Corban, World Vision, and Damning Ourselves For the Sake of Others

All of this stuff about World Vision reminds me of what Jesus said in Mark 7.

That Which Defiles

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.[a])

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

14 Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15 Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” [16] [f]

17 After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18 “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? 19 For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)

20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” – Mark 7:7-23

Last week, World Vision’s USA office announced that it will no longer discriminate against homosexuals in their hiring practices. That is, they would hire any Christians, including gay Christians who were married. This was a very bold move, particularly as many states are currently having their bans on gay marriage struck down by constitutional courts, or are lobbying to legalize gay marriage, in spite of very outspoken opposition largely from Christian groups. World Vision’s change in policy was a big move for a Christian organization in the US to make, and could have been symbolic of a larger shift toward laws that recognize all humans and their relationships and institutions without prejudice. And given the worldwide persecution that homosexuals are facing, not least in Russia and especially Uganda, where homosexuals are now given life in prison (or are simply being beaten or killed in the street), World Vision’s change in policy gave it some moral authority as it worked to serve the downtrodden around the world.

The next day, World Vision retracted their statement. In 24 hours, or so I’ve heard from multiple sources, 2000 or so people pulled their support from World Vision. Clearly World Vision wasn’t prepared for such a response. They should have been. But that’s not the heart of the issue.

Those who pulled their support did so, or so the internet explained, because they felt that World Vision had betrayed their Christian values. Or to put it differently, “minimizing something as structural as the definition of marriage is a damnable act, and whether or not World Vision suffers financially, it has already suffered, and inflicted suffering, spiritually.” World Vision’s actual statement reversing their decision said “we are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority.” Those Christians who gave to World Vision are the victims here: they were betrayed, experienced spiritual suffering, and were painfully confused.

I’m confused too. I can’t even begin to understand how this decision could inflict pain or “spiritual suffering” (whatever that is), but I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt. I’ve been a bit sarcastic here, but I honestly believe that they’re probably good people who love Jesus. They were hurt by what they perceived to be a betrayal of their values, even breaking an implicit covenant of sorts in which they support World Vision because World Vision represents their values. I suppose that has some logic to it, even if it’s packed full of assumptions and bad theology. I could critique the theology involved here, I could pull out all of the assumptions, and I could point out that none of these people had time to even think it through before they pulled their support, but none of that would get to the heart of the issue either.

At the heart of the issue, I suggest, is that the people who pulled their support from World Vision, the people who railed against them on the internet and accused them of a ‘damnable act’, have allowed their own laws and rules to get in the way of the commandments of God.

The Pharisees Jesus was talking to in Mark 7 (above) had come up with the rule of Corban as a way of structuring their lives in the service of God. The Torah has a few thousand commandments, but the Pharisees had many more, designed to ensure that they kept the commandments of God. In Bible college this is called “building a fence around the law.” The idea behind it is good, but as Jesus points out here, things get complicated quickly when we create our own laws to go along with those we receive from God. What happens when our fence around God’s laws conflicts with God’s laws?

There are laws in the Bible about homosexuality. In spite of what Joe Dallas says about it (above), a lot of people disagree about the exact content and purpose of those laws, or even what’s being talked about in those passages, but let’s even assume that they’re very clear and say that homosexuality in any sense is totally and deeply sinful. Even if that’s the case, there’s no law that says that you can’t donate to a gay charity. There’s also no law that says that you can’t bake cakes for gay marriages, to pick up on another recent controversy. There are no commandments to shun gay people, to discriminate against them in your hiring practices, to keep them out of your churches (unless you get into some creative application of Corinthians), to refuse to participate in worship or charity with them, etc. etc. Those laws weren’t given. All of the ways that Christians have behaved toward homosexuals in North America, under the guise of religious freedom, were not in obedience to any law or commandment of God. They were, instead, things that we felt we had to do in order to defend the idea that homosexuality is sinful.

