The Hole in World Vision’s Gospel—a Round-up of Responses

Many of you may now be aware of World Vision’s announcement yesterday of their policy change allowing gay Christians in same-sex marriages to be employed in their organization.

Below is a round-up of links of various responses with a key snippet from each post.

Albert Mohler, “Pointing to Disaster — The Flawed Moral Vision of World Vision

In his final comment included in Christianity Today’s coverage of the issue, [World Vision President] Richard Stearns stated: “I’m hoping this may inspire unity among others as well. To say how we come together across some differences and still join together as brothers and sisters in Christ in our common mission of building the kingdom.”

Note carefully that his language is deeply theological — not just “operational.” He speaks of being “brothers and sisters in Christ” and of “building the kingdom.” What kingdom? Whose kingdom?

Writing to the Corinthian Christians, the Apostle Paul stated: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” [1 Corinthians 6:9-10]

Russell Moore, “On World Vision and the Gospel

We empower darkness when we refuse to warn of judgment. We empower the darkness when we refuse to offer forgiveness through the blood of the cross.

We’re entering an era where we will see who the evangelicals really are, and by that I mean those who believe in the gospel itself, in all of its truth and all of its grace. And many will shrink back. There are no riots if the gospel you’re preaching doesn’t threaten the silversmiths of the Temple of Artemis. And there are no clucking tongues if the gospel you’re preaching isn’t offered to tax collectors and temple prostitutes.

There’s an entire corps of people out there who make their living off of evangelicals but who are wanting to “evolve” on the sexuality issue without alienating their base. I don’t mind people switching sides and standing up for things that they believe in. But just be honest about what you want to do. Don’t say “Hath God said?” and then tell us you’re doing it to advance the gospel and the unity of the church.

Kevin DeYoung, “The Worldliness in World Vision’s New Hiring Policy

Before we get embroiled in a throw down about whether Jesus would love to take coffee breaks with World Vision employees, before we allow the issue to be reframed as “Jesus was nice; the Pharisees were mean; you are mean and not nice; so you are a Pharisee and not like Jesus,” before we accept that calling someone a bigot is the same as making an argument, before we write off every opponent of this policy as a Calvinist fundie inhabiting a hermetically sealed little house on a Christian prairie somewhere in flyover country, let us establish if the following is true:

Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:31; Rev. 19:11-21). Those who repent of their sins and believe in Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 17:30) and those who overcome (Rev. 21:7) will live forever in eternal bliss with God in his holy heaven (Rev. 21:1-27) through the atoning work of Christ on the cross (Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:1-21; Cor. 5:21). Those who are not born again (John 3:5), do not believe in Christ (John 3:18), and continue to make practice of sinning (1 John 3:4-10) will face eternal punishment and the just wrath of God in hell (John 3:36; 5:29). Among those who will face the second death in the lake that burns with fire are the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars (Rev. 21:8), and among the sins included in the category of sexual immorality is unrepentant sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Jude 5-7).

Trevin Wax, “World Vision and Why We Grieve for the Children“ (a post apoplectically labelled ‘bigoted’, ‘vile’, and ‘exploitative‘ by a prominent blogger…you can decide.)

No matter what you think about this decision, I hope you feel a sense of grief… for the children. This is a story of deep and lasting significance, because there are children’s lives at stake in how we respond.

Children will suffer as evangelicals lose trust in and withdraw support from World Vision in the future. It will take time for evangelicals to start new organizations that maintain historic Christian concepts of sin, faith, and repentance.

In the meantime, children will suffer. Needlessly.

That’s why critics of the evangelical outcry toward World Vision will say, Get over it! Kids matter more than what men and women choose to do romantically!

Strangely enough, we agree. In fact, this is one of the main reasons we’re against redefining marriage. We believe kids matter more than gays and lesbians having romantic relationships enshrined as “marriage.”

Children are the ones who suffer when society says there’s no difference between a mom or a dad.

John Piper, “World Vision: Adultery No, Homosexual Practice Yes

Of course, World Vision does not intend to shipwreck their legacy of compassion for the poor. But that is what they are doing. …

…World Vision has taken a step away from the cry of biblical love, which says, ‘we care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering’. Without care about eternal suffering, care about temporal suffering is a mirage. It looks like love, but the greatest gift is being withheld.

When World Vision embraces as an acceptable alternative behavior what God says will lead to eternal suffering (1 Corinthians 6:9–10), it sets a trajectory of lovelessness.

