What kind of Gospel are we preaching? What is the impact of it on how we live? I believe it is time to re-think what we believe and understand and teach about the Gospel of Christ
I have always believed that what we believe is actually lived out more than what we actually say we believe. How we perceive and understand God is proclaimed to us by those who claim to be speaking on behalf of God through the Holy Scriptures. We receive that “word” as if from God Himself, in a “faith expressed in agreement” to what is said, and then we attempt to embrace and apply the “truth” we heard, in our day to day living, impacting our lives, our family and friends, our vocations, careers, and the decisions we make. THIS is the impact of WHO and WHAT we say we “believe”.
We need a renewed understanding how we grow as people
Just as our bodies grow and mature, so does our belief. Just as what we eat and what we do, and don’t do physically, emotionally, spiritually, affects how we grow and become as people, so does what we have been taught when it comes to the “Word of God” and its “application” to our lives. Who we engage with, who we hang out with, who we allow to mentor and shape us as people, what they say, what they teach, what they model and impact our lives with, all have a fruit bearing impact on the people we become. The Scriptures speaks of the “sins of the fathers passing on to the children”. It is not only the sin but the virtue as well. How we impact those who trust us and walk with us under our influence, will bear the marks of that “discipleship”. Paul the apostle said in in I Corinthians 11: 1 and in 1 Corinthians 4:16 to “follow” his example, to “imitate” his life in how he followed Christ. We bear that same kind of responsibility for the people we share the Gospel of Christ with, and how we understand the fundamentals and essentials of the faith. WE are RESPONSIBLE. We cannot dismiss it and just say and act like it doesn’t matter. It matters to God and it should matter to us as His people. How people grow and mature can be a great blessing to the Body of Christ and for the Kingdom, or it can be a disastrous harm to the witness of the Gospel to the world, and totally misrepresent the Gospel to a hurting and desperate world.
People are not “throwaways” even when they appear to be walking away from God ~ Remember the prodigal son
There will be those who will say that this young man, famed rapper, Jahaziel, who recently recanted his faith in Christ and stated he can no longer be a Christian, that this young man was never saved to begin with. At one point in my life when I was a hardened five point Calvinist, I would have agreed with that callous assessment, and I repented of that kind of thinking, and I repudiate it today. I would never castigate any thinking person concerning their views and understanding. I know they are rooted in what they have had taught and modelled and instilled in them when it comes to the faith. It is WE the Body of Christ, who are responsible for how people are nurtured and what they are nurtured in. How are WE going to respond to someone like this young man Jahaziel?
Here is what Jahaziel wrote on Facebook.:
“A short while ago I turned away from 20 years as a professing Christian. I had a good job with a church organization, a house provided by the church, a large social circle of likeminded people, a career in gospel music, a worldwide fan base, a respected reputation & status within Christian and non Christian circles.”
What ought we do about situations like this one?
So here I am today thinking about this young man and assessing what he has said and it hurts me in my spirit, in a deep place. In my heart of hearts, I hear his pain and the thoughts that he has and is processing that would drive him to despair and rejection of the God of the Bible, and to reject the Bible, “as he has been taught the Bible”.
Jahaziel posted a follow up to his original Facebook post that states:
“You can believe the bible and its God all you want but to me he just demands
my fear because he cannot earn my respect. I cannot possibly agree that he is love unless I ignore all the men, women and little children he has slaughtered throughout the entire bible,” the post reads.
“But maybe some peoples Christian lenses won’t allow them to see that – cool. Mine didn’t either for s (sic) long time. I have tasted and seen – and my conclusion is that Christianity (it’s flawed book, bloodthirsty god and mythical saviour) i have found unsatisfactory and unworthy of my allegiance or worship unless by threatening to kill me if I don’t – as Christianity does.”
Here (in the above statements) Jahaziel highlights what many Christians throughout the ages have had problems with, and it is really at the forefront of what is taking place in the rigid fundamentalist Evangelical expression of Christianity. There is a “Progressive Evangelicalism” that is emerging that really understands much of what Jahaziel is speaking about, BUT who have not walked away, but rather have emerged as people who will not settle for what others have proclaimed as seemingly “orthodox” views, but rather have proposed and produced alternative understanding of doctrines that have become touch points of debate and discussion that have proven to be problematic to presenting a “loving God” to the world.
I understand where Jahaziel and the Progressive Evangelicals are coming from. I believe these ARE problematic, and the challenge is for ALL Jesus followers to actually engage in dialog and discussion and review once again, what the Scriptures teach, and what alternative readings there are and the consequences of those readings and interpretations are to our theological beliefs. WHAT WE BELIEVE HAS SERIOUS IMPLICATIONS.
So, what do I do, in facing situations like this one?
