Ask Margaret Manning Shull (July 29-August 2, 2019)

Hi friends, @Interested_In_Ask_RZIM,

I know you will enjoy learning from Margaret this week! Her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling has equipped her to serve many people who are going through a difficult time - and this passion reflects her compassionate heart as well.

You are invited to bring the real questions of your mind and heart to the table this week. I look forward to the conversation!

Margaret’s RZIM biography:

Margaret Manning Shull joined the RZIM Speaking and Writing Team in 2007 after having served as a pastor for over seven years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Agnes Scott College before going on to earn her master of divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Margaret has just completed her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Western Washington University.

Passionate about communicating the gospel in ways that engage both heart and mind, Margaret’s pastoral ministry grounds her speaking and writing in a relational and practical style. Margaret seeks to address the critical intersections between the Christian faith and lived experience in order to engage Christians and non-Christians in conversations that count.

In her free time, Margaret enjoys travel, gardening, hiking, cycling, running, and taking care of her menagerie of pets. She currently lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her husband, David.

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My question for someone of this background is to ask about human bias and how “deep” it goes.

I have studied Jung to some degree and it seems from reading his material that all people are inherently biased in one way or another and that this permeates nearly all of a person’s decisions. I have also been involved in a DBT Group Therapy spanning about 2 years time. I noticed a lot of things about people when I was there and once again it seems like it makes perfect sense to say people are almost never objective about anything.

What is your view on bias, how deep does it go, and what benefit is there to being biased?

Thanks,

Jesse

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Good day Margaret, a bit of a personal question if I may? I am preparing for funeral service. The lady was a Christ follower, her children are no longer interested in any ‘religion’. (Although she made them attend Sunday School.) My question is, in their time of mourning is there a way to segue in apologetics?
Thanks
Bill

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Good day Margaret, I am watching Carey Nieuwhof’s interview of you, and you touch on ‘conversational apologetics’. Michael Ramsden wrote a book on that topic, and “CS Lewis” have a 10 week online course on it. “RZIM” have a "Questions people Ask’ course.
Question: If I want to bring such a programme into my church, which one in your opinion, may be best?
Thanks
Bill

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Hi @BillBrander, thank you for your questions! I’ll answer the second question you asked first - on a conversational apologetics tool. I believe the RZIM resource is a fine one and I know we have many similar studies that you can examine through our online bookstore - I would recommend you do that. However, any tool that you use is only as good as the one wielding the tool! So, if you are practicing conversational apologetics you’ll be great in using any of these resources. Conversational apologetics is simply a more formal way of describing what we can do in our everyday lives as we engage people in conversation. It is about forming genuine relationships with others so that we know the ‘in roads’ into their lives with the gospel message - know them as people first and foremost. Showing the gospel is a critical part of sharing the gospel and when you know your neighbors, you’ll have ample opportunities to show and share since you are involved in their lives as a neighbor and friend.

I hope this is helpful.

With regards to offering apologetics during a funeral, I certainly believe you can talk about this woman’s faith in a way that is winsome and apologetic. She loved the Lord and sought to live in ways that made him known. In sharing her story of faith, you are sharing the gospel since it was a central part of her life story. Then, you can always invite others to consider the Jesus she knew and you can invite participants to speak to you after the service if they have any questions. Clearly, you should validate their loss and sorrow - but in telling her story, you can tell the gospel story.

Thanks for your questions, Bill!

Blessings, Margaret

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Hello Ms. Margaret, Can you comment on the subject of Hyper Grace? Thx…

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Dear @Jesse Dornfeld,

Thank you for this excellent question! I’m not sure I can answer specifically as to how deep our ‘biases’ go - I’m not sure anyone could answer that since I don’t believe anyone can plumb the depth of human hearts. However, the prophet Jeremiah did say, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) So, given what Jeremiah said, I think it is safe to say that the human predilection is often towards distortion and bias in all of its forms.

In addition, what I believe we can say is that all human beings look at the world through ‘lenses’ that we wear. They might be the lenses of culture, of gender, of age, of learning, of family environment, etc…these lenses do inform our reading of the text and of our world. Let me give you an example: it is very difficult for a person living today in the 21st century to understand what it was like to live in the 1st century - even with all of our historical knowledge, our ability to understand literature etc…we simply didn’t live then and cannot grasp all the nuances of that particular culture. In the same regards, it is impossible for me to know exactly what it means to be you - to have lived your life or known your experiences. I simply cannot because I have a different set of experiences and lenses as you do through which I understand and “read” the world.

All that being said, I do believe we can come to know many things truly. So, the fact that you and I share humanity together means that we both understand what it means to be hungry, to desire relationship and connection, to be tired, and to some level what it means to live in the U.S. We believe that the gospel transcends all cultures even as it can speak into them uniquely. That is what it means when we say the Scripture is “inspired” by God - if God is inspiring the writers of Scripture and God created the world, then the gospel can and does speak to all cultures in all times. At the same time, we affirm that God used individuals who spoke languages and who lived in particular places at particular times which means that the writers had a culture and a perspective from which they wrote. Therefore, we can learn something about the culture in which these events took place because the writers offer that perspective in the narrative. I hope this makes sense.

