I have a book on my desk called The Writings of the New Testament by Luke Timothy Johnson. Johnson is a professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University. Johnson said recently,
"I think it important to state clearly that we do, in fact, reject the straightforward commands of Scripture, and appeal instead to another authority when we declare that same-sex unions can be holy and good. We appeal explicitly to the weight of our own experience and the experience thousands of others have witnessed to, which tells us that to claim our own sexual orientation is in fact to accept the way in which God has created us." First Things, Jan 2008.He is appealing to the weight of his own experience over the timeless revelation of the admitted commands of Scripture. The way Johnson gets around this is to claim that Paul's writings on homosexuality and feminism was right for his time and his culture, but we have progress since then. One problem (among many) with that line of thinking, is just how do we ascertain which of Paul's commands, and on a bigger scale, the whole of Scripture, no longer have meaning for us today?
Pastor Rick Warren, probably the most well-known protestant leader after the Rev. Billy Graham, was a guest last week on Sean Hannity's America on Fox News. Here is a chance very few people get, to share the gospel with millions of unbelievers. But here is his gospel.
"What it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ is to say, 'I give as much of myself as I understand, to as much of Jesus Christ as I understand, at that moment, and keep growing in it.'"Huh? Sorry, I don't even know what that means! Now, I understand it is easy to criticize, I'm not the one on the hot seat being interviewed on Fox news. But, I think there are some basic Biblical concepts of what it means to be a follower of Christ that should be on the tongue of each pastor, nay, each of us. Peter tells us, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."
Warren on Hannity
A full critique of the Emerging Church movement is well outside the scope of this blog. Besides, many others have done it much better than myself. But suffice to say that much of the Emergent theology is hesitant to make claims about traditional views of the cross, hell, and atonement, choosing to concentrate more on the mystical, the social justice, and the cultural aspects of our faith. Brian McLaren is one of the pioneers of the Emergent movement. He had this to say on the dangers of the traditional theology of hell.
"[If the traditional view of hell is true,] God can’t forgive unless he punishes someone in place of the person he’s going to forgive. God doesn’t say to you, forgive your wife and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there’s a certain sense that a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving unless he kicks somebody else."McLaren equates the substitutionary nature of Christ's death, the atonement, to kicking your dog to vent your anger. Wow.
McLaren on Hell
Joel Osteen, is one of our current culture's most well known and prolific prosperity teachers. His two books, Your Best Life Now and Becoming a Better You have been runaway bestsellers. But his teaching can be relegated to the simple principle, "What can Christ do for me?". I don't actually have a quote from Osteen, like I do the other leaders highlighted in my post today, (do a Google search, you'll find plenty) but I do want to reference a post from A Little Leaven. It compares Joel's teachings with those who are being persecuted for the faith, such as Pastor Zaur Balaev, who was aressted in Azerbaijan for conducting an illegal service and sentenced to two years in prison. The blog ends with a great statement: "We thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for men like Pastor Zaur Balaev for their bravery and willingness to forego their 'best lives now' so that they can share the true Biblical gospel in countries where being a Christian guarantees persecution, suffering and even martyrdom." Amen.
In the "Good-grief-is-there-any-line-we-won't-cross-to-be-culturally-relevant" department, is (ironically named) Relevant Church's recent challenge based on the fact that we're not having enough sex. Yup, you heard it right. Christ came to earth so that we could have sex more often. Here is the promotional website: The 30 Day Sex Challenge.
Hey, I'm all for a healthy sex life inside the boundaries of marriage. But is it too much to ask that we exhibit some tact and respect on the subject? Just because our culture has thrown off all restraint when it comes to the subject does not mean we need to follow suit. It is our job to be counter-cultural, not in bed with it, obvious pun notwithstanding.