Religious Arguments: 4 Reasons Not to Take the Bait

My daughter saves her deepest theological questions for bedtime. She doesn’t give a rip about theology, but she cares deeply about delaying bedtime. If Daddy is foolish enough to take the bait on Who made God-type questions, she wins. Ever though her greatest need is rest, she thinks her late-night allies are unsolvable religious questions. In the end, everyone ends up sleepy and confused.

So it is with following Jesus. Let’s talk about theology; let’s talk about church; let’s crusade against the high-profile fools of Christendom and expose them for charlatans–in fact, let’s do anything other than take the yoke of discipleship. Like stupid trolls arguing all night long about how best to cook a hobbit, we will be surprised when the morning takes us all.

I’m just wondering: have you ever seen anyone win a religious argument? The only reason a crowd gathers is simply to watch a good fight, never mind who wins.

The Apostle Paul, that great intellect of the first generation church, was capable of winning nearly any argument, but with each passing year, he lost interest in being God’s cop and gave himself more and more to being God’s herald. Consider this amazing trope from his letter to the Philippians:

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice. ~ Philippians 1:12-18

He actually rejoiced even as others tried to make his life more complicated! This passage is filled with marvels–and instruction–for every student of Jesus. Paul, thrown in prison because he declared the gospel, looks out from his house arrest in Rome to see and hear a wide variety of evangelists continuing his work. He knows that some are simply trying to pour gas on the fire of his persecution. These interlopers actually mean to do him harm, but Paul doesn’t care. He focuses on the gospel and delights that the message goes forth. Could you do that? Could you ignore your enemies and celebrate the sound of the Kingdom–even if it is sounded off-key?

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Ray Hollenbach
Ray Hollenbach, a Chicagoan, writes about faith and culture. His devotional book "50 Forgotten Days: A Journey Into the Age to Come" is available at Amazon.com He currently lives in central Kentucky, which is filled with faith and culture. He's also the author of of "The Impossible Mentor", a deep dive into the foundations of discipleship.