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No conviction of sin

Discussion in 'Exploring Christianity' started by losthope, Jul 10, 2011.

  1. joey_downunder

    joey_downunder big sister

    I didn't mean to give the impression I thought Losthope was an actual pietist. I want to make sure that there isn't any pietism influencing his reasoning at the moment. It is good you are such a thinking personality saralynn. Maybe you can help counterbalance my default extreme feeling focus? :) It can take real mental effort on my part to wear my thinking cap.

    Regarding the "Pilgrim's Regress" If C.S.Lewis lived in the 21st century I think he might have added Mr. Neuropsychology, Mr. Postmodernist, and Mr. New Atheist to his many other characters that contradict the christian worldview. I was amazed at how many characters I had encountered during my reasoning walk through extreme doubt.
  2. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To joey down under.

    You wrote this:
    In black-and-white terms you are currently living like an unbeliever but want to believe but can't at the same time. It is a terribly uncomfortable state to live in.

    That sounds like a good description of me. Not all of the time, but during the times when I am continuing my search for faith.

    Excessive focus on lack of experience by yourself sounds like it is THE cause of a major jump from doubt to unbelief.

    You call it excessive focus on experience. I would call it getting concerned because I never had a prayer answered, never had any guidance from God, never learned any spiritual truth, never had a conviction of sin, never had any awareness of God, never had any awareness of the Holy Spirit changing me from within, never had any kind of feedback or confirmation from God that my prayer for salvation had been accepted. But whatever someone chooses to call it, yes, that was what caused me to question my salvation. Or, you could describe it in another way: apparently nothing had changed since I became a believer, and that was not what I was expecting and it was not what the Bible promises, and so I realised that something was wrong.

    In my experience there are (at least) two types of Christians. (I began a Christian Forums thread on that topic about a year ago, and many of the responders agreed with me.) There are those who rely essentially on the promises of the Bible to sustain their faith, and there are those who expect God to act in their life. I happen to be the type of person who would be in the second group. Perhaps, to Christians in the first group, those in the second group appear to have an excessive focus on experience. But please, do not condemn those who happen to have different needs in their faith.

    1. God may have had people minister to you or caused events to happen in your life that you did not see His hand in it, further complicated by lack of feelings in your life over anything.

    I agree that it is possible that God caused things to happen without me being aware that it was due to God. But if so, I can only echo the words of a local pastor who I spoke to a while ago, “I confess that I lack wisdom in discerning why God should not have made Himself more obvious to you.”

    Over the years, several times there have been Christians who claimed to have received a message from God about me, and told me for example that certain things would happen in the next seven days, or the next forty days. None of those things ever happened. So in addition to not being aware of what God might, or might not, have done for me, I am aware of examples of when God definitely did not act, despite the sincere words of those Christians.

    2. Experiences of God may lead some people to salvation. I have also heard accounts of Muslims having Jesus appear to them in their dreams and that led to them believing in Him. The vast majority of people become believers through the Gospel.

    When I became a believer it was through the gospel. It was only after I became a believer that I expected experiences of God.

    Whether or not I would need some kind of experience of God in order to guide me to become a believer again, I do not know. Experience of God would definitely help the process, of course. But I would also expect God to be resourceful enough to find a way to bring me to salvation that did not require an up-front experience of God.

    I disagree with you there. Your experience is that what was done for you by Jesus on the cross (as narrated by the Gospels and explained by the early letters to the churches) was not enough for you. You wanted God to give you more that because you did not have sufficient faith in Him to keep walking in your christian faith "by faith alone, not by sight" . Because He did not do as you demanded (come on admit it!) you slid into severe doubt, then unbelief then to outsiders agnostism/soft atheism, living as atheists do but secretly suffering severe doubt in your "faith of doubt".

    This is what I meant when I asked you not to condemn those who happen to have different needs in their faith. You describe as the ideal what the first type of Christian (a few paragraphs above) expects. My ideal would be different. Not wrong. Just different.

    Well unlike most Christians I have the unusual situation that I have experienced a lot of what you are actually describing.

    Yes, and I appreciate you sharing that with me. However, while we have similar experiences it seems that we have different expectations of faith, as noted above. This means that the experiences affect us in different ways.

    Going back to the original topic - conviction of sin via feelings is unlikely to ever come to you because you do not experience any feelings.

    I am not asking about conviction of sin via feelings, because as you rightly say I am unlikely ever to experience such feelings due to my lack of emotions. If the conviction of sin comes due to the action of the Holy Spirit, then that conviction of sin ought to occur whether or not feelings are involved. Nevertheless, I have no experience of a conviction of sin, and so I can only suggest that perhaps the Holy Spirit has not acted on me in this way.

    I disagree with you here also. There are so many Bible studies, Bible commentaries, Bible lectures from academically trained professionals online now. If you need assistance understanding Biblical passages then look for helpful reference material and christian libraries online. God will not believe your excuse that you've got no-one to help you understand the Bible so you won't read it. If you have decided you only going to believe in God through getting a sign or a certain experience it is unlikely that you will ever become or believe you are a Christian.

    It seems that I have confused you. When I wrote that I was faced with a lack of clarity from the Bible, I meant that some Bible verses suggest one thing and different Bible verses suggest something quite different. It is not due to lack of understanding of the Bible, it is due to different Bible passages saying different things.

    It's been those type of statements that have made me think you are in that horrible grey zone "of I want to believe but can't" that I was for years and therefore you are NOT a real agnostic.

    Yes, there are times when I am in that grey zone, wanting to believe but unable to. But I would not agree that being in that situation prevents me being an agnostic – a don’t know. Maybe there are different types of agnostics, just as there are different types of Christians.

    So you know what sin is, how you have sinned, why Jesus had to die for your sin. What have you done with that knowledge?

    Exactly what do you believe everybody else experiences as part of repentance that you don't? Do you think they also experience something in addition to feelings (that you most likely will never have)?

    Yes, I understand the theory of the Christian message of salvation. I know what sin is, I know how I have sinned. I understand the theory (or theories) of why Jesus died. What have I done with that knowledge? I will tell you. In 1974 and again in 2007 I stepped out in faith, trusting that God would accept me into the kingdom. Both times there was no response from God that I was aware of, and both times this caused me to abandon my faith. I stepped out in faith, and landed flat on my nose. That is what I did with the knowledge of the gospel message.

    I do not know for certain why it went wrong for me. Here I am trying to investigate the possibility that I did not have a real conviction of sin through the work of the Holy Spirit. That is the “something” that I suspect that other people experience when God calls them. Not just feelings, but a spiritual experience.

    The thing is agnostics generally are so close-minded to considering Christianity and unaware that they are actually hostile towards it. You have sounded anything but that. Repeatedly you sound like you are are an "almost" Christian.

    Who knows? Perhaps I am an almost Christian. I am definitely a former believer and I thought that I was a Christian. In the process I learned a lot about Christianity and about Christian living, and I sometimes I use that knowledge when I am writing here. In other words, I am more familiar with Christianity than are many agnostics.

    Now to the comments on the long broadcast that I listened to on Saturday. You wrote this:
    That short segment is a parody - remember the Monty Python soundtrack it used to introduce it?

