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Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism — Surrender (12)


The Manchurian Candidate was brainwashed to respond to the Queen of Diamonds — whatever he heard after seeing that card he would do without hesitation and then completely forget his actions.

His own loyalties, his own moral boundaries, his own personality, his entire sense of self was subsumed when he saw that card.

It wasn’t the card that was the problem, of course. The tyrannous ideology and the inhumane method was the problem. The complete subjugation of the self was the problem. The card was just the tool.

Or the problem was turning a human being into a mere tool, the simple agency of the tragic drama of a cold war.

The word “surrender” is my Queen of Diamonds. And I know it. “Surrender” in my previous life is vaulted as the chief ideal. When you read everything as a fight between Great and Angry God and little ol’ you, “surrender” is the natural trajectory. Just giving-up makes perfect sense.

So when I hear “surrender” in sermons or in books, I cringe. And I hate that I cringe. Grant and I have even realized separately and then admitted together that, as Grant says, “It must not mean what we think it means. It can’t. There’s something we don’t get.”

I’ve actually put-off writing this post for months because I still don’t know kinesthetically what “surrender” means. Maybe you can see it better than I.

Here’s how VanVonderen in his most recent book Soul Repair puts it. I think he addresses my uneasiness as well as the term’s healthy function (you can see my notes in the margin there):


It sounds like VanVonderen is telling us to give up our own attempts at moralism — at going “our own way” through our human rules. Thots?

I think the biggest difference is Who you’re “surrendering” to: your Heavenly Father or a mob boss? Your Abba Father isn’t trying to conquer you. He’s already sovereign and He already redeemed you. While a mob boss is worried about his own tenuous power and saving face before his enemies, a daddy doesn’t think in terms of power. At all.

I still don’t like the term “surrender” (as a rhetorician) because of the heavy military connotations. But plugging it into a God as Heavenly Father metaphor, I can see the point.

I think.

23 thoughts on “Things I Never Heard in Fundamentalism — Surrender (12)

  1. What came to my mind is pursuit by an ardent suitor…surrender doesn’t mean losing, it means gaining a lover, a husband.

  2. I have similar struggles – like singing the song trust and obey. I just can’t bear it.

    I like how Beth described it.

  3. some lyrics from Sarah Mclachlan’s song, Sweet Surrender:

    “It doesn’t mean much
    It doesn’t mean anything at all
    The life I’ve left behind me
    Is a cold room
    I’ve crossed the last line
    From where I can’t return
    Where every step I took in faith
    Betrayed me
    And led me from my home
    And sweet
    Sweet surrender
    Is all that I have to give
    You take me in
    No questions asked
    You strip away the ugliness
    That surrounds me”

  4. Hmm- I think surrender or however you want to put it doesn’t seem so bad when you know the kind of God you serve. The fact that He is our loving, heavenly father is a wonderful motivation for surrender. I don’t know if complete surrender is possible in this lifetime. I don’t think 100% surrender all the time is necessary for holiness and acceptance by God for the reasons you brought out in your # 11 post. However, from personal experience when I am fighting the inevitable circumstance- whatever that might be in my life at the time- I am not very happy. When I choose to see it as from the hand of a loving, sovereign, heavenly Father- I have peace. Of course I can go back and forth several times in a day and I don’t doubt God’s love for me as I do that.
    I don’t like every verse of Trust and Obey either- there is one verse I cringe at every time I sing it. However, if you aren’t obeying God- will you be happy? I mean really happy? If you don’t trust God- how can you be happy. Sure God’s love for you doesn’t change but how you perceive it will. How is that happiness? I am just not really willing to throw the whole idea out.

  5. “I don’t think 100% surrender all the time is necessary for… acceptance by God.”

    NOTHING of what we have to offer is necessary for God to love and accept us. He accepts us as we are thanks to the finished work of Christ on our behalf. If any minuscule part of God’s acceptance were up to us we would fall 100% short 100% of the time because He is thrice holy, and we are utterly depraved, wholly without any ability to attain even a scintilla of righteousness by our own efforts.

    Which is what makes the concept of surrender that much more wonderful. We can trust completely in the One who has promised to accomplish the impossible for us. It’s like surrendering to the will of the airline pilot and his plane. Our “surrender” entails simple cooperation and enjoyment of God’s work.

  6. Grant,
    I thought that was the point I was making?
    You think my statement means something else? I don’t think we can do anything to earn God’s acceptance. At all!!!! Ever!! Thank God for grace and what Christ did?
    Not sure how that wasn’t’ clear in my last couple of posts. I guess I don’t’ know how else to say it.

