17 January 2007

Chan's biggest mistake

by Dan Phillips

I'm going to tag off of Phil’s excellent post, and basically develop one point he raised.

  1. Chan’s Biggest Mistake. Pastor Chan did make one colossal goof, in this video. It wasn’t where he parked, or losing his sandals; it wasn’t even the “God is crazy about you,” or his depiction of the ardor of God’s pursuit of sinners.

No, it was the title.

Chan should never have titled the video, “A Systematic and Full Presentation of Every Dimension of Gospel Truth.” What was he thinking? That was a huge mistake, a real mess-up. The whole controversy is all Chan's fault. It's because he chose such a bad title.

No, when he titled it thus, Chan created the expectation that he would set forth every salient Biblical truth of the Gospel, with precise citation of proof-texts, and orderly development. He was himself, by his own choice, committing himself to a balanced presentation of every gem in the Gospel’s crown, without overplaying or underplaying any facet.

This video wasn’t anything of the sort. It was the worst sort of false advertisement. No, this video was conversational in style. It was the sort of talk any… well, any commoner might have with his neighbor. It was what might happen when any garden-variety Christian simply took (or made) a conversational opening, and talked about Jesus.

Even though it did touch on a lot (God’s holiness, God’s law, man’s sin, God’s judgment, Christ’s death for sinners, salvation by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone, the call of discipleship, etc.) — it was not what Chan said it would be. It was not systematic. It was not full, it was not formal, it did not present every dimension of Gospel truth.

No, he should have given it a totally different title. Something brief, something pointed; something no reasonable person could have misunderstood. The whole point of the talk wasn’t a lecture (or a sermon) of systematic theology. It’s as if Chan left that to be done by men who can do it better than he can.

No, this was clearly designed simply to catch a person where he was, sit him down, and get him thinking Gospelward, Christward. It wasn’t everything it could have been. It was a starter, an opener. The title should have reflected that. Then there wouldn’t have been any controversy.

It’s like Chan said at the very end of the video, “Stop, and think!”

Say… are you thinking what I’m thinking? What a great title that would have been! None of this foofaraw would have happened, if he’d simply titled the video…

“Just stop and think.”

  1. Since I’ve recently been made painfully aware of our readers’ differing humor-receptors, I’ll note: the preceding made a point by way of satirical parody.

  1. Listen: many of our readers are pastors and/or teachers, or otherwise folks who regard themselves as well-taught and discerning. Some of them very rightly so.

But not all of our readers are in this state. In any given day, we may get 20-80 comments — but we have somewhere in the range of 1000-3000 visits. Clearly, most of the people who read this blog do not comment.

I imagine that a lot of these folks look at a D. A. Carson, a James White, an Os Guinness, a Ravi Zacharias, doing what they do, and they think, “Wow. I am so glad he is doing that — because I never could do that. He’s so smart, so sharp, so well-read, so on-his-toes, so articulate. I’d just collapse into burbling, blithering goo.”

But these same folks might have watched Pastor Chan’s easygoing, friendly, passionate but relatively low-key talk about Christ, and they might have thought, “Gee, I can’t do what those Big Guys do. But maybe, just maybe, I could do that.”

And then picture these same people reading the shredding, the scornful, blistering shellacking, that some commenters and bloggers have dealt out to Chan, and (to a lesser degree) to anyone who has even a moderately kind word for his video.

What impact would you estimate, honestly? Positive for the spread of the Gospel? Or negative?

I think only two answers are possible: the honest, and the in-denial.

These folks I'm thinking of would certainly never dare to speak in the hearing of Chan’s harsher critics. No way they’d want to share his fate.

But worse, to the extent that they take the criticism seriously, next time they have an opportunity, they’ll think, “Okay, this is just a conversation. I don’t really have time to lay the foundation of the Creator/creature distinction, the immutability and aseity of God, His ineffable holiness, man’s original creation in innocence and subsequent fall into sin, sovereign election, the plan of redemp… no. I’d just better say nothing, if I can't say everything, and say it perfectly.”

  1. Careful readers will note that I haven’t yet defended everything Chan did in the video. Nor will I.

But I do defend it against his critics. Chan wanted his audience just to stop and think — and he gave them good reason to do so.

What’s more, he modeled one way of preaching Christ in an un-churchy setting.

I have had no argument with those who commented along these lines: “I liked this and this; I wish he hadn’t done this and this.”

But we all know it went way beyond that.

We say we want to equip everyone, we want everyone to be able to give an answer for the hope that is in him, to take the gospel into every walk of life. We do not want to be of the spirit of the Galatian errorists, who "want to shut you out, that you may make much of them" (4:17).

I just don’t see how the harshness, this hyper-criticality, forwards our shared, professed goals. It's less the spirit of Paul or Peter than of Nick Burns, Your Company's Computer Guy.

This is (probably) my last post on the issue.



Dan Phillips's signature


70 comments:

Catez said...

Bingo! I don't agree with everythig you ever say - but I agree with this. Spot on. Just been reading Evangelism in the Early Church by Michael Green (again). He says very similar things but in a different way.

Now lets get on with having those conversations...

