DO THE SINS OF CHRISTIANS REFUTE CHRISTIANITY?
Eric V. Snow, sermonette, 11-11-06, Ann Arbor, MI, UCG
Ted Haggard scandal: Resigned as president of National Association of Evangelicals (45,000 churches with 30 million members affiliated with it), and from being leading pastor of 14,000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Admitted to sexual sin with male “escort.”
Do such sex scandals refute the truth of Christianity? Consider Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart’s sins. Then look at the spectacular & dark history of Medieval and early modern Catholicism. Do the Crusades prove God doesn’t exist? Did the Inquisition show the Bible wasn’t inspired? Do the really bad Popes demonstrate Jesus isn’t humanity’s Savior?
Actually, we shouldn’t accept or reject a religion’s truth based upon the behavior or misbehavior of its believers.
S.P.S. In actuality, the sins of Christians at the worst no more refute Christianity than the sins of atheists refute atheism.
The Bible could be true, God exist, Jesus the Savior, yet Haggard sinned.
This problem also affects us in true church of God. Did the hypocrisy of parents or other adult church members drive away the children raised in the church? GTA example: Prominent evangelist, good speaker, good singer, good writer, had good voice for TV, radio work, handsome (helped for TV), could get along with easily in office/bureaucratic/administrative situations . . . but wrecked his usefulness for God by repeatedly not staying loyal to his wife over the years. Do his sins refute our teachings then?
Do we mistakenly determine doctrine this way? For example, do the abusive, “sheriff” ministers in the past prove that the ministry shouldn’t have authority? That ordination is a false doctrine?
Cold-blooded objective truth: In reality, bad behavior by atheists or theists can't logically prove or disprove the existence of God or the truth or falsity of any philosophical position or religion. Ultimate truth isn’t determined by behavior or misbehavior of believers. So crusades don’t refute Christianity any more than jihads refute Islam.
Emotion blinds us to think otherwise. In reality, it’s an excuse to disobey God and the Bible, to do what we really want to do. A good example would be, “Because minister Smith committed adultery and/or theft, Christianity must be false, God’s laws on sex and/or property don’t exist, so then I can freely commit adultery and/or theft myself." Aldous Huxley, atheist & author of “Brave New World,” admitted to having self-interested, even emotional motives for being an atheist: “For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was . . . from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom."
Suppose someone said: “Because atheists (meaning, the communists) killed 100 million people in the 20th century, their bad behavior proves there’s a God." That reasoning is just as good as saying, "Because Catholics launched the Crusades and the Inquisition, there’s no God." The equivalency here is obvious: Immorality by people upholding a belief system doesn't prove or disprove anything about ultimate reality.
Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov: “Crime must be considered not only as the admissible but even as the logical and inevitable consequence of an atheist’s position.” “‘If there’s no God and no life beyond the grave, doesn’t that mean that men will be allowed to do whatever they want?’ . . . ‘An intelligent man can do anything he likes as long as he’s clever enough to get away with it.’”
Therefore, the sins of atheists are actually consistent with belief system. It’s hard to derive moral absolutes using human reason alone from nature directly. The sins of Christians contradict their belief system, which says they should behave better, and which holds them to account, unlike the case for atheists. What holds atheists, in their belief system, accountable for their immoral acts? Since they are normally moral relativists who deny there is really any right and wrong, nothing they do could be considered “wrong” by their system or morality. On what basis can an atheist or agnostic condemn even Hitler’s concentration camps and Stalin’s gulags by? Suppose an atheist said, “Slavery is wrong.” But then suppose another atheist replied back, “It may be wrong for you, but not for us! Our traditional culture’s long-time practices can’t be condemned by outsiders who can’t fully understand us.”
II Samuel 12:14
My point today doesn’t mean we can sin and it doesn’t matter. Precisely because this bad argument is so common, we should aim to act lovingly and righteously. People will blaspheme and deny God and His law based on our bad behavior. The same came from King David’s sin in killing Uriah and committing adultery with Bathsheba. We must not give them an excuse to reject God, even if it’s bad reasoning.
Our love for each other should bear witness to the world. But it won’t convert it, since that’s based upon whether they’re called or not. We can’t call people, but we can drive them away by our bad behavior. We must work remove this barrier, this excuse, to belief by unbelievers.
Mother Teresa example: Hindu masses of Calcutta in India not converted to Catholicism by all her good works helping the poor. But they have less of an excuse to reject her religion then.
Conclusion: The sins of Ted Haggard don’t refute the truth of Christianity. God exists, the Bible is true, and Jesus is our Savior, regardless of the hypocrisy of any traditional or true Christian. This popular argument really is just an excuse to deny God and ignore His law so people can live as they want. But precisely because this bad argument is so common in the world, we true Christians must work hard to obey God and love our neighbors so we don’t give unbelievers yet another excuse to reject God.