One final point here. This is the power and the work of the Holy Spirit - to bring the gospel anew and afresh to every generation around the world. The Holy Spirit is at work and works in ways that transcend our cultures (and our lenses) and that challenge our cultures and lenses even as we can understand the power of the gospel in our culture and by reading it with our lenses.

I am glad that you have found support in a DBT group. DBT has been a powerful therapeutic tool for many individuals and I know how hard that work can be. Keep up the good work, Jesse, and keep asking these great questions!

Every Blessing,

Margaret

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Dear @pilgrim2 (Gary):

Hi Gary - I had to actually look up “hyper-grace” because I have never heard of this before! But, if it is anything like I found -

The term hyper-grace has been used to describe a new wave of teaching that emphasizes the grace of God to the exclusion of other vital teachings such as repentance and confession of sin. Hyper-grace teachers maintain that all sin, past, present, and future, has already been forgiven, so there is no need for a believer to ever confess it. Hyper-grace teaching says that, when God looks at us, He sees only a holy and righteous people. The conclusion of hyper-grace teaching is that we are not bound by Jesus’ teaching, even as we are not under the Law; that believers are not responsible for their sin; and that anyone who disagrees is a pharisaical legalist. In short, hyper-grace teachers “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” [Jude 1:4] and flirt with antinomianism.(From: Got Questions.org)

then, I believe we can say that this is not something we can affirm. How does one understand the book of James, if grace is all that matters (and what kind of grace are we talking about here?) This sounds to me very much like ‘cheap grace’ in which peoples’ lives and behavior are inconsequential indicators of the gospel. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20). Real faith involves action and our lives bear witness to what we truly believe. So, if I really believe in the grace of God given for me in the sacrificial death of Jesus on my behalf, my life should be a testimony to that fact, just as the book of James instructs. Faith without works is dead.

Any movement that doesn’t take the entire counsel of Scripture into consideration should be suspect.

I hope this is helpful to you! Thanks for asking.

Blessings,

Margaret

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Thank you Margaret.
P.S. While looking at books @ RZIM I see that you visited SA in 1971.
It’s changed a lot since those days.

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Sorry Margaret. Thank you for the ‘funeral’ input. I’m changing my message to include the gist of what you said.
Thanks again
Bill

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Hello Mrs. Manning,

I have a question about dealing with wounds from the past. About 9 years ago, The Lord very specifically and deliberately lead me back to my very small, ingrown home church where I grew up. He opened doors for me to immediately become involved in leadership there. I began assisting with worship service, resumed Sunday evening services, implemented a Friday night prayer and fast meeting followed by a fellowship and fast breaking meal on Saturday. For a time things seemed to begin to improve and a hope for the future of that small dying church began to emerge. However, the assistant pastor decided to attempt to remove me from involvement there over what amounted to nonsense accusations. When the senior pastor declined to acquiesce to his demands he resigned his position, withdrew his family from the church and swayed all the remaining church attendees to stop going to church there. To make matters worse, the assistant pastor is a family member of mine. I felt responsible in some way, that I had said or done something to cause this kind of a reaction from him. Not only that, but I felt I had broken the church that I was trying to help. I lost all confidence in myself an my efforts as a leader there. Eventually I stopped attending, completely dejected. I have since come to realize that the vast majority of what happened wasn’t my fault. There were dynamics going on that had been in play since before I had returned, and I was more or less an unwitting player in a conflict that had nothing to do with me personally. I was just an excuse for parties to take action. However, that church now exists only as an empty unused building with the “pastor” holding services in his living room for one old woman who drops by from time to time. I haven’t had a church home since then and I desperately miss having one. However, every time I think about trying to integrate into a new body, I am paralyzed by the memories of how bad things went at my old church. I have seen how horribly malicious church attendees can be, and am legitimately afraid of being that exposed to people who could turn on me without warning for reasons I can’t fathom. How do I get past this and move forward with my fellowship with other believers?

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Hello Margaret. I would like to ask whether all Christians, regardless of denomination, should accept the theory of evolution as a fact. Thank you.

Dear @BenIAm (Benjamin),

I am deeply saddened to hear of your experience in a place you called “home” and deeply loved. I do believe we can and should expect those who claim to be Christ followers to behave and live in ways that exemplify the Savior - at the very least this means acknowledging when we get it wrong, asking if we feel we may have offended another person, and working towards compromise and congruence for the sake of the church body and the kingdom. Sadly, we know it doesn’t look this way, and you know this from first-hand experience.

