Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Can't Stop

There is some discussion going on over Steve McSwain's article on the Huffington Post from last week. He wrote about "6 Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying". They are, in brief:
1. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God.
2. We just believe the Bible.
3. Jesus is the only way to heaven.
4. The rapture of Jesus is imminent.
5. Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and it is a sin against God.
6. The earth is less than 10,000 years old.
He offers an alternative, a better way: "When we love, what more needs to be said?"

Now, I grew up in the '60's, but even I never actually bought that "all we need is love" line. I knew better. Of course I had great input from Bible-believing parents who took me to Bible-teaching churches and put me in a Bible-believing school and all, but I didn't need Christianity to teach me otherwise. I learned it from Foghorn Leghorn. Remember him? The loud-mouthed cartoon rooster always getting into trouble. I remember one of his episodes where he was trying to win favor with the rich widow hen by tending to her precocious son so he could be warm for the winter. It didn't work out well for Foghorn. In the end he stood at her door and told her, "Madam, I don't need your love to keep me warm. I have my bandages." Silly? Sure. But true. We need more than love. We need food, clothing, shelter. We need more than love.

Enter Mr. McSwain. Huffpo lists him as "'Voice of the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious),' award-winning author, speaker, thought leader, spiritual teacher." (I would think "spiritual but not religious" would be a fair warning.) So Mr. McSwain would like to alleviate us poor Christians of all the falderal that is getting in our way. Forget a reliable Bible. God isn't that capable. So he makes the assertion (without support) that the Bible is not the inerrant, infallible Word of God either in our translations or in the original manuscripts. Whew! What a relief! Let that one go. And you don't really believe the Bible. You believe your interpretation. Since (by implication) there can be no accurate interpretation, let that one go, too. And that whole "Jesus is the only way to heaven" notion. Oh, that's right out! There are lots of ways. (Remember, "spiritual but not religious.") A loving God would never allow such a travesty. (Well, of course, if "God" is the one you believe in. Maybe it's Allah and maybe it's Buddha -- no god at all. Maybe it's the god of Mormonism which is radically different than the God of the Bible.) Doesn't matter. Jesus said it, but He didn't mean it. (Remember #2 -- there is no accurate interpretation.) And despite the spectacular clash with Scripture (over 100 different passages say otherwise) and the horrendous collision with logic (it is impossible that contradictory truth claims of all religions can be true), just let that one go, too. Really. It's a relief to know that all we need is love. Not concurrence with Scripture. Not agreement with Christ. (Remember #1 and #2.) What is truth, anyway?

His comments on the fifth point were telling. His son, you see, had it all figured out. "Dad, it's your generation that's hung up on these issues. Once you guys get out of the way and the younger generation moves into the decision-making arena, these issues will disappear." God's view changes. His positions on morality shift with the tides of public opinion. What He abhorred yesterday He endorses gladly today. And He's not capable of inspiring a book to explain what He abhors ... or apparently embraces. Good news! All we need is love! McSwain assures us, "You can still revere the Bible, my friend, but move beyond the prejudice of Paul or anyone else." Because the Bible has never been the inspired Word of God despite anything the Bible, the Church, or the evidence says. All we need is love!

I'll leave the other two to you. I am reminded of Peter's words on the subject of #4 - the return of Christ. Peter warned "that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.'"(2 Peter 3:3-4). Did Peter know his stuff or what? But, hey, I'm not going to debate the "less than 10,000 years old" question. But if you're a reader of the Bible, you'll notice it's not in there.

Mr. McSwain voices what a lot of people are saying. All we need is love, right? Let's stop all this nonsense about truth, the Word of God, any real knowledge at all, I suppose. It's all opinion, right? All we need is love! Like the brave soul who stuck his hand in the rattlesnake cage singing, "All we need is love." Not quite.

