Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Some Articles Worth Reading

Love this, Kevin!  Way to go!  Glad to see someone in Hollywood still has a brain and the guts to use it:  Actor Kevin Sorbo's Three Tweets About Sex, Abortion,  and Immigration Set Internet Ablaze


This made me smile, to see a family enjoying life and learning together:


Amen to this, and well-written:  Why I Do Not Celebrate Gay Pride




If only NO politicians would be like her:  Kirsten Gillibrand Says Christian Beliefs Not Allowed, and Pro-Lifers Are Like Racists and Anti-Semites  (Horrifying!  The most ironic part is that she basically makes a comment about the dangers of appointing someone who will take away basic human rights ... right after saying that there are certain issues where society can say the views of "the other side" are "unacceptable."  She's basically saying that those who see these issues differently than her shouldn't be allowed to have their own opinions on it.  Talk about taking away basic human rights!  So it's okay for her side to have their views, but not the other side!?!  And it's okay for liberals to push their views and agendas on the public for years now, but not for conservative religious people to push for or fight for theirs!?!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Best Perfume For Those Who Hate Perfume!

I have a super-sensitive sense of smell.  I can't stand candles.  I can't walk down the cleaning supply aisle.  And I am not a big fan of wearing perfume, simply because I know it's just a bunch of chemicals.  

But I do want to still smell decent when I am out and about.  And so I discovered what - for me - is the best "perfume" to use.

Vanilla Essential Oil 

I don't think it's technically an essential oil, but more like an essence of vanilla in jojoba oil.  But it is a natural product.  And so it doesn't have an overwhelming or chemical smell.  It's light and sweet.  I simply drop a couple drops of the prediluted oil onto my forearms and rub it in.  And if I am desperate for deodorant, I'll even rub a couple drops under my arms.  (Mine is from the NOW brand of essential oils.)

Every time I wear it, my kids ask "What smells like sugar cookies?" or "What smells like marshmallows?"

I will even lightly rub it into my hair so that my hair smells like vanilla.  (FYI, it's a very light scent that doesn't last long.  But I'd rather have a hint of vanilla for a little while than an overwhelming chemical smell for a long time.)

Another good idea is to use the prediluted flower essential oils.  Dilute a couple drops of a flower oil with a carrier oil, and rub on your body.  I particularly like the neroli, rose, and jasmine essential oils.  It's a very uncomplicated smell, just light, floral, and sweet.  Not too shabby!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

#youknowmetoo ... #imalive ... #momletmelive

You know that horrible hashtag going around - the "you know me" one where women celebrate the abortions they had.

Well, there should be a #youknowmetoo or #imalive or #momletmelive or something like that where anyone who knows they were almost an abortion can celebrate the fact that they are alive, that their mother let them live.  (Or maybe they themselves almost had an abortion, but kept their child.  And they can celebrate the fact that they did.)

I'll go first:  

"Hi, my name's Heather.  I'm a 43-year-old mother of four sons.  I have been married to the same wonderful man for 20 years.  I have a Master's in Counseling Psychology, but I've chosen to stay home instead to raise my sons.  I consider it an honor and immense blessing to be a wife and mother.  I believe in helping hurting people, in standing up for Truth, and I have put my faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!  

But ... I might never have been.  My mother got pregnant with me when she was 18, fresh from being released from an orphanage.  She was not married, and had no parents to guide her or help her.  She was young and alone and had nothing.  And she considered having an abortion.  (I don't know how much she considered it; I just know she did.  She told me about it once.  And we never talked about it again.  And for the record, I'm not upset that she considered it.  It doesn't matter to me that she did.  When I consider her life, I can understand.)

But obviously, she didn't have an abortion.  She chose instead to let me live.  And she even decided to raise me, though she had nothing in life.  Life hasn't been easy for her - she lost her parents young, went to an orphanage because no relative wanted her, got out of the orphanage, got pregnant right away, married my dad, divorced two years later, and married and divorced a couple more times.  

But ... you know me tooI'm alive today because my mom let me live.

She had it hard.  And I know it must have been a struggle for her, being an unwed, pregnant, homeless teen.  I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision to make.  But I'm very thankful that she didn't snuff out my life simply because it was most convenient for her!

