Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Are Evangelicals Semi-Marcionite?

The Marcionites were a group of heretics in the early church, who followed a guy called Marcion. Basically, he said that the God of the Old Testament was evil and different from the God of the New Testament. He did that by deciding that a lot of what we call the Bible wasn't actually the Bible. He ditched the whole Old Testament and large chunks of the New, including most of the gospels, and even bits of the ones he kept.

I think there's a danger that evangelicals do that today in a sense. Not that we say the God of the Old Testament is evil or anything, but that we ditch far too much of the Bible.

In far too many churches, the Old Testament is rarely read or preached, and large chunks of the New are ignored. Here's what's left in, give or take a bit...

  • Genesis 12, 2 Samuel 7
  • a few Psalms
  • Isaiah 6, 9, 53, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 37, Daniel 1-3, 6
  • Jesus' birth narratives from Matthew and Luke, crucifixion and resurrection narratives from all four gospels
  • The Sermon on the Mount and Great Commission from Matthew
  • Mark
  • parables from Luke
  • most of the "I am" sayings from John, and some bits about the Holy Spirit
  • a few bits of Acts, but by no means all of it
  • Romans - 2 Timothy, but with a few gaps (Romans 9,11; much of 2 Corinthians; 2 Thessalonians)
  • A few bits of Hebrews

If you don't believe me, what I've mentioned there is probably under 1/4 of the Bible. What proportion of the sermons and Bible studies at your church over the last year have been on it?

Of course, it's not just the evangelicals who do this. The Anglo-Catholics tend to preach on the gospels, and not much else.

But if we believe it's all God's word, we should preach on all of it.


Anonymous said...

Ooh, cutting! Then again, I'd actually say that liberals have the heftiest case to answer for with regards to Marcionism. Marcion's basic motivation (feel free to disagree) was that he didn't like the God of the Old Testament, but Jesus in the New Testament was much more to his liking, since he seemed 'fluffier' and less inclined to make lots of rules. Today, the liberals I know are the ones most likely to be uncomfortable with OT stuff, and 'summarily' discard it as being superceded by Jesus.

On a side note, it amuses me how Marcion kept mostly Paul's epistles since Paul was supposedly the one who'd recognised Jesus for who he was, as being separate from the Jewish demiurge. And 1800 years later, Hitler accused him of the opposite - being "the great Judaizer" Oh the irony.

John said...

Let's just say that I can just about see how a Christian can stand up in the pulpit and preach something other than God's word or how they can have been so misled as to think that the Bible is not authoritative but they still somehow hold onto Jesus.

But if someone's sermons to a church are not normally and consistently preaching the Bible, and doing so treating it as authoritative, then I don't think they're a faithful minister of Christ.

So yes, some (but by no means all) liberals are closer to full Marcionitism. But that's not their main problem.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I missed out the "some". Oops. Though I suppose I did say "likely which sort of implies the same thing!