And thanks for the straightforward understandable post. Humour included (please note correct spelling of humour).

Catez said...

P.S. I'm not saying I disagree with everything else you say. Just, ahem, giving a balance to m response to your post. As one does in conversation.

Where is everyone?

Evangelical books said...

Like I mentioned in a previous post...

Well done, Francis Chan, you have caused readers of Pyromaniacs to "Just Stop and Think"!

Berny said...

Point 2 was unnecessary. Can there really be readers out there with "receptors" that faulty?

DJP said...

Berny, trust me on this.

DJP said...

And again I ask the question you still did not answer on the other comment, thread, Douglas. Did you read the post before reacting?

donsands said...

To critique with a heart that wants to be critiqued the same way would help I think. Matt. 7:12

When I express myself in a way that's lacking, or maybe say too much, then I do need someone to tell me.
To not say something could be as harmful, as confronting like good old "Nick Burns". (That was hilarious btw).

I agree Dan, it's very important in how we share our thoughts.
Good post.

Doug said...

Dan,

This is my first (and also probably last) comment on this subject as well! I think I understand both sides of the issue (although without the vitriol).

1. Chan was presenting some things in a conversational manner to get people to stop and think about their eternal destiny. As such, this 15-minute presentation might open up further conversations about the gospel. In pouncing on it, we might cause those who feel less confident in sharing their faith to feel even more less confident.

2. Chan has a masters degree from Masters Seminary and, therefore, should not be one of those less confident people. He should be able to share the gospel conversationally in 15 minutes without leaving out major things like the resurrection and saying things like "God is crazy about you."

There are 2 questions we all need to stop and think about is, "Does this video do more good than harm?" and "What have we done in its place to share the gospel ourselves?"

SDG,
Doug

DJP said...

Doug, those are good points. Thanks for making them, and in such a brotherly fashion.

Given that the testimony of folks who've listened to Chan sermons is, as far as I've seen, univocally positive, I propose a possibility. Is it possible that Chan is not setting out to do a, "Look how perfectly I can do it" video, but to (A) accomplish the stated goal (i.e. make people stop and think — not stop and know everything that can be known), and (B) do a "Look at how you can do it" video?

I don't profess to be able to read his mind. It just seems like a reasonable question. More reasonable that the mind-reading and dark attributions of sinister intent and deliberate omissions that I've seen elsewhere.

Thomas Powell said...

Thank you! Thank you!

I watched the video and it did what it was advertised to do, I thought about it.

The beliefs we call "calvinism" are the meat and potatoes of the Gospel... Pastor Chan might smell like an semi-pelagian (I'm not saying he is or isn't, I don't know the man,) but I wonder how we all would first introduce the gospel to someone you don't know while being culturally sensitive?

I'll confess, I start with working on the heart. I might smell like a semi-pelagian, but that's just my aftershave.

Again, thanks for the post. It was coffee for my brain this morning.

DJP said...

coffee for my brain

Phil — I think we have a new motto.

Phil Perkins said...

Dan,
A little well done sarcasm, and your point is exactly right.

I find it sad that you had to give a caveat like, "Careful readers will note that I haven’t yet defended everything Chan did in the video. Nor will I."

While most of the church is in a doctrinal stuper, we who are vigilant can be over-zealous at times. So this is a good warning.

In Christ,
Phil Perkins.

Evangelical books said...

Douglas, you wrote, "Yes! Stop and think what a deceptive non-gospel presentation it is and stop and think how to expose it for what it is. A terrible distortion of the nature and character of the God who is "I AM.""

So I know at least one reader here has "just stop and think!" Job done.

Doug, the mere fact that Francis Chan graduated from Masters Seminary should have no bearing on his ministry. There is plenty of "wood, stubble and hay" coming out of seminaries these days!

rick said...

Dan - for what it's worth, nicely done. Both you and Phil have handled this well. I grew through this exchange.

My only regret, I can't find any fodder for a smart aleck remark. You once again proved to be the better man. Argh.

centuri0n said...

Oh brother. First, I'm glad Dan is making this his last post on this subject. Not because he's done something to undo what I've said so far, but because every time Dan posts on this subject I get a new list of things we ought to say.

As briefly as I can muster, I have a concern which we haven't yet aired out which I will get to by the end of this week at my blog: the way we talk to people.

Now, listen: when I talk to my mechanic about my family bus, he's the technician and I'm the guy who knows where the folllowing things are: the key hole, the radio, the lighter jack (for my belkin TuneBase), the window switches, and the locks. Oh: brakes and gas, too. After that, he could tell me that the gerbil in the running wheel has broken his leg, and I'd have to believe him because I am utterly blank on the subject of how an gas engine works, or what parts constitute it.

So when he talks to me, and he's an honest guy (thank God), he has to tell me things like, "the part which keeps the car from stalling is worn out", or "do you know what the distributor is? {sigh} it's the part that makes the electricity got to the spark plugs in the right order. {sigh} it helps the car run ..." You get the idea: he's a guy with excellent technical knowledge, and he knows that he's talking to someone woth the equivalent of a Sesams Street education about something which involves both of us in a pretty direct way.