She did the hard thing, the right thing.  She took responsibility for her choices and for the consequence of her choices.

A consequence she named Heather.

Thank you, Mom, for letting me live.  My sons are a part of your legacy.  A tribute to you and the responsible, selfless decision you made.  Thank you!"


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Too Funny - Alyssa Milano's Sex-Strike

So there's an article out about Alyssa Milano calling for a sex-strike until anti-abortion laws get changed.  She is saying that women shouldn't have sex until they get more abortions rights.

Ha-ha-ha!  Yes, please do that!  Please!  

It's a win-win-win for everyone else but the women striking.  First off, it's exactly what we need to have lower abortion rates.  It will also help stop the spread of diseases.  It will prevent the rabid feminists from passing their views on to any children they might have decided to keep if they had gotten pregnant.  And the men these women are withholding sex from might just go out and find a decent, respectful woman who won't use sex to control and manipulate the men into giving them what they want.  

A win for the unborn, for the next generation, for the sexual health of our country, and for the men who the feminists are trying to control!

So ... yes, Alyssa ... please get as many feminists as you can to join this sex-strike with you!  That's awesome!  Threatening to live the way we should be living anyway!  

(Ha-ha-ha, too funny!  I'm cracking up here at the ironic-ness of it all!) 

Review of "Once an Insider, Now Without a Church Home" - A Look At How Churches Go Bad

(I don't know if anyone who comes to this blog will care about this issue, but I have been tackling the issue of Calvinism over at two of my other blogs, My Crazy Faith and The Anti-Calvinist Rant.  I may put a few of those posts over here too, because I think they are worth talking about.  But first, I am posting a review I was asked to do of one woman's story about how Calvinism, among other problems, invaded her church.  It's a story any church-goer should take to heart and learn from.  If some of you have had problems with church and with accepting the view of God that was pushed on you, it might just be that it was a Calvinist view of God, which is far different than the Bible's view!)


I was recently asked to review this book – Once an Insider, Now Without A Church Home: One Couple’s Faith Crisis Due to the Infiltration and Spread of Authoritarianism, Calvinism, Complementarianism, and Covenants in the Am Evangelical Church, written by Amanda Farmer.  (Click here to go to the author’s website or click here to order her book on Amazon.)

I am not getting paid or reimbursed in any way for this review.  But after reading it, I am happy to do it because I think it’s a message that needs to get out there as much as possible. For me, I will focus particularly on the “Calvinism” part of it, seeing as how it’s also recently taking over the church my family has attended for almost 20 years.

I found this review of the book online by another blog-owner.  And since that blog owner did a great job of giving a thorough synopsis of the book, I will focus more on giving my impressions of it, how it affected me, and what it made me think.

For starters, Amanda shares her story in a very clear, thorough way, taking us from her search for a home church … to her early pleasant experiences with the Evangelical Free church she ended up in (where she held certain positions) … to her concerns about some questionable changes going on in the leadership, behind the scenes … to the disturbing theological changes that came in with a new Calvinist pastor.  Changes which eventually made it unbearable to stay at the church she had dedicated decades of her life to.



Overview: 

As the title says, she addresses the spread of authoritarianism, Calvinism, complementarianism, and (extra-biblical) covenants.  Click on the above review link for a deeper look at this. 

But in a nutshell, she shares the story of her church’s slide into becoming more pastor/elder-controlled (less “leading” and more “controlling,” fewer elders to oversee the pastor and keep things in check), more male-dominated (restricting the role of women more, being less welcoming to women’s input in church decisions), a solidly Calvinistic church that doesn’t tolerate other views (because of the influence of a new, dogmatic, domineering Calvinist pastor), and a church that now requires members to sign a covenant with the church, committing to live the way a Christian should live and the way the leaders want them to live, not only while they are at the church but even if they should leave that church. 

(Requiring people in the congregation to sign covenants with the church regarding their spiritual lives and how they live out their faith - above and beyond agreeing with the basic core beliefs of that church - is dangerous territory.  Especially if membership in that church hinges on it.  I completely agree with Amanda that it sets up the likely possibility for spiritual abuse!  Any leadership that seeks to do this is straying beyond their rightful boundaries, usurping God’s role in people’s lives and adding burdens and requirements that even God doesn’t put on us!)