    No, I meant that the whole programme, more than two hours of it, virtually all of it sounded to me like a parody of a Christian broadcast. At times I was not sure whether to laugh or to despair. Certainly I would not expect anyone to find salvation as a result of hearing that broadcast. I listened to all of it because you asked me to. Under any other circumstances I would have switched off after a few minutes. If it was intended to help people to find God, it had the opposite effect on me and gave a bad impression of what Christians are like.

    He definitely holds to the cessationist viewpoint. Strong Charismatics hold the completely opposite worldview. You sound like you hold more to the latter option and that is why you disliked some of what he said. I have listened to quite a few broadcasts and they were very confronting at how much I had been influenced by Charismatic distortions of the Bible.

    Yes, as I said, two types of Christian. But why does one type of Christian have such a need to attack the beliefs of the other type of Christian? Unless perhaps they think that God only accepts one type of Christian and all of the other type of Christian are at best mistaken and at worst on the way to hell.

    I also found it interesting that they criticised others, including in the sermon that they discussed towards the end of the broadcast, for not keeping strictly and solely to the Bible. Yet at one stage they themselves quoted from a long list of Christian thinkers to back up their arguments and made few references to the Bible.

    It is one thing to believe that God still can and does heal people today. It is quite another to claim that preachers and healers can do the same things as the apostles in the 1st century AD did.

    In the broadcast it was said that there were only three times when God acted in a major way among believers – the times of Moses, Elijah and Jesus. Have they not read about Noah, Abraham, and others? Are they also unaware of some of the manifestations of God that accompanied some of the great religious revivals in recent centuries?

    That "I would not be interested in that type of God" last sentence is very revealing. You will believe in God/ any other type of Higher Being when He gives you something. You will not believe in God for Himself alone as revealed in the Scriptures therefore you may believe in another god if you feel anything in a spiritual encounter.

    First, let me repeat what I wrote. It was this: “But if the only type of Christianity on offer was the type represented by that radio programme, I would not be interested, and I would be looking elsewhere for God.”

    It was the type of Christianity that I did not find attractive, not the type of God.

    You suggest that I only want to be a believer for what God could give me. Yes, I think that in a sense you are right. But wait. Why do other people believe? Surely a major factor is what God can give them – forgiveness of their sins to deal with guilt, the promise of eternal life, a more abundant life, knowing that ultimately they will be on the winning side, and so on.

    I did try to believe in God for the God as revealed in the scriptures. Unfortunately it did not work out for me. I learned that I needed more than that, presumably because I would be that type of Christian.

    Would I follow another religion if I experienced something in a spiritual encounter? Possibly but unlikely. Though I would first try to exercise the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits to be sure of the real source of the spiritual encounter, and I would check my experience in various ways, including finding if it was consistent with the Bible. However, so far I have experienced nothing spiritual – Christian, from another religion, pagan or secular.

    P.S. Does this count as a sign - me with slight memory impairment for names remembering this series name on a sin you are guilty of - spiritual idolatry via seeking to please one god - yourself.

    Not to me it isn’t no.

    Quote Losthope 10 August:" Asking a Buddhist to teach me a little about meditation is very different from accepting the teachings of another religion. " Talk about nitpicking, splitting hairs etc. - the intention was there. Spiritual Adultery Series

    My intention in writing that was to tell you that it was not spiritual adultery that was the problem in my time as a believer in the 1970s. It was not until many years later that I even thought of learning about other practices. Other practices, that is, but not other beliefs. I retained my Christian knowledge even while someone was trying to teach me how to meditate. And I completely failed to learn to meditate, even though all of the others in the group managed it at least to some extent – another example of me lacking any kind of spiritual experience.

    Finally a comment on the CS Lewis book:
    Regarding the "Pilgrim's Regress" If C.S.Lewis lived in the 21st century I think he might have added Mr. Neuropsychology, Mr. Postmodernist, and Mr. New Atheist to his many other characters that contradict the christian worldview. I was amazed at how many characters I had encountered during my reasoning walk through extreme doubt.

    I would not describe myself as postmodernist or new atheist. Neuropsychology is something that I have studied, as well as neurotheology, trying to understand spiritual experience from a different perspective and attempting to understand my own lack of spiritual experience. Without success, so far.
  3. joey_downunder

    joey_downunder big sister

    I'll address these minor topics first and do the long entry tomorrow.
    It sure is a love it or hate it kind of programme. He is as subtle as a sledgehammer. Having very tactless relatives makes it way easier for me to ignore things that others might find it offensive. (I make sure I know what they mean first.) I should have said just listen to that first segment.

    I can't remember what made me first listen to Fighting for the Faith, but it must have been in my trying to work out what I really believed during my severe depression (approx mid 2008 -mid 2009). I struggled with the law-and-grace aspect of Christianity for a long time, probably also from Catholic upbringing. I had a strict Catholic family and in primary school had the last of the old school nuns. I found his analyses of bad sermons that were extremely heavy on guilt and very light on grace quite freeing.
    Postmodernism is far more a Generation X/Y issue. Blame the modern education system that had to write God out of all curriculum. Same goes for the New Atheism/Scientism worldview. Science is the new religion - all hail Science.
    For you and I neuropsychology is a major factor to consider when looking at ourselves and experiences.
  4. Hospes

    Hospes Well-Known Member Supporter

    United States

    I have been lurking:) about reading your responses with interest, thought, and prayer. You guys cover a lot of territory in your discussions; it's too much for me to thoughtfully manage. So I will focus on your original question.
    What would feelingless conviction look like? When you have sinned against another person, how do you respond? Is there some sort of "conviction" involved?

    Also, if I were a close friend of yours and you found that I had betrayed your trust in me, how would you respond and what would you think I needed to do to regain your trust?

    I ask these questions sincerely wanting to understand you better; not with the intent of making a point.

    BTW, part of what intrigues me is I don't think I have seen anything you have written that conflicts with my own beliefs. One belief I have: no one wants God without God doing something to motivate that desire. (Romans 3:11, John 6:44) This gives me great hope for you.
  5. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To joey down under,

    You wrote this:
    I'll address these minor topics first and do the long entry tomorrow.

    I look forward to it.

    It sure is a love it or hate it kind of programme. He is as subtle as a sledgehammer. Having very tactless relatives makes it way easier for me to ignore things that others might find it offensive. (I make sure I know what they mean first.) I should have said just listen to that first segment

    I agree – as subtle as a sledgehammer. It was not my type of programme. Despite the Monty Python theme music it was very American. I have never heard anything similar in England, not on Christian radio. But you never know.

    I can't remember what made me first listen to Fighting for the Faith, but it must have been in my trying to work out what I really believed during my severe depression (approx mid 2008 -mid 2009). I struggled with the law-and-grace aspect of Christianity for a long time, probably also from Catholic upbringing. I had a strict Catholic family and in primary school had the last of the old school nuns. I found his analyses of bad sermons that were extremely heavy on guilt and very light on grace quite freeing

    Yes, he did complain several times that the sermon he was criticising was preaching the law rather than grace. There was some guilt in the sermon as well. But you cannot expect to get a single sermon to cover every aspect of Christianity thoroughly and in a completely balanced way.

    Postmodernism is far more a Generation X/Y issue. Blame the modern education system that had to write God out of all curriculum. Same goes for the New Atheism/Scientism worldview. Science is the new religion - all hail Science.

