November 23, 2014

The Tyranny of the Offended

How do we honor Paul’s pastoral advice, but not let the most easily offended among us become tyrants in the body of Christ?

1 Corinthians 8. Romans 14. These chapters have been my nightly reading many times after a controversy with my opponents on the reformed watchblogs.

How do we treat those with whom we disagree within the church, both local and universal? Who are the brothers who are “weak” in faith? How much power does their offendedness give them? How much does our understanding of the full implications of the Gospel and Christian freedom play into areas of disagreement over controversial behavior?

Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 are great chapters…but a lot of trouble for me to understand at times. By trouble I mean this: Paul introduces some pastoral ideas here that are vital to both evangelism and the life of the church, but the concepts create real problems for many Christians. The common application of these passages tends to leave me thinking that something important is badly amiss.

Are those who are offended by my behavior always to be treated as right?

The crucial area for me concerns the matter of identifying those “weak” in faith. (Romans 14:1) That’s Paul’s terminology, not mine. Who are those who do not have “knowledge” of the full implications of Jesus Christ in a world of idols? Who is the person weak in “conscience?” Who makes that determination? (Are there name tags? “Hi. I’m Bob. Don’t offend me. I’m weak in faith.”)

As many of you may know, Mr Steve Hays, reputedly a brilliant student and TA at RTS somewhere and proprietor of the greatest Reformed intellectual enterprise in the blogosphere- a veritable Triple H to my lowly Sharkboy- is hammering away at my allowance of PG-13 language at the Boar’s Head Tavern. To him, it proves I am Socrates and should be served hemlock asap.

For the almost four years of the BHT’s existence, I have maintained- and edited accordingly- a house rule of PG-13 language. (A search of the BHT will reveal this without much trouble.) Because the BHTers are adults, and we are not a church, but a virtual tavern with no confessional bonds, I am fine with a certain level of crude, boyish language. This is not language I would use in formal address or polite company, but certainly language I would use with familiars, and not language I would be offended by if my adult children used it amongst friends. This is my choice, and I do not expect anyone else to applaud it or approve of it.

Included in Mr. Hays’ exhaustive survey of the BHT’s offenses are the following terms: “Ass-kickery.” “BS (the acronym only).” “Pissed off.” I would add that I have sometimes not edited “damn” or “hell.” Any number of edited terms, with letter removed, etc., can be found.

I do not believe any of these terms are sinful. (The BHT’s Jack Heald wrote an excellent post on a more detailed view of the nature of this sort of language. I recommend it) All language has context, and I do not believe it is possible to have a Biblical list of always sinful words. I do believe words- both “bad” and common- can be used sinfully. For example, here are several paragraphs from Mr. Hays’ initial post about this matter.

And that’s where Spencer comes in. Spencer is to pastoral ministry what Margaret Mead was to free sex and Timothy Leary was to acid.

Naturally he has a ferocious following. Young people generally prefer titular grown-ups who give them permission to dabble in sin with the blessing of an authority-figure. What you end up with is a symbiosis of evil: a gentleman’s agreement in which each party looks the other way at the other party’s misdeeds.

As the moderator of the BHT, Spencer is responsible for policing what is posted by his junior bloggers. But instead of acting as a conscientious shepherd who guides his flock in the ways of sanctification and the mortification of sin, Spencer is a corrupter of the young.

Hays compares me to a sexual libertine and an advocate of drugs. He calls me a “corrupter” of the young, a serious piece of slander in my world. He calls me evil. His language is powerful, and intended to offend.

None of the words of these paragraphs are “obscene” or “dirty” in Mr. Hays’ definition. He could read these paragraphs in church. He could recite them in prayer at the 11 a.m. worship service. No one, other than my close relatives, would be offended.

Yet, I am now listening to a second day of lectures from Mr Hays on my allowance of the word “ass-kickery” at the BHT. For this, Hays says,

“My problem with c.t. and the Tavernistas is the way they flaunt obscenity. They go out of their way to use profanity and obscenity just to prove, I guess, how cool it is to be brazenly shameless; to prove that they are not inhibited by all those uptight Victorian hang-ups over holiness and consecration.” (My Bold.)

