Thursday, September 26, 2013

Paul was a jerk so I can be one too!

I have noticed a distressing tendency among Christians, at least certain subsets, to see the strongly worded statements of Paul and Jesus Himself primarily as a license to be a jerk. The logic goes like this:

On several occasions Jesus and Paul were, in our eyes, pretty harsh with opponents of the Gospel using polemics, sarcasm and even pejoratives. Because Jesus and Paul did this, I can too.

While it is certainly true that at times Jesus and Paul as well as other figures in the New Testament used strongly worded, even harsh or sarcastic, statements it is also true that I am not Jesus. Nor am I Paul or an apostle like Paul. I have found instead that this notion provides many people, like the guys at Team Pyro and myself on many occasions, with sketchy theological cover for being a jerk and a bully. It also is often true that those who are the targets of this bullying are not opponents of the Gospel or heretics but simply other believers that I disagree with.

Of course it is just as dangerous to refuse to call anything an error, no matter how gross an error it might be, out of fear of not being nice. Some errors require, demand even, that we call them out. Some men and women really are heretics, or at least proclaim heretical teaching, and we don't do them or anyone else any favors by pretending that what they are teaching is anything but dangerous and damning.

How we disagree is as important as what we disagree on. My own tendency is to see disagreement as an opportunity to show off, to make someone look stupid, to "win" for my own satisfaction. That attitude has probably won me a lot of arguments and left unconvinced a lot of people. Hooray for me. Or not. So hey buddy before you take the mantle of modern day Paul for yourself remember that you ain't him.

Stand for the truth. Be unwavering. Be bold. Refuse to compromise. Just don't be a jerk about it.

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