31 July 2010

Weekend Extra: Our enemies can be reconciled

by Frank Turk



Dr. Russell Moore is my fellow blogger at firstthings.com's Evangel blog, and a well-respected speaker, pastor, and professor at SBTS. He is, in every way, my better, and an example of Christian virtue which I could never be. He is to be widely-admired by the church as a teacher and as a man with a gigantic heart for the lost. His blogging and other writing on the subject of reaching the lost, and on adoption, has been instructive to me, especially when it comes to the matter of dealing with the messy work of pastoring people through their broken lives in the lifelong task of sanctification.

Yesterday, he posted a brief blog entry regarding his thoughts on Anne Rice's recent rejection of Christianity "in the name of Christ". That is, she declared her allegiance to Christ and therefore denounced all Christianity as her best thought on how to deal with the other Christians she witnessed.

Here's the crux of Dr. Moore's 2-page essay:
Anne Rice hasn’t rejected you. Anne Rice hasn’t betrayed you. Would you pray for her, and for the other smoldering wicks and about-to-bolt potential prodigals in your church (and maybe in your home)? It could be Anne has been deeply hurt by what she has seen in Christianity. Or it could be that, like Jesus’ disciples, the closer she’s drawing to Christ, the more she is made uncomfortable by it. Let’s love her.
The sentiment here is well-meant, and pastorally-intentioned. Of course let's please pray for Anne Rice -- at the very least for the same reason we pray without ceasing for all people, but specifically because her experience is an interesting one which, it seems to me, is not very well understood.

Back in 2005 when she went public with her return to Catholicism, I blogged a bit about her confession of faith and her book Out of Egypt. That book in particular seems to me to be extremely instructive as to what Mrs. Rice experienced -- which was more a bout with intellectual honesty than a turn of faith and repentance.

Because the diversion is brief, I'd encourage you to read those three posts as background to this subject.

However, in doing that, I think that background causes me to wonder whether Dr. Moore is giving truly-pastoral advice, or has merely sentimentalized an approach to this sort of behavior.

It seems to me that Mrs. Rice was very able and willing, in 2005, to turn a thoughtful and critical eye to the common objections to the actual story of the Gospel. She was able to make the critical case against liberal readings of the Gospels because let's face it: she's a literate woman. She read the stories as they were told, and found the case against them to be entirely shallow from a literary, hostorical and academic standpoint.

I choose the word "critical" here specifically because I do not think her effort was "apologetic" in the least -- she was not seeking to give an answer for the hope that lies within her, but was in fact narrating the story of her own coming to terms with the story of Jesus. She was giving an academic assessment of non-christian readings of the Gospels, and found them wanting.

This caused her, in her own words, to return to Catholicism -- the religion of her childhood. And in that, she has also stood up for her own belief in the resurrection of Jesus -- which ought to be no surprise. One of her tour guides through the NT literature is N.T. Wright who, in spite of everything else you might say about him, probably writes most vivaciously about the fact of the bodily resurrection of Christ among everyone in the last 200 years. I mean: he's the guy who coined the term, "the life after life-after-death" to make clear what it is the Christian hope truly is.

So yes: she's all about some reverence for the Gospels as compelling stories about Jesus. And yes: she's all about a resurrection. But let's face it: this week, she made it clear she is also, before all that, about these things:
For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being "Christian" or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to "belong" to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else. [28 July 2010, 12:36 PM]
It's curious that this is a matter of conscience for her. What does that mean, I wonder? It seems to me that this is entirely a moral issue for her -- to be apart from the group "Christianity" because that group is "quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous." I think the primary question to ask, though, is if this is actually true of Christianity -- is it "deservedly-infamous"? Would Dr. Moore own that statement?

I think probably not -- and he would point out that Mrs. Rice's indictment here is primarily emotive. Her accusations aren't primarily rational but visceral for the sake of another agenda -- so taking this statement to task is not actually very wise because it sets the emotive nature of the statement up for defensive behavior, and for taking reproaches as hostility rather than good advice.