Some might say that Mr. Hays’ language, while clean, is hardly innocent. The lie at the core of them- comparing the BHT to a blogger with an unrestrained use of the worse kinds of language- is offensive, even if stated relatively politely.

Now let me tell you my initial, pastoral reaction to Mr. Hays. I am very sympathetic to what he represents. I am surrounded- literally- by people who think like he does, at least in public. I cannot tell a slightly crude joke or use a slightly crude term in my work environment, because it is likely that 70-80% of those present would be offended by any reference to sex, the human body, mildly crude language or humor. Middle school boys get no sympathy among the good people in my environment.

I respect these people. I mean, I respect them with all of my heart. I recognize that they have come to where they are in these matters by way of God’s work in their own experience. They love and read the Bible. They strive to be like Jesus as they understand him, as I do. They have chosen to be members of local churches where, often, dress codes, language, movies and body decoration are very important ways of identifying true Christians. I understand this, and I respect it, whether it is the Mennonites at our local bakery or the Falwellian Fundamentalists in the Baptist churches around me.

If we found ourselves in a conversation about this- or any other of a number of issues of contention, such as movies, television, moderate use of alcohol, politics, etc.- I would disagree, and I would claim, as they would, to be representing the best understanding of scripture.

Now Mr. Hays would cite, for example, Ephesians 5:4, and would say that crude language is wrong: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. ” (Ephesians 5:4 ESV) But this isn’t a simple matter. I find scripture to be, at times, remarkably crude in its choice of language. Its sexual terms are earthy. Its descriptions of sexual activity are far from polite or restrained. Even the apostle Paul uses crude language when it suits his purpose, much more than I would allow at the BHT. The prophets are shockingly crude.

I remember a particular Sunday evening when one of our school preachers decided to speak on a prophetic passage where the adulterous spirituality of the Israelites was described in the most blatant sexual terms. It was the kind of language our students would be punished for using, and there it was in church! Was the preaching violating Ephesians 5:4?

My offended friends would be aware of Ephesians 5:4, but they would be unaware of the many crude and explicit passages of scripture throughout the Bible. They would be unaware of the nuances of the original language that are embarrassing if translated properly. I do not expect that they should know all these passages or nuances. I would not categorize them as “weak” in faith, “weak” in conscience or “without knowledge.”

Though they are “offended,” I would not call them weaker brethren. If I were to ridicule their immaturity, their fundamentalism or their prudishness, I would be sinning in doing so. I understand how they arrive at their conclusions and I understand why it is important to them that there be no mention of anything that isn’t “G” rated.

But I believe their approach to this matter is not in line with the Gospel. I believe it seriously misunderstands the Gospel. I do not believe the man who says “hit a bull in the ass with a banjo” has done anything scripturally or morally wrong. If someone was present who was offended by such a sentence, I would judge that the presumption of charity should exceed the duty to not offend, especially where there is no moral wrong involved.

Martin Luther was a crude and earthy man. He was also a man who understood the Gospel. I believe he understood it rightly, and I believe the overly scrupulous have distorted the Christian life and misrepresented the Bible. In fact, I believe a kind of “prissiness” and prudishness seriously misrepresent the Gospel.

I do not believe human offendedness accurately represents the Biblical view of sin, nor a safe path to sanctification and holiness. When Mr. Hays says I am derelict in my views of holiness and sanctification, I simply do not agree that the bare choice to use the terms “pissed off” or “BS” make any difference in sanctification or holiness. I respect his views, but I cannot agree that to say these words in the context of banter and joking is wrong.

To proceed along these lines is a perilously wrong road, with pastoral implications that are obvious upon consideration.

When the Beatles were popular, I heard all kinds of sermons against men having “Beatles'” hairstyles. I heard many sermons against “long” hair. Was this an encouragement to sanctification? If it was determined that these weaker brothers were genuinely offended, should the church adopt their views?

What if I am offended by women singing in the praise band? What if the lack of a suit and tie on the preacher offends me? What about the senior adult who is genuinely offended by the preacher’s jokes or the absence of hymns? What if Mr. Hays’ post offends me?

