George Wood Plans to Be Civil, but Only to Evangelicals

George O. Wood

Readers of my blog will remember that George O. Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God pressured the Society for Pentecostal Studies to disinvite me from their March, 2010 meeting in Minneapolis.  They didn’t cow.

Well, it seems that Wood recently signed the Covenant for Civility: Come Let Us Reason Together, a statement initiated by Sojourners in the wake of Glen Beck’s ranting about “hammering” Jim Wallis.  But now Wood has recanted, and is asking that his name be removed from the statement.

It seems, according to a statement of an Assemblies of God spokesperson, that when Wood signed the statement at a recent meeting of the National Association of Evangelicals, he thought that the phrase, “the unity we have in the body of Christ” referred exclusively to evangelicals.  When he found out that “the body of Christ” also includes “people who are supportive of gay marriage and abortion rights,” well, that was just too large of a tent for him.

Jill Carroll of the Houston Chronicle rhetorially asks Wood,

I’m not sure why civility should be such a problem, even with people with whom we vehemently disagree on matters of faith. Even if some who call themselves Christians – or “claim the name of Christ” as the statement says – don’t qualify as “Christian” by our standards, shouldn’t we still be civil with them and when we speak about them?

Are we only to be civil toward those who think exactly like us?

But here’s what I find especially ironic.  At SPS, the way that North Central College and the others who opposed my appearance protested my presence (they referred to it as a “silent protest”) was to have a computer terminal at the registration table at which people could sign the Manhattan Declaration.  And after my address, the Manhattan Declaration came up as part of the Question and Response, including one audience member delivering a homily-styled-as-a-question about his support for the three elements of the Declaration: opposition to abortion; opposition to same sex marriage; and support of religious liberty.

I responded by saying that I have come to find the signing of declarations and statements to be redonkulous (that’s not a direct quote).  While I hope I would have had the courage to sign the Barmen Declaration, I don’t believe there’s been a statement since (not even the Lausanne Covenant, my missional friends! :-) that is any more powerful than the gospel itself.  Plus, as Wood found, these signatures can at times get us in hot water.

So count me as a participant of the covenant we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That’s a good enough statement for me.

  • Daniel

    I’m glad Dr. Wood did what he did. :)

  • Tom

    How does not wanting to be associated with an organization who does not share the same beliefs be seen as “not civil?” I too agree with Dr. Wood on this. He’s holding to a standard. It’s one thing to interact with people that we don’t share our beliefs with, it’s another to sign documents in support of them.

  • http://www.theburnerblog.com The Burner

    Also the Come Let Us Reason Together Governing Statement. Is that one still good enough for you? :)

  • wackywilliams

    I agree with you Tony, that we should be civil to people no matter if we agree with thire views or not. If we only talk to people that agrees with us & we agree with them it’s going to be a very small group with who we can commuincate. keep up the good work man. & I too hope the covinte of christ is enough, becuse personely I think all others are just killing trees.

  • Relma

    I’m with Tony and Jim Carroll. Some of my greatest growth as a human being who claims the name of Christ came/comes from people with whom I initially disagree. Even if they didn’t/don’t “convert” me to their way of thinking and acting, I always want to hear them. I believe that being a Christian is a journey and I’m trusting that God will continue to convert me wherever needed. I believe that those who belong to God need never fear associating with anyone.
    And P.S. God’s tent is far bigger than “evangelicals” — whatever that means.

  • http://newcovenantbeliever.wordpress.com Barry

    I’m for ‘A Covenant for Civility’.

    The difference between this one and the others is that this one is about attitude not belief. For much of our Christian culture this is only a small step towards the covenant we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Being civil is, after all, much easier than loving my enemy.

    For me, signing or not is meaningless, the only reason I’d sign it would be as a [prophetic] declaration.

  • http://www.stupidchurchpeople.com steve

    The guy should have every right to recant his name from something he doesn’t agree with… especially because it only points out how narrow-minded and uncivil evangelicals of his ilk generally are.

    He joined the club thinking it sounded cool until “those kind of people” started showing up and swimming in the pool.