  7. Oops! I realize I put a question mark after my statement “thank God for grace and what Christ did” I have no question on that regard. Not sure why I did that.

  8. I agree with Beth, and was reminded of John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 14. I have always loved that last line:

    Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
    As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
    That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
    Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
    I, like an usurped town, to another due,
    Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
    Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
    But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
    Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
    But am betrothed unto your enemy:
    Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
    Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
    Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
    Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

  9. Is “surrender” a _Biblical_ concept? I looked it up in an online concordance: http://bibletab.com/s/surrender.htm, and could only find one instance of it being used historically to refer to a person’s submission to God. (Of course, I may have used a suspect concordance.)

    The hymn was singing in my mind, so I wondered what, exactly, the words were in Ukrainian. Nothing about “surrender” at all:
    “All I will give _for_ the Savior: I will give Him body, heart, and soul. In order to serve Him in action, as He served all of us. All I give to You, all my portion/fate, abilities and strengths, dear Savior, I give to You.”
    The other three verses are also very different than the English originals.

    Which makes me wonder just how much of what else you heard in fundamentalism was determined not so much by theology strictly speaking as by culture. Ukrainian Baptists were theologically very orthodox and socially very conservative, but their theology at the time of this hymn (mid-50s) was definitely homegrown in Eastern Europe, rather than the United States. The enchantment with American-style fundamentalism came later. Which may be why my seven-years-younger sister first learned about grace at an Evangelical college, while I always had it in my bones.

  10. I have been thinking about this and I am just wondering about some things. Please understand that I really don’t have many people I can discuss this with right now so please don’t assume I am being cantankerous or difficult just for the sake of being difficult.
    I am just wondering why the idea of surrendering to Christ- who is God of the universe, our Saviour and Heavenly Father- would be distasteful to someone who is a child of God. I mean I know that none of us meet that standard, that God loves us anyway and saves anyway- none of that i disagree with. But I mean He is our Lord. Why is it wrong to want what He wants and want to live like He wants us to. Why is it so distasteful to “trust and obey”? I just don’t get why those who have left fundamentalism don’t even want to think of that as a concept. I can’t think of a better person to submit to then my Heavenly Father and Savoiur.
    Does that make sense?

  11. It’s not that “surrendering” to Jesus is distasteful. It’s that surrender has been used more often than not as a weapon. And it makes you crazy! If you have problems, you’re told, “You are not surrendered enough!” And after trying and trying and trying and trying to do this mysterious surrender, if those problems still exist, then you’re told, “You’re not doing the right thing. You’re too passive. Get busy!” Which is the opposite of surrender.

    Or you’re told to surrender things that God never told us to give up. Your personality, your conscience, your desires, your likes and dislikes. I betcha, Stacy — and I say this as someone who’s been in the same place as you are — that you’ve been told to “surrender” your desire to have children. And even deep-down, you’ve wondered if you do find that mysterious place of “total surrender,” superstitiously if you thought then you would get that desire of your heart.

    In the end, “surrender” to God is not what’s preached. It’s “surrender” to powerful people, to larger systems, to religiousity — to anything not-God.

    I really think that the last two posts of this series — salvation and summary — cover your questions better. And I think Victoria’s right too. It’s not really Bible. It’s Eastern mysticism.

  12. I understand surrender being used as a weapon. I do understand recoiling from that. I see it as more of as a natural result of realizing who God is to me. I mean if I really know who God is and how good He is but also completely sovereign than “surrender” takes on a different meaning. I am not willing to say we dont’ have to do it though. And please again- not surrrender to earn God’s love or favor – not saying that!!
    Actually I don’t at all think I will get what I want if I can get to that point of surrender for my inability to have children. Honestly, God has answered my prayer- I have a son through adoption and he couldn’t be more mine than if I had birthed him. I am beginning to wonder if we have experienced different things in “fundamentalism” since you think that I might be hoping to arrive at a complete surrender and then earn what I want. I don’t think that at all. I didn’t get my son b/c I “deserve” him.
    I am thankful for him and overwhelmed by God’s grace in allowing me to be a mom. But what if God hadn’t done that? I never felt like I had to give up my “desire” for a child. I knew that that was a natural God given desire. That is what made it hurt to not have children and I never felt that hurt was wrong. In fact in a weird way in those years before my son, I learned to be ok with hurting. I learned that God’s grace and love was there and yes even a joy in a way- but I hurt and I was ok with that and i knew God was ok with that, too. I know that stuff is out there- I really do. I have been exposed to it- I usually ignore it.
    I had my share of tantrums through it – I told God it wasn’t fair on more than one occasion- God loved me through it and I learned to not say that as much b/c I learned how much God loved me. I did come to a point where I could be ok if God chose to not give me children. I was much more peaceful at that point. I don’t know what you would call that- surrender? But it didn’t’ earn me my son and I don’t have any allusions that it was a perfect surrender or that if I hadn’t my son wouldn’t have come along. He was God’s plan for us all along.
    Which brings me to another question- what if God hadn’t answered my prayer for a child? What then? Ok- so we both agree perfect surrender isn’t going to happen much less get you what you want- anything we get was never b/c we deserve it. But I am going to be much happier- if I see God as God and trust that He only does what is best for me instead of fighting a circumstance i can’t change and God isn’t’ choosing to. Of course His love for me is the same whether I am ok with it or not, And I am not referring to being sad- I hope I have established enough that I don’t think that is a sin.

