27 October 2010

Only your weaker eye

by Frank Turk

Those of you not following me on Twitter may have seen my link to "I AM" in the sidebar sometime in the last two days, with the threat that I'm going to blog it. The blog entry follows here, but some preface is necessary.

The first part of the preface has to be this: I think the church, overall, is in trouble. The church is not actually very careful these days about being the church or even knowing what it means to be "the church." I think it's generous to call what passes for Christianity these days "moralistic, therapeutic deism" because "moralistic, therapeutic deism" indicates that the people who practice this stuff think there is actually a moral standard, there is actually a difference between being well and being unwell, and that there is actually a Deity rather than just an invisible rabbit we can talk to or just a vague sense that duckies and puppies are nice. The church is in trouble because its ability to define itself is really as bad as its ever been, but probably not any worse than the worst it has ever been.

So in that sense, with the church in trouble, the second part of my preface here is this: somebody ought to do something about it. Many people look like they are trying, but let's be honest: with all the trying, it's not getting any better. The church is not actually any better off because of the Gospel Coalition; it's not any better off because of Together for the Gospel. The church is not any better off, btw, because of Crossway Publishing or Harvest House or Zondervan; it's not any better off for TBN, CBN, or even our beloved friends at Wretched. So let me suggest something in that vein: continuing to do what we're doing when it's yielding the same ineffectual results is, as it says on the coffee cup, the definition of insanity. We ought to do something, but how about we try something that isn't what is already not working.

So the end of my preface is actually the beginning of my post, which is this video excerpt from an interview with the creators of the movie "I AM".

Now look: the place where that blonde guy loses me entirely is when he starts talking about "the faith world". Personally, I have no interest in "the faith world," as that's perhaps the most nondescript way of saying anything about anything that I can imagine. What is "the faith world"? Is it all religious belief? Is it all merely-optimistic belief? If this fellow, John Ward, wanted to suck all the substance out of the possibility of "conversation" -- conversation being his primary motivator -- from his movie, I think he couldn't have done better than to make this movie for "the faith world".

See: I think the irony is that this video, which claims to be the mission statement behind this movie, has a lot of things right.

That trailer actually gets the plight of the unbeliever exactly right, psychologically if not spiritually. But the problem is that the movie itself doesn't have a different view of God than the unbelievers in that clip.

Look: this movie is a symptom of what's wrong with the church. The problem is not that people think little of church -- that's a symptom, and it's a symptom that the church itself doesn't do anything to overcome. The Problem is that the church is going to wrap itself around this thing which has nothing to do with the church (take notice Lifeway and SBC) and then hope that this vacant, contextless, undeclarative 86 minutes of inconclusive sentimentality will bring people to some closer idea of who and what God is.

And then after that, the people whose hobby it is to care about the church are going to complain that this is not the church, and this is not the Gospel, and this is not Christ -- and nothing will change.

But why? Why, do you think, nothing will change even though some people will engage the subject with theology and apologetics?

This is what I'm thinking: arguments are not going to change the mind of people like the ones who made this movie, and they are also not going to change the minds of those who are in the clip about the empty chair. I know: it's a disaster and it must be a sign of the times that even if van Til and Machen were here to tell these people off, they wouldn't change their minds.

But here's the thing -- it seems to me that if Christ died for our sins in accordance with Scripture, and was buried, and then raised on the third day in accordance with Scripture, our primary job is not to argue with people who think that the primary objective of church is to make it go poorly for those who are gay; our job, if Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, is not to convince others that we don't have defective and submissive genes which force us to seek out a reward for doing good things; our job, if Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end, is not to start a conversation.

Our job is to tell them that Christ is Real, and show them that Christ is Real.

It's stunning to me that we can show everyone we think the politics of our nation is real by always and in every way being on about it -- the debt is too high, our freedom is in jeopardy, the Constitution is violated, and so on. We can make much out of making sure Harry Reid doesn't get re-elected.

But how, exactly, do we make much out of Christ? By making the service on Sunday longer or shorter, more or less boring or more or less emotive? Or showing a movie? Or by starting arguments with nitwits who don't really understand that their creative efforts are filthy rags?

Really -- that's how we demonstrate that Christ is the most precious thing in all creation?

Listen: I know you want TeamPyro to blog this movie and tell you that your version of Christianity is better than this version of "the faith world", but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the script-writers and Producers, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven -- and that goes for all manner of Script-writers, and all manner of Producers, including the ones you think you like and are like.

