Sunday 2 February 2014

Christians must exercise discernment - therefore Christians must *judge* other people


Probably there is no subject upon which more nonsense, and fatally-confusing nonsense, has been written over the past half-century, than the subject of 'judging' other people.

I will not attempt to summarize what is the mainstream view on this subject, because I cannot summarize incoherence - but the gist of it is that we, as individuals, should feel very uncomfortable if we judge, if we evaluate, the good or evil of another person's behaviour.

Indeed, this mainstream view - which includes many self-identified Christians and especially Christian leaders - is that 'judging others' is a worse sin than any possible sin which might be judged.

In sum, the modern mainstream view amounts to the conviction that it is those who judge others who are the worst of all possible sinners.


Now, obviously this is evil nonsense. 

But I think many genuine Christians are confused by this prohibition on judging others - and by the pseudo-Christian rationale put forward to support it (for example, by quoting certain Biblical verses, or putting forward certain aspects of Christs behaviour as precedents).

Yet the prohibition on judging others absolutely prevents someone living a Christian life.


In a world of sin and evil - how can a man know what to do, what to believe - who to believe, without deploying judgement of good and evil motivations, intentions, character?

It is obviously impossible - and therefore must be utterly rejected. 

Or rather, this ought to be obvious but, as I said, people are confused.

And what happens in consequence is that faith is weakened; anti-Christian people, policies and organizations are supported instead of opposed - in sum, Christianity becomes feeble, ineffectual and cannot offer direction or hope.

And this is what we find. 


So what is the proper meaning of that strand of Christ's teaching which we misunderstand as 'not judging others' - it is, quite simply, that we do not know who will be saved and who will choose damnation.

That specific but crucial matter is not for us to judge and we are in no position to judge it.

But all other matters are necessarily to be judged - but especially, vitally, above-all we must judge the goodness, virtue, and truthfulness of other people; or, alternatively, must judge and take-note-of and act-upon-our-knowledge-of their evil intentions, their sinfulness, their dishonesty.


Christians must understand clearly and unambiguously that judgement is not only 'allowed'; but absolutely vital and indeed central to the Christian life.




George said...

"Let him not love one more than another, unless it be one whom he findeth more exemplary in good works and obedience."

Even in The Rule of St. Benedict, among brothers who have made religious vows, ones ability to judge is not to be tossed away - of course not! An excellent holy person is most loved.

Interpreting calls to not ignore ones own sin, or calls emphasizing us to know ourselves, as somehow meaning we should live in relativistic inaction is most certainly wrong!

John F said...

A question here is: what are we judging? We must judge between good and evil, as you point out. But as it has been said, good and evil are in the heart of man, so judging evil and the appropriate action on our part that must accompany judgment do not touch the ultimate worth of any individual man. That is for God to judge. Salvation is God's prerogative, and we have no business judging the final worth of any man's soul. (This is also akin to the foundation of a radical equality and human dignity, closed off from, say, "neo-reactionaries".)

In the world, however, distinctions are real as daylight, and they pertain to what is good and true and to what is false and wicked; to what is beautiful, and to what is ugly; to what is brave, and to what is cowardly; etc. Discernment also stands adjacent to the heart of right action. If we don't distinguish the direction we ought to go, we go nowhere, idle with paralysis at a crossroads.

The Doctrine of Niceness, of Being a Non-Judgmental Person, is as insipid an excretion of an effete, decadent civilization as could be imagined even by the gifted practitioners, like Nietzsche. I suffered through it without cessation grades 4-12 at an elite northeast US private school (where I was also taught that racism only occurs against minorities, and so forth), and it caused me to despair and precipitated my departure from liberalism. It struck me as advocating for the death of the human spirit, the death of the moral imagination by inanition.

It is also, as you emphasize, simply not possible!

Bruce Charlton said...

@John F - "we have no business judging the final worth of any man's soul."

I am not even sure whether this is prohibited - so long as we do not confuse our own judgment with God's judgment. It should be possible to say that 'in my judgment' that man is (self-)damned - but to recognize that this does not mean he actually is damned.

Because I believe that damnation is in its essence self-chosen, for me to judge a man as damned, or saved, does not seem to me to encroach upon or usurp the divine prerogative of judgement. I may so judge, and act upon that belief - yet I acknowledge I may well be wrong in my judgment.

It is hard/ impossible always to be truly agnostic about matters of such great import.

John F said...

I strongly concur with you on self-damnation. People are free! If only more "theologians" made sure to use this as a cornerstone.

Whenever I think on this, 2 Corinthians 1:18-19 springs to mind:

"18 But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.

20 For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us."

God's Word toward us is an Eternal YEA of Love, and it is up to us to act in proper response.

Bookslinger said...

Moroni Chapter 7 deals with this, especially verses 14-19.

Joseph Smith also resolved this by using his prophetic authority to correct Matthew 7:1, which in the Joseph Smith Translation (also called the Inspired Version), reads:
JST Matt. 7:1–2 Now these are the words which Jesus taught his disciples that they should say unto the people. Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment.
(You can see the "JST" version by clicking on footnote "a" in that verse, (the word "judge") and a pop-up appears.)

The JST correction is corroborated in the standard King James Version of John 7:24: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

In Mormondom it is sometimes said "Judge the act, not the person". This hearkens to the judgement spoken of by Epictetus, in which he saide everyone must decide if another's actions are to be emulated or avoided.

George said...

It seems completing the section vs taking the first quote alone is needed: "Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye."

He had often called the Pharisees hypocrites, who would condemn others based on rules they invented, while apparently ignoring the original words of Moses.

JP said...

My wife brought up this very topic this morning completely out of the blue -- and I sent her a link to this article. Synchronicity!

jgress said...

You might find this interesting:

Bruce Charlton said...

@jgress - The article seems to assume an already advanced spirituality - from which perspective the Christian already knows who to trust and what to believe - and is concerned about living that life.

Whereas I see the pressing problem for most people nowadays as getting to square one - becoming Christian - then locating square two.

In particular resisting/ escaping from the mass of subversive anti-Christian ideas emanating from the majority of most self-identified but actually apostate Christian leaders.

As you know, I am not much concerned with 'heresy' (which usually merely refers to disagreements about *explanations* of agreed Christian doctrines - such as disagreements about correct descriptions of the nature of Christ among people who agree that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Master and essential to salvation; or disagreements about how to describe the Holy Trinity among people who acknowledge the reality and divinity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. These disagreements I see as fundamentally trivial and Christians should do their best not to fall-out over them).

But I think the major problem is covert apostasy - strategically anti-Christian attitudes and ideas coming from among so-called Christian leaders (such as Theologians, Bishops and Priests).