XH and Me

I throw tons of traffic XH’s way (or as much as I get) and read everything he writes because the guy has some serious brains. It’s also because I can relate to him on many, many levels. What started out as a connection of experiences with wives who didn’t seem to like sex has branched off into other areas, especially theology and Christianity. XH and I also share some very key personality aspects such as being analytical and deep-thinking. We also share some of the less glamorous personality traits that feed into a couple of his most recent posts.

I sort of felt that his “Problem of Self” post was an oblique reference to things I’ve been writing about differentiation. I had serious thoughts about ginning up a serious reply/rebuttal but couldn’t think of a good reason to do it other than mental masturbation. His latest post about his quest for intimacy with his wife, tho, does move us past that. That is because he knows, and I know and he knows that I know he knows that I know that this has some serious spiritual underpinnings.

Intimacy is something God desires with us. God created intimacy because of His own deep, deep capacity for it. God feels stuff. God created us in His image, and put His essence into us. We are created to love intimately. When one knows another, in the Biblical sense, it is more than simply interlocking parts and exchanging bodily fluids. It is about intimacy. I give XH some props for figuring this out in his 30’s instead of his 40’s, like me.

In the comments to the intimacy post (the “self” post didn’t have many, much to XH’s chagrin) Desmond offers a bit of generous criticism of XH’s ways. Namely the condescending and arrogant ways. I’m going to build on that a bit.

My first ever blog was Sensual Dementia which had a little tagline that said something like “Thoughts from a condescending prick of a husband.” That label was pinned on me when I lived in the iVillage, and I resented it at first but ended up totally embracing it. That label was given to me by none other than Satan! To be perfectly honest I was a condescending prick. I still have a lot of that prick within me that comes out often enough. This is one reason why XH has a capacity to rile me in ways few other bloggers can. It takes a prick to really appreciate the prickishness of another one! XH and I connect in a wierd sense of similarity and commonality but we also have some sharp differences of opinion. Our capacity to get along and be civil to each other hinges on our ability to handle those differences. I have to be able to recognize that despite our eerie similarities, we are different people. We are not the same and it is entirely possible that two intelligent people can look at the exact same thing and come to entirely different conclusions. That is a very important key, here. So even though I don’t see eye-to-eye with him on all of his theology, we can still get along without getting all flamey. It’s not as easy as the rest of you might think. I have a natural penchant for flaming and used to use it on Usenet all the time. Alt.flame could be a pretty fun place. I give him some credit for helping me grow out of that a bit more. I don’t have to respond to what he says if I don’t want to; I can walk away.

In XH’s particular denomination there is an emphasis on uniformity which they incorrectly define as unity. However XH has differentiated himself from his denomination in some very significant areas, namely with his sense of history and his take on creeds He also has maybe a half dozen other areas where he might not agree with the original founders. He’s opinionated to an extreme and isn’t too afraid to throw those opinions out.

So what does this have to do with why his wife won’t trust him with her feelings?

Everything. I know this because I can now see the sort of damage I’ve done in my own marriage by carrying on in exactly the same way. This goes beyond pop psychology, but into reality. And I’m all about reality.

XH’s blog relationships can serve as a bit of a model for what is happening in real life. The first time I handed him some criticism, he turned off his comments, flushed his blogroll and got royally pissed. I was seriously worried he might go dark over it! But given more time to think, he reconsidered.

Why did he do all that? It’s because he was hurt and he didn’t want to be hurt again. He still doesn’t want to be hurt again so he has taken another tact tthat I know really, really well because I’ve used it more than once.

In his Intimacy post, XH mentions his feelings about his wife’s particular intellect which I thought was gutsy. It was that point where a few people might take exception. And we can see how he does this in the blog world.

When it comes to theology and religion, XH looms very, very large. He knows the Bible, Bible history and Christian history probably better than anyone else around the neighborhood. He’s an intellectual heavy weight and this is how he fends off attacks. I’m sure this is not a conscious decision, but I feel pretty confident that it works. I’ve gotten more than one private email from people who are cautious about commenting on a religious post because their ideas might get him riled up. They are afraid to challenge him and afraid of being challenged by him. I admit that I often measure my words against the thoughts and response of an opinionated and zealous XH, who is passionate about his faith.

Thing is, I have the exact same problem. Not just with my wife but with other members of my family. Over the holidays, my mother shared that my brother and sister are often afraid of my intellectual sharpness. My words have the ability to cut deeper than I ever realized. It’s not about being abrupt, rude and vindictive so much as it is about being careless and casual. Like XH, I often assume people know things that I know and see things as I see them. When they don’t, I act surprised because I am surprised! I’m not intentionally trying to be mean or make others feel small and stupid, but it surely happens all the time. People get around me they feel really dumb. And sometimes I really do think some people I’m around are really dumb.

While it isn’t overt, it really does function as a defense mechanism. The best defense is a good offense, and having a razor intellect and whip-like tongue can mask a lot of insecurities and other psychological deficiencies. This is why XH’s theological posts get very few comments while posts on his relationships garner so many. In his relationship posts, we are all on equal ground. He shows his weaknesses with honesty and others see his vulnerability and jump in. Not with accusations or flames but with support. Spiritually, he does have an arrogant swagger. Emotionally, he’s like the rest of us. If he wants more comments on his theological posts, he should quit being a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass. Show a bit of vulnerability there, quit acting like the fellow with all the answers and stop sounding like a pharisee. Find a theological question he doesn’t know the answer to and ask others about it.

All of the above only apply if he wants comments or friendly responses. Otherwise, a body writes and puts stuff out there regardless. I’ve got a butt load of posts about psychology on the Blogger version of UA that have few or no comments. I just like having them there and sometimes people come ’round years later and comment. While I like comments, I’m okay not getting them on every post. I just move on. Stepmania post, anyone?

So let’s get back to “self” for a minute and talk about how that fits in to this whole thing.

Like XH, I also see much of psychology having a very “selfish” orientation. Within the Freudian Psychodynamic perspective, it’s all about a person’s past unresolved conflicts. No room for God there. With the cognitive perspective, it is our own false beliefs and irrational thoughts that make things get unglued. With behaviorism, it is all about contingencies of reinforcement. None of the psychological perspectives have any acknowledgement whatsoever of sin and the need for redemption and salvation. No need of a Savior or an acknowledgement of God. It’s all about healing ourselves and becoming our own little god and saving ourselves from our own misery..

That’s not to say there are no truths in psychology. Studying it can be very beneficial in understanding human behaviors and emotions. But relying too much on it can result in losing perspective. The science of emotion and behavior is a worthwhile subject of study but not to the exclusion of others. I get where XH’s suspicions come from. I share much of his skepticism. But differentiation is not the same as individualism or existentialism. It has some similar ideas but isn’t married to a human construct of godlessness.

The problem XH has with his wife is derived from his problems with God. The lack of intimacy he shares with his wife is a mirror of the lack of intimacy with God. Both reflect a poor understanding of differentiation, nevermind its application. And keep in mind, XH and I share a similar psychopathology. We both want intimacy but we’re doing stuff that shoots us in the foot. It was by looking at how XH was coming across that made me realize where I was doing the same sort of stuff. Much of it has to do with being arrogant and being a condescending prick. Even if I don’t mean to be, I need to be more measured and conscious of what I’m doing and saying. I need to take some ownership of my own intellect and then realize that it really isn’t all that. In a sense, XH handing me my rhetorical ass on a plate has been instructive.

Being intimate with God means working past the tendency we have of see God as a being who is constantly and forever offended by everything we do. We do a lot of offensive things, to be sure. However we’re not going to get anywhere if we are forever on guard about offending Him. Who wants to walk on egg shells 24/7? This is how XH’s wife, Z, feels about XH. She can not open up to him because he will find fault with what she says and does. He will become self righteous in defending the faith. She isn’t allowed to have her own individual preferences without risking offense so she puts up her own defense. An intellectual defense against XH would take a lot of energy as he’s so formidable that way. So she uses an emotional one which is working exceedingly well.

