Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Confessing what!?

John Shuck, A Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Pastor confesses his faith thus :

“No deity exists. Not Jesus Christ, not Yahweh, not Baal, not Marduk, not Allah, not Zeus, not the Flying Spaghetti Monster, not the Wizard of Oz. None of them exist. All figments of imagination. They are fun. But none are worth the spiritual violence they cause.”

And it is faith because philosophically speaking there is neither an absolute proof for God nor an absolute proof that there is not a God. Of all the proofs that exist Anselm’s ontological proof is perhaps the nearest one to proving the existence of God, that is, if you believe that existence is an attribute. A perfect being that you conceive in your mind would then have to exist because your idea of a perfect being would include existence (and that existence must be a reality for it to mean anything) and therefore God must exist.

But then the scripture would need to fill in all of the details about such a God including the Incarnation and his redeeming grace.

But the truth is (and yes this is about truth) Anselm himself believed that one must have faith before he could really know any true thing about God. One of his prayers’s ended:

“I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.”

So in one sense John Shuck is right, he is writing about Lee Strobel’s little booklet “The case for Easter” and insisting that no one can reason another person into believing in God or the resurrection. And we can’t. Only the Holy Spirit can and will do that. Only the Father will draw us to his Son. Only the Son will show us the Father.

As John Calvin puts it concerning the Scriptures, “”it is foolish to attempt to prove to infidels that the Scripture is the Word of God. That it is cannot be known to be, except by faith.” Jesus speaks about the light that the eye receives which gives a person knowledge about the world around him. He says that through the eyes that are good the whole body is filled with light. But then he goes on to speak of that light with these words:

“Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness. If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illuminated, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.” (Luke 11:34-36)

In other words we can know all about the world about us, even about our inner self, but this light or knowledge can be darkness if we deny the true light which is Jesus Christ.

Jesus, speaking to his own generation, calls himself a sign like the sign of Jonah. Jonah was only in a large fish; he didn’t really die but the Ninevites believed his word from God. Jesus was in the earth, and truly dead, yet he, because he was both God and man was bodily resurrected. Jonah came from the sea and the fish undoubtedly trailing sea weed. Jesus came from the tomb trailing heaven's glory.

Jesus says that the Ninevites will rise up in judgment against his generation. Jesus’ generation is the whole of the church age from the time of his appearing. What will it be like to stand facing not only a holy God but a whole nation of ancient cruel Ninevites who repented at the preaching of a man who probably still had sea weed hanging from his ears?


will spotts said...

There is a logical consistency in arguing for the name "christian" to apply to one's political preferences - and empty it of all other meaning.... If one believes those political preferences are somehow good, and if one believes that the other meanings are bad / false.

It is, however, morally indefensible. The ethic involved is contained in the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." And this premise is fairly universally recognized ... even by "primitive iron aged" peoples.

It is stealing and lying - because the reason that image is appealed to lies in the fact that people already have feelings attached to the name "Jesus". The one who does not share those feelings / beliefs - yet tries to align one's political preferences with that figure, is certainly capable of doing so. But such a behavior would be extremely dishonest, cynically manipulative, hypocritical, and fully disqualified from any definition of either moral or comapssionate. This would be true regardless of the virtue of the political preferences supported by that person.

Such a Machiavellian technique is not unique by any means. The "empire" has done this many, many times. This is the same tactic - same song, different key.

Will Spotts
North East, MD

John Shuck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
will spotts said...

Where do you imagine that distortion originated? And when do you posit it?

And what might be your source material for this "jesus story" you imagine?

You may be entertaining. You may like to controversial. But through your actions and statements you also like to display contempt for the people who embrace the Jesus you reject. (i.e. the diety you don't believe in - per your statement.)

You're entitled to be as contemptuous as you want ... but it seems to clash rather starkly with your view of yourself as a compassionate person.

Dave Moody said...

I just finished leading some folks here in the beautiful land through the Bible in 90 days. This is the second time I've done this, a great 3 month communal experience with God's word.

I saw something in Jonah this time though, that I previously missed... Jonah was tossed overboard, the waves were stilled, and the sailors were saved. A sign- pointing forward- to God's wrath against rebellion ultimately being satisfied by the sacrifice of Jesus, resulting in salvation. And then the resurrection, belly of the fish for three days sign, we typically notice. The whole 'thing' was 'the sign of Jonah.'