Now, when he talks to the part warehouse, I am sure he tells them exactly what he needs -- maybe down to the part numbers, or the serial numbers, or the VIN number of the van, or whatever. Because it's one technician to another, one expert to another, one guy who is informed talking to another guy who is informed.

The Christian life is like this, and the Gospel is like this. Many of us are technicians, and we want to talk to people as if they are technicians. What if we talked to them as if they had no idea what we were talking about, but we both had a vested interest in what "us" was trying to tell "them"?

Like a mechanic talking to me about what's wrong with my vehicle. Only eternal hell is at stake. Would that be right or wrong?

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Caddiechaplain said...

Dan,
Nothing wrong with "Pastor Chan's Title . . . ." It's a great title for a post of another day when he fills in the right content.

Form follows Function . . . .

Adam Omelianchuk said...

Great post, Dan (Phil, yours was great too). I felt exactly they way you described: "Maybe I could learn to talk like that to non-Christians". Chan has so much joy and confidence as he shares, and I so wish I could. But he does so in a way that makes me think, "I can do that. This isn't as hard as I make it out to be."

Blessings!

DJP said...

Adam, my greatest regret about witnessing is spending too much time "strategerizing," and not enough time doing.

Chan pushes in one direction; the harsher critics, in the other.

JSB said...

Cent, I like your analogy a lot. Those who are gifted as teachers are tasked to make the complex understandable AND applicable to non-specialists. The use of analogies is one great way to do it. In fact, analogies may be the best form of sermon illustration. It was certainly a form Jesus made constant use of.

I suspect this is one of Chan's strengths as a pastor, when he's preaching a full message.

Catez said...

Hi Douglas,
I'm in NZ but I'm not from Mission Bay. It's a nice bay though.

I don't know who you are or why you've chosen to be rude to me here. It wasn't acurate or helpful.

No hard feelings, but how about sticking to the topic and leaving out the strange ad homs. Thanks.

Steve said...

What grieves me is that some hypercommenters have hypercriticized the Chan video for not being an Every Single Nuance You Absolutely Must Know About the Gospel when that wasn't Chan's intention...are there are far, far worse offenses taking place all around us that many Christians aren't even noticing.

Good post, Dan.

centuri0n said...

DJP:

It's always the strateegery that kills me, too.

Cameron Cloud said...

Good post. I just think you could have picked a better title. Instead of "Chan's Biggest Mistake", you could have titled it "A Systematic and Full Parody of Every Dimension of Pastor Chan's Evangelistic Vidoe that is Certain to Be Misinterpreted by Many Pyromaniac Meta Contributors." That way point 2 might not have been necessary.

Despite that, thanks for a good laugh. Post well done!

Burnt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Calvinist Gadfly said...

Dan,

Do you have any reply to Chan's own words which explain his intention for the video?

Pastor Chan - “I really just wanted to present the gospel to the world; just the plain simple, as I clear as I could make it gospel..."

(source: Passion 2007 Podcast, December 2006)

~Mark said...

LOL!! I get jokes...

Good post too. It blows me away sometimes how things like this draw so much heat.

Stanley Mac said...

Like Burnt, I have been reading your blog for a while but this is my first comment. My reason for commenting is quite different from Burnt's, however.

I'm writing to let you know that the work you guys do here, including this post, has been a tremendous blessing to me.

I, too, have spent far too much time "strategerizing" and as a result usually neglect to present anything to anyone.

Thank you for contending for the truth and doing so in such a gracious manner.

JackW said...

I'm a lurker who reads this blog daily, but doesn't feel the need to post. "Better to remain silent looking stupid than to ..."

I liked the Chan video, though I'm not crazy about it. ;-)

That being said, after I asked myself if it's Biblical, I asked if it's fruitful. It sure does seem to bring out the good fruit and some really bad fruit from some here.

Does anyone know how fruitful it's been or not been in it's intended purpose?

Phil Johnson said...

Gadfly: "Do you have any reply to Chan's own words which explain his intention for the video?"

No reply other than the one we have already given: If it was his intention to present the gospel "plain and simple," , he could've done a whole lot better—and he could've done a whole lot worse.

CuriousSaint said...

I sent it to my entire family (unsaved for the most part) and everyone else on my mailing list. I see it like DJP does...it will make them stop and think. I will do my best using wisdom He gives to follow up and fill in any "gaps".

RickB. said...

My church in No. Calif. bought and distributed 5000 to the surrounding neighborhood on a couple of successive Saturday mornings in a plastic door hanger bag which had only the a return address type of label from our church.

BReformed said...

I have been grateful for the regular participation of Francis Chan at the Grace Brethren National Youth Conferences each year.

But I wonder about Francis doing "a whole lot better". All of us can do better; but with regard to this single puzzle piece in Francis' ministry, I think it stands on its own. For that matter, I suspect he has already done a lot better than most of us.

Paul's interaction with the Gnostics (Acts 17) comes to mind through all of this discussion. A few commentators argue that it could have been more complete than it was. Yet, some Athenians believed. Others said, "We'll hear more about this." Sorrowfully, others mocked.

