Engaging Culture

Welcome To The Christian Attack Culture

There’s no question that the Internet has brought Christianity many wonderful things. Today we have online education available to virtually everyone, social media that encourages people to support great causes, and online communication tools that allow us to connect from the four corners of the earth. But it’s also created something I believe is tearing at the very fabric of our faith. It’s created a culture of attack.

Rarely does a day go by that Christian news sites, social media streams, and other web platforms feature some Christian “correcting” another Christian – and calling them out by name. It can range from arguments over worship music, to theological squabbles, to disagreements over ministry styles, to charges of outright heresy, and the barrage of criticism has grown exponentially. While there are qualified theologians, pastors, and other leaders we should respect and listen to, there’s also a tsunami of armchair theologians, angry ex-church members, and wannabes who are convinced their criticism du jour needs to be shared.

Aside from feeling comfortable “correcting” a brother or sister publicly when we’ve never met the person, or know little about the background of what we’re criticizing, a significant culprit is the technology itself. With 24/7 news, and a constant barrage of blogs and social media, the Internet is bombarding us with information overload, and what may be worse – the ease of responding. As soon as we read something we don’t like, all it takes is a click to send an angry reply, post a heated comment, or write an op-ed piece.

I’m as guilty as anyone, and it’s taken me a long time to learn to not react immediately just because I can.

The Internet has given us the illusion of intimacy.  We read someone’s books, articles, sermons, or watch their videos online, and we feel we know them, so why not share what we think is wrong? But that illusion of intimacy is just that – an illusion. It distracts us from the important principle of reaching out to them personally first, and making the sometimes difficult effort of keeping it private and saving the relationship.

But then again, it’s just too easy to rip them online in front of everyone and be done with it.

The Internet is a powerful tool, and if we use it wisely, it can have a dramatic impact on helping us inspire and motivate this generation of believers to share the message of the cross with this culture. But the choice is ours. We can use it to build up, or use it to tear down.

Writer Jason Morehead put it this way: “The same questions should be considered by us all: Are we using the powerful, disruptive technology at our own fingertips to encourage, to think critically and compassionately, to spread shalom and create a “meaningful society”? Or are we using it to sow seeds of discord and hatred, spread vitriol and thoughtlessness, and give license to our own pride and avarice?”

That’s a pretty good question…

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  1. The old saying applies here I believe: “The Christian army is the only army which shoots its own wounded.” There are times when we need to speak up but even then it must be done with grace and humility. But to shoot someone when they are down is disgraceful.

  2. Jesus could bring about conviction in someone without condemning them. Speak the truth, in love. At the same time we stand up for the truth let’s invite unbelievers into the kingdom .

        1. Not sure if I’m getting your point. “If they refuse to listen” means you’ve approached them personally, not “corrected” them online. If that doesn’t work you take it to the church – still not doing it online for the world to see.
          Finally if they refuse to do even that, there’s no mention of a public whipping. Just start treating them as someone outside the body, which they’ve obviously chosen to be.
          I don’t see anything that would contradict what I’ve written in the post.

          1. Wow. You’re absolutely determined to be the theology cop out there, huh Caleb? If that’s what you feel called to, then I can’t stop you… Rip away. (You might want to start with me.)

          2. Absolutely agree Jesus’ Words are our authority. So what is Jesus saying in Matthew 28:18-20? Phil, Caleb and Tom’s discussion makes me reflect on how Jesus taught His disciples “to disciple others” — through encouraging, transparently honest, redeeming relationships. I have not met Caleb, Tom or Phil personally, so what I’m about to say is not personal, but just a distant “social media” observation. If I had a searching spiritual question, or perhaps I thought maybe Jesus could help me with a personal problem, …..to whom would I reveal my inner challenges? Tom would probably want to listen to me over dinner or a cup of coffee, and then show me Christ-centered love and help me come to a personal relationship with Jesus. Phil would challenge me with probing questions, and through the Holy Spirit’s guidance help me comprehend the grace and mercy of a loving God. Continuing, Phil would encourage me toward a loving Savior, who wants a personal relationship because He loves me more than I can imagine or think. …..If I know I need help, I would choose to talk with someone like Phil or Tom, whom I perceived would give me an encouraging, transparently honest, redeeming relationship. Through Tom and Phil’s discipleship relationship, I could come to know Jesus better, deeper, richer than I could ever imagine or think. I believe that is the essence of Matthew 28:18-20.