Analogies are never exact, and break down when pushed too far... but the whole shape of the narrative struck me as being a sign of the cross and the resurrection.

my 2c
Fairbanks, AK

Dave Moody said...

oh, and as regards to John Shuck...

Momento Mori

Presbyman said...

When I read John Shuck's post describing his reaction to the Lee Strobel book being delivered, I had a vision of Mr. Wilson from Dennis the Menace shaking his fist at the neighborhood kids and yelling "get off the sidewalk, you little hoodlums!"

I then remembered the end of CS Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters," where Screwtape declares:

"All that sustains me is the conviction that our Realism, our rejection (in the face of all temptations) of all silly nonsense and claptrap, must win in the end."

John's whole Village Atheist shtick is really not original or interesting anymore. It's been done before, over and over again.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Viola Larson said...

My pastor talked about taking God's name in vain as stealing by using it in ways it was never intended. I would guess this is the same thing, filling Christianity with content that is foreign to it as you expunge its most basic reality, the incarnation, the cross as redemption, the Trinity – But here is another thing that happens as you do that—Christianity’s moral content such as feeding the poor, forgiving enemies, protecting the weak and helpless soon will go because their very foundation will be destroyed.

Viola Larson said...

My church has talked about doing "through the Bible in Ninety Days. It sounds good to me.

I like your understanding of Jonah.

Viola Larson said...

Presbyman, Yup-C.S. Lewis' Screwtape and his speeches are just right!

Viola Larson said...

John S.
It isn't that I think you are interesting it’s that sometimes you seem to need an answer to your questions and statements. You are always writing about Jesus and how he isn’t.

I like the way Bonhoeffer puts it,
"There are only two ways possible of encountering Jesus; man must die or he must put Jesus to death."

That’s a scary thought when you consider that it came from the pin of a man who wrote that when Jesus calls us he bids us come and die. And that man, Bonhoeffer found in Christ the strength to both live and die.

But obviously you have chosen to put Jesus to death.

Anonymous said...

John Shuck: "The Jesus story is essentially about political and economic and social justice and liberation (kingdom of God)."

John the apostle: "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

Bruce Byrne
Concord, Ca

Earl Tilford said...

And who do we have to thank for John Shuck? Was he not examined by a presbytery before he was ordained? What did they ask him? Did they ask him if he accepted the creeds of the Church, including the Apostle's Creed that clearly states one believes Christ was born of a virgin, was crucified, dead, buried, descended into Hell and rose from the dead. Did he affirm his belief in the Nicene Creed? If he did he must have lied and his ordination should be voided.

I suspect, however, he had to answer such difficult questions as, "Do you accept gender-neutral langauge in our hymns?" Or, "What role do you think Martin Luther King plays in informing today's Church?" Certainly, "No" and "None" probably would not be acceptable. As for me, ask. ("No" and "None.")

Shuck's last posted sermon, his Palm Sunday Sermon, was about the evils of empires, ostensibly the Roman Empire (which facilitated the growth of Christianity by making the world safe for travelers to carry the Gospel throughout the Roman World and then ultimately embraced Christianity), but mostly it was a condemnation of the United States along with its domestic and foreign policies. It was also full of polemics, i.e. comparing Mathew Sheppherd's murder to the execution of Jesus Christ. Ugh! Poor theology and even poorer knowledge of the definition of murder as opposed to "execution."

Shucks and chaff will be blown away by the winds of truth, but the Word of God endures forever.

Thanks be to God,

Earl Tilford
First Presbyterian Church
Tuscaloosa, AL

Earl Tilford said...

And who do we have to thank for John Shuck? Didn't he undergo examination by a presbytery for ordination? Did they ask him if he affirmed the creeds of the denomination. That would have included "The Apostles' Creed" and the Nicean Creed, both of which attest to the nature of God and Jesus Christ. It's quite likely, however, he was asked such penetrating questions as "Do you affirm the use of inclusive language in our hymns?" If so, shame on them and shame on us as a denomination for allowing such a thing.

