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‘Perhaps He is Out Relieving Himself’

May 11, 2011

Those familiar with their Old Testament, or with the biblical use of rhetoric, will readily recognise what my title is referring to. It is one possible rendering of a part of a quote from the prophet Elijah as he took on the prophets of Baal as found in 1 Kings.

In a contest between Yahweh and Baal, the Baalists were having a hard time getting their god to act. The full story is found in 1 Kings 18:16-40, and the immediate context is found in vv. 27-29:

“At noon Elijah began to taunt them. ‘Shout louder!’ he said. ‘Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.’ So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.”

Elijah is taunting them, and his remarks drip with satire and mockery. This is quite common in the prophetic literature. Idolatry is so stupid and evil that it is met with intense mockery, satire and ridicule. And bear in mind that these prophets were being fully led by the Spirit of Yahweh as they did this.

Yet modern Christian sensitivities are rather wimpish, and we find such strong words to be unkind and un-Christlike. The trouble is, we find the same use of such rhetoric all over the Bible – even in the New Testament. Indeed – and this will come as a shock to many of today’s more squeamish believers – Jesus seems to be quite adept at it, and uses it quite often.

But I have documented elsewhere the many uses of this kind of language in Scripture. See for example this article for more details: billmuehlenberg.com/2007/04/18/rhetoric-the-bible-and-the-believer/

The study of rhetoric in the Bible has been a bit of a growth industry of late. Hundreds of volumes would now be available on the topic. One somewhat earlier volume is well worth consulting in this regard. It actually looks at more than just rhetoric, but at various types of imagery found in Scripture. I refer to the excellent 1998 reference tool, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery.

Edited by Leland Ryken, James Wilhoit and Tremper Longman, it is a 1000-page encyclopaedia of all the various types of images used in Scripture. Many articles from it could be mentioned here, but let me select just two. In its discussion on satire it makes a number of interesting observations.

First, satire is “the exposure of human vice or folly through rebuke or ridicule”. Also, it can appear in various genres, and it “might consist of an entire book (e.g., Amos), or it can be as small as an individual proverb.” This summary statement is then offered:

“It is obvious that the Bible is a thoroughly satirical book. The largest repository of satire is prophetic writing, where we encounter continuous attacks on the evils of society and individuals. The second largest category is the parables and discourses of Jesus. Satire is prominent in biblical narrative…”

Also worth examining briefly is the taunt. In the Bible the religious taunt can be similar to the modern “bumper sticker ‘If your god is dead, try mine.’ Elijah taunts the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel, jeering that perhaps Baal is musing, or on a journey or sleeping (1 Kings 18:27). Here the religious taunt serves as a psychological weapon as well as making a theological statement. Similar religious taunts appear in Isaiah 44:9-20 and Habakkuk 2:18-20. God himself gets into the mocking mode in Psalm 2, where he is pictured as sitting in the heavens and laughing in derision at the conspiring nations.”

Image of A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking
A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking by Douglas Wilson Amazon logo

One Christian writer has even penned an entire volume on this. Douglas Wilson in A Serrated Edge (CanonPress, 2003) especially examines the use of satire in Scripture. His brief volume offers a number of quotable quotes, so let me offer a few.

He reminds us that the “prophets, the apostles and our Lord Jesus all exhibit a vast array of verbal behavior, including tenderness, love, insults, jokes, anger, and more.” He notes how preachers tell us to imitate Christ and his love. “But when Jesus looked on the rich, old rulers and insulted them, why do we tend to assume that this is never, ever to be imitated?”

Jesus – perhaps surprisingly to some – actually made use of humour and jokes fairly often, especially wild exaggeration. Wilson reminds us of how we have lost the impact of this, as we try to soften what Jesus said, and make it more conformed to acceptable religious ears.

But he could be very cutting and sharp, blasting his opponents with ridicule and insult. He certainly is not afraid to take on the religious leaders of the day. He certainly ripped into Herod, effectively saying, ‘Go tell the fox he has been outfoxed’ (Luke 13:31-32).

