In my last post, I raised some of my questions about what the Bible teaches—especially where this teaching seems to contradict human experience, modern science, or other things the Bible teaches.
But not everything the Bible teaches is difficult to understand. Some of my questions have to do with why the church distorts biblical teaching that seems to be quite clear.
To put it another way, why do Christians do such a terrible job of living out the gospel, or even of grasping what the gospel is about? This leaves me utterly perplexed.
The Church’s Reduction of the Gospel to the “Spiritual”
To start with, there is the common reduction of the gospel to some small “spiritual” area of life, as if our faith doesn’t embrace the entirety of life in the world God has made. This other-worldliness in the Christianity I was raised with (this division between the “secular” and the “sacred”) makes no sense, given what the Bible teaches.
The Bible teaches that this world is God’s creation and he loves and cares for it, despite the sinful brokenness we humans have introduced. In fact, he loves the world so much that Jesus came to die on the cross for our sin, and now forgiveness and new life are offered to all who want a part in the restoration of the world.
The Church’s Blindness to Present Evil in the World
But the sacred/secular division not only blurs our vision of this good world, it often leads to our ignoring—or even buying into—the present evil in the world (in the so-called “secular” area), since it offers us no resources for challenging that evil on the basis of how the world should be.
One egregious example of this is the unholy mixing of the gospel, especially in the United States, with secular ideologies. This results in sincere people who claim to be disciples of the Crucified One advocating military action and even torture against people whom they think of as their enemies (without any pangs of conscience or struggle about how this relates to the teachings of Jesus).
It is paradoxical that the National Association of Evangelicals in the 1980s put out a position paper on war, in which one of the positions they rejected as “sub-biblical” was labeled the “love your enemies” position! It just doesn’t make sense to use Jesus’ own words to label a position you think is unbiblical.
Perplexed but Not Despairing
But I guess I’m in good company with my questions.
The writer of Ecclesiastes long ago had “applied [his] mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth,” including “all that God has done.”
Yet he ended up with the conclusion: “No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.” (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17; NIV)
Questions like the ones I’ve mentioned leave me quite perplexed, and even confused. But not in despair.
In my next post I’ll explain why I haven’t given up on my quest for answers.