A sometimes-perplexing issue in Latter-Day Saint epistemology is the question of how we value what we call “spiritual experiences.” We believe that God can communicate to us through powerful feelings, which critics sometimes dismiss as the elevation emotion, as if they have somehow determined that God cannot or would not use the medium of emotion to communicate with us. I have a little more in-depth discussion of what we call “spiritual experiences” here in my post on epistemology, and I also recommend Blake Ostler’s FAIR presentation on that topic.
But for the sake of this discussion, I want to focus on the question of our feelings. Are they valuable in helping us to know what is true? And to what extent? Are they more or less valuable than reason?
For believing Latter-day Saints, universalism speaks to a legitimate problem and a legitimate yearning.
The problem universalism speaks to is as follows: exaltation is the product of choices in the direction of eternal life (God’s life) that are made by souls who see their options with clarity. In mortality, many of us — to some extent all of us — have trouble seeing our choices with clarity. Some of the reasons for this (sin, rebellion) are within our control, but other reasons for our inability to see clearly (culture, trauma, neurological wiring, lack of opportunity) are to some extent not within our control. So after this life, there will be periods of time where people come to see reality with the clarity that has not been possible in mortality. Universalists are confident that everyone who sees with this clarity will choose eternal life, or that God will somehow unilaterally impose eternal life on everyone, regardless of their choices.
The legitimate yearning that universalism answers is the desire to be with loved ones for eternity. Latter-day Saint universalists see in the statement “families can be together forever” not a statement of possibility, but a statement of divine intention. They view any possibility of eternal separation from loved ones as being contrary to God’s plan, and view the eternal gathering of our Heavenly Parents’ children as being an ideal that is fully within our Heavenly Parents’ power to achieve.
There is a degree of legitimate truth in these universalist ideas, and we would do well to honestly acknowledge that.
I have seen quite a lot of discussion recently about tithing and heard a few people say that they do not feel that they can pay a tithe to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There appear to be three broad areas of concern. 1. The argument that the Church is not using it’s sacred funds wisely by investing and saving rather than using for immediate charitable works, 2. That the lack of transparency is troubling, and 3. That tithing funds may go to support causes that the individual strongly disagrees with. I’ve seen this criticism from liberal friends who see Church donations as homophobic and also from more conservative friends who disagree with partnerships with groups like the NAACP that they see as racist or pro-aborrion.
Others have written very articulately about the first two points and so I am not going to write about them at length. I would however briefly note that it is legitimate to question how tithing is used and to seek more information or transparency. But I don’t think that desire for greater transparency can justify withholding from God when he has instructed us to bring our tithes to his Church.
I want to mostly address the third concern head on because it goes to a point I feel strongly about.
In our Church we are led by individuals that we sustain as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. These men have never hesitated to use the pulpit to speak out on matters of policy that they felt were of vital moral importance.
As members we are allowed to disagree with the Church on these matters. We are not required to give up own own political opinions or blindly agree with the Church on any matter.
And as President Oaks talked about powerfully in the most recent General Conference, when it comes to my vote or how I donate politically or otherwise participate in politics, I am free to exercise my agency, to weigh competing issue, and to make my own prayerful choices. The Church does not compel my free choices in this regard with narrow exceptions such as a prohibition on direct financial support for abortions.
But when it comes to tithing, I see it as a matter of offering a sacred sustaining vote for the work of the Lord. Tithing is an act of covenental trust and this trust is particularly vital when I may not see exactly eye to eye with Church leaders on matters of public policy.
Being willing to tithe in such circumstances is an act of humility which is vital for warding off the tendency to think we know better than the Lord and his servants. If we are so disaffected from their decisions that we are not willing to provide the tithing that the Lord has asked, then we are on very shaky ground when it comes to our sustaining vote and our temple covenants regarding consecration.
We get to use our God given agency to vote how we wish and support the parties and platforms that we wish to support. As President Oaks explained, we must do that prayerfully and other members should abstain from harsh judgments on these matters of personal conscience.
But can we put our political convictions and our moral certainty aside to offer or tithing to the Lord and his servants even when the donation may be at cross purposes with our political activity? I feel strongly that being willing to do so is an important and sacred part of the covenant I have made in the temple and each time I raise my hand to sustain the Prophet and the Apostles.