Says Wilson, “Jesus loved to appeal to outlandish images that we, through long and wrong usage, have prettified. ‘That’s a great restoration job on this ’57 Chevy,’ He says. ‘But why did you move the headlights into the trunk?’ (Mk. 4:21).”

He continues, “One of the great elements in humor is that of incongruity, and when it comes to portraying incongruities, Jesus is a master. But he does not do this because He likes to tell jokes. He uses this form of humor as a polemical weapon. He uses it in controversy.”

He offers plenty of examples of this, including Matthew 23, “the most extended polemic in the New Testament.” Jesus “even makes fun of how men pray” as in Matt. 6:5. And he is “not above using ethnic humor to make His point either” as in Matt.15:22-28; Mark 7:27.

Paul too uses plenty of this kind of language and rhetoric. “The Bible is not the kind of book that many Christians have glibly assumed it to be. In his polemical warfare, Paul does not hesitate to go after certain people by name” (eg., 1 Tim. 1:18-20; 2 Tim. 4:14).

He concludes by saying that satire “is a weapon to be employed in the warfare of the kingdom, not an opportunity for personal venting. A man who has a need to cut others is a man who ought to be silent.”

The point of this article is not to say we should necessarily go around taunting and mocking others, or lavishly use satire and other rhetorical devices all the time. But it certainly is to say that those who claim that to do so is to be unbiblical, unspiritual and un-Christlike are simply mistaken.

It is used all the time in Scripture, and there can be a place for Christians to use such rhetorical devices as well. The truth is, this “genre cannot be condemned out of hand” as Wilson notes. Indeed, Jesus and the apostles often went out of their way to offend people at times.

And we read how very often people did in fact take offence at what was said. But the offence of the gospel is never something we should shy away from. Sure, we need wisdom, tact and grace as we share with others – both within and without the body of Christ – but we need not fear stepping on toes occasionally. Indeed, if we are not stepping on toes once and a while – as the Spirit leads – we may have to ask ourselves just how effective we are being for the Kingdom.

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35 Responses to ‘Perhaps He is Out Relieving Himself’

  • Jesus is referred to as the lion of Judah and we are commanded to follow him, so why do the ‘politically correct’ preachers convince us to let them pull out our teeth? We have been deceived. We perish for lack of wisdom. Let us read and study our bibles and dig for greater wisdom and understanding so that we understand God’s Word better than those who would lead us into hell. Let us remember we are all in a spiritual battle. How can a lion defend it’s pride without his teeth and strength?

    Thank you Bill for encouraging me to reclaim my God given ‘teeth’. I have become fearful of speaking the truths the Holy Spirit gives me to share because of the way I have been persecuted in the past for doing so. I have put my ‘headlights in the trunk’. As I read your article I felt a certain freedom to be myself again. There’s a strong righteousness in me that has been all but silenced due to wrong thinking and condemnation from others. That part of me is starting to breathe again. You have brought tears to my eyes with your clarity of biblical truth. Thank you again. Many blessings,

    Joan Blanchard

  • Many thanks indeed Joan

    I too always am in need of encouragement, and your words have encouraged me to keep going on as well. Thanks and blessings.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The common WFJ (Wimp For Jesus) response is that Jesus is God, so He had special dispensation, but we don’t. But this will not do:

    * Paul tells us, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). He didn’t say “imitate Christ only when He was gentle, but not when He was tough.” Indeed, in such group-oriented cultures, the practises of the leader were tacit instructions to His followers to emulate them. Paul himself used such methods, e.g. when he said of the Galatian Judaizers, “I hope the knife slips!”

