The Gospel Coalition recently began a series of videos in which they have debates between two people on important cultural issues. The first issue was on “gun control.” The second was on the idea of a “Woke” church. I’d like to talk about the second one.
The introduction to the debate on “woke church” was as follows, as shown on the YouTube page :
The “woke” debates have fractured the church like little else in recent years. On one side are Christians who believe Scripture demands the church lead the way in addressing topics like racism, injustice, gender inequality, poverty, and climate change. On the other are Christians who accuse the “woke” gospel of just being a new generation of the “social” gospel, which in previous iterations often meant gradual theological compromise. What are we talking about when we use the word “woke”? And which should be the bigger concern for the church today: caring too little about activism on the social issues of the day, or caring too much about the wrong issues? These and related questions are addressed in this debate between Sean DeMars and Rebecca McLaughlin. DeMars and McLaughlin share their respective arguments and engage in a discussion moderated by Jim Davis, teaching pastor at Orlando Grace Church.
The question of the debate is this:
Is “woke church” a stepping stone to theological compromise?
This was an important topic that I wanted to see addressed, because I have noted a strange “woke” shift in American Evangelicalism in 2020, that others noticed even long before. As such, I was interested in how the debate would go. Sean DeMars argues in the affirmative. Rebecca McLaughlin argues in the negative. You can watch the video here:
The individuals in the debate treated each other respectfully, and did not get into mud-slinging. That is good enough. And I think that was the goal, because they are calling this series the “Good Faith Debates.”
In their introduction to the series, The Gospel Coalition said the following:
Are you feeling pressure to understand and engage with an ever-growing array of confusing and polarizing issues? Perhaps you’ve witnessed bitter arguments tearing your family, friends, or churches apart.
You’re not alone. I feel it too. Every week I hear from confused and concerned Christians. They want less heat and more light. They want to stay focused on the gospel. They want to put their faith into action. They want to care. But they don’t know who to trust.
The Gospel Coalition serves the church by producing timely content that grapples with some of the most pressing issues of our time.
I’m praying that the Good Faith Debates will do just that. In early May we’ll be releasing a five-part video debate series featuring prominent Christian thinkers discussing some of the most divisive issues facing the church today.
When we keep the gospel central, we can disagree on lesser but still important matters in good faith. In the Good Faith Debates, we hope to model this—showing that it’s possible for two Christians united around the gospel to engage in charitable conversation even amid substantive disagreement.
But despite these hopes, I have some serious problems with what I saw in the video. In this post, I’d like to talk about them.
- The first problem is how the debate was set up.
- The second problem is something that was said (and not said) in the debate.
- The third problem concerns the underlying assumptions in the debate.
I’ll talk about each of them below.
1. Problem with the Debate Set-Up
This section might sound demeaning, and I don’t like that, but this needs to be said. Here it is: Who the heck is Sean DeMars and why is he doing this? I’m not the only one who is thinking this, because look how Sean introduced himself in the video:
I’m being completely serious when I say that I have no idea why I’m here. I’ve not written extensively on the subject of wokeness. I’m not part of any organization fighting on the front lines of the woke wars. I’m not in any Twitter spats or Facebook beefs over this stuff because I’m not on Twitter or Facebook. Moreover, I’m not a subject matter expert in the field of critical theory, which I’m just going to be using synonymously with wokeness. I’m not a subject matter expert in any field related to any critical studies, and to be honest with you, ‘m not really any kind of expert at all. I don’t have a Ph. D., on – unlike my interlocutor who has a Ph. D. from Cambridge, which is in England. I don’t have a seminary degree. I don’t have a bible college degree. I don’t have a high school diploma. But I am a pastor, which means that I’ve had to reckon with this. I’ve had to think through it. I’ve had to think how the gospel applies to this stuff in my local church, and to be honest with you, I’m not even sure that I’m capable of giving a satisfactory definition of wokeness.
What kind of introduction is THAT for a person representing one side of an “important cultural debate”? This is especially worrying for people (like me) who want someone on that side to give a strong defense of their position.
