Not at Home

I’m sitting in the megachurch lobby again. On my right is a video kiosk repeating on a 30-second cycle the ubiquitous wordless vocal from Phil Phillips song “Home” (just turn on HGTV – it’ll be there on the next Home Depot commercial). On my left is the rockin’ “worship” of the 4th and 5th graders, as well as another video screen blasting the rockin’ “worship” of the grown-ups from inside the “sanctuary” that repels my soul these days. I’m inside a building supposedly dedicated to connecting with the God of the universe, and yet I can’t think straight because of all the cacophony. It’s just a giant audio blur, a din that beats against the brain and numbs my soul.Not at Home

I have a choice whether or not to be here. That choice impacts my wife and children in various ways – some good, some bad. Being here is both a sacrifice and an endangerment. It’s just not simple anymore…even though the thinking and teaching here does indeed try to assert the simplicity and understandability of their position.

I usually look over the church bulletin when I arrive in order to get a feel for what I’ll probably choose to miss out on. Today it’s the beloved review of the end times based on the dispensational model the Plymouth Brethren forefather Darby created out of thin air in the mid 1800s. This was popularized among fundamentalists and evangelicals as “truth” in the Scofield Reference Bible, and then later reinforced by Hal Lindsay, Salem Kirban, and Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind Series”.

It is the self-assured certainty from this relatively recent interpretation of scripture that causes brash teachers like Mark Driscoll to say that he drives an SUV because this planet is all going to burn up anyway so what does it matter if he contributes to its advanced destruction.

Rather than be caretakers of this planet – stewards like the mythical Adam and Eve – those who hold this interpretation of scripture are free to be rapacious jerks while absolving themselves of the evil. I am not at home here.

Whether or not this will all be burned up, I am not to live in fear or in wanton disregard of the planet.

Whether or not there is a one thousand-year reign of Jesus on a literal throne in Jerusalem with his followers acting as governors and mayors around the world, I am to treat others without anger, condemnation, or abuse.

Whether or not a single being known as The Antichrist is on the scene and about to wreak havoc through global domination and an ultimate Armageddon battle against the armies of God after having tortured and killed the followers of Jesus on the earth, I am to press on without fear, living in faith, hope, joy, and power as I choose to sacrifice my desires for the benefit of others and the expansion of the society of love founded by Jesus.

The speculation about the future is irrelevant. We are to be people of the NOW, the moment, the good that we can do while it is still today, amid the cacophony of the so-called “knowledge” being spouted weekly in multi-million dollar structures like the one I’m once again not at home in.

Making Sense of Making Sense

A while back I read a blog post by Tim Keller, a leader and authority in the “Gospel Coalition” movement. These people have it all figured out, and aren’t afraid to say so. Here’s the link.Image

I felt compelled for my own sake to respond to the claims made in this article. They are expressed with such self-assuredness that if you’re prone like me to believe things people say forcefully and passionately, you could get quickly fooled into accepting their assertions.

However, as I forced myself to push back on their points, it became more and more clear to me what was really going on. Maybe you’ll find it helpful. Quotes from Tim’s article are in italics, while my responses are in plain text. Note that if you don’t read Tim’s article, then the context of many of my responses will be lost on you. Enjoy…

 “the whole Bible is about Jesus and
God’s plan to redeem his people”

Said who? That’s an awfully big assertion and incredibly subjective, based on your point of view, interpretation, and desire to manufacture a simple way to encapsulate this sacred collection of writings.

“ Jesus says, in his discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:3-12, that the original design of God was for one man and one woman to be united as one flesh, and failing that (v. 12), persons should abstain from marriage and sex”

This is an argument from silence and therefore it is invalid.

 “ When he died on the cross the veil in the temple tore, showing that he had done away with the need for the entire sacrificial system with all its cleanliness laws”

This is an interpretation or application of that passage, but not a “fact”. At best it is conjecture or wishful thinking.

