For Our Catholic, Orthodox,
and Protestant Friends
by Dan Kane
(Pleasant Word/WinePress Publishing,
Enumclaw, Washington, 2008)
Dan Kane is a nuclear engineer and my coworker. He and I do not agree on much where religion is concerned. But in the workplace we do not have any disagreements. That is as it should be.
One cannot, and I do not, deny either his sincerity or his solid logical base supporting his belief and faith. He is a formidable reader of the Bible and finds his faith in it. Every nuance of his belief is based on the Bible, I do not deny him that claim.
Dan recently published the above-named book and gave me a copy in which he wrote: “Abe, I pray this book will be a blessing to you and your family. God bless. Dan.” He is a dedicated and sincere believer.
Some years ago I reviewed what later became this book, it was then posted on his website . I posted that review on this website.
In that review, which was part of a review of a large number of books on early Christianity, I picked out some themes also addressed by others of my sources, and showed that I actually learned several things from Kane that I had not seen described in these other sources. Kane is meticulous and correct in his citations and research into theological history, and has interesting things to say about transubstantiation and post-resurrection apostles and several other themes I was particularly interested in when reading his earlier version of his book.
(That earlier version is no longer posted on Dan’s website, this well-edited and streamlined version, now published, has essentially the same content where key themes and arguments are concerned.)
For this review, I did not return to those themes that were then of interest to me because of my inquiries into early Christianity. Instead, I just blew through the book this time, in a rapid reading over several days, and dog-eared pages where I thought I would make an observation. And I made very few observations this time around. Here they are:
1. Where Kane and I part company: before the book even begins
Kane’s book cover shows a dirt road with a turnoff to the right. I guess the first place I turned off Kane’s road (but probably not to the right) is on the “theme” page that comes just after the title page and just before the “Contents” page. It is not numbered, but says:
To God be the glory
Great things He hath done,
So loved He the world that
He gave us His Son,
Who yielded his life
an atonement for sin
And opened the lifegate
That all may go in.
Praise the Lord!
I must confess in the interest of full disclosure that some years ago I began to believe that the idea of a God/human (or even animal) sacrifice to pay for sin is not one I can any longer subscribe to. I made up my mind some years ago that a God requiring such a sacrifice is not a God I want to be associated with.
So I have become an unbeliever, at least where my former steadfast belief in Christianity was concerned. I have turned off that road, and am now a long way beyond the turnoff. Whether I turned to the right or the left is a matter of the observer's perspective.
Recently I was asked in several locales by several people what I believed. I have written about what I believe on this website, but every time I write on the subject it is a different outcome. My beliefs are still in a state of flux. So recently when asked I responded that intellectually I am more and more leaning toward no belief in an afterlife, no belief in any sort of Deity.
But That reflects my intellectual state. Intuitively, on the other hand, I feel myself to be part of something larger, something beyond myself, and whenever I read my favorite Rumi poem (the title poem in Star and Shiva’s A Garden Beyond Paradise, The Mystical Poetry of Rumi [pp. 148-149, Bantam Books, New York, 1992]) –I feel I have a description of what I innately believe, not intellectually but deep in my inner self, and can’t possibly explain:
Everything you see has its roots in the Unseen world.
The forms may change,
yet the essence remains the same.
Every wondrous sight will vanish,
Every sweet word will fade.
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from is eternal -
Growing, branching out, giving new life and new joy.
Why do you weep? -
That Source is within you,
And this whole world
is springing up from it.
The Source is full,
Its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve, drink your fill!
Don't think it will ever run dry -
This is the endless Ocean!
From the moment you came into this world
A ladder was placed in front of you that you might escape.
From earth you became plant,
From plant you became animal.
Afterwards you became a human being,
Endowed with knowledge, intellect, and faith.
Behold the body, born of dust - how perfect it has become!
Why should you fear its end?
When were you ever made less by dying?
When you pass beyond this human form, No doubt you will become an angel
And soar through the heavens!
But don't stop there.
Even heavenly bodies grow old.
Pass again from the heavenly realm
and plunge into the vast ocean of Consciousness.
Let the drop of water that is in you become a hundred mighty seas.
But do not think that the drop alone
Becomes the Ocean -
the Ocean, too, becomes the drop!
