It was welcome back to Britain with a bang today…..lots of things to catch up on and then a most distressing and disturbing conversation on Facebook. I share one part of it with you because to me it profoundly illustrates why the church in the UK (and probably the US) is in so much trouble…and I mean the evangelical church.
On the one hand we do have the legalists and moralists – and that is an ever-present danger – but in reaction to that we often end up with the opposite extreme – a form of evangelical liberalism which, whilst it retains all the right language about God and the Gospel, actually ends up with a different God and a different Gospel – which is, as Paul says, really no Gospel at all.
A friend posted a comment about Transgender which declared his frustration and disappointment as a Christian at people who condemned people who are not cisgender. The question of course is loaded – largely with pre-suppositions which reflect the culture – and needs to be deconstructed before it can be answered (much like the ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’ question). From a biblical perspective no-one is condemned because they are not cisgender…we are condemned (all of us) because we are sinners against God.
But the question presupposes the values of Queer theory regarding gender fluidity which are directly opposed to both what the Bible says and what science tells us. It bothers me profoundly that so many Christians just buy into the zeitgeist of the culture. The responses were largely profoundly depressing….anyway who dared to question the pre-suppositions of the comment were accused of being unloving…and of course judgemental…and thus we get into the familiar cycle…if we dare to disagree with those who self-identify as ‘gracious and loving’ then of course we are ungracious and unloving. Much of what was said seems to be coming from a position of evangelical universalism and antinomianism. Because Jesus loves us we can live anyway we want and to ever question the way someone lives is to be unChristlike.
And then we come to the most depressing part. When you challenge the pre-suppositions and ask people how they know what they assert you would expect Christians to refer to the Bible. They often don’t. They refer to how they feel Jesus would act – the Jesus who never judged anyone and just accepted people as they are. When you point out that the Jesus who ‘never judged anyone\ spoke of the judgement to come, Hell, whitewashed tombs and told us not to cast our pearls before swine, then this is either dismissed, ignored or we are just simply told that the bible is wrong…and this from Christians! The key question then is how can we know?
Is the Bible the Word of God?
I think some people have to realise that the bible was written a long time ago, not by God itself but by flawed human beings, it is tainted by the views of outdated cultures and the needs of certain cultures to survive in harsh times. Us christians need to focus on the spirit and not the word of man and look at the bible in a more critical way to decipher what God is truly asking of us rather than blindly following the ideals human beings have injected into it. The bible contradicts itself so much that to pretend that every bit of it is the word of God and is to be followed is madness, we have to look at what science, psychology and community has told us over the years and decide for ourselves if we truly believe that an all loving God would wish to condemn anyone simply for being born a man in a woman’s body or a woman in a man’s body. All evidence points to gender being a spectrum rather than two opposing ideals, and if that’s a fact of the world God created then who are we to judge non cisgender people or to suggest that God would?
The following conversation ensued: (my comments are in bold…)
I’m curious. In what sense can someone be a Christian (follower of Christ) if they reject the Bible as the Word of God? ( by the way all the evidence does NOT point to gender being a spectrum).
God doesn’t have a pen, it’s not about rejecting the bible it’s about understanding that there are perfectly understandable and explainable human flaws within it, I don’t believe it was ever meant to be taken 100% literally
No one claimed God had a pen. But he did send his Spirit, who inspired the various authors to give us his word, which according to Jesus, cannot be broken. And no one is claiming that the Bible was meant to be taken 100% literally (whatever that means). The claim however is that the Bible is the Word of God, not the word of man as you stated…..the question is whether we follow the Jesus of the Bible, or just the one we make up according to our own likes and preferences.
I like this kid. I think you make some good points. David Andrew Robertson, I’m loathed to get into more debate on here. But I think it’s pretty reasonable to think that people who have different understandings of what the Bible is can still be Christians. B. seems to be supporting a view of divine inspiration but rejecting inerrancy. I think that’s unfair to say someone cannot be a true Jesus follower if they hold that view.
It’s a little bit more than rejecting inerrancy. ‘The Bible was not inspired by God….it is tainted by outdated cultures…it is the word of man not the word of God…..it is not clear and we have to decipher it in the light of our (superior and more enlightened?) culture….the bible contradicts itself so much as to make it ludicrous to believe it is the Word of God…..to follow the Bible is madness….’ This is what B is arguing for! Its a lot more than having different understandings of what the Bible is…how about we have the same understanding that Christ had?
It’s basically the argument of every atheist fundamentalist I have ever met. Despite all the talk of the “Spirit’ and Jesus I just simply have to ask which one? The Jesus of the Bible…or the Jesus we just make up according to our own culture and likes….?