The highlight of my week this week was signing the contract for my company to underwrite my favorite radio program which presents part of the gospel each night; each installment has part of the gospel and, most often, not all of it. Does that make it deficient? Of course not. God's Word is often unleashed one verse at a time.

So then what is Francis Chan? What is Grace to You? Servants through whom someone believes, as the Lord assigns to each. Perhaps Francis plants, and Grace to You waters, but God gives the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers...

It's easy to sit outside the ropes and shadow box to exhaustion about someone else's singular deficiencies; but God forbid that I should die without being Francis Chan's and John MacArthur's fellow worker in the presentation of the gospel. They are light years beyond me in faithfulness and skill. But in that ecclesiastical effort, where the planting and watering are one, the complete gospel is presented forcefully, completely, and soli deo gloria.

Robert F said...

Pyros,
I have great respect for each of you as teachers of the Bible and men from which I can learn a lot about doctrine and Christian living. This Blog is a place with a type of teaching that is consistent with reformed doctrine, Calvinist teaching. So I count it a privledge to read posts from all of you that help me understand and apply my understanding of scripture in light of God's complete sovereignty and the doctrines of grace.
So, when I watched the video I was honestly confused about the endorsement. I have many Christian friends that go to churches that preach about things with a free will perspective. I never think that it makes them unbelievers, and in a similar fashion, I think an unbeliever seeing this video could learn some truth about the gospel that they didn't know before. And for that I am happy.
In my perspective, following the posts and comments, I believe that any disagreement with the video was quickly branded as hyper and unloving. And I am confused again. The large majority of commenters that have disagreed with the video's approach did NOT ridicule the whole thing or Pastor Chan. Yet we get posts about ungracious Calvinists, and witty sarcasm about not needing to give every single point several times over in order to be a gospel presentation (which again I don't see too many people advocating).
I believe the large majority of those that have brought up challenges to the video are reasonable and expect that the leaders here would advocate Calvinistic approaches to presenting the gospel. Which I think all would agree that this video is not.
Finally, I think many people who are new(or not so new) to the doctrines of grace come to this site for validation of the truths they are coming to grips with. We have heard sermons that tell us that God is sovereign in salvation and we look here to see that truth validated and illustrated. And it is over and over again!
I don't think the Chan video is bad, but I don't think it presents a view of scripture that focuses on God and His glory. For that reason alone I choose not to send this video to others, but there are wiser men than me, including the Pyromaniacs that I infer would send it out, so I trust their judgement and God's sovereignty.
Thank you for your work on this blog.

Phil Johnson said...

Douglas:

In yesterday's post I wrote: "I am the blog-boss here, so now that I have taken time to explain my position, you need to respect my conviction on this and bend over backward to be polite and gracious, or else your comments will be deleted."

For your gratuitously insulting remarks aimed at Catez, you're out of this thread. I've deleted all your comments subsequent to the offensive one, not because I disagree with your views (some of which I do agree with) but because you deliberately breached the one plea I made about the tone of this discussion.

The ban against you applies for the remainder of this thread. If you want to comment on another subject in a different comment-thread, feel free. But don't post in this thread again unless you want to risk incurring the permanent ban.

My decision in this matter was made much easier by the fact that you are anonymous, and most of the people you are needling are not. Just a clue for you.

centuri0n said...

Robert:

I am interested in the answer to this question --

What makes this video sub-par? What specifically?

I am ready to discuss that particularly, and based on evidence both from the video and from Scripture. I receive your personal challenge as one made in good faith and right motives.

What specifically makes this video, as you have said, "[not] present a view of scripture that focuses on God and His glory"?

Phil Johnson said...

Robert F.:

Thanks for the response; especially your measured tone. These are good questions that I am happy to answer. You wrote:

"when I watched the video I was honestly confused about the endorsement."

I'm confused about why our response has been characterized by so many as a wholesale "endorsement" of the video and everything in it. All three of us have emphatically stated otherwise. In fact, I don't think we've actually made any argument other than what you yourself acknowledge, viz.:

Robert F.: "I think an unbeliever seeing this video could learn some truth about the gospel that they didn't know before. And for that I am happy."

Exactly. See Philippians 1:18.

Robert F.: "In my perspective, following the posts and comments, I believe that any disagreement with the video was quickly branded as hyper and unloving."

Let me be perfectly clear: What I thought "unloving" and utterly inappropriate was the accusation, which came very early in the discussion from one of the more vocal and verbose critics, that Pastor Chan was guilty of deliberately corrupting the gospel. I also disagree with the charge that the video so seriously corrupts the gospel that it amounts to a de facto denial of the true gospel.

To quote Frank Turk from his own blog:

"The video makes some unfortunate mistakes, right? How many times does that have to be said? But the questions of whether men are sinful, and whether God will judge, and whether Christ has atoned, and whether God now offers, and whether man can accept, are all answered in this video. That's the Gospel. If it's not the whole narrative, the whole story, the Bible is over 2000 pages long in two columns and single-spaced type. You can't get the whole story in at one pass."

Robert F.: "The large majority of commenters that have disagreed with the video's approach did NOT ridicule the whole thing or Pastor Chan."

