05 January 2011

Open Letter to Donald Miller

by Frank Turk

Dear Donald Miller,

After the success of my last open letter, I've decided to write 52 open letters in 2011, one for each week of the year -- and your recent contribution to CNN's 11 faith-based predictions for 2011 seems like a fantastic conversation-starter.

I'm sure your remarks are edited for space at CNN, but here's what they printed:
As religious tensions grow[1] over the coming presidential election and domestic cultural issues involving perceived legislation of morality[2], the media will find more zealous Christians[3] reacting to the issues of the day whose extreme positions[4] will further divide the evangelical church[5] into radical positions[6], and turn away seekers[7] looking for a peaceful resolution[8] to the churning in their own souls[9]. In other words, the devil[10] will play a trick on the church[11], and the church will, like sheep, lose their focus on the grace and love of Christ[12] and wander astray. Those who seek peace, then, will turn to liberal ideologies[13].
To make sure I don't go too far afield, Don, I want to make sure I understand what you're saying here, so I added numeric annotations to your comments for the sake of reference.

Here's how I would paraphrase your letter, by the annotation marks:

[1] Religious tensions are growing. That's a broad enough statement, but given the rest of your comment, I think you are headed in the right direction. What you mean by this given your other statements is bold and prophetic.

[2] One reason is presidential elections, the other is the perception that morality needs to be legislated. As a premise, this one deserves a minute of thought -- because it's odd that you bring this up. Yes, I get it: Prop 8 was a right-wing attempt to codify a premise of law, as are the consitutional amendments in various states to establish marriage as the state-regulated union of one man and one woman. But that premise is the one we operated under for centuries here in the West, and the reason that this is an issue now is that someone wanted to change it for what they perceived to be moral reasons. So this statement by you was the first inclination I had that you were onto something rather radical here -- the fact that you recognize that there's an attempt to re-write morality by re-writing the law. It's a great insight and I credit you for it.

[3] The media seeks out "zealous Christians" -- "zealous" meaning "ardently active, devoted and diligent", certainly not "conservative in religious creed and serious about reading the world through the Bible's lens". By "zealous Christians" I take you to mean "people who are living the love of Jesus, not judgment."

[4] By "extreme" here, I think you mean "radical", as in [6] -- they are seeking radical Christian solutions to the problems we see in our nation from a sociopolitical standpoint.

[5] As all radicals do, this activity will divide the church. For example, Brian McLaren and his radical activity has divided the church; Rob Bell has divided the church with his radical hispterism; Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones have been trying to divide the church.

[6] And the divisions are radical divisions -- ones which even go to the place of ignoring and overturning historical and traditional places where the differences between "Christian" and "non-Christian" are drawn.

[7] This activity actually turns away seekers -- and of your points so far, this is the one from you that has surprised me the most. This is David F. Wells' point, which he has been on about for the last decade, and it's about time someone from the post-confessional church actually caught on to it. I applaud your broad-mindedness in embracing an analysis which comes from outside your usual circle of friends and thinker/workmen.

[8] This is the first place you threw me for a loop -- because it's so unlike what we've all come to expect from you. I'm going to work through what I came up with there. You're saying there are "seekers who are looking for a peaceful solution to the churning in their souls" (7-8-9 together). What I have to take this to mean is that you think that someone who is in spiritual unrest wants to find the place where what troubles them is resolved. This is a radical view of the problem, and again I salute you for it. What's more common in popular circles today is to say that if we tell people that they have no reason to worry, that the turmoil in their souls is either self-inflicted (they have a bad attitude, cf. Joel Osteen) or inflicted by oppression (they are victims, cf. Joyce Meyer or Doug Pagitt [who knew they were so similar?]), they will finally get peace because they have received a therapeutic treatment for their ailment. What I perceive you to say here is that they are seeking true peace.

[9] And it is a true peace which is not merely superimposed on them or added. It is a soul-deep solution which is not merely a matter of environment or hard work. This is a truly-radical solution you're talking about, and it's about time someone said it.

[10] After the theological arc you drew in 7-8-9, the next most radical thing you said in this short piece is summed up in two words: "The Devil". Here you are assigning the work of a person called "The Devil" to the radicals who are dividing the church, and I wonder -- did you call them before you let CNN run with this? That's tough talk -- John MacArthur could not have said it better, but the tone police will come for you for saying such a thing. I'm sure you're fine with it, but that you'd say it without vetting privately so that your targets can nuance such a thing into something they can accept from you will get you some flack.

Telling the world that people like McLaren, Pagitt, Jones and Bell are doing the work of "The Devil" might also sound a little dated -- a little fundamentalistic or revivalist, which is something I never expected from you. But I like it -- it's retro spirituality. It goes all the way back to Jesus rebuking Peter for telling "the Christ" that dying and rising from the dead is a bad idea (cf. Mat 16:13-23). I applaud your insight here as it is bound to rankle the people you are saying it to. "The Devil" is doing something through these people. That will get media attention.

[11] So "The Devil" will play a trick on the church. While I'm enthusiastic about the retro feel of saying "The Devil" will do this or that, "The Devil will trick the church" reads a little like Dispensational fiction. Yes, I know Christ says this will happen, if it is possible, but here you're actually accusing people of following Satan and not just making a mistake but actually harming the church. It's bold language. I'm not sure I could have been that bold. If your next book is that bold, my friends at Gut Check Press want to have lunch with you the next time you're in the Lansing area to talk about a book deal.

[12] And the trick is this: the church will lose grace and love. Let me say it first: wow! That's a HUGE insight! When the church resorts to "love not judgment" (as you said so well in 3-4-5) but tries to legislate that morality (as in 1-2-3), the church loses grace and love. Here I blame CNN for cutting out the obvious fleshing out you would have had to do here to make this point, but since this is an open letter, I'm going to fill in for you, and I hope I capture everything you meant in that statement.

See: the church doesn't offer a truly-radical, soul-sustaining message (a-la 7-8-9) if it merely tells people "it's alright! it's alright! All right! She moves in Mysterious Ways!" That's not actually the Christian message. The Christian message, starting from its basis in the Old Testament, is that God's concern for mankind is that mankind does not want God, and does not think it needs God. So God offers a radical solution to wipe the slate clean of man's offenses in the death of Christ, and then give man the offer to repent and receive forgiveness so that he may truly and finally be at peace with God.

So without this message, the Church loses the exclusively-Christian offer of the Gospel, and it loses the ability to give people true peace. As you say, the church loses Grace and Love. It's a nightmare, and I'm glad you said it so well in a forum like CNN gave you.

[13] The best part is the last part of your prediction: those who then seek peace will not be able to find it in Christianity -- because they will not be able to find Christianity. Christianity will have lost Grace and Peace, and then people will look elsewhere for it -- and sadly, they won't find it anywhere else. They'll have to settle for the so-called "love of Jesus without judgment", or else they will go follow the Dalai Llama or Oprah's latest guru or fall into atheism so that they can just dispel the idea that there is anything better than what they have and can make themselves.

It was a brilliant comment, and I applaud you for it. As I said to Derek Webb last week, if more actual Christians spoke to CNN, they'd be improved for it. Thanks for your faithful witness, and for your renewed view of the Gospel. I was worried that, after your last 3-4 books, you had given up on the faith and were looking for something unreal and unfulfilling. I'm pleased to say I was wrong, and I ask your forgiveness for doubting you.