To that I say: fair enough. Maybe it was essentially a "bad day" for Mrs. Rice -- or a "bad 10 years", since that's the scope of her complaint. But hard upon that compaint is this one:
As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen. [28 July 2010, 12:41 PM]
This is her list of moral objections -- and as such they are accusations against Christianity, specifically Catholicism (a conflation I'll get to in a minute): it is anti-gay (meaning, I suppose, that it forbids gay marriage and at least formally sets sanctions against homosexual behavior and lifestyles); it is anti-feminist (which, I think, is a radicalization of the term as there is no institution in the history of the world which has done more for women socially than the Christian church -- however, I think she probably means that it forbids women as spiritual leaders, and that she also means something relating to "legal, safe and rare" abortions); anti-birth control (again, I think this is about abortion, but it's also a feminist tent pole that women are oppressed if they must have all the children the sex they participate in conceives); anti-Democrat (I sense a pattern …); anti-secular humanism (a phrase which fits into the flow of the complaints in that it ostensibly points to the greatest common good for mankind through human achievement); anti-science (I infer her to mean anti-stem-cell research, which again is in a specific pattern); and of all things after this list, "anti-life".

It's this list which makes Dr. Moore's comments puzzling. Martin Luther, of course, wrote, "Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam gait, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance." That is, our life is not the life of kicking at the goads against the God who is Love: it is knowing His will for us and then dying to sin in order to live in His new life. Yet there's not a drop of repentance in Mrs. Rice's statement -- it is in fact the antithesis of repentance because it frames the problem of the speaker in terms which rather impugn others for holding strong convictions which have been, historically, in the necessary middle of the faith and the church. Some might say this is transference by Mrs. Rice. I would say rather that it is a refusal to accept guidance in the practical matter of spiritual formation. She does in fact make "Christians" her enemies by framing them as immoral and irredeemable.

But there is more:
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become. [29 July 2010, 4:06 PM][via Facebook]
I find it difficult not to say, "aha!" here. I can't really find a euphemism for the kind of pride it takes to say, "My faith in Christ is central to my life," when one has frankly already made it clear that keeping his commands is simply right out.

It is this analysis of what Mrs. Rice has posted via Facebook that Dr. Moore's advice lacks. Should Mrs. Rice be heckled and run around like Servetus in 16th century Europe? Wow -- of course not. But this is not the only option when she has already drawn up the rules of engagement.

The first measure of one's approach has to go back to the problem of Catholicism -- a problem I suspect Dr. Moore would minimize. Could it be that Mrs. Rice was an honest-to-God Christian inside Catholicism? Of course -- I think I am famous for saying that there are many lousy Catholics who have great faith in Christ. But it seems to me that her faith is fully informed by Catholic dogma, and that the flaws in her acting out in faith are frankly the flaws of all thoughtful people inside Catholicism: because you have to disassociate so many unbiblical teachings from your core faith, you wind up dismantling your ability to respect right-minded religious authority. Because the only authority she has says it is infallible but in truth it is riddled with falsehood, she applies her skepticism of claims to infallibility to the Bible and makes it her own buffet of truths. What Mrs. Rice first needs is to be disabused of Catholicism to recover her faith in the church and in God's authority over her moral and intellectual life.

The second measure of approach has to be challenging her deeply regarding moral standards -- as in, if they exist and what they are. Her view of what is moral is a consequential view formed after many other a priori commitments have ben made. For example, how deeply flawed is the view that it's anti-life to be anti-abortion? Is treating this like it is not open antagonism to God's view of murder actually pastorally-, evangelically- or apologetically-useful?

And the third measure is that Mrs. Rice has to meet some people someplace who are actually Christians -- and not just moralists or political activists or attenders at a pep rally every Sunday. She needs to meet some people who are like the people at the end of Acts 2 -- devoted to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, together with all things in common, selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need, and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, receiving their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. This would be an indictment which should stick to us because it is the one which, all told, we wear daily in spite of knowing better.

