“I Just Don’t Want To Think About It…”

Often I will get a fellow believer complain to me. They do not like the fact that I raise certain issues which they would rather just ignore. They do not like it when I point out the evils of abortion, or stealth jihad, or sexual slavery, or the radical homosexual agenda.

They certainly don’t want to see pictures of aborted babies, or of churches burned down by the Islamists, or of children being forced into prostitution. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ seems to be their way of operating. Now that might be fine for some non-believers, but for anyone who dares to call himself a follower of Jesus Christ that will not do at all.

Yet I get this all the time from some Christians. And they are quite keen to Bible-bash me, especially with one particular verse: Philippians 4:8. This famous passage says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Now is that a good Christian thing to do? Of course it is. But does that mean we just pretend there is nothing ugly, evil and ungodly out there in the world? Does it mean we just think happy thoughts all day long like the New Agers want us to do? Does it mean we simply ignore the sin and suffering which occurs all around us?

No is the obvious answer. Those who glibly quote this verse as they refuse to face reality are guilty of one of two things. Either they simply pull this passage out of biblical context, and overlook all the other verses which tell us to be aware of and involved in what is happening, or they are steeped in unbiblical “positive confession” theology.

If the former, we must remind these folks that this verse was never meant to imply that we just live in la-la land where everything is rosy and there is no evil. The truth is, we are clearly told that we should not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).

How can we fight sin, the flesh, the world, and the devil, if we try to bury our heads in the sand? Sure, we are not to glorify evil, relish in it, amplify it, or overdo in our exposure to it, but the biblical response is not to just pretend evil is not happening.

And for those who get this unhelpful thinking from the bogus “positive confession” movement, all I can say is look here, since I have already spoken to this sham teaching at length:
billmuehlenberg.com/2010/09/29/problems-with-the-positive-confession-movement/

These misguided believers would of course have real troubles with all God’s great heroes through the ages, whether the prophets or the great reformers of church history. They obviously never read someone like Jeremiah or Ezekiel. After all, they are such bearers of bad news, and are constantly speaking of sin, idolatry, rebellion, and coming judgment. Not very positive stuff there.

And they must really hate someone like William Wilberforce: all that talk about the horrors of slavery, the treatment of blacks, and the terrible conditions of slaves, etc. ‘I can’t allow my pristine mind and spirit to be contaminated by all that negative thought and reality. Phil 4:8 just won’t allow me to entertain such thoughts.’

I have even had these people tell me they get “sad” when they see some of the stuff I post here and there. They say they don’t want to be sad by seeing and reading about this stuff, and they don’t really enjoy folks like me even raising these issues.

Well, respectfully, I have a few words for such folks: I am sorry you were made sad by all this. We can just all go back to our little closed world and see no evil. We can all just keep hiding our heads in the sand and pretend none of this stuff is happening. We can all just live in our little isolated world where we are oblivious to what is happening around us.

That is one way to proceed. But of course it is not the way of Jesus Christ. It is not how a biblical Christian should act. We are called to be salt and light in a very needy world. That means getting our hands dirty and working against evil. And to do that, we must be aware of what is happening in our world.

Pretending all these evil things are not taking place helps no one. It only helps the enemy, and allows more evil, more injustice, more abuse, and more suffering to take place. Thus those who don’t want to know about it are actually complicit in evil. They are allowing this great evil to take place.

It is just like all those Germans – including German “Christians” – who just did not want to know what was happening in those concentration camps. They probably consoled themselves – and deluded themselves – by repeating Phil 4:8 over and over again, like a mantra.

To be a genuine Christian influence in a very needy world means confronting evil – not hiding our heads in the sand. It means being willing to have our hearts broken with what breaks the heart of God. It certainly does not mean living in our little spiritual bubble where we ignore all the suffering and evil taking place everywhere around us.

Indeed, I suspect that some of these confused Christians who seek to hide behind Phil. 4:8 are really not as spiritual as they think they are. They may in fact just be apathetic, indifferent and unloving – even un-Christlike. They really don’t give a rip about all the evil around them, and they use passages like this as a cheap excuse to get completely uninvolved in all the suffering and sin of our world.

