Reckless Self-Endangerment and Christianly Courage

“The rise of the internet must ultimately kill off organized religion”…or so the common wisdom goes. Thanks to a new generation of fedora-clad Redditors equipped with Microsoft Paint and rich imaginations, new Bible loopholes are being uncovered that threaten to expose the absurdity of Christianity. These Valiant Defenders of Truth and Reason are sagely raising critiques that somehow escaped the attention of two thousand years of systematic theology. Or something. Take this gem:

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The image makes three implicit assertions. I’ll respond to each.

1. The Christian belief in heaven ought to entail an eagerness to die. (Corollary: Since most Christians don’t appear eager to die, their belief in heaven lacks sincerity.)

This assertion baldly ignores Scripture’s robust teachings on virtue, suffering, sacrifice, and meekness – opting instead to project a simplistic brand of secular hedonism onto the Christian’s conception of heaven. The idea seems to be something along the lines of, “heaven will be pleasurable, therefore Christians should be trying to seize this pleasure as quickly and directly as possible.” This kind of reasoning may be the marching song of our modern age, but it is so bluntly at-odds with the teachings of Jesus as to be an absurdity.

2. A Christian can conceal his motives from God. (Corollary: Reckless self-endangerment with the sole intent of achieving death isn’t, therefore, equivalent to suicide.)

Psalm 139:1-6. And I think that about covers it.

3. Scripture is silent on the matter of “reckless self-endangerment”. (Corollary: Reckless self-endangerment isn’t immoral.)

Scripture actually does touch on this issue (Matthew 4:5-7).

Tightrope walking over shark-infested waters for the purpose of dying cannot be justified on the Christian view. Even so, this assertion raises some interesting questions. Under what conditions, if any, can reckless self-endangerment be morally justified? How do these conditions differ from those of an individual who lacks a belief in the afterlife?

Again, Scripture provides us with answers. Christians are called to emulate Christ (Matthew 16:24-25), who himself laid down his life for humanity (Mark 10:45). In stark contrast with the man who believes that existence ceases with death, the Christian actually has rational justification for placing his life in peril to aid his fellow man. He feels compelled – joyously compelled – to throw himself into a churning river to save the life of a stranger. He fights for noble causes and he bears the burden lightly, knowing that life is a precious yet fleeting thing, and that everyone will ultimately be held accountable for their actions. The Christian must, in the words of Chesterton, “desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.”

Many are quick to point out how faith can be perverted (“religion flies planes into buildings” and so forth), but slow to acknowledge the abundant examples of faith being harnessed to advance the causes of liberty, justice, and equality. Genuine faith entails a love of life and peace with death. Hence the soft-spoken Christian woman who casually purchases a one-way ticket to a leper colony.

Of course, none of this is to say that nonbelievers can’t also act heroically (or that Christians will always act heroically). What it does show is that Christianity, by its very nature, lends itself to heroism.

And speaking of heroism, happy Independence Day!

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Francis Chan Quotes

“Can you worship a God who isn’t obligated to explain His actions to you? Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?” 

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

“It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel. It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.”

“What if I told you to stop talking at God for a while, but instead to take a long, hard look at Him before you speak another word? Solomon warned us not to rush into God’s presence with words. That’s what fools do.”

Francis Chan

Francis Chan

“But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.”

“Not being able to fully understand God is frustrating but it is ridiculous for us to think we have the right to limit God to something we are capable of comprehending. What a stunted, insignificant god that would be! If my mind is the size of a soda can and God is the size of all the oceans, it would be stupid for me to say He is only the small amount of water I can scoop into my little can. God is so much bigger, so far beyond our time-encased, air/food/sleep-dependent lives.”

“Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin.”

“Why is it that we believe God’s promises of blessing but not his promises of punishment?”

“If a guy were dating my daughter but didn’t want to spend the gas money to come pick her up or refused to buy her dinner because it cost too much, I would question whether he were really in love with her. In the same way, I question whether many American churchgoers are really in love with God because they are so hesitant to do anything for Him.”

Bonus: Check out THIS EXCELLENT SHORT VIDEO, where Francis Chan responds to the popular idea that we can somehow have “a private, personal kind of faith” – without needing the Church.

Charles Spurgeon Quotes

“The Christian life is very much like climbing a hill of ice. You cannot slide up. You have to cut every step with an ice axe. Only with incessant labor in cutting and chipping can you make any progress. If you want to know how to backslide, leave off going forward. Cease going upward and you will go downward of necessity. You can never stand still.”

“I will not believe that thou hast tasted of the honey of the gospel if thou can eat it all to thyself.”

“In spiritual things, when God has raised a desire, He always gratifies it; hence the longing is prophetic of the blessing. In no case is the desire of the living thing excited to produce distress, but in order that it may seek and find satisfaction.”

Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon

“We are convinced that all of our race who die in infancy partake in the redemption wrought out by our Lord Jesus. Whatever some may think, we believe that the whole spirit and tone of the Word of God, as well as the nature of God Himself, lead us to believe that all who leave this world as babes are saved.”

“Character is always lost when a high ideal is sacrificied on the altar of conformity and popularity.”

“The Christian is the most contented man in the world, but he is the least contented with the world. He is like a traveler in an inn, perfectly satisfied with the inn and its accommodation, considering it as an inn, but putting quite out of all consideration the idea of making it his home.”

“I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church.”

How is it that some of us are converted, while our companions in sin are left to persevere in their godless career? Was there anything good in us that moved the heart of God to save us? God forbid that we should indulge the blasphemous thought!

“I take it that the highest proof of Christ’s power is not that He offers salvation, not that He bids you take it if you will, but that when you reject it, when you hate it, when you despise it, He has a power whereby he can change your mind, make you think differently from your former thoughts, and turn you from the error of your ways.”

“Love your fellowmen, and cry about them if you cannot bring them to Christ. If you cannot save them, you can weep over them. If you cannot give them a drop of cold water in hell, you can give them your heart’s tears while they are still in this body.”