Because he said he hasn’t written extensively “on the subject of wokeness,” I checked on The Gospel Coalition Website, and found that Sean Demars has 4 articles written for TGC over the previous 8 years, and none are on the subject of “wokeness.” But note that this isn’t very many articles at all. He hasn’t written widely on anything, for that matter.
Additionally, look how he is described on TGC’s website:
Sean DeMars is husband to Amber, dad to Patience and Isabella, and pastor at 6th Ave Church in Decatur, Alabama.
And there is literally nothing wrong with that description. Those are all good things. But what if that was the job description for your lawyer in a civil case? That wouldn’t make you happy, would it? So do you see why this is giving me some problems when he represents MY SIDE in an “important cultural debate”?
And the problem goes further. I went and checked something on his church’s website. Through the website, it looks like he went into the military and came out as a pastor. As such, I don’t think that comment above about “not having a high-school diploma” was a fake. In other words, the person standing up for “my side” of this debate only has a GED. Now, in fairness, he did really good considering that he has only a GED (which is why I wonder why he even brought it up), but look at who his opposite debater is. This is how she is described at The Gospel Coalition:
“Rebecca McLaughlin holds a PhD from Cambridge University and a theology degree from Oak Hill Seminary in London. She is the author of The Secular Creed: Engaging Five Contemporary Claims (TGC, 2021) and Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion (Crossway, 2019).”
So…. hm…. that’s strange. This woman has literally written a book that talks about “wokeness.”
So here’s the REAL problem that I’m trying to point out with this “Good Faith” debate:
WHO THE HECK AT THE GOSPEL COALITION PAIRED A NON-EXPERT PREACHER WITH A G.E.D. AGAINST A PH.D. FROM CAMBRIDGE WHO LITERALLY WROTE A BOOK ABOUT THE SUBJECT OF “BLACK LIVES MATTER”?
That’s not what we normally call a “Good Faith Debate.” Do you know what that’s normally called?
That’s normally what we call “a trap.” And no, the trap wasn’t to make a fool of Sean DeMars. instead, I think the trap was for people like me.
And here’s where I need to be a bit careful. I want everyone – in this case that applies to Sean DeMars – to be judged by their conduct and work product. So on one hand, who cares if Sean DeMars doesn’t have a high school diploma? In the debate, Sean says that his church has less than 100 people. Once again, what’s wrong with that? The gospel can be preached faithfully and intelligently by people like him. And praise God for it! People like him can stand up and defend a position capably if they prepare and are gifted for it.
But if they screw up… …that lack of credentials is going to come back to bite you. In that vein, look at the first thing Sean DeMars says immediately after McLaughlin’s presentation, and which was not a part of the question asked to him:
First of all, can I just start by not answering your question, okay? I just want to star, Rebecca, by saying I’m so thankful for you. I’m so thankful for your ministry, for your writing. I agree so much with what you said up there, and I know that that’s the heart of this whole dialogue, to show that we’re really on the same team and there’s just a variation of difference. But I felt as I was listening to you so— I just love you and I’m so thankful for you.
Then, they did a dance and sang a song.
Just kidding. They did not do a dance and sing a song. But with that heartfelt oration for YOUR OPPONENT IN A DEBATE, it almost felt like that would come next.
So, here’s the real problem. This does NOT reflect well on whoever produced this thing. How much better would it have been if we had people of equal expertise debating in good faith on this “important cultural issue”?
And let’s get something clear. There are PLENTY of people who are subject-matter experts on “woke church” who could have spoken on this issue. Let’s think of what the Gospel Coalition could have done:
- They could have been REALLY bold and just asked Doug Wilson to show up, as he has plenty of experience debating people, and is extremely knowledgeable about the whole “wokeness” thing.
- They could have been more “safe” but also fair by picking Kevin DeYoung, who recently spoke out saying that Christians should be critical of Critical Race Theory at the last T4G conference.
