Leopard Theology

Leopard on tree stump
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Many Christians teach Leopard Theology, because they believe that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots.   They don’t call it that, but that is exactly what their theology is founded upon.  And, like the leopard, they camouflage themselves.  They take on church leadership roles even though they teach the opposite of the Bible.

Saying the Bible isn’t fully inspired by God may seem like a humble premise, but it actually makes several strong and unfounded claims.

It implies that God couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver His word to us in a reliable way, and that despite God’s alleged failings flawed humans are able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not.  Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God’s errors?

Why is this a serious problem?  It is hard enough to follow the teachings of the Bible without having “Christians” choose what “really” came from God.  Worse yet, they ignore some parts of scripture so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but desirable.  Some may do it accidentally or out of laziness but others are just blatant false teachers.  They have made up their own god and their own religion.

If someone claims the Bible is only partly inspired, ask a few questions:

  • How did they come to this conclusion?
  • Do they think their favorite verses are inspired?  If so,  how do they know?  How about John 3:16?  How about “love your neighbor?”  Whenever “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is quoted, I never hear the liberal theologians question whether Jesus really said that.
  • If the Bible is only partly inspired, how can they be sure that their preferred verses aren’t the ones that are uninspired and the ones they don’t like are the “real” verses?
  • Why is it that God couldn’t inspire the original writings of forty writers, but He can inspire billions of people to properly determine which parts are right and which aren’t?
  • If He couldn’t get Paul, Luke, Matthew, John, etc.  to record his word accurately, how can He get you to do it?
  • Why should I trust your “inspiration” over those who penned the Bible, or over my “inspiration?”

Then there is Advanced Leopard Theology.  It is just like basic Leopard Theology, except God is also changing spots and adding or removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives.   They use phrases such as “God is still speaking,” but they don’t mean He still speaks through his Word (that would be a true statement).  They think He is still revealing new truths to the church and changing doctrines taught in the Bible.  They may also say things like, “The Holy Spirit is moving in a new direction.”  Indeed.

Here’s an example: A Methodist pastor named Laurie Hays Coffman did a pro-gay theology piece that made the argument that she wants to “unfurl our corporate sails to catch today’s winds as the Spirit blows afresh.”  She said she was challenged by the vision God gave to Peter in Acts 10-11 where God makes it clear that the Gospel is for the Gentiles, too, and that the Israelites’ ceremonial dietary laws are no longer in force.  Her reasoning is that in the same way that God overturned those laws that He is now overturning the prohibitions against homosexual behavior.  If that looks like a non sequitur to you then you are correct.  The problem is her poor Biblical analysis.  There are at least nine things wrong with this view:

  1. The person with the revelation was Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle and a key leader in the early church.  It wasn’t made to you, me or someone like Ms. Coffman.  That doesn’t mean God couldn’t reveal something important like this to us, just that it is highly unlikely.
  2. The visions were clear and emphatic.  Peter was given the vision three times and the incident is mentioned twice.
  3. Peter was inclined to reject the meaning of the vision, whereas these Advanced Leopard Theologians have views on human sexuality that are virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture and they are glad to accept this allegedly new revelation.
  4. There was external validation for Peter from the Roman centurion, which also included a supernatural intervention.
  5. This lesson showed up in the Bible, not outside it.  I’m not saying miracles don’t happen outside the Bible.  It is just that things appear in the Bible for a reason.  God communicating that the ceremonial laws had been fulfilled was one of those “big deals.”
  6. This vision overturned a ceremonial law, not a moral law.  There are zero examples in the Bible of God reversing his moral laws.  In fact, the more Jesus talked the stricter the laws seemed to get, because He emphasized the spirit of the law and not just the letter (i.e., lust was akin to committing adultery, anger was akin to murder, etc.).  The dietary laws never applied to Gentiles.
  7. The “God has changed his mind view” is primarily being “revealed” to theologically liberal Christians in the U.S. . . . the very ones who often deny the authority of his Word to begin with!  So we can’t trust the accurate transmission of the original writings but we can trust their new revelations?  I’m skeptical.
  8. If God is revealing a change, why is it necessarily more liberal?  Why couldn’t God make his laws more stringent?
  9. The Bible gives strong warnings not to add or take away from its teachings.

