I wrote two articles the other day which reflecting back on, I think they are more closely linked than I realised at the time. In the first, I responded to a rather bizarre article in Premier Christianity Magazine asking if Jesus might have been married. In the second, I wrote about the way that COVID vaccination is reducing the risk of serious disease from the virus and how this reminds me of an old saying that we can give people just enough religion to inoculate them against the real thing.
The link is this. The general principle at work in the second article shows why the problems I identified in the first article are so serious. I know that the magazine publishers would want to say “We’re just trying to provide a wide range of opinion from across the spectrum.” I know they’d say “we’re journalists not pastor teachers” and I know they’ll say “we don’t actually agree with the opinion of all of our contributors.”
However, it matters because they are contributing to the spiritual diet of a significant number of Christians. And here is the problem. The author of the article is engaging with Scripture in a way that is distorted. He rips things out of context. He ignores anything that doesn’t support his hypothesis. He misrepresents the evidence of God’s Word. And the editors of a mainstream Christian magazine think that this is okay. They publish absolutely ridiculous rubbish that any sane person would laugh out of court. Then they go public and say that whilst they don’t really agree with this pack of lies themselves, they have to admit that the argument is stronger than they expected.
In so doing, what they are telling their readers is that Christianity is about being allowed to make up any nonsense you are like. It’s about engaging in the very kind of speculation that the Apostle Paul specifically forbids. It’s about having your own pet theories and reading them into Scripture without any care for truth.
Then we wonder why younger people walk out on the church and on faith.
And there are other examples of how they’ve had Christian faith represented to them. I’ve written before about how some Christians got caught up in all kinds of wild conspiracy theories during the pandemic, some just bizarre, others linked to and propagated by some of the most unpleasant political movements around.
Then there have been the cases of people writing books with big claims about the miraculous ministry. A few years back there was a guy doing the rounds and being invited to speak at churches who claimed to have been a top international wrestler. The only problem was that when people tried to check out his credentials, no-one could find any reference to the man in official records.
I think some of this comes out of a desire to be charitable and compassionate. So we end up saying “oh that’s interesting” when what we should be saying is “what a load of nonsense.” However, whilst we may think that we are being charitable towards the people saying and doing these things, such an attitude ends up being unloving towards seekers and younger/vulnerable believers.
They end up with this distorted view of faith. They decide that it is just about believing anything and everything. So, they either end up living with a similar confused, shallow faith themselves or they conclude that the whole thing is nonsense and walk out on Christianity altogether. We’ve inoculated then against the real thing. We’ve inoculated then against the truth.
This is why discernment matters. It’s also why it matters that we offer a diet of good Biblical teaching.