You are not more faithful because you can see the flaws in this movie from a mile away using only your weaker eye. You are more faithful when you bring the actual Gospel to actual people who are actually dying because it's real, and because they need it as much as you do.

If you will do that rather than sort of huffily object to this movie, you will suddenly be doing something more important than apologetics: you will be preaching the Gospel to all living things, and making disciples of them.

That would be something new to try for all of us. I wonder if you're up to it?


Steve Berven said...

I think you make an important distinction here, Frank. Pointing out the error in others, or in their philosophies, is not preaching the Gospel. Our job isn't to ensure the sanctity and purity of Doctrine, congratulating ourselves for our piety in the fervor of our defense of the faith. And I'll put myself first as guilty of all charges on this account.

Jesus occasionally called the Pharisees out for what they had done to the word of God, but the VAST majority of his time and effort was communicating WHO GOD IS. Yes, he brooked no money business with the scriptures, but he used the scriptures to always point back to the true nature of God. It's too easy to become exegetical nitpickers, taking our security from these "works" rather than the face-to-face relationship we should be having with God.

It's a Matthew 7:21-23 kind of thing.

I don't know WHY I keep coming back here. I feel like I'm always getting poked in the eye.

Steve Berven said...

Holy smokes. I hadn't watched the video before I posted.

"{{a God}} who doesn't care as much about your sin, as about you individually."

I do think God has a problem with our sin, that needs to be dealt with before we can become a "better person."

The film guy also seems to have a problem with "yes or no" answers. He wants to start a conversation about "maybe?"

Very much the seeker friendly approach. Attract them into the seat, and then slowly feed them into the actual Gospel.

Thomas Louw said...

Frank does it again.
A few weeks ago you posted and I said” Best ever.’ Then you go and do the unthinkable and write this one.

Church has become “group therapy”. Every chair has become empty.
Ok, I’ll soften it. The reason some chairs has become empty is because of selfishness, self preoccupation .
We have turned our backs on evangelism, which is the only thing we can do on earth and not in heaven.
The last few chapters of MacArthur’s 1 Corinthians commentary and in John Piper’s sermons on the first and 12th chapter of Romans shine a bit of light on it for me.
We sit back and lie to ourselves, we say “The evangelical meetings, TV evangelists, ministers, missionaries, pastors, Christian charities will do the evangelism.”
While all are called, personal evangelism is the way God intended us to proclaim, not through words alone but through lives through deeds. The deeds always must take second place. There must be a balance where truth and relationship with God and fellow man is the backbone of evangelism.
We always say one more book, course or one sin to kill then I’ll witness.
I don’t know why but, Bill Hybles somehow has the best titles for his books. One I came across the other day “The walk across the room.” It says so many things in just one sentence. Ps haven’t read it.
2 Tim 2:7 is the clincher. Lazy, scared that’s what we are. Just plain packed with fear of rejection.
Fight fear for man with love and zeal for God.
Evangelism is like a great big truck, just start it, ease of the break touch the accelerator. Momentum will build. The first guy is the hardest, witness to the second as soon as you can after the first one; follow it with the third, fourth, fifth. You will be amazed how second nature it becomes.
How will you glorify Christ with the joy you find in Him, if nobody sees it in you, experience it in you?

Thomas Louw said...

Sorry for the long post.
Got a bee in my bonnet.
(only after I posted it did I see the lenght)

Thomas Louw said...

The bee is still there!

Is what we lack in evangelism not the symptom of basically one problem?
Over emphasis on one thing.
Over emphasis of love which makes us soften the message at the cost of boldly proclaiming the truth.
Overly studying the truth, which cause us to neglect prayer, and thus compromising love for God and sinners?

Larry said...

Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mat 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mat 28:20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

"All authority - Jesus said - is given to Him - being chosen by Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit, a person becomes saved. Jesus said "I am with you always" we Christians need to "know" that the work of salvation is by the power of Jesus and He builds the true church and if we finally decide to glorify God by sharing the Gospel and realize the Jesus will never leave us or forsake us we "should" feel free to glorify God by our words. If we live by the the greatest commandment. A lot of "ifs" maybe we are missing some theology????

Lawrence Underwood said...

Frank, those are the best comments I've seen on this movie.

God tells us to proclaim the fact of Christ's Lordship and all that it entails. He tells us to be ever ready to make a defense for the hope that is within us. He never tells us to develop what is called 'conversation' in the post modern definition of the term. That word is loaded today with relativism. Even the way the producers talked about their own movie screams a relativistic, nihilistic mindset.

