"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: The Nightmare of Christianity

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Nightmare of Christianity

I recently read this article about Matthew Murray, the deeply disturbed young man responsible for opening fire on parishioners at New Life Church in Colorado Springs on December 9th, 2007.

The Nightmare of Christianity (editor's note: link no longer active)

While I don't agree with the authors premise that this incident is related to the death of the Religious Right or the Republican Party (both are alive and well), I was amazed at Matthew Murray's deep involvement in some of the premier far-right religious organizations of his day (Bill Gothard homeschooling, Youth With A Mission (YWAM), etc.) and how his violent acts seemed to be the result of being unable to successfully deal with the rage and disillusionment he had about the Christianity of his childhood and early adult life.

Some of the descriptions given about Murray's early life reminded me of Laestadianism and the conversations we've had on this site about cults and high-control groups
under the rules, "large homeschooling families abstain from television, midwives are more important than doctors, traditional dating is forbidden, unmarried adults are 'under the authority of their parents' and live with them, divorced people can't remarry under any circumstance, and music has hardly changed at all since the late nineteenth century."

Obedience is listening attentively, / Obedience will take instructions joyfully, / Obedience heeds wishes of authorities, / Obedience will follow orders instantly. / For when I am busy at my work or play, / And someone calls my name, I'll answer right away! /I'll be ready with a smile to go the extra mile / As soon as I can say "Yes, sir!" "Yes ma am!" / Hup, two, three!

Just to make myself absolutely clear: I do not consider Laestadianism to be a cult, or even as extreme as many other groups out there like the one Murray was raised in. It's also an open chicken-and-egg type question for me whether high-control religious groups create psychologically fragile individuals that act out in later life, or if it begins with such an individual who might have acted out to greater or lesser extent even under better circumstances.

I'm left with questions: What kind of intervention in Murray's life might have prevented him from acting out? Does it help to blame Christianity, high-control groups, demonic possession, Satanism, pornography, the individual, or any of the other targets mentioned in the article? How might we offer a welcome to people leaving high-control groups?


  1. Thank you for sharing with us this interesting article. Here are a few reflections.

    I don’t understand why protecting the right to carry guns is that important for people in US?

    In Europe you cannot generally get rights to carry guns intended to kill people with, like handguns/revolvers, not to talk about automatic weapons.

    If you hare a certified hunter, you can get non-automatic hunting guns, and if you can prove you are interested in sport shooting, you can get a small caliber handgun. This concerns generally whole Europe.

    If you go to a police station and ask for gun license because you are afraid and want to protect yourself, they will laugh at you, or advice you to a doctor.

    In Britain all handguns are forbidden.

    Secondly this article was about charismatic pentacolism. I would say that is very far away from laestadianism in Europe.

    One reason laestadians does not want to have anything to do with the “religious right” here in Finland, is because the Christian democrats party is influenced by pentacolists. Laestadians generally consider these to be worse than atheists and Satanists.

    If a person joins a wrong faith, where he believes he can be saved, the chance to be saved is much smaller than for an atheist and Satanist to be saved. I have heard preachers preach about this many, many times.

    Even though the division between other faiths is not that sharp nowadays, I would say that about 99% of laestadians under no circumstances consider penthacolists and charismatics to be Christians.

    Preachers often warns for these movements, which they consider to be witching, not Christianity. The Bible warns that there are coming witches in the name of Christianity in the last days, and preachers use these passages quite often.

  2. I think the word you are looking for is "pentecostals". ;)

  3. I had a thought the other day about churches that try to make us all the same. I was walking along Lake Superior. The rocks are all different. It would be hard to find two rocks that are exactly the same. The colors vary. The shapes vary. The sizes vary. God created this uniqueness for us to enjoy. He created people to be different. We are not intented to be the same. We should enjoy and cherish our differences. When churches tell us what to wear and how to wear our hair and how to act and how to speak, we are not cherishing God's Creations! Let us enjoy our uniqueness, as we enjoy the rocks on the beaches!

    God's Peace Always!

  4. funny... your "Nightmare" is my sweet dream.

  5. Hi Matt...cool to see you show up here, as I have enjoyed the Laestadian-related postings on your own blog.

    I took the title to have two different meanings. 1) a disturbed man raised in the faith but now raging against it returns with a weapon --that's one type of "nightmare." 2) the author thinks that right-wing Christianism is a "nightmare" for the republican party. While I'm not a friend of the religious right, I think "nightmare" is a bit over the top.

