In an article from The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, dated November 26, 2004, Cal Thomas wrote, “The “60 Minutes” curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, has been making a bigger fool of himself lately by calling conservative Christians uneducated and ignorant. When the sports commentator Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder disparaged blacks in 1988, Dan Rather aired video of the remarks, which led to Snyder’s firing by CBS management. That Rooney still holds his job after stereotyping and disparaging Christians sends a message of bias, even bigotry, to a substantial audience that CBS has mostly lost and obviously does not care if it wins back.” The comments to which the writer refers are found in a short commentary by Andy Rooney on CBSNews.com, in which he attacks conservative Christians, lumping them into one big category of bigots, thoroughly and foolishly behind the times and out of sync with modern wisdom. In a similar display of bigotry, comedian Bill Maher spoke a few words about Christians in the United States. The following is from the American Family Association:
“Bill Maher, host of HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher, says that all Christians are crazy and are unenlightened because of their faith. Maher made the comments on MSNBC's Scarborough Country. Maher said: ‘We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion…I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think that flying planes in a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder. If you look at it logically, it's something that was drilled into your head when you were a small child. When you look at belief in such things--as do you go to heaven, is there a devil--we have more in common with (Muslin countries) Turkey and Iran and Syria than we do with European nations and Canada and nations that, yes, I would consider more enlightened that us.’ Maher said he wasn't speaking only of evangelicals, but included all religious people. He said he agreed with Jesse Ventura ‘who had that quote about religion is a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers.’ Because of their neurological disorder, he said Christians ‘do not believe in science and rationality.’”
Men like Andy Rooney get this perception from the fact that many protestants are, in fact, very uneducated about issues, and even about the Bible. How can someone who claims to be a Christian not take adequate time to study? How can someone who claims to fight for the family not support and feed his own family? How can a person who does not know the scriptures on abortion, homosexuality, or euthanasia be a spokesperson for those campaigns? Essentially, we must never forget that education is an important key to winning souls for God and keeping our own lives pure from sin. After all, we are told, “Apply your heart to discipline, and your ears to words of knowledge. Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:12, 23).
Many have forgotten a very simple, wonderful, encouraging truth: the Bible has the power to equip us for every defense (1 Peter 3:15), for the destruction of even the mightiest fortresses of human philosophy (2 Corinthians 10:4-5), and to guide us into a way of life that is peaceful, beautiful, and never hypocritical! If we look to the Bible for our education, then there will never be a time when our education is incomplete, and liberal media junkies will not be given all the ammo they want to attack us. To set up the lesson, consider what is written in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget you.” Many Christians are destroyed because of their lack of knowledge, just as the Israelites were led away into captivity because of their ignorance. If we want to preserve our souls, it must be done by seeking, keeping, and spreading knowledge. But about what kind knowledge are we talking?
Again, I will say that many (certainly not all) “Christians” shoot themselves in the foot by not seeking knowledge. When ignorant religious leaders get exposed by the liberal media, it makes all people associated with that religion look foolish! Consider the recent discovery of pedophilia among Catholic priests – because of that scandal, a great portion of society now looks down upon the Catholic church as a whole. As for us, when we go about claiming to be Christian, yet possess very little practical knowledge, it reflects poorly upon the rest of the church.
By practical knowledge, I simply mean a skill or profession. All men have a requirement to work, as it is their lot in life because of the transgression of Adam. Even preachers, at times, must work secular jobs, though their work as ministers of the Gospel is deserving of support by their brethren (1 Corinthians 9:14, 3 John 7-8, 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9) – truly, the majority of Gospel preachers in the church labor just as much as any other man in a secular job, and make great sacrifices to produce their work. Paul worked a secular job at numerous times throughout his ministry, primarily because there were situations in which he did not feel comfortable accepting support (2 Corinthians 11:8-9). He worked as a tent-maker in Acts 18:2-3, but mentioned his secular work in 1 Corinthians 4:11-12, “To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands.” Though it is within the scope of God’s plan to support Gospel ministers, it is not always beneficial. For example, Paul worked a secular job while preaching for Ephesus to prove to his brethren that he “coveted no one’s gold or clothes.” He went on to write, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me” (Acts 20:33-34). It is important for paid preachers to treat their charge like any other man’s job; maintaining regular office hours, being responsible for his work, showing self-determination, etc. so that men of the world will have no excuse to profane a preacher’s work. Few things please an enemy of the church more than to witness a church leader mismanaging his life!
