09 April 2009

Turning a Blind Eye to Evil Is Evil, Too

. . . in which I (kind of) disagree with Tim Challies
by Phil Johnson

"They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil" (Jeremiah 23:14).




    was writing something to agree with and embellish a comment left by Gilbert under Frank's post yesterday, but it got long, and I decided to make this a full post. I've got to say this, and I don't want it buried at the end of a 120+ comment-thread.

First, some background: The venerable Tim Challies set our little corner of the blogosphere abuzz earlier this week with a post on the dangers of "watchblogs." There's quite a lot to applaud in what Tim said, but I don't think he said everything about the subject that needed to be said. As a result, I thought his post was (quite uncharacteristically for Challies, of all people) lacking in balance.

One of the unintended side effects of Tim's post has been a widespread and sometimes lively discussion about whether PyroManiacs qualifies as a "watchblog" or not. In the midst of one of these conversations, Gilbert (a long-time reader and commenter here, and a skilled meteorologist to boot) came very close to identifying what I see as the key difference between healthy discernment and the obsessive/compulsive peevishness some of our fellow critics seem to think is the mark of real orthodoxy. Gilbert said:

Gilbert: "Without putting words into [Phil Johnson's] mouth, he'd rather spend his time building up believers and himself in the Word rather than calling people out for damnable heresies that are causing people to drift away from the true faith and send[ing] them to hell."

Quite right. But let me add this: It needs to be said that "calling people out for damnable heresies that are causing people to drift away from the true faith" is a shepherd's duty, not an option—and it can be quite edifying if done well.

That said, anyone can sample my preaching ministry; I invite you all to do so. What you'll discover is that when I am speaking to the flock (as opposed to lecturing in a men's meeting or exhorting pastors in a Shepherds' Conference seminar, or writing on my blog) I employ humor and criticism very sparingly. That's because when I preach, my immediate concern is to explain the meaning of specific texts of Scripture and exhort people to apply the truth to their lives in obedience to God.

This blog serves a totally different purpose. It always has. I make no apology for that, especially here in the gutless, effeminate, faint-hearted, hopelessly "diverse," hazy-and-hesitant subculture contemporary evangelicalism prides itself on being.

It has frankly never troubled me one bit that people who hate our theological stance dismiss us as "watchbloggers" (or worse). If someone can't see how PyroManiacs differs in tone and style from the trash-talking parodies maintained by certain bloggers whose sympathies lie at the opposite end of the theological spectrum from us, that says more about their brand of discernment than it says about ours.

Look: I agree with the gist of Tim Challies' concern. (At least I think I do. The more Tim has clarified himself, the less certain I am that we agree as much as I assumed at first. Still—)

I do think it's evil and irreverent to regard apostasy as nothing more than something to mock and be entertained by. Those who fall into that attitude inevitably mirror and amplify the very impieties they say they deplore. They tend to become petty, overly-critical, thin-skinned, and surly-sounding gossip-mongers. Ditto with the sophomoric anti-watchblogs that relentlessly parody such full-time critics, raising the stakes on the irreverence game to ever-new heights. These two opposing forces feed one another's worst tendencies, and I have no desire to participate with or encourage either side in their native forums. The comment-threads on both sides always turn into adolescent insult-contests, and it can be downright ugly. It's an embarrassment. It's also an easy trap for anyone still swaddled in unglorified flesh to fall into.



. . . which includes all of us. Me too.

So here's where Tim Challies' post was most right on target: there's far too much of that in the blogosphere.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Frank Turk's point: certain amateur and self-anointed "discernment" specialists are a serious blight on the church and an impediment to the cause of truth. (Especially those who have no accountability to or involvement in a real church with a serious pastor and legitimate elders.) People like that give discernment itself a black eye.

I also agree with Doug Wilson: Sarcasm can be as dangerous as a fillet knife, especially when wielded by someone with myopic vision.

However, (and I'm going to be emphatic about this:) I do not agree with those who claim there's nothing whatsoever funny about heresy, apostasy, and man-centered religion. Such things are certainly not more funny than they are abominable and tragic, but they nevertheless look hilariously comedic at times. And at such times it is perfectly appropriate to laugh hard and derisively at them—even to mock them—as Elijah did, and as Jesus did, and as even He who sitteth in the heavens doth (Psalm 2:4).

Tim Challies is absolutely right to point out that a steady diet of that sort of "entertainment" isn't good for anyone. Let's affirm that emphatically, too. But if someone takes Tim's point and uses it to argue that it's always sinful to make fun of the profane antics of Baal-worshipers—if someone thinks it's just flat-out wrong to be amused by, say, The Sacred Sandwich, or "The Cave of Adullam" department in Credenda Agenda—I have to demur.

I think what Tim Challies is saying is that it's unhealthy to fix one's attention on error full time rather than spending most of our time dwelling on things that edify. If that's all he is saying, I say (as heartily as possible) AMEN! (Philippians 4:8). But if someone wants to seize that point in order to suggest that it's always better to be an encourager than a critic, my reply is: That very attitude is largely responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place.

Is there not a sense in which it is legitimate to be "entertained" when we read about Elijah's mockery of the Baal-priests? I admit that I'm entertained by it—every time I read it. Hey: I'm also entertained by Tim Challies' book reviews—and Todd Friel's occasional satires based on Tim Challies' book reviews.