    My response to you Tom is that he wanted to be associated with the group because in fact he did agree with that group, until others also agreed that he didn’t like. It’s not the “Covenant of Civility” he had a problem with but the people that were signing the documents. So kudos to Mr. Wood for not being a hypocrite by choosing to have his name removed from a document which is promoting civility, respect, and discourse when in fact he apparently stands for the opposite.

  • Tom

    Steve…

    Signing or not signing a document like this is a no-win situation for someone like George Wood, considering the circumstances. In my opinion, the only groups who benefit from signing this are organizations that hold beliefs considered off the main stream of Christianity (gay marriage and abortion rights). By signing up for things like this, their agenda is pushed more and more into “acceptable” terms and thus getting their foot in the door.

    However, if George Wood signs it, he puts himself “under the same tent” as these groups and is somehow considered to be watering down his morals. If he doesn’t sign, he is viewed as uncivil and even bigoted. Either way it’s a lose-lose situation. I think it is the wise decision to take a stand.

    Just because you don’t sign a document doesn’t mean you are not uncivil. I think it is assuming a lot about the Assemblies of God to say it is.

  • http://www.stupidchurchpeople.com Steve

    To say he was in a no-win situation is to overstate the case. He put himself in this position – no one forced him.

    Also, I didn’t say by not signing the document you are uncivil. I certainly didn’t sign it. It is Wood’s reasons for backing out and statements made on his behalf that cause me to draw that conclusion.

    I certainly think you can sign this document and still stand against gay-marriage, abortion rights, etc. Why not? This wasn’t a moral document.

  • carla jo

    The document is an agreement to be civil to one another in the face of our disagreements. The whole point of it is to gather people who disagree with each other and ask them to commit to doing so in a spirit of kindness, respect, humility, and Christian love. If everyone who signs it is essentially in agreement on everything then it’s a pretty pointless document.

    Tom, Chuck Colson is one of the primary signators. I’m almost certain his beliefs are not considered off the mainstream of Christian thought. Have you read the document? Have you seen the other signators? I think you’d be surprised at just how mainstream–and even conservative–many of them are.

  • Tom

    Carla Jo…

    I have read it… I saw how many mainstream signers there have been. I don’t doubt they feel they are doing the right thing. I respect them for including their names, I respect George O. Wood for not. I can see why both sides would and wouldn’t.

    What I’m trying to say to Steve is that although it isn’t a moral document, it has moral implications. You can be civil, not sign these silly documents, and have conversation. This document is weak and pointless, like Carla said. For the people that do not sign it, however, that doesn’t mean they are officially uncivil. I do not agree with Tony Jones at all.

  • http://www.stupidchurchpeople.com Steve

    That’s not EXACTLY what Carla said but ok.

    But I think you do agree with Tony (and me) that signing these types of declarations is “redonkulous”. Signing them as Tony said can put you in hot water. And that’s what Wood did… no one did it to him.

    And I agree we don’t have to sign documents to have conversations. Hopefully Mr. Wood is open to conversations and discourse with the many many many Christians (and non-Christians) that do not hold to his view of anti-gay marriage, etc. I suspect he’s not since they don’t share his view of Scripture on the matter, but maybe I’m wrong. I hope so.

  • http://newcovenantbeliever.wordpress.com Barry

    Did Tony say that people that do not sign it are officially uncivil? Or is it something else you do not agree with Tony?

  • Tom

    “George Wood Plans to be Civil, but Only to Evangelicals”

    I don’t agree with that. My bad… Official is not a word that should be thrown around on a blog. :P

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ Josh Mueller

    God forbid that George Wood might be associated with publicans and sinners by eating … oops, I mean SIGNING together with them!

    It’s just plain nauseating to see how important appearance of purity (doctrinal and otherwise) still is compared to a need to treat others as actual human beings created in the image of God. I wonder what shocking choice of words Jesus would use today to describe the power struggles, tribalism and exlusionist attitudes found in those who otherwise profess to love and follow him.

  • carla jo

    Yeah, I didn’t say it’s weak and pointless. I said that if the only people who sign it are people who already agree with each other–the kind of document George Wood seems to have believed it to be–then it would be weak and pointless.

    I don’t have an issue with George Wood–or anyone else–not wanting to sign it. There are plenty of people I admire who haven’t signed it. It was, I think, intended to make a symbolic statement more than to accomplish something new.

