January 28, 2021

Friday with Michael Spencer: Some “Culture” Quotes

County Fair (2016)

Note from CM: In the light of another wave of evangelical culture war angst regarding the LGBTQ discussion, I thought a few direct and common sense thoughts from Michael Spencer might be in order today.

• • •

Picking and Choosing the Sins We Hate

Where I live, our community is ravaged by poverty. Visible poverty is everywhere, much of it of the kind that would shock and sicken the typical suburban adult. There is a plague of meth and other drugs. Federal drug enforcement has the former mayor of our county seat under lock and key. We have DEA in the air half the year. Domestic abuse, incest, fraud, stealing: they are all rampant and we all drive past them every day. We see some of the problems up close in the lives and families of our students.

But when Tim Hardaway [a public sports celebrity at the time] says, “I hate gays,” it strikes a chord in many Christians, because we hate homosexuality in a way we don’t hate poverty, racism, the neglect of children, government corruption, and the violence that surrounds us. We’ve allowed ourselves to feel the hatred of one sin that offends us, while we’ve thrown the blanket of denial and minimizing over our true character.

Tim Hardaway and the Sin We Love to Hate

• • •

The Virtue of Minding Your Own Business

I don’t like the way this subject [of LGBTQ matters] pulls itself apart, and I definitely don’t like the way Christians rush to predictable camps. I am like a lot of evangelicals in saying that I have very few questions about what the Bible teaches on the subject of sexuality. But I also have very few questions on the subject of how the Bible counsels me to view the sin of another person. In fact, I believe the Bible gives us a much unheeded admonition in this matter:

Don’t be a busy-body. Mind your own business. Tend to your own concerns. Don’t be shocked at the world. Don’t so condemn the world that it doesn’t look like you aren’t a human being yourself. Follow Christ yourself first, and be less concerned about how someone else is not following him.

…In other words, you can believe everything the Bible says on this subject, but the real question is how do you live next to, work with, serve and relate to the gay persons in your life?

So now I’m going to make someone really mad, but I don’t care: While you are allowed to have your convictions on the morality of human conduct, you are to keep your nose out of your neighbor’s business. What your neighbor is doing may be immoral, but it’s not your problem and it’s not your responsibility. “Love your neighbor as yourself” does not have fine print giving you permission to be a moral policeman in the bedrooms of people whose choices about sex differ from yours and mine.

…I don’t have to accept or endorse anything to be his friend, neighbor or fellow human being. I don’t have to oppose everything a homosexual does in life to say I believe the Bible is clear on this subject. But what he does, in his life, and how he lives before God is not my business. I respect his right to live before God and his own conscience. I am not (normally) called to violate the sanctity of another person’s moral competency, especially if their behavior is outside of my immediate family and children, and isn’t illegal.

The Nosey Evangelical Neighborhood

• • •

“Culture War” Christianity Betrays Spiritual Emptiness

I am suggesting, therefore, that the increasing interest in the culture war among evangelicals is not an example of a reinvigorated evangelicalism remaking its culture. Instead, I believe the intense focus by evangelicals on political and cultural issues is evidence of a spiritually empty and unformed evangelicalism being led by short-sighted leaders toward a mistaken version of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The Culture War makes sense to Christians who have little or no idea how to be Christians in this culture except to oppose liberals and fight for a conservative political and social agenda- an agenda often less than completely examined in the light of scripture, reason, tradition and experience. Those evangelicals- like Greg Boyd- who have challenged or broken the identification with the political right can testify to how they are immediately viewed. Dissenting evangelicals are labeled as pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and pro- Democrat instantly. The rhetoric of the culture warriors is relentless in associating dissenting evangelicals of every kind with the issues of abortion and homosexuality. No one could be blamed for believing that evangelicalism was a modestly spiritual movement with the goal of banning abortion and gay marriage.

• • •

2 Suggestions about the Role of Christians in the Culture

My first suggestion is that evangelicals find ways to take the posture of servants, rather than victims, within culture. We are paying a price for the culture war rhetoric that has been embraced by the church. Many of our fellow Americans are convinced that we are a militant movement with the goal of political domination. They hear us speaking of them as the enemy. We need to reverse this, and confess that God has put us here to be witnesses and servants in any way that promotes the gospel.

The second suggestion is that we take another look at culture and realize it is not identical with all the negative connotations of “world.” Ed Stetzer has reminded us that culture is the house our neighbors live in, and the rhetoric of burning down a house rarely accomplishes very much. A stronger belief in common grace, a more consistent look for common ground, and a frequent celebration of our common humanity could all be helpful in living as strangers, but not enemies, with those in our surrounding culture.

