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Rob Bell and Darwinian Christianity


A few more thoughts on Rob Bell, whose switch on same-sex marriage I mentioned briefly the other day:

Bell justified his new position, and advocated that the rest of the evangelical church join him, with these words: “I think we are witnessing the death of a particular subculture that doesn’t work. I think there is a very narrow, politically intertwined, culturally ghettoized, Evangelical subculture that was told ‘we’re gonna change the thing’ and they haven’t. And they actually have turned away lots of people. And I think that when you’re in a part of a subculture that is dying, you make a lot more noise because it’s very painful. You sort of die or you adapt.”

In other words, you forget about Christ-centered, scripturally sound beliefs, and you follow the path of least resistance.

If what we're preaching is Darwinism, sheer survival of the fittest, then Bell's admonition makes perfect sense. But if what we're preaching is the religion of Jesus Christ -- who, one might say, went to the cross for not "adapting" -- then it is the rankest heresy.

Comments:

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"I don't know this to be true. I think the idea behind givernment "freedom of religion" was to provide protections so that the state could not impose on one's rights to freely practice one's religion."

Actually, my impression was that everyone in Europe had noticed that no one was winning and was tired of killing each other.
Ben W wrote:

"As for empirical data, why don't you look at other countries? Has Canada or Denmark or Norway fallen apart since they've legalized this?
Ah, but I know what you'll say. "God is just waiting to judge them".
Or maybe He's not, and you've got it wrong. We small-government secularists are *still* waiting on God to judge us for allowing Catholics and pagans into this country, for legalizing divorce and alcohol, for getting rid of the laws against sodomy and fornication. "

I think that it can be demonstrated that in the countries you name there is probably less tolerance for certain religous freedom or expression of religous thought concerning homosexual acts.

"PS - It's no surprise that the wealthiest, happiest countries in the world are also those with the most freedoms and liberties. Notably, as the US has fallen in the rankings for Freedom and Education, it's also fallen in Happiness."

Underlyin this assertion is the supposition that happiness is the highest good. I think many with Christian values would beg to differ.

"The idea behind government "freedom of religion" is that we do not use religious values to make laws. *Any* laws. If you can't come up with an argument based on secular reasons, like protection of liberty or for the general welfare, then you don't have a legitimate argument."

I don't know this to be true. I think the idea behind givernment "freedom of religion" was to provide protections so that the state could not impose on one's rights to freely practice one's religion.
And Mike, conceding the government's rightful interest in children beyond limitations proper to a liberal state is in fact worse from the public point of view then conceding gay marriage.
Mike, Marriage has everything to do with equality. That is evidenced by the fact that BOTH sides concentrate their argument on the concept of marriage and spend little effort by comparison on legal privileges.

And clearly gay rights activists are asking for a government definition of marriage. Otherwise they would simply call themselves married as I suggested.

"There cannot be a definition to marriage" does not make sense. All words except for expletives have definitions. And most of the effort on this issue has been surrounding the definition of marriage.
Ditto What Gina Said
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Ditto what Gina said.
Ditto what Gina said.
Ditto what Gina said.
Ditto what Gina said.
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Lee, it's like you to come seeking encouragement and then end up offering it to others. :-) Thank you for reminding all of us to keep our eyes on the bigger picture!
And another thought: later in the history of the Empire, Rome was devastated by plague. Most people fled for their lives, but Christians stayed to care for the dying.

This, in spite of the fact that the plague may well have been "God's judgment on Rome."

And if I recall, plague is quite a bit more communicable than AIDS.

Christians don't have a great record for our response to AIDS victims. How would we react to some new "plague" arising as "God's judgment" on the USA?

Would we flee, or stay to tend to those under judgment?
I keep trying to stay upbeat and hopeful. But then I think about how Louie Giglio did such tremendous work on human trafficking, in Atlanta where the Olympics imported many victims, but that was nullified in the public mind by something he said two decades ago. I think about how CA Prop 8 opponents encouraged "direct action" against 8's supporters in their places of worship, their businesses, and their homes. And I think about Gina's friends at the Family Research Council, and what "direct action" can mean in some cases.

And I think it may not much matter what the Supremes say.

I try to always encourage others, but today I need it for myself.

Hmmm - "It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'!!" Yeah - that'll work. After the very first Easter Sunday, the Romans were still ruling, and the Pharisees and Sadducees were still dictating, but even so, things were very different. But prior to that, as His body was being laid in the tomb, things looked very, very dark.

But things often seem dark when you look down, instead of up.
"You appear to continue to maintain that the ONLY consideration in this regard is whether it directly affects a person personally."
It's the first concern, but not the only one, as you pointed out.

