Tuesday with Michael Spencer
It’s going to take courage (from a post in 2008)
If the truth about Christianity turned out to be very different from what we’d been taught as young Christians by people we look up to as mentors and authorities, would we stand up and tell the truth? Would we make the turn and go the other way?
Every so often, this situation occurs. Take, for example, the infamous inter-racial dating rule at Bob Jones University. Through whatever process- enlightenment, epiphany, embarrassment- it became obvious that the school’s prohibition on interracial dating was wrong, even though it had been taught as part of a “godly Christian witness” for decades.
On the day that became clear, someone had to come to this conclusion:
- Jesus never endorsed this prohibition.
- It’s counter to the Gospel to have this rule.
- But our pastors, teachers, mentors, parents, grandparents, ancestors and culture have taught us that this kind of segregation is right.
- They used the Bible to prove their point, but they used it wrongly.
- If we are going to do what is right, we have to say that those who came before us were wrong.
- It will be embarrassing, and some people will get angry.
Get that next to last sentence: If we are going to do what is right, then those who came before us are wrong and we must, in one form or another, say so.
Christians struggle with this because their concept of truth makes them largely slow to comprehend the human, historical and cultural element in their perception of truth.
They are slow to see that their version of Christianity is very white, upper middle class and American.
They are slow to see applications of the gospel that require them to repent of the way they’ve treated people with whom they have some issue.
They are slow to admit that what was preached and taught was wrong because the use of scripture (or lack of scripture) was wrong.
Many conservative evangelicals have a “thing” about the past. Maybe it’s the reformers. Or the confederacy. Or the last pastor. Or Puritans. Or some preacher of the last century. Or Christians who were right about many things but wrong about some things.
It takes courage to stand up and tell the world that Christians are wrong. It take even more courage to tell Christians that they are wrong. But if we are going to follow Jesus, we have do it and keep on doing it.
And we have to give our children permission to stand up and say we were wrong.
We were wrong, and Jesus is right. It’s an ongoing process of discovery, repentance and ownership.
It’s taken us through slavery and civil rights. Now it’s time to have the courage to say that we as evangelicals and establishment Christians have been wrong about many things.
Not wrong about the essentials of the Gospel, though we have a lot of problems related to the Gospel that we need to confess. And not wrong about the Bible or the Cross.
But we need to say we’ve been wrong about all kinds of things related to institutional and establishment, status quo Christianity. Those who came before us saw things in the Bible that weren’t there and used the Bible to prove things that were far from the ecclesia vision of Jesus.
It’s going to take courage. I hope we have plenty to go around.