CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Sometimes newspapers publish stories that are so unsurprising that they hardly pass for news. One such story was published by the USA Today on their religion page entitled Study: Youth see Christians as judgmental, anti-gay. The article begins:

Majorities of young people in America describe modern-day Christianity as judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay. What's more, many Christians don't even want to call themselves "Christian" because of the baggage that accompanies the label.

Yeah? And this is news because . . . ?

The idea that Christianity is "judgmental, hypocritical and anti-gay" is not news. These allegations are really rather old. The idea that Christians are judgmental goes with the territory: most Christians accept the orthodox view that there is such a thing as truth -- "true truth" as Francis Schaeffer labelled it -- and that people can be wrong about issues of spirituality. Christians take a position that the only path to God is through the forgiveness that has been offered as a free gift from God through the death of his beloved Son (and second person of the Trinity), Jesus Christ. We don't believe that other religions offer alternative paths to God, and therefore people who follow these other religions are heading towards just condemnation for their own sins. That's been spun as "judgmental" and that's simply part-and-parcel of Christian belief.

The idea that Christians are hypocritical is also old news: Christians have been called hypocritical almost from the start because we believe that God calls on us to become better people. He calls on us to try to be a morally pure. As such, we speak out against such things as drunkenness, sexual immorality and other sins which many people want to indulge in. In fact, many Christians who honestly try to live pure lives are also tempted to indulge in these things, too. Christians don't always successfully practice what they preach -- in fact, one might say that we rarely successfully practice what we preach and there would be a good argument that such a claim would be right -- and due to our natural human desire not to be shamed we cover up our own failings making the failings even worse when they come to light. But that doesn't make the goal wrong; it simply means that we don't always (some might say, rarely) practice what we preach. Technically, if we are arguing that "while we have failed to live according to our own moral standards, but that doesn't mean that others shouldn't try to live by those standards", such a position doesn't make Christians hypocrites. However, because of the way the world sees hypocrisy today, in the world's view Christians are seen as hypocrites.

The idea that Christians are anti-gay is also old news. While there is debate within Christianity on this issue and my viewpoint is certainly not the viewpoint of everyone who would identify themselves as Christian, I think that the Bible takes a clear stand that acting out homosexual behavior is a sin. Unfortunately, some people who also take the name of Christian have taken this teaching as a license to abuse or otherwise mistreat gays. Such actions are wrong and should rightfully be condemned both inside and outside the church. However, taking the words of Paul and the book of Leviticus (as well as other mentions in the Bible) at their face value, many Christians believe they must take a stand that gay behavior is sinful. That is, of course, seen as "anti-gay" by today's if-it-feels-good-do-it society. To the Christian, telling someone else that they are sinning when they think that what they are doing is "beautiful and natural" is the most loving thing one can do.

All this article tells me is that Christians are losing the public relations war among the youth. The Christian positions aren't wrong, but the world is twisting the meanings, emphasizing the church's failings and otherwise convincing people (mostly through rhetorical devices) that darkness really is light. But then, that's the church's fault. The church as a whole has not done an effective job of telling the people the truth because we are afraid to engage culture on the truth. We haven't been as effective in reducing our message down to bumper-sticker-sized sound bites that people can relate to or paste on the back of their cars (after all, that seems to be where most people get their theology today). We haven't educated our youth on the reasons to believe that the Bible is truthful and relevant; preferring instead to tell kids "just have faith" when that's no reason to believe one thing is true over another.

Christians simply need to do better, and we should be praying that God uses each one of us to reach others because, without the power of the Holy Spirit, all of our efforts will be for naught.

24 comments:

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Normally, I would delete the comment with the vulgarity, but I am going to leave it up for two reasons. First, I think that Jason P has written a very nice reply, and the reply would not make sense without the original comment. Second, I want to address anonymous myself (even though I doubt that he/she will ever return to read it because people who post stuff like that usually play hit-and-run on comments).

Anonymous,

I don't know you. I don't know what your situation is. I don't know why you felt compelled to post the reply you did to the post I wrote because there appears to be a serious disconnect between what I said and what you wrote. But I think it clear that, for whatever reason, you are angry and that something about Christianity triggers that anger. But I ask you to put aside your anger for just a few moments and consider what I am about to say.

Christianity isn't about wanting to be a Christian. Christianity isn't like becoming the member of a club where you join because you like the ideas of the club or its goals. People have become Christians who never wanted to become Christian and who were absolutely opposed to what they believed it stoods for. The Apostle Paul is one such person who is discussed in the Bible. He didn't want to be a Christian -- he wanted to destroy the new sect because he was absolutely convinced that it was wrong and bad. You can read the account of his life in the Book of Acts and in his own words in the Book of Galatians.

