Not long ago I was involved in a back-and-forth comment thread with a subscriber named Stephen. Maybe you’ve read the comments. If not, they are still there and available for your viewing.
At one point I decided to end the back-and-forth commenting and commit to a post in which I would address the plethora of accusations and mischaracterizations Stephen was making. I even backed off from writing a great deal in order to focus on this piece. To be specific, 2 weeks ago I wrote:
“… I am going to take very seriously my responses to your questions, including your – let’s be honest – angry and mean-spirited attacks on my character and intelligence. Also, in order to achieve maximum transparency and allow for others to judge our arguments against the Word of God (our only source of authority), I will be copying and pasting the most pertinent of your previous remarks into a series of new blog posts.”
However, after reviewing eleven (11) pages of comments, and after being advised by several friends and relatives to stand down, I think it wise to keep my response “limited.”
The reason for keeping things confined to maybe just one blog post is that spreading out the discussion would risk the potential of getting off track. It would also potentially fuel a long-running debate that would prove worthless.
On Sunday morning, January 10, 2021, I preached a sermon from the seventh chapter of Matthew. Jesus said in the 24th verse: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:” Note, the wise man whose house will stand through the strongest storm is one who not only hears the words of Jesus, but does them.
And what were the “sayings” to which Jesus was referring? They go all the way back to Matthew 7:1. From verses 1-21 there are seven (7) main points, the “sayings” of Jesus. You can find them in verses 1,5,6,7,13,15, and 21.
However, it was verse 6 that the Holy Spirit used to speak to my heart (and other social media users in the congregation). It was also this verse that was often quoted by those advising me to stand down:
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. – Matthew 7:6 KJV
Now, before anyone – including Stephen – gets offended, I am NOT calling anyone a dog or pig! Neither was Jesus.
The meaning of this verse has to do with giving things of great value to those who by nature will see no use for them and in turn, instead of thanking you, will continue with their attacks.
You see, swine cannot deduce the value of a shiny, costly, and rare pearl; all they see is something to munch on like a nut. It is not in their nature to appreciate rarity and beauty. Likewise, the one who is hostile to the Word of God, who refers to it as a “dead book” written by “fallible and evil men” is hardly going to appreciate any explanation he’s already deemed valueless and tasteless.
Therefore, I’m torn. Do I respond or not? Do I defend the Bible, the organized Church, pastors, paid ministers, even myself? Do I respond to Stephen’s over-generalized accusations?
Another question: Will it matter? When it is unlikely that Stephen will (if he’s still reading at this point) take the time to respond in a calm, respectful, rational, non-hateful, non-smart alec, humble way, what’s the point of investing hours of my valuable time into writing the likes of multiple research papers?
If the 11 pages of comments tell us anything, Stephen’s likely response will be to belittle my hard work and say as many atheists do when offered evidence of Intelligent Design: “That’s not evidence.”
It’s a tough, tough decision to make.
Who Is Stephen?
So, who is this Stephen person? Why take all this time to address his comments? What makes his arguments and accusations worthy of rebuttal? Why not simply say “whatever” and ignore or block him? After all, I normally block comments from people who are so disrespectful that they call me a “POS.”
I guess it’s because I know that others are reading the comments, too. I know that there are those who will never write anything but read what we write when we go back and forth. I know this because several have told me through email and in person.
It’s also a fact that Stephen is a real human being with real emotions, feelings, and a soul. Stephen also lives in a world where his actions and beliefs will ultimately affect others and possibly generations to come. And it would also be good to remember that Stephen is not alone in his beliefs; there are many, many others who think and feel the way he does.
Where there is one Stephen, there are others. Therefore, by taking the time to rebut false assumptions and dangerous theologies, we may or may not be able to affect a change in Stephen, but others may come to know the Truth.
I guess it would be good at this point to offer some observations that I’ve made as I have reviewed Stephen’s comments from last year. Since you may have not read them all, the following summary will give you a better understanding of the tone and substance of Stephen’s comments, along with a better understanding as to why I feel addressing all his arguments might be fruitless.
Again, the following bullet points contain Stephen’s actual comments and are contextually accurate. In no way have I cut and pasted his words in order to frame him in a negative light. His comments can speak for themselves.
- Derogatory Ad Hominem Attacks are Common – I counted at least 22 personal swipes at my character or the character of others who joined conversations. With only assumptions and obvious bias as his foundation, Stephen was quick to use the following derogatory descriptors, to mention a few…
- “…the honest [pastors] have left the world of religion.”
- “legitimate” pastors don’t “carry the labels, nor were they employed in religion.”
- “The cognitive dissonance required to sit through a sermon and not puke is astronomical. But then as we all know, the psychopath target the weak.
Perhaps your time would be better spent pontificating to your flock Mel. I don’t have much patience for manipulators.”
- “…2 bit evangelical religious leaders such as yourself.”
- “A couple of 2 bit religious business owners about their own agenda is what the both of you are.”
- “As for your religious business, Baptists are no different than any other denomination or non denomination, it’s all a business, whether you manage it or own it, it’s all witchcraft.”
- “…why don’t you mind your own family instead of perpetuating religious business that abuses children and those who are weak minded?”
- Does Not Believe the Bible is the Inerrant, Inspired Word of God
- “My authority is Jesus Christ, not a dead book.”
- “I do like the bible as it contains many truths and reliable testimonies.”
- “As for Where to fine Jesus” words, they’re everywhere but mostly I find them within.”
