Category Archives: Quotes

Taking St. Francis too literally

St. Francis’ saying that Christians should “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words” is terrific, except for three things:

  1. He didn’t really say it.
  2. He didn’t really live it (he used words, a lot).
  3. Even if he said it and lived it, it is only accurate if used as hyperbole.

I didn’t realize until recently that he probably didn’t even say those words, so I wanted to note that while re-publishing this piece from 2006.  I hear that quote far too often, and typically used as a reason not to use words to share the Gospel.  Bad idea.

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Original post

I always appreciated St. Francis of Assisi’s famous quote: “Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”  To me, that means that our lives should reflect our faith in Christ.   It reminds me of the exercise where you ask, “If I were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me?”  We all still sin, but ideally when someone learns I am a Christian he doesn’t say, “Really?!  I had no idea.”

But either I misunderstood St. Francis’ meaning or others are taking him too literally, because I often hear this phrase used as an excuse not to use words to evangelize.  The implication is that we can bear witness to the Gospel with actions alone.  I see a few flaws with that reasoning.

  • No one is so good that they don’t have to use words.
  • St. Francis still used words to share the Gospel.
  • The early church spread using words (check out the book of Acts).
  • Most importantly, Jesus used words to share the Gospel.
  • The Bible is God’s Word and we are told to use it.  Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
  • Even if you are Marcel Marceau, you probably aren’t good enough at miming to present the Roman Road Gospel verses without words (i.e., Romans 3:23, 6:23, 10:9, etc.).

Our actions can speak volumes and should be in concert with our words, but we need to be prepared with words as well.

1 Peter 3:15-16 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

I heard of one guy who used the “I don’t need words to evangelize” philosophy for many years without converting anyone.  Finally, one person recognized that there was something dramatically different and better about the man’s life and said, “You’re a vegetarian, too, aren’t you?”  The man realized he needed to be a little more specific about the source of joy in his life.

As the saying goes, words without deeds are as ineffective as deeds without words.

Quote of the day – Forbes on philanthropy

money.jpgI heartily endorse this perspective on philanthropy made by Forbes back in 1917.  They re-ran it as part of a 90th anniversary issue.

Too few millionaires who aspire to win fame as philanthropists begin at home, among their own workers.  To grind employees and then donate a million dollars to perpetuate his name is not a particularly laudable record for any man to live or to leave behind him.  Of course, it is more spectacular, it makes more of a splash to do the grandiose act in sight of all men, where it will be read of and talked of.  But it is rather a pitiable form of philanthropy.  Individuals like George Eastman and John N. Patterson, both employing thousands of men, who take deep personal interest in the happiness of their workers and spend money freely in furtherance of it, will by and by come into their own.

I might add that gaining your money via dishonest competition would fall into the same category. 

Treating employees right (and everyone else, for that matter) isn’t a barrier to long-term success, it is a catalyst.

Quote of the day: “I thought creationists were monsters, until I married one”

Loving the enemy is an interesting Newsweek article by someone candidly confessing that she had unfairly stereotyped those who believe God created the universe. 

Before Rob, I hadn’t known any creationists. I assumed that they were people who believed in the Bible more than in scientific data, probably out of stupidity. Whenever I imagined what a creationist might look like, he or she was always standing up on a podium, passing judgment on all evolutionists, condemning them as nonbelievers and scorning them with hateful words. I wasn’t sure where these people lived, but I figured it was probably down South somewhere, or in the Midwest. Surely I’d never have to interact with any of them.

Oddly, she hadn’t met anyone who fulfilled her stereotype but she held it rather firmly.  I wonder where she picked it up?  It couldn’t have been from our public schools, the media or the entertainment industry, because they are all about accuracy, tolerance and fairness. 

Seriously, kudos to her for being open to new information.  Hopefully she’ll keep asking questions and will think about how she came to her conclusions.  And at least she is actively attending a church, unlike her “fundamentalist, creationist” husband.

I’m not sure which is worse . . .

. . . the fact that I had to send an email reminding our Discipleship Committee that we have a false teacher leading a Sunday School class (and other classes) or that the only response I got from fifteen recipients was from one person who wrote “Merry Christmas.” 

