Archive for the ‘Relating To Christians Who Have All The Answers’ Category

Dear Liberal Preacher,

First of all, i love the blog. Great stuff!

I’ve been reading through the posts and you mention a couple of times that you don’t believe Hell exists. Could you dive a little deeper into the theological framework for your belief? I understand the whole “God is too loving for punishment” argument…I was just wondering if there was any more substance behind that. Is there any punishment for no belief and/or complete selfishness?



Dear Concerned Future Seminary Student

First of all,

I’m concerned that you are concerned.  I have a track record of not doing well with individuals who are concerned.  Believe me, it’s one of my core beliefs.  I don’t do well with people who are concerned.  No one has ever been concerned that I’m too nice or too Christian or too Buddist or too Universalist or too Baptist or too smart.  Or maybe they have.

Concerned sounds like disappointement on steriods.  And being trained to be a psycho psychotherapist (kidding about the psycho) my hunch is you tend to be uptight and I know what uptight folk can do to clergy and the church’s soup and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  I’m not saying the steeples don’t need commitment and integrity, but concern is another matter altogether.  So yes, I’m concerned about you being so concerned.  Take a walk.  Worry about world hunger.  Breathe in.  Breathe out. Maybe that will help with your concern level.

You ask about  diving deeper into theological framework of my beliefs on hell.  First of all, I’m not a good diver so I’m not going to dive at all.  And as for the deeper, I agree the church needs to get deeper, deeper into the world’s needs, deeper into our hearts, but not deeper into some theological framework.  You are going to bore me to death.  I’ve set through seminary classes like that.  Here’s a clue:  all those theological systems are lies.  Hate to break it to you so bluntly.

Sounds like you are pretty sure about hell too.  I wonder how you got so sure during your short life.  My guess is you have lived in your little mind and provincial neighborhood for far too long.  Not throwing stones. I did that for years myself.

How many homeless people/transitional people speak with you on a daily basis?

Do you know anybody who is so messed up they are beyond even the repair of God?

Were your parents concerned parents?  How do you feel about your momma and your daddy?

Rahter than being too concerned I would submit you nurture a wild curiosity about yourself, your theological framework, your osbession with hell, and with any and all  theological frameworks built on sand, which is all of them.

Now on God being too loving.  I’m worried about Christians who worry about God  being too loving.  My guess is such people aren’t very loving of themselves and therefore try to make life hell for the rest of us.

The punishment for no belief and complete selfishness shall be delivered by Christians going on crusades or Christians singing in the choir.

Little or Liberal Baptist Rev.                                                        


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From Rosie:

Dear Liberal Baptist Preacher,

It is my understanding that the Baptist church has traditionally believed in the “Four Freedoms.”

1) Soul freedom: the soul is competent before God, and is capable of making decisions in matters of faith without coercion or compulsion by any larger religious or civil body (the priesthood of the believer)

2) Church freedom: freedom of the local church from outside interference, whether government or civilian (the autonomy of the local church)

3) Bible freedom: the individual is free to interpret the Bible for himself or herself, using the best tools of scholarship and Biblical study available to the individual

4) Religious freedom: the individual is free to choose whether to practice their religion, another religion, or no religion – also, religious freedom in separation of church and state.

My questions: Are these four freedoms still a part of the Baptist tradition? Do Fundamentalist Baptists believe in these four freedoms? Does the SBC endorse these traditions? If this is NOT still a part of Baptist tradition, when did it change? Thank you for your time.



Dear Rosie:

There’s nothing I would enjoy more – well, that’s an exaggeration – there’s nothing I would enjoy more than raking a few Baptist fundamentalists over the coals.  I went to a Southern Baptist seminary during the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. The church I serve as pastor is a former Southern Baptist Church.  (We couldn’t take any more of their sexism, homophobic statements, anti-Semitism, dishonesty about the Bible, etc.)

I’d love to rake them over the coals and tell you they are not true Baptists, but I don’t think that would be accurate.  During the big SBC debates there was a lot of talk about who was and wasn’t a true Baptist. True this or true that, true Baptist or a sorry excuse for a Baptist, true Christian and you aren’t a Christian – all that talk makes me nervous.