Should those offended by the clothes, humor and choices of others in the church be the conscience of the church? Does their offendedness, even if it is far from knowledge and absent any relation to the Gospel, constitute the path that must be taken? Are offended bloggers right to publicly “fisk” and denounce those with whom they share no confession or formal fellowship?

If Mr. Hays, or others, are offended that I allow grown Christian adults to use language that grown Christian adults can use, that the Bible uses and that is not wrong my any measurement other than obvious intent to offend, am I to adopt Mr. Hays’ views as my Christian duty? Is his offendedness now the “high” road of “holiness?” Or is he demonstrating the “weakness” that Paul wrote about with brothers who were afraid to eat a meal associated too closely with a pagan culture?

My take on Romans 14 particularly is that Mr. Hays, who is knowledgeable and is scripturally literate, is under a clear admonition to let me and the BHT stand before God on our own. Our faith is our own. It stands before God. The duty of Mr. Hays to avoid the offense of reading the BHT for his own conscience and faith’s sake is clear. His option to point out to a brother his perceived error is clear, as is the manner in which it ought to be done. But there is no permission for him to pass judgement in this area (and to do so in terms that are, themselves, obscene) where there is nothing more to go on than Mr. Hays’ personal definition of offense, profanity and obscenity, all definitions with which I respectfully disagree as a brother in Christ.

Further, it is not the Christian duty of this blog or the BHT to abstain from all language or topics that might “offend.” To do this would be to drain the faith of its truthful edge, and to emasculate our communities- real or cyber- into pretenses of polite agreement. Does someone think that honest people could not see through such a facade? I believe the “offense” Paul is concerned about is not “ticking someone off,” but discouragement of a sort that would result in abandonment of the faith. The “offended brother” is to be taken into consideration to the extent the offense may cause him to abandon the Gospel, but not in a way that makes the weakest, most sensitive, most overly scrupulous and easily offended person into the most powerful person in a fellowship.

For example: Let’s say I am preaching, and I use illustrations from movies. What if I get a letter from a fellow staff member that says they are offended by the illustrations I use of movies I have seen. Many of these movies, they say, are PG-13 and contain sex and bad language that our students shouldn’t see. When I use an illustration from, let’s say, “Titanic,” I offend this staff member.

Is it correct that I now stop using movie illustrations? Alright. I switch to novels, and soon get the same letter about a writer I mentioned whom my letter writer knows to write books with profanity and some premarital sex. So I stop using illustrations from books. I now use illustrations from television programs, and receive a similar letter about the evils of television. I refer to sports, and the letter writer tells me that sports distracts from church and many athletes are bad role models.

If I make the choice to “not offend,” I will be left with no illustrations. My sermons have been commandered by the offended. Now I want to write a letter, because I am offended. I’d like some clout, too.

Imagine the fun we will have when I preach from Leviticus 18, and I get a letter saying my sensitive friend is offended by all the sex. The Bible is now offensive. What is left? Chicken Soup for the Sensitive Soul?

Is Paul recommending that the Christian community become a nanny state run by those who are empowered by real and perceived wrongs? Will the most offended become the most influential? There are disturbing aspects to this that can already be seen in the reorientation of many churches to not “offend” seekers. The Bible fades in importance and the preferences of those most distant from the faith become the favored expression of the faith.

The Corinthian Church, that received chapter 8 of that first epistle, was a hive of whining, division, complaining and immature insistence on their own way. Paul did not apply the force of the principle at hand to empowering the least mature elements of the church. He risked offending them all for the sake of the Gospel, and even threatened to come to them with a stick, if necessary.

I will not be standing before Mr. Hays on the day of judgement. As Romans 14 declares, I will stand before God on my own, yet in Christ alone. My writing on IM and my moderation of the BHT are an expression of my faith in Christ, which Romans 14 plainly states is not to be judged by those who differ with me on incidentals. While Mr. Hays may find me an evident reprobate or apostate because I allow Josh the Lutheran to say “ass-kickery,” my own experience with Jesus in the Gospels leaves me with the assurance that my savior is not a divine nanny, and the path to holiness is to read all of the Bible through Christ and to live out the Bible in Christ. While I appreciate the sincerety of my critic, we will differ on this matter.