If she met people like that, I suspect that she would at least have the integrity to take back the ugly things she said. But Dr. Moore's approach to this seems to me to ensure that nobody would treat her as if she said anything wrong. She has said something wrong, and someone needs to be a true friend to her and tell her the depths of her mistakes here -- which do put her at enmity with God and His people.

But, to close up here, this is where Christianity is above all false religions: those who are our enemies can be reconciled -- in fact, this is the purpose of our faith. Christ died that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Be reconciled to God, Mrs. Rice. And in that, come prepared to repent for the sake of whom you have believed.







36 comments:

Chuck Weinberg said...

I believe that 1 John 5 gives indication to that fact that those who are truly children of God also love His children.
I am often unlovely and when someone loves me in spite of that loveliness it makes me long all the more to be like them as they follow Christ.
Thanks for the post.

Saved By Faith Alone said...

Great post Frank...

I would say to Mrs. Rice: "Don't look within the body of Christ for perfection. Look instead to the Head. For it is there only that sin is absent."

I can't help but think that Mrs. Rice is looking for (as many do) a comfortable religion. Humanism is just such a religion. There is little or no fleshly discomfort in it; because the suit of humanism is tailored to the needs of the flesh, and not shaped or conformed in any way by the Spirit of Truth.

I agree with Dr. Moore that Mrs. Rice needs our prayers. However, I can't help but think that with his next breath Dr. Moore would be asking us to winsomely rebuke and correct our sister who is seeing things through the lens of humanism and the meritorious tradition of Catholicism.

In Christ,

Dan H...

John said...

I think Anne's comments make the most sense in the context of what she knows as Christianity - which is Rome. She would do well to reject that sort of Christianity. However, her moral impetus hinges upon a single crucial question - epistemic authority. Hers, apparently, originates in herself, rather than in the Word of God. Danger, Will Robinson.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Thanks Frank for writing this Weekend Extra. It's quite good.

Also, I note that you found it important to make the following distinction and recommendation:

"This is her list of moral objections -- and as such they are accusations against Christianity, specifically Catholicism (a conflation I'll get to in a minute)...."

followed by:

"What Mrs. Rice first needs is to be disabused of Catholicism to recover her faith in the church and in God's authority over her moral and intellectual life."

Matt said...

I share some of her frustrations with the church. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that she needs to meet a real Christian. Sometimes, I feel like I need to meet a real Christian too! Will the real Christians please stand up?!

I wanted to make a comment on a couple of her anti's that may get lost in the mess: namely, anti-democrat and anti-life. I do not know exactly where she is coming from, but these two items struck a chord with my own experience.

First, regarding the Democrats, politics is tearing the church apart. While I definitely lean conservative, it is wrong to condemn people simply for their preferred party without coming to understand the heart. Many believers who are Democrats have chosen that party because of their desire to help the poor or protect the environment -- two things we were charged by God to do. Others choose the Democrats because they appear to be more peace-loving than the Republicans. I don't want to open up a big political debate about the validity of these claims, but these are some of the more typical motivating factors. The fact is, when you step back and look at both parties, you see that there really is not much practical difference between them. It is because both are ungodly institutions that promote the agenda of the world. We need to remove party politics from the church and return to the unifying Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Second, anti-life. I may be going out on a limb here as this may not be what she meant at all, but it is something that I have heard other "liberals" talk about. The church, by and large, has become pro-war. We claim to be pro-life and protect the unborn, but we fully endorse wars in the Middle East and don't really think about the fact that we have killed nearly 1 million Iraqis through the course of the war. My pastor just a couple weeks ago even made the statement that we "have to bomb Iran" to protect Israel (I am currently wrestling with this one and want to have a talk with him. It may even result in my family leaving the church.) Far too many Christians watch programming like "24" or violent movies. American soldiers are often given more respect and honor in our churches than our missionaries, who themselves are risking their lives for the Kingdom of God for the salvation of eternal souls.

