19 March 2006

Double-talk is "diabolical cruelty"

posted by Phil Johnson

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon

The PyroManiacs usually devote Monday space to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. This week, as a special treat, we give you Spurgeon a day early. The following excerpt is an entry from the May 1885 issue of The Sword and the Trowel.

Be Plain

Is it not very possible for a man to talk without knowing what he is saying?

Certain "modern thought" teachers appear before us as a luminous haze. It is "not light, but darkness visible." Like M. De Biran, our learned lumberer might say, "I wander like a somnambulist in the world of affairs." He has an idea, but he does not quite know where to find it; and so all through his talk he hunts for it, "upstairs, downstairs, and in my lady's chamber."

We once heard a sermon which for half an hour did not convey to us a single thought. We whispered to our neighbour, and found that he was equally befogged, and so we concluded that the density was not in our brain, but in the discourse; yet the preacher was no fool, and we therefore concluded that he had been taking an overdose of metaphysics.

It did not matter much, for the sermon was not upon a subject of any material importance to man or beast; but when a person is preaching the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ it does matter a great deal.

It is treason to men's souls to conceal the plain truth of salvation beneath a cloud of words: where God's honour and man's eternal destiny are concerned, everything should be as clear as the sun at noonday. Metaphysical becloudment, when a soul is at stake, is diabolical cruelty.
C. H. Spurgeon

The apostle Paul would agree. He wrote, "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" (1 Corinthians 14:8).

The postmodern preference for ambiguity and uncertainty is seriously at odds with Scripture. It also runs contrary to every lesson church history teaches.

Study any era of revival or the style of any great preacher and you will discover that boldness and clarity were their hallmarks—never qualities like vagueness, ambivalence, hesitation, wavering, apprehension, a cloudy message, fickle opinions, obsessive self-criticism, or any of the other qualities postmodernism falsely equates with "humility."

Incidentally, Pilgrim Publications have recently released volume eight in their collection of material from the original editions of The Sword & the Trowel. Volume 8 covers the years 1885-1886, and the above excerpt is taken from this volume.

Phil's signature


yo said...

That's also why Calvinists in particular have been known for unifying the body of Christ and demonstrating love to other Christians for the sake of the watching world...

DJP said...

In D. A. Carson's talks on "the New Perspective," he tells of a questioner, who approached N. T. Wright after a talk. The questioner said something like this, abbreviated: "An old woman calls you inthe minute of the night, tells you she was told she has but a few minutes to live, and she's scared. Can you come? You rush to her side. The doctor tells you as you go in that she's in her last moments. She takes your hand, trembling, and says, 'I'm about to die, and I'm afraid. What must I do to be saved?'

"What do you tell her?"

Carson relates that Wright said, "Hm. That's a really great question. I'll have to think about that."

Carrie said...

What a great excerpt from Spurgeon and a great insight on your part. Thanks!

Kay said...

Superb last paragraph. Humility does seem to be currently defined by 'pretending not to know what the answer is'.

donsands said...

Wonderful post, and really fine comments as well.
I needed this. I am struggling with how my heart is being stretched more and more in the area of doctrine purity, and Reformed vs. Non-reformed.
I just read James White's post on Regneration, and what a powerful teaching, that is also complimented by C. H. Spurgeon, or vice-versa.

I pray that the Lord Jesus would call thousands of Spurgeons, Edwards, Whitefields, and Wesleys unto His Church, and unto the pulpits. Amen.

Anne H. said...

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness..." (Isaiah 5:20)

The Lord Jesus said, "...If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt.6:23)

And with Charles Spurgeon, how amazingly well it fits today. All in all, a comfort, really.

Steve said...

Phil said: "Study any era of revival or the style of any great preacher and you will discover that boldness and clarity were their hallmarks."

It's the bold and clear ones such as Spurgeon and Moody who are still widely read and in print today. My prediction is that within a couple decades, pro-emergent books will be on library shelves collecting dust alongside the long-forgotten tomes written by the higher critics and modernists of the nineteenth century.

Sharad Yadav said...


