Monday, February 13, 2006

My Last Post on TMS and Emergent

I'm not a self-proclaimed superhero fighting for accuracy and fairness in scholarship. I'm a self-proclaimed superhero who flings forks and speaks with a fake Brittish accent. But lest anyone think that my previous concerns about the latest faculty lecture series was motivated out of either a) a secret longing to be emergent b) a secret longing to be liked by "the emerging" c) a secret longing to give my children in marriage to emerging Christians or d) a self-righteous desire to be viewed as academically acceptable and "with it" or e) some other self-righteous desire to correct those who annoy me, allow me to clearly state my incredibly self-interested reason for being so irritated by the misrepresentation:

These lectures get used to weed out and destroy not just ministries who believe the views being condemned, but those who don't get in line and fire off the same strong rhetoric. That's not a theory. It's happened to us, and it's happened to several other graduates I know. The problem isn't that I've lost my respect for MacArthur and written him off - it's the opposite. I continue to refer to him in a praiseworthy way so that when he says that some label ("the New Perspective" or "Emergent" or whatever) represents the next thing rolling off the anti-Christ assembly line, those who love him (rightly) take anything less than his wholesale rejection as partnering with the Devil and possibly golfing with him on Wednesday afternoons. Hear that again - the problem with his presentation is that it encourages people to think that anyone who offers a more mild critique, or who chooses to focus on what can be learned from the movement without adopting its failures, is every bit as heretical as the most extreme elements of it.



In other words, practically speaking, the fruit of true belief becomes something other than faith in Christ evidenced in the fruit of the Spirit. A believer (or a minister) must now not only accept a basic statement of faith, but reject and denounce entire movements and organizations in order to be considered worthy of fellowship. That, my friends, is heresy. Do a word study for "factious" in Titus 3:10, and you'll know what I mean. Its divisive fruit can be seen in the way churches have been devestated, not for adopting the views being criticized, but for refusing to condemn people who see some good in it. Those who do not say "I am of MacArthur" (cf. 1 Co. 1:10-17) on the issue are thrown onto the pile of burning liberals in the valley of Hinnom. Again, this isn't a theoretical observation. My church has been torn apart by those sporting this attitude in respect to the last faculty lecture series (on the NPP). In other words, the reason I've been thrown to the wolves in my ministry in the past isn't because I don't respect these men, but precisely because I do. I'm fully aware that the divisive and decietful actions taken by those who use these lectures can't be laid at the doorstep of the ones giving them, but I'm not willing to say that they have no responsibility for the way that their words will be used.

So, for the record, when I've begged for more measured words, some more acknowledgements of positive contributions, and more nuanced critique, it's not out of some abstract or pedantic longing for "academic integrity" - it's certainly not out of bitterness. It is, instead, out of a) a genuine longing for God's kingdom to be advanced through a local ministry which is entirely focused on the advancement of the Gospel and b) an intimate knowledge of the consequences of these presentations which ultimately hinder that work among Biblically faithful ministries (to the discouragement of even those who make them).



One final note - anyone who responds to this post by reminding me that "the NPP redefines the Gospel" or "the Emergent Church doesn't know the Gospel" has already missed the point. The spectrum represented in both movements have valuable contributions to offer, and we can safely leave aside the extremes and obvious errors. There are also various elements in both movements (NPP and Emergent) that believers may safely disagree about without invoking the word "heresy" or "separation". Yet as much as they might be grieved by it, the effect of these sorts of presentations is just as often irrational suspicion as it is "discernment" (though offenders will often equate the two). Ultimately no amount of protesting and clarifying one's position from the Scriptures will do unless the opposition is thoroughly and completely rejected using the same words issued by MacArthur. Again, don't mistake that for postulating possible negative outcomes. My family and others who I love have experienced the devestation. Similarly, any insinuation that my personal experiences have simply provided me with an "axe to grind" shows that you haven't heard what I'm saying - read the fourth paragraph again.

In any case, those are officially my last words about the issue, and perhaps my last words on Soylent Green. As I contemplate shutting her down, I'm thankful for the insightful remarks, patient reproof and thought-provoking comments offered over the last 8 months.

I SHOULD ALSO CLARIFY THAT THESE SENTIMENTS, AS ALL OF THOSE FOUND ON THIS BLOG, ARE MY OWN, AND NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF THE ELDERS OF MY CHURCH.

47 comments:

Carlos said...

props to ya

nelmezzo said...

Excellent post

Ellen said...

Good post, but are there limits to what you can put up with?

