Again we are using the following resource as a launching pad to discuss topics raised by unbelievers. We are not actually addressing the author but the ideas raised in his work.
Gerstner, J. H. (2014). Reasons for Faith (pp. 214–225). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.
#1.The major faults which the world finds with professing Christians are three in number. First finds fault with some members as they are in themselves, hypocritical. Second, it finds fault with Christians in relation to one another, denominational. Third, it finds fault with Christians in relation to those outside the Church, “holier-than-thou.”
One of the things that believers must remember when they deal with the accusations and observations made by unbelievers is that the source for those accusations and observations come from a deceived mind, one that does not use or even know all the facts involved, or refuse to acknowledge all the facts involved. The unbeliever does not come from a position of complete knowledge or understanding of church people, the Bible or what God tells them to do. The unbeliever, and most believers, are not privy to the direct instructions God may impress upon his followers nor do they grasp the message of the Bible because they do not have the spirit of truth helping them.
So the believer should not react in an emotional manner or think that the unbeliever knows something they do not know. Nor should we be over-reactive, take these observations and accusations personally or get upset. We take it all in stride as we use the truth to deflect any injury that may come from the unbeliever’s words and use our divine advantage to correctly address these issues.
#2.Now there is much here which the Church must confess. She cannot deny that there are hypocrites in her communion. Neither can she deny that some of them she should have kept out in the first place, had she been diligent about her Lord’s business. And there are many that she could have removed, had she been sufficiently concerned for the honor of Jesus Christ, which she professes to desire more than all else. Furthermore, she must confess that the presence of hypocrites is a cogent argument against her. The world may be expected to judge the value of the Church from the products of her evangelism, and if these are the products, her cause does not look good. And the Church cannot contest the fact that there are many outside her communion who seem to be more Christian than many inside it. She must also grant that if the world is producing better persons than the Church, there is prima-facie evidence that the Church has lost its savor and is henceforth good for nothing but to be “cast out and trodden under foot of men.”
Yes there are hypocrites in the church. It is a fact we must admit to as no one is perfect nor follows God’s word correctly. Sadly too many believers and unbelievers expect perfection from very imperfect people and that assumption leads too many of those two groups to come to the wrong conclusion about the church and its work for Jesus.
I will disagree with is statement about the ‘product of the church is evangelism’ because that is not what unbelievers look to when making their accusations and observations. They look at certain biblical passages that they do not understand and hold the believer to their idea of what God is saying and not to what God actually said to do in those verses.
The world is not producing better people than the church because those outside of the church may not be saved and at out of their sinful nature, while many in the church may not be saved and continue to act out of their sinful nature. Many lead an ethical and good life but that classification comes from a secular human definition and not from God’s divine infallible defining of what is or isn’t good and ethical.
The church hasn’t ‘lost its savor’ it is not evaluated correctly by the secular world. Too many believers wrongly accept the secular world’s analysis and that is where they go wrong.
#3. the claim that there is an abundance of hypocrites in the Church is probably exaggerated. We suspect that so much is made of them because they stand out so conspicuously. This may very well be a backhanded compliment to the Church. We suppose that if the Church were actually overrun with false pretenders, the world would simply dismiss her from consideration rather than taking the trouble to level such a charge against her
He makes a good point and what we are going to add is that unbelievers do not accept the idea that believers are in different stages of spiritual growth and think that believers become perfect from the moment of conversion. Nothing is further from the truth as believers are faced with attacks and temptations from evil and cannot always withstand those attacks. Evil works hardest on believers because he does not have to worry about those who do not believe. He already has the latter and he wants the former back in his clutches.
Believers are not infallible and will make mistakes which is why grace, mercy, forgiveness exist. Immature Christians will act and speak differently than more mature believers thus to paint everyone with the same broad brush is unfair and shows a lack on the part of the unbeliever when they do this. There are a variety if reasons why it seems that there are hypocrites in the church and unbelievers, ad sadly, many believers do not accept those reasons and apply them to their analysis of the church.
#4.The world also finds fault with the Church in its internal relations, that is, its denominationalism. It is argued that Christians do not love one another but rival and divide from one another sometimes out of actual hatred. Furthermore, how could these churches have the truth of God and be so diverse in their understanding of it? Are there not several hundred different denominations in the United States alone?
That author provides a very good explanation to counter this point but it is too long to place here. Denominations exist because people cannot agree. We will just say that this does not mean they are all wrong or missing out on heaven, it just means that they are not listening to the Holy Spirit and not following him to the truth. If all believers were then there would be vastly fewer denominations in the world and we could recognize false teachers and teachings much easier.
#5.The third and last charge against Christians which we will consider is that they are so often “holier-than-thou’s.” They feel and act as if they were superior to other people. They draw their skirts about them and keep at a distance from others for fear of contamination. They enjoy making other people miserable and are naturally inclined to throw a wet blanket on anything which has any pleasure in it. “Thou shalt not” is their motto, and being around them is distinctly depressing.
There is a bad ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude but there is also a good one and the latter does make true believers holier than thou because they are holier than thou. It is just a fact of the spiritual life as not everyone grows spiritually at the same rate, the same time or in the same areas of life. I highly doubt most of us would meet the levels of holiness the original apostles reached so yes there are different degrees of holiness and what level people reach is up to them.
Doing ‘thou shalt not…’ is not a measure of holiness all of the time which is why wisdom and understanding exist. We need to evaluate what others do better and with the right tools and attitude. A proper and correct explanation goes a long ways in helping people understand why something is wrong. Understanding and wisdom aid us in how we approach the situation and handle it.
Yes the church has a lot of shortcomings but then the church never advertised that it was perfect. They preach that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are perfect and that its members need grace, mercy and forgiveness. It also proclaim that no one is good enough to make it to heaven and that we all need a savior. The church is filled with fallible, mistake prone people and an extra measure of patience and understanding is needed by all to see past the mistakes and have a clear vision of what is involved in being a Christian.
Unbelievers do not practice the instruction, ‘remove the beam from your own eye’ thus their vision of the church is clouded and misleading. We do need to focus on our spiritual growth and maturity to make the church better and the truth easier to see. That goes without question, the church does need improving but we improve God’s way not the world’s, and we need to do this by following God not the secular world.