They are really like all the religious Pharisees who, when they saw a needy man lying on the road, crossed over to the other side of the road to avoid the problem, to not contaminate themselves, to not be “sad,” and to not have any “negative thoughts”.

These folks pretend they are keeping themselves pure and unspoiled from the world, but all they are doing is telling their Lord they have no intention of loving their neighbour as themself, and have no intention of obeying the command to be salt and light.

Let me close by offering some incisive quotes here by past reformers – both Christian and non-Christian:

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” (Martin Luther King Jr)

“The world is too dangerous to live in – not because of people who do evil, but because of people who sit and let it happen”. (Albert Einstein)

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” (Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel)

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” (Elie Wiesel)

?”A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.” (John Stuart Mill)

“The hottest level in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in a moral crisis.” (Dante’s Inferno)

“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.” (Suffragette Susan B. Anthony)

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” (Abolitionist William Wilberforce)

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” (Martyred Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“At the final bar of judgment, when those of us who are Christians stand face to face with our Maker, the gravest charge that will be made against us will be that we were so unconcerned. We lived at a time and in an age when the very foundations of civilization were being shaken, when the very world in which we lived was rocking, when we witnessed things such as men have never seen before. We saw the spiritual and moral, as well as the political, declension all around us, and yet we did nothing about it. We were apathetic and unconcerned. We did not feel a great solicitude that would not allow us to rest by day or by night.” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

But let me finish with two brief words of Scripture which we all certainly need to take to heart:

“Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see.” (Lamentations 1:12)

“Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” (Psalm 94:16)

[1593 words]

37 Replies to ““I Just Don’t Want To Think About It…””

  1. One thing that makes me sad is the apparent unwillingness of many churchgoers to read Christian magazines and newspapers even when they are available free at church entrances. That seems to be one symptom of the malaise you are talking about.

    But many of us are very thankful of people such as you Bill with your commitment and energy.

    David Morrison

  2. I guess the trouble is – knowing stuff makes us accountable!

    Scripture tells us:
    Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
    hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
    If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
    Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
    and will he not repay man according to his work?
    (Proverbs 24:11-12)

    I guess many people feel they are better off not knowing!

    But in reality, the only way to not know how bad things are is to get off all mailing lists, turn off the evening news, stop talking to people and live in a bubble of blissful ignorance and denial! For once we know stuff, God holds us accountable for our response. And he knows that we know! And that is just reality.

    Elizabeth Kendal

  3. I for one appreciate your commentary. It is one place I can find out what is really happening in the world, no matter how awful it may be. Keep up the good work and don’t be discouraged by those who want to keep their heads in the sand!

    Alison Stanley

  4. Hi Bill,

    Thank you for yet another timely and hard-hitting message, following as it does your recent posts on the plight of Egyptian Coptic Christians and the media cover-up of the trial of Dr Kermit Gosnell (the American abortionist charged with beheading newly-born infants).

    When Christians quote Philippians 4:8 to justify their refusal to dwell on negative things, they misinterpret the verse entirely.

    If, as the verse commands us, we are to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy, we should as a result have a sharpened not a duller sense of what is amiss in the world (and in ourselves), because we will be measuring things by Godly standards and desiring that God’s will may be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.

    If we really dwelt on God’s character — His might, righteousness, justice, mercy and love — we wouldn’t dream of turning our back on such evils as abortion, attacks on the family and stealth jihad with an indifferent shrug.

    Do people who so glibly point to Philippians 4:8 actually read the verse and do what it commands? Or have they immersed themselves so much in the gospel of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller that they think it points to what you correctly describe as unbiblical “positive confession” theology?

    So-called Christians who turn their backs on social evils remind me of that line, “Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind”, from Alexander Pope’s poem “Eloisa to Abelard”. (The line was used as the title for a 2004 romantic science-fiction film about a firm called Lacuna, Inc., which, for a fee, could erase from a client’s mind any memories of unhappy past romances).

    We are indeed meant to contemplate positive things such as truth, beauty and goodness; but that doesn’t mean we’re to turn our backs on reality and prattle on about the power of positive thinking.

