Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Why point out attacks on truth?

Christians sometimes debate the propriety of exposing the public errors of others. After all, love covers a multitude of sin and keeps no record of wrongs. Isn't it at least, then, unloving to call attention to the theological foibles of others? I do not think so, although I do think it can be a dangerous task.

Scripture has ample instructions and illustrations about the wisdom, value and even necessity of exposing erroneous teaching. Jesus did it. Paul did it. And Paul instructed Timothy and Titus to do it.

Obviously, no one could possibly point out all the error that is being promoted in the name of Christianity today. Nor should anyone--at least, any pastor--try. To make such an attempt would be to relegate your waking hours to nothing more than searching for and exposing error. It would be a never-ending task.

Furthermore, the necessary responsibility to contend for and defend the faith is dangerous. Not because it makes a person unpopular, but because it opens the contender up to many inroads of pride. Spiritual pride always lurks at the door of truth lovers. It is what makes a man feel justified in making jokes about the doctrinal mistakes of others. It breeds a sense of self-importance and doctrinal superiority as the errors of others are addressed. While contending for and defending the Gospel the temptations to indulge spiritual pride are great. Succumbing to them is deadly and must be fought tenaciously. I am so weak and so prone to this that I have asked others to help me guard against at least the manifestation of such pride. Reading Jonathan Edwards on the subject is also very helpful. Be warned, reading Edwards is like taking a spiritual bath in a tub full of razorblades!

So, if it is so dangerous, then why point out error at all? Because truth matters. It matters to God and it matters to us. George Will recently made this astute observation:
A long life in journalism and around Washington, D.C., has taught me not just that ideas have consequences, but that only ideas have large and lasting consequences.
When wrong ideas about the Gospel of Jesus Christ are publicly promoted among those who are in positions of leadership and influence, they ought to be exposed.

By calling attention to the public attacks on the truth which many today hold dear, those who marshal such attacks are at least held accountable to public scrutiny. I do not begrudge a Christian leader to believe whatever he will about controversial subjects. In fact, I genuinely esteem many who disagree with me on matters of eschatology, ecclesiology, pneumatology and even points of soteriology. I appreciate it when such men nail their colors to the mast clearly for all to see. But when someone takes unwarranted, public potshots at the truth that I hold dear, or when he publicly castigates those who disagree with him, or when he violates his own professed theological heritage and declared confessional boundaries, I find that kind of behavior worthy of making public. Exposing such castigations is simply turning on the lights for others to see what otherwise might have gone unnoticed, at least for a while.

In my own denominational context I have lived through an era when theological snipers could assassinate their victims from a distance under the cover of darkness. With the exception of cyber-rags like baptistfire.com, very few engage in those kinds of maneuvers anymore. It is simply too risky for them. Twenty years ago, a speaker could vilify "Founders" or "Calvinism" in a public context and usually get away with it, deceiving unsuspecting people who took the speaker to be trustworthy in his assessments. Today, such vilifications are easily exposed and refuted using the internet. Through the inevitability of public scrutiny, such unjust critics are held accountable. Feelings may suffer in the process. But truth receives the benefits.

That is why I have been willing to point out public attacks on truth.

33 comments:

Jeremy Weaver said...

That's the clearest article I've read on the issue. Short and to the point. Unlike the comments you're about to receive.

GeneMBridges said...

Those who raise this objection to this kind of blogging have forgotten the lost art of pamphleteering. It's only in the last century or so that we quit doing that in the church. This is the age of the internet. In 1990, most people would sit under Steve Gaines, Jack Graham, and others. Now, they can logon to a computer and read the primary source materials at www.monergism.com. The biggest Christian Bookstore in my area is run by a Presbyterian brother, so you can just imagine the kinds of theology books he stocks. I see very little synergism in there, and, the great thing is that within a month to six weeks, he's usually had to order another batch!

Oh, speaking of monergism.com...

Look here:

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/contact.html

For Bookmarks.

John sends out free bookmarks for you to give away to folks. When I speak to people about these issues, if I have any of these, I give them out and tell them to look there and read the information for themselves, because there is more there than I can begin to cover. I need to send off for a passle soon, come to think of it.

Also, Tom, welcome John H. and his brethren to the blogosphere: http://www.reformationtheology.com/

Am taking a couple days away from here to get ready for Reformation Day. Take care!

Blessings to all,

Gene

Joshua said...

I was a little confused after reading this BP article posted today. http://www.bpnews.net/bpfeature.asp?ID=2026
What is a carnal believer?
is this possibly why his church is so large? is it made up of 'carnal' believers and spiritual believers?

