"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Monday, February 14, 2011

Political Paraphrases ~ EC-4

“Two thousand years ago, twelve people changed the world.” Wow, I didn’t expect to find a problem with the very first sentence on the dust jacket even before I started reading the book. This is going to be verrrry interesting, I thought. I have to admit; this is the first time I have ever seen a statement like that coming from a Christian. I believe those twelve people mentioned in that quote would absolutely abhor the fact that two thousand years after they had lived their lives for the God of the Universe, they were now being credited with changing the world themselves. They worked diligently in their lives and each succumbed a martyr’s death because of their firm conviction to bring the message that is focused on the Life of only One. Since that time, Christians have consistently pointed to that same life and the message of only One Man – God Incarnate – Jesus Christ. Is that simply a minor point in which I am being overly critical? Maybe; but that single statement about twelve people changing the world, is also the foundation for all the other points the author wants to write about in his book. The author wants us to believe and understand that we, too, can change the world. Fortunately, in reality, it isn’t about us.

The first few chapters are Stearns’ testimony and how he came to be the President of “World Vision”. His is a compelling story filled with wonderful, Biblical truths. He encourages the reader with lots of Scripture, and there is wisdom in that which he encourages the Christian to do, such as being diligent in prayer, and staying in the Word. He reminds us that God is a God of order, and that we need to follow His teachings. Most of his thoughts here I agree with, and he seems to have a pure heart for God. I will not go into a lot of this, as some of it may be doctrinal differences that are always present among Christians; i.e. the differences that are not really dangerous, because the foundation is still pure. Those are not the issues with which I am concerned in this blog.

Stearns also begins to present a Gospel that includes aiding the poor and explains his thoughts about it. It begins to get a bit dicey for me here. One especially troubling section is in Chapter 4. He has just made his case for a Gospel that requires more than “saying the right words and believing the right things.” He seeks to bring clarity about what he calls the “Towering Pillars of Compassion and Justice” which is the title of this chapter. The basis he uses to prove his point is Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25. His argument is somewhat persuasive and much of what he says is true; but we also get a glimpse of his purpose for this book and where he will take us after his foundation is laid. The hint comes when he paraphrases Scripture which he calls The RESV version. That is: “The Richard E. Stearns Version” he jokes. Though he admits it is 'irreverent" he definitely tries to bring us along to his political stance. Below is his paraphrase:
“For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved. (RESV – Richard E. Stearns Version)
Yep, I view that as political. He is pointing out a problem with those that might be concerned with the lifestyle that is most connected with AIDS. (And no, I am not advocating attacking anyone) He is troubled with those that have a desire for a strong judicial system that would ask for strong consequences in punishment. That is generally a conservative stance. And he is attacking those that would be upset with amnesty and allowing those that come into our country illegally to be sent back to their homeland and come in to our nation by the appropriate channels. That also is a conservative position. He forgets the key word as many with a liberal agenda do – illegal. But right now, I won’t go into the importance of secure borders and asking immigrants to come into our country legally as all nations require. Obviously he views it as something that shows no compassion. Unfortunately, most that are coming across our borders illegally are not people simply seeking a better life as we are led to believe; they are criminals that continue their life of crime, by trying to enter here illegally in the first place. But that is not an argument I seek to prove, today. This quote is a set-up for what Stearns will get to later. And unfortunately, what he has specifically singled out is a conservative platform.

This quote he jokingly calls “irreverent” is just a shallow illusion to where he will take us later in his book. The politics do not actually begin in these early chapters. He really just hints at such things, and I view much of what he is writing as a foundation he is building which he will use to attempt to eventually persuade us to his way of thinking. At this point, he merely uses subtle politics, with which he hopes to change the scope of opinion later.

In Chapter 5, Stearns does mention atonement, reconciliation and gives the complete salvation message. Most of it is beautiful, and had I not scanned the book with a precursory glance initially, I would believe this book is no different than any other Christian book trying to encourage us in our faith. Gradually though, little warning signs begin to appear and as I earlier mentioned, at first they are subtle.

For the most part, the prologue to his book and the initial chapters are full of what seems to be sincere, factual commentary and perhaps if Stearns continued in this vein throughout the rest of the book, we would have something we could take to heart and improve our Christian walk. But he doesn’t do that, and I can’t help but wonder if Richard Stearns has an ulterior motive and he is in fact setting us up for a type of snare – if you will. I’m afraid we are about to see a series of trappings that do nothing to bring others to Jesus; but rather, it seems he joins an agenda of those that try to bash and destroy the Christian church in America. Yeah, I know; that sounds harsh. But I have to ask: is it all for a purpose? If not intentional, the outcome is still the same. It appears Stearns believes the problems of the world lie with the American Christians who are in actuality - according to this book - the ones at fault. Stearns can’t prove that point unless he has built a foundation that demonstrates “twelve people changed the world”.  I’m afraid that simply isn’t true, and that is not what the Bible says.  Stearns informs us though, "it happened once and it can happen again". If it hasn't happened yet again, it must be the Christian who is to blame. If there are poor people in the world, then it is the rich with whom we must place blame.

The Bible says it is Jesus that changes lives - one, individual heart at a time. I’m afraid the world will never be fully changed until Jesus returns again. Until that time, we seek to change hearts by telling others that “God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That is the message that Jesus encouraged us to bear witness to until He comes again.

So why does Stearns go to such lengths to write about how wrong the American Christian is and has been? I guess I don’t rightly know....except it seems to be what the emergent philosophy tends to do. And somewhere along the line I too, decided to write...

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