It’s great to be back! I’ve hardly posted in months because this past semester had been the busiest time of my life until I just finished up yesterday. It feels great to be halfway done with my collegiate career! *cue Bon Jovi music* I hope to get back to a somewhat regular posting schedule because writing is something I truly am passionate about. In fact, I’ve been working through the idea of writing a book and what that would look like; what it would be about, how I should go about publishing it, that kind of thing. All of that is still in the works, and I’m hoping that will take off over the summer since I’ll have more free time on my hands. Now that you’ve been caught up on what’s been going on for me the last 4-5 months, I want to get into the heart of why I’m writing this.
The other day, I was listening to one of the podcasts I listen to daily (in case you’re curious, I listen to Matt Walsh, Ben Shapiro, and Allie Beth Stuckey on the daily) and Matt Walsh was talking about an article from the New York Times where Serene Jones, the president of Union Seminary (if you could even call it a seminary), was being interviewed about the resurrection of Jesus, the virgin birth, life after death, along with other topics related to Christianity. As Matt began to highlight some of the points from this interview, my mind was blown as to what I was hearing and I went to read the article for myself and sure enough, this “president” of a supposed protestant seminary is a heretic, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”, if you will. Going forward, I want to dissect this interview and show how this woman is not a Christian as she claims to be. Of course, I am no expert on Christian theology but I know false teaching when I see it.
Jones starts the interview by stating that she does not believe in a “literal flesh-and-blood resurrection.” That is already enough for me to call this person a fake Christian. If you don’t believe that Jesus rose from the grave after being crucified, then what is your hope in? She answers by saying that the empty tomb represents the “ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed” and that “Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering.” The empty tomb does not “represent” something metaphorical. The empty tomb is Christ literally rising from the dead victories over sin and death. He bore our sins on the cross, suffering the torment we deserved, and came back alive to reunite us with God. This is what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Jones also seems to talk a lot about love, but she does so very broadly. What “ultimate love” is she talking about? Is she talking about God’s love or a humanistic “feel good” love that we give ourselves? It doesn’t appear to be the love God has for us because she never once mentions God in a positive manner in this interview. She instead refers to God as “an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross” while she then calls God’s plan of salvation “nuts.” Later on in the interview, she continues to talk about love very broadly saying that, “love is stronger than life or death” which she says is a more powerful claim than Jesus dying and then rising from the dead three days later, calling Christian who believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus “obsessed” with the matter.
Do you know why we’re “obsessed” with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? It is because it is the foundation for our hope. Without the resurrection of Jesus, everything Jesus did while on earth would have been in vain and Christianity would not have continued from that point.
We are only a few paragraphs into this interview and Jones has already denied Christ’s literal resurrection from the dead, molded God’s love into a self-help, “feel good” love, and called God abusive and nuts. But just wait. It gets even better (or worse). She says, “At the heart of faith is mystery. God is beyond our knowing, not a being or an essence or an object. But I don’t worship an all-powerful, all-controlling omnipotent, omniscient being.” I want to break down this statement one part at a time. First, she says that “at the heart of faith is mystery.” and that “God is beyond our knowing.” This might be the only thing I agree with what she says. Job 11:7 says, “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?” Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” She is exactly right in saying that it is impossible for us to know God fully. But what she says next is yet another heretical statement. She says, “I don’t worship an all-powerful, all-controlling omnipotent, omniscient being.” If God is not all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present, etc., then we may as well be atheists. To quote R.C. Sproul, “If God is not sovereign, then God is not God.”
If God is not in control of every single aspect of the universe, then there is no point in worshipping him. If there is one tiny molecule floating around that he does not have power over, then we have no hope that he will always reign victorious over sin and death.
Moving on from the resurrection, Jones is then asked about other miraculous events in the New Testament, particularly the virgin birth. She calls this a “bizarre claim” and that it is not important to the message of Jesus. Little does she know that this actually is a very important piece of Jesus’ ministry. The virgin birth was a supernatural, not mythical, act of God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ life began with a supernatural work (the virgin birth), and it also ended with one (the resurrection and ascension). It also shows that humanity needs saving in a way that it cannot bring for itself. Jesus had to be a work of God in order to save us. If Jesus was born like every other human in history, nothing would have set him apart from everyone else. There are many other significant factors to the virgin birth, which you can read about here.
Nearing the end of the interview, Jones is asked about prayer and if it can “cure cancer” to which she says, “I don’t believe in a God who, because of prayer, would decide to cure your mother’s cancer but not cure the mother of your nonpraying neighbor. We can’t manipulate God like that.” I don’t believe we can manipulate God, either. Because that is not what prayer is. Prayer is not the manipulation of God.
I just finished leading a study through Tim Keller’s book “Prayer” this past semester and one of the things he addresses is why we pray. He says that we don’t pray to change God’s mind on things, we pray to show our dependency and need for God in every aspect of our lives, and that is what he rewards. We cannot change God’s mind about anything. He already knows the future for all eternity. But our job is to connect with him and worship him through prayer but submitting our lives to him.
On the next to last issue of this interview, we come to Jones’ response when asked what happens when we die. “I don’t know!” She says, “There may be something, there may be nothing.” Let me stop there. If you aren’t absolutely certain about what happens when you die, then why do you believe what you believe? Your “faith” is built on sand and not solid ground. For Christians, we believe that death is when our sanctification is finally brought to completion and we have the honor of spending the rest of eternity with God, face to face. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5 that he would rather be away from his earthly body and instead be with Christ. But whether he is on earth or in heaven, his goal is to glorify God.
Lastly, Jones equates herself with the great reformers, John Calvin and Martin Luther. She says that they “had no idea they were in the middle of a reformation” and that she feels the same way. Except, the only difference between her and Calvin and Luther is that both men had Scriptural backing for what they were saying, and she has zero. But that’s the only difference that matters. If you don’t have scriptural backing for your theology, you need to change your theology.
Earlier, I referred to Serene Jones as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” I think we could also refer to her as an atheist in Christ’s clothing. She claims to be a Christian, yet spouts many heresies that are directly contradictory to the Gospel and the nature of God. She does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, she thinks that a generalized “love” is more powerful than the resurrection, she calls wonderful God’s plan of salvation “nuts”, she says that God is not all-knowing and all-powerful, she does not believe in the power of prayer, she does not believe in the virgin birth, and she has no assurance of eternity with God after death. All of this seems like the perfect recipe for an atheist to me.
As Christians, it is our job to call out these false teachers. Paul warns us of this in Romans 16, saying, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” Serene Jones has taken Christianity and molded it to fit her lifestyle. But that is not our call. Our call is to allow God to mold our lives to the truth, not the other way around.