Further, while we protest against abortion and try to pass legislation, we are woefully unprepared to deal with the aftermath of an actual repeal of Roe-v-Wade: the 1.5 million babies who are unwanted or whose parents lack the resources to support. Instead of fighting for legislation, we should be rallying behind crisis pregnancy centers and ramping up our efforts to help orphans and assist in adoptions.

These two issues are very big sour spots for a lot of people. I do not speak out of ignorance because sadly, I was one of the worst offenders until God opened my eyes to my sin. We need to eradicate this idolatry and sin from the church and return to the pure Gospel without the trappings of American Christianity.

Matt said...

I should have said "too many people who claim to be Christians" in my post, because the fact is, when you look at the fruit of the church in America -- the conduct and outcome of our lives -- it is clear to see that very, very few actual Christians reside in the United States of America.

ryangeer said...

Frank, this is a somewhat tangential question but I mean it sincerely... In this case particularly (but by extension any case where a godly and well respected man has said something questionable) - do you believe that you have a responsibility to communicate directly with Russell Moore prior to correcting him on this blog?

Frank Turk said...

Nope. He blogged; I blogged. I'd love to have this conversation with him privately as well as I think we would both be edified -- but he doesn't owe me personally an answer. However, I don't think the onus is on me to make sure he meant want he said when he blogged what he blogged.

Overall, I don't think Dr. Moore has fallen off the apple cart here in terms of orthodoxy. I think he has sentimentalized the response and the approach to what is happening here -- which is a highly-visible sociological Christian essentially telling all people with a serious-minded historical faith in Christ that they are a "deservedly infamous group."

You know: in spite of the fact that it was Christian relief workers that bailed out and saved her beloved New Orleans from Katrina (for example).

Dr. Moore's response is, I think, one way to try to turn away some of the more-rabid responses against Mrs. Rice. I think it is an ineffective way to do that because it's not even speaking in categories the rabid ones understand let alone will receive.

Kim said...

Thank you, Frank, for this post. I read Moore's post yesterday, and I left it feeling a little unsettled, but your word "sentimentalized" articulates what I felt uneasy about.

Thanks for your well thought out words.

Sir Aaron said...

Matt:

That's an easy answer on your part. But you know what, when disasters happen, who sends money? I mean, personally gets out their wallets and gives money. Who runs the food pantries at the churches? Who goes on mission trips to other countries to food, clothe, and shelter those without? Who creates hospitals and orphanages, not from government money forcibly taken from it denizens, but from their own pocketbooks?

It's Christians. So for all the bad examples out there, there are hundreds of Christians in America devoted to God and his teachings and out doing good works.

Sir Brass said...

Frank, I think this is quite possibly the best blog article I've read that you've written. Excellent points all around.

Matt said...

Sir Aaron,

And you responded with an even easier answer. Please understand, I am not trying to attack the church... actually, I am not attacking the church at all, in a sense. It is easy to dismiss the attacks of those who are attacking the church without taking the time to consider if there is any truth in what they are saying.

I am not saying that there are not Christians in America. There certainly are. However, before we get too carried away in patting ourselves on the back for our generosity, consider that we are by far the richest nation in the world and yet, on average, those who claim to be Christian only give 4% of their yearly income (compared to the American average of 2%). Even when we are swimming in wealth, we cannot even manage to give the standard tithe. Consider the widow who gave all that she had out of her poverty. In that parable, we are the Pharisees. Something to think about.

I have no arguments about economics and politics -- I believe that limited government and free-market capitalism, while not perfect, are much to be preferred to socialism as all giving should be voluntary. That was not really my point. I wonder if more people are conservative not really because of the ideals to fairness but more the selfish desire to hold onto their possessions. Consider the example in the previous paragraph. Also consider how quick we are to dismiss the story about the rich young ruler who would not give up his wealth as an exception. We tend to promote "good stewardship" over sacrificial giving, and we are too eager to point out that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil rather than consider the passages that condemn earthly wealth (for example, James 5 and Luke 6:20-26).

My point is that we are quick to point out our "righteousness" and not quick enough to examine our sins. Do other Christian groups have faults? Certainly, but we dare not think that we are innocent. This is exactly what Matthew 7 was all about. We of the conservative, evangelical church have some huge planks in our eyes.

