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Defending the Faith: When it comes to religious differences, first show charity, then get charity

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  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Jan. 24, 2013 10:50 a.m.

    Excellent article (and my praise for articles by Dr. Peterson is rare).

    Christians (and the Religious Right especially) could use a heavy and sustained dose of articles like this. Their foray into politics the last few decades has been particularly distasteful, as is their patronage of media figures & outlets that are “carried away with headlong anger, or be seized with hatred, or burn with implacable severity."

    Ubiquitous has been the tendency to "to put the best possible interpretation on our own motives and the worst possible interpretation on the motives of the people we want to attack." People on all sides need to recognize this natural tendency and focus a bit more on facts and truth as opposed to simply winning the argument at all costs.

    Getting back to the core teachings of Jesus coupled with rewarding politicians who bring out the “better angels of our nature” would go a long way towards bringing Americans closer together.

    PS – the mea culpa made by Professor Mouw in 2004 brought a tear to my eye. That must have been quite something to witness in person.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    Jan. 24, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    I suspect that Professor Peterson would want to observe that the Left, too, has brought religion into politics (since at least the days of the Civil Rights, antiwar, and sanctuary movements), and that anger is no monopoly of the Religious Right.

    It can't be in the spirit of what Peterson wrote, surely, for one side to seize upon it and use it to point an accusing finger at the other, saying "See! They're bad! They need to repent!" as if there weren't plenty of fault on all sides.

    And it's not only about religious people, either. Secularists aren't always models of saintly and charitable behavior. No faction has much of a basis to feel smugly superior here.

  • Kazbert VAIL, AZ
    Jan. 24, 2013 12:03 p.m.

    If during a disagreement you feel anger, you can be sure that anger was not inspired within you by God.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Jan. 24, 2013 12:19 p.m.

    @When it comes to religious differences, first show charity, then get charity’ When it comes to religious differences, Drawing on his own theological tradition(Reformed), Mouw cites John Calvin's.
    The Synod of Dordt reaffirmed Reformed doctrine on the five points: 1. total depravity, 2.unconditional election, 3. limited atonement, 4. irresistible grace, and 5. the perseverance of saints. These became the five pillars of Reformed Orthodoxy remembered by many theology students and those in catechesis classes by the acronym "TULIP" Calvinism Compared to Wesleyan Perspectives, which are in the “pale” of Christianity.

    Article 1 - Since all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and are deserving of eternal death, God would have done no injustice by leaving them all to perish and delivering them over to condemnation on account of sin, according to the words of the apostle, Romans 3: 23 "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.

    RE: Tyler D ,back to the core teachings of Jesus. Jesus said, ‘For this reason a Man will leave his father and mother and be united to his Wife, and the two will become one flesh(Mt 19:5)

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Jan. 24, 2013 1:00 p.m.

    Verdad wrote:

    "And it's not only about religious people, either. Secularists aren't always models of saintly and charitable behavior."

    As an atheist, I am under no moral or religious obligation to pretend to "saintly and charitable behavior" the way believers do.

    John 8:46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    Jan. 24, 2013 1:44 p.m.

    A Scientist

    Irrespective of the cultural bias inherent in the labels we use, we are all under the human obligation to behave well toward one another, no?

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Jan. 24, 2013 1:47 p.m.

    Mistaking self-righteousness for righteousness can trip up anyone and it trips up all of us, more often that we like to consider. That’s the deeper lesson of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan which was meant for Jews who deemed Samaritans their inferiors. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” Jesus often said in his teachings.

    Treat all men justly.

    Treat others the way you want to be treated.

    The way we judge others is the way they will be most inclined to judge us.

    The most important things Jesus taught are often the ones we find easiest to disregard.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Jan. 24, 2013 3:07 p.m.

    @Verdad – “No faction has much of a basis to feel smugly superior here.”

    Point taken… although I would argue that on the Left we’re more likely to hear the talk of empathetic hand wringers meant to tug on heartstring. The Right may not have a 100% monopoly on anger, but let’s not pretend the measure is close to equal.

    @ sharrona – “Jesus said, ‘For this reason a Man will leave his father and mother and be united to his Wife, and the two will become one flesh(Mt 19:5)”

    Huh?

