Things Evangelicals Like

Jenell Paris has continues her provocative series.

6. Evangelicalism Likes Prioritizing the Superiority of Its Point of View
wrote about a man who moves from Christian faith to atheism, and
evangelicalism worried that I was showing more credence for his point
of view than I was defending the Christianity he had abandoned. Indeed,
because I was writing for an audience predisposed against atheism, I

thought I’d show the marginal point of view in as empathic a way
possible. It’s just what anthropologists do – we try to see the world
from other points of view, not simply showing how Others are deficient
versions of Us. Evangelicalism disagrees with anthropology on this
point, preferring to discuss things like atheism, agnosticism and other
religions primarily in terms of how they rely on flawed logic and
personal immaturity, and how our superior logic and maturity could
potentially convert their adherents.

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  • Annie

    Evangelicals may do this things. Evangelicalism does not.

  • Your Name

    There are no “Evangelicals” and there is no “Evangelicalism.” Read D.G. Hart, Deconstructing Evangelicalism.

  • Okay, here’s the deal…
    Christians can certainly see things from another’s point of view. Those of us who came out of atheism or other false belief systems know the atheist and other belief system screed. But that does not mean we should continue to grant them points when it compromises our belief in Christ crucified and what it means to humanity.
    If we give “credence” to a false belief, as has been happening in much of the Church at large, we start down a path that will open the door to other views being given credence — credibility and validity — undermining what it really means to be Christian. It allows people to remain in their sin and distort scripture to justify staying there all the while claiming to be sheep instead of what they really are: goats.
    Anthropologically speaking, to study mankind, our history and what got us here to this point in time, is fine. But as Christians, we cannot abandon the lens of the Holy Spirit view, showing us the flawed path secular humanity chooses to walk. So understanding an opposing point of view (because we may have once shared it) is fine, but, again, giving it merit when it is clearly false is dangerous for the above mentioned reasons; that path leads to destruction.
    Remember: “There is a way that seems right to a man (perhaps even anthropologically), but that way leads to death.”

  • tim fitch

    The only thing I would add is that it is not just Evangelical’s it is all christian who act this way they just change the subjects.

  • Friends,
    Please go read the series of posts at Jenell’s blog. There is much needed context to this point, and I believe she makes a strong case as to why she uses the term evangelicalism rather than isolating evangelical individuals. So, if you really want to know what Jenell is up to, use Tony’s post to engage her series, and not just this isolated point.

  • Because, of course, no one can be correct. The Bible-believing Evangelical can’t be right and the god-denying athiest wrong, no matter that their positions are such that if one is true the other must be false. The important thing isn’t to be right, but to have nice feelings for those who disagree with you.
    Oh, and I have some nice oceanfront property in Utah I’m looking to sell. Cheap. Just needs a little development.

  • Rick

    Your posts as of late seem more intent on belittling the views of others than on producing an open conversation. If I were an evangelical, would I be welcome to speak at your cohort?

  • rodney Neill

    have to agree with Rick – boring and sterile blogs

  • Rick,
    If you are curious you should attend the nearby cohort and find out! 🙂 Seriously, most of the people that I met when I visited the meeting near me were evangelicals. There was a Biola graduate, another was the husband of a staff member at a local mega-church. Everyone is familiar with that territory, but the common denominator is a bit of disenfranchisement. You might be surprised!

  • Tim

    Kenosis… Christ emptied himself… Humbled himself
    Took the form of a slave… Did not act superior
    Died a humiliating death, tortured on the cross
    Paul says… “Have THIS MIND among yourselves”
    Arrogance, no
    Grace, yes

  • Geoff,
    So who gets to decide what is a “false belief” and who are the “sheeps and the goats?”
    The standard response is scripture of course. However, what do you do with those who interpret scripture differently than you? Is it to respond like this:
    “people… remain in their sin and distort scripture to justify staying there all the while claiming to be sheep instead of what they really are: goats.” ?
    So, it is really your interpretation of scripture and not scripture itself that determines false belief?
    I say this because your post suggests that there is not only one true religion, but one true sect within that religion… the one to which you adhere. A key component to constructive dialogue is to be open to the possibility that you may be wrong and the other person may be right. It allows us to actually listen rather than formulating a response while we watch the lips of the other person move.

