Doctrine camps can be like the border battle of ‘The’ Ohio State vs. University of Michigan, or the Vikings vs. the Packers, or the Bears vs. everyone! Folks will break fellowship and refuse the salsa dip over these things. But here’s a question to ponder — Is doctrine really the biggest issue? Are you collecting all the “facts,” or growing your faith?
Theology is important. For instance, I’ve pointed out on this blog how some well-known Christian folks are spreading heresy. Ted Dekker is claiming that “we are the light,” and encourages a self-centered, experience-based religion that he claims is the “forgotten way” of the true “Yeshua.” yeah, everyone for 2000 years has just missed the boat! Chuck Spurgeon? Jon Edwards? They didn’t know anything. Whitfield? Westley? Uninformed, unenlightened men, at best, right? After all, they haven’t had this “awakening” that sent them back to using Jesus’ real name. And, they didn’t benefit from Jesus actually talking to them and telling them to forget everything they thought they knew from the Bible.
So, yes, grounded doctrine is important. Without it, we’d slip off into some trendy “Bible” study or start listening to Beth Moore talk about how God puts items on her shopping list. We would ignore the abuse of CEO “pastors” who enlarge their wallets with the donations of desperate souls hoping to be part of “the ministry.”
But having all the “facts” about the Bible, can, in itself become a false comfort. It can become the golden calf around which we frolic and claim, “this is the god that brought us out of Egypt!”
Take Ken Ham, for instance. I still like some of the books Answers In Genesis has. They have compiled articles and research from very smart people addressing things from a Creationist perspective–a perspective that’s always missing in popular dialogue. So, they fill a void, providing counterpoint to what the world presents under an Evolutionary viewpoint.
But, Ken has become a sad caricature of a Christian. Like so many in the “Christian” world, there is a hierarchy, determined by dogma and popularity. So, if you rise to popularity, and have a set of dogmatic principles, then you might be included in the inner circle of the “Christian” elite. It’s like celebrity status.
Rob Bell had this. Until it became a bit too obvious that he was a universalist heretic. The funny thing, though, is that he was always a heretic. And the fact that he was popular in our culture should have been the first clue. But, instead, John Piper and others in the Elite welcomed him as an up-and-coming preacher. No discernment. Just an eye to see if he was filling seats and appeared to check the right boxes. When he clearly checked the wrong box, the Elite distanced themselves, ala Tweet, “farewell, Rob Bell.”
It reminds me of politics, really. Someone is The Next Big Thing, until they send a nasty tweet of themselves wearing underwear (or not), or get caught in some FBI sting. Then, it’s time for some distance with a good dose of reviling. Then, let’s find the next Justin Beber-style YouTube sensation to attract people to Christianity. Just make sure he fills in all the right boxes! For *@!$% sake, we can’t have another Rob Bell!
My point is not to dismiss the boxes, per se, but the emphasis on them to the exclusion of discernment of character and general humility. We are not to judge as the world does, in a superficial way. Rather, we’re to discern the character of their life. Of course, quick judgments of beams sticking out of someone’s eye is far easier than discerning their character. The latter takes months and even years. It resists any form of celebrity status that comes from a million likes on social media or someone going viral.
Ken Ham has attained a large following with his Bible Theme Park. He also has a lot of particular boxes. He’s known for being a strict literalist in regard to the first chapter of the Bible. He’s dogmatic about six literal days of the Creation week. And, there are good, solid verses that support that position.
There are also very smart, and devoted Christians who have taken a closer look at whether the literalist view should be held as a dogmatic foundation for Christian faith. Prof. John Lennox wrote a fantastic little book called Seven Days that Divide the World. In it, he demonstrates how one can be devoted to the Bible as God’s inspired, inerrant word, yet still allow for something other than six, literal days for God’s creative “week.” I’ll add that Prof. Lennox is an astounding debater and highly entertaining to watch as he dismantles arguments from Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens. They’re on YouTube and I recommend watching them.
Of course, Ken Ham refuted the book severely. Ken Ham does a lot of refuting and reviling. Because he has all the “facts.”
I’m sure Mr. Ham believes he’s showing his devotion to Christ when he stands firm for the 24-hour, 6 day creation in Genesis 1. But, how it comes across is more akin to defending a brand than standing for the Lord. This pit-bull attitude came to clear relief for me during a media storm a few years ago.