    Maybe I am old enough to remember what it was like before the modern education system, and even though science was the new religion back then more than it is now, the teacher was able to ask questions like this, “Are we descended from Adam and Eve or are we descended from apes?”

    (Please, nobody respond to that question. I do not want to get sidetracked.)

    For you and I neuropsychology is a major factor to consider when looking at ourselves and experiences.

    Yes. Especially important for us. It would be wrong to ignore what people have learned about how the brain operates.
  6. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To Hospes,

    You wrote this:
    You are right that a lot of territory has been covered, though I have tried not to let the thread be side-tracked too far.

    There are three big questions here. I will try to answer them one by one, with varying amounts of brevity.

    What would feelingless conviction of sin look like? This is something that I can only speculate about. I have observed a conviction of sin in other people, and as far as I can remember they have always involved the person’s feelings, sometimes deeply. Understandably so. They also seem to have a real joy when they know that their sins have been forgiven.

    Sadly, occasionally the feelings get too involved, and the person fails to benefit fully from knowing that their sins have been forgiven. God may have forgiven them, but they cannot forgive themselves, and go on grieving and feeling serious guilt, presumably long after the Holy Spirit has finished its work of convicting them of sin.

    What would it be like for me, to have a conviction of sin that did not involve feelings? Hopefully if the Holy Spirit should convict me of sin, I would recognise it for what it was. The God that I conceive of ought to be able to deal with this with me. I know that there are other people who lack emotions, for various reasons – but I do not know of any person who lacks emotions who has experienced a conviction of sin. (If there are any of you out there, please respond.)

    When I have sinned against another person, how do I respond? I am not going to give too many details here, because we never know who may be reading this and I do not want any particular occasion to be recognised.

    I am thinking here mainly of one particular situation, and describing what it was like for that, and I am not at all sure if the same principles applied on other occasions. If possible, I prepare myself beforehand, rehearsing in my mind what it would be like to do ... whatever it is. And preparing for the person’s reaction if they should find out. I also find a way to justify what I am going to do. This makes it easier for me to carry out the action. (I hope there is nobody reading this who intends to copy my ideas.) Of course sometimes it is not possible to prepare beforehand, because I may sin when I respond to an unexpected opportunity. Then I have to try to do the justification afterwards. If I cannot justify it to myself, I apologise sincerely and do what I can to remedy the situation for them. However, please do not get the impression that I am the type of person who is frequently thinking of new ways to sin and preparing for it.

    Is there some sort of “conviction” involved? Not that I am aware of, no.

    I am remembering an occasion when this happened. I would be happy to forgive and forget and to renew our friendship, but the other person is not willing to do that. What would the person need to do? An explanation would be enough for me; I would not insist on an apology or anything like that. I would then trust them again, even though I could recognise that my trust might be betrayed once more.

    You may well have also helped me to understand myself better, because I had to think carefully about what happens when I sin against another person.

    Wow! If nothing I have written conflicts with your beliefs, that is quite something.

    Many people have said that my search for God shows that in some way God has called me. Though I would not have used Romans 3:11 to illustrate the point. However, my search for God started about fifty years ago. I remember a television series in the 1970s about religions, called “The long search”. How long will I have to continue searching before I find God? If God motivated a desire to find God, why is God so difficult to find?
  7. joey_downunder

    joey_downunder big sister

    I would say this is becoming like someone saying another person who is careful with their money either "stingy" or "thrifty" depending on their own attitude towards money.
    1. Do you agree that you are questioning any possible faith you have had at the past because you (in your own mind) have not received any perceptible "feedback" from God one way or the other - yes or no?
    2. Does any passage or verse in the Bible say that personal experience of any type will prove a person's salvation - yes or no?

    Please don't jump to the conclusion I am anti-experience overall. I understand both points of view personally and I hope this explanation proves I am NOT dismissing ALL personal experiences as mere emotional experiences.

    I received spiritual healing from God while participating in a child abuse Bible study group in 1997. (I went to that group because of an extremely pathological mental/emotional abuse relationship in my late teens). I saw God ministering to other women in that group in a wonderful and intimate way. I know with my own eyes and through experience that God will use and does use personal experience when that person needs it. I saw how those women were changed afterwards. Spiritual fruits came from those emotional experiences because of the Holy Spirit's powerful ministry on their actual human spirit and emotions were stimulated as a result. Emotions were a response to God, emotions did not create the link to God.

    The one bad thing about that emotional testimony is that from then on I expected that God would always make me feel His presence and judged my spiritual health on how much I felt God's love. After my surgery in 1999 (except that "memory healing/visualisation" session I mentioned when telling you that God has protected you from deception) I have not experienced any feelings like that ever again.

    I did the same thing as you are doing right now - looking for experiences to prove that I really had a genuine faith. When they did not come I gave up and became resigned to never knowing if I would really know I was saved and if it had all been an illusion. If Christians expect signs and experiences as a continuous part of their walk with God then their faith will be severely shaken when they eventually do experience hard times if they live long enough.
    I hope you did not take those unfulfilled promises as God turning his back on you. They were mistaken that their thoughts were from God. They probably thought they were giving you encouragement as well. :hug:
    I know it is easy to say but believe me - from looking back at what I have gone through - God gives us what we need, not what we want. I want to feel what I felt in the past but I probably never will. I don't know why God hasn't answered your prayers the way you want them to be but one day you will know Losthope. 1 Corinthians 13:12
    That is why it is so important to keep it in context. Use the who, what, when, where and why method when examining scripture.
    Do you mind expanding further by what you mean by stepping out in faith and how it went "wrong"?
    Read what you just typed then read this passage. Luke 15:11-32 Who do you think you sound like - the prodigal son or the eldest son? Who knows why God appears to give good things to some people and not to others? Who knows why everybody else seems to have wonderful prayers answered and we both just plod on doing the same thing day after day after day.... after day and never seeming to get anywhere spiritually (experience wise)?
    If you do not even experience emotions it is very unlikely that you would ever experience discernment as christians called into discernment-type ministries. You looking at non-christian material (even if you were comparing what it said with an open Bible in your lap) is as dangerous as throwing a lit cigarette into the dry Aussie bush in a heatwave.
    I remember the ex-President Bill Clinton when asked if he ever smoked marijuana replying "yes but I didn't inhale." You did the spiritual equivalent.
    Yu should be thanking God for his incredible protection of you from deception. psalm 23 You must be a sheep He loves very much.
  8. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To joey down under.

    You wrote this:
    You say excessive focus on experience; I say concern about never having a prayer answered. Let’s call the whole thing off.

    No, I am not questioning my faith in the past. I really was a believer. What I am questioning is whether my prayer for salvation was answered, because with no feedback from God I had no confirmation that I was saved.

    There may or may not be such a passage, but there are plenty of verses that make promises about what believers will experience, for example John 15:5-8, Luke 11:9-13.

    If emotions are (part of) a response to God, then our lack of emotions is not a problem. However, I think that in most people, emotions do appear to create a link to God, though in many (or maybe in all) cases I suspect that it is self-deception rather than being a real link to God. In other words, I would not expect a lack of emotions to be a problem if God really does affect people. And yet a lack of emotions does seem to affect people’s awareness of what God is doing in them.

