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Sam, thank you for this. You have explored so many aspects of not only your faith, but your life’s journey thus far, as well.

There is so much here to assimilate and think about, but I have selected a few passages to comment on. I look forward to any responses you have to what I have posted here.

Sam : In my last letter, I left off with the concept of dying to sin and being born again after accepting deliverance and forgiveness through Jesus. The Bible describes this both as putting to death and putting off the old nature and becoming a new person. A new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24), complete with a new way of living.

John: I had this happen very strongly twice in my life. I was indeed a “new creation” after recovering from my depression episodes. One would not have even recognized me. The hard part of being a Christian, however, is sustaining that new “creation” once the harsher realities of life re-assert themselves. One would hope that being transformed would prepare you to face the most challenging g trials of life, and it does, unless we forget the source of our new strength and purpose, and life can cause us to do just that.


Sam: But when a person turns from that rebellion and is born again, God grants the power to choose something else: Him.

John: Years later, how many people can still say they are “born again?” I tend to want to avoid that expression as it reminds me of fundamentalist Christians.


Sam: The Bible describes God as a Father in much the same way: One Who graciously teaches, guides, and corrects His children over every bump and misstep of the growth process. And I'm learning that He is a very good, very patient Father.

John: Patient indeed. Human beings are endlessly re-inventing themselves, but sometimes that is for the better as they evolve into more spiritual beings, compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded, and not judgmental toward people who are not Christians.


Sam: But, as I'm sure you know with your own experience traveling The Road, no path is without its bumps and potholes. After several years, I left the church I was attending, citing theological differences that I likely could have worked through had I been more spiritually mature at the time.

John: May I inquire what those theological differences were?

The road is long and winding, as I wrote in my recent essay, and full of dead ends and forked paths, but our true course, once established, always becomes apparent once again. Whether we keep to it is another matter, and that’s where we acknowledge the source of our being and come to know the true purpose of life


Sam: Somewhere in the middle of all this, the COVID pandemic happened, with its dizzying flurry of news and doom scrolling that fueled the persistent background fear that We Were All Going to Die.

That time had a profound effect on my faith. It caused me to deeply examine what I believed and what I cared about, to question whether I was really committed to God. It was a time with a lot of soul searching and a lot of tears. But I emerged stronger from it, thanks in great part to my brother, who spent countless hours listening as I worked through the questions and inner turmoil that surfaced on waves of fear and uncertainty. I realized I had more growing to do—and I was committed to staying the course.

John: The pandemic affected us all in profound but unique ways, and once again, because there was so much worldwide suffering g and death, it made me wonder how God allows such suffering, or rather, what is the real cause of this suffering, and how do we use it to see the light once again, or even more clearly see it this time because of the suffering and questioning, without succumbing to existential despair.


Sam: For the first time, I feel like I'm starting to understand what the Christian concept of church as a family. I don't know if I didn't have this before or if I just wasn't in a position to recognize it, but it's a strange and unfamiliar experience to walk in that door and know that I belong there and people love me and aren't going to reject me even as I continue to struggle and grow.

John: For many, this is a crucial component of being a Christian, having a “family” in Christ. My experience over decades is that the church is an institution that embraces families, men and women as couples, and children, whereas lifelong single persons such as myself feel estranged by this, and not truly welcomed, as if we simply don’t fit. All institutions, whether churches, or in our secular lives, strive toward and seek, even if unconsciously, homogeneity.


Sam: Yet Pearcy makes it clear that, as a Christian, the new life and nature that God is working in me should inform all aspects of my life and fundamentally change how I view and interact with that world

The Christian faith is more than a list of rules or a "get out of hell free" card—it's a total transformation.

John: I think this is very true. This is the ideal toward which we should strive, with the humble awareness that this transformation is a lifelong process.


Sam: Because, JG, I'm at the point in my spiritual journey where I'm digging down to fundamental truths, seeking to know God as He actually is and not who people or society say He is. I'm seeking to understand how to articulate, even to myself, that God is different than the paths I see others taking, that what He offers is earth shattering and life changing.

And I keep coming back to one fundamental thing: God is.

John: Sam, thank you for letting others comment on your letter exchange with JG. It has given me much to think about.