As for all other men, it is clear from the Bible that having a good job is necessary – good in the sense that it is honest (Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let him who steals, steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good”) and good in the sense that he possess some kind of skill or expertise at it. It is written, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24). There are several lessons that we can learn from this verse. First, having knowledge of a trade is not just profitable for your boss or for yourself, but is pleasing to God. We should approach all of our jobs like this! When we work for somebody else, we should be so studious and responsible that our manager cannot help but proclaim, “I wish I had a whole crew of Christians working for me!” When a Christian does not work hard, it reflects poorly on Christianity in general, and gives men like Andy Rooney a reason to degrade and stereotype religion!
Going back to Hosea 4:6, we must ask an important question. Does a lack of practical knowledge lead to destruction? Indeed it does! Consider the warning of 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.” If we are not willing to lift our hands and labor, as every man since Adam has been required to do, then we are undeserving of food in our stomachs! Also see Proverbs 21:25 and Ecclesiastes 4:5, “The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh.” It is a foolish man who sits around all day and does nothing with his life! And how bad does it make the church look when our brothers and sisters are found not working, or at least trying to find work as the case may be at times? When this happens, we all immediately branded as lazy, senseless, and ignorant.
Christians are most often labeled as ignorant and uneducated because of the perception that we have no scientific knowledge. All of our mental capacity is used in the pursuit of pointless religious philosophy. Some will look at the state of preachers in the church and laugh at the lack of university education – as if no person is complete without a master’s degree or higher certificate. Perhaps there is something to be said on behalf of secular education, because it does open up opportunities for us, as well as legitimize us before our worldly friends – many unbelievers choose to stay lost because their perception of Christianity is so low.
There is a side to “worldly knowledge” that we must consider. As Christians, and representatives of the Gospel, it is our duty to make the greatest defense possible against every argument (1 Peter 3:15). Unfortunately, too many Protestants make their arguments without a hint of reason or logic, even from the standpoint of the Bible. To many “Christians,” something that is wrong is that way “just because it is.” Naturally, any worldly-minded individual will never be convinced by this! Instead of saying “it just is,” we should be explaining, with great patience (2 Timothy 2:24), why. And that is the wonderful thing about the Gospel: it explains why a sin is a sin. Imagine how miserable it would be if we only had a small pamphlet with a list of “don’t” without any reason behind it! Consider Deuteronomy 10:12-13, Proverbs 13:16, “Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool displays folly.”
I will neither advocate nor decry college education in this sermon, because it is up to each individual how far he or she decides to pursue a degree. I will give a warning, though, to the “educationally inclined” – as well as to any person, Christian or not, who puts all of his trust in worldly learning – there is no security in knowledge. There is no comfort in knowledge, as well. Worldly knowledge does not make us better people, it does not require a higher moral standard, it does not teach us about godliness and purity, nor does it educate us about eternity. Let us consider a Biblical example. There are few men in this world smarter than King Solomon. With all of his wealth, and even the seemingly limitless powers of his mind, he had the opportunity and ability to learn things of which most of us cannot dream. In spite of all this knowledge – knowledge of science, biology, climatology (Ecclesiastes 1:6-7), society, world cultures, economics – he still wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:14-18 that it is all vanity. Notice especially the phrase “Because in much wisdom there is much grief, and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain” (1:18). He is, of course, talking about worldly wisdom here, as we know there is no pain and grief in the knowledge and education of the Gospel. It seems that the more a person learns, the more he hates what he has learned. Increasing knowledge just leads a person to more pain – he becomes addicted to knowledge and his thirst for it is insatiable.
Paul also wrote about these things in 1 Corinthians 2:5-8. He begins by saying, “Your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” For what can the wisdom of men do compared to the power of the Almighty (1 Corinthians 1:25)? And how can the wisdom of men stack up against the unlimited wisdom of God? While there is nothing wrong with learning – it is a good things to seek knowledge and wisdom, and to make improvements and advancements in the fields of science – we must stop and ask ourselves whether or not we are learning about the things that save us. Consider 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Can science and worldly knowledge claim such things?
