RFG: FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice

For intuitive and critical discussions, from spirituality to theological doctrines. Fair warning: because the subject matter is personal, moderation is strict.

Moderator: Dan~

RFG: FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice

Postby Ichthus » Tue Dec 16, 2008 7:15 am

“The Reason for God” (Keller) Book DiscussionPart 1: The Leap of Doubt
FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice


“In chapter 4, the author looks at Christian hypocrisy and the problem it creates for those outside the church. The author agrees that people who do not claim to be Christians are often more ethical and more moral than those who attend church. Then he proposes an interesting explanation: churches might have a higher concentration of broken people, compared to the constituencies of other organizations, because people in need realize their condition and seek out assistance (see p. 53 — 54). Do you feel this explanation is too close to saying “don’t judge Christianity by its weakest representatives”? Do you agree with the criticism that if Christianity really does transform lives, that the behavior of Christians should surpass that of the average human? Discuss your responses.” – Penguin
http://download.redeemer.com/sermons/Penguin%20Reader%20Guide.pdf

An observation I have made is that some people who call Christians hypocrites because they witness a Christian doing things they would consider “un-Christian” – they do the exact same things, and often worse things. Maybe it makes them lose hope that they can be lifted out of the mud, when they see Christians who are indistinguishable from the world? Maybe their anger at hypocrisy is misplaced guilt and helps relieve their sense of guilt at doing things they know are wrong -- a sense of guilt that is maybe a very heavy guilt complex because they grew up with a Pharisaical (“holier than thou”) attitude about Christianity, rather than knowing that we are saved by grace? I also wonder if they have standards (for Christians, or for themselves-if-they-were-Christians) that are too strict. When I was growing up it was wrong to drink alcohol, and now that rule is more relaxed and we even held sermon group in a pub one time. Maybe their anger about Christian hypocrisy comes from observing ‘nominal’ or ‘fanatical’ people who call themselves Christians but do not know Christ (perhaps some wolves in sheep’s clothing), or maybe from observing newborn Christians who “have a long way to go emotionally, morally, and spiritually,” (53) and judging them prematurely (without grace… perhaps because they don’t yet know grace)? It’s crazy – I was reviewing this book, “Lord, I Need Grace to Make It” by Kay Arthur – all over it in different sections I wrote, “Sorry… I just don’t get it.” I was losing faith at the time I did that Bible study, and clearly – I had not even yet understood grace (as a ‘reality’ and not merely as a ‘concept’). So it is not hard for me to understand how a non-Christian may not understand grace. It’s like God keeps your eyes closed until you are ready to see His world… like a doctor pushing on a newborn’s head to keep it from being choked by the umbilical cord.

I liked how Keller contrasted between ‘nominalism’ and ‘fanaticism’ (56-57) – distinguishing between those who claim the title “Christian” but do not live it out and barely believe it – and those who claim the title “Christian” but behave and believe more like Pharisees. I liked how he emphasized the need to move to a fuller and deeper grasp of what Christianity is – that it is not a form of moral improvement, but salvation by grace – God’s loving us no matter what we do, which motivates us to love others likewise. I liked how Keller pointed out Jesus’ critique of religion similar to the prophets of the OT, and how Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others used their knowledge of true Christianity, of salvation by grace, to live out grace in their critique of religion and the church from within. Here is Rev. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” for your perusal:
http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf

I liked how Keller pointed out (via Alister McGrath) that “when the idea of God is gone, a society will ‘transcendentalize’ something else, some other concept, in order to appear morally and spiritually superior. The Marxists [Ichthus: not Marx] made the state into such an absolute, while the Nazis did it to race and blood. Even the ideals of liberty and equality can be used in this way in order to do violence to opponents. … violence has been inspired as much by secularism as by moral absolutism. Societies that have rid themselves of all religion have been just as oppressive as those steeped in it,” (55-56).

When you make decisions, do you consider others in general, including being willing to risk your life to liberate others, as Jesus did, or do you not have the motivation--the joy of God spoken of at the end of chapter 4 (if you do have the motivation, I am not asking you to toot your own horn) (if you don’t and you’re a Christian, remember grace and that growth is gradual)? Or do you think God’s self-sacrificial love is not the only motivation for self-sacrificial living [if so, describe the alternative motivation(s)]. Or would you lean more towards the reasoning that, “If this world is all there is, and if the goods of this world are the only love, comfort, and wealth I will ever have, why should I sacrifice them for others?” (66). Does it not at all anger you when Christians do not live self-sacrificially, because you value honor like “the pre-Christian northern European tribes, like the Anglo-Saxons” whose ethic was self-regarding, rather than other-regarding (one could also refer to the egoism of Rand’s ‘rational self-interest’)?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objectivist_philosophy#Ethics:_Rational_self-interest