    But the point Tony is raising is that Wood signed a statement saying he supported civil, respectful discourse among Christians who disagree on matters big and small, then took his signature off as soon as he realized that meant actually being part of a civil discourse among Christians with whom he disagrees.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    “But the point Tony is raising is that Wood signed a statement saying he supported civil, respectful discourse among Christians who disagree on matters big and small, then took his signature off as soon as he realized that meant actually being part of a civil discourse among Christians with whom he disagrees.”

    That’s assuming a lot to call McLaren a Christian.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    On a related note, it’s interesting that McLaren would sign the civility covenant and at the same time write this, one of the least civil pieces I’ve read in quite some time: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brian-d-mclaren/why-do-evangelicals-disli_b_517094.html

    Anyone smell a hypocrite?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Oh, and Josh, you might want to check out what Jesus said in Matthew 18. Paul and Peter had a few choice words as well regarding false doctrine and those who spread it. It would do you well to check it out.

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ Josh Mueller

    Darius, I read both your link to McLaren’s piece and Matthew 18. Help me out here – where is McLaren uncivil and where does Jesus even mention doctrine in that chapter?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Josh, McLaren is uncivil when he claims that most Christians who attack him or his teaching don’t actually disagree with him but are just parroting what their leaders tell them out of fear. He is uncivil when he claims that those leaders clash with him not because they honestly disagree with him or that there is a honest debate to be had, but because they’re power hungry. He is uncivil when he calls those leaders “bad people.” I don’t know about you, but it wouldn’t be considered civil if I impugned your motives in a debate on a particular topic. You would be justifiably perturbed if I was so intellectually dishonest. Likewise, McLaren is the definition of uncivil when he won’t admit that most of his detractors have reasonable and serious honest disagreements with him. If you can’t see that, there’s not much left to be said.

    I was using Matthew 18 as evidence that Jesus clearly considered that lines existed over which Christians could not cross. And Paul’s and Peter’s words show us that Jesus included doctrine as one of those lines.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    I should note that I am not making any statement on this George Wood fellow, as I don’t know the particulars of this case or his past actions (except the undoubtedly biased version Tony has given his readers). I am merely supporting the Biblical idea for doctrinal distinctions.

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ Josh Mueller

    Darius, you may disagree with Brian’s analysis. You may even see it as an unjustified attack that oversimplifies the issues at hand. But please also note that he clearly draws these lines to the Milgram experiment as a matter of his own opinion. There is nothing disrespectful about that. It’s not an ad hominem attack but his personal guess why there is so much hostility against him.

    This invites further debate instead of shutting it down from the get-go. If you really wanted to read something uncivil, you could have read this while it was still available:

    http://misterpye.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/brian-mclaren-is-a-fucking-idiot/

    The cached version is still available here:
    http://tinyurl.com/y454rhl

    As to Matthew 18, you seem to be backpeddling. If Peter and Paul address the issue, why not quote them directly?

    It seems to me that Jesus consistently reserved his strongest words for the established religious authority who claimed and commanded purity but actually obstructed faith in God through their hypocritical example and their lopsided emphasis that was ignorant of God’s grace, mercy and love for the lost.

    Inadvertantly, in my opinion, this only strengthens the case Brian was trying to make. And I would contend that George Wood’s actions may be based upon similar fears of repercussions from his own peers as well.

  • carla jo

    Darius, I don’t think I get to decide who is a Christian and who isn’t.

  • Darius

    Carla Jo,

    So are you saying that McLaren is a Christian?

    • http://tonyj.net tony

      Hey, Darius, YES, Brian McLaren is a Christian. Good Lord, of course he is.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    “But please also note that he clearly draws these lines to the Milgram experiment as a matter of his own opinion.”

    Josh, then no more complaining when someone voices their opinion that McLaren is a heretic and false teacher. That’s just their opinion.

    Seriously though, you’ve got to be kidding me. Your hypocrisy is certainly showing… you strain at the gnat of the Reformed orthodox response to McLaren yet swallow the camel of McLaren’s own uncharitable words (which are many in his new book as well). You make a mockery of yourself by defending him to the point of absurdity.

    “If Peter and Paul address the issue, why not quote them directly?”