I belong to a Christian Reformed Church that had "developed a relationship with a "full gospel, apostolic, five-fold ministry" church. I wrote about the "Apostle and Prophet's visit here

metalepsis said...

don't shut the blog down, I for one enjoy your blog, you make me think, and I like your prose.

without the blog world you would have never gotten that free pint!

Stephen said...

Sharad,

While I can certainly understand the reasons you might not want to post anymore, I must say that I would miss reading your insightful posts. Believe it or not, soylentgreen has helped me to see weaknesses of both NPP and EC, far from acting as a simple promoter of either, at least in my case. Also, your various posts on epistemology have been quite enlightening. Your blog has thus far, however imperfectly, reflected Christ in a way that has influenced my thinking and, hopefully, my actions.

Sameer said...

I concur. Don't pull the plug on the blog. I really do enjoy your well-written posts, many of the ensuing conversations, and even the occasional ability to post a response that no one ever chooses to interact with. Seriously, keep up the good work.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Gird up your loins and keep blogging, punk! However, I suggest placing the disclaimer at the end of every post!
:-)

ThirstyDavid said...

Raja,
You remind me of one of my uncles, who is an extremely intelligent fellow. Like you, he is willing to question every supposition to see if it stands on its own. Unlike you, he is very liberal, so he often (usually) comes to the wrong conclusion. The point I want to make is that, in spite of his faulty epistemology, I have learned things from him that I never would have from most orthodox theologians.

I'm not nearly smart enough to engage you in debate, but I definitely enjoy and profit from reading your "attacks" on accepted thought. The questions you ask are valuable. I don't agree with every conclusion, but you force me to think in ways that few others do.

For the record, lest anyone misunderstand, I did not just call you "liberal" or "unorthodox."

TheBlueRaja said...

Carlos,

Thanks!

Nelmezzo,

Thank you for your kind comments and a spot on your blogroll! I'm honored!

Ellen,

There are practical limits to what sorts of ministries could productively cooperate, and your example of the difficulty is a good one!

Metalepsis,

You and I both know it's my rugged good looks that gets me those pints!

Stephen,

How encouraging - thanks so much for your wonderful contributions.

Sameer,

We need to talk on the phone more for those interactions.

Jonathan,

Good idea - I decided to put it on the sidebar instead! And let's keep my loins out of it!

David,

I'm glad I remind you of someone who's had a positive impact on you, and I'm of course sorry to hear that he hasn't yet truly embraced Jesus (if I heard you right). In any case, I'm flattered that you see me as some kind of formidable thinker or debate champion - I'm really neither. I like to read and I like to think out loud and talk about what I read. I'm about as theologically cutting edge as an ironing board.

Oh, and I didn't take your kind comments to be calling me "liberal" or "unorthodox", but thanks for the added clarification!

exegetical fallacy said...

don't leave Raj...pleeeeaassee don't go!!

re: EC, Raj, you mention a few days back that paper given by Anthony Bradley's (Westminster grad, apologetics professer at Covenant seminary) at the ETS meeting. I was there and it was superb, as well as the other paper that followed it. Do you have these are is there a way others could get them from you? it'd be great to here a good balanced critique of the movement that is free from christian cursing and swearing

Rose~ said...

I love Columbo! (and Monk too)
;~)

oh yeah - great post!

TheBlueRaja said...

Rose,

Thanks!

EF,

Yeah, I've decided that I probably will keep blogging. I'll email you those mp3's, and if anyone wants to host them at their website, I'd love to put them somewhere people can download them.

bobby grow said...

Glad to hear you're staying around, Raja!

Bobby Grow

Nate B. said...

Sharad,

I'm glad to hear you're sticking around. If you close your site, who are all of us narrow-minded types going to pick on?

Seriously though, I enjoy the interchange even if we don't always see eye-to-eye.

As you think about future posts, I'd enjoy reading some more of your thoughts on objectivity in interpretation... specifically on the practical ramifications of the four aspects you highlighted earlier: 1) reformed epistomology; 2) speech-act theory; 3) apostolic interpretation; 4) critical realism.

While I think I understand these in theory, I'm having trouble understanding the practical implications of accepting them in everyday hermeneutics (especially numbers 2 and 4). In other words, if a pastor embraces all four, what implications does that have for his personal study as he approaches the text? After all, theory is one thing...but in order to truly evaluate something, we also need to see it where the rubber meets the road.

Anyway, if this interests you, I'd like to hear your thoughts.

TheBlueRaja said...

Nate,

Though the practical import is legion, the gist of it is that:

1) reformed epistomology provides a noetic framework in which Christian interpretation of the Bible can be seen as properly warranted against radical Biblical criticism and the over-confident, Cartesian-Enlightement rationalism of secular interpretation.