- “I know you disagree all those who belive the infallible, final authority or the word of God must. Their whole faith lies in their belief in the bible. Almost as if, God ceases to exist if the bible has errors.”
- “The Jesus of the bible can be many different images to many different people and yet you seem to think a unique revelation is wrong?”
- “…but God is not confined to a book written and compiled by man.”
- “God has not stopped revealing Himself to men, He doesn’t need a bible to reveal Himself.”
- “The bible is subjective…”
- Stephen has a strong dislike for Pastors and Preaching.
- “I’ve had my fill of men who claim to have the truth.”
- “God’s people are everywhere, there’s absolutely no need to pay or put up with pontificating just to hang out with them.”
- “Instead of preaching about ‘leading by example,’ it’s time to start doing it.”
- “You must assume your position … [use] a couple of bible verses to justify your authority and put me into submission … You must maintain dominance so as to not look weak before your flock.”
- “Jesus never spoke of giving pastors or to His people.”
- “Any religious leader would have a hard time justifying their position without Paul’s writings so I understand your desire to bind people to the bible.”
- “The standards you perceive from the bible are for you, they’re not meant to be legislated and forced onto other, especially if they don’t affect you.”
- “And there’s no way preaching the Gospel should be a paid position. Jesus is the model of what the Church should be, not Paul.”
- Stephen has a strong dislike for organized religion.
- “There is absolutely no difference between the world and those who attend and adhere to organized religion.”
- “I’ve tasted the paint religion paints with, and will not be painted with that brush. So I’ll continue to paint with my broad brush.”
- “Though most of my mentors never spoke His name or had any part in religion, they lived Christ.”
- “No bibles, no church, just faith in God.”
- “As for the church model you justify, this model is found no where in the bible.”
- “…I’m not a believer that acts is the model for the Church. The Church are those who belong to Christ. We are a living organism and not an organization.”
- Stephen has made some potentially dangerous ontological and theological statements about Jesus.
- “When we stand before Jesus Christ, we will then know the Truth.”
- “I don’t profess Jesus as the only way to God, people can figure that out for themselves. I profess Jesus IS God.”
- “My authority is in Jesus Christ, not a dead book.”
- “…Jesus Chris revealed Himself to me and taught me that in fact, my conscience was Him speaking to me.”
- “After reading the bible 5 times cover to cover, I still wasn’t sure who Jesus was, but He had mercy on me and revealed to me, the scriptures are accurate in their testimony of who He IS. Much like Peter, flesh and blood did not reveal it to me, but my Father in Heaven.”
- “The Jesus of the bible can be many different images to many different people and yet you seem to think a unique revelation is wrong?”
- “I don’t recall Christ condemning either the woman caught in adultery or the woman at the well. Nor did He defy from doing what they were doing.”
- “I hope I’ve made my profession for Jesus Christ alone loud and clear as I learned this from Jesus Christ Himself. This Truth was learned by many and some recorded it. And some of those testimonies were compiled and put in a book that we now call the bible. Fallible men to who’m God revealed Himself to. Go has not stopped revealing Himself to men, He doesn’t need a bible to reveal Himself.”
So, what do I do?
Does Stephen sound like a guy who’s going to respond with grace to someone who gets paid to preach and pastor a church which is linked to an organized religious organization?
If Stephen doesn’t care for the writings of Paul, what good is it to discuss the revelations Jesus made to him as described in the book of Acts and elsewhere in Paul’s letters?
If God has not stopped revealing Himself to men, and if the Bible (I capitalize it because it is a proper noun) is just a compilation of individual and subjective experiences, then to what Authority do I appeal?
If Stephen has already determined that all pastors aside from the “Good Pastor” are hirelings, manipulators, abusers, controllers, practicians of “witchcraft,” and “POS,” what makes me think anything I say, especially if I appeal to a “dead book” written by “fallible and evil men,” will have any affect? Will I only be casting my pearls before someone who cannot appreciate the value?
Personally, I don’t think anything thing I write, whether it be based solidly on the words of Jesus or not, would have any effect on Stephen. After re-reading his comments, it’s hard to imagine he will ever yield the possibility that anything I say could be correct.
HOWEVER, if you would like for me to offer a reasoned response to any of Stephen’s accusations or assumptions, please let me know in the comment section.
I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave you (and Stephen) with something positive. I’ve talked a lot about Stephen and his beliefs but let me close with a few things I believe.
- There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ (“I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” – John 14:6).
- I believe that Jesus was and is 100% man and 100% God (hypostatic union).
- The Bible is our sole source of authority regarding faith and practice, and especially when it comes to understanding who God is.
- The Bible is not a “dead book,” but “…[is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12 KJV
- Scripture is not subjective and open to individual interpretation (Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. – 2 Peter 1:20 KJV).
- There must be a point in one’s life when he goes from death to life, from lost to found, from dead to alive, from estranged to reconciled, from being a foreigner to a member of the Family, from being born in the flesh to being born again, from being the enemy of God to being called His friend. In order to be “saved,” there must be a time in one’s life when he recognizes his need of a Savior.
- Pastors are gifts to the Church (Ephesians 4:11) and are allowed to be paid for their work (1 Timothy 5:18).
Anything specific I missed? Anything specific you’d like me to address?
If not, I guess I’m done with this project.
Stephen, I do pray that you will grow in a sincere and biblical relationship with Jesus Christ and grow deeper in your understanding and appreciation for the Bible, for it was Jesus Himself who said: “‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?‘ And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” – Luke 24:25-27