I've read Tim's blog for years, and I really don't think he means to suggest that it's always inherently sinful to be entertained by the refutation of error. At least I hope that's not what he means, because I think if he gave up that (very helpful, edifying, and entertaining) aspect of his blog, we'd all be the poorer for it.

I'll go further:

I think regular doses of the kind of wry humor we find at Purgatorio can be good for us in the same way an albuterol inhaler helps an asthmatic. I likewise think Chris Rosebrough's amazing "Museum of Idolatry" serves a valid function (more like a stiff dose of potent smelling salts than a mist of albuterol)—making it very hard for chronically apathetic evangelicals to ignore or minimize the creeping heathenism that is festering in their midst. My occasional laughter at the ridiculousness of the abominations Chris collects doesn't diminish my horror at the speed with which those things have come to dominate the evangelical movement (just during my short lifespan).

I understand Challies' central concern. There is a vocal segment of the fundamentalist/evangelical community for whom an obsession with sensational exposés and nattering negativity has proved seriously unhealthy. It has given them a sour attitude, a perpetually angry tone, and a really bad reputation. I don't enjoy reading what they write, either, and I don't hang around their blogs.

But the mentality that dominates the evangelical culture today—and the far greater problem, in my judgment—is exactly the opposite. The overwhelming majority of today's evangelical sophisticates would clearly prefer it if no one ever criticized evangelical Golden Calves. Rampant error doesn't unsettle them in the least. They are quite happy to live with it and even actively make peace with it.

But let someone dare to voice an objection to a troubling doctrine in the latest best-seller making the rounds on campus—even a denial of the Trinity or some other soul-destroying soteriological or Christological novelty—and the very people who profess to hate criticism (and who work so hard to seem agreeable in their dealings with with the unorthodox) will heap the nastiest kinds of vituperation on the soul of the one who has dared to criticize unorthodoxy and thereby threaten the "unity" evangelicals think their timid silence has won them.

This is a huge problem. It's the main reason these abominations are multiplying so quickly and growing steadily more sinister.

Occasionally over the years, Tim Challies has been on the receiving end of these angry reprisals from the sweetness-and-civility police, so I'm confident he's not unaware of how the system works. Moreover, I certainly don't blame him for wanting to tone down the amateurs and provocateurs who reflect so poorly on that segment of the blogosphere in which Tim is (without a doubt) the best-known voice. I just hope he's not saying he wants to relinquish the role of critic altogether, because Tim is a classy, careful, balanced, biblically-minded critic, and we desperately need courageous and discerning voices like his.

Even if not everybody is always happy with the message.

Phil's signature

84 comments:

Jason Robertson said...

...plus there is nothing worse than boring internet blogging.
But I am also thankful that there is all kinds of blogs to choose from... and thereby all kinds of people can be reached for the purposes of God.

Chris Poe said...

I too thought the lack of specificity in the post led to it being somewhat unbalanced. There's always the danger in overreacting to a perceived error or harmful tendency.

"Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." 2 Tim. 4:2

Boaly said...

Great post Phil, giving balance to Tim Challies great post.

Kim said...

Two words that you use seem to me to be the gist of the matter. One of them is "self-appointed," and the other is "amateur." Too many times, we think we have some kind of "entitlement" for being the voice crying out in the wilderness. Some of us simply aren't called to that, especially when it is such a serious matter as naming names.

I am not "called" to be such a person, yet I still hold strong positions on matters, and I try an understand them. For someone like me, just an ordinary woman, I find that simply continuing to exhort others in the truth is far more edifying to other people.

There are those who are called to speak out and are far more equipped and able than I.

I am very glad for blogs and posts that have alerted me to things of concern, but at the same time, blogs that continually hit the readers over the head with a 2x4 with doom and gloom leave me a little bored after a while.

Frank Turk said...

Jason Robertson: may your tribe increase.
_____________________________

Phil Johnson: it is about time that the "Shemp Theology" graphic got used. You and I get the joke I am sure, but that'll be about it.

Tim said...

George Ladd, in his commentary on Revelation, made a good point about the church at Ephesus. He said that they were commended because they could not bear those who are evil and they tried those who claimed to be apostles but were in fact liars. So, they were watchers.
However, they were warned that they had left their first love. Ladd suggests that their first love was their love for the brethren. They had become so "watchful" that they had become distrusting of everyone which leads to an unhealthy isolationism and a judgmental spirit.
I had never heard this passage applied in such a way and I thought it was spot on.
As always, we must strive for a healthy balance.

donsands said...

Excellente mundo post. Well written and spot on.

Challies is great, and the TeamPyro three Amigos are great.

Your Web Logues are beneficial to the Body of Christ.

Keep on "sowing to the Spirit and you shall reap from the Spirit", and don't "be weary in well doing: for in due season you shall reap, if you don't give up." Gal. 6:8-9

Tim Challies said...

Thanks for the article, Phil. I think there was a lot I took for granted in posting my article that got lost in translation between my brain and everyone else's brain. The fault is mine, I'm sure. Hence the article was not as clear or as nuanced as it should have been.

So now I'm wrestling with a) writing a second article to clarify or b) just walking away and leaving it be, at least having sparked what I think is some useful discussion. I'm open to suggestions on which would be the better route!

I do think that what you express here is very close to what I had hoped to express and that what you and I believe on this issue would be very, very similar. That this is not more clear is, undoubtedly, a testament to the lack of clarity in my article (and perhaps in subsequent comments).

SolaMom said...

Amen! In the words of Mary Poppins...

