Joseph Smith’s darkness just before the First Vision.
    In a much lesser light: my own collapse, surrender, and healing.
    .
    Until we have the broken heart and contrite spirit — sometimes induced — we can’t receive the blessing that follows: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” ( Ezek 36:26-27)

  9. Stephen on December 20, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    Most powerful thing I’ve read here yet. Nate seems well-acquainted with the same God that I occasionally catch a glimpse of.

  10. RoastedTomatoes on December 20, 2005 at 2:56 pm

    Very nice post, Nate. I feel like your story in this is familiar to me. God often pushes us to do exactly the thing we don’t want to do, doesn’t he?

  11. danithew on December 20, 2005 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks for sharing Nate.

  12. Sara Steed on December 20, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Thank you for this post. You highlighted the fact that being a stern God does not mean that He doesn’t love us still.

    And Manaen (#8), thanks for the Ezekiel verses.

  13. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 4:43 pm

    Nate, I had a similiar experience on my mission when studying the NT day and night (at the cost of everything else) so as to better confound the apostates. The very strong feeling was, Look, you had better turn to the Book of Mormon so as to better convert the elect. And convert yourself, you arrogant little towheaded prooftexting knownothing. Ok, the insult may have come from a dark place deep in my psyche, but the rest was 100% God.

  14. Seth Rogers on December 20, 2005 at 4:44 pm

    Modern Christianity has essentially emasculated Christ. They want to take the Old Testament out of Jesus. But I think it’s still there.

    Often, on my mission and other places, I would hear the term “Law of Moses” used almost as a perjorative. “He’s so law of Moses, he’d probably excommunicate you for taking the sacrament with the wrong hand!”

    The Law of Moses was typically equated with Pharasiacal inflexibility. I see the same trend in religion generally. People call for a more compassionate, inclusive, and, above all, less “judgmental” church. The widspread view seems to be that the Old Testament is a dead and worthless book, describing a belief system and mindset that no longer bears any resemblance to our reality or our God.

    But “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Jesus is undeniably the “God of Moses and of Jacob.” He did not come to destroy the Law of Moses, but to fulfill it.

    But people today still believe that Christ came to earth to destroy that “mean ol nasty Law with all it’s inflexibility and “un-American” values.” They think that somehow, the Law of Christ makes the Law of Moses invalid.

    I once thought this too. I was unceremoniously corrected. “You must live the Law of Moses in order to live the Law of Christ.” The New Testament is not less demanding than the Old Testament. It is significantly more demanding!

    Look to Christ’s own mortal ministry. He ALWAYS observed the Law of Moses as it was actually given to Moses and the prophets. He even took the time to remind the Pharasees of certain portions of the Law they had conveniently forgotten.

    One example: The woman taken in adultery.

    The scriptures do not question that this woman had broken the law. She was taken in the act. The Law demanded death.

    But the law also demanded witnesses to testify who would then cast the first stones. Christ calls for the witnesses.

    No witnesses. No punishment.

    The modern and permissive reading of this story has Christ saying to the crowd “come on guys, we all sin a little now and then, don’t be so judgmental!”

    But Christ is saying nothing of the kind. He gave the law, and “he doth not vary from his word.” If she had been proven guilty, he likely would have accepted the Law’s demand and seen her stoned. But that’s the whole point: the Law had not been satisfied and punishment was not called for. As long as the Law was fulfilled, Christ had no problem in letting the woman go. It is after the trial of the Law, that he talks of Christian forgiveness and redemption to the woman.

    I believe that Jesus is a very nice person (supremely so, in fact). But don’t think that he’s not demanding, that he is not still vengeful and jealous, and that he is no longer the God of the Old Testament.

    Jesus is a God, not a tool for boosting my fragile self-esteem.

  15. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    Ugh, don’t much care for you interpretation of John 8. Probably dangerous to say what Christ would “likely” have done; we know what he did; he let her go.

