28 January 2011

[Bonus] Open Letter to R. Scott Clark

by Frank Turk



Dear Dr. Clark –

After I wrote my open letter to Dr. Horton on Wednesday, I was hoping for some fair dialogue from someone on the WTS-West side of the discussion. My thanks for your level of engagement on what turned out to be a hot topic this week.

Your recent post, which I had sent to me by a faithful reader, is a classic from you, following what I perceive to be your normal pattern of dealing with people who are not in your normal circle of confessional associates. Your pattern, of course, it to malign those who would say something you think is bad, then cover that version of their argument with your erudite cape, mutter the magic words of the catechism or the confession, and Volente! the matter is closed (especially the comments). For example, you mis-quote me as saying that I have listened for 20 years when in fact you cannot find that in my open letter -- and then you leverage that to intimate I am either dishonest or perhaps stupid because of the amount of time WHI spends on the matter of the uses of the Law. You state plainly that I am accusing Dr. Horton of fostering heresy, and then argue against the presence of that heresy. A fun game to play, but not actually very convincing.

Here’s how you start your volley:
At Pyromaniacs, Frank Turk has published an open letter to Mike Horton, apparently on the basis of a single episode of White Horse Inn, accusing the WHI guys of fostering antinomianism. Turk writes, “The first is a general complaint: I think you fellows have taken the right-minded theological distinction 'Law and Gospel' too far; you have made all of human life and God’s interactions with man into either an imperative or an indicative — missing the point that some things in life (especially in the Christian life, and in Christian theological anthropology) fall under the subjunctive mood.”
Now, sadly, I did cite two episodes of WHI – but to notice that would mean reading the whole article carefully. I actually had a rather lengthy list of episodes in which the exact same sentiments and concluding statements were made -- each in turn from all of the WHI cast of characters -- but the open letter was already 6 pages long. Did I really need to document the history of this rhetoric suitable for a full Doctoral Thesis in order to make my specific point? More importantly: would you deny that the excerpts I provided (and transcripted generously – cleaning up spoken-word incoherencies and overlapping talk) reflect the substance of the discussion generally made at WHI on this subject? If so, please indicate in what way these statements are not reflective of the general tenor of that on-going discussion. You have the text before you, and it would be a great pleasure to see your hermeneutical prowess in action.

Now that said, the far-more egregious error on your part is to say that I have accused Dr. Horton of “fostering antinominanism”. That’s a suspicious statement if for no other reason than I studiously avoided saying that. I didn’t copy you on my edits, so perhaps you can be forgiven for not knowing my heart.

What Dr. Horton specifically said – which I think is a staggering admission on his part – is this:
Dr. Horton: Now: [Reformed traditions] have problems in [relational virtues], and there are passages in Scripture that talk about hospitality, generosity, and all sorts of things that we need to work on in our traditions. But if you don't have hospitality, and you don't have generosity, and you don't have relationality (whatever that means) you don't have kindness, gentleness, humility—all of those qualities that are so important for inter-personal relationships, you're not healthy, and you don't have a healthy church. If you don't have the preaching of the Gospel, you don't have a church.
I had a rather long-ish excursis here into the book of Galatians to talk about the fruit of the Spirit, but here's what I'll say about it instead: it is utterly a matter of confessional consistency to admit, without qualification, that a faith without works is a dead faith. We can use a Lutheran form to say that, or a Presbyterian form, or a Reformed form, but it all comes to the same thing: it is not merely "unhealthy" to see the fruit of the Spirit as optional or worse -- as a result of some therapeutic treatment the local elders would administer at some point. It is actually spiritually-dead to be hearers and not doers of the word of God.

That said, the first right-minded thing to do is ask: does Dr. Horton believe or teach this, especially in the excerpts provided?

It is an utterly fair question because if the answer is yes, your defense of him is utterly pointless – it’s an admirable attempt to defend a colleague, and a nice show of solidarity and loyalty, but pointless because in that case he would be guilty. Saying he teaches at a place with a theologically-sufficient confession would not save him if he was actually "fostering antinomianism".

I think the right answer is this: an uncharitable person would say, “he certainly does when he gives people who are personally cold and ungracious a pass as being only ‘unhealthy’.” But that is, as I said, uncharitable. It’s reading the admonition there as only excusing and not in some way noting the real fault. So let’s take it for granted that Dr. Horton in no way has endorsed an antinomian view – which is a generous and friendly assumption, and gives a lot of grace to the therapudic formula he uses to express his sentiment.

The second question has to be this: did I say he was antinomian, or fostering antinomianism?

Here’s what I said:
I think you guys allow for a lot of fruitlessness by default — and it comes across in the culture of the people who listen to you a lot and are disaffected by their local church. They don't see it the way John saw it: they see it as wanting "basic Christianity" to want the Gospel — the perfect Gospel, perfectly declared — with a willingness to bypass fellowship (including the sacraments) to get it, usually via podcasts and books.
Further, the question was posed to me in the open comments of that post, “do you think Dr. Horton is antinomian?” and my response was plain: No, not at all. For the record, I did say this explicitly in the comments of my open letter, but obviously you do not anticipate comments to blog posts, so I forgive you for not noticing.

See: as part of the culture I am decrying here, you think that the world is bifurcated into to venn diagram circles labeled “orthodox” and “heresy” which cannot overlap (true enough), but that no other categories exist. So if I am not saying, “Mike Horton is an icon of pure orthodoxy with no admixture of any error,” then I must be saying (which is clearly your perception), “Mike Horton is guilty of theological treason, so let’s get out the posse and the noose before someone says something reasonable to change our minds.” What if I am instead saying, “You know: is it possible to say what any Reformed confession says and take it too far, so that the balance of teaching is off the center mark and it causes people to make mistakes?”

That’s what I am actually saying about WHI: orthodox guys all of them, from different traditions, and all of them with a right-minded concern that we not get the imperative before the indicative. But they are willing to excuse gaping holes in their own traditions for the sake of saying something theologically-correct about the use of the Gospel while minimizing the necessary consequences of the Gospel. That doesn't make them heretics: it makes them human. They are not people making others suitable for hell (you know: like Dr. Riddlebarger has said of people who would say we should “obey the Gospel” [cf. 2 Thes 1; 1 Pet 4]). I think they are guys who have a history of saying something a certain way -- maybe using a kind of "shop talk" to make a point -- but then are responsible because of their influence for creating a culture, frankly, I think they each would be glad to say is unacceptable.

But that option is not available in your discernment matrix. It must be that I’m a detractor of the White Horse Inn and of Confessional traditions – when in fact all I’m saying is this: doesn’t it actually make more sense, if Confessional/Reformed types really believe what they are saying, to make a minor correction in rhetoric and cultural course rather than excusing the behavior of people who Dr. Horton willingly admits are short on “hospitality, generosity, kindness, gentleness, humility” as merely “unhealthy”? Since when do we see the Gospel in therapudic terms?

There is not one iota in any reformed confession they have to subvert to make this change. There is not a single clause of any reformed catechism which will need revision. No one will even actually have to change their views of the subjunctive mood. There’s not actually even anyone to excommunicate, no Baptists to ecclesiastically-disown – which I know ruins your weekend plans, but we all have our crosses to bear. All I have called for – and really, in a pretty generous way, given the manner of real disapprobation handed out weekly on WHI toward squishy evangelicals – is that Dr. Horton & Co. do what they actually ask everyone else to do – and clean up their sloppy short-hand for the sake of improving the culture they have assisted in creating over the last 20 years.

That said, thanks for mentioning my critique specifically because it does show that, at least, you understand the difference between gossip and debate -- between inuendo and discussion. My hope is that, by restating everything I wrote the first time, you’ll actually read it this time. And while banking on you recanting of any of your, um, conclusions is probably a poor investment, I’m going to hope for the best.

