46 thoughts on “Theology 101

  1. James

    Wow… While that would be hard, what a blessing that is. Children are so curious about so many things, and will pretty much believe whatever you tell them… So for your daughter to be showing a genuine curiosity in her salvation is great. And for her to ask YOU is even more special…

    I mean come on, who else would trust YOUR account of anything involving God? :P

    But really Mike, that’s great :)

  2. Chad

    It took me approximately zero seconds, give or take zero seconds.

    In all seriousness…

    I am in a process of unpacking and rebuilding the faith of my childhood, which I realized I had never owned as an adult. The prospect of attempting to lead my kids from childhood faith to authentic adult faith without all the struggle that I’m having… pretty much scares the hell out of me.

  3. Anthony

    Want a real answer?
    The first step I teach parents to take in answering BIG questions with children is figuring out why they’re asking and where they’re coming from.

    She’s probably asking you this question because she’s in the process of developing her own theology of the cross… she, most likely, already has thoughts about why Jesus died on the cross – figuring out where she’s already solid will help you speak into the areas of her child-like faith that need the most help right now and will later develop into full-blown doctrine and convictions.

    As someone who ministers to kids, I’m stoked to read that she’s going to you with those questions… how exciting! Parents are ridiculously important in developing firm foundations.

  4. sharolyn

    Mike, thanks for sharing. Yesterday my daughter asked, “Did God create himself?” It’s nice to know we’re all sometimes deer-in-the-headlights together.

  5. Chad

    Anthony -

    I have to ask 2 questions, I’m sorry. Do you have kids? Did you grow up in church?

    For me… I am in full blown rebellion against using felt board style education of my kids when it comes to the Bible. I’m not saying that you’re proposing that, I’m just telling you where I’m coming from.

    The reason I ask about growing up in church is this… I want to know how you, personally, transitioned from a childish (not childlike, but childish) faith into an adult faith. I’ve struggled mightily with it. I went right from APU to my first church job, and fast forward eight years, and all of a sudden I find myself asking… “Have I been believing this all along because it’s part of my social structure? What the hell do I actually believe?”

    Part of my skepticism about Christian education is that it does not encourage true questioning of Scripture, (an idea which is fundamentally unbiblical, ironically – see 1 Thessalonians 5:21) trusting that the truth will remain… ahem… true. Instead, we’re indoctrinated, forced to repeat doctrinal statements until they, quite literally, become meaningless. We are punished, subtly and insidiously, for asking real questions. Doubters and testers are marginalized within the evangelical paradigm. Don’t believe me? Try it. Raise a question about substitutionary atonement at your next staff meeting and see how it goes.

    This is not transformation of the heart, it’s mental conditioning, and social bullying, all allegedly done in Jesus’ name.

    Horseshit, I say.

    The reason I wrote that song is that I absolutely refuse to spoon-feed my kids simplistic answers about faith. Simplistic answers are for Santa Clause. I’m looking to raise adults.

    Again… I’m not intending to imply anything that you’ve said is simplistic. I guess I’m just keying off of your, “You want a real answer…” statement. Also, your picture makes you look young, (sigh… I wish I was young) and I confess openly that I may be biased because of that. I will attempt, like Paul said to Timothy, not to let myself judge you because of your youth. :)

    There’s nothing more dangerous than an ex-pastor, huh?

  6. Chad

    Anthony – Just want to reiterate, again, that my comments are not meant to flame you or harass you. This happens to be a topic on which – as we can now all see – I have been really chewing on for the past 15 months, trying to sort it through.

  7. Anthony

    Chad, thanks for your input.
    Here goes a reply -

    To be honest, what you wrote is making my hands shake as I type this. For years, I’ve really enjoyed your posts. I dig your music. And the stories you share have me rooting for you as a fellow traveler who wrestles with the heavy stuff instead of just putting your head in the sand.

    Now I feel like you just spit in my face and just happened to have some crazy-hot salsa in your mouth at the time.

    For clarification:

    I was asking if Mike wanted input or if he was just sharing a cool story.
    Then, I assumed he wanted input and dove in.

    I was in no way referring to anything posted in the comments above mine.
    Honestly, I jumped in without reading them.

    I do have a son. And, as you noticed, the picture I have online is four years old – at least… but I like it and it’s staying.

    I often think that many of the things we do at church when it comes to “Christian education” is bull… so thanks for giving me a head’s up that I’m not alone.

    I’m simply a guy who grew up in a broken home, came to faith later in my teens, pursued a degree in theology and took on the mission of changing what I perceive to be a broken system (the church-at-large) and do my best to fix it with those in the church most willing to listen – our kids.

    I had no idea that the couple suggestions I had would be taken in the negative. I firmly believe in parents talking through issues of faith with their children. It’s a huge value of mine and of the children’s ministry department at my church.

