Thinking Out Loud

May 28, 2019

On Issuing a “Farewell” to Those With Whom You Disagree

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:32 am

There’s a classic Negro spiritual, In That Great Gettin’ Up Morning. My parents owned a copy of the song covered by a group of white guys (not the version by the Gaither Vocal Band) and for some reason it got lodged in my brain Sunday morning while getting ready to leave for worship.

The song urges the listener to do what they can now in order to “fare well” at the sound of the trumpet ushering in the judgement of God. The chorus lyric (which is common to the GVB version) is “In that great gettin-up morning, fare thee well, fare thee well…”

At the same moment, my brain flashed back to the now iconic statement by John Piper to Rob Bell, “Farewell, Rob Bell;.” Piper’s pronouncement that Bell had officially left the fold of Evangelicalism (something Bell might agree with) and more importantly, left the fold of saved believers (something God might have told Piper that he didn’t tell everyone else.)

Piper’s statement was totally dismissive. It was the type of thing you say (more positively) to someone you don’t expect to see again; perhaps even someone who has died; but the context carried with it the tone of, “Get out of my life;” or “I never want to see you again.”

Despite this, the words themselves are actually a blessing. ‘Farewell’ is clearly a shortened ‘fare thee well,’ as vocabulary.com notes: “A farewell is also an expression of good wishes at a parting. If you’re leaving a job after being there a long time, your co-workers might throw you a farewell party.”

When someone in our lives announces that they are embarking on a bizarre career path or making an ill-advised investment, we might say, “Well…good luck with that.” We’re being equally dismissive, but the words themselves at least have a positive ring.

So are we really wishing the person the best of luck? Probably not insofar as it connects with the issue at the center of the interjection.

Nearly a year later, Christianity Today pressed Bell for a response to the many reactions his Tweet brought:

…my issue there was not primarily his view of hell. It was his cynicism concerning the Cross of Jesus Christ as a place where the Father atoned for the sins of his children and dealt with his own wrath by punishing me in his son. Rob Bell does not admire that. He doesn’t view the Cross that way, as a penal substitution. I consider that the essence of the Cross and my salvation, and the heart of God for me, and that ticked me off royally. I didn’t say all that, so probably everybody thought “Farewell Rob Bell” was kind of like “I don’t like his view of hell, so there.” Well, I don’t like John Stott’s view of hell either, and I never said anything about John Stott. I kept learning from John Stott. I would have sat at John Stott’s feet until the day he died.

In another article which responded to Piper, Justin Taylor wrote that, “it is better for those teaching false doctrine to put their cards on the table (a la Brian McLaren) rather than remaining studiously ambiguous in terminology.”  

Was it right for Piper to condemn Bell? He certainly wasn’t alone, but there was such an unbelievable degree of snark in the remark (that rhymes!) that it is now part of Piper’s legacy, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing…

…Seven years later, in March 2018, Piper’s remark was not forgotten:


I tried to locate a version of the song which comes close to remember, but this is the best I could find.

 

June 8, 2013

David and Jonathan Weren’t Gay

In the Bible we see a number of special friendship relationships between men. Jesus and John the Apostle are frequently mentioned, but probably even more so is the friendship between David and Jonathan.  J. Lee Grady addressed this a few days ago. I was going to run this as a link in a weekend link list, but there were a few things that would have appeared in that list that really need to be seen by a larger audience than normally would click through. Still, if you want to read this at source, click through to Lee’s Charisma blog, Fire in My Bones where this appeared as How I Know David and Jonathan Weren’t Gay. Also, before some of you get itchy to make a comment, please remember this is about Bible interpretation more than it is about a particular social issue. Also if you want a comment to be seen by the author, click through to the source blog.

Some “theologians” today are perverting Bible stories to promote their agenda. We can’t let them hijack the gospel.

A few weeks ago when I addressed the topic of homosexuality, a reader posted a comment on our forum suggesting that the biblical King David and his friend Jonathan were gay lovers. After a few other readers questioned this interpretation, another reader repeated the claim. “The Bible is clear that David and Jonathan were physical, sexual, gay male homosexual lovers,” this person wrote authoritatively—without citing a chapter and verse.