I close my comments with this quote from Daily Word (unity.org):

“If someone challenges my understanding of spiritual truths or if their understanding of how the world works is in opposition to mine, I may feel unsafe.

“But I can accept there are many paths to God and that even if we’re on different journeys, we are all divinely protected.

“Each person’s life experience gives them a unique perspective of the world. This realization helps me have compassion and not feel threatened by our differences. I don’t need to change anyone’s viewpoint to feel safe.

“Awakening to oneness means we are all family in God. No matter the state of the world, we are secure, protected, and loved.”

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Thanks for following the full discussion, John. 🙂 It's been an interesting and challenging journey with a lot of introspection, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to have a public exchange on the topic.

In response to your comments:

— I'm encouraged that Christians don't have to maintain their "new creation" status on their own. Peter declares that believers in Christ are kept by God's power through to the end (1 Peter 1:3-5). Although Paul encourages believers to continue to fight the fight of faith (1 Tim. 6:12) and put the flesh to death (Romans 6), it is God's power, through the Holy Spirit, that makes this possible (2:13). So even when life is hard and circumstances threaten to drag me down, I know that God will not let me go (Heb. 13:5). Kevin DeYoung's book, The Hole In Our Holiness, covers this topic well.

— Christ Himself uses the expression "born again" several times, most notably in His discourse with Nicodemus in John 3. It's a strong picture of what happens when a person accepts Christ as Savior and Lord, a vivid description of being a new creation. More than once, the New Testament writers describe believers as being "begotten" by God, adopted into the family, and born of God's will. It's a very Biblical phrase and concept. Those who say they've been made new in Christ but show consistent evidence to the contrary in the way they live and act are likely making an empty profession (Matt. 7:17-21; 1 John 3:6-10).

— Re: theological differences, the church is in the Reformed tradition, and I don't agree with all the tenets of Calvinism. However, they are solid on the core truth of the faith and use diligent, expository methods in their preaching. They also don't require members to be Calvinists and are open to discussing all viewpoints on the key areas where Calvinism differs from other interpretations.

— Re: suffering, it's a complex topic. Sin creates suffering when we mistreat those around us and deviate from the framework God put in place for our good. The brokenness of sin in general disrupted the good creation God made in the beginning, and all people and things feel the weight of that (Rom. 8:22-23). God sometimes allows suffering to grow us, sometimes to chastise, sometimes to warn, but always to draw people to Himself (see Deuteronomy 28). Job's situation is a fascinating study in this topic. I highly recommend the book Beyond Suffering as a contemporary study guide to Job.

— I disagree that all churches embrace only families. I've been in situations where it feels like that's the case, but the church I'm in now doesn't adhere to that human-created dynamic. We have singles and couples old and young, families with kids, older couples with adult kids who no longer live at home, widows, etc. The key, I've found, to finding fellowship in any church is simply to step out and get to know people. I spent too many years staying locked up inside myself, convincing myself that I was the outlier or outsider—but as soon as I started making myself available, talking to people, getting involved in events, and asking where I could serve or help, God worked through that to create connections that are forming a web of family that goes beyond anything I've ever experienced. We may seek homogeneity as humans, but God directs us to, as Paul put it, a more excellent way: a unified body of diverse believers with Christ as the head, upholding and serving each other in love.

— While I agree that we all come to God along different life paths (my past doesn't look like yours, JG's is different from both of ours, etc.), Jesus was clear that He is the one path to God—the sole solution to our broken relationship with the One Who created us. He spoke of the narrow way that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14), and He is the one Door through which we can pass onto that path and know God (John 10:7-10), which is eternal life (John 17:3). The path may be narrow, but the Way is open to all through Truth that leads to Life (John 14:6).

I'm sure I'll return to this topic over time in both writing and conversation. These letters, coupled with recent experiences, gave me the chance to think more deeply about my faith, dig into Biblical concepts, and pray through spiritual questions and struggles. The more I consider these things, the more called I feel to share them. Thanks for the opportunity to flesh them out in discussion in these comments. :)

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Thank you for your responses, Sam. They always give me much to think about. Here are a few brief comments related to those replies of yours:

Sam: “…Christ Himself uses the expression "born again" several times, most notably in His discourse with Nicodemus in John 3. It's a strong picture of what happens when a person accepts Christ as Savior and Lord, a vivid description of being a new creation….”

