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Source: (consider it) Thread: Purgatory: A "personal" relationship with Jesus
Dobbo
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quote:
Originally posted by MouseThief:
So our "personal relationship" between Jesus is the same relationship as between an eater and the food he eats? I can go there (grudgingly) but then I fail to see why the adjective "personal". Is it because I am personally eating, and nobody else is eating? But everybody else is eating. When people are at table together, your relationship with the food is not personal, but communal.

No you are in relationship with those that eat with you but if you eat that third portion of chocolate cake it will go on your waistline not any one elses.

quote:
Josephine

There's a problem with this, though. Those of us who don't usually use the "personal relationship" terminology don't think a person is a Christian because her mother and father are Christians. We (or most of us) think a person is a Christian because she has been baptized.


Robert Mugabe was brought up a Roman Catholic - ie baptized - but given his treatment of his countymen is he a Christian.

If he is not a Christian now does that mean that your salvation is dependant on works.

and how does that fit in with the idea of

quote:
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus


Phillipians 1 v 6

Other questions do you have to be a christian to get into heaven ?

and if you do what happens to the 1,000,000 aborted children that have had their lives taken away from them in the last 5 years in the UK alone.

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Callan
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I think it more accurate to say of Mugabe that he is a bad Christian than that he isn't a Christian at all (unless he's apostasised and I missed the memo).

To be quite honest I find these threads rather perplexing. I'm more than happy for people to talk about their "personal relationship with Jesus" but the phrase is nowhere used in Sacred Scripture and if people find other expressions to describe their faith, commitment and discipleship to be preferable then I don't really see the problem. What bothers me, I think, is that people seem to subconsciously assume that only a personal relationship with Jesus is proper Christianity and as they are keen to affirm that those who find the language unhelpful are proper Christians they try explaining to them that actually they do have a personal relationship with Jesus. If it works for you it works for you. It doesn't work for everyone.

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El Greco
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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbo:
If he is not a Christian now does that mean that your salvation is dependant on works.

"Our salvation finally depends on our own will." Maximus the Confessor. The dilemma between grace and works is a false one.

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Josephine

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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbo:
Robert Mugabe was brought up a Roman Catholic - ie baptized - but given his treatment of his countymen is he a Christian.



I would assume that he is an excommunicate Christian.

quote:
If he is not a Christian now does that mean that your salvation is dependant on works.


Of course it is. Sheep and goats and all that.

quote:
Other questions do you have to be a christian to get into heaven ?


"Going to heaven" is a concept that is foreign to the historic Christian faith. It's certainly not in the Creed, nor in the Scriptures. I do believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting, and I do believe that in the last day, all will be raised -- Christ has destroyed death and bestowed life on the fallen.

quote:
and if you do what happens to the 1,000,000 aborted children that have had their lives taken away from them in the last 5 years in the UK alone.
Every person who dies will be raised from the dead. I can't imagine any reason that the time or manner of their death would change that.

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Seeker963
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
To be quite honest I find these threads rather perplexing. I'm more than happy for people to talk about their "personal relationship with Jesus" but the phrase is nowhere used in Sacred Scripture and if people find other expressions to describe their faith, commitment and discipleship to be preferable then I don't really see the problem. What bothers me, I think, is that people seem to subconsciously assume that only a personal relationship with Jesus is proper Christianity

I don't see the problem if other people find other phrases to describe their faith either.

Can all you 'baptism only' people tell me how it is that you think a person is a 'proper Christian' who is baptised, never goes to church, grows up to be an atheist and actively denigrates the church - as an example? That might be a sociological definition of 'Christian' but it certainly isn't a faith-based definition.

On this basis, the Muslim extremists who say that Britain is a 'Christian' country are correct.

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Seeker963
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
To be quite honest I find these threads rather perplexing....What bothers me, I think, is that people seem to subconsciously assume that only a personal relationship with Jesus is proper Christianity and as they are keen to affirm that those who find the language unhelpful are proper Christians they try explaining to them that actually they do have a personal relationship with Jesus. If it works for you it works for you. It doesn't work for everyone.

I (stupidly, perhaps) took the Original Post to be asking "Why do you value this aspect of your tradition?"

I tried to answer that question in good faith.

I never personally denigrated anyone else's tradition nor does my denomination take any stance against any other Christian denomination.

I do not think my way of being a Christian is the only way of being a Christian.

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Trudy Scrumptious

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Mousethief, you say no-one has attempted to engage with the question of what a PRWJ is, but I think there have been definitions offered that you haven't engaged with. Mine, for example. I would say (at the bare minimum, the maximum being mystics who believe they hear God speaking to them), a PRWJ consists of:

1. believing in a God who knows and cares about you personally, and
2. attempting some form of communication with God through prayer, worship, etc -- will differ with different religious traditions, but I would think prayer would be common across all Christian traditions.

So in answer to your question about whether I'd consider you to have a PRWJ, I'd ask (not that you have to answer):

1. Do you pray?
2. Do you have any sense that a God who cares about you hears and answers your prayers?

If you answer "yes" to both, that is, by my definition, a PRWJ. And it still seems to me that people who are uncomfortable with the term and the theology they usually find attached to it, are attributing meanings to the term that are not generally intended by most of us who use it. Les@balm, your last post seems to be me to be a particularly egregious example of this -- when you say that it involves "claiming ownership of Jesus to the exclusion of others." I have been taught about a PRWJ in church all my life and have never heard anything that even vaguely resembles this.

I don't have any problem with someone saying, "I don't use this particularly language to describe my experience of God because the language is not resonant or meaningful for me, or because it has negative connotations for me." So I certainly don't mind anyone choosing NOT to say that they have a PRWJ, even if by my definition they have one. What I do object to is someone saying, "I don't like the idea of a PRWJ because it means X, and I don't believe X," when lots of people like me who think we DO have a PRWJ, do not think it means X at all. It's just a strawman argument.