  • Rick

    Dave Metz,
    Do you believe that there is an objective moral standard that exists for all people at all times?

  • Rev Dave

    Ok Rick, I’m a different Dave but I’ll bite: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Treat others how you want to be treated. Love your enemies. All ways, it seems to me, of saying the same thing.
    Now, I doubt that’s objective and I think it is so much more than a “moral standard”. It is, as I understand the gospels, eternal life. That is, life for the ages; life as it is meant to be lived; the good life.
    So Rick, what do you mean by objective and by moral standard? And why are those terms so important to you?
    @emergent pillage: I know you are being scornful, but I really disagree with the characterization of “the important thing being…nice feelings for those who disagree.” The important thing to me as a follower of God in the way of Jesus is just that: follow in the way of Jesus. Which, yeah, means being kind even, especially, to those I disagree with (see above, treat others…, love enemies…). I concur that “nice” is a meaningless word and I implore my congregation to use other words that are more descriptive, like kind or compassionate or welcoming or… But, really, what’s so offensive to you about followers of Jesus being nice to those who disagree with them? Isn’t that how Jesus was: kind to those who hurt him?

  • Rick

    Rev Dave,
    Thanks for your input to the conversation.
    An objective moral standard, by definition, means a standard of what is right and wrong, or good and evil that exists for all times and for all people.
    As for your question on why the terms I used are important to me, shouldn’t they be? If I am to live in my community and seek to love my neigbor as myself, shouldn’t I therefore seek to define what it truly means to love?

  • James Coulter

    Finally, a religion that isn’t a religion and that is the only way to real truth because by following it you find that there isn’t one way to real truth. No, wait, there isn’t any real truth at all. Or is it that truth is subjective and relative, so what is truth today may not be truth tomorrow.
    I’m so glad that I was born now rather than at some point in the last 2000 years, because at least now I have a chance to finally get it right; of finally finding my way to the real point that God has been trying to make. He was so close with Christ, but He obviously wasn’t quite clear enough. To vague. Not to mention that THAT was a truth for back THEN, but it’s not a truth for now. Because now our realities are different. Moreover, people are more enlightened and certainly more intelligent now. I am so glad that after 2000 years of error God has finally put someone on this earth who is getting it right…HUH?
    I doubt this will be allowed to be posted, but I am floored at the back door arrogance hidden in what you are touting as humility. Don’t get me wrong, I know I don’t have it all right and that I am working out my salvation. But I am sure that there is a truth and that God isn’t playing hide and seek with it to see if I can figure out the puzzle! That is not the God that I nor my forefather’s served.
    Forgive me for my sheer stupidity, but it seems to me that God has made it fairly clear. Are there things to figure out? yes, but for the most part I think His idea was that, um, how did He say it…oh yeah, that He was “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” But according to you, truth is relative – it’s evolving. So what am I repenting of? How will I know what sin really is if God didn’t tell me, if He didn’t make it clear? Didn’t Paul very clearly say that the law was written so we would KNOW (know and not guess) what sin is? If what you are touting is correct, why should I repent if I can just wait a few days or a few years until the “truth” changes and my sin is no longer a sin?
    This may come as a bit straight forward, but your writings are every bit as forward. I do think you hit on some good points. I think that church today does need to take into account the current culture, but it can do it in a way that keeps the truth of God’s word intact. I do think that we need to dialogue and share. But methods can change without changing truth. I do think that we need to embrace all people, but we can embrace all people and still call sin what it is. A church can be “relevant” and still maintain a solid scriptural foundation.
    You said in essence that simply by changing our methods we mess with the truth. That simply isn’t true. A gasoline engine today bears little resemblance to the original, but the principals and laws by which it operates are unchanged. Modern day church and Christianity can and must be the same. God is truth – remember that. If truth changes, then so does God – period. I do not serve a changing God, but one that is the same yesterday, today, and forever. There is one way, one truth, one savior and Lord of all.
    Oh, and lastly, I would just like to apologize for hurricane Katrina, but you will be glad to know that I, along with thousands of my fellow non-emerging, unenlightened Christians that have caused so much pain and trouble in the world went down there to clean up the mess that we created. I, in particular, left my wife and daughter at home and missed my wife’s birthday to drive roughly 1000 miles in an old bus filled with supplies to those in need. Please forgive me for the chicken I so carelessly ate and the carbon footprint our bus left along the way. And I apologize for the World Trade Center bombings as well, but we did our best after that too. And I really want to apologize for all the current slave trading and people trafficking that is going on in the world that we have somehow caused, but rest assured we are doing what we can to send hundreds of organizations with thousands of missionaries around the world to clean up the mess that we have created. And I beg your forgiveness for organizations such as the Red Cross and the multiplied hundreds of medical missions that we have so irresponsibly sent around the world. Then there are all the hospitals in the US and around the world that were founded by Christian organizations and the fact that, like it or not, those who are most likely to give to a cause, jump into action after a disaster, or take up the cause of the persecuted are Christians. Should I also apologize for the educational system in our country that was founded in order to teach the bible? Or for Harvard, Yale, and Princeton – all of which started as Christian institutions? Yes, we non-emergent Christians have done so much harm in the world. I am so ashamed. I am just so glad that you and your contemporaries came along so that we could finally do something good for a change – like, change the truth of God for a…never mind.
    I do not deny that much unfortunate harm was done in history in the name of Christianity, but every bit as much has been done in the name of enlightenment or of some other God. And isn’t that diatribe a bit stale? Surely a thinking man such as yourself sees the obvious fallacies with that tired argument. If I were to point out only the negative in your life, how good would you look to others? Would it be an accurate picture of who you are or would it nullify all the good that you have done? Moreover, if someone chose to take your writing as validation for going out and killing evangelical believers and setting off pipe bombs at chicken ranches, would those actions be in line with what you are actually teaching? No. How much more, then, should we apply that same logic to the Word of God and it’s teachings and eternal truths.
    I will close with this: We cannot change the truth of God for something that is more comfortable for us to put on. The moment we do, we are not only in error, but in grave danger.

