How well do pro-tithing people perform in debates?

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.

23 thoughts on “How well do pro-tithing people perform in debates?”

  1. Well said! That wasn’t mean at all. He was the mean one by dismissing your statements as foolish quarreling. Actually, he was being petty and childish because he had no answers for you.

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  2. I don’t know about the tithing issue (I give what I can when I can and give more when I feel so compelled—current employment situation not good), but expecting something for the money is something I’ve never considered.

    First, I don’t give to a pastor or a church. I give to God. I would assume your intention is the same, but still, the question of what a pastor does for the dough is a good one. As a member of a congregation sadly a part of the UCC, I would keep that in mind if I am still with them when the current pastor retires, which will be some time in the next year or so. The questions you asked the dude in the debate are perfect for interviewing a new pastor and I’ll be giving this post to our church elders to prepare for the next search committee. Thanks.

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  3. I’m sort of confused…so are you against tithing, or just against tithing to a pastor/church who you feel isn’t equipping his flock?

    I tithe because I think it’s biblical. Abraham tithed before the law. I don’t feel I am under some sort of law that I must tithe like it’s extortion, like I’m paying off the mafia, but I am happy to tithe because I want to go to a church that has its bills paid and is a clean and attractive place to worship, fellowship and invite unsaved people to without having to be embarrassed. And I believe that no soldier should go to war at his own expense (1 Corinthians 9) and the elders who labor among us are worthy of double honor. (1 Tim 5:17)

    I want my pastor to have a nice place to live and a decent car to drive, because he gives us his best in preaching, teaching, counseling and his part to organize the church. And I want people to be on salary to help him do his job. And I don’t have to wait for him to get everything 100% perfect in my opinion, because it’s about honoring God, not a man.

    If Israel can tithe 10% under the law of Moses, how much more can I give under the law of love?

    I’m obviously not going to give it to somewhere that I’m not being trained, equipped and challenged spiritually. I think that’s your point, but I guess for me at least it didn’t come across quite clear.

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    1. I’m against tithing, but I am for free gifts of charity wherever it does the most good for God. For example, I am for bringing in speakers to discuss whether Christianity is true, I am in favor of engaging non-Christians with evidence and arguments, I am in favor of buying books for a book study on a good apologetics book, I am in favor of buying training material to equip people in the church to explain why they believe and what they believe.

      We don’t really disagree. If you can do 10%, then that’s great. Some people can do more or less. The goal is to be effective though. Sometimes the pastor is the best place to put your money, and sometimes he’s not. I know a woman right now who stood up to people in her church who were using the Bible to push bad ideas, and another woman who is trying to get her church to use William Lane Craig’s “On Guard” book. I sent each of these women gifts this year to encourage their work. I’d rather stake these two women than any of the pastors I know.

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      1. OK, I think I understand. I don’t think of tithing as some sort of law, I honestly feel privileged and honored to do it. It’s more of a matter of the heart than a matter of law. I think that is something God can honor (1 Sam. 2:30)

        I’m all for apologetics, I also blog on the subject of apologetics, but I can’t live off of apologetics and grow spiritually the way I need to. I need some meaty doctrine and the occasional swift kick in the pants. You know, a balanced diet.

        I wouldn’t follow a large percentage of pastors to a hot dog stand, but if you seek you shall find. I’m not sure I would go to a church that I didn’t think was worthy of 10% of my income. I know not everyone has the luxury of having a good church in their area. But I’d be willing to make a couple hours drive to get to one if I had to. Maybe not everyone can do that, and it may sound hard to some, but hunger will drive you to things others aren’t willing to do.

        By no means am I saying you’re in the boat, excuse my rambling. The point is I’m for tithing, but it’s a heart and not a law issue, and I’m going to do my best to find a place that challenges me most spiritually, and it isn’t just about apologetics. That’s important, but it’s not the only thing.

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        1. I support specific things that the church does and volunteer at those things. E.g. – speaker, Bible study books, showing debate DVDs, sponsoring events, running book table, etc. I know the good churches and they do everything I want. But they are rare.

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      2. So did the women eventually get On Guard in their church? I’m very curious as to why the leaders wouldn’t want On Guard taught in their church? Obviously this church is against education. I’ve been in churches and know some Christians that are against education and intellectual Christianity, which has always been puzzling to me.

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  4. I don’t actually emphasize tithing per se in my preaching and teaching. I do teach that the New testament teaches that everything we have, down to our very lives, belongs to God.

    I invite you to take a look at my online slide presentation, “The State of the Church Today,” the first of a series of sessions I led at my church this fall entitled, “Why I Don’t Want to Come to Your Church – Witnessing the Gospel in the 21st Century.

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    1. Wow! Everybody should click your link and read through to slide number 15. You GET IT.

      Link:
      http://pastordonblog.blogspot.com/2010/10/why-i-dont-want-to-come-to-your-church.html

      Or I could just steal slide 15 on “why isn’t the church growing?”:

      Or is it that churches would grow if they could?
      Do church members of sincere Christian faith know how to
      communicate religiously with unchurched people?