When I got to the end of the book, I felt a little sad about how things turned out for her.  For the loss of her home church, the damage done to relationships, the way it caused her and her husband to struggle with their faith, and for how resistant the church was to even consider the wise cautions and insights she gave. 

And I was sad because it is very similar to the changes that are going on at our church, as least regarding Calvinism.  I do not have the “inner circle” experience she does, so I do not have first-hand knowledge of some of the other things she warns about, such as business and financial decisions and to what degree they include women in church matters.  But I can totally relate to her frustration of trying to confront the leadership, to “sound the alarm” about dangerous theological changes, and to the feeling of being ultimately alone in your position, almost ashamed that you disagree, as though there is something wrong with you and your faith.

This is why I totally appreciate her willingness to speak out about her experience and her boldness in confronting the leaders at her church.  The more we quietly sit back and let these kinds of changes happen and yet say nothing, the more complicit we are in the slide into heresy and spiritual abuse and all that.



The Gospel Message:

In particular, I was struck by how well Amanda – who has no formal theological training – is able to understand and share the Gospel, in contrast to the highly educated pastors.  Even her husband’s simple sermon about the freight cars is profound, simply for the fact that it’s so relatable and easy-to-understand.  It’s a sermon for the Everyday Person.  And that’s what the Gospel was meant to be.  Truth and hope for all people.  And I was touched by it, especially after having had my fill lately of too many lofty, academic, theological, Calvinistic beatings from my pastor. 

The theological experts are supposed to be the ones who get it right.  Yet as I read Amanda’s views on the foundational truths of the Gospel (even in her letters to the leaders at her church), I can see that it’s not always true.  She has a better grasp on the Gospel than the leaders in her church because she is reading it as it was meant to be read and keeping it in line with God’s revealed character (whereas Calvinism completely alters and destroys God’s love, grace, justice, sovereignty, forgiveness, goodness, etc., and turns Him into a liar). 

As I said, the Gospel message was meant to be read by all, to be understood by all.  It’s simple enough that even a child or a biblically-illiterate seeker can understand it:

Because of the Fall of mankind, we are all separated from God.  And because of our sin, we can’t get into heaven, nor can we save ourselves.  But even though we are separated from God by sin, God loves us and wants us with Him in heaven.  So He made a way for us to get into heaven.  Since we can’t pay the penalty for sin ourselves, He paid it for us by sending Jesus to die in our place.  And anyone who accepts His sacrifice, His payment, on their behalf will find eternal life.  Salvation is available to all people because Jesus paid for all people’s sins on the cross.  And it’s up to us to accept or reject His sacrifice for us.

See!  It’s that simple.  And that simple beautiful Gospel message has touched the hearts and changed the lives and destinies of millions of people.

But now … now we have multitudes of brainy, lofty theological students who have been trained in Calvinism being unleashed into the world, into our churches.  They have twisted the Gospel’s Truth, and turned it into something only the Theological Elite can understand, into something only the “super humble” people (like them!) can accept (i.e. people who won’t question a theology that’s confusing, irrational, illogical, biblically-off-track, and that turns God into a monster, but who will just “humbly” accept it without qualms). 

Essentially, I think too many pastors and theologians have made a religion out of their own assumptions (which is what I think Calvinism is), and they are actually worshipping their own intellect, brilliance, and (false) humility, instead of worshipping God as He is in His Word.

And, unfortunately, to the detriment of the Church and the Gospel, they are experts at slowly introducing their heresies so that we don’t realize anything is wrong until it’s too late. 



Calvinism:

For those who don’t know, Calvinism includes (among other things) the ideas that God has prechosen who will go to heaven and who will go to hell and there’s nothing we can do about it … that Jesus only died for the “elect” (those predestined to heaven) … that we have no choice about anything because God causes everything we do, even our sins and unbelief, yet we are still somehow responsible for it and can be punished for those things God causes us to do … that we are unable to think about or want or seek God unless God causes us to do it (only the “elect” people, that is) … and that God is glorified by predestining people to hell. 

Calvinism completely turns the Gospel on its head.  Yet they teach it as truth, as the only way to view the Bible!     