"Second, looking at it only sociologically, how can a person POSSIBLY say that this will not affect the entire society in negative ways?-- there are simply no data on which to base such an assertion."
Err, yeah. You can say that about any change. 'We can't be sure that this won't affect us negatively'. It's not a good justification for denying someone equal treatment under the law, though.

"And so to continue to assert that this will not affect most of us personally is not intellectually honest-- there are no empirical data to support this contention, and there are considerable biblical data to argue exactly the opposite."
No, not really. I can't prove a universal negative, which is what you're asking me to do, if you want me to show that there is no possibility of negative effects. When it comes to denying people equal liberty, the burden of proof is on *you* to give a justification for it. In this case, the fact that you guys can't come up with much is as good as saying that no justification exists for stopping gay marriage.

As for empirical data, why don't you look at other countries? Has Canada or Denmark or Norway fallen apart since they've legalized this?
Ah, but I know what you'll say. "God is just waiting to judge them".
Or maybe He's not, and you've got it wrong. We small-government secularists are *still* waiting on God to judge us for allowing Catholics and pagans into this country, for legalizing divorce and alcohol, for getting rid of the laws against sodomy and fornication.

PS - It's no surprise that the wealthiest, happiest countries in the world are also those with the most freedoms and liberties. Notably, as the US has fallen in the rankings for Freedom and Education, it's also fallen in Happiness.

Mike,
"Government neutrality toward religion doesn't mean there is such a thing a neutral public square where someone's religious values don't inform policy or debate."
I respectfully disagree. Again, read the article with quotes from Lewis. Would you want Muslims using their religious values to stop you from eating bacon or drinking pork, just because those are their values? What about forcing women to wear the hijab?

The idea behind government "freedom of religion" is that we do not use religious values to make laws. *Any* laws. If you can't come up with an argument based on secular reasons, like protection of liberty or for the general welfare, then you don't have a legitimate argument.
Or, put more simply, if you don't want people of other religions to impose their religious values on you through legislation, then you shouldn't do it to them.
Jason, marriage has nothing to do with equality. Even some liberal supreme court justices seem to realize or at least question such a radical assumption.

And who said anything about a *government* definition of marriage? Governments simply recognized what has existed for millennia, because the state has an interest in seeing that children produced are cared for. I will say this one more time: marriage is what it is. It cannot be defined. Everyone with a shred of common sense knows this. Unless of course you assume there is no objective reality in which certain things actually have meaning. If you're a relativist and whatever is is what we say it is, well, there just isn't much to talk about.

Government neutrality toward religion doesn't mean there is such a thing a neutral public square where someone's religious values don't inform policy or debate. Again, common sense tells us that all policies and laws have a value component and values come from religious assumptions.
Master Gunny,
I completely understand how seriously you feel about homosexuality. But.. what else was given the death penalty in the Old Testament? What else was a "very serious crime"?
In any case, you shouldn't base laws on your religion. Unless, of course, you're fine with other people making laws for you based on their religion. Tit-for-tat, and all.
I'll defer to Lewis here:
http://nearemmaus.com/2012/05/16/c-s-lewis-on-marriage-governed-by-the-state-and-marriage-governed-by-the-church/

Mike,
How does a *government* definition of marriage affect your personal view of it? Or more to the point, *why* does it affect your view? The government has no power to destroy your "concept of real marriage", except what you give them.
Or do you think that the government's definition is de facto the same as God's?

When governments started recognizing more than one religion as "legitimate", and treating them all the same, do you think God was upset then, too? 'Cause pretty much all the fears of God's judgment that we're hearing now, we heard back then, too. Man, God hates it when we let people make their own choices and live their own lives and be treated equally by government.
Satanists, pagans, whatever, worshipping who knows who.. Has God judged us for allowing that, instead of outlawing it? Even worse, for giving them *equal* treatment under the law as Christians?
(Or just go read what Lewis said in the link above.. he says it better.)

Jason: There's something to be said for taking the power you mentioned - the power to "award distinctions" about what constitutes a family - away from government. But, for now, there'll still be a legal distinction between singles and married, even if we lumped many more kinds of unions into the category of "marriage".
@ Master Gunny
"I do not claim to know why the maker of the universe prescribed such a harsh penalty and it matter little if I did."

I don't claim to know all the reasons either, but part of it must be that it is a denial of biological reality itself and the God who created it. It's spitting in the face of the God who created bodies to properly function in some ways, and to not function properly in other ways. Homosexuality (and the rest of behaviors by the alphabet crowd) are the ultimate rebellion. You are not only rebelling against God (which is true for all our sins), but you are rebelling against your own body itself.

***

"I fear that we will find out the reason for the laws prohibiting homosexuality only after a disaster of Biblical proportions."

Well goodness, how many thousands of people have died horrible, excruciating deaths from AIDS? And there are many more diseases that result from this behavior.