This resonates somewhere within me, but if I try to pick this apart intellectually it all vaporizes into sequential lines of nonsense. My reaction to these words deep inside me is reminiscent of the New Testament description of faith,
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1, KJV).
Intellectually I cannot see the evidence for this ecstatic declaration by Rumi. But intuitively I feel it has substance and it fires up an active form of hope in me. I used to struggle with the idea that this vision of survival did not really accommodate the survival of “me,” of the individual that I feel I am.
But even on this issue I have reverted to faith: whatever will be, will be, and I may as well trust in it even though I can neither understand nor define it any better than in the fuzzy way that Rumi defined it while in an ecstatic mental state he induced in himself by whirling (he was one of the founders of the Whirling Dervishes within Islam’s mystical branch, Sufism, he was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi).
No matter what the ultimate fate of humans may be, there is nothing I can do but to await it and trust it to be what it is, if it is. In the meantime I have enough to do just to survive from day to day and absorb love from the Source Rumi speaks of, and radiate it out as freely as it is continually given to me.
There is much in Christ’s example and words that I fully agree with and attempt to practice. But Godly blood-sacrifices for sin, and hierarchies of physical states of being, from intense suffering to ecstasy, in some afterlife? No, even intuitively I cannot go there anymore, although for a long time I adhered to the more humane version of that type of belief as taught in Mormonism.
Needless to say, the heart and soul of Kane’s book is about the salvation wrought for us by Christ’s sacrifice, and I will say no more about that subject. I have said enough. So the rest of my impressions stay well away from that central topic.
2. Another place Kane and I part company: The Bible as the Word of God
Kane’s theme is that the Bible can be trusted as the Word of God, and is the sole source of authoritative information on, and instruction in, all aspects of faith. He really does define his faith from the Bible.
If you believe the Bible, as Kane does, to be the word of God and the only authority for faith, then you must believe as Kane does where the larger, "saving," aspects of faith are concerned.
By making this point very clear, Kane sets the stage for excluding all forms of faith that include doctrines and practices and beliefs added to what is in the Bible.
Kane’s list of substantial world religions who have strayed from the Bible is long. The book’s title gives a hint: Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants tend to have added to what the Bible teaches, as have others who declare belief in the Bible to one degree or another, such as Muslims and Mormons.
When I discovered Mormonism and became a Mormon I personally found their insistence that there is more to God’s word than the Bible to be refreshing, and the idea that we are all prophets to one degree or another to be downright liberating.
It was many years before I began to realize that the new, expanded canon had itself become rigid and fixed, and led to the defense of some things that were ethically reprehensible [to me] in both the Bible and the later, “modern” scriptures.
With that realization I began to ‘fall away,’ and I have come a long way since. But Mormonism gave me a good self-image, taught me self-reliance, and urged me to reach my potential. It gave me the inner drive and confidence to obtain a PhD, and it gave me my family. It has largely defined who I am, and since turning strongly away from its theology I have found that much of its ethical and moral structure that I so identified with (they have created a marvelous community of believers) is part of me still. I have simply ceased believing the theology, but who I was as a Mormon, I still am.
So when Kane points out the errors of Mormonism from a Biblical perspective I have to ask myself even as an unbeliever: if I were a just God –presuming for a moment there is such a Being– would I “damn” people for believing in me, sincerely, but with some errors in their belief caused by their trusting and believing in ministers who erred?
Kane, I gather from reading him, warns that incorrect belief where certain core truths are concerned, is damning, and believing in the wrong version of Jesus (the Mormon version, the literal offspring of God, in this case) is one of those core beliefs. OK, assuming for a moment there is a God as described by Kane, if He is that particular about a book that is not at all easy to comprehend, He has a serious ethical defect and I must reject Him. There is, after all a way to read the Mormon Jesus into the Bible, I used to do it routinely and based my faith in Him.
Kane suggests two English versions of the Bible as completely trustworthy. He suggests other "modern" versions can lead one to error (he, understandably, does not address non-English versions that must be used by non-English speakers).
There is something amiss here. What sort of God makes intelligence, a vibrant intellect and a curiosity about one's language's history, a prerequisite for salvation? To read these recommended versions, especially the King James version, requires some serious ability to understand an older form of English than has become the vernacular.
