Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Apostle Peter Converses with American Christianity: PART II

As with the previous post, where I encouraged you to read First Peter before reading it, I would encourage you to read Second Peter before reading this.

The Apostle Peter sits down at a coffee shop with a Postmodern Emergent Teacher (PET from here on out, because he’s missing elements to give him the same faith as Peter), and begins to discuss the nature of the Christian faith in view of our fallen humanity.

Peter: Why do you teach your people that diversity in Christian theology and practice is something to be celebrated?

PET: Because it is. There is no one faith, but many faiths in Jesus. I may express my faith through believing differently, but I still believe in Jesus just like you do.

Peter. Well, actually I believe that there is only one faith, an actual orthodoxy, that genuine Christians must believe in order to be properly called “Christians.” This faith must be the same as mine, as my teaching has been given to me by Christ.

PET: How can that be. Humans are such fallen creatures, given to finitude and sin. We all distort reality in some way according to our sinfulness. There is no way around that. It’s just the predicament we’re in. Hence, God must be fine with our diversity, because diversity is all we can give him in our humanness. So God gives us grace in our diversity, since He understands that we may not come to a proper knowledge of Him in this life due to our condition.

Peter: Well, grace is multiplied through knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, not apart from it; and I interpret this knowledge as the one faith in which all must trust. So grace comes through the knowledge of the one faith, and that brings unity and agreement in what we believe and practice, not diversity.

PET: But we all have different gifts, and that is diverse.

Peter: But I’m not talking about the expressions of the one faith, but of the one faith itself. Gifts are vehicles to display the one faith. But you are trying to apply diversity to the faith itself when, in fact, we are to be unified in the faith.

PET: But we are so sinful. We are going to distort things for sinful purposes. There is no getting around that. We’re not going to be able to see eye to eye and practice the same things. We just need to try and get along with one another, so the only unity we can have is by accepting diversity in practice with tolerance.

Peter: But you are focusing on our lack of ability to overcome sin, and merely accepting the impossibility of unity because of that lack of ability. What I would tell you is that God has given us everything we need to live a life of godliness through the knowledge He has given us in the Scripture and the divine power He has given us by allowing us to become partakers of the divine nature. Hence, it is not our ability to bring about unity through this knowledge, but God’s ability to accomplish it when we believe. So we are able to practice godliness together as one, and escape the corruptions and distortions of the world, precisely, because He has granted to us the power to achieve it.

PET: Yes, but all of that is moot if we don’t know what we’re supposed to believe and practice. Sure, we may have the ability to believe and practice, but who’s to say what the content of those beliefs and practices should be? That’s where we’re too finite and error-prone humanity comes in again. You say that the Scripture reveals this knowledge to us, but the Scripture is written by humans, and humans are fallible. Hence, Scripture must be fallible too. So we’re in the same boat. Diversity in faith must be the only option for us.

Peter: No, your problem is that you are emphasizing the condition of humanity over the ability of God again. This time you are saying that we cannot trust the Scriptures as an infallible guide because it is written by men; but Scripture is written by prophets, and no prophecy was ever a matter of an opinion of some prophet, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. And that Scripture is confirmed by God’s confirmation of Christ who confirmed it. I, and the other apostles, were eyewitnesses to God confirming it btw. So the ability of Scripture to communicate the truth concerning faith and practice does not rest on man’s inability to remain unbiased or inerrant, but on God’s direction of those men to communicate the faith accurately.

PET: That may be ideal. You may be right. I just don’t think it’s necessary to have all our theological and ethical i’s dotted and t’s crossed. We can believe and practice all sorts of different things without getting hung up on who’s right and who’s wrong. Let’s just love one another in tolerance of each other’s ideas and lifestyles.

Peter: Well, to have another belief system and a different lifestyle, other than the one the apostles have preached to you, is heresy and leads to hell, not unity with God and man in heaven. So loving someone would be to set them straight in their knowledge of Christianity, not let them perish in falsehood and wickedness. Heresy denies the Master who bought us, so it in no way glorifies Him to tolerate it. Heresy is a rejection of the faith.

