Earlier this year, Jars of Clay’s Dan Haseltine caused a bit of an uproar after he tweeted some questioning things concerning same-sex marriage. Now it appears that Gungor is the latest popular evangelical musician to be caught in the middle of a theological controversy, thanks to some interview comments and his project with The Liturgists, a group that includes people that evangelicals often find controversial (e.g., Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans).

World Magazine sounded the alarm:

The band’s new ideas are more clearly set forth in a blog post titled, “What do we Believe?” Here the author chafes that a close friend no longer considers him a Christian: “Why? Not because my life looks like Jesus or doesn’t look like Jesus. But because of my lack of ability to nail down all the words and concepts of what I exactly BELIEVE.” Then he nails down exactly what he doesn’t believe—in Adam and Eve or the Flood. He has “no more ability to believe in these things then I do to believe in Santa Claus.”

This theological ambivalence is on display on Gungor’s latest project—a collection of EPs released under the name The Liturgists. Working with Pastor Rob Bell—author of Love Wins—and various poets, Gungor creates ambient music to accompany spoken word poems on religious themes.

Predictably, the conservative Internet blew up. Tweets were tweeted, tears were shed, and sad/angry farewells were bid. Also, from the other side, mournful recriminations against the narrow-mindedness of the aforementioned were issued as well.

I suppose I should have seen it coming. Gungor’s been buddies with Bell and recommending his books for a while, and when I saw The Liturgists’ God Our Mother EP a while back, I thought “Well, that’s just asking for some sort of reaction.” Still, despite the lack of surprise I’m feeling, it seems appropriate to reflect on some of the institutional and pastoral realities that these incidents reveal.

Worship Leaders and Evangelical Folk Religion

Some might point out that Gungor is just a musician. He’s not a pastor in a church, called to preach, teach, and protect the flock. The man is just like everyone else, a flesh-and-blood guy who thinks, prays, and struggles like the rest of us. So why the blow up?

The strong reaction partly results from the role that evangelical Christians subconsciously know musicians like Gungor play: they are the Church’s de facto theologians. The reality is that Gungor isn’t just a dude in the pews struggling, but rather, he’s a part of the “folk evangelicalism” Alastair Roberts wrote about the other day:

There is a sort of evangelical folk religion, much of which is completely unauthorized by pastors or elders, a folk religion driven by such things as TV preachers, purity movements, uninformed theological speculations in democratic Bible studies, Chick tracts, that teenage kid who led the dorm prayer meeting on summer camp, Christian kitsch, Kirk Cameron movies, Left Behind books, VeggieTales, Focus on the Family literature, blogs, CCM, Answers in Genesis, sappy mass-produced devotional literature, study Bible notes, etc., etc. As people often fail mentally to footnote their beliefs, many attribute the bulk of the weird and wacky things that swam in the rich theological soup of their evangelical upbringing to their church, presuming that it all received the imprimatur of Evangelical Central Headquarters. Parents are probably the persons with the most to answer for here. Most of the pedagogy of young evangelicals is received from sources other than their pastors.

Christian pop music is part of this mix. The songs we listen to, worship with, and meditate on shape and form our theological and spiritual instincts. The name of the Liturgists project acknowledges as much: This is a group intentionally trying to create sacred music for the Church’s instruction and upbuilding. If that’s the case, then you begin to understand why many are treating Gungor’s statements in the way they would if a church officer started talking about “losing his metaphysic” or his “lack of ability to nail down all the words and concepts of what I exactly BELIEVE.” After all, that’s kind of what theologians do, isn’t it?

I’m not sure what the solution is here, but the current model seems in need of some retooling.

Struggle, Reaction, and Radicalization

The flipside is understanding the response of those sympathetic to Gungor. Thinking about the average pew-sitter looking on in the middle of the recriminations, many may be wondering “Do we have room for wrestling in church? Will they do that to me if I talk about my struggles? Can I be honest about my doubts?” Many evangelicals struggle with the tension of hiding their intellectual doubts from their church for fear of being rejected by their community or their pastors. And yet hiding doubts is precisely how they begin to fester and grow to an unmanageable (and damaging) size.

Which brings me to my next point: Pastors need to consider what message their reaction to these sorts of news stories sends.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if, at this point, Gungor continued to head down a more liberal trajectory. It’s something I’ve seen before, but it still deserves comment. I’ve often wondered how much the conservative (over)reaction adds to the advanced radicalization of questioners. Opening with “Hey, heretic, you’re the worst” probably isn’t a good way to draw someone back. How much of the theological drift by questioners, notable figures included, is fueled by a sense of rejection from the conservative theological community? “Well, I’m already a ‘heretic’ in their eyes, so why not be bold and keep exploring?” or something on that order. What’s more, creating martyrs of doubt doesn’t seem to do much to shore up the faith of the faltering.