    I did not necessarily expect signs and experiences as a continuous part of a walk with God. Just one or two would have made a huge difference to me. For me the complete lack of feedback did cause my faith to be severely shaken. Maybe, as I suggested, because I am the type of person who expected God to act in my life as a believer. But at the time, I had no idea why I was apparently not receiving any feedback from God; the possibility that it was due to my lack of emotions did not occur to me until about 25 years later.

    I was disappointed by those unfulfilled promises but not surprised. I knew that it was not only my own prayers that had never been answered, but also the prayers of the many people who have prayed for me over the years have also not been answered. This was just another example of a lack of an answer to prayers for me. Yes, they mistakenly believed that their thoughts were from God, and they probably thought they were giving me encouragement.

    “God gives us what we need, not what we want.” It sounds right, but this sentence reminds me of something that a very patronising doctor said, in a statement that I reject completely. However, if God really does give us what we need, why did God not help me to know God and to have fellowship with God all those years ago? The result of apparently receiving nothing from God is that I have missed out on more than 37 years of fellowship with God and spiritual growth. I thought that the gospel message tells us that fellowship with God is what we were made for; in other words, what we need.

    Like you, I do not know why God has not answered my prayers in the way that I hoped for – or at least has not answered my prayers in any way that I am aware of. You say that one day I will know, and in 1 Corinthians 13:12 I assume that Paul is writing of finding out the whole truth after death. But for me, uninterested in life after death, that promise is irrelevant. I wanted to know God in this life. And if that want was not also a need, why am I still trying to find God all of these years later?

    Having said that, in the past I have used that same verse to suggest various things that Christians may discover after death, things that they reject now but which could be made clear to them later.

    A good principle. As someone once said, if you take a text out of context you are left with a con.

    In the 1970s I was on my knees asking for forgiveness through Jesus and asking God into my life. I stepped out in faith, trusting that if I reached out to God, God would reach out to me. I kept on as an active Christian, trusting for as long as I was able to, about two years, until it became abundantly clear that God was not going to respond to me. Then I recognised that my attempt to be a Christian had been a failure, and I needed to give up and begin again when things were right.

    I did the same again in 2007, but this time it only lasted two weeks. Things occurred much more quickly the second time because of the memory of what had happened in the 1970s. There is no point in me trying a third time, not until I find out what went wrong before and something is done to put it right.

    Me? More like the older brother. I do not know why God appears to give good things to some people and not to others. I can think of several possible reasons, but I do not know for certain. What I am trying to do is to find out why I have apparently not received anything from God. For example, is it because I have not experienced a conviction of sin? Or because God wants me to wait for some reason? Or because my name is not in the book of life?

    I repeat that wanting to be a believer for what God can give them (eternal life, for example) is very common among Christians, and I cannot believe that God would reject me simply because I might want the benefits of being saved. After all, Jesus did promise life more abundant.

    Why ever not? Are you suggesting that the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits is something to do with the emotions? If spiritual awareness is solely to do with the emotions, then I would be permanently excluded from any type of spiritual experience. And that is another of my possible explanations for why I received no feedback from God during my time as a believer.

    I am trying to find out if spiritual awareness and emotional experience really are closely linked. If they are, then it has serious implications for the validity of the Christian message, and for the reality of the salvation of many people who call themselves Christians.

    Anyone wanting to convert adherents of another religion to Christianity would need to be familiar with the teachings of that other religion, and be able to compare them with the Bible. Just as Paul did in Athens in Acts 17. That is presumably why they teach about other religions in many Bible colleges and other theological courses.

    I disagree. I tried to learn about particular practices (though not until many years after my time as a believer) while at the same time not accepting their spiritual teachings. Sometimes actively rejecting the spiritual message but still hoping to gain something from the practice of meditation. I realise that some Christians have a need to reject everything associated with other religions, but I repeat that people of other faiths pray, yet I do not see Christians condemning the use of prayer for that reason.

    It is interesting that at least three times in your posting you have used a verse or an idea that I have used in the past in a very different way, including the following. I can remember someone using a parody of that famous statement of Bill Clinton. Very funny but too rude to repeat here.

    It is a bit like not having emotions. People tell me how lucky I am, not having to suffer negative emotions or things like panic attacks. True, but I am also missing out on positive experiences such as joy and love. In the same way my lack of spiritual awareness has benefits in that I suspect I am immune from the attacks of Satan, but the cost of this is estrangement from the influence of the Holy Spirit.
  9. joey_downunder

    joey_downunder big sister

    :confused: How can you believe that you were a Christian if you did not believe you were saved by your faith in Jesus at the same time? How uncertain your faith in God must have been. Is that why you are so anxious (again can't think of a less "feeling" word) that you haven't seen any obvious answers to prayer?
    You are looking for outward signs to reassure you of salvation again.
    God can use people's emotions as He chooses and withhold them as He chooses. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 If God had not removed spiritual emotions from me I would not be able to understand you at all would I?

    A lack of emotions can affect people's awareness of God but then you also have to look at the reason for the lack of that awareness. Do you believe that God understands your situation? Matthew 12:20
    Do you remember the circumstances and what you were thinking about when that possibility suddenly occurred to you?
    God loves you - He just hasn't shown that love the same way as other people sometimes receive. That sounds like you are really suffering from your perceived rejection by God. :hug:
    Is this the type of question you ask "If God really loved me, why hasn't He shown me any love at all despite me searching for Him for so long and so much?"?
    I also wish that you had experienced feelings like other christians. I bet that the many fair weather christians (there for God only in the good times) would be put to shame by christians in your situation. I really can imagine in the next life you getting a special recognition for everything you have done for God despite no feelings at all.
    Why do you assume that God hasn't been with you the whole time? Has it occurred to you that you feeling the need to seek God is actually the wrong way round? That in fact you are feeling God seeking you instead? You are being drawn to him - like metal is drawn to a strong magnet. Perhaps when you are closest to the "magnet" you have actually felt the least?
    Well you've got a few christians willing to help you think through the process. You are NOT alone this time. :)
  10. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To joey down under.

    Thank you for what is a very hope-filled posting, in which we wrote this:
    For the first year or so as a believer I had no doubt that I was saved, a born again Christian. Gradually as I became more concerned about the lack of response from God, my faith became more uncertain. So yes, then I did begin to have doubts about my salvation. It was not a pleasant situation to be in.

    The reason why I would need answers to prayer, or some other response from God, if I should be able to trust God a third time, is because I know from experience that if God does not respond, my faith will disappear rapidly. I would not have the strength to sustain my faith without help from God. Some people have suggested that this is equivalent to putting conditions on God for my salvation. No, it is just recognising my limitations.

    Yes, I would be looking for confirmation from God that I was saved. And it would have to occur quite rapidly, because otherwise my faith would collapse as noted above. As I said, because of my limitations – of which God would surely be aware.

    It makes sense that God could choose whether or not to use people’s emotions. Or choose when to use them as implied in the Ecclesiastes verses. You then used the phrase “spiritual emotions”; was this to suggest that there are spiritual emotions that are different from ordinary emotions?