Evangelical Anxieties 6: Culture


  1. Michael’s comments are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them.

    • More so, because evangelicism has doubled down on its string of bad bets.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says


        • Christiane says

          but why are trans people such an object of hate? they have no ‘agenda’, they have suffered so much, and many are very young and vulnerable to the contempt of others

          it seems to me sometimes like the ‘favorite sin’ people want to kill lambs with baseball bats . . . . a lot of their targets are far more sinned against than sinners

          and for the haters, the process just destroys them from the inside out . . . . . they can’t maintain that level of contempt towards others and not themselves be transformed by that contempt, no

  2. Senecagriggs says

    BUT what if the culture NOW REQUIRES that you APPROVE of relationships other than the traditional and orthodox male-female relationships?

    • Seneca, your comment betrays exactly the problem Michael addresses. Ultimately it’s not about “the culture,” it’s about my neighbor.

      • Ben Carmack says

        Gee Mike, all this talk of “problems” with Seneca’s comments. Can’t you give it a rest and mind your own business?

        • Robert F says

          By commenting, Seneca is involving himself in the dialogue concerning how we are to conduct ourselves with our neighbors. He has opened up his door, and invited us in to talk with him; or, he has entered the Great Hall, and has involved himself in the general colloquy.

          But you know that, and you’re just playing a game now.

      • Christiane says

        Hi Chaplain Mike,
        on this theme, I found a quote that really amazed me about a famous old evangelical ‘culture warrior’ who was an avowed racist who, before he died, reported his transformation …….. you will be surprised by who he is. I was.

        ““I never had a battle in my heart, I’ve never faced one in my life, and I never thought I’d have to go through it, as I have these last several years. Nobody in this earth knew that was going on in my soul, but I came to the firm conclusion that I had to change. And this man who needs me, whoever he is, is my brother, and my hand is outstretched”

        (W.A. Criswell)

    • Speaking broadly,

      Who or what are you that your (generic) approval is warranted or necessary? By what authority do you speak?

      How does “I don’t approve of your lifestyle” make any lick of sense? What approval is necessary? How are you an authority in any sense? What sort of gatekeeper are you trying to be?

      “Culture” has been remarkably approving and disapproving of a variety of things for all history. There has always been an ebb and flow, and unique situations and considerations in different contexts and environments. There has *never* been a universal list of approvals/disapprovals.

      How can anyone’s ‘approval’ matter or mean anything at all.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > How can anyone’s ‘approval’ matter or mean anything at all.

        You are correct, individually it means almost nothing. Approval only matters Collectively; and it is sadly ironic that many who are otherwise thoroughly anti-institutionalism are willing act very Collectively to anti-endorse someone.

        The mantra of “stick to what you are FOR” can help a lot on this issue.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > BUT what if the culture NOW REQUIRES that you APPROVE of relationship

      And how exactly does it do that? Respectfully, this notion is BS.

      I hold dreadfully ‘orthodox’ views on human sexuality, and I walk every day in predominately Progressive / Left circles – and how often does this come up? Pretty rarely. This is a fight people pick, not one that is forced on them.

      • Actually it gets rather close to that.

        The former leader of the Liberal party in the UK, Tim Farron, was an evangelical Christian. He said, quite publicly, that he personally had difficulties with homosexual practice. Various media personalities piled in with comments like “this is 2017, not 1517”, and the party’s attempt to put forward its electoral agenda was reduced to nothing.

        This was not a man attempting to pick a fight – it was after all about practice rather than people (and I think there is a difference). It does give all the indications of people being unwilling to allow dissent.

    • Robert F says

      Senecagriggs, Could you give an example of how the culture has recently required you, or someone close to you who shares your view religious views, to give approval to relationships you disapprove of? What was the penalty threatened, or realized, for your refusal to so approve? Did you not give approval, and if so, how have you been punished for it by the culture? Or the law? Mere disapproval of your disapproval, even if expressed in a public forum, does not count as a cultural sanction against your views; people are entitled to their opinions, just like you.

    • Some of you can pick up your stones and throw them at me when I’m done typing, but I think you’re a bit too quick in dismissing Seneca’s point. Several days ago (in the Eugene Peterson post), That Other Jean asked the question, “How did condemnation of LGBT people become such an Evangelical shibboleth?” I replied that I think one reason was as a reaction to, and then an over-reaction to, the “being gay is okay” movement when it took on some in-your-face “you must see this OUR way” militancy. There is an element of militant activism in some liberal/progressive areas that raises the ire of those who don’t see things the same way. (Those of us who live in places like Seattle see it all the time; some of the stances I see the Seattle City Council take makes me think they’re a bunch of nut-jobs!)

      So, in defense of Seneca…Let’s face it, Christians aren’t alone in the “you must believe THIS” militancy.

      Now…what does that mean as a Christian? How should I act and behave when I’m faced with this? Should I draw lines in the sand and plant the flag of Truth on the Hill of God and fight, or should I act differently than this typical worldly approach?

