Monday, October 22, 2007

Puzzling Scripture

Based on a post written by Martin, I'm revisiting an old assumption/belief that I acquired concerning the sanctity of unbelievers. The scripture in question is in 1 Corinthians 7: 12 through vs 14. And it is in vs 14 that I run into a problem between me and what I'm assuming is mainstream thinking.

You see the verses in question talk about marriage to a unbeliever or one how isn't Christian. But it cautions the believer to stay married to the unbeliever because the unbeliever is sanctified by his marriage to the believer and their children are considered holy too because of this union. If they don't stay marred the children become unclean.

I've always assumed this was an extension of the goodness of God towards those who are loved by the believer whether they believed or not. I'm sure there are all other kinds of structured rules such as who in the family is responsible for those under him/her be they slave, servant, or children, and so on.

It seems to me that if the children and their father are holy because of their connection to a believer then perhaps it can go farther. Perhaps anyone who is loved by a believer is in a state of grace as long as the relationship exists. No one can guarantee this is or isn't so. The scriptures don't exactly say, or at least no to my uneducated years. But if God loves us, and he loves those in our family that we love, then what's to say he doesn't love anyone we love and are busy praying for. I don't think this stops with immediate family. I'm not even sure that it stops with those we consider extended family. What I do think is that if you are in love with and loved by a Christian, then you are given a grace which will make your life better and, more importantly, make it into heaven.

Now, I'd love to hear other people's opinions on this subject. I don't profess to be all knowing or even scholarly. But if you have an agreement or argument and scripture or really sound logic to hold it up then I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Peace! Joy! & Hope!


murat11 said...

This may not have any theological grounding for you, but I do not think that Christians (or Christian relationships) have a corner on the market in extending God's grace to others. I prefer to think that God IS grace, just as God IS love, and we are all holy, regardless of our own personal religious inclinations. There is something graced and loved and holy in all of us, regardless of any Christian's place in all of this. Whether intended or not, Lee, the theology you mapped out (though many more fundamentalist folks might heartily agree with you) strikes me as unecessarily chauvinistic. We all have, I think, the capacity to be a blessing in others' lives, as do they in ours. This has nothing to do with where we stand in our various religions (or non-religions).

Lee said...

Actually, I agree with you totally Murat. What I described was my early struggles to grow beyond my fundamental roots of "you have to be saved to go to heaven or be good". I don't believe that. There's even scripture that says when Gentiles follow the word of God without training in it they are the "law" unto themselves. I just don't like to see people say, you haven't gone through communion, baptism and thus aren't going to heaven. I want to think that the ones we love are going where we are going. My grandfather was Catholic. He divorced his first wife because she sent him a "dear John" when he was off fighting in WWI. Ever after he did that he believed he was excommunicated from the church and wondered where he would end up even though he married a good and God loving woman. It was always a worry for my grandmother because she knew he was loved and a loving man in the image of God.

Please don't think I believe that the only faith is Christian. I think there are many roads to God. I have friends in quite a few different faiths and not all of them Christian. I think they are all going to heaven or what ever they see as the afterlife. But some people think otherwise and they tried to teach me this thinking when I was a "newbie" Christian.

Thus my question. And it is indeed open for discussion. I'll try to think more on your comment later when I can. :)

Thanks and Peace!

San said...

Hi Lee. I believe Murat said that really well. And I completely agree with him.

murat11 said...

My first comments were without having read the verses you mentioned. I read them later. My first thought was, how ghastly: this is the kind of thing where Paul richly deserves his bad reputation. But, I read all of Chapter 7 again this morning (King James this time) and it simply struck me as a typical Pauline attempt to sanctify people wherever they stood in their lives. The early church must have seen hundreds of people who were split in their marriages between affiliation and non-affiliation. Paul was assuring them that issues of belief/non-belief needn't destroy a marriage (though he does say, in verse 15, that believers are free to let unbelievers leave, who choose to do so).

The tragedy of your grandfather is that he labored and lived and sweated under distinctly human formulations (and Catholic, at that: a theologically bureaucratic, male-dominated sea of hooey: not the people themselves, just the pronouncements: our own Anglican nonsense ain't far behind: thank heavens, Reconciliation is beginning to break out)...ANYWAY, distinctly human formulations that have oppressed people for time immemorial.

Lee said...

