O Brother, where art thou?

Apr 112007

Today I’m going to deviate from my standard course of lampooning the Left in order to rip the Right. For all you readers who continue to whine about the lack of conservative opinions in the Collegian, and who apparently don’t read the paper on Thursdays, fear not, and read on, for next week I will continue to save the world from liberalism.

Last week, our campus was terrorized by the fire-and-brimstone bombasts of Brother Matt – fornicator and sinner turned preacher. Besides the usual “everyone who smokes, drinks, cusses, fornicates, breathes, and wears a baseball cap backwards will go to hell” spiel, Brother Matt also claimed he had been sinless since his conversion; he chided CSU Christians of offering a watered-down, feel-good gospel and preached that once we become true Christians, we will never sin again.

I’ll give Brother Matt some credit: he knows his Bible. But his flare and audacity make up for his lack of understanding Biblical passages. His courage is noteworthy, but it hurts me, as a Christian, to think of the bad name he gives the rest of us. I laugh sometimes at what he says and the one-liners his listeners fling back at him; I shake my head and wonder how many people he’s alienating to Christianity.

My biggest problem with Brother Matt is the “gospel” he preaches. “You’re a sinner and need to be saved” is the main theme of Brother Matt’s salvation message, and it’s one that most of us have probably heard from other sources besides Brother Matt. And biblically speaking, that’s a true statement. The Bible is quite clear that we humans are in need of saving, through faith in Jesus Christ.

But what Brother Matt doesn’t address is the need for salvation. Brother Matt is so busy telling us that we’re going to hell because we listen to rock ‘n roll that he doesn’t tell us why we need to be saved. Yes, biblically speaking, every human is born with a sinful, corrupt nature (which separates us from the presence of a holy God), but it didn’t use to be that way.

When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they existed in a perfect relationship with God. Everything, according to God, was “good.” They were perfect and innocent and there was no barrier between God and Man. But this perfect relationship became tainted with sin when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. No longer were God and Man one; now they were divided by the sea of sin. Sin’s penalty is separation from God – spiritual death. Adam and Eve’s sin became like a genetic defect and it infected all their ancestors from that point on.

God’s offer of salvation is one of faith, not works, because no matter how hard Man works to fix the broken relationship, it will never be enough for God, for sin’s penalty is death. Jesus, God’s son, came to bridge that sea, to make right the relationship between God and Man through His death and resurrection. Christ’s death on the cross was the ultimate payment for the whole world’s sin. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and repents becomes righteous in the sight of God. Whoever believes is saved from an eternity of separation from God and is brought from “death to life,” for Jesus came that we might have “life more abundantly.”

His incomplete view of salvation leads heavily into his skewed view of the Christian life. Brother Matt is prone to preaching half-truths. Yes, sin is a problem for the Christian and non-Christian alike, but he takes verses about “not sinning” completely out of context. Faith in Jesus is not a get-out-sinning-free card. If it was, why would the Apostle Paul confess his struggles about not doing what he should do?

The Christian life, though, is a process of becoming more “Christ-like,” which Paul talks about at length. When we do sin, we are to confess our sins and seek all the more God’s way for living. An enormous number of books have been written on the nature of salvation and the way a Christian should live. I can’t cover all the bases, but I hope that I’ve helped set straight some of the half-truths that Brother Matt espouses.

I honestly believe that Brother Matt has a heart for us students; he wouldn’t be here otherwise. Yet the Christianity he preaches isn’t holistic or completely biblical. It’s one-sided and unbalanced. He focuses on God’s judgment (Jesus talked more about hell than any other topic) but ignores God’s love, goodness and grace. There’s room for both in the true gospel, but, sadly, many Christians seem unwilling to combine the two, fearing to be either too fundamental or too frivolous.

In the book of Acts, Paul speaks at the Areopagus (a public forum) on Mars Hill in Athens. But unlike Brother Matt, Paul didn’t judge, condemn, ridicule, or incite his listeners. Instead, Paul reached out to the Athenians, quoting their poets and thinkers in an attempt to establish common ground. Paul presented an idea, fairly and beautifully, complete with the hope that comes in a redeemed relationship with God but also with a warning of judgment to come. Paul came to reason, not to shout and call people names.

Brother Matt’s downfall is that he continually bashes culture, living a life divided into the secular and the sacred. He doesn’t present the idea of Christianity; he presents the mere, legalistic shell of unreason and fear.

Jesus once said, “Perfect love casts out fear.” That’s a nice catchphrase, something easy to read and easy to say. But as we’ve seen with Brother Matt, a little hard to live out.

Trevor Sides is a senior speech communication major. His column appears every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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