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jose Vazquez

February 06, 2014  11:11am

It would not be a good thing if Jesus returned for his people and found Bell actively and knowingly ignoring his Father in Heaven. Romans 1:18-32 ESV For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2014  11:10am

Back on topic: John Lübke's link below was very helpful; now I understand much more about this issue, and I see even more 'resemblance' to Rob Bell than before re: espousing immorality. "[Ryan] Bell’s beliefs and practices were 'outside the parameters of the Adventist church positions' and they advised Bell to resign, effective April 1st, 2013." I find it extremely sad that Azusa Pacific University and Fuller Theological Seminary employed him for the remainder of that year - surely they knew of his non-Biblical beliefs. He says he plans to "immerse himself in atheist literature." That is inexpressibly sad to me. Yes, John, atheism IS a lack of belief. It is a spiritual vacuum. I noticed that a commenter there mentioned the marriage analogy as seen in the Scriptures. Gary Kemp, you made excellent points. You're right when you say that if Bell was lukewarm before, it's better for him to be cold. But oh, how infinitely and eternally better it is to be spiritually hot! I will pray for him.

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2014  11:10am

It is vitally important to read Scripture in context, being taught of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to His disciples: “I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth." John 16:12-13 // Jesus said much more to His disciples about the ministry of the coming Holy Spirit, whom He said He would send when He returned to the Father after His crucifixion and resurrection, (which did happen on the Day of Pentecost, in fulfillment of prophecy in Joel 3). After the disciples received the promised Holy Spirit, they were then empowered by the Holy Spirit to understand, receive, and declare the things of God they had not been able to understand before then. After they received the Holy Spirit, they were never the same again. This is also true of believers today who receive the empowerment and gifts of the Holy Spirit, walking in obedience to Him.

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2014  7:28am

The Word of God makes it very clear here that the Day Star is Christ Jesus: "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts." 2 Peter 1:16-19

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David Stafford

January 23, 2014  2:57pm

audrey: (yawn) that LUCIFER is the morning or day star is a fact. The quote of Jesus to his disciples is a fact. These mentions came about in your referencing of cold and hot, with my reminder of Jesus' opposites descriptions of himself. Further discussion about possible implication of those, facts, ranges far and wide is not appropriate to this article.

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audrey ruth

January 23, 2014  2:45am

David: If you wish to discuss facts, I'm willing to do so right here. Not interested in corresponding by email. Your last post did not compare any facts - there was no correlation - which is why I responded as I did.

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David Stafford

January 22, 2014  8:26pm

audrey: If you wish to correspond on the implication of these facts, my email is stafford30@gmail.com.

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audrey ruth

January 22, 2014  5:41pm

I dunno, David. Do you see a connection there?

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David Stafford

January 22, 2014  1:05am

Lucifer means: bearer of light. Jesus said to his disciples, "I have many things to tell you but you cannot bear them now." What can we learn from this?

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audrey ruth

January 21, 2014  5:52pm

The Word of God to Peter (2:16-19) "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the DAY STAR* arise in your hearts." [*my emphasis]

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David Stafford

January 21, 2014  2:04pm

The states of cold or hot bring to mind how some "enflamed" themselves in the scriptures. And also the "opposites" identification of Christ of himself; alpha and omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, the root and the offspring (not just the offspring), the bright (the evening star, which comes first in Genesis. And star light, star BRIGHT, first star I see tonight) AND the morning star. Ecclesiastes gives us something to go on; Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof. In ancient history the evening and morning star were always thought to be two seperate stars. In Egypt, Nephthys-evening, Isis-morning, in Greece, Hesperus-evening, Phosphorus-morning, in Roman times Vespers-evening, LUCIFER-morning. It was then discovered that it was not two stars; and it wasn't a star; it was the planet Venus. LUCIFER is the day-star.

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Gary Kemp

January 20, 2014  7:35pm

John Lübke: I read your article. Interesting insights, with better understanding on Bell. Changing subjects: Several years back I listened to a public radio station interview of a leading atheist. Asked how he became an atheist, he said he was raised in the church, but it seemed wrong; in college, he reported that he discovered the "truth" of atheism. Then he went into a barrage of "....I'm free, I'M FREE - - Thank God I'm free!" Huh? Faith is a funny thing: we generally associate it with some form of "...faith in God". But, it also works in reverse, that is, faith that there is no god. Eventually, Mr. Bell will have to embrace, by confession of faith, that there is no god, or that there is! It takes more faith to be an atheist. As a side note, I was one who had my faith destroyed by seminary. It took many, many years to get back on track! Mr. Bell hopes to conquer this mountain in a year? Jesus knows & loves this lost sheep, and he won't give up easily! GK>

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John Lübke

January 20, 2014  2:28am

We might be missing something really pertinent here with what I feel Bell is trying to do on his personal journey. It should be noted, that he did this experiment for his own purposes, and his blog got picked-up and his experiment went viral. It's not a publicity stunt. I may be biased, knowing Bell personally, but I was able to interview him for an article I got published in The Collegian at WWU. Give it a read and share your thoughts! http://collegiandev.wallawalla.edu/a-year-without-god/

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David Stafford

January 18, 2014  3:06pm

Gary Kemp: "Props for your thoughts", as they say. A thing one might also mull over from your comments would be that Jesus said, "I would thou wert hot OR cold." No?

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Gary Kemp

January 18, 2014  12:21pm

In his "Christian" period, Bob Dylan once sang, "...It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you 'gotta serve somebody..." I think he got it right. Bell's problems is that he knows something is wrong in the religious systems of Fuller/Azusa/7th Day Adventists, but he can't put his finger on it. Thus, the 1 year to explore. Beware, Mr. Bell: turning from the light means turning to darkness, and the ruler thereof. The Church of Jesus Christ, His body, is a very special place; in may ways, the churches in America are ripping us away from that very Church. Think "lukewarm", spew-worthy! My guess as to what happened to bring this whole turn about: None of the folks at Fuller, Azusa or his local church loved him unconditionally. They have largely allowed their love to run cold. Because Bell has decided to turn to the other side, he is now an enemy of the Church. And what are we to do with our enemies? Love them! Thus, we should pray for Bell, and love him through this trying year. GK>

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audrey ruth

January 17, 2014  5:34pm

Henk, you may very well have hit the nail on the head. David, I can tell you have a sweet wife. As for my faith, this is my testimony: For I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him (EVERY thing) until the day He returns for His own. If you're speaking of the enemy army mentioned in Joel 2, no, I'm not in that one. BTW - that movie was Cool Hand Luke. I had to look it up, but I remembered that Paul Newman was in it. :)

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David Stafford

January 17, 2014  1:33pm

audrey: My wife says to tell you that she loves you and that my style could sound like an attack to the recipient and tend to be counterproductive. So...I want to assure you audrey that I am not here to save you. Do you think you need saving? I think you are a motivated member of God's army in these last days. (See Joel) and I certainly think that to your own master you stand or fall. The only thing I can attest to between you and I is the same as THE BOSS, "What we got here is a failure to communicate.".

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Henk olwage

January 17, 2014  8:37am

What bell actually did, was to swop deism for atheism. Deism isn't necessarily faith.

