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Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekly Trivia Files: #7 Questioning Authority, part 2

As I said earlier this week, I'm posting two trivia pieces this week to catch up for time lost last week dealing with computer problems, etc.  My computer is still having a lot of trouble, so I'm using a different one in the house to keep up with all of you.

I'll remind you again that I'm going through all of these argument fallacies to help you become a better debater for your Christian beliefs.  They may be from non-Christian sources, but I think they could strengthen the force of your testimony by preventing people from criticizing your presentation.

Biased or Incompetent Authority

Last time I spoke about citing authorities in unrelated fields to support your argument.  This time I'm talking about citing non-experts, or those whose testimonies are shaped by bias (not fact), to support an argument.  This boils down to citing someone's unsupported opinion (including personal opinion) as proof of what you are saying.

It's important to note that everyone's testimony contains some bias, and no one is completely unbiased, but a true authority on a subject has the factual knowledge to support a position, not just an opinion.

Example: (a statement a student made to one of my professors) "I don't know where you're getting your information, because my grandpa always said that the Bible was written in good 'ol King James English."

Example 2: "Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast [Yom Kippur]. So Paul warned them, "Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also."  But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.  Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest." (Acts 27: 9-12 NIV)

Example 2 needs more explanation: I was having some difficulty finding a clear example of this fallacy, since usually the bad authorities cited in the Bible are usually supposed to be experts in the subject they are discussing.  The dynamic in this passage is less obvious.  Here, the centurion has two advisers: (1) a prisoner who claims insight into the weather (either from God or experience; we don't know), and (2) a pilot who set sail at an unconventionally late time and really wants to get his cargo into a large harbor where he can sell it and winter over.  The unbiased adviser, Paul, has much less to gain, since he has nothing to sell and he may be going to his death in Rome, anyway.  The biased adviser, the pilot, either knows nothing about the weather in that region, or has chosen the monetary or personal benefits of making a large harbor over the risks to everyone's personal safety.   Apparently, the centurion took the pilot more seriously anyway, and used his statements to persuade the crowd to vote in favor of sailing on.

This particular fallacy tends to make the one who uses it look uninformed, since the world judges us by the company we keep.  If we cannot find a true authority who supports our topic, we need to reassess our point of view.   As Christians, the best authority we could cite would be the Bible, since others can judge that authority and test its truthfulness themselves.  It's not just my personal bias that makes me say so; the Bible has survived many tests, from archaeology to practical application.  Know it and use it wisely!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

The title of this post is a cliched segue from mid-century American Western television, in case you don't know it.  It was a casual way of saying that while the good guys thought they'd taken care of their problems, something else was going wrong back at home.
The Bible doesn't use a phrase like that, but the contrast between our perspective and what God sees is still apparent in so many passages.  Even as God was resolving one problem, people were doing something else to make a mess of things just a little distance away.  It makes me so thankful to have a patient God, because even though He gets angry or frustrated with us sometimes, He doesn't wipe mankind off the face of the earth for our bold rebellion.

A couple of nights ago, I was rereading a passage in Exodus (I've probably read that book a hundred times, but I always discover new things), about Moses on the mountain, learning the laws of the covenant, and the rebellion of his people at that very moment.  Only a short time before, God had descended on the mountain in a huge display of His power, making the people in the whole camp tremble (Exodus 19), and had personally met with Moses and the tribal leaders of Israel (Exodus 24: 9-14). You would think that the people would have remembered God, since they were camped in the shadow of the mountain where God was, but while God was discussing the Law with Moses on the mountain for "forty days and forty nights" (Exodus 24: 18), the people were down below making a golden calf idol to worship!  The excuse Aaron gave was that the people had basically forced him to make the calf, saying, "Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him" (Exodus 32: 23).

Wait a minute there.  "We don't know what has happened to him"?  They saw Moses go up the mountain, and they can see the cloud that is the presence of God on the mountain, smoking as if the mountain was on fire, and they don't know what happened to Moses, and they don't know where God is?  The lameness of this excuse is actually a little bit humorous, if it wasn't for the fact that it's such a terrible portrayal of the fallen human nature.