Comments

  1. BryanKMills says:

    I’ve danced around this issue before in my Sunday School class (I teach at an SBC church). I have never been able to articulate it as you have, but I agree with you. I’ve always assumed my chafing at “the tyranny of the weak” was a result of lack of love and compassion on my part. While I do lack in love and compassion, I also think that the chronically offended have some issues that need to be dealt with. Would it be accurate to say they are trying to exert control and power over others? In extreme cases I’d say it is idolatry: here’s my image of God and I demand that you bow to it.

    I suspect that if we could eavesdrop on fireside conversations among the apostles (fishermen!) we would all be shocked.

  2. Michael:

    I’ve only started posting comments here
    in the last month or so, however I’ve
    been a lurker for over a year. I went to the
    other blog you mention to get some things
    in context. I was disturbed by what I read.

    Comparing you to Timothy Leary is basically
    trying to pick a fight. (Besides that, it comes
    across as very mean spirited.) When you reply to
    him he starts taunting you about back pedaling.
    When you think about the fallout of the sixties
    and all that Leary symbolized, likening you to
    him is basically slander.

    I’m really feeling the love of Christ after
    reading some of dialog back and forth.
    (Heavy sarcasm alert here!)

    We’re all grown-ups here. If he doesn’t like what
    you or anyone else has to say on the BHT, nobody is
    making him go there. However, he ought not to be
    picking fights like that in “public”.

    The word “tavern” implies a cozy meeting of friends.
    Unfortunately blogs don’t afford the same privacy,
    without degrading their basic function.

    Enough said there.

    ——

    I thought your response to this was very well written.
    I’ve had a similar worry about the same topic. People
    all have some type of agenda, and can be very manipulative.
    (Can anyone say passive/agressive?)One needs to know how
    to deal with these situations.

    Thanks for the good essay.

  3. excellent post michael, as usual! you say “I would judge that the presumption of charity should exceed the duty to not offend, especially where there is no moral wrong involved.” are you saying the offended person should just keep quiet?

    i do not want the church to be a nanny state boxed in by the weaker brethren, but how (or to what extent) do we apply Rom 14 or 1Cor 8?

  4. Much of the time, with many issues….Yes.

    If you read the illustration I used in the essay about the person offended by my sermon illustrations, I believe the presumption of Christian charity outweighed the offense, and the better route was for her to bear with.

    I guess working with teenagers in a school, I am very used to overlooking what I could correct, and I am not impressed with Barney Fifes who correct everything the kids do.

    Overly scrupulous is not a good thing.

  5. Hmmm… I can see him criticizing the ones actually using the language, but to admonish you for not censoring it is a bit much. If a friend of mine starts to tell a mildly crude joke, I would not be admonished for failing to clamp my hand over his mouth.

    The difficulty with Romans 14 is that people disagree about what is open to opinion. Evangelicals use the verse very selectively. If you want to work on Sunday or eat pork or something, that’s fine. But if you feel like quoting the pope or speaking in tongues, well, that’s over the line. People also tend to trot out Romans 14 when they’re asked to do something difficult, like help the poor or tithe. Suddenly those very biblical requirements become mere matters of personal preference. They think that if something’s not a salvation issue, Romans 14 has declared it trivial.

  6. I always find it funny just what people will get their knickers in a twist over. I, too, have used examples from movies when I taught teens, used lyrics from non-CCM songs, used quotes from TV shows as well as popular novels. Got some slack but nothing like you’ve received from Mr. Hays. I’ve been following this over at BHT and I have to say you guys have some quick wit and great satirical skills.

    Keep up the good work, continue the quotes, use language as it is meant to be used.

    P.S. I used to run sound for my old church. One of the elders was upset that I was playing Sarah McLaughlin’s “Arms of an Angel” between services. He WASN’T offended by Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down” or Steve Miller’s “I Want To Make the World Turn Around”….go figure.

