07 April 2007

About that Dan Kimball business...

by Phil Johnson

It's Saturday night before Resurrection Sunday. My message for tomorrow is prepared, and I've had a little time to read carefully through today's blog-comments and think through the ongoing exchange in yesterday's meta. Here are some things I'm compelled to say now. I can save the rest till next week. Have a joyous Easter.

et me start this post with a word of personal thanks to Dan Kimball for replying at all to the post I made yesterday. He wasn't obligated to make any reply whatsoever; much less wade chin-deep into the meta here (which must seem a very hostile environment to someone in his position). He posted a cordially-worded comment on the verge of the busiest weekend of the church year. He clearly went beyond the call of duty, and he gets full credit for his patience and boldness.

In that post yesterday, I remarked, "The message that comes across in [Dan's] chapter is that he really doesn't want to be bothered with doctrine."

Clearly, he is more willing to be "bothered" than I surmised from his chapter—and I'm more than happy to concede that fact. I appreciate his reassurance that "doctrine is very, very important." I'm very glad to say plainly that I was wrong and he is right on that score. And I tip my hat to him for his willingness to put as much time and energy as he has into an exchange like this during Easter season.

I also want to acknowledge the point Dan made about my choice of words when I said "his response to Driscoll [in the Listening to the Beliefs... book] consisted of a scolding." Dan's affection for Mark is the theme that dominates that part of the book, and it's not fair of me to characterize it as a "scolding."

In that section of the book, Dan does refer to Driscoll's "abrasive communication style" and demurs in numerous ways from expressing the same "extent of certainty and steadfastness" as Driscoll. But the overall tone of Dan's response to Driscoll is clearly affectionate and not really "scolding." That was a bad choice of words from me. Other participants in that symposium clearly did give Mark Driscoll a scolding or two. But Dan's tone was respectful and friendly throughout. So let's correct the record on that. I'm sorry for my careless choice of words.

On the matter of Dan's hair, I think I can fairly say I have never heard anyone talk about Dan Kimball without making reference to his remarkable hairdo. It's a running joke that did not begin with me. It's arguably Dan's best-known trademark. Some reference to it seems almost obligatory. When I think of what must be involved in maintaining such a 'do, I get a mental picture of Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters, oblivious to his wife's chagrin, making models of Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes and mud.

I actually tried it myself, but it's just not a good look for me.

Anyway, Dan himself didn't seem terribly offended by the picture, but evidently some of our readers were. (I'm just glad it wasn't a comic-book cover, because you know how much those can hurt.) But for Sled Dog and anyone else who interpreted the picture as proof that I was merely being ungracious and not the least bit sincere in the actual questions I raised, I beg your forgiveness for letting a picture mislead anyone as to my mood or my intentions.

I also plead guilty to serially posting tasteless graphics. It's one of my most troublesome besetting sins.

I would like to note for the record that neither I nor anyone who agreed with me employed profanity or abusive name-calling toward Dan Kimball or any of our critics. It's hard to make sense of people who call you obscene names and bend over backward to be insulting—while simultaneously pretending to be indignant about how ungracious someone else has been. But, then, we live in postmodern times, and that is a large part of the point I'm trying to make.

I really am trying to make a rather serious point without being ungracious or obstinate. And if I could beg my critics' indulgence while I try once more to explain why I've continued to press the point with Dan, I'd love an opportunity to explain that matter dispassionately, without the proliferation of name-calling, profanity, and angry attacks in the meta.

But I'm not going to attempt that explanation in this post, lest it detract from the things I've mentioned above that I do want to concede to Dan.

I'll come back in a post on Monday or thereabouts and do my best to explain why I think Dan's original comments failed to answer the questions I raised, and why his later comments seem to contradict what he has written elsewhere.

Meanwhile, let's celebrate the resurrection.

Phil's signature


jen said...

I beg to differ... it's a great look for you.


Anonymous said...


In case in the extreme amount of comments posted on your other blog entry, this comment I posted doesn't get your attention - I am reposting here for you as I think this answers your questions.