Pulling support from World Vision isn’t withdrawing finances from an organization. World Vision was not punished by these people. The way World Vision is set up, donors are connected with individual children, who receive (most of) the money that the donors give every month. These children write letters to their supporters, their “family”. Sometimes these relationships can last years, even decades. When people pulled their support from World Vision in response to the news that World Vision will not discriminate against homosexuals in their hiring practices, they weren’t doing it because of a command from God, they were calling their money “Corban” and refusing to give to the children who wrote them letters thanking them for saving their lives. Some of these kids probably live in Uganda, where homosexuals are being imprisoned and killed for simply being gay; do these kids know why their “families” have abandoned them?

I may be being a bit melodramatic here, but not as much as it sounds: these are real kids, and they’re not interchangeable with whatever kids those 2,000 supporters have supposedly sponsored elsewhere. You can’t just pull funding from one organization, and then find another who will allow you to sponsor the exact same child. Real people have been really hurt by this, and they weren’t hurt by World Vision, they were hurt by the people who let their politically charged (electric?) fence around the Law cut them off from the commandment of God to care for “the least of these.”

I’m going to take this a bit further, and say that God doesn’t care half as much about anyone’s sins as he does about their obedience and care for others. I’m going to say that God would rather have a gay person who works at World Vision in this world than 2,000 people who would pull their support because of that gay person. I feel very confident of this, because of a story Jesus told about a good Samaritan.

I’m not going to paste the whole story here, but the gist is: a priest and a levite, both religious leaders, pass by a guy who’s been badly beaten and is laying in a ditch on the side of the road. In fact, they cross the road to stay away from him. What we usually fail to recognize when we hear this preached is that they were following actual commandments of God, which told them that they should stay away from dead bodies. They thought the guy was dead, so they did what they were supposed to do and stayed away for the sake of their ritual cleanness, without which they couldn’t serve God in the Temple. Then a Samaritan, who was a religious outsider who was treated by the Jews very similarly to the way we treat the LGBTQ community and was considered unfit to worship in the Temple anyways (i.e., ritually unclean to the max!), comes along and saves the guy. Jesus commends the actions of the Samaritan over the actions of the priest and levite, in spite of the fact that they were following God’s commands (and not just a fence around the law – actual commands from the Torah!). If we follow what Jesus was saying, he was implying that in order for the priest or the levite to do the right thing, they would have had to be willing to break God’s direct commandments for the sake of a stranger they thought was probably already dead.

Let’s bring this into the issue at hand then: Christians, God would rather have you work with LGBTQ people in your ministry than miss any chance to serve the poor. In fact, God would rather have you hang out at gay bars and rest stops with drag queens and fetishists and show them his love than ignore a single person in need. I can’t say this strongly enough: Christians, God would rather have you be gay, with all of the prejudices and persecution that you would have to suffer for being so, than to have you disobey his command to love your neighbour as yourself. (Gay Christians, God would rather have you be a homophobe who protests funerals but still obeys him by serving others, than an inclusive and kind person who would refuse to help a homophobe. This cuts both ways.)

So don’t blame this on World Vision: they screwed up, but what they did has nothing to do with our responsibility to serve others, or with the relationships that were destroyed for those 2,000 kids. Don’t appeal to Biblical authority, because when it comes to refusing to serve others (for any reason), you won’t find much support there. And don’t even appeal to religious freedom, which is another way we like to use man-made things to help us get away with ignoring the commands of God. No, Christians of North America, we need to own this: the culture wars, the systematic exclusion of LGBTQ people, the endless debates about religious freedom, this is all ours. We’ve made our bed in a white-washed tomb, and we’re lying in it, and we need to get up and start serving the people that God loves: ALL of them.

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10 thoughts on “Corban, World Vision, and Damning Ourselves For the Sake of Others

  1. Thought I would share a different perspective. Your take on the Good Samaritan is problematic. No, they did not think the man was dead. Jesus was asking who among these acted – Jesus was explaining what it meant to be a neighbor, and what it meant to love our neighbor, so it is clear in this set up that all of them knew this was a man in need of help, a living man in need of help.

    You base your conclusion on the idea that it can be good to ignore God’s commandments. But Jesus was NOT praising this Good Samaritan for violating one of the commandments. He was, instead, explaining one of God’s commandments, to love our neighbor as ourself. He was upholding the law, not doing away with it.

