Thinking Out Loud

September 3, 2011

A Christianity Based on Condemnation

Yesterday’s second post here — about the Southern Baptists collective condemnation of a new Bible translation — was a reminder how some people are so quick to tell you what they don’t approve of. Criticism of other ministries, worship styles and individuals flows like the water at Niagara Falls. There are dozens of websites — like this one — that wouldn’t know how to write something encouraging or comforting or celebratory even if you offered the author large sums of money. No wonder that some well-intentioned pastors are frustrated by the Christian blogosphere and wish it were, well, like this:

Oh show me a home, where the buffalo roam
And the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

But an idyllic “home on the range” isn’t going to materialize anytime soon, as long as there are a gazillion things to nitpick about. The game being played works like this: If I put you down, I elevate myself. I am a better person if I can show everyone that you are severely flawed.

All this, even more so if I am standing for truth or preventing the dilution of core doctrine.

But really, it all comes across as a doctrine of hate. There’s no difference between many of these writers/pastors/spokespersons and the guy who pickets at funerals; name deliberately omitted.  It’s not attractive, and it’s not attracting anyone to God’s Kingdom.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  (Phil 4:8 NLT)

There is so much to celebrate. Each month, one blogger, Brad Lomenick notes the “Young Influencers” who are making a difference in ministry, music, media, sports, and other arenas of life. The rest of the tone of Brad’s blog is equally upbeat; it’s truly a breath of fresh air, especially when so many — and at times I fall into this as well — have “the gift of criticism.” In fact, I created Christianity 201 so that I’d have a place to stay Christ-focused and Bible-focused even as this blog sometimes delves into Christian news stories and current events.

Imagine the emptiness you might feel at the end of your life knowing you had dedicated yourself to be a guardian of doctrine and truth — regularly trashing people in the process — and then realizing you could have spent your time instead doing something like Stephen & Brooksyne Weber do at Daily Encouragement, such as offering people, well, daily encouragement. A much, much higher calling which begs the question: What do you really want to be remembered for?

And so, we leave you with Steven Furtick’s rant. Yes, rant. And a rant by a guy who has been the target of much criticism himself. And whose recent pulpit presence at one prominent church has brought that pastor under fire. It’s here because he accurately captures the spirit of the people who seem to have nothing good to say. About anything. Ever. 

Appropriately, some people hate this video.  But I say he got an incredible number of things in it 100% correct.

April 16, 2011

An Open Letter re. Theology Wars

Colin, at the simply titled blog Words, despairs over the recent theology wars that have erupted over things like heaven, things like hell, and things like the fate of every person who has ever lived; if you get my drift.  And so, he addresses both Christians and non-Christians in an open letter on his blog.  My first preference would be that you click and read it in context of his introduction, but failing that, I’ve reprinted it here.  In order to let its message fully percolate, he decided to close comments, and I’ve decided to follow suit here…

[to enlarge text hold down Ctrl and press + sign]

First, to my non-Christian friends:

I’m sorry. I can’t say this enough. Speaking on behalf of my incredibly dysfunctional family, Christians, I’m sorry that we’ve come across as the same self-righteous, I’m-right-you’re-wrong, jumping-to-conclusions, ignorant assholes that we always have. If you have Christian friends, I’m sure you’ve read some tweets, some Facebook discussions, or have even seen a news article on your favorite mainstream news website about how “evangelicals have called one of their own a heretic.”

“One of their own.”

It’s a shame, really.

I want to tell you that the true Gospel of Christ is so much bigger and so much better than these petty arguments that are going on right now in the Christian world. These debates don’t really matter in the long run. So please, try and look past the rhetorical argument (screaming match) going on right now and look at the living, breathing Christ standing behind it, because he sure as hell isn’t in it.

Matthew 7:16 says “by their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, and figs from thistles?” And Galatians 5:22-23 says “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” So as you look out across the Christian landscape, if you are going to judge us by anything—let it be that.

And I can’t stress enough that you try your hardest to not judge the God of the Bible by the way His followers are acting. Christ is alive and incarnate among us in Grace and Truth.

(And a side note, the earthquake/tsunami in Japan wasn’t Him either.)

Now, to my Christian friends:

We are not doing anything good for the Kingdom of God. Nothing. Our current arguments are nothing but rhetoric and in no way represent the living Christ.

Whatever “team” you are on in this current landscape, chances are that you are just “defending the true gospel.” The Gospel does not need to be defended. If we are walking in Grace and Truth like Jesus did, the true Gospel will speak louder than we ever could.

We must remember that we are one body with many parts. Our head is Christ. The body can’t survive if it cuts one of it’s own organs out. Well, it might survive, but it will walk with a limp at least.

If you are a Bell supporter, stop defending him. He’s a big boy and can take criticism. Defend nothing but the Gospel of Christ. His death and resurrection.

If you are a Bell detractor, please look at the fruit of his work before you start saying things like “false teacher,” “itching ears,” and “heretic.” Because if someone is leading folks toward the living Christ—that’s not false teaching. The false teachers the Scripture talks about would draw people away from Christ, not toward.

Regardless if you agree with Rob Bell or not (this is not about him by the way, this would be the same if any one else—Rick Warren, John Piper, John MacArthur, I don’t know—brought this conversation to light), he is doing work for the Kingdom of God. Matthew Paul Turner said on his blog yesterday that the fact of the matter is because of Bell’s message, many who probably closed the door on God a long time ago have a reason to reopen it. Let’s not give them a reason to slam it shut again. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts, not us. If Bell’s teaching is off, the Holy Spirit of God will convict accordingly.

In John 13 Jesus, speaking to his followers, says that we will be known to the world by our love for one another. We must keep this at the top of our minds as we engage in public discourse. We are looking to the world right now less like two brothers who can’t get along, and more like two brothers who have decided to divorce themselves from their family.

If you believe the Bible is composed of the inerrant, literal words of God, that’s fine. I don’t. Which is also fine. I believe the Bible is authoritative, inspired by God, breathed by the Holy Spirit. I believe it’s the living, breathing Word of God. Literalist or not, we can both agree with that. The Word is Alive. Let’s let it be that and agree to disagree. If the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is at the center of our teaching, preaching, and conversation, everything else is just theology.

One more thing, Christians:

The fruit of the Spirit is









and self control.

Matthew 7:16 says “by their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, and figs from thistles?”

Correct answer: they don’t.

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