Differentiation is about realizing that two married people are not in the same boat. They are still in separate boats, trying to act like they are in one. When someone else tries to steer my boat, they are being controlling and manipulative. When I’m steering both boats it is called togetherness, cooperation and unity! Invoking that whole Biblical submission theology is going to reap a cold dryness that will rival any polar ice cap in the solar system. You can not compel and force authentic intimacy by rules, force, intimidation, threats or any other way.

XH has all the mechanical elements of a fulfilling sex life. By any objective measure, he should be thrilled! He has frequency, he has techniques, he has a variety of activities and a wife who swallows. What the hell is he complaining about? He’s not getting intimacy. One can get all the sexual activity requirements from any hooker, but intimacy is something that can’t be purchased at any price. It is only bought at the expense of self, but not quite the way XH would have us believe in his “self” post.

There is a paradox coming up, and I know some people are going to have a problem with it. Rule-based people who are rigid get very constipated when there is a paradox lounging around. But here it is…

You are only going to be able to connect intimately with another when you are properly differentiated. The level of intimacy one has is directly proportional to the ability to deal emotionally with the differences. If one goes ape shit over some little issue like theology, how can I trust them with my heart? I can say the stuff I do here because I’m anonymous. But how do you stay anonymous in a relationship like marriage? You can’t do it. You can try to create emotional distance but the other person will know you more than you want over time. So you try to deal with differences by trying to eliminate them or acting like they don’t exist. Emotional fusion is when we try to eliminate differences through uniformity. We insist on conforming tothe standard. Whose standard? Well, the man’s standard of course! That’s because he’s conforming to God’s standard, which is the Bible! So we need to squash and press out any differences so that we are a nice, smooth, uniformly united couple. It’s a struggle to maintain that facade while we’re at church and I’ve met a few couples that couldn’t do it. Or wouldn’t. Now imagine keeping the hot iron on every day all day.

Differentiation is about allowing the other person to have their own feelings and opinions without feeling threatened and anxious. XH gets his panties in a wad when I write something he sees as rifled with theological errors. Actually it’s probably not true emotionally, but intellectually he feels compelled to correct the error which he does thoroughly and completely. Which compels me to fix his errors! All done in love, right? It’s no way to run a marriage. Or at least a happy marriage.

Thing is, Z isn’t all that different from XH. We always pick someone with whome we are evenly matched. Z does have some sharpness of her own that was demonstrated all too briefly on her own blog. Just look at the title of it! There is a synergy there that is actually inhibiting their intimacy. Two people with their own unique brand of arrogance and condescension trying to live together. They have amazingly pulled this off but the price has been their intimacy. When their intimacy increases their arrogance will suffer. Not a bad thing but they will suffer for it.

This last paragraph is a real tail twister, because it sets up a bit of a dilemma for XH. I stuck it in there as a manifestation of my own sadistic nature, which oddly enough is covered in the next chapter in Schnarch’s book about the two choice dilemma and marital sadism.

I might extend this post out later but let’s see where it goes on its own.

D.

That didn’t take long.

While musing about the Christian Husband (XH for those who have yet to figure it out) thing I had another thought that plays directly to his “Self” post.

A while back there was some sort of meme going around and it asked something like “Could you live with a replica/copy/clone of yourself?” My answer to that is a definitive NO! I know this only because I see XH as my evil twin and he is bad enough as it is without being an exact copy. In our little community, he and I get into spats as much as anyone else. While this disturbs people in our peaceful, virtual Utopian world, I see that it is kind of necessary.

At the risk of blunting my sadistic side shown above, I have to say I’ve learned a thing or two about self growth through these heated exchanges. I’ve had to confront my less angelic side as well as acknowledge that it isn’t all bad. Using XH as a sort of reflection, I can say that I don’t like myself very much. I don’t like upsetting myself, I don’t like it when I make myself angry and I don’t like it when I see myself upsetting other people. I don’t like my pride and arrogance. I don’t like my condescending prickish self. I really, really loathe all that. But here’s the fact jack: I have to live with myself. I can avoid and move away from every other person on the planet except myself. My own sinful nature is right there, all the time, 24/7. Pretending it isn’t there means I end up fobbing off all my faults and insecurities on to other people. I cause pain to other people. I treat other people like livestock because I’m not dealing with my issues.

For example, there is the smoking issue. Bad, bad, bad, bad. Not much good about it. Except I like it and it helps medicate my pain and anxiety. That excuse of self medicating is a crutch I use to avoid dealing with my own shit. I blame Arwyn for causing my anxiety and thus my smoking. Arwyn hates my smoking. But I smoked before we were married, so she knew she was marrying a smoker. She had regular sex with a smoker: me. She refused to have sex with me when I stopped smoking. Smoking isn’t her issue. It’s mine. And I gotta deal with it without blaming her for it. I smoked before I met her and would continue if she left me today, using that anxiety as an excuse.

I’m confronting things on a lot of levels at the moment that I might rather not. But the conflicts are what have been driving me. Differentiation is a matter of introspection and integrity and not about selfishness. Denial and selfishness are all about fusion, manipulation and control of others. Whenever we try to become fused together through uniformity it is always at the expense of others. Insisting that others are fools for not using andouille sausage is a lot like insisting that others are fools for playing DDR instead of Stepmania. It basically involves an incursion into other people’s preferences and business. While it references their incompetence it also puts us into a corner where just about anything anyone else does calls into question our own integrity.

Uniformity is insisted upon in the military for a reason. It’s because we need to be exactly the same in order to accomplish a single unique mission: to kill other people before they kill us. Not exactly a model for Christian or marital unity.

D.

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31 Responses to “XH and Me”

  1. Trueself Says:

    Thank you Digger. First of all, thanks for the long post that gave me something to do on an otherwise boring and dreary Sunday afternoon. Second, thanks for a quite illuminating post that helped me understand just why it is that XH bugs me so much. I think it’ll make it easier for me not to get so riled up by him. I find it interesting that you see a lot of yourself in XH. I can only believe that you have evolved somewhat because I don’t find you very annoying at all. A little, sometimes, but rarely. 😉

  2. Digger Jones Says:

    Thanks for not being annoyed at me, Trueself! And glad I could help pass the time! When we get annoyed at people it’s always an opportunity to look at ourselves and ask ourselves why this particular person annoys us. Okay, some people seem to be inherently annoying but how we react is always our own choice involving our own issues. When XH opens up, he’s amazingly good and accessible. When he closes off he gets rather prickly, but it’s not fair to expect him to not do that. Hopefully I’ve grown a bit in the past 10 years, which I’m guessing is about how much older I am than him. But he’s actually ahead of me in the growth cycle compared to where I was back then, so I can’t talk much.

    which doesn’t mean I won’t!;-)

    D.

  3. snow66 Says:

    Your recent posts show a lot more empathy and honest vulnerability than came across in your infamous =) Top 10 List (which was my introduction to your writing). I’m curious if after reading Schnarch and your subsequent introspection, do you think you would write the same list the same way with the same tone?

  4. Desmond Jones Says:

    Well, Digger, can I say that our young friend also reminds me a lot of my own younger self?

    You ever have a teacher write a comment on your report card to the effect that you’d do well to be a good deal more tolerant of people less gifted than you? Yeah (raising hand). . .

  5. Xian Husband Says:

    Holy crap. Not at all what I was expecting when I wandered over here this morning.

    Geez, where to start?