    God’s people are supposed to be imitators of Christ, not of Pollyanna.

    John Ballantyne, Melbourne.

  5. Great article, as usual, Bill. One minor quibble- I strongly doubt that the quote allegedly from Dante’s Inferno actually comes from Dante. It’s not his style, for one thing. For another, the hottest level of the inferno wasn’t the worst level. That was the level of ice. This is where Lucifer, and Judas Iscariot were found. But that’s a minor quibble, and one of the problems we find when we get quotes from the internet. Your point, and John’s above, are well taken.
    Edgar Sherman, Holland

  6. No man can absolve their responsibility and accountability by refusing to recognize these abuses of Eternal Law, all their refusal accomplishes is to highlight their complicity in these matters.

    Like the proverbial Ostrich we can’t keep our heads buried in the Sand as we suffer self suffocation and retrospective degradation and instead of progressing they regress. When they do pull their Head out of the sand the problem has not disappeared, but will have assumed greater proportions and now far harder to overcome.

    These things cannot be ignored, but must be faced and dealt with when they first raise their sinful heads otherwise we are spiritually dead.

    Leigh Stebbins

  7. Just after the second WW Germans who lived close to some of the Nazi death camps, could see the chimneys of the incinerating ovens, claimed they did not know about what was happening within walking distance of where they lived. Their testimony of ignorance was received with utmost contempt and were made to walk through those camps and see with their own eyes the horror “they had missed”. May be those of us who “miss” what is happening may await a similar experience one day. Could this be a feature of hell experience?

    Joost Gemeren

  8. John B, I appreciate your wise comments, but may I please correct you (and all) on Pollyana – maybe it’s time to read the book again, or even to see the film.

    Pollyana didn’t learn from her preacher father to avoid negativity but to take whatever came – however bad or disappointing – and to make the best of it. Thus she learned not to be self-pitying and introspective.

    That is to be true realists with a hope in the sure God of heaven Who will in the end see proper justice and mercy prevail.

    Part of the problem with positive confession and Phil 4:8 stuff is that it is a denial of reality, and a reaction to avoid of the bad stuff.

    John Angelico

  9. Thanks Ed – been using it for years. I believe I read it in a book somewhere. But I am happy to accept your take on the quote.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  10. John A, I accept your correction about Pollyanna.

    I confess I haven’t read the books and didn’t even know that her father was a preacher. Sorry about that. (Back to the basket for Ballantyne).

    I was looking for somebody who embodied vacuous optimism. Very well, if Pollyanna won’t do, how about Dr Pangloss?

    John Ballantyne, Melbourne.

  11. Hi Bill- I googled it, and found several times where you quote it. It seems to have come originally from Dorothy Sayers, who does attribute it to Dante. I still find it odd. It is modern phraseology- Dante wouldn’t have put it like that. Maybe Sayers translated it that way (she did a translation of the Divine Comedy). It’s still a bit odd as I say, because by saying it is the “hottest” place in hell, it makes it sound like it is the worst, and in Dante that was definitely the level ice, not fire. But I’d accept Sayers as an authority on it. Sorry for the distraction. My literary side running away with me. 🙂

    Edgar Sherman

  12. Thanks again Ed – yes a bit of a distraction! But there is an easy solution to all this: you will just have to reread the book, and all our questions will be answered! Let us know the results!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  13. Dear Bill, thank you so much for putting it so clearly!
    If we do not suffer in our souls for those who endure suffering – often so much worse than we could imagine – then we have no right to call ourselves Christians. However, pity for those who suffer is not enough, we must, with God’s help and guidance, translate it into action. The good things which Christians of conviction and action have done over the centuries, I believe was the result of this soul- suffering. It is painful, but necessary – as you put it, being “willing to have our hearts broken with what breaks the heart of God” and then putting our God-guided efforts into doing something about it.
    Your commentaries serve as a prod for the lazy and comfortable – myself included – and I, for one, appreciate them very much. God bless you in your work.
    Jan Greig

  14. “We are indeed meant to contemplate positive things such as truth, beauty and goodness; but that doesn’t mean we’re to turn our backs on reality and prattle on about the power of positive thinking.”