  16. Sara Steed on December 20, 2005 at 4:52 pm

    Seth, I agree. And I think (I’m sorry to post without having the reference) that the reason no one came forward to condemn her is because the man with whom she was caught in the act was either there, or some of his buddies were there confronting Jesus. They brought her during the day time, and I would venture to say that most adultery is committed at night (darkness, shadows, “hiding” and all). So, then Jesus was really saying to the crowd, “It takes two to commit the act. Are you going to try and worm out of your sin? And are the rest of you going to admit that you’re conspiring together to try and trick me?”

  17. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 4:57 pm

    The “modern and permissive” interpretation of the story is also the one the brethren routinely choose; Jesus knew she had sinned, he said so; but the time had come for individual repentance (and mercy from the crowd) in lieu of savage rock beatings.

  18. Nate Oman on December 20, 2005 at 4:58 pm

    Gee…and all of this time I thought that story was about forgiveness.

    It strikes me as a little much to claim that were the legal nicities observed, Christ would have been an eager stone thrower. Furthermore, one must be very careful about various interpretations of the NT based on our supposed extra-textual understanding of the laws involved. There are a lot of these sorts of stories and insights swirling about (many of them coming from _Jesus the Christ_ for example) but we have to be very cautious. Generally speaking, the law that these stories invoke is the Talmudic law. The problem, of course, is that the Talmud and the rest of the oral law was not written down until several centuries after the New Testament. Law can change a lot in a couple of centuries. Hence, I think that it would be very unwise to radically reinterpret Christ’s character — e.g. he really was a stone thrower after all! — on the basis of questionable legal interpretations.

  19. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    No, Nate, Jesus was hefting a nice, big rock in his hand when he realized that certain technicalities had not been observed. Sorry folks, no show today, nothing to see here.

  20. Seth Rogers on December 20, 2005 at 5:19 pm

    The fact remains,

    He gave the law and he meant for it to be observed.

    You’re certainly right that it’s dicey business speculating what Jesus would have done if there had been witnesses. I’ll admit that I don’t know.

    People lived and died by the Law which was given to Moses. It was not something to be lightly disregarded. Jesus offers forgiveness to the adultress. But he also followed the law. He had no problem with the woman getting off without any punishment, once the Law had been satisfied. Christ’s life and death does not make the demands of justice any less real. I merely changes how we interact with justice.

  21. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 5:22 pm

    “Modern Christianity has essentially emasculated Christ.”

    Who on earth are you talking about? Examples, please. It is true that in the popular culture Jesus is often used in a Ghandi-esque way to make arguments for pacifism and so forth, but the man Pope Benedict XVI and the Southern Baptists regularly preach is certainly no sissy. For an example of Gordon B. Hinckley using John 8 as an example of supreme forgivness, see here “Modern Christianity has essentially emasculated Christ.”

    Who on earth are you talking about? Examples, please. It is true that in the popular culture Jesus is often used in a Ghandi-esque way to make arguments for pacifism and so forth, but the man Pope Benedict XVI and the Southern Baptists regularly preach is certainly no sissy. For Gordon B. Hinckley using John 8 as an example of supreme forgiveness, go here http://www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-559-26,00.html. I bet dollars to cents that virtually every instance of every modern apostle telling the story is the same. What we need is less sermonizing with the trump of angels and more intelligent, sensitive blending of the OT and NT so that we know what is definitely out (rock beatings) and what is definitely in (forgiveness; repentance).

  22. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    “But he also followed the law.”

    And broke it, famously, here and there (see John 5:8-18 for example). They killed him for it.

  23. john fowles on December 20, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    Nate, this was a great post. I too have experienced God as not the accepting and unconditionally empathic love that our therapeutic age had taught [us] to expect from the Divine. You have very amptly described what I have come to know as a sterner, more powerful love calling me to hearken and promising the discomfort of repentance and transformation.

