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Jamie Johnson
16 September 2019

Being Biblical is being Christlike

At the end of last month, a progressive pastor who is a friend on social media posted an article entitled "Not Everything 'Biblical' Is Christlike." At face value, that is a disconcerting and disheartening title. However, I did notice the word "Biblical" was in quotes. So, after reading the article, I realized the author Stephen Mattson was making a point that "Biblical" can be what man comes up with on his own. And thinking of the word in quotes, that is true. Man can come up with his own ideas about what is "Biblical" and be wrong. However, that is not the only claim the author of the article makes.

The article states, "'Biblical' has become the cop-out language for approving something as 'Christian' without having to actually refer to the person of Christ." My question is "How can one claim something is truly Biblical without considering Christ?" They go hand-in-hand. Then the article goes into a list of bad things that have been called "Biblical." And there is a quote about how there are verses to support just about anything. In some cases, those claims are true, but there is caution.

Soon after that point, the article goes awry. While out of context, verses can be misused. In context, the Scriptures frame them properly in a truly Biblical perspective. For example, the author mentions slavery among things that has been deemed "Biblical" in the past. While man has certainly been in grave error with certain claims such as that one, it is also error to discount scripture on unreasoned claims. While there is a culture mentioned in the Bible that supported slavery, this does not mean that the Bible supports slavery. Slavery is not Biblical. One has to consider the full context. Man is created in the image of God. Further, consider how slave traders are listed with the "ungodly" in 1 Timothy 1:9-11:

We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers-and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

And while some translations use "kidnappers," the Greek word used translates to enslavers. That is just one instance showing that when taken in context, the Bible does not support slavery. And that is just one issue.

The author writes that the "simple solution" is to replace "Biblical" with "Christlike." The author tries to separate Christlike from Biblical, a trendy thing among progressives in the church, even saying "the different terms present two completely contrasting paradigms." However, they don't. In contrast to the author's claims, Christlike is Biblical and Biblical is Christlike. Christlike is inseparable from Biblical. The author pushes people to be centered on a person -- Jesus -- instead of a text -- the Bible. Again, they are inseparable. How do we know the Person without the text? Why would Jesus stand against His Word? In Mark 3:29 (NIV), Jesus says, "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand." And consider John 1:1 (NIV): "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Regarding the right way to go with this, it's not Biblical or Christlike. It's Biblical and Christlike. It's Christlike, which is Biblical. It's Biblical, which is Christlike.

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Social Justice and the Gospel

"Justice is not a word that needs an adjective. And if somebody puts an adjective on justice, then they have something else in mind."
~ John MacArthur   

Sermons from John MacArthur:

The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel

Q&A: John MacArthur on Social Justice

While some twist "Biblical" to support their own views, some do likewise with "Christlike," something the author of the article fails to recognize. Neither the "hippy Jesus" social justice warrior nor the militant, legalistic Jesus are truly Biblical. How do we know what Christlike even is unless we turn to the Bible? He is both holy and merciful. Can one be truly Biblical without being Christlike? No! Can one be truly Christlike without being Biblical? Again, a resounding, "No!" If the Bible is not our basis or anchor, then "Christlike" just becomes for the progressives what they claim "Biblical" has become -- man's error. Yet, progressives often deny the very standard by which we can discern between what is error and what is truth. We need to get back to the Bible and study it and know it in its fullness and look at the verses in context and pray for understanding from the Holy Spirit. And then with that understanding, may we serve. That is Christlike. That is Biblical. The article comes across as saying, "Be Christlike instead of being Biblical." That makes no sense. It's like saying, "This sentence is false" or "Pinocchio said, 'I lied' and his nose grew." Christlike without Biblical is a fallacy. Biblical without Christlike is a fallacy.