I don’t doubt that they truly think they are teaching truth.  But honestly, they are not teaching the Gospel.  They are teaching a completely altered version of the Gospel that comes from men’s own philosophies and assumptions about what God is like and how He has to act in order to be God.  But since they use the same words and phrases and Bible verses (yet they alter the meanings of those words and phrases, and they take the Bible verses out of context), it all sounds biblical to us.  And we don’t realize there’s anything wrong … until it’s too late. 

I appreciate that Amanda takes the time to alert us to the damaging theological views that are seeping into the Church - not just her church, but many others out there as well (such as mine).  This is why this book is so important.  If you haven’t experienced the things Amanda warns about, it’s very likely that you will sometime in the future.  And the things she details in her book give you an idea of what to watch out for, red flags to notice, things to be discerning about.

If you do not know about Calvinism, it would be easy to miss it if it comes into your church.  You would just end up thinking, “Oh, I don’t think that sounds right, but who am I to question it?  I don’t really know enough about it, I guess.  But these theologians and pastors are the experts, and they told me that I can’t really understand it anyway and that I shouldn’t try, so I will just have to trust what they say.  Besides, no one else seems to have a problem with it.” 

(Calvinists are very good at making you feel ashamed and unhumble and divisive if you question them or try to contradict them.  I believe they are master manipulators, intentionally or unintentionally, shaming and strong-arming people into agreeing with them.  Or at least into not speaking out against them.  For more on their manipulative tactics, see “Predestination Manipulation.”) 

And as these pastors slowly, subtly introduce their Calvinist theology from the pulpit, they will also be working behind the scenes to spread their views person-to-person, such as by having the elders and various small groups study books like Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology.  And slowly but surely, Calvinism will take over your church, until all dissenters are unwelcome or seen as “less than” Christians.  Just like Amanda’s church made her feel.  And just like the direction my church is headed in.

Amanda has documented the administrative, attitudinal, and theological changes her church went through in their drift away from the church they are supposed to be, a Bible-centered church for the Everyday Person.  And we would be wise to take her observations and warnings to heart.  Because someday it could be your church!  (It’s already mine, which is why this book resonated with me so much.)   



A few of the things I like about Amanda and her book, in general:

            1.  I like and respect her boldness in confronting or questioning the elders/leaders as soon as she notices something that’s concerning to her.  How many of us just sit by and quietly accept what’s happening, thinking that it’s not our place to say anything, afraid of looking like the only ones who have a problem with what’s going on? 

            At least, that’s how it was for my husband and me as our Calvinist pastor became more and more dogmatic.  We didn’t like what we were hearing, but we didn’t feel like it was our place to speak up, especially because no one else was speaking up.  No one else seemed to be bothered by it or to disagree with it.  So we sat there quietly, not wanting to cause disruptions or divisions or displeasure with the new pastor. 

            It wasn’t until years later that we decided we could no longer sit there quietly and say nothing, that it was finally time to send a letter to the elders detailing our concerns.  And for us, the final straw was after I left a very biblically-based comment on the church’s blog where I disagreed with the pastor’s view that “predestination is absolutely what the Bible says, and so you just have to accept it.”  The comment showed up for a couple hours, but then it was deleted.  So not only did we have a pastor who pushed his Calvinist views as “the only right way to read Scripture” and who shamed and manipulated people into not disagreeing with him, but now we had a leadership that was deleting other biblically-based views on highly debatable topics.  Disagreement is not being tolerated or allowed.  In fact, our pastor never even points out that there were other views out there.  That is much too cult-like for me!  And it was time to speak up. 

            But … I don’t know … maybe if we, like Amanda, had spoken up right away more boldly (other than the few other comments I made on his blog posts), maybe things would have turned out differently.  Maybe we wouldn’t be at the cusp of withdrawing our membership from our church right now.  Maybe we would’ve been able to alert other people to what was going on earlier.  And then maybe more people would have joined us in questioning the Calvinist theology being pushed on us.  But we remained silent for the most part, afraid to make waves or cause division.  And now, although we are standing against what we believe is heresy, we are basically standing alone (except for one other couple who is as alarmed as we are).  I know how Amanda feels! 