Footnote 2: “If what you want is an argument against Christianity … you can easily find some stupid and unsatisfactory Christian and say … ‘So there’s your boasted new man! Give me the old kind.’ But if once you have begun to see that Christianity is on other grounds probable, you will know in your heart that this is only evading the issue. What can you ever really know of other people’s souls—of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You cannot put Him off with speculations about your next-door neighbors or memories of what you have read in books. What will all that chatter and hearsay count when the anesthetic fog we call ‘nature’ or ‘the real world’ fades away and the Divine Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, and unavoidable?” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Macmillan, 1964), p. 168.
Ichthus
Philosopher
 
Posts: 1167
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:48 pm
Location: Coram Deo

Re: RFG: FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice

Postby Xunzian » Wed Dec 17, 2008 4:22 pm

Like anything else, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, which is a path that Keller seems to be advocating here. For the record, I disagree with the method of historical interpretation that leads to blaming Christianity for various historical atrocities. There is always a better explanation waiting in the wings. Likewise, using the worst examples of a particular ethical system doesn't really tell us anything. The individual example can serve as an exemplar, but I don't think they are really serve as a meaningful sample. But at the same time, I do think it is worth looking at the demographics and seeing where that takes us.

To think back to the acorn example, it follows that even under ideal conditions not all acorns will develop to oaks. But if we take each acorn to be something of value, we have to ask ourselves a variety of questions regarding our goals: do we want the most oaks possible, even at the expense of some saplings? Do we want as many saplings as possible, so that each one is given a chance? Or do we want as many acorns as possible and let the chips fall where they may? Pointing out that one acorn didn't grow tells us nothing. Pointing out that many acorns fail to grow suggests that the soil conditions may be at fault. Keller tries to deal with this objection by pointing out the twin failures of nominalism and fanaticism but to me that seems like he is veering towards the "No True Scotsman Fallacy". Since he takes Christianity as true for other reasons, I can understand why he would frame it that way. But it doesn't really make for a rigorous objection to the criticisms levied either if they are coming from a non-believer. The believer can point to Jesus as their true Scotsman and say, "We're trying" but the non-believer is then forced to shrug and ask, "Who?"
User avatar
Xunzian
Drunken Master
 
Posts: 10462
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 9:14 pm

Re: RFG: FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice

Postby Bob » Fri Dec 19, 2008 5:53 pm

Hi Ichthus,
In chapter 4, the author looks at Christian hypocrisy and the problem it creates for those outside the church. The author agrees that people who do not claim to be Christians are often more ethical and more moral than those who attend church. Then he proposes an interesting explanation: churches might have a higher concentration of broken people, compared to the constituencies of other organizations, because people in need realize their condition and seek out assistance (see p. 53 — 54).

If the church is pulling “broken people” who realise their condition and seek assistance, why is it clearly ineffective, which it seems to be if the “author agrees that people who do not claim to be Christians are often more ethical and more moral than those who attend church”?

Do you feel this explanation is too close to saying “don’t judge Christianity by its weakest representatives”?

Yes, because it seems for many people that the “weakest representatives” are the loudest. The first thing a would-be Christian should be told is, “they should tell no one that He is Jesus the Christ” (Mat.16:20)

Shalom
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
User avatar
Bob
Philosopher
 
Posts: 3406
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2003 6:20 pm
Location: Germany

Re: RFG: FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice

Postby Ichthus » Mon Dec 29, 2008 8:47 am

Xunzian,

I disagree with the method of historical interpretation that leads to blaming Christianity for various historical atrocities. There is always a better explanation waiting in the wings.


Do you think Keller blamed the church for something for which it wasn't responsible? Your use of the word "always" is a bit fishy. The church is directly responsible for a lot of horrible crap... not just in history.

If each Christian is an acorn--what is the soil? A better example might be vine/branch... do we live like connected branches, or do we reject the vine (apart from Him we can do nothing), while merely calling ourselves branches?

Bob, why do you think the weakest are the loudest?

Something I think is true is that greater weakness, if overcome, begets greater strength (in God). This may be one reason the weakest are the loudest. Maybe you're thinking of a different sort of weakness.

