Monday, May 4, 2009

Waging War Against Fellow Believers

You can read Part 2 here: Waging War Part II: Let It Not Be Named Among Us

(UPDATED BELOW)

... and how true it is that Christians tend to shoot their own





Over at TeamPyro, Phil has a post up called Do We Really Need to Wage War Against False Doctrine? In short, the answer is of course yes, but do read his post because it explains when, why, who, how and where. It's short and to the point, but a good post.

It's nothing new, but lately there have been some issues going on among Christians I know that it might be accurate to write a blog post called

"Do We Really Need to Wage War Against Fellow Believers?"

In Phil's post, he mentions a couple of things that really stood out to me that give us clear, biblical mandate for the how in dealing with false doctrine (and by extension of course those who are teaching it). I wonder though, if the how applies to false teachers teaching false doctrine, how much moreso the how applies to believers that we merely disagree with on various issues of faith and practice (which may or may not be salvific issues)?

Here is how believers are to address false teaching according to the Scripture:

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2Tim. 2:24-26 KJV)

Here is how it reads in another version:

The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2Tim. 2:24-26 NASB)

In Phil's post about dealing with false teachings/teachers, he used the word pugnaciously. We (believers) are not to act pugnaciously in addressing false teaching. This is quite obvious from the text in 2Tim. that begins by saying that the Lord's servant MUST NOT strive, or be quarrelsome. That word pugnacious defines someone who is argumentative, combative, always ready for a brawl (usually verbal), belligerent and actually enjoys being that way. People who are pugnacious are usually quite clever with their ability to rip someone up and tear them down verbally, and quite often the kind of person you really don't want to "get into it" with, because you know even if you're right and they're wrong about an issue, the issue will be lost for their ability to put you down and bulldoze their way to victory. According to dictionary.com, the word comes from the same Latin root word that we get pugilist, and as we all know a professional pugilist fights for fun, for sport, and fights to win. He likes what he does and he trains hard to be the best pugilist he can be. A pugnacious person uses the same tactics as a boxer, he or she just uses their tongue (or pen, or keyboard) to achieve the same result.

Scripture is clear, we are definitely not to be this way when addressing false teachings. The passage above goes on to say that we're to be kind, able to teach, patient and gentle. We're not supposed to make fun of people, we're not supposed to call them names, we're not supposed to slander or libel them - publicly or privately. None of those things fall into the categories of kind, able to teach, patient or gentle - no matter how many people try to spin things around to justify being obnoxious in dealing with false teachings. No matter how many Bible verses you list to back up your position (Scripture will not contradict Scripture, so good luck with that one), no matter how many people are patting you on the back for being so clever. Shame on those people for encouraging this conduct.

Yet, it seems to be a rather common thing that when Believer A disagrees with Believer B, they take to blogging or facebook, twitter or myspace and just chew them up and spit them out. No kindness, no patience, no gentleness, no grace, NO MERCY. According to the Scripture we're not supposed to treat false teachers this way, but somehow it's perfectly okay to treat fellow believers like this? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

Blog posts and blog comboxes filled with uber/turbo-pugnacious comments about the person in the spotlight. It really is unthinkable but it happens every single day. Lest anyone think I'm finger-pointing any one direction, please be advised that I am not proud to admit that I've done this very thing myself, even though I know full well it's wrong. It's an issue I've been dealing with for a while now and a big part of the reason I've been writing less over the last several months.

I see this all over the Christian community online. I see it on blogs, on twitter, on facebook. I don't use myspace but there is every reason to believe it's there too, as well as Christian discussion forums both public and email lists. I have taken to unsubscribing from any blog I previously subscribed to, that engages in this. I've taken FB "friends" off my list, and unfollowed fellow twitterites that do it. I know myself well enough to know that I am really good at being really obnoxious, and I cannot have that influence in my own life, even in brief, online doses. It's a toxic, ungodly influence and I want no part of it.

For those who make an effort to justify their constant combative snark, I would strongly recommend they read 2Timothy 2:24-26 again, and ask themselves if they are truly setting an example of kindness, patience and gentleness in dealing with those they've deemed to be teaching a false teaching. Everyone else knows they're not, but nothing will change until they honestly address it in themselves, and repent of it.

May God be merciful and grant that to us all.

