Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Glorying in Violence

As odd as it may sound, self-professed, Bible-believing Christians are gathering in large crowds to witness horrendous acts of violence. Thousands at a time have assembled for such meetings while others have viewed them on television. Apparently there is no shame in beholding these egregious acts. On the contrary, these believers revel in it, cheering the perpetrators and demonstrating little, if any, concern for the object of the injurious acts. Retailers report record sales of Christian books containing numerous examples of the graphic violence.

I must confess that in a moment of weakness I succumbed to my morbid curiosity and took in some of this violence. Last weekend I viewed a rebroadcast of Lakewood Church's first service in the Compaq Center, former home of the Houston Rockets. Pastor Joel Osteen was on stage recounting the events that over the last 5 years led up to this momentous occasion. He told how when he first had the vision to acquire the 16,000 seat arena, many "naysayers" sought to discourage him. Then the violence. Osteen quoted Romans 3:3 which in the NIV reads, "What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?" "One translation," Osteen said, "renders this verse 'So what if some did not believe?'" He then set off on a positive-thinking message about not being dissuaded from following your dreams when those around you tell you they're too big.

Contextually, the verse Osteen wrenched from its context has to do with Jewish unbelief despite the fact that Israel was chosen by God to be his covenant people. It has nothing to do with personal dreams or visions. It has to do with God's fidelity to the outworking of his redemptive plan. Nevertheless, as Osteen contorted the Scriptures to the point that one could almost hear them scream, thousands clapped, "hallelujah'ed," and raised their hands in response to the abuse.

A commenter on a previous post said, "What Osteen does is teach people how to apply principles from God's Word to their every day lives." I think it's more accurate to say that what Osteen does is teach people, by way of example, how to do violence to the Scriptures, which Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:16 is self-destructive.


Dennis said...

Amen brother. Violence to the text is still violence. But for the grace of God go I. Fight the good fight. Not sure if it's the right latin but fide scriptura

Anonymous said...

Thank you for clarifying that verse for me. I caught the first part of Osteen's message on TV and finally turned it off because I didn't like the "me" message!

cj said...

Surely there's room in God's Word for differences in interpretation. And if not, who is qualified to dictate the final say as to what that Word must mean? Not me.

KP said...

cj, I assume from the fact that you took the time to leave a message that you believe that language is capable of conveying an author's intended meaning. If I'm mistaken about that, please correct me. But remember, you'll have to use words to do so. And in the act of seeking to help me better understand your position, you'll be demonstrating your confidence in the ability of human language to communicate meaningfully.

I could interpret your comment as a hearty agreement with my post but that wouldn't make that reading correct, would it?

By means of a writer's use of grammar, syntax, vocabulary, context, etc., we can narrow in on what he meant. This is the goal and method of all verbal communication. If we believe that God has accommodated his revelation to human language, then we must believe that language is an effective vehicle for meaning.

One needn't be omniscient or infallible to confidently conclude that Osteen's interpretation/application of Romans 3:3 was erroneous.

weaponofwarfare said...

It is sola scriptura and it is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired and authoritative Word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all — that is, it is perspicuous and self-interpreting. "the Bible requires no interpretation outside of itself."

But the scripture is also for exhortation.

If these men that you so easily find fault with be the type men spoken of in 2 Ti. 3 and 4 then Vs 3 tells us that they shall proceed no further and their folly shall be manifest.

2Ti 4:1 The Lord Jesus shall judge.