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June 28, 2016


It’s a problem of direction, motion, necessity, and contingency:

“….Is Jesus the only way to God? Many people struggle with this question….. But I found that we often frame this question backwards. Jesus isn’t the one and only way we go out into the universe to find God. Jesus is the unique and decisive way that God has come to us…… we all picture a bridge…. But a deeper problem [emerges]. A problem of direction. In this analogy we’re the ones trying to get to God and God’s the one running away. We want to leap across this grand canyon, this great divide, but God’s the one pushing back as hard as He can to get away from us. However, the Gospel moves in the other direction…..” “The Pursuing God”, by Joshua Ryan Butler. Excerpt from the introductory video clip at

It’s a problem of direction.

Jesus isn’t the one and only way we go out into the universe to find God.

Jesus is the unique and decisive way that God has come to us.

The Gospel moves in the other direction.

Miss it, miss that, miss the direction of motion, and the “only way” question becomes a metaphysical contradiction wholly unable to attend to something as RADICAL as the BRUTE CATEGORY chasm between the necessary and contingent. Miss it, miss that, miss the direction of motion, and thy “only way” question makes of *God* a *god* who is found to be far too delicate, far too small, far too under siege by His Own creations of time, circumstance, and physicality, a *god* not radical enough when it comes to reach and to power. Such just can’t do for the term *God*.

Get it, get that, and the “only way” question becomes the only genre of metaphysically lucidity where motion, direction, necessity, contingency, love, and love’s pouring to bitter ends of time and physicality are concerned.

I routinely answer questions like this saying there are only 3 ways of salvation. People save themselves; God and people combine efforts in salvation; or God alone saves people.

All of the world religions except the Christian require people to do something in order to save themselves. And even within the less pure forms of Christianity salvation is the result of God and people combining efforts.

So you can present salvation purely by Grace as an alternative to every other view, and say either it is true and all other versions of salvation by works are false. Or it is false and broad is the way.

That last paragraph corrected:

Get it, get that, and the “only way” question becomes the only genre of metaphysically lucidity where motion, direction, necessity, contingency, love, and love’s pouring to the bitter ends of time and physicality are concerned.

The question also jumps into the problem of whether or not our knowledge of God, and in fact (therefore) all knowledge is ultimately deflationary with respect to truth value. Wittgenstein and language games may emerge.....

I just talked to a friend about this sort of thing who is an agnostic. He believes in something but does not know what to believe. The issue is that all of these beliefs cannot all be right, because they are contradictory. In Hinduism and Buddhism, the goal is to quit being reborn. In Islam, the goal is to go to paradise. In atheism, there is no goal. In Christianity, the goal is to become resurrected from the dead. All these belief systems cannot all be right. They imply different things about reality, and therefore are completely contradictory. If you just use some simple logic, then you can't think that all religions or world views are true.

Furthermore, we don't believe in Christianity just because of a 'book'. That's incredibly silly and juvenile. If she believes that, then she has really missed Christianity. I would question how someone who is 'Christian' could say something so nonsensical.

Also, I find the claim highly dubious that 'all these people feel the same peace and assurance I do.' She needs to travel around and see what people are really like. Most people don't feel peace and assurance. The only ones I have ever met that do, for the most part, are Christians.

The best way to know spiritual truth is to try to live it. Clearly, the author never lived out her Christianity to the fullest. It sounds to me like it was just an idea in her mind's eye.

Part of the challenger's problem stems from the fact that she was trying to defend her position from a Roman Catholic apologetic, which lacks the epistemological foundation (Sola Ecclesia versus Sola Scriptura) to answer the postmodern contention.

The postmodern contention of the legitimacy of feeling over reason and/or revelation is answered the same basic way every time: you demonstrate its inherent incoherency. Then you demonstrate that is is reasonable for God to reveal himself which introduces an important epistemological category that the rationalists miss. (They lump revelation into the same category as experientialism.)

In this case, we can point to the fact that while some people may feel assured in their religious beliefs, Christians have an assurance that is not based on feeling. For this challenger, we can point out the fact that she appeals to "billions of people all over the world who reach out to all kinds of higher powers and forms of spiritual enlightenment all the time? And those people feel the same kind of assurance, peace, and goodness that I do?" Yet she admits that she lost her faith over this. Apparently, she didn't have a strong assurance to begin with. That begs the question whether she has the experiential or rational means to evaluate someone else's assurance. How does anyone know which assurance is sound unless they have the only true assurance given by authoritative revelation both in written form and through the eternal life given by the Spirit? So, on the one hand, the challenger is right in that she doesn't have what it takes to evaluate another person's assurance, but she's wrong in that she evaluates that there is no assurance that is true.

