Saturday, March 24, 2012

A book that is making me angry

I have been reading a book. The title translates to “There is no man or woman” it is written by Thoralf Gilbrant. When my father bought it for me I thought it was going to be different than it was. I thought it was going to be a book that did not do me violence, but it does. Practically every page I read batters me, disappoints me and makes me profoundly sad and less than. If you can’t guess it is about the sex roles in the church and to me that is not a make or break issue but as you well know I am of the opinion that Jesus meant complete equality in church that people should be given tasks based on their calling and ability. This writer, however, believes it is extremely important. He quotes a Bo Giertz who believes it to be “a litmus test of Biblical faith” (the book is in Finnish and the translation may not be the best but it is as I understand it).

This book seems to draw a strange line in the sand when it comes it the power women can wield in the church. It does not say women are not allowed to have no power, they are but he mines the post Christ texts of the New Testament to the point of absurdity. Women are allowed to be deacons, but not elders and definitely not pastors. He really feels a call to put women back in their rightful places in the Church while beating them down. It is a ridiculously hair splitting experience. I have read only a few chapters but am very confused. Let me present my main questions I have and would hope he would address later in the book as I read further:

What about women who feel the call to be the leaders of churches and to teach both men and women and have the talents and abilities for it?

Why can a prophetess, like Deborah, be a prophet/leader and be okay in Gilbrant’s estimation but a woman who is not a prophet cannot be a leader? This seems to me to be a distinction without a difference.

If all women have a natural tendency to submit and nurture how come I don’t?

If all men have a natural tendency to protect and lead does that make me a man regardless of my anatomical femininity?

If servanthood is a special honor accorded for women how come Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and in this way brought out a style of servant leadership?

Why would I want to serve a God as unjust as the one Gilbrant is espousing?

There are more questions but they are wrapped up in many questions and would need for you to read the passage in the book. Maybe I will share my confusion regarding some of these more complicated bits in another post.

My biggest confusion is when my father asks me how I liked the book what will I say? The truth is that so far what I have read seems like a steaming pile of poop. I can’t tell him that. My father needs to be treated gently on issues like this or he gets authoritarian and I am too old to put up with that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

So, Da Mormons...

...visited again. Nice chat, they brought an older gentlen who we really enjoyed chatting to, he was very good with his answering.

Towards the end of their visit I got a call and went into the kitchen to take it and left them in the living room with my husband and they decided to do the prayer because they had to head to church. They reminded him that the reason they ask him specifically to do the prayer everytime is because he is the head of the household and what happens here spiritually is his decision. Those sneaky little Mormons usurping my spiritual authority behind my back :). No not really we are spiritually egaliterian (and no, he only decides what happens to HIM, not us spiritually). This is what I am talking about. I really want to ask about the role of the family specifically and gender roles on the church. We requested for this purpose a female chaperone for next time (not really a chaperone just some person from the stake that comes with them). This is the first time they have alluded to it. I am seriously wanting to go behind their non-answering backs and go a-chatting on In the US all they want to talk about is family, for some reason.

Well, no real progress on the Mormon front with my reasearch but we told them that the book of Mormon does not speak to us. They said to keep at it and ask God to reveal to us if it is true. BoM Cliff Notes, here I come! I mean I am planning on reading the important bit from straight from the badly written source, the part where Jesus visits.

I still really cannot tell if they are sincereabout liking our questions, they were a little better at answering them this time. I think going as specific as possible is the key.

How can you believe that and call yourself a Christian?

How can you believe that and call yourself a Christian?

That is a question I have heard a few times. Most recently I heard this in regards with me expressing approval for the term of the previous president and her leadership while proceeding with hope for the new president’s term. Well, I think I have mentioned, and you can probably guess, some Christians have a problem with a woman having been the president.

The answer to this largely rhetorical question is: Because Jesus died on the cross for my sins and by that method gave me the gift of salvation and eternal life saving me from Hell and I accepted it. That is how I can call myself a Christian. That is the method of becoming a Christian my church believes in. There is no other step. Some people approach it a bit differently but nowhere in the scriptures does it say you must accept this gift and then firmly believe that women are not to be in leadership.

Also, I hate rhetorical questions. They seem to stay in the air begging for an answer regardless of the speaker not wanting one. They are like a story that has no denouement after the climax: Infuriating, in other words.

