Dear Elizabeth Rawlings,
About a week ago I read your blog post, “How to be a Christian without being a jerk about it.” When I read the title of your post I was very excited to read you views on how Christians can practically give off a better impression to the world than the hypocritical view most people have. It is a very novel idea and a great premise and something lots of people need to hear. Then I read the post and it didn’t sit right with me. I’ve never met you, but I’m sure you are a lovely person and truly have the best intentions in writing this, but the Holy Spirit was telling me I had to respond. So I am going to address your instructions to Christian jerks and hopefully clarify some points you make Biblically.
“1) Stop threatening people with hellfire and damnation. Nobody likes it. It achieves approximately nothing so far as spreading the gospel is concerned.”
You make a logical point that sounds good on the surface but is flawed and unbiblical. The gospel literally stands for “the good news.” Let me ask you, how can a person accept the good news without understanding the bad news that we are all sinners and deserve eternal punishment (Romans 6:23)? Without knowing the reality of our condition as sinners who deserve death we can never truly understand God’s grace, and the gospel becomes something that it was never meant to be – just “news.” I imagine it would be hard to share the gospel with someone without mentioning sin, death, and ultimately, hell. If you don’t know you are sick, why would you take medicine? I do agree that some Christians throw hell and damnation around in a judgmental way to feel superior to unbelievers, and that is wrong and sinful, but that doesn’t mean that all Christians are jerks for talking about hell. Jesus talked about hell (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30, 10:28, 18:9, 23:15, 33), albeit very differently that it is used by lots of people today, but not talking about hell and damnation is not the correct response.
“2) Stop ‘speaking truth in love’ or whatever you call it. This includes love the sinner, hate the sin (which sounds more like hate than love every time).”
I agree with you on this point for the most part. Most Christians use the phrase “speaking the truth in love” as an excuse for hatefully condemning people outside their own sphere of comfort. There is a real thing such as “speaking the truth in love” (which you mention Paul talks about in Ephesians) that most people who use this saying are very far from actually doing. I also agree that the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” does sound more like hate than love. But the Bible does agree with the premise that we are to reject and confront unrepentant sin in the community of the body of Christ (Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 5) and restore them in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:1). I prefer a twist on the saying; “don’t love the sin, but love the sinner” focuses on love and not on hate. I agree that you should love the person if you are to speak truth to them in gentleness, and you shouldn’t shout at random people that they are doing wrong. I also agree you should examine your heart and make sure you are acting out of love and not fear, prejudice, or wrong teaching before you confront anyone. But the Bible strongly disagrees with your statement that “sexual sin doesn’t hurt anyone.” In 1 Corinthians 6:18, Paul says, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin[a] a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” Not only are you sinning against your own body, but unrepentant sin of any kind is treating Jesus’ sacrifice as unimportant and, ultimately, meaning nothing if we continue in our unrepentant sin (Romans 6:1-14).
“3) STOP WITH THE JUDGING ALREADY”
This point is also really good on the surface, but it just isn’t biblical. The main passage that confronts this thought is 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 where Paul talks about not judging those outside of the church, but he wholly confirms the church’s ability to judge those inside the church. It is God’s job to judge those outside of the church, but it is our responsibility to love them and reach them with the gospel. But Paul confirms Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18:15-20 of church discipline which is essentially judging those who are professing believers. The story you have paraphrased and changed for dramatic effect in your explanation is found in John 8 and is a great passage to show that we are all sinners, but you left out a very key element: Jesus judges the woman in the story gently by telling her to sin no more (verse 11). The point of the passage is not as you state, “Don’t judge someone because you are not perfect either,” but rather to confront gently like Jesus did. For a great read on this topic, here is a link that combines two blogs about the logic of not judging not making any sense: http://pastorjeffnoe.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/food-for-thought-of-heroes-and-judgment
“4) Stop saying that God is acting in destructive ways because of the gays, feminists, abortionists, communists, socialists, Obamacare, liberals, pornographers or whatever.”
I actually completely agree with this statement and will only add that Jesus has said in prophecy that natural disasters will become more frequent and intense as the end of the world approaches (Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:25-26, Revelation 6:12, 11:13, 16:18).
“5) Get right with science.”
This point also sounds really good on the surface, but it is flawed as well. I agree that “climate change is a thing,” but it is not a thing God doesn’t have control over. Maybe God will use the climate change for the end times as mentioned in number 4 above, but regardless of how climate is changing, God will use it for His purposes. I strongly push back on your statement that evolution is truth. I agree that it is a thing, but by definition it is a theory that has been taught as “truth” by our culture and in our public schools. The thing that most people don’t know (including myself before I attended college) is that there are many brilliant Christian doctors and scientists who believe in a literal six-day creation. Check out these two websites: www.icr.org and www.answersingenesis.org for more information. But the thing that really doesn’t sit right with me is your view of the inspiration of scripture. It seems from your post (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that the Holy Spirit wasn’t even part of writing scripture. Peter makes it clear in 2 Peter 1:20-21 that men who were moved by the Holy Spirit and spoke from God in their writing of scripture. The Holy Spirit obviously told Moses to describe creation the way he did intentionally. The fact that you typed “believe in science” is actually describing the reality in today’s culture that evolution is, in fact, its own religious system designed to erase the existence of God as Creator. Only since evolutionary theory has been accepted as “fact” by our culture has some in the Christian community, in an attempt to reconcile the differences of evolutionary science with the story of creation, compromised the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in writing Genesis.
“6) Understand that there are people who are never going to believe, to whom the idea of God makes no sense whatsoever.”
I partially agree with this point, but I would definitely like to push back on the idea of letting up on the witnessing. This might just be a different understanding of the word “witnessing,” and if you mean that witnessing is trying to convert them every time you meet, then I agree. But if you mean to change your lifestyle to make them feel more comfortable when you hang out with them, then I disagree because your life should always be witnessing to them (1 Corinthians 10:31).
“7) Empower women.”
Again, not a lot of disagreement on this point. The only point that I don’t see as consistent with the Bible is eldership in the congregation. The Bible makes this clear in defining elders as “the husband of one wife” or “man of one woman” in Titus 1:6 and 1 Tim 3:2. I also think your understanding of the complementarianism position may be slightly uninformed. Mary Kassian writes a great article here that will help with clarification (I’m not calling you a dummy; it’s just the title of the article): http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/09/04/complementarianism-for-dummies/
“8) If you know someone is being molested by a church member/leader, report it. That’s just a big old duh.”
There is no argument on this point, and I agree 100% with this. One question though, what gives you the right to judge those who are molesting children if we are supposed to “stop with the judging already?”
“9) Stop trying to legislate using the Bible as your main argument.”
I completely agree with this instruction.
“10) Focus more on corporate sin than personal sin.”
This again sounds like a good point, but it is not entirely biblical. Corporate sin is no different from individual sin because the wages of all sin is death (Romans 6:23). Thus, corporate sin and individual sin should be equally recognized and treated. The Bible also talks about each person having to bear his or her own load (Galatians 6:5), and the context is talking about being caught in any transgression (6:1).
The biggest concern I had after reading your post is your tone toward the conservative church. There are a lot of Christian people who need to hear some of the things you have said in this post. But you just call a lot of Christians “jerky,” and just because I hold a lot of the positions you wrote about doesn’t make me want to learn from you on how to be a better Christian. I received this post feeling very judged, strongly disliked, and wholly responsible for why Christians have a bad reputation. I hope you do not feel attacked but gently confronted by this response. You seem like a very intelligent woman, and I know God can do great things through you.