Jay Bakker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye, and the pastor of Revolution Church in New York City released a new book last week. The Christian Post interviewed Bakker about the book and that interview should sadden believers everywhere.
CP reporter Nicola Menzie noted, “Bakker’s reflections on a faith that he feels needs to be reformed don’t seem to rest on genuine biblical interpretation, as he chooses in Faith, Doubt and Other Lines I’ve Crossed to ignore the more troublesome and demanding texts that test his own views.”
So, like Thomas Jefferson, Bakker picks and chooses what parts of the Bible he wants to keep to suit himself. Sadly, his opinions about why Jesus died, what sin is, whether there is a hell, and even who Jesus was contradict the written word of God. Some of his views are downright heretical and I don’t use that word lightly.
The definition of heresy is a belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (esp. Christian) doctrine. A more complete explanation of what heresy is can be found at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM) website. But here are just few of the most salient and relevant points:
“Theologically, the Bible teaches condemnation upon false doctrines and false teachers. Gal. 1:8-9 says, “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
“Heresy has the ability to damn because they have the ability to confuse the gospel sufficiently to make it powerless. For this reason, I suspect that to many ancient Christians, heresy became one of the most serious of offenses.”
There must be a distinction between essentials and non-essentials: “Essentials of the faith would include who God is, who Jesus is, salvation by grace, and Jesus’ resurrection. From these subjects we have derived doctrines known as the Trinity and the hypostatic union (Jesus’ two natures: God and man). The Bible tells us that these doctrines concerning God, Christ, salvation, and resurrection are essential to the faith.”
This is precisely why many watch bloggers were riled up by Bakker’s “deconstruction” of the atonement. Bakker told CP: “Yes, I am definitely questioning the atonement and trying to discover how we can see it in a different way. We’ve got this image of God who needs some sort of flesh, some sort of blood, that needs some sort of vengeance to pay for sin. My experience of a loving God who’s asked me to love my enemies – this isn’t a God that demands something before you are accepted. I think Jesus died because Jesus was inclusive. God is inclusive. I think that the idea of God somehow being separated from us was more man’s idea.”
The Bible makes it clear that Jesus did die as our substitute. Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Pictures of substitutionary atonement litter the Old Testament, including the instance where Abraham takes a ram and sacrifices it instead of Isaac. The Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 53 also foretells that Jesus would be “pierced through for our transgressions.”
That is what makes grace so amazing!
Sadly, Bakker’s unwillingness to accept (and teach) sound doctrine doesn’t end there. His description of Jesus Christ is lacking as well. He says, “I still see Christ as the closest thing to God … The God we’ve seen before who smited people, or demanded that babies’ heads be crushed on rocks. Christ came to say ‘that’s not me, that’s not God. Your understanding of God is an understanding of you.’ Jesus came and kind of turned all that stuff on its head and said ‘now I want you to turn the other cheek, now I want you to walk the extra mile. I hang out with tax collectors and prostitutes. I have no reputation. I don’t demand my own way’.”
If Bakker were right, then God would have an inconsistent nature. As Christians who believe in the Trinity (one God, in three persons, coequal and coeternal) his nature has to be the same in each person. So Jesus couldn’t have a radically different nature than God the father. And in fact, scripture indicates that he didn’t. John 10:30 states, “I and my Father are one.” In John 5:19, Jesus says of himself “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”
On the topic of hell, Bakker adamantly insists “It’s not God’s retribution.” Shortly thereafter he adds, “I really don’t believe in hell, but I hope for heaven.”
Again, Bakker’s opinion flies in the face of scripture. Grace To You has a great outline called “The Truth about Hell.” In part it reads:
Far from legend, myth, metaphor, or allegory, the Bible presents hell as a real place where wicked people suffer the wrath of God. Consider these vivid portraits of hell from three different New Testament writers:
Then the King will say to those on His left, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”…These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:41, 46)
If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:43)
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
Scripture presents a terrifyingly clear case for a literal hell. It’s a place where God punishes unbelievers for all eternity. Contrary to what some so-called evangelicals are teaching, hell is not a state of mind or a hard life on this earth. Your state of mind can change; your circumstances can improve. Hell never changes, never improves. Hell is not chastisement; it’s everlasting, insufferable punishment at the hands of an angry God.
According to the revelation Jesus gave to the apostle John, the fate of every unbeliever is to,
…drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger. And he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever. They have no rest day and night. (Revelation 14:10-11)
If you read the entire CP interview, it is also clear that Bakker’s view of sin doesn’t line up with the Bible either, but I think you get the picture.