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Monday, August 16, 2010

Counting the Cost

"Which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" (Luke 14:28)
Jesus's words. Count the cost. It's important. Do you know what His conclusion was in asking that question?
"So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
As our society moves further and further away from anything resembling "a Christian nation", we are going to have to face new questions. "What does it cost?" Before the societal perceptions migrated, it was easy to say, "I believe adultery should be illegal" because society was pretty much in agreement. It didn't cost anything. Before this culture shift, it didn't cost anything to say, "I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin" because the culture agreed. Today, however, we find that the 35-and-under crowd thinks that "same-sex marriage" is no big deal. What's the question, anyway? The same is true on other matters of values, ethics, and morality. As society evolves away from Christian ethics and more toward secular, humanistic ethics, those who wish to continue with Christian ethics are going to have to ... count the cost.

What does it cost today to stand up and say, just as an example, "I believe homosexual behavior is a sin"? Come on! What can it cost? Today it means you are labeled a bigot, a narrow-minded, irrational "fundamentalist". It isn't morality for which you stand; it's hate. You are, in short, a homophobe. And that's the start. Last May a street preacher in the UK spent 7 hours in jail. "Dale McAlpine was charged with causing 'harassment, alarm or distress' after a homosexual police community support officer (PCSO) overheard him reciting a number of 'sins' referred to in the Bible, including blasphemy, drunkenness and same sex relationships." My point is not to argue the sin of homosexuality. My point is this. If you are convinced that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin, you will need to count the cost when deciding to take that stand. You will be labeled a homophobe, a bigot, a hater, a throwback to an earlier era. You will be dismissed as irrational and discarded as evil. It is entirely possible -- voices are already being raised to this and laws being passed -- that you could be arrested for it. Count the cost.

Another example is this whole California Prop 8 thing. You may wish to stand your ground and claim to defend marriage. You may think that the Bible says that marriage is between a man and a woman. You may argue that all of Scripture and all of history hold that marriage has always been defined as "the union of a man and a woman". But you will need to count the cost if you plan to hold that position. Like the prior example, you will be labeled a bigot, a dinosaur, a hater. Your stand on marriage is a throwback and only based, regardless of your actual arguments, on your homophobia. Are you entirely sure you don't secretly want to be a homosexual like all those others who hate homosexuals? Well, I'm sorry, but we just don't need your kind in our neighborhood, circle of friends, workplace. Yes, it could get there in the not-too-distant future. We already have a term for it: "hostile work environment." This concept, already accepted as valid, is based entirely on "how I feel about what you're doing" and "what you're saying is making me feel bad". So, the requirement, again, is this: If you want to hold that position, be sure to count the cost.

Some are suggesting that maybe, just maybe, it's time to withdraw. Maybe, to defend marriage, Christians should withdraw from the concept of "civil marriage" -- that which the government manages -- and return to marriages blessed by God without regard to the government. It's an idea that may have its merits, but you will need to count the cost. Start with the "hate" tag you'll get. That's fine. But the cost of that move will be much more substantial. Taxes, legal rights, financial considerations (credit, loans, etc.), estate planning, shared benefits (such as Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, etc.), employment benefits such as shared insurance, bereavement leave, family leave, and so on, and on it goes. These are all part of the government's package on "marriage", and the cost of taking a stand against the redefinition of government-approved marriage. Count the cost.

It goes on and on. Do you favor enforcing immigration laws? You're just hateful, a racist, anti-family. Your arguments are irrelevant and you have no place in civilized society. Do you think that religion has a place in society? Clearly you're an outdated "fundy" that shouldn't be allowed to speak in public. Are you actually suggesting that the Bible is the "Word of God"? No one buys that one anymore. Go home. You're not wanted here. More and more, standing for what used to be a given among a Christian society is being dismissed and heading toward criminalized.

I don't think I'm very surprised that things are shifting like this. If I sound like I'm complaining, don't conclude that. I expect morality to decline. I expect Christian values to be on the outside, not the mainstream. I would say that the fact that America was so much of a "Christian nation" for so long was more surprising than that it is no longer so. No, I'm not longing for the good ol' days. I'm warning genuine Christians that it can and will likely get expensive. And I'm asking you to ask yourself the question. "What will it cost?" If you believe that it is too expensive for you to agree with God, then you will also need to ask yourself if you are actually a follower of Christ. A genuine evaluation is necessary. Hesitation is expected. But you can tell the true believers by their fruit, and if you're willing to jettison God's perspective in favor of greater comfort, well, that tells you who your real god is, doesn't it? We need to be counting the cost, because the way things are going it could get real expensive real fast and it's time to figure out what you really believe. Remember, "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple."