I believe this is at least part of what the Lord is referring to in D&C 64 when he speaks of tithing:
“I, the Lord, require the hearts of the children of men.
Behold, now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice, and a day for the tithing of my people; for he that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming.”
Paying tithing willingly even when we do not perfectly see eye to eye with the leadership of the Church protects us from apostasy and in that sense is a crucial form of fire insurance. It is a way that we can give the Lord our heart even when that can be difficult.
We live in an age where we question our heroes and our legends and our myths, and I think that’s lame, so I have deliberately cultivated a list of heroes. Among them is Adam Smith.
When Smith wrote Wealth of Nations, he was already thinking about the framing. It wasn’t Poverty of Nations, because after all, poverty is the natural state. Wealth is what is interesting. How do we create it? How do we help people? What are the conditions under which it flourishes?
Another hero is Renee Descartes. He was willing to start over on everything he’d ever known in order to start from first principles. What could he say he knew by logical proof alone? He was willing to abandon it all unless he could say that he knew it. I so admire his courage. Had he not been willing to put it all on the line, he never would have arrived at “I think, therefore I am.”
Recently, I read a talk given by a church member in another congregation saying that we should “be as willing to proclaim earnest doubt as earnest testimony.” He lauded the importance of “normalizing doubt” and “giving space for legitimate questions.”
I love reading reviews. Whether it’s movies or music or food or places, I have always loved reading the opinions of others. I have enjoyed writing reviews from time to time
One thing that fascinates me about the review writing process is that two people can go to the same place or eat the same dish and have such widely divergent reactions.
Even with some of the most famous and 5-star worthy places in the world, there are always those who go and have a 1-star experience
Here are a few of these bad reviews of famous places. Can you guess what each review is describing?
1) “The place was in ruins. Stadium seemed like it hadn’t been used in years. So old none of the seats even remained, had to stand.”
2)“Far too expensive to look at some rocks.”
3) “It’s a bridge. It’s covered in fog. It’s pointless. Buy a postcard you will see more.“
4) If bricks are your thing you may or may not enjoy this (I didn’t), if bricks and walls are not your thing best to avoid, if you can, too big.”
And here are the answers in case you are curious
1) Colosseum 2) Stonehenge 3) Golden Gate Bridge 4) Great Wall of Chjna
I recently wrote about the divergent reviews that members left after a dedicatory service in Missouri. Reynolds Cahoon left a five star review, exclaiming that his “mortal eyes beheld grate and marv[e]lous things, such as my eyes once never even contemplated of seeing in this world.” Ezra Booth on the other hand left a one star review calling the events “a curiosity,” but said that it was “not worth going to Missouri to see.”
What leads one person to have a disappointing one star experience and another to have a glorious five star experience?
And how would we rate our most recent Church experience? How about our last experience in the temple? How about our last scripture study period?
Let’s focus on our Church meeting experience for the remainder of.rhis post.
Of course, there are variables that are outside of our control. We are part of a church led by volunteer teachers and speakers. That means that the instruction quality really can vary. Some talks or lessons simply may not resonate with us. We may come to Church with emotional baggage that is sometimes outside of our control. Our kids may be crazy and make it difficult for us to pay attention and to learn.
But I think that whether we have a 1 star or a 5 star experience is based to a large degree on us, our preparation, and our effort.
One of the talks that has influenced my thinking on this topic is by President Henry B. Eyring entitled ListenTogether. This whole devotional is a gem and I would highly recommend it. But I was especially moved by an experience from his youth observing his father (a brilliant renowned scientist):
“Years ago I was sitting in a sacrament meeting with my father, whose name is the same as my own, Henry Eyring. He seemed to be enjoying what I thought was a terrible talk. I watched my father, and to my amazement, his face was beaming as the speaker droned on. I kept stealing looks back at him, and sure enough, through the whole thing he had this beatific smile.
Our home was near enough to the ward that we walked home. I remember walking with my father on the shoulder of the road that wasn’t paved. I kicked a stone ahead of me as I plotted what I would do next. I finally got up enough courage to ask him what he thought of the meeting. He said it was wonderful.