Chip said...

Forgive me for posting "off-topic" but I dearly desire some advice. Recently in our Sunday School class our material took us into Ephesians. I used the opportunity to raise the subject of predestination and the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. This discussion was lively and a lot of people showed a lot of interest. This spilled over into the following week's lesson.

Now, we've started a men's Bible study and everyone who attended wanted our first topic of study to be predestination, election, and Calvinism. I believe it is primarily so they can defend Arminianism and convince me to change. I was even asked "what would it take to get you to stop believing in Calvinism?"

A multi-week study is about to begin and I am very much the Lone Ranger in the bunch. Any advice on how best to approach the study (I will be leading it)?

The benefit of the experience of others who have been in this situation before will be greatly, greatly appreciated.

A&WTozer said...

Chip,
Given the parameters as I see you've laid them out:
(1) you are the teacher
(2) the class is going to be there "primarily so they can defend Arminianism and convince me to change."

I would not begin the class. Vigorous debate is fine. Bible study is fine. Mixing the two is dangerous.

Debate has two opposing sides. Bible study has a teacher whom the students trust to "deliver the goods" with minimal criticism beyond the normal Berean call.

Backing down from this would show courage on your part... courage to know that the timing is not right.

Again, I say this only based on the parameters you've thrown out there. Perhaps the agitated ones are actually only a small minority. That would change things.

Chip said...

Perhaps some clarification is in order. While I am not a staff member at our church I do enjoy a certain amount of respect from these men as I am deeply involved in our church education program (both as director of a comprehensive education program and as a Sunday School teacher). They also know I'm a seminary graduate and so they sometimes defer to me with questions about theology.

I do not believe the majority of these men are opposed to the doctrines of grace to the point that they cannot be instructed by Scripture. I will admit one or two of them are certainly "hard sells" on the matter but others have made comments like, "Well, I've always been taught that we have free will and that everyone will eventually have an opportunity to accept or reject Christ, but I don't know that that's the case. I'd like to see what the Bible says."

Without boring you with too many details I will say that I'm fairly certain this is the appropriate time for such a study. (As I look back at my original post I see that I probably painted the picture a little too bleak. There is some genuine interest here.)

Scott said...

A&W,

I'm going to quote you " The timing is not right", " It would show more courage to back down". You did say that based on the info you got from Chip that this is your advice. Chip has indicated that majority of the class is showing great interest in these great truths that glorify God. As I'm sure you believe that God not only ordains the end but also the means to the end. The reason these men are showing great interest is because God has caused it to be that way. How would Chip be showing greater courage by backing down ? I believe you are really trying to help Chip ! I don't question that at all. However, I thank your way off in your advice. Chip did ask for help. If Chip follows your advice is he being "winsome" as you claimed is the way Mohler, Dever,and Mahney are. Chip needs to patient as he teaches these doctrines and pray that the hearers see the truth.

Scott said...

Chip,

Has the pastor/elders told you that you can't teach on these doctrines? Does your church confession of faith speak against the way you would teach these doctrines? Are you a calvinist? If your pastor has told you not to teach the truth as you believe on these doctrines then you need to meet with your pastor first.Bring your Bible and open it up and talk with him. Are there any Baptist calvinistic churches within an hour of where you live? I'm a pastor and we have members that drive one hour to our church. They say they don't want to have to reteach their children if they take them to an arminian church close to their house. If these people are showing great interest in these doctrines and you have premission from your pastor then teach them. If he says no then spend your time trying to meet with your pastor and let the word of God work on him.My best advice is to find a church that is calvinistic(Baptist of course)!

A&WTozer said...

Scott,
I was only giving advice based on Chip's original post. His further clarification of the situation changes my advice to a "give it some real consideration".

In the original post, Chip did NOT indicate that "the majority of the class is showing great interest in these great truths that glorify God." Rather, they were showing great animosity. And, as Martin Luther would tell us, there is a time to run straight towards an animosity-laden crowd (Diet of Worms), and there is a time to run to your hideaway castle and translate the Bible into the vernacular.

You say, "The reason these men are showing great interest is because God has caused it to be that way." Maybe you have inside information and know that to be the case in Chip's church. But just b/c a group of people want to trash on a Calvinist, does not mean that they have a holy interest in God's truth. There is a time to follow the dictum of not throwing pearls before swine.

Have you ever impulsively talked about Calvinism to a hostile group of unregenerate SBC church members?
I have, hoping to be the next James White.