- They could have picked Voddie Baucham, who has written a book on the subject and received a degree from Oxford in philosophy, and who has hundreds of articles and appearances and mentions on TGC’s website.
- They could have picked Alissa Childers, who is a speaker and author, and person with a lot of personal experience with progressive Christianity and who has a podcast and YouTube channel discussing issues of “wokeness” and “progressivism” in the church.
- They could have even gone to the B-Team of a host of people who have spoken on this issue, gone to seminary, or even written books on this issue like John Harris or Neil Shenvi.
But nope. The Gospel Coalition put up a random pastor from Alabama with a G.E.D. to go up against a speaker, author, and subject-matter expert who has a Ph.D. from Cambridge.
No offense is meant towards the good people of Alabama, but a long pursed-lip (the traditional Southern Baptist method of showing sadness, disdain, and great concern) is directed in the general direction of Colin Hansen of the Gospel Coalition who seems to have made that pairing.
That’s because this set-up looks like anything BUT a “Good Faith” move.
2. The Problem With Things Said and Not Said
In Rebecca McLaughlin’s time to speak, she made the following point, which I would find shocking, if it weren’t so common these days:
My second point is that we must repent, and when I say “we” here, I’m speaking as a white evangelical. The very premise of our question is woke church as a stepping stone to theological compromise presumes that we are not already theologically compromised. Sean and I both agree that we are, but I believe that if we look at the history of our forbearers in the church, we will find a history of profound theological compromise when it comes to questions of race.
We will find a history of slavery, a history of segregation, a history of explicit racial prejudice and discrimination, built into our legal systems and most tragically, we will find a history of white Christians who look and sound like me being deeply complicit in this. Now, you might say, “Well, I wasn’t there.” I wasn’t there when people from my country, the United Kingdom were transporting millions of enslaved people from Africa to America. I wasn’t there you might say. I wasn’t there during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation. You might say “I wasn’t there when thousands of black Americans were being lynched, while white folk who may have been in church that morning were bringing their kids to watch black people being strung up on trees and tortured and mutilated. “I wasn’t there.” You might say I wasn’t there when a six-year-old black girl named Ruby Bridges walked into an all-white elementary school while hundreds of white parents shouted racial slurs at her, issued death threats against her, and while she – God bless her heart – prayed for their forgiveness because that’s what she’d been raised by her Christian parents to do.
You might say “I wasn’t there.” But you know what? Our parents were. Our grandparents were. Our great-grandparents were if you, like me, are a white evangelical. This is our tribe. And God have mercy on us if we do not repent.
Now, there are several problems in that paragraph, so let’s just briefly cover the majority of them. First, this is a debate, and people are entitled to speak in defense of their side. If I “take issue” with certain facts they put forward, I may not be exposing any real “problem.” I may just be showing my beliefs.
For example, I may wonder how Rebecca McLaughlin knows what a six-year-old Ruby Bridges was praying and why she was praying it back in New Orleans in the 1960s. I may wonder where the “there” is where “thousands” of black people were strung up on trees and tortured and mutilated, especially since the Tuskegee Institute notes that 3,446 black Americans total were lynched between 1886 and 1968, which is an average of about 40 black people per year across the entire country (and the last recorded lynching was of Emmitt Till in 1955). I might note that this is only twice the number of people who are struck by lightning each year in the United States today. I might point out that according to the Tuskegee Institute, the overwhelming majorities of those lynchings occurred between 1886 and 1905, when there were an average of 150 per year, falling every year until the last lynching in America in 1955 (of Emmitt Till). I might point out that this wasn’t “my parents” or “my grandparents,” or even my “great grandparents,” who would have been infants at the time. Instead, this was only my great-great grandparents who were old enough to participate in the stuff she was talking about. I might also question who these supposed church-going people were that supposedly took their children out to watch these “thousands” of lynchings. I might ask for some evidence for these things.