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audrey ruth

January 16, 2014  10:30pm

Getting back on topic, David: I honestly cannot comprehend how a person whose whole life has been completely changed by the love, truth, and power of God could just walk away for a day or a week (let alone a whole year!), essentially ignoring God and pretending He does not exist, living like a person who has never known Him. A person who is in fellowship with God does need to see Him - His Spirit indwells our spirits, hearts, and minds, and is continually ministering to us 24/7. Why turn away from God and give room to the enemy of all men's souls? As others here (with whom you have not argued) have said, it is very dangerous to do so. And this: Since you are married, can you not comprehend the analogy of a man walking away from his wife like that, for even a day or a week, let alone a year? The Lord shows the analogy of the marriage relationship reflecting His relationship with His people in His Word. See Hosea 2:19 and many other scriptures throughout the entire Bible.

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audrey ruth

January 16, 2014  10:12pm

David, I'm not the least bit concerned about how you misspell my name - no problem, period. I'm glad you've admitted your hostility which is plain to see. I hope you can see that you have not argued with me; you have argued with the Word of God. I posted this without any commentary of my own: Here is God's Word about diet: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and *require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving* by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer." I Timothy 4:1-5 // THIS is God's Word on the subject. There's no need to add to or take away from it - Jesus addressed the danger of doing so.

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James Cowles

January 16, 2014  1:28pm

@ David Stafford: "Your remarks in response to mine about Mr. Bell's undertaking were not apropos to all I had posted on the subject. This would not be through any fault of yours if I am correct in guessing that, like me, you are interacting with this site by means of a smart phone. " Exactly right ... my apologies for responding based on incomplete context.

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David Stafford

January 16, 2014  10:59am

audrey: I apologize for my careless, unintentional, incorrect postings of your name. I hope you will let it go by.

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David Stafford

January 16, 2014  9:31am

andre: My wife thinks I might be sounding a little hostile in my comments. I told her I am hostile. In your Max Escher-like connecting of lines of reasoning, you end up producing doctrines which cause the word of God to contradict itself which is a blasphemous exercise and is like the description of some of the Jews with whom Paul was reasoning out of the scriptures; "contradicting themselves and blaspheming.". The deplorability of your action is graphically rendered in Ezekiel 34:19, God speaking, "And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet." When I sense this, it makes me feel like psalm 18:32-42, "It is God that...maketh my way perfect...He teacheth my hands to war...I have pursued mine enemies...I did not turn again until they were consumed...then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind...". I derided your efforts mockingly similarly to Elijah going against Jezebel's priests of Baal. And I must admit I felt hostility. I think it's a matter of hating with perfect hatred. Psalm 139:22. It's nothing personal.

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David Stafford

January 16, 2014  12:54am

Hey andrea, I just thought of an added designation to tack onto your churches name to really signify your new testament freedom. Some churches could conceivably add: sheep of Christ to identify with the lost sheep parable of Christ the shepherd. Why not proclaim your new testament freedom in a more eye-catching way by adding the subtitle: swine of Christ with Christ being the chief swine herder. That would be a sign which tells all who read that swine are, creatures of God, too. What do you think? A stroke of gospel genius?

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David Stafford

January 16, 2014  12:29am

andrea: so you saying that, for example, the scripture that I quoted from Isaiah about the objectionable people who eat swine's flesh and the broth of abominable things is in their vessels sprang from the minds of deceitful teachers and demons? And that's the false teaching Paul was referring to? And that the mood of the account of Jesus sending the demons into a herd of swine would have been exactly the same as if it would have been a herd of sheep that was destroyed? Because sheep and swine equally deserve the understood designation, creature of God? And you, if you would have been there would have counseled the gentiles to "ignore them" speaking of the guidelines pronounced by the Antioch council and would have said to the newbies, "eat sacrifices to idols, drink blood and eat things strangled!" They placed those things on a par with fornication. My thought is that if you would have taught them to ignore the first three "necessary things" why not advise them to also do the fourth? Oops, maybe you do. How would I know from your cavalier disregard of the other three? And, interesting to one such as me, the reason they gave for not noting more such guidelines was that "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day." That is your religion to me one great mass of pathetic simple-minded thinking which actually hates knowledge. And which creates impossible and unnecessary contradictions so that the sheep despair of reading and understanding every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.

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audrey ruth

January 15, 2014  10:24pm

Here is God's Word about diet: "Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and *require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving* by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer." I Timothy 4:1-5

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audrey ruth

January 15, 2014  10:21pm

David, I'm only zealous for God's Word, period. If you're familiar with the NT, you know the Lord says there that the new covenant/testament is infinitely better than the old covenant/testament. Christ Jesus has done for us what the OT Law could never do. The OT Law was/is there to show us our need for the Savior, the only one who can set the captives free. Jesus said that if we continue in His Word, we will know the truth, and the truth will make us free. I praise God that He has provided everything we need. He is so good.

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David Stafford

January 15, 2014  8:33pm

audrey ruth: Are you zealous that new testament truth be the universal guide? What about this commandment of Jesus Christ? "Let your women keep silence in the churches for it is not permitted unto them to speak...AS ALSO SAYETH THE LAW." The Law obviously being used in New Testament authority as an equal witness for what is universally right. My personal witness of you is that you have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. And I dare to assure you that your church is not teaching you the gospel. I, personally, know of no Christian church today that is teaching the gospel. And I have been looking for years. Nevertheless, my knowledge on that subject is limited only to that which I, personally, have not yet found. Thank you for talking with me. I don't know what church KT is with, but to me, so far, KT is a rare one. Fortunately, there are those which manifest the Law of God written on their hearts regardless of what Christian church they belong to or even what religion they are in or whatever circumstances they find themselves.

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David Stafford

January 15, 2014  8:01pm

Dear KT: I spontaneously wept with joy with the feeling of the spirit manifested by your very caring and thoughtful and gentle response to my letter to you. May God Bless you mightily for your sharing of your peacemaking ministry. Please do not fret yourself about this quest of brother Bell even though he make it public. Speak comfortably to Jerusalem (the city of peace) and tell her that her warfare is accomplished.

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Rolf Vaessen

January 15, 2014  7:15pm

Living without God sounds like telling us a joke! Branches detached from the vine will die quickly. Maybe he was never attached. Satan will have a field day with him. Answering comments on the Old Testament diet, here is what the New Testament has to say about it: "These events [in the wilderness] is a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did."--1.Cor.10:6 NLT What was some of those sins? "And they sinned yet more against Him by provoking the most High in the wilderness. And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lusts."--Psalms 78:17,18. Where it says a 'warning' the KJV says 'example.' Like God's people today, they do not like the vegetarian diet. Read Isa. 66:17 and see where you stand when Jesus returns to reign in great power and glory. The lust of the flesh includes all stimulants. A born again Christian will only have Christ and the Holy Spirit as his/her only stimulant. There will be uppers and downers as well, but God is good!

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David Stafford

January 15, 2014  4:34pm

audrey ruth: The New Testament also says that he that regards the day; to the Lord he regards it and gives thanks to God. He that eats not; to the Lord he eats not and gives God thanks. For meat destroy not the work of Christ, who died for Seventh Day Adventists. The Antioch council determined not lay upon the gentiles who turned to Christ ought but four necessary things; three of which were dietary restrictions. Isaiah 65:2-5 "I have have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people,...which eat swine's flesh, and broth of abominable things is in their vessels; Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near unto me, for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day." The greatest sin in history, which caused death to pass upon all men, was a dietary restriction. And yes, I was in the same boat as Ryan Bell. In proving all things, I was forced, in my mind, by my father to enter the occult. I made a request to God when I did so similar to Naaman the Syrian. I am glad for what I now know in this day of Harry Potter vacation bible schools. And I say, "Don't try this at home."