    * Some claim, “We are not God, so we might stuff up the harsh approach,” but in that book bill cited, The Serrated Edge, points out: “Some might say (and do say) that we are not Jesus, and so we do not have the wisdom to insult properly. Fine. So why then do we have the wisdom to love properly? Can’t we screw that up too?” (p. 17) I would argue that too many in the church have done exactly that, e.g. allowing liberals to take over seminaries.

    * We lose the authority of Scripture, because we need extra-biblical authority to pick what parts of Christ to emulate. The WFJ approach is that all harshness is wrong, and they use this to pick and choose which part of Christ’s life we should emulate. Wilson points out: “… when the standard is nonscriptural, and has excluded a certain type of expression as being a priori un-Christ-like, it then will not matter how many passages are cited which show Christ being un-Christ-like. And at that point we may take a jibe from Christ’s arsenal and say that wisdom is vindicated by her children.” (p. 17)

    * When Jesus came to Earth, it was to obey the Law perfectly. Thus everything He did must have complied with human obligations; He didn’t invoke special divine authority for His behaviour.

    * Jesus condemned the Pharisees for hypocrisy, or explicitly, “so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.” (Mt. 23:3). But if the common interpretation were right, then Jesus Himself was guilty of practising behaviour contrary to His teachings.

    * Jesus was partaking in the standard practice of challenge-riposte, which has been common throughout most cultures even to this day. It’s our namby-pamby Western culture that’s the odd one out.

    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • While I find much in this article that I agree with, what is lacking is a clear exposition of some of what the NT has to say about our speech.

    James 1:19-20 is a direct command to us: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

    In chapter 3, James goes on to describe just how dangerous the tongue is, and how carelessly we often wield it.

    I have observed many Christians in the act of debate and discussion (sometimes oral, sometimes written). My personal judgment, in my experience, is that most Christians (not all, but most) use the arguments in this article and in the comment section to justify their own pride and lack of sanctification. To speak the blunt truth and offend people with the gospel is not the same thing as offending people because we are unwilling and unable to bridle our tongues.

    Jesus Himself warns us – out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34). Many Christians simply have so much pride in their own hearts that it is always coming out of their mouths.

    The NT writers are clear that this sort of speech is to be undertaken with the greatest care, prayer, and humility. Rarely is it actually done that way, in my opinion.

    Greg Demme

  • Thanks Greg

    Yes Wilson speaks to this a fair amount in his book, and of course I mention it in my two articles. Getting the biblical balance right is always crucial. We are to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). But from my vantage point, for what it’s worth, our main problem is not too many Christians speaking out too strongly and too often about important matters, such as false teaching, heresy, apostasy, and so on.

    The big problem that I find is quite the opposite – too many Christians have been browbeaten into thinking that they should never speak out on anything at anytime, because to do so would be unloving, judgemental, and unbiblical. They have wrongly been led to believe that any strong and unflinching stance for truth is being intolerant and un-Christlike.

    Thus if we want to highlight what the NT teaches, we also must point out the many dozens of instances of quite strong and forceful speech, spoken in defence of truth, but also spoken in love. Indeed, if we believe Paul for example was being unloving in his many strong confrontations, then we have missed the mark here.

    So as I say, getting the right mix here is crucial, but as I see it, getting Christians to actually speak out when it counts is the real need of the day, not encouraging them to further remain silent for fear of being offensive and ‘unloving’ and so on.

    But thanks for your thoughts.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill.
    In regards to the Elijah taunt which heads this article it is not often realised that the suggestion is precisely that Baal has gone to the toilet. However, the jibe has from ancient times been covered up with euphemisms (a look at the critical apparatus in Biblia Hebraica will reveal some of them). Yet this taunt is very much to the point: Baal was a nature deity, and it is quite to be expected that as such he would have to answer calls of nature. So Elijah rings the changes on the claims made for Baal by his own devotees.
    I have encountered too the objections – often quite vehement – from the WFJ lobby (as Jonathan Sarfati aptly calls them). It is yet another symptom, I fear of the Biblical illiteracy you wrote about last week. These people just don’t know their Bibles, and if they do, they don’t know them well enough, and will trot out their ill-informed, sanctimonious humbug to silence a preacher who dares to use strong language, or even to raise his voice. They need a few lessons from Elijah – and Paul – to set their views straight.
    Murray R Adamthwaite

