Criticistianity (Revisited)

Criticistianity (Critical Christians)
How to repent of a critical spirit
Robert Wurtz II

Why, then, do you criticize your brother? Or why do you despise your brother? For all of us will stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)

When Edward Bernays coined the term “public relations” and founded it’s industry, it is doubtful that many could foresee just how the feedback loops would create an opinion driven culture. Find out what the people want, compare that to what you’re doing, and make adjustments to please as many people as possible. Think about how often in any given day we are afforded opportunities to “rate” a service, give feedback or cast a vote based upon our personal judgment of something or someone. It’s as if the world is conditioning people to become expert faultfinders.  

The spirit of American Idol

What happens when this attitude begins to infiltrate the churches of God? Not having a proper definition to describe my answer I created one; Criticistianity. You will notice I simply combined criticize and Christianity; and what a foul mix. What a stench and rottenness in my ears! Yet the behavior is more vile yet. Why? Because we risk losing an essential part of ministry in the body of Christ all together. Christians measure other Christians contributions to the kingdom the same way the three judge panel measures the audition of a would be American idol. If that is not an abomination I don’t know what is. The people of God get set up for a worldly criticism from their own peers. It’s as if a believer may venture to come forward with their talent and rather than it being measured for its potential ministerial value- it is looked at through the critical eye of America’s Got Talent. Strike one! Strike two! Strike three.. your out! Ha ha ha ha ha! Goes the crowd and down goes another potential Peter, Paul, John, Steven or James. Laughed down and mocked by their own peers. I asked a young person recently why most of their peers won’t step out to minister; they replied, “Because they are too afraid they will be mocked or told what they done wrong afterwords.” 

Teaching Pragmatism

At some point in the last 50 years a sinister concept has came in to many circles. It has been fostered, in my view, by Christian television that has sought out the most beautiful singers, choirs and instrumentalists; the most eloquent, refined and articulate speakers to show-off to the world and the churches of God. We started producing performers rather than ministers. We needed to show the world that we had just as ‘good of talent’ as they do. So we started forging potential ministers into a worldly behavior and preference. Everything became as fake as a $3 bill. Pretty soon it didn’t matter if you were holy and living right — all that mattered is that you could perform. This is contrary to the church meetings that I remember as a child. I recall a day when men and women got up and preached and sang from the depths of their heart. It was powerful. I had a sense that the preacher believed what he preached and the singer meant what they were singing. Today that doesn’t seem to matter in the least. Its more about your stage presence and mannerisms. Strangely, its often about how cool your hair looks or how high of notes a man can hit during the song. This, in my view, can project a false and even soulish since of sincerity and power. It all ‘sounds’ powerful to those that never had a front row seat to the real thing. But I’m not fooled by the proverbial banana in the tailpipe. It is just sad that a whole generation of Christians have no idea what I’m talking about. Ironically, they likely would say that it is me that is critical. The world might be wanting players like Eli’s sons, but God is looking for pray-ers like Hannah’s son.  

If we are moving in an American Idol type construct, we will create the same thing American Idol creates: men and women made up to be IDOLs. It is what the program is designed to do. Think about it. It sets out to exalt men in the eyes of man. The more exalted the ‘teen idol’ is the more profitable the enterprise. This is an abomination to God and one example of something that best not be being practiced in the churches of God. 

Coolness or Holiness?

The all too often results? Sadly, some of the most lauded and popular, as has also happened from time to time in the Christian music world, the singer is found to have been in adultery, homosexuality or some other vice like alcoholism. They lose their contract and it becomes a huge scandal. Their singing was said to be ‘powerful’, but now there is chaos and confusion. I don’t want to be denunciatory, but whatever happened to just being sincere and meaning what you sing? What ever happened to being moved by the spirit rather than feeling coerced into the singer “performing” and then the crowd into ‘participating’? I don’t remember a crowd having to be prodded to worship God in the old days. Why? Because the singers had a way of making folk feel what they felt when they sang. They meant it and the crowd believed them. There was no performance or pretense. The people tried to live holy lives and it reflected in all that they did. I have to ask, what is more important- holiness or coolness? 

Judging the Ministry?

