In Acts chapter ten, Peter has a vision of many types of animals that the Jews considered unclean.
13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
You can read the whole chapter here.
The purpose of this story is to show that God is about to usher in something entirely new, what theologians might call ‘a new dispensation,’ or specifically ‘the Church age,’ or a time of transition from law to grace, from First Testament to Second Testament.
Adam Hamilton invokes this passage in his book When Christians Get It Wrong. The book was first issued in 2010 by Abingdon Press. Book and music publishers often talk about “throwing it against the wall and seeing if it sticks.” This book didn’t stick the first time, despite the popularity of Hamilton — who we profiled here the same year — as an author and conference speaker. So it’s back again with a new cover.
On page 83 of the new edition, we read Hamilton’s take:
Along the way Peter had an epiphany. He suddenly understood: The rules are changing! … So even Peter, who spent three years with Jesus himself, struggled with the Bible and with a God who seemed to be saying that what was written in the Scripture and what the people had interpreted might not actually be God’s will.
That’s the takeaway. The rules are changing. He says this in a chapter devoted to the Church’s response to homosexuality as one of the things we’ve gotten wrong. Now, you’re not going to read many Evangelical Christian blogs that are as compassionate toward the gay issue as this one. Yes, this is an issue that the capital “C” Church has messed up and that some among our numbers are continuing to mess up. I agree with the core premise of Hamilton’s book, and its attempt to find some way to let a broader population know that we know we’ve dropped the ball on some issues.
I always tell people that apologetics doesn’t mean anybody is apologizing for anything, but in this case, someone is apologizing.
So Hamilton takes a view of science that is pro-Evolution theory; a view of world religions that leans toward inclusivism; a view of human tragedy and suffering that detaches God from such breaking news stories and somewhat absolves Him; and a view of homosexuality that emphasizes the need to love everyone.
To repeat, there is some wisdom in trying to meet people on level ground; to have discourse without being adversarial; to be seeker-friendly instead of seeker-hostile. I have had so many views challenged over the past few years — heaven, the rapture, women in ministry, etc. — and I’ve been so thankful that I wrote my doctrines and beliefs on these secondary issues in pencil and not indelible ink.
But where I part company with this book is where he forces the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10 to speak something into situations it was never designed to address. It panders to the postmodern mindset that truth is relative and that doctrines are “subject to change without notice.” So yes, the last few years have seen accelerating change in the Church on various issues, but this is not to imply that God is ushering in a new dispensation today.
Peter’s vision is a microcosm of the “before / after” transition that begins at the cross of Calvary. A new era has begun. This is where the Jewish story that we call The Old Testament is about to open up into a new act that introduces a much larger cast. It’s not a blanket verse that allows for what was inappropriate yesterday to be acceptable today. I didn’t get that memo. Are we all gay now?
In other words, while I might agree with some elements of Adam Hamilton’s approach and be more gay-friendly to his conclusion than you might think; I don’t believe you have to twist scripture to get there. Just state your opinion and tell your stories.
But that’s not the real reason I don’t like this book. I just think that at (barely) 114 digest-sized pages, it’s a rip-off at $14.99 US. And if it didn’t perform the first time, maybe there was a reason.