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The Bible Buffet
Globalism - Ecumenism
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Wendy Wippel

Pastor Jim Burklo is a United Church of Christ pastor and the Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. To say the least, he has very interesting take on the faith, authoring a book called "Open Christianity: Keep the Faith but Drop the Dogma.  This wouldn’t worry me so much if he didn’t have a whole lot of company.

According to Burko, in an article he entitled,"How to live as a Christian without having to believe the unbelievable", there are a lot of things that Christianity asks you to do that are worth the effort (as opposed to put faith in what God says in His Word.)

"Loving your enemies – that often seems impossible.” says Burklo. "Willingly giving up your power and money and time and influence in order to serve the poor and the sick and the oppressed."

"This is how we build heaven on earth", Burklo says. “These are things that matter, things Jesus asks us to do.” In fact, Burklo says, "Compared to them, believing in the factuality of the fantastic stories in the Bible is trivial". And that is exactly why it makes no sense to let such questions matter very much in living a faithful Christian life. It really isn’t important whether or not you take the Bible literally, or whether or not you believe all the creeds word-for-word. If they don’t make sense to you, don’t worry about them. Don’t let dogma and doctrine get in the way of practicing Love, who is God."

And there's more:  Burklo opines that it really isn't what you believe that matters, but what you do; “Instead of caring whether the story of Jesus’ resurrection was a fact or a myth", Burklo says, "let’s concern ourselves with things that matter. Let’s care about our neighbors without jobs or health insurance". "Let's be activist citizens.". "Let’s gather in churches, soup kitchens, work-places, living rooms, and cafés to support each other in doing things that matter". And let's "let go of old doctrines that don’t".

"When Jesus asked us to believe in him, he wasn’t asking us to believe a list of ideas about him. … The belief that mattered to him was …willingness to feed the hungry, liberate the oppressed, heal the sick, and preach the gospel, which is the good news that Love is all that matters."

He goes on to say, that Jesus had nothing at all to say about the Bible. Or the Virgin Birth. Or the Trinity. Or believing in Him as the Savior. Jesus didn't care about those things at all, Burklo says. Just about how we treat each other.

And (shocker!) according to Burklo, there is no scriptural hint at all that Jesus cared about abortion or homosexuality.  Proving, of course that "Christianity should not be confused with a current partisan political agenda".

The left having no partisan political agenda at all, you know.

Burklo explains his conversion to this way of thinking, at the age of 16, like this:" I went on a backpacking trip with a Christian group. On top of a high pass in the Sierra Nevada, the leader, appropriately, read aloud the Sermon on the Mount. When he repeated Jesus’ words: “Love your enemies”, a rush of energy went through my body. I was certain that this experience was God, or was of God. I knew in an instant that it was worth basing my whole life on this one commandment."

(I'm sorry, but that sounds a whole lot like the time a druggie I knew at Ohio State told me that she got saved at a Stones' concert when the curtains caught fire.)

Burklo then proves that his "faith" is superior to traditional Christianity in that it doesn't put stumbling blocks in the way of faith by saying that there is no way to heaven but through Christ: "Many if not most people in America today cannot accept the idea that there is only one true religion. They see people of many religions living faithful, loving lives, and cannot imagine that they are going to hell for failing to accept one certain creed. "

In his faith, you don't have to worry about those pesky miracles described, either. 'Cause science has already disproven all of those.

Burklo also tells his converts how to find a faith community, which in his mind means nothing more than the Red Cross or the Peace Corps. -- find a group who will challenge you to serve. "The name church doesn’t matter” as long as it stresses the disadvantaged."

In fact, he gives them a link: progressivechristianity.org, to find like-minded individuals, specifically, faith groups that serve but don't require any particular faith. He does however, seek "spiritual awakening" through regularly practicing pseudo spiritual disciplines like contemplative prayer.

Burklo assures his readers that the history of Christianity and the Bible reveals that the Bible is not divinely inspired, but a very human book consisting primarily of mythology.

But that makes it more worthwhile, he says. 'Cause "it's myths have an enduring power to transform lives towards love."

Don't ask me to explain that.

And when you understand that it's mythology, "You’ll understand that the miracles in the Bible are not historical facts, but that the real miracle is the Bible itself: a treasure-trove of poetry and stories."

And that's infinitely better than an actual communication to us from the God that created the incomprehensibly vast universe that we live in, apparently.

Don't ask me to explain that either.

This could be kind of funny except that, if you haven't figured this out already, this is pretty much the prevailing view (if not so clearly articulated) of western Christianity. Do-it-yourself doctrine and smorgasbord salvation.

When it comes to Scripture, you can pretty much make it up as you go along. A recent poll by the Barna Group (an organization that does research on issues of faith) had some disturbing findings.

When church-going Americans were surveyed, most rated themselves above average in living a Christian life. (So far so good.) When asked about their knowledge of the Scriptures, however, it wasn't as encouraging. Half couldn't locate the Christmas story in the Bible; nearly half didn't know that Matthew was an apostle.

And their confusion, unfortunately, went well beyond Bible trivia. Sixty percent of those questioned didn't think the Holy Spirit was real, 80% didn't believe in Satan. Nearly half thought that Jesus sinned during His earthly life, and more than half (73%) thought being good would get you into heaven.

The mostly widely recognized verse among those polled was "God helps those who help themselves".

From the book of Benjamin. As in Franklin. (That proverb isn't in the Bible and it contradicts scriptural principles.) "Cleanliness is next to godliness" was another favorite verse (unfortunately, also from the book of Benjamin.) 

What does that verse in Luke say?

"When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8 NKJV

I have to wonder.

It's true that the Bible says,

"The purpose of the commandment is love." I Timothy 1:5.

In other words, the goal of our instruction is love. Numerous studies have shown that Christians give many, many times more, in both time and money, than their agnostic, atheistic, or ambivalent neighbors. By far, also, the largest part of the world's philanthropic institution (hospitals, nurses, insane asylums, the Red Cross, etc) Christians have been at the forefront of caring for the poor and the downtrodden. Christians (read that real Christians) have always led the way in loving and serving.

But what that whole verse says is this,

"The purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith."

That's a part we can't leave out. The faith comes first.

The Bible says a lot about where that faith comes from,

"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". Romans 10:17

"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." I Timothy 3:16

God also compares the word to seed, light, water, rain, snow, sword, fire, and rock, all in a context of its necessity to our lives.

And don't even get me started on Psalm 119.

The bottom line in the fundamental wrongness of Burklos' theology is that he turns the Bible on its ear.

What scripture surely says is this:

"This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." I Timothy 1:15

What scripture surely says is this:

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" Mark 8:36

What scripture surely says is this:

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

What scripture surely says is this:

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away." Matthew 24:35

There are things you have to believe to be saved. I could go on for ten more pages but I think you all know them as well as I do.

It is called "faith" after all.  Not "feeling".  Faith has an anchor on the other end.

I have relatives in Southern California, a place they call the land of fruits and nuts.

'Nough said.

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: Desolation, with a Deadline

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