    Eric

  7. Michael:

    Many years ago I read Joe Aldrich’s Life-Style Evangelism, a book that has helped me immensely even to this day. In it he categorizes Christians’ dispositions toward debatable things (such as what, for example, constitutes profanity and what does not) into four groups:

    1. Participating mature brother
    2. Nonparticipating mature brother
    3. Susceptible weaker brother
    4. Professional weaker brother

    Our responsibility is to #3 only, i.e., the susceptible weaker brother who might be tempted to violate his own conscience by participating in the behavior he sees in us. Our duty then is to abstain and teach. I would add, in the case of blogs, that such susceptible brethren should obey the biblical command to flee temptation: don’t go to blogs that may cause you to stumble.

    Mr. Hays, in my opinion, belongs to category #4, the professional weaker brother who goes through life with a biblical chip on his shoulder. He lurks and stalks about, waiting for someone to “offend” him so he can demonstrate his self-established holiness and denegrate others. He is a Pharisee of the first order, the very kind of person that Christ railed against vociferously.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, the use of profanity can be instructive, telling us much about the person who employs it or feels the need to employ it. But the goal of confrontation is always restoration, not condemnation. I’ve seen little from Mr. Hays that appeared conciliatory in nature.

    Ignore him. He is a small-minded, self-righteous person who hopefully will gain some wisdom and maturity as the years pass. Personally, I was not so different from him when I was in my twenties and a new (4-5 yrs) believer. I thought I knew something; I learned that I knew a lot about some truths, but nothing about love. I don’t waste time with unloving people if they are uninterested in growth: I know firsthand that it is wasted time and energy. Let God deal with him: He is a wonderful and relentless instructor.

  8. Well, I posted on this issue at my blog a few days ago when you called Steve Hays out.

    I believe you were right to make the point that the BHTers are not in the same league as the nefarious “c.t.” (which I understand to be a guy, but is named Caroyln Trace? I’m confused.) If I had to categorize the happenings around the BHT I’d use the term “sophmoric”. C.T. is downright evil.

    I agree with Bill McKinnon (who, because he is a fisherman, is probably always right) that too much attention is given to the Fideo-ites and Steve Hays of the world. Leave them alone to their clubs.

    Actually, the argument you make about offending others is similar to what Scott Hill at that “other blog” proposed a few months ago. He wrote about people who would be offended that he plays a lot of video games (such as Halo) should, essentially, get over themselves.

    Much of this is true. We would live in near madness if we attempted to make sure we never offended anyone. It’s impossible! Believe me, I’ve been a pastor for many years, and sometimes its been downright necessary to offend some people for things they ought not be offended about.

    But…

    There is a type of immaturity that says, “Hey, this is the way I am…accept me!” A person who demands everyone else to accept crass conduct. A person who spouts out obscenities, and then asks me to “Pardon their french.” Whatever that means.

    Honestly, I am getting tired of being at a restaurant listening to an obnoxious group of folks spew out a ton of F-words while I sit their with my wife and two kids. If I ask them to be a bit considerate, they often continue on, only a bit louder.

    I’m not a prude. I don’t look a bit like the lady pictured along with this post. But I can’t ignore the Word of God. And it does say some things about what comes out of my mouth.

    Sled Doggy Dogg

  9. Phillip Winn says:

    Now I’m offended! Eric, the song is just called Angel. I expect a full apology. :-)

  10. I have thought about this verse a lot too over the past few years. One way of looking at this that I will throw out for comment is that perhaps our understanding of “weak in faith” is skewed.

    The most common contemporary understanding of “weak in faith” that I have heard is the one addressed here: someone who is offended. It seems to me that what Paul was addressing was rather the person who was fairly new to the Christian faith and might be tempted to doubt Christ over this issue of food sacrificed to idols. To say it another way, perhaps the issue of “stumbling” does not refer to “offence” as we understand it, but rather temptation.

    As an example, I have been known to drink an occasional beer or glass of wine. A few years ago, I didn’t do that because I might cause someone to stumble (ie–offend them). Now, if I was around someone who deals with alcoholism, I would stay away from the beer to avoid tempting them with that; but should I avoid the occasional alcoholic drink because it makes some people gasp? I don’t think so. I note that not many of the Christians who are so bothered by alcohol suggest banning gluttony from the pot-luck, yet Scripture is much clearer on it than on alcohol!

