Why Are People So Upset About What Gungor Said?

A few things to keep in mind after the worship leader's view of Genesis stirred up controversy.

This week, many Christians got all riled up over something a well-known Christian figure said.

This feels familiar.

Michael Gungor and his wife Lisa, both of the worship band Gungor, came under fire for statements they made about creationism and Genesis' account of the flood. Oddly, the comments were made in an interview with the Oakland Press back in 2012 and in a blog post they wrote the same year, but are just now on the receiving end of social media outrage.

In the post, "What Do We Believe?" they wrote:

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.

Ironically, the statements were made as an anecdotal point in a long post about why “we should be very slow to judge people for their beliefs.” (He went on to say, “I must remember that the people that believe in a literal Genesis have no more ability to not believe it than I do to believe it.”) But, like a lot of controversies involving statements made by Christian leaders, a larger context is ignored in favor of sensational quotes.

It's the sort of thing happens within Christianity. This particular instance feels similar to many of the other great “Christian Controversies” of the past 15 years—Rob Bell with Love Wins, John McCarthur with his comments on the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement, Don Miller’s blog about church.

But before jumping on the latest boycott or theology witch-hunt, here are a few things we need to keep in mind:

Some Widely Accepted Church Theologians and Pastors Have Held 'Controversial' Beliefs

Not all of the early church fathers believed in literal six-day creation. Augustine of Hippo, arguably the most influential theologian to ever live and the theologian that a majority of modern Christian theology has been influenced by, did not hold to literal six-day creationism.

There have been many great men and women of God who have had some unconventional beliefs. God is quite the gracious God, even when we are wrong.

In fact, he even condemned Christians who would make such claims. In The Literal Meaning of Genesis, he writes, “It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are.”

He was not the only one, either. Included in this list is Origen and Clement of Alexandria. Philo of Alexandria—though not a theologian but a first century Jewish philosopher—also did not hold to young-earth Creationism. Even modern teachers like Tim Keller have questioned a literal six-day creation.

The list could go on.

There are even early church fathers that have influenced what we believe today who did not believe Adam and Eve were literal people, but allegorical symbols of the sinfulness of all humanity. At Bryan College—a school named for a man who is best known for opposing evolution—some members of the faculty objected to a statement of faith that outlined a literal view of creation. The duo’s views on the flood aren’t new or radical and are openly debated in orthodox Christian circles.

Does this mean we should stop reading the early church fathers? Should we throw Augustine out because he held a different view of Creation then some in the contemporary evangelical church?

Well, to put it simply, no. There have been many great men and women of God who have had some unconventional (and some may even say unbiblical) beliefs. God is quite the gracious God, even when we are wrong.

In the Essentials, Unity. In Non-Essentials, Liberty. And in All Things, Charity.

Too often, many Christians have a tendency to vehemently attack anything that might challenge their thinking at all.

I spend a lot of time teaching my freshmen students about the “essentials” and “non-essentials” of the Christian faith. What is essential? Those things directly related to our relationship with our Creator, the one in whom we “live, move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Simply put, the beliefs and understandings that directly affect our salvation are the essentials (Jesus, His divinity, His death and Resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins, our ability to be in relationship with God through His Son and Spirit and how our life should be lived as taught by the Bible etc.).

The non-essentials, well, they are everything else. They are the things not directly related to our salvation (and, no, literal young earth Creationism and the flood account do not affect our salvation).

I use this analogy often, as Christians we tend to act like we have a belief system that is like a bubble: It is fragile and easily popped if anything even touches any part of it. We think we have to protect our bubble.

But when did the Christian faith become so fragile? It is OK to ask the tough questions, to question our beliefs to find them to be true (and if not true to find the truth God is revealing to us).

Instead of a bubble, our beliefs should be like a Jenga tower that is built on a solid foundation (that of Jesus Christ and the “essentials” of the Christian faith). It should be malleable, able to be corrected, able to be taught, able to be taken apart, examined and built once more back on that foundation.

Therefore we should strive for unity in the essential parts of faith, give some wiggle room in the non-essentials, and most of all, be willing to give a lot of grace for those we disagree with.

(For more reading on the “essentials,” check out this well-respected theologian's take on what makes a doctrine essential.)

Before we get in an uproar over what someone believes, before we get ready to point the finger and cry “heretic,” we should stop and listen.

What Does This Mean for Gungor and the Church?

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Just yesterday Gungor wrote on his blog that:

“Do I believe God exists? Yes.
Do I believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes.
Do I believe that Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness? Yes.“

Now this is by no means a comprehensive list of the “essentials” of the Christian faith, but he has checked of some of the major points on the list.

Before we get in an uproar over what someone believes, before we get ready to point the finger and cry “heretic,” we should stop and listen. It has never done the Church any good to condemn before it listens.