Now I really had a problem. My father had a wonderful sense of humor, but you didn’t want to push it too far. I was puzzled. I was trying to summon up enough courage to ask him how I could have such a different opinion of that meeting and that speaker.
Like all good fathers, he must have read my mind because he started to laugh. He said ‘Hal, let me tell you something. Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting. When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say. Then once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject.’ He let that sink in for a moment as we walked along. Then, with that special self-deprecating chuckle of his, he said, ‘Hal, since then I have never been to a bad meeting.’
I don’t suppose he used all of the steps I have described to you. He may very well have prayed for that speaker. Over a lifetime he had studied. When he knew what the speaker was trying to say, he had a deep well to go to so he could give himself that sermon.
My father was the kind of man who would have listened to that high council visitor. If he had felt a little pricking in his heart to do something, Dad would have done it. He could listen to anybody. He used to embarrass me when we stopped to get gas because he would seek advice from the gas station attendant. Dad would always treat him as an equal. Dad would say: ‘Look, I can learn something from anybody. They have had experiences I haven’t had.’
I think you can have faith and confidence that you will never need to hear an unprofitable sermon or live in a ward where you are not fed spiritually.”
I’m not nearly as good at this as Henry Eyring or Richard G. Scott. But I have found that when I come to Church with the correct expectations that I have four or five star experiences more often than one or two star experiences. And that is true even though I have three small girls who can be extremely distracting. (I spent a chunk of sacrament meeting today doing laps around the Church building with my 2 year old and 5 year old who was also barefoot, so I mean it).
Here are a few simple things I’ve found make a big difference for me.
*Bring a notebook and take notes in paper. I find that it is much easier to get distracted on my.phone and that taking hard copy notes really invites revelation. That may not be true for you, but it definitely is for me.
*As I listen to talks I try to quickly figure out the message that the speaker is trying to convey. I then pray for revelation and insights on that particular topic.
*I try to come to Church having done scripture study before hand with particular topics on my mind. It is even better when I come with particular questions or seeking direction
• Lately I’ve been making an effort to either talk to the speakers or teachers afterwards and share something I liked about the talk or to send them a text expressing gratitude for the talk. I always appreciate when people do this for me, and I find that doing this helps to crystalize for me something I liked about the talk
• When I attend a lesson, I try to listen carefully for an opportunity to make a comment. My goal is always to comment in a way that improves the conversation or positively contributes spiritually.
• I try to look for small opportunities to serve either by holding the door for someone or simply by saying hello. I think shifting or perspective frok mere consumers of Church to contributors is a very important paradigm shift.
This is not a comprehensive list, but these are things that have worked for me.
What things have worked for you to try to help you improve your Church experience? When have you had a 5 star church experience? What contributed to that experience?
It’s fascinating how two people are able to look at the exact same thing and yet see something completely different.
Take this famous optical illusion, for instance. Some viewers may see a young woman and others an old woman. And once you see one image, it is not always easy to get your mind to switch back to the other image.
Something similar happened to certain members of the Church in the summer and fall of 1831. At a Church conference, the Prophet Joseph Smith called pairs of missionaries to go to Independence Missouri. The Lord declared that this was “the land which I will consecrate unto my People.”
These missionaries imagined that when they arrived they would find a thriving Church and that they would be able to help prepare for the second coming of the Savior.
But when they got there, they suddenly faced disappointment and uncertainty. Their Zion was a desolate place without any refinements. The Church was tiny and undeveloped. And the settlers were suspicious of them.
Even before they arrived some missionaries like Ezra Booth had become disenchanted. He began to see negative things all around him. He was upset that Joseph Smith rode to Missouri quickly in a wagon while he had to walk. He was disappointed that the meetings didn’t provide the spiritual manifestations he expected.
The Church members in Missouri attended a dedicatory service to set the northeast cornerstone of the temple that Joseph prophesied would be built. Some members experienced a spiritual feast at the event. Reynolds Cahoon exclaimed that his “mortal eyes beheld grate and marv[e]lous things, such as my eyes once never even contemplated of seeing in this world.” But others such as Ezra Booth were disappointed. He called the events “a curiosity,” but said that it was “not worth going to Missouri to see.”
Booth returned to Ohio and soon after left the Church and became a staunch critic. Cahoon remained faithful and made the trek to Utah.
