Other sheep, not of this fold

“10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold”- always one of my favorites. It implies universalism, at least something better than the virulent exclusivism that has cursed the church so long.

I remind myself of a poor old friend in Quaker circles, born a Catholic, and for the last 40 years having to testify about all the damage they did to his psyche. Our oldest son took us severely to task for our immoderate political views; he shares our position but doesn’t feel the need to fight all these demons of the past.

The fundies have never done anything to me. Why do they bother me so much? I think the same reason that the ‘physically challenged’ and the obese bother me so much, I shake my fist at God.

Their faith has been so abused, misused, so exclusivistic, tribalistic, harmful. But maybe the same thing can be said of mine. God have mercy on me, a sinner. (That man, too is one of my favorites- Luke 18:13.)

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10 responses

  1. I like the idea of universalism. I’m reading a book that mentions that the catholic church is drifting that way and that the idea has its roots in thinkers like Origen and Gregory of Nyssa 🙂

  2. Yes, Origen is one of my heroes; he was the first in the early church that I know of. However some of the N.T. writers said some things that certainly suggest it.

  3. I’m sensing somthing here in your post Larry, and it is this:This scrupture implies a universalist viewpoint, and this really appeals for its nature seems to be very Christ-like, and yet fundmenalist may view the exact same scripture line as exclusionary. When we look into our own heart, our own spiritual landscape, we may see this exact same discrepancy. We, as universalists, want to see all as children of God, with loving kindness in our hearts for all – but then we realize in our very own human-ness we are bugged by something or someone, and we can’t let go of the past, or we think our way is the only path. We realize that we ourselves have taken on an exclusionary viewpoint, and have unwittingly walked astray from the very path we seek.

  4. It’s really a matter of getting too involved with others, and feeling responsible. What I need to do is learn that God has all of us in his hands, and is leading each of us on our own individual path.I know rationally that some people are at the psychic level where they need law, and maybe even exclusivism, but it is hard to accept this.

  5. What a fascinating thread! I’m not so bothered by the fundies, perhaps because I have not seen personally the damage they can do, but also because I was one (maybe a mild one). I understand the appeal of fundamentalism, the surety of reading things literally — the ease of a close-minded approach that says the Bible can mean only one thing.I don’t know if its a tempermental thing — I know I let my passions rule me, which can lead to anger with those who don’t think like me — an intolerance for the intolerant. I would like to think that there is a spiritual or psychological progression that will lead me to the serenity that Meredith always displays — I don’t know, though. I suppose I’m frightened that if I lose my anger, I’ll also lose my enthusiasm.Universalism seems so appealing and loving and encompassing — but it also seems vague and uncertain and bland. I know thats my sin, to be ruled by fear.

  6. Hey Marjorie, I feel the tension too but maybe there’s not really a contradiction between appreciating universalism and thinking that the religious sect you’ve chosen is the best one … for you.Someone told me once that entering the kingdom of God was like counter-intuitive test taking … one student studies very hard the night before the test, the other student doesn’t study at all but goes out on the town the night before … both pass the test.I’m not sure I can explain how that relates to universalism, but maybe we don’t really know for sure what it takes to be accepted by God? Maybe just “being” is enough?

  7. I was recently reading that the spiritual journey could be thought of as comprising of two distinct halves. In the first half we want to know answers and directions. Richard Rohr characterizes this as management and control spirituality, where we believe that the more we know what we are doing, the better off we are. This may be a natural progression, and certainly our churches feed this need in us. But as we become more open to recognizing an intimacy with God, of God within us, then we begin to be open to step out onto another path. In this, we find ourselves quiet, softer, more willing, with less intensity about our own ego, our own fears, our rile, so to speak. When we think we know on the first legs of our journey, we intellectualize and this seems to split us from intimacy with God. When we can give this up, become vulnerable to ‘not-knowing’ we become much more receptive to being with, and indeed, Being-in God.Losing anger is like opening to peace. And in this, I have great enthusiasm! In this, there is an ecstasy of sorts – which is an amazing feeling of love emanating from all directions.