But of course even saying that AIDS is a disease predominantly affecting homosexuals (at least at its beginnings) is called "hate".

At this point, I can't see anything changing people's minds about this destructive behavior and lifestyle.

The lie that it's inborn and people can't help has been repeated so many times from so many angles that everyone simply accepts it as being incontrovertible truth. Even bible believing Christians who hold to the Scriptural view of homosexuality have become convinced of this, and now think they are being cruel to speak against it, because after all, 'they can't help it'.

The truth is that science has not proven any such thing. People leave the homosexual lifestyle all the time!

But those voices are always suppressed because they do not fit the narrative of our culture. Those people are said to not have been homosexuals to begin with, or that they are self deceived, or that they are outright lying.

It's extremely frustrating. As our culture continues to fall apart, I see the pressure to accept homosexuality only growing worse.

As Christians, we must be ready.
For the same reason that knighthood ceases to be knighthood if goes about dubbing people who aren't prepared to go about dragonslaying. It is the word that means something. Marriage as an institution exists to regulate sex. Clearly it doesn't eliminate fornication but it provides a reason to protect, provide, and join with others in doing so, to in short, be civilized. It protects those who are neither charismatic nor callous enough to be players from the hardships of emotional trauma on the one hand and forced celibacy on the other. And it keeps men from being barbarians by providing an automatic leverage.

Unless one is prepared to have Chastity Commissions, one cannot eliminate unchastity. Even then it won't work. What one can do is make sure that chastity is rewarded by societal approval.
Jason, I'm not following why replacing the word marriage with civil unions would help anything, other than destroying the concept of real marriage.

And it would be more accurate to say that "social constructs" *can* be embodied in the nature of things, not that they necessarily are. Some social constructs, like, oh, I don't know, re-defining marriage, are clearly not!
The problem which you do not seem to recognize Ben, is that the enterprise is itself counterproductive. The only reason to call gay people "married" is to award them a distinction. It is no longer a distinction when the requirements for it are made changeable. If everybody's somebody then no one's anybody.
Lastly, you state: “Would it help if we called legal marriage for any couple something else, like "civil unions"?” Why would this help? Is marriage something real, or not? Is it a social construct only, or something embedded in the nature of things? Just getting rid of the word marriage solves things in your world? Don’t want the homosexuals to feel bad now, do we, so let’s jettison the word and we can all be happy and equal in our civil unions.
--------------------------------------

Actually it would help. Marriage is a distinction attained by following obligations. If one does not follow those obligations it is "fornication". But as the law does not in fact recognize the category of fornication, "Civil Union" will be fine.

And "social constructs" are embodied in the nature of things.
Objective Truth
The Bible doesn't speak to the issue of homosexual marriage because, in theory, homosexuals could not exist in Israel; they were already adjudged and the penalty prescribed was death (Lev 20:13).

Of course I do not advocate we adopt the same policy, for many reasons. The point I would like to make is the seriousness with which God viewed the sin. I do not claim to know why the maker of the universe prescribed such a harsh penalty and it matter little if I did. The point is that if we truly believe the Bible then we have no choice but to condemn the behavior and of course the lifestyle. As creator of all things I trust that God knew all of the possible consequences of homosexual behavior as well as the effects that would befall a society that permitted blatant homosexuality.

I have often wondered if the public attitude toward homosexuality would remain so casual if the HIV virus morphed and suddenly it became transmitted like the common cold, either by particles in the air or by touching an infected object. I don’t say that this is either possible or probable but it would certainly answer why the scriptures provide so harsh a punishment. The laws of God always had a purpose. Our understanding of them is irrelevant. Washing your hands before eating made little sense until the theory of bacteria was accepted. I fear that we will find out the reason for the laws prohibiting homosexuality only after a disaster of Biblical proportions.
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@ Ben W
"As I mentioned before - the Bible says plenty about how Christians should live, but it says nothing about what laws Christians should try to get society to live by."

But isn't that exactly what our laws do, or at least attempt to do? Isn't our entire legal system for the purpose of trying to get society to live by a set of rules and standards of behavior so that we don't descend into chaos?

Where do you think ideas like the inherent value of human beings and the wrongness of actions like theft, rape and murder (just to name a very few) come from? Countries have all sorts of laws and of course, not all of them are good ones. But I don't know of any civilized country that doesn't have laws against those three things, at least. Do you? Would you want to live in a place that didn't have them? Would you want to live in a place where anyone could steal your belongings, beat your family, rape your wife and murder your kids and they would suffer no penalty for such behavior? I can't imagine anyone saying they would wish to live in such a society.

The foundation of Western society is the Judeo-Christian worldview. Maybe you don't realize it because you're just so used to it. (I forget it sometimes myself!)

But if you go to other parts of the world, you see that society is very different, laws are very different and people are treated in ways that we would consider abusive and even cruel/inhumane.