Unless I have misunderstood ...


Rachael Starke said...


I read that piece, and Don's - contribution - felt the most irksome, but I just blew it off as just sort of typical coolio-gelical whatever.

But you go and blow it up.

It's a Bib/LitCrit masterpiece. I've been educated on about six different levels.

And the hip lyric du jour is a great touch - hope that's a regular feature. It keeps your culturally-hip street cred fresh. And it makes those of us who recognize it feel all current too - double win.

Paula Bolyard said...

52 open letters in 2011? Twill be a very sad accomplishment to find so many worthy recipients.

Well said.

Anonymous said...

I am optimistic that at least one or two of the remaining 50 letters will be addressed to folks I've actually heard of. On that score I'm currently oh-for-two; however, the year is but a pup.

But, hey, I'm batting 1.000 with the 90's music references!

Jacob said...

i dunno, reading that i got that sick feeling like i wanted to vomit during the first two thirds or so of your open letter because you channeled their twisted mindset a bit TOO well, clearly abusing what he said and twisting it to make your point fit into it. While that's exactly what they do to us, it still makes me ill to my stomach when i read something written in that vein, just like when i read the stuff they write.
So it's hard to figure out whether to applaud you for your cleverness or go hug the toilet when the dry heaves start.

Unknown said...


I was a little confused by your analysis of Miller's blurb. It struck me as odd to draw the conclusion that Miller would be speaking against the emergent leaders [4-7] when Miller has somewhat buddied up to them in the past? Now I don't know much about Miller himself and I admittedly have never read any of his books, but I have perused his blog from time to time and I just kinda get the vibe that he is friendly with the emergent voices of today and their philosophies. So it struck me as odd that you think he is rubbing up against said emergents.

There is the strong possibility that I am way off base. Feel free to correct or ignore! :)

Sheldon said...

And I thought the CNN comment by Miller was decidedly anti biblically faithful Christianity. I thank you, Frank, for your astute correction of my poor reading comprehension skills.


Seriously, well done. Maybe after enough of these patently ridiculous attempts to soft pedal and tone down what our faith is actually about, someone from that side of things will actually see the error of what they are doing.

/wishful thinking

Anonymous said...

I didn't really see anything wrong with what Miller said. There are radicals on both sides of the Christian spectrum — you addressed the Emergents, but what about the other side of the pendulum?

Cephas said...

Absolutely brilliant satire. Looking forward to more.

verification: dinesti (dynasty?)

donsands said...

"... it [the Church] loses the ability to give people true peace."

There are two different kinds of peace in the world.

"Jesus had peace. He slept in a boat, while there was a terrible storm. Even Peter, later on, slept in prison while chained to a guard. Peter learned to experience his Lord's peace.
The world's peace is different. It's a "peace of the flesh", as Luther put it. And no one "disturbed the world's peace more then the Prince ...of Peace", as RC Sproul said.

Jesus said, "I came not to bring peace, but a sword!"

Excellent post. Well done. I love the way you set everything out on the table. Hopefully Donald will show up and share his heart.

Mike said...

I'm not sure about this one. I never thought I'd be a member of the tone police, but this letter pegs my personal snark-o-meter.

I was with you all the way on the letter to Derek Webb. It was filled with the questions I had for him myself and had a generous tone overall. The sarcasm runs deep in this letter and I don't know if that's a good thing. I find the letter to be funny because I agree with you, but someone who doesn't agree with you (Donald Miller) might see the purposeful misrepresentation and think you're out to make jokes and not handle the issue seriously. Regular Pyro readers will know exactly how serious you are about this subject, but I think it will be too easy for passers-by to give you the D.Webb treatment by labeling you an angry/bully/a--hole and ignoring what you're saying.

On the other hand- after seeing the response from Derek Webb to his open letter I wonder if it's any use offering a sincere appeal to anyone.

Word verification: unnesi

DJP said...

MikeOn the other hand- after seeing the response from Derek Webb to his open letter I wonder if it's any use offering a sincere appeal to anyone.


BTW, he deserves now to be called Derek "IGIWA" Webb.

Robert said...


Great work. You took what he wrote and turned it into what we should be concerned with in the church and society. I feel that nominal Christianity is such a huge problem in America and that it really needs to be handled seriously. I don't think that Miller will receive and examine this very well, but we should pray that he does. After all, somebody prayed for a depraved sinner like me and God opened my eyes and changed my heart.

Unknown said...

Wow, I am one fry short of a happy meal it seems. Looks like my sarcasm detector is broken.

DJP said...

I'd've been all sledgehammers and buzz-saws, speculating about how much pious gasbaggery could be crammed into one comment. Instead, you reach for the scalpel. Nice!

David Regier said...

You're a regular St. Blogustine. Way to take it apart.

wv: depiness

Steve Berven said...


FX Turk said...

When he used the phrase "The Devil" in his comment to CNN, I knew exactly what I was going to write. There was no turning back. No turning back.

timb said...

Nice use of satire and some good old fashioned theological polemics.

James Joyce said...

"Unless I have misunderstood ... :o)

Looking forward to 2011, "The Year of the Open Letter."

Word verification "sadsie", but then humour is based in tradgedy.

Anonymous said...

Even as I was reading I could hear the tone-police buzzing about...and sure enough, not 4 comments in, there they are.

Brilliantly written, it should be published somewhere where more people could read it. It might make the church think.

For all the tone police officers out there, would it have been better to go off on his head, like Paul or Jesus might have?

Really really well said Frank.

DJP said...

NO ONE expects a Tone Police Inquisition!!!

OK, everyone does.

Never mind.

Steve Berven said...

When you say "The Devil" you must, of course, do so in the most egregiously overdone SNL "Church Lady" tone of voice possible.

Anonymous said...

Can you define "success" in regards to the "niche" of open letters? # of reders gained on your blog by virtue of your post? One brought to repentance by virtue of your letter? While I appreciate your insights (I say this genuinely, not sarcastically), but your goal, because you found a niche, seems a bit pretentious, at least that how it seems to come across. What do you hope these open letters achieve?

FX Turk said...

Was I really the only one who found his "The Devil" qualifier completely randy? I mean, I was actually enjoying his forthright dismissal of people he cannot abide until he resorted to someone and something which he doesn't believe in for one second: the Devil.

After all the pages of rejecting judgmentalist baptist yayaya in his books, suddenly "the devil" matters to him -- and has found allies with those he doesn't like.

Very convenient and funny.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Danny - oh come on. He is challenging the man's commitment to truth, because truth matters.

You know this, don't you?

Phil Johnson said...

Paula: "52 open letters in 2011? Twill be a very sad accomplishment to find so many worthy recipients."

I dunno. I was just thinking that with the plethora of clowns at the evangelical fringe fairly screaming to be pilloried THIS MORNING (Pat Robertson, Harold Camping, Tony Jones come quickly to mind), and with Rob Bell working on a pro-universalism book and various former Emergent Village celebs floating around like dandelion seeds waiting to land somewhere, I'm a little worried that 52 open letters might not be enough to cover all the urgent needs of 2011.

FX Turk said...

Danny --

think of blogging on a scale of 1-5. here's how I would frame the point scale:

1 - Nobody read or cared.

2 - somebody read.