Jeremy D. Troxler said...


My thinking on this subject is exactly what drove me to study again the cross. I am listening to several lectures, reading "The Cross of Christ" by John R.W. Stott and soon will be going through the book of Romans in personal study.

I can tell you that after only 3-4 short weeks of study, prayer and meditation my mind is made up as to the price I am willing to pay. It has nothing to do with me, but what God did through His Son for me.

My concern is that since the whole topic of the cross is not truly and sincerely taken as it is (without watering down or looking at only part of the picture) many will count the cost and consider it too high a price to pay.

I'm pretty sure I know which side you'll be on. Blessings in your walk down the narrow path.

starflyer said...

Stan said: "...this whole California Prop 8 will need to count the cost if you plan to hold that position. Like the prior example, you will be labeled a bigot, a dinosaur, a hater...Are you entirely sure you don't secretly want to be a homosexual like all those others who hate homosexuals?"

I felt prompted to take a supportive position on a post on facebook (in response to a "friend's" comment)...well, I guess I hadn't counted the cost, because it brought an ONSLAUGHT of venom from the homosexual community (her fb friends). WOW! I was labeled exactly how you said, even that I might secretly want to be gay...and that 30% of the population is either gay or in denial.

The response was so lengthy (like a Dan T. comment on your blog) and hateful, I guess I wasn't prepared. I truly admire your stance and defense of all of these issues Stan. You are very eloquent...I gave back a few responses but then just let it go; nothing I could have said would have changed their minds. I'm not sure I would have done all of that if I knew what would happen. But I think I did the right thing. And it felt horrible...

Stan said...

Loads of fun, eh, Starflyer? Not! I can only hope (myself) that as the cost goes up I count Christ as worth more than my comfort. In fact, I'm not entirely sure it's a bad thing to have to face these questions. (And I think this is response to Jeremy's comment, too.)

Danny Wright said...

Funny, I was just thinking yesterday about the mark of the beast. I have held for some time that this mark is simply what we think and do. My thoughts yesterday were centered around the idea that if you don't take the mark, i.e. if you don't think right, and do the right things according to the culture's idea of right, then you are not allowed to buy and sell. Most of us sell our time and talents.

You know I'm not an end times guru, but this post goes right along with my thoughts yesterday as to how this thing might play itself out.

A Best Of Stan post... for sure!

Stan said...

Best of? Wow.

Professor Godless said...

I'm an atheist who happened to surf into your blog via blogspot's Next Blog button. I realize that your blog is meant for believers, but given the tone of the two posts I read, I thought you might be interested in my response. I'd like to make two points, one directly addressing your point, the other only tangential. I'm not trying to change your mind about anything, just thought you might be interested in what this sounds like to a someone who does not believe in Christianity.

One of the reasons I reject Christianity as an ethical system (I reject it as theology or history because it doesn't seem to me to be true), is because of the attitude you describe. It seems to me that Christians would acutally be happier fighting their points no matter what the physical consequences. That is, if there was a theological war, and all that was left was a few people living in caves, as long as there was still a group of Christians proclaiming what they feel is the truth, then they would be OK with that. Yes, they would regret that it had to come to that, but they would, as you put it, have counted the cost and would agree that the price is worth paying. I find that horrific. The need not just to be able to believe what you want to believe, and even to proclaim it, but to demand that others must live by it, too, strikes me as the basic obstruction to living life in peace.

Some things do have to be agreed to as a society. You can't, for example, tax people hwo believe in progressive taxation progressively, and others regressively. It's not a viable, stable system. But when, to pull an example out of a hat that makes my point, someone tells me that stores must say "Merry Christmas" rather than "Happy Holidays," that's not freedom of religion. It's not even an ethical principle. It's a demand for prestige. I don't think a system of ethics is worthwhile if it concentrates so heavily on prestige.

My other point is tangetial to your main thrust. You say there is a cost to saying "I believe homosexual behavior is a sin". There is (and I believe there should be). I'm not going to argue the issue with you. But I wonder if you've ever thought about why the responses to that are so vehement. How do you feel if someone goes on TV, with a large audience, and says that Chnristianity is wrong, is evil, is responsible for all sorts of terrible things, and must be stopped. Would you be wounded? I think you, or many believers at least, would be. That's natural. Even if you felt that that kind of speech was protectec, even if you were willing to lay down your life to protect such speech, you'd be hurt, deeply.

Well, that's what you're diong when you say that homosexuality is a sin. You're wounding people. You're saying things that hurt deeply. You may not realize it, or you may realize it but think it's justifiable in that it will lead people to the light. But you are hurting people.