I’m all for guarding the flock, teaching against false doctrine at appropriate moments, and so forth. And yet, evangelical pastors need to work on cultivating safe spaces for their people to ask the real questions they have, precisely so that they might hear good biblical answers and hear questions that allow them to question their own doubts. (Matthew Lee Anderson’s little book The End of Our Exploring (read our review) is an invaluable resource for pastors in this respect.)

Evangelical leaders, especially pastors, need to be wise in their response to reports of doubts and skepticism by public evangelical figures. The Church ought to have a safe space in its pews for those who question, even if we have different standards for those in the pulpit — or those who play the organ.


  1. If Evangelicals* are going to dismiss every significant Christian figure who doesn’t subscribe to the exact same theology they do, they’re not going to have many role models left. C.S. Lewis took a non-literal approach to Genesis and often questioned difficult parts of scripture (among other tendencies Evangelicals would find problematic), but they still eat his stuff up. Lewis’s hero, George MacDonald, was a universalist like Rob Bell. Martin Luther wanted to remove Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelations from the Bible. Even Augustine, more than a millennium before evolution or the Big Bang were conceptualized, toyed with a metaphorical interpretation of the creation account. Exploration and questioning are not inherently evil, and often they strengthen faith rather than weakening it.

    Rejecting someone entirely because of one single element of their beliefs won’t help anyone. If Michael Gungor still loves Jesus and accepts the gift of his salvation, I’m not going to condemn him.

    *The same applies to any Christian group, but Evangelicals tend to be the most vocal about it.

    1. i don’t even know the guy, who he is and such. but the problem with his belief, isn’t so much the belief, but the consequence of it.

      If he believes in evolution over millions of years then he believes in a crossfade of the image of G-d and animal. This or there is a specific moment at which animal is no longer animal, but man. In either case the image of G-d is mocked by bringing it forth out of an animal.

      But as I said, I don’t know the guy, I don’t look down my nose at him. I agree much of genesis is a poem, it is written like a piece of mysticism. Not all poetry is allegory, and none here is fiction. And on this we can disagree.

      Whether this should make people upset or cause them to stop supporting a musical artist I cannot say, but people are looking for more than words in a song. They are looking for a champion. Whether this is healthy, I’m not entirely sure. But it is human, and it shouldn’t seem that weird that people will put their money where they want. This guy doesn’t deserve or not deserve support. In my humble opinion no one owes him anything, but he is owed a basic level of respect and love as a fellow human being. Its important for detractors to remember that.


    2. unrelated, the title of the article seems misleading and mildly pejorative (mildly), because gungor appears to be articulating a real belief in the non-literalness of at least some of genesis. Its only doubt if he doubts the bible, in his own words he wouldn’t describe his belief as doubt but positive belief in a specific interpretation.

      oh wellz, back to the internets

  2. This guy is no C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis didn’t use his platform to write worship music for Christians and then say that believing in the flood and Adam and Eve are tantamount to believing in Santa Claus. Did he do that? If he did, I certainly haven’t read it.

    This guy isn’t being a hand-wringing doubter. He has proclaimed exactly what he believes. He thinks believing in Adam and Eve and the flood are as likely as Santa Claus dropping down the chimney on Christmas. And he isn’t keeping it to himself. So yeah, in our church, this fellow would get called out, especially considering his platform. That may make us a little more fundy than the average evangelical can handle, but we believe in inerrancy of Scripture. It’s part of our Statement of Faith, and agreeing to that document is one of the pre-requisites for membership.

    Again, this isn’t a matter of doubt. His mind is made up.

    1. @Brad Williams,

      Lewis may not have compared Adam and Eve to Santa Claus, but he definitely wasn’t a biblical literalist either. Here are some relevant quotes:

      C.S. Lewis on the inerrancy of scripture:
      “The human qualities of the raw materials show through. Naïvety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not ‘the Word of God’ in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history. It carries the Word of God; and we (under grace, with attention to tradition and to interpreters wiser than ourselves, and with the use of such intelligence and learning as we may have) receive that word from it not by using it as an encyclopedia or an encyclical but by steeping ourselves in its tone or temper and so learning its overall message.”
      -Reflections on the Psalms, Chapter IX

      C.S. Lewis on factual truth in the Old Testament:
      “The earliest stratum of the Old Testament contains many truths in a form which I take to be legendary, or even mythical—hanging in the clouds, but gradually the truth condenses, becomes more and more historical. From things like Noah’s Ark or the sun standing still upon Ajalon, you come down to the court memoirs of King David. Finally you reach the New Testament and history reigns supreme, and the Truth is incarnate. And ‘incarnate’ here is more than a metaphor. It is not an accidental resemblance that what, from the point of view of being, is stated in the form ‘God became Man,’ should involve, from the point of view of human knowledge, the statement ‘Myth became Fact.'”
      -“Is Theology Poetry?”