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audrey ruth

January 15, 2014  1:29am

David Stafford, one thing about Seventh Day Adventism which shows their overemphasis on the OT to the exclusion of NT teaching is their teaching requiring obedience to the dietary laws required of Jews in OT days (that's just one example among many.) The NT shows us clearly that those dietary laws are not required of Christians today - indeed, Peter was given an extraordinary vision from the Lord (Acts 9 or 10) in which he saw this clearly. That vision was not only about Jewish dietary laws, but it did include them in order to open Peter's eyes to the truth of the New Covenant as wrought by the blood of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As you may know, Peter had his own crisis of faith similar to John the Baptist. Here's the pertinent question: Did either of those men take a year to pretend God did not exist? Not at all. Just the opposite. Going away from God is never a solution. It only leads to more problems. I am genuinely sorry for anyone who does not know Him.

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David Stafford

January 14, 2014  11:55pm

Ms. Ruth : When I read the New Testament, what I see is that all the teaching that is contained therein has a very heavy emphasis on the Old Testament, in fact, not being an expert, I would dare to say that the Seventh Day Adventists could scarcely out-emphasize the Old Testament more than the expositors, defenders, and teachers in the New Testament. I'm sorry to hear you judge John the Baptist's personal doubts about Jesus (which a very large part of my letter was about) so unfeelingly. I,too, am subject to necessarily making personal judgements, but, from the word of God. For instance, because of the observations concerning you that I have stated above, I believe for sure that you know neither what you say nor whereof you affirm. I, therefore, cannot and do not wish you Godspeed. If I am correct, one sign will be that you will be unable to maintain a conversation, similarly to the damsel who followed after Paul and co. repeatedly proclaiming, "These men are servants of the most high God which show unto us the way of salvation.". As far as reading previous posts; if you do, then you know that I see only the five most recent posts at any one time and that is all. If this CT site limitation has bungled our communication, and caused a comical misunderstanding, please forgive me.

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audrey ruth

January 14, 2014  10:04pm

P.S. Two further comments: One, I see that Ryan Bell is affiliated with Seventh-day Adventists. Before I became a Christian and I was seeking for a faith worth living for, I watched a religious program on TV. It sounded good, so I sent off for material. They sent me a "Bible course" and I diligently studied it for several weeks. At some point, though, I could plainly see that their teachings were not truly Biblical and stopped at that point. There was an overemphasis on the OT and severe under-emphasis on the NT. The people who produced the program and sent me the material/study course were Seventh-day Adventists. Their beliefs are Biblically lacking. Two, unlike Laura Turner, I cannot wish Bell well on his year of atheism. But I do pray he finds what he's looking for - the real deal, Christ Jesus the Lord.

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audrey ruth

January 14, 2014  9:47pm

David Stafford, where did you come from? The article is not about you. Are you saying you're in Ryan Bell's boat too? If you think I have no compassion, you did not read my earlier posts which were clearly visible below when you posted to me. Since Ryan Bell is (or has been) a professed Christian who presumably at some point in his life received Christ Jesus as Savior and Lord, if he were indwelt with the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised, if he had allowed God's Word to be light to his path - then why would Ryan Bell even consider living a year pretending that God does not exist, or ignoring Him, or however one would describe it? It would seem that he had already become quite comfortable living that way, right? The longer I live, the MORE I am aware, day after day, how MUCH I need the Lord. I am genuinely sorry for anyone who does not know God and has to face this world on his own, so I cannot comprehend why anyone would purposely and consciously forfeit His blessing.

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L K

January 14, 2014  8:37pm

Dear Mr Stafford, Thank you for reminding Audrey and I about compassion. We cannot have too much of that, can we? Please forgive me if anything I said was out of line. You are right - we are all struggling along. As I have been trying to convey, I am actually not that comfortable in this conversation - I would prefer that we discuss principles and the Lord's wisdom on how to help, rather than speaking specifically about Mr Bell. Even though he chose to be public, it just feels like such a private matter - probably just me...

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L K

January 14, 2014  8:14pm

Hi Audrey, It is perplexing. Only that person and God know if there was ever a true relationship, and if there once was, how it could possibly be rejected. Your analogy of the marital relationship being like a faith relationship is profound and Biblical. (Hosea 2:19, others) I believe there could be a powerful deception at play: given a toe-hold, a person can be lured into dangerous areas. Be careful of pride, we don't know how vulnerable we also might be! Although I think it was unwise of Mr. Bell to make this into a public exercise, it did take courage for him to talk about it so openly - I think few of us would admit to this. We need to be in diligent prayer for him and anyone who admits to struggling with their faith, for protection and to be surrounded by loving, brave believers who can minister with wisdom. I feel we need to be careful on this forum, too, about how we speak about Mr. Bell. This situation is so public, and he is so vulnerable! Continuing in prayer...

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David Stafford

January 14, 2014  8:07pm

Mrs. Ruth, LK, et al, If one's wife were invisible, in fact not able to be detected by any of one's five senses; and notable scholars were saying that she does not, indeed, never existed and that any thought or feeling one had to attribute to her existence was in fact a construct of one's own brain, don't you think an honest personal questioning is reasonable? Now, let's go a step further. Suppose you had been the harbinger of Jesus in the actual flesh; the announcer of his status to the world and had seen the spirit descending out of heaven like a dove and alighting on him and heard the voice from heaven saying, "THIS IS MY SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.". Do you think it would be a demonstration of intellectual honesty if later, you asked him, "Art thou he that should come or look we for another?". My plea to you is to have compassion on our struggles in this sore travail in which we are exercised and I, for one, will try to have more compassion on you.

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audrey ruth

January 14, 2014  7:13pm

L K, I realize everyone's experience is different. In my mind, this analogy - How can a married man live as though his wife does not exist? - means that the man would have to ignore his wife at all times. No matter what she said or did, for him to live as though she did not exist, he would most likely have to move to a different place, not even in the same town. Of course men abandon their wives and children all the time; sadly, this is nothing new. (Those wives and children know they were not loved.) I know that professed Christians do this too. Some have made careers off of this, writing books and even teaching in colleges and seminaries. (???) A related question in my mind is this: If a person can live as though God or anyone else does not exist, did he or she ever love God or that person at all? I cannot believe that he or she did. Is there someone in your life whom you love? Could you live as though that person did not exist?

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L K

January 14, 2014  6:45pm

Audrey, re:"The foremost question in my mind is, How can a professed Christian live as if God does not exist? An analogy: How can a married man live as though his wife does not exist? He could only do this if he had no love for her at all. " All I can think of is how our human feelings fluctuate up and down, causing us to sometimes not feel much or any love for Christ, and then we think (erroneously) that therefore we have lost our faith. This is very human and could / does happen to the best of us. C.S. Lewis discusses this at length in Mere Christianity, regarding how natural it is for our feelings about God to wax and wane, therefore we must not base our faith in our emotions. I can't spout out the quote, but did find some discussion about this concept here: http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/Feelings_or_Faith_for_Foundations

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audrey ruth

January 14, 2014  6:04pm

Lorie, this statement from your comment really hit me: "For certainly, if he was a Christian before, then he did love Jesus: so he has now turned his back on someone he loved, Who loves him - the most painful kind of crisis!" Judas Iscariot immediately came to mind. Of course, as far we know, Ryan Bell has not done anything as heinous, but that statement was definitely true of JI. The foremost question in my mind is, How can a professed Christian live as if God does not exist? An analogy: How can a married man live as though his wife does not exist? He could only do this if he had no love for her at all. I join you in praying for Ryan Bell. May the Lord have mercy on his soul.

