Recently, Union Seminary in NYC had their students confess their sins to plants.
Union Seminary is affiliated with Columbia University. It is considered one of the prestigious Ivy League seminaries (along with Yale Divinity School, Harvard Divinity, and Princeton Theological Seminary). Although it was founded by Christians, it began denying Biblical authority in the 19th century and soon led the way for liberal Christianity. Dietrich Bonhoeffer studied there. Philip Schaff, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, and Raymond E. Brown taught there.
I studied theology in that kind of liberal, post-Christian environment. They certainly don’t believe in Jesus for eternal life. In many cases, they are barely nominal Christians. They keep the trappings of religion…but don’t actually believe any of it. It looks like that’s the case at Union.
For example, earlier in the year, the president of Union Seminary, Serene Jones, a feminist and womanist theologian, was in the news because she openly denied the virgin birth, the resurrection, and the existence of heaven. Not surprisingly, she said she was unsure about what happens to us after we die (see here). And yet, she’s ordained in two ostensibly “Christian” denominations and is teaching at a “Christian” seminary training “Christian” pastors! As Paul said, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor 15:14). Maybe that’s what we should call liberal theology—“empty theology.”
Ever wonder where that kind of godless, Christ-less theological apostasy leads? Well, it leads to confessing your sins to plants!
Now, presumably, these students and professors understand that plants are not conscious and that confessing to them does nothing for the plants. So why do it? Why go through the motions?
At first, I thought this was a form of satire to make fun of the rest of us who do believe in confessing our sins to God (1 John 1:7-9)—something along the lines of the recent “Pastafarian” prayer at a government meeting in Alaska. Since the Union students and faculty think that Biblical Christianity is a joke, why not parody us by doing something equally useless, such as confessing sins to plants?
But then I began to wonder if this makes sense for them. I mean, why pray at all if the students and faculty don’t believe in Jesus or God? I suspect it’s because they think the trappings of religion have therapeutic value. You pray, not because God is listening, but because it makes you feel better. And if confessing your sins to plants makes you feel better, then do it, even though they aren’t listening, either.
Of course, you should take the opposite view. Truth is one thing. Feelings are another. You should have the intellectual integrity to live the truth, no matter how it might make you feel.
And more than that, as a follower of Jesus, you should seek to worship God in spirit and in truth and forsake all this made up idolatry and superstition (John 4:24).
Some people have to hit rock bottom before they turn to Jesus. Well, Union Seminary has certainly hit theological rock bottom. But instead of merely scorning them, remember that God loves every student and faculty member at that apostate school. Jesus died for every one of them. And Jesus offers eternal life to whoever at that school will believe in Him for it (John 3:16, 36). Let’s pray they realize the futility of their idolatry and turn from creation to their Creator.