16 January 2008

The Challies Interview

by Frank Turk


Well, Tim, it seems at least one of us has come a long way from being a mere channel rat in DrO's #prosapologian. In spite of my jealousy, after reading the book you've obviously done good here.

Since a lot of people have "blogged" you so far about your book, I'm going to try to ask you some unconventional questions. Bear with me as I work them out.

I started reading your book, got through 2 chapters, and turned back to the index with my highlighter to do an experiment. I highlighted all the names of theological “conservatives” in green, and theological “moderates” (or those farther left) in orange. My pages were mostly green and not hardly orange. What would you say to people who would call this kind of foundation for your book one-sided? Why not include some insights into “other kinds” of discernment, such as Rob Bell’s approach to Scripture or an Assemblies of God approach to spiritual gifts?

The easy answer here would be to simply state that some teachers both emphasize and model discernment while others do not. The reason some authors are “orange” or “red” (or whatever you’d use to indicate the category that comes after the moderates) is precisely because they lack discernment! In the resources section of the book I even mention John MacArthur as a teacher who always emphasizes discernment, mentioning that his books and commentaries never miss the opportunity to make note of the call of the Christian to spiritual discernment. I tended to rely on authors who have emphasized discernment in their ministries.

I can’t speak specifically to Rob Bell’s approach to Scripture or the Assemblies of God approach to spiritual gifts as they did not factor into the book. But I can say that I relied first and foremost on Scripture and, beyond that, on teachers who love Scripture and who seek to accurately convey what God teaches through it. I think you’d find that the “green” authors in the book are the ones who love Scripture and who skillfully teach it through the books and through their teaching ministries.

I think that’s an interesting answer, Tim, because it seems to me that “discernment” as you are defining it sort of presupposes a specific approach to Scripture. That is, the “greens” all seem to share a common hermeneutic, a common approach to the text. You’re not a theologian (neither am I), but would you consider other approaches to Scripture as viable approaches to developing spiritual discernment?

We’re probably walking a little outside my area of expertise here. While I’d acknowledge that these men (and women) do share a common hermeneutic, I guess I would see it as a better hermeneutic (or a biblical hermeneutic). Not all hermeneutics were created equal. Whether I’d consider other approaches to Scripture as viable would really depend on the approach a person took. It’s rather too broad a question to just assign a yes or a no, I think.

As I was reading your book, I was also reading a book by Larry Osborn called The Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God. I bring it up because it's a little more light-hearted than your book is, and it overlaps some of the same topics. How does seriousness of tone relate to your view of how discernment works?

To be honest, this is a question I’ve been thinking about for several weeks now. I do not remember putting a lot of effort into determining whether I would write in a serious or a more light-hearted tone (though, to be honest, it was almost two years ago that I began to write and I’ve got a poor memory. Putting those two factors together means I may have spent all kinds of time thinking about it but such thoughts have long since slipped my mind). But I do know that I did not expressly set out to create a book that was serious in tone. Rather, I set out to write a book that would share what the Bible says about spiritual discernment. At my blog I write from a personal perspective, often basing theological lessons on my own experiences and simply sharing things God has taught me. But when it came to discernment, I did not want to share my perspective on discernment, as if that would be of any value. Instead I wanted to share the biblical perspective.

I recently discussed this topic with my editor (as I begin to think about future writing projects) and her words rang true when she said that perhaps some of the feedback about stylistic issues came from people who were expecting “Tim in print rather than the need for and instruction on how to be discerning.” I did not want to interfere and did not want to inject too much of myself into the book. At the same time I did want to maintain a personal rather than a scholarly tone. How well I’ve succeeded in that will probably become more clear as I gain more feedback on the book.

Yeah, my problem, Tim, is that I like you. You’re always a little dry, but you’re relatable. How would you respond to the person who says that while your book may be useful, because it’s not relatable it doesn’t deliver what the average seeker, sitter or disciple really needs?

I would be surprised to hear that my book is not relatable. I was deliberate about writing in a way that was accessible and I often relied on what I think are helpful illustrations to try to give something memorable that they can hold onto. In fact, the whole Preface is nothing but a story for that very reason. If a person felt that I was not relatable, what could I say, really? I guess I’d suggest they read another book about discernment. Oh, wait…

Now, that said, here's the real controversy starter: here we are at the TeamPyro blog talking about your book, and we're sort of renown for being somewhat other than sober in tone – me personally for sure, but certainly Phil and Dan, and certainly the inimitable Pecadillo. We have taken some hits for it in some corners of the blogosphere. What's your take on the use of something other than a somber, pious tone in talking about spiritual matters?