  • Thanks Jonathan

    Yes it is very good indeed and well worth a read.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Great article. I might just have to check out that book.
    Lee Herridge

  • That’s an interesting essay. Satire and rhetoric are of course legitimate tools of persuasion, especially in politics, but without the rational, logical side of persuasion they are little more than a circus act. Those ancient Jews could mock the priests of Baal all they like, but were they doing any better at that time? Surely there has to be some substance here beyond the rival tribal jingoism.
    John Snowden

  • Thanks John

    But as an unbeliever and a skeptic, we of course expect you to say such things. Indeed, it is becoming rather monotonously predictable if I may say so. But if one does not preface everything with a misotheistic bias, then one can see that far more is going on here. If there is indeed one true God, and many false pretenders to the throne, then this religious battle makes perfect sense. And it is not just a question of dry arid intellectualism, but of empirical proof. In this case the Baalists could not do anything despite all their begging and pleading to these false deities. But Elijah demonstrated to everyone that Yahweh in fact exists and is the one true God, as he miraculously came through in a most amazing way.

    But I realise that your reductionist worldview will not even allow you to countenance the possibility of the miraculous, so we will, as usual, just have to agree to disagree here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • In answer to John Snowden, the single biggest point of the text to which Bill refers is that YHWH did indeed do better than Ba’al that day and Elijah did indeed do better than the prophets of Ba’al, and the proof was clear to everyone who was there. If you want to accept one part of the text and reject another based on preconceived assumptions, that is hardly a good foundation upon which to judge the text or the people portrayed in it…

    Thank you for pointing out the sharpness of some of the satire in Scripture, Bill. Jesus himself had a very sharp tongue at times, and Paul certainly did – just read through Galatians to get a face full of Paul’s sharp tongue… The caution that Greg Demme raises though is a valid one. Let us be careful about how we use our tongues. I’m with you though Bill in your assertion that being careful how we use our tongues most certainly does not mean keeping our mouths shut at all times, or taking the attitude of the WFJ response (thanks for that, Jonathan!).

    John Symons

  • Thanks Bill. I’ve always been hesitant to speak up appropriately, and at the same time probably been guilty of speaking up inappropriately. This is a good reminder and I hope God continues to teach me how to be “wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove” and understand that the way He means it!
    Grahame Gould, WA, Australia

  • Thankyou Bill. We are all skeptics and unbelievers here. For example, neither your nor I believe in the bunkum of homosexual ideology, Koranic fantasies or toxic Leftwing secularism. We are co-skeptics. On the matter of Christianity, I find much to admire and respect, but must join you in reproaching loose Christian talk.

    Elijah demonstrated almost nothing. He is mere pre-amble. Which is why his religion was superseded.
    John Snowden

  • John Symons, we all approach texts with assumptions and preconceptions. We can’t do sound theology or sound philosophy or sound emprical science without questioning these in the long run. The ancient Jews were right to attack Baal worship, but it does not automatically follow that their own concepts were entirely right.
    John Snowden

  • Johnathon Sarfati wrote “… WFJ (Wimp For Jesus)” and I nearly wet myself laughing!

    I remember 30 y.a. getting castigated for referring to a classmate’s Christadelphian religion as a “satanic deception.” I backed down. Maybe I was just a WFJ.

    I do find this topic “difficult.” I find no problem in harsh language when appropriate, the balance is difficult.

    I remember criticising “Calvinism” as a satanic deception as well (but you should have heard what they said to me!). Till I met some earnest Calvinists. I’m still not a Calvinist though.

