Biblical Putdowns & Trump Cards

While most online Christian interactions don’t end up at: “well, Hitler believed that too!” (Reductio ad Hitlerum) many times they are just as close with Christians using acceptable “putdowns” from Scripture. What are these? They are usually sayings of Jesus ripped from their context. For example:

“Well, I would discuss this further but I don’t want to throw my pearls before swine”

or

“Jesus said there would be wolves in sheeps clothing and you are looking rather wolfy.”|

These are acceptable, verbal uses of the Sword of the Spirit in many Christian circles but the real question is…are they? Let’s take a look:

(1) Pearls Before Swine

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (Matthew 7:6 ESV)

Pigs and dogs were scavengers during Jesus’s day and would have been considered unclean to Jews (I’d argue cats should be in here as well). They were outsider animals that Jesus used as analogy for those who are antagonistic or outside of the faith. The pearl is the gospel. Jesus makes clear that a Christian should be slow to judge (7:1-5) any person who is not in Christ but there are sometimes when a Christian should back away and not invest emotional/spiritual energy with someone. Notice that this saying is not applied to other Christian believers.

(2) Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15-16 ESV)

Jesus calls for Christians to not judge hastily but to also be discerning when it comes to prophets who come in the believers midst. Key word there is prophets.  Or those who claim to be a prophet. Also notice that it talks about fruit inspection of the person in question and that it matches up to the words they speak. It does not say that a person should be judged on the miraculous. Someone may have great wonders following their lives but that does not equal Christian maturity.

(3) Whitewashed Tombs 

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV)

Jesus is addressing the Pharisees and Scribes for being hypocritical. Jesus is making a judgment on them (see, judging is okay) as he points out the disconnect between their outward actions and their inward state. He does not say that outward righteousness is bad but that outward righteousness is empty without the inward. Again, he is speaking to Pharisees and Scribes. Not believers. A believer who is filled with the Spirit cannot be inwardly dead because he is born again.

 (4) Deliver to Satan

“you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 5:5 ESV)

Satan’s realm in Scripture is another name for the earth (Luke 4:5-6; Ephesians 2:2). This man was to be cast out of the church not for punishment sake but to eventually be restored to the church. This man was consciously committing sexual sin that was outwardly expressed in the church since they all knew about it. Even though those involved were consenting adults there was no toleration for their sin if they did not repent. Loving the sinner meant allowing him to live the life he had chosen outside of the church.

(5) Holy Spirit Teaches Me

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV)

The Bible makes clear that the Holy Spirit aides believers in their spiritual walk (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16,18) but this is not at the expense of knowledge/wisdom. This specific verse is quoted many times at the expense of human knowledge when in context it is talking specifically to the disciples about the writings of the Scriptures. Something that no longer happens today. I usually like to retort when someone says this passage with Revelation which says not to add or subtract one letter from the Scripture because when someone uses this passage in a discussion that is what they are doing.

How about you? What other some other Christian putdowns and trump cards you’ve experienced?

Musings of a Pentecostal Muggle-Born

I recently had a John the Baptist moment in a continuing discussion with other ministers in my denomination. The specific Scripture that I am referring to is this:

“And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9 ESV)

A couple of months ago there was a group of people who formed in response to a journal article in the Assemblies of God’s (AG) ministers magazine Enrichment. They did not agree with a specific article and have been talking about it since. I originally thought this was a joke because, in my mind, to be AG meant to be conservative. At least theologically anyway. As I started to engage this group through random chats, video streams, blogs, facebook posts, and one unfortunate recent situation which spurred this blog, one theme kept coming up again and again. They were third and fourth generation pentecostal ministers while I was not. Their families were there at the beginning (not the actual day of Pentecost…I hope anyway?) and because of that family lineage they were better equipped to hold the line on certain theological points.

Now as a  a lover of history myself I understood their passion. But, to state that those ministers who came from a family of ministers needed to save the AG from folks who did not have that history (like me) seemed rather…drastic? Did they really need to save the church from us Muggle-Borns?

If you are not familiar with the term Muggle-Born it is a term I am taking from Harry Potter (forgive me but it was too good to pass up). A Muggle is someone who does not have magic. To be Muggle-Born meant to be someone who was born with magic but to two parents who were not magical. In Harry Potter, Muggle-Borns are discriminated against and looked down upon.

We find the same thing happened in Jesus’ day. In fact it warranted a response from both John the Baptist in the above passage and Jesus Himself. And the same thing happens today.  It is a hard thing to be swept into to something as large as the Christian faith. There is a cloud of witnesses that goes before you that you must acknowledge and carry the torch from. Undoubtedly sometimes people in my generation take the torch by force and are disrespectful of the past thinking it is all negative. This does happen! I acknowledge that completely. However, other times those who have the torch never give it up, criticize those who come along with them as destroying the church or bringing in foreign ideas that are not foreign at all. Then to utter things that all people not born into ministers homes need to be watched extra carefully does not help either. Hence the term “Pentecostal Muggle-Borns.”

I am reminded of a post my good friend William Molenaar wrote awhile back and I’ll close with his words:

I encourage all of us to consider the weaknesses and cons of using a “conservative vs. liberal” framework in our relationships with each other in the Assemblies of God. Self-identified “liberals” and “conservatives” are usually loud, divisive, and do not help in furthering the kingdom and mission of God in a constructive manner. They are too interested in themselves and preserving their own agendas. In order to directly engage “liberals” or “conservatives” is to necessarily play into their divisive game, and only gives them more motivation for polemics!