    Cause I figured that as a self-proclaimed pastor, you would know your way around a Bible enough to know what I was talking about. But since you apparently don’t, here ya go: 2 Peter 2, 1 Timothy 6, and I’ll throw in Jude 1 just for extra credit.

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ Josh Mueller

    Darius, I’m sorry you’re still misreading my actual intent. I’m not defending Brian McLaren’s teachings or conclusions here. I just couldn’t see how anyone could interpret the article you mentioned as “uncivil”. Uncharitable maybe, but not uncivil.

    The same goes for your Matthew 18 reference. Why would I want to deny (or be ignorant for that fact) that heresy is a serious issue and was treated accordingly by the apostles? I don’t, period.
    That doesn’t change the fact that Jesus said NOTHING in Matthew 18 about doctrinal issues but he said a lot about consequences for people who scandalize (literal translation) and thereby obstruct or damage faith against God’s expressed desire and intent to save through simple childlike trust in His Son.

    So while I personally disagree with many of Brian’s beliefs and conclusions, I still cannot see where he is being uncivil. He is constantly inviting people to address and answer questions he has raised even if that means to vehemently disagree with him.

    I also don’t see how a simple labelling as “heretic” (although certainly possible) is an actual way of dealing with the issues themselves. “Civil discourse” in my mind includes heading Paul’s exhortation to test everything and to hold on to the good. And if you look closely, you may find some good things and observations in Brian’s writings too.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Sorry Josh, I should have been more precise in my language. I suppose what I mean by uncivil you would call uncharitable. That is my fault for not defining my terms better. I sort of conflated the two. I guess I wouldn’t say that McLaren is uncivil then, but he is definitely uncharitable.

    As for the other part of your comment, I think we’re in more agreement than I realized at first. I’m used to a certain type of commenter on here and let my presuppositions get the best of me. My apologies.

    So that said, I agree that McLaren has some decent (maybe even good) things to say in some of what he’s written. I read Generous Orthodoxy and found some of the correctives or analysis therein to be pretty good and helpful (though not terribly original). If he had gone to seminary, he would have found many of the answers that have taken him so many years to figure out. Some of the things he questions and wonders about are really old issues that were settled long ago, apparently unbeknownst to him. A little theological training would have done him wonders.

    Unfortunately, where McLaren leaves the farm is in his solutions and answers (when he provides them, which he is finally beginning to do). His newest book is utter tripe, as it paints everyone with whom he doesn’t agree with a broad extreme brush and sticks them into a corner without a voice. If he was truly wanting to still have a conversation, he wouldn’t do that. Instead, he seems to want it to be a monologue.

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ Josh Mueller

    No problem, Darius. I always try to stick to the issues and not take things personally (which helps a great deal in keeping things civil).

    I just want to comment on your last sentence. This seems to be the main point of frustration many are having with his latest book. On the one hand, he emphasizes the question and dialogue character as being essential to his quest. On the other hand he’s suggesting answers that make this dialogue very difficult because of the way he’s painted his opposition and stereotypically identified their motives.

    My proposal in engaging his thoughts would be: let’s deliberately take him up on the invitation to respond and disagree. Let us give alternative answers from our own perspective. Where we see strawman attacks and misrepresentations, let us tell him where they are. And especially let us give alternative answers to the questions he has asked and don’t just demonize the man or ignore obvious and important querstions many people are having or no one would buy or recommend his books in the first place. All of this can be done in a civil manner without calling for his head on a platter. I’m sure we can agree on that.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Tony, based on Carla Jo’s logic, she wouldn’t be able to say he is (or is not).

    I would disagree that he’s a Christian, but only God knows for sure. One thing is certain, at best he’s a 1 Corinthians 3 Christian, building a foundation that won’t last. Unless he comes back to orthodox doctrine rather than his false doctrine, he may yet be saved, “but only as through fire.” I’d rather see, both for his sake and the sake of the Body, that he spend his life pursuing holiness than chaff. Lord willing, he will yet turn.

    • http://tonyj.net tony

      Darius, need I remind you, “because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

  • Korey

    Darius,
    What are the requirements for salvation to which Brian McLaren deviates?