            2.  Amanda is very perceptive, sensitive to the changes that are going on in her church, and wise about where they will lead.  She seems to have the gift of discernment when it comes to when things are going off-the-rails in the church in various areas and how it could hurt the church.  And she was bold enough to bring it to the attention of others.  If only they had listened to her!  I agree with most all of her insights into potential problems in her church.  As I said, you might not be facing these problems in your church, but you would be wise to learn from her experience, so that you can be discerning if ever you start to notice similar subtle changes in yours.  If you can see what’s happening before it gets too far along, you might be able to keep it all from going off-track.



            3.  She is rather careful in what she says, even when confronting the leaders of her church - except for the few times when she admits that she let her emotions get the better of her.  (Although I don’t blame her, and I think it was justifiable to a degree.)  You can tell she is not just carrying out some vendetta or acting out irrationally or defensively.  She really wants to make sure the church is being true to the Gospel.  And for the most part, she is careful and thoughtful in expressing her views and her reasons for her views, even when emotions are running high.  I can respect that!  And it makes me trust her perspective even more. 

            But while she balances boldness with respectfulness throughout her interactions with the church leaders, I would have liked to see her take an even bolder stand in her final letter to the church, when she withdrew her membership.  She was clearly heartbroken at how things turned out and was trying to be very polite and apologetic, almost as if taking full responsibility for what went wrong.  And I can understand that, wanting to take the blame all on yourself so that you don’t cause trouble or hurt anyone else.  Wanting to end it all on a polite note.  Maybe even simply being at a point of giving up, of not really caring or trying anymore because it isn’t doing any good anyway, knowing that it’s over and there’s nothing more you can do about it. 

            But I would have loved to see her write a letter more like this (at least concerning the Calvinism issue): 

            “Dear Church Elders/Pastors, It is with heavy hearts that we are withdrawing our church membership.  We can no longer tolerate the Calvinist theology that the pastor has been dogmatically pushing on the church.  We do not think it’s biblical.  In fact, we think it basically contradicts what the Bible says. 

            We have tried to point out to you that there is more than enough in the Bible that contradicts Calvinism.  And while we don’t expect to change anyone’s mind on it, we hoped you would see enough against it to make you more cautious about it, to make you realize that it’s unwise and irresponsible for the pastor to be so dogmatic about it.  We had hoped that the church would adopt a more “middle of the road” approach to this issue, especially since it is not clear in the Bible and since not everyone agrees with the pastor’s view (nor should we be expected to).  But the pastor has only become more forceful about it.  And it is becoming clear that other views on this issue will not be allowed or tolerated.  This is divisive.  And it’s unacceptable! 

            Therefore, we feel we have no other option than to withdraw our membership at this time.  We wish it didn’t have to end this way because we have been here for many years, but we cannot be part of the direction this church is going.  We tried to help you see the dangerous direction you are headed in, but you would not listen and have not taken us seriously.  And so now we have no choice but to shake the dust off our feet as we leave.  If someday you realize that this church has drifted further into false teaching and bad practices, remember that you were warned.  Of course, we hope it doesn’t get to that point.  We hope and pray that even after we leave, you might begin to take to heart the concerns we brought up.  So that you can correct the church’s direction before it’s too late. 

            We wish things didn’t have to turn out this way, but sometimes this is what has to happen in the battle for truth.  When heresy is being introduced and tolerated in a church, it becomes necessary to make waves.  And in some ways, we consider it a privilege to have been the ones to sound the alarm.  May God open your eyes to truth before it’s too late.”

            I think there are some times – some issues – when it’s more than okay to be righteously angry, to boldly call it like it is, to be unapologetic about having a problem with something, to put the blame squarely where it belongs, to take a firm stand and not back down. 

            And one of those times is when a Calvinist pastor begins telling you that Jesus only died for a few people, that God only really loves a few people, that most people are predestined to hell and can do nothing about it, and that God’s grace only extends to the “elect.”  (This isn’t exactly what her pastor said, but it’s what Calvinism is.)  I don’t care what else the pastor gets right; if he gets this wrong, then it’s all wrong.  Altering and denying what the Bible says about Jesus’s sacrifice, God’s love, God’s grace, forgiveness, salvation, etc. is about as bad as it gets.  But unfortunately, Calvinism is so subtle, so insidious, that we don’t recognize the lies until it’s too late.  It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  And that can do far more damage than a wolf that looks and acts like a wolf.