          3. Thank you Brother Roger E Olson. I never thought i will bump into you so soon. It is a pleasure. Well, the love displayed by one is of a mother’s or grandmother’s. The other’s is of a father’s love, who spares not the rod. My objective is: by all means correct the person, without strings attached. “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”

            I do know that love is patient. And i have been patient, “correcting gently” (2Tim2:25). I have exhausted the one-on-one via email & via my own books i sent him, as well as “take another brother with you and show him his sin” (which is happening all the time on social media). Consider Acts18:28 “for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ”. It is not just him who needs correction, you see, but the whole nation of them who have been espousing those teachings vehemently for centuries. This is a die-hard nation, my friends. I am not about to resort to pampering, afraid that i will lose his love. I must show them tough love. As long as i can save his soul, i will employ all means. Later, it will be me, whom he will thank in the long run. “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James5:19-20). But i have not rebuked the older man harshly (1Tim5:1). If i have done so, i ask God as well as the person concerned, to please forgive me. But i “rebuke them sharply [enough], so that they will be sound in the faith” (Titus1:13).

            God bless all of you Americans, who spare the rod most of the time. But please don’t spoil the child?!

          4. This is Roger D Olson. I’ve not personally met Roger E Olson, but would like to someday and ask him about his love for Jesus and what inspired the books he authored. …..I’ve been sitting here a few minutes trying to hear the Lord in how to replay to your post/reply. Seems to me there are two threads here, and little space to elaborate. First, let me start with Phil Cooke’s original discussion “Welcome to the Christian Attach Culture” and “on-topic” comments. One of Phil’s concerns is “attacks” from persons who for one reason or another feel compelled to correct, admonish, isolate someone else they perceive to have affronted their personally held beliefs — an affront that cannot stand without what the “attacker” thinks is an appropriate reply, rebuttal, rebuke. The problem is…..we never know the whole story of another person’s life, only God does. Even people we “think” we know because of some “ships passing in the night” relationship, do we really know what is deep in the heart of another person? We humans never know the true entire story of another person’s life, only God does. …..So this brings me to the paradox of “Christians living in the world but not of it.” We all have met others (some perhaps friends) who may annoy or offend us, since we are “in the world.” ….And honestly, at times we may ourselves be an annoyance or offence to someone else, …..such happens in life. But as Christ-centered humans, can we stand in the place of God and “handle” that offending person as though we were “of the world”? ……This is where the Holy Spirit’s maturing work known as the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26) begins to reveal just how Christ-like you really are. The second thread I perceive is your perspective insisting on speaking correction and direction into another person’s life. You write, “As long as i can save his soul, i will employ all means. Later, it will be me, whom he will thank in the long run.” …..We’ve not met, Caleb, so this is not personal, only a reflection on just your words. (Please allow me to use the inclusive “you” term here, meaning me also.) God’s saving grace is not about “you”, it’s always about Him. You cannot save a soul, only God can. Whatever “means” you “employ” must be guided by the Holy Spirit (again see Galatians 5:16-26) and not your personal agenda. You can be thankful to be part of the Holy Spirit’s work in bringing a person to salvation experience in Jesus Christ. Yes, he may thank you in the long run, but it’s never about you and always about God Himself. Our perspective must always be that of John the Baptist in John 3:27-30, who said: “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. …He must become greater; I must become less.” …..To you Caleb and all who read my post/reply, please accept Paul’s closing greeting from 2 Corinthians 13:14 from the Message Bible: “The amazing grace of the Master Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” Amen.

          5. It seems we are vigorously typing away merely for the sake of argument. Sorry, this will be my last post in this thread.

            “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will SAVE his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James5:19-20).

            I don’t believe in saying “Praise the Lord” for everything. Sorry if that offends you.

            “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom13:7).

            “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and the God what is God’s” (Jesus).

            Matthew Henry commenting on 1 Corinthians 4:21 (“What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?”):
            “He puts it to their choice how he should come among them, whether with a rod or in love and the spirit of meekness; that is, according as they were they would find him. If they continued perverse among themselves and with him, it would be necessary to come with a rod; that is, to exert his apostolical power in chastising them, by making some examples, and inflicting some diseases and corporal punishments, or by other censures for their faults. Note, Stubborn offenders must be used with severity. In families, in Christian communities, paternal pity and tenderness, Christian love and compassion, will sometimes force the use of the rod. But this is far from being desirable, if it may be prevented. And therefore the apostle adds that it was in their own option whether he should come with a rod or in a quite different disposition and manner: Or in love and the spirit of meekness. As much as if he had said, Take warning, cease your unchristian feuds, rectify the abuses among you, and return to your duty, and you shall find me as gentle and benign as you can with. It will be a force upon my inclination to proceed with severity. I had rather come and display the tenderness of a father among you than assert his authority. Do but your duty, and you have no reason to avoid my presence. Note, It is a happy temper in a minister to have the spirit of love and meekness predominant, and yet to maintain his just authority.”

            Timothy Keller: “Western cultures want a God who is loving and forgiving but not holy and transcendent.”