You know, it is possible to stand up for truth in an ungodly and fleshly manner, unbefitting the very Christ we seek to extol.

Again, given Chip's clarifications and toning down of the pessimism, my advice is modified. In a room of 10 Christians, if only 2 are sincerely interested, I would be inclined to run with it and give em what I've got. If 0 of 10 are perceived to be interested in learning (as opposed to vitriolic arguing), then I would not disgrace the truth by throwing it to the pirrahnas.

These are just some principles that guide me... the Holy Spirit lives within your heart and Chip's, and is infinitely more capable of guiding you than I am. Blessings.

Scott said...

A&W,

Yes, I have stood before hostile SBC pastors and stood on the doctrines of grace. As a matter of fact I was on staff at FBC Woodstock and stood before not only 26 pastors but resigned before a church of 5,000 people in one service. And I said " I'm being forced to resign because of theological differences.I went to Johnny Hunt and tried to talk with him many times and tried the "winsome" approach. "He said I'm not going to discuss it with you". Also, I was forced to resign recently from the senior pastor of FBC Oakwood because I stood over and over. Yes, I was upfront with the church about my calvinsim. They were even given a copy of the 1689 London Baptist Confession a month out before they voted on me. I could go on and on about the "winsome" approach. I try to the best of my ability to deal with error as Paul did. Yes, there are times I have moved slower than others. It's time to lovingly speak up in the convention. Again I have served at three mega churches in the SBC and the soft approach dosn't work in most cases. I'm not encouraging calvinist to be ungodly and rude. Calvinist are accused by Johnny Hunt, Adrian Rogers, Jack Graham, Jerry Vines and I could name more that we are rude and think we just no more. This is very commen. I have personally been around these men at dinner, lunches, and private mtgs. If you just speak up gently with an open Bible" They freak out". The days for you and I just trying to be "winsome" are over. Just be a man of God and be lovingly aggressive! That's the Biblical approach. These men want us to be quiet and hide in a corner. I have relationships with alot of arminian mega church pastors. They tell me they are on the attack to shut up Founders and men like you and I. These men are polluting and destroying our churches because arminian pastors look up to them. I have been on staff at these churches. Currently I have started a new SBC church and we have around 50 active people. They have come out of arminian theology like you and I. Personally I just gave them the word at FBC Oakwood and God opened their eyes to the truth. It's through preaching and being straight forward not "winsome." Blessings on you A&W. I would love to talk to you by phone.

jmattingly said...

Thanks for the helpful post, Tom. It is definitely necessary to bring the task of exposing error into the realm of seeking the glory of Christ and the furtherance of truth.

When I first came to a knowledge of the doctrines of grace, too much of my defense of the faith was not grounded in this true love for the glory of God’s name, and the integrity of His Church. I’m afraid that some of my actions during this “cage stage” were often fueled by pride.

Scott, I agree that we should cringe at the idea of dampening the truth of gospel (Calvinistic, as it is). Yet there is a place for commending ourselves to people before and/or during us boldly preaching the truth to them- 1 Thess 2:1-12. I’m sure you know this. I hope and trust that this is what Dr. Mohler is doing. One cannot listen to him on Larry King or read his blog without believing that he is not concerned with what others think of him regarding the truth. I just encourage you to remember that we all came to a knowledge of the doctrines of grace BY God’s grace- not because we were particularly insightful. I understand the frustrations of wading through shallow Arminian SBC teaching- but we must mingle our zeal and boldness with humility and patience. I know that God was patient with me. Again, I know that I’m preaching to the choir here, but we constantly need to be stirring up one another to these things (2 Pet 1:13).

I also would say that I do wish that I had the zeal itself (not the misguided portion!) that I had in those earlier stages of coming to know the truth. People continue to be steeped in ignorance of the truth and God’s name continues to be dragged through the mud. God help us to have a holy zeal for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It was Luther who said:

"I never work better than when I am inspired by anger; for when I am angry, I can write, pray, and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations depart." (Table-Talk, 319)

We need grace in order to have a “righteous anger” toward those things that defame God, yet do so in such a way that we are not being full of graciousness like our Lord and Savior, being quick to forgive, and slow to store up pride and bitterness.

Lastly, I hope this comment is shorter than Tom’s initial post, or else, alas, doxoblogist hath already condemned me! :)

jmattingly said...

Sorry, that last sentence should have said for us to "do so in such a way that we ARE being full of graciousness like our Lord and Savior." That little word "not" kind of changes the meaning.

