by Bill Flax
Christians desire to live virtuously with beliefs grounded in love, truth and justice. However, for many churches, justice has been perverted from its biblical meaning — conformity to God’s statutes — into a quest for egalitarianism. Truth — consistency to the character and will of God — has lost its clarity. Love has been reduced into a mere emotion. Many mainline denominations afford more certainty to atheists in academia and media than Scripture.
Many Christians abandoned Scripture, embarrassed by its teachings anywhere they differ from what passes for progressive, nuanced or sophisticated thought. Paul warned against being deceived by the world’s philosophies (Colossians 2:8), but many mainline churches were overrun by the same leftist ideologies that overran every other facet of America’s intellectual current. Babel rises anew.
Salsman perceives this but mistakes its foundations. The religious left and, more frequently, irreligious opportunists transform Christ’s teachings from the spiritual to the political/economic. They even interpret the gospel through the decidedly un-Christian lens of humanistic socialism.
It’s not that “the faintest familiarity with Scripture” enforces the modern welfare state. But that people like Salsman with faint familiarity spout Scripture erroneously. The passages he referenced reveal spiritual not secular truths. He even relays a quote regarding socialism, “addressing itself not to the soul but to the sense of men.”
Yet Jesus focused primarily on the soul over the senses of men. Such verses support socialism only if you divorce Scripture from its actual meaning. If reading Jesus’ teachings through purely naturalistic or materialist lenses, it’s plausible to support welfare, but even then you must be a “cafeteria” Christian ignoring many more sections that argue fervently against government expansion.
Isn’t it contradictory to take what Jesus said devoid of his intent? People who don’t believe the Bible frequently usurp its authority for their theories, but those who champion the inerrancy of Scripture rarely espouse secular socialism. Reducing Scripture to secular ideas rejects its authority. Truth doesn’t come from the Bible. The Bible comes from truth as God’s revelation.
Christ never elevated the body before the soul and rarely focused on worldly matters. He preached repentance, hardly a worldly topic, then died a horrible bodily death to rescue mankind from spiritual damnation. Those verses bandied about promoting socialism were given to reveal the ultimate truth: that man is incapable of effectuating his own salvation.
As were other teachings that clearly reject egalitarian socialism. If removed of their spiritual punch, many verses advocating property rights or esteeming success contradict those cited by Salsman. Matthew 25 includes both the “whatever you do for the least of these” vs. President Obama relishes and the parable of the talents, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.”
Reading Scripture in its spiritual context overcomes all such seeming contradictions. And woe to those who cite one passage but neglect its corollaries.
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