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Josephine

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quote:
Originally posted by Seeker963:
Can all you 'baptism only' people tell me how it is that you think a person is a 'proper Christian' who is baptised, never goes to church, grows up to be an atheist and actively denigrates the church - as an example?

I don't know any baptism-only people.

However, the person you described is not a proper Christian, but is both excommunicate and apostate.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
1. believing in a God who knows and cares about you personally, and
2. attempting some form of communication with God through prayer, worship, etc -- will differ with different religious traditions, but I would think prayer would be common across all Christian traditions.

No, I have, in fact, dealt with both of these, albeit not in a post directed specifically to you.

quote:
So in answer to your question about whether I'd consider you to have a PRWJ, I'd ask (not that you have to answer):

1. Do you pray?
2. Do you have any sense that a God who cares about you hears and answers your prayers?

What do you mean by a "sense" of this? I believe it, but I have no sensations that correspond to this belief. For all I _know_ (rather than believe) I could be praying to the ceiling.

And again, a one-way conversation to somebody who never answers back -- in what way is this a personal relationship?

[ 26. April 2007, 20:57: Message edited by: MouseThief ]

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Seeker963
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quote:
Originally posted by Josephine:
quote:
Originally posted by Seeker963:
Can all you 'baptism only' people tell me how it is that you think a person is a 'proper Christian' who is baptised, never goes to church, grows up to be an atheist and actively denigrates the church - as an example?

I don't know any baptism-only people.

However, the person you described is not a proper Christian, but is both excommunicate and apostate.

Trudy, I totally agree with you.

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Jahlove
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Thanks for that, Trudy

you say:

quote:
1. Do you pray?
2. Do you have any sense that a God who cares about you hears and answers your prayers?

I see this is addressed to MT specifically, Trudy, but that’s quite interesting. I can say *yes* to both these questions but I also believe it is no more than (a) others do and (b) happens in the case of others, ergo not *personal* as applicable to me only.

Maybe I am thinking of a *personal relationship* as something more exclusive (which is how it has come across to me when I hear it from those who like to use these words) than your interpretation (which is perhaps a more amenable usage) - of the phrase?

For instance, I have a personal relationship with S, a friend of mine. I know that others also have personal relationships with S (children, husband, other friends) but they are not the same, even the other *friends* as mine - my relationship with her is unique. Can I really say the same about *me and Jesus* - no, I can’t (always open to new reflection though).

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Mama Thomas
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Trudy Scrumptious:
quote:
Just because a term is widely used by a branch of Christianity which tends to be associated with certain views, it is not safe to assume that everyone who uses that phrase shares those views.
True, Trudy, true. Forgive my stereotyping.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Seeker963:

It is the fact that you are (presumably) a committed disciple of Jesus.

I'd like to think so. Is that what it means to have a personal relationship? I could be a committed follower of the Buddha (sp?) -- would that mean I had a personal relationship with the Buddha? I could be a committed follower of Tolstoy (there were many such at one time) -- would that mean I had a personal relationship with Tolstoy?

quote:
What is so flipping hard to understand about that?
No need to be snotty. What's hard to understand is why that has anything to do with personal relationship.

quote:
(I'm expecting you to tell me that my way of understanding PRWJ wrong, by the way.)
I'm not telling you it's wrong. I'm telling you it doesn't make sense.

quote:
There is actually a fascinating and serious historical meaning to the question put in the OP, but I'm beginning to think this is just a thread about having a bash at stupid, fundie Prots.
I can't help you there.

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Jahlove
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quote:
Originally posted by MouseThief:
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Seeker963:


[QUOTE][qb]There is actually a fascinating and serious historical meaning to the question put in the OP, but I'm beginning to think this is just a thread about having a bash at stupid, fundie Prots.

I'd be interested to hear it please, Seeker963

[ 26. April 2007, 22:14: Message edited by: Jahlove ]

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Seeker963
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quote:
Originally posted by MouseThief:
quote:
Originally posted by Seeker963:

It is the fact that you are (presumably) a committed disciple of Jesus.

I'd like to think so. Is that what it means to have a personal relationship? I could be a committed follower of the Buddha (sp?) -- would that mean I had a personal relationship with the Buddha? I could be a committed follower of Tolstoy (there were many such at one time) -- would that mean I had a personal relationship with Tolstoy?
Mousethief, I'm going to try to offer you my explanation one more time, as best as I can, and then if things continue in this vein, I'm going to stop trying. If I'm "snotty", then I apologise, but it feels like people who don't like or relate to this phrase are coming to it with certain ideas and are not even listening to any explanation that does not fit their preconceptions.

I sincerely believe the phrase to mean nothing more and nothing less than the idea that being a Christian requires a personal commitment to being a disciple of Christ and that a person isn't a Christian passively by default because he or she is born into a Christian culture and/or a Christian home.

Please note the following:

1) I do not believe that a person has to say any sort of formulaic prayer.

2) I believe that a person can grow into such a commitment slowly by virtue of his or her upbringing.

3) I do not believe that I can look into anyone's heart and know that they have made that commitment; I do not believe that I can "tell" whether or not they have made that commitment by the fact that they use special religious jargon.

4) I do not believe that Eastern Christians are "not really Christian"; I do not believe that Roman Catholics are "not really Christian"; I do not believe that cessationists are "not really Christian"; I do not believe that charismatics are "not really Christians".

5) Your analogy with Tolstoy means nothing to me and it's not any kind of an example that I would claim.

To me, faith is a "personal relationship" with God because it is a commitment made by the individual and is not just about passively belonging to a Christian community but not otherwise caring - the personal bit. And it is a "relationship" because it is a two-way interaction between the person and God. "Proxies" for God, if you must think of them that way, would be such things as, inter alia scripture, church, Christian community and prayer.

It's not about "I have this felt experience so I'm a real Christian, but you can't articulate felt experiences in a way that I approve of so I will unilaterally pronounce that you are not a real Christian".

