For over 20 years, I have been writing about the Bible and its application in a way that hopefully transcended church denominations. It’s been a quest to separate the intent of God, to the best of my ability, from the ego of man – to help lay out His path for godly living. (All of that work is currently in the editing process for future publication.)
I feel that now God is giving me an unction to help bring that kingdom message into the light for living in a postmodern world. I didn’t quite know how that was going to look, but as I was beginning to examine how Christianity was being written about in this era, I saw openings where I could light that candle.
What first caught my eye was the title of an article called The Day Jesus Threw God Out of Church by Dr. Steve McSwain. I thought, ‘That’s a declaration / viewpoint beyond anything I’ve ever encountered.’ I read it, and it led me to read three other articles he penned as well, to get further understandings of his philosophies.
God bless Dr. McSwain. We are all trying to find our spiritual path in this life. He says that he is a Christian (‘just not of a certain type’) and that he has been a minister for a number of years. In his articles, he puts forth some ideas that he feels represent the beliefs of woe begotten wayward churches and their congregants – holding those out as a composite picture of the majority of the present-day church of Christ.
God knows that churches are peopled by humans with failings. Is there any institution that isn’t? There are also some that fall under the sway of human ‘personalities’ instead of the word of God. Yet, I contend that the majority of church-goers are doing their best to live a good (godly) life as it is presented in the Scriptures.
We know that as long as we inhabit this body, we are stuck in the world we live in. While I’m a huge proponent that anyone can live happily in this world if they’re on God’s path, it is not hard to be beguiled by the ways of the world, which are often in direct opposition to God’s:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Is. 55:8, 9. NKJV
And being that they do oppose the will of God, Christians are called to separate ourselves from those ways:
…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the word of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom. 12:1, 2. ESV
We are called to be ‘godly correct’ instead of politically correct.
One of the good Doctor’s other three posts is titled Christian By Nature. In it he rails against what he claims to be a Christian dogmatic stance that says only some people have been “pre -ordained to be on God’s short list of ‘insiders’ invited to his banquet in the sky, and as a consequence, I need not worry about those not so fortunate and are furthermore eternally doomed.” That is a gross misrepresentation:
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD. Lam. 3:25, 26. NASB
For the grace of God has appeared to all people, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age… Titus 2:11, 12. ESV
’Salvation for all people’ does not denote ‘pre-ordained insiders.’ Yes, in order to receive salvation, one must actively seek out God and His salvation, but everyone has right up until the day they die to receive that; but given that they don’t know when that day of death will come, an urgency exists for their search. How much more compassionate can God be?
And yet, Christ Himself taught that there will indeed be a final separation for those who do not believe in the salvation of God through Christ:
“…you will die [unforgiven and condemned] in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am the One [I claim to be], you will die in your sins.” Jn. 8:24 AMP
So, Jesus is not describing an unfortunate, pre-ordained, eternally doomed group. He is speaking to those who make the free will choice to join that crowd.
Furthermore, followers of Christ are not selectively trying to alienate anyone. We are instead called by God to lovingly warn them of the possible outcome of the wrong decision. Indeed, it is our duty and we are held accountable for doing so:
“…If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes them away, his blood shall be upon his own head…But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his own iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.” Ezek. 33:2 – 4 & 6. ESV
The second of the other articles I read by Dr. McSwain was Why Christianity Needs Heretics. In it, he says, “It is the heretics who always counter the orthodoxy of the past and open believers to new possibilities in the future.” Orthodoxy refers to ‘beliefs or practices,’ and a ‘heretic’ describes one who is opposed to them. In one aspect, I agree with the doctor, in that the church must be cleansed of any doctrine of ‘man,’ that opposes the word of God – which is why I believe that the concept of church ‘denominations’ is harmful.
However, if the good doctor is referring to the Bible itself as ‘orthodoxy of the past,’ which he seems to infer, (as we’ll flesh out shortly), I must take a rigid (but lovingly) opposing view. A Christian, by definition, is one who follows Christ. Thus, he or she must stick to what He says:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Mt. 24:35 NKJV
“…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Lk. 11:28 NKJV
“…he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life…” Jn. 5:24 NKJV
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” Jn. 8:31 NKJV
“He who does not love me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.’ Jn. 14:24 NASB
We see then the word of Christ (revealed as the word of God) stands eternally, and it holds the key to salvation. Jesus is the word of God (Jn. 1:1); and what does God say about Himself?
“For I, the LORD, do not change…” Mal. 3:6 NASB
Furthermore, we are warned by God not to take it upon ourselves to change His word (that which represents Him):
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” Dt. 12:32 NKJV
Some people are only what is called a ‘red letter’ Bible reader only – tossing any words not said directly by Jesus aside; but that was certainly not Jesus’ intent and purpose:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Mt. 5:17 ESV
Ultimately then, biblical orthodoxy, (‘of the past’) cannot be refuted and believers should not be open to ‘new possibilities’ (read: man-derived ideas) that conflict with the word of God.