The Bible says, "Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood since the earth was founded?  He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in" (Isaiah 40: 21, 22 NIV).

God misses nothing, and He's not so weak that we can truly challenge Him in our own strength.  He always sees what's going on below His nose, since we are all so small compared to Him.  If we disobey God, we are always doing so, figuratively speaking, at the foot of the mountain while God looks on. But the Bible still offers us hope: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5: 8 NIV).  So God sees it all, but He still made a way for us to escape His justifiable anger because He loves us!

A View of the Future

 How many people today can literally stand in the shadow of God, with good leaders before them, and still party on in their rebellion?  They don't even have a reasonable fear of God's wrath.  This shouldn't be, yet it is.  As David wrote, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'  They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.  God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.  Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Psalm 53: 1-3 NIV).

Yes, it does say "not even one" person does what is right.  That means even Christians can sin against God, just like the Israelites at the foot of the mountain--knowing better but doing it anyway.  Even Christians can excuse bad behavior in themselves, forgetting that God sees.  Perhaps the reason why the Bible doesn't have a phrase like, "meanwhile, back at the ranch," is that it is a human phrase, limited by our perspective.  The Bible looks at us from God's perspective, seeing all at once and surprised by nothing.   God has given the Bible to us as a tool with which to look at our lives the way God sees us, not the way other people do.  We should use that tool to test ourselves, so that we can not be found among the rebels at the foot of the mountain when God looks down to judge us all.

The Bible predicts more of this blatant rebellion (2 Timothy 3: 1-5) which will continue until the end of this earth.  As for those who follow God to the end, we are instructed to "make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him," (2 Peter 3: 14 NIV).  This is not a hopeless challenge, either, because, "with God, all things are possible," (Matthew 19: 26 NIV).

So, let the whole world revel in gods made by their own hands, weaker than they are, born of fire and leading to destruction by fire, but today let Christians say, "as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord," (Joshua 24: 15 NIV).  We have the God we can meet face to face, great in power yet full of patience and mercy, so let us submit both ourselves and "the ranch" to God for safe-keeping, so that He can bring us victory over evil.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Weekly Trivia Files: #6, Questioning Authority

I've been covering these "trivia" topics about false or misleading debate techniques for the past few weeks because I've seen how often they are used to mislead Christians in sermons.  I've heard the unsaved talk about how Christians try to trick them and tangle them up in words, and how they question the authority Christianity claims because of that.  I know that it's to be expected that some people will not be convinced of the truth with the most effective debate techniques, but it upsets me to hear a lousy presentation that makes the truth look like lies.  I wouldn't be convinced if I felt I was being tricked, so why should I ask others to accept the gospel on those terms?

I missed posting this last week, so this week I'm posting two, similar fallacies rather than the usual one.  Sit back and enjoy!

Doubtful Authority

For bad debaters, sometimes any authority they can reference on their topic is as good as another.  Good debate technique, however, calls for authorities who specialize in the topic being discussed.  My instructor also noted that we should doubt the authority of testimony that isn't directly related to the topic.

Example: A famous football player is an authority on all things football, but his star status doesn't automatically make him an authority on U.S. law, world economics, or astrophysics (unless, of course, he also has a college degree in those things).

Example 2: "Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood.  The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.   But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh's heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.  Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart." (Exodus 7: 20-23 NIV)

Example 2 needs a little explanation: Pharaoh's magicians were authorities on "their secret arts," but they did not claim to know the God of Israel or to derive their power from Him.  Their ability to copy the plague does not invest them with authority in this area, since they were still not authorities on the topic of the God of Israel (comparing apples to oranges). Who gave them the authority to testify on this matter, clearly outside their area of expertise, except Pharaoh himself?  He based his argument (in his own mind) that the God of Israel was not real or powerful, on the supporting testimony of these magicians.