3 - More people read and somebody cared

4 - people who disagreed read and were caused to engage because they realised they had bacon in the fire.

5 - People who disagreed before now have to rethink their disagreement and re-evaluate their position. this includes when I have to do this becuase someone showed me I was mistaken/wrong.

Last week was a 4.

FX Turk said...

As Phil points out, 52 letters might not be enough.

Maybe I should write a book for Gut Check Press called "Letters and other Offenses" for all the things which ought to be said specifically, intentionally, and with gusto.

FX Turk said...

Also: You can protest Pat Robertson's hubris.

naturgesetz said...

DJP — "NO ONE expects a Tone Police Inquisition!!!"


I just became aware of the hilarious Monty Python bit a few weeks ago. Great paraphrase.

It does seem to me that a valid purpose of open letters such as Frank's is to help readers who don't have the time of educational background to sort these things out for themselves. These posts, like most of what you do here, can show where the areas of disagreement are between you and those whom you criticize. (Of course, some of the time I disagree with the Pyromaniacs and sometimes you're talking about people I've never heard of.)

David Regier said...

To hijack Miller's jazz analogy:

It's one thing for a skillful, organized band to improvise based on the structure of the chart.

It's entirely another to sit and listen to a trumpet player who blows in the wrong end of a saxophone.

Anonymous said...

Got it. I read your open letter last week and set up a twitter account just to follow you and DW because I wanted to see his response. Disappointed he dismissed your points; it's as if he thinks he's immune to answering for his statements.

Thank you for your reply.

Scott said...

Frank, I like how you used the blue text to like, Jazz it up........

Excellent, post. You are way above my pay grade.... (and IQ)

DJP said...

Danny, at the risk of broken-recording, not only the silly dismissal, but the blatant broken promise of his tough-guy "I'll talk to anyone" boast.

FX Turk said...


I'm an artist. I can do that.

Mike Westfall said...

Brilliant, Cent. Just brilliant.

But if you won't accept the new narrative, it's Pretty Obvious Who the Divisive One Is.

Robert said...


I don't know Miller and haven't really read his books (only some excerpts), but I am thinking that either he isn't well-versed on the Bible or he is just prideful, arrogant, and careless in his assessment regarding the Devil. I say this because Jesus said the unpardonable sin was that of the Pharisees for saying Jesus had the spirit of the Devil...and thus they had blasphemed the Spirit. I believe there is a lot more to blaspheming the spirit than this, but if he is taking this stance against strict adherents to the Bible (and really the Bible itself), then I'd say the shoe fits. I also realize that I am assessing who Miller is referring to as the Devil (or being moved by the Devil), but still it seems rather foolhardy of him to throw around that type of assessment. I only thought of this because you brought up his reference to the Devil...I didn't piece it all together while reading his comment on the CNN article.

Stefan Ewing said...

Wow, here I was thinking last week's happening was a flash in the pan, when in fact we were standing at the precipice of a yawning vortex.

Should there be 95 Open Letters to match Luther's 95 Theses? Or will the entire Christian blogosphere have fallen over the event horizon long before then?

Sir Brass said...

Frank, that was brilliant. Who knew you could actually deconstruct a post-modern statement like that into something actually well-fleshed out and biblical without jumping all over the place :).

FX Turk said...

We underestimate the non-confessional when we think they are also non-systematic. They have a system. We just have to recognize it is not our system.

Unknown said...

Excellent. Hope Don Miller reads it.
Words really do have meaning.

FX Turk said...

Mike Westfall:

I think IPOWTDOI (I think it's pretty obvious who the divisive one is) has to get added to DJP's lexicon of internet anagrams.

Unknown said...

Excellent, definitely lived up to the twitter generated hype. IMHO the tone was better than he deserved. Don’t know how you top the first two, but I’m looking forward to the year if this is any indication. You should follow-up on the book idea, do a collection of letters ala C.S. Lewis, you can call it the Screwturk letters. Or maybe not.

FX Turk said...

I am sure that name has made the private rounds the last two weeks. If not, I am sure it will now.

Phil said...

Simply delightful.
Frank does to them what they do to the Bible, how ironic; and just to top it off Dan used the phrase 'gas baggery' in the comment section. This is pyro at it's best.

FX Turk said...

That's not very charitable.

FX Turk said...

BTW, Challies hasn't linked this one yet. Probably won't get any cross-play unless he links it so we're probably almost finished here.

Solameanie said...

Wasn't "The Tone Police" a Cheap Trick song from a few years back? Oh, it was "Dream Police." Never mind. Regardless, I bet one could have some fun satirizing the lyrics of the original with the new title.

Frank, I will forever have an image of you now as an excellent, gourmet-level pot-stirrer. Maybe even a cauldron-stirrer. "Boil, boil, toil and trouble." And I love the taste of the soup.

Seriously, I'm with Phil on the weekly open letters. If wisacres like Pat Robertson, Harold Camping (I can't believe I used to work for Family Radio) etc. keep amazing the world with their now weekly vaporings, you're going to have to re-do your publication schedule well into 2015, assuming of course that the Lord doesn't return in May as scheduled.

Cephas said...

OK, I am peeling myself off the floor after the Screwtape reference. Question. If you deconstruct what a postmodern says have you reconstructed?

Scot said...

Excellent post. You did a great job pointing out the fact that B. McLaren and his folk are just as divisive as those "extreme position" Christians.

I'm looking forward to the next 50 letters.

FX Turk said...

Cephas --

You have committed an act of unforgivable violence which, all told, leaves you in a position to hated worse than if you had actually murdered someone.

John said...

This was a brilliant take down.

As a lawyer, I loved the way you drove to the point. There are a couple of ways to do this: you can bludgeon them into submission through a full-on cross-examination or you can do what Frank did here which is apply their "can't we just have a dialog / conversation / have areas of agreement" motif, break of the pieces where they agree (oh, so you agree there is a devil) and then beat them about the head with it.

Brilliant, I think.

Stefan Ewing said...

Okay, now that I've actually read it....

Deconstructing a postmodernist utterance and reconstructing it into something linear and propositional and all that, is just...mind-bending.

Rachael Starke said...

I was thinking the same thing re: Challies.

Till then, I say we pile on the hyperbolic accolades in giant shovelfuls. We know how much the haters love that.

I'll go.

I think reading this post should be a mandatory exercise for Christian high-school or college yoots studying critical thinking and argumentation. They should also write one of their own. As you all have pointed out - they'd have plenty of examples from which to choose. (Submitting it to Frank would be optional, given that he has to provide for his family and occasionally eat, and he'd likely be inundated).

Bverysharp said...

I guess I stumbled into the wrong place again.
Is this a ministery to the body?
I also saw the link to selling of the merchandise ( can't say I see much difference in what TBN does )
So anyway ( not that i think for one moment that you would care what i'm about to write)... we are to follow your example as a 'teacher' 'pastor' ( you tell me what gift you are using ) and write letters to people we disagree with ( and for good reason ) and ( here is the issue I have) then post the letter for other members of the body ( and the public that are or most likly are lost) to also read and give us praise for the points we scored in our doctrine and how we must have wounded them ( the letter recipient ) with our strategically placed thorns in their side ( through the letter )?
To sit back after posting the letter and allow the body to congradulate the writer seems strange and not of the Spirit that should be behind correction or shining the light of truth at all.
What are your thoughts?

