How to Abandon Historic Christianity in Ten Easy Lessons
- Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Conservative Christians, we are now told, are also hung up on sex. This leads to our repressive understanding of human sexuality and explains, of course, why we believe homosexuality to be sinful. Jesus, Killinger claims, "almost never said anything condemning sexuality." Freed from a commitment to the comprehensive truthfulness of the biblical text, he can just ignore whatever passages declare all sexual expression outside of marriage to be sin.
In the confrontation between the Bible and science, science wins. We should not be concerned about this, Killinger assures, because, "God doesn't need an inerrant Bible to be God. True believers shouldn't need it either." At this point, Killinger commends the example of Benjamin Franklin, who said that he read the Bible as he ate fish, throwing aside the parts that would stick in his throat. Accordingly, Killinger relates that "I learned to live by the deep wisdom of the Scriptures without worrying about their literal facticity. If I preached on the creation story in Genesis, it was only to speak of the creativity of God or the beauty of the created order, not to apply a calculator and modern timetable to the schedule by which creation occurred."
If the Bible is taken too seriously, Killinger warns, we limit our ability to grow beyond its ancient worldview. Killinger points us to "the loftier passages" of the Bible and insists that "God never intended it to become the restrictive document it has become in the hands of the fundamentalists."
In the end, the Bible is to be acknowledged as containing many wonderful passages, "but it is only a passing record of humanity's experience of the Holy over a period of a few thousand years, and a somewhat limited record at that, considering the vast literatures of ancient Egypt, Greece, India, and China." In the end: "Any God whose parameters are defined by the Bible alone is too small for the yearnings and understandings of the twenty-first century heart."
In his first chapter, Killinger recounts a lunch conversation with Jerry Falwell, Pastor of Lynchburg's Thomas Road Baptist Church. One can only imagine the fireworks which must have resulted from the encounter between Falwell and Killinger during the years they served prominent pulpits in the same city. During their lunch conversation, Falwell warned of the slippery slope toward doctrinal compromise that follows the denial of biblical authority. At the end of Ten Things I Learned Wrong From a Conservative Church, Killinger acknowledges that Jerry Falwell was right. "Once we were able to say out loud that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God--that its inspiration is not really different from that of the Bhagavad-Gita or Thoreau's Walden or Maya Angelou's poems--then a great number of conservative and fundamentalist idols begin to topple." Furthermore, Killinger recounts that without an affirmation of the inerrancy of Scripture, it is "a simple step to denying that Jesus is the only way to God, or that he really had to die for our sins."
Conservative evangelicals will learn any number of important lessons by reading Ten Things I Learned Wrong From a Conservative Church. The ruptured relationship between John Killinger and orthodox Christianity is not a matter of misunderstanding. To the contrary, Killinger knows what he is denying and believes that conservative evangelicals are trapped in an unchanging system of doctrine based in the authority of an ancient book, and thus are completely out of step with the modern world.
As evangelical Christians, we must admit that Killinger is right in at least this one important respect. We are fundamentally out of step with the worldview of modernity and its rebellion against God. The only way to get in step with the spirit of this age is to abandon the truth claims of Christianity.
In this book, Killinger offers evangelicals an invaluable opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror. Theologically speaking, John Killinger has traveled light years from the theological lessons he now so proudly leaves behind. The urgent danger is that evangelicals will eventually follow the same course. The lessons Killinger unlearned are--placed in their proper biblical frame--the very lessons the church must relearn in this generation.
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