Rachel Held Evans appears to be toying with the notion of dropping the label of “Christian” altogether as she writes with tortured keystrokes:
I am hanging by the tips of sweaty fingers on this ledge of faith, wondering if letting go will bring freedom or death. I’ve hung on before—through the science wars, the gender wars, the Christmas wars, the culture wars—but I’m just so tired of fighting, so tired of feeling out of place. (source)
What’s the cause of this?
The Chik-fil-A controversy.
Rachel, like most in the liberal Christianity camp, rejects the notion that homosexuality is a sin. She even says it is a “right” that we conservatives aim to deny:
I too believe marriage is a civil right in this country, and I too get frustrated when Christians appeal to their faith to withhold this right from their neighbors. (source)
Rachel is clearly agonizing over her fellow Christians with the issue of homosexual marriage. She not only wants to stop praying, but she thinks it might be better for some to be separated from grace:
Suddenly, my religion is alien to me—small, petty, reactive. My faith has lost its bearings. I don’t feel like praying anymore, not even for the mom who begged me to pray for her gay son who vowed yesterday never to return to church again.
Can I blame him? Perhaps it is better if he stays away. (source)
I want to seize just a moment on one statement, which I think is the key to Rachel’s problem: “My faith has lost its bearings.”
Yes, it has. Now let’s examine why that’s the case.
Nick Peters argues, in part, that homosexuality isn’t part of special revelation (the Bible), but a part of general revelation:
. . . [I]n Leviticus 18 and 20, the verses following the list of sins tells us that it is for committing these sins that other nations are being cast out. Other nations were never punished for not following the dietary restrictions or wearing mixed fabrics. Those were practices that set Israel apart from the other nations as a sign they were in covenant with God. The other nations were commanded by Israel to live moral lives, but they were never commanded to follow Jewish practices. Jews could be condemned for trading with other nations on the Sabbath, but the other nations were not condemned for working on the Sabbath.
Note also that this places homosexuality in the category of general revelation. Other nations were cast out because of doing things that we can say that they should have known better. It would not make sense for God to punish a people when they could not have known that they were doing anything wrong. Since this is in general revelation then, you don’t need the Bible. (source)
So that means if you never pick up a Bible, you should still understand that homosexuality violates the natural order of things (see Dave Armstrong and Jennifer Fulwiler for more on this “natural order” argument). If you don’t see a violation of the natural order, then we have a bigger problem.
In committing any sin, you are essentially suppressing the truth of God through unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). And acting on such evil inclinations without a second thought is a judgment from God:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:26-32)
Rachel gives approval to those who practice homosexuality, campaigning for their right to legally marry.
Well, no wonder her faith has lost its ground!
She has suppressed the natural law through unrighteous support of sin. Therefore, God is giving her over to these desires — and her faith is slipping because she feels the distance.
There are only two ways to end her cycles of uncertainty. She can let go of the cliff, and therefore fall into the abyss. Or, she can recommit to understanding God in his glory, on his terms (even the decrees she doesn’t like), thus hauling herself back onto the safety of the ledge.
Either option will settle her mind, but only one leads to life. And it’s easier to let go rather than muster the strength to climb back up (Mt 7:13-14).
I seldom answer in my own comment section. So the strange thing I’m going to do today is to answer someone else’s comment section.
Jennifer Fulwiler wrote a fantastic post about the difference between secular giving and Christian charity. Secular giving is just one thing that you do to be an American, but Christian charity is woven into the fabric of our thoughts and actions. To be great, Jesus said, you must serve others (Mt 20:26-28).
The first atheist comment to that post deserves a reply. I think that the replies in the comment section miss the mark somewhat, so I decided to take a crack at it. Call me Jen’s Rottweiler. (If Darwin can have one, so can Jennifer Fulwiler, right?)
The commenter identifies herself as Jemima Cole, and let’s tackle her piece by piece: Read the rest of this entry
Over at Jennifer Fulwiler’s NCR blog, we have an atheist who styles himself Duke York that has demonstrated his extremely careful and meticulous reading skills when he says this:
You don’t really think about your beliefs; you just assert them as a tribal marker. If you claim to believe these ridiculos things, you have the safety of being in a majority and license to condemn an out-group (atheists now, although you Catholics got plenty of mileage against the Jews. How did that work out again?.)
Since it’s Jen’s blog, then I assume he’s addressing her directly. This is absolutely laughable. Asserting that Jen doesn’t think deeply about her beliefs can only mean one thing: York read the article, but never tried to figure out who wrote it.
