Were The Disciples Criminals? The Hyperbole of New Theology

I just read an article titled “F-Bombs and Bikinis.” And then, “What it really means to be a “Christian.””

Frankly, I’m glad the author had the honesty to put the quotation marks around Christian. It’s written by Preston Sprinkle, a man who taught at Cedarville–a college where many of my friends attended. Back where I come from, you either went to BBC (Baptist Bible College) or Cedarville. I rebelled and attended Calvin College … so I could be the only non-Dutch, short, dark-haired Baptist on campus.

The guy has a Ph.D, but I’m guessing it’s not in logic or history. Rather, it seems to be in hyperbole and shock value.

Evidently, he’s upset that there are those who question washed-up star Shia LaBeouf’s Christian profession of faith … because he used the F-word to profess it!

I don’t have a degree in theology, but … neither did Peter or the other 10 disciples … but I have read and studied the Bible for the past 30-some years. I could look up a number of instances where people are converted and transformed by God’s Grace … and none of them involve an invocation of vile profanity.

So, while I certainly hope Shia has repented of his wretched, sinful state (which is the same state of every human before Salvation), his testimony doesn’t really sound like what I’d expect. To illustrate, if someone you had publicly derided came to your rescue at the moment you realized you had no hope … would you toss off gratitude along with some profanity?

Maybe Shia would. Maybe he needs someone other than Brad Pitt to mentor him.

Which actually was more concerning to me, personally, when I read the testimony. Evidently, Brad Pitt led him to Christ … the same Brad Pitt who finds a God who demands glory to be offensive.

Here’s the problem with Preston’s article: He starts with a premise that there are “Christian subcultures” that all read the same Bible and serve the same Lord.

He takes this idea of ‘subcultures’ and defines it by a cigarette-smoking woman who thinks church leaders should promote modesty vs. a youth leader who thinks women shouldn’t … smoke?

Or, an–get this–Irish beer drinking pastor and his wine-loving wife vs. ALL OF US THAT BELIEVE DRINKING IS EVIL, apparently. Let’s just ignore the stereotyping of the Irish and get back to the subcultures, shall we?

Yes, those subcultures that use cookie-cutters for all Christians and “trample on grace.” He says that it’s “one thing for Christian subcultures to cultive unique values.”

Um-NO, IT’S NOT!

He goes on to say that Christian “subcultures” shouldn’t expect new converts to exhibit holiness. Or, as he puts it, instant holiness.

Let’s back up here. First, let’s remember what Grace is and what it is to trample on grace.

Grace is God’s unmerited favor on those who fall down in repentance for their sinfulness and accept His sacrifice as the whole payment for their sin and offense against God (who does actually deserve all glory). Grace is this fantastic exchange of God’s very son’s death in our place, which effectively crucifies the old flesh of our will to the cross and gives us new life in Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. More than that, we are also ascended to Heaven in Christ Jesus and are in the presence of God by our brother, Christ!

That is Grace. That is unmerited favor. That is something we cannot buy, earn or barter.

So, what is trampling?

I’m so glad you asked. It has nothign to do with Mr. Sprinkles little article. In fact, those who trample on God’s grace are those who profess to be saved, then continue to live as they did before!

Hmmmm. Does that mean that if someone isn’t instantly holy, they’re trampling on Grace?

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves … we’ll discuss holiness in a minute.

In Hebrews the writer talks about those who become believers, taste the things of God and even experience some joy of the Holy Spirit … but then they fall away. The writer says that it is impossible for them to return again to repentance. This doesn’t mean that they can’t truly repent … but that as long as they continue in their duplicitous life, they are not humbled and they are not repentant and they will not be saved. (Hebrews 6:4-6, 10:29).

Paul talks about this, too, in Romans when he poses the question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1).

The answer is a resounding NO! We’re dead to those calls to sin if we were crucified with Christ and raised in new life of the resurrection.

So, are we to be instantly holy? Paul seems to think so. And this gets to the meaning of holy: separate, consecrated, cleansed for good use. There are other words used for holy, but the one used in 1 Corinthians 6:11, in which Paul points out that the Christians there were living sinful lifestyles, but were called out of them, is hagiazo, purified.

In that passage, Paul was telling the Corinthians that they were purified from the lifestyles of sin.

We need to encourage professing Christians to come out of sinful lifestyles such as wild parties and sensual behavior, come out in obedience to your Lord.

If your “Christian subculture” doesn’t do that, it’s not Christian … it’s just a subculture.

To bolster his unbiblical point, Sprinkle invokes speculative hyperbole on the disciples. He calls them a group of “thugs,” “criminals,” and “prisoners.” He likens the Roman Empire to ISIS and, thus, Matthew to a wild, party-animal terrorist funding reprobate … who evidently had continued his lifestyle after following Jesus. Oh, and Simon Peter is also a terrorist who murdered people because he was called “The Zealot” in the Bible.

And, like the Irish who drink beer, evidently anyone who is a “zealot” in “those times” means they murdered people who disagreed with their views.

The last time I heard such sweeping new information about Biblical people and events was from Rob Bell. And he wasn’t in any better position to postulate on historical matters.

The disciples were NOT thugs. They were fishermen. Now, perhaps where Sprinkle comes from fishermen are thuggish, I don’t know. Maybe he’s acquainted with fishermen who are ex-cons, too. But that hardly means that the same applies to the disciples.

Certainly, nothing in the Bible supports his claims. He just says it, so it’s true.

I’m growing very concerned about Christianity. When people can come along and throw out baseless libel and use it to support their doctrine of permissiveness, yet hold themselves out to be teachers of God’s word … it’s astounding.

So, what’s the point of his article? (which you can read here). That Grace is messy and can’t be put into a blue blazer… etc. We’re works in progress and sin might take decades to uncover …etc.

I agree. We are works in progress. We go from being born again to new life and embark on growing up in the process of sanctification. But being born invovles leaving the womb. Growing up involves some growing pains. Maturing involves being teachable, not obstinate.

We don’t help our children mature by excusing their bad behavior by saying, “they’re just kids …”

Okay, some people do and we call them bad parents.

But that’s exactly what this article is encouraging. So what if people use foul language. So what if they drink to excess. So what if they still party and carouse. They’re works in progress… whose to judge?

I guess Dr. Sprinkle should have been around to set Paul straight and save him those tears and sorrows as he wrote those letters that we call the epistles.

I’m writing this as a member of the underground. It’s the true Ekklesia, the called out ones of Christ. We’re not represented in these popular, trendy churches with cool pastors and smoke machines. We’re not gathering because of programs and music artists. We’re called out of this world and we attest to the truth.

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