"A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down."

donsands said...

"I'm open to suggestions on which would be the better route!"

I would say as Joe Walsh said many years ago:

"You just turn your pretty head and
Walk away.
Walk Away."

(I suppose the pretty head part might not apply.)

DJP said...

Suggestions? You could post a brief article linking to Phil's, for "the rest of the story."

David Rudd said...

so...

will we soon be seeing the "surprising apprising" and "slice of demotivation" posters?

johnMark said...

I agree with DJP.

Mark

Sing-Along Steve said...

Mr. Challies/TeamPyro,

That was one of the most grace-filled responses to one of the most grace-filled gestures of peace and understanding I have ever read online. May God richly bless all of you as you continually humble yourselves under His authority. What a grand and Christ-exalting exchange that was... two obviously Gospel-saturated sources of discernment in these two blogs, some amount of lack of clarity and then an agreement in principle BASED ON GOD'S WORD. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Mr. Challies and Mr. Johnson are definitely agreed. Praise God.

Chris Rosebrough said...

Great post. This was balanced, thoughtful, tough minded AND sprinkled with grace

Chris Roberts said...

In some of this you sound almost like Mark Driscoll. I'm proud of you!

Marc said...

Wow, PURGATORIO is still around? That guy should have hung it up long ago!

DJP said...

Naw. He's cool. I hear he's a dispensationalist.

JT said...

Great post, Phil. Thanks for writing this.

JT

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Turning a Blind Eye to Evil Is Evil, Too"

Yes, it is.

Utterly superb post Phil. You rounded out what I think Tim Challies was intending to say.

P.S. And arguably, there could be a case made by some that Challies' blog, JT's blog "In Between Two Worlds, and the TeamPyro blog are on occasion watchblogs (with the term "watchblog" employed in the negative, pejorative sense).

And I personally enjoy all 3 blogs, and if they are to be deemed watchblogs for their reporting of aberrant doctrine and practice, well then, I think of the term "watchblog" as being positive and favorable.

Pax.

Atone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Atone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Do you think Brian Maclaren, Doug Pagitt, Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Scott McKnight, the Gutless Gracers, the Leaky Canoneers, or the Blackabys (to name just a few) find PyroManiacs dithering and vague?

Daryl said...

Brad (Atone),

I know you say that you're a long time reader, but honestly, when you say what you just said, I don't believe it.

Not for a second.

Or at least, you're not understanding anything that's being said.

(It took a minute or two to write this, as I was enjoying an amusing moment contemplating the accusation that the Pyro's are soft on sin...)

Phil Johnson said...

Brad: "sorry for the manifesto."

Quite all right. I'm glad you got it off your chest.

You're the first person who has ever said, "It is rare, very rare, to see Team Pyro name names."

I'm thinking of a way to integrate that into our blog-header.

Marcus Pittman said...

Guys, I just want to think you for this post as someone who is trying to find his place in the whole watchblog, discernment role.

I have been greatly burdened to alert people, more specificly the people inside the church as to the apostasy that is happening.

I do find myself sometimes getting carried away, it can be very consuming. It can and has been at times for me an Idol.

It has consumed my tweets.

With that being said and knowing that people who are in my local church are not aware of Watchblogs, or are not apart of the online culture...I have found my facebook a very powerful tool to alert friends and families of the errors of the people they follow whole heartedly...and likewise I have been attacked for doing so.

So I thank you for this reminder of keeping balanced.

It is constantly a battle on the thinest of tightropes.

DJP said...

PhilI'm thinking of a way to integrate that into our blog-header.

Or change the old lady/Pryo logo picture to "Sakes alive! You can barely taste anything!"

Jake said...

Phil, I think I'm on the same page as Atone, the question I have as I read this post (and I agreed on the whole with what you're saying) is this:

Are the sins of someone who tends to sweep poor theology under the rug any different from those of a sinful watchblogger who uses a tone completely devoid of love to misrepresent brothers and sisters?

Put very simply, you regularly (and, I think, rightly) dress down emerging leaders who want to minimize theological disagreements or who espouse traditional theological liberalism. But are you willing to be equally severe in your dressing down of a Ken Silva or Ingrid Schlueter who magnify it and espouse an overly-rigid, conservative theology?

If you aren't, what is the difference between someone who is too mean from someone who is too nice? Or maybe put a slightly different way - is being more conservative than the Bible any different from being more liberal than the Bible?

I'm curious to get your thoughts on this because I've always thought that both extremes should be treated the same way, but I may not be thinking through all aspects of what that means, so I'd love to hear your response. Actually, this is thinking much bigger picture, but it may get to the heart of this issue - Have you read John Frame's Evangelical Reunion? If so, what were your thoughts?

Phil Johnson said...

For newcomers to our blog, let me be clear: I think Brad(atone)'s point is more specific than his manifesto let on. He wants me to single out Ingrid or Ken or someone else and name them specifically, to prove that I'm "even-handed" in my criticism of "full-time" critics, treating them the way I would treat an out-and-out heretic like Tony Jones.

HERE is how I answered that when Brad and others goaded me about it a couple of years ago.

Bottom line: I don't think there's true parity between the sometimes-nasty "tone" the best-known watchbloggers seem fond of and the soul-damning seeds of skepticism sown by Socinian scoundrels like Jones and Pagitt and company.

