I had an e-mail dialogue not long ago with a person I admire. This person, who does not accept biblical authority, visited this blog and read the post entitled “Christian’s Platter” (May 2011 Archives). In that post, I commented offhandedly that food was sort of the Christian’s last refuge for carnal indulgence since Scripture imposes strict constraints on chemical intoxication, sexual transgressions and other vices. My antagonist rather rancorously commented that Christians had no such limitations, and alluded to the debauchery that is known to go on within the Christian Church.
At first, I thought maybe my remarks had been impulsive. Then I considered that perhaps I was drawing too sharp a line in my definition of the term “Christian.” I have written previously that if there is scant resemblance between a person’s conduct and the religion he professes to embrace, then his claim of affiliation is meaningless. I would now amend that to say that if a person professes Christianity and then blithely practices behavior that Scripture prohibits, he is either a fool or a fraud, and probably both. He is denying the most immutable basis for the Christian faith that we have (the Bible), whether because he hasn’t bothered to read it, which makes his speech meaningless, or because he believes there is some other equally valid basis for the Christian faith, which makes him confused about the nature of the thing he claims to believe in. Or he is simply wishy-washy.
I have no doubt that there are plenty of people out there who match one of these descriptions. However, I would like to ask my antagonist: what do these unmeritorious types have to do with authentic Christianity and its foundations?
Apparently, my antagonist is unaware that there actually are people in this world who do an admirable job of living according to Scripture, who do not use the Bible as a club or a political manifesto, whose maturity is observed in their gentleness. It isn’t as though there have only been around a dozen or so people in the history of Christianity who have made the faith work in their lives. There have been untold millions of them. The reason many people aren’t more aware of them is that they live quiet lives, practice mercy and mind their own business, as Scripture commands (1 Thess. 4:11).
Of course there are hypocrites among us. The last time I checked, hypocrisy was pretty much garden-variety humanity in a fallen age. The behavior of hypocrites is a product of human ignorance, selfishness and compulsivity, not of God or His works. What I’d like to know is: why is it so much worse for a Christian to violate the written standards of his own religion than for a disciple of any other religion to do the same? Would it make it
into your newspaper, dear antagonist, if an exalted member of the Muslim faith were discovered secretly eating pork chops and drinking beer in his basement? Would you even care? So why is it such an affront to you when someone like Jimmy Swaggart is caught engaging the services of a prostitute?
Dear antagonist, won’t you admit the possibility that a good deal of what bothers you about the Bible isn’t what is wrong with it, but what it reveals in you?