dunceI cringe whenever I see Christians do dumb things (like claiming Jesus and/or Mary appeared on their morning toast and apparently pay for totally misguided billboards). And I can barely stand to see Fred Phelps' name or the name of his "church" mentioned on the news. (If you don't know who that is, you don't wanna know.)

So why does it seem like Christians so often do dumb things?

One reason is that when a Christian does something dumb, they're often identified (in the media or colloquially) as being a Christian, but when an atheist does something dumb, they're usually not identified as an atheist. Now certainly some Christians do dumb things in an attempt to follow their faith, but whether what the person has done is consistent with the Christian faith is often ignored.

A second reason is the fact that there's a lot of Christians around. Millions in Canada alone, plus many millions more in the USA, and approximately 2.1billion in total according to So you'd figure, out of all those people, if even 1% do dumb things, that it will seem like quite a lot of people. Of course, the actions of a few don't necessarily reflect those of the whole. (See: Fallacy of composition.)

A final reason, extrapolated from the previous one, is that some Christians are dumb. (You're free to make your own evaluation of me if you'd like.) In fact before I was a Christian I thought all Christians were dumb, or ugly, or both. (I thank Greg Koukl for putting into words so eloquently how I felt at the time.) Dumb because they were roped into a false waste of time, and/or ugly because they had to go to church to be accepted, since it's the only place that people have to accept them.

And yes, many Christians are dumb (and/or ugly). But so what? So are many atheists, agnostics, and adherents of other faiths.

There are also many smart Christians … not myself, necessarily, but guys like William Lane Craig, Alvin PlantingaAlister McGrath, John Warwick Montgomery, Timothy Keller, John Lennox, and Dallas Willard to name a few. So whether any one of them is smart or dumb proves nothing about the truth or falsity of the faith.

If you currently have the opinion that Christians are dumb, or ugly, or both, like I used to, I invite you to investigate some of the sites linked above or in the sidebar to the right. I think Christianity is worth thinking about, even if its adherents sometimes do and exceedingly poor job of reflecting it.

And if you are a Christian, let's try to reflect our Lord, Jesus, who as Dallas Willard describes, was and is the smartest man who ever lived (and lives).

FaithThere's a ministry run by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron called The Way of the Master which uses the following evangelism tactic. First, a person is confronted with a list of the ten commandments. They are then asked if they have broken any of them. When the person admits they have (since we all have) they are then told they are a sinner and are in need of God's forgiveness.

Although I do appreciate their ministry efforts, and I think the argument they present is valid and sound, I'm not sure that this method is cogent. Here's why: It's based on an unspoken assumption, namely that the Bible is true! Obviously, if a person believes what the Bible says, they are (or should be) already a Christian. If they don't believe the Bible, why should they believe that the ten commandments will impact their eternal destinies? They are, after all, found in the Bible, which they don't believe in.

However, I think a different type of "good test" might be still valid and sound, but also more cogent. Here's how it works:

A person who doesn't believe in the Bible can still behave morally. Now, whether or not a secular person has any grounding for his or her moral beliefs is a separate question; or as Greg Koukl puts it, "No one argues, though, that an atheist can behave in a way one might call moral. The real question is, "Why ought he?" But we can for now affirm that, from a pragmatic standpoint, any person can behave morally and also possess moral beliefs.

Now, a Christian gets his or her moral guidance from the Bible. (Or, at least, in theory they should do so!) Where does a secular person receive their moral guidance? There could be many influences, such as parents, society, etc. But ultimately it comes down to a personal decision. Everyone has their own personal morality; a set of moral standards that they feel is just, and moral.

Thinking of that moral standard (which a person defines themselves, remember), the question could be asked: Have you lived up to the moral standard that you have set up for yourself? Or put another way, have you ever done (or not done) some of the things that you would call someone else immoral for doing (or not doing)? Most honest people would answer "yes".

So, by even their own minimal standard, which they have defined for themselves, they are not moral. Consider then this question: Would God's standards be higher or lower than the standards I define for myself?

For example, think about a young child whose parents have set the child's curfew at 9:00pm. One day the parents are away and leave the child in the care of an inept babysitter who, rather than enforcing the normal curfew, tells the child they're free to set their own. Do you think the child will set their bedtime earlier or later than their usual curfew? I think we can say they would likely set their own curfew much later … if they go to bed that night at all! Similarly, I think it's safe to assume a standard of behavior we make up for ourselves would be lower than God's, and if we fail miserably at even our own minimal standard, how much more have we failed God's standard and are in need of His help and forgiveness?

So this is the predicament that people find themselves in … if they believe that a God of some sort exists, of course. If opinion polls are to be believed, this includes 90% or so of the population. If a person already believes that God exists, and/or there are good arguments that God exists (and I think there are several good arguments that God exists) then I think this is a decent argument for the idea that there is no such thing as a "good person".

The title of Thomas Harris' still popular book "I'm OK, You're OK" came to mind today. (I can almost hear my high school English prof: "OK is not a word! The word is spelled OKAY!") I have never read the book, but according to the always reliable (*coughs*) Wikipedia entry (linked above) the four basic "life positions" explained in the book are:

  1. I'm Not OK, You're OK
  2. I'm Not OK, You're Not OK
  3. I'm OK, You're Not OK
  4. I'm OK, You're OK

Which of these life positions best describes the various world religions?