What caused Booth’s disaffection and what allowed members such as Cahoon to stay faithful through the same disappointments and trials?
I think a lot has to do with perspective. At some point, Ezra Booth’s perspective changed and he began to see the old lady with all of her faults and imperfections rather than the young lady with all of her beauty and potential. And once that switch was flipped in his mind, it became easier and easier to see new experiences in the more negative light. He became doubtful that the Lord’s hand was in the Church. The Lord described the thought process of those like Ezra Booth in this way, “They say in their hearts this is not the work of the Lord for his promises are not fulfilled.”
This is a common problem in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. Critics love to draw attention to all kinds of flaws and imperfections. Any one of these issue by themselves would not be enough to topple faith. But the goal is to push for a shift in perspective. In particular, critics love to undermine faith that God speaks to his Prophet or to us individually. If they can get us to say in our hearts that this is not the work of the Lord, then our faith is vulnerable and can be easily overcome.
Over the past few years, we have had many experiences where we can either see the young lady or the old woman; where we can either experience marvelous things or a mere curiosity.
One example was during the April 2000 General Conference when the members of the Church participated in the Hosanna Shout. For those who were spiritually attuned and prepared, this was a marvelous experience. For others this was a source of derision. Another example was when President Nelson called for worldwide fasts for the Coronavirus pandemic. It would be easy to mock and say that the virus did not go away and that in fact it intensified. But it is also possible to look at the same events with an eye of faith and to be grateful for the inspired vaccines that scientists were able to develop in record time.
But how can we continue to see the proverbial young lady even after we have brushed up against disappointment or discouragement?
In D&C 59 which was received at this time, the Lord offers a pattern that will help us.
First, we approach with an eye single to God’s glory.
Second, we see commandments and direction from God as blessings from above rather than burdens
Third, we strive to love God with our heart, might, mind, and strength, and we serve him
Fourth, we thank God in all things and for all things
Fifth, we offer a broken heart and a contrite spirit
Sixth, we gather together with our fellow believers to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
Seventh, we keep the sabbath day holy
Eighth, we act with thanksgiving and cheerful hearts
Ninth, we see God’s hand in all things
Tenth, we strive to do the works of righteousness.
As we do these things, we will experience “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.” We will see the glory of God and recognize his hand in all things. We will avoid disappointment and discouragement when we face setbacks and trials. And we will keep the proper perspective throughout it all.
Years ago, the late novelist David Foster Wallace shared this little parable at a college commencement speech:
There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the [heck] is water?”
Wallace explains that the point of this amusing story is “that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.” I would like to suggest that grace falls into this category. It is the water that we swim in, but the reality of which we are so often tragically unaware. Daily life in general—and perhaps church life in particular—is just so ordinary, so unremarkable, so familiar that it is easy to become numb to the givenness of it all. Furthermore, in a (usually) well-intentioned attempt to avoid sounding like we believe in cheap grace, we sometimes overcorrect and end up pushing grace to the margins in our talks, our lessons, and our conversations.
However, when we do this, we end up turning ourselves into the young, utterly oblivious fish, asking, “What the heck is grace?” We blind ourselves to a gift that has already been given; a gift that will transform us in ways beyond our imagination if we will let it. And when we blind ourselves to this gift, we face the lone and dreary world feeling very alone and very dreary.
Yet, grace is not at the margins. It is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ. But before we begin to talk about how we experience grace in our lives, it’s important to define what grace actually is.
While “grace” appears throughout the scriptures, it is especially prominent in the writings of Paul. Unfortunately, much of the modern world’s interpretation of grace is shaped by the Reformation. It is seen as a one-way gift with absolutely no strings attached; what is sometimes called the “pure gift.” Because, surely, if you give a gift and expect something in return, you’re not a very good gift giver. Right?
This notion of a pure gift is very Western, very modern, and very, very wrong (at least if we’re interested in what Paul meant). Because in the ancient world, gifts always had strings attached.
Paul inhabited the Greco-Roman world, so how did the Greeks and Romans understand it? In their mythology, there were three goddesses known as the Graces, generally identified as the daughters of Zeus. These Graces were often depicted as dancing hand-in-hand in a circle: one giving, one receiving, one returning to the giver. The word “grace” represented this kind of relationship. Grace wasn’t just the gift that was given. It was also the benevolence and generosity of the giver. But not only that: it was also the gratitude of the recipient.