    In the same way that this, to my mind, more accurate portrayal of God can entail much discomfort, the title of your post makes me a little uncomfortable. I agree with everything you wrote in your post, and certainly can’t dispute any of the personal experiences you have had, although they resonate to some extent with me, but I’m not sure it leads to the conclusion that “Jesus will not save you.” To the contrary, it still is Jesus that will save us, but our own choices and actions are not irrelevant in the equation. I assume that this very LDS perspective is also the point that you were making. You were hinting at the conditional aspects of the Lord’s Atonement, and pointing out the work God expects of you, not content to let you bask in the “tame,” although difficult, “ethics and morality” of the New Testament. I would venture that the reason for that is not that those things are not expected of you–they are, as you surely are aware. It is because, they are already a part of your understanding, and, as you have noted, Christ does not accept us as we are. He has far, far greater ambitions and plans for us. What a miracle that we have a glimpse of what these are through the Gospel as restored by the Lord’s Prophet, Joseph Smith, in this dispensation.

  24. jp in lv nv on December 20, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    Thank you for a wonderful post-

  25. john fowles on December 20, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    oops, “aptly” not “amptly”

  26. Nate Oman on December 20, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    I don’t dispute that Jesus can save us from sin and death.

    I don’t think, however, that Jesus can save us from the internal struggles over faith and commitment. He is not supposed to be our easy alternative to seeing in the dark darkly and hoping for the substance of things not seen. He does not offer succor for to a person seeking religion without faith.

  27. john fowles on December 20, 2005 at 5:53 pm

    Very good clarification. This is truly insightful. It certainly is something that I need to learn.

  28. Adam Greenwood on December 20, 2005 at 6:06 pm

    “And convert yourself, you arrogant little towheaded prooftexting knownothing.”

    Ah, Kingsley. If my own experience is any guide, that may well have been the Spirit, not just your psyche. But if not, I’m sure Brothers Joseph and Brigham would be happy to supply the lack.

    Seth Rogers,
    I’m behind you all the way, right up to your interpretation of John 8. Look, Jesus wanted to stick it to the Pharisees, and to get under the skin of people like you and me who have an overpowering sense of sin and justice. That doesn’t mean that the Christ we’ve made over in the image of our therapeutic, no-fault culture is the real Christ (come on, Kingsley, you know perfectly well what Seth Rogers is talking about), but that doesn’t mean we can explain away what Christ said and did in a narrow, rule-bound culture that was very different from ours.

  29. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 6:10 pm

    Adam, I really don’t know any Christians who subscribe to an emasculated Christ.

  30. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    I like your response re John 8 and the interpretation thereof better than any of mine, though. Very masculine and yet very, I don’t know, smooth and creamy.

  31. Stephen M (Ethesis) on December 20, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    “He is not a tame lion? nor is he a black box.

  32. Ed Enochs on December 20, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    I wanted to let you guys know that I will be involved in a formal debate on the Trinity on December 30, 2005 at the First Congregational Church in Riverside California.

  33. Adam Greenwood on December 20, 2005 at 6:42 pm

    Kingsley,

    God bless the Christians you know.

  34. Doug on December 20, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    Where I think Seth is absolutely right is that law of Christ is much more difficult than the Old Testament law.
    Christ gives examples such as the old law forbidding adultery and killing but he goes further to forbid lust and speaking ill of others.

    Re: John 8: While I believe that John 8 says much about forgiveness, it is also about hypocracy. Furthermore, Christ did not forgive the woman at that moment but admonished her to ‘sin no more.’ While I don’t think that Christ was ready to stone her, I think that Seth has some good insights about the context. It makes sense that Christ was asking for witnesses–remember, he knew what the outcome would be.

  35. Seth Rogers on December 20, 2005 at 6:55 pm

    Thanks Adam, but I guess I can’t really complain about being called to task for failing to provide proper citation for all my assertions.

    Re #30:

    Sounds like a cigarrette ad.

  36. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 7:43 pm

    I meant it to be more of a pipe ad as I feel that Adam secretly longs to smoke one.

