Hall of Silence

A quiet place to reflect on God, His Word, and His Church

Category Errors


The word evangelism is a transliteration of euangelizesthai, which is a verb meaning “to proclaim the gospel” (the gospel being euangelion). Where no proclamation has taken place, there has been no evangelism. Where something other than the biblical gospel has been proclaimed, there has been no evangelism.

Good deeds, hard work, dedication, honesty, and kindness are all good things, but they are not evangelism. These other good things may help prepare people to hear the word of salvation (Titus 2:9-10), but until that word has been spoken we have not evangelized.

A farmer needs to prepare his ground. If it is new ground he clears it of trees, rocks, and other obstructions. The ground must then be plowed and harrowed. But the job is not done until he has planted the seed. No matter how well he has plowed, the farmer has no hope of a harvest until he has planted the seed. Likewise, until the gospel word has been presented, the church has no hope of a harvest of souls.

I suspect that the main reason why Christians try to redefine every conceivable act of Christianity as evangelism is due to the fact that a lot of Christians believe in the Satanic doctrine of equality. Consequently, everyone is expected to be an evangelist. Since not everyone actually goes out and literally proclaims the good news of Christ, it stands to reason that many Christians are failing in their supposed duty to evangelize. The problem is that it doesn’t really make sense to condemn otherwise good people for not being active proclaimers and thus it is necessary to redefine Bible words so that everyone can be considered to have done their evangelistic duty.
Consider, however, Paul’s words in I Corinthians 12:27-31:

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

Just as not all are called to be apostles, teachers, prophets, miracle-workers and healers, so too is it the case that not everyone is called to be an evangelist. We are not equal to one another (at least in this life), and therefore it is perfectly fine if not every last Christian is an evangelist or evangelizes. Not everyone is called to do that. And that’s just fine.

Develop Your Talents Wisely

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them.   And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.   Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.  And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.   But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.  After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’  His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’  He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’  His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.  So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.  Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.  And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ [Emphasis added.]

Matthew 25:14-30

Every time that I have ever heard anyone teach on this parable, the conclusion has always been that every servant of the Lord—that is, every Christian—should do whatever he can to develop the talents that God has given him.  Implicit in this assertion is that it is wrong to ignore the talents that God has given you.  If you have been blessed with something—an ability, material wealth, social connections, and so on—you should use them for the glory of God, and add to them if possible, again for the glory of God.  I do not dispute this line of reasoning, or these sort of arguments, but I do think that more judgment should be exercised when it comes to developing the talents that God has given you.

To this end, I think it helpful to ask the question, why was the one-talent servant so unprofitable.  There is no way to be sure, and any conjecture as to what precluded the one-talent servant from taking what his master had given him and using it is simply speculation.  But such conjecture, uncertain as it may be, can still be instructive.

It’s important to note, in the first place, that the unprofitable servant had a strong fear of his master.  There are some who I have heard assert that the unprofitable servant was lazy.  This does not really fit with what is said of the servant, for fear does not generally produce laziness.  It can cause paralysis, if one is too wrapped up in fear to actually do anything, but this is not the same as laziness.

Instead, it appears that the servant knew that he would have to return his master’s money, and he decided to hedge his risk by keeping his money in the ground.  Thus, he would always be able to repay his master, no matter what happened.

Turning now to speculation, it seems plausible that the unprofitable servant could have tried to make his own profit with his own money, so as to be able to pay his master back and then some (remember, the master asserts that servant knew that the he would want his money back with interest). Thus, the servant tried to acquire his own talents while neglecting the talent given to him by his master.  He fails to make a profit, and is condemned by his master and has his talent stripped from him.

I wonder if we have a tendency to make the same mistake in the church.  We know that God expects us to be good stewards of that which he blesses us with. We know that he expects a return on his investment, so to speak.  And we also know that he gives us things to be stewards of.  But how often do we ignore his blessings and bury them in the ground while trying to acquire our own talents and blessings?  How often do we ignore what we have and try to become something we’re not intended to be?

In I Corinthians 12, Paul shows that there is a diversity of talents, abilities, and roles within the church.  The point he makes is that everyone has their own function.  Just as the human is comprised of more than just toes or ears, so too is the Lord’s spiritual body comprised of more than just evangelists and apostles.  While some roles may be more glamorous—in the eyes of man—or attract more attention, all roles are necessary, and everyone must work to fill their role.

