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How would you explain why this kind of thinking is wrong?

Discussion in 'The Ancient Way - Eastern Orthodox' started by dzheremi, Sep 18, 2019.

  1. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    A poster posted the following quote in a thread on a different subforum and it really irritates me, but I didn't want to discuss it there because I didn't want to come off as though I was attacking the poster for posting it. The quote, which was posted in the context of a thread on why people have left Christianity in greater numbers since the mid-1990s until today then ever before, was the following:

    “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” - Brennan Manning

    I have a feeling how the conversation might have gone had I posted anything against it in that forum (since it was a non-confessional/heterodox forum), e.g., with references to John 13:35 or maybe even more to the point the Protestant song "They will know we are Christians by our love". Obviously I wouldn't want to argue against John 13:35 (though I don't believe it applies in this context; "By this, all will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another" -- not the apostate, atheist, etc., though of course we are to love everyone), but it's patently obvious what is wrong with quotes like this, right?

    What constitutes the 'Christian lifestyle' is so contested outside of the traditional communions (and even within one of them...you know the one... :sorry:) that a simple look at how people live can't be correlated to their Christianity but by their ("our") explicitly doing so. Like if I am fasting 210+ days a year, and pray the Agpeya/Horologion every day at the appointed hours, and give to the needy, and so on, my atheist friends (which is everyone outside of the people I've specifically met in church) don't say "Wow, what a good Christian Jeremy is! There must be something to this Christianity thing!"; they say "Huh...he sure does a lot of 'church stuff'. Better him than me, because I don't want someone 'telling me what to do'" (sorry, my friends speak in a lot of scare quotes; I think it's a millennial thing). In fact, that was my own grandmother's reaction to me joining the Church (to wit, "Why would you want someone telling you what to do? Church is for weak people"), and she's 93 years old! (Please pray for her, if you can; her name is Jean.)

    So I don't buy the central premise behind this that doing as we are supposed to do is inherently enough to show forth Christ to people who frankly don't seem to want to see Him in anything. And in fact, now that I think about it more while typing this, I'm relatively certain that if I told my friends (and grandmother) "No, I'm not doing this because anyone is making me; I'm doing it because I love God", they would think that even weirder. What kind of God says fast for most of the year and pray for hours every day and all this other stuff? Wouldn't He rather you ______? (Volunteer at a soup kitchen, rehabilitate sick animals, etc.; whatever other thing that literally anyone can do and doesn't require any explicit faith whatsoever. You know the "religion a social welfare dispensary indistinguishable from secular benefit systems" model, a.k.a. the godless religion that western secularists like.)

    What would you guys say, as EO people, about a quote like this? Am I off-base in my criticism of it, or is there another way to approach it that might be more enlightening/enlightened?

    Thank you. :)
     
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  2. renniks

    renniks Well-Known Member

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    Well, knowing Manning, he was not saying this to be critical of Christians, at least not without including himself, but he was basically right. I suspect he is speaking of Christians being unloving, because he was not a legalist whatsoever. Sure, people will say you are odd for doing things for God, but that says nothing about what they really believe deep down, it's just a defense mechanism, IMO.
    I would like to see the context, but I would bet Manning meant to say that Christains are too set on rules and not enough on showing love to people. It's biblical:
    John 13:35
    35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
    But I don't know if I'm being helpful. Opps, btw, maybe I shouldn't have replied because I'm not EO?
     
  3. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Thank you for your opinion, Renniks, but I really want to hear what EO people have to say about this, since that is the communion that I feel that my own is closest to without being in communion with. (And there aren't any other OO on this website to ask this to, sadly.)
     
  4. spiritualchristian7

    spiritualchristian7 Member

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    You have to remember that the post is from the brain of a foolish person; worldly thinking. So ease your anger.

    But if you do want to respond to him, make sure that you do it out of love, simply correcting what's false and deceitful.

    Proverbs 15:1
    A gentle answer turns away wrath
    But a harsh word stirs up anger

    But you know what? I think it doesn't matter...Christians will always be judged by the blind.
     
  5. spiritualchristian7

    spiritualchristian7 Member

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    edit:sorry, I'm new here so (I think) I shouldn't have posted a reply.
     
  6. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    That's okay. I'm not angry. :) It's irritation at the pervasiveness of this kind of argument, not at a person.
     