          6. I am not writing for the sake of argument, but simply expressing heart-felt thoughts regarding Phil Cooke’s original blog issue and concepts you expressed. I tend to avoid arguments, but enjoy a good discussion about the Lord in the spirit of Jeremiah 9:24: “’…I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the Lord.” You quote Matthew Henry regarding approaching another “with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness.” There may be “specific” situations for a rod approach “when one is so guided by the Holy Spirit”, but for every other situation I would choose “with love and a spirit of gentleness.” I do not believe in milquetoast Christianity, nor do I believe in harsh Christianity. Finally, I would agree with your Timothy Keller quote regarding “western cultures” in general, …..and add it’s wrong for any human effort to change Christianity to one’s personal taste, including harsh Christianity (which I’ve personally experienced). …..We know from the book of Revelation a judgment day is coming. In the meantime, Jesus commands us (Matthew 5:13-16) to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” so you can “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” …..Since this is our last post in this thread, please accept my closing from 2 Corinthians 13:14 MSG: “May ‘the amazing grace of the Master Jesus Christ, the extravagant love of God, the intimate friendship of the Holy Spirit, but with’ you.”

          7. The purpose of Matthew 18 is not to call someone out online. It is to confront in a way that leads to repentance so that we can support such a person. Treat someone like a tax collector? Jesus ate dinner with them. How do you treat a “tax collector?” You evangelize him, showing love along with a declaration of truth. Truth+Love=Unity. I hope this is helpful.

  3. Great post Phil. Seeing this online makes me angry. It
    seems our human nature has a tendency to act like Job’s friends, and in public. Maybe if we were all more concerned with the junk in our own backyard then in others, pursued peace, and respond in love towards one another, we could unite for the cause of Christ instead of standing on our own soap box of self-righteousness. I’ll shut up now… I’m preaching to the choir. Glad you brought this subject to the forefront.

  4. I think we all need to learn to bite our tongue when it comes to social media. I’ve seen how these attacks are getting worse. What I notice is not Christians attacking each other, but groups such as atheists and LBGT groups bashing Christians out of the clear blue. You post an uplifting scripture or kinds words in Twitter and out of nowhere, these hate groups attack without warning. One thing I’ve learned is not to take the bait and just remain quiet. Even a kind response seems to ignite their hateful fire towards Christians.

  5. There are times when I will say something to someone OFF THE THREAD if there is something that is off kilter. But, to just go after them ONLINE is boorish in the extreme. Whatever happened to politeness and kindness? As a general whole, I think that many of us have stopped being kind to one another. So what, if a person holds a different theological view than you do. You are outside of your relationship bounds, most likely, publicly “correcting” them. It makes Christians look just like what the secularist thinks of us by reinforcing the “scold” stereotype. We do it to ourselves.

  6. Let’s not be too sensitive. Jesus severely admonished the Pharisees and we should do the same with those of today: ideological liberals in the Church who will stop at nothing to push through their agendas, driving away good people as they do so.

    1. on the one hand i agree… though most, the vast vast majority i have seen online play the role of the pharisee more than jesus.

      that is, they admonish others for doing things differently. they equate their preferences with god’s and then act accordingly.

      or to quote the great lyricist steve taylor – “if you wanna be one of his, you have to act like one of us” – (from i want to be a clone).

    2. LOL – the liberals are the Pharisees? No, it’s you hostile fundamentalist rigorists who are all about the “rules”, as the Pharisees were. Your self-righteousness is right up their alley.

  7. Phil, You cared to repost this with more vigor but once again left no room for reproof in public.

    Our portion on this Lord’s Day was taken from Hosea4:4-6–“Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof; For your people are like those who contend with the priest. So you will stumble by day, And the prophet also will stumble with you by night; And I will destroy your mother. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”

    Very soon this politically correct crap will lead to the fulfilment of 2Thess2 lawless one emerging on the scene, because the restraint has been removed.

    1. When have you known me to be “politically correct”??? As I said in the post there are leaders with track records and credibility we should all listen to. However, the Internet has made it so easy, that today, EVERYONE feels comfortable “correcting” leaders – even when they’ve never contacted them personally or know anything about the context. That isn’t responsible and it’s not helpful to the cause of Christ.

  8. Quote: “While there are qualified theologians, pastors, and other leaders we should respect and listen to, there’s also a tsunami of armchair theologians, angry ex-church members, and wannabes who are convinced their criticism du jour needs to be shared.”

    Response: “Is it not a possibility that those same “arm-chair theologians” you reference are the very ones God has raised up in scriptural/spiritual maturity to rebuke and debunk the onslaught of theological compromise put forth by teachers whom know not what they speak of? I believe Jude calls many of your qualified theologians, pastors, and other leaders “…spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots.”

    Because I choose to teach the scriptures publicly; I must remain willing to become exposed to public rebuke if I misconstrue/twist sound doctrine. You are in the same arena as me – and shouldn’t be so thinned skin. Just saying….

    By the way, I will be in your area soon… coffee? 🙂

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