You see, it doesn't matter whether you like Christianity or whether you want to be a Christian. The question isn't whether we like or want Christianity -- the question is whether or not it's true. After all, I don't want to be seen as judgmental. I don't even like the idea that not all people are going to be saved. But I talk about these things because I think that they're true, i.e., they correspond with the way the world really is. And if they're true, then it's true for me and true for you.

If you have never truly considered the truth claims of Christianity, I urge you to do so. After all, if Christianity is true, then saying "I don't want to be a Christian" is the same as saying "I don't want Winter to come" or "I don't want to die." Because they are both facts of life, Winter will come and you will eventually die whether you want to or not. Your wants and desires are irrelevant.

And when that final day comes, either Christianity is true or it isn't. If it is true and you die without accepting the forgiveness that Jesus offers you for all of the sins that you have committed (and believe me, you have committed sins -- vulgarity being among them), a question that God will ultimately ask will be, "since you didn't want to have a relationship with me in life, why would you want to spend eternity with me in heaven?" I personally cannot imagine an answer that would be sufficient.

This isn't intended to be a scare tactic. This is intended to simply point out that the only reason to become a Christian is that Christianity is true, and if it is true there are consequences to rejecting its claims. Thus, I ask you to reconsider your position based upon what you said.

As we have often argued on these pages, Christianity is true. It better explains the world than any other worldview. It has evidence. It makes sense. Please don't reject it simply because you don't want to be a Christian. That would be a very poor reason.

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Incidentally, I asked Bill to delete my post if he believed he had to take out the first one; because I didn't think it would be fair to have my reply up but not that to which I was replying. So no one should blame him for taking me out, too; that was my idea.

JRP

Or for taking down any of the posts, actually. (Including, perhaps by accident, another anon post gently complaining about the initial profanity.) That was another site administrator, not Bill; and he was acting entirely within his purview. Comment policy is very clearly stated over there to the right: (1) the comments must be civil.

Flagrant vulgarity is absolutely intended to offend and so, by definition, is the total reverse of civil. Commenters are guests in this place, and are expected to abide by the rules at the discretion of the site administrators.

JRP

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Anon,

Of course, anything you post will be deleted. So, you'll get away with it for an hour or so, but ultimately no one will see it. So, let's just stop now, okay?

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All you need to be is civil. Obviously, that is beyond you.

It most definitely is not. I, however, don't see why I should be civil towards people who think that I'm incapable of love.

There we go. That's a perfectly civil answer and I will let it stand. I will also let Jason handle your comment, if he wants, but I will say this: if you had read his answer more closely (before it was deleted) you would've seen that he didn't say that you were incapable of love. Rather, he said that if God didn't exist you wouldn't be capable of love. In other words, God's existence is what allows love to exist at all. That's a philosophical argument that I have seen previously, and I'm sure that he will comment on it more fully if he wants.

"There we go. That's a perfectly civil answer and I will let it stand."

*gasp!* Oh, you will!? Thank you, massah! I neva' try runnin' again!

Try again. This time, try *not* to be nearly unimaginably condescending.


Oh, and by the way, "[g]od's existence is what allows love to exist at all" is just as bigoted of a statement as "If whites weren't superior to blacks, no one would be able to love at all."

A bigot is a bigot is a bigot. Maybe you'll learn that. Someday.

I'll leave it to others to decide which of us is being condescending.

To claim something is a bigoted statement does not make it such. Your effort to draw a comparison through your black/white argument misses Jason's point entirely.

And I already know a bigot is a bigot. However, I note that you have made a point of saying that whites are superior to blacks in your example. Is there some underlying statement you are making?

"However, I note that you have made a point of saying that whites are superior to blacks in your example."

No, I said that your bigoted assertion that your god is necessary for love is just as bigoted as the assertion that white supremacy is what makes love possible.

If you think that's an admission to being racist, then you're even more of an idiot than I thought.

"To claim something is a bigoted statement does not make it such."

For once, you're correct. However, I do not believe that your god exists, I would rather die than follow your god if it did exist, and yet I am capable of love. Thus, you are a bigot.

1. You still haven't shown how the example is bigoted.

2. Don't worry, I didn't assume that you were a bigot based on what you said.

3. Let me get your logic straight here:

Premise 1: I do not believe that your god exists.

Premise 2: I would rather die than follow your god.

Premise 3: I am capable of love.

Conclusion: You are a bigot.