    I know that, like me, you lack emotions these days. And that you are no longer getting spiritual experiences. I also know that for a while you thought it had cut you off from God. Now you seem to be able to maintain your faith without explicit response from God. I am not able to do that. Maybe one day I might be able to maintain faith and an ability to trust God without needing confirmation from God, but at the moment I am still in need of confirmation, a response from God.

    I am not sure what you meant when you wrote “you also have to look at the reason for the lack of that awareness (of God)”.

    The God that I conceive of would be able to understand my situation. Whether or not God would make any adjustments to take account of my situation would, of course, be up to God. I also could not see the relevance of Matthew 12:20.

    I cannot remember the particular circumstances of the occasion, and possibly it was an idea that developed over a week or more, rather than being a sudden idea. It happened in 2000, while I was studying a psychology course. Part of the course was on theories of emotions, and one theory explained my situation (lacking emotions) very well. Then after learning about a classic psychological experiment in which people labelled their emotions according to the context, I put the two ideas together and found a possible explanation for why other people had certain types of spiritual experience and why I do not have these experiences. It was definitely a breakthrough for me, because up until then I had only been able to speculate about why my experience as a believer had been a failure.

    At the time, I thought that my idea about the link between emotions and spiritual experience was a new idea. However, I soon discovered that it was not a new idea. It is presented in books on the psychology of religion (usually written by academic Christians) as a theory of spiritual experience, or as an explanation of one way in which God could influence people.

    Only at difficult moments have I concluded that God is rejecting me, asking questions similar to the one you suggest. I just do not know why my times as a believer, my attempts to be a Christian, were unsuccessful. One possibility is rejection by God – my name not being written in the book of life. But there are other possibilities, and I do not know which is correct.

    God may well love me – whatever that word love means in this context. It could be just that God has not made me aware of being loved. But if not, why not? If God’s love can be revealed without any need for emotions, I have to ask why it has not happened in any way that I am aware of.

    In this paragraph you seem to be suggesting that I am a Christian. Well, maybe I am saved, even though I have no awareness of being saved. There are people who have described me as a fair weather Christian, because I abandoned my faith when the going got tough.

    It sounds good to suggest that I could get a special recognition in the next life. If I was interested in life after death, I might even imagine something similar myself, although I am not sure that it would be the right thing to do. However, what I really think I need is some kind of recognition from God in this life.

    In a sense I am aware that what is needed is for God to find me, not for me to find God. In the parable it is the good shepherd who goes to find the lost sheep, not the other way around. I have said before that I have identified five possible explanations of why I never received anything from God that I am aware of. What all of those five explanations have in common is that there is nothing that I can do to change the situation. If there is going to be a next move, it has to come from God. Having said that, what I can do is to try to put myself in a situation where God could reach me, and I do try to so this, although I probably get sidetracked a lot.

    I have no awareness of God seeking me. No sense of there being a magnet. And the suggestion that perhaps when I am close to God I have felt the least, it makes no sense to me. Sorry.

    I appreciate the thought and the offer. Thank you. However, I was not alone either the first time or the second time. The first time I was an active member of a church as well as meeting regularly for fellowship, prayer and praise with a group of young adults from other local churches. The second time I was in the middle of an alpha course, and I told the Christians there that I had begun to trust God again, as well as telling the Christians on two Christian websites, so that I had people around the world praying for me. Yet in a sense I was very much alone on both occasions because my experience of God was so very different from theirs.
  11. saralynn

    saralynn Newbie

    Well, LH, maybe you should just make a leap of faith to believe and leave it at that. Lewis said something that I thought profound in Surprised by Joy. He said that we can't examine a hope and feel hope at the same time. Hope for God puts the focus on God. Thinking about your hope for God puts the emphasis on you.

    Seems to me in all your postings there is an extraordinary amount of emphasis on you. This isn't meant as a criticism because, after all, this is a Forum. However, maybe you could try looking outward instead of inward.

    My faith is unconventional, but it works for me. By that I mean, even without God's noticeable intervention, by dwelling on the aspects of God that resonate within me, I truly do become a better and more contented person. I don't know how or if I love "God", but I certainly know that I love LOVE and JUSTICE and COMPASSION and KINDNESS, etc. That is the nature of my faith...it rests entirely on hope and trust. However, I am always on the edge of doubt. To me, that is temptation. I acknowledge it's presence, but I don't nurture it.

    I guess the comparison to Job is apt in one way. Basically, what it boils down to is God is God and we aren't. There really are no definitive answers to the questions you are asking. You choose to believe or you don't or you waffle. That is your decision.

    Me...I define myself as an agnostic theist, which is much pleasanter than being a agnostic atheist. It also makes all the difference in the world.
  12. saralynn

    saralynn Newbie

    I finished Surprised by Joy and Lewis said one thing that I thought was quite profound and perhaps applicable to you. He said that we can't feel hope and think about hope at the same time. When you hope that God exists, the direction of your gaze is outward toward God. When you think about your hope for God, your attention focuses inward upon yourself and God disappears.

    Seems to me you've been spending an enormous amount of time thinking about yourself. I don't mean this as a criticism because, after all, this is a Forum and you are attempting to communicate your thoughts to others. However, you've obviously pondered long and hard about your situation and maybe you should simply recognize that there are no definitive answers to the questions you are asking.

    To be blunt, no one really knows whether or not God exists. Many Christians will claim they do, but their proof relies on subjective confirmations, the testimony of others, and a certain amount of logical reasoning. Whether you do or do not accept the Christian position as your own in no way confirms the reality of that assertion. God exists or doesn't exist independent of your thoughts about the matter.

    I've said this before, but it bears repeating. You have three choices: God exists, God doesn't exist, I don't know if God exists.

    You and I apparently can't make this decision based on our experience of God's presence in our own or other people's lives because, even if we suddenly had a revelation of some sort. the evidence for its reality would still remain ambiguous. There is absolutely no proof one way or the other.

    My own religious beliefs are unconventional, but they work for me. By that I mean they inspire me to strive for holiness and make me feel more serene than I would be if I drifted through life not making a commitment.

    I built my faith upon ideals within me that resonate. I find it utterly incomprehensible to love "God", but I certainly know that I can and do love the qualities of God, such as LOVE and COMPASSION and JUSTICE and KINDNESS. I choose to believe that those aspects of God, whether or not He/She/It really exists, are worth basing my life upon.