I take my collective responsibility for what I have taught and modelled for others. What we understand is fluid and changes as we grow and mature as people. Faith grows and understanding expands and grows at the same time. I am responsible for what I understand and pass on to others.All of us individually are responsible for what we believe and live out in our lives. We need to act in an accountable manner and be able to articulate why we believe what we believe, and NOT because “so and so” taught me. All theologians, pastors and teachers are prone to error. We need to be aware of that.
Theology is an imperfect science. We cannot have an arrogance and absolutist attitude about the pursuit of “truth”. We need to be humble and be open to the Holy Spirit and Scripture, and to alternative readings and understandings of things we have believed to be absolute. So much of what be believe when it comes to doctrine and purity of belief is solely based on our personal encounters with God, Scripture, and those who have taught and influenced us. We have had so much that has been presumed to be “correct” and “orthodox” and we have accepted it all on face value, rather than doing the biblical thing, which is to view it objectively and study it thoroughly for ourselves, in the same manner that Paul commended the Bereans for studying what was taught for themselves in Acts 17:11. We ought to be the same. It is especially so, when many of the teachings we have believed without question end up being questioned by others. Not only do we need to know what we believe, but also why, and not just in our heads, but in our hearts. If our beliefs do not translate to a transformed heart and life, they are not worth very much at all. The Christian faith is not about a set standard statement of faith or creedal formula that we give our allegiance to. Our faith is in a person, Jesus Christ. It is expressed and experienced through a life changing relationship with Him. It has NEVER been about religious belief. What we say we believe is based on Scripture, our interpretation and application of it, and much of it is opinion. It may be sound or it may not be. What we believe may actually vary and be different from what others believe on a matter, and the Scriptures may leave itself open to a variety of readings, interpretations and conclusions. What may sound “heretical” to some, may not be at all, it may be just a different perspective that is as valid as others. What we may be certain about in our own minds, may not be for some, and we need to make room for that. What is important in this dialog is for all parties in the dialog being humble and teachable.
We need to consider a model of intervention and dialog where we actively engage in constructive discourse about hard subjects like:
- The doctrine of Scripture – innerancy in particular.
- The doctrine of God – in particular the God as portrayed in the Old Covenant and the God portrayed in the New Covenant.
- The issue of violence and war in the Old Covenant in particular, violence done by God’s “chosen people” against others, by God’s bidding.
- The fact that Christianity has more in common today with a violent Old Covenant God (understanding and application), than the New Covenant Gospel of peace and non-violence through Jesus Christ and the finished work of the cross.
- The doctrine of the atonement has huge ramifications, and penal substitutionary atonement “theory” is exactly that, a theory, and not a “truth”. There are non-violent views on the atonement, and it is time to reconsider them in light of this obsession with portraying God as an angry and wrathful God.
- Doctrine of judgment and the afterlife. Tied to this is our understanding of heaven and hell. BOTH of these doctrines need to be revisited in light of the character of a holy and loving God, eternal vs. redemptive. There is no greater need than this need in the Body of Christ today.
If anything, this young man, walking away from what he has known for 20 years, is a wake up call for the Evangelical church
I am convinced this is a wake up call for the Body of Christ, and in particular conservative Evangelicalism. For too long we have allowed the historic Medieval teachings of the Church, and the teachings of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and the dogma of fundamentalist Evangelicalism, to impact and direct the theological dialog taking place in the Church. It is as if theology did not exist prior to 1000 AD. We need a thorough understanding of the journey of the Church through the ages, and what the Church taught, good and bad, about these doctrines, and why we need to review and re-evaluate what we believe and understand about them in our own context.
What we believe impacts how we live and how we present Christ to world
The people who love the “way of the master” teaching on evangelism use a fear based model rather than a love based model of evangelism, and unfortunately is paints a real ugly picture about the God we love and the faith we treasure. It is time to re-evaluate how we understand and proclaim the “good news” of the Gospel of Christ. This young man Jahaziel is hurting. He is aching. He is one of millions who suffers from having once believed at face value what others taught him as the “truth”. His own journey has revealed to him that there is something wrong with it all. Since he cannot in good conscience hold to this understanding anymore, he is left with only one option, in order to be true to himself, and that is to reject God and the gospel he has heard and practiced all these years. He is being real and authentic.
The sad part about all this is that Jahaziel walked away from faith, rather than trying to find an alternative understanding to all the problematic beliefs about Scripture, the doctrine of God, and the mystery revealed in Jesus Christ and His redemptive act on the cross. He did the only thing he could. He rejected it and walked away. There was no one there to show an alternative understanding of grace, the finished work of the cross, an alternative hermeneutic for understanding the difficult passages of Scripture, and other alternatives to doctrines of atonement, salvation, heaven and hell.
The question for me and you now is, “What are we going to do about it?”
I know what some of my friends like Josh Felts, Rob Grayson, Jeff Turner, Andre Rabe, Caleb Miller, Michael Hardin, Brad Jersak, John Crowder, Robert Michaud, Peter Bell, Don Keathley and many others would say about it.
~ Sam Buick
Artist Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/jahazielmusic/?fref=ts