Good luck to you; God bless you as you enjoy your Sabbath rest this weekend. Give my regards to our readers in Escondido as you all have a lovely city down there. Next time I’m in town, let me invite you to dinner -- on me.







138 comments:

Frank Turk said...

As a programming note, I'll be on Pirate Christian Radio with Chris R. to discuss this whole shee-bang. Chris and I have already had an intro chat about it, and I think everyone will at least enjoy the conversation, if not actually agree with it.

The Reformant said...

It astounds me that so many people can misread what was said...

Especially when it was written in such a clear and concise manner.

Glad to hear you will be on PCR with Chris... looking forward to it.

Daryl said...

I read Clark's article...and couldn't help wonder if his only contact with it was Charlie calling him up and saying:

"Guess what some Turk said about Horton and the WHI! We can't let that go, can we?"

My reading of your original letter left me wondering how much more charitable a guy could be, and still call it a critique. You plainly appreciate those guys and what they stand for and even teach (with the afore-open-lettered balance caveat of course).

Clark's response was rather odd and troubling, if you ask me.

akatakritos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Al said...

Reading your posts and R. Scott Clark's post I am encouraged that my opinion of you both is again confirmed...
There is probably some sin in me, but is it odd that I cheer the Baptists in these tête à têtes?

al sends

Frank Turk said...

Al Sends is a menace and must be stopped.

Frank Turk said...

link fixed.

Arthur Sido said...

Your pattern, of course, it to malign those who would say something you think is bad, then cover that version of their argument with your erudite cape, mutter the magic words of the catechism or the confession, and Volente! the matter is closed (especially the comments).

Priceless and true but you forgot the ubiquitous appeal to "buy my book".

Andy Chance said...

"All I have called for – and really, in a pretty generous way, given the manner of real disapprobation handed out weekly on WHI toward squishy evangelicals – is that Dr. Horton & Co. do what they actually ask everyone else to do – and clean up their sloppy short-hand for the sake of improving the culture they have assisted in creating over the last 20 years."

That's good. That's very good.

Tim Challies said...

I think I'll write an open letter to Frank to ask him to stop writing these open letters.

I can't say I much appreciate your tone in this one, Frank. Completely disregarding your letter to Dr. Horton and Dr. Clark's response, I can't say that the tone of this one seems fitting.

Frank Turk said...

And the tone police have arrived ...

So you won't be linking to this one, I guess, eh Tim?

The Reformant said...

I think Frank is allowed a bit of tone (if thats what we are gonna call honesty) when he is taken out of context and words are put in his mouth.

Much easier to write it all off than to respond... but then again, the internet makes it all too easy to hide behind a crowd of burning straw men.

PJ said...

Frank,

I listen now and again to WHI, I read Pyromaniacs now and again, so I was interested in this discussion this week.

As a pastor however I am unclear as to what is so shocking to you in one of the quotes from Michael Horton.

Specifically you seem "staggered" when he says,

"But if you don't have hospitality, and you don't have generosity, and you don't have relationality (whatever that means) you don't have kindness, gentleness, humility—all of those qualities that are so important for inter-personal relationships, you're not healthy, and you don't have a healthy church. If you don't have the preaching of the Gospel, you don't have a church."

The church at Ephesus (Revelation letter) lacked love, was it a non-church, of non-Chrstians or was it an unhealthy church with unhealthy Christians?

The church at Corinth had divisions, had selfish people in it i.e. it lacked generosity among other things (Cp. 11) Was it a non-church, filled with non-Christians, or was it an unhealthy Church?

It seems to me that Horton is merely saying that a church may lack many things in its history and yet that does not render it a non-church, and that Christians may lack evidence of fruit at times and yet still be a Christian (who of us would deny lacking some of these things at times).

What was it that "kept" these churches as churches and gave them hope of recovery? The Gospel of grace - return, rebuild. The constituting element of the Church is the Gospel not the perfection of what Horton calls relational elements.

Frank Turk said...

Ref:

I think Tim is right to identify "tone" as a distinguishing mark of this letter. The problem for Tim is that he doesn't see any tonal problems with Dr. Clark.

That's his trip.

DJP said...

Of all the things CT has promoted in the last 20 years, to say MLJ and WHI are somehow wrapped up in “heresy” is just the icing on the cake for their credibility – they should just now change their name to “The Religious Opinion Times” (the ROT, for short) and stop pretending they have anything distinctive from “O” magazine to offer the Christian culture

Dang, that's good. You are really on a roll these days in particular, my brother.

Mark | hereiblog said...

The tone police and the open letter police have come baring the same badge.

When will the context, reading and misrepresentation police arrive?

;)

Frank Turk said...

PJ --

I'm a big fan of using the letters to the Corinthians for diagnosing the final account of whether someplace is a church or not, so kudos for making a sound point.

The points I would make in response are this:

1. As I said in this letter, the language is sloppy at best. It is easy (if ungracious) to read what Dr. Horton says there as denying confessional standards. Horton demands better of non-confessional types who do not have confessional standsard to guide their insights; he should expect as much from himself.

2. I'd be careful with the warning in Rev to the Ephesians. Plainly: they are in grave danger. To say they are "still a church" is to miss that their errors is called out as a problem which may cause the Lord to "remove their lampstand" if not corrected.

3. The analogy I have refrained from making here is the one which seems obvious to me: if what we were talking about here was an absence of the Lord's Supper, for example, I doubt that anyone on WHI would call that an "unhealthy" practice. I asure you Dr. Clark would call that the practice of "churchless" people. Yet without any quibbling, confessionally, biblically, the on-going work of the Spirit is a necessary consequence of the Christian life. Why, then, resort to the therapy language -- unless it is to say, in effect, "It's not dead: it's just restin'."

Frank Turk said...

DJP:

They almost write themselves. You should see what is left on the cutting-room floor.

Tim Bertolet said...

If R. Scott Clark can say in his post: "One final, strongly worded comment. WARNING: If you’re sensitive, if you’re feelings are easily hurt, if it pains you to see one Christian speaking forcefully, bluntly, to others, then stop reading. I’m not sure how you read much of the NT, but nevertheless If you’re still reading you’ve been warned."

I think we can say that Frank is just "contextualizing" himself ;)

Seriously though, that sets the 'tone' and it isn't mean or nasty to respond in kind. There was nothing slanderous in what Frank said (that I can see).

So there is a little verbal sparring match? When the person communicates that they are big boy and they enter the ring to spar, the rest of us should expect to see some good nature sparring back.

Frank, if I could photoshop I'd photoshop you & a GhostRider pix "Frank Turk, setting the blogosphere on fire 1 open letter at a time."

DJP said...

Turk: You should see what is left on the cutting-room floor.

Pyro: Director's Cut

Robert Kunda said...

As much as I love Tim, I can't echo his thoughts. I think that 1) the tone of this letter was appropriate—especially in light of all the current discussions, and 2) I rather enjoy these open letters. While a point may come where productivity ceases, as it stands, there is a lot of internal house-cleaning that needs to be done and the open discussions are fruitful for those of us still trying to grow to the level of the involved parties.

DJP said...

I'm hoping someone hacked Challies' account. I mean, not for the hacking, but, well, you know.

PJ said...

Frank

1
Point 1 - on this quotation I don't see it as sloppy at all but pastorally accurate and biblically, We'll have to disagree, but each Sabbath I preach to folks who have struggled with sin each week and I'm glad to bring both the warnings of Scripture and the balm of Scripture to them - and I think viewed through a pastoral lens Horton's point is sound and helpful. If I looked for all the marks of the Spirits in perfection or even near it all the time, I don't think I could look in the mirror never mind care for the Sheep under my care. I take my model from Christ in the Upper Room, all 11 are going to deny him - yet how loving and gentle he is with them. In many modern churches they'd be kicked out.

2 - The church is still a church while the candlestick is there. So yes be careful Ephesus - but the light is there so we can use it as an example.- to say they are "still a church" is not ignoring the grievous nature of their error but Biblical exegetical fact.