      C.S. Lewis on the creation of man:
      “For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all its physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past.”
      -The Problem of Pain, Chapter 5

      Hopefully this doesn’t come off as too defensive. I’m not arguing a side here or looking for a fight. I just want to show that Michael Gungor isn’t the only Evangelical role model to hold controversial views. If you feel that what he (or Lewis, or anyone else) is doing doesn’t honor God, you are certainly entitled to that view, and I won’t try to stop you.

    2. I’m talking more about how this would be handled at the local church level. C.S. Lewis would not be allowed membership in our church for various reasons. But I still think that Lewis’ teaching is a far cry from what this guy is saying.

    3. Fair enough. I certainly don’t take stock in everything Lewis or Gungor or the other people I listed believe(d), either. And I agree that Gungor could probably have approached this in a more mature way, rather than dismissing the beliefs of a large part of his audience as silly fairytales. Sorry for any rashness or misinterpretation.

    4. CS Lewis was heretical on many issues. He’s not one I’d EVER go to for theology class as I’ve never been a fan.

      He did however, write some decent fiction.

  3. Love this article!

    “test everything; hold fast what is good.”
    – 1 Thess. 5:21

    There should always be room for questioning. Doubts should never be feared, but welcomed. Only then can they be dealt with.

  4. Regarding your question about how the average pew sitter may feel if they are struggling with questions while they hear criticism of people like Gungor making the statements they do…..

    I think what needs to be articulated is that there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with questions.

    Wrong Way(the Gungor way): Make no visible indication of your wrestling with these difficult questions in the context of your local church leadership, with a willing heart to submit to Godly leadership and from those who have tread these paths previously. Also, do not address the question you have in the context of interacting with the texts that potentially contradict your new position. And then all of a sudden come out and make grand statements in direct assault on Historically Orthodox beliefs with little to no theological footnoting of how they came to this controversial position…..

    Right Way: Have a question? Great. Sit down with your pastors, communicate with theologians with years of academic work addressing your particular challenge. If you are going to arrive at an answer that diverts from your church or Orthodoxy at least have a consistent Biblical Hermeneutic to show how you came to your Biblically based “new” position. Avoid using terms like ,”I just feeellll like this” or, “I just didn’t like that” etc.

    1. Adam, we have no way of knowing that he didn’t start there. That is an argument that sort of says, If it is public then it is inappropriate.

      And that would mean there can be no public questioning, which is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is communicating that questioning is bad.

    2. Agreed, Adam. Thank you for lending a sense of checks and balances. No one should be a maverick when it comes to theology.

  5. Great balanced article Derek, and Adam, I really appreciate your additional insights too. Derek makes a great point about creating a culture that allows questions to be asked, but you’re right to point out that Gungor didn’t “ask” questions. We should hope/trust that this isn’t a flip-flop change; that he did express his doubts to friends and pastors, and submitted his final decision to the authority of the Bible; however, you’re right to point out that sadly there aren’t hints of any of the above in his post.

  6. Having been a voice on the internets since it was accessed by dial-up on modems that were slower than the 1x connection I get roaming on my iPhone, I always enjoy anything that begins with the statement (or a cognate of the statement, “If Evangelicals* are going to dismiss every significant Christian figure who doesn’t subscribe to the exact same theology they do, they’re not going to have many role models left.”

    Because every word after that statement is self-refuting.

  7. I was writing up some thoughts on a recent reading of Lewis’ Letters to Malcolm this morning in regard to the Gungor dustup. And I think if Lewis were writing today instead of 50-70 years ago he would be ‘farewell-ed’ by a number of Evangelicals. If he hasn’t written so much, and had so much that spoke to Evangelicals a lot of the less Evangelical beliefs would be discussed more. (And it is not just his view of scripture that Bradley mentions above.)

    I think the bigger issue here is not a particular statement by someone or another, but the ability for someone to believe something that is not 100% in line with your own beliefs and not get ‘farewell-ed’.

    There is disagreement and there is heresy. But the problem comes that much of evangelicalism seems to not think there is a difference. Maybe Gungor has crossed the line to full blown heresy. But I really doubt it.

    For all of her issues, Rachel Held Evans referring to God once as female is again not heresy.

    So I think we need a way to say, yes they would not be allowed to be a member of my church (in Bradley’s example), but I still need to think of them as a brother or sister in Christ.

  8. Also Derek — the idea that somehow a lack of civility from watchbloggers drives people like Gungor into the deeper grass of unorthodoxy is not a very clever insight. You can’t name one person in the last 1000 years who, after making it clear that they are rejecting some primary article of faith, turned around and revised and amended their remarks because of the kindness of people who disagreed with them. These sorts of dissenters have themselves made the first step into incivility with their proclamations — I mean: Augustine believed in a literal, historical Adam, but Gungor says that this sort of belief is like clinging to Santa? Think about the breadth of incivility in making that claim before we start tallying up the faults of Bible college bloggers whose worst sin is being angry with those who think the Bible is false rather than true.