    First of all, thanks Digger. Honestly, thank you. That someone I don’t even know cares enough about me to devote this sort of time to my issues is flattering. And you just get a lot of me. Which is kind of scary.

    Now, there are a few things I do want to say about it (surprise, surprise).

    First, of all the things my wife and I fight and argue and have issues with, theology is not one of them. It’s interesting, a lot of the things I defend the hardest — trust in God in the political realm for example — are not things that came from me, but things I learned from HER. Where I’m at right now, spiritually, has a pretty complex origin, but my wife looms rather large in it all. And it wasn’t some intellectual argument of hers that convinced me of things and made me change her mind. It was just the simple faith with which she lives her life.

    So, I’d go all stressed about politics and she’d look at me funny and ask why I was so anxious. I’d plan for us all as a family to truck over to the local elementary school where our precinct votes, and she’d kind of roll her eyes and say, “Well, I guess if you feel it is THAT important.” There was just something there — a peace, a trust, a faith — that hit me between the eyes like a hammer everytime I’d see it. Why didn’t she worry? How can she be at peace in a world like this?

    Faith. Just faith. For someone who tends to worry about next to everything, seeing someone take such a large and stressful thing and simply not have to worry was, well, I don’t know how to describe it except as a city set on a hill, shining it’s light through the darkness.

    We as Christians often say that our faith should be evident in how we live our lives, to the point that we don’t have to tell people we are Christian. That they can see something new and different in us that no one else can offer, and that they want desperately. The ability to have peace and trust where the entire world has only fear and anxiety? That’s the essence of it. Seeing it in my wife changed my outlook entirely.

    What you need to understand is that the conflict with my wife I described in that last post of mine really doesn’t involve a lot of difference of opinion. She just doesn’t like to be made to feel stupid, and when I act surprised that she doesn’t know something, she feels stupid. Believe me, we’ve had very deep discussions of pretty much everything, and we agree. Not feigned agreement to make an argument go away, but real, honest, agreement.

    Even, to tell the truth, about sex. She says, honestly and legitimately, “I want to be where you are, because I know that it is how it’s meant to be.”

    Anyway, the issue is that I have opinions on things that she has never even been exposed to. I’m generally confident that in pretty much everything when she becomes informed her opinion is more or less in line with me, but she just doesn’t have the depth of useless knowledge I have.

    Nor does she want (or need) to have it. I mentioned to her the concept phyllis renee wrote about in my comments — to use areas where I know something she does not as a bonding experience. As an opportunity for greater intimacy as I share something I care about and she listens. Conversation. Talking. Intimacy. I shared this with my wife and she said, honestly (but with just a hint of an evil little smirk), “Yeah, but most of the time, I don’t want to know these things. Why would anyone WANT to know about stupid wars that happened a thousand years ago on the other side of the world between nations that don’t even exist anymore?”

    So, there’s that.

    Anyway, at the risk of making this comment as long as the original post, the one last thing I want to discuss is the unity vs uniformity aspect.

    On one hand, we as Christians (and as married couples, friends, nations, etc) are called to unity which is NOT the same as uniformity. And if you think my church teaches the opposite, you are mistaken. There has to be wiggle room for people to be different. To people to approach things from different places.

    To recognize that there are massive areas where there is NO authority for binding your own opinions and practices on people. Romans 14 talks about that.

    But this is also not just saying that any opinion is great, so you just live and let live. First of all, in that same passage in Romans, Paul says that “whatever is not from faith is sin” and that his is the guiding principle behind differences in practice. But even more, Paul, in I Corinthians, calls for Christians to have unity by saying:

    Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

    That isn’t just a call for unity, but one for uniformity! Uniformity in teaching and belief. The allowances for differences he gives in Romans (and also later on in I Corinthians) are about differences in practice based on different places in the Christian walk. But the faith was seen as being the same. Thus he could tell the Galatian church:

    But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

    Why? He follows it up by saying:

    For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

    And there is similar thoughts in the Pastorals, Colossians, the Thesselonian letters, etc.

    There is a place for demanding uniformity, and it is when we are talking about truth-claims about and from God. So, was (and is) Christ a created being, or is he equal with God in divinity? Was He really a man, or did He just appear as one?

    Different answers to such questions can lead one to Arianism or Gnosticism or monophysitism and away from the orthodox faith. And if it is our faith that saves us, you have better believe it must be the correct faith, based on the revelation of God and not man. If belief in God saves, it is belief that God is who He says He is, not who I have made Him out to be in my mind. I can say “I believe in God” all day, but if my concept of god is, say, the Greek deity of Zeus, that isn’t going to save me. Even if I put the title “Jehovah” to that concept — it is the aspect of the truth-claims that matter not the names I give it.

    Did God create the heavens and the earth or not? Did God reveal Himself to the patriarch and the prophets? Did God really reveal what He was going to do in Jesus hundreds of years before it happened? Did Jesus really live and die and rise again?

    Important questions with important answers and not all of them can be equally true. In the real world of reality, when there are two contradictory opinions about the same issue, at most one can be correct. At most one can be true. The rest are lies. If we want to be set free, it must be the Truth we seek, because it is lies that enslave us but the Truth WILL set us free.

    So, talking about these issues is important. Because when we disagree on fundamental truth-claims about God we can’t both be right. And those that are wrong are believing in lies. And lies do not have the power to save.

    And human souls are worth a lot more than human egos. Smashing a few egos — mine especially — is a small price to pay if it brings even one person into a more perfect knowledge of the Truth and sets them free.

    This is not at all forgetting God’s grace. He saves us even when we don’t deserve it. He forgives our moral flaws because He is a gracious God, and He forgives our theological flaws for the same reason. But it must be acknowledged that there is a line somewhere. Universalism is never taught in the scriptures. Christ Himself said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

    So, what we believe matters. Where is the line? Those who don’t believe at all are condemned, and those that DO believe are saved, but what about those who believe, at least partially, in lies?

    We aren’t given that answer. All we are told is “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” and then told to rely on grace.

    THAT call is, I think, absolutely clear: there is no place for complacency. We are to strive for perfection — in both moral action and in knowledge and belief. Knowing that we will never achieve it, we trust in His grace, yet we know that the journey, the striving, the reaching is what God is after. It is about attitude. The attitude that says, “Eh, God will forgive it anyway, so why bother trying?” is the one that is condemned. That one that says, “I want to KNOW my Lord, as best I can, Lord have mercy on me, the sinner,” is the one is accepted.

    Therefore, there is no place for tolerating obvious errors in the faith and just assuming it is all OK. If your brother has a speck in his eye, certainly remove the plank from your own eye, so that you can see clearly to help your brother remove the speck. We are called to all speak the same thing, and that only happens through confronting our differences and working through them.

    I fight because I care. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t give a flying flip what you thought or believed. If I ever STOP fighting it is because apathy has conquered love. Because love isn’t letting people walk in danger. You don’t let you kid stick paperclips in the electrical socket, you do what you have to to make sure it doesn’t happen. If you mother is about to walk off a cliff you warn her back from the edge. Harshly if need be.

    And all that applies doubly so for the errors I have — and I’m sure there are many. Where I am wrong I HOPE there is a brother there with enough love and courage and boldness to put me in my place.

    Now, do I have confidence in what I believe? Certainly. Everybody believes that what they believe is true. If they didn’t, they would believe something else. For me, I’ve tested just about every aspect of my faith that I can find as strongly as I can, against those standards I accept as the measuring stick. Where they didn’t measure up I changed them — without hesitation. I have confidence in what I believe because I know why I believe it. Doesn’t mean I believe it is perfect or flawless, just that it is the best cut at the Truth I’ve found, through a great many iterations and a lot of eating of crow.

    I hope this gives you a bit greater insight in the dysfunction that is my brain. Needless to say, a being John Malkovich sort of thing with me would be trippy for just about anyone. Except for maybe you, Digger. You’d get it.

