Viewpoints on Man’s Confusion about How God Works in the Life of a Believer

God says, “Get out of the way!”

Readership: Christians
Author’s Note:
This post expands a comment I wrote earlier, and adds some input from Jack.
Reader’s Note: The religious/spiritual aspects of what follows in this post are written from my own perspective as an Eastern Orthodox Christian and a member of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).
Length: 5,000 words
Reading Time: 17 minutes

Introduction

In More on the Framework of Options (2021 March 22), Jack reframed the options within the Christian Conundrum from the Biblical viewpoint of the Prodigal Son (a parable contained in Luke 15:11-32).

As I was reading through Jack’s well-written post, I was reminded of the main reason why I don’t see how these kinds of discussions and disagreements can possibly lead anywhere productive, given that people are all over the place in terms of how they view broader spiritual issues, the spiritual life in general, their overall approach to religion and spirituality, and the like.

The Basic Problem

Essentially, the basic problem is that as we proceed from the general to the specific in these kinds of discussions — that is from the 30,000-foot level to the ground-zero — aka, “my-life-and-my-kid’s-lives”, tyvm — we encounter what I conceive as “the wall of disagreement” — that is, a barrier beyond which one cannot go without compromising one’s core beliefs and convictions.

Most of us here are pretty firm adherents to our particular type of Christianity. Many of us likely see the perspectives — when it comes to convictions of the faith — of others here as something that ranges from problematic to perhaps heretical or even outside the word “Christian” — on all sides. We suspend that, to a degree, for the purposes of having a useful and cordial discussion on a higher, 30,000-foot level, but those discussions can only go so far before you reach the “frontier zone” where, if you continue to proceed further, those core elements are subject to being compromised, and one has to choose between (a) whether to keep going or (b) whether to “pull up” and say “here, and no further”.

Most of us realize that in the context of an internet blog and its related discussion, and even a set of internet resources that can be described collectively as “Christian Red Pill”, or what have you, it is most sensible for us all to choose choice (b). However, this handicaps the ability of the “Christian Red Pill” to do much other than entertain a very basic discussion on the 30,000-foot level.

This is often a source of genuine frustration for some participants who, from time to time, become impatient with these high-level, theoretical discussions. We see this when commenters express a strong interest in developing more concrete approaches … only to find that there is no consensus at all about the latter because of the “wall of disagreement”. This philosophical barrier can leave some of them embittered and jaded about the entire discussion.

It’s a simple reality that nothing discussed in this medium is worth even contemplating any sort of compromise of our respective core principles to achieve or clarify. There simply is no justification for that. So it is the sensible and best approach to stop, go no further, and acknowledge that beyond a certain point, it’s separate ways. In fact, this is the basic reason why we have so many ‘doxy’s and denominations. There’s a practical reason why Christ prayed for unity in John 17:20-23.

As I was trying to point out in my last post, Constructing a Framework of Options (2021 March 15), we can compare notes about the same empirical phenomena we are encountering, and we can also compare anecdotal experiences and observations. But once we get to the level of prescriptive action, we hit this wall of disagreement because this area is deeply and inherently involved in several aspects of personal belief. These aspects include…

  • One’s religion, denomination, or doctrine.
  • How one defines, views, and approaches one’s personal faith.
  • Our mental concepts of spiritual states and processes (e.g. justification, redemption, sanctification, etc.). For example, if we were to ask the question, “What is the difference between iniquity, offense, sin, transgression, and trespassing?”, there would be no clear consensus. Most readers might not think there is any difference at all.
  • One’s spiritual practices and disciplines.
  • How one fits all this into one’s life approach in general.
  • Many other related issues.

All of these aspects are most definitely not shared by the readers of this blog and the posters in these comboxes. So when certain topics and issues come up, we get into areas that really are much less fruitful for discussion, and are much more ripe for wild disagreement precisely because they touch on these kinds of issues on which we so deeply differ, and which are, in turn, so deeply formative in each of us.

It really is a wall of separation between us, and I do not think it is surmountable — at least not in the context of these discussions (in the parousia, of course, all differences will be surmounted one way or the other as all things are reconciled in Christ). In understanding the wall of division, as we move right up adjacent to it, I think we can discern some of the main facets of our disagreements, which can be helpful in order to understand each other better, and to understand why overcoming disagreements about these kinds of things, on the “ground zero” level, is virtually impossible to do.

A Brief Comparison of Religious Standpoints

In this section, I’ll briefly review how legalism/jugmentalism is contained in the practiced stances of Protestantism, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy.

Protestantism

Many of the prevailing Protestant (including many of the “I am not a Protestant, I am just a Christian”) types of theologies feature a kind of “tent-revival Christianity” which arose from the Second Great Awakening in the United States and the approach of people like Charles Grandison Finney (August 29, 1792 – August 16, 1875). The impact of Revivalism on the subsequent history of American Protestantism, which is beyond the scope of this post, is both massive and seminal, yet not widely understood, particularly by many who are outside the Protestant traditions and who tend to view Protestants through the lens of 1517 rather than through the lens of the Second Great Awakening.

The Godfather of American Evangelicalism.

In any case, under the revival approach to Christianity popularized by Finney, one is typically categorized either as “saved”, or “not saved”, in a more or less “total” and complete sense based on one’s expressed and sincere, personal faith in the “finished work” of Christ on Calvary, and therefore the inability of it to fail. This approach therefore does not see “salvation” as a process which must be “worked out” (c.f. Philippians 2:12), but rather as a one-and-done event. Thus, the term “unsaved believer” is a laughable oxymoron.

Sanctification is not discussed often, but is generally regarded as something that might come later, and is entirely distinct from what is referred to as the separate event of “justification”, or “being saved”. Sanctification is thus described, not as a state of contented holiness, but as a process of spiritual maturation. But the process itself is not constitutive of whether one is “saved”.

The evidence of the effectiveness of one’s “being saved” (i.e., whether one is actually “saved” or not, despite what one may think) is assessed by means of “one’s walk with Jesus” — i.e., whether one commits sins, serious ones, after being “saved” … in which case, perhaps one was not actually “saved” at all.

If a serious sin should ever come to light, or make inroads into the life of a believer, it is contained by the belief that he/she was never truly “saved” to begin with. This allows the congregation to exclude the offender from (true) fellowship, and absolves the congregation from any responsibility to discipline, teach, and correct the prodigal, since he/she is considered to be an unbeliever.

Of course, this is generally imposed in a rather strict way, because one who has actually really been “saved” would not, per this view, ever engage in a serious sin thereafter, due to such sin being inconsistent with the total transformation which is seen to have come about by one’s having been “saved”.

This approach creates temptations for one to monitor one’s behavior carefully in order to comply with the requirements of the moral law — not as a means of “being saved”, but rather as a means of evidencing to oneself and others that one has “been saved”.

This results in an approach to the faith which is constantly trying to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, in order to determine who is “actually saved” and who is “just roleplaying”, including one’s self. All the while in this process of scrutiny and separation, one must claim that one is avoiding legalism and one therefore tends to spend a good deal of mental energy constantly convincing oneself that one is not behaving legalistically in applying strict scrutiny to the degree of compliance of oneself and other “putative” “Christians” in light of the requirements of the moral law.

The “Church Lady”. Image from David Drury: How to be Holier Than Thou: Motivate People with Fear and Cloud Things with Religiosity (2013 December 5)

This creates an unending tension between the unavoidable reality of human sin in the lives of flawed human Christians, on the one hand, and the understanding of this theological system which claims that this is impossible if one’s salvation is actually real, on the other. This tension, and the paradoxical contradictions which create it, tend to foster extreme levels of “supposedly non-prodigal son” syndrome, and precisely the kind of comparing oneself to others which lies at the heart of the admonition against judgmentalism to begin with. Worst of all, this approach places this ontology at the heart of the religious experience.

However, this approach has gained a widespread appeal for several reasons.

  • It creates a social order characterized by an appearance of godliness that tends to bolster self-esteem, faith, and social participation. (This is why evangelicals have a stereotype of being sharp dressers.)
  • The theology and social order is ideologically protected from the ravages of personal sin within the community.
  • Most of all, it creates a powerful sense of belonging (i.e. to the elect) to those within the congregation.

