An amusing and scathing take on the value of criticism in the church–as opposed to saying, “You shouldn’t criticize praise music/popular writers/mega-churches/people doing the Lord’s work”: “Talk Hard” by the late Internet Monk

Moving New Religions from the Fringes to Mainstream shows that we must critique these things, since many trends damaging to the witness of the Church have been allowed to go on, unchecked.

For example, says the writer, Philip Johnson,

Laity and pastors alike seem to be enamoured with Christian fiction, particularly novels that cast new religions and alternate spiritualities in the role of an identifiable social and spiritual enemy.

This observation is supported by the massive sales for Frank Peretti’s novels This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, and the Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

He refers to the plots of such works as propaganda, morality tales, McCarthyism.  He says that depicting new religions as “the source of Antichristic power” leads readers to not respect the followers of those religions, which damages our witness to them.

He also is disturbed that the attitudes of readers toward these religions are being “powerfully influenced by pop novels.”

This page also addresses courses you find in evangelical churches these days on how to evangelize, discipleship, etc.

For example, he complains that many of these courses have apparently not been “road-tested” with non-Christians who are not influenced by churches.  The courses give answers to questions that are important to Christians, but often have little in common with questions people are actually asking.

He also says that Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life program is a product of “Southern California Christian culture,” and does not work so well in other cultures.

I know what he means, because I have experienced a few of these courses.  For example, one course gave a lot of pat answers to a list of stock questions a non-Christian might ask, but these answers may not always work in the real world.

One stock question was, “But what about people who sincerely believe in their religion?”  The pat answer was, “You can be sincere, but sincerely wrong.”

This might work on some people.  But there are many people in this day of cynicism and alternative religions who would say to that, “Well, how do you know that you’re not sincerely wrong?”

Or, “That’s arrogant!”

Or, “My religion calls that attitude, morally reprehensible.”

Or, “I’m a Pagan, and you’re focusing on the path rather than the ultimate goal of religion.  The kind of person your religion makes you, is more important than which religion.”

The problem is getting into a logical argument over religion, which cannot be proved scientifically.  If you want an effective witness, then your life must be your most important tool.  Show that Christianity is different; don’t just use theological arguments, because a determined person can always find some way to disagree with them.

Here’s a more useful tool for witnessing to Pagans: “How to Share the Gospel with Pagans,” written by a Pagan.

DON’T use Chick Tracts.  The ignorance and paranoia in these tracts is appalling, as is the intolerance (see how Roman Catholics are treated).

They seem to have gotten their information about witches, Satanists, Dungeons & Dragons, etc.–

–from 700 Club episodes, Bob Larson, medieval propaganda, and various other questionable sources–

–rather than asking real, honest-to-goodness Wiccans etc.

If any of that depraved stuff described in the tracts does happen, it’s probably done by serial killers and rebellious teenagers who want to shock their parents.

It is not the practice of actual Wiccans to drink blood, sacrifice animals or babies, pledge allegiance to Satan, or any of that stuff.  For the truth, go here and here.

Also, some of the other tracts are, frankly, appalling: In the “Happy Halloween” tract, a child gets hit by a car and goes to Hell.  The tract about gays portrays ridiculous, stereotypical caricatures, and celebrates a child’s use of the word “queer.”  Various tracts about Roman Catholics say that they are going to Hell, too.

Any D&D gamer can tell you that “Dark Dungeons” has nothing to do with actual Dungeons and Dragons games.  They are not a “gateway drug” into real witchcraft.

How can you make an honest convert through fear and misinformation?

I was shocked one day to discover that we had one of these tracts in our house, the “Who, Me?” tract.  It seemed innocent enough, but its identity as a Chick Tract makes it worthy of Gehenna (the burning trash heap).  It was given to us by an evangelical minister as a tool.  I can only hope he was not aware of the more ridiculous Chick Tracts.

The Religious Tolerance site also has articles on practically any other religion you might think of, such as Satanism.  Articles on Satanic Ritual Abuse are here.  You can research the truth so that you can witness with knowledge and respect, such as the Apostle Paul did.

Evangelicals have gotten a bad name among the followers of alternative religions because many have tried to convert without knowledge or respect, trying to scare with Hell rather than appealing to one’s desire to connect with deity.  This hinders the work of Christ.

Here is an Orthodox perspective on the absolute necessity of religious tolerance, despite our belief that Orthodoxy is true.  The reason: We must not bring injustice on others.

My own feelings: We must be tolerant of and respect other people and their religious beliefs.  Tolerance does not mean that you must adopt other beliefs or say that they are correct.  It just means respecting that other people have the right to think differently than you, even if you believe they’re wrong.

Written between probably 2005 and 2006

Index to my theology/church opinion pages:

Page 1:

Tithing 
End Times and Christian Zionism 
God’s Purpose/Supremacy of God Doctrine 
Cat and Dog Theology 
Raising One’s Hands in Worship 
Christian Music 
On the “still, small voice” and Charismatic sign gifts
On church buildings 
The Message Bible 
The Purpose-Driven Life 
The Relevance Doctrine, i.e. Marketing Churches to Seekers 
Republican Party 
Abortion Protests 
Creation 
The idea that God has someone in mind for you 
Literalism in Biblical interpretation
Miscellaneous 

Page 2:

Name it and Claim It Doctrine, Prosperity Doctrine, Faith-Formula Theology, Word-Faith Theology,  Positive Confession Theology, Health and Wealth Gospel, and whatever else they call it
More about Pat Robertson
Dr. Richard Eby and others who claim to have been to Heaven
Women in Marriage/the Church
Spiritual Abuse 
Other Resources 

Page 3:

Why do bad things happen?
Should we criticize our brethren’s artistic or evangelistic attempts?  Or, how should we evangelize, then?
Angels: Is “This Present Darkness” by Frank Peretti a divine revelation or fiction?
Halloween: Not the Devil’s Holiday!
Hell and the Nature of God 
Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? 
Is everybody going to Hell except Christians?
How could a loving God who prohibits murder, command the genocide of the Canaanite peoples? 
What about predestination?
Musings on Sin, Salvation and Discipleship 
An Ancient View which is in the Bible, yet new to the west–Uncreated Energies of God

Page 4:

Dialogues
The Didache 
Technical Virginity–i.e., how far should a Christian single go? 
Are Spiritual Marriages “real”?  (also in “Life” section, where it’s more likely to be updated) 
Does the Pill cause abortions, or is that just another weird Internet or extremist right-wing rumor?
What about Missional Churches, Simple Churches, Fluid Churches, Organic Churches, House Churches or Neighborhood Churches?
Is Wine from the Devil–or a Gift from God?
What is Worship? 
Evangelistic Trips to Already Christianized Countries
Fraternities, Sororities, Masonic Lodge 
Was Cassie Bernall a Martyr?
Some Awesome Things heard in the Lamentations Service (Good Friday evening) during Holy Week

Conversion Story

Phariseeism in the Church