And we've agreed with the reasonable critics. What we have decried is the over-the-top campaign by a few of the more outspoken critics to anathematize the whole of it as a deliberate corruption of the gospel.

Robert F.: "Yet we get posts about ungracious Calvinists, and witty sarcasm about not needing to give every single point several times over in order to be a gospel presentation (which again I don't see too many people advocating)."

Chronically ungracious Calvinists, as well as angry hyper-Calvinists, are as much a threat to the doctrines of grace as any semi-Pelagian, in my assessment. And a few of both species have posted a lot of verbiage here recently.

There have indeed been people in this conversation who have suggested that a gospel presentation that leaves out a single point of gospel truth is no gospel at all. This idea is a consistent thread in the meta of a certain blog where the anti-Chan sentiment has found a welcome home. I'm not going to link there, but it shouldn't be hard for you to find.

Robert F.: "I believe the large majority of those that have brought up challenges to the video are reasonable and expect that the leaders here would advocate Calvinistic approaches to presenting the gospel. Which I think all would agree that this video is not."

Yes. And we have said all of that in our own remarks about the whole thing. I think if our stance seems "confusing," it's most likely because some of the more vocal critics insist on posting things here and there that seem to imply we have endorsed the video and everything it says. For the umpteenth time, we have not. Read what we actually wrote and posted, rather than what some of the controversialists are saying, and I think a lot of the confusion will clear away.

SB said...

Thanks Dan. Spot on post.

Dave Armstrong said...

Are Arminians still considered Pelagians by many Calvinists? How about y'all here (without wading through 118 comments)? Just curious . . .

centuri0n said...

Dave:

Some of them are semi-pelagian. Rarely do you find a true Arminian who is a true Pelagian. The sticky spot is the natural goodness of man, as I am sure you know.

Catholics, however, ...

gotcha, Dave. Have a nice day!

Phil Johnson said...

Dave Armstrong: "Are Arminians still considered Pelagians by many Calvinists?"

1. No Calvinist who actually understands historic Arminianism would suggest that Arminianism is the same thing as Pelagianism.

2. Arminianism actually has much more in common with semi-Pelagianism than with pure Pelagianism, and many Calvinists would regard Arminianism as just a variety of semi-Pelagianism. It is my personal opinion that there is a technical (but ultimately, not all that significant) difference between semi-Pelagianism and true, historic Arminianism. (The two views would define "prevenient grace" differently and assign it a slightly different role.) We touched on these issues here a few weeks ago. (See especially Greg Welty's first comment in the comment-thread and the discussion that followed.)

3. Some people who might think of themselves as Arminians are actually full-on semi-Pelagians. And some, specifically those who take Finney's view of original sin rather than Wesley's, are in fact out-and-out Pelagians, and not Arminian at all. So the labels are unfortunately misused by all sides.

Dave Armstrong: "How about y'all here (without wading through 118 comments)? Just curious . . ."

Us? Well, I can only speak for myself, but I don't think I'm too far off what Dan and Frank would say. (And this is nothing I haven't said to you before, so let's not drag out an argument about it in this thread, but:) First, I think Tridentine Catholicism smacks too much of semi-Pelagianism, and second, I also think Arminianism represents a strain of Protestant theology that parallels the kind of thinking that plagued Catholicism from the Council of Orange on (and ultimately ruined it). Arminianism (like Trent's toned-down statements on Original Sin) may not be the exact equivalent of classic Semi-Pelagianism, but it has enough of the Pelagianizing tendency in it to produce a load of the same kind of mischief.

JSB said...

Dave, you might find Roger Olson's explanation instructive:

"What’s rampant in America’s pulpit and pews are not Arminians but semi-Pelagians. But what has happened is that Calvinist spokesmen have equated those two, mistakenly in fact. Arminianism is not semi-Pelagianism. But over the years, many Calvinists have come to equate them and to simply use them interchangeably.

The difference is this: in classical Arminianism--in real Arminianism--if someone gets saved, it’s because God came to them first; the initiative is
God’s. God calls them and God enables them. That’s called prevenient grace. But you don’t hear that in pulpits a lot. What you hear in pulpits and pews is
what scholars call semiPelagianism; although they don’t know it’s called that.

And that is a very different idea in that God is kind of standing at a distance, waiting for us to take the initiative and, if we take the initative, take one step toward God, then He will come near to us, and perhaps save us if we do the
right thing. That is not Arminianism."

Robert F said...

Phil, I thank you for your response. I thank you and all the Pyros for your work on this blog.

Centuri0n,

I also thank you for your response, and the opportunity to interact:

"What specifically makes this video, as you have said, '[not] present a view of scripture that focuses on God and His glory'?"

My short answer (since it is a blog comment area) is that there is a difference between the facts of the gospel and the emphasis someone puts into it. I agree that this video does state several important truths of the gospel. My opinion is that the emphasis (or appeal) made, places the focus on man's pride and control.

When I got down on a knee to ask my wife to marry me with ring in hand, I had done all that I could do to bring about our marriage. She had all power of decision, she could choose to accept or reject my offer. And she would be correct to say that it was her decision that was determinative. To my great joy, she said yes! When applied to God and us, this would yield the power of free will choice to the person. And the glory of the union would be on the man who chose wisely. This is not the message I want my unsaved loved ones to associate with the gospel. I believe that the video does use this picture and would be interpreted that way. Since this is my interpretation of the video I made the statement you quoted.

