Friday, September 14, 2018

Love God, Love Neighbor

As the author continues to spiral down into bad theology filled with contradictions, he comes to perhaps his most dangerous point altogether, for this is the one that makes God obsolete: he claims that in a New Testament faith that is about you (even though it's actually about the assembly), your primary responsibility is no longer to please God; it is to love your neighbor. In short, the true Christian faith, he says, spends more time looking around than it spends looking up. 

In fact, he goes so far as to say that any man who has ever attempted to please God has done so out of purely selfish motives, seeking to get whatever he can out of it and to ensure his own salvation and that attempting to please God and pursue holiness can only ever make us "intolerant and judgmental" persons. 

That's why, he says, Jesus took the emphasis on loving God and shifted it to include just as much, if not moreso, loving your neighbor. Because it's here that the real rubber meets the road. 

Let's be clear about some things here. 

First, our inability to perfectly love God does not mean the pursuit of loving God itself is flawed. Our consistent failure doesn't make it not worth doing. The fact that some of us can become intolerant and judgmental or that some may want only what's in it for themselves does not mean it is not what God desires of us. To say that it's not that important because we'll never get it right is ludicrous. And dangerous.

Second, not everyone is like the author. That is, although he confesses that he's done these things for his own good and glory and that he became intolerant and judgmental, we should not assume that everyone does the same. In fact, I know plenty of God-loving, God-fearing Christians with an orientation toward pleasing God that do it for His good and glory, that are interested only in sharing the kind of love that God espouses. It can be done with a pure heart, and that's how God intends it to be. So the fact that this author, by his own admission, fails at that doesn't mean that everyone is like he is and fails, too. He's not alone, but neither is he the standard-bearer.

Finally, and here's what makes this idea so dangerous, an eye that looks around to neighbor will never find a reason to look up to God. There are plenty of humanists and atheists and Buddhists and Muslims and all kinds of persons who love their neighbor, but this never makes them seek God. It can't. If you spend all your time looking around, someone would have to point up to make you look, but if we're all spending our time looking around, who would have any reason to point up? 

He proposes that we should love our neighbor because that's what God desires of us as Christians, but herein lies yet another contradiction that is inescapable in bad theology - we cannot love our neighbor in a Christian way without first loving our God. It is God who calls us to look around. So as much as he says that our orientation ought to be to one another, we can't do that unless our orientation is first to God. Otherwise, we are simply good persons, not Christian persons. We can love one another all day, but if we do not do it out of a heart that loves God, it's not pleasing to Him. 

We have to look up first

So at this point, I'm hoping that you can see how quickly bad theology spirals down into dark abysses and dangerous places, how it's fraught with contradictions and eventually, always, comes to a place where we no longer even need God to be good persons who call ourselves Christians, though we be nothing of the sort. 

And it all started with one simple assertion - that we don't need a grounding for our faith. That we, as Christians, don't need the Old Testament that tells us what Jesus is all about; we just need Jesus. We don't have to know God's story; we just have to know we're part of it. This theology doesn't work. It will fail us every time. 

One more note on all of this, and this is important: the way that the author sets up his argument in this book reeks of a postmodern "language as a weapon" mentality. As you read, you get the distinct impression that if you disagree with him, if you don't see things the way that he does, then you're an idiot. You're the one that's wrong. You're the one that just doesn't get it because you're stuck in an old theology that is contaminated. So he leaves you no room to disagree with him and call yourself an honest Christian, which is how bad theology catches so quickly. 

It's why we must be Christians who read our Bibles. We must be Christians who pray. We must be Christians who study the voices of historic Christianity and know the story of our faith, Old and New. We must be Christians who know where we are to stand on the truth and the promises and the presence of God. 

Lest we fall for anything. 

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