I’d like for you to read Leon McBeth’s mammoth work, The Baptist Heritage. He makes Baptist history interesting, and there is some funny stuff in it too!  It’s a big, big book, though.

There are currently so many different “brands” of Baptist I wouldn’t even want to start to define Baptist these days.  And I think a good case can be made for there being diversity among Baptists from the start of Baptistdom. 

Walter Shurden – I once heard him give a lecture, I believe, at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary – spoke of different strands or traditions among the early Baptists/Southern Baptists. 

In Jane Wagner’s book, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, the main character, played by Lily Tomlin on Broadway, says:  “when I look at my family I feel like a detached retina.” 

When I look at my Baptist kinfolk, I sometimes feel like a detached retina.  On the other hand, there are more Baptists who live in my neighborhood (I’m a baptist, Jewish, Universalist, Agnostic Christian) than you might believe.  Baptists, like me, stand in the great heritage of John LeLand.  In 1791 John Leland, an outspoken Baptist in America, wrote his major treatise on religious liberty, “The Rights of Conscience Inalienable.”  In this treatise, Leland argued that the real motives for establishment of religion are not to benefit religion, but to buttress the power of civil clergy and augment the purposes of ambitious clergy.  Leland concluded that: “Government has no more to do with the religious opinions of men than it has with the principles of mathematics.  Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principles that he believes, worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods, and let government protect him in so doing.”

That’s my kind of Baptist!

But, alas, your questions.

Those four freedoms you mention are still alive and well among REAL, TRUE Baptists – O.K., among some of the modern Baptists.

I don’t speak for fundamentalist  or SBC Baptists.  You’ll have to ask them.  But watch them.  I find them squirmy.  I find them dishonest.  They are trying to be honest.  They are good people, for the most part.  They are just – they just think you have to be the way they are to be Christian and they are flat out wrong.  I don’t find their Christianity very Christian.  It sure doesn’t appeal to me.  Or put another way, I’m not going back, but I do appreciate many wonderful things about my conservative Baptist upbringing.  [I bet I can whip you in a Bible sword drill.  “Sword”? – “Sword Drill”?  That should have been a clue!]

When did it change?  Well, that’s the old “what’s the original” angle.  Christians spend too much time worrying about originals we never were or had and will never get or retrieve.  What a waste of time and energy and ink. 

When did it change?  Did it ever change?  I’m not getting into that debate too much.  I spend my time using the Bible, experience, reason, science, church tradition to make persuasive arguments about what God is asking the church and Christians to believe, and more importantly, to do today.

[Speaking of the original debate, original in this case being Baptists as the originial Christians – God help us.  There’s a book, The Trail of Blood by J. M. Carroll, which traces Baptists all the way back to John the Baptist.  I can buy that.  He was one weird dude.]

What’s your next question?

You sure have a lot of questions.

That’s a good thing.

Be careful about putting “periods” at the end of your sentences, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Happy Easter! (And watch out for those Baptists)


submit questions to askaliberalpreacher@gmail.com


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From:  Joe Dirt

Dear Liberal Preacher,

This is posted on my Facebook page in light of the Haiti earthquake.

“If actions are neither right nor wrong independent of God’s will, then God cannot choose one over another because it is morally better.  Thus, any moral choices God makes must be arbitrary.”  I pulled it from one of Richard Dawkins’ books.

A family member responds with “GOD does not make moral choices……We do.”
Please enlighten me Mr. Liberal Man of Wonder as to how I can respond in a short and satisfactory manner.  Please bear in mind that this person has all the answers.  In her mind the great book tells all………. 
Dear Joe Dirt,

Here’s a photo that makes me not give answers to what happened in Haiti.

When Job (and I don’t think Job is a historical person) suffered greatly his religious friends saw the magnitude of his suffering and they shut their traps.  Didn’t say a syllable or drag out their scripture.  Just sat on the ground seven days with Job.  (Job 2:13)

Unfortunately, later when Job’s so-called friends did open their traps what came out were religious answers that weren’t answers, answers that didn’t work, answers that didn’t solve anything.   

I fear some Christians know more about God’s will than God knows.  I fear some Christians do a lot of damage with their mouths and words.  I fear some Christians are going to overshoot the pearly gates.

Joe, my advice is life is too short to argue with Christians who have all the answers.


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