Kane is not subscribing to the old Catholic idea that translating the Bible into the vernacular is dangerous, that if you can’t read it in Latin you should trust those who can to explain it to you. But to me he tends ever so slightly in that same direction. What sort of God makes the path to Him, that is supposedly to be trod by all mankind, difficult to discern without relying on those who make it a profession, or avid avocation, to learn about this path from sources that are not easy to understand?
Kane warns, later, about relying on the teachings of men. So you are on your own.
But I need to be fair to Kane. He has a section on true believers, people who sense the message of Christ, accept Him as savior, say "yes, Lord," and are saved, in every religion. Sooner or later such persons will come to realize the non-Biblical errors taught in their churches and leave them, Kane suggests. But at least he is not suggesting that all members of a church that is not doctrinally aligned with the Bible necessarily see themselves in eternally in hell.
When I once explained to a Lutheran minister after he had pronounced me spiritually dead that I was once, in my youth, a true believer who had confessed Christ as my savior, when I had attended a Calvinist church. He grudgingly admitted that I was saved. If it were up to him I wouldn't be, though, so he said be glad that God is the judge of the sincerity of my confession of belief, not him.
He was angry at my obstinance in defending my Mormonism. I was attempting to teach my faith to one of his parishioners, in front of whom we were having this exchange. They had invited him. They seemed to be taking my side, especially after he admitted they would remain saved if they did become Mormons.
In the end, however, he won this soul-contest when the potential Mormon couple learned they had to give up even their very rare use of pot. The choice was guaranteed salvation with or without an occasional inhaling of smoke from home grown organic pot.
We are all human.
3. Another point of departure: Just as I took some mild offense concerning his criticisms of my former faith, I took some mild offense at his criticisms of his own former faith, Catholicism
Kane does a nice job taking the reader through the history of Catholicism, pointing out where major deviations came into the faith as it met new challenges and either overcame them, or as Kane would have it, was overcome by them. I do not disagree with a lot of what Kane has to say about historical Catholicism.
Also, given my current state of unbelief, I can’t disagree that the faith in the institution and the efficacy of its saving ordinances (the same is true in Mormonism) is very different from Kane’s teachings based on the Bible.
But as one who once believed in the efficacy of saving ordinances, I know there is also a way to read the Bible to support that way of believing, and I also know that no Catholic or Mormon true believer thinks that these “works” (the ordinances, such as baptism) have any efficacy at all if there is no faith. These works, without faith, are dead, useless, or worse they are a mockery of God if entered into without sincere belief and intent.
Except of course for Catholic infant baptism, but I don’t want to revisit that one, the Anabaptists, Baptists, Mormons and several other Protestants have said all there is to say on that issue. Catholics have told me it is given substance by the faith of the parents, who then acknowledge their obligation to bring the child up to understand the blessing of salvation it had received as a child. To make it efficacious, all parties had to come to faith at some point. If the child died before coming to faith, it was saved. Almost a Mormon thought, except they teach that all children who die before the age of accountability, 8, are saved. Even better.
My point is that what I was taught, and believed, is that saving ordinances are a compacts based on faith, agreements acknowledged by the believer and God that require faith. There was no merit in the ordinance except by faith. So to describe these ordinances as saving without faith is a caricature. But, no doubt, there have been many who merited being thus caricatured.
So why would a just God, seeing millions, even hundreds of millions, of believers enter into this rather minor error, in my view, and “damn” them all? Because they did not read a rather difficult book for themselves, and interpret it correctly? I have to reject such an unethical God.
4. A more nuanced set of disagreements: Kane takes us into the issues of the modern world with love for the sinners but rejection of the sin
Kane is enlightened, he sees no basis in scripture for denying civil equality to women, equal pay for equal work is their right. But the Bible teaches that there is not to be a woman in spiritual authority over a man, so even though women are missionaries with the same amount of innate spiritual authority as men, they are not to be leaders of congregations that include both sexes.
This is an artifact of the Biblical word-of-God belief that Kane adheres to. If one instead acknowledges that perhaps the writers of the Bible were influenced by their societies and accepted what they were raised up to believe about how societies should be structured, then of course there is wiggle room on this issue. If you were Paul, bringing the word of God into Roman civilization, would you not also attempt to accommodate the paterfamilias that reigned there until you gained a foothold and could influence that ultra-patriarchal societal structure? How you answer that reflects how you view the nature of the Bible, of course.
