Thursday, May 24, 2012

All About Pwnage: Supplement

Today on TektonTV, we've added a vid laying the law down on a species of professed Christian which is set to bury the Western church as it lays on its deathbed. We've had many occasions to answer the denizens of the emergent church (Brian McLaren, Carl Medearis, and others) but this is the first time (apart from a few comments on Amazon to Medearis) I've addressed any directly. This one objected to my use of "pwnage" against fundy atheists and those who destroy the truth. Nothing unusual there. (I'd better add here for qualification, since otherwise it will be assumed: I don't mean here reasonable atheists. I mean open, bold, deceivers and profaners.)

Since there's nothing particularly unusual about any emergent -- seen one, seen them all -- we won't bother to name them, but will present here their (typical) responses for commentary. 

"We have to made God and Jesus attractive!"

We do? That's funny. God did all he could to make Jesus UNattractive in the first century: A crucified man (the highest form of shame known, in a society where honor was highly valued and shame desperately avoided), who came from Nazareth in Galilee (from the wrong side of the tracks, and a land known for being the Afghanistan of the day), and was resurrected (when pagans thought the idea of resurrection repugnant, and Jews thought no one would be resurrected until the end of the age)...need I go on? I compiled a huge list of reasons precisely why God and Jesus were NOT attractive in the first century; and a minor league arrogant, or any emergent, is going to say we need to make Jesus "attractive"? What do they want us to do, add lipstick to the crucified Christ?

The fact is, the Gospel is not "attractive". It is not personal therapy. It is not for the purpose of making you feel good, or so you can have "experiences" in church (most of which are self-induced euphorias anyway).  It is not an "I Can Only Imagine" song where we get to dance and sing. It is erasure of sin for sinners; it is eternal service and work on behalf of the Kingdom.  The faithful servant didn't get ten cities so that he could go on vacation in them.

"We need to listen to the grievances of these fundy atheists!"

No we don't. For one thing, they're all old news. For another, they've all already been answered. Fundy atheists -- not "regular" atheists necessarily -- aren't raising these objections because they want an answer. They are raising these objections to annoy, frustrate, and anger Christians. They are raising them as a way of undermining Christians' faith and in turn undermining their support for causes they (the fundy atheists) support -- whether it be abortion, same-sex marriage, or keeping the Ten Commandments out of their offended vision.
The fact is that these “grievances” have been postulated since Ingersoll, since Paine, in some cases since Celsus. The answers have been around just as long. It does not take a great deal of effort (with most of them) to discover that they are bogus. However, fundy atheists as a whole have an aversion to reading. I have offered to buy three of them a free book – only one has taken the offer, and that was one who I’d consider right on the cusp of rational (as opposed to fundy) atheism. So we don’t need to listen to their grievances – because they’re not looking for solutions.

"These fundy atheists are people who have been hurt by the church!"

Oh really? If we allow in trivial or manufactured offense, including that willfully exacerbated by a refusal to look for answers (as above), then that might work out. As for REAL offense, well -- when I did an article on witnessing to apostates, I found a survey on a leading fundy atheist website (a forum, though the thread is now defunct), and the largest portion (28.5 percent) of atheists cited “theological/doctrinal problems” as their reason for questioning their faith. Another 27 percent claimed that their faith “no longer made sense” or that they “grew out of it.” Ten percent cited “Bible contradictions” as their reason to initially question Christianity.

Where did "hurt by the church" come in? Fourth. Way fourth. About 6 percent. Not that this is an excuse to spread crap like "Jesus didn't exist" or "the Inquisition killed 24 million people." 

"We need to show the love of Jesus!"

Ah yes. Love. Now that’s an error not unique to the emergents; like most of the church today, they define love in terms of sappy sentimentality and universal politeness to even the most despicable despot. It’s not that; and that is nothing at all like the agape understood by first century peoples, in which the greatest good was always at the fore – even if that meant having to crack a few noggins for the sake of the whole. Emergent love would send Saddam flowers and gently (so as not to offend) ask him to repent. Agape love would depose Saddam, put him on trial, and justly execute him – for the greater good of his people, and the world at large. That’s the difference between modern individualism and collectivism.

