Attack of the Online “Prophets”


Ad hominem abusive.

If you don’t know what that means, here’s the ever-convenient Wikipedia with the answer:

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is a general category of fallacies in which a claim or argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the author of or the person presenting the claim or argument. Fallacious ad hominem reasoning is normally categorized as an informal fallacy, more precisely as a genetic fallacy,  a subcategory of fallacies of irrelevance. Ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, for example, when it relates to the credibility of statements of fact.
Wikipedia entry for ad hominem

I’ve been on the Internet from before it was the Internet. Back in my earlier days at Carnegie Mellon University, I would send emails to a friend at MIT using the old ARPANET defense network, which evolved into the modern Internet. How long ago was this? Well, the smiley emoticon was “invented” at CMU during my tenure as a student.

So, I’ve watched the Internet grow up.

Sad to say, but I think that as the Internet grew up, the people who used it didn’t. And this brings us back to that Latin phrase above and its definition.

I don’t know what has happened in recent years, but I’m seeing an increase in ad hominem attacks online. The worst part of this is the attacks often come from Christians.

A fictional, but true to form, example:

ScourgePerson A : “Yes, you need to love people in Jesus’ name, but you can’t excuse their sin. Love them, but call them to repentance too.”

Person B : “Clearly, you are a legalistic fool who doesn’t know the Lord. Jesus is love. Love is all that matters—and you would know that if you truly know Him. But you don’t. I bet a Pharisee like you has never loved anyone except yourself.”

That’s what passes for discourse and an engagement of ideas, and I’m seeing it more and more on Christian websites.

Beyond the fact of ad hominem‘s status as a logical fallacy unworthy of use in debates and discussions, it’s the faux prophetic attitude of people that bothers me greatly. Too many Christians are presuming to know the spiritual condition of another person with whom they converse online, but without having met that person or read anything else that person may have written. Instead, ad hominem attacks often come out at the first interaction.

At the risk of being accused of an ad hominem attack myself, I must say that this borders on divination. Really. Because the ad hominem user is not only NOT being loving toward a fellow believer, he or she is claiming to scry out the spiritual condition of the other person, as if doing a fortune teller’s “cold reading.”

Folks, we can’t do this. Ever.

Online discourse is in a race to the lowest common denominator. When people who claim to be Christians drop words like unbeliever or heretic almost as a reflex in reference to others online, they run a great risk of sin—and in a public space for lost people to note. We’re the light of the world. If our discourse is filled with negative “prophetic” statements about other people we engage in cyberspace, then that light becomes darkness. Then we scratch our heads when other people say, “No, I don’t want anything to do with your Jesus or your Christian religion.”

If we’re going to be online and discussing difficult topics, engage ideas. Challenge concepts. Dismantle erroneous thinking.

But don’t dismantle people. And for the sake of your own soul, don’t attempt to play diviner into someone else’s spiritual state, especially when that perceived foe states nothing online that would serve as fodder for such pronouncements.

The 10-Word Reason for America’s Troubles


Flag, America in distressI hear a lot of laments online about why America is in trouble as a nation. There’s a reason for that trouble, a remarkably simple one.  It’s found in this verse of the Bible:

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
—James 4:6b ESV

America, as a nation, is too proud. And while that would be enough, we Americans are not only proud, but we are proud of our sin. We parade sin everywhere. We call evil good and good evil. We establish new standards of depravity in our nation and sign wickedness into law. And we are proud of ourselves for doing so.

If Americans ever want to see our country become great again, we need to become humble. We need to move from taking pride in sin to being disgusted by it. We need to stop calling the worst atrocities good and start calling evil for what it truly is, evil.

If we don’t stop being proud—and especially of the depraved things we say, think, and do—then there will be no grace poured out by God upon America. Instead, we will find ourselves on the wrong side of an unwinnable war.

Because no one who opposes God wins. Ever.

View from a Glass House


So, how about that recent celebrity performance in the news?

Or that latest ghastly thing our government leaders did/said?

Or that unbelievable event that caused that stir among Christians that we’re all up in arms about?

Or that thing that happened there?

You know, that thing.

Notice how generic those questions are? They’re that way because not a day goes by when there isn’t some uproar from Christians about something that happened that made the news and is causing us to shake our heads and lament the age we live in.

While I may lack the ability to breathe the rarefied air at the altitude occupied by pundit Victor Davis Hanson, he nails the intellectual response to that recent celebrity performance in the news in his “An American Satyricon” post at the National Review. As always, please read the whole thing (though I offer no additional commentary on it).

I have only one general statement:

But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.
—2 Timothy 3:13 NLT

In other words, no matter what the latest buzz is, ho hum. Just another day in Babylon.

To all the Christians riled by the latest completely expected behavior from lost people, I ask this:

What are you doing concerning your own glass house?

If I have a beef with the contemporary Christian Church in America, it’s that we seem to be startlingly reflective about what other people are doing but almost never so about our own behavior. Broken glass cuts everyoneWe can wonder what kind of lousy father or mother some debauched former teen superstar might have had that led that fading star to commit whatever sins he/she committed, but then we scream at our kids on the way home from church and generally let ourselves off the hook for our own miserable taint.

I wish there were some way to get Christians in America and their self-appointed spiritual leaders to start looking in the mirror and asking what can be done about the person staring back. You know, that person who never goofs, never blows an interpretation of world events, never makes a hypocritical comment, and never does anything that requires amending, fixing, or apologies.

With an indignation right of hell, we do a smash-up job of judging the other guy, and I wish we would stop.

Lost people act like lost people. We should not be surprised.

When we SHOULD be surprised is when saved people act like lost people. And even then, the surprise shouldn’t be that great. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Our biggest problem is that we don’t respond appropriately to what causes our indignation.

Rather than join the masses by spouting off, do something almost no one ever does: pray instead. Rather than posting on Facebook about what some celebrity, government leader, or 15-minutes-of-fame-grabber did, pray. Pray for that person and for the situation. Pray that the holy and perfect light of Christ would dawn in that broken life and dismal circumstance. Do this every time instead of adding to the shrill discourse. Just pray and move on.

And after we’ve prayed, let us consider our own state as a creature of dust that is here one day and blown away by the breeze the next.

There’s a reason the eldest in the crowd dropped their stones and walked away first when confronted with words from Jesus regarding a terrified, guilty-as-sin adulterer. And yet that reason doesn’t seem to grab us anymore. We all think too highly of ourselves and our accumulated “wisdom.”

I wish there were more personal reflection in the American Church today. I wish we all could acknowledge our own glass house. I wish we all spent more time dealing with our own failings rather than concerning ourselves with another’s. I wish we would stop thinking that people who don’t know Jesus should act as if they do, especially when those who do know Him act as if they don’t.

But then, perhaps I should stop wishing and start praying.