  13. “Surrender” does have a military “takeover” connotation. Even the way you’re using it. That we need to sublimate ourselves in God. That it’s God v. me/you. It’s *never* like that in the family of God. Never, ever, ever. God never opposes *us*. Jim Berg says that “There’s a very clone of Satan’s own nature [within the believer] and it violently opposes God.” That is completely untrue. Totally. It borders on blasphemy.

    The biggest difference between surrender used outside fundamentalism and surrender used inside fundamentalism is that outside they admit that our moralism — our clinging to human rules over and above Scripture — must be discarded. Inside fundamentalism that is *never* surrendered, but clung to with a death grip.

    I don’t think we’ve had different experiences in fundamentalism at all, Stacy. I think you see yours as positive still, and I’ve seen the damage it causes. That’s the only difference. And that’s okay. Really. I wouldn’t have stayed in it for so long if it didn’t have some positives too. I just think now that there’s a better way. And that’s okay too.

  14. Thanks for talking back and forth with me. . I don’t think God opposes me. That part has me confused. I do know things happen that God could change and doesn’t or things don’t happen that God could do and doesn’t. I don’t think He is opposing me in that. He is my Father- I dont’ doubt that. I do think it is from a Sovereign God. What do you think our response should be when that happens? I mean how are we suppose to handle things that don’t seem “good” at all and really aren’t good and reconcile that with verses that say “all things work together for good” and to give thanks in everything and “to count it all joy”.
    I suppose you are right that I still see positives. I think I see the positives more in the people than the system. That is where the positives lie for me. I see the negatives far more than you think I do.

  15. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” is a big question. A big one.

    Some say that God causes them. That God does/brings/causes “hard” thing to happen.

    I don’t think that’s what the book of Job shows us though. God *allows* bad things to happen for reasons I’ll never understand. And then He redeems them and makes them into something beautiful.

  16. I absolutely agree with that!
    Let me just say one more thing b/c i wasn’t clear in my question.
    I was thinking after I wrote that about my son. I ask “hard” things of my son- at least to him:). I ask him to go to bed, take a nap, stop playing and go potty so he won’t have an accident, eat good food before dessert. I mean those are all good things- I am not opposing him at all. I am on his side!! He doesn’t always see it that way. He doesn’t want to sleep, he doesn’t want to stop playing to go potty, and delaying that cookie until after his supper seems so mean sometimes. He has a choice. When he chooses to obey – I would say he submits what he wants to what i want. Of course I am doing what’s best for him- at least I try;) It is a win- win when he does that. I guess that is how i see submission with God. He wants what best- I can kick and scream or I can realize that God only ever does what is good and best for me. My kicking and screaming doesn’t change God’s love for me anymore than I stop loving my son when he has a tantrum. What does change is how I experience what is happening.
    I am not sure if you would agree with that. I do think that is where I am landing in my musings about this, though. Thanks again for the back and forth!

  17. I understand that. And it is a lot like a little guy and his mom! 🙂 I would frame it a little differently, but basically we agree. I mean, I don’t know how much we can get a pre-schooler to *obey*, but we do force him to comply. Maybe the difference is not there as much as I think it is. But I think we grow into obedience as someone who legitimately chooses to say, “No, I’m going to _____ because God wants me to.” Whereas my 3yo must be forced, at times, to pick up his toys. He does. This may be something hard to communicate here in this medium because it gets in the way. But I do see a difference between compliance and obedience in a toddler.

