Toothless Christianity

I’m reading In Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins, written by Michael E. Wittmer. This is an old controversy … but it really isn’t new, either. They say a sucker is born every minute … well, so are heretic teachers. The problem is … I think the suckers are the ones responding to the heretics!

I’ll get to the book in a moment, but I want to preface it by another example. A while back I listened to a debate on baptism between John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul.

Hear the debate below:

The positions are well argued, generally. R.C. falls back on an argument of “deafening silence” regarding the practice of baptizing infants in the early church, and then attempts to string together the usual disconnected and out-of-context passages to build his defense of straight up idolatry.

MacArthur, while presenting the Biblical case for believer’s Baptism founded upon the actual teaching of Christ and the Scriptures, falls short in the end.

He succumbs to the same problem I’m seeing with Michael Wittmer in his response to Rob Bell’s heretical Universalims-tinged paganism.

I’m going to step back and just remind those who read this what’s at stake: Jesus talked about salvation as the “narrow gate.” (Matthew 7:13-14).

It’s salvation we’re discussing. This isn’t a debate over the politics of capitalism vs. socialism. It isn’t an intellectual volley regarding free markets vs. controlled economies. It isn’t parliamentary systems vs. a democratic republic vs. monarchy.

It’s people’s eternal souls we’re talking about.

Oddly enough, public discourse seems to reserve the sharper distinctions for the former more than the latter.

Never does MacArthur suggest that Sproul is being openly disobedient to the command of Christ and then elevating water to an idolatrous symbol in place of Christ (but that’s exactly what he’s doing with infant baptism).

As for Wittmer, he opens by saying how much respect he has for his friend Rob Bell. He even spells out why he refers to “Bell” as Bell, rather than Rob (though they are on a first-name basis, I guess).

Throughout the book–so far–he uses terms like evangelicals, theologians, and orthodox view. These terms, and the I-know-Rob-Bell insider comments convey the same collegiate parley demonstrated by MacArthur and Sproul. It comes across as an academic paper stating an alternate, viable viewpoint with supporting arguments. He even states that at the end of his book the reader will be able to make their own, informed decision–as if this were simply a position statement on theoretical physics!

He gives passing lip-service to the idea that Bell’s book might not convey the gospel message sufficiently for someone to be saved.  But fails to mention the obvious issue that Rob Bell is a lost sinner in open rebellion to God. In more stark terms, he’s an anti-christ heretic, a false prophet.

But we don’t live in a time when Christians–much less those who have claimed the mantle of teachers–will stand up for the truth of God’s Word. Not in the way Menno Simons did back in the 1520s and 30s. He pointed out what God’s word says–in no uncertain terms–and denounced the human depravity that attempted to present anything else.

Why is that so hard today?

Actually, it was hard back then, too. Menno surrendered his whole life because of the truth. Unlike Luther or Calvin, he was driven out of his position as a priest. He was labeled with a hated term–Anabaptist–and was hunted and kept in exile.

Others, like Luther and Zwingli, members of the Reformation, failed to do this. They valued their earthly comfort and their alliance with the State powers. While what they proposed was radical, it fell short of the truth. And, conveniently, allowed them to retain their creature comforts.

Today, it seems that no one wants to stand up for truth in the way Menno Simons did. MacArthur, to his credit, does this more than others. He called out Mark Driscoll as unfit for the role of pastor, while others–like John Piper–were wowed by Mark’s popularity. He also nods to the fact that he would have been killed–rather than debated–had he and R.C been living in the 1500s.

What irritates me, though, is what is not mentioned–or even noticed: The discussion of Biblical truth only occurs among the “theologians.” They have their cordial debates. They exchange their scholarly books in response to. We laypersons just sit and watch. We followers must be swayed by one position or another.

I prefer to believe what John wrote to us in 1 John 2:27:

But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

If you are saved and have the anointing of the Holy Spirit, you can–and should–study the Bible for yourself. You have no need to be instructed or get a degree before you can learn about God and His truth.

Finally, if someone is given more responsibility–as in the case of those who lead congregations–much is required of them. They should have teeth in their arguments. They should declare the truth boldly, as John the Baptist did when he decried the Pharisees by saying, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7). 

Wow. That’s some teeth. That was also how Jesus spoke. He didn’t mince words. He taught about the narrow gate. He taught about those who believed they did things in His name, whom He would reject because He never knew them. He spoke against the Pharisees (read, pastors) who loved the respectful greetings in the marketplaces and the seats of honor.