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David Stafford

January 14, 2014  3:17pm

Mr. Cowels: Thank you for responding. I sense that, like me, you follow these discussions on a smart phone. On this CT site, that means that you have access to only the five most recent posts. On a computer, I understand, you can access all posts, at any time, that have been posted about any given article. If this were the case with you, you might then have seen that my first post about this article reflected my admiration for Mr. Bell in seeking to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good, and props for the scientific method. And then I offered some precautionary thoughts for consideration in undertaking such a year-long endeavor. I did suggest that if he were able to survive such a study, he would be a first-hand possessor on knowledge on the subject of atheism and a quite unimpeachable authority, at least in his own mind. My later posts reflected scripture's description of itself that all scripture is profitable for study, that the man of God may be perfect. Your remarks in response to mine about Mr. Bell's undertaking were not apropos to all I had posted on the subject. This would not be through any fault of yours if I am correct in guessing that, like me, you are interacting with this site by means of a smart phone. It is another example of the distress that can result with only the five most recent posts to view.

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L K

January 14, 2014  2:37pm

This unfolding story resembles a train wreck that one can't peel their eyes away from. What seems so fundamentally wrong and sad to me is that Mr. Bell chose to place his relationship crisis into the public eye. (For certainly, if he was a Christian before, then he did love Jesus: so he has now turned his back on someone he loved, Who loves him - the most painful kind of crisis!) That of course was his prerogative, but in effect it took something which would ordinarily be a deeply personal corner to turn in one's life, and changed it into a rolling snowball drama with a public life of its own. So now, here we all are, me included, talking ABOUT Mr. Bell, who most of us are not even acquainted with, in the most public of conversation marketplaces - the internet - instead of talking TO him. Does this make anyone else uncomfortable, or is it just me? I'm praying for Mr. Bell, as I know many of you are. Lord, please help us to pray with empathy, sensitivity, and love. ~Lorie Klahn

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James Cowles

January 14, 2014  11:51am

@ David Stafford ... "James Cowels: Please talk about how my statement of the all sufficiency of God's word on the subject of atheism is, "seeping". Thank you." Should have read "SWEEPING".

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audrey ruth

January 13, 2014  11:44pm

It sounds like Ryan Bell and Rob Bell have a lot in common. Usually, "a more progressive version of Christianity" means moving away from a Biblical standard of truth, which both of them are doing. Ephesians 6:10 is very apropos in this context. I agree with Dave James' comment - danger lies ahead for Ryan (and Rob) Bell.

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David Stafford

January 13, 2014  3:49pm

Dave James: I googled your alliance for bible integrity. It looks very intriguing, at first glance. I look forward to sampling the articles.

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Dave James

January 13, 2014  11:59am

I read /scanned all 66 comments up to the time of this comment, and unless I missed it somewhere, perhaps the most obvious and important issue has yet to be mentioned, namely, the existential reality and impact that being truly born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God would have on anyone attempting to live as if God doesn't exist. Scripturally, we know that either he will be under increasing conviction and guilt as he grieves the Holy Spirit if he is a genuinely born-again believer, or he will tend to become more hardened in his heart through intentional rebellion with little or no guilt that would move him back in the direction of belief in God---which threatens to put him in an eternally precarious position. This is not just some innocuous intellectual pursuit of truth, an amoral thought experiment or a zero-sum game. Nor is it simply the struggle of occasional doubt which any believer can face - it's a dangerous place to be. Dave James, The Alliance for Biblical Integrity

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David Stafford

January 13, 2014  10:55am

James Cowels: Please talk about how my statement of the all sufficiency of God's word on the subject of atheism is, "seeping". Thank you.

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James Cowles

January 13, 2014  8:57am

@ Perry Barinowski ... "As a Seventh Day Adventist, I am pretty sure he was more than halfway to his goal." All fundamentalist ideologies -- political, moral, & economic as well as religious -- tend to be very fragile. That is why their devotees cling to them with such fervor: the fear that a single challenge will shatter them. Hence the fear I sense in so many of these posts.

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James Cowles

January 13, 2014  8:53am

@ David Stafford ... "I was adding to that thought of one's belief preferences being like clothing by saying that I, for instance, am clothed thus and thus" ... whereupon you made the seeping statement that, regarding atheism, there was nothing left for ANYone to learn ... a judgment that rightfully only Ryan Bell can make for himself, not that anyone can make for him. Perhaps that is shrill. But it's also true.

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Perry Barinowski

January 13, 2014  6:43am

As a Seventh Day Adventist, I am pretty sure he was more than halfway to his goal. But what a relief! For a minute I was afraid my belief that there were idiots in the church was less than accurate.

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David Stafford

January 13, 2014  12:14am

@James Cowels: I believe you lost our original thought which was a response to one who said that Mr.Bells experiment should not be likened to trying on an article of clothing. I pointed out that yes it was, like his own confusion being like a mantle. I was adding to that thought of one's belief preferences being like clothing by saying that I, for instance, am clothed thus and thus. You are making yourself absurd in your somewhat shrill accusative limitations. Your statements are becoming as ridiculously non-related as the goofy statements of Job's three friends.

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James Cowles

January 12, 2014  11:14pm

@ David Stafford ... "The subject of atheism in all possible permutations has been exhaustively set forth in the clearest possible manner in the bible." But of course the Bible is hardly a neutral, disinterested source for knowledge about atheism, any more than the Qur'an is a neutral, disinterested source for knowledge about Allah. "There is no possibility for further discovery on the subject." For you, perhaps, but Ryan Bell evidently suspects otherwise. This is about Bell, not you -- or me. "Whatever Mr. Bell experiences cannot be any different or add anything new to that which we now have in our hands ... " But -- again -- you are prejudging the results of Bell's "experiment" before the "experiment" has even been carried out. It may be that his "experiment" will not "add anything new", but (1) we can't know that ahead of time, and certainly neither of us can judge whether "anything new" will be added FOR RYAN BELL. Again: this is about HIM, not about US.

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Paul Schryba

January 12, 2014  9:58pm

cont. Another alternative, another way of 'knowing' and 'seeing' is not considered. A new interpretation is being called for. And the egoic mind (what's in it for me- it didn't deliver on its 'promises') keeps on looking for an 'answer' without having to 'die' to itself.