John: I don’t disagree with what you have said, but I was referring to the way the term “born again,” is so often used by certain Christians to eliminate the need for further spiritual progress, learning,discovering and trying to be open-minded toward others who do not share the same beliefs. Born again? Saved? Ok, done, mission accomplished, no more worries! They become rigid in their beliefs, not open to new ways of looking at the eternal truths Jesus taught during his ministry.

Sam: “— Re: suffering, it's a complex topic. Sin creates suffering when we mistreat those around us and deviate from the framework God put in place for our good. The brokenness of sin in general disrupted the good creation God made in the beginning, and all people and things feel the weight of that…”

John : Sin creates only one kind of suffering,and that is guilt, which for the Christian leads to the need for atonement and forgiveness. Some suffering is self-inflicted, many other forms are not.

Sam: “I disagree that all churches embrace only families. I've been in situations where it feels like that's the case, but the church I'm in now doesn't adhere to that human-created dynamic. We have singles and couples old and young, families with kids, older couples with adult kids who no longer live at home, widows, etc. The key, I've found, to finding fellowship in any church is simply to step out and get to know people…”

John: Sam, I didn’t say, or even imply, that “all churches embrace only families.” Of course that is not the case. But in general, the church for a majority of Christians is a homogenous, family-centered institution, and this necessarily influences the God-created dynamic of that institution. I, for one have always felt like an outsider in the mainstream, traditional churches, and this would be the same, if not more so, in less mainstream, fundamentalist churches, whose numbers are legion.

Sam: “…— While I agree that we all come to God along different life paths (my past doesn't look like yours, JG's is different from both of ours, etc.), Jesus was clear that He is the one path to God—the sole solution to our broken relationship with the One Who created us….”

John: As far as I know, what Jesus is attributed as saying in John 16:4 only appears in the Gospel of John only, not the other three gospels. It has always been a controversial passage for those of us who are universalist and all-inclusive in our outlook. It troubles me because it has been so often misinterpreted and used by Christian exclusionists to condemn those of other faiths. Theologically, I believe those words mean that Jesus is telling his disciples that he and the Father are one.

The views expressed in this article are more in line with how I approach John 14:6 than other interpretationsI have read recently.


Thank you again for taking the time to reply to my comments abut your letter to JG. I hope at some point you can read and comment on my essay on the spiritual path that I posted to Substack a couple of weeks ago. It will give you a better understanding of my comments on your and JG’s letters.

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Okay! I'm back from being out of town. :) After thought and prayer, my comments on your comments:

While I agree that John 14:6 is the only place where Jesus statement about being the way, the truth, and the life is specifically recorded, the statement is corroborated throughout both the Old and New Testaments.


Some passages to consider:

Behold, O Israel, the Lord your God is one Lord. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Savior. (Isaiah 43:11)

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:7-10)

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)


This is just a small sampling of how the Biblical text states, shows, and supports the core truth that accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is the only way to God. Far from being judgmental or an exclusive club, the invitation is open to all, and God desires that all should accept it (1 Timothy 2:4). He created a framework within His ultimate plan in which humans are designed to flourish, and it includes an intimate relationship with the God Who created them. When sin broke that relationship, God came down in the person of Jesus to fix it. Sin doesn't simply lead to a feeling of guilt or condemnation—it shatters the fundamental connection between man and God and ruptures every other relationship and interaction—from interpersonal human relationships to the very workings of the creation around us (Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 1:18-32).

To simply make evident the path by which all people may walk" into a right relationship with God would mean Jesus came preaching works, a concept the rest of Scripture rejects. Hosea 6:6 states: "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." First Samuel 15:22 echos this when the prophet Samuel rebukes Saul: "Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." In the NT, Paul's arguments (Romans 3:23 and 28 being major points) all come to the conclusion that nobody can work themselves to righteousness or salvation. The true need, the justification, comes only through God's grace and can only be given because Jesus, as the perfect and sinless Son of God, gave His life to pay the penalty for sin (which is death, Romans 6:23) and open the one, single way for mankind to be right with God.