I trust that you did not think I was accusing our Lord of sin!

A&WTozer said...

Scott,
It sounds like we have much in common and would have a lot of camraderie.

Let me commend you for starting a new SBC church. Why beat heads with entrenched error, only to fight for 30 years and have less to show for your ministry than if you start a new church? Better is 50 with open truth and shared belief than 5,000 with feelings of animosity. I wish every Founders guy coming out of seminary would cry out to God to open a door to plant a brand new church that would turn around and plant 5 more just like it over the course of a generation.

You said:, "It's through preaching and being straight forward not "winsome." I don't see these as being in competition with one another. I think we are visualizing "winsome" differently.
But men like me who are balding should not be in the habit of splitting hairs. So, I will bow out of the "winsome" debate for now.

Go Alabama! Brodie Croyle is the man!

Scott said...

A&W,

Go Alabama! I was just starting to like you. It's War Eagle! Go Auburn! You heard it here Auburn beats Alabama in a few weeks even with a down team. I'm hoping LSU will loose one more. Let's talk sometime.

DOGpreacher said...

To Scott, & A&Wtozer:

I would enjoy communication (e-mail/phone) with BOTH of you guys. I have much in common I believe with varied parts of BOTH of your comments. I believe with men like yourselves (along with genembridges, Doxo, Chip, myself, etc.) their is much hope for the faithful exposition of the Truth!

I do feel their is not an equally understood "definition of terms" concerning the word 'winsome'.

Winsome:
(1.) Generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm. (2.) CHEERFUL, GAY

Oh, that more people were TRULY winsome!

People 'Born of God' SHOULD be winsome....however, when some one denigrates God, and His Word....I do not feel winsome. I may feel saddened...or angry...but, not winsome. And yet, because He is sovereign...the overriding feeling should be...winsomeness.

Just a thought, with the word defined.

A Sower,
The DOGpreacher

Scott said...

dogpreacher,

Would love to talk with each other as well. However, A&W must renounce Alabama! Kidding! Serious note things could be worse " You could be an Texas A&M fan"! Sorry Tom I just had to say it.Your Football coach should have stayed at Alabama.

Tom said...

Scott:

You do know, don't you that I have the power to remove comments from this page?? Sing the Aggie War Hymn 5 times and say 3 Hail Sarges and I will pardon your offense.

Gig 'em!

GeneMBridges said...

Ah, an opportunity for some humor!

I will only engage in banter and fellowship with you all when you convert to the Religion of ACC Basketball, the One True Religion. I repudiate Religion of Football with all that is in my being. We in the ACC do not worship strongly in the Football Religion, and we humbly acknowledge our Football gods cannot play. However, our good people in the ACC long ago staged a Reformation of our own, and we did begin worshipping the true gods of the Religion of Basketball!

Yes, we are a forgiving people with many gods in this religion. These gods are capricious and their followers are not all winsome. Those who follow after the god called UNC are particularly difficult individuals, particularly when they gather with the followers of the god Duke on their respective territories. However, we, the humble followers of Wake Forest, a god descended from our own Baptist State Convention are very accomodating.

I urge you. Will you walk the aisle and accept the gods of ACC Basketball as you one hope for fellowship with me, or will you all perish in the fires of perdition worshipping the false gods of Football? Cue invitation.

;D

Scott said...

Gene,

I'm a SEC man. The best football conference in college football. Basketball were getting better. ACC is the best basketball in the nation. Nobody is even close. Go Tarheels! ACC football is getting very close to the SEC. You guys got Miami, Fla State, Va Tech, Ga Tech. I have to put Ga Tech because they beat my team Auburn this year. Sorry Tom for the ESPN news!

jmattingly said...

Enter Ecumenical Observer:

We all really love football a whole lot…can’t we all just agree on that and not have these silly disputes about our particular football fancies? Your individualistic football theologies only divide!

Go Buckeyes! (ducking to dodge the various southern fruits being hurled)

Jeremiah

deacon said...

Well, I was going to comment on the blog, but ironically that would seem to be off subject.

Go Ole Miss! (Hey, I think we won one game this year against some high school team in Kentucky)

deacon said...

Seriously, as far as pointing out the attacks on truth, does that just include people that come out full blown against biblical truth, or does that also include the ones that give us 90% truth and 10% lies?

bruisedreed said...

Ok...I have to put in my two cents worth, even though I don't really fit in here..seems that I am the only female that reads this bolg. But I do love truth...and SEC football! Go Dawgs!!! And if I had to choose, I would choose the Tide over Auburn anyday of the week and twice on Sunday.(sorry Scott)

Chip said...

