06 June 2013

"Assuming Jesus lied and is dead..."

by Dan Phillips

It's one of those commonplaces that many never notice. But once you do notice it, you see it everywhere.

I speak of the unspoken assumption of a great many non-Christian/Christian dialogues, at least from the non-Christian side. Unspoken, I say (or speak, heh), but there nonetheless.

Take this recent post from one of those blogs you should visit every day instead of ________ and _______ ___ ______, to wit: Fred Butler's Hip and Thigh.

Fred responds in characteristically non-RPB style to another post titled 7 Truths LGBT Kids Need to Hear from Homeschooling Parents. Fred's post, in turn, elicits a cordial, well-written challenge from a person named "whitechocolatelatte" which goes something like this:
Are you endorsing a tough love, aka abusive or bullying, response to LGBT children? We all know people will have theological disagreements, but the larger question is how to love those you care about most in the midst of those disagreements.
To interpret a hurt child’s longing for affection and understanding as an assault on your faith is not a gracious response on any level. If you want to weep in your closet and pray, be my guest, but when you interact with people you disagree with, especially if they are people who look up to you, what they need is acceptance of *their inherent worth,* regardless of their theological positions or lifestyle choices. (You would even agree with that, theologically, wouldn’t you — we are all made in the image of God?) If you develop a real relationship with people, and they see you have a life they would prefer, you’ll get questions, but running around throwing metaphysical stones like this is just bullying.
Getting up on your high horse is not going to convince anyone else to come down off of theirs.
As such responses go, it's hard not to appreciate the relative graciousness of the questioner, and his/her attempt to make common-ground, from his/her -- oh, bother, his -- perspective.

But there it is. Really to get what he's saying, you have to preface it with the thought, "Assuming the Bible is a lie," or "Assuming God's word is insufficient and uncompelling," or "Assuming Jesus lied and is dead..."

Because what he does is simply sweep aside Scripture and the worldview it lays out. He calls Fred to assume with him that everyone's self-chosen path is equally valid (except the Christian one), and that the highest value is love-as-endorsement, and that the greatest crime is making people (except Christians) feel bad about their choices... and on that basis, calls Fred to come off it.

Which Fred, characteristically, does not.

That last is a constant feature, by the way. The assumption here is that Fred is the issue. He is on his "high horse." How could it be otherwise? We're all free to choose whatever we choose to believe; there is no external, compelling authority against whom it would be high moral treason to rebel. All there is is choice, our choice, our hearts, our feelings and values and judgment.


And so, sure: assuming that, then whatever you want, follows. Like "Assuming that saltwater is air, crossing the Atlantic is just like a really long walk." Right. Exactly. Assuming.

What I'm wanting to highlight is that this is not new. When were the words "Has God really said" spoken, in challenge to an unwelcome word from God? You know. And have you seen what Satan did there? Like Fred's commenter, he didn't try formally to deny everything at once. He didn't deny that there was a God. But he did deny that God was compelling, that God's word was binding and sufficient, that the only starting-point for thought was the word of God.

That was the whole game-plan, and it was executed very effectively. Simply move the game pieces to a different board and a different set of rules. Do that, and it's all over but the rolling of the credits.

Listen for that, in what is said to you; watch for it, in what you read. It's seldom stated formally, but it's there: "Assuming the Bible is under our judgment, assuming our judgment is supreme, and assuming that we are as gods, don't you think...?"

Once you see that, you see the bankruptcy of evidentialism as an apologetic. You see that granting that assumption is the whole game. You see that ultimately the only sufficient response can be, "But I don't assume that. And since you have no transcendent reason for doing so, I call you instead to assume that God's word is sufficient and compelling, that God alone is sufficient judge, and that Jesus was the truth, is the truth, and spoke the truth, and that He is alive and coming as Judge of the living and the dead.  Assume that, and..."

Game over.

Dan Phillips's signature

40 comments:

Unknown said...

Praise God a Pyro finally did something on the internet today.

"Great Post."