  7. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I think there is something to the quote, as many guys like televangelists have given atheists a lot of ammo.

    plus, looking at the quote, our love for each other will let people know we are Christ's disciples, but it doesn't say that will convert them.

    but I think you also have a point, as God is the one Who converts folks with or without our witness.

    Lord have mercy on Jean!
     
  8. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Thank you, Father.

    I think you raise a good point about the quote, in that it certainly does apply to some people and situations. My issue with it is when it is presented as though it is in itself the preferred form of evangelism, because I don't see that actually being the case in real life.

    It's kind of like the saying we've probably all seen attributed to Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." As an ideal, it seems nice, but I think we would all affirm the absolute necessity of using words!
     
  9. archer75

    archer75 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Agree with Fr Matt that there is something to it, but not everything to it. Remember Jim Bakker, Peter Popoff, and all the folks that are just like them with a lower profile? If that's what you see...and people in the US have seen a lot of that.

    Next to the Bakkers and Popoffs and those new ones, liturgical Christianity (or "do something" Christianity) is about as visible as Sikhism in the US. A kind of oddity.
     
  10. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I think it is the preferred form in the sense that if we don't have that, nothing else will work. I could have the perfect teaching in order, but if I come across as a member of the Westboro Baptist nonsense, it's not gonna go far.
     
  11. -Sasha-

    -Sasha- Handmaid of God

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    I guess in direct response only to the quote itself, I would have to agree. Aren't we (Christians) supposed to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world? Aren't we the only ones who even could be assigned blame if Christ's Gospel isn't being displayed in the world? You could argue that (some of) those who hear/see and reject it are hard-hearted, and I'm sure that there's truth to that, but I guess I'd rather not go assigning blame to others whom we have no control over rather than ourselves and our actions which we can control.

    Elder Joseph the hesychast said "Only I am at fault because I scandalize them, since they see with whatever eyes God gave them. Wouldn't it be unjust for me to say' 'Why don't they see as I can see?'"

    Saint Porphyrios said that we achieve nothing by being in distress or trying to persuade people who have no love for God, but that we rather should pray and be devoted to God so that His grace may wash over them through us, because He can do what we can't.

    Saint Paisios said that if we have grace, it spreads out to the people around us. He also said to "Have your doors open and your arms open to give people spiritual relief. They're searching for something now, and if they don't find it here in the monasteries, they'll go somewhere else."

    I've heard it said that we have a "God-sized hole" within ourselves, and it seems to me that people who don't know God try to fill this hole with absolutely anything they can which they believe will give them relief. Philosophies, drugs, alcohol, relationships, whatever else. Maybe it works for awhile, but then they have to try more, or something different...only God can fill in that hole. If we aren't doing all we can to bring Christ into our own lives and thereby the lives of all who we meet, then who will? If they receive nothing from us, if our doors and arms aren't open to those who need spiritual remedies for their ailments, how can we blame them for turning to the only solutions they can come up with?
     
  12. mothcorrupteth

    mothcorrupteth Old Whig Monarchist, Classically Realpolitik

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    Water is necessary for human life, but it is not sufficient.

    Showing Christianity through your works is often insufficient to convert the wayward mind, but it is also often necessary.
     
  13. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    Yes, thank you all. I should definitely modify my objection to be that this is insufficient, rather than wrong. What struck me as wrong about it is how it is often presented as though it is sufficient, but that is a different criticism than saying that the quote in itself is wrong. It isn't. It is correct, and it is pointing out a true principle that we should keep in mind.

    With that said, what do you all say is the best way to explain what is insufficient about it, if you had to do so, and what may be 'filled in' so as to present a complete way? I see a lot of good quotes here, but it strikes me that this kind of quote is often presented by those who might not be so receptive to the wisdom of elders, sadly precisely because the quote itself is so true. (i.e., Why should I listen to so-and-so when there is such corruption and hypocrisy among Christians?)

    There is often this disconnect between the average person (particularly among the non-traditional Christians), who absorbs such a quote as a right admonition, and the reality of the living and past holy ones among us, who are exactly those beacons of light for those of us who are hypocrites and do not show forth Christ so well (like me; I don't think it's a mistake nor a coincidence that I found my home via the Desert Fathers, who stress such great and transformative repentance as a means of combatting exactly these things which the quote describes, but I imagine that simply saying "Abba Anthony said to Abba Joseph..." has much the same non-effect as presenting a pithy quote about what hypocrites modern Christians are).
     
