Two authors came to my attention while browsing tweets this week. The first is Rachel Hollis, who presents herself as a Christian but who isn’t (see below). The second is by Sarah Bessey, whose book contains a chapter where the author urges God to help her to hate a certain group of people solely because of their skin color. What is causing people who claim to be Christian to buy these books?
I found this list of progressive Christians on Alisa Childers’ blog. Childers is very reliable, having written a detail-filled book about attempts by progressives to distort the gospel.
She writes this about Jen Hatmaker, a progressive:
Since its launch in 2017, Hatmaker’s podcast has been a veritable “who’s who” of progressive Christian leaders such as Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans, Pete Enns, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Richard Rohr, Jeff Chu, Mike McHargue (“Science Mike”), Barbara Brown Taylor, Austin Channing Brown, Lisa Sharon Harper, Rachel Hollis, and Glennon Doyle.
I want to talk about Sarah Bessey and Rachel Hollis. Are these authors working from within a Christian worldview?
Anne Kennedy was bemused to find Rachel Hollis’ best-selling book, Girl, Wash Your Face, in the Christian living section of the bookstore next to the Bibles. Hollis describes herself as a Christian but her self-help advice is anything but Christian, Kennedy believes.
“She does mention Christianity and her faith in Jesus but in terms of the book itself, there’s really nothing that would distinguish it from any other kind of self-help thing that’s on the market and there’s lots of them. She quotes some Bible verses but she doesn’t really rely on a Christian worldview at all to motivate behavior,” Kennedy… said on a recent Christian Research Institute podcast.
[…]“I don’t think she’s a Christian at all,” she commented.
[…]“Her worldview is in no way representative of classical Christianity. She’s inclusive, affirming of LGBT, all religions are fine, doesn’t have any even vague understanding of what redemption and the cross and faith in Jesus were to actually look like. She invokes the name of Jesus periodically, she quotes some verses but nothing that she says at all represents a Christian worldview. So it is interesting to me that she is marketed as a Christian.”
And the Bessey devotion book has this:
Please help me to hate wh1te people. Or at least to want to hate them. At least, I want to stop caring about them, individually and collectively. I want to stop caring about their misguided, racist souls, to stop believing that they can be better, that they can stop being racist.”
[…]”Lord, if it be your will, harden my heart. Stop me from striving to see the best in people. Stop me from being hopeful that White people can do and be better.
[…]”Let me see them as hopelessly unrepentant, reprobate bigots who have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and who need to be handed over to the evil one.”
Why are these books so popular? I think that the problem is that we’re not reading our Bibles to get the author’s intended meaning. Instead, we’re selecting the parts of the Bible that affirm what makes us feel good and look good to others.
Consider this post from Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason:
You never open the email, skip the first three pages, and read just one line on the fourth page. No one, in fact, takes that approach with their mail. By skipping the context of the email and ignoring the flow of thought, you wouldn’t know what that line meant on the fourth page. If it’s wrong to read your friend’s mail that way, then why do we read God’s mail that way?
We open the letter to the Philippians, skip the first three chapters, and read verse 13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Message received. Close the letter. We’re done here!
We even plaster that verse on a mug, publicizing our mistake. I call this “Coffee Cup Christianity,” and it’s killing our biblical literacy. We’ve become accustomed to seeing isolated Bible verses and presume we know their meaning. Too often, however, we merely insert our own meaning into a Bible verse, thereby overwriting what God was trying to tell us.
[…]Sadly, Coffee Cup Christianity violates one of the most basic and well-known principles of interpretation: context. It’s a principle known not only among Bible readers. Many people in our culture understand it. Tragically, we apply it when reading man’s word but neglect it when reading God’s word. Coffee Cup Christianity leads to three dangerous problems.
Here are the problems:
- Coffee Cup Christianity overwrites God’s intended meaning with your own
- Coffee Cup Christianity leads to missing important lessons from God
- Coffee Cup Christianity models bad interpretive methods
So, here’s what I recommend. My Bible study partner and I are going through New Testament letters. Our goal is to find out what God wants us to be doing by reading the advice given to early church Christians. We’re trying to learn how to recognize life situations that God has an interest in, and make decisions that respect his values and goals. We want to put ourselves second in those situations. And we’re holding each other accountable to the author’s intent in those books of the Bible.
For each book, we always pick out a good commentary. For 1 Peter, we’re using Joel B. Green’s “1 Peter“, which we got free from Logos Bible study. We read the full chapter, then the commentary, prepare our points in advance. Then meet to compare. We always pray first, and often afterwards. Here’s what we did for 1 Peter 1.
So, that’s our approach. If your Bible study just has people showing up without reading anything, without preparing anything, and then twisting the text to make them feel good or look good, then I think you need to get out of that Bible study. Do better.