Why Being Nice Isn’t Enough
And this I pray, that your love may abound still
more and more in knowledge and all discernment…
If there ever were a champion of winsomeness in making the case for Christianity and its values, Charles “Chuck” Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and the voice of the Christian worldview commentary BreakPoint, was that champion. For example, in the BreakPoint commentary for April 9, 2006, Colson observed, “To change the culture…we must learn how to engage the political process more winsomely. It requires a different mindset, a recognition that we’re appealing to hearts and minds, not twisting arms. In both fact and appearance we are not seeking to impose but rather to propose. The Christian Church makes a Great Proposal, inviting everyone to the table, regardless of color, ethnic origin, background, or economic status. We’re inviting people to consider a worldview that works, that makes sense, and through which people can discover shalom and human flourishing.”1
Given that this kind of encouragement was typical of Colson,2,3,4,5 a casual observer might be surprised at the BreakPoint commentary of May 14, 2015. It was titled “It’s What We Say, Not How We Say It: The Scandal of Christianity.”6 John Stonestreet, who, along with Eric Metaxas, took over BreakPoint following Colson’s death in 2012, said,
We should be reasonable, calm, and winsome when talking to, well, anyone and everyone, especially those who disagree with us: not as a debating tactic but as part of our loving our neighbors as ourselves. Just as we would want people to be reasonable, calm, and winsome when addressing us, we should do the same for them.
And in treating those who vituperate us with respect and kindness we, if nothing else, as Paul told the Romans, “heap burning coals on their heads.”
But we shouldn’t be so naïve as to think that what lies behind what sociologists David Williamson and George Yancey recently dubbed “Christianophobia”7 is a communication problem. The problem is what we’re saying, not just how we’re saying it.
Sure, there are Christians whom, in all Christian love, I wish would just be quiet. But when the New York Times8 and a major presidential candidate9 tell us that historic Christian teaching must yield to the new sexual orthodoxy, no amount of winsomeness can overcome that kind of antipathy.…
In the end, no matter how “nice” we are, our faith in Jesus and our faithfulness to His teaching will be a scandal to the world. And we are and will be treated accordingly.10
Rod Dreher, whom Stonestreet cited elsewhere in the commentary, had written a piece called “The Failure of Winsomeness.”11 Dreher expounded on some of his points in that article in an interview Stonestreet conducted with him on the May 16, 2015 edition of BreakPoint This Week.12 Dreher declared,
We in the church have watched relentless propaganda from the mainstream media for ten or twenty years about Christianity as being a source of bigotry against homosexuals, and on and on and on and on and on. I’ve worked in mainstream media newsrooms. I see that this is what they really believe. But it has had an effect on the broader culture.
It just blows my mind when I meet Christians who think that if they can only be nice, be winsome, and show that they’re not haters, that these social justice warriors on the left will like them. It’s not going to happen.
If you can look at what’s happening to Gordon College—a great school run by one of the kindest men you’ll ever meet, Mike Lindsay. They are being systematically dismantled by the state of Massachusetts, and by private industry, and by other colleges because they stand on biblical norms of sexuality. Nothing Gordon does—not the fact that those kids go…they sent kids into the poor schools, the impoverished schools in Lynn, Massachusetts, to help out. It didn’t matter. They were kicked out.13,14 The guy, the school committee member who led the charge to throw Gordon students out of these public school classrooms, compared Gordon College to the KKK.15,16 This is really how the activist left sees the church. I’m not saying the church should be militant and angry and show and ugly face to the world; what I’m saying is winsomeness will not get you very far. They really do hate us.17
Was Charles Colson wrong? No. We always need to be winsome and loving, and doing so will cause some to think carefully about what we say. In fact, we will have difficulty convincing people of the truth of the gospel if we don’t demonstrate these qualities. However, we must not be naïve. Even when these virtues are on display, the real thorn in some people’s sides is going to be, as John Stonestreet observed, “what we’re saying, not just how we’re saying it.”18
How do these people respond? Rather than sticking to the issues and contending for what they see as the merits of their positions, they paint Christians and other conservatives as mean and bigoted. Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, an Orthodox Jew, writes,
That’s why so many Americans now seem comfortable giving the government power to violate freedom of conscience for conservatives: Evil people don’t deserve freedom and therefore, can be deprived of it. People who consider themselves civil libertarians suddenly find their inner totalitarian when it comes to Christian-owned bakeries. That can only happen when those people become convinced that Christian-owned bakeries are fronts of hatred and darkness. And that can only happen when they are falsely maligned as such, over and over again.19
In John 15:18-19, Jesus warned His disciples about the hostility they would face from the world. He said, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Yes, Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies (see Matt. 5:43-44), but He also warned them to beware of all who would deceive. So did the apostles.
- Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? (Matt. 7:15-16).
- Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).
- Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! (Phil. 3:2).
- For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things (Phil. 3:18-19).
- Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8).
- But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
- For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward (2 John 7-8).
- Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).
“But wait!” someone may say. Didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not, that you be not judged”? (Matt. 7:1). Yes, He did, but He was telling His followers not to be hypocritically judgmental (see vv. 2-5). Immediately after offering this warning, He added, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces” (v. 6).
The church, sadly, is woefully lacking in discretion, discernment, and shrewdness. In fact, shrewdness is the one trait possessed by Satan that believers need to cultivate and use for godly purposes.20 We must realize that some non-Christians will continue to hold a defiant posture toward God and will never yield to Him. It is not our place to assume anyone is beyond God’s saving reach, but we also must never think, even for a New York minute, that we have the ability to convince people to like us or the values we cherish. Fully aware of the acidic and unyielding hostility of some who are opposed to righteousness, Jesus told His disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
Dr. Mike S. Adams understands the importance of this kind of wisdom. Hired to teach criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) in the early 1990s when he was a liberal and an atheist, Adams was well liked by both students and faculty. Several years later, however, through a process that took place over time, Adams became a Christian and a conservative. He also became an outspoken advocate for life, marriage, family, free speech, and other traditional values. Still loved by students, Adams now was hated by university administrators. This isn’t just my opinion, but a conclusion reached in court. In 2014, a federal jury determined that Adams had been denied promotion at UNCW because of the content of his work for the conservative website townhall.com. The court ordered that UNCW promote him and to give him seven years back pay.21,22,23
In his book Letters to a Young Progressive, Adams speaks straightforwardly about liberals who maliciously exploit others. He calls them Pharisees and hypocrites. A hypocrite is “One who preaches something that he does not practice and that he does not even believe.”24 Elaborating, Adams writes,
The people in my department who have no qualms about encouraging minors to get sex changes can rightly be called Pharisees.…[They] do not misrepresent the truth innocently. They knowingly lie about biological differences between the sexes…[and] they do so in order to attribute any differences in outcome between the sexes to ‘patriarchal oppression.’ This, in turn, is done to facilitate more social engineering, which creates more jobs for self-proclaimed social engineers. Of course, they are the social engineers who would benefit from those jobs.
Lying to students about basic biological facts in order to encourage genital mutilation is bad. The only thing worse would be lying about biological facts in order to encourage murder. As you will recall from our previous correspondence on abortion, the modern-day Pharisees are not above that either.25
No one ever should arbitrarily accuse anyone else of being a Pharisee, but Mike Adams has not done this. Rather, he has acted in the prophetic tradition of exposing evildoers, and consequently, the evil they promote. He’s done another essential service as well. Dr. Adams has acted to protect vulnerable minds and hearts from becoming entrapped in evil lies. Potential victims include people of all ages, although teenagers and young adults probably would be the first to be vulnerable in this instance. One is reminded of these statements of commendation and warning from Jesus—statements that have clear application here: “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:4-6).
The church can learn an important lesson from Dr. Mike Adams. It should—indeed, it must—with God’s help, recover and consistently use its prophetic voice. It can if it also will cultivate and exercise godly discernment and shrewdness, but just how did it lose such discernment in the first place? Next week we will seek to answer this question.
Part 2 is available here.
12BreakPoint This Week radio program: http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/discourse/entry/15/27382
17BreakPoint This Week radio program: http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/discourse/entry/15/27382
24Mike S. Adams, Letters to a Young Progressive: How to Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don’t Understand, (Washington D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 2013), 228.
Copyright © 2015 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture has been taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.