Friday, May 8, 2009

Thought Number 266... Response to a Couple of Strange Comments

a person with the handle "princenaidu" recently posted two comments on a video I made based on Todd Agnew's rendition of Amazing Grace ("Grace Like Rain").  They said (all text sic):
Everyone of us is a child of God. Jesus worshiped God too. He lived an ordinary life till he got his calling from God to preach the word. However, in the process of speaking and exposing th truth, many religious leaders who were using God's name for profit and power did not like this, so they crucified him and gave him a beating to warn others not to interfere in their power and control game. Jesus took the beating and abuse. This opened up the hearts and minds of brainwashed people. Peace

Look at our world today; Don't you see many brainwashed people who are willing to give up their lives for religion. Religion is man-made. Man existed before any religion did. God doesn't charge one cent to believe in him. God is the great spirit and we all have a piece of that spirit in us. The spirit leaves us when we die. What happens after death..who really knows. Guess we will all find that out when we die. What should be important is how we live on this earth
Walk in faithl ive in truth
I'm not going to try to address these incoherent ramblings in detail.  I can't even glean what the person's theological stance is.  They seem to be anti-religion, but pro-faith... and they seem to be anti-Christ but pro-God.  ...Perhaps. Maybe they were just drunk or stoned when they wrote this.  I really have no clue.  They aren't even presenting Christian doctrine accurately.

At any rate, it seems clear that the person holds that religious people are "brainwashed".  I will assume, based on their first post, that they hold that Christians are brainwashed.   And I guess that's the term that piqued my interest.

"Brainwashing" involves a change of mind over to complete conviction that a set of doctrines is true.  If that was the only definition, then I guess we could say that Christians are brainwashed.  But then, we would also say that any person who held any doctrines (regardless of subject) as true, are brainwashed... particularly if the person did not previously agree with said doctrines.  For example, we could say that people who believe in global warming are brainwashed.  We could say that people who believe in evolution are brainwashed.  Likewise, vegetarians, meat eaters, vitamin takers, exercisers, couch potatoes, Apple buyers, Microsoft disciples, Chevy truck drivers, Ford truck drivers, and cat lovers are brainwashed.  So, merely changing one's mind and being convinced of a new idea does not constitute having been brainwashed.

"Brainwashing" also implies that the new doctrines held are false.  When it comes to science, the truth or falsity of a set of doctrines is provable (maybe not easily, such as with global warming or evolution or vegetarianism, but provable nonetheless).  When it comes to doctrines of faith (regardless of which faith one claims or disclaims), however, the truth of the doctrines is generally not provable (at least not by scientific or physical evidence).  Granted, there are circumstances in which the falsity of a set of faith doctrines is provable.  For example, false prophets are easily revealed when their prophesy does not manifest in reality.   Some miracle claims are falsifiable if the worldly hoax machinery used to bring about the effect is identified.   To an extent, the truth of a doctrine can be proved.  The validity of claimed holy scriptures can be proved or disproved by the testimony of multiple witnesses (though, witnesses are easily dismissed as liars), or by the truth of the prophesy contained in them (though people willing to disbelieve may see only coincidence or may claim the scriptures were written after the fact).   But by and large, theological doctrines cannot be proved true using worldly methods.   But they can't be falsified using worldly methods either.  All this to say, it is inappropriate to use the term "brainwashing" when talking about matters of faith-- at least if one means that "brainwashing" is convincing people that a falsehood is true.  If you can't demonstrate something to be false, then you can't call it brainwashing in this sense.  And so, because it is impossible to prove Christ false, it is impossible to say that convictions for Christ are in error-- and therefore Christians cannot be said to be brainwashed.

Finally, "brainwashing"-- at least traditionally-- has involved force or coercion.  If nothing else, it is accomplished by totally immersing and "washing" (ergo the name) the person's mind with the selected doctrines-- to the exclusion of every other contrary doctrine.   The concept being that if "doctrine A" is the only thing the person ever hears/sees/experiences/feels/lives... then they will eventually become convinced that "doctrine A" is true simply because they will forget that other contrary doctrines even exist-- and over time, they will dismiss other doctrines if they later become exposed to them.

In fact, it is not possible to brainwash people by force or coercion.  You can certainly get people to outwardly  "confess" or "affirm" a doctrine by force.  But inwardly there is no change-- forced confession may be accompanied by a tacit acceptance (apathy), but cannot result in true conviction in favor of the doctrine in question.  Confession by force is not actually brainwashing.   Even those who would point to the Roman Catholic Inquisition as a period of "brainwashing" would be wrong to do so... for it is well documented that even those who "relented" and "repented" of their heresies or non-Christian faiths, did not actually convert to Christianity.  They did not actually believe in Christ.  Rather, they merely decided to outwardly play along in an effort to spare their physical lives and get the Church to leave them alone.   

So, if brainwashing can only be accomplished by totally immersing a person in a set of doctrines to the exclusion of other doctrines... then we see that by and large, the vast majority of Christians over the centuries in fact held their beliefs for reasons other than brainwashing.   It is likely that some individuals in history have been brainwashed into Christianity (at least into an outward practice and affirmation of the faith-- the matter of heart change is for another discussion)... and why not.  It is conceivable that a child, for example, might be brought up in a tight Christian community and hear nothing else their entire life... and thereby tacitly accept that which they have heard as true.  But such protectionism is nearly impossible, especially in today's world.  Therefore, even if some people have been brainwashed into affirming Christ, we must look at the larger witness to see if one must be brainwashed to become a Christian.

Even during the time of Christ and immediately following His crucifixion and resurrection, the "immersion factor" that His disciples were exposed to was that of Judaism (and/or any number of non-Christian cultures and religions).  There was strong pressure to NOT believe in Christ.  So for them, they either saw firsthand the truth, or they made it up on their own, over and against all worldly doctrines and popular doctrines to the contrary.  They were clearly not brainwashed, but even believed despite brainwashing attempts against it.

If we skip forward to today, with the exception of small pockets of isolated Christian community around the world, the vast majority of people live immersed in either an atheist and secular humanist culture, or immersed in anti-Christ religions.  Even where there is no strong stimulus against Christ, the people are constantly bombarded with anti-Christ doctrines and opinions (to wit, those of the commenter above).   Even American kids who are "home schooled" cannot be protected from these competing doctrines.  In such an environment, it is literally not possible to be brainwashed into anything.  If nothing else, the larger stimulus is anti-Christ.   And along those lines, witness the Christians who not only persevere, but come to faith in the first place, in places like India and the Middle East, which are virtually bathed in Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim doctrine-- even law.

Ultimately we find that Christians become and remain Christians DESPITE pressure to deny Him.    Quite contrary to the concept of brainwashing, Christians are not forced into their faith, and they come to faith in the face of myriad contrary doctrines flooding their brains.  

So, call us stupid and blind if you must... but "brainwashed" doesn't fit.

... "Brainwashed" we aren't, but "washed" we are indeed!  If the commenter above said one accurate thing, it is that God doesn't charge anything to believe in Him.  No works required.  Even despite our evil deeds-- even because of them-- we were washed, we were sanctified, we were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6

God is God... Get used to it.

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