      Would you, yourself, much more actively give witness to Jesus Christ if you knew better how to do it?

      Is your own witness stifled because you are confident in what you believe but cannot explain exactly why you believe it?

      That’s what this series is about. Next, how to understand and engage in Christian conversation with people who shun the church because, “I want to do my own thing.”

      It’s PERFECT. That’s how pastors should think. Right on.

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  5. I totally agree with you WK. As a non believer it is really annoying having a debate with someone about belief and they only have a cursory knowledge of their own doctrine. The worst I have seen was a “devout” catholic who could not admit that Jesus was born a Jew. How can you even have a conversation with someone like that!

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      1. As much as I disagree with your conclusions, at least you are making an effort educate yourself and others. Keep up the good work and make sure that you keep your side intellectually honest and open to new ideas and facts.

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  6. One of the reasons I was a deist (I use the term loosely) and not a Christian until I was an adult was because questions I had were not being answered by youth leaders and pastors in the church I was in. It was very frustrating to hear how a Christians should have blind faith or the faith isn’t genuine. Of course, it probably didn’t help that I was raised in a pentecostal\word faith\prosperity church, did it? I don’t mean any offense, but that’s the way that kind of belief rolls (usually).

    The church I attend now is a very Christian church. I’m very comfortable tithing to the church because: 1) the church is a huge benefit to the poor and widowed in the community 2) the church supports (financially even) Teen Challenge 3) our pastor teaches us to help those in our community, not just financially, but also in service 4) our pastor’s main goal in teaching is “You cannot live what you do not know.” So he teaches Christian doctrine along with some apologetics series. He taught a series on the origin of the Bible and how it’s reliable, the problem of evil, and an upcoming series on tough questions for a Christian. All good stuff.

    Another cool series was on the Case for Christ (this was taught on Wednesday nights). There was a study guide, book, and videos to watch. So, this church has blown my mind compared to my past experience with churches. The pastor and staff are very approachable, knowledgeable, and loving. It’s a great church to be a part of in my community.

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  7. Christians need to understand that NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE pays the Biblical tithe today.

    Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18: The First Tithe – a tenth of crops and animals and commanded to take the tithe to the Levites.

    Deuteronomy 14:22-27: The Second Tithe aka The Festival Tithe – a tenth of crops, plus add to that the firstborn animals, and take for the yearly feast.

    Deuteronomy 14:28-29: The Third Tithe aka The Three-Year Tithe aka The Poor Tithe – a tenth of crops, kept at home, and invite the Levites, widows, orphans, stranger to eat.

    Now, tell me. Which of the above three tithes commanded by God do you follow?

    If you change God’s definition from crops and animals raised on the Holy land to man’s income, it is no longer God’s Word. If you change God’s command to take the tithe to the Levites to take the tithe to your pastor or church, it is no longer God’s Word.

    Show me the scriptures that say anyone must or should tithe on their income. Show me the scriptures where God gave any pastor or church permission to receive His gifts.

    Giving to the church is fine, but it isn’t giving to God. If you want to give to God, then follow God’s instructions. The ONLY way given in the New Testament to give to God is to give to the poor.

    We can all give to spread God’s Word, but that still is not giving to God.

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  8. I’m a youth and children pastor. I include “apologetic” minded material in everything I do. Even when the topic isn’t apologetic I bring out some apologetics (for example, if I am teaching Christ dying for our sins, I spend some time talking about objections to that idea). We are currently going through the Hitchens/Wilson debate documentary.

    Sometimes we have good dialogs. We even go out into the community sometimes and do social justice. But the sad thing is is the Christian faith isn’t taking hold. As soon as they graduate, they’re gone. No one reads their Bible. People don’t remember what was talked about 5 hours after class, even if they participated! People are texting all the time, playing games on their phones/ipods, and just aren’t very engaged. Parents buy them the most messed up video games, let them watch the most messed up movies uncritically, and pay for their life sucking WoW accounts. Last week a 9 year old boy, the son of an elder, told me his favourite type of movies were horror movies and he loved Saw.

    To be honest, I feel kind of like a failure. I feel a little guilty taking money from the church. I’m giving it my all and trusting the Lord, and that’s what keeps me going, but the youth and children of today just have so many distractions. Also, not to mention the fact that parents do almost nothing to disciple their kids. I can’t do everything!

    Anyway, I agree with you. A pastor shouldn’t demand his wages. But the church shouldn’t put him into indentured servanthood. I think a church should pay a pastor enough for him to do his ministry properly without having to worry about putting food on the table and clothes on his children. I’m happy that the church treats me well.

    This comment was all over the place. I guess I just wanted to say that the future doesn’t look bright.

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      1. If you want me to elaborate or give greater context to any of my comments just let me know through email or here. I’d be eager to hear from your readers/others for advice or how they have overcome similar challenges.

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