I was not a little intrigued to read an article by Jonathan Elliott entitled “I’m gay, liberal, open-minded – and a convert to Christianity.”
Within Mr. Elliott’s circle of friends, claiming to be a Christian seriously raises eyebrows: “My conversion has made me the token ‘church guy’ in my friend group. I can’t tell you the number of awkward conversations I’ve had over the last several weeks about Charleston, the Duggars and the scariness of the uber-awful Quiverfull cult. Whenever something even vaguely religious enters the news cycle, my friends inevitably find ways to lean on me as the church expert, from the sudden disappearance of 7th Heaven in the wake of Stephen Collins’s sexual misconduct, to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and whether anyone would want pizza at a gay wedding anyway.”
Okay, so Mr. Elliott is not a conservative. I get it. Many think that we Bible-believing Christians deem that only those with conservative views and vote Republican can be Christians, and perhaps some conservative Christians do think that. A liberal can be a Christian. A person with a socialistic view of government and economics can be a Christian.
But is Mr. Elliott really a Christian? A Christian is one who has turned from his sin and turned to God through faith in Jesus Christ, looking to the work of Christ on the cross as satisfying divine justice due the repenter’s sin. The apostle Paul speaks of Jesus as the One “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). In 2 Corinthians 5:21 Paul writes, “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus himself commanded, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
By biblical standards, Mr. Elliott cannot be considered to have converted to Christianity. He may have converted to a church that does not believe the gospel, and his church doesn’t, but he is no true follower of Christ. Mr. Elliott writes, “I’m still the person I was before I became a Christian, and a baptism isn’t a brainwashing. This change in my life didn’t turn me into a raging nutball – at least, I’m no more of one than I ever was.” The Scriptures, though, declare, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
For Mr. Elliott, a diabetes diagnosis led to a good deal of introspection, and his therapy sessions for coping with his disease were “rooted in a belief in a higher power.” He spent two years checking out some twenty congregations of differing denominations and settled on one which displayed “the openness, diversity and the clear sense of tradition I sought. It was also strongly inclusive of the LGBTQ community, and welcomed both women and men as clergy members.” Mr. Elliott found a church that basically reflected his beliefs. Sin and righteousness and repentance and faith in Jesus had nothing to do with it.
And that is sad. I’m sad for Mr. Elliott because he has accepted with satisfaction and a bit of self-congratulation a false gospel instead of the true one. He has deluded himself into believing that he is at peace with God when nothing could be further from the truth. His “conversion” was to reinforce his beliefs with a dose of God mixed in. God is little more that a “higher power” in whom one believes.
And yet Mr. Elliott is not alone. Millions are like him. Conservative folks may respond with, “That’s right! Those progressives never really come to the truth.” Sorry to burst one’s bubble, but many conservatives never really come to the truth, either, at least not about Christ. They confuse conservative values with Christian discipleship. They are for the display of the Ten Commandments and against same-sex marriage. They are dismayed over the removal of God from the public square and yearn for an America long gone, but they have not recognized themselves as condemned sinners who have violated God’s righteousness and stand in dire need of a Savior and redemption. I fear that hundreds of thousands of conservative Baptists and Presbyterians and Methodists and others are no closer to the kingdom of God than Jonathan Elliott. They may hold traditional moral values and may even follow them scrupulously, but they have never truly repented of their sin and fled to Christ for forgiveness and his righteousness. There is no real love for the Lord in their hearts.
May God be pleased to grant both them and Mr. Elliott repentance and faith.