  6. FTN Says:

    “If he wants more comments on his theological posts, he should quit being a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass.”

    It was at this point that I would have spewed my Dr Pepper all over the monitor, had I still been drinking Dr Pepper. Thank goodness I finished lunch a half hour ago.

    Differentiation between you clones aside (perhaps you, XH, and even Desmond are all the same person at 10-year spiritual/emotional intervals, like in some sort of demented time warp?)… I’d just like to say that I’ve been able to truly appreciate how we can all debate so many topics and still not really hate each other.

    Or maybe that’s not true, since from Digger’s last post, hate and love are intertwined.

    As for the unity vs the uniformity, I would just say that obviously, XH seems to give off the impression that a great deal more things are required, rigid beliefs within Christianity — and that he knows which way things must go. And when I say that, I don’t mean to say that “whatever you want to believe” is fine. I have many things that I believe very confidently, as well.

    However, this quote from XH’s comment above gave me pause: “Doesn’t mean I believe it is perfect or flawless, just that it is the best cut at the Truth I’ve found, through a great many iterations and a lot of eating of crow.”

    It does often seem, however, that you have come to the conclusion that many things you write about ARE perfect and flawless. I’ve seldom seen you give the impression that it just might be possible that you could eat some crow in the future… if you know what I mean. If you’ve grown to where you are now — and you and I are most likely pretty close in age — through a great many iterations, don’t you think there might be many more iterations to come?

    If all you guys are so similar, I’m wondering if I should work on being a bit more of a condescending prick, just so I can fit in. 🙂

  7. Xian Husband Says:

    One thing I forgot, and since this post is about me I don’t feel too out of place posting it and taking up even MORE space.

    Opinions. Everybody has them. That’s what we as human beings do, it’s what we were made for. Every time we read something or see something or hear something we take the information in, filter it through our meta-context, and pass judgment on it. We do it naturally. We have opinions. On everything.

    I just tend to share mine more than others on certain subjects. Not necessarily because I think mine are guaranteed to be perfectly right and yours are wrong, but because discussion of differences is fun. It is also the only way to move past differences to real enlightenment. If you just ignore the differences, they don’t go away. To quote the three-nippled fortune teller from Mallrats, “Understanding is reached only after confrontation.”

    So, just because I put out my opinion, don’t think that is necessarily from just arrogance. I have more than enough arrogance in my behavior already. You don’t have to invent more.

    One last thing, it must be acknowledged that not all opinions are created equal. There has to be a place for recognizing expertise and therefore authority in a field. I don’t go to the doctor and argue with his diagnosis. He went to school for all those years — he knows better than me.

    So, to take the food example, I have a bit of expertise when it comes to cajun cooking. That’s where a lot of my family is from. I have a great aunt that owns and operates one of the oldest (and most traditional) cajun resteraunts right in the middle of cajun country. And I have her cookbook. I cook this stuff all the time. So, when I talk to people from, say, the mid-west and say, “Hey, if you are going to cook this, use andouille,” that may just be my opinion, but it is an informed opinion. But, by the same token, if I was discussing recipes with Emeril Lagasse I wouldn’t be arguing no matter WHAT sausage he said to use. Instead, I would be taking notes. The knowledge I have doesn’t hold a candle to his in this area. I’d keep my mouth shut and listen and learn. Because I recognize his expertise lends him authority, so his opinions carry greater weight than mine.

    Theologically, I don’t argue with the writers of Thayers when it comes to the meaning of Greek words. I don’t argue with J. N. D. Kelly’s history of the early church. I don’t, generally, argue with the experts unless — and this is an important caveat — they tip their hand and reveal motives I do not trust. So as an example, I actually DO argue with a bit of Henry Chadwick’s The Early Church because his interpretation of events is colored by motives and a world-view I do not accept. He may be an expert on the history, but what he thinks it means is filtered too much through what he WANTS it to mean.

    With him it is easy to spot, and I do (and does pretty much anyone who read him), so I don’t feel out of place saying, “Yeah, but his conclusions here are questionable.” Authority and expertise is not absolute. It isn’t gospel, it — ‘it’ being whatever expertise-based authority we want to discuss — is merely a better informed opinion than most. As such, we should probably listen. With care, with caution. With skepticism even at times. But still listen. And take note.

  8. Xian Husband Says:

    It does often seem, however, that you have come to the conclusion that many things you write about ARE perfect and flawless. I’ve seldom seen you give the impression that it just might be possible that you could eat some crow in the future… if you know what I mean. If you’ve grown to where you are now — and you and I are most likely pretty close in age — through a great many iterations, don’t you think there might be many more iterations to come?

    Certainly, but there is some complexity here. For instance, if I state that, to the early church, being involved in the civil government (or the military) was an excommunicable offense seen as similar in severity to murder or adultery that is not just my opinion. We can go back to 1800 year-old writings and show they said and taught and believed exactly that. That’s fact. If I state with certainty as if it is fact it is because it IS fact.

    If I state, then, that this feeling towards civil government was based on and related to faith in God’s sovereignty that is a bit different level. The early church DID say such things, but usually indirectly. But when experts — not me, but REAL experts — on the early church say, “This seems the best judgment as to the reason for such things,” and then I relate this to others, is it my opinion I am stating? Or is it the expert’s?

    If I then tie this to what is found in scripture and state, “This appears to be consistent with what was revealed in scripture from Genesis through Revelation,” and then show why I feel this why through the text, that may be my opinion, but can I not say it is backed up by more than just what is in my own head?

    This is what I meant by saying I feel like I have reason for my confidence. But even more, when it comes to questioning what I say, are you questioning the facts themselves or my interpretation of them (or anyone else’s interpretation for that matter)? If the former, then we are no longer in the realm of opinion, so evidence is in order. If I say, “Justin Martyr wrote this in 150 A.D.,” and you were to respond with, “No he didn’t,” then there would need to be something to back it up.

    If it is just interpretation that is in question, then that’s a different discussion. But still not distanced from the evidence if the interpretation is intended to rest on the foundation of fact. The interpretation should ideally be logically derived from the facts using the accepted conventions of deduction and induction. So, if one’s interpretation of the facts is clearly in stark contradiction to the facts themselves, then someone else is not out of line stepping in and saying, “That’s not valid.”

    And to respond back to such a thing with, “That’s just your opinion, why are you so arrogant?” is nonsensical.

    Which is why I’ve said at different times that if, in your theological studies or debates you ever find yourself arguing against plain scripture — arguing why it can’t mean what it clearly says — then you need to take a step back and re-examine your motives and conclusions and methods. Because you’ve obviously departed from simply looking at what it said and extrapolating theology from it to taking theology and extrapolating back to what the scripture really should have said. In your opinion.

    That’s a trap we all fall into. I certainly have many times. My current belief in, for example, the subject of free will vs pre-destination is a product of several cycles of that. I’d believe something, find a scripture that contradicted it, catch myself trying to explain the scripture away, and then have to step back and re-evaluate myself. What I believe about that subject now is VERY different from what I believed just a few years ago which was itself different from what I believed just a few years before that. Hard subject. Not a lot of clear teaching. Takes care and subtlety.

    And it’ll probably change again some day.

    I certainly have no conception that I’ve “arrived” and so that the journey is over. We are discussing in these things the infinite God. How can we ever think we know it all? I have much growing and learning to do.

    But I can also say without excessive hubris that I know more now than I did last year. And the year before that. This is a process of growth, and acknowledging that I have a long way to go doesn’t diminish the fact that I’ve already come a long way, or visa-versa. I HAVE studied hard and questioned hard and learned a lot.

