Thursday, May 1, 2014

Trust, Confidence and the Ripple Effect

Christians have confidence in God's power for salvation. God is trustworthy because of who he is. Sometimes we have some difficulty trusting in him because we usually cannot see what he is doing, but that improves as our faith grows and we have more experience in our walk with him.

Humans are another matter, as trust has to be earned. We often start out small and see if our trust in someone is justified, and then build from there. Unfortunately, trust can be easily shaken or even destroyed. When someone does something to shake our confidence in them and our trust level, it can have a ripple effect, influencing other areas of our relationship with that person. Especially if someone is a respected teacher or apologist.

freeimages / Vjeran Lisjak
Simple Matters
There are nonessentials that some of us prefer, such as eschatology, continuance or cessation of the sign gifts of the Spirit,  pedobaptism, predestination and other doctrines. We can disagree on these without breaking fellowship. Or should be able to do so, anyway. I disagree with some of the beliefs of Dr. James White and of Dr. Michael Brown. But they have Christian fellowship even though the two of them disagree on some matters — they even debate together against opponents of essential matters. Thinking Christians do this; we can hold differing viewpoints and still get along, perhaps we'll have debates and discussions, but still consider each other brothers and sisters in Christ. The fact that we have disagreements may cause us to more closely examine what others teach and believe.

We all know that people make mistakes. Some people will use a mistake as an excuse to call someone a liar or to dismiss what they have to say ("typo pouncing" does not give someone an intellectual or morally superior position). The ripple here is that if someone makes a few too many mistakes for my liking (aside from getting tongue-tied from excitement, fatigue or whatever), then I am more likely to check what is being said a little more closely.

More Scrutiny
There are certain doctrinal matters on which I refuse to compromise, even though they are not essential to salvation. Not essential, but still important. For example, it is disappointing to me when a Christian apologist or philosopher defends an old Earth viewpoint. It implies to me that he or she is elevating "science" above Scripture. It can also imply that this person has not bothered to investigate the relevance of Genesis to achieve a proper understanding of Scripture and its authority.

Either way, I become more skeptical of his teachings and skill, and pay closer attention to what is being said.  When the apologist or teacher begins to make a point of teaching old Earth beliefs (especially theistic evolution) and mocking biblical creation, that ripple will probably cause me to end my association with him or her.

Suspected Dishonesty
I ended my association with a biblical creationist because I believe he was being disingenuous. Was he actually lying? I cannot say, because I do not know his heart and if he intended to deceive people. It was on the matter of supporting King James Only-ism, and people with this cult-like mentality have been shown to be dishonest. This man had been a bit shifty in the past but I gave him the benefit of doubt. Later, he used misleading terminology and invalid comparisons on the KJVO issue. With his skill and knowledge (having scientific training and credentials), he should know better than to use such blatant logical fallacies. I cannot prove dishonesty and it is not worth making a case for it, so I simply stopped associating with him and will no longer promote his articles on my sites. (Note: I do not want to get sidetracked on debating KJVO, preferring instead that people will understand the point that this is underscoring.) The ripples get larger.

Outright Dishonesty 
Unlike some people, I will not just run off at the mouth and libel someone by calling them a liar. However, I have heard a respected apologist misrepresent biblical creationists. (He remains unnamed because I have no proof.) Not only did he use a hasty generalization, but when he gave his comments about a creationist, it struck me as very limited information. I felt that I could not trust him, so I stopped listening to him.

Likewise, I have heard and read blatant misrepresentations of presuppositional apologetics. Giving them some leeway in the matter, there are several different schools of thought on presuppositional apologetics and it gets confusing (I do not fully grasp it myself, though I do have strong leanings in that direction). The ripples of confidence and trust get much larger and more significant.

Blatant Sin and Compromise
It has amazed me that some people were respected by Christians, caught in sins (some of them never actually repented), denied the Bible that they once claimed to believe — and then are idolized by the undiscerning Christians anyway.  I'm not talking about someone getting angry and cursing or something small, either. That ripple has become a wave that washes away my sand castle.

Christians need to have healthy skepticism and be on guard so we do not give out false or erroneous information. When people who are supposed to be teaching us (James 3.1) make significant mistakes, use bad reasoning, are dishonest — well, that wrecks our trust. Will I forgive these people? It gets difficult, but I must (Ephesians 4.32). Will I trust them again? As it stands now, no. But only God knows the future.

— Cowboy Bob Sorensen