2) speech-act theory gives greater sensitivity to the actual form and linguistic conventions of the text in highlighting the various ways in which the Bible communicates (genre, type of discourse, etc.), aims the goal of recovering authorial intent around what the author is doing with words instead of what he may have been "thinking", provides a fuller, more precise account of biblical reliability (not just "inerrancy", which only speaks to the truthfulness of propositions, only one of many types of speech-acts), and provides a sensible model for how historically situated material can be "living and active" in speaking afresh to contemporary hearers instead of seeing the text as a record of God having spoken in the past.

3) Hays "Echoes" makes sense out of the NT use of the OT and gives direction for how Christians may use Scripture in doing Biblical theology. It points to how we should read "old texts" in the new light of contemporary church life without losing sight of the original context (similar to midrash). It also opens up the Church Fathers to appropriation for contemporary commentaries on the Bible without seeing them as "naive" or stupidly allegorizing.

4) Critical realism is a disposition which acknowledges the fact that the text is knowable, though only through the mediate, embodied mind of the reader, with all of his limitations. Thus it allows the interpreter to approach the meaning of a text with certainty, but at the same time remaining open to the fact that the text says more (or less) than the interpreter might first imagine. In other words, it commends continuing reformation of our understanding of the text in light of our limited knowledge and mediated perception. Through dialectical engagement of the text an interpreter may have varying degrees of certainty but tempered with humility in light of these limitations. It's something less than MacArthur's statement that "We can know exactly what's in the mind of Christ" and more akin to Augustine's "God is always bigger than our thoughts of God."

TheBlueRaja said...

By the way, Nate, you should check out Grant Osborne's new article in the current JETS. It's called "Historical Narrative and Truth in the Bible" and it weaves some of these themes together. I just recieved my copy and am reading it now!

Nate B. said...

Sharad,

Thanks for your reply. I guess I’m trying to take this even one level lower (to the "bottom shelf" so to speak.) My goal is to try to understand the implications of all this for the local church pastor as he enters his study each week.

If I understand you correctly,

1)Reformed epistemology allows the pastor to approach the text from a Christian point-of-view with a sense of philosophical legitimacy, knowing that his approach (in which he sees the Bible as true) is a reasonable one.

2)Speech-act theory forces the pastor to deal with the text in terms of "what the text actually says, in its context (both literary and historical)" rather than in terms of "what the author must have been thinking when he wrote this." You mention that it "provides a sensible model for how historically situated material can be ‘living and active’ in speaking afresh to contemporary hearers instead of seeing the text as a record of god having spoken in the past." How does that concept flesh itself out, practically, for the average pastor who approaches the text each week?

3) I have not read Hays (though now I hope to based on what you’ve been saying). Nonetheless, I appreciate an emphasis on how the apostles interpreted the OT, and on how the fathers interpreted the NT. Having done my ThM work in patristics, this is an area of special interest for me. Most pastors are wholly ignorant of their church history, which is unfortunate.

4)Critical realism allows pastors to interpret the text with confidence, realizing of course that their interpretations are influenced by their own presuppositions and may be influenced/altered, down the road, by further evidence.

Is this close? Or am I missing some major components here?

Nate B. said...

In the above (under #2), that should be "God" not "god"... nothing like a blasphemous typographical error to get things off track.

TheBlueRaja said...

Nate,

You're not missing what I said, though of course there's much more to it than what I've said. You need to read Wolterstorff's "Divine Discourse", Vanhoozer's "Is There a Meaning in This Text", Richard Hays "Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul" and "Moral Vision of the New Testament", Wright's NTPG and Ben Meyer's contribution to the Princeton Theological Monograph Series (number 17). I'd also recommend volume one, two and four of the Scripture and Hermeneutics series.

But since these issues have to do not with exegesis, but with general and specific hermeneutics, you should understand that it's a bit further down the stream than the actual practice interpretation. With exception to number 3, they're larger conceptual schemes, not a set of instructions for what to do with a text.

You might contrast number one with a putative methodology of "blind objectivity" that I rejected in the previous posts. Contrast number two with the idea that Scripture is entirely propositional (Carl Henry et. al.). Contrast number three with the flatly descriptive (instead of theologically rich) use of Scripture in much of dispensationalism. Contrast number four with the naive "common sense" realism of fundamentalism and Old Princeton. None of these issues are tools "carried into the pastor's study" - but they provide the framework with which the entire work of interpretation is done, and they affect it profoundly. Please direct further comments to the actual post in question so that others may have a chance to comment.

Nate B. said...

Thanks, Sharad. My apologies for taking the current thread off topic.

Adam said...