Criticism of Wright seems to abound to contradiction. He's been criticized for being too simple ("the Gospel is simply Jesus is Lord") and too complicated (as your comments imply). Here's Wright's answer to someone who asked about the Gospel on a message board (in case you're interested):

there are as many ways of leading someone to a living, saving relationship with God through Jesus the Messiah and in the power of the Holy Spirit as there are people . . . one of the old Puritans (Baxter?) said, wisely, that ‘the Almighty breaketh not all hearts alike’. As far back as the Acts of the Apostles we can see people being converted in a variety of ways, from the gentle heart-opening of Lydia to the earthquake etc of the Philippian gaoler. That’s where I start.

Having said that, there are of course constant features, which include the recognition

a. that God is God, the creator, calling us to worship, love and adoration;

b. that the crucified and risen Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, is the world’s true Lord, and hence MY Lord, calling me to gratitude (‘the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me’) and submission (‘the obedience of faith’);

c. that this God, and this Jesus, promise to send the Holy Spirit to live within us to enable faith, hope and love;

d. that this extraordinary and wonderful message finds us unready, unprepared, and, worse than that, in a state of idolatry (worshipping false gods), rebellion (submitting to other lords), and that fractured humanness (for which the biblical shorthand is hamartia, sin) which is the very opposite of the genuine humanness the Spirit longs to create in us, so that the appropriate response to the good news about God, Jesus and the Spirit is contrition, recognition of sin and guilt, repentance with intention of amendment of life, in gratitude for that full dealing with sin which has been effected through Jesus’ death;

e. that in the Messiah and by the Spirit God has created and is creating a worldwide community of those now commissioned to shine his light in the world, and that this community, defined by the faith professed in baptism (Jesus is Lord, and God raised him from the dead) is the true home of all, equally, who share this faith and who together take forward God’s mission to and in the world, the mission through which the Lordship of Jesus as the world’s true sovereign (‘all authority’, he said, ‘in heaven AND ON EARTH’) is put into effect. Any and every ‘seeker’ needs at some point to be confronted with the challenge that if Jesus isn’t Lord of all (including our social, cultural and political lives) he isn’t Lord at all.

That’s already quite a mouthful, but if I were today leading a serious seeker towards full faith and commitment that’s what I would be aiming at. One way of doing it would be to read a gospel with them, perhaps (but not necessarily) John. Another way would be to talk through what it would mean to pray the Lord’s Prayer with each clause full of meaning. Another way would be to meditate prayerfully on the death and resurrection of Jesus (I have a friend who was converted from a liberal Judaism in his teens through a performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion). I take it for granted that at some point (d) above would need gentle exploration to see what repentance might mean in this case, and that at some point (e) would be introduced to see what appropriate church context this person could make their own, with a view to sharing the life of a community dedicated to glad worship of God in Jesus and to following him in mission in the world. Far more important, though, would be gently and steadily exploring (a), (b) and (c), stressing particularly that all our ideas about who ‘God’ actually is need to be brought into line with who we discover Jesus to be through reading the gospels and through prayer (John 1.18). But depending on whether the person was ten years old or seventy, was male or female, rich or poor, well educated or uneducated, from a happy family or an unhappy one, all this would take a very different course. I have sat with some enquirers for whom (in Oxford!) it was natural to get out a Greek New Testament; and of course with others for whom that would be, well, all Greek to them. And, again of course, everything, but everything, needs to be soaked in prayer, the prayer of love which will give these people into the care of God himself, who is a far, far better evangelist and pastor than we ever will be. I shall stop here before I feel another book coming on.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja, no one said, or implied, that the problem with Wright is that he is "too complicated."

Sharad Yadav said...

Sorry - what's the word? Obfusicated? Obtuse? Whatever. I just wanted to point out that as a pastor he's doubtless been in such situations and his response I pasted shows that it doesn't seem that he'd at a total loss to answer. It also illustrates how the "I'd have to think about that" may say more about his sensitivity to pick the right words for the situation than they are words of blundering hesitation.

donsands said...

"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then they spoke the Word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house." Acts 16: 30-32

Seems simple enough to me: at least an opening statement needs to be said.

Joe said...

I, for one, appreciate your posts on Spurgeon. Thanks.

Phil Johnson said...


In the Archbishop's case, the word would seem to be equivocal. Words like evasive, enigmatic, and indefinite also come to mind. The quotation you posted is actually a good example of Wright's apparent unwillingness to speak plainly. (He's a good writer; I know he doesn't lack the ability).

Anyway, I don't expect you'll ever see the point, but Tim Bayly gets it.

Sharad Yadav said...

Wright certainly isn't my favorite preacher, and I've got a lot of strong disagreements about various issues.

