Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Change Agents and Sincere Seekers

“Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.”

I have several wickedly witty friends. Given a chance to hold court in front of a large group — especially when that group includes people unfamiliar with their schtick — they mesmerize their audience with preposterous tales made up of 4/5 pure baloney and 1/5 exaggeration. Their friends all know and expect this, but some people can always be relied upon to miss the obvious. Invariably, with a completely straight face, some poor, na├»ve soul not in on the game will inquire, “Did that really happen?” For the snark artist, mission accomplished. He has hooked his sucker.

It took me over a decade to figure out that most self-appointed “change agents” in our churches operate the same way.

Alan Shlemon published a post last week at Stand to Reason entitled “Gay Idioms Don’t Time Travel” (love that title), in which he patiently explains that a pro-gay theology activist’s application of the Lazarus story is not a valid dialectical argument because the figures of speech we use today did not exist in Hebrew 2,000 years ago.

The Clown Show

Now, I’m quite sure Alan understands what I’m about to say at least as well as I do, so I am not knocking his use of apologetics to respond to what is essentially a clown show, a TikTok personality using the title “Reverend” and purporting to explain why Christ raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. In his LGBT advocacy, he is every bit the entertaining showoff holding court at the party, waiting to see if anyone will actually call him on his nonsense.

Brace yourself for this bit of horrendous misapplication:

“Lazarus was locked up in a cold, dark tomb, wrapped in burial cloth, left for dead. That’s exactly what so many churches do to LGBT. They wrap us up and bind us up and tell us that we need to keep our identity — our true self — locked away. But Jesus, upon seeing Lazarus in this state, says, ‘Lazarus, come out. Step into the light. Take off the cloth. Be who you are. Come alive.’ I believe this is what Jesus is teaching every LGBT person: come out of the closet.”

This is not exposition of the text. It is rhetoric in the service of a bold-faced lie. It is rank, Proverbs-style “folly”. And if Alan Shlemon were to take his carefully constructed dialectical argument to TikTok and engage directly with RevBrandonRobertson to try to persuade him there is a better way to understand the passage, I would tell him he’s absolutely wasting his time. Likewise, if Alan were to give the “Rev” a guest column at Stand to Reason to air his views in a civil debate between Bible teachers, I would say he was horribly misguided. Robertson is fundamentally unserious. He is not interested in discussing what scripture teaches or being guided by it. If you get down in the mud with him and pretend to have a credible discussion about the meaning of ‘resurrection’, you are validating his nonsense and stooping to his level.

The People Standing Around

Alan’s not doing that. He’s simply acknowledging a new line of attack from the change agents and patiently and logically destroying it, not for the sake of winning over Brandon Robertson, but for the sake of all the less-cynical “third parties” out there on the Internet who might find themselves naively attracted to Robertson’s severely mangled and conveniently accommodating version of Jesus Christ. In doing so, Shlemon is not answering a fool according to his folly or validating Robertson’s rhetoric; he is teaching less-mature disciples how to recognize rubbish when they see it.

The Lord himself did this sort of thing in his teaching all the time. Peruse his engagements with the crowds, and you will find them full of statements made not for the benefit of his hardened detractors who would not hear him no matter how persuasive his arguments, but for the benefit of the softer hearts (and heads) around him. He never cast his pearls before swine, but once in a while he displayed their beauty to the people standing around.

Identifying the Change Agent

Change agents and hardened advocates of sinful lifestyles are generally easier to identify than you might think. The sincere seeker of truth is occupied with how he can get right with God; the change agent is occupied with how Christians can get right with him. The sincere seeker is tentative and fragile, while the change agent knows exactly what he thinks, and says you should think it too. The sincere seeker has multiple issues he will discuss, whereas the change agent is a monomaniac; he is only interested in one subject. The sincere seeker is willing to look elsewhere if he can’t find the answers he needs from your church, whereas the change agent is not going anywhere. He came to your church to spread his false doctrine, and he’s not leaving until he does the job. And yes, some of them are even having fun with it. They say the most outrageous things with a straight face, hoping Christians will bite.

Think about this for a minute: between high churches and evangelicals, something in the neighborhood of 40% of churches now eagerly accept LGBT members. Some will even ordain them. The change agent is not in your church because he needs acceptance and can’t find it within Christendom; he is there as a missionary to undermine the faith of your teens and twenty-somethings and stumble them permanently before they can mature into faithful servants of Christ.

Benefit of the Doubt

Still, some well-intended Christians feel compelled to give change agents every benefit of the doubt when they appear in our churches pushing new and anti-biblical views. It took me years to recognize this is a mistake. The unrepentant practicing homosexual or dyed-in-the-wool third wave feminist is in a completely different category from the sincere and confused seeker who repeats their arguments to an adult believer in hope of receiving back an intelligent and biblical response. Members of the two groups may sometimes mouth the same arguments, but the latter group is doing nothing more profound than recycling talking points written for them by men and women with motives they do not understand, while the former group is crafting sophistry to undermine and destroy 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy.

The response to a confused-but-sincere seeker is to patiently dissect the bad advice and faulty logic he’s been fed, and gently help him find better sources of Christian teaching. The response to a Brandon Robertson should be something like Paul’s Spirit-filled reaction to the Jewish false prophet who tried to stumble the proconsul: “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?” The confused Christian needs the love of Christ from understanding believers. The calculating public advocate of evil needs to be put on blast to shock him out of his stupor, or at very least make it crystal clear that his nonsense will not be entertained for a moment.

Fail to make the necessary distinction between struggling sinner and brazen heretic, and you may not become a fool, but you will certainly end up talking like one.

No comments :

Post a Comment