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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Why Liberals Choose Jesus over Paul

When I began my study at the seminary, I heard about Liberals who rejected Paul’s writings and chose to follow only Jesus. I thought this idea was absurd. How could one accept one part of the Bible and reject another? It didn’t make sense to me. I learned how the Bible was “canonized” and thought it was an amazing story (still do) that Christians over in Africa, Italy, Israel and elsewhere could affirm the same twenty-seven books of the New Testament at about the same time without getting together and talking about it. Now that I think of it, staying apart may be why they affirmed the same books! How we got our twenty-seven books of the New Testament is truly a miracle! Only the Spirit of God could have enabled the process to work.

I am not a Liberal, even though I’ve been labeled as one by quite a few Baptists, but I’m beginning to see their point. Do you know why Liberals pick Jesus over Paul? It’s because the Fundamentalists have picked Paul over Jesus and many of us would like to hear from Jesus now and then. Think I’m exaggerating? Read the following-----which is an attack on Jimmy Carter by a Fundamentalist.

"It's some surprise when former President Carter gets something right, not when he gets something wrong," Land says. "We have a choice. We can either follow the spirit of the age and follow syncretizers and compromisers like Jimmy Carter -- or we can follow the Apostle Paul. And we'd rather have the approval of God and the Apostle Paul than Jimmy Carter."

Did you catch it? This guy wants the approval of God AND PAUL! What about Jesus? I know what you’re going to say. I’ve taken the quote out of context.

Let me give you a few more instances. Let’s look at The Baptist Faith and Message of 2000. First, it’s very interesting in the preambles of the 1925 and 1963 the names of the committee members are not listed. Why? Because the document is supposed to be representative of Southern Baptists who approve it, not about endorsing or advancing careers of Baptist ministers or “professionals.” Second, I’m not going to work through all the differences, but only those that I find pertinent to my argument or particularly troublesome. I find a few additions very important, but I might point those out in another post. (One huge aside—“Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation.” Most of the Calvinist Profs at SBC seminaries are very offended by this BF & M statement! I argued with one over this statement because he said he clearly rejected it. However, because he believed the statement on women added to the BF & M, he is allowed to teach at the seminary. What a hypocrite!)

Back to Jesus! 1963 version. Last statement about Scripture—“The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.” 2000 version. Last statement about Scripture—“All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” A subtle change, but very important! They didn’t want to take Jesus totally out of the picture, but they did take Jesus’ role as hermeneutical screen out of the way. My grandmother told me that when I looked at those scary Old Testament passages when the Israelites killed people, animals, children in order to satisfy a wrathful God I needed to understand that according to Hebrews, Jesus is the measure of how we need to look at those passages. My seminary profs did the same.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, when you take away Jesus as your hermeneutic screen, you can justify just about any action. Want to go kill other people before they can kill you? Look to the Old Testament. To hell with that love your enemies stuff. That’s for wimps and sissies!

Example two. Baptist Theologians published in 1990 by Broadman Press included folks like Walter Rauschenbusch, James Deotis Roberts, and Dale Moody. Three very Christocentric Theologians. The 2001 version leaves these three out. Hmmm, take out the father of the Social Gospel, one of the most noted Black theologians, and a very anti-Calvinistic theologian. Wonder why?

You see, Fundamentalists took Jesus out of their Christianity so that they don’t have to love their neighbor! (Even though Paul said this too!) They don’t have to love their enemies! They judge your Christianity based on (their version of) orthodoxy, not faith and following Jesus! Deny your neighbor health care! Deny your neighbor a good education! It’s no problem as long as you are against abortion and agree with the hundreds of statements and resolutions condemning homosexuality!

The quote about Paul was spoken by Richard Land of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty (can’t say it out loud without laughing!) Commission. More on him later!

11 Comments:

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Matthew61 said...

Excellent! Excellent! and Excellent!

But you forget that Fundamentalists also only quote parts of Paul's writings.

For example you will never, ever see a quote from the letter to the Galations.

 
At 9:20 PM, Anonymous RaeLea said...

*smile* I think I know why you wrote this.

 
At 9:45 AM, Blogger Nathan said...

Great piece... I knew something about Land's remarks against Carter gave me pause but I couldn't give it words. Thanks for doing that for me in pointing out that Jesus takes a backseat to Paul in Land's world.

Along the lines of the BF&M's, unless you already know this or have studied it, it's interesting to note how the 2000 took out the words "this is not a creed", especially in light of the long-standing Baptist principle that "we don't have creeds except the Bible".

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Elle said...

Glad someone else sees it! I had hated for a long time that Paul's biases and beliefs were treated as more important than what Jesus showed us, I suspect because Paul promoted female submission and Jesus treated females as equals...

