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WWJD: Who Would Jesus Debate, and How?

We live in an age of overt hostility toward any theological, philosophical, ethical, or moral absolutes. All opinions must be held tentatively. They may be suggested, but never asserted. Anyone who has spent much time in internet forums has probably run into this attitude. A few years ago, one pusillanimous soul admonished me that I should always append “IMO” to every contention. Today’s tolerant mindset refuses to say one thing is absolutely right, while its opposite is absolutely wrong. Both can be right! Today’s tolerant mindset is absolutely intolerant of absolutes.

How are we to interact with those with whom we disagree? Flexibly, of course, even when dealing with people of other religions. We must never hold our convictions—if I may use such a coarse word—too firmly. Be eager to make concessions and compromises. As John MacArthur quotes Doug Pagitt, “It’s important to note that dialogue is not debate; for dialogue to be effective, we need to resist the urge to cut people off and fix what they say. Healthy dialogue involves entering into the reality of the other. . . . In dialogue you are not allowed to stay right where you are; you must move toward the perspective of the other person.”

MacArthur shows just how dissimilar that approach is to the manner in which Jesus interacted with heretics and hypocrites:

imgJesus’ interaction with the religious experts of His time was rarely cordial. From the time Luke first introduces us to the Pharisees in Luke 5:17 until his final mention of the “chief priests and rulers” in Luke 24:20, every time the religious elite of Israel appear as a group of in Luke’s narrative, there is conflict. Often Jesus Himself deliberately provokes the hostilities. When He speaks to the religious leaders or about them—whether in public or private—it is usually to condemn them as fools and hypocrites (Luke 11:40; 12:1; 13:15; 18:10–14). When He knows they are watching to accuse Him of breaking their artificial Sabbath or their manmade systems of ceremonial washing, He deliberately defies their rules (Luke 6:l7–11; 11:37–44; 14:1–6). On one occasion, when He was expressly informed that His denunciations of the Pharisees were insulting to the lawyers (the leading Old Testament scholars and chief academics at the time), Jesus immediately turned to the lawyers and fired off a salvo at them, too (Luke 11:45–54).

. . . Jesus never took the irenic approach with heretics or gross hypocrites. He never made the kind of gentle private appeals contemporary evangelicals typically insist are necessary before warning others about the dangers of a false teacher’s error. Even when he dealt with the most respected religious figures in the land, He took on their errors boldly and directly, sometimes even holding them up for ridicule. He was not “nice” to them by any postmodern standard. He extended no pretense of academic courtesy to them. He didn’t invite them to dialogue privately with Him about their different points of view. He didn’t carefully couch his criticisms in vague and totally impersonal terms so that no one’s feelings would be hurt. He did nothing to tone down the reproach of His censures or minimize the Pharisees’ public embarrassment. He made His disapproval of their religion as plain and prominent as possible every time He mentioned them. He seemed utterly unmoved by their frustration with His outspokenness. Knowing that they were looking for reasons to be offended by Him, He often did and said the very things that He knew would offend them the most.

—John MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore (Thomas Nelson, 2009), xi, xiv–xv.

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#1 || 09·10·22··10:48 || Mark Olson

I think you're interlocutor should be informed very nature of "essay" from which blog posts are derived in its very nature implies the IMO ... and adding that is redundant.

Jesus was in a more singular position regarding his criticism and comments to others. The rest of us are not the annointed one of God ... and our "IMO" reflects that.

#2 || 09·10·22··11:57 || David

   That’s what I told him. The fact that I wrote it indicates that it’s my opinion — duh! But what “IMO” means to postmodern man is, “This is just my opinion. You shouldn’t take it too seriously, because I don’t.” If I state my opinion out loud without qualification, it means I’m actually convinced it’s true; and such certainty is unbearable.
   Now, if I’m unsure of something, I will say so; but there are many things of which I am confidant, and some of which I am absolutely, unshakably sure, and It would be disingenuous to tack on a faux-humble “IMO.”

I understand that I’m not infallible like Jesus. Nothing was ever just his opinion. But when I repeat what Scripture says, that’s not just my opinion, either.

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