Last Tuesday I was in a locally owned bookstore. Shannon and I had heard about their book club and author’s readings and we wanted to check it out. When we got there it was a quaint little shop with a café and the owners were pretty friendly. The books were of different assortments and not the usual collection you would see at a Barnes and Nobles or Books-a-Million. They did have some of those titles but mostly local writers, spirituality books, travel guides, and a vast array of different topics with small amounts of books in each section. It was just the kind of store we expected in Asheville.
After browsing around for a while we decided to leave and find a coffee shop with less people than the café. We headed up the street but we noticed a book in the window of the bookstore we had just left, and that there would be a reading on Saturday. The book was titled Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians and was written by Candace Chellew-Hodge, a minister formerly of the United Church of Christ. Shannon and I stopped and talked about whether we would purchase the book and come back for the reading and we decided that it would be a good thing. This issue is not one that is going away anytime soon in the church and we were interested in hearing what the author had to say, both in her book and the reading.
I took the book home but only had time to read the first three chapters before Saturday arrived. We arrived after the reading had begun and listened intently. She was reading a part I had read early that afternoon.
My goal was to ask a question that would challenge the author without making her feel condemned. It was evident in her book that the traditional church and those who sinfully hate homosexuals had hurt her. In response to her experience her foundation in faith was skewed disastrously. Two of her basic conclusions that depart from historic Christianity are: 1) Man was created good and 2) The Scriptures are not the inerrant Word of God. This leads to her basic abandonment of true Christianity. Notice here that I am not questioning her conclusions about homosexuality (which fit in her system) but her version of Christianity.
The Scriptures speak to the condition in which man finds himself. This is summed up in the Doctrine of Original Sin, which is expressly denied by the author. The Fall lead to man’s banishment from the Garden as well as the curse from God that all men are born sinners. Psalm 14:2-3 says, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” It is hard to skirt around the truth of this statement. Man knows its truth both in God’s Word but also in his heart. We sense the depth of our sin in our thoughts, relationships with others, and our relationship with God. We are sinners desperately in need of grace.
It is difficult to deny the truth of the Doctrine of Original Sin but Ms. Chellew-Hodge manages to do this, partly because of her second great departure from historic Christianity. She goes on to deny the value of Scripture. I use the word value here because of a conversation I had with the author. It seemed to me that she questioned the authority of Scripture but she assured me this was not the case. She said that the Bible WAS authoritative.
Upon further consideration I realized she was upholding the Bible as authoritative but she was detracting from the value of the Scriptures in her denial of inerrancy. If the Bible contains words from God but is not in its entirety the Word of God, man then becomes the decider of what is God’s Word in the Bible and what is not. No longer can man rely on the Bible to teach us anything. We can easily deny its teaching saying the parts we disagree with were not intended by God. Without inerrancy the debate on God becomes subjective and based on the individual and their interpretation of Scripture.
In responding to her first question at the reading, the author said that we could know nothing certain about God. She was only comfortable saying, “God is.” That is all we can know. I followed that up with the question, “Would you say that God is Jesus Christ?’ Her answer reminded me of the clever way heretics of the early church would redefine terms in order to sound orthodox. She said something along the lines of Christ was the most perfect embodiment of the divine. This allows her to avoid claiming the divinity of Christ, which again departs from Orthodox Christianity.
My conclusion is that Ms. Chellew-Hodge completely departs from Christianity and has created a new spirituality that no way is related to Christianity other than her mention of Christ. Her deconstruction of the Bible, as well as her false claims about the goodness of man in her book begins the departure from Christianity. Her remarks made following her reading completes her departure and allows me to comfortably say that what she describes is not Christianity but a new type of Spirituality that involves finding the ‘authentic self’ and encourages self-esteem religion calling men and women to become ‘bulletproof.’
It is my conclusion that Ms. Chellew-Hodge is free to believe in what ever manner she desires. She has that freedom. However, the religion that she clings to is not Christianity but a type of spirituality. My challenge to her would be to leave the Christian title out of her services and writings, not because she is gay, but because what she is teaching is not Christianity. Notice the post never really commented on her homosexual lifestyle but it did challenge her to understand the orthodox understanding of Christianity and define her teaching in light of that. It seems she has some misplaced desire to call herself a Christian when her foundation is that of New Age Spiritualism.