Thursday, February 12, 2009

Christainity does NOT depend on your Character Witness


It is not uncommon for the follower of Christ to be challenged with the poor behavior of other believers as evidence against the truth of the gospel message.

Furthermore, some have even turned away from their faith in Christ because they failed to detect any Christ likeness in the Christians around them.

However, the question must be posed: "Does the truth of Christianity rest upon the character of those who claim to be Christians?"

C Michael Patton, at Parchment and Pen: A Theology Blog, challenges what I believe to be a huge misconception in a blog article entitled, Christianity does Not depend on your Character Witness.

Patton writes:

"If we don’t love one another, it does not make Christianity any less true. It only makes our profession to be Christian less true. Likewise, if we do love one another, Christianity is no truer than before. Christianity is based solely on the person and work of Christ."

If you are a skeptic who has in the past rejected Christianity because of the actions of other Christians or if you are a former believer who walked away from your faith because you didn't see more Christ likeness in your fellow Christians, this article is for you!

I highly recommend it and you can check it out here.

Courage and Godspeed,

Chad A. Gross

13 comments:

bob said...

Michael Patton responding to one of his detractors on his blog - "I really don’t care whether a person is nice or not, I only care if they’re right."
Why am I not the slightest bit surprised?

Chad said...

bob,

Thank you for visiting our blog and taking the time to comment.

Interesting, I wonder if you have taken the time to read Mr. Patton's entire article and consider what the main thrust of it is; quoting Patton from the comments:

"If we are not acting according to what we believe (which is a problem for all of us), we are less likely to be known as disciples of Christ, but this does not mean that Christ is not Lord!!

Therefore, no one has an excuse for leaving Christianity based on the character witness of its followers since its ontological and epistemic grounded have nothing to do with us."

So really, by you pointing out a statement that Mr. Patton has made that you obviously don't appreciate and/or feel is rude, you serve to shed light on his main point.

Jesus Christ is the measuring stick by which we should accept or reject the Christian message; not by what we detect as poor behavior on the Christian's part. Believers in Christ will always fall short, that is preciously why we need Jesus.

I would also encourage readers to visit Mr. Patton's blog and judge for yourself the emphasis he does, or does not, put on the importance of living one's faith out.

bob, thank you again for your time and perhaps if you commented on Patton's blog, he could clarify his statement for you.

Take care

Brian said...

In critical thinking one main thrust is the question, "Is it true?" The character of the person does not determine the truthfulness of his statements.

Whether I speak with a Christian or an atheist, the bottom line question I must ask (regardless of how they act) is: "Is what they are saying true?"

If our concern is truth, then in our quest we would do well to ignore the messenger (at least initially) and try to discern whether or not the statements are true.

Of course we should not minimize the importance of being of good character; but character doesn't make something true or false.

Good post.

bob said...

Yes, I read the blog entry, and I don't see how my little comment sheds much light on his main point.

Chad, re-read the quote from Mr. Patton: "I really don’t care whether a person is nice or not, I only care if they’re right."

Now, try, just for a moment, to imagine a 15th century inquisitor saying those exact words while questioning a suspected transgressor.

It is almost funny. You consider his words worthy of defending, I see them as just one more example of why I left Christianity. That attitude. That "letter of the law" attitude.

For what it's worth, I didn't leave Christianity because Christians did bad things. I left because I saw no significant difference in the Christian life vs. the non Christian life. Christians were no "better", or "better off" than non Christians.

You would think, if Christianity were true, the Christian God would use Christians as an example to all the non Christians. Why doesn't he?

Chad said...

bob,

Thank you again for the reply. I have a few thoughts I'd like to share.

1) Please re-read what I wrote in my prior comment:

"Jesus Christ is the measuring stick by which we should accept or reject the Christian message;"

2) You wrote:"You would think, if Christianity were true, the Christian God would use Christians as an example to all the non Christians."

The following arguments are fallacious:

1) The Christian God should (fill in the blank).
2) The Christian God doesn't (fill in the blank).
3) Therefore, the I reject the Christian God.

1) I think Christian's should act (fill in the blank).
2) Christians don't act in this way.
3) Therefore, I reject Christianity.

I believe you should consider Brian's statement above:

"In critical thinking one main thrust is the question, "Is it true?" The character of the person does not determine the truthfulness of his statements."

I would add that a person's actions do not determine the truthfulness of their statements either.

If you are going to reject Christ, please do so based upon Him and the validity or invalidity of His claims.

BTW, I would once again encourage to take up Patton's statement with him on his blog.

Take care

Jake said...

This topic is very important, because yes our actions as believers do not make Christ true or false, but it could be the difference in whether or not that person will research Christ. John 14:6 "....I am the way, the truth, and the life..." (NKJV) Research God's Word and find the truth.

Great Article!!

God Bless,

Jake

Chad said...

Jake,

I could not agree more and I believe Mr. Patton would agree as well.

Certainly followers of Christ should strive to reflect Him in their own lives; this is consistent with Christ's words. However, one should not make the mistake of rejecting Christianity because of the actions of sinful man.