Not surprisingly, with that sort of view of love, emergents have no idea what to do with Biblical passages where God says he'll smear dung on people's faces, or where God orders the Canaanites destroyed. They wring their hands and profess to be disturbed by them and to be trying to figure it all out, but the traditional hell will freeze over before they arrive at a real solution. The only solution they have, as Medearis says, is to keep pointing at Jesus and hope no one notices. (McLaren tried some sort of incoherent approach that claimed some sort of misunderstanding, but it is awful hard to misunderstand, "these people must be evicted from the land, or die.")

"If you don't know a person, you have no right to tell them they are wrong."

Ah yes. There's another of those made up emergent rules. Last I checked, right and wrong was determined by accordance with facts and truth, not whether you "knew" a person. The emergent church is obsessively relational, insisting you need to become close to and familiar with a person and earn their “respect” to be able to have the "right" to correct them. 

The problem is that the sort of personal familiarity they describe has been unknown until the modern era; in agonistic, collectivist societies like the world of the NT, people did not "get to know" each other save in rare circumstances, and “respect” as we know it was unknown; honor was the closest analogue, and by that reckoning, an inferior could not correct a superior, but a superior was free to correct an inferior, and equals could correct each other only with caution. Which means, by the emergent view, almost no one had the right to correct anyone else until around 1867.

“You can’t judge someone’s heart. Jesus could, and that is why he was allowed to insult the Pharisees! You’re not Jesus, pal!”

By this reckoning, as Douglas Wilson has noted, we also can’t do anything else Jesus did – because who knows what’s actually going on? We can’t help people either – how do we know they’re not evil, and going to abuse us or others if we help them now?

Beyond that, if we want to appeal to Jesus, let us remember that he also said that we could know people by their fruit, and Jesus himself didn’t call on any divine knowledge to judge the Pharisees – he said that by the overflow of their hearts, their mouths spoke (Matt. 12:34). He didn’t have to dip into the divine knowledge well to get that – so why would we need to?

I’ll add a side note. It seems emergents are especially enamored of Bible “translations” like “The Message” which are actually pretty poor paraphrases, because they find in them the sort of relational or sympathetic twist they’re looking for. That’s typical of their mistakes. As John Kohlenberger sums it up, in a Christian Research Journal article on The Message:

So how are we to view The Message? It is an expansive paraphrase that is not so labeled, as is The Living Bible. Beset with inconsistencies, its idiom is not always “street language”; its terminology is often idiosyncratic to its author. Compared by noted literary figures to the groundbreaking translation of J.B.Phillips, I believe The Message often lacks Phillips’s creativity and conciseness.

In the introduction, Eugene Peterson compares his pastoral ministry to his work as a translator: “I stood at the border between two languages, biblical Greek and everyday English, acting as a translator, providing the right phrases, getting the right words so that the men and women to whom I was pastor could find their way around and get along in this world” (p.7). Much of The Message reads like a sermon: text plus interpretation and application. Unlike a sermon, however, the reader does not know where the text ends and the sermon begins.
Because of its interpretive and idiosyncratic nature, The Message should not be used for study. If read for enlightenment or entertainment, the reader should follow the advice of Saint Augustine, as quoted in the original preface to the KJV, “Variety of translations is profitable for finding out the sense of the Scriptures.” Acts17:11 commends the Bereans for evaluating Paul’s teaching with the Old Testament Scriptures. In the same spirit, The Message needs to be evaluated against more consistent and traditional translations, especially when its renderings evoke a response such as, “I didn’t know the Bible said that!” or, “Now I understand what it means.”

In sum: while the phrase “the Message” is Eugene Peterson’s translation of “the Gospel,” not everything in The Message should be treated as gospel.

I’ll say this in close. Emergents, with regard to fundy atheists, have a parallel in the secular world. Our school systems are enduring what some have called an epidemic of bullying, as the weak are preyed on by the strong, and the strong receive nothing but slaps on the wrist, counseling, and “understanding”. To enable a bully is far more despicable, however, than the bullying itself. 

Emergents who insist on being nice to fundy atheists and other destroyers or deceivers are enablers, and their act in so being is therefore more wicked than the first. 

Appeasement doesn't work. The emergents need to learn a lesson from Neville Chamberlain.


  1. While I am only somehwat familar with the emergent church and McLaren I am somewhat concerned wiuth their tactics. The way I prefer to do my minstry work is to work with the individual in respects to where he or she needs to go in therms of his/her Christians walk. The fundie atheists that I deal with on YT and some outside in the real world are not really troubling. In fact I tend to laugh at their nonsense. They know very little of the Bible or the context of it and it shows when they babble on with their silliness. Quoting Barker or Dawkins or is not terribly impressive to me, and yet many fundies seem to think this is all that is needed to speak to Christians.