I read Shuck's Palm Sunday sermon. It's a polemic lambasting "empires." Ostensibly, it was lambasting the Roman Empire of the first century A.D. In reality, the message was aimed at the United States. Comparing the murder of Mathew Sheppherd to the execution of Christ is both historically inept and pitiful. Sheppherd was fouly murdered. Jesus Christ was fouly executed, but there's a difference and the latter involes corporate guilt while the former is the illegal taking of innocent life. A better analogy, Mr. Shuck, might have been between the taking of innocent life in abortion and the execution of Christ: both are (and were) conducted under the aegis of law.

"Shuck and Jive" indeed. That's what it is, "jive." In the end, the jive fades to nothing and the shuck, like chaff before the wind, is blown away. The truth of God, however, endures for all generations.

Earl Tilford
First Presbyterian Church
Tuscaloosa, AL

Stushie said...

He's scrambling for shock value during Holy Week just like Lady Gaga and her Judas song. Maybe he should change the name of his blog to "Shuck and Chaff."

Adel Thalos said...

You ask..."Confessing what". There is much I appreciate about Mr. Shuck. He confesses openly what progressive pastors/theologians have believed in the dark.

Having been on a Presbytery committee that examines candidates, I can say with full confidence that Mr. Shuck is merely confessing what a very large percentage (maybe the majority) of ordained leaders in the PCUSA and most mainliners have been taught at their Seminaries.

It is a confession of unbelief. It is a confession that opposes nearly everything that the Protestant church has held dearly from its inception. It is a full-out denial of the heart of the gospel. At its heart it is what the apostle John might refer to as the spirit of the anti-Christ.

Adel Thalos
Hixson, TN

will spotts said...

Adel -

Thank you for pointing out the "elephant in the room". The issue is far less the individual statements and beliefs of one person. Instead it is what I believe it indicates about a far wider phenomenon.

There is, perhaps, a reason people don't object to his more colorful statements - oh, they're careful to say ... "I don't believe that", but they place two conflicting views on the same plane as if both are equally valid.

Earl Tilford said...

If Shuck typifies what is coming out of PCUSA seminaries, then what are we doing in the PCUSA? Viola, Carmen, and the folks over at "The Layman" have fought the good fight in trying to articulate a path to redemption for the PCUSA. Dr. Dick Druary, former pastor at Memorial Presbyterian Church in Montgomery, Alabama, once told me, "God calls us to do battle where the battle rages." Dick left for the EPC almost 20 years ago. Once there were a dozen United Presbyterian and Presbyterian Church in the United States congregations in Montgomery. Today there are three.

Someone in my Sunday School class said last week that he can worship God in his closet if need be. He was expressing a frustration we are all feeling at a denomination that is not only out of touch with the Gospel but also with the beliefs of many of its members. It's become a cabal of political activists using the Church and its funds to support their own progressive agendas. And I'm sick of it.

Earl Tilford
Tuscaloosa, AL

Joseph Cejka said...

Mr. Shuck is quoted as saying he holds to no Deity on your website, copied below is some of what is posted at his personal blog. I suspect you are merely taunting each other with posts designed and engineered to raise ire.

Sunday, November 23, 2008
Statement of Faith
Our church has moved its web page, and I have lost some of my stuff. One of the things was my Statement of Faith that I had to present to my presbytery so I could serve my current church.

Statement of Faith
Who Do You Say That I Am?
John Shuck
Circa 2004

Jesus, you are a living presence in my life.
You are the Risen Christ.

You are my Comforter.
You have been there throughout my life in times of sorrow and anxiety.
You were there with me at the side of my brother through his accident.
I felt your reassurance and confidence for him and our family.
You are my mother’s prayer, my father’s wisdom, and my wife’s love.
You are the joy of my children, my friends, my congregation, and my community.

You are there as I counsel others in my ministry.
You are the words of hope and care that I do not have on my own.

You were there when I baptized a stillborn baby in the hospital.
You are there at the funerals of old friends.
You give meaning and hope to my life and to all of life.
You are the hope that in life and in death we are the Lord’s.

You are my Encouragement.
You are my source of hope when I feel discouraged.
You give me the courage to be a voice for the voiceless.
You call me to speak for others when I would rather play it safe.
You encourage me to keep on and to follow the narrow path of justice.
You are the courage to preach your kingdom.

You are my Conscience.
You point out the beam in my own eye as I worry over the speck in others.
You remind me that justice without love is harsh and cold.
You call me to love and to understand my enemies when I would rather play the victim.