But in this case, the word to use about your last comment would seem to be "unjustifably unequivocal". How is articulating the need to speak differently in different settings "equivocal" if he also includes God as Creator to Whom worship is due, Jesus' death and resurrection on your behalf, the subsequent requirement of your submission and gratitude, the need for the recognition of your sin and guilt, the need for repentance and faith, and the recognition of our need for obedience?! That doesn't sound "enigmatic" or "indefinite" to me!

It's only "evasive" if you believe he didn't mean what he said in this instance. It's only enigmatic if you're unable to allow your disagreement in some instances to cause an allergic reaction to his every utterance and contribution.

Bayly's article and your critiques continue to ignore the contexts in which he speaks (in the case of Bayly's comments it is in refuting other historians' arguments about the aims and beliefs of Jesus and the impossibility of his resurrection - and doing so with an orthodox positionon on firmly historical grounds). These aren't sermons. They're not supposed to be. They aren't trying to be. Expecting them to sound like sermons and carry the conviction of preaching is like reaching for a jar of peanut butter to quench your thirst and being alarmed and disappointed at it's lack of thirst-busting potential.

Disagreement can be reasonably coupled with appreciation, and academic work has its place in the church even if its not "preaching".

Anyway, perhaps you'll someday get the point as many of Wright's other evangelical oppenents have (Doug Wilson, Andreas Kostenberger, Doug Green, Craig Blomberg, Darrel Bock etc).

Incidentally, my remarks were in response to Dan's, not your post which I of course agree with - I want my preaching to be both poweful and clear!

Tim Bayly said...

We don't get it? Get real. We get it fine. In fact, we invented it. But since then we've repented.

What's there to "get" anyway? Is there anything difficult about understanding why a man would be tempted to trim God's truth and authority in speaking to our decadent world, defending his trimming by claiming that trimming is a more effective method of communication to our gelded age?

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn got it--quite easily. The February 14, 1994, New Yorker did a profile on him right before he left the U.S. to return to his native Russia. Here's how this hero of the twentieth century explained his rejection of the very posture habitually copped by men such as N. T. Wright:

*****Back in the study, I asked Solzhenitsyn about his relations with the West. He knew that things had gone wrong, but had no intention of making any apologies. “Instead of secluding myself here and writing The Big Wheel, I suppose I could have spent time making myself likable to the West,” he said. “The only problem is that I would have had to drop my way of life and my work. And, yes, it is true, when I fought the dragon of Communist power I fought it at the highest pitch of expression. The people in the West were not accustomed to this tone of voice. In the West, one must have a balanced, calm, soft voice; one ought to make sure to doubt oneself, to suggest that one may, of course, be completely wrong. But I didn't have the time to busy myself with this. This was not my main goal.”*****

If Solzhenitsyn didn't have time to busy himself with being liked because it was not his main goal, how is it that servants of Christ today seem to have time for nothing but making themselves likeable? If we claim Solzhenitsyn has mistook our motivation and that we're not focused on being likeable, but simply on being the most effective messenger possible, can it really be that a man who ordinarily had such perfect pitch is so far off pitch here?

No, he still has perfect pitch. We have balanced, calm, and soft voices, and we're careful to doubt ourselves and to suggest that we may, of course, be completely wrong. And it's because, unlike Solzhenitsyn, we believe neither in fighting dragons nor in a high pitch of expression.

Anyone interested in a biblical method of communicating with decadent intellectuals would profit from studying the Apostle Paul's sermon to the Areopagus. And I defy them to show any similarity between the mollycoddling equivocations of the Anglican or submerged churches and the Apostle Paul's proclamation of God's authority and judgment:

*****"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council.*****

Sharad Yadav said...

You're comparing Wright to Solzhenitsyn? If nothing else that proves that you've missed my point entirely.

Are F.F. Bruce, J.B. Lightfoot, or Kenneth Kitchen guilty of the same "selling out" as Wright? Do you fail to see the category difference between those men and Spurgeon or do you just reject the usefulness of Christian academics altogether?

As I said, Wright's contribution has never been his preaching; but using his historical and academic work to establish that point is a muddled way of saying so.

Likewise Accusing Wright's academic work for being something less than preaching evidences confusion as to what he's trying to accomplish.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja, your appeal to "context" reveals the bankruptcy of your postmodernized perspective on truth, revelation, and the gospel.