    I was never very impressed with elders who evoked “the spirit of the law” to justify breaking rules either. It always seemed to me that keeping the spirit simply meant keeping the letter sans whining. In the case of John 8, I think Adam and Nate between them have offered a quite sane, sound interpretation. That I got a little too heated and ridiculous about it I admit, but what’s new.

  37. Seth Rogers on December 20, 2005 at 8:33 pm

    Man, ever since I read the Lord of the Rings in 5th grade, I wanted to blow some smoke rings of my own.

    Never felt the same about the beer though …

  38. Old Charley on December 20, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    I believe the answer to this thread is in the title page of the Book of Mormon. We as a people seem to miss the first purpose for this book because we are raised in a Gentile world. Who can tell us what the first main purpose of the Book of Mormon is? He who knows the answer then will be able to explain the missing link between the NT & OT. Who is game to give the answer and explain what really makes us different from the modern Christians?

    Hint: one word says it all

  39. Steve L on December 20, 2005 at 9:28 pm

    Kingsley-
    Subscribe? Of course nobody will say they believe in an effeminate Christ, but every Jesus you see these days has long eyelashes and cuddles adorable childrenin while soft light hits him from every direction.

  40. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 9:49 pm

    As opposed to what, Jesus in a tank?

  41. Kingsley on December 20, 2005 at 10:06 pm

    The Jesus in Gibson’s Passion was quite manly; and I wouldn’t say the corny art you see in Deseret Book or its mainstream Christian equivalent is evidence of the trends Seth Rogers is speaking of, which have more to do with the gentle, honey-scented currents of political correctness than mere bad taste and sentimentalism (i.e. Jesus of the soft light).

  42. Jettboy on December 20, 2005 at 10:06 pm

    I don’t think Jesus broke any of the Law of Moses. In fact, whenever his accusers said that he did he either invoked a far more elemental point of the law (and I don’t mean Spirit of) or remarked about precedence. There have been a few studies of how conservative Jesus really was toward the Law in a different way than the pharasies. His main contention, and the one that got him killed, was that the rules of the law were getting interpreted by usurpers who didn’t have the authority proscribed by the Law.

  43. rich on December 20, 2005 at 11:48 pm

    Nate:

    If I hear you correctly, the Spirit called you to the Book of Mormon not only because it’s an important work, but because Jesus also wants you to operate on faith, something the NT didn’t require of you, at least to the same extent.

    Here’s another thought: Alma was tortured with logical thoughts about how his behavior demanded his eternal torment; Enos’ soul hungered for the joy his father had often described; the people of King Benjamin felt a new accountability and awareness of their dependence on Christ; Lamanites in Helaman 5 felt an abject terror created by shaking walls, a blanket of darkness, and a voice that commanded them to abstain from killing Nephi and Lehi.

    And yet after each had these very different stimuli or experiences, each engaged in the self-same behavior:

    Alma: “I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me,” (Alma 36:18).
    Enos: “and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul,” (Enos 1:4).
    People of King Benjamin: “and they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified,” (Mosiah 4:2).
    Prophet-killing Lamanites: “And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed,” (Helaman 5:42).

    The experiences of each after they prayed are also remarkably similar.

    I’ve started to wonder if God uses whatever he needs to use–logic, desire, fear of judgment, fear of immediate destruction–to not just put us in a position where we must struggle with doubt and fear, but to put us in a position where we find ourselves crying–sincerely, desperately–to him for redemption, for salvation. RIGHT NOW!!!!

    The reward of this experience, at least as far as the Book of Mormon is concerned, appears to be the mighty change of heart, the remission of sin (not so much a forgivness as an actual deactivation of whatever within us creates and sustains our sinful disposition). Alma seemed wedded to the idea that our ability to live our religion is mortally impaired without this experience–“And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God?” (Alma 5:14).