3- The early church did celebrate the Lord's Supper so a church today must. However likewise churches also exhibited a lack of spiritual health as did the component Christians yet the Apostle did not unchurch them. I assume therefore that even with all their lacks, the Spirit as still at work, in fact I don't have to guess!

1 Corinthians 3:16 “16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Thus a true Church and true Christians can lack relationally, have division, put up with sin and still be a true Church and be true Christians albeit sick, unhealthy. Thus again I view Horton's comment through that lens.

Frank Turk said...

DJP --

Not possible. Tim's electronic fortress is an impregnable bunker.

GrammaMack said...

Given the user profile, and the comment itself, I'd be really surprised if that's the Tim Challies we all know and love.

DJP said...

Frank, I don't doubt it is a fortress. But I was honestly dismayed, and that was my honest first thought after reading his comment.

(My first thought on seeing the bare fact that he'd commented was "Excellent! At last Turk is getting some richly-deserved recognition!")

Frank Turk said...

PJ - fair enough.

So you don't see any correlation between that sort of talk from Horton & Co. and the lack of reform among the Reformed on relational issues and approaches to apologetics?

How about between this sort of letter from Me/TeamPyro and the general state of apologetics on the internet?

If your answers to these questions are not the same answer, please help me square up your opinions for consistency.

DJP said...

Wait a minute, seriously, maybe there's hope. Maybe Gramma has a point.

Compare that "Tim Challies" profile with this profile from Tim's comment on this meta.

Maybe it was a malicious hacker, meaning to make Tim and Turk look bad.

Frank Turk said...

Wow. I didn't even click through.

e-mailing tim right now.

BwayneM said...

GUYS...seriously? Tim is probably kidding wouldn't you think?

I could be wrong too, but my first instinct was (if it really is Challies) ... he's joking.

PJ said...

Frank

Honestly this is not a cop out but who do you mean by Reformed? WHI? URCNA, NAPARC churches, Reformed Baptist's etc. It's a genuine question, though at the same time it wouldn't make much difference because as I'm not from the USA I don't know the culture, certainly not well enough to comment on your question. I don't know what reform we should be expecting I suppose.

Ditto for the second question - I don't follow on line apologetics much. With regard to your letter/s I do fear however that the differences between folks on these issues was not as big as appears, but unfortunately now appears to be getting bigger.

My input is merely to suggest that your reading of that quote from Horton maybe needs a second look with reference to the biblical model of what a Christian is and what a Church is and what we should expect of each. Since that was the heart of your argument I felt there needed to some input to challenge some of what you wrote.

Frank Turk said...

Tim says it was him. Let the malicious snidery continue.

DJP said...

Rats.

Back to disappointed.

GrammaMack said...

"Rats. Back to disappointed."

Ditto.

Steve said...

For one, I am grateful for Tim Challies' comment.

Frank Turk said...

PJ --

Great. Question.

By "Reformed", I would use the WHI definiton of "reformed" to mean Lutherans, Confessional Reformed, Presbyterian, and LCBF-Baptist types -- the people represented by the panel at WHI (a list which can include Dr. Clark from time to time).

Frank Turk said...

Steve --

There's always someone who is grateful for our new overlords.

Eric said...

I sense an upcoming open letter to Tim Challies.

DJP said...

The No-Profile Commenters for That Comment will be meeting over tea and tofu. Pinkies will be raised at 2:00pm ET.

PJ said...

OK we agree on definition - confessional Protestants shall we say then?

That being the case that's a very broad group. Do you see the reform needs to be the same across that whole grouping then; and what are those reform needs?

Is it your assertion that confessional Christians in general are tending towards antinomianism or at least expressing themselves in a way that could be (mis)understood in that way?

If that is the case I would strongly disagree (according to my sphere of knowledge). If this is not your assertion what are the areas where we need to reform relationally and apologetically?

Frank Turk said...

Eric --

Why bother? That's like writing an open letter against flavored yogurt, and besides: when I blog Tim, it upsets his mother. I want no part of that.

Frank Turk said...

PJ --

Geez. You are late. to. the. party.

Go back and thumb through the comments from Wednesday, and if there are any questions left after you read my comments only, please come back up-to-speed and in the current time zone for more information.

PJ said...

I should have said that I strongly disagree with that possible assertion, because in my opinion, and in the circles, I move in the increased concentration on the Gospel has in fact brought about a reciprocal increased concentration on outreach, fellowship, biblical ecumenism etc.i.e the relational aspects, and sanctification in general are improving.

Thus in my opinion the charge of antinomian is strange.

Paul said...

Speaking as someone who has, at times, been deeply frustrated with the quality of responses in the comments of this blog, even to the point of going AAAAARGH!...

Dr. Clark's blog/comments frustrate me even more.

PJ said...

No I am not late to the discussion, I'm trying to home in on who and what you're talking about.

All your previous assertions were about WHI and Horton and WSCAL, are you now broadening that out to apply to generally all Reformed Christians (by the previously agreed definition.

If you are provide the evidence from some folks other than WSCAL WHI etc.

Frank Turk said...

PJ --

Please show me where I accused anyone of antinomianism.

Please.

That comment alone proves to me you categorically did not read my comments from Wednesday.

Tim Challies said...

It was truly me who posted the earlier comment. Of course if someone had hacked my account he could just as easily be posting this comment.

I may try to write about this a little bit more at some point rather than leaving a series of drive-by comments.

But here's what I am thinking. Let me level with you. Frank, I am finding these open letters condescending. I enjoyed the first one or two; but then I began to think, Does anyone really have the kind of perspective that would allow him to humbly assume a position to write this kind of letter to 52 (make that 53) different people over a year? I appreciate what you write and almost always find it beneficial. But when your tone turns toward the demeaning or the condescending it seems to me that you are simply using the open letter as a respectable kind of wrapping for your personal beefs. When you respond to criticism with sarcasm, well, I guess it just escalates the point.

Let's see some open letters that are loving encouragement, letters that seek only to bless and love. They don't all need to venture into "But this I have against you" territory, do they? Then maybe the few that rebuke will have a bit more punch and come with a bit more credibility.

Otherwise you're just another blogging curmudgeon who is acting as a complaints department with the rest of the church.

PJ said...

I did read your comments (though I admit I get bored with hundreds of silly comments that just agree with you or disagree without adding anything substantial) - I summarise, you are concerned that the Law/Gospel distinction is suggesting to less scrupulous folks that holiness resulting from a changed heart and so forth is not important - thus your shock at Horton's comments with which I started into this conversation in the first place.

You did not accuse anyone of being antinomian nor did I accuse you of that here is what I wrote:

"Is it your assertion that confessional Christians in general are tending towards antinomianism or at least expressing themselves in a way that could be (mis)understood in that way?"

"tending towards" and "expressing" are the important words.

Those were surely your legitimate concerns - that WHI's language was sloppy in that direction.

What I am asking is do you apply that same interpretation to confessional Christian in general?

DJP said...

So, Tim, you're thinking of writing a post criticizing Frank for writing a post criticizing _____?

What if, instead, you took one of Frank's open letters and wrote a Challicized version of that same letter, making every single hortatory and corrective point Frank made, but showing how you think it "should" be done?

Frank Turk said...

I refuse to escalate with Tim for reasons already mentioned.

PJ said...

BTW someone who does not produce teh fruit of the Spirit in some way and live in accordance with the ethical standards of Scripture is antinomian in my opinion.

Since all the law may be summarised in love the Lord and love your neighbour relational kindness etc. is a transgression of the 2nd table.

Jugulum said...

Tim,

Keep in mind that this post wasn't part of the Open Letter series proper. It was a reply to RSC's comments aimed at Frank, and Frank matched his tone to RSC's. (And that was after RSC gave an explicit disclaimer that he was about to speak in a way that some Christians don't like. He didn't just use a hard tone--he said that he thinks a hard tone is appropriate.)