Most evangelical Christians would drop their jaws in bewilderment if confronted with such an odd theory. Even people with minimal knowledge of the Old Testament know that (1) David was married to Jonathan’s sister, Michal—and he had a few other wives, and (2) David’s biggest blunder was his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba—a woman he saw bathing on a rooftop. God was not happy about David’s lust or with his decision to have Bathsheba’s husband killed so he could hide his sin.

It is illogical to read homosexuality into the story of David and Jonathan because neither Jewish nor early Christian tradition ever endorses sex outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage. If you read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, you will never see a depiction of a gay relationship, ever. Nor will you see homosexuality affirmed. You cannot get around the fact that the Bible says gay sex is flat-out wrong.

But that doesn’t mean people won’t try to change the meaning of Scripture. “Theologians” from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds have written books claiming that various Bible characters were gay. They have suggested that Ruth and Naomi were lesbian lovers; that the Roman centurion in Matthew 8 had a gay relationship with his servant; and that the disciple John had a homoerotic relationship with Jesus.

Gay-affirming theologians also have pounced on the story of David and Jonathan. They point to David’s words in 2 Samuel 1:26 when he eulogized Jonathan and Saul: “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; you have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful than the love of women” (NASB).

So how do we interpret this verse? We need to keep these points in mind:

1. Old Testament morality has not changed. Our culture today is redefining sexuality. We’ve made killing babies a right, we celebrate fornication and we’re on a mad dash to legitimize gay marriage. But with all the bending, twisting and legal redefining, we cannot change what was written in the Bible thousands of years ago. It’s silly to make the Bible imply something it never said. And it’s laughable to suggest that David, the author of many of the psalms—and the biblical figure who best represents a true worshipper of the one true God—would be recast as being in a gay relationship.

Conservative Jews in our country agree. The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the nation’s largest body of Orthodox Jews, recently reaffirmed their commitment to Old Testament morality. The RCA recently stated, “The Torah and Jewish tradition, in the clearest of terms, prohibit the practice of homosexuality. Same-sex unions are against both the letter and the spirit of Jewish law, which sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.” Jewish priests in the time of David and Jonathan held the same view.

2. David and Jonathan had a model friendship. Scripture says Jonathan loved David “as himself” (1 Sam. 18:3). Jonathan’s love was selfless and heroic. Even though he was in line to be the next king of Israel, he recognized David would step into that role—and Jonathan not only celebrated his friend as the rightful king but also protected him from his father’s spear-throwing tantrums.

Jonathan’s love was not lust. It was the ultimate in sacrifice. He laid down his rights so his friend could be promoted. He opposed his father’s self-willed ambition and instead affirmed that David should be the true king. Jonathan showed us all how to be a true friend. David’s comment that his friend’s love was “more wonderful than the love of women” was not sexual; he was praising Jonathan’s loyalty and brotherly devotion.

3. We should encourage healthy male friendships instead of sexualizing them. In our fatherless culture, men are starved for affirmation and encouragement. God wired men to need close friends, but few of us are willing to build those kinds of relationships because of insecurity, inferiority or pride. Many guys are lonely, isolated and afraid to admit they need help. Some may even struggle with sexual confusion, yet they could find healing through a combination of the Holy Spirit’s power and healthy male bonding. The church today should do everything possible to encourage male friendships.

It is incredibly perverse—not to mention blasphemous—to suggest that anything sexual was going on between David and Jonathan. Yet I suspect that leaders in the gay-affirming church movement will continue to come up with more bizarre examples of Scripture-twisting in order to promote their agenda. We can’t allow them to hijack the purity of the gospel.


J. Lee Grady is the former editor of Charisma and the director of the Mordecai Project (themordecaiproject.org). You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other books.

