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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « "My People are Destroyed from Lack of Knowledge": Follow-Up to "A Critical Spirit?" | On Fasting »
    Tuesday
    Jan152013

    A Critical Spirit?

    While reading the Christian Post last night I happened upon a blog article titled, “How to Overcome a Critical Spirit”. Upon reading the article (written by a pastor), I was struck by the lack of Bible quotes to back up his many claims.

     

    After looking up “scripture verses for critical spirit”, I found a similar article on CBN’s website, "Keys to powerful Living: Overcoming a Critical Spirit". In fact, I found a whole list of articles with titles like, “The Dangers of a Critical Spirit”, “A Critical Spirit Can Keep You Down”, “Do you have a Critical Spirit?”, or “Avoiding a Critical Spirit”.

     

    I feel sometimes like I’m living under a rock. I had no idea that a critical spirit had become such a critical issue (insert rim-shot here).

     

    Article 1:

    The first article above claims that a critical spirit is a sin and suggests such a spirit can sometimes be demonically inspired. The article claims a person with a critical spirit is always finding fault with everything and everybody.

     

    They also claim that a critical spirit may come about by “prayerlessness” (I know I’m being critical, but I don’t think that is a word”), living for oneself instead of God, disillusionment, pride, being judgmental, or ingratitude (That ought to shut the nay-sayers up). Apparently, a person with a critical spirit is living in their “baser instincts” . Really, this article makes a lot of judgement calls on a person's motives and heart without having anything to back their claims.

     

    A critical spirit, so the author claims, is far more focused on the negative than the positive, able to tear up churches, marriages, and friendships (and you wouldn't want that on your hands!).

     

    The only scripture cited to back this claim comes from Jude 1:16,

    These people are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.”

     

    Jude is a very short book. In fact it only has one chapter consisting of 25 verses. The entire book’s focus is centered on “The Sin and Doom of Ungodly People”, and the second part of verse 4 defines these ungodly people,

    They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

     

    According to Jude, the ungodly are those who practice immorality and deny that Jesus is God’s son. The passage in Jude 16 refers to people who sound more like the stereotypical politician than a Christian with an alleged critical spirit.

     

    The Article from CBN:

    The article from CBN begins with this,

    “Do you judge others? Is it easy for you to find fault with those around you? Then beware: Your spiritual life is in danger.

    A critical attitude can hinder your walk with God and distract you from God's purposes for your life.

    Why We Judge

    We judge because of our own selfish interests. For example, we sometimes become critical when comparing ourselves to those around us. We try to find fault in others to prove that we are smarter, better looking, happier or wealthier. But these are selfish reasons. We simply want to feel better about ourselves. We also get critical when others fail to do what we ask, or do not do what we think is right. Often, it is a family member, friend or co-worker who fails to meet our expectations. Our expectations lead to a judgmental attitude.

    Even our own frustrations can lead to a critical attitude. If life is not turning out the way we desire, we hide our own frustrations by finding fault with others.

    Judge Not...

    Finding fault and being critical are some of the easiest things to do. They seem to come naturally to us…”


    The article from CBN uses the word “judge” a lot, and tells people they should not. But using this word and especially the passage from Matthew 7:1-5 does not support the article’s claims against a critical spirit. Most everyone knows Matthew 7:1-3,

    “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”

     

    but few know the rest which even the CBN article leaves off. Verse 5 states,

    You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”. (emphasis added)

    The word “judge” and its various relations are found in the Bible over 700 times and in fact there is an entire book called “Judges”.  (http://www.biblebelievers.com/jmelton/Judging.html)

     

    Strong's Concordance notes that the word translated "judge" in Matthew 7:1
    can also mean "condemn." What Christ was saying was that, as we are incapable of seeing a person's heart or knowing his or her relationship with God, we are not to take the place of God in making judgments about someone's motives or eternal salvation. And we should be humble, knowing our own weaknesses and sins.”
    (http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/what-does-it-mean-judge-and-why-does-bible-say-judge-not)

     

    To claim the passage in Matthew addresses the issue of a critical, haughty, prideful, judgmental spirit is off-base. It does nothing of the sort.

     

    Let's Define Our Terms...

    I think it is vitally important that the definitions be clear. Just what, exactly should Christians not be critical about? It makes sense to me that we should use brains and Bibles to think critically about doctrine and things being taught by other Christians, no matter what their name happens to be or what their history is.

     

    What we should not be critical about are the physical appearances, idiosyncrasies, or personalities of others. Pointing out a person’s limp, weight, or hair color in order to talk behind their back is just mean. But that doesn’t seem to be what these authors are talking about. These authors seem more concerned with Christians pointing out sin or false teaching.

