It has been an interesting past two weeks. For starters we got a letter at my ministry (Songtime) which suggested we were teaching a false gospel because of a testimony we sent out where the woman said that she had “asked Jesus into her heart.” This was unacceptable to the listener because the act of “asking” is a work and salvation is by faith alone, which is a gift not a work. They even backed it up by something their pastor had said.
Then came the ever so popular spoken word poetry of Jefferson Bethke in his viral video Jesus>Religion or Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus which has gained over 15 million views. This blew up the blogesphere where people from all walks of life had something to criticize or defend from the poetry.
But I’m not going to address the issues that those bring up, what I want to discuss is the responses people have to these sort of discussions.
Attacks from Both Sides
I fall somewhere in the middle of these two arguments. No, they’re not related necessarily, but I bring them both up because it shows how someone can be attacked from both sides. On one side I am not theologically accurate enough. On the other side, I am not accepting enough. Technically, unless you’re a part of Westboro Baptist, everyone is going to find that there are people to their left and their right. The struggle then is the balance. Finding what is accurate for yourself and standing firm. I’ve found that most people prefer the pendulum swing. They will go from one extreme to the other instead of searching the Scriptures for themselves and solidifying their beliefs. It’s sort of like they are being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine or something.
Defending the Weak (Argument)
Seeing how people jumped on bloggers who had anything critical to say about Bethke’s video was very telling. Their are a lot of social (network) activist out there who are ready to stand up for and defend the weak (arguments) of the world. Christians are notorious for building a strong argument on a weak position. I guess it’s in our nature. It seems though, that the internet has brought all of the crazy Christians out of the woodwork.
I think it may be a problem of not being able to differentiate between subjective and objective truth. If someone is saying something theologically, they should be concerned that what they are saying is truthful and objective. Objections should be accepted and invited in the pursuit of clarification and accuracy. When it comes to a testimony of personal experience, such as someone saying how they felt after they were saved, we should be less critical and more understanding that their perspective is mostly relative to their experience. This is why I tell people who are afraid to get into theological arguments when evangelizing to simply tell their testimony and experience. No one can argue with that.
Weighing the Balances
When it comes to a weighted argument – which is more authoritative: Objective or Subjective truth? I would guestimate that most Christians today would say that objective truth is more weighty than the latter, but their lives would tell another story. I read one persons response to criticism of Bethke’s poem which said, “How dare you criticize this wonderful poem. It was soooooooo beautiful and touched my heart.” That’s great, but it’s not very authoritative. The blog was not discrediting your reaction to the poem but its accuracy. Those are two different things.
Not Distinctly a Christian Problem
This is not exclusive to the Christian community. Our culture seems to be the herald for the underdog experience and the pitchfork-carrying-villager to anyone with who would use reason over emotion.
I’ll use Ron Paul for an example. There is obviously a major chasm between those that support the Doctor and those who oppose him. Many of those who oppose him see his attacks and arguments against the status quo as radical and extreme. One side seems to suggest that he is for abortion and homosexuality because of his libertarian views, while the other side sees his alliance with extremists like Voddie Baucham suggesting he is against the very things the right hand is saying he is for. Yet, most of his critics will not take the time to find out where he really stands. Our culture is much more suited to making decisions on how we feel about a politician than what we know about them. Even then, most of what we know about someone comes from attack adds or biased media. But that is a soapbox for another day.
Okay, okay. I’m sure if you’re still reading you’re wondering what my take is on the earlier questions. Is “asking Jesus into your heart” a work? And what did I think about the Bethke video?
1. To be short, faith is a gift but it is also a work. James tells us that a faith that doesn’t work is dead. “Asking Jesus into your heart” is a work, but it is a work of faith. Paul tells us in Romans 10:13 to call on the name of the LORD. While it is not required, it is one expression many people going through the conversion process use to express their faith.
2. Jefferson Bethke’s video was pleasant, but not exactly accurate. He’s only recounting what he’s already heard from prominent, young preachers. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be critiqued. I think Kevin DeYoung gave the best treatment to Bethke and actually reached out to him to continue the dialogue. That’s the way it should have been handled. Several of those attaching Bethke were flat out rude and just as inaccurate in their own right.