Tag Archives: God’s kingdom

86: Easter

Today we discuss Easter. John characterizes Easter from his past as a moment of rejoicing that Jesus’ resurrection means that Christians have eternal life. He wonders what significance Easter holds for Gregg?

Gregg’s view is that Easter is about how Jesus’ life and death broke down barriers, particularly in the sense that through Jesus’ life and death all humanity was / is now able to be in right relationship with God. Gregg sees this as somewhat similar to his own experience of Good Friday in Switzerland, in 1996.

Gregg goes on to highlight the importance of understanding the continuity of the Easter story with the larger story of Israel (and how often it seems that evangelical presentations are sadly discontinuous with this story, and so seem fragmented as a result). In other words, from Gregg’s perspective the story of Jesus at Easter only actually makes sense within the context of Israel’s story, and otherwise Easter often amounts either to a “guilt trip” about either to be joyful or to be ecstatic about the idea of external life.
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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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73: The Wrong Kind of Mystery

In this episode John and Gregg discuss several Christmas events that John attended over the holidays. John reads sections from the printed material from these events and then John and Gregg discuss this content.

The first piece is a concert program with a welcome message. John is struck by the end of this message which reflected on “the distance that the Creator was willing to go to redeem his creation” by sending Jesus, and how by taking such steps, this represents “His [God’s] greatest mystery.” Gregg replies that if a given subject or element is both mysterious (i.e., unclear and unfathomable) and plays a key role in in either forming or developing a belief set, then clearly we have a big problem. For example, if a particular element is crucial to maintaining belief in God but is unclear or incomprehensible then how can one reasonably (or perhaps even safely) maintain such a belief?

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71: Does God Act Individually or Personally?

In this episode John and Gregg again discuss “God meeting our needs,” and God doing so within the context of furthering / in order to further God’s kingdom (as discussed in episode 68). John is particularly uncertain how Gregg is able to hold this view given the parental sexual abuse that Gregg experienced in his childhood—how Gregg can possibly still see God as good, given these experiences?

Gregg first explains that his view of evil is that people are responsible for their actions—God is not causing people to act in certain ways (i.e., God is not causing parents to abuse their children). Yet John replies that at one time Gregg did seem to hold God responsible. Gregg notes that it was more so that he viewed God as being incapable of doing the right thing—incapable of acting to bring goodness—and that God’s justice was useless: even though he was extremely angry at first, Gregg never ultimately wanted his father punished but rather wanted the relationship to be reformed and renewed because he loved him (see episode 32 for a fuller account).

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