This is about as clear as I can articulate my position.

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Dobbo
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quote:
Originally posted by Josephine:
quote:
Originally posted by Seeker963:
Can all you 'baptism only' people tell me how it is that you think a person is a 'proper Christian' who is baptised, never goes to church, grows up to be an atheist and actively denigrates the church - as an example?

I don't know any baptism-only people.

However, the person you described is not a proper Christian, but is both excommunicate and apostate.

But the person was baptized and that is how you described what is a christian - you did not specify any description - such as excommunicate , apostate, proper etc

so there are those that are baptized that are proper christians and those that are baptized that are not proper christians.

It sounds like baptism makes one wetter but not better.

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Jahlove
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Thanks for that Seeker963, it was very illuminating. I'm still interested to hear the history of this usage if you have it to hand.

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Trudy Scrumptious

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Mousethief, I stated that badly. I meant "do you BELIEVE God cares about you and answers your prayers" rather than "do you have a SENSE that etc." I can see how that might be interpreted as a (very subjective) "feeling" that God cares about you, which obviously can be influenced by a lot of things and may never occur to some people at all (sounds like you are one of those).

I think a PRWJ should be based on belief, not emotion or subjective experience, but it's obviously easier to sustain that belief if you have the emotions and the subjective experiences, from time to time.

If you don't BELIEVE God hears and answers your prayers, then I don't see the point of praying, or of being a Christian at all. But if you BELIEVE God hears and answers your prayers, even though you don't FEEL that He does, then you are probably a Christian of much greater faith than I am. I can see why you might not call your experience a "personal relationship" and why it might not feel personal to you. I can even see why the term would be offensive to you. But I still think that what you have fits my definition of a PRWJ.

I don't get at all the idea that people who use the phrase PRWJ are talking about something exclusive. Obviously I believe I have a relationship with Jesus, but I believe millions of other people do as well. It doesn't mean I believe my experience of Jesus is better than theirs, or that He belongs to me in some unique way, or that I don't need to be connected to that larger body of believers in order to grow in my PRWJ. I would think most evangelical Protestants who talk about having a PRWJ would definitely assert that fellowshipping with other Christians is a very important part of developing the PRWJ (I am loving this acronym; can you tell?)

The comparisons with "a personal relationship with Buddha" and "a personal relationship with Tolstoy" don't work for me -- not even the one about CS Lewis having a personal relationship with George Macdonald. I believe Buddha, Tolstoy and Macdonald, though wise, are all DEAD. No relationship with them can be two-way because they cannot in any way be aware of me or even know that I exist. I believe by faith (with or without "feelings" to use as evidence) that Jesus is living, knows who I am, and cares about me. Though I may not always experience the relationship as two-way because I may not have a sense of His presence, I trust that it is NOT a one-way relationship; that He is hearing and caring and responding.

I truly don't see how this is especially Protestant or individualistic, but maybe I am just missing the point.

ETA I pretty much agree with everything Seeker said above.

[ 26. April 2007, 22:38: Message edited by: Trudy Scrumptious ]

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Seeker963:
5) Your analogy with Tolstoy means nothing to me and it's not any kind of an example that I would claim.

Well I wouldn't expect you to claim it, since it's a counterexample to what you're saying. And really, if it makes no sense to you, and your explanation makes no sense to me, we might as well just agree that we're at an impasse and go have a brewski. No hard feelings, but we're just not communicating here.

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Josephine

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quote:
Originally posted by Seeker963:
To me, faith is a "personal relationship" with God because it is a commitment made by the individual and is not just about passively belonging to a Christian community but not otherwise caring - the personal bit. And it is a "relationship" because it is a two-way interaction between the person and God.

I don't have a problem at all with people saying that they have a personal relationship with Jesus, whatever they understand that to mean. My only concern is with those people (and clearly you're not one of them) who would argue that if you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus, you're not a Christian.

I have a real problem with that, because I know people who do not have, and are not capable of having, what you define as a personal relationship with Jesus. They are not capable of making their own commitment to God, or they are not capable of two-way interaction with God, or they are not capable of either one. And yet I trust that such a person is, by the grace of God given to them through their baptism, a Christian just as you are, or as I am. Even though they do not have faith, and may not be capable of faith, the Christian community to which they belong can carry them along. What else can we do? We're called to bear one another's burdens. If they need us to carry them passively along to the throne of God, how could we not do that?

To me, this is not just academic. It is extremely important. It is by grace we're saved.

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbo:
It sounds like baptism makes one wetter but not better.

Think wheat and tares. It seems from our Lord's parable that both the wheat and the tares are what we would call "in the church" -- baptised, said the sinner's prayer, whatever your idea of what that constitutes. Put as Paul says that's not enough, we must endure to the end.

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Jahlove
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Again, many thanks for that, Trudy; I realize it was addressed to MT but it answered my questions as well. You articulate what you mean by PRWJ very well indeed - one that I could mostly go along with. However, I have to say, that it still (in my neck of the woods, at least) is often used as a *boundary marker* for who is IN and who is OUT.

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mousethief

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First off, thank you for trying to work with me, Trudy, and how polite you're been with it all.

quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
Mousethief, I stated that badly. I meant "do you BELIEVE God cares about you and answers your prayers" rather than "do you have a SENSE that etc." I can see how that might be interpreted as a (very subjective) "feeling" that God cares about you, which obviously can be influenced by a lot of things and may never occur to some people at all (sounds like you are one of those).

