29 October 2007

If You Can't Say Something Nice...

Part 1 of 2
by Phil Johnson

he esteemed Dr. Warnock has made yet another post (plus a bonus follow-up comment) objecting to the look and feel of our polemic against some stylish doctrines and ministry philosophies which have borne notoriously rotten fruits.

Specifically, he suggests that in last Monday's Pyro-post I ought not to have criticized Willow Creek's pragmatic, program-driven ministry philosophy without first saying something really nice and affirmative about them.

These are, of course, issues we have discussed with the good Doctor before. I was going to let it pass this time, but he e-mailed me, inviting my reply. So let's analyze Dr. Warnock's view of "discernment" a little more closely.

He insists that "we really must be looking for the good in people, especially in those who have not denied important aspects of the Gospel." Note: in this context, Dr. Warnock is not talking about personal relationships between individual Christians; he is setting forth a principle for how we critique and interact with leaders of new movements, teachers of novel doctrines, and purveyors of new philosophies of ministry. Let's call it Warnock's First Rule of Discernment.

In Dr. Warnock's estimation, my failure to go out of my way to say anything positive about Willow Creek "seemed (at least to [him]) to be implying that Willow Creek has absolutely nothing to teach us."

I said nothing like that, of course, and it's a wholly unwarranted conclusion from what I did say. It's also quite irrelevant to any point I was making.

On the other hand, let's be completely candid: Even if I did go out of my way to catalogue everything I like about the Willow Creek model, it would indeed be a very short list. In fact, as I ponder the question even now, I'm hard-pressed to think of anything truly distinctive about Willow Creek's approach to ministry that I could honestly say advances the agenda of Christ's kingdom. Willow Creek's underlying philosophy is fundamentally pragmatic, not biblical. By their own admission, it is now statistically clear that their strategy does not produce authentic disciples—and therefore fails even the pragmatic test. So it's a bad ministry model even by its own definition of what's "good." More importantly, the movement also falls short by every biblical standard I can think of. Its influence among evangelicals for more than three decades has been seriously, consistently, and (I believe) demonstrably bad in numerous ways. It's about to get even worse.

So it would frankly bother my conscience to leave the impression (even inadvertently) that I think there's anything worth singling out as wholesome or beneficial or worthy of my affirmation in that.

To illustrate: There might be many nutritious scraps of food garbage in a compost heap, but if something in you compels you to go out of your way to point them out to an undiscerning toddler, shame on you.

However, according to Dr. Warnock, "if we fail to recognize something as being good and helpful and true, we fail in our discernment as much as if we blindly accepted everything in a naive way."

OK, but what if the thing being evaluated is really not "good and helpful and true"? Because (and this is the crucial point where I take issue with Dr. Warnock's position) the fact that a person or movement has commendable qualities (even lots of them) does not necessarily make the thing itself "good and helpful and true."

Let's call that Johnson's Fifth Axiom of Common Sense.

Judas, for example, was apparently a very frugal man. Do we need to congratulate him for that every time we condemn his treachery? The Judaizers' doctrine was (as far as we know) perfectly compatible with every point of doctrine enumerated in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. If you were to count all the true propositions the Judaizers affirmed regarding Christian essentials, there is little doubt that they would outweigh the false propositions in their system by a very large percentage. In fact, the Judaizers' one significant difference with Paul boiled down to a single proposition about the ordo salutis. (They taught that good works precede rather than follow justification.)

But as Paul labored to demonstrate in Galatians, one apparently small, technical difference like that can and sometimes does make the difference between the true gospel and a different, damning, false gospel. Thus you'll never find Paul saying anything positive about the Judaizers.

Moreover, in Galatians 2, Paul publicly rebuked Peter just for treating that false gospel like a mere misdemeanor—even though Peter himself was an apostle of Christ who completely, unconditionally, and unreservedly affirmed the true gospel. Yet Paul did not pillow his public rebuke (or even his retelling of it) in a lot of superfluous affirmations of Peter's good intentions, or his likeable personality, or his commitment to Christ, or whatever. It was a sharp and completely unqualified public rebuke—and under the circumstances, it was warranted. One's "tone" is not always the most important factor in raising a caution about false doctrine.

In short, Warnock's First Rule of Discernment isn't biblical.

Given the enormity of the errors we are talking about in the Willow Creek philosophy, Dr. Warnock's objection to straightforward criticism of that movement strikes me as terribly misguided and question-begging—and inconsistent with what he himself says in other contexts.

For example, is Willow Creek's commitment to "important aspects of the Gospel" truly beyond question or criticism? I certainly don't think so. After all, they are sponsoring a major conference—unveiling their new agenda—with Brian McLaren as the keynote speaker. He is notorious for having portrayed the principle of penal substitution as "one more injustice in the cosmic equation . . . divine child abuse. You know?" There's hardly a single gospel-related doctrine that was highlighted in the Protestant Reformation that McLaren has not somehow questioned or attacked, and the atonement is central to all the others.

As a matter of fact, based on Dr. Warnock's own steadfast (and excellent) defense of penal substitutionary atonement, I'm mystified as to why he objects to a shrill and unqualified warning about the direction Willow seems headed.

My strong suspicion is that Dr. Warnock's most basic objection to my "discernment style" has nothing whatsoever to do with any of the concerns I have raised about Willow Creek. I think the root of his real disagreement with me lies in our difference of opinion on the charismatic question. Usually, when he makes critical posts about TeamPyro, that's the central issue he brings up—and this latest dust-up is no exception.

But that's a whole different issue, and here Dr. Warnock's complaint becomes somewhat more nuanced. I want to answer that part of his argument, too, but that will have to wait for another day. So I'll be back to follow this up (Lord willing) by Friday, or as soon thereafter as possible.

Phil's signature


Rob Willmann said...

I am not saying that Willow creek are Pharisees, but I want to just post this as an example from Scripture of what discernment is:

Matthew 23: 19"You blind men, (V)which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering?

20"Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it.

21"And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who (W)dwells within it.

22"And whoever swears by heaven, (X)swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.

23"(Y)Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

24"You (Z)blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

25"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For (AA)you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.

26"You blind Pharisee, first (AB)clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

27"(AC)Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.

28"So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

29"(AD)Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,

30and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.'

31"So you testify against yourselves, that you (AE)are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

32"Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

33"You serpents, (AF)you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of (AG)hell?

34"(AH)Therefore, behold, (AI)I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will (AJ)scourge in your synagogues, and (AK)persecute from city to city,

35so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous (AL)Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the (AM)son of Berechiah, whom (AN)you murdered between the temple and the altar.

36"Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon (AO)this generation.

Theophilus said...

It's funny (sad?) how some Christians demand that we be 'nicer than Christ' as an old pastor of mine would say.

In the same vein: "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." The intention in this verse isn't inter-niceine squabbling, but a clear, and obvious distinction between worldlings and Christians.

The intention of the Pyro Team (tm) was (as I believe) to sharpen this distinction, and to force a decision of 'worldling' or 'Christian' on the part of the reader.

Where then is the fault? Beyond the Politically correct / postmodern complaint of "Tone", that is.

Adrian Warnock said...

Thanks for taking the time to explain things further to me. Actually you have done a good job of explaining things in this post. If you feel that there has been nothing much good in Willow Creek, I do understand a bit more your reasoning. Perhaps I do not know enough about them, but I understood that they had not up until now denied the gospel. Perhaps there is a need for more clarity on these points and a response to their teachings with citations from someone.

But, I must go on record as agreeing with you that I am SERIOUSLY concerned that Willow have invited Maclaren to speak - something your original post did not mention. As we discussed in the other comments section, one key way we differ is that you feel "My main concern is not to persuade "followers of Hybels" whereas I feel that as much as possible we should reach out to others. You do know, however, that where important aspects of the gospel is denied I am as willing as you to use firm language - such as the way I have blogged about Steve Chalke. I do not speak in quite the same way about those who continue to tolerate Chalke and alow him to speak at their conferences since whilst there folly brings great danger to the church, they themselves are not denying the gospel.

As far as the charismatic issue is concerned, it is perhaps no surprise that I feel sensitive about that. I am after all a charismatic myself. I may have been confused about what you were trying to say so I welcome your offer to clarify later this week. It seemed that you were saying that it is our core beliefs as charismatics that lead to the abuses we both recognise as sadly too prevalent. I would argue that it is not the core beliefs themselves, but rather some second order beleifs and values that some, and yes I would acknowledge it, MANY charismatics deduce from those primary beliefs. In a similar vein, as I said in my other comment, we would surely disagree with peadobaptism, but recognise that not every pedobaptist makes the same deductions from their primary belief in infant baptisms and it is the deductions of some that are so dangerous rather than the belief itself. Thus, we can recognise as gospel-loving brothers those who we would disagree with over such matters whilst recognising that others in their movements make very dangerous deductions.

Imagine if I said something like this "The core beliefs of cessationism lead to intellectual arrogance, and ever increasing separation from others, stunted emotions, and a lack of any sense of a relationship with God"

I suspect that quite rightly you would be upset by such a broad stroke condemnation - which would not be a fair accusation.

If I said, however "Sadly, some who reject the continuation of the gifts go further and deduce that their should be no sense of 'knowing God' today and that our emotions are to be repressed" that would be a much fairer thing to say.

When you said "Charismatic claims about questionable prophecies, miracles, gifts, and callings regularly and systematically breed willful gullibility, not discernment." I felt that you were saying something similar to my imaginary first accusation against cessationists. In the comments section, it sounded like you were repeating that. If I am wrong, then I would be very happy.

The respectful and kind way in which you treat me, certainly sounds like that you put me and other reformed charismatics in a different category to some other charismatics. Its just that in the heat of the moment your polemic doesn't always seem like that is the case.

Your friend


Kevin Williams said...

