Bible-Based Bullshite!

In the wake of the 218th General Assembly I have one question, “WTF is a Bible-Based church?” I am not sure what is meant by this phrase. I do know that it is being used to segregate and drawn lines as to who exactly is “us” and who is “them.”

I googled the phrase “bible based church” and got 730,000 results. I then googled the phrase “Presbyterian bible based church” and got 139,000 results. Most of these bible based Presbyterian churches lie in the southern United States and California [mass concentration in the southern areas of the state]. I offer this to say that I grew up in Southern California and attended many churches. I am not sure that I ever attended a church that was not bible based.

What then does the tagline “bible based church” insinuate? I believe it is a way to indicate ones absolute and utter righteousness over the apparent sinfulness of another. The phrase calls out the interpretation of another and sets it is comparison to another’s more astute or orthodox approach.

Bible based church can read Orthodox Church can read the “right and only way” church. All of this stinks of self-centered materialism. The need to be the only and right way to understand God. This is American xenophobia at its best.

When God does what we believe, I say there is a problem. Why would God be able to be fully revealed and comprehended to absolute certainty by a depraved and finite being? I have no delusion that humanity, even in the grace of Jesus, can fully understand the significance of God and the absolute “ness” of God in any way, shape, or form.

I do hold the God is revealed to us in many ways. These many ways speak to the diversity of Gods beautiful creatures. There is no one way better than the other.

Those that proof text to support their claims of one way that is the right way, an orthodoxy, a bible based church…I say OK! I will go with it.

In that I want you to preach along with your abomination rhetoric the utter same it is to kill, murder, or exploit human life. If you are going to exclude due to someone’s sexuality I want to see you out there in the mission field. I do not want to see your comfortable self taking jabs at others if you are not part of the loving Kingdom building proclamation of the gospel.

I will take your inerrant, divinely inspired word of God if you take it all as such. When your children shame your family I want you to lead the charge to stone them. I want you to put down your cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizzas. I want you to stop picking and choosing the texts that support your vision of God.

Can we stop putting God into a box with our label on it. God is much bigger than this. God resides in and out of our mind. If God could be contained in our simple solution or understanding, would God still be worthy of praise? Would this boxed God be majestic and mysterious? Would God in a box cause alarm, so that angels proclaim, “Fear not!”

I am certain that there is no Presbyterian church out there that is based on a recipe for blunt cake or a worshiping community that is gathered around the crazy arse exploits of those lovable cats from JACKASS. I will contend there is a diversity of people that seek to love God with all there hearts, all their minds, and all their souls in various contexts. I will also claim that the one inerrancy is that God is God and we are not.

I for one am tired of the claims of one being bible based at the expense of another’s faith. Where is the grace, the love in this? When will we learn that beautiful parable of the log and speck? I ask WTFWJD? Jesus would not segregate, divide, or define you and I into better, bigger, or badder…let alone any other camp. We all are goats in sheep clothing.

11 thoughts on “Bible-Based Bullshite!

  1. I think that’s shorthand for “fundamentalist.” Not rooted in the teachings of Holy Scripture, in Christ’s Kingdom proclamation, or in the Fire of the Holy Spirit Body o’ Jesus thang.

    But “Bible-based,” where you monomanaically go to scripture for answers to every last picayune question in your life. I want my church to be about the power of the Living God, not about noodling endlessly through prooftexts that lay out the foundation for an optimal low-carb fat-burning Christian diet.

    These are churches where they teach as the scribes, and not as ones with authority.

    You may as well slap up a sign outside: “Here There Be Pharisees.”

  2. Tim says:

    I do not think that this issue is as black and white as you make it sound and not quite as nefarious. “Bible based churches” would obviously cover a wide variety of churches and apply to them in a variety of ways. It does make an important critique about what are normative sources of faith and knowledge. I think it would be unnuanced to suggested that all these “bible based churches” are fundamentalists or literalists, nor that they should be to fit that definition. Many if not most of these churches simply want to hold up the bible as normative for our faith rather than the alternatives. And the alternatives are various and many dangerous. I doubt that anybody is actually a literalist, but I suspect that these “bible based churches” would rather side on the revealed word of God than some lesser source, which is exactly what it is.

    I think most important for me is the self-centeredness of folk who think they can understand, know, and have faith in God apart from scripture. I am not a strict literalist, but what I believe begins and ends with the bible. I think it is far more likely that God will end up looking like us and liking the things we like when the bible is neatly tucked away than when it is the forefront. I think too often we throw the baby out with the bath water on these deals.

    One of the things that caused much stress for me about GA was the mantra of “Jesus is love”. I DO BELIEVE JESUS IS LOVE, but to only say that is truly dishonest and I would say hurtful. Jesus is love, but he and his ministry are also about redemption, transformation, sacrifice and a whole host of other things. And Ryan, Jesus did call people out and divide both on the basis of their sin and on the basis of their call to serve. He did it in love, yes, but he addressed sin and called it sin. And Paul had even more to say about that, but I know people do not like Paul either. And we do not care about sin and by extension transformation. As humans, we want to wallow in it. That should be our first clue to look to the bible instead of ourselves.

  3. @Tim- to me redemption, sacrifice, transformation, and the like are part of the love that Jesus is.

