Wednesday, January 10, 2007

FORGIVING JESUS

Russ Moore, Dean of Theology of The Southern Baptist Theology Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, still hates former president Bill Clinton with a passion. It still amazes me that some individuals who consider themselves conservative Christians can hate Clinton so deeply for his sexual indiscretions, yet turn around and fawn over George W. Bush, a president who called the Constitution of the United States "nothing more than a G%^D(*$&$ piece of paper" and whose lies and deception have led to the deaths of more than 3000 American soldiers and 600,000 Iraqis.

The only explanation I can think of for such warped ethics is that to some conservatives, anyone who bears a hint of the label "liberal" is unforgivable, unless the sinner completely renounces his or her liberalism. Conversely, those who bear the label "conservative" are eminently forgivable, no matter how hateful, unethical, slanderous, deceitful and otherwise filth-fully sinful. Conservatives, without even acknowledging their sins, can easily be pardoned from their sins by simply claiming they believe in God. But when liberals say they believe in God, they are obviously lying. Thus, George W. Bush is a saint, and Bill Clinton is the worst sinner on the face of the earth.

Strange (and certainly unbiblical) though such a view of sin and sinner is, it does help explain fundamentalist aversions to Jesus. When Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his fellow fundamentalists so crafted the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message to remove acknowledgment of Jesus being the "criterion" for interpreting scripture, they did so out of fear that some Baptists were daring to put their trust in the liberal Jesus.

That's right, the liberal Jesus. After all, he was quite the religious liberal in his day. Jesus, the one who enjoyed drinking wine and was even accused of being a drunkard. Jesus, the one who violated the religious laws and taught his disciples they could so likewise. Jesus, the one who was a friend to prostitutes and the other dregs of society. Jesus, the one who refused to execute a woman caught in the act of adultery, thus refusing to follow the law. Jesus, the one who taught that Christians have a social responsibility to the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the marginalized. Jesus, the one who taught that shirking one's responsibility to providing for the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden and the marginalized has a direct bearing on one's very salvation. Jesus, the one who taught experiential faith over propositional (that is, doctrinal) faith. Jesus, the one who had not a word to say about abortion and homosexuality, but spent much time expounding upon the evils of religious legalism (fundamentalism). Jesus, the liberal.

Some conservatives so dislike the liberal Jesus that they deny him in this respect (hence, his demotion in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000), holding him at arm's length ... but at the same time trying to dress him up in fundamentalist clothes, because you can't claim to be a Christian and not publicly hold on (to at least a part of) Jesus.

What I want to know is this: when are these conservatives going to move beyond denying the liberal Jesus and instead forgive him for being other than they want him to be? Indeed, are they even capable of forgiving Jesus? If they can't extend forgiveness to Bill Clinton for being a liberal, how can they possibly forgive Jesus, the Son of God, for being a liberal?

Obviously, they can't.

27 comments:

Jon L. Estes said...
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dj said...

It's funny to me that you and others get soooooooo upset over our losing some men in war, (and I'm sorry we have) but never say anything against the thousands we murder every week in the US and call it choice.
Nowhere have I ever heard the SBC call Jesus liberal!
When did President Bush say what you say he did about the Constitution?
Let me ask you this, Bruce, "What would YOU have done if you were president? The US has tucked tail and run to many times already. Our president wants to keep America safe and is blasted by: the weakest president in history (Carter), a president who does'nt know what "IS" is (Clinton), a Senator who got away with murder (Kennedy), and the Woman who wears the pants in the Clinton house (HRC)
Sorry Bruce, but I agree with Jon I. Esres...."You got it wrong!"

Jon L. Estes said...
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Bruce said...

Jon, if you're gonna criticize me, find a more effective (and ethical) method than putting words in my mouth. I've never said the Bible is just a book.

Danny, re-read my post: the current SBC leaders have NOT called Jesus liberal ... but did pull Jesus as the criterion for interpreting scripture in response to some Baptists whom they perceive to believe in a liberal Jesus.

Bush curses the Constitution (also read what Albert Gonzalez said about it): http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_7779.shtml

And I take it you defend a Constitution-bashing liar whose willful and repeated deception has directly resulted in the deaths of over half a million people? Please explain how anyone who claims to be pro-life can support such a man.

Jon L. Estes said...
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Bruce Gourley said...

Jon, following are some statements that were made in Orlando in 2000 regarding the revised BF&M. Which of these statements do you support, and which do you disagree with?

