Monday, August 21, 2006

"Red Letter" Christians and Their Dangerous Omissions

Dangerous stuff, this. Campolo can be a very effective speaker, but sometimes...


At 6:53 AM, Blogger Dave said...

And all this time I thought a "really bad idea" was deciding to support one political party because Bob Jones University (term "university" used loosely) wasn't allowed to be tax exempt due to racial discrimination. Weird.

Is it really an "omission" to be passionate about the red letters in the Bible? Read what is associated with some of those who could be considered the Evangelical Left.

"I don't want to make abortion illegal. I want to make it unthinkable." - Randall Balmer

From Greg Boyd's church website: What is the appropriate expression of human sexuality?
God designed human sexuality to be expressed only within the loving bounds of a monogamous, heterosexual marriage relationship. With regard to the issue of homosexuality: We recognize the consistent biblical teaching that homosexual relationships are not a part of God's design for humanity. As such, homosexual expression is not a viable lifestyle for believers. At the same time, we do not believe it is biblical to elevate any particular sin above the other, and we commit ourselves to providing a redemptive and healing community for those who struggle with same-sex attractions.

Selective literalism is not a game just played by the Evangelical Left. Otherwise the Religious Right would be calling for all-out Levitical law enforced on society, or at the very least outlawing divorce.

It's not so much an omission as it is an area of focus. Campolo and Wallis focus on what God-in-human-form Jesus said. Right-wing politician focus on homosexuals and abortion, not because they care about these issues, but because they know it will get the sheltered, small-minded folks out to vote.

I agree that God is not mocked. And it is an amazing testament to His grace that He allows the Religious Right to speak for Him.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...


I may well be one of those guys deemed "right-wing." But I think that when Ron Sider (read: not right-wing) makes an argument for the issues of import to the evangelical Left (poverty, war, etc.) he does it in enviable fashion with both Old and New Testaments. Which is why he can be highly regarded by all evangelicals, whereas Campolo and Wallis et. al. are marginalizing themselves into irrelevant and shrill critics.

I love the red letters. I have the Sermon on the Mount memorized. But Jesus speaks in the Old Testament just as he does in the epistles. I want to hear ALL He has to say - indeed, all the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has to teach us.

Thanks for writing!


At 9:46 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Interesting thoughts, Matt. My children and I were just talking recently about why Jesus' letters are in red when He is God and the entire Bible is God's Word. It's often helpful to see His words in red while reading the NT, but we also have to keep in mind, as you said, all that God has to say in His Word.

At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In your article RED LETTER CHRISTIANS you end with this in your last paragraph

"If you are frustrated with George W. Bush, Karl Rove and the fact that 83 percent of evangelicals voted Republican in the last election, in your irritation don't obliterate the vast majority of Scripture and the Jesus of all the canonical books of the Bible."

PLEASE! Would you have rather seen John Kerry in Office today? Are you out of your mind? Wishing that you and your family would get beheaded by Islamic fascists?? ARE YOU A TERRORIST LOVER?? Typical DemonRAT.

Shirley Jewett

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...

Shirley, dear:

Re-read the article.



At 5:45 PM, Anonymous Bob Kincaid said...

So you're at the name-calling stage, are you?

"Lefties," is it? Not "Christians?" Disagreeing with your twisted interpretations of the Bible proves to you that they're not fellow Christians, right, Matt? Why not call the followers of Yeshua the Palestinian Carpenter who disagree with you "heathens." "Heretics" has a nice ring to it. It worked really well for Torquemada, one of your historical predecessors.

You remind me of that quote ascribed to Gandhi: "I like your Christ. I do not like your 'Christians.' They are so unlike your Christ."

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...


No, they are "Evangelical Left." I don't think they have a problem with that. They certainly don't have a problem calling some of us "religious right" and Republicans. Campolo, for instance, has run for Congress as a
Democrat taking the "left" side of the positions on a vast number of issues.

And, for the record, I call no one a "heretic." But heresy, as Tozer says, almost always gets its start by an unhealthy emphasis on one part of Scripture ignoring the other parts.

Thanks for your high-mindedness!


At 11:45 PM, Blogger Texas Cynic said...

In college, I took part in the church careers program at a small United Methodist college in East Texas. The college chaplin served as the "professor" for the class and he tried to expose us to the entire range of the theology spectrum.

I remember, vividly, attending an event at Texas A&M University at which Tony Campolo spoke (@1999). Looking back, I can't shake the awkardness I felt hearing him speak. I think by definition, Christians as a whole seek social justice and equality, but at what cost? Must we sacrifice the sacred parameters created by the inspired word of God and the direct guidance of God's Holy Spirit?

One response to this thread brought up the ever popular argument that "no sin is greater than any other sin." I agree. Likewise, no word in the Bible is greater, or more important, than any other word. The "black letter" words carry as much weight as the "red letter words". Indeed, just as poltics have divded our great nation into a series of "red" and "blue" states, "social justice and eruality" have created great schism in the Christian church between "red letter" Christians and "black letter" Christians.