    I do have an unrelated question for you though --from reading your blog it sounds like your own experience with Laestadianism is from hearing about it from friends. Have you spent any time in Laestadian churches firsthand? If so, which particular branches? If you can point me to particular blog posts you've made or will make on this topic, I would be willing to highlight them here as an example of the "sympathetic outsider's perspective." That's a pretty rare view, in my experience.

  6. I am never going to get anything done here at home. Another interesting blog to follow :-).

  7. ...and I like your thought, Anonymous 6:59. You are so right.. just think about all the variety not just in the rocks but in all of nature!

  8. Hey Tomte... Sorry, I was a little over the top in my first post... I think maybe I took what you were saying the wrong way. I went and read the story and it is a very sad one. I definitely feel for that young man who didn't seem to fit in anywhere... BUT... I think it's crazy to call YWAM or James Dobson "far right." Most of my friends think that Dobson is too liberal because of his views on masturbation - and I agree with them - seriously. I know a lot of people who have done YWAM. They loved it. They came back loving God more than they had when they left. Also, if conservative Christianity drove that guy crazy, why aren't there a bunch of other people going and shooting up churches? I mean I know there have been other church shootings but I don't think it's for the same reason as with that guy....

    Okay, sorry for the snarky comment earlier. I've found your blog interesting although there is much I disagree with.


  9. Matt,
    Where is your blog?

  10. LLLreader chimes in: If you want to read a real nightmare, check out Favorite Wife, Escape From Polygamy, about the LaBaron Family. Picture teenage wives, many children, poverty, craziness that just got worse and worse until people were being killed. I almost wish I wouldn't have read it, except that it does demonstrate what can happen to people's minds when relentless indoctrination is applied.

  11. cvow, you can just click on my name, but my blog is:


  12. Hey Tomte,
    Sorry to post so many times but I realized I didn't answer your question in my reply to you. Growing up on five acres east of Battle Ground our property was surrounded by neighbors belonging to the Old Apostolic Lutheran Church with names like Sarkinen, Tapani, and Kaski. While I was never close with any of these neighbors, we did interact from time to time. I remember a big neighborhood snowball fight one winter with the Apostolics versus the non-Apostolics - it was all in good fun though. Some of my best friends in middle school were also in the OALC. I went to church with one of these friends including Sunday school and then a big dinner with the whole family in the evening. It was a good experience although I don't remember much of the church service. In middle school the Apostolic kids I knew seemed no worse adjusted then the non-apostolics I was around. In high school we all kind of went our separate ways but it always bothered me a lot the way Apostolics were mistreated and made fun of by non-apostolics. I still don't like to hear the word "bunhead" or "bunner." Since high school I became friends with a family that left Apostolic Lutheranism but not the OALC - I think the left the ALC. THey don't have a positive view of Laestadianism and I'm willing to accept that what they say is true. I am in some ways sympathetic though because I think the OALC gets criticized for things that I don't necessarily see as being negative. I think that liberal "christians" are actually heretics for the most part who have abandoned the faith. I also think that Christians should be more separate from the world than most are. I know I fail at that though. From where I stand theologically I could probably be pretty comfortable in and ALC church or and LLC church from what I've read. I think the OALC is a bit "out there" for me though.

  13. 'I think that liberal "christians" are actually heretics for the most part who have abandoned the faith'

    It's sad that you feel free to dump on Christians from other traditions in this way. That's offensive.

    Throughout history, there have been many different flavors of Christianity, all with their own rich heritage and traditions. Just because you like vanilla doesn't give you the right to trash those of us who like chocolate. Live and let live.

  14. llmarinen,
    I know that those are strong words and I regretted using such strong words after I had clicked "publish." But I do disagree with you about liberal "christianity" being just another flavor like vanilla. God has given us a standard and that standard is His word, the Bible. It's not just about one person interpreting it one way and someone else interpreting it another. I actually grew up in a very liberal church and the majority of people there simply thought that large portions of Scripture were outdated. They were honest enough to admit that they weren't simply interpreting Scripture differently, they were actually rejecting the parts that they found outdated or offensive. I don't think Christians have the right to do that. We stand under the revelation of God not above it. If you want arguments for why Christians should believe Scripture then I can give them. But I'll put it this way, if someone doesn't believe in the physical resurrection of Christ they are simply not a Christian. And if someone teaches people that it is alright for them to remain in their sins I believe that person is guilty of telling a damning lie. That is why I used such strong words. And even though if I could go back I would have tried to say it more politely, I do stand by what I was trying to express there.