Mike Westfall said...

An with that last comment (#55), perhaps Challies has finally linked to the post??? Hmmm?

Cathy M. said...

[Dabbing tears from my eyes] This was just... just beautiful.

I am so glad you are really back in the saddle again. May each of your 52 posts generate 200+ comments.

DJP said...

Who knew Jay Adams reads our blog?

(Only Adams interrupts himself with so many parentheticals.)

Steve said...

I am with Mike. I am theologically and politically conservative, but am often embarassed by the tone of the leading public proponents of my views.
I read Pyromoaniac first and then Pyromaniacs every day for over a year, and received a lot of good along the way, including the occasional dose of pepper. Frankly, these types of posts are the reason that I am now only an occasional reader. In my opinion they alienate those who don't already agree, and only make those who already agree more angry and jaded.
The meat is made inedible for all by the inordinate amount of spice.
I think it would serve our cause well for all of us to examine our own hearts and rethink our tactics, and take to heart the idea of being ambassadors for Christ.

Chris H said...

You asked: Is this a ministry to the Body?

The answer: Yes. Correcting bad teaching, bad theology (commonly called heresy, but that's such a loaded word I'd hate for it to distract from the point), and replacing both with the correct understanding of God and His Word is a ministry to the Body.

In fact, one might say it's the most important ministry that teachers are supposed to have.... teaching.

If your grade school teacher went around without ever letting her students know that 2+2=4, and never bothered to correct the people who arrived at a different sum, we'd say she was a very bad teacher. The same is true when it comes to theology.

Isn't it?

Robert said...


I'd say you're not far off in your assessment in your response to Cephas based upon the web search I did earlier (Frank Turk Derek Webb). I know this is a separate letter, but based upon the responses you evoked I'd say a lot of people have some strong (negative) feelings towards you. That is to be expected when you speak the truth to a hostile world, though.

Eric said...

Steve (and Mike, and Phil...),

Is satire somehow now considered to be outside of the Christian ethic? If so, when did that happen.

If the "tone" of this piece is found to be actually and truly offensive by some, then I think several things:

1) It might be nigh unto impossible for Frank to write anything containing the truth and questioning untruth found somewhere in the public arena without someone complaining about the tone.

2) Those that are habitually offended ought better examine exactly why they find themselves offended so easily rather than continually admonishing others concerning their tone.

3) If you know that you are offended by what the bloggers at this site write (Steve), and if you cannot change that about yourself, you will be most edified if you avoid the unnecessary offense by not visiting the site.

John said...

I'm just curious. Do the Tone Police ever pull over guys like Derek Webb and Donald Miller for the passive-aggressive drive-bys of other evangelicals?

('spose I miss those or something)

Anonymous said...


They get an exemption for being authentic, or honest, or edgy or something...

DJP said...

John and Daryl's, paired, are my favorites so far.

FX Turk said...


Back about 20 years ago, there was no internet. I have no idea if you can remember those heady days which were pre-cellphone, but I'm hoping you can so you can follow me here.

Back in those days, the media had no competition for their point of view, and while they didn't have a monopoly on the public conversation, they didn't have any obligation to say things which upset their own world-view.

In that world, Carl Sagan was a god and William F. Buckley was a marginal figure -- both ironically on the same network TV station, but one relegated to being moderated by the insipid Michael Kinsley and the other given almost imperial power to pronounce his godless cosmology. Phil Donohue, if you can believe it, was seen as an admired intellectual.

Things have changed, and I think for the better.

Today when someone says something stupid like, "it's the conservative voices in America that are driving deep divisions among the religious, and driving away seekers," we have an opportunity to say otherwise -- and some of us, thanks to some hard work and some good fortune, have a larger plantform by which to say these things. Of course that doesn't mean we should be careless about it, or reckless, but this open letter is not any of that at all.

See: by speaking to a /specific example/ of intellectual tomfoolery, we find that there is no doubt left about what we mean -- or about what those we object to mean. Seriously: how can anyone on Miller's side of this conversation now say, "well, Don didn't mean that religious conservatives are the problem." This open letter makes it plain that if he didn't mean that, his comments were complete gibberish. He absolutely meant that -- and his meaning for what to do about it is also clear.

And this is the point of interest for me: I will grant you that you may have a rudimentary theology of public discourse which will forbid the kind of post this is from being written by men of good faith. But given that this is the kind of post it is, how does your theology apply to Donald Miller's life work? See: you may not have considered this, but Miller is a long-haul polemicist who has demonized (cf. The Devil) everyone he has theological disagreements with. He has, elsewhere, equated conservative Christian theology with strapping a bomb on one's self and driving on the bus to the Mall to deliver it. He has here called those he disagrees with in league with the devil. That's front-line religious polemics. I have done a lot less than that here -- yet you find it offensive.

OK: I accept that. I accept your umbrage. I accept that this is not for everyone. But the alternatives are simply theological appeasement. As Carl Trueman penned in the last Themelios, while some things are horribly beautiful, the kind of peace you are talking about is just horrible.

No person was harmed in my open letter -- but his ideas were under specific reproach. Since he said them in public, let him receive his criticism in public. The public square is a better place for it.

You are welcome to agree or disagree, but to wonder if it is necessary forget that we live in the real world and not in the world which exists for each of us only between our own ears.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Eric, John,

You know, I think the Tone Police are profiling Frank - he's the only guy I see them pulling over and blowing their "What's all this then?" whistle.

Seriously, though, I wonder if they aren't so much offended as they are intolerant of solid food. These Pyros make us think through issues, which, honestly, I've only recently gotten used to, and they serve as a means to get us to chew on some meat - you know, actually THINK through an issue instead of getting it spoon fed to us. Just a thought.

donsands said...

"In my opinion they alienate those who don't already agree, and only make those who already agree more angry and jaded." Steve

I don't feel more angry and jaded.

Donald Miller is being called out in a good way. The Scripture clearly tells us to speak the truth in love. Frank has done this.
Is he perfect?

Donald Miller has said some terrible things about abortion, that drives me crazy that any Christian would say what he said. But, we should talk to him how?

This blog is a shining light for our Lord, through the Three TeamPyro Amigos.

And surely you can disagree with that Steve.
Have a blessed evening in our Lord's grace and peace. Rom. 15:13

Mike Westfall said...

Frank, you're being divisive again. You'd better shut up before you scare more "seekers" away.

Steve said...

Eric, unfortunately I am sure I have missed out on a lot of good posts by doing as you suggest and avoiding the site. Even more unfortuantely I doubt that much real good has been accomplished by the fanning of the flames of the frustration and anger of the regular readers.
It may feel good for a minute, or give us some release, but it doesn't make progress for the church to humiliate or alienate those who are in need of loving correction.
Think of it like disciplining a child - do they learn better by being ridiculed, or by loving correction and earnest appeal to the Word and to their conscience?

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

My son was given a book by Miller for Christmas. Alarm bells immediately went off when I saw the book because of what I already knew in passing about the Emergent movement/church.

It didn’t take much research to confirm my concerns. First of all, Don Kimball starts his endorsement of the book off with these words, “If you have felt that Jesus is someone you respect and admire—but Christianity is something that repels you…”, blah, blah, blah. This is emergent speak for… “we like relationships but not doctrine”.