    It seems to me that Jesus was always making the religious community gasp. What He didn’t do is break the person who was bruised or put out the dimly burning wick. The same Paul whose words initiate this debate calls the Galations fools for giving up freedom in Christ.

    I don’t know the whole answer here. I suspect that we are all about as likely to get it right 100% of the time as we are to get anything else right 100% of the time. Thank God for a Savior!

  11. bookdragon says:

    I guess Mr, Hays can quote Ephesians 5:4, but chooses to ignore Ephesians 4:29-32?

    When Paul, educated by a rabbi, talked about concern for the weak, I’m sure he was referring back to well-known ideas about what constitutes ‘placing a stumbling block before the blind’. He wasn’t worried about ‘offendedness’, but about syncretism with pagan culture/religion.

    As to leading youth astray, I can’t help but think how offended he would have been by Jesus. We don’t have evidence of Him using salty language, but he travelled in a mixed company of men and women – virtually a band of hippies of questionable morality from the standpoint of His day and time. The bible even says that there were single women who travelled with Him and helped support His ministry from their own means. What kind of example is that! Talk about leading youth astray!!

  12. Loved the WWE reference.:)

    While in seminary I found it interesting how some would worry about offense to the point that any possibility of offense was used as an argument against various church practices. If one could take offense to something (the verse of a hymn, using guitar in worship, whatever), it was deemed inappropriate.

    I’ve finally made peace with the whole ‘it might be offensive’ bit by answering that I can’t control another’s reaction. That’s out of my hands. If one ends up being offended, s/he should come talk to me about it (assuming that s/he can leave Timothy Leary comparisons and the like at home).

    The flip side, of course, is discerning when something is truly a Romans 14 issue. Offense is one thing, faith-shattering is something else.

  13. Once again, you hit the nail on the head.

    It’s frustrating when I manage to offend people by using words like “piss”, which are in the KJV…

    Focus on the Family used to do something similar with films – they’d say that a film was unsuitable for children because it contained the word “ass”, and so on. I used the same criteria on the Bible, and the first book that came out ok was Colossians (if I remember correctly).

  14. this is thought provoking. It voices (eloquently!) some of my own disorganized thinking on the subject.

  15. iMonk

    What is often fun is when the people who are prissy when it comes to “colorful metaphor” (to use Spock’s term) are also KJV only types. I must conclude that in order to maintain these two postions, the rule makers must never actually READ the KJV Bible. Or they must conclude that what is OK for the Bible is not OK for them.

    For example, the KJV uses the word, “bastard” (De 23:2, Zec 9:6), “Piss” (2Ki 18:27; Isa 36:12) and “pisseth” (1 Sa 25:22 and many more); and even “ass” (though of the Donkey variety, but it is still the same word!). Probably a few more that I do not remember.

    I won’t even mention Ezekiel 16 or 23 in ANY TRANSLATION (Oops, I just did!)

    Yet, I too can grow uncomfortable when vulgar language is used. Many times it depends on the environmental context, as you also expressed. The BHT is NOT the same as an Ice Cream social. But knowing where to draw the lines sometimes is difficult.

    Discerning respect may be a key. Your buddies at BHT know you still respect them when you or they use the more “colorful metaphor.” They may even think you don’t respect them if you refrain! Ladies at the church social, however, know you do not respect them when you use the same language in front of them.

    And as your critic showed, a lack of respect does not need “colorful metaphor” to do its damage.

    Hard issues. But as the KJV shows. it may be an issue that is more culturally defined then Biblically limited.

  16. I think you got to the heart of Mr. Hays use of words, pretty accurately.

    What I wonder at though, is Mr. Hays approaching you like you dealt with Joel Osteen many months ago? Is it more his mentality that you are a public insitution gone awry (and the public nature invites commentary), rather than he is the offended brother?

