The Top Ten Mistakes by the Church: 7-5.
by Jonathan Wilson
Continuing the list of how the Church has failed to be what God intends.
7. The Ussher Chronology
In 4004 BC, at 9 AM Greenwich Mean Time, God spoke the universe into being with the words "Let there be light." One week later Eve was feeding Adam some fruit they were not supposed to be eating.
The opposite lie: There is no God, the universe came into existence on its own.
There is a God, and God created the universe. However, I am amazed that many Christians continue to cling to this laughably absurd approach to the texts in Genesis 1 and 2. Belief in Biblical literalism never required anyone before Ussher to make these claims. Even the ancient theologian named Augustine wrote of the Earth being "old," that is, beyond anyone's ability to calculate. To truly be literal in one's approach to scripture, one must also be "literate" about how that scripture functions. To read the Bible as though we are reading the newspaper or the transcript of a court deposition, is to impose on the Bible literary criteria unknown to its authors.
Those church groups that insist on Young Earth Creationism do so to the detriment of their witness. Unfortunately, though representing a minority of American Christians, they are extremely vocal. Most church denominations and Christians recognize that categories such as "literalism" and "inerrancy" mean nothing if the literary genre of the text is misinterpreted and misapplied.
Trinity University of Deerfield, Illinois has an Old Testament scholar and evangelical named Gleason Archer. He has explained how the form and function of the Genesis accounts accurately describe the discoveries made by relativity, and in no way precludes belief in a universe that scientific consensus is now estimating as being over 13 billion years old. For more information I recommend Christian cosmologist Hugh Ross and his organization "Reasons to Believe" which can be found on the web.
6. Sexual Hypocrisy
Thirty years ago the protestants and evangelicals chose to extend grace and more grace to members whose marriages were dissolving. Now we find ourselves in a cultural setting where couples are fornicating before marriage, and where divorce is viewed as an entitlement over which the church carries no discipline.
The opposite lie: Sexual standards are old fashioned and people who want to enforce them are bigots.
This is a doozy. Christian couples fornicate before marriage, and then they divorce, and then they insist that they are superior in God's eyes to people who are homosexual. I have no patience with that kind of reasoning. There is no "hierarchy" of sexual sin which makes one worse than another. To justify one's own sin on that basis is the height of bigotry and has nothing to do with the character and witness of Jesus Christ.
If the Church is to deal with the issues of homosexuality with integrity, it must first deal with the issues of heterosexuality with integrity. God's standards on sexuality, marriage, and divorce, need to be upheld in the life of the Church. Then, and only then, can there be a reasonable moral justification for addressing the issues of homosexuality.
Many Protestant groups have chosen, instead, to remove all sexual standards from the witness of Christ. That is not possible to do from a Biblical standpoint, however, many Protestant groups no longer hold a view that esteems the Bible as the Word of God.
5. The defense of Chauvinism.
In the enculturation of Christianity, the roles and treatment of women are often marginalized in the theological discourse. Within a hundred years of the apostles, women were still recognized by Roman authorities and historians as being heavily involved in the church's culture and leadership. Within another hundred years this had diminished perhaps as church leaders, sensitive to the criticisms of their chauvinistic cultures, limited the public role of women.
The opposite lie: We should pray to God our Mother.
God is revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit/Wisdom. Jesus teaches us to pray accordingly. To pray to a Mother God confuses the very real relational dynamic that is described when we call God "Father." The person of the Holy Spirit is personified as a woman in Proverbs 8. That God is "Father" is not a sexual description, it is a relational description.
Chauvinism is out of place in the church. Women are clearly gifted by the Holy Spirit to perform all the tasks of leadership, as was prophecied in Joel Chapter 2 and as was already demonstrated by the role of Deborah in Judges Chapter 4. When Paul speaks of the limits of modesty in First Corinthians, he does so in the assumption that these are women who are prophecying (preaching) in the congregation. The words from First Timothy used to beat the chauvinist drum are poorly translated.
Many church groups have realized for centuries that chauvinism is out of place in the Christian faith. For further discussion I recommend Christians for Biblical Equality, which can be located on the web.