I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but we are on episode 192. 192, that’s pretty close to 200, and in some ways it doesn’t seem like it’s been all of that long. But I’m trying to figure out a way that we can kind of mark the passage of episode 200, and so I’ll probably do some book giveaways, so be on the lookout for that in about, I guess that would be seven or eight weeks, which actually seems a rather long way away, but nonetheless, in the history of this podcast it is coming pretty close. For those of you who have been along for this ride with me, thanks for staying, thanks for the encouragement and the episode ideas. It’s very helpful and I definitely appreciate it.
Today, let’s talk more about our Christian convictions and one of the most common objections, it seems like, to classical Christianity is that Christians are judgmental and you shouldn’t judge. Last week we talked about how a surprisingly large percentage of millennial Christians actually think you shouldn’t share your beliefs with the intent of having someone else come to believe the same thing you do. In other words, don’t evangelize. Isn’t that an interesting odd thing for a Christian to say, that we shouldn’t actually try to have people become Christians. But this week we’re going to talk about another interesting finding of that same Barna survey.
It’s that 40%, so slightly less than that 47% we just talked about, but 40% of millennial Christians think that if someone disagrees with you it means they are judging you. Isn’t this just kind of a very common view today, but it really quickly shuts down conversation. If you’re sharing your convictions and someone says you’re judgmental, most people, many people, will stop sharing. They don’t want to be thought of as judgmental. They don’t want to tarnish the name of Christ, and they don’t necessarily know how to respond, so they just kind of say, “uh” and they walk away, or they say, “no I’m not” and they can’t explain why, they can’t deal with the wrong idea that’s been put out into the conversation. So I want to talk about that today. Is it judgmental to disagree?
Now you’ll notice the question in the survey didn’t even say say someone is wrong, just simply disagree. It didn’t say it in harsh terms or call the person a name, no it was just simple disagreement equals judgment today. I think there’s something very dangerous there because as soon as we start labeling people with strong moral terms for simply holding a different perspective than we do, it really shuts down dialogue. This is what we’re seeing on social media. This is what we’re seeing in the news and so-called presidential debates, which are not real debates. We use names to shut people down so we don’t have to deal with their ideas. This has become programmed into us where even for people who maybe have good evidence and good arguments, when someone says something they don’t like it is really easy to start playing the man by calling them a name instead of playing the argument and addressing the ideas and the reasons that have been offered.
We don’t want to do that as Christians. We want to tear down arguments, we don’t want to tear down people. Calling names like judgmental and bigot and hateful, that’s not a helpful way to dialogue and it certainly is not anything modeled in scripture for the Christian. Let’s take this idea apart. Is it judgmental to disagree with someone? Well, the interesting thing about disagreement is that it’s mutual. You don’t have one person who says I disagree with the other and the other person is like I agree with you. Now maybe there are some very rare circumstances, but disagreement is a two way street. If one person disagrees with the other, most likely the other one disagrees with that other person too. Now does that mean everyone in the conversation is judgmental for disagreeing? I mean I guess that could be the case, but I don’t think that’s what the millennial Christians in the survey are trying to communicate.
I should have said this initially, but I said it last week. This isn’t one of those things where we’re just like dumping on millennials. It’s just an interesting finding of the survey that they actually had a very strongly different result on this question than many of the other age groups. We’re talking about the idea here. I’m not coming down and condemning millennials. That’s not my intent.
But, is it possible that disagreement is mutual and not judgmental? I don’t think people think about that. But isn’t that kind of what you would have to believe if you believed this, that if someone disagrees, they’re judging you? In any conversation where the millennial Christian is disagreeing with someone else, how come they are not judging that other person? I believe that’s probably what they’re thinking is the other person is judging me when we disagree, I’m not judging them, and yet that doesn’t work does it because disagreement is most often symmetrical.
But if it’s wrong to judge, is it also wrong to tell someone it’s wrong to judge? That’s kind of where this idea has to lead. If someone says disagreement is judgment and you tell them you shouldn’t be judgmental, which is the implied statement behind this, you don’t have to say it but I do think it’s implied and it’s often said, well then you’re judging too. As soon as you tell someone it’s wrong to judge, you have judged them. You’ve done the same thing you said that they shouldn’t do. You can’t carry this standard out for that reason either.
But millennials, among a couple other age groups and demographics, hold very strong moral views on some very central issues in our society today, issues by the way that people disagree about. They hold very strong views on the environment, in healthcare, on the border (heck most of America has a strong opinion on the border), politics in general, racial issues, all of these sorts of things millennials especially have very strong views on. Does that mean they are judgmental towards everyone who disagrees with them? I don’t think that’s what they intend to communicate. It seems like what is probably meant here, and I’m guessing admittedly, is they think everyone else is judging them. But remember, disagreement is a two way street, which means judgment would have to be mutual and a two way street also. But it’s not judgmental to have a very strong and differing view on the environment, or on healthcare, or on the border, or on politics, and so this view just further we see does not work.
I think there are a few reasons though that millennial Christians might hold this view that disagreement is judgment and that judgment by extension is wrong. The first honestly that comes to mind is this is the kind of cultural ethos that we live in today where people do honestly think disagreeing is hateful or bigoted, or simply wrong and judgmental. I think we have embodied that from our culture. We’ve kind of absorbed that and haven’t necessarily even realized it. Kind of like a frog that’s in a pot of water that’s slowly heated to a boil, and then suddenly the frog is being boiled alive. I think that’s what we often experience as Christians in our culture today if we are not careful. We are slowly acclimated to a changing culture and away from Biblical norms. That’s not good.