"I believe the Bible is God's word, and I strive to obey the standards it prescribes."

"The Bible is a book we can trust."

"Christians are supposed to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, not a book."

"For one must see that the Bible is a record of what Christ has done. Christ is the revelation of God."

"The sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is Jesus Christ, whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures."

"We are indeed people of the book, but we are also people who bow only before Jesus Christ our Savior."

"The Bible, as high as we hold it as a source for doctrinal understanding -- Jesus Christ is the criterion by which we interpret the Bible."

(And yes, Danny could exercise better reading comprehension.)

Jon L. Estes said...
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Bruce Gourley said...

Jon, we've been over this years ago. I agree with the list of quotes I just provided, although you may have problems with them. And although the Bible is a book, to a believer it is a book infused by the Holy Spirit and interpreted through Jesus Christ; as you would also affirm, the Holy Spirit and Christ are what set it apart; without the Holy Spirit and Christ (that is, without the hand and presence of God upon it and through it), the book that is the Bible would be "just" another book. THIS is the context from which Sizemore was speaking in 2000.

Perhaps you recognize this statement about the Bible:

"Our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth of Scripture and its divine authority, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts."

Do you agree with this statement?

Jon L. Estes said...
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Dr. Danny Chisholm said...

I've think you've touched a nerve on this issue. I hear what you're saying, and I was one who believes Jesus is the revelation of God and the Bible is the record of that revelation.

It's easy to get judgmental when dealing with sins we don't have trouble with.

In this case, I guess it's inerrancy, not love that covers over a multitude of sins.

Bruce Gourley said...

Jon, I answered your questions. How about answering mine?

Jon L. Estes said...
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Jon L. Estes said...
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Bruce Gourley said...

Jon, you've just expressed disagreement with the 1698 London Confession of Faith. My view is consistent with that particular statement.

As to your return to BaptistLife.Com, it would have to be a mutual decision of all moderators, not just myself.

Bruce Gourley said...

Sorry ... the 1689 London Confession ...

Jon L. Estes said...
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RightOnPeachtree said...

Note: I'm a Mercer alum

I recently discovered your blog and I'm disappointed in your liberal positions. I have become increasingly disenchanted with Mercer's aversion to its conservative roots and embracing of an "anything goes" liberal ideology. Having read your blog, I'm starting to wonder if you're not a driving force behind that.

Understand, that I am not thrilled about how the GBC tried to exert inordinate controls over the university. Still, the direction the university is going now is troublesome. I would rather it become completely secular than to embrace secular values while claiming to be "Christian".

You come across as being just as judgmental as those you mock. Exchanging conservative judmentalism for liberal judgmentalism is not a good trade, IMO. And it sullies the history and traditions of a great university.

If your views are prevalent amongst the powers that be at Mercer, then there is little hope of it standing up for those things that make me proud to be a Mercer grad.

I have donated for 10 consecutive years to MU, but I will be reconsidering that policy in light of increasing proof that Mercer is hopelessly turning away from the university I knew and loved.

Bruce Gourley said...

RightOnPeachtree: nobody (even you) is advocating "anything goes." But to despise liberalism is to despise significant biblical themes, many of the teachings of Jesus, much of the history of Baptists (including much of our roots), and the founding or our nation. Perhaps you are more committed to an ideology than you are to scripture and your faith history?

RightOnPeachtree said...

Bruce, when I talk about liberalism in the political arena, I'm talking more about the policy view that Christians should be seen and not heard -- that Christians should not be able to bring their beliefs or morality into any political decisions.

Regarding what you probably refer to as "liberal issues", Conservative Christians (the on-the-street Christians) have always cared greatly about helping the poor and are increasingly focusing on the environment (see work by the NAE and Rick Warren). You may refer to those as liberal issues, but I view them as Christian positions -- and many other conservatives do, too.

The MSM tries to paint Christians as Xerox copies of Robertson and Falwell, but most of them aren't. Those "leaders" seem to be more political than Christian -- at least from the public perspective. From what I've seen of your articles, you are making the same mistake by lumping all conservative Christians in with them. That's a shame and it's a misjudgment on your part. I care greatly about what you would probably call "liberal" issues. But I am a down-the-line conservative.