I was reading "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell and he said something similar to you... about the rude folks in the crowded parking lot after church... "If you are Christians and you act that way out in the world...don't tell people you're Christians". [Regarding Matt. 16:20... Jesus told the disciples not to spread Peter's confession so as to prevent a revolution against Rome.]
Ichthus
Philosopher
 
Posts: 1167
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:48 pm
Location: Coram Deo

Re: RFG: FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice

Postby Xunzian » Mon Dec 29, 2008 3:48 pm

I don't think Keller blamed Christianity. I was agreeing with Keller in his knocking down of the critics of the Christianity. Just a personal pet-peeve of mine, so many materialist atheists adopt a Hegelian view of history. That would also entail what I see as 'the better explanation waiting in the wings', which is a materialistic view of history. In such a framework, Christianity can't really have had a malign influence on history. Now, the Church as a political organ has done all sorts of terrible stuff, sure. But we have to ask ourselves whether Christianity itself is an important factor in that equation. Would the Church still have done terrible things on par with what occurred had it been devoted to Mythrias and not Christ? Or Baal, or whomever you'd like. I tend to think it would have. Political conditions drive atrocities like those that have been (and are being) committed.

As for the soil, what I was talking about was Christianity itself. I'm unconvinced it yields the most or the greatest oaks. Likewise, with the notion of vine and branches, I'd replace 'God' with 'society'.
User avatar
Xunzian
Drunken Master
 
Posts: 10462
Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 9:14 pm

Re: RFG: FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice

Postby Bob » Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:27 pm

Bob, why do you think the weakest are the loudest?

Something I think is true is that greater weakness, if overcome, begets greater strength (in God). This may be one reason the weakest are the loudest. Maybe you're thinking of a different sort of weakness.

There is an “if” in that sentence – but there is an old streetwise saying, “Empty objects make the most sound.” I think that a lot of these people are allowed to go off blurting anything their enthusiasm has them say without reflecting on it much, the main thing is that a hallelujah must come out rather than a curse. I knew someone who assumed that I welcomed this kind of behaviour and it even went as far as them telling me about the witness they had nearly given. When I asked them whether they were serious, they started to back off. When people go about ripping pages out of Bibles in expectation of a miracle, there just seems to be more questions arise than answers.

There is nothing wrong with weakness, but I wouldn’t primarily describe these people as weak, although they are that too – they are simply immature and dash off copying any missionary example that has excited their fancy. Weakness may come to you in any number of situations and grace can give you the strength to continue your discipleship all the more. But weakness in this sense is merely the opposite to the expectation of strength and dignity and pride when witnessing for God. Paul shows Corinth that God is also strong in the weak – in him.

Shalom
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
TS Eliot
User avatar
Bob
Philosopher
 
Posts: 3406
Joined: Sun Dec 28, 2003 6:20 pm
Location: Germany

Re: RFG: FOUR: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice

Postby Ichthus » Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:29 am

[This is a recording, please stay on the line; do not hang up.] Thank you Xunzian and Bob for participating in this chapter of the book discussion. All are invited to continue discussion of the chapter, but this reply concludes my participation in this chapter, as I must now turn my attention to the remaining chapters of the discussion. Thanks again.

Xunzian:

I don't think Keller blamed Christianity. I was agreeing with Keller in his knocking down of the critics of the Christianity.

Keller didn’t blame Christianity, but he did blame the church, and he did not knock down the critics of the church, but is also one himself. The church should be its own worst critic.

In such a framework, Christianity can't really have had a malign influence on history.

Marx would disagree vehemently, but he didn’t distinguish between ‘Christianity’ and ‘the church’.

Would the Church still have done terrible things on par with what occurred had it been devoted to Mythrias and not Christ? Or Baal, or whomever you'd like. I tend to think it would have. Political conditions drive atrocities like those that have been (and are being) committed.

Atrocities happen between people (including the church) because we reject Love.

Bob:

When people go about ripping pages out of Bibles in expectation of a miracle, there just seems to be more questions arise than answers.

People do strange things sometimes. When He brought me back, it sure was strange. But thankfully my pastor then (‘cause I don’t live there now) in one sermon spoke about baby believers poopin’ in their diapers, making messes, and for old believers to look back and remember how it was when they first believed, and not to judge the new believer.

[This is a recording, please stay on the line; do not hang up.] Thank you Xunzian and Bob for participating in this chapter of the book discussion. All are invited to continue discussion of the chapter, but this reply concludes my participation in this chapter, as I must now turn my attention to the remaining chapters of the discussion. Thanks again.
Ichthus
Philosopher
 
Posts: 1167
Joined: Fri Sep 22, 2006 6:48 pm
Location: Coram Deo


Return to Religion and Spirituality



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users