Monday, May 3, 2010

Sacrificing God on the Altar of Culture

I just stumbled across a particularly graphic example of one of the worse trends that came out of the emergent movement in a post from about a year and a half ago. I'll let the blogger speak for himself, then offer some comments. The author is writing on the topic of homosexuality and our response as Christians. I'm not even touching that one here; there is a much bigger issue at stake. I recommend you read the whole thing; the parts that caught my attention follow:

But presenting a coherent biblical argument for why homosexuality is not a sin and why our gay brothers and sisters should be fully welcomed into all areas of the church and ministry is not my point here. I think many people have done just that (Jack Rogers and Stacy Johnson come to mind), but they are easily dismissed by many because they apparently don’t have a “high enough view of scripture.”

Well – if that’s the problem – then I say, “Enough with the Bible already!”


If it is truly the Bible that is causing some to hold these discriminatory beliefs, then perhaps we need to set the Bible aside for awhile. Perhaps we need to not construct a belief system about LGBT folk built on the foundation of a couple verses in scripture. Perhaps that isn’t healthy, fair, just or Christian.

For some, I believe the Bible has become an idol. Some place the Bible above Jesus’ compassion and love, Jesus’ radical inclusivity, and hold steadfast onto what they believe to be the correct interpretation of a small amount of verses that speak about same-sex relations. To those who repeatedly start quoting Leviticus and Romans verses as soon as anyone brings up the topic of homosexuality, I’d suggest perhaps you stick your Bible back up on the shelf for awhile. Perhaps it should collect a little bit of dust. And maybe, just maybe, you need to go out and grab coffee with someone who’s gay. Maybe you need to hear their story, learn about what they’ve been through, how they’ve experienced Christians and the church.

That sounds really nice, in some ways. Let's ignore a couple of verses that are somewhat controversial these days, and just live out Jesus' example of radical love, right down to inviting people into the kingdom who are rejected by society, religious and otherwise. He has a point, too: there are a lot of people who love their theology, their knowledge, their rightness over Christ. They've made an idol out of the Bible. Many Christians should just go hang out with some gay people and remember that they're people, just like you. There's just one huge problem with the whole argument, though.

If you do what he says—if you put your Bible up on the shelf and let it collect some dust, say "Enough with the Bible already!"—then who is this Jesus you're professing to follow? He's a mystery. Jesus is the point, of course, not simply knowledge. Eternal life is not the recitation of a few rote facts; it is not being straight; it is not paying your taxes or fulfilling the law of God as well as you can. Eternal life is knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ whom he sent, and we know them through the Holy Spirit they sent (John 17:3). But we do not have any knowledge of Christ apart from that Bible that we just put up on a shelf to collect some dust.

God has chosen to reveal himself through Scripture—not through our mystical experiences, our beliefs, our culture, or our circumstances. We do not get to pick and choose what it means to walk with God. This is how we know that we love God: we keep his commandments (1 John 5:3). If we say we know him and do not keep his commandments, we are liars (1 John 2:4). But how do we know his commandments apart from his telling us? We can't! Where has he told us what he requires of us? Scripture!

Setting aside for the whole issue of homosexuality, we must recognize that we have no ground to stand on at all apart from Scripture. We do not, cannot, know Christ if we put his word on our shelf, to be ignored until we feel comfortable in our culture. The idea is ludicrous: if I suggested that the best way to show that I really understand my wife and want to demonstrate my love for her is to stop listening to her until I have it figured out for myself, everyone would rightly call me a fool. Is that not the suggestion being offered, though?

We know God because he has revealed himself to us. Let us be humble enough to recognize that we have no wisdom of our own, and thus to never dare to set aside his word. And yes, let us go build relationships with nonChristians of every kind, including gay people. Let us love them with the love of Christ—but let us let God tell us who he is and how he would have us live, not the changing winds of culture.

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