Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Jesus is Just All Right With Me: Examining the Values of the Christian Alliance Pt. 2

This is the second post briefly reviewing the so-called values of the Christian Alliance for Progress. You may recall in Part 1 that I mentioned hearing a spokesman for this group named the "Rev." Tim Simpson interviewed on the Michael Medved radio program. He stated rather clearly that his group's goal is to confront the growing take over of Christianity by radical, right-wing fundamentalists (as opposed to the radical left-wing fundamentalists) who are bent upon twisting politics in America to their dangerous agenda. Interest griped me, so I did a search for his website and there I found listed a statement of faith (of sorts) highlighting seven values embraced and shared by the fine folks at the CAP.

Now, if this group claims to speak for biblical Christianity and is the voice of reason in the wilderness (no matter how shrill) crying against the ruthless right wing take over of biblical Christianity, then it is only wise to subject their seven values outlined in this statement of faith to the only real authority for a Christian: the Holy Bible. The CAP, by their own declaration, names Christianity as their shared faith, so it would seem only logical to appeal to the sole authority for the Christian. When placed under biblical scrutiny, do their complaints line of with a proper reading of scripture, or are they reading their complaints onto scripture?

However, before we even arrive at our first value, we come across a perplexing introductory comment that reads:

People in this movement hold diverse views about religion and the Christian life. We come from many different traditions. We belong to many different denominations, or we may follow Jesus on a non-denominational path ... Our differences are not what define us ... what is fundamental for all of us is this: we find the origin and inspiration for our shared values in the life of Jesus. We believe his life defines our spiritual path, and we choose to follow the path he modeled for us.

The immediate problem is the first sentence advocating an adherence to diversity on the part of many of the members. As A Christian, I am a firm believer in diversity. The Bible is clear that salvation is offered on a world-wide basis to all the people groups on Earth. Jesus did not come to atone for the sins of the folks in one small country, but it was to gather to Himself a people called by His name from all over the world (John 11:49-52 and Revelation 5:9,10).
I would have no problem with these opening remarks if that were their meaning. However, after listening to the right Rev. Simpson interviewed on the radio and looking over the CAP website, the meaning of "diverse views about religion" takes on an entirely foreign definition than what is found is scripture.

Basically, with the word "diverse," the CAP folks mean there is no common authoritative source of truth by which the group defines itself. In other words, we never appeal to the Bible to judge anyone's loopy ideas about Jesus or the Christian religion in general. Only the generic points about Jesus are defended as authoritative: his compassion, humanity, giving, loving, and so forth. This is a typical conviction in today's culture where pretty much everyone practices a Judges 21:25 Christianity and does what is right in his or her own eyes. The "likeable," non-threatening aspects of Christ's person are separated from the entire biblical record and distorted to fit CAP's anti-fundamentalist agenda. As long as the person has some view about Jesus other than right wing fundamentalism he is welcomed aboard.

As a side note, I would also wonder if their views about diverse religious opinion applies equally to non-Christians. Do they celebrate their spiritual diversity with Muslims, Hindus, and Wiccans, for example, and believe their spirituality and views on God are as valid as those shared in common among the membership of the CAP? I haven't located any specific comments on their website articulating a position on non-Christian faith, but I would imagine I could wager good money they have a benign tolerance for anything non-Christian and I am sure they would never offer one judgmental peep against a non-Christian. Their accusations against right wingers would drowned out any such comments any ways. However, this " If it works for you, that's great, so it might be true" sounds inter-faith friendly, but mindless pluralism is horribly irrational. That means either this god is schizoid, manifesting a myriad of polar opposite ways to be in a spiritual relationship with him (or her), or this god is maliciously deceptive, hiding the true path of spirituality and watching humanity grope about to find it in some perverse cosmic Easter egg hunt. But, moving along...

All of that leads us to the first shared value, the source of the CAP's spiritual foundation. What could that be, exactly? If one is practicing diversity as a virtue, then it would seem inappropriate - completely intolerant - to suggest a specific and objective spiritual foundation. Rather than appealing to an objective source of revelation (read "the Bible" here) to define their spiritual foundation, the CAP heads down the subjective, mystical, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-individual-breeches, burning in the bosom path.

