Christian Character: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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44 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    This is one of the more important articles we’ve posted. I believe the decline of the church can be traced back to this…that Christians not longer want to be a “peculiar” people known first and foremost for the love of God and neighbor.

    This has been the subject I’ve addressed in our local church and in my own heart…

  2. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    The question remains, what is left when Christian character is abandoned?

  3. Michael says:

    I think we see the answer in what has become of the church…

  4. Jean says:

    I very much agree with the importance and role of character in the Christian life. My only question is separating it from “what we believe.” In other words, I cannot see how orthodox belief can lead to wrathful, dishonest or manipulative character.

  5. Michael says:

    Orthodox belief doesn’t…but sin often overtakes belief…

  6. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    Part of the problem we have had with evangelicals of the Christian nationalist type is that they will profess some version of theological orthodoxy, even if at heart it is a reworked fundamentalism. Yet, they have rejected Christian character as they embrace hate speech, violence, slander (conspiracies), false witness, etc. If indeed we will know them by their fruits. we may have a pretty good idea where they stand as regards “Church”…

  7. Linn says:

    I think that we can be so bewitched by “correct” theology and its outworking that we totally forget about the fruit of the Spirit vs the works of the flesh (Gal. 5). The New Testament is clear that we can still be Christians, but demonstrate bad behavior because we are not letting the Spirit work His fruit in our hearts and in our actions. I’m not sure what has happened in my church in the last year, which was rather publicly defiant about local mandates regarding what churches could and couldn’t do (not as bad as some, but not that good, either), but when the most recent mask mandate came down this past week, there was a polite email reminder from the leadership saying that everyone 2 and up needed to wear masks on Sunday until further notice. That was it-no editorial comment. Maybe it’s because people have lost friends and family to COVID, maybe it’s because half of us were staying home even when were asked back, but it’s a response that shows the working of the Spirit in the lives of the leadership. We’ve also been asked, publicly, to refrain from debating the policy. Thoughts could change again, but it’s a more measured and thoughtful response. I think it comes from listing to the Spirit and how He would have us respond with love, joy, patience, long-suffering, etc.

  8. Em says:

    I must take some “umbrage” with using the word “evangelical” to define a lack of Christian character. It seems to me that we have seen this in all the branches of the Church…. should it be called out? Of course it should. Is it in the protestant churches today? Yes it is. That fact can’t be denied. So…..?
    keep doin what you’re doin here…. but there must be a better word to define this apostasy than evangelical….. heresy? dunno
    yes, i know the press likes to define the evangelical as a bad trait to have – maybe we should be writing letters to the editor 🙂
    God keep

  9. Duane Arnold says:

    Em

    “evangelicals of the Christian nationalist type”….

  10. Em says:

    Point aken, Dr. Duane…. 😇
    My comment WAS too general, perhaps?
    Much to ponder these days….. 🙆

  11. Xenia says:

    It seems to me that we have seen this in all the branches of the Church<<<

    Em is correct, it’s not just the Evangelicals.

  12. Duane Arnold says:

    True, but at present they are the most public… and, it seems, the angriest.

  13. Michael says:

    Part of the issue we are dealing is theological.

    It seems that over the years the doctrine of being “saved by grace through faith and not of works” has numbed the Protestant mind to the importance of Christian character and behavior.

    We have boiled the faith down to what is believed instead of who we are and what we do…because of what we believe…

  14. Xenia says:

    If you follow certain RC and EO people on Twitter/FB you will see the same kind of stuff you see on Evangelical media. I had three favorite people whose teachings/ blogs/ podcasts I followed with much benefit, but they joined the “Cult,” as I call it, and now they are lost to me. I witnessed a dear person, someone I normally admire very much, yell at an old couple at church recently because they were making a mild defense of vaccines. I had to walk away, it was too much to bear.

    Our leadership is fine, it’s just certain people who are obsessed, or maybe POSSESSED, with certain topics. Our archbishop has condemned this kind of behavior but once you believe everything’s a conspiracy, it’s every man doing what he thinks is right in his own mind and people who formerly believed we should obey our bishops are now claiming they are part of the conspiracy and can be ignored and you can yell at a dear elderly couple an deceive yourself into thinking you are doing God’s work.

    It’s everywhere conservative Christians gather. It’s a cult.

    The other cult, that of Wokeness, is just as bad but they are not my peeps so I am not as upset with them.

  15. Jean says:

    “It seems that over the years the doctrine of being “saved by grace through faith and not of works” has numbed the Protestant mind to the importance of Christian character and behavior.”

    LOL!

    Here was the lectionary lesson, which served as the text of the sermon my pastor gave yesterday:

    “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

    Trust me, no one left that sermon numb to the importance of Christian character.

