In the news recently, Michael Gungor made some remarks that caused a backlash and disparaging of his character and even his intent. He said that Adam and Eve were not literal people we all came from, and basically that to think so is like believing in Santa Claus. Yes, I strongly do not agree with that part of what he claims. Even some scientists appear to disagree with him when you consider genetic studies that propose a “Mitochondrial Eve” existed–albeit not one they would claim is the Eve of Genesis. Yes, Gungor’s tone admittedly was defensive. But, why would Gungor not be defensive? Are we able to even talk about our differences without that being the case?
From another side of theological streams, we have Mars Hill pastor and prolific author Mark Driscoll under fire for several things that I would certainly not endorse. Scandals come to all stripes of people, and there are a few questionable things on the radar with Driscoll. The facts present, however, that he has been working hard to reconcile hurt relationships, but the very group he formed to plant churches, Acts29, goes ahead and excommunicates him, calling the “nature of the accusations” as the cause. Mark Driscoll gets at the very least a morsel of sympathy from me even though clearly he is not only abrasive, but holds to some theological pinnings that I do not. Driscoll is dealing with karma from how he has dealt with opposing sides. However, I have never heard Driscoll name an individual for personal character assassination and would think he would not behave in that manner. However, certain blogs against him have been outright hateful.
There is one modern day prophet I applaud for her leadership and respect of people who is under fire this week. Vicky Beeching, a successful worship artist–and now BBC news commentator–came out in a published interview that she was gay. Her story in the interview was honest and compelling. The reporter noted the rejection of calling even a group of people out negatively. While I do not share Beeching’s theological conclusions about being gay, I sympathize with her heart-wrenching story and happily continue as her friend and brother in Christ. Why would I not? Has she rejected the Apostles Creed as valid and demanded I view things her way? Clearly, that is not the situation. Here is a something to ponder, though. Would her voice be stronger if anger, victimhood, or heat were applied? No. However, even if those were present, silencing a prophet is a danger for all of us.
As Christians, we must decide to not disparage or question an individual’s personal motives and heart for God when we don’t agree with each other. “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” says 1 Corinthians 2:11a. Even when a prophetic voice uses his or her platform and makes a mistake, misstep or worse, do we include them as part of the family of believers or are we only committing to destroy not only their platform but their own, individual voice? Prophets, which many of us have a bit of inside of us, will offend. On our best day, not only our words but our facial hair are subjects of the water cooler of the Christian subculture. That cannot be avoided.
The world is watching what we do and the gospel is not only about its literal proposition in two dimensional text. It has to be incarnated in three dimensions in our flesh and blood. When we interpret and defend our views by character assassination, we ostensibly void the supposed truth attached to our arguments. If I drink beer, am I kind to the fellow believer that chooses for reasons of conscience to not drink beer? Then you ask me this. “But, Rich, are we not talking about tenants of faith?” Indeed, we are. Those tenets are seen as untenable, however, when our behavior is petty and sour toward each other. The more hate spewed in our Christian discourse the less potent our impact to the world. They will know we are followers of Jesus by the demonstrated love we have for one another. Love is the reality of the gospel and our fundamental hermeneutic–or method for interpreting the Bible. Jesus said it, not I. Loving God and loving people are not two ideas but one idea.
Let’s indeed be cautious and wise, arguing our points freely. False prophets are out there. But, while being shrewd as serpents let’s not forget to be gentle as doves.