"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Glimpses of Grace 4: "Turning a big ship slowly"

     His teaching has changed over those years. As recently as a year ago I started a post, "Grace Long Beach will be 100 years old in 2013 and after most of the old people died off and most of the young people wandered off, it was on serious life support for a long time. God has brought it back to a life so vibrant, I weave among all the people I don't recognize and smile for joy. Sharp, creative college students and professors. Laid-back teens not ashamed of Jesus (or their parents). Young singles, some with ink or metal body art in startling places. And young couples, many of whom were some of these same singles until recently.
     "And babies are popping out all over!"
      I no longer have the heart to finish that post--now that I know the "Jesus" these people are being introduced to at our church is no longer the Jesus of the Bible. He's a fallible human being, just like us.
     Last Sunday Lou made that clear. In the last of a series of messages on "Living in God's Presence: the exodus journey," he ended up commenting on Exodus 32:14, which reads, "So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people." 
    In part, Lou quoted Peter Enns, a man who believes parts of the Old Testament are myth, not history. (Google him.) Lou said some people try to explain verse 14 by saying God intended to do this all along "but I don't accept that. The God of Exodus is portrayed in a very human way. . . God meets us at our own level and under our own human conditions. . . Enns again: 'Presenting God as human in Exodus 32-34 is no different from presenting God as human in Christ.' 
     "We can do nothing other than think of God and relate to Him in strictly human terms. We can take stabs at what He is really like, using words like omnipotent, omniscient--" here he made quote marks with his fingers in the air--"and these are things which make God non-human. These are true attributes of God but He has told us we can call him father, friend, king--human attributes--and we relate to him on that basis. When we pray, we pray to the god of Exodus 32:4-14. We speak as if he's interacting with us. Then when. . . what we ask does or doesn't happen depending on what the request is, we thank him. He is present and deeply desires to be in relationship to his people." I have transcribed some of this from the podcast ("The Sacred Cow," http://www.gracelbmedia.org/). Where my wording diverges from the podcast, I am quoting from notes I took verbatim in the service we attended.
     Scripture must be understood in context, in its entirety. Lou needs to take into consideration other verses which say God doesn't change, that He is immutable, that He knows our thoughts before we speak them. His "changing His mind" has to be understood within the truth of His overarching sovereignty, perfect knowledge, and immutability. The testimony on every page of the Scriptures to the divine attributes of God--relegated to human conclusions we "take stabs at"? 
     If we relate to God only in his humanity, why would we pray to Him at all? Isn't it God's divinity that draws us to Him in prayer--His omnipresence to hear our cries, His perfect knowledge to best determine how to meet our needs, His perfect love to desire to help us, and His omnipotence so He can accomplish what we ask? A god we only relate to as a fellow human being is scarcely better than a god of wood or stone. We could have no hope of answers.
    That view diminishes and demeans God, flattens and deflates Him. It dishonors Him. 
     How could our church get so far off-base when it was founded so soundly on "the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible"? Well, in a word--gradually. Four years ago Lou told a church member he doesn't believe in the traditional interpretation of the end times, including the literal future return of Jesus Christ, bringing with Him His kingdom, 1,000 years of peace over which He will reign. He said he believes God is through with Israel, has abandoned her. These views not only go against Scripture but against the Statement of Faith, which as a member of our church, not to mention pastor and elder, he is bound to uphold. 
     When asked why he isn't honest with the congregation, telling them frankly he doesn't believe what he preaches, he said he preferred to present his views in a way which some in the congregation would "get" and which would "pass over the heads of the rest."  
    He told another church member, "This church is like a big ship. It has to be turned slowly."

    Thank God as soon as Lou finished preaching Sunday, the worship leaders immediately led us in a heartfelt rendition of "Yesterday, today, and forever":
"Yahweh, God unchanging,
Yahweh, firm foundation.
Yesterday today and forever,
You are the same, You never change;
yesterday today and forever,
You are faithful and we will trust in You. "

1 comment:

  1. This is so familiar...I don't know why, but I am surprised that the pastor admitted to dishonesty while explaining it away. But, after all, that's what the flesh does.