Do we have a right to sit back and judge a minister or a singer based on their proficiency in their genre? Do we worship the aesthetics of music? Does it have to sound perfect and pretty or we can’t enter in? Does the speaker have to sound slick and refined for the people to listen? What happened to the days when folk stumbled over their words, but yet we recognized the voice of God in their speech? Does this generation even know how to listen for an unction from God? Have they been so cultured that they would probably walk out on Paul the Apostle because his bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible? Would an old timey country preacher even have a prayer today? Would we cast off a Dwight L. Moody because he used words like ‘aint’ in a sermon? Would David be told to ‘sit down’ with his 5 stones and a sling in preference of some modern Rambo figure? Have the masses cast off the truth that little is much if God is in it? Do we despise the day of small things? God has chosen the weak thing to confound the mighty. 

Have a generation of critics been raised up? Just asking. A person is known as a critic when they have become proficient at judging. Granted, some things must be judged. This is common sense and we will not waste time exploring it. This is not what I am referring to. Criticistianity is that mode of behavior in which an individual has exalted themselves as an expert in a subject so as to critique others that move among them in that area. There is an ‘armchair quarterbacking’ that goes on today that surely cannot please the Lord. “God, were sending this one back because they’re not refined enough.” God help us. 

Is it really the world to blame?

Can we rightly blame Eddie Bernays? Not completely. Christians know better than to entertain a critical spirit. Yet the behavior has so reached the mainstream that almost everything and everyone has to be critiqued, even in the churches of God. It seems that everyone and everything has to “perform” these days to a certain expectation and we are being asked to give our opinions. The opinion gets used in a feedback loop to keep altering everything and everyone until it (or they) suit the highest number of peoples’ desires. What do you get? A ministry that is performance based and pandering to the masses. Again, what happened to the days when folk were just REAL. Has Hollywood infiltrated modern Christendom through all these talent shows until their is no hope for anything? Just asking. Did we not read Romans 12:1,2. This is not supposed to be how the churches of God treat their ministers. Selah.

Performance or Ministry?

I may be starting to get a little up in years, but does anyone remember when this was still about ministry? I have been a musician and singer for over 20 years. I always take ministering before the Lord with a profound reverence. Why? One of the most fearful and sobering lessons in all the Bible is that of Eli and his wicked sons. He allowed these boys to use their position to pick-up on the girls as if they were rock stars and drove the very presence of God from the people- all the while his father, repeatedly warned of God, refused to confront them. As they offended God to the uttermost in the name of “ministry” and “worship,” God told Eli he has honored his own sons more than he honored God. God judged Eli’s house forever as an example unto us as to how he views using ministry for whoredoms. The modern ‘American Idol’ worship service is doing exactly that all over again and the Eli’s sit back as the Ark is carried off as if they have done no wrong. The Lord knoweth it. It is epidemic in our times. All the while the old timers sigh and cry and are accused of being the trouble makers. But Ezekiel 9:1-10 comes into view. God’s presence is departing the Temple. But before He goes He sends a messenger to set a mark in the forehead of those that sigh and cry for the abominations that are driving out the presence of God from the people. A destroying angel was sent in to destroy all that had not that mark in their forehead. This story is exemplary. It shows us forever God’s estimate of what was happening. We do well to take heed. 

Dividing the Worship

Men and women wanting to be seen and adored divide the worship in the house of God. Why? because musicians and singers that are ‘talented’ are typically the most pampered, paid and tolerated individuals around. They are in demand and in the money (as they say). Churches have the attitude if they have good music they can grow, but if not they will falter. This is what American Idol and Hollywood has done to many of the churches of God in our times. Local churches see TV churches doing it and just like in pop-culture- they desire to imitate what they see on TV. But God is not calling ‘stars’ He is calling ‘servants’. He does not want the self-exalted, He wants self-deny-ers. A man or woman’s talent is of no use to God until it is taken through the cross of Christ. If we subvert people with our talents in the name of ministry we have a God to face. It makes me wonder, who still believes in the fact that God can use anyone for his purposes? 

Why in the world would we fight against God to try to teach people that they have to perform at a certain level in order to be acceptable in the churches of God when God called the churches out of that very mindset in the first place? Do we not realize that we will give an account to God as to how we define Christianity and ministry in the eyes of the people? We are shaping their concepts of what church is, what ministry is, what worship is, what holiness is. Every time we get up before the people they are watching us and following our lead. Where are we leading them? What are we modeling before their impressionable eyes? Were shaping right now the next generation of Christian’s concepts of God and church and all things ministry. 