Christians are especially susceptible to this fallacy.  Modern psychologists and leaders of other religions may end up being quoted as authorities on Christian principles, but they have no real authority on matters of the Christian religion, even if their statements seem to relate to the topic.  We can test the validity of what they say against a backdrop of scripture, since scripture claims authority from God over all things, but we should base our religious beliefs on God's authority, not man's.  God is the best authority on Himself, since He knows Himself better than we do, and He has given us the Bible as His testimony about Himself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Ten-Second Interview

Sorry I'm sooo late in publishing this.  My computer has been on the fritz all week, so I'm not even sure that I'll be able to finish this one.  Type quickly, right?

I've been thinking this week about fanship, that is, following after famous people--and autograph lines specifically.  I'll explain.  I watch the Olympics like most people (although I'm not a real sports fan), and I heard one athlete talking about how it's important to him to give his autograph to every fan who asks, because he remembered a time when he was a child and his favorite celebrity refused to give him one.  He was crushed by that and never wanted to do it to someone else.

Only a few days before I saw that interview, I went to a Christian concert, and of course, went through the autograph line.  That experience was good, but it reminded me of a time years before when I went for an autograph at a Christian concert and walked away with sadness and heaviness in my heart.

That concert in my childhood happened only two days after a tornado tore through my hometown, leaving behind thousands of homeless people and several dead.  People came to the concert looking for hope and refreshment in the middle of that horrible time, but the Christian artists (names withheld for good reasons) fought openly on stage (especially after one member stumbled on his lines) and were cranky with fans afterward.  One member spoke condescendingly toward me about giving me his autograph before the concert.  After the concert, I learned, he turned people away rather brusquely when they asked for it.  Another member scowled and grunted at people when they asked for his autograph, and kept his back turned to the one who had made the mistake.

I'd been a huge fan since their first album, ten years prior, but by the end of that concert, I wondered if the autographs I'd gathered were truly worth the paper they covered.  Billed as top Christian music artists, they didn't offer an outstanding, loving, Christian attitude to their loyal fans.  The world may enjoy the diva attitude, but I have a very hard time accepting it from people who claimed they weren't like the world.

That night left a lasting bad taste in my mouth.  It also challenged me.  If I ever get that famous, I pray that God will keep me humble, and help me always to remember Jesus' words:

"But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 14: 10,11 NIV).
 If each of us only had ten seconds with a total stranger, would that other person know more about our Savior when the time had passed?  What if we had ten minutes?  An hour? An evening?
"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." (Luke 6: 45 NIV).
Concerning the latest Christian music concert I attended, I don't know the people personally who performed that night, but I did get the impression that they desperately wanted to challenge their fans to follow Christ--their lyrics testify to that, and their "ten-second interview" backed up those words.  In fact, this group has been together as long as the other one had, yet I saw evidence of a servant's heart in each of them--from the fact that they missed their wives but felt led to spend the weekend away from them ministering in God's service, to the way they considered each others' feelings even in the way they arranged themselves in the autograph line (boldest first, to break the ice for the shyest one), to the humble way they accepted compliments from their fans.

So, in the upcoming week, or even this weekend, I challenge you to think about your ten-second interviews.  What do they say about you?  What do they say about Jesus?  Do people know that you serve Him, even if you don't get a chance to speak about Him directly?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weekly Trivia: Bad Arguments Series #5

The Slippery Slope
I've been talking about fallacies in arguments, in other words, bad reasoning techniques in a debate situation.  I started this trivia series because I've seen a lot of Christians presenting their beliefs poorly in recent years.  It's important that when the world is watching, we don't use these bad techniques to argue our points.  They leave doubts that what we have to say is really true--and we may not get another chance to correct the mistake.