The only rational option for the challenger seems to be a kind of theological agnosticism. Or else this: it's all good, it's all "God". In other words, the core issue is one of drawing distinctions. If none can be made because of a problem with perception, maps, and truth, then a theological agnosticism will have to be defended. The only other road which avoids drawing distinctions is to embrace all the metaphysical baggage of pantheism(s), of the claim-making affair of "It's all good, it's all God".


[1] *God*

[2] The highest ethic maps to love, to Christ, to....

[3] The reach of neither [1] nor 2] are, or even can be, hostage to frail and mutable things, to time nor circumstance.

All motion reverses direction.

We arrive at the only genre of metaphysical lucidity with respect to motion, direction, necessity, contingency, love, and love’s pouring to the bitter ends of time and physicality.

Jim Pemberton,

Well stated.

I'm forever borrowing a phrase from you: The self-revealing God.

Very helpful.


Thanks. I can't claim to be the originator of that concept by far, but I'm glad to pass it on.

I've known two guys who seem to feel this way, and they were both brought up in Christian elementary school, Christian high school, and Christian college in addition to youth groups etc. One of them reportedly said something like, "I was a Christian when I was younger, then I met some non-Christians who were nice and I realized that I didn't need to be a Christian to be nice. Mind blown!"

Besides talking to this person, I think that parents who depend on institutions and structures to make their children into Christians make them vulnerable to this kind of weakness whenever their situation behaves like a "Christian bubble"... it's a bubble if you never realize that others live and work around you, and care about you, who don't believe in Jesus.


"it's a bubble if you never realize that others live and work around you, and care about you, who don't believe in Jesus."

I think the big difference shows up in how much these people care for their enemies and those they hate. If they exert the same effort on those they hate as they do on those they benefit from, then we might have something of substance. But I believe even most thinking themselves to be Christians are incapable of loving their enemies at this level, that is as Christ requires.


"I routinely answer questions like this saying there are only 3 ways of salvation. People save themselves; God and people combine efforts in salvation; or God alone saves people."

Well, Dave, you routinely mislead people.

Accepting a gift is not "combining efforts".

Child at Christmas: "Look, Daddy, at this gift I worked together with you to get me, because I am opening it!

Father: "Jimmy, did you get into my liquor cabinet?"

Goat Head 5,

Can you think of more than 3 possibilities?

Is your "accepting" a gift an act of self-righteousness. What happens if you do not accept the gift and God saves you anyway? -Just because he wants to?


Seriously? You think it will be fruitful? It took 50 comments just to get Dave to pull back from demanding a near confession of Calvinism *else* something was *missing* from the validity of the Salvific -- the soul's sonnet of Christ our all in all.

Don't you think there are better ways we can use this thread and it's (important) topic?

Just saying.


The bubble ESC alludes to is interesting in that *any* untraveled / under-exposed person is immediately hit by the inherent value and humanity of us all upon encountering it in contexts outside of his normative system. The non-theist who is, say, such an underexposed American may, upon such a punch in the face, such a startle, be tempted to question the concept of, say, democracy in some places and indeed it has happened.

But that immediate shock is just that -- the sighted realization of the inherent value of all human beings regardless of normative context. We are spying something through that startle which transcends the normative. Should our traveler trade on, say, his democracy for the warm and human worthiness seen within what sums to, say, the Hindue caste system? They laugh and sing after all....



Maybe not.

This is, that punch in the face is, that startle is, if we push it, actually *evidence* for something God-ward.

There is our own respective normative mindset.

And then there is that which first shatters it, and then transcends it.

With a little pause, a little reflection, this entire experience forces us, both through logic and through love, God-ward.


"ESC" referred to "ESCalifornia".

Moving on,

Having been forced God-ward, well then the entire nature of the supposed "problem"...... of that which so obviously shatters and transcends our respective normative constructs, becomes the only relevant locus of interest.

The only struggle one should have with Christianity is the amount of narcissism allowed.

