15 August 2007

A Response to David Aikman

by Frank Turk

{For those to whom this sort of thing matters, I e-mailed this letter to Mr. Aikman earlier this week so he had a head's up}

Dear Mr. Aikman;

Undoubtedly, you have already received a raft of e-mails from so-called "attack dogs" regarding your essay in the August 2007 edition of Christianity Today. Let me first of all apologize for those who don't have the sense to apologize for themselves, and agree with you that there's a problem with civility in our civilization. And I say this as someone who, frankly, has frequently been accused of violating such a thing because of my opinions.

However, I have two topics I'd like to propose to you for your consideration related to what you wrote for CT: consistency, and criticism.

On the first topic, here's what I'm thinking: it is possible that your essay is correct in its assessment of the plethora of organizations that are critical (particularly) of the American Christian landscape. But problematically, your essay does what it sets out to criticize. For example, you broad-brush the matter of what kind of criticism is out there by putting all kinds of criticism in the same bucket. You equate criticizing Joel Osteen with KJVO enthusiasm – trying, I guess, to demonstrate how backwards and uninformed these opinions must be.

Your criticism of them, in a nutshell, is that their "approach" is flawed – and this may well be true. But your approach to reproach is not really much better – because it does the kinds of things you are very sincerely worried about, only without the Biblical epithets of "whitewashed tombs" and "vipers".

I realize that you had space restrictions and a word-count to abide by, so making an encyclopedia entry for the various phyla and species of "attack dogs" and their arguments was not in the scope of your work here. That's fine – in fact, I think that's admirable that you were willing to take on such a broad topic in a one-page essay. But if that's an out for your own mistakes here – and let's face it: equating criticism of Joel Osteen's preaching to a KJVO bibliology is a stretch at best – it at least takes the edge off the "attack dogs" complaints as they work mostly in a blog environment which works with blog readers' limited attention span. {Note the readers: I'd apologize to you at this point, but the ones who will be offended stopped reading at "vipers", above}

And in that, here's my second thought: there is more to criticism than merely having an opinion. There's a scene in Star Trek VI where the president of the Federation is addressing the Kitimer Conference, and he's on about Interstellar politics, and he says to the gathered delegates, "Let us redefine progress to mean that just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily mean we must do that thing." I realize that that's not a Biblical prooftext, but I think that's great advice for people who think they have something to say, especially in an age when you can set up a blog and, if you get yourself added to the right blogrolls, have an audience of thousands in a matter of weeks.

See: one's criticism ought to be able to both demonstrate the problem and outline or present the solution to that problem – and in doing so, perhaps it ought to in and of itself be an example of what it's talking about. So if your concern, for example, is how mean it is to publicly criticize other Christians, and how confused that makes non-Christians and the marginally-churched, I'm not sure that publishing that essay publicly dispels the problem: it is by definition part of the problem because it is a public criticism of other Christians.

Rather, what if one took some of the examples you used in your essay, and pointed out that there is a wide diversity of criticisms pointed at that object of criticism, and that some of it is well-considered and useful while other critics don't really grasp how the tools of criticism work. What this would do is advance the idea that criticism is both useful and necessary for the body of Christ, but that some criticism is like using a salad fork to take an eyelash out of someone's eye.

And in that, we have another aspect of criticism: being a receiver of criticism, which is something you did not even brush up against in your essay. One of the main reasons that popular criticism reaches such a fever pitch in this iteration of popular culture is that people have no idea how to receive criticism without taking it personally and being the wrong-kind of defensive. Every criticism coming in is received as personal, vengeful, spiteful, mean, hurtful, unloving, etc. And in that, all people who are disagree with "me" are seen as "ag'in' me", and only those who are in agreement with me are seen as my friends.

Let me say something plainly: if this problem was resolved in popular public discourse, it would be the end of most of the hard feelings in both the blogosphere and in public life. And those who trade in this currency are the real villains, the ones who are actually moving public conversations away from civility and toward intellectual warfare.