The Slippery Slope
The title of this fallacy fits wonderfully with the 2010 Olympic Games coverage, but the actual error in reasoning unfortunately has been better applied to some members of the religious community.  In the slippery slope fallacy, the debater argues that if something is allowed, it will set off a disastrous and inevitable chain of events that leads to ultimate doom.  This fallacy pushes the illogical "mental leap" that just because something could happen, it will happen, and often is fraught with the personal opinion of the debater.

Example: "Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.  Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. 'What are we accomplishing?' they asked. 'Here is this man performing many miraculous signs.  If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation'" (John 11: 45-48 NIV)

The Sanhedrin's predicted doom came years later, but not as a result of anything that Jesus did.  They assumed that Christ would become a military or political leader, and based their predictions on that.

This suggests a possible solution to the slippery slope fallacy: check for assumptions based on personal opinions.  Having a strong personal opinion is great, but your point will become much stronger if you can back off personal opinion and base your conclusion on facts that other people could logically accept.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Do Not Grow Weary

Sunday night I looked through all the Technorati listings under "Religion," and found my own blog on page 37 (that may have changed in the days since, but I don't care to spend all that time checking it again).  I surfed through many, many pages of atheist blogs, Islamic blogs, homo-Christian blogs, Wicca-Judaic blogs, Passively-Christian blogs, Cussing-Christian blogs, and also many Well-Meaning-but-Mislead-Christian blogs that zealously argued unarguable points (my family calls them Did-Adam-and-Eve-Have-Bellybuttons-Arguments).  I also had the nightly news on, and was listening to reports on "Christians" doing illegal things and getting arrested for them (inviting the mockery of all).  It all made my faith sound like a loud-mouthed, self-righteous, hypocritical, scorn-worthy religion. By the time I went to bed, I was feeling weary at heart and indulging in self-pity.

You see, all of that news just feels like bad PR for Jesus, and it sometimes makes me start to believe that being obedient to God and publicly dedicating my life to serve God is useless--as if my testimony is drowned out by all the negative voices and those who would make a mockery out of doing good.  Have you ever felt that way?  Perhaps you feel that way today.

So I was whining about this to God as I lay down to rest, and I guess you could say that God met me under my broom tree and reminded me of a few scriptures I should not have forgotten.  They helped me, so I thought it might be good to share them with you, too.
  1. We are not alone--God is with us. The Bible contains countless stories that support this, and we can draw strength from reading them again.  How about Joseph, who was wrongly accused and imprisoned for several years for obeying God and fleeing Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39: 7-23; 41: 1-14)?  Was Joseph's name ever cleared of this charge?  While it is true that Pharaoh released him from prison and made him the second-most powerful man in the kingdom, there is no record of Potiphar's wife ever taking back the false accusation she had made against him.  Joseph may never have received full justice in the eyes of man, but God rewarded him, again and again, for continuing to be obedient in the worst of circumstances.  Accusers beware, God's ways and God's people cannot be torn down so easily.
  2. We are not alone--God preserves a remnant. It is easy to wallow in self-pity and believe that good will be swallowed up by all the evil in the world, especially when people who claim to follow God are making a mockery of His commandments, but we deceive ourselves if we think that we are the last godly people on earth.  Consider Elijah's example in 1 Kings 19: 1-18.  He'd watched God's prophets mowed down by Baal worshipers (many of whom also claimed to follow the God of Israel), and then received word that he was next--so he ran.   God met Him and reminded him that He had "preserved for [Him]self a remnant" of people who still obeyed Him.  We should learn from this story that we aren't the "last one," and that it isn't our responsibility to preserve godliness by our own power.  I am convinced that if the truth of God had been left to human hands to defend, it would have been wiped out long ago. 
  3. Do not be deceived--the sinful aren't getting away with it.  Here's another thing.  Sometimes it seems like bad people always get away with hurting those who obey God.  We don't always get to see justice meted out to them in our lifetimes.  David felt this way when he wrote Psalm 73.  God showed him (and us) that no matter how prosperous evil seems to be, it is never secure.  Those who obey God will always be near Him and preserved by Him, but those who scorn God's ways but "lay claim to heaven" are toying with certain destruction at God's hand.  Punishment will come after death, even if it doesn't come in this life. 
  4. Remember why we're here.  The whole purpose of human beings is to obey God (Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14).  If we are not doing that, we are not living up to our full potential.  Christians have another purpose, not unlike the first--to teach others to obey God (2 Timothy 4: 1-3). These two goals should be at the center of our consciousness, even if the world goes mad around us.
  5. Keep the goal in mind.   Hebrews12: 1-3 reminds us that Jesus endured hardship, scorn, and death "for the joy set before him," that is, that one day we could be reunited with Him in heaven.  For this reason, we shouldn't get tired of obeying God.  If Jesus could endure worse because He valued our salvation so much, we should be ashamed of giving up easily, as if His sacrifice was not valuable.
Nowhere, in any of this, do I see that we should value our lives and our successes by comparing ourselves to what other people are doing.  This is just Satan's way of realigning truth and value based on a shifting, human model, rather than on the absolute, constant, and consistent example of Christ.  If we take our eyes off Christ's example and focus our attention on what others are doing, Satan can use this as a stepping off point to destroy our faith and lead us into rebellion.