In all seriousness, I have noticed this thinking in myself, and this blog (with its affiliates) has helped me see some of the ways I have allowed that cultural assumption to bleed into my theology and biblical convictions. I haven't rooted out all the ways this has impaired my thinking yet, but one I can give as an example that I go back and forth on is my political convictions. E.g. Even though I believe homosexuality is wrong, and there is no such thing as homosexual marriage, I've allowed in my thought for the idea of Civil Unions so gay couples that commit to one household can receive the same government benefits as heterosexual marriages. Yet, why should I want or support a government structure that says, "Jesus is not actually Lord," when I have at least some power and sway to prevent it? How is that actually loving to our country?

I'm not interested in debating the validity of that idea one way or the other, but simply pointing it out in myself as a way of saying Thank You for helping me think more critically in this area of my thought life.

Jared Queue said...

Sorry, that was my first post. I thought I was still signed in.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Well, setting aside the whole presupp-evidentialist debate, that's a pretty pathetic, naive comment. "A hurt child's longing for affection." ??? Has it occurred to this person that perhaps the _parents_ are the ones being most deeply hurt in that situation? Besides, he obviously just doesn't grok the terrifying viciousness of the homosexual agenda writ large. They're all just "hurt people longing for affection." Maybe on some deep level there's a little truth to that, but we could just as well apply that to Hitler. I mean why not?

Robert said...

I am amazed at how many people I have spoken to and showed them where the Bible says something and they say, "Yea, but...". Really? God speaks and tells us the truth about Him and us, yet we're trying to find a way to justify ourselves and our sinfulness before Him?

I am reading "The God Who Is There" by Francis Schaeffer and find it scary just how much this type of thinking has pervaded America...especially in the realm of Christianity (mainly nominal Christians). This is just the fruit of the attmpted synthesis of humanism and Christianity and the dichotomy that exists within the mystical theology that people hold to. Too much counting on experience and feelings and little attention paid to Biblical doctrine.

The good news is we're getting closer to the return of Jesus. Not saying we have any idea of the time frame involved here, but these are definitely the types of things one expects to see as we head closer to His return.

yankeegospelgirl said...

There's been a little more interaction on Fred's post. Our latte-sipping friend is digging a deeper hole for himself with each passing comment. I went over to call bull-skubala in no uncertain terms. Should take care of it. *brushes hands crisply*

Kathy said...

"but the larger question is how to love those you care about most in the midst of those disagreements."

I'm right in the middle of one of those disagreements with some adult relatives. I truly want to show love in a way that doesn't compromise truth, but it seems to me that the greatest demonstration of love is to tell them the truth.

However, where I find myself struggling is that they already know exactly what I think of their lifestyle, and assume that because I don't endorse it that I don't love them. They've been caught and are ashamed, and are more worried about my opinion and being rejected by me than they are about God's truth on the matter.

This post helps me think through some of these things and encourages me to persist in pointing them to God's word.


swimthedeepend said...

Note how the commenter slaps on an "AKA" equating "tough love" with "abuse" and "bullying." I guess my daughter was a bully when she forcefully wrestled that bottle of clorox bleach out of the hands of the two-year-old she was babysitting. Next time I'll tell her to sit back and ponder the "larger questions" of the child's lifestyle choices for a while before reacting.

DJP said...

Because I know how this often goes, I'm closing this until I can be back to monitor.

DJP said...

We're back live.

But behave.

swimthedeepend said...

Like a cliched action hero, I had managed to slide under the lowering door just before it trapped me on the "no more comments" side. So much for having the proverbial last word!

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

I never thought of it before, but folks who believe that if you just live a good, holy life before men and keep your pushy mouth shut until someone sees what a good life you live and asks you why, also believe that God's Word is insufficient and uncompelling, like our latte friend. I can tell you from experience that I work according to how scripture says I should, and not one person has ever come to me and said, "Web, you're so respectful, and honest, and nice and it has just uncovered that I am a wretched, vile sinner, and unless I have someone to pay for my sin, I will have to one day when God judges the world. Surely you can tell me how God's son lived and died and rose again according to the scriptures that I might be saved from His wrath and be one of His people!"