    Rather, here’s my rebuttal to your solution: go out to youTube and watch the entire exchange between the now-divorced (then: married to a man) Rev. Gene Robinson and the affable “Q” collaborator Gabe Lyons. Never in all of history has the orthodox Christian position been represented by a nicer guy with real civility and good will, and never before has it been so viciously savaged by the other side with half-truths and lies which, frankly, cannot be answered nicely.

    The problem, it seems to me, is not how much panache we are using to say what we say, but the degree to which we say what is true in a true way. I could list 3 examples here explain this, but it seems pretty self-evident that the reason we should reject Gungor as unorthodox is not because we are mean or because they disagree with us: it is because Paul and Jesus think Adam and Noah were real people. To say it any other way misses the point either by a few radians or a complete half-circle. Worrying about whether or not Gungor or Rob Bell thinks that’s a nice way to put it is irrelevant since they have already determined what is and isn’t a fair way to talk about this by declaring the other side to be imbeciles in the first breath.

    1. @Frank, you are trying to argue against a positive by only citing negative cases. You have no idea how many people have been brought back into orthodoxy via kind conversation because those people have come back to orthodoxy.

      I agree that ‘niceness’ shouldn’t be our aim. But if restoring people to orthodoxy is our goal, and I think it should be, then it is hard to see where incivility is a help to the process.

    2. Frank, I think you’re reading a lot into this post I didn’t actually say, but rather was said by commenters. I mean, where did you get the comment about “watch-bloggers”? Did I say that? Slow down and consider who you’re responding to right now.

      Also, not trying to be clever, just say something true. I’m never clever. (Except the times when I rhyme.)

      Finally, I’m not saying Gungor wasn’t controversial or dismissive. I’m saying that the way we react to him in public has a pastoral effect on people in the pews. People in the pews see our reaction to the type of doubts they have and they think they’ll be treated the same way. People often don’t make the sorts of fine distinctions you’re making, so we need to carefully and pastorally deal with it.

      I swear, it’s like everybody’s reading this with ideological blinders on.

  9. I would say that this young man needs to go to a pastor who he trusts (hopefully someone with empathy and a nonjudgmental approach), and ask this person why it is important that we believe in a literal Adam and Eve? Why is it important that we believe in a literal flood? I hope he does this. Both of these questions are significant in forming one’s view of Jesus, as is belief in the resurrection.

  10. Last of all, C.S. Lewis:

    When Gungor makes anything half as true or beautiful as “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” one can start making comparisons. Whether or not watchbloggers find Lewis to be orthodox misses the point that Lewis wrote prior to Vatican II, prior to Ginsberg’s publication of “Howl,” prior to the full-fledged sexual revolution, and prior to the full-scale popularization of postmodern sensibilities. Lewis may or may not be someone which the average independent Bible church magisterium can appreciate or accept, but so what? Lewis was writing at a very different time than today, and the evils he had his eye on frankly are not the ones which are clawing at the door today. I dare say that if Lewis was writing today, he’d tell Gungor to stop being the dwarves in the last act of the Final Battle and to find a way to love Aslan rather than the inability to put anything into words.

  11. Derek, I totally agree with your thoughts about doubt and the church needing to be a safe place to do that in. I also agree that the way in which pastors respond to such situations have profoundly pastoral implications. My issue with Gungor in this case is that the type of thinking they are toying with seems to too happily embrace doubt to the point of irreverence, prideful unorthodoxy (which is really pride disguised as false humility, i.e. How can anyone really know?, yada yada), and just plain silliness.

    Also I think this is important because these artists help create the liturgies of our churches. That may not be the most ideal situation which is part of a bigger conversation about Protestant liturgical worship, but that’s for another day I suppose.


  12. What’s worse, expressing a controversial thought or idea, or raising a question about what we believe that may run contrary to convention, or the judgment that inevitably follows (often by those who have never bothered to question and explore their faith, but merely nod at whatever pastor or televangelist or hot new author they happen to have heard last says)?

    I openly question the literal creation story in Genesis and am blessed to have brothers in Christ who are willing to engage on the side of inerrancy without being condemning. And I can tell you that I lose respect for those who attack without being able to defend their position on such issues and I wonder why I would want to fellowship with someone who would rather question my faith and salvation than address my questions with solid theology.

    “God said it; I believe it; That settles it” may fit nicely on a bumper sticker, but it doesn’t cut it when it comes to vigorous debate. Yet that seems to be the basis for a lot of Christians’ faith.

