Thanks Tim, appreciate it.
Yes, that was in response to your comment. I may have missed something, but my understanding of what you said is that Christians can speak out against the false gods they see around them without being “sacrilegious” or “blasphemers” against those gods. They need not be pugnacious when addressing false gods. Is that about it?
While I certainly agree that Christians shouldn’t be pugnacious, it seems that it would be rather difficult to not be at least a little pugnacious to speak out against someone’s idols. In other words, I don’t see how you can be respectful as you attempt to destroy someone’s most cherished beliefs. And speaking in a respectful tone as you tell someone that their god doesn’t exist seems to be communicating one thing with your tone and another with your words.
I was alluding to Acts 19:24-37. Perhaps it’s a fine distinction, but it was sufficiently important for Luke to record it.
On the one hand, it seems likely that Paul said nothing directly about the Temple of Artemis; otherwise it would have been easy for Demetrius to have him charged before the magistrate. But on the other hand, Demetrius clearly understood the implications of Paul’s preaching that idols are not gods at all.
Isaiah’s Trial of the False Gods certainly shows the truth of this, especially Isaiah 44:15-16. Hard to say he’s not being pugncious when he’s clearly mocking man made idols.
Doesn’t John the Baptist’s condemnation of Herod’s divorce and subsequent sexual immorality tell us that rebuking the state and it’s leaders is commendable?
That, and, aren’t we down the rabbit hole we are now because of the refusal of the church to speak prophetically to the state?
“…the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane…” 1 Timothy 1:9
If the proclamation of the law and the gospel isn’t for sinners, it’s for no one at all.
Thinking about this some more, it seems to me the distinction Paul is making in 1:Cor 5 is how we view ourselves in relation to the world. Should we see ourselves as sitting in the judge’s seat, gable in hand, condemning the world with airs of superiority (like the Pharisees), or instead, as former slaves to sin, warning those still in bondage of the coming judgement?
This is the commission our Lord gave His disciples after training them for 40 days after His resurrection. As far as the world is concerned, our mission is to speak to them of the coming judgment of our Lord and His offer of salvation from that judgment upon their repentance and faith in Him.
In fulfilling this commission, it’s impossible to avoid speaking the truth about the sin of those to whom we proclaim our Lord’s message to them. Some who hear this will be insulted, outraged, offended, and so forth. Others will have their consciences painfully pricked (cf. Acts 2:37) and will repent. Either way, the result is not our commission, but to trigger whatever result may come by the message committed to us.
My pastor has been doing open air preaching once a week at the local university for nearly a decade – an eight minute message during class break as the students walk by. He’s become such a fixture on campus that a student did a short documentary on him and his preaching for a class assignment.
My pastor generally doesn’t touch on hot-button cultural issues in his message, although I don’t doubt he would answer biblically and straightforwardly if asked. Neither does he preach against sins the secular culture hates. Instead he tries to make a connection to ordinary issues and situations that all people face and are most likely to feel guilty about and see their own failures and need for a Savior.
My pastor sees his goal as not to so much preach against the sins of the secular culture, but rather to put forth God’s truth and creational plan as a beacon of light to those who feel the craziness and degradation of our society and are looking for an alternative. For example, a visiting Chinese student noticed my pastor preaching and asked him afterward about the Christian view on sex. She felt that sex ought to be reserved for marriage, but she didn’t know why, and none of her friends lived that way. When my pastor explained what the Bible teaches, she realized this was what she was looking for and was baptized in our church a few months later and continues to be a faithful Christian back in China.
God bless such men!
Two of my children graduated from the University of Texas in Austin. The University and the whole dang town has to be one of the most toxic environments for right thinking (much less right religion!) that I’ve ever encountered.
In my visits there while my daughters were students, we’d come across a man who preached in a particular spot (at least I always saw him at the same spot over a number of years). I’d stop and listen, and what came out of his mouth sounded pretty good. I never lingered long enough to engage him directly. I wish now that I had.
Most students simply passed by as if he were not there at all. On the other hand, there were always a few students standing out of the flow of foot traffice, obviously intently listening. As I went on my way, I’d pray for them.
I have no idea if this fellow ever met with jeering or other forms of opposition. I will inquire from friends I have who have campus connections and see what I can learn.
Several retired members of church go every week, too, and hand out fliers for our campus Bible study to passing students, and I have very occasionally sat at the question/answer table. I’ve never seen jeering or opposition, but I’ve heard it has occurred. Earlier on, an atheist scientist professor would regularly come to the table and argue, but he doesn’t bother anymore (our people wave “hi” to him if they see him passing by). A few students have actually stood up next to my pastor and started preaching against his teaching and urging passers-by not to listen to him, but some good conversations afterward have resulted from this.