    Again, I am sorry my comments were offensive.
    Go Dodgers! (does that help?)

  8. Chad


    I’m so sorry. I tried to soften myself… :(

    I’m terribly jealous of people who come to faith from the outside. I wish that had been my story. I envy the perspective you have. I have no point of reference outside of “The Christian Worldview.” I have nothing to reflect on when everything seems like bullshit, thinking… “Well, at least I remember what it was like when I was walking in darkness.” This point is totally lost on most Christians.

    I’m really glad to hear what you just shared, glad to hear that you have a son. That lends all kinds of gravity to what you say, for me personally. I get really weirded out when people who don’t have kids start talking about how to teach kids. It’s perhaps an unfair prejudice, but it’s there nonetheless.


    Sorry again, dude. I feel badly. This topic is my own personal load of turd this year. I really feel lame for unloading it on you. Please accept my apologies.

  9. PortcullisChain

    I can just insult Mike to change the topic and make the weirdness between you and Anthony go away. I seem to have a knack for that. It can be anything from personal to something like……Angels lick sweaty Dodger jockey shorts. Let me know.

  10. Leonard

    Chad, Sometimes the simple answers suck. I am one of those guys who grew up in the church but managed to figure out that I indeed had to have my own faith and my own friendship with Christ. I would love to dialog sometime about this stuff and if you hate what I say you can say… I am full of shit and I promise to not say screw you.

    My brother nearly did not make it out of the faith we had as kids and it was not until he was 30 that he found that the Jesus he spent so many years running from was different than the one we knew as kids. My sister survived it because she is a genuinely good person whose ability to trust God was not dependent upon her understanding but on her faith in spite of not understanding. Me, I think my survival came from my brokenness.

    Hit me up some time if you wish and if not, that’s okay too.

  11. june

    At least you felt bad and got scared of Chad…he can talk the pants off of anyone! I got scared and shaky and all upset by a comment from an unseen college student that I don’t even know! (And the even meaner comment from yet another unseen and unknown one. They all hate me. Mike likes that they hate me. Anything so that they don’t hate him.)

    Very cool that you took it upon yourself to study theology and work with kids at church. Very cool indeed.

    So, the Dodgers are some kind of sporting team, yes?

  12. Christopher

    You could be honest and tell her that according to that religion, its because that God is an evil God who use to accept human sacrafices before Jesus, that God’s son, was sent to Earth in order to be the final human sacrifice to repent for the sins of man-kind, which in all technical situations did nothing but symbolize that Yahweh/Jehovah was just tired of killing humans and in general just felt like killing one last thing, it just so happened that Jesus was the one who wanted to take up that task.

    Basically just explain to her that current religion is evil represented as good.

  13. Christopher

    Wow you can tell its early in the morning because my grammar is terrible.

    Let me try that again so that it can be understood clearly.

    Basically, tell her the truth that Yahweh/Jehovah use to accept human death as a way to make up for our imperfection, which he/she/it created us to be. Then one day he got tired of accepting human sacrifices as a way to deal with how imperfect we were so he began making this plan in heaven to have a final grand death, and his son Jesus said….”I’ll do it.” and so in a nutshell Jesus gave his life to make up for both the imperfection of mankind and his father, Yahweh/Jehovah.

    Basically our God is a douchebag.

  14. Leonard

    Thanks Christopher, now we don’t need to read our bibles any more. Do you know how much time that will save us? On average 2-3 minutes a day. Sweet, what will I do with all that extra time. I know, I will blog.

  15. Chad

    Christopher -

    Have you ever really, really tried to atone for something? I mean, really attempted to make up for your past, and make things right?

    I am closing in on 100 pounds of weight loss after about 2 1/2 years of lifestyle change. I sweat, bleed, and suffer in an attempt to rectify nearly 20 years of bad choices, laziness, and what I feel is sin.

    It may sound cheesy, but I have a whole new appreciation of what is actually required to atone for my sins. Free will means we have choices, and that we are free to make terrible choices. Our “douchebag” god allows free will and choices because He is, according to you, a complete schmuck, right?

    I, for one, have a growing and profound gratitude for the theology of Jesus’ death and resurrection, even as I make further and further strides to become righteous and deal with my own shit. If you read above, I have plenty of problems with Christianity right now, particularly the evangelical branch into which I was raised, but I gotta tell you that you sound like you have zero perspective on your own humanity.

    Wanna go to pilates with me this morning, and learn a little bit about suffering?

  16. Christopher

    Free Will is an illusion, you do realize that according to every religion God is perfect, is all, is the past, is the future and writes every second of our life…being “God” means being the creator of everything. Free Will, if anything, means that it’ll take us LONGER to obtain harmony which is the balance of everything….the co-existance of all beings and all attitudes being Good, Evil or Neutral.