This is where much of the common talk around salvation tends to be lacking. It's heavy on the "believe in Jesus and go to heaven" point, but another significant component must be considered: mankind needs justification, to be made right with God so that the relationship broken by sin can be healed. Being God, He is both holy and just as well as loving and can't forgive sin without proper payment. Jesus took on that payment in His death, overcame death and sin in His resurrection, and now stands ready to apply that payment to anyone who accepts it. Therefore, God can exercise His great mercy and love in forgiving sin without denying or going against His justice and holiness.

Paul declares that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23, again) but also proclaimes that God has concluded all people in unbelief...so that He may have the same mercy upon all through Jesus (Romans 11:32). Meaning that sin—man's original an ongoing rejection of and rebellion against the framework God created for life, love, relationship, and unbroken eternal fellowship—levels the playing field. Everyone is in the same boat. But the beauty of Jesus' statement, and of the whole redemptive arc of the Bible, is that the invitation to be justified, to be made right with God, to enjoy unbroken fellowship once again, is still open to all.

I could also say a great deal about personal sanctification and the ongoing process of Christian growth following being born again, but this felt like the most important point to address. :)

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Sorry for the delay in responding, Sam. I’ve been dealing with some unexpected health issues in my family m,and time slips away very rapidly when one reaches the age I am now.

So I will keep his fairly brief. I have read and re-read your comments and scripture passages, and you certainly have chosen them well. They are quite familiar to me, having read from the Bible, along with favorite devotional guides, almost daily for 45 years after I came back to the Christian faith.

What I want to get across is that the Bible, while divinely inspired, was written by fallible humans in a distinct period of history long vanished. We no longer believe in or accept slavery for instance, or human or animal sacrifice. There are countless other example ms that illustrative how the Bible -- Old and New Testaments -- were written with the cultures and customs of those Biblical times and peoples in mind. We have certainly evolved spiritually in many ways since then.

I believe that Jesus’ ministry on earth was from God and that is how we come to know God as a personal and loving diety. The mission of the disciples and the early church leaders was evangelization and proselytizing so that the tiny church could grow. That mission has carried on to the present, and it is every Christian’s right to spread the Good News to those who are receptive. But there are billions of people on earth who have their own ancient religions, beliefs and traditions that will not cause them to be separated from God or sent to Hell. Those religions and traditions should be respected, the opposite of how the Native Americans were treated by the misguided priests sent to “convert” them, for example.

When a “Christian” piously, sanctimoniously and with willful disregard or respect for the beliefs of others seeks to impose his or her views on “heathen” they distort the meaning and will of God and do indeed set themselves up in an “exclusive club”

A believer and follower of Christ’s teachings as Jesus himself taught, and as the early fathers of the church interpreted their writings, would not accept such a narrow definition of God. God is love, and love is not exclusionary. When you begin to see the larger picture of God, consciousness, spirit and the universe as a whole, your faith matures to the point where you don’t need to back up everything with a long list of passages from Scripture. God and Jesus are far more vast than the words contained in the canonical texts of what has been chosen by fallible men (not women, of course) to be the absolute truth. It’s a way to come to God, not the only way.

God has granted us many paths to union with Him (referring to the one universal diety and creator of the universe, come down to earth in the person of Jesus and others. Without a personal relationship with God I would find God too abstract. At the same time, countless billions of other good and caring human beings find enlightenment and salvation, or the everlasting nature of the soul or animating spirit of life, through differing paths to God.

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I've contemplated many ways to answer your comments, and, as before, there is much I could address. But without a solid foundation to stand on and a common definition of truth, it makes little sense to make separate comments on each point.

If, as you say, the Bible is fallible because it was written by fallible men, then we must take the same view of every other religious text—indeed, of every work of man. How then can we know which parts of these texts, if any, are true and which are corrupt due to man's fallibility? How can we even be sure that God exists? And if we could be sure of His existenece, how can we discern which text tells us what's true about Him?