What shapes their spiritual foundation? Get this, an intense relationship with God.

Hmmmm? An intense relationship with God? What exactly is that suppose to mean? How does one even begin to define the words intense and relationship? With no mention of scripture (except for a verse taken out of context) how exactly do I know I have the correct intensity with my relationship? What exactly is a gage for that intensity? How do I know the intensity is positive and not negative? How do I know I am not mistaking my intensity with feelings of stress? Heartburn? Subjectivity is a disastrous guide for defining our relationship with God.
This "intense relationship" spirituality advocated by the CAP only turns God into our boyfriend/girlfriend. Romanticism is prized as the ultimate virtue in our society and heated passions for someone of the opposite sex is falsely believed to be "true love." When this backward view of emotionalism is married to spirituality, one can be certain he or she will experience endless heartache and/or a bitter divorce. In a way, this view of spirituality could also be termed a Brad Pitt-Jennifer Aniston spirituality, because at first, the relationship with the self-defined god looks all good and everyone is talking about how wonderful the new relationship appears, but eventually, that god is going to have an affair or the person will become dissatisfied with the god, because the spirituality wanes in intensity. Then your spiritual life gets picked to the bone by every tabloid vulture and everyone scoffs at you. Oh well...

But, coming back to an objective authority on God and my relationship with Him, the Bible is rather clear if I am unanchored, depending upon my own self determination with a spiritual relationship, I am for sure going to be tossed to and fro by every weirdo doctrine and crackpot belief that comes along purporting to be an intense feeling for God (Ephesian 4:14). The Bible is further clear that it - Holy Scripture - is the authority for a Christian to evaluate and judge any experienced spirituality. Paul states in 2 Timothy 3:16 that God's Word is the inspired source, literally, "breathed by God," revealing God's person, redemptive plan, salvation in Christ and how men can have a real, joyful, soul satisfying spiritual relationship with Him. An intense spiritual relationship with God is not found in me alone. As a fallible human being, I can be a bonehead when it comes to making decisions about relationships based upon intense feelings. Intense feelings have a track record for leading me astray. I can't pick and choose the characteristics of God that suits me like some flavor of ice cream. The Bible, and it alone, is the defining authority that sets the parameters and regulations of my relationship with God. Yes, God desires for me to experience an intense spirituality, but according to the Bible, we can only achieve and maintain such intensity with God based upon the terms He has established in revealed scripture. The fine folks at the CAP conveniently ignore this fact.

to be continued....

One footnote: I ventured over to a Michael Medved fan blog that summarizes the topics and interviews discussed on Medved's program. I added my comments to the blog entry discussing Rev Simpson's interview, and they sparked a debate with a couple of detractors. You can read our interchange here. The conversation has slowed to a stop for the moment, but I believe I provided some thoughtful information for my opponents to consider. Some folks often question my involvement with this hostility to the truth. Such debate is seen as a waste of time. To a degree, that can be true; however, I have discovered that many other folks who will never participate in the discussion read the comments and are encouraged, as well as helped, by what I write. I know I have received many private emails from lurkers in the past when I was involved with what appeared to be a repetitive debate on other forums.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find that you are very helpful. Just keep in step with the spirit. Make sure it's not quarellsome but humble. Offering wisdom and the true side of things or atleast another side to consider is GREAT! Jesus always spoke up for the truth as did his most adimate followers in the bible. It is good that we the body learn how to discuss things collectively and make sure we are truly hearing from God on an issue , being patient and testing the spirits of an issue, verses blindly believing whatever sounds good. But no matter what we must discuss things in love with our family members. Putting differences aside does not mean forgetting about them. It means working them out in love. If the body would learn to do so as the bible taught we would finally gradually and truly come together. There wouldn't be so many splits. But as long as we ignore passively the problems to one extreme or argue furiously to the other extreme things go unsolved and then people start to feel lost because they dont' know how to tell if they've heard His voice. His sheep hear His voice and they are all of one communitive flock. God created us diversively so that we can learn from eachother more about Him not so that we would remain diversely seperate in our own individual bubbles. An elbow may be different from a hand but both need eachother to be part of the arm.

11:16 AM, November 19, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

email me at catloverkrystal@yahoo.com

11:18 AM, November 19, 2008  

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