So when you go around hurting people by saying things they don't think are true, I don't think you have much right to complain when they say things back that hurt you. In fact, you're getting hit with much less. People are accusing you of being wrong, but not trying to make what you do illegal.

Stan said...

Welcome "Professor".

I'm a bit baffled by what you believe I described. You said, "It seems to me that Christians would actually be happier fighting their points no matter what the physical consequences." If, by that, you are saying that Christians are unique in that they view some things as of vital importance and, for their own sakes and the welfare of everyone else around, believe they ought to stand their ground on those things, I would like to think that we aren't unique on that. I would hope that anyone who believes something is vitally important would have the courage to stand their ground. But you seem to be suggesting something else -- a militancy that I don't think I offered or suggested at all. I don't remember even hinting at a "Let's go to war and kill 'em all" kind of thing. Further, the history of Christianity (I'm talking genuine Christianity, not just CINOs -- Christians in name only) is full of people who died for what they believed. Killing for it doesn't really align very well with it. Of course, that distinction of CINO makes the difference and requires more explanation than I have room for here, but just because something is done in the name of Christianity doesn't mean that it is actually Christian. Since I believe that all people should have the courage of their convictions and I don't believe that genuine Christianity supports global annihilation (the extreme you described or even a subset), I guess I don't get your first point.

The second one I understand but still wonder about. Let's assume that there is something called "truth". And, because I'm a Christian and, therefore, my views come from that perspective, for the sake of the discussion let's assume that what I believe is actually true. Now I have a God who says that He is the one who decides what is good and bad and homosexual behavior is bad. It's bad for people. It's bad for society. It's a bad thing. Now, here I stand. I have to assume it's truth or I wouldn't believe it. I care about people and would want what is best for them. They are choosing to do things that are not best for them -- that are actually harmful to them. So what is the right choice of actions here? Ignore it and let them stew in their own juices? Tell myself, "It will offend/hurt them if I say something, so keep quiet"? Or should I care enough to warn them? Understand -- from my perspective I'm looking at someone picking up a bottle of poison and asking me for a glass. If I don't give them the glass I'll be a mean, narrow-minded bigot who just wants to judge them for their choice of drinking substances. If I give them a glass they won't dislike me ... they'll just die with my assistance. So the better choice is ...?

(Oh, and by the way, I'm not one who complains because someone proclaims that Christianity is evil. The point of the post, in fact, is to tell people to count the cost, not go to war. The point is doing what is right and accepting the consequences, not doing what is right and then complain if you don't like the consequences.)

Marshal Art said...

I've been faced with such tabulations quite a bit recently. In fact, in one instance, a few people of the liberal Christian persuasion suggested that I wasn't counting the cost when I gently scolded a niece for dropping f-bombs (in caps) on Facebook. I didn't get it. Was I supposed to accept her potty mouth rather than risk losing the relationship we have? I kinda preferred that she not talk like street-corner whore (a comparison that drew more chastisement from the tolerant left). I kinda thought her reputation worth more to her than my relationship with her.

I also have similar situations regarding my oldest stepdaughter, who is now with child, made mention of annointing her sister with "godmother" status, which suggests a baptism, though she (the oldest) is married to an atheist.

My mother-in-law also makes comments that compel me to respond, which would likely result in tensions within the family structure.

And there is the matter of my church, and how I would love to see it break away from the UCC denomination. I want to again bring up this matter one last time before departing abdicating membership and moving to another church.

I once knew someone who had died from AIDS, having aquired it in the usual manner. He was praying in his last days for sure, but I was keen to know if he had repented his homosexual ways or felt no remorse for it at all. I never pushed the issue at all out of my own timidity, as well as for concerns of others who might not have felt such things were appropriate (though I strongly felt there was no more appropriate time). I would have backed off if he would have so insisted, but all I can do now is hope that there was no heavy cost paid by my lack of initiative and that he came to repent of his lifestyle after all.

Danny Wright said...

Godless supplied nothing but subjective opinion as to why anything he cited was good, bad, or evil. Therefore he had to borrow the idea of objective truth to make assertions about the objective goodness and badness of certain tax schemes and wounding others. I understand that, indeed I use to argue those sorts of things myself. Alas without the notion of truth, I'm afraid that's all he can do. We live, we die, the sun burns out, and along with it any minds to ponder for a brief pip of time such farcical ideas as good and evil.

Stan said...

Yes, Dan. Rejecting Christianity as an ethical system is problematic for an atheist, not because Christianity is the only rational ethical system (which I would argue is true), but because atheists have no basis for any ethical system which can be applied to others.

Professor Godless said...

(I apologize for the length of this. I wrote so much, I have to post 2 comments. I hope you accept it in the way it was intended.)


Thanks for taking my comments seriously. Much appreciated.