PET: Hey, different strokes for different folks. Some believe one thing and some believe another. One practices heterosexuality and another homosexuality. If everyone is committed to Jesus, it doesn’t matter. We’ll work all of that out in eternity.

Peter: No, you won’t. As I said, heresy, and the apostasy to which it leads, denies Christ as Lord over our lives. We are neither loving nor obeying Him in our minds or in our daily lives with it. And we, therefore, will not be working it out in eternity, as those who do not trust in the one faith and godliness of the Christian life will be going off to the same punishment as the fallen angels have been given.

PET: Well, doesn’t the fact that God hasn’t poured out fire from heaven on me indicate that He isn’t that concerned about what we believe and our personal preferences in lifestyle?

Peter: God is punishing false teachers as we speak. He keeps them under this punishment until the day of judgment. This punishment is evidenced in their being given over to their desires.

PET: I’m sorry but labeling these teachers as false, simply because they recognize the impossibility of our situation, is wrong. We all have sin and it is impossible to escape it.

Peter: Well, as I said, God has given us everything we need to escape it, and knows full well how to help us overcome the enticements and temptations of the world. You are, once again, diminishing God’s abilities and exalting your own lack of ability. In other words, you are arguing that our deficiencies are greater than God’s sufficiency and ability to be efficacious in overcoming sin and falsehood in our lives.

PET: We need to stop focusing on heaven and hell and start focusing on making this world a better place. Sin and false doctrine are apart of that narrative that is connected to heaven and hell. Let’s just be tolerant of one another, realize that everyone is on his or her own journey, and start saving the environment.

Peter: Well, how much of the environment is going to be saved when the Lord comes back and destroys the earth in fire?

PET: Is the Lord really coming back, or is that just a metaphor? I mean, it’s been awhile now. It’s probably the case that the church is meant to be His second coming to earth, and that He’s not actually returning. Even if He is, we shouldn’t draw our attention to the future, but concentrate on making the world better in the present.

Peter: Well, living a godly life in the truth that characterizes a genuine relationship with Jesus as our Master is making the world a better place. Uplifting God’s abilities to communicate to us accurately in Scripture shines a light in a dark place, and makes the world a better place. Setting our minds on His coming as an end to evil and oppression, and giving hope to all who believe is making this world a better place. But as I said before, the world is going to be destroyed in fire, so it’s better to make the world a better place on God’s terms, and look toward a new heaven and a new earth.

PET: Seriously, it’s been a long time. He’s probably not even coming, so it’s likely a metaphor for us to clean up the planet.

Peter: No, He is literally coming. You are emphasizing your finite experience again over God’s perspective. To God, a thousand years is like a day. So it hasn’t been that long in God’s eyes at all. Besides, God is waiting for all of His people to come to repentance. He has not yet caused all of them to be born and born again. So His patience is for the love of His people.

PET: You know, we all distort Scripture in the interpretive phase, so even if God communicates to us in the Bible, we still misinterpret it.

Peter: Yes, but some misinterpret it to their own destruction because they purposely twist it to get what they want out of it instead of trusting in God no matter what to communicate the truth to them that submit their minds and lifestyles to Him as Lord. In other words, our understanding of the truth is also a gift given to us by God, who is able to do so. The only reason others twist it and are not given that gift is because they have rejected the one faith already, seeking to either believe or practice rebellion rather than allegiance toward God.

PET: But what about those who just want to know the truth?

Peter: If they are unstable and untaught, i.e., not guided by the apostolic/historic orthodox witness, then they do not want to know the truth. They have rejected it already. If they wish to know it, they can be guided by it in their interpretations of Scripture. Some things are hard to understand. Other things are not. Either way, let them submit themselves to the instruction of the apostolic/historic orthodox teaching as an interpretive guide. Otherwise, they remain unstable and untutored for selfish reasons, and as such, twist the Scripture to their own destruction.

PET: I’ll have to think about that.

Peter: I pray you do, and once you give glory to God by exalting His abilities over your own, both now and forever, may you grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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