    However, I always know that it is a decision and I have the right revoke. In utter freedom, I choose on a daily basis to trust and hope that the God I adore is real. For me, this is as it should be. Nothing else is possible.
  13. joey_downunder

    joey_downunder big sister

    Have I been typing to you too long or have you really been put in contact with someone who understands your way of thinking exceptionally well?
    Do you remember the first time you became a believer? Had you "felt" or thought convicted of your sin and realised your need of a saviour through faith in Jesus at that exact time?
    In your case it is perfectly understandable that you want to "know" (i.e. more than a mental agreement with the doctrine of salvation) if you really are saved. Everyone has that wish. Everyone also goes through times of doubt whether they really are saved or not. You are not unique in that aspect. You will always have a faith struggle due to lack of emotions however. Are you willing to accept that? Do you believe God is true to His word and would fulfill His actual promises to all believers for you as well Losthope?
    I was thinking of the emotions that people experience when worshipping God or spending time with Him alone separate from emotions experienced in everyday life. I remember at times I did feel God's presence very intimately. At other times now I realise that I was just getting caught up in the mood of the worship service and mistook emotional responses for spiritual experiences. Perhaps I am being a bit pedantic there?
    For the first sentence it's the other extreme but the second you are completely right. For personal interaction with people, for responses to stress and other circumstances feelings have been amplified. I seem to feel every side of emotions except the spiritual ones. e.g. in ordinary life I can feel if a person is "fake" or not straight away, I can sense if a person is struggling with depression when many other people people could not. I actually have realised I have to be very careful with who I let be around me because I absorb other people's emotions like a sponge. In the spiritual setting I can feel the difference between churches' atmospheres, I can feel the sincerity of people's faith, but I cannot feel a direct link with God that I had pre-surgery (1999).
    You never know what might be around the corner that could change things - yes things can change for you as well.
    1. Some people might lose awareness or have feelings of estrangement from God through slipping away via lack of christian fellowship, Bible reading, prayer and so on. Spiritual malnutrition eventually leads to spiritual weakness etc.
    2. Others may have gone through extremely difficult circumstances e.g. tragedies and through grief are feeling like God has abandoned them.
    3. Others may be experiencing physical or mental illness- if people are tripartite beings i.e. body, soul and spirit then illness can affect one's spiritual life as well.
    4. Others have lost that connection from unconfessed sin - could be anything. What would seem exceptionally petty and perhaps justifiable to us e.g. holding grudges against people who have really hurt us still displeases God. Matthew 18:21-35/
    5. Others do not feel anything or hardly ever feel anything spiritual which may make them totally uninterested in any faith, or if believers make them extremely concerned whether they have any faith at all.
    This sermon is very good after the background introduction Preach The Word - Topical Sermons: The Bruised Reed - David Legge Forget about whether you actually feel those feelings - do you think the same way? Are you bruised, broken, rejected, misunderstood by christians who think they have it all together?
    I first came across the theoretical link between spiritual experiences and the temporal lobe in the early 1990s when doing the psychiatric component of my nursing degree. I'd had extreme spontaneous experiences immediately before a seizure when I was a teenager because I was on medicines fair less effective than modern ones available today.
    Interestingly that knowledge laid the foundation for my severe doubt after surgery and therefore was not a comfort at all to me unlike yourself. The complete opposite in fact.
    Do you believe that God has this much love for all those who believe in Him? Do you believe in Him still? Engraved on the Palm of his Hand - Christian Reformed Church
    I am choosing to type to you as if you are a Christian because you have consistently sounded like you have an exceptionally difficult struggle with doubt and very similar to mine. I never rejected Christianity itself, I believed that my faith was unreal and could never be trusted as valid and as a result my lifestyle appeared as if I had rejected Christianity. e.g. never going to Church, reading and watching whatever I liked.

    You are condemning yourself for rejecting the faith and to some extent that self-condemnation is justified but understandable at the same time. Did these people actually say that to your face and/or behind your back or are you assuming they said those things? Remember it also very easy to judge people without knowing all the facts. Would these people have any idea of what you are going through?
    That also is an understandable request from God.
    Metaphor problem again. I'll have to try and think of a better way to communicate that type of concept with a more objective thinker than me.
    This time you have a listener who genuinely understands the struggle you are going through. I will not patronise you, give you false hope that you'll experience things like most Christians appear to one day, or quote random Bible verses at you. I think you want to believe but have an extremely difficult hurdle to overcome (and continue overcoming) first. I hope there are other readers out there willing to support you as well.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2011
  14. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To saralynn,

    You supplied two quite similar postings yesterday, and I will do my best to respond to the two of them together, quoting from both as I go along. You wrote this:
    Not possible, I’m afraid. I have twice made a leap of faith, in 1974 and in 2007, and both times it was a failure. There is no point having a third attempt until I find out what was wrong before, and deal with it. In each case the problem was the apparent lack of response from God. Some people can cope with a lack of a personal response, and instead rely on the promises of the Bible. Some people need God to respond to them personally in some way. I happen to be in the second group.

    Glad you found the book useful.

    I am not sure that what Lewis says applies to me. I see no problem in having hope and thinking about hope at the same time. I also see no problem in looking inwards and outwards at the same time. Lewis is assuming that only one thought is in the mind at a time. I often have two or more thoughts at the same time.

    Yes, a lot of what I have written is about myself. Perhaps that is inevitable when I asked the original question about my situation with regard to conviction of sin in comparison with that of others. And yes, I am trying to communicate my thoughts to others.

    You suggest looking outward instead of inward. Which particular direction did you have in mind, for me to look outward?

    For the moment I will go on asking the questions, and hope to get an answer. But I recognise that there may be no definite answers available. If that happens I may well give up bothering about Christianity for a while. But knowing me, the chances are that I will be asking questions again sooner or later, if some new idea comes to light.

    You are probably right in saying that there can never be absolute proof of the existence of God. Nor can there be absolute proof about what sort of God, or some other aspects of doctrine. There is a difference between faith and fact. Something is not true just because a person happens to believe it, no matter how strongly they believe it. For me, something becomes a fact only when it has been successfully tested, and when all of the alternative explanations have been disproved.

    I am a don’t know, and I am well aware that this does not change the fact that God either exists or does not exist.

    I still hope for an experience of God’s presence that is not ambiguous. And that is asking for even more than simply an experience of God’s presence. But I recognise what you are saying.

    I suspect that my religious ideas, such as my conception of God, are also unconventional. Although during my time as a believer my beliefs were more conventional. In a sense I envy your serenity and your commitment. However, you could say that even though I do not have a commitment to God, my commitment is to find my spiritual path.

    Yes, you have made your decisions and you have good reasons for making those decisions. And find that it works for you, very well.
  15. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To joey down under.

    You wrote this:
    Not sure if it is a good sign that we use the same verses, or not so good because we use them so differently.

    It is a long time ago, but yes I do remember when I first became a believer. No, there was no particular conviction of sin or realisation of my need for a saviour at that time, even though I understood the gospel message. Nor was there a conviction of sin or realisation of my need for a saviour at any other time. However, I did ask for forgiveness and offered my life to God, and when I told other Christians about what I had done, they seemed satisfied that what I had done was enough.

    I know that many Christians (not sure if it is everyone) do have doubts about their salvation at times. But if at some time in the past you had a response from God, you have that to hold onto when you doubt. I did not have any memory of response from God to hold onto.

    Why will I always have a faith struggle due to lack of emotions? That would only occur if God always used the emotions to relate to people. And if God does always use the emotions to relate to people, I might as well give up now, because I have no emotions for God to work on.

    Do I believe that God will fulfil promises to all believers? Not for me, not as far as I am aware. During the times that I was a believer, there was no sign that God had fulfilled any promises for me. Now I no longer consider myself to be a believer, so fulfilment of promises to believers may not be relevant to me any more.

    No, you are not being pedantic at all. This is an important issue for me. Are the emotions that people experience when spending time with God really different from emotions experienced in everyday life? Because if they are different, then I wonder why I also do not experience them. On the other hand, if the two types of emotion are similar, is it just a labelling due to the context that makes a person think it is a spiritual emotion, as you describe during worship services?

    For me, the so-called worship singing in church services leaves me completely cold. I prefer to arrive after it has finished.