I also think the best way two people can communicate to be able to clearly answer your questions which are directed to me, would be on the phone, rather than back and forth trying to write blog entries.

You can email me or call me at the church office 831-429-1059 and if I am not there, they can give you my cell phone. I will let the person who answers the phone that if you call to give you my number. Any time you are free, I will make sure I arrange the time to speak to you to ensure that your unanswered questions can fully be answered.

Anyway, here is the post again:


Thank you for taking the time to raise up questions as you have - and I am always someone who wants to be open to questions about anything. No one is beyond reproach and I take serious when someone raises up specific concerns or questions they may have about something I write or say. So I do thank you for that.

At the same time, I see you posted this morning saying you haven't heard my answer about your questions.

Last night I also did go on my blog and post the answer (again)what I thought you are asking to make sure I am responding in a timely manner.

I say this with great sincerity, as I am trying to understand what your questions are that I haven't already answered on my blog and in earlier postings here. So I will try once again to answer what I think you are asking. So here we go again:

1) I think you are asking if I hold to any further beliefs or think you can have doctrinal beliefs in addition to those in the Nicene Creed.

Please read the posts on this blog earlier that I posted. I clearly wrote in the chapter that I do, and even listed them. I took the time to post the page number and quote for you and those who haven't read the chapter in my earlier comments here. I stated in the chapter that I believe in other doctrines that aren't mentioned in the Nicene Creed. I listed them earlier. So being redundant, here is what I believe you are asking me.

When I said I believe in core doctrines as in the Nicene Creed, as I said in the chapter as doctrines you can say with confidence "This I Know" they are:

- the Trinity
- the resurrection of Jesus
- the future return of Jesus
- the virgin birth
- there will be a judgment - heaven/hell

In the chapter on page 94, I also clearly stated:

"..I don't believe you can't you can't come to solid conclusions about many things in addition to the Nicene Creed. There are many things not mentioned in the Nicene Creed that I believe are clear, such as Jesus' teaching about marriage, the authority of the Bible itself, the role of the Spirit in personal sanctification."

I also stated in the chapter that in addition to those from the Nicene Creed (as listed above) other doctrines I believe the Scriptures teach are:

- substitionary atonement (page 100)

- sinful nature, obviously if I believe in the atonement, then it only follows as I talked about the reality of sin (on page 100)

- salvation through Jesus alone (page 101)

- the inspiration and authority of the Bible (page 94-99).

And I also talked about my belief in heaven/hell, that in our plurailstic religious culture that salvation is not found in other religions but in Jesus alone - these were clearly written in the chapter.

These (what I just listed above) are what I would consider "core doctrines" of the historic Christian faith.

I believe you are asking me, where I "draw lines" (as you put it) of what core or essential doctrines are - and the list above is what I believe as these core doctrines.

What types of doctrines do I see as "minor"?

Ones like, whether one is a amillennialist or premillenialist, whether one baptizes infants or adults, the role of women in the church, whether one believes in the cessation of tongues or not, whether one is a dispensationalist or a covenant theologian, whether one is a 24 hour, 6 day creationist or whether one believes God created everything 'ex nihilo' in 6 billion years and the days mean longer time periods.

These are the types of things I believe are more minor doctrinal issues that godly men and women throughout church history have had differences of opinions on. We can still come to conclusions, but like I was trying to say in the chapter, these seem like issues that are not quite as clear since Spirit-filled believers have differences of opinions on these "minor" types of doctrines.

2) You asked what my disagreement with Mark Driscoll's chapter were, and I tried to do that in the response in the book. Mark and I are friends, and for you to say in an earlier comment that I "scolded" him, was extremely inaccurate. The response chapters were to bring out differences. I don't see how you can see that as "scolding".

I said that I agree with Mark on the core doctrines of the faith (as listed above) and I said that where I am not in alignment would to be considered to be fully embracing a specific theological system as Mark does with being a full Calvinist. It was not saying I then go back and don't believe in any of the 5 Points, as when I shared my doctrinal positions in the chapter, obviously I do.