  15. Matt, it's unfortunate that you feel the need to set yourself up as the arbiter of who's Christian and who's not.

    Do you believe that women need to keep their heads covered? Do you believe that it's wrong to wear clothes of blended fabric?

    If not, I could accuse you of ignoring parts of scripture, but instead I assume that your religious tradition has developed in good faith a theological system that explains these kinds of seeming inconsistencies and makes sense of them.

    I personally don't think its very useful to merely consign parts of scripture as being "outdated." That's lazy theology, and I know some people do it. But I also am left of center personally, attend a liberal parish in a liberal denomination and can tell you from personal experience that we read, mark, inwardly digest, and grapple with scripture in my community.

    When this process is an intellectually honest one, people can and will come to different conclusions about parts of the Bible and how it applies to our situation today. We are all on a spiritual journey together, however, and will not cast anyone out based on some litmus test.

  16. No surprise, I agree with Matt. Enough said :-).

  17. "God has given us a standard and that standard is His word, the Bible."

    This has been discussed before here, and I think the Bible has been overrated as the only authority in faith.

    I don’t think Luther fully knew what he was doing when he declared Sola Scriptura, and spawned around 40 000 Christian denominations founded on the Bible alone. ;)

    More and more Christians around the world are coming to accept tradition and Church history as an authority in faith.

    Some become Catholics; other just accept traditions as a part of teachings. Laestadianism is strongly founded in traditional Christianity and, and interpret the Bible traditionally.

    "It's not just about one person interpreting it one way and someone else interpreting it another."

    Unforunally the Bible isn’t a very clear book. Church tradition is much more unified than “Sola Scriptura” churches.

    You can’t even oppose abortion if the only thing you have is a correctly translated Bible.

    Laestadians (LLC branch) in Finland refers to Catholic Church teachings in these matters (Catholic Humanium Vitae).

  18. Stranger is trying to ingest all of these arguments as she sits bareheaded at her lunch break eating shrimp stir-fry that spilled on her polyester-cotton blend top.

  19. Stranger, I don't know exactly why, but that cracked me up. (I hope you got the stain out.)

  20. "God has given us a standard and that standard is His word, the Bible."

    No, the church predates the finished product you call the Bible. Because the church existed before the finished Bible, the Bible is not the only means of defining the church. If you want to talk about heresy, I could call you a heretic for the sin of Bibliolatry. What's more, unless you worship on Saturday and give all your money to the poor, I could again consign you to the fires of Hell as a heretic.

    Excommunicating those who disagree with you is cheap and easy, but I feel you are better than that. Please rise above that simple temptation and respect the earnest Christianity of those who hail from the progressive end of the spectrum. I'm sure you are busy enough with your life as it is - leave it up to God to bear the heavy work of judging.

  21. Yes that's true.

    It's hard to deny the authority of Church, and that Church was (and is) guided by the Holy Spirit, because church had to be that in order to put together Gods word, the Bible.

    Sentimental has uploaded another beautiful psalm. You can hear it by clicking on my nick.

    I noticed this psalm is written 1551 (at least the melody to it).

    Many psalms are that old, and carry the traditional Church teachings as message, so when laestadians sing this song on their services, we also get a message carried by the church by tradition, from the first years up to 1551 and to our days.

  22. This blog is an interesting study in groupthink, and never fails to deliver.

  23. Norah, can you define what you mean by groupthink, and explain how it differs from a discussion?

    In my mind, we have you and Matt on one end of the spectrum, me and Ilmarinen on the other, LaestadianInfo, cvow, and Stranger somewhere in between. How is that groupthink? It seems to me like a range of perspectives are being aired.

  24. Now is attached to my Nick another psalm posted by Sentimental on Youtube. I don’t like the singer, but the song is very commonly sung on laestadian services. It’s written in 1694.

    I think we are on the right track when the preachers preach the same we sing in our old, and sometimes very old songs and psalms.

    The message is however pretty far away from many modern Christian movements, especially charismatics, pentacolist and many other things you can see on God TV.

    I have sometimes watched the God TV channel, and got pretty terrified.

  25. If you click on my Nick now you can hear another old psalm commonly sung by us. It’s actually written by Marttin Luther in 1528. I think this should be in laestadian songbooks in US too under the name "A Mighty Fortess is Our God".

  26. Now I found an even older. If you click on my Nick you can hear "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" in English.