    As for the 2,000 who pulled their support, they did so because they wanted to be partnered with a Christian organization. For more than a century some Christians have thought that feeding the hungry was more important than spreading the Gospel. Others have recognized that the two should never be separated. What these 2,000 folk decided was that World Vision had now separated the two, caring for children’s physical needs, while denying the truth of the Scriptures (to tell someone that they can continue sinning unrepentantly and still be a Christian is to deny the Gospel message of “Repent and believe”).

    I could say more, but this fellow says it much better: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2014/03/27/why-is-this-issue-different/

    • Thanks Jon – you’re the first person to challenge me on this, so I appreciate it all the more 🙂

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the man who was left “half dead” would appear dead to the priest and levite, and I’m also quite conscious of our long tradition of unnecessarily vilifying Jewish religious figures in the New Testament. We need not assume that the priest and levite were ignoring a man calling for help or otherwise being unnecessarily callous for the story to make sense, and I doubt that Jesus’ original audience would have accepted slander of these religious figures without further explanation. Given that there are other references in the gospels to religious leaders avoiding ritual uncleanness (e.g., when they refused to enter Pilate’s house for the judgment of Jesus), I don’t think I’m making a logical leap to suggest that the priest and levite in Jesus’ story were doing the same. Whether they thought he was dead or almost dead, they probably avoided him out of a sense of religious obligation, not a lack of care for their fellow man. This, like most of Jesus’ stories, is meant to illustrate the folly of legalism and how it elevates the letter of the law over the spirit or purpose of the law, which is always to serve and care for others.

      Even if my reading here is way off base (and I’m willing to admit that’s possible, though I feel quite confident of it), this is not the only time that Jesus flouted the law, whether it was the “traditions of men” that he scolds the Pharisees for in Mark 7, or whether it was the law of God. His disciples gathered grain on the Sabbath and he defended them by bringing up the story of how David broke the Sabbath when he was hungry; he stopped the execution of the woman caught in adultery, not because she was innocent but because nobody else there was either; we could go on. Jesus regularly pushed or even broke the law for the sake of those he came to serve and save.

      I must admit that my reading of this reminded me of (and was probably inspired by) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose theological ethics included the notion that Christians take on the guilt of the world, and that we must be willing to damn ourselves for the sake of saving others. That’s probably why Bonhoeffer, a pacifist, was willing to take part in conspiracies to assassinate Hitler: to incur guilt upon himself was less problematic for him than allowing the genocide of the Jews to continue. There’s a man I’d like to have for a neighbour!

      I agree with you that Jesus was not ignoring the law, but rather fulfilling it. The problem with the priest and the levite was their interpretation of the law rather than the law itself. Laws, in order to be laws, don’t always have much flexibility, or ability to respond to circumstances and contexts. Jesus had found yet another instance in which there was conflict between two laws – but note that “Love your neighbour as yourself” wasn’t in the Torah, it was Jesus’ summary of the Law. Jesus re-phrased the law in a way that allowed people to adapt its requirements to their contexts in a way that better served others, and used illustrations like this to prove it!

      As for separating spreading the gospel and feeding the hungry, I don’t think that such a thing is possible. Wherever the hungry are fed, Jesus is there multiplying loaves. Remember his speech on the sheep and the goats. It didn’t include any mention of what was preached, but it specifically mentioned feeding the hungry and caring for the poor and the imprisoned. Those who would withdraw support for the poor for the sake of how it might be perceived by others should meditate on that.

      Because ultimately, that’s what it is – concern for our optics. Saying that you’ll hire a homosexual in no way implies that you approve of their sexuality or marriage. If that were the case, we couldn’t hire straight people whose marriages we don’t approve of. At coffee break today someone mentioned that they knew a married couple who were also first cousins – should they be fired if they work for a Christian organization? What about someone who’s “unequally yoked”? Someone who abuses their spouse? Someone who doesn’t tithe? Why aren’t we concerned that the unequally yoked, or the divorced, or the non-tithers, will think that we approve of their unrepentance? The selective nature of our concern that homosexuality be publicly denounced (over other sins) suggests that it’s not about repentance at all, or we’d all be fired for being unrepentant gluttons. (Seriously, nobody in the history of the world has ever eaten like we do now!)