Whatever you critique you want to offer about the Open Letter series, I don't think you should include this "Bonus" post in your analysis--it's not part of the tone trendline.

Frank Turk said...

OK PJ --

Since I did say this already:

Mike Horton is not an antinomian. Mike Horton, I think, regularly gets out of balance in the discussion on WHI regarding what the good news is.

They emphasize that the Bible is either Law or Gospel -- meaning either grace or condemnation. What I think they imply -- and what Charlie plainly here demoinstrates is happening by this imbalance -- is that grace is something we look to but not something we receive effectually. They are so worried that someone might want to do something because the Gospel is true, and then get misconstrued as earning righteousness, that the fact that the Gospel is for us and writes the Law in our hearts rather than on stone tables get downplayed.

They say things as they do in the last excerpt, like being without fruit is "unhealthy". It's not unhealthy: it is a non-sequitur. It's like saying there's no difference between the grass which i cut off with mu mover and the grase which is still planted in my yard. If that's true, and sanctification is just "healthy" faith and not "not dead" faith, then I think most of the NT has to be re-evaluated.


And I did link that specific comment in this open letter today.

Now: how is your question [1] formulated so as to account for this plain statement, and [2] no yet answered?

Scott said...

It's sad to say, but, Tim Challies is right. Your tone toward Scott Clark drips with mockery and condescension, and displays far too little of the fruits of the Spirit (which were of great concern to you in Horton's case).

Your open letter project has already devolved beyond a gracious, reasonable debate of the issues, to stinging attacks on your debate partners. May the Lord open your eyes to it and grant you repentance, dear brother.

Tim Challies said...

"So, Tim, you're thinking of writing a post criticizing Frank for writing a post criticizing _____?"

Well that's one of the complications with the medium, isn't it? It's difficult to know how to discuss these things. I'm not the least bit angry or upset with Frank; I just wanted to say something about the open letters. Do I do this privately? Is writing a comment private or public or somewhere between?

Frank Turk said...

I'm not escalating with Tim for reasons already stated.

Robert Kunda said...

I think there is a very useful place for a curmudgeon. I wish we had more of them.

Frank Turk said...

Scott --

If you do not find the comedy of a Seminary professor conducting himself in the way R. Scott Clark conducts himself in this case -- and regularly -- in matters of internet discussion funny, I cannot help you. And I'm not trying to, if I may be so bold.

As to my own personal fruit of the spirit, I actually side with Dr. Clark on this: big boys play full-contact sports. I'm not sure how you bear a lot of the NT if you cannot bear a little plain talk and some pointed statements.

PJ said...

Frank

I have already stated (without quoting it) that I believe this statement you made in relation to the Horton quote is exaggerated:

"They say things as they do in the last excerpt, like being without fruit is "unhealthy". It's not unhealthy: it is a non-sequitur. It's like saying there's no difference between the grass which i cut off with mu mover and the grase which is still planted in my yard. If that's true, and sanctification is just "healthy" faith and not "not dead" faith, then I think most of the NT has to be re-evaluated.

What I have said is that in light of Scripture you non-sequiter is false. See my first comments.

My question is do you apply this to all confessional Christians or to WHI WSCAL types only?

Frank Turk said...

OK: I honestly cannot resiste responding to Tim, so Mrs. Challies -- nothing personal.

Tim:

As a budding Christian publisher, I think the fact that you do not have an answer for this question -- only disapproval for someone unlike you -- speaks to me. And what it says probably cannot be repeated in polite company, so me and that fact will go review the catechism together in order to enhance our sanctification.

Frank Turk said...

PJ --

Because liberal methodists and squishy evangelicals don't listen to WHI and don't attand WTS.

PJ said...

Is that a yes or a no to my question?

GrammaMack said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

Frank, I was not commenting on Dr. Clark. I was trying to help you see how you sound. I hear MORE than plain talk and pointed statements. I hear arrogance, not pointed truth spoken in Gospel love.

Frank Turk said...

Scott --

Thanks for the feedback.

chris e said...

I'm not entirely sure that you can count Dr Rosenbladt on your 'side'. As an example, this column would be subject to the same criticisms that you made of the WHI for lacking 'balance':

http://www.ligonier.org/blog/gospel-broken/

Frank Turk said...

PJ --

AHA -- I thought you asked "why". Going crosseyed, I'm afraid.

My answer is: "Anyone who emulates WHI's trends, so not the seminarians in particular but the wannabes who populate the various forms of social media I have already indicated."

How's that?

Frank Turk said...

Chris E --

Dr. Rosenblatt is an admirable Lutheran. I have never said otherwaise.

What in particular do you think your link clears up from what I have been saying for a week?

David Rudd said...

Frank,

I wrestled with this comment, but since Tim already said what I was thinking, (as expected he did it better than i could have), i thought i'd add this.

over the past several months, i've really enjoyed your writing, particularly the TONE. i've sensed a greater humility and an increased effort to find agreement rather than hammer away at trivial disagreements. i rarely read the other guys anymore, but i typically always read your stuff.

i liked the first couple open letters. i was even okay with the horton one, as i agreed in principle (but was concerned that the preceding tweet indicated it was more about kicking a hornet's nest than finding resolution).

i'm concerned that these open letters are becoming a channel for the old frank to rear his ugly head. i hope that doesn't happen (not that the new frank is particularly attractive, but... you know what i mean).

Tim Bertolet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Bertolet said...

Frank, WTS is Philly... you piling on more hate? j/k.

--Challies name obvious caries weight, he shows up and everybody calls him Tim and we all know you weren't talking to the other 'Tim' in the meta. Time to go back to my cave of internet lurking. It's like have the inventor of the Christian blogosphere show up.

PJ said...

Well that being the case I'm glad, because I think if you were observing this in the church at large then we really would have problems (assuming your observation was accurate which as I have stated I doubt - your key non-sequiter being dubious).

So in reality what you are writing about is not a problem you perceive among the Reformed (defined as previously agreed) but among WHI (at least in their expression) and most especially among some of their listeners etc. who express an even more extreme form.

Someone has previously suggested that this whole matter is a bit of a storm in teacup. I can't help thinking that to be the case - and that in reality your letter has escalated a very small problem (relatively speaking) into a issue of division, and that based on a quite shaky foundation of your non-sequitor.

Thanks for interacting and allowing me to express my slant on things. I doubt I have much more to offer.

Frank Turk said...

David Rudd --

Thanks for your input. Some people like mimes, and some people like rugby. When mimes try to play rubgy, they have no idea how to line up on the scrum.

John said...

Perhaps I’m too ignorant on this issue to comment, but could someone let me know how God is to be glorified through this inter-ministerial bantering?

It seems quite one thing to write an “open letter” in regards to a person or ministry that is engaged in blatant heresy towards the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, but quite a separate issue to create unnecessary division between two faithful ministries and their supporters. Perhaps this issue could’ve been handled in a more brotherly manner through the pen of one desk to the other and not in a public forum? As such, it reminds me of the scene in Braveheart where the war paint has been donned, the troops rallied, and William Wallace tells his men, “I’m going to pick ‘eh fight.” The proverbial line has been drawn in the sand with supporters from the Reformed camp scrambling to pick a side. Nonsense.

Please let me know which side Christ picks or otherwise when this blog returns to the edification of the body and the exhortation of sinners to repentance and faith. Or are those issues only secondary to our mission?

Frank Turk said...

PJ --

The irony is that I am one of those people who thinks this is a tempest in a tea cup. Is it really -- seriously: really? -- a matter of civil war to say that White Horse Inn could do better when it comes to connecting justification to sanctification and church life?

Really?

Frank Turk said...

John --

Christ picked your side, I am sure.

Just now.

Daryl said...

The whole reaction to your original post, seemed to me to be the TR getting uptight that people who don't baptize babies would imagine they might have something to say to those who do.