So, for example, it is not unloving for Christians to be critical of Pat Robertson for speaking for God and calling down judgment on this person or place – because Mr. Robertson has demonstrated frequently that he is not a prophet; he gets it wrong often and makes the supernatural claims of the Christian faith look like superstitions and folk religion. And on the other side of the fence, it is right for Christians to be critical of Tony Campolo for pointing fingers at Christian conservatives when he cannot be bothered to represent their theology or their good social work in any meaningful way. Dr. Campolo is an educated man, and for him to use the kind of provocative language he uses to discredit those with whom he disagrees does not wash – he ought to know better, and ought to do better if he has a case which is solid and compelling.

And lastly, things like humor, sarcasm, polemics, hyperbole and the biblical categories of thought are the tools of the trade for criticism – and it is not wrong to use them. It is wrong to misuse them. It is wrong to be a one-note tuba, especially when one can't get that one note on-pitch. But when these tools come into play, and someone finds sarcasm (for example) offensive, it only demonstrates one's inability to receive criticism and does not speak to whether the writer meant something vile by it.

That last bit probably could use some more unpacking, but I've chosen to make my letter not any longer than your original essay. I didn’t quite make it, but I don't have an editor making me stay on one page.

My thanks for thinking about this with me, and for giving a public stage to the criticism of Christians by Christians. It's the right thing to do.







66 comments:

Daryl said...

Well reasoned response Cent. You did an excellent job of acknowledging that some critics are over the top, but that criticism needs to happen.

By the way, I couldn't help but notice the names Mr. Aikman chose to mention when outlining who seesm to be getting criticized. Sounds like (with an exception or two) a who's who of what's wrong with N.American Christianity.

Rick said...

Agreed - very well presented. Especially liked the Star Trek reference. Always a good tool to have in the box. As one who tends toward "the other side", I hope I appreciate and "work out with fear and trembling" criticism in the vein you have outlined.

jsb said...

Excellent, Frank. Esp. "people have no idea how to receive criticism without taking it personally and being the wrong-kind of defensive."

Thinknig back to the Founding Fathers, and most political debate up through 1960 or so, there was a WHOLE LOT of satire and vitriol dished...but those on the receiving end met it in a manful (and I use that term advisedly) way, with their own humor and, most important, CONTENT driven responses (hey, how about "The Content Driven Life"?)

Anyway, what has happened to our robust national and theological character that we can't meet strongly expressed criticism with anything but a whine? Go running to the cultural mandarins crying "Unloving"?

"I take that personally" never used to be much of an answer. Now it's elevated to the status of conversation stopper.

donsands said...

"What this would do is advance the idea that criticism is both useful and necessary for the body of Christ, but that some criticism is like using a salad fork to take an eyelash out of someone's eye."

I've been the one with the fork, and had a fork used on me.
I've learned from both sides, and have grown less critical, and grown where I'm able to handle it a bit better. God is gracious and faithful.

Nice response. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

DJP said...

Well done. "Joel Osteen critics... KJV-onliers... Pat Robertson critics... flat-earthers...." Feh.

Jay said...

An excellent post. I'd like to take advantage of its content to offer my own criticism:

A Star Trek reference to make a serious point... yikes.

Proposed solution: Only make Star Trek references when you're sure the other person is a Star Trek fan, otherwise you come off as weird as a KJVO fundamentalist (well, almost).

Nevergall said...

I have always heard that pets resemble their owners...but I never thought it was true!

Benjamin Nitu said...

It is so surprising that Logic 101 is not a requirement for journalism.

In one page, David Aikman makes 3 fallacies:
1.hasty generalization
2.red herring
3.weak analogy(this is the one Frank analyzes so well in this post)

Like Frank, we can give him the benefit of the doubt: maybe he didn't have enough space to fully express himself.

Gal. 2:11
"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face ..."
v.14 "I said to Cephas before them all ..."

Wow, Paul is a critic.
"Opposed to his face ... before them all"
Would that be considered lashing out in public at fellow Christian?

Stan said...