Robert said...


I totally get what you're saying here and I feel totally convicted. I went to T4G and I still think it serves a good purpose. Where it falls apart is when we get back from something like that. We have to make a concerted effort to share the Gospel with everybody. I have a friend who is a pastor and he is planning to take the small groups (his whole church participates in them) through "What is the Gospel?" and "The Gospel and Personal Evangelism" because he sees that his local church is not active in evangelism and outreach.

I thank you for writing this because I needed a kick in the pants to get me moving in this direction myself. And I also need to work with the other two men from my church who went to keep each other accountable in this. Apologetics has its place, but moreso in helping to ground somebody in their faith in order to handle attacks that the world throws at us. That isn't evangelism and arguing/debating is not how God works through us to turn hearts towards Himself.

When I see something like how this guy explains the concept of his movie it makes me very sad for a couple of reasons. First, because he sees the problem, but he doesn't have a clue how to address it. Also, though, I see this problem, and know how to address it, yet I am not doing it...at least not nearly enough. I evangelize my children and I have spoken about how God has changed my life to my friends (many former, I guess) and family. But I have rarely taken the time to just approach people and tell them the most wonderful news they could ever hear. And there is no excuse for that because the other side of that good news is that without hearing it, they have no chance of escaping eternal punishment in hell. I know God does the work of salvation, but I still have the responsibility to tell people.

Andrew said...

I can't help but feel a bit frustrated with this post. You do a superb job pointing out that what the church is doing isn't working, what the problem with movies like this is, and why arguing about them isn't anything more than we're doing now. But you essentially stop there.

Time and time again people say that what the church must do is make much of Christ. Absolutely! But no one seems to tell us what that looks like. Maybe the reason so many Christians resort to arguing about movies, or showing movies in church, is that they don't know what making much of Christ looks like in their day to day life.

Care to describe that for us?

DJP said...

I don't know WHY I keep coming back here. I feel like I'm always getting poked in the eye.

Yeah... but only your weaker eye.

donsands said...

"Our job is to tell them that Christ is Real, and show them that Christ is Real."-Cent

Another fine post. I never heard of this film. Thanks for putting it up and sharing.

"Nicing" people into the kingdom ain't gonna work.

The Bible is the truth, the eternal truth. People need to hear the Word.
And they need to hear it from sinners with hearts full of gratitude for their own salvation. Sinners who like John Newton say:

"Amazing grace,
How sweet the sound!
That saved a nice guy like me,--whoops, I mean,-- a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

Here's some more good words from John Newton this morn:

"’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home."

Eric said...


I think Frank was getting at that question with these quotes:

"You are more faithful when you bring the actual Gospel to actual people who are actually dying because it's real, and because they need it as much as you do."

"...you will be preaching the Gospel to all living things, and making disciples of them."

It's rather difficult to say exactly what that will look like in each believers life situation.

Eric said...


Question: Are you one of "the people whose hobby it is to care about the church"?

Chris Tolbert said...


I wholeheartedly agree with your premise that Christians are to live and preach the gospel instead of protesting and boycotting everything the world offers that is contrary to it.

I don't understand what you mean when you say the church is in trouble. In trouble of what? I'm persuaded that the sovereign God of the universe will complete the work He has begun in us and will present us, spotless and blameless, to His Son. Is there any chance that His mission to reconcile a lost world to Himself will fail or be hindered because of us?

Eric said...


I love the take-away message and the challenge. Proclaiming the gospel throughout my day-to-day life and interactions is a challenge that I have too often shrunk from. Loving the lost as Jesus did is a difficult task, but is in many ways the essence of the Christian life.

FX Turk said...

Chris --

I'm not a hypercalvinist, so I think that the church has an obligation to do what God intended it to do. I'm also not a pessimist, so I think God will do what He intended to do. So the way the church is in trouble today is a lot like the way the church in Cornith was in trouble, and the church in galatia was in trouble, and so on.

The solution, it turns out, is the same for us as it was for them.


In a word? Yes. I am trying to get over my hobby and instead live as if I really believed this stuff.

FX Turk said...


Actually porclaiming the Gospel and living as if the things we say we believe are actually true is not "stopping" anywhere.

I think you need to finish reading the post.

FX Turk said...

Rob @ BCLR:

I hate cutting my friends off on the phone. And then posting comments at the blog.

What a jerk I am. Please forgive me.

Christopher said...

Frank: The church is in trouble because its ability to define itself is really as bad as its ever been, but probably not any worse than the worst it has ever been.