    I remember, as a young Pentecostal, thinking that all non-Pentecostals were hard hearted bookworms who never bothered to read “The Book” anyway. Then I became, effectively, a non-Pentecostal myself.

    The difference between the 3 examples I have given, is that I cannot believe in any way that Christadelphians are at all Christian, yet Calvinists, Arminians and (non-)Pentecostals are all, I believe, genuinely Christian who all have varying degrees of disagreement with myself.

    God save us from the WFJ movement.

    Graeme Cumming

  • Thanks John

    It is not what Elijah demonstrated but what God demonstrated. And by anyone’s reckoning, it was fairly impressive stuff, unless one is a gung-ho naturalist who will never concede anything miraculous.

    As to the Hebrew religion, it of course is the foundation of Christianity. Without it there would be no Christianity. Indeed, the NT makes no sense apart from the OT. As Augustine put it, “The new is in the old contained, and the old is in the new explained”.

    Christ came as a saviour, to deliver us from our sins. We only learn about the creation of the world, the image of God, the fall, the need for redemption, and so on in the OT. Christ fulfils and brings to completion all that is found in the OT. So the Hebrew religion is far more than mere preamble for the Christian. Indeed, it makes up 77% of the Christian Bible.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • John Snowden, I was not suggesting that I was without preconceptions. Indeed, I agree with you that we all have them. It was the inconsistency I thought I saw in yours that I was commenting on.

    Your comment that Elijah demonstrated almost nothing is interesting. Bill responds well I believe, in particular his comment that the important point is not what Elijah demonstrated, but what God demonstrated. Indeed, the day after these amazing events, Jezebel issued Elijah a death threat and completely demoralised, Elijah ran for his life evidently thinking it was all for nothing. Apparently he believed that he had demonstrated nothing after all. Then again, as the story unfolds further on we see that Elijah didn’t see the whole picture very clearly either! You should read it sometime John (read it again if you have done so already before) – it’s quite an impressive story.

    Elijah’s comments about Ba’al perhaps being on a journey, sleeping or being off somewhere to relieve himself are particularly cutting when you consider that these events are indeed part of the mythology surrounding Ba’al in the Canaanite religion. Elijah was not just making something up – he was taunting the priests of Ba’al with their own stories.

    John Symons

  • Thank you Bill. One does not need to be a gungo-ho Naturalist to question a particular miracle story. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, often checks tales of the miraculous. In the case of Elijah, all we have is an ancient story. We don’t know if there was a demonstration by God on that occasion anymore than we know that recent “natural” disasters were really a demonstration on His part.
    John Snowden

  • Thanks again John Snowden

    Yes it is correct to say that various miracle stories do need to be examined. As to the Elijah story, it is part of a bigger issue: whether the Bible is in fact a reliable, accurate and trustworthy document, and whether the events that it records are actual historical events. Of course all that is another major discussion.

    And of course the description of this miracle story tells us it was far more than just some natural occurrence. It clearly involves supernatural intervention, and is meant to be understood as a clear demonstration of divine power and activity. But again, the possibility of the miraculous can only be discussed if one has not made up one’s mind ahead of time, and ruled them out a priori because of a previous commitment to philosophical naturalism. But we have been over this ground before as well.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks again Bill for making clear and easy to understand from bible based every day topic….You know what I mean!
    Doug Matthews

  • C.S. Lewis has a very interesting article on the miraculous in his collection of essays called “God in the dock”. It exposes the inconsistency of thinking among those who disregard the miraculous on rational grounds quite well.
    I think, we need to remember when it comes to satire or any other forms of persuasion we might use in order to proclaim the gospel message that it is a tool to expose and defeat evil, wrong thinking and ideas etc, not to attack people with. Elijah used it on the priests of Baal, the ones who committed their lives to this religion, Jesus did the same, he attacked the actions and underpinning thinking of the religious leaders who were supposed to teach the people, the enquirers so to speak, the grace and promise of God and His messiah and instead bound them with many burdens. If we keep the aim of the gospel in mind, to successfully bring people to the knowledge of Jesus Christ their saviour, and if we keep sensitive to the Holy Spirits leading – yes, even as none pentecostal I believe in such a thing, then we will learn to use the various tools, of which satire is one and loving persuasion is another, when appropriate.
    But I am with Joan in thanking you for reintroducing this very much scorned and neglected tool and to encourage us to use in its proper place.
    Talking about car stickers, I heard a good one not long ago “If we offend anyone, it won’t be Jesus”
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Thanks Ursula

