Tuesday, January 26, 2021

"Ascendant" Christianity?

Recently, the New York Times published an article singing the praises of President Biden's Catholicism, saying that he is "perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief in half a century." The mention how his life has been "steeped in Christian rituals and practices" and talk about how his Catholicism directs his life and his policies. They cheer about how his faith doesn't focus on all the divisive aspects of Christianity like abortion and sexuality, but instead focuses on climate change and racial equity. They hold him up as a bastion of what truly tolerant, liberal Christianity should look like--someone who doesn't do the bidding of the horrible Conservative Christians who have been in power for way too long. Like so many are so quick to do, they praised liberal Christianity for being quick to unite in love and quick to ignore all those "hateful" aspects of the Bible that point out sin. One of the things the writer of the article seemed most proud of was that "There is a sense of moral synergy on the left, among not only progressive Christians but also humanists, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and the spectrum of faith traditions."

Just as a reminder, when Justice Amy Coney Barrett was facing her confirmation hearing for the Federal Circuit Court in 2017, Senator Feinstein told her, "“The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that people have fought for years in this country." The same people who are praising Biden's Catholic faith were attacking Barrett for hers.

The argument, however, is that Biden's religion is different. They say he embraces a new version of Christianity, "a Christian moral vision that makes room for a pluralistic society." To a follower of Christ, nothing should tell you to run away quicker than someone talking about changing theology. That, however, is exactly what is being lauded in this article.

The Word of God is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), but it doesn't change. Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." As followers of Christ, we don't change His teachings in order to make them fit with society today. In fact, Christians who find themselves in agreement with the world should take the time to truly examine their beliefs. James 4:4 puts it pretty bluntly: "Don’t you know that making friends with this corrupt world order is open aggression toward God? So anyone who aligns with this bogus world system is declaring war against the one true God." A true follower of Christ isn't going to fit in with the world. Jesus Himself said, "If you find that the world despises you, remember that before it despised you, it first despised Me. If you were a product of the world order, then it would love you. But you are not a product of the world because I have taken you out of it, and it despises you for that very reason." (John 15:18-19)

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Too often, people confuse religion and faith. Christian religion is one thing. It is full of rituals and observances. It is on display in mega churches who fill their buildings with laser shows and giant productions. It is posted all over social media with things like #blessed and people using the name of Jesus to promote social justice. It is made evident in the "name it and claim it" mentality that turns God into some kind of cosmic genie there to fulfill wishes.

 


It's that kind of religion that I believe God had in mind when He told Israel,
"I hate—I totally reject—your religious ceremonies
        and have nothing to do with your solemn gatherings.
You can offer Me whole burnt offerings and grain offerings,

        but I will not accept them.
    You can sacrifice your finest, fattest young animals as a peace offering,
        but I will not even look up.
And stop making that music for Me—it’s just noise.

        I will not listen to the melodies you play on the harp." (Amos 5:21-23)

God obviously isn't a big fan of religion. He isn't fooled by the pomp and circumstance. He doesn't revel in the lights and get fooled by fancy words. He doesn't care how "devout" we appear to the world. In fact, when Jesus walked the earth His harshest words were reserved for those considered by society to be the most devout--the Pharisees and Sadducees.

 In the eyes of God, it doesn't matter how devoted I am to a belief if that belief is false. And God's word is very clear on what is considered a false belief: anything that goes against the gospel of the perfect Son of God made flesh, then sacrificed on the cross for our sins and raised again to give us eternal life if we believe He is the only way, truth, and life. No matter who is preaching it or where they are preaching from, anything that says differently is false.

Christianity doesn't leave room for other beliefs. By very definition, it can't--as followers of Christ we are called to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them what Jesus taught, and showing them how to follow His commands (Matthew 28:18-20). Our faith isn't one of concessions and caveats, solely a "moral vision that makes room for a pluralistic society." If I truly believe that Jesus meant it when He said He was the only way to the Father, the only truth, the only source of life, then it makes me incredibly unloving to tell people it's okay if they don't believe in Him.

How horrible would it be to know the only way out of a burning building, but sit back and tell people that they can go whichever direction they want? How much worse is it, then, to know the only way to eternal life, yet let people believe whatever they want?

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/23/us/biden-catholic-christian.html
  2. https://vancouversun.com/news/staff-blogs/liberal-christianity-ten-things-worth-knowing-about-this-third-way/
  3. https://www.gotquestions.org/liberal-Christian-theology.html
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_Christianity

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~Mandy

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