    If anything, I consider myself the anti-apologist. I don’t look to study what I already believe is true in an effort to prove myself right. I study with the explicit motive of seeing if I can prove myself wrong. I ask the hard questions. I poke my finger in the dark corners. I look at other, competing views and look at why THEY might be right and mine wrong. We generally don’t have a problem being fair with ourselves and our own beliefs. We put them in the best possible light by nature. So I try and swing the pendulum back the other way in the hopes that I’ll end up some place more balanced then the, “I am certainly right as I can’t be wrong, so just be like me and you’ll be right” sort of attitude that is so common.

    In other words, what you accuse me of is exactly what I try my hardest to avoid! That self-questioning may not come across as much in on-line discussions with others as it is a very introspective sort of thing, but it IS there. That’s why, as Diggers knows, I’ve come to some opinions that are very different from what my church as typically taught and is also why these things have been very well received. At least with those who talk to me in person, that aspect does seem to come across.

    What is so irritating — and what provokes my to pull out my claws a bit — is when people have never questioned anything but simply believe what they’ve always believed simply because they’ve always believed it. When questioning themselves has never occurred to them. That’s where some of my natural — how did Digger put it? — “spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass” side comes out as I try and shake people up into questioning. To say, “I’ve been down that road before, and it’s a dead-end, but if you never even question the path you’re on you’ll never see it!” And so I do the information over-load thing to cut off any possible arguments before they happen so hopefully, at some point, the person will take that hard look inside.

    And THAT is certainly arrogance and condescending. Absolutely. It is certainly a massive flaw I have. If it help at all, know that I KNOW it is there, and I really don’t like it, and I AM trying to minimize it as much as possible.

    OK, at some point today I really, really need to do some work.

    Been fun!

  9. therese Says:

    What is so irritating — and what provokes my to pull out my claws a bit — is when people have never questioned anything but simply believe what they’ve always believed simply because they’ve always believed it. When questioning themselves has never occurred to them. That’s where some of my natural — how did Digger put it? — “spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass” side comes out as I try and shake people up into questioning. To say, “I’ve been down that road before, and it’s a dead-end, but if you never even question the path you’re on you’ll never see it!”

    There is nothing wrong with doing this. However, I caution you not to assume to know why people believe what they do. You said that a lot of your introspection and examining of things you don’t talk about online, but you still do it. I am sure that is the case with many others too. So just don’t be so quick to assume you know the sort of spiritual struggles and processes that others are going through or have gone through before making that sort of judgment about them. That assumption can come off as arrogance or condescension in and of itself, which I know you don’t intend.

  10. Digger Jones Says:

    How NOT to be a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass:

    1. Discuss things in areas where you feel incompetent and learn from those who do know a lot about them.
    2. If you can not find an area where you are incompetent, fake it. Pretend to be incompetent in an area where you know everything.
    3. Give credit where it is due when someone makes a good point. Even if the person does not make a good point and you’re going to skewer them with logic, find some redeeming qualities to take the edge off.
    4. Be willing to see the other side without being defensive.
    5. Blessed are the brief. Keep the wit pointed and compact.
    6. Realize that your “helpfulness” and “love” might be poorly received when you claim to have reached perfection. Living with a saint is harder than being one.
    7. Self depreciation is a handy tool when used judiciously especially when laced with humor.
    8. Know when to walk away, ignore or avoid.
    9. Introspection is key. Think about why you are thinking and feeling the way you do. Try to get past others pushing your buttons.
    10. If you insist on being a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass prima donna, be upfront and honest about it. Let everyone know upfront that you are a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass and then remind them of it a few times just in case they forget. Paradoxically, the more you admit to being one, the less of one you become.

    D. – a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass

  11. Desmond Jones Says:

    Hi. . . My name is Desmond. . . and I’m a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass. . .

    (everybody): Hiiiiii, Desmond!

  12. Xian Husband Says:

    Well Digger, to me false humility is a whole lot worse than in-your-face arrogance. It’s insulting to everyone. Faking like you don’t know what you know doesn’t help anyone, and self-deprecation is often a very self-promoting tactic.

    Take my point above: one must recognize that expertise lends authority to opinion. If you went to the doctor and he said, “This is what’s wrong and we are going to this, that, and the other to fix it,” you wouldn’t respond back with, “You arrogant, condescending prick! How dare you think your opinion is better than mine?”

    By the same token, if the doctor came in and said, “Well, it might be this, but I’m not sure, what do you think?” you’d send him back to medical school. And if he was faking it to make you feel more smart you’d see through it and just assume he’s an ass.

    That’s why false humility is a greater insult than anything else because it is condescending to the extreme. It has a “I’m so much better than you that I have to pity you and really stretch to come down to your level so as to not let the mere awesomeness of my presence make you feel too small.”

    Screw. That. And the horse it rode in on.

    Look, I don’t usually start the topics we discuss, and when I DO start them, I pick things I’ve been thinking and studying about. So, for the “Discuss things in areas where you feel incompetent” thing — why would I talk if I don’t know what I’m talking about? I don’t usually just talk out my ass. If I’m quiet, that usually means I’m listening. I don’t usually go through the hassle of logging on, going through wads of letter verification stuff, etc just to say, “I don’t know, ask someone else.” Especially when the question was submitted to the ether, so you’ve already asked everyone else. I read a whole lot more posts than I comment on.

    Now, I do need to acknowledge good points when they are made a bit more than I do — I was discussing this entire topic with my wife last night and that’s one of the primary things she mentioned — but I’m also not going to patronize someone and say “good point” when they are making a point I’ve seen 1000 times and seen picked apart and destroyed by experts smarter than any of us just as often. If we are engaged in something approaching debate then what counts are the arguments made. If the argument you produce is nothing new to the conversation you cannot expect it to convince anyone. If I remain unconvinced by the same arguments it is because they are the same arguments, and nothing new has been added.

    Anyway, this whole discussion had me pretty upset yesterday — because I don’t like upsetting other people, especially in this sort of area where I want to be a good light for my Lord — and so was talking about it all with my wife. She agreed that I can sometimes be an arrogant condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass, but I was really bothered by the fact that the area you guys seem to have issues with me is in the realm of religion where I try very hard to question everything about what I believe. Something must not be communicating very well. So, I had her read one of our discussions — the one just a few down from this one about politics.

    Her impression? First, when reading a lot of the stuff from you guys, she got a bit bothered and kept asking, “How can they say that? Don’t they know where the Bible says…” Which made me beam, as I could point just a few comments down and see where I made the same point. But besides that, I asked where in there I was being arrogant and condescending, what I had been doing wrong. Her response, “You weren’t. I’ve seen when you are arrogant and condescending, that isn’t it. They just didn’t like hearing what you were saying.”

    Reading the same exact words, getting completely opposite impressions, which is interesting. Especially since the limited evidence suggests the impression people have on the way I write is driven more by whether or not they agree with the points I was making then anything else. An observation that may, itself, be arrogant and condescending, I guess, depending on one’s perspective.

  13. diggerjones Says:

    Desmond, you read my mind when I typed that last bit and I almost went that way with the 12-step Spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of know-it-all smart asses Anonymous. But I’m too much of a prick to want to sponsor another prick.

    Deep breath, XH….In through the nose, out through the mouth….Cleansing breath.

    Don’t let all this get to you. This is just one giant pissing contest and it’s not worth half the emotional energy we put into it. You’re a good guy who means well.

    Nothing like a good pissing contest to spike traffic; I set a new record for this blog with that Monday post! Thanks for the links!

    D.

  14. Xian Husband Says:

    Your new record was just me checking in every five minutes to see if there were any new comments.