    "If you don't know a person, you have no right to tell them they are wrong."
    Should I try this approach in a school setting? You don't know me, maybe 1+1 does = 1743873873784. How silly would that be?

    I am not sure if we need to take this all that seriously. While I do believe that working with the individual is bettera nd has a better chance of success with some people (which is why I do a more personal ministry) to each his own I suppose.

    "We need to listen to the grievances of these fundy atheists!"
    That is silly, Most of the atehists I speak to have no idea what theya re talking about. It is as if the past 2000 years of Biblical scholarship never occured. While I have no problem with talking to people (as mentioned above) spoon feeding them and coddling them is not helpful either. Tell people the truth, that is what they need. Not some wimpy Jesus.

    Think about it, was John the baptist a wimp, how about Peter or Andrew? Why then are some people pushing Jesus as a wimpy dude?

    Tolerance above truth, that is the way of some churches. Some camply sing-a-long followed by a silly lecture that is not in the least bit relevant to what Jesus said or did.

    Jesus is the truth. If that is true then do as He did and say what He said.

    God Bless.

  2. I can only say that a wimpy Jesus is probably more "relatable to" today than what he would have really been. An ancient carpenter (tekton, ha ha) would have had muscles on top of muscles, and to survive an honor contest like the ones Jesus did you had to be quick with the answers and with the wit, and give no quarter.

    Again: The Gospel was designed to cause offense. There's no getting around that except by anachronizing.

  3. "SeverianOfUrth" from YouTube here...

    More than only a carpenter if remember correctly (not that being a carpenter is not already a tough enough trade in a time without power tools, Lowe's, or pick-up trucks)... a modern analogue for tekton would more probably be a contractor (which has broader range than just carpenter, if I remember my English correctly). Ah, just splitting hairs here; all in all, Christ Jesus could not be a physical wimp with such kind of work.

    Also, I have a hard time imagining a delicate, emaciated Jesus kicking EVERY MERCHANT out of the temple. I mean, there were moneychangers there, right? And other traders selling stuff like animal sacrifices? Wouldn't it be fair to say that there were GUARDS present as well, not to mention the "safety in numbers" thing. I'm not saying that he went "Hulk Smash!" though. It was possibly a combination of physical force and the divine force of his personality, not to mention his very loud and unapologetic accusation, that made everyone flee (probably in shame).

    Question: is this Christ Jesus that turned over the moneylenders' tables and rebuked them, a Biblical fact, also "unattractive" to emergents?

    In a way, this seems like an effort to "paganize" Christ Jesus, making him palatable to the gentiles. Such chutzpah.

    I simply don't buy it that Jesus "gets a pass" for doing things like this because he had inside info, and we (who are supposed to emulate him) are too dumb (intellectually, morally, etc.) to do that. We don't need omniscience to identify evil when we see it (though I have no problem with the Holy Spirit stepping in every now and then to give a hint or two).

  4. @ Sev Welcome!

    Yes, indeed, Jesus would have had to have had at least some imposing presence for that, and his disciples would be rough, strong Galileean fisherman. It would be a balancing act to do just enough "smash" to not get guards involved while still allowing for the sort of prophetic demonstration the Jewish people would consider appropriate.

    I have yet to see an emergent comment on that situation, but I can imagine them having Jesus come up to the merchants later to apologize.

  5. "Agape love would depose Saddam, put him on trial, and justly execute him – for the greater good of his people, and the world at large. That’s the difference between modern individualism and collectivism."

    Wasn't it that modern individualist nation, the U.S., that did exactly this?

  6. @Jeff Your non-point being what? It was done only after decades of diddle-dallying, including one chance to depose him that was bypassed, and only after an event that struck at that individualist nation's national pride, economy, and people.

    As usual, you have nothing useful to say and fail miserably at undermining points far beyond your limited comprehension. Try making up something instead -- like, "We waited because Saddam composed such great woe oracles."

  7. "Your non-point being what?"

    That, as is often the case, your hyperbole has outpaced your logic.