I'll say again, I do believe many important truths were stated in the video.

centuri0n, I do value your insight and opinion, if you would like me to elaborate and support with Biblical references in an email I can.

Micah said...

This is an ex horse... does it need to be nailed to its perch?

centuri0n said...

Robert:

The conclusion that the marriage metaphor necessarily leads to the conclusion of free will is a non-sequitur.

The way to disprove this is to build the appropriate, valid syllogism. I'll be interested to see your syllogism to substantiate this argument.

Tominthebox News Network said...

We sit here on our little computers feeling oh so smug and oh so righteous because we have it "right" and Chan has it "wrong." Friends, each and every one of us is wrong about something, and in our human frailty and sinfulness even the most "educated" among us is pitifully ignorant.

The question is not "Does this video do more good than harm?" The question is "Is Christ exalted?" Was Chan's video perfect? No. Was Christ exalted? Absolutely. That's just cents from a jar of clay.

Robert F said...

centuri0n,

I sincerely do not think I was being illogical or introducing arguments that are out of the scope of the discussion. I made a good faith attempt to answer your question. I will try to improve in this answer. Here is my attempt at a valid syllogistic argument.

Pastor Chan says "...it is like God is on a knee with a ring saying will you take me"

This video is aimed at the common man.

The common man would understand this to be a metaphor of a marriage proposal.

The common understanding of a marriage proposal is that the perspective bride has the freedom to make any choice she wants to make.

Therefore the use of this metaphor in the video will lead the majority of common men to conclude that they have the freedom to make whatever choice they wish. And that their choice is the deciding factor.

Further since man has the deciding option, if he chooses wisely he has reason to boast.

I thank you for interacting with me on this. I think you are attempting to go through a logic exercise so I can discover the flaw in my logic. So that I don't take any more comment space I humbly ask you to show me where my logic is flawed and/or email me further questions and I will give a good faith effort in responding to them via email.

Dave Armstrong said...

I think jsb is exactly right. Of course classic Arminianism is not semi-Pelagian. To the extent that some self-professed "Arminian" today is in fact semi-Pelagian, in that measure he is not Arminian by any reasonable historic definition. To equate such a person with that term is, therefore, faulty semantics.

I argue this rather easily-ascertained point as follows:

The Remonstrance of 1610: 3rd and 4th articles (of five):

III. That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the working of his own free-will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can for himself and by himself think nothing that is good--nothing, that is, truly good, such as saving faith is, above all else. But that it is necessary that by God, in Christ and through his Holy Spirit he be born again and renewed in understanding, affections and will and in all his faculties, that he may be able to understand, think, will, and perform what is truly good, according to the Word of God [John 15:5].

IV.That this grace of God is the beginning, the progress and the end of all good; so that even the regenerate man can neither think, will nor effect any good, nor
withstand any temptation to evil, without grace precedent (or prevenient), awakening, following and co-operating. So that all good deeds and all movements towards good that can be conceived in through must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of operation, grace is not irresistible; for it is written of many that they resisted the Holy Spirit [Acts 7 and elsewhere passim].

John Wesley's Twenty-Five Articles of Religion (1784), considered normative for Methodists, states in its Article VIII ("Of Free Will" - virtually the same as Article X of the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles):

"The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such that he can not turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and works, to faith and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will."

(in Creeds of the Churches, edited by John H. Leith, Garden City: NY: Doubleday Anchor, 1963, 356}

Likewise, in the Lutheran Formula of Concord (1580):

"We also reject the error of the Semi-Pelagians who teach that man by virtue of his own powers could make a beginning of his conversion but could not complete it without the grace of the Holy Spirit."

(Part I: Epitome, Article II: Free Will, Antitheses: Contrary False Doctrine, section 3; cf. Solid Declaration, Article II: Free Will, error #2: "coarse Pelagians")

Of course (I throw in as a bonus; no extra charge) Catholicism is not semi-Pelagian, either:

"[Semi-Pelagianism], while not denying the necessity of Grace for salvation, maintained that the first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that Grace supervened only later."

(Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F.L. Cross, Oxford Univ. Press, revised edition, 1983, 1258)

Council of Trent, Chapter V, Decree on Justification:

". . . Man . . . is not able, by his own free-will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight."

And Canon I on Justification:

"If anyone saith that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema."

northWord said...

"...we have somewhere in the range of 1000-3000 visits. Clearly, most of the people who read this blog do not comment."

I wonder how many non-commenters are busy looking in their bibles, checking biblical commentaries and looking a few words up in the dictionary.
It does get all scholarly and big-wordy in the comments, I've learned much thanks to this place :)

Wonderfully thoughtful and intelligent commentary all around guys.
I'm very much in agreement with Dan's "...I just don’t see how the harshness, this hyper-criticality, forwards our shared, professed goals."

I didn't see anywhere here the Chan video being touted by any of the Pyro guys as the end-all-be-all of Gospel presentations.

