God loves ugly messes.

I don’t quite know how to say what’s on my mind right now. And yet, I realize that I’d better figure out a way, because. . . well. . . this will be a pretty shitty post if I don’t. Since most of my shitty posts are shitty on accident, I’ll try to fill my boots and do this right.

I know, I know. ‘Why start now?” Wacka wacka.

I’ve mentioned before  the big blogsplosion that resulted from Jared Wilson’s post where he quotes Douglas Wilson complementarian words. Today I read an article written by Chaplain Mike of Internet Monk that details how the two men have responded to the criticism they received. You can read the article here, but that’s not the main thrust of my post today. No, this one is a little more personal than that. See, when I was reading Douglas Wilson’s response on Blog and Mablog (great name, btw) I came across this passage, which is referring to the people who have criticized him:

“They deny the authority of Scripture, they accept as dialogue partners advocates of every abomination that Leviticus contains, they attack those who are seeking to be faithful servants of Christ, they call the holy wars of YHWH genocide, and so on, down the street and around the corner. Other than that, they are good Christians.”

 

It was then that I realized that, without even knowing me, Douglas Wilson is talking about me. He’s not telling the truth about me (well, he’s not telling the whole truth about me – there are some truths in that statement that I am proud to uphold) but he’s stating an opinion about me, and he doesn’t know me from Adam.

Douglas Wilson thinks I’m a heretic.

I’m not proud of this label, because there’s nothing but negative connation to the word “heretic.” Then again, I was a nerd before being a nerd was cool, and I found in my nerd-dom the redemption that comes from the acceptance of a label. Sometimes you can turn that label around – just look at how we view nerds now, compared to how we viewed them in the ‘90’s when I was in high school.

This is our world now. Join us.

It’s not like I’m trying to be heretical. I’ve been doing the whole “Christian” thing for less than a year, but I like to think that I’ve jumped into it feet first. I’m reading the Bible, I’m reading Bible commentary, I’m reading books by respected theologians (and some not-so-respected theologians), I’m talking to God, I’m asking for prayer, I’ve been dunked in the water and felt myself come out reborn, I’ve had meals and beers with pastors where I plied them with questions the entire time, I’ve tried to help people come to Jesus, I’ve tried to help people who need help getting food or shelter, I’ve tried to get my 11-year-old daughter interested in Jesus again, I’ve taught my boys to pray every night, I’m praying for the world, I’m asking God with all sincerity for him to establish His kingdom on earth. I’m doing lots of stuff, and so far as I am capable of judging my own intentions, I would say that I’m doing all of this stuff sincerely and with the holiest intent that I possess.

And yet. . .

I’m one of Douglas Wilson’s “them”. I’m not blaming him – I’m agreeing with him. I’ll even break down that little blurb from his blog to support his opinion of me. I’ll show where I disagree with what he’s saying about me and where I agree with what he’s saying about me, just to be fair.

They deny the authority of Scripture

 

No, that’s crazy. The authority of scripture derives from God. I’m not denying God at all. I’m not sure what authority you’re referring to, aside from God. I didn’t know the Scripture was part of the Trinity, actually.

They accept as dialogue partners advocates of every abomination that Leviticus contains

 

I don’t know that I accept as dialogue partners advocates of every abomination that Leviticus contains. That book has a lot of abominations. But come on – seriously? Leviticus? Here’s the problem with that – educated, intelligent people read the Bible, too. And some of them have noticed that Leviticus also condemns rare steaks, ear piercings, tattoos, cheeseburgers, and poly-cotton blends. Why do people like Wilson keep ignoring this? Leviticus is the world’s worst argument against anything. Please stop expecting us to pay attention to it. Please. Please.

They attack those who are seeking to be faithful servants of Christ

 

That’s silly. We love people trying to be faithful servants of Christ. We attack the attacks.