Homosexuality is a sin says the Bible, and therefore Kane, but homosexuals are to be treated with Christian love, not hated or harmed says Kane (and the Bible). They are loved by God. And, if they repent of their behavior they are saved just as we all are, we are all saved sinners. There is no distinction.
But a saved person engaging in such acts, just as would be a heterosexual adulterer, is to be loved into repentance because to not repent is to merit losing ones salvation: Kane cites 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Ephesians 5:5-11 to underscore this point, they who persist in such acts are not going to “have any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” as Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians.
This discussion is in an appendix. In several previous chapters Kane had contended strongly that once given, salvation is never taken away. I could cite a half dozen places where this point is very strongly made. So does this mean that the sincerely repentant homosexual believer who falls back into his temptation retains his claim on salvation? One would think so. But there is also another thought taken from the Bible: if faith is in you, you will be submissive to God's will, as expressed in the Bible.
Kane addresses this quandary of the sinning believer who has confessed Christ. He has returned like a dog to his own vomit, a habitual sinner is not a saved person even though he may have answered "yes, Lord," according to Kane. The answer was a pretence, it was not sincere.
But what if he really was sincere but still can't keep from sinning, God "in his mercy, may call His child home. This is called 'sinning unto death' [see 1 St. John 5:16-17]" writes Kane.
So if you see a believer habitually sinning you can draw two conclusions, either his or her days are numbered, or he is not a true believer but an insincere one and he will not see the kingdom of God in the hereafter.
I suppose my non-believer status makes me incapable of saying anything intelligent here. I have little patience with the Biblical views on these matters, and believe that in the case of sexual activity, sexual expression ought to be governed by love, love for the one with whom one makes love, an adult or at least someone your own age if you are not quite an adult. Lovemaking should be with someone who is seeking to give and receive love just as you are, without harming anyone else in the process. Period. Marriage can be wonderful, I do recommend it, but to expect lifelong celibacy from unmarried adults is cruel and unrealistic. That is simply my view, it has its Biblical demerits, of course, and I don’t care that it does.
Do I believe prostitution (whether you are on the buying or selling end) is a sin? It certainly does not meet my definition for a mature love relationship. I have personal contempt for societies that have so limited a woman’s ability to survive in it that the only way to keep body and soul together is to sell herself, but I have empathy for those forced to engage in this behavior to survive or for their children to survive.
I have misgivings about women of what is considered normal intelligence in freer societies, who find selling access to their bodies simply an easy way to make money. I do not see it as a worthy life endeavor. But that is a personal, superficial opinion, not well thought through. It is a complex social subject that has nothing to do with love, so I really don’t care at a core level of caring except if there is suffering involved, which is always evil when one person causes pain for another, and will leave it to others to sort it out.
Kane assures us that those who rationalize sin exactly as I do here, and he describes my rationalizations quite accurately, are showing they are under the influence of Satan.
Satan is another entity I do not believe exists: there is sufficient evil within humanity to explain all we see and hear and read about.
On the death penalty issue, Kane assures us it is Biblical. I agree. But that does not make me feel any better about the fact that my government at some level of its structure trains people and employs them to be executioners. That horrifies me even though the death of a real killer or child-torturer or child-rapist does not bother me in the least. But an execution can’t be carried out without an executioner, can it?
I am under the impression that it is cheaper to incarcerate for life anyway, so what does society gain from an execution? A feeling of closure on the part of some, or revenge on the part of others? Separation of church and state makes the Bible irrelevant to a society choosing to execute or incarcerate for life, in my opinion.
And here we come to an area of agreement between Kane and I: I really appreciate the fact that Kane calls twice in his book for the continued separation of church and state. We could not agree more.
On that note of agreement, I end this review of my impressions from reading Dan Kane’s book. Did the book bless me as Dan prayed it would? As I am more than willing to acknowledge: not at this point in time. But as much as I have wandered through religious ideas and feelings over my lifetime, I cannot predict my own future state of belief. There is no reason to say that there is no hope for Dan’s faith infecting me at some point in time. The likelihood is slim, but it is not zero.
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