Please continue Soylent Green! Great posting. I love blogs that have brains, not towing the party line!

couple of observations,

Nate B. is to MacArthur as Abanes is to Rick Warren =)

Most TMS students (and graduates) are not open to issues that TMS profs. do not get into.

Most TMS students and graduates will view Vanhoozer as an evangelical adopting liberal view (aka semi-heretic) even though they do not know what speech-acts is.

Grant Osborne is more heretical than Vanhoozer because he believes in redaction.

Forget about Bock, Bloomberg, Moo, Stein, etc. because they are friends of the heretics.

Don't even mention Hays, he is at the deep end of the water.

What about Wright? He is to be buried with Zane Hodges.

My experience at TMS is this, you quote some of these fellas favourably in your NTI exams, "F" would be inevitable. We learn in NTI to throw the baby with the bath water.

With that said, I love my years and learning at TMS. All the profs. were role models in many areas of my life. MacArthur is a great preacher. And I will continue to send church members to TMS for Pastoral Training. That doesn't mean that I cannot critique what I believe to be wrong. That does not mean that I do not respect my mentors. It would be rediculous to say that we have to tow the party line and cannot critisize them (shocked to hear the insinuation from Waymeyer).

If they were to hear this from these "theological watchdogs" (Kolstad), they would be offended. I am sure MacArthur wouldn't want such followers.

During one of the Q&A chapel with MacArthur in 1999, he spoke against using powerpoint with preaching because Jesus did not use it.

That is ridiculous! Its not even consistent with what MacArthur does every Sunday, he uses the mic to help him preach (whereas Jesus did not). Jesus did not drive, so should we all stop driving?

Yet, we still love him and respect him. But that statement was careless and without thinking through. Throw the water away but keep the baby, right?

Keep up the good posting on this blog. Soylent Green should live. We need more brains and thinkers in our graduates.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Raja,

I would be interested to hear your thoughts/perspective on the lectures of Pettegrew, Craigen, and Holland.

Adam, for curiosity sake I'd be interested to know what your last name is? If you have a blog site i could check out? What school you teach at? When you graduated from TMS?

I am glad "you know" MacArthur would not want such followers as me.
You are right, blind loyalty is not always true loyalty....I would suggest you do more research yourself before making such silly comments.

TheBlueRaja said...

Caleb,

No offense, dude, but based on your response to these posts, I'm not sure that either you or most (though certainly not all) of the other graduates who've posted here have ever really been "interested to hear" my thoughts on anything, much less the other lectures. Don't take that the wrong way - it's not a slam. Maybe you really are interesting in hearing my thoughts about x, y or z - but I just don't know if I can believe that, for a few different reasons.

Listening isn't the same as viewing your own opinions as an answer key and checking my posts against it to see if it agrees.

As for the lecture series, let's just say that I share all of the concerns but I deplore the reactionary rhetoric and the manipulative political way it's used by the hearers.

More than that, though, I'm flabbergasted that more people don't see the difference between that and a "critique". Anyone who sees MacArthur's comments on either Wright or McLaren as "dealing with their views" have a fundamentally distorted view of what even constitutes an evaluation.

It's like mistaking advertising as a serious presentation of the pros and cons of a product. Many of the defenses of the lectures seem to think he's doing the latter just because the name of the product is used throughout, but all of the differences between paid advertising and a consumer reports presentation apply to what I've heard in this series.

In any case, I've entitled this post as "my last" on the subject of the seminary's view of the ECM, and I'm going to try and honor that restraint.

Thanks!

marc said...

Sharad,
I think you ought to say your going to keep your blog open in a limited capacity, then say your going to shut it down after all, then reopen it in a different format and blog more than ever. You'll quadruple your readership

Bobby,
I removed you know who from the Purgatorio Links on my blog... though in my heart of hearts he's still there ;-)

TheBlueRaja said...

Marc,

You're my new blogging strategist.[to be read in my patent-pending Brittish accent:] Brilliant!

Nate B. said...

Nate B. is to MacArthur as Abanes is to Rick Warren =)

Adam, that is awesome! I honestly got a hearty laugh (in the sincere, laughing-at-myself sort of way) out of that. Just this morning, I was reading Mahaney’s Humility and I came across a paragraph that describes me perfectly.

"Winson Churchill, who perfected
the art of the clever put-down, once described a political opponent as ‘a modest little man who has a good deal to be modest about.’ The last part of his remark is an accurate description of me—though I can’t say I’m humble, I certainly have much to be humble about! My general ineptness is well known to all who have even a casual acquaintance with me, and that’s no exaggeration" (p. 25).