I then found a great piece called “Green Like Envy: An Ex-pagan Looks at Blue Like Jazz” by Richard and Linda Nathan:


Just reading some of the quotes from Miller’s Blue Like Jazz shows the sorrowful state of the church considering the book has sold over a million copies.

Speaking of endorsements. Go to Amazon.com and look up Brian McLaren's book, "The Secret Message of Jesus" and click on the "Look inside" link so you can see the back of the book. There you will notice that Donald Miller endorses it! I love how some don’t want to jump the gun by connecting Miller too strongly with the Emergent crowd while he himself keeps endorsing McLaren. Oh, btw, while you’re there, notice two of the other endorsers of that book… Jim Wallis and Anne Rice!

Nuf said… great piece Frank… I look forward to your next open letter!

P.S. If anyone wants to read an antidote for this nonsense I highly recommend MacArthur’s, “The Truth War”. The introduction is worth the price of admission and readable online at Amazon.

FX Turk said...

Steve --

I'm glad you can judge my heart-motives. You are smart.

John said...

I'm thinking of a lot of TSA-type analogies all of a sudden, too.

Just wait till Rob Bell unloads his latest book with the sparsely populated pages. Universalism. All in.

'cept the Pyros and their readers, of course.

FX Turk said...

Steve --

The major difference between Donald Miller and one of my children is that they wouldn't say things they know to be false in public. They have the sense to know that if they do, someone ought to say to them, out loud: "You're a liar."

Eric said...


I'm sorry that you viewed what Frank has written as a humiliation of Donald Miller. Satire does not equal humiliation and does not by necessity result in alienation. Satire is simply a tool by which to drive home a point. Frank did not satirize Donald Miller the person (resulting in humiliation), only his publicly expressed ideas.

Bverysharp said...

I have no problem with the letter or the comments/content of it.
It's the initial 'open' letter I have a problem with.
You set out to 'open letter' rebuke false teachings etc. and post them here for what appears as in my opinion to receive the praises of men for your 'spiritual?' work?
You wrote, "I've decided to write 52 open letters in 2011, Did the Holy Spirit come up with the number in advance based on the weeks of the Roman calender?
You missed the point of my comment.
The next letters, since you decided it will be 51 more of them... will it be from spirit or will you pick your next target from some list you have to fill to make the 52 mark while the regular people here wait for the new episode to see your effectivness of the rebuke in your doctrine and the possible flare ups for poking the eye of a dog with a stick?
I can sure see writing some letters to correct or rebuke some false teachers... but to pre fix and determine and then post before there is any response from the party seems nothing more than pure flesh with great doctrine to try to make it justified.
That last part was a compliment to your doctrine but not the method.
But then I am now guilty of participating in the applauds for your letter doctrine which I will now retract. :)
I will stick with the harder points of my 'two cents' (comments) at this point. Frank... we can have the correct doctrine and be ever so slightly blinded as anyone in some of our practice, this statement includes myself and anything I have commented on here.

Steve said...

Quote from Frank: "I'm glad you can judge my heart-motives. You are smart."

Quote from Frank: "The major difference between Donald Miller and one of my children is that they wouldn't say things they know to be false in public."

Frank, I was not judging your heart, I was urging you to consider the wisdom of your method.

Satire may be permissible, but it may not always be profitable.

Mike Westfall said...

Let's see if I understand what's going on here:

Bverysharp is publically rebuking Frank Turk for the act of publically rebuking Donald Miller, who publically rebuked (with bad theology) conservative Christians.

Is that about right?
Why am I reminded of the befuddled look of the AFLAC duck in the commercial that features Yogi Berra?

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

Bverysharp, you forgot to tell Frank that this conversation may be recorded for quality assurance purposes.

Joan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joan said...

I was disappointed to hear positive interviews of Donald Miller (and Shane Claiborne - is he on your open letter list?) on Moody Radio. After being dismissed when I wrote their local station about my concerns, I am sorry to say I am no longer a financial supporter of Moody Radio.

SolaMommy said...

ROFL at the U2 reference :-)

Another sorely-needed open letter. Glad to hear there will be more!

bottlerocket said...

Why not actually contact Don Miller to clarify any issues you have with his statement instead of putting words in his mouth? It's like you enjoy making yourself the victim of people that you don't like. If you read his comment at face value and didn't contort it to sarcastically gripe about your qualms about the "emerging movement", it's not actually saying anything theologically disagreeable:

"The media will find the most loud-mouth, and ungracious Christians to say polarizing things about hot-button issues. The Devil uses this contentiousness to divide the church and drive seekers away."

Given recent media trends and how Christians are often portrayed, this seems like a logical prediction.

Several commenters praising your "letter" qualified what they said with "I don't know Don Miller and have never read his books, but ..." Isn't that the definition of judgment?

Gracious and sincerity go a long way. Sarcasm doesn't make many friends.

Aaron Snell said...


"I've decided to write 52 open letters in 2011, one for each week of the year"

You do realize this ensures you will experience the year of the broken record, right?

Have fun!

Sonja said...

Whatever the "tone" one might perceive, I'm greatly appreciative to have any degree of awareness of anyone preaching a different gospel. I don't have the time or inclination to seek them out, but have found out first hand how they seek out, if not me, someone close to me.

A Team Pyro member was kind enough to help me dissuade a young relative, a babe in Christ who became enamored by a wolf I had never heard of. And it just so happened that said Pryomaniac had made a post of said wolf 2 days prior to said relative expounding on his adoration of this man. Pyro did his homework and I used the fruit with extra-added personal advice graciouly provided with concern and care.

I don't care about tone, I care about truth. And these guys are a whole lot smarter than I ever hope to be.

And the real deal caring for those who read here -- their ministry. There's stop signs and red lights all over the place and someone has to put them up. Without stop signs and red lights, calamity ensues. Isn't this at the least a caution light?

WV: tersest. I'm not sure how to take that. :)

Paula Bolyard said...

Bottlerocket said Why not actually contact Don Miller to clarify any issues you have with his statement instead of putting words in his mouth?

It took 83 comments for someone to throw this card. Check with the official Librarian of Pyro, but I think it's gotta be a record for this blog.

Frank Turk said, Back in those days, the media had no competition for their point of view, and while they didn't have a monopoly on the public conversation, they didn't have any obligation to say things which upset their own world-view....

This whole bit is one of the most concise, astute summaries of the the development of the blogosphere culture I've read in one place. Well said.

trogdor said...

While normally I don't have a problem with using satire, sarcasm, or even snark to make the point more effectively, in this case I don't have even the slightest problem with it either.

I'm not sure what's so offensive or 'unloving' about checking to see if someone's polemics/accusations are consistent with his own views, or in pointing out the inherently self-defeating nature of the "my enemies are being divisive" whine.

donsands said...

"Why not actually contact Don Miller to clarify any issues you have with his statement instead of putting words in his mouth?" -bottle

It wasn't putting words in his mouth. It was a terrific written expression of how the Church should be speaking the truth in love.

Maybe Miller will hear of this blog, and come and read this letter and interact.

Doug Pagitt has done that here, and so has Dan Kimball. BTW, Dan Kimball is a fine pastor, in my of thinking. Doug, well, he's an enigma.

And Mark Driscoll came over here as well, I think.

bottlerocket said...

