Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item is from the Raleigh, North Carolina […] News Observer, June 3, 2005, with the headline, “Churches Unite on the Left. Determined not to let conservative Christians dominate the faith, 14 area churches have banded together to convince wavering believers there is more than one way to be a Christian. Progressive Churches is the name of the new coalition, and it has taken out a catchy ad running in several area newspapers. The group also has a website: www.progressivechurches.org. ‘Almost given up on Christianity?’ it reads. ‘We understand.’ The coalition has so far identified three common issues: the inclusion of gays and lesbians, the need to protect the environment, and the desire to be more responsible global citizens. ‘We feel the primary understanding of Christianity in mainstream America is that of the evangelical Right,’ said the Reverend Doug Long, the pastor of North Raleigh United, a United Church of Christ congregation. ‘We want people to know there are Christians who think of things in a different way.’ The churches belonging to seven different Protestant denominations do not agree on all the values issues so prominent in the news. ‘But that’s the point,’ they say. ‘They don’t have to.’”
Tom: Dave, on the one hand, there are a lot of things - conservative issues and so on - promoted as Christian that are more cultural than they are biblical. So you could see that some people would be a little bit concerned, because things really don’t reflect what biblical Christianity is all about in the name of Christianity.
On the other hand, progressive Christianity? It seems to me these who are trying to separate themselves from what they perceive as the “Christian Right,” or whatever it might be, don’t they need to go by a standard? Isn’t there a standard of what Christianity is, and if we’re going to be different with regard to what the world’s doing, or what professing Christianity is all about, that we go by the Bible? Does that make sense? [Laughs]
Dave: Tom, you’re awfully radical about that - narrow-minded, dogmatic. More than one way to be a Christian… Well, first of all, to be a Christian, you have to become a Christian; and there is only one way to become a Christian, and that’s through Jesus Christ.
You remember I was having a discussion with a Muslim on the radio in Washington D.C., and he’s trying to tell me that Islam is peace. Well, too much to talk about in this brief moment, but one of the things I said to him was, “If you want to make up a religion, go ahead. But you can’t call it Islam, because Islam has a founder, it has its scriptures, it has its tradition, it has its history, and you simply can’t just make up a new religion and call it Islam.” And I said to him, “I say the same thing to people who call themselves Christians. You want to make up a religion? Go ahead. Make up any religion you want, but you cannot call it Christianity, because it has a founder, it has its Scriptures, it has its history, and so forth.” And I don’t know what these people are talking about - progressive churches, progressive Christianity… “Christianity needs to change with the times” is a popular idea with people.
Well, now, Tom, if we’re talking about social issues and so forth, even then there are moral standards that the Bible says. Jesus said I am to love my neighbor as myself. Well, it’s pretty hard to get around that by doing evil to my neighbor and claiming that I still love him. There are moral standards that the Bible sets, but first of all, we have to be sure that we know Christ, that we believe that He died for our sins; that He is God who became a Man to pay the penalty for our sins; that He suffered on the cross; that not just the nails being driven into His hands and feet and the scourging and so forth, but the Scripture clearly says that Yahweh laid on Him the iniquity, the sins of us all; that He took the penalty that we deserve, okay? And that He rose again - He is God - He rose again the third day, and He offers salvation to all those who will acknowledge their need, their guilt, their sin, and that they do need a savior. They need to be forgiven, and if they’re not forgiven, if they reject the penalty Christ paid for their sins, there is no hope: they will suffer for their sins for all eternity.
Now, [if] you believe that and you accept the payment Christ made, you are a Christian. So we have to start there.
Now, you want to get into social issues? Well, that is actually secondary. The Bible doesn’t say - Jesus didn’t say, when He gave the great commission (Matthew 28, Mark 16) - He didn’t say, “Go into all the world and work for social justice.” Now, we ought to be concerned about social justice, we ought to be concerned about the environment, but, Tom, we’re only going to have arguments. We’ll have Democrats and Republicans until Christ returns. We’ll have liberals and conservatives, we’ll have people on all sides. Until we know Christ, until we are indwelt by the Spirit of God, until we are committed to study His Word and to obey it, there isn’t going to be an agreement on any of the social issues.
But as I read this news item, Tom, it seems to me these people have thrown that out. It doesn’t really matter what the Bible says; they’re not concerned about people being saved, they are more concerned about this world. What about eternity, either in heaven or in hell? So I would say the whole thing is on a false foundation, and it’s a tragedy, because so many millions of people are following such leaders.
Tom: Mm-hmm. The inclusion of gays and lesbians. Now, when that’s identified as a lifestyle, an alternate lifestyle with regard to sex, the Bible clearly speaks against that. We’re not saying that some who are in sin can’t become believers, but they have to repent of their sins in order to come to Christ.
Dave: The Bible is very clear on that. Then it says, “…the need to protect the environment.” Well, we need to protect the environment, but there again, Tom, we have a great concern for endangered species, for example. And you know my line - I just joke about it - endangered species? I thought that’s how evolution worked. These people are evolutionists. Why are they worried about endangered species? It doesn’t make sense. So these people would go along with evolution; it’s a denial of God the Creator, it’s a denial of the Word of God.
And then global citizens? The Bible never talks about being global citizens, it talks about being citizens of heaven. The Bible, in fact, says that God divided the nations up back there, Genesis 11, at the Tower of Babel - and Paul mentions this in his dissertation on Mars Hill in Acts 17 - and He separated the nations; they fight one another when they try to get together. So they’re trying to make a new world. There will not be a new world until Jesus returns.
Tom: Dave, the point is they have no Biblical standard, no standard of what God desires.
Dave: So it’s your opinion against my opinion, and that will never work.