Denny Burk, “Collapse of Christianity at World Vision

It really does come down to this. Is God’s word about human sexuality true, or is it false? Is it binding and authoritative over our consciences, or is it an optional debate that we can opt out of? This is where every Christian leader—and indeed every Christian—needs to be ready. This is a watershed issue in our time. You won’t be able to dodge this question indefinitely. You will eventually have to choose a side. Jesus once said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). When it comes down to it, which side of the divide will you be on?

Matthew Anderson, “On Whether Christians should keep supporting World Vision”, is a long article but attempts to think seriously through the question implied in its title

World Vision USA has altered their employee handbook to allow them to hire members of committed same-sex unions. As I noted on Twitter, I find their rationale incoherent, but not terribly surprising.

Of the various threads I could take up, though, I want to focus on the decision which many conscientious Christians who deeply disagree with World Vision USA’s decision now face: should they continue on supporting the child that they had been, or should they send their donations elsewhere?

Jeff Wright’s, “How Should Christians Respond to World Vision?”, is a short, practical, and very helpful post

World Vision has put Biblically faithful believers in the awful position of having to choose between being clear about the gospel and supporting a child who needs their aid. Here’s my suggestion: (after you let World Vision know you will be distancing yourself from their organization in the future) continue to support your child until the natural termination of support then move on to a relief organization with more integrity (again, let World Vision know this is your plan). The child you are connected with is an innocent victim of World Vision and will likely not be able yet to properly process the catastrophe of the organization’s decision.

While in that relationship of support let me encourage you to take full advantage of your relationship with the child! Write them letters freighted with the gospel, the beauty of Christ, and His care for their circumstances. If you can, go visit the child. Do everything you can to help that young bearer of the image of God know the Father who gave His Son for their salvation and calls His followers to care for his or her needs.

 

 

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This Day in History: Machen’s Profession of Faith

machen1a-237x300From This Day in Presbyterian History:

On Sunday evening, March 17, 1935, Dr. J. Gresham Machen filled the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This time period was in the framework of being under indictment for refusing to cease and desist from the support of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Mission, as the Mandate from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA, had stated in 1934. His ordination was thus at stake. His standing in that denomination was at stake. Listen to his profession of faith given on that evening:

“My profession of faith is simply that I know nothing of the Christ proclaimed, through the Auburn Affirmation. I know nothing of a Christ who is presented to us in a human book containing errors, but know only a Christ presented in a divine book, the Bible which is true from beginning to end. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly was and possibly was not born of a virgin, but know only a Christ who was truly conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not work miracles, but know only a Christ who said to the winds and the waves, with the sovereign voice of the Maker and Ruler of all nature, ‘Peace be still.’ I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not come out of the tomb on the first Easter morning, but know only a Christ who triumphed over sin and the grave and is living now in His glorified body until He shall come again and I shall see Him with my very eyes. I know nothing of a Christ who possibly did and possibly did not die as my substitute on the cross, but know only a Christ who took upon Himself the just punishment of my sins and died there in my stead to make it right with the holy God.”

 Read the rest here.

The “Red Letter” Guys’ “Jesus Lens”

Andrew WilsonAndrew Wilson, a pastor and theologian in the UK, recently sat down for a series of debates/discussions with Steve Chalke about the Bible, in particular Chalke’s recent proposals to rethink the Bible’s infallibility and inerrancy. Wilson blogged yesterday about Chalke’s frequent appeal to read the Bible with a “Jesus lens” and his reflections are worth considering:

“… for me the most striking feature of Steve’s presentation was his continual reference to “the Jesus lens”. In his view, the Bible should be read through “the Jesus lens”, that is to say, in the light of God’s self-revelation in Jesus. I agree. But he then goes on to argue that this enables us, and in fact requires us, to correct all sorts of things that the texts actually say, particularly those which involve wrath, death and sexual ethics. Reading through the Jesus lens, for Steve, involves reading a difficult text — say, one about picking up sticks on the Sabbath, or destroying the Canaanites, or Yahweh pouring out his anger — figuring that Jesus could never have condoned it, and then concluding that the text represents a primitive, emerging, limited picture of God, as opposed to the inclusive, wrath-free God we find in Jesus. Not so much a Jesus lens, then, as a Jesus tea-strainer: not a piece of glass that influences your reading of the text while still leaving the text intact, but a fine mesh that only allows through the most palatable elements, while meticulously screening out the bitter bits to be dumped unceremoniously on the saucer.