  14. Job3315

    Job3315 Well-Known Member

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    I would question the kind of people the quoter is identifying as Christians. I mean, if he knows what kind of image is making people become atheist, then maybe he can give us an insight of how he thinks a Christian should look like.

    Maybe he has a wrong perception of what is a Christian. I always keep in mind that Jesus told the thief at the cross that he was going to be with Him in Heaven (because the thief didn't deny him). That man didn't have a chance to manifest the revelation of Jesus Christ because he didn't have more time to do it. But we can't deny many people call themselves Christians but in reality they don't even know Jesus; I call them the "Just in case". Those are the ones who go to church, wear crosses and call themselves Christians without even having a relationship with Jesus. And as Bill Johnson says, "Christianity without Jesus is demonic in nature". Those people are giving Christians a bad name. I heard a Pastor say once, "If you are living like the world does, please don't call yourself a Christian."

    Unfortunately I can't make the quoter look at Who he should be looking and searching for, Jesus. The quoter's lost soul is being guided by those who are lost themselves. He is so lost that he can't even identify they are lost people giving Christianity a bad name. He is also placing his decision on people; thats another clue that he doesn't know Jesus, he is trusting man to be the leader of his decision instead of looking for the One who wants to give him life and find answers himself.
     
  15. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I would say because the quote alone doesn't take into account that it's God's grace which does the work in His community.
     
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  16. Ricky M

    Ricky M Active Member Supporter

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    Sounds about right to me.
     
  17. dzheremi

    dzheremi Coptic Orthodox non-Egyptian

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    I think that is it, Father. Something struck me as off about that quote, and I think that it is that it is focused on us -- you (the general 'you') are a bad Christian, so you are responsible for atheism (which as you've all rightly reminded me is true, in a way), yet I have not seen so much the opposite situation, whereby good Christians are responsible for the growth of Christianity/the making of more good Christians.

    Because ultimately, we aren't. God's grace (which is to say, God) at work in the community and in the individual is what transforms us all, not that you or I do good things or behave well or however it could be put. That doesn't mean that we don't have to do good or behave well or whatever, but it does mean that focusing on that alone is insufficient, because it does not take into account the presence of God among His people.

    Thank you all for helping me sort this out. Sometimes I have an initial reaction to something and I know it is not good to proceed forth from, but I'm not sure where the problem lies, so it is good to have some friendly and helpful people to help sort things out so that I don't react rashly without being able to explain what the issue is.

    I suppose then the big challenge is how to show God's presence among the community to people who just don't believe in Him to begin with, but that's evangelism itself, and I'm not even intending to do that by looking at this quote. Like you guys, we in the OO Church have a "come and see" approach, which I don't think lends itself well to evangelism via quotes, no matter how many millions there may be which would be appropriate in this context. Meeting the Lord and talking about Him are not the same.

    Anyway, thank you all again.
     
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  18. -Sasha-

    -Sasha- Handmaid of God

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    I got a chuckle out of this, but sadly accurate.
     
  19. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    I think ultimately the best we can do is have our answers ready, and get out of God's way and let Him lead folks home.
     
  20. Pavel Mosko

    Pavel Mosko Arch-Dude of the Apostolic Supporter

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    I have said similar things but I usually say its about half the fault of Christianity. This is based largely on my earlier days as a Protestant where it seemed a lot of the Christianity of the parochial schools I attended didn't have much interest in anything like Theosis etc. We could hear people talk a lot about Agape love but not see a lot of it in practice (just the opposite of it). This made me wonder in my teen years if a lot of things like Agape were just slogans, or unrealized ideals etc. I really think many Protestants practice Christianity as an Ideology. It is an ideology intended to save their soul, Salvationism. And when they avoid doing certain things morally like hate it is not so much concerning the bad of those things, or that they poison their souls but rather because of the fear that such things might "void the Salvation warranty" so to speak (according to certain specific passages of the Bible).


    Anyway I left Christianity in my college years to explore other things. Anyway at times I have looked at the bios of famous people especially from the Baby Boom generation, often British people like the Beatles, Monty Python cast etc. it seems to me that other people also have been raised in some form of Christianity where things were not so appetizing or inspiring and they looked for greener pastures elsewhere.
     
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