Oh good! It's mostly in the Pentecostal circles that one will hear one needs the particular feelings. Of course they will also say you have to speak in tongues (which I have, and can at will). But I lack the inner conviction/sensation/feeling (or whatever is the right word) of the presence of God.

quote:
I think a PRWJ should be based on belief, not emotion or subjective experience, but it's obviously easier to sustain that belief if you have the emotions and the subjective experiences, from time to time.
How I wish, trust me!

quote:
If you don't BELIEVE God hears and answers your prayers, then I don't see the point of praying, or of being a Christian at all.
I agree, but this gets us into definitions of "Christian" which can raise a lot of hackles, so I'd best not go any further down this road.

quote:
But if you BELIEVE God hears and answers your prayers, even though you don't FEEL that He does, then you are probably a Christian of much greater faith than I am.
I dunno about the answers part. Unless the answers are "No," "No," and "No." I sometimes jokingly tell people that if they want some particular thing, they are better off asking me to pray against it. And yet I keep praying, trusting that God hears me, even if (for reasons of Her own, clearly) no recognisable answers are forthcoming.

quote:
I can see why you might not call your experience a "personal relationship" and why it might not feel personal to you. I can even see why the term would be offensive to you. But I still think that what you have fits my definition of a PRWJ.
It's not that it's offensive; it just seems to be a different use of the term "personal relationship" than how the term is used in any other context. Which is okay, I suppose. But nobody is willing to admit this.

quote:
I don't get at all the idea that people who use the phrase PRWJ are talking about something exclusive.
This I think is not where I came in; I'll leave this to others to answer.

quote:
I believe Buddha, Tolstoy and Macdonald, though wise, are all DEAD.
Agreed. This is where the analogy falls flat. Nevertheless a devoted follower of Tolstoy gets as much feedback from Tolstoy as I get from Jesus. Not that I believe Jesus is Dead; far from it. But the level of feedback is the same.

quote:
Though I may not always experience the relationship as two-way because I may not have a sense of His presence, I trust that it is NOT a one-way relationship; that He is hearing and caring and responding.
I certainly hope that is the case. Mentally I believe it to be the case. (Well except the responding part.) If that is what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus, then I would have to agree that I have a personal relationship with Jesus. My problem of course is that that's not enough to have a personal relationship with anybody else; I'd expect some evidence that the relationship was 2-way. But maybe that's just part of why PRWJ is a different animal than PRWAE (personal relationship with anybody else).

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Josephine

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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbo:
But the person was baptized and that is how you described what is a christian - you did not specify any description - such as excommunicate , apostate, proper etc



I assume you'll agree that an apple is the edible fruit of the apple tree, of the species Malus domestica, in the rose family Rosaceae.

But what if the apple is wormy or rotten? Or what if it's been sprayed with poison? What if it's too green to eat? Is it still an apple?

As far as I'm concerned, a wormy, rotten apple is still an apple. I wouldn't want it in my apple pie, but that doesn't change what it is. It's an apple.

Likewise, an excommunicate, apostate, backslidden, whatever-you-want-to-call-it Christian, a Christian whose life is a shame and a disgrace, is still a Christian. I might not like it, but that doesn't change what he is.

quote:
It sounds like baptism makes one wetter but not better.
Think about adoption, Dobbo. If I adopt a child, that child is from that moment my child, and I am from that moment the child's mother. The adoption makes that happen. But adoption doesn't create an instant emotional or psychological bond between me and the child. Adoption doesn't cause us to love each other. But adoption does make me the child's mother. It's a place to begin.

In a similar way, baptism makes someone a Christian. It isn't the goal and end and fulfillment of the Christian life. It's the place to begin.

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Dobbo
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quote:
Originally posted by MouseThief:
quote:
Originally posted by Dobbo:
It sounds like baptism makes one wetter but not better.

Think wheat and tares. It seems from our Lord's parable that both the wheat and the tares are what we would call "in the church" -- baptised, said the sinner's prayer, whatever your idea of what that constitutes. Put as Paul says that's not enough, we must endure to the end.
Are you suggesting Perseverance of the Saints?

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Dobbo
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
I think it more accurate to say of Mugabe that he is a bad Christian than that he isn't a Christian at all (unless he's apostasised and I missed the memo).


If I believed in going into a country to perform regime change I would have suggested Zimbabwe far up the list before Iraq


Mugabe one of a long list of baptized genocidal maniacs

I do not think bad apple in the barrel defines him, but if you want to be his David Irving....

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Dobbo:
Are you suggesting Perseverance of the Saints?

What do you mean by Saints? If you mean any baptised Christian, then absolutely not. Because such people quite demonstrably have fallen away.

If you mean anybody who has said the Sinner's Prayer, or who believes that Jesus is Lord, then no. Because such people quite demonstrably have fallen away.

If you mean people who are pre-elected by God to persevere, then no, because I don't believe there are any such people.

If you mean the people who wind up in retrospect to have been saints, then yes. But that's rather circular and not terribly useful as a doctrine.

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Gwai
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It seems to me that people agree here more than they seem to. If I am right, when Josephine says "an apostate excommunicate Christian," she doesn't mean that implies that they're saved. While I know that at least some evangelical Christians would say that being a Christian implies a close relationship with God and perhaps salvation. So, if I am correct, are the differences in opinion so big?

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AdamPater
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quote:
Originally posted by Gwai:
It seems to me that people agree here more than they seem to.

Oh no. No no no no no. If you think we agree, you clearly don't understand your own position.

Now, let me tell me what you believe, and why you're wrong, wrong, wrong...

(Following some discussion proformas)

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Put not your trust in princes.

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Trudy Scrumptious

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I think I do see what you're saying, Mousethief. It has always seemed to me that there are very wide variances between how strongly people experience a sense of God's presence in their lives -- with the mystics on one end, who really believe God speaks audibly to them, and on the other end perhaps people who are more like you, who persevere by faith without any strong feelings or sense of God's presence. I am somewhere in the middle but much more towards your end of the spectrum than the mystical end, having never had the kind of overwhelming sense of God's presence that seems quite common for many Christians to have at least a few times in their lives. However I am very fortunate to have been raised in a tradition where it was very strongly taught that the "relationship with Jesus" was based on faith in His faithfulness, rather than on our own subjective emotions.

Thus I would say that feelings of God's presence, while nice and helpful in maintaining a relationship with Jesus, are by no means the foundation of that relationship.