God commanded, "Love truth" (Zech 8:19). John wrote, "Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). And Paul warned of the end times. "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved" (2 Thess 2:9-10). Love and truth. These are tightly linked together. We need love, indeed. But it's not all we need. And stripping us of a God who can defend His God-breathed Word, ripping away any reliable direction from God, stripping from us reason ("all religions lead to God"), and eliminating anything resembling fundamental morality is neither a love of the truth nor a better place to stand. It is what the serpent asked when he said to Eve, "Did God say ...?" He wants Christians to stop saying those things. I can't stop. Not without removing all basis for anything Christian. Calling on Christians to stop being Christians is nonsense. Thank you, Mr. McSwain. It's hard to see that as love.

15 comments:

Marshall Art said...

Your last paragraph went where my comment was to go. Put another way, how are we to love? That's a fairly subjective question unless truth is a part of the equation. Truth is not subjective, though when and how we acknowledge it can be.

When we hear guys like this speak of love, it is usually another way of merely saying, "Be nice". But love often does not feel nice at all, as when we discipline our children or hold each other accountable for our actions or, oh the horror, to the truth.

Stan said...

Yes, indeed. "Be nice" is not love. (It's interesting that he does seem to be shouting "Be nice!" and was called on it by some for being mean about it.) Paul wrote that the greatest gifts without love are useless. Love without truth is equally meaningless. Even in its simplest form, "I love you" means nothing if we don't have a valid meaning of "love". He missed that, apparently.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Your last paragraph was also my thought. People always say love is more important, but without truth there can be no love.

It isn't love, e.g., to give sanction to homosexual behavior, knowing that it is rebellion against God, as well as being medically and emotionally harmful to the individual. Of course that goes with any sexual immorality.

It isn't love to say nothing let people believe there is more than one way to God.

And so forth. WIthout truth there is no real love.

Craig said...

Stan,

I guess I see #'s 4 & 6 as kind of secondary issues, and don't know why I'd be bringing either of them up in a conversation with a non believer.

The rest are pretty foundational to actually being a Christian. But hey if an atheist can be a Christian keeping quiet about this list is pretty small potatoes.

I was with Scott McKnight a few weeks ago in a conversation about his Jesus Creed book. His point is that when asked, Jesus answered;, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength", and "love your neighbor as your self". He went on to say that this is the basis for all of the law and prophets. It seems obvious that love is a major part of what it means to be a Christian. But, as McKnight pointed out it becomes problematic because God's definition of love is so much different from the culture's. Frankly, different from much of the Church's.

I'm certainly not suggesting that Truth is not important, nor am I suggesting that "All you need is love" as defined by culture is the answer either. But Jesus seems pretty clear that love (properly defined) is a major (arguably the) underpinning of what it means to follow Christ.

I would also suspect that as one looks at the Shema, it could be argued that in encompasses things like Truth and justice, etc.

Dan said...

It seems to me that if McSwain lived up to his own advice he would encourage Christians to believe as they desire to believe, no matter how outlandish, as he does. He makes his argument ex nihilo. He provides us with nothing to believe in Christianity's stead. How crafty, huh? "While I "debunk" your strongly held beliefs without providing specific reasons why it ought to be debunked, I get to leverage my own "spirituality" to do the debunking without having to bother explaining why, or how, my own positions are superior or trustworthy."

David said...

Craig, I don't know that I'd agree that 4 and 6 are secondary. Scripture is quite clear that Christ's return is imminent. We are told to live as if He was returning tomorrow. And while 6 is directly referred to in Scripture, and young Earth can be inferred. 10K is most likely too few, but billions is the opposite of what we see in Scripture. Billions suggests Evolution, and Evolution is anti-God. I know there are Christians that have tried to add God back into the mix of Evolution, but I've always seen that as trying to let the world define Truth and we are just trying to play along to get along. To me, the claims are more convoluted than Creation and Evolution can ever be. Though, 6 really doesn't seem to fit in with the other 5, like it was an afterthought. Like those old Highlight magazine games, which one of these don't go with the others.

Stan said...

Wow, that's two! Both Marshall and Glenn would have said what I said at the end! I guess I got something right! :)

Stan said...

Dan, I've never figured out why the "Can't we all just get along" crowd ("I mean, really, all that really matters is that we love one another, right?") are so keen on correcting what we think. Shouldn't they just let us think what we will because love is all that matters?