So true. Just as Paul opposed Peter to his face, it is necessary to speak the truth in love.

One important question from me, though. "... if you get yourself added to the right blogrolls, have an audience of thousands in a matter of weeks." Since my readership is barely 200, what are the right blogrolls??? =)

Rhology said...

Well done.

And it's "Khitomer."

Tim Bertolet said...

This was a great article. It was great to think about these issues. It was great reminder to me not to be drawn to the sensationalism of critique but rather the content. So many times we watch internet blog debates like we watch prize fighting, we want to see blood and carnage not solid arguments(for the record, I don't watch prize fighting). Again, great post to get the brain juices flowing.

I loved the Star Trek reference although I admit it is probably lost on most non-Trek fans. Why no graphic(s)? A non-Trek fan can endure a graphic or two just as some of the non-kitty fans have endured.

This post was particularly timely in light of the emergent-see pictures and the criticism that they have generated. It was great to be reminded that we do need civility in making and taking criticism yet the category of critique is not by default mean, nasty or 'unChristian'. Keep up the great work.

I'm sure we have all seen people characterized as prideful or lacking in humility when they offer a critique based upon the certainty of the gospel or perspicuity of Scripture. I wonder, does the inability to recieve criticism (the good kind made from reasoned argumentation) go farther to display a lack of humility? Is it finding the speck in some else's eye when you miss the plank in your own?

One last thought, it is ashamed when people define their theology by the ability to criticize, but many who have a sound theology are not afraid to engage other views with respectful critique. There is a difference between defining your theology by criticism of others vs. using solid Biblical theology to critique the unbiblical. The latter can rightly be done with humility.

Yankeerev said...

"Salad"...who said salad? I love Salad...

Now, where's my pitch fork?

LeeC said...

We can ALL be more loving, and more gracious. Praise God that He will finish what we so feebly strive to attain to!

That said, how do we go about obeying this command?


1 Cor 5:12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?

13 But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.


Have oity on the unbeliever trapped and a slave to sin, but to those who claim Christ we need to be willing to humbly strive to present His bride as spotless.

Pastor Bill said...

"One of the main reasons that popular criticism reaches such a fever pitch in this iteration of popular culture is that people have no idea how to receive criticism without taking it personally and being the wrong-kind of defensive. Every criticism coming in is received as personal, vengeful, spiteful, mean, hurtful, unloving, etc. And in that, all people who are disagree with "me" are seen as "ag'in' me", and only those who are in agreement with me are seen as my friends."

Do you, here, "broad brush the matter" just a bit? Hmmm?

Still, great post. I agree completely that most people don't seem to know how to give or receive criticism...

Keep up the thought-provoking work.

Daryl said...

Al Mohler blogged yesterday about the importance Harold O.J. Brown's work in combatting heresies in the church.
It seems that that post and this one are closely related. After alldoes not losing the ability and/or freedom to critize the thinking of other Christians lead directly to the spread of heresy?

Yankeerev said...

My recent experience is that Christians have been convinced that naming a person in connection with a questionable teaching is an "attack" on that person. Some times that is true, depending on how we present it. Sometimes it seems offensive to paint in bad light someone who has done much for Christendom but who is a little off in one area. The mantra, as I have heard it is...

"Teach what the Bible says and people will begin to realize what error is. Don't divide the body by bringing up your "opinions" about a brother in Christ."

Then the "how can you tell a counterfeit $20 bill" illustration is used as a proof text.

It is sad that our Christian culture is censoring itself from "speaking the truth in love."

carolczech said...

Isn't part of the problem a generation that was raised with only smiley faces on their papers (never red ink!), everyone gets a trophy and self-esteem as of the utmost importance. I've felt this frustration in dealing with the 20/30-something age group...any disagreement/debate is seen as a personal attack.

Earlier generations relished a robust debate....with this younger generation the "conversations" must be only affirming of one-another's ideas/ideologies....there are no wrong answers.

northWord said...

Wonderful, well thought out article.

..."and it is not wrong to use them. It is wrong to misuse them."

