DON MILLER - Blue Like Jazz or Green Like Envy
Continuing on from yesterday we are taking a close biblical poke at Donald Miller's best selling book "Blue Like Jazz". What follows is a continuation of the article by Richard Nathan "Green Like Envy".
Does Miller Know the Gospel?
Miller calls himself a Christian and uses the term Gospel, but what he describes doesn’t sound like the biblical Gospel. For instance, on p. 124 he describes his conversation with Jake, a pagan at a Ren Fayre festival. The Christians there had a booth where they confessed their sins to the pagans as an apology for the Church. Jake starts out:
“’You said earlier there was a central message of Christ. I don’t really want to become a Christian, you know, but what is that message?’
‘The message is that man sinned against God and God gave the world over to man, and that if somebody wanted to be rescued out of that, if somebody for instance finds it’s all very empty, that Christ will rescue them if they want; that if they ask forgiveness for being a part of that rebellion then God will forgive them.’
‘What’s the deal with the cross?’ Jake asked.
‘God says the wages of sin is death,’ I told him. ‘And Jesus died so none of us would have to. If we have faith in that then we are Christians.’”
Actually, Miller’s “gospel” is a clear example of an old theological distortion known as Pelagianism. This ancient heresy basically says that original sin did not taint human nature and that we have the ability to choose to walk with God instead of being utterly depraved and lost sinners whom God needs to rescue (Romans 3). The most recent well-known advocate of this doctrine was Charles Finney.
Pelagianism—and Miller—leave out some very basic points: Wrath—judgment—propitiation—and the substitutionary atonement. Jesus didn’t die generically; He died very specifically, taking on Himself the righteous punishment due to sinners—death. (See Romans 1:18, 2:5, 5:9; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 5:9; and Hebrews 2:17.)
Romans 3:22–25 clearly portrays the real Gospel:
“There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”
And 1 John sets out a clear standard for determining true Christians:
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:3–6)
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:9–10)
The Gospel of the “Hip Christian”
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Galatians 1:8–9
Resurrecting the Beatniks. Blue Like Jazz reminds me very much of the style of the Beatnik era, especially books by Jack Kerouac who wrote in a stream of consciousness centered in himself. And though Donald Miller never says in his book that he’s a pot smoker, it’s amazing how many of his friends are pot smokers and how much his style and thinking strongly resemble those of many pot smokers. He does talk about smoking pot in his youth group though, and one section of his book extols those who take LSD. Being “hip” and “cool” are important to Miller, who frequently uses the terms as measuring rods.
The Hip Gospel never mentions the cross or God’s wrath on sinners and Christ’s atonement for sin. It distorts the Bible, if it refers to it at all, and it never talks about being born again or the desperate need for becoming a new creation.
There is no sorrow for a fallen world—only envy of it.
Miller also claims he never feels as good with Christians as with pagans.
“I never felt so alive as I did in the company of my liberal friends. It isn’t that the Christians I had been with had bad community; they didn’t, I just like the community of the hippies because it was more forgiving, more, I don’t know, healthy.”
Healthy? Is he saying it’s healthier to go into the woods and smoke pot and have immoral sex than to belong to Jesus Christ? That we can find more love in the drug scene than in a church? And this represents wonderful freedom for Christians? This is walking as Jesus walks? The Bible calls this the world. And it warns about its terrible dangers:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15–17)
Miller’s basic message is that pagans are better than Christians but that liberal Christians are much better than conservative Christians. And, finally, that liberals and even Unitarians are far more loving—and healthier—than conservative Christians.
Jesus went among sinners and brought salvation; he didn’t smoke pot with them. Miller goes among sinners and has a grand old time with them. His book doesn’t reveal the love of Christ; it reveals a love of paganism that isn’t a saving love but a desire to emulate sin. It reveals pagan envy.
Continued tomorrow - The Spirituality of the “Hip Christian”
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