Category Archives: Listener Feedback

89: Do I Have to Go to Church?

In this episode John and Gregg discuss listener Stephanie’s question: “Is it possible to have an authentic Christian experience without going to church?”

Gregg is enthusiastic that Stephanie developed this conversation in the Untangling Christianity private FaceBook group. He comments on the role of “obedience” in terms of going to church, noting that Hebrews 10:24-5 tends to be cited as “command” to Christians to attend church. Gregg summarizes the greater context of the end of the book of Hebrews by indicating that the focus is on who Jesus is, what Jesus has accomplished (bringing in the new covenant), and what this means for Jews relative to the first covenant.

However, Gregg is wary of finding a harmful circularity in this situation. He explains this by noting that if many Christians equate church attendance with being “obedient to God,” then this means obedience in what sense / to what? In other words, what is the greater cause to which Christians are beholden? And where the reply is often something like: “to be Christ-like,” Gregg would ask the same question: to what end / for what reason?
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78: Be More Practical and Less Theoretical | Listener Feedback

In this episode John and Gregg welcome Tommi Poelstra, John’s wife, to the show. Tommi joins John and Gregg to offer feedback on Episode #68.

In Tommi’s view episode #68 was more focused on God’s kingdom than on God “meeting our needs,” which is what John and Gregg set out to discuss at the beginning of that episode. Further, Tommi understood Gregg to be arguing that people should think more about God’s kingdom than about their needs, and that everyone should thus be “kingdom focused” rather than “need focused.”

Gregg responds that God’s kingdom has no real meaning to non-Christians, and that what stage a given Christian / person investigating Christianity may “be at” in terms of Christianity will determine to what extent God’s kingdom is a priority to that person at that moment.

Tommi continues by noting her sense that episode # 68 needed to address human needs directly. So even as she identifies Gregg as someone who values his family and is clearly concerned for their needs, she still perceived a hierarchy in Gregg’s perspective in that episode, where human needs were important but not “as important” as, say, God’s kingdom. Instead, for Tommi the topic of God’s kingdom should not come into—let alone become alone become the primary focus—in discussion on the topic of human needs. They should have been treated in separate podcasts.
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77: Was That Experience Really God?

John begins by presenting the new, “Untangling Christianity” private Facebook group. John explains that the goal of this group is to be a place for deeper conversation about subjects raised on or related to the podcasts, and that the group can be accessed by sending us an email request.

In this episode John and Gregg discuss a comment made on the Untangling Christianity Facebook group by listener Anna, referring to Episode #71: Does God Act Individually or Personally?.

Anna disagrees with Gregg’s skepticism about certain claims to experience God, such as when seeing an eagle on a hike one might believe: “God put that eagle in the sky for me.” Anna agrees that we can’t be certain if God put the eagle there ‘for’ the hiker, but if the hiker interprets the eagle as “a demonstration of [God’s] love and attention” then, in her view, we should not question the hiker’s belief about this. To do so would essentially be claiming that “there is no way that God would go out of his way to do that for you: you really aren’t that important.”

Gregg appreciates Anna’s response and notes that we need to be careful in several regards. First, not every action or expression that God may make toward an individual should be seen as aimed at expressing love and attention. In other words, communication can be oriented toward informing, assuaging, correcting, promising, guiding, etc. This is clear in human interaction, and so too with God: we see numerous examples in the Bible of God interacting with human beings according to these various orientations.

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66: Church Challenged | Listener Feedback

In this episode John and Gregg discuss feedback from a listener wanting to understand how to continue being part of / partnering with a church where one holds different views from that church’s?  John identifies three questions out of this situation: a) What is the church?  b) What is a Christian’s responsibility to the church? c) How can someone be part of the local church in such cases, and how can this be productive?

Gregg suggests that, at its most basic, the church is a gathering together of those who believe that / are considering whether Jesus Christ is the son of God.  John’s experience is that this notion is actually very problematic, both because its precise definition is very slippery and because Christians use “church attendance” as a way of judging the validity of other’s faith, which John finds alienating.

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60: Love of People or Doctrine | Listener Feedback

In this episode John and Gregg discuss listener feedback from Evan in Virginia.  Evan appreciated the recent podcast on Love and Biblical Illiteracy while posing several questions.

First, can one’s love of biblical doctrine impact how we love others, whether positively or negatively?  Next, Evan wonders how valuable the church’s tradition are and whether we lose something when ignore them or put them aside?  Finally, he wonders if it’s possible we become so preoccupied with whether something is right or wrong that, as a consequence, we lose something of the relational aspect that should mark a Christian’s engagement with others?

On the first question, John offers a resounding ‘Yes’!  For John this is linked to an excessive emphasis in North American churches on judgement (deciding the rightness and wrongness of things).  For Gregg this point raises the relationship between practice and theory.  Gregg agrees with John’s emphasis on judgement, noting the distinction between boundary-focused churches and centre-focused churches.
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