Absolutely agree. On that note I would add that the line is so very fine between correct-use and "mis-use".

There's a seductive attraction all over this calling-to-the-table of others using (bad) criticism, sarcasm, witty words and intellectual high-brow-sery, both in the taking part and in the reading it.

Is Criticism, sarcasm etc the new "clean" sin? (if there were such a thing) It isn't exactly a significant tool in the bible or the Christian realm at all, actually, it seems the opposite. And we, being yet in our earthly/sinful bodies are easily led into places of ill-realm. I am as guilty as next guy of this, both in the giving and the consuming.

I guess I'm just saying it's a very thin line to be treading, (esp for us plebeians ;)- obviously false teachers need and are expected to be called out, but only a few can do it in true righteousness through the Spirit.

A particular verse came to mind in this, (with a re-phrase):
"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a man [using sarcasm in defense of proper theology] to enter into the kingdom of God."

Thanks again, Frank for this thought provoking post, well done.

Sewing said...

Cent:

Thank you for your thoughtful response to Mr. Aikman's piece.

It was a bit dispiriting over the last couple of weeks, seeing the pushback against the Emergent-see posters, the criticism of John Piper for being "too God-centered," the usual hoary old chestnuts about "MacArthur's crowd" (I'm paraphrasing), and hearing of Mr. Aikman's treatment of intra-Christian criticism.

The issue did nevertheless need to be addressed, although a longer and—dare I say it—more thought-out piece would have been eminently more suitable.

I have to admit my first reaction to reading Mr. Aikman's piece was exactly the same one as Daryl in comment #1 (see above)!

As for Scriptural counsel on these matters, there's also Paul's words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-4:

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

(Note the admonishment both to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort," and to so "with complete patience and teaching.")

Keith B said...

Frank,
Thanks for sharing your letter for all the above mentioned reasons. It was very useful.

Carolczech,
The other day a fellow teacher asked me why I used red ink to grade papers. I asked him what color he used and how long it would be before the stigma of failure of his new color replaced the color red.

David said...

Who Said This, Quiz of the Day.

Let me be clear that tolerance can be defined in two legitimate ways. As mentioned in the first chapter, legal tolerance is the right for everyone to believe in whatever faith (or none at all) he wishes. Such tolerance is very important in our society, and we as Christians should maintain our conviction that no one should ever be coerced into believing as we do. Freedom of religion should not only be retained in Western democracies but promoted in other countries as well.

Second, there is social tolerance, a commitment to respecting all men even if we vigorously disagree with their religion and ideas. When we engage other religions and moral issues in the ideological marketplace, it should be with courtesy and kindness. We must live in peace with all men and women, even with those of divergent faiths, or those who have no faith at all. We don’t need any more self-righteous Christians who piously judge others without the humble admission that we are all a part of a fallen human race; we are all imperfect and we are all created in the image of God. Tolerance, like patience, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But the tolerance of which I speak—our national icon, if you will—is something quite different. This is an uncritical tolerance that avoids vigorous debate in the quest for truth. This new tolerance insists that we have no right to disagree with a liberal social agenda; we should not defend our views of morality, religion, and respect for human life. This tolerance respects absurd ideas but will castigate anyone who believes in absolutes or who claims to have found some truth. This tolerance, someone has said, includes every point of view except those points of view that do not include every point of view. This is tolerance only for those who march in step with the tolerant crowd.

This new god is our one absolute, the one flag still deemed worthy of our honor. This kind of tolerance is used as an excuse for perpetual skepticism, for keeping any religious commitment at arm’s length; it is also a doorway for being vulnerable to accept the most bizarre ideas. Truth, it is assumed, might exist in mathematics and science, but not in religion or morality. The pressure to accept this uncritical tolerance is growing every year

terriergal said...

Brilliant as usual.