It’s important to note, however, that gift giving did not involve parties that were on equal footing. One party had wealth, status, or influence. They had access to goods and services that the other did not. The two would enter into a relationship as “friends” with one providing access to something desirable while the other displayed public gratitude, loyalty, allegiance, faithfulness (it’s the Greek word that is often translated as “faith” in the New Testament). This is why Ephesians reads, “For by grace are ye saved through faith…Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). This was not an employer/employee or buyer/seller relationship. Grace is not an earned paycheck or a bought product. It was patronage. The patron was not obligated to enter this relationship. They were not in debt. They were not bound by contract. The patron did so because they wanted to.
This was the background of Paul’s understanding of grace.
But with Paul, there’s a slight twist. Most ancient patrons chose to give to people based on their status or ability to reciprocate well. However, in Paul’s teachings—and in the teachings throughout the rest of the scriptures—God extends His gift to all. To the Galatians, Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28-29). This was not Paul eradicating distinctions. (His other writings make that abundantly clear.) What he does here is empty each of these categories of their hierarchies and status; of their privileges or lack thereof. God did not provide Christ’s gifts of atonement and resurrection based on ethnicity, social status, or sex. He didn’t provide it out of worthiness on our part. He provided it out of love. As John famously writes, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Christ atoned for us not because we earned it, but because He loves us. And He loves us as we are right now: “God demonstrates his own love for us,” Paul says to the Romans, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NET; italics mine). So God loves us as we are, but loves us enough not to leave us this way (thank goodness).
Grace, Commandments, and Transformation
Two of my nieces are here today. One is two years old, while the other is one. Never once have I heard their parents say to them, “I love you just the way you are, so you don’t need to walk! You don’t need to talk!” I don’t think any loving adult would ever stunt a child’s development in this manner. Similarly, grace is meant to be transformative. It is meant to help us grow and get us (spiritually speaking) up and running. We are to “[put] off the natural man” and become “saint[s] through the atonement of Christ the Lord” (Mosiah 3:19; italics mine). Grace is meant to make us “new creatures” in Christ (Mosiah 27:26; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). As Elder Whiting put it in Conference last year, “You are good enough, you are loved, but that does not mean that you are yet complete. There is work to be done in this life and the next.”
What all of this indicates is that when we think of grace, we should think of it as a relationship; one that is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. And if grace is at the center of the Plan of Salvation, then it should define how we understand everything else. For example, what is the purpose of commandments from the perspective of grace? King Benjamin makes it crystal clear that we are “eternally indebted” (Mosiah 2:34) to God. Even if we were keeping all the commandments (which we’re not), we would still be “unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21). There is no earning salvation here.
So if commandments are not means of earning grace and salvation, what exactly are they? Keeping them is certainly an act of gratitude and fidelity, as Paul and—more recently—Elder Uchtdorf have noted. But what’s their point? And how can they be reconciled with grace?
To see commandments merely as a checklist of arbitrary items to get into heaven is to degrade their divine purpose. Commandments, like grace, are relational in nature. They are pro-social. They show us how to properly relate to God and to one another. They teach us how to be what God is. Elder Oaks sums it up this way:
Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become…The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.
The entire framework of commandments, ordinances, and covenants is a gift of grace. It is through these mediums that God nurtures His relationship with us and our relationships with each other. And as our doctrines of the Godhead, marriage & family, and Zion demonstrate, divinity is found in relationships. Brad Wilcox nails it when he says, “We are not earning heaven [when we keep our covenants]. We are learning heaven.”
Now grace does not negate repentance. Recall that Jesus’ first message of his ministry according to Matthew and Mark is “repent” (Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15). Instead, grace makes repentance possible. Samuel the Lamanite explains that “the resurrection of Christ redeemeth mankind…and it bringeth to pass the condition of repentance” (Helaman 14:17-18). So repentance is not some punishment, but a gift as well. And it too is relational. In Hebrew, it means to return to God. In Greek, it means to change your heart or intent. It is about reorienting ourselves toward God, who is graciously seeking out a relationship with us. He wants us to be reconciled to Him. His hand of fellowship is continually extended, even though we tend to slap it away over and over again. And yet, despite our constant rejections, He still seeks us out. Repentance is taking His outstretched hand. It’s accepting His gift of friendship that we are in no position to demand. As John succinctly puts it: “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19; italics mine).
