CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Even More Stupid Posters and Quotes

Jun 16, 2012

This looks like it is going to be an ongoing series for quite some time to come. It is instalment number three of an irregular series which shows no signs of letting up. You see, people – including well-meaning folks, and even Christians – keep posting these quotes and sayings on places like Facebook, and they proudly display them for all the world to see.

The trouble is, many of these quotes are not at all reflective of biblical wisdom or Christian truth. A lot of them are just plain stupid, if not in fact heretical. Now we of course expect non-believers to eagerly post these sorts of things, but when people who call themselves Christians do so, then it is a bit of a worry.

Often these folks have good intentions and they mean well, but truth is important, and accurately representing our Lord and our faith is important as well. If the goal of a Christian is to encourage and edify others online with these sorts of posters, then making sure they actually reflect what Scriptures teaches is a good place to begin.

So let’s look at three more prime examples of all this.

“Some Christians spend their lives defining themselves by what they’re against, rather than demonstrating what they are for.”

Now this really is quite dumb – and patently illogical. The simple truth is, it is impossible to be for something without at the same time being against its opposite. If you are for helping the environment, you are against that which harms the environment. If you are for racial harmony you are automatically against racial discrimination. If you are for the Geelong Cats, you are against all the other AFL clubs.

If you are for your wife, then in a sense you have declared that you are against all other women – at least in terms of marrying them. To be for something means you have discriminated, and chosen some things while rejecting other things. That is simply how life works.

To choose to follow Jesus means you have chosen to renounce following Satan, self and sin. To affirm theism means of course you deny atheism. If you have aligned yourself with Christianity that means you are not a secularist, or a Muslim or a Hindu.

This is all basic logic 101. The law of contradiction (A does not equal non-A) always applies here. So how can anyone foolishly go on about simply being for something, and never against something? It simply can’t be done. But I realise there are plenty of Christians, and Christian leaders, who regularly trample logic and disdain sound reasoning.

But I have recently written a whole piece on this, so I encourage readers to go here if they want more thoughts on this: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/05/24/youre-too-negative/

Jesus Loves* you.
*Conditions do not apply.

This is another one of those clear cases of “yes and no”. It has truth in it all right, but enough error is also found in this that it can be extremely misleading and deceptive. Posters of course by their very nature are short little statements which lack context.

So they can be quite dangerous actually. This one is like that – it expresses some biblical truth, but it does not offer biblical balance. So let’s look at the yes case: Is God love? Does he love us? Is his love for us lavish? Is his love an everlasting love? Is his love something to celebrate? Yes of course to all these questions.

But that is not the end of the story. There are in fact conditions which God himself has given whereby we can be true recipients of his love. Let me explain. On the one hand, we all are recipients of his love, grace and mercy every day. We refer to this as common grace. Sinner and saint alike receive it.

That is the clear sense of a passage like Matthew 5:45 in which Jesus says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”. So yes, he has a general love which we all partake of. But on the other hand, when we think of something like his saving love, things are quite different.

Let’s just look at the cross – the clearest expression of God’s love. But it is also the clearest expression of his wrath. It was a very costly provision of love and grace. And the Bible of course tells us that not everyone will receive this free gift. Indeed, they cannot receive it without meeting the proper conditions, chief of which is repentance.

To avail oneself of God’s love as demonstrated at Calvary, one must turn from one’s sinful lifestyle in repentance, and cast one’s all on Christ. If that elementary condition is not met, there is no saving faith, and there is no benefit of the cross.

And of course those who are true Christians know full well that staying in God’s love is contingent upon keeping his commandments. As Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15: 10).

Or as John wrote: “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” (1 John 2:3). But for more on all this, consider these articles:

billmuehlenberg.com/2008/08/12/on-biblical-love/
billmuehlenberg.com/2010/05/27/on-divine-love-and-wrath/
billmuehlenberg.com/2011/06/18/loving-god-and-keeping-the-commandments/

“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” Anne Lamott

This sound neat, and it especially sounds so inclusive and non-judgmental – which are the chief virtues, not of biblical Christianity, but of our secular and sentimental age. Of course in one sense we are to do what the old cliché says: we are to hate the sin while loving the sinner.

