Hi and welcome back! Recently, we talked about Beach Reach. The leaders of this evangelical short-term mission trip (STM) offered a training course for their volunteers, and we had a grand time examining its many flaws. Among other flaws, that training course told volunteers to go to a site run by CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) to learn zingers they could use on their evangelism marks. Even by evangelical standards, these zingers were awful. At the time, I promised we’d come back to them. And now, that’s what we’re doing. Today, let’s check out CARM zinger attempts — and offer up our own responses to them.
(This got long, but I hope you’ll like it. Feel free to chime in below with your own responses! Let’s give Matt Slick a few things to consider as edits!)
Everyone, Meet Matt Slick of CARM.
I still remember the first time Matt Slick, the owner and main writer of the CARM website, pinged my radar. It was on a Samantha Bee video in 2013, featured on The Daily Show. In this video, Matt Slick claimed that roving bands of gay men routinely “beat up” and bully TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like himself.
He was a living, breathing, downright-fascinating embodiment of Poe’s Law:
Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a Creationist in such a way that someone won’t mistake for the genuine article.
It’s true, too. That’s why even I was fooled at first by that recent “Global Prayer to End Atheism” thing on Facebook. Once I went to their site, it looked a lot more like some weird satire. But hooboy, they had to pull out the stops to offer that hint!
In this case, I thought Matt Slick was play-acting some kind of weird satire of evangelicals. He talked about going dancing and hot tubbing with his best male friend — all without realizing the friend was gay!
Not long afterward, I saw that actually he was for real. And he ran some kind of apologetics site called CARM. Very soon after that, I realized that evangelicals treasured its resources. So I wasn’t surprised when Beach Reach’s training course suggested volunteers visit a particular CARM page.
CARM: The Evangelical Culture-Warrior Talking-Point Repository.
And CARM was always awful. Ever since 1995, it’s functioned as the epitome of that kind of anti-intellectualism that marks today’s evangelical culture-warrior. It’s just a collection of talking points and essays based on culture-warrior ideals.
(Like all such sites, it contains a laborious “statement of faith” page. I suspect Matt Slick himself is an Arminian, but his site tries to stay out of the whole Arminian-Calvinist schism erupting in evangelicalism right now.)
Strangely enough, Matt Slick seems to understand that actual atheists tend to think he’s a laughingstock. From what I’ve seen, he’s takes atheists’ ribbing and criticism in good humor, even. However, he still holds his site out as the all-singing, all-dancing apologetics resource for evangelicals.
On their “donations” page, Slick claims to have “reached” 145+ million people since 1995, and that 11k “return visitors” daily come to CARM for “more info.” The implication, of course, is that these are heathens. However, I don’t think many non-Christians come to his page — except perhaps to argue in his comments. As is usual for these sites, I don’t think I’ve ever once heard of a single non-Christian converted by anything CARM has ever produced.
But evangelicals tend to believe evangelical hucksters’ claims about their own products. Indeed, the flocks possess no method of critically assessing those claims. So CARM ended up being included as a no-fail resource in Beach Reach’s training course (module 4’s student handout).
Objections and Answers on CARM.
The Beach Reach trainers gave the following as “homework” to their volunteers that week:
Review the “Objections and Answers” section on Carm.org
They didn’t provide a link. But when we were talking about that module, I wanted to know what Matt Slick was telling young evangelicals to parrot in response to objections they might hear during Beach Reach.
Whatever it was, we can bet it forms a big part of the antiprocess indoctrination those same evangelicals receive to keep them in the sheepfold. Apologetics has always, no matter what evangelicals may claim to the contrary, been aimed more at existing believers than at heathens. (That’s why it always sounds so surreal to — and is so patently ineffective on — non-Christians.)
So I went a-digging, and I think I found the section they meant.
This link goes to what appears to be one of the posts in Matt Slick’s series on “Objections and Answers.” He wrote it in 2008 and assigned it to his “Answers for Seekers” category. (I strongly suspect he categorizes as “seekers” anybody who is not an active member of any evangelical groups.) This category is huge and contains a bunch of the usual questions that evangelicals think heathens ask about their religion. I see none written past 2009.