    1. I’m thankful that the crux of our faith depends on accepting some things by faith. Hebrews. 11. You may openly question God at any time — Job is a great example of this. But what is most important are God’s responses….Yes, if God said it, than practically, spiritually, figuratively I do accept it. Without regrets…

  13. I had only read the world article until just a few minutes ago. I hadn’t read the original blog post (from February) or the liturgy for Mother’s day where God is our Mother is from. (Here is the full liturgy in context. I think the whole thing should be listened to but at least listen to the Apophatic Introduction and Apophatic Meditation. http://www.theliturgists.com/god-our-mother/ )

    Frankly, now I am kind of pissed. The World article in context reads like a hack job. It cites pretty much the only line from the liturgy that could be controversial and takes it fully out of context. Knowing this is World magazine, I get why rejection of Adam and Eve is a big deal. But still there the quote is misconstrued. This is the quote from the world article,

    “Then he nails down exactly what he doesn’t believe—in Adam and Eve or the Flood. He has “no more ability to believe in these things then I do to believe in Santa Claus.”

    This is the quote from the blog post in broader context.

    “I have no more ability to believe, for example, that the first people on earth were a couple named Adam and Eve that lived 6,000 years ago. I have no ability to believe that there was a flood that covered all the highest mountains of the world only 4,000 years ago and that all of the animal species that exist today are here because they were carried on an ark and then somehow walked or flew all around the world from a mountain in the middle east after the water dried up. I have no more ability to believe these things than I do to believe in Santa Clause or to not believe in gravity. But I have a choice on what to do with these unbeliefs. I could either throw out those stories as lies, or I could try to find some value in them as stories. But this is what happens…

    If you try to find some value in them as stories, there will be some people that say that you aren’t a Christian anymore because you don’t believe the Bible is true or “authoritative”. Even if you try to argue that you think there is a truth to the stories, just not in an historical sense; that doesn’t matter. To some people, you denying the “truth” of a 6,000 year old earth with naked people in a garden eating an apple being responsible for the death of dinosaurs is the same thing as you nailing Jesus to the cross. You become part of ‘them’. The deniers of God’s Word.”

    So now because of an article that looks (from the bio) like it was written by an intern, you have lots of people that now assume Gungor has actively rejected Christianity, which from the context of the article he is saying that he has not rejected Christianity at all, but some rejected him (and if him, then they reject a large segment of the group of people that call themselves Christian.)

    So why is it that I shouldn’t be pissed at this point over a magazine that seems to have actively mischaracterized a fellow Christian?

    1. Thanks for sharing the original quote, @Adam Shields. The World article definitely seems to have played up the shock value of Gungor’s statement and made it seem more condescending than it actually was. Which is, of course, exactly the sort of reaction Michael was talking about in the first place.

  14. I don’t know. I think at some point, people in the pews expect that lines have to be drawn. Private doubt isn’t the same as publicly dismissing key aspects of the faith, or siding with people who are close to if not already heretical. There’s a difference between normal doubt and making a public position on it. Especially when you know you have to be betraying your audience, who probably do believe in a literal Adam and Eve.

    I’d also please remind people that you shouldn’t keep focusing on the fact that our behavior alone is what can draw a person back to Christ. It’s not a matter of always having the correct reaction to things; in a way, this is far more legalistic than many other behaviors.

  15. This is lame, just like Rob Bell and his whole following, they talk on how they don’t believe what they believe, all the time. Like it some kind of cool way to make them selfs relate to the unsaved. “I struggle with believing it too, so follow me with my doubtful belief!” How does that make any sense? If you struggle with something that has to do with unbelief of what you are standing for, you better do your research and find it out for your self or someone close, don’t go posting it to everyone. If just one story isn’t true in the Bible, that will open the doors to make the whole Bible questionable, and make God a lier.

  16. Thanks for the post, Derek. My first response upon reading the WORLD article was that we’re in a lot of trouble if there’s no room for lament, doubt, uncertainty, metaphor, and imagination even in poetry and music! Sometimes the black-and-white world of evangelicalism just doesn’t make sense to artists, people who see in color. And you’ve got a point about why so many of us leave evangelicalism for good. It sucks to be called a heretic because you suspect the earth is more than 6,000 years old or kicked out of your church because you’re not sure about eternal conscious torment. I’ve found that the reactions of other Christians to my questions makes me cynical and untrusting. It’s exactly why i started a blog. If you talk about this stuff in an evangelical church, you end up on the prayer chain and people act like you’re contagious. But, truthfully, I think most of us leave because those first few questions lead to other questions which lead to others and we aren’t finding satisfactory responses within fundamentalism/evangelicalism.

    1. Thanks for your contribution to the discussion Julia. What we really needed to solve the problems of is to start calling people names. That is the best way to really get to the heart of the matter.