    Yes, sorry I misworded that first sentence and it came out wrong. As for these things that you mention that you can feel, I have no awareness of them at all. But I can certainly understand the sense of loss now that you are no longer feeling a direct link with God. I know that there are aspects of my life that I used to have, that have been lost due to my medical condition, and it was a painful realisation at times.

    You then gave several examples of reasons why people might lack awareness of God. For me, the last of those listed would be closest:
    Over the years there have been times when I lacked any desire to have faith. There are other times when I try to find out why I have no faith.

    It is a long sermon, too long for me to deal with now. I will try to read it tomorrow, and will comment on it then.

    Have I ever been rejected by Christians who think they have it all together? Oh yes. Not by all Christians, but certainly by some of them. Possibly including that senior pastor I mentioned in an earlier posting.

    Yes, I can understand why having that knowledge added to your doubts. I was also aware that in some cases spiritual experiences are associated with epilepsy.

    Do I still believe in God? I am able to conceive of God, but that is not the same as believing.

    I looked quickly at this sermon, and it seems to cover several themes. Which did you want me to concentrate on?

    You are right, as a believer I had a difficult struggle with doubt, as you did. Eventually, like you, I stopped going to church. I also did not reject Christianity. Instead I recognised that I was not a part of Christianity. I wanted to be a part, but I was not.

    It may be that, like you, I will eventually return to God and become a believer again. I cannot see the path to reaching that point, but maybe God can see the path for me.

    I had not thought that I was condemning myself for abandoning my faith. Indeed, I have never doubted that my decision to stop calling myself a Christian was the correct thing to do.

    You asked if people were openly critical of me when my doubts increased and I abandoned my faith. Some were openly critical, yes. I was no longer welcome in their company, or in their churches. Occasionally, Christians still are critical of me. Did they know what I was going through? Some seemed to understand; others did not.

    Absolutely true that I want to believe but have a hurdle to overcome first. And I do have to overcome it first, or at least make some progress towards overcoming it. It is not possible for me simply to step out in faith. I have tried that twice, and twice it has not been successful.

    I appreciate the promise of lack of patronising, giving false hope and quoting random Bible verses. Thank you.
  16. joey_downunder

    joey_downunder big sister

    I think it's a good sign. ^_^
    1. you've got a good knowledge overall of what the Bible actually says. That makes it a lot easier to get an idea of where you stand.
    2. Shows that there are more than one way to look at the same verse or passage of scripture. Of course that is on the condition it is not out-of-context or contradicts the Bible's message in any way.
    What do you think is lacking in your experience of conviction of sin other than lack of emotions?
    I think dismissing all past spiritual experiences as mere hallucinations due to scarred brain tissue is on an equal level to your dismissal of any personal faith because you have not ever had any "experiences".
    You should look up the passages when Jesus calls the apostles to come and follow Him. e.g. mark 1:16-20/ No mention of any emotional experiences the apostles had at the time.
    Look at the passage 1 john 1:1-4/ In texts addressing gnostic heresies the writers explain that false teachers (Gnostics) were claiming ecstatic experiences was the true way to know God. In that letter the apostle John agree with them, or does he emphasise that he actually knew Jesus in person? Remember he is the same apostle that wrote the Gospel of John.
    Are you expressing fear that you have lost salvation there?
    It was so long ago I cannot say with confidence whether personal spiritual feelings for most christians are or aren't similar to everyday emotions. e.g. spiritual joy same as emotional joy. I can feel a different atmosphere in churches during worship compared to other everyday places though. I can feel the difference between genuine worship and emotions-focused worship whether charismatic or non-charismatic denominations as well.

    All I can say is that I never personally experience joy during worship or prayer now. The closest I get now is a sense of peace, especially when I know I am with people who genuinely love God. That type of feeling returned last year when I decided with a GP's support to half the dose of one of my medicines however. (On the dose I was on I felt severely depressed for 2-4 hours a day. I've got 2 boys and they deserved a happier mother!). So for me I think spiritual experiences and brain waves are linked.
    Something to keep in mind for future reference if you do return to church one day: if the church has long worship services enter "at half-time", mentally block out the music and what people are doing around you and spend the time silently giving thanks to God for what you have. That would mean a lot more to Him than just mouthing the words. It would also take your mind off what you seem to be missing out on while watching people around you.
    That section about what it would actually feel like to have something engraved on your palm and what that means for a christian to know that God has done that for them.
    That is why I said I had too much faith in my own personal faith not in God Himself. When the feelings "died" I thought my faith had died as well. Objectively any Higher Being is in existence outside of my own mind (and so they exist whether I believe or not) but I did not have that realisation at the time.
    Try to take it a step at a time. You've got a bit to think through. :)
    Ultimately your own personal faith is between you and God and no-one else. It would be great if some christians who know your situation would just listen to you. Don't let them be like the friends of Job either.
    This is my prayer for you, that your mind and thinking is changed so you experience God that way. Philippians 4:7 You seem to think a lot of worry and fear about personal faith even though you don't experience the feelings.
    That's OK. I am being a sister-in Christ to my (I think) brother-in-Christ. :hug:
  17. saralynn

    saralynn Newbie

    This would be a problem if there were only two groups. There are dozens of groups. If I were a Christian, which I am not, I suspect I might be among those who call themselves “Evolutionary Christians” or maybe “Progressive Christians”. Actually, when I do attend services of any kind, it is usually Quaker meetings that I prefer. Alas, there are varieties of Quakers, so, again, I have to make a decision. Fortunately, there is a pleasant group of liberal types who worship near me. We sit around in silence together until God motivates one of us to speak. Not surprisingly, God mostly motivates the same people every week, mostly the pontificating variety.

    It is impossible to have two thoughts simultaneously.
    I would suggest you look outward toward God instead of inward toward yourself. Perhaps you could begin by considering what your definition of God might be. Of course, in one sense, that is unanswerable. However, in another sense, all theists do that, don’t they? My conception of God is rather vague, but, clear enough to inspire me. As I said, I focus on the qualities of God…kindness, compassion, justice, tolerance, etc…. rather than a rigid definition.


    I didn’t say a leap of fact. I said a leap of faith. Again, you have to figure out for yourself what the nature of that faith might be. I am not suggesting you leap into someone else’s faith, even if that “someone else” is multiplied by millions.
    Perhaps what I am saying is this. Instead of focusing on reasons not to believe, you might focus on reasons to believe. Discover what makes sense to you or stirs your heart and discard that which strikes you as childish or inconsistent with the basic message of Christ. Instead of reading the Bible as if it were a textbook, read the Bible for inspiration. Faith should be living, vibrant, and, in a sense, creative act….not a monolith you have to carry around on your back.
  18. Hospes

    Hospes Well-Known Member Supporter

    United States

    Thank you very much for responding so clearly to my questions. I am sorry for being so long in getting back. Busy, busy, busy. I have more questions; I sure hope you don't mind.

    You write that if the Holy Spirit would convict you of sin, you'd recognize it as sin. How do you see evil now? Or what now leads you to call something good or evil?

    Why do you apologise? Is it conforming to expected behavior or does it go deeper?

    Have you ever found it impossible to forgive or can imagine when a person should not be forgiven by you?

    Probably says something about me.:) Of course I meant your understanding of Christianity hasn't been in conflict with mine.