      But further and finally, our approval or disapproval of someone else’s sin is completely immaterial. It doesn’t matter to God, and it’s not connected to the gospel. “Repent and believe” is important, but I don’t recall hearing a “Make sure everyone else repents before you conduct business with them.” That’s not in the gospel. Caring for someone, accepting them as a child of God, even working with them and accepting them as a brother or sister in Christ, has nothing to do with that person’s sinfulness or repentance. We’d call that conditional love, and we’re called to unconditional love. Paying someone to cash a cheque and organize aid has nothing to do with their sin either.

      DeYoung’s comments are all referring to commending or encouraging homosexuality; refusing to discriminate against someone is not the same as encouraging their behaviours or views. In that regard, World Vision USA could learn something from World Vision Canada, which has had to draft a more inclusive hiring policy because discriminating against homosexuals is illegal in Canada; it need not imply any sort of license, let alone approval. Let’s stop being the sin police, because it’s hurting our ability to act on the things in Scripture that are indisputably clear: to serve the poor.

      Thanks for your comment! I welcome more feedback 🙂 – Jeff

      • Hi Jeff. A couple thoughts for you.
        But before I step off, just want to say I appreciate your civilized approach to the variety of comments you receive here.

        1. I do believe “Love your neighbour as yourself” is in the Torah. Lev 19.18 In my understanding of Jesus use of the law, he didn’t reinterpret it except to make it even more demanding. Do not murder became do not sin in your anger. (paraphrased from Mt 5). But when he does so, he usually removes the practical aspects and makes it more abstract (spiritual?). Do not murder is very practical and clear. Do not be angry is much more abstract and unclear. Because people were obeying the law while breaking the spirit of the law. He is trying to return them to the spirit of the law. Thus, the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. Thus, the samaritan parable catches the people in their pride and sin and calls for a change in how they love. Corban was a way of circumventing the law of God. But are you really capable of judging those givers that stopped their giving to WV (not necessarily the poor). Do you know them well enough to say they were trying to get out of their commitment to the law of God? The very fact that they had been giving to the poor seems to challenge your judgement.

        2. When you sponsor a child with WV, your finances actually go towards a whole community it seems (sounds like a little might go directly to a child but mostly to the whole community). (See faq here: http://my.worldvision.org/faq/sponsorship#t5n582) That means that unless a large group of kids from the same community lost their funding (which seems quite unlikely to me), it probably didn’t affect the individual kids as much as you seem to assume. That is the great conundrum of the marketing of individual child sponsorship I think. What this means is that pulling their funds from World Vision was a significant statement about how they choose to spend their money.

        3. In my opinion, it is kind of ironic that you’re attacking the people who actually sponsor children in the first place. But I’m glad you could see that WV should have thought a little bit farther ahead about the potential consequences of such a change in their practices.

        4. So is your “heart of the issue” the true heart of the issue (people breaking God’s commands for their own traditions)? I think it’s maybe not as clear cut as you would like it to be. And though of course there is no law (in the Bible) about donating to a gay charity, the people who were giving to WV (and through WV to the poor) do have an obligation to steward their money as they believe God would have them. So if WV changes the way they do things, then the giver is entitled to change their giving. In your article you seem to blame the giver but WV initiated the change. The givers were responding to that change in a way that they felt was better stewardship.

        5. I agree with you, we need to love unconditionally. But there is more to the LGBTQ issue than just loving people with a different sexual preference. Just as Christians have an agenda, the LGBTQ group also has an agenda. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love them. But loving them in their sin (just as we desire to be loved in our sin) does not mean we cannot ask our institutions of charity to carry our values, including values of one man/one woman marriage. Though we all seem to agree that sin is sin and equally wrong before God, the consequences for different actions can vary dramatically. You can choose to judge the givers as harshly as possible, or you can choose to believe the givers were following their conscience in how to manage best the funds God has given them. Especially because these are the people who are actually giving real finances to the poor already! And likely from people of less wealth too (http://www.philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/poor-americans-are-country-s-most-charitable-demographic).

        Enough for now. Looking forward to what you have to say.

      • Thanks for your thoughtful comments Ben! I appreciate your insights and tone 🙂 (I also appreciate that you broke it down into points – so helpful!)