    Yes it is a very good chapter by Lewis, as is his entire 1947 book Miracles. The chapter is ch. 2 in the first (1970) edition of God in the Dock.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I think we ought to look carefully at our Christian brothers and sisters speaking in the public arena and learn from something about close and personal unarmed combat. What would Jesus have said and done (WWJSD) in this situation?

    http://www.christianconcern.com/media/bbc-one-peter-norris-defends-the-christian-view-of-marriage-on-the-big-questions

    David Skinner, UK

  • This article is very practical Bill. I know that sooner or later, we Christians are no longer going to have the luxury of being able to hide behind our stained glass windows or being Mr Nice Guy. We are going to be thrust, like Peter, being confronted with the servant girl, into very uncomfortable situations. Surely we should be bringing the fear of God to people, so that they cry out,”So what must we do to be saved?” I just pray that I shall have the courage and wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Here is something Debate is for de fish!, 2006-03-01, which also discusses 1 Peter 3:14-16 and 2 Timothy 2:24-26:

    The WFJ will call everyone a BR [battering ram] regardless of the situation or motives of the parties involved, completely blind and unwilling to exercise discernment. Much to the delight of the unbelievers, the WFJs will chastise the (imagined) BR and express embarrassment over such a display of conviction and fortitude as harsh and unloving. This effectively silences those who would stand strong for the sake of the gospel. The WFJs will think themselves the more spiritual and kind, but in reality the lost remain comfortably lost.

    Instead of showing a united front to the unbelievers we show a spineless bowl of jelly. All traces of firm stance are removed; the meat of the gospel is intolerable to today’s “vegan” Christian. The gospel is stripped of its power to save and replaced with a cheap imitation spirituality that stands for nothing at all.

    The only real BRs I’ve ever encountered are the ones who take it upon themselves to beat up other Christians for not behaving “properly”. The very people who are WFJs in front of unbelievers grow horns and fangs when they see anyone make a forceful defense of the gospel. These self-described lambs are anything but gentle when they deal with their own who have violated their vegan diet.

    So judge yourself! Do you spend more time tearing down others for their witnessing methods than you do actually presenting the gospel as the Spirit has gifted you? Do you allow the Spirit to work through others as He sees fit, instead of by your particular rules? Do you stand idly by while a pack of wolves attacks a believer who stood unashamedly for Jesus instead of hiding behind political correctness?

    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • Thanks Jonathan, I really needed that link. Cheered me up no end.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Yes Jonathan, every Christian needs training in learning how to remain in a debate without being shut up or dismissed as a homophobic bigot. It is not the debate we need to win but the souls of men.

    David Skinner, UK

  • John Snowden:

    Thankyou Bill. We are all skeptics and unbelievers here. For example, neither your nor I believe in the bunkum of homosexual ideology, Koranic fantasies or toxic Leftwing secularism. We are co-skeptics.

    This is right: Mr Snowden has long been a staunch opponent of the poisonous agenda of what often passes for organized skepticism.
    Jonathan Sarfati, US

  • Interesting discussion.

    Is there any place for Christians using sarcasm, or is this a poor witness? I’ve resorted to this myself in online debates with atheists after getting angry and frustrated with them. I make my points strongly but respectfully, but receiving vitriol, mocking and ridicule in return, and accusations that I was trying to convert them. Converting them isn’t on my agenda anyway, which would take a miracle.

