The Consistency of Christians Screwing Up

One of the most frequent objections to Christianity is the behavior of Christians. How can what we believe be true when we’re such jerks?

People who raise this objection are right: Christians can be jerks. In fact, all of us are jerks on a regular basis. The question is, why are we that way, and whose view of the world can best account for it? Christians have an answer for this: we’re sinners. That’s a fundamental principle of what we believe. So when Christians sin, we shouldn’t be surprised. We’re at war with ourselves; we have competing desires, and we will have frequent losses in our battle with sin.

The nonbeliever, on the other hand, needs to explain a couple of things. First of all, how does he know what Christians are doing is wrong? And second, why does it make him angry?

Both these questions have to do with ultimate standards. If, for example, a nonbeliever is upset with a Christian for saying something unkind to him, we’ll need him to explain how he knows what’s kind and what’s not. If a Christian lied to him, we need to know what lying is and why it’s wrong. Christians have an answer for this: God tells us in his Word not to speak unkindly or lie. The nonbeliever essentially pulls it out of thin air.

Someone might object that the real problem is Christians living inconsistently: saying one thing and doing another. That brings us to the second question: Why is that bad? Who says there’s anything good about being consistent, or bad about being inconsistent? And what right does anyone have to say that?

The point in all this is that with a simple objection like this– that Christians do bad things, a true statement– there’s much more at play than one person’s offense. There are competing worldviews that are mutually exclusive. Our worldview accounts for the fact that we sin. The nonbeliever needs to explain how he knows we sin in the first place, and why it bothers him so much. And we don’t need to be afraid to ask those questions.

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