Here’s the relevant part of what I sent:

Thanks for your leadership this year.  I think the team was very active and made a lot of progress.I have a few suggestions for next year’s [Discipleship Committee] team:

1. Have some kind of litmus test for Sunday School and Bible Study teachers regarding the essentials of the faith.  We have at least one Sunday School teacher who denies most or all of the essentials, teaches doctrine that opposes the Book of Discipline, and more.  I know Jesus warned that we would always have to fight false teachers, but once they are identified we need a method to correct the teachings or remove them from any position of influence.  LUMC is flourishing, in general, and we have a superior set of pastors.  But we must remain vigilant as we grow or more false teachings will creep in.

Here’s a quote from John Wesley:

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.

Wesley was right.  We’ve left sound doctrine and lost spirit and discipline in many parts of the Methodist Church.  Lots of people are working hard to reclaim them.  It is a church-by-church battle.

Great quote on multiculturalism

Sir Charles Napier, a British general in India, said the following when Hindus complained about the prohibition on suttee (widow burning):

You say that it is your custom to burn widows.  Very well.  We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them.  Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows.  You may follow your custom.  And then we will follow ours. 

Most cultures contribute some good things to the world, but some cultures are better than others.  Despite what the truth-is-relative postmodern crowd says, some things are always wrong. 

(Foolish) Quote of the day

Katharine Jefferts Schori is the new Episcopal denomination’s presiding bishop.  When Time asked, “Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?” Schori said:

We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine.  But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

That would be a foolish thing to say for any Christian.  But for a top leader of a major denomination to say it is just incredible. 

We aren’t assuming Jesus is the only way, as Schori says.  God was quite explicit in his Word, noting at least 100 times that Jesus is the only way (page down for more on Jesus being the only way).  So if anyone put God in a box it was God himself.  If she doesn’t find the Bible to be a reliable source of information about Jesus, I’m not sure where she draws her conclusions about him or why she would be qualified to lead a Christian organization.

I wonder what the bishop would say to persecuted Christians around the world.  Would she tell them to stay the course and suffer for their faith?  That would seem to be inconsistent with her views.  Shouldn’t everyone just conform to their local religious practices if there are so many other vehicles to the divine?  It would be more consistent with her worldview to send missionaries to convert people from Christianity to their local religion so they won’t suffer needlessly. 

Does she think all religions are vehicles to the divine?  If not, how does she determine which are valid?   The Bible claims that Jesus is the only way, so that couldn’t be her source of information. 

And note how she misses the good news of Jesus exclusivity.  There’s a reason they call it the Gospel.  We were spiritually dead without him, and He is our only hope of salvation.  It isn’t bad news that there is only one way, it is the greatest news that there is a way at all. 

Another perspective:

Charlotte Allen, author of The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus, said the Episcopal Church is “disintegrating,” and Schori’s election hurts even more.  Allen said Schori “voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the [general convention] and invited former Newark, New Jersey, bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ’s divinity, to address her priests.”

More on her un-Biblical views here.

Quote of the day

I really appreciated this quote, because it speaks volumes about the wrong assumptions people often make when criticizing “Christianity.”  For what they are criticizing is not behavior that Christ taught, but behavior that is often the opposite of what Christ taught.  In addition, the “good” things about secularism nearly always overlap with Christian principles.   

Secularism looks best when secularists live like Christians ought to, but in a way that is inconsistent with their secularism, and Christianity looks worst when so-called Christians live consistent with secularist principles.

Greg Koukl, Stand To Reason Podcast

Quote of the day

From the inaugural issue of Salvo magazine (great stuff – check it out!):

From Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins: “Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behavior.  As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics.  When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it.  We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.”  Dawkins pointedly adds that an “especially warped and disgusting application of the flawed concept of retribution is Christian crucifixion as ‘atonement’ for ‘sin.'”

His premise appears to be that we have no souls and that all actions are governed by physical or chemical reactions. 

First he claims that retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with science.  What is his source of truth for that?  According to his worldview, there is no God, so anything that exists must be compatible with science.  How else could it exist? 

Then he implies that people malfunction morally and that we should aim to fix it as we would a computer.  What is his standard to determine what a malfunction is?  What is his standard to say that that anything is “warped and disgusting?” 

Equally incoherent in light of his view that all human behavior is driven by mechanical processes are his assertions that religion is “The Root of all Evil” (his documentary) and his labeling of “various religious individuals as fools, demonical or mad.”