We could really tackle any of the posts in this series. They’re all just cringe-inducing apologetics soft-shoe hand-waving routines (like here, where we learn that Matt Slick has fallen hard for Ray Comfort’s cattle chute, “Are you a good person?”).
But I’m attached to the one we’ll cover today. It’s just such a nonstop, rollicking Gish gallop of zinger attempts. Evangelicals greatly respect zingers, perhaps because they’re so unrelentingly bad at them. So this post promises us some entertainment.
CARM Zinger Attempt #1: Regarding Sin.
The very first entry in Matt Slick’s listicle is “I am not a sinner.” It’s an interesting opening salvo. I’m not sure I’ve personally ever encountered anybody who offered that as their first objection to an evangelical sales pitch. But okay, let’s plunge in. Here’s how Matt Slick responds to it (any inline links are from him unless in square brackets; all emphases and quoted material comes from the cited source):
1) Are you saying you are perfect? If you are, then you’re the first perfect person I’ve ever met who has never sinned.
2) Are you saying you’ve never broken the Law of God? Have you ever lied, cheated, or stolen? If you have, then you are a sinner whether you think so or not. The laws of God have punishments (a law without punishment is only a slogan). As a sinner, you are separated from God (Isaiah 59:2). However, God loves you enough not to want you to be separated from Him. He sent Jesus (1 John 4:10) to pay for your sins on the cross. So, the only way to have your sins forgiven is to put your trust in Jesus and the sacrifice He made.
3) The Bible says that everyone has sinned (Rom. 5:12). That means you, too.
Most of #2 and #3 continue along those lines. #2 is “There is no such thing as sin,” which is a completely valid objection to raise.
#3 just asks “What is sin?” That’s a strange placement, considering #1 and #2 quibble about its definitions and who falls under accusations of sinning. But okay. My response encompasses all of them.
A Response to Zinger Attempts About Sin.
My response is simple:
Sin, as a concept, depends upon Christians’ claims being true. The entire term defines offenses against their own god.
If there’s no god handing out codes of conduct and punishments for them, then there’s no god to offend. And thus, no sin can be committed — even by Christians. Really, nobody is a sinner, in that sense.
For that matter, Christians care very deeply about sins committed against their own imaginary god. But they care way less about sins they commit against the gods of other religions. Some religions have long lists of sins — including Judaism, which helped inspire Christians’ own offshoot religion. But I’ve never seen a Christian fret about sinning against, say, Ganesh (if that’s even possible). Or Zeus (very possible).
Most religions accept that people are fallible and sometimes make mistakes — without considering those mistakes as offenses against their god(s). Only in Christianity do we find such a vengeful, evil godling that even these mistakes get defined as actual, dealbreaking offenses against his delicate fee-fees.
However, if we don’t follow their god, then Christians’ accusations against us of sinning against him are irrelevant to us. They must demonstrate that their god exists and that he actually cares about all the sins they accuse others of committing first.
But they can’t, so Matt Slick tries to scare people into believing his claims without evidence.
CARM Zinger Attempt #4: Unforgivable Sins.
This one made me laugh, since yesterday I mocked Christians for always including a line like this in their movies. It forms #4 of Matt Slick’s objections:
I am too big of a sinner.
1) Nobody is too big of a sinner. The love of God and the sacrifice of Jesus are capable of cleansing the worst of all sin. Even Hitler could have been saved if he would have turned to Christ. You have sinned the same as anyone else. It is just that your sins are yours. They aren’t too big for God to wipe away. Sin has no power over God, only over you.
2) Let me ask you something. Do you think murder and adultery are serious sins? Yes? Well, David, a man in the Bible who was called by God “a man after His own heart,” (Acts 13:22), was a murderer and an adulterer. He even tried to hide his sin from everyone. But God knew his sins and exposed them. David repented and threw himself on the mercy of the Lord. God forgave him and loved him. God loves you, and He will forgive you if you put your trust in Jesus, and ask Him to forgive you of your sins (Rom. 10:9-10).
