February 26, 2011

Parts of the Problem

Edited for clarity 7-20-2011
Buona sera. Does it bother you when someone points out problems but does not offer any solutions? Then prepare to be annoyed because I have no great answers. If, however, you want to compare notes and possibly say, "Yeah! I see that, too!", then you're in the right place.

After pondering information from several sources, making mental notes and simply making observations, I am seeing some of the reasons why unbelievers have problems with Christians, and Christianity. Some of it is the fault of the unbeliever, and the believers are not helping matters.

First, problems on the part of the unbelievers.

Preconceptions. We all have them, don't deny it. If you use a word, it has certain connotations for some people. For instance, if you hear or read the word "church", what image pops into your head? If you have experiences, you may remember smells, sounds, images — and emotions. I think the best way to deal with preconceptions is to admit that they exist, and try to get past the inner images.

Expectations from others. Another kind of preconception. Perhaps you want to intellectualize a discussion about God, but then use loaded terminology that provokes a reaction, or you caught someone on a bad day. "Some Christian that is!", you grumble. You have bad days and bad reactions, and so do we. At any rate, we cannot guess and live up to your preconceptions of what a Christian is supposed to be. Especially if that image is not entirely human.

Your anger. Sometimes people have rejected belief in God because of personal disappointment and pain. Somebody died despite your prayers. You see bad things in the world, and they overwhelm the good things in your mind. Perhaps you demand that God is to be a kind of Santa Claus but he did not grant your wishes.

Pride. That's right, I said it! I have met many unbelievers who, it appears, would rather die than to admit that a Christian is right and that they are wrong. More than that, the pride of coming to Christ goes against everything inside you because you have to admit so many things: You have sinned against a holy and righteous God who will judge us all, you really do not have what it takes to save yourself, salvation is only through Jesus Christ and receiving his loving offer of forgiveness... Yes, that stuff grates on you, doesn't it? Worse, Christians (the real ones, anyway) admit that we cannot save ourselves, and we had to swallow that pride and come to the cross.

One problem common to all of those points is that of word definitions; you don't know what that word really means. OK, now that you're angry at me, I'll back off and go on about what you came here for: Stuff Christians do that makes us hurt our own cause. Yeah, that gets your attention, doesn't it, Damien?

Organizations. Yes, there are many denominations out there. Some are formed out of silly disagreements in ecclesiology. Others are out of disagreements over doctrine. Still others are simply formed because people simply wanted their own beliefs and language when they moved to a new country. 

While you may have some legitimate complaints, there are some things to keep in mind. First, we are people, too. Nobody in their right mind is claiming that becoming a Christian makes you perfect in every thought, word or deed. You have problems too, remember? Second, other groups have divisions. People talk about other religions as if they were all unified, but that is ridiculous. Just ask the Sunnis and Shi'ahs for starters. Or maybe look at the differences in Tibetan, Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists. For that matter, do humanists and atheists all agree? Not bloody likely.

Goofy doctrines. There are people claiming to be Christians, or even The One True Church, who have some very odd beliefs. Christians are supposed to use the Bible as the final rulebook, not the writings or lectures of their self-proclaimed prophet. And those words are usually quite different from what the rest of orthodox Christianity teaches. When an atheist says, "I was having a discussion with a Mormon", my first thought is essentially a Peter Griffin-esque, "Aw, crap!" because Mormon doctrines are kooky.

I also have problems with some of the "Charismatic" groups. "Speaking in tongues" can be a scary thing to experience. It certainly creeped me out the first time I was around it. Today, I believe that they are in error. Further, the Pentecostals and Charismatics are the ones most likely to say, "God said to me...", and the rest will simply accept it without checking with their Bibles. Experience and emotion are too often the sources for their "doctrines". Frinstance, Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn are not representatives of my view of Biblical Christianity!

False Christians. People make the mistake of thinking that, since the United States is "a Christian nation", if they are not actively part of another non-Christian religion, they must be Christians. Also, the word is taken to be "moral" or "nice guy". So, they claim to be Christians, but they really have no idea what that word really means. They are in for a rude surprise when they meet Jesus face to face.

Religious people. People who have gone to church, often their whole lives, and think that going to church, practicing rituals and sacraments &c. makes them Christians. Also, things done by religions in the name of Christ are just that: Religions in the name of Christ. But they are not accurate reflections of the teachings of the Bible. Look to the source, not just the followers. "Religious" people are also in for a rude surprise when they meet Jesus face to face.

Over-enthusiastic Christians. They are full of the joy of salvation, they feel good, their burden of sin is lifted. So, although they are not "grounded in the Word" and good Bible teachings, they become cheerleaders for Jesus. Sometimes they'll say things that they cannot back up. They know the Bible is true, but they do not want to admit that they cannot answer the difficulty that you just posed. But that is no reason to reject everything that they have to say.

Spiritual people. For lack of a better term. They get all religious on you, get emotional, send you those awful (and usually pseudo-Catholic) e-mails. All I can say is that they have good intentions, but some of them get on my nerves, too.

Christians judging other Christians. I have written about this elsewhere, that some people grow in the faith in different ways and speeds than others. So, some who have learned about a subject get proud and look down on those who have not shared their epiphany, or have their level of knowledge. They are often guilty of pride, and need to repent of their superior attitudes. And unbelievers, you can sit back and watch. Why not?

Superstitious religious. Can't stand it. "God will get you for that", or whatever. Turning Christ into an unbelievable superstition. The Bible doesn't teach that, neither should they.

The truth. Yep, the truth of the gospel is offensive by itself (Rom. 9.33 NASB). Who wants to hear that he has sinned (Rom 3.23)? Or that you are judged and under the death penalty, but Jesus paid your debt on the cross (Rom. 6.23)? Who wants to hear that they need to turn from their sins (2 Peter 3.9) and accept the risen (1 Cor. 15.3) Jesus as their Lord (John 1.12)? Who wants to hear that they are the property of Satan (John 8.43-45), who blinds their eyes to the saving truth (2 Cor. 4.4)? That hurts the pride. And pride will drag you into Hell, quite frankly. No, the truth is offensive enough without people being people, having emotions, viewpoints, upbringing, traditions, personalities and getting in the way of the gospel.

So, to some extent, no wonder people scoff. But humanity is diverse. Just like those who share some of your viewpoints, capice?


Rhomphaia (Sword) said...

Great article Storm!
You put a lot into - I see it.

I'm humbled and thankful for the way you closed it. May God honor the efforts, to His glory.

Did you hear CT the other day?

A man passed out tracts for 40 years without 'seeing' anything...I won't tell you the rest in case you haven't heard!

Bob Sorensen said...

Glad you like the article. No, I did not hear CT recently, especially since they've had site troubles. But I think I know the tract story anyway, and I hope to catch up to the CT episode next week. So often, we never hear of or see the results of our labors. Sometimes, God gives us an encouraging glimpse. We'll know both the missed opportunities and blunders, as well as the successes, when we're with God.

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