Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chapter 8: It’s Complicated According to the Critics

Complicating matters in defining a Christian is the existence of Modern-day Pharisees—the “critics” among the Christian community. These critics are nothing new. Jesus Christ during his public ministry was often confronted by the Pharisees who challenged his authority and spiritual legitimacy.

The word Pharisee comes from the Latin word pharisæus, meaning “set apart.” The Pharisaical movement started around 140–37 BC, viewing themselves as defenders of the Mosaic Law and the oral Torah as part of a society that was devout, political, cultural, social, religious and educational. The Pharisees in our modern era view themselves similarly falling into the same prototypes leading to negative unintended consequences and complicating Christian matters unnecessarily.  

The New Testament reveals a model of behaviors and attitudes among the Pharisees of Jesus’ time—the pharisaical pattern. This pattern can be observed today among the Pharisees of our time including three major components:  1) pride and hypocrisy; 2) panic and paranoia; and 3) contention and destruction. Modern-day Pharisees are oblivious to their attitudes and actions believing they are the defenders of the true gospel leaving a trail of division and contention among Christians in their wake.

By studying the Pharisees of Jesus’ time one can identify the same behaviors and attitudes in specific individuals in the modern era. For example, Jesus proclaimed the Pharisees to be hypocrites (or full of hypocrisy)—eight times in one continuous sermon as recorded in the 23rd chapter of Matthew. In our day well known cases of such pharisaical behavior can be found in TV Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart who globally preached the gospel of Jesus Christ only to be caught having sex with prostitutes in 1988 and again in 1991. There is Ted Haggard, former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals who publicly mocked Catholics, Mormons, and Jews and then admitted in 2006 to having sex with a male masseuse and purchasing illegal drugs.

One of the dangers facing Christians today is the reckless practice of spiritual profiling—judging someone based solely upon their denominational choice or specific outward behaviors. Shuster provides instructive examinations of America’s Founding Fathers (e.g. Washington, Jefferson, etc.), historical and modern-day individuals (Hitler, Jones, etc.), and even Biblical figures (David, Paul, etc.) to demonstrate show outward appearances can completely derail the accuracy of spiritual profiling.  

Where are the Christians? offers an exercise that can be completed by the reader which calculates the degree to which the participant exhibits the pharisaical pattern—their tendency to be a Modern-day Pharisee (i.e. a Christian critic). The exercise is fun, enlightening and can be completed online at

Knowing who the Christians are historically from Section 1 and what a Christian is from Section 2, it is time for the next leg of the journey to explore the core question of “’Where are the Christians?” Although you may have your own answers to this thought provoking question, you may be surprised to learn the details behind the answers provided by the author.

Go to to watch the book trailer, find out what type of Christian you are, and to order the book

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