A new guy visited my church this past Sunday and emailed me from our website asking me to clarify some theological positions. I’ll be very honest — I hate doing that. It’s like arguing over the color of the wallpaper in heaven. It begins and ends with opinion. It’s based on nothing. Even the Bible is interpreted so differently by individuals and churches that you end up quibbling over the meaning/interpretation of it once someone brings it in to “clear things up.” It’s just not a useful thing to do. At the same time, I’m a Christian pastor and I feel like people do have a right to at least basically know what I believe. What follows is my response to this nice man’s email, unedited.
Hi [name snipped]. I’ll answer your questions concisely.
No, I do not believe all will be saved. But I think many Christians will be extremely surprised at who, and how many, are ultimately saved.
I do not believe hatred has any place in our lives, any more than we can bomb our way to peace or screw our way to chastity. Therefore I reject love the sinner but hate the sin. The dualism it presents is a big part of the problem with spiritual life. We can’t separate people from their sins, loving one part and hating the other (parable of wheat and tares). Sin isn’t just a list of bad behaviors that we can easily call out and hate. People are whole beings, and love sinner/hate sin is an abstraction that has nothing to do with human beings. I think Christians use this to shrug off our responsibility to love and that it has been responsible for a lot of evil done in the name of God.
I don’t distinguish between Christian love and any other kind of love. All real love is from God.
I do not really accept the striving to eliminate sin. As we increasingly connect to God, sin becomes less attractive and eventually repulsive. Freedom is not in striving against sin, but in no longer finding it appealing.
Should contemplation be supplemented with other disciplines? Absolutely. But we need to do a much better job with the contemplation. It can’t be taught as something just for monks and hyperspiritual people. It’s foundational and without it we will likely remain immature and neurotic all our lives, trusting only in ourselves.
I do not agree that homosexuality is fundamentally evil, nor do I agree that it is not inborn. I do concede that greater social acceptance of it has probably led more people who were sexually on the fence to claim gay identities than they otherwise would, but I am deeply convinced there are major genetic determinants for most people. I don’t pretend to understand everything about it, and I’d be the last to deny the brokenness of human sexuality, and we see its effects everywhere. But Jesus never spoke of it so it obviously wasn’t on his agenda. That says a lot. I’m not claiming it’s all just perfect and there is no issue, only that, in any case, love is the best response.
I hear what you’re saying about Sodom and Gomorrah and I understand that sentiment (note from me to readers — this was a response to his assertion that America is a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah). My focus, however, is on the church, and on the miserable failure of God’s people to even pretend to really love others. We will never be able to beat the hell out of people, but we certainly can love them into the Kingdom.
Peace to you,