I may have more to say about this when I post a review of the new book by Mark Driscoll. It is something I’ve thought about quite a bit, and especially so as I read his book.

I believe there is a time and a place for humor. I believe humor can be effective in teaching and in communicating even something as serious as theology and spiritual matters. Of course there are times when humor is inappropriate (as comedian Brian Regan has aptly pointed out, greeting card stores have no “humorous sympathy” section). I’m sure Jesus had a terrific sense of humor and I don’t know that He would have been truly human if He hadn’t shared some good belly laughs with His disciples on those long, hot and dusty walks. Yet our society, I think, has been prone to elevating humor and levity. After a while, it seems, we are no longer capable of taking seriously much of anything. So while there is a time for humor, and while laughter is a gift from God, there is also a time for soberness and a time to be serious. There ought to be a kind of gravity surrounding Christians, I think, that proves that they take life seriously and that they are aware of their own sin and aware of the state of the world around them.

Even while we do laugh and have fun, our humor must be sanctified. We can use humor to point to what is ridiculous and can use it just for the sheer enjoyment of laughing, but we must be careful that we do not make light of sin. This is, I think, where many Christians abuse humor. When we laugh at what God has forbidden, we make light of sin. So let’s laugh and let’s have fun and let’s be something other than somber and pious when necessary, but let’s be careful all the while that we take seriously what is important to God.

I said something similar this week at my blog about Pastor Mark’s Q&A relating to the theology of sex & procreation – that some things just require us to take them seriously rather than crack jokes that allegedly make a point. A laugh is a serious thing in the larger sense, I guess.

You have a blog? Anyways, it just so happens that I listened to Mark’s sermon and Q&A this afternoon, before you sent me this comment. I think you’re right—some things are very easy to laugh about but could probably be treated with a bit more seriousness. Issues regarding sexuality definitely fall in this camp. It is easy (very easy, even) to get laughs when it comes to sex. But I think we might do better to treat the subject with a bit more soberness at times.


Quick lightning round – top-of-mind answers only:



* Favorite TeamPyro Post/Series, – I guess I’d probably vote for all those Emergent Demotivation posters as my favorites. They weren’t the most edifying things you guys have ever produced, but they were good for some laughs.
* Favorite TeamPyro Contributor (Doh!) – Darlene (by far!)
* Most puzzling criticism of your book – Even I was taken aback by the level of some of the criticism lodged against me because of my lack of credentials. The early comments were fairly innocuous, but as people got warmed up, the comments got pretty dark. It bothered me far less than it surprised me.
* Best reason to live in Canada – There is almost no such thing as evangelical politics up here—at least not compared to what goes on in the U.S.
* Favorite place to eat in Toronto – I don’t actually live in Toronto proper and rarely eat out. But if I do venture downtown and get a bit hungry, I generally grab some of Toronto’s finest street meat from a hotdog/sausage vendor outside Rogers Centre (where the Blue Jays play).

Challies is on a blog tour for his new book.






57 comments:

pastorbrianculver said...

Wow, I get to be first?? Wish I had time to comment, I have to clock in to start my day! I will get back on during my break. have a great day

centuri0n said...

Clearly, Brian, you are sick an need help. Internet addiction is a sad and dangerous thing ...

centuri0n said...

BTW, I would make a great host for a nationally-syndicated radio show where we would interview people about their views of the Christian life, and take your calls for the sake of not letting them get by without pandering to the masses.

And I'm available.

JackW said...

"You have a blog?"

LOL ... I guess he is Tim ("The World's Most Famous Christian Blogger"®) Challies

donsands said...

"Yet our society, I think, has been prone to elevating humor and levity."

Ain't that the truth. Seems like Jon Stewart types are what life is all about today.

"Even while we do laugh and have fun, our humor must be sanctified."

Good thought for me to work on.

Nice interview. Well done Cent & Tim.

DJP said...

Clearly, Brian, you are sick an need help. Internet addiction is a sad and dangerous thing ...

...Frank says, four minutes later, at 0-dark-forty-two.

pastorbrianculver said...

I am up at 3AM for work!! Pretty sad when the old man has to be in bed by 6:30 every night! on rare occasions, I do stay up till 7PM!

reglerjoe said...

I am offended that Cent highlighted left-wing theologians with an orange highlighter.

stratagem said...

I don't know anything about Tim. But, my question for him would have been "how can a Christian who cited mostly conservative sources in his book, stand living in Canada?"

Daryl said...

Stratagem,

Clearly you don't know anything about Canada either...:)

Stefan said...