    I do not go to a proclaimed “Bible- based” church, but I have read and studied the bible, all of it, Old and New Testament, through Disciple classes. Which were provided at my church. I think Ryan was talking about that. The assumption that if you believe something different than they do you don’t believe in the bible. Or you are using something else.

    And I do think we care about sin. I base my knowledge of sin on the bible. I care a lot about it, but I’m not here to place judgement on others. I’m also not able to fully define what is and isn’t a sin. There is no set list of sins. A sin is not a specific act either. Even in the bible. A sin is something that keeps you apart from God. Example, one person can celebrate God with wine while the next cannot because he is alcoholic, and the wine will pull him away from God.

    Jesus did speak against sin, but it was never a specific action. And it was never easy and clear cut. He also never congratulated anyone for being free of sin.

  4. Tim says:

    @Dannah I agree the redemption, sacrifice, and transformation are apart of the act of love, but a) not every Christian and especially non “bible based” folk do not and b) that kind of love is supposed to illicit a response then and now from believers to turn towards Christ and “sin no more”.

    I also agree Christianity and faith should not be us versus them or we believe in the bible and they do not. I am all for a big tent orthodox center of belief which historically has been how the church handled this problem of interpretation. That being said there should be limits on either side. The right should probably not believe that heaven is literally in the clouds or not eating shellfish. And the left should probably not depart from scripture so much as to only pay it lip service by saying, “Jesus loves us” and only leaving it at that. I recognize that to varying degrees differing people will have differing canons of scripture which are more or less authoritative for their lives, but “Jesus loves me” is a few chapters and books short.

    As far as sin goes, last time I checked there were several lists of sin and there was also a lot in there about forgiveness. Those two things have to be held in tension with one another or the full scope of the biblical witness is lost. We are justified by Christ, but that is not the end of Christ’s will for us, if it was we would all be up in heaven with Christ now. We have to live Christian lives of love and care and transformation. And for my mind, it seems pretty difficult to do that if we do not believe we are in need of transformation because not only do we not believe what the bible says about sin, we do not believe we sin in the first place.

    That kind of brought me back around to my original point. It is a matter of prioritization of normative sources. Do I look at my experiences first to tell me who God is and what God is doing? Or, do I look to other religions and other gods? Do I look tradition? Do I look to philosophy and psychology? Or, do I look at scripture?

  5. @Tim: Every once in a while, it’s more fun to dispense with nuance, though it invariably gets us into trouble.

    It is a matter of “normative sources,” I suppose. It would seem reasonable to ask…from the witness of scripture…what normative sources had primacy in the early church. Clearly, the witness of Torah and Prophets were used to bolster the argument in favor of Christ…but they were subordinate to the Spirit and ecstatic experience. Holy Scripture itself, if we’re to follow John Calvin’s approach, derives it’s authority from the presence of the Spirit. This is a very, very different thing than saying it derives it’s authority from it’s own literal truth.

    Christian faith is informed and by scripture, sure. It’s the rule of life and faith and whatnot. But that faith is based on the reality of God, the life and blood of Christ, and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The bible attests to these things, but it is not itself these things.

    I’m not sure that most “bible-based” churches grasp that rather important nuance.

  6. Tim says:

    @David I concur that many “bible-based” churches do not grasp that nuance. I think they have a problem with that nuance when the perception of the reality of God, Christ, Holy Spirit, etc. look nothing like the bible or are simply in opposition to the bible. I think historically what you describe is where the church and Christian faith have found there home. I do not believe personally that is where we are today. I wonder where the outer limit on either side is?

    A good book about the Reformation came out earlier this year called Christianity’s Dangerous Idea. The “dangerous idea” was the democratization of biblical interpretation. Luther and Calvin were both in favor getting the bible into the hands of laypeople. They were astounded (negatively) about the interpretations of scriptures people were getting within the first generation. The value of seminary, I believe, was instilled very soon after that. Almost 500 years later how much further and more radical have we taken scripture for the better and worse? Is there an outer edge?

  7. True there are lots of lists of sin, just not one that everyone can agree on. A “set” list of sins. Even the 10 commandments are not always black and white.. There is always a context. i.e, kill vs. murder. I agree we are all in need of transformation, and that sin and forgiveness are a big part of it, but only God truly knows each individual’s sins. And only God can absolve them. I just don’t think we can label any single act as 100% sin.

    I’m a layperson, so I may not be qualified to interpret the bible, but that doesn’t mean a preacher can spoon-feed me his interpretation of scripture and I’ll just accept it and not think about it afterwards. It’s a life long journey. And as far as I know, most of the Presbyterian pastors aren’t lay people. But I do agree both sides of the coin should always be visible, as long as the intention is honest and not used to discriminate against entire factions of society.

  8. We’ll be fighting this one forever.

    I want to hear about Church Unbound. How’s it going? Who’s there (besides the leadership)?

  9. I’d like to see a community call itself a “gospel-based church.” Maybe that would pave the way for conversations about not confusing the medium with the message, the book with the ideas communicated by the book. Perhaps… I wonder what kind of difference it would make for a community to say, “We are founded upon a message, a message of love and grace,” versus, “We are founded upon a book.”

  10. Pingback: A Church Un-Bound:Proximity in the Right & Wrong Game. «

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