This is laughable for one reason: Jen used to be an atheist! She has written about how she thought through the issues and realized that belief in God is warranted and rational. Evidence and logic brought her to that conclusion! (summary of that journey)
But, you can’t tell the Duke anything about Christians. When people in the thread sarcastically find it amazing that Duke knows exactly what they think, he replies:
I know what you think because you’re a Christian. If you’re a Catholic, you literally have no choice about what you believe. That choice would make you a heretic, which, after all, comes from the Greek for “choice”. If you’re choosing, you’re doing it wrong.
In other words, “I’ve made up my mind and I’m not listening anymore.” Can’t argue with that. Fortunately, as has been proven again and again, my atheist readers aren’t this close-minded and ignorant. Thank God for that.
Question: Why do some atheists think that by virtue of being an ex-Christian they know everything about Christianity, Christian thought, and orthodox theology? I’m an ex-Catholic, and though I know quite a bit about Catholic theology, I’d never claim that I know everything. There’s quite a bit I don’t know, and I’m willing to learn (I have a few hardcore Catholic friends on Facebook that help me learn; thank you Sean Hutton and Ross Earl Hoffman!).
But certain atheists are unwilling to learn about Christian thought and theology. They know what they know, and what they know is “right.” When the Christian points out where the atheist is mistaken, the atheist just puffs his chest out and asserts that the Christian is wrong–without explaining why.
When I used to be an assistant manager at Burger King, customers would occasionally lecture me on BK policies and procedures. Usually when they didn’t like whatever had just happened. The customer’s “expertise” on BK derived from working at a BK in a different state for six months–20 years ago. He would have a shallow grasp of procedures at best, and based on his current age, would have been 15 at the time of employment. I seriously doubt he cared a lick about learning BK policies in the first place. In other words, he wouldn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
It’s the same thing here. Atheists who are ex-Christians usually had a shallow understanding of Christian issues to begin with, but as far as they’re concerned this flawed understanding is right while my deeper and more studied application of Christian thought is wrong. If I say otherwise, they yell some random logical fallacy at me (which never applies, by the way: and the top 3 are ad hominem, special pleading, and no true Scotsman) and I never hear from them again.
Jennifer Fulwiler has a great post on prayer on her blog, Conversion Diary. It’s nice to see someone reflect on what prayer should actually entail. Too often God is considered to be some kind of magic genie that grants our every wish.
Jennifer, on the other hand, has it right. In a theology of prayer, a balance has to be struck between specificity and generality. What do I mean?
Right now, I’m unemployed. It’s a long story. My wife’s income isn’t enough to sustain us, so something has to happen and quickly. If I pray, “God, please grant me a new job tomorrow morning,” what do you think is going to happen when I open my e-mail?
That’s right. No job offers. I doubt my cell phone is going to ring anytime soon either.
Am I missing something?
Yes, I am. Where in the Bible does God ever promise to give me everything I have ever wanted? Last I checked, Jesus called us to deny ourselves–our physical desires and perceived needs–and take up our crosses, and follow him. The Christian life isn’t one of ease, wealth, and good health-o’plenty (despite what Joel Osteen might tell you). A Christian life is one of sacrifice and (dare I say it?) persecution.
That message doesn’t sell well, especially in the United States. So hacks like Osteen spread their false prosperity gospel quite easily, even though there isn’t a shred of Scriptural evidence for what they’re saying. People buy it, hook, line, and sinker (see 2 Tim 4:3).
Why should the followers have it easy, living in the lap of luxury, when the master lived a pauper’s life and died a torturous, shameful death? The servant, Jesus wisely quips, isn’t greater than his master (Jn 15:20).
Jennifer suggests “zooming out” a bit. In other words, instead of thinking only of your health, wealth, prosperity–your perceived needs–try to think in terms of what you actually need.
So, I’m not going to get that magical job offer in my inbox tomorrow. Do I need a job? It could be argued that I do. But I think what I really need is a way to provide food for my children. We have food stamps forthcoming. And we already receive WIC benefits. God, perhaps, is working through these programs for the time being in order to provide for us.
None of us are starving. None of us will, it seems. Ah, God has promised that in his word, for we are more important to him than lesser animals, yet those do not starve.
And I have enough marketable skills that I won’t be without a job for too long. So God has provided a short term solution for us in the welfare benefits, but has also provided a long term solution in the form of the marketable skills I have gained over the years I have been employed. It’s not a clear, concise, detailed answer that magically dropped out of heaven, but it is an answer to prayer!
Next time, instead of focusing on minutely detailed answers magically provided as if from nowhere, “zoom out” a bit, as Jennifer put it. Look for the more underlying need and pray for its provision. And, as in everything, look for God’s will. Because, really, this life isn’t about you.