On your response to my first point, I certainly respect people who are willing to die for what they believe in. The question, though, is what is meant by standing your ground. I took what you wrote to mean that you are not willing to let others practice, for example, homosexuality. If so, then what you say will lead to at least some definitions of war, because the people whose behavior you are trying to prescribe are just as convinced that they are right, and unwilling to let you dictate what they will do without a fight. Certainly, there are many calling themselves Christians making that case--that homosexuality cannot be allowed.
In practice, that's what happens--over and over again.

Now I feel a lot of the people who say that there is a true Christianity that they uphold, and what others have done is not true Christianity, are mostly trying to obscure the question. In practice, I fight against what is done, not against what someone says really represents Christianity.

I have no trouble believing that some people think Christianity is at bottom a nonviolent philosophy. I know people like that, and appreciate their viewpoints. But it doesn't change things, it doesn't change what people are doing in the name of religion.

And also, I notice that you don't bother to say--in this post, at least--just what you think should happen. You encourage people to "count the cost" without saying what you think they should do. Stand up and say that homosexuality is a sin? Actively seek out adulterers and preach to them? Support politicians who would outlaw homosexuality? Refuse to talk to anyone who thinks homosexuality is legal? Deny jobs to homosexuals? Deny jobs to those who support politicians who would refuse to outlaw homosexuality? Kill people who perform abortions?...

You use language designed to get an emotional reaction and not in support for specific actions with reasonable limits, but leaving it open ended. I don't think you should be surprised that I thought of war. I would be very interested in reading a post describing what you think should actually be done about some of these issues, and what you think should be the response when those who think differently from you fight back. If not going to war (figuratively or literally)was the point of your original post, it didn't come through clearly to me. Perhaps you could take another shot at it.

Professor Godless said...

On my second point, you ask me to assume that there is a truth and you are in possession of it. That's a tremendous assumption to make. I personally don't feel that any one person, or even the totality of humanity right now, could possibly be in possession of the whole truth. The basic problem with human society is that people think they know the truth, so many different people think that about so many different truths, and so many peop0le are unwilling to let other people believe in their own truths.

But OK, let me go ahead and give you that assumption. Other people without the truth are hurting themselves. Should you let them "stew in their juices"?

Of course.

First of all, they're probably not stewing in anything. They're probably attempting to make the best of their lives with the tools they have at hand. Many of them are perfectly happy believing in no God, or some other God, or your God in their own way. Others aren't happy, but for their own reasons, and telling them to change their Gods won't make them any happier.

I don't think anyone is asking you for a glass for their poison. Most people are simply asking you to let them alone. They want to live in a society where they're free to live as they want within reasonable limits, while letting you live as you want.

If you ask me (and you sort of did), the right way is to proclaim what you want, live in a way that you consider an example to others, warn them if (and only if) they're willing to listen. It won't change your life--you won't have to stop believing what you want, or living the way you want. And it won't even change the way the world ens up, because your God doesn't need your help to carry out his plan.

Let's look at it from the other perspective using your scenario. Someone else believes he knows the truth: that there is no God, and people who believe in one are throwing away the only thing they have, their lives here on this earth. What would you say that person should do?

Or what should a person who believes in a different God, just as strongly as you believe in yours, do?

But ultimately, if you divide the world into who's right and who's wrong, you will only have a world in turmoil. If you start asking how people can live together in reasonable harmony, despite having different beliefs, then--I believe--we'll all be a lot better off.

It wasn't one of my original point, but came up in later comments. I don't understand people who say atheists have no basis of ethical morality. Ethics here on Earth have a point--making life better. It's a huge challenge, but what do you mean there is no basis for ethics?

Christian ethics aren't in the same sense necessary. They are commanded, but if people don't take care of them here, God will take care of them in the afterlife. To me, ethics that build a basis for a better life here on Earth are much more valuable.

Also, I have a hard time believing that most of the proselytizing I hear is done by people who really care about others. Most of it seems to me to be done in an attempt to derive prestige for one's own beliefs, or for money, or to "win". (I'm not accusing you of that; I don't know you.) If a Christian really cares about someone, then he would make his points in a very different way, a way that took into account how people feel about being attacked, and would avoid making enemies. Most of what I hear from Christians does no such thing.

Lastly, let me apologize for attributing things to you personally that I get from others. It's more or less unavoidable in these kinds of discussion.

Stan said...

I don't think I said a single thing about outlawing or preventing homosexual practices. I think I said that I call it a sin. I consider adultery, sex outside marriage, and several other things as sins. I'm not advocating preventing them. I'm simply saying they're wrong ... and even harmful. What I said was that having that opinion and expressing it will not produce a response of "Gee, thanks for your concern." It will produce a response of "Hater! Bigot!" The fight is not that I think it's wrong and am willing to say so. The fight is that I should not be allowed to have that view.