  • carla jo

    Darius, I’m saying that if Brian says he’s a Christian, then I don’t feel the need to refute that. If George Wood says he’s a Christian, I don’t feel the need to refute that either. I have no reason to think either of them is lying about their faith. I can be puzzled and even saddened by a decision George Wood made without thinking he’s a heretic or has somehow fallen outside the bounds of God’s grace. I might disagree with lots of things my fellow Christians–both those in more theologically conservative camps and those in more theologically liberal camps–say and do and write. But since we all see through the glass dimly, I trust that they, like me, are doing their best to be faithful and it’s not my job to sort it all out.

  • http://www.stupidchurchpeople.com Steve

    On my site when we quote scripture we have to take a shot… but it’s a little early for that… however, I think I can simplify it even more Tony.

    Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe it’s the only time Jesus was asked directly what is required to please God and this was his answer. Of course, I’m not sure how orthodox Jesus was so take it with a grain of salt.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Tony (and Steve and Korey), the New Testament then goes on to say a lot more about what it looks like to be a Christian, including spending a considerable amount of time on the topic of right doctrine. As a side note, Jesus even confirms that “confessing Jesus is Lord and believing God raised him from the dead” entails a little more than simple proof-texting when he said he would reject people on Judgment day who put their faith in their works rather than in His Work on the cross. He wants His followers to actually treat Him as Lord, not just say it. McLaren may say it out of one side of his mouth, but then out of the other deny key parts of what makes Jesus Lord of all.

    “Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord”…” It seems that confessing Jesus as Lord is not actually “enough.” It must be based on actually acknowledging Him as Lord in our lives and living that out, and one way one does that is relying completely on Christ for his atonement for our sins rather than on our own filthy works to save us or make us good with God.

  • http://newcovenantbeliever.wordpress.com Barry

    Darius,
    My reading of Jesus is that he was concerned with our actions and attitudes.

    Matthew 7 says: “those who do the will of God or to hear Jesus’ words and act on them”. This follows Matthew 5 & 6 that lays out quite a bit of stuff that acting on would be more WORKS then I am capable of acting on/keeping successfully.

    Also, His separating the goats and sheep for judgment later in Matthew is strictly works based!

    So though you are right in saying that just giving lip service is not enough (though Tony’s quote does include the qualifier ‘believe in your heart’), the gospel according to the words of Jesus is more a gospel of works then the Pauline gospel of ‘faith alone’.

    Personally I believe that the most faithful reading of the entire NT canon is that: all are justified by faith and all are judged by works.

    In Adam ALL sin so in Christ ALL are made alive. It is not the works of ‘[my] faith IN Christ’ but rather it is the ‘faith OF Christ’ that redemption and atonement for our sins are found; and not only for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Barry, you have a point, to some extent. However, Jesus in Matthew 7 disagreed with you. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” What saves people is never the works, but where they put their trust. If you depend on your works to save you, you’ll be condemned.

    The separation of sheep and goats is NOT works-based, though it is understandable that you think that. Christ-followers are saved by their righteous faith. A sign of that faith is their works, but they don’t look to their works for salvation. If you don’t follow Christ, you will necessarily not have righteous works.

  • http://www.stupidchurchpeople.com Steve

    “He wants His followers to actually treat Him as Lord, not just say it.”

    That’s works right?

    The Lordship salvation discussion is circular in my unprofessional opinion. “You aren’t saved by works, but by faith alone. Yet a sign of faith is works.”

    You never really know do you? That’s the point isn’t it. Another reason to take a shot!

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Steve, when I said you should treat him as Lord, I meant that you should take Him at His word. When He says He died for our sins, don’t deny it like McLaren does. When He says certain things are sin, don’t deny it. When He says certain things are NOT sin, don’t pretend like they are. McLaren frequently does all three of these and more. It’s hard to view him as a faithful Christian when he spends most of his time denying the core parts of Christianity and sets up false idols to worship instead (like earth worship, sexual “freedom,” etc.). He certainly is a faithful idolater, but Christian??

  • http://newcovenantbeliever.wordpress.com Barry

    “did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?”
    This is not works but false relationship. You could say, using today’s vernacular, that these are people who in faith thought that they were doing the will of God (vs 21). Prophesying IN JESUS NAME. Casting out demons IN JESUS NAME. Doing miracles IN JESUS NAME. But they were not acting on his words (Matthew 5,6,7) which he just finished speaking.