Plus, the dogpile on Ingrid is already big and nasty enough. While I may not always like her uber-quick trigger finger or the snippy-sounding one-liners she fires off, I don't think her indiscretions merit the level of contempt that is relentlessly heaped on her head by people who know in their hearts that she is (more often than not) dead right in the big-picture point she's making.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

FWIW, I deeply appreciate Pastor Ken Silva's excellent blog, Apprising Ministries. Here's a sample post where I think he does a great job, plus he cites Pastor John MacArthur (which he does frequently): NEO-ORTHODOX APPROACH TO THE BIBLE PERFECT FIT FOR EMERGENCE CHRISTIANITY.

Not only do I regularly read Ken Silva's blog, but I also deeply appreciate Martin Downes' blog "Against All Heresies", the Bayly Brothers' blog, Albert Mohler's blog, the terrific Triablogue run by Steve Hays, etc.... And all of these blogs, including JT's blog, Challies blog, and TeamPyros' could all be accused of being a dreaded "watchblog". Or they have already been accused of it.

And I would say... say that they should wear the name-calling epithet without flinching and with an occasional, if merited, apology.

Mike Riccardi said...

I think that last point at the end of Phil's comment is the answer to the question.

If you aren't, what is the difference between someone who is too mean from someone who is too nice? Or maybe put a slightly different way - is being more conservative than the Bible any different from being more liberal than the Bible?

I think the difference is that heresy gets the heavier hand. Even if someone is unbiblically conservative, but still remains within the bounds of orthodoxy, and doesn't lead thousands into heresy... I don't think they should get the same kind of rebuke as someone who is heretical and does lead others astray into the same soul-destroying belief system.

The false-teaching wolf in sheep's clothing. The sinning, yet true brother/sister in Christ. The unbeliever who has no idea about either of them. They all should be rebuked, reproved, corrected, trained, and called to repentance by the church. But that should look different, no?

Phil Johnson said...

See? Even before I had a chance to post that last comment, Jake echoes what I think is the same point Brad wants to make:

"Are the sins of someone who tends to sweep poor theology under the rug any different from those of a sinful watchblogger who uses a tone completely devoid of love to misrepresent brothers and sisters?"

Well,

1. Yes, I do think damnable heresy is a worse sin than an ugly tone.

2. But I generally reserve the name-calling for people who are aggressively promoting the worst kinds of errors, not the evangelical sophisticate who "tends to sweep poor theology under the rug."

3. Judging whether someone's heart is "devoid of love" isn't really my area of expertise. I do try to leave that to the One who can actually see clearly what a person's true motives are.

4. But to get to the real point: I agree that it is a serious sin to fall into a pattern of consistently, daily failing to convey lovingkindness, gentleness, patience, and compassion in clear and palpable ways. I don't approve of the angry-discernment-expert approach.

5. We do say all those things OFTEN here.

6. If someone wants to suggest that we're hypocrites because we think certain soul-damning errors currently sweeping evangelical college groups pose a more pressing problem than a bad attitude everyone is already constantly pointing out, then I'd say it's that person whose priorities are skewed, and not ours.

Frank Turk said...

Brad --

e-mail me and ask me why I deleted your little Easter basket. And until you do, stay away.

~the Big Lug.

Cathy said...

I am so thankful for this post- I was really hoping that you guys would address Mr. Challies' post.
All I can say for myself- is that it was some "watchblog" sites that helped me come out of my semi-self help, purpose driven, slightly mystical views. As a young Christian I spiraled into a depression rooted in hopelessness, but did not know why. Looking back now, I see it was because so many "christian" books and teachers were only pointing me back to a life of work's righteousness. But I was so immature as a believer and was only being fed meager servings of God's Word, that I couldn't see what was happening. I was being taught everything from "positive confession" to Theophostics. When I would bring concerns to my pastor or ask my more mature Christian friends "Where is this in the Bible?"- it was crickets. No one and I mean no one in my church or among my Christian friends ever asked that question. Lighthouse Trails was a life line to me, and I do not say that lightly (no pun intended.) Maybe Mr. Challies wasn't talking about them, I don't know. But frankly, he does not and cannot know what my motives were when I visited that site. To make the sweeping statement that people go to those kind of sites only to be entertained by evil is unfair and unkind. I needed information. I needed to learn how to be discerning. I also needed to know that I was not crazy. Chris R.'s ministry has also been invaluable to me- sometimes we do need a smelling salt (great illustration) to come out of what is the current American evangelical stupor.

I have read Mr. Challies' book on discernment and it helped me so much. I understand that this is my responsibilty and I take that responsibity very seriously.

There are 2 sides of the discernment coin- knowing what is truth and knowing what is not truth- yes, we can get out of balance either way. But I agree with this post in it's assessment of where the imbalance actually is in Christianity these days.
Thanks again.

stratagem said...

OK, good post. But isn't this following quoted passage a bit of a non-sequitur?

Gilbert: "Without putting words into [Phil Johnson's] mouth, he'd rather spend his time building up believers and himself in the Word rather than calling people out for damnable heresies that are causing people to drift away from the true faith and send[ing] them to hell."

Quite right. But let me add this: It needs to be said that "calling people out for damnable heresies that are causing people to drift away from the true faith" is a shepherd's duty, not an option—and it can be quite edifying if done well.


So, Phil would rather spend his time doing one non-optional, commanded in the Word, activity, than a different non-optional, commanded in the Word activity?

If they are both activities commanded by the Word to be done, why would we want to think of one as being somehow "better" than the other?

Phil Johnson said...