Now, so I do think that’s probably one of the main reasons behind this survey result, that people have adopted the world’s view of culture over and above a Biblical worldview, but when you bring this up people will actually sometimes go to the Bible to support what I believe, this is my opinions, is a view they’ve adopted from culture. So they use the Bible to support something they didn’t get to via the Bible. What they’ll often go to is Matthew 7. If you didn’t know, this is a chapter in the Bible that has two words in it, don’t judge, and then we move to chapter eight. No, that’s not really how it goes is it. Jesus says, “don’t judge, for by the standard you judge others you will be judged.” He goes on to say that “you should remove the plank in your eye so that you can remove the speck in your brother’s eye.” Jesus’s point here is not that judgment is wrong, it’s that it can be wrong if it’s hypocritical, if it’s not well intended, or if you are judging someone for doing something that you do unrepentantly. That’s what’s being spoken about here if we actually read and digest the words in Matthew 7.
We can’t just read two words and be done with it. The pattern of the New Testament shows us that making judgments, not being judgmental which is an attitude, but making judgments is actually something the Christian is required to do, even in the same chapter, in Matthew 7. Jesus goes on to say that the way is narrow that leads to salvation. In other words, Jesus himself is a judge, which is very contrary to how many people think of him. He sets the standards. Those that do not go on his prescribed way, or as he will say in John 14:6, that do not come to the father through him, they will not come to the father, they will not be saved because Jesus is a judge. Now he has in love provided a way for salvation, but nonetheless if you do not follow that way, you are justly under his judgment.
But more than that, in Matthew 7 Jesus tells us to be on the lookout for false teachers. What’s required to call someone a false teacher? Well at the very least a disagreement, but a judgment is actually required to come to a determination about what is right and what is wrong. That’s what a judgment is, a determination about what is right and what is wrong. Jesus tells us to do that in order to determine who is a false teacher. He also tells us to inspect the fruit on trees, and we will know good teaching and good lives and hearts by the fruit that we see in those lives. Inspecting fruit, calling it good or bad, requires making a judgment. Saying that you agree that such and such is good, and you disagree with the bad, or that you agree that the bad is actually bad.
The Bible is very consistent in telling us to make judgments. You can’t read the epistles, especially the pastoral epistles, and not see people being told to be on the lookout for false teachers, or not see Paul or other writers actually making judgment about people by name. We’re very uncomfortable with that today. I find that disturbing. If someone preaches today in the average evangelical church and they use a name of a false teacher who is alive today and preaches something that is a false gospel, more people will be offended that the person used a name than that the person preached a false gospel, at least that’s the kind of vocal feedback that often seems to be given. That should not be the case.
First and foremost, it’s a Biblical precedent. This is what Paul did. It’s also not loving for the shepherd not to tell the sheep about the wolf that’s on the other side of the field, or in our case today the wolf that comes into our houses through our smart phones and our TVs and our tablets. It’s irresponsible for a shepherd not to point out the false teachers that are probably influential in the life of the church. Now, it can also be really easy just to score talking points by harping on false teachers that are not influential to your people, or may not be influential to your people, but if you’re a shepherd and you know your sheep, you know the things that are troubling them. You know the people that may be preying on them, and so it’s irresponsible not to call out people by name if you think that they are leading the sheep astray.
Yet, like I said, for some reason today it’s the pastor who does that that is actually seen to be in the wrong by many people because oh well they’re being judgmental. They’re disagreeing right. Obviously they think the problem is stronger than that, but you’re disagreeing with this person by name, you shouldn’t do that. Well no you actually should. There’s Biblical precedent and exhortation to do that, but at a minimum, all of that to say the Bible is very comfortable with disagreement. The Bible disagrees with us. God judges us. Not in a judgmental way, not where he’s just bent on condemning us, but he in the Bible routinely, along with the gospel writers and everyone else in the Bible, presents a way that is right and hence a way that is wrong, and the Bible through the Holy Spirit disagrees with our conduct. That is how we’re brought to repentance, by an act of the spirit where we come to realize that God disagrees with us.
So, in the Christian life we disagree with each other when there is sin in someone’s life. We actually reason with them for their good to come back to what is good and holy. That’s church discipline broadly speaking, but it should just be the mark of Christian friendship where we see someone erring into sin and we try to pull them back for their good and for the good of the Christian community. There’s so much more we could say about this, but it also would just seem kind of redundant and just heaping onto the pile. That should be very clear. Disagreement is not judgmental. It’s not wrong. It’s not immoral. The whole idea that disagreement is judgment is an idea that no one who holds that idea actually carries out. I firmly believe that. Because disagreement is mutual, which would mean that judgment is mutual. It’s practically self-refuting, because you can’t tell someone they’re wrong to disagree with you or wrong to judge without disagreeing with them or judging them.
Millennials and most people today hold very strong views where we disagree with others, and we’re not being judgmental. It’s okay to disagree. Now you can disagree in a judgmental way, and we shouldn’t do that, but simple disagreement is not judgment. We’ve got to be prepared in conversations not to let people shut us down by saying we’re judgmental. We’ve got to be able to say well why am I judgmental, can you explain that to me. Well you’re disagreeing with them, you’re disagreeable. Well, I’m just curious here, when you disagree with me is that also judgment? If not, well what’s the difference. Now, just to clarify I don’t think you’re being judgmental, but I’m just curious why does the same standard not seem to apply to both of us. We can tease that out in questions and we should. We shouldn’t just let people shut us down when we can kind of get around that and continue to hopefully make our point.
Well I hope this has been helpful and I’ll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.