But the orthodox can fall prey to this in a more subtle way by claiming full inspiration but conveniently ignoring passages we don’t like.  Consider this passage on church leadership, where some exaggerate “not given to drunkenness” to mean no alcohol whatsoever but ignore the “must manage his own family well . . .” part.

1 Timothy 3:2-4 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

Another example is correctly teaching about the sin of homosexual behavior while neglecting to give proper emphasis to Biblical admonitions against divorce, adultery and fornication.  We need to teach all of scripture with balance.  Grandstanding on sins that aren’t temptations to us and soft-pedaling those that are is not an attractive or Christian thing to do.

There are plenty of reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of all of the original scriptures.  We don’t need to get sloppy and just follow the parts we like.  And we truly miss out when we cast doubts on every passage and question if it is really the word of God.

Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t mess with God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Revelation 22:18-19 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 in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Finally, what does Jesus say about those who don’t believe the Bible is inspired?

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’  Luke 16:31

Also see Men wrote the Bible so it must have mistakes and How many translations did your Bible go through?

17 thoughts on “Leopard Theology”

  1. Hi Neil,
    Dalmatians are known for being aggressive toward children, Leopards are dangerous to everyone, so it is a much better illustration. This piece is one of your all-time best.

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      1. Yeah, I’ve run across that one a few times myself, and I’m sick of it.

        I called it Salad Bar Christianity, but it’s the same idea. People have this idea that they can just decide what they like about the Bible, Jesus, or the Christian faith – and disregard the parts they “disagree” with. Some even incorporate elements of other faiths! Remember the strange hybrid religion practiced by the Heaven’s Gate suicide cult, the ones who all killed themselves back in 1997?

        It always makes my skin crawl when I ask someone what they think about Scripture and the response is, “There are parts of it I disagree with.”

        What an arrogant statement. I always want to say, “No, the Bible disagrees with *you.* It does not work the other way around and you don’t have the authority to ‘disagree’ with any part of it. You also don’t have the authority to pick and choose. You either take the whole package, or you have none of it. Jesus was very clear about this.”

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  2. My other favorite is when people call the Bible “just a bunch of stories.” Have you heard that one recently? I had to listen to my atheist co-worker and my raised-Catholic-but-now-non-practicing co-worker have this inane conversation today.

    Took everything I had to keep my mouth shut, but how far are you going to get by walking to two people having a chitchat and telling them they’re both wrong? All it’s going to do is unite them against you.

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  3. A question I like to ask those who espouse “Leopard Theology”:

    “Who made you the arbiter of the truth?”

    I have yet to receive an answer. Not only do they not answer the question with some sort of evasion, they don’t answer it all. They avoid the question just as they avoid the scriptures they don’t like.

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    1. It’s a valid question, Mark, but if we ask it, they’ll throw it back at us:

      “Who made *YOU* the arbiter of the truth? Who are you to tell me that the entire Book is the inspired Word of God and not just a handful of wisdom mixed with outdating teaching?”

      Don’t misunderstand, Mark, you’re right and they’re wrong…but if we’re going to be doing apologetics, we’d better be ready with an answer to this one.

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  4. They can throw it back if they want, but I’d simply respond, I am not the arbiter of truth. God is, and He says His Word is unchanged and unchanging.

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  5. I’m interested in your statement that God has never changed one of his moral laws. It strikes me that in the Ten Commandments we have, at least, some partial revelation regarding these moral laws and how to behave. Two observations:

    1–Commandment #2–I have often heard talk of God’s Justice as a primary attribute. How does visiting the iniquity of the father upon the children to the third and fourth generation correspond to this concept of a Just God. We all, it seems to me, understand to some degree the notion of being accountable for our own behavior and sins. However, the notion of being responsible for the sins of another seems more than a little “unjust”. It makes this God sound like a grudge holder who holds even the unborn accountable for the sins of a great-grandfather. Love this notion of justice.