Not nearly the thrust of this post, but I enjoyed this line. I think it is important to keep in mind that the American Church (for all that means) is not "unique", so far as Church History is concerned. The Church is always going a little off kilter and needs to be re-balanced. This happened even in the New Testament Church as a good number of letters are about getting back to the Gospel...the Gospel that was being distorted after LESS than a generation of its "creation". Paul had to correct the Corinthians and the Galatians; he had to settle the Thessalonias; Peter and Jude had to help believers guard against false prophets, and so on.

As I write this, I noticed your last comment and must agree: The answer is not Together for the Gospel, Acts 29, the Shepherds Conference, the Desiring God Conference, Pyromaniacs or ME(!). The answer is getting back to what Christ taught His Church to actually do.

FX Turk said...

I just wanted to point out the subtle connection between DJP's post yesterday and my post today. If you miss that, you're not as discerning as you think you are.

Chris Tolbert said...


Thanks for clarifying that for me. And I agree with you there too.

I hope my comment didn't come off as critical. It's hard to convey tone online, but it was an honest question. I couldn't exactly tell how you took it by your response so I wanted to clarify, just in case.

Thanks for the reminder to love God, love the lost, and live the gospel. God bless!

Andrew said...

Forgive me for not being clear. I know that your application to making much of Christ was, as Eric pointed out:

"You are more faithful when you bring the actual Gospel to actual people who are actually dying because it's real, and because they need it as much as you do."

"...you will be preaching the Gospel to all living things, and making disciples of them."

What I meant is that so many people spend so much time describing in great detail what is wrong with people who don't do this, and then they spend so little time describing how to do this.

I'm not saying that you don't say what it means to make much of Christ. What frustrates me is that you spend so much time describing what's wrong with us, and then you spend so little time describing how we should be.

olan strickland said...

Frank: I think it's generous to call what passes for Christianity these days "moralistic, therapeutic deism" because "moralistic, therapeutic deism" indicates that the people who practice this stuff think there is actually a moral standard, there is actually a difference between being well and being unwell, and that there is actually a Deity.

Sounds familiar!

Frank: somebody ought to do something about it.

Like this?

donsands said...

Andrew, do you love Christ? I believe you do. When you love Christ, then you will keep His word.

It's a battle for us in the world, with the devils all about us, and our flesh warring against the Spirit, yet through the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives in us, we can trust in the Lord, and not lean to our own understanding, and so God will direct our paths.

The two essentials for the disciple and child of Jesus Christ
is prayer and the Word.

We need to be praying a lot, and reading and studying the Bible a lot.
This is done within a local church, or a group of believers, if you are in a nation that is hostile to Christians.

For me Frank gives great balance in his teachings and posts.
I think you are missing something Andrew.

Have a blessed day in His grace and peace.

Katie said...

If I could +1 or "like" Andrew Robb's first comment here, I would. When our church's pastors (in the Reformed world, at least) seem to be more concerned on the majority of Sundays with parsing theology than showing us how to live as if Christ is real and bring the real Christ to real people, where and from whom are we supposed to learn how to do this? Are books enough? Do we have to keep looking until we find someone to mentor us in this area? Can we teach ourselves? How do we even get started?

Robert said...


I didn't really think the connection was too subtle. I was actually meandering in thought between the two as I read yours. Of course, I had just gone back to the comment thread on it to see what I had missed and that might explain that.

Basically, it all comes back to the Gospel...are we living it and are we preaching it (living it is actually preaching it in a manner)? And are we doing it biblically?

My friend who is a pastor is preaching through Philippians and explained something remarkable to me that I didn't know or appreciate before. In Philippians 1:12-13, Paul says that his imprisonment has caused the gospel to spread and that the whole praetorian guard learned about him being imprisoned for the cause of Christ. The praetorian guard were the emporer's bodyguards and consisted of between 9,000 and 10,000 highly trained soldiers. Paul was chained to two of them at all times. The soldiers would rotate in such a manner that it allowed for all of them to be exposed to Paul and his preaching/writing (he wrote his prison epistles while chained to them).

The point is that in what we might imagine to be some of the worst conditions imaginable, Paul was going about the work of presenting the Gospel and living it in the presence of the men who were guarding him. And yet I can find some reason not to present it to people who are (at least outwardly) nice to me in passing? The cashier at the store...the people walking by...my coworkers...surely they are more approachable than two Roman guards chained to me and assigned to keep me captive. Forget trying to be more relevant so they'll like me...these people are facing eternal separation from God and punishment in hell if they have not heard the Gospel and trusted in the work of Jesus for their salvation.