Christianity that has teeth belongs to the poor, hunted, disenfranchised, despised of this world. God’s true Kingdom is made up of children whom the elite would rather hush and shuttle off to some nursery.

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4 Comments

  1. BTW, that Bible Trivia stuff pissed me off. Who cares if I can’t tell you where Joseph was born or what exactly Mary said to the angel? Ask me what the gospel is–why Jesus came to earth, what he did for me, and why he did it and I can tell you that. Don’t ask me questions like a history exam and use that as a basis for my faith. All that proves is you listened in church or while reading the Bible. It proves nothing. Maybe he wasn’t using it as a basis for faith, but he was using it so we’d all act Christian on Christmas instead of watching football. Whatever happened to simply being in each others company and loving each other even if the game is on (which I don’t like necessarily, but have learned to accept)? Why do we have to do “Christian” things in order to act like Christians. Christians act like Christians when they love each other, not when they can tell you what the angel Gabriel said. Psh! Ok, off my soapbox!! LOL

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  2. Over Christmas, I was subjected to playing “bible trivia” with my in-laws which was questions my father in law made up and then asked us and then if you got it right, you got a quarter (isn’t it silly he has to pay us to play a game? Seriously.) Anyway, my little niece got a question and she said “I didn’t learn that one in Sunday School”. I thought it was sad. She was relying on church to help her learn the Bible when she could read it herself–or her parents could read it to her (but probably don’t). Anyway, I struggle to read my Bible but I think its because I’m sort of angry at things right now and don’t want to. It’s hard to want to read when you feel like no one really cares, not even God, about your life. And then I question everything because what I’ve been taught my whole life feels like a load of crap. Where do the lies end and the truth begin? Christians can’t even agree on what is true yet I’m supposed to know it? I guess I’ve grown cynical in my wanderings.

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    1. A whole quarter! LOL. Personally, I’m on the fence with “Bible Trivia.” Mostly because I’m convinced that the Bible isn’t trivial. 😉

      I know what you mean. Tricia and I have talked about this a lot over the last few days. I am torn by the fact that there are ministries out there that seem to genuinely want to see people turn in faith to the Gospel. But then you have those ministries using worldly marketing techniques, or the pastors acting like the Big CEOs of the church …etc. I’ve never felt that a so-called pastor has ever cared for my soul. Instead, I’ve felt hushed, quarantined, kicked-out, marginalized and criticized.

      But, as I mentioned to Simeon the other day in an e-mail, I’m probably not in too bad of company. Noah was alone with his family (and presumably there were other close relatives that didn’t believe), Abraham was alone, separated from his family and had to wait somewhere around 25 years before God’s promise was fulfilled, Joseph was hated by his own family and sold into slavery, then thrown in a dungeon for 20 years or so on a false charge … Moses spent 20 years as a fugitive in the desert … David spent a good length of time as an outcast from his own people, a fugitive from a megalomaniac king who had been rejected by God. Elijah, too, had been sitting outside of Israel with a foreigner widow and her son during the years of the famine … not accepted by the religious system of Israel.

      So, I understand the difficulty if you wonder if the Bible is tainted by those who have used it for their own sinful purposes. But that speaks about their nature, not God’s. God doesn’t have anything to do with the false prophets that mix the world with their attempts at service. They will be the ones that try to remind God of all the stuff they did in “His name.” But they’re workers of lawlessness and will be rejected.

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      1. Good points 🙂 It’s hard when you see so much of it everywhere–Christianity is now it’s own religion that has nothing to do with Jesus. So I don’t even want to call myself that anymore. Maybe it just takes time. Those examples from the Bible are helpful. The disciples had each other, but even they weren’t accepted. It does feel like we are back to that. Maybe the lie has been that our country and nation is Christian, but in reality, the cover is being blown. Look at all the Trump supporters and how they think and act–most of them Christians. It tells you something about the state of Christianity. It is its own sect, or religion and has nothing to do with what Jesus actually said in scripture. It puts an awful taste in my mouth, anyway. But even closer to home, relatives who claim Christianity but then use it to be the morality police (meanwhile overlooking their own failures and sins) seem to confuse things for me sometimes. It’s hard to take it out on God when they say they follow him. But i guess I don’t portray him to perfection even on my good days either.

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