Sunday, 10 August 2014

Michael Gungor and what Christians believe

I have seen a couple of comments about Michael Gungor recently. I have never heard of the guy or his music. He made a comment in his blog earlier this year that is apparently controversial,
I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories.
Now the context is that he doesn't think he can choose his beliefs, which I disagree with, but is important to understand this paragraph.

In places he sounds like someone leaving a hyper-literalist background,
So if up and down aren’t real, then what do we mean by God being “up” in Heaven? And why do so many worship leaders stare at the lights of the sanctuary and reach their hands into the sky as though trying to reach somebody “up” there? Up where? Towards which planet? Which galaxy? Because if it’s in some direction that we are supposed to think about God, that direction would be constantly changing. Sometimes the congregation should be gazing down and to the right or reaching their hands straight out behind them.
Though elsewhere he makes some reasonable comments,
Give me the samaritan. The heretic. The outsider who may have the ‘wrong’ ‘beliefs’ in words and concepts but actually lives out the right beliefs by stopping and helping me. That’s the kind of belief I’m interested in at this point.

There is much that one could comment on in this post, I'll address one: moving away from orthodox belief is often a dangerous sign.

In the orthodoxy-orthopraxy debate the upper-hand probably goes to orthopraxy. God calls us to obedience. As much as I desire and enjoy defending the truth, our faith needs boots. We need to do the things Jesus did and love like he did which means love in action.

And even though his comments are being labelled controversial, many Christians think the world is billions of years older than 6000 years, some of these people even subscribe to the general theory of evolution. Such beliefs (while incorrect) do not keep them outside the kingdom. I know many Christians that hold to one or both of those beliefs and who are more godly than me.

Now that I have defended orthopraxy and acknowledged godly Christians with heterodox beliefs, let me say that any move away from orthodoxy needs to be watched closely. This is partly because Christianity is a centred set: over time we should become more like Christ in our beliefs and behaviour.

It is the case that some abandon true beliefs without abandoning Christianity: some Christian evolutionists become creationists and some creationists become evolutionists yet only one of those positions is correct. Similar could be said about other doctrines such as paedobaptism and credobaptism. But in general, if we are truly following Jesus we should become more and more like him. Thus abandonment of true beliefs may be the beginning of one leaving the kingdom.

Right beliefs over time often lead to right actions. We may not desire such actions, we may do them out of duty and only come to love them with the practice of obedience; nevertheless, believing the truth is more likely to lead to right behaviour than believing falsehood. If we want to do what is right then we tend to do what we think is right. On balance, heterodox belief is more likely to lead to heteropraxy than orthopraxy. So while orthopraxy may be preferable to orthodoxy if one is to choose, when one abandons orthodoxy how long is it before one's behaviour is no longer the orthopraxy that is being lauded? And how long before one is justifying heterodoxy?

Progressive Christians are fond of reminding conservatives to love sinners outside the church. This is indeed true and they are right to do so—though they often are slow to offer such love to those that they disagree with within the church. Note also that addressing heathen sin is not intrinsically hateful. But I often observe that such a pathway that starts with denying orthodoxy and approving heterodoxy—because what matters is right behaviour—ends up approving wrong behaviour.

Gungor finishes with an appeal to James 2,
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
What we are seeing here is not the man with works addressing the man with faith—orthopraxy versus orthodoxy—rather the man with faith and works addressing the man claiming to have faith. Jesus, after all, did show the Samaritans the living water and Rahab abandoned idolatry to worship the Lord.

But what actually piqued my interest; the statement that I wished to address, was a comment Gungor made in response to all this controversy,
But now that I am a songwriter, I see this whole thing as absolutely absurd. Genesis is a poem if I’ve ever seen one.
Which I will write about anon.

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