I love it when “even Hitler” gets trotted out, considering Hitler seemed to be a fervent Christian. The Nazi Party he created was firmly Christian as well. But okay. Obviously, he wasn’t a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ like Matt Slick is. (See endnote for definitions.)
I think Christians just like to talk about this aspect of their beliefs.
A Response to Zinger Attempt #4.
I’m not sure even how to respond here, because literally no heathens I’ve ever encountered have ever raised this as a serious objection to Christians’ sales pitches. They might say it as a joke — like, Oh, I’m going to Hell and I’m okay with it, so don’t worry yourself about me. But it’s not a serious objection.
Here are some important things to know about Matt Slick’s specific response, however:
In “forgiving” and “loving” David despite his murderous, adulterous ways, Yahweh murdered David’s newborn son with Bathsheba.
And he did it entirely as a retaliation for David’s offenses against him. That’s an innocent baby, killed because Yahweh wanted to make a point of his displeasure. You can see the story in 2 Samuel 12:16-19. Here’s the relevant bit:
David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died.
I’m not sure that’s a good myth to invoke to convince evangelism marks that it’s a great idea to plead with this god for forgiveness. If those marks are even halfway familiar with the myth, they’ll know how it ends. So it’s really weird that Slick reached for this myth for his response.
Also, if sin has no power over this control-freak of a godling, then he can easily forgive it and ignore it without us asking. He’s not concerned about consent in the slightest — that, we can say for sure based on the Bible itself. So he doesn’t need us involved in this forgiveness process at all.
We might also ask at this point why evangelicals themselves are so hypocritical as a group. Clearly, sin has great power over them. Even knowing their god’s opinion of sin, they offend him constantly with their behavior.
Maybe they need to worry about his forgiveness way more than we non-believers do.
CARM Zinger Attempt #6.1: About Salvation.
For #6, Matt Slick addresses the evangelical concept of salvation. Salvation means escape from Hell and entry into Heaven after death. Therefore, salvation is always very close to the uppermost part of an evangelical’s thoughts. So they assume everyone is worried about the same things, and therefore it must be addressed.
Here is the first part of Matt Slick’s response to imagined question 6: “What do I do to get saved?”
1) Salvation is a free gift of God (Rom. 6:23). Jesus bore sin in His body (1 Pet. 2:24), and paid the penalty for breaking the Law of God, which is spiritual death (eternal separation from God). If you want salvation, you need to admit that you are a sinner and that you want Jesus to forgive you of your sins. You must acknowledge that there is nothing you can do to earn forgiveness. Pray and ask Him to forgive you. You need to trust in Jesus. Seek Him; He will save you.
We’ll tackle it first, then go to his next sub-point.
A Response to Zinger #6.1: What Salvation Is.
In reality, I’ve never met an evangelical who wasn’t deeply worried about really being saved from Hell, despite their boilerplate, contractually-required shows of confidence to the contrary.
(And yes, I’ve been accused of not having really believed because I was terrified of going to Hell when I was a Christian. As we’ll see in our next section, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t reasoning forms a major part of evangelicals’ accusations.)
As mentioned above regarding sin, though, salvation only matters if there is actually an evangelical-style Heaven and Hell to risk after death. There are a slew of questions he’s skipping to get to them. He needs to address those first, long before we ever get to his claims about the afterlife.
Alas, evangelicals have never, even once, not even a little, managed to support any of their claims about the supernatural realm itself, much less the afterlife. So here, it sure looks like all he’s doing is trying to use fear to push through the sale of a claim he can’t support with facts.
Also, salvation is not a “free gift.” It’s disingenuous even to pretend that it is. In reality, this “free gift” comes with an infinite number of demands and strings attached. The number of opportunity-cost demands alone mark this “free gift” as a beloved evangelical lie.
A Response to Zinger Attempt #6.2: Jesus Totally Changes Converts.
And now, we reach the second part of Matt Slick’s response to question #6:
2) Repentance is part of salvation. Once saved, you should stop doing those things that are displeasing to God. He will live in you and give you the ability and desire to resist sin (1 Cor. 10:13). When you are saved, expect to change — for the better.