There has been of late, at least at the church I attend, an attempt to encourage all members of our congregation to do their part to evangelize and spread the gospel to the rest of the world.  Unfortunately, this drive is nothing more than nonsense on stilts.  There is no reason to think that everyone in the church, or even a majority of the people in the church, have been blessed with the ability to do or even support evangelism.  It is therefore ludicrous to say that everyone should be involved with evangelism.

But not only is it ludicrous to say that everyone should be involved with evangelism, it is spiritually counterproductive as well.  Not everyone has been given the talent to be an evangelist; not everyone has been given the talent to support evangelism.  Expecting people to become evangelists or support evangelists when they lack the talent to do so will require them to neglect the talent that God has given them and instead focus on attaining that which they cannot attain.  They will thus essentially bury their talent in the ground.  And what do you suppose the Lord will say to them when he demands an account for their actions?

The Great Physician Is Not Jack Kevorkian

Would Jesus stone fags?  It’s an interesting hypothetical, and brethren will argue themselves blue in the face over whether Christ would have kept the Old Testament law in its entirety (per Matthew 5:17, of course) or whether he would be merciful and spared them their punishment.

Of course, the hypothetical itself misses the point of Christ’s ministry.  Christ was not here to kill people.  He wasn’t even here to condemn people (though that would be an inevitable consequence of his example).  Rather, Christ came to seek and save those who were lost.  He was the great physician, and he came to save lives, not take them.

Throughout Christ’s ministry, it is readily apparent that his actions are motivated by the overriding desire to save men’s souls.  And just as a physician’s treatment varies by pathology and the progression thereof, so too did Christ’s treatment of others vary by the pathology and progression of sin in their lives.

Christ was not harsh with the Pharisees because he hated them and wanted to see them rot in the bowels of Hell.  If that were indeed the case, he need only have called a couple of angels to escort the Pharisees to Satan’s bosom.  Rather, Christ’s harshness towards the Pharisees can be explained by his desire to save them.  These people were dying of spiritual cancer but were too stubborn or ignorant to recognize that they were ill.  It’s like an obese person thinking he’s fine because he hasn’t ever had a stroke.  Christ was trying to wake them up to their current state, not send them to hell.

Consequently, he was often gentler to those who already recognized their spiritual malady.  If you recognize that you have sinned, and you know where to go to find a cure, there is no need to lecture you about doing what’s best for your spiritual health.  Thus, Christ’s gentleness towards certain sinners can be explained by the fact that these sinners had already been diagnosed and were ready to receive a remedy.

No physician needs to lecture a patient who recognizes that he’s sick and is willing to take his medicine.  Lectures are reserved for the obstinate.  Jesus, like any wise doctor, discerned which patients wanted to take care of themselves and which patients were being obstinate.

The lesson to learn from this, to draw us back to the original question, is that Christ would not have stoned fags—or adulterers, or murderers, or even money-changers.  In fact, he wouldn’t even have entertained the question because, fundamentally, Christ was concerned with something more important:  the salvation of men’s souls.

Therefore, the lesson for us to draw from this is that our concern should not be with enforcing morality or punishing evil-doers.  It is enough for each of us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.   Rather, our concern should be with curing the spiritual sickness of sin, first in ourselves, then perhaps in others.  We shouldn’t worry about condemning others—God has that covered anyway—we should focus on helping them.

Idolizing the Bible

Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.  — Jesus Christ

Which is greater:  the Word of God or the being that inspired it?  Why, then, do so many appeal to the word of God instead of God himself?

I think the deification of the bible is a blind spot to many Christians, myself included.  We tend to view the bible—correctly, I think—as the inspired word of God.  However, we tend to deify the word itself and turn it in to an idol, wherein we appeal to the word of God to arbitrate our disputes rather than turn to God himself.

There is a certain convenience to appealing to the word instead of appealing to God.  For starters, it’s considerably easier to do so.  What could be easier than citing book, chapter, and verse to prove a point or settle a doctrinal matter?  Not a thing, which is why we make so many appeals to the Bible.

It is far more difficult to appeal to God to settle a matter.  In the first case, we must know him, which is a rather difficult thing to do.  As the heavens are above the earth and all that.  In the second case, we must imitate him. (Cf. Eph. 5:1.)