Softening the truth of Scripture in order to accommodate the sensitivities of contemporary scholarship is about as contrary to the spirit of Christ as anything I can imagine. It's also at odds with any true biblical perspective on Paul and his methodology (1 Corinthians 1-3).

Sophistry is sophistry regardless of the context. And human sophistry on matters where God has spoken plainly is a disgrace for a minister in any setting, but especially when he has an opportunity to confront "the wisdom of this world."

I realize many of Wright's evangelical groupies find his style of studied verbal squidginess charming. It's not. Nothing anywhere in Scripture gives us permission to treat gospel truth as academic in the sense Tim Bayly was decrying. That doesn't change, even for the Christian who fancies himself a heavyweight in the realm of academia.

In fact, the more of a platform a person has, the more weighty is his duty to speak plainly.

Tim Bayly said...

Like it or not, the man's a bishop--the Bishop of Durham, to be precise. Thus his calling from God is to shepherd God's flock, not to be a public intellectual. If he thinks it's all a mistake, let him resign his ordination and take up professing at some academic institution. Or he could live off his royalties. Then no one will have a beef with him when he declines to fight the good fight, to give his life for his sheep.

As for intellectuals, I quoted the man Bishop Wright claims is one of the greatest intellectuals ever--the Apostle Paul. I take it no one would object to my setting his sermon to the Areopagus up as a model for the proclamation of the Name of Jesus Christ by an intellectual to intellectuals.

A pandering tentativeness is no necessary attribute of an intellectual, but it's so common today that we forget intellectuals were ever any other way.

Actually, I'm wrong; only conservative-leaning intellectuals are characterized by a pandering tentativeness today. Liberal intellectuals are as dogmatic as ever.

Sharad Yadav said...


Wasn't Lightfoot a bishop? Don't you use academic commentaries, bible dictionaries or other study helps to help you interpret Paul? I doubt Paul did, which makes your Mars Hill example somewhat superfluous.


My postmodernism has been revealed! I must fly! To the pomo-copter!

Phil Johnson said...

Raja, no one has suggested that a bishop cannot or should not also be a scholar.

The argument is against selling out to a dishonest, postmodern notion of "scholarship" which demands that every truth be couched in disclaimers and provisos—until the authority and clarity of God's Word lie suffocated under a billion qualifications.

Any minister who desires to be recognized and revered in academia as that kind of scholar" has prostituted his office and abandoned the real calling of an elder.

Sharad Yadav said...

Phil said: Any minister who desires to be recognized and revered in academia as that kind of scholar has prostituted his office and abandoned the real calling of an elder.


ricki said...

Are we voting now? If so, I'm with the blueraja but I sure enjoyed the debates.

FX Turk said...

I wanted to note that the desiderata of any particular pericope in this thread leaves itself open to the pitfalls of pluriform interpretation, as it were.

... huh? ... wha? ... I dozed off for a second, and I was dreaming that I was Hank Azaria in a turban ... the guy in the movie with the forks ... what's his name -- with the phony Empire accent ...

Sharad Yadav said...


Buy a dictionary!

Sharad Yadav said...

Before the beatings begin, I should point out that:

1) Wright, like most sinners, isn't fault free in everything he's spoken or done

2) The insinuations about Wright's "abandonment" or "equivocating" on the Gospel which generated my comments have never been answered - he summarized the Gospel in terms of God's authority as Creator, Jesus' substitutionary death, the resurrection and Lordship of Christ, the need for repentance and faith because of our sin and the need for obedience from a heart of gratitutde.

3) The point about the hypocrisy of using academic scholarship in the study (with all its "insipid" tones and bland historical, grammatical and theoretical descriptions) while piously condemning it in the public square was never addressed (this was my only point about "context" - that not everything written about the Bible should be exhortative or expository)

4) The point about how swaths of evangelical scholars (even a few Anglican ones!) who engage in historical description of exactly the same tone as that of Wright's (condemned in Bayly's article) are somehow accepted (or even celebrated in some cases) in various commentaries and study tools, but somehow deplorable in Wright's own work was never addressed. Refer to the Master's Seminary's list of books for the expositor's library.

5) The responses instead characterize me as a postmodern enemy of the truth who possibly has prostituted himself for academic respectability and is thus not fit for the office of elder. Ouch. That one hurt.

