Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Christ or Anti-Christ: the wrath of God, the love of God & the confusion of Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller’s words about God should break the heart of every Christian. Using Rob Bell’s book Love Wins and Kevin De Young’s review of Bell’s book, “God Is Still Holy and What You Learned in Sunday School Is Still True: A Review of “Love Wins,” Miller attempts to make the case that the traditional God of Christianity is the anti-Christ while insisting that Bell’s God is the true one. He posits two different religions as does De Young whom Miller refers to as a young restless and reformed type.
In his article, “Christ or Anti-Christ?,” Miller opines that one God is “the sacrificial god,” who demands sacrifice because of sin. He writes:

The only way to escape this god’s wrath is to hide behind his Son, Jesus, the sole being capable of making the sacrifice necessary to appease this god’s wrath. Because with this god, forgiveness and reconciliation can only be achieved through sacrifice.

He also defines this God: “The primary attribute of this god is holiness or otherness.”
Miller goes on to name the other God as the self-sacrificial God, the God who is also holy but with a difference; the holiness comes from the attribute of love, especially love of enemies.  And of course with these two contrasts, which are caricatures of the real God, Miller is able to attribute different ways of seeing to the worshipers of the two different gods.

For instance those who worship a God whose holiness occurs because of his otherness have a “hostile religious identity.” They value propositional truth rather than experiential truth. They value conversion over compassion, the intellect over emotion.
But those who worship a God whose holiness is found in his love do not think in such binary terms. They see people moving along a line that moves them toward god. For instance from illness to wellness, and from destructive behavior to constructive behavior.

Miller does not mention the cross at all when writing of the self-sacrificial God in his anti-Christ article. But he does in his next article.
In a follow up article, “I am the blood drinking god,” Miller attempts to make both the orthodox believer and the progressive believer worship both of the gods at various times in their faith journey. That is because some have accused him of using binary concepts himself in his former posting.  But the new posting simply gives Miller an excuse to further disparage the orthodox. He believes that the God who seeks for sacrifice is a human projection:

The Sacrificial god is where all of humanity begins. It’s clearly an anthropological projection, the natural outgrowth of a “survival of the fittest” mentality where the threat of divine wrath serves to curb violence within the community and justify violence against those who threaten the group’s survival.
And Miller defines where self-sacrifice fits in when referring to Jesus:

If God is love, and love, by definition, requires self-sacrifice (i.e. Jesus on the cross), there’s no way God can turn around and demand a sacrifice, because that would make God just like us–a self-centered hypocrite.
Now obviously all of this needs to be sorted out. Miller has set up a God for orthodox Christians which would remind one of the Gnostic’s caricature of the Old Testament God. And he basically does so by ignoring the most basic Christian theology and the biblical text. The biblical God is holy. He is other. And he is love. God’s wrath is deeply connected to his love and he alone makes the unique and required sacrifice.

God commanded the people of Israel to make sacrifices and within their rituals was the promise of the great sacrifice that was a gift given by God. God taught the people of Israel the meaning of his holiness and otherness. And he taught them the meaning of obedience that through them we might all learn of the great and tender love of God which we know through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. (Hebrews 9)
To write as Miller has written is to deny both the Trinity and the redemptive purposes of God. He denies the Trinity because he does not understand that the three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are of the same essence and will. They willed, in love, with a unity that we do not understand, the death of Jesus and the salvation of those who belong to him.  If one wishes to see the wrath of God displayed alongside the ultimate love of God look at Calvary.

Going further, Miller muddies the water with his one attempt at exegesis. In Matthew chapter 6, the Pharisees complain because Jesus eats with sinners. Jesus tells them:

It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means; “I desire compassion, and not sacrifice, for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Miller points out that verse 13, spoken by Jesus is from Hosea, which it is. “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (6:6) But all, including Miller and myself, need to learn what that means.

What God is saying is that burnt offerings will mean nothing if the people do not turn back to Him. He has already stated to Judah that their “loyalty is like the morning cloud and like dew which goes away early.” He further states that he has “hewn them in pieces by the prophets,” and “slain them by the words of his mouth.
This isn’t about the ultimate sacrifice given by Jesus on the cross that turns away the wrath of God, it is rather about making a sacrifice that is not made from love.  The Pharisees were only interested in the ritual—they cared little for the sins and needs of the sinner. The Pharisees were teachers, they should have, with great compassion, eaten with the sinners teaching them the ways of God.

In one thing Kevin Miller and Kevin De Young agree and they are right. Two differing faiths are emerging within the evangelical world. Jesus Christ came into the world to live and die for our sin. He was resurrected that we might have eternal life and belong within his kingdom, a kingdom which belongs to those who are united to him through repentance and faith.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than then having now been justified by his blood we saved from the wrath of God through him. (Romans 5: 6-9)


Anonymous said...

In the "About," MIller says this of himself:

"Kevin is fascinated by theology; philosophy, film and meta-theories that seek to explain everything from storytelling to the origin of evil. Kevin’s key influences include Rene Girard, Ernest Becker, Joseph Campbell, Charles Darwin, Ernest Hemingway, Werner Herzog, Walt Disney, George Lucas, James Cameron, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky and anyone else bold enough to rewrite the rules in pursuit of a vision only they can see."

Enough said.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

Yes, I saw that David and thought the same thing. Wouldn't it be great, if all of these free thinking emergent writers suddenly became hungry for the word of God.

will spotts said...

There are very few new ideas in the world. (This is true of ideas about God and gods in particular.) You point out the similarities to the Gnostic treatment of God. It is essentially the same. (I would wager the Gnostic view of God was likely like Marcion's - a symbolic caricature to illustrate the rejection of that idea of God)

This essay (Christ or anti-Christ) makes blatant what is apparent in Bell, but more subtle. This is the logical conclusion - that God presented in the Bible is rejected. The Christ presented in the Bible is rejected in favor of a christ who is not savior, but a rock to be found in many cultures with many names in any religion. This is also a Gnostic construct.

I'm a little saddened that the writer tried in his second attempt to depart from his initial honesty. Most people who reject the God presented in the Bible and who reject the Jesus presented in the Bible - continue to try to claim that they accept these. That their version and the biblical versions are, in fact, the same thing. Yet that is clearly not the case.