I give my students some advice – read books and articles that do not agree with your perspectives or your conclusions; let those articles and books challenge you because a solid position can stand against differing opinions. I take this advice for myself as well. Thus, I recently read Matthew DiStefano’s article at Patheos entitled “10 Reforms Christianity Needs to Make Right Now.” I enjoyed his urgency and I always chuckle when people use biblical numbers like 3, 7, and 10. But I am glad that very few people use the biblical number 40, knowing that not many people would read 40 correctives for the survival of Christianity.
The 10 reforms suggested by Mr. DiStefano are:
1. Their need for an inerrant Bible
2. Their stance on the LGBTQ+ Community
3. Their belief in eternal hell
4. Their marriage with white nationalism
5. Their hatred of deconstruction
6. Their obsession with sexual purity
7. Their belief in total depravity
8. Their insistence on affirming traditional gender roles
9. Their demonization of flesh
10. Their idolization of Jesus
Deconstruction (mentioned in reform #5) is a recent movement. I remember when one of my children took a class on postmodernism and deconstruction in college. She asked me to read an article and tell her what I thought the author wanted to say. The piece suggested that everyone could have a totally different view of any piece of literature—there was no need for a consensus. The most difficult part was not that everyone could have a different view, but it was written in such a non-intelligible way that it seemed to be making fun of the very concept that language should be intelligible.
Deconstruction has moved from English literature departments to seminaries. There are people trying to deconstruct the Bible, there are people trying to deconstruct the creeds, and there are people who are trying to deconstruct the hymns of the church. One deconstructionist analyzed the Gospel of Mark and concluded that the only authentic words of Jesus were the ones he spoke against the Pharisees and the Romans; he believed that the other words attributed to Jesus were invented by Mark himself. Apostle Paul defines the gospel as centered in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, according to the will of his Heavenly Father. But some womanist deconstructionists assert that the Father did not want his Son to suffer and, if he did, then he is a cruel and violent father.
DiStefano writes that the need for an inerrant Bible is harmful. But the inerrancy of the word of God is attested to in the Scripture: “…I watch over my word to fulfill it.” (Jeremiah 1:12) The prophets are commanded to speak exactly the words of God. The inspiration for and writing of the Bible was not the from imagination of men alone; it was in cooperation with the Holy Spirit who guarded their writings. There may be numerical or geographical inconsistencies in the Bible, but the Bible is perfect in what it says when it comes to the central theme of our salvation and our relationship with God.
I think that from time to time Christians like DiStefano want to reform the church so much that they become antagonistic to the very church they want to change. They have two strategies for encouraging reform: unless the church changes it is going to perish and many people think like we do. But this is the historic church. It has survived for over 2000 years, and it is going to survive and prosper in the future because it is this church that will be presented by the Son to the Father. The logical inconsistency in their second argument is that the church would not be in danger if there were many people thinking like they do. I think that the ocean/pond illustration is valid here. The pond thinks that it has become the ocean but thinking that does not make the pond the new ocean. DiStefano thinks that a few people (the pond) are the majority, but there is an ocean of Christians who uphold the tenets of the historical church.
I appreciate DiStefano’s willingness to challenge the church, but I think much of what he writes is against the Scripture. What he calls an obsession with sexual purity and the demonization of the flesh, the Scriptures call resisting fornication and adultery. If one reads the Old Testament, God is against adultery on an individual level and on a national level. An individual can be adulterous, and a nation can be adulterous. After DiStefano’s ten points, a different question can be asked: At what point do these reforms change Christianity so much that it will have very little to do with the Christianity that Jesus intended?