Since when was was it okay to say "well these 10 pages of the Bible are important, but the other several hundred pages are up for grabs, non-essentials that you can do what you like with"?

I've said it before, Many of the many on that day who'll say "Lord, Lord", and whom Jesus will say "depart from Me I never knew you" will have all of the "essentials" and the "important aspects of the Gospel" nailed down.

1 Thess 2:4-5 "but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness."

Prov 29:5 "A man who flatters his neighbour, spreads a net for his feet."

1 Kings 22:13 "And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favourable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.”

Live Wire said...

Phil, with your humor, you should check out:


Nash Equilibrium said...

Phil, doggone it, you are so much more silver-tongued and articulate than I (and I'm not being sarcastic). If I were addressing someone who had a doctorate degree in theology, I would have assumed that it would have been enough to simply say "Hey Doc, they are listening to Brian McLaren, helllooooo?! What more do you need to know about Willow Creek?"

The invitation of BMcL, False Teacher Extraordinaire and his McGospel, shows me that Willow Creek is more about celebrity, popularity, and showmanship, than it is about a serious search for the truth of the Bible.

There. As Stan Laurel used to say, "I said it and I'm glad."

FX Turk said...

Dr. Warnock --

After Jesse and I complete our dialog over at DebateBlog on the necessity of the sign gifts, I'd like to expend an open invitation to you on the following thesis:

The core beliefs of continualism generally lead to spiritual arrogance, an excessive sense of a prophetic relationship with God, an ever-increasing separation from others, and selfish emotionalism; exceptions exist, but by far continualism points people away from the local church and toward apostasy.

I will take the affirmative.

Nash Equilibrium said...

As to the charismatic issue, I was immersed in that for decades, and have slowly come to realize that (probably) most of the manifestations / "gifts" I experienced or observed were phoney. Well-intentioned phoney in most cases, but phoney nonetheless. I see no reason why the gifts could not be in operation today, but I haven't seen them in genuine operation very often. I confess that much of what I participated in was conjured-up, because I was taught that this was "stepping out on faith" and thus the way to please God.

Further, the suspension of discernment associated with the movement has produced disastrous results, in that it has created a space for those who aspire to the office of false-teacher-televangelist. It has done so by creating a ready set of consumer-donors willing to believe any assertion without questioning it, no matter how out of line with Scripture or how preposterous. Call these consumer-donors, anti-Bereans, if you like.

Like it or not, a tree is known by the fruit it bears. The fruit of charismania has not been good.

Oh if only I had realized earlier in my life the need to rely only upon the revelation once and all delivered for the saints, and not augmented it with signs and wonders.

Travis said...

I never noticed before, but Gollum has beautiful blue eyes.

Kay said...

I remain convinced that this is a trait that the English are pre-disposed to. We're so very apologetic, we really feel the need to qualify every criticism with something nice.

I almost feel a little light-headed when I blog statements without qualification.

Unknown said...

The core beliefs of continualism generally lead to spiritual arrogance...

Spiritual arrogance is surely observable in all streams of the church isn't it? It's called pride isn't it? I see it in me, and the gospel seems the only cure.

Calvinism should be the cure, but I find myself with a wholehearted conviction about the glorious sovereignty of God and yet pride still lurks...

Rob Wilkerson said...

Adrian asked me if I might be willing to stick my neck on this block with him...not because he thinks I'm smart (obviously!) but because he knows my heart. (Hey that rhymed on accident! I think it's prophetic.)

As we chatted with one another about this post, I made the comment, "We can and should be dogmatic about what we believe...but much more charitable about how we communicate it." He wanted me to repeat it here. So there you go, brother.

There is a spirit of charity that I find often absent here. And I think it relates primarily to wiring. Some people are wired to be heady. Some people say I'm like that. One of my best charismatic friends told me that this morning over coffee (decaf for me, because I want to make sure the caffeine isn't adversely affecting my relationship with the Spirit....I think if you're a real charismatic you ought to be able to hear from the Spirit without drugs.)

But though I'm wired this way, I don't want to be. I want the Spirit (whether He be in favor of cessationist or continuationist) to rewire me into conformity with King Jesus. I'm not cooperating very well when I let my polemic and (sometimes) sarcasm step out front. In the end, charity must rule my speech. And the words I often read on Team Pyro seems often to be absent of the beauty I see in 1 Corinthians 13.

In many (okay...most) posts I read arrogance and rudeness (vv. 4-5). I "sense" an insistence on one's own way (v. 5). I feel irritation and possibly resentment (v. 5). Take it as a loving reproof, because were you guys here in my quaint little home office right now, I might just move in on you and give you a warm embrace...I love you guys that much (touchy-feely AND tearfully, sincerely, and genuinely thankful for you). But the corrective question here is this? Are others hearing a noisy gong or clanging symbol (v. 1)?

I want to see patience and kindness (v. 4). I want to feel a rejoicing with the truth (v. 6), and not a battling with it. When all else is going, including my belief in the charismatic gifts of tongues and prophecy, love is left. Charity remains.

Take or leave it guys. I love you all sincerely and thank God for you.

But biblically is there a sense of love bearing all things that comes across in each post?

Is there a sense of love believing all things? Believing the best about others...believing that whatever mixed up things they think or believe (as is true with all of us...humility demands it) they are trying to pursue the Master? And if they are wrong and we are right, do we believe they want to change and do it right...do it better? Do we believe they have the Spirit and can change?

What about hoping all things? Do we hope for their change? If so, by what means do we effect this change? Do we pray for them? In my own life, I have told my wife and pastor and friends here that when I'm polemic and sarcastic, it usually means I'm not genuinely praying for the ones I talk about...like I did Joel Osteen in my care group a month ago!

Am I enduring all things? Not in a sarcastic sense (Yes...Oh God Yes! We are enduring with all the nonsense out there every post!). No, I mean a charitable, love-motivated endurance...the kind expressed in 2 Timothy 2:24-25.

"The Lord's servant must NOT be quarrelsome but KIND to EVERYONE, able to teach, PATIENTLY ENDURING evil, correcting his opponents WITH GENTLENESS. God may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth..."

The greatest of all attributes is love. A charitable spirit goes farther than all the brightest polemics in the world. I would encourage Team Pyro, hopefully in a spirit of charity, that Paul and Jesus ministered TO those with whom they disagreed...and not against them. It is only in passing comments about those with whom Paul disagreed that we find his view of them...BUT ONLY AFTER he had practiced what he preached in 2 Timothy 2:24-25...and 1 Corinthians 13.

I've got all kinds of ideas about how this COULD happen, given the influence and contacts and relationships you guys have. Like a blog with regular interaction and charitable communication and correspondence with them. Or not. But as one of my mentors, the famous Big Mac, taught me personally and privately, if you preach and teach the truth with gentleness, you will have to correct error much less often, because those who are in error will more often be attracted to it.


And forgive me if I was uncharitable here!

Solameanie said...

I'll raise one further. Note Jesus' comments to the seven churches in Revelation. Some received both praise and condemnation, some received just praise, while others received only condemnation. It all depended on what the churches were up to.

Therefore, it is not always necessary to offer praise to a church or ministry model when the fruit of the ministry seems charnel. Embalmed corpses are preserved typically through the funeral, but the eventual decomposition is even more nasty.

Bill Honsberger said...

btw - if one looks at the Willow Creek Association site, you can see that it is not only Bryan M coming, but a veritable Murderers Row of the Emergent crowd coming to Willow for several different conferences. Not a pretty picture...

Spurgeonwannabe said...

I have a similar story to the point of your post - when I was in Bible College the professors critized my thesis because I didn't say anything positive about Open Theism - this deeply alarmed me and fortunately I was in ministry with a mentor at the time. I asked my mentor what to do - he asked me why should we affirm the positive points of heresy? I took a massive beating from the review board because I wasn't "gracious" with such nonsense.

I am not really sure what you call this kind of new movement but it is creeping up everywhere around us - this new kind of fascism puts on the guise of grace yet ostracizes those who do not share the same vantage point. In some ways I think it is the Pharisees attitude all over again.

There is little (if no) resources for the modern student in Bible College to defend themselves against the new "Grace Fascists".

FX Turk said...

I think if we want to talk about being uncharitable -- that is, not in the unwillingness to give alms, but, as we might find at m-w.com, "severe in judging" -- again, let me suggest something: I can't find anyone on the internet who consistently uses the term who doesn't have these two problems --

[1] They tag almost all opinions presented as counterpoint to their own as "uncharitable".

[2] They have never once admitted that they themselves have been actually be uncharitable or wrong.

You know: we don't use that term around here because it's so frankly abused and such a dodge of legitimate criticism. As I page through Scripture, Paul had a heck of a time with people dealing with him "uncharitably", but he didn't spend entire epistles kvetching about whether or not he got a fair hearing from this one or that one -- he simply refuted their complaints, pointed at Christ as savior, and then moved on.

And one of the remarkable things Paul said often was in the form of "act like men", or "act like a good soldier" or "fan your own fire of faith" -- meaning buck up.

The most significant problem in internet discourse today is that people get their feelings hurt early and they use that as an excuse to refuse to respond. And if I started naming names here, it wouldn't just be "liberals" or "charismatics" who would be in this group of self-exonerating non-engaging cardinals and antipopes -- there are plenty of fundies and so-called "reformed" types who have this problem as well. The list of names is hereby with-held for the sake of trying to keep this post on-track.

And -that- said, at some point someone is going to have to get a little more serious about whether or not they take a lot of time to listen and then respond in detail before they can start waving off criticism because it is "uncharitable". Phil ran his post past me and Dan before he put it up, and frankly I told him I thought Dr. Warnock got off completely light in this post.