But of course, that would just be exposing “my own opinions.” I don’t want to talk about my opinions. I want to talk about THE REAL PROBLEM in what she said. So, I’m going to concentrate on that last line:
You might say “I wasn’t there.” But you know what? Our parents were. Our grandparents were. Our great-grandparents were if you, like me, are a white evangelical. This is our tribe. And God have mercy on us if we do not repent.
In response to this point, Sean DeMars gave the following rebuttal (immediately after the glowing praise of Rebecca McLaughlin):
I’m nervous about the language of corporate confession as applied to identity groups. I’m nervous about identity politics in general. I’m nervous about corporate confession language as applied to identity groups like white evangelicals. I believe in corporate confession, but anytime you kind of extrapolate out from Old Testament Israel, which was a theonomy, right? You know, so they were an ethnic people, a legal people, and a spiritual people. Extrapolate out of that and I get a little nervous.
But I can see it in the context of a local church which is why I very much appreciate your example from Laodicea, right? Like I think a local church could have some corporate guilt that they need to come together and confess, which is why in my church, on every other Sunday, sometimes we have prayers of confession. We just assume that our people are sinning in various and sundry ways. And so we come together and we’re honest with God and we’re honest with each other and we believe in corporate confession. But corporate confession about what white evangelicals have been complicit in? It’s just it’s all kind of hazy. You start getting into intersectional things and the lines are blurred.
And on top of that when I read the Bible, I don’t see a lot of language, especially in the New Testament, which maybe this is a Biblical theological question that we can come back to the discontinuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. But I don’t see that kind of language there, and I don’t think we see it there for a reason. So all that to say, I think there’s a sense in which I could agree with Rebecca and then there’s a sense in which I would very much want to push back and disagree with Rebecca.
That’s not quite the “strong rebuke” that I was hoping for. Instead, he said that “corporate” confession is understandable, so he could somewhat agree. But in another sense – because of some undefined difference between the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant,” he wants to push back and disagree. (Even though he didn’t.)
But here’s the problem with that. Rebecca is not talking about CORPORATE confession, which is where a BODY (which is what “corporate” means) OF PEOPLE confess for things THEY have done. Corporate sins are sins committed by a body of people. This would be things like “conspiracy” or a group of 12 people in a jury who knowingly and wrongly convict someone. Despite one person being “the ringleader,” this is still a sin of a CORPORATE BODY of people. For the biggest corporate sin acknowledged by Israel, look at Nehemiah 9. But that was an instance where everyone in that crowd was guilty of the same sin.
Instead, Rebecca is talking about BLOOD GUILT. She is saying that “our tribe” (her words) were bad in the past. Therefore, “our tribe” – meaning white evangelicals – need to repent of these sins of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.
And contrary to Sean DeMars’s confusion THIS ISN’T SOMETHING THAT WAS ALLOWED in the Old Covenant. Instead, the Bible provides a very clear “Thus saith the Lord” regarding who repents for what:
You repent of your own sin. You can count on neither the righteousness nor the unrighteousness of another person.
You can sacrifice for another’s sins, but you can only repent of your own sins. When the Old Testament talks about “corporate” sins, it is talking about general averages of conduct. For example, look at what Elijah says about the corporate sins of Israel, where he treats them as an undifferentiated mass of people:
He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:10)
But in contrast, God says this:
And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:15-18)
In other words, God does not count sins in that way. God is VERY GOOD at seeing who has done what. That is why on the last day, God will judge in this way:
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:11-13)
The dead are judged according to what EACH ONE OF THEM did. There is no “group” justice or “group” repentance. This is a highly individualized exercize.
And this was also clear IN THE OLD TESTAMENT, where this “blood guilt” was EXPLICITLY PROHIBITED. To prove this, I’d like to quote the entire chapter of Ezekiel 18:
The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you [footnote: the “you” is plural] mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live, declares the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.
“If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.
“If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things (though he himself did none of these things), who even eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.
“Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.
Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die.
“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:1-32)
This is an EXPLICIT REJECTION of the type of “repentance” and “guilt” that Rebecca McLaughlin was putting forward. It’s right there in the Bible. It’s right there in the Bible where Sean DeMars said there might be some “room” to agree with Rebecca McLaughlin.