Pray that we all imitate Paul as he imitated Christ.

jmarinara said...

So in the end, go and preach the Gospel? GOOD! I can certainly get behind that.

Why then do you poke Wretched in the eye at the beginning of your post?

Not that I want to make a big deal out of it, but I just wonder when Christians are going to take down the big tent. There is a clear difference between the things Wretched/WoTM/GTY/et.al. do and the things TBN/CBN/etc. do.

I just think it's time we took notice of that difference and clearly defined the lines between the Truth and Heresy.

No intending to fight here Frank, I give you much applause for this post. I just have questions about that is all.

I totally agree that we need to get about the business of sharing the Gospel and making it real for people who shrug it off as stupid ritual or superstition (or whatever).

Actually, I could not possibly agree more, brother.

Christopher said...

@Katie, I have heard not a few commentaries on how those more theologically apt pastors do very little to actually tell their sheep, "This is what I said...and this is HOW you do it." I think it comes down to the whole pendulum swing bit, no? A new crop of pastors look up one day and see that what the old crop is doing is not right, thus they swing all the way to the other side...over-correcting.

Christopher said...

@That Crazy Christian: I think what Frank was saying was that all of these groups, be they good or bad, are saying things need to change and go about trying to change them. And then he goes into how nothing seems to be working. That's all.

However, correct me if I am wrong, Frank.

FX Turk said...


I think you have thin skin, and you aren't reading very closely.

Rachael Starke said...

You mean, if we say "He is risen!", but don't live like it's true, people might not believe us?

But that might cost me some money, or my career, or my me-time!!!

FX Turk said...

Rachel --

That's what I was afraid of ...

Jim Pemberton said...

I don't think the Western culture Church is uncomfortable enough. We're still obsessed with the 3 B's: Buildings, Budgets, and Butts in the pews.

A recent trip to Dubai to meet with fellow believers left me further encouraged that God is still working. There were 80 congregations meeting on about a 2.5 acre block. Except for one secret believer I learned about, every one of them were foreigners in the country and keenly aware of it. And it showed in their urgent approach to worship, prayer, and ministry.

So, I came back to the US where I live with my family. I can say that we are technically citizens of the United States, but to what extent does God allow dual citizenship with the Kingdom of Heaven? We pretend that we have created heaven right here in the USA so there is no difference between citizenship here and citizenship in the Kingdom. So we feel threatened by bad politics and power struggles in Washington DC, or even in our local congregations.

We're too comfortable. We should be more like the Hebrews during the first Passover who were to huddle in their homes dressed, packed, and ready to hoof it out of Egypt with the threat of all peril knowing that God would make good on His promise regardless.

donsands said...

"..to what extent does God allow dual citizenship with the Kingdom of Heaven?"

The Church is clearly a holy nation, and we are citizens of this nation.
Yet to be a citizen in this world where God ordained nations is good.
I love the fact that I'm an American, but I don't put it equal with my salvation.
My business partner is an Israeli, and became an American citizen a couple years ago. I would say he still loves Israel as a nation more, but that love pales to insignificance with his love for Christ his Lord.

I hope this isn't too much of a rabbit path.

Stefan Ewing said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathy M. said...

Last week, I read an '06 post by DJP that focused on this exact topic. He pointed out how Paul didn't go after the false teachers in Colossi, but rather made much of Christ; thereby pointing the Colossians to that which satisfies and ruining their appetite for what the heresy peddlers were selling.


Nash Equilibrium said...

Between the "86 minutes of inconclusive sentimentality" and "nothing will change", you left out the part where the people who thought the movie is just boffo will heap scorn upon those whose hobby it is to care about the church, because they didn't think the movie was just boffo.

Now on a more substantive point, if the people at Wretched are doing a fine job in proclaiming the Gospel (I think they do a pretty decent job, myself) and yet nothing is changing, it may be that the One who opens peoples' eyes to the truth of the Gospel has decided thta it's not the right time to open their eyes just yet. Or maybe there are just not enough of us doing what WR is doing? I'm corn-fused.

Stefan Ewing said...

Andrew and Katie:

I hear you. I often experience the same frustration these days.

There is good shepherding at my church—thank God for that—but during the week, my reading turns to places like this blog, and other Reformed websites.

