Josh Grauman spent the last two blogs critiquing my previous three blogs on the future temple, and I must say that Josh is clearly wrong. He needs to retake Hermeneutics 101 because he obviously didn’t pass it the first time. He should also sit in on an Ezekiel class (taught by me, the guardian of truth) in order to re-study this book. I don’t know which “Ezekiel” he’s reading, but it’s not the one in my Bible. Jesus said that we (!!) are the temple, not some stupid building. If Josh wants to go off and sacrifice animals at some millennial temple, then fine. He can take my knife. The rest of us will be enjoying the New Jerusalem, the real temple, and not diminishing the atoning work of Christ as Josh has done. I’m not saying that Josh isn’t a Christian. He probably still loves Jesus. But I can’t believe they let him teach at a college, a Bible college, when he obviously doesn’t know how to read the Bible!
Unfortunately, some Christians actually talk like this in heated theological debates—most often when dropping drive-by comments in blogs and Facebook posts. The fact that some of you may not have caught the satirical nature of that paragraph only proves the depressing point. It’s one of the most unbelievable aspects of “Christian” blogging and commenting that people tear into each other like wild dogs with little self-awareness of how brutally unchristian they sound. One person critiques another person’s view and all hell breaks loose. Humility is ignored, relationships are destroyed, and godliness is trampled underfoot by one’s own egotistical pride. When James says that God opposes the proud, that includes prideful comments on the web. Especially anonymous ones.
Now, back to the temple blogs. In reality, I thought that Josh make a strong case for his view and has given us much to think about. I dropped a comment in his second blog that clarifies a couple things and pushes back a bit. But over all, I enjoyed reading his blogs and was challenged by several points, especially since they caused me to dust off and re-read Haggai and Zechariah—two books that I hadn’t considered in this discussion. As with anything that comes out of Josh’s mouth, these blogs forced me to re-think what the Bible says about the temple, and that’s always a good thing.
So here’s a lesson for us all. As you seek to be biblical—and by that I mean truly understanding what the Bible means, and not going to the Bible to reaffirm what you’ve always been taught—try to dialogue with people you disagree with. In fact, one of the worst things you can do is stay barred up in contexts where everyone agrees with you and never challenges what you think. If you never have your thoughts challenged, or if you react poorly when they are, then there’s a good chance you’re still suckling on the breast of ignorance, unless of course you’re exceptionally brilliant and don’t need any critical evaluation.
One of the best educational decisions I made was going overseas to do my Ph.D. At Aberdeen University (Scotland), I studied with a bunch of Christians, none of whom came from my exact theological tradition. Amils, Premils, Egalitarians, Complimentarians, Charismatics, Calvinists and Arminians. I became friends with Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians and Methodists. And they all loved Jesus and His word. In our seminars, there were no “right answers,” only an authoritative text. And when I would present a view or critique someone else’s, the only legitimate criterion for gaining a hearing was: Can I prove it from Scripture? I couldn’t punt to some doctrinal statement or creed, or some truth that was so obvious that we didn’t need to open the Bible to prove it. Our Bibles were never closed during those seminars.
A few years later, I taught New Testament at Nottingham University (England). My colleague was a Gospels specialist and was also an atheist. My boss was a brilliant theologian but not an Evangelical. The one thing they had in common was their love to study the Bible. I’ll never forget what my boss said one day when I asked him about hiring an Evangelical. “I wouldn’t mind hiring an Evangelical,” he said, “as long as he just sticks to the text.”
As long as he sticks to the text? Isn’t that what it means to be Evangelical? Aren’t we text-centered people? Not according to his perception, and his perception unfortunately was shared by many non-Evangelicals in the U.K. Conservative Christians stick to their beliefs regardless of what the text actually says. I wish I could have corrected his perception, but unfortunately, his perception had been my experience growing up. Sometimes Evangelicals are slow to crack open the text with the anticipation that the Bible might correct their cherished views.
The reformers coined a phrase, Ecclesia Reformata, semper reformanda, which means, “the Reformed church, always reforming,” and I love that last part: always reforming. A healthy church is one that is not afraid to reexamine its beliefs in light of Scripture, zealously seeking to change, adjust, or reaffirm what it believes if the Bible demands it. And one way to do this is to dialogue with others outside your tradition, who also hold to the authority of God’s word.
So let us dialogue with humility, unity, and love. Caustic accusations, demeaning comments, and abrasive language do nothing to further the kingdom. Thank you, Josh, for a challenging and loving dialogue!