Combating Left Wing Christian Fundamentalism — Part II

LW Fundie writes,

5. We water down the Gospel when we eliminate the centrality of social justice.

The act of “doing justice”, as the prophet Micah references, is hard and sacrificial work. Yet, the cause of justice was extremely important to Jesus, and became a hallmark of the early church.

In Mathew 23:23 Jesus goes off on the conservative religious leaders, and tells them that while they seem to value keeping small rules, they are missing the “more important” part of the law, which is justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

However, the idea of “social justice” is offensive in much of Western Christianity, which tends to value wealth and individualism. Glen Beck famously told his listeners to run from any church that had the term “social justice” on their website.

Similarly, the concept of “mercy” offends ones senses, and doesn’t fit within a Western, guilt vs. innocents oriented culture. Giving a murderer mercy instead of death? It offends the senses. But, Jesus is crazy like that.

I love it.

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus came to America, he’d go off on us for the same thing– because when we focus on small rules, and resist or ignore the larger need for forms of justice in society (restorative justice, economic justice, etc.)… we have watered down the gospel and missed the most important part (Jesus’ phrase, not mine), just like the leaders in Matthew 23.

Bret responds,

Nowhere does the Scripture peep a word about “social justice.” Social justice is a completely Marxist idea. Scripture advocates Biblical Justice. The whole idea of “social justice” comes from Marxist liberation theology. God is concerned about Justice but there is nothing in Christianity that suggests that wealth is inherently sinful or that a Biblical individualism is frowned upon by God. The whole idea of “social justice” is based upon the foundation of envy. Social Justice sanctions the greed and lust of the envious by telling them that they deserve to have what they have not worked for or earned.

Now this is not to say that such things as unbiblical wealth and oppression don’t exist. We are neck deep in such today with our Governmental Fascism and social order Corporatism. However, speaking out against unbiblical wealth in favor of unbiblical poverty is idiotic. Both the wicked wealthy and the wicked poor must repent for their respective oppression and envy.

But our LW Fundie does not make these kind of distinctions. Instead he gloms on to the idea of “social justice,” as it exists in its Marxist paradigm.

And the idea that we can now set aside, by a humanist “mercy,” what God demanded when He said, “whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man,” in the name of a humanist Jesus, is just ridiculous. There is no warrant from Scripture that the magistrate can set aside God’s law in order to give mercy to a killer while at the same time showing insult to the family of the victim. If LW Fundie’s Mother was murdered would he think it mercy to coddle the murderer? Given his version of Christianity he probably would.

I would contend that the Jesus that LW Fundie serves is a different Jesus then walks through the Scriptures. It is a Jesus of his own left wing fundamentalist imagination.

LW Fundie wrote,

4. We water down the gospel when we explain away the whole nonviolent love of enemies part.

What if Jesus actually meant it when he said: “you have heard it said ‘an eye for an eye’ but I tell you to love your enemies”?

What if he meant it when he said: “put away your sword”, “don’t respond in-kind to an evildoer”, and “he who is without sin is free to cast the first stone”?

If there’s anything we know for sure about Jesus, it’s that he taught/practiced a radical, non-violent love of enemies, and that he invites us to do the same. Instead of picking up a weapon, Jesus actually says that in order to follow him, we will have to pick up a “cross”– a symbol of radical, nonviolent love of enemies if there ever was one.

Yet, we have a way of watering those teachings down so that they don’t apply to us, or our country. We start with small loopholes, which in time grow bigger and bigger. We’re able to water it down to the point that ever expanding military budgets are embraced and supported by Christians, the pro-gun movement becomes a championed movement of Christians, and that preemptive war is taught and encouraged by evangelical leaders (as it was after 911).

Once we start finding small loopholes in the command to nonviolently love our enemies, those loopholes get bigger and bigger… until we are able to safely drive tanks and fly drones through them, with little affect on our conscience.

At that point, we need to continue watering it down, because there’s a lot of blood we need to wash away.

Bret responds,

1.) Let us say on this score that never was Jesus loving his enemies better than when he picked up a whip and scourged his enemies with a violent love via that barbed whip and sent them flying out of the Temple. Does LW Fundie aspire to that kind of love? What of this violent love of Jesus that LW Fundie skips over?

2.) Love is defined as treating people consistent with God’s law. So, when a man commits murder against another man, as an example, love requires that the social order see to it that he forfeits his life. When we do so, we are showing love to God, love to the murdered and love to murderer.

3.) It seems to be assumed here that love is defined by man quite apart from consideration of God’s law. This sounds like advocacy of situational ethics.