Stratagem: "If they are both activities commanded by the Word to be done, why would we want to think of one as being somehow 'better' than the other?"

I didn't suggest one is "better" than another; I said I like doing one more than I like doing the other.

A parallel: Correcting a wayward son is no less "necessary" than loving my wife, but I certainly prefer spending my time and energies on the latter.

Phil Johnson said...

. . . not that Pecadillo or his elder brothers is "wayward," but you get what I mean, I think.

~Mark said...

I doubt it was coincidentally, but I had this same conversation two nights ago when a friend showed me the advertising for what may be the most blasphemous local church of which I am aware.

When seeking the balance between exhort, warn and rebuke it should become clear why all are needed when this type of apostasy rears it's ugly head.

I spoke with local pastors about this and even a priest got into the action and shared some really scary history of the behavior of the man running this place.

When a blog is nothing but warning it becomes something that you don't even want to read anymore, but a blog like Pyro which teaches, rebukes and warns with great humility and often all in the same post is a good example for us all to emulate as we develop our own approaches.

Stefan said...

I'd just like to thank you guys for your ministry here, and the careful way you temper discernment with loving obedience to Christ.

The first time I stumpled into this place two years ago, I was still a "baby believer." After the Holy Trinity and Holy Scripture, my church and this blog have been the two constants in my life as a believer. I've "grown up" with you guys.

Most importantly, I've learned from the repeated practical application that you make of a basic Biblical principle that I have been taught at church as well. It's a principle that might seem counterintuitive when associated mentally with this blog, considering how your critics sometimes perceive your actions. But that principle is this: to think and look more deeply into a matter and test it against Scripture, and come to an informed decision, before saying anything rash or premature.

Sometimes, your application of that principle is self-evident. Sometimes it's not, but then when you're accused of not knowing enough about such and such a matter, a little digging often reveals that you've spent years investigating or dealing with the matter at hand.

But more important than specific examples is the principle itself, and as grow in my walk with Christ, I find myself applying it more and more in practical situations—exercising more discernment on the one hand, but also not leaping rashly to judgement on the other.

And above all, doing all for the sake of loving obedience to Christ through loving service towards brothers and sisters in Christ, and ministry to non-believers. (Not that I'm anywhere near the same county—let alone the same ZIP code—as perfection on these things, but I'm teachable [I hope] and learning.)

And why? Because we're all broken sinners who need God's grace, and before we loved Him, He first loved us, and gave His life that we might live in Him.

Gisela said...

Sing-Along Steve: well-spoken!

Caleb Kolstad said...

Thank you so much for this clear and helpful post. I appreciate your blog very much.

The Squirrel said...

But that principle is this: to think and look more deeply into a matter and test it against Scripture, and come to an informed decision, before saying anything rash or premature.

Very well stated, Stefan!

~Squirrel

Jake said...

Phil - Thanks for the response, it's helpful.

Still very much in process on these issues myself, but I appreciate you taking the time to write back.

peace

Respectabiggle said...

I think that as long as you're not this guy, your heart is in the right place:


"I don't actually like music. I just like being self-righteous on the Web."

Original comic (Strong Language warning.

Sometimes, I'm that guy. I'm working on that, Deus volent.

Gilbert said...

What in the world...?

So I come to my computer today after a busy morning, and I'm getting bombarded with "Look at Pyro! You're on Pyro!" emails. In the geek world, a web site going down under a mass of hits and emails is called "being Slashdotted", due to a link from the Slashdot site. In the Christian blogosphere, I'll now call it "being Pyro'd." Anyway, Phil blesses me. I think. Forgive me, since meteorologists normally don't get compliments; I hope that's what it was. ;-)

I didn't have much time to write that, as I don't now, but yes, Phil, I wanted to go further with that...and you took the ball and ran with it into the end zone, across the parking lot, past the Interstate. Keeping oneself pure and holy in these times is incredibly difficult, even with the Holy Spirit's help. And keeping leaders and a congregation from falling away into apostasy is a daunting task at any time, but these days...sheesh. You have to lay the hammer down, in a Godly way, and not be wishy-washy.

I admit, guilty verdict undeniable, that I am nowhere strong in the faith that I should be, but God has made it plain to me to reject what is not true, and to not be wimpy about it. I hate being "nice". And so should you. Holiness is never nice. Sometimes it is gentle, but many times it requires a rebuke. I've been on both sides, and will be until my dying day until God perfects me. Until then, I make no apologies for strongly saying that if you claim the Bible is errant in any way, and do not believe Jesus died to take away your sins, and you have not expressed repentance in your life for committing sins in your past...you're going to hell. There is great forgiveness, even from murder, available to you as a free gift at the cross of Christ.
And I have to be strong and gentle enough in love to say that to someone who doesn't want to hear it.

Having said all that...

I do read Ken's and Ingrid's blogs (and others, and many news sites) because I want to know what the latest and greatest thing Satan is up to, so that we are not unaware of his intentions (2 Corinthians 2:11). If reading that was for entertainment, it would be funny. As it is, it's just scary. But we have to be on our toes. And NOT for entertainment purposes.

Thank you again Phil, and thanks again, Pyros, for blessing us with Godly wisdom. We need all we can get these days.

Considering myself Pyro'd,

Gilbert

gringa said...

Echoing many others, I, too, am thankful for team pyro and the work they do in teaching AND defending the Word.

Muchicimas gracias:)

Aaron Snell said...