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terry Rayburn said...

1. Jesus is admirable and admired by most people, including those who wouldn't *dream* of taking Him at His word regarding such things as,

I am THE way, and THE truth, and THE light. No man comes to the Father except through me., and,

Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

2. Ghandi famously said,

"I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Well, "liking" our Christ is simply not enough.

Which is of course why Ghandi also asked,

"Why should a Christian want to convert a Hindu to Christianity? Why should he not be satisfied if the Hindu is a good or godly man?"

He could only ask this because he did not believe what Jesus said about the lost, the new birth, and false religions.

Thus he "liked" our Christ, but considered Him, as C.S. Lewis proposed, either a liar or a lunatic (as opposed to Lord).

3. I don't know where Anne Rice falls in this framing, but if one loves her (and we should, of course), they should ask her if she *believes* Jesus and his Word, or just "likes" Him.

Stefan said...

Is the quote from Luther referring to Matthew 4:17?

Intrigued, I searched for "poenitentiam gait" in Google, but found nothing (except for this post, which already turned up in the search results!).

More searching led me to "poenitentiam agite," which Luther quoted from the Vulgate translation of Matthew 4:17: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

(There's more of a story to it: apparently the Latin is inadequate, since "poenitentiam agite" rather means "do penance" than "repent." Erasmus corrected it to "poenitentiam vos," since the Greek "metanoeite meant a conversion of heart, not an exercise of deeds, to be penitent, not to do penance." [Boyle: Loyola's Acts, 1997, p.37])

Stefan said...

Terry:

Gandhi also once said, "I am unable to place Jesus Christ on a solitary throne."

Samuel M. Zwemer—the greatest missionary to the Middle East at the time—responded by turning the quote on its head, and used it as the title of a 1937 collection of lectures: Addresses Given at the Keswick Convention on the Glory and Uniqueness of the Christian Message.

Stefan said...

Re poenitentiam agite:

Okay, so it's the very first of Luther's 95 Theses, which I should have recognized instantly, but didn't. Church history FAIL.

But Frank, you can't tantalize us by giving giving us a quotation that sums up what "the whole life of belivers should be" in two short words, without helping us brothers out by citing the source!

Matt said...

Terry,

While it is easy to dismiss Ghandi's comments from a theological and doctrinal point of view, I think we should be careful not to dismiss his observation too quickly. We are far too eager to ignore the observations of unbelievers and point to our doctrine, but the Bible is filled with warnings and exhortations to examine ourselves. We may say that we believe in certain doctrines, but does that belief actually change our lives.

Consider what John said:

but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
(1Jn 2:5-6 ESV)

In light of this verse, Ghandi's statement is rather condemning. Can we say that we abide in Christ when we "Christians are so unlike your Christ?"

This is my concern, and it causes me to tremble as I examine my own life. Do I truly believe in Jesus Christ if my life is unchanged?

Turn this around. Why should anyone believe you when you tell them the Gospel and how it can change lives when they see little to no real change in your own life?

Before we purchase a car, we like to take it for test drive first. We like to see that it actually runs and delivers on its promises. God made promises in the Bible that our lives would be transformed by the Holy Spirit, that we would be given a heart of flesh and walk in works of righteousness. The world knows this, but then they look at the church, and they look just like them. We have the same ambitions in life, drive the same cars, live in the same kinds of houses, watch the same television programs and movies. We have the same divorce rates. Abortion and pornography plague our own families. Materialism and greed are rampant.

Why should the world believe Christianity when the supposed Christians are just as carnal as they are? What is the point? So we can throw away our money to make pastors richer? (Remember, we are looking at it from the world's perspective)

This is the church in America, but when you look at the Church overseas or the Church in Acts, you see a completely different picture. You see people who give sacrificially out of love for one another. You see people who are willing to die so that they might save those who are bent upon killing them and their families. You see forgiveness and love in the face of intense persecution.