There is also another important bit to know about how I work, if you ever ask me that question, or a variant of it, there is writing off that happens on both of our parts. You write me off as a Christian and I write you off as a potential associate and begin to avoid you at all costs. This is the most toxic question I can think of. It is judgmental and the most uninquisitive inquiry I have ever heard. You come across as a nitpicky legalist. Jesus is the one who told us how to attain salvation, not Paul, not Peter and not the Old Testament. The Old Testament told us how sinful we are and how short of the glory we fall every time we try. Paul and Peter tell the early church in general, or some churches in particular, now to proceed after salvation but none of these rules, regulations and suggestions have anything to do with getting saved, becoming a Christian.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I have been writing all this stuff about other religions. Maybe those who are not familiar with my religious background would like to know about Pentecostalism and evangelical Christianity as I have experienced it and perceived it during my life. This could give a good context to the vocabulary I use and the point of view I have and the standard I compare other faiths to because it is what I know.



I would like to begin by giving a brief and incomplete history of Pentecostalism as it relates to me. Pentecostalism came to Finland in 1910 and sometime after that it found my grandfather on my father’s side and my grandmother from the same side. According to my father my grandfather lost his inheritance due to his conversion. He was set to inherit the family farm as the eldest but his father gave it to his younger brother instead who, according to my father, drank it away. My grandmother got saved when she was a teenager, shortly after her own mother (my great grandmother) did. Back them people were baptized often in the river running through the towns or in a lake for all the world to see.

My mother was the first in her family to convert to Pentecostalism. She was already grown and was witnessed (an evangelical term for sharing your beliefs for the purpose of proselytizing) to by one of her patients, she was a dentist. She does remember going to revival meetings with her aunts. Were these meeting Pentecostal or some other denomination? I don’t know and those are the details that don’t matter. The thing about evangelical Christianity, at least here in Finland, is that we are all on the same side. Whether Baptist, Pentecostal, Vapaakirkko (free church? nice folk, don’t know their English name), some independent Lutheran churches or any other group who believes in salvation by faith, only by faith and personal decision to follow Christ is on the same side pretty much. I will leave it at that because nothing is black and white.

Finland vs. America

The next thing I should perhaps mention is how I see Finnish Pentecostalism different from American Pentecostalism and evangelical Christianity, mostly Assemblies of God because that is what I experienced. What you, dear reader, must realize is that religion and religious perception is very culturally tied. The pro-death penalty, patriotism and God is on our side in war is an American thing. It comes from American culture and NOT FROM CHRISTIANITY. However, as America exports other aspects of its culture it exports its own brand of Christian Culture and its culture centered theology. As I look around, with the internet and fast communication, the face of Finnish Christianity changes to be more and more American. It used to be that all Finnish Pentecostal men went to weaponless service when drafted, like my father, but this no longer is universally the case and many more are going into regular service. Prosperity theology is starting to permeate the Finnish Pentecostal church as well, just like those translated worship songs that make me cringe. Also we don’t, or did not used to have Pentecostal churches, they were called (the best I can translate now) fellowships and the building was the fellowship hall. Also, no pastors (pastori), pastors were Lutheran; we had preachers (saarnaajat).


So, what is the Evangelical/Pentecostal core theology? We are all saved [from Hell] by accepting the sacrifice and forgiveness of sins Jesus gave on the cross when he died for all of us. Baptism is a recommended follow up step as it is a public show of what you believe to the congregation. It is not 100% necessary but many would doubt the sincerity of your faith if you did not do it. It used to be more of a big deal before like during my grandparents day as the fellowships did not have baptismal pools but had to baptize in a natural body of water for the whole town to see in public and it was a show to the whole world of the conversion. We do not practice child baptism as it is not something that can save you from Hell and children cannot go to Hell anyway. We do not believe in a purgatory or anything in between. There is an uncrossable chasm between Heaven and Hell.

Evangelicals/Pentecostals also believe in communion. In America grape juice is used and it is passed around (or served at a table up front that the congregation lines up to receive) in little cups on trays, much more sanitary than the common chalice used by many denominations. Also little pieces of bread are passed as well (or gotten at the table). In Finland this is the case as well. We use vine, but grape juice and gluten free bread is also available, at least at my church. Unlike in Catholicism these implements are never transformed into the literal blood and body of Christ but are symbolic remembrances of His sacrifice. It is not required for salvation. It is seen as an act of obedience and a following the example Christ gave us

Complete communion set

Pentecostals are distinguished by our belief if the gifts of the spirit, something mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. Some other Evangelical denominations believe them to have stopped like the Baptists but I am not commenting on their views just pointing out that we are diverging from other Evangelicals here. The showiest gifts that are most often associated with the Pentecostals are the gifts to do with tongues. It is the belief that one can pray in an indistinguishable heavenly language when under the influence of the Holy Spirit. This is based on Acts 2 {}.