    After a bit of introspection, the REALLY arrogant and condescending thing I do is that, when it comes to theology, I don’t really come to these blogs to learn. If I have a theological question, I go to my books. Or, barring that, to someone I KNOW is an expert. Like Therese when I have a question about Catholicism. Just ask her how many emails she’s gotten that are me asking some weird question.

    But, anyway, I don’t usually come to the blogs to learn theology, I come to pontificate. Which certainly IS arrogant and condescending, as I don’t expect to learn theology from you guys, but expect you to learn it from me. Now, the sex and relationship stuff I DO come here to learn, which is why half of my posts in those areas end with the unspoken question: “What the hell do I do now?”

  15. Desmond Jones Says:

    “I don’t usually come to the blogs to learn theology, I come to pontificate. . . I don’t expect to learn theology from you guys, but expect you to learn it from me.”

    Well, thank you for being willing to say so, XH. See, I know I’m no theologian, but I’ve read quite a bit, and I really enjoy a good theological discussion. And, when one crops up in blog-space, I wanna be in on it, if I can. But I wanna have discussions – give-and-take, exchange of views, all that, precisely so I can learn. Even if I’m not gonna be convinced by what you say, I can learn something about what other viewpoints there are on the topic in question.

    But I’ve felt like you and I can’t have discussions, and I don’t really know why. Sometimes we seem to get one going, and it’s like, all of a sudden, you lose interest. Which is very perplexing to me – am I not worth your continued attention? Have you become bored with the line of discussion? Do I betray myself as someone who’s ‘ignoring the plain facts of the matter’? I don’t know. And it would be preferable, from where I sit, if you simply told me, “This conversation is over” than just dropping it and leaving me to wonder what the hell happened. . .

    Sorry for getting all personal here in Digger’s comment-space. I’ve lost your e-mail address; if you want to e-mail me, I’d welcome it. . .

  16. Xian Husband Says:

    I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the conversations just petering out, except that that sort of thing does happen sometime in on-line discussions. Besides, I tend to be a bit bi-polar and lose interest pretty quick in just about everything after going all manic on it. It’s hard to keep that level of intensity up for very long. Not necessarily anything about you, as I do that with pretty much everything in life. Just about the only way I keep up ANYTHING long term is when I have hard and fast commitments — job, school enrollment with grades, responsibilities at church I’m held accountable for, etc.

    I’ll email you. Provided I can find YOUR email address. I should be able to, I don’t really delete mail, so it’s still there somewhere.

  17. diggerjones Says:

    By George, I think you’ve nailed it, XH! It’s what I should have said in the above post if I’d have thought of it. but now that you mention it, that’s pretty much the main thing. I’ve evolved my own style of pontification over the years, and generally I try to confine it to my own blog space. I used to get in hot water in iVillage, BBS’s and other assorted mediums because I would raise such a ruckus and the moderator, Sysop or whoever would censor me. Blogging suits me infinitely better because I don’t have to worry about that sort of censorship. I can use the potty words if I want or flame someone or argue or write on whatever topic without being accused of being off-topic. But with much power comes much responsibility.

    I’m thinking of the know-it-all kid in Polar Express and what ended up being punched in his ticket: LEARN!

    So yeah, going to someone else’s place and trying to convert, dominate and generally pontificate is bad form. Far be it from me to push blogging etiquette, but there are things that help or hinder getting along in the community. “All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial.”

    Plus extending other posts from other people on your own blog increases traffic! Not that any of us pay attention to such things…

    I think the attitude of learning about *people* rather than just facts and stuff is something that takes some people longer to acquire than others, Desmond. At first I was going to say it might be an artifact of age, but Therese is a good example of someone who easily applies it and she’s a longer way from AARP membership than any of us!

    As for the email thing, I sort of share XH’s penchant for letting email conversations just sort of fade off into the dust. If you were better differentiated and relied less on a reflected sense of self, you would realize that it has less to do with your worthiness and more to do with laziness on the other person’s part! Or a limited attention span, which applies to me more often than not. After about 3 rounds, I’m ready to move on to other things, places, topics and people.

    And part of that might also be because I can’t pontificate as much or as well in email as I can on the blog. Being a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of know-it-all smart ass is best facilitated in front of a large audience, or so I’ve found. Which is why I got censored, booted off or otherwise reprimanded in so many other forums.

    D.

  18. FTN Says:

    I suppose the easiest answer is going to be this, XH: If you don’t come to any of these blogs to learn, don’t expect anyone else to actually be willing to learn anything from you, either.

    Don’t read that as sarcasm or condescension… I’m just saying, that attitude, regardless of WHY you have it, just automatically will turn most people off. The same way that you can, I could also get teaching somewhere else. If you fill a 5-page comment with Bible verses, I will often skim over it. And I’m really sorry to say that, because I’m a Christian and I believe in the authority of the Bible.

    And why do you keep using doctors as an analogy? After the discussion in the comments that I think you showed to your wife, I figured you didn’t go to doctors. 🙂

  19. Desmond Jones Says:

    Without meaning to pile on, XH (aren’t you just gratified to high heaven that Digger started this little ‘intervention’ on you?), the bit that I quoted above is also why your ‘theological’ posts generally don’t get much comment – they don’t really invite comments. If they invite me to do anything, it’s to nod and agree and stand a bit in awe of the work you put into them. But they aren’t discussion-starters; they’re ‘let me teach you’. And on that basis, they’re fine, as far as they go. But I’m usually left with not much to say. . .

    And Digger, you have no idea how close to home you are with “if you relied less on a reflected sense of self”. . . Those are the exact words my counselor uses. . .

  20. Digger Jones Says:

    wow.

    Okay.

    XH is going to either emerge from this a better blog writer or someone with an incredible inferiority complex! I’m a little afraid for him at the moment. Seriously, this is whithering ego-busting stuff, no matter how true or untrue any of it is.

    More breathing exercises!

    Yeah, maybe limiting the proof texts might help at least making it more interesting. Like you, FTN, I read because I’m interested in the writer as much as what they write. We all got our own books we can read. I’m actually more interested in the story behind the lessons than the lessons themselves. Why does one teach about certain things? What are the conflicts involved behind it? How does the lesson play out in the teachers own life? And my line of questioning on others blogs hopefully reveals that.

    Desmond, you might want to finish that book so you and your counselor can be more productive since it sounds like he is familiar with this work. At least I feel whenever I darken the door of a counselor’s office I’ll have a lot more to bring to it, now. This post was as much a reflection of my own issues as much as XH’s. This wasn’t meant to necessarily be just *his* intervention as it was introspection into my own mind.

    But I’m glad he’s taking the most serious hits here, because I’m not sure I could do it! Which is why I;m sympathetic to the anxiety this exercise is provoking in him.

    Now I’m going to see if there’s any snow to play in.

    D.

  21. Xian Husband Says:

    Well, I don’t know about all that. I certainly don’t like upsetting people, and I didn’t really know what it was that was doing so, but I DO know, generally, why I do what I do. And for the most part I am fairly confident my motives are pure — at least as much as any of us know what our own motives are (or are honest with ourselves about it).

    God has gifted each of us differently. We all have different gifts, and we are called to know our gift and use our gift for Him — I Tim 4:14, II Tim 1:6,7. We are also called to recognize that we all have different gifts, and none of us have been given it all, so that we need each other — I Cor 12. We need each other exercising the gifts God has given us.

    We as Americans don’t really like that, as we generally want to interpret “all men are created equal” as “all men have been created with the same abilities” — while we also know that such a thing is absurd. But anyway, we don’t like having to acknowledge that everybody can’t do every job — that some people by nature can do things others can’t. That we actually need to work together by letting those with certain gifts do their jobs, while we do ours. There’s a letting go of self and ego and rugged, frontier individualism that we don’t like.