This is my reminder to all of you, as God has reminded me, to take heart and stay with God--and don't let bad news from the world get you down.  Those of us who are saved are called to a higher purpose and led and protected by God in that purpose.  We can rest in this.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Weekly Trivia: Bad Argument Series # 4

I'm continuing my weekly trivia series on argument fallacies today with one that I think we've all heard before (especially parents), and probably used a few times, and not just as children.  Just as I've said at the start of the other posts, it is important for Christians to know how to recognize these types of arguments so that we can avoid falling for them, and so that we can keep ourselves from expecting others to fall for them.  If the truth we hold is real, we don't need to trick people into believing it.

So, the false argument of the day is...

Tu Quoque (You, Also)

Latin for "You, also," this argument seeks to discredit someone's line of reasoning by judging how well that person is living up to his or her own argument.  In other words, it illogically argues that even if an opponent can offer good reasons why something is bad or should not be done, if that person is personally guilty of the offense in question, his points are not valid.

Example: (Heard this in the pulpit once, no joke.) "This man called me in and asked me to pray for him. He was a drinking man, and he'd really messed up his life, and now he was in the hospital with liver failure.  His wife had left him because he'd beaten her so many times when he was drunk. He asked me what he should do, since he was dying, but I felt like I couldn't talk to him about the drinking.  I couldn't tell him he needed to give up the bottle and get right, because I used to have a big problem with that before I found Jesus."

The validity of an argument is not tainted by personal guilt--if anything, it is further proven by it.  If something is right, it is always right, even if it paints the debater in an unpopular light.  I have personally preached often about how sin is bad, even though I have committed many sins.  That in itself doesn't erase the truth or remove the timeliness of anything I have said.

This argument bases the standard of truth on a shifting human example, rather than God's absolute standards--and that can be easily identified as moral relativism, or situational morality, which I have spoken on many times before. (If you need definitions on those terms, click the tags below).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Be Transformed

One of the most popular draws to this site is this verse:
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2 NIV)
This made it into a post several months ago about Groupthink and the church.  I've been watching this play out in my site analytics for several months now.  New people visit that post almost every day, and they're coming from all over the world.  Why is this verse so popular?  What cultural trend does this indicate?

Frankly, I don't know, since I've never been able to interview my visitors about it.  If you first came to this site to read that post, please leave me a comment weighing in on the topic.  I'd love to hear from you.

Anyway, I speculate that the root cultural trend is the nonconformity angle in that verse.  In fact, I'm concerned there may be some misinterpretations of that verse out there that could be damaging to Christianity.  I want to draw a line today between good and bad understandings of that verse, because it's crucial that Christians today understand what it means.