You are the Victim.
When the church has marginalized others,
--when the church has executed those it has called heretics,
--when the church has denied access to your table,
--when nations do violence in your name,
You are crucified with the dying.
When I have done violence through harsh words or deeds,
You are the victim of my violence.
For that I seek forgiveness.


(The following sections were edited out by me for length's sake so that I may make a posting here.)

Anonymous said...

"Having been on a Presbytery committee that examines candidates, I can say with full confidence that Mr. Shuck is merely confessing what a very large percentage (maybe the majority) of ordained leaders in the PCUSA and most mainliners have been taught at their Seminaries."

I can reassure you that my PCUSA seminary did not teach what John Shuck confesses. Heck, they didn't even allow Doug Ottati to teach what he confessed and he was employed as a PROFESSOR there!

John didn't learn his theology at no seminary. If you asked him, I bet he would tell you that he pieced it together later, mostly from reading sugar packets.

John Bush
Sarasota, FL

Viola Larson said...

I would very much like to keep this conversation on a Christian and an intellectual level. For instance, John Bush, John Shuck does not get his theology from sugar packets but from the Jesus Seminar and various other new age, pagan and atheistic writers. Saying that is an honest way of telling the truth about what is wrong with the PCUSA. We as a denomination are too busy pulling in all of the “new” truths of the world system. The truly reformed, Evangelicals and the orthodox will not be able to stand for Jesus if we descend to gutter level so please don’t go there.

Viola Larson said...

Joseph Cejka,
I think I have seen that before. I am not sure but it sounds familiar. The problem is that John S. has repeatedly said differently on his blog. He does not even believe in God. He doesn’t believe in the deity of Christ or his resurrection. He does believe in the universe maybe that is Christ to him. So although he wrote that seven years ago he evidently doesn’t hold it as true now.

I can’t believe that a Christian who loves Jesus Christ would constantly deny him in a very public place and malign his followers over and over again.

John McNeese said...


You need people like John Shuck. How else would you prove your orthodoxy?

Viola Larson said...

I have been thinking more about John’s statement of faith you posted with your comment. I’m not sure what happened between John’s offering of that to his presbytery and the last several years. This part: “Jesus, you are a living presence in my life. You are the Risen Christ,” is something John has consistently denied for several years.

You did not give the part that would show where John was moving to:

“You are a Mystery.
I cannot claim you.
My sisters and brothers across the planet know you by other names.
Creation itself knows you in non-human terms.
Your mystery humbles me.”

That is sad because when people start denying the truth of God’s word they begin a downward journey.

For those interested that can be found at http://www.shuckandjive.org/2008/11/statement-of-faith.html

Some of it is beautiful but the part above tosses it all away.

Viola Larson said...

John McNeese,

What a strange thing to say. Are you aware of who the standard really is-the One we can measure our life by and say this is it. Of course we all fail, both John Shuck and myself. That is why we need Jesus not only as a moral standard but also as the One whose righteousness takes the place of our righteousness.

We don't look at the one who denies Christ to test our orthodoxy but instead at the Word of God as he is known in all of scripture both the Old Testament and the New.

Greg Scandlen said...

John Shuck writes -- "And Will Spotts spouts more nonsense." And -- "You self-proclaimed orthodox evangelicals are the thieves."

But then I went to the web site of his church and found this as part of the definition of a "progressive Christian church" --
"Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us;"

Curious that Mr. Shuck is unwilling to extend such courtesy to his fellow Presbyterians.

Alas, I am not surprised to witness such hypocrisy coming from a "progressive."

Alan said...

Christopher Hitchens, one of the main spokespeople for atheism was in Portland for a presenation and met with the now retired pastor at First Unitarian for a discussion. I'll put the link below for the whole interview.

What struck me was how Ms. Sewell make a point to separate herself from the evangelical/fundamentalist crowd. She says, "I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?”

Hitchens’ reply is, “I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.”

It's sad when an atheist sees the truth of God more clearly than those called to be pastors.

Portland, Or

The link is: http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/arts-and-entertainment/category/books-and-talks/articles/christopher-hitchens/

Viola Larson said...

Thanks Alan.

I never thought I would say that Christopher Hitchens is right about anything, but on this YES!

pastor thalos said...

I find it fascinating that John's message is nearly identical to that of Trevor Loudon:

That's right...the Easter message from the Communist Party.