In my view, this problem underlies many of the difficulties currently being experienced by Christianity in North America today. This “Holier Than Thou” flavor of religiosity that was characteristic of the 19th and 20th century Protestant church experience produced a reactionary bifurcation of staunch fundamentalists and moral relativists, which in turn, led to the secularized churchianity we have today — flaccidly compromising in both doctrine and practice. Furthermore, within the specific contexts explored by the Christian Manosphere (i.e. “How can a Christian man find a spouse?”), this approach has a substantial impact on viewpoints and perspectives, which I will turn to in the final section of this post below.

Catholicism

By way of comparison, the Roman Catholic approach to these matters has a different set of issues that can, under some conditions, veer into a legalistic/judgmental mindset for a different set of reasons. But I’ll refrain from focusing on these issues because they aren’t that influential either in these threads or in American culture generally — even among Catholics in the U.S. themselves. It is not influential because most of the mainstream “Novus Ordo” mass Catholics (not “TLM” Catholics) have a religious mindset that follows one or the other Protestant approaches, de facto, in the period following Vatican II (ca. 1965).

Orthodoxy

My own tradition — Eastern Orthodoxy — has problems of judgmentalism, too (there’s a good reason why the Gospels are so hard on judgmentalism), particularly in our “uber-dox” fringe. But the main thrust of the faith is not laced with a kind of legalism like the one described above. As I will discuss next, Orthodoxy tends to view these kinds of things as a question of corruption — whether one is indulging the passions or not in a way that creates a spiritual block inside of us which interferes with or entirely shuts down the process of gracious transformation in Christ — and not as legalism, or whether one is “following the rules”, either in the revivalist sense of “proving” that one has been actually “saved”, or in the juridical sense of avoiding punishment/cultivating a reward. But while there is, of course, always room for the problems of either the younger prodigal son or of the elder “non-prodigal” son to emerge, that is an issue for all Christians at all times — we are always in need of constant repentance, until death.

We are all always prodigals!

In Eastern Orthodox soteriology, the idea isn’t either (a) that one can’t become a “true” prodigal after one has been “saved” (we do not follow the tent revival model of Christianity), or (b) that one can kind of duck the issue by pursuing prodigality because one has faith in God’s “ultimate” forgiveness/mercy/love (or something like that), provided that one has a proper orientation towards works, law, and grace, according to 16th Century Swiss and German standards. Instead, the central Christian concept of sin and grace is that one’s prodigality is a function of one being alive.

We are all always prodigals!

One commenter described it in this way.

“There is a comic book adaptation of the Prodigal Son story that ends with the father telling the older brother, “In his disobedience your brother is alive. You, in your resentful subservience, are dead. Do you think God wants mindless worshippers who can only follow instructions?”

I’ve been the classic elder son for a long time. Followed the rules, didn’t get any results out of it, ended up resentful toward God. Now I’m trying to discover a way out of living like that.”

Yes, the “non-prodigal” son (aptly portrayed by the elder brother in the parable) is, in fact, as much of a “prodigal” as the “prodigal” son is, in the eyes of an all-knowing, eternal God who knows all hearts and knows all of time. The sins of the “non-prodigal” are different from the sins of the “prodigal” in form and type, and most obviously the “non-prodigal” commits his sins while being optically close to the Father, while the “prodigal” does not, but both are still sinful, both have strayed from God. The lesson for religious people is clear — do not be the “non-prodigal” son, who appears to be close to God and considers himself to be, but is mired in the sins of judgmentalism, presumption, pride, contempt, and the like. It is is the same general array of sins that Christ identifies time and again in the Gospels when discussing the Pharisees, and this is not surprising, because this is the one category of sin that comes up almost endlessly in the Gospels for constant derision, ridicule and warning. This is precisely because, unlike the sinners who throw themselves at the mercy of Christ, people like the elder “non-prodigal” son do not even believe they are in need of the same mercy, and thereby do they gravely, gravely err in the eyes of God. In some ways, the “non-prodigal” son is perhaps even worse off than the prodigal son, because he never comes alive, and never learns to love the Father God.

The core underlying sin here — which the parable of the prodigal son clearly identifies as at least equal to the sins of prodigality committed by the younger son, and suggests that they are even more serious precisely because of the failure of the “non-prodigal” to even see himself as being sinful in this way — lies in judging others as being more sinful than we are ourselves. When we compare our own sense of worthiness to our perception of others, we magnify the differences in sinfulness between us, which are rather small in the eyes of God. In His eyes, we are all seen as the prodigal sinners we are, and who are more or less equal in this respect. Jesus called this habit of judgmentalism “hypocrisy, which is the leaven of the Pharisees” (c.f. Matthew 16:6Mark 8:15Luke 12:1; and Galatians 5).

Getting out of God’s Way

The Eastern Orthodox perspective on dealing with the archetypical problems of “prodigal” and “non-prodigal” is to avoid both by cultivating holiness instead. That is, one doesn’t add to the problem intentionally by piling on more prodigality intentionally. Neither does one go about being a self-contented, arrogant stickler. Instead, the focus is to try to avoid falling into either pitfall through one’s growth in theosis/holiness. In Orthodox soteriology, the pursuit of theosis is viewed as consisting primarily of “getting out of God’s way” so that He can transform you by means of his grace, which is where constant return, constant repentance, and constant forgiveness all are a part of the daily spiritual experience of an Orthodox.

Orthodoxy proceeds from this premise to endorse one’s personal effort and cooperation with grace (which we call “synergeia”) because Orthodoxy views salvation as an ongoing process due to the lived reality of our human sinfulness. That is, grace is open to us following baptism, but true transforming grace is not forced upon us (nor against our will, like the Calvinist understanding of salvation). It must be cooperated with, and every decision is a decision to either cooperate with this transformative power, or not to do so — that is, either to adjust our ego, will, and habit such that the Holy Spirit can do its work in transforming our hearts, minds and bodies from the inside out, or to choose to do things in our minds, hearts and bodies that limit, obstruct, thwart, or interfere in His work, and, in some cases, shut down His work altogether. If one does not relinquish the will to auto-determination, and thereby “get out of the way” of this transforming grace, then one is not transformed by it, and if one does that consistently and repetitively, one can close the spigot of grace entirely.

As you can see, the Orthodox approach is not “rules”-based, per se, but rather the focus is on avoiding the kinds of thought processes, acts and habits that one can do which inhibit or “get in the way” of the transformative grace of God, and which therefore halt and, over time, can even reverse the process of spiritual transformation that God works in one following baptism. This is what it means for the believer to conform to the will of God concerning our sanctification. (1st Thessalonians 4:1-8)

In Eastern Orthodox spiritual practice, a great emphasis is placed on the practice of vigilance or watchfulness (“nepsis” following 1st Peter 5:8), which involves maintaining a stance of alertness and attentiveness to one’s thoughts and the focus of one’s “nous” (described below) so as to avoid patterns/strands/chains/cycles of thought that can lead, eventually, to strongholds of bondage and/or difficult temptations to sin in various ways, which run the gamut from sins of pride, to avarice, to greed, to lust, to anger, and the like. All of these begin with thoughts, and with the help and grace of the Spirit, we can get better over time at identifying the kinds of thoughts and thought chains/dynamics that lead to them (e.g. buying into false narratives, deception, denial of the truth, dishonesty, false convictions, fear, idolatry, insecurity, lying, psychological displacement, psychological dissociation, psychological projection, shame, solipsism, etc.).

The thoughts themselves are readily apparent to us, but for many of us, the underlying nature and motivations of these thoughts remain lurking below the subconscious. But as we grow and mature, we become more aware of these defects, and we must consistently reach out to God to “come to our assistance and make haste to help me”* to shut down our individual specific dynamics of thought and spirit which may potentially lead to an eventual sin in thought, word or deed, and the disturbance this brings to the entire process of transformation by grace which God is working within us constantly after our baptism.

* From Psalm 69 and Psalm 70.

The Struggle of Faith

Sins are of course a violation of the moral law and must be repented of and forgiveness for them must be sought, but the main problem with sin isn’t a judicial condemnation (which has been taken care of by the Cross), but rather the impact of sin in blocking, interfering with, retarding or shutting down the work of grace which is trying to transform us into a holier and holier version of ourselves in heart, mind and body by means of grace through the action of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t a “law mentality” the way a Protestant would describe that, but it also isn’t a kind of “led by the heart” mentality, either, in terms of “one’s heart being in the right place” — it is a true spiritual struggle, a spiritual war, a process in which salvation is not “won by works”, but rather is gradually made increasingly present, made increasingly observable and tangible, in the life of the individual Christian by means of God’s transformative grace, provided that one has not blocked/prevented/retarded that process by means of one’s own sins to the point where the process breaks down.