I didn't tell anyone what they should do because that was not my point. My point was that standing for anything that is in opposition to the loudest voices will get you shouted down ... so be prepared. The post wasn't about "here's what you should do". It was about "if you plan to stand in an unpopular place, expect trouble." My point was not about what should be done, but about the cost of doing whatever it is.

Let me take it one step further. Human beings will always act on what they truly believe. What we say we believe and what we truly believe are shown in what we do. My point (around the back of this post) was to challenge people to consider what they truly believe, because if they're not willing to stand when the going gets tough, I would really question what they claim to believe.

On the second point, it would seem that your position would be "live and let live." Don't intervene. Don't say a word. They're drinking poison? If they like it, shut up. It's not my problem. I can live a life without poison to show them the way, but let 'em drink poison if that's what they want to do. Seems like a harsh position, but you're free to have it. But, you see, I'm not talking about matters of preference. "I like Coke!" "I like Pepsi!" I'm talking about harm. If "perfectly happy without God" is just a preference, fine! But if it means eternal torment, I can't bring myself to be silent.

One last thing. Several allusions in your comments were to things that others do in the name of religion. They do harm or they don't share the truth in love or they try to control people or ... that stuff. I understand that lots of people do lots of bad things in the name of good things. I would hope that you would clearly see that logically that has no bearing on the reality of the good things. This is especially true in the case of Christianity. We were told from the beginning that lots of bad people would be imbedded in Christendom. (We refer to them as "tares among wheat" or the famous "wolves in sheep's clothing" -- a biblical phrase.) We were told at the beginning that the "antichrists" would come from the church. But liars and hypocrites and poor representatives -- people acting contrary to a fundamental belief system -- do not reflect on the truth or error of that belief system. That set of beliefs needs to be judged on its own apart from poor representatives. That's all I ask.

Stan said...

On the question of atheist ethics, here's the basic idea. Atheists certainly can have ethics. Indeed, they do. In fact, many seem to have higher ethics than others. I wouldn't suggest that atheists don't have ethics. What was suggested and what I see is that atheists don't have a basis for those ethics. No, that's not right. There is no basis in atheism for broad-based ethics. That is, there is no basis on which you can say, "These apply to you." All you can say is "These are my concerns and values."

Look, you placed your basis as "a better life here on Earth". How do you define "a better life here on Earth"? If I am an atheist and I define "a better life here on Earth" as "a life where you don't exist", on what basis could you say it's wrong? One might argue that a better life here entails taking care of the weak and needy and helping the poor. Another might argue that a better life here entails eliminating the weak, needy, and poor. On what basis do you decide which is right? No, not "decide" -- declare. On what basis can you say, "This is right and that is wrong and we should all agree on that"?

But take it a step further. On what basis would you say that "a better life here on Earth" is a good basis for ethics? What's so important about life here on Earth? We are born, we live, we die, end of story. Nothing before; nothing after. The dinosaurs lived and died and vanished and what difference does it really make? People live and die and leave no mark and what difference does it really make? What's so valuable about life? I mean, I'm sure you don't have a problem snuffing out an ant colony that is taking up residence in your pantry, so why is human life so valuable?

Christianity provides answers to these questions. Atheism does not. I can't see how you can pull out any genuine, overarching basis for those values without borrowing from theism on things like "the sanctity of life" and the value of human beings and so on. I mean, seriously, if we're just biochemical machines brought about by chance and ending in oblivion, what difference does it make? That is why theists argue that atheists have no basis for ethics. Not that atheists aren't ethical. (Note: Even noted atheists such as Bertrand Russell have admitted that this is the case, so it's not just a "religious view".)

Professor Godless said...

Once again, thanks for responding to my comments seriously and civilly. I'll try to be much shorter this time through.

Yes, you didn't say anything about what people should do about homosexuality, and I wasn't accusing you of saying the things that I listed. My point is that many people do those things, and they're encouraged by the kinds of things you say. If you don't want your beliefs associated with those kinds of things, disassociate them--loudly. Get up and say that those things are wrong.

People who call homosexuality a sin are accused of hating because many of them do. If you are different, you're going to have to show how. I personally don't think people should not be allowed to hold such beliefs, only not to act on them to certain extents. I hope my coming here and discussing this with you shows that. I don't think I've written anything that says you can't hold your opinions, and I hope that's clear. I understand that others do think you shouldn't hold your opinions. I'm happy to say that they're wrong.

