Previous posts in this brief series have mentioned six of the top ten stories of 2010 as identified by the editors of Christianity Today. In each of the six there was a direct link between Christian beliefs and legal statute. Today I will look at two more of the top ten, specifically #8 and #9, which have to do with Christian or, at least, evangelical Christian identity. They come from different quarters of the evangelical landscape, one academic and one popular; but each has implications for all Christians.
In story #8, CT calls attention to the pressured resignation of Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke from his position at Reformed Theological Seminary. His transgression was to question the historicity of the creation of Adam as the first human being, an actual person, first of his (and our) kind, directly created by God. Waltke concluded that the scientific evidence for human evolution from earlier life forms is so overwhelming that to believe otherwise is tantamount to making Christian faith a cult. Cult status is accorded due to an unwillingness to consider any evidence which would call the prevailing beliefs into question. For members of any cult, no amount of evidence or reasoning therefrom counts against what one has decided purely by one’s will to believe as true. That will may or may not be under the influence of another, depending on the nature of a given cult. (I should note that these are my descriptors of a cult, not Waltke’s; I suspect they are similar, but I have not yet read his thoughts directly.)
Christians have long debated the old earth versus young earth question. But even most old earth advocates have held in some way to the historicity of the man Adam described in the second and third chapters of Genesis. One of the reasons this has been considered non-negotiable is that it provides a link to the doctrine of universal human depravity, without which the evangelical interpretation of God’s provision in Christ arguably loses its coherence. Some have resolved this by positing a point in the evolutionary chain at which Adam as described appears, thus beginning the biblical record of truly human descent.
The other story, #9 on the list, is the announcement by Christian singer Jennifer Knapp that she has been involved in a same-sex relationship. The question here, of course, is what one does with claims of such persons to have a relationship with Christ while conducting life in a style which is directly condemned by the Scripture. I am quite aware of the hermeneutical gymnastics which have been employed to avoid this conclusion; simply stated, they do not work. But what Christian leaders and Christian communities do in response to open and willful violations of God’s design is not as easy a matter to settle as we might like to think. Perhaps an open discussion would be in order, one which addresses the near certainty that such persons have always been in most congregations, but have not been open about their relationships.
What we conclude intellectually and how we handle what are very strong physical and psychological urges. Two matters which I expect we shall continue to deal with. I am concerned as much, personally, with the manner in which we do the discussing as I am in the conclusions resulting therefrom. We don’t have a really good track record on such things, often displaying anything but love for those we deem to be offenders. Even if our conclusion is that certain positions lie outside of our limits of tolerance and need to result in separation for the good of the body, it should be done with tears, fears, and trembling. And we can count on occasions to test ourselves.