I just listened to Way of the Master with Ann Coulter playing "explain yourself missy" --

The conversation afterward turned to the problem of her 'harshness' or as I prefer to call it her 'directness.' I love Ann Coulter. I think her polemic style is just what is needed. It's just too bad that most Christian men even these days can't take a little verbal sparring. What Ann does is certainly no different than the sparring that was done by many of the great theological minds down through history (Although I think theologically Ann has some things to learn...) and that what makes us fine with Luther's sarcasm is the fact that we agree with him for the most part, and are distanced by time from the immediacy of the issue.

For me, I try not to dismiss someone's point just because they're using biting wit or sarcasm. That is, unless they're demonstrating a big old double standard by also insisting that such biting wit and sarcasm are inappropriate.

Keith B said...

David, I must confess I goggled it and found it right away. I will not say who it is but I found it in an introduction to Colossians.

Keith B said...

*googled

Sewing said...

Hmmm...A relatively contemporary, conservative Christian intellectual commenting on social trends in [North] American society...a wild guess...Francis Schaeffer???

The Doulos said...

You know, when I read the writings of the likes of Spurgeon and his contemporaries, I don't see a lot of difference in the tone used against the heretics and "down-graders" of their day than I do in the public discourse today towards the same. Could it be that in fact the issue is not with the quality of civility, but with the ability to accept and respond thoughfully to criticism?

Sewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

I don't know about the thought that sarcasm isn't used in the Bible. It's all over 1 and 2 Corinthians.

1 Cor 4:7-8 - For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you.

2 Cor 3:1 - Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you?

2 Cor 10:1 - Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the mekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!

2 Cor 10:1 - I wish that you would bear with me in a little foolishness; but indeed you are bearing with me. 2Co 11:1

2 Cor 11:17-23 - What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face. To my shame I must say that we have been weak by comparison But in whatever respect anyone else is bold--I speak in foolishness--I am just as bold myself. Are they Hebrews? So am I Are they Israelites? So am I Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ?--I speak as if insane--I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.

Mike said...

Sorry... the fourth reference should be 2 Cor 11:1, not 10:1

David said...

Sewing - nope

Keith - you cheater! (although I got it from the same study)

Sewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sewing said...

As a tangential afterthought, I have to admit that I was ambivalent about the Emergent-see posters. I laughed, however—not so much because of what little I know about the ECM, but because I recognized my own agnostic attitudes in them from a previous time in my life.

On another note, re terriergal's comment, I'm proudly conservative, and more so than I've ever been in my life. I'm glad this blog doesn't mince words in discerning truth from error, but also that it doesn't get down-'n'-dirty with the world of politics. ...And though she may be one of a kind, I'm just not seeing "Ann" and "great theological minds" working in the same sentence together.

Sewing said...

David: Machen? Henry? Rauschenbusch!!!???

(I'm totally grasping at straws....)

Sewing said...

Never mind...I "goggled" (sic), too. Guess I have a lot more reading to do (like 2000 years' worth, minus about 1000 years of stagnation), to be ready for the next pop quiz....

David said...

Sewing - since your the only one playing (other than some cheater) - Edwin Lutzer - Christ amoung Other gods

Daryl said...

David,

I think you mean Erwin Lutzer...

centuri0n said...

I was just strolling through the comments here, and I'd like to advance an interesting 2-part opinion about Ann Coulter:

[1] Mostly, I agree with what she says.

[2] Mostly, I think she is part of the problem regarding civility of discourse -- a member of the class of people I call in my essay here "villians". She has zero restraint. She doesn't distinguish between the personal and the public, and she doesn't allow any dignity to the other side.

That's the wrong way to win in ideological conflict. It smacks of the political evils of bolshevism and Trotskyite political character assassination.

Now let's see if anyone is with me ...

centuri0n said...

Stan:

If I tell you, I'll have to kill you.

LeeC said...

I think you summed up how I feel about Ms. Coulter far better than I could articulate Cent.

If I were to add to it I might say that at times it seems contrived for the very purpose of being pugnacious and the sake of for lack of a better word ratings.

Which is hard when you hear her say something that you in essence agree with, and yet strongly disagree with the presentation of it.

centuri0n said...