No time for self-absorption, self-promotion, self-gratification. The constant theme of Scriptures is human meddling with the divine plan. Jeroboam I's "do-it-yourself" religion presented to be consistently remodeling itself to attract a wider base. Remodified Jehovah worship too restrictive. Allow Baalitic elements. No, allow Baal to remove the Jehovah base. Well, perhaps a synergistic compromise of different styles.

Jesus' Way, Truth, Life is firm. It doesn't need me to adjust the dials, reverse the spin, or rationalize something around those words. His faith is the challenge: deny self, take up cross, follow Him.

Anyone who does all these remarkably unnarcissic things probably has help from the Spirit. Those who fall by the wayside ... I don't know the individual issues. But "self" tends to get into the way.

And that includes one's "self" concept of what makes for "arrogant."


Well stated. Love's posture of "You and not I" defines so much of Christianity. If you think about it, as contingent beings we really can't think that (real) wholeness can ever (really) come by that posture's antithesis.

@SCB: >"demanding a near confession of Calvinism"

Are you trying to say it took great effort to get me to draw back from something I didn't do? "near confession" = absolutely nothing.

Interestingly, today's Renewing Your Mind features a mock debate between John Gerstner and RC Sproul (playing the devil's advocate) regarding the nature of revelation and speaks in part to this challenge.

Jessie: [H]ow arrogant I was, to think that my form of small-town Southern-Ontario Catholic Christianity was the only way that people could come to know God properly, when there are billions of people all over the world who reach out to all kinds of higher powers and forms of spiritual enlightenment all the time?

God: Err, but I did reveal myself in the Hebrew scriptures and in the apostolic writings, didn't I? In them, you will find propositional truths so you can come to know me and the world I have created.

Jessie: I can't have the nerve to say that these people were wrong because how they relate to their god is different than mine, when all I have to justify my belief is a book.

God: But I inspired the writing of the book. Why isn't it arrogant of you to reject the revelation of the God of the universe?

Jessie: I'm going to reject this notion of the God of the Bible and replace it with my own notion based on my feelings, just like everyone else does.

God: Sigh! you want to be your own God. Your ancestors Adam and Eve did the same thing. Genesis 3, here we go again.

It does seem to be a theme today if not this week on divine revelation. Desiring God's offering for today from John Piper deals with this as well.

I would need to do little more digging before I would want to answer this "challenge". The challenge is blatantly irrational, not in the sense that it doesn't hold water logically, but that it's entirely emotional. Other religions make you "feel the same kind of assurance, peace, and goodness" as Christianity so how can we call them "wrong"? It shows no desire to actually investigate if those feelings are based on anything actually True especially when it merely discounts the "book" and any truth claims it might make.

In other words this is exactly the kind of "challenge" that is thrown out as a smoke screen by someone who has already emotionally committed to ignore anything that might lead one to Truth. So I would want to dig a little deeper to see what the smoke screen is covering up.

I followed the link and read the whole, incredibly sad story of this girl's journey. How one tragic, awful experience (she was sexually assaulted) metastasized into guilt and doubt, and how nobody around her seemed to be able to answer her questions. How could they? She never articulated them or told anyone about her assault, or the guilt she felt even though she was the victim, or the anger she felt toward God for not somehow stopping the guy - guilt and anger she never really seeks healing for or recovers from and that you can still see simmering beneath the text of her whole article. She tells how her doubt grew, but there doesn't seem to be much actual search for truth in her journey, mostly repulsion at what she perceives as hypocrisy and the hostility she experienced when she finally expressed her doubts.

Her article begins by talking about her journey into faith, and you see that she became a Christian because of how being accepted by her youth leader as a shy, insecure, bookish girl made her feel (not because of what she believed). She talks about her activity and ministry and how it made her feel good. She doesn't talk about what she learned about God. She never talks about whether or not Jesus really rose from the dead. She doesn't talk about what she thought or what she was taught. She equates her feelings and her activity as "zealousness" rather than a commitment to what she believed making her zealous. She doesn't seem to think much about God or Truth until she starts doubting because when she saw petty people in the church, and conflicts between different theological traditions it made her feel uncomfortable or angry.

But she doesn't seem to explore those theological differences to see why they exist or investigate which might reflect the truth more accurately. She is simply turned off by the existence of the conflicts and lets it increase her levels of doubt. She doesn't consider that the petty and imperfect people she considers hypocrites are really masking all the same kinds of doubt and guilt she was masking while they were tearing her apart. Or maybe she does and simply ascribes to them a measure of her own hypocrisy.