Okay - now let the flogging begin! I'll probably be absent for it, though. Let me own up to being a sissy and admit that I sometimes get my feelings hurt around here!

Tim Bayly said...

Pastor Brad Arnold, a graduate of Masters Seminary and at present serving as pastor of Nampa Bible Church in Nampa, Idaho, has just complained about his treatment in this thread of comments, writing:

***The (above) responses …characterize me as a postmodern enemy of the truth who possibly has prostituted himself for academic respectability and is thus not fit for the office of elder. Ouch. That one hurt.***

Having read through all the comments above, the closest I could come to anything approximating Pastor Arnold's complaint is this by Phil Johnson:

***Any minister who desires to be recognized and revered in academia as that kind of scholar has prostituted his office and abandoned the real calling of an elder.***

Does Pastor Arnold desire "to be recognized and revered in academia"? I've never thought so.

But then why would Pastor Arnold complain that his interlocutors here in this thread are suggesting he is "not fit for the office of elder"?

Pastor Arnold complains he's being persecuted and having his ordination called into question but no one has done so. Copping a posture of victimhood is one of the most common features of the breakdown of responsible discourse within our culture.

PS: I've sent a copy of this to Pastor Arnold assuming he's made good on his threat to retreat somewhere in private to lick his as it were wounds.

Caleb Kolstad said...


The blog world was too peaceful when you went on your sabbatical. Thanks for keeping us "fundamentalists" honest. I imagine you would consider yourself above all else biblical (perhaps also post-conservative and in some ways post-modern).

Of course we are not "culture fundamentalists" as Dr. Farnell so aptly critizes.

I think Phil and Tim are on track here.

None the less this is a helpful "conversation."

Dave said...


In fairness to Raja, Phil did say "Raja, your appeal to "context" reveals the bankruptcy of your postmodernized perspective on truth, revelation, and the gospel." So, he was being accused fairly directly, and I might add appropriately, of pomo views.

Raja (if you're still reading),

I do not understand where you got the impression that either Phil or Tim are arguing for private scholarship while condemning public scholarship. I have seen nothing in what they have written that would commend the vacilating stance of Wright in private. I imagine, from their words, that they wouldn't find any commentary to be positively valuable that was written in the style that Wright used in this interview. You are making a straw man argument. The point is that current academia is inclined to soften every assertion into a hypothesis. That may be fine for our opinions, but it is not for what God has clearly stated. But here we return to Phil's point--the contemporary mindset doubts whether anything is clearly stated. Wright is evidence of this, and your defense of him seems to be as well.

FX Turk said...

tooche, raj. :-)

I'm gad in the heat of bloggle you don't lose your sense of humor.

FX Turk said...

oops. Typo.

I meant to say "TOO-shay". Sorry.

Phil Johnson said...

To clarify:

Blue Raja is not Brad Arnold, but one of Brad's fellow elders at Nampa Bible Church, and a fellow graduate of TMS.

Raja was not the target of my comment questioning the fitness for ministry of someone who prostitutes the clarity of the gospel and purposely employs weasel-words instead of declaring revealed truth from God as truth. That was my response to NT Wright's own self-characterization.

Raja apparently took that as a direct challenge to his own fitness to hold office in the church. That was not my intent. If it provokes him or others to self-examination with regard to the unduly high deference they are willing to give to double-talk ("polite academic discourse"), fine. I think such self-examination is needed all around.

But for the record, Raja himself was not the target of that statement. Until I looked it up this morning to see what his role is at his church, I was not even certain that he was an elder.

Paul Lamey said...

There once was a Pyro named Phil
He made the Blue Raja squeal
But Blue wielded his forks
And said, “Wright’s not such a dork
He (Wright) knows just how I feel.”

Caleb Kolstad said...

Raja's blog site says he is retiring...

Personally i can't see RAJA staying away from the blogosphere. He's dedicated too many hours of sweat and tears to just walk away for good.

Air Jordan, Roger Clemens, Super Mario ALL retired only to find themselves needing to come back.

If Raja does return i hope he comes back like Clemens did(older, wiser, more mature). :)

On a serious note, i've really enjoyed the interaction from everyone. N.T. Wright is a hard guy to fully understand. This blog site has helped clarify things in my own mind.


Pastor Rod said...

I notice a tendency among the cock-sure Reformed camp to ridicule everyone they disagree with. I ask this question: Who demonstrates a Christlike attitude more clearly, the aforementioned individuals or Bishop Wright?

