Conformity to God’s Will: Why Punishment Doesn’t Work

Church history is replete with examples of power plays and fear tactics to induce people to conform to what some particular authority believes is the will of God.  Sadly, these efforts have resulted, at times, in brutal physical, spiritual, and psychological terror.  Some people never seem to learn the lesson that one cannot be forced to obey God against his or her will.  Perhaps the most famous campaign to terrorize people into correct living and correct believing is the Inquisition, where the church used unspeakable torture or threats of torture to produce conformity.  In this blog post, I want to examine the three ways that social psychologists posit that conformity can be stimulated and relate it to the subject of following God’s will in discipleship.  I hope to demonstrate that the fear of punishment, still ever so popular in many Christian circles, is not effective in producing life-changing results. Continue reading

Our Loving God (Part 05) – Humble Glory

If you have come from a spiritually abusive background, you most often suffer with a view of God that is distant, harsh, and arrogant.  God was often depicted as this self-obsessed ego maniac who is hell-bent on forcing everybody to acknowledge how great He is.  We’ve been examining 1 Corinthians 13 to see what the characteristics of our loving God must be.  Already in this series, you’ve probably challenged some of the ways in which you’ve viewed God.  Here we do so again, because, contrary to the fundamentalist portrayal of God as arrogant and capricious, the Apostle Paul writes that love is not proud, does not boast, and that it does not insist on its own rights.  It’s not about oneself.  Yet, for those of us who were exposed to a spiritually vitriolic environment, it may be difficult to look at a verse like Isaiah 48:11, which reads, “How can I let myself be defamed?   I will not yield my glory to another,” and conclude anything but that God is a narcissist.  How do we understand the concept of God being loving and yet someone who, at the same time, seems to be obsessed with His own glory?  You’ll hear many Christians say, “It’s all about God, not you.”  Is this really true? Continue reading

“Happily Ever After” (Part 03) – The Biblical Argument for Universalism: Old Testament

Jared and Tyler Duncan continue their dialogue on the question of universal salvation, following the death of their grandfather who was an avowed unbeliever. In this segment of the story, the boys discuss the evidence from the Old Testament supporting the doctrine of Christian Universalism. Once again, I remind the reader that this is a blog post and is not meant to provide a comprehensive review of all related scripture passages or a discussion of all possible arguments in favor of universalism. In this dialogue you will get an overview of the basic case for this doctrine made from the pages of the Old Testament. Readers seeking a more in-depth treatment are invited to review the references at the end of the story for a list of resources to aid in your study. Continue reading

Book Review: “A Generous Orthodoxy” by Brian McLaren

This is my first book review.  I know that, technically, there is a certain way to write a book review starting with an introduction, general overview of the book, strong points, weak points, and finishing with a summary and conclusion (or something like that).  Instead of all that, I’m just going to tell you why I loved this book.  How’s that?  LOL!  You see, book reviews on the Christian Independent are going to be more like journal entries than technical book reviews, because I’m past the point of reading books simply for theological information.  I’m interested in transformation.  I did the whole “stuff my head with knowledge” thing and that ends in stale orthodoxy.  It’s ironic that those words flowed off of my fingers, because that is the opposite of what Brian McLaren is aiming at in this book.  He’s trying to get at something deeper than theological systems.  He’s trying to get at a way of life (one that includes beliefs) that is generous.  He contends that the dichotomy that exists in our thinking between orthodoxy (right beliefs) and orthopraxy (right practice or living) should not exist.  We should live out our beliefs in a generous way that transforms us, others, the community, and, ultimately, the whole world.  Believe me, I’m doing a grave injustice to Brian by writing this review, because I cannot capture the beauty of what he is proposing and directing us toward in any way that can fully articulate his thoughts.  You’re going to have to read the book yourself. Continue reading

“Happily Ever After” (Part 02) – The Philosophical Argument for Universalism

What follows is a story of two cousins, Tyler and Jared Duncan, who, after the death of their grandfather, begin what will be a series of dialogues on the subject of Universalism.  This post is part of a series of blog posts on the topic.  Being a blog series, it is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of the topic, but an introduction to some of the main arguments for Christian Universalism from a variety of perspectives.  Continue reading

“Happily Ever Ever” (Part 01) – My Journey Out of Hell

I want you to be dead honest with me (and yourself) about something.  Does it bother you, at any level, that, according to traditional conservative theology, probably somewhere around 90-95% of people ever born on this planet are going to end up in Hell?  I mean, even a little bit?  If you really can be honest, you would have to admit that it does.  If it doesn’t, then either you don’t really believe it deep down, or you are a very cold-hearted person.  Think about it.  If you meet 100 people in the course of the day, 95 of them are supposed to spend eternity (that’s forever and ever and ever…) in a place devoid of all hope, all love, all grace, and which is the very definition of personal suffering.  How could such an idea not bother you?!?  Continue reading

Our Loving God (Part 04) – He Who is Patient and Kind

True love.  It’s what we all long for deep in the recesses of our being.  It is why we are stirred by stories of great sacrifice by persons for one another and inspirational forgiveness by those who are wronged.  We desire, whether we are consciously aware of it or not, to be loved with a love that knows no limits. Continue reading