Did anyone else here ever sing the chorus as a child or young person in church (to the tune of "Yankee Doodle")?

Feelings come and feelings go and feelings are deceiving,
Trust alone in the Word of God, nothing else is worth believing.


(Of course, those in more catholic traditions might wish to substitute "Church of God" in that last line, or interpret "Word" differently than we did in my very very Protestant church!! [Biased] But I think it would still be making a similar point -- the basis of our faith is NOT a subjective emotional sense of God's presence, but something objective and quite outside ourselves).

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WatersOfBabylon
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quote:
Originally posted by Gwai:
If I am right, when Josephine says "an apostate excommunicate Christian," she doesn't mean that implies that they're saved.

Of course you're right. If someone is excommunicate, they have separated themselves from the grace of God; if they're apostate, they have denied Christ. It may be that they will yet be saved (I hope for the salvation of all), but clearly they are not yet so.

Those who have been baptized are Christians, no matter how vile their sins, and they are not baptized again when they repent. Should Mugabe repent of his evil deeds, he will be received back into the communion of the Church the same way anyone else is -- through the sacrament of confession.

It might be simpler if there were no wicked Christians, if we were all perfected in an instant. But, in fact, God in his grace and in his condescension allows the wicked to be in his Church and to be called Christians. I don't always like that fact, but I'm grateful for it.

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mousethief

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Oops -- that was Josephine. She didn't realize that the puter was logged in as Babs.

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Josephine

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[Hot and Hormonal]

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Callan
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Originally posted by Dobbo:

quote:
I do not think bad apple in the barrel defines him, but if you want to be his David Irving....
I leave that to the Anglican bishops of the region.

Quite simply I don't think we can say that wicked people are not Christians if they are baptised and have not renounced the faith. Whilst I would very much like to be able to say that all good people are Christians and all bad people are not Christians I don't think that this is true. Tomas de Torquemada was a Christian. Sprenger and Kramer were Christians. Henry VIII was a Christian. Ivan the Terrible was a Christian. Monsignor Tiso was a Christian. I am not saying these people were good and whilst it would be presumptuous of me to pronounce on their eternal destiny I think it would be crass (to understate the matter) to venerate them as saints.

But if someone is baptised and self-identifies as Christian they are Christian. It is for God to judge them. Not you or I. I don't know what Mugabe's standing is vis-a-vis the Catholic Church (not high, I imagine, given the fact that the local Catholics unlike the Anglicans in the province of Central Africa have got guts and decency) but unless he's formally apostasised or is excommunicate he can be described as Christian. This doesn't alter the fact that he is an ess-aitch-one-tee.

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Seeker963
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quote:
Originally posted by Josephine:
I have a real problem with that, because I know people who do not have, and are not capable of having, what you define as a personal relationship with Jesus. They are not capable of making their own commitment to God, or they are not capable of two-way interaction with God, or they are not capable of either one. And yet I trust that such a person is, by the grace of God given to them through their baptism, a Christian just as you are, or as I am. Even though they do not have faith, and may not be capable of faith, the Christian community to which they belong can carry them along. What else can we do? We're called to bear one another's burdens. If they need us to carry them passively along to the throne of God, how could we not do that?

To me, this is not just academic. It is extremely important. It is by grace we're saved.

Well, I think "how we are saved" is a completely different issue from “a personal relationship with Jesus”. I don’t think it’s right or proper for us here on earth to decide who gets saved and who doesn’t. I do believe in a gracious God and I think that if we take grace very seriously and our own sinfulness very seriously, then it is logical to believe that God never stops extending grace to us – even if we happen to belong to the wrong strain of Christianity. [Biased]

By the way, I’m of the view that most of us here are close to being in agreement. I’m not trying to say “Here’s how I’m different and better than you”. I’m simply trying to explain what I get from my tradition.

quote:
Originally posted by Jahlove:
Thanks for that Seeker963, it was very illuminating. I'm still interested to hear the history of this usage if you have it to hand.

I’ve tried to say this earlier in the thread. I acknowledge that the idea has been taken up by all sorts of different Protestant groups and that it might mean different things to different people.

But I think it evolved about the time of the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, which I believe are both associated with setting the cultural scene for the Enlightenment and for the birth of the concept of the individual self. I expect that someone will now jump in and say that the Reformation happened hundreds of years before the Enlightenment, but I actually think that it takes that long to “set up” a whole new cultural way of viewing ‘Life, Reality and Everything.’

If you look at what was happening within the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation, there was a huge growth in movements that set the seeds for the concept of what we would now term ‘individual spirituality’. H Outram Evennett in his 1970 article ‘Counter-Reformation Spirituality’ states that some characteristics of Counter-Reformation spirituality were: individual rather than corporate prayer, the active striving after self-control, the acquisition of virtue, and ‘activity of all kinds.’

So this movement was already happening within Catholicism and then Luther comes along. His claim is that it’s not good enough to believe that ‘Jesus died for the world’ but that one also has to believe that ‘Jesus died for me’. Although he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, I think that his emphasis on individuality was pretty much in line with the prevailing zeitgeist and what was also happening within the Roman Church during the Counter-Reformation. Obviously, Luther also had to struggle theologically with whether or not his excommunication put him outside of the possibility of salvation; the Church claimed at the time that ‘outside the Church there is no salvation.’

So, for me, I think that the concept of ‘personal relationship with God/Jesus’ was born at the same time in history as the concept of individual self was born in the West. Previously, one was a Christian because one’s Ruler, country and parents were Christians.

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"People waste so much of their lives on hate and fear." My friend JW-N: Chaplain and three-time cancer survivor. (Went to be with her Lord March 21, 2010. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.)

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les@BALM
The Ship's Visionary
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The whole cult of the personal Jesus, reflects our supermarket mentality to religion, having a Jesus who as Bob Dylan once wrote becomes our "errand boy", meeting our every whim and need. The personal Jesus is one choice amongst many in the Supermarket of religion, but is it the Jesus of the NT?

