Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adoration That Offends

This appeared on the Desiring God Blog ( on April 22, 2009

(Author: Tyler Kenney)

There is no other name [than Jesus] by which men can be saved.
These words from Acts 4:12 filled the screen in worship as we sang "There Is No Other Name." And it struck me again how incredibly exclusive they are.
I thought to myself, "Man, what a strong thing to say! In singing this, I'm immediately dismissing every other religion in the world. If they could hear me, no doubt I'd offend billions of people."
Paul commands the Corinthians,
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:32-33)
So why would I sing something in worship to Christ that I know is causing others (who I want to be saved!) to be offended?
Here's why:
Offense is only one result of my singing, not the aim. I'm not singing in order to make other people upset. Nor am I trying to gloat over them or "seek my own advantage."
We sing "no other name" because it is the truth. And we sing it with joy because it glorifies our Savior. It is a beautiful expression of his worth and our love for him. And to refrain from singing it so as not to offend others would instead be an offense to him.
We show more love for others than we do for Christ if we don't say that his is the only name by which men can be saved. And that's wrong! Jesus is our first love.
We shouldn't stop singing humble, honest lyrics to our Savior that happen to offend others. But with our singing, we must also spread the good news that no one needs to remain offended. God is still gathering a choir of people reconciled to him from every tribe and tongue.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


Bill Maher, the comedian, takes his place among many to make his contribution to the criticism of religion by presenting Religulous. Rather than trying to be clever through the combination of "religion" and "ridiculous," Maher would have captured the totality of his point by aptly naming his documentary Ignorance: A Fool's Approach to Theology.

I have viewed many films, TV shows, and documentaries relating to religion and spiritual matters, but Religulous struck a nerve with me because this is the type of information that I see people blindly embracing as if it were full of facts. We'll come back to some of these errors in a moment.

Maher makes several statements throughout his presentation that provide the foundation of the points he is trying to make. Here are a few of them:

  • "Religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity"

  • "I am promoting doubt, that's my product; the other guys are selling certainty."

  • "How can smart people believe in things like a talking snake and the virgin birth?"

  • "Religion is a neurological disorder."

  • "The plain fact is: Religion must die for mankind to live."

  • "The only appropriate attitude about the big questions that is correct is doubt. Doubt is humble."

I found a VERY big discrepancy between this film's stated purpose and the content which pointed to a different purpose. As quoted above, he states that he is promoting doubt, but what he is actually doing is attacking, refuting, and, at most times, making a mockery of Christianity and those who say they are Christians and believe the Bible to be Truth. He says he is talking about all religions, but he spends over 80% of the movie bashing Christianity. I understand (not agree with) this approach, considering it has now become hip, cool, or trendy to criticize Christianity. Being a Christian myself, I am not surprised when I hear someone like Maher say the things he does. Why would a non-Christian believe in the foundational tenets of a belief system he does not adhere to? What does rattle me is when he speaks as if he has knowledge and authority on things he is obviously incorrect about, which I will touch on now.

Maher states that none of the gospel writers met Jesus. Hmmm. Let's see. It is true that not all of them met Jesus, but it is not true that none of them did. Yet, even the ones who did not meet Jesus had personal access to people who did. Matthew (also known as Levi in the gospels) was one of the twelve disciples (Mark 2;Luke 5). Mark (or John Mark) was a companion of Paul and Peter, so had access to their eyewitness testimony. Luke was a companion of Paul and would have spoken with him. (I believe that is very likely that Paul witnessed the trial and execution of Jesus, because he was a Pharisee at the time and was present for the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1. Paul also encountered the living Christ in Acts 9). According to scholars, John was most-likely written by John, one of the twelve disciples. Maher either did not do his research or has simply convinced himself of these errors. An important thing for Christians to pay attention to is the fact that standards for authenticity and accuracy are placed on the Bible that are not placed on any other ancient document. Every year hundreds of biographies are published that are based on the same type of eyewitness accounts as the gospels, yet they go unquestioned. Why is that? It is all about the nature of the content, not the accuracy of the accounts. If the Bible is based in fact and inspired by God, and I believe it is, it demands my attention and obedience. Maher, like millions of others, does not want to live for anything but self. Maher makes a big issue of the virgin birth by saying that only one gospel mentions it. Matthew and Luke both mention it, and Maher would benefit to know the importance of Luke choosing to include it. Maher says a good reporter would not miss something like a virgin birth. Well, the one gospel writer (Luke) that specifically says he did a thorough investigation of the facts chose to include it. That is just 2 examples of the ignorance oozing from this film. One more is up next.

