Monday, July 20, 2009

Review of Dan Kimball's They Like Jesus but Not the Church

I'm not done with this book; almost done. Meanwhile, what I did read is fresh on my mind.

Author/pastor Dan Kimball has much good to say that has been said in every generation at least since the 60's when I was in college and we were reading up on Christian apologetics and evangelism. "Friendship evangelism" was once a theme; "Into the Neighborhoods" was a recent thrust for my church. Angel Food ministries and Angel Arms ministries provide food and clothes at low or no cost. There are Christian homeless shelters --and the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities have always set a good example.

We've long known that we should have non-Christian friends --and most Christians do. Most have non-Christian relatives. We realize that you can't bring people into your church if you don't know any people to invite --and building relationships is important. But many people see verbal witness as ending relationships, as unwelcome and impolite; it is important to present a positive image of "Christian," and "Church." One of the best ways to do that STILL IS to bring people into the church for a visit. Where the body gathers, the Holy Spirit is present; discipling is done through teaching, preaching, and even music.

He challenges the church to be "missional." This, too, has always been a theme of evangelicals, to meet the needs of the poor, to reach out to the widow and the fatherless, relatives, neighbors, children and youth. Some have ministries at Hospice and nursing homes and to unsaved relatives. When I was a child, World Vision sought money from Christians for their global ministries to what became known as "The third world" nations. Evangelicals have always sent aid and missionaries around the world to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ --and to be His compassionate Body in the world. When people bring us their problems, it is an opportunity to speak and practice God's principles --an opportunity to help.

He himself, as a pastor, wanted to get out of the office and minister to non-Christians more. This, too, is nothing new --but surely ministers and laymen in every generation need to be challenged on this point. Our church's ministers have always had relationships to people outside the church with good result-- or at least, good effort! He talks about meeting women and men in coffee houses and places where young people hang out--just to talk. He should be careful, however. Four decades ago,The Bourbon Street Evangelist spent time doing this, himself, and then fell into sexual sin with person(s?) he met that way.

Kimball's point is not apologetics, but about the young people's perception of the church and their fondness of Jesus but reluctance to be part of "organized religion." He published this 2 years ago and said he rarely meets anyone in his interviews and travels who admits to being an atheist. I think that is different today, with more atheists coming "out of the closet" and angrily/obnoxiously so. There are many atheist blogs, e.g. which always tie the theory of evolution into their atheistic stand.

Kimball does spend a lot of time on the issue of homosexuals and the perception that the church hates and scorns them. He rightly challenges traditionalists about their humor and privately expressed scorn for "fags" and "queers." He also joins with the church's critics to decry the fact that the evangelicals are identified as fundamentalists and political right-wingers who see homosexuals as having an evil agenda. He wants us to know that a gay pride parade doesn't really represent mainstream homosexuals. (Then why do our major corporations give them money for said parades?)

Which makes me wonder if my old friend's gay beach week events on the east coast are really a better example of the movement and the agenda which Kimball says they don't have. There's something unseemly in those photos of thousands of half-naked, primped and coiffed, overly buff men gathered together in search of hook-ups. Just as unseemly as hetero-beach weeks, for that matter, where people are willing to make temporary hook-ups based on superficial appearances and desire for sex --friends with benefits. Every Biblical prophet would decry the evils of their generation; why would the church do differently today?

I do feel sorry --as I often say --about people with GID (gender identity disorder) many of whom think like the opposite sex in their attractions. I feel sorry for those caught in the trap of sex addiction with their own sex.

However, I don't know where bisexuals deserve special compassion for something they can't help since no one who acts indiscriminately to have sex with more than one person, who can be attracted to either sex deserves a presidential honor for it, such as Obama gave them in his recent LGBT Pride Month. The bisexual is one who definitely has a choice --having sex-perimented himself into a decision that he/she is capable and willing on either side of the door.

I believe there is a sense in which everyone is bisexual --only in having buttons that can be pushed by anyone to produce a certain result. Which is why they say that having an orgasm during rape does not mean you really are guilty of consensual sex even if there was a level of arousal. I would not think very many women could be aroused by force -but I think men might --but normal men would fight first like the dickens! Likewise, arousal with the same sex wouldn't mean one was inevitably homosexual, preferring one's own sex. Arousal at the sight of same sex porn, e.g., is not indication of homosexuality--but of sexual arousal at the sight of erotic material --porn is, after all, the devil's tool --and terribly effective and addictive at making people feel their OWN sexuality. Sexual images and sexual touch arouse persons sexually.

Attraction to friendship and a niche with attractive people of the same sex is normal. It is not normal to fixate sexually and be aroused by friends of the same sex --but that doesn't mean there are not causes of this abnormality that can be prevented and remedied --always my point. We should encourage child-rearing to help kids have normal gender identity and attraction. We should help them understand that errant thoughts, sinful thoughts, are to be barred at the mind's gate --along with thoughts of incest, adultery, pedophilia, fornication, theft, murder, rape --and so on. We don't even bring up such thoughts to our children --they are "unthinkable," and so it used to be with homosexual thinking. One would not "go there" for more than a flash of thought at the possibility --but now, our youth are being made by culture to contemplate and explore the possibility that gay is ok and that they may just be gay.