Why, I ask, was the largest part of the responses somehow being connected to how faithfully one might hold to a confession, or whether or not a confession teaches what WHI and you, Frank, both believe?

Was it entirely lost on the TR crowd that the issue was emphasis give to a particular teaching, on widely heard broadcasts, and not a question of what anyone actually believes?

I'm trying not to sound like a syncophant/fanboy, but from the get-go, I haven't been able to wrap my head around what the return fire was firing at exactly.

Clark, in particular, seemed plainly to not be responding to the post, but to a perceived threat to a dearly held confession.

Oi Oi Oi...

Robert Kunda said...

John's post is very glorifying.

David Rudd said...

thanks frank,
i'm probably less like you think i am than you think i am, but also am more like you think i am than i think i am.

mimes playing rugby would be disturbing.

but one rugby player telling another he's out of bounds isn't such a problem. especially if they're teammates.

Robert Kunda said...

PR:

Assignments have been done on my side, and immediately after I am done we have Frank Turk writing an open letter to Mike Horton regarding the latter's tendency towards promoting Antinomianism.

Sigh. Here we go again.

DJP said...

Frank, for whatever it's worth to you, from looking over and regretting my own past excessive acts of tolerance:

If you wanted to go through this entire meta and delete every comment that is not an interaction with the actual post and its actual comments and the actual items under discussion, and instead is a hand-wringing about whether you should have written it, or whether you raised both pinkies as you typed, or is an attempt at mind-reading and heart-judging...

...I'd vote "Aye."

That comments which are no more than "Here, come to my blog" should be deleted hardly bears saying. In fact, I'll do that for you.

No extra charge.

Daryl said...

I feel vindicated.

The article Puritanreformed wrote pretty much says what I said they said about what Frank said.

chris e said...

Frank -

In the comments to your original post - now closed - you claimed more than once that Dr Rosenbladt was closer to your stance than that of the other hosts.

However, it seems to me the latter part of that article does not differ significantly in tone to any of the comments you picked up for criticism in your original open letter.

I don't see that their presentation of the need and means of santification on the WHI is significantly different from that in the book "Christ the Lord". That something true can be misunderstood is not necessary an argument against stating the truth.

PuritanReformed said...

@Frank:

thanks for proving my point with your deletion of my post.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

FWIW. Re: Challies' objection to Frank's tone.

(Qualifier: Proper Christian Tone is in the eye of the beholder.)

(1) Does the following reflect bad tone behavior:

"Your pattern, of course, it to malign those who would say something you think is bad, then cover that version of their argument with your erudite cape, mutter the magic words of the catechism or the confession, and Volente! the matter is closed (especially the comments)."

My answer: No. Sarcastic? Okay.

(2) Does the following reflect bad tone behavior?

"You have the text before you, and it would be a great pleasure to see your hermeneutical prowess in action."

My answer: No. Sarcastic? Okay.

(3) Does the following reflect bad tone behavior?

"Now that said, the far-more egregious error on your part is to say that I have accused Dr. Horton of “fostering antinominanism”. That’s a suspicious statement if for no other reason than I studiously avoided saying that."

My answer: Definitely not.

(4) Does the following reflect bad tone behavior?

"There’s not actually even anyone to excommunicate, no Baptists to ecclesiastically-disown – which I know ruins your weekend plans, but we all have our crosses to bear."

My answer: Probably. It was unnecessary, but it really wasn't that bad, was it?

I dunno, maybe I'm more tolerant of a wide range of "tones" more than other folks are, but I didn't think that the tone of Frank's letter should detract anyone from capturing the substance and content of his argument.

Pax.

PJ said...

Just for the record re: Daryl's posts; I am not a paedobaptist, yet I still pretty much disagree with what Frank has written. It would be simple if it what that, but it's not.

WHI has a baptist on the panel - it is not an issue about baptism, which was why I was keen to press Frank on who he was addressing.

DJP said...

PR, as I already said I would, I deleted it. We discourage "come see my blog!" spam. It's rude.

Daryl said...

PJ,

My point wasn't about baptism, but that is was about the TR crowd taking exception to the non-TR crowd.

Over-simplified? No doubt. But the prime suspects certainly sounded that way.

Frank Turk said...

DJP -

Don't waste your life.

DJP said...

Standing up for and Golden-Ruling friends is never a waste, to me.

Sir Brass said...

Frank said,
"By "Reformed", I would use the WHI definiton of "reformed" to mean Lutherans, Confessional Reformed, Presbyterian, and LCBF-Baptist types"

I think you're too-ecumenical for RSC's tastes. I mean, GOSH, how could you ever include those particular baptist types in with Reformed? Who cares if they're calvinistic, covenantal, and confessional? They don't sprinkle babies! BABIES, man! How dare you call them reformed.



Signed,
One of the 1689 LBCF Reformed Baptists

PJ said...

SIr Brass with respect you're not adding to the discussion just muddying the water further.

From another 1689 BCFer

Rachael Starke said...

I don't mind watching a well-played rugby match (even though I have a list of reasons a mile long why I should never play).

But what ruins a game is when the rowdy spectators go all Bay 13after a disputable call, and the players dive over the fence to join the fray.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

It may be a great idea to only write these letters to dead men. Last I knew, dead men don't talk......back. :)

And I hope that any breech b/w Frank a Tim Challies can be healed. I like Tim. I believe both Frank and Tim wear white hats.

John said...

Frank said "Christ picked your side, I am sure.

Just now."


RobertKunda said, "John's post is very glorifying."

I'll need help from the tone police referenced earlier on these, but just to clarify Frank, I don't have a side. Just 2 ministries I've learned from engaged in a dividing, public debate. If that get's me snarky replies, so be it.

Phil said...

You know what might help your PR image Frank? A spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, and by that I mean a theme song before every open letter from here on out.
For example, to the tune of Cat in the Hat knows a lot about that PBS kids song.

Hey! What? Look over here, a digital stoning is about to appear... he's coming, and now he's arrived, with his alter ego the Calvinist Gadfly! It's.. the.. FRANK TURK, who always and ever acts like a jerk. So stand by, we're gonna have a whole lot of fun with our sycophant helpers of whom DJP is one! Go go go go on an adventure, go go go go go!

Or something like that, musical creativity isn't my thing. You might want to invite the trolls to post, or to drive by in the comments thread to improve it, but the idea should get you started.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "Standing up for and Golden-Ruling friends is never a waste, to me."

Given DJP's staunch support, it's only reasonable and fair that Frank Turk wrote the following in his open letter to Professor R. Scott Clark:

"It is an utterly fair question because if the answer is yes, your defense of him is utterly pointless – it’s an admirable attempt to defend a colleague, and a nice show of solidarity and loyalty, but pointless because in that case he would be guilty."

So if Clark can do "an admirable attempt to defend a colleague, and a nice show of solidarity and loyalty" then DJP can too.

Sir Brass said...

PJ, the thing is that's RSC's bent and it shows in how he responded to Frank. He will ignore a good deal of major unity and divide or toss people out on the small(ER) things.

Frank's assessment was dead on. RSC's dismissal of him is right along the lines I went with in my very sarcastic remark.

Jack Miller said...

From PJ:
Someone has previously suggested that this whole matter is a bit of a storm in teacup. I can't help thinking that to be the case - and that in reality your letter has escalated a very small problem (relatively speaking) into a issue of division, and that based on a quite shaky foundation of your non-sequitor.

I was thinking of posting some thoughts until I read the back and forth between Frank and PJ. PJ's observation above sums up quite well what I think has happened over the last couple days of posting and commnents (yes, I read it all... whoa!).

I agree with Frank and Scott Clark about "big boys" and acceptable tough rhetoric. Unfortunately, besides that, there has been a bit of snark in many comments that is dismaying in light of what we are discussing.

best regards,
Jack

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Merrilee Stevenson said...