Hopefully, by now it is clear to the reader why Orthodoxy sees the day-to-day life of the Christian as an ongoing spiritual struggle.

  • It is a consistent struggle to become more self-aware, and to remove those aspects of self that get in the way of God’s transformation and grace.
  • It is a continual struggle to not place obstacles (sins) in the way of the operation of grace inside of us which retard or reverse the process.
  • It is a constant struggle to resist recasting this struggle as a struggle to “obey rules in order to maintain purity or holiness, or to get a reward, or avoid a punishment”.

As I noted above, this struggle means practicing the avoidance of sin by maintaining a stance of “nepsis” or alertness to one’s thoughts and mental and “noetic” state, and proactively calling on God constantly to help you overcome sin when you face specific temptations to sin, or, preferably, when you recognize a mental dynamic or chain of thought that will eventually lead to a sinful thought, word or deed, on a daily/hourly basis. In this, the Christian is relying on God, not his own efforts which, of course, alone will fail, but also is required to take the initiative and ask for God’s help. This involves…

  1. Maintaining vigilance of oneself, and especially one’s thoughts and one’s “nous” (which is a word that describes one’s faculty for spiritual sight and communication — ones’ spiritual/soul eye), and where that is focused.
  2. Maintaining an attitude of open communication with God on a constant basis by keeping the “nous” focused on God (and not in passionate engagement with the world of the senses and/or the world of thoughts and memories).
  3. Constantly turning to God as a prodigal son with a repentant spirit on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, depending on our struggles, confident in God’s mercy, but also cognizant of our constant need for it and the help which is always springing from it as a gift when we ask for it in humility with a spirit of acknowledged need for it.

In practice, the discipline, vigilance, and self-denial which is necessary for sanctification and Shalom inevitably causes suffering in some form or manner, and this suffering poses an additional layer of complexity to the struggle. However, this is another topic for an upcoming post.

Takeaways

What does this mean in terms of how people approach the problem of finding a spouse in the current environment, and specifically the issue of how one approaches the challenges of the current dating market, the sexual revolution’s aftermath and the like.

I think it means an Orthodox can only endorse avoiding sin to the extent possible — not, as described above, for legalistic reasons of “earning salvation”, but rather so as to not block/retard/reverse the process of transformation at work in us through the Spirit’s action. When sin arises (and we should expect it VERY frequently in this culture, given the specific challenges we live in), we should avoid falling into the role of the “non-prodigal” son in judging the weaknesses of others in the face of this very challenging culture, but instead, we should gently encourage repentance, seventy times seven times.

In terms of the “brass tacks” question of actually finding that spouse, there isn’t an easy, overarching, turnkey, accessible-for-all solution that will yield the desired result, but this isn’t really the church’s problem to solve. The church doesn’t tell you how to get a job, buy a house, invest in your retirement and so on. Sure, one can scour the scriptures and find useful general guidance there, but the Bible isn’t a real estate investment analytical tool, a retirement portfolio analysis, a career counselor, or the like. These are human challenges that we must meet with our humanity, and that includes an aspect of worldliness which is inevitable due to living in the world, yet one where we must engage in the delicate dance of not becoming so worldly that we are spiritually tainted by the world and its values/ways/norms in a way that ends up retarding that ongoing transformative process of grace that is taking place inside of us.

Again, we have to try to avoid sin by always keeping God in remembrance and reaching out to him to help us when we feel temptation coming, not with the mind to avoid running afoul of rules and their punishment, but rather to avoid blocking the process of gracious transformation. At the same time when we sin ourselves (and we will, in this culture), we need to be faithful enough to return to God immediately in repentance and ask for his help, and then to remember that when we find ourselves in temptation in the future to ask with humility for his help in real time, constantly acknowledging our own weakness and our total need for his gracious assistance and forgiveness. And finally, we need to be gracious in our approach to others who are also failing in their struggles with temptation in the teeth of this very challenging cultural environment, and encourage them, as fellow sinners, to reach out to God for help and assistance, as the case may be, and not with the eyes of a supercilious judge who is overlooking or denying his own sinfulness, as did the elder “non-prodigal” son.

It’s a tap dance spiritually, for certain, and in a culture where sexuality is now one of the major culturally besetting sins (the other main ones being pride, greed, materialism, and vainglory). Thus, the process of finding a spouse, which is culturally tied together with sex due to the tie-up of the SMP and MMP, is going to be very fraught with these issues.

As a Christian, you’ll need to be able to walk the tightrope in some of these tricky areas, and repent when you inevitably fall. You’ll need to help others when they inevitably do as well, instead of approaching others with judgment, hectoring, superciliousness, superiority, chiding, and everything that reeks of non-humility (and which therefore brings more judgment on oneself).

In Eastern Orthodoxy, the Gospel parable of the Prodigal Son is read at the Divine Liturgy on the third Sunday prior to the start of Great Lent, as a part of preparing Orthodox to enter Lent with the proper mindset of repentance over judgment.

But I think this is very hard to do in the context of some Christian theologies where the reality of ongoing sinfulness among Christians presents different kinds of challenges.

In any case, as I stated at the outset of this post, this is where we generally hit the wall in these kinds of discussions, it seems to me. There is a point where we part ways, spiritually, with each other, in terms of such fundamental issues that we cannot see things the same way. We can understand our differences better by diving into them with an open mind so that we can understand each other’s perspectives, but we can’t see things the same way. It seems to me, the chasm between our spiritual constitutions and our non-shared environments will impact not only how we approach the “options” that are on offer, such as they are, but also how we will approach the prior threshold question of, “How should one approach the question of how one should approach the options?”, and so on. Thus, we descend into the swamp of meta-realities.

Conclusions

What this means from a practical perspective in terms of the overarching discussion here is that one can’t, at least from an Eastern Orthodox point of view, endorse any approach that features considering the problem with the premeditated idea of sinning in order to reach a specific worldly goal — that is the opposite of a repentant attitude. However, it also means that one is to be very forgiving of someone else who trips due to their own weakness in this difficult environment, even repeatedly, by gently encouraging that person to understand that their weakness is shared, and encouraging them to turn to God in repentance for help in overcoming the temptation to sin. And then doing this seventy times seven times, not with increasing exasperation and a chiding, hectoring tone, or even worse a judgmental one as we watch them fall into the same pattern repeatedly, but always with gentleness and patience, as we see from Christ himself in dealing with people in serious sin.

How often have we played the role of the so-called “non-prodigal” and chided the “sinful” person in their sins or lecturing them? Few things p!ss God off faster than when we claim to be less sinful than others, either directly or indirectly, as this is hypocrisy, as I described above, and it forms the core of Christ’s endless, fierce, passionate critique of the Pharisees — a theme that runs from one end of the Gospels to the other, and is continued by St. Paul.

How much of our discussion is “getting in God’s way” of speaking to us and working through us?

Related

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96 Responses to Viewpoints on Man’s Confusion about How God Works in the Life of a Believer

  1. SFC Ton says:

    I think all of this has less to do with your particular branch of Christianity and more to do with how fully you feel/ felt the weight of your own sins. Most folks think they are near on sinless themselves and get real preachy, some much smaller percentage of folks walk real small and of course most of us have done both at differing times.

    I tend to be a pragmatists, even in the limited regard I have for theology, doing my best to see what kinda of thinking produces what kind of outcome and then work backwards from there.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Oscar says:

      He who has been forgiven much, loves much. Of course, from God’s perspective, we’ve all been forgiven much, but that’s easier for some people to see than it is for others.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Eric Francis Silk says:

    You can work for, buy a house from, and invest with a nonbeliever. But you shouldn’t marry one.
    That means that the question of how to find a spouse is, to some degree, the Church’s problem to solve.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Jack says:

    This frame of reference (“Getting out of God’s Way”) is remarkably similar to an analogy my pastor once described. He drew a picture of a person standing in the rain holding an umbrella. The rain represented God’s showers of blessing. The umbrella represented things that block God’s blessings. I asked him what those things are, and how a person could get rid of the umbrella. But he was at a loss for words. After reading this post, it is clear that the reason why he couldn’t answer this question is because the answer is very abstract, complex, unique to each individual, and difficult to describe in words. But this post makes the topic much clearer.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Elspeth says:

    We are protestants, and there are whole swaths of your characterization of Orthodoxy that jive almost exactly with what we believe. Because it’s Biblical.