Never. Not once. Ever.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Wise Words from Webster.

People don't understand that the bait-and-switch approach of wheedling souls into the kingdom over coffee, only to bring up true repentance and lifestyle change after the fact, is deceptive and unbiblical.

DJP said...

So many really excellent comments. Thanks, y'all.

Especially Swim and Web, but really all good.

Jeff Dovalovsky said...

"Perhaps the _parents_ are the ones being most deeply hurt in that situation?"

I'll agree that parents will feel hurt when their child deliberately turns away from them, but...

I doubt any of them are dying on a cross because of it.


Picking the presupp-evidentialist debate up again, I'd say taking bleach from a baby is a wonderful evidentialist point. Throw in a presupposition, and it becomes relevant.

yankeegospelgirl said...

We all share in Christ's suffering Jeff. I mean I take your point, but still---there's a cross for everyone.

Grant H said...

Fred the Hip-Smiter requests his LGBT quarry to “Consider the fact that you may be wrong – fatally so.” Fair enough. And is it not also fair that Fred apply this consideration to himself? After all, even today’s firmly TULIP convictions may also seem “twisted nonsense” in a decade’s time. It happens.
It’s fair enough, too, that Fred lays down his “stinging rebuke”. But I think he takes it too far when he demands to control how his rebuke is received by its human object., i.e. “Don’t interpret any pointed criticism as an ignorant, bigoted attack against you.” By all means, deliver the presup broadside, but don’t expect those so blasted to esteem your motives. You don’t see yourself as their bigot, but, then, they don’t see themselves as your hellbound reprobates.

Paul Reed said...

Brilliant post, Dan. Whenever we engage in these debates on homosexuality, it seems as if we start with the assumption that the Bible is just a bunch of myths and stories, with little truth value. Basically, the same thing as the Koran. Look if care even slightly about someone, we'll tell them the truth about what will happen if they stay in bondage to homosexuality. We forget that Jesus talked about Hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Was he being cruel? Let us grant for sake of argument that us condemning homosexuality will lead to bullying of gay teens or hurt their self esteem. Is that anything compared to what Hell will be like for them if they don't repent?

Paul Reed said...

@Robert
"I am amazed at how many people I have spoken to and showed them where the Bible says something and they say, "Yea, but...""

Very true. We have to accept that only a minority of self-proclaimed Christians truly care what the Bible says (Matthew 7:21 ) The most common sodomite retort I hear is to change the subject and point to areas that most self-proclaimed Christians ignore. They'll say, "Look, Jesus clearly states the rich won't enter heaven, and yet you've never lost any sleep over that nor feel a need to preach against being rich. When you understand why you don't take that passage at face value, you'll understand why I don't take the passage on homosexuality at face value."

Grant H said...

@ Paul Reed

THEE:
"Whenever we engage in these debates on homosexuality, it seems as if we start with the assumption that the Bible is just a bunch of myths and stories, with little truth value. Basically, the same thing as the Koran."

To an outsider who is not committed to the Bible as you are, it may as well be the Qur'an. You've seen the ranting Islamist demanding submission to his holy text? Your modus operandi will not seem so different to many observers.

THEE:
"Let us grant for sake of argument that us condemning homosexuality will lead to bullying of gay teens or hurt their self esteem. Is that anything compared to what Hell will be like for them if they don't repent?"

You appear to be condoning collateral violence against homosexual youth as a justifiable lesser evil compared to eventual hellfire - akin to the God will know his own and the end justifies the means rationales. That way lies the justification of atrocity. Not saying you're there yet, but you’ve trod an early step in that direction. Slippery slopes, indeed.

Frank Turk said...

There are days when there ought to be no other blogs on the internet becuase Dan is really THAT good.

This is one of those days.

DJP said...

Grant H — did you actually read the post? This post, on this blog, the one to which you're appending a comment? Did you do that before commenting?

