Rebecca Trotter has a wonderful treatment (which I was reminded of recently) of the reference in 2 Timothy to people preferring those who “tickle the ears” to those who speak the truth. Here is a sample:
Any clear headed assessment of the evidence would lead one to conclude that there’s nothing more common, more universally accepted and more fervently defended than angry, wrathful deities. You can’t throw a stone in a history book or at a map without hitting a religion or teacher which says that God is good and pissed all the time – especially at those guys over there – and that to be faithful to him, one must be a good rule follower, willing to be belligerent, rude and unbending in dealings with others – sometimes even to the point of violence. This isn’t just a Christian thing either. You see it in Islam, in Judaism, Hinduism, some tribal religions, and believe it or not, even among some Buddhists in central Asia.
On the other hand, spiritual teachers have been trying to convince us that the most important things are love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and humility since time immemorial. Clearly that message has struggled mightily to really take hold, although I think we’re making progress. So, based on the evidence, I think that it’s reasonable to assume that the ear ticklers probably aren’t those who err on the side of grace and love over condemnation and judgment. Rather. there seems to be something very deep in the human psyche which is drawn to wrath and condemnation and fear. And I think that the people Paul is warning Timothy about are those who appeal to this darker, uglier side of human nature.
Ironically, those most likely to quote that text and apply it to their opponents turn out to be those most likely to resemble what is being criticized in 2 Timothy.
Click through to read the rest.