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Paul Schryba

January 12, 2014  9:52pm

Confusion and doubt do not necessarily lead to breakthroughs. Confusion and doubt can lead to breakdowns without resurrection. Confusion and doubt may be the result of trying to use use the mind for something it was never designed for, in trying to capture and 'grasp' that which cannot be grasped. When 'breakthrough' then comes, it is because a fundamental restructuring of the mind happens as a result of pain and suffering resulting in a new way of 'seeing' that can only be pointed at and not communicated through concepts. The breakthrough from 'theism' is not to another conceptual system (atheism), but to contact with transcendent living reality that is then reflected in concepts. Within Christianity, that is 'Jesus.' "There is no god, and he is always with you". Many people, having problems with rigid dogmatic Biblical 'truth', take an all or nothing, black and white literal interpretation; if it isn't 'literally', black and white 'truth', then it must necessarily be 'false'. cont.

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David Stafford

January 12, 2014  9:42pm

James Cowles: Seen on a t-shirt in Boulder: "If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be research would it." I apologize for wording my thoughts so carelessly. Please allow me to restate what I said more clearly. The subject of atheism in all possible permutations has been exhaustively set forth in the clearest possible manner in the bible. There is no possibility for further discovery on the subject. Whatever Mr. Bell experiences cannot be any different or add anything new to that which we now have in our hands from which we may know all that can be known on the subject. I then made the somewhat sardonic comment that because of the ubiquity of today's marvelous new technical knowledge, perhaps there was something new about atheism also, to be discovered. It was a form of gentle ridicule and was meant to be funny. As for me, for example, my clothing includes a cloak of zeal and a breastplate of righteousness. As the apostle Paul said, "the doers of the Law shall be justified...according to my gospel."

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James Cowles

January 12, 2014  8:44pm

@ David Stafford ... "Bell seems to want to be covered with his own confusion as with a mantle and then relate to the world how it works out for him." In a funny kind of way, I think you're right, but perhaps not in the way you seem to think. Virtually all important discoveries begin with an initial experience of confusion & incoherence. Alexander Fleming is initially confused by some pesky mold growing in his Petri dishes. Then, for whatever reason, the investigator digs deeper into the confusion and in the process provokes an "Aha!" moment when the confusion suddenly (or gradually) resolves itself and a new & deeper harmony emerges out of the initial confusion ... and Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin! I'm talking science, but the process works essentially the same in other contexts. As e. e. cummings wrote "all ignorance toboggans into know and trudges up to ignorance again".

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David Stafford

January 12, 2014  6:20pm

ActuallY "trying on" picturing a clothing-like analogy is the way the bible most often seems to liken one's operational beliefs. Bell seems to want to be covered with his own confusion as with a mantle and then relate to the world how it works out for him. This would be for those who look to the latest Christian literature way WAY before they would read the already iterated such-like results in scripture. After all, today we have such marvelous technologies; maybe it will be different?

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James Cowles

January 12, 2014  4:04pm

@ Jonathan Nichols ... "They figure, while ignoring the constant grace of God in their lives, that God must not be necessary after all." But, of course, the whole point of Ryan Bell's experiment is precisely to know whether God is "necessary" or not. The only way Bell could comply with your criterion would be if, in his experiment, Bell ASSUMED the answer to the very question he is INVESTIGATING in the first place: you want him to ASSUME the answer to the very question he is ASKING. This is hardly an honest way to proceed. "Ryan Bell is searching for truth by turning his back on it" ... which would only be true if he knew the answer beforehand ... while professing not to. Again, this would be dishonest. Must I really repeat the first sentence of Mark Noll's book of about 30 years ago on the evangelical mind?

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Jonathan Nichols

January 12, 2014  3:45pm

As opposed to columnist Laura Turner, I do not hope Ryan well on his atheistic exploration. Do you understand the consequences of things going "well" as one purposefully chooses to avoid God? They figure, while ignoring the constant grace of God in their lives, that God must not be necessary after all. This is no harmless journey of exploration. Ryan Bell is searching for truth by turning his back on it. If this man is a Christian, he is denying the Holy Spirit who lives within him, and that is the one sin that the Bible tells us will not be forgiven. Mark 3:29. St. James knew what he was talking about when he wrote, "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

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James Cowles

January 12, 2014  10:52am

What I detect in a lot of these posts is thinly disguised fear on the part of the poster for her / himself, masquerading as fear for me & for Ryan Bell a la "If this happened to Ryan Bell & Jim Cowles ... this could happen to ... (shudder-shudder) ... this could happen to ... to ... ME!!!!" Well ... frankly ... you're right ... it could happen to you". Have a nice day!

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James Cowles

January 11, 2014  11:07pm

@ Steve Skeete ... "And whether or not your journey is intellectual or honesty does not negate the right of an institution to operate on the basis of its beliefs." Actually I agree, and would only add that it is naive & arguably disingenuous if you think the institution will not exact consequences. That is my one criticism or the "trying-on-atheism" paradigm ... that & the belief that atheism can be "tried on" like a new pair of shoes any more than Christianity can.

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Steve Skeete

January 11, 2014  6:54pm

'Bell draws several conclusions about his firing, namely that: "Religions institutions (Christian, in my case) are not able to endure these probing questions from their public leaders." "Christian educational institutions are not serving their students by eliminating professors that are on an honest intellectual and spiritual journey, just because it doesn't line up with the official statement of faith." My first response to these 'conclusions' was that they are simply nonsense, or 'ignorance' as Ms. Turner calls them. The Christian faith has not and will not collapse because someone has doubts or questions. And whether or not your journey is intellectual or honesty does not negate the right of an institution to operate on the basis of its beliefs. The faithful should simply ignore Mr. Bell and similar copy-cats since we are well aware of to what and where 'trying on atheism' leads.

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Rick Dalbey

January 11, 2014  6:53pm

A Zen Buddhist and two atheists walk into a blog…stop me if you've hear this one….

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Paul Schryba

January 11, 2014  12:46pm

Part of the difficulty in discussing religion and 'god', is that our minds can only deal with 'objects' and finite forms. That which is transcendent can only be pointed at through symbols. Being itself cannot be grasped. Being itself is not differentiated. Being itself is timeless. That which is life, lives. "A god who can be killed..." cannot be God. "A god who can be killed..." posits there is an 'object-thing' God that is differentiated from other objects. That 'object god' only exists as a thought form. The mind cannot grasp that which is 'both-neither', by the very 'off-on' nature of the mind. To use religious language, infinite Being is poured out, is manifest through 'the Word'- as creation. John 1 "in the beginning was the Word...through him all things were made." A baby or animal doesn't have a 'god problem', because it hasn't developed or is capable of developing the capacity to relate to life and reality through its thoughts, rather than its being.

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James Cowles

January 11, 2014  9:14am

@ Stuart Robson ... "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him." A god who can BE killed was already dead to begin with, an important point that Nietzsche -- uncharacteristically -- missed.

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James Cowles

January 11, 2014  9:12am

@ John Hoehn ... "A year of public ingratitude, a year of absorption in self, a year of juvenile self-exploration, a year of rebellion, a year of fantasy, a year of denial, a year of pretense, a year of crucifying afresh the son of God?" You could say the same thing about a person -- say, a lifelong Presbyterian -- who goes through some kind of crisis & decides to begin visiting, say, a Catholic Church to observe Mass, participate in the liturgy, & in general "act Catholic" ... or a Catholic who did the opposite. I have reservations about the WAY he is doing this. But what he is doing is IN PRINCIPLE no different from the way virtually all religious conversions -- and DEconversions -- start & proceed.

