The Case of Culture v. Bible

by Ben Ditzel

legal_scales_black_silhouetteAt a recent confirmation hearing for Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, a former presidential candidate and prominent, influential US Senator declared that Biblical Christian doctrine and those who hold to it are hateful, racist, and not what this country is supposed to be about, before announcing his rejection of the appointment for this government nominee.1 Having been through an election and subsequent transition of power the past few months, many may be familiar with the confirmation process. Chosen officials direct comments, questions, and sometimes accusations towards the said nominee in order to confirm or reject the nominee’s appointment to the proposed capacity. But what did this nominee for Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget say that caused the senator to hold the nominee’s religious views as grounds for opposition?

While at a Christian college some years ago, the nominee wrote, in an article, ‘Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.’ Anyone who has knowledge of Biblical teaching knows that this view is the fundamental (not to be confused with Fundamentalism) belief of the Christian faith. In fact the Biblical book of Acts affirms this central belief in chapter 4, verse 12: ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.’ Though this belief is foundational to Christian doctrine, the senator seemed to feign shock and disbelief 2 when questioning the nominee who continued to state that he is a Christian. This response should have satisfied the question which the senator posed, ‘Are you suggesting that all [Muslims] stand condemned? What about Jews? They stand condemned, too?’

In a statement released by a spokesman for the senator after the exchange, the truth of the matter became far clearer. ‘In a democratic society, founded on the principle of religious freedom, we can all disagree over issues, but racism and bigotry – condemning an entire group of people because of their faith – cannot be part of any public policy.’ And there we have the crux of the matter. This influential senator believes that the Christian belief, as described in the Bible, is a faith of racism and bigotry and cannot be part of any public policy in a democratic society. Judging from his presidential candidacy and popularity during that period, this senator and his views represent a very large portion of people today, including many self-proclaimed Christians which begs the question, ‘How can some Christians adamantly back someone who decries the very same faith as racist and bigoted?’.

The answer lies in the tale of two opposing Christian faiths, culturally progressive and Biblically fundamental. Over the past several years, culture has defined Christianity into a style or catchword that is a far cry from the identity and institutes of faith that Jesus Christ taught in the Bible. Cultural Christianity, also called Progressive Christianity can consist of a basic frame of mind anywhere between participating in religious charity work, social justice, or environmental activism down to living a moralistic life or simply acknowledging God’s existence. This is the type of Christianity that the US Senator obviously made out to initially assume was held by the nominee. Throughout today’s society, Christianity is defined and depicted in this culturally progressive form and is widely assumed to be as such.

The US Senator may have started out assuming the nominee held to a cultural Christian view, but he ended up realising that the nominee adhered to a Biblically fundamental view of Christianity. This view, on the other hand, consists of living every aspect of life through the lens of the Bible, considering the Bible as the ‘inerrant Word of God’, and rejecting any social systems, practices, world-views, or beliefs that conflict with the Bible. This form of Christianity is usually considered intolerant (Acts 4:12), bigoted (1 Corinthians 6:9), and hateful (Galatians 1:8) by the broad-minded standards of both non-Christians & cultural Christians alike. Although Biblical Christians also adhere to certain points that cultural Christians emphasize such as assisting orphans and widows (James 1:27) and being responsible with the earth (Genesis 1:28), in general, cultural Christianity is considered to be a corruption of true Christianity by Biblical Christians. They assert that the denial of inerrant Biblical standards (Revelation 22:19) coupled with the embrace of progressive agendas over the Biblical teachings of the Gospel and the contrast between obedience and sin disallows the so-called progressive cultural Christianity to offer a saving faith.

The two beliefs are further at odds when it comes to contemporary relevance. Biblical Christianity believes that the Bible is completely relevant and there is no aspect that is not applicable in some way today. A common misconception of this view results in questions such as, ‘If you believe the entire Bible, why do you wear clothes made of mixed cloth? (Leviticus 19:19)’. These pointed questions, however, stem from unfamiliarity with the entire belief, since, though believing the Bible’s inerrancy, Biblical Christians also believe that the Old Testament portion of the Bible contains laws for living that the New Testament portion explains to now be fulfilled and no longer required with the Biblically recorded death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On the flip side, cultural Christianity holds to a revisionist view and tends to excuse numerous less than tolerant aspects of the Bible and cover them with an overarching message of love and acceptance which they claim Jesus Christ taught above all things. Biblical Christianity counteracts this asserting that this cultural definition of love is in contradiction with the true definition and practice of love which Jesus Christ modelled and taught in the Bible.3 All of these differences have driven Biblical Christianity and cultural Christianity into opposition, the cultural Christians identifying, more often than not, closer to non-Christians than to Biblical Christians and the latter, in turn, categorizing the cultural Christians along with ‘the unbelievers’ on the grounds of unbelief in the inerrancy of the Bible.

When the US Senator essentially declared Christianity to be racist and bigoted, he was not attacking the mainstream progressive flavour that is still widely accepted so long as it stays within the confines of social justice and environmentalism. He is attacking the fundamental Biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation and no one can be saved by any other means, including any other religion. And that should be a wakeup call for Bible believers everywhere.

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1 Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, responded to the situation saying, ‘it is inconceivable that [the senator] would cite religious beliefs as disqualifying an individual for public office in defiance of the United States Constitution.’

2 The rise of cultural progressive Christianity holding certain cultural views over many teachings in the Bible has muddied the waters of Christianity in the past few years. This can be blamed for a partial misunderstanding or surprise that a Christian would believe what the Bible teaches over what the culture has imposed to be the definition of Christianity.

3 In some cases, cultural Christianity adheres to collective salvation which teaches that certain socioeconomic groups are granted salvation communally. This directly contradicts Biblical Christianity in the belief that salvation is on an individual basis through a personal recognition & knowledge of and relationship with Jesus Christ.

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