We sort of know each other. We've crossed paths more than once. I've sat and listened to you preach. We've said hello as we've passed each other in church. We've played poker and consumed adult beverages together in church small group gatherings. My sister is currently serving in Asia as part of the missions organization you began.
I've heard of your struggles over recent years. I don't know every detail. My reason for writing this letter is mainly birthed from your post on why you don't believe in Christianity. That shouldn't be surprising. Your intention was obviously to call into question some deeply held Christian convictions and to draw out responses.
We share a similar upbringing. Homeschooled. Faithful Christian family all the way through those growing up years. Asked Jesus “into our hearts” at a young age (a strangely unbiblical terminology). Perhaps that's why I've decided to write this open letter. I see an incredible similarity in the way Christ was presented to both of us, yet we've landed in incredibly different places.
Matt, let's talk about Jesus. The Jesus whose message you claim to love so much.
Let me be clear, I'm not here to exchange ideas. I'm settled in my opinions about who God is and that he has revealed himself sufficiently in Christ through the words of scripture. Call me arrogant. Call me dogmatic, but I submit to you that you cannot even begin to fathom the meaning of those words given the worldview you've now expressed.
There are so many assertions that you have made through your blog, assertions you claim are standard content of the message of Christ. I'm stunned at the utter lack of grounding you give these assertions in the words of Christ...the words you claim to cherish so much. I only want to dig into a few of your statements...
You say that Jesus Christ never claimed to be God. You say that Christ never would have had us call upon him for the remission of sins. You say that he would have disapproved of the organized church. You claim that anyone who claims to truly know God through Christianity is wrong. You say all these things in the name of Christ.
Let's start with the book of John. The John that wrote that “God loved the world,” a message you seem to love so much, is the same John who said that the word that became flesh was God himself (1:1). It was this John who failed to mention a rebuke from the mouth of Christ when Thomas worshipped him saying, “My Lord and My God” (20:28)
This same John claimed that Christ nearly brought himself to the point of being stoned because he made himself out to be equal with God (5:18). Christ knew who he was. Christ may not have said the words “I am God,” but only someone who reads scripture with one eye closed could claim that Christ thought otherwise.
This same John, the one who wrote the words of Christ that “God so loved the world,” is the John that wrote the words of Christ that “Whoever believes in [the son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3). You say that Christ never said that calling on him brings about the remission of sins, but I simply must ask, which Bible have you been reading? How could Christ possibly have been clearer?
The Jesus of John's Gospel believed he was God.
The Jesus of John's Gospel taught that faith in him brought about the remission of sins.
Let's talk about Matthew. You say that Christ would have been deeply opposed to an organized church. Yet this same Christ is described by Matthew as encouraging his disciples to bring the sins of a brother before “the church” (18:17). What is this odd thing that Jesus calls a church? Are we really to believe that it is an “ambiguous worldwide body of people who know about God and love God?” How would the disciples have known where to look? How would this “church” have had any power to carry out what Christ was instructing it to do in this text?
The Jesus of Matthew believed in an organized Church.
Matt, where did you find this Jesus you claim to love? Did you find him in the Bible? Or did you cobble him together from your own preferences and scriptures you just happened to be able to stomach?
Are these few texts I've mentioned simply exceptions in scripture that the church corrupting Apostles and creed makers inserted later? If they are, then why do you trust any words from Christ you happen to find appealing? Are these offensive words of Christ anomalies or are they natural parts of a message wholly different from the one you've constructed? Why do you trust the scriptures to reveal some message from Christ and yet distrust the Apostles who wrote them?
Where did you get your Jesus?
If you have not consistently allowed the Christ of scripture to speak for himself, then you have constructed a Christ in your own image, and therefore reimagined God himself.
There is only one way to describe this. You aren't seeking for God. You've rejected his clear revelation in Christ. You have moved on to a journey of seeking your own identity.
I'm sorry Matt, you would make a terrible god.
Are we really to believe that the glorious creation we live in was made by a god who is so careless as to forget to tell us who he was? Is he trying to tease us?
This issue has nothing to do with whether someone is arrogant enough to think they know God, it is an issue concerning whether we are humble enough to think God is capable of speaking.
Scripture and Christianity are not boxes that we put God in. They are the tools God has given us to see him as he is. No creature can break out of the realm of being a mere creature.
In spite of whatever offense or irritation you may be feeling from these words, I'm confident that you already know they are true.
Why? Because I trust those who walked with Christ more than I trust you. I trust the words of Paul, who was knocked to the ground by the light of Christ's glory, more that I trust the words of a blogger who presupposes the dishonesty of Paul's experience and idolizes his own.
Paul said it plainly:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:18-20).
You may reject these words, but why should I? Why should anyone else? What gives your words authority?
I hope you'll take my words to heart, but if you don't, perhaps some of the readers you have begun to lead astray will. If so, my conscience will be clear.
I pray that God will grant you repentance and lead you to a true understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Slave of Christ Jesus