Christian Criticism

Most agents to the Christian publishing world represent a variety of authors from a wide spectrum of theological thought, so we understandably have a little more forgiving attitude than others about differences between fellow believers.

There is one type of book I have always felt uncomfortable representing…one which criticizes a certain theological stand, a particular church group or even a specific person within the Christian community.

I am not talking about critiquing error, where cult-like activity or teaching is evident. Those things need to be identified and brought to light.

I am talking about “inside” discussions, which need to be civil personal discourses between believers, not literary artillery shells lobbed across the countryside at one another.

Face it, there are hundreds and thousands of churches and hundreds of different Christian perspectives prevalent in the United States alone simply because we can’t all agree on certain things. Some disagreements are relatively insignificant in the big picture.

On a personal level, over the years I’ve spoken with Christian leaders who are convinced they are right on everything and anyone who disagrees with them is going to hell. I recall having a discussion with one who asserted an Arminian theological approach was correct and Calvinists were not actually Christians at all.

Yikes.

As a personal defense mechanism against becoming bitter, I often try to envision conversations between God and certain people (even me) when arriving in heaven where God asks them why they saw the need to stir up so much trouble between their brothers and sisters when there were so many more important issues to be addressed.

“There were 3,000 unborn babies killed every day in the United States and you spent your time arguing about worship styles? I wish you had used the time I gave you better. But welcome home, all is forgiven.”

All right, maybe I shouldn’t be putting words into God’s mouth and will need to be held accountable for it when I reach my eternal home, but it is valid to make my point and hopefully make me a little less judgmental.

Of all the topics to cover in Christian books, criticizing another follower of Christ, another Christian church or another Christian perspective, is something which should probably be avoided.

I am not personally on the lookout for such books to represent.

Biblically speaking, if you have something against another, you confront them directly and begin a civil discourse, which should hopefully end in greater unity of perspective and purpose rather than a win/lose situation.

Christian writers of all kinds should give far greater weight to the New Testament epistle written by James than to any legal framework provided by a country constitution.  Legal freedom of the press provides no creative license to a Christ-following writer.

Looking at the world today, little question remains who is the real enemy…and it is not a fellow believer who thinks a little different theologically on matters of relative unimportance.

Christian writers need to step up the creativity and boldness, but direct the artillery at the one who prowls about looking to who he may devour, not the church across the country who has a different opinion than yours on global evangelism, worship styles or youth ministry.

 

22 Responses to Christian Criticism

  1. Avatar
    Judith Robl December 13, 2016 at 5:39 am #

    AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!!! Thank you, Dan, for putting this so clearly.

    I have often compared Christians to the little 1-inch mirror fragments on a disco ball. We each have our little inch of God that we are capable of understanding. But God is so much bigger than what we can understand.

    When we each share our inch of God’s light, we all get brighter, and our understanding is increased.

    When it comes to essentials, there is only one question that needs to be answered. It is the one Christ asked the disciples.

    “Who do you say that I am?”

    If the answer is “You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, and the Lord of my life”, you are on solid ground. Everything else is gingerbread.

    Christian brothers and sisters needn’t fight over gingerbread recipes.

  2. Avatar
    Marlene Bagnull December 13, 2016 at 7:19 am #

    Amen! Well said, Dan!

  3. Avatar
    Susan Wingate December 13, 2016 at 7:43 am #

    Great post, Dan. I can’t imagine the kinds of submissions you get over the course of even a week but your post gives me a little insight on the matter. Which also makes me thankful I’m a writer and not an agent! LOL. Anyway, thank you for taking a stand. It’s sort of a shame that you felt the need to write this. I’m happy you did though.

  4. Avatar
    Melissa Henderson December 13, 2016 at 7:44 am #

    Well said!!!

  5. Avatar
    Katie Powner December 13, 2016 at 7:54 am #

    My husband and I have been in full time ministry for over ten years, and we call the sort of squabbles mentioned above “first world problems.” Because only in the first world do we have the luxury of worrying about which color of new chairs to buy or whether to be pre- or post-trib.

  6. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser December 13, 2016 at 7:55 am #

    Great post.

    One of the surprising things I’ve encountered is a hostility to Catholics; writing from a Catholic perspective is an uphill road,

    I suspect it comes from two preconceptions –

    1) Catholics are largely noisy, messy and illiterate immigrants

    2) Catholics do what their priests tell them to do, and don’t NEED to read. (This I read in a piece by a thoughtful blogger who was convinced that since the church hierarchy was involved in ‘social justice’, the en bloc Catholic vote would sweep a certain candidate to our presidency. The dude hasn’t yet written part 2 of that story…I can hardly wait.

    An anecdote, if I may…a few years ago, when I was still working in Texas, my wife and I attended a Family Life marriage conference (in Las Vegas, of all places). One of the speakers decided to make a dismissive Catholic joke, and afterwards said, “Gee, I hope there aren’t any Catholics in the audience!”