    “Hopefully, by now it is clear to the reader why Orthodoxy sees the day-to-day life of the Christian as an ongoing spiritual struggle.”

    This should hardly be an Orthodox tenet:

    “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
    Galatians 5:16-17

    Paul makes it clear that this battle within didn’t vanish from his daily life on the Damascus road (see Romans 7). I think Ton hit the nail squarely on the head here in this true and insightful commentary:

    “I think all of this has less to do with your particular branch of Christianity and more to do with how fully you feel/ felt the weight of your own sins. Most folks think they are near on sinless themselves and get real preachy…”

    But that’s just my .02

    Liked by 6 people

    • cameron232 says:

      Calvinist ideas didn’t help.

      If they don’t want to kick someone out of the fold, they use the following reasoning: God allowed the person to fall into grave sin to chastise him. See, you cheating on your wife was part of your chastisement.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lexet Blog says:

        The true, consistent Calvinist position is that they were positively ordained into sin for the purposes of chastisement, in order to secure a salvation already predetermined by the same person punishing them.

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        And over a salvation you have no control over because free will doesn’t exist and it was ordained you would read this comment, and for calvinists who read this in the future to say “but my logical argument of compatibilism provides a work around for my contradictory interpretations of scripture, so Lexet is wrong even though he was pre ordained to be wrong”.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Elspeth says:

    I made a mistake in my comment. When I said “This should hardly be an Orthodox tenet”, what I meant was, “This should hardly be a tenet relegated solely to the Orthodox strain of Christianity.”

    However, I do know that you are right because I have seen believers steadfastly refuse or reject the notion that a brother caught in sin should remain in the fellowship receiving discipleship and care. I found it pretty disheartening, but this happens because we have an over-inflated view of our righteousness. Which also, I’d hardly think is a solely Protestant tendency.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. cameron232 says:

    ROCOR – don’t they still seat men and women on different sides of the church?

    Like

    • Novaseeker says:

      Lol, no.

      First, one doesn’t “sit” in a proper ROCOR church, unless one is infirm, elderly, pregnant, nursing and so on. There is limited seating in a traditional ROCOR church, following Russian Orthodox church design principles (there are also some parishes that have pews, because they purchased former Protestant buildings, but that is exceptional in the ROCOR at least).

      Second, I have never seen an Orthodox Church, either in the US or in the Orthodox world (Russia, Romania, Georgia, Israel) were men and women were segregated on different sides of the church or otherwise. I have seen groups of women standing together, which is normal to see in the Orthodox world in churches, but a few feet away were some men standing, either “side” of the church. I understand that some kind of spatial separation inside the church may have been practiced at some time, but it appears to be in more or less universal disuse in Orthodoxy outside of monastery churches. Monasteries are different, but they’re different in the Catholic Church as well.

      The only visible difference you would notice in a typical ROCOR parish in North America is that a higher percentage of women will have head coverings and modest clothing, but this also varies by parish and is in no way universal in North American ROCOR parishes either. In the Orthodox world, it’s normative.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Lance says:

    “…nor against our will, like the Calvinist understanding of salvation.”

    This is not Calvinism.

    I do agree that there is a fundamental difference between Reformed Protestantism and the other lines of belief. We believe that God is the one that gives faith and does all the work. We don’t help him. We obey because he commanded it and we love him, but he is the one who sanctifies (which is not a form of progressive eternal salvation).

    Like

    • Novaseeker says:

      Just so that I can understand it properly — if one’s will resists “effective grace”, isn’t the Calvinist view that this resistance isn’t effective, and that the grace is, in effect, irresistable? I thought that was what the “I” in TULIP was. If the grace is not resistable doesn’t salvation occur even if it is against the individual will which may will to resist it? Or is it that a person who had such a will would, ipso facto, never be the person to whom the irresistible salvific grace is given, so there would never, in a concrete case of a specific person, be a conflict? Again, I am trying to understand the distinction being made, so that I can understand the perspective.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lance says:

        Yes, the term is irresistible. The issue is with how you bring “will” into it.

        Because of the sin of Adam, the fall of man, all men are born dead in their sins. They have a free “will”, but that “will” will never choose God, it will always choose sin (even when it looks like they’re doing good, anything not done out of faith is sin). God at some point for his elect resurrects their dead spirit and give them faith, at this point their “will” now has the ability to choose God, and it will. This will be followed by the works of repentance and baptism. So I would say that the “will” may resist because of the indwelling sin nature that has trained our flesh, but it is no match for faith, grace and the Holy Spirit. Once someone has faith, and is no longer dead in their sins, they will continue to be sanctified by the indwelling Holy Spirt and their “will” will continually be in the process of conforming to the “will” of God. [using quotes for the noun “will” to keep things clear]

        The difference between the Reformed belief system and the others can be boiled down to whether you believe man died spiritually at the fall or didn’t. The other belief systems believe that man is just sick and needs a little help. The Reformed belief is that man is dead and needs resurrection, which can only be done by an outside agent.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jack says:

        Lance,
        Thanks for the concise explanation.
        How do the descriptors “sick” and “dead” relate to the “will”? I am guessing “sick” means confusion such that man doesn’t know what to do with the “will” other than seek self-gratification, and “dead” means man absolutely cannot exercise the “will” to experience life in the spirit. Would you agree?

        Like

      • Lance says:

        Dead means that the spirit of man has no faith, no salvific grace (just common grace), he only has his sin nature. Sick is where people believe that man can actually find God without God’s intervention; i.e. that there is still some faith in unregenerate man, that man wasn’t completely corrupted. [This doesn’t mean that man is completely depraved, they can always do worse, but God extends common grace that prevents them from falling to far into their depravity. The Doctrine of Total Depravity just means that it affects all that man think and does and wills.]

        In relation to what you asked. It’s not that a dead man can’t exercise his will to seek after God, it’s that he won’t. He chooses not to (no matter the appearance) but he only deceives himself, since he has no real faith. Though I can see semantically that you could say that he “can’t” because he has no faith, but I think that skews the fact that he has a free will and ultimately makes his faithless choice.

        Those who see the “sick” man, believe that he can pursue God with his own will (so no completely corrupt) and make a decision at some point to accept salvation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lexet Blog says:

        To sum up: the gospel is entirely powerless and pointless

        Like

      • Lance says:

        The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It is the means that God uses to draw his elect to him. It’s also sufficient for all else of life.

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins so that those who call on him can achieve eternal salvation.

        The good news is not that you were randomly selected for a prize and all others are completely screwed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lance says:

        Wow, you never have studied this have you, so many strawmans. NO ONE will ever call upon God while they are dead in their sins. Only those with faith can call upon God. Oh, and God doesn’t do anything randomly. He does things in perfect order according to his will.

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        No. I have never studied Calvinism. I have never spent over a decade in Calvinists churches, have never read James white, Gordon Clark, John Robbins, sproul, MacArthur, Keller, piper, or half a dozen other obscure Calvinist scholars.

        I merely cannot understand the absolute bs laughable system that Calvinist is, therefore all of my arguments are strawmen.

        Your own argument implies that your religious system is incredibly complex and relies on third party interpretation of god’s word. Then your system proclaims to be different from Rome.

        It’s laughable.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lexet Blog says:

        The thief on the cross means nothing to you?

        The prodigal son?

        Rahab wasn’t able to see God?

        I can go on but you will refuse to see the point. You believe in a powerless gospel.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lexet Blog says:

        For all reading this- this is the problem that led me to examine the doctrines of tulip more closely. Calvinism creates a culture of superiority whereby they are the ones with a special hidden knowledge, and all others just can’t understand them.

        You have to read a bunch of books by other scholars to finally understand the gospel, and only if you were pre selected by god to understand as those who aren’t elect can’t understand.

        And then the same people who believe the non elect can’t understand the Bible anyways (or that those who can’t understand are non elect) will waste all of their time trying to argue with people over scripture.

        If you really believe in Calvinism, why are you trying to convince others when your very doctrines say you can’t?

