I recently had two interesting encounters last week, first with a secular Jewish leftist man and second with a New Age prosperity gospel feminist Christian woman. I wasn’t going to say anything about them, except that my pastor was talking this morning about how people often fall away because of the shame and scorn that is heaped on them by non-Christians. So now I’m going to say something.
So let me start with the texts he used:
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
And 1 Peter 3:15-16:
15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
Now a quick word about those. I think the real point he was trying to make – and this is what he spoke about eloquently and passionately – is that if you have orthodox theological beliefs in this day and age then you are going to be shamed, humiliated and reviled by people. And I would go further than he did and say that it is not just having an orthodox view of who Jesus is that annoys them (e.g. – deity, exclusivity of salvation, morality, etc.). No, their disapproval spreads on into politics, especially abortion and gay marriage – basically any kind of rules around sexuality. That’s what’s really bugging these people, I think.
So let’s talk about the two people.
The man who thinks that conservative Christians are stupid
The first kind of person who tried to shame me for being a Christian is the person who thinks that Christianity is stupid. This kind of person invokes things that he hears in secular leftist pop culture as if it is common knowledge that theism generally, and Christianity in particular, is false. He’s watched a documentary on the Discovery channel which said that the eternally oscillating cosmology was true. Or maybe he watched a documentary on the History Channel that said that Jesus never presented himself as God stepping into history. He presents these things that he reads in the New York Times, or sees on MSNBC or hears on NPR with the authority that Ben Carson might take when explaining modern medicine to a witch doctor.
I don’t want to get into the details of what happened. Suffice to say that my interlocutor invoked a popular-level authority against me, which I promptly discredited, and then I responded with peer-reviewed studies published by scholars from two prominent universities. He ignored the studies and demanded to know whether I would accept his caricatured, simplistic view of what people who disagree with him believe.
This not the first time he has done this to me, either – it is standard practice apparently, for people on the secular left.
It goes like this:
- Me: here are two arguments against naturalistic evolution, the origin of life and the Cambrian explosion.
- Him: but you don’t believe in a young-Earth do you? I mean, you believe in evolution don’t you?
- Me: let’s talk about how proteins and DNA is sequenced, and the sudden origin of Cambrian body plans
- Him: (shouting) Do you believe in evolution? Do you believe in evolution?
- Me: there hasn’t been any global warming for 18 years, and temperatures were warmer in the Medieval Warming Period
- Him: but you don’t deny climate change, do you? everyone on NPR agrees that climate change is real
- Me: let’s talk about the last 18 years of no warming, and the temperatures during the Medieval Warming Period
- Him: (shouting) Do you believe in climate change? Do you believe in climate change?
He asks these questions so he can either label me as a nut, without having to weigh the evidence I’m presenting, or have me agree with him, without having to weigh the evidence I’m presenting. It’s all about ignoring the evidence, so he can get back to his busy, busy practical life – and get back to feeling smug about being smarter than others. I think a lot of men are like this – they don’t want to waste their valuable time studying, they just want to jump to the right conclusion, then get back to doing whatever they want – like watching sports on ESPN, or working out, etc.
So how do you respond to a man who gets his entire worldview from the culture, but never deals with peer-reviewed evidence? Well, I think you just defeat his arguments with evidence and then present your own (peer-reviewed) evidence, and then leave it at that. Men like this one have this invincible impression that all the smart people agree with them. Carl Sagan proved that the universe oscillated eternally, Bart Ehrman proved that the “huge” number of manuscript variants discredited the reliability of the Bible, Sam Harris disproved the moral argument with utilitarianism, etc. Their heads are filled with conclusions from discredited arguments, but they are certain that all the smart people agree with them. The most important thing about these men is that they have never seen a fair academic debate between two sides. They cannot name a single scholar who disagrees with them. They cannot formulate an argument against their own view without caricaturing the argument, e.g. – intelligent design is identical to young Earth creationism, opposition to gay marriage is “homophobia”. And they are careful to surround themselves ONLY with opinions that reinforce the imagined intellectual superiority of their views.
The woman who thinks Christianity is life-enhancement
This one is especially difficult when you are a young man, especially if you are rejected by your mother, and especially if you are rejected by your mother for your Christian faith. You find yourself sitting in church or youth group, hoping for the approval and affection of the Christian women for your sound theology and effective apologetics. Little do you know that many Christian women understand Christianity entirely in self-centered, subjective terms. Many women see Christianity as life-enhancement, designed to produce happy feelings. God is their cosmic butler whose main responsibility is to meet their needs and make their plans work out. Many women have learned to water down every part of Christianity that offends their family and friends, or puts the brakes on their plan to be happy in this life.
I have met Christian women in churches and campus clubs who were communists, Darwinists, pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, universalists, and pretty much every other kind of secular leftist ideology that is dominant in our culture. When probed, their reason for holding to these views is always a mix of emotions, intuitions, family-approval or peer-approval. It’s like this subset of Christian women has no independent ability to drive at the truth for themselves through study, but instead they merely adopt whatever feels good from whatever is on offer in their social or cultural environment – like going to a buffet. When they change locations, (e.g. – going off to college), they gravitate to a new set of pleasurable beliefs which earn them peer-acceptance and peer-approval. But the common thread is that they disapprove of any attempt to defend the truth of Christianity objectively with apologetics, and they disapprove of defending (with evidence) the Bible’s teachings if it goes against their feelings and/or against family/peer approval.
So how to respond to women who understand Christianity as life enhancement instead of as responsibilities, obligations and expectations?
First thing, be careful that you don’t attend a feminized church where the pastor in preaching and picking hymns that give you the idea that God is your cosmic butler. Second, read the Bible very carefully, and understand that with respect to God’s purposes for you in this world, your happiness is expendable. You cannot be looking to attractive Christian women that you happen to meet in church to support you, as many of them have long-since sold out to the culture. They are not interested in learning evidential apologetics to defend God’s reputation, or in defending the unborn, or in defending natural marriage, or in defending the free enterprise system that supports family autonomy from the state, etc. Those things are hard and unpopular, especially for those women who were raised to think that Christianity is about life enhancement and peer-approval.
In my case, the woman who tried to shame me has a Bible verse on her Facebook cover photo, and “likes” the Bible on Facebook, and her favorite preacher is Joel Osteen. She’s very beautiful, athletic and attractive. But you cannot be seeking approval and affection from women like that – you must make the choice to do without it. And most important of all, you must accept that beautiful, athletic attractive women can be fundamentally unserious about Christianity. This is “working as designed”, as we say in the software engineering business. Nothing that most pastors say to women during church is going to fix this problem, because most pastors don’t see this as a problem. Pastors mostly think that women are naturally good, and that they don’t need to know apologetics or integrate with faith with politics, economics, etc.
Here’s 1 Cor 4:1-5 to make the point:
1 This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself.
4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
And 2 Tim 2:4:
4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.
Or, since I like Ronald Speirs so much:
This is the situation in which we find ourselves, so get used to it. And believe me, I have to deal with this, too. So I have all the sympathy in the world for you. Resign yourself to the fact that no one is going to approve of you for being faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ; not secular men, not Christian women. There is no cavalry coming to rescue you.