winter

winter

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Open Letter to Mr. Steve Finnell

On a few different occasions, Mr. Finnell has responded to my posts with an eager effort to promote his faith. I am not opposed to such things, however, I did not publish his replies due to the fact they were entirely tangential (at best) to the subject matter of my posts. Out of respect for Mr. Finnell's apparently earnest desire for dialogue, I am taking the time to direct a post to him. I ask that Mr. Finnell, upon reading this post, please do me the kindness of responding in the comments.

His desire for discussion upon this topic seems sincere but he seems hesitant to engage it upon my other blogs. Thus, I am breaking from my usual posting habits to touch upon this subject in this blog as a gesture of kindness and respect for his apparent discomfort to approach me elsewhere. I welcome others who would wish to join this discussion to do so in the comments as well. While this is my blog, I recognize that I am part of a larger community and that this is the digital equivalent of sitting on the front porch and talking with the neighbors.

All I ask, and I state this only for the sake of clarity, is that the discussion be conducted in a respectful tone. I give my most solemn word that I will treat all comers to this discussion with hospitality and kindness. However, if someone chooses to be offensive in their treatment of myself or others who are engaged in this discussion, I will not post their reply. I know that common courtesy is something of a rarity on the internet and it saddens me that I felt it necessary to make the aforementioned statement. That, however, is something for a different post.

In his most recent reply to one of my posts, Mr. Finnell posted the following:

IS GOD'S GRACE IRRESISTIBLE? BY STEVE FINNELL The doctrine of irresistible grace, that was promoted by John Calvin, teaches that God's grace is applied only to those to whom He has determined to save, overcoming their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, imputing them with faith in Christ so that they might become saved. God's grace is available to all who hear the gospel. Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. God's grace is available to all men, however, most men reject the salvation offered by God. Men have a choice, grace is not irresistible. Matthew 7:13-14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Men can and do resist the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:51 "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy
I realize that one might feel somewhat constrained by the format of posting replies here on Blogger. I question, however, why Mr. Finnell felt it necessary to post his reply with such dense text. A few line breaks would have made it much easier to read. I ask that in future posting, that Mr. Finnell use line breaks to delineate the difference between the Bible passages he is quoting and his personal sentiments. The format that he has used thus far is very difficult to read, from a technical standpoint. It fatigues the eye and makes it confusing.

Also, ending with a dangling participle is simply bad form, Mr. Finnell. Please, refrain from doing so. If one must end a statement before completing a quote, it is accepted practice to use an ellipsis. If you are not familiar with an ellipsis, it is formed thusly: [...]. I recognize that my arguments thus far are fare more ... peevish and narrow then what one might expect at the outset of this discussion. I confess, I have times where I have played fast and loose with the rules of written communication myself.

It seems, however, that more casual attention to written communication denotes more casual concern with the subject matter. If I am not mistaken, Mr. Finnell, you consider the subject you are attempting to engage me in to be one of great importance. Additionally, it seems to me that the holy book which you are referencing would be one that you hold in high regard and would expend the extra effort to make sure that you are clearly expressing your quotations with the level of gravitas that is merited by the subject matter and source material.

Please, Mr. Finnell, in your responses to me upon this subject, take the time to make your responses easily readable. It makes it not only easier for me to understand what you are communicating but makes me more inclined to engage you upon the subject. I prefer to discuss topics of religion with individuals who are educated to a moderate extent because I come away from the conversation having learned something. It is my hope that this discussion will prove profitable to both of us and the only way that we can begin to approach this is with a clearly defined framework for communication.

Now, I express some disappointment, Mr. Finnell, that you did not identify which version of the Bible you are referencing here. There are subtle but meaningful differences in the language used in the different versions of the Bible that are on the market. I did take a moment to review a few posts on your blog. It seems that you are using the New King James Version. I do now own this version, however, I have an Authorized King James Version. I hope that the differences in the material are not so great as to hinder discussion. I ask, however, that in the future, when you are using quotations, that you note which version of the Bible you are using. I do not know if you, like myself, own multiple versions of this holy book. I would like to be able to reference the same material as you are so that I might be able to understand the quotation in its full context.

