Progressive

The future of American Christianity? Or the last hurrah of a bankrupt faith?

Bell_Spong.jpg In a Good Friday service at historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, retired Bishop John Shelby Spong decried the Nicene Creed as “a radical distortion of the Gospel of John,” asserted that several of the apostles were “mythological” and declared that Jesus Christ did not die to redeem humanity from its sins.

This Gospel sees Jesus as a life lived so deeply that he reached mystical oneness with God,” proposed Spong.

He argued that Jesus could say “I and the father are one” only because he was inviting his disciples “to enter a mystical reality of divine human oneness.”

Instead of portraying the crucifixion of Jesus being about his sacrifice, Spong claimed the author of the book of John intended a “call to all of us to be whole people – to find yourself and give yourself away.”

“God does not need human sacrifice to forgive,” Spong declared. “John’s Jesus is not about saving sinners and rescuing the lost. It is about moving beyond self-consciousness to universal consciousness.”

“Jesus does not die for your sins in this [John's] gospel; he dies to make you whole,” Spong announced from the pulpit. “As evolving creatures, the problem is not that we have fallen, but that we are not yet fully human.”

“We are not sinners, the church got that wrong, we are rather incomplete human beings,” Spong concluded with an “amen” that was echoed by the congregation and clergy present.

Rob Bell's gospel is remarkably similar to that of Bishop Spong. In his sympathetic biography of Bell, James Wellman writes, that according to Bell love wins the in the sense that God’s will is the reconciliation of all things—the soul, the body, the earth, the cosmos, and everything in it.

Bell believes that Christ’s sacrifice is not for God’s sake. Rather, it is the ultimate revelation of the innocent victim, the final scapegoat. It is not God who demands the violent sacrifice of Jesus. Rather, humans demanded it. The wrath was human, not divine.

According to Wellman, Bell represents the public face of the transformation of American evangelicalism. Thankfully, that view is more wishful thinking than critical analysis. We've seen it all before.

Back in 1937, Richard Niebuhr summarized the liberal/progressive gospel as:

A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.

Spong has been declaring the death of historic Christianity for years and announcing the birth of a new form of Christianity for a new world. Now Bell is touted as the new face of American Christianity. Instead these men represent Christian movements in the final stages of decline and decay.

Rob Bell — nothing to uphold and nowhere to go

I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it's a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.

Rob Bell

Rob Bell chose San Francisco’s Episcopal Cathedral to announce his support of same-sex marriage.

In an interview with the Very Rev. Jane Shaw Bell described conservative evangelicalism as a dying subculture that does not work.

I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoised, Evangelical subculture that was told "we're gonna change the thing" and they haven't. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And i think that when you're in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it's very painful. You sort of die or you adapt.

Bell chose not to affirm whether Christians "know" the truth in some ultimate sense

I would say that the powerful, revolutionary thing about Jesus' message is that he says, 'What do you do with the people that aren't like you? What do you do with the Other? What do you do with the person that's hardest to love?' . . . That's the measure of a good religion. . .

In an interview for Odyssey Networks Bell said that, God is leading us into acceptance of same-sex marriage.

Probably every generation had this sense of, “Man we’re living in the midst of history.” What’s interesting about this – and if you look through history, generally great new technological breakthroughs caused a ripple effect across culture. So technology seems to spur all sorts of social, economic, cultural and religious effects. And I think what has happened with the Internet – and lots of people are saying this – is simply you cannot live in your own tribal bubble anymore. You cannot stay cocooned off from how the world actually is.

And what happens when you are all suddenly exposed to thousands of different viewpoints is it can call your own into question and it can have this refining fire sort of dimension to it when you realize, “Wow, I’ve been living with a bunch of views and perspectives that don’t actually work and don’t actually bring life. So I need to be honest about that.”

There you have it. Evangelicals, are a dying subculture and should abandon faithfulness to the Bible's teaching on sex and marriage because the internet is opening us up to thousands of different viewpoints. Really?

And just who is this "god" leading us into acceptance of same-sex marriage?

Rob Bell has lost the plot and has been joined by Brian McLaren, and Steve Chalke, and a host of former evangelicals who cannot stand the heat of society's pressure to conform.

It's not accident that Bell chose San Francisco’s Episcopal Cathedral to announce his position. These "progressive evangelicals" are no more than a return to the theological liberalism of a generations.

TS Eliot's critique applies equally to this new generation of progressives.

In religion, Liberalism may be characterized by a progressive discarding of elements in historical Christianity which appear superfluous or obsolete, confounded with practices and abuses which are legitimate objects of attack. But as its movement is controlled rather by its origin than by any goal, it loses force after a series of rejections, and with nothing to destroy is left with nothing to uphold and nowhere to go.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever (Is 40:8).

Bravo Sir Humphrey

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Jesus on marriage

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

A denominational discussion paper on same sex marriage written by the Very Reverend Sir Humphrey Appleby.

Where Scripture speaks, we speak and especially so where it is Christologically explicit. We avoid, at our best, overzealous reasoning that seeks to conjecture and plot cause and effect from selected verses, theological systems or constructs of society and human behaviour. The Christological imperative for two becoming one flesh is clearly repeated three times in the gospels. In this imperative, hospitality to “the other” in human relationships is formed in the most extraordinary relationship of difference: that between male and female. This difference is more tangible than any construction of “other” by ethnicity, colour, creed or chosen sexual identity. We celebrate this gift of otherness and do not wish to diminish its profound formative possibilities for human relationality within communities that can be as small as a family.

As a congregational movement, we value the creativity of congregations in unique expressions of mission and ministry within their peculiar contexts. By reference to our articulation of identity in the past and anticipation toward the future, our denomination today is constrained neither to be defensive against society’s perennial groping for satisfactory human identity nor deferential to society’s variegated and conflicted articulations of human dignity.