The Willow Creek "confession" and "wake up call" is one of those things you can't script -- because it's so amazingly self-parodying. The response to finding out that program-driven "seeker friendly" activity is to start a new program? In the words of Doug Pagitt, "wow wow wow wow". And for Dr. Warnock to fault Phil for saying plainly that Willow Creek has done more harm than good in the last 30 years seems a little, um, ignorant of the record on both sides.

Lastly, doesn't anyone think it's a little __________ (you fill in the blank, so you can't blame me for being uncharitable) of Dr. Warnock to fire off a scatter-shot post which includes all kinds of name-dropping, and the e-mailing said post to the principles in order to get a reaction out of them?

Uncharitable? I think the only good judgment the good doctor showed was to try to ensnare Phil in this little scheme rather than another member of TeamPyro.

Offer to debate stands.

Solameanie said...


I never thought I'd see the term "kvetching" on TeamPyro. Congratulations!

Proposed new feature for this blog to throw in a bit of fun now and then. The TeamPyro "word of the week." Preferably something to send people scurrying for the closest Merriam-Webster.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

'Tis a good discussion amongst friends.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

(First-time poster) I agree with both Dr. Warnock and Phil Johnson!

Qualification: I'm not as hard on WC as Phil is because I think a considerable number of people have come to a saving faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior because of WC being used by God to spread the Gospel.

That being said, I do agree with Phil that he need not conform to unsolicited external guidelines that are imposed upon him as to what constitutes a proper and "nice" approach (although I do note that there is so much emphasis on Christian leaders to be "irenic" in assessments).

Lastly, one thing that does concern me greatly about WC is their aggressive approach to "egalitarianism". I think this is aberrant theology and not a good ecclesiastical practice. But I do acknowledge that from the criteria of numbers, WC is doing very well despite being expressly egalitarian in their theology and ecclesiology.

Matt Gumm said...

One's "tone" is not always the most important factor in raising a caution about false doctrine.

Phil, I'd love to see you expand on this thought sometime. Perhaps in the upcoming Truth War discussion. Just off the top of my head, I'd say that in Scripture, the closer something comes to turning people away from gospel, the more strident the tone is in decrying it.

Don said...

Okay, so let me get this straight. Willow Creek was founded on the concept of “rediscovering church”, right? Now after thirty years they’ve decided to take out a clean sheet of paper and rethink all of their old assumptions. Does that mean they are now re-rediscovering church? I’m just sayin’.

And I guess that's the thing I find so disconcerting. After all these years of being a so-called authority on “rediscovering church” it turns out that to a large degree, what they were rediscovering wasn’t really church at all. And we're supposed to find something nice to say about that?

It also highlights the “suckling pig” mentality that i think permeates America’s program driven church’s today. This is a problem that Willow’s ministry strategies have helped to foster in many ways. For me this issue has become one of my greatest pet peeves. If we’re really serious about “rediscovering church” I think the first thing that we need to rediscover is that church is not a product to be consumed.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Wouldn't it be neat if they would decide to rediscover the Bible?

Or Cent might say, that they would decide to absolutely kvell over the Bible.

Oy vey!

Mike Riccardi said...

TUAD: I'm not as hard on WC as Phil is because I think a considerable number of people have come to a saving faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior because of WC being used by God to spread the Gospel.

This is another thing I hear all the time: "You can't be mad at them; God's using them!"

Not picking you here, TUAD... so don't be offended, but I can't stand this idea. In my opinion, it shows an utter ignorance of God's total sovereignty in all things.

What am I talking about? My point is that God uses everything that happens in the world to do exactly what He wants to do. That is, there is no virtue in the notion, "God's using that." God uses the vilest forms of sin and depravity in His plan of salvation. I remember MacArthur saying in one sermon, "If God'll use Balaam's ass he'll use anything, right?"

So can I call for a cessation of this argument? I'm not saying we ignore the idea that we judge by the fruit, but for places like Willow Creek and Saddleback, if people do get saved its in spite of their programs, not because of them.

And by the way, I thought Frank's last comment was superb. I'd paste the whole thing in my comment for emphasis, but that'd just be silly.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Here's the crux in the form of a question: Does Willow Creek preach a true gospel?

Solameanie said...

Wouldn't it be so much easier if we would just simply open the Bible and do what it says instead of spending lots of dollars, weeks and years on the latest hot idea that comes out of a publishing house or celebri-pastor on how to grow your church?

Preach the Word of God and live the Word of God. Somehow, I have a niggling little hunch that the Holy Spirit just might act on that and voila, people get saved, taught and discipled. Go figure.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Hi Mike Riccardi,

I hear ya bro'. No offense taken. Your argument is actually the same one that I make against egalitariansim.

An egalitarian will tell me that it's a good thing to have women be permitted to rule over and have authority over men (contra 1 Timothy) because there have been "good" fruit borne out of their ministry.

I tell them that this so-called "good fruit" may have seeds of destruction embedded within it. And that discerning "good fruit" from "bad fruit" is notoriously difficult and far be it from me to say that I can make such discernments!


Nash Equilibrium said...


Logic alert?

I tell them that this so-called "good fruit" may have seeds of destruction embedded within it. And that discerning "good fruit" from "bad fruit" is notoriously difficult and far be it from me to say that I can make such discernments!

I'm confused... isn't that exactly what you did, in saying that the fruit coming out of WC hasn't all been bad?

Solameanie said...

Since we're using fruit as part of the discussion here, let's climb the tree and really have a good look. One apple tree can yield both good, unblemished apples, along with other apples that are worm-infested, bug-infested, and with a few rotten apples. If the tree ceases to yield good apples, and for whatever reason yields unacceptable fruit, the tree gets doctored and in the end, cut down if it can't be repaired.

Jesus had a few things to say about fruit and trees. If a fig tree kept yielding bad fruit, He was concerned about it. In the parable, the initial reaction of the orchard owner was to cut the thing down. However, he was willing to doctor the tree to see if its productivity could be improved. But what was the owner's instruction? If there was no tangible improvement the next year, the tree was ordered cut down and thrown into the fire. Otherwise, it was just wasting the ground.

Of course, there are proper contexts to all of this and I am not ignoring that in the least. However, I do find it instructive to the current discussion, and in keeping with Jesus' words of warning to the seven churches in Revelation. What did He say to Ephesus? If they didn't repent, he'd remove their lampstand.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I'm confused... isn't that exactly what you did, in saying that the fruit coming out of WC hasn't all been bad?" (Stratagem)

I don't think it's a logic alert per se. As Centurion wrote, just because there's not a mention of "the good", it does not mean that it's fair to infer that the person noting the deficiency has nothing good at all to say about the other party. Or visa versa.

Besides, I confess to my own shortcomings as far as being able to discern things with infallibility. God permits me to get many things correctly, but I'll willingly own up to my own errors of wrongful discernment.


P.S. I'm willing to go out on a real big limb and say that it's mixed fruit at WC. Just like any other ministry/church/denomination.

We all live by grace. We just pray that more good fruit will be produced than bad fruit by being faithful to Christ.

Rob Wilkerson said...

To the Mighty Centuri0n:

[1] They tag almost all opinions presented as counterpoint to their own as "uncharitable".

Ouch...did I do that? Does Adrian do that? That felt uncharitable. But I have thick-skin.

[2] They have never once admitted that they themselves have been actually be uncharitable or wrong.

Ouch...did I do that too? I thought I gave an example of where I had been wrong or uncharitable.

What seems missing, my dear brother, is the "tone" of "a nursing mother taking care of her own children" (1 Thess. 2:7), "being affectionately desirous" (v. 8), and "a father with his children" (v. 11).

This is the gentleness and kindness in "tone" with which we are to deal with everyone - from new believers like the Thessalonians all the way to false teachers like those in Ephesus where Timothy was pastoring.

Stefan Ewing said...

The good Doctor was kind enough to be the first person to leave a comment on our new blog, when he pointed us to his post on this matter. Therefore, I seem to have been drawn into it this debate as an "active bystander" (if there is such a thing).

Let me just say this: Phil, Frank, and Dan sometimes come across as hard-edged, but if they applied a more soft-gloved tone towards erroneous teaching and practice*, would we still also get such unwaveringly committed, sound teaching on discernment, discipleship, and the nature and the governance of the local and universal church? I'm not so sure.

When I was a brand-new believer and naively Arminian in my worldview, it was precisely TP's unflinchingness—based on a sound understanding of Scripture—that caused me to search my heart, and start to study, understand, and accept the teachings of our Spiritual ancestors (that capital "S" is intentional). Out of that process has come a limitless outpouring of grace, such as I couldn't have conceived even less than a year ago.

I don't necessarily always agree 100% with all of this blog's author's positions or styles (and there are some secondary doctrinal matters on which Phil, Frank, and Dan actually disagree), but in TP's inimitable style, you can't get the kit without the kaboodle.

*When I write "erroneous teaching and practice," I'm thinking specifically in this instance of the seeker-sensitive megachurch model; and not continuationism, Arminianism, or the like, which are arguably matters of secondary importance.

Stefan Ewing said...

To be persnickety, "this blog's author's" should be "this blog's authors'"—but I didn't want to delete, edit, and repost my comment yet again.

Solameanie said...

Um, Rob...

Did the Apostle Paul use a gentle, kind tone with the Galatian heretics?

Just asking.

Kim said...


I remain convinced that this is a trait that the English are pre-disposed to. We're so very apologetic, we really feel the need to qualify every criticism with something nice.

I wonder if here in Canada, our English heritage contributes to our tendency to do the same thing.

Stefan Ewing said...


I've been musing on the same thing.

Nash Equilibrium said...

TUAD: Thanks for the reply. I'm not criticizing that you are judging the fruit of WC; actually I applaud it, to the extent you have done it.