If you did, were you meaning to be ironic, or perform a self-parody?

DJP said...

Frank: that's very kind and encouraging of you.

Paul Reed said...

@Grant H.

There's no way to make a truthful presentation of the Gospel and not be offensive. In fact, if the world loves you, you're-doing-it-wrong. Paul Washer made the analogy of when a doctor (truthfully) told his mother that she had cancer. Imagine how horrible that must have made her feel. Imagine how horrible you would feel if you found out you had cancer. But the alternative would be for the doctor to say nothing and just let his mother stay happy for a while, while she mistakenly believes she is healthy. The type of "Christians" that Webster Hunt comically describes are not merely silly and dumb...they're in fact very cruel, because there depriving a person of information to get well.

Fred Butler said...

Grant H (profile conveniently unavailable) asks,
And is it not also fair that Fred apply this consideration to himself?

Indeed. I have, and I am not.

Continuing,
But I think he takes it too far when he demands to control how his rebuke is received by its human object.,

Oh no. I have never demanded that. I expect, knowing the depravity of man (being a TULIP Calvinist and all) that they will react harshly to my criticism.

My intention is that I make it clear to them that they cannot honestly return to their gay friends and complain that no one ever answered my questions or heard me out, or whatever.

They have been answered, they have been challenged, and they have no excuse to be comfortable in their chosen destructive lifestyle.

Colleen said...

Yea and amen to your post. That is all.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Oh come on Grant. The tulip isn't even my favorite flower, and I say _even if you aren't a Christian_, homosexuality should strike you as bizarre and unnatural by the natural light, and as for those who _claim_ to take the Bible with a modicum of seriousness, there is _not even the tiniest shred of an excuse_ for not agreeing wholeheartedly with Fred on this.

Aaron Snell said...

There's some interesting application to the conversation in
this.

To wit:

"Following our 2010 debate in Billings, Montana, I asked Christopher Hitchens why he didn’t try to savage me on stage the way he had so many others. His reply was immediate and emphatic: “Because you believe it.” Without fail, our former church-attending students expressed similar feelings for those Christians who unashamedly embraced biblical teaching. Michael, a political science major at Dartmouth, told us that he is drawn to Christians like that, adding: “I really can’t consider a Christian a good, moral person if he isn’t trying to convert me.” As surprising as it may seem, this sentiment is not as unusual as you might think. It finds resonance in the well-publicized comments of Penn Jillette, the atheist illusionist and comedian: “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…. How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Comments like these should cause every Christian to examine his conscience to see if he truly believes that Jesus is, as he claimed, “the way, the truth, and the life.”

I wonder if appreciation for this type of consistency when it comes to the issue of homosexuality is an exception to this trend.

Robert said...

I wonder how many objectors have looked at the examples we have from Scripture.

Jesus told the rich young ruler he needed to sell his goods and give to the poor then follow Jesus. He loved his wealth and himself more than God and his neighbor. Jesus also laid out a hailstorm of rebuke against the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23...right to their faces.

Then there is Paul. He said he wished the Judaizers would just castrate themselves because of their obsession with circumcision. He also was stoned by a crowd who didn't like his message...then he just dusted himself off and went to preach the same message in the same way in the next town. He didn't alter it to make the people feel better about themselves.

The Bible doesn't make sinners feel good about themselves (unless it is taken out of context and not all of Scripture is used to interpret Scripture). The very point is for sinners to feel devastated and without any hope in and of themselves...to realize the very sinfulness that defines all of humanity and which we are slaves to. Then and only then can we realize our need for the Savior. Then we can turn from our sins (and ourselves) and turn to Him. That is why the Sermon on the Mount is one of the most shocking and devastating portions of Scripture. Jesus basically tells everybody, "Here is the standard for being righteous and holy and getting into heaven...and it is impossible for you to meet it." He didn't say that it was OK and He understood and approved of the sinful desires they were born with. Otherwise, He wouldn't have lived a life without sin. He wouldn't have to willfully submit to God the Father in taking all of the abuse (human and demonic) that He faced over the 33 years He walked the earth in the flesh. He wouldn't have had to put on the flesh in the first place and be humiliated. Because we wouldn't need it if God could approve it and be OK with it. And exactly whose example are we supposed to follow? Jesus and His apostles or the leaders of the postmodern culture that everybody is so impressed with and wants to gain the approval of? Seems like an easy enough question to answer...just hard to live out unless we abide in Jesus and work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit from Scripture.

