Open Forum: ‘Self-styled,’ or ‘God-styled’?

Posted: July 15, 2013

Once again, I feel compelled to offer a response, in the form of a “teachable moment,” to a letter that appeared in the July 11 edition of The Star titled “What God Wants?”

This epistle, in the opinion of this writer, is cloaked in the false premise that not only the homosexual movement, but also the abortion rights camp uses so erroneously. It is the premise that Christians unilaterally choose to frustrate the “fun” or restrict the “rights” of those with whom they is disagree on religious grounds.

This false premise perpetuates the notion that Christians are the “author and finisher” of their faith and that refusal to approve of homosexual marriage is simply some kind of sadistic desire to “oppress” other people. It propagates the idea that Christians have a choice. No less than three times in its diatribe and rampage, the thesis attacks the religious convictions of those it classifies as “self-styled Christians.” The phrase “self-styled” is always used, it seems, to somehow imply that there is a “self-styled Christian” and also, by inference, a “normal Christian.”

The Biblical truth of the matter is that the term “self-styled Christian” is an oxymoron. There can no more be a “self-styled Christian” than there can be a “minor surgery.” It is a contradiction in terms. The very essence of Christianity is the denial of self and total obedience to God’s will. A “self-styled” Christian is not a Christian. Any effort to force Scripture to accommodate my will and “lifestyle” is opposite of and in rebellion to the Divine intent. One cannot claim to be a genuine Christian, as Biblically defined, apart from embracing this basic tenet of the faith.

There was a time when those who desired to live in opposition to Biblical values simply went their way and “did their thing.” They understood they “couldn't have their cake and eat it too.” That the church stood its Scriptural ground, and if one wanted to live contrary to its teachings, you were certainly free to do so; just don’t expect the pulpit to condone your sorry behavior. Now it seems, Christians are expected to just throw our most sacredly held beliefs, values, and religious convictions on the altar of satiating political correctness, so that we can all live together in harmony and love.

It would be so much easier, as sadly some churches have done, to find some sort of high-minded, politically correct theological gobbledygook to avoid the discomfort of taking a bold stand against such issues as homosexuality and abortion. Our churches would be so much larger if we could just ignore God's Word and embrace every imagination of man’s heart into unrestricted communion. Unfortunately, as the blood of martyrs testifies, true Christians are not given that option.

The definition of marriage should have never been permitted into the secular arena for debate in the first place. The only historical record for the creation of the institution of marriage is in the Bible. Marriage belongs first to God and therefore the church. The definition of marriage was declared by God in the book of Genesis as the union between one man and one woman for life. Until God rescinds that definition, I have no authority, nor does the church, nor does the state, to change it. If one wants to invoke the “separation of church and state,” by the way, that would be a good place to start.

As a Christian I find no Biblical authority for me to pick and choose what I accept as God's will as revealed in His word and in nature. I can no more ignore God’s clearly revealed will regarding His definition of marriage than I can “Thou shall not kill.”

How much longer would Polycarp have lived if he would have just done the “politically correct” thing and just one day a year sacrificed an animal to Caesar and acknowledged him as lord? He might have enjoyed a number of “364-day years” to serve Christ. But he refused to compromise.

That’s the struggle true Christians again face. True Christians love the homosexual, but we cannot embrace the sin of homosexuality. We love the woman who has had to experience the trauma of abortion, but cannot condone the taking of innocent life. We love all those who “have sinned and come short of the glory of God” because we all have, and because "The blood of Jesus Christ . . . cleans us from all sin.” A true Christian is not a better person; a true Christian is a forgiven person. That is not “self-styled” Christianity; that’s “God-styled” Christianity.

Having dispensed with the theological error, please permit me to finish off the constitutional one. The only “un-American” aspect of Thursday’s letter was to suggest the Founding Fathers contemplated any sort of boundaries on the freedoms of speech and religion. The historical record cannot vouch for any such claim. Yelling “fire” in a theater is irrelevant since it’s hardly a valid example of political speech or opinion. To try to leverage the curtailment of the right of free speech with such an argument hardly merits serious comparison.

I would offer only this quote to deal with such a ridiculous claim: “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter” — George Washington.

I am an American. I am a Christian. I defy anyone to suggest otherwise. I also believe that because we are “one nation under God,” we do ignore His precepts and His will at our peril. I further submit any effort to quench the fire of our rights is to diminish the light of liberty and this “beacon of hope” for all Americans. And it is this that would indeed be “patently un-American.”

The Rev. Dr. Ben Jenkins is pastor of Boyce Baptist Church.