        1. Good analysis, except where you say that those who practise corban were trying to circumvent the law of God. On the contrary, they were obsessed with keeping the law of God, but had misplaced priorities in doing so. Corban was not a scheme to keep their money, but actually a way of devoting MORE money to the Temple. They had taken charity to the next level as a way of adhering to the Law and showing their devotion. The problem was that they valued some laws more than others (as we all unconsciously do), and their zeal for one law led them to circumvent others. In the same way, I don’t think that people who stopped giving to World Vision are deliberately trying to get out of charity – as you said, they are the few who already give! But because they have elevated one “law” over others (again, as we all do to some extent unconsciously), it has led to what I believe are misplaced priorities, and others we are called to serve are suffering for it.

        2. Fair enough; I know that each charity has their own way of distributing funds. I do know, however, that individual children are connected with individual donors, and relationships have been broken here. This disturbs me. Sin breaks relationships, but the Christian response to sin should never deliberately do so. We should be mending them, not breaking them off. Also, as someone who works at a non-profit ministry, I know just how much every donation counts; the loss of funding for one child could make a big difference in a community. But again, it’s the broken relationship that bothers me more, I think.

        3. Whether or not to sponsor children is kind of a moot point. I think it’s potentially a great program, but I think it has a lot of problems too. Certainly there are other ways, and often better ways, to help others. What bothers me is that Christians (who presumably value patience, kindness, wisdom, etc.) would stop giving as a knee-jerk reaction. It’s the misplaced priorities that concern me, perhaps more than a lack of giving in the first place. It would be excellent if everyone gave generously, and that’s certainly an issue that’s on the radar of churches. Nobody sees withholding charity as a virtue…until now, apparently. All that to say that I don’t want to attack those individuals who withdrew their support as much as to expose this twisted priority of purity over charity. It’s bad enough when we fail to do the right thing, but it’s worse when we fail and call it the right thing. (We do indeed agree that WV should have anticipated something like this. Personally, I think that they should have stuck to their guns; the reversal of their policy has made all of this meaningless.)

        4. I appreciate that the givers thought that this was better stewardship, and I don’t fault them for that. I find fault with the fact that they think that God thinks that way. It’s a very twisted hermeneutic indeed that can ignore the way that Jesus spent his time almost exclusively with “sinners” and somehow interpret the New Testament to be saying that we should avoid any connection with them, to the point of stopping or diverting our care for others to avoid sinful people. I’m frustrated with the individuals who made that choice here, but I’m very concerned that there was doctrinal and popular support for such decisions. I think that the American church in general, but particularly Evangelicals, have been co-opted by political and cultural agendas and lack the biblical and theological knowledge to differentiate between those agendas and the Word of God. This is a big problem. We’re more concerned about taking Christ out of Christmas than about taking Christ out of Christianity, and I see no Christ in this WV fiasco except in those who continue to give sacrificially in spite of association with sinners.

        5. I’d be cautious about referring to Christian or LGBTQ agendas – neither are uniform groups, and we generally only hear from those who shout the loudest in either group. I am very pleased that the majority of WV supporters continued their support, and I’m sure that those who left are in a minority position (though the fact that they have enough power in themselves to change policy in large institutions is concerning). But I digress from your point.

        I see your point, and I think it’s appropriate to ask our charities to uphold our values. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a whole lot of asking going on here; there were threats, and there were quick divestments. As much as I’d still be disappointed by it, a petition or letter campaign would have been much more appropriate. You’re right in that the consequences of sin vary from sin to sin; but in this case, the “sin” committed is for a Christian charity to commit themselves to serving “sinners”, and the consequences are being experienced on the other side of the world and enforced by Christians. I do believe that these Christians are following their consciences, but I think that their consciences, like those of the pharisees who practised corban, have been blinded by zeal for the wrong things. I think that this is an indictment of our entire Evangelical subculture, and it’s that culture that I’m judging.

        Thanks for your thoughts, and I hope I’ve clarified my position. I welcome your response!