Grant H said...

I quote Hip-Smiting Fred again: (to his LGBT sinner-in-denial) “Don’t interpret any pointed criticism as an ignorant, bigoted attack against you.”

If you (a generic you, that is) lay down “stinging rebukes” in God’s cause, and you keep being taken for a bigot, how can you tell it’s because of your message and not just you? Maybe those whom you address have correctly intuited that you really are a bigot, using God to valorise your hatreds; or a resentful scold; or a morbid obsessive full of cant; or a mere curmudgeon addicted to fault-finding. Maybe you’re all bottled up with anger about the crap in your life and feel a sense of release when you can vent that anger against designated broods of vipers, to the applause of fellow viper-loathers.

Not necessarily, but possibly...

Despite their sin-befogged perspective, reprobates are keenly aware of these pratfalls of the elect - fully forgiven, of course, yet strangely persistent.

Grant H said...

@ DJP ^

Guilty as charged, good sir, as ironiparodising as you please!

A fool, me, barely dim enough to deploy a burst of obtuse chutzpah ;^)

yankeegospelgirl said...

How do you define "bigotry," Grant? Are all gut-level reactions against something disgusting now to be labeled as "bigotry?" If I find something manifestly repugnant not merely incorrect but distasteful, am I a bigot? What about incest or pedophilia, or rape?

"You find rape disgusting? How bigoted of you!"

Grant H said...

Re "bigotry" - a standard dictionary definition is fine by me, yankeegospelgirl.

You can work out for yourself whether the shoe fits.

Be as disgusted as you like.

If we're listing disgusts, let me add that I am disgusted by the notion of God's default worm-and-burn torture for every man, woman, and child except a few arbitrarily chosen sectarians. And you are welcome to call me a bigot about that, and be disgusted.

Tom said...

I don't think you're bigoted.
I think you're wrong.

yankeegospelgirl said...

I'm not sure how you define "child," but I'm pretty sure babies and toddlers don't get sent to Hell simply for dying before the age of accountability.

As for theology of Hell writ large, I may not look at it from a Calvinist's perspective, but I doubt you would find my approach much less repulsive than his. Sorry, that's how the orthodox cookie crumbles.

Grant H said...
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Grant H said...
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Robert said...

Grant,

Perhaps you should read Job and Luke 13:2-9 and figure out if you really want to question God about who He shows mercy to and how He does so. He has written in Scripture what and how and all we should do is obsrve and worhip Him for being holy. Our sin-riddled flesh will only serve to make us try to reason with Him as Job did instead of fall before Him asking for mercy and turning to Him and away from our sin...not embracuing it.

DJP said...

Grant: gave you the benefit of the doubt, but evidently this reply either was a lie, or a further case of reading-comprehension issues on your part. You're not doing a parody, you're being a parody.

And so, given that there's no evidence you actually read the post on which you're ostensibly commenting (which, it turns out, is about you), I suggest you read it.

Otherwise, if you haven't a very different stream of comment to offer, you're done.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I can tell you from experience that I work according to how scripture says I should, and not one person has ever come to me and said, "Web, you're so respectful, and honest, and nice and it has just uncovered that I am a wretched, vile sinner, and unless I have someone to pay for my sin, I will have to one day when God judges the world. Surely you can tell me how God's son lived and died and rose again according to the scriptures that I might be saved from His wrath and be one of His people!"

Never. Not once. Ever."


I have.

Not. Either.

Great comment skewering the "Deeds, Not Spoken Creeds" crowd.

Grant H said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.