Wow, Frank Turk and Doug Wilson cited with approval in the same post. Bravo.

DJP said...

I think they're the same person. Both very smart, very articulate, very funny; and they use italics in exactly the same way.

Aaron Snell said...

Yeah, but Doug's italics include way more Latin than Frank's.

John and Trudy Feyereisen said...

Phil,

Excellent clarification and balance given to what Tim Challies seemed to desire to communicate, as he indicated.

Tim mentioned he was thinking through writing a follow up article to clarify his original.

IMHO, it would be a benefit to many, and especially to those who would otherwise remain slighted by an indirect indictment to helpfulness of their blog

Ingrid from Slice of Laodicea, for example mentioned her comments in response to Tim's blog remained unpublished there for whatever reason. They can be seen on her blog here -

http://www.sliceoflaodicea.com/announcement/tim-challies-time-to-clarify/

Eric said...

Personally I lost taste for the ODM's when they went after John Piper. I didn't totally disagree with their premise, but they would hard pressed to find more doctrinely correct, Christ exalting preaching anywhere else. I guess John Piper has gotten a bit too influential. Pastors that would not normally mention a five-point calvinists in one of their sermons feel free to celebrate their love and admiration of John Piper. Perhaps they have helped Piper in that his admitted thorn in the flesh is probably vanity. That being said, I believe that Challies was following the trend of James McDonald, who wrote another scathing blog article about the ODM's last month

Eric said...

Forgot to thank you Phil for the graciousness of your tone and civility in this post. Your posts and sermons are a great help to me.

Matt said...

I have to echo Stefan here somewhat. While I was a Christian when I came across Pyro (and even a conservative one), you guys have helped me to grow immensely, and I don't just mean the 15 lbs I've gained in the last year.

I found you guys while researching the Emerging church. I had deep concerns about where guys like McLaren were going, and found comfort in what you guys were saying.

Your helpfulness isn't limited to just affirming what I already believed, however. You have also helped me come to a safe landing on Calvinism and cessationism.

I've appreciated you guys a lot. Thank you, and keep up the good work.

Oh, and you've also helped this "nice" Mennonite to enjoy theology that has some teeth. Maybe if more Mennonites were as concerned about edges as they were with keeping the peace, we wouldn't be in the shape we're in.

DJP said...

Matt — and I don't just mean the 15 lbs I've gained in the last year

Uh-oh. That was because of the pizza, wasn't it?

/c:

Atone said...

Frank, it's tempting but, nah, I'll just stay away.

Brad

juks said...

I was brought up in roman catholicism. I was saved into a pentecostal arminian church. It was the "polemical" sections of the NT that answered my questions about the errors of the religion of my forefathers. As a young believer I edited out of the NT all those segments warning about false teaching and false teachers - I was left with a very thick document.I have just witnessed my pastor in SA being dismissed from a Baptist church in Johannesburg for standing on truth and exposing error as opposed to the ear-tickling pychologised messages a la Warren, Hybels and Dobson that modern evangelicalism has been seduced by and the visible church is being DESTROYED by. Yes, there is a danger in going overboard with discernment "ministries" especially by bloggers who are not leading from the pulpit in balanced expository ministries and turn it into a hobby or sport. But I am also so tired of hearing the lament of those who want to turn a blind eye to the mess and apostasy all around us and want to coax us unwittingly into the post-modern sentiment of the age. Maybe people should start reading their bibles starting with the prophets, then John the Baptist, the apostles and finally, after an honest re-assessment of the gentle Jesus meek and mild dashboard picture we have been sold we should look carefully at the gospels and see just how much of the Lord's ministry was reactive and "polemical". I think a lot of people would be shocked. Jesus was no po-mo. Tim Challies please write another article bringing clarity and balance to your previous post which PJ was spot-on in holding you to account on.

Douglas said...

"Plus, the dogpile on Ingrid is already big and nasty enough. While I may not always like her uber-quick trigger finger or the snippy-sounding one-liners she fires off, I don't think her indiscretions merit the level of contempt that is relentlessly heaped on her head by people who know in their hearts that she is (more often than not) dead right in the big-picture point she's making."

Amen.

I believe Ingrid is a Christian who fears God, loves the brethren and the lost and hates error that deceives. There are some people out there who hate her guts, even going so far as calling her a Jezebel and that is a nasty, bold faced lie. Ingrid and her family need our prayer support.

John said...

I actually thought of Pyro when I read (part of) that post.

Keep up the good work.

Frank Turk said...

Has anyone else ever noticed that while they comment on each others blogs, you never see Frank Turk and Doug Wilson in the same placae at the same time?

Weird.

Frank Turk said...

I don't want to break any hearts, btw, but traffic the last two days was up 20% -- which is good -- but not up to the peak 30 days ago when Phil went live at the Shepherds' Conference.

Challies jumped from being our #4 refering site to being #1. That's all.

Aaron said...

Speaking of Doug Wilson, his book "A Serrated Edge A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking " really does a good job of pointing out the appropriateness, at certain times, of condescending humor and mockery.

The late J. Vernon McGee also pointed out the various times in the Bible that God displayed a sense of humor, including the plagues of Egypt. "There is a note of humor that God injects here. Imagine the Egyptians
worshiping a sick cow!"

Lisa Nunley said...