    Great comment, John Ballantyne!

    Mark Rabich

  15. I assume those who quote Phil 4:8 don’t watch violence in movies. Or is that OK because it isn’t real?

    Agreed Jan, we must know in order to act. But knowing without acting is useless to us. This is what I find hard, knowing what I can do to make a difference, and when to do it. It is impossible to do everything, to donate to every worthy cause. But what little I am capable of doing I should be doing.

    Kylie Anderson

  16. Hi Bill- Last literary comment. I have read The Divine Comedy. It’s a great book- or rather 3 books, and it’s poetry. That’s why I know the quote doesn’t fit Dante’s style, and that the worst place in the Inferno is the level of ice. But I haven’t read Sayer’s translation. Not sure I want to do that just for the sake of validating that quote. 🙂 Always appreciate you my friend.
    Edgar Sherman

  17. Listen Bill, the above article had to be written, The amount of syrupy thinking in relation to this issue is mind boggling, it is slowly choking the church and rendering it useless as a bastion of resistance to the evils you outlined above, about probably 3 months ago I felt a strong urge to see if I could start a prayer group at our church specifically for the purpose of praying for our nation and the issues that it faces, you know I got 4 people out of about 300 plus who communicated their interest. The idea of this group is to raise awareness of issues that really affect our nation and our people and to pray about them and if agreed, probably back up the prayers with some sort of action. Now, I have a bit of a reputation in our church for being a “loose cannon” because I am always bringing up things that most Christians, on my experience anyway, just do not want to openly discuss! It is the usual crap, must not judge, we are all sinners, must not condemn, I had one person in my congregation who said that they were sick of hearing people dragging down Julia Gillard and Socialism, can you believe that? Gillard aside, I would have thought that Socialism would be a constant target of the church considering the destructive nature of it, most Christians will not even get off their backsides and write a letter to their local member about some of the most important issues facing us, oh, now we must not get political, what would Jesus think? I think there are too many of us playing church at the moment and it will catch up with us sooner or later, true, Jesus wins in the end but until “the end” we are constantly told throughout the New Testament to be “doing” all manner of things not sitting back and letting our Saviour do everything. Some of those who expressed their interest are of school age, I wonder how long it will be before their parents stop them coming because I am leading it?! They will probably be scared that I am trying to indoctrinate them, no, I want to educate them and make them aware that we have a civic duty as well as a spiritual duty and hopefully, they will communicate this essential fact to the other school age people in the church.

    Steve Davis

  18. You are in great company Bill. Prophets always have a hard time with the world but they’re a tough breed —- made for the task you might say!! and by ONE who knows exactly what He’s about — Blessings on you and yours. — The backup ranks for prayer, He also supplies and you can trust him for that.
    Anna Cook

  19. This year will be the 180th anniversary of the death of William Wilberforce. Amid all the hype over the 40th anniversary of the US Roe v. Wade law case, the life and radical Christian vision of Wilberforce must not only never be forgotten. The vision he shared with like-minded Evangelicals who formed the Clapham Sect – vision for Christian faith as a positive, potent force for the moral and spiritual health of nations must be revived and passionately and lucidly promoted in the public arena.

    The works of Anglo-Catholic Nobel Laureate, T.S. Eliot are also highly relevant to public debate in our times when secularism is generating a culture which is a wasteland peopled by hollow men and women who desperately need to be “rehumanised” through the redemptive work of the Creator in their lives.

    John Wigg

  20. Thanks Liz

    Yes I saw that when it first came out. It is filled with so many lies, distortions, deceptions, half-truths, falsehoods, and fallacious arguments that an entire article would be needed to do it proper justice, not just a short comment here.

    But the simple truth is this: it is not “homophobia” or a lack of acceptance that is causing problems for homosexuals – it is the inherent nature of this unhealthy, abnormal and high-risk lifestyle – that is what is causing all the problems. And despite the evangellyfish leaders who think we should just cave in on this issue, it is the other way around: we need to stand firm here.