    In this case, the struggle of doubt and uncertainty–or whatever other demons or desires we deal with, not necessarily all negative–becomes more than a healthy exercising of the Christian soul . . . it also sets the stage for the experience–if we’re ready and willing–that kicks our religion into high gear and thrusts us into the territory Nephi describes as “entering in by the way” and then ceremoniously refuses to elaborate on further–beyond saying the Holy Ghost will thereafter lead the way–in 2 Nephi 31-32.

  44. Ariel on December 21, 2005 at 3:19 am

    Beautiful. You capture some of the beauty and horror involved in belonging to a wonderful and terrible God. I am sure that many of us have felt the stinging rebuke in a loving invitation to return.

  45. zero on December 21, 2005 at 9:49 am

    Isn’t the covenants God makes with his children and people the key to understanding the difference between a lip serving people and a Temple building people? Yes, faith and belief lead a man to that life changing experience, but it is the covenants that keep them together. Even when the people forget the covenants God does not forget and will fulfil all the promises he made to Abraham and Lehi because of the covenants and the prayers of the ancient righteous. Note the difference between the NT people and the OT people. Even though the NT people accepted Christ they quickly fall apart as a united people and yet today the Jews who have rejected Christ are united as a people. We are the missing link both a Christ believing people and a covenant keeping people. It is when you show that endurance against all odds as those at Nauvoo did building a Temple which … You know the story and the same is true here in NYC at this time. Why? The answer is in the Temple covenants we make and they are only words until God puts us to the test as he did to Abraham and all his true servants. The race is not against others it is against yourself and finding that God you say you worship. Reread the Title page of the Book of Mormon again and see what Moroni puts first.

  46. john fowles on December 21, 2005 at 11:32 am

    Nate, I still think you should change the title though. It’s irony doesn’t come across well until the post has been read, but the plain language of it could dissuade people from reading the post.

  47. Stephen on December 21, 2005 at 3:16 pm

    Kingsley, #22: “[Christ] broke [the law of Moses], famously, here and there (see John 5:8-18 for example). They killed him for it.”

    This is false doctrine. Christ kept the whole law, never varying from it. Those who think differently need to study their scriptures.

  48. Kingsley on December 21, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    Snapped the church lady. Ok, he varied from the million addendums to the Law, which in our day equal Diet Coke, R-rated movies, and so forth, which still makes him a radical so hip hip hurrah.

  49. Adam Greenwood on December 21, 2005 at 3:51 pm

    “I meant it to be more of a pipe ad as I feel that Adam secretly longs to smoke one.”

    Cuss, is it that obvious? No, despite the fact that (1) all the cool writers I admire smoked a pipe and (2) pipe smoke smells good and (3) all the cool literary characters smoke pipes and (4) pipes are emblematic of a traditional manhood that is both civilized and masculine and (5) my Grandpa smoked a pipe and enjoyed it and (6) pipes themselves are beautiful, I HAVE NEVER HAD ANY DESIRE WHATSOEVER to smoke a pipe. I’d sooner drink an R-rated soda while watching a movie about Diet Coke.

  50. manaen on December 21, 2005 at 4:28 pm

    43.
    rich, thanks for your entire comment. I’m amazed at how it resonates within me as I re-read it.

    “I’ve started to wonder if God uses whatever he needs to use–logic, desire, fear of judgment, fear of immediate destruction–to not just put us in a position where we must struggle with doubt and fear, but to put us in a position where we find ourselves crying–sincerely, desperately–to him for redemption, for salvation. RIGHT NOW!!!!” —> the broken heart and contrite spirit that we offer Him.

    “I think that in the Lord’s definition of blessings, He includes anything that brings us closer to Him [including trials and chastenings].”
    — Sue Mitchell, Sierra Vista Ward, San Jose East Stake, 7/5/1998

    “The reward of this experience, at least as far as the Book of Mormon is concerned, appears to be the mighty change of heart, the remission of sin (not so much a forgivness as an actual deactivation of whatever within us creates and sustains our sinful disposition). Alma seemed wedded to the idea that our ability to live our religion is mortally impaired without this experience–â€?And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God?â€? (Alma 5:14).” This describes exactly my own surprising experience through confession and repentance. I just wanted freedom and didn’t understand nor expect the change of desire/heart and JOY that came.