 “ It would, therefore, be deeply inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible as a whole if we continued to follow the ceremonial laws.”

Jesus followed the Torah. The apostles followed the Torah. Many Jews of the day (including Paul in some situations) followed the Torah.

 “ If the New Testament has reaffirmed a commandment, then it is still in force for us today.”

 Said who? This is nothing more than a man-made teaching.

 “Once you grant the main premise of the Bible—about the surpassing significance of Christ and his salvation—then all the various parts of the Bible make sense. “

This is the main premise? Said who? Then all the various parts “make sense”? Really? These are amazingly arrogant assertions, and in no way must be embraced as fact.

 “Because of Christ, the ceremonial law is repealed. Because of Christ, the church is no longer a nation-state imposing civil penalties. It all falls into place. “

 Repealed? Said who? This is completely made up. The “church” was never  a nation-state, but ISRAEL was (though it wasn’t at the time of the giving of the Torah). And when the “church” came into existence, it was a Jewish thing that Gentiles were invited into later; it was never a thing separate from the Jews until the Gentiles co-opted it and usurped power.

 “if you reject the idea of Christ as Son of God and Savior, then, of course, the Bible is at best a mishmash containing some inspiration and wisdom, but most of it would have to be rejected as foolish or erroneous.”

This seems both backwards and unnecessarily bundles separate issues together. One doesn’t have to reject scripture as foolish based on its inconsistencies and errors (and worse yet, human perspectives of the original authors embedded as the very voice of God).

Yes, one can find inspiration and wisdom… one can even find the way to global shalom in the kingdom gospel of Jesus (regardless of what “Son of God” means and whether or not  Jesus was in some way or shape “divine”). And whether or not one views Jesus as divine, one can still surrender to his way and live the kingdom mission.

 “There are only two possibilities. If Christ is God, then this way of reading the Bible makes sense. The other possibility is that you reject Christianity’s basic thesis—you don’t believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God—and then the Bible is no sure guide for you about much of anything. But you can’t say in fairness that Christians are being inconsistent with their beliefs to follow the moral statements in the Old Testament while not practicing the other ones.”

This is illogical. These things do not necessarily follow except in the minds of those who make these presuppositions. And who said Christianity’s basic thesis is that we believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God (along with the 21st century definition for what that loaded statement means)?

Gentile Christians explain away lots of inconsistencies that Jewish Christians don’t feel the need to explain away (though I suspect there are far more circumcised Gentiles these days than in Paul’s day).

This ceremonial vs. moral distinction is an invention of man. There are greater questions regarding ALL of the law without having to artificially divide it into manageable chunks. Did God ever really give such a law, or did Moses co-opt the wise laws of his day and say that it came from God? How can one know this without the suspension of disbelief?

 “If I believe Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, I can’t follow all the ‘clean laws’ of diet and practice, and I can’t offer animal sacrifices. All that would be to deny the power of Christ’s death on the cross. And so those who really believe in Christ must follow some Old Testament texts and not others.”

This only makes sense if you’re viewing the keeping of the laws as a means of earning something from God. But if you believe they are a way to live the “good life”, the best “Way” (what the word Torah actually means), then you would argue (like the Apostle Paul did in Romans) that the law is “good”.

But whether or not it actually came from God himself and whether or not the sacrifices ever really appeased God or if that was simply an adaptation of what the nations practiced…well, that is another question altogether.

Jesus spoke of himself as a ransom, not a sacrifice. John the Baptist did speak of him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world/cosmos – so did Jesus actually do that? Or was it only for the “lucky ones” who hear the message that they should “ask him into their heart” after saying they believe certain teachings about him? Is that all God wants? Or are we truly created for kingdom relationship?

Seems like you have to reject most of Jesus teachings to embrace the Gospel Coalition brand of Christianity…or should I say rather “Paulianity”. Except even Paul wouldn’t assert such things.