Fallibility: God’s love letter?

by | May 26, 2024

This coming Monday is Memorial Day. A holiday, originally created to remember and honor the thousands who died during the Civil War. But as time passed, the remembrance expanded to include all soldiers from all wars.

But memories fade over time. A recent Associated Press article laments, “Memorial Day is supposed to be about mourning the nation’s fallen service members, but it’s come to anchor the unofficial start of summer and a long weekend of discounts on anything from mattresses to lawn mowers.”

Thousands die unnecessarily in wars. Leading up to the Civil War, the institution of slavery divided our country over a notion that had its roots in economics, but was justified and maintained through physical and emotional violence. The violence included and was justified by the misappropriation of scripture.

How did so many Christians get it so wrong? Slavery was never God’s plan!

A 2015 Pew Research report created a stir among many church goers by daring to say out loud what was only whispered in meeting rooms and during coffee hours. People were finding other things to do on Sunday mornings. Church attendance membership was in a free fall.

The number of U.S. adults self-identifying as Christian dropped by eight percent in seven years. Meanwhile, the number who self-identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” increased six percent. Despite the lyrics to a well-known song that touts love as differentiating Christians from others. A more accurate differentiator emerged known as hypocrisy in scripture.

The Rev Dr Mark Sandlin, in an article published by the United Methodist Insight the year the study was released, argues that hypocrisy is a symptom of a more serious disease plaguing the Christian community. A disease that promotes claiming righteousness for ourselves while condemning others.

The problem, notes Sandin, the Church developed “a highly sophisticated system that allows it both to quote the Bible and believe whatever it wants, without regard to the scripture itself.”

Adam Hamilton, in chapter two of our companion book for this series, illuminates several examples where large numbers of churchgoers and clergy used scripture to justify behavior incompatible with love.

Scripture is believed to be the “Word of God” by Christians. But what does this mean? For many, this means the bible is inerrant and infallible.

Hamilton writes, “The word inerrant means without error and is usually taken to mean that the Bible is without error in everything it speaks about. Infallible means unable to fail, to make mistakes, or to be wrong.” And Paul is given credit, or blame, for punctuating this claim in a letter credited to him where he states, “God has breathed life into all Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Unfortunately, humans are not inerrant and infallible, despite claims to the contrary. And biblical interpretation can be a dangerous place to make such false claims.

John tells us in his gospel that Jesus is Himself, the Word of God.

I’m convinced the problem we struggle with isn’t because of Jesus. In fact, Jesus was so appealing that He drew people toward Him. Add in His miraculous gift for teaching and it’s no wonder His followers increased in numbers daily.

However, a more recent study published by Pew Research found that 8 in 10 Americans believe religion is losing the influence battle. Their survey focused attention on connections between religious beliefs and candidates for president.

The study found that 94% of Americans want a president whose personal life reflects high moral and ethical standards. And around half of us want a president with strong religious beliefs. It’s not clear whether either of these ideals actually affects how most of us vote.

After all, if the major problem facing Christianity is our propensity to behave contrary to the scripture we quote for measuring the goodness of others, then this insight doesn’t tell us much.

What can Christians do to help reverse this trend?

One approach, suggested by a small number, is to make Christianity our national religion. And force people to worship God or else. Fortunately, this is only a small number since it seems inconsistent with the way of Jesus.

One of my favorite lines comes from a 2010 episode of Big Bang Theory, when Amy Farrah Fowler says, “I don’t object to the concept of a deity, but I’m baffled by the notion of one that takes attendance.” So does God take attendance?

In his article, Rev Sandin pondered whether Jesus was talking to church goers and leaders through those leaving the church. And he advised listening to the reasons they list for leaving church.

On the other hand, Jesus spoke plainly about what’s important. Jesus says that it all boils down to loving God and loving others.

The Prophet Micah said it this way when answering the question, “What does God want from us?” Do what is just, love everyone and live in humble connection with God.

What the Lord requires of us is to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with God.
Micah 6:6-8

Perhaps this is why nearly all of us expect those who hold office to hold themselves to high moral and ethical standards. We know that these are the fruits of love and justice. Then we can worry less about the chaos going on when they’re not being watched.

You can join us each Sunday in person or online by clicking the button on our website’s homepage – Click here to watch. This button takes you to our YouTube channel. You can find more information about us on our website at FlintAsburyChurch.org.

A reminder that we publish this newsletter that we call the Circuit Rider each week. You can request this public ation by email. Send a request to FlintAsburyUMC@gmail.com or let us know when you send a message through our website. We post an archive of past editions on our website under the tab, Connect – choose Newsletters.

Pastor Tommy


Parts of our series was inspired by Adam Hamilton. Wrestling with Doubt, Finding Faith. Nashville: Abington Press, 2023.

Ben Finley, “5 things to know about Memorial Day, including its evolution and controversies.” © Associated Press, May 23, 2024. Retrieved from: link

Rev. Dr. Mark Sandlin. “The Church Has a Bigger Problem than Hypocrisy.” © United Methodist Insight, May 18, 2015. Retrieved from: link

Pew Research Center. “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” © Pew Research Center, May 12, 2015. Retrieved from: link

Pew Research Center. “8 in 10 Americans Say Religion Is Losing Influence in Public Life.” © Pew Research Center, March 15, 2024. Retrieved from: link

A Community in Love with God, Each Other, and our Neighbors.