Like C.J., I too am painfully aware of my own weaknesses and limitations, especially when I dialogue with those (like Sharad) who clearly know a lot more about philosophy and academia than I do.

What’s especially ironic about your comparison, is that Richard Abanes actually critiqued me in his recent book Rick Warren and the Purpose That Drives Him. Abanes didn’t like my review of The Purpose Driven Life in Fool’s Gold?, so he took me to task. When I found out, I contacted Abanes personally and set up a time to visit Saddleback and have lunch with him.

When I finally met Abanes, he was totally different than I had imagined him to be. And I suspect I wasn’t the fire-breathing fundamentalist he expected me to be either. When our lunch ended, we left agreeing to disagree. But I think we also left with a certain amount of respect for one another, simply because we had met face-to-face.

The Lord has used that and other experiences to convict me and to remind me that I need to be careful in my criticism, especially online (where I can forget, as I stare at my impersonal computer, that there is a real person on the other end of my attack). If I have personally offended anyone in my tone on this blog recently, I sincerely and humbly ask for your forgiveness.

In my opinion, this "controversy" has become more than it really ever should have been. Sharad felt that Dr. MacArthur’s lecture was inadequate and that it deserved a harsh critique as a result. Personally, I felt that Dr. MacArthur deserves more latitude than some are willing to give. But, even more than that, I believe that he deserves more respect in the way that he is criticized (especially from those who have directly benefited from his ministry). Does that make me a blind loyalist? I don’t think so. But maybe some do.

I think I should also add that my interest in Sharad’s other posts (about objectivity in interpretation) is genuine. I’m not trying to trip him up or trap him or anything of the sort. My honest goal is to try to understand the practical implications of the philosophical frameworks that Sharad has discussed. I don’t have a lot of experience in studying philosophy, so sometimes it takes me a little while to get things. But I appreciate Sharad’s patience and his willingness to dialogue.

Anyway, I hope that all of us (fellow TMS alumni and others) will take our Christian testimony seriously—meaning that no matter which viewpoint we take, we will express our opinions with grace and charity, and that the Lord would be honored through our Spirit-controlled interchange.

Just some thoughts from a Prov. 30:2 man,
NB

Caleb Kolstad said...

Sharad,

Since you can not respond to further discussions regarding TMS and the EC i will try and keep this to the point. I agreed with Nate B when he said MacArthur's lecture needs to be listened to in context (Part 1 of a 5 part series).
I think some people assumed i was agreeing with Dr. MacArthur simply because he is one of my modern day heros, because of my past relationship with him, etc, etc. No one knows how much or little i have studied the E.C. movement prior to this lecture series (which was even a little late in my opinion).
I recently heard Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and others toot MacArthur's horn in a big way. Just because they claim to be huge admirers of his does not mean when they defend him they are doing so out of "blind loyalty." When they agree on a hot topic issue does that mean they have not studied the issue at hand for themselves?
As a young pastor and bible scholar do i take what MacArthur, Sproul, Carson, Mohler and others say and hold their opinions/perspectives/convictions in high regard? You better believe i do. Do i agree with everything they teach/believe/hold? Of course not.
But as i mentioned earlier, when men like this AGREE on something as important as the new E.C. movement does that impact me in a big way? Again, sure it does. I don't think the points i mentioned above are contradictory...

Thanks for keeping me honest though. Just because i disagree with some of your blogs doesn't mean i'm not interested in any of your thoughts. Clearly you are a smarter man than I. You read wider than i read and are interested in some things that i find rather boring. None the less that's the beauty of our God's creative power.

Together for the Gospel,

CK

Caleb Kolstad said...

Nate

Would you have changed anything substantial in your book chapter AFTER meeting with Richard Abanes?

Nate B. said...

Caleb,

Thanks for your question.

No... I explained to Richard that I felt Warren's book...

1) presented an incomplete Gospel (as there is no one place in the book where the Gospel is adequately presented, and yet the book was written for unbelievers)

2) undermined a high-view of Scripture (by using so many different Bible paraphrases, and taking many verses out of context)

3) promoted an unbiblical level of doctrinal ambiguity (by implying that doctrine was not that important in several statements, and also by promoting Roman Catholics and New Agers as examples Christians should follow)

Interestingly, Abanes seemed to more-or-less agree with the specific examples I pointed out...though he disagreed with me on the seriousness of those issues.

(I obviously think those things are very serious, but Abanes didn't think it was something anyone should make a significant stink over.)

My point above was not that Abanes and I came closer to seeing eye-to-eye. We didn't. But, by addressing our differences over lunch, I think the entire interchange was much more cordial (and Christlike) than it otherwise could have been.