    I have respect for religion, I do not have respect for Yahweh, other than the fact that he supposedly is the one who created the universe in 7 days (which translates into 7 stages but can be seen as days in the eyes of a creator God that does not live on Earth and thus measures times differently) I have a TON of respect for Jesus, forgive and forget are two of the easiest way to co-exist. I even have respect for Lucifer because he is the one that technically showed us free will because according to the book of Genesis when we knew nothing about Good and Evil we simply were slaves to anything and everything that God presented to us. It was when Satan had a conversation with Eve and in turn Eve having a conversation with Adam that we gained this “Free Will.” I just am not ignorant to the facts that are before our eyes.

    All of my statements are based off of my disagreement with the Catholic religion because those are the ones who hold the most sway in the world, in a world for that matter which is disgusting. I am looking for the right religion, because ours has led us to judgment, stereotyping, to materialistic attitudes, to “holy war”, to Sarah Palin saying God sent us to Iraq and the list can go on and on.

    If you want to know suffering, have the best intent in the world and be ignored by the world. Emotional Pain hurts a lot more than Physical Pain because you realize that no one truly cares and that the world continues to get worse because those who control all of this shit spread it out over such a longer period of time you can only focus on the now.

  17. michael lee Post author

    So, is free will an illusion, or is it something real that was taught to us by Lucifer? Is it an illusion, or do we have the capacity to choose to forgive a past wrong? It can’t be both.

    Also, isn’t this like the 12th time this month that we’ve gone round and round with someone on the issue of free-will? Since when did Addison Road become a hotbed of ant-determinist radicalism?

  18. Daniel Semsen


    I love this place.

    Oh! and June–the Dodgers ARE a sporting team. I know because I’ve been to their sporting arena thingy…but only once…aaaaaand I don’t really think I’ll ever need to go back. I mean, you’ve seen one basketball game, you’ve seen ‘em all, right??!!?!

  19. Chad

    Christopher -

    First of all, I am no Catholic apologist, except in perhaps the case of.. ahem.. sweeping and unsubstantiated generalizations.

    Second of all, your last paragraph speaks to a terribly bleak worldview. I’m very sorry if you really believe this is the case. I know a lot of people, of all stripes, who genuinely care for one another, and for strangers. I know people who went down and adopted families from New Orleans after Katrina, bringing strangers into their homes, providing shelter and money for people with whom they shared no common history. I know a group of guys who are using their training for the Iron Man to raise money to build a hospital in a remote section of Uganda.

    Nihilism swiftly implodes in the face of unexplainable, unjustified grace and goodness.

    You totally ignored my question, by the way, which is when was the last time you actually made an attempt to atone for something that you identified as wrong in your own life? Not something that The Man did to you. Not something that “All The People who Control This Shit,” did to you, but something you did to yourself. When was the last time you addressed the contents of your own soul and took a serious and fearless moral inventory? I’m not doing the typical Christian horseshit, here. I’m asking when you, according to your own internal values, actually took a look at yourself and tried to measure where you are vs. where you’d like to be?

    Or, since we have no free will, are you unaccountable for the contents of your own soul? Is that what you’re suggesting? If that’s the case, our conversation is over. If no one’s accountable, even to themselves, then what’s the point?

  20. Chad

    Oh, and if you think that physical and emotional suffering are two different things, wholly disconnected from one another, then we’re really off the rez, pal.

  21. Chad

    Sorry… I have to say one more thing:

    “I even have respect for Lucifer because he is the one that technically showed us free will because according to the book of Genesis when we knew nothing about Good and Evil we simply were slaves to anything and everything that God presented to us.”

    Now, I get in trouble with Christians sometimes, as I have a sneaking suspicion that the first 12 chapters of Genesis are poetical renderings of God’s truth, but I have to push back on this one.

    There is no foundation for the idea that Adam and Eve were slaves, at least according to Genesis. I’d very much like for you to point to the passage you are talking about. If Adam and Eve were mindless slaves, then they would have been incapable of identifying temptation in the first place. There’s a difference between wide-eyed innocence and slavery.

    My children are young, and they are under my authority, but I guaran-damn-tee you that they are not my slaves. They are innocent, and not yet fully informed about the world. My 2 year old son still asks me, “Why Daddy,” when I insist that he look both ways before entering a parking lot, because in his 30 month old brain, the connection has not yet been made that getting hit by a 3,000 pound automobile traveling at 25-30 miles per hour would not go well for him.

    That doesn’t make him stupid, or a slave, it just makes him a toddler.

