Thursday, February 07, 2008

More Reflections Inspired By A Biblical Approach To The Christian Life

Yesterday, I presented a pretty stunning critique of what was dubbed "evangelical theology", but is more properly termed, via ER, "fundamentalist theology". Part of my reasoning for rejecting the notion that our lives have to conform to certain moral principles before we can correctly call ourselves Christian, or having faith, or however we choose to define ourselves, is reading the Bible.

My wife wrote a sermon toward the end of her first appointment, "Oh The People God Picks", patterned after the Dr. Seuss book Oh The Places You'll Go. It's a brilliant and loving homage to the Seussian style, and she delivers it sitting down (she has used it more than once; it's just too good not to reuse). In it, she reflects on the many individuals in Scripture whom, shall we say, have less than stellar characters. From Abraham, who was quite willing to allow his wife to be used as a concubine in order to save his own skin, to Rahab the prostitute who sold out her city to the invading Hebrews to St. Paul the accomplice in the murder/martyrdom of St. Stephen, it's simply a fact that most of those chosen by God to be vehicles of God's work are human beings complete and unexpurgated.

Moses, David, Solomon - all murderers. David added rapist to his list of crimes. Jacob, conniving with his mother, managed to steal his brother's birthright. Joseph was a self-righteous prig who, while offering forgiveness to his brothers, also managed to heap a load of guilt upon them, as well as firmly plant the Hebrew people in Egypt, from which they would need to be forcibly released.

Even Lot managed to sleep with both his daughters and Noah celebrated the end of the flood by getting so drunk he passed out.

This is not to excuse the behavior presented in these stories. Rather, it is to say that the writers of these Biblical tales were well aware of the depth and breadth of human fallibility, and recognized that God would use the material that was there in order to achieve the Divine purpose.

Extrapolating from that particular premise, which I think is both inarguable and unremarkable, it seems to me the height of ignorance to proclaim, at once, Biblical authority for a certain narrow, historically contingent moral code, and the necessity of this moral code for properly labeling oneself a follower of Jesus. By writing out of the fellowship of God anyone who has ever fallen short of the glory of God would reduce the Christian family to zero. Whether it's taking away Sandi Patti's Dove awards because she had a long-term extra-marital affair, or stripping away Ted Haggard's ministry because he is gay, or simply dismissing whole denominations as non-Christian because they interpret the Bible differently, this whole way of thinking and trying to live a Christian life ends up creating the false choice of either living a very restricted life, or spending eternity in hell.

Since it seems that God was quite willing to accept various individuals complete with all their flaws, I just wonder at the hubris, and contempt for God, displayed by those who insist that before we are acceptable to God, we have to live our lives according to their rules.

Virtual Tin Cup

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