I thought about re-posting the whole thing here, but it would make things a bit too lengthy. I do however, want to make a few comments on the sentiments voiced in the above article because I think they reflect an ongoing consensus in our post-Christian culture. For our purposes here, I’ll take the authors six main points (in BOLD) and then respond.
1. [Christians should just stop saying that] the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God.
McSwain points out that we don’t have any of the original manuscripts of the Bible. This observation is in light of the standard Evangelical maxim, “We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, fully inspired and without error in the original manuscripts.” Based on the lack of original manuscripts he concludes that we can’t really prove anything about the Bible’s reliability.
For many Christians, when faced with this historical fact, the retort is often described with the second thing McSwain says Christians should stop saying. This raises the whole question of what is meant by “inerrant”. It’s in instances like this that you find a non-orthodox person writing like a fundamentalist. His arguments are levied against a sect of fringe Christians who are represented as being the majority.
2. [Christians should just stop saying] “We just believe the Bible.”
Here the authors claims that what most Christians really believe in is their “interpretation” of the Bible. The Church has a long history of disagreement over issues interpretation and so a more honest approach is needed. He thinks Christians should say,”The following represents our understanding and interpretation of the Scriptures, but we are also aware there are many equally sincere Christians who interpret the Scriptures differently from us.”
I’m sympathetic to some of this….but I’ll save that conversation for later.
3.[Christians should just stop saying] Jesus is the only way to heaven.
The author says that, “…what you are really saying is, ‘The way we interpret John 14:6 is that Jesus was clearly drawing a line in the sand and telling his hearers and the world:’If you do not believe in Me, you won’t go to the Father when you die.'”
So the question arises, is there another way to interpret Jesus outside of the traditional understanding? What scriptural interpretations would direct us to either an exclusive Jesus or a universal Jesus? I assure you, the issue goes WAY beyond John 14:6.
4. [Christians should just stop saying]the rapture of Jesus is imminent.
I’ll be honest, I thought this section was hilarious! McSwain seems to be again talking about the fringe “Left Behind” folks that get a lot of media coverage, but in all actuality they don’t represent the mainstream especially within broader evangelical scholarship. I liked his following remark:
“My recommendation? Burn up your charts and go live like Christ.”
It’s true that evangelicalism has had a problem with hunkering down in its own camp, waiting for the end of the world as we know it. This leads to sectarianism and a serious degrading of Christian mission in the world, but I don’t know any folks like this. Have any of you spent time recently examining the charts that decode the “last days”…..really?
5. [Christians should just stop saying] homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and it is a sin against God.
Hmmmm….the “chosen” part when applied unilaterally is problematic indeed, but the sin thing is a whole other conversation. McSwain clearly has a bias here that I will unpack at a later time, but for now it’s helpful to say that many Christians are concerned with the issue of sin because they aware that the natural course of culture is to start calling that which is sin to no longer be sin. The whole slippery slope causes us to sometimes avoid this conversation all together…that has to change.
6. [Christians should just stop saying] the earth is less than 10,000 years old.
Yep, but they wont.
I know that some of you might have wanted me to dismantle all 6 of the above points by explaining why Christians shouldn’t stop saying these things. I don’t do apologetics here all that often, at least not in the traditional sense. But what I do want to do, is call Christians to account for the stuff they say in public or to their non-Christian friends. My guess is that McSwain has encountered folks who say these things while having little to no idea about the defense of such positions. If you (as one example) think homosexuality is a sin, it’s probably not enough to say that your beliefs are what they are because you believe in the Bible. You’re going to have to do some study that incorporates a theological worldview, then you’re going to have to use discernment with regard to how, when, and where you respond. You’ll also need to do these things prayerfully, and under the purposes of love. Then we can really talk about what we should and should not stop saying as Christians.