If It Were a Pancake

Steve McSwain, “Author, Speaker, Thought Leader, Spiritual Teacher,” has written a piece over at HuffPo that requires some sort of response. From the rigor of argument displayed in his piece, one guess could be that he is most likely a mentor of spiritual formation at a place somewhere in LA with a name something like Kimberly’s Nail Salon, with his office just off the room full of tanning beds.

According to McSwain, Christian need to cool it with the following six dogmas that are just embarrassing the heck out of us urbane Christians. “Christians must stop saying the following things.” Okay, get your legal pads and pens out! Take good notes — it is up to us to stop humiliating the sophisticati. This is no small task, for they humiliate easy.

“1. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God.”

We should stop saying this because the Bible is just riddled with errors. There is a name for people like this in the Bible, but unfortunately for McSwain, that name is “unbeliever.”

He says “no matter what translation you favor, the Bible is replete with errors.” Since he concludes this section with a resounding statement about how we don’t have a right to our own facts, it would have been swell if he had appealed to some. Imagine a defense attorney standing up and saying, “I do not think my client should be convicted. The prosecutor’s case was riddled with errors. The defense rests, your honor.”

Well, okay.  One scarcely knows how to engage.

“2. We just believe the Bible.”

No, not at all, he responds in soothing, dulcet, pomo tones. What you believe is your interpretation of the Bible. Sure thing. I also believe my interpretation of articles I read at HuffPo. I also see things with my eyeballs. Is there supposed to be a difficulty?

He points to the fact that there are so many differing interpretations, nudging us to respond to this with “oh, I give up then.” But we ought to respond with “I wonder which one is right? or if any of them are?”

Imagine him talking to a cancer researcher this way. “Don’t you realize that every last approach to this disease in the history of the world has been ineffectual? Every attempt to cure cancer to this point has failed. What do think you are trying to accomplish?”

Thomas Edison once said he did not discover how to make a light bulb, but rather discovered 10,000 ways how to not make one. But he is a great man, and not at all like those crazies who think there is a right way to read a text and 10,000 ways to not read it. Rubes.

“3. Jesus is the only way to heaven.”

Having persuaded us in #1 that the Bible is replete with errors, and having also convinced us in #2 that every man’s interpretation just floats around in his own head, unanchored to anything serious, he moves on to #3, which involves him arguing closely from the text like it didn’t have errors, and presenting his interpretation of that text in John 14 like he thought it was correct or something.

But what McSwain did here was push all his chips onto 23 black, and went for broke. But the question of whether Jesus is the only way to God does not simply rest on how you read one passage in John 14. It depends upon what the Bible teaches about the nature of sin, from Genesis to Revelation, it depends upon the promises of God throughout the Bible against the backdrop of that sin, and it rides on the Lord’s prayer in Gethsemene, when He was actively looking for another way. “If there is any other way to do this,” the Lord prayed, “let’s do it that way instead. Let this cup pass from me.” A voice from Heaven did not say that “it looks like a guy named Steve McSwain will have some promising ideas. Let’s wait until he is born, and see what develops.”

“4. The rapture of Jesus is imminent.”

Okay. Let’s give him this one. I also am tired of eschatological opium dreams that more closely resemble that vintage movie poster about the attack of the fifty foot woman than than they resemble sober exegesis of, say, Rev. 17:3, despite the fact that both the poster and the verse have a woman in them.

“5. Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and it is a sin against God.”

McSwain had his son explain the ins and outs of deeper moral theology to him. Apparently, whether or not something is a sin or a vice depends on how old you are, what year you were born. Who knew?

“6. The earth is less than 10,000 years old.”

This one cracks me up. Now I confess that I am a YEC, a young earth creationist. I do think that the earth is young enough that, if it were a pancake, the steam would still be rising off it and the butter would melt on it. I also recognize that making this confession results in me being consigned to the intellectual leper colony that modernity runs for those they would rather not talk to.

But whilst I am being frogmarched off, I do have one question, and I think I might get it out before the door slams. You say that the universe is 13 billion years old, give or take. Where is it that old?

Everybody stops. Huh?

I said where is it that old?

You guys talk as though the universe has a birthday, and that it has one age, like it was a three-year-old girl who has lived in the same house since she was born, and you blithely set that age at 13 billion, give or take. But how old is the universe halfway down a wormhole? How old is it at the center of this black hole? How about that one? How old is it at the very spot where the Big Bang first went off? How old is it at the event horizon? How old is it out at the peripheral tippy edges? And last question — what balcony are you standing on when you look at the universe and discuss “the” age of it? What is that balcony bolted to . . . besides your own conceits?

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Amen. Job 40