  51. Andermom on December 21, 2005 at 4:29 pm

    This reminds me very much of the part in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Eustace as a Dragon is turned back into a boy by Aslan. Eustace has got a hurt leg/arm, and wants to bathe it in the pool that Aslan has led him to, but he isn’t allowed in the pool until he ‘undresses.’ Eustace sheds his skin several times, only to find it didn’t work. Then Aslan says that He will have undress Eustace. Aslan then digs his claws in deep and rips Eustace’s skin off then throws him into the pool. That part about letting Christ/Aslan dig his claws into us is the same sort of thing that Nate went through. I’ve had similar experiences, and it smarts.

  52. Seth Rogers on December 21, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    Kingsley,

    I was talking about the actual Law of Moses given on mount Sinai. Not various legal interpretations promulgated by the scribes afterward. The Pharisees’ interpretation on the injunction against work on the Sabbath is a bit strained in the instance you refer to.

  53. Stephen on December 21, 2005 at 11:56 pm

    Kingsley, so you think Jesus did the first-century equivalent of drinking Diet Coke and watching R-rated entertainment, huh? Interesting. You apparently have a different idea of who the Son of God is than I do. But in any case, you were wrong. Christ did in fact keep the whole law. Instead of calling names at the guy who pointed out your failure, you could simply adjust your thinking and be glad someone cared enough to let you know your doctrinal fly was open.

  54. comet on December 22, 2005 at 3:26 am

    Nate: Thanks. I was inspired to reflection on a few things going on in my own life. A

    Stephen: Sorry, Kingsley’s witty rebuttal stands.

  55. Stephen on December 22, 2005 at 3:46 am

    Sorry, comet, I missed Kingsley’s “rebuttal”. Can you point me to it? All I saw was a churlish ad hominem.

  56. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 2:25 pm

    Stephen, yes, I do see an analogy between the hedge about the law in Jesus’ day (which he exploded) and the creepy tendrils of the cultural gospel in ours. Excuse me for not melting at the evidence of your “caring” in 47; perhaps you should cease and desist from peeking at other fellows’ flies from now on. I refer back to Nate’s comment regarding all claims about “the actual Law of Moses.”

  57. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    What’s inherently creepy about the cultural gospel, Kingsley? It can be creepy in application–as people insist on something with more force than they out, or neglect the weightier matters of the law–but I admire someone who won’t drink caffeinated soda (though that’s not me) and, frankly, I make a point of not watching R-rated movies. I admire folks who refuse to wear beards for religio-cultural reasons (though thats not me), and try hard to remember to wear a white shirt on Sunday. I don’t think these practices are extraordinarily virtuous, but I find them harmless at worst and probably mildly virtuous. What really creeps me out are people who kick against the pricks when it comes to these kinds of things and who take that kicking as a mark of virtue (and, of course, I have to admit that people who treat these as more than mildly virtuous also creep me out, except for possibly on the R-rated movies things. Pop culture is filth).

  58. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 2:42 pm

    What pricks? I thought Paul was fighting the Church of the Lamb of God? I have no problem with folks who abstain from Coke and The Godfather and wear white shirts. Also, remember that A Midsummer Night’s Dream used to be pop culture.

  59. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2005 at 2:47 pm

    It ain’t no more. But I’m probably more sympathetic with the Puritans who wanted to close down the theaters than you are. The filthiness of a work always diminishes with time and reverence, and so if I’m honest I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t enjoy Shakespeare as much as a contemporary as I do now.

  60. Stephen on December 22, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Kingsley, perhaps you should quit making false doctrinal statements.

  61. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Mr. Stephen,
    Cool it. One more little outburst and I’m letting Mr. Censorship out of his cage.