    As for your quote about original sin, again, huh? What point(s) are you trying to make?

    But I’m not big on the doctrine of original sin. The notion that I’m born wicked (by the virtue of the fact that I cried for breast milk?), and am responsible for something someone did eons ago doesn’t square with any ethics I can wrap my head around. [And by the way, quoting scripture has never, ever won an argument – you’re either preaching to the choir (literally) or you’re babbling nonsense to the unindoctrinated. If you wish to make a moral argument, please, just make it.]

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Jan. 24, 2013 4:23 p.m.

    Good article.

    Right or wrong, i hold people who claim they are religious, believe in God, and profess to follow Christ to a higher standard than those who make no such claim.

    Demonization of opponents by the "religious" is now acceptable. Lying by the "religious" is now acceptable in political campaigns. Listening to hate TV/radio is now the choice of the "religious."

    It is creeping into worship services. While many of the "religious" look outwards at the world's corruption, they are unaware of the corruption and evil filing into the church with the pious. Like the Pharisees, they will become the impediment to others coming unto Christ.....

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Jan. 24, 2013 4:58 p.m.

    “If we have to give up either religion or education, we should give up education.”
    - William Jennings Bryan
    ______________________________

    Surprising quote from a Christian fundamentalist whose voice did more than anyone else’s to shape the Democratic Party’s social conscience that would define the party and its policies in 20th century. A right wing preacher today who said that would sure have the Internet blogs abuzz with vitriol.

    Anger can team up with either Left or Right depending on which social norms are at the center of controversy. A century and half ago, angry Northern preachers were among the most strident abolitionists. Stranger still is how Puritans who fled England's religious oppression would create in the New World a society every bit as intolerant, especially when it came to Quakers.

  • Fred "Mr. IT" Anson Lake Forest, CA
    Jan. 24, 2013 7:12 p.m.

    The same Bible that Mr. Peterson also says:

    "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly CONTEND for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."
    -- Jude 1:3 (KJV)

    "...we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God WITH MUCH CONTENTION.

    For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

    But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."
    -- I Thessalonians 2:2-4 (KJV)

    And, it's good to know that that angry that Christ felt when he was disagreeing with the money changers (Mark 11:15–19, 11:27–33, Matthew 21:12–17, 21:23–27, Luke 19:45–48, 20:1–8, John 2:13–16) wasn't from God.
    (tongue firmly in cheek)

  • KinCO Fort Collins, CO
    Jan. 25, 2013 7:32 a.m.

    Interesting to see the self-justification in so many of these comments.

    Thank you for a very insightful article. I was particularly struck by what should be obvious to us--"we have a natural and worrisome tendency 'to put the best possible interpretation on our own motives and the worst possible interpretation on the people we want to attack'." Very well-said, and so very true--as the comments on this article so clearly attest. Thanks for the food for thought.

  • A Scientist Provo, UT
    Jan. 25, 2013 9:56 a.m.

    Twin Lights wrote:

    "Irrespective of the cultural bias inherent in the labels we use, we are all under the human obligation to behave well toward one another, no?"

    Yes, an obligation deriving directly from our inherent humanity - which has nothing to do with "saintly and charitable behavior"; has nothing to do with the US being "a Christian nation"; or any of the other balderdash being spewed by those who honestly believe that anyone who does not have "the fullness of the gospel" cannot possibly be a good person.

    I do not attack people. I attack ideas. And the ideas of religion are the most deserving of attack of extant ideas these days.

  • sigmund5 Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 25, 2013 10:58 a.m.

    Given that Peterson was fired from FAIR for being a bully and rude this is interesting...

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Jan. 25, 2013 11:27 a.m.

    A Scientist,

    “….or any of the other balderdash being spewed by those who honestly believe that anyone who does not have "the fullness of the gospel" cannot possibly be a good person.”
    ______________________________

    That’s precisely the point being argued here by many from diverse points of view. I, for example, am a liberal Christian who doesn’t believe that a person’s religious leanings are a meaningful indicator of what kind of a human being he or she is.