      Love your neighbor.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > a bit too quick in dismissing Seneca’s point.

        I stand by my critique – because the fallacy here is that of Cherry Picking.

        Since when do Militants or Extremists define “The Culture”? They don’t. Saying some Identity Left screecher is “The Culture” is the same as saying Evangelicalism is The Church [false], Steve Bannon is Political Conservatism [false], or that Miley Cyrus is Popular Music [well …?].

        I’ve seen this chain a thousand times; what it really is is:
        (a) I want to condemn X
        (b) Assign contemptible objects A, B, & C to X
        (c) Justification for condemning X achieved!

        This is, as I said, BS.

        America has a fetish for booleanism [this-side | that-side] which makes assigning Categories to the Extremists feel natural. But doing so is nearly always a lie. The Extremes, wherever you choose to place them on whatever spectrum, are fractions of fractions.

        To give the Extremists the imprimatur of “The Culture”, “The Church”, etc… is both intellectually fallacious and it commits injury to civil society.

        If Steve Bannon [a horrible racist] = Republicanism how do I avoid Horrible Racist = My Neighbor With A Yard Sign For The Republican City Commissioner [*1]. If my neighbor is a horrible racist I’d feel the hesitation even to loan him my table saw; let’s be honest. How do we not end up there if you allow Extremists to be The Definition? This kind of BS is exactly how we got here.

        [*1] BTW, the candidate is black and a reasonable definition of Centrist; so it would also be ironic.

        > Christians aren’t alone in the “you must believe THIS” militancy

        Sure, but that truth doesn’t reallocate everyone else into the monolith of “The Culture”.

        Making sweeping condemnations of things will always sweep in a great number of people . . . and what does that accomplish? Besides making a lot of people feel condemned – which does accomplish something of its own.

        You cannot stand up and condemn “The Culture” without spraying condemnation juice onto a great number of people who are not even be aware of.

        • Rick Ro. says

          You folks don’t see your own hypocrisy! “I can readily dismiss Seneca because he’s unwilling to see the light!” If you don’t at least try to understand where he’s coming from and acknowledge his feelings on this issue, you’re just as bad as you claim he is! Walls continue to get built up, there’s no bridge-building, and no middle ground will ever be reached. All I read here was an immediate “It’s Seneca with his usual anti-gay crap” without the slightest bit of “Let me, for just a moment, try to figure out why he believes this.”

          You keep talking about “sweeping condemnations,” but here’s all he wrote:

          –> “BUT what if the culture NOW REQUIRES that you APPROVE of relationships other than the traditional and orthodox male-female relationships?”

          That’s not a condemnation, it’s one man’s serious question that I tried to examine rather than just immediately discard as most here have done. Sure, it’s the typical semi-fundamental evangelical strawman, but let’s not make sweeping allegations in response, else we’re no different.

          • “Let me, for just a moment, try to figure out why he believes this.”

            Maybe, broadly speaking, we already know? I’d like Seneca to weigh in on precisely why he personally believes this, but broadly speaking, it’s the exact same message/dog whistle we’ve heard before. Because we probably used to believe it as well and can easily point to where we got that messaging from.

            I will admit openly, I have trouble taking it as a serious question, because it seems the same persecution meme we’ve heard countless times before for years.

            I’m all for serious discussion! Let’s have one.

            • Rick Ro. says

              I know that several here have a sort of history with Seneca. It just felt that today that the door was shut too quickly on discussion, which makes us no better. If it plays out as most of you have previously experienced, well…at least we tried, which makes us slightly better…LOL…

              • Robert F says

                I asked Seneca a legitimate set of questions, which he has not answered. The ball is in his court; I await his response.

              • I don’t think the conversation can start with the topic. There has to be developed common ground and understanding first.

      • Open mind Ric is open only when we think the same way………… I’m not picking a fight but I think it’s right when one pushes hard one way and is not open to the other way only serves to preserve the fight. So there becomes no answer to a problem only continuation. I would never judge ones life style yet at the same time I do in that I don’t want it myself. Having done everything and anything I have a good idea of what I’m talking about. Yet I have seen God’s love I’ll just leave it to Him.

        Others think they stand on the same ground but they don’t because they have not laid claim to what they are. Having no experience they only share from an intellectual point of view.

      • Patrick Kyle says

        If I were to say, in polite company, that I have several gay friends whom I love, but that I think homosexual behavior and orientation are deeply disordered and wrong, what would people say to me? Indeed, this is really what I think. What would you say? Is it wrong for me to think this? Is it wrong when I see politicians and political organizations push the Gay agenda and pro gay legislation (Transgendered bathrooms, Gay Marriage), to vocally and at the ballot box oppose this agenda? When the sex ed at my childrens’ school teaches the technicalities and techniques of gay sex, am I wrong to disagree and speak out?