  17. Also, it’s interesting to me that many Christians don’t seem to have a problem with ambiguity, doubt, nuance, etc. in what they deem secular” art. I mean, every young Calvinist I know digs Mumford and Sons. :-) Not sure why anything should have to change once it’s a Christian making the art. It’s like it has to go through….sterilization….or something. Tie up all the loose ends! Leave no question unanswered! No lingering mystery!

    I guess I don’t understand the world where “God Is Not Dead” is considered a Christian movie, but something like “Philomena” is not. “Philomena” was the most Christian movie I’ve seen all year.

  18. If Michael Gungor’s doubts primarily center on the question of gender and the divine name, the existence of Adam and Eve, and the Flood, and if these are the doubts evangelicals are getting upset about, then the problem is the contemporary evangelical lack of awareness of the catholic theological tradition. For one, Origen and Augustine both thought the creation narratives should be interpreted allegorically and not according to a historical literalism. Origen comments that it’s absurd to think Adam could walk in the garden with God and that he could really hide from him – after all, if God is the transcendent author of creation, that’s logically impossible. So these stories are meant to be read allegorically. The idea that believing Genesis 1-2 to be allegory or something like that is hardly a “drift from orthodoxy”, and it can withstand the idea of Adam and Eve acting as allegorical figures.

    Finally, I think the “God Our Mother” notion needs to be raised because evangelical gatekeepers are notably silent about the fact that God is not gendered. If we hold to an apophatic theology (which, in order to not turn God into a creature, we should), then we must at least accept that this speech-act of calling God mother is possible. Though I particularly would not do so because I accept the authority of the Bible and want to name God in the way Jesus commands us, that is, naming God as “Father” (Matthew 6:7-15). I wish this sort of point could generate this level of quality conversation among evangelicals, but our ignorance of the tradition again holds us back from moving in a helpful direction. Enough alarm-sounding.

    1. Origen and Augustine interpreted Genesis both historically and allegorically:

      Origen: ‘After these statements, Celsus, from a secret desire to cast discredit upon the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years old, but very much under that, while concealing his wish, intimates his agreement with those who hold that the world is uncreated. For, maintaining that there have been, from all eternity, many conflagrations and many deluges, and that the flood which lately took place in the time of Deucalion is comparatively modern, he clearly demonstrates to those who are able to understand him, that, in his opinion, the world was uncreated. But let this assailant of the Christian faith tell us by what arguments he was compelled to accept the statement that there have been many conflagrations and many cataclysms, and that the flood which occurred in the time of Deucalion, and the conflagration in that of Phaethon, were more recent than any others.’ Contra Celsum (Against Celsus) 1.19, Ante-Nicene Fathers4:404.

      Augustine: ‘Let us, then, omit the conjectures of men who know not what they say, when they speak of the nature and origin of the human race. … They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.’ Augustine, Of the Falseness of the History Which Allots Many Thousand Years to the World’s Past, De Civitate Dei (The City of God), 12(10).

      They apparently erred in their being overly influenced by neo-Platonism.

      Quotes are from an easily retrievable article on CMI’s website written by Jonathan Sarfati.

  19. Proverbs 13:20Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

    20 Whoso is walking with wise men is wise, And a companion of fools suffereth evil.

    1. Please >>>> Luke 21:19Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

      19 in your patience possess ye your souls.

    2. Or else >>>Luke 23:34Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

      34 And Jesus said, `Father, forgive them, for they have not known what they do;’

  20. We all have our doubts now and then. Otherwise, we would have no use for ‘faith’.

    But thankfully, we are not saved by our good doctrine (although good doctrine is important)…but by the love and forgiveness of Christ Jesus for real sinners. The ungodly. Who don’t always have all their ducks lined up just so.

  21. I think some questions that we need to grapple with are

    1) Is an artist a teacher?
    We tend to think of art as a means of self-expression, but is this a legitimate goal for the Christian artist?

    2) If an artist is a teacher, do we apply the words of James and say that not many should become artists, because there will be a stricter judgement?

    As I said, we think art (or perhaps we could apply this to writers and our writing) is to express ourselves. However, once the song lands on YouTube, the poem is published on our blog, or the book hits store shelves, have we not placed ourselves in the realm of a teacher of all those who read, view, or listen?

    I heartily believe that wrestling and grappling with the Word of God ans our struggles to understand it are key to our growing in the faith. However, if we are going to grapple with what the author of Hebrews would call elementary principles (eg, that Jesus understood history), perhaps our struggling is something that ought to happen in the context of community, rather than in the context of teaching.

  22. “Most of the pedagogy of young evangelicals is received from sources other than their pastors.” And I might add, from sources other than the Scriptures as well.

  23. Agreed. There should be a safe place in the pews for those who have doubts and unorthodox beliefs. But Gungor isn’t in the pews. They are in front of thousands if not millions of people. They should be held to a high standard of sound doctrine. If they don’t meet that standard it is important information.

