Sunday, July 2, 2017

Christians and Big Lies

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

This is one of those articles that I do not cotton to writing. Not only is it likely to cost me "followers", friends, and associates, but the whole thing is painful to deal with. Specifically, Christians behaving so badly that I don't want to be named among them.

Also, I'm going to leave names out of this, because I'm not calling people out for heresy, such as in 2 Tim. 4:14-15, 3 John 1:9-10, and elsewhere. It may come to that, because demonstrably false claims about brothers in Christ have been made, and sin needs to be exposed. Not sure that my doing so will be helpful, though. Christians who are in certain circles will know who I'm discussing, but I'd rather stick with principles at this point. Besides, when I spend many hours searching for web documentation that may or may not be available tomorrow, people tend to ignore the supporting links anyway.

Looks like I need to make up some names so we can keep things clear. Are you paying attention, Hoss? I'm making up names. That means if someone else has the same name I'm using here, it ain't him.

Christians are called to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 1:3), and there are large sections of the Bible that warn about false teachers and apostasy. Some folks don't seem to know about these things, and have an "everybody gets to Heaven anyway, so let's just get along" attitude. Those who do know about taking a stand for the faith often get on the prod and want to slap leather with people who disagree with them, whether over small things or serious matters of the faith. In their zeal and pride, they commence to misrepresenting and even lying about other Christians, then recruit others into their causes. Then people are shooting at anything that moves, and disaster ensues.


Christians against Christians leads to a lot of  pain
Smoke of a .45, Charles Marion Russell, 1908 / Wikimedia Commons
John Wheeler (first made up name) is an ordained minister, teacher, author, has an online ministry that includes live webcasts, debates with people of various persuasions, and more. Although I don't agree with everything he says, I respect him and have learned a great deal from him. Mr. Wheeler has a heart for Mohammedans, and wants to accurately learn about their beliefs for the purposes of not only debate, but especially for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Brian Hoffman is an author, has a daily radio program, believes in teaching biblical doctrine, emphasizes the moral law and true repentance, and uses his online organization as a way to help Christians understand the importance of a biblical worldview. He knows which end of a Bible is up.

Some of Hoffman's theology differs from Wheeler's (and vice versa, obviously), but neither party presents heretical views. I don't think they even have heterodox views, either. I've found warnings against both people online where they are called "deceivers" and need "repudiation". Unfortunately, this kind of thing comes from people who believe that their narrow view of Scripture is the correct view, and dissenters need a good slapping down. No grace, no tolerance, no kindness in nonessentials, but a passel of vituperation — often yoked with horrible misuse of the Bible.

I need to holler whoa for a moment. In apologetics, and especially in biblical creation apologetics, we emphasize critical thinking. That doesn't mean what some people may think: looking for reasons to think and speak negatively. Instead, it means to think rationally. We want people to be able to spot bad reasoning and catch on when they're being led down a primrose path to faulty conclusions. Christians must add the desire and ability to think biblically to their critical thinking skills.

We have two men with ministries and desire to do outreach, but have theological differences. It happens. Sincere believers disagree on some things. I think that in a discussion with each of these guys, they would enthusiastically agree with me on some things, and want to slap some "sense" into me on others. I'm still learning, and no human has all the answers, but there are people who think more highly of themselves and their worldview than is appropriate.

I've learned from John Wheeler something that I believe is very important, not just in apologetics, but in serious discussions as well. He believes in learning the opposing view so he can avoid misrepresenting it. (Watch or listen to some formal debates with atheists, who are constantly using logical fallacies against Christians and creationists. Especially misrepresentation. It's one of their favorites.) Christians need to be accurate when we address opposing viewpoints, whether in debates, discussions, articles, lectures, or whatever. If we're attacking a position that someone does not hold (and therefore, does not need to defend) or we are using logical fallacies, we are not being good ambassadors of Christ. Learning the opposing viewpoint is very important with detailed witnessing to people in cults and other religions. You don't have to be an expert on everything, and you can share the gospel and what the Bible clearly teaches. When you don't know someone else's view, admit it.