    I hurt for you. Maybe that is why I am writing, thinking, and praying.

    Just curious: why not Romans 3:11?

    Finally, is there any possibility that you have required of God the one thing that God has largely left out of you: emotion? Kind of like a man born blind looking for God to show himself by giving him sight. Possibly, you are to truly feel emotion when you meet him in eternity, just like the first sight for the man born blind would be the face of his lord.

    Grace to you.
  19. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To joey down under,

    You wrote this:
    1. True, I do know more about the Bible than most non-believers.
    2. I try not to take verses out of context. However, when you say that a Bible verse should not contradict the Bible message in any way, I am not so sure. As I have said before, when Christians have different points of view, both sides quote the Bible to back up their ideas. Different verses do sometimes give very different messages, and there is always the problem of interpretation, knowing if a passage was aimed just at a particular person or group of people, or if it is universally applicable, and so on.

    I always thought that part of the process of salvation can be a conviction of sin through the action of the Holy Spirit. It is supposed to be because of the influence of the Holy Spirit that the person has a real conviction of sin, begins to understand something of what sin means to God, and knows their need of forgiveness and salvation. For many people, that conviction of sin is expressed through their emotions. For me that would not be possible, but I would hope that God would have some other way of convicting a person of sin so that they really understand what sin means, and very much want to have their sin dealt with. I do not know what alternative means God might use to convict an unemotional person of sin, but surely God ought to be able to puzzle out a little difficulty like that.

    True. Different, but on an equal level, as you say.

    Maybe Mark thought that it was not necessary to mention the emotional effect on the apostles, because it would be obvious to people from the context. Or maybe there was no special emotional context at the time. We cannot tell from those verses.

    As an aside, when Jesus says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” I remember some women who preferred an alternative translation: “Follow me and I will teach you to catch men.”

    Are these verses addressing Gnostic ideas? For myself, I might prefer a position not quite as extreme as the Gnostic one, and say instead that ecstatic experiences (if they are truly spiritual and not just caused by the emotions) are one way of experiencing God, but definitely not the only way to experience God.

    No, I was careful not to do that. I described myself as being a believer at one time and now no longer a believer. I use the word “believer” because that is definitely true for me. Whether or not I am or was a Christian, whether or not I was saved, I do not know.

    Is spiritual joy the same as emotional joy? I would have to rely on people telling me the answer to such questions, giving me the benefit of their experience. To me joy, whatever the cause, is something I can observe but not experience.

    Nowadays I find what people call worship to be just playing musical instruments and singing with some people making various arm movements etc in response. Not quite as enthusiastically as many people dance and move at a secular disco. But that is probably just the way I see it. If you can tell the difference between genuine worship and emotions-focussed worship, that is a valuable gift.

    Thinking back many years, I can remember an occasion at a Christian meeting when there was a different kind of worship, what they said was singing in the spirit. It did not happen successfully on that occasion.

    It is good that you have a sense of peace with people who love God. Yes, I suspect that such experiences (and many others) can sometimes be removed by the effects of excess medication. Doctors prescribe medicine to deal with what they consider to be the important symptoms, but they rarely take account of the other symptoms that the person experiences as a result of taking the medication, especially if the dose is too high. For example, many people with bipolar disorder are over-medicated and kept permanently depressed because the doctor is only concerned about preventing them getting a destructive “high”. Unfortunately one of the symptoms of being depressed can be a lack of awareness of God – possibly because of the depressing effect on the emotions.

    It is an interesting suggestion but I doubt if I could block out the music sufficiently. Besides, until I become a believer again (assuming that you meant returning to church but not as a believer), giving thanks to God for what I have would, for me, be hypocritical and maybe even sinful. In the words of T S Eliot, “The last temptation is the greatest treason, to do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

    I looked again at the sermon Engraved on the Palm of his Hand - Christian Reformed Church but it did not do anything for me. God doesn’t forget. Why should God need something as a reminder? To me that sounds like a man creating God in his own image.

    I agree that one step at a time is all that I would need. Many postings back there was the sermon on that theme, saying that God does not need to reveal what is happening way in the future, the conclusion of our journey. However, as we progress God does need to reveal (or make obvious) the next step, and unfortunately so far I have no experience of God revealing or making obvious any step to me.

    As you say, my faith is between me and God. Before and just after I first abandoned my faith, it did concern me what some Christians said to me critically. But that did not last for long. Now I simply accept that they do not understand.

    It would be good to know the peace of God. I am concerned about personal faith, not all the time, but from time to time, over the years. I would not go as far as to call it worrying or having fear – though maybe there was some of that in the time many years ago around when I stopped being a believer.

    You are quite right to suggest that I can think about worry and fear, as well as joy and any other emotion. But there is no bodily sensation to accompany the thoughts, what people call “feelings”. Emotions involve both thinking and feeling. I can manage the thinking part, but not the feeling part. And without the feeling component, emotions lose most of their power or influence.

    There was certainly a time when I thought of myself as a brother in Christ. Not nowadays, of course. But I do recognise the possibility that it might be true even though I have no awareness of it.
  20. losthope

    losthope Regular Member

    To saralynn,

    You wrote this:
    I quite agree with you. There are many groups, which is just as well because there are many types of people with different needs and beliefs, so most people can eventually find a place of worship that suits them adequately.

    I am married to (one variety of) a Quaker, so I am familiar with their meetings. And with reports of pontificating.

    So people tell me. My response is to say that maybe they do not have two thoughts simultaneously, but I do. Sometimes more than two. People’s brains are not identical; some work in different ways from others. Each style has its advantages and its disadvantages.

    That is probably the reason why I failed to learn to meditate, because the assumption is that people only have one thought at a time. It is also the reason why I found some supposedly extremely difficult meditation-related exercises very easy indeed.

    Much of the time I have two or more thoughts simultaneously, but I think there is probably a loss of efficiency in my thinking when it happens.

    Thank you for suggesting one way in which I could look outward toward God, because without that guidance I would have been quite lost, not knowing where to look. I have a conception of God, rather than a definition of God. I begin with thinking of God as spirit, rather than beginning with a God the father. It leads to a conception of one God rather than needing to think in terms of a trinity. However, that is only my conception; I could be completely wrong, especially as my experience of things spiritual is zero. With regard to thinking about the qualities of God, I would not know where to begin, because God is so different and so much larger than I am. I could not describe the qualities of God any more than a mouse would be able to describe the qualities of a human. I know that there is some guidance about God in the Bible and elsewhere, but the Bible was written by humans who must have struggled when trying to describe God, often having to use analogies instead of clear description, and needing to describe God in ways that humans could understand.

    Very sensible. I have tended to follow the faith of others – Christians and Bible authors essentially. I have tried their faith and found that it did not work for me. Is that because there was something that needed to be dealt with first (such as having a real conviction of sin)? Or is it because the right step of faith for me is a little different, with God wanting me to take a different path? Some Christians might be shocked by such a suggestion, but it makes sense to me.

    I will try to put it into words that I can explain to other people. And check whether or not it is consistent with the Bible. Because essentially you have suggested a sixth possibility to add to the five existing possible reasons for my (non)-spiritual experience so far. Thank you. Brilliant.

    I will try your suggestion.