________________________________

UPDATE



After posting this morning I received an email with a link referring me to a blog post at Ingrid Schlueter's Slice of Laodicea blog. In the post there she refers to another post by Denise (some may recall Denise and I used to co-blog together at Emergent No for several years). All the uproar seems to be over a completely misunderstood and misrepresented position of yet another blogger and friend, Steve Camp. Specifically, Steve's take on the whole Carrie Prejean issue which he addressed here, and in the combox at the same post.

This is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about in my post. All anyone has to do is read what Steve did say in his post and subsequent comments, to see that his position on the whole Carrie Prejean controversy is not at all what either Ingrid or Denise are making it out to be. As it pertains to her speaking her mind about gay marriage, Steve simply said the same thing many other Christians said

"I for one am grateful to the Lord for her unashamed conviction on this issue - especially in that arena. Pray for her beloved, for many opportunities will be coming her way to speak on this issue and share her faith in Christ as a result of her gracious boldness this past Sunday evening."

For yet another opinion on the same issue, please take the time to view this video from another friend and brother:





In the combox at Steve's blog however the issue of Miss Prejean's immodest attire came up (and for the record I don't think it was at all modest attire for a young Christian woman, and did comment there about that) and Steve said this:

"One quick comment about the clothing issue that some are concerned about here: I do agree, the swimsuits have become more and more revealing as the years have gone by. I personally don't approve of what was wore this year. There are one piece suits that can show a woman's physical fitness which would have been much more appropriate. But let's be grateful to the Lord for what this 21 year old woman said and the massive onslaught of negative ugly obscene comments that are being made against her by the left because of her stance for biblical, traditional marriage. It's not that the other issue is not important to discuss here, but this article and thread is not about beauty pageant attire, but about the courage it took to do what she did for the family."

And this:

"Let's not focus here on the imperfections of the vessel, but on the witness for Jesus this young woman gave for the Lord and His truth. Amen? It's not about people on stages being bold but yet flawed, it's about Him and His truth and His gospel and His glory. Pray for Carrie and thank the Lord for her today."

So Steve wanted to keep on point with the fact that Miss Prejean at least had the courage to say what she said, without getting into the discussion of what she was wearing during the pageant. If you've watched James' video you know he essentially said the same thing. The point of the commentary in both cases was to show how a professing Christian speaking out in an anti-God culture, under a national spotlight, takes a lot of courage to do.

Somehow though Steve's comments earned him this:

"Steve Camp, Paul Proctor and others have defended the breast-augmented, naked beauty queen as a Christian example for women. What they’re really showing forth is the sisssification of manhood that’s endemic in the church." - Slice

Kindness? Patience? Gentlessness? Is this really how we speak of another member of the household of faith? Really? Is it genuinely and honestly Biblically defensible to speak of someone this way when they say something you don't like, or don't say something you wanted them to say? Does this mean we can all just let 'er rip and say what we're REALLY thinking today? Does this mean we can no longer discipline our children when they spout off and make some graceless comment like immature children are prone to do? I mean come on, if it's okay for Christian adults to speak this way of fellow believers, surely it's okay for our kids to speak this way too, right?

Frankly, I'm not sure how you can arrive at sissified manhood defending naked beauty queens, from someone who publicly affirmed he did NOT approve of what was worn during the swimsuit portion of the pageant, and someone who simply wanted to affirm Miss Prejean's boldness for speaking the truth. Why this was even said doesn't even compute for me. I've read the post, read the comments and even discussed it with Steve, and he did NOT say what he's being accused of nor does he go around defending naked beauty queens. To accuse him of either is simply outrageous. It is a blatant misrepresentation of what he DID say.

Disagree if you need to disagree, but to publicly accuse someone of something they never even said (nor hold to, nor defend) is just unthinkable for a Christian.

This is a perfect, real-time example of the kind of "war" I'm talking about that seems to have been declared by many among the Christian community online. I've stopped that bus and asked the driver to let me off. The ONLY reason I clicked that link in email and updated this was a.) I didn't know what the content would be before clicking it and b.) to give a literal example of what's being presented to the watching world, as Christian blogging. Yeah, Steve is a friend and he's been grossly misrepresented here but this ISN'T the only example out there of Christians shooting their own and I know I feel the same way when I watch this sort of thing go on between people I don't even know. I find it rather embarassing and wish it wasn't happening, but it is.