        • I’ll give you my answer Patrick or an answer. I’ve seen God’s love in many ways. Does He approve of every action we take. Wow that would be expecting a lot. There are probably things you have that he might not like. Just guessing. The ways of the world are lust of the eyes and lust of the flesh and these are not the ways Of Him.

          How many times have I seen open mind but in reality it is open only to what we think. I just try to stay in the place it won’t matter anyways in the near future and at that point it isn’t up to me. I have a right to think what I think too and I have experience that tells me certain things just aren’t for me and never were. You might already know it without having to put that to a test.

    • That Other Jean says

      Does the culture require that you approve of same sex relationships? Can you not simply ignore them, and look for the good you can find in people, whatever their orientation?

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Does the culture require that you approve of same sex relationships?


        Since leaving Evangelicalism I do not recall anyone ever once asking me to approve|sanction|endorse their relationship(s). Their relationships are theirs.

      • Christiane says

        People are so much more than their sexual orientation. I think that those who need someone else to ‘put down’ in order to feel justified are in more trouble than the ones they are tormenting.

    • Culture is also requiring us to live in debt, treat the environment like a disposable happy meal, and consider everybody Not Us to be the enemy. Where’s your righteous indignation about that?

      • (sarcasm on)

        But those would require me to look in the mirror! And then possibly admit I need to…dare I say it…CHANGE!

        No thanks. Easier to draw a line in the sand and plant the flag of Truth.

        (sarcasm off)

        • Burro [Mule] says

          OK, point taken.

          Minding your own business is something I can get behind. There is a real lack of this virtue.

          You have a spectrum stretching from benign neglect, through sullen compliance, into enthusiastic approval. Treating your neighbor well should be a given, but somewhere along the spectrum is the obligatory pinch of incense to the genius of Caesar. I think this is what Seneca is drawing your attention to.

          This is a complicated issue, but no-o-o-o-o-o! Moral fashion and the demands of the Zeitgeist rule the roost here.

          • Rick Ro. says

            I’m with you here, Mule. If we don’t see it as complicated, battle lines will continue to be drawn (by both sides) and we’ll never get anywhere.

          • Forgive me, but I don’t get the impression that Seneca was not exactly aiming for pointing out the complexities of the situation…

        • Adam Tauno Williams says

          (sarcasm on)
          Excellent! Now we can settle down to the important business of arguing about the design of the flag!
          (sarcasm off)

          • Rick Ro. says

            (argument mode on)

            The flag would certainly have, at its center, not the cross, but the male/female symbols linked together!

            And the motto:
            All Hail the One True Union of Man and Woman!!

            (argument mode off)

          • Burro [Mule] says

            The flag exists. thanks to my co-religionist Vladimir Vladimirovich.

            I love the Russians.

            • Rick Ro. says

              I think I’ve seen something similar on the rear windows of about a million SUVs here in ‘Murica.

    • Let me know when that happens.

  3. Thanks for these…great reminders….

  4. Again, this is the loneliness I experience w/my evangelical friends…can’t hear the call ‘to love my neighbor as myself’ cuz they’re too busy calling others names, etc.
    It’s sad.

  5. Adam Tauno Williams says

    “””I don’t have to accept or endorse anything to be his friend, neighbor or fellow human being.”””

    THIS! The entire logic of passive endorsement is woolly headed. As if my loaning my neighbor a hammer is a public Endorsement of his carpentry skills. It makes no sense; and somehow this tortured logic is applied with ludicrous selectivity without anyone pointing it out.

  6. Michael’s words are as powerful and relevant today as they were when written. More even.

    Problem is, few indeed are listening these days, at least in America.

    The culture warriors have their dream president now and are drunk with worldly power. Nothing good for the Kingdom was ever going to come from the culture war, but I never thought it would result in the levels of depravity and rationalization of gross sins that I see now. I really don’t consider much of white evangelicalism in America a part of the church anymore, not in any serious or meaningful way. It’s an aberration, a cult of power and exclusivity. Like a drug-addicted person who is no longer what they once were and doesn’t really want to be.

    God help us.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The culture warriors have their dream president now and are drunk with worldly power.

      Following and Marveling, saying “WHO IS LIKE UNTO THE TRUMP? WHO CAN STAND AGAINST HIM?”

      • Christiane says

        well, T fires and replaces Sessions and puts his own man in who will, of course, be ‘loyal’ and promptly fire Mueller,
        and at this point, I always wake up in a cold sweat because: nobody cares, NOBODY CARES

        falling down the rabbit hole last November was bad enough, but the rest of the nightmare is still unfolding and I am not in Kansas anymore

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          well, T fires and replaces Sessions and puts his own man in who will, of course, be ‘loyal’ and promptly fire Mueller,

          Appointing his own 12-year-old son to replace Mueller.