    Among the attributes I’ve come to appreciate in Jesus through his teachings is that he understood human nature all too well. Teaching followers to forgive each other is no trite admonition to one more given to carrying a grudge over some injury, insult, or petty slight, and who then continues to brood over it, sometimes for years anticipating the day when an opportunity finally comes to really tell that guy off.

    Over the long haul, it hurts the grudge carrier more than it hurts the one he believes has trespassed against him.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Jan. 25, 2013 12:20 p.m.

    RE: Tyler D, As for your quote about original sin, again, huh? What point(s) are you trying to make?
    A Contrast between Mouw’s Reformed(Christian) theology to Mormonism Pelagianism, the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special Divine aid. This is still sometimes called Limited Depravity. Thus, Adam's sin actions did not have the other consequences imputed to original sin.

    RE: Craig Clark, Some *attributes of Jesus: *Love=(Jesus)is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres(1 Cor 13:4-8 NIV).

    Be Ye Perfect (Mt 5:48),Jesus sets up a high example of perfect)love(agape)(see vv. 43-47)
    God does not grade on a curve He expects 100%.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Jan. 25, 2013 12:25 p.m.

    No one is immune from the difficulties of life. No one is immune from saying they are right or they are wrong. That all comes to us. However, everyone is born with the light of Christ whether one wants to believe it or not. It is that light of Christ that is in each one of us that allows us to feel empathy, sympathy and charity to a fellow human being. It is selfishness if one says I don't have to give because I don't believe but I can guarantee you that same person would give a person a ride, a hand up if they've fallen because they feel the need to do so. Why, because it is the light of Christ in each one of us. You don't have to be over religious to be a good person, but you do need to know that no one is compelled to do good either. A religious person doesn't give charity because it is right or a non-religious doesn't give charity because some one tells them to. In the end everyone does what makes them feel good when they do.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    Jan. 25, 2013 1:17 p.m.

    Sharonna,

    "Be Ye Perfect (Mt 5:48),Jesus sets up a high example of perfect)love(agape)(see vv. 43-47)
    God does not grade on a curve He expects 100%."
    ______________________________

    I give God more credit than Christian fundamentalism seems to. It's demeaning to Jesus to turn his life into a rescue mission for the human race when God could simply declare a general amnesty for all. But Paul and others tried to salvage something from Jesus' crucifixion by giving it a makeover into a successful mission of salvation. I'm not sure that if Jesus and Paul had been contemporaries that they would have seen eye to eye on much of anything. But in the end, it was Paul who appropriated the message with his own spin which came out on top.

    Free from the law!
    Oh, happy condition!
    I can sin as I please,
    and still have remission!

  • Fred "Mr. IT" Anson Lake Forest, CA
    Jan. 25, 2013 2:08 p.m.

    Upon reflection I can't decide which irony in this article is more interesting:

    1) The article coming from an author whose apologetics career has been the utter antithesis of what's advocated therein, or;

    2) The author praising someone who issued a public apology on behalf of those who:
    a) didn't authorize or appoint him their spokesman, and;
    b) who didn't review, approve the content the apology before he gave it.

    Indeed, Richard J. Mouw can apologize publicly for himself all that he likes, however doing so for others without their foreknowledge and consent is rude, insensitive, and disrespectful - again, the very opposite of what this article is about!

    Never-the-less, the sentiment expressed in the article is lovely, profound, and articulate - one can only hope that going forward both the author and Dr. Mouw will begin to practice the principles expressed so nicely in it.

    @KinCO, accusing others of "self-justification" presumes motive - perhaps going forward you should ask rather than tell. Thanks.

  • daveinsouthflorida Boca Raton, FL
    Jan. 25, 2013 2:11 p.m.

    As an evangelical Christians I can assure you Richard Mouw doesn't speak for me, nor does he speak for scores of other evangelicals I have spoken to about this issue. I have made lots of mistakes in my 41 years of Christian outreach to the LDS, but I do not believe I have misrepresented their beliefs and/or practices! I have been more than diligent in my study of Latter-day Saint theology, including online study at BYU. In defense of the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ against Mormonism, I do not believe I or any other evangelical I know has anything to apologize for. Indeed, Mr. Mouw speaks only for himself.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Jan. 25, 2013 3:12 p.m.

    @ sharrona

    Interesting… I like this Pelagius guy.

