Well I have finally listened to the podcast and Don's first sermon (and intro to the series).
Well first of all I have to absolutely disagree with both Emery and Scott... and humanguy above about nothing being self-less. On this issue I complete agree with Don Johnson and I think that Scott is dead wrong in his attempt to soften what Don is saying in this respect. Frankly, I think Scott has got himself wrapped up in his role of a minister with thinking how do you get people to do unselfish thing by telling them how that will ultimately bring the greater happiness. The problem is thinking that you are going to get there by your own power and reasoning -- for then it is indeed IMPOSSIBLE. You cannot get to selflessness from selfishness. If you have start out with all your motivations for doing things from considerations of what benefits you, then indeed Emery, humanguy and even Scott are all correct -- you can't. But that doesn't mean that selflessness doesn't exist, because it does. I have seen it. You even see how Scott is trapped in this mindset when he considers what Jesus says about the greatest love being to give your own life for another -- because I tell you, I just don't believe what Scott was saying. People don't give their life for another because they are thinking that is better for themselves. It is absurd. People just don't think that way. People can give their life for someone else because they simply care more about that other person than they do for themselves and THAT is EXACTLY what selflessness MEANS!
Selfish does NOT mean that you are doing something for a reason -- that is ABSURD! I repudiate such a meaningless circularity that equates selfishness to rationality itself. Perhaps this equivocation is how Scott has fallen for this. Because if you say that the Bible is not teaching that you should act against reason itself then I most certainly agree, BUT to say that the Bible is not teaching you to be selfless is beyond unfathomable to me. Now I agree with Emery's observation that this does not have to be an either-or proposition. And so that is part of my reservation when Scott says that selfishness is the root of all evil. Infants are purely selfish creatures but I completely reject the idea that they are evil. It is perfectly natural for infants to be selfish. So perhaps we have to understand that what Scott means by selfishness is more like how I define evil as pursuing ones desires at the expense of the well being of others. But this only comes with power, which the infant has none of. So evil only comes into it when we grow and develop the power to affect the well being of others.
It does seem true that Don is sending out a mixed message with this idea that God has needs and that we exist to serve them. I do not believe in the god that Don is describing there. I cannot worship such a god. I could respect such a being and learn all I can from it, but it just cannot represent the highest ideal to me. So it should be no surprise that I don't accept Scott's argument from this image of God as the jilted lover. I would put that under the category of Scott's later criticism of taking the Bible much too literally. I think these images are simply appealing to what people can relate to in their very pervasive selfishness, but no I don't think that this describes God and our relationship to Him that accurately.
When Emery talks about the difference of Xtian love and the "need to be a Xtian", then I just have to laugh and laugh, because I don't believe in those things AT ALL. There is no "Xtian love". Xtians are just human beings no different from other human beings. If we want to talk about a different kind of love that the Christians are preaching then that would be God's love and that is indeed different. Christians may indeed seek to emulate that love, but does not mean that they are successful. But then Emery challenges the validity of a so called "need to be a Xtian", and I certainly do not believe in THAT -- not for living a better life and not for salvation either. The Christian church is NOT the SAVIOR of the world! God is the savior of the world! I am not a Christian and believe what I believe because I think that is what will save me. LOL Frankly I don't think that is Christianity at all but Gnosticism -- this idea of salvation by a secret knowledge. I believe what I believe for one reason only -- because I think it is the truth, and I am Christian because what I believe seems to agree with the largest consensus about what "Christian" means. I think it is just a tragedy that this Gnostic way thinking has crept into Christianity and turned it into a legalistic religion about what you have to believe in order to go heaven, because that is all diametrically opposed to what I see in the Bible concerning what Christianity is all about, according to Jesus and the apostle Paul.
So yeah I quite agree with Scott when he says something is missing. And I think the Bible makes it abundantly clear what that is. It is the kind of love that God has -- and yes that is a selfless love. You take that out and frankly man, Christianity ain't got nuttin for me -- NOTHING that I can see of value to me.
