How to Abandon Historic Christianity in Ten Easy Lessons
- Tuesday, December 16, 2003
As is common to much of the "I left conservative Christianity behind" literature, Killinger makes statements that can hardly be taken seriously. At one point, Killinger vows: "I love the Bible so much that it drives me to insist on its true character as a compilation of exploratory words about God, not the final, irrevocable Word of God as painted by the fundamentalists. To make of it anything more is to do it an ultimate disservice." By that perverse logic, the most appropriate way to honor an important Christian doctrine is to deny it.
Along the way through his Ten Things I Learned Wrong From a Conservative Church, Killinger denies that human beings are fundamentally sinners in need of rescue from the wrath of God. Observing evangelicals, Killinger advises that "the theology of atonement appeals to people who carry around a strong sense of personal guilt." So, theology is basically reduced to psychology and atonement is now a spiritualized form of personal liberation.
Conservatives completely miss the boat by believing that the wrath of God is ultimately something we should fear. Thus, God's righteousness is reconstrued as something very different than the Holy One of Israel's hatred of sin. Likewise, Killinger reinterprets God's omnipotence in order to free the Creator from all responsibility for floods, plagues, tornados and other disasters. "The God I love is a limited God--limited as all artists are limited, as all builders are limited, as all parents are limited."
Killinger's limited God is not a moral judge we should fear, but rather "the highly Benevolent Mind and the Intelligent Heart behind every good and noble spiritual impulse we ever have." Furthermore, God is the "Parenting Force," and the "Restless Spirit," who guides and urges us "ever onward toward love and fulfillment." Just imagine a prayer addressed to "Our Parenting Force who art in Heaven."
What about Jesus Christ? Killinger identifies belief that Jesus Christ is the only Savior and thus the only way to God as one of the lessons he had to unlearn in his theological pilgrimage. Of course, specific biblical texts such as John 14:6 are likely to get in the way. This is no problem for Dr. Killinger. He describes the Gospel of John as "a completely histrionic and somewhat unreliable Gospel," that is "unreliable from a factual standpoint." Well, with the Gospel of John out of the way, and the authority of the Bible denied, anything becomes theologically possible--and probable.
The Book of Acts is dismissed as "our at-times-somewhat-dubious 'history' of the early church." Whether or not the Apostles taught the exclusivity of the gospel, it now must be abandoned in the name of Jesus Christ, "who taught universal love and acceptance."
In a fascinating narrative, Killinger laments an attempt he made as a young believer to convert his father to Christianity. Given what he described as his "indoctrination," Killinger had been convinced that his father was destined for hell because he had never confessed Christ. Concerned for his father's salvation, he enclosed some evangelistic tracts in a birthday present. Killinger looks back on this evangelistic attempt with great embarrassment. "I have always been heartily ashamed of that. How presumptuous it was, and how invasive of his privacy!" This passage ranks among the saddest personal accounts in modern literature.
As should be clear by now, Killinger rejects conversionist theology. He acknowledges that human beings need transformation, but this transformation is nothing like the salvation of a sinner by grace. Killinger now declares that "after all these years of study and scholarship," he cannot believe that "the Jesus of history or the Christ of faith would endorse a view limiting salvation to those who have publicly confessed him as their personal savior" and follow Christ in baptism. Of course, the Jesus of the Bible made precisely this claim. The only way around that is to claim some knowledge of Jesus apart from the Bible.
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