Saturday, May 7, 2011

Fall to Grace by Jay Bakker

Bakker believes grace has the power to change lives. It is revolutionary in our understanding of God, ourselves, and our relationships with others.
Bakker is the son of Jim and Tammy Faye and gives s short account of his early life. He started partying at age thirteen and quit school while in the tenth grade. A friend stayed by him and he eventually became a grace convert. He is now the co-pastor of Revolution Church NYC.
One area where Bakker got me thinking was his section on “gossiping about God.” He says “we play fast and loose with God's reputation” when we say a disaster was God's response to sin (as some preachers did with Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, etc.). (68)
Bakker says we need to stand up for grace, as Paul did. If “works” is not a mean to salvation, it is not a means of losing salvation, either.
It was here that Bakker's book began to take a turn that was out of left field. If no deeds can determine our salvation (earn or lose) then we have freedom. “...[F]reedom to indulge our sinful side,” (131) and freedom to let the Holy Spirit control our lives. (132)
As I continued reading the book, I began to realize that rather than a book on grace in general, this is Bakker's defense of gay participation in church life.
Bakker does not like “church discipline.” He says that Jesus' command to the woman caught in adultery (go and sin no more), “has always given me trouble.” (140) Of Paul's instruction in 1 Cor. 5:5, to make the unrepentant sinner leave the church, Bakker says, “This Scripture is so easily abused that, frankly, I wish Paul had never said it.” “It shows that even Paul, the Apostle of Love, let his anger get the better of him from time to time.” (142)
He notes only “six or seven [verses] appear to condemn same-sex behavior in any way; meanwhile, there are literally thousands of references to love and compassion.” (168) He argues that, sure, the OT condemns homosexuality but condemns eating shellfish and women wearing pants. “You can't pick and choose the laws you want to enforce.” (170) Regarding OT laws, “...[I]t's all or nothing...” (170)
He explains NT prohibitions by exploring the Greek and saying the passages are actually condemning male prostitution, ritual sex, etc. Bakker says, “There is simply no biblical equivalent to the modern conception of consensual, same-sex, monogamous love between adults.” (170) He applauds the third edition of the NRSV that leaves out the term “homosexual” from the NT altogether.
Bakker says, “Just to be clear; I am not saying that homosexuality is a sin that should be accepted because of grace. I don't believe that being gay is a sin.” (163)
I am not exactly clear what Bakker does consider sin, or if it really matters to him. He says, “Because no man is innocent, no man is guilty. We're all pardoned. We're all saved.” (152) In the context it was a bit difficult to figure out if Bakker is a universalist or if he was talking about “believers.” He does not offer the “plan of salvation,” so to speak, so I am not sure.

In my estimation, Bakker has ignored some serious aspects of the question. He does not address Paul's lengthy passage in Romans one. Since he does not consider homosexuality a sin, he does not go into the concept of loving the sinner yet hating the sin. He also does not touch on the concept of accepting celibate gays into church life while not accepting practicing gays.

Faith Words, a division of Hachette Book Group, 194 pages.

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