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Trudy Scrumptious

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Once again, as I said above, les@BALM, I think you are making a strawman argument. The "personal Jesus" concept you are responding to does not seem to bear a strong similarity to what anyone on this thread has described as their "personal relationship with Jesus."

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by Divine Outlaw Dwarf:

I also think that there is a trend in contemporary thinking about religion for 'my experience' to stand proxy for argument.

I agree with this--although I prefer discussion to argument, and when the discussion is about something "personal" personal things are bound to come up.

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by Seeker963:

I'm of the opinion that a person can make a conscious, active and genuine commitment to be a disciple of Christ and not have any kind of felt experience for the whole of his or her faith journey.

Exactly, that can be one of many personal relationships and shouldn't be treated as if it's of lesser importance to the felt ones.

sabine

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sabine
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quote:
Originally posted by MouseThief:
First off, thank you for trying to work with me, Trudy, and how polite you're been with it all.

MT, I'm hoping you found my attempts polite, as well. I intended them to be that way. [Smile]

It's very difficult to communicate across religious boundaries sometimes--and even more difficult when describing personal things (even if those personal things are not "felt" as both you and others have pointed out).

I've never found it helpful to use the language of others when it makes no sense to me, especially when there appears to be a claimed meaning for that language that I can't see within the phase itself.

I appreciate that you want to know more about how the rest of us experience this phrase as part of our lives and why you don't feel you share an easy understanding of the phrase.

If it continues to have little or no meaning for you after we've shared our own experiences and definitions, then it might not be something that you can learn through discussion with us.

As I suggested earlier in the thread, perhaps this is an issue that 1) isn't meant to be part of your spiritual life, or 2) will come to you in some other way and you'll know when it does.

Not all spiritual issues can be resolved on a thread. [Biased] And this may be something that doesn't even need resolution for you.

I guess I'm suggestiong patience--although I don't believe that waiting for an answer is the appropriate way for everyone to seek spiritual knowledge.

I'm not sure how much help I've been, although I had wanted to ease your mind on this. It's clear that most of us have not been abple to provide the answer that can provide you with solid insight.

sabine

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Prudentius
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I would hope that we would all agree that the spiritual life is not a theory, but something that must be lived. The theoretical approach is like the magic formula: assent to this dogma, endure this ritual, say this prayer, and do MY will, because MY conformity to orthodoxy certainly must have aligned my will to God's.

CS Lewis has written eloquently about how difficult it is to give our will and our life to God, and yet only then can we feel the presence of God in our lives. When things are going well for us this is particularly true.

Hopefully, most of us will have a Spiritual awakening at some point where we are so fortunate as to have a religious experience that is life changing. This usually comes when we are so desperately hurting that we know OUR way does not bring happiness.

There is this wonderful post by Banner Lady that I have resurrected from Limbo:
quote:
I had a very personal and life changing encounter with my Saviour 26 years ago. I was newly married, and had just had an argument - a very nasty and circular sort of argument with my spouse. To my disgust he took himself off to bed, and left me to stew in my own poison. I was feeling hurt, misunderstood and extremely disillusioned with his responses. I took myself out on to the balcony to let off some steam. And I remember asking the night sky "What on earth do I do now? I've signed that rotten bit of paper - I'm committed - but all I want to do is run away - what do I do?"

A small thought trickled through my mind - "well, I suppose a Christian would pray." At that stage I had only just begun going to church; but I came back inside, knelt down on the seagrass matting in front of a bomby old armchair and began to tell God exactly how I felt. I had no idea what praying was, and that was the best and most honest thing I could do. And when I had finished, I just sat back on my heels and waited - because I didn't know what else to do.

The only way I can explain what happened next is to say I knew I was not in the room alone. And it felt as though Jesus was sitting in the armchair. The most amazing feeling began to wash over me - I felt enfolded in love. It was like being a small child picked up and sat on His lap and everything negative in me simply drained away. Because that is what overwhelming Love does. Nothing negative can stay in that Presence. One by one He dealt with all my insecurities (and I had a mountain of them) and they drained away too. And when I was totally at peace, the Presence simply faded away.

I sat in the chair for a long time, just amazed. And then, because I was sleepy, I went to bed. In the morning I was the first one awake, and I lay there wondering if it had all been real. But then I felt this vast well of Love inside me that hadn't been there before, and I knew it was.

My other half, however, had known nothing of this, and he opened one eye very gingerly because he didn't know whether he was going to be hit by a pillow, a jug of water, or a barrage of words considering how we had parted company the night before. It is his testimony that I really did encounter something special that night - because he went to bed leaving a screaming shrew behind him and woke up to what was an angel of light by comparison.

Did I SEE Jesus? I had my head bowed and my eyes shut and if you had paid me a million dollars I could not have opened them, I felt so utterly small and unclean. I was such a baby Christian I had not even read all of Genesis - but when I did get to Isaiah, I really understood his words "Woe unto me for I am a man of unclean lips" That's what it is like before God, but
His love is real. His presence is real. Desire it with all your heart.


In her own so very personal way, Banner Lady has shared how it was not until she turned to God in desperation from a feeling of brokenness that she really turned her life over to God. I know that is also true in my own experience. It was obviously true in the experience of St. Augustine. Spirituality is so far much more important than religion, which can only be a pathway to it. And spirituality is most definitely experiential -- not theoretical.

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The truth shall set us free. In the end, there can be no healing without justice; no justice without the truth; no truth without full accountability. We’re not there yet!

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Seeker963
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quote:
Originally posted by Prudentius:
In her own so very personal way, Banner Lady has shared how it was not until she turned to God in desperation from a feeling of brokenness that she really turned her life over to God. I know that is also true in my own experience. It was obviously true in the experience of St. Augustine. Spirituality is so far much more important than religion, which can only be a pathway to it. And spirituality is most definitely experiential -- not theoretical.