So, with that being said, here’s the second problem with this “Good Faith” debate:
You can debate in “Good Faith” all you want UNTIL the Bible provides a clear “Thus saith the Lord.” But after the Bible provides a clear “Thus saith the Lord,” any further “debate” is a manifestation of unfaithfulness.
This debate is a problem because the Bible very clearly says this:
The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:19-20)
In other words, Rebecca McLaughlin looses this debate, not because Sean DeMars did a better job than her, not because her sources were flawed, and not because her argument was not persuasive. Instead:
REBECCA MCLAUGHLIN IS WRONG BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS SO.
We had a pre-planned, scripted, carefully crafted, and supervised debate PUT ON BY A CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION, and for some reason “Thus saith the Lord” did not put a limit on this “Good Faith” debate about theology.
3. The Problem With Basic Assumptions in the Debate
Here’s a final problem. In this debate, both sides talk about how terrible “slavery” is. They “lament” it. They see it as obvious sin. If you wanted a real problem, let’s go to Rebecca McLaughlin’s “lament” about the presence and the “complicit-ness” of our parents in slavery.
Based on what BOTH SIDES agreed was “terrible,” it is clear that they would push back strongly against words like these from a Christian minister before the Civil War. Note what he says about Christians who have slaves:
Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brethren; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.
Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Sounds embarrassing, doesn’t it?
Here’s the problem. That might sound like it is hard to defend and like like something we should obviously “denounce.” That might sound like something we are happy to have purged from our Christian tradition and heritage.
Here’s the problem, though. That’s 1 Timothy 6:1-2:
Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be defamed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful on the ground that they are brethren; rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. (1 Timothy 6:1-2)
So…. this is awkward….
THE “PROBLEMATIC” CHRISTIAN MINISTER IS ST. PAUL.
Paul wrote that, and those verses are IN YOUR BIBLE.
And so here’s what the problem is with this “debate” on the “woke” church. These types of conversations are setting Christians up so that their bread-and-butter understandings of morality will WILDLY conflict with things they will encounter in their Bible if they read closely enough. So let me make it clear:
If your theology on race and freedom and slavery and law and justice does not have a way to make sense of 1 Timothy 6:1-2, then the problem isn’t “slavery” or “Paul.” The problem is your theology.
We know that the Bible is the word of God, and so the words of Paul (in scripture, anyway) are the words of God. After all, we know:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
This is extremely important when it comes to 1 Timothy 6:1-2, because Jesus says the following about his word:
For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)
So, in contrast to the “debate” that The Gospel Coalition gave on this subject, look at this blog post where someone is not afraid to call out another “debate” that ended nicely enough, but involves a TERRIBLE way to interpret scripture. If you want to watch it in video form, including where the key quote comes, see here:
The key text is here, where Doug Wilson (a “controversial” pastor, even among Christians, because he is not afraid of what the Bible says), reveals why current Christians are having such a hard time answering the LGBT stuff.
Nothing reveals the actual doctrine of Scripture and the actual hermeneutic of your standard-issue evangelical like this topic. Just present them with what the apostolic teaching on slavery actually was, and you will be treated to a gaudy spectacle of waffling, noodling, backfilling, and that-was-then-this-is-nowing that you have ever seen in your life.
And don’t tell me that I should have warned you. I did warn you, decades ago, and you didn’t want to hear it.
. . .
So the reason “affirming” evangelicals have the traditionalist evangelicals in a hard half nelson here is that they are employing a method for getting rid of texts that we don’t like, and it is a method that traditionalist Christians have already adopted with regard to other angular texts, and which they have adopted almost universally.
And I have to make one other point here. There is a trajectory in Scripture, a long arc, that leads to the elimination of slavery through the work of the gospel. I have argued in favor of that trajectory in various places, and the best example of it is found in Paul’s appeal to Philemon with regard to Onesimus. Astute readers of the Scriptures should be attuned to the broader themes, and they should be able to pull on a long thread.
