August 29, 2017 Aaron Ross

Controversy and the Christian Response

University campuses are buzzing, students have been moving in and getting settled, parents are either celebrating sending out their child into the wide world of academia or uncontrollably sobbing the inevitable empty nest and how “they grow up so fast”. For us here at ECCLĒSIAM, however, it means that summer break is over, professors are getting back into the swing of their teaching schedules, and quite a lot has happened over the summer that needs to be discussed, dissected, and parsed.

At the beginning of the summer, Rob Bell published another book that some found quite controversial, What is the Bible? With statements in the introduction of his book like, “The Bible isn’t a Christian book […] the Bible is a book about what it means to be human.”, Bell again challenges mainstream Christianity in how it has understood the biblical text. Many were yet again calling Bell a heretic. It is not the first time, nor will it probably be the last.

In an interview with Jonathan Merritt from the Religion News Service, it appeared as if Eugene Peterson made a claim that homosexual marriage was not a sin, against the thoughts of many within mainstream Christianity. Within days of the original interview running, Peterson clarified his position in upholding his belief that homosexual marriage was a sin. Many feel the whiplash of Peterson’s “flip-flopping,” especially as it relates to how the church should navigate homosexual marriage.

Perry Noble, the founder of Newspring Church, is launching a new church called “Second Chance Church”. As some may know, Noble was fired just last year from Newspring, a church at the time that claimed roughly 30,000 congregants, for alcoholism and other issues. It was even reported that Noble was having marital problems. All of this led to Noble going into rehab for a short time for “healing”. However, given that Noble’s fall from celebrity pastoral status into one of the continuously growing list of pastor’s who have “fallen” but are now trying to start fresh that includes others like Mark Driscoll and Pete Wilson, many are left wondering how to feel about Pastor’s who fall and quickly get back into ministry and the limelight.

Perhaps the most devastating event was something truly evil that happened this summer in Charlottesville. While it was not an isolated incident, it is events like this one that are showing America yet again a deeply rooted racism that desperately needs not just eradication, but urgent cultural redemption and reconciliation. The issue is made arduously more complicated over the removal of Confederate statues that are more common than one might imagine. There are groups of people decrying the removal of such monuments as it means “America is losing its history”. It is incredibly sad to see a church divided on these issues. It is even more more frustrating to see the lack of real dialogue and communication on these issues that is pushed forward by good theological thinking and biblical understanding.

It seems to be quite easy for those within the popular church world to simply look at all of these situations and either condemn or agree with one side or the other. The amount of voices that simply proclaimed “Rob Bell was right!” or “Eugene Peterson is wrong, we should pull his books from our bookstore or library shelves,” or even “It is too soon for Perry to start another church,” has been astounding. Too simply and far too often the church, Christian writers and thinkers, or even non-Christian respondents have been “quick to speak” and “slow to listen.” Far too often complex discussion have been reduced to the binary responses of “right or wrong.” However, the call of the Christian is a call to be in community that prophetically and actively builds the Kingdom of Heaven with the Spirit. The church must be resistant to quickly judging and making decisions especially without understanding, thinking, and prayer.

The church has to be a place of deep discussion and prayerful understanding and thinking.

These are some of the issues that ECCLĒSIAM will be discussing throughout the year. How should we first think about these issues before speaking? What is the call for the church to be prophetic and how do we practice this call? How do we best be informed about issues surrounding the church and culture? How do we put these thoughts into practice and help change the church community to look more like Christ and help bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth as Jesus teaches us in “The Lord’s Prayer”?

It is our hope, prayer, and desire that throughout this next ECCLĒSIAM season, these issues can be discussed well and help shape the way our church thinks, acts, and moves throughout the world with the Spirit in line with who Jesus was and is.

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About the Author

Aaron Ross Aaron Ross is Assistant Professor of Theology at Southeastern University and a PhD student at the University of Birmingham (UK). He is also the senior editor of ECCLESIAM. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys running and being an avid movie watcher.