Whose Job Is It?

Four People - Whose Job Is It?These days, passing the buck has become a national pastime in our country.

Somebody should do something about those homeless people.

Somebody should help the poor.

Somebody should share the gospel.

And because we keep shifting the responsibility to somebody else, nothing gets done.

Some say government should not be in the business of healthcare. Others cite the biblical admonition to assist the poor.

Some say churches need to be involved in ministering to the needy in our communities. Others expect such safety nets to come from government.

Sadly, we have entered a period in our nation in which individuals have abdicated their responsibilities to larger institutions, whether churches, denominations, or government.

Think about it. Many Christians think sharing the gospel is the job of pastors and missionaries. That caring for the poor and the sick is the job of government and corporations.

Whose Job Is It?

What about you and me? What does the Lord require of us—each one of us? Whose job is it to care for “the least of these”?

  • Did Jesus speak of governments or individuals when He said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:35 ESV)?
  • Did Jesus speak of pastors or all Christians when He said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” (Matthew 24:14 ESV)?
  • Did the apostle John speak of institutions or individuals when he wrote, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:17-18 ESV)?

What would happen if every Christian lived out the gospel message in practical ways, instead of shifting all responsibility to institutions? Of course, our society is structured in a way that requires many professional services at an institutional level. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still obey the call to live out our Christianity on an individual level.

Serve at a soup kitchen. Teach a class. Mentor children at an after-school program. Volunteer at a local hospital. Ask your restaurant server how you can pray for him/her, then do it as you say grace over your meal. Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center. Serve those who need the gospel to earn the right to share the gospel.

In short, as my pastor is fond of saying: “Don’t just go to church. Be the church!”

A Story of Four People

I’ll leave you with a story of four people. I wish I knew who originated this classic, because it’s even more relevant now than when it first appeared.

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, And Nobody

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Yes, the government has a God-given role to fulfill.

Yes, pastors and church leaders have a God-given role to fulfill.

And yes, every individual Christian has a God-given role to fulfill: every Christian somebody needs to do what anybody can do, even though nobody wants to do it, so that everybody can see the reality of Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Whose job is it? It’s ours!

 


New Lies

“It’s just fiction,” they said.

“It was never intended to be a theology textbook,” they said.

“It will show people that God is love,” they said.

New LiesIn the seven years I’ve been blogging, I’ve never written a rebuttal post. I write what I believe I’ve been called to write and then move on to another topic.

Until today.

Last week, I wrote a blog post expressing concerns about the unbiblical theology undergirding The Shack. I noted that both fiction and non-fiction can influence us toward a biblical view of God or away from it.

Of course, fiction can espouse any theology the author wants. Or no theology at all. However, fiction marketed as Christian has an obligation to uphold a biblical worldview. If not, please don’t call it Christian.

Some readers felt that I (and others who raised concerns) overreacted. And that my response demonstrated a lack of love. Surely such a story was a blessing as it addressed the pain of suffering and drew people to a loving God. A few theological discrepancies weren’t that much of a problem, were they? Besides, the movie didn’t include some of the unbiblical statements found in the book, so that makes it okay, right?

The problem is that The Shack did not draw people to a loving God. It draws people to a loving god. And no, the small letter “g” is not a typo.

New Lies

For those who believe accurate theology in fiction is not important, here’s a newsflash. This week, the author of The Shack released a non-fiction book titled Lies We Believe About God. Yes. Non-fiction. In this book, which is already a bestseller in its first days of release, William Paul Young explains his theology—the same theology that framed his novel.

What are these “lies”? He lists twenty-eight. They include:

  • God is in control.
  • Hell is separation from God.
  • Sin separates us from God.

Yes, he identifies these statements as lies. Yet here are just a few of many Bible verses that refute these supposed lies:

  • “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?” (Lamentations 3:37 ESV).
  • “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (II Thessalonians 1:9 ESV).
  • “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (Revelation 22:15 ESV).

To be fair, just as truth was mixed with error in The Shack, so is truth mixed with error in Lies We Believe About God. Some of the lies in this new book are, indeed, lies that should be exposed, such as the lie that “Death is more powerful than God.” But will readers be familiar enough with Scripture to separate fact from fiction in this non-fiction book that is supposedly Christian?

As someone once said, the easiest lie to believe is one mixed with a grain of truth.

Would you Eat This?

I’m reminded of the following story.

Two teens asked their father if they could go see a movie all their friends had seen. He read the reviews and denied their request.