    This is A 19th century translation of a 12th century carol.

    I think things like these define Christianity, not solely Bible reading.

  27. wow... I know I probably won't respond to everything that everyone said but here are a few responses...

    LaestadianInfo: You said the Bible has been overrated as the only authority for faith. I think I agree with you. The Bible is my ultimate authority. If I can be reasonably convinced that the Bible, taken as a whole, teaches against something I'm doing or believing I have no choice but to change my practice or belief. I actually became an Anglican because I think tradition is important and I think the Holy Spirit has been active in giving His church truth down through the ages. When Christians disagree on an interpretation I go to church history and see how great men and women of faith understood that passage and that's how I use tradition.

    Tomte: I'm not trying to set myself up as an arbiter. I'll let the word of God do that. It seems that liberal Christianity has become a system where no person is not part of the community based on belief or action. But this does not fit with the New Testament church. Paul said, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. 'Purge the evil person from among you (1st Cor 5:12-13). So obviously there were boundaries of belief and practice as there still should be today... and this is not the only verse that supports this position. Tomte, I also agree that people can come to different conclusions or even different interpretations of parts of Scripture. But I always remember what one of my professors in seminary said. He said that for each proposition in Scripture there is a range of reasonable interpretations. So for instance for "You shall not murder (ESV)" someone might take it to mean that no one should be a soldier because they might kill someone. I disagree with the person but I could see how they could be right. But if someone takes Romans 1:26-27, 1st Cor 6:9, 1st Tim 1:10 or the myriad of other verses dealing with sexual immorality with the knowledge of how a 1st century Jew would have understood it, and then turns around and tells me that homosexuality is a-okay then I have to say that they are not just interpreting things differently or applying things differently. THey are simply rejecting Scripture and setting themselves up as a god to determine right and wrong for themselves.

    Ilmarinen: It is debatable whether the church predates Scripture as you say. First of all the early church most certainly had the Old Testament which the revered as Jesus did to be authoritative and without error. Secondly the early church had the Apostle's teaching, which would become the New Testament, either in person or in the form of circulating letters. So I disagree, the church did not come first, the Scripture did - whether in the form of the teaching of a living apostle or a circulating letter, and that Scripture generated the church. I actually blogged about this a while back and quoted the church father Irenaeus to support my position. Also I don't believe in such a sin as "bibliolatry" - I've worshipped with some of the most conservative fundamentalists you'd ever meet and while they certainly loved and believed in the word of God I never saw them worship it. But I guess to the liberal even believing the Bible to be perfectly true might look like worship so I'll forgive you for your mistake. =)

  28. I have to think about whether it's reasonable to believe the church predates Scripture. I think I have to read some Catholic sites. They probably have these things explained from their view pretty well.

    However the books of the Bible were selected quite late by the Church, and fundamentalists generally has a different number of books than Catholics. I think the old Bible laestadians use has the same books as the Catholic bible, since the apocryphes are included.

    There is an interesting discussion going on in almost all laestadianism related forums in Finland right now. The Finnish television had shown a documentary about amishes, which could be seen on the state television web page, so many laestadians watched it.

    Many have been stroked by some similarities between laestadians and amishes. The finnish sister blog (freepathways.wordpress.com) has these things sorted out.

    They concluded amishes, hutters ja mennonites has the same common roots, which is the early pietism in central Europe.

    That’s why there are so many similarities.

  29. The article on the Finnish sister blog, which explains the similarities between amishes, hutters, mennonites an laestadians can be viewed by clicking on my Nick.

  30. LaestdiusInfo, it depends on what you mean by "late" and what you mean by "accepted." While the canon may not have been formally solidified until the 4th century, lists of accepted books had been floating around the church for hundreds of years before this. While many of these lists excluded a small number of books and occasionally included a book that was not later accepted, there was a great deal of agreement early on concerning what was canonical - that is accepted. When it comes to the apocrypha there are some important things to keep in mind. 1. They are all OT books. 2. I have read all the Apocrypha and I agree with those who assert that even with the inclusion of the Apocrypha there is no challenge to Christian orthodoxy as accepted by Protestants. ( I would actually highly recommend the apocryphal books 1st and 2nd Maccabees as they give a very interesting history of the Jewish people during the Intertestamental period.) 3. Most scholars agree that the Apocrypha was written later than the rest of the OT. The only book in the Protestant canon that some liberal scholars like to put in the Intertestamental period is the book of Daniel and I disagree with these scholars. 4. Lastly, there is good evidence that the Hebrew Scriptures which Jesus used did not contain the apocryphal books.