          And 81% of Evangelicals go “HAYYYYYYYYY-MENNNNNNN!”

    • –> “I really don’t consider much of white evangelicalism in America a part of the church anymore…”

      The problem is that THEY do, and they see themselves as the last bastion of hope for the church and America.

  7. “Indeed there are obscene things in the light and in the darkness; things that deserve destruction: — The exploitation of women for poor wages, the shameful degradation of minorities by the little lice who call themselves members of a ‘superior race’ and the deliberate machinations towards war. Nowhere among these genuine obscenities is there a place for the love shared by men and women. There are sins but love is not one of them and yet, of all the things that have been called sins, love has been the most punished and the most persecuted. Of all the beauties we know, the springtime of love is closest to paradise. And as all things pass, so love passes — too soon.

    This most exquisite and tender of human emotions, this little moment of eternity, should be free and unrestrained. It should not be bought and sold, chained and restricted until lovers, caught in the maelstrom of economics and laws, are hounded like criminals. What end is served and who profits by such cruelty? Only priests and lawyers. Let us adhere to a strict morality where the rights and happiness of our fellow man is concerned. Let us call our true sins by their right names and expiate them accordingly — but let our lovers go free. ”

    -Jack Parsons

    • Burro [Mule] says

      Nobody is objecting to two men or two women loving each other.
      There is a difference between love and sex.

      • And from where I’m sitting, the person who objects to the latter has zero moral, zero political, zero religious, zero secular, zero anything authority to dictate their preference, and zero power to execute that preference. By whose authority and by whose power do they have to back any of it up.

        No. Ones.


      • Ok, but the ultimate question here is whether the Church is expected and required by God to impose it’s moral views on the wider culture by force – even if they are true.

        • Rick Ro. says

          I think the counter-argument, or at least the counter-argument I’m wrestling with, is: What if the OTHER side is imposing THEIR moral view on the wider culture “by force”? (“by force”, meaning being imposed passive-aggressively by semi-militant liberals/progressives). I don’t think you can deny there’s some of that going on.

          • True, but does that then absolve the Church of its duty to NOT do things that way?

            • Rick Ro. says

              No. But as I said, you can’t deny what’s going and, humans being humans, I see how we Christians drift toward “worldly” responses. As has been pointed out, the issue is more complicated than often portrayed.

              Or maybe “Love your neighbor” is simpler than I’m making it. 😉

        • But the conversation has moved to “in-house.”

          The Eugene Peterson kerfuffle was about the same-sex marriage of two Christians.

          Minding our own business about the world/the culture is a fantastic idea. But now we are being approached, at our own doorstep, with these hard questions.

        • If that’s what’s the church is going to do then I will fight it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Because sex makes people stupid and Christians crazy.

      • And how will you be stopping them from having sex?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Religious Police, just like the Saudis?

          • It’s either that or, as Dan Savage has said, “You want to stop gay people from having sex? Is that your number one goal? Well, there’s a foolproof way to do it: *Encourage* them to adopt and foster children. Make it legally and financially easier. Talk it up, make it happen.”

  8. senecagriggs says
    • Townhall to me is not a reliable source of fair and balanced information. Especially with it’s cherry picked quotes and fear mongering. If that’s your source…I’m sorry, I can’t accept it.

      But let’s keep talking.

      • Actually…I’m done.

        I’m open to discussion when it’s reasonable and open and in good, fair spirit. I don’t know if this is anymore, as it seems this discussion and others just go in circles, not even talking past but just not talking anymore.

        Apologies for dragging it out.

  9. senecagriggs says

    C.M., out of curiosity does your Lutheran Church allow its facilities to be used by two people of the same sex who wish to marry? Does your church have a policy?

  10. senecagriggs says

    BTW, I’m under the impression Mr. Trump is fine with two people of the same sex getting married.

    • Rick Ro. says

      (sarcasm on)

      All Hail Trump!

      (sarcasm off)

    • Robert F says

      What does Trump have to do with this discussion? He’s irrelevant here, as he is in Congress.

    • His attitudes to the issue aren’t the problem under discussion here – evangelical attitudes are.

      • Christiane says

        have you noticed how evangelicals have embraced T’s attitudes big time:

        I have seen posts about our country’s new friend ‘Russia’ and I hope that this is not as wide-spread as I think it may be.

        • My wife has an interesting theory about that. Throughout the Cold War, there was a loud and repeated insistence that Godless Communism” was the enemy. The Russians were Godless Communists, therefore they were the enemy. Well, the Cold War (at least in the sense of a bipolar US vs USSR sense) is over. And the Russians are no longer “Godless Communists”. So… maybe they aren’t the Enemy anymore?