Sometimes when I hear something that sounds like the modern "I can judge good fruit, but I can't judge bad fruit" mindset, it sets me off before I catch myself. Sorry!

FX Turk said...


My favorite counter-examples from the charity police are the ones with a sample size of one post.

If you're calling this:

I'm not cooperating very well when I let my polemic and (sometimes) sarcasm step out front. In the end, charity must rule my speech. And the words I often read on Team Pyro seems often to be absent of the beauty I see in 1 Corinthians 13.

an admission of doing wrong, tell the Chiropractor that when you go see him for that pain in your shoulder. He'll recognize immediately the signs of patting one's self on the back, and it'll make his job much easier.

As to "tone", I've been listening to and considering the vibe from the "humble orthodoxy" guys lately, and there's an interesting turn of phrase these guys have adopted which I really like, which goes something like this:

There's a phony kind of humility which people champion these days. That version counts indecision and lack of clarity as "humility", when it is actually a gross form of arrogance -- an arrogance which refuses to be conformed to truth.

Live it, baby. That's incarnational humility -- admitting that some things are bad and no amount of smiling or soft-talk will change it.

I'm all for appealing to imago dei in people, but it is completely fraudulent to say that this imago only responds to the intellectual, philosophical, or syllogistic equivalent of sugar and spice.

Back for more later.

Mark B. Hanson said...

"It has a wonderful cherry flavor. Of course, it's poison. I think, though, that the skull and crossbones label is a bit of an overreaction to the potential danger."

Ridiculous, right? We take much better care of our physical health (most of us) than our spiritual health.

Mike Riccardi said...

This is the gentleness and kindness in "tone" with which we are to deal with everyone - from new believers like the Thessalonians all the way to false teachers like those in Ephesus where Timothy was pastoring.

Ditto, on what the Meanie said.

I disagree, Rob, with the idea that we have to be that way with everyone, precisely because Paul did not use such a motherly, nurturing tone. Aside from all of the instances that keep getting cited and ignored, you have Paul repeatedly being sarcastic with the Corinthians throughout his second letter (see 10:1 and 11:1, for two off the top of my head).

And he certainly wasn't that way with false teachers as he dished out the anathemas (Gal 1:6-10, instance).

J Wragg said...

Rob Wilkerson –
Here’s the challenge with some of your perspective:
If you thought some other Christian was in serious error and vulnerable to more of it, an urgent, firm, and perhaps reproving “tone” would seem appropriate. Our paths diverge over what is deemed “serious error”.
The Willow Creek experiment, like all of evangelicalism’s popular fads, may be the brainchild of well-intentioned believers but its 30 year reign has been one of the most disruptive to the church. The movement’s pragmatic roots have lured tens of thousands of churches away from true biblical ministry. Truths such as the authority and sufficiency of scripture, human depravity and the universal necessity of the cross, the priority of biblical preaching, and the purpose of the church have been denigrated (wittingly or not) by their public opinion-driven model.
Frankly, I’m weary of so many who want a kinder, gentler critique of these architects of modern ministry, because they’re never around when the fallout occurs. Should M. Lloyd Jones have used a softer “tone” when he sternly warned his colleagues about snuggling up to the Anglican Archbishop during the Graham crusades some decades ago? Surely some were saying, “Don’t you see all the positives toward a new ecumenism?”
Admittedly, some of my own severe criticisms are the result of having previously tried the “appeal” approach to no avail. It seems that those of us who’ve consistently distanced ourselves from the “we can learn a lot from Willow Creek” crowd are simply tired of the movement’s defenders not taking full responsibility for the outcome. Even WC’s “confession” was not a true confession at all!
What they should do is completely scrap their "insights" altogether, and return exclusively to the cross of Christ, trembling at His word in the formulation of their philosophy of ministry! Faithful ministries have been telling WC for years (privately and publicly) that their approach is thoroughly unbiblical. All such criticisms were drowned out by the large numbers and mass appeal.
This recent admission should include a genuine acknowledgment that their most glaring problem wasn't "ignorance" but stubbornness against those who understood biblical ministry more clearly, and tried to tell them.
Why is this important?
Because, as 2Cor 7:11 indicates, true repentance involves restitution and the vindication of God's word and character. Obviously from Paul's perspective, 30 years of not really considering a more biblical approach calls for such radical change that we would have no doubt that they now believe their foundation rested on man's wisdom and not God's.

That’s why this is more “serious” than you make it…

James Scott Bell said...

"What seems missing, my dear brother, is the "tone" of "a nursing mother taking care of her own children" (1 Thess. 2:7)"

Sometimes children need to be spanked. Sometimes they need to be warned in no uncertain terms NOT to play in the street.

There is no "one size fits all" tone mandated by Scripture or circumstance.

The feminization of our culture continues to infect the church. We've been told to get in touch with our inner Richard Simmons for thirty years now, to the point where strong stands backed by reason are considered "uncharitable." Then, hurt feelings become just another weapon in the "conversation."

Just state your case with logic, good writing, some humor if you can, and a shot of beam removing Visine. But don't pout about lack of charity.

Solameanie said...


I was actually going to mention spanking, then thought better of it. And now that I have seen spanking and Richard Simmons referenced in the same post, I am glad that I avoided the topic of corporal punishment altogether.

Excuse me while I shudder all the way to the woodshed.

Mike Riccardi said...

The feminization of our culture continues to infect the church. We've been told to get in touch with our inner Richard Simmons for thirty years now, to the point where strong stands backed by reason are considered "uncharitable." Then, hurt feelings become just another weapon in the "conversation."

VERY well-said. I second it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"VERY well-said. I second it."

I third it. (I.e., I support Johnny Dialectic's argument).

But then again I would since I regard egalitarianism as an aberrant teaching.

Did I ever mention that WC holds egalitarianism as a deeply held doctrine? :-)

terriergal said...

Specifically, he suggests that in last Monday's Pyro-post I ought not to have criticized Willow Creek's pragmatic, program-driven ministry philosophy without first saying something really nice and affirmative about them.

Well, they don't spare any expense at hiring really good trapeze artists for their Christmas program!

Evangelizing the Circus Performers

I mean, really, that's like insisting we say something good about Jezebel. Well so she has nice clothes/hair/makeup I guess!

Solameanie said...

Not to be a meanie, but I sort of want to draw attention again to something Phil mentioned in his post. Is it striking anyone forcefully enough that Brian McLaren - a flat out heretic by my reckoning - is being welcomed as a guest speaker?

The last time I checked, the way the church (and individual Christians) are supposed to deal with false teachers is to show them the door, not give them aid and comfort. What's next? Will the governing body of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society be given seminar positions in the next conference?

Nash Equilibrium said...

Not to be a meanie, but I sort of want to draw attention again to something Phil mentioned in his post. Is it striking anyone forcefully enough that Brian McLaren - a flat out heretic by my reckoning - is being welcomed as a guest speaker?

I SO agree! For the life of me, I cannot understand why a significant part of the Evangelical church refuses to roundly repudiate the McLaren McGospel. The only difference I can see is that he names himself as an Evangelical, and many people are afraid to say, "hey, you're no Evangelical, so get out of here!" (...the feminization topic creeps in again..)

I can't figure which WC invitee speaker is worse: McLaren or Jimmy Carter. Better if they would dis-invite both.

threegirldad said...

Since others have already provided examples of Paul's tone when confronting false teachers/teaching, I'll add this excerpt from a letter that Calvin wrote to Socinus:

"Were I, under the pretence of indulgence, to encourage you in a fault which I judge so ruinous, I should certainly act toward you a treacherous and cruel part. Wherefore I am willing, that you should now for a little be offended by my seeming asperity, rather than that you should not be reclaimed from those curious and alluring speculations, by which you have been already captivated. The time will come, I hope, when you shall rejoice, that you have been awakened even in this violent manner, from your pleasing, but fatal dream."

Jeff said...

Something nice about Willow Creek,
It sure is nice that they aren't in my baptist association. Is that good enough?

FX Turk said...


"HA HA" even!

rickB said...

shouldn't we survey the pyro reader's and see if:

a. they feel like WC should change speakers

b. or if they feel like Phil should say kind things about them before tearing them up.

Jugulum said...


I don't think you have to start every critical post with something nice. Charity police would do well to pay attention to the harsher examples of language used both by Jesus himself and by Paul. Someone who exhorts hard-edged teachers to be "gentle and reverent", who can't also account for language like "white-washed tombs" and "blind men" and "I wish they would mutilate themselves"--well, they're clearly missing something.

I'm not familiar enough with this exchange with Dr. Warwick to judge where lies the right. I suspect that his criticism was unwarranted. I suspect that your polemic against Willow Creek was appropriate. I appreciate the strength of TeamPyro's style. (See stefan's comments above about the value of your unflinchingness.)

But as I read your interaction with Rob Wilkerson, I have the following thought/caution for you. (I won't call it a criticism, because I don't know whether you need it. I don't know if you've committed the following error, but it would sure be easy to do so.)

Don't let other people's hyper-active charity sensors make you forget the need for your own properly-functioning sensor. And don't assume that hypocrisy on the part of people telling you to be more charitable means their criticism has no validity.

Rob did bring up a number of important verses that speak to a loving, gentle style. I don't know how to synthesize all the biblical data here. It's complex, and I'm a terrible judge. I don't know when to be more gentle, when to be more hard-edged, and how to combine the two.

My own tendency is to be too "charitable", winding up on the milquetoast side of the equation. I naturally find myself starting any criticism with an affirmation. Case in point, this comment. Though I do so less to "soften the blow" than to make sure that I'm clearly communicating just what the blow is. (If you're not clear about what you're criticizing about a teacher/teaching, people will get the impression you're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.)

