“It is good that you should take hold of this, and from that withhold not your hand, for the one who fears God shall come out from both of them.” – Ecclesiastes 7:18 ESV
“It is good to grasp one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.” – Ecclesiastes 7:18 NIV
In my browsing of the Foxnews.com website I saw something that truly disturbed me. I saw a picture with kids holding signs that said “Thank God for dead soldiers” and “Godhatesfags.com”, and it was discussing the protests by so-called churches at funerals for military personnel. I couldn’t help but think of the families of those fallen soldiers who should be receiving mercy and sympathy from those picketers, and not messages expressing joy in their departure. This church and its sister churches are known for picketing and stirring up dissention to the point that legislatures are trying to ban their activities. The problem is that the only two verses in Scripture that discusses how the world will know that we’re his disciples don’t mention these kinds of activities in the slightest. In the ESV, John 13:34-35 says:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 17:23 says “ I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
There you have it. The world will know we’re his disciples by our love for each other and the world will know that God sent Jesus by our unity. Not pickets, or protests, nor voting, or anything else.
How did we get to this point?
My mind then went to another extreme. A recent book released by Rob Bell entitled Love Wins basically espouses universalism in that we all basically go to Heaven in the end. The amazing part is that Scripture more than clearly denies such a view. In Matthew 25 Jesus tells a parable of the “sheep and goats” and describes at the final judgment how God will separate those who are saved and those who are not. In verse 46 he says “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” It’s that simple. You may not want it to be that way, but it is what it is. There’s no need for debate. Eternal means eternal. There’s no hidden meaning, no deep knowledge necessary. If you are one of those that don’t trust Bible translators, you’ll be happy to know that the original language uses the same word for “eternal” when discussing eternal punishment and eternal life in this verse. Thus, if you think “eternal punishment” somehow means “temporary punishment”, then you’d also have to believe that the “eternal life” that all Christians look forward to is just sadly “temporary life.” This is obviously a silly argument as is Rob Bell’s point of view.
Back to my question: How did we get to this point?
While both Westboro Baptist Church (I too am Baptist and this is embarrassing) and Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church (not to be confused with Mars Hill Church that is pastored by Mark Driscoll) are on opposite ends of the spectrum, their problem is EXACTLY the same. They have both missed the point that Paul was making in 1 Corinthians 4:6:
“I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.” (ESV)
Do not go beyond what is written. Both WBC and Rob Bell place the ideas and opinions of man over the clear requirements and truths of Scripture. This, unfortunately, is epidemic in the Church both in the West and the East. While WBC claims to only believe the Bible (click here for reference), they place the opinion of John Calvin’s followers over what Scripture most clearly states, and reinterpret those clear ideas in light of a man-made theological system (the 5 points of Calvanism known as Tulip was not developed until after Calvin’s death). I can only find 2.5 of the points clearly stated in Scripture. While the other 2.5 points have a biblical basis and can possibly be true, they are not clearly demonstrated and as such the gaps are filled in with human philosophy. To believe this system is one thing, but to be dogmatic about ideas that requires human reasoning is going beyond what is written in Scripture (thus it is not necessary to call other people liars who adhere to Armenianism – the reality is that I can just as vigorously refute and uphold both Calvanism and Arminianism with Scripture because there are so many “gaps” that must be filled in with assumptions and opinions). Thus, WBC is following man’s ideas that are cloaked in a veil of claiming to follow Scripture and this makes it even harder to spot the falsehood in their belief system that results in such un-Christlike behavior, and thus disobey the clear commands of Scripture in order to uphold man’s opinion.
Many people in Rob Bell’s camp are scared to death of becoming like or being associated with churches like WBC. In addition, they don’t truly want to take God’s Word for what it is, and thus they must analyze and rationalize until they arrive at the conclusion that meets their personal agenda. This “logic” deviates from the truth of God’s Word because Jesus said in John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Even if we don’t like what it says, we still must change to conform to truth, not try to change it to conform to us. People in Rob Bell’s camp would rather deny what Scripture clearly says in order to hear what they want to hear. The Bible warns us, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” (2 Timothy 4:3, ESV). As such, they disobey the clear commands of Scripture in order to uphold man’s opinion.
In both camps, their problem is EXACTLY the same.
Thus, since the church has been fighting over man’s opinions and ideas for most of the last 2,000 years, I propose that the Church scrap what man has to say about Scripture and instead major on what it most clearly teaches. In 1 Cor. 4, Paul asks, “what is Paul and what is Apollos? Were they not mere men?” Today we can say what is Calvin, Arminius, Spurgeon, Wesley, Piper, Driscoll, MacArthur, Barth, Tozer, Geisler, etc. Are they not mere men? Sure, there’s plenty of mystery in Scripture to keep us thinking and debating, but should we first not grasp and obey the most clear and obvious points of Scripture so that we can be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:2 ESV) and not “be puffed up in favor of one against another” and FINALLY obey Christ as his Church.