Mr. Prager goes on:
… [W]hen a religious person commits evil in God’s name he destroys the greatest hope for goodness on earth — belief in a God who demands goodness, and who morally judges people.There certainly is great evil in murder, whether in the name of your God or not. But you can do murder in two ways – physical, and spiritual.
… [W]hen religious people commit evil, especially in God’s name, they are not only committing evil, they are doing terrible damage to the name of God.
People who murder in the name of God not only kill their victims, they kill God, too.
The Bible fairly bristles with warnings to and against those who would misrepresent God and His Word: He warns those who do such things that punishment will be severe; He warns the rest against listening to and falling for their false prophecies and false teachings. As Christians, we ‘carry’ the name of God rather obviously in our label – ‘Christian’ means follower of the Christ. So when we misrepresent God, we do evil in His eyes.
But how do we misrepresent Him? Well, behaviorally, for the most obvious. We’re often accusable of not acting in a Christian manner, and because of our sinful nature, this is a recurring problem for us. But when we do such things accidentally, God will forgive us when we acknowledge our sin, repent of it, and ask to be forgiven.
We can misrepresent Him by a misreading or misapplication of His Word – Scripture. Remember, Scripture is a product of the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit on the writers of the Old and New Testaments (see 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21); also remember the words of our Lord regarding blaspheming the Holy Spirit – which He himself called the ‘unforgiveable sin’. But, again, if we misinterpret or misapply Scripture, we can, once we’re corrected, accept the correction, repent of our sin, and ask for forgiveness, and God will forgive.
However (you knew this was coming) … what of those who deliberately and repeatedly and unrepentantly misinterpret, misapply, and misuse Scripture, thus deliberately, repeatedly, and unrepentantly misrepresenting God? There are many, as you, my readers, well know, both in Christian laity and in Christian leadership.
I’m flexible when it comes to the lay-Christian. Many haven’t even cracked a Bible, and are getting all their interpretation from the pastor/preacher/teacher of their choosing; they still, however, have the responsibility to be Bereans.
When it comes to Christian leadership – pastors, priests, teachers, and the like – my flexibility narrows considerably. As teachers and preachers of the word, they have a particular responsibility to know Scripture, to know proper interpretation, and to accept correction. And, like lay-Christians, if they hear exegesis which is wrong, they have a responsibility to correct it, be that correcting during college, during seminary, or after, well before they pass the information on to their flocks – they ought to know they will be ‘judged with greater strictness’ (James 3:1).
Might that ‘greater strictness’ include not granting forgiveness to the one who stubbornly continues to misrepresent God?