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Stuart Robson

January 10, 2014  11:58pm

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

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JOHN Hoehn

January 10, 2014  11:56pm

A year of public ingratitude, a year of absorption in self, a year of juvenile self-exploration, a year of rebellion, a year of fantasy, a year of denial, a year of pretense, a year of crucifying afresh the son of God? I hope Ryan Bell thinks he is going in as a spy, a covert operator, but I see no justice, grace, or mercy coming out of living a lie for a year. I was very angry with my church administrators for letting a progressive young pastor go. I am now more angry with Ryan for proving them right. I hope that after living as a starving swineherd for a year he will still come home to the abundance of his Father's house. I realize this is the pharisaical voice of the older brother in the parable speaking, but God I hate to hear our Father's lonely sobs.

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Paul Schryba

January 10, 2014  11:02pm

@James Cowles: God is love; God enfolds your being, is in your being, and even now is calling you and healing you. The heart of the dharmakaya is love/compassion according to Buddhist tradition. You may cut me off and my smoky, messy efforts, but you can't cut 'it' off. I trust you to 'it'. May we realize our wholeness and peace..."Be still and know", I 'think' would be more effective for Mr. Ryan than trying to adopt another belief system. We all must go through, what we must go through.

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Martin

January 10, 2014  10:17pm

To be fair, I don't believe it was Ryan's advocacy for women's ordination that caused his termination. Lots of his pastoral peers also do--and so does his regional conference, the Pacific Union of Seventh-day Adventists. His sad departure I think is much more related to his support of the homosexual agenda. Yet I grieve for Ryan, whom I know. He has helped many hurting people that far too many church members in good and regular standing don’t care about. But I would say to him: "Whatever happened to your Jesus, in whose name you conducted your ministry of compassion? Was it all a farce?" It’s easy to see how one can struggle with the church for its politics and policies and practices. But when you look at Jesus, how in the world can you doubt God? Living without God is the ultimate contradiction! P.S. Beware of ultra liberalism and ultra conservatism; despite the fervent religious advocacy of both extremes, there is often (usually?) an underlying dearth of spiritual life.

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James Cowles

January 10, 2014  9:03pm

@ Paul Schryba ... I repeat: your lack of respect makes this reply my last communication with you.

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Rick Dalbey

January 10, 2014  8:28pm

Paul Schryba, 23 more data points.

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Paul Schryba

January 10, 2014  8:16pm

belief system, but deeply questioning one's beliefs- all thoughts and the nature of thinking - with one's whole being. What that then comes to- is experience of that Reality- God- which is transcendent and cannot be grasped by words and concepts. That Mr. Bell wants to actively espouse another belief system which he does not have faith in, isn't 'doubt'.

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Paul Schryba

January 10, 2014  8:04pm

@James Cowles: I certainly have empathy with what you have shared, respect for it, and the pain you have suffered. That certainly wasn't 'intellectual'. What you have chosen in response to it- atheism- is, however, 'intellectual'. You have now a new 'belief system', which you believe with as much fervor as you did your 'Christianity.' That you refuse to comment about zen experience and confine your responses to intellectual ones about atheism and attacks on 'Christianity' indicates to me that you still haven't come to grips with the heart. That you deem it necessary to continue to attack Christianity indicates that you are still not healed from the trauma of dogmatic Christianity. For which you have my prayers. My comment about Zen stands, unanswered- ever- by you. Direct transmission- (of what!) beyond words/scriptures into the True Nature of Reality. "There is no God but, he is always with you." Sasaki Roshi. In the context of this article, one 'doubts' not by accepting another cont.

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David Randall

January 10, 2014  7:58pm

Turner is right to see that there is a "problem with trying on atheism". However, the article does not take note of the most grave of the potential problems. Depending on Bell's actual spiritual state, his to "trial run" of atheism may not be reversible, just as the effect of a one year trial of regularly ingesting lead is not likely to be reversible. "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace." Heb 6:4-6

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Rick Dalbey

January 10, 2014  7:47pm

James, I love your phrase, "one more data point". I imagine a vast powerpoint presentation or graph that you are assembling in your basement with scores of data points that with your quantum computing processor will prove conclusively the wisdom of abandoning Christianity. I think you've snagged some data points from me too! Glad to be of service. Can't wait till you wake up though. (Drat, one more data point from Dalbey).

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David Randall

January 10, 2014  7:41pm

This is not an experiment in the quest of intellectual honestly. It is simply a two-year-old response to not getting his way. It's a tantrum. The equivalent of "I'm going to hold my breath for a year, and if you don't cater to me, I just might not ever breath again!" He is simply trying to punish God or his church for not being nicer to him. He just wants what every two-year-old who throws a tantrum wants: power and attention. He seems to be getting some attention, but it doesn't look like the power play is going to work for him. He is probably already far more of an atheist already than he thinks. Otherwise why jeopardize what little is left of his relationship to God.

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James Cowles

January 10, 2014  7:24pm

@ Paul Schryba ... "So you are a REAL atheist; 'its existential, not just intellectual'- on the contrary, it is only 'intellectual'." For you perhaps it would be. But it is arrogant & presumptuous of you to assume that it is for me. My (de?)conversion to atheism was no more purely intellectual than the conversion to Christianity of someone who walks forward at a Billy Graham crusade, and was accompanied by no less anguish ... including a period of intense suicidal ideation that made it unsafe for a time for me to be alone. If you cannot respect that, then I have no interest in anything you have to say to me ... other than to thank you for providing one more data point confirming the wisdom of my decision in leaving Christianity.

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Evelyn Sims

January 10, 2014  6:38pm

I can't help thinking he gives himself away by stating that '[he] is not an atheist, at least not yet' meaning he's not truly convinced of his faith in Jesus Christ now. It's a little like a pre-nup in my estimate at least where 'we'll marry each other until death do us part.....but just in case' I can only hope that he very soon finds life without God will is not what he can bear having tasted life in Christ. Will he feel freer to break the Decalogue, the Sermon on the Mount etc How will it affect his relationships, his work his home? The author of Hebrews gives clear warning but then again, he may never have truly "tasted". (Hebrews 6: 4-6)

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Rick Dalbey

January 10, 2014  6:36pm

David Stafford, what are you talking about? Both Paul Schryba's comments are here. I think I saw this episode in Star Trek, The Next Generation, when Dr. Beverly Crusher's universe began getting smaller and smaller on the starship Enterprise. Her son, ensign Wesley Crusher had been experimenting with a novel warp bubble and Beverly became trapped in this bubble. Her thoughts at the time created a universe where everyone and everything quickly began disappearing. With the assistance of The Traveler, Wesley was able to create a gateway back to the normal universe. Dr. Crusher was able to deduce what was happening in her universe, and escaped just before the bubble collapsed. I would try that. Or, if that doesn't work, go to the top and hit "see all comments". Then go to the bottom and click on the page numbers to see past comments or use the scroll arrows. You are not obliterating anyone's comments, you are only displaying 5 at a time on your screen.

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Robert OCONNOR

January 10, 2014  2:26pm

Has no one thought to pray for him? This is an existentialist crisis. A dark night of the soul. Spend the next year reading the Psalms and then find a denomination that suits you. You must recognize that All denominational polities are flawed human institutions so you must find the "least bad" institution to live with. You must also recognize that these denominations are not the church, nor do they speak for God. Only scripture does. Peace and Blessings to you.