The strange thing about this, of course, is that Jesus himself seemed so comfortable with many of those passages, and affirmed stories about destroying floods, fire and sulphur falling from the sky, people being turned into pillars of salt, and so on. Not only that, but he actually added to them, by telling several stories that present God in ways that modern people are not inclined to warm to” [emphasis mine].

Wilson then cites many passages of scripture (from the Gospels only) that clearly do not quite fit “the Red Letter guys’ hermeneutical tea-strainer” paradigm. He concludes:

“That’s just a sample, of course. As such, I don’t think Steve Chalke, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, Rob Bell and co are reading the Bible through a Jesus lens, as much as they are reading Jesus through a selective, progressive postmodern lens, and then reading the rest of the Bible through that. The end result, ironically, is that while the Jesus we find in the Gospels fits well with the rest of the scriptures – as you might expect, given that he inspired them – neither the Jesus of the Gospels, nor the Bible, fit particularly well with the pastiche of Jesus that the Red Letter guys want to promote. When all is said and done, the biblical Jesus cannot be squeezed thorough the fine mesh of the progressive Jesus tea-strainer. Given the choice, we’re probably better off with the biblical one.”

I think that Wilson is right on. My only augment to Wilson’s argument is to remember that there are more of Jesus’ words in the New Testament than we find in the Gospels. While many rightly focus on Jesus’ pre-crucifixion words in the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament records many of Jesus post-resurrection and even post-ascension words (e.g. Acts 9:1–16; 10:1–16; 18:9–11; 22:17–21; 23:6–11; 26:15–18; 2 Cor 12:1–10). In particular, Jesus’ words in John’s Revelation would not fit the Jesus tea-strainer of the “Red Letter guys”. There are some “red letter” words of Jesus at the end of Revelation chapter 22 that would most certainly make the “red letter Jesus lens” guys squirm. (For a little more on Jesus’ words in Revelation see here).

Elements of Chalke’s recent proposals are troubling but are not entirely new. He seems to be parroting McLaren for a UK audience. More on Chalke’s (and McLaren’s and Bell’s and Campolo’s et al.) proposals of the Bible to come.

Hell and It’s Absence in the Book of Acts

“Of making many books there is no end…” (Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV).

The wise Teacher’s statement above not only applies to books but also to criticisms of Mark Driscoll’s tweets and the Bible’s teaching on hell and punishment. Blogger Ben Irwin has managed to do both in the same blog post. 

The former is not that hard. Driscoll is an easy target for the blogging equivalent of the “knock-out” game. It takes no courage to take a theological swipe at him, especially if one inclines to read a massive amount of theological assumptions into his 140 character missives.

My concern is the latter. In fact, I only post this because Irwin’s post was sent to me by someone asking my opinion. I shot back a hurried and succinct response, but a fuller treatment may be helpful for others who encounter arguments similar to Irwin’s. What follows is a slightly more developed response.

[Disclaimer: I am no advocate for, nor defender of, nor opponent of, Mark Driscoll. I am not riding in to come to his defense. This post is  only to help readers think through the interpretive issues raised in posts like Irwin’s. Also, I have no interest in engaging in any sort of theological spat in the blogosphere. That is why I am not linking to the blog post. If you wanted to read the whole post in context you can search for it.] 

Irwin took one of Driscoll’s tweets as a platform to challenge the role of hell in the proclamation of the Gospel. Irwin’s one question:

“So here’s my question for Pastor Mark Driscoll: If hell is so important to the gospel, why is it never mentioned in the book of Acts?”

Irwin’s logic is as follows: the book of Acts is a record of the early church in the decades after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. He points out that Acts records several proclamations of the Gospel (eight, by his count). However, “hell” is not mentioned in Acts at all. Therefore, hell must not have been an essential part of the early Christian message:

“In these eight sermons, there is not one mention of hell. In fact, hell is completely absent from the whole book. Judgment is mentioned once or twice, but the nature of judgment? It’s never part of their gospel proclamation” (emphasis mine). 

There are several propositions in that one quote. However, are they true? Several points need to be made:

1. The concept of “hell” includes more than just the study of the one word. 

Here is where doing theology by a concordance is not very helpful. Does the book of Acts not contain the Greek word for “hell”? Yes, its true. However, there are a cluster of words and phrases used to convey the entire concept, indeed doctrine, of the last judgment of which hell is a part (i.e. “wrath [of God]”, “the judgment”, “perish, destroy”, etc.). Paul, for example, never used the word “hell” in any of his letters. But the absence of the word does not mean that eternal punishment is not a factor in Paul’s message (e.g. see below). When one looks at the integrated collection of terms and word-pictures used then hell’s “complete absence” in Acts is ill-considered.