As far as Mercer goes, I'm disgusted that my alma mater would run to Jimmy Carter (who seems to have real problems with God's chosen people) and Bill Clinton (who appears to practice "frat boy" Christianity). And I'm disturbed by what is, from what I've read, an acceptance and an advocacy of the homosexual lifestyle by Mercer and by much of its faculty. That's a watering down of the faith and an about face for what has been a great university for the last 174 years.

Bruce Gourley said...

From your post above, I take it that you do understand that Christian "positions" may fall either in the conservative or liberal camp.

Your Baptist forefathers of the 17th and 18th centuries argued for equal freedoms for all American citizens, whether of any faith (including "heretics") or no faith. The only stance that Mercer takes on homosexuals is that they deserve the same rights as all other American citizens. As to whether or not homosexuality is sinful, I assure you that many profs here think it is.

By the way, speaking of presidents: would you say that a president who repeatedly lied to the American people in order to start a war on false pretenses, which in turn led to the death of over 3000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis'; and who calls the U.S. Constitution a "&*^&$R* piece of paper" and repeatedly seeks to breech it by his actions; and who affirms the use of torture; is in ANY way displaying a Christian witness? I'm just curious.

RightOnPeachtree said...

A couple of positions of liberals can be considered Christian, but the majority of social positions from liberals are emphatically anti-Christian. And their attempts to pander to Christians are almost always transparent and phony.

I'm not a fan of Bush (or many Republicans now, for that matter), but that's because I'm a fiscal and social conservative. He's not. You won't catch me defending him on hardly any issue. About the only good things Bush has done are his judicial nominations (excluding the mulligan he took on Harriet Myers).

As far as Mercer goes, it shouldn't sponsor gay groups -- just like it shouldn't sponsor bestiality groups or polygamy groups. As a private school, it has that right. It should have utilitized it. It is good, though, that not all of the Mercer faculty is completely subversive.

Bruce Gourley said...

Were your Baptist forefathers right in fighting for equal religious freedoms for all American citizens, and adamantly refusing to allow the government to promote any one religion over against another?

Should all American citizens be treated equally today?

Is any one sin greater than any other sin, biblically speaking?

RightOnPeachtree said...

People say you can't legislate morality and that Christians should check their beliefs at the door. That's a joke. Morality is legislated all the time. It always has been. Murder? Stealing? Sexual violations against others? All against the law.

It's not the establishment of religion by the government to have a society molded by the morals of its citizens. It's our history.
-----
Of course
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No. Except for blasphemy. That is a religious doctrine, though. There are differences in terms of societal laws, however.

Bruce Gourley said...

RightOnPeachtree, I see that you cannot bring yourself to affirm your Baptist heritage of religious liberty for all and separation of Church and State.

Tis a pity. If your Baptist forefathers had not fought (with their blood, even) for religious liberty and separation of church and state, you as a Baptist might well be sitting in a jail cell right now in America ... for no other offense than being a Baptist.

As to your insistence on mandating "Christian morals" in society through the force of law (a position your Baptist forefathers opposed and for which they were whipped, beaten, jailed and otherwise persecuted by a so-called "Christian" government and society that mandated so-called "Christian" morality), no doubt you can point to scriptural support that Christian faith should be enforced by government?

RightOnPeachtree said...

First, separation of church and state isn't in the Constitution and it isn't in the Declaration of Independence. The state simply cannot establish a national religion. That's it.

And I'm a Christian, Bruce. I worship God, not the Baptists. Do you cling to every word and deed affirmed by Baptists in their history? Of course not.

I didn't insist on mandating Christian morals in society. You're being passively or intentionally deceitful in claiming that I did. I only claim that we, as a country, legislate morals all the time and that Christians should not be told to drop their Christian beliefs when they enter the public square.

Perhaps YOU can point me to scripture that says that we shouldn't be allowed to carry those beliefs into our public lives. Quite the opposite is true. We should be Christians all week long, not just on Sundays. And we should be Christians in all the things we do.

Bruce Gourley said...

There's no question that Christians can and should take their beliefs into the public square; neither you nor I have disputed this fact. Indeed, if our Baptist forefathers had not done just that, we might still be living under a Church State that jails Baptists for being Baptists.

The question is: should government give Christians more rights in the public square than people of other faith or no faith? Baptist tradition says all should have equal rights in the public square, and the government should not give Christian views (or any other religious views) preferential treatment over others.

This is how your Baptist forefathers understood separation of church and state.

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