April 13, 2011

Wednesday Link List


  • Was going to link the above video, but decided it really needed to be here on its own.
  • Kathy Escobar gets invited to speak at a graduation by someone who wants to inspire the students by pushing the envelope; but then, when word is out that a woman pastor has been asked to speak, she gets un-invited.
  • It turns out Bethany Hamilton’s family had a tough fight with the film directors to keep the faith element visible in the movie Soul Surfer.  But the CNN article notes that removing the faith element would have killed the film entirely.
  • Rick Kirkpatrick launched a new site Worship Mythbusters which introduces an audio podcast — there are six so far — for worship leaders (and others) which runs about a half hour.  (We listened to episode three.)
  • “He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…”  Most of us know this passage in Philippians well, and have assumed it to be an early church hymn, but Gordon Fee suggests it doesn’t fit an established pattern.
  • Mark Batterson figured the next phase for D.C.’s National Community Church would involve 3 to 4 years.  Then God said, “How about 3 to 4 weeks?”  The church is purchasing an existing church building on a Capitol Hill main street.
  • XXXChurch founder Craig Gross reminds us again what we’ve been hearing for a few years now: Addiction to adult content online is increasingly a problem for women.
  • Darrell at Stuff Fundies Like reviews last Friday night’s 20/20 program at ABC Television dealing with the IFB Church, or Independent Fundamentalist Baptists.  Speaking of which…
  • A young girl was allegedly removed from a Mennonite home where parents were following the book Train Up A Child by Michael and Debi Pearl, but because this child didn’t die, it didn’t get media attention.
  • David Fitch argues for a different type of church leader, with a half dozen descriptions of what that leader is, and what he or she isn’t.
  • My goodness!  There really is a typo in the climactic final line of Rob Bell’s Love Wins. Guess it happens to the best of them, right?
  • Bob Glenn acknowledges the WWJD type of thinking is harmful as it reduces Christian living to a slogan.
  • It’s time again for Kent Shaffer’s list of the top 200 Christian blogs.  And once again, I am quite sure, this blog was # 201!!
  • Rachel Held Evans quotes her own book with a disturbing suggestion that in advancing apologetics, we created a monster.
  • If you remember the humor and satire blog, Tom in the Box, you might want to know that it has somewhat resurfaced as The Heretic Mug Collection.
  • And Jason Boyett has mellowed out a little at his new home at Beliefnet. Check out his series of interviews on different types of “conversion” experiences.
  • On February 25th, Jim Lehmer decided that social media is about to collapse, and he hasn’t blogged since.  Obviously getting ready for what he calls, “the great un-friending.’
  • Is it just me or does pastor Steven Furtick’s blog render completely differently in Firefox than it does in Chrome?
  • To wrap up this week… If you’re the parent of a tween, you already know who Rebecca Black is, and the song that what follows below is a well-done parody of… (I think they actually improved the song!)

August 25, 2010

Wednesday Link List

I was scrolling back through previous link lists, and I do miss the more creative titles.  I’d forgotten about “(B)link and You’ll Miss It.”   That was gold.   I’m available for copywriting your next brochure, and for children’s birthday parties.

  • Our upper and lower cartoons this week are from a source I only recently discovered.   Steve Wall is a Canadian living in British Columbia and his comic series is titled Trees of the Field.
  • Continuing our Canadian theme, this week CNN’s belief blog picked up on a self-published book by Calgary pastor of New Hope Church, John Van Sloten with the creative title The Day Metallica Came to Church. Also tracked down more information on his church website.
  • One more item of Canadian interest:  This week — nearly four months later — Christianity Today picked up on the Christians Horizons case involving lifestyle requirements for employees.   [You can read my version here,  as well as my original 2008 report.]
  • Take the scenes from the family-friendly movie Mary Poppins and re-edit them so it looks like a horror film.   Then, take the faux-movie-trailer and use it as an analogy for how some people re-edit Christianity to suit their purposes.   Check out this article by Dan Kimball.    [HT: Scott Shirley]
  • There’s much talk these days about “earning the right to be heard,” and needing to get to know someone before you can “speak into their life.”  But Dan Phillips contends that if he meets someone who is not a follower of Christ, there are fifteen things he already knows about them.
  • Here’s a t-shirt design (at right) I found on a tumblr blog, Churchy Design.   The shirt, of course, is called King of Kings.
  • OK.  I know some of you want to dig into something a little lengthier.  Here’s a piece from Catholic World Report on the implications of the current shortage of organs for organ transplantation.   It involves biomedical ethics, including our definition of death.
  • In another longer piece, Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk traces the life journey of the pioneer of the blended worship concept aka Ancient-Future worship, Robert Webber.
  • For most readers of this blog, the phrase “Prodigal God” refers to a book by Tim Keller.   But it’s also the name of a musical by Brian Doerksen featuring guests including Ron Kenoly and Colin Janz.   Find out more about the double-CD releasing October 12th, and enjoy listening to a preview of five songs.
  • A Sunday School teacher walks into a Christian bookstore looking to buy some novelty items like pencils or stickers for her young class.   But the clerk suggests that’s not what they need.
  • Theology professor Roger Olsen says that for his students — not to mention other theologians — the issue of Biblical inerrancy is as much a stumbling block as anything else.  He prefers to use a different word that’s close, but better suited.
  • Darrin Patrick calls them “bans.”  Neither boys nor men.   They play a lot of video games and watch a lot of pornography.   Their need to learn how to be men is, in his terms, a cultural crisis.   Read more at Resurgence.   [HT: Dwight Wagner]
  • Darryl Dash provides a pastor’s perspective on visiting other churches while on sabbatical.   Only this time they embedded themselves as a family in a single church-home-away-from-home.
  • Darryl also had a link in his weekly Saturday list this week to Justin Taylor’s piece which is an “interview” with the Apostle Paul to try to bring a different form to Paul’s discussion of the law in Romans 7.
  • Simon Sweetman takes the proverbial discussion of “Christian” music as a genre to the streets with a blog post at the award-winning New Zealand news site, Stuff.nz.
  • Here’s that other comic from Trees of the Field (click on either image to link) …That’s it for this week; today marks only 4 months to Christmas, so I’m off to do my shopping!

