At the end of February, Steve McSwain wrote a blog for the Huffington Post titled “6 Things Christians Should Just Stop Saying”. McSwain writes from the perspective of the modern christian and details the six most offensive and untrue things that the old, nut-job christians say. It’s been a few months, and I’m sure many have condemned the things Mr. McSwain has said, but I can’t resist adding my two cents. The post is just so bad…
1. The Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God.
Mr. McSwain kindly informs us that the Bible is full of errors. He tells us that no one can prove him wrong because no one has access to the original manuscripts. Of course it’s true that we can’t look directly to the autographs to prove inerrancy, but McSwain apparently fails to recognize that no orthodox Christian attempts to go that route to prove inerrancy. He doesn’t seem to care about the reasons to believe in inerrancy and is comfortable condemning those that hold the orthodox position as liars without giving evidence for his view.
Since he doesn’t argue for his view, I don’t feel compelled to argue for my view. What I would like to know, however, is why McSwain even looks to the Bible in the first place. I read, study and apply the Scriptures because I believe it to be the Word of God that has been revealed through men and faithfully transmitted through history. But what can McSwain think of the Bible? If it is so “replete with errors”, why trust anything that the book has to say? I will venture to guess how McSwain determines the parts of the Bible that are in error: anything that he doesn’t like. Which leads to his second point.
2. We just believe the Bible
Under point number two, McSwain describes how he does not believe the holocaust actually happened and that he is a Nazi. At least that’s my interpretation of what he said…
You see what I did there? I have Mr. Koukl to thank for this fine rhetorical device. Any sane person should read what I assert above, read McSwain’s actual point number two, and conclude that the above interpretation is idiotic. There is, in fact, such a thing as the wrong interpretation.
McSwain informs us that Christians don’t believe the Bible, they believe in their interpretation of the Bible. Duh. In order to process any information I must interpret it. What he’s really trying to say is that any interpretation of the Bible is ok because the Bible means whatever you want it to. Again, I would like to ask McSwain a couple of questions. If any interpretation is valid, what do you think of my interpretation of his statements above? What would you say to someone that interprets 2 Peter 1:20-1 as saying that Scripture is not a matter of personal interpretation since such an interpretation would exclude your view? And what does sincerity have to do with the validity of a viewpoint or interpretation?
I don’t even understand why he brings this point up. If the Bible is “replete with errors”, there’s no point in looking to or interpreting it. There’s no real meaning of the text and, even if there was, it would be obscured by the many many textual errors. The takeaway ought to be: just throw the book away, there’s no way to get it right.
But what is the most fascinating aspect of this view? That McSwain writes an entire article (and, after looking at his website, apparently a couple of books) to prove that the orthodox Christians that interpret Scripture are wrong. So much for respecting their sincerely held interpretation.
3. Jesus is the only way to heaven
This entire section is just bizarre. McSwain claims to be a Christian, but misses the entire message of the Gospel. According to our kind interpreter, the only verse in the entire Bible that indicates the exclusivity of the Gospel is John 14:6. Furthermore, even though the plain meaning of the words of Jesus might indicate He is claiming exclusivity, to say so is just an incorrect interpretation of His words.
McSwain informs us that many sincere Christians interpret that verse differently. Again, I have to ask, what does sincerity have to do with anything? If I sincerely believe 2+2=5, does that make it true? Of course not! Yet, for some reason we should believe that sincerity is the magic talisman that makes any idiotic interpretation as equally valid the correct interpretation, if there were such a thing. But I still don’t know why we’re even talking about interpretation because this verse is probably filled with errors and bears no resemblance to anything Jesus actually said.
McSwain goes on to describe an alternate interpretation of the verse in question. Well, that’s not really true – he describes the context and why Jesus was talking to the disciples, but he never actually tells us how the words “no one comes to the Father but through Me” mean anything other than “you can only access God the Father through Me.” I don’t even know how to construct that second quotation in a way that doesn’t use basically all the same words – the meaning is so obvious in the original. Of course Jesus isn’t telling the disciples that Buddhists are going to hell (per McSwain’s straw man interpretation). But He most certainly is telling them that He is the only way. Thomas asks Jesus how they will know the way to the place being prepared for them. He doesn’t say: “as long as you are trying to be a good person and are being spiritual, any religion or belief system will get you there.” May it never be! He says that they will know the way if they follow Him because no one else can lead you there.
McSwain finishes this section by reasoning that no one can judge another interpretation as true or false because no one is infallible. This is utter nonsense. There is a meaning to what is in Scripture and it has been determined by the author of Scripture: God. John 14:6 is not a difficult passage to interpret – the plain sense makes common sense so there is no reason to add any other sense to it (again, thanks to Koukl for that explanation). Any other interpretation is about as valid as believing that John 14:6 teaches that we should only buy and drive Toyotas.
The most disturbing idea in this section is that Christians only claim exclusivity because of John 14:6. Again I have to ask, how has this “christian” missed the entire point of the Gospel? McSwain does not believe “Jesus was drawing a line in the sand between him and some new religion he was creating and all the other religions of the world.” That is true, Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion, per se. He came to free His people from bondage to sin by the power of His blood. He came to propitiate for our sin. He came so that those who were at enmity with God could be at peace with God. Without Him, you can’t be with God. What clearer line could there be!
4. The rapture of Jesus is imminent
McSwain isn’t really talking about the doctrine of imminence in this section, so the title is a bit misleading. In fact, I tend to agree with what he says here. I think that people like Hal Lindsey are crazy and they should stop making us look bad, but for very different reasons.
5. Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle and it is a sin against God
At this point, I’m not sure I have much more to say about the actual doctrines in question. McSwain clearly rejects the Bible as authoritative or even helpful in discovering truth so it is nearly impossible to ground the debate. McSwain clearly think that morality is relative to the moral, spiritual and religious environment and not based on the objective moral law of God.
6. The earth is less than 10,000 years old
McSwain browbeats us yet again with high-sounding rhetoric and no content. He’s not stupid enough to think that the Bible could accurately describe the origin of all creation, but if you are, please keep it to yourself.
He finishes by exhorting Christians to stop talking and saying stupid things but instead to love. As usual, there is no definition of love or description of what loving actions look like. Just a sound byte.
Well, I have one statement that I would like McSwain and his confederates to stop saying…
No, it’s not about interpretation, even though he spent the entire article condemning alternate interpretations. Though this is incredibly hypocritical, inconsistent and intellectually dishonest, that’s not my biggest problem.
And no, it’s not about his low view of Scripture, even though I have no clue why he would even “treat the Bible as important” since it is so full of errors. In fact, I have no clue what he is using to ground any of his views other than his own feelings.
It’s: “I’m a Christian.”
Mr. McSwain, we get it. You’re hip and cool and new age and post-modern and all the rest of it. But you are most definitely not a Christian. To say so is just plain dishonest. Please, go start your own thing that you can define any way you want instead of hijacking the term “Christian.” Nobody cares how sincere you are about it, you reject everything that the Bible teaches and that the Church has upheld for 2,000 years. You’re free to believe whatever you want, but when you claim a label for yourself, everyone expects that you actually believe what others in that group believe. You can pretend that we’re all wrong, but please don’t pretend to be something you’re not.