In general, I'm not convinced that "good Christianity"--divorced from bad people--works, but I admit that it's possible that it has been completely obscured by all the bad Christians. Still, those things are here, they're done in the name of Christianity, and I have to fight that. If you want Christianity to mean something different to people like me, you need to take a different tack.

"Live and let live" is not the sum total of my philosophy. It's nice, but it only works when other people are willing to use it, too. Sometimes you do have to fight. And I never at any point said I thought you should be quiet. I actually asked you to say more--to spell out what you thought people should do, because that's what I'm interested in. I think just coming here to discuss this civilly shows that I don't want people to shut up. I want them to be civil and tolerant and honest, as neighbors, countrymen, and fellow humans. Yeah, I know I'm never going to see that. Still, that's what I live by, when I'm capable of it.

Also, secondarily to that, I don't think what you do works. I don't think treating homosexuality as a life-and-death matter is going to stop people from being homosexuals. It is going to encourage homosexuals and others to take up arms, and there we go, back to apocalyptic war. Yes, I believe that.

Also thank you for clarifying your statements on the basis of ethics for atheists. I agree, I have no basis for declaring, "This is right and that is wrong and we should all agree on that." I don't think ethics consists of that. I'd rather negotiate laws by which we can mostly get along, and keep the problems to a minimum. Yes, there is no perfect way of doing this, but in practice Christian ethics have also changed. You may or may not like it, but it's happened.

That doesn't mean that anything goes. No society has ever been successfully organized without, for example, a broad-based prohibition against murder. I can't see how one could be.

But think how much damage has been done by people who think they can declare what is right and what is wrong. They're wrong and you're right? That's what they said, too.

Stan said...

You kept yours brief. I won't be so successful.

Professor Godless: "Thanks for responding to my comments seriously and civilly."

I'm always happy to have a civil conversation with people whether or not they agree with me. Works for me.

Professor Godless: "If you don't want your beliefs associated with those kinds of things, disassociate them--loudly."

It's a funny thing about disassociating with those who present a false image of Christian views. It seems to me that people (outside Christianity) generally know what the true Christian view is supposed to be. You might say, "I have a hard time believing that most of the proselytizing I hear is done by people who really care about others." That suggests that you know that sharing the Gospel ought to be a function of caring about others ... you know, like Christ required. So people in and out of Christianity know what it's supposed to be and can recognize when it's not. Still, I try (more than once) to point out the distinction between the "CINO" (Christian in Name Only) and the genuine (and that, of course, gets me into more trouble).

Professor Godless: "People who call homosexuality a sin are accused of hating because many of them do."

People who argue against Christianity are accused of hating Christianity because many of them do. I, on the other hand, do not make that assumption about them unless they demonstrate it somehow. That's why you and I have been able to have a civil and serious conversation. I don't assume at the outset that you're an enemy. I assume we disagree. Seems ... charitable. Assume the best about your "opponent" and let them prove you wrong. Assuming, because some who call homosexuality is a sin are hateful, that most or all who call homosexuality a sin are hateful is illogical and uncharitable. I'd personally recommend against that leap of logic. (Not saying you made it. I'm just sayin' ...)

Professor Godless: "I actually asked you to say more--to spell out what you thought people should do, because that's what I'm interested in."

Yes, you did. I haven't. It wasn't the point. In fact, the whole homosexual thing was an example, not the issue. The issue is recognizing and being prepared to pay the price for standing on what you believe. Most people -- Americans especially -- are not willing. They think that they should be allowed to do what they please without consequences -- Christian or not. I am personally opposed to that line of thinking. I tell Christians to stand for what they believe and expect it to be expensive. We aren't promised success; we are promised opposition and suffering. So get past that "rights" thinking and get on with what's right.

Stan said...

Professor Godless: "I don't think what you do works."

Yeah, I've heard that before. No surprise. I had one guy tell me, "Yeah, I tried that 'born again' thing; it didn't work." Didn't work? A couple of thoughts. First, I don't believe that people should do what's right only if it's effective. I think that people should do what's right ... because it's right. Second, defining "what works" is difficult (as in the case of my "previously born again" friend). You assume (understandably) that "what works" in this example would be stopping people from being homosexuals. I wouldn't. You see, I don't believe I have the capacity to do that. I, of course, operate from a theistic worldview, so my aim would be to state the truth as clearly as I can from a motive of love and then let God do whatever He's going to do. Some people might change. Others might not. The outcome isn't my job. I'm never told to change people. I'm told to change myself and I'm told to go and tell, but I'm never told to accomplish a result in other people. So "what works" is different in my mind than in yours.

Professor Godless: "In practice Christian ethics have also changed."

