Recently, two local, Utahan, faith leaders had a debate, televised through YouTube. Pastor Jason Wallace represents, as a pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church represented a more traditional view. During the discussion, he defended a multitude of doctrines considered orthodox by historical Christiantiy including calvinism, Trinitarinism, tradtional leadership structure, eternal suffering in hell, etc. He hosts a weekly show called “The Ancient Paths.”
Shawn McCraney, pastors a group which goes by C.A.M.P.U.S., “Christian Anarchists Meeting to Prayerfully Understand Scripture.” Shawn hosts a show, Heart of the Matter, which addressed errors in Mormon doctrine for its first five years. However, for the last two years, Shawn focused on evangelical doctrines he felt needed correction. For example, Shawn contiverally attacked the doctrine of Tinitarinism.
Both men go through various topics during this two hour debate. In researching their concerns further, I listened to numerous shows they produced over the last year, touching on some of the same subjects brought up in the debate. From a purly theological standpoint, I feel both men make very valid points. As Mr. Wallace deduces that while many of the doctrines we have today, such as the Trinity, may not be found in the Bible, verbatim, they represent concepts spelled out in scripture, and thoroughly researched and prayed for by our forefathers.
Shawn hammers home that all traditions and theological concepts represent man made constructs which should be shoved aside. He teaches that we should take the Bible as a whole, follow the leading of the Spirit as we do so, and quickly dismiss any sort of structure and traditionalism.
Both men represent two extremes. And while my views tend to learn more towards Shawn’s, I believe they both missed the heart of the matter (pun intended). At one point in the show, a guest asked everyone, “Who loves me?” Shawn raised his hand, yet pastor wallace did not. The guest points out the Jesus calls us to love everyone, and that the pastor should have raised his hand. Shortly thereafter, Shawn’s daughter, filled with anger towards the pastor, grills him further on the topic. When he tries to defend why he did not raise his hand, she asks, in a demanding voice, “What more do you need to know to love him?”
Now, I do not know either Shawn or Pastor Wallace’s heart. So, my following comments simply reflect my impression of their approach and behavior, nothing more. With that said, both men, to me, seem to lack love. Each seemed more focused on making his points, rather than display love and concern for the other and/or his followers.
Compare the approach, questions and answer of these men to reknown apologist and debator, Ravi Zacharias. In answering tough questions about God, the divinity of Christ, and so much more, Ravi carefully addresses the essentials, abstains from secondary issues, and delivers his arguments with grace and love. Regardless of one’s faith, few leave a session with Ravi feeling that he wanted anything more than to share his love and faith of Jesus because he truly cares about the person he speaks with.
I find Shawn’s approach particularly ironic. In discussing his controversial viewpoint on orthodox Chrsitianity over the last year or two, Shawn stated multiple times that people may have differences on these secondary issues such as Calvinism, Trinitarianism, etc, and still be considered bretheren in Christ. Yet, he spends weeks and months on each one, giving them a signficance that he, himself, downplays. In my opinion, he would better serve the body of Christ by focusing on the namesake of his show, the heart of the matter. In the case of faith, we must repent of our sin, and place our faith in the God of the Bible. Many (though I do not say all) of these other issues he so ardently fights should not be raised on a pedistal over this truth. I would encourage Shawn to compare his television ministry with Ravi’s.
Ironically, my own attitude towards the Epistles and traditionalism makes it hard for me to buy into some of the viewpoints Pastor Wallace defended. He presented those opinions with a bit more sincerity, humility and politeness than Shawn. (Why have we, as American Christians, forgotten that we are called to act with love, and not rudeness? 1 Cor 13). I understand that the two men have some unpleasant history, but as Christians, we are called to turn the other cheek.
Regardless, I hope that both leaders may learn, at some point, to focus on the primary matters Jesus did during his ministry, and drop arguments and public debates over secondary matters (most ending in “-ism”) Jesus did not die for Cavlism, water baptism, anti-traditionalism or trinitarism. . He died because men sin, deserve hell, and need forgiveness. He shed his blood so we may live. He commanded us to first love God with all our heart, mind, body and spirit, and then commanded us to love one another. If He felt these other subjects were worth fighting over, he would have spelled them out. Instead, told us to not let the sun set while a brother is angry with us. May we all pray that help us lay aside our egos and agendas, show us His heart, and teach us to follow where He would lead us.
By His Grace
Phil aka JCServant