Bad juju…

When did the church go crazy? I mean, seriously: what happened to teaching from the Bible, and just using God’s word to guide us in our walk with Christ?

 

I have spoken to several people in the last week, who have absolutely no idea how convoluted their theology is. In more than one case, these people were actually claiming the authority to teach the Word. Here are a couple of examples of the kind of statements I heard from these “Christians”:

 

  • –       In a discussion about art and censorship—whether it is appropriate to hang “artwork” with nudity or sexual themes in public buildings (specifically, libraries and city hall)—one person claimed—on “biblical authority”—that Jesus would have condemned censorship, because the Bible doesn’t teach that nudity is sinful, or that sex is something that should be kept private… or, in fact, that sex should even be between a husband and wife exclusively
  • –       A woman who claimed that Jesus changed the Law, and as a result homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle (I guess someone forgot to tell Paul and Peter)
  • –       A woman who claimed that everyone goes to heaven, regardless of their belief system, because the Bible says that God wants that “none shall perish, but that all shall be saved” (in which case, Jesus would have to feel pretty foolish about that whole “scourged and crucified” bit)
  • –       More than one person who claimed that the entire Christian religion is based on ancient pagan religions (based on the “factual” evidence provided by the History Channel)
  • –       A guy in a discussion forum who claimed that the traditional methods of reading the Bible are outdated and dangerous, because the Scripture doesn’t apply to modern issues; instead, we should take a “broader approach” in interpreting Scripture (or, in other words, we should read the entire Bible as a series of parables and morality plays, and if they don’t “fit” modern circumstances, God expects us to jettison them)

 

Disturbing. I have also—in my constant reading—come across denominations that condone—and in some cases, support—abortion, homosexuality (as opposed to homosexuals; these churches actually condone the lifestyle), sex outside the bonds of marriage, and other clearly non-Christian activities. All in the name of inclusiveness, it would seem.

 

Now, I get it, to a point, I really do. We want that everybody should be saved (the alternative is that we just want everybody to get through the doors of the church long enough to wag the offering plate under their noses, but I’m trying to think the best of people). But are we actually saving people, if we water down the Gospel of Christ and the commands of the Lord just to avoid offending someone’s sensibilities? I gotta say, “no.” Jesus wasn’t one to water down His message; I really don’t think we should be doing Him the disservice of watering it down for Him!

 

No, hard as it can be (and I know that it can be very difficult), the Good News is sometimes—usually—Bad News for people that want to embrace Christ in one arm, and the world in the other. Sometimes, we just want to avoid the “sticky bits;” we can’t do that! Now, when we’re evangelizing, the most important thing is that we present the Gospel: Jesus Christ was born; He lived a perfect and sinless life; He taught that the Kingdom of God could be reached only through faith in the Son; He was tortured, crucified, and died on the cross as propitiation for the sins of all people; and that He rose from the grave on the third day. That is the central message: Jesus died for us, you can have faith in Him, and here’s why.

 

Sometimes questions come up, though. And when those questions do arise, we need to be prepared to answer them with love and compassion, but we need also to answer them honestly and directly. Or, if you’re a complete coward, you can just tell people to read the Gospel of John, and then read 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians is a painful wake-up—I know from experience!

 

But to get back to my point: the people I mentioned above actually, wholeheartedly believed what they were saying. I have no doubt that a considerable part of that belief comes from the fact that there are elements of their old, “fleshly” life that are just really, really hard to give up. But somewhere along the line, these folks were just given bad instruction in the faith.

 

This raises a question that has bothered me for a long time, though; instead of trying so hard to get people into church once we have witnessed to them, would it be a better idea to give them some instruction on how to discover more on their own? I was half-joking about John and 1 Corinthians, but the truth is that those two books are probably clearer on the subject of salvation and right living than any other—at least from the point-of-view of a new believer. True, Corinthians might scare off a seeker; there are some pretty tough guidelines in there, and Paul is sometimes not the easiest guy to follow—but is it better for us to have faith in the Spirit to guide that person’s understanding, or to try to get that person into a church right away? Certainly, the ideal would be to do both, but how many times have you invited someone to church, only to have them say, “Um, I’m gonna think about it. No, really, I will! I just need time to figure out if that’s really my thing…”

 

I don’t know; it’s an open question, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter. In the meantime, have a blessed (and safe!) weekend, and a very happy New Year. God bless all the brothers and sisters, and to Him be the Glory!

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2 comments on “Bad juju…

  1. somepcguy says:

    First, the answer to the question you start out with is that such teaching has always been with us. We see the authors of the books of the New Testament condemning many of the teachings you refer to later. Second, I want to say that I am very happy with your post. I read it expecting it to be one of the occasional “anti-Church” blogs I come across where someone who has come across one or more congregations where the leadership teaches bad doctrine that the whole concept of Church is obsolete. Happily, that was not the case. Rather you gave sound advice on how to find and teach sound doctrine and theology. As you said, the key to sound doctrine and theology is reading the scripture.

    • Thanks for the kind words!

      Two years ago, this probably would have been one of those rants; I had fallen in with the masses that believe that writings like “Secret Gospel of Mark” were legitimate records of the life of Christ (albeit somewhat dramatized) that were simply excluded from canon because of a conspiracy on the part of the church. Fortunately, the Lord blessed me with an inquisitive mind and an ability to objectively weigh what I am experiencing, learning and being taught. That isn’t to say that I am immune from making mistakes– I’ve needed correction on more than one occasion!– but I have been greatly blessed to perform this ministry.

      I get frustrated at times because I see so much false teaching, and so many people who genuinely want to know Christ but have been derailed in their search by these false doctrines. I’ve been told that I write pretty well, but speaking is definitely NOT one of my gifts! … so it’s tough for me to witness in a way that really fires people up to seek the Lord. For my part, I just hope to encourage (through this blog, and with my life– that last part is so much easier said, than done) and hopefully motivate people to look for the Real Jesus, instead of the Marketable Jesus.

      I recently read a commentary in which the author (F.F. Bruce, in Hard Sayings of Jesus, ch.8 discussion of Matt. 5:17-20) posited that Jesus taught that while we should be open to unfamiliar interpretations of Scripture, we should always hold to what the Word of God means as it was written; in other words, we should be willing to see Scripture in a new light, so long as the new way of viewing it does not contradict the original intent of the passage (as an example, I would point to Matthew 5:28, where Jesus points out that adultery begins in the heart, making the unchecked thought of lust as much a sin as the actual physical act; in doing so, he expanded and illuminated “Thou shalt not covet…” as well as “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” without undercutting their original intent– which was a revolutionary teaching in His day).

      Of course, the danger in that is that some believers still require spiritual milk, and moving on to “meat” is prone to make them gag. I think it’s a fine line between what we can do and what we need to leave in the Spirit’s hands, and there is no “right” approach that will apply to every seeker out there.

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