First of all there is a belief in the baptism of the holy spirit/ghost. This is the event during which the holy spirit of God enters the believer’s body, usually as a result of much prayer in a spiritually charged environment like a revival conference or the altar call or Benny Hinn crusade. Sometimes this happens without seemingly involving the person requesting this just by entering a spiritually charged environment. This indwelling of the Holy Ghost is often characterized by weeping, shaking falling down and, most noticeable of all, speaking in tongues, or rather praying in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a prophetic action when there is a translation of prophetic nature that follows. Some people say that a baptism in the Holy Spirit has to be accompanied by tongues, others do not. Some (Italian Pentecostals) actually do not believe you have gotten saved until you experience this baptism.

This is a reasonably good example of what speaking in tongues sounds like. He does not start doing it until well over halfway through. The singing in tongues is a completely new thing for me.

Well, that is all I can think of to cover in this crash course of Pentecostalism. If you have anything to add or to ask please don’t hesitate to comment. This is not a complete answer by any means and neither is it authoritative.

Rachel Evans, A Blogger to Know

If you don't know Rachel Evans, you should.

She is scared and confused about this journey of faith just like the rest of us but she has the inteligence and honesty to be able to share her thoughts and fears with us.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mormon Post Revisited

There has been some tension and I believe some misunderstanding on my recent post about the Mormons coming to visit. I think it took a little turn for the ignorant even on my part so I think I should explain myself. As this is in no way I desire to go on this blog. While I stand by my post and think there was nothing wrong with that, the comment I made subsequently about Mormon boys getting “drafted” may have been misinterpreted as being something negative. I did not mean to imply that a young Mormon man has no choice about going on his mission. What I probably should have said, when broaching a subject I am no expert on, was that the young men are “invited”. I thought that they were invited because of a statement made to me by a young Mormon woman. I asked her if she would like to go on a mission. She said that she would be honored if she was invited and gladly go. For this reason I assumed that there was an invitation based system, especially since the young men went so universally.

Also, yes, I do think Mormon theology is strange and really unattractive to me but that does not make it a cult based on my own observations. I lived in Utah for several years and had a friend who was a devoted Mormon while living elsewhere in the US. It does have some cult like features but most of these are not top down things but things mostly driven by its members. In any non-mainstream devout religion there is a degree of inward cultishness, this is not an exception in the Mormon Church. Some of the stories you find online told by ex-Mormons of severe cult like abuses are rare. I know tons of ex-Mormons, way more than I know current Mormons and while some of them viewed their former religion negatively did not describe it as a cult and reported no larger degree of trouble leaving it than most people report leaving the churches their families are extremely devoted to. I can dig up similar stories from the church of my family and most people do not think mainstream Pentecostals, like Assemblies of God, are cults.

I will write more about what I learn as I grill the missionaries as they are coming over in a few hours. They are quite nice boys and pretty enjoyable company.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Question for You

Blog readers, here is an ethics question for you. Is there anything wrong with continuing to meet with the Jehovah's Witnesses, going to their house for dinner, accept rides etc. when we have not one inclination to be converted, we are just curious and enjoy hanging out with them? I mean I am pretty sure they have come to like us somewhat but what primarily motivates them is the drive to convert us and I know Jehovah's Witnesses are not encouraged to hang out with unbeleavers other than to convert them and if they have to for work and stuff. We practically got job offers after going to dinner with them, well they asked if we had driver's licences and would have offered if we had.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

And so it came to pass... that the Mormons visited the Skeptilair

So, coming up something on the Mormons. I let some little Elders come for a visit and failed to get answers for any of my questions. All I got was: That's a really great/awesome question, and a well timed side step. I really wonder if they were sincere about the great question, we love it that you have so many questions thing. Just answer my questions, I promise I will ask them again if you don't. The skeptigirl is totally dogged.

Here were my main questions I did not get answers for:

1. How central, in fact, is family to one's salvation? From the church's promotional material it seem the central feature, other than Jesus.

2. How do eternal families work logistically as good mormons go through multiple generations?

3. General jumbled question about the nature of Mormon heaven as it turns out I misunderstood a few things.

4. If the Book of Mormon complements the Bible is the book of Mormon truly necesary? Asnwer: It is necesary, it adresses different things than the Bible and clears up confusions. I was not convinced of its necesity as I am able to workthrough the disparities just fine and they did not elaborate on the rest.

5. Why is the Mormon Church necesary if salvation essentially happens between man and God?

They said most of these answers will be revealed as they explain the plan of salvation. I hope they answer them because there is no way I am reading the Book of Mormon because and so it came to pass it is so badly written I am ready to hang myself after reading one chapter. I have tried. So in conclusion, they better answer and not keep side stepping or I may have to get severe. I hate people side stepping my questions.

Over all the boys were very nice and I look foreward to chatting with them next time.