Now, one objection to this line of argumentation is that knowing God’s word is the same as knowing God.  This, unfortunately, is nonsense.  Some of us even today can be said to know Plato’s words.  But how many of us can be said to know Plato?  It is thus obvious that knowing someone’s words is not the same as knowing that person.  Likewise with God, merely knowing his Word is not anywhere close to being the same as knowing him.  While it is true that knowing God’s word can aid in knowing God, ultimately our knowledge of God will have to surpass mere book knowledge.

Long ago, Christ, referencing the prophets, said, “they have eyes to see but cannot see and ears to hear but cannot hear.”  He said this when explaining why he spoke in parables.  Christ claimed that some truths about God are hidden in order to ensure that only those who are actually seeking God will find him, which fits in with what he said on the Sermon on the Mount when he claimed that everyone who seeks will find.  Some truths about God are hidden in plain sight, so to speak.  Christ made use of many parables that referenced nature to show that even many mundane things can teach spiritual lessons.  Even common things hold the secrets of God.

For example, the marital relationship illuminates many spiritual truths, as evidenced by Paul’s writings in Ephesians 5:22-33.  The father-son relationship is another way of understanding God.  Christ even noted that a corrupted version of this relationship can still show theological truths.  The Psalmist wrote that nature reveals the glory of God.  Christ argued that God’s providence can be seen among the birds of the air and the grass of the field.  Indeed, God can be seen everywhere, if you know how to look.  We need not limit our understanding of God to simply knowing his word; we can know him through his creation.

We can also know him personally, as long as we seek him.  Prayer is an obvious avenue, but self-reflection seems to be a good approach as well (cf. II Cor. 13:5).  We are made in God’s image, and we have a form of Godliness within ourselves as a result.  Our natural instinct is to be like our heavenly father, but because of sin we often suppress it, which is why Paul encourages us to be imitators of God as dear children.  If we are sensitive to our conscience, and if we make a point of truly knowing our heart as best we can and seeing the image of God inscribed therein, we can know God better.

However, it often seems that we would rather idolize the bible because this is the path of least resistance.  We can champion the bible as an objective standard and constantly compare ourselves to the word.  This is a rather lazy way of handling the matter of spiritual growth, for we ought to compare ourselves to God, which requires some hard work and heavy intellectual lifting, as well as blunt honesty.  This is a difficult thing, which is perhaps why we so often eschew it.

Or perhaps we don’t recognize the inherent idolatry of worshiping the word of God instead of God himself.  The word of God is definitely a good thing, and it shouldn’t be ignored; it also shouldn’t be elevated above God, either.  The problem comes when we, like the Pharisees, elevate the subordinate above the sanctifier.  It’s not that the word of God is to be ignored; it’s that we must make sure that the word is subordinate to its giver.

The point in this little exercise is this:  if we often find ourselves appealing to the Word instead of appealing to God, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves whether we are worshiping God or worshiping his word.  And if we find ourselves doing the latter, perhaps we ought to spend a little time realigning our priorities.

Matthew 5 and Pornography

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”

Matthew 5:27-30

[Note:  this post is a thought experiment.  The arguments made in this post should not be considered advocacy.]

Christ’s condemnation of lust in this context is predicated on its pathology, in that it leads to adultery.  He does not say that it was sinful to lust after a woman, save insofar as it was covetous to do so.  Furthermore, his prescriptive remedy is conditional (“if your right eye causes you to sin…”), which implies that it is not the looking that is sinful, though it can result in sin.  Thus, his disciples should guard against lust because of where it can lead.

Not only that, he specifically targets adultery as the reason to avoid lust, and not the more general term “fornication.”  Since adultery implies that at least one of the participants is married, there is the potential for covetousness in the act of lust.  If the one doing the lusting is married, then one’s lust is definitely covetous since the object of one’s lust cannot rightfully belong to the one doing the lusting. Conversely, if the one doing the lusting is lusting after one who is married, then this also conveys an element of covetousness since the object of one’s lust does cannot rightfully belong to the one doing the lusting.

That aside, the broader issue regarding pornography is the matter at hand.  Since lust is not condemned as inherently sinful (only as leading to sin), the question then becomes:  would lust be sinful if it could not lead to sin?  For example, if one were to lust after the images of a dead porn star, would this be wrong since there is no way that the one doing the lusting could ever commit adultery with the object of one’s lust?  Additionally, if there is no practical way to act on lust (i.e. one would never have access to the object of one’s lust), can lust be considered sinful since there is no way to act on it?