I suppose that all comes down to what you classify as "Christian ethics", doesn't it? If by that you mean "ethics practiced by people who self-identify as Christians", you're right. On the other hand, if you mean "the ethics prescribed by genuine Christianity", then I'd have to disagree. Unfortunately, those who self-identify as Christians, truthfully or not, have varied in their understanding of the genuine in many cases and have violated the clear ethics of Christianity in many more. So, did "Christian ethics" change? :)

Professor Godless: "Think how much damage has been done by people who think they can declare what is right and what is wrong."

Currently you believe that my worldview is wrong and yours is right, and you're not afraid to say so. You believe, then, that you can declare what is right and what is wrong. That's all I'm doing. I have not once suggested anywhere (and I've written on it extensively) that action should be taken to outlaw homosexual behavior or anything of the sort. I've simply stood on the claim that such behavior is a sin over against the current, loud, common claim that it's normal and acceptable (and even preferable in some circles). I even posted one entry entitled Homosexuality is NOT a Sin because I consider the behavior rather than the temptation to be sin. There are those who are calling for the removal of my right to make the claim, and there are those who are succeeding. I'm not calling for the removal of their right to practice what I consider to be sinful and harmful. So am I really the problem?

Professor Godless said...

So we're back to what I said before. You don't care that what you're saying is hurting people. You're unwilling to let others believe what they want as long as they let you believe what you want. You know that leads to conflict and it doesn't bother you. If the world were destroyed and the few of us left were living in caves, you would put that down to being "the cost," and you would continue to try to tell everyone that you're right.

So, yes, I believe that if you can't, without letting go of what you believe, still say, "Let's try to figure out a way to live in peace and dignity," whatever side of the theological issues you are on, then you are part of the problem.

At least, part of my problem.

Stan said...

So we're back to what I said before. You believe the best thing to do is remain silent. That's all I can conclude because I never said I that I don't care that what I'm saying hurts people. I have argued here and in multiple other places that we (Christians) are obligated to stand for the truth with the motivation of love and with gentleness and respect. You simply don't believe me.

It appears that we are indeed winding down as it, sadly, always seems to do. Nothing, nothing, nothing that I've written suggests "kill 'em all". Everything I've said is that Christians should expect to "lose", to be disliked, maligned, and so on. Expect flak. Nothing I've written has even hinted at "go to war" with anything except speaking the truth, and that with love. My job, I believe, is to present the truth as I know it -- from my mouth to the ears of those who are listening -- and nothing more. The outcome isn't mine. In fact, I don't think that a "moral society" will solve the real problem. Still, you come back to "If the world were destroyed and the few of us left were living in caves ..." In other words, although I have treated you with respect and given your comments serious responses, you have decided that I'm not trustworthy, not reliable, or not ... sane. I mean, if I say "Don't go to war; just stand for the truth" and you are certain that this means, "Go to war and consider that 'the cost'," then that's not quite sane, is it? Either I'm a liar or I'm irrational or both.

And this has always been part of the problem, hasn't it? The demand is "You must not hold a view that is in opposition to ours." You claim that you don't hold that, but you believe that if I can't "figure out a way to live in peace and dignity" -- offered in opposition to my statement that I believe homosexual behavior is a sin. So, how can I retain that belief, convinced that it is harmful to others to practice that sin, and "live in peace and dignity" by remaining silent? Oddly, I am the problem. Holding the view that I do is unacceptable. The only acceptable course for me, from your viewpoint, is to go ahead and believe that (in this example) homosexual behavior is sin, harming them and those around them, and keep my mouth shut. Go ahead. Drink the poison. My task is to simply ignore the outcome in the name of "peace and dignity".

And it still begs the question. On what do you base this value of "peace and dignity"? The animal kingdom -- that particular branch of the Evolutionary chain -- doesn't much care about it. The vegetable kingdom isn't particularly concerned about it. Yet, somehow, you seem to have adopted a value from the Christian playbook that says that humans are of great value and we ought to be concerned about one another. (Just not in this instance, apparently.) Sounds like a speciesist perspective if you ask me.

Professor Godless said...

We're all irrational, Stan. We're human.

But I don't think you're any more irrational than anyone else, and I certainly don't think you're insane.

You said,

I mean, if I say "Don't go to war; just stand for the truth" and you are certain that this means, "Go to war and consider that 'the cost'," then that's not quite sane, is it?

Here's my point: I don't hear you saying, "Don't go to war." You've said, in the comments, that you haven't said anything about going to war, but without addressing the things that I hear in what you say that are making people today go to war. You haven't explicitly said that people should not be allowed to believe things that disagree with you, but in practice what you say leads to that. What I'm saying is that I want to break that cycle. Explicitly say both half of the message--I think you're wrong (and I'll go into detail directly to you if you want, and in writing if you don't want), but you have the right to live as you please. If you can't say that, then to me your code of ethics isn't worth much--but not insane.