Pastor Bill:

Nope. No broad brush. That's how people of all ideological stripes receive criticism today -- as attacks.

No one side was painted unfairly; nobody was singled out. Find any argument in the blogosphere these days between two parties who hold contradictory positions. You cannot find one where it doesn't degrade into personal nastiness in 2 back-and-forth exchanges.

Sewing said...

Centuri0n: I was trying to be more diplomatic about it. Given your decent red-state creds, I'll chime in with the observation, "Only Nixon could go to China."

centuri0n said...

The only mitigator for Ms. Coulter is that she didn't invent the genre -- she is only applying it to those who did invent it.

That's not much of a consolation, but I guess if you live by the smear you die by the smear.

Tim Bertolet said...

Sewing: "Only Nixon could go to China."

Hmmm... an old Vulcan proverb (see Star Trek VI) --since Frank brought it up first.

J. Alan said...

God bless you. I'm glad I stumbled across this gem of a blog!!!

I blog at http://oldfordroad.wordpress.com/

Sewing said...

Tim:

Ha! I have witnessed God working in many providential ways in my life, and as a sinner saved solely by his unmerited grace, I am humbled.

In a million years searching the ways of the Lord, I don't think I could have dreamt up the serendipity of that line's being used in what is evidently one of Cent's favourite movies, seeing as I'm a non-Trekkie who's never watched even one of the films. I had no idea.

Johnny Dialectic said...

I dunno. Coulter is a political comedienne. She is nothing other than a far right Bill Maher. She's an entertainer. She knows it, and she makes money at it. It's free enterprise. She's a business woman. Highly successful.

She also happens to be funny and right most of the time, which is just a bonus. But she should be taken with a bag of salt, just the way one takes all those left leaning bomb throwers who don't have her sense of humor or her hair.

BTW, this is the commentor formerly known as jsb. I wanted to jazz up my image.

Sewing said...

"Johnny Dialectic"—great name!

centuri0n said...

Johnny Dialectic sound a little pomo to me.

Let the inquisition begin.

Johnny Dialectic said...

"Johnny Dialectic sound a little pomo to me."

Ouch.

Bill Burns said...

Johnny Dialectic - Sounds a little Marxist-Leninist to me!

DJP said...

Body-pierced, tattooed step-brother of Johnny Mnemonic?

Johnny Dialectic said...

Just a reminder that "dialectic" is simply "the art or practice of logical discussion as employed in investigating the truth of a theory or opinion."

Perfect for TeamPyro, IMO. It is not to be confused with "dialectical materialism" or "Hegelian dialectic."

In fact, I'm so non-Pomo, I think this word has a real defintion upon which one can actually depend.

And yes, the ever astute Dan picked up on the sound of Johnny Mnemonic, which was partly on my mind. I was considering "Johnny Dangerously," that old Michael Keaton comedy, but thought that too close to the edge. Of what, I don't know. Just the edge.

SolaMeanie said...

Well done indeed, Frank. I can echo most of the comments here, and really resonate in terms of criticism of what passes for debate these days. We have a generation used to sound bites, or in terms of today's political debates -- a glorified news conference. In many cases, genuine debate isn't even taught in schools these days. These people today who bemoan the "tone" of things ought to look back in history at some of the political columns, cartoons and debates of yesteryear.

But that would involve intense research and reading, and you've already covered the attention span issue. In fact, I'm concerned that you didn't break up the letter in 50-word segments to post. There are some who might have to eat a whole bottle of Paxil before they can get through it.

P.S. As for Ann Coulter, I think she basically says what most of us really think but won't say out loud.

DJP said...

...to say nothing of Captain Johnny Longtorso — an allusion which, I wager, NOBODY will "get."

DJP said...

Uh, Phil, when I say "wager," no dollar-amount is attached nor implied.

Sewing said...

"Johnny Dangerously" was an awful movie. I saw it at an age when I should have been guffawing at all the toilet humour, but it was just painful to watch.

Jake said...

Thanks for the thoughts Cent, a good response to a good article :).