What enabled men like Elihu, Elijah, Daniel, Phinehas and of course Jesus to fearlessly speak the truth without compromise? Was it their zeal for His honor, His holy Name? And even knowing that if they remained silent, they would be sinning? Those willing to stand for truth risk being misunderstood and rejected. But it is a risk you guys have taken because you know you will have to ultimately stand before God and not man. Nope, you aren't perfect. Who is but Christ... and THANK YOU LORD for your longsuffering and promised progressive sanctification. But I do deeply appreciate your uncompromising willingness to set aside what you would rather be doing, for what God has called you to do. Because it has to seriously stink sometimes when it seems NO ONE IS LISTENING even though what is written is so CLEAR.
It is our flesh that desires to please the masses. But in the end, when we stand before God to give an account, I pray that we lived a life in word and action, both in the public eye and when no one was watching (but God), in which our greatest desire and pursuit was to, glorify God, honor His holy Name, please HIM and not man... no matter the cost.

christianlady said...

At least some of us bloggers are thinking about the whole point of what we are doing now as well as our personal motivation and attitude. I know this discussion has me thinking, (I'm not just blowing smoke either...)

Blessings!

Lisa Nunley said...

Christianlady,
Amen.

Brendt said...

Phil: 1. Yes, I do think damnable heresy is a worse sin than an ugly tone.

I think I simultaneously agree and disagree with this statement.

AGREE: Maybe heresy is worse than bad tone. And granted, this statement was made within the parameters that Jake had set by using the word "tone". But perhaps the parameters are too limiting, as there are some watchblogs out there that don't stop at "tone". Perhaps not everyone would classify what they say as rising to damnable heresy, but neither is it simply the truth presented in a bad way.

DISAGREE: Why is one worse than the other if both keep someone away from Christ?

donsands said...

"Why is one worse than the other if both keep someone away from Christ?" Brendt

Paul said, "If someone preaches the Gospel with self-ambition, then I will rejoice in the Gospel being preached." Though these preachers were trying to hurt Paul he rejoiced in the Gospel. For the Gospel preached glorifies Christ Jesus.
However, Paul said, "If anyone, even an angel from heaven comes with a twisted gospel, a watered down gospel, or a different Jesus, then let them be accursed."

The Gospel needs to be pure. And surely those who preach the Gospel in a way that they take credit for it is very wrong, but not as wrong as a false gospel.

Even Jesus said to His disciples, "Do what the religious leaders tell you, but don't do as they do."

That's how I see it.

Brendt said...

Don, your example is sound, but not exactly applicable to my question.

You're referring to what is going on in the heart of the preacher. I'm referring to what is going on in the heart of the listener.

God is infinitely bigger than our failings and shortcomings. So, it seems to me that if it's the real Gospel being preached, He will overcome the failings and shortcomings to draw the listener to Himself.

Conversely, regardless of the motives of the preacher, if someone is being kept away from Christ (my original point), is the Gospel really being preached?

donsands said...

"..regardless of the motives of the preacher, if someone is being kept away from Christ (my original point), is the Gospel really being preached?"

Not everyone hears the good news, and receives. The intellectuals think is foolish, and the religious person with his own religious duties and deeds see the Cross as a stumbling block.

The Apsotle is saying he rejoices when the Gospel is preached, even if hearts remain hard. Christ is preached and souls that are chosen before the world was created will come to Christ in repentance and trust Him.
The Gospel is the power that saves a soul. We can't "nice" people to Christ.
At the same time, we are to preach the good news with grace and gratefulness and humility.

The Gospel is the bottom line. Seems like a simple teaching of Scripture, yet hard to accept, because when we see the authentic Gospel being preached, the Gospel of grace alone through faith alone, by self-ambitious types we want to call them tares, and even pluck them up. Or at least I do. And that's wrong.
I should be rejoicing that the Gospel is being preached.

When the Gospel is watered down, or made to be a Gospel of works, or Jesus is a nice fellow, who would rather die then live without you, and all the other ways the Gospel is twisted and perverted through satan and his ministers of righteousness and light, then we need to speak the truth in love, and perhaps even mark those who are sending forth this false gospel, no matter how nice and kind these fasle preachers are.

Brendt said...

Not everyone hears the good news, and receives.

Agreed.

The Apsotle is saying he rejoices when the Gospel is preached, even if hearts remain hard.

Really? I've never heard that interpretation of that Scripture before. (Not even when you cited it in your last comment.) I find it kinda hard to believe that that was Paul's point. That certainly wasn't what you said was Paul's point before.

We can't "nice" people to Christ.

Nor can we offend them to Christ. The gospel is offensive enough. God doesn't need our "help" to make it more unpalatable.

... we are to preach the good news with grace and gratefulness and humility.

Agreed. But if their is a lack of grace and gratefulness and humility, how good is it, really?

I'm trying really hard not to use the term "false gospel" as that has been misappropriated by many (though not you) to mean "something with which I do not agree".

When the Gospel is watered down [to potray that] Jesus is a nice fellow, who would rather die then live without you, and all the other ways the Gospel is twisted and perverted through satan and his ministers...

Next time I see Michael Card, I'll be sure to tell him that he's a minister of Satan. ;-)

donsands said...

You know Michael Card? Cool.

Paul said, "God will have mercy on whom He wants, and whom He wills He even hardens."

We are clay, and He is the potter. He glorifies Himself perfectly in whatever He does.

We are to serve one another, and share the Gospel, but God gives the increase. God is sovereign.

Surely Paul's great desire was to see the Jews saved, so much so that he wished he could be accursed for them. He also said, "If anyone perverts the Gospel, let them be accursed."

