Controversial Tuesday: Following Jesus, not the Bible

2 Oct

John  14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

I heard a new saying this week about some members of the emergent church.  Someone said about them, “They follow Jesus; they don’t follow the Bible.”  Given that the Bible said (and Jesus’ disciples historically attested) that Jesus was the Living Word of God, that statement says a mouthful!

How does one follow Jesus but not the Bible?  Well, it seems so far that happens, not so much by overtly throwing out the Bible, but more by redefining  the Bible so people can follow their own pet political theories, yet claim to follow God’s will.

This can work on both sides of the political spectrum, but particularly seems to be a liberal stance in most emergent churches.  If you believe in unrestricted immigration to the States, claim that Jesus did, too.  If you believe in gay marriage or polygamy (one man, three women, etc.), claim that was okay with Jesus, or that by not addressing it, He silently approved of it.  Whatever your politics, create a Jesus that matches them, overlooking all Bible passages to the contrary.

Conservatives would tend to overlook the passages about paying a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work, so we need to concentrate on the book of James, especially when we claim to believe the Bible literally.  Offshoring everything to China so factory workers can make wages that are pennies on the dollar compared to what Americans make hasn’t turned out to be such a good idea, has it?  Do you really trust Chinese factories to not cut corners by using cheaper, but more toxic ingredients in your children’s toys or in your makeup?

I think it is revealing that people would prefer to call themselves “Jesus followers” over “Christ followers” in the first place.  Jesus can be treated as a historical figure.  If we doubt the words the Bible claims He historically said, we can just find some “scholar” or other who claims that part of the Bible was written far too late to be Jesus’ exact words anyway.  Not sure what we are left with when this happens, but there it is.

On the other hand, since “Christ” was the Greek translation of “Messiah” or “Anointed One,” a “Christ follower” has an inherent charge to represent the God-man Messiah accurately.  If those are His literal words in Scripture, we need to treat them that way.  We need to follow the commandments He gave us in order to not discredit His name.  That would include the relevant Old Testament commandments, too, as He was always the Living Word, not just after He entered history on planet Earth.  This is all a very tall charge and I understand why some of us try to dodge around it.

Mostly we play word games.  We ask, if we are to reverence God the way the Psalms say, should we also still stone our children for disobedience the way Leviticus said?  We try to find ways to make God an inconsistent, doddering old man so we don’t need to obey Him at all.  After all, our politics are precious to us and they give us enough of a code for living.  Don’t they?

I actually admire people who call things for what they are.  I admire people who admit they are all about politics and don’t really believe in Christ at all.  Those folks are honest.

What is abhorrent to me is hiding behind calling ourselves Jesus followers while breaking God’s clear commandments in Scripture.  There is far too much of this on all sides of the political spectrum.  The reason it is abhorrent is we lead many other people astray when we do this.  If there is a literal hell, and I believe the Bible teaches quite clearly there is, how many weaker or younger people will we point toward hell while we assault the authority of God’s Word?

There is a writer, Camille Paglia, who has said that she is not a Christian, but she believes that Christianity only supports monogamous marriage.  She said her views on sexuality are more supported by the religions of the ancient Greeks and Romans, so she turned back in history to them.  That is an honest human being.  While I wish she were a Christian, I really admire her ability to say that she wants her deeds, words, and thoughts to all match each other.  May many of us who call ourselves Christians be half as consistent as Ms. Paglia.  It would be a good start!

3 Responses to “Controversial Tuesday: Following Jesus, not the Bible”

  1. Tiffany October 2, 2012 at 8:51 AM #

    This reminds me of an article that I read on CNN just yesterday.

  2. creativepowerhouse October 2, 2012 at 9:02 AM #

    Mary, it’s even worse than you think. There is a new trend. These folks call themselves “Red Letter Christians.” They don’t actually believe the book of Acts or agree with much of what Paul wrote in his letters or that the book of Revelation is worth reading. They look only at what Jesus said and follow his advice as it suits them. They don’t even actually believe he died on the cross as atonement for our sins, only that he was a wise man whose sayings are worth reading and whose life is worth emulation. I first found out about these folks when my sister told me she is one of them. 😦 It’s a Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Rob Bell type deal.

  3. Gene October 2, 2012 at 1:02 PM #

    Mary, this is the best blog to date!

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