My point was simply saying that I am not in a place to confidently say that any one detailed theological system is one I embrace everything of. My point was that I am trying to focus on the major doctrines (as listed above), believe you can come to conclusions about minor doctrines (as listed above) but that we should approach those minor doctrines with humility and grace and not pit one believer against another or slander other believers for having differences in those minor doctrines.

I also quoted an earlier comment, that I do believe in regards to core doctrines (as lsited above) that we should defend, debate and argue core doctrines as I said in the Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Baker) on page 222:

"..if anyone I know was questioning the resurrection of Jesus, I would go into a pretty strong defend mode. This is the cornerstone of our faith. There are times when I think we may need to take very strong stands about what we believe on critical issues such as the resurrection, salvation through Jesus alone, the atonement and the inspiration and authority of Scripture."

I said this all in earlier, posts - but I think this is what you keep asking me about.

It is Saturday, and I am heading downtown Santa Cruz right now. Our church has set up an art exhibit right on the downtown streets of the story of Jesus arrest, crucifixion and resurrection. We post the Scriptures and tell the story through rather large art pieces right on the sidewalk. I haven't seen it yet, but there is an artistic recreation of the empty tomb that is 8 feet tall, by 8 feet square. We are moving that to the centerpiece of the sanctuary tomorrow for the sermon. It is really a wonderful expereince seeing hundreds of people downtown reading and seeing the story of the resurrection who normally would never step foot in a church, yet see the story on the streets.

Have a blessed resurrection Sunday, and let's please chat on the phone next week at your convenience to clear up anything I am have not answered in this lengthy and redundant posting.

Peace in Jesus,



SB said...

Thank you Phil for being you

praying that you would
Preach Christ Up

Christ is Risen

Catez said...

Now about that haka...

"merely doing a haka"

As if.

Firstly, it's the All Blacks new adaptation of a haka - and you wouldn't last five minutes on a field with those guys.
Secondly - nothing "mere" about a haka at all. I think a better analogy would have been something from LA gangster hip hop culture - since you seemed to be wanting to paint a picture of something akin to a shallow tizz. A homeboy tantrum (ad the affect of having that imported here by offshore entrepreneurs who care not a whit for the impact on our young people).

The haka takes different forms, is not something one learns in an hour, and if done "merely" is an insult to those who observe it.

And the All Blacks play real football.

Catez said...

PS. I think this is a better post.

David Cho said...

Good post, Phil.

I appreciate your demonstration of humility and graciousness in this post.

Anonymous said...


I just read through this whole post here (after I reposted).

Thank you for your humility and apologizing and conceding on those things you mentioned here. It means a lot you recognized that and thank you for writing what you did here.

Let's make sure we talk! Call me up.


Danny Wright said...

I alternated today between the little booklet The Mark of the Christian* while at the same time watching this marathon debate take place. For the most part it was wonderful to watch Christians be very civil, kind and repentant too, while disagreeing so vehemently. I recommend the book; its about an hour read, though its not about the emerging church, but it is about how we handle this very kind of disagreement in a way that says to the world that though we disagree, we still carry the mark of love. It’s certainly been profitable for me.

But what do I know really? I do go to non-Christian blogs occasionally and I think we all have to admit that the civility bar is set pretty low.

*The Mark of a Christian was also the appendix at the end of the book: The Church at the end of the 20th Century, Francis A Schaeffer

Catez said...

is there a copy of tha booklet online anywhere?
The non-Christian blogs I read have a fairly high standard of civility in comments. Poliblogs tend not to - but then the poliblogs are something else and I don't read them often.

Teampyro - I think you are getting link spammed by one of those pretend blog things (can't remember the name for them).

Kim said...

If you had been wearing that hairdo last weekend, I don't think I could have kept a straight face.

Sled Dog said...

