We are continuing our review of the book by the United Methodist minister Martin Thielen entitled What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? We’ve already seen a number of areas where he rejects such doctrines as the sovereignty of God, the accuracy of the Bible, the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to God, and the reality of eternal suffering for those who die without the Lord Jesus.
In this last section of “Ten Things Christians Don’t Need to Believe,” he subtitles this chapter True Christians leave judgment to God.
[Again, before I read his chapter, let me point out that he himself has been quite judgmental toward Christians who hold to a “literal” method of interpretation, who believe homosexual behavior is sinful, who believe in inspiration, etc. He will most likely bring up Matthew 7 where Jesus says “Judge not lest ye be judged,” a passage many misunderstand. We’ll see.]
Well, I guessed right! Thielen begins this chapter by quoting Matthew 7:1- “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” He then tells several very sad stories of people being kicked out of churches for a variety of reasons (singing in a bar, being addicted to drugs or alcohol, unwed mothers, evolutionists, homosexuals, etc.).
MY RESPONSE: Of course judgmentalism is sinful. Of course there is no excuse for obnoxious Christians! But Thielen’s “bottom line” is: True Christians leave judgment to God. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bath water (pun intended).
What about passages like Matthew 5 and Matthew 18 and I Corinthians 5? What about proper, biblical, compassionate church discipline? What about the Apostle Paul’s command in I Corinthians 5 regarding an unrepentant believer who will not cooperate with the church’s process of restoring him to the Lord and the Lord’s people: “Expel the wicked person from among you”? In fact, Paul asks the Corinthians “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (vv. 12-13).
And Thielen doesn’t deal with the Matthew 7 (“Judge not lest ye be judged”) reference. A careful look at that text shows that Jesus isn’t saying don’t judge. He is saying don’t judge hypocritically! Here’s the passage:
So, I am first to get the plank out of my eye so I can “then see clearly to remove the speck from [my] brother’s eye.”
I wonder — is the concept of church discipline completely anathema to Thielen? Of course, discipline out of anger and rage is never right. When church discipline is exercised biblically, there should be many tears and prayers.
The second half of the book concerns “Ten Things Christians Need to Believe.” With all that he has rejected, it will be interesting to see what Thielen affirms.