    I do not see how you can say that the judgemnt in Matthew 25 is based on faith. I agree that it is not strictly based on works, but rather based on those who do justice. Feed the hungry, visit the sick and dieing, clothe the naked, … You know the social justice things. This seems closer to works then to faith in my opinion.

    And I agree that our salvation is totally dependent on the faith of Christ, this other stuff is judgment. These are not necessarily the same thing.

  • carla jo

    So does that mean you aren’t really a Christian until you have your doctrine in order? I didn’t realize there were steps and gradations. Now I’m not sure if I was a Christian when I committed my life to Jesus when I was 10. I know for sure I didn’t know all the right doctrine when I was 15 or when I was 20 or now. I wish I’d known that was the main criteria. I would have spent a lot less time in prayer and fellowship and service and a whole lot more learning Greek and Hebrew and systematic theology.

    I certainly hope I don’t have to have it all worked out already because a) I don’t and b) that doesn’t give God much room to keep working on my for the next half of my life. If I believed everything I believed when I was 20 I’d have a terribly immature faith. And if I believe everything I believe now when I’m 60, I will have been ignoring all that God has left to show me. I’d like to think I’m a work in progress because if the only way to salvation is right doctrine, I’m screwed.

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Barry, how do you distinguish salvation from judgment? In other words, is it possible to be “saved” yet be told by Jesus that He never knew us? What happens to those people?

  • http://dariusteichroew.blogspot.com Darius

    Nope, Carla Jo, you misunderstand me. You merely have to have faith in God and make Him Lord of your life, which carries with it the implication that you are willing to follow His Word. I certainly don’t have all of my doctrine perfectly together (though I hope I have most of it right). Right doctrine doesn’t make you a Christian, a willingness to let the Lord teach you right orthodoxy and orthopraxy does. A new Christian may know nothing more than that Jesus died for their sins and God raised Him back to life, that is sufficient. I’m sure the thief on the cross could not have correctly answered a catechism of doctrinal questions correctly. But I am certain that he was willing to learn those doctrinal answers if he had lived.

    Professing Christ one day and then proceeding to call Him a liar the next (by, say, claiming that the prohibition against homosexuality in the Bible was merely a cultural thing and no longer applicable) is not making Him Lord of your life. You don’t have to know what is sin and what isn’t sin when you come to Christ, but when you find out later from the Bible that something is sin, you should start treating it as such. Ignorance is one thing, refusal to acknowledge God’s truth is a whole other issue.

  • Josh Mueller

    Guys, I’m not against exploring all the angles in Scripture regarding the subject of salvation and judgment. I’m sure there’s always more we can still learn. But honestly, I’ve come to loathe discussions that seldom go beyond proof-texting to back up one’s own conviction and views or an attempt to convince everyone else that I must be right or more clever than those I’m disagreeing with.

    I believe there are deeper questions to be asked than who’s the most biblical and therefore most orthodox. For example the question WHY would I want to sit in judgemt over another person’s eternal destiny in the first place? Can I possibly judge someone’s motives and relationship with God by reading their books, blog posts or through the eyes of someone else I consider a trustworthy source of information and discernment?

    I can only speak for myself. I can’t. I don’t want to. I don’t even see a biblical mandate for that kind of thing.

    And Darius, if Brian sat right in front of you at this moment, what would you say to him? What would you ask him? Would you give him a chance to clarify his views and intent? Or would you hold him to your own interpretation of what MUST be his real beliefs according to what you’ve read? (I could go even a step further and ask whether you’d be only interested in his theological beliefs or in the person himself – his story, his experiences, his joy and his pains etc.).

    And even if in that conversation the two of you could not agree on some central tenets of faith, how would that affect your relationship? Would there be a heartfelt concern for the man personally – so much that you’d have trouble falling asleep at night because you love him too much to possibly see anything bad happen to him? Or would you walk away just feeling confident that you’ve exposed a false teacher and that you’d now have enough personal and verified information to warn everyone else?

    I know it’s probably neither or a little bit of both – I just want us to really examine our own motives first before we even say another word about another person or their faith. If it’s true that we’ll be judged with the same measure we judge others (and I do trust this statement of Jesus just like everything else he said), then I want to be the most lenient, gracious, merciful, compassionate judge there is – always giving people the benefit of the doubt, and instead of trusting my own eyes and judgment, let the One judge who alone sees what is truly inside each person’s heart.