        Which is true- your man made doctrine or being able to convince others?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lance says:

        It’s always great when someone exposes themselves by having to resort to insults and strawmen. It helps bring clarity to the situation about who you’re dealing with.

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        I will call you out here on the spot because you are a dishonest actor.

        Re read this thread.

        You are the one accusing people who disagree that they just don’t know what they are talking about.

        Then you go hide behind name calling of your own by saying your critics are creating strawmen

        Like

      • Lance says:

        Are you still in high school? Do you not know what a straw man is? You haven’t made any salient points about what reformed theology says and is, you’ve just given out caricatures that have no substance in reality. I understand that study takes work, if you don’t want to do that, ok, but just grow up.

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        Read your own comments. Apply to yourself.

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        Tulip= simulation theory with a guy named Jesus.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Novaseeker says:

        OK, thanks for the clarification. It’s impossible for it to be against one’s will if the grace is present, because the grace perfects the will in each and every case where the grace is provided.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Lexet Blog says:

        Calvinism is full of logical twists. The grace is irresistible despite verses on judicial hardening.

        And we are born dead in sin despite verses on depravity.

        Liked by 1 person

      • info says:

        That’s why despite agreeing with everything else in Calvinism I am a Molinist.

        Liked by 2 people

      • cameron232 says:

        Molinism is what is taught in the Catholic catechism although the Augustine-Aquinas view (God sends sufficient grace to all but efficacious grace to some) is an allowable belief – in other words dogma hasn’t been defined in favor of either.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Joe2 says:

      Lance –

      In John 16:8 Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit. “When the Holy Spirit comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” And concerning sin because they do not believe in me… In this verse, we learn of a three-fold ministry the Holy Spirit will perform in relation to the unsaved world.

      Thus, the Holy Spirit has an influence in an unsaved person’s life, but is it only the elect who will respond to this influence or will only the elect experience the influence of the Holy Spirit?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lance says:

        There has to be some work of the Holy Spirit in everyone because that is what restrains men from just destroying themselves chasing sin. Also, the Bible is clear that everyone will be judged for not responding to God. It is only the elect that the Spirit performs the work of regeneration in (spiritual resurrection).

        Like

      • Lexet Blog says:

        So people will be judged for not responding when – according to the Calvinistic system – the same people have no choice but to reject god because they have not been predestined.

        People will be judged for something they have 0 control over.

        Like

    • Jack says:

      “…nor against our will, like the Calvinist understanding of salvation.”

      I guess what I mean is…

      “…nor against our will, like the Arminian interpretation of the Calvinist understanding of salvation.”

      But this is kinda stupid (and comical too).

      Lance, if I were to edit this line to make it more accurate, how would you phrase this idea?

      Like

  8. feeriker says:

    “I have seen believers steadfastly refuse or reject the notion that a brother caught in sin should remain in the fellowship receiving discipleship and care.”

    It all comes down to the question of repentance. If an errant brother or sister is truly repentant, then it’s the OBLIGATION of his or her brothers and sisters in Christ to perform the role of spiritual nurses to aid in their recovery and return to the fold.

    All too often “the fold” makes it clear, in attitude if not in words, that it doesn’t believe repentance of sin is possible (from someone else, that is. As for themselves, however, they would demand being given endless chances to repent and stay in “the fold’s” good graces).

    Liked by 6 people

    • Jack says:

      Some people who never experienced unconditional love in their childhood don’t feel loved unless it’s unconditional love. I think this is a common motivation for such people to engage in sinful behaviors — because as long as their behavior is acceptable, then they don’t feel loved. For people like this, “repentance” isn’t going to happen until they’ve had a good taste of unconditional love, at least enough for them to get a foothold on relying on God’s unconditional love. Ironically, the church is the last place they’ll ever find it.

      Liked by 3 people

      • SFC Ton says:

        Interesting

        Like

      • cameron232 says:

        @Jack , I suspect something like this influences my wife’s behavior – not sinfulness specifically but I get the idea she “tests” me sometimes but it’s not a “are you man enough” sh!t test – it’s a “do you love me, I really want to know you love me” test. She has literally never sh!t tested me.

        She wasn’t loved unconditionally (or at all really) as a child.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Jack says:

        Cameron,

        “…it’s not a “are you man enough” sh!t test – it’s a “do you love me, I really want to know you love me” test.”

        I think this is much more common than what we’re aware of. Maybe I should study this some more and write a post on it. If you could tell me more about your situation (through email if you prefer), then that would help me along.

        Liked by 2 people

      • cameron232 says:

        @Jack

        Oh no problem being (semi) public with it.

        I have a very good wife who likes to please and is empathetic towards men in general.

        She acknowledges headship and tries – she doesn’t explicitly push back ever (I’m not really the bark orders at her type anyway). She doesn’t ever sh!t test – even before headship was ever discussed.

        She also acknowledges she is impulsive and jokes about being an annoying pain-in-the-@ss. It simply feels like some of her impulsive behavior and joking about it seems to be feeling me out – “even though I annoy him he still loves me, right?” She seems to be fishing for this from me – which I give her of course.

        I mentioned this one time here and one of the commenters had a manosphere term for it. Not sh!t testing. “Love testing?” – I can’t remember.

        Liked by 4 people

      • Jack says:

        Cameron,
        Does she have a brother?

        Here’s a description of the comfort test.
        https://therationalmale.com/2017/06/30/competency/
        It’s similar, but I think it’s a little different from what I’m talking about.

        Cameron, what do you think?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Novaseeker says:

        Comfort testing.

        Liked by 2 people

      • cameron232 says:

        Yeah similar but more a test of love (and I suppose commitment by extension) than competence.

        Cool that our friend Deti got quoted in that post.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Jack says:

        Deti and NovaSeeker have been involved with the Manosphere for many years. I only found it in 2017, so I’m relatively new.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Scott says:

        Yes

        This is very common and I should referenced it in my borderline/abandonment issues videos

        Those who are the loudest about their abandonment issues or “not loved unconditionally” stuff simultaneously then engage in behaviors that make you want to abandon them.

        They are trying to figure out how obnoxious they can be (subconsciously) and have you stay.

        If you finally can’t tolerate it, and leave, it reaffirms their belief that that are unlovable

        Liked by 2 people

    • professorGBFMtm2021 says:

      CAMERON,JACK&NOVA
      I have to tell you my first G.F. who was age 6&I age 7 when it began,had a older brother &she still loves her daddy&brother to this day as a ”evil” moderate feminist?I figured this out in late ’11,before I stumbled onto the manosphere&dalrock in mid-march ’12!But I knew back at age 7/8,she obviously loved her father &competed against her mother for his attention!How I know that?One day, she got her mother to make the whole class(Me!)cupcakes&she wanted to give me,my cupcake&not her mother to do it,as she gave her a look that said”Hes mine”,see why I was redpill before anybody was saying even mgtow on that bachelor site,jason talks about here&there,that of course,I never knew about,I first went on the net around monday 09/17/2001(Almost a week after 911,See how I’m sometimes late to things?),at the local library,of course!P.S.Once I see the truth,there is no turning back!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Elspeth says:

    I am not exercising hyperbole when I say that I seem to share this sermon with fellow believers at least 4 times a year over the past 10 years. I am not referring to new believers when I say this. To believe in a Sovereign God who sent His only Son, born of a virgin, into the world to suffer and die as the penalty for our sin necessarily requires the ability to live with at least some unanswered questions.

    To believe that this sin nature, which we all have inherited ushering in a need for justification, through a spotless, sinless “Second Adam” being offered as the sacrificial lamb Whose blood offers us the grace to be redeemed from that curse necessarily requires unanswered questions. The whole thing is frankly, utterly fantastical. At some point, like Mary, we ask the question, “How can these things be?” We believe by faith, which only God can give us.

    Our finite ability to fully comprehend the mind of God means that acceptance of this gift of grace through faith requires, well, faith. The insistence that we can fully understand all of the inner working of the mind of God is to declare ourselves gods. In such case, why have faith?

    My favorite part of the linked sermon, the portion which I have largely memorized, came across my computer screen when, several years ago, I was trying to make sense of Calvinism, which I never encountered until I was in my early 30s. I’ve since learned that people who were raised under a more Reformed doctrine usually had no frame of reference for an Arminian view until later in life as well. The Internet is indeed a marvel. I am equal parts curious, desiring order, and at the same time comfortable with the idea that there are just some things we will not know, nay cannot know, this side of heaven. I think Spurgeon sums it up well here:

    The system of truth is not one straight line, but two. No man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. I am taught in one book to believe that what I sow I shall reap: I am taught in another place, that “it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure.

    Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no presidence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.

    These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.

    Just another .10 from me.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Novaseeker says:

      Predestination isn’t the issue, though, really. Predestination, in terms of God foreknowing all causes and conditions of the entirety of created time, from before it began, is basic metaphysics 101. It doesn’t contradict free will, because free will exists within the created space, and only from within perspectives that are, themselves, created. It is “real” in the same, relative, way that all of creation is “real” — that is, as far as temporal creatures go, free will is therefore “real” and actual, even though God already knew all of the actions of all acts of freewill for all of time before time began. These things are not contradictory as long as one maintains the distinction between temporal “reality”, which is “limited” in nature by its created-ness and temporal-ness, and eternal or actual reality, which is uncreated and eternal, and therefore unlimited by space and time. Freewill is a temporal “reality”, not an eternal one (for creatures). As long as that distinction is maintained there isn’t a conceptual problem.

      The apparent contradiction arises if one jumps from the idea of the eternal divine foreknowledge of all causes and conditions to the concern that if, from the eternal perspective, all outcomes are known to the omniscient, eternal creator prior to the dawn of time, human freewill is therefore illusory and doesn’t “really” exist, and that therefore all actions we take are “pre-determined” by God, rather than simply “pre-known”. Again, for a temporal creature who is trying to consider how things look from an eternal perspective (something which is “inexact” to say the least) one could say that they ARE, indeed, “pre-determined” from the eternal perspective, because, the eternal one knows all causes and conditions before time begins and chooses, in light of that knowledge, to create a temporal creation which will include that sequence of pre-known causes and conditions — in other words, that the decision to create a temporal reality with that particular foreknown sequence of causes and conditions is tantamount to the creator “pre-determining” all of those causes and conditions even if, from “inside” the created reality itself, those causes and conditions are taking place according to the “rules” set in place by the creator, whether physical laws or volitional free will.

      But this is really a contradiction that is more apparent than real, it seems to me, because in neither case are the specific causes and conditions occurring in such a way that does not encompass freewill. In other words, even if one views the act of creating made by an omniscient eternal creator being somehow “pre-determinitive” because the creator foreknows all causes and conditions and chooses to create a reality containing them, and thereby “causes” them in an ultimate sense, in a proximate sense, temporal causality is preserved by this understanding within the temporal space itself. This perspective also does not exclude specific divine intervention and action inside the temporal space itself, as a specific act of the divine will, inserted into the context of the causes and conditions that are coming about by means of the freewill of temporal actors, but remains open to them.

      Note that all of this is “prior” to the disagreements between different kinds of Christians about the nature and characteristics of the human will inside the space and time of temporal reality. In both the “sick but free will” scenario and the “total depravity” scenario, under this perspective God has perfect foreknowledge of all causes and conditions and also interjects himself into that sequence as and when he wills. The disagreement is rather about the nature of the created will and, in light of one’s perspective on that, how one views the nature and type of the interventions of the divine will in the temporal reality.

      Liked by 3 people

      • cameron232 says:

        I like to think of God as existing in the eternal present – it’s all the present to him – I think the Catechism puts it this way.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Elspeth says:

        “The apparent contradiction arises if one jumps from the idea of the eternal divine foreknowledge of all causes and conditions to the concern that if, from the eternal perspective, all outcomes are known to the omniscient, eternal creator prior to the dawn of time, human freewill is therefore illusory and doesn’t “really” exist, and that therefore all actions we take are “pre-determined” by God, rather than simply “pre-known”.”

        I readily admit that I am not as knowledgeable as many here on these topics, and my reading of Calvin has been woefully limited. But from what I have read of his writing, people who take this position are misreading not only his writings, but totally misunderstanding the Scriptures. If man has no free will, then all of the Bible verses admonishing us to “choose”, or the “thou’s” and “thou shall not’s”, are all ludicrous.

        It’s why I think the Spurgeon quote is actually relevant beyond predestination from a salvific perspective. I think it’s relevant to all aspects of the Christian life. I think Cameron’s point, something about a guy’s adultery being pre-ordained to punish his wife because whatever, is the end result of 1) the idea that everything that we do is predetermined and beyond our control, and 2) our self-righteous determining based on our own metrics who is redeemed or no redeemed.

        Of course we are responsible to make choices, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, etc. and I don’t think believing that means I am discounting the sovereignty of God. It is simply to humbly acknowledge that I cannot know everything. And being okay with it.

        Liked by 4 people

      • cameron232 says:

        @Elspeth,

        “If man has no free will, then all of the Bible verses admonishing us to “choose”, or the “thou’s” and “thou shall not’s”, are all ludicrous.”

        Yes, exactly! I cannot make sense out of those verses (those verses speak very plainly to people of normal intellect like me) without free will as understood by e.g. Arminians.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Lexet Blog says:

        I’ll note that the Arminian / Calvinist dichotomy is false. There are actually 3 positions (the third being pre 1980 SBC), but acknowledging this fact doesn’t serve the big players in the debate

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lexet Blog says:

        Simulation theory vs known outcome but limited interference.

        The ultimate question when it comes to the soteriological q is: will people be judged and sent to hell for something they had no control over?

        And there is a group of people who answer that in the affirmative.

        Like

      • cameron232 says:

        @Lexet, Lutheran soteriology is often considered a third way.

        Like

    • info says:

      When crossing swords with a former Christian he posed this objection.

      He said that with his omniscience and omnipotence it should be possible to set up creation and divine agency in such a way. Everyone will freely choose him without their free will bring violated in anyway.

      After all he desires all to be saved.(1 Tim 2:4)

      If he doesn’t he must love cruelty or he isn’t omniscient or omnipotent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lance says:

        Sounds like those who believe that elevate “free will” to be the most important thing in the universe.

        Like

      • info says:

        If free will isn’t true. God is evil. Because God is the one who does the evil and is the origin of evil by implication.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Novaseeker says:

        “Because God is the one who does the evil and is the origin of evil by implication.”

        Freewill per se doesn’t quite get around the core of this issue, however.

        God is omniscient. So he knew all events in time before time began — he knows the beginning and the end and all in between. That means he created a world that would have evil in it, and he knew that the fall would happen before time began, because he knows all causes and conditions in the temporal space before the clock of time begins to run.

        It’s true that the evil acts are the acts of the freewill of creatures, and not of God himself in a direct way — God does not directly act in evil ways. Yet because he has perfect foreknowledge as a function of his omniscience, he had perfect foreknowledge of the fall as well, and therefore that evil would be perpetrated in the creation — that is, that he knowingly created a kind of creation in which the perpetration of evil is possible, even though God himself does not commit the evil.

        That’s really what the so-called “theodicy” argument is getting at: “If God is good, why did he create a creation in which evil choices are possible, including very evil ones that we have seen in human history and continue to see today — why not create a world without that, and wouldn’t a God who is all about love find a way to do that, if he is all powerful and so on?”. That’s the theodicy issue, because even if God doesn’t commit evil acts himself (which we believe he does not), he created a world in which evil was going to happen, and he knew that because he knew all of time before the clock started.

        This is a very, very old argument, and the Book of Job is essentially God’s response: “I know things you don’t, so you have to trust me on this that the way I chose to create is the best way, the right way.” Various subsequent explanations have been offered which are more positive in content than Job, but from my own perspective when one examines them, it becomes apparent that most of them are rationalizations of one type or another, or squeezed selective readings of scripture to support this or that specific exegetical/doctrinal “school”, such that, in my view, one eventually ends up back in Job 38-42.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Lexet Blog says:

        This theodicy argument, coupled with double predestination = god knew evil existed, and god only chose to save a few, decidedly determining that the rest could not be saved and have no option but to go to hell.

        There is no glory in that scenario.

        All it is is a computer simulation being run, with people not knowing they are in a simulation.

        The Calvinist system tries to resolve this by introducing compatibilism as a way to save gods honor from the consequences of their system of thought.

        Liked by 2 people

      • cameron232 says:

        I’ve seen attempts to explain this as follows: evil isn’t a thing – evil is a lack of something: goodness, love, God himself, etc.
        And that possibility, the lack of that something, is a necessary condition for free will beings even if they are created.
        I’m not real good with this stuff but I read that somewhere.