    And forget this baloney about them being offended. Just think about the obvious here:
    -If you preach the biblical truth on adultery, adulterers will get upset and offended
    -If you preach the biblical truth on theft, thieves will get upset and offended
    -If you preach the biblical truth on arson, arsonists will get upset and offended
    -If you preach the biblical truth on murder, murderers will get upset and offended

    So of course if you preach the biblical truth on homosexuality, a homosexual will get upset and offended. So what? Should we stop preaching truth because it makes people feel bad?

    Jesus spoke truth and it made people feel bad. The crowds were always divided because of him, and many hated him for speaking truth. Indeed, they crucified him because they were so offended and mad at him for throwing the spotlight on their sin. Simply reread John 3:19-21.

    And forget the baloney about “homophobia” causing suicide. As I fully document in my book Strained Relations (which you need to get), homosexual suicide rates are just as high in the most homosexual-affirming places in the world (eg Sydney, Amsterdam, San Francisco) as anywhere else.

    And finally, there are tens of thousands of people who have been set free from the homosexual lifestyle – I know many of them. This article spouts the lie that they do not exist. And some of these duped church leaders go along with this: they want these people to stay trapped in their dead-end lifestyles and to face a lost eternity – all in the name of “Christian compassion” – go figure!

    The most loving thing we can do for a homosexual is tell him the truth: ‘you don’t have to be homosexual’. That is why Christ came, to set the prisoner free, not to allow him to wallow in his sin, degradation and misery.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  21. I will be buying the book and I agree with you completely. The article has been written in such a way to pull people in and tug at their emotions. Do you mind if I use some of your statistics above in reply to the person that posted on FB? thanks so much Bill, your work is vital to the Christian and church today, thank you again for speaking TRUTH and reminding us of our responsibility!! God bless you richly!

    Liz Gee

  22. Yes feel free Liz – but be prepared for the backlash if you dare to stand up for truth in this area! Keep up your good work.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  23. Thanks for the article Bill. Heavy handed and hard hitting but appreciated and necessary. Love the quotes. Shows how far I have yet to travel.

    Steve – what a great job you are doing with your prayer group. Don’t be discouraged by the numbers. It’s amazing what can happen with small numbers. You never know, these kids might wake up their parents.

    Yes, Liz, go for it. And yes, there will be a back lash. I’ve had it on my facebook page but it’s also amazing how many people will not get involved in the discussion. Can’t recommend Bill’s book ‘Strained Relations’ enough.

    Meredith Gemeren

  24. I was pleasantly surprised at the person who put this article up. She takes a Biblical stand. So I commented that the article was confusing to readers and misleading and that it gave the wrong idea of what is really happening. I also took some of your stat’s Bill. thank you and for the encouragement.

    Liz Gee

  25. Thank you Meredith Gemeren for your encouraging words, all I want to do is to get my fellow Christians to think about their civic duty as well, imagine what an influence we could be if the whole church was in sync with regards to civic duty!
    Steve Davis

  26. Sadly Bill I have to retract my comment above, the lady who posted this article from the Pink Foundation (helps prostitutes) has sent me this article. I take it she is confused about it! I’m saddened to read to many here condoning and agreeing with homosexuality.
    http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/28630.htm

    Liz Gee

  27. Thank you for the article, Bill !
    It made me think of the WW2 period, when the deportation trains were full of Jewish people, and in some instance, those trains would pass near a church on a sunday morning. And the reaction of those within the church was to sing louder as the train passed, so that their ears and hearts would not feel bad, ill-at-ease or guilty…
    We are the ambassadors of Messiah Jesus, we are not of this world, but still are in this world, and called to be salt and light, to imitate our Lord Jesus :
    – to do the things he tells us to do
    – to love what God loves
    – to view sin (and go far from it) according to what God calls sin
    – to love God first (1st one in the golden rule) and then to love others (2nd)… otherwise our love will soon be empty, meaningless, and just like humanistic social justice
    – to have a genuine burden for the lost, and make sure we partake the Treasure in us : the Good News of forgiveness of sins thru faith in the Messiah of the world, who died for our sins but who raised from the dead after 3 days, proving He was who He claimed to be : the Son of God !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: