How God judges

We may now turn to the final component of our critique of traditionalism. We have looked at the entailments of implicit parent-child models of church authority, of the ‘de-relationalisation’ of biblical wisdom, and of the substitution of indoctrination for education.

Now, we turn to consider the danger of grossly disproportionate responses to self-designated homosexuals. In Scripture we read, “I will judge you, each one according to his ways, declares the Sovereign LORD” (Ezekiel 18:30).

This brings two points to the foreground, as follows.

i) Considering the Particular Case vs. Fictional Judgements & False Testimony

First, God judges ‘each one according to his ways’, which means that God judges us individual by individual, with discernment, so that the proud person who doesn’t steal is not treated like a thief who has humbled himself after just one theft.

The thief who has humbled himself after his stumble will not be treated like the arrogant person who hasn’t stolen but who has maintained an arrogant stance. God will treat the humble thief much more leniently, since he repented, whereas a mighty hand will eventually crush the ongoingly arrogant person.

That is, God judges according to the objective realities of somebody’s behaviour, not according to false testimony, nor according to fictions about them, nor according to stigmatising labels, nor according to levels of social acceptability, but according to the truth about them individually.

Fallen human judges, however, tend to prefer to read their verdicts by a standard of false testimony, fictions, labels, and social norms. Why? Because if they tried to be objective, they would have to face their own sin.

To be on the receiving end of false judgements, though, is terrible, since it is to be judged by a Kangaroo court that ‘points the finger’ or ‘scapegoats’ to legitimate self-interest. But God detests acquitting the guilty and punishing the innocent: “Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty” (Exodus 23:7).

That is, those guilty of false judgement will not be acquitted, and, better to err on the side of lenience if in doubt since God will in any case see to it that the guilty person who escapes detection will not be acquitted. There is no excuse, however, for judgement that knowingly presupposes false testimony. Somebody who has ‘come out’ about homosexual desires, however, may be prematurely labelled, which is judgement by false testimony.

Labels as manipulation

  1. Labelling as the Very Definition of Manipulation

First, there is the clue of self-deceptive and manipulative ‘labelling’ of others. For example, if a congregation member writes a letter about an issue to the church leadership, and they are either ignored or labelled as ‘God’s awkward squad’, then an attitude of superiority has been assumed.

If the reply is given, ‘but they really are from God’s awkward squad’, then the chances are that the self-deception on the part of leaders concerning their own ‘more mature’ status is even more deeply ingrained and subconscious. Thiselton reminds us that Gadamer, a very important philosopher, defined ‘manipulation’ in terms of

the reduction of people to passive objects, subsuming them beneath a ‘prior netting’ of imposed categories, assumptions, stereotypifications, artificial constructs, closed statements, superficial generalising explanations, or pigeon-holes.

This is a way of ‘apprehending’ somebody without listening to them. In short, we cannot tell what or who a person is until we know them very well. Whenever we ‘label’ somebody before we know them very well, then we are committing the sin of false testimony. This is not ‘a’ way of manipulation, but the very definition of manipulation, according to Gadamer.

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