    As for how God deals with me — forcing me or letting me experience the natural consequences of my stupidity/sin — I see both. 😀

  18. I have to say that whenever the need to surrender is invoked I cringe as well. I can’t find a good practical definition of what that really means; it is always cloaked in mystical or vague language. Sorry, I don’t see Van Vonderen’s material helpful either buy bringing in “Spiritual Co-dependence” as some disease and then offering 12 Step recovery (which has deep roots in Keswick type theology) as the cure. I think our growing in faith requires our active effort and sometimes struggle not more passivity or quietism. Adopting labels like “Spiritual Co-dependence” means we become more powerless over our circumstances and then having to just surrender means we never move to a place in our selves where we feel empowered to live our lives and as in the cases Van Vonderen describes put boundaries in place to reduce the effect of others abuse of ourselves. That’s my take on it; of course I could be missing the point entirely! I have really appreciated your blog. Thanks for being so honest.

  19. Hey Camille,
    If I don’t get off this blog I’ll ‘never’ get to bed! I just had to say this. SURRENDER TO WHAT!!!! Don’t give in to SIN! I’m too d— tired to sin! Today I responded to an incredible article re BJU type reflections about fundamentalism experiences, article on DYING TO LIVE site. HE posted my full response. I said something like this. If we can’t have our own opinions, if we can’t express them, if we can’t be ‘us’, who God made us to be, if we can’t even communicate the way we were created to communicate with others, and be the person God created us to be, WHY BOTHER GETTING UP IN THE MORNING????!!! Rise and shine people! You have rights and freedoms. Be yourself. BE human. And LIVE!!! I Remember MAME my favorite movie. “Life is a banquet, and most people are STARVING.” Isn’t it fun to be human and think?!!! I’ve got the giggles and I have to get some sleep. your web site is intoxicating me with joy. Maybe you should get a drinking license! Peace, Barbara.

    1. 😀 Barbara! Thank you so much for all your kind comments. Really. Really, really. It helps to know that God’s got us all in His arms. Even in the way He brings us together in this cyber-friendship.

      God bless!