4.) “Put away your sword” — Situation specific. Jesus is speaking to Peter as he attempts to save Christ from what Jesus was predestined to do. Earlier Jesus had told Peter that the two swords they had were sufficient and that the disciples should sell their cloak to buy a sword (Luke 22), thus indicating that swords have their place. However, the place wasn’t in Gethsemane. Put away your sword is not a passage that supports pacifism. All those degrees and LW Fundie hasn’t learned about context?

5.) “He who is without sin cast the first stone” — Stoning was the means by which the death penalty was applied. He who cast the first stone was the one who had brought the charge (Dt. 17:7). The death penalty could not be invoked legally if the eyewitnesses were unavailable or unqualified. Jesus was striking directly at the fact that these witnesses were ineligible to fulfill this role since they were guilty of the same sin, and thus deserved to be brought up on similar charges. They were intimidated into silence by their realization that Jesus was privy to their own sexual indiscretions. Jesus was not teaching, contrary to LW Fundie’s hermeneutic that we should be non judgmental against those who have committed serious crimes. He was not teaching tolerance and humanist non-violent love. He was teaching the proper way in which to carry out justice.

How does someone get two Masters degrees from a Seminary with a (false?) Evangelical reputation and miss basic hermeneutics?

6.) Championing the 2nd amendment is done because I love my wife and family enough to want to protect them from those who would harm them. It is true we must love our enemies but how much more must we love our friends and family. So, Scripture teaches we must love our enemies but never at the price of hating our loved ones and to allow myself to be disarmed per LW Fundie’s desire to take my weapons, would be a lack of love for my family and a violate of the 6th commandment.

7.) Everyone will be glad to know that I agree w/ LW Fundie regarding the sin of preemptive war and the sin of Christians supporting the military-industrial complex.

LW Fundie writes,

3. We water down the gospel when we over emphasis sins rarely mentioned in scripture, while conveniently neglecting the ones that are talked about constantly.

The top two sins spoken against in scripture are idolatry and greed- sins that don’t often make the playlist in many churches today. Honestly, I rarely hear sermons on either of those topics. Maybe idolatry, but definitely NOT greed.

When’s the last time you heard a sermon condemning the wealthy who neglect the poor? That’s talked about all the time in the Bible, yet I don’t hear that message in many American churches. When’s the last time you heard a preacher condemn anti-immigrant attitudes? The Bible I read sure does talk a lot about the way we should love immigrants.

I think we’re watering down the gospel so that other people’s sins appear to be worse than our own sins.

Your sins? Well, you get a concentrated version. My sins? Watered down, please.

Bret responds,

1.) Recently I did a sermon series on the greed of the wealthy and the envy of the poor. I wonder when the last time LW Fundie did a sermon on envy. I recommend Helmut Schoeks, ENVY: A Theory of Social Behaviour and, Gonzalo Fernandez de la Mora’s,Egalitarian Envy: The Political Foundations of Social Justice. If LW Fundie would read those two books maybe he could move past his soft Marxism.

2.) On immigration I would recommend that LW Fundie read Peter Brimelow’s, Alien Nation, and then do a sermon series. It is true that we are to be kind to the stranger and alien, but it is not true that we are to sacrifice our children and their future so we can turn our nation over to the alien and the stranger. It is not true that we are to allow the State to destroy what little is left of the Christian ethos among us by supporting the destruction of it via the importation of aliens who have no familiarity with Biblical Christianity.

3.) Still, LW Fundie’s counsel to not concentrate on sins that are easy to concentrate on while ignoring our own sins is wise counsel. However, I wish LW Fundie would take his own counsel and concentrate on the sins of pacifism and Marxism.

LW Fundie writes,

2. We water down the gospel when we exclusively use the concept of “penal substitution” to explain the Gospel.

Many of us grow up believing that the penal substitution metaphor for explaining the gospel is the gospel. It goes something like this:

You broke the law, which made God angry. Jesus paid your fine by taking God’s wrath in your place. Since Jesus paid your fine, you can be set free.

However, the penal substitution view of the atonement, is just a small glimpse of the cross– and in isolation, is a watered down version that reduces the cross to an individual transaction.

The “classic” view of the atonement is called “Christus Victor” and is a bigger way of understanding the cross. With the classic view, it is understood that Jesus was reconciling all of creation and freeing it from the works of the Devil. Within the classic view, yes– Jesus was reconciling me, but he was also reconciling everything else he made too.