I often wonder if TeamPyro is being too harsh--but I also often roll my eyes at the ludicrous oversensitivity some people display. I don't know where the balance lies, but I do hope you're making a practice of thoughtfully examining yourself to try to achieve that balance.

Jugulum said...

Er...Hang on. Who's Dr. Warwick? *ahem* That should be Warnock.

Douglas said...

Bill Hybels, just like Rick Warren, has preached a distortion of the gospel for decades and on the whole gotten away with it and people grizzle about the tone of those who expose him????? Does one have to paint sweet smelling flowers around their words all the time as they go about the task of showing these facts? It is astounding the deception and the blindness in the professing church. Things are only going to get worse with men like Bill Hybels bringing more false teachings and false teachers in. Show me where Bill Hybels actually preaches the true gospel. I cannot find where Bill Hybels proclaims the biblical gospel. A distortion of the gospel, yes, but the full-orbed gospel, no.

Here are a series of articles by pastor Gary Gilley written some years ago and they are just as relevant today:

The Market-Driven Church - Part 1 (June 2000)
The Market-Driven Church - Part 2 (July 2000)
The Market-Driven Church - Part 3 (August 2000)
The Market-Driven Church - Part 4 (September 2000)

Who has studied the above series of articles and are they true or not and if they are true what are the consequences? Ideas have consequences don't they?

Willow Creek: Conversion Without Commitment
Laura M. Kaczorowski
Distinguished Majors Honors Thesis Paper
University of Virginia
Department of Sociology
May 11, 1997

The Gospel According to Hybels & Warren
Nathan Busenitz

Church Growth Gone Mad
A sobering look at the church growth seeker-sensitive models
Copyright 2003
Clay Miller

Protestant No More: Willow Creek Infiltrated by a Mystic Quaker Movement Called Renovare
By Mary Fairchild - March 2003

I know I have posted the above four articles previously, but how many supporters of Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren's model of doing church have actually read them and studied them? Or are you not allowed to read them? Is that old threat over your head; "Never criticize what God is blessing?" Or is your loyalty to Bill Hybels and others so strong you do not dare listen to criticism?

Mike Riccardi said...


Can I get a reference for that Calvin quote?

threegirldad said...

Mike Riccardi,

Sure. Here you go.

FX Turk said...

Tim --

I am sure that, at some point, you'd be willing to point out what I said that was uncharitable.

ezekiel said...

And folks fuss at Phil for not talking nice when he points out that the people of Willow Creek have played the harlot with the daughters of ....

Numbers 25: 7And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand;

8And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.

9And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

Some of those 24,000 if not all would have probably preferred that Phinehas had acted sooner. I wonder how many are dying from the current plague.......

We find Phinehas again in Judges 12:11-28 fighting against wickedness. That resulted in the loss of most of the tribe of Benjamin and the Lord was on his side.....

In both these cases, the sin was in the camp, within the nation of Israel. Today it is in what we call the association. But until action is taken the plague won't be stayed.

I can almost hear them now. "Now Phinehas, you know better than to do that, you are supposed to show them love, and talk nice to them. Don't make them angry, and above all don't point out their sin. Thats judging them and we all know, thou shalt not judge lest ye be judged"

Phil, if you get any more charitable we are going to have to take your keyboard away and get you a spear.

puritanicoal said...

As I listened to the recent Doug Pagitt interview on Way of the Master, I came to a realization, and this extends to Brian McLaren, et al. - we are not dealing with a misinformed, straying segment of "the church" - it is a cult. Given that, and seeing Willow Creek's full-hearted embrace of Brian McLaren as keynote speaker at a YOUTH event, I think Phil was being extremely kind.

Strong Tower said...


And you know something about Calvin? His friends and peers said that he was of the most gentle and kind spirit, the most humble of men.

Once I tried to explain the king who comes gentle and humble on the foal of a bottom (can't say ass, its to harsh), and how he got down and made a whip of cords and was gentle. They didn't get it.

The Scripture's definition of words is a little different than ours. It discribes a tongue as a tiny member that sets a forest on fire negatively, and then describes it as a flame of fire setting the world on fire, positively. A minister of fire, that cuts both ways.

There is a tongue of vacilene. It's flamable but hard to set on fire. It kinda sits in your mouth with a bad taste coated with petroleum distaltes and fats and gives you that nyung, nyung feeling that is not quite emesis producing, and really doesn't want to swallow either. Jesus' attitude was that the luke warmness really should be spit out, or cut out if need be. How long will you vacillate between two opinions? There is the tongue that is forked, it tells you to take either path. There is the tongue that is sharp and pointed, that says take the right path. Then there is the tongue that halts. It will not decide, fearing rebuke, it just burys itself and mutters that the Lord of the manner is a harsh task master.

Mike Riccardi said...

But you know what's scary, puritanicoal? So many professing evangelicals disagree so strongly with you. I'm most definitely not one of them. But if you were to go even to other blogs of respected evangelicals, you would see the commenters would flip out on you.

How is it that there is such a disconnect between what's discerned as "merely error" and what's heresy?

Thanks, 3GD. Archived it. ;o)

candy said...

I personally do not see a problem with tough love. It is needed in today's climate of tolerance and enabling of bad teaching, bad habits, etc. As a teacher, when my students do not do their homework, I practice tough love. I think tough love is earned though. My students know I love them because of our day to day interactions, so when I do practice tough love and make them accountable and suffer the consequences of their lack of homework, they feel the heat and it is uncomfortable. My students know I expect the best from them.

The following are excerpts from an article I read today from www.christianpost.com

...will this entertainment preaching draw the numbers? It will, for a while, but as Ecclesiastes will attest, even noble work at the expense of relationships proves meaningless. Research has revealed that no matter how innovative worship services, or how attractive church programs, if there is no relationship development that is nourishing and fulfilling, people lose their interest after a maximum period of approximately six weeks.[6] These people leave the church disillusioned, and disappointed, and some lose their interest in Christianity completely. Clever approaches or high profiled personalities in the pulpits to get people to come to church will work only for a short while. What works better, in making people feel at home in a church, are right relationships. Preaching the truth, planting the seed, and being involved in a ministry of genuine care, where people feel they are being considered as of worth is what works. If churches are faithful in that, the soil God has prepared will bear fruit.

...As Nancy Pearcey attests, “If you want to know what a Christian leader is really like, don’t ask his peers or board members or adoring fans. Ask how he treats his support staff. That is a lesson Jerram Barrs presses upon seminary students at the Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary. ‘When I come to visit your church someday, I will not ask people about what a great preacher or leader you are,’ Barrs says. ‘Rather I will talk to the secretaries, the office staff, the janitors and cleaners and ask them what it is like to work with you. That will tell me far more about the kind of ministry taking place in the church, and whether you are the kind of leader Christ desires for His Church.’”[7] The pastor’s relationship with the members of his congregation is also of vital importance in determining his spiritual leadership qualities.

Frank states, As I page through Scripture, Paul had a heck of a time with people dealing with him "uncharitably", but he didn't spend entire epistles kvetching about whether or not he got a fair hearing from this one or that one -- he simply refuted their complaints, pointed at Christ as savior, and then moved on.

And one of the remarkable things Paul said often was in the form of "act like men", or "act like a good soldier" or "fan your own fire of faith" -- meaning buck up.

There are times where Paul claimed his right to tough love such as in Philemon, "I, Paul, am writing you with my own hand. I will repay, not to mention to you that you owe me even your own self besides. ...Having confidence in your obedience..."

Paul was able to encourage men to "act like men" because he was first and foremost an example and a testimony of the love of Christ and the sacrifice of self. How can one argue against a man who suffered innumerable trials, traveled far and wide to visit the churches, and spoke boldly before any and all knowing that he could suffer immensely as a result.

I think one of the problems is not that issues get addressed but that we easily fall into personal attacks against each other. I spent a summer at a wilderness camp in one ongoing debate all summer long over Arminianism vs. Calvinism. It was so much fun. Some people were passionately debating nose to nose at times (and knocking off each other's baseball hats), but since we all worked together, we kept to the issues (except the hat episode), and did not resort to personal attacks or belittling of each other's understanding at the time.

Rick Potter said...

“Let's call that Johnson's Fifth Axiom of Common Sense.”

I don’t know…this doesn’t sit well with me. The 5th Axiom of Common Sense philosophy says “That there is a certain regard due to human testimony in matters of fact, and even to human authority in matters of opinion”. I believe your argument is much stronger that that. I propose we call it “Johnson’s Axiom of Principium Essendi”.

By the way – if you object to this proposal – well, it’s your own fault. You recommended a book a while back and I read it…..and loved the section “Common Sense and Common Ground”. The book? Reasons for Faith – K. Scott Oliphint.

Doug McMasters said...

"Just state your case with logic, good writing, some humor if you can, and a shot of beam removing Visine."

And that is precisely the raison d'etre of Pyromaniacs. If you want something different, go visit your local Christian bookstore where there's plenty of fluff for everyone.

Magister Stevenson said...

Just when I think I've seen everything on this site, someone breaks out the Genitive of the Gerund--from the verb "to be" no less.
You guys do have the smartest readers!

FX Turk said...


That's ugly, dude. Whether it's true or not, I'm not sure I like your tone ...

Anonymous said...

Just a note to all: My hubby met Mr. Turk not long ago and said he's a harmless, little fuzz ball and rather charitable.

threegirldad said...

Whaddaya know! The truth about Frank Turk finally comes out. ;-)

James Scott Bell said...

Now we have to get in touch with our inner fuzz ball?


FX Turk said...

And I certainly don't like the tone of THAT comment, Julie. Don't be ugly, sister.

BTW, Julie's husband is a cartoonist and I wish I had half his talent.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking that a cartoon of CenturiOn the Fuzz Ball is in the works...

