I was having a debate with pro-tithing people and I asked them whether they thought that pastors today were providing good value for the money they demanded from parishioners. In particular, I told them that at a bare minimum, a Christian pastor ought to KNOW whether God exists and KNOW whether Jesus rose from the dead. If the pastor doesn’t know these things, then how is his flock supposed to KNOW these things and so by knowing them and knowing them to be true, take the final step of trusting in them?
I wrote this:
It seems to me that Christianity requires the existence of a Creator and Designer of the universe as a matter of knowledge. (that they may know FOR CERTAIN that there is a God in Israel). Please tell me some of the initiatives that pastors you know have taken in order to supply the laity with KNOWLEDGE of the existence of a supernatural creator as a matter of objective knowledge, not subjective belief.
The resurrection must also be KNOWN to be a real, objective historical even in order to sustain a robust Christian worldview. Please list some initiatives that pastors have spearheaded to encourage the laity to know the bodily resurrection of Jesus as a historical fact, and to defend against critics ranging from scholarly to popular. In your reply, be sure to reference their leveraging of scholars like Gary Habermas, William Lane Craig, Ben Witherington, Mike Licona, N.T. Wright and Richard Bauckham, which I am sure that most pastors are familiar with. I am especially interested in hearing about pastors who have shown our scholars in formal debates on this resurrection topic in the church, from the pulpit, as was done in Acts 2 by Peter in the early church.
Also, there is a think out there called the New Atheism. Please list some initiatives that pastors you know have taken to equip their flocks to understand and respond to that as well.
And then we got responses from the pro-tithing people.
Well, there was a refusal to answer, ridicule, laughter, personal attacks, accusations of heresy, etc. No one would answer whether pastors were doing their jobs. (A different debater was in charge of asking them whether tithing was Biblical or not, and they just attacked his character over and over and over). Mostly, people completely dodged the question about whether pastors had to do anything useful in order to deserve the money they were demanding.
Then a pastor responded to me:
As for @Wintery, not sure why you think I’m required to humble myself to your demands. I don’t know you and don’t feel the need to defend myself or the Lord against you.
I leave you with this from Titus 3:9-11
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
He has to know me, otherwise he doesn’t have to answer my questions. Otherwise, I’m not worth his time.
This pastor reminds me of a unionized public school teacher. He wants his money whether he performs his duty or not, and if you question whether he is performing his duty, he distorts your words and dismisses you. A person could attend his church for 40 years and not know anything at all about whether the Bible was reliable, whether God exists, whether the universe shows signs of being designed, whether there is a good response to why God allows evil, whether Hell is unjust, whether all religions are true, whether God has a reason for remaining hidden, whether miracles are possible, etc. He doesn’t have to know anything about those kinds of questions, apparently. He just has to collect money and threaten people who don’t pay him with God’s wrath. Nice work if you can get it.
Yes there is a place for theology and preaching from the Bible. But shouldn’t we be presented with some reasons to believe that there is a God, before we find out what he is like? Shouldn’t we have some reasons to think that the Bible is reliable, before using it as an authority? What does it say about the Bible that we treat it as untestable? What does that say that we cannot ask questions in church without having the worship leader try to cast demons out of us?
Maybe I was being harsh but I just want to know why pastors have very definite convictions about people giving them money, but no definite convictions on whether God exists or not, or whether Jesus rose from the dead or not. I am not the nicest most tactful person in the world, but pastors have usually been opposed to what I think is important, so I want to know why I should pay them instead of using the money to bring in a Christian scholar to defend the reliability of the Bible or the resurrection at a university instead. What’s the value proposition for me as someone who is looking to serve God?
There are non-Christians in my office are always telling me about Joel Osteen and preachers they see on TV. When I say that the Bible doesn’t sanction that, they tell me that I ought to go into the ministry. I say “why?” and they respond “because you actually think that Christianity is true and you try to tell use why instead of just asking us for money all the time.”
Some pastors have no clue how they look to non-Christians.
My last comment was really mean:
So you haven’t done anything to equip your flock to defend the existence of God as an objective fact, or to defend the resurrection of Jesus as an objective event in history.
But you want your flock to pay you a mandatory 10% of their… gross income.
What exactly do you think that Christians ought to do in the face of a non-Christian culture that rejects the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus? What did Paul do in Acts 17 and Peter in Acts 2? What did Jesus do with “the sign of Jonah”? How about some evidence?
Do you care whether people in your church KNOW that God exists the way they KNOW that water boils at 100 Celsius? Do you care whether people in your church KNOW that Jesus rose from the dead the way they KNOW that who won the battle of Waterloo?
And what about the people outside the church? Does God care whether you prepare your flock to deal with them?
You seem to not want to answer these questions… yet you want to have people pay you. What exactly is it that you do? Do you know whether these things you talk about on Sunday are true? Are you able to show them to be true so that your flock can trust in them?
There is only one thing that causes me to lose my temper and it’s leaders in the church who prefer to be lazy, ignorant and cowardly rather than being effective.
And yes, there are good churches where they do amazing things – Lee Strobel Bible studies, showing Bill Craig debates, inviting Christian scholars to lecture and debate at the university and teach classes to the flock. Yes – it happens. It doesn’t happen enough.