Anyway, thanks for asking me to clarify. I can see how my earlier comment could have been confusing.

-NB

TheBlueRaja said...

Caleb,

Thanks! Sorry you find some of these posts boring - but you get what you pay for!

Nate B.,

I think if you took all of your very respectful and honoring pleas about how MacArthur should be treated and applied them to everyone he's publically razed, we'd probably agree!

When it comes to studying philosophy, I admit to not studying much, but it's interesting to see how much theological heroes in the past (like Warfield etc.) mirrored the philosophical trends of their day. I do hope you continue reading and posting - I still can't believe anyone actually reads this thing!

TheBlueRaja said...

Hey Nate,

Love the Abanes story. Just out of curiosity, can you think of a circumstance in the recent past where you've heard something new, disagreed, talked it through, and then came to a different point of view? If so, I'd love to read a post about the interchange on Faith and Practice, perhaps under the rubric of Prov. 18:13.

Nate B. said...

Sharad,

It’s funny that you ask. I actually had a Proverbs 18:13 moment a few years back when I attended ETS with your brother (in Colorado Springs). He probably won’t remember this, but for some reason it’s stuck in my head.

He was talking about Molinism (if I remember correctly) or something along those lines. There were a few of us standing around listening to him. Me, Jonathan Rourke, and I’m not sure who else. Anyway, I interjected some totally dumb comment about how Molinism was essentially equivalent to Openness Theology. Obviously I had no idea what I was talking about, but I heard the words pass through my lips nonetheless. (Since then I’ve learned that Gregory Boyd actually does argue that Open Theism can be construed as a variation of Molinism [see his article in JETS, June 2002]. But that’s beside the point.) Sameer was quick to correct me, and rightly so.

Both at that moment, and every time I reflect back on that moment, I think to myself, "Boy, you were an idiot. Next time don’t talk unless you actually know what you’re talking about." I wish that were the only time I’ve spoken before understanding all (or even most of) the facts, but it still happens more than I wish.

...

I think if you took all of your very respectful and honoring pleas about how MacArthur should be treated and applied them to everyone he's publically razed, we'd probably agree!

We’ve already hashed all this out, so no need to rehash. I would just like to add a personal word, if I might. I think the primary aspect of your critique that so many TMS guys found offensive/alarming was not so much the content of it, but rather the tone of it.

If I called one of Brad Arnold’s messages "way too glib," "totally ridiculous," "a sad, professional over-simplification," a "demagoguery," "sloppy," full of "non-sequitur[s]," "a farm full of straw men," in which it was "not nuance or comprehensiveness that was lacking, but old-fashioned accuracy" because Brad "doesn’t care about the WAY a person gets to their conclusions, he just cares whether their conclusions agree with his own bottom line." And if I were to go on and state that other messages were much better, and "showed much more of an understanding of the issues," since Brad’s message was something other than "a responsible discussion of a topic"...my guess is that you’d be pretty upset.

I suspect that you would also find it pretty hard to listen to anything else I had to say... and that you would respond with emotion and indignation... since you love and appreciate Brad and rightly desire to defend him. I would also guess that my repeated reminders to you that "being right and being righteous are two different things" would sound strangely hypocritical.

Anyway, I think you get my point. Perhaps you don’t intend your tone to sound mean or malicious, but sometimes it reads that way.

Just something to consider,
NB

P.S. My sincere apologies to Brad for dragging him in to my hypothetical example. Brad was actually one of my leaders at Grace Church when I was in 6th grade or so... so, in a sense, he's one of my mentors too!

TheBlueRaja said...

Nate,

I don't know what I'm talking about most of the time, but I'm never so bold as to do so in front of Sameer! He's only degrees away from omniscience.

As for our ongoing disagreement about MacArthur, I'd only say that my reasons in this post, and in all my other comments aren't primarily about "tone" but about the content and the negative effects it produces among genuine believers. Again, I think much of the problem has to do with what even constitutes a "critique".

As for your example with Brad, I can only say that if he gave the presentation I heard, you can bet I wouldn't defend him. Ask him if he thinks I would . . .

I'm genuinely sorry if what I'm saying comes off as malicious. It's not. I know you love the man and the institituion he represents, and I'm not trying to tear him down just for iconoclastic reasons. As I said, the level of my concern is appropriate to the level of damage these kind of statements do - which is harder to see in ministries who never have strong disagreements with him.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Raja,

I find some of Dr. Thomas' classes/books boring too. It does not make them any less important. You guys write about some things that are very scholarly (in my opinion sometimes things that are boring) yet none the less they are very important.

ScottyB said...

good stuff-I see this disagreement as mostly in the emphasis.