          The flaw in that line of reasoning is twofold – that “Godless Communism” is the ultimate marker of evil (granting that self-described Communist states were universally bad places to be), and that Russia has actually changed its authoritarian and aggressive policies in the post-Communist era.

  11. senecagriggs says

    C.M., I really am interested in your church’s policy about who can use the facilities for a marriage ceremony.

    • Sorry Seneca, I just had the single most crazy day I’ve ever had in hospice work and was unable to even check the blog most of the day.

      Our church policy right now as far as I know does not permit same-sex unions. I may be wrong about that, but I haven’t seen it happen. We’re in a pretty conservative area here.

      In the ELCA, this decision is left to each congregation to decide. And as I’ve outlined before here, the ELCA position still recognizes the unique place of heterosexual marriage and honors it as unique. It does, however, suggest that lifelong faithful unions between same sex couples is a new reality in our world that we must face. It encourages people to develop their own thought and conscience about such unions and to work as local congregations to come up with appropriate policies.

      And the only aspect of this debate that the ELCA social statement speaks to is that of committed, lifelong partnerships between same sex couples, and says that they should be held to the same ethics and morals of love and faithfulness as heterosexual couples.

  12. Ben Carmack says

    St. Paul disagrees with Michael Spencer’s second quote on “minding your business about your neighbor’s sins.”

    “You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I lived among you…how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house…

    “…For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God…Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.”

    The Apostle Paul. What a busybody. What a nincompoop. I guess he doesn’t understand GRACE. Would any of us, myself included, really want HIM as our pastor?

    • Rick Ro. says

      Paul didn’t attack the cultures where he found himself, he brought Jesus INTO them.

    • Ben Carmack says

      I have no idea how to respond to your comment. Have you read Acts 17?

      • Rick Ro. says

        Yes, I’m familiar with Acts 17, and to be honest, I don’t see Paul condemning their culture at all. In fact, if you look at the wording he uses in v22 and v23, I see him being very respectful of their culture.

        The Message paraphrase: ““It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.”

        Very respectful, in my mind, with absolutely ZERO attack on their culture. My paraphrase: “You folks are close to understanding! I see that you’re seekers! Good for you. Now, let me describe the REAL God, the one that you truly seek.”

        He then describes the one true God in v24-29, again addressing them very respectfully, in simple language related to their seeking hearts and minds.

        He does lay out some “rubber meets the road” in v30-31, but again…I don’t see this as an attack on their culture, it’s a call for personal life-change. That goes to the PERSON, not the culture.

        • Ben Carmack says

          St. Paul told the Athenians that they were ignorant of the one God. Imagine entering a university faculty lounge and announcing that everyone there was ignorant.

          After that Paul told them that the one God had made from one blood all nations on Earth. To Greeks, who thought of themselves as racially and culturally superior to everybody else, this was deeply counter-cultural, to say the least.

          “God has commanded all men everywhere to repent…”

          There’s no way to make that nice and acceptable.

    • Wait, that’s Paul talking about the culture, and not talking about the body of believers or local Jews he was with?

      • Ben Carmack says

        Try to keep to the point. My criticism is of the notion that it is somehow essential for Christians that we absolutely mind our own business and keep to ourselves about the sins we see others committing. Bear in mind, Michael made no distinctions in his post between the church and the world. I take him to be addressing both.

        Regardless, I’m not at fault for the studied ambiguity. Michael is.

    • AHEM.

      “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.'”

      Paul. I Corinthians 5:12-13

      What’s your answer to that?

      • Ben Carmack says

        Expelling the wicked person from among you means, at a bare minimum, that as church members we are to know each other’s business. Pastors have real authority to discipline and to remove people from their churches.

        When dealing with those outside the church, again, if you’re looking to Paul as a model, Paul was not shy about accusing his hearers of sin, and getting involved in their business. Take the guys who made idols to Diana in Ephesus. Paul was certainly involved in their business.

        It’s one thing for us to be afraid of teaching our neighbor God’s Law and Gospel. It’s another for us to impugn the character of others who do teach their neighbors Law and Gospel, accusing them of being unloving for doing so. To the contrary, hiding our light under a bushel is polar opposite of love for our neighbor, no matter how much we protest Pharisaically that we are loving our neighbor by not loving our neighbor.

        • Robert F says

          Paul was a leader. He intervened in certain situations as he saw fit; that is not a mandate for all Christians to intervene in their coreligionists personal business. As a non-fundamentalist, and one who believes that neither the Bible nor Paul are infallible or inerrant, I don’t see what Paul said or did in the pages of the New Testament as always providing a model for Christian behavior today, even for leaders. But even if the text is accepted as infallible and inerrant, it would only apply as a guide for leaders/clergy; what would result from the slavish following of such a model, however, would be a cult, in the pejorative definition of that word. The idea that we have personal and private matters that others should avoid prying into is, admittedly, an idea that has only found widespread acceptance in the modern world; it was a much rarer bird in ancient times. But it is nevertheless a societal advance, not just for the secular society but for Christian ones as well.