But usually the folks throwing around this quote have in mind something like this: those who stand up for God’s standards and oppose the radical agendas of the militant homosexual lobbies, or the abortionists, or the pornographers, and so on, are hate-filled and unloving.

They falsely argue that to object to these radical social agendas means one is a hater. But to love marriage and family and to resist those seeking to destroy those institutions does not make one a hater. To be concerned about what God is concerned about is in fact to be loving.

And the Bible makes it clear that we should have God’s heart on things: we should love what he loves and hate what he hates. As Romans 12:9 says so clearly: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good”. There is nothing incompatible about loving God and hating evil.

Indeed, God himself – the most loving being in the universe – is often said to hate that which is evil. There is no contradiction here at all. Consider just a few verses:

-Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
-Amos 5:21 I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies.
-Malachi 2:16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel
-Rev 2:6:  But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate

As John Stott has said commenting on Romans 12:9, “It may seem strange that the exhortation to love is followed immediately by a command to hate. But we should not be surprised. For love is not the blind sentiment it is traditionally said to be. On the contrary, it is discerning. It is so passionately devoted to the beloved object that it hates every evil which is incompatible with his or her highest welfare.”

Conclusion

Sadly, there are many more such suspect posters and quotes where these come from. There never seems to be a shortage of these sorts of sayings and quotes unfortunately. So it looks like my job will be cut out for me for quite some time.

Again my point in highlighting these matters is not to denigrate those who have posted these things. The intentions of those doing this of course are usually good, but as I have written before, intentions alone are not enough. And if we end up peddling stuff which is biblically dubious, if not downright unbiblical, then we are not helping all that much.

Christians of all people are called to be discerning, wise, and mentally and morally astute. There really is no place for sloppy thinking and mushy moralising in the Christian life. Sappy sentimentalism is not what we should be promoting, but biblical truth.

So by all means keep seeking to encourage others, to provoke others, and to edify others. But if you are a Christian, then make sure what you are sharing falls in line with biblical teaching, and not with the latest trendy sentimentalism and sap from New Agers, secular humanists, or other non-Christians.

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10 Responses to Even More Stupid Posters and Quotes

  • Very good blog. With the old saying, Love the sinner, hate the sin, it is actually impossible to love anyone if we don’t hate their sin. Love is not warm feelings (though they might be present), but is desirous of the other’s highest good – and ultimately, that means forsaking the sin that has entangled them and is storing up God’s wrath for them.
    Trevor Sidnell

  • Quite right Trevor.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hate evil and love good; establish justice in the gate. Amos 5:15.
    Can’t do the last without doing both of the first two.
    Wisdom and compassion can see that but sentimentalism and jingoism can’t.
    Michael Hutton

  • Very helpful Bill. Especially the part about ‘unconditional love’.

    Terry Darmody

  • Interesting on FB, one person just gives truth in Bible verses. Others give their ‘feelings’ which come and go.

    Bill, you are commended to keep writing, well done to stand with God for what is right in this upside down world.

    Judith Bond

  • Thanks Michael, Terry and Judith.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • So many use those little quotes so they don’t have to think for themselves.
    Ian Nairn

  • You say your intent is not to denigrate those who say such thigs yet this blog entry calls them “stupid posters”. Respect lost for you sorry Bill.
    John Barnes

  • Thanks John

    But you seem to be failing here in making a most basic Christian distinction: we are to tolerate and respect people, but we are never told to tolerate and respect bad ideas, bad actions, bad philosophies, bad doctrines, and bad theology. And there certainly is plenty of stupid theology and thinking out there.

    Sorry, but if this upsets you, then you must really hate Jesus (eg Matt 23:33; Mark 8:33; John 8:44; etc.) and Paul (eg Gal 1:6-9; 3:1-3; Phil. 3:2; etc.) when they say far harsher things.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • I find it really funny Bill when I see how many people look for any excuse to get all offended at you. I’m glad you write this stuff and I’m thankful for your thick skin 😀

    God Bless
    Mario Del Giudice

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