They call the holy wars of YHWH genocide

 

Well, yes. But then again, I don’t believe those wars were of YHWH’s actual will. I don’t believe that God has ever, ever, ever asked a single person, in all of human history, to go someplace and murder children. I don’t believe that God has ever, ever, ever dictated that an entire culture’s unmarried women were to be divided up amongst the tribes of Israel as the spoils of war (the married women were just killed). The conflicts that you call “holy wars” are genocide, and they’re wrong. I’m sorry, but the early Israelites showed a brutal nature that was characteristic of the time and place in which they lived, and they don’t get to slap “scripture” on the retelling of it and pretend that God told them to do it.

Also, funny note – if someone were to commit genocide today with the understanding that God told them to do it, I don’t know a single living Christian who wouldn’t say, “I’m sorry dude, but the person you heard talking to you in your head was not God.” Why do we hold the ancient Israelites to a different standard? They sinned. Jesus redeemed them. We don’t have to pretend they were doing something good. They weren’t.

Other than that, they are good Christians

 

I don’t know if Doug Wilson is being sarcastic when he throws me this bone, but I’ll take it. Thank you, man. I’m trying to be a good Christian. I’m not trying to stir up a hornet’s nest (for the twelve people reading this blog), but the ways in which I disagree with the scripture seem so damn Godly that I have a hard time ignoring them because someone slapped “Bible” on the cover of the book.

“Oh sweet, it even says ‘Holy’ on the front. Guess I can relax and stop thinking about this stuff.”

Like the disciples going to Jesus after he told the crowd the parable of the sower, I often find that I’m confused by what I read in the Bible. Like them, I go to Jesus. Like them, I trust in my personal relationship with God to help give my heart insight, perspective, and wisdom. That means that maybe someday Jesus will help me to “see the light”, and I’ll no longer be a heretic.

But for now I have serious concerns. If I’m a heretic – and it seems very clear to me that I am – is there a place for me? Are heretics welcome in the Body of Christ? Are they like homosexuals – I have a place as a heretic as long as I resist the urge to commit heresy?

Can I preach, if I’m a heretic?

I wish I had a more graceful way to end this post, but as I said in the beginning, I’m having a hard time putting my feelings to words. That’s alright – like all things that bother me, I’ll take these feelings to God. Please, dear reader, allow me to present this morass of emotion to you the same way I present it to God – as a big bowl of ugly confusion, without a clear answer within easy reach, given with all humility because, let’s face it, we often give God the worst gifts.

Especially us heretics.

About Daniel Mitchell

50% of "What the Faith?!?!", a blog about two skeptics who turned to God for no apparent reason. View all posts by Daniel Mitchell

11 responses to “God loves ugly messes.

  • Veronica M. Surges (@jurisdoctorette)

    (Back again, taking a last-minute study break!)

    I agree with pretty much everything in this post. It describes how I’ve been feeling lately (a bit heretical on the whole) and I think your assertions are spot-on.

    Singling out a paragraph for a quick question: ” But then again, I don’t believe those wars were of YHWH’s actual will. I don’t believe that God has ever, ever, ever asked a single person, in all of human history, to go someplace and murder children. I don’t believe that God has ever, ever, ever dictated that an entire culture’s unmarried women were to be divided up amongst the tribes of Israel as the spoils of war (the married women were just killed). The conflicts that you call “holy wars” are genocide, and they’re wrong. I’m sorry, but the early Israelites showed a brutal nature that was characteristic of the time and place in which they lived, and they don’t get to slap “scripture” on the retelling of it and pretend that God told them to do it.”

    The violence in the OT is something that I’ve always glossed over. I’ve always been scared to address it or think about it because (1) I don’t want to believe that God ordered the violence, (2) I feel like a bad Christian for questioning it, (3) I don’t want to address the fact that scriptures might not be authoritative if such violence is described as sanctioned by God but, in fact, wasn’t, (4) if it is true that God sanctioned the violence, it puts a big damper on the whole loving, redemption-seeking God, and/or (5) I’m afraid I’ll be smoted if I ignore the wrathful side of God’s character.

    Of the above, (2) is the only one that I’ve come to terms with…so if I may dig a bit, how did you personally arrive at the belief that God didn’t sanction any of the OT violence? How do you deal with the common belief that God did sanction the violence, but only as a way to temper his wrath against those dirty sinners until Jesus came and redeemed us all? (Said only partly tongue-in-cheek!)