    Expanding on this, so it doesn't just give you occasion for a waste-of-time snappy retort, I would say that you ride individualism awfully hard vis a vis collectivism given that, your qualifications notwithstanding, the simple fact is that America, the embodiment of individualism (political, at least), has done more "looking out for the greater good" of its own and of the rest of the world than any collectivist society you could name. Does that mean individualism is superior to collectivism? Of course not, they're just different societal orientations. The point is simply that the distinction is more subtle than your polarizing rhetoric allows; you're trying to foist upon the two a dichotomy that doesn't exist in such black-and-white terms.

    Let's make it more personal: though your rhetoric pines for those halcyon days of collectivism, you give every appearance of living your life, and certainly conducting your ministry, as a rugged individualist. Is that contradictory? That's not a "gotcha" question, I'm genuinely interested on where the rubber meets the road for you with respect to upholding collectivist ideals and living them out in actual practice.

  8. Good boy Jeffy. Lose the point and move on to another one to try to distract from your magnificent failures and abject ignorance. I've never made any statements about "superiority" or "inferiority", you cultural barbarian. What I *have* said is that each has its advantages and each is subject to its own unique abuses. But of course, given your penchant for seeking and manufacturing offense when you are caught with your backside showing, it's no surprise you yet again have to make up a point to refute, since the real points evade your meager intellectual abilities.

    To answer the irrelevant personal question: I aim to live out the best of both worlds. Since the society and church of America as a whole is lazy and corrupt, I live as an individualist apart from it; but in terms of my overall interests, I live for the collective greater good of the church worldwide. I imagine that's too complex for your little mind to handle, but it speaks for itself that so many Tekton readers who still live or have lived in collectivist societies have a better understanding of how I operate -- and that so much ministry support comes from them (moral and/or financial). They would also find your point re "dichotomy doesn't exist" utterly laughable, and typical of a bigoted American. Get the point: America mostly looks out for its own good -- not "the greater good" (though lip service may be paid to "the greater good" to engender support from other nations).

    My hyperbole hasn't outpaced my logic -- rather, as usual, your ignorance and foolishness has outpaced your ability to process the data.

  9. I've been on the same point the entire time. You said that the difference between modern individualist societies and collectivist societies was that the latter would be most likely to depose a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein. Here is the place in the conversation at which you should actually provide some examples to support your assertion. You might look to the ANE, or the Greco Roman era, for inspiration. That world was replete with despots; are there many examples of societies delivering the Holding-approved "agape" treatment to foreign despotic regimes? In those days, when you conquered a foreign population, you didn't liberate the population from their tyrannical ruler, you enslaved it.

    There's a broader point here. The illusory dichotomy in question stems from your conflation of collectivism with altruism, and of individualism with egoism. There's no reason that individualism is incompatible with pursuit of a greater good. In many ways, an individualist society could be expected to be *more* proactively altruistic, because it recognizes tyranny as an affront to the rights and freedoms of the individual, and in seeking his liberation, is most certainly seeking a greater good. And that's pretty much what we see in practice.

    Not content to let one dubious pronouncement suffice for this discussion, you chose to say:

    "Get the point: America mostly looks out for its own good -- not "the greater good" (though lip service may be paid to "the greater good" to engender support from other nations)."

    Apart from this being a classless thing for you to say on Memorial Day of all days, this also just doesn't show sufficiently careful thought. Don't *all* societies look out for their own good? I would have thought that this is part and parcel of being a society in the first place. Are you aware of societies that show more concern for out-groups (i.e. other nations/societies) than they show for their own in-group members? Taking into account the sum total of altruistic output -- governmental foreign aid, foreign military intervention, peace-keeping missions, personal charitable contributions, foreign aid volunteers (missionaries, peace corps, etc), disaster relief, women's rights advocacy, children's rights advocacy, etc -- does the U.S., individualist though it may be, stack up unfavorably compared to collectivist societies like Japan and China? As a self-proclaimed information specialist, I think you could provide hard data on this subject if it's a line of argumentation you wish to advance.

    Once again, I don't think it's a collectivism/individualism issue. To the extent that collectivism does entail altruism (your aforementioned conflation notwithstanding), the focus is on interactions between members of the same in-group. Altruism towards out-group members may be a characteristic of certain collectivist societies but it isn't organic to collectivism itself.

    "[Y]ou cultural barbarian."

    Ouch. You cut me deep with that one, J.P., you cut me deep.

  10. <>Saddam Hussein.

    And as usual, as noted, you ran far, far ahead of what the point indicated, and assumed that it meant also that an individualist society would NEVER do that, for any reason whatsoever. That's the sort of mistake that constantly haunted you at TWeb, which is why you had to run from there in disgrace.

