Saturday, June 30, 2012

Rush to Judgmentalism

One of the worst things about the current political atmosphere is the "rush to judgment" by one side when the opposition takes a position it does not like. (For my readers who want to read something spiritual and not political, hold on! My real point is spiritual.) By "rush to judgment" I mean how the motives of those who take a position are impugned by those on the other side.

If someone takes a position against affirmative action, for example, those in favor have often said that those who take such a position are racist. If this is not judgmentalism, I don't know what is. In fact, it is the worst form of judgmentalism, because it does not even involve an actual sin on the part of the person who is being judged.

Regular, old-fashioned judgmentalism is simply condemning someone who has sinned as if we were better than they are. We look at them as if they were not worthy of love or forgiveness. This is, at least, understandable. When someone does something evil, we are appalled by it. We hate it, but we have to make sure that we do not hate the sinner.

In our politics today, a person is often judged based on their views. Unfortunately, the same thing happens in the church. If someone espouses a particular view or theology, then they are often judged as evil or heretical. (I am not, of course, talking about actual heresy which is easily spotted.)

Two examples:

1. Replacement Theology. This is the view that the church has replaced Israel in the plan of God. The OT prophecies regarding Israel not yet fulfilled are being fulfilled in the church. Those who take this view do not believe that modern-day Israel is like biblical Israel. It is not the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel.

Dispensationalists take the opposite view. They see Israel and the church as separate entities in God's plan with modern-day Israel being a prophetic fulfillment. Hence, they are big supporters of the nation of Israel. (This is my position.)

However, it greatly distresses me when a dispensationalist calls replacement theologians "anti-Semitic". That is judging someone without knowing what is in their heart. Historically, there has been some anti-Semites among them, but that is not the basis of their theology. We should never assume that someone holds a particular view because their motives are evil.

2. Prosperity gospel. Years ago, I heard of a preacher who taught that God wished to prosper Christians financially. Immediately, I assumed that it was just a greed-driven theology. Then I actually listened to what was taught. I found that my assumptions were wrong. This preacher was not saying what I thought he was saying.
My judgment of him as 'greedy' had no basis in fact.

That does not mean that no prosperity preachers are greedy or have wrong motives. But it does not mean that I have no right to judge them without examining what they have to say. All deserve a fair hearing without pre-judgments.

I guess it is just (sinful) human nature to judge people who hold positions that we are strongly against. In recent years, I have heard harsh criticisms of many of this nation's founding fathers because some of the prominent ones were slaveholders. Some have said that we must conclude that the Constitution was only written to maintain the rights of rich, white men. Really? Does the actual document read that way? No. It is neither a racist or sexist document.

Let's quite making assumptions about those we disagree with. I know that wrong ideas can do a lot of harm. But we do not help the situation by judging those whose views we oppose. Harmful ideas are best done away with by dealing fairly with everyone and fairly with their ideas as well. Make a real argument without ad hominem attacks.

Don't just disagree without being disagreeable, but disagree without assuming that you know the motives of someone you do not know.

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