      1. Just re read this amazing thread. Your respectful acceptance of those who are working these kinds of really gutsy things ‘out’ in their own lives, is so special! I think God kind of gives us a compliment, as to His seeing us as ‘trustworthy persons’, when people share their hearts with us,as your bloggers share ‘their’s’ with you and Grant too. I am always blessed when Grant comes on board with his graceful comments too. I agree with what one blogger appreciates about you both, your ‘honesty’. I think real honesty, in today’s culture, age and society, is something of ‘a breath of fresh air.’ There seems to be too little of it, honesty, that’s ‘real’ anymore. The subject of ‘surrender’, and whatever it means, is such a deeply ‘relational term, what I call ‘relational language’, that, I believe the use of it, as in telling anyone what to do, should ‘never’ come ‘from’ another believer, nor a authority figure leader. Unless, such a believer or leader is truly working the reality of this, out in their own lives, they shuld not make suggestions to others about surrendering. Without their being truly honest about it, whatever they try to say will be unhelpful, and even negatively manipulative. It’s like the preacher or the believer trying to tell a story that has not yet become a reality in their own life yet. When they ‘don’t’ acknowledge that they are still working this out, themselves, because they don’t really ‘get it’ themselves yet, and they won’t admit it, they don’t, won’t, can’t even tell themselves the truth about this. It’s like someone trying to ‘give’ or ‘dish out’ a five dollar bill’ to someone else ( the bill representing something good, valuable, needed by another, who, by the way ‘hasn’t’ asked for it anyway!!!! ), and the person ‘trying’ to give out that 5 dollar bill, actually DOES’NT HAVE ONE’ to give out in the first place. It’s an example of someone trying to give away that which they do not have. Maybe this ego trap of trying to understand God, by hanging onto intellectualized mental concepts,of important things like, surrender, obedience, submission, even authority,is what leads some of these believers down the garden path, of, know-it-all-ism!Believers who think they know it all, really don’t have much to give out that’s worth listening to.I could tell you stories of friends that I have loved as brothers and sisters, that I simply could not listen to or fellowship with anymore. They had become such bores. In the end, as I parted company with them, i always found God so much more interesting, and His inspired scriptures so much more inspiring. I loved these former friends. I forgave them. But,I learned that God loves ‘me’ too! Christians who have this egotistical disease of ‘know-it-all-ism’ have words, words, words, but ‘no substance’. I think some believers like to spout words, because they’ve become rather satisfied with their own opinions, and they are self-deceived with a false sense of their own importance. They like the sound of their own voice. Believers who really don’t know ‘who they are’, going around trying to tell ‘others’ how to be! Ridiculous. I remember a dear minister of mine, now in Heaven, teaching how, a woman who would always have to leave a meeting, whenever the theme of obedience would come up in the talk. There was so much pain in her life, from being hurt by a wrong kind of treatment with regards to obedience, both from primary care givers and from authority figures in the church, that her only way of coping with that pain was to simply leave the talk. It wasn’t rebellion! It was emotional pain! I personally believe that relationship decisions, lay entirely within ‘our’ personal and private jurisdiction, as adults. People ‘telling’ us, to do something with God, I think is a total’no-no.’ God wants to teach us. And He lets us learn from our own mistakes. God ‘Himself’ wants to lead us, to empower us, so that we ourselves,can ‘make’ our ‘own’ decisions. And God doesn’t give anyone the authority to ‘set themselves up’ in any way over our lives, as self assumed ‘higher powers’ over us, as if they had a right to dethrone God in our lives, deny our own free will, and arrogantly assume a spiritual governorship of our spiritual lives. A man, a leader, tried to pull that ‘surrender’ judgement, on my husband two years ago! that my husband was resisting christ!’ It was a snap, false and totally unfair judgement of my man. The matter my husband had brought to this leader’s attention was a problem worthy of careful attention. The man ignored the problem. And now, two years later, the problem is much worse. It’s really a negative pronouncement, to tell someone that they’re not doing this or that right! It’s back to the dishing out the false guilt to control people. If believers could take seriously the Lord’s command to self-control, self-discipline,our own lives,stop assuming the false role of trying to do this to others, and would take the personal responsibility, of denying the selfishness of ones fleshly impulses, and BIG MOUTH, flappy yappy tongues, and ‘think’ before they speak, they ‘might’ take the time and energy,to resist the temptation of judging others. I won’t even let the people on this church’s renewal prayer team in the community where the problems are, pray over me personally, anymore. When there is a Healing Mass in a nother parish, I go to a prayer team from ‘outside’ the parish. And I have asked my husband to decline letting any of the problem people pray over him. Because their prayers are not helpful, healing, or life giving. And more than one of them, have been judging my man. On the Holy Spirit weekend, a judgemental prayer person,praying for my husband, started making a ‘preachy statement’ to God during his so called prayer,about his relationship with my man… “Oh God, you know Paul and I dont agree on everything” and as a result, my man received absolutely nothing from God. The so called ‘prayer time’ was a complete waste of my husband’s time! Believe me, the power of God’s spirit in self-control,in my personal life, has been a most treasured gift that I could not live without! Velcro lips! Now, two years later, after not heeding the warning, that some things were not being handled in a right way, now there is a much bigger problem to deal with. And this other man leader is going to be faced with a very serious challenge. Paul and I are on the front lines with this matter, protecting other leaders’ identities, who also know something needs to be done, so they won’t be hurt. But after plan A, B, and C fail, if they do, it’s straight to the head pastor. And he just may decide to shut the entire lay community right down. One person was so badly hurt, by a misguded prayer team person, that she actually left the church! One person being hurt or harmed in the church, is always one person too many, as far as I’m concerned. This concept of surrender in the christian life, is so important, to be properly understood, that really one needs to ‘look behind the lines’ behind the words, and even the rhetoric, of what people are saying, when they are trying to help or control people, by ‘telling them what to do.’ Basically, it’s about control and false guilt, when suggestions subtle or not so subtle, to surrender are coming ‘from man’ and ‘not’ coming from the Holy Spirit but from a religious spirit controlling man. There’s so much negative projection of people’s own personal failures and frustrations, when people are telling other people this, that, or the other, ie that they should surrender!!! It’s also about this false message of ‘performance based religion.’ That it’s about ‘what you have to be doing, doing doing’ rather than about ‘who you are’ as a person,and ‘being’ that special person God created you to be. “His commandments are not grievous.’ I enjoy this cyber friendship too. I am so grateful to God for bringing me together with such wonderful people on this blog, especially you and Grant!! I think if we ever met personally, we would probably get along like a house on fire. A good fire I mean. Imagine the two of us sharing a pulpit! Why, we might even turn the entire place upside down! And yes, I totally agree! We are all in His arms regardless of who says we are or aren’t. God always has the last word. And I really love his Word.

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