As I read the posts on social media and the cultural commentary from all sides, it seems to me there are four primary heresies-- Four Horsemen of the Post-truth Apocalypse, to borrow an image from Revelation-- that are destroying authentic Christianity "from the inside out" during these days:
Recently I did a teaching on three ways of relating the universal Love of God to the particular work of Christ in a pluralistic culture: Exclusivism, Pluralism, and Inclusivism.
For Christians, these three ways of relating Christ to world religions is based on our understanding of what the Incarnation of Christ accomplished, and how we read the Biblical texts that point to this Incarnation event. As we read the Bible, a Key Interpretive Question is this: Which set of texts are given primacy in interpretation? Will we allow texts of limitation to interpret and restrict texts of universal Love and Salvation, or will we allow the universal texts to expand and fulfill the horizon of the texts of exclusion and limitation?
This is the best thought piece on the Religious Right, by a member of the Religious Right, that I have read in years (or watched). Russell Moore represents what is best in that tradition, and I found myself nodding in agreement more often than I frowned in disapproval. The whole thing is worth the hour of time invested in it. Yet, despite large swaths of my sympathy, there are three areas where I think he gets it wrong:
I am working on a teaching about modes of prayer in the spiritual life. I'm trying to come up with a way to help people find the presence of God in all kinds of activities, not just the verbal prayers we might pray alone or together. So, here is a chart I worked up for teaching, along with six rhyming words which describe six modes of prayer.
The definitive guide to crushing opponents on social media
Are you tired of stupid people clogging up you newsfeed with their inane ideas, stupid memes, and useless tirades? Do you want to destroy their stupidity without getting locked into endless battles of point-counterpoint? Well, if you desire to quickly and decisively win arguments on Facebook, comments sections, and other social media, just follow these five tried-and-true steps:
1. Go on someone else's Facebook wall, select a post you have problems with, and in no uncertain terms BOLDLY condemn it in unequivocal language, preferably while questioning the moral or intellectual ability of the person who posted it*.
2. If the original poster responds back with bluster, anger and offense, but without substantive argument, you have almost won. Keep repeating your assertions*, and questioning their abilities, to anger them until they explode in an ad hominem attack against you. At that point get "offended": Claim moral high ground, become righteously indignant, and use this as an example of how all people who disagree with you are uncivilized and hypocritical. You have just won Facebook.
3. If the original poster responds back with evidence and rational argumentation, DO NOT respond in kind*. Keep repeating your talking points, preferably in ALL CAPS. If the original poster begins to ignore you, you can safely assume you have won Facebook.
4. If the original poster ceases to be rational, and begins to respond with anger, go back to step 2.
5. If the original poster keeps responding with evidence and argumentation, back out of the argument with "Reverse-Offense". This is a tricky maneuver by which you claim that you have offended them, and you will back out of the argument "for their sake", so you don't "offend" them any more. While this is not a Facebook win, it is not a loss either. You may want to delete all evidence of what you said, leaving their comment tree looking like they were arguing with themselves. Which is kind of a win in itself.
*No matter what you do, never never never respond by attempting to use logic or rational argumentation (i.e. argument that proceeds in a linear fashion through interconnected points that imply one another, and do not logically contradict one another). This is a sure fire loosing strategy, as the difficulty level is just too high for most people to construct winning arguments that do not possess significant flaws in evidence or rational consistency. Thus, stick to talking points and assertions that are evidence free (or at least based on cherry picked evidence that only matches your interpretation) and bare no significant causal relationship to each other.
- Clearly define the terms and ideas used in your argument
- Pay attention to logical consistency between assertions made in your argument
- Double check if your cherry picked evidence fits with larger trends and other relevant evidence
- Admit you are in error, either in possibility or actuality
Above all, do not try to construct, offer, or suggest a solution to the problems you raise. That will cause you to loose, because it will provide a substantive solution for others to criticize. Solutions are like ideological billboards that say "Hey! Spray paint critical graffiti all over me!" Instead, stick with criticism, critique, and destruction of others' solutions. Always tear down and never build up: It is the only way to win at Facebook.
Now, everything said above is, of course, a parody. There is an alternative. And that is to deliberately, and even prayerfully, engage in disagreements in a manner that is intentional, evidence-based, and rational, in an effort to seek the Truth as we can best discern the Truth. We might even trust that God works through debates and arguments to lead us to a fuller knowledge of Truth. For the few and the worthy who make use of this alternative to pursue moral, intellectual and spiritual growth, this guide works in inverse: Just do the exact opposite of each of the steps outlined above.
You can win at Facebook, or you can strive for Truth. But you can't do both at the same time.
This summer a friend asked me a great question about how Evolution and Original Sin can relate to each other. To get to my answer, I must first do a little theological back filling to set the stage for the question. First, I accept evolution as the means by which God "creates" life, although I would prefer to say that evolution is the self-expression of infinite Divine potential in space and time. If I were to bet, I would bet that the universe is actually a multiverse, in which every universe exists that can actualize at least one unique good as it evolves. This seems to be the kind of reality that would best actualize God's infinite possibility, although what I'm about to say would work in a singular universe as well.
Idea: Let's stop politicizing the Holiday Season and wish people whatever greetings convey hospitality the best in the given circumstance. And if we feel the need to be exceedingly theologically correct, let's wish people "Happy Hanukkah" (since that is what Jesus celebrated this time of year, cf. John 10:22), or "Blessed Advent" (since that is what Jesus' Church has celebrated this time of year for the last 17 centuries), and save "Merry Christmas" for December 25th and 12 days after, since those are the actual days of Christmastide. Or, alternately, just wish people whatever Holiday greeting best conveys "loving your neighbor as yourself" in any particular circumstance. Since, after all, that idea of loving your neighbor was the most important thing to Jesus, and if we want to honor Jesus, perhaps we should do what he asked us to (cf. Matthew 22.35-40). With that in mind, have a blessed and fruitful Advent y'all!
Thanks for reading my incoherent babble. May strength and compassion and wisdom fill your life. // Nate.
This is a bunch of stuff to make us think hard about our incredible love affair with the God of the universe, our astounding infidelities against him, and his incredible grace to heal and restore us through Christ. Everything on this site is copyright © 1996-2015 by Nathan L. Bostian so if you use it, cite me... otherwise you break the 8th commandment, and make God unhappy. You can contact the author by posting a comment.