To me, it was a lovely, sweet video, possibly a force for some but not very powerful (to me).

I would like to mention one beautiful thing I noticed about Pastor Chan; he exudes the child-like faith and love for Christ that Christ so wants for us to have, while simultaneously showing himself very much a man of great strength and mature character. He seems to me to be a fine example of a good and faithful servant.

"That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." . .
(1Cr 2:5)
. . I guess it really comes down to that.

Impacted Wisdom Truth said...

Has Team Pyro given any thought to inviting Pastor Chan to do a guest bleg regarding his video? Then he can answer questions directly in the meta.

centuri0n said...

Dave:

Hence my comment and Phil's comment.

One of the issues involved is that even Open Theists today are willing to call themselves "Arminian", which means either the definition has broadened significantly since 1610 or there's the kind of fudging going on with labels that appears when people want to cover their own mistakes with some kind of historically-obscure hat.

How's your family, btw? You seem a little frowny-faced, and even I have sympathy for a puppy with big round eyes.

centuri0n said...

Robert F said:

The common understanding of a marriage proposal is that the perspective bride has the freedom to make any choice she wants to make.

This is where your point falls apart, Robert. While it may be true that the average Brad or Angelina may want to attribute "free will" to the response of the woman to the suitor, if you asked them, "Why does a woman say yes to a man who asks her to marry him," I'll bet (in the first place) that you won't get a uniform answer, and (in the second place) one of the top 3 answers will be "because she loves him".

Moreover, if you followed up with, "Why does a woman say no to a man who asks her to marry him," while you would again get a range of answers, I would bet that among the top 2 answers would be "because she doesn't love him", and the answer "she made a choice as a free moral agent" or the more generic "free will" would hardly make a showing.

Last of all, while I would call them inconsistent and in possession of a faulty theology, there are plenty of people who are Christian brothers who believe man makes a libertarian free choice to choose Christ. Spurgeon (patron, um, saint of this blog)thought so. Being wrong about this matter doesn't make one not a Christian.

Jason Alligood said...

We've forgotten the most important question of all... Is he dispensational or not? ;)

centuri0n said...

Jason:

Thank you for putting this in the right perspective.

I repent in sack-cloth and ashes.

DJP said...

< forehead slap >

D'oh!!

Jason Alligood said...

centuri0n said...

"I repent in sack-cloth and ashes."

As you should, as you should.

For is someone does not see the holy 7 dispensations, surely they preacheth not a true gospel and are to be swiftly declared anathema!

Garet Pahl said...

Okay, I've not commented here for quite a while, but as someone who actually knows Francis, let me share a few thoughts.

1. The great irony that struck this Calvinist throughout the entire thread of “controversy” is how those critical of Francis are attributing such power to the presentation, as if a person who responds to an gospel presentation perceived as incomplete may be in jeopardy. My great hope in evangelism rests in the reality that Salvation is of the Lord. I can mangle concepts, stutter like a buffoon, and generally be a fool, but continue in boldness because I know that those who are elected unto salvation will believe (despite my errors), and will persevere in their faith until the end. The nit-picking of Francis’ presentation completely betrays a hidden semi-Pelagianism rooted in the accusers. Stop and think about it.
2. My closet friend is pastoring a church plant out of Francis’ church, Cornerstone. Having been involved in this plant since the beginning, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Francis and several of the other pastors there. Francis is thoroughly Reformed in his theology, there is no doubt in my mind, as our conversations typically come to rest on the sovereignty of God in all things. Accusing Francis of semi-Pelagian heresy over a 15 minute video is ludicrous on its face.
3. The language of high culture church is exclusivist, and for many, purposefully so. Francis is not out there to preach to the high culture (he could), but get the words of life to a culture and community that is completely unchurched and largely ignorant of anything biblical.

I could elaborate more on these points, but it seems that everyone already has their minds made up.

centuri0n said...

... wait for it ...

Garet Pahl said...

I want to apologize for the poor grammar employed in my comment...

DJP said...

Garet:

1. Thanks for all of that.

2. You confirm something I mentioned to Phil as we chatted. This whole thing (very tangentially reminds me of the Clarence Thomas hearings, after Anita Hill made her accusations. Subsequent witnesses seemed divided into two groups: those who knew only her, and believed her; those who knew them both, disbelieved her, and believed Thomas.

The harsher critics of Chan seemed to reach their conclusions about him and his beliefs and character (immediately!) on the basis of the video alone. Those who had a broader knowledge of him spoke very well of him.

3. You seem ticked, which I can easily understand. But do you see Chan as having been given a fair shake by Frank, Phil and me?

4. Do you know whether Chan's aware of the whole controversy?

Dave Armstrong said...

How's your family, btw?

Pretty good. Growing by leaps and bounds . . . (15,13,10,5 [girl] ). Hows yours?

dreid said...

Amen and amen, Garet. Though I would encourage your pastor friend to remain in the "closet" -- lest he disclose his relationship with Pastor Chan and suffer the wrath of some of our other dear brethren in the Calvinist Camp.