May 10, 2009

The Blue Parakeet: Why We Read The Bible Selectively

“Waterslides are long and wide and curvy and have wonderfully banked sides.   Water runs down the water slide freely and abundantly to increase the speed of the slider.  What we might not observe is that everything about a trip down the slide and into the pool of water at the bottom is  determined by slide itself; even more important for our safety, where we land is shaped by the slide.   Without banked, steep sides, we would fly off the slide and … well, we’d get hurt

“Reading the Bible with our wise mentors is like sliding down a waterslide.   The gospel is the slide; the Bible is one wall, our teachers and our traditions the other wall, and the water is the Holy Spirit.   The pool at the bottom of our slide is our world.   If we stay on the slide and inside the walls as we slide down, we will land in our own water world.   If we knock down the walls of the slide or get too careless, we can tumble out of the safety of that slide and injure ourselves.

“However, observe this: our life is lived in the pool.   So here’s my point:  God asks us to listen — attention, absorption, and action — the the gospel story and to read the Bible with our wise mentors who have gone before us; if we do, we will land in the pool in our day and in our way.”

~Scot McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read The Bible

blue parakeetScot McKnight takes readers on a wild wide through the forest of Biblical hermeneutics, though he never actually uses the term.   It’s a forest of Eikons and wiki-stories and blue parakeets, though don’t panic if you don’t have a clue what that means.

In simpler terms, McKnight, who teaches religious studies at Chicago’s North Park University,  looks at familiar Bible passage containing rather vivid commands for believers, and dares to ask why we continue to this day to follow some of those rules but not others.   Insofar as it addresses that issue, the book does a great job point out what must seem — to new believers at least — a great deal of inconsistency.

mcknight1But if you’re expecting the book to explain why we do this, I’m not sure we’re any clearer at the end than we were at the beginning.   Presumably, certain historic and cultural background information has been brought to bear, as it has in McKnight’s test case, the role of women in ministry.

Ah…that topic!   For anyone wishing some ammunition to support a more progressive view on this topic, its selection as the book’s test case is a nice payoff.   I’m sure that McKnight already has female readers thanking him for those chapters, which occupy a good percentage of the title as a whole.   But you can’t expect a few short chapters to accomplish what you get in more formal debates on the subject, such as the 2005 title in the Counterpoints series, Two Views on Women in Ministry, also published by Zondervan.

Which brings me to conclude that The Blue Parakeet is very much Theology 101; a primer for the younger Christ-follower who wants to step beyond the world of basic doctrine into something more issue-oriented, but doesn’t want a hardcover textbook on higher criticism.    Still, if that’s the intended market, this book may raise more questions than it answers.    Delineating the challenges of interpretation is one thing; giving people the tools to resolve conflicts is something else altogether.

For more seasoned Christ-followers, there is a sense in which this book curses the darkness more than it lights a candle.   There’s also a fair amount of repetition between sections.  McKnight makes it clear what he thinks about certain passages, but I’m not sure the book helps me more clearly focus on the hows and whys that determine what I should think when I read a difficult or culturally-attached passage.

Scot McKnight blogs at The Jesus Creed.



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