For example, in countries under Communist rule, people are thrown into concentration camps and into jail with no due process. (And often for no real reason in the first place.) In these places prisoners are starved and beaten and murdered. Why? Because the worldview of Communism offers no such thing as the dignity of the human person. It offers no worldview of a God who exists and who will hold people accountable for how they treat others.

Can't you see how life under the Judeo-Christian worldview is different and better *because* of biblical principles like 'all men are created equal (hm, where have we heard that before?), human beings have inherent value, stealing is wrong, raping someone is wrong, murdering someone is wrong?

***

As to the OT, it's much too long and involved to get into in detail here, but certain rules were for the Jews of that time, for a certain time, for a certain purpose. I don't understand why you're even bringing it up here, in the context of the discussion.

"In any case, the Bible says little on what kinds of laws we should enact in a pluralist society."

It boggles the mind as to how someone can say such a thing. As I have explained, that's simply not so. If not for the Judeo-Christian worldview, Western society (and America in particular) would be unrecognizable.
Ben W, God bless you, but you completely miss the point.

First of all, there is no such word as anyways.

Second, the issue isn’t that “legal/civil marriages really *don't* have anything to do with childbearing any more.” Of course this is absolutely untrue. Marriage would not exist in the first place if people could not procreate, so it has everything to do with childbearing. The issue is what is marriage and why it exists, is it open for re-definition, and in re-defining it do we destroy the thing that is actually marriage. The hubris of a people who willy nilly want to re-define something that has existed for millennia because of maybe 3% of the population who want their view of sexual morality codified in law is astounding.

You further state, “I completely agree that kids raised in households with multiple committed parents do better than kids in single/divorced homes. I just can't figure out what this has to do with the legal contract of marriage.” It doesn’t matter whether you agree with it, because it’s true regardless, and it has everything to do with marriage being legally binding. Those not so bound find it much easier to turn their back on their commitment, and no-fault divorce has been a tragedy for untold millions of adults and children. Making divorce illegal is a silly question. Even Jesus made provision for it, but making divorce a whole lot harder to attain would be a huge step in the right direction.

Lastly, you state: “Would it help if we called legal marriage for any couple something else, like "civil unions"?” Why would this help? Is marriage something real, or not? Is it a social construct only, or something embedded in the nature of things? Just getting rid of the word marriage solves things in your world? Don’t want the homosexuals to feel bad now, do we, so let’s jettison the word and we can all be happy and equal in our civil unions.

You seem to comment here a lot, so I would assume you are a Christian. Maybe that’s presumptuous of me. If you are a Christian then there is no debate about marriage, regardless of what Rob Bell, seemingly to me more like a heretic all the time, says. The Church, the mystery of the bride of Christ, and in marriage something of that mystery lives, in two becoming one flesh, in the miracle of the possibility of new life, a Trinitarian analogy in father, mother, and child. Christians who accept re-definition as something reasonable and welcome should be ashamed of themselves.

If you are not a Christian, why should your assumptions trump mine? Why are secular values more valid than those grounded in the Christian tradition? Even so, there are plenty of arguments from common sense and social science that argue against re-defining marriage as well.
trodding over old ground..
Mo:
As I mentioned before - the Bible says plenty about how Christians should live, but it says nothing about what laws Christians should try to get society to live by. If anything, both Paul and Jesus command us to obey the laws of the land and "render unto Caesar".. but then, we're in a democratic republic now, and the doctrine may differ from that under a monarchy.
If you accept the standards of the OT, then you'd be against religious freedom, among other things. There was very little tolerance of other religions in OT Israel (well, there was supposed to be, at least). I think it's plain that most Christians reject theocratic government (in this context, meaning government by the Church).
If you haven't done so, it may be helpful to read the rest of the thread. Sometimes, we've already discussed these points, or related ones.

In any case, the Bible says little on what kinds of laws we should enact in a pluralist society.

Mike:
The thing is,legal/civil marriages really *don't* have anything to do with childbearing any more. Neither that a couple will have children, nor even that they *can*. We do not place any restrictions on marriage when one (or both) members are infertile, even into old age, when the idea of them having children is patently absurd. If you publicly said that you were both infertile and anyways, that you didn't want children, the justice of the peace would still quite happily sign your marriage license.

I completely agree that kids raised in households with multiple committed parents do better than kids in single/divorced homes. I just can't figure out what this has to do with the legal contract of marriage.
And again, if the sanctity of marriage and the raising of children is your real concern.. how do you feel about making divorce illegal? Shouldn't that be concern #1? But I see it hardly mentioned at all, which makes me wonder the sanctity of marriage is really what you guys care about.

Would it help if we called legal marriage for any couple something else, like "civil unions"?
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