In this irregular series I offer for your inspection a few silly posters and memes making the rounds, especially on the social media, and present some commentary about them. There is never a shortage of such items to discuss and assess. So here then are some more dopey memes and sayings worth analysing and critiquing.
“Always let your conscience be your guide.”
There are various versions of this which we often hear, but this particular wording comes from Walt Disney, specifically Jiminy Cricket. Well, that advice might sound good, but for the biblical Christian it can be pure poison. And that is because the conscience, like everything else, is greatly impacted by the Fall.
Our conscience is no longer a reliable moral gauge. It has been seriously corrupted and damaged. It is like a compass that has been run over by a heavy truck, and is now just a collection of smashed and broken parts. You would not want to take such a damaged device into the desert or forest or ocean with you.
Yes the Bible talks about having a pure conscience and the like, but those verses are addressed to believers only, those who have gotten right with God through Christ. And even then, this is a gradual process of cleaning up our conscience and getting it in sync with God and his word.
The same with our thoughts and feelings and will. All must now be recalibrated and aligned with biblical truth. That takes place throughout our Christian journey, so we still need to be cautious in relying on conscience alone. We need to make sure that it fully lines up with God’s word.
“Jesus explains his philosophy:
‘Heal the sick and feed the hungry-
The opposite of what Republicans do’.”
First of all this was NOT the philosophy of Jesus. Indeed he did not have a philosophy so much as he had a life-changing message: we are sinners alienated from God in need of reconciliation. That is done by repenting and believing in the work of Christ at Calvary. That was the core message of Jesus.
It sure was not left-wing political and economic ideology. This post, obviously pushed by lefties and Democrats, also has it wrong in twisting the words of Jesus and seeking to tie them to the contemporary welfare state and redistributionism. Forcing a modern leftist political agenda onto Jesus is anachronistic and a bad case of eisegesis.
Bear in mind that Jesus spoke about such matters to his disciples. He did not instruct them to set up a government bureaucracy to accomplish this. He expected his disciples to personally help the poor and sick. He never said a word about things like Obamacare or the modern welfare state.
And Republicans of course also are involved in helping the sick and the poor, but happen to prefer solutions that A) actually work, and B) do not entail bigger government and less human freedom. So this is an entirely misleading and mischievous meme, one which all believers should give a wide berth to.
“These verses were removed”
One often sees the goofy KJV-onlyists posting memes speaking about how certain newer translations of the Bible such as the NIV are “man-made” and have left out numerous words or verses, etc. And they will say there were radicals such as lesbians involved in these new translations, and that these Bibles are in the ownership of secular companies.
But they are wrong on every count. Of course every single translation in the world – English or otherwise – is “man-made”. That is because only mere men can and do help produce various translation, including the KJV. Only the original manuscripts are inerrant and God-breathed, not any later translations.
And verses are not “removed”. They are all assessed according to the best manuscript evidence available, and then they are used or not used. To speak of missing words or verses one has to ask, “Compared to what?” There are no missing words or verses as such.
There are only various translations based on the various manuscripts we thus far have available. Some have the words or verses in question, some don’t. Some verses have good manuscript support for them, some don’t. And when a well-known passage is not supported by the best manuscript evidence (eg., John 7:53-8:11), then most new translations will tell you that in a margin note, and many will feature it anyway.
And folks like Virginia Mollenkott were not on the NIV translation committee. She was only one of a number of literary style consultants, and only worked for them briefly. She never revealed her lesbianism to the NIV committee during this time.
Moreover, just about every Christian publisher today is owned by some big secular company, so that charge means nothing. In sum, we really need to let go of the KJV-only foolishness and think much more carefully about such matters.
“Love comes naturally. Hate is learned.”
Um, nothing could be further from the biblical truth here. Thus I am flabbergasted to see Christians posting daft posters like this. The biblical witness is quite clear on this: we are born sinners. Original sin is a basic biblical truth, and the idea that we are born good, or at best neutral – morally and spiritually speaking – and only later become bad, is pagan thinking, not biblical.
Philosophers like Rousseau spoke about people being born with a blank slate and all that, but that is a far cry from the teachings of Scripture. We are not born morally neutral or innocent. According to the Bible we are born sinners. Thus we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.
While the doctrine of Original Sin will not please most moderns (and trendy biblically-illiterate Christians), it is a fully biblical doctrine which we dare not disregard. Simply take one passage of many here: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).
So the truth is this: Hate is natural. Love is learned. From the earliest ages we see toddlers shouting “Mine” as they grab toys away from a playmate. Being selfish and self-centred is completely natural. Being altruistic, giving and loving toward another person, especially your enemy, is a learned response, and one only a Christian who is empowered by the Holy Spirit can properly do.
“The church is not an enforcer of rules, but an outpost of grace.” Brian Houston
Oh good grief. This may sound all cool and hip and trendy and groovy, but does it actually make any biblical sense? None whatsoever. This is part of sloppy, sentimental Christianity – exemplified by the emergent church movement – which falsely claims that we either love or have rules. It makes false dichotomies between grace and holiness, between love and obedience, between relationship and regulation.
The Christian life fully involves both sides of the equation. While God is gracious, he is also holy. We must not be forced to pick and choose here. The Christian life, like church life, involves faithfulness and obedience to Christ, flowing out of his grace to us.
There are hundreds of commands found in the New Testament which believers must obey. They are not optional extras, and they are not set over against grace. God gives grace so that we will keep his commands. As Jesus said often, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
So we must reject as heresy any teachings which try to pit the commands of God against the grace of God. They belong together like the two banks of a river, or the two wings of a plane, or the two sides of a coin. So of course the church enforces rules: that is called church discipline and the NT speaks about this often.
In Romans for example Paul made it clear that his teachings on grace should never be perverted so that they become an excuse for sin. A grace-filled life is an obedient and holy life. A grace-filled church is an obedient and holy church.
I have written often about these unhelpful and unbiblical false distinctions. See here for example: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/06/27/on-emergents-and-false-dilemmas/
“God never burglarizes the human will.” (James Jauncey)
Well, yes and no. This of course centres on a massive theological debate which cannot be fully entered into here, but I take it that the point of this is simply to say that God never overrides human free will or never significantly tampers with it. This simply happens to be not true.
While God has indeed given us the ability to accept or reject him, and he normally does not override free will, the Bible clearly teaches that at times he does do just that. Indeed we have numerous passages which speak about this very thing. God is sovereign and he can and does use humans for his purposes, and at times he may well use them as his instruments.
They remain morally responsible however for their actions. The Assyrians for example were used of God to punish Israel as we read in Isaiah 10. Yet we are also told that God then punished the Assyrians, holding them responsible for what they have done. See more on this here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2017/01/18/theology-gods-sovereignty/
“Hitler and Merkel”
Sadly, conservatives (be they Christian or not) can also post really stupid stuff. For example, I have seen folks post a picture of Hitler with a young girl of perhaps 10 years of age. They claim this is a picture of a young Angela Merkel with Hitler.
Um, duh. Two seconds of using one’s brain would show how dumb this is. And a quick google search would confirm it. Merkel was born in 1954, a decade after Hitler died. In the pic of Hitler he looks not all that old – I could guess it was taken around 1940.
If the girl was ten then, she would have to have been born in 1930, a full 25 years before she was actually born. Being absolutely gullible and ignorant helps no one. If you want to make a political point, at least try to get some basic facts right first. Do not just share foolish memes like this.