I'm sorry that I have not been able to keep up with this week's flurry of activity, as I've been spending more time with a snow shovel and/or toboggan. So my comment isn't about the post. (I'll hold my breath that DJP won't delete it outright.)

HSAT, Tim Challies' comment at 8:44 has sparked this observation about the ruffled feathers that have resulted over Frank's brilliant series of open letters: Frank has only written...five (six if you count today's bonus letter). And if you do the math, it's a small percentage of 52. While all of them so far have been more or less rebukes, (and even Phil Johnson thinks 52 might not be enough to do a thorough job), there is no reason to think that Frank couldn't or wouldn't write an open letter that is full of "loving encouragement, letters that seek only to bless and love." After all, Valentine's day and Mother's Day are just around the corner, and there is no doubt in my mind that Frank could write a shining open letter to his wife and loved ones (or anyone, for that matter) that could pretty much make us all tear up and be speechless. (And if you do, Frank, give me a nod for the suggestion.)

I don't expect the percentages to even out or tilt the opposite direction. But I do expect to learn a lot through all of these, and that's why I keep coming back here. So we don't all need to get our feathers crinkled every time Frank puts out a new letter. Give it some time. Give it some thought. Give it a thorough reading.

(OK DJP. Now you can delete it. If you must.)

Frank Turk said...

Let me toss something out here since we are engaged in the "is a barbed tone appropriate for discussions inside the Family of God?" metanarrative.

Let's assume for one second that Dr. Clark (who, btw, has never been refered to by me with anything but respect for his earned degree and position at Westminster West -- so not "Clark" or "ol' bald head" or what have you) demonstrated only a fatherly concern for my post -- so his tone was only stern but serious. And let's also assume that I was out here with the bullwhip and that chair and that the best shots in my open letter are actually so inside-baseball that only he and I got them, and I was categorically ferocious.

If we assume I was that far off in tone from his original post, but in his post he demonstrated that his fatherly concern was based on flippant attention to the details of my original letter, does his tone mitigate his glib assessments and shoddy moral and theological advice?

You know: tone is only an implied state of the text. Parading out "facts" which are easily disproven by a first-pass read of the text in question is the actual condition of the text -- and if it's full of half-truth, does a lovely tone mitigate the missing half?

Thanks all for your advice, but when we are willing to accept something galling because the personal talking has a lovely speaking voice, I'll pass.

terriergal said...

"I think the right answer is this: an uncharitable person would say, “he certainly does when he gives people who are personally cold and ungracious a pass as being only ‘unhealthy’.” "

Kind of like those who give you a pass Frank?

Frank Turk said...

Terriergal! The gang's all here!

I feel like Cyrano in that scene where he needs to make 50 jokes about his own nose to show 'em how it's done.

terriergal said...

Frank, I read Scott's letter and I am not seeing your comparison to your letter re "tone" as anywhere near valid.

Even if it was, I would be far more apt to overlook tone if the doctrine being defended was correct.

Robert Kunda said...

I'll need help from the tone police referenced earlier on these, but just to clarify Frank, I don't have a side. Just 2 ministries I've learned from engaged in a dividing, public debate. If that get's me snarky replies, so be it.

Snarky comments well deserved. Your corrective post didn't do anything more righteous than what you were ranting against. That is, unless you get to decide what's fruitful for discussion and what everyone else should pipe down about. In that case, you should start and read only your own blog. No?

terriergal said...

btw Cyrano de Bergerac (the version starring Jose Ferrer and Mala Powers from 1950) is my favorite movie of all time. It's my husband's nickname.

However, you're no Cyrano. I'm thinking you're Vicomte de Valvert right about now.

Stefan said...

(My last comment needed rework. Forthwith revised):

As another mild-mannered Canadian, I have to say I'm mystified as to what exactly the kerfuffle over tone is about. It's definitely not my style, but in the original letter and the ensuing discourse--and in this letter as well--Frank has stayed on point, keeping to his concerns, and framing it all with politeness and cordiality. Yes, there are a couple of jabs here and there, but they are clearly meant to amuse but not offend, and in keeping with the overall tenor of the discussion.

And if Dr. Clark's response was to cursorily skim the original letter then throw back the Truly Reformed confessions to show how credobaptists just don't get it, then Frank's reply here is all the more commendable, in keeping to the issues at hand.

As to the original matter, it is possible for a believer to get so hung up on the sovereignty of God and avoiding any appearance of works righteousness, that he (or she) ends up adopting a completely passive approach to sanctification. I should know: I've done that.

The folks at White Horse Inn do offer a very necessary Gospel corrective to the all-too-human tendency to drift from grace into law, and praise God for the work they do. But in us lay believers, a learned (and healthy) aversion to legalism can sometimes swing the pendulum too far, and lead to stumbling, stagnation, and even backsliding in our Christian walk, as we studiously avoid making too much effort to heed the Apostles' (plural) constant exhortations.

Even our best works on our best days are tainted by the sin in our prideful hearts, but let us repent of that and look up once more to Christ, whose blood has covered all our sins, and by whom and through whom we learn to walk in grace.

Magister Stevenson said...

Frank,
Your last comment nails it. Some are desiring tone without substance. I have been surprised at the weak reading which has resulted in many of the comments and follow-up posts.
What would the readership think if they read some of Houseman's critiques of fellow classicists? His bite focused the attention on areas of substance, as has yours. Do not relent.
(and use the ablative with sine)
verification word: allityr--you are the other Houseman!

Tom Chantry said...

There's more than one way to respond to a bully. Some people ignore a bully and let him have his way in his little corner of the playground. Others seek to reason with him and befriend him. Still others hurl accusations and taunts in the bully's direction. And some stand up and punch him in the nose. You can argue about which is really the "best" way to deal with a bully; maybe there is no "best." What you cannot do is say that any approach is unfair to the bully. Bullies get what bullies deserve.

So what has this to do with this thread? Read Frank Turk's letter from Friday. Then read Mike Horton's response at the WHI blog. Then come back and read Frank's response in the commentless thread following this one. Anyone see a problem with tone? Does anyone not agree that this is exactly the type of irenic dialog which the tone police always wish would characterize theological dispute?

So why is there a "tone" problem all of the sudden? The answer is that a bully decided to wade in. He didn't respond to what Turk said, nor even to what Turk is, so much as to a caricature of Baptists that he's been building for years. And Frank responded. Maybe you're the type who meekly goes into the school nurse's office to hide and pray for the bully; Frank punched him in the nose. Get over it. The bully was not treated unfairly, nor un-Christian-ly.

Mind you, I say this as one who actually agrees with Clark's position on the Sabbath. It has nothing to do with the issue under discussion here.

For what it's worth, the comment of the day so far, although it makes an alumnus like myself hang my head in shame, was this:

If you do not find the comedy of a Seminary professor conducting himself in the way R. Scott Clark conducts himself in this case -- and regularly -- in matters of internet discussion funny, I cannot help you.

I get what you're saying, Frank. Only I find it sad more than funny.

DJP said...

In a grownup world, Chantry's comment would be a turning-point.

But this is North America, where the first one to be offended, wins.

Frank Turk said...

At least I found a joke TG can grasp! I call today a win!!

donsands said...

"(though I admit I get bored with hundreds of silly comments that just agree with you or disagree without adding anything substantial)" PJ

Boring? Hundreds? Really?

Frank Turk said...

Just for my edification, TG:

Imagine I said, "you know: it's all right for a local church to be unloving, and rude, and joyless, and impatient, and unpeaceful, and somewhat not good -- as long as they preach the Gospel every week from the pulpit."

tell me in 150 words or less what you think of a church like that -- only "unhealthy", or does the book of James and the letters of John come to mind at all?

Apeleutheros said...

I didn't get to chime in in the original open letter since the comments had been closed, but I just want to say that I've found the original open letter to be quite engaging and it drew me back into some past thought I had set on my theological shelf.