What you’ve done is take what I’ve said and spin it into the most extreme version of itself, I obviously was not suggesting that to follow the bible is madness but to take it at face value and completely literally is. You can’t have a book that contradicts itself and say that every word of it comes from an omniscient, all loving being because that being would have a plan and knows what it’s doing, God isn’t some indecisive human and doesn’t make mistakes, people make mistakes and will take opportunities to promote what they feel is right or what the society of the time wants or needs. There are different translations and versions of the bible that would tell you different things, you have to think about how Jesus’ teachings relate to the modern-day and live your life according to that and to me, Jesus was all about love and against any form of discrimination. Also, it’s not like the bible is full to the brim with quotes against transgender people, it’s like a couple of lines that could be interpreted in that way, I think it’s reasonable to suggest perhaps those lines are a product of their time or of a human opinion without discrediting the whole bible.
Sorry B – I quoted what you said exactly. which statement didn’t you say? You have not said what you mean by completely literally….
I don’t agree that the bible contradicts itself. I have been studying the bible for over 40 years and have yet to come across a proven contradiction. Yet you say that there are so many and they are so obvious it negates the idea of the Bible as being the Word of God. Would you like to give some examples?
You are of course correct in saying that God does not make mistakes. Which is why when his word tells us something, and our culture contradicts it…I go with his word.
There are different translations but the original text in Hebrew and Greek is the same. It’s not too difficult to check.
“Jesus was all about love and against any form of discrimination”. Again how do you know that? Where do you get that information? From the bible? The bible that’s full of mistakes and contradictions? The bible that has Jesus warning us about judgement to come and tells us not to ‘cast your pearls before swine’….sounds quite discriminatory to me!
It’s always helpful if you don’t argue against what people are saying. No-one is saying that the bible is full of anti-transgender quotes. It does however teach clearly what humanity is.
As regards the latter comments you make, perhaps Augustine’s quote is apposite…” if you believe in the bible what you like, and leave out what you don’t like, it’s not the bible you believe, but yourself”
End of conversation. Except it wasn’t…Another key issue came up…
The Question of Interpretation.
I was linked with the ‘bible experts’, the Pharisees (in of course a loving and non-judgemental way!). It strikes me that some of our modern evangelical Christians would regard Christ as being unChristlike! When I tried to explain that I was trying to teach what the Bible says it was met with the standard response – ‘its just your interpretation’. Here we are faced with what happens when we deny the perspicuity of the Scriptures (that is the clarity) and replace it with the great Western heresies of individualism and feeling. We all get to make the bible mean what we want it to mean…therefore your claims are just that – your claims. The Bible is so unclear as to be meaningless.
It must take an awful lot of mental gymnastics to say you don’t have the monopoly on Biblical truth while also saying you teach what the Bible says! Suggesting no one else does, therefore you have the monopoly on Biblical truth
You see what trick is being played here (by the way I was also condemned for using the expression ‘you see’ – apparently it is enough to trigger not seeing!). If you say that you are teaching what the Bible teaches you are claiming a monopoly. I of course did not suggest that no–one else taught bible truth…nor do I suggest that I alone know bible truth, nor that I know all the bible truth (I am constantly being rebuked and corrected by God’s Word). In fact almost the opposite. I know so little. But I will stake my life on this. Gods Word is truth and I will proclaim it as such till the day I die. I won’t exchange its riches for the pottage of the current zeitgeist…
But what my accuser was saying here is more dangerous than the dishonest claims about myself and my statements. It is the implication that even if the Bible is inspired it is unclear. Individual interpretation is the best we can hope for – relying on ‘the Spirit’ (which usually means how I feel in the context of my culture). Therein lies anarchy, spiritual anemia and the death of the Church.
The New Evangelical Anti-Reformation
I found this so, so depressing. This was not Because I believe that in much of evangelical Christianity in the West today this is the standard position. ‘Did God really say?’ has always been the favourite trick of the devil. In todays post-modern ‘truth is what you want it to be, love is all you need’ culture, his old trick is proving as effective as it has ever done since it was first used in the Garden.
In this year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation we are faced with a clear and present danger – an anti-Reformation movement from within the evangelical church. Sola Scriptura is being turned on its head. Rather than the Scriptures being inspired by the Holy Spirit – we are. Rather then the Scriptures being clear they are confused and open to any individual interpretation. Rather than Scripture being our master, we are its. Rather than the Scriptures being the fullness of God’s revelation they are not sufficient. We need something more, something extra. Special teachers? Special feelings? New revelations? The insights of modern culture which is so much more enlightened than the Bible? This is where far too many of our Christian leaders, publishers and churches are going.
Thats why we must be determined to continue to face up to and challenge this ‘evangelical’ attack on the inspiration, perspicuity and sufficiency of the Scripture. Even if we are accused of being unloving Pharisees. To do anything else would be unloving and a betrayal of Christ. As someone once said…”Here I stand, I can do no other…so help me God”.