“Give you the ability and desire to resist.”
“Expect to change — for the better.”
These are all lies, and anyone who’s been a Christian for long knows that none of these are actual real things that actually happen to Christian converts.
In fact, life is pretty much the same before and afterward, once the euphoria of conversion wears off. An evangelical convert who lied and manipulated people before conversion will continue doing it afterward (and will likely find their fellow evangelicals way easier to trick). A violent person will continue to reach for violence as a response to frustration and anger.
Jesus doesn’t actually change any of his followers. Change requires real work and dedication — and the willingness to seriously examine oneself for flaws, as well as to learn and apply new response patterns to old triggers. In other words, the process of change works for TRUE CHRISTIANS™ exactly as it works for non-Christians.
But evangelicals love this talking point. They use it to exclude Christians from their tribe of TRUE CHRISTIANS™. A serious rulebreaker is not a TRUE CHRISTIAN™, because a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ changes by magic into a better person!
Before conversion, converts hear that Jesus will totally change them. Afterward, when the converts dare to complain that no magic changes have yet occurred, the tribe will accuse them of Jesus-ing all wrong.
CARM Zinger Attempt #7: OMG Baptism!
Doctrines about baptism just represent one topic of Christians’ ongoing infighting. Literally nobody cares about whether or not baptism is required for salvation unless they’re already Christian. Therefore, #7 is meaningless to non-Christians. But I want to bring it up here because it’s still important for us to examine.
#7 is just Matt Slick blathering about whether or not TRUE CHRISTIANS™ must be formally baptized in order to gain entry to Heaven (and escape from Hell). He writes:
1) No. Faith in Jesus is sufficient for salvation. You don’t have to do anything. Christ has done it all. However, baptism is very important and all believers should be baptized. If you refuse baptism after salvation, I would doubt your conversion.
King Matt Slick doesn’t think baptism constitutes an official, formal part of salvation, but he’d “doubt your conversion” if you refused to do something Jesus said was so important. So baptism actually is an official, formal part of salvation, just he’s phrasing it in a way to reconcile his two conflicting beliefs.
To respond to it, we might ask why Jesus didn’t make baptism a requirement, if it’s really that important. I mean, Matt Slick goes into great detail for this question to establish that his take on baptism is the accurate one, which means that all the other flavors of Christianity that disagree are wrong (my group of Pentecostals, for example, thought that a specific magic spell uttered over baptism was also a requirement for salvation).
But clearly, Jesus didn’t think the truth about the need for baptism was important enough to lay down the law, so to speak, about it. That’s exactly why so many flavors of Christianity exist: he wasn’t clear at all about a lot of beliefs within Christianity. Maybe he thought the world would end long before specifications mattered.
CARM Zinger Attempt #8: “I’m Already Good Enough.”
I love that this zinger attempt takes that all-important last position. Here’s how Matt Slick puts it:
I am already good enough.
1) How good do you have to be to get to Heaven? God is holy and requires holiness. Holiness is purity. Even though you may think you are good enough, even one sin disqualifies you from being in the presence of God. You could never be good enough. That is why you need Jesus.
2) The Bible says that there is none good enough. “There is none who does good, there is not even one,” (Rom. 3:12). Goodness is measured by God’s standard – not yours.
3) To say that you are good enough means that Christ did not have to die. But He did die to save sinners. The Bible says if righteousness can come by good deeds, then Christ didn’t need to die (Gal. 2:21); but He did, so being good isn’t enough.
Don’t you love it when a Christian uses Christian talking points to address an objection to a Christian claim? Circular reasoning ahoy!
I don’t think Matt Slick even realizes that in #1 and #3, he contradicts his own talking point from his 4th zinger about sin having “no power over God.” Obviously it does, because this god shrinks like a hothouse orchid away from its presence anywhere near him.
But okay, go off, whatever.
A Response to Zinger Attempt #8: Meaningless Distinctions and a Begged Question.