And I was interested that he made arguments without arguments as well. We shouldn't say those things. Why? Well, because, he's more spiritual than we are and that's obviously better than us. I guess. On the other hand, having tossed Scripture, I don't suppose he has any authoritative ground to stand on, so I suppose that's all he has.

Stan said...

I was curious, Craig, as to why he would bring up "in house" issues like that. I think that Jesus's return is imminent, but I'm not entirely sure that I mean by it what he means. And I'm not at all sure about the age of the earth except that I have very little reason to suppose it's billions, but on the other hand I don't make that a matter of faith/doctrinal purity, so I'm not bringing it up to people. So what is he aiming at there?

I am in full agreement with you that we (unbelievers certainly and lots of believers as well) don't understand God's version of love. Why would we? Ours is so chaotic. We think it is a good pizza ("I just love pizza") or sex or deep romance or familial relations or ... oh, I don't know, it's all so confusing. Love God? Umm ... like a pizza or a wife? No, that can't be right. Let's see ...

I believe, in fact, that God's definition of love includes truth in it. Am I, for instance, loving God as commanded if my perception of God is wrong? Let's make it easier. Is it loving my wife to give her a power drill because I wanted a power drill and I'm sure she'd love one, too? Or is it loving to really know my wife and understand that while I might like such a gift, she has other things in mind? I think truth isn't an addendum to love, but a primary component.

David,
I'm not sure I'd call 4 and 6 "secondary", but they certainly aren't things I'm throwing out at unbelievers. And while I'd consider, for instance, 10,000 years (because it could be more or less) secondary, I do think that it's impossible to maintain biblical coherence and an Evolution view. Too many things end up thrown away, like "God created", the Fall of Man, Adam (Rom 5), New Testament folk who seemed to believe it was all real (like Jesus and Paul), the reliability of Scripture, the capability of the Holy Spirit to lead His own into truth, and on and on. Still, I'm not using either Christ's return or Creation as public speaking points.

Craig said...

David,

I would say that the fact that Christ is returning is not secondary. I would say that the timing is. While we are to live like He's coming back tomorrow, it could well be another 2000 years.

Also, I would agree that the age of the earth in billions suggests evolution, I'm not sure it's worth getting dogmatic on 6000 or 10,000 or whatever.

I'd agree with Stan, that this in house debate kind of thing is not something I'd be talking about in a conversation with an unbeliever.

David said...

I guess I can see the "in-house" aspect of the timing of His return. But the Creation/Evolution debate is quite prevalent. You and I might not have much opportunity to debate the issue, but Christian scientists are out there fighting this fight. While the average laymen might not be too concerned about it, it is something we need to hold on to, because like Stan said, to give in is to let go of so many other doctrines, even those that try to combine Creation with Evolution. I I'm really not sure why McSwain listed that one. Like I said, which one of these is not like the other.

Stan said...

Yes, whether or not God created the earth is important. McSwain argued against a timeline statement. (Well, "argued" is the wrong word.) Dan Phillips recently wrote about the Most Offensive Verse in the Bible. There were lots of options, but he suggested it was "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." That, you see, makes God God and us not, makes God Sovereign and us his servants, makes God ultimate and us creations. It points to everything that follows that further offends sinful man. If we could just dismantle that little verse, we're on our way to destroying the whole thing. Oh, yes, Creation is important. Dates, not so much.

Dan said...

On that note this article can be summed up from Genesis also with just three words: "hath God said?"

Craig said...

David,

The creation/evolution is indeed a major issue. However, I still wouldn't get dogmatic about a certain age of the earth. I've seen pretty convincing arguments to support both the 24 hour creation day v. the day age. I honestly don't know that it makes a huge difference. I just don't see that trying to establish an actual "age" of the earth is something that is that major of an issue.

Stan said...

See that, Danny? That's three! I said in the last paragraph what three of you would have said! I must be doing something right! (Okay, maybe not, but I can dream, can't I?)

I would also point out (to all readers) that Douglas Wilson did a very fine piece on the article. I recommend it.