Some folks sure know how to mangle Scripture:
There’s never a dull moment when you have an interactive blogsite. Every day you get all sorts of folks sending in comments. Often they are terrific comments sent in by terrific people. But nearly as often you will get nutters, trolls, secular lefties, atheists, militants and haters coming along as well. That always make things interesting.
I would have posted thousands of comments from the latter group and tried to interact with them. But many of these comments can only go straight into the bin, given that they fail my commenting rules. But all this keeps me off the streets I guess.
Here I want to speak about those who come seeking to argue about Scripture and theology. Some are well-meaning and care about sound doctrine. I will leave them out of the discussion here. But there are those who come here saying the most ludicrous, brainless and unbiblical stuff.
I am always amazed at how they can manage to get things so very wrong. And over the years I have discovered that there are at least three groups of these folks. Some are just angry atheists who will attack any Christian for any reason. Some are clearly not Christians but they come here pretending to be. But as soon as you see what they have written it is obvious where they are coming from.
And then there is a third group who do indeed appear to be Christians, but they nonetheless are so woefully biblically ignorant and so theologically mixed-up that you do not know if you should laugh or cry when you see their stuff. Sometimes it is not quite clear which of the three groups a person is a part of.
But I sure get lots of these sorts of comments coming in. Let me deal with just one of them that was sent in a while ago. It had to do with a piece I wrote called “Still You Have Not Returned To Me.” That was about how God will often use various means to try to get our attention, to get us to return to him, and so on. That piece is found here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/09/19/still-you-have-not-returned-to-me/
Some of these divine means include things like plagues or other calamities. I mentioned some biblical examples of this, and asked whether the current covid outbreak might in part be how God is trying to waken a sleeping world and get us to get our priorities right.
Some good comments came in, and helpful discussion ensued. However, one guy sent in a real doozy of a comment. It was so bad that I figured it was worth writing an article about one day. And so here it is. And I still do not know if this is one of the more biblically illiterate Christians around, or just some troll pretending to be a believer. Anyway, this is what he sent in:
It’s a very dangerous belief system that some Christians have, of giving God credit for deaths and disaster. What you’re saying is that some people deserve to be punished and God is causing them pain and death. This not only is in contrast of a God that is defined by love, but it also takes away the power of the Cross. Jesus has paid in full for our sins and has taken on our punishment himself. If we start giving God credit for disasters, what we are saying is that “What Jesus did is not enough, and that God needs to hand out extra punishment”
Oh dear – how can a guy get so much wrong in such a short space? Where does one even begin in trying to reply? Well, let me make that attempt. First, to defend what Scripture clearly and repeatedly teaches is a “dangerous belief system”? Really?
And “some Christians”? I would have thought that all genuine Christians who accept the Bible as the authoritative word of God would of course hold to what it so patently teaches. Those who do not give real indications of not being actual Christians.
This guy does not believe that God can get “credit for deaths and disaster” and can cause some “pain and death”. Never mind that in my article I listed a number of biblical texts teaching this very thing. And those examples would just be the tip of the iceberg.
There are in fact hundreds of passages which do indeed proclaim that God can and does judge, can and does chastise, and can and does use all sorts of things to either punish evil and evildoers or to get them to repent and turn their lives around.
Simply looking at the verses that I used in the article should make that perfectly obvious. The Bible is full of this, whether it is driving a disobedient Adam and Eve out of the garden; flooding a wicked world and saving just 8 people; judging Pharaoh and his army; judging his own people repeatedly; judging Israel’s enemies; and so on.
Lest this guy dismiss this because it is ‘just’ from the Old Testament, he needs to read more carefully from the New. What about the treatment Ananias and Sapphira got for starters, or King Herod? I will let this guy look up the references – assuming he has a Bible handy.
No one can talk so foolishly if they simply read the book of Revelation. It is full of God-ordained judgments and punishments on the wicked and unrepentant. And this certainly includes pain, disaster and death. No one even slightly familiar with the Bible could say the sort of thing this fellow did – at least with a straight face.
And then he pushes the fake news about how this is “in contrast of a God that is defined by love.” Um, maybe HIS definition of love, but not biblical love. Divine love is never sentimental and syrupy sap in Scripture. It is always tough love, love that is based on a holy and righteous God who can never countenance evil and who must always judge sin. But I have written about this often before, eg.: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/05/27/on-divine-love-and-wrath/
But it is his confused and bizarre comments about what Jesus did on the cross that are especially worrying. Um, how does the fact that God has not changed, he still hates sin, and he still must act against it ‘take away the power of the Cross’?
Yes of course, Jesus suffered on the cross as a means of dealing with the sin question and our alienation from God. But as the New Testament everywhere clearly teaches, only those who avail themselves of this are pardoned and given new life in Christ. Only those who repent and turn from their sin are no longer under the wrath of God.
Those who refuse to turn are still fully the objects of God’s wrath. But it seems the only verse in the Bible that this guy is aware of is John 3:16. Hmm, he needs to keep reading the rest of the chapter. He would then find verses like this:
John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Or as I just read again the other day in Romans 2:4-5: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
Everywhere this is taught in the New Testament. Only those who refuse to read it, or are a cultist or a heretic pushing universalism could try to get away with the nonsense that he is promoting here. See this piece on the error of the universalists: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2011/03/12/against-universalism/
And simply reading the words of Jesus in Matthew 24-25 should forever dispel any notions of this bogus teaching: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/10/15/the-olivet-discourse-vs-universalism-and-annihilationism/
Finally, just as any loving parent knows, sometimes children must be disciplined or chastised. Whatever form that punishment might take, a responsible parent does it because of his love for the child. Such discipline and love are not at all incompatible.
And that is just what God does with his own children. Yes, for the born-again believer, the sin issue is dealt with and judged at the cross. But that does NOT mean we can do whatever we like. God loves us too much to leave us the way we were, and as a loving heavenly Father he chastises his children. This guy needs to read Hebrews 12:3-11 on this for starters.
So the judgments that unrepentant sinners receive both in this life and in the next, and the discipline and chastisement that Christians may experience in this life, is NOT a case of ‘handing out extra punishment’ as this guy recklessly supposes. It is part of how God always has and always will deal with the world.
Um, when someone comes along claiming to be some sort of authority on Scripture, but it is obvious that he knows nothing about it, or worse yet, is quite happy to ignore or reject most of it, then you know you got a real problem on your hands.
Sadly there are far too many folks claiming to be believers who think and talk the same way. The biblical advice is to have nothing to do with them, or to rebuke them sharply! All biblical Christians must be prepared to do that – especially if they want to set up an interactive website!