    2–Commandment #10–This notion of not coveting your neighbor’s manservant or maidservant seems to suggest that this God approves of the whole notion of having slaves. If slavery were such an immoral practice, indeed violating the very laws of this Moral Lawgiver, it seems that the command would be to discontinue this practice. However, this does not happen. Instead we are told simply to not covet or wrongfully desire the slave of your neighbor. Be happy with your own slave/slaves. The morality of this escapes me.

    Any thoughts you have would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    1. The idea of “visiting the iniquity” is about families and nations who continue to follow after false gods. If you continue the context you will see that God says, “of those who hate me.” In the same text he continues by saying how he will bless the generations of those who love him. We as a nation – as did Israel – all suffer as citizens for the sins of the country; we suffer consequences. Just as in a family; the sins of the parents can have vast repercussions to their children who follow in their footsteps.

      There is nothing immoral about slavery, per se, as practiced in Israel. It was more on the line of indentured servanthood and nothing at all like the slavery practiced in the USA and so many other countries.

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      1. In the New Testament, Paul calls on slaves to obey their masters, as if the master were Jesus Himself.

        Naturally I had the question, “Isn’t slavery an abomination? The idea that one could ‘own’ another human being is morally repugnant.”

        The way it was explained to me: slavery (or indentured servitude, if you prefer – I see little difference) was one of the political realities in the Roman world where Paul lived and taught. It was also simply regarded as a fact of life in nations and times that came prior to Rome.

        It is worth noting that the abolitionist movement in the 19th century United States was primarily driven by Christians, who had decided that the institution was morally reprehensible and had to go. It is unfortunate that it took a civil war to ultimately settle the question – the pro-slavery elements in the South felt that the new western territories should be allowed to vote on the question, while abolitionists in the North wanted it outlawed everywhere because they didn’t think it was right.

        It is also worth noting that slavery still exists today in parts of northern Africa and the Arab world.

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  6. Then of course, there is the human trafficking for the sex trade…which is slavery in all but name, and unfortunately going on today all over the world. Disgusting.

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  7. Glenn,

    It seems to me, and of course I could be wrong, that these Ten Commandments either have some individual implications or are simply commandments relating to national interests. When you talk about “visiting the iniquity” of the fathers upon the children of the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, you obviously either take it for what it says or read your own interpretation into it, which is apparently what you have done. One either pays for the iniquity of those who came before one and who hate God, which is what the commandment says, or one does not. It continues by saying that God shows steadfast love to thousands who love Him, which, of course, is an individual reference. You simply cannot go back and forth between national responsibility and individual responsibility and blessing which it appears you are trying to do. Of course, I suppose this changes if you are a Calvinist and then this “justice” makes some sense. Someone who is the seed of someone who hated God now becomes the responsible party to the sins of the father. Why? Because God has ordained it to be this way.

    I love your rationalization about the difference between the types of “slavery”. The type of slavery practiced back then wasn’t really so bad after all. Perhaps you should have been a “manservant” and then you could comment on its actual morality. Question: Were these manservants free to simply leave if they decided to go? If the answer to this is “No”, then they were slaves in every immoral sense of the word. And this would mean that the founders of the DOI understood the notion of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness better than this Moral Lawgiver Himself.

    Matt,

    You seem to be suggesting that Morality has a relative nature to it. If that is the case, then the entire concept of this Christian God becomes somewhat easy to dismiss. You either have an Objective Morality or you don’t. The Biblical God and those who followed Him seem to have been conflicted about these moral matters. Something is either Right or Wrong, it appears to me, as Christianity teaches. God seems to have been somewhat confused about certain matters. Thank goodness for Franklin, Adams, and others, who were not.

