This week, Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition published an article on their website entitled “When did idolatry become compatible with Christianity?” In his article he wonders when it became acceptable for Christians to “embrace and endorse homosexual behavior.” His answer is that there is no specific date, but it is part of a wider idolatrous movement in the church. He characterizes the issue like this:
At its root, the issue has more to do with idolatry than marriage, since same-sex marriage could not have advanced in America if believers had not exchanged the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for the God of faux-love, cultural acceptance, and open theism.
This idolatry, he says, takes two forms. The first is essentially libertarian. Some Christians believe that because we live in a pluralistic society, and we do not have anything but a religious objection to marriage equality, we can’t really say it should be illegal. Carter says to do so is to replace
Jesus’ commandment—”You shall love your neighbor as yourself”—with the guiding motto of the neopagan religion of Wicca, “Do what you will, so long as it harms none.”
The second form of idolatry is essentially just liberal theology he doesn’t care for. He says that they have “completely rejected the authority of Scripture and embraced the idol of open theism, a god who changes his mind over time.” He proceeds to use Rob Bell as a punching bag, which is becoming a pastime for Reformed theologians, I think.
He concludes that Christians who agree with him (as opposed to the idolatrous Christians who don’t) need to speak up. He concludes:
We fear that if we point out too clearly or forcefully that you can’t both serve God and endorse sin that they may leave our congregations. We seem more concerned with losing the volunteer for the Sunday morning nursery or the regular check in the offering plate than we do with the souls of those in open and unrepentant rebellion against God. We seem more worried about the judgment of the kids in the youth ministry than we do with the judgment of a wrathful and holy God. We are so troubled by the thought that same-sex advocates will fall away from the faith that we fail to see that they’ve already rejected the faith of historic, orthodox Christianity and replaced it with an idolatrous heresy—one that is as destructive and hateful as any that has come before.
I don’t need to tell you that I have problems with this article, but let me outline them.
[[In my class where we're studying faith development, we were tasked either to bring an object, create a representation, or perform an action that represented "faith and the ultimate environment. This parable is about how faith works.]]
There once was a man striving to find the kingdom of heaven. He looked everywhere, considering everything, and asking every creature. He was more than a renaissance man — he approached every task along his quest with the aptitude of an expert.
When he considered the light, he did so as a genius physicist.
When he examined the waters, he did so as a hydrologist.
When he analyzed the land around him,
turning over every stone, he did so as a practiced geologist.
When he scrutinized the plants, he was a brilliant botanist.
When he asked the sea animals, he was a marine biologist;
when he interrogated the birds, an orithologist;
the wild animals, a zoologist;
the creeping things, an entomologist.
When it came to his fellow humans, he asked them as
a political scientist,
as everything, even as an ethnomusicologist.
He even studied literature, music, art, and feeling, but could not find the kingdom in any branch of
or revealing writing.
He sought the kingdom all over the world until he had collected a vast array of different disciplines, variant art forms, and singular emotions, each unique, contained, and separate banks of knowledge and feeling, all stored in specialized compartments of his head and heart.
Baffled that with all his disparate skill sets, areas of specialty, and endless talents, he could still not find the kingdom of heaven, he consigned to ask his friend the saint. She smiled as he recounted his story and paused for a moment in silence.
After a while, she said simply, “For all the knowledge and feeling of the earth, you lack the knowledge and feeling of heaven.”
“Where can I find the things of heaven?” he asked desperately.
She replied, “In everything at once.”
This is one of those instanced in which I’m not entirely sure I agree with what I have written. I recently was rereading Stanley Hauerwas’ and William Willimon’s Resident Aliens and noted their sharp critique of Tillich as accommodating to the modern worldview, trying to make Christianity intelligible to moderns. Hauerwas and Willimon clearly illustrate in this section that they are very wary of such attempts, and the verdict is still out for me on what I think about that. So, treat this as a musing not really a sermon.
This was given in La Nueva Vida Baptist Church (Pickens Co., AL) through a translator on 3 October 2010, which is why it is so short. It has been significantly modified in grammar, content, and structure from its original form.
The apostles say to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”
Luke 17:5-6, NRSV
The passage for this morning is a common and simple one; in some respects, that might catch us off guard. A few passages in the Bible are somewhat iconic when we talk about faith. Among them is the mustard seed passage in the lectionary for today, but Hebrews 11 also comes readily to mind. Hebrews 11 attempts to identify what faith is, something that would be valuable for us to understand before we attempt to understand what a mustard seed-like faith looks like.
The author of Hebrews speaks of faith as the “assurance of things hoped for” and “the conviction of things not seen.” S/he describes the heroes of the Old Testament having such a faith. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, among others are described in this hall of fame of faith. Faith is best described, I think, in this portion of the chapter:
All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.
Having faith means looking forward. Saint Paul describes it in a similar (but very different, at the same time) manner elsewhere, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13). That is what faith is in some limited respect, not dwelling on those places from which we have come, but looking forward to where we are going. But what do we have to look forward to? Read the rest of this entry