    But we all have different gifts and it is not arrogance to use the gift God has given you, nor is it wise to discourage others from using their gifts that you don’t share because you don’t like not being able to do everything yourself. We have all been called to do our part, and to help and encourage others to do theirs, so that we all fit together like a jig-saw puzzle.

    Anyway, one way I’ve been blessed is that I know very well exactly what God put me together to do. With some people, finding their gift might be difficult, but with me it’s kind of obvious because it’s the one and only thing I do well. I’m really kind of a one-trick pony because I was built to do one thing. And I do it very, very well. That one thing is what I call “synthesis.” It is taking different pieces of information, analyzing them, understanding them, and seeing how they fit together. I see relationships between things.

    That’s why I do well at math. Not because I’m naturally mathematical — because I’m really not — but because I can just understand how these things fit together. That’s why I love history, because it is taking all these different facts and seeing what the underlying story is. That’s why I do well at engineering despite not having a very engineer mind at all. I can problem-solve because I can understand the problem better than most anyone. Generally, when you graduate top of your class in mechanical engineering (from a rather good engineering school), with essentially a 4.0 GPA people think you must be a pretty good engineer. I’m not. At all. I really kind of hate engineering. But I love the problem solving. The seeing how things fit together.

    But I don’t think God gave me this gift for math or history or engineering. I think He wants me to use it for Him. And the way it can be used for Him is, to me, fairly obvious, because what I do is uniquely suited for the problem of Biblical exegesis. The scriptures don’t often come right out and plainly state things — or at least we can say there are several very important places where they do not.

    Instead, we have the Old Testament that we know we have some relation with, but how to fit it into the context of New Testament Christianity isn’t perfectly clear. We have narrative accounts of the life of Christ and His followers. We have a lot of His teaching, but in parables. And we have ad hoc letters from the Apostles to the churches countering particular problems and answering questions — but not often the problems or questions we have. To understand it, you have to understand it in context — it all works together. You have to piece doctrine together from the narrative, understanding that you can’t interpret one part such that it contradicts another.

    You have to synthesize. Understand the problem, understand the information that we have, and put it all together into a consistent whole. Which is what I do. It is what I was meant to do. And if I do this, God certainly doesn’t want me to take what I understand and keep it to myself. A light under a bushel and all that. I am to share it.

    Doesn’t mean I have no need of learning — because I certainly do. I know in part, so I only understand in part. Everybody has a piece of the story. Doesn’t mean I am not willing to learn. Even when I come and pontificate, I listen to what others say about it. And if it is a point I haven’t considered before it can certainly throw me into a cocoon of sorts, intermixing until something new is born out of it. My wife and her constant and simple faith in God’s control is an example.

    But I also know that it is my responsibility to share while it is not my responsibility to make sure people listen. Unless they aren’t listening because my ego and arrogance, etc, etc, are what is getting in the way. THAT would be my problem. But, in general, those called to teach have no responsibility to make sure people listen, they just plant the seed. It is between the hearer and God as to what that does on their heart.

    So, when I see someone — especially one claiming to be a brother or sister — make a claim or a statement that I feel is clearly in error I really have no choice but to speak out. I really understand what Paul meant when he said he teaches under compulsion. I understand David’s words in Psalm 39:

    But when I was silent and still,
    not even saying anything good,
    my anguish increased.

    My heart grew hot within me,
    and as I meditated, the fire burned;
    then I spoke with my tongue…

    I really can’t help it. I can certainly help doing it in a kinder, gentler, more humble way — as I absolutely should. But I can’t help saying what is in me. Nor should I — I believe God’s warning to the prophet in Ezekiel 3:16-21 applied not just to him, but to anyone God has given a gift and call to. To keep silent in the face of possibly mortal error is to have others’ blood on my own head.

    So I do what I do. And I will continue to do what I do, as that is my call. I need to do it far, far differently, that is clear. But it is a bit much to expect me to simply keep it all to myself. I’ve tried that and it felt like my heart was going to explode within me. What I do certainly needs a much firmer grounding in how I fit into the puzzle with everyone else. In my local church, the brothers I meet here, Christ’s universal church everywhere. That I will admit. I’m just one piece of the whole, and there is a whole, whole lot I can’t do very well at all.

  22. trueself Says:

    XH –
    You said (among other things):
    The scriptures don’t often come right out and plainly state things — or at least we can say there are several very important places where they do not.

    Instead, we have the Old Testament that we know we have some relation with, but how to fit it into the context of New Testament Christianity isn’t perfectly clear. We have narrative accounts of the life of Christ and His followers. We have a lot of His teaching, but in parables. And we have ad hoc letters from the Apostles to the churches countering particular problems and answering questions — but not often the problems or questions we have. To understand it, you have to understand it in context — it all works together. You have to piece doctrine together from the narrative, understanding that you can’t interpret one part such that it contradicts another.

    You have to synthesize. Understand the problem, understand the information that we have, and put it all together into a consistent whole.

    Thank you. This is what I needed to hear from you for ever so long. Whenever I read something you have written it comes across to me as the final authority, as if you have it all figured out. All I have ever wanted is to see you acknowledge that it isn’t all clear cut and obvious and that intelligent people could only interpret the scripture one way. It is a learning process for each and every one of us, but it is ever so much easier to learn if the teaching is presented as “have you tried looking at it this way?” rather than “I have the one true way to look at it. I’m right. You’re wrong.” Approach me the first way, and I will openly engage and delight in debate and discourse on the topic. Approach me the second way, and I will turn my back on you. It is, dear XH, all in the presentation. If you came across less in your blog and your comments on others’ blogs as, what was it Digger called them, a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass, and more as a spiritually caring, empathetic example of a loving Christian I would think you would have much greater success in passing on your message.

    Or I’m a just wacked out crazed overly intelligent slut who should be ignored.

    You make the call.

  23. Satan Says:

    I love this thread so much.

  24. Emily Says:

    I must admit I am getting a kind of bitchy pleasure out of this thread as well, but it does seem kind of hard on XH.

    But still, it does give me a chance to say something about XH’s theological posts and why there isn’t much comment.

    I generally read those posts. I am quite interested in them, at times. But I rarely comment because:

    *We seem to disagree on everything, EVERYTHING. We disagree at such a fundamental level, pretty much from the very basis on which we speak, that to fully engage with the arguments would require starting from very first principles and a very lengthy exchange.

    Now, I’m not intellectually intimidated by that prospect at all. I did my PhD in a related field. I’d probably enjoy it. But frankly, with a two year old and a sick partner and a demanding job, I just don’t have the time. Also, we disagree on so many topics that all our exchanges would just become a succession of arguments, which isn’t good for any kind of relationship, even one as amorphous as ours.

    *The general tone of XH’s theological posts doesn’t really invite comment. He knows exactly what he thinks and feels motivated to outline it, but there is no tone there of real interest in what others think. That’s okay. We all rant away in our blogs in a way that most of us would find intolerable in other people in real life. But still, it doesn’t invite comment. A lot of his posts kind of remind me of those preachers who stand on street corners, preaching away at the tops of their voices and getting some burning issue off their chests. A few people might listen and get something out of it. But that’s not really the point.

    *There is a third aspect which I think he should really think about it if he wants others to learn anything from him. He really does come across as if anyone who thinks differently to him is (a) stupid and (b) immoral. There doesn’t seem to be any recognition that people of integrity, scholarship and deep reflection might come to differing conclusions and that these differences might be interesting rather than threatening. Once the exchange is at that level, it ceases to be an enjoyable and enlightening discussion and becomes offensive and annoying.

    *And one last thing, I think that third aspect of his style is particularly alienating to women. Women tend (big statement here) to view conversation as, not just about the topic itself, but as a potential opportunity to share themselves and who they are with the other person. They are looking for connection rather than an argument. When they are met with a list of 15 reasons of exactly why they are wrong, acccompanied by extensive scripture quoting (ie its not just XH who thinks they’re wrong but, apparently, God himself) and reflections on their personal character, it feels like they are wasting their time talking to someone who has a low opinion of them.