I have a great deal of respect for MH, and just recently enjoyed reading his 'Putting Amazing Back Into Grace' which was given to me by a Presbyterian Reverend at a church I had visited.

Honestly Frank, when I first began to follow you guys here at Team Pyro, initially I wasn't much of a Frank Turk fan. But over the course of the last couple month's you've grown on me a great deal, and your open letter series has been a great contribution to changing that. Not that I'm anyone important but you're cool in my books.

The letter to MH actually re-iterated some of my concerns I was unsure of when I recently read PABC, and although I would still heartily recommend the book to someone, I found myself in strong agreement with the main thrust of your open letter. I would by no means (and neither have you in spite of what some seem to believe) accuse MH of antinomianism in any way. But I believe you've raised some valid and solid concerns, which are far more edifying than they could ever be interpreted as being slanderous or destructive.

That said I have to say I agree strongly with this letter as well, and considering the tone taken by R. Scott Clark I thought your tone was not nearly as abrasive as some are making it seem. I see it as though he took a sloppy shot at you before honestly assessing your stance, and your response being like the boxer who slaps away the wild punch. Sure there's some force of words involved, but it is far from being ungracious or uncharitable.

As far as the tone police are concerned: I guess after following this blog for over a year now and often reading the meta, I've come to the realization that many of commenters interpret being 'gentle to all men' and 'patient' as meaning we're supposed to kiss each others pinky finger when we address them about an issue. Sure there are times that warrant a little softer tone, but surely Frank is not out of line in this letter.

The assumption that the use of sarcasm must necessarily be the fruit of a wrong motive is completely faulty.

-Shaun Little

secret word: tiorskay

Frank Turk said...

Shaun:

I am like a fungus: I can grow on anybody.

Jugulum said...

Frank,

I've been trying to figure out if you're unreasonably interpreting Dr. Horton's statement about a "healthy" church. (Is it really the case that the only proper commentary for Horton to give in that case is "Your faith is dead; you're a liar, and the truth is not in you"?) So let me ask you the following. And first, here's Horton's comment again for context:

"Now: we have problems in that area, and there are passages in Scripture that talk about hospitality, generosity, and all sorts of things that we need to work on in our traditions. But if you don't have hospitality, and you don't have generosity, and you don't have relationally (whatever that means) you don't have kindness, gentleness, humility—all of those qualities that are so important for inter-personal relationships, you're not healthy, and you don't have a healthy church. If you don't have the preaching of the Gospel, you don't have a church."

What if he had broken it down something like this? Would you be ok with it then?

"(1) If you don't consistently display humility, kindness, generosity, love, then you're unhealthy, your church is unhealthy. (2) If you don't have any, your 'faith' in the Gospel is a dead faith, and when you say you're a church, you're a liar. (3) And if your 'church' doesn't have the preaching of the Gospel, you don't have a church."


"Your faith is dead" is appropriate if "you have no love". But if love is the "sorts of things that we need to work on in our traditions" (Horton's words), aren't we potentially still in the "unhealthy" range? Not yet risen to the level of "your faith is dead"?


If this is a good way to break things down, then I think you're justified in calling Horton's statement muddled on the point. Because he went from saying that the Reformed "need to work on" the relational things (which could be simply "unhealthy"), to talking about people "not having" the relational things, which takes it into "dead faith" territory.

And it's seems fair to say that we wouldn't catch WHI saying (2) and (3) together, from fear of confusing Law & Gospel. (Even though, as you keep saying, WHI is orthodox and does believe (2) and (3).)

Mike Westfall said...

I happen to like Frank's "tone."
When did using a little bit of rhetoric in communications become illegitimate?

Keep it up, dude.
Looking for another 40-something open letters,.

Alex Guggenheim said...

Tim Challies said...

But here's what I am thinking. Let me level with you. Frank, I am finding these open letters condescending. I enjoyed the first one or two; but then I began to think, Does anyone really have the kind of perspective that would allow him to humbly assume a position to write this kind of letter to 52 (make that 53) different people over a year? I appreciate what you write and almost always find it beneficial. But when your tone turns toward the demeaning or the condescending it seems to me that you are simply using the open letter as a respectable kind of wrapping for your personal beefs. When you respond to criticism with sarcasm, well, I guess it just escalates the point.
_____________

I believe Tim Challies' capital point is not the issue of tone but the hubris contained in the perspective that such a large number of these letters are warranted from one person. It does take a rather large estimation of one's own standing.

As to the tone, not that the standard employment of similar personalities across the web should be the measure of our own expressions, but if we are making such comparisons I see nothing exceptional in Frank's tone.

Eric said...

Alex,

Tim Challies has blogged extensively for many years. Over the course of these years Tim has expressed his opinion on many more than 52 events/teachers/topics/books. How is his accusation of hubris supposed to be taken, given these facts? Is it now an act of hubris for Christians to assume to publicly express beliefs for the edification of others? If so, how do you presume to explain your comments here?

Frank Turk said...

May I be the first to say that when Jugulum is on, he's spot-on.

Juggy:

I can't improve on what you said. That's it, and exactly it. the only addendum I would tack on is that if the WHI can berate the evangelical masses for being imprecise (and they do, all the time), then they need to midn their own precision -- especially as guys who are frankly on-record doing better elsewhere.

Frank Turk said...

Alex --

The open letter is a genre, my friend. That I have chosen to compose all my blog posts for 2011 in this genre should not trouble oyu, unless the fact that bloggers blog in any genre at all bothers you.

Magister Stevenson said...

I have appreciated this genre of blog post. You guys blog about important theological issues--those that edify by commending right thought and action; and those that edify by pointing out bad thought and action, giving solid biblical understanding for why it is bad. This use of the open letter reminds us that theology is not some faceless person or detached mind. It comes alive in my face and acts through my hands. The open letters make painfully obvious my theological imperfections demonstrated in imperfect actions. And they undercut the notion that I can have perfect theology (read confession)if my actions are lacking.
working my way out of the stands to the scrum line.

Alex Guggenheim said...

Eric said...

Tim Challies has blogged extensively for many years. Over the course of these years Tim has expressed his opinion on many more than 52 events/teachers/topics/books. How is his accusation of hubris supposed to be taken, given these facts? Is it now an act of hubris for Christians to assume to publicly express beliefs for the edification of others? If so, how do you presume to explain your comments here?
____________________
Your inability to distinguish between the categorization of these letters and the publications, content and nature of Challies' (which are not devoted in volume to singular persons and corrective lectures toward them) is a problem I doubt I can solve for you in a comment section.

Your invention of a straw man intimating I am suggesting that to give a public opinion is hubris may be helpful to your cause but it certainly has nothing to do with anything I have said. As you know this is about more than a modest and limited public expression of opinion. Again, if this distinction is beyond you I doubt a comments section in a blog will provide the necessary remedy.

The Squirrel said...

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; I want to be Tom Chantry when I grow up!

Squirrel

Habitans in Sicco said...

Tim Challies:

Here's what I am thinking: Let me level with you. Tim, I am finding some of your book reviews condescending. I enjoyed the first one or two thousand; but then I began to think, Does anyone really have the kind of perspective that would allow him to humbly assume a position to sit in judgment of 52+ books a year?

I appreciate what you write and almost always find it beneficial. But when your tone turns critical and negative it seems to me that you are simply using the book review as a respectable kind of wrapping for your personal beefs.

When you begin calling other bloggers out over matters of tone, I guess it just escalates the point.

Halcyon said...

Frank:

This is comment 127. How many people have actually commented on the substance of the post?

FWIW, I agree with Chantry: you punched a bully, and it was awesome.

Alex Guggenheim said...

Frank Turk said...