Even if the charges against Wright were correct (which they are not), the manner in which they are made is inappropriate and embarrassing to the Kingdom of God.


Paul Lamey said...


Are you sure you know what "cock-sure" means and if so how can you be sure?

Just wondering out loud...

Phil Johnson said...

PastorRod: "I notice a tendency among the cock-sure Reformed camp to ridicule everyone they disagree with."

See, that's just the kind of unfair generalization you have elsewhere professed to deplore.

I have repeatedly appealed for careful distinctions to be made between essential doctrines and secondary or tertiary issues. Cherck it out: you won't find me arguing much at all about secondary matters such as millennial views, paedobaptism, or supralapsarian—even though I hold strong opinions on those issues.

Where I tend to get feisty is when someone attacks the doctrine of justification by faith, some fundamental tenet of Trinitarian theology, or the coherence of truth itself. I will occasionally resort to satire or sopme other form of reductio to make the point, and (as I have explained elsewhere) I believe there is clear biblical warrant for that.

But to write off every argument you disagree with as "a tendency among the cock-sure Reformed camp to ridicule everyone they disagree with" is patently dishonest. Who ridiculed whom here?

..and, I might add, your statement conflicts with your own plea for everyone just to "love" one another and simply set aside all our disagreements. Obviously, you don't really believe your own advice.

Pastor Rod said...


You said, “See, that's just the kind of unfair generalization you have elsewhere professed to deplore.” It is an observation, that was also qualified. In fact, you admit that you deem it appropriate to resort to ridicule in certain circumstances. So how is this unfair?

You said, “But to write off every argument you disagree with as ‘a tendency among the cock-sure Reformed camp to ridicule everyone they disagree with’ is patently dishonest.” I did not write off any argument. I made an observation, one that I stand by. There is nothing dishonest about it. While this observation may not determine the truth value of the argument in question, it is a valid point. To dismiss my observation as “patently dishonest” is to avoid the issue.

You said, “Who ridiculed whom here?” First, I did not say that this particular thread was the only place I was referring to. You cited other threads, with approval, in your original post. Here is a collection of things said here and in those threads:

Humility does seem to be currently defined by 'pretending not to know what the answer is'.

I realize many of Wright's evangelical groupies find his style of studied verbal squidginess charming.

The Church of the Pointy Hats, also known as the Anglican Church (or Episcopalian Church here in the U.S.), has quite the reputation for being soft on...well, everything.

So what's the occassion for today's Anglican ridicule post? Well, one could dismiss such quirks and effemenite mannerisms as cute but harmless byproducts of English foppery.

I have drinking buddies with more conviction than these alleged ministers/bishops/fops.

UPDATE: Phil Johnson gives a hearty 'amen' here.

In this gelded age, the revelation and authority of God are soft-pedalled by emasculated clergymen who like to think of themselves not as preachers and shepherds, but intellectuals and "academics."

Anglican foppery knows no shame, except perhaps for being ashamed of Jesus.

Again, I despair of these people! False shepherds and dumb dogs the lot!

You said, “..and, I might add, your statement conflicts with your own plea for everyone just to "love" one another and simply set aside all our disagreements. Obviously, you don't really believe your own advice.” I never said that, or anything remotely close to it.


David Bayly said...

Years ago, as a young man fresh out of seminary, I couldn't stand John MacArthur's cocksure-sounding sermonic certainty. I turned the radio off whenever he came on the air.

Somewhere in the late eighties or early nineties, I came to love his preaching for exactly the reason I had previously despised it--he spoke as one convinced of truth.

As a pastor working in full consciousness of the reality of hell, of the five virgins who do not make it into the wedding, I value certainty more and more.

Moses "the most humble man who ever lived" never once said, "I think."

David Bayly

Pastor Rod said...

I prefer the attitude of Gordon MacDonald who said, "The older I get the more confident I become of less." (I'm going from memory here.) His point was that his confidence in the truth was stronger but his circle of what was "essential" was smaller than when he was younger.


Phil Johnson said...

Pastorrod: "So how is this unfair?"

If you're going to feign ignorance, there's not much point in pursuing it. But just in case you really missed the point, the operative part of your original assertion--the part I replied to but you danced around--was encapsulated in the phrase "everyone they disagree with."