Ken Ham and the “Christian” establishment attacked, reviled, threw ashes on their head and wept for the world when Darren Aronofsky released his Biblical epic, Noah starring Russel Crowe. Personally, I questioned the studio’s wisdom at having an openly atheist director helm a tale of, well, Biblical proportions.
That said, I had absolutely zero expectation that the movie would be Scripturally accurate. And, I suspect, neither did Ken Ham and the Elite. So, when it came out, it didn’t surprise me that it looked like a mash-up of Waterworld and Lord of the Rings. Frankly, the popular consensus was that it wasn’t even a good movie. It was a far cry from the devious, deceiving manipulative machinations of the devil that the Elite attempted to decry.
When I saw the movie, I was actually impressed at how much the movie got right! God spoke to Noah, telling him to build the ark and that He would destroy the world by water for the people’s wickedness. Noah builds the ark, is hated by those around him and is rescued from God’s judgment.
That said, the movie deviated from what “sin” entailed, showing that it was disregard for God’s creation, and then wanton behavior against fellow humans. While I could quibble with the depiction of sin, both things, the selfish pillage of natural resources, clear-cutting forests and hunting animals to extinction, rape, drunkenness and violence are evidence of sin. I don’t expect Aronofsky to understand the deeper issue of sin. But, the movie got close. Honestly, the Elite don’t seem to understand the truth of sin, either, so they’re really on the same level as the atheist, IMO.
The movie veered off in other directions, depicting fallen angels as Tree-Ent-like creatures. They had Tubal-Cain become a tent-pole movie villain worthy of a James Bond plot.
But, from the “I felt like vomiting” response of Ken Ham, you’d think something worse had happened in the story. What it looked like to me was envy on the part of Ham, that he hadn’t been able to do this level of movie to go along with this Bible Theme Park in Ohio.
Ironically, another big Biblical movie, with Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings, got a full pass by the Elite. In fact, some compared it to the Noah movie, saying “it wasn’t as bad as the Noah movie.”
Gods and Kings, however, featured “Moses” reviling God for planning to kill the first-born of every Egyptian household (though Moses himself was spared from an Egyptian edict that murdered every male infant among the Israelites). It depicted God as a petulant young boy. I bet the list goes on. Gods and Kings was also done in a more realistic manner (except for the white-washing of all Egyptians and Israelites) than Noah. That’s important to note. While Noah looked like an attempt to depict a parable story, Gods and Kings attempted to portray an actual historical event, but in a way that smeared God.
So, the Elite joined Ken Ham in his campaign of hatred against the Noah movie, but looked with disinterest on a movie that actually reviled the character of God!!
In Noah, God’s character is never reviled. Noah doubts what’s expected of him and thinks he needs to kill a baby (which he doesn’t, and is never told to do). Noah gets drunk and naked on a beach–which actually happens in the Biblical account–and that was just horrible, per Ken Ham. He was a preacher of righteousness! Yes, he was, but he was also a guy who planted a vineyard, got drunk, naked and humiliated himself with his son Ham (no relation to Ken) and had to be covered by his other two sons who would not look on their father’s shame.
Based on this, I’d say, the theology of dogma prevented the Elite from seeing the true issue here. I’m not going to refer people to the multiplex for lessons on Noah or Moses. I certainly won’t refer them to a theme park in Ohio for Biblical instruction. I’m not going to witness to the world by wearing cheesy T-shirts from “Christian” book stores.
This is where the rubber meets the road: Are you gathering all the right facts, like the Elite? Do you have all the boxes checked?
That’s not bad. Sound doctrine has facts. It has truth. It has sound understanding of God’s Word. If you believe God created the universe in six literal days, that’s a solid position to hold.
But, the real question is this: do you have a growing faith? Do you have a repentance from human pride and the praise of the Elite? Are you able, like Noah, Elijah, Moses and the Apostles, to stand in the face of the religious consensus and point out if something is off. Are you able to say, it’s not lawful for you to build a big house and lord it over the people in your care!
Are you more concerned with being right than being right with God?
Faith like Noah is faith that calls people to God’s character, and shows that character in meekness. Abraham pled with the Lord on behalf of Sodom. I suspect the Elite would ask if God needed any help in burning it to the ground.