And we get all bent out of shape because someone doesn't want to say "Merry Christmas", as if Christmas is even a merry time of year for most people.

Don't you see what I am trying to say? We are Laodicea. We are "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." We tout our fabulous doctrines and platitudes, but our lives are corrupt and our fruit is rotten. We do not even see that our own hands are drenched in blood. We need to weep for forgiveness, to fall on our knees before a Holy God.

My heart breaks for my country and even more for those who claim to be the church. Will we rise up and start to actually live by the faith we claim to believe?

Sir Aaron said...

MAtt:

I thought your point was that it is easy to understand why she wouldn't want to follow Christians since there seems to be so few. My response to that, is there are plenty of examples.

Jesse said...

Frank,

This post is an example of a pastoral response, not just to Rice, but also Moore. Very helpful and charitable.

Paul L said...

In trying to reach secularists, too many apologists imply that people are be perfectly able to keep their existing attitudes and worldview and merely add faith in Christ onto it. (This is one issue I had with Tim Keller's book "The Reason for God.") Repenting and making Christ Lord means putting all our beliefs under his control--including our beliefs about homosexuality and feminism. It looks as if Anne Rice thought she could graft the reality of a risen Jesus Christ onto her "secular humanism." Now she has (correctly) concluded that she cannot be both a secular humanist and a Christian, but she is still trying to have it both ways by making a tendentious distinction between Christ and Christianity.

I have to disagree that her problem is particularly with Roman Catholicism. In her list of "antis," only one ("anti-artificial birth control") is especially associated with the Roman Catholic Church.

Morris Brooks said...

Speaking the truth in love is what all of us need to do. In fact, the most loving thing we can do is speak the truth.

Truth spoken, Frank.

Morris

ockennedys said...

Very well said, Frank. Dr. Moore's blog post seemed to be aimed at a phantom hard-line reaction in which Christians were shouting down Anne Rice or crying, "Good riddance!" Having seen none of that reaction, I found his blog post curious.

The reaction I saw was widespread skepticism that Anne Rice ever was a Christian at all. For the reasons you point out, I think such skepticism is not only warranted, but Biblically mandated:

"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us." 1 John 2:19.

DJP said...

Re. John, 8:04 AM, July 31, 2010, in case someone hasn't already said it:

ding ding ding ding ding ding ding

Bull's-eye. It ain't just about what theory of origins you hold to.

Jacob said...

A couple quick items:
"hostorical" should be "historical", yes?

Also, I'm having a lot of trouble processing this sentence, but I believe that's because it may be missing a word?
"But let's face it: this week, she made it clear she is also, before all that, ______ about these things:"

Thanks!

Jacob said...

Btw, the quotes I read from Rice's post immediately drew to mind a few things:

1 - Typical new age use of "Christ" divorced from the Bible or the Biblical Jesus.

2 - Typical claim to have been a Christian but leaving it due to being more enlightened/evolved/whatever.

3 - Typical "I'd be a Christian if it weren't for those darn Christians" attitude copped from Ghandi, and completely missing the fact that Christianity is about Jesus Christ and the life HE lived, not about all of us sinners saved by grace. Christianity rises (and does not fall) based on the testimony and life of Jesus Christ. She's looking at the wrong people for a judgment as to the veracity of the Christian faith, if she's looking at Christians instead of at Jesus Christ. But it's done purposefully because the reality is she doesn't want to repent and submit her will to Christ, she realizes she prefers to hold onto all those contrabiblical beliefs she listed in that quote.

short version: Her post wasn't even newsworthy imho, as it was just another sinner trying to make themselves feel better about rejecting God and at the same time trying to feel they're doing it because they're smarter/better/religious than those stupid Christians.

Meh.

donsands said...

"But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."

This statement made me think of Satan and his subtle ways of twisting the truth.

Very good post brother. Well written, and full of wisdom. A lot to chew on.

Good thoughts in the comments as well.

"Turn this around. Why should anyone believe you when you tell them the Gospel and how it can change lives when they see little to no real change in your own life?" -Matt

Who is this person?

