Although the media seemed to forget to assault Christianity over the time leading up to the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection this year that doesn’t mean questions about the faith weren’t on the air in various ways. Col. Muammar Gadaffi asserted that the ‘original Bible’ had been tampered with. How do we know that? There are no references to Muhammad in the Bible. Since he knows they were in the original and they are not in any manuscripts we have it must have been taken out. There was no real questioning of his claims by the media and the comment went largely unnoticed. No Christians were burning down mosques or torturing Muslims in order to force a retraction and acceptance of Christianity. Meanwhile in Canada the Rev. Gretta Vosper of West Hill United Church in Toronto was busy Taking Christ out of Christianity.
Could it be that some of the reason why there was so little attacks on the faith by the media may have been the attention captured by the flack over Barack Obama’s pastor Jeremiah Wright’s public exposure of the hatred of America and racism the church holds to officially and on which we had commented in Evangelicals: God’s Own Party?. Rushing to Wright’s defense was none other than Franky Schaeffer, son of the late Francis Schaeffer, where we learn that Francis Schaeffer’s son: Dad ‘worse’ than Obama’s pastor. Is there a common thread between these seemingly disconnected stories? I believe there is. The common thread is a continued and what should be expected assault on the faith from all sides. There is even an ongoing assault from within by the emerging church and a number of false teachers (we have written on this in quite a few of the blog articles as well as our Journals).
Are these problems or opportunities? Both I suppose. They are problems because many non-believers really do not know what biblical Christianity is supposed to believe anyway. Any or all of the above can add to their basket of reasons not to believe. It is a problem because many Christians have not been equipped to respond with a reasoned response to such claims. It is an opportunity because the doors are open to respond. It is an opportunity for church leaders make provision for the training and equipping of their flocks to meet the challenges and claims about the faith outside the church walls. What might that look like?
Col. Muammar Gadaffi claims that the ‘original Bible’ had been tampered with. The purpose of the statement is to publicly declare that Christianity is false and Islam is true. That is a fair claim and anyone can assert anything. However, there is no requirement that we just nod and accept his word for it. I would challenge him to actually prove his claim. The way to do that would be to produce early biblical manuscripts that contain the undoctored statements that were later removed. His is really no different than journalist the late Ruth Montgomery’s assertions that reincarnation was taught in the Bible but was taken out by some evil monks in the sixth century (for whatever reasons evil monks would do such a thing). Is there any evidence to validate her claims? No. How did she know it was true? Because she believed in reincarnation, it isn’t in the Bible so it must have been in there and then taken out. Gadaffi has to work from a similar position. The Qur’an is a late work (7th century). All of the New Testament writings had been completed 600 years earlier and the Old Testament long before that. However, making the assertion is not the same as proving the claim and there is no compelling reason to accept his statements any more true than anyone was required to believe Heaven’s Gate’s claim that there was a flying saucer following the Hale Bopp Comet and they would board it as it passed by the earth. Assertions no matter how loudly proclaimed or emotionally felt are not the same as proof and evidence.
In a similar vein the Rev. Gretta Vosper of West Hill United Church in Toronto is working hard at Taking Christ out of Christianity.
She says there’s been virtually a consensus among scholars for the past 30 years that the Bible is not some divine emanation – or in Ms. Vosper acronym, TAWOGFAT, The Authoritative Word of God For All Time – but a human project filled with contradictions and the conflicting worldviews and political perspectives of its authors.
“Virtually a consensus” eh? Sounds like a done deal or does it? Actually like Gadaffi, Vosper is simply asserts her position. Which scholars, the Jesus Seminar who have abandoned sound scholarship in their Hysterical Search for the Historical Jesus? Many Evangelicals might want to simply dismiss her claims as uninformed and but sadly they bear a striking resemblance to the view which Pastor Rob Bell, darling of the emerging church, subscribes to in Christianity Today’s article The Emergent Mystique:
The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself—”discovering the Bible as a human product,” as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat.
Like Rob Bell and another emerging church guru, Brian McLaren, Vosper is concerned about social action:
She wants salvation redefined to mean new life through removing the causes of suffering in the world. She wants the church to define resurrection as “starting over,” “new chances.” She wants an end to the image of God as an intervening all-powerful authority who must be appeased to avoid divine wrath; rather she would have congregations work together as communities to define God – or god – according to their own worked-out definitions of what is holy and sacred. She wants the eucharist – the symbolic eating and drinking of Jesus’ body and blood to make the congregation part of Jesus’ body – to be instead a symbolic experience of community love.
McLaren is pretty clear in his newest book Everything Must Change that Evangelical’s teach and embrace a jihadist Jesus who is coming to execute God’s wrath and McLaren, like Vosper, wants to get rid of such a view. Volsper like Gadaffi, is asserting their claim that the Bible is corrupt without having to prove their claims in order to establish their view as authoritative.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright asserts that Jesus was a black man, the rulers were white Italians and that these claims are biblical. Of course if we abandon the context of the text, evidence and reason he may be right. Wright’s views are very much the same as the Nation of Islam leader and racist, Louis Farrakhan teaches.
Although all of the above would disagree with one another on a great many things but would be pretty united in one thing. Their view that Evangelicals are the epitome and source of all evil. Franky Schaeffer throws in with them in his claim that his Dad ‘worse’ than Obama’s pastor. Reading Franky’s comments is a bit like reading someone who has come to embrace False Memory Syndrome and is rewriting their history as well as the history of their family. In the process he abandons logic and reason to try to make taking a stand for those who are unable to defend themselves, the unborn, the same as condemning the United States for supposedly “launching the AIDS virus to maintain affluence at the expense of the Third World.”
These claims and assertions become believable if we divorce Scripture from history, the original transmission of the text and the preservation of the text through thousands of manuscripts that have survived in some cases from within 50 years of the original writings. We would have to abandon the original authors who were predominately Jewish and their reasons for writing each of the documents which comprise the New Testament as well as the Old. But in an age where assertion is viewed as equalling truth few will attempt or be equipped to challenge any of these claims. The Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy come to us fresh in light of the times we live in:
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
This really does afford the church an opportunity to decide. Begin training and equipping the saints to challenge these claims and defend the faith in their work place, neighborhoods and other places they frequent. Under the seeker sensitive wisdom after the Senior pastor the next more important full time staff position was the worship director. Today the next most important staff should be a trained apologist to aid the pastor and staff field these questions, develop responses and assist in discipling and training leaders to assist others. Will is happen? I am not sure. If history is any indicator probably not. Jeremiah continually warned of what was coming and the people repeatedly believed all was fine, until it was too late.