Tag Archives: Sinful

Thoughts on talking to non-Christian relatives and friends during the holidays

So, suppose you have a relative or friend who grew up as a Christian but now they’ve fallen away and they are in some sort of situation where they are in continuous rebellion against God – e.g. – regular hooking-up, cohabitation, same-sex lifestyle, etc.. Although you might not see this person regularly, you may see them during the holidays at family gatherings, so let’s take some time to define goals and develop a strategy for those encounters.

I want to focus on two parts:

  1. What are you trying to communicate to this person?
  2. How much should you invoke Christian concepts with a non-Christian?

Let’s take a look at the plan.

Respect your opponent’s dignity and value

So for the first topic, I think that you need to accept the person as a person made in the image of God and therefore valuable and deserving of being treated equally. That does not mean you have to agree with them and celebrate their views when you disagree. They have equal dignity to you, but you don’t have to agree that their ideas are equally correct. It means that they have value because God made them and because he cares about them and wants to be reconciled with them. Whatever you say and do cannot set back God’s goal of being reconciled with them. When you speak, you don’t want to push them away from God. When you act, you don’t want to push them away from God. So you are striking a balance between respecting their dignity, but also not affirming them in their views. You can’t affirm something that is immoral just because they will like you, because you have to think of what God wants you to say to that person. You are his ambassador and that means you do your job for him first and foremost.

Christians often talk about the slogan “hate the sin, but love the sinner”, and I think that can be overused. You are obligated to love your family and your relatives. But the problem is knowing what the definition of love is. Love doesn’t mean affirming whatever a person wants to do whether it is right or wrong. Love doesn’t mean standing by silent while people do things when their beliefs about what they are doing are all false. To love someone means to tell them the truth, gently. And it means to be present and engaged in building them up in their relationship with God, however that might look given what stage they are at with God. Loving the sinner means investing in the sinner, and not wrecking the relationship by being unnecessarily hurtful while we can still have an influence. It’s a good idea when you disagree with someone about what they are doing that you keep in mind all the ways that you have rebelled against God in the past, and continue to rebel now, and will continue to rebel. If you keep in mind your own struggles, it will be a lot easier for you to hit the right note when discussing lifestyle with someone else!

Don’t answer “demarcation questions”

I was listening to the Dennis Prager show recently and he was talking about how people on the left are not really good at rational discussion because they are not able to state the views of people who disagree with them in a way that is respectful. He cited Jewish traditions on debate and argued that real debate requires that each side is able to outline the position that the other side holds and the reasons why they hold to it. And not in an insulting, straw-man sort of way, but in a way that the person on the other side can assent and say “that is my view, and those are the reasons for my view”.

People on the secular left seem to like questions that are really more like ad-hominem arguments, so that they can shut down debate. Prager’s example was “you do believe the Earth is warming, don’t you?” This question is designed to stop the discussion of global warming socialism by labeling you a nutcase for denying something that the questioner thinks is obvious. This is despite the fact that the IPCC has now admitted that there has been no significant warming in 15 years. They don’t want to hear your evidence, they want to humiliate you and dismiss you.

The one I hear around my office is “you believe in evolution don’t you?” This is how secularists in my office try to quickly dismiss me because I am not in their “tribe”, so they can cut short any serious critical thinking about their presupposition of naturalism. Thinking about the progress of science and questioning their assumptions is too much work for them, which is why they resort to these “demarcation” questions. Dividing the world up into “sensible us” and “crazy them” is very important to secular leftists – they would rather be divisive, dismissive and condescending so they can keep on sinning. After all, if you’re a total cretin, then they don’t even have to consider whether they are mistaken or not. If you believe in a flat Earth, then they don’t want to have to listen to the evidence for the Big Bang or the fine-tuning or the protein sequencing or the Cambrian explosion. They want to separate the world into black and white so that debate becomes unnecessary. Don’t fall for it.

Free expression of intelligent disagreement

My goal in dealing with an ex-Christian involved in a bad lifestyle is that I want to be their friend, but they must be aware of my view. That is a condition of me being their friend. And I want an opportunity to discuss these things should they come up naturally. I don’t want to be the initiator, but if the topic comes up, I want freedom to state my view, and respect to complete my thoughts and state my evidence. My goal with this person is not to give tacit approval to what they are doing by just acting like one of their normal friends and keeping my mouth shut so as not to offend them. My goal is to be present in their lives as someone who they know for sure disagrees with what they are doing and is intelligent and informed about his disagreement. In short, I am willing to trade spending time with them and doing activities with them (what they want) in order to get the freedom to intelligently and respectfully disagree with them about their lifestyle ( what God wants me to do with them, as his ambassador to them).