    However, your first sentence is accurate, if not understated. And if one investigated the Pentecostal, Revivalism and Christian nationalism movements, one could find plenty of false teaching there. By the way, who here would invite the My Pillow guy to address his/her congregation?

    Being saved by grace through faith apart from works must stand or fall according to the Word of God, not by the misuse or abuse of man. Not even if an angel from heaven should come and preach another soteriology.

  16. Xenia says:

    We have boiled the faith down to what is believed instead of who we are and what we do…because of what we believe…<<<

    Yep. That last dark year of my Evangelical life, I kept saying to myself over and over "This is all a head game. It's just a head game."

    Now that I have some distance on that terrible year, I realize there was plenty I could have done for myself to get out of that slough, but I am sorry to say it was not being taught, in any robust way, in my Evangelical world at that time. It was "Read the the Bible more, especially Romans. That'll fix you right up." But I needed a spiritual hospital, not a reading assignment. But lest I broad-brush, that system does work well for many people but it was Hell for me, ant I mean that literally.

  17. Michael says:

    Jean,

    I’m well aware of where Luther and the Lutherans stand on justification.

    I also am well aware that according to Jesus and His apostles, the greatest sin is the failure to love…and it is wholly believed to be righteous to hate your political and cultural ‘enemies” in the church today.

    I personally am convicted that we do not place the emphasis on works in our lives that is demanded by the Scriptures…

  18. Michael says:

    I’ve spent the last month teaching and meditating on the book of 1 John.
    Faith and works…works that reflect and affirm love of God and neighbor…are so closely entwined as to be inseparable.

    Hatred of the brethren is called out repeatedly as sin…and evidence that one is walking in the darkness.

    The idea that hating our political and cultural enemies is righteous is crushed…and calls us out of that space and into the light.

  19. Jean says:

    “the greatest sin is the failure to love”

    I agree because the word “love” summarizes the Law. Also, love, as used in the Bible, is not a passive sentiment but an active disposition towards God and neighbor. Breaking the law is a sin. So, one could say that failure to love is not only the greatest sin, but perhaps is the only sin.

    I think that our whole life is filled with the requirements and emphasis on works. What I think is lacking is emphasis on what works the Law requires.

    The churches which produce the Christians lacking character, they are teaching works, but those works are unlawful or lawless from a biblical perspective. Let me give an example:

    You provided a link to an article over the weekend in which the pastor said: if you come to church with a mask on, you are not welcome in his church. So the works he is teaching are to disregard the health of your family and neighbors, to disobey public health officials, and to obey him who has no word or authority from God to teach such things from the pulpit. God says, don’t put Me to the test, but this pastor says, put Me to the test.

    Those unlawful works produce un-Christian character.

    Therefore, I think that it’s not just, “Should we teach works?”, but “What are the God pleasing works that the church should teach?” I think the Law of God in the Bible gives us the outlines of such good works.

  20. Em says:

    Michael @ 10:17
    Great observation….. IMHO
    ND
    Xenia @11:06. Ditto! ! !

  21. Em says:

    Jean @12:08
    What are the God pleasongs WORKS?
    Bullseye

  22. Em says:

    Pleasing… No “o” in there…. sigh

  23. Duane Arnold says:

    For twenty centuries we’ve had a pretty good idea of what Christian character looks like, even if at times the Church and/or individuals have failed to live up to that vision. My concern is that even the idea of Christian character, based in the Gospels and the teaching of Christ, is being abandoned by so many in exchange for anger, grievance, arguments and outright hatred. On January 6th there were self-professed Christians in that mob. Qanon with its libels, slanders and promises of violence has taken in numerous self-professed Christians. “The day will come when those who kill you will believe they are doing God a service…”

  24. Michael says:

    Duane,

    Exactly…and your Scripture passage chills me to the bone…

  25. Michael says:

    This is difficult teaching for me…I am not known for my gentleness and sanctification.
    I was watching Rand Paul screeching about vaccines and masks last night…and I wanted to punch his lights out.
    If I am not able to love and pray for people who deeply offend me…then I should probably avoid seeing them at all…

  26. LInn says:

    Michael,
    When a former president was doing his daily virus updates, I could hardly stand to listen. i was getting so angry, I realized that it would be better for me to use that time to pray or engage in other pursuits that were helpful to others. It helped me a lot. Reading a news summary on line was easier.