  24. I’m not an inerrantist, and I don’t insist on a six-day creation account. However, Gungor’s problems are far worse than that. Some distinctions might be helpful—at what point, exactly, is he jumping the shark? Cavalierly throwing out the doctrine of Adam & Eve is extremely serious, much more serious than chucking 6-day creationism, but I would argue it becomes most obvious somewhere around “God Our Mother.” That’s the point where all you can say is “Buh-bye. Have fun storming the castle.”

    I don’t see the need to treat Gungor with kid gloves. He has a position of leadership and he’s got people following him who will be influenced by his sneering approach to basic biblical doctrine. Now is not the time to be worrying about whether someone, somewhere might think we are “uncivil.”

    1. Did you actually read any of the context for God on Mother?

      I think it is more than ‘uncivil’ to make serious charges without actually considering purpose and meaning. You may still disagree with it, but the idea of the piece is that God is not a gendered human and that we get some bad ideas about God by overly thinking about God as father. That is clearly a biblical image, but a biblical image that is different from our 21st conception on fatherhood (or motherhood for that matter.)

      If that is what it takes to say he is non-Orthodox Christian, then it is a pretty odd place to draw the line.

      For context here is the full liturgy (for mother’s day). I also think it is odd that this is being place just on Gungor when there is a team of people that did the writing. http://www.theliturgists.com/god-our-mother/

    2. I don’t think the God as Mother things bothers me as much as the other metaphysical universalist beliefs that come with it. It is one thing to say that the Bible uses metaphors/symbols related to motherhood to explain God’s love. What is happening is that there are many universalist themes that are being attached to this image. For example, the cult of the mother goddess in Hinduism and the universal mother image. This is admittedly not the best source but its a good starting point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_goddess. Know what you believe and WHY you believe it — #prayersforgungor

    3. @adam shields – a team must be led by an authentic and devoted leader. Michael is definitetly the leader. Hence, there is responsiblity that comes with being a leader.

    4. @music_girl, Gungor may be the leader, but there isn’t anything there that says he is. I don’t know that, but you may from other context.

      I am uncomfortable with your joining any concept of God as mother to universalism and Goddess worship. I think all of the team from what I know of them would very much reject the idea of goddess worship as Christian. And even Bell who has the most universalist leanings of those in the group that I am aware of stops short of being a full universalist. But even if he were a full universalist, why is the meditation particularly a problem about univeralism. Did you read the meditation (or listen to it)? It is pretty proactively Christian.

      It is really not my intention to defend Gungor, but to suggest that much of what has been written about him is not actually supported by the underlying documents and interviews. So if in context of the greater articles and blog posts and lituries something that might be questionable, like saying God is mother or God is not Father, is explained and given context, shouldn’t we take that context into consideration. Instead the World article in particular seemed to actively de-contextualize the statements as if the whole liturgy were about only identifying God as Mother, which it clearly was not.

  25. I am uncomfortable as well with the whole joining of the concepts…which is why I brought it up. He should make that clear. I have friends who subscribe to the mother god beliefs and they are excited that Gungor is “coming over to their side” as they put it.

    1. But isn’t it important to take into account what people say for themselves, not just what others say about them?

      Lots of people want to claim people for themselves but it doesn’t actually fit into the belief. For instance, many liberal theologians claimed Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the 1970-1990s and many more conservative Christians stopped reading him not for his own words, but because liberal theologians were claiming him as their own. Metaxas then did much the same thing but on the opposite side and said, not Bonhoeffer was really an Evangelical, which is problematic for much the same reasons.

      This doesn’t really help that much, but Gungor’s post this morning ( http://gungormusic.com/2014/08/im-with-you/ ) is essentially talking about this claiming problem when he says that many ‘fundamentalists’ (I think there is a real problem with tone in the post, but that is another issue) thought Gungor was a 7 day creationist because he has written a number of songs about creation. So he thinks part of the backlash against him now is because some mis-identified him and misunderstood his work earlier.

      So I think it really doesn’t matter if goddess worshipers are happy and claiming that he is one of them, unless he says, ‘Yes I am a goddess worshiper’. If instead, he has repeatedly said, he is a Christian, a believer and follower of Christ, that also does not believe that creation was in 6 days or that Noah’s flood is historically accurate, then we should take him reasonably at his word and deal with the disagreements as he identifies them.

      It is one things to say, “I am concerned that there is a trajectory that you are on that might lead you away from Christian orthodoxy and here are several examples of what you have said or written that I think gives me that impression.” And the World article which focuses on guilt by association (with Bell and RHE) and some clearly out of context comments.

      I am not completely comfortable with Gungor’s beliefs and I think his blog posts are tone deaf and that Gungor needs some people around him to help him coherently think through his issues and present them better. But that does not mean I think that Gungor has left Christianity or is advocating goddess worship. There is just a large number of steps between where Gungor seems to be at for himself and where World and others are wanting to place him.