  2. 20 He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” – Mark 7:7-23

    Great passage… Maybe that’s why world vision supporters don’t think homosexuals should be employed there. Neither should people who commit beastiality or pedophilia, or are heterosexual and promiscuous breaking hearts and being unloving to everyone around them… Of course, world vision admits they don’t ALWAYS get to spread the gospel where they work because they are afraid of reprisal by unfriendly authorities. I sponsor a child through them, but I will stick with Compassion and Gospel for Asia from here on in.

    Seriously, people that have no interest in repenting or obeying God “don’t inherit the Kingdom of God”… It’s this kind of wishy-washy love that is making the gospel so ineffective. It’s not even the gospel anymore because we are afraid to call sin sin.

    Just a question, you pre-trib, mid, or post? And what’s your first thought on Rob Bell?

    • Hi Michael, and thanks for reading!

      I find it interesting that you list a bunch of relatively rare sexual sins, but don’t point out “theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.” I’m concerned that we Christians only seem to be concerned about “sexual immorality” (which is the most broad and undefined of the entire list) and don’t bother asking about the rest of the list. For example, several years ago there was a bit of media attention about the fact that World Vision has the highest overhead of any aid agency of its type – that is, it keeps more of the donated money to pay its workers than any other group – something most people who donate do not realize. Yet I don’t recall anyone quoting this passage at that time and talking about greed or theft. Why do we single out sexual immorality?

      Perhaps more importantly, please tell me (seriously) why it would matter if a homosexual, or a murderer or thief or greedy or envious person worked there? Would that affect the work that they were doing? Would that somehow change their marketing, their accounting, or their on-the-ground relief efforts? I really don’t understand what possible effect it would have on the organization. Why do you think it would be bad to have sinners working there?

      I have absolutely no problem calling sin sin. I think that the whole list above is harmful to everyone it touches, and it makes perfect sense to me to avoid all of those things! I just don’t see the connection to World Vision or feeding starving children, and I don’t see how us condemning sinners helps them in any way, particularly when they’re not people who know or trust us.

      As for the tribulation – none of the above. The doctrine of the Rapture, with all of its variations, is a very new doctrine from a fringe group in the 1800’s that has infiltrated Evangelical theology through the Schofield Study Bible. It’s based on a very strange hermeneutic that’s quite abusive to Scripture, and I can’t wait for the day when my own denomination stops supporting and propagating it. As for Rob Bell, I don’t know him, though he sounds like a nice guy. I can’t help but think that you’ve asked these two hot-button questions because you’re looking for a way to categorize me as liberal or a non-believer or a heretic; I only hope that you’ll refrain from judging me until you see a broader range of my theology, or better yet, judge me by my actions. After all, we can tell a tree by its fruit: I hope that my actions resemble Christ, and in the same way I hope that the Christians who pulled support from World Vision are known for something other than refusing to serve starving children because of someone else’s sexual orientation.

      I look forward to your response, and thanks again for reading!

      Jeff

      • I sent this after reading not only your above article, but your review of Noah… a movie that definitely reads into the text, but adds a lot more than “depth”… That was 2/2 in regard to articles written from a liberalist slant that has done so much harm to scripture ever since the birth of the church.
        I mentioned only sexual sins because the issue at world Vision revolved around… Sexual sins. World vision claims to be a Christian organization, or better put, a ‘ministry’ (as they are working in Christ’s name). “Abide in me and I will abide you, and by this you will bear much fruit”. We are all sinners saved by grace… But You can’t have unrepetant people living in complete and utter rebellion and unrepentant sin representing Christ. That’s why the Body of Christ is so flaccid now. People look at us and say “You’re no different than us, your God is not real”. Just look at our divorce rates.. We shouldn’t have thieving corrupt greedy people controlling ministries either. Nor liars who deceive and use cunning and deception to bring in money for a ministry. These are the kinds of behaviours that taint a ministry and also serve as a old witness for Christ. Imagine the stress in a ministry if if a guy was seducing and sleeping with every woman around him who suited his fancy. Oh sure he claims to know Jesus, but does he? Think of the turmoil in that environment.
        I’m involved in youth ministry. You better believe if I start sleeping around, I’m quenching the spirit and should have that privilege revoked immediately so I don’t damage those I minister to. BUT what also needs to happen (and too seldom does) is someone must come alongside this person living in rebellion to encourage them back into abiding in Christ so they can again be a proper facets for His grace and love.
        Rob Bell wrote ‘Love Wins’ which talks about the all encompassing love of God being so powerful that all people will be saved… That’s universalism and he’s leading people to damnation. He’ll answer for that.
        I’m sorry to hear you don’t believe in a rapture… I’m also sorry you believe it came from nowhere and abuse of scripture in the 1800’s. I’m thankful for God working through people like Martin Luther who led the reformation and showed us how far off we were in the Catholic Church. I’m also glad for those that reminded us of our role in the great commission at a time when people taught that due to election by God, missionaries were unnecessary. ‘Doctrine of Demons’… And so I’m also thankful for people rescuing is from the false teaching that no rapture would occur. I’m sorry to hear you’ve succumbed to it. The end time prophetic and pre-millennial verses or the bible all require Israel to be a nation again… No one thought it would happen hence getting away from such ideas. And here we are, glory to God.
        Brother, I can’t convince you. Only the Holy Spirit can. Be blessed.

