Christians today face sometimes virulent hatred from secularists. Why? We even have people who profess to be Christian demeaning their supposed brethren. What’s prompting all of this revulsion and disdain, if not outright hatred, and how should we respond (if at all)[i]?
There seems to be a list of issues which garner this kind of reaction in some – a) the Christian Bible’s stand against same-sex sex; b) its claim to exclusivity of the message of how one becomes right with his God; c) its message of exclusivity of salvation.
It doesn’t help the cause of Christ that there are outposts of similarly virulent reaction to the claims that Christianity is a religion of hate, such as Westboro Baptist Church, that wrap their defense in thinly veiled antisemitism and animus against sinners (rather than their sin itself). We need to be able to clearly explain that such sentiments aren’t Christian – aren’t of Christ – and be prepared to defend the message of Christ. It should be obvious that to do so, we have to have studied and know what His views and message are.
If we, as believers, are ever going to make significant progress in defending our faith, we are going to have to understand the causes of the tremendous shift in cultural attitude over the past 20-50 years regarding that faith, and morality itself.
Fifty years ago (to pick a number), Western culture wasn’t at war with itself regarding cultural norms of sexual, or virtually any other relational, behavior. Rejection of those norms was just beginning to metastasize out into the open but had not yet garnered significant acceptance within the culture at large to cause the kind of self-loathing we see today.
But that milestone signaled the beginning of an enormous change that would gradually, step-by-step, inch-by-inch erode away the culture’s previously held ideas of morally acceptable behaviors. Public schools had been abandoning any form of instruction that would call into thoughtful consideration and analysis what it is that constitutes right and wrong since at least the late 1800’s. (I have published my views on this larger cultural decline here.)
What’s different today is that we have raised two generations of people who have been indoctrinated with the incessant messages of the progressive humanists. These, as regards this subject, can be summarized as:
- There is no fundamental difference between “moral” or “immoral” behaviors. Moral teachings encouraging a person to live one way rather than another are disrespectful of those who don’t choose to live in accordance with those teachings, and so constitute “hate speech”.
- A person’s choice of a manner of living is his exclusive business, so long as that way of life doesn’t harm others around him.
- Comfort, security, and happiness (not its pursuit) are the new “inalienable rights”
- Any lack of acceptance of a person’s thoughts or manner of living is effectively an expression of hate or bigotry.
- Expressing the idea that some class of people somehow might have some advantage not shared by the general population is an expression of bigotry.
- The only authority one is under is that of his government(s) and, to a lesser degree, his employer. But even those are not compelling if these authorities challenge your idea of your rights.
I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to review these and 2 Timothy 3:1-5 side by side to find their striking similarities. What does the Christian do to defend the way of life in Christ in the face of these now-prevailing attitudes? And should he even try?
Should We Try?
The Bible seems to think so. Admittedly, it is not as concerned with its own defense as with the soul of the one who rails against it.
Peter tells us (1 Peter 3:15):
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
This encouragement may sound like it is to share your faith with one who is impressed by it or inquiring of it, not disgusted by it. But in the preceding verses he makes clear its context:
13Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,
Here it’s easy to see that a discussion with such a person might create some “suffering” on your part – for righteousness sake – for the sake of what’s right. And importantly here Peter says “don’t be troubled by them”.
For me this helps establish the context of such an encounter: whether it’s pleasant or not is unimportant. But you’ll never get to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” unless you first seek them out and offer the conversation.
Elsewhere we’re assured of this (Philippians 4:13):
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Clearly, this is a promise of the Holy Spirit of Christ working in us in answering His call. So we not only know that we ought to have these conversations, we also know that we can be used by Him to achieve what He wants to accomplish through them. And, also obviously, these need to be Spirit-directed conversations; not something you take on to get ‘something off your chest’ or otherwise respond to human motivation to do. This is about the Spirit and them. So yes, try.
What Should I Say?
Perhaps we should first establish how we should say whatever we’re led to say. Whoever you talk to, they are a human being made by God in His image. So we should be guided into respect of the person – as a creation of God. This should not only inform our respect but instill in us a compassion for them. Keeping the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves should be brought to the forefront of our minds. It’s perhaps needless to say that no one is going to be persuaded by an antagonist who lacks respect for and fails to honor the dignity of the other.
Perhaps a good place to start is God’s existence, and Him as your Lord – the One who created all there is and each of us. This is, after all, the foundation of your disagreement. You trust God for everything. And he, likely, knows next to nothing about Him. Were it not for the existence of God, there would be literally no point in having such a conversation.
Here you could share any testimony you have that has proven God’s reality to you.