    You are very public (gosh, I’m from New Zealand and random people talk to me about this site), but I hate to see the implication all through Mr. Hays writings that you are not fit for portraying the gospel and instead preach something else instead. If anything, that makes me want to swear.

    Theres is something screwy in parts of the reformed world, the words iMonk, emergent, etc get conflated into an offese against God, an apostasy. How do you shed that? Oh God, help us all.

  17. The iMonk is not emergent, at least not that he knows of.

    If you want to understand this, watch as many episodes of the Andy Griffith show as you can, and take notes of Deputy Barney Fife.

  18. iMonk,

    I tend to agree with the post that puts it in light of “temptation”. The weaker brother being one who has recently been converted, or has struggled in an area. (He believed in those idols and has sacrificed to them in the past. He can’t eat the meat from that temple without feeling the guilt from his past sins.) Neither Christ or Paul would want us to trample on that brother’s conscience.

    Interestly, Christ did not allow Himself to be bound by the conscience of the Pharisees. He healed on the Sabbath, ate with the publicans and harlots, and allowed His disciples to pick the grain on the Sabbath among other things. These were the religious leaders who strained at gnats and swallowed camels.

    I heard a speaker once say that we should be tender toward the new believer, never wanting to stumble him in any way. (As even our Lord warned.) However, if the person falls into the “Pharisee” or “professional weaker brother” category, we should do as Christ did and stick our foot in his path to make sure they trip up. (I didn’t say this quite like the brother said it, but I hope you understand my intent.)

    There was a sister in our fellowship years ago who had recently been converted and lived a life that almost destroyed her. When she came over to our house my boys knew not to play their Keith Green tapes. (like I said, this was obviously a long time ago) She would have never spoken ill of us, but some of the music reminded her of her past and the boys didn’t want to cause her any pain. However, there was another lady in the fellowship who loved to “tsk, tsk” and I was tempted to ask my boys to crank it up when she was around.

    We definitely need humility and the Lord’s help in these areas, but I believe that we can prayerfully look at Christ’s actions to gain some help and guidance.

  19. What manner of jackassery must we put up with today?

  20. I sometimes wonder whether so much concern for political correctness, or the evangelical equivalent of it–Romans 14 overkill, might not be evidence that we have too much time and too many of God’s resources at our disposal. I wonder if underground Christians hiding from the Chinese government have time to worry much about which over-sensitive brother or sister is offended by some minor thing.

  21. Umm, offtopic again, but I saw this and I thought I should clarify. I know you aren’t emergent. I meant to say that there is a failure to understand the groups that have suddenly, somewhere have being identified as opponents of the faith (from the perspective of these small camps), like you and whoever is “emergent”.

    I still wonder if there are similarities between say, your offense at Joel Osteen even being considered a minister of the gospel (quite justified in my opinion) and the like of Mr. Hays offense at you (which I think makes the subtitle of his site, “serious trinitarian theology” a joke). i.e. You both got criticised in a public forum. I fear though, that from the TR end there is a lack of wisdom in who get made pariahs. Or how they categorise things.

    What I am thinking (and what I think you are saying) is probably well expressed on the back of Douglas Wilson’s book A Serrated edge:

    In every controversy, godliness and wisdom (or the lack of them) are to be determined by careful appeal to the Scriptures and not to the fact of someone having taken offense. Perhaps they ought to have taken offense, and perhaps someone ought to have endeavored to give it.

    To relate that to what I am saying (sorry it has taken so long) is: you made a small effort at trying to correct people before they mistake Mr. Osteen’s words for the gospel. Offensive to some and rightly so. Mr. Hays (and others?) is trying to either offend you directly or put people off you (and wrongly so). The first is scriptural but the latter is not.

  22. I found this via another ‘weaker brother’ discussion on fantasy literature [which I’m also ‘guilty’ of]. FYI you might find the posting I wrote in relation to the weaker bro argument as applied to doing yoga or not. I think it’s an important nut to crack because it really is disabling of mission and Christian growth. Hope it’s helpful.

  23. Great article/post.

    We need to keep our eyes, hearts and minds on Christ and not on the egg shells some folks have us tip toeing around on.

    Shiny Happy Christians – a myth.