Consider the multitude of claims and descriptions of the divine across religious texts and traditions:

- Judaism says Jesus existed but wasn't the Messiah

- Islam says God has no son and Jesus was a prophet

- Hinduism says there is one God with many manifestations

- Buddhism teaches there is no God

- Jehovah's Witnesses say Jesus wasn't God's Son and didn't physically rise from the dead

- Mormons believe that Jesus was a spirit child who atoned for sin through suffering, not death, and became a god

And Christianity says that mankind—all mankind, which truly levels the playing field—is inherently sinful and in need of salvation but can't bring about that salvation for themselves. It teaches that Jesus was the only Son of God, fully God and fully man, sinless in every way, the only One able to provide an atoning sacrifice that could redeem humanity. He suffered and died on a Roman cross, was buried, and rose to life by the power of the Holy Spirit three days later as a sign that God accepted His sacrifice. After 40 days, He ascended to heaven, where He is seated at the right hand of God.

Much more could be said, but its clear that these disparate views of God and Jesus can't be brought into harmony to create one unified truth. If none of them is a fully objective description of reality, we're left with an approach to religion—and, indeed, to life itself— that can't be anything other than subjective: each of us, as fallible humans, sifting through information provided by other fallible humans, trying to construct something we can call "truth." It brings us to the place we find today's society, awash in postmodern thinking, where truth is personal and relative.

This complicates the matter of morality, as it gives us no objective basis from which to discern right or wrong. How can we say that anyone is good or caring except by comparison to our personal, fallible standards? What's "right" or "good" for one person may be abhorrant to another based on any number of factors. Or it may change along with emotions and circumstances, so something that seemed right one day becomes inconvenient the next.

But in an honest search for truth, don't we owe it to ourselves to consider a text that claims to be the very Word of God, breathed out by Him (2 Timothy 3:16), written down by men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), containing eyewitness accounts (Luke 1:1-2) of a man Who was not just a man but the very Son of God (Matthew 3:16-17) come to open the way for us to have eternal fellowship and abundant life with and from the God Who created us (John 3:16-17, 10:10)?

And when we consider it, we find that any goodness or caring in us, regardless of the standard by which it's judged, doesn't elevte our standing with a holy God. The issue is not whether we are good but whether we are righteous. And our problem is that we're not. We are sinful creatures who long ago, in Adam, chose to turn away from the God Who made us for His glory, thus bringing ouselves under His wrath—not a vengeful anger as we understand human wrath, but the righteous response of a holy Being Who deserves our obedience, praise, and glory because He made us and sustains us.

Is He also loving? Of course. God's love is shown in Jesus (Rom. 5:8). Because God is holy and just as well as loving, He has to punish sin. But rather than executing due punishment on each sinful human, He paid the price at great cost to Himself by giving His Son to pay the penalty that mankind deserves for sin and purchase a righteousness that can be imputed to us, given freely without us even needing to be good, because goodness isn't what delivers us from our sinful state and into a right relationship with God.

It's freeing to not have to work for that deliverance. And Christianity is the only religion that says God so *loved* the world that He made it possible for us to have that personal relationship and righteous standing with Him when we couldn't do it ourselves. You can't reach up to God; but He has reached down to us. That's the loving message of Christianity.

A true Christian loves others by sharing that message—the Gospel, the Good News. Anyone who does this with a pious or self-righteous attitude doesn't understand the nature of what God has done in Christ, that we are all, to quote Alistair Begg, beggars telling other beggars where to find food. The free and costly gift of salvation, of Christ's imputed righteousness, is a sign of God's infinite love and mercy toward undeserving people whom He loves with an everlasting love, and telling others of that salvation is the most caring, compassionate thing we can do.

The invitation to accept that payment is open to all. The Gospel offers not restriction or oppression but freedom to be who and and what God has made us to be. To stop searching for a truth among a collection of fragments and find a single, unifying, objective truth that breaks the chains of the sin that enslaves us and delivers us into the glorious liberty of being a child of God (Romans 8:21).

Thank you, John, for prompting me to think more on these things. I've found our conversations stimulating and challenging, and it's my prayer that you think on this truth, as well, and come into that glorious liberty for yourself. :)

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One addition to the last comment:

My “life path” has certainly been my “spiritual path,” whether or not I realized this fully at waypoints along the path.

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I think this is often the case for those who find themselves drawn to the spiritual.

I did read your previous comment and am working on a reply. :) Just wanted to let you know I haven't disappeared! Been down the "business website overhaul" rabbit hole and not on Substack as much.

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I certainly understand.. I know all about rabbit holes! 😵‍💫 Looking forward to your comments.

I think you’ll find my newest essay on “elderhood” interesting.

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