Responding to Arguments Against the Existence of God
While it’s not really the purpose of this note to list arguments for the existence of God, it may be the first thing out of the mouth of one objecting to your “hatefulness”. The most common objection by atheists is simply that God is a myth invented by the ancients to explain nature and the bad (and some good) things in their lives. If you find yourself challenged in this way, unless you’ve been through it before and have a well-formed argument ready to go, it’s probably better simply to ask why he believes that.
In all likelihood, he’s not saying that there is no God simply because the ancients had less information about the construction and operation of nature than we do today. If he actually is making an argument based on biology (evolution) or physics (age of the universe, etc.), then you’ll need to have done your homework on those topics[ii]. But that’s probably not the case. He’ll probably quickly move on to how your God, as represented in the Bible you believe in, is simply “hateful”.
Responding to Arguments Against the Character of God
An informed secularist will have heard and perhaps parroted many of the disparaging attacks on the “God of the Old Testament”, including all of the texts where He meets those opposing Him with either hardship (Israel repeatedly) or destruction (e.g. the destruction of 185,000 of Sennacherib’s soldiers in his aborted attack on Jerusalem, or the attempted wiping out of the Canaanites, or, indeed, ultimately Israel itself). And let’s not forget Sodom & Gomorrah; or the flood.
He may conclude from these characterizations that either God or the Bible or both are false, because “a loving God wouldn’t do that.”
This can be the start of a very long conversation. Somehow you need to communicate to him that God’s love for His humanity includes His desire that they would live in the ways He has prescribed because those ways are the best for them. You then also need to point out that when people continuously ignore or blaspheme Him, eventually His patience can end. His patient mercy, as recorded in the Bible, isn’t unending. And it’s not unending because God must, eventually, act in accordance with His righteousness.
Unfortunately, your friend probably has no concept of righteousness. Especially for secularists in today’s culture, there are no meaningful anti-types you can point to that could help you explain the idea of righteousness. When “good” and “bad” are relativized, it’s tough to introduce the idea of “moral perfection”; “infinite trueness”. But give it a go. (This site contains some helpful points you may decide to use.)
And in its explanation, your points should crescendo to a description of Christ’s atonement as the epitome of expressing underserved mercy: “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead” by sacrificing Himself, literally, in the process.
Christ’s sacrifice is also a powerful foundation in discussions of “good”. If your friend can express his idea of ‘good’, ask him to contrast how he assesses that Jesus’ sacrifice stacks up in comparison. Sacrificial love is indeed the most powerful form of “good”.
Answering “Hate” From LGBTQ Supporters
Or, if he is defending the “rights” of LGBTQ members, he might bring up God’s prohibitions of those behaviors[iii] (Lev 18:22, Lev 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, 1 Timothy 1:10) in pejorative terms.
I believe the message in such cases is the fundamental one: the purpose of sex, the purpose of male and female, is to produce godly children (Malachi 2:15). Sex is certainly not for human enjoyment only, though that is most assuredly a part of it (1 Cor 7:3-5). God is preeminently concerned with its result.
Today, most of the allegations of “hate” currently come in response to the Christian community’s (or at least some part of its) rejecting sexual identity aberrations. The key problem to these objectors is that Christians are less susceptible to cultural intimidation tactics than the general population, who may not actually agree with the objectors, but “go along” so as not to be seen as unaccepting or intolerant, today’s cardinal sins. So Christians are singled out. But anyone today who holds to any principled position based on differentiating right from wrong is anathema to the proponents of a valueless culture, their ultimate objective.
So how should the Christian handle these objections? I have three suggestions.
The Sinner is Loved; the Sin is Hated
First, it is important to communicate that God’s objections are against the sin – the behavior, not the sinner (Psalm 101:3, Romans 5:8). It is their sin that He wants His children to turn away from. Why does He object to these behaviors? Because they lead to outcomes that are not best for them. God wants the best for us. So in telling us how He wants us to live, He is telling us what is best for us; what is in our best interest.
Of course, it’s true (as we saw in Malachi 2:15, above) that God designed the sexuality of people in order to promote the propagation of godly offspring throughout His Creation. Kids who know and love God are the purpose of human sexuality. But there are features of its prerequisite – marriage between a man and a woman – that are perhaps equally important to God. Marriage itself mimics the faithfulness of God to those who love Him and is the model for companionship (Genesis 2:18), godly love (Ephesians 5:33), and faithfulness (Hebrews 13.4).
But the bottom line for God is that aberrant sexuality (and there’s a very long list of things that qualify) is bad for you. His prescription is monogamous sex between one man and one woman. One has only to look at available data to see the truth of this as regards physical and mental illness, measures of happiness, the incidence of suicide, and overall length of life[iv].