Dawkins gets an A+ for being honest about where his materialist philosophy logically leads, but an F for logic and coherence. 

Quote of the day – Tolerance – revised and expanded!

OK, it turns out the original quote was out of context (Hat tip: Alan, editor-in-chief).  I can’t remember if the source I got it from had it out of context or if I misread it. Either way, my bad. 

But all is not lost.  The quote was still poor, just for different reasons.  And I didn’t even need the quote to make my original point; it was just a good catalyst.   

First, comments from Alan about the quote:

He is talking about academia, in general. The article, titled “One University, Under God” begins by examining the separation of church and state, and how that separation has changed over the last 15 years in politics. Then he moves to how the relationship between the academy and religion have also changed. He’s been talking about the fact that religion has always been an object of study in the academy and then he says….

Now, the original quote in bold plus the context around it:

“But it is one thing to take religion as an object of study and another to take religion seriously. To take religion seriously would be to regard it not as a phenomenon to be analyzed at arm’s length, but as a candidate for the truth. In liberal theory, however, the category of truth has been reserved for hypotheses that take their chances in the “marketplace of ideas.”

Religious establishments will typically resist the demand that basic tenets of doctrine be submitted to the test of deliberative reason. (The assertion that Christ is risen is not one for which evidence pro and con is adduced in a juridical setting.) That is why in 1915 the American Association of University Professors denied to church-affiliated institutions of higher learning the name of “university”; such institutions, it was stated, “do not, at least as regards one particular subject, accept the principles of freedom and inquiry.”

What that meant, in effect, was that in the name of the tolerant inclusion of all views in the academic mix, it was necessary to exclude views that did not honor tolerance as a first and guiding principle.

Walter Lippmann laid down the rule: “Reason and free inquiry can be neutral and tolerant only of those opinions which submit to the test of reason and inquiry.” And what do you do with “opinions” (a word that tells its own story) that do not submit? Well, you treat them as data and not as candidates for the truth. You teach the Bible as literature — that is, as a body of work whose value resides in its responsiveness to the techniques of (secular) literary analysis. Or you teach American Puritanism as a fascinating instance of a way of thinking we have moved beyond.”

Stanley Fish, “Chronicle of Higher Education”

His reasoning is flawed because he dogmatically states that religion cannot be a candidate for truth.  All religions make truth claims, many of which can be tested.  Christianity, for example, is historical and evidential.  Not everything can be verified, but by using the same criteria we apply to other historical works and events we can validate a great deal. 

For example, archeology has been called “the Bible’s best friend” (Note to self: do a post on that someday).  If you can find a historian that thinks the tomb wasn’t empty on Easter morning, I’d like to hear his reasoning (I’m not aware of any who make that claim).  There are at least six non-Biblical historical works that refer to Jesus, so we can say with confidence that we are dealing with a real person in history.  The quality and quantity of the New Testament manuscripts far exceeds that of any other works of antiquity.

His notion that Christianity doesn’t take its chances in the marketplace of ideas is simply wrong.  Christianity freely submits to the test of reason and inquiry.  Contrary to the myths, the Bible teaches us to think critically.  Here are a few off the top of my head:

  • We are to love God with our hearts, souls and minds.
  • In Acts 17:11, The Bereans were lauded for critically examining what Paul taught to determine if it was true.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:21: Test everything, hold onto the good.

And I still think the original quote sounds mushy regardless of the context.

Back to my original rant comments.  I’ll revisit the tolerance and postmodern topics later.

The classical view of tolerance was to respect people even when you disagreed with their ideas.  After all, you can only tolerate something if you disagree with it.  If you agree with it, there is nothing to tolerate.  The new, twisted definition of tolerance is to disrespect the people who hold different beliefs and the ideas they hold.  Which, of course, isn’t tolerance at all.  It is arrogance, pride, oppression and fear masquerading as tolerance.

Also see The Intolerance of Tolerance by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.. 

Quote of the day

This is one of my favorite quotes. We all have talents we were born with and Christians are given spiritual gifts as well. It is OK to embrace and enjoy those gifts and to honor God with them.

God made me for a purpose and that purpose is China. But He also made me fast and when I run I feel His pleasure. To fail to run would be to hold Him in contempt. But to run is to honor Him.

Eric Liddell (Olympic Champion from “Chariots of Fire”)