I think that Fundamentalism focuses on what we defend. Evangelicalism focuses on what we reach out to.
One is strong in the biblical truth of guarding. The other is strong in biblical truth of proclaiming.


When they meet there is tension. How do we reach out without compromising our doctrinal convictions. Who do we partener with so that we can reach as many people with the gospel.

It's funny I almost see that in a sense John MacArthur has bridged the gap between fundamentalism and evangelicalism. I still remember listening to the IFCA tapes from back in the day where people were questioning should he have Reformed guys endorse Gospel According to Jesus. It's funny to see the Sharper Iron guys not quite know what to do with JFMJR and to see all those who have come out of hyper-fundamentalism teaching at TMS/TMC.

Being from San Francisco and ministering to alot of people who have no respect for God/His Word/the church/or anything old or absolute has impacted my perspective.Having alot of friends who are doing frontier missions with a varioty of agencies,who are constantly having to weigh their time between dealing with American Professional Christianity back home versus people who have never named the Name of Christ on the field has helped me to see some things from a different perspective as well.

The perspective I have is
that if we put any other offense before sinners besides Jesus and his good news(you can read in here- fundamental truth about God) it will cause them to stumble over the wrong thing.

Jesus has explained His Father and the way that he walked on the earth and dealt with the scattered sheep was with compassion and truth. Don't you all feel sometimes that we have missed alot of the simple style of our Lord? Maybe missed his tone with the appropriate person. Maybe spend our times with the wrong types of people?

I say this all to say to that I think that all of us in American Professional Christianity dont quite have it.
I think those that are on the frontier and are reaching out without selling out in the cities of the World probably would help us all.
In fact they would blog more if they werent so busy doing the work of building and defending.

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks, Scotty.

I happen to think the issue's a little bit more significant than a matter of either "tone" or emphasis. I think it has to do with the difficulty of knowing where to draw battle lines. Fundamentalism's legacy is to draw these lines within the church, and I would hope that we'd try harder to keep believers on one, instead of both, sides of the fighting line. I would also hope that there'd be more formal and pronounced ways of dismissing people from the fellowship so that the Church's visible unity would be more clear both to Church and to the world.

The tension you spoke of says it well, and practically spells out just how minimal or maximal people construe what is the core "Gospel" we're supposed to protect. What's frustrating is the tendency to call people out as heretics without being willing to excommunicate such a one.

MacArthur's tangle with the IFCA is so ironic, since the way they handled their concerns were so parallel to the way GCC has handled concerns about issues like NPP or emergent.

Thanks for your exhortation to spend time with people who actually need Jesus instead of information glutted American suburbia. Very convicting.

Sameer said...

Sharad,

Having seen firsthand how the unguarded invectives of popular preachers have incited discord among local assemblies and their leadership, I think that your emphasis is entirely appropriate. I think that this conversation could use some more exploration into the ethical obligations of popular Christian figureheads in their public discoursings. Even when strong words about some topic are not inherently immoral, they may still be considered *irresponsible* when an undue amount of damage upon local assemblies can reasonably be forseen as a result of one's words. If *you* were to have made similarly strong comments about EC, I would have still thought you were misrepresenting them and being inappropriately critical, etc., (since I think that much of Mac's comments were inherently wrong), but you could still lack the further culpability he may have given his large public personnae. The upshot for those who disagree with your comments about the "accuracy" of Mac's critique, may therefore still have to wrestle with this second arena of culpability that I've pointed to.

Nate,

I think that your comments about the "cash value" of some of this methodological stuff being discussed is important. Jeff Stout famously remarked that "preoccupation with method is like clearing your throat: it can go on for only so long before you lose your audience." The theoretical issues being discussed here can really only be valuable on one of two levels, a) explantory and b) practice. Presumably, there is an inherent link between these two, since one would think that understanding the nature of a thing would serve to more carefully elucidate its proper use. I have some specific thoughts along these lines regarding each of the four topics that Sharad has raised, but perhaps I'll just save them for another post.


Incidentally, thanks for that story about ETS. I don't even remember the conversation you mention, but I appreciate your humility. As a matter of fact, the doctrine of openness *can* with consistency employ molinism as a *strategy* for construing the logical limitations on divine foreknowledge in terms amenable to Boyd's project. But that project is logically independent and represents a much stronger thesis than that of molinism, and therefore the two can by no means be accurately regarded as "equivalent."

Scotty,

I really appreciate your comments about the importance of performing the truth and not just endlessly formulating and "defending" it. There are surely truths that can't even be understood apart from their practice by believing communities, and the exaltation of the Christian scholar or academic as the sole "keeper" and "discerner" of the truth for the body of Christ has got to be regarded as fundamentally and dangerously mistaken. Obviously both roles are important, but the balance has to be struck.