I heard Mark Driscoll talk about this a bit in his Nehemiah series. He discussed different gifts God gives to his people and how some of us tend to be more in the mold of a prophet- "Thus saith the Lord," call a spade a spade kind of Christians. He said that's the camp he fits in. He said for this group the danger is arrogance and a mentality that says 'I know everything and must correct everyone who disagrees with me because they're obviously wrong.' I grew up in a church where the pastor was this way and it nearly pushed me away from the church entirely. (Ironically, it was Brian McLaren's New Kind of Christian books that helped me return to the church) But, many great Christians throughout church history were great contenders who were used mightily by God. Augustine, Athanasius Luther, and Machen are all names that quickly come to mind. They certainly weren't without fault, but despite their sin, God used them to build his kingdom.

Driscoll also spoke about priests, people are who are counselors, who will come alongside a person and walk through an issue with them or do whatever else is necessary to help them. For us (this is the way I'm wired), we must be careful not to let our love for people lead us into compromise on essential issues. Those who couldn't do that, have been responsible for some major doctrinal issues in the church throughout our history. I think many of today's open-theists are men who genuinely love people so much that they simply cannot bring themselves to accept some of the harder teachings of the scriptures. I think many emergent leaders are in danger of making similar errors. However, John Newton was certainly more in the mold of a priest and look at what mighty works God did in his life!

Anyway, all that to say, criticism is a necessary evil in the church and for some of us, it's a very difficult thing to give but we must remind ourselves it is for the good of the other that we offer it. Additionally, if we fail too, we run the risk of doing horrible damage to the church due to our failure to contend for the truth of the gospel.

For others (and if I had to guess, I'd say most Pyro readers are in this camp), the tendency is to want to critique everything and for this group, the danger is to become so confident in your own reasoning that you fall into pride and arrogance, and in so doing push many away from the gospel. We all must remember that, "God works in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform," and sometimes he's able to use men with bad theology to accomplish good things. I don't know that I would be involved in the church today were it not for Brian McLaren, a man whose theology has a number of really sketchy points. So even as we criticize "heretics," we must not forget the humanity of the person (something I think many attack dog ministries do). We must not forget they are made in God's image and Christ loves them (is it permissible to say he died for them?).

Anyway, before the rambling becomes too long-winded, thank you Cent, it was a great response that brought in a greater thoughtfulness that may have been lacking in the original piece by Mr. Aikman.

David said...

Ann Coulter a role model for christians?

Hmmm, No.

Franks view, in particular point number two, is exactly correct.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David said...

Iron sharpens Iron!! Paul in the face of Peter! I love it.

Are we not men!

Touch not my anointed!

Removing the pretext for spiritual abuse

Thought-out history we have seen the "priestly class" attempt to exploit the fears of other by suggesting that they are special "anointed" by God as authorities. Starting in ancient Babylon and permutating thought-out the plethora of major world religions extant today.

In Protestant Christianity, and in particular in the "charismatic movement" there is a lack of order in hierarchy i.e. a 'priestly class" and the mantra " touch not my anointed" is sometimes taken out of contexts by self-styled leaders as a way of maintaining control over its members of a assembly of believers. Sometime the phrase is interpreted as " I'm not to be criticized, since I am one of God's anointed ones!"

Let look at what the scripture is actually implying,

Touch not my anointed ones do my prophets no harm! (1st Chronicles 16:22)

To place this in order this phrase is actually taken from the Shirah (song) of Asaph embedded into the account of the return of the Aron Kodesh (The Ark) into the Ohel (Tent) as given in D'ivrei Hayamin (Chronicles). We need to begin with that as a understanding of the Hebrew literature we are reading, contrast that to Psalm 105:15.

Really the phrase refers not to prophets of the LORD in the New Covenant sense, but to the Patriarchs of Old, in studying the Jewish scriptures it is most likely a reference to Avimelekh (Abimelech) that was rebuked by the LORD in a dream not to touch Sarah (see Genesis 20:2-).