Personally, I reject any gods who blame people for being people — especially if those gods also claim to have created people. They’re blaming people for their own shoddy workmanship and inability to think ahead. Those gods aren’t good gods. They’re evil gods, and we should rightly regard them as humanity’s enemies.
The “even one sin/even one sinner” argument is one I heard as a young Catholic child, incidentally. It’s a very popular talking point, especially for evangelicals. They use it to claim that only Jesus was actually good, because only Jesus never committed any sins. (We’ll ignore him cursing an innocent fig tree and worrying his parents when he slipped away to the synagogue in Jerusalem, and all the other stuff the Gospels accidentally reveal as not-good acts Jesus committed. Also, see this book.) All other people, therefore, are awful and sinful creatures who deserve Hell completely, even if they only offend this oversensitive snowflake of a god once in their entire lives.
And therefore, people choose to go to Hell by refusing to capitulate to this snowflake-god. It’s all their fault. Their god isn’t responsible! Therefore, if you refuse Matt Slick’s zinger attempt, then you’re choosing to be tortured forever and ever! Won’t you be sorry when you realize he was right?
However, this god also seems very reluctant to provide Christians a single smidgen of support for their claims about him. Such evidence would change the discussion completely. Matt Slick doesn’t have it, so he has to lean all the harder on his tribe’s well-honed threats about Hell.
Ultimately, CARM is for Evangelicals.
Once again, we see that an evangelical apologetics resource pretending to be for “seekers” is actually solidly aimed at evangelicals themselves. The talking points and threats used within it are largely meaningless to non-Christians (and barely meaningful for non-evangelicals, who’d largely agree with most of what Matt Slick wrote).
All of his zingers take for granted that evangelicals’ claims are totally true and don’t require support in any way. Or if they do offer support, it takes the form of circular reasoning — using the Bible to PROVE YES PROVE the Bible’s claims are true. And all of his responses reinforce evangelical-style indoctrination, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so in discussions of “seekers.”
Apologetics itself is largely aimed at evangelicals, though, no matter what the apologist in question might say to the contrary. It is evangelicals who visit Matt Slick’s site to gain knowledge, and it is evangelicals who support his “ministry” business.
Apologists must pander to those who support them, even if the results won’t actually work as promised when trotted out in the wild against the apologists’ official targets. Luckily, the tribe’s been well-indoctrinated by now in how to respond when they fail: they’ll blame themselves, not the apologetics routines they’ve learned to regurgitate upon command.
After all, the hucksters selling them those routines promised they’d work!
But oh, my heart hurts for the young evangelical Beach Reach volunteers who learn these routines and rush out to use them. Their marks are getting better and better at critical thinking, and evangelicals have no defense at all against that — except antiprocess. And lately, it looks like evangelical antiprocess itself is growing less and less effective on evangelicals themselves.
NEXT UP: 1st-Century Friday! We’ll be covering Pliny the Elder (23-79CE), and maybe some other folks. It depends on how much time we have. See you tomorrow!
The definition of a TRUE CHRISTIAN™: A completely subjective definition that depends entirely on the worldview and viewpoint of the judging Christian. To be considered a TRUE CHRISTIAN™, another Christian must meet all three of these requirements (no exceptions):
- Believes the same basic package of nonsense the judging Christian believes.
- Hasn’t gotten caught doing anything completely out of bounds, at least in the judging Christian’s opinion.
- Dies in a condition that still meets 1) and 2) above.
Therefore, TRUE CHRISTIANS™ will never accept Adolf Hitler as one of themselves. He flunks #2, hopefully. It’s also why they don’t accept ex-Christians as having been one before deconversion — we flunk #3, if not #1 as well if our beliefs as Christians differ overmuch from the judge’s own.
(Insert joke about filthy, heretical Trinitarians here. And yes, I’ve been zinged for having been Oneness as a Pentecostal — many times in fact. Many judging Christians have accused me of having deconverted because I believed that doctrine instead of Trinitarianism. Because of course, if I’d have been Trinitarian I’d NEVER have deconverted. That literally NEVER happens! /s)
It’s been a while since I included a formal definition, so I thought I’d do an endnote on it.
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