This begs the question, though, whether someone who does not have this sort of experience is "a real Christian" (or whatever terminology you want to use).

There are many people who would dearly love to have this sort of experience and who don't but who still seem to manifest in their lives quite evident qualities of being Christian disciples. I'm not willing to say that this sort of felt experience is "necessary".

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"People waste so much of their lives on hate and fear." My friend JW-N: Chaplain and three-time cancer survivor. (Went to be with her Lord March 21, 2010. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.)

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Josephine

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quote:
Originally posted by Prudentius:
I would hope that we would all agree that the spiritual life is not a theory, but something that must be lived. The theoretical approach is like the magic formula: assent to this dogma, endure this ritual, say this prayer, and do MY will, because MY conformity to orthodoxy certainly must have aligned my will to God's.



I'm not at all sure what you mean by this. Would you say that someone who never has the sort of experience that Banner Lady describes, nor anything close to it, but who keeps a rule of prayer, fasts, gives alms, receives the Eucharist, makes their confession regularly, lights candles at church for their loved ones -- are you saying that thsuch a person is living a spiritual life? Or that they are not?

quote:
CS Lewis has written eloquently about how difficult it is to give our will and our life to God, and yet only then can we feel the presence of God in our lives.


Again, I don't understand what you mean. Are you suggesting that someone who doesn't feel the presence of God in their life has not given their will and their life to God? Or are you saying something else?

quote:
Hopefully, most of us will have a Spiritual awakening at some point where we are so fortunate as to have a religious experience that is life changing.


Do you see attending divine services, giving alms, receiving the Eucharist, and the like, to be religious experiences? Or when you say religious experience, do you mean only those sorts of supernatural experience that Banner Lady described? And what do you mean by a spiritual awakening?

quote:
Spirituality is so far much more important than religion, which can only be a pathway to it. And spirituality is most definitely experiential -- not theoretical.
I'm afraid that I don't know the difference between spirituality and religion. I know a lot of people who say they aren't religious, but they are spiritual. Usually, that means they have a sort of personal blend of new-agey sorts of practices and beliefs. Maybe they meditate and feng shui their home and have Tibetan prayer flags flying from their balcony. Or maybe they burn incense and read Buddhist books and wear crystals of the right color around their neck, depending on the vibrations they want for the day. Or something else. But they're usually talking about something that is strictly individual and not at all communal. But I'm not sure that's what you mean. Could you explain?

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I've written a book! Catherine's Pascha: A celebration of Easter in the Orthodox Church. It's a lovely book for children. Take a look!

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El Greco
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Josephine, aren't our prayers and fasts and alms and partaking in the sacraments the means we use as we deepen our relationship with God, the means to a goal, which goal is supposed to be the direct and without stop experience of God? I mean, we Orthodox have extensive material on how we can use the Church to reach our own enlightenment and glorification and we are very proud of our Saints that have done so.

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Ξέρω εγώ κάτι που μπορούσε, Καίσαρ, να σας σώσει.

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Eliab
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# 9153

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I’d happily use the “personal relationship” language to describe my faith. I don’t think of that relationship especially in terms of emotions (though I’m an unashamed sentimentalist, and I certainly value feelings in religion very highly) or experiences.

It seems like an apt description to me because God is a person, not just a set of ideas or the author of a code of ethics, and I think that I am called to order my life to respond to him as a person. Anyone else who has a continuing claim to be someone I order some part of my life around (parent, spouse, child, friend, employer …) I would say I have a relationship with, so I can see no reason for not saying I have a relationship with God. I don’t understand the objection that it isn’t a relationship if God doesn’t ‘talk back’ - God is talking all the time, in Scripture, through the Church, through Christian books, Christian friends, through worship, through the Ship of Fools, and my role is to respond to him. Some people may hear his voice more directly, but that isn’t a sine qua non of having a relationship with him.

The sort of thing I mean is that I might do some act of kindness, for all sorts of good motives, but if I have a relationship with God, I might feel good about it because I am grateful to God for loving me and I am glad that he takes pleasure in kindness. Or I might not “feel” anything, but still value the act because I trust that it pleases someone (God) whom I love. Or if I do something underhand or selfish, I will feel sorrow for not having lived up to my expectations of myself, but if I have a relationship with God, I will also feel bad (or think that I ought to feel bad – the value judgment rather than emotion is the point) because I have disappointed someone who had expectations of me.


I’m also a little surprised that the Orthodox shipmates on this thread aren’t more unanimously in favour of “personal relationship” language. Orthodoxy, from what I can tell from outside, seems to me highly personal in the way that it makes such a big deal of the Saints – if you venerate a Saint, isn’t what you are doing an loving acknowledgment of a human life in the closest possible relationship with the life of God? If you make a habit of asking a Saint for whom you feel a particular devotion to pray for you, isn’t that a relationship – or at least, the beginnings of an attempt at a relationship - with the Saint, and with God in that Saint's perfected life? And also in the emphasis on theosis. I can imagine the concept of “going to heaven” by following rules, receiving forgiveness or being good, without a relationship with God, but to see salvation in terms of participation in God’s life seems to me to have what I would call a “personal relationship” inevitably involved. Have I misunderstood? Or are we using “relationship” in different ways?

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"Perhaps there is poetic beauty in the abstract ideas of justice or fairness, but I doubt if many lawyers are moved by it"

Richard Dawkins

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Jahlove
Tied to the mast
# 10290

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This is very well put, Eliab - and well taken. I’m not Orthodox but certainly my tradition also goes in for venerating saints and adopting patrons.

It seems that my stumbling block, if you like, is that there is a big difference between attempting, as you say, a relationship with a Saint (or indeed, Our Lord) which, istm, requires a lot of interior work, reflection and imaginative prayer - and the sort of thing I’m accustomed to associate with the phrase PRWJ, i.e. someone bawling that I can’t be *saved* unless I have a PRWJ with no further explanation forthcoming - the implication being ‘if you have to ASK (er, like any question at all), you are not only not saved but are also very likely on the path to damnation.

