Friday, February 11, 2005

Judgmentalism and Unconditional Love

John Wilson hits the nail on the head in his review of Gregory Boyd's book, Repenting of Religion. The thesis of Boyd, who is a proponent of Open Theism, is that no Christian has a right to call into question another professing Christian's activities or beliefs: "The only conclusion about other people that God allows us and commands us to embrace is the one given to us on Calvary."

Wilson's review effectively shows how Boyd violates his own operating principle when he sits in judgment of everyone else with whom he disagrees, and I'll leave it to the reader to click the above link to read it for himself. What I'd like to do here is show biblically why Boyd and his ilk are wrong. Anyone who has immersed himself in the New Testament will find Boyd's reasoning on this issue completely foreign to the sentiment of the NT writers.

The letters of John, for instance, are nothing if not exhortations to the believing community to scrutinize the claims of anyone who professes Christ but (1) denies essential beliefs regarding the person of Christ (such as his humanity or his deity), (2) does nothing to meet the physical needs of another brother or sister in Christ, or (3) lives an immoral lifestyle, contary to the teachings of Christ. In these cases, John is uneqivocally direct.

In reference to those who claim to be Christians but live immoral lifestyles he writes:

"The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4).

And . . .

"No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious. (3:6-10).

In reference to those who claim to be Christians yet withhold "love" from them (interpreted by John as showing concern and providing for their mundane needs), John has this to say:

"The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now" (1 John 2:9).

And . . .

"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." (3:14-18).

And . . .

"If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (4:20).

Of those who claim to be Christians but hold to false teachings about Christ he writes:

"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." (2:22-23).

He explains why he thinks it is important to tell us this:

"These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you" (2:26).

And it is not as though John expects us to sit by silently and wait till he himself renders a specific judgment--he wants us to participate in the same kind of "judgment":

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (4:1).

The problem with Boyd and those like him is not so much that they error on the side of love. It is rather the case that they mistake a complete lack of judgment for love, and as a result are misleading the believing community into adopting a blind, anti-discernment paradigm. No one in the NT lauds blind acceptance. And no one in the NT equates the scrutiny and rejection of the aberrant beliefs and practices of some who claim to know Christ with a lack of love. That's simply a modern distortion of what true love is. In case it slipped anyone's notice, the apostle who so strongly exhoted us to love ("God is love"; "let us love one another"; etc.), and the one who so strongly exhorted us to scrutinize the claims of those who hold to aberrant theology or lifestyle (see above), are one and the same.