One of the most prevalent today, IMHO, especially in secular society, is #4: I'm OK, You're OK. This is the pluralist approach … all roads lead to Rome, all paths lead to the top of the mountain, etc. "You believe in and worship Jesus?" someone might say, "That's great … for you." Or "You believe in Muhammad, Krishna, or Adi Da? Wonderful … for you." This life position often takes the colloquialism "Whatever makes you happy …" Of course, even here there are limits … ex, "You believe and worship Satan? … Um. That's … um, great … *cough* … <changes subject>"

#1 is less prevalent but still abounds: I'm Not OK, You're OK. This is a self-depreciating position. It imagines that everyone else is good, and I am markedly inferior to them. I must admit sometimes I fall into this sort of thinking myself, and this sort of unhealthy guilt is sometimes unfortunately common in Christian circles. After all, doesn't the Bible even say "consider others better than yourselves"? (Philippians 2:3) More on that in a moment.

#3 is also prevalent: I'm OK, You're Not OK. In fact, this is the view of most religions in the world. There is a specific set of requirements that you must pass in order to qualify. If you do those things, you pass the test and are "in". If you, for example, pray the confession, pray five times a day, tithe 2.5%, fast, and go on the pilgrimage, you're in! At least, pretty sure you're in. Kinda sure. Well you don't really know but you hope you are. And this view is seen as being pretty "intolerant" and not at all politically correct, not to mention it's not exactly very humble.

#2 is probably the least prevalent: I'm Not OK, You're Not OK. This, in fact, is the view of biblical Christianity, where we read that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves" (1 John 1:8) … moreover, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). Wow! Isn't that just excessively negative?

Actually, I'd say #2 is accurate. Real Christianity does not encourage people to wallow in self-pity or negativity, nor is it encouraged to gloss over our sins and failings, nor is it taught to think we're "all that" (OK) and point the finger at others (not OK). Instead it recognizes that we're all in the same boat. At least, initially.

The full text of the verse which contains the previous quotation ("consider others better than yourselves") actually reads "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we don't even meet our own self-imposed standards of morality. (See "Good People?" for more about that.) How much more do we not live up to God's standards?

But that is only stating the problem. God also provides the solution: Jesus. Christianity is utterly unique in that we are not saved because we are "OK". We are saved by our acceptance of the fact that we are NOT, and our acceptance of the One who is strong enough, and merciful enough, to carry the weight for us that we cannot bear on our own, as Paul explains: "God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:8)

Are we all OK? No. We're all NOT. As John Piper might say, "John Piper … is … bad!" And that includes me. But I hope I never become complacent in remembering the price that Christ paid for my freedom from sin, not by my own works that I might become conceited and prideful, but instead entirely by the grace of God. And that makes the Christian message unique, and uniquely true, among all world religions and "life positions".


(Image credit: striatic, who of course does not necessarily endorse any of the content of this post!)

A recent post on generated some good comments, and I've already commented on the content of the post itself. Below are my replies to one commenter in that thread. (You can see his original comment at the ThinkChristian post above.)

"Atheists don't have any creeds or beliefs or principles other than their common assertion that there is no god. So to say that atheists are behind Nazi Germany or Socialist regimes is a misunderstanding of atheism."

I agree, although we should note that, like any worldview, certain other conclusions (not necessarily the ones you noted above) logically follow from atheism.

"If Christians would look at their own history … They destroyed documents that disagreed with the orthodox position and rewrote their own history …"

Which events are you referring to? There's no doubt that after Christianity became the official Roman religion under Constantine (and mixed with political power) that certain corruptions began to occur. But to insinuate that (prior to this?) a systematic process of corruption occurred is unsupported at best, and proven incorrect via extant manuscript evidence. If you're going to discount the New Testament texts out of hand historically, then you also must discount every other historical text from the same period, since the NT text is the best attested source from that time (in terms of number of extant manuscripts, time gap between events and when they were written, etc). See my ebook for more on this topic:

"So, to claim that we have the words and ideas of Jesus today is very suspect because we can trace the sources of these ideas to non Christian belief systems."

This is a non-sequitur; just because we find similar beliefs elsewhere does not in any way prove that we don't have the original ideas of Jesus.

"… most destructive idea to come out of the Roman Christian war machine was that Jesus was the only way. This exclusive nature of Christian belief is the source of all the violence done in the name of Jesus"

This is a second non-sequitur; why does the fact that 'Jesus is the only way' necessarily lead to violenece? Certainly it has at times in the past, but if you're going to make that play, you should also be wary of "secular" regimes that have also lead to violence. Besides, claiming that the idea that 'Jesus is the only way' came out of the "Roman Christian war machine" is false; it comes out of the New Testament documents and the earliest Christian writers. (Pre-Constantine.)

"Just because there are ideas in the Bible that are good, doesn't mean that its the only source of those ideas"

That is true. The question is whether it is true or not. Whether Christianity has produced "good results" is a matter that is up for debate; a non-Christian historian like Rodney Stark would argue that it has. But it's not fair, IMHO, to discount an ideology because of the failure of many of its proponents.

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