Judge, Jury, and Executioner

Several times over the past few years, as I’ve openly examined my past faith and criticized the elements that made it, to me, untenable, I’ve had believers make a particular accusation that always rankled me. It’s actually one that I leveled toward my wife when we were on opposite sides of the wall of faith.

An honest inquiry of the Christian faith requires examination and criticism of all foundational aspects, including the bible, it’s ideas, and particularly, the god it asserts exists and demands our obedient and correct response.

So at times when I have presented my thoughts and my conclusions, I have been accused of judging YHWH.

“Who are you to judge God?”

“It is not up to you to judge the creator, but only to obey him.”

“It’s blasphemy to put yourself in His judgment seat.”

“How arrogant you must be to think you have authority to judge the Ultimate Judge.”

First, if YHWH/Jesus/THS was truly the god of the universe, and could be proven to exist as asserted and to the exclusion of all other deities, then I would concede that they have a point. If we all knew that he existed without any doubt, not on faith, but because there was all the evidence anyone would ever need, then yes, I probably wouldn’t have much of a platform. I say ‘not much of’ rather deliberately. I’ll dive into that more below.

But that’s not the case. His existence is something we’re supposed to accept by faith. Accepting this by faith, without evidence is credited to the believer as righteousness (Hebrews 11-12)

So let’s look at the nature of the human transaction with the Christian god according to modern, Evangelical theology.

The primary means of converting an individual requires a Christian to “share the good news” – to share the gospel with a non-believer. Believers in evangelical circles often train very carefully to evangelize others. They’re taught what to say and how to say it in order to lead their audience to make a “decision” for Christ.

The individual makes that decision, prays to God through Jesus, and is then supposedly saved.

Once they make a decision to accept Christ. This means to make a decision to accept the assertions of the believer who is sharing with them the ideas of the gospel – the ideas that:

  • They are a sinner
  • That their state of being a sinner has condemned them to hell
  • That the only respite from this fate is belief in Jesus Christ as savior
  • That praying to YHWH through this Jesus will provide them this salvation
  • That once they have done so, they will then go to heaven when they die

Most importantly, all of this has to be accepted as a matter of faith. No evidence will be provided other than the word of the evangelist and the words of the authors of the bible.

Isn’t this tantamount to the believer asking his or her audience to make a judgement? It’s a judgment call that we have to make, and that judgment call is the key judgment call we’ll supposedly be judged on in the end.

When a believer asks a non-believer to change his entire worldview, the believer is asking the non-believer to make a judgment about whether the assertions made are true and reliable, especially in the absence of any rational evidence that they are true. The believer doesn’t provide proof. The believer provides on the assertions of his theology. Those assertions are themselves interpretations of scripture that vary from sect to sect. So not only do you have to accept the assertions of the believer, you have to accept that his or her version of the theology is the correct version.

All of this requires a judgment on the part of the non-believer being evangelized.

Right about here, the Christian would further assert that a judgment is not required, rather obedience. It’s not up to the non-believer to question the call, only to answer it.

But if that was truly the case, why is so much effort expended on coming up with convincing arguments and attractive means of outreach?

Having been through a number of classes, continual small-group training, and sermons exhorting us to reach out and teaching us how, I can tell you that no small amount of energy is expended figuring out how to convince non-believers that they are sinners in need of a savior. There are numerous books and pamphlets guiding the believer in the best means to evangelize: which verses to memorize, what to say in what order, topics to avoid, and what to do when you finally catch one. Seasonal events were constructed specifically to target and audience’s emotional weak points, play on the low-grade guilt of holiday church attendees, all to manipulate them into a readiness to receive an answer. When I directed a children’s choir of 120 kids or so, we put on two programs a year. Those programs were specifically designed to preach the gospel to the children’s unwitting extended families who only came to hear their little angel sing. We encouraged the kids to invite their unchurched, unsaved, relatives.

Why were these events constructed that way?

Because, like it or not, the act of evangelizing is, by its very nature, a demand on the non-believer to judge the veracity of the message. Providing that demand in the context of a hyper-emotionalized event is a direct attempt to circumvent the non-believing individual’s ability or desire to judge the message and its demands rationally. An emotional decision is often much easier to make than a rational one, if for no other reason than it feels so good to say “yes.”

It’s my assertion that if the message were objectively and provably true to the exclusion of all other possibilities, its application to individual lives was always benign and always resulted in the improvement of one’s quality of life, and could rationally, provably, provide access to an afterlife of eternal bliss, comfort, and joy, then all the elements that went into creating a supercharged emotional environment would be unnecessary. In fact, it would be a distraction to add all of that noise when someone was trying to quietly consider a life-altering choice.

If the message could actually stand up to rational judgment, no believer would ever complain that their god was being judged.

14 thoughts on “Judge, Jury, and Executioner

  1. Evangelizing is a demand not only to judge the veracity of the message, but also to judge it’s goodness (morality). Who are we to judge the alleged YHWH evil? Who rather are they to judge him good? In spite of evidence to the contrary, like OT genocide, (arguably tacit) biblical endorsement of slavery, the persistence of natural evil to this day, and much more.

  2. This is a great point regarding the need to exercise judgment. In much the same way, we exercise judgment when examining the doctrines of cults and other religions. Thanks for sharing it! There’s a minor typo at the end “If the message could actual[ly] stand…”

  3. As I read this, my brain slipped into my old xian apologetics mode and started to spin in circles. I suspect someone could come up with a counter to each point you make, but the counter would also counter some other xians counter to some other point… and round and round we go. I’m thinking mainly of the differences in view on free will and God’s sovereignty.

    • I don’t disagree at all. I was coming up with arguments myself, though I really only focused on one aspect. I think every arc of the circle requires a judgment/evaluation that Christians would like to gloss over, but is still part of the process. They themselves assess and decide frequently, but they don’t see it as judging god, when the very act of cherry picking so common in the church is itself a massive judgment of their god and their theology.

  4. Have you ever seen this video?

    It is honestly quite painful to watch, but identifies quite well the emotional aspect entangled into many Christian experiences. There is a nice glimmer of hope at the end of the sixth video that you don’t want to miss. 🙂

  5. Your post makes great points about how much effort Christ-ians put into proselytizing. It is truly a study in social engineering and psychological manipulation.

    If I ever find myself being evangelized to, I ask two questions. First, “Do you consider the assertions of the gospel self-evident, or at least obvious?” If the answer is “Yes,” then I ask, “So, why do you have to work so hard to convince everyone?”

    • Well said and great question. It’s funny because with everything I’ve thought through, I don’t know that I ever really considered that aspect of proselytizing. Thanks for visiting and commenting 🙂

  6. Pingback: When Pastors Attack | Why I No Longer Believe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s