Thursday, February 28, 2013

it's a big nail

i want to write about the biggest nail in the coffin that now holds my faith.

of all the spiritual abuse i experienced through childhood and my college years, of all the times i heard abusive qualities ascribed to god, of all the people who showed me the nasty side of christianity, there are a few more recent events and people that really stand out.

just a few years ago i found a new freedom in a grace-based christianity that i had never known before. i found that i could buy a "jesus + nothing = faith/salvation/whatever" and hold on to the idea that there are no essentials to faith, except jesus. christians through the past two thousand years have disagreed on nearly everything - even down to whether or not the second coming has already happened - and of course everyone likes to think they are right. i found i could buy a faith where the essentials were "jesus loves me and i can respect others' beliefs on everything else."

so i shared my new-found excitement over this with others. i finally felt like i knew why people actually wanted to share the "good news" of the gospel. it was actually freeing! jesus+nothing really was beautiful to me and i got all excited watching people agree with me. it meant that finally when someone said they were a christian i didn't feel some pressure to apply a litmus test of whatever i was told the "essentials" of the faith were to determine whether or not they actually were this christian they claimed to be.

and then love-wins-gate happened. right smack dab in the resurgence of my faith came the rob bell *cough* controversy. and suddenly the people who had been right with me on the "jesus+nothing" train jumped to the "jesus+hell" train.

because, as we all know, belief in an eternal hell is an essential of the faith. and what is faith without hell? and it's totally fine that prominent evangelicals (such as their hero john piper) dismissed rob bell from the faith before even reading his book.

for me, that was a blatant rejection of a "jesus+nothing" type faith. you can't say "it's just all about jesus!" and then the next week add "OH yeah, and hell is an essential doctrine!"

at that time, i still believed in an eternal hell.  i wasn't about to dismiss someone else from the faith because they didn't share my belief. because i verbalized that sentiment people were going around misrepresenting my beliefs to others, including to my husband.

because this was just such a big deal. such a terrible thing. SUCH a terrible thing that without all the information, rob bell was suddenly out. for the first time i saw clearly how actually holding onto a "jesus+nothing" faith would put you on the outside. no discussion, no listening to actual ideas, nothing. just out.

what i have now seen is the other piece of that puzzle. how when you are IN, you are in.

no matter what.

Tim Challies, on Rob Bell - "I always find myself alarmed when I read about Christian leaders who destroy their ministries through gross moral failure or gross theological failure." 

Here is what one of those who are in said about Rob Bell in the middle of the brouhaha. Apparently this is what happens when someone questions hell - gross theological failure.

At this link you can read how Challies had no criticism of Bell's detractors and dismissers. To be clear, he was one of the more moderate voices, his was less inflammatory and not quite as quick to the "you're not a christian" punchline. And still he had no criticism of those who did.

Now there is a situation of gross moral failure among those who are absolutely part of the "in" crowd.

Follow the links to read more:

An Unholy Evil
How Not to Respond to Abuse Allegations

There are a lot more websites with a lot more information, but here is the abridged version:

Leadership at Sovereign Grace Ministries has allegedly covered up child abuse (read more at links) and allegedly forced/coerced victims to forgive abusers and, basically, chosen protecting leadership and saving face over helping victims of abuse. Both CJ Mahaney and the chairman of the board are named in the lawsuit, and the accused parties have been actively fighting transparency. So instead of hearing "We have nothing to hide and would love to help victims in any way we can" we hear "we will fight with everything we have to keep information from getting out."

Even if the allegations are false, the way they are handling this is beyond ridiculous and absolutely enraging. This is a gross moral failure on the part of the church leadership.

So of course John Piper, who was quick to claim heathen status for someone he disagreed with would be quick to distance himself from people involved in a gross moral failure, right?

And Tim Challies, who grouped gross moral failure and gross theological failure together wouldn't hesitate to respond by saying he stands with those decrying abuse (and against those who cover it up) because that definitely is a gross moral failure, right?

You can read all of Challies' thoughts on the subject here, but it really boils down to this: "John 13:35 says it plainly: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love for other Christians is the great test of our commitment to Christ and our likeness to him. This love is put to the test in a unique way in the midst of trouble and disagreement."

So. For him, what happened with Rob Bell was "gross theological failure" and what is happening with an abuse lawsuit is "trouble and disagreement." Makes total sense. It's fine to call out someone who allegedly disagrees with you on hell, but stay loving and keep your nose out of it when it's alleged abuse!

And John Piper? I'm sure he has a witty tweet for this occasion! Maybe "It's millstone time! Farewell, CJ!" or something similar?

No. He goes to the church CJ is at, speaks there and says he "snatched" at the opportunity to come there. He is supporting CJ, he is not speaking up against abuse, nor does he verbalize any problems with what should be obvious - that covering up abuse allegations and refusing to assist the investigation is a "gross moral failure."

But NO. Lawsuits, abuse, allegations and serious, real hurts in the christian community are "disagreement and trouble" during which we need to show love to alleged abusers and their enablers. But disagreements on or questions about hell are "gross theological failure" where it is fine to treat one another with disgust and derision.

And this attitude, this horrible miscarriage of anything resembling justice or consistency or caring about people over doctrine, was and still is the biggest nail in the coffin that holds my faith.

If you're in, anything goes. If you're one of God's Annointed, you just must just be under persecution.

Because theological issues are worth raising hell over.

And abuse is just a disagreement. So let's just love those who allegedly covered it up, shall we?

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