On a Proper Use of Scripture


I have been discussing how one properly uses the Bible with my friend Jeff at atheocracy. He has this happy little post concerning the recent lawsuit filed by a father against the Westboro ‘Baptist’ ‘Church’ who protested his son’s funeral. Jeff seems to think that all Christians who elevate the Bible to the place of infallible will end up with a message similar to those at the WBC. He wrote:

A couple of days ago, one Christian commenter didn’t agree with my assertion that all Christians who elevate the Bible to “unquestionable” status bear some responsibility for people like the ones at this church, but I’m holding to that statement unless someone can explain why I’m wrong.

You can read his entire post and the numerous responses by clicking: If there’s a God, He Hates these people.

Well, I wondered why Jeff would come up with such lousy logic. Then I stopped by A Little Leaven and read this post: You are a Hero… This post is about a church in Corona, California where a new sermon series is about to begin (or has already). Some topics include:

• How courage can help YOU conquer a storm (Noah)
• How faithfulness can keep YOU from quitting (Abraham)
• How generosity can multiply YOUR impact (Rebekkah)
• How commitment can take YOU beyond YOUR limitations (David)

The Curator at Leaven wrote:

Reducing these Biblical stories down to morals or virtues (like Aesops fables) that we can somehow apply to our lives so that we can be heroic completely misses the point. The thing that we all have in common with Noah, Abraham, Rebekah, and David is that we are all wicked sinners. We are not virtuous, courageous and faithful. Instead we are faithless, heartless and ruthless. We are not heroes we are all villians  (sic). The Bible tells us that all of us are sinners in need of a savior. In other words, NONE of us ‘has what it takes’. We, like Noah, Abraham, Rebekah and David NEED a hero and a savior to redeem us and save us. That’s why those Biblical stories are NOT about Noah, Abraham, Rebekah or David, they are ultimately about Jesus Christ.

I don’t think I could possible agree more with that statement. And the truth is, if this is the sort of slop that Christians are being fed by preachers on Sunday mornings, is it any wonder Jeff thinks that all Christians are of the same pattern as those at the WBC? Is it any wonder he thinks the Bible only creates people who do the things that WBC does? You may not see the connection, but it is this: What happens when the message of Scripture (viz., Jesus Christ) is ignored? What happens when theology goes unchecked? What happens is the WBC, and sermon series like that at the Corona church: Stupidity.

I don’t agree with Jeff’s assessment of Christianity, but, even though I argue with him, I do think perhaps there is a point: What is the Church preaching? It is horrifying the things I read at Leaven that are being preached on Sundays at churches around this country. WBC has been saying that God is judging America because of things like homosexuality. I want to correct that: I think God is judging the Church because we have dumbed down Scripture, we have inoculated people against the Gospel, because we have assumed favored people status, because we (the church) are not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have settled for some sort of pseudo-relevance (see 4 Weeks of Sex) instead of the faith once delivered. We are more interested in numbers than we are in truth.

God is not judging the United States because of homosexuality any more than he is judging the United States because of global warming. God is judging the Church because of her failure to preach the whole council of God, the truth without compromise; for her failure to be One as He is One; for her failure to love one another and thus demonstrate our allegiance to His Son; and for her failure, her utter failure, to be the Church, the Body of Christ. (And don’t even get me started on pedophile priests, adulterers, thieves, Ted Haggard, The Inspiration Network, Benny Hinn, Brian McClaren and Joel Osteen.) Let me remind you of what Peter wrote to the Church:

“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

WBC has it very, very wrong. In their arrogance, they have neglected the Word of God, they have failed to love their neighbor, they have forgotten to take the log out of their own eye before they presumed to remove the speck from that of others. But so also has the Eastlake Community Church and the South Hills Church. And, lest I forget: So have I. So, to the Church, if you really think we are being judged because of sin, I suggest that you examine the sin in your own backyard before you presume to dump the entire load of s*** on the doorstep of your neighbor: Christians are without excuse!

I don’t agree with Jeff’s assessment of the Church because I don’t think he understands theology, I’m certain he knows nothing of grace (and I might also question his logic 🙂 ), and because I don’t think someone outside the church has a right to make judgments about what goes on inside the church, but I do agree that Christians and ‘christians’ have thoroughly misrepresented the Word of God and that to that end, I agree with Jeff that the Church needs to examine why it preaches, what it preaches, and how it preaches the Gospel–that might mean that we need to know what the Gospel is in the first place. In short, we need to examine ourselves and see if we are in the faith we profess because I have a suspicion that it is folk like the WBC who are keeping folk like Jeff from the Gospel, the true Gospel of Christ Crucified.

And I think more Christians ought to condemn the actions  and theology of WBC so that Jeff won’t have to take up valuable blogging space doing so.

And I think more Christians ought to ‘examine themselves’ before they ‘eat of the bread and drink of the cup.’


4 thoughts on “On a Proper Use of Scripture

  1. Let me clarify one point …

    This is slightly incorrect, though I understand that what I wrote may not have been clear enough: “Jeff thinks that all Christians are of the same pattern as those at the WBC”

    That’s not what I think. What I think is that all Christians derive their values from the same Bible, and there are so many differing interpretations of the Bible, that I don’t see how any particular one can be definitive. If you are going to elevate a book, especially one as cryptic as the Bible, to “unquestionable” status, you are going to open the door to whackos to interpret it in their own way and act instead of thinking critically about what they’re doing.

    The Word of God is contradictory at times, or at least seems to be so. Interpreting it correctly is a tricky task. Perhaps they truly believe they are doing God’s work, though I suspect they don’t.

    And, while I agree with much of what you wrote here, I have to take exception with this: “I don’t think someone outside the church has a right to make judgments about what goes on inside the church.” Absolutely, 100% wrong. This is the thinking that has gotten churches like this to this point. The people involved in the church get indoctrinated and can’t see things for what they truly are. We’re all outside of their church, and we have every right to criticize what they’re doing. So do I have the right to criticize what other Christians are doing. They may commit actions you vehemently disagree with, but they’re just as much a part of the Church as are you.

    If Christians didn’t make Christianity such a big part of my life, trying to push evolution out of classrooms, invoking God in policy-making decisions, calling it “One nation, under God,” putting “In God We Trust” on our money, etc., etc., then you’d have a point here. But Christians can’t intrude upon the lives of every single person in this country, then say we have “no right” to criticize you. Keep your faith inside your churches, don’t picket outside of soldiers’ funerals, don’t use the Bible as your excuse to deny marriage rights to a large segment of consenting adults, and I’ll be glad to lay off the criticism of Christianity. I’m not saying you shouldn’t push Christianity on America as Christians have done; just don’t do it and then bristle at the criticism that comes with it.

  2. Now that’s a preacher’s roll, Jerry! I appreciate your willingness to engage non-believers and believers in discussion. I hope that you have a live audience to hear this, because truer words on the contemporary church have never been spoken.

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