  22. michael lee Post author

    I’ll hit that same point – it wasn’t Lucifer who informed Adam and Eve of their free will. The tree is called the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil not because eating the fruit conferred that knowledge. The mere existence of the tree established the possibility of sin, the possibility of choosing the other. When it was created, and when God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat from it, that was the moment at which they gained the knowledge of good and evil, when they became aware of their own freedom to choose.

    Free will is God’s gift to humanity: he breathed it into us in imitation of his own image, he made us aware of it with the planting of the tree, he tutored us in the right use of it when he gave the law, he redeemed our abuse it with the death of his son, and he sealed our eternal possession of it with the resurrection.

  23. Chad


    Christopher, I’m sorry that I sound so hostile. I really like this debate, and I hope you’ll forgive me for my intensity, and BTW thanks Anthony for your kind email.

    I apologize if my comments sound like personal attacks. I choose to use my free will to repent and tell you that I value your thoughts. You seem like someone who’s really wrestling with the big stuff, and I’m way into that. I owe you a beer, k?

  24. Christopher

    Michael you’re right, I did contradict myself and won’t get into the subject of Free-Will since its been discussed lately.

    To answer your question, Chad, I would like to think that I look inward everyday and that is where many of these points of view of what God is, what virtue is and where the stories of the bible meet the realty of our everyday life. However, I atone through what I believe is Karma, the way the universe chooses to treat me in return for being a person with good will intentions to find a way to make up for our current everyday social mistakes as a whole.

    My arguments have been off of my point of view of the bible and how i’ve seen it in correlation to how things are done now a days.

    This just showed me to keep my mouth shut on religion because too many people base a lot of their values off of it while I am a person who was raised without religion and find that life can be explained as well as lived virtuously without the presence and worship of a God but rather the belief in a higher power and the hope for a friendship with that power.

  25. Chad

    Christopher -

    I hope you’ll keep your mouth wide open. We need, I need, to be challenged, and provoked. A frightening number of Christians I know strike me as horrifyingly complacent, content in their “Correctness,” and are unable to answer anything resembling a difficult question. I’ve learned more from folks like you in the past few years, and sharpened my own thinking because of it, then I have from most pastors I know.

    And… damn… do I know a lot of pastors.

  26. Anthony

    Though he may seem like a fire-breathing dragon, Chad usually has good intentions when he pushes back on ideas.
    Unless you like WALL-E… in which case Chad will roast you.

    Keep asking questions.
    The church is nothing if it can’t learn to listen.

  27. sharolyn

    Wow, Mike. I have to read that a few more times. You just described predestination (God planning the tree), free will (God planting the tree, for Adam and Eve/humanity), and the Gospel (the next several chapters about the tree) in two paragraphs.

  28. michael lee Post author

    Well, if thousands of hours of graduate work in theology can’t help me answer my daughter, at least it can help me make pithy internet blog comments!

  29. Leonard

    Chad, sorry for the brand of pastors you have met. I know several like you describe but most of the ones I know now are as real as it gets. Christopher, not trying to pile on but so many of your theories on how God is and how life works fall apart when you to some place like India where the stench of death coming from Hinduism and Islam make what is seen in Christianity pale.

    I just returned from India Friday night, my second trip there and the “spiritual darkness” that hovers over the whole country is enough to make a person cry. If the world as we know it is counting on Karma, the world as we know it is screwed.

  30. Christopher

    Eh i’m not really scared or worried about what anyone says, in fact its the lack of fear now to express how i’m feeling that will develop the truth that I look for.

    Honestly Michael I feel that the best thing you could tell her is that he died on the cross to make her world better because no matter if it was to repent for sins, appease a God through human sacrifice or just to remove a threat of a man who was willing to stand up for truth and always forgive and forget it still remains the same….he was killed for her, for you and for all of us. I am not a Christian, but I do believe in Heaven, Hell, Jesus, Lucifer, Satan and the whole nine…in fact I believe everything that can be thought exists in its own universe, planet, brain cell or whatever and that no matter if it is tangible its message is there for a reason.

    Everything happens for a reason.

  31. Mabel

    Mike….maybe she was just asking, “Why did God MAKE Jesus die on the cross?” The simple answer is of course, he didn’t make him, he let him, or Jesus wanted to. Give short, true answers that leave her free to ask the next question–not long tedious ones that make her sorry she asked.. She may have been questioning relationship boudaries (how powerful are fathers?), or just ordering the information in her mind.
    “I know this, this, this, why this? then this, this, this.”
    Answer the direct question from the child, not the thesis–she will remember the moment more than the answer.

    I really like all of you, but sometimes….sometimes I wonder.
    Do I dare say, JOY first, theory second?

  32. Eric


    I just want to thank you for your comments on atonement. I came to my faith (again) from the inside, and I’m still wrestling. Probably always will.


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