Moreover, if the opportunity never arises to state and defend my disagreement with their lifestyle, then I’m going to allocate less and less time to that relationship, since God is not being allowed into the relationship. I work for God, and I want him to be a factor in everything I do. In what I say, in how I spend my time and money, and so on. When I started my first job, the atheists used to offer to discuss spiritual things with me if I had a beer with them. I agreed to that, because they knew that I would only give them what they wanted – friendship – if I got what I wanted – the opportunity to be myself and be given time to explain my beliefs and my reasons for holding them without being interrupted or mocked. They were willing to let me do this, though, because they knew what I was talking about, so that’s on me to prepare to sound intelligent in order to deserve the opportunity to be heard. You have to decide if this person is going to allow you to be an ambassador. That is the criterion for deciding whether to have a relationship with them or not.

Should you bring up the Bible and sin?

It depends. I think if the person is claiming to be a Christian, and under the authority of the Bible on moral issues, then you should investigate how they square their views with the Bible. You might have to pull in Robert Gagnon or Scott Klusendorf or some other expert to make the case that their behavior is against the Bible. But in my view, their claiming of the Bible as support is likely to be a smokescreen. Sinful people choose their behavior first, and the Bible is not going to be relevant to their decision making once they are into the lifestyle of sin. Labeling their behavior as sin, citing Bible verses, citing Christian leaders… that’s all going to be as useful as you citing a Hindu or a Mormon to convince me of an eternal universe would be. I don’t care about religious opinions when it comes to the universe, because I have a prior commitment to science. A smart ambassador knows not to use authorities that are not accepted by their audience. People who are habitually sinning do not accept the Bible as an authority. You can clarify what the Bible says if they bring it up, but don’t rest on the Bible to make your case.

The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle

So what can you do to make your case? Well, your goal is to be allowed to express your disagreement and to state your reasons for disagreeing without being silenced or sanctioned. When they give you your opportunity to speak, you need to have prepared to sound as intelligent and relevant as possible. That means that you need to hit the books before you are asked, and find the reasons and the evidence for your view first. If the issue is binge-drinking and hooking up, you need to hit the books so you can find the peer-reviewed papers to deal with that. You might talk about oxytocin to counter casual sex, or you might talk about the cohabitation-instability link, or you might talk about how children are harmed by fatherlessness, etc. The point is that you want to have the perception among non-Christian peers that you are competent and informed apart from religion – which they don’t even accept. I find it amazing that Christians seem content to invoke their supposed righteousness in debates with people who don’t even accept the Bible. We need to not be so insulated in our own little Bible-cliques that we are no longer able to understand how to be persuasive to people who are outside the faith. You can’t invoke superior piety (alone) as an argument to someone who isn’t pious and doesn’t want to be pious.

Smoking is bad for your health

Basically, you want to make a case using mainstream sources that is equivalent to the case that you might make against their smoking, if they took up smoking. Your approach should be along the lines of “you don’t accept Christianity, and that’s fine, because I have a million non-Christian reasons why you shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing, too”. You want to get to the point where you can show them that it’s not just a case of opinion against opinion, but a case of rebellion against evidence. Don’t be afraid to encourage them to look at the long-term effects of what they are doing either.

For example, if they are in a same-sex relationship and they want to have or adopt kids later on, have them defend why it is right for them to intentionally deprive a child of a mother or a father. If they are in a cohabitating relationship and have not yet gotten pregnant, have them defend having an abortion or raising a child fatherless. It’s amazing how people in these sorts of sinful lifestyles get blinded by their feelings and cannot think about what comes next. That’s your job – to be the sober analyst who asks “what comes next?”. And don’t forget to consider whether what they are doing is not only bad for them, but bad for people around them, and society as a whole. For example, if society has to pay increased health care costs for sexually transmitted diseases or for social programs to deal with the breakdown of the family and fatherlessness.

Please leave your comments about how you are dealing with ex-Christians in rebellion in the comments, and what you think of my approach, too.

UPDATE: I got some advice from a well-known Christian apologist. His point was that if all you have is the family meal, then it’s better to spend most of your time listening and just ask a few questions. That’s a good defensive strategy suited to the situation you are in at a family meal.

What does the Bible say about sex before marriage and homosexuality?

CARM writes about what the Bible says about sex.

Excerpt:

Any type of sexual union, contact, intimacy is for the marriage only between a husband and wife.  If a man and woman who are not married go to bed together naked and do not have sexual intercourse, this is still sinful.  If they fondle each other without having sexual intercourse it is sinful.  If they go to bed together naked and just hold each other, it is sinful.  The whole point is that the nakedness, viewing the nakedness, the touching of the private areas, fondling, etc., are all reserved for the marriage bed between a husband and a wife.

Now before we see verses, I have to define the term “fornication”. Fornication is sex before marriage.

And here are some specific verses:

1 Cor. 6:12-20:

12“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

13“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

14By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.

15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!

16Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

17But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

19Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

20you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

Ephesians 5:3-7:

3But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

4Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.

5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.

7Therefore do not be partners with them.

Colossians 3:1-6:

1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

4When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8:

1Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.

2For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;

4that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable,

5not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;

6and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.

7For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.

8Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

The Bible doesn’t go into scientific details about the effects of fornication. So what harm does fornication cause?

Well, consider oxytocin, a chemical released by women’s brains during sex that causes women to bond to men after sex. Basically, when a women has premarital sex with a man she isn’t married to, the odds are very good that he is not going to commit to her for life, and that he will leave and that she will be hurt. But if she marries the man first, then the bonding that occurs is a good thing, because he isn’t going anywhere and she is free to have those feelings of being bonded to him.

When a woman gets hurt by breaking away from a man that she has bonded with sexually, she loses her ability to trust and depend on men, which she needs to do in order to marry at all. The more she deals with the pain of breaking the bonds over and over, the more she learns to separate her emotions from sexual touching. She needs to have sex in order to make men like her, but she also has to not feel anything, in order to avoid being hurt. This destroys her ability to love and trust if she ever gets married.

Men are hurt from pre-marital sex in a different way. They become cold and cynical about women, unable to trust them, unable to serve them, unable to love them, and unable to commit to one woman for life. In my view, a man who has sex before marriage is not loving women, and he will love them less afterward. If a man loves a woman then he needs to commit to her. Premarital sex ruins a man’s ability to do the things he was designed to do with women. He loses the ability to love unselfishly.

CARM also has an article about the Bible and homosexuality here.

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Mark Driscoll explains 8 things that might compel you to reject Jesus

The list is here on The Resurgence. (H/T Caffeinated Thoughts)

Here’s the best one from his list, in my opinion:

7. Embarrassment

Sometimes it’s just embarrassment, because being a Christian does not get you cool points anywhere. This was my big thing as a non-Christian. All the Christians would come to me and they’d be like, “Okay, you need to give your life to Christ.” And I’m like, “I don’t want to join the team, man. The Ned Flanders society. I do not want to join the team.” And it was always the kids with the bumper stickers and the t-shirts and the permagrins and the parted hair and the wristbands, and they’re like, “We love Jesus! We love him, we love him.” I was like, “Aaaargh! Seriously, is there another team that he has? Maybe wearing black, you know? Could I join that team?” It was just embarrassing. “I love Jesus.” You know how weird it is to get converted in college and your philosophy class, when they’re like, “How many of you are Christians?” “Oh, here we go.” You know. History class. “Yeah, I love Jesus.” Sociology class. “I love Jesus.” Women’s studies class. “Oh yeah, I love Jesus.” You know? You’re just a piñata for your whole undergrad degree. It’s embarrassing. And then every time any Christian says or does anything stupid, myself included—I am not beyond this capacity—it’s like, “You Christians.” You’re like, “There are billions of us! Just because one duffed it doesn’t mean we’re all doing it.”

It’s embarrassing. Do you think it was embarrassing for Naaman to go down to the river? “Hi, I’m the mighty man, leper, help.” It’s kind of embarrassing. For those in Nazareth, it’s like, “You’re the bad guys.” “Really? That’s kind of embarrassing, because we took a vote. We thought we were the good guys.” Some of you just need to be humiliated for Christ.

This is the reason I see the most often in the university and at work. People don’t want to be thought of as stupid, ignorant or different. It’s PRIDE. They want to compare themselves to others and think they are better. And they want others to think they are better than them.

The best reason of all isn’t even on his list. People want to pursue their own interests in this life and they don’t want to be encumbered with the demands of a relationship that forces them to do some things to make God happy. They want to work 100% on making themselves happy.

That’s the number one reason why people DON’T look into these issues to see if Christianity is true. They are afraid that it will be true and that they will have to dedicate some portion of their time to serving God and behaving themselves. I do it too. We all do. And it’s particularly hard to include God in your decision making when you aren’t getting your way.

What does G.K. Chesteron say?

The problem with Christianity isn’t that it has been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

Exactly.

I’ll be picking up the Mark Driscoll series on sex and marriage as soon as things cool down at work. I’m working on 3 projects and it’s just too much to do!

How psychology medicalizes character flaws to remove personal responsibility

Story from Town Hall from moderate conservative George Will. (H/T Muddling Towards Maturity)

Excerpt:

The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychiatry’s encyclopedia of supposed mental “disorders,” is being revised. The 16 years since the last revision evidently were prolific in producing new afflictions. The revision may aggravate the confusion of moral categories.

[…]This DSM defines as “personality disorders” attributes that once were considered character flaws. “Antisocial personality disorder” is “a pervasive pattern of disregard for … the rights of others … callous, cynical … an inflated and arrogant self-appraisal.” “Histrionic personality disorder” is “excessive emotionality and attention-seeking.” “Narcissistic personality disorder” involves “grandiosity, need for admiration … boastful and pretentious.” And so on.

