Est. May 2008

21 January, 2013

Arguing With God

In a post over at Exposing the ELCA, Dan Skogen reprints an e-mail from a woman who visited an ELCA church in Arizona; of everything she said, one thing jumped out at me:
He said he didn't want to argue.  I told him he would be arguing with the Word of God.
’He’ just happened to be the teaching pastor of that particular church.

Arguing with God is an excellent way to describe what we see in many  mainline Protestant churches here in America and overseas; it’s also a problem (though not to as great an extent) within the Roman Catholic Church.  Whenever believers – and in particular leaders of believers – begin entertaining more, shall we say, ‘creative’ interpretations of the Bible, you’ve got yourself people who are arguing with God Himself.

How do some professing Christians explain their creativity in biblical interpretation?  Well, there’s a Bible study method called higher criticism which allows such creativity; in a nutshell, higher criticism places little or no value on the divine inspiration of Scripture and great emphasis on who wrote it, when did they write it, and why they wrote it.  From these, higher critics have pretty much dispensed with the idea that the Bible is really God’s Word:
Many redaction critics and higher critics do not believe in the inspiration of Scripture and therefore use these questions to dispel the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the authors of Scripture. They believe that our Old Testament was simply a compilation of oral traditions and were not actually written until after Israel was taken into captivity to Babylon in 586 B.C.
This leads me to a related post, which tells of ‘a task force representing a significant group of Protestant churches published a document, "Scripture and Moral Discernment" (PDF located here - click the first blue link under ‘Formula of Agreement’).  Why is this important to our current discussion?  Because each of the churches represented are members of the ‘mainline Protestant’ churches, and mainline Protestant churches more often than not embrace higher criticism of the Bible; they’re also much more Progressive/Liberal than other denominations.  And (IMO) this embrace of both higher criticism and Progressive Liberalism allows them to make statements like the following (taken from page 11 of the above PDF) with straight faces:
’We understand cheap grace to be “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ”.’
Yes, they understand cheap grace, simply because according to Bonhoeffer’s definition of it (which is what’s in the double quotation marks in the above) that is exactly what they offer when they allow something like same-sex marriage rights and blessings.  They can say such with straight faces because their embrace of higher critical methods of interpretation and their embrace of Progressive Liberalism allows them to say that God (in Leviticus 18) and Paul (in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10) weren’t talking about modern homosexual behavior (because back then those homosexuals were either involved in cultic homosexuality or dominance/submissiveness homosexuality) and that God doesn’t really consider a ‘loving and committed same-sex relationship’ as ‘an abomination’ (God’s word for it).  Likewise, they could say that abortion and euthanasia aren’t breaking the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13) because it’s not really murder if it’s done with love and compassion to end suffering (either preemptively or actually).

Higher criticism invites creative interpretations of Scripture – interpretations which most often bear little or no resemblance to what’s actually written in the Bible.

It also invites God’s wrath.

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