Again, I will say it’s probably my misfortune that I’ve only come across the screamers with regard to this - I can quite go along with what you’ve said in your post, for which I thank you.

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“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth.” - Mark Twain

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Gwai
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I can't speak for the Orthodox, but I think that the Orthodox don't believe that God always does have to effect one's emotions. One thing that appleals to me about their understanding onf the faith is that they belive that if you're trying to worship God, even if you are going through the motions that's a start.

I know that just the phrase "personal relationship" bothers me. Who's ever heard of an impersonal relationship. I certainly don't have a personal relationship with many people but I think impersonal relationship just means no relationship!

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A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea.
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.


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El Greco
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When I spoke of a personal relationship, I did not have in mind situations where emotion is involved. On the contrary, I think that Orthodox Saints were right to stress that direct and face to face experience of God is "done" without the use of imagination and without the use of emotion. On the contrary, when emotion is involved, it's most probably something that has its origins in man himself, rather than God...

I am very touched that MouseThief shares that amount of information on his private spiritual life. I think that he talks about what the ancients called "purification". A very important stage in one's life, that can even be a life-long process. My concern is that we don't miss the ancient know-how on how to get through purification and the ancient knowledge that it is possible to get through it while yet in this life and move on different states of inner life.

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Ξέρω εγώ κάτι που μπορούσε, Καίσαρ, να σας σώσει.

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saysay

Ship's Praying Mantis
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quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
I don't have any problem with someone saying, "I don't use this particularly language to describe my experience of God because the language is not resonant or meaningful for me, or because it has negative connotations for me." So I certainly don't mind anyone choosing NOT to say that they have a PRWJ, even if by my definition they have one. What I do object to is someone saying, "I don't like the idea of a PRWJ because it means X, and I don't believe X," when lots of people like me who think we DO have a PRWJ, do not think it means X at all. It's just a strawman argument.

Trudy - I appreciate the arguments that you and others on this thread have made about your use of 'PRW'J and what having a PRWJ means to you. I'll admit that I'm one of those people who generally finds the phrase... annoying? A reason to back away slowly? IME, the people who accost you in public asking about your PRWJ or if you've been saved aren't particularly interested in hearing "err, I don't think I'd phrase it like that."

I wonder how much the general meaning(s) of the word
personal (and how often people hear it used) affect how they hear PRWJ language. I mostly hear 'personal' used as meaning 'individual, private, produced by/ for the use of one person." Which is probably part of why the phrase strikes me so badly. I rarely characterize a relationship as 'personal,' but when I do it's to compartmentalize it: x and I have a personal relationship, as opposed to a business or professional relationship, or a relationship based on being on the same sports team/in the same book club/whatever. So I wouldn't say I have a PRWJ, because a private, compartmentalized, individual relationship (it's just me and Jeeebuus) is not only something I don't have, it's something I wouldn't want. OTOH, I would say that I've had personal experiences of G-d: they were private, and individual, and not something I would expect others to have had.

I understand the phrase may have a particular meaning within certain communities. I just have to work really, really hard to hear it that way, since my normal use of the words would lead me to think it meant something else.

And now, to paraphrase a Buffy quote:

Random girl: "Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?"
Buffy: "Uh, you know, I meant to, I just got really busy."

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"It's been a long day without you, my friend
I'll tell you all about it when I see you again"
"'Oh sweet baby purple Jesus' - that's a direct quote from a 9 year old - shoutout to purple Jesus."

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Josephine

Orthodox Belle
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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
I’m also a little surprised that the Orthodox shipmates on this thread aren’t more unanimously in favour of “personal relationship” language.



Well, for one thing, it's not language that you can find in the Bible, or in the writings of the Fathers or the saints, or in the prayers of the Church. We have no tradition of using this language, and feel no need for it.

But more important, I think, is the fact that the personal relationship language comes with a lot of baggage. The last post on page 1 associates it with (among other things) "Evangelicals using this term in order to differentiate those who are not Christians(but think they are)."

In other words, as Jahlove notes on page 2, "in my experience, I've only come across the phrase used as a kind of shibboleth intended to distinguish the practitioners of a PL&S expression of religious experience and mark them as superior to those they see as hidebound in obedient slavery to outmoded rules and traditions."

People here clearly don't mean it that way. But when I hear someone talking about their personal relationship with Jesus, I assume that what they mean by it is that they have had a conversion experience, and that their particular expression of Christian faith is heavy on emotions and feelings. They probably worship somewhere that has a worship band and an overhead projector, and they sing and clap at Sunday morning worship.

Furthermore, they believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, they reject infant baptism, they reject tradition as being something invented by men which is useless at best and dangerous at worst, they do not believe that Christ is present in the Holy Mysteries, they think that the veneration of the saints and the use of holy icons is idolatry, and they believe that extemporaneous prayer is good and liturgical prayer is bad. They probably also tithe to their church, promote abstinence-only sex education, support low taxes and little in the way of government services, homeschool their kids (or wish they could), and vote Republican.

And all of that would be okay, except that they are quite certain that anyone who does not believe the same way they do in all these points does not have a personal relationship with Jesus and in fact is not a real Christian. If you were baptized as an infant, and were raised in the faith, and don't ever remember not being a Christian, then you're just a Christian because your parents were, you're a cultural Christian, it's just man-made religion, and not a relationship with Christ.

The implicit message is "I have a personal relationship with Christ. You, on the other hand, are not a Christian, even though you think you are." And that message is extremely offensive.

That's clearly not what you mean when you speak of your personal relationship with Jesus. But there are people, many of them, who mean it exactly that way. The words carry that baggage. It seems to me that it would be much easier to find a different way to say what you mean than to rehabilitate this particular expression.

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I've written a book! Catherine's Pascha: A celebration of Easter in the Orthodox Church. It's a lovely book for children. Take a look!

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