CultureWatch

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

On Dealing with the Armchair Critics

Apr 21, 2016

When you are involved in standing up for your faith publicly, engaging in the culture wars, and seeking to be salt and light in a very dark world, you of course expect nonChristians to blast you and give you a really hard time. That simply goes with the territory and it happens all the time.

What you do not expect, and what hurts like hell, is when fellow Christians attack you, criticise you, and chew you out for doing what God has called you to do. But sadly this happens all the time as well. These Christian armchair critics are a dime a dozen, and they are quite happy to criticise you for the work you are doing, often when they are doing little or nothing for the Kingdom themselves.

The truth is, we all must find out what God wants us to do, and then do it with all our heart. At the end of the day we are answerable to him alone – so we must please God, not men. Sure, we can listen to their criticisms and ask God if there is any truth in them, but otherwise we must persevere and ignore the legion of critics.

armchair criAnyone who is in any sort of Christian ministry, especially in the public arena, and anyone who is a Christian leader, knows all about the ongoing supply of critics that are out there. As I say, this is sadly part of the job description. Indeed, if Jesus was routinely criticised by religious folks, how can we expect to escape such criticism.

Jesus of course did not deserve any of his criticism, but we may well deserve what we get. So a spirit of humility is essential here. We must remain on our knees. We all have blinds spots and we do need the perspective of others. But we must also guard against the reckless and irresponsible criticisms which can utterly debilitate us.

Plenty of pastors, leaders and others simply give up because they cannot handle all the criticism and complaining. They seldom get any praise and affirmation, but they regularly get criticism. So learning how to deal with criticism is vital. I will discuss this some more at the end of my piece, but let me here offer up a few examples of the regular armchair criticisms I can get.

As one example, often when I discuss how I am going on some TV or radio show to do a debate on various issues, the critics will come out and insist that this is a complete waste of time, and God would never lead a person to do such things.

I wonder how they have the precise mind of God on all this, especially since Scripture nowhere tells us not to do TV debates, etc. Scripture does tell us much about contending for the faith, defending the faith, publicly speaking truth, and it provides plenty of examples of this. But these folks seem to have some direct pipeline to God wherein they are told anyone doing this sort of work is not in the will of God.

Well, I will just ignore these folks. I and so many others like me who do this sort of ministry are doing it because of the call of God. Indeed, I would be more than happy not to do it, but because I know it is the will of God for me, I must walk in obedience and do it.

I will do it and ignore the armchair critics. While they may think it is all a waste of time, I believe nothing is ever wasted if God has called us to do it. If I can plant some seeds or water someone else’s seeds as I speak truth in the public arena, that is all I need to be worried about.

God will bring about the desired results. He will reach those whom he wants reached. But he works through people, and he uses his imperfect servants to get truth out into the public arena. So whether it is a public debate on a current affairs show, or some talkback radio program, or a letter to the editor, I will use any and all means to try to reach others and spread truth.

Yet these critics are certain that I must be out of God’s will. Again, we must obey God rather than men. If we are sure that God has called us into the work and ministry we are doing, we do it wholeheartedly, as unto the Lord, and forget about all the naysayers and critics.

One such critic insisted that it was acceptable for me to engage in a debate in a political setting, but it was wrong to engage in a debate in a “pagan” television studio. Um, so he has a heavenly word on this? One can debate on the streets, in senate committee rooms, in university campuses, but TV studios are verboten?

I wonder what chapter and verse that one comes from. Sorry, but such arbitrary and foolish distinctions make no sense to me, and I will ignore such critics. I will go anywhere the Lord leads me. The truth is, a political office or campus classroom can of course be just as pagan as any TV studio, so it is a foolish rule to force on anyone.

Sure, we prayerfully and carefully consider all such invitations to speak or debate. And some you will turn down. Decades ago the head of Australian sex industry invited me to debate him at Sexpo. It took me about a half a second to decide on that one. No way was I going into this place. Any words of mine would have been lost with media photos of me surrounded by half-naked porn stars and strippers.

Sorry, that was a no-brainer. But if there are dedicated TV or radio debate programs, no matter how leftist and biased, then it is vital that we stand up and be counted in such public forums. We must get truth out into the public square. Sure, we likely won’t reach or convince the radical secular lefties who run these shows or appear on them.

But we are not trying to reach that 5 to 10 per cent of the population. We are trying to reach the 80 to 90 per cent of the population which is in the media, and is undecided on the issues. They are the ones we are targeting. So if so many hundreds of thousands of folks tune into a ridiculously biased and hyper left show like Q&A, when I or another conservative and/or Christian gets on and shares truth, we will never know how many people we may have reached.