  • Rev Dave

    @Rick: I don’t think it is possible for any of us humans to ever be truly objective. And I would argue that scripture certainly isn’t objective – it’s writers very much had an agenda! Further I would argue that scripture and the life of faith are not about moral standards, they are about relationships. What Willard/Foster/Brueggemann/Peterson call the With-God Life. I like that a lot. The ongoing story of human life with God. As they say, “God’s everlasting intent for human life [is] that we should be in every aspect a dwelling place of God” (Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, General Introduction).
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m not all that interested in “objective moral standard”. But I’m very interested in following Jesus! As I read the gospels, it doesn’t seem to me that Jesus is attempting to find one standard for “all times and all people.” Instead, his responses to people depended on their situations, their lives, their needs. e.g. “sell everything and give it to the poor”; “where are your accusers? neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”; “your faith has made you well”; “you come down! I’m eating at your house tonight”, etc.
    @James Coulter: Dude, put the weapon down, it’s gonna be ok. Seriously, just what in this post are you reacting so strongly to? You keep writing “You said” this or that: who wrote what where? You seem to mean Tony, but this post is from Jenell Paris. Is it her series of posts on evangelicalism that has you so angered? And where has Tony, or anyone else for that matter, written or said that only emergent Christians offer help to people in need? Your vitriol seems completely out of scale to this post.
    I will close with this: what do you think “the truth of God” is? And what is the connection to “grave danger”? Grave danger to or from or with or because of or between or among what exactly?

  • James Coulter

    Rev. Dave and others in this discussion: please forgive me for my post. A friend of mine told me about Tony Jones’ book “The New Christians” and my post was in response to that writing, not your discussion. So how did my post get in your discussion? I don’t know. I obviously posted it on the wrong page. I explored this and many other discussions on this site yesterday and intended on posting my thoughts in a discussion about the book itself. Yet somehow managed to post it here. When I realized my error, I tried to remove it, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to do so. Embarrassingly, my previous post has nothing to do with anything or anyone involved in this discussion. I apologize for the confusion.

  • Rick, I’m not trying to belittle anyone. I’m just pointing out things around the blogosphere that I think are interesting, challenging, funny, and important. When I run across poignant self-reflection by liberals, I post it too — it just seems that doesn’t happen that often.
    Yes, you’d be more than welcome to come to the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort anytime. And you’d be welcome to speak freely, as everyone is. In fact, our cohort is mainly made up of folks who’d call themselves evangelical.

  • panthera

    I find it characteristic of the rigid mindset that those who are most convinced that their interpretation of reality is the only valid one possible are also those who most object to labels.
    By which they completely miss the point.
    It seems to me that there is, always has been and, no doubt, always will be a personality type which can only worship God when they have captured Him, pinned him to their mounting boards and labeled him in accordance with their needs. Any other possible relationship to God is out of the question for them.

  • Rick

    Thanks for your response Tony. I do appreciate what you had to say and when in Minnesota will check it out!
    Praying for your procedure today,

  • Joel

    The problem is the Christian belief IS superior to all other beliefs (because it is true). However, this doesn’t give Christians the warrant to ACT in a superior fashion. This is why a belief in absolute truth is generally far more humbling than the subjectivism that has been thrown around as of late. If truth is absolute and universal, that means none of us created it, none of us added to it, all we did was discover it. LIkewise, we would be discovering it after many others have already discovered it. It would be the equivalent of sailing in a yacht in the Bahamas and taking pride in discovering Cuba. You could walk around with a puffed up chest telling everyone how you know exactly where Cuba is, but it would be quite silly to do so. Likewise, just because you’ve discovered truth doesn’t mean you have a right to be puffed up about it. If anything, the discovery of absolute, universal truth should be a humbling experience because you’re acknowledging there is something out there that is far greater than yourself. This is why Christ, being Truth – universal, absolute, propositional – was also presented in a humble fashion.

  • –@emergent pillage: I know you are being scornful,–
    An artist does like to have his work recognized.
    –but I really disagree with the characterization of “the important thing being…nice feelings for those who disagree.” —
    Ok, your disagreement is noted.
    –The important thing to me as a follower of God in the way of Jesus is just that: follow in the way of Jesus.–
    A follower of God in the way of Jesus? As opposed to…what? A follow or God in the way of Buddha? Or Allah? Or Vishnu? Or Joseph Smith? Or Bob Marley?
    In other words, is Jesus just “a way”, or is he “the Way”?
    –Which, yeah, means being kind even, especially, to those I disagree with (see above, treat others…, love enemies…).–
    Hmm…so…let’s see.
    Jesus called the people who didn’t believe in Him “snakes”, “vipers”, “blind guides”, “hypocrites”, “fools”, and likely other things I can’t think of right now. He prophecied the coming destruction of their city and their temple. He got angry with them. He even took a whip to some of them at least one time.
    –I concur that “nice” is a meaningless word and I implore my congregation to use other words that are more descriptive, like kind or compassionate or welcoming or… —
    How about “love”? Real love, like the Bible tells us about, not the mushy new-agey feel-good feelings sold in the bargain bins of religious thought nowadays.
    –But, really, what’s so offensive to you about followers of Jesus being nice to those who disagree with them?–
    As you said, “nice” is a meaningless word. Plus, do read what I wrote again.
    –Isn’t that how Jesus was: kind to those who hurt him?–
    Was it? I refer you again to the Bible, and the things Jesus really did say and do, and then come back and tell us how “nice” He was.

  • Joel

    Christ wasn’t “nice,” but He wasn’t brash and arrogant. Likewise, He was dealing with a culture that could handle upfront confrontation. We don’t, so we do have to be a bit kinder in our presentation of the Truth.
    It is true that Jesus is the only way humans can be reconciled to God, it is true that Jesus was extremely blunt with people, it is not true that we are Christ. He was able to be blunt without being arrogant, He was able to be truthful without being demeaning, and He was able to be angry without sinning.
    We, on the other hand, are to be gentle in our approach to truth (don’t forget the latter part of 1 Peter 3:15 – though we offer an intellectual defense of the faith, it is done in mercy and gentleness). This doesn’t mean backing down or never being blunt – certain people can handle that, and some just flat out need it even if they can’t handle it – but that we always attempt a diplomatic approach in our discourse first, before jumping headfirst into a “barrage of truth.”