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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Friday, June 29, 2007

Ridiculing Unbelief

A couple of weeks ago I posted a sarcastic response to an email I received from a disgruntled and embittered biblio-skeptic. A handful of the commenters were a tad put out that I, a man of pure Christian virtue, would respond with such a mean-spirited, dismissive post that in essence ridiculed the emailer's inquiries into the Faith. My response, I was told, was hurtful and doesn't witness the gospel.

I personally think my response was the proper use of biblically ordained ridicule.

I believe there is a distinction to be made between individuals who do have sincere questions concerning God and the Bible, and those, like this emailer, who are just mocking scorners.

The sincere person has a genuine interest in discovering an answer when he asks about difficult passages, or perceived moral dilemmas recorded in scripture, or what is misunderstood as a "contradiction." I love those type of questions from inquirers who really want to have an answer. I thrill at the opportunity to inform a weak faithed Christian, or a person who hasn't been taught well.

The mocking scorner, on the other hand, needs to be handled differently. Though I can almost immediately smell the venomous tone dripping off such a person's questions from the start of the conversation, I tend to give the individual the benefit of respect when I respond. I'm never cowed by ignorant, misinformed and bufoonish unbelievers who have wrong-headed ideas, and I certainly relish the privilege of correcting a loud mouthed know-it-all about what the Bible teaches. But it has been my experience with such people that my respect will quickly be abused and I before I know it, I am just wasting my time.

The Bible has a lot to say about answering the person who is a scorner of God. In fact, one of the key themes of scripture is the distinction between the wise and the foolish. These are descriptions of a person's obedience to God and how the person's obedience, or lack thereof, impacts his overall perspective on life. A wise person is one who fears God, whereas a fool is one who lives in rebellion to God. It should be noted that when Psalm 14:1 says "The fool says in his heart, there is no God," it is a comment upon the fool's willful disobedience in light of the truth. The idea is not that the fool hasn't discovered any compelling evidence for belief in God; rather it means the person has chosen to reject a clear and decisive call to live in obedience to God, so as to live a life in pursuit of self interests.

Thus, throughout the Bible, the fool is described as one who makes bone-headed decisions, who pursues stupid courses of action, who is easily led astray into error, whose life is often times ruined by his or her folly, and vocally scorns the Lord. One of my favorite Proverbs in recent days is Proverbs 19:3, which reads so well in the ESV, When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD. In other words, foolish people destroy themselves with their foolish ideas and behavior, and then blame God for their personal calamities. I have seen this Proverb come to light many times in the lives of unbelievers.

With that said, the foolish are known to be unteachable and any one who attempts to correct a foolish scoffer will only get themselves turmoil. That is because the foolish person thinks he has it all figured out, and even though he may boast that he is a free thinking, open-minded person, unlike those mind-controlled Christians who believe anything they are told, in reality his mind is the tightest shut. The fool has no true interest in being instructed in anything truthful, because truth has as its starting point a fear and worship of the true and living God who is the source of all wisdom.

The Proverbs are absolutely clear about this:

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you (Proverbs 10:7-8a)

Because a fool is unwilling to receive instruction and the person offering the instruction will be ridiculed, sometimes it is necessary to offer ridicule in return to silence the fool. Proverbs 26:5 says to, answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. There may come a time when a fool needs to have his mouth shut by a well spoken response of ridicule.

This was my tactic in answering this mocking skeptic who emailed me. I could tell from the tone of his email that he was not interested in having a meaningful response to the questions he asked. Moreover, his questions were so simple and have already been answered by Christians in history past that if this person was not satisfied with those previous answers, he most certainly would not be satisfied with any thing I wrote. He was just looking for an occasion to heap more scorn and mockery upon the Christian faith. As Proverbs 29:9 states, If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.

Now, it may interest the reader to know that after I posted my response, I sent the individual a link so he could read it. He did, and I have exchanged some additional emails with this person and my initial suspicions of his sincerity have since been soundly affirmed.

First, he claims to be a former Christian, having attended church for many years. I asked him at least three times what church it was he attended, as well as its denominational affiliation, and my inquiries have been utterly ignored. Go figure.

Second, the biggest portions of his emails are cut-and-pasted articles he has found somewhere on the internet that equate to being canned overload. Canned overload is defined as stuff that is previously written, in this case, third or fourth hand, and it is so much a normal person like myself with a job and family and the responsibilities of a daily life cannot possibly answer all of it in any meaningful fashion. Because I don't have the time, energy, or desire to answer his long, rambling cut-and-pasted emails point by point in meticulous detail, he smugly takes my lack of response as indication that I can't answer his arguments.

Next, he mockingly refers to my convictions as being a product of Christian "mind-control," all the while dismissing the reality that he is just as "mind-controlled" concerning his convictions. He boasts that he is unbiased because he has spent so many years studying the truth of Christianity, even though, once again, he ignores my inquiries as to which scholarly resources it is from where he derived his information.