    >>>Here is the place in the conversation at which you should actually provide some examples to support your assertion.

    No, Jeffy. Here is the place for YOU to calm down, take your meds, and stop running ahead of points to score cheap ones of your own because you're too inept to win the points on rel terms. Anyone with the brain of a gorilla would see that there are obviously multiple factors beyond what I presented as a simple analogy: eg, a collectivist nation of only 300,000 people is hardly going to depose the dictator next door who has 3 million people in his army. As stupid and as desperate as you are, you would never stop to think about such matters in more complex terms. To wit:

    >>> liberate the population from their tyrannical ruler, you enslaved it.

    Uh, Jeffy? That's also beyond the simple point. Mass enslavement was their version of preventing vengeance and a future war. That's well beyond the illustration I was making.

    >>>There's a broader point here. The illusory dichotomy

    Spare me your ignorance. Jeffy is right, and legions of anthropologists, native witnesses, and other observers like missionaries are wrong?

    >>> in question stems from your conflation of collectivism with altruism,

    Once again: That's YOUR addition to what I said, not what I actually said.

    >>>Apart from this being a classless thing for you to say on Memorial Day of all days,

    Yeah I'm so sure you're pretend offended now. :D Please. I indicated a nation and its priorities, not individual soldiers. Get a clue for once.

    >> Don't *all* societies look out for their own good?

    Like I said, this is the sort of simple-mindedness that gets you in a bind every time you open that yawning cake hole of yours. There's a difference between someone who looks out for their own good because of their own value as a leader, or a doctor, or as a servant, to other people, and someone who looks out for their own good because they don't want to lose skin, or pay $4.00/gallon for gas, or have to put off a ski trip.

    >>> (i.e. other nations/societies) than they show for their own in-group members?

    Um, the church is called to call everyone into the ingroup and show equal concern in many aspects for outgroups. How about you not render these matters in terms so simple only you get it?

    >>>Taking into account the sum total of altruistic output

    Try not mixing acts by individual citizens with acts of the governing authorities. Then try looking at this thing called "motivation". It would help, again, if you stopped oversimplifying for no other reason than to bring the issues down to a level that you can comprehend.

    >>> collectivist societies like Japan and China?

    Well, let me help you with a few things here, Jeffy. Japan is not comparable because of the history of enforced self-isolation, to say nothing of recovering from the national shame of WW2, plus limited natural resources (same population as ours roughly, but on land about the size of Montana). Like I said, this is what happens when you try to strain and stretch a point to say something far beyond what it does say: You make an abject fool of yourself.

    >> provide hard data on this subject

    I already know it, but I'm not in the habit of providing extra information to apes in the mood to manufacture grievances as a way to avenge their humiliation.

    >>>Once again, I don't think

    Rather, YOUR aforementioned conflation and simple-mindedness.

    >>cut me deep

    Not hard. Because you're so shallow.

    That's all, Jeffy. Limit 3 stupid comments per troll is the rule.

  11. JP,

    Just wanted to see if you would provide some more insight about: "If you don't know a person, you have no right to tell them they are wrong."

    Since we are not living in a collectivist culture, shouldn't our witnessing have some level of cultural sensitivity in order to be received? Or are you going more from the angle of dealing with fundy atheists?

    I can't see how we would have much success spreading the Gospel if we came down like the proverbial hammer whenever someone is wrong. Our culture usually requires an established relationship to be "allowed" to speak to someone in that way.

  12. @Dave -- yes, and a level of such sensitivity is also warranted in evangelism by Paul's "all things to all men." But that obviously stops at a certain point; eg, Paul doesn't mean join the Crips so you can witness to the Crips. In the same way, a "hammer" is reserved for the worst case scenarios. So yes, I am going from the angle of dealing with fundy atheists.

    I do also happen to think that aspect of our society is part of our sickness. But that's another story.

  13. I for got the name of this pastor who wrote _No more Nice Christian_ or something like that. The idea that Jesus was a ‘nice’ person or as many have said, a ‘wimpy’ Jesus is just untenable and unbiblical. He was kind, yes, but He also had a tongue of steel. And finally, Christians are called to be the salt of this world, nowhere are we called to be sugars or spice of this world. So I think that Scriptural statement says a lot of the kind of wisdom we should take when engaging opponents such as fundy atheists.