What a sobering thought and awesome responsibility! God don’t want a church modeled after the latest craze. He has called us to take the lead. We set the tone. We dictate what is ‘cool’ or ‘in’ in the churches of God- not the world. The people will acclimate to what we are doing, so we had best do what is right; for we have already been warned that we will endure the stricter judgment. When Moses said, ‘Thus Saith the Lord’ a million people took a step forward and when we signify some new thing as of God when it is not the influence is tremendous and more than we can possibly know. Surely we can’t possibly be so ill-advised that we don’t understand that most basic fact? Peter. John and Andrew were fisherman; they were not conference style motivational speakers. Does a man have to sing like Sinatra or Elvis before he is worthy to “minister”? Do our kids need to become like Britney Spears or Justin Bieber? Seriously. What message are we sending people? I’ve been backstage in the performances. I’ve seen the confident groups mock the ones that sought to pray for the touch of God. But who do you think gets the high marks and praise? 

Rejected Among Your Peers?

We have answered to some degree Paul’s first question, Why, then, do you criticize your brother? Because this is the 21st century and we live in the three strike/three person panel era. This is the idol manufacturing generation. Men are made into idols to be exalted rather than abased servants. All of the trappings of the manufactured rock star come to play; all the while the sincere, god-fearing, non-celebrity types are marginalized and made to fear doing anything lest they not measure up to the worldly criticism. It goes without saying that that type criticism should never have a place in the churches of God, but this is what the three judgment panel spirit (attitude) does. Is there any wonder worldliness is trying to rule? The funny thing is that the three man judgment panel is trying to trump the Three Person panel of the Godhead (if you will) that is calling a generation to serve. It’s lunacy. It’s not working either. Look around. We have almost no-one stepping up in ministry. And why should they? Do you like being criticized? Neither do they. I believe it is sin. The problem is that it has now gone on for so long and so many are used to texting in the favorite pick to their phone, that the sting of the transgression for that behavior in the churches of God is no longer felt. Many are becoming past feeling. That is to say, it used to sting the conscience, but not any more. There used to be a check in the Spirit, but not now. It’s not only acceptable in our times, its almost demanded. Should we as Christians succumb to moving in this mindset?

Ministry in an Era of Criticistianity

The results of this age? Ministry now has to cope with a new catch phrase, “your not good enough.” And if its not ministry why are we doing it? Why are we wasting precious time to do it on any level? Were supposed to be shepherding the flock of God. We are to come along side and encourage a generation to step into what God has for them. Not with an invitation in one hand and a stick in the other. God have mercy on this critical generation. Not with a checklist to critique how they preach or sing. We need to get out of God’s business and let Him start using whom He will.   

The Truth About "Judge Not"

The Truth About “Judge Not”
Robert Wurtz II

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. (Luke 6:37 KJV)

The Lucan “Sermon on the Plain” is named such because of the reference to the “level place” in Luke 6:17. This section parallels Matthew’s better known, and much longer, “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5:3–7:27. This sermon teaches not what must be done to enter the kingdom of God, but what is expected of one who is already in the kingdom. Jesus’ sermon is intended primarily for his apostles and disciples (see vv. 17, 20). (NIBC) Moreover, the sermon is an expression of normative behavior for saints who have been baptized into Jesus Christ by the Spirit, and are walking in the Spirit. 

Our passage contains two negative commandments; judge not, and condemn not, and a positive command; forgive. Our first verb is judge not, the negative form of the Greek word krino. This is the word from which we derive the English words critic, criticism, criticize, and discriminate. (A.T. Robertson) To “judge” here does not exactly mean to pronounce condemnatory judgment, nor does it refer to simple judging at all, whether favorable or the reverse. The context makes it clear that the thing here condemned is that disposition to look unfavorably on the character and actions of others, which leads invariably to the pronouncing of rash, unjust, and unlovely judgments upon them. It is the violation of the law of love involved in the exercise of a censorious disposition which alone is here condemned. (JFB) It also ignores the fact that we ourselves have committed the same or similar sins in times past. Therefore, we cannot judge others without likewise soliciting judgment upon our own actions. (Romans 2:1) 