Kimball, to educate us, raises the Biblical arguments used in favor of homosexuality--citing the other purity laws that we no longer keep. So far, I haven't seen any good arguments from him to the contrary --I think he's baffled, though he comes down on the Creation intention in Eden --"male and female created He them."

If keeping certain purity laws is no longer important to the church, gays argue, than how do we determine that homosexuality is still a sin? To that I would ask, how do we therefore determine ANY laws to be valid today? Why NOT steal? Why NOT lie? Why NOT murder? After all, we eat shellfish, don't we???? The argument doesn't hold. The homosexual would say, however, that he thinks he's not violating anyone else with a homosexual relationship. I believe history tells us that many young men are lured into homosexuality by older gays because they crave and were denied manly attention and affection--or because they became addicted to their kindly molestor's activities and concluded they had a homosexual orientation thereafter --or because they identified too much with their mothers over their fathers.

There seems to be a failure in his book to realize just how unseemly and abnormal and "not-expedient" homosexual behaviors are, how frought with disease, how hurtful, how addictive and risky --how contrary to God's creative design for our procreative bodies --how much in violation of the wait-for-hetero-marriage principle in scripture.

He wants us to really soften our opposition to people who are practicing homosexuals, who are also declaring gay to be OK with God. He concludes that he thinks homosexual behavior is a sin --but he speaks of people who find that they "are" homosexual --who find that these stirrings in youth are afflicting them and determine that they "are" homosexual.

I disagree that they "are" homosexual, if he means "designed or destined to be." Depends on what "are" means. They are male or female with a God-given prescription for their bio-assignment. Anything else should be shunned at the first inkling just like thoughts of pedophilia, promiscuity, incest, adultery, etc. "Guard your heart," Amy Grant sang. And "Bar the Door" to temptation, the Bible says --over and over and over again.

The more we normalize homosexual behavior in our culture, the more people will try it in their adventurous, careless, volatile, immature youth, and conclude that they "are" homosexual--and open themselves to STD's and abnormal sexual fixation. The church and parents are the last bulwark against such thinking --and Kimball wants us to mellow the message on this issue.

Yet, he talks about standing up for truth.

I am reminded of Ann Coulter's remarks --that liberal people want to make conservatives doubt their principles --and change to accommodate their critics. I see this here. We are to think the church is wrong to denounce sin with any strength lest we alienate sinners --that we should never speak of Jesus' promise to separate sheep from goats, that we should not proclaim that we are a wicked generation in need of repentance.

If only we were more loving, then more people would be saved and see the light! But he seems to want us to dim the light of righteousness of God and the necessity of repentance for sin --by agreeing with the non-Christian critics of the church.

Jesus DID say the world hated Him and would hate us --Kimball SEEMS to think there is a way to avoid receiving this hate --if we de-emphasize any concerns against communism, atheism, denying the possibility of intelligence behind naturalism in our science ed., homosexuality, shacking up, divorce, etc.

We've all known Christians who were popular --whose neighbors could each say, "He was a nice guy --never pushed his religion --and I'm still not a Christian--but he really was a Christian, because he didn't prick my conscience!! And I'm still headed for Hell and don't know it because he never told me the truth about the Gospel of Christ--since he knew I wasn't interested --and it was more important to him that he be liked by me."

I've been accused of being obnoxious in my witness on line --probably not so much in personal relationships. I surely do know some obnoxious Christians whose arguments are mainly in-house --Christian against Christian. NOw THAT's what we need a book about!!! I do have friends whose tails I avoid stepping on --but I still try to use Biblical counsel if opportunity presents itself.

I understand that self-righteousness is despised by God as is pride. I know the Church must be loving --and that we need to make friends outside the church in order to introduce them to Christ and bring them INTO the church for discipleship. But I think I hear too much agreement by Mr. Kimball with those unbelievers who love their idea of Jesus --not the biblical Jesus. Who would also think we can afford to vote for politicians who support gay marriage and abortion.

I'm not through with the book --more, later.

"God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and have eternal life."--the Bible


Barb said...

A P.S. Mr. Kimball is amused by the bobble-head Jesus figurines. Said he had mixed feelings with it in his office as pastor.

Yet, when he discusses who Jesus is to him, he regards him with reverential awe.

I'd like to know how you give your children and youth the right idea about reverencing Christ if you are amused by a bobble-head Jesus?

kateb said...

It may have been a typo (which I am a master of), but it sounded like you meant to say Christians do have personal friendships with non-believers?

Barb said...

I looked for a typo on this and haven't found it yet. help me out.

Yes, I DID say that Christians have personal friendships with non-believers.

We've long known that we should have non-Christian friends --and most Christians do.