It's all about the Gospel, and God's glory, moreso for the great Apostle then the rest of methinks.

Brendt said...

You have a point there, in that no one can really keep anyone from Christ. So neither the false teacher who waters down the gospel nor the false teacher who adds to it has any ultimate effect.

But we -- not just the gospel, but we too -- can be stumbling blocks. We can impede reconciliation between a person and God. And obviously, that's wrong.

I just don't see how it's better to sin in one way than to sin in another way, especially when both sins have the same (short-term, at least) consequence. I keep seeing images of millstones in my mind.

In actuality, the verses that you quoted/referenced kinda make my point.

Brendt said...

It's all about the Gospel, and God's glory, moreso for the great Apostle then the rest of methinks.

Sometimes, I think John Piper might give Paul a run for his money there. ;-)

donsands said...

"I just don't see how it's better to sin in one way than to sin in another way, especially when both sins have the same (short-term, at least) consequence."

That's how I felt, until Paul said, "Whether the Gospel is preached in pretense, or love, I will rejoice, and rejoice!"

And if anyone perverts the Gospel, let them be accursed.

Brendt said...

I guess what I'm getting at is that sometimes the Gospel isn't being preached, even when the "preacher" thinks it is.

When that's the case, then the verse becomes inapplicable.

donsands said...

If a preacher thinks he preached the gospel, the true gospel, but he didn't preach the true gospel, then he preached a different gospel.
So he is a false preacher preaching a different gospel.

The gospel is pure and simple.

Christ died on a Cross for our sins, and was buried, and rose three days later, according to the Scriptures. What is the hearer to do? Repent, and turn to God, and believe Christ Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one can come to the Father except through Him.

God will save the repentant sinner, the one whose heart has been pricked and cut, and has seen his sin as bad, and God as a good Savior, and then the Holy Spirit takes over, and will lead and guide this new creation, this lost child who has come home, into the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, for Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every single Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

The new babe in Christ will drink milk for a while, and then he will grow to eat the meat of the Word, and grow and grow as the Word brings nourishment to his soul, and encouragement to his heart, and renews his mind.

have a blessed Easter Brendt.

Brendt said...

I agree whole-heartedly on all that.

You have a blessed Resurrection Sunday, too!

Alexander M. Jordan said...

I've written on this topic before and would be quite happy to be considered a balanced "watchblogger" in the way that Phil Johnson delineates so well in this excellent post.

I don't use humor when critiquing enough, but tried it out in a recent April Fool's Day post, and this post generated more hits and fruitful discussion than others I've written.

I think Tim Challies' main point is spot-on-- there's not much spiritual benefit in taking continual delight in other's theological errors. And I have been guilty of getting entertained by such things in an ungodly way.

If as we write to point out theological errors we are saddened by the errors we see happening and have a heart that desires to see erring brothers and sisters corrected so that they may be blessed, then we'll say what needs to be said with more grace and true charity.

A blessed Resurrection Sunday to all,

Alex

Aaron said...

I don’t know this has to be one of the few times I actually disagree with Phil. I think it's not so much the exposure o false teaching as the tone of how it is done. My main problem with websites like a Little Leaven, Slice of Laodicea, and even Wretched Radio is the almost overwhelming snarky, condescending, and alarmist attitude. Is there error in the church?? You bet ya and it deserves to be exposed but showing how "stupid" it is or how much better you are then "those people" doesn’t accomplish anything. I don’t remember B.B. Warfeald or J. Greshem Manchen attacking anybody like this. But I feel it's more an issue of tone and tenor then exposure of evil. I can just say threatening to blackball people useing the false teaching of people for "laughs" or copping a suppuor attitude a accomplishes nothing I mean I used to read Slice of Laodicea but Ingred Shliter just comes of as The church lady from SNL these days when it's all said and done I feel James White does a better job exposing error then posting an bunch of context less youtube videos about "tokeing the holy Ghost" or Rick Waren

DJP said...

For those of you keeping score at home and growing confused, this "Aaron" is a completely different "Aaron" than the "Aaron" who comments at my blog. There's a pretty easy way to tell the difference... but I'm afraid it would sound snarky.

DJP said...

Oh snap, that sounded snarky, anyway.

sigh

Tim Brown said...

Great post and much appreciated. Not long after I started my own blog, I found myself following the lead of a couple or three of the bigger "watchdog blogs" and it got to the point where I noticed that I was feeling let down if I didn't find something heretical to report. Needless to say, I became convinced that this reflected a touch of extremism on my part and I started thinking more about where the line is.

We are all called to call out error. But we don't do that as our bread and butter. The apostles didn't just go around pointing out error full-time. They were there to, as stated in Eph 4:12 to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry. Correcting error was only a small part of what they did.

As you said, the focus should be on edification.

Brendt said...

Todd Friel? Snarky? Never! ;-)

Aaron said...

The Aaron that posts at Dan's blog is rather dull with no profile, no blog, and nothing whatsoever to differentiate himself from the masses except his charming wit and sarcastic humor....

To the "other" Aaron who does not post at Dan's blog: Spellcheck is a quite effective in treating the symptoms of those with a particular handicap, namely orthography. Secondly, what do you say about this: "But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES." (1Co 5:11-13)

But we should never harsh in our judgements, should we?

P.S. I'm going to get around to my profile and blog soon. (Yes, I know you are waiting with bated breath).

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