             And, yes, I admit it … the “membership withdrawal letter” that I suggested is my daydream letter.  It’s what I would love to write to my church, if and when we have to withdraw our membership.  (That is, if I have the guts to send something so forthright.)  I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because it’s fast heading in that direction for us.  All we are waiting on is the official word from the head elder about how the meeting went where they discussed the letter we sent detailing our concerns about our pastor’s dogmatic Calvinist preaching.  But seeing as how the pastor has only gotten more vocal about it since we wrote the letter, we know it will not be in our favor.  It will probably be the nail in the coffin for us and that church.  (And of course, I would never send a letter like that.  The last thing I want is to tear them down or to enrage them and get myself into some sort of "church discipline" scenario.  So in that way, I agree with Amanda that less is more, and quietly is better than loudly.)            



            4.  She has great rebuttals to the leaders, especially in Chapter 18.  In this chapter, she shares the interactions between her and the leaders regarding Calvinism.  If you want to get a good idea of what Calvinists believe and how nonsensical it is, read this chapter.  The more I learn about Calvinism and the more I read Calvinist responses and explanations for things, the more shocked I am that anyone would believe what they do.  It’s insane!

            On page 139, Amanda gets to the heart of the issue, where Calvinism goes all wrong right from the beginning:

            “The most often voiced justifications for Calvinism that I hear is that “God is God,” “God can do whatever he wants,” and “we all deserve hell so any one God choses to save is receiving his grace and mercy.” First, the overall problem with the Calvinistic viewpoint, as I see it, is that the premise from which the whole doctrine is built on is faulty. I do agree that “God is God” and “God can do whatever he wants.” I also agree that if God decides to save some and send others to hell that is his prerogative. The problem with all of this is that it is not the God that He reveals himself to be in the Bible or in His creation. (emphasis added)

            Calvinists have a faulty view of God’s sovereignty and how He acts.  They assume that since He is all-powerful and “in-control,” then He always has to be using His power to control everything.  Or else He wouldn’t be God.  But the simple truth is … while God is all-powerful and can control everything, He has chosen not to.

            Amanda has it right when she says, “I, based on the scriptures, believe God made man to have a relationship with Him and he wants his creatures to willingly serve and worship Him.” (page 140)

            He could totally control us, but He has chosen not to because He is a relational being who wants a relationship with us.  He wants to be with people who want to be with Him.  He wants people to willingly choose to worship Him and love Him.  And the only way this can happen is if He gives people the right to make decisions.  This is why we have free-will, because God granted it to us so that we can choose Him and so that He could spend eternity with those who want to be with Him.  (Of course, that means many will not choose Him.) 

            Calvinists, however, wrongly conclude that if we could make choices then it would mean God is not God, that He is not in-control, that He is at our mercy.

            Yes, He is in control.  It’s just that He chose to give us the right to make choices.  Because He wanted to.  For His eternal purposes.

            Amanda has great, logical, biblical answers to the Calvinism nonsense that the pastor brings up in this chapter, such as the idea that God planned and caused the bad things that happened in Joshua’s life and Job’s life, and that He planned Jesus’s death from the beginning, and so since He planned Jesus’ death, He needed sinners so that Jesus had someone to die for, and so that’s why He caused the Fall.  (It’s not said exactly this way, but this is what he’s saying.  Talk about putting the cart before the horse!)

            But Amanda’s responses to these - her view of Scripture and God’s character – are so much more on-track than these trained pastors and leaders.  Her views make sense and fit with all of Scripture and uphold God’s character, whereas Calvinism destroys God’s character and twists Scripture to fit its views and is purely irrational, illogical, contradictory nonsense!

            I was particularly struck by the nonsensical question the pastor asked:

            “I want to ask you one last question,” Joshua focuses on the issue of moral responsibility. “Why do you so strongly insist that ‘one must have a free choice in order to be morally responsible’?” (pg 144)

            Oh my goodness … where do I start with this one!?!  Umm … let’s see … why do we believe that in order to be justly held accountable for our decisions, we have to have the right to make decisions?  Umm … DUH! … because it makes sense!  Because it’s logical!  Because it’s the only way it can be if God is a truly just God!  If we had no choice about sinning, if God caused us to make the choices we do but then held us accountable for them, punishing us for the things He caused … it would make God an unjust, irrational tyrant.  Not the loving, righteous, holy, just God of the Bible.
            But Calvinism would rather have us accept the nonsense that we have no freedom to make choices, that God causes us to sin and to be unbelievers, but that it’s perfectly fine and just for Him to punish us for it anyway.  