This has big implications: in the watered down version of the gospel, it’s all about reconciling individual people. However, when we look at the classic view, we find out that God not only wants to reconcile people, but that he also wants to reconcile creation (environment), broken social systems, whole communities… and that means, my job as a “minister of reconciliation” is to get busy– not just reconciling people, but reconciling everything else too.

If you’ve only understood the gospel in light of the concept of “penal substitution”, let me just tell you that the Gospel is way, way bigger than you’ve ever realized.

And, so is your part in that.

When we reduce the magnitude and beauty of what Christ did on the cross to an individualistic, legal transaction– and little more– we’ve watered it down to the point where we can’t taste the depths of its magnificent flavor.

Bret responds,

I have no problem with Christus Victor motif. Indeed I see little reason why it can’t work hand in glove with the Scriptures teaching on Christ as our Penal Substitute. What I do have a problem with is how LW Fundie defines reconciliation in a Marxist direction. Throughout this piece there has been very little concrete reference to God’s law but countless appeals to trendy Cultural Marxist memes. From the wicked dastardly wealthy, to the wonders of socialism, to the fanged greedy, to social justice, to pacifism, to the environment, all we get from LW Fundie is Cultural Marxist causes. There is more of Lenin than there is of Christ in LW Fundie’s Messiah.

Secondly, LW Fundie does not understand the Scriptures that teach the penal substitution of our Lord Christ. It is not as LW Funide articulates that Christ accomplished transaction for a bunch of individuals. Scripture teaches that Christ gave Himself for the Church. Christ gave Himself for the covenant community. So, LW Fundie’s caricature of Penal Substitution is just inaccurate. (He’s gotten so much else inaccurate what is one thing more among friends? Also, on this score the atonement was never primarily about reconciling individuals or reconciling all of creation. The atonement was primarily about reconciling a justly wroth God to sinners.

Thirdly, on this score, the only way creation is reconciled is by reconciled people. Hence the emphasis on the atonement, after it falls on the reality that in the atonement Christ rescued the Father’s name from being impugned because of forestalled Justice, while at the same time demonstrating the Father’s love, falls on reconciled Saints. The Saints are the ones who, in their sanctification, bring the impact of their reconciliation on all of creation. Creation will not be reconciled unless the Gospel goes on to those who need to hear that they might be the reconciling agents. As such, to pit the penal substitutionary death of Christ against the Christus Victor motif is just wrong-headed. They imply one another and the latter is not somehow more significant than the former. If anything it is Christ’s satisfaction for His Church that makes the reconciling work of Christus Victor possible.

Fourthly, it scares me to death that LW Fundie wants to be involved in “reconciling work.” Given some of his expressed soft Marxist views I think he needs to go back to Christianity 101.

On this point I honestly see very little evidence that LW Fundie understands the atonement and that it is primarily about God before it is about man.

LW and STILL a Fundie writes,

1. We water down the Gospel when we invite people to trust Jesus for the afterlife… but not this life.

Flowing from number 2, when we exclusively use the Penal Substitution metaphor for explaining the cross, we end up focusing on getting people to trust in Jesus for their “eternal life” later, but fail to invite them into the eternal life that they can experience right now.

Maybe I’m just thinking big here, but I’d like to see people trust Jesus for the here-and-now.

Maybe I’m just weak, but I need a Jesus who can help me in the here-and-now.

I want to see people trusting Jesus with their finances, their jobs, their families, their personal safety, and everything else.

And, Jesus is good for all those things too. A Jesus that can save me later, but not now?

That’s just a watered down version.

Bret responds,

I’ve been a minister for 25 years and I’ve never seen anyone make a connection before between the penal substitution of the atonement and a lack of living the Christian life. Always, when I’ve heard it preached properly it is preached with the idea that Jesus came to give live and give it abundantly. When I’ve heard it preached I’ve always heard it preached in the context of “eternal life begins now.” When I’ve heard it preached I’ve always heard it preached as “What God freely accomplishes in the atonement (forgiveness and right standing with God) He works in you by the Spirit so that you increasingly conform to the image of His Dear Son. I’d like to see concrete examples of where all this irresponsible preaching on the penal substitution of Christ is happening. For that matter, I’d be overjoyed to know that most ministers have a handle on the doctrine of Christ’s penal substitution.

In closing I invite LW Fundie to try to quit reading his Christianity through his soft Marxist lenses.

And in a final word … Folks, if a guy can get two Masters degrees from Gordon Conwell and come out spewing this kind of stuff it is time to give up on Gordon Conwell as a option for Seminary.

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