No anti-Christian film would be complete without more promotion of homosexuality and an attempt to make anyone that disagrees with it look like an imbecile. Like all effective propoganda, he parades video clips of extremists, demonstrations with "God Hates Fags" signs and a lady saying that God Hates Them. Maher conveniently fails to mention that this approach is taken by a very small percentage of Christians. Let me note here that God does not hate homosexuals, but he does hate homosexuality as he does all sin, a point the minister tries to make in the film. In keeping with his ignorance, Maher promotes the false belief that homosexuals are born gay, which is simply a false claim and based on no reputable data, scientific included (Even if there was, it would not change anything, but that is another topic). Maher tries again to pretend he knows something about scripture when he says that "all the references against homosexuality are in the Old Testament. Jesus never mentioned it; why didn't he bring it up?" I agree that Jesus never mentioned it specifically, but why would he bring it up if he is speaking to people that already knew it was wrong? It was commonly understood as wrong so why spend unnecessary time on it. It is important to note, however, that when questioned about divorce, Jesus makes it clear in his reply that marriage is defined as male and female (read for yourself in Matthew 19). If there were other acceptable options (i.e. male-male or female-female), it seems to me that he probably would have mentioned it. Maher must have also forgotten about Romans 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 and the last time I looked , these were in the New Testament. The bottom line is this is just another part of his agenda.

Religulous, as expected, attacks Christianity on the basis of "science" which interestingly has become its own religion, so should come under the attack of Maher as well. Science, in the way it is being used in the current world to attempt to answer deep questions of origin, is Humanism in a lab coat holding a test tube over a Bunsen burner. When speaking with Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, Maher notes that the majority of scientists line up on the side opposing the creation account of Genesis. He says "there would have to be an enormous conspiracy between scientists of all disciplines and all different countries." Maher is on to something here and if he would like to pursue this hypothesis further, he might want to watch the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

I found many things lacking in this documentary, with the primary being the obvious absence of mainstream biblical evangelical scholars when discussing areas of theology. Maher knows that he would not be able to stand up under the scrutiny of Truth coming from the mouths of well educated Christians, people that would have an answer to his questions. Apart from Ken Ham, Maher has chosen people off the beaten path, people he could make look stupid (which he does through his mockery and insertion of subtitles during the interviews). Where are people like Ravi Zacharias and Stuart McAllister, intellectuals that regularly debate the truth of the gospel. There are countless others that could have provided stimulating conversation, but that is not what Maher wanted; he couldn't respond and would probably risk becoming a believer himself in the process.

What is bothersome to me regarding this film is the fact that people will watch this and actually believe it contains the Truth, when it actually pointing a direction that leads to destruction. People will actually forget that Bill Maher is a comedian.

One final note on the film. Maher ends with a statement that "the only appropriate attitude about the big questions [like what happens after we die] is doubt...and doubt is humble. The reason you don't know is because I don't know and you do not possess mental powers that I do not possess." It is ironic that if doubt is the only appropriate response and man must be humble, then why take 1 hour and 41 minutes to show how you are right and all religions are wrong. If you don't know, which Maher admits several times in his film, then it doesn't seem to be a posture of humility to me to say you do and there is only one response. Why is that more "tolerant" and humble than saying there is only one way to the Father? Watch the film, make your own decision. As for me, I think Religulous is ridiculous.