Some might object to lust on the general grounds that it leads to an increased tendency to commit adultery in general.  This objection is not particularly relevant, though, since Christ makes it clear that lust after a specific woman leads to committing adultery with that specific woman in one’s heart.  While general lust might be condemned under the auspices of leading to a general tendency to commit adultery, specific lust should not be condemned for leading to a general tendency to commit adultery because that pathology does not necessarily follow.

When all is considered, citing Matthew 5 to condemn pornography is not an air-tight argument since Christ’s condemnation of lusting after a woman is predicated on its specific pathology.  It is thus tricky to base a general condemnation on a specific claim.  However, there are plenty of good arguments against pornography, particularly those that are based on a theological perspective derived from nature or a theological perspective based on ideal relationships.  Thus, it might be better to base an argument against pornography on a more theologically sound argument instead of trying to find things in God’s word that aren’t actually there.

Second Service

A while back, the preacher of the congregation I attend was asked about the scripturality of eliminating evening services.  It seems that the person asking the question had heard of several nearby churches cancelling evening services because attendance was generally and relatively low, and thus wanted to know if this was a good, bad, or morally neutral.  The preacher, to his credit, noted that such a decision is not inherently sinful or unscriptural.  However, he still decried the various churches’ decision to cancel evening services on the grounds that worship services are always a chance to learn and be encouraged, and that we should thus take advantage of every last one of them.  I wondered if there were any others who thought this way, and if they wouldn’t mind answering a few objections.

[Note:  second services and evening services are used interchangeably throughout.]

How Did Second Services Come About?

This is, I believe, a very key question to ask since the answer is kind of interesting.  Prior to 1940, the standard practice of the church of Christ, and even among various denominations, was to meet once on Sunday morning.  There was no second or evening service, nor was there a mid-week Bible study.  People simply gathered together in worship one morning a week, and that was it.

When WWII happened, though, there was a tremendous push by the federal government to prepare for war, which meant that factories producing weapons, armor, ammunition, ships, tanks, and other martial products needed to be at full production.  This led to factories being in production mode twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Even Sundays.  This provided a conflict for some Christians, who felt compelled to join in the rush to produce weapons for nationalist reasons, even if that meant missing worship.  To accommodate those whose loyalty to their earthly nation was greater than their loyalty to Christ’s spiritual kingdom, many churches offered evening services to those whose work schedule precluded from assembling with their brothers and sisters in the morning.  Thus, the practice of evening services was the result of excusing the sin of trying to serve both God and Mammon (and, even worse, prioritizing the latter over the former).  As such, those who defend the practice of second service should do so with the understanding that this practice was very much born in sin.

If A Second Service is so Valuable…

The original argument that the preacher made was that additional services are spiritually valuable.  I assume this is a tautology since I cannot readily think of any way of measuring this assertion, let alone testing or falsifying it.  However, this assertion does beg the question:  if a second service is so beneficial, why not have a third or fourth service?  Why not require that all Christians worship from 12:00:00 AM Sunday morning to 11:59:59 PM Sunday night?  Would not this arrangement be the most spiritually beneficial one?

Of course, these questions exist merely to point out an absurdity.  Namely, that the vast majority of people recognize the concept of diminishing returns.  Yes, worship is good and beneficial, but there comes a point where each additional minute spent worshiping starts to lose value, and may even turn negative, which is why no church has a twenty-four hour worship service on Sunday.  Having established that worship has diminishing returns, the next reasonable question to ask is:  how do we know that we don’t experience significantly diminishing returns during second service?  There is no way to quantitatively and empirically answer this question. However, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about it.

Incidentally, I am familiar with a couple of congregations who cancelled their evening services.  Both congregations were happier, and said their morning worship felt more meaningful.  I do not have further data, but this anecdotal evidence suggests that the second service may not be as beneficial.

Are Human Beings Finite?

This is also another key question to ask, as its answer indicates that humans, being finite creatures, have a limited capacity for learning and encouragement.  Paul himself noted that much study (presumably of the Bible) was wearisome to the flesh.  Furthermore, it is tautological that there are limits to human emotion.  As such, it follows necessarily that there are limits to just how much a Christian can learn during worship, and how encouraged he can become.

