Dan Savage is openly gay and a pronounced atheist. Having said that, I do appreciate his qualified criticism of Hume. I don’t agree with everything he said, but I did find insightful his suggestion that Hume’s comments were an offense to Christianity. Savage mentioned Hume’s omission of Jesus as being the Son of God along with other major tenets, and sees Hume as simply offering the Jesus who takes care of adultery, etc. Savage asked where the “moderate, progressive” Christians were who would denounce Hume’s comments. Interestingly, it is the conservative Christian crowd on the blogosphere that was uncomfortable with Hume’s comments coming off as a Joel Osteen version of the Jesus who offers, “Your best life now”. I already posted on my thoughts of criticism for the lack of objective emphasis in Gospel proclamations that often accompany “evangelizing” today (link). I would actually proclaim a loud “Amen” to Savage’s criticisms if Hume understood the Gospel strictly in a pragmatic paradigm. The fact is, as Olbermann and Savage pointed out, that “Christians” are plagued by marital unfaithfulness, etc. What Jesus did on the cross offers forgiveness, not as a cop out, but as great news.
The Gospel saves imperfect Christians as much as it saves sinners. Christians are perpetually in need of grace, which is why Paul denounced the Galatian heresy of starting in grace, but then proceeding in works for our salvation. The cross also purchases our sanctification, which means that the Christian WILL fight against all sin in their lives, but will never attain perfection in this life. The Christian does receive the Holy Spirit and is called upon to put to death the deeds of the flesh, adultery included, but some will stumble. Though God is grieved, His name brought under ill repute, because of the sins of His people, the good news remains good because it is never predicated upon our performance. The genuine Christian will not view this grace as a motivator or as a covering for sin, but rather as a motivator towards a life that glorifies God in all things. The genuine Christian will plead for grace so that they might NOT sin, so that they might not defame the name of Christ with outrageous sin.
While I appreciate some of the criticisms of Olbermann and Savage, they are trying to define the whole by a few rotten examples. At the same time, Christians invite this sort of criticism when they loudly declare that the major tenet of the Christian faith is, “Your Best Life Now”. When the Christian faith is emphasized for its subjective derivatives, then it will stand or fall based on how rich, how happy, how successful its adherents are. If Christians can reclaim the objective emphasis of the Gospel as being our counted righteous in Christ because of our “Worst life now”, in spite of who we are, then we would do well. Of course, we ought not ever be cavalier about sin, nor excuse our sinful behavior. We, of all people, must have a hatred for sin.
We walk in the footsteps of Abraham, the man of faith, and yet the coward.
We walk in the footsteps of David, who had a heart for God, and yet committed adultery.
We would do well to rejoice with David, who proclaimed the blessedness of not having God count our sin against us (Ps. 32:2) AND we would do well to mourn and grieve with David the sinner who was physically crushed and chastised for His sin (Ps. 51).
Luther taught that we are “Iustus et peccator simul” (Simultaneously a Saint and Sinner). The true Christian, the regenerate man, is at once a saint and a sinner. Therefore, our rejoicing is also mingled with remorse. We rejoice that we are forgiven sinners, but we mourn because we are still sinners. I would dare “proselytize” this good news to Keith Olbermann and Dan Savage because they both know that they are sinners. While they are amused at the sins of professing Christians and are offended that an imperfect Brit Hume would dare suggest that Tiger Woods turn to Christ, and would even criticize their perception that Hume is offering a Jesus who will give Tiger a pass, these are no excuses for their own refusal to turn to Christ. Jesus Christ doesn’t guarantee moral superiority (though Christians should progress in sanctification), but offers forgiveness. Forgiveness for prior sin, present sin, and all future sin.
Mr. Olbermann, the good news is that you needn’t be morally superior than everyone to feel forgiven. The good news isn’t that you might be morally superior in unbelief over those who do believe. That, you might be in many regards, but we are all sinners. The Gospel is what God does in us, no doubt, but it rests in what Jesus did 2000 years ago on a cross. It is historical, it is earthy, it is deeply practical, and it happens outside of us, apart from us first, before we enter into it.