2. Is “hell” really absent from Acts?

When we understand that the Bible’s teaching on eternal punishment rests on more than the presence or absence of the word “hell” one can see a concern for the avoidance of God’s punishment evident in early Christian preaching. This is apparent, for example, in one of the eight kerygmatic sermons in Acts that Irwin mentioned: Paul’s speech to a group of philosophers in Athens (the Aeropagus) in Acts 17. The climax of Paul’s evangelistic discourse points to Jesus’ impending return as Judge: “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31 ESV). To be sure, Paul doesn’t use the word “hell”. But if we remember that there are many terms to convey the concept of the final judgment of God—a judgment that precipitated Paul’s clear call for everyone to repent—then the suggestion that hell is “never part of their gospel proclamation” in Acts is untenable.

3. Lastly, why is the book of Acts elevated to a higher authority than other books of the New Testament?

The clear implication from this argument is that if “hell” (the word) does not appear in Acts, then that fact alone somehow trumps all of the other references to it by Jesus*, by Paul, by John, by the other New Testament writers…including Dr. Luke who wrote about it in the first of his two-volume work, the Gospel of Luke, to which Acts is the sequel. If hell/last judgment is not an important doctrine because it doesn’t appear in Acts then why does the same author write about it in the Gospel of Luke? (sampling of concepts in Luke here: Luke 3:7; 10:14; 11:31–32; 12:5; 21:23). Is the reference to hell, along with the eternal nature of it, by Jesus himself of no consequence because Luke didn’t record it in Acts? Is Jesus’ own revelation to John in the closing chapters of the Bible about the final judgment immaterial merely because the word “hell” isn’t in the sequel to Luke’s Gospel? And what about these words from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1 (a book that pre-dates Acts)?:

“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word [i.e. the gospel] in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:4–10 ESV emphasis added).

Notice the clear connection between Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel, the Thessalonians’ reception of it by repentance (“turning from idols”) and faith, and the corresponding salvation from “the wrath to come”. And this is in one of, if not the earliest, of Paul’s letters. Is the fact that Paul links reception of the Gospel with deliverance from wrath to come completely undermined because the word “hell” is not in any of the eight evangelistic sermons in Acts? The answer, for those who don’t elevate one part of Scripture over the others, has to be a resounding “no”. It may be convenient to take a fact about the absence of one word from one of the books of the New Testament and use it to reject a doctrine you disagree with…but it would not be doing accurate nor responsible theological interpretation.

nota bene: So why bother with this? Why spend another 1,500 words critiquing such lines of thinking? Why add another contribution to “the making of blog posts defending hell has no end”? Because I am some blood-thirty advocate for eternal punishment? No. Because its in there. Because Paul talked about it, Peter talked about it, John talked about it, as did Matthew and Luke, etc. And contrary to many today who suggest that fear of hell is never a good motivational device, Jesus had no problem using such a device (cf. e.g. Matt 5:29–30; 10:28). So why? Because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is “good news” and rescue from wrath and from hell is part of what makes “the good news” good news. I never cease to marvel at the irony of those who claim to pursue a bigger, more holistic, or even cosmic Gospel and yet have no room in that bigger, more holistic, cosmic Gospel for the glorious rescue of sinners from a well-deserved hell.

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*Here are a mere sampling of Jesus’ references to hell, the judgment, “the last day”, wrath, etc. in both direct statements and their usage in parables: Matt 3:7; 5:22, 29–30; 7:13; 10:15, 28; 11:22, 24; 12:36, 41–42; 21:41; 23:33; 24:29; 25:41; Mark 12:9; Luke 10:14; 11:31–32; 13:3, 5; 19:22; 20:16; John 3:16–18, 36; 5:24, 27, 29; 8:24, 51–52; 10:10, 28; 11:25; 12:25, 47–48; 16:8, 11. 

Future Chelsea Striker

Chelsea’s strikers are in rough patch of form right now. Manager Jose Mourinho will need to buy a new striker during the January transfer window, or they will need to develop talent from within the club’s youth system. Here is hope they will find one:

HT: Special Report

Horus Ruins Christmas

“Hey, did you know that the life of Jesus was stolen from the Egyptian God Horus?”

The next time you hear anyone, even perhaps a Christian pastor, say the early Gospel writers were just doing some mythologizing to appeal to followers of other religions — as if to say, “see, you can believe Christianity…it’s just like what you believe” — you now have something you can show them.

Have a laugh, and Merry Christmas!

HT: David Rufner / twitter