His main point of contention is the nonsensical notion popular in some anti-theist circles these days that Jesus wasn't a real person and Christian theology is built upon ancient mythologies, like Mithras. When I pointed him to articles written by the leading Mithras scholars who deny any plausibility to the theory that Christianity is derived from Mithras legends, my emailer rejects them as being incompetent and that anyone can claim to be "scholar." Hence, he is selective as to which "scholars" he considers authoritative. Those "scholars" supporting his position are real "scholars." Those "scholars" meaningfully critiquing their scholarship are "mind-controlled."

I sent him a link to Paul Manatas' massive response to the atheists of the Rational Response Squad in which he answered similar facile questions posed to me by my hostile emailer. He told me he read it, but he thought they were stupid because they were written by a "mind-controlled" Christian. When I asked him to demonstrate how Paul's responses were illogical and stupid, he again skipped over my question and returned to the Mithras foolishness.

I could provide more examples of the unprofitability of arguing with a fool. So, with these points in mind, I hope a person can see why I went with a post with more of a humorous bite.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Sam said...

Would you mind linking to said articles concerning Mithras?

3:43 PM, June 29, 2007  
Blogger Ebeth said...

I agree with your post.

4:23 PM, June 29, 2007  
Blogger thomas4881 said...

Fred I think those who were trying to rebuke you did it out of ignorance. A few verse that come to mind that support your godly attitude and prudance are -

Proverbs 9:8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

Proverbs 13:1 A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.

Proverbs 15:31 He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise

Proverbs 19:25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke a discerning man, and he will gain knowledge.

Proverbs 25:12 Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear.

Proverbs 28:23 He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue.

I think rebuke done as you have done is in accordance with godliness.

7:25 PM, June 30, 2007  
Blogger google said...

Absolutely. Better to rebuke in love than flatter in fear.

Jesus aggressively humiliated the self-righteous religious zealots of his day. But I think we need to be very careful in examining our motives if we are to imitate him in this. Sarcastic put-downs generally do two things:
1) Make the listener feel humiliated
2) Make the speaker feel smug and superior
Jesus rebuked out of righteous indignation, knowing in advance who would receive his word and who wouldn't. But we don't! Surely it's better to err on the side of warmth and grace than rebuke and ostracism?

I'm also reminded of what Paul tells the Corinthians ...

"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom ... but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

I used to spend lots of time going round and round intellectual circles with people until I realised that most of them have never really heard the Gospel of grace preached with power.

1:42 AM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger Jay Rogers said...

Sorry, to bore you with my own Jay Osborne story -- you know, the Edsel driver looking for a way off the highway.

A couple of weeks ago I asked J.P. Holding and some other people how it was possible that the Jesus Mythist phenomena actually exists and that the popularizers are so prolific and strident.

The answer was given to me by the radio guy, Pastor Joe Dunn.

It's postmodernism.

They apparently think that nothing can be proven to be true as long as they keep offering objections and claiming, "You can't prove it. You can't prove it."

They also think that a bizarre abstract thesis with absolutely no support -- that Jesus was just an invented myth borrowed from the Mithra cult -- has mountains of evidence.

That's the essence of postmodernism. There is no objective reality.

1. Reality cannot be proven.

2. Vague, abstract and irrational ideas can be proven by simply denying that rational proofs for the opposite point of view are valid.

I struck a nerve with Ozzy when I "slurred" postmodernism. I was wondering why the sorehead took offense at this. After all, he called me brainwashed and mind-controlled. It turns out he had almost the exact same conversation with Fred Butler, who apparently knows J.P. Holding too.

I had this idea that we need to get some brains together and come up with some propositions for the postmodernists that would be prerequisites before we would even talk to them about anything. The rules would be. Here are ten propositions that you believe and therefore ought to be able to offer proof for.

If you can answer even ONE, we'll talk. If not, you get a special plaque on the Postmodernist Hall of Shame. (We'll let J.P. draw the cartoons!)

I have four propositions so we need about six more.

1. Can you name even ONE of these so-called "42 contemporary historians" who wrote about the events of 27 to 30 A.D in Palestine who would have visited or lived in the "general area"?

2. Name one person prior to 1870 (or before the beginning of postmodernist thinking) who believed that Jesus did not exist as a historical person.

3. Can you name one credible historian alive today who claims there is solid evidence to prove Jesus did not exist?

(A credible historian is one who has a Ph.D., has published articles in academic journals and is qualified to teach at the university level.)

4. Can you name even ONE core doctrine or tenet of Christian theology that is refuted or even called into question by the textual variants in early manuscripts of the Bible?

We need six more ...

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

2:05 PM, December 02, 2007  

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