            This is the kind of nonsensical thinking and irrational reasoning that Calvinists have!  Honestly, if I was Amanda standing there talking to Joshua, and he asked me that question, I would probably stare at him in absolute disbelief that he would think that we can be held morally accountable for our choices even if we never had the right to make choices, and I would have to say, "I can't talk to you anymore.  There's no point.  Not when you're choosing to be this stupid!"  And I would turn and walk away.  Seriously, if they will cling adamantly to such irrational, illogical, nonsensical garbage then there is no point in trying to reason with them.  Not when they insist on clinging to an unreasonable theology!  


            [I wouldn’t be surprised if Calvinism is responsible for many of the atheists out there today.  Because who would want a relationship with a God like that!?!  But that's the thing, though ... Calvinists are not about a relationship with God, even though God is about a relationship with us.  They are not about relationship; they are about "God is so big and supreme that we humans have virtually no value other than the glory God gets through us."  They are about clinging to their idea of God getting more glory at any cost, even if it means saying that He causes sin and puts people in hell for His glory.  Irrational and unbiblical!  They are about clinging to their erroneous view of God's sovereignty because they think it's more honoring to God to say He causes everything - even sin and unbelief - and because they can't possibly accept the idea that God would give us the ability to choose.  Having a relationship with God is not a priority to them because they don't see God as a relational Being, as someone who wants to be near us, who loves us and values us just because He does, because He made us.  They only see Him as a Supreme Ruler who seeks more and more glory for Himself, who loves Himself more than anything, and who uses us for His purposes and plans and, oh yes, for more glory.  

            In fact, it baffled me that my Calvinist pastor is so big into doing missions work.  I would think, "How can someone who believes that God has already prechosen who will get saved and who won't and there's nothing we can do about it ... also be so passionate about missions work, about going out there and spreading the Gospel among people when it really has no effect, according to their view?"  And then, I found a couple articles he wrote about his view of missions.  And it explained it all.  For him, missions is simply about "making God famous."  According to him, God's main and virtually only goal is to become famous among the world, and so this is the pastor's reason for doing missions.  There was no focus on helping the people find healing and forgiveness, on sharing with them the truth that Jesus died for them and that God loves them and that they matter to Him and that He wants a relationship with them, on drawing them near to God's heart, inspiring them to start a relationship with Him.  It was only and all about "making God famous and spreading His glory."  

            You know who else is famous?  Serial killers.  Tyrannical dictators.  Cult leaders who kill hundreds with poisoned Kool-Aid.  Narcissistic Mega-Church pastors promising health and wealth.  Satan.  You can be famous for all the wrong reasons.  And if, as Calvinism does, you divorce God from His revealed character in the Bible and divorce the Gospel message from God's love for us all and offer to save us all then you are making a different God famous.  Not the God of the Bible!  It makes me sad to think about the version of the Gospel and of God that he is spreading and how much the people are missing out on.  The damage Calvinists do to a Christian's relationship with God has got to break God's heart!  I know it breaks mine!]

            This chapter is a great look into the irrational, faith-destroying, God-dishonoring nonsense that is Calvinism!



            5.  She looks at many different potential problem areas in her church, and this helps me know what to look out for.  She shines the light on “The Word” Bible study (published by the Center for Church Based Training) and the book Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – both of which her pastor had all the elders go through.  (Calvinist indoctrination!  Grudem’s book is also required at my church for the elders, from what I hear, as it is in many churches with a Calvinist pastor.) 

            She briefly touches on the ESV Bible, a Bible with a Calvinistic bent.  In fact, the ESV Study Bible has two huge Calvinists as two of its main editors, Wayne Grudem and J.I. Packer. 