  8. How refreshing to see so many concerned and significant comments. I have to come in again:Re: the two halves- that has a definite biblical basis; in Galatians Paul wrote:3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.So we can say that the law comes first, then Christ- grace.In grace there is perfect freedom, and what is grace?How about the ability, power and disposition to love God and our neighbor completely.As you go through life those two stages become more and more apparent; it is the first stage, which I’ve represented by “fundies” that I’ve been impatient with. And this discourse is healing me of that!Marjorie: we were all “fundies” once. I was converted to the law at 9, to grace and love at 30. And who knows what other, later stages there may be as we lose our fears and become willing.And about anger, that’s a terrible problem to me; I constantly get myself in trouble by popping off when I should keep quiet. Crystal: this process of growth is something that seems to me pretty universal. Well you girls have made my day. I like nothing better than being able to talk with someone about this kind of stuff.

  9. Wow! I guy goes away for the weekend and things get yeasty enough to bake bread!On Universalism: I’d heard of Origen not Gregory of Nyssa: I’ll have to look him up sometime – thanks Crystal.We all seem to be committed to the idea that the Christ-Spirit desires universal reconciliation with God. And we find it difficult how if the Spirit of god wills it how anything less than that can be true. Yet we are also confronted with the hsitoric witness of the Chrsitian faith — where Christian univeralists have consistently represented a minority. We each respond to that fact differently.I like Meredith and Marjories’s observations about the irony of being intolerant about intolerance. It gets to teh ehart of the trouble — out own human desire to be in control. And to judge. Is there anything worth letting ourselves become intolerant of? I think RW and I had a confab on a similar issue some months ago.

  10. John 10:18 would apparently indicate that there are disciples of Jesus outside Christianity .As to the statement made by Meredith as to giving up intellectualizing matters of faith andf being vulnerable to “not knowing” –that is a seductive, murky, and dangerous approach .Also when I read whast Meredith and Marjorie posted in favor of tolerance , I have to exclaim —eegads ! Yuck . The red alert that sounds when relativist/postmodernist (sell out) thinking is being expressed is sounding . Again the question to whivh I perennially return in this present weird era of ambivalent thinking : since when does the mere fact that someone supports an opinion grounds for giving some pusillanimous respect for that opinion ? Shouldn’t a belief have demonstrate that it merits respect before respect is given ? How far are the relativists going to go with that weird tendency of respecting opinions ? Would they respect the crass opinion that keeping up with celebrity gossip is somehow okay ? Would they respect the opinion that defends racial oppression of minorities ? Wholesale tolerance isn’t good. Being a Christian universalist (and the author of this present post happens to be inclined towards quasi-universalism himself ) …should NEVER be conflated with relativism, which is totally separate from Christian universalism . Let it be known, by the way, that any person who would (as I’ve observed some fundamentalists maintain ) advocate the odd, chintzy notion that it would be allegedly “unfair” to the believers for Jesus to redeem someday those that died unbelieving have a chintzy outlook similar to the people in the parable of the vineyard who grumbled at the Lord of the vineyard who gave the same wage to those who were hired at the 11th hour as them that worked all long in the heat of the day . The men who worked all long in the heat of the day were mad at the lord of the vineyard in Matthew for giving the same share to those who had hardly worked one hour . Seems a lot like the goofy outlook of some Fundamentalists who I’ve seen allege that it would somehow be unfair to believers for Jesus to redeem all people one day . That obervation been made let us return to the main subject of tolerance in general …and let it be known that though a person should have the right to advocate notions –even notions that are totally wrong without fear of physical violence or physical confinement being used to suppress them—it certainly does NO harm to tell them that notions they advocate are totally wrong –when they advocate murky , inconsistent , or otherwise flimsy notions .Contrary to popular opinion, SO -CALLED “shades of grey” are NO substitute for accuracy and truth . Contrary to popular opinion, there are NOT two or more sides to every issue . It is important to bear in mind also that the beliefs that a person supports is NOT part of the person , therefore verbally condemning a bad belief (such as the belief that alleges yuppie commercialism is somehow okay or even partially ) is NOT necessarily the same as condemning the person that supports that bad belief . The pursuit of intrinsic Virtue requires a rigid single-mindedness . So to make the present rambling essay post relevant–let’s NOT mix the context of a universalism that seeks to extend spiritual kinship to people in some other religions (which has merit), with a support of a totally separate pattern of thought like relativist/postmodernist tolerance –that has an attitude of acceptance even towards murky , crass ideologies be those ideologies “religious” or secularist ones . Universalism NOT relativism …let that be the slogan to be skywritten and put on bumperstickers et al ….

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