  26. @adam shield: This observation that he is slowly converting into a loose view is not based on the World article, rather his lyrics and concepts presented in his songs.

  27. I’m not sure it matters what any of the ‘fathers’ of the faith thought about these things at all. What matters is… what did Jesus think. What did Paul think. What did Peter think…. etc….

    Unless someone can explain why Jesus would make statements about Genesis as factual, and you NOT believe what Jesus said…… not sure you’ve got much of a case. That means you don’t believe God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

    Mr. Gungor has been going to the liberal side for quite some time. This isn’t anything new. Nobody was paying attention because they ‘liked’ the music.

    Ms. Evans….. your stance on homosexuality is unbiblical as badly as Mr. Gungor’s stance on these issues.

  28. As someone who has spent a long time on the “right” and now isn’t sure where he is, I have a question. Even if you don’t believe that some of Gungor’s comments about his beliefs are snarky, there is no arguing that they imply (if not, state) a thought-out reasoning and reliance on such.

    Now, the idea that God has ovaries is just as silly as the idea that God has testicles. Although I’d err on the side of thousands of years of historical reference to God, I recognize the fact that all of the male pronouns can be troubling for some. But what is the point — beyond ticking off the right — to use *exclusionary* female language? And if that’s the only point, how is that even close to being thought-out reasoning? It’s sophomoric and juvenile.

    1. Read the linked posts in my comment above. The point is that he was saying god is neither male or female in human terms

    2. Adam Shields, you miss my point. If you’re going to even slightly influence (toward your point of view) someone who believes very differently from you, you don’t lead with something incendiary and in-your-face that goes against the very fabric of what they believe.

      Regardless of what Gungor (and the other folks behind this project) actually means, “God Our *Mother*” is an *exclusively* female phrase. Surely Gungor, et al, are not naive enough to think that those who cling too tightly to male language are going to take the time to find out what they really mean. And so they have willfully chosen to immediately alienate anyone who doesn’t believe exactly as they do. In other words, they have chosen to use the very same (stupid) approach that is used by their ideological enemies.

      As Andy Stanley says (particularly when being attacked by fundies), “Do you want to be right; or do you want to make a difference?” The people behind “God Our Mother” have apparently chosen the former.

    3. I did miss your point, I am sorry.

      But I am not sure their point was to change minds. The group that was writing this is already pretty egalitarian and those that are primarily listening and using the liturgists stuff probably are as well.

      I think they were writing a liturgy for their own use and those that think like them.

      I think the problem here was that the author of the World piece mischaracterized what they were doing. I disagree with a lot of people on a lot of things, but I try to give them grace and allow them to have different opinions. The World piece used accurate quotes, but wildly out of context for their own purposes to discredit Gungor.

      I think it is fine to disagree, but disagree honestly and give a fair characterization of what was said and why they were trying to do it.

      So I don’t think it was sophomoric and juvenile because I don’t think it was primarily about teaching. I could be wrong about that and if it were primarily about teaching, then yes I agree it was poorly done.

      I remember as a teen in the late 80s being a part of a national youth gathering that for one day only used female pronouns for God. They were trying to prove a point (and I had been exposed to enough that I personally wasn’t disturbed). But the leaders refused to dialogue about why they did it and missed the whole concept of educationing and just ended up angering those that were offended without educating anyone. So I agree with your broader point.

      It is just hard to have a conversation with a group that is less than the whole planet these days and that limits what can really be said.

    4. Adam, fair enough. But I *have* heard more progressive Christians often use female language solely for the purposes of tweaking the fundies (and admit to that being their sole reason), so I (wrongly, apparently) assumed the same was happening here.

      While the specificity is not valid, my general question still stands, though. It is a disturbing (and very puzzling) trend that I’ve been seeing for quite some time. Intransigence among fundies is understandable — it’s practically their very definition. But progressives usually portray themselves as being more enlightened.

      If Christians are going to adopt a “come on my terms” attitude with *each other*, how are they suddenly going to adopt an intelligent approach when trying to reach the unbeliever?

    5. I agree with you here that if the purpose is just to get a rise out of people, that is not only worthless, but dangerous and in some cases sinful. At the same time I think diversity has value.

      For instance, I have several non-Christian friends that were attracted to the type language Gungor has used around both creation/science and God language. It will alienate some, but attract others. I think it is part of the reason we need diversity within the church and can’t alienate any part of this discussion.

      The message and reputation of Christ is important, although I think the person of Christ doesn’t really need us to protect him, I do think a lot of the in fighting among Christians is problematic.

  29. I agree with you almost entirely and I so appreciate your tone. The only caveat to my full agreement (and you did hint at it), most announcements like Gungor’s are just that… announcements. Almost always they are informing “us” of something they have been thinking of and wrestling with in private for far longer.

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