    Kingsley,
    Why don’t you just ignore Mr. Stephen for a bit?

  62. Kingsley on December 22, 2005 at 3:07 pm

    Good advice, Adam, in fact I’m heading home now to read the collected works of Bruce R. McConkie. Merry Xmas everyone.

  63. Adam Greenwood on December 22, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    Good stuff, good stuff. Got to read it metaphorically, of course, just like Bro. McConkie wrote it.

  64. Kaimi Wenger on December 22, 2005 at 3:41 pm

    As our modern-day bloggernacle Paul once said, “the worst part is that there are SO MANY pricks to kick against.”

  65. Rob Briggs on December 26, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Nate, thanks for sharing an intensely personal experience in a thoughtful way.

    I’m always a bit hesitate to share because I feel like such experiences (mine at least) don’t stand up well to rational scrutiny. The fallacy, I think, is in thinking that they should. They remain experiences that are inherently personal and idiosyncratic and are “non-transferrable.” Except, I suppose, to someone who’s felt something remotely similar.

  66. annegb on December 27, 2005 at 10:15 am

    Whenever I see Nate’s name, I know I will have to put my thinking cap on and try really hard to fathom. I mean, Nate, for crying out loud, “anti-foundational empiricist?–intricate rationalism of Thomism?–playful hermeunetics?” What small percentage of normal reasonably educated people know what those things mean? I know what playful means, but, geez. I would appreciate it if in the future you would dumb down a little, slightly. I can’t even find those words in my five pound dictionary. I would like to be a fly on the wall at your dinner table. Heather speaks English.

    I think it’s George Ritchie, describing Jesus in his near death experience, as written by Raymond Moody (and I can’t find the book, which means I’ve leant it out and they haven’t returned it, bad word) who says that the Jesus he saw was not the weak feminine Jesus portrayed so often, but a strong, powerful person, more powerful than he ever experienced before his death or after his recovery.

    BUT as I understood it, it was the feeling of love that was the most powerful part of His personality. I take issue with your conclusion, Nate, and those of you other young intellectuals who are also, I assume, my spiritual superior. I would like to assent and be part of the crowd, but it doesn’t strike me right. I can’t figure it out yet, but I will ponder and report back. You guys make Jesus sound mean, not strong.

    An aside, Nate, sometimes God smacks me up the side of the head, as well. I actually wish He’d do it more often because I am so often blindly striking out on my own and I forget all about Him.

    Also, I think the Jesus in the New Testament is a wonderful Jesus, not weak. I don’t see a conflict with the way He’s portrayed in the New Testament vs. The Book of Mormon. Not at all. Even though this particular time God wanted you to focus on the Book of Mormon, there is value in the New Testament. Great value. I love it. It’s the word of God. It’s not like it’s bad to read the bible.

  67. annegb on December 27, 2005 at 10:33 am

    Are there two Stephens here? Because one is sort of onery, unlike the one I know, although he could be having a bad day. I remember doing that about six months ago.

  68. Curious1 on January 15, 2006 at 10:06 pm

    Dear Nate~
    While reading your post, I wondered to myself if you weren’t being influenced by the spirit of Satan…after all, the Devil can appear as an angel of ight, you know. I’ve read the NT for many years, and I’ve never once experienced the Holy Spirit of God scorning me for reading it. Truth be told, while in prayer time last night…I had a vision/premenition/perception of Him kissing me. It had to be the best experience in my life! Did I mention that my prayer time involves reading the New Testament for about 30 minutes to an hour each time?
    I’ve never known a sweeter Person than God. Yes, He is stern when necessary…but it is never His first option. He always has my best interest at heart and I love Him for that. I’ve seen His hand of influence throughout my life and it has ALWAYS been for the positive. How can I not love ANYONE like that???!?
    I encourage you to re-evaluate whether it is REALLY the Holy Spirit of God that was mad at you….or perhaps another. Make your calling sure…and be sure of who is calling.
    Unending blessings,
    Curious1