        • Robert F says

          Thinking that we can know our neighbor’s spiritual and moral state and needs based on a superficial exposure to their situation is arrogance of the highest sort. You know how you can tell the ill will of busybodies? When they are prevented from practicing being busybodies, they gossip instead.

          • Ben Carmack says

            Well, if minding our business is the highest good, that tacitly encouraged gossip. Technically, a gossip is minding his own business, not addressing the person directly.

            • Robert F says

              I expressed what I meant poorly. Let me put that a different way: When busybodies aren’t busying themselves with other people’s business, they are gossiping.

              Your reply is as foolish, or disingenuous, a piece of casuistry as I’ve ever seen. You know better.

          • Ben Carmack says

            And in any event, if the gossip is doing something wrong, you can’t address the gossip on Michael Spencer’s premises, because, you know, minding your own business.

        • Robert F says

          It amazes me that people who affirm the infallibility of scripture understand that to mean that Paul’s actions and words were always themselves infallible, and a sure guide to and model of how Christians should conduct themselves today. How do you get from the idea that the text infallibly and without error reports what Paul said and did, to the idea that what Paul said and did as reported in the pages of the NT was infallibly and without error correct? That attributes of God are imputed to Paul by such an understanding.

        • ” if you’re looking to Paul as a model, Paul was not shy about accusing his hearers of sin, and getting involved in their business. Take the guys who made idols to Diana in Ephesus. Paul was certainly involved in their business.”

          Actually, there’s no record in Acts of Paul directly confronting the idol-makers. THEY heard about Paul and his success in winning people from paganism, and had a conniption fit.

          The best example of what you suggest as Paul’s model is Romans 1, which culture warriors LOVE to take out of context. Paul was setting the culture warriors of his day up for a trap. He spends half a chapter detailing the perceived sins of the pagans – and IMMEDIATELY after they take the bait, he hits them with two chapters of “You hypocrites! YOU are guilty of exactly all the sins you love to accuse the pagans of!” Paul is infinitely more concerned with the problems IN the Church than the sins of the pagans outside it. And for every verse you claim for your model, I can muster two to counter it.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Romans 1 is a genre called a Decline Narrative. Any other Rabbi would have ended it with “For these are the things which the Goyim do”, but the Rabbi from Tarsus gives the ending a completely-unexpected one-eighty flip. (Just as that Rabbi from Nazareth did with his story of The Prodigal Son.)

            On other blogs, some lawyers commented that Paul’s Epistles are masterpieces of legal argument, presenting the opposition case at length only to torpedo it in the climax.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Actually, there’s no record in Acts of Paul directly confronting the idol-makers. THEY heard about Paul and his success in winning people from paganism, and had a conniption fit.

            Making his point indirectly and putting the onus on the idol-makers. Naturally flowing from the success in converting those away from the idol-makers instead of being unnaturally and deliberately forced.

          • Ben Carmack says

            Lots of heat from Eyeore the donkey, not much light.

            Acts 19 makes Paul a culture warrior who was involved in other people’s business. The preaching of the Gospel has cultural consequences. It isn’t merely an interior change of mind, but concrete changes in actions which lead to concrete changes in culture. Have you not read N.T. Wright? Are you some sort of Pietist?

            Acts 19:18-19: “And many who had belieed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totalled fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

            Book burning. Good gracious! How backward. How medieval. How gauche.

            Does the Gospel change culture? You bet. That means Christians are in the business of changing cultures. If you want Gnosticism, take Gnosticism, but don’t call yourself a Christian.

        • We’re not interested in your light.

      • Christiane says

        maybe Paul means ‘expel the judgemental ones ….. the finger-pointers . . . . . the Pharisees’ 🙂

  13. Seneca said: ‘BUT what if the culture NOW REQUIRES that you APPROVE of relationships other than the traditional and orthodox male-female relationships?

    I agree with now deceased Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau ‘there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation’ so to my mind it is not a Christians business.

    I can give you a case that highlights Senecas concerns, but it is not in the US. In Canada we legalized SSM in 2005. It seems to me that patterns in the USA are similar to here. We are 12 years on.Is it where you will head? Who knows.

    The province of Alberta is Canada’s bible belt. The government there has now ruled that ALL schools have gay-straight alliance clubs and have to have a staff member to act as a liaison. You can imagine that thrilled Christian schools.
    So Alberta has now ordered two Baptist schools to allow gay-straight alliances, as well as other Christian schools.

    The story is here:

    • Hmm…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Actually, this sounds like someone who’s been on the bottom in the past and has just gotten themselves on top. The tendency is to start throwing your weight around — “We’re the WINNING Sexual Orientation Now! Payback Time!”