If we simply stay in our holy huddles, not being “contaminated” by the world, we will reach no one. And the fact that I make much of just how biased and bigoted these shows are is not a waste of time either. When such prejudice and one-sidedness is taking place, I have a right as a citizen, as well as a Christian, to point it out.

But I have had other armchair critics blast me for this very thing. One went on about why I would get all “hot under the collar” about these sorts of shows. That is the way they are, and I should just ignore them he insisted. And then he said I should just turn off my TV.

Sorry, but I am not buying that silliness for a moment. It of course has nothing to do with being hot under the collar and everything to do with caring about the world we live in, caring about attacks on Christ and Christianity, and caring about getting truth into the public arena and standing up to falsehoods. It is about being a responsible and concerned Christian in a non-Christian world in other words.

And even if I were not a Christian, I would still be greatly concerned about my tax dollars being misused and abused in this fashion. Maybe some folks don’t give a rip about these things, but I would have thought that all true Christians should be greatly concerned.

Also, the ‘just turn off the TV’ line is a complete copout and quite irresponsible. Even if I throw my TV out the window, that solves absolutely nothing. I am still greatly concerned about everyone else who still has the TV on, and is still getting all these lies and anti-Christian bigotry pouring into their living rooms.

All real believers should be concerned about such things. So in these cases I will keep on doing what God has called me to do and ignore the armchair critics who prefer to attack me instead of making a difference. What matters is what God wants me to do, not what my many critics think I should do or not do.

If people want to bury their heads in the sand and pretend everything is just hunky-dory, that is up to them. But it most certainly will not be me. I care about my children, I care about any future grandchildren, I care about the sort of world I will leave for them.

And I care for my Saviour who gave everything for me, so I must give everything for him in return. I have no right to just sit on my easy chair and ignore everything going on around me. That is the height of irresponsibility. We are in a war and no believer has the luxury of sitting on the fence. We must all engage. We must all get involved.

Sure, that will mean different callings and different ministries for all of us. But those of us who are called to frontline duty should not have to deal with the incessant critics who think we are wasting our time, and can only be real believers if we do what they are doing.

Well sorry, but often they are not doing anything for the Kingdom. Yet they are so very quick and eager to blast those Christians who are doing something. Sure, not everything Christians do is the best, or the wisest, or the most strategic. So we all must be open to honest and careful assessments and evaluations.

So when it comes to this army of armchair critics, we can do a few things. Many of them we can just ignore. That is often the best recourse. If they seem to be real deal believers who have a genuine concern about you, then you can take on board what they have to say, pray about it, and ask God if their criticisms are legit.

If they are, you can seek to make any changes that are needed. If not, just keep going about your business. Yes some criticisms are fair and justified, and need to be listened to. But some are not. Indeed, there can also be plenty of false attacks or just plain fraudulent criticisms levelled against you.

Sometimes you can just ignore these public criticisms, and sometimes you may need to reply to them. Sometimes you need to set the record straight for the public. But sometimes you might be called to just endure all the unjust and unfair attacks and criticisms. Jesus of course did this so often, as have so many great Christian leaders.

So we need to be prayerful and discerning as to when we should defend ourselves and seek to correct a false accusation, and when we should just remain silent and let God – or others – come to our defence. Wisdom is needed here, as well as humility.

To bring this to a close, let me note that there have been many times when I have felt like sharing the following story with my accusers. Often I do not, and just pray for my attackers and critics instead. But sometimes I do run with it. This little incident is a very fitting summary of where so many of these armchair warriors are at, and how we must think of them:

One day a lady criticized D. L. Moody for his methods of evangelism in attempting to win people to the Lord. Moody’s reply was “I agree with you. I don’t like the way I do it either. Tell me, how do you do it?” The lady replied, “I don’t do it.” Moody retorted, “Then I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

[2077 words]

12 Responses to On Dealing with the Armchair Critics

  • “….If I can plant some seeds or water someone else’s seeds as I speak truth in the public arena, that is all I need to be worried about….”

    That is my approach Bill as I don’t know it all and so I can’t do it all. But by doing it I do get better at at. Here is an example:

    “The Marxists oppose everything the Christians propose, so given both their histories, tell me why you are so willing to support this Marxist ideal? ”

    I don’t face as much opposition as I used to…..sowing the seeds of doubt are just as good.

    Keep up with your very good work Bill. God Bless.

  • I’d better not admit how I know, but it is easy to be an armchair critic especially when you don’t understand what’s going on and would like to.

    But what God’s doing is something He planned from a long time ago and although we have glimpses of the final “product” we just get to see our own little bit of what needs to be done now, and may not ever understand what the person next to us is doing.