        Liked by 3 people

      • info says:

        @Novaseeker
        Trying to square the circle of free will without possibility of failure is logically impossible. By definition ensuing that all creatures freely choose to be saved means that one has already taken free will from them.

        It’s probably akin to applying infinite force to make a square circle. It cannot be made to exist. In the same way God cannot not be God. Or Omnipotence cannot not be Omnipotence.

        Or that God cannot not be the infinite perfection of Truth,Goodness and Beauty

        Liked by 2 people

      • Gunner Q says:

        “He said that with his omniscience and omnipotence it should be possible to set up creation and divine agency in such a way…”

        Ah, the old “If God didn’t do what I expected then He can’t exist.” I once heard an unbeliever argue that because the appendix is a useless organ that could cause death, that God couldn’t be the Creator.

        Liked by 2 people

      • lastholdout says:

        I’ve run in the Calvinist circles in my past. The way I understand it, Calvin’s limited free will pertains to the sufficiency of Christ. If we were all on the proverbial slide to eternal damnation (without God’s intervention), then our only salvation is Christ. Not 99% Christ, 1% my will. His perfect sacrifice would be compromised if we owned any part of our salvation. We owe it ALL to Him. Was He not the perfect sacrifice? This is why decisioning is so distasteful -it makes claim on what is His.

        Yes we have free will. That’s painfully obvious. That’s why we are beckoned to Him. The best we can do is to pray that He saves us from ourselves.

        Each of these systems have their nuances. And one gets in trouble if those nuances are not seen because of a cursory drive-by study –which is anybody who is outside of the system. These are deep and important matters that everyone here contemplates. That’s not your average churchian, who picks the church that best aligns with their own world view (and I do mean “world” as in worldly.)

        While these convo’s may bristle some, I find them very helpful.

        Liked by 3 people

      • info says:

        @Novaseeker
        On the other hand it may be theoretically possible for all Souls to be saved eventually. Since I continued this conversation with this former Christian.

        Reincarnation which forces learning experiences for the Soul so that eventually that person chooses to be saved.

        God could theoretically do this. But he didn’t it looks like.

        Like

      • Sharkly says:

        Romans 9:18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
        19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
        20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
        21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
        22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
        23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
        24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

        Liked by 1 person

  10. lastholdout says:

    Great post and comments. Seems more like a Venn diagram than a series of walls. (No, I’m not a Universalist.)

    [Jack: Congratulations! You have entered the 10,000th comment on Sigma Frame! Here is your prize!]

    Liked by 2 people

  11. info says:

    I think a sharp demarcation can be found between saved and unsaved based on whether they are repentant/unrepentant sinners and if they regard sin as sin.

    For example if a person deceive himself by thinking he is saved but at the same time hold homosexuality as moral and right isn’t saved.

    Likewise if that person compromised with feminism despite being solid everywhere else. Thinking that women priests/elders/pastors are right and Just

    And mutual submission in contrast to male dominance in marriage is right and good and the latter is evil.

    When the scriptures teach Patriarchy as the God ordained order.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lexet Blog says:

      I’d modify everything after your first paragraph on the condition that the length of time they have been a believer be considered, and how teachable they are.

      That will cover most people.

      But we should never forget that there are saved people who are put out of the church and handed over to the devil.

      Liked by 1 person

      • info says:

        True. According to what I know a persons’ views to remain unchanged or gone in a more feminist direction for 20 years.
        http://christian-thinktank.com/femalex.html

        This same man stuck to Orthodoxy in other areas save for this one. And has done solid work in many other ways.

        But justifies his view based on the Greek in the text according to the scholars he quoted which in his view actually is about egalitarian sex roles and not male dominance despite 1900+ years of church history.

        And this egalitarianism is what in truth prevailed in Apostolic Churches in his view.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lexet Blog says:

        The reason I believe it’s impossible to Maintain a faithful reading of scripture once you believe in feminism is that it requires you to adopt a hermeneutic that is flexible. At that point, you no longer have a consistent theology.

        Orthodox/rcc churches tend to get away with this a lot more because they spiritualize many passages and rely on catechisms for interpretations.

        In the Protestant world, only the reformed are comparable with spiritualizing scripture. Since they stopped writing confessional statements in 1689, the only way to pick up on trends is to watch what the famous pastors say and write.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Jack says:

    The first image showing how different Christian denominations see each other is insightful. Unfortunately, Orthodox is not included in the pictorial rubric, but I would say it’s similar to Catholics.

    I want to point out something interesting about this meme. If you look at the images diagonally from top left to bottom right, you can see how each denomination sees itself. This represents the aspect of Christianity that is most valued by each respective denomination.
    –Catholics/Orthodox value structures of authority and time-honored traditions.
    –Liberals value compassion and empathy.
    –The Reformed value family and community.
    –Evangelicals value confidence in the Word of God.
    –Charismatics value the joy of being identified with Christ.

    Of course, all denominations value all of these aspects (or they should), but one is emphasized more than the others within the social culture of the church. This value system forms the backbone of the ethical structure practiced within each denomination.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. professorGBFMtm2021 says:

    NOVA&JACK,great post!
    You knew I had been waiting to appear from the shadows, right?Nobody has’nt brought up how urbanization has effected all of christendom, since the late 1700s/early 1800’s.Namely callum browns ”the death of christian britain”book!Where men(Mainly fathers!)became seen as a even bigger threat than satan to women&soceity at large!So many people(secular&religious) moving to cities in western civ,dos’nt explain most of the problems, all of us have been having in christendom over the last 300 years in general &especialy the last 60 years here, in america!?See why I waited to appear, until now?I thought somebody else might bring this up!

    Like

    • Novaseeker says:

      It’s an interesting idea but not really easy to see how it could be true.

      Cities dominated for a long time before the middle ages. Rome was extremely large in its day, as was Constantinople, relative to the size of the overall populations. Many people worked the land, of course, and lived in villages — certainly more than in the periods following industrialization — but Christianity began as an urban movement, in cities, and spread from there outward, not vice versa. Urbanity wasn’t a problem for Christianity until the industrial period, and even then because of the history of Christianity thriving in cities for most of its history prior to that, I’d tend to put my finger on other things for the reasons why the problems were encountered — specifically the rise, around the same time, of philosophies that were popular in the urban environments that were Enlightenment and “Scientism” based, which undermined faith overall.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Elspeth says:

        specifically the rise, around the same time, of philosophies that were popular in the urban environments that were Enlightenment and “Scientism” based, which undermined faith overall.

        Yes. And it was probably at its worse with the attention given to technocrats on a grand scale in the 1930s and 40s. The official technocracy movement has long since faded into obscurity, but their ideas and methodologies have a vice grip on the western mind and our way of tackling all kinds of issues.

        This has also impacted the trajectory of Christianity.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Lexet Blog says:

        It doesn’t help that some of the most read and discussed theologians were people placed into position of authority the day they converted.

        Cough cough Augustine

        Liked by 2 people

    • info says:

      @Lexet Blog
      I would say Augustine actually helped to ruin marriage in a big way:
      https://www.thebodyissacred.org/origin-st-augustine-sexuality-sin-sex-pleasure/

      Like

  14. Elspeth says:

    I’ll note that the Arminian / Calvinist dichotomy is false.

    I have no idea what the third option is that you are referring to Lexet, but any attentive reading of Scripture makes it clear that this assertion of yours is true. It’s one of the reasons I have (IRL, I mean) opted out of the debate. It’s silly.

    I ran across a rather lengthy piece a few year back from a guy who made more sense, and had largely concluded the same things SAM and I concluded, and it is a place where we are completely settled. You probably know this guy and all about this document, but it was new to me 8-10 years ago when I read it.

    Click to access Arm_Reformed%20Arminianism%20-%20Ashby.pdf

    Liked by 2 people

    • cameron232 says:

      Will try to read this.

      I think I mentioned this before but I once visited a Free Will Baptist church and came away with a positive impression. There are a decent number of Free Wil Baptists in Polk County but they’re more concentrated in Southern Appalachia and the Ozarks.