What the progressives try to do is say something with good intent while denying fundamental truth. I see often trending on social media something about theology and erring on the side of love. It has great intent and for the most part I agree with it. However, how is love defined there? Some of the persons posting that have made their concept of "love" a false god. God is love, but the reverse is not true. "Love" has become whatever they feel is right according to the culture, even promoting a "marriage" contrary to God's design for marriage or murder in the name of "choice." If it is true love that they are meaning, then it will not promote such things. If it is true, Christlike, Biblical love being posted about, then I say, "Yes! May I err on love" and may I do so when I am wrong and when I am right. Sometimes, though, it is not the case with such posts. We are to love our neighbors. However, if my neighbor is promoting evil, which is self-destructive, then the progressive would say to just overlook the sin and "love" them (or not even call it sin or evil and rather, proceed to celebrate it). If I ignore the sin and evil and say it's ok, then that is not loving my neighbor. And that is something progressives don't seem to understand. They talk about love a lot, but they make their own version of "love" that denies truth. It really isn't love at all. It is condoning sin while patting themselves on the back because it feels good to take the moral high ground while discounting morality itself. The Bible is clear: "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13:6, NIV). If my neighbor disagrees with the truth (i.e., the Bible), then the Bible must come first. Yet, the author of the article and other progressives discount the Bible as well. We all have to choose: God or man. And God must be first. The progressives promote loving neighbors, but fail to love God (which includes honoring His Word). Some on the other side promote loving God, but fail to love their neighbors. Christlike and Biblical people will love God, honor His Word, and out of that serve others in love. This is meeting them where they are in their messiness, loving them while not condoning the sin, building relationship, meeting needs and speaking the Biblical truth in Christlike love.

By the end of the article, the author tries to backpedal and writes, "This doesn't mean we should avoid studying scripture or disregard it as a useless religious icon, but the Bible should never get in the way of following Jesus." Yet, he has already disregarded Scripture and does so all the more with his erroneous and dangerous perspective, which involves separating the Bible from Jesus. The Bible promotes following Jesus and is the standard for what is Christlike. If one sees the Bible as getting "in the way," then that is not the Bible's fault, but the person's fault and even the idea of the Bible getting in the way is in error. One's incorrect understanding may get in the way, but the Bible absolutelly does not get in the way of following Christ. Rather, it is essential to following Him. I think the author and I would agree that people's perspectives can get in the way. However, the author discounts the very Word of God and this attempted backpedaling fails. One cannot truly follow Jesus without the truth of the Bible.

Divorcing Christ from His Word, divorcing love from truth, and divorcing Christlike from Biblical are all subtle attempts to undermine the truth. I hear often the phrase "your truth." That is a form of relativism which collapses on itself. If I can remove the Bible from Christ, then the Christ I have is a false Christ. If I remove Christ from the Bible, then I have a dead text. If I divorce truth from love, then I have a "feel-good" emotion that is a twist of self-centeredness and an idol, not true love. If I divorce love from truth, then I have a heartless condemnation of self-righteousnessness and disobedience. If I divorce Christlike from Biblical, then it doesn't make sense. I fail to be Biblical if I am not Christlike. If I divorce Biblical from Christlike, I am left again with man's ideas of who Jesus should be instead of who Jesus really is. Even those who claim "your truth" live within the confines foundational, absolute truths every day. Certainly there are subjective perspectives among us all even within families and churches and couples, but they are subject to absolutes. There are absolute, non-negotiable truths regardless of interpretation or emotion (a general one is the law of gravity). Such absolute truths are the many witnesses in creation pointing to God. And specific, absolute, spiritual truth (Jesus is the Way to God; Jesus is God in the flesh, etc.) are in the Bible.

So, be a Berean and examine what is taught or claimed to see if it is true. We need Christ and with Him comes His Word. We need to speak the truth in love. And the claim of love must be true love that does not condone evil, but rejoices in the truth. We must be both Christlike and Biblical and it is redundant to mention them both since being Christlike is being Biblical and being Biblical is being Christlike. This is not my truth, but it is the truth. The Bible and reality substantiate it.


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