In the  article below, John Stackhouse Jr. laments the demise of solid, Biblical Christianity (at least I think that is what he laments). But Stackhouse ignores the damage that he and like-minded theologians have contributed to the erosion of faith in God.

He and his friends have sneered at the Biblical accounts of creation and the global flood, both accounts ultimately given by the Creator himself. Most people have far more intelligence than liberal theologians seem capable of, and so they rightly conclude that if Genesis is not a true, historical, sound account of what God did “in the beginning”, then why on earth would they base their lives on anything written in Revelation, or in Luke, or in Isaiah? If the beginning of a book is fiction, at what point does it become fact? And who among frail, fallen humanity will sit in judgment over what is, and what is not, the word of the living God?

Back in 2010 Stackhouse  sneered at the Genesis account, and I’ll include Richard’s response to him. Stackhouse’s own more recent article follows that.

— Gerda

ON BEING LABELLED “EXTREME”

by Richard Peachey

http://www.creationbc.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=140&Itemid=54

Regent College theologian John Stackhouse certainly caught my attention with his recent statement in the BC Christian News (June 2010, page 14): “No one needs to be alarmed about Catholic bishops, or the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada . . . What does disturb me . . . is the fact that extreme forms of evangelicalism — the creation-science, hysterical-prophetic, health-and-wealth, visionary-charismatic, culturally-imperialistic, all-or-nothing forms — seem indeed to have purchase on significant figures in Canadian political life.” [Bold print indicates emphasis added.] Stackhouse was commenting on Marci McDonald’s inflammatory new book, The Armageddon Factor, which frets about Christians (allegedly) having undue influence over the current Conservative federal government.

Stackhouse placed creation science at the head of a list of what he considers to be troublesome deviations lurking within the broad framework of evangelical Christianity. These views or positions Stackhouse labels “extreme” — clearly in some pejorative sense. He evidently finds them “alarming” or “disturbing.” His end-of-list descriptor “all-or-nothing forms” seems intended to characterize the whole group of views as uncompromising, unreasonable, and unacceptable.

As I was pondering this label “extreme,” I turned to my Funk & Wagnalls Canadian College Dictionary (1989). Definition #1 read: “Being of the highest degree; exceedingly great or severe. . . .” Definition #2 said: “Going far beyond the bounds of moderation; exceeding what is considered reasonable; immoderate; radical; . . . also, very strict or drastic. . . .” There were several other definitions, but they all involved literal or technical usages, with neutral connotations, so I had to suppose that Stackhouse’s thinking ran along the lines of those first two definitions when he called creationists “extreme.” (By the way, this same dictionary defines “extremist” as “One who advocates extreme measures or holds extreme views.” If our views are truly “extreme,” then we can rightly be termed “extremists”!)

Next, I turned to Roget’s Thesaurus (1988). Along with “extreme” were listed such adjectives as “inordinate,” “excessive,” “outrageous,” and “preposterous.” The word “extreme” clearly has many negative connotations. Theologian Stackhouse may not have been thinking of all of those meanings when he used the word, but his readers could easily understand him to say that creationists are immoderate, unreasonable, drastic, and preposterous, as well as dangerous, alarming, and disturbing. What should our response be?

We should recognize that in the minds of many people (even Christians), creationism is indeed an “extreme,” “fringe” view. If you believe it because you want to be popular and accepted, especially among “intellectuals,” think again! The creation science position is definitely based on biblical truth and sound scientific information, but becoming a creationist is not likely to win you friends among those who consider themselves “thought leaders.” We do in fact “exceed what is considered reasonable” (by compromising evangelicals). We really are “radical,” “strict,” and “drastic” (in the world’s sight). We genuinely are “all-or-nothing,” just as the apostle Paul showed himself to be in Romans 3:4 — “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”

On the other hand, we can rejoice in the fact that our view truly is “extreme” — in a good sense! Many advertisers are now using “extreme” as a word that conveys excitement, challenge, dedication, and high quality.

• “Extreme Fitness” advertises its “health club culture” as “all about quality, results, and passion for exceeding our members’ expectations.” “We are dedicated to continually improving our clubs and ensuring that our programs and services provide excitement and motivation to inspire our members to make positive changes in their lives.” (http://www.extremefitness.ca/about_us)

As creationists, our spiritual and intellectual lives can also be “extreme” in the sense of high quality, dedicated, excited, and motivated.