    As you said “The truth is, we all must find out what God wants us to do, and then do it with all our heart. At the end of the day we are answerable to him alone – so we must please God, not men” and if what the other person is doing isn’t pleasing to God then unless it’s sinful and we’re Biblically required to deal with it then we have to let it go.

    The Bible in 1Cor 12:17 talks of us being different and doing different things i.e. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” and I know that my eye and ear can’t substitute for each other, they can’t do each others role, but they can work together because when I hear something the eye looks to see what it is.

    Now if we were taught some of these basic things about how things work then maybe we would have more people doing real stuff instead of just being critics?

  • Dear Bill,
    Thank you for the information and Christian witness that you provide. You are an encouragement for those who seek to do likewise.
    Our witness should be driven and supported by having a close and solidly constructed Biblical Faith, which is endowed by the Holy Spirit. As you state, our practical faith should be as Jesus Christ showed us, and He did not withdraw from the rough and tumble around His witness- for instance when he sent the money changers and others, from the temple.
    This type of situation can be scary to us, but this is where we show that we either truly believe the Bible as God’s authoritative Word, or we take it as Adam and Eve did- doubting the Bible. Our witness is also driven by the desire we should have, as to how much we desire the lost to be found. If we provide a weak witness, as your critics appear to have, then we are derelict in our Lord’s work. Such work does not convince and convict unbelievers.
    We keep you and others of your ilk in our prayers.
    God bless.
    Chester Wilson.

  • Love your work, Bill.

    Character, integrity and devotion count with God.
    You have them in spades!

    My only criticism is reserved for these ‘arm chair critics’ who don’t engage with the enemies of God with the same vigor.
    It appears theirs is a ministry of misery.

  • Thank you Bill for your work and website. I totally agree that God has given us all the work of speaking truth in the vocations He has given us. Whether we win any arguments doesn’t matter, truth is powerful. True seekers of truth know truth when they hear it. Even deniers feel the power of truth which is why truth tellers are called haters.

    A great example was the last appearance of Lyle Shelton from the Australian Christian Lobby on Q&A. He was talked over, ridiculed and shouted down, but I came away from watching the show with such a strong sense of God’s victory. Lyle was kind, soft spoken, but unapologetic about Christian truths. The victory was that he got to make a lot of truthful statements that people may have not been aware of. Also his gracious manner showed the uncivility of some of the other guests and audience.

    As a parent I was also so grateful for the Liberal members of parliament that stood up against the Safe Schools program. While this may not stop the program, the truth was spoken and parents know that there are still decent people in parliament who will stand up.

    Thank you again Bill. We need to all keep public Christians in our prayers that you can all fight against the spiritual warfare that wants to shut down your work for God.

  • Salt must be soaked into or rubbed into the meat to keep it from going off: Our civilisation is decaying badly already – It is dangerous to keep the salt of the earth sealed tight in a jar. As righteous Lot found out to his sorrow and shame, keeping silent until it is too late because you want material security is a dangerous trade-off. A time will come when, like the Anabaptists of centuries ago, those faithful to Christ may be forced into internal exile in the backwoods simply because they have been put on law enforcement agencies’ official hit-lists.

  • Amen brother and thank you for your work. We can either do what Jonah attempted and run away from our responsibilities or try to hide in a shed or we can get out there amid the flood of lies that people are subjected to and give people a chance to repent. I know what the Bible says to do.

  • Hi Bill
    God bless you for doing what you do. There are plenty of us who applaud you for standing for the truth of God. Great quote from Moody. He’s a heroic figure in Christian history.
    Chris

  • As it turns out, I recently had to deal with a group of Christian armchair critics who were using social media to attack another group of Christians who do street evangelism to Muslims and any other spiritual seekers in the Melbourne CBD most Saturdays. As far as I know, none of these attackers have come to watch these street evangelists in action. I’ll think of the Moody quote if these social media attacks happen again.

  • I don’t agree that throwing your TV set out the window can do no good. If an extreme leftie happens to be passing under the window at that moment…

    But to be serious- keep up the good work. With attacks from the “progressive” Christians on one side and the legalists on the other we have to keep our eye on the ball, have a straight bat, play hard but fairly, and trust the Umpire.

  • Thank you Bill for setting out these modes of conduct in public debate for Christian believe. Your a modern day hero
    and it takes a lot of guts to stay cool and persistant in confrontation with the media. The difference for being outspoken in public about ones Christian faith is the absence of any ulterior motives for personal gain in what ever form that may take place. Keep up your quest for justice in the many subject matters that you deal with. A lot of us followers are leaning on your courageous battles and examples.
    Bill Heggers Bridgetown W.A.

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