Easter Morning. Just before 5 AM here in Utah. I'll preach the sunrise service message in about an hour and a half. What a privelge.

A few Sled Dog notes:

-Any personal attacks that have taken place in regards to the "Dan Kimball" affair are certainly not condoned by me, nor the use of foul language.
-I wasn't personally offended or deeply troubled by the Dan photo.

Peace to all, and may the promises of the cross and the power of the resurrection fill your hearts and minds today...

James Scott Bell said...

Phil, this post shows your true heart, which those who know you have already attested to. It's not easy to be on the front lines and speak boldly about the most important things, and get raspberries in return all the time.

That's true for any pastor these days, of course, including Dan Kimball.

And I know that, with a few sad exceptions, that most commentators here, pro or con, deeply care about these matters. That's why things can get a little heated sometimes.

But heat is not always a bad thing in debate. So stay TeamPyro and not WaterBabies. And when we have to cool off for awhile, posts like this one, and responses like Dan's, will lead the way.

David A. Carlson said...

On a note that we may all agree on( i hope), my greeting to you is -

He has Risen!

DJP said...

I still get regular "hits" from posting this picture Phil did back on his solo blog, BTPAD (Before Turk, Pecadillo and DJP). Phil has a history of having fun with hair.

I'm just thankful he hasn't (yet) had fun with my lack of same.

And this whole discussion has made me uncomfortable in one regard. All this "Dan" talk. Would everyone please from now on say "Dan Kimball-not-Phillips"? That way the two Dan's will be distinguished.

One "Dan" is viewed with a certain amount of suspicion, with doctrinal positions that make some people uncomfortable.

The other one has hair.

Neil said...

You all have a joyous Easter too.

Coram Deo said...

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

DJP said...

FWIW, I agree with you, Steve. A personal conversation is fine, a nice thing. If Phil and Dan Kimball have the time and want to, swell.

But Phil's focus is on what Dan K. has written in public (not judging his private character and conversation), and the impact it all has on the public.

What would a private conversation accomplish, as to this specific set of concerns? No doubt Phil could come back and say, "I talked to Dan Kimball, and he's really a nice guy." But I don't think anyone's said he isn't a nice guy.

"We had a great conversation." Well, cool. But what about any concerns, or questions, about anything Kimball's written? Should everyone call and chat with Dan K one by one, then come back and argue with each other about what they each individually thought he was saying to them?

A private conversation, on the one hand, could have the positive result of connecting on what specific public statements need to be cleared up. But on the other hand, it could issue in a "he said / he said."

Folks have disagreed with me fairly and accurately on many occasions. But I've often said, on those occasions when I've been bitterly (and to my mind unfairly and inaccurately) criticized here and elsewhere, that I'm glad the whole discussion is public.

When I try very carefully to write "X," and someone rails on me for writing "Y," I'm just really thankful that the whole thing is on the record. Fair-minded readers can see that I wrote "X"; the others wouldn't be satisfied by anything I said or did.

étrangère said...

DJP - I think you & Dan K should fight it out for the right to use the name 'Dan' on this blog. Come on, you have your martial art, and seemingly a big sword. The winner gets to be referred to as 'Dan'; the loser gets to have a phone convo with Phil. Happy Easter :)

Phil Johnson said...

Dan Kimball:

Incidentally, thanks for the invitation to talk personally. I should've acknowledged that I got that. I will call you sometime early this week.

PS: I'm going to refer to you as DK from here on out so as not to spark a mutiny by our own DJP. No disrespect intended.

danny2 said...


how do you think i feel? there's now another danny wright on this blog!

philness said...

I'm with Steve. I think it should be discussed here.

This is a topic that we should all be witnesses to if we claim to be workers in OUR Fathers field. Lets think about this. Two paid, highly profile and influencial teachers discussing essential doctrines of the eternal Kingdom in these post modern times-you betcha.

Phil Johnson said...

Keith: "I'm just having a hard time wondering how someone could so dramatically misrepresent an essay and then say that that was just a 'careless choice of words.'"

Well, did you actually read the book?

Not one other contributor shared Driscoll's convictions on what constitutes essential Christian belief. Practically every contributor to the book distanced themselves as far as possible from Driscoll's views, and several of them scolded him severely.

Kimball, while generally respectful and friendly, sounded positively apologetic as far as his friend Driscoll's convictions are concerned. He certainly didn't support or approve of Driscoll's hard-line doctrinal clarity, and he seemed to sympathize more with Driscoll's critics than he did with Driscoll.

Note: the book's general editor, Robert Webber, wrote this in the summary at the end:

For those who have read this book to gain clarity on emerging beliefs, I have to say that what you are looking for is not here, except in Mark Driscoll.

The other contributors, representing the "mainstream" of the Emerging movement, clearly were not the least bit happy with Driscoll for trying to bring clarity to things that they want to be murky. That was the dominant message that came through in Kimball's reply to Driscoll.

Read the whole book in light of the multiple scoldings that were handed out to Driscoll by other contributors, and I think you'll see why it was pretty easy to characterize Kimball's contribution as something far less than wholly supportive of his friend.

Martin Downes said...


Webber's concluding chapter could have been entitled "except Driscoll," (he uses that phrase three times). Webber also asks whether what we are seeing is an emerging evangelical liberalism.

Webber writes: “the other four do not deny the faith, they simply ask you to join the quest to figure out how the faith speaks in a new culture.”

I guess the question for Dan (K) is whether he thinks Webber's conclusions were right to put him in the vague camp and not with Mark Driscoll who seems to be a model of perpescuity by comparison.

FX Turk said...

If Kimball gets to be initials, I want initials, too.

BAMF is my preference: Blog-Adled Mister Frank. However, I am sure you can come up with one that will make me sorry I brought it up.


Caleb Kolstad said...


Thanks for this post. I look forward to Mondays....

Happy Easter!


Phil Johnson said...

Keith: "Needless to say, all of this is pretty confusing. If Dan's essay was "clearly affectionate"--so much so that "Dan's affection for Mark is the theme that dominates that part of the book"--how is it "pretty easy" to characterize it as similar to the essays that harshly scolded Driscoll?"

Again: Did you read the book?

The authors all interact with each other's contributions. Driscoll is clearly the odd man out. He wants clarity and conviction on vital doctrinal issues. All the other contributors treat him as some kind of crypto-fundamentalist, and several of them do indeed scold him for what they perceive is a too-rigid attitude on vital doctrines like the atonement and the authority of Scripture.

Doug Pagitt, for example, writes, "I . . . have concern about Mark's feeling that he needs to and is equipped to correct the theological faults of others . . . . Why does Mark feel that it is his job to do the correcting? To really consider this a legitimate option would mean that he would be 'correct' on these matters [i.e., the authority of Scripture, the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, and the nature of God], and that all who think more broadly on such issues of Scripture and atonement are in his care to correct. This is a ludicrous assumption."

In Kimball's reply to Driscoll, he makes excuses and apologies for Driscoll's "abrasive communication style." But he does not affirm Driscoll's position on Scripture, the atonement, and the nature of God. Those, after all, are issues Kimball now says he regards as "core" doctrines. But his response in the book is not to defend Driscoll's stance on those "core" doctrines. Instead, he once more expresses discomfort with the idea that anyone can really be dogmatically certain about or feel the duty to "guard" any post-Nicene points of doctrine. He writes:

"I fully resonate with Mark's beliefs on core doctrine that aligns with the Nicene Creed. . . . However, I don't necessarily feel the same as Mark abut the extent of certainty and steadfastness in other theological systems. . ."

He closes and summarizes his 3-page response with the comment about Mark's abrasive style.

It's really not hard or all that far-fetched to understand how someone (recalling that response a few weeks after first reading it) might allow the memory of Kimball's response to be colored by the scolding attitude towards Driscoll that dominates the rest of the book.