So, about nonconformity....I do preach a type of nonconformity on this blog, but it's about detecting and resisting human pressures (from within and without) to cave, to cower, and to give up this gift we've been given as Christians.  This isn't a form of "expressing yourself."  The focus isn't all on "me" and "developing my potential," but rather on doing what God wants, seeing that good is done, and resisting what is evil.  In other words, the focus is on God, not humankind or its wants and feelings.

I understand that society uses the word nonconformity to mean a rejection of peer pressure and an expression of individuality.  In other words, it's a type of rebellion against others in favor of doing what we want, or leaving one peer group for another one that has different values. Your Dictionary online is perhaps more specific. It defines nonconformity as, "failure or refusal to act in conformity with generally accepted beliefs and practices."

Lately, the Church (I mean the visible church; all people who call themselves Christians) has begun to pull out Romans 12:2 and use it to label itself as some kind of rebellion (nonconformity) movement, in essence saying, "take that, world!"  Is Christianity that, really?  Personally, I think that talk makes Christianity into some sort of clique or gang that is "getting back at the world" by being different in measurable ways.  Is that what Paul was getting at?

The Shape of the Cookie Cutter

Let's look at the first phrase of the verse again: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world."  That really does sound like rebellion, doesn't it?  Before, we were like everyone else, fitting into a cookie-cutter pattern, and we are not supposed to stay in this pattern "any longer."  What is the pattern, though?

The pattern that scripture and human behavior seems to bear out is one of rebellion.  Rebellion against God and His leadership over our lives, in favor of self-leadership.  Adam and Eve first decided in the garden that what they wanted (to be "as gods") was more important than what God wanted (for them to obey Him voluntarily).  So they ate the fruit despite the rules that forbid it.

Really, nonconformity as it has been defined is rebellion against one aspect of another human's leadership.  In essence, exchanging one human leader for another, ourselves.

But the Church's focus should not be on human leadership, or self.  The apostle Paul wrote, "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3: 1-3 NIV).

So Christians are not supposed to be focusing on self, and that draws a hairsbreadth of a line between how some are reading the passage from Romans, and how it should be read.  By refusing to "conform any longer with the pattern of this world," does that mean, "take that, world"?

Look at the second part of that passage from Romans again: "but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." So we are rejecting the rebellious pattern of the world that we have been a part of, and are being changed, in fact, renewed by something.  The sense of it is that we aren't just being cosmetically changed on the outside, but rather rebuilt from the ground up with all new materials.  Our thinking is being turned around into something completely new and substantially different, but we aren't the ones changing ourselves.

So we are rejecting or rebelling against something, but that something is our own fallen inclinations, which convince us that we know better than God what is good for us.  Our focus isn't supposed to be on pushing back at the world--it's supposed to be on not resisting God any more.  That's what "do not conform" really means in this context.

The last part of the verse reads, "Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  The whole point of ceasing to resist God is to finally listen to Him and be equipped with the knowledge to obey God in the way that pleases Him.  This verse is hardly about the world, really.  It's all focused on God and His ways.  It isn't about "pushing back" at the world; it's about being able to navigate safely through it, ignoring all the things that distract us and threaten to pull us away from what God wants.

Not Pushing Back, Pushing Toward

I've been very concerned that this new "Church rebel" idea makes Christians look openly hostile toward their neighbors.  God didn't tell us to act this way, and by rejecting "the pattern of this world," we aren't being told to rebel against people or God-given institutions such as governments and laws.  This in-your-face scoffing attitude looks down at the world.  It is a worldly attitude that sets "self" above others.  It has no place in the church and needs to end now.

Our attitude toward the world outside our church doors ought to be one of compassion, born out of our new understanding of what controls human behavior and how God can fix this.  With our renewed minds, we ought to be able to see that God's will is that none should die without coming to know Him (2 Peter 3:9).  We should be focusing on what God wants us to do for the world, so that He can reach it through us, rather than what makes us different from the world or divides us from it.

Forget the rebel attitude--get the humble attitude!