Because God has the power to save even us Canadians—and if we all left, who would witness to the Gospel?

True, secular humanism is the prevailing ideology here, but isn't that the case in the States as well?

And we do have a politically conservative government right now (in a typically mild-mannered, Canadian sort of way), which has been a nice respite.

centuri0n said...

DJP:

I would have posted it sooner, but I wasn't logged in. I have no idea how -that- happened.

stratagem said...

Stefan: I wasn't suggesting anyone leave Canada, just wondering how you cope with the prevailing agnostic attitude up there.

Daryl: Your comment would've held more water if it had come from a conservative. But in Canada, you may be considered one, I suppose...

Stefan said...

"Humanistic Pelagianism" might be a better label for the worldview of the moment, but it doesn't roll of the tongue as easily.

Stefan said...

Stratagem: It's a struggle, but by God's grace we survive. ;)

Daryl said...

Hang it there Stefan, after all, the U.S. IS a Christian country, right....right????

Daryl said...

Stratagem - Daryl: Your comment would've held more water if it had come from a conservative.

LOL!!!

maritus imperfectus said...

The book sounds great. I need to get to a book store and buy a copy, then send one to my family members who are being led down the Word of Faith movement's path of lies.

Best reason to live in Canada – There is almost no such thing as evangelical politics up here—at least not compared to what goes on in the U.S.

(gasp) No mention of the national obsession with the world's greatest sport?

Daryl said...

Maritus - No mention of the national obsession with the world's greatest sport?


That's because we're trying to keep the conversation at a level they'll understand.

DaWildBoar said...

meritus
Best book I have read that deals with the Word/Faith movement in part would be John MacArthur's "Charismatic Chaos."

I have two questions for Tim:

1. How would you biblically define discernment?

And, 2. why do you think that men like Luther, Calvin, Owens, etc. didn't write entire books on this theme, but more just touched on it within their greater writings? IOW, is part of the problem today that the emphasis on biblical theology is so diminished today, that it makes the necessity for this kind of book even greater?

Thank you and blessings,
Robert

S.J. Walker said...

Great interview cent,

I'm going to try get a copy of the book if I can. (Like I have time to read).

Oh, and some of you may already know, but please be in prayer for my Pa and the brothers he is with with Heartcry down in Peru. I won't chock up the meta with it. You can go to my blog to get more info. But please please pray.

Again, good post. Good interview. Sure do appreciate you gentlemen.

Jugulum said...

Tim knows Brian Regan! I like him even more, now.

S.J. Walker said...

"I saw a flock of moosen!"

Oops. Was that allowed today?

Carla Rolfe said...

Frank: some of us "mere channel rats" are perfectly content being mere.

:)

Matt said...

Great interview, Cent. You should be on 22 Minutes (Canadians silently laughing at inside joke...).

The question on levity and humour (Canadian spelling) was a good one. However, I would consider the tone of humour here at TeamPyro as not being antithetical to sobriety. You guys don't make light of shallow fads and heterodoxy, you engage it in a fashion that the layperson can access.

As to Stratagem's question, and the response that Canada is virtually without evangelical politics. I think it's great that evangelicals (however few of us there are here) here are not merely recognized as "Republicans" or "Conservatives" (large C). It enables us to be identified with the gospel rather than a campaign platform. After all, where does our hope truly rest? In legislation and court decisions, or in the absolute supremacy of Jesus Christ?

DJP said...

...I would consider the tone of humour here at TeamPyro as not being antithetical to sobriety

(Me, neither.)

Strong Tower said...

Not antitheatrical,either.

There are Canadians, the locals here say they have seen smoke rising in the north, so the reports are prolly true, anyway it has been rumored so, eh?

I have one friend who claims he's from there. Uses alien phaseology, but my guess is that he is an Area 51 oversight.

ThirstyDavid said...

This is the best tour stop so far. Great, thoughtful questions.

stratagem said...

As to Stratagem's question, and the response that Canada is virtually without evangelical politics. I think it's great that evangelicals (however few of us there are here) here are not merely recognized as "Republicans" or "Conservatives" (large C). It enables us to be identified with the gospel rather than a campaign platform.

You ain't alone - there really is no conservative party down here in the US, either. The GOP pretends to be, but I think the whitewash on that one has worn off quite a while back. I guess I only care because I think an abortion ought to be harder to obtain than having a cavity filled, but that is off-topic for sure.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

On his blog today, Tim Challies writes, "It seems that Sullivan prefers an article Michael Spencer wrote in response to mine. … Speaking candidly, I don’t see that Spencer said anything with enough clarity to know whether a person could agree with him."

