I remember the first salad bar I went to when I was a kid. Back then it was a relatively new concept. A person could pick and choose what they wanted. No more having to pick the tomatoes off or having to ask for extra dressing. You get to decide.
Today salad bars and buffets are seemingly everywhere. People love them. They present you with a myriad of options. You get to choose exactly what and how much you want. Salad bars and buffets make you the boss.
As I watched the news yesterday about another large Christian denomination here in the United States condoning same-sex marriage, I thought to myself, “How did we get here?”
The answer is simple: Salad Bar Christianity.
Salad Bar Christianity is a relatively new innovation. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as science and invention bloomed, so did man’s image of himself. Scientists began to say, “God is unnecessary.” Philosophers began to say, “God is dead.” Theologians began to say, “The Bible isn’t completely true.” Humanism – the idea that mankind can achieve whatever it puts its mind to – became the dominant way of thinking.
It was the Tower of Babel revisited. Man in his pride no longer needed God.
Soon many Christians were being taught that the Bible was an ancient book full of myths and legends. Sure, truths about God could be gleaned from its pages, but first we have to cut out all the myths and legends.
As the 19th turned into the 20th century, the optimism of humanism turned into the skepticism of modernism which turned into the relativism of postmodernism. That’s a lot of -isms, but what it means simply is that our world stopped believing in absolute truth. As Pilate skeptically asked Jesus on the first Good Friday, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). For our world, absolute truth doesn’t exist or at least no one can claim to know it.
Therefore, each person has to choose for him or herself what is true. What is true for me might not be true for you. Every opinion is just as valid as another. To criticize or judge another person’s philosophy or choice is to be intolerant. The greatest evil in our world today is intolerance.
Such thinking has led to Salad Bar Christianity. Many today treat the Bible like a buffet. They pick and choose what they want to believe from the Bible. They look for churches which teach what they want to believe. They tell God, “This is what I want you to tell me.”
That’s how we got here. Today, if you as a Christian want to believe that all living things came to exist over billions of years through the process of evolution, you can just call Genesis chapters one and two a myth. If you want to say homosexuality is natural and God-pleasing, you can just say those parts of the Bible are outdated and not applicable in our modern, enlightened world. You can really make the Bible say whatever you want it to say.
There are a few problems, however, with Salad Bar Christianity. First of all, Salad Bar Christianity means you believe in a God who can’t even get his own story straight. What kind of God would we have if his book of revelation to us is full of errors and outdated ideas?
The other, more important problem with Salad Bar Christianity is that it makes you god. That’s its appeal. God is no longer telling you what you need to know. You are telling God what you want to know. You are the boss. You decide.
Is the Bible always easy to understand or accept? No. As sinful human beings, we don’t always like what it says. Our modern world definitely doesn’t like what it says. But the Bible isn’t a buffet. It’s not our word. It’s God’s Word. We have no right to change it.
In the very last words of the Bible, John cautions us, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and the holy city which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18,19).
Take God’s warning seriously. Salad Bar Christianity is dangerous.