Let me say this clearly: Christians have a right to think and to say that certain things are sins. They don't have a right to act on that in ways that violate other people's rights. Same goes the other way. (I think that's less of a problem in America today, but I can see your point.) I'm not saying you have to remain silent--and I said that explicitly (and also acted on that by coming here for this discussion). I said you need to say what you have to say in ways that don't make it impossible for people to live in peace. There ARE ways to do that. I've heard people talk that way. I haven't heard you talk that way, and you've certainly had the opportunity.

I'll ask again, just to make a point. Do you think [some group of people] should be legally allowed to practice [that group of people's practices], even if it's a sin?

Take that this way. That statement may not be your point. That's OK, I accept that, and I won't ignore your point. But I've heard things similar to what you say associated with a desire to limit people's ability to practice their beliefs, and I want to make sure you're not doing that.

I'm really boggled by your last paragraph. The idea that humans should be concerned about one another does not come from the Christian playbook. It was around for thousands of years before Christianity.

My idea of peace and dignity comes from people, and practice, and history. It's selfish--if people get to live in peace and dignity, then I get to live in peace and dignity. I argue that if we can come to some acceptable agreement on how to organize a society, then we can all--or most of us--be happier. People have been attempting to do this since before history.

OK, it's speciesist if you want. Fine. People are different from animals. (Although some animals do have codes of behavior beyond which the pack will punish individuals, which amounts to ethics.) I don't need a theoretically superior being demanding a particular code of behavior to know that some code of behavior will lead to a better world. I can use history--the study of what actually happens, what people actually do, to try to get some idea of what will happen when people organize their society in a particular way.

P.S. I hadn't thought my last posting would get such a reaction. If it sounded like an attack, it wasn't. But then, to you, what you write doesn't sound like an attack on anyone, whereas some people take it that way. My whole point is that in situations like this, you sometimes need to understand how your words are read, and reassure people when it's necessary.

Stan said...

Just a short reply because we've clearly reached the end of the conversation.

When I re-read my own post, it speaks only of taking a position. On Prop 8, the position is "the definition of marriage" (which is not "anti-gay"). On homosexual behavior the position is "it's sin." I don't find a single thing in anything I wrote to suggest "Ban the gays!" or "Kill the infidel!" or ... take any action at all. It's all about holding a view. Further, in my last comment I specified a "stand for the truth with the motivation of love and with gentleness and respect" and "I don't think that a 'moral society' will solve the real problem" (which says, therefore, that banning behaviors I find sinful would not be a solution).

On the other hand, you have repeatedly said that my position -- my belief that certain behavior is sin, etc. -- is not conducive to living "in peace and dignity". You have indeed told me to believe whatever I want, but you have not offered me alternatives on how I can believe something that you assure me will cause people to hate me and continue to "live in peace and dignity".

Putting that together, then, I have not advocated outlawing homosexuals, stoning adulterers, or banning atheists, but you are quite certain that my holding or expressing my beliefs on matters of morality or theology will offend and, therefore, shouldn't happen. And, despite everything I've offered, you still are unclear as to whether or not I'm recommending some sort of "war". I don't know how to make myself any clearer from my side, and I have no options from your side. So ...?

Stan said...

One other thing, Professor. You were surprised that I thought your last comments were an attack. Let's try this.

You don't care that what you're saying is hurting people. You're unwilling to let others believe what they want as long as they let you believe what you want. You know that leads to conflict and it doesn't bother you. If the world were destroyed and the few of us left were living in caves, you would put that down to being "the cost," and you would continue to try to tell everyone that you're right.

If I said that to you, especially after you said it wasn't the case, would you think it was an attack of some sort?

Professor Godless said...

I'm willing to believe that your motivations are as you describe. But I don't think your motivations are the most important thing here. I think that--in actual fact--people are using words similar to yours to do things that I don't approve of. I don't understand why you won't come out and say you don't approve of them, too. You say you haven't said anything about talking away peoples' rights. I don't believe that's enough in the current situation. I think you should stand up and support them. You don't have to change your beliefs one whit, and you don't have to be silent. In fact, if you're willing to say that, I'd be much more willing to stick around and listen to what else you have to say.

If you can't say it, forgive me for thinking that believing it is meaningless. Which I think is the general point of your original post in the first place.

Stan said...

Professor: "I don't understand why you won't come out and say you don't approve of them, too."

Okay, I'm completely lost here. You have repeatedly asked me to come out and say that I don't approve. I thought I have repeatedly done so, but you repeat again that I "won't". So maybe you ought to tell me exactly what it is to which you are referring.