@Paula the problem is, this isn't about the media "hav[ing] a monopoly on the public conversation", it's about a blogger hijacking the conversation by choosing to distort someone else's point of view, instead of offering his own to it.

The writer's main issue isn't with the exclusivity of the conversation on CNN, it's with few sentences Don Miller was asked to contribute to it. Instead of offering his own thoughtful addition to the question posed by CNN on his blog, the writer choose to take a single contributor's quote out of context, and sarcastically mocked it in a borderline personal attack: "Thanks for your faithful witness, and for your renewed view of the Gospel. I was worried that, after your last 3-4 books, you had given up on the faith ... "

I just don't see how it is profitable to dissect someone else's statement to the point that is clearly be distorted to prove a larger point, no matter what the medium is (a blog, a news outlet, etc.)

And @Sonja: "I don't care about tone, I care about truth." .... Obviously truth is essential, but without graciousness and love, it becomes a weapon instead of something that is used to set someone free. It's not hard to sarcastically --- and still truthfully --- make a statement. But is that effective, or even Biblical? " If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

FX Turk said...

Zippy --

Anonymous commenters are my favorite, even after 6 years of this hobby. Please drive by again soon.

Bottle Rocket --

You didn't read the blog rules, did you? Please read them.

Rachael Starke said...

You know what I don't understand?

Both Derek Webb and Don Miller are men of words. Prolific, carefully crafted, poignantly decorated (in Webb's case, anyway) words.

And they make good livings with them. (No doubt they've donated all their profits to the poor and marginalized.)

I have little doubt Webb's interviewer misquoted him somewhere - journalists aren't infallible. And I'm just as certain Miller felt constrained by having to offer up his opinion with such a minimal word count.

So along comes a writer of lesser fame who has, in his own way, offered up a reason for the hope that is in him, one that stands in contrast to what Webb and Miller have offered up.

And they respond with nothing?? Not a song, not a haiku, not a "what I would have said if I'd had two hours and something like a five hundred wordcount, and wherein I show that I didn't mean at all what Frank says I meant".

Furthermore, if I'm ever blessed to be able to think and write the way the Pyros do, and have a third of the following, and someone reads something I've written and proceeds to try to skillfully and wittily expose me as a theological hack,

I'd be flattered, in a totally holy way.

FX Turk said...

I have a standing policy, btw, bottlerocket: if you have Skype (it's free, and I'll bet your computer will run it; you might have to spring for a $20 headset), I'd love to have a fully-recorded conversation with you for 60 minutes on this subject. That is: we can talk about anything you want related to this subject for 60 minutes, and all you have to do is agree to it. You can even set the agenda. The only stipulation is that we post the conversation unedited at this blog when it's all over.

my e-mail is frank at i-t-u-r-k dot com. Feel free to match your convictions and your complaints, and talk to me rather than refer to me in the 3rd person.

FX Turk said...

OK -- I thought "The Devil" thing was my favorite part of this blog today. I mean: it was when I wrote this.

But today Tweeter "@TheDamer" pointed me to this link. It was posted on 30 Dec 2010.

See: now I understand why that CNN piece showed up in my tweet stream. It was God's providence.

FX Turk said...


I have this theory: some people are very good at talking to themselves. They hate it when others interrupt.

lounorm said...

Stamping Out Harold Camping

Is Second Coming date-setter Harold Camping worthy of death? He already has a zero batting average after his September 1994 prediction fizzle and, according to the Bible, is a false prophet.
Nevertheless that California shaman, who should be ashamed, claims he's found out that Christ's return will be on May 21, 2011 even though Matt. 24:36 says that no one knows the "day" or "hour" of it!
A Google article ("Obama Fulfilling the Bible") points out that "Deut. 18:20-22 in the Old Testament requires the death penalty for false prophets."
The same article reveals that "Christians are commanded to ask God to send severe judgment on persons who commit and support the worst forms of evil (see I Cor. 5 and note 'taken away')."
Theologically radioactive Harold Camping and his ga-ga groupies (with their billboards featuring "May 21, 2011") should worry about being "stamped out" if many persons decide to follow the I Cor. 5 command.
The above article concludes: "False prophets in the OT were stoned to death. Today they are just stoned!"

mike said...

the reason that this "open letter" as well as the past on are acceptable, is that they are the truth. Frank truthfully represents the statement of these two men, and then truthfully corrects the theological mess that they represent.
people are uncomfortable at the tone or approach, because they have bought the lie that there are ways to couch the truth in non confrontational half truths that will not be offensive to those who do not know or love the Messiah Christ that God of the scriptures has chosen to provide for the salvation of sinners.
Christ himself said "I am the way the truth and the way", either people do not believe Him, or do not believe that He meant it.
there is NO compromise between truth and untruth, it is all truth or just another lie.
the version of the gospel that these two men presented was "B" just another lie, and Frank, being some kind of pugilistic purveyor of prose, chose not to let that stand unchallenged.
it would be a good thing if more men were willing to follow suit.

Chuck Wade said...

I read someone say that Derek Webb responded to the open letter, is this true? Where can I find that response?

SwordSaint907 said...

I may not be alone in this, but I was initially thinking this was sarcasm vis-a-vis the Apostle Paul in 2nd Corinthians.

Is this the intent of the piece, or is it actually praising the man for vaguely predicting that there will be more division in the church?

My apologies - sometimes sarcasm goes right over my head.

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...


I know I already commented on this post earlier when describing my concerns with a Miller book that my son got for Christmas but...

I just read the post again.

It has been said that trying to describe the emergent church is like trying to nail jelly to a wall.

Well... consider it nailed!

Reading (and re-reading) your post was like watching someone in a mirror. It looks like their moving their right hand but I know it's really their left. They look left and I know they are really looking right. Just a blast to read!

And just the perfect way to respond to the nonsense that it is.

One of my favorite post... ever!

For those of you who think this is simply sarcasm or snark, you really need to read it again, and/or, you really need to understand what the emergent nonsense is really about.

Here's what three pretty smart fellows think about it:


Thanks again Frank

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Now for those poor little dears who are oh-so concerned with the just terrible tone of this post...

I'm curious about something...

When Miller was campaigning for pro-death Obama... or

When Pagitt was babbling on about hell not being a place that actually exists... or

When McLaren suggested taking a five year moratorium on the subject of homosexuality... or

a host of other ridiculous positions that these... uh... gentlemen... have...

Did those of you who have taken issue with Frank’s post speak out against them like you've spoken out here against Frank? or...

Is the truth of the matter that you are more concerned with tone than issues that have eternal consequences?

I wonder why that is?

Maybe you should do a little wondering yourselves.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Frank, honestly I believe you would make a GREAT Arminian. Ecumenical cooperation is WAY more important that a truth that divides. NOT!

The neo-Calvinist emphasis on tolerance and love above propositional truth is part of the problem. In fact, it leads straight back to the homosexuality as tolerated view. I'm surprised you can't see this.

The Bible over and over commands the reprobate and the elect alike to repent. There is no such thing as a "free offer" of the Gospel.

And yes, I think you have misunderstood the comments Miller made at CNN.


DJP said...

Frank - you allude to D Miller's whimper about you daring to deal frontally with D Webb.

Is there a trend that tough-talking, big-talking, macho posers with "D" in their names turn out to be particularly glass-jawed and thin-skinned?


Unknown said...

