I saw a video this week of Rob Bell, a famous Christian skeptic, who attempts to describe Jesus like his high school Oldsmobile, irrelevant. It is a part of a book campaign for his new book, “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” which I would encourage you not to buy.
Has Christianity become just a relic of the past? Is God, as Bell asserts, going to be left behind?
Without ever making a specific statement of belief, Bell makes several statements about what he believes through questioning the way that we relate to God today.
- He shows that he believes that without change God will become irrelevant, outdated and extinct.
- He suggests that the church should abandon any biblical ideas or teaching that make the culture around us uncomfortable.
- He concludes that we are the ones who determine what is real spiritually and what is not.
Let me attempt to respond.
What you believe spiritually is to a large degree formed by who you believe your authority is. If you believe that you, yourself, are the authority, then where the bible becomes difficult, controversial or irrelevant to you, your simple response is to write it off because you are boss. If you believe that God is boss and that He wrote every word of scripture, then when the bible becomes difficult, controversial or irrelevant you have to change.
No man , without God working in his heart, is ever going to agree with Scripture. Why? We are all men who struggle in sin. Our sinful and fallen natures want to make God irrelevant. Our sinful natures want to reject God’s word.
Every time a person reads scripture they should be made uncomfortable. Why, because God cares for us so much that He can’t let us stay in lives that condemn us to death. The culturally insensitive parts of scripture exist to show us how desperately we need to abandon being bosses of our own lives and turn to God who gives us a new life through His Son Jesus Christ.
What about all those hard things in scripture? What about men being called to lead both in their families and church? What about homosexuality? What about creation? Has science, culture or feeling made these relics of a bygone era. Absolutely not. It goes back to the question of authority. Who determines what you believe? Popular culture? Yourself? God?
Your answer to the question of authority answers who you believe your god is.
If you find the source of what is right from what seems popular and relevant at the moment then your god is the culture around you. You may pretend that it is the One True God, but if it is not the same God that is described in scripture then you are worshiping a caricature of Him.
If you find your source of truth in what you believe to be true then you are worshiping yourself and you are god of your own life. You pick and choose what you like in scripture and reject what makes you uncomfortable. Your religion is ultimately about pleasing your god… yourself.
God is not a relic nor is he irrelevant. God does not cease to exist when we stop looking to Him.
We should not be surprised that God’s words are not always popular. In the book of John, Jesus teaches that he alone is what gives us life. Upon saying this, many men who came to Jesus to see what they could get from Him left because they loved themselves more than they wanted Jesus.
Walking away Jesus asked had this conversation with His disciples…
So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
In eternity only Christ can save us. That means what we believe is determined by who we believe in. Christ always has and always will say things that are unpopular. He alone has the words of eternal life.