    Finally, when it comes to going to a Catholic source to find out about the origins of Scripture and the Church I have to ask why? I have great respect for a good number of Catholics and some of my favorite authors are Catholic but when it comes to an area of disputed doctrine I'm not a Catholic so I'm not going to base my conclusions on what the RCC believes. This is especially important in an area like the primacy of Scripture as a Roman Catholic apologist has a vested interest in convincing you of the Magisterium of the Church over Scripture. If they are right about this then Luther's Reformation and the Laestadian movement ceases to have a reason to exist.

  31. Should be "the primacy of the Magisterium of the Church over Scripture..."

  32. "If they are right about this then Luther's Reformation and the Laestadian movement ceases to have a reason to exist."

    So you are saying reading the Catholic opinion about something is wrong since, if they are right, your faith is wrong? I don’t think we would have come long with this attitude concerning truth. ;-)

    I can’t either see why there has to be such polarization between Catholic and Protestants.

    If we found the Catholics are more right that we, do we have to shut down our own churches and join the catholic? I don’t think so.

    As I wrote, LLC laestadians in Finland already refers to Catholic Church authority in some of their teachings. This actually requires you believe the Catholic Church is an authority way over simple opinions.

    We got our first Finnish born Catholic bishop a few weeks ago.

    This catholic bishop was ordained in the Lutheran doom cathedral in Helsinki. The division between Protestants and Catholics isn’t very sharp here.

    There is even a movement in the Swedish Lutheran church, which try to make the Lutheran Church in Sweden more catholic.

  33. I have to correct my previous writing with that we got our first Finnish born Catholic bishop in 500 years.

    Regarding the Catholic Church to be more right than the Lutheran, I see it from a laestadian viewpoint.

    Because laestadianism is a revivalist movement in the Lutheran Church, but with an own organization, the relation to the church is mostly as a spiritual authority, and which also handles the holly sacraments a.s.o.

    I can’t say it from this viewpoint makes perfect sense to refer to the Catholic Church as an authority in some questions as LLC do, but it’s not anyhow odd. They just select another Church they agree more with in some questions.

    I once had to ask on the Finnish Catholic forum how the see on the question, which seems to be the main struggle between Protestants and Catholics, namely justification by faith only.

    The explanation I got was the same I could have got from any laestadian. They explained roughly as that you get your sins forgiven by grace, but as a consequence you put your sins away, and this is why works is a part of salvation.

    Grace leads to works, which saves you. A laestadian would not put it that way, but in practice it’s the same.

  34. The Church was founded by Christ who is the incarnate Word. The teaching of Christ of course preceded the Church, but anything apostles said or wrote came only after the Church had been founded by Christ. The Apostolic Tradition was first oral, the apostles told others what Christ had taught. They remembered because they had been there themselves. Soon the Apostles also started to write their letters, which was the first written Tradition. And when the second coming of Christ delayed, and the first generations of Christians, who still remembered what had happened and what had been taught, started to vanish, it became necessary to write down the most essential parts of the Tradition. This eventually resulted in the books that are now known as the (NT) Scripture or the Bible (NT). So, the Church was there before Tradition (the word 'tradition' really means 'handing down'), and the Tradition was there before Bible. Bible is nothing else than written Tradition, the most reliable part of written Tradition. There is also a lot of other written and oral Tradition that is correct, valuable and necessary, but it has to be consistent with the Tradition recorded in the canonical books of the Bible.

  35. Hibernatus, I think I agree with most of what you wrote and I don't think anything you wrote necessarily contradicts what I wrote. One thing I disagree with is your statement that Scripture is just another part of Tradition, being the oldest and most reliable part. Christ Himself differentiated between Scripture and the "tradition of the Elders" so I think we can also differentiate between fallible Tradition and infallible Scripture.

    LaestadianInfo, I'm sorry but I think you assume the worst about any comment I make. Of course If I thought the Catholics were correct, I would pray to Mary and drive to the nearest Catholic church this instant. So no I'm not saying that the Catholics must be wrong because if they are right then my position is wrong... I may not be the "sharpest tool in the shed" but I'm not a complete idiot. The reason why I wrote that was because your name is "LaestadianInfo," and from there I assumed you were a Lutheran and from there I assumed that you also had come to the conclusion that the Reformation was a good and necessary thing and that errors were corrected in the Reformed which are still present among the Catholics. That is my conclusion and I'm sorry I assumed it was yours. I guess that makes me more of a Laestadian than you though - whoo-hoo! =)

  36. I am sorry, if my claim about the rightness of the Catholics isn’t easy to understand, but my English isn’t as good as it should be. Guess some practice will make it better.