On the receiving end, I've been challenged to "debates" from atheistic evolutionists who constantly misrepresent what I say, what creationists teach, what the Bible says, and more. Lack of knowledge, lack of respect (I should add bullying and abuse as well) certainly do not motivate me to expend time and intellectual energy on people like that. If they want to ask something, that's different (1 Peter 3:15).

Time for a side trail. How did Jesus respond to sinners? He was friendly, treated them like people (Luke 19:10, Matt. 11:18-19), and did not quirt them into submission. Unbelievers are at enmity with God, but that does not justify our getting all uppity and treating them like horse apples. We were lost sinners as well, saved by the grace of God (Rom. 6:23, Eph. 2:8-9). How can we reach the lost by being as pleasant as a burlap bag full of rattlesnakes? It most certainly is not biblical!

Mr. Wheeler has had formal debates with Mohammedans, and has done so in a knowledgeable, respectful manner. He also had a dialogue, an informal conversation with a Mohammedan scholar. This was done in a church setting, but not as part of a worship service. (I believe a similar conversation happened in a mosque.) Some people were outraged, others were less bothered by the location. Phil Johnson, associate of Dr. John MacArthur and executive director of Grace to You, said that they do not use the worship area for unrelated activities is because "...the facility is dedicated to the proclamation of God’s Word and the corporate worship of God’s people . . . this is one of the ways we keep a sharp focus on what we as a church are most committed to". Personally, I think it can be used for debates and so on, but I respect Mr. Johnson's views.

Five or six months after Wheeler had these discussions, Mr. Hoffman and others who saddled up to ride with him began circulating some outlandish material that Wheeler was promoting Chrislam. That claim is false. Worse, Hoffman was posting a video clip that was incriminating Wheeler — but he edited out very important comments before and after the segment that he used! I have to be blunt: such manipulated information is lying. I'm not talking about the kind of "lying" that some people disingenuously redefine, where they are unwilling to distinguish disagreement from deception. No, this is definite deception going on.

Hoffman has his disciples who took his word for what happened, and refused to give Wheeler a fair hearing. If they did, they would see the deceptions perpetrated by Hoffman. Other people in various outfits circled the wagons and joined in the defamation of Wheeler — they, too, were being dishonest. The whole thing turned into a witch hunt (see "Season of the Witch Hunt" for similar topics). Hoffman did not give Wheeler a fair hearing or allow him a chance to discuss what had happened. (One "journalist" was questioned by John Wheeler as to why he did not investigate what Wheeler actually said, and was told that he did not need to, because Wheeler is wrong!) Some people went to Brian Hoffman's social media sites to correct him, but were banned.

This is where we lasso the critical thinking that I mentioned above. When presented with sensationalistic claims, it's best to do some investigation and find out the facts for yourself. Sometimes, it is easily done, but in cases like this one, podcasts must be heard and articles must be read; getting the accuser's version and blatantly rejecting additional information is irrational and dishonest. These folks need to read the verses about Christian love for the brethren, and also the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians would be helpful, too. Brian Hoffman should feel blessed that John Wheeler believes what the Bible says about suing other Christians, such as in the fourth chapter of 1 Corinthians.

If Mr. Wheeler was promoting heretical views, Mr. Hoffman should have been biblical about it and confronted him directly instead of going to the web. If a Christian is lying or actively practicing other sin, there are biblical directives for confronting him or her for the purpose of repentance. Wheeler is guilty of doing things that some people do not like, but there is no evidence of sin.

Mohammedans are the objects of fear, hate, and suspicion. What Mr. Wheeler was pointing out is that there are different varieties of Islam. After all, not all Christians are the same, you savvy? I'll allow that Mohammedans are not helping themselves. Not all interpret the Koran in the same way, not all want Sharia law imposed on Western nations, and not all approve of terrorism. But we are not seeing moderates protesting the actions of the radicals (which may be out of fear of reprisals). While many hate us and want us exterminated or to be submitting to dhimmitude, not all share those beliefs. Some want to have honest discussions and learn. All need Jesus.

Now a personal question for people who know the participants in this dispute even though I used made-up names; how are you going to react to Brian Hoffman's deceptions and misplaced zeal? Another question: are you going to disassociate with, or even hate, those of us who are trying to educate you? Writing this article has not been a pleasant experience, and negative (unchristian) reactions from professing Christians would not surprise me.