I wouldn’t worry unduly about either Andrew Sullivan or Michael Spencer. Although both have occasionally written interesting commentary, overall, both are found wanting, and have apparently chosen to take the wide road.

For example, in Michael Spencer’s post “My Theology Can Beat Up Your Theology: Thoughts on always saying more than the other guy” he wrote the following:

“Among those who are doing theology, however, I detect something that I can only call, with any honesty, a kind of game. I’ll call it the “More, Higher, Most, Highest” game. … The “More, Higher, Most, Highest” game is the tendency to escalate theological claims and language, and to claim that the escalation of claims and language indicates an accompanying increase in truth, faith, commitment or other valuable commodities among Christians.”

I submitted a comment asking whether the Roman Catholic Magisterium play what he calls the “More, Higher, Most, Highest” game. He never allowed my comment to be posted.

His post-evangelical journey is mostly a diatribe against historic and orthodox reform Protestantism.

Rhology said...

So...many...eyebrow...wiggles!!!!

[muffled sobs]

Al said...

"Yet our society, I think, has been prone to elevating humor and levity."

I have nothing to say.

al sends

Tim Challies said...

"how can a Christian who cited mostly conservative sources in his book, stand living in Canada?"

Because we still have the Blue Jays.

"I saw a flock of moosen!" Oops. Was that allowed today?

No. Take...luck!

1. How would you biblically define discernment?

I answer that very question tomorrow at Michael Spencer's blog. So tune in there and you'll catch it.

And, 2. why do you think that men like Luther, Calvin, Owens, etc. didn't write entire books on this theme, but more just touched on it within their greater writings? IOW, is part of the problem today that the emphasis on biblical theology is so diminished today, that it makes the necessity for this kind of book even greater?

Well, discernment is really a subset of a much wider topic. In theory, those who humbly study theology should grow in spiritual discernment simply as they grow in their knowledge of God and His ways. So you're probably right--a general disdain for biblical theology is leading to the decline of discernment.

centuri0n said...

I hate it that we have here plugged iMonk.

Hate. It.

centuri0n said...

Thirsty --

I am humbled you stopped by.

ThirstyDavid said...

I am humbled you stopped by.

Nonsense. I come here all the time (mostly via RSS). I'm just usually more sneaky about it.

DJP said...

FrankI hate it that we have here plugged iMonk.

Is my memory right that this is that Challies' only comment on our blog, ever?

And that's what he did with it?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

centuri0n: "I hate it that we have here plugged iMonk.

Hate. It."

djp: "Is my memory right that this is that Challies' only comment on our blog, ever?

And that's what he did with it?"

Whew! That's a relief. I was beginning to think that I was the only one who thought that I-monk will one day feel the full force of James 3:1.

centuri0n said...

DJP:

I see what you are saying.

I think I owe you $5 -- if there was a bet, I lost it.

DJP said...

You're still my hero.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I don't feel the love from I-monk. He's not loving me like a neighbor.

Wazzup wit' dat?

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/what-i-did-with-today-with-the-bible-i-dont-believe

p.s. Apparently, he can disagree with you, but you can't disagree with him. Or if you do, prepare to watch him go into a pouty, whiny temper tantrum as he plays the "victim" card in order to gain sympathy from his base. Uses his blog as a bully pulpit to slam others, then cries like a wuss when others don't agree with his characterizations or analysis.

Grow up I-monk.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Heh, heh.

The I-Monk deleted the post he just wrote today: "what-i-did-with-today-with-the-bible-i-dont- believe".

He's playing games. If I knew he would stoop to such tactics, I would have copied and saved his post.

But God knows he wrote it, and I dare him to deny posting it, and to deny that he later took it down from his blog.

Post-Evangelical Invertebrate.

candyinsierras said...

Is my memory right that this is that Challies' only comment on our blog, ever?

Challies posted comments in order to win a t-shirt in one of Frank's contests about why Frank should give the winner a t-shirt.

SolaMeanie said...

I sometimes wonder if discernment gets short shrift because people think it's restricted to counter-cult ministry. This is just a surmise on my part, not a statement of fact.

Good interview, Frank. Even if I-Monk got plugged. Hmm. Maybe I should rephrase that in case I am misunderstood.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Good interview, Frank. Even if I-Monk got plugged. Hmm. Maybe I should rephrase that in case I am misunderstood.

Ahem (clearing throat, and trying to stifle, uh, you know...), I won't pursue that any further than where Solameanie has taken it.