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I want to share with you all something that you have never heard, and if you have heard it, then you have always emphatically agreed with it, and thereby fully supported the person issuing the wise counsel.

Here's the phrase that all must take to heart and abide by:

"Truth in Love".

As in "speak the truth in love".

See? You never heard that right? And then after that phrase is uttered or written, the other person will nod sagely as if s/he's guided you onto a mind-blowing paradigm shift that you have never before encountered in your whole Christian life. Upon hearing this theological equivalent of "E = mc squared", you would be wise to bow gratefully in acknowledgement of such wisdom.

(Sarcasm off) I have mixed feelings about this aphorism. On the face of it, you can't really disagree with it.

I could probably write a 2-3 page essay about the phrase "truth in love" and how it's (ab)used and all the different perspectives and permutations.

But suffice to say that I think (by the correspondence theory) that truth is objective, while "felt" love is subjective.

For instance, while I think John MacArthur's messages are loving, others will think he's most unloving, most uncharitable and that he's too divisive, too contentious, too harsh, too legalistic, too judgmental, too pharasaic, etc....

That his problem (and perhaps the allegation towards TeamPyro too) is that while he's speaking the truth, he's not speaking it in love, and because he's not speaking it "in love", it effectively nullifies his message whereby the substance/content of what he's saying *can't* be heard, and this somehow justifies people turning him off and tuning him out because they don't like *how* he's saying his message.

Does anybody on this comment thread know what I'm trying to say here?

In my less patient moments... it drives me to holy disgust!

Nick Jesch said...

Enoch: gerundal genitive, indeed, and in latin no less. I was impressed, too. Now, a little exercise in fantasy: Here is Paterfamilias, taking his ease on the front stoop, nose in the Daily, toddler pottering about front yard..the family's two cars at the kerb. Pat notices Toddler, who has just discovered a Monarch butterfly, flitting about, more or less toward the road. Toddler, entranced, follows, totteringly but surely. Pat looks up, notices a large lorry, lumbering our way. Toddler continues, butterfly makes the space between the two cars and across the roadway. Now, which response would be the more "loving" of Pater? "William, it is SO gratifying to observe your ever-progressing prowess at perambulating, and the way you are growing so in your notice of your surrounds. Soon enough you'll be at the football with the larger lads, and doing well at your studies. I note with pleasure that the direction of your life is good and proper, though I must remark you've much to learn yet". Or, would it be more loving to shout, loudly and firmly "STOP!!!!! DO NOT GO THERE!!!! COME BACK, NOWWW!!!" Surely, should Pater select the former response to the situation, we shant want to know the rest of the story. The "direction of your life is good and proper" scenario should be cut off in the instant the child makes the road, and the inattentive lorry operator's first note of the predicament is the resounding thump sure to follow. Should Pater choose the second, we can also rest assured he is poised to stand to his feet immediately the child delays responding, run after him, and snatch him bodily, violently if need be, from his certain doom. Yes, there is a time for "gentle and entreating". There is also a time to, as someone mentioned earlier on, take up the lance and go to.

Lin said...

"Does anybody on this comment thread know what I'm trying to say here? "

(jumping up and down) I DO! I DO!

The saying should really be: Tell the truth in love and if it is my idea of truth I will consider it loving.

Hayden said...


Look at the context of the phrase you just quoted "truth in love". (It is found in Ephesians 4:15) It can actually be translated "truthing in love". I just preached on it a week and a half ago. If you would like to hear it, you can find it at:

www.mmccchurch.org; click AM sermons, then Ephesians 4:14-16.

Not that I am the expert on this at all. Maybe it might help you understand the tension you have.

Basically, the verse means that we speak truth with an attitude of love. Love to who? The one who hears. Love in what way? by warning against false teaching (v 14). For what purpose? For us to "grow up".

Phil does that quite well in my opinion. I know Phil and he does have a heart for people to know the truth. That is a great example of what Paul is talking about in Ephesians.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Phil does that quite well in my opinion. I know Phil and he does have a heart for people to know the truth. That is a great example of what Paul is talking about in Ephesians."

Thanks Hayden. If I can, I will listen to your sermon. BTW, your comment above illustrates very nicely what I was saying about the subjective perception of what love is. Now you and Phil and others believe that Phil was speaking the "truth-in-love." But what I gather from Dr. Warnock and Rob is that Phil was NOT speaking the truth in love. They were objecting to his tone.

Also, it's not that I have tension with the phrase "truth in love", it's more that I think it's being abused, perhaps unintentionally, and that a possible consequence is that folks are subconsciously silenced because they are fearful or concerned that others will think that their feedback will not be received as "loving".

P.S. Thanks Lin for jumping up and down! It's nice to know that someone out there understands my frustration.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

I'd like to articulate my concern about the phrase "speaking the truth-in-love" one more time, and with more clarity.

First, I assume that everybody's familiar with the term "Political Correctness" and how it's used. Well, I think there's an analogue that's carried over into churches and it's called "Christian Correctness".

So then the (over)use of the phrase "speaking the truth in love" is a tool for Christian Correctness! It (unwittingly and unintentionally perhaps) is used as a tool to inhibit dissenting opinions that are offered respectfully.

How many times have you conferred with a person after a meeting and they share something very good, and you say: "Why didn't you say anything at the meeting?"

And they say, "Someone might have taken it the wrong way." Or "Someone might have gotten offended."

So then a valuable contribution is lost because of an OVER-emphasis on speaking the "truth-in-love" which has become a bludgeoning battering ram to enforce subjective notions of Christian Correctness!

Heil Christian Correctness!

Kay said...

fuzz ball. fuzz ball.

oh, that's going to give me a stitch...

Rob Wilkerson said...

To my internet Bro. Turk, and my buddies Wragg and McMasters, allow me one more moment of defense on my point.

First, I don't like Willow Creek anything. It franchises a gumball gospel. Is that uncharitable? Perhaps, but it's true. It is sugar-coated Christianity without a Christo-centric gooey middle that makes for long lasting minty fresh gospel breath. Did I ever indicate otherwise? It's always funny to me that when I cry CHARITY! others cry SOFTEE! and initiate and launch the Doug Wilson "Jesus and Paul used sarcasm" ICBM's. That's really wierd to me.

Second, what's also really wierd to me is that if we care to address this at all, most people (such as in this comment thread) fall on one side or the other on this issue. And when they (we) do, we never question ourselves. I reference passages to help us in our charity, and other passages are drawn as if to sword fight. Might a more humble way to handle it be to take the passages, sit on 'em, pray about 'em, and see if there's something they can address in our hearts? I find this to be a mark of charity, while the other position is to cite other passages as if we're in a weight lifting context. Again, forgive me if I'm being uncharitable here. But as someone on this thread said, we need tough love sometimes.

Second, if we care to achieve a "balance" which we as depraved and saved human beings seem to always have a hard time with, we can look to the Savior. I find that there less than a handful of passages in the NT which tell us what Jesus is like.

Take Matthew 11:28-29 for example. One of those few places in the Bible where Jesus tells us what He is actually like as a person. He is meek and lowly in heart and He's looking for weary and burdened people.

These people who are attracted to Willow Creek and other gumball gospels are weary and burdened folks. I know lots of them. That's why they turn to all this empty stuff. But the appeal to them by Jesus is meekness and lowliness, or humility. That's charity, my friends! If we slap 'em with our words, do we expect to win them?

Protecting the gospel doesn't mean getting mean. And that's the way it comes across. If we check our hearts at the door of this blog we'll see the real Jesus, and not the one we obscure or even eclipse with our superimposed concepts. Jesus wasn't two-faced, and neither was Paul. Whatever we see in Paul at Corinth or Galatia is not a different Paul in Thessalonica. And while Paul used sarcasm in Corinth, he spent a whole chapter on charity. Charity holds a whole chapter in this letter as instructive and didactic...yet oddly enough sarcasm and "being tough" do not. Where are we taught in the NT to take the tone sometimes...often displayed in the Team Pyro blog? But we ARE taught to be loving and charitable...not as our hearts tell us, but as the Bible tells us and shows us in the very person of Jesus.

This isn't being a pansy toward false teaching. It isn't milquetoast Christianity. It's Jesus-centered Christianity, where the tone of our message should always befit and adorn and beautify the heart of our message.

Strong Tower said...

And then there is more to Ephesians 4. Like how does one be angry and sin not. How can one have wrath and sin not. In fact the admonition there is to dispose of the busy post haste, before sundown, or it can mean to not let it fester giving the devil a place, but properly disposing of business in the correct manner. Correctness of manner, is another way of saying gentleness, meekness, kindness, with patience, in love and truth. Check out the statement on the thief. This is not just about doxas but praxis, as most epistles are, there are admonitions to right belief, orthodoxy, and right practice, orthopraxy. You cannot get around the mentality in Ephesians. From the treatment of baby christians under the watchful eye of parents, (some were given), to the order and structure of family authority and relationship, all of which Paul says is the mystery of the church. When was the last time you spanked your child, or loudly repremanded them, or what ever. In today's PC culture however, we have lapsed into anomianism. We do not teach to break the law, instead we are permissive in allowance, that is license. We eschew punishment for counsel, when to keep ballanced we need both.

God help us.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

John MacArthur writes: "I’m going to tell you at the beginning what is at stake because of what I am going to say will surely offend those who are devout Catholics. It will surely offend those who believe that Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ. Some will read it as unkind and unloving but nothing is more loving than the truth. To let somebody perish in a false system isn’t loving at all. To rescue people out of a damning and false religion is the only loving thing to do."

From: http://www.biblebb.com/files/MAC/90-291.htm

To reiterate: "Some will read it as unkind and unloving but nothing is more loving than the truth."

Is MacArthur being unloving or loving? You tell me.

Incidentally, I happen to agree with Pastor MacArthur about that. Speaking the truth is the loving thing to do.