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger D.R. said...

Howie,

It is no surprise that I take issue with many of your comments in this piece.

1) If you don't want to be mislabeled, then quit mislabeling people like me by calling us Fundamentalists. We are Evangelicals. I have spoken to you about this before. You know the differences. You know that the "Fundie" name is a negative connotation and is used to describe all kinds of religious people, including certain Muslim groups that terrorize. Thus, in order to not get mislabeled, you ought to refrain from doing the same.

2) Richard Land does not speak for all Southern Baptists, much less all Evangelicals. To take his small comment and make a charge against all who hold to complete Scriptural authority is bogus reasoning.

3) You did indeed take Land's comments out of context. First, he was responding to Carter's treatment of Paul, thus he was warrented in mentioning Paul in that instance. And the last time I checked, Jesus was God incarnate. I don't think any reasoning person though that Land was purposefully leaving Jesus out of the equation there. That really doesn't lend much support your overall premise. But also, Jimmy Carter attacked Southern Baptists first, from the platform of the Baptist World Congress, no less, just after he called for Baptists to unite. How can you call for unity in one sentence and in the very next one charge those you are calling to unity with discrimination? He had the opportunity to speak to literally hundreds of thousands of Baptists and what does he do? He bashes a whole segment of them by misrepresenting their views and calling them, in essence, "bigots."

4) A little off subject, but since it was brought up by the last poster, let me say that holding to the position commonly called "Biblical Manhood and Womenhood" (BMW hereafter) is not discriminatory (as Carter labeled it) in any sense. I have met or know literally thousands of women who do not feel discriminated against by the SBC. Many of them voted for the BF&M 2000 statement on the role of women in ministry. And before you stereotype them, let me say that many, many of them are strong, independant, and incredibly intellegent women (ex. Mary Kassian and MY OWN WIFE). The SBC is not a mandatory Baptist group. If you don't agree with their views, then you don't have to stay and you don't have to work for them. Cooperative Baptists have been up in arms about the SBC pullout from the BWA, yet this is exactly what they did to the SBC. They left and took their money with them. Why? Because they held theological differences. Sounds a bit hypocritical to bash the SBC for doing the exact same thing they did. You can't be discriminate against by a church you don't belong to. And you can't discriminate against a segment of the population who isn't under your authority. Even SBC churches don't have to abide by BMW. The SBC is made up of autonomous bodies of believers. I disagree with egalatarian churches, but I can't do a thing to stop those people from holding that view or from ordaning women into the pastorate. And if a women at my church doesn't agree with our position, she is free to leave and go elsewhere. That is not discrimination. If it is not discriminatory for fraternities and sororities to have gender specific memberships, then it is certainly not discriminatory for voluntary organizations to limit the roles of the differing members based on gender. Last time I checked, the vast majority of childrens' ministers in the SBC were women and most churches won't hire ones that aren't. Is that discrimination as well?

5) The BF&M was changed in regards to its statement on Scripture because many were misusing its intended meaning. Originally, it was meant to show the pointing of all Scripture to Jesus Christ and the call to put away many parts of the Law as Paul called for in favor of following Christ. It was not intended to be used as a wedge to place between Jesus and other NT writers. Thus it was changed to bring clarity, not to take out the "hermeneutical screen" as you called it. Jesus does and says nothing that is in opposition to Paul or John or James. Yet many people try to make illogical jumps based upon something Jesus did or did not do or said or did not say in order to show that He and a NT writer differed. Still that cannot be shown. For instance, Jesus never said anything about role of women in the Church. You cannot just suppose that He would have been for women in all leadership position just because He didn't talk about it. That is an argument from silence. Those don't hold any water. And you can't make that jump from His actions because Paul TREATED women in the same way. He spoke to them, witnessed to them, and even called one a "deacon" or "servant" in the same way as he did men. In actuality, he went against the flow of the culture, allowing women to be taught alongside of men. Educating women in that society was a taboo. He was actually a liberator of women in that regard. Still he defined their roles according to his theological views. Thus he and Jesus cannot be truly contrasted in regards to their views on women, since treatment is the only basis for such a position. As an inspired writer, then, Paul's views on women carry the weight needed to establish a legitimate position of restricting certain leadership roles to men. And one cannot build a theology, no matter how hard they try, that says Jesus specifically would have opposed that. It's just not in the text. Thus, Jesus and Paul can't be set in odds on this, or anything else for that matter and the so-called "hermeneutical screen" is unnecessary in this regard.

6) Where do you get that Evangelicals would say something like this?: "Want to go kill other people before they can kill you? Look to the Old Testament. To hell with that love your enemies stuff. That’s for wimps and sissies!"