I leave it to others to figure out whether there is any sense at all to what you have just said. As for me, I don't believe that the conclusion is supported by the premises. But then, you must be much smarter than me since you think I'm an idiot. Oh well.

"You still haven't shown how the example is bigoted."

Then you haven't read the last two sentences of my most recent reply.

"I leave it to others to figure out whether there is any sense at all to what you have just said."

You've left out an essential piece of information: your assertion that it is impossible to love without being a xian. As one of my favorite professors used to say, "read the problem!"

That you would support such a statement leads me to the conclusion that you are a waste of human life. May the rest of your existence be spent in pain and anguish.

Thanks for ending on a cheerful note. It makes me see exactly how much I should question your third premise.

But supposing that your hatred towards Christians is an anomaly and that you are capable of love, I really don't see how adding in the supposedly missing assertion helps you. First, if you'd follow your own advice and read the problem you'd see that you have once again misrepresented Jason's statement. No one said that you aren't capable of love (at least, I hadn't thought that was the case prior to your closing sentences to your last comment -- now, I'm not so sure). Further, no one said (as you now misquote) that "it is impossible to love without being a xian". The statement that Jason made and which I made clear in an earlier post is "that if God didn't exist you wouldn't be capable of love." That has nothing to do with whether we believe in God or not, and certainly does not mean that anyone is arguing that you have to be a Christian to love. Until you finally understand that point, you will continue to flummox around.

Second, even if I were saying (which I'm not) that "it is impossible to love without being a xian", that would not help your argument. A bigotry, by definition, is a person who is intolerant of any differing creed, belief or opinion. Now, believe it or not, most Christians tolerate other views. (As with any group --religous or non-religious -- there are some extremists who don't tolerate other views. I believe these so-called Christians to be wrong and the vast majority of Christians would agree with me.) We try to win people over with our arguments -- not by trying to stamp out opposing points of view. Much like I am doing here. I find your view to be . . . well, bigoted against Christians. Yet, I am not trying to stamp you out -- I am trying to reason with you. So, even if I were to agree that your misrepresentation of what Jason said was accurate, I would still find your argument that I and other Christians are bigots to be illogical.

Unlike you, I hope that you live a long life. You are not a waste of human life because all human life is a gift from God. Such a thing can never be a waste -- even when we pollute it with vulgarity or wishing bad things for others.

Trying to reason with you makes no more sense than a rabbi trying to reason with a neo-nazi.

Have a miserable life.

Anon,

I think Bill was being ironic about you saying that whites were superior to blacks: he meant that you were totally misunderstanding and misrepresenting what I said in much the same way. More on that in a minute.

Also, Bill not only read your last two sentences, he reprinted them in detail and discussed them, too.

I was going to say (comments have moved on since I started to write) that I think I'm missing how "God's existence is what allows love to exist at all" is any more 'bigoted' a statement than "Nature's existence is what allows love to exist at all" or "any given person's existence is what allows love to exist at all".

However, you... um... made clear afterward that it isn't anything in those statements that makes the first one bigotry and the others not. (I'm cautiously inferring at the moment you don't think the other statements are bigoted.) It's the notion that "it is impossible to love without being a xian."

But neither one of us was saying that. The proposition "true love cannot exist without God" is not at all the same thing as "it is impossible for someone to love without being a Christian".

For instance, those other two statements I reported a minute ago for comparison--not only would I not accuse a secularist of bigotry for making them, neither would I think that a secularist meant, in doing so, that unless I believe one or both of those statements it is impossible for me to love anyone.

Far more importantly: I didn't only say that I believe God's existence is what allows the people I love to love (and to exist) at all. I also said that I believe God exists (and ultimately that Christianity is true) because I believe even non-believers (like those two people, one of whom I love and respect more than anyone else in the world) can and do truly love each other.

In principle, that means I'm a Christian because I believe _you_ can love, too.

How you managed to get "I think you're incapable of loving" out of that, or "it's impossible for you to love unless you're a xtian", I don't know. Or, maybe you were attributing those notions to Bill but not to me. {shrug} Though I don't know how you got it out of anything he ever said, either. But I'm more interested in how you got it out of what I had said (if that's what you thought I was saying). I thought I was saying something not only quite different but completely the opposite of that.

I wasn't kidding when I said God's grace to you, either, before. I'm sorry you're hurting so much. If it helps you feel any better, though, I do exist in pain and anguish, and I have some expectation that this may continue (in some fashion) for the rest of my existence. But I don't blame you or anyone else for that. (And I have far more hope for everyone else than for myself in this regard. {s})

Off to bed now. Good night. I hope you feel better tomorrow.

JRP

And with those kind last words, I thank you for a [mostly] civil conversation.

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