A Bible Command that Backfires

October 23, 2009 at 11:16 pm 8 comments

Take a look at this verse:

Titus 3:10 “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.”

Now think about it.

This command says to separate from divisive people. Hmmm.

Consider: by having “nothing to do with him” how are you ever to reconcile things? You cannot reconcile unless you discuss the issue that caused the division in the first place, but if you deem the issue divisive you might not be able to resolve it! So if the person ever comes back and confesses their “divisiveness”, then is he or she just never supposed to bring up the issue that caused the division ever again? In order to follow this command, you have to break it, and nothing ever gets accomplished!

In practice, a situation here at home has devolved into exactly what you predict would happen when people follow this command to the letter. An elder brings up an issue: the issue begins to “divide”. The elder is deemed “divisive”. The issue over which he is dividing is moot at this point, because it is determined that he is sinning – not on the basis of whether the issue he is bringing up is right or not – but on the basis of the fact that it is causing disunity. As such, everyone in the church is told to have nothing to do with him.

So basically this command devolves into a Biblical gagging order. Literally shut up and shut out people whose information could cause a division. And the minority will always be labeled the divisive group.

The real problem with this command is its subjective nature: the judge and the jury become one in the same. After all, on its surface it sounds like good advice: avoid people who are breaking up relationships. That sounds good, right? After all, that type of person should be avoided. However, who gets to determine whether a person is “divisive” or not? And the irony is that once you determine that another person is divisive, you are allowed yourself to carry out the punishment!

Ultimately, this command annihilates its own foundation. If I deem that Jesus Christ is a divisive person, am I allowed to have nothing to do with him?

– Josh

Entry filed under: Josh. Tags: , , .

Your almighty deity cannot … Reasons for my de-conversion (1 of 4)

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Philip  |  October 24, 2009 at 12:03 am

    I’ve been in groups with enough of a lack of hierarchy where a divisive person could actually break the group apart with a little effort. It was up to each member of the community, in the absence of a pastor, to decide what to do. In a situation like that, where unity is actually more valued than strict adherence or orthodoxy, the writer’s words are really not bad advice at all.

    Actually, in our treatment of trolls, we’ve basically agreed to be more strict than the writer’s telling the church to be. 😀 I’m not disagreeing that the way this verse can be used is cruel, but only saying that there’s a proper context for everything.

  • 2. Joshua  |  October 24, 2009 at 12:20 am

    Philip, I appreciate what you are saying.

    There is a puzzle contained in here that I still cannot grasp.

  • 3. Philip  |  October 24, 2009 at 12:45 am

    Thanks. 🙂

    For some reason I feel the need to emphasize that I am an atheist – just not one who likes anything, including the Bible, to be taken out of context. (Actually, putting the Bible into context was what trashed my faith. Might write about that later.)

    And I think that’s exactly what’s happening here in churches like your dad’s. If the churches of Titus’ time were small, home-based communities, it wouldn’t take much for someone to take over if he wanted to. And if the person’s reasonably intelligent/pious/charming/sociopathic, he could quite easily get at least a few people on his side and begin to wreck havoc.

    But, ultimately, a “divisive person” would actually have to try to divide the church, or act in ways which could lean toward those ends, before that title could be bestowed upon him.

    A parallel situation could arise, though. Even without the presence of formal leadership, a person who’s already an established member of a group could be able to influence the church body towards ends similar to what you’re talking about – casting out a single person for a pittance. One could only hope that someone has the guts to stand up to the accuser, but that might cause even more division in the end.

    Now, a personal note: I was in a network of house churches before deconverting. The average life span of any single church in that network was about 3-5 years, and primarily for reasons of discord like this. The alternative to overusing this verse is collapsing, but using Titus can hasten that collapse. There’s no winning apart from strict authoritarianism, as far as I can tell.

  • 4. Philip  |  October 24, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Er…let’s replace “strict authoritarianism” with “appeal to orthodoxy or censure” for now.

  • 5. orDover  |  October 24, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Is there a way this could apply to atheists, that way we can get Christians to leave us alone? They really should have nothing to do with us divisive sorts who want to encourage disbelief and do away with churches.

  • 6. The Nerd  |  October 29, 2009 at 9:59 am

    You know what this is? This is an early example of a “do not feed the trolls” community policy!

    …which has been mentioned above, I see. Oh well, I still feel proud of my clever self for having thought of it. 😀

  • 7. Joshua  |  October 29, 2009 at 4:08 pm


    I agree. However, the part I do not agree with is the “having nothing to do with him”. The way this is being practiced in a church back home is that all communication is cut off completely until the individual “repents”. However, the poor individual does not really understand what they are doing wrong. As such, this becomes complete social isolation, not just “do not feed the trolls”.

  • 8. Handbook for explosive subjects | Reason To Stand  |  November 30, 2009 at 7:06 am

    […] debating! Incidentally, even non-christians have noted the inconstancy and illogical way in which passages such as Titus 3:10 have frequently […]

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