Before we get too far here, two things.
Number One: Thanks for asking - my vacation was great.
Number 2 (HT: Fred Butler and DJP):
A truly-inspired video, and a truly-irreplaceable pet. If my Big Dog screamed like that, I'd have him in movies, but only because it would be impossible to have him in a middle-class neighborhood around anything which would cause him to make that noise -- a noise which makes the shriek of a witch-king pierced by an unexpected woman on a battlefield sound rather cheery.
Now: why post that soul-jarring scream on a moderately-serious blog like this one? Well, it came to my attention a couple of weeks ago that there is a 5-year-old white paper out there by Tim Keller and David Powlison (men I respect and have defended in the past, and would still do so) entitled Should You Pass on Bad Reports?
Unremarkably, their verdict is, "no." I know it's unsurprising, but as they summarize the matter, it goes like this:
- The first thing to do is to simply suspend judgment. Don’t pass on bad reports.
- The second thing to do is “cover” it in love, reminding yourself that you don’t know all about the heart of the person who may have done evil—and you know your own frailty. Don’t allow bad reports to pass into your own heart.
- The final thing to do is go and speak to them personally.
Because: nobody wants to be the little white fluffy dog whom others perceive as howling like a cannibal's wedding feast. Nobody wants to be the one whom others look at the way we all look at the little video above and be the object of dismay, scorn, and derision. We don't want to be laughed out of the conversation, and moreover: we don't want to be dismissed because we are just a yowling mess.
In that respect: this is good advice. Nobody should be a perpetual fault-finder -- if for no other reason than it actually makes less of you. Someone who can find nothing good in other people is someone who is feeding himself only emotional poison. Being constantly disappointed in other people -- or worse, always being outraged at them -- simply causes you to fail to see the image of God in those people. Scripturally, you must do better -- and Powlison and Keller spell out why.
What? Why are you looking at me like that?
I can't agree with good advice?
Oh, I see: you expect me to find fault with this particular consideration of bad reports of other people for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is because it is in some very specific and obvious ways responding to bad reports without, it seems, taking its own advice. "Like Ministry" and all that. Well, you seem to have worked that one out on your own. Why do you need me to work it out for you?
What? You were actually hoping that I'd see if this advice actually works in realy life somehow -- like comment on Challies' on-going crusade against pornography as it relates to this good advice from pastoral minds? Now: why should I do that? Is there anyone reading this blog who is not actually aware that pornography is sinful and causes us to sin? In fact, are there any readers of Tim's blog who are not readers of this blog (there are many of these people) who are not morally opposed to pornography? We are on the same side of this issue -- why should I try to apply this advice to those posts?
What do you mean, "in what way is it in compliance with this advice to rail on against a particular sin abstracted from particular people? Doesn't that approach violate all of this advice -- first, by believing the worst of essentially all Christians; second, by judging the hearts of others; and third, by utterly neglecting to take the matter to them personally?" Why would you say such a thing about a fellow everyone agrees is both discerning and utterly nice? Do you think there's something wrong with general good advice?
Oh: I see what you're driving at. You're actually saying that the advice itself it a little bit too facile, too superficial -- that if somehow when it gets applied to the nicest fellow on the internet and somehow makes him out to be a watchblogger, it must somehow be faulty. And by "Faulty," you mean the way a small dog that bays with the wails of demons demanding a pint of baby orphan tears is faulty -- it is neither useful, nor practical, nor as domesticated and harmless as it looked before it opened its mouth.
That's a pretty serious thing to say about useful fellows like Keller (who has sold a bajillion books, and gets to appear on Morning Joe) and Powlison (who has his own place in the pantheon of useful, center-bound Gospelistas in spite of his lesser status as a published author).
I'll consider your opinion and get back to it next week.