This a response to a blog that criticizes common Christian expressions.
I’ll Pray for You
“Oh that’s nice. So, what are you praying for? I do need to know so I can give you reports on how well you are doing. ”
If they own up to what they are praying for: “Hmmm, okay, so how long should that take? And if nothing happens, what can I put you down for as why: your god doesn’t consider you a Christian and thus won’t answer your prayers as it promises; your god loves an honest atheist and is fine with me; your god doesn’t exist?”
There’s a common misconception that the answering of prayers must always be noticeable, knowable, visible etc. But the hard truth is that God always answers prayers, just sometimes with a ‘no’. The suggestion is that if God doesn’t respond in the desired way, He either doesn’t exist, or is ok with the scenario being prayed about. Well, let’s think about it. Let’s say a person is going through a terrible scenario, and I say I’ll pray for them. God may know that if this person carries on in his/her situation, it will lead to a saving faith in Him. Wouldn’t it be better for God to solve the scenario? Maybe in the short term, but God knows if that will lead to a person’s salvation, and that is God’s ultimate desire for us.
Have You Ever Heard the Gospel?
“Why yes, I used to be a Christian and I’ve read the bible in its entirety as a Christian and as not. Now, do tell me what your magic decoder ring is that tells you what is to be taken literally and what is to be claimed as metaphor or simply ignored since it is inconvenient and how do you know that it is better than the magic decoder ring that your fellow Christians have?”
Well, we can look to the Bible and Church history. The scripture is not sufficient on its own (sola scriptura), but requires an authoritative teacher that is guided by God. This is why the Church is called ‘the pillar of truth’, not scripture. When we rely on scripture alone, it becomes subjective, and one God cannot abide by multiple contradictive truths. I would argue that as the Catholic Church is the one who defined doctrine via Church Councils, and those Councils are recognized by nearly every Protestant denomination, that suggests the authority is the Catholic Church, and Her interpretation can be trusted. This, coupled with the fact that the Catholic Church holds to the beliefs of the early Church Fathers who were taught by the Apostles (St Ignatius’ view on the Real Presence, the sacrifice of the Mass, as two examples.)
I can understand the frustration that many denominations claim to have the ‘truth’, but just because many claim to have a contradictory truth doesn’t mean there’s no ultimate truth to be held to.
God Laid You on My Heart
“God did what to you? Oh, you’re claiming that your god told you to bother me. Nah, that’s just you needing external validation and you think I’d be a prize to be won to make yourself feel better.”
I understand how it can seem that way from the outside, but to suggest that nobody has ever heard a message from God requires some kind of omniscience; while we cannot know if God has truly spoken to a person, the opposite is also true: we don’t know He hasn’t.
God is Trying to Get Your Attention
“What, with you? You’re the best representative this god has? Such a shame. How about if this god pays attention to those dying of hunger, who suffer from amputations, etc. He can help them. I don’t need it. But it’s easier for you to lie and claim your god is interested in me rather than it doing something. Oh and claiming that misery is this god’s actions to force people to worship it? I sure as fuck won’t worship some vicious asshole like that.”
Good quip at the beginning about this person being the best God has to offer, but also not really relevant. I don’t think we measure truth by who is the one conveying that supposed truth. True, Christianity would be easier to believe if every Christian were sinless, but God in His infinite power can use anyone He wants to convey His truth.
I think God does care about the starving, sick and so on. That’s why He uses His Church to be the largest non-governmental provider for healthcare and education in the world. But I think an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Deity can multi-task. He can show concern for a well-fed, educated individual living in a first-world country, just as much as He can show care and concern for the citizen of a third-world country. Especially when we take into consideration that the Body of Christ (The Church), is active all around the world.
You’ll Go to Hell if You Don’t Accept Jesus
“Umm, which hell? Christians don’t’ agree on what it is or even if it exists. Your sadistic fantasies don’t bother me. Oh, it isn’t your fantasies, it’s just what this god needs? Nice “I am only following orders” excuse, my dear.”
All Christians agree in the existence of Hell. Yes, I’m being picky here. There are some groups who deny the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and His resurrection, that also deny a conscious Hell. Some examples would be the Watchtower and Seventh Day Adventists. These groups still believe in Hell, but hold to the notion that a soul is destroyed ‘by’ Hell, rather than suffering ‘in’ Hell. But since belief in the divinity of Christ is an essential Christian truth (John 8:24), and all Christians who affirm this also believe in Hell as a place of conscious suffering, the Trinity etc, we see a standard of what it is to be Christian. In fact, Jesus gave us multiple standards (John 8:24, John 6:53, 1 Peter 3:21), and the groups that deny these standards are the ones that also deny Hell.
I would agree that the threat of Hell isn’t the best way to show someone the value of Christianity. I think it’s better to go with the affirmations of Christ: if we believe we have eternal life, that we are loved, that we will be raised from the dead etc. It’s not to say that Hell isn’t a real and literal place, just that sometimes the carrot is better than the stick. There’s a million and one ways we can arrive at Hell, only one to Heaven (John 14:6). I don’t need to bang on about the ways to Hell, it’s simpler and more direct to talk about that one way to glory.
We can lastly summarize by reminding ourselves that just because some hold to a certain view of the Bible, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one correct view of interpreting that book. The Catholic Church was the sole interpreter for a thousand years, She was doing just fine. She still is.
I Know the Holy Spirit is Speaking to You
“Really? What is it saying? I do know that Christians all claim that the ol’ HS is speaking to them, but funny how it always give everyone a different message.”
True, all Christians make the claim that the Holy Spirit is conveying truth. Yes, these claims can contradict. But the above logic applies. Contradictive claims don’t mean that there isn’t one objective truth within the false claims. If we can see that 99% of people are wrong about a particular subject, we don’t just conclude that the other 1% must also be wrong.
The issue becomes how we are to deduce who is speaking the truth vs who is making it up as they go along. That’s the hard part.
Do You Want Your Children or Grandchildren to Grow Up Without Knowing God and Having No Morals?
“Yup, I do, if they are your morals. Sorry, dear, I don’t react well to attempts at engendering fear for someone’s imaginary friend. Pity that Christians can’t agree on what morals their god wants. You just get back to me when you can do what the bible promises every baptized believer in Christ as personal savior can do.”
To be fair, the incorrect view is that of the Christian’s here. Regarding God isn’t a requirement to have a moral standard. We would say that because there is a sole Creator, we have an objective moral standard, regardless of whether we acknowledge the cause of that moral standard. St Paul states that all people have the law of God written on their hearts, because they do as the moral law requires without being taught of its existence. Atheists, Sikhs, Taoists etc: they all have the ability to live by a moral standard because they share a common Creator.