            She brings up Wayne Grudem’s (there he is again!) Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (published in 1991 for the Council on Biblical Manhood) and how it led to the “complementarian” style that invaded her church (chapter 10).  Eventually, this led to their church becoming a “boys only” club where women were expected to be quiet and submissive to the men.  Their voices were taken away, and they were prevented from having any input or say in church matters.  (I believe the Bible says that men should be in the head pastor roles and elder roles, responsible for the final decisions in a church.  But this doesn’t mean that women can’t be part of the decision-making process and that they can’t hold other important roles in the church.)

            And she looks at the Shepherding Movement which would eventually lead to the covenants in her church, to the leadership tightening their control on the congregation. 

            This movement is explained this way on page 136: “The four [original, founding] Shepherds taught and practiced a style of leadership that they called "shepherding.” They used this term to describe attempts to control the private lives of their members. In neo-discipleship groups, there is absolute submission to the shepherd. Everyone is submitted in a regimented authoritarian chain of command. Someone is between you and God at all times.”



            When you first read the proposed covenant in chapter 21, most of it sounds okay, like you’re just promising to live the way a Christian should live.  It might even sound beneficial, like it’s just going to be a bunch of small-group discipleship and accountability groups, helping each other along in our spiritual walks. 



            But for Amanda’s church, it ultimately led to being required to sign these covenants between you and the church if you wanted to remain a member.  This is something God never requires of His people.  And there is no basis for it in the Bible!  In fact, as Amanda points out, God tells us to flee from the yokes others try to put on us, to not take oaths but to let our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no,” to not put undue burdens on others as the Pharisees and teachers of the law loved to do.

            Something like this is a power-play by domineering men who are seeking positions of authority and who want to maintain tight control over “their” church.  But they present it as something that’s good for the church and the people.  And since good Christians want to please God, they will submit themselves to this kind of control if the leadership makes them feel it’s the “right” thing to do.

            I find it interesting that to support their right to force members to sign a covenant, they use 38 Bible verses.  And they quote Hebrews 13:17 twice - ” Obey your leaders and submit to them …”  And this covenant doesn’t just require you to abide by it until you die, but it requires you to keep living by it even if you should leave that church for another one.

            “VII. I affirm that this covenant shall be fulfilled when either the Lord calls me home or calls me to carry out the spirit of this covenant in another like-minded church.”  (page 167)  

              If all of this doesn’t alarm you, it should.  This is not what church is about or what the Christian life is supposed to look like.  This is a solid step on the path to spiritual abuse, to authoritarian, cult-like control.

            Amanda wrote down her unfortunate and painful experience so that we could be spared some of what she went through, if only we will take to heart what she said, the warning signs she wrote about, tucking them in the back of our brain if ever we need them.



Conclusion:

All in all, this book is a great resource for any church-goer.  Especially for those who are concerned about what kind of church they belong to and what theological views are being taught.  Do not just accept whatever you are spoon-fed from the leaders and pastors.  Be discerning.  Be a Berean.

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)

They heard the Word from Paul, one of the greatest “theologians” ever.  And yet they still examined the Scriptures for themselves to make sure what he was preaching was accurate.  And they were called “noble”!

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the theological training that your pastor or some brainy theologian does.  Just because they have a lot of knowledge about something doesn’t mean they are wise.  Sometimes, they end up worshipping their own intelligence, creating a God and theology based on their own views, assumptions, and misconceptions.  And when that happens – when someone is so enamored with their own mind that they end up nibbling their way lost and altering the Gospel and God’s character – God might just end up using the simple people to confound the wise!

“Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.”  (1 Corinthians 1:27, NLT)

And ultimately that’s what I think about Amanda and her book.  God is using a simple person - someone who is not a trained theologian but who simply reads the Bible as it was meant to be read, someone who is considered foolish by the “spiritual elite” at her church – to challenge and confront the waywardness of those who are wise in their own eyes.  And while they might never see it or admit it in this lifetime, I believe Amanda (and those like her who take a stand for truth) will be vindicated in the end, when we all stand before God and give an account for what we taught others about Him and His Gospel.

Thank you, Amanda, for being willing to open up your life and heart to help those of us who might find ourselves in a similar situation!  May God bless you for the trials and heartache you went through for Truth and for His name’s sake!


(Once again, click here to go to the author’s website or click here to order her book on Amazon.)