But if they employ this hermeneutical “device” as a means of setting aside the plain meaning of multiple texts, or turning them upside down, one should start to become a tad suspicious. . . .
So sure, point to the broad themes. And then show us how those broad themes HARMONIZE with what the texts plainly state, straight up, and no funny business. And you will not be able to do this correctly on sexual issues unless you are willing to go back to the slavery issue, revisit your sleight-of-hand exegesis, and tell us what the Bible actually says.
And if you think “racism” and “LGBT stuff” are two different things, I’ll remind you that Rebecca McLaughlin is the one who put them together HERSELF. She – for some unknown reason in a debate about “racism” – thought it good to devote a significant portion of her time to say that IF we want to hold the line on the “LGBT stuff” issue, we MUST hold the line on “Racism.” SHE did that. Not me.
The problem with this debate from “The Gospel Coalition” is that it DOES NOT do even close to a good job in explaining WHAT THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAYS. And for that reason, it is not good. If you want to have a name like “the Gospel Coalition,” then you cannot be ashamed of what the scripture says.
You also can’t ignore what it says, either. So, let’s hope the other debates do a better job.
9 Comments Add yours
Apparently, neither debater ever used the name of Jesus. That may tell us all we need to know. Well done.
A great read as per usual! I am leaving a reply for what I have covered thus far. I intend to add more comments later when I have observed the video on the LGBT issues.
My first thoughts after reading was one which asks if it matters about someone’s credentials and is an issue like this about taking sides? Religion is an issue which ( whether reliably factual or not) has been ingrained into civilisations since its inception(s). I don’t class myself as religious yet I do enjoy debates and conversations on it, immensely. I don’t think it wise to rubbish any of it. The Bible itself holds some very accurate and informative information – albeit not a book I would choose wholly as a living guide so to speak. I attended Sunday school as a child. No disrespect to the church but there exists cherry picking in certain terms when it comes to reading out Bible passages. Passages about coveting thy neighbour’s wife and stoning to death for adultery are nowhere to be heard. I am at least grown up enough to understand how this was the punishment for the time they lived in. Adultery nowadays is simply passed off as normal due to the punishment becoming non existent – people have been conditioned to accept it as just another mishap in life. Once upon a time it was classed as a crime. For something to be classed as a crime or offence it has to do one or all of the following: Cause harm, loss or injury. None of that has changed so why has it been downgraded to normalised upset or moral issues as opposed to emotionally and financially legal ones?
If someone in a trusted position commits adultery, is it not right to question their fitness for trust in their job as well as their private life? What about sincerity if the adulterer were a person working in the justice system or law enforcement dealing with crimes such as abuse? My eyes have been opened up to the mass hypocrisy going on when it comes to standards in duty of care.
As for credentials or expertise, it is surprising who can be classed as an expert ( or not). For instance, I like tattoos and have several – tattoo artists are not classed as skilled artists by government standards. “So what?” Some might say – so, just for you, here is a little perspective. Before I do, I’d like to say that I DO NOT intend for any of the following to cause any Ill-feeling or incite attacks on either of the professions or individuals I am going to mention!
A butcher who chops up animals for human consumption is classed as a recognised skill. A person who performs circumcisions on young male infants is allowed to do so for cultural reasons and accepted in some laws and by religion. A young infant cannot consent to such surgical procedures. Some people have their rights taken away. These are issues I could discuss endlessly. One thing we must all agree on is how debate is vital for advancement of human existence or rather co-existence under these circumstances. It is a problem for society but the lawmakers are creating bigger problems by not addressing important issues with the sincerity and equality it deserves. We are all victims of something!
Bart Ehrman is a fascinating fellow and his observations on religion are the best I’ve seen this far. Christopher Hitchens is also very popular as is his brother. Beacons tend to be few and far between on some subjects or non existent!
Some people have no choices!