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Lord Clever

January 10, 2014  2:20pm

A year as an atheist isn't really difficult, significant or impressive. Most so called Christians in America live a life that is equivalent to functional atheism anyway.

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Sara F

January 10, 2014  2:11pm

If he is truly a Christian, I don't think he'll last long enough to have enough material for a book!

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Paul Schryba

January 10, 2014  1:55pm

cont. Zen is the direct perception of Reality- endless dimension universal life, beyond thought systems. Eternal. Those thought systems include 'atheism'. That you continue to cling to 'atheism', shows you have not deeply given yourself to Zen practice. "There is no God and He is always with you," a book title by Brad Warner. Warner says in a blog about the book, "After going away from the book I’d like my hypothetical reader to know that there is another way and to understand that she can experience God for herself outside of belief or non-belief…." [quoted at http://enlightenmentward.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/brad-warners-there-is-no- god-and-he-is-always-with-youan-incomplete-review-notes-and-rambling/] The article's experiment can be tried- just trying to operate out of another belief system. But thought constructs and belief systems are only that- and people throughout history have testified, "Be still and know..." Ps 46: 10.

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Paul Schryba

January 10, 2014  1:39pm

@James Cowles: So you are a REAL atheist; 'its existential, not just intellectual'- on the contrary, it is only 'intellectual'. 'Atheism' is an intellectual belief system. You do not believe in a 'God'- no 'supreme being'- no 'endless dimension universal life' (one life). You believe in 'science'- all science is, is a systemic human thought construct. Human thought constructs only 'model' reality; they are limited by human capacity to perceive reality. So your 'conversion' to 'atheism' is not based on a perception of 'universal reality'- God- but only a conversion to another set of thought constructs from what you 'believed' before as a born again Christian. To your mind, this set of 'thought constructs' models reality better. As in previous dialogs, you discount the existence of other dimensions. You discount the experience of 'mystics' and meditators from many traditions. Yet 'God' refuses to let you go; that your 'atheism' is insufficient, is evidenced by your practice of Zen cont.

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Johnson Chang-Fong

January 10, 2014  11:35am

We have here someone who volunteers to live a year as an atheist and is shocked that he is ejected from positions for which atheists are not qualified? It is like someone taking up the sport of boxing and being surprised that you actually have to go into the ring and trade blows. There is an apparent lack of intellectual and moral honesty being displayed. And, what worthwhile knowledge would be ushered in by his book; will he bring some new light out of his willful blindness? Jesus said something that is very applicable here: "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God" (John 3:19-21). What is his motivation for running/walking away from the light?

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David Stafford

January 10, 2014  11:33am

Andrew Karl: Haven't you read so much as this? It is better to enter into life halt (with a crutch?) Or maimed than having two feet to be cast into hell where their worm never dies and the fire is not quenched. Dear editor:I read these comments on a mobile system and am getting only the five most recent comments. I am very interested what the others have had to say about this remarkable experiment. How does one access all of the comments?Thank you for your consideration of this.

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DAVID SWANSON

January 10, 2014  10:51am

I don't know enough about the circumstances of his departure from academia and his church. But I am wondering about Bell's motivations. If he had quietly resigned and moved on to explore atheism privately I don't think we'd be reading about him in Christianity Today. And I do think we'd all be better off.

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Andrew Karl

January 10, 2014  8:27am

If he walks without a crutch for a year, maybe he will stand on his own 2 feet.

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James Cowles

January 10, 2014  7:16am

@ Con Kamarados ... "He declares his wish to live as an atheist and then wonders why non-atheist organisations fire him." I gotta say, I agree with this. Much as I admire his undertaking the experiment, he seems to be performing it in a way that lends itself to being seen as exhibitionistic. Compare Bell's pseudo-conversion to atheism with Thomas Howard's anything-but-pseudo conversion in the middle 80s (best I recall) to Catholicism. Howard had to resign his teaching position at an evangelical school ... Wheaton? ... where he had been, individually himself, a beloved "institution". As I recall -- which I may not, because I was distracted by getting ready to get married at the time! -- he resigned in a rather matter-of-fact way with no drama, fanfare, or recrimination, at least publicly. If I criticize Bell for anything, it's on the basis of the element of showmanship or schadenfreude.

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Con Kamarados

January 10, 2014  3:55am

I'd hate to call him out on this but he's being incredibly selfish. He declares his wish to live as an atheist and then wonders why non-atheist organisations fire him. Furthermore he has the temerity to rubbish these because they do not support his endeavour. He wants all the benefits of the faith without living it out. Finally, his choice to undertake such a project isn't just confusing or strange but dangerous. Many Christians have their "time in the wilderness" but he is choosing to enter. As the saying goes "Enter at your own risk".

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Kristen Rosser

January 09, 2014  11:37pm

Yes, I'm wondering how it would work to say of any other close relationship, "Let's see if I really love you by living without my speaking to or seeing you for a year."

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K McFall

January 09, 2014  11:14pm

I am mystified why someone would actually want to live as an atheist for a year! No amount of intellectual curiosity or probing questions could make me want to leave the shelter of the Almighty. Heaven forbid if one should meet an untimely demise while practicing atheism. Not to mention what kinds of spiritual darkness does one open themselves up to when they turn away from God. Doesn't sound like a good plan to me.

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David Stafford

January 09, 2014  10:57pm

Ryan Bell: Another warning; the people you find in the world of atheism will be real people with authentic and truthful emotions and a zeal for the truth and a fervent desire not to be fooling themselves. Of necessity you will fall in love with some of them. (Seeing as people need love) And feel a strong consent "to belong" with these lovely people. How will you possibly know what's right. "The world, by wisdom, knew not God."

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David Stafford

January 09, 2014  10:29pm

James Coweles: Your story sounds like Ram Dass'in the intro to his book BE HERE NOW. Ryan Bell: This reminds me of the movie SUPERSIZE ME. I greatly admire your zeal for the truth and the scientific method, PROVE ALL THINGS, HOLD FAST TO THAT WHICH IS TRUE! May I suggest what you are setting yourself up for, as I see it. Imagine if you wanted to find out what life was like for a person who weighs 500 lbs for a year; or a person who smoked two packs of cigarettes every day for a year, etc. At the end of a year, your experiment was an unqualified success. You now know to your complete satisfaction what it is like being a 500 lb.person or a person who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for a year and no-one has any hope of having an argument telling you any different. You now occupy an unshakable position of power in your mind on the subject. But now you are not the person you were at the onset of the year long experiment.You are now the fullfilled image of a 500 person or a two pack a day cigarette smoker bodily and mentally and the possessor of that corresponding life style. In other words, to be an honest experiment, you will BE an atheist and more importantly it will be your self definition. Now imagine what it will take to get back to who you are now on any of these. One thing I suggest will be a certain result is that you will have a new respect for those who have extracted themselves from lifestyles such as those. (It involves a little tricky to empathise with problem of..."killing yourself". And it is more actual than you might imagine. But, as I say, you will be some rock of a giant if you can see it through.