There are two issues involved in judging; the person and the person’s actions. We must be cautious never to judge the inward motivations of others. Moreover, we must not just another person’s soul. These and other like things are the Lord’s prerogative alone. Jesus said, we will know the tree by its fruits. This is where we make our examination. We examine the fruit; it is for the Lord to judge the root. In Luke 18:11 the Pharisee thanked the Lord that he was not like other sinners such as robbers, evildoers, adulterers and tax-collectors. In doing so he declared himself to be good and the others to be bad. (See Hale and Thorson, P. 168) We must never possess such an attitude. Peter warns us in 2 Peter 1:9 of the consequences of forgetting that we were once purged of our own sins. It can blind us to our obligation to show long suffering, kindness, and mercy to others who likewise sin. We risk a proud, unloving disposition void of the grace of God. 

Moreover, Jesus adds condemn not. The word translated as condemn is a forensic term denoting judicial condemnation. It is an expansion of the previous command, “judge not.” It is here to be taken to mean a condemning, censorious spirit, which looks sharply and unforgivingly at the faults of others, spies out and brings to light every defect, and places it under the ban of condemnation.” (J.J. Owen, P. 89) Censoriousness is also a fruit of a self-righteous spirit, which the Pharisees were prone to possess. 

Our last commandment also comes with a promise; forgive, and you shall be forgiven. True Born Again believers have the nature of Christ; His attitude was always one of mercy towards others. Even while on the cross He prayed for those who were killing him, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Paul takes up this theme in Ephesians 4:32, And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Remembering how God forgave us is vital to a right mindset towards others. The moment we forget that we were forgiven, we start the path to a dangerous, proud, self-righteous attitude. God will resist us if we take that path.

A Great Warning

You will recall that each of our commandments were conditional; Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Notice the conjunction “and” used three times. Some suggest that the context is laying out how God will treat us on judgment day based on how we treat others during our earthly lives. That is a very sobering consideration. 

But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. (Matthew 18:26-29)

Here is a man who had been forgiven 10,000 talents (monetary debt). He then goes out and finds a fellow servant that owed him 100 denarii. By contrast, it takes 5000 denarii to equal 1 talent. A denarii, as the word is used in the Gospels, represents a days wage. We gain more insight when we recall that the Disciples suggested that it would cost 200 denarii to feed the 5000. In other words, 100 denarii could by food to feed 2500 men (plus women and children). So the man in Matthew 18:26-29 was owed a significant amount of money.

In Roman times it was legal to take a person by the throat, choking and leading them to court, if they owed you money and refused to pay. In fact, some creditors were so brutal that they would twist a person’s neck until blood flowed from the mouth and nostrils. (Pelobout, P. 325; see also Vincent) This seems to be what is in view here. The man, not sure how much he was owed, throttled his fellow servant and demanded an account of where his money was. 

The man had every right, as far as Roman law was concerned, to take action on his fellow man for owing him money. However, there is a common sense principal that was in play rooted in the very nature of human understanding of equity and justice. As best as may be known, there were no specific laws on the books requiring a person to forgive others their debts if they had been forgiven themselves; though the principal was generally taught among the Jews. Nevertheless, it was up to the person who was forgiven to do the right thing. As best as we know, there was no precedent for such a thing; the man needed to listen to his conscience as to the equity of his actions based upon how he had received so great of mercy. What did he do?But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’

This entire passage is a metaphor for condemning others when you and I have a debt of condemnation we could never pay. I’m sure if you asked the man, he would give a hundred excuses as to why he did what he did. Nevertheless, his actions brought about a firestorm reaction.

So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:31–33 NKJV) 

This is as crazy as if the woman taken in the act of adultery, after being forgiven by Jesus herself, would have went and had her neighbor dragged before the Sanhedrin for playing the wrong tune on his shofar. This kind of madness is surreal. One almost has to pinch themselves to be sure they are really seeing what just happened. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved. Their grief drove them to action. Would to God that the man would have had a good friend to rebuke him utterly for his intolerable act, before the king found out and took action; but he did not. Nobody withstood him, they simply went to the king and let him handle things.  

And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses. (Matthew 18:34–35 NKJV)

The New Testament warns in the strongest ways about having a censorious, judgmental, “take your neighbor by the throat attitude.” Jesus said we must forgive from the heart. This man not only did not forgive from the heart, but he actually took action against the man who owed him. For that, he was delivered to the torturers; an obvious euphemism for Hell. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. (Luke 6:37 KJV)

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