Combating Left Wing “Christian” Fundamentalism — Part 1

At a blog site entitled “Formerly Fundie,” a left wing fundamentalist articulate 10 of his non-negotiable fundamentals.

http://www.formerlyfundie.com/watering-down-the-gospel/

Now normally I wouldn’t take notice of this but I have a family member who has posted repeatedly this type of left wing fundamentalism. So, out of love for this family member and in defense of the Gospel I thought I would spend just a bit of time dissecting this kind of Cultural Marxist “Christian” fundamentalism.

If you want to see the whole article you should access the link. I will only be dealing with the highlights.

Left Wing Fundie (LW Fundie) writes,

In fact, while I was writing this post, in some of my first quality hate-mail yet, I was accused of having a “liberal, watered down, democratic, toothless and people-pleasing gospel.” (emphasis mine)

Bret replies,

Well, it is good to know that not everyone has fallen asleep. Dear Reader you will see how objectively true this critique is that LW Fundie notes.

LW Fundie writes,

I’ve recently been thinking about American Christianity as a whole, and the ways that our entire cultural expression of the message of Jesus gets watered down into a slow, manageable drip, instead of the knock-you-off-balance, raging fire hose that the gospel really is.

In light of the time I’ve spent considering this question, here are 10 ways that I believe American Christianity waters down the Gospel of Jesus:

10. We water down the Gospel when we attempt to live it out in isolation, instead of in the context of community.

In the life of the early Church, we see community as being key to their expression of the message of Jesus. The early Christians actually took the concept of community to a whole new level, essentially creating a type of Christian community that looked enough like socialism to make an American Evangelical cringe. Not only did they pray and share the Eucharist together, they actually shared all of their money, possessions, food… and rejected the concept of individual ownership (Acts 4:32).

When we live out the gospel in light of America’s concept of “rugged individualism” we miss the point that the gospel is designed to bring us into authentic community where we all depend on each other in healthy ways.

Bret responds,

1.) I agree that a huge part of Christianity is covenant community and that too often Christians have failed in the requirement to be a part of body life. However, I don’t agree that proper covenant community is in direct contradiction to rugged individualism. It seems to me that it might be the case that LW Fundie is equating covenant community life to the life of the anthill or the beehive. That is not what I find in Scripture. In the Scripture both covenant community and rugged individualism find their proper place. As we shall see LW Fundie prioritizes the One over the many and as such when he speaks of “Community life,” what we really hear is his support for socialism.

2.) Acts 4 does not teach the “rejection of the concept of individual ownership.” That this is so is seen in what Peter says to Ananias,

Acts 5:4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

We see clearly here that, unlike LW Fundie’s Socialistic dreams, that the Early Church community ethic was voluntary. Once one makes the dispersal of property voluntary it is no longer socialism since socialism is enforced at the end of the barrel of a gun. That ownership was still acceptable to the early Church covenant community is seen in what Peter said to Ananias as put in bold relief above. Ananias was not killed for ownership. Ananias was killed for lying to God.

Also, LW Fundie fails to take into consideration that the reason that resources were pooled and shared is that these Early Christians knew, from Christ’s words, that judgment was coming upon Jerusalem. It is not a wise investment portfolio that finds people trying to hold on to property in a area where they have been told that God is going to visit with judgment.

So, I agree with LW Fundie, that community life is important and neglected today but I disagree with LW Fundie when he suggests that the way to get to covenant community is via socialism. There is no evidence at all in Scripture for such thinking.

LW Fundie writes,

9. We water down the gospel when we make it about changing someone else, instead of first changing ourselves.

Bret responds,

Here there is need to say that despite his two Master’s degrees from Gordon Conwell LW Fundie doesn’t understand what the Gospel is. The Gospel, strictly speaking, is not about me or my behavior. The Gospel, strictly speaking, is about God’s work in the Redemption of sinners. The Gospel, strictly speaking, is only about what God does and not at all about what I do.

There is a broad sense of the word “Gospel” that LW Fundie seems to be using throughout. I think when he uses Gospel he means “Christianity.” So LW Fundie is saying, “we water down Christianity when we … “ So, we will take him as if he is speaking of “Gospel” in a broad sense. Still, since he says very little about the Gospel in the strict sense I wonder if he understands really that the Gospel is all about God’s saving action in Christ and not all about our being good doobies.

As speaking particularly to point #9 I would agree that self-righteousness is a problem. However, if Christians, can’t speak to the necessity for others to repent without first being perfect themselves then I’m pretty sure that the prophetic voice has been completely stifled, because all of us will die with the necessity to change matters about ourselves.

Still, LW Fundie’s call to examine ourselves is great counsel.

LW Fundie writes,

8. We water down the gospel when we make it sound like following Jesus is easy (Spoiler Alert.. it’s not!).

Bret responds,

Jesus instructed us that we must “deny ourselves, take up our Cross, and follow Him.” Clearly LW Fundie is correct in this observation.

However, since LW Fundie’s worldview is not Biblical, his idea of “Following Jesus,” is likely often going to be the opposite direction from which the Scripture teaches.

LW Fundie writes,

7. We water down the gospel when we exclude people.

When I look at the life of Jesus, one of the things that I find most attractive is that everyone wanted to hang out with him. It didn’t matter what social background they came from, what gender they were, what sins they struggled with… everyone just craved time with him.