Are there phony-Christians in the Church? Sure are.

Judas was a fake, and yet we know where he was in the church.

I hope, really hope, that the lost are not looking at me to be the Gospel; I'm certainly not, in any way.

I have been made a new creation in Christ, by His grace, and I love the things of God, ever since 1984-85.

I also still love sin, and yet hate that i love sin,-- thank the Lord for His Spirit, who abides in me.

I love Christ, and His Church, and also struggle with some nasty church members, who were hateful, and yet stay in the church, thinking they are right, and no need for saying I'm sorry.

Should I leave the Church? No. But for the grace of God, there go I.

Jesus loves His Church, and we must love His Church as well. The fake-Judas-pseudo-church-members will one day be revealed.

Anne Rice needs to repent, as frank said. She is in deep trouble if she doesn't.

Have a blessed Lord's eve.

Matt said...

donsands,

This is the concern I have. If a church does not look like the Gospel, is it in fact the Church? If a Christian does not look like Christ, are they in fact a Christian? I am not saying that all Christians should be absolutely perfect, but I wonder if we are too complacent. We think our salvation is sure when in fact we do not really have saving faith at all.

Was church supposed to be a place where we face the enemy? Was it not supposed to be a place for encouragement, exhortation and teaching. It was supposed to be a VA hospital where the wounded went for healing, restoring, and equipping to return to the battle.... outside. Why is it that going to church feels more like a battle than an encouragement? Could it be because we have allowed the goats to overwhelm the sheep due to lack of discipline and fear of man?

I think I have set the bar too low when it comes to finding churches. What I am looking for now is a body of believers that I am willing to die alongside in the name of Jesus Christ.

I'm sorry if this is getting off-topic, but it seems that we ignore the criticisms without taking them to heart. Instead of justifying our lack of resemblance to Christ, perhaps we should seriously consider why we do not look like Him. According to scripture, we should. After all, the original Christians (little Christs) earned the nickname from the unbelievers because of their resemblance to their Lord. If we were to be prosecuted as Christians, would they find enough evidence to convict?

donsands said...

"If a Christian does not look like Christ, are they in fact a Christian?"

If they are born from above, then they are Christ's.

The fruit will be seen. The light shall shine, and the salt will be salty in all genuine Christians. And this is in different proportions, some 30, some 60, some 100, and some 10 fold maybe.

But there will be sin, and there will be falls, and there will be things the world will be able to mock. That's humans, born again, and un-born again in the Church.
This is not the Gospel.

The Good News is Christ. Christ alone is the good news for sinners, not the saved sinners. We are evidence of God's grace, and salvation to a degree, but the Gospel stands alone, perfect and pure and is simply Christ.

Jesus died for sinners, and He rose from the dead. And He has given us His Word and Spirit: all those whom He saves and the Father draws to His Son to be saved.

Big difference in the Church and the Gospel for me.

Taste and see that the Lord is good! The Church can taste bad, and also good.
Not Christ, for the believer, and those whom the Father is drawing.

Christ is folly, and a stench, to those who are not being saved however.

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

"For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life."

I don't think we are too different Matt. Perhaps we are iron sharpening iron. You say some good things here.

God bless.

Jacob said...

There will be a recognizable difference of some sort in a person's life who goes from lost to saved. It's that very change that those around them will notice that will cause them to ask what happened and why they no longer do such-and-such or why they now do such-and-such.

Sure, it opens up the whole faith/works debate, and the cautions against legalism and all that, but before we get to all that, let's at least establish that the salvation described in the Bible always had clear evidence in the convert's life.
Whether we look at the giving of the New Covenant described in Ezekiel where God uses very direct and emphatic wording to describe it (the "I will"s), or we look at those called by Christ during his earthly ministry and how they left their old life to pursue him, or we look at the descriptions given by the epistle writers regarding the new life, new man, etc. It's a consistent theme of CHANGE. Real, recognizable change.