     

    We need to tell our friends and family when they inspire us. We also need to tell our friends and family when we are concerned about a choice they are making. Though it might make our friend mad, and they may accuse us of being judgmental, it is not if we are genuinely concerned.

     

    These articles and the others like them try to manipulate Christians by making them feel guilty, and encouraging them to simply sit down, shut-up, and accept. Don't be a problem (for a more Biblical-sounding phrase, we might say, "don't be a thorn"). Nowhere does the Bible describe a critical spirit, nowhere does it define criticism as sinful.

     

    Right or Wrong?

    "All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD." (Proverbs 16:2)

     

    Some people (read, most people) are terrified of being wrong. Being in the wrong is humbling and damages pride. People are naturally proud, (see The Deadliest Sin) especially influential people. It seems to me that usually, the more authority a person has, the less likely they are to admit wrongdoing. They will try every method under the sun to avoid it, including teaching people not to criticize them.

     

    While there is very little Scripture used in these articles to back up the idea of a critical spirit (because there is no Scripture to back up their claim), plenty of buzzwords are used: sin, dangerous, judge, unloving, finger-pointing, fault-finding, tearing up people and ministries, repent, overcoming, against God, selfish, etc.

     

    A Joel Osteen article (http://ww2.joelosteen.com/HopeForToday/ThoughtsOn/Work/CriticalSpirit/Pages/CriticalSpirit.aspx) takes it one step further by equating a critical spirit with gossip and backbiting. He uses the buzzword “poison” and claims a person will never achieve wealth or career advancement by questioning. He’s probably right.

     

    This is called ad hominem, a logical fallacy, “This is the error of attacking the character or motives of a person who has stated an idea, rather than the idea itself.” (http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/fallacies.html#The%20list%20of%20logical%20fallacies) Ironic.

     

    There are other logical fallacies present between these two articles as well:

    Red Herring (introducing irrelavnt facts, in this case, irrelevant Scripture);

    ad nauseam (just ‘cause you say it 10 times, doesn’t make it true);

    ad misericordiam (appeal to pity, “Just think of God’s sad heart!”);

    ad antiquitatem (appeal to tradition, if this idea didn’t come from the Bible, it had to come from somewhere);

    and possibly circular logic or at least irony (are these authors not being critical of those with a critical spirit?).

     

    Throughout these articles fear is the major motivator. Peer pressure is a big motivator. Pleasing God is a big motivator (as it should be, but these teachers are teaching false things about God’s word). Guilt is a motivator. Making money and being succesful are apparently Osteen’s motivators. These are old-fashioned manipulation tactics (see Is a Controlling, Manipulative, Passive-Agressive Christian an Oxymoron? and Emotional Manipulation in the Church)

     

    Any sin can only be healed in the light of God’s truth. Hiding it only makes the problem grow, further infecting the entire body until the body succumbs to death. Just like a disease, sin needs to be addressed and examined before the healing can begin. Wrong teachings are similar.

     

    What does the Bible say?

    During my search, I also went to OpenBible.com and searched for “critical spirit”. A list of about 22 verses came up, but only two passages seemed to address the “sin” so strongly condemned in the articles above. I have already addressed those two.

     

    It is my strongly held belief that the Bible should be read for what it says, rather than what we would like it to say. When there is only one Bible passage to support a belief, a closer look needs to be taken. In this case it seems, if anything, the Bible actually supports a critical spirit!

     

    The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

    He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. (Proverbs 15:31)

    “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;  whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
    Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
     rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
    Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
     teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” (Proverbs 9:7-9)

     

    There are many more from Proverbs, but you get the idea.

     

    Other Sources:

    The following articles draw some distinctions between a critical mind and a critical spirit. While I am more inclined to agree with some of the conclusions, the fact remains there still is not much Scripture to be found even in these articles.

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2012/05/14/a-critical-mind-vs-a-critical-spirit/?comments#comments

    http://www.lipstickalley.com/f83/9-differences-between-critical-spirit-caring-spirit-195874/

     

    Judging

    http://www.biblebelievers.com/jmelton/Judging.html

    http://shortdailydevotions.com/devotions/proverbs-989-wise-graciously-criticism

    http://www.ucg.org/bible-faq/what-does-it-mean-judge-and-why-does-bible-say-judge-not

     

    Manipulation and Control

    http://myfathershouse.squarespace.com/journal/2012/3/19/on-biblical-leadership-submission-control-and-authority-in-t.html

     

    Truth or Love First?

    http://myfathershouse.squarespace.com/journal/2011/12/23/truth-first-or-love.html

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