I get the impression that to tell a lie, or more accurately, to tell a half-truth, or a shaded truth is regarded by many, many folks as the "loving" thing to do.

And that the hateful thing to do is to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.

Lying is the loving thing to do.
Truth-telling is the hateful thing to do.

Compare: Father of Lies versus "The Way, the Truth, and The Life".

And if I was the Father of Lies, wouldn't I want lying or truth-shading to be regarded as the "loving" thing to do? And for truth-tellers to be painted as doing the hurtful, hateful, divisive thing?

Inversion. Cue up the Twilight zone music!

Gilbert said...

OK. It looks like this board has an average IQ about 100 above mine. And I'm about 3 points south of a 5-point Calvanist. So if you're looking for Latin in this reponse, lovingly move to the next post.


We ARE taught to be loving and charitable.

But when we defend the gospel, we are to do so with a whip, if necessary, as Paul warned he'd do! That *was* in love! He did a lot of tough love in Galatians, including those who preached circumcision:

"You foolish Galatians! You has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified." (Galatians 3:1, NIV)

"As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" (Galatians 5:12, NIV)

Wow! To defend the gospel, Paul calls the entire church "foolish", a VERY strong term of the day, stronger perhaps than being called "idiots". And that's quite biting sarcasm there on the last verse of Scripture! Thankfully, TeamPyro never stoops to rebuking or biting sarcasm, or else they'd be as bad as the Bible!

Finally, in defense of his Father, and his temple, Jesus knocks over tables in justifiable anger over the money changers in the temple.
That was done in love!

Bottom line: the defense the gospel, the true gospel, requires us NOT to be nice. In fact, being nice isn't Biblical. Being gentle isn't Biblical in defending the Gospel. It is how we are to act, but for the sake of the Gospel and our souls, the imagery is that we are to put on the whole armor of God for battle.

Nice is for people who can't handle holiness.

BradySeven said...

I think that it is necessary to preface any criticism directed toward other believers regardless of how strenuously we disagree with them. The John McArthur quote above is a good example, heres another...

Quoted from Whitefield to Wesley:


...The reasons I have given at the beginning of the letter, I think are sufficient to satisfy all of my conduct herein. I desire therefore that they who hold election would not triumph, or make a party on one hand (for I detest any such thing)—and that they who are prejudiced against that doctrine be not too much concerned or offended on the other.

...I am very apprehensive that our common adversaries will rejoice to see us differing among ourselves. But what can I say? The children of God are in danger of falling into error. Nay, numbers have been misled, whom God has been pleased to work upon by my ministry, and a greater number are still calling aloud upon me to show also my opinion. I must then show that I know no man after the flesh, and that I have no respect to persons, any further than is consistent with my duty to my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
This letter, no doubt, will lose me many friends: and for this cause perhaps God has laid this difficult task upon me, even to see whether I am willing to forsake all for him, or not. From such considerations as these, I think it my duty to bear an humble testimony, and earnestly to plead for the truths which, I am convinced, are clearly revealed in the Word of God. In the defence whereof I must use great plainness of speech, and treat my dearest friends upon earth with the greatest simplicity, faithfulness, and freedom, leaving the consequences of all to God.


Perhaps some are guilty of thinking it a "small thing" to criticise those who oppose the truth and therefore fail to deliver the rebuke with the solemnity it deserves. We are dealing with the eternal destiny of souls after all.

Anonymous said...

Rob W.,
I think you are correct. We should pray over the contents of the Bible on dealing with false teachings (this includes all, not just the ones you provided).

Also, as far as "tones" are concerned, would you agree that false teachers (Pharisee) received one that was different than the students (woman at the well)?

I understand what you are saying and I agree, we should treat those who sit in the pews at WC with a loving, kind & gentle tone. The leaders and/or teachers on the other hand...

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

How would you speak the "truth-in-love" to the following Episcopalian Christian? Excerpt:

"A leopard never changes its spots. The hillbilly fundamentalists of old live in suburbia now, with significant wealth and TVs in every room, but they try not to call their swimming pool a “cement pond.”

I mean, what is it like to live your life opposed to science? What do you tell your kids when they bring home their report cards? “A D in biology, that’s great! Knowledge and logic come straight from the devil. Besides, girls don’t need to know such things, they need to submit to their husbands.”

Meanwhile the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion go through incredible contortions trying to figure out how to appease homophobic bigots and Gay people—first one group, then the other. It’s pointless.

The current generation has already made up its mind about Gay people. Youth are in favor of equality and opposed to discrimination. Gay marriage is here, we’re queer, get used to it; meanwhile what’s your carbon footprint?

When will the Episcopal Church realize that StandFirm, David Virtue and Kendall Harmon run blogs that are nothing but online bigot conventions?

Does anyone outside Colorado Springs believe that church growth depends on homo-hatred? Read the polls!

Young Americans have already made up their minds about homophobia. (They’ve also done the same about evolution.) The issue for youth is how to be faithful to Christ while also accepting logic, knowledge and science.

The Episcopal Church, currently intimidated by fundamentalists, happens to be great on Christ, knowledge and science. You’re actually allowed to have a mind ‘n’ everything!

We don’t take that gorgeous Hebrew meditation (Genesis 1) on God as Creator and the supremacy of the weekly Sabbath—the finest PowerPoint ever written—as if it were somehow a scientific statement. It was never intended that way—and the writer would laugh at people who think God can be confined to ink-smudges on paper.

Episcopalians know God as the pulsing, breathing, intimate and personal life-force epitomized in the self-sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Episcopalians really do have something unique to offer about Jesus: find and serve Him in your fellow human beings.

Inasmuch as ye have done this unto the least of these my brethren…

Meanwhile, this is very sad to say if you’re Iraqi, but the Worst President in U.S. History, the instigator of a needless, stupid war, turns out to be the best thing that ever happened to Gay people. He has single-handedly destroyed the religious right that claimed to elect him.

Falwell’s dead; let’s go dancing.++"

From: http://joshtom.wordpress.com/2007/10/30/nyt-evangelical-crackup/

I believe that there are a good number of folks (alright I'll confess... I'm primarily thinking of militant liberals) who will think that you're being UNLOVING or UNCHARITABLE or JUDGMENTAL no matter *how* softly and quietly and gently and sweetly you express your polite disagreement with them.

J Wragg said...

Rob -
This really isn't about others refusing to "consider" the texts you raised. You're welcome to cite passages that you believe apply to charitable dialogue. What you've done, however, is assume that since our words "seem" less charitable, they ARE in fact uncharitable.

You cite passages about the "gentleness" and "humility" of Christ, and others counter with Jesus' very caustic rebukes. Both are correct about those texts, but none of it has anything to do with Phil's post!

You want to invite careful consideration of biblical attitudes, but you've already concluded (by your own comfort level) that the post had crossed a line. When others disagree you accuse them of not really wanting to follow the character of Jesus. This is typical, I might add, of blog-threads that follow definitive posts on controversial issues.

Right about now I can hear someone crying, "But shouldn't love for others be our safeguard against unnecessarily offensive debate?"

I agree that love is our standard, but since when is biblical love ever devoid of strong, sometimes harsh language in the face of dangerous error? As I said before, the issue is not Phil's "tone", but rather our differing perspectives as to the seriousness of the error.

Thanks for considering these thoughts...hope it wasn't too harsh.


Rob Wilkerson said...

I'm a Nacho Libre fan...a big one. And I believe Jerry just put the Anaconda Squeeze on me!

Adrian Warnock said...

I am amazed by these comments in many ways. It seems to me that you guys are saying there are only two ways to respond to false teaching - weak tolerance or harsh rejection. I know you will hate me for this, but over on my place, I have held up Mark Driscoll as a shining example in a video clip of how to hold someone to account with firmness but kindness. Come over to my place to see it.

FX Turk said...


Anonymous said...

I just got off the phone with Joel and he told me that Mark was not very "kind" and/or charitable at the end of that message. But, he was willing to agree that Mark was indeed kind if Dr. Warnock says so.

I'm not saying, I'm just saying...

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

The following is a *suggested* letter written by an Episcopalian pastor that he wishes for another bishop in The Episcopalian Church (TEC) to send to the ArchBishop of TEC:

"Dear Katharine,

There have been numerous public expressions since your elevation to the office of Presiding Bishop that make plain and manifest your departure from the Christian faith. Your adherence to a number of faddish but false philosophies and teachings will lead those you were called to serve to death and darkness and you, unless you repent, to a worse fate than theirs. I have reviewed a number of your sermons, interviews, and press releases and it is evident to me that your positions violate the Scriptural requirement that leaders of the people of God conform to the commands of God. It is apparent from your works and your published words that you endorse teachings that are demonic in origin. I am aware that your statements and actions demonstrate an intention to lead the Episcopal Church, as a whole, into open rebellion against the Almighty God. All these efforts, in my view, display a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and Holy Writ. The Lord Jesus Christ, the prophets and the Apostles, explicitly provide that a minister of the gospel, and indeed the Church as a whole, must accede to God’s will as he has revealed it in Scripture.

I call upon you to repent from your current direction and to lead the Episcopal Church on a new course that recognizes the hierarchical relationship between God and his consecrated ministers. That relationship is at the heart of our mission, as expressed in our consecration vows. Specifically, I sincerely hope that you will change your position, abandon your heresy and urge your followers to do likewise.

If your course does not change, the Lord has revealed that judgment will promptly follow. Millstones await those who lead his little ones astray. I urge you therefore to consider whether you have abandoned the gospel of Jesus Christ -- by actions and substantive statements, however they may be phrased – whether you have offences that warrant divine wrath and judgment.