The Spirit Overcomes
The second, for those who show any curiosity or contrition at all; it is important to explain that for the Christian, the Holy Spirit gives the sinner the power to overcome his sin (Galations 5:16-25). So when the Christian refuses to accept arguments to legitimize LGBTQ aberrant behaviors, he’s doing so not only because he wants what is best for those engaged in it, but he knows that such behaviors can be overcome, as a practical matter, by the one who chooses Jesus instead. This is the foundational promise of the Grace of God (2 Corinthians 12:8-12, Romans 8:28, Philippians 4:13)
All Sin is the Same to God
And thirdly, you must explain that this offer of salvation from sin is the same offer made to every sinner – each of us. Each of us has sin to be overcome. And each of us that has answered the call of Christ has been given the same proven ability to conquer the sin that has injured us in our previous lives. God is not asking the LGBTQ person to abandon any more than He asks of anyone else. For every Christ-follower what’s required of him by his Lord is everything. That’s hardly a discriminatory judgement against one segment of the population.
The Christian as Bigot
Now, what about those who claim we’re bigots because of our belief in, say, our salvation? Actually, their problem with the idea of salvation is not that we believe we are saved, but that some (possibly them) are not. This is, of course, the poster-child for “discrimination”, one of the deadly sins of the new humanism. There is, admittedly, nothing egalitarian about salvation other than its availability. The Christian’s mere participation with his brethren in their faith represents, to some critics, exclusivism. And they will have no part of it.
Here we have to return to God’s character of righteousness. God differentiates between righteous and unrighteous behaviors. There is right and wrong. No one needs to apologize for this. But they do need to effectively communicate it as a principle for living.
These critics’ underlying problem seems to be that Christians represent a significant fraction of the population that simply refuse to accept their worldview, their “values” or beliefs. So they label us as bigots because we won’t fit into their mold.
Bigotry can also be alleged against Christians who oppose LGBTQ lifestyle indoctrination in public schools, and a host of other seemingly political issues that are actually Trojan horses in the war to achieve a valueless (i.e. God-free) society.
In these cases, the underlying principles have to be brought out and the case made that the reason for the Christian’s resistance is based only in the proposal’s opposition to the will of God, not the character or person of the ones making the proposals. This is a difficult task and requires a high degree of patience, calm, and assurance.
Those of us who choose to take a stand simply have to rely on the Spirit to guide our instincts, that emanate from “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16), but must not underestimate the preparation and discipline needed to effectively present God’s case. The Spirit does not inform these critics. So you (we) are going to have to be the ones that articulate God’s will in the situation, in the manner Jesus would present it. We are not at liberty to simply use our own emotions and resources to debate against the proposal. We must rely on Him.
True Christians don’t hate people for their behaviors. They know full well that at some point in their lives, they were just as far from God as those now alleging our hate. Unfortunately, some people who identify as Christian belie that label with their own wrathful judgements, and it is for us to clearly articulate what Christ actually thought, taught, and lived.
God wants what is best for His people. What is best for people is Him, and the formula for living that He has given us.
One of the best summaries of this desire in God is found in Deuteronomy 30:11-19. We understand the original context of this passage. But in it we also see the profound right-Vs-wrong principles of the Lord applicable to each of us today:
11“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. 12It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.
15“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your Goda that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules,b then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live
Abandoning our old, apart-from-God way of living is difficult for everyone, not just those of a certain “lifestyle”. Self-denial and submission to God is not possible without the graceful assistance of God Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit living within us, which is promised to everyone who believes and obeys (John 16:7).
God is unapologetic about wanting the best for us. Therefore, He is unapologetic about differentiating between right-ness and wrong-ness as regards how we live and treat others and His judgement of a different outcome for those who refuse the right and insist on the wrong.
The solution for those who see only “hate” in God is simple and available to all. Repent, and believe.
[i] I’ve written this in part because of the paucity of material available online designed to help the Christian respond.
[ii] These links present some arguments from biology and physics. Please keep in mind that God’s existence isn’t provable. The best you can do is make the case for Him respectfully and intelligently.
[iii] As an aside, I have been completely depressed by reading what the “church” is saying about these things online, in researching this paper. The church is far more accepting of aberrant behaviors seemingly than even the population at large.
[iv] If you want to be really discouraged, try finding objective empirical data on the incidence of various pathologies among the LGBTQ community compared to the general public. What you’ll likely find is any number of reports talking about how to prevent STD’s, or what to do about the incidence of smoking and drinking among the LGBT community. But nothing (that doesn’t cost $3,500) that spells out the tragedy of their diminished health compared to the general population. It seems our government and society are protecting them from criticism by hiding this data from the public eye. As an example, have a look at this website from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Perhaps this kind of societal cover is not really a serious factor. After all, the only solution for these people is not political or clinical, but Christ Himself.