Judge Not?

One of most commonly quoted and misquoted passages in the Bible comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where he says “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). This is routinely taken to mean don’t you ever take on someone ethically or stand against a person’s sins. Who do you think you are, God? Or what do you think you are, perfect?

First, we should always be eager to admit that we are not God, and only confront from a position of humility and love, knowing that God is gracious toward us in Christ loves us despite our many sins. But second, we should go on the next verse to see if this objection holds any water. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (v2). Don’t use a standard for someone else that you are unwilling to meet yourself. An unrepentant thief can’t get in someone’s face about stealing or the kettle call the pot black. That’s what Jesus is saying. This is likely what is happening in John 8 when Jesus refuses to condemn the woman caught in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees caught her in the very act. Jesus says let those without sin cast the first stone. Really, can only those who have never sinned in any way stand against adultery? The text says “they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones” (Jn. 8:9). They were adulterous men who noticeably did not seem interested in the punishment of the guilty man involved. Their problem was not an over zealous desire for justice, but a deep hypocrisy that slowly dawned upon the eldest, the most experienced adulterers.

Jesus says not to apply a standard that you do not welcome to be applied to yourself. Far from drive us away from judging sin, he urges us to do so: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your borther’s eye” (Matt. 8:5). Action item for the hypocrite: get the plank out, and then talk to your brother about his speck. Even log-sized sin doesn’t excuse someone from judging rightly. He repents before God, gets his eyesight restored, and then must help his brother. Far from being an advocate of not judging, Jesus actually requires right, clear-sighted and loving judgment. He forbids hypocrites from judging, but he also forbids them to remain hypocrites.


The Opposite of Funny is not Serious

G. K. Chesterton was a masterful Christian apologist in large part because of his hilarity rooted in love. Dale Ahlquist writes

One person close to him said that to know him was  benediction. G. K. Chesterton lived his faith. He demonstrated not only the mere art of speaking the truth, but the holy art of speaking the truth in love. One of the really remarkable things about him is that he not only loved his enemies, but his enemies could not help loving him. His philosophical opponents did not merely like him; they loved him. He was always generous but honest to his enemies. He says, “Most mistaken people mean well, and all mistaken people mean something. There is something to be said for every error; but, whatever may be said for it, the most important thing to be said about it is that it is erroneous.” That statement is typical of how Chesterton does not compromise either truth or goodness. In his life as well as in his writing, Chesterton shows that is is truth that answers error, but also that it is humility that answers arrogance. It is kindness that answers cruelty. It is gentleness that answers wrath. And just as it is goodness that answers a lack of goodness, it is humor than answers–this is important–a distinct lack of humor. Chesterton points out that the opposite of funny is not serious, the opposite of funny is not funny. “Whether a man chooses to tell the truth in long sentences or short jokes”, he says, is the same “as whether he chooses to tell the truth in German or French.”  Common Sense 101, p. 193.

Obstreperous Infidels

David Bentley Hart sounds off on the disappointingly weak new atheists in comparison to their forefathers. Read the whole thing at First Things: “The principal source of my melancholy, however, is my firm conviction that today’s most obstreperous infidels lack the courage, moral intelligence, and thoughtfulness of their forefathers in faithlessness. What I find chiefly offensive about them is not that they are skeptics or atheists; rather, it is that they are not skeptics at all and have purchased their atheism cheaply, with the sort of boorish arrogance that might make a man believe himself a great strategist because his tanks overwhelmed a town of unarmed peasants, or a great lover because he can afford the price of admission to a brothel. So long as one can choose one’s conquests in advance, taking always the paths of least resistance, one can always imagine oneself a Napoleon or a Casanova (and even better: the one without a Waterloo, the other without the clap).”

