The rhetorical force taints the gospel without ever actually addressing inconvenient questions such as truth. A clue that something is wrong. Something, that must be firmly answered.
Lest we be distracted from the pivotal truth of the gospel, here is Strobel, again -- truth comes first:
Case for Christ - L. Strobel from Rufino Magiting on Vimeo.
So, too, let me now clip an updated excerpt from the introduction for U9 on the sins and blessings of Christendom; in my online street level systematic theology 101 draft course:
>> (v) a culture influenced by the scriptures will always be an Iron and Clay mixture of progress and resistance to progress. So, (vi) the tensions inevitably lead to drearily repeated conflict; too often, marked by "sawdust in your eye/ plank in mine"one upmanship games.
Consequently, sadly and to our shame, (vii) this pattern explains much about the history of that civilisation that for many centuries was known as Christendom, and is now usually styled Western Civilisation.It is therefore unsurprising to see that (viii) it is now quite common for Bible-believing evangelical Christians who stand up in public or online to be presented with "shut up! . . . " rhetoric based on reciting long litanies of the real and imagined sins of Christendom and/or out of context clippings from especially the OT. Where as well, (ix) the NT is not immune to this sort of angry, demonising out of context misreading.
As a case in point we may examine a highly misleading campaign billboard sponsored by the American Atheists:
This billboard was put up in attempted retort to the declaration by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives that 2012 -- 400 years after the epochal KJV of 1611 -- would be celebrated as the Year of the Bible. (The billboard, unsurprisingly, irresponsibly distorts the record on the Bible's impact on liberation from slavery and its wider contribution to the rise of modern liberty and democracy.)
This sort of aggressively hostile, emotive -- and, too often devilishly hoggish -- rhetoric is in too many cases designed to make it out that the God of the Bible is an imaginary moral monster and his followers are little more than potentially genocidal Nazi-like barbarians. We may freely add, that if we are black, we are portrayed as gullible and/or race traitors betraying our people to white religious con-men. In a classic expression, such come to Africa bearing Bibles and say, let's pray. By the time "amen" is said, they hold the land (= economic, social & political power) and the blacks have only the Bible, by implication an empty book of religious myths.
The ideological inference drawn from this, is that especially white Christians will use belief in this "fictional" "bronze age god" to impose a theocratic tyranny and inquisition on the general public; also, that Bible-believing blacks are little more than useful idiot fellow travellers or are outright traitors. In either case, the Christian faith and its gospel message are stigmatised and stereotyped through loaded strawman caricatures into little more than an oppressive fraud not even worth listening to. All, without ever having to deal with inconvenient questions such as the truth of the gospel message, the reality of God or the need for us to repent and seek reformation as communities under God, in light of the dynamics reflected in the seven mountains framework:
In short, for many today, Bible-believing Christians and the gospel have been cleverly pushed out beyond the right hand margin of the Overton Window:
On that framing, the only "acceptable" Christians then become those who are safely locked inside the window as it moves ever "leftward" in service to a radical, essentially secularist/progressivist and even culturally marxist agenda pushing for the normalisation of ever more bizarre perversions and pathologies outlined or hinted at in Rom 1.
In short, we see that we must systematically answer the "the-God-of-the-Bible is a moral monster" thesis.
[NB. cf. here (observe comment exchanges) and here, and Copan here, here, here; here is longer but more popular; Dr V J Torley, here, is also useful in specific response to the leading New Atheist, Dr Richard Dawkins.]
Now, such objectors as have just been described plainly view us (or, to promote their agendas, would want us to be viewed) as "Christo-fascists." That is, in their view we are heirs to the Nazis and/or slave traders or the racist lynch mobs and passive church mice too cowed to do anything about oppression. They also sometimes view us as being much like -- or even worse than -- IslamIST radicals such as Mr Bin Laden and ilk; who, through terrorism, settlement and conquest would impose Islamic Sharia Law and Apartheid-like dhimmitude upon us. (Cf. documentation of this IslamIST agenda here and here.)
Sadly, it gets worse.
There are actual cases, like EvilBible [note general refutation here and specific rebuttals here and here , also the recently revealed Nuremberg investigatory documents here and a key cluster of quotes here], where there is an outright -- and quite viciously irresponsible -- attempt to claim that Hitler was a Christian, acting out of the tenets and examples of this faith. That is, in such minds, Nazism is viewed as a consequence of the Christian Faith and ethics, lived out on the ground.
