Saturday, July 26, 2014

Who Do You Follow, and Why?

— Cowboy Bob Sorensen 

This is a partial rant, and may seem disjointed at first. But stay with me, things will fall into place.

I've been having a rough time lately (cue sad song on world's smallest violin). Although my previous two articles here met with mostly favorable responses ("Hell, Creation and Side Issues" and "Side Issues Part 2 — Information and Discernment"), some antagonistic responses bothered me. Two annihilationists were going after me regarding what I said, dismissing the main points of the articles and inadvertently proving me right: People elevate a pet side issue to primary importance, and will act in a very unchristian manner (including fallacious thinking and ad hominem attacks) to promote it. I took exception to this treatment, and one of the people said:
"...Play the ball and not the man. From my website - I encourage you to check out the video message on the fundamentals of mental and emotional health because you're doing sick-thinking by taking offense here rather than correction (or accepting the possibility that you could be wrong on the traditional view of hell)."
He promptly went to an ad hominem attack, all the way to judging me further and thinking he was qualified to diagnose my mental health — based on how I did not like his actions and attitude. (Oh, and a self-serving plug for his site, which I assume that he considers a repository of wisdom.) Yet he "threw me a bone" with a condescending remark that my creation work is good, but...

People like this misuse Scripture (such as Romans 16.17-18, which is about heresies and heterodox ideas being brought into the church). For that matter, one went as far as to imply that we cannot trust our Bible translations because they do not support the annihilationist view! That is cultic thinking, such as when Mormons say that we can trust the Bible as far as it is translate correctly, or other cults who say that the Trinity is unbiblical and was added to the Bible. It is rather frustrating that I was castigated by prideful Christians, and I was emphasizing that we should examine teachings in light of the Word of God. Who are they following?

Another bothersome thing was that someone I have admired turns out to have some heretical views about important things and acted in a very childish manner after losing a debate. I am undecided about whether or not I can continue to associate with him. He has followers. The guy that won the debate? I have disagreements with some points of his theology, but have a high degree of respect for him and my disagreements are on nonessentials. No, I'm not naming names. Yet.

Don't go yet, I'm still laying things out.

Pixabay / Hans
Now a bit of a repeat something regarding what I have called "bandwagon convictions". Too many people "think" with their emotions and believe something because it is growing in popularity. Sometimes they will accept the utterances of celebrities, whether they are in the entertainment industry, Christian teachers and debaters or something else. I believe that many atheists do this as well, being bedazzled by atheist celebrities and accept their alleged wisdom without serious thought. Movie stars pontificate about politics, and sheeple will follow them, influenced by their utterances.

In a similar way, people are influenced by Christian rock stars (literal as well as figurative). Many years ago, I was partially taken in by Kenneth Copeland. He has a good personality, tells interesting stories, makes funny remarks, and there are some things he says that are true. Fortunately, the deception was slowed by the Spirit of God and my skeptical attitude of "Where does it say that in the Bible?". Others are taken in by Joel Osteen's big smile and Rev. Feelgood message, and fall for his heresies. People will follow Joyce Meyer, Matthew Vines, T.D. Jakes, Mark Cahill, Edward Fudge, Beth Moore and others. It may be your local pastor. Or your friends. They may have winsome personalities, give persuasive presentations, use persistence and have other things going for them — until you slow down and examine what they say with good hermeneutics, and then their teachings often fall apart. If you're following them — why?

Many Christians who are interested in philosophy and apologetics like the work of William Lane Craig. He shreds atheist arguments quite handily and has influenced many people. Unfortunately, he holds to an odd belief called Molinism, and his celebrity status may influence people to accept that position. Worse, he disparages biblical creationists. Craig accepts some of the anti-creationist positions of Hugh Ross and has made some reasonable-sounding arguments against a literal reading of the creation account in Genesis. In so doing, he also has made statements that are biblically unsound but seem good to people who follow what he says without further investigation. In fact, some more serious exegesis and argument is in order. I strongly recommend that you read "William Lane Craig vs Creation" for a good understanding of the bad eisegesis that he presents.

Let's make sense of these things. I was pommeled by proud Christians for not accepting their heterodox views. Someone I admire turns out to have heretical beliefs. People are influenced into accepting bad teachings because of who does the presenting and the way they give their sales pitches. There are Christians who will go so far that they will act like angry atheists and attack Christians who uphold the Bible.

All of this comes down to something that I keep saying, that we need to think critically and examine what we are taught in accordance with the Scriptures. It is good to be corrected with sound doctrine. But to be judged by people who call themselves Christians for standing on God's Word can be disheartening. Christians are to be about the business of proclaiming the gospel and presenting reasons for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3.15), not tearing each other down over nonessentials and pride. God is the one I want to please, not them. How about you?