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    1. Thom,

      READ THE CONTEXT! It says God will visit the iniquity of the fathers down to as long as the generation HATES him. The very next part says he will bless thousands of generation of those who LOVE him! How is that my interpretation vs what the text actually says? While part of that can be individual, it is really addressed to the nation of Israel. When the nation was turned away from God, God led their neighbors into war against them. Israel was held in captivity until they repented – and that would mean that the sons of the fathers would suffer the consequences of a national punishment, even thought they weren’t the ones responsible. But when the nation turned to God he blessed them. It isn’t all that difficult to understand.

      Let me give a for example on a personal level. My parents violated their marriage vows and had affairs. The strife in our house due to that led to the consequences of us five children suffering. We were all unbelievers. When my parents divorced it disintegrated our family as the parents split us kids boys with dad and girls with mom. Because of the lifestyles of my parents all of us children suffered various forms of abuse. I was the first of five kids to become a Christian at 22 and that completely changed my life – I was no longer under the consequences of my parents’ sin which I was following until that time. Suddenly my life became blessed and 37 years later I am still blessed. Meanwhile, my siblings living in the lifestyle copied from my parents continued to suffered the judgment of God until, one by one most came to the Lord. But they still suffered the consequences of their continuing in an unbelieving lifestyle; two sisters had children out of wedlock, some siblings were on drugs, some continued in promiscuity, and I am the only one still married to my original spouse because I was a believer when I married. Some have been married three times! Because they were my parents’ generation who hated God, and we all still hated God until coming to the Lord, we suffered the iniquity of our parents’ sins as we learned to copy them. It wasn’t until we turned to the Lord, one at a time, that we were able to have God’s blessings instead of judgment.

      There is a difference between slavery where the slaves are treated humanely and when they are treated like trash. The Israelites took slaves from war – you know, rather than kill them – yet they could not mistreat them. God permitted Israel to take slaves as part of their conquering the lands He gave them. In the NT slavery wasn’t condoned but if a person is a prisoner/slave, they are still to behave as a Christian. That is the whole point of Paul’s teachings. And a bondservant is a voluntary servant. An indentured servant is one who chooses to be a slave to pay off a debt.

      And contrary to what many believe, the 10 commandments were only for Israel – God did not give those commandments to any other nation. If you are interested you can read my discussion of this at:
      http://watchmansbagpipes.blogspot.com/search/label/Sabbath

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    2. “Of course, I suppose this changes if you are a Calvinist and then this “justice” makes some sense. Someone who is the seed of someone who hated God now becomes the responsible party to the sins of the father. Why? Because God has ordained it to be this way.”

      I am one of those scary Calvinists you hear about, and your ability to expound on the tenets of Calvinism is quite lacking. No Calvinist would deny the responsibility of man for their sin. What you are describing is hyper-Calvinism, which all orthodox Calvinists would vociferously condemn as unscriptural.

      The truth of the matter is, Scripture correctly puts all men under the just condemnation of a holy and righteous God. Scripture is also equally perspicuous as to the cause: the willful transgression of Adam.

      I’d recommend reading James White’s “The Potter’s Freedom” before you comment on issues pertaining to God’s decree, the election and reprobation of sinful men, or anything even remotely related to Calvinism any further.

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  8. Note to tildeb — your comments at the other thread told me all I need to know about whether dialogue with you would be productive or interesting. You making macho appeals (“Now let’s see if Neil is brave enough to allow this through his rather lengthy moderation process”) just confirms my hypothesis.

    Here’s a friendly reminder: materialist / macro-evolutionary / Darwinist philosophy fails because of all these and more:

    It is not supported by the evidence. It survives by bullying and deception.
    Even if it was possible it doesn’t mean it happened.
    Even if it did happen it doesn’t disprove God’s existence.
    Even if it did happen and there is no God then it “created” religious beliefs, including my conversion from atheism to the trust in the evidence for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
    Even if it did happen and there is no God it doesn’t ground morality. Morals would necessarily be personal and not universal, so making moral claims about others would be silly for Darwinists.
    It can’t account for human rationality. It selects for survival, not truth.

    If you ever get tired of pretending that the universe came into being from nothing, that life came from non-life and evolved to all we see today, and you want to know more about how to get right with your creator, then feel free to come back. And of course, read all you like.

    All the best to you.

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