In the end her issues seem to sum up thus (similar to the attitudes a few other ex-Christians I know): the Church and/or God don't live up to her expectations and that leads to an emotional rejection (God, if you let this happen, if the church has selfish people in it, I don't like you anymore). All the "objections" are just excuses to justify the emotion. Because there never seems to be all that deep an exploration of those objections. (And if someone does address the objections, there are always more "objections".) But it's part and parcel with the fact that her reasons for "becoming" a Christian were all emotional in the first place. It wasn't true because it was True, she wanted it to be true because, at first, it made her feel good. When Christianity stopped making her feel good, she stopped wanting it to be true. In the end she realizes that she doesn't really love God anymore, but, reading her testimony, it's hard to really say if she every really believed in God to begin with. In fact, she says as much in her article.

Underexposed travelers and the startle of spying that which transcends all normative constructs, as alluded to earlier:

An excerpt from the introduction to Nancy Pearcey’s, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes:

“For many journeying through the twenty-first century, losing “faith” and saying good-bye to empty answers may be key to finding livable solutions to the great questions of life. Finding Truth articulates a rationale and a strategy to critically evaluate the possible answers to the big questions of life and to seek solutions that reconnect our deepest longings with our highest aspirations. Offered here is a humanizing unity of fact and meaning that open-minded people can consider and discuss, test and examine, and then actualize with integrity across the whole of life. This is good-bye to privatized religion and hello to a knowable and verifiable God. It is holistic trust grounded in the facts of life. A wise traveler who goes off course retraces his steps to get back on track. So let there be no doubt among atheists, hymnists, and others on the journey of life: To be human is to write, to compose, to create, and to dream. So is to think, to test, and to know why. Now in Finding Truth you have a guide to help show the way. (—J. RICHARD PEARCEY)

Then it opens with part one:

“I Lost My Faith at an Evangelical College”

Tracking and mapping the *startle* and traveling beyond all normative constructs:

An interesting journey is where E. Feser describes his journey out of Atheism.

A brief excerpt:

“As Plotinus’s remark indicates, that does not mean that the will does not have a role to play. But that is true wherever reason leads us to a conclusion we might not like, not merely in matters of religion. And once you have allowed yourself to see the truth that reason leads you to, what reason apprehends is (given the convertibility of the transcendentals) as good and beautiful as it is real. If you find yourself intellectually convinced that there is a divine Uncaused Cause who sustains the world and you in being at every instant, and don’t find this conclusion extremely strange and moving, something that leads you to a kind of reverence, then I daresay you haven’t understood it. Of course, there are those whose heads and hearts are so out of sync that they cannot follow both at the same time. But we shouldn’t mistake this pathology for an insight into human nature……

…..Speaking for myself, anyway, I can say this much. When I was an undergrad I came across the saying that learning a little philosophy leads you away from God, but learning a lot of philosophy leads you back. As a young man who had learned a little philosophy, I scoffed. But in later years and at least in my own case, I would come to see that it’s true.”

A little more traveling as John Wright describes his own conversion. A brief and slightly [edited] paraphrase:

“My conversion was in two parts: a natural part and a supernatural part.

Here is the natural part: first, over a period of two years my hatred toward Christianity eroded due to my philosophical inquiries.

Rest assured, I take the logical process of philosophy very seriously, and I am impatient with anyone who is not a rigorous and trained thinker. Reason is the tool men use to determine if their statements about reality are valid: there is no other. Those who do not or cannot reason are little better than slaves, because their lives are controlled by the ideas of other men, ideas they have not examined.

To my surprise and alarm, I found that, step by step, logic drove me to conclusions no modern philosophy shared, but only this ancient and (as I saw it then) corrupt and superstitious foolery called [Christianity]. Each time I followed the argument fearlessly where it lead, it kept leading me, one remorseless rational step at a time, to a position [Christianity] had been maintaining….. That haunted me….”

Mapping the underexposed travel’s *startle* (…..that sudden and sighted realization of the inherent value of all human beings regardless of normative context – by which and through which the traveler is spying something which transcends all cultural ambiance…) beyond all normative constructs is a peculiar occupation and one best left to the hounds of reason, logic, and love.

ESC thank you for your comments earlier, very helpful concepts in the proverbial "Bubble" you described....


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