Of course, this truism is borne out to some extent in the aforementioned thought experiment about diminishing returns.  There is nothing that so readily demonstrates man’s finite capacity as diminishing returns.  In keeping with this observation, then, that man is finite, the following question must be asked:  if man is finite in his capacity for learning and encouragement, why not try to maximize one’s feeling of encouragement and one’s learning in one service instead of two or more?

To put it another way, if worship is so encouraging, and such a good opportunity for learning, why can’t congregations reach their members’ capacity for encouragement and learning in a single service?  Does this inability to satiate men’s finite capacities suggest some sort of failure?  To state it yet another way, why is it that we don’t try to satiate men’s capacity for encouragement and learning in a single service?  And are we failing one another if we don’t?

Summary and Implications

As is clearly seen, the second service was sinful in its conception and initial practice.  It has been deified by some, but even its staunchest supporters will not agree to adding a third, fourth, or twenty-four service because they themselves recognize the diminishing value of additional meetings, even though they seem not to recognize man’s finite capacity for the benefits of worship.  Thus, the defenders of second service are put in the untenable position of hypocritically defending a practice born in evil.  Worse still, if they argue the spiritual primacy of having a second service, they are in effect condemning those Christians before them who never had an evening service.  Therefore, it should be clear that evening service is unnecessary at best and corrupting at worst.  Thus people should not only refrain from complaining or worrying about its demise, but should be actively encouraging it.

“Speaking the Truth in Love”

This cliché is starting to feel like Orwell’s Newspeak.  It seems to serve as a buzzword among those who consider themselves faithful to Christ (i.e. those who adhere to a narrow, rigid doctrine based on literalistic interpretation of the New Testament).  The phrase seems innocuous, even noble, but it ultimately is used to mask judgmentalism and hypocrisy.

In the first place, those who claim to “speak the truth in love” often use this as an excuse to nastily condemn those who they find repulsive.  For example, many condemnations of the homosexual lifestyle are often vitriolic,* as are condemnations of drug users, lazy poor people, and other assorted lowlifes and deviants.  Of course, homosexuality is wrong, as is laziness and drug abuse.**  However, those people who are cognizant of their spiritual poverty in these matters do not need vitriolic condemnations, for they already know they are wrong.  And those who are wrong but don’t care that they are wrong will not be more inclined to listen to irascible Christians scream at them and their sins.  Thus, “speaking the truth in love” to sinners often turns into a cover for passing judgment on others, often in a quite obnoxious and emotionally violent way.

In the second, considerably more innocuous place, “speaking the truth in love” is used to excuse an absence of necessary rebukes.  In this case, “loving” becomes “nice,” and the goal is to avoid offending the person who deserves rebukes.  This standard is strictly reserved for “the faithful,” which is defined as those who take hardline doctrinal stands that everyone agrees with, while taking care to hide their skeletons in the deepest recesses of their closets.  In this case, there are some Christians who are living in sin, but no one rebukes them sharply because to be harsh to brothers and sisters in Christ is to be unloving.

Ultimately, “speaking the truth in love” really means that you won’t be judged, and publicly admonished and shamed if you join the club.  This is the opposite of what Christ did, though, for Christ’s harshest condemnations were reserved for those who thought they were faithful—the Pharisees.  Christ was nowhere near as harsh to those who recognized their spiritual poverty and their need for a savior.  In essence, Christ made a distinction among sinners, and acted in the manner proscribed by Jude. Since we are to imitate Christ, it thus behooves us to actually speak the truth in love, and not just use the phrase as an empty buzzword to mask our hypocrisy.

* Not that this is always wrong; there are many homosexuals –particularly gay activists—who are quite pharisaical in their behavior.

** Though not necessarily drug use.

A Positive Trend

Consider this:

Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group.

In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.

I take this as a generally good sign for Christianity, because I believe that the Church of Christ has become too materialistic, and one way this is revealed is the emphasis on having church buildings.  Everything is centered on the church building.  Christians meet there three or four times a week and lots of activities are scheduled there (out of convenience, of course).  This does not mean church buildings are inherently sinful, but it does often seem to be the case that the many congregations make the church building the focus of their worship, their fellowship, and all other religious activities.