    Laestadians (LLC branch) nowdays refer to the pope’s writings as an authority. That makes laestadians definitely the most catholic movement in Finland, except the Catholics themselves.

    I think there are two types of fundamentalism. There is the fundamentalist doctrine, defined in US in 20th century, and Catholic fundamentalism.

    The US fundamentalist doctrine put all eggs in the Bible basket and claims the Bible is inerrant.

    The Catholics claim they are the infallible interpreter of the tradition.

    I don’t know, but I think the truth is somewhere between.

    The inerrancy doctrine is just ridiculous, and the Bible cannot be the only authority in faith.

    Everyone with some knowledge in the Bible knows harmonizing the contradictions makes the Bible just about a worthless book.

    Fundamentalism is a US phenomenon, and virtually no laestadian would describe themselves as a fundamentalist.

    This does not mean you have to be liberal. Far from that, laestadians are the most conservative people you can find in Scandinavia.

  37. Hey LaestadianInfo,
    No hard feelings here. I actually agree that it is "somewhere in between," as you say. That's why traditions like Lutheranism and Anglicanism attract me. That's why I'm Anglican and why I've considered becoming Lutheran. I guess I'm not a "fundamentalist" in the sense that I think you're speaking. The concept of fundamentalism is actually a very tricky one. Originally it meant simply that you believe the "fundamentals" of the faith. In this way I am a fundamentalist. Now in the US the word is more a form of denigration and is used against almost any conservative religious group. Members of the OALC and probably other Laestadian groups would certainly be seen as "fundamentalists" by many. I actually think the word fundamentalist is pretty useless as it is simply a word used by liberals to lump all conservative believers together as backwards and anti-intellectual.

    I agree that the Bible may not be the only authority for faith but I believe it must be the highest authority and the authority by which all others are measured. I think this is the view of both Luther and Calvin. I strongly disagree that inerrancy is ridiculous. Have you read the Chicago statement on inerrancy? It might be more nuanced than you would expect. I believe the Bible is inerrant in communicating all that God desired it to communicate and if it's not I should really just be an agnostic.

  38. LaestadianInfo, I also posted some of your youtube videos to my blog a while back. It's actually been a very popular post and I've gotten a lot of hits from it. I appreciate your video making skills =)

  39. "I strongly disagree that inerrancy is ridiculous. Have you read the Chicago statement on inerrancy?"

    No, but I have read a lot of (mainly US) Christians trying to explain away the obvious errors and contradictions in the Bible.

    This is horrifying reading to see the intellectual dishonesty some Christians are willing to sink to, as that, but the real problems are moral.

    When you harmonize away the contradictions for example to the "You shall not kill" commandment, which is genocide, death penalty for all to gathering sticks on Sunday to homosexuality, and much more, the commandment become virtually worthless.

    One of the most important moral questions for humanity is whether we are allowed to kill other people. The fundamentalist Bible forbids only direct murder, which by the way, is completely excessive, since the simplest native tribe has understand that by themselves.

    What fundamentalists generally don’t think about that there is no way they can be against abortion with only the Bible in their hands. I have debated this a few times.

    Luther did not though the Bible is an infallible book. One proof for that is that he made an attempt to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the canon. That’s why these books are ordered last in the German-language Luther Bible to this day.

  40. You may see intellectual dishonesty in fundamentalists who try to harmonize but I see intellectual laziness among liberals who can't fathom that there might be good explanations for certain "contradictions." I certainly don't see the command "You shall not murder," to be in conflict with penalties for sin in the OT or to be in conflict with God's command to his people to wipe out certain Pagan groups in Canaan as the Jews took possession of the Promised Land. These are not always easy things to deal with but that doesn't mean that they are contradictions.

    And I didn't say that Luther thought the Bible was "infallible." I don't think that that was even really a debate back then. I disagree with some of the things Luther wrote about parts of the Bible but even with those writings I think Luther would say that Scripture was his highest authority and that's what I attributed to both him and Calvin in my post, not infallibility or inerrancy - those are more modern debates.