For each individual, it is Christ we must deal with.

Great hearing from you Jake!

Godspeed

bob said...

I do agree with the idea that "bad" Christians do not nullify the existence of the Christian God. I agree completely. But it seems to me that, when a Christian tells you to ignore Christians when deciding whether or not to become (or stay) a Christian, that is a very unreasonable suggestion. I would say nearly impossible, as a social human being. That's tantamount to saying "I'm right, trust what I say, but just ignore the lack of evidence in my life and in the lives of all who agree with me".

And I don't see those arguments as fallacious. They are fallacious only if they are false. I think they are perfectly reasonable, when dealing with a subject that you are skeptical about. It is a reasonable human action to doubt the claims of another, if you see no evidence of those claims working in their life. Kind of like buying a new Ford because the salesman tells you it is the best car in the world, then you observe him leaving work in a brand new Toyota. You would be perfectly reasonable in questioning his statements.

As for Brian’s statement; "In critical thinking one main thrust is the question, "Is it true?" The character of the person does not determine the truthfulness of his statements." Have you ever observed a person who claims to be a Christian, but displays behaviors and attitudes that cause you to doubt the authenticity of their Christian claim? It has no bearing on whether or not they are Christians, but it is reasonable for you to doubt, or wonder if they are what they claim to be.

As I go through life, I have seen time and again, Christians pointing out how God has helped them or changed them. I hear Christians give God credit for so much good that is done in the world. I remember Jimmy Swaggert saying (I have it on tape) that Pentecostals were the cleanest living Christians on earth...just a couple years before he was caught in a relationship with a prostitute.
Point is, when times are good, Christians like to point to other Christians as examples of what Christianity is, but when times are bad, you want us to look the other way. I think both of our contentions are natural human responses to what we observe. Christians don't want human behavior to reflect on their God, but skeptics can't just ignore it.

Just my thoughts.

Chad said...

bob,

Nice to hear from you once again. Hope all is well with you and yours.

I believe that you and I (plus others who have commented here) agree with much of what you are saying.

1) You said: "I do agree with the idea that "bad" Christians do not nullify the existence of the Christian God. I agree completely."

As do I. That was the main point of the article posted here.

2) "but it is reasonable for you to doubt, or wonder if they are what they claim to be."

Again, I completely, wholeheartedly agree! The fact that there are Christians that behave poorly certainly can cause one to question their confession, but to me, it does nothing to validate or invalidate the Christian message. There are hypocrites within every worldview; that fact does not invalidate the worldview.

It has been well said that it is unwise to judge a philosophy by those who abuse it.

bob, if I have done anything that has caused you to look poorly upon what it is I confess with my mouth, I apologize. I cannot speak for the entire body of Christ; only for myself.

I believe it's important to remember that when all is said and done, if Christianity is true, it is Jesus we will ALL answer to.

All I can do is live my life in a way that reflects how grateful I am for how Jesus has changed my heart, life, and mind.

bob, thank you again!

Take care

bob said...

Chad, rest assured, from my perspective you have displayed an admirable attitude toward me during our dialogues, where as, at times I have felt ashamed of my own attitude.
I have talked with many Christians via blogs, forums, and email, and you are the proverbial "breath of fresh air". I have been called idiot, stupid, and told more times than I can count that I was never a "true Christian" to the point that I try to refrain from even labeling myself as a former Christian (I just say I am a former bible believer).
Now, if you really want to surprise me, admit that you are a presuppositional Calvinist, for I have never had an on-line dialogue with one of them that didn't frighten me to the point of locking my doors :)
Will try to get me latest response and questions to you soon. I am on page 240 in the book.

Chad said...

Hello bob,

I'm going to be honest with you. Your statement:

"I have never had an on-line dialogue with one of them that didn't frighten me to the point of locking my doors :)"

made me laugh out loud! At the same time, your comment is sadly true many times.

I sympathize with you completely.
I honestly will NEVER understand the name-calling; there is NO excuse for it. None at all.

Sadly, I am unable to surprise you with the information you seek. I am not a pre-sup Calvinist...uh oh, here they come!!!!!!!!!!!! :-)

Please take your time with your response/questions and I'm glad you are taking the time to read the book.

Take care and I look forward to future interaction.

Brian said...

Bob, your typical logic book will agree that a person's character has nothing to do with the truthfulness of what they are asserting or the position that they hold.

"Participants in strenuous arguments sometimes disparage the character of their opponents, deny their intelligence or reasonableness, question their integrity, and so on. But the character of an individual is logically irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of what that person says, or to the correctness or incorrectness of that person's reasoning. To contend that proposals are bad, or assertions false, because they are proposed or asserted by "radicals" or "extremists" is a typical example of the fallacy ad hominem, abusive."

(Copi and Cohen, Introduction to Logic, 11th edition, Page 143.)

Chad said...

Brian,

Great points! I believe it is vital to continue to ask ourselves, "What is true?" Otherwise, we are guided by subjective feelings and emotional responses. Emotions are a great thing; however, emotions can be very, very wrong.

Thank you and Godspeed