If every character blemish or emotional turbulence is a “disorder” akin to a physical disability, legal accommodations are mandatory. Under federal law, “disabilities” include any “mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”; “mental impairments” include “emotional or mental illness.” So there might be a legal entitlement to be a jerk.

[…]Furthermore, intellectual chaos can result from medicalizing the assessment of character. Today’s therapeutic ethos, which celebrates curing and disparages judging, expresses the liberal disposition to assume that crime and other problematic behaviors reflect social or biological causation. While this absolves the individual of responsibility, it also strips the individual of personhood, and moral dignity.

James Q. Wilson, America’s pre-eminent social scientist, has noted how “abuse excuse” threatens the legal system and society’s moral equilibrium. Writing in National Affairs quarterly (“The Future of Blame”), Wilson notes that genetics and neuroscience seem to suggest that self-control is more attenuated — perhaps to the vanishing point — than our legal and ethical traditions assume.

Related to our recent discussions about personal responsibility and blaming others.

New book: James S. Spiegel’s “The Making of an Atheist”

Warning: Atheist readers of the Wintery Knight blog are forbidden to read this post. I forbid you! Forbid!

Here’s the web site for the book. (H/T Cloud of Witnesses via Apologetics 315)

Excerpt:

Sigmund Freud famously dismissed belief in God as a psychological projection caused by wishful thinking. Today many of the “new atheists”—including Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens—make a similar claim, insisting that believers are delusional. Faith is a kind of cognitive disease, according to them. And they are doing all they can to rid the world of all religious belief and practice.

Christian apologists, from Dinesh D’Souza to Ravi Zacharias, have been quick to respond to the new atheists, revealing holes in their arguments and showing why theistic belief, and the Christian worldview in particular, is reasonable. In fact, the evidence for God is overwhelming, confirming the Apostle Paul’s point in Romans 1 that the reality of God is “clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20, NIV).

So if the evidence for God is so plain to see, then why are there atheists? That is the question that prompted The Making of an Atheist. The answer I propose turns the tables on the new atheists, as I show that unbelief is a psychological projection, a cognitive disorder arising from willful resistance to the evidence for God. In short, it is atheists who are the delusional ones.

Unlike Dawkins and his ilk, I give an account as to how the delusion occurs, showing that atheistic rejection of God is precipitated by immoral indulgences, usually combined with some deep psychological disturbances, such as a broken relationship with one’s father. I also show how atheists suffer from what I call “paradigm-induced blindness,” as their worldview inhibits their ability to recognize the reality of God manifest in creation. These and other factors I discuss are among the various dimensions of sin’s corrupting influence on the mind.

Nothing makes the Wintery Knight happier than seeing the truth of Romans 1 come out in encounters with atheists. I love to understand how atheists come to their atheism. What I am reading about this new book makes me think that Dr. Spiegel and I will be in broad agreement – but I still must know the details. And you should know it too – understanding atheism helps Christians to understand why they should not cave in the pressure to water down doctrine, e.g. – annihilationism, inclusivism, etc.

By the way, has anyone read R.C. Sproul’s “If There is a God, Why Are There Atheists?“? I love that book. (No, I am not a Calvinist!) Christians need to get really comfortable with the reasons why people reject the Christian God in particular. This is the best book I’ve ever read on that topic. We really need to do a better job of calling atheists out on the real reasons for their unbelief. (Note: I never talk to individual atheists about their individual sins – just don’t do that ever! But their speculations and unbelief are fair game)

Just last week I was dealing with an atheist who was trying to tell me how fair and balanced Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart are. He also said that the Discovery Channel does a good job of exploring the historical Jesus, and that debates like the kind I recommend are woefully inadequate. One of my friends has a non-Christian father-in-law who is listening to Bart Ehrman lectures. I wonder if this father-in-law is open to watching Bart Ehrman defend his views in a formal debate? Probably not, and that’s my point.

There seems to be a whole boatload of busy people trying to twist the material world into some sort of lasting happiness apart from God and autonomous from the moral law. They do not want to bow the knee to Christ, which is the natural result of any honest investigation. Instead they deliberately look for speculations to keep the real, living God at a distance. We need to be courageous about pointing out the real reasons why they are pushing a fair investigation into these matters away with both hands.

Note, if you are an atheist and you read my blog and you’ve seen a William Lane Craig debate, then I don’t mean you. At least you were open-minded to some degree. But I’ll tell you right now, that’s only about 10% of the atheists I know. Atheists usually don’t know because they don’t want to know. That doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it just means you’re not being fair with your investigation of these matters and I’m going to call you out.

By the way, Jim and Amy Spiegel operate a blog called Wisdom and Folly. It looks good.

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