Maybe you’ve heard the objection before against Christianity, or maybe you’ve said the objection before yourself, and it goes like this: “There are too many hypocrites in the church!
I’m not going back to that place!” I have been thinking about this objection lately because it was brought up in a conversation I’ve had recently. Let me share with you some ways to think about this “hypocrite” objection.
1. What do hypocrites in the church have to do with someone’s (specifically, the objector’s) individual relationship with God? I fail to see how that objection has any bearing whatsoever on how that particular individual stands before God. What other people do with God should have little bearing on what we, individually, do with God. We should not allow what other people do or don’t do affect what we do with God. We will all stand, individually, before God, regardless of what others have done.
2. Is that an objective moral judgement or is that just your opinion? There are some who may not believe in God at all who make this objection. I would want to point out that they cannot actually mean that it is wrong for Christians to live against their morals if there is no God (from the objector’s perspective). If there is no God, then what does it matter that there are hypocrites in the church? Without God, there is not way to ground any objection into an objective, moral truth; everything is merely opinion. So, in order for the objection to hold, there must be a God, and if there is a God, then that person will stand before that God and be judged, regardless of the veracity of that objection.
3. Every person in the church could be a hypocrite and Christianity (logically speaking to the objector) could still be true. The veracity or falsity of any worldview is not determined by the acts of its adherents. Of course, I’m going to make the case that Christianity is true, regardless of how many hypocrites are in the church. The objector has to realize that Christianity is not logically false just because there are some “bad Christians.” So-called Christians who “act up” does not automatically mean that there is no God, that the Bible is false, that Jesus Christ is not the Son or God, and that Jesus Christ did not rise again. All of these statements are true even if no Christian lived liked it was.
4. I think this is a good question you could possibly ask the objector: “If you, oh skeptic, knew that most (or all!) Christians practiced their faith genuinely and perfectly, would you believe in Christianity then?” This is related to a similar question you can ask someone who doesn’t believe
in Christianity: “If Christianity was proven to be true, would you believe it then?”
5. On some level, every person that has ever existed, no matter what they believe, is a hypocrite.
No one, not even the person making this “hypocrite” objection, lives perfectly up to every standard they set for themselves. I do not expect Christians to be perfect; in fact, the only way to be a Christian is to realize that he/she is Not perfect! Only sinners can come to Christ; those who are self-righteous and claim to “have it all together,” will never come to Christ as long as they think they are better than everyone else and can save themselves. Broken, sinful, and wretched people come to Christ because they realize that they cannot save themselves. Admittedly,
Christians should be striving towards holiness, but no one will ever find perfection in the church; that is reserved only for the new heaven and the new earth. If you want a perfect church, you will die before you find one.
6. There is a kernel of legitimacy to this objection about there being “too many hypocrites in the church.” Some say that the old question about Christianity is this: “Is Christianity true?” The new question is this: “Is Christianity good?” There is some credence to that fact that we “smell a rat” when someone says “X is true,” yet their life reflects that “X is false.” Christians should live their lives in such a way that they are shining for God and their works are glittering (see Matthew 5:14-16). Christians cannot simply “roll over” and decry “I have a sinful nature” and not strive against sin. We are called to be holy people and should make choices to that end (see 1 Peter 1:14-16).
So, while there is a kernel of truth to the objection, “The Church is Full of Hypocrites!” I want to encourage you to think more about this objection and to integrate these points into the conversations you have with others. If you, yourself, have made this objection now, then I want to challenge you to think a little more deeply about the full legitimacy of this objection and see there are weak links with this objection as illustrated by the points above.
Billy Reinhardt is a regular faith columnist for The Tribune.