Incidentally, it is interesting to note the evolution of this process.  It used to be that Christians met once a week (Sunday mornings) in a meetinghouse for worship. The building was generally low-frills:  One room with lots of pews, possibly a stage with a lectern or podium, and a fireplace with which to keep warm in the winter.  Now congregations go to church buildings that have offices, kitchens, classrooms, resource rooms, etc.  No wonder the church has become so building-centric:  The building has transformed from a utilitarian place of weekly worship to a corporate headquarters.

In closing, let me simply theorize that most congregations could go sell their buildings and still meet their obligations to worship God and serve him in his kingdom.  While potlucks, bible classes (a wholly unnecessary and literally unbiblical subject that merits its own post), and lock-ins would be eliminated from the lists of official church activities, the congregation would still be able to take care of the basic things, like corporate worship.  And everything else could be replaced with something that didn’t require a massive mortgage and several hundred dollars in monthly maintenance costs.  Better yet, the money that would be recouped or saved from selling off the church building could be used to fund evangelism and mission work.  It’s a win-win.

Wise As Serpents

I got an email from my sister yesterday asking me to sign an online petition demonstrating my outrage at a new TV show called GCB, which stands for “Good Christian Bitches.”  It’s supposed to air on ABC, so if I had to guess, this is basically Desperate Housewives, except with uglier women and set in a church.  I didn’t sign the petition.

The reason for this is because I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet, and I know that if there’s one rule about life that you learn quickly on the internet, it’s “don’t feed the trolls.”  While I’m rather upset that there are some people in Hollywood who feel compelled to speak evil of my sisters in Christ, I don’t think my anger should be used as an excuse to provide free marketing for a despicable TV show.

We are expected to be wise as serpents, and I feel sometimes that my brothers and sisters in Christ are too easily baited into providing free marketing for evil.  What we neglect is that, to Hollywood, there is no such thing as bad publicity.  Negative publicity is always better than none at all.  Therefore, the best way to combat this sort of obvious trolling is to simply act like it doesn’t exist.  What they want most is publicity, and therefore, if we are truly concerned about doing what is best, we should refrain from giving it to them.

The Piety of Debating

In a prior post on status-mongering, I had noted that some members of the church demonstrate their piety by defending the truth via debating others on various matters.  The willingness to defend the truth via the mechanism of debating is certainly commendable, but that doesn’t mean that one’s motivations for debating are always pure, nor does it mean that the debate into which one enters is actually profitable.

In the first place, there are plenty of potential downsides to the debate format.  It may be that you, as a defender of truth, are not as adequate to the task as you believe yourself to be, and so your defense actually causes your brethren to be ashamed of their association with you, and of their association with the church.  It may also be that those who are attending the debate (assuming you’re in hostile territory, so to speak) are simply swine, and nothing you can say will cause them to believe in the truth.  Alternatively, (assuming you have home field advantage, so to speak), you may simply be giving error an opportunity to be taught that it would not otherwise have enjoyed.  Thus, there are several factors that may cause a public debate to work decidedly against God’s Bride.

Given that it is therefore possible that public debates may have considerably negative outcomes, it therefore behooves preachers to consider the possibility of these negative outcomes.  It also behooves brethren to consider whether they should support debates given the potential downsides.  Alas, neither brethren nor preachers seem particularly inclined to consider that there may, in fact, be times and instances in which our attempts at defending the truth may do more harm than good.  Instead, preachers and brethren focus on the more obvious outcome that truth is being taught in whatever way possible.

This focus on always teaching truth, with no concern for anything else, is generally nothing more than simple status-mongering.  Those who practice this are not so much concerned with whether engaging in public debates is going to do any practical good; rather, they are concerned with appearing to do good (or being a “shining light”).  Again, this is nothing more than signaling one’s status, which in this case is piety.  Debating shows piety because one is essentially saying that, by debating against error, one is really and truly concerned with defending truth, and defending Christ’s church from those who would assail it.  By implication, those who do not engage in these debates are inferior either in terms of motives or in terms of ability.

Piety, as demonstrated in debating, and a host of other ways, is the currency of status in the church these days.  Whereas direct displays of wealth were once the main way to demonstrate one’s status, the church has now exchanged physical wealth for spiritual displays.  In essence, piety is the new materialism, and public debates of this materialist mindset.

Again, as noted before, debates are not, in and of themselves, a bad thing; they can be and often are used for good.  This is especially true when debates are used to demonstrate the holiness of God and his church.  However, it seems in recent years that debates have mostly been used to demonstrate the apparent holiness of those engaging in them.