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.
The Christian faith is kaleidoscopic, and most of us are color-blind. It is multidimensional, and most of us manage to hold at most two dimensions in our heads at any one time. It is symphonic, and we can just about whistle one of the tunes. So we shouldn’t be surprised if someone comes along and draws our attention to other colors and patterns that we hadn’t noticed. We shouldn’t be alarmed if someone sketches a third, a forth, or even a fifth dimension that we had overlooked. We ought to welcome it if a musician plays new parts of the harmony to the tune we thought we knew.
— N. T. Wright in the Forward to The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
Plurality is the most vexing issue in the world today, of that I am entirely convinced. The quintessential struggle of democracy is how to deal with multiplicity. The Federalists attempted to resolve it with competitive ideologies vying for control, keeping each other in check. However, today it seems like ideologies and perspectives are designed and argued in such a way that they want to force each other out. The Republicans don’t want Democratic perspectives to be an option. Tax increases can’t be on the table. Democrats would rather Republicans not exist. Everyone thinks they would be better off if they were the only perspective out there.
If they were the only ones, there would be no more struggle.
No more strife.
No more problems.
No more violence.
No more death.
Besides being hopelessly utopian, these presumptions are simply illogical. No solution or set of solutions will solve all our problems. But the most insidious feature of this mindset is that it is authoritarian. It’s dictatorial and leaves no room for anyone but yourself. It’s selfish, exclusive, dangerous and violent.
And Christians do it all the time. Read the rest of this entry