    • Daniel Mitchell

      V, you ask the best questions.

      I’m a fan of history. I’m a fan of archaeology. And, while I doubt this NEEDS to be repeated, I’ve been Christian only for a very short while. Since I’m coming from the scriptures from the perspective of someone who learned all sorts of pesky facts before I discovered that Jesus is awesome, I cannot ignore those facts. I’ll start with some stuff I know about the pentateuch, the first five books of Moses. I know that there are generally assumed to be five authors – or rather, four authors and one person who later combined the books. Scholars (or rather, those who do not promote the inerrancy of the Bible) believe that the pentateuch was written over several centuries. And just like I don’t believe that the Bible can be used as a scientific text, I also don’t believe it can be used as a history book. I believe that the people of Israel, writing about the actions they took centuries before, often wrote in a mythological justification for their actions.

      But again – in the spirit of total transparency – I do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible as such. My heart affirms an understanding of God based in the New Testament and the message of Jesus Christ. Some of the other stuff doesn’t seem very “God like” to me, so I trust my heart over some very, very questionable tradition.

  • Jennwith2ns

    I love the questions at the end! :-)

    As someone who’s floating around in some “here-doxy” between you and Wilson, I’d be curious to know if, in your reading, you’ve ever come across the book “Is God a Moral Monster” by Paul Copan. And if so–I’m curious about your reaction, I guess.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I haven’t read that one yet! There is SO MUCH I need to read. I know that, in general, people have been able to make arguments that both a) support a belief of Biblical inerrancy, and b) give a “spin” that God isn’t a brutal monster in the way that books like Numbers sometimes imply. I just don’t have enough faith in the Bible (and please don’t mistake that for a lack of faith in God – one was touched by human hands, the other gave humans opposable thumbs) for those arguments to hold a lot of water for me. Knowing that there is a huge divide between what conservative theology teaches about the Bible and what historical and archaeological evidence supports about the Bible, it’s easier for me to apply Occam’s razor to the problem in this way – all things being equal, it’s easier for me to believe that the authors of certain sections of the Bible wrote against the will of God than to believe that God has mysterious justification for acts that would appear to be genocidal, if carried out by anyone but God.

      Really, it comes down to this for me.

      A. I don’t believe that God ever wills an evil act.
      B. I don’t believe putting a baby to the sword is anything but an evil act.
      C. Therefore, I believe that God did not will putting babies to the sword.

      I doubt anyone can spin an argument that could convince me otherwise. That being said, I have – after all of this typing – to admit that I have NO IDEA what Paul Copan writes in his book! So maybe this whole huge comment was all for naught – but if you don’t expect me to ramble on a bit, even at the risk of going off-topic, you clearly don’t know me very well. ;)

  • Jennwith2ns

    Haha–I did so expect.

    And while I don’t guess I come at the Bible in quite that way, I do respect your position and don’t have any delusions of convincing you out of it. :-) I was just curious.

    • Daniel Mitchell

      Well, here’s the thing about that – I never want to stop engaging in further conversation. If the Holy Spirit needs to correct me, your argument may be the one that He works through. I DOUBT I can hear an argument that convinces me, but I live for surprises. :) And I’ll never be offended that you believe something different than I – although I may be offended AT some beliefs. If you believe that God wants us to burn books, I won’t be offended that you believe that, but I’ll be offended at the idea of burning books. If that makes sense.

      All I would say is, if you want to engage in some friendly conversation, a la “Point – Counterpoint”, then I’m all for it. I would just recommend we take it to email, so that it we don’t bog down the comments section with personal chit-chat.

  • visitingmissouri

    First of all, high five to you. Second, I want to thank Jenn (the one with 2 ns) for suggesting books. Do you, Mitchell, or you, Jenn, have more suggestions?

    • Daniel Mitchell

      I have lots of books to suggest, but none about the subject matter at hand. :) If anything, I would say that “God at War” by Greg Boyd probably helped shape my “God never wills an evil act” stance, even if he wouldn’t support the heretical lengths I take it too.

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