I was talking recently about retirement age and how some people are continuing to work with serious health conditions. People who have had heart attacks and strokes are doing physical work until they are nearly 70 years old because the system will not allow them to draw a state (liveable) pension until they reach full retirement. Personally, I think they should have an option of early state retirement and there are those who sadly don’t live to reach retirement age. These people are what I call victims of the times. By that, I mean they didn’t have access or time to go to to gyms but most importantly they didn’t have the knowledge of how best to stay healthy like the information that is at our fingertips now!
Many youth of today (bless them) are growing up and making fitness a priority.
The world seems to be changing and moving in the right direction for some while others are held back because of circumstances outside of their control.
Speaking of youths, victims of the times and white prejudice, I often wonder why there are few white rap artists in the USA. Eminem is the biggest and only one? It is no secret how the industry is largely controlled by black communities. Apparently white prejudice doesn’t exist? That said, the black gospel singers are some of the best voices I’ve ever heard. Again, when it comes to the rap industry and the criminal cultures they sing of, they are victims of the times in a society that allows their music to be heard. A hard luck story you may be living but there are others who face hardship and just get on with their life with dignity and grace. They are not life styles you always leave behind when we still see the use of drugs and guns rendering your hard luck story – nothing of the sort!
Religion remains an ‘open’ subject. I am always going to have opinions on it whether people agree or disagree. I have to live on this planet, therefore it affects me and is absolutely my business. If people want to keep their religious beliefs quiet then that is fine although when the line is crossed from belief to physical interference then there is a time to say “enough!”
My understanding (in short) of the Bible is how it’s filled with sentiment of people who are striving to teach society how to behave. Good advice is their main intention – with some aspects of fear. This is called Jihad in Islam – although some take it out of context and interpret it as war!
I find it hard to accept people who will quickly call rubbish on religion without first trying to at least read or understand it’s pros and cons. It’s pointless bursting a blood vessel over something historical that was just the way of the world so to speak – in a time you did not live in!
As for what our forefathers did or didn’t do, should current government be apologising for previous government mistakes? No! Although if they continue in the same despicable and careless demeanour then they should be held to account along with their partners in crime!
Now I have a question:
Christianity is a splinter sect from Judaism. Right or wrong? So, is it right to associate Jesus or use his name alongside the beliefs in the Bible as he may not have agreed with everything in it?
Some people claim Christianity is splintered from Judaism but this is not an accurate view since Judaism has undergone more of a break with its past than the new faith in Jesus Christ. In 70 C.E. the Jewish Temple was destroyed and over a number of years Rabbinic Judaism formulated a new faith of observing the sacerdotal requirements without a temple.
Rabbinic Judaism, in my view, is more varied from the Old Testament than the new Christian faith. Christians see the O.T. fulfilled with the High Priesthood of Jesus. The book of Hebrews in the N.T. explains this aspect and how the former times prophesied the arrival of the Messiah. Hebrews also explains the New Covenant and how it was both predicted and superior and therefore has replaced the sacrifices. This bible book is what I recommend you read to get a better understanding of what both Judaism and Christianity is about.
The laws given in the Mosaic Code have different functions. While they are a holy standard, they show that we need forgiveness since no one can live up to them perfectly. This is where sacrifice comes in. It’s substitutionary and existed before Moses whom God used to expand it. It signaled Christ in concept which Hebrews explains.
I am merely trying to ascertain how or rather why Jesus’ own belief ( Judaism) has been transformed in his name IE: Christianity. Did he himself create the change and in doing so drifted away from his own faith? Or did the followers write their own story? Either Christianity is Judaism or it isn’t. It cannot be both. So far as I can see it is a splintered sect either through Christ himself or not. If Christ himself adopted the change then for what reason?
Do we need a higher being to teach us good morals and stead or is that not just common sense? The Bible does indeed contain quite scientific information when it’s context is observed free from prejudiced eyes and ears.
Jesus created the change promised beforehand in the scriptures. Jesus is God in the flesh is what Christians believe: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Holy Spirit transforms Christians into what they or anyone else couldn’t do in their own strength.