My original, offhanded comment about the "scolding" tone was based on my memory. That was a comment, not part of my original post, and I didn't go back and review the section I was referring to before I said that. But when Kimball complained, I did re-read that section of the book, and I had to acknowledge that it's not really fair to characterize Kimball's reply to Driscoll as a "scolding."

However, it would likewise be wrong to suggest that Kimball stood behind his friend and supported his firm stance on the "core" doctrines of the authority of Scripture and the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement.

Please read the book for yourself if this still seems confusing to you. I don't think it's particularly helpful to keep insisting on more and more detailed post-mortems on a statement I have already apologized for.


donsands said...

Teampyro, I love you guys.
"That was a bad choice of words from me."
Phil, we all have to make this statement every now and then. Thanks for serving our Lord, and for being faithful.

I was blessed to hear a sermon today that filled my soul with joy. I hope you all had the same.

"Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.

BUT, God raised Him from the dead!" Acts 13:29-30

Coram Deo said...

DJP said...
FWIW, I agree with you, Steve. A personal conversation is fine, a nice thing. If Phil and Dan Kimball have the time and want to, swell.

Aye DJP!

This is the key point, methinks. A family of Mormons lives on our street and they're swell folks; kind, considerate, friendly, family oriented, model citizens.

In fact it's been rightly said that Mormons often act more Christian than the actual Christians! Yet good works aren't enough. Being a kind, thoughtful, all around swell guy just doesn't count for anything in eternity.

Sadly hell is going to be full of "nice" people by the standards of men. Phil is probing orthodoxy and his questions are valid and are based on public information.

Christ deserves no less.

Sharad Yadav said...

Well THIS post is a great reason to celebrate the resurrection. Good on you. As they say. Somewhere.

Morris Brooks said...

Preach on Phil, preach on. Whether it is someone who claims the things that Dan Kimball has or someone who is as obviously far out as Brian McLaren, all of the ECMers are on the same slippery slope. It is just that some of them have slipped further down the slope than the others. Toleration for the sake of conversation or toleration for the sake of humility or tolertation for the sake of toleration all will eventually take you to the same place. You will eventually be like whom you fraternize with much like the Scriptures tell us that bad company will corrupt good morals or that a little leaven will leaven the whole lump. The fact that there are some supposed conservatives amongst the ECMers is not the issue. The real issue is that history ignored will be history repeated. Look at what has happened to the main line churches and much of evangelicalism as they tolerated liberalism for the sake of unity and for the sake of "reaching" the liberals, and look where it has taken them.

We can not and must not put being "missional" or evangelistic over correct doctrine, ever! Loose doctrine does not save, does not sanctify, does not make one secure in their faith.

Reading posts from the ECMers reminds me of an article written by an SBC pastor back in the height of the conservative/liberal controversy. In that article he said there were eight different definitions of inerrancy. All that did was to give the liberals seven different definitions to hide behind and still call themselves inerrantists. I see the ECMers in much the same light.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I don't know who you are, Morris Brooks, but you said so much, with so much clarity of thought, with so few words, that I am truly impressed. And I'm not easily impressed!

Strongbow said...

I've read a lot of posts on this 'Mark Driscoll Is Satan' subject and I have to say quite frankly that I am so sick of this stupid blog (why do I even come here?). It is a cauldron of self-righteousness and hyper-conservatism. Such a lack of humility, so much brother-bashing, lack of love for another pastor, Christian elitism..I could go on.

Many of you folks are unfairly throwing Driscoll into the same pot as wacky liberals, Mormons, and other nuts. Shame on you! Are you insane or have you drunk too much Johnson/MacArthur kool aid? Mark preaches nothing but Jesus and Him crucified, loves the Lord and His church. Theologically, he's as conservative as the next Calvinist. You people are character-slamming a godly man, whom most of you haven't even MET. He's slammed on the left in Seattle for being too biblical, and he's slammed on the right for not being fundamentalist!

When I read vile blogs like this, I'm discouraged and ashamed to be a Christian.