I read a recent op-ed piece by Joe Phelps in the Courier –Journal. Joe is the pastor at Highlands Baptist
Church, you know, up in the highlands!
He was concerned about another Baptist minister, Al Mohler, who had
compared the views of Highland Baptist and Crescent Hill Baptist with his own
view of the Christian faith. Mr.
Mohler’s words were, “We’re talking about Christianity and some new religion
that claims some kind of continuing identity with the Christian faith, but it
preaches another gospel; it holds to a very different authority than
Scripture.” Rev. Phelps agreed that they
have very different view, but a “new” gospel?
Well, I need not point out that Mr. Mohler is always correct when
it comes to defining the Christian faith, at least in his own mind.
Rev. Phelps correctly points out that it is fundamentalism which is
“another gospel,” not the other way around.
In his editorial, Rev. Phelps points to John R. Claypool, former pastor
of Crescent Hill (1960-1971), as a person who stood against the Mohlers of his
time by offering a “deeper, clearer, more transforming message from
Jesus.” Claypool transcended the typical
“Jesus as the get-out-of-hell-free card” formula of the fundamentalists. Instead, he held that “heaven is accessed
through the human heart seeking God’s dream.”
For him hell isn’t literal devils and flames, but anything that
disconnects us from God. Jesus personifies
the healing power of deep connection with God, life’s origin and goal.”
Let me paraphrase: the
fundamentalists use the Bible to establish a literal, exclusive, authoritative,
closed and controlling version of a gospel.
It is a gospel which presumes their sources of authority endow them with
unequivocal truth about life and God.
That version insists that believing in Jesus in its particular formula
is the only way to have a relationship with God. That
reminded me of a quote from John Dominic Crossan, a Roman Catholic cleric,
theologian and scholar, “My point, once again, is not that those ancient
people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them
symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough
to take them literally.” In my mind, the
Claypool version is closer to the teachings of Jesus in the four accounts of
the Gospel contained in the Greek Scriptures.
I paraphrase: it is a Gospel based on love as the centerpiece of faith
and advocates the oneness of all things, just as Jesus did. Christ is at work everywhere, a Gospel that
welcomes story and metaphor to reveal faith’s deepest truths. One is gospel that focuses on personal sins
and doctrinal remedies, and one is a Gospel that identifies the various forms
of sin in our world and breaks the chains of fear, anger and narcissism through
self-giving love. And that is a Gospel I
can affirm, as well!
Posted on Tue, November 10, 2015
by Doug Meister