Setting welcome humor aside, the I-monk has reposted the article with a title change:

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/what-i-did-with-today-with-the-bible-i-dont-believe

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

For anyone who's interested, I-monk makes an appearance at Centuri0n's comment thread here:

http://centuri0n.blogspot.com/2008/01/in-100-words-or-less.html

pastorbrianculver said...

I will check it out. I hope everyone has a great day!

Andrew Wheatley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Wheatley said...

How come Challies eyebrows don't go up and down, eh?

Tim Challies said...

Is my memory right that this is that Challies' only comment on our blog, ever?

How do you know I don't often post under "Anonymous" or under any of my many, many pseudonyms?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I'm on 7-day timeout for posting a comment within the same minute as Centuri0n and being completely unaware that he was closing down comments.

Centurion, if I would have known, I wouldn't have submitted a comment. I do like what you wrote here: "iMonk said he doesn't think the Bible has any errors in it. Jot that down, book mark it, and keep that for future reference."

If he doesn't think that the Bible has any errors in it, then why's he ranting against inerrancy for?

So if I understand you and him correctly, he should probably say, "I am an inerrantist too, BUT I am not like those inerrantists."

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

A snippet from I-Monk's reply to Centuri0n on I-Monk's blog:

I do have a post-evangelical point of view, but that term is totally misused and abused by Phil and James White so it really needs to be clear that I mean: 1) reaching back into the larger Christian tradition to 2) move beyond the current state of evangelicalism (as I define it.)

I assume the "Phil" that I-Monk is referring to is Phil Johnson of this TeamPyro blog.

If so, I'm unclear on how Phil Johnson totally misuses and abuses the term post-evangelical.

(http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/tim-hortonuhchallies-the-im-interview#comments)

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

Da Cent writes:

>Yeah, my problem, Tim, is that I
>like you. You’re always a little
>dry, but you’re relatable.

And Cent keeps asking why Pyro has never been on his blogroll. Well...that and he kept being swatted by his eyebrow during the interview! ;-)

But then he redeems himself (oh wait, we can't say that) and says:

>Clearly, Brian, you are sick an >need help.

Morning people. Pheh. Anything done before 8:30 AM awake is sin.

Now that my week's recommended daily allowance of silliness is out, the interview:

Wait.

>BTW, I would make a great host
>for a nationally-syndicated radio
>show where we would interview
>people about their views of the
>Christian life, and take your
>calls for the sake of not letting
>them get by without pandering to
>the masses.
>
>And I'm available.

Internet radio, Cent. Your own station. The next generation of blogging and podcasts. All Pyros, all the time.

Now then...

I haven't read the book, so why should I?

It's interesting some of the background for his book that Tim lays out. In the interview, it is a hermeneutic which is a simple one. Ask God for discernment, read the word, start simple, then expound from there, and ask for guidance as you go along. As I read some of the liberal "theologians' on the 'net, I really have to wonder if they read the same Bible I am reading. The Bible CAN'T be simple, and man's wisdom is needed to understand it, right? Sigh. While you do need to understand the language you use, that AND spiritual discernment is a gift from God. I pray that I can get more of it. In bucketloads. Otherwise, my growth in Christ cannot continue. As well as my understanding of the word! And I think discernment, in part, is putting God and his precious word first. If the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, then discernment is the continuation of wisdom until the person is complete in Christ.

DJP sez:

> You're still my hero

I challenge Cent to a debate where posting on a blog after 2 AM by default makes Cent a "hero" and slightly "cracked". I will answer in the affirmative.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Since this post is about Challies book on Discernment, I wonder how Tim would apply his discernment gifts to I-Monk's definition of post-evangelical:

“To to be post-evangelical is to reject evangelical culture in favor of a more catholic, diverse and ancient expression of the Christian faith, while adhering to evangelical doctrine without becoming part of team or faction operating under the illusion of superiority to others and a closure of the Christian conversation.” - Me

I have a limited amount of discernment ability, and I discern that this definition could be a veiled reference to TeamPyro. There's a team in place (Phil Johnson, Frank Turk, and Dan Philips) plus there are some folks who would probably claim that they, TeamPyro, are operating under the "illusion of superiority."

DJP said...

ChalliesHow do you know I don't often post under "Anonymous"....

Um, because I know that this blog doesn't allow anonymous comments?

...or under any of my many, many pseudonyms?

Oh. So no one would know you even read the blog? Yeah, that's, like, totally different.

DJP said...

BTW, note that his last comment preserves an apparently cherished and long-standing practice of Mr. C's.