And when I'm going through a challenge or a spiritual crisis and need some guidance—when my heart is still in turmoil even after praying and turning to Scripture, and I seek interaction with other believers—and then I come onto the Internet and run up against yet another post on polemics or apologetics, or parsing the finer points of the ordo salutis, or stating everything Christian faith and practice is not supposed to be without stating positively what Christianity is supposed to be—I get despondent.

Don't get me wrong...I'm a straight-down-the-line, five-point Calvinist, and there is no question that we need to have sound doctrine...but sound doctrine for what purpose? To please God or earn His favour? Our right theology is nothing but filthy rags to Him.

The only thing it's good for is if it helps us to carry out whatever service it is that He has called us to, for the purpose of building up His Kingdom, and being a witness to a lost and dying world.

If my own wicked heart is any indication, spiritual pride is a huge issue among us conservative evangelicals.We need to remember the love of God through Christ, by which He died, that we sinners may live, and through love of each other and love of our neighbour, walk the Gospel we talk.

As for practical matters...

We know the Gospel well, but we need to read the Gospels more. Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, says a lot about how to live as Christians.

Then dig up sermons on Jesus' teachings and parables on the Gospels by trustworthy preachers. Use a website like the Gospel Coalition, that brings together sermons from multiple pastors (see here).

Read through Spurgeon's sermons. He preached a lot more than just railing against the heresies of the day. And again, look especially for ones on Bible verses that mean something to you. Phil Johnson maintains a collection here; there are other sites as well. And seek out devotionals by godly teachers, like Oswald Chambers. (Oddly, today's devotional is on the Great Commission in Matthew 28!)

And go to places like Grace Gems, which has a lot of excellent material, including a lot of stuff by some of our spiritual forefathers. J.C. Ryle has really helped me out a few times, personally.

And think on Bible verses that get at the heart of what it's all about&mdahsh;like the Great Commandment, or Jesus's statement in Mark 10:45 ("For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life for a ransom for many").

And above all, Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray. If your mind wanders (like mine does), then pray short, simple, meaningful prayers. Think of God's mercy on us sinners through the blood of Jesus Christ, shed upon the Cross, and thank Him for it. Pray for God to help you in your daily walk. I'm only learning now what it really means to turn back to Him to every day and confess that I don't have a clue what I'm doing—but He does, and He works through us imperfect servants to achieve His perfect and glorious purposes, now and in the age to come. Hallelujah!

Steve Berven said...

"Yeah... but only your weaker eye."

Well then, I guess that pretty much answers my question!

If thine eye offends thee, then pluck it out.

Or, you know, have it poked out by others.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps a few less seeker sensitive/friendly, broad road, word of faith, properity, closed Sunday night, politics driven, topical sermon, prayerless, powerless churches would allow the others to shine like a beacon on a hill ... if there are any left.

Scot said...

This is a spot on, soul-convicting post. If I don't go and actually do what it says, then shame on me.

Though I have to admit, it's hard not to want to speak out against this 86 minutes of silliness. I really wanted to say, "Yes, but...terrible movie!" However Frank you did an excellent zeroing in my blind spots. It's easy to get my feathers ruffled ranting about the latest bad Christian movie. But displaying the greatness of Christ as a real and living Savior, now that's of primary concern.

Did Christ call me to proclaim the release of captives, or to judge movies?

Lynda O said...

Stefan: great comments, especially the practical matters. I'm in a difficult church situation -- yet have found that weekly reading of Spurgeon sermons has a calming influence; and the J.C. Ryle books over at Gracegems.org have also helped me out personally several times.

Paul said...

Wait, so instead of bickering with other purported Christians or anti-Christians or the like, I should let the Peace of Christ rule in my heart, and see the Word of Christ dwell richly in me, and offer up my life daily as a living sacrifice?

Wonderful encouragement!

Eric said...

"Did Christ call me to proclaim the release of captives, or to judge movies?"

I'd just like to point out that the two are not mutually exclusive.

David Regier said...

I had a feeling, Frank, when I previewed the stuff on the website yesterday, that you were going to take this someplace we didn't all expect.

A gospel that equips us to simply snort and fume about what's not the gospel is not the gospel.

Better we should equip ourselves for opportunities, pray for opportunities, and then take the opportunities that come. This post today, coupled with some previous prompting from God's word, gave me courage to do exactly that today.


Brad Williams said...


My favorite emotion to have and to observe is Reformed Righteous Indignation. Are you trying to ruin that for me? Are you trying to say that the indignation of man does not produce the righteousness of God?