• “Extreme Pita” proclaims, “We’re fast, fresh, fun, and full of flavor. Besides all that, we’re EXTREME when it comes to our commitment to creating a unique product bursting with ingredients that are healthy.” (http://www.extremepita.com/about-us)

Creationists are “extreme” in their commitment, too, and it’s because we also have a “product” that is uniquely healthy, fresh, and flavourful. Our teaching is sound, healthful, and life-giving: it lines up with biblical truth (as well as scientific reality) and, accordingly, it produces increased confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ, our great Creator and Redeemer.

How Firm a Foundation?

Evangelicals used to be notoriously hard. Have we become inoffensively soft?

BY JOHN G. STACKHOUSE JR.

http://digital.faithtoday.ca/faithtoday/20140506#

I was raised, as perhaps you were, in a hard-edged religion. Right was right, wrong was wrong. “Compromise” was an evil word, and “liberal” was applied, well, liberally to everything and everyone we weren’t.

As Sunday School tots we cheerily announced our binary view of the world. “One door and only one / And yet its sides are two. / I’m on the inside, / On which side are you?” As youth, we learned sex was strictly for married life (thus launching all of us into casuistry, a word we never heard, regarding “how far was too far”). As Bible school students we learned the Four Spiritual Laws, or Steps to Peace with God, or the Bridge illustration, each of which made it starkly clear that you were either “saved or lost.” If you were lost, you had better come to Jesus, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

And – oh, yes – we knew the scriptural reference: John 14:6. We knew lots of Bible verses, and lots of Scripture references, and the books of the Bible in the correct order, and the Ten Commandments, and the Beatitudes, and much, much more. Over yonder among the Christian Reformed and the serious Lutherans and Presbyterians, they also knew their catechisms. (We Brethren didn’t know what a catechism was, but it sounded Catholic and was therefore bad.)

The jokes and ironies abounded about “growing up born again.” We would avoid sex because it might lead to social dancing. We wouldn’t use the devil’s playing cards, or sing the devil’s music, but we would play Rook and support the many Christian knockoffs of rock and pop. And so on.

So silly. So extreme. And now, outside a few tiny enclaves, it’s all gone with the wind.

Now we have kids growing up in evangelical churches – the best churches, not just the worst – who would have trouble confidently providing a reference for any biblical quotation at all. Now we have many (most?) of our youth not conferring secretly about how far is too far, but about whether to have an abortion or how to tell their fiancé(e)s about their sexual history.

And we have churches full of adults who couldn’t present the gospel coherently and briefly to a friend or neighbour if they had a gun to their head or a willing soul at the kitchen table.

Those nice people in those other religions, or my friends who profess no religion at all but call themselves “spiritual” – surely they’re not going to hell. How can there even be a hell, really, given the goodness of God? So there isn’t. Whew.

Those nice people having sex outside marriage. Surely they love each other, and God’s all about love, right? So that’s that. Welcome aboard!

After all, doesn’t it say in the Bible – somewhere – that God is love, and we shouldn’t judge, and justice and compassion are what really matters, and we’re all forgiven anyway?

So church discipline now smacks of mere social control. Bible memorization is as passé as any other kind of memorization. Evangelistic formulas are mocked as simplistic, while even more reductionistic propositions (such as, “We’re all children of God” or “God made me, and He doesn’t make junk”) take their place.

We’ve seen all this before – liberal Christianity in the mainline denominations a half-century or so ago. They reacted against what they saw to be the excessive hardness of their tradition by opting for increasingly flexible softness. And we contemporary Evangelicals are following nicely in their train.

The right response to rigidity is not pliancy. The right response is firmness. And variable firmness, exercising good judgement about what can be cheerfully enjoyed as creative diversity, or prudently tolerated as legitimate difference of opinion, or fervently proclaimed as the gospel, or fiercely opposed as sin.

We all, of course, think we’re already making just the right judgements about what belongs in what category. We’re all in favour of appropriate firmness.

The evidence against us Evangelicals, however, is growing as core teachings – the reality of hell, the narrow scope of legitimate sex, the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ – are all in play.

We need better teaching and preaching to help us discern what belongs in what category. We need a greater determination to seek God to do what He wants, rather than just to get Him to do what we want Him to. We need to decide whether we actually are sinners who can be deeply wrong even about our strongest moral and intellectual intuitions. Or if, like liberals, we think the best of contemporary reason and experience can be relied upon to guide our religion.

We needed to escape our excessive hardness, yes. But we’ve come a long way fast – too far, in fact, and now should pause to reconsider our path.


JOHN STACKHOUSE teaches at Regent College.

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