I find it curious that you open your post with a declaration. I can not tell if this declaration is from yourself or the esteemed John Calvin. (John Calvin was a very wise man who did a great deal of work to encourage the Protestant reformation and I respect his efforts highly. I would assume from your referencing of him that you are of the Calvinist denomination. If I am incorrect in this assumption, please be so kind as to share what denomination you follow. I am most curious, however, I digress. You open with the following declaration:

The doctrine of irresistible grace, that was promoted by John Calvin, teaches that God's grace is applied only to those to whom He has determined to save, overcoming their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, imputing them with faith in Christ so that they might become saved. God's grace is available to all who hear the gospel.
If irresistible grace is applied to those whom your God has decided to save, would it not happen that I would be aware of this grace? Would it not have refashioned my beliefs or otherwise reshaped the structure of my life whereby accepting the 'call of the gospel' becomes the only logical path in my life? Additionally, Mr. Finnell, what exactly would your God be saving me from?

It is the belief of your sect that all of humanity is depraved and incapable of ethical behavior with out the intervention of your God. I question how it is that you feel so empowered to make such judgments about myself. Does not the very Bible you have quoted admonish believers to remember that such judgments are the purview of God alone? The sermon upon the Mount of Olives is a very clear lesson upon this matter. It would be the very height of hubris to make such judgments and act upon them.

Your aggressive insistence that I pay court to your efforts to proselytize to me would lead me to infer that you believe that I am amongst the worst wicked and that my salvation must be accomplished by way of your efforts in addition to those of your God. For, indeed, such aggressive efforts to persuade me away from my path bespeaks a lack of faith that your God is sufficient to change my heart upon his own efforts. Is your God omnipotent or not? If your God is omnipotent, then you have no work to do.

Indeed, if your God is omnipotent and desires me to change my ways, he would know the best way to persuade me. It would happen in a manner that I would have no choice but either accept or reject because I would see quite clearly the logical choice in the matter. There would be no fuzzy arguments about ethics, the qualities of God, or what humanity's proper relationship with God, itself, and the world should be.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. God's grace is available to all men, however, most men reject the salvation offered by God. Men have a choice, grace is not irresistible.
The quote above leads me to question, Mr. Finnell, if humanity has a choice to reject your God, what power does your God have? How exactly can your God save me if his will is undone by a person merely saying 'no'? I have been beset by great harm and difficulty in my 35 years upon Earth. In those times of difficulty, why did your God not stretch forth his hand and shelter me from the evil that was visited upon me? It would have won him a steadfast and unshakeable convert, I assure you. Yet, your God did no such thing, for myself or many others whom have been or are currently in such a position.

Why does your God rely upon such weak vessels as human action if he truly seeks to save the world? Could it be that those of us who have not been favored by such a kindly glance from your God are not amongst the chosen? I ask, could it be that I was destined for my heathen ways? And, if this was the case, would it not be arrogance and foolishness to attempt to persuade me to take a different path? Would this not be another manifestation of a failure to have complete faith in your God, whom your faith teaches is omnipresent, omnipotent, and all knowing?

Indeed, Mr. Finnell, is it not possible that I, a mere housewife, am placed here to serve as a mirror whereby you might examine your own faith and your efforts to convert me are you moving against the plan of your God? For, if your God has shaped all things and knows the hearts of all humanity, then I am precisely as your God has formed me and I fulfill the role that he has placed me in simply as I am. All life experiences and genetic programming that has lead me to this precise moment in time happened in accordance with your God's will, according to most Christian thought, and I am as I should be with out any action upon your part. It would be a dangerous act of will for one to oppose an omnipotent, omnipresent, all knowing being.