I thought the whole point of following Christ is because he died to save us all and that was the message which triggered the mass following? As for Jesus tomb, I thought crucifixion meant they were not allowed a tomb. They were literally left for scavenging animals to pick at their bones – therefore no burial.
Your approach to the Bible is not one that I share, but I’m glad you’re reading the blog so that we can engage. Let me give you a tip about something you said.
Something you should note is that when you read about “stoning” and “adultery,” you should realize that you’re literally reading the legal code of a 3500 year old society. In the state of Virginia where I live, the code literally says that driving 75 in a 55 is reckless driving and reckless driving is punished by 1 year in prison (as a class 1 misdemeanor). That LITERALLY never happens (I just had a case where a fatal car wreck with the man texting and driving ended in “reckless driving,” and he only spent 90 days in jail).
And so go to the place in the scripture where we have an actual case of suspected adultery: Mary and Joseph. Does Joseph take Mary to be stoned because “the law says so”? Absolutely not. What you’re reading in the Old Testament law is the same thing you read in a modern code. It only gives THE MAXIMUM POSSIBLE penalty. It is the judge that decides what really to do. You can see these judges being described in Exodus 18 and 22, Deuteronomy 1 and 17, 2 Chronicles 17:8, and even in Nehemiah 9, you get a mass trial for the violation of laws. The Bible is a SERIOUS BOOK, and we need to read it seriously and carefully.
And no, Christianity is not a “splinter sect” from Judaism, if you’re asking a Christian. Christianity was THE WHOLE POINT of Judaism from the beginning. God promised Abraham that ALL NATIONS would be blessed through Abraham. That happened through Jesus Christ.
So, read the Old Testament, and see who comes to Abraham in Genesis 15:1 “the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision” Look at the prophets where that phrase “the word of the Lord came…” is repeated. Then look at Jeremiah that describes him seeing “the word of the Lord” and then it says that this “word of the Lord” IS “the Lord” and “the Lord” reaches out his hand and touches Jeremiah’s Moth. In other words, “the word of the Lord” is a VISIBLE BEING that has a hand. And this is what John is talking about in his gospel when he says: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
The point is that Jesus (who is God himself in human form) was there the whole time. Jesus is quite literally the creator of heaven and earth. He agreed with everything in the Old Testament because Moses literally came TO JESUS (when he was not yet human) to receive the Old Testament. The prophets spoke WITH JESUS (when he was not yet human), who gave them messages to give to other nations.
That’s what is going on in the Bible.
I know what the Bible tells us. So, if Christianity came before Judaism then why was Jesus a practicing Jew? As for him dying for our sins, is it not correct that it was either Jesus or Barabus who were going to be crucified but the crowd chose to free Barabus instead of Jesus? Technically, it was the crowd who had him put to death?
Joseph was likely a much older man with Mary a young girl. Some say she would not be of the legal age of consent in today’s laws. It was customary for older men to acquire young girls from families as wives?
The Bible, for me is a set of moral codes with stories of the day. The Bible warns about eating pork. This is why certain religions avoid it!
We have laws here for misconduct in public office which carry maximum life in prison tariff! Nobody has been given that yet! To be honest, that’s why corruption gets out of hand. Not only that, some turn nasty when they are caught out too. People don’t lead by example where they should.
After observing the video on LGBT I can only assume it’s a debate about whether homosexuality is accepted in Christianity? We all know it has existed in humans more than likely since the origins of species. began. I think we also know by now how faux outrage is nothing new on this subject as there were very likely to have been homosexuals crying out for acceptance from people who were practising it in private anyway.
Is it right for a staunch homosexual to have a right to interfere in heterosexual relationships? Is it right to force gay marriage ceremonies in a church? I mean people have so much to say on this subject in law but nothing on adultery…
Sitting on Twitter making threats against heterosexual fathers and their infidelity does not count as debate! I’d say it could be suicide-inducing bullying behaviour!