    Women, in particular, tend to get very irritated and offended by that stuff and can’t be bothered to engage with someone so lacking in basic respect towards them. I sometimes wonder if a lot of the issues with XH’s sexual relationship with his wife actually arise from this one thing. But he might like to think about whether the women turning off from his blog and his wife turning off from sex are actually arising from the way he relates to them.

    Anyway, I mean no disrespect to you, XH. Truly, I am actually fond of you in a perverse kind of way. But I feel a little sad that it’s so hard to have a conversation with you on topics that mean a lot to us both.

  25. Xian Husband Says:

    Trueself:
    Well, first of all I DO think that there is but one valid interpret the scripture as I believe the truth revealed in it is singular in nature. BUT I do not, nor have I ever, made a one-to-one equivocation between this Truth and what I believe. I mean, I believe that what I believe is true — if I thought it was not I would believe something else — but I certainly don’t believe it is perfect.

    But saying that is not saying, “Because we can never know perfect Truth we know nothing, so all perspectives should be considered equal.” We may not know that what we say is perfectly correct, but that is not saying we can’t see clearly when other things are in error.

    For instance, if scripture is God’s revealed Word, then doctrines that are in obvious contradiction to scripture can be condemned with prejudice. We might have questions about the correct interpretation in obscure and subtle issues, but that doesn’t stop us from seeing glaring contradiction in plain issues.

    Saying this doesn’t rule us down to any particular set of doctrines, either. There are multiple (possibly many) sets of doctrines that are mutually exclusive, yet equally consistent with scripture. But we can certainly say that such things are in the minority of all possible teachings. Judging between those that ARE consistent with scripture may be more difficult, but judging between those that are consistent versus those that are not is not.

    Example: those that teach homosexuality is not a sin run up against plain and obvious scripture whose interpretation is not in doubt, so they have to justify themselves by trying to argue why it’s OK to ignore those passages. Same thing with those who want to justify having women in ministry. The Bible is clear, you can choose to listen to it or not, but choosing not to means you yourself have already given reason for your teaching to be condemned. When someone does so it is not arrogance — you aren’t condemned because you are disagreeing with them but because you disagree with the Word. A person can do that without implying that their theology is perfect — being in agreement with scripture is but one necessary aspect of Truth — and judging another as in error is not saying that you yourself are incapable of error.

  26. diggerjones Says:

    Women in ministry is equated with homosexuality?

    I see “ministry” as any act that ministers to others, not just pontificating from a pulpit somewhere. Egad, XH, isn’t your own wife teaching a class of some sort at church? Is she aware that you equate this with being an abomination to God?

    Wow. Emily’s 3rd point really hit home there, not that the rest of them don’t.

    D.

  27. Xian Husband Says:

    I used the word “ministry” in one of it’s accepted definitions as meaning paid leadership positions. We all know what I meant, so don’t throw up a strawman.

  28. Digger Jones Says:

    So it’s okay for women to work as long as they don’t get paid and aren’t in charge of anything.

    Yeah, I thought I knew but I wanted to be sure this is what you were saying.

    Could she get paid as long as she wasn’t in charge of anyone?

    Could a woman be in leadership if she did it in her spare time, perhaps?

  29. Xian Husband Says:

    Dude, don’t play dumb. You know what I’m talking about.

    I Tim 2:11-14 for instance:

    A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

    This is about the Pastoral ministry. The Presbytery. The Episcopate. The teaching-leadership, public ministry role. The person in the pulpit and in the confessional (if your church is into that sort of thing). The person whose name is on the sign outside, whose name is on the church’s letterhead. The one who is in charge, most importantly in the doctrinal sense, but also in the shepherding, counseling, and financial senses. That this role (or roles) was reserved for men only is absolutely clear in the scripture.

    This isn’t a question of “interpretation” as there is no question from anyone as to what information and ideas the writers were trying to communicate. The question is one of application: do you believe that what the Apostles wrote was from God or from man? Do you believe you have to submit to their teachings, or do you believe that you can make things up for yourself? Big questions, with practical manifestation: if you have a woman pastor, you’ve shown which side of the question you come down on. And it is, ultimately, the side that says “I know better than God.”

    The whole point of giving that example is it is not some arrogant assumption that oneself is right and perfect and infallible to point out when another’s doctrine is in stark contradiction to that which is taught in scripture. It isn’t a first-person vs second-person sort of thing. It is first-person pointing out that second-person is in opposition to third-person. Not in a subtle and hard to interpret area, but one where interpretation is clear and simple.

    Nobody argues that “gune en hesuskia manthaneto en pase hupotage. Gunaiki de didaskein ouk epitrepo, oude authentein andros, all einai en hesuskia,” means anything except what the English translation (from the NIV) I gave above clearly states. (Except that the “I do not allow” part is far less emphatic in the Greek, and could probably be translated better as “It is not allowed…”, but English is a crude language to be translating the very precise Koine Greek into, so any translation is going to have rough spots). So, pointing out that someone’s teaching and practice go directly against this is something that even the imperfect and human can do, without being guilty of being a spiritually arrogant, condescending prick of a know-it-all smart ass. It’s just being bold enough to stand up for the revealed Truth that all can see, but many choose to ignore.

  30. Emily Says:

    Ah, yes, God forbid that women should get paid or gain any significant authority in the church (despite the fact that most churches would collapse overnight if women didn’t do all the things they do, including get their men and their children to attend church in the first place)!

    With all due respect, XH, this is the exact kind of thing I’m talking about: quoting scripture and then making a series of statements about how anyone who doesn’t accept your interpretation thinks they know better than God, or “chooses to ignore” revealed truth.

    It’s quite true that I don’t believe I have to keep to a narrow interpretation of statements written two thousand years ago by a man (albeit a very remarkable man) who lived in a completely different cultural and historical context, but neither do I believe that I can make things up for myself. That’s a false dichotomy.

    Even fundamentalists, in fact, get most of their views from a *combination* of scripture, tradition, historical interpretation, personal experience and their own intuitive sense of God and his purposes for them. Being open about that fact in my own (non-fundamentalist) case doesn’t mean that I think I know better than God.

    But (sigh) I believe that you and I have had this discussion before… also the discussion about homosexuality…

    It’s interesting that you mention that certain sets of doctrines are in the minority of all possible teachings. Your own view of scripture is certainly in the minority in the Christian world, and especially among scholars – in fact, I would consider your view of Scripture to be closer to the Muslim tradition of scripture as virtually dictated by God, than to mainstream Christian traditions of “inspiration”.

    You are, of course, entitled to hold that minority view, but it would be nice to hear you admit some time that it’s only one view and a long way from the full story.

  31. Digger Jones Says:

    I can only imagine the two of you going round and round!

    I’m not going to say one way or another, at the present time because this is something that has been contentious forever. I will say that other writers (who share XH’s view) do a fine job of stating their case.

    I’m place-holding and will have my nerd card revoked for not bothering to learn html:

    1. http://books.google.com/books?id=NHPxcYNV0BwC&printsec=frontcover#PPR7,M1

    Starting on p. 179, this specific text is researched and dealt with in a pretty logical and scholarly manner.

    And a seemingly opposing view, also well written and researched:

    2. http://www.truthortradition.com/modules.php?file=article&name=News&sid=506

    This thread is now CLOSED.

    Feel free to pursue any of these assorted thoughts on your respective blogs or other venues of your choice. I’m simply not as generous as FTN and refuse to hand my space over to other people for months at a time!

    The Stepmania/DDR posts remain open.

    D.

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