Saturday, March 29, 2008


(I am having some font issues here. Hopefully I can get this legible soon.)

If you've ever tried your hand at telling someone that didn't already believe it that Jesus is the Son of God and that He loves them and died for them to be able to join Him in Heaven, you've probably had the charge of arrogance lobbed at you once or twice.

I'm currently in patchy email correspondence with one of our Starbucks customers whom we can call the "Milk Guy" because the milk or half-and-half at the condiment bar always runs out just before or just after he tries to put some in his venti coffee. We have, in our emails, briefly touched on this issue. (Not the milk issue. The Jesus issue.) In one email, I said,

If you really believe that there's a God, and that that God wants everyone to know Him/Her because S/He loves them, and that the completest way to do that is through getting to know Jesus, and that there are some pretty severe consequences for not, then there's probably something wrong with you if people's dismissal of Jesus doesn't make you cry from time to time.

The Milk Guy then charged me with using a lot of disclaimers, which just goes to show that trying to present a scenario which encourages the other person to put themselves in your shoes doesn't always work. (My point was that I do believe all that stuff and could he imagine what it would be like to be me, believing it? But all he seems to have gotten was the "if.")

He also, quite naturally, took umbrage with the "pretty severe consequences for not" line. I figured he might and almost didn't put it in there, because sometimes I can hardly believe Hell either, and in any case, I'm not sure that it is what we often think it is. But whatever it is, I don't want anyone I know to have to experience it.

He retorted that such an assumption has arrogance as its root, and that it automatically condemns most of humanity, and that it's not fair if someone overseas, due to lack of knowledge, ends up with the "severe consequences" just because they were born in the wrong place.

Back in the day ("the day" in this case being about three years ago when Antagonist-Andrew worked at our store and the two of us bickered about faith issues at work all day long and drove everybody--including ourselves--insane), I would have jumped on this as an invitation to rebut. However, the Milk Guy hasn't really asked what I think. And he has made it clear that he isnt' really comfortable talking about this stuff. Which makes me think that he might not even hear what I'm saying anyway. So I'm trying a new tack and just holding my peace for the moment.

However, I do have thoughts about this. Lots of thoughts. And so for lack of another audience, I have decided to spend the next post or so mulling them over. Feel free to issue your own responses, retorts and rebuttals to me, too.


Rhonda said...

Mr. Font Arrogant. I like that.

jeff said...

This is really tough stuff and very well said, Jenn.
You're post inspired one of my own. I ponder the idea of hell at
I'll share a few observations here on other things:
I think it's very wise to hold your piece. There's probably a more gentle way to state this truth that I've been wrestling with, but the simple fact of the matter is this:
We might in fact live in such a way as to incarnate Jesus. If we do, truly open seekers will notice and then they will eventually be open to discussion. If they do, we will impact them.
If they don't notice, there's not much we'll be able to do, because they've closed themselves off.
On the other hand, perhaps we don't incarnate Jesus. Maybe we simply claim to be Christians but aren't in fact living any differently. If this is the case, we really aren't qualified to testify to God's greatness; we don't in fact really know it. If we live this way, nobody will come to us looking for truth, but that's probably for the best. We wouldn't do much good as ambassadors of truth, anyway. (Please now that I write this with a deep sense of conviction... I'm not casting stones at anybody's walk with Jesus.)

Something I didn't really get as a seeker: everybody told me how broken I was and how much I needed Jesus. I don't know how anybody could have helped me understand this truth before I was ready. I didn't understand how broken I am, how holy God's expectations are.

It is tough. There is now way around it. There aren't many people people who claim to have figured out the truth for everybody. I can understand why an agnostic can accuse us of arrogance.
I wonder if it helps our cause to observe that we're not the only group to make claims that are wider than our own selves.
Somehow, the militant atheists manage to avoid the charge of being arrogant in our culture. I think if we can make the point without being whiny it might be convincing: nobody says Richard Dawkins, or Stephen Hawking are arrogant for claiming to know absolute truth for everybody. And their standing as scientists doesn't qualify them to "do" theology or philosophy any more than a well-trained theologion has the right to make scientific proclamations without doing his own homework. (This is part of my personal issue with some of the creationist crowd. There are areas where they simply haven't done there homework.) Anyway, I'm beginning to digress...

Jenn said...

Rhonda--come back and read the rest! ;)

Jeff--you mean it inspired TWO posts of your own? (heh heh). Thanks for these thoughts. I probably will touch on some of them in my next few musings. I really appreciate your deep thoughts. (Hmm. Sounds like a name of a blog . . . )

cmh said...

Yeah I can understand the arrogant argument...but everyone tries to convert someone to something usually because they think they're way would lead to a better lifestyle.

Al Gore's Inconvienent Truth sticks out...agree with him or not...the entire video is him trying to convert me to his way of thinking. His way of thinking is that the world would be better if we all were green minded...would I call him arrogant for trying to make the world better...probably not.

My thought on Christianity is you have a belief system that you thinks would make the world a better place, you can't force it on people, but you can be sad if people don't agree with you.

L.L. Barkat said...

I just like that you call him Milk Guy.

Craver Vii said...

Yes, I've been there, and I don't fight to convince anyone, because it is God who does the convincing, but I want so badly to say something like this...
Arrogance? Who is arrogant? Is it more arrogant to quit being enemies with God and finally believe what He says or to place one's own philosophy above the resurrected Christ's teachings?

Jenn said...

CMH--yeah--I pretty much think anything is a belief system, and it seems to me they're not much worth having if you DON'T care if other people hold the same one that you think makes the world a better place.

LL--I'm not sure HE knows that (unless he's visited my blog lately, which I doubt), but yes--we do. ;)

Craver--I guess it's hard for me to think of it as arrogant when someone doesn't actually RECOGNISE Jesus as Lord. I mean, it doesn't keep Him from being Lord, so I guess ontologically (sort of) it's arrogant, but I guess I don't find it surprising. If you don't recognise Him as Lord, of course you feel free to posit something else. However, your thinking IS going in a similar direction to mine. Stay tuned . . .