Grace Is Available Now
The gift of grace should remind us of what the Lord revealed to Moses: that “[God’s] work and [His] glory [is] to bring to pass [our] immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39). The Plan of Salvation is for us, making the Atonement for us as well. Grace demonstrates that “the worth of souls [including each one of us here] is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). There isn’t a single person here that Christ did not die for. There isn’t a single person here that is too far gone. And there isn’t a single person here that cannot partake of the love of God right now. As Elder Christofferson says, “we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience.” Recognizing where we fall short is part of the process. The Lord said to Moroni, “if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness…my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27). The Lord knows our weakness and is patient with us. Perhaps we could be a little more patient with ourselves and with others.
Returning to the story of the fish and water, David Foster Wallace ends his commencement speech by encouraging “awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: ‘this is water, this is water.’” Similarly, I would encourage us all as we grudgingly attend our church meetings, as we irreverently partake of the sacrament, as we try not to roll our eyes at Brother Wright as he drones on and on in his talk, as we’re stretched thin by our callings, as we try to not be rote in our prayers, as we try to stay awake while reading our scriptures, as we struggle to be more charitable, as we desperately seek revelation, as we really try not to lose it on our kids or our spouse, as we attempt to forgive, as we work hard to overcome an addiction, as we slowly-with-guaranteed-detours-on-the-way become disciples of Christ, as we do all of these things and more that we look at these commandments, ordinances, and covenants and remind ourselves over and over:
 For the historical background of “grace” relayed in this talk, see John M.G. Barclay, Paul and the Power of Grace (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2020); Brent J. Schmidt, Relational Grace: The Reciprocal and Binding Covenant of Charis (Provo, UT: BYU Studies, 2015); David A. DeSilva, “Grace” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, ed. David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000); Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (Downer Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ch. 3-4.
 See Matthew W. Bates, Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017); Zeba A. Crook, “BTB Readers Guide: Loyalty,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 34:4 (2004): 167-177; DeSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity, 115-116.
 E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien compare the ancient client-patron relationship to the beginning scene of The Godfather between Don Corleone and Bonasera. See their Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 82-83.
 See David Bentley Hart, The New Testament: A Translation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017), 560; Brendan Kennedy, “Repentance,” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary, ed. John D. Barry (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016); J.R. Soza, “Repentance,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, ed. T. Desmond Alexander & David W. Baker (Downer Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003).
As a brief postscript to my article in Public Square Magazine, I thought I’d tell a little story that illustrates humility coming from a world renowned therapist. Since I complained in that article that sometimes therapists can be narcissistic by seeing every problem as treatable through acting more therapeutically, I thought I’d provide a fascinating historical counterexample.
It’s useful to share this story because, while it may not be apparent to outsiders, therapists and twelve step addiction recovery programs sometimes have a rocky relationship. It isn’t always the case, many therapists recommend (and may even require) attending a twelve step group as a valuable part of their therapeutic recovery process. (I’m one of them, for certain cases at least.) But why do some therapists have a problem with twelve step?
The short answer is: too much God, and not enough graduate degrees. The longer answer is they feel it lacks scientific support, that modern treatment models are superior, and that the free program costs too much money. This last complaint is a bit of a head-scratcher, but we’ll briefly touch on the other two at the end of the piece. Before we do that, let’s tell a fascinating story about Carl Jung and the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous that you may not have heard before.
Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled… (Isaiah 50:11)
Jaxon Washburn just posted here a lengthy critique of the Radical Orthodoxy position. I won’t do a point-by-point discussion of all of his arguments; many of the objections to RO have been addressed thoroughly in other places.
But if I were to summarize Jaxon’s position, I might do so as follows:
That thing that really bothers you, doesn’t bother me is not gaslighting. It’s expressing a difference in perspective.
I and many other people are aware of this thing that you find distressing, but we are at peace with it is not gaslighting. It’s an affirmation that different people can process things in different ways.