Slowing down to a watch a Collision

The new documentary Collision is out, delighting pop-corn fed audiences all over and selling nicely at Amazon (#2 and #3 in the religion category for movies and TV) to boot. You can find links to Hitchens and Wilson sound-biting at various venues at www.collisionmovie.com. These serve nicely to whet the appetite for the film. My personal favorite is on The Joy Behar Show when she schoolmarmingly scolds Wilson for affirming his parents consistently brought him up in the faith, spankings and all. “Oh, spanking isn’t Christian,” she says. Of course not, because, you know, Christian simply means nice, it’s not like it’s a religion that actually says something. Spanking isn’t nice, so it’s not Christian. Hitchens is so delightful because he actually takes Christianity like good scotch–straight. He has read the Bible, and although not theologically versed (as you can see in the documentary), he can read and has resisted the boorish trend of liberal religion to mantra “all religions say the same the exact same thing–be nice to your neighbor.” This is part of the reason why he despises liberal religionists of all sort who simply half affirm what their holy books actually say. Soon I’ll write up a fuller review of the film.

The debate began with a debate hosted online by Christianity Today and eventually published by Canon Press as the small book Is Christianity Good for the World. It’s a great read and digestible in one sitting. Wilson makes this point early on.

In your third objection, you say that if “Christianity is to claim credit for the work of outstanding Christians or for the labors of famous charities, then it must in all honesty accept responsibility for the opposite. In short, if we point to our saints, you are going to demand that we point also to our charlatans, persecutors, shysters, slave-traders, inquisitors, hucksters, televangelists, and so on. Now allow me the privilege of pointing out the structure of your argument here. If a professor takes credit for the student who mastered the material, aced his finals, and went on to a career that was a benefit to himself and the university he graduated from, the professor must (fairness dictates) be upbraided for the dope-smoking slacker he kicked out of class in the second week. they were both formally enrolled, is that not correct? They were both students, were they not?

What you are doing is saying that Christianity must be judged not only on the basis of those who believed the gospel in truth and live accordingly but also on the basis of those baptized Christians who cannot listen to the Sermon on the Mount without a horse laugh and a life to match. You are saying that those who excel in the course and those who flunk out of it are all the same. This seems to me a curious way of proceeding.

Hitchen’s argument is a staple among skeptics, and not a few Christians have no idea how to answer it. What about the Crusades? Don’t immoral Christians ruin the plausibility of the faith? If anything, they uphold the truth of the faith which denounces hypocrisy. A counterfeit evidences the authentic thing–something worth imitating. But in order to have a hypocrite, you have to have a standard to violate, a fixed line to cross. This is the crux of the debate and Hitchens never gets his arms around it. He wants to denounce, denounce, denounce based on the “solidarity of the human race” which in fact isn’t solid at all and even if it was has no binding authority over anyone. “Sez who?” is the perennial question. Hitchens can’t answer that question so he constantly goes on to begging it, bringing up the next item from biblical history for condemnation. Hardened atheists love this film because he is eloquent in this procedure, but for those following the argument it is like listening to a man passionately denounce the architectural integrity and aesthetic allure of his friend’s house while his own house in burning down and sliding into the sea right behind him. Which is fun to watch.

Does Satan Exist?

Last week Mars Hill Church in Seattle hosted a Nightline Faceoff where four panelists (philosopher Deepak Chopra & Bishop Carlton Pearson against Pastor Mark Driscoll & Annie Lobert, founder of the Christian ministry “Hookers for Jesus” ). You can see the debate here.

Considering the variety of viewpoints, it was surprising how much progress was made in the discussion. Pearson is a liberal bishop still in the ministry but rethinking the Christian message now that he is decidedly against the existence of Satan. Deepak Chopra is a new age philosopher essentially embracing the idea that everything is one, good and evil are both parts of us existing in the soul where we must understand it and move on. Driscoll and Lobert are Christians who hold to the separation between creator and creation, believing that Adam and Eve sinned through the influence of Satan though all people are responsible for their own sinful actions. Continue reading

Get in a Collision

If you didn’t hear about the debates between Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson at various locales on the east coast a few months ago, you’ll be glad to learn about the soon to be released movie Collision. I resist calling it a documentary because of the usual boredom associated with such productions. This one, however, is done by Darren Doane who has directed music videos for the likes of Jimmy Eat World. So here you have the sharpest, most colorful and witty atheist alive debating an experienced and satire-ready Christian apologist, framed and soundtracked by an MTV filmmaker. The live launch happened last week in Dallas. You can see trailers and sign up for release info at the official site.