Honestly, my first reaction to this was, "Goodness Frank, just become a pastor and get after some sheep." So there you go.



FX Turk said...


The wounds of a brother, yo. I think I'm going to have to call in to work tomorrow after that one.

FX Turk said...

Eric --

I'd tell you a story about a fig tree bearing fruit, but I'm running out of day light, and in 29 hours I'm going on vacation NO MATTER WHAT.


Anonymous said...

Can I claim entrapment as a defense? LOL!

DJP said...

...in 29 hours I'm going on vacation NO MATTER WHAT.


Wait -- I'm supposed to post tomorrow.

Who's going to derail the meta?


David Regier said...

I'm always here for you, Dan.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and on the subject of fruit...I'm wondering if apologetics can be done as a secondary to first preaching the gospel. Like, James White...publishing a book that might help a Mormon get out of that false church and then reading the true gospel trusts Christ? I'm not saying give up sharing the true good news, but there can be some pointing out error right? Aren't we told to do this too?

On a side (sort of) there were people appointed in the early church to care for the widows and needs in the church so the others who were going out could still go without having to be tied down. There were other jobs in the church though of course, spreading the gospel is paramount. Sharing who Jesus is...is of most importance.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you'll let me know how I'm off here...

Partluck said...

Thanks Frank.
I am not a fan of the "Christian" cinema. I don't believe it's a good tool for evangelism, and it fails to edify as well. All in all, it's just a failure of massive proportions. I hope this film bombs then. The church doesn't need another Fireproof fad, or as you wisely pointed out, another conversation. I hope the church wakes up!!!

Scot said...


That's true, but I was using that question in the context of Feank's post. I believe, if I understand his post, that by writing another blog against the movie we could pat ourselves on the back, yet miss the fact that we aren't preaching the Gospel. We would say spout off the terrible depiction of God, yet fail to give the true view of God i.e. Christ crucified for sinners.

(we: reformers always arguing about imperfect theology. AKA me)

I second that notion.

Dave said...

This is like a sucker-punch to the solar plexis. The wind's all knocked out of me.

This hurt, Frank. Thank you.

Carlo Provencio said...

I think you just put you guys out of business! It's funny because I go to the Pyro site, not to read about the gospel and how wonderful Jesus is, I go to the Pyro site to see who is getting a slap on the wrist this week.

Great post! There needs to be more posts like this!

Jacob said...

"So in that sense, with the church in trouble, the second part of my preface here is this: somebody ought to do something about it. Many people look like they are trying, but let's be honest: with all the trying, it's not getting any better. The church is not actually any better off because of the Gospel Coalition; it's not any better off because of Together for the Gospel. The church is not any better off, btw, because of Crossway Publishing or Harvest House or Zondervan; it's not any better off for TBN, CBN, or even our beloved friends at Wretched. "

Completely disagree (or, you're using the word "church" in a wrong manner). In fact, the actual members of the true church are indeed benefitted by all of those and more, because such ministries/blogs/publishers/whatevers ARE having an effect on those who are actually called/elect/etc -- whether to increase their discernment or to call them out of bad "churches" and to seek out membership in a local church that is actually a part of the true church.
They are coming out of the pseudo-church and into the real church and the many sites that warn against errors and false teachers and encroaching new age mystical nonsense, or exposit the truth of the Bible, are having a very real and necessary effect as tools God uses to effect the gospel call and the growth in sanctification or separation of his true sheep from the world and the wolves.

Stefan Ewing said...


You read Spurgeon and Ryle, too?

I can't get over the depth, richness, and pastoral care of their teaching. What a gift God gave them, that they are still guiding believers today, over a century after they were called home.

FX Turk said...


Here's the test of fire for your theory --

In the first century, the church (or, as you say, the elect) grew in number and made a massive impact on the culture -- that church grew and started to outnumber the unbelievers.

Why is it, you think, that the ones you say are benefitting seem to be on the decline?

FX Turk said...

It's funny how I say, "This is what I'm thinking: arguments are not going to change the mind of people like the ones who made this movie, and they are also not going to change the minds of those who are in the clip about the empty chair." and the eventual retort is, "yes, but James White ..."

Let me say this (again) as clearly as possible: if everyone on the apologetics bandwagon were elders in their local church and as concerned with the actual Gospel as James White is, the apologetics bandwagon would not be such a strange and unproductive cart. The problem is that the apologetics bandwagon is more like a clown car full of all manner of people in grotesque disguises and rag-doll drag acting out a prat-fall version of discernment.