It sounds as if you are reconciled to the fact that your own actions were not the cause of the split, so that is not the issue. If I am hearing you correctly, your concern is one of fear of rejection and of experiencing the same dynamics over again. The truth is you won’t ever know unless you give it a try again, but you can go slowly. I recommend you work with a Christian counselor who can help you build skills which will equip you and help you to be stronger should the “worst” scenario occur again. You can also attend a church for a long time - really getting to know people and finding ways to serve that build towards leadership positions - you don’t have to be in a leadership position to be contributing to the body of Christ - you simply need to keep making yourself available to serve in whatever capacity the church needs and in alignment with your gifts.

Let me tell you a story from my own life that might be helpful to you. I have always been desperately afraid of getting lost - it is just one of my fears - and like you, at times it paralyzed me. Several years ago, I was in a situation in which I was going to have to ride the bus in a major metropolitan city in order to get to jury duty. Of course, I was terrified - what if I got lost? Got stuck on the bus and missed my stop? What if people on the bus were mean to me or wouldn’t help me find my way? All of those thoughts went through my mind, but I had no choice but to take the bus to jury duty. Getting on that bus, all of my fears were in full force - in other words, I didn’t feel confident first. But, you know what? After I rode the bus, I wasn’t scared anymore. I took a small step and then I became an avid bus rider!

Now my example is a simple one, and not at all on the same magnitude as your story, but I believe the principle for healing fears is the same in your situation. You will have all the feelings of fear you currently have when you first walk through that door. But, if you keep going, keep searching till you find the best fit for you, you’ll soon find your fears will dissipate. I know for sure they will not go away by avoiding them, even though you need time to heal after you’ve been really wounded. So, it is ok that you’ve taken a break, and now it sounds as if you ready to get started again. Take small steps, Benjamin, and I believe you’ll find a new church home in which you can grow and serve.

I hope this might be helpful to you and encouraging.

Every Blessing,

Margaret Manning Shull

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Dear @SimonLizardo (Simon),

Thanks for your question. I have one for you before I answer. What makes this an important question for you and how would you answer it? Do you believe that all Christians must accept evolution as a fact? If so, how would you go about ensuring that all Christians accept evolution?

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Thank you Mrs. Manning for your response. What you said is helpful. I appreciate you taking the time to reply to my question. God bless you.

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This makes an important question because it deals with the origins of life. I would answer it by weighing and comparing the evidence with theology and scripture. With the vast evidence for evolution, I believe that all Christians must accept evolution as a fact. I would ensure that all Christians accept evolution without compromising their faith by promoting Christians to accept the theory of evolution and somehow how it can be compatible with the Bible and theology.

Thanks so much for taking our questions this week, @Margaret_Manning! One of our members here on Connect asked me to ask the following question:

Is baptism essential to salvation?

How might you respond to that question?

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Good day Margaret, thank you for your time to answer our questions. I appreciate your insight and wisdom in this area.
My question is related to feelings and emotions: both in our faith walk and in day-to-day life. What is the real purpose and value of feelings and emotions? We are told frequently ( both in church and outside the church) not to trust our feelings and emotions because they might not reflect reality. Also, so many emotions ( like anger, fear, desire etc.) lead to destructive behavior or harmful behavior, both to oneself or to others. I know we experience emotions as humans, but do we just ignore them in decision making or determination of our actions?

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Hi Margret,
I enjoy your well researched and compassionately presented articles with RZIM.
Reading biography of Dwight Eisenhower and near the end of life statements was “I want to go. God take me.” Does God honor such desires?
Thanks
Dave

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Hello @SimonLizardo,

Thank you for responding to my questions! I appreciate your honesty and the conviction of your question. I am sure you know many good Christian people who take a different view from your own based on their reading of Scripture and the theology that emerges from there. Major organizations like Answers in Genesis, Reasons to Believe, and Biologos all reflect these different views - from a young earth, six day literal creation to old earth no macro-evolution, to theistic evolution (or God instituted evolution). RZIM does not, as an organization, have an official position on this issue and I do not believe it is an issue of salvation. Therefore, I think it is one that good Christians can have different views on.

Recently, I was part of an RZIM Summit in Nova Scotia, Canada, in which we talked about God and the natural world and our responsibility as Christians to care for the creation for which we have been made stewards and caretakers. We heard a great deal of scientific knowledge shared in conjunction with biblical teaching. There are a few things I think are very important to remember:

  1. No matter what view of “creation” one takes, each view has particular problems with which it has to wrestle.
  2. Science and faith need not be in opposition to each other - as Dr. Arthur Holmes stated in his classic book All Truth is God’s Truth if something is truly TRUE, it is God’s truth. Where science illuminates the truth, it is God’s truth and therefore it will complement Scriptural truth
  3. God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the cosmos. Revelation tells us that “God is making all things new” and so we believe that God is at work through the natural world just as God is at work in the proclamation of the gospel through our teaching and our lives.

So, I think you can see that I don’t believe we should make everyone accept evolution. I do, however, believe that we can and should be in conversation with those who hold different views than our own on this issue. Iron sharpens iron…

Every blessing,

Margaret Manning Shull

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