HULLABALOOOOOO...

"Good bye to texas university,
So long to the orange and the whiiiite.
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies,
They are the ones that show the real old fight.
'The eyes of Texas are upon you,' That's the song they learn to sing so well...sounds like WHOOP!"

AAAAAAA GIG 'EM AGGIES!

Tom said...

Chip,

You win the prize for the most winsome comment to date. You show depth of understanding, an understated cultural finesse, great taste and an obvious penchant for quoting the classics!

A+

Scripture Searcher said...

Tom, you grow wiser and more courageous as you grow older!

Persevere!

Persevere!

Persevere!

RefBaptDude said...

Single-Slignment Measure

Baptists align with single group
Missouri Baptist Convention votes to identify with Southern Baptists only.

http://www.news-leader.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051027/NEWS01/510270366/1095

http://www.baptistpress.com/bpnews.asp?ID=21965

What are your thoughts?

Thanks

Tom said...

RefBapDude:

I think the Missouri Baptist Convention's decision is unfortunate--for many reasons. Not the least of these is the impact it will have on churches that are primarily African-American and affiliate with the National Baptist Convention. Over the last several years many NBC churches have also aligned with the SBC. If Missouri's lead is followed by other state conventions, then the prospect of welcoming other African-American churches into the SBC fold will be significantly diminished.

I also wonder if they have anticipated what this means for all those conservative churches that are affiliated with Rick Warren's and Bill Hybel's and John MacArthur's formal fellowships and associations. It strikes me that this decision is an "in-your-face" rejection of all things affiliated with the CBF by conservative leaders. Like other such decisions, the law of unintended consequences will kick in over time and expose the lack of thoughtfulness behind it.

Just my two-cents' worth.

wisdomofthepages.com said...

Tom,
I hear what you are saying about unintended consequences, and this remains to be seen. However, regarding the Northern Baptist and such, the changes to the constitution do add this line in order to clarify such matters:

"Nothing in this article shall be construed to prohibit cooperation with the Convention by those Baptist churches with racial, ethnic, or cultural relations or other organizations, conventions, associations and affiliations so long as no part of those relations is contrary to this Convention’s Constitution, Bylaws and Business and Financial Plan and do not violate accepted Southern Baptist faith, polity and practice."

Now, I wasn't able to be at the Convention, and I tried to check with Don Hinkle of MBC The Pathway to clarify the points you brought up, but it does seem like the MacArthur, Hybels thing is not going to be a problem (or ARBCA for that matter), nor "ethnic" denominations.

It really does seem like this is for the purpose of pushing CBF out into the light by making them not a part of the MBC. Of course, there is a LOT of water under the bridge with the CBF group attempting to steal 27 mil. worth of entities. But that is a long, long story of which you are probably already aware.

I know that the CBF likes to claim some churches where a few members drop $500 in the plate designated to the CBF.

Your concerns are thoughtful though, and I pray that it only has good effects here in the Show Me state

wisdomofthepages.com said...

I may not have the whole scoop yet though. I will check up on what I said and get back later.

Tom said...

Scott:

Thanks for the clarification. That paragraph does address the concerns that I raised. I am glad those who proposed this change included it.

DOGpreacher said...

I do think this post was an extremely fine one on what most would deem a delicate subject.

Thanks for being willing to point out public attacks on truth, Tom!

I see in you (through the reading of this post) a man who loves the precious Word of God, and while desiring to get along with all men, and speaking the truth in love, yet...when such behavior as you made mention of (haphazard handling of the Word...at best)happens, there is a fire within you to defend His precious Word.

I sincerely will pray for you in regards to PRIDE. There is a group of Pastors here in Texas who meet for encouragement, as well as accountability, and I have personally asked a few of them to pray for the PRIDE that rears it's ugly head with me.

Tom, keep "turning on the lights" because 'Truth Matters', and we will pray that God continually "prunes the pride" for your continued growth in His service.

With "To glorify God, & edify the saints" as my theme.....I am...

grateful for grace,
The DOGpreacher

bruce said...

Chip, Any chance of teaching your class the Biblical alternative to the Arminianism/Calvinism polarity? And I don't mean the "Calvimian" compromise that some have settled for.
Why not let your class explore the Scriptures apart from these well-worn ruts and realize the Sovereign God of the Book that man is invited to choose? (Ephesians 1:4;Joshua 24:15)
Paul was neither "Calvinist" nor "Arminian"....Why should I be?