    Still, when I read theology and apologetics I can’t help but have the distinct feeling that whenever a smart person comes along and pokes a big hole in a particular doctrine, the institution behind that doctrine just shuffles the shells around a little or moves the goal posts (i.e., gets a new “revelation”) such that it all still kinda, sorta works. Which of course raises two big questions – if all this stuff comes from God (or is at a minimum God inspired), why:

    1.Are there so many churches and beliefs that are contradictory, and

    2.Why can’t God just give it to us straight (the 1st time) in a manner that is immune to challenge, impervious to logic and reason, and stands the test of time?

    I’m sorry sharrona, I like the ethical teachings of Jesus, but when I read/listen to religious people quoting scripture and discussing doctrine, it all sounds to me like two kids talking about the relative merits of Batman vs. Superman.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Jan. 25, 2013 5:55 p.m.

    RE Craig Clark ,God could simply declare a general amnesty for all.

    The attributes of God cannot be considered in isolation from each other. God isn’t merciful on Monday and Tuesdays wise on Wednesday and Thursday, and just on Fridays and Saturdays. He is all these things all the time.
    God’s mercy and His justice are both involved in the redemption of humanity. God’s mercy wants to redeem us in the first place but His justice determines the way in which he redeems. Both mercy and justice are involved in redemption, but they are involved in different ways, Neither God’s mercy nor justice are suspended, they are both in operation. If God just declared that sin was forgiven , his mercy would be satisfied, but what about justice. God’s dislike for sin would be comprised.

    St.Anselm argued the perfect solution God becomes man.(John 1:1-4,14)(1Tim 3:16.)

    @ Tyler D, Why Are there so many churches. The invisible (eklek)church know and trust in Jesus.
    … you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I(ego)am(eimi)=(God)..(John 8:24)

  • Wally West SLC, UT
    Jan. 25, 2013 9:14 p.m.

    re: Craig Clark 1:17 p.m. Jan. 25, 2013

    Agreed.

    Though, I often wonder about Constantine and the Nicaean Council who culminated Paul's crusade (Yeah. I said it.) and made what is now mainstream Christianity into a hierarchical structure based on salvation by obedience rather than tenets found in Deism & Gnosticism?

  • Hank Pym SLC, UT
    Jan. 26, 2013 11:34 a.m.

    at sharrona 5:55 p.m. Jan. 25, 2013

    Why so many churches? Good question.

    Churches/Organized religion are man made. Therefore, it should be obvious as to why?

  • RedWings CLEARFIELD, UT
    Jan. 28, 2013 12:30 p.m.

    Tyler D:

    Let me take a shot at the two questions from your post:

    1) There are so many differing sects and religions because of changes to the original doctrines by the "hands of men". Example: The Anglican Church exists because Henry VIII wanted a divorce and the Pope denied it. I believe that there was a lot of "reformation" that went on until finally God "restored" His doctrines through revelation to Joseph Smith in 1830.

    2) God does not and will not give us answers that are so straighforward because then there would be no need for Faith. Example: In the LDS religion, if the Golden Plates were on display, or if there were pictures from the Sacred Grove, everyone would be LDS and Faith would be removed from religion. Faith, or "belief in something that is hoped for, but not seen" MUST be the cornerstone of anyone's religious beliefs.

    Religion is a subjective truth, not an objective one.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Jan. 28, 2013 3:09 p.m.

    @ RedWings – “Religion is a subjective truth, not an objective one.”

    That’s an excellent (and I think correct) point. Now if religious people in general would recognize that fact, many of the problems with religion would go away. But the sad fact is most don’t. They continue to believe their revelations, sacred books, and other spiritual “ways of knowing” tell us facts about the objective world. And to those who believe this way, I have two questions that in all my years of asking, I have never heard an answer that supports their views.

    1.Name a fact about the natural (objective) world in which a scientific explanation was later supplanted by a religious explanation. Answer (of course) is none.
    2.Name a fact about the natural world in which a religious explanation was later supplanted by a scientific one. Answer = virtually countless…

    I’ll add that these questions in no way should imply that science has all the answers. Heck, science (in terms of geologic time) is in its infancy.

    So as you said, religion really is a matter of faith.