Think of all the labels we apply to our faith. It used to be we were Methodists, Baptists, Luthereans, Pentecostals, etc. Now the division runs much deeper. We have evangelicals, charismatics, conservatives, liberals, fundamentalists, born again Christians, etc.

I'm as guilty as anyone. During my life, I've associated with the extremes on both ends, from a spirit filled evangelical to a skeptical, all too cynical, member of libreal humanist branch of the Christian church. As I've grown older (almost 28)and seek to complete my ordination process I've come to the conclusion that as ministers and Christians we are not in the business of condemning or condoning, we simply present God.

Check out what Paul writes in his letter to the Romans. I share with you the verse and what I had to say about in a previous post on my blog:

Romans 14:13-23

“Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If you brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by me.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he east, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

I share this passage not to illustrate a strict Christian diet, but to expose a sense of moral relativism in Paul’s writing. Paul urges the Romans to not focus on establishing a Christian community based on legalism (whether or not someone was sinning was between that person and God and not to be defined by neither man nor book), but encourages them to instead focus on their own personal relationships with Christ and to build a Christian community that would support one another in their faith walk. I think verse 19 sums it up perfectly, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

At 12:46 AM, Anonymous dave said...

I think that Shirley Jewett is doing a wonderful parody of your typical fundamentalist republican "Christian." Or she is being serious, which is even more funny.

At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deceived By A False Prophecy
Dan Corner
Permission is granted to reproduce this in its entirety only.

The child of God must constantly be both self-controlled and alert because of the devil's schemes (1 Pet. 5:8). This is especially true in our day. I say this with 2 Tim. 3:13 in mind. This verse reads: "... evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived." Great deception is characteristic of our day! Therefore, being alert is a must for the child of God.

To better understand the importance of not being deceived, I would like to draw your attention to 1 Ki. 13:1-32. Remember, what happened in Old Testament times was written down to teach us in New Testament times (Rom. 15:4). In this Old Testament chapter, we learn of a man of God that had some exceptional traits, yet he got deceived and, though sincere, suffered greatly as a consequence! We can learn much from his downfall.

First, let's look at the kind of committed servant he was. Verse 1 reveals that he was obedient. (He willingly traveled from Judah to Bethel on the Lord's mission. How different from Jonah!) Verse 2 shows his boldness and fearlessness to speak forth God's word, though he was alone and without anyone to back him up in the presence of gross sin and potential harm. He was also quick to forgive, as shown by his desire to see the king's hand restored. Furthermore, he had faith and knew how to pray and get answers, for God healed the wicked king's hand because of his prayer. Verses 8 through 10 show that he was sincere, fully committed and not a lover of money. In spite of this impressive description, he was not fully alert, though sincere, and it cost him his life! He did spot the potential danger of disobedience through following the advice of the king and he quickly refused. However, a more subtle and dangerous form of this same kind of temptation to disobey came through one who professed to be a messenger of God Almighty and was lying. It was because of him that the man of God unwittingly lowered his guard and died because he was deceived. Jesus said that false prophets are ferocious wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15). Remember, the Lord likened His servants to sheep. The natural enemy of a sheep is a wolf. But Jesus didn't just say a false prophet was a wolf, He said a ferocious wolf. On top of all this, this deadly enemy of sheep won't appear dangerous because they will look innocent and harmless like Christians, for they are dressed in sheep's clothing! Things are not always as they first appear. We must be careful. It's part of our battle.

Where did the unnamed prophet from Judah go wrong, and how can we benefit from his mistake? These are two questions we should ask ourselves. It seems that he was deceived because he was too ready to believe a report that was allegedly from God. He especially should have been suspicious when that report conflicted with God's will for him. (God would never contradict Himself.) God's Word warns, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world," 1 Jn. 4:1. This is what he should have done. (This is what we better do!) But how do we "test the spirits to see whether they are from God"? This is where 2 Tim. 3:16 comes in. (That verse is so important!) There we see that God's Word is final authority for knowing God's will. If a message does come through an angel, which was the alleged case in 1 Kings 13, that message would have to agree with God's Word. We have a New Testament example of this with the Apostle Paul. In Acts 23:11, we see first that Jesus Himself told Paul that he must testify in Rome. In Acts 27:24, in the midst of a terrible storm that seemed like it would claim the lives of all on the ship, an angel from God assured Paul that he must stand trial before Caesar. I believe that Paul knew this angel was bringing God's message because it agreed with Jesus' earlier message. God knew there would be a tremendous storm at sea in Paul's future when He gave the message that is recorded in Acts 23:11! God also knew when He gave the unnamed prophet his orders, as recorded in 1 Ki. 13:9, if He would or would not send an angel afterwards, as the lying prophet declared. Unfortunately, the true prophet from Judah believed when he should have tested! The danger of believing falsehood is clearly shown in this passage.