Thank you, Murat! I'm glad you went back and looked at those scriptures. I agree, people can be terribly excluding of people. So do you think I'm right? Do those we love and care about in any relationship have Grace from our father because of our love of them?

I always remember that those we forgive are forgiven and those we don't (again this might be Pauline) aren't. So while forgiveness is good for the soul of both the giver and the receiver...doesn't it also imply that we, as saints of the church, stand in to forgive our brothers and sisters who sin and if we do God promises that He will? I think that is part of my main point. I have friends who aren't believers in Christ and the old church teachings say "I am the way" and also says that nobody gets to the Father but through Christ which is very excluding. But many of us want our non believing friends and family members to go to heaven even if they don't believe in Christ. It was the scriptures I referred to at the beginning that gave me hope for that. Those who reject the church but still try to do good and are loved by us for their goodness of spirit, and I believe they have a special grace from God. And that was basically my point. We love the person and not the action. We forgive and give them our grace and peace as God's representatives on earth. I want none of my Pagan, Wiccan, and friends of other faiths to go anyplace other than the wonderful afterlife which most faiths speak of.

I'm sorry if I expressed my self badly in my first attempt. I hope you will give me more feedback.

Hugs & Peace!

murat11 said...

I don't think we have a thing to do with anyone being graced, forgiven, or beloved: we are all graced, forgiven, and beloved from, as we say down here Texas-way, the "git-go." (Now that I've written the word "forgiven," even it seems a bit old skool itself).

There's still a little festering fundamentalism creeping into your argument (which I translate as fear and concern for others, rather than actual creeping fundament). I do not hold that there is only one way, much less that there is "any" "way" at all. Even a Christianity that is lining up volunteers to stand in and up for the "non-believing," benevolent as it may sound, still sounds terribly arrogant and presumptuous. I am blessed by those around me, regardless of their faith, or lack of it. God is in all this moiling mess of us blessing and gracing one another.

You write:

"Those who reject the church but still try to do good and are loved by us for their goodness of spirit, and I believe they have a special grace from God." I say, yes, they have a special grace, but so do the slimiest of the slime. We all have a special grace from God.

Bottom line (maybe): come on out of the closet. It's okay to be an Episco-pagan, slopping in the big pig trough of post-apocalyptic, progressive, wantonly heretical thought. The bugaboos of the old fundamental roots (leftover, persistent archetypes) can head for the south 40 and just soak up all of God's good rain.

Lee said...

Ah, you see grace as the value in a person. I think it is that but also more.

Ok...I'll drop the Paul stuff. He is hard to handle at his best. Sorry about that. I don't want to be a fundamentalist and usually don't think of myself as one, but I do have roots in it. Maybe I need to rethink them.

I'm still struggling with some of the things we are talking about. Forgiveness is one. My need for it brought me to God. So I tend to see things in light of having and getting it. But I'm going to think on what you said and will probably get back to you on it at a later date if you are willing.


San said...

Lee, I emailed you on the 23rd regarding this post and it bounced back yesterday. Boy, did it take its sweet time "playing hooky." Don't know what's up with that, but I'd emailed about a book by Larry Dossey, "Be Careful What You Pray For: You Just Might Get It." In this book I learned that a surprising number of people have prayed for BAD things to happen to others. How twisted is that??

Prayer is powerful. You may have read the studies in which patients that were prayed for did better than those not prayed for. And I believe the patients were unaware that they were being prayed for. That's pretty significant I think. There have been other studies that indicated that prayer can have a retroactive effect--it can influence the past! This is getting into the realm of quantum physics, which I know nothing about. All I know is that it's hard to do a purely "scientific, controlled" experiment, because there's something about one's decision to observe a situation that in itself changes the situation. And in my mind-- my admittedly often confused, muddled, simply nuts mind--prayer is a kind of distant observation of another's life.

SO I believe that when we pray, we do need to be careful that we don't try to intrude on another's life. In other words, we shouldn't pray that a person will believe a certain way, or that they will be OK despite their beliefs. In our finite way of knowing, we can't be 100% positive what another really should believe. We can, however, pray that God will provide guidance for others as well as ourselves.

Lee said...

Hey San,

I agree with you on the prayers for others. I had a friend who didn't want to pray for someone without permission no matter what the prayer was about. Usually I just pray for healing and for God's will.