“Why not?” they protested. “It’s rated PG-13—we’re both older than thirteen!”

Dad replied, “Because it portrays immorality, something God hates, as being normal and acceptable behavior.”

“But our friends told us those scenes are just a few minutes of the total film. It’s based on a true story and good triumphs over evil.”

“My answer is no, and that’s final.”

The boys sulked on the couch. But then they heard sounds of their father in the kitchen and recognized the aroma of brownies baking. Soon their father appeared with a plate of warm brownies.

“Before you eat, I want to tell you I love you very much. That’s why I made these brownies from scratch with the best ingredients, like organic flour and free-range eggs.”

The brownies looked mouth-watering.

“But I must be honest with you. I added one ingredient that’s not usually found in brownies. The ingredient came from our own back yard. But don’t worry, because it’s organic. The amount is practically insignificant. Take a bite and let me know what you think.”

“Dad, what’s the mystery ingredient?”

“The secret ingredient is organic…dog poop.”

“Dad! We can’t eat these!”

“Why not? The amount of dog poop is very small compared to the rest of the ingredients. It won’t hurt you. You won’t even taste it. Go ahead and eat!”

“Never!”

“That’s the same reason I won’t allow you to watch that movie. You won’t tolerate a little dog poop in your brownies, so why should you tolerate a little immorality in your movies? We pray God will not lead us into temptation, so how can we in good conscience entertain ourselves with something that will imprint a sinful image in our minds and will lead us into temptation long after we see it?”

The theology of supposedly Christian books such as The Shack and Lies We Believe About God may not be immoral in the sense of the above story. But these books are as bad or worse. They mix truth with error as they mishandle the very nature of God under the guise of being Christian.

In the name of tolerance, are warnings such as this unloving? Legalistic? On the contrary. The most loving thing we can do is alert people to the danger of demeaning the nature of our holy, transcendent – and yes, loving – God.


The Shack: Fiction Embraced as Fact?

The ShackAs if there isn’t enough to argue about these days, along comes a movie such as The Shack, releasing tomorrow. With Christian supporters and detractors who are equally determined and vocal, what’s the big deal? It’s just a book/movie, right?

Fans of The Shack are quick to praise its depth of emotion, communication of redemption, and willingness to tackle a subject many Christians wrestle with: why does a loving God allow suffering? Many strong Christians have joined Christian celebrities in testifying to the immensely positive impact the story has had on their walk with Christ.

Critics denounce The Shack’s theological edginess, biblical infidelity, and theme of implied universalism. Theologians such as Albert Mohler and Tim Keller do a much better job of explaining the biblical objections to The Shack than I ever could. Still, I wonder why the greater Christian community does not sound the alarm over a premise that asserts a lack of future judgment in the name of love. I’m confused by those who claim to believe the Bible, yet are eager to overlook the affirmation that there are many ways to God which don’t necessarily include belief in Christ.

Even greater than the impact of this single story is the danger it heralds. The boundaries between fact and fiction are disappearing with increasing rapidity. And the results are more significant than we might initially realize.

In recent years, our culture has magnified the power of story. Storytelling has evolved far beyond the confines of tales spun with the words, “Once upon a time….”

For much of literary history, the differences between fact and fiction were generally clear. Allegories such as Pilgrim’s Progress (John Bunyan) and fantasies such as the Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis) communicated truth without confusing fact and fiction. More importantly, the authors took great pains to ensure the biblical fidelity of what they wrote.

The author of The Shack used his novel to offer Christianity as he hopes it is, rather than what the Bible says it is. That’s his prerogative. In fact, that’s every novelist’s prerogative. The very definition of fiction is that it is not true. Novelists have the ability to create worlds as they wish them to be.

But difficulties ensue when huge numbers of Christians espouse an author’s personal preferences as inviolate truth without applying a biblical standard. Two-thousand years ago, the Bereans were held up as a role model for all Christians (Acts 17:11). Today those same Bereans would be dismissed as legalistic. We’ve come a long way…in the wrong direction.

When readers cannot or will not differentiate between fact and fiction, we have a problem.

When Christians join unbelievers in embracing a story that depicts God stripped of holiness and transcendence, we have a crisis.

And when Christians choose to elevate the foundational principles of a novel to the level of biblical authority, we have a disaster.

The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). The Shack sacrifices truth on the altar of love and compromises real love in the absence of truth. It may be a riveting work of fiction, but my heart aches at the destructive spiritual consequences that are all too real.


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