Thank you, gentlemen. This has been very helpful.
@Joel I hadn’t thought of Acts 19:24-37 in this context before, and I’ve been chewing on it ever since I read your comment a while back.
(For those who haven’t looked it up, the town clerk addresses the crowd to stop it from turning into a lynch mob. The most relevant section is verse 37: “For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess.”)
Then, for family devotions, we read this in the account of Paul standing before the Festus in a tribunal (Acts 25:7-8):
7 After Paul arrived, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem stood around him, bringing many and serious charges against him which they could not prove, 8 while Paul said in his own defense, “I have committed no offense either against the Law of the Jews or against the temple or against Caesar.”
Still, I don’t think either of those passages mean what you say they do. You said,
Maybe some people think that to rebuke the world means being sacrilegious concerning the world’s religion or blasphemers of the world’s goddesses. That is not necessary. All one has to do is say that gods made with hands are not gods at all.
But both Paul and Jesus were put in chains and killed for what they said and how they lived. They must have been blaspheming someone’s idols, right?
Your comment has stuck with me because I think it mostly provides cover for those of us who are inclined to be cowards and who are inclined to keep our mouths shut until we know we can get the words out just right.
Am I blaspheming the world’s gods if I say that feminism is evil and is destroying women? What if I say that I hate “social justice,” and that I hate it especially because it is destroying African Americans? Both of those things could easily be labeled blasphemy, I think, and I would be a coward not to say them… because it’s what I think.
Obviously, the Holy Spirit did inspire those words you pointed to. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to learn from them, but… I don’t think it means what you think it means.
I don’t think so. Not in the mind of a non-Christian that doesn’t recognize those things as actually being their “gods.” We can recognize that the reason they are so mad is because we have dared to challenge their gods, but they won’t.
Nevertheless, I think you are right. It is important to remember that a legal defense is not the same thing as a simple explanation of what’s going on. Both of those circumstances are legal proceedings. It would be like saying today that you haven’t broken any hate-speech laws. The very fact that people are so angry at you that you are in court indicates that they believe you are engaged in hate speech.
Gideon cuts down the idol and burns it.
Paul says she is no goddess.
Those are fairly equivalent in my mind. What does that look like today? I think your examples are perfect. They are incendiary, even if they are not illegal (yet). If we are not willing to do and say things that will clearly declare God’s will and works in spite of it putting life and limb at risk, then we are not following in these men’s footsteps.
Obviously there is a danger of being needlessly offensive and pugnacious as we do our work. There’s no denying that. But the far more common temptation is to avoid causing offense by compromising.
Interestingly, the connection between the offensive word or deed and the response is not consistent at all. Sometimes praying toward Jerusalem with the doors open gets you thrown into the lions den. Other times telling the king the kingdom will be taken from him gets you a royal robe and top command (for a few hours anyway, until your prophecy comes true.)
Nevertheless, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
I think what you think I said is not what I actually said.
My statement was mainly a reflection on how little it takes to blaspheme someone’s idols. For example, when it comes to rebuking the world, it’s not necessary to put up a billboard or make a speech in front of the rainbow parade – all one needs to do is politely refuse to bake a cake to come under public excoriation and legal penalty. And rather than burden believers with the expectation that they need to publically speak out against hot-button sins, I’d rather encourage them to stand firm when it comes to living out the biblical truth and morality in their everyday private lives. That itself will bring enough persecution, I think.
Given the many parallels in our present day to Paul’s situation, I think it is very important to understand what we are supposed to learn from these passages so that we might wisely speak and act. One distinction I see is that Paul openly declared God’s truth, but he did not commit what might be viewed as rebellion or sedition. For example, he said that idols were not gods at all, but he did not directly speak against the Temple of Artemis. Or he said that various sins of immorality would bring God’s judgement, but he never spoke out against particular sins of those in authority, or when he did, he subsequently apologized (Acts 23:5). Certainly Paul suffered persecution, but he also could truthfully say that he broke no laws.
Bringing it to our present day, I would place no obligation upon Christians to make unsolicited speeches rebuking sin at corporate diversity training but instead advise them to passively not cooperate with unbiblical initiatives, and when asked why one did not declare oneself an “ally”, to respond with simple statements that God created male and female, what the Bible says about marriage, etc. Is that a counsel of cowardice? I think not. Such a Christian could not rightfully be branded as a troublemaker, though he likely will come under persecution.