Can I just say I have felt like a doofus maximus for the past couple days for completely missing the satire the first time I read this post?


FX Turk said...

Charlie --


Who are the "neo-calvinists" you speak of? name three?

FX Turk said...


This is like the 5th time Harold Camping has predicted the return of Christ and is wrong. (there: I said it)

He's about as credible as, well, as Pat Robertson.


Eric said...

Irony Alert:

For those complaining about the "tone" of Franks post and in defense of Donald Miller, consider Donald Miller's blog post of Jan 5, 2011. In satirizing Donald Miller's public comments, Frank was being creative. I know from reading Donald Miller's recent blog post that Mr. Miller himself would not want your criticism of Frank to stifle Frank's creativity. No doubt Mr. Miller's advice to Frank would be "Go and create, even as you were made to create."

Nash Equilibrium said...

I have mostly stayed out of this, waiting until this morning to carefully read all the comments.

My take-away is that I am continually astounded at how many Christian people think it is a more-Godly and more-loving choice to leave a false teacher like Miller go unchallenged, and thereby risking that perhaps thousands of people will end up in Hell, than it is to bust his lies wide open in public that whoever might listen would be warned, and perhaps end up in Heaven instead of Hell.

Amazing. Disturbing, but amazing.

Solameanie said...

For all of those continually squalling about "tone," I am very, very near demonstrating some. If it were me, I would just about be at the point of adding a rule where complaints about "tone" would be automatically deleted. But then again, that would probably create a martyr complex in a few of them.

For every Scripture they can cite implying that the passages mean we're supposed to be Caspar Milquetoast to false teachers, they have to ignore about 3/4 of the rest of God's Word containing much harsher language than is ever unveiled here.

False teachers lead people astray. False teachers deserve and will get harsh condemnation if they are unwilling to repent. All the more so when they write books, give media interviews, release music and a host of other mass communication means. If they don't want to be on the receiving end of public correction when they engage in public stupidity, then they need to shaddap already.

Okay, I'm sorry I said "shaddap." The Apostle Paul would have said something like "they must be silenced." (Titus 1:11)

FX Turk said...

It's funny that the teachings of Jesus are always the parts that get us either toward or forward from the "tone discussion". For example, we're told that Jesus is just about "love and open arms" when he talks to the woman at the well, but I suggest we look at his "tone" when he tells this woman she doesn't know God when she worships in her country, and she has been with 6 different men who are not her husband. It's funny becuase when she goes back to the town, she tells the people, "come see a man who told me everything I've ever done," not "what a nice man -- he didn;t judge me."

You know: in the red letters. Let's not even think about the rebuke he gives to a young man who says he's already done everything the Law requires.

And that's not even thinking about what is actually going on here. What's actually going on here is that there are people who want to be public media figures speaking for "loving like Jesus" who do not want there to be any actual discussion of what they are saying in public. If they are willing to make any concessions, they are only willing to make them privately so that no one who hears their public talk will be caused to think about what they allegedly actually mean.

Derek Webb's recent Tumblr post on this matter is a fantastic description of what he sees as the modus operandi or internet discussion -- but tell me: who is his internet behavior different than the one he describes here -- and how is mine in any way similar?

Who exactly is kidding who here?

Eric said...


I just love that DW criticized your public response to his public statements with an internet posting (in which you again get mistaken for a posterior body part). You just can't make this stuff up.

Robert said...

I find it funny that looking at tumblr, you can only like or repost the articles. sounds rather fitting for somebody who can not humbly respond to criticism. I mean, that never happened in the Bible, right? Oops, you already mentioned the Samaritan woman at the well. And then there are the rebukes that Jesus gave the apostles...and Paul rebuking Peter in public.

Nash Equilibrium said...

I can fully understand why Webb and Miller wouldn't want to have their fleshly pride wounded by being forcibly out-ed as false teachers in public. What I can't understand is why Christians would want to see Webb's and Miller's pride preserved at the expense of more souls being taken to Hell, as a result of their lies going unchallenged.

Maybe the only conclusion is that these Christians don't really think that by following lies, one could land in Hell?

Charlie J. Ray said...

I could name way more than three. But suffice it to say Van Til, Bavinck, Kuyper for three classic examples. Three modern examples? That's easy, too. Just about everyone who is a Van Tillian?

"Common grace" is just an excuse to equivocate on the atonement. Either it is only for the elect or it isn't.

Tom Chantry said...

You know: in the red letters.

So True. Jesus so often demonstrates the pretensions of our extra-biblical "moral" categories.

I preached a (short) sermon once entitled "Jesus Wasn't Nice." The main argument: a woman asked Jesus to help her sick daughter, and in response he called her a Gentile dog. Nice people don't say things like that. Nice people never criticize, and they certainly wouldn't stoop to race baiting. So Jesus apparently didn't care about being nice.

What was he doing, then? Being mean for the sake of being mean (since that's the only alternative to pervasive, cloying niceness that most in our effete society can imagine)? Or was it perhaps that he was determined that she realize she was nothing and deserved nothing in order that she might gratefully receive the gracious miracle which He was about to perform?

Lesson: We're a bunch of Gentile dogs who deserve nothing. (OK - some listeners may be Jewish dogs who deserve nothing; Jesus rarely cut them any slack, either.) But being dogs who deserve nothing, are we not astounded that rather than shove us some table scraps, Jesus invites us to the wedding feast, clothes us in His own righteousness, and loves us to the point of death? You pretty well have to see yourself as a worthless mongrel cur before you appreciate the wonder of the gospel.

The sermon didn't go over too well with the mega-churcy "Christian" teens who were the primary audience. I came away having learned that there's far too much emphasis on niceness - call it "tone" if you will - in the church today, and it's crippling church-goers in the most perilous manner possible: it's rendering them immune to the gospel proclamations of Jesus.

FX Turk said...

Charlie --

I think you're not fully informed. Have you ever read the Westminister Confession of Faith?

Rachael Starke said...

Tom -

Not to go off on a rabbit-trail (because that never happens here, obviously),

but was Jesus really saying that Himself? Or was he simply repeating the Jewish attitude of the day?

Tom Chantry said...

Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."
(Mar 7:26-27 ESV)

That's a pretty straightforward statement. What in the text suggests to you (or more importantly, would suggest to the woman in question) that he was facetiously expressing the opinions of the Pharisees?

But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
29 And he said to her, "For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter."

(Mar 7:28-29 ESV)

And if there is any question, He heals the girl in response to her statement, in which she accepts the designation of a dog but begs for mercy anyway. If Jesus was obliquely mocking the Pharisees, wouldn't He instead have said, "You know what, you missed my point - you're fine, and I'll be glad to heal your daughter because I'm not a xenophobe like those Pharisees!"

The passage seems pretty straightforward to me. I have a hard time reading a tongue-in-cheek tone (there's that word again!) into what Jesus said. She was a Gentile, not in covenant with God, and He questioned by what virtue she saw herself as worthy of a miracle. Her answer essentially was, "No virtue - only need." And in the face of such faith He gladly extended mercy.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Frank, I have read the WCF and both catechisms and the Three Forms of Unity... Many times over.

Charles Hodge is the classic example of equivocation on the atonement:

are agreed that some only, and not all of mankind are to be actually saved.