That's just pumped-up rhetoric and not able to be substantiated in any serious discussion.

7) Your statements that:
"You see, Fundamentalists took Jesus out of their Christianity so that they don’t have to love their neighbor! (Even though Paul said this too!) They don’t have to love their enemies! They judge your Christianity based on (their version of) orthodoxy, not faith and following Jesus! Deny your neighbor health care! Deny your neighbor a good education! It’s no problem as long as you are against abortion and agree with the hundreds of statements and resolutions condemning homosexuality!"

Are also unsubstantiated. No Evangelical in their right mind feels this way, despite what you may FEEL is to the contrary. Doctrine is only one piece of the puzzle in John's First Epistle. Read John MacArthur's book, "The Gospel According to Jesus," the gold standard for understanding Lordship salvation. At no point does he place doctrine above discipleship or beliefs above behavior.

You can make statements all day like that, but in the end, it's not close to the truth and you know it. Do you honestly think for a minute that in general Evangelicals don't care about loving their neighbor simply because they place truth in such a high regard and fight for it. We don't think you can love your neighbor correctly or care for the lowliest in society without correctly understanding the teachings of the whole Bible. And you don't have to be a Democrat to care about health care or education.

Howie, this post is beneath you, honestly. You accuse Evangelicals in general of placing Paul above Jesus and trying to take Jesus out of Christianity by what evidence? Land's omission of the name of Jesus in one statement, a change in the BF&M, and a revision of a book that took out three Baptists (who you failed to mention had glaring problems with their own Christology and soteriology)? That's it? And you use all that to make a case for why liberals would place Jesus above Paul, which had really nothing to do with 90% if your post? I just don't get it. And here I thought you'd come so far.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger D.R. said...

Martin,

Your statement,

"For example you will never, ever see a quote from the letter to the Galations."

is completely incredible. What Evangelicals have you been reading? More commentaries have been written on Galatians than almost any book of the Bible. Where I work Galatians is one of the few books that pretty much every major Evangelical publisher has a Bible study on. I would wholeheartedly disagree with you.

 
At 8:17 PM, Blogger Greek Shadow said...

One other point to make about the new BF&M. On all the new points added to it, they did shove in Innerancy. But they did not back up that obnoxious word with scripture, they justified it with a quote from a former SBC President, as if he were a POPE speaking for God.

 
At 6:08 PM, Blogger Howie Luvzus said...

1) If you don't want to be mislabeled, then quit mislabeling people like me by calling us Fundamentalists.---------
I don't consider you a Fundamentalist. Land and Mohler yes. A Fundamentalist is an evangelical who is mad about something."

2) Richard Land does not speak for all Southern Baptists, much less all Evangelicals.------- Then tell him to cut out the mean and outrageous statements! Like it or not, he is on the radio every day speaking for Baptists.

 
At 6:15 PM, Blogger Howie Luvzus said...

D.R.
Maybe you are a Fundamentalist :)---6) "Where do you get that Evangelicals would say something like this?: "Want to go kill other people before they can kill you? Look to the Old Testament. To hell with that love your enemies stuff. That’s for wimps and sissies!"

You're literal reading of this quote does scare me a bit! Kidding here!

FUNDAMENTALISTS-not Evangelicals!--Jesus' demand that we love our enemies was interpreted by those in my anabaptist tradition to mean that one cannot kill another and still claim they love him or her. The anabaptists closely followed the Sermon on the Mount. However, many Christians today claim that it's OK to pre-emptively start a war because of OT texts. That's all I was saying.

 
At 6:28 PM, Blogger Howie Luvzus said...

We don't think you can love your neighbor correctly or care for the lowliest in society without correctly understanding the teachings of the whole Bible.-----Ok. I guess you are a Fundamentalist! I would never be so bold as to claim that I correctly understand the teachings of the whole Bible!

Sally McFague, another hell-bound liberal feminist scum, wrote that a Fundamentalist is one who fails to acknowledge his or her own limitations. I would also put Prescott in this category!

 
At 7:58 PM, Anonymous RaeLea said...

I grew up Southern Baptist and was one for a good part of my adult life. My grandfather was a Baptist minister. My uncle a Baptist deacon. I've witnessed the damage Fundamentalists can do. Oh my, so many churches torn apart. This is not new. I remember a man last name Norris who was bodily picked up and thrown out of an SB Convention, I believe in Ft. Worth, Tx back in the 30's I think. Hard to remember. for stirring up trouble and trying to rid the denomination of liberals. He even shot and killed a man. People who followed him were called Norisites. I left it behind 35 years ago at the age of 52. I had had enough. I've never once regretted walking away.

 

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