The greatest evidence that our enemies use to prove that Christians are ignorant and uneducated is poor and incomplete knowledge of the Bible. Many Protestant “Christian” leader know very little about God and the Bible, and use a very twisted interpretation of the scriptures to completely misrepresent true Christianity. When I look out at the Christian world today and see some of the people who supposedly represent it, I am not at all surprised that Andy Rooney would think of us as fools. I am not surprised that Mormons use denominationalism and ignorance of the truth to prove that they are the Latter-Day Saints. I am not surprised that Christianity is not respected and taught in the universities. There are a lot of “bad” Christians out there who give Christianity a “bad” name!
All of it stems from a lack understanding when it comes to the Word. “Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless, and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:14-15). If we do not spend time studying, then all of our arguments simply “lead to the ruin of the hearers.” Often, it is easy to tell which preachers have studied for a sermon and which ones have not, simply by the content and conviction of the message. But if we know we have studied, we can proceed into the world with boldness in our speech, not ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16), and handling it with skill.
We must ask, then, what is the result of poor or incomplete teaching? Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 15:3-6. The result of the lack of proper teaching was felt by all! Today, though physical wars may not be the result of bad preaching, spiritual warfare only becomes more brutal when neither side understands the truth. Also, consider the account of Apollos in Acts 18:24-26. He had an incomplete knowledge of the plan of salvation, yet went out preaching error to a great number of disciples at Ephesus. If it was not for the reproof of Aquila and Priscilla, he might have gone on teaching falsehood for years. There are a few lessons we can learn from this. First, people do not always know they are preaching error, and it must be with love and patience that we try to correct them – even those with the best intentions may still be wrong. Second, error has a way with sticking around, like gangrene (2 Timothy 2:16-17). Even in the next chapter, the apostle Paul passes through Ephesus and discovers that the error is still being practiced by some disciples (Acts 19:1-7). Once we have let it go, it is hard to stop error. And finally, it is significant to note what Apollos does after his correction; “For he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:28). He did not let the rebuke kill his enthusiasm, but cheerfully went on to preach the truth more accurately.
How does this apply to us? There are many Apollos’ in the religious world today – men who have good intentions and “a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Romans 10:2). But when they go about preaching only half-truths, or blatant falsehood in the name of Christ, it give true Christians a bad name in the eyes of potential believers. When men like Andy Rooney witness the horrible division among “Christians” it is no wonder that he believes us to be uneducated and ignorant! He would say, “They cannot even agree on their own book!”
Bearing this in mind, it is obvious that a working, complete, and accurate knowledge of the scriptures is essential in representing Christ to the sinful world. We must go against the grain of liberalism and present the Gospel the way it was meant to be presented. And if a time ever comes at which we are rebuked for preaching falsehood, let us show the same enthusiasm and humility as Apollos and start fresh. A perfect example of this came to my attention in a December 6, 2004 article in The Oregonian, written by Gerhardt Goeken. He writes, “Dispensationalism is the theology presented in the ‘Left Behind’ series of books that have been recent best sellers. It is a system of theology that purports to order God’s overall timetable for world events. Understanding why this ‘gospel’ is bad news for America is one step toward restoring this country’s sanity. . . Unfortunately, dispensationalists now impact America’s future by shaping the way the rest of the world views us. But they will not be defeated at the polls until they are defeated theologically. It is the task of those Christian churches not already lost in ‘end times’ madness to condemn Dispensationalism as a distortion of Christian faith.” For a long time, premillennialism and other doctrines like it have been widely popular among Protestant groups. For such a false doctrine to be so widely proliferated is startling, and it is important that we preach the truth on it. Remember, it is because of crazy doctrines like this that the non-Christian world sees Christianity as a group of religious zealots waiting for the mother ship to take us home.
I presented an article to you at the beginning of the sermon in which it is made clear that Andy Rooney believes all Christians are uneducated and ignorant. He feels that religion is outdated and does not deal with the problems and needs of today. Obviously, this sermon will not convince Mr. Rooney otherwise. We will most likely never convert him. But there are Andy Rooneys in all of our lives – friends from work, parents, children, maybe even spouses. While we cannot convert the Andy Rooney, we have the ability and the opportunity to convert people we see every day. I hope that this sermon will be beneficial in preparing all of us for the daily pressures of Christian living.
To the world, we will always seem uneducated and ignorant. After all, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14). But if we keep working diligently – if we labor and provide for our families, and understand the basics of earthly wisdom, and study the scriptures daily – we will be able to break down the walls of human philosophy and earthly wisdom and shed light on millions of souls who have never known God.