  41. Matt, I maybe expressed myself in a confusing way. By saying that the canonical books of the Bible are the most reliable part of the written Tradition I by no means meant to say that the Bible should not be considered infallible. In fact I believe it's infallible, but with some reservations. It has to be read in the right context, i.e. within the church, and it also has to be taken into account that it is the ideas that are infallible not the exact wordings. For example, there are some contradictions in the gospels concerning timing of certain events due to people remembering differently, but it doesn't change the importance or the basic meaning of those events. Also, the different gospels use slightly different words when quoting Christ or others. Again, the exact wording is not important, but the basic idea that was expressed by those words.

  42. Hibernatus... me and you are on the same page.

  43. Matt, there are a couple of points in your reply to me that I would like to respond to.
    It seems that liberal Christianity has become a system where no person is not part of the community based on belief or action. . .there were boundaries of belief and practice as there still should be today...
    I have to take some exception to this. While we most assuredly draw the line in different places based on our reading and interpretation of scripture, I've been in liberal communities of faith and it's not simply "anything goes, anything is acceptable." A few years ago a priest was removed from one of the parishes in our diocese because he had an affair with the church secretary. I don't know the details of that situation, but as soon as this affair became known the bishop had him permanently removed. Another example might be the "safe-church training" and background checks that are mandatory for everyone involved in children's ministries or child care at the church. We are not naive about the possibility of wolves in sheeps clothing coming after our kids, a marked contrast to Laestadianism, where folks on this blog can tell you that despite their conservativism on social issues sexual abuse was often covered up and swept under the rug.

    Regarding your point on homosexuality, I have generally tried not to debate that issue in a large amount of detail here, largely because most people who read this blog have already made up their minds on that issue and don't want a ton of comments going back in forth in great detail arguing about it. I have assembled a bibliography of theological and other articles on this topic; if you would like to discuss it in detail I invite you to email me at e (dot) tomte (at) gmail (dot) com. What I will say here, though, is that for me (like you) the biblical issue turns on what those passages you cited would be understood to mean by their first century audience. Unlike you, however, I don't think that early audience understood them to mean gay Christians in lifelong committed relationships. For me it's the deep reading, not the casual one, that casts doubt on the applicability of those passage against gay people.

    Not that I am trying to change your mind in the least. I understand that you have views that make a great deal of sense to you. What I am trying to show, however, is that liberal people (or at least some liberal people) do take scripture seriously, even if we apply it in ways that may not make sense to conservative people. :-)

  44. "there might be good explanations for certain "contradictions.""

    There are many contradictions in the Bible, which have no acceptable explanations. I will return to these later, but there is the abortion augment you can try to look at, at first.

    A stance against abortion cannot be defended with only the Bible.
    In order to claim abortion is murder, the following two conditions has to be meet:

    - Life begins with conception
    - Life is sacred

    None of these arguments can be defended with the Bible, and in fact the Bible refutes both of them:

  45. So in fact, there is nothing in the Bible supporting the first claim, and in fact the Bible refutes it.

    The other claim that also has to true in order to oppose abortion, regarding sacredness of the unborn, is also refuted by the Bible:

    1 Samuel 15:3 (New International Version)
    3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' "

    Hosea 13:16 (New International Version)
    The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open."

    Psalm 137:8-9 (New International Version)
    8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us- 9 he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.

    The Bible also instructs to kill adulterers. A woman that has committed adultery is most likely pregnant. Still the Bible instructs to kill the woman and the embryo growing in the womb.

    This also refutes the sacredness of an unborn baby:

    Leviticus 20:10 (New International Version)
    10 " 'If a man commits adultery with another man's wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

    As you can see, none of the arguments used to oppose abortion is supported by the Bible, and the Bible in fact refutes them.

    The only passage abortion opponents can refer to is Jer 1:5, but the context of the verse is clearly that God refers to Jeremiahs uniqueness as prophet.

    So from a fundamentalist point of view, abortion cannot be wrong.

    The only way to take a defendabe stance against abortion, is to refer to Christian tradition and Church authority.

  46. The only way the Bible defines life is something that breath:

    Genesis 2:7 (New International Version)
    the LORD God formed the man The Hebrew for man (adam) sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for ground (adamah) it is also the name Adam (see Gen. 2:20). from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

    The same can be read from Eze 37:10. Death is naturally defined as when someone stops breathing:

    1 Kings 17:17 (New International Version)
    17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing.

    Because an embryo cannot breath, it cannot either be defined as a full worth life according to a strict intepreation of the Bible.