I wondered for a long time why the old prophet from Bethel deliberately lied to the true prophet regarding the angel's message. The answer, I feel, is found in Matt. 27:18 cf. 27:1. There we see that envy is capable of murder. Since the old prophet lied, he must have been backslidden and therefore probably envious of what God did through the prophet from Judah in his own hometown. Could the old, lying prophet have sought to deliberately do harm to the committed prophet by lying to him, knowing that God would judge him if he disobeyed his orders as stated in 1 Ki. 13:9? We can only speculate this as being a definite possibility.

To conclude, let me tie up a few loose ends and emphasize a few points:

God does heal the unsaved. Jeroboam was certainly in this category as was Malchus, who also got healed (Lk. 22:50,51 cf. Jn. 18:10).

In spite of the fact that Jeroboam was miraculously healed, he still didn't repent! In fact, neither threats, signs, judgment nor mercy moved Jeroboam's heart to repentance! Amazing!

God revealed His beautiful future plans for Jeroboam through prophecy, which were negated because of his sin. See 1 Ki. 11:37,38. Oh, how sin robs us of the best that God has for us!

Jeroboam never relied on the golden calves he sacrificed to (1 Ki. 12:32) when he needed a miracle in the form of a healing. Furthermore, this apostate identified the LORD as the God of the true prophet from Judah, but not his own God. See verse 6.

God used an unrepentant liar to speak forth a true prophecy (1 Ki. 13:20-22)! In Jn. 11:49-52, God used an unsaved man to do this! This is certainly conclusive proof that we must never evaluate a person's spiritual condition by his gift or message alone! Furthermore, a young, immature babe in Christ can have spiritual gifts! See 1 Cor. 1:7 cf. 3:1-4. God won't take back these gifts, Rom. 11:29. That's why we must not test on this basis. Jesus said that fruit was the criterion by which we must evaluate an individual. By fruit the Scriptures mean his behavior and doctrine. See 1 Jn. 2:3,4 and Eph. 5:9. (This truth is very important in our day!)

A true prophet knows only what God will reveal to him. If this wasn't so, the prophet from Judah would never have been deceived!

No servant of God is protected from the consequences of his disobedience by (a) the sanctity of his profession, (b) the dignity of his office, (c) his former nearness to God or any good service he has done in the past!

There was a point in time after the act of disobedience and before the prophecy, when the prophet from Judah was deceived, yet unjudged. He was unaware of his dangerous condition for he was resting in a false security because he was deceived. Many people are like him at this point, resting in a false security thinking all is well when God's judgment is so close. However, unlike the unnamed prophet these same people can repent before it's too late, if their deception is revealed. This is one of the reasons why we must continue to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

The unnamed prophet's only apparent flaw was that he believed a lying report. In other words, he was too quick to believe, without first testing. This single flaw was serious enough to cost him his physical life.

The lying prophet and wicked Jeroboam lived on, while the sincerely deceived man of God died!

The source of ruin for the unnamed prophet wasn't a wolf (Jeroboam), but instead a wolf in sheep's clothing (the religious, old, lying prophet)! A religious person, appearing as our friend and citing a false prophecy, can be our most dangerous enemy.

God used a wild lion to execute His judgment. (In the Book of Jonah, God used the great fish, a small cutworm and even the wind.)

With alleged angelic reports being somewhat common in this age of deception, we better carefully test from the Bible before we act on any kind of message. To have a firm handle on the truth is something we must have, regardless how sincere we may be. Our potential safety increases proportionately with the amount of Scriptural truth that we possess.

[A final comment: A pastor once confessed to me that in his past, he would make up prophecies in the presence of others. He told me he repented of that, and that it would have sent him to Hell if he hadn't. According to Rev. 22:15, he was right. His desire to change took courage and is refreshing. There might be millions of others like him in our day who need to repent and stop pretending to have a gift that they really don't! Be sure to read Jer. 23:30-40.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Robert said...

Blessed are the peacemakers? America is the peacemaker. War is necessary, quite often, to make peace. Can you imagine the world now if we had not made peace in WW2? That's what we are doing now, albeit Bush should be much more strong.

Heresy? Not all Christians are Christians. There are many interpretations of Scripture. There is only one correct interpretation. God's. Scripture must interpret Scripture. Many will stand before Christ that day and be told to depart. These will be people who thought they were Christians. These are the people who had there own interpretation of Scripture. These are the people who created a God of their own imagination, in other words an idol. Not the true God. Think on this. All must have God's interpretation or their will be trouble. Learn proper hermeneutics and understand systematic theology. This will keep you from having a wrong interpretation, as you will know how to rightly divide the Word Of God. You have to look at the whole Word and not pick and choose what you think is right. Otherwise you don’t know the God of the Bible.

At 11:39 PM, Blogger Prolific said...

What's a wavering raised-Christian to do with this? If Jesus, as part of the OT trinity, professed conquering all enemies, punishing disobedience (to God, to husband, to father) with death; then Jesus of Nazareth of the NT professed serving others, loving all enemies, and being peacemakers... well??

I thought I could join in with the red-letter group because Jesus of the NT's messages sound like a prescription for right living. However, if believing this way makes me unacceptable as a Christian, then ??? I'm just saddened by this article.



Post a Comment

<< Home