You would have my believe that your presence, as persistent as it is, is a manifestation of that super abundant grace and that your efforts to convert me are endorsed by this. I question, is it your God's will that you are engaged in or your own? You would be quick to declare me amongst the proud and wicked, Mr. Finnell, but what evidence have you that I am so? How is a peaceable person who deals fairly with others and abides by the laws of the land amongst the wicked? How is a person who is more concerned with the good of others then that of themselves amongst the wicked?

I practice my faith quietly. I do good work in my community where I can. I am raising my boys to be good men who respect and honor other people. I do not harm others. I even work to be ecologically sound in my work around the house and in my purchasing efforts, thereby acting as a good steward of the land for the generations that follow me. Please, I ask you, show me what evil these actions have caused? How does this place me amongst the people who are in need of salvation?

Furthermore, what exactly would I be being saved from? What of the people who died unaware of the gospel, Mr. Finnell? The unbaptized and ignorant of your faith, are they condemned as well by their accident of birth? Ah, wait, I forget, Mr. Finnell, a central tenet of your sect of Christianity is that all of humanity is depraved. Thus the infant child is somehow equally as much of an affront to the eyes of your God as he who murders and commits acts of rape. Explain to me, please Mr. Finnell, how that works. The infant child is not yet capable of moral reasoning. They act out of ignorance, in their limited capacity for action, and are not yet experienced enough to conceptualize abstract concepts like malice. The murderer has their faculties and the ability to act as a moral agent. They can consciously choose how to proceed and engage in actions deliberately, even when they choose not to consider those actions fully.

You would have me embrace your faith on the basis of a few quotes. Within those quotes are a thinly veiled threat of punishment if I do not make the 'right' choice and an insult against my person. If such tactics were undertaken at any other juncture, what ever decision I made would be under duress and not of my own free will, if I had felt sufficiently threatened by the threat of punishment. If I were to choose conversion under those circumstances, I did not choose it of my own free will but to avoid punishment. As such, by being forced into such a choice, I didn't make a choice but rather complied with those who were forcing me into the situation out of a sense of self preservation, much like a man who is being robbed at gunpoint would hand over his wallet rather then being shot. The man does not know if the gun is loaded and is forced to operate on the assumption that it is and complies for the sake of his well being.

You, Mr. Finnell, have placed me in this position. Your God seeks a conversion via free will. Your efforts, however, have placed me in a position where said conversion would not be of my free will. Thus, you are undermining God and engaging in a dangerous game, sir. And all of this is with out any consideration for the question of the existence of other Gods and the possible role they play in this scenario.

I ask you, sir, why do you threaten as part of your efforts to convert? The gospel is supposed to be about good news (as that is the root of the term gospel even) and making the world aware of God's love of humanity. One does not persuade a person with threats. That is terrorizing them. Indeed, one could argue that it is psychological and emotional blackmail to do so. I am made of sterner stuff and do not take kindly to such efforts. I will, however, overlook your thinly veiled threats if you would engaged me by way of reason. Persuade me, Mr. Finnell. Tell me what good your God has done for you and the world. Explain to me why your God would permit the evils that happened to me and turned a deaf ear when I appealed for aid.

It was not your God that delivered me from evil, by the way. It was my Gods that helped me to endure it and defend myself from it when it came again in my life. I place low value upon a 'savior' who refuses to rescue a child from a dangerous situation.

3 comments:

Steve Finnell said...

God loves you as do I. I will be praying for you. In Christ Steve

The Wife said...

Mr. Finnell,

I am certain that the love of God extends to the least of us and is equitable and unconditional. I accept your good wishes and offer of prayers on my behalf.

I had hoped that you would have a greater reply to what I had posted. Perhaps you simply needed some time to consider the points I raised. Do take all the time you need, I look forward to your reply.

The Wife said...

Mr. Finnell,

I am certain that the love of God extends to the least of us and is equitable and unconditional. I accept your good wishes and offer of prayers on my behalf.

I had hoped that you would have a greater reply to what I had posted. Perhaps you simply needed some time to consider the points I raised. Do take all the time you need, I look forward to your reply.