Alex --

The open letter is a genre, my friend. That I have chosen to compose all my blog posts for 2011 in this genre should not trouble oyu, unless the fact that bloggers blog in any genre at all bothers you.
_________
Again the issue isn't the genre itself or blogging itself, neither of with which I have expressed a problem. But then you know that, this is just an obfuscation of what I have already clearly addressed in echoing Challies' sentiment about the volume of a genre that requires a rather generous view of one's position and perspective.

As well, a genre itself isn't a justification for its possible immodest use. None of this is to undercut any valid points you have made along the way. But those aren't the issue. Best wishes in your evaluation of all things.

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

@Frank

Great! Thanks. (And I'll endeavor not to be a stopped clock.)

@Halcyon and @Tom Chantry:
"Frank punched him in the nose" / "you punched a bully"

I believe the proper term for that would be "love tap". One would hope. (May we all receive love taps upside the head when we need them, and may they be delivered from real love without admixture of pride or mere snarkiness.)

Frank Turk said...

Alex --

The fact which told me something about Challies earlier just said something about you to me, and I'm going to chastise him for his fussiness.

You, personally, are right now missing the actual point, as you were the last time I posted. Let me take a moment to explain why to you, and if you can receive it, Selah.

Let's imagine for a moment that I didn't write any open letters this year -- that instead of writing an open letter to DW, I wrote a blog post which spoke about him in the 3rd person. Then I did it with Don Miller. Then with Pat Robertson. You know: what if I was blogging them using the Ken Silva method of reproach: he did this and that, and then the other thing, and then it got worse, and I wish he would stop.

How do you actually state the Gospel clearly when you are talking about someone rather than to them?

See: on objective which I think your point of view misses is the evangelistic point of view for the lost and those falling away. If you objectivize someone, telling them they are bad bad bad you can't get to, "so brother: repent." It can only get you to, "reader: beware."

So while you see this genre as self-aggrandizing, I see it as the opportunity to rather use this blog, which has garnered a reputation consistently in the top tier of all religious blogs in the world, as a platform to enter the public conversation with an evangelistic intent -- a James 5 intent to (in the best possible case) turn a brother away from sin, or (in a less-generous rendering) to convict the sinner of his wrong-doing.

Now: before you chase the rabbit -- why an open letter, then, to Mike Horton? Is he a sinner? Is he in sin? Oh please: it's impossible to illuminate what I have done here in this light. What I have done instead is to speak in the public circle to a man of good character and good stature and good conscience about something he has some influence over. So rather than run him over -- as, for example, a certain talk radio host has done to Chris Rosebrough -- I wrote him a letter, and I published it publicly because it is useful for making other people think hard about the issues at stake.

You know: the Law/Gospel distinction doesn't have to be scrapped. But when we use it to say that the church is better off with a fruitless but systematically-perfect Gospel rather than maybe the right Gospel of Christ stated simply (and unsystematically) with all the trimmings of necessary fruit, we have flopped over.

I'm certainly not defending the hordes of charlatans and real compromisers available in the English-speaking world today, but I am concerned that we somehow can get to the place where we can make systematically-supportable statements which are, at face value, counter to the whole counsel of God, and expect we should get some slack cut because hey: we're confessional people.

So I'm going to write about 44 more open letters, and you can read them, or not. That's the great thing about the internet: it's free, and you can walk past the things you don't like.

Frank Turk said...

HA-BI-TANS!

Man: I have won twice today -- terrierGirl came by to insult me, and Habitans comes out of hiding to defend me.

Winner-winner, chicken dinner.

donsands said...

"the Law/Gospel distinction doesn't have to be scrapped. But when we use it to say that the church is better off with a fruitless but systematically-perfect Gospel rather than maybe the right Gospel of Christ stated simply (and unsystematically) with all the trimmings of necessary fruit, we have flopped over." Frank "Centurion" Turk

Good quote my brother. Some depth there, and so some deep thinking necessary, but by jove I think I got it.

I can remember when I first came to Christ, and man did my brain have tons of cobwebs. I asked a guy what a higher power is, and he said, "It can be God, or a thing, but you just need to come to a god of your own understanding."
I said, "Well, I guess my choice is Jesus. He's all I know about."

I perhpas went through a Cornelius season, but I'm convinced God brought me to Himself through the simplicity of Christ.
Since then I have grown in the grace and knowledge of my savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

What a love our Savior has for us. If we could only experience a small taste of this pure love Jesus has for us, His elect sons, we would be so fired up and out of control, that we would turn this world upside down.

Have a wonderful weekend, and Christ-focused Lord's day Frank, and eveyone else.

Matt Gumm said...

I have to ask here (and this is NOT directed at Tim Challies, who, unlike the vast majority of tone objectors, does not ask others to take the microphone away from their mouths while simulataneously keeping the bullhorn at his), but why is it that Baptists (Pyro guys, Driscoll, J MacArthur) get taken to the woodshed regularly for tone, while Presbys (WHI, D Wilson, C Trueman) are considered witty geniuses and consistently praised for their gift of snarkiness?

John said...

RobertKunda said, Snarky comments well deserved. Your corrective post didn't do anything more righteous than what you were ranting against. That is, unless you get to decide what's fruitful for discussion and what everyone else should pipe down about. In that case, you should start and read only your own blog. No?

This is unnecessary and I'm not going to get into a debate over whether I'm "[self] righteous" for asking if God is glorified in this. Brother we need to ask that question in everything we do and it is never a self-righteous statement to ask it in a genuine manner, which I did.

Frank, I appreciate your efforts here in defending your convictions. As I've stated I've learned alot from this site and your last response to Alex makes alot of sense. But what I would like to know is, is there a difference in openly rebuking a known heretic leading people astray and an open rebuke of a fellow brother and minister on the frontlines?

Also, does Matthew 18:15-17 apply here? Is it even a prayerful consideration?

Again, these are genuine questions I have. Finally, in Pastor MacArthur's open rebuke of Mark Driscoll, didn't he precede that with a personal 6-page letter? Is that the Biblical model or have we allowed the immediacy and public nature of the internet and blogging to circumvent how the Biblie outlines Christian brotherly rebuke?

Barbara said...

Well. *looking around the comment threads* Plenty enough logs and specks to go around.

I'll come back next year when the open letters are done. I agree with Tim and with Erik Raymond over at Ordinary Pastor. One or two are helpful; deciding to make a genre out of it at least looks like hubris to the nth degree.

Mike Riccardi said...

Evangelicalism is going to have to file for bankruptcy after paying the tone police time-and-a-half for all the overtime they've been putting in over the past couple of weeks.

I almost can't believe how many different people will actually get so anxiously, hand-wringingly bent out of shape because of people's "tone."

All the angst and lamentations are about this notion of "friendly fire." Like it's just unconscionable that two guys who agree on the 5 points could have any justifiable reason for disagreeing strongly with one another about something else. Earlier in the week it was about MacArthur critiquing Darrin Patrick's book. The back end of the week it's Frank with Mike Horton and Scott Clark.

The irony is, though, these same people who are so distraught over this horrible, needless, uncharitable infighting, are themselves willing to engage in some uncharitable infighting -- not over anything substantive, like one's philosophy of ministry or how one understands the relationship between justification and sanctification -- but over their tone. What people are saying doesn't seem to matter half as much as how people are saying it. This most certainly is evidence of our weakness as the Church.

Iron sharpens iron. An extremely durable and extremely sharp piece of metal is swiftly and repeatedly striking another. That's the picture we have of one brother sharpening another brother. With all this mollified squeamishness about tone, I'm unsure how these folks can understand this passage. Let us indeed love each other, fervently and from the heart. But let's stop whining and licking the wounds on our thin skin long enough to realize that loving each other sometimes means some straight talk.

I know, I know. Uncharitable.

Phil Johnson said...

I think Tom Chantry, Mike Riccardi, and Fred Butler should take over this blog and give Frank, Dan, and me a year's sabbatical.

Get me some Tylenol. Extra-strength, quick-release, please.

This thread is over.