What to do about Sir Humphrey? Cure him with a good dose of George Orwell.

Bravo Sir Humphrey

201209241032.jpg

Jesus on marriage

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

A denominational discussion paper on same sex marriage written by the Very Reverend Sir Humphrey Appleby.

Where Scripture speaks, we speak and especially so where it is Christologically explicit. We avoid, at our best, overzealous reasoning that seeks to conjecture and plot cause and effect from selected verses, theological systems or constructs of society and human behaviour. The Christological imperative for two becoming one flesh is clearly repeated three times in the gospels. In this imperative, hospitality to “the other” in human relationships is formed in the most extraordinary relationship of difference: that between male and female. This difference is more tangible than any construction of “other” by ethnicity, colour, creed or chosen sexual identity. We celebrate this gift of otherness and do not wish to diminish its profound formative possibilities for human relationality within communities that can be as small as a family.

As a congregational movement, we value the creativity of congregations in unique expressions of mission and ministry within their peculiar contexts. By reference to our articulation of identity in the past and anticipation toward the future, our denomination today is constrained neither to be defensive against society’s perennial groping for satisfactory human identity nor deferential to society’s variegated and conflicted articulations of human dignity.

What to do about Sir Humphrey? Cure him with a good dose of George Orwell.

Parliament votes no to same sex marriage

From time to time I have drawn attention to the advocacy by progressive clergy for same sex marriage.

It now appears certain that both houses of the Australian parliament will vote no to same sex marriage. This will not be the end of the matter but the beginning of a new stage in the campaign as advocates lobby for changes to the law on a state-by-state basis.

Paul Kelly in the Australian writes that at the heart of the campaign is a new ideology of marriage equality.

He argues that the campaign for same sex marriage is about changing the concept of marriage as the core institution of our civilisation.

The proposal is to strip from the law the idea of marriage as a union between "a man and a woman" and substitute "two people". This means the removal of concepts of motherhood and fatherhood from law, governance and administration in favour of parenthood. Once enshrined in law, the education systems from primary schools upwards will teach your children the ideology of marriage equality, namely equality of homosexual and heterosexual unions, as the foundation for cultural norms, and a philosophy of family that is dictated by constantly evolving social behaviour and fashions.

Kelly warns that,

Once the state authorises same-sex marriage then religions will come under intense pressure and another campaign based on the further application of marriage equality will begin. Looking at the passions of the same-sex movement, can this be doubted? At that point the ideology of marriage equality runs into direct conflict with the idea of religious freedom. Something will have to give.

Kelly is right. The campaign will continue to roll on. Same sex marriage is not the final goal. They want our hearts and minds as well.

The big surprise are the clergy who enthusiastically support this campaign, and the unwillingness of other Christian leaders to openly challenge them. When clergy are permitted to undermine the beliefs and practices of the faith they are meant to uphold, it's a sure sign that a movement is in decline and moving towards decay.

Meanwhile locally, another denomination decides it's time for a conversation about sexual orientation and gay marriage.

Parliament votes no to same sex marriage

From time to time I have drawn attention to the advocacy by progressive clergy for same sex marriage.

It now appears certain that both houses of the Australian parliament will vote no to same sex marriage. This will not be the end of the matter but the beginning of a new stage in the campaign as advocates lobby for changes to the law on a state-by-state basis.

Paul Kelly in the Australian writes that at the heart of the campaign is a new ideology of marriage equality.

He argues that the campaign for same sex marriage is about changing the concept of marriage as the core institution of our civilisation.

The proposal is to strip from the law the idea of marriage as a union between "a man and a woman" and substitute "two people". This means the removal of concepts of motherhood and fatherhood from law, governance and administration in favour of parenthood. Once enshrined in law, the education systems from primary schools upwards will teach your children the ideology of marriage equality, namely equality of homosexual and heterosexual unions, as the foundation for cultural norms, and a philosophy of family that is dictated by constantly evolving social behaviour and fashions.

Kelly warns that,

Once the state authorises same-sex marriage then religions will come under intense pressure and another campaign based on the further application of marriage equality will begin. Looking at the passions of the same-sex movement, can this be doubted? At that point the ideology of marriage equality runs into direct conflict with the idea of religious freedom. Something will have to give.

Kelly is right. The campaign will continue to roll on. Same sex marriage is not the final goal. They want our hearts and minds as well.

The big surprise are the clergy who enthusiastically support this campaign, and the unwillingness of other Christian leaders to openly challenge them. When clergy are permitted to undermine the beliefs and practices of the faith they are meant to uphold, it's a sure sign that a movement is in decline and moving towards decay.

Meanwhile locally, another denomination decides it's time for a conversation about sexual orientation and gay marriage.

The high cost of peace at any price

Yet another story of a group of clergy who have taken it upon themselves to reinvent marriage to fit our broken image.

I'm not sure of my denomination's position on homosexual marriage, if it has one. One of the campaigners is a regular contributor to the denominational newspaper—the Baptist Witness. The paper is happy to link to his website which promotes gay marriage.

We also have a theological college lecturer who teaches that God did not make man male or female, but male and female. Therefore humanity is a continuum between masculinity and femininity. Humanity can be ‘homosexual’, ‘intersexual’ and the ‘transsexual’ and that's ok. An amazing discovery after thousands of years of misinterpretation.

This has got to be one of the worst examples of exegesis I've ever seen. Still, what would I know? I'm not a theologian charged with training the next generation of church leaders and thinkers.

What should a denomination do? The issues must be brought out into the open, discussed, debated and resolved under the authority of scripture.

Peace at any price is far too expensive.