      • Thanks for responding again Michael, I appreciate it. Sometimes people read something they don’t like here, comment, and then leave. I tend to be wary of that, so sorry if I seemed a bit…defensive. I don’t generally feel I need to defend anything I say (I think out loud here, and I’m rarely married to anything I write), but I don’t like being baited. All that to say I really appreciate you interacting further. I’ll try to respond point by point 🙂

        First, “liberalist” is a relative term. In all the spectrum of theological views that I’ve read, I assure you, I’m somewhere near the middle but probably on the conservative side. I affirm Scripture, the creeds, the historicity and divinity of Christ, and any other beliefs that are core to Christianity. What strikes you as being particularly “liberalist” in these two posts? And do you mean theologically liberal, or politically? (the World Vision post could certainly be taken as politically liberal, in that I imply a few times that I’m for gay rights).

        Second, I don’t believe that it’s possible to harm Scripture, short of rounding up Bibles and burning them. Truth is truth, and nothing I say can change what’s in the text. Further, everything I say (and everything everyone else says) should be held up to the text with discernment, because none of us are 100% right all of the time, and we all see things a little bit differently.

        Third, the World Vision issue seems to be revolving around sexual sins, but only because we’re making it do so. When World Vision changed its policy to allow the hiring of gay Christians who are in gay marriages, all it was doing was putting sexual sin on the same level as all other sin – because they had and have no policy against any other sin, unrepentant or not. Your comment about divorce rates proves my point: World Vision has no rule excluding divorced people from their organization, nothing about greedy people being unfit for service at their ministry. Sexual sins were explicitly singled out, and their decision was simply going to change that so that all sins were regarded as being negative but perfection was still not a job requirement. I can certainly think of the turmoil that any sin can bring into a workplace – but why single one out over all others? It’s hypocritical. If Christians really believe that being sinful makes one unfit to hold a job, then if they have integrity they would all quit their jobs before telling another organization that they shouldn’t employ sinners. But moreover, World Vision made the decision with the recognition a) that the church is divided over whether a monogamous, married gay couple are even being sinful (it really is divided over this, and many churches recognize or even perform gay marriages), and b) that discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation is increasingly illegal in the US, and c) that they serve the poor and downtrodden in several countries in Africa in which gay people are systematically persecuted. In light of all this, their current policy does not represent all Christians anyway, it may soon be illegal in the US, and it would be very hypocritical to care for homosexuals abroad but persecute them at home. Plus, it’s hypocritical to single out the one sin that I don’t personally succumb to as somehow being worse than the others that I do succumb to.