    The Bible also proves this view by the following verse:

    Exodus 21:22 (New International Version)
    22 "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely [a] but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows.

    In European translations of the Bible, this passage clearly says that if a miscarriage happens, the man has to be fined. There is no room for alternate translations.

    Another passage supporting this view, is that children under one month, is not given any value, when valuing life:

    Leviticus 27:2-6 (New International Version)
    2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate persons to the LORD by giving equivalent values, 3 set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel ; 4 and if it is a female, set her value at thirty shekels. 5 If it is a person between the ages of five and twenty, set the value of a male at twenty shekels and of a female at ten shekels. 6 If it is a person between one month and five years, set the value of a male at five shekels of silver and that of a female at three shekels of silver.

  47. "I by no means meant to say that the Bible should not be considered infallible."

    What do you mean by infallible?

    If I remember right, the fundamentalist doctrine says the Bible is inerrant. I think inerrant is a different thing than infallible?

    The Bible is far from inerrant. So far I have met no one who claim the Bible is inerrant after a discussion. Everyone agrees there are errors in the Bible. The worst “hard to die” fundamentalists go to the point they say, yes there are errors in the Bible, but the original manuscripts were inerrant.

    The more reasonable ones agree the Bible is errant in many other things, for example claims concerning the area of nature science.

    But what do you mean with infallible?

  48. "LaestadianInfo, I also posted some of your youtube videos to my blog a while back. It's actually been a very popular post and I've gotten a lot of hits from it. I appreciate your video making skills =)"

    Thank you!

    Unfortunally fundamentalists like VenomFangX has destroyed the reputation of Christianity on Youtube.

    Even though they have taken down their videos, the video responses are left, documenting the disaster fundamentalist Christianity is.

    I try to take a little of that reputation back to Christianity.

    Thank God there are persons left on Youtube like Episcopal father Mathew, the Catholics and traditional Lutherans like Sentimental84 posting videos on Youtube.

  49. Tomte, I appreciate your tone and I am learning that some liberals take Scripture more seriously than I once thought. Sorry for the straw-man of "anything goes" in liberal churches... I know that's really not true. When it comes to the homosexuality debate I've probably read about everything you could give me. As a veteran of the Anglican sexuality wars I've seen about everything that's out there as I'm sure you have.

    LaestadianInfo: I don't know where the whole abortion thing is coming from. I didn't bring it up. Are you arguing against inerrancy by saying the Bible doesn't condemn abortion? I'm not convinced by your arguments that no argument can be made for the sanctity of life from the Bible but I think that's a whole different discussion from the one we're having here. Interestingly, there is an early Christian document called the Didache which many scholars think was written in the 1st century that specifically condemns abortion. Some even argued for the Didache to be included in the canon so it seems that abortion was not acceptable in the early church.

    Also, I don't think Christians should be worried about the "reputation of Christianity" with the world. Jesus said that the world would hate those who followed him. If Christianity has a good reputation in the world then it's probably not real Christianity.

  50. “Are you arguing against inerrancy by saying the Bible doesn't condemn abortion?”

    It’s a quite effective argument against fundamentalism, since you can push the fundamentalists against the wall to the point they has nothing left to say. I has done that on popular US Christian debate forums.

    I would not say it proves errancy, but it proves fundamentalism makes no sense for these who believe in fundamentalism, and usually for faith reasons are against abortion.

    “I'm not convinced by your arguments that no argument can be made for the sanctity of life from the Bible”

    I am quite convinced. I have tested it in debates and seen all responses. The reason people are fundamentalists, is mainly because they don’t know their Bible.

    “Also, I don't think Christians should be worried about the "reputation of Christianity" with the world.”

    I think it’s a different thing to be a conservative Christian, and proclaim the gospel (which is not popular), than make Christians look like mindless fools, like VenomFangX quite successfully did on Youtube. I think he had several ten-thousand subscribers on his channel.

    Fortunaly they forced him out of Youtube by treating him with criminal charges. Since that many other fundamentalists has also left Youtube. But all video responses are left documenting the disaster of their mission.

    You can actually be a Christian on Youtube without alienating people from Christianity. The persons I mentioned are good examples, but there are many others too. To me it seem they are mostly traditional Christians.

  51. I agree LaestadianInfo that there is a difference between doing the unpopular thing of preaching the Gospel and making Christians "look like mindless fools." I just think there are too many "Christians" who care too much about looking good to the world.