    Releasing that being nice wasn’t working, I resorted to sarcasm.

    For example, “Research by a sociologist reveals that atheists are nicer, happier people than those with religious beliefs. Evidently some of you weren’t in his research sample.”

    and

    “As I read your comments I get a mental picture of a chained doberman, thrashing about and frothing at the mouth.”

    Is that too harsh?

    Ross McPhee

  • Thanks Ross

    The truth is, to simply stand up against these guys will be seen as being harsh. Many are not interested in facts, evidence, or proper debate. Many have their minds already made up, and just like to argue. And for many of these guys, to argue means to throw mud, call names and hurl abuse. That is always so much easier than making a proper argument.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • “The truth is, to simply stand up against these guys will be seen as being harsh. Many are not interested in facts, evidence, or proper debate. Many have their minds already made up, and just like to argue. And for many of these guys, to argue means to throw mud, call names and hurl abuse. That is always so much easier than making a proper argument.”

    While I am thankful for some of this discussion, and for your earlier reponse to me, Bill, this statement above reveals what I was talking about. It is not a far jump from knowing that any opposition from us will be seen as harsh or hostile to believing that their wicked reaction to the truth justifies any harsh, hostile, reactionary, gutter tactics of our own. I am not saying you are doing this, but anyone whose sin tendencies leaned towards the unbridled tongue could easily take your statement that way (and many do).

    As I have said so often, it is rarely the actual person with us in the confrontation whose soul is at stake, but rather the people who are observing our conversations, arguments, and debates whose hearts are often changed by the Holy Spirit after they have seen not merely our words and our answers, but our Godly character. This is why 1 Peter 3 doesn’t end with v. 15 (just being ready to give an answer) but continues by telling us to give our answers with gentleness and respect, with a good conscience, so that those who slander us will be put to shame (for accusing falsely, rather than for accusing us of actual sinful behavior – see also Mat. 5:11-12 – we are to rejoice not whenever people say evil things about us, but when the evil things they say are false). That is also why we are specifically told by Paul in 1 Cor 4:12, “When reviled, we bless.”

    For a specific example of what I mean, and for a fuller treatment of this, please see a review of my encounter with that “apostle of atheism,” PZ Myers: http://creation.com/evolutionary-equivocation

    Greg Demme

  • Thanks Greg

    But you miss the point of my comment. I am simply asserting a basic truth here: offence will always be taken in the truth wars. It is actually unavoidable. I can in the most loving and gracious manner say that God exists, yet an atheist will take offence at this. I can in the most loving and gracious manner say that Jesus is God’s son, yet a Muslim will take offence at this. I can in the most loving and gracious manner say that absolute truth exists, yet a relativist will take offence at this.

    And by the way, the most loving, gracious and kind man to walk the earth not only caused heaps of offence and strong reaction, but he was crucified in the end for his endeavours. So truth will always be offensive, no matter how nicely, tenderly, or even with PC sensitivity we seek to present it. But I deal with all this elsewhere, so no need to repeat myself here. See for example these two articles for starters:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/12/06/it%E2%80%99s-time-to-be-offensive/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/06/13/the-offence-of-the-gospel/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I’m of the opinion that practise makes perfect. If we want to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves in all of our discourse, then we need to not be afraid of making mistakes along the way.
    Otherwise, how will we ever grow the courage to share the gospel to a hostile audience if we never so much as open our mouths out of fear of offending someone or saying the wrong thing?
    Trust in the Holy Spirit that dwells inside of you and rely on Him and He will fill your mouth with the words of life.
    Mario Del Giudice

  • Dear Bill,

    Well said Bill. But let us all count the cost as we follow Jesus. For He is ever advancing forward. (Amen). For the assumption is that He did not come to make peace? But to place a sword between folks of the same household. Wherefore let us with endurance run the race that still is ahead of us if it be that we have the Spirit of God within us.

    Sunday Tunde

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