To just quote a verse or this verse in particular as a means to justify any special entitlement for one entirely misses the point of the Mashiach Yeshua's teaching about becoming a "servant in leadership".

Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. (Mark 10:44)

Daniel said...

Well said Frank, very well said.

Stan said...

Cent,

"If I tell you, I'll have to kill you"

So ... tell your favorite heretic ...

(That wasn't sarcasm. Let's see ... pun? No. Unkind? Perhaps. Some sort of attempt at humor, I'm sure. But I won't retract. Here I stand ...)

Alexander M. Jordan said...

Frank,

I think you make good, thoughtful points in response to Aikman. In the climate of "tolerance" that we're living in these days, biting criticism is so often labeled as "hate" speech. It seems that the only way to "get along" is to keep one's mouth shut and not say anything about blatant errors in biblical interpretation or poor theology, the kind which lead to bad applications and even a false Christianity.

Now while I agree that civility and grace should mark the Christian's communication, there is a time for boldness and even sarcasm to underscore the defense of biblical truth. If there such a thing as truth that can be defended, and untruths pointed out-- and Christ Himself certainly spoke and acted as if this was the case-- then it seems our responsibility as Christians to be involved with that defense.

I have posted a piece regarding this on my own blog. The article is titled The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth.

Blessings,

Alex

Robbymac said...

Good arguments, although if you ever read anything by Ken Silva, you'd have to admit that he distorts things with great glee (so it's not "truth") and labels people with such extreme (and often ludicrous) invective that nobody would ever confuse his words as "love".

It is that kind of extreme fringe of watchblogs that Aikman very rightly chastizes. You may not like his brief article -- and I felt he should have gone a lot further on Apprising and probably Slice of Hysteria as well -- but it's the extremes he's talking about in the first place.

Todd said...

Frank,

Very poor article IMO. Here's why.

You've put forth two topics.

Topic one:

You say, "But problematically, your essay does what it sets out to criticize."

That arguement reminds me of the arguement I used to use when I was a kid when I would say "it takes one to know one". How satisfied that would make me feel. That's all you've accomplished putting that sort of arguement forth.

You said:

"You equate criticizing Joel Osteen with KJVO enthusiasm"

That statement would be inaccurate. Aikman cited people who referred to Olsteen as a "viper", and then farther on down the article cited people with an obviously extremeist blog and likened their mentality to those who consider any other version of the bible than the "King James Version is a step toward apostasy". The two references which you claim are a comparison have nothing in common with each other.

Not only did Aikman not in any way equate them together but, in making such a statement as you did, you seem ready to equate "King James enthusiasm" with the notion of 'regarding anything other than the King James version as a step toward apostasy'. You effectually equated those two distinct mindsets(grouping one sound one in with an extreme one) by saying what you said, and I don't think you'll get much agreement in fudging them together.

Virtually your only criticism of Aikman is, "equating criticism of Joel Osteen's preaching to a KJVO bibliology is a stretch at best", and, "You equate criticizing Joel Osteen with KJVO enthusiasm", and the support of that criticism is not even sound. Think further into it somehow and get more from Aikman's great point.

Here's how.

You Said:

"Your criticism of them, in a nutshell, is that their "approach" is flawed – and this may well be true. But your approach to reproach is not really much better – because it does the kinds of things you are very sincerely worried about, only without the Biblical epithets of "whitewashed tombs" and "vipers".

That's the whole point Frank. Aikman did it without the vitriolic epithets. Soundly, without making those false comparisons you claim. He didn't misquote anybody or paraphrase anybody.

He did take a cheap shot at the extreme KJV mindset but that extreme mindset does exist and is worthy of any and all constructive criticism it can get.

Topic Two:

I'm sure Aikman appreciates your criticism that he did not provide many tenable constructive alternatives but then you unpacked quite a few words yoursel as well along that vain and weren't really able to give it much justice either.

So all in all I see more defensive posture that useful substance in your article.

Thanks, Todd

centuri0n said...

Todd -- look for me to give you the full metal response on the front page of the blog later this week.