A couple of days ago I wrote about being the Fiction Theology Police. It’s not a popular position nor, according to many of my writer friends, a necessary one.
Last night on Facebook someone posted a link to a very useful list of Clichés Christians Should Avoid. It was a good list and pretty much everything on it I agreed with. Then in the fine print I came across this:
even if you buy into the concept of substitutionary atonement
Now, in case you don’t know what “substitutionary atonement” is, it’s the teaching that Jesus died to pay for the sins of the world. It’s pretty much the whole point of being a Christian. If we Christians didn’t believe THAT, we’d pretty much be free to be any other religion in the world.
I did some looking into it and discovered that the author of the piece is a member of the Emergent Church and that many members of the Emergent Church deny the teaching of substitutionary atonement. In other words…Jesus did NOT die for our sins. Because, in their view, that would make God a bully who is incapable of forgiving without hurting someone and that’s just not who the loving God is!
I’m still incredibly sad over this; I know a lot of followers of other faiths who think that the whole Jesus Dying For Sins is anything ranging from stupid nonsense to outright heresy within their own faith. As Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Pantheists, Pagans, Jews, they’re wholly in bounds to have those feelings and to disagree with the Christian teaching.
But if you claim Christianity as your faith you are calling yourself a Follower of Christ. A follower of Christ who denies the central loving and miraculously triumphant sacrifice of Christ is following a kindhearted but crazy man out of some compulsion I cannot fathom. Why would you follow Jesus and yet refuse to acknowledge him as the Lamb of God? It just doesn’t make sense to me.
And yet, there it is. Thousands of people who claim the label “Christian” and move through the world as such–and yet deny one of the central points of the Christian religion.
When I say I’m the Theology Police, this is what I’m talking about. If you hand me a book written for Christians as a fictional entertainment and yet have the story deny Jesus’ death and resurrection, I’m not going to say “well, that’s okay. It’s fiction.” I’m going to say that that book cannot be called a book for the market segment of Christians. There are some historical examples of this type of policing. One excellent book–The Last Temptation Of Christ– and one much more ridiculous book–Gwen Shamblin’s follow-up to her Weigh Down series–were denied places in the Christian marketplace because they had teachings that were not theologically sound.
That’s what I’m trying to clarify with this post. Books with all ideas can and should exist. That’s how we find out about the ideas and test them and test our own ideas against them. But if they clash with things we as Christians hold dear they can exist outside the shelter of Christianity.