    I stood up, and before my mortified wife could stop me, said, “Ah’m Catholic, Ah’m, from Texas, an’ you, sir, are a-fixin’ to meet Jesus.”

    • Avatar
      Judith Robl December 13, 2016 at 11:26 am #

      Andrew, I love it! Of course the ramifications of your embarrassing your wife will remain cloistered behind your closed doors. (snickering behind my hand)

  7. Avatar
    Rebekah Love Dorris December 13, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    “I am not talking about critiquing error, where cult-like activity or teaching is evident. Those things need to be identified and brought to light. I am talking about ‘inside’ discussions, which need to be civil personal discourses between believers, not literary artillery shells lobbed across the countryside at one another.”

    Boom goes the dynamite. Well spoken. God bless!

  8. Avatar
    Julie yuccas December 13, 2016 at 8:42 am #

    Bravo Dan! Well said!

  9. Avatar
    Norma Brumbaugh December 13, 2016 at 9:28 am #

    Thank you.

  10. Avatar
    Jay Payleitner December 13, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    I’m thinking of an old joke first told by Emo Phillips:

    Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

    He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

    He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

    Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

    • Dan Balow
      Dan Balow December 13, 2016 at 10:08 am #

      Now you got me started. No idea of the source:

      Man is stranded on deserted island for decades. Finally a rescue ship comes and encounters a city built by the stranded man…a nice home and many other buildings. Of course, he built a church as well.

      The rescuers noticed he built two churches and asked him about it. His response?

      “Oh, that’s the church I used to attend.”

      • Avatar
        Peter DeHaan December 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

        That one always makes me chuckle. Then I wince, because it could probably happen.

  11. Avatar
    Martha Rogers December 13, 2016 at 10:00 am #

    Amen and Amen! Very well said. Thank you, Dan.

  12. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka December 13, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    So well stated, Dan. I try to live with the mindset that I don’t need to major on the minors. “Minors” are those differences in how we understand certain aspects of Christianity, not central to the gospel. The “Major” is the gospel and salvation. People are going to disagree with some of my beliefs, and I will likely disagree with some of theirs. But, as long as we are in unity with what the gospel message is, and what salvation is, that is enough.

    Thanks for the reminder about the importance of grace, and of unity.

  13. Avatar
    Christine Henderson December 13, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    Well said, Dan. We need to focus on what is important. I get so frustrated listening to the news after this past election where they bemoan the election results. I wish I could shout for all to hear that this is our President pray for God’s wisdom and guidance for him. That’s what is the #1 priority.

  14. Avatar
    Beverly brooks December 13, 2016 at 9:08 pm #

    Wonderful post

  15. Avatar
    Lois Hudson December 15, 2016 at 1:28 pm #

    Thanks for this wise and balanced piece, Dan.
    I wish every Christian–author or not–could read it,
    digest it, and discipline their thinking along these lines.

    (I cringe at the use of singular Christian with “their”
    later in the sentence, but understand that usage is
    now acceptable!)

  16. Avatar
    Debby Willett December 16, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Sometimes it is difficult for Christians to remember ‘grace’ and ‘mercy’. Words typically not shared between Christians, even tho we should. We prefer to say to non-believers, The FATHER has grace and mercy for you if you will just …
    Believers forget that we need that same grace and mercy shed upon each other. It’s called …
    Love — Forgiveness — Peace
    But the greatest is of course, Love.
    When Christians reject other Christians simply ‘becuz’, they are doing a disservice to The LORD CHRIST JESUS Himself.
    HIS blood was not shed for just a few, but for all … past, present, and those yet to be born.
    If ya’ don’t like – or reject – those who are covered by HIS blood, then aren’t ya’ rejecting HIS blood that covered you?
    Just saying.

  17. Avatar
    Tisha Martin December 17, 2016 at 5:04 am #

    As a pastor once said, “Choose the hill you wanna die on, but better choose it carefully.”

  18. Avatar
    Jill June 26, 2017 at 12:24 am #

    Hi

    Joyce Meyer puts it amusingly when she says that on the day of judgement we won’t be asked if we are Presbyterian Calvinists or whatever and sent to separate locations.

    There are so many different point of view for so many different groups and then, for me, there are things I can’t believe in my “group” so that I spend my time looking on the internet for answers hence I came across your blog.

    I have found healing through listening to the word through Joyce Meyer and accepting Jesus into my life. Then I see a criticism of Joyce Meyer. Should I read it or ignore it?

    Is it true or a lie?

    Joyce says no one is 100 percent right.

    Jesus says about criticism: don’t. In your blog.

    When people say you will go to hell if you don’t think like me, is that a form of control – like a curse.

    I recently gave myself to god now I find I am bogged down with everything that is sinful. Sex outside marriage, being gay, etc and there are a multitude of demons either in me or waiting to claim me.

  19. Avatar
    Samuel August 14, 2017 at 10:41 pm #

    What about church elders/leaders/pastors lying and cheating ?
    Misuse of the church finances etc.
    Does this not call for strong criticism and punitive/corrective action.

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