Bret responds,

Clearly Scripture doesn’t support this assertion. The Pharisees and Sadducees did not want to hang with Jesus. Herod did not want to hang with Jesus.

And note that people wanted to “hang out with Jesus” because he provided an answer as to how they could find forgiveness for their sins. This is what the Pharisees did not offer. So, the Lord Christ, was popular because he did not ignore their sins but provided a solution they could not find elsewhere. Jesus invited people to take his yoke upon them but they had to confess that they were weary and heavy laden. They had to confess their sins. I don’t find Christians today saying much about sin anymore and this is why so many are eager to hang out with them.

LW Fundie writes,

However, we often exclude others which is contrary to the life of Jesus… a behavior which waters down the Gospel to something that’s for us, and not them (at least not until they change and become more like us). Yet, I don’t find any of that in scripture… instead, I find a Jesus that invites everyone into relationship FIRST, and invites everyone to experience his love, FIRST.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were consistently offended with how inclusive Jesus was, because they believed a watered down version where God’s guest list was extremely exclusive and limited.

Any version of Jesus that doesn’t start with authentic, loving inclusiveness, is a watered down version.

Christian doctrine teaches that regeneration is entry into the life of Christ. The only way we can have a relationship with Jesus is by being changed. Does Jesus have a saving Relationship with the unrepentant liar or thief who has not been regenerated?

The Gospel comes as a relief for those who have seen their sin. If they have not seen their sin they can have no relationship with Jesus.

How can those who hate Christ know the love of Jesus?

So all are commanded to repent but none can know the love of Jesus without first desiring to change to become more like Jesus.

LW Fundie is just vague enough here to know for sure what he is speaking of but it sounds like he might be saying that we shouldn’t join the Love of Jesus with repentance.

LW Fundie,

6. We water down the gospel when we tell people it’s clear and simple.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing clear and simple about this… it’s actually quite complex.

Jesus used to teach in complex and obscure parables, something that frustrated even his inner circle. Often, they can be found frustrated that it’s not more simplified. In fact, in his final teaching the disciples let out a collective sigh, and said: “finally you’re talking plainly with us!”

I remember in 2008 when I left for Seminary at Gordon-Conwell, I thought that going to seminary would make the Bible more black-and-white. Yet, after two Master’s and part way into my doctorate, things become a lot more gray the deeper I go. And, that’s okay. I actually think Jesus wanted his message to be complex enough that we spent our lives wrestling with it.

It’s not clear and simple, but complex. The message of Jesus is something that you could spend a lifetime wrestling with, yet never fully wrap your head around it. It is really THAT radical (and I’ve learned to love it, exactly for this reason).

We water it down when we try to remove the complexity, and mystery (see Mark 4) of some aspects of it. Just let it be what it is– minus the extra water designed to remove tension that God actually wants us to experience.

1.) The Gospel is clear and simple.

God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.
God is both Just and Justifier of those who believe in Jesus
If we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts we shall be saved

All because the Gospel is clear and simple doesn’t mean it is simplistic. It doesn’t take an angst filled Gordon-Conwell graduate with two Master’s degrees to understand the Gospel.

2.) Second, LW Fundie has used the word “experience” a couple times now. It is clear that his view of the Gospel is experience oriented. This is not something we find in Scripture. Scripture teaches that Christianity is the life of the mind. Now, certainly experience will follow but Christianity is not primarily about experience and we water down Christianity when we suggest otherwise.

3.) In our postmodern age it is all the rage to suggest that truth is obscure and hard to know. I don’t deny that the Christian faith is profound but neither should it be suggested that it is nearly unknowable given its complexity. When we introduce the idea of complexity like LW Fundie does here we introduce the possibility that because it is so complex that we can’t arrive at any hard and fast truths. Such beliefs tell us more about the person who holds them then it tells us about basic Christianity.

2 Responses to “Combating Left Wing “Christian” Fundamentalism — Part 1”

  1. Jeffrey Mason August 28, 2013 at 11:54 am #

    Two thumbs up Pastor Brett!

    I find your analysis such a blessing. I have been a believer for some time and am so grieved regarding the lack of knowledge and discernment that are clearly evidenced by persons like
    LW Fundie. I have advanced degrees in liberal arts areas, so I’m used to standing alone within
    our higher education Marxist shooting galleries. I have no formal training in the scriptures, but It amazes me how anyone who reads them with any initiative and regularity can proclaim these compromised apologetics, and with formal training none the less. All that I can conclude is that their actual “training” includes classes in compromise. God’s word is so clear. It is, as you said, “profound” but clearly understood and witnessed by his spirit in us. Advanced degrees in gray areas sound like something offered by the mystery religions.

    Christ said “If you love me you will keep my commands.” Powered by a false love many are replacing “keep my commands” with “compromise my commands” which accounts for the glut of
    “Christian” writing taking place. I appreciate your courageous stance, as well as, your clear and tempered rhetoric. You are fulfilling a much needed role in the body. Thank you and God bless.

    • jetbrane August 28, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

      Good words Jeffery. Thank you for your support. It means more than you could know.

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