Twisting of Scripture
For the Christian, there should be no greater standard in evaluating a particular author’s ideology than the Book authored by the Author of our very existence. Throughout Irresistible Revolution Claiborne demonstrates his inability (or unwillingness) to rightly handle the Scriptures.
On Christians speaking out against human suffering Claiborne writes, “Jesus says that if the Christians remain silent, then the rocks will cry out” (17-18). Obviously he is alluding to Luke 19:40 here, but the problem is that Jesus was saying nothing about social justice or human suffering, but was referring to His Lordship! In context it reads:
“As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest! And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, Teacher, rebuke your disciples. He answered, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” Luke 19:37-40 (ESV).
Mishandling of Scripture to suit his purpose it scattered throughout the book.
On page 102 he claims that Christians will be judged based on “how we cared for the poor” (in reference to Matthew 25). By this Claiborne exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of Scripture; the judgment of Matthew 25 occurs at the end of the tribulation (Matt 24), and therefore after the rapture of the Church. Meaning: as Christians today, “we” will not even be there! Second, Jesus isn’t speaking of all poor people in general, but says very specifically, “the least of these my brothers” (Matt 25:40). “According to all rapture schemes” writes Charles Ryrie “[the rapture] will have already taken place by the time this judgment occurs, so the church will already be with the King. Now if the church is with the King and gentiles are before the King, the brethren must be the only remaining group, the Jews, Christ’s natural brethren (see Romans 9:3)” (Ryrie, What You Should Know About Social Responsibility, 66). Claiborne could have easily used the principle of this passage to state that God obviously cares for the well-being of people on earth.
On several occasions he flippantly dismisses doctrine and theological understanding, settling for story telling instead:
“religious doctrines just aren’t very compelling, even if they’re true. And stories disarm us. They make us laugh and cry. It’s hard to disagree with a story, much less split a church or kill people over one” (28).
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he warns of a time when people will not put up with “sound doctrine,” but with “itching ears” will desire teachers who wander off in to “myths” (II Tim 4:3-4). Sounds familiar. Even by Claiborne’s own admission, he opts not to teach doctrine (Titus 2:1, I Tim 4:11, etc) in favor of telling stories. He states that he’s, “not trying to spread a doctrine or theology” (348). The problem here is that he is failing! I would much rather Shane Claiborne not teach doctrine and theology, than be the negative theological influence that he is. Endeavoring to or not, he is teaching a theology—its just not very good. J.D. Greear writes,
“In the absence of good theology, bad theology will fill our minds. We don’t have a choice about being theologians… every person, whether religious or not, will come up with ideas about God and life and eternity. In other words, we are all theologians… that’s not the choice. The choice is whether we will be good ones or bad ones” (J.D. Greear, “Why Theology Matters”).
Throughout the book it seems that Claiborne views doing as more important that believing, opting for orthopraxy and the expense of sound biblical doctrine. This doesn’t make sense. Like Paul, our actions should always be based on our beliefs. Actions by themselves are meaningless if they are simply actions for the sake of actions. In Luke Chapter 6 Jesus tells the well-known story about two men who built houses; one on the Rock and one on sand. Clearly, the “Rock” in the story is Jesus, but it is important to grasp that Jesus was not saying we should build our lives on Him in some vague, merely sentimental kind of way, but on His words—sound doctrine! In verse 47 Jesus describes how one ‘builds’ his life on Christ: “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them.” Obviously He mentions orthopraxy (“does them”), but orthodoxy precedes it (“comes to me and hears my words”). Orthopraxy should spring out of our orthodoxy. (See Dr. Tim White’s post “Orthodoxy Vs. Orthopraxy”)
Claiborne’s twisted theology can be understood more fully in light of the theological company he keeps and authors he reads such as:
-Steve Chalke - a Christian leader who has called the substitutionary atonement “divine child abuse”!
-Malcolm X – a violent Muslim.
-Che Gueverra – a Marxist guerrilla.
-John Dominic Crossan – a theologian who denies the bodily resurrection of Christ and is co-founder of the extremely liberal group, “Jesus Seminar.”
…just to name a few.
Furthermore, on page 98, Shane begins to quote Rich Mullins, with approval, as saying this:
“We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too.”
Quotes like this which Claiborne endorses will make any Bible student who has studied this text scratch their head and ask, “Is he serious?”. It is ludicrous and shows lopsided biblical interpretation to make Jesus’ command to the rich man in Mark 10 a universal prerequisite to salvation.
There are many challenging aspects to The Irresistible Revolution, but Claiborne’s failure to respect the Word makes it hard to respect his book. There is a real need for evangelicals to reach out and be more involved with the poor in our culture, but The Irresistible Revolution fails to give a biblical reason why.