  • http://www.stupidchurchpeople.com Steve

    I was just going to say that Josh… look who’s prooftexting now!! Anyway….

    So back to the original post (which we have digressed). Reasoning Together. Dialogue. Tolerance. I’m not sure if I have all of those but I am a lot further along than I used to be. It’s my thought that until you admit that you don’t know anything can you begin to learn anything. Faith isn’t certainty… it isn’t even close!

    Ahhhh…. Imagine no religion.

  • http://newcovenantbeliever.wordpress.com Barry

    Darius,

    I would say that Matthew 7 is not about salvation nor judgment, at least not primarily. Its about walking out the life in the Kingdom of God here on earth. Its about building our lives here and now on the Kingdom teachings, the words Jesus just spoke so that our lives will stand trials and tribulations.

    I would say that Matthew 25 turns the Pharisees’ rhetoric of hell and judgment against them; those who think themselves justified and saved by what they do or believe, who declare those who believe differently or do not follow their idea of what makes one holy and right before God as outside God’s will and in danger of eternal judgment, these are the ones that like Israel of old, ignore God’s call for righteousness and mercy in their very effort to keep to His ways. These are the goats. Those who are merciful and do the little things; who keep ‘the other’ in mind, who are the sheep.

    So how do I distinguish salvation from judgment? I don’t need to. All will be judged. Some will only make it through this judgment as though through fire.

  • carla jo

    Thanks for that clarification Darius.

    I guess my next question would be how you know which biblical truths to hold to. If a person tells a lie or spreads gossip and never confesses it do they forfeit their salvation? If I have pork chops and enjoy them am I calling God a liar? I neglected to bring a lamb and a dove to my church to be sacrificed as a burnt offering after the births of my children. I know that’s in the Bible but I didn’t do it. I had a moldy beach towel in the laundry last summer and I washed it, but I didn’t isolate it for 7 days. I don’t consider myself unclean for two weeks out of the month and I’m almost certain I’ve let my husband hold my hand and kiss me every day since we started dating and neither of us has felt the need to atone for our uncleanliness with a burnt offering. So does that mean we’re out of favor with God?

    Unless you follow the Levitical laws, you, too, are claiming that some biblical prohibitions were just cultural things and are no longer applicable. So how do you know which ones are contextual and which ones aren’t?

  • Mr. T!

    Darius… you don’t make no sense. No sense at all.

  • http://newcovenantbeliever.wordpress.com Barry

    carla jo,

    Forget Leviticus, that’s old covenant stuff.

    I’m tired of the liberal Christians continue to harass me saying that I am ungodly and non-christian because I own a slave. I treat him biblicaly. My three wives also have no problem with it, not that they have much of a say in the matter. Oh ya, those liberal, un-biblical ‘Christians’ also have issues with my biblical polygamy life style. So of course they’re on the slippery slope to accepting gays as equals!

  • http://djhorse.posterous.com/ Dave

    “So count me as a participant of the covenant we call the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s a good enough statement for me.” -last statement of post.

    I’m coming into this a little late so forgive me for derailing the discussion train. I check Google Reader far to infrequently.

    Tony, you said the Gospel of Jesus was a statement you could participate in. So I am wondering what is the Gospel of Jesus? Do we have a simple few sentences that sum up that good news? Jesus gives a lot of examples of what it is like but never spells it out. The closest thing we have as a description of the Gospel is from Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, right?

    Anyone have a succinct statement of the Gospel of Jesus?

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ Josh Mueller

    Dave, I like Tom Wright’s summary of the gospel:

    “The gospel is the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world. When this gospel is preached, God calls people to salvation, out of sheer grace, leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.”

  • http://openmindedconversations.blogspot.com/ Josh Mueller

    In case I misunderstood you and you were looking for an eqivalent out of Jesus’ own mouth to the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15, I guess the closest to that kind of summary statement would be Luke 4:18f,21.

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor . . . Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

  • Korey

    I used to think the lack of reconciliation amongst Christians was unfortunate, but perhaps each group and denomination considers themselves the only Christians so they are sufficiently reconciled. It’s only discouraging if you happen to grant the authenticity of the faith of those outside your group I guess.


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