Scott's criticism of the idea of the Bible being the be all and end all is terrific. The idea that the Bible is the repository of all truth is just plain absurd. To think that the Bible has all that God has to give is also absurd. As Jesus explained in John 5:39, scripture has one purpose and that is to point us in His direction because the answers and salvation we are looking for isn't in the book but in a relationship with Him. On the other hand, I think Sola Scriptura also has a great deal of truth to it and that Don is completely wrong to say that you need a degree in order to make up your mind about the Bible . Sure Sola Scriptura has been twisted a bit in Protestantism and Scott's criticism about Christains saying "the Bible says" when they should be saying "the Bible means" is dead on. But you have to look at where Sola Scriptura came from and why. It is a counter to exactly the sort of thing that Don was trying to do which is basically saying that the Bible needs to be correctly interpreted, for that is how christianity becomes a tool of power and manipulation, where people get in the way of God and usurp his position to make it all about doing what they say rather than what God says. Scott is right to point out that the question of interpretation is not one you can avoid; in this the Catholics are more right than many Protestants. But what Sola Scriptura is really about is whether we need someone to speak for God or whether God can speak for Himself. If you believe Jesus, then you know that Scripture has authority because Jesus affirmed this, and that is what Sola Scriptura is really about -- the one authority that we can really trust. The scriptures are the word of God, because that is what God has to say to EVERYBODY. It's not the end of what God has to say, because God CAN speak for Himself in a relationship with you. But as far as what God has to say to EVERYONE, scripture is IT, and it people pushing their own interpretations of on everyone else is something else. So if you want to know what God says then you do indeed have to read the Bible for yourself.
And this is why Emery is wrong in thinking that reading the Bible for yourself leads to creating your own denomination. Yes you are likely to have your unique way of understanding the Bible with your own interpretation. But what creates a new denomination is trying to make everyone understand the Bible the same way that you do. It is this impulse to uniformity that is again the problem in this as it is in so many other things.
Now Don Johnson's sermon.
This was truly difficult to sort out the truth in this case, because it is really mixed up here. There is indeed a truth behind what Don is saying, and I most definitely get it. You can see that I get it in the very way that I understand heaven and hell. I say that hell is where you find your heart's desire, but heaven is where you find God's desire for you. In that you can see that a submission to God's will for you is absolutely essential to what I think that Christianity is all about. Nevertheless, I regret that I MUST say that Don's identification of "be true to yourself" as a lie, is in fact a much bigger lie. The most dangerous lies of all are those that have enough truth mixed in that people can swallow it and think it is the truth. And so I can well imagine an atheist listening to this sermon and feeling very uncomfortable indeed knowing that something is very very wrong here.
But for the sake of the Christians, who don't see it, let me explain. Be true to yourself is not advice that was ever intended to guide you in a relationship with God, but about how you relate to the world. The problem with Don's whole sermon preaching submission is that the virtue of this depends entirely on who you are being asked to submit to. It is a recent stark lesson of history that the submission of the German people to the insanity of Hitler was anything but a good thing, and in fact we find our greatest heroes in those who managed to rebel against that deranged "authority" in whatever way they could. Thus the atheist is well aware that what Don was spelling out in his sermon was a rather horrible recipe for how good people could do very evil things, by going against their own conscience and submitting themselves to what someone else tells them they should do. Now in the interview with Emery, Don was clear that he doesn't think we were meant to be robots, and yet in this sermon, with his "we are designed to serve God", that we are robots is exactly the message he is sending.
When you look up the phrase "be true to yourself" you will find quotes by such people as Hardy D. Jackson and Dr. Seuss. Reading the whole thing by Hardy Jackson and you will find it telling you to put your heart in what you do or don't do it at all, which sounds an awful lot like a quote from Jesus telling us to be either hot or cold but not lukewarm. The one by Dr. Seuss is about being yourself and saying what you feel rather than basically trying to win a popularity contest. "Be true to yourself" was always about following your conscience and doing what you believe is right and so Don is really doing a nasty number when he equates "be true to yourself" with selfishness and doing whatever you want to do without any consideration for anyone else or frankly in his examples without any consideration of what is right and good -- equating it to stupidity and recklessness. Now this is not to say that this "be true to yourself" cannot be twisted as he shows it is in commercials, but in that it is no different than how his own message of submission can be twisted into something very nasty too. And that is why I say that what Don is teaching here is a lie. The situation here is not the black and white thing that he has made it out to be. There are two sides to this and what is needed is not a simple minded rejection but balance. But then that again is the whole problem with Don's culture war approach to things -- it's the usual distortions of war, where the warrior demonizes his opponents and thus badly distorts the truth.
The bridge between these two ideals of "be true to yourself" and "the meekness of submitting to God" is found in one simple fact. We Christians believe that God knows us better than we know ourselves and thus submitting to God is where we will find ourselves better than following any idea that we have picked up from comercials or other people.
P.S. I also must say that I don't agree with Don's attempt to turn "meek" around to mean an arrogant bastard for Christ, because I don't buy that at all. Meek means meek, period. "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth." Those convinced of their own rightness are not the meek. The meek are those who are ready willing and able to accept that they are wrong and that they don't have the answers. Well so you may say, that doesn't sound very much like mitchellmckain. Ok, no it doesn't. But that doesn't mean that I am going to change and twist the meaning the words of the Bible until they fit me.
Last edited by mitchellmckain
on Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:07 pm, edited 2 times in total.