The third of the three other articles of Dr. McSwain is Christianity is Alive and Well, within which he states that he is increasing hopeful because: ‘Churches and church leaders seem to be more emboldened to speak the truth, to open the doors to all people, to stop the dogmas and doctrines to act as spacers between the tiles on its sacred floors that do nothing but divide people into classes, sexes, races, or worse, “us and them” or “insiders” and “outsiders” the “saved” versus the “lost.”
I’d like to dovetail that statement into his article that garnished my primary attention, The Day Jesus Threw God Out of the Church.
In it, he quotes Lk. 19:45, 46, (see also Jn. 2:15, 16.), which is the account of when Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem and ejected the people conducting business there that smacked of material gain rather than activities revolving around worship.
This was an actual event. The good Doctor would have us believe that it was not an actual account, but instead a ‘metaphor.’ I admit that the Bible contains many metaphors – especially in the books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation. However, the Bible was written in very simple syntax so that sheepherders could understand it. In most cases, the word is meant to be taken literally.
If one makes a metaphor of the majority of scripture, it opens it up to the capricious interpretations of man.
And while I agree with McSwain that Jesus was infuriated with how the Pharisees had manipulated the Jewish faith for their own gain, he’s all over the place taking pot shots at the Scriptures. He says that ‘God’s presence was believed to have resided in the ‘holiest of holy’ chamber in the Temple and that the high priest was only allowed in once a year. That’s not conjecture. It is from the mouth of God Himself, spoken through Moses.
Then the doctor starts talking about how the men of that time believed God was a male and infers that women must have been second class citizens. Admittedly, it was a patriarchal social system. However, God never said that He was a male exclusively:
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Gn. 1:27 NASB
God transcends sexual definition. Yet both He and His Son refer to Himself / He as ‘Father.’ That’s why you’ll find God spoken of in the male pronoun. However, you can also see in the above Scripture that He did create humans in two distinct sexes.
McSwain says this anti-female bias is still present in church today, and he places links in his sentence to prove it. Although, I would say these links were presented with the hope you wouldn’t actually go check them out. He picks on a particular ‘Southern Baptist leader in Nashville,’ whose only actual ‘crime’ was saying that women have different roles in church. The minister did not say that women were subservient or a second tier gender. (See 1 Tim.)
He wraps up his discussion talking about churches who welcome would-be congregants conditionally, based upon wealth, donations, gender, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. Let’s combine this observation with those he presented above in Christianity is Alive and Well.
All churches will have ‘bad apples’ – those who have not shed some of their beliefs from the past, that have not put on the full cloak of Christ’s love. All followers of Jesus must strive to love everyone:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. But this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jn. 13:34, 35. NKJV
There is no one on this earth that a Christian shouldn’t love. There should be no church that would exclude anyone from the possibility for hearing the word of God and having the opportunity for worshiping Him. And for those out there who may have received rejection for who they are as a human being, I pray for your forgiveness on behalf of Christianity.
Having said that, a follower of Christ is bound by the word of God. One such Divine dictate says that we must strive to make peace at all times:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Rm. 12:18 ESV
I believe that all religions offer meaningful and beneficial wisdom. Yet, as a Christian, I am bound by the biblical dictates for my salvation. According to the word of God (by my faith), Christ is the only way:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jn. 14:6 ESV
It is never my intent to make another belief system wrong. They have their belief system and I have mine. I’m open to share if they want to hear my views. If not, we should all agree to respect each other’s beliefs.
We should love everyone; but we don’t have to love everything they do – especially if it runs in opposition to the Bible. Yet all over the world, Christians suffer just for the beliefs they hold. Jesus warned us that we would:
“…they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.” Mt. 24:9 NASB
This rings glaringly true for the hyper-vociferous 2% of the world’s population that shows their true intolerance, as they ironically hurl hateful epithets at Christians for daring to believe differently than they do.
Christ came to deliver all people from sins. Our part is to do our best to keep from committing them and to refrain from the company of those who willingly engage in them:
“Depart, please from the tent of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, let you be swept away with all their sins.” Num. 16:26 ESV
So you see, as followers of Christ, we cannot engage in, or facilitate any actions, that we feel are contrary to His word. It has nothing to do with being racist, bigoted, homophobic or whatever lying, hurtful label you want to try to stick on us. Our objection is not against the individuals. It’s against the actions we are warned not to associate with.
Yet activists will sue Christians or bring governmental action against them. It’d be the same if we sued them for their lifestyles; but we don’t. We just don’t want other beliefs forced upon us. Last I checked, the Constitution granted freedom of religion.
Please, let’s just respect one another’s beliefs and each take our marbles and go home without having to suffer retribution for our faith. Let’s keep the peace and live to love another day…
God bless Dr. McSwain for inspiring me to have a dialogue with you. Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to read it.
Goodnight and God bless.