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JOEL WRIGHT

January 09, 2014  8:53pm

If a 'friend' says to his 'best friend'...I don't want to be a friend of yours for one year, ...then we just might assume that there never was a real friendship to begin with. If a husband says to his wife...let's live as unmarried singles for a year...then there were false intentions to begin with, and infidelities obviously are on the horizon. Sounds like what's being revealed here is nothing about God, but rather the weak nature of the relationship and the poverty of true Christian conviction. Perhaps Jesus was never there to begin with, and the work of the Spirit ignored on many occasions. I remember my attempted journey away from God...and it was dark and lonely, with a growing sickness in my soul and a loss of power against temptations. Porn grew vicious. Be careful in testing the grace and patience of a personal God; someone might be playing with fire (John 15:6).

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Matthew Haller

January 09, 2014  8:32pm

As someone who has been an atheist for a significant portion of my life, I can relate to Ryan Bell's experience here. But I think Laura Turner definitely has a good point here: "probing questions" are quite different from a year of publicly declared atheism. To me, it's clear that Ryan Bell is being honest about his faith. In my opinion that is *not* always true for some people who hold positions of power within the church. But no one is entitled to the luxury of immunity to the consequences of what we say publicly.

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James Cowles

January 09, 2014  7:57pm

@ Rick Dalbey ... "Your path is not irreversible." I never said it was. No one's path is irreversible.

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james .

January 09, 2014  7:12pm

Perhaps the parable of the Sower best explains those who once professed faith and yet there was something vital in born again faith that was lacking in these professions that produces temporary faith. We all have feet of clay and depend on God's grace to enable us to persevere in the race. To quote the apostle Paul, in the final analysis, "the Lord knows those who are his." 2 Timothy 2:19b

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Rick Dalbey

January 09, 2014  5:55pm

"O, doth a bird deprived of wings go earth-bound willfully!" Phantom limb syndrome indicates that once there were wings. Your path is not irreversible. The position of the atheist is a declaration, an article of faith, "the fool HATH SAID in his heart that there is no God". Ask God to show Himself.

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James Cowles

January 09, 2014  5:00pm

@ Dr. Cherian ... " If he ventures to go outside, whatever he looks at will speak to him about God, for "the heavens declare the glory of God" ... but only if you believe in God IN THE FIRST PLACE. Otherwise, Albert Einstein would not have used the term "God" only as a metaphor for physical law. I respect what Bell is trying to do. But you don't "try on" atheism. Becoming a REAL atheist is like becoming a REAL Christian (or Jew or Muslim or ... ): you CONVERT to it. It's existential, not just intellectual, though the latter is not excluded. Often real conversion comes as a result of some kind of self-revelatory crisis. That was my story: the stress of doing my PhD, followed by the stress of the MDiv, rubbed my nose in the reality of what my REAL beliefs of 50+ yrs were, as opposed to what I had BS'd myself into believing they were. I discovered I had been an atheist all along, in fact, that I had been the narrator in Thomas Hardy's poem "The Impercipient". This is not play-acting.

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Dr. S. Cherian

January 09, 2014  3:53pm

The problem with 'trying on atheism' is that it will harder than Bell imagines. Obviously, he would need to shut himself in a dark room & look into his own reasonings all the time. If he ventures to go outside, whatever he looks at will speak to him about God, for "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." (Psalm 19:1-4, NIV).

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Ralph Davis

January 09, 2014  3:07pm

One of the problems here is that Bell seems to be reacting to his 7th Day Adventist tradition--which, is at best a legalistic Christian fringe-group, and at worst actually a (relatively mild) cult....with Christians in it. Reminds me of intellectuals reacting against Roman Catholicism by becoming agnostic or atheist--and assuming Rome is what real Christianity is.

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Rick Dalbey

January 09, 2014  2:55pm

Bell needs to meet Jesus. I would urge us to pray for him. Jesus is the pearl of great price, He is the desire of the nations, He is the lover of our soul and we owe Him everything. Bell's dalliance with atheism is an insult and quite dangerous. As Hebrews 6 says, "For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame." Is the writer of Hebrews talking about a born-again person or one who only has a mental assent, the food has never gone beyond the tongue? Is the soul so burned by choosing atheism that repentance is not possible? I don't know and I don't want to find out. Lord have mercy on Ryan Bell.

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Robert mason

January 09, 2014  2:27pm

I tried on Atheism intellectually. It had no basis for morality, no reason to resist temptation, no purpose for living and no reason to trust my brain to deal with the big questions. If I am not created by God, I am only a product of chance and Natural Selection. My brian is formed only for survival, not for finding Truth. I realized that I could never be certain that there was no God, therefore the best I could be was an Agnostic and say I don't know. However, if atheism is not a practical or intellectual option, the only alternative left is Theism of some kind. Since sin could bias my quest - I would WANT to sin so I would WANT Atheism to be right for then sin would not be wrong because there is no right or wrong. I needed to live as if God did exist until I found Him (or He found me). I concluded that the only intellectually honest position was to be a seeker of God who was living as if God existed. I never regretted taking this position. I am now a believer.

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Peter Dembroski

January 09, 2014  2:20pm

I agree with a writer's statement about trying to live within a marriage in which you will completely deny yourself with an intimate relationship with your spouse. You can't do it. Unless Bell never had an intimate "right" relationship with God. Once you have lived in a loving and extremely purposeful relationship how can you turn away from from God? If Bell want insight to this type of living let him turn to "Ecclesiastes" and find wisdom, living without God "is meaningless."

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e 8305

January 09, 2014  2:09pm

A few thoughts on this.. First.. Even if proposed as an intellectual pursuit, I sense this stems from a wounding, or burnout with the church.. Second.. As far as I can tell, he isn't taking his church, or students, etc on a year long pursuit- this seems to be a personal step for him, which i think needs to be made clear. and third.. I can't pretend to know personally what lead this man to take these steps, but I do know that God is bigger than His "year of atheism" - and i pray that the pursuit of God after Him, will leave Him restless & that His year of wrestling will reveal the true mercy & grace that is the heart of God.. May even this - be turned and used to the glory of God & His faithfulness to His people.

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Gregory Lawhorn

January 09, 2014  1:58pm

Anyone who can "live a year without God" is already in denial of the God of the Bible, so this doesn't really make any difference in the Kingdom of God. "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God." (Hebrews 3:12 ESV)

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PROF MARLIN JESCHKE

January 09, 2014  1:56pm

How about trying for a year to live like you're not married, Mr. Bell? What would that experiment prove or benefit you? That would likely not be good for your marriage. And it's artificial to pretend to be what you're not, not to say dishonest.

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Andrea Rogers

January 09, 2014  1:53pm

2014 may be the year you live as if there was no God. May be the year you die that way, too. Grow up.

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J HENRY Allen

January 09, 2014  1:39pm

A sad example here of narcissism and desperation to grab personal attention and the public limelight so very typical of our self-absorbed culture. Am I supposed to sit and wait with eager anticipation and see how things turn out with Bell's "experimental" atheism? Am I supposed to gain constructive insights from this experimental foray? Didn't the Psalmist write that "the fool says that there is no God." And elsewhere, we are told not to "put God to the test." It seems that Bell is selfishly "trying on" these self-destructive stances in the name of what....Trying to force God to audibly reveal to Bell that He is real? Why does CT even give a public platform to self-pitying posers like this? Give me a break!

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John Lonergan

January 09, 2014  12:40pm

Turning to atheism to fix your problems with the church is a lot like turning to crack cocaine to fix your cancer. Sure, you may feel better for a moment, but the long term effects will lead to death. I would encourage this guy to come to his senses to engage the truth of Christ in humility.

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