      Like

  15. Elspeth says:

    @ cameron:

    Your comments about unconditional love and comfort are insightful. As an adult, maybe early 30s, I began to truly appreciate that depth of love that my father had for me, but I had never really experienced what we tend to characterize as “unconditional love”, and I definitely give SAM ample opportunities to remind me that he loves me, which is glad to do.

    She acknowledges headship and tries – she doesn’t explicitly push back ever (I’m not really the bark orders at her type anyway).

    I’d add that the big misconception is that a man of strong frame necessarily “barks orders” at his wife kind of rankles me. In fact, my experience has been the stronger a frame a man possesses, the less likely he is to do that kind of thing because he doesn’t need to. I saw it in my dad, and I see it in my husband.

    And having a strong frame, clear expectations, and standards is not unloving. In fact, people like that usually have high standards for themselves as well. Which is a good thing.

    Liked by 5 people

    • cameron232 says:

      @Elspeth, I definitely have no desire to micromanage her. I have beliefs about how we should raise the children (which I hold because I think it’s what’s best for them not because I want control of things). I would rather it worked this way: I share with her my vision for how we raise the children and she cooperates with my vision.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Elspeth says:

        No man of any worth has the desire, time, or inclination to micromanage his wife. To have standards, frame and clear expectations is not the same as micromanaging.

        Maybe my lifelong experience with men who are both strong and chill has given me a specific view. I’ll see if I can explain what this looks like.

        In both my home of origin, and in my marriage, there is a particular culture that is articulated not by lists of things to do or not do, or managing every aspect of life, or outlining the details of how time and money are spent. There is instead, an overarching view of what needs to be getting done, done well, and done within certain parameters. My job is to be smart enough to figure out how to execute his vision for the home without being micromanaged, and to ask for help when I need it.

        In the beginning there’s a lot more trial and error as you’re combining the two disparate backgrounds and household cultures to create a new marital and family culture. When husband as head is fully internalized as the culture of the family, the wife usually adapts to his frame; if he has any frame into which she can adapt. Women are malleable that way when we feel safe.

        However, none of that is based on some foolish type of “game”. SAM cannot stand that whole idea and really had no frame of reference for it as described online. In the culture we grew up in, “running game” on a woman was always thought of as a way a man deceives and manipulates a woman whom he no intention of marrying.

        We came to understand that it’s simply “whoever has the more dominant personality sets the tone”. When it’s the wife, she sets the tone, which is bad because our hormones make us more flighty. When it’s the husband, he sets the tone. Love and romance and kindness and compromise and all of the beautiful things can still flourish without the husband needing bend like a reed in the wind in response to his wife’s emotions.

        I’ve come to conclude that the reason a man with frame is characterized as performing, barking orders, and having to “do game” is because in America, most men cannot conceive of a version of love that doesn’t perpetually capitulate to his wife. It’s what we’ve been stewing in for the past 60 years, so I can’t fault them for thinking that way.

        Liked by 2 people

  16. Elspeth says:

    If we were all on the proverbial slide to eternal damnation (without God’s intervention), then our only salvation is Christ. Not 99% Christ, 1% my will. His perfect sacrifice would be compromised if we owned any part of our salvation. We owe it ALL to Him. Was He not the perfect sacrifice? This is why decisioning is so distasteful -it makes claim on what is His.

    If, upon the wedding of their only child, the parents present the child and his or her new spouse with:

    1- An all expenses paid honeymoon
    2- The keys to a house they have purchased for them (mortgage free), and
    3- The keys to a brand new crossover vehicle, also paid for,

    and the young newlyweds accept the gifts, does their acceptance of the gifts in any way negate the fact that the parents paid the cost of all of the gifts in full? Of course not.

    By the same token, the fact that I can accept (or not) Christ’s fully paid gift of redemption in no way diminishes the fact that He paid for my redemption in total, with no contribution from me. My grateful acceptance or ungrateful rejection of said gift is a separate thing from what God has done. Only a very high minded individual would ever view their redemption and salvation as something they contributed to. And to the effect that any of us do so, we have far bigger internal issues to address than the Calvinism/Arminianism debate.

    Liked by 3 people

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  18. redpillboomer says:

    Enjoying all the theological posts in this thread.

    Here’s something I’ve been slowly doing, kind of like a personal thought experiment of mine. Since, as the Bible says, “There’s nothing new under the sun,” I’ve been slowly taking the current, modern-day Red Pill lingo/concepts/constructs/etc. and mentally putting them back into a Biblical frame and seeing what shows up for me.

    This little “thought experiment” coincides with my other “experiment” of taking all the Biblical references to male-female relationships, beginning with Genesis and spread out across the other 65 books of the Bible, most notably the Proverbs, Song of Songs, Gospel and Epistle references to ‘intersexual dynamics’ and aligning them. For example, re-introducing via the thought experiment, one of the most non-PC Biblical terms imaginable in today’s culture… Sin; probably even a more nasty, non-PC, offensive word than the other dreaded s-word, submission.

    So PUA, Players, CC riders, ‘Netflix and chill,’ ONS, ‘girl’s night out,’ ‘Monkey-branching,’ ‘Chad & Tyrone,’ ‘Pumping & Dumping,’ Cucking, open marriage, etc. etc. etc. (list goes on and on)… What if I call all of that… yikes, here we go, hang on… SIN, specifically the sins of fornication and adultery. OMG that just rips right through all the colorful expressions we’ve created. For example, our ever popular CC riding girl is actually a sinner, specifically a fornicator. Her buddies Chad and Tyrone are just fornicators too, unless it’s a married woman they’re doing, then Biblically speaking, they’re adulterers or participating in adultery, not sure exactly which.

    I’m not talking about being “finger wagging, holier-than-thou” judgmental here, I’m trying out (in my thinking) calling the proverbial spade a spade using the Biblical terminology. Could you imagine the secular Manosphere and what it would do to it? It would wipe out a lot of the colorful, creative terminology we’ve come up with and expose it to the light of scriptures.

    Again, just a personal thought experiment of mine, but an interesting one nonetheless. Thoughts? Comments?

    Liked by 3 people

    • professorGBFMtm2021 says:

      REPILLBOOMER,heres my thoughts&comment!
      You know in the earlier days of dalrock,their was dalrock invasions of other blogs ,right?Specificaly sheila wray gregoires tolovehonor&vaccum blog!Gregoire showe’11,she thought all the dalrock guys were going to welcome her with open arms!That post was in reaction,mainly to the ”wife” in the fireproof film that was still big with churchians at the time!

      Like

    • lastholdout says:

      @redpillboomer

      “…my other ‘experiment’ of taking all the Biblical references to male-female relationships, beginning with Genesis and spread out across the other 65 books of the Bible, most notably the Proverbs, Song of Songs, Gospel and Epistle references to ‘intersexual dynamics’ and aligning them.”

      I spent the last few years doing just that, but motivated to a different end –to uncover what has been buried over the last 50 years by pastors, authors and counselors. They have focused obsessively on one passage when speaking to the marriage relationship, Ephesians 5:25–31, and have neglected what the rest of what Scripture is consistent in citing.

      The predisposition to sin first appeared in the third chapter of Genesis. With it started a particular thread that runs through the Old and New Testaments. In the same chapter God Himself cited it and prescribed the remedy. Proverbs repeatedly calls it out. In the New Testament, the apostles Peter and Paul consistently refer to its countermeasures. Yet church leaders of the past fifty years have ignored it to the disservice of many women and their marriages.

      I am talking about the woman’s natural predisposition (a sinful desire) to supplant her husband’s God-ordained position in marriage.

      This disproportionate emphasis and concomitant neglect has contributed to an error in the modern Church by taking out of context what the entire Bible teaches on the husband-wife relationship. The effect is to present a different view of marriage than that presented in Scripture, resulting in errant teaching, misinformed Christians, and unrealistic expectations of marriage, frustrating husbands and wives alike. I codified my study in a book, “Desire at the Door: Uncovering the Biblical Marriage Foundations in the Postmodern Era.” It is pointed at the Church leaders.

      If we really want to effect change, it has to start in the Church. In fact, it is our obligation to call out the error.
      “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4 [KJV])

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Scott says:

    Orthodox is not included in the pictorial rubric, but I would say it’s similar to Catholics.

    Not really. Most Christians don’t have any regard for it at all, like it doesn’t exist.

    I say “I’m Orthodox” and they respond:

    “Oh, like Jews? Like you don’t cut your sideburns?”

    Liked by 1 person

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