  27. Michael says:

    Linn,

    I think that is wisdom…I can’t watch the former president at all.
    Our problem now is that people consume so much of this anger that they don’t realize it is consuming them…

  28. Linn says:

    Michael,

    I knew it was consuming me when I was so angry that I didn’t want to even watch Zoom church because I was angry at some of the views that were being expressed. It was never as bad as some of the stuff you see on social media, but I was still angry that people were stupid enough to believe it. But, that did not justify my own anger. I started to pray, avoid certain triggers, and only engage with people on politics or the virus if they really wanted a good discussion. And, I kept trying to point back to what the Scriptures say are true about God, no matter what one thinks of masks, vaccines, etc. A conversation with someone that was hemming and hawing about vaccines recently (it was a good conversation) brought me around to saying that “science isn’t perfect, but think of all the good things God has given us because of it.” A little more conversation, and we both went on our way.

    I still get angry, but God has helped me learn what to do with it-debrief with Him, what does the Word say, what is a response that glorifies Him vs. glorifying me and my anger (that was a very convicting thought, by the way). It has led me to be more thoughtful and compassionate, even if I do think people are way out there. Jesus has dealt compassionately with me; I should do the same with them, and with myself when I feel frustrated.

    Finally, I go back to the classroom (real) in two weeks, unless they close schools again. I am sure there will be many opinions and thoughts and, if I’m not careful, arguments. I’m going to smile behind my kitty cat masks (I have a dozen of them) and try to display the love of Christ. I believe that is what I am called to do above all else, and I know it will be challenging at times. Several years ago a co-worker approached me and said, “I go to _________Church now. I became a Christian. You have been one of the people I’ve been watching the past couple of years because I knew you were a Christian.” It was a very humbling moment for me, because I could rattle off all the times I could have been in a better humor at school. But, it also taught me that God is using us when we’re unaware, which is both a very sobering, yet joyous, thought

  29. Michael says:

    Linn,

    Great comment…I wish we could clone you! 🙂

  30. filbertz says:

    this is the perfect partner article for the Ben Courson post. He’s a hollow chocolate easter egg bunny. I’m not much better, but I don’t lead a mega church either and I’ve been faithful to my wife of forty-two years…

  31. Duane Arnold says:

    filbertz

    Unplanned…

  32. filbertz says:

    Duane–seredipitous. (if that’s a word…)

  33. Em says:

    Hollow chocolate easter egg bunny? Hmmmm
    How bout an overcooked dyed chicken egg. 😏

  34. Duane Arnold says:

    Em

    Wrong thread…😁

  35. Owen says:

    Thank you , Duane, for this writing…. encouragement to carry on practicing the values we profess.

    Also found a morning chuckle in here as well, I loved Emperor Julian’s words, bemoaning the fact that those Christians are just too good at what they do…. making it difficult to revive his pagan religions….. so, may we continue.

  36. Duane Arnold says:

    Owen

    I long for a time in which, once again, the witness of Christian character matches our profession of faith…

  37. Thatoneguy777 says:

    @Michael I think emphasis is put on works, but just the outward ones. The ones that make you look saved. There is little emphasis on the works involving partnering with God to change your character. Much of my progress in my walk with God has had little to do with outward works and much more to do with inward works involving my character and integrity.

  38. Em says:

    Dr. Duane @8:58
    AMEN! ! !

  39. Michael says:

    Thatoneguy777,

    True…and we’ve baptized sins like anger and hate…if you’re angry at and hate the right people…

  40. Thatoneguy777 says:

    @Michael I’ve got to disagree with the this to some degree. I believe there is such a thing as righteous anger. Or at the very least, hiding your anger only exasperates the problem. Jesus got angry he just handled it correctly. I believe God wants us to handle our anger with other people assertively and forthrightly. It’s half the reason churches like the one I grew up in get away with abuse. People get angry about the abuse and try to call it out, as they should. Then that person gets dismissed as being in sin. Some things SHOULD make us angry, but we should handle it correctly. Levitcus 19:17 Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” Your reply makes me feel as if you are trying to rebuke me for what you perceive as my sin. Makes me even wonder if my parents who my wife and I cut contact with this past year because they couldn’t accept a rebuke have contacted you in attempt to discredit me. I hope that isn’t the case.

  41. bob1 says:

    Wowee.

    I guess paranoia IS heightened awareness.

    You obviously know nothing of Michael’s character.

  42. Michael says:

    ” Your reply makes me feel as if you are trying to rebuke me for what you perceive as my sin. Makes me even wonder if my parents who my wife and I cut contact with this past year because they couldn’t accept a rebuke have contacted you in attempt to discredit me. ”

    What the hell?

    It’s stuff like this that makes me think retirement is near.

    I am addressing the fact that Christians feel free to hate people because of POLITICAL and CULTURAL differences…I didn’t say a damn word about abuse.

  43. Thatoneguy777 says:

    @Michael. My apologies, It’s been a rough year and it’s been a struggle to believe my family and I are safe from the garbage of my family and their church. Please, forgive me when and if your ready. If not I understand.

  44. Michael says:

    Thatoneguy777,

    You are forgiven and blessed…keep your head up.

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