Judging JesusAugust 27, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
I want to have another look at Chuck Colson’s reply to Russell Glasser, because he says some interesting things about how we should and should not determine whether the Gospel is legitimate.
There are 1.9 billion Christians in the world today. You cannot judge Jesus Christ by the behavior of any one of them or any group of them, for that matter. You have to take Christ’s teachings as we have them, as they have been interpreted and understood through the years, and look at the overwhelming evidence of those who have obeyed as opposed to the evidence of those who did not.
Did you catch that? In one sentence he says that we can’t judge Jesus by the behavior of Christians, and in the very next sentence he tells us that we ought to do exactly that.
What Colson is demonstrating for us is the common Christian practice of rigged scorekeeping. Whenever something makes Christianity look good, that counts as a point. Anything that fails to make it look good, however, doesn’t count.
Of course there are hypocrites within the Church, but the point is we call them hypocrites because they are not acting consistently with the teachings of Christ. When we fail to abide by these teachings, when we fail to be peacemakers, when we fail to seek reconciliation, we need to repent before God.
The problem is, Jesus isn’t supposed to be merely a great teacher who set standards so high that nobody can possibly live up to them. That’s easy; anybody can be a perfectionist. The thing about Jesus is that he is supposed to be a God who enables people to live up to those higher standards. Indeed, the whole point of Colson’s repeated bragging about the results of his prison ministry is that it supposedly shows that God has the power to reform prisoners (except, of course, when He does not, which is why the statistics have to weed out the dropouts, the poor performers, the difficult cases, etc.).
This is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose system. If Christians are good, it’s supposed to count as evidence that God has the power to restrain poor choices and bad behavior by His children, but if Christians are not good, then it only shows that God will not interfere with free will (i.e. that He does not restrain poor choices and bad behavior). And ultimately, it all boils down to real people doing real things: whatever God gets credit for, it’s real people that do all the actual work.