Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pastor Matt's Olive Branch for Wolves, Part 2

Let’s now have a look at a few more words from Pastor Matt on the use of harsh language.

Debate like that was common in the first century, but it isn’t now, and in our culture!

That’s true. But that’s not the real question. The real question is whether the lower rate of occurrence is a good or a bad thing, and in what contexts. Pastor Matt seems to think we can never use harsh language, but he doesn’t explain the virtues of a total moratorium on it to any real depth. One of the reasons he gives is the old “we’re not Jesus” canard, which as we noted before, comes back to bite us on the butt. That’s also his best argument, as the rest of them show.

My own reply is that in modern culture, we are plagued with a lot of egocentric people who were told by their mothers that they were special, and never stopped believing it. In the parlance, such people need to be taken down a peg, because if they don’t, they’ll run roughshod over others. On the other hand, if we use Matt’s kid gloves, they’ll take it as verification that everyone is suitably impressed by them. Is this so hard to grasp?

I hope we are trying to bring people to God not just win an argument!

Yes, I hope so too. But Matt seems to think no one gets harsh unless they’re trying to “win an argument,” or are angry, or insecure. Why would he think that to be the case – unless it is the only reason HE would get harsh?

Paul said to be kind to enemies and heap coals on their head!

Kind of funny here, because Matt misuses Paul on this one the same way an atheist did who I confronted long ago:

We are told here that "Paul advocates what he calls love in order to defeat one's enemies" and thereby "undoes Christ's work and returns us to the pre-Christ era." [41-2] 

Really? As Klassen shows in his article "Coals of Fire: Sign of Repentance or Revenge?" (New Testament Studies 9, 1963, 337-50) the phrase in Proverbs is alluding to an Egyptian ritual of repentance in which the subject willingly carried embers in a bowl on their head as a public sign of repentance. It is unlikely that people in NT times were aware of this detail, but the Targum commentaries Paul would have been familiar with did still grasp that the person in Proverbs was a former enemy who had been turned into a friend.

All that said, Matt fails in the usual way to grasp the public-private dichotomy that existed in Paul’s world: These instructions, like “turn the other cheek,” were meant to be applied to private relationships, not public confrontations. 

Using harsh language to evangelize flies in the face of common sense!

So it would. But this isn’t “evangelism.” It’s tying down wolves so that you can clear the way to evangelize open minds that won’t be deceived by their lupine rhetoric. Again, I rather doubt Matt has ever dealt with anyone like “YHWHisaHomo” from YouTube. Nor has anyone he cites as a role model (like the churches of Keller and Chandler).

We’ll wrap this up next time.

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