The whole question, therefore, concerns simply the purpose of God in the mission of his Son. What was the design of Christ's coming into the world, and doing and suffering all He actually did and suffered? Was it merely to make the salvation of all men possible; to remove the obstacles which stood in the way of the offer of pardon and acceptance to sinners? or, Was it specially to render certain the salvation of his own people, i. e., of those given to Him by the Father? The latter question is affirmed by Angustinians, and denied by their opponents. It is obvious that if there be no election of some to everlasting life, the atonement can have no special reference to the elect. It must have equal reference to all mankind. But it does not follow from the assertion of its having a special reference to the elect that it had no reference to the non-elect. Augustinians readily admit that the death of Christ had a relation to man, to the whole human family, which it had not to the fallen angels. It is the ground on which salvation is offered to every creature under heaven who hears the gospel; but it gives no authority for a like offer to apostate angels. It moreover secures to the whole race at large, and to all classes of men, innumerable blessings, both providential and religious. It was, of course, designed to produce these effects; and, therefore, He died to secure them. In view of the effects which the death of Christ produces in the relation of all mankind to God, it has in all ages been customary with Augustinians to say that Christ died "sufficienter pro omnibus, efficaciter tantum pro electis;" sufficiently for all, efficaciously only for the elect. There is a sense, therefore, in which He died for all, and there is a sense in which He died for the elect alone. The simple question is, Had the death of Christ a reference to the elect which it had not to other men? Did He come into the world to secure the salvation of those given to Him by the Father, so that the other effects of his work are merely incidental to what was done for the attainment of that object?

Hodge: For Whom Did Christ Die? The State of the Question

Wow, God "offers" to the reprobate what He never intends to give them. Or maybe God commands the reprobate to repent knowing that they are unable to repent? If God never intends to save the reprobate then in no sense whatsoever does the atonement apply to them. Hodge's view is nothing short of an incipient form of Amyraldianism.


Charlie J. Ray said...

Jesus is indeed mocking the Pharisees. Everyone is a dog and it is only mercy that will save you from the wrath of God. There is absolutely nothing that makes you worthy... excepting the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross.

That might be why the prayer of humble access is said at every communion service in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. The prayer of humble access in fact alludes to this Gospel story.

Tom Chantry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Chantry said...


You didn't even understand the nature of the exchange between Rachael and me. I won't speak for her, but I'm a waaaay simpler guy than Charles Hodge.

You may draw your own conclusions. (And I know you will.)

Rachael Starke said...


And I'm a waaaay simpler girl. :)

Thanks for the explanation Tom. I need to ponder it some. I think it may be a matter of emphasis. Won't belabor the point now though.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Tom, I have no idea what you mean. Either you're a Pharisee or you're a dog. Take your pick. Those are the only two options in applying that text.


FX Turk said...

Charlie --

It's funny that you cite Hodge here, link to the right essay, and some miss his point entirely.

That is: you miss the very first sentence which you only quote in part.

In the fourth place, the question does not concern the actual application of the redemption purchased by Christ. The parties to this controversy are agreed that some only, and not all of mankind are to be actually saved.

Do you or do you not agree that some men are not saved? That is: do you agree that some men are saved in Christ and others are not saved but condemned to hell in the final account?

FX Turk said...

As you ponder that, Charlie, I have a suggestion for you. The case of God's salvation of man is only one of these four situations:

1. God intends to save all men.

2. God intends to save some men.

3. God intends to save no men.

4. God has no intention in the act of salvation.

Let's be as clear as possible: the word "intends" means "to have in mind as something to be done or brought about". There are other choices possible if God does not "intend" salvation. For example, if God is only "offering" salvation, what He "intends" to do is perhaps obscured and not obvious or not in evidence; if God is "displaying" salvation, again His intention is not necessarily obvious to you and me.

But if God intends something in salvation, then we are talking about what he means to do or means to bring about.

What would you say to that?

Solameanie said...

There's an interesting parallel to what goes on in these discussions with Miller and Webb types and their acolytes, and what is currently going on in Congress. I note with interest that the Associated Press reports that the majority of Democratic/liberal Congress members blew off attending the reading of the Constitution. Even the AP does a back-handed slap at the effort to read the "222-year-old document." I guess they're shocked, shocked that anyone would think it has any real relevance today, at least the parts they don't like or that show them to be way out of bounds.

Think about it a while, and I hope you'll see how I think it applies to this discussion.

Mike Westfall said...

Yeah, well... The liberals are Getting Pretty Tired of All "This Constitution Loving", after all.

Robert said...


Are you suggesting that liberal theologians/nominal Christians are shocked that soebody would actually read the Bible and think it has any relevance today (again for some of them just the parts they find objectionable)? Perish the thought. Of course, some people think they are just able to really figure out what the Bible really means better than us fundamentalist sticklers.

donsands said...

"Wow, God "offers" to the reprobate what He never intends to give them. Or maybe God commands the reprobate to repent knowing that they are unable to repent?" Charlie

And God told Israel to keep His law, didn't He?
So they kept it? Or they could have kept it?

Anonymous said...

So good. Write 50 more letters, please.

FX Turk said...

Charlie --

no response? That's unexpected.

Anonymous said...



Miller spoke at my church once, I'll be sure to get this open letter into various eyes.

Mr. Fosi said...

Having interacted with Don Miller on his blog, I can say that it would be pointless to address issues with him over coffee.

He's simultaneously soft intellectually AND and immune to scripture, being too enamored of his own mystical musings.

Similar to the Webb fans that posed here on Pyro, the Miller fans over at his blog neither interested nor prepared to interact with the Biblical text in any meaningful way.

edward knight said...

Excellent post. Many in the comment thread have complained about Frank's use of satire/sarcasm. I think they fail to see that by addressing Miller's statement the way he has, Frank brings to light elements of Miller's error that would be hard or impossible to pin down had he simply given a straight forward point-by-point rebuttal.

As with many pomo's, Miller is fond of using strategically vague language. His word choice allows for multiple interpretations of his statements. It works like a back door ready with a get away car if a critical eye is ever turn on those statements. He is always able to say “That's not what I meant and you are mean spirited for thinking so!”

That's were the real genius of Frank's post comes in. By taking one possible way that Miller's statements could be interpreted, a way that assumes agreeance, Frank seems charitable. Doesn't he?

Well, no, that would be too easy. Almost everyone recognizes Frank's work as satire because they all know that is not what Miller actually meant. Miller can squirm and try to get to his escape hatch but his objection to Frank's interpretation of his words have already made his actual views obvious.

I'd also like to add that I hope the tone police are at least equally upset over Miller's “digital stoning” dodge.

Good work Turk.

DJP said...

May be the best comment of the thread; expresses what Frank did far better than I could have done.

stephie3 said...

I've been doing research for quite some time about Emerging people like Rob Bell and Donald Miller. We recently left our church because of the youth pastor showing NOOMA movies and altogether poor teaching to the young people (among other reasons). To top it all off, our church hosted an event with none other than Donald Miller AND Derek Webb last November. A friend of mine had to get up and leave halfway through with her 11 year old son because of inappropriate language used by Don. (I wasn't there.) It makes me want to weep that leaders of my church of 20 years are falling for this stuff. I can't find anyplace where Don has responded to your open letter - has he??????
I'm waiting in anxious anticipation for his deeply profound reply.

Cephas said...

@Edward Knight, Way to boil things down to their essence, excellent assessment.