Perhaps, it is time to re-think?Nor are such inclined to take seriously the correction that the following is at the core of Christian ethics, as taught by Jesus and his apostles:
Ac 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. [--> God is our all-wise, all-good loving Creator and Lord, whose commandments and instructions to us for living will therefore be "for our own good." [Deut. 10:13.] ]26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth [--> so, racism is decisively undercut], having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;as even some of your own poets have said,“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’29 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. [--> confronts the foundational sins of pagan culture, calling for repentance] 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” [--> repentance and reformation are called for in light of the warrant for the gospel, the resurrection of Jesus witnessed by over 500. This is also backed up be a warning of upcoming judgement by God.]Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.9 For the commandments [--> as in Mosaic . . . ], “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal [--> these two cover aggressive warfare and the like as carried out by the Nazis right there], You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.1 Tim 1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers [--> that is slave traders . . . decisively undercutting the evil which haunts our history as a region],[b] liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound[c] doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. [ESV]Likewise, in the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, Jesus taught that a world in which the gospel would be sown, beginning to bear good fruit would be cross-sown by the enemy of our souls with poisonous but at first similar weeds. Then, because the weed-roots are entangled with those of the wheat, to try to root out all of the weeds would destroy the wheat. So the solution is to wait and in due time extract the weeds and destroy them then harvest the good wheat. Thus, we are to expect that a gospel-influenced culture will be in a race between godly revival and demonic riot, which will extend to churches and even families.
So, our call is obviously to sound discipleship and to bring forth the fruit that manifests long before the actual harvest that we are wheat not toxic weeds. In short, our gospel ethics driven lifestyle is a crucial facet of our service to God and is a key authentication of the gospel. Which points to the significance of being salt and light, a shining gospel-based counter-culture in a dark world, as can readily be seen in Eph 4 - 5.>>
Let us therefore briefly ponder the parable:
>>Matthew 13:24-30 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Parable of the Weeds24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds[a] among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants[b] of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
>>Matthew 13:36-43 English Standard Version (ESV)
The Parable of the Weeds Explained36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Are we wheat or tares?
Let's note, using Wikipedia as a handy summary on darnel (the most likely "tares"), a peculiar weed of wheat that, being a rye-grass, closely resembles it but is very prone to infection by a toxic befuddling fungus:
So, we see some very interesting hints. Close resemblance while young (though the seed can be told apart hence "good seed"), leading to the shock of discovering what was not sown at least by the legitimate sowers. This already raises the question of guarding the field from those who would sow bad seed by night -- watching and defending borders and the land are important. (Clearly, proper general, logical and theological education and yes apologetics and correctives are key. Not every seemingly plausible or attractive message is good.)
Darnel usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and was a serious weed of cultivation until modern sorting machinery enabled darnel seeds to be separated efficiently from seed wheat. The similarity between these two plants is so great that in some regions, darnel is referred to as "false wheat". It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The spikes of L. temulentum are more slender than those of wheat. The spikelets are oriented edgeways to the rachis and have only a single glume, while those of wheat are oriented with the flat side to the rachis and have two glumes. Wheat will appear brown when ripe, whereas darnel is black.
Illustrating wheat vs tares when the ear appears
Darnel can be infected by an endophytic fungus of the genus Neotyphodium and the endophyte-produced, insecticidal loline alkaloids were first isolated from this plant.
The French word for darnel is ivraie (from Latin ebriacus, intoxicated), which expresses the drunken nausea from eating the infected plant, which can be fatal. The French name echoes the scientific name, Latin temulentus "drunk."
Next, the way darnel becomes toxic is interesting: readily picking up a toxic, befuddling fungus (likely, spores are in the air) that would have been invisible until made manifest through effects. Then, the shock of discovering what should not have been there when the ears appear . . . a preliminary sign that harvest is coming but now will not be an unmixed joy.
This already speaks strongly to the mixed-blessing nature of a culture influenced by the gospel: tares are also going to be sown, will look like the real thing, but will eventually come out as a toxic infestation. But the point was the wheat.
Could it be, too, that by the power of the seed of the word planted in our hearts we may change by the miracle of regeneration into wheat?
Are we bearing a good head of grain?
Pulling back, do we see wheat and tares in our communities?
Are we so fixated on tares that we don't notice the wheat?
Pulling on a similar parable, are we allowing the bitterness of the weeds of the past to rob us of the truth of the gospel?
And so, we are back at the fallacy in the Let's pray story: it embitters, befuddling and distracting so that we lose sight of the kernel of truth. The answer to the sad history of colonial oppression and the tainting of Christendom by tares is not to burn it all down, but to discern wheat from tares and act accordingly.
Food for thought. END