  14. As a regular reader who makes only an occasional comment. I probably should keep quiet, but it comes across to me as if “Pile On Senecagriggs Day” rather prove his point. Have we forgotten how to be civil?

    • Robert F says

      Would you highlight where exactly the incivility is in the comments replying to Sencagriggs?

      • Hi Robert F. Thanks for reading and responding. I wasn’t referring to any specific comment or writer, just what came across to me as the general tenor of today’s discussion, and many other discussions all over the web (especially among us Christians of various perspectives). Thanks for listening and for seeking clarification.

        • I’m sorry. And it probably seems sudden and overwhelming because a lot of the discussion has been on Facebook for months.

          • Thank you, StuartB.

            • StuartB, I really and truly don’t know what has been on Facebook for months, weeks, or even days. I read a lot of blogs but I’m not on Facebook. That is a personal decision I made several years ago.

      • Robert, You need to check your huge ego at the door. You tend to talk down to those you don’t agree with. I appreciate your comments when you are open but often you use your replies in a ” I am smarter than you ” attitude.

        • Robert F says

          How was my reply in this thread, which was in the form of a request, talking down to Ric? Can you explain it to me, or give me an example where I do that on another thread?

    • A lot of it is frustration. Seneca loves to toss out pointed questions, but never actually offers much in the way of positive arguments for his position, or reasoned responses to our counterarguments. I truly dont mind having theological conservatives still commenting here – but it would be infinitely more useful if they would do more than just drop conversation stoppers instead of actually debating the points.

      • Rick Ro. says

        I hear what you’re saying. It’s similar the occasional atheists who drop by and toss their one line “there is no god” grenades, then leave. Annoying.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        That’s why Seneca’s gotten himself banned from some other blogs, including coming back under other names.

  15. So my point to all of you who have seemed to dog pile on Seneca and Ben is that perhaps they are the canary in the coal mine and can see where this might lead.

    I remember when they legalized SSM in Canada I said to someone ‘the battle is over and now some will come to possess the land’ and I am sad to say that seems to be the case. Some have not been content to say we now have gained our civil rights and lets move on. Instead they have moved on into saying the society must embrace it and teach it, even in schools public and private.

    Some have even gone back and taken reprisals against those who opposed SSM during the debate-mostly through public shaming, and in some cases attempt to persecute them as promoting hate speech.

    So I think its important to give these two their say. And if you want an idea of how things could go, just look north. I realize may raise the ire of some of some Canadians who post here, but this is how it is.

    • Robert F says

      I recognize that what you describe is a possibility here in the US. That doesn’t mean it’s what’s happening. I’ve asked Senecagriggs to relate an example of this happening to him, or someone close to him; he hasn’t replied. I’d be willing to hear from anyone else experiencing what you describe, Ken, here in the US. So far no takers.

      • I think that people involved in social justice issues often draw from others that are nearby, in other word the border between Canada and the US is quite porous with the flow of ideas and influences in the legal system.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          I remember Mule likening Social Justice Warrior types to New England Puritans — “seven times distilled down to eliminate any hint of God, leaving only the Righteousness and Moral Fury.” And if the Warriors can’t find a war, they start one.

      • Robert
        Wasn’t there recently a case of someone who was going to accept a high level position in a tech firm who was shot down because he opposed SSM in California or Washington some time ago?

        • Ok, that would be a counter example. May we see a link?

          • Patrick Kyle says

            The guy who created Mozilla Firefox (Brandon Eich?) was forced out as Ceo of his company when it came to light that he donated money to fight the initiative for gay marriage in California. I think the amount was $1000.

            • Would it be enough to say that Eich shouldn’t necessarily have been forced out?

              Or would admitting that just be Step 1 with Step 2 being, “Okay so he was right and therefore everything goes back to the way it was and god exists and hates gays and SSM is illegal again now”?

              • Patrick Kyle says

                This disproves the contention stated several times above that we are NOT required to tow the Culture’s line on Homosexuality. We obviously are, especially if we are in danger of losing jobs/careers/ businesses if we do not agree with the progressive view of LGBTQ rights.

                • No it doesn’t. It is legal to fire a gay person or refuse them an apartment or business service in 33 states. Stop your lies.

  16. Michael worked his, in the words of my dear late Irish grandmother, ‘Arse off ‘ to find kindness through the menagerie. I applaud him.

  17. seneca griggs says

    You’re the only one that will see this C.M. but here it is.


    One of my beefs with liberals is there insistence that nobody really has it in for Scripture following believers.

    Bull-shovelings I say.

    • Lies. You christians have ALL the power; you aren’t victims. You are noblemen in an empire. It is not our problem if you are disappointed in the quantity or quality of our groveling.

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