There are lots of people I disagree with on many issues but get along with famously. The closer our disagreement comes to the core truths of Christianity, the less passive I'm going to be about tolerating the error. It's a pretty simple rule of thumb, actually.

One thing I do despise and don't tolerate gladly is unctuous hypocrisy.

Pastor Rod said...


I did miss your point. I intended that as hyperbole.


Pastor Rod said...


What about the other parts of my reply to your charges? Especially the one about "Who ridiculed whom?"


Phil Johnson said...


What about it?

1. It's an evasion of the point I made.

2. Most of the remarks you cited involve no "ridicule" at all, but make perfectly valid points.

3. The "church of the pointy hats" remark was quoted from a non-Reformed source, so it hardly helps your point.

4. If such generalizations are perfectly justifiable under the rubric of "hyperbole," what's your complaint in the first place?

5. You have a nasty habit of brushing aside important points you don't like and trying to substitute accusations against those whom you disagree with.

6. Please don't spam the comments section of my blog with that kind of childish rhetoric and then superciliously complain about other people's attitudes and lack of politeness.

Steve Wood said...

Sometimes we can see more clearly when we look at both the affirmative and denial of a point. Wright is a master of non-commital language, but can be shown to be outside of the "normal" field of Christian belief. A sample is an email series which I received directly from the bishop.

In this email series Wright ultimately won't clarify even the simplest of questions:

"It seems to me that you could put the issue to rest easily with a few short answers.

Do you believe that a significant percentage of mankind will be permanently in hell, as a result of their sin?

2. Do you believe that hell is an objective place, characterized by permanent suffering of an individual?

Do you believe that the only way that an individual can avoid hell is to personally repent of his sins, relying on Christ’s actions on earth, during that person’s mortal life?

Do you believe that Christ will preside at a final judgment, dividing mankind into two groups, one to eternal heaven and one to eternal hell?"

Wrights response:

"I think the best thing is to wait for my next relevant book. Your questions are so thoroughly conditioned by one particular (and to my mind unbiblical) way of speaking about God’s eventual purpose (which, I repeat, is stated in the New Testament not in terms of ‘heaven and hell’ as in mediaeval and subsequent western thought, but in terms of the new heavens and new earth) that it is impossible to answer them as they stand without colluding with misunderstanding. And I repeat, whatever your powers of recall in other instances, I simply cannot have said anything like what you seem to think I must have done. I strongly suspect it was the result of my trying to turn questions with whose presuppositions I was in disagreement into questions with a biblical base which I could answer, and I can well see that this might have resulted in you or someone else imagining I was giving a particular answer to the question you thought I was answering while my intention was very different. Anyway, let’s wait for the book."

Academia doesn't trump truth.

Pastor Rod said...


1. What is an evasion of the point you made?

2. You apparently have a different definition of ridicule than I do.

3. This remark was endorsed by you. (“David Gadbois at Mongrel Horde added some thoughts about Anglicanism in general that likewise echo my opinion exactly, almost as if he read my mind.”) It does help my point.

4. You’re the one who “made my complaint” in the first place to point out what you perceived to be hypocrisy on my part. I have addressed specific generalizations as being inaccurate. Those generalizations were made in a very different context. My hyperbole stands as a legitimate manner of communication. You (if you are married) are probably the kind of guy who jumps down his wife’s throat every time she uses the words “always” and “never.”

5. I missed a point. I didn’t brush it aside. You were the one who had to be brought back to the questions at issue.

6. I would like to know what you consider my “childish rhetoric.”

You are smart and articulate. But you are not the only person who has a defensible position. It seems to make you uncomfortable when someone engages in serious debate with you.


Pastor Rod said...


I know you don't see this, but the question contained several assumptions that Wright didn't want to accept. That's why he refused to give a simple answer. He wasn't trying to play the politician.

It is like the classic question, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" One has to unpack all the assumptions before answering the question.


Darlene said...

Rod, you said: You (if you are married) are probably the kind of guy who jumps down his wife’s throat every time she uses the words “always” and “never."

You must not read this blog much or you would know that Phil is married. We have been married for more than 27 wonderful years. It's obvious you don't know him. He is not the type of man who "jumps down his wife's throat" at all.

Do I need to point out how hypocritical you sound?

Matthew Henry said...

..........I want to weigh in.......what to say, what to say...... HI EVERYBODY!!!!!!