Truth or Lies, Part 4
November 2, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
This is part four of a multipart series introducing and interacting with Rosaria Butterfield’s new book, Five Lies of Our Anti-Christian Age. As followers of Christ, we must be rooted in biblical truth as we are confronted by the lies of “this present darkness.”
The second lie that Butterfield address is “Being a spiritual person is kinder than being a biblical Christian.” We hear this lie implicitly in yard signs and t-shirts that call one another to “Be Kind.” This lie undergirds accusations of “hate-speech” when one holds to a biblical view of sexuality and marriage. Without any explicit, outside standard, kindness is the new morality that is legalistically imposed on people.
Don’t hear me, or Butterfield, wrong; kindness is biblical. Kindness is good. We ought to strive for kindness. The lie, however, touches on the difference between how one becomes kind. Butterfield writes, “The difference between ‘being a spiritual person’ and ‘being a biblical Christian’ lies in content, not emphasis” (p. 122). We all want to emphasize kindness. The question is how do we become kind? The lie rejects biblical Christianity because it views the fixed moral standard of the Bible as being opposed to kindness. True biblical Christianity understands that we cannot become kind on our own; we need the saving grace of Christ.
Butterfield zeroes in on the main issue when she says, “I started to reflect on the most divisive issue of today within Christianity: what the Bible means and what the Bible is. All the other debates are downstream from this one” (p. 144). If you hold that the Bible is the inerrant, authoritative Word of God, then you will submit to the truth of Scripture. If you reject the trustworthiness of Scripture and its authority, you are left to design your own path of spirituality.
Most non-Christians reject the authority of Scripture. Many Christians, who may verbally accept the authority of Scripture, unfortunately do not affirm its authority in their practice. In describing this new spirituality, Butterfield quotes theologian Peter Jones. She write, “The new, unbiblical spirituality has deep roots in paganism but also in materialism. Jones writes, ‘Spirituality has become a do-it-yourself life hobby that blends ancient Eastern practices with modern consumer sensibilities’” (p. 123). I would add a third “-ism” to describe this new spirituality: humanism. Humanism celebrates and promotes what humans can do, even believing that humans can solve all of their problems with enough ______________ (fill in the blank with whatever one feels is lacking: education, money, equal opportunity, government regulation, etc.). Humanism says that we need to reject the outdated moral standards of Bible in order to be kind to others; in this spirituality, kindness is the approval of others’ self-perceived desires and identities.
What does the Bible teach about spirituality and kindness? Butterfield uses her personal story to highlight the content of the Bible. In 1997, when she was an unbelieving, “lesbian professor of English,” she received an invitation from Pastor Ken Smith to hear a lecture on the overview of the Bible. Butterfield accepted the invitation to hear the lecture herself before she would have it presented in one of her classes. Pastor Smith told the story of the Bible with the culmination of Christ’s death and resurrection. Butterfield records him saying, “Of all the things man thinks he needs, the Bible says his basic need is to be brought back into a right relationship with his Creator, God. Without that, he is doomed and unfulfilled…What then does God call on us to do? Certainly He does not tell us to be good and save ourselves? No, He calls men, women, and children and the whole world to come to Jesus as their sacrifice for their sin…By faith in Jesus, we live in a restored relationship with God!” (p. 140-141).
We hear in this the two main differences between the spirituality of the lie and biblical spirituality. First, no human can save himself or herself. The answer to our problems does not, cannot, lie within ourselves, because we are cut off from God, who is the only source of all that is good. Second, only Jesus saves us by his death on the cross. The only way to break the guilt and power of sin is the sacrificial death of Christ. Therefore, biblical spirituality affirms that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, something we cannot do on our own.
As you can tell, this lie cuts to the very heart of the gospel. Butterfield highlights that it springs from one’s view of the Bible: “what the Bible means and what the Bible is.” This lie impacts many other current conversations about moral issues. The Bible will always bring us back to our need for the gospel and the power of the gospel to truly transform and produce holiness in our lives. May we never become untethered from the truth and trustworthiness of Scripture.