Frank, Phil and Dan--
Many thanks for your efforts to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in truth, love and without compromise - though with a keen wit and tongue often firmly in cheek. I love it... and so would Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, et al. It's a joy to read your daily posts, and I appreciate your willingness to interact with commenters. You extend a grace that the Lord hasn't yet given me when dealing with dishonest analysis, intellectual laziness and empty arguments.

Okay, enough of the gratuitous love-fest. Some will think I've established bearded and bi-focaled idols.

Doug said...

Garet Pahl said,

"1. The great irony that struck this Calvinist throughout the entire thread of “controversy” is how those critical of Francis are attributing such power to the presentation, as if a person who responds to an gospel presentation perceived as incomplete may be in jeopardy. My great hope in evangelism rests in the reality that Salvation is of the Lord. I can mangle concepts, stutter like a buffoon, and generally be a fool, but continue in boldness because I know that those who are elected unto salvation will believe (despite my errors), and will persevere in their faith until the end. The nit-picking of Francis’ presentation completely betrays a hidden semi-Pelagianism rooted in the accusers. Stop and think about it."

Now, I generally have been on the side of not crucifying this man. But I don't think that those who have been (whom I respectfully disagree with) have done so out of concern for whether or not God can use such a presentation to sovereignly save someone. I think the concern has been over whether someone who believes in the sovereignty of God should stoop to tactics that are typically used by those who don't believe in the sovereignty of God. They are most likely questioning his faith in God to use the Gospel, not just accusing him of heresy.

Garet Pahl said...

djp-

I'm not ticked in a way that is because a brother I respect is being maligned- Francis' ministry can speak for itself. I just get frustrated with the heavy handedness of the theologically elite who are quick to ream anyone who doesn't outline exactly what their itching ears want to hear. I consider myself among that elite, and am emabarassed by the way I've treated people in the past. Talking over the theologically challenged for the sake of doctrinal accuracy alienates those who would accept the full doctrines of grace if only they were explained in simpler, less polarizing terms.

To answer your questions-

I think the three of you have been incredibly fair, as always.

I'm sure Francis knows. I doubt he has the time to care...

centuri0n said...

Dave --

Getting big.

I've been treaching them to say "The Pope is the devil" in German just to start them off right.

:D

Garet Pahl said...

doug,

As Team Pyro pointed out, a very thorough and not-so-seeker sensitive (you know, all that horrible sin talk) Gospel was presented. The rest of it is just Francis being Francis. I would hardly call someones personality and the employemnt of creativity a tactic. Where the Pilgrim's Progress, or The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, the result of stooping to tactics? (not to suggest that a 15 minute internet video is the same as to influential works of fine literature) If everyone agrees that the Gospel message presented by Francis is useful in God's redemptive plan, than why is there controversy? Is the theological news cycle so slow right now?

chris bruynzeel said...

"I've been treaching them to say "The Pope is the devil" in German just to start them off right."

laughed out loud!

Great discussion - I'm at a church nearby (to Cornerstone) and have nothing but huge respect for Pastor Chan and the ministry in Simi!

God bless to you at Team Pyro! Always learn a ton!

your brother in Christ
Chris Bruynzeel
Newbury Park, Ca

Dave Armstrong said...

"I've been treaching them to say "The Pope is the devil" in German just to start them off right."

Yeah, I know what you mean. When my first son was about two, he would look at a picture of Luther on one of my book covers and say "hair-a-tick."

That's lots of insight for a 2 yo! Would that Protestant adults could know that much. "Out of the mouths of babes . . ." LOL

cyd said...

Dan

To begin with, I have read ALL the posts (can't use that excuse on me... :-).)

I don't think the primary issue here is about being "fair" (though we hope all concerned are), but it is being truthful by the standard of God's Word. I have been blessed by many things TeamPyro has written here in the past. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why you would defend and endorse this film?

James White, Steve Camp, Alan Kershner and others have spoken almost uniformly as to the concerns of the content of the gospel being represented in this video.

Robertf had some of the same questions I have had.

It seems to me that if others in the evangelical world like Joel Osteen or Rick Warren for example would have made this exact same video, you would not hesitate to confront the error head on. I'm not trying to judge motives here at all; but I wonder why this video has captured your enthusiasm as reformed brothers, when there is much missing from the content of its claims?

I agree that Pastor Chan's own website about this video contains many good and helpful articles about the gospel. Why weren't those things included in this video when he himself has said, "I really just wanted to present the gospel to the world; just the plain simple, as clear as I could make it gospel, but outside of a church setting. And so we got this idea to just do it along the beach and use a Hollywood crew and paid top dollar to do it right; and all that in hopes of distributing it to every person in our city. And so we did that. We made this DVD and we passed it out door to door to over 30,000 homes in our city so we could get it to everyone. Cause we thought if the Lord comes back this year, we wanted to know that we got out the gospel to everyone. And so we did that…" (podcast, Passion 07)

He clearly here does not say that this is phase one to be treated as an introduction to the gospel. He says, "the gospel."

I want to remain teachable Dan, but when I look at the video and then read through the Scriptures, the two just don't stack up.

Phil Johnson said...

Cyd:

We'll let you have the last word.

Except for this: Thread closed.