Blaming Our Ugliness on God?
"Ignorance of the nature and design of the Law is at the bottom of most religious mistakes." - John Newton (who wrote the song "Amazing Grace")
Today I'll continue looking at the Progressive Christianity Magazine article (current issue) titled "Blaming Our Ugliness on God" by The Rev. Scott Campbell. My purpose is to shine a light on the most significant problem the United Methodist Church faces. The Rev. Campbell's article gives us the perfect example of that problem.
In yesterday's post we saw that Rev. Campbell believes we should be "personally accountable for our decisions and actions" instead of basing them on "Scripture, canon law and books of church order." So if we are not to base our decisions and actions on Scripture, what should we base them on? The answer, according to Rev. Campbell, is that the power of culture guides us. Speaking of the Bible's moral law concerning women and homosexuals in ministry he writes:
"Some will no doubt claim that Scripture is the source of the prejudices in question. It is curious however, how quickly such ironclad injunctions seem to lose their power when culture leaves religious law behind."
This gets right to the problem. He is stating that culture is in authority over God. That God's word must be interpreted, not through Scripture, but through our culture.
Who creates culture? People do. Do people have authority over God? No!
The Rev. Campbell is falling into the same trap Satan used to tempt Eve into sin in the Garden of Eden. Satan planted doubt that God's word was true (don't trust Scripture). He led Eve to change God's word (modify God's word based on your circumstances). And then led her to believe she could be equal to God and become a god herself (have authority to determine what is right and wrong). Might Satan be at work here? Martin Luther said:
"Satan, the god of all dissension stirs up daily new sects. And last of all which of all others I should never have foreseen or once suspected, he has raised up a sect such as teach that men should not be terrified by the law, but gently exhorted by the preaching of the grace [mercy] of Christ."
In his article the Rev. Campbell further clarifies his thoughts by writing: "I believe it is offensive to God to offload our own fears and prejudices onto God. In so doing we misrepresent God to the world. Instead of proclaiming a message that conveys the wideness of God's mercy, we tell a tale of a God who is frightened and limited..."
It sounds like the Rev. Campbell is preaching the message Martin Luther says comes from Satan.
One problem the United Methodist Church faces is that they do not believe in the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. The Book of Discipline (UMC Book of doctrine and rules) states that the Bible is sufficient for our salvation and that the moral law in the Bible should be obeyed. But, how do you know what the moral is, if you do not have the infallible and inerrant word of God to reveal the moral law? Do we use culture, which changes over time and is different around the world, to reveal moral law? Under no circumstances! That makes no sense. You would then be basing God's moral law on a foundation of sand.
The other "pillar" progressives use to support using culture to interpret Scripture is that by doing so we are, in the Rev. Campbell's words, following God's "mandate of living out Christ's inclusive love." The two key words are "love" and "inclusive".
What is Christian love? John Wesley said: "Before I can preach love, mercy and grace I must preach sin, law and judgment."
The Rev. Campbell is trying to separate love from God's law. But according to John Wesley God's law comes before love. You can not love without the law. Why? Because God's law describes God. It describes His character. It describes who He is. If you take away God's law, you no longer have God and you are worshipping a pagan idol you have created to serve you.
As much as the Rev. Campbell hates to turn to Scripture for guidance, let's see what Scripture says about the relationship between the law and love. This is 1 Peter 1:22
"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply."
Peter is saying that obeying God (the truth) creates sincere love.
Keep in mind that love is not a feeling, it is an action. If we live in obedience to God, our actions toward others will be loving actions.
John, who is known for writing about love, says in 1 John 2:3-6
"We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, I know him, but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him. Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."
Here again we see that it is obedience to God's word that defines a Christian. Remember, who Jesus was. He was without sin. He always obeyed the Father.
I've heard United Methodists say that because the great commandment (Mark 12:29-31) says to love God and love your neighbor, that this is how we obey God... by loving others. My question is, how do you do that? What exactly does loving God and loving others look like? 2 John 6 tells us:
"I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands."
Biblical love is not a feeling. The Greek word used in the New Testament for "love" is agape. It literally means to love with your actions. What are the actions? Obedience to God's word.
You can't know about love unless you are obeying God. You can't obey God unless you are loving. They are intertwined so tightly they can not be separated. The problem is that some United Methodist Churches force them apart, throw away God's word (law), and try to retain what they define as God's love. That doesn't work.
My next post will talk about inclusiveness.
Jonathan Edwards - "The only way we can know whether we are sinning is by knowing His Moral Law."