Thus, if someone CLAIMS to be a Christian (or anything else for that matter), it is not their CLAIM that makes it so, but it is their life that gives evidence to the truth of their claim.

In another way, this is also what we see in Matthew 7 - that it is not those who CLAIM to know Christ, but those who Christ says He knows. It's the election that determines we are saved, not the deeds we do, but the election brings about a changed life.

kardia said...

I think when Mrs. Rice pigeon-holes Christians as "anti-life" she refers to who controls the Christian life. Her christ invites adherents that "have a life of their own," even if it violates the Word of Life. In the name of freedom, Mrs. Rice would have people enslaved to their lusts. True Christians understand that Christ is our life, so we gladly die to self that He might be glorified. We do not see that as confining, we see it as liberating.

philness said...

The back lash of a steady preaching diet of behaviorism and performance without the how to.

What? She played no arrogance card. She's just admitting she can't do Christianity in and of herself. Perfectly natural. I applaud her honesty.

May God breathe His Spirit in her.

Robert said...

Matt,

I have a friend that I grew up with that is now a pastor and he told me a really good quote. The perfect church would be one without any people. We're not perfect...won't be until we're glorified in heaven (which is still a mystery to me - because I'm a sinner). BUT Jesus told us that people will know us because we love each other...and that we're supposed to love each other like He loves us.

So, in part I'm agreeing with your frustration, but at the same time, we need to see the evidences of God's grace in each other's lives and be encouraging. Look at how Paul started off his letters to the Corinthians. He gave thanks for them...said he was writing to the saints there...that they were not lacking in spiritual gifts. Then he makes his appeals to them. I hope that this is how you approach your pastor. I hope that you don't think that leaving a church should be an easy thign to do and that it should be done over issues that don't involve heresy or disagreements over KEY issues (infant baptism, sign gifts, heresy, etc.). I certainly do not think it is wise to preach about politics, outside of being responsible stewards of the freedom that God has given us here in America.

I am a bit troubled by your comment regarding abortion. I agree that people should be responsible where they can in provision for those in need. At the same time, your argument is used as a justification for the murder of children. I'm not calling them unborn because life begins at conception. This is not an unforgiveable sin, but it is not a justifiable one, either.

One thing that comes to mind so clearly with Rice's objections is a wonderful example I saw of how a Christian should approach those in a sinful lifestyle...in this case homosexuality. I can't look it up now, but if you search on YouTube, you can find where John MacArthur was on Larry King live with a homosexual and gave him a wonderul gospel presentation. He did so in love with respect for a fellow sinner. I hope that if people readin this have not seen it, that you'll go and watch it and see God's grace. MacArthur would be the first to tell you that it is all by God's grace and not his own work.

Rob said...

From what Rice is describing it seems like she could find any number of UM or PCA-USA churches in her neighborhood who would meet all of her particular theological wants for Christianity.

Brad Williams said...

Thanks Frank. Hurt feelings are wielded like a death ray, and the first casuality is usually legitimate rebuke.

candy said...

Matt...it seems to me that in all of your complaints about the Church, one thing I am not reading is an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God in the lives of believers. Yes...we fall short, but He is able to strengthen the Church, and He is able to make the Church shine.

During WWII, the true Church in Germany really grew, and yet many churches who claimed to be Christian showed their true colors by compromising with Hitler's agenda. God is able to bring a clear distinction between the two.

You said... I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that she needs to meet a real Christian. Sometimes, I feel like I need to meet a real Christian too! Will the real Christians please stand up?!

Wow. Kinda arrogant don't you think? You almost make God impotent in the lives of believers. You mix your own political agenda in and cast doubt on God working in the midst of his people. Remember that many believers don't have to shout out their accomplishments in order to be seen. Much of the work that goes on is rather quiet in comparison to political means of accomplishment that get plastered all over the media.

I also take offense to your statement of Christians not caring beyond being against abortion. Many Christians today ARE very invested in adoption. Again, I think you are just spouting political arguments without thorough research.

I guess I get tired of the same ole, same ole arguments that Ann Rice vented, and Matt parroted in his own manner.