        I totally agree that a youth minister who’s sleeping around should be taken out of ministry! But should you be systematically prevented from being in ministry at all based on the assumption that you will sleep around? Someone with a homosexual orientation can be just as celibate as a straight person, and any relationship that they do get into can be just as monogamous as a straight marriage. World Vision’s policy allowed for gay, married Christians to work there, not for swingers or prostitutes. And I also agree that someone should come alongside us when we struggle and sin to help us maintain a positive and growing relationship with Christ and increase in holiness – but pulling support from strangers around the world is not a way to disciple or “sharpen” anyone. As a youth minister, I’m sure you’re very aware of the amount of time it takes to establish a trusting relationship with a kid, and that it’s necessary to do so before they can really be impacted by anything you say or do; now imagine that your youth had plenty of reason to distrust you, because every youth pastor they’ve ever had kicked them out of youth group. Do you think they’d listen, or care, if you confronted them on their first visit to youth group about all of their sins? They’d probably be hurt, and never come back. What if they weren’t even in your youth group, but you confronted them about their sin as a stranger in a shopping mall? That’s effectively what’s happening on the internet: it’s a public place, and we’re shaming people in public when we rail against their sexual orientation in this public place. There’s absolutely a place for coming alongside someone to correct their sin, but it’s a private place of personal trust and mutual worship of God, a safe place where we can be vulnerable. The actions of those who pulled their support from World Vision sent a message to every gay Christian, and it lacked any context of loving support or trust that might have made their critique of homosexuality carry any weight.

        On Rob Bell: I read Love Wins, and I enjoyed it. I liked Velvet Elvis, too. I don’t know if I agree with everything he says, but most of it is pretty main-stream. I don’t recall him actually saying flat-out that everyone will be saved, because that’s not what Rob Bell does; He asks questions, rather than answering them, and the stuff he talks about is usually well-researched and theologically sound. It’s the sort of stuff that theologians talk about all the time, but Rob Bell communicates it to a much wider audience, and thus takes a lot more flack for it. If you’re interested, check out N. T. Wright’s book Surprised By Hope, which covers much of the same ground. I don’t think many people label him “liberal” at all, but he’s a brilliant and very well-regarded theologian.

        On the Rapture and eschatology: I’ve been studying it for many years. In my undergrad I wrote a 70+ page paper on the different interpretations of the millennium (pre-, post-, and amillennialism), and found that none of those positions hold up equally well against all of the relevant texts. I’m tentatively amillennialist, because it’s the broadest category and I haven’t found any of the positions convincing, or even equally useful. Postmillennialism has some interesting ideas that intrigue me, but some textual problems that the other positions don’t have.

        I strongly recommend that you do a search for John Nelson Darby. He’s the guy who came up with the doctrine of the Rapture. Some forms of premillennialism have been around since the beginning of Christianity, but the Rapture and the trib-types are his invention. I don’t have time or space for a full critique, but it’s worth looking into. His method of reading the Bible is incredibly selective and inconsistent, and as such treats the text in ways that it ought not to be treated. I have not succumbed to a false doctrine by being led astray by false teachers; rather, I read the Bible, and learned to read it well, and in the process have come to dismiss this doctrine as misleading at best. There are much better approaches to Scripture and to eschatology, and I strongly encourage you to check them out. As I said above, NT Wright is a good source; I also recommend that you check out Jurgen Moltmann and CS Lewis.

        Thank you for your blessing, and thanks again for reading and commenting! May the Lord guide you in all truth.

        Sincerely,

        Jeff

      • Jeff, I appreciate that you took the time to write all of that, but I however, don’t have the time to reply. Homosexual marriage is an affront to the beautiful design of God. Homosexual tendencies are learned, not inherited (not to mention the demonic influence to bend peoples wills towards a certain slant). Just look at all of the real Christians that were freed from it when they met christ’s love and quite importantly, learned that they were in sin. I don’t think people should quit for being sinners, I stated that World Vision was a ministry and so all people should be held to that standard. If they’d come out and said “We’re going to hire a satanist but he’s a brilliant CEO, I think people would speak out about that too. There’s no need for them to publicly declare that they will not hire crooks and thieves, etc, but the moment they say they are going to they need correction. Jesus was at the well with the Samaritan woman no less than 5 minutes before He told her in grace and truth that she was living an adulterous life. Being relevant is not what leads people to Christ; the Holy Spirit is. When people know (in love) that they are a sinner, they know they need a saviour and the Holy Spirit leads them to repentance, gifts them with the faith to believe, and they are born again.

        Anyway, I apologize but like I said, I won’t persuade you, and so I’ve said my piece and will be unable to continue this discussion, and this is in God’s hands. Why? Because there’s work to be done. Eph 2:10

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