It grieves me that the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church would seek to lead any of baptized members of the Body of Christ away from his loving embrace. I would remind you of the Lord’s open and infinitely gracious offer to receive you back into the fellowship of his Body. I continue to pray for reconciliation of this situation, and I remain

Your servant in Christ,

Bishop Bob Duncan"

Is this letter a model of "truth-in-love"?

From: http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/7285/

Daryl said...

It sounds kind of like truth in love to me, although I think that it sounds even more like vagueness in love.
A little specificity in the charges would make it more truthful and therefore more loving, in my view.

Phil Johnson said...

Adrian: "It seems to me that you guys are saying there are only two ways to respond to false teaching - weak tolerance or harsh rejection."


You need to go back to the beginning of the thread and remind yourself of what you said and what I replied to.

You suggested that we have a duty always to say something positive about other professing Christians before we criticize their failure to be faithful to essential gospel truths. I gave you multiple examples (including Paul's rebuke of Peter) to illustrate why it's not ALWAYS necessary to use the carrot along with the stick. SOMETIMES error needs to be rebuked sharply, without being diluted with superfluous encouragement for the sake of sounding nice.

The always and the sometimes were the only words under dispute from the start of this thread. If you want to alter the whole basis of our disagreement now and try to claim that we're insisting ALL disagreement must ALWAYS be met with "harsh rejection," then you really owe it to us to point out that sin in our own words, or perhaps even give evidence that we ourselves never show any kindness to anyone whom we disagree with.

But I think you're going to find it pretty hard to substantiate the claim that we're in favor of "harsh rejection" of everyone we disagree with, bar none. If you seriously believe that, Adrian, you need more evidence than your own bare assertion. As Calvin would say, good luck.

Since this is a point I keep making, let me reiterate it a couple more times: Those who are really convinced we are sinfully ungracious to our adversaries ought to be gracious enough themselves to point out our sin in our own words, and cease making these generic accusations. Without evidence, I think the accusations themselves become the bearing of false witness. (See, for example, the commenter at Adrian's blog who described this very thread as "yet another snarkastic meta at TP.") It's possible, you know, to be flat-out mean-spirited and even dishonest under the cloak of addressing someone as "my dear brother." Some people have raised that kind of hypocritical nastiness to a veritable art form.

So while I recognize that this may just be another fruitless plea (and it's at least the twelfth time I have made this request of you, Adrian), it seems a fair enough request: If people are going to persist in making accusations and complaints about our supposed lack of charity, would someone please substantiate those charges with quotations from our own words, rather than repeating the same general accusations ad nauseum?

Otherwise, I'm going to submit the "Phil Johnson is a big meanie" story to snopes.com as an urban legend.

Seriously: if I've truly sinned against someone, I'll ask forgiveness. But if this is all just a ploy to get me to feel bad so I'll say I really don't think charismatics' openness to ongoing revelation is such a dangerous idea after all, it's not going to work—even though I do consider a number of people who hold that opinion my own beloved friends (present company included).

Adrian Warnock said...

I think we keep talking past each other. I am not asking for a touchy-feely vagueness or even for us to ALWAYS say something postive and affirming first. I am asking for an attitude of grace, acceptance and love to be obvious in our communication. I am afraid that for me the parts of the post I have repeatedly mentioned and indeed the whole tone of the post seemed to be unduly harsh. I posted the driscoll video earlier as an example of what I think we should aim for. Pipers book on Wright gets the tone spot on in my humble opinion. To some degree this is a style issue. I just find myself very uncomfortable on a regular basis when I read posts on this blog. I am not the only one, and several people have told me they no longer read your blog as a result. Many people like your tone, and indeed probably like it better than mine. Perhaps we will never understand each other. I guess we should just carry on in our own way. I am interested in part two of your rebuttal of my original specific accusations, however.

FX Turk said...



FX Turk said...

Quoth Dr. Warnock:

I share many of Phil's concerns. I am indeed concerned about some aspects of Willow Creek's ministry philosophy. Personally, I am not sure how to interpret their recent "repentance," and certainly was VERY worried to see that they have invited Brian McLaren to speak at one of their conferences. BUT it bothers me that Phil seemed (at least to me) to be implying that Willow Creek has absolutely nothing to teach us. I am sure that if we fail to recognize something as being good and helpful and true, we fail in our discernment as much as if we blindly accepted everything in a naive way. I know it sounds cliched, but we really must be looking for the good in people, especially in those who have not denied important aspects of the Gospel. It is quite correct to say, "I like what this person says about the following subject, and have learned from them, although I disagree strongly with them on another subject."

Them's the parameters of the discussion. You know?

Phil Johnson said...


I'll say again: I don't think a generic, slapshot, all-purpose criticism of someone's overall "style," is particularly helpful. Ironically, it's not truly charitable, either, especially when the person being incessantly and publicly criticized has repeatedly pleaded for actual examples.

An "example" of something Driscoll recently said doesn't really make any point about why you keep accusing me, either. Is the point you are making that I have never been as charitable as Driscoll was in that excerpt? Or are you saying that every critic of every false teacher ought to always take the same tone Driscoll took in that critique of Osteen?

Because either of those arguments would be demonstrably wrong.

Not to be stubborn here, but I think you need to either defend your original thesis, or else acknowledge my point (that it's not always right to look for the "good" in false teachers or find ways to commend Christians who show an undue tolerance of bad doctrines).

To dismiss the whole matter as "talking past one another" and then expect to move on to part 2 before we actually sort anything out with regard to your underlying complaint isn't going to resolve anything, because your whole argument in the second half is based on the complaint you made in the first half.

If you want to know why I don't always bend over backward to excuse the more sound and sane charismatics from the errors of their more extreme compadres, you need to acknowledge first that biblically there's no principle that forbids us to make pointed criticisms of aberrant doctrines without sandwiching those criticisms between words of praise. That is not the defining characteristic of "graciousness"—and in fact can be sinfully uncharitable when people are being led into error.

Adrian Warnock said...

OK, right now we are making some headway if only in me understanding how my careless comments have mislead you. I was not proposing a formula, merely giving an example. I think one key difference between us is that I see some good in WIllow Creek and you dont. Given that you don't, obviously there is no need for you to point out some non-existent good in them. Nor did I ever mean to imply that to do so was always necessary. Driscoll's video doesnt really point out anything much good in Osteen, yet I hold it up as a great example. I made the mistake of being specific, when what I was trying to say was a more general point. I am stuck in a hard place because at least to my sensitive english eyes your words seem harsh. There seems to be little concern to try and win others over. Speaking personally, I don't like that style. It doesnt come across to me as gracious. And yes, it was the whole post in question.

So, to be clear, I may have unwittingly implied this, but I do not believe that "we have a duty always to say something positive about other professing Christians before we criticize their failure to be faithful to essential gospel truths." That wasn't what I meant to say.

As far as Driscoll was concerned, the example is one of tone. In the specific post we were talking about I didn't think you sounded as gracious a tone as Driscoll does in his video. You may have clear reasons for that, I accept.

I do agree that "there's no principle that forbids us to make pointed criticisms of aberrant doctrines without sandwiching those criticisms between words of praise."

I just think we need to think more carefully about how we can communicate, especially on a public blog which represents Chrisitianty to a very broad audience who do not share many of our suppositions.

I also think that if there is good to be found we should try and find it. If I was from WC reading that post I would have felt alienated, upset and angry. I actually wonder if anyone from that church DID read that post.

As far as us charismatics were concernced I can only reiterate that I thought it was unfair to imply that our core doctrines lead directly to gullibility - again perhaps I misunderstood you there.

We certainly seem to be able to talk about this without really understanding each other which is quite remarkable considering what a strong affinity I usually feel with you. Certainly every time we meet I must say again I am struck by the presence of precisely by the very same traits of humility, love for your opponents, graciousness, and genuine concern for the wellbeing of others which sadly sometimes don't come across (at least not to me) when I am reading some of your posts.

I doubt we will ever agree on this point! But perhaps we don't disagree quite as much as either of us thought.

Adrian Warnock said...

Two more things....

Firstly, I have another post coming out tomorrow which introduces Piper's book which demolishes N.T.Wright in what I believe is a clear but gracious way.

Secondly, I am away on business for a few days so won't be able to enter into the fray quite so much in the comment box (tho I hope to be able to do so a little and certainly look forward to seeing your part two)

Posts will continue to appear on my blog as I have written a bunch before I disappear

threegirldad said...

Dr. Warnock,

Not meaning to "get in Phil's business", but...

Speaking personally, I don't like that style.

In the final analysis, I think this is the crux of the matter. And a big problem results when a person makes a leap from that to "Therefore, you shouldn't use it."

Certainly every time we meet I must say again I am struck by the presence of precisely by the very same traits of humility, love for your opponents, graciousness, and genuine concern for the wellbeing of others which sadly sometimes don't come across (at least not to me) when I am reading some of your posts.


When you're able to return to the fray, I do trust that you will provide some examples. Because, frankly, I'm scratching my head over this characterization, so doing that would be helpful for me (not to mention for Phil). I don't think that is an unreasonable request, and he's made it several times now.

Adrian Warnock said...

I think I have said this already, but for me the example was the entire post on Osteen and the charismatics. What was communicated to me was a disdain for both groups of people. I know Phil well enough to believe that was not what he intended, but at least through my sociocultural spectacles that was what I saw in the words if I didn't know him I would have concluded that he didn't want people like me and willow creekers to read and learn from them.

Stephen said...

There's an article and audio that sums it all up here:


Dr. Morey is has been doing Christian aplogetics for 40 years now. The audio is titled "The Cost of Discernment." He was filling in for Walter martin who was scheduled as the main, but was suddenly taken home to be with the Lord.

Clark Dunlap said...

"We've been told to get in touch with our inner Richard Simmons"
Thats great! But I couldn't find him, so I got in touch with my inner "Expendables"