I say bring on the James Whites -- let them be legion. But may the other kind give up their hobby in favor of something more suited to people who will not give up their lives for the sake of the local church and for the truth of Christ.

Please bookmark that for the next time someone thinks I am talking about pastors who are actually pastoring rather than the ten-fold army of unchurchable busy-bodies who do more bickering than actual apologetics.

Anonymous said...

Wow Frank. I'm glad I still have my head. I felt that one through the computer. Please know I was not trying to be snarky bringing up James White, not trying to be sassy at all. I mentioned him for the very reason you state, I find his apologetics to have been helpful when as a new mom and very untaught Christian and Mormons came to my door. I spent much time pointing them to their error, inviting them back again and again and had no one in my church to help me. I read my bible, and read James White, and asked for help where ever I could. I am not anyone, I am just a stay at home mom. I did not go out and preach, but did point to error as best I could.

I get it that you are frustrated with people but I was really trying to understand where you are coming from. I gotta say I'm actually a bit squashed here. I struggle to do the best I can...read my bible, read as much as I can out here and find this to be one of the helpful places for learning. I do not intend to "ask a stupid question" but it is clear by your response sir that you are angry with me. I am not trying to pick a fight. I am trying to learn.

And yes, I was sure you'd let me know where I was wrong...I hope my tone was not snarky in that comment. I meant it in the "please let me know if I am wrong" but I certainly didn't expect to be torched.

Anonymous said...

In reading back over my last comment also...I did try to point them to the true Jesus of the Bible, not only the errors of their religion. Forgive my sloppy reply. I will leave this alone now, I've overstayed my comment welcome on this one. You do have better things to do!

Thank you.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I have not had time to read all the comments here, so PLEASE have mercy on me, but is anyone saying apologetics does not have its place in the overall scheme of things? Even if we encounter people who do not understand the Gospel, who will NEVER be won over by arguments, the light that they have been shown is used to further condemn them.

Apologetics functions to uphold Gospel truths by drawing lines in the sand, lines of demarcation. Cross over such and such a line and you are no longer considered orthodox. How could this be construed as wrong, if in fact anyone is implying that? Forgive me if I am reading anyone wrong, here.

We need more Godly men like James White and John MacArthur who” hold that line.” The phrase “hold that line” was a cheer we chanted during football season. It meant hold back the oppressing forces, keep them in check so they do not gain any ground. I guess I’m rooting for the MacArthur and White team.

Rachael Starke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachael Starke said...


I'm pretty sure no one here is saying that.

I think the point of this sentence:

"Our job is to tell them that Christ is Real, and show them that Christ is Real."

is to say that if we have an apologetical model that teaches people with laser-like precision how to intellectually demolish the Mormons' arguments when they show up on our doorstep,

that doesn't also, and in equal measure compel them to invite them over their doorstep, to dinner, to maybe help reinflate their bike tires before they leave, to be a welcoming ear, at an inconvenient hour, about the boyfriend/girlfriend who's just written them a "Dear John" letter and they're wondering what on earth they're doing,

then our apologetics are a clanging cymbal and a noisy gong.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...


So then, apologetics without works is dead? Agreed!

I committed the cardinal sin and just scanned Frank's article and the comments, it may help if I go back and actually take the time and read it and the comments. This is not like me, so I apologize to Frank. This is also why I asked for mercy. :)

Jacob said...

Frank: Sorry for the late reply.

Here's the test of fire for your theory --

In the first century, the church (or, as you say, the elect) grew in number and made a massive impact on the culture -- that church grew and started to outnumber the unbelievers.

Why is it, you think, that the ones you say are benefitting seem to be on the decline?"

Well I could ask for statistical evidence to support your assertion that the truth is any less effective to those who are called today than those who were called in the past, or I could just say, "Because we're nearing the end of the Church age. :D"

Either one would be a worthy response I think?

Tyler Mitchell said...

Many churches have to sell themselves out so they can embrace any sort of evangelistic media/method/madness and integrate it into their services. I believe this is partly due to confusion about whether the "church" meets to edify and grow in faith or whether it meets to evangelise. Doesn't have to be mutually exclusive of course, but which would many in leadership choose:

a) adopt some principles that seem to have "worked" elsewhere to bring in new members (and check off the pastoral "Fulfill Great Commission" tickbox)


b) choose to teach and grow those already there (and help them to be evangelists in their own lives and practise)?

I'll have to dig through the archives, someone's got to have blogged on that one ;-)