Let us be a group of people who want to listen in love and work out our salvation through faith together. Maybe then we can do what Gungor pushed for in his original post, to be a people who don’t just “believe” in God, but through our faith do what He has commanded us to do: take care of the poor, the widow, the hungry and the needy.

After all, a faith—even a faith that looks the same in all the essential and non-essential parts—is dead without works (James 2:17).

Top Comments

John Powell

56

John Powell commented…

Typical blogosphere. Just enough information to get people riled up but not enough space to reach the depths of the issue. I want to hear more about the implications on New Testament theology of not believing in many of the Old Testament stories. Does Gungor believe in the virgin birth, resurrection, ascention of Jesus? If there was not a literal first Adam, then what does this mean for the second Adam - Jesus Christ? If the world was not destroyed by water in Genesis, then does this effect the second destruction by fire in Revelation? There are other examples, but how have people who cast off traditional stories interpret their place in the larger biblical story? My point is - can one thing be spoken of only symbolically while the other thing which depends on the symbolic be real?

Zach

1

Zach commented…

There is a few things here which I believe Mr. Gungor had some good points on. I myself leave room for evolution to be the means by which God created life on this earth, but I also allow myself to be open to 6 days of creation. It's simple really, the times I find myself believing in faulty secondary theology, I humble myself and learn from it. That has not occurred yet concerning my belief that God could have used evolution. It is when primary doctrine starts coming in to question that we run in to serious issues. This is how "Christian cults" are started; Jehovah's witness, Mormonism, Christian Science (the epitome of skewing true primary doctrine). This I believe is the direction that Gungor gets dangerously close to when he phrases his beliefs as if it is beyond ridiculous for him to believe otherwise. As someone with an analytic mind, I feel like I understand his predicament, not to mention when you grow up in the church as a pastors son, you can become very cynical to the hatred you see in a church spouting the word love all the time and in turn feel angst towards some of their seemingly equally dogmatic doctrine. But I know that I must "continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling" and I can not let the imperfections of man somehow speak for the perfections of God.

Mr. Gungor, remember what Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

It is OK to admit that we don't know, allow yourself to be open to being wrong about your beliefs concerning creation. In the end it is in our weakness that He is strong anyways.

I still highly respect Gungor, but I think it is easier to do that when you don't place that individual on a pedestal. Don't expect perfection from man. Let's love our brother, even if you think he is wrong.

146 Comments

Zach

1

Zach commented…

There is a few things here which I believe Mr. Gungor had some good points on. I myself leave room for evolution to be the means by which God created life on this earth, but I also allow myself to be open to 6 days of creation. It's simple really, the times I find myself believing in faulty secondary theology, I humble myself and learn from it. That has not occurred yet concerning my belief that God could have used evolution. It is when primary doctrine starts coming in to question that we run in to serious issues. This is how "Christian cults" are started; Jehovah's witness, Mormonism, Christian Science (the epitome of skewing true primary doctrine). This I believe is the direction that Gungor gets dangerously close to when he phrases his beliefs as if it is beyond ridiculous for him to believe otherwise. As someone with an analytic mind, I feel like I understand his predicament, not to mention when you grow up in the church as a pastors son, you can become very cynical to the hatred you see in a church spouting the word love all the time and in turn feel angst towards some of their seemingly equally dogmatic doctrine. But I know that I must "continue to work out my salvation with fear and trembling" and I can not let the imperfections of man somehow speak for the perfections of God.

Mr. Gungor, remember what Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

It is OK to admit that we don't know, allow yourself to be open to being wrong about your beliefs concerning creation. In the end it is in our weakness that He is strong anyways.

I still highly respect Gungor, but I think it is easier to do that when you don't place that individual on a pedestal. Don't expect perfection from man. Let's love our brother, even if you think he is wrong.

Laura Lee Dykstra

2

Laura Lee Dykstra commented…

He doesn't believe the Bible... but he's a Christian. A hip new kind of bold Christian... who doesn't believe the Bible... but believes what he wants to believe. Biblical relativism. The Bible doesn't mean what it says... and no one needs to believe it to be a Christian. Create your own truth Christianity. The post Christian Christianity. Wow. How new wave! Maybe satanism is the new Christianity??

Laura Lee Dykstra

2

Laura Lee Dykstra commented…

Rob Bell said that the Bible is a 2000 year old book written by dead men... and why give that any credence? Said we should just follow the real living homosexuals in front of us. New wave Christianity! Post Christian Christianity! How bold and daring! Satanism calling itself Christian.

Yoel Raymond

1

Yoel Raymond commented…

I agreed with Gungor's statements. What he was trying to say is... Our faith in heart doesn't come alone as I own desires, but that Faith exist because our heavenly Father keep pray for us until I dropt this message here, today. So that we have the same Faith as what He is planned... Let Thy will be done, Amen. My spirit go with you Michael and Lisa.

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