Nate B. said...

Sharad,

Thanks for your response. I'm sorry it's taken me a few days to reenter the discussion. I've been busy this weekend purchasing, picking up, and setting up a fort/swing-set for my kids. They're not into blogging yet, so for now it's a climbing wall, swings and a slide.

Thanks also for not taking offense at my earlier post. It was not intended as a personal attack (or as a last-minute ad hominem), so I hope it wasn't interpreted that way.

One of the primary difficulties with the blogosphere is that it's so hard to accurately decipher tone. Things like hyperbole, sarcasm, wit, understatement, and well-intentioned tongue-and-cheek are not always easy to detect. It's not like sitting across from someone, seeing the glimmer in his eye and hearing the inflection in his voice... so I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your tone.

One thing I've noticed in the blog "debates" in which I've been involved, is that sometimes the line between disagreement and disrepect gets blurred. In this particular discussion, I know that at least some of your readers (specifically from around GCC/TMS) have been a little unsure which side of the line your critical remarks have been on.

You've noted several times now how much you appreciate Dr. MacArthur and the ministry here. Thank you for doing that. You have also asked for honest feedback, which is why I've brought up the "tone" issue at all. To be honest, I don't like posting this kind of stuff. It's certainly not within my comfort zone. Furthermore, I'm a big fan of vigorous dialogue and debate... so I hope you'll take this solely for what it is--a friendly "heads up" on how some of your remarks are being interpreted (in terms of tone) by some of those out west.

Humbly aware of the logs (and blogs) in my own eye,
NB

ScottyB said...

Nathan you are always gracious(everything I have read from you has been gracious) but I dont think you see the seriousness of this problem(in fact these two indians have reminded me that this is a bigger problem than just tone) and I know things are changing but these are some thoughts I have:

Honestly Sharad

I think the gist of everything you have said (at least since Novemeber--as long as I have been reading) has been accurate-- at times maybe the timing wasn't the best(some stuff with Phil Johnson) or maybe you could have been more gracious in tone(probably with Dr.MacArthur).When you were at the Seminary you may have been worse(I've heard stories)...

but generally I think you are saying things that no one says that need to be said. I for one appreciate it. I think it does matter that the lines are drawn clearly between believer and non believer between those put out of the church and those who are brothers in Christ.

It's just that we are used to talking about Jim Dobson, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and John Wimber this way and our colleagues are not used to hearing this kind of talk towards our own.

In fact I think the pastor's who do well outside of Master's circles do well because they are not typical Master's men(in fact I would say if you look at the response to the Emerging Church talks as an indicator-(btw I liked Pettigrew's assesment)--an example of a non typical seminary student might be this:I remember hearing a seminary buddy of mine who was 35 new to the school from solid evangelical(read not hyper-fundamental) college in the South mention that he noticed that at the seminary people only read the TMS Journal review of a book and not the authors original work. He didn't understand this practice.

Our attitude and lack of graciousness is a major problem outside the Master's/GCOM bubble.
In fact more and more of my bro's that do well in non Master's network churches, mention less and less their graduation from TMS/TMC-- this is unfortunate.

We have a reputation in the body of Christ for fighting the wrong battles or fighting the right battles with the wrong attitude.

I think we need to talk about functional God centeredness in the TMS/TMC/GCOM circles-we all would assent to the reality of God centeredness -but practically are we really living it?...when we stay in our comfort zones(working in ministry and fellowshipping with only people who like John MacArthur) we miss out on trusting God and his Sovereignty and the way he is reforming believers all over the world (even the emerging church, the lovers of James Dobson, Rick Warren,and even the wildly charismatic-my friends are starting a Dream Center in Oakland,CA-they are solid believers who do the work of evangelism)-

I still remember knocking on the door of a woman who went to the SCV Vineyard during bible conference way back in 95. She lived down the street from the college and we were witnessing to peeps in the neighborhood and doing back yard bible clubs(half the people thought we were a mormon college or had never heard of TMC) Ask me with brokeness if it was true that we made fun of charismatics at our school. We had to admit that it was true. She said with sadness that this should not be- especially if we are brother and sister in Christ.

the point is making fun of people is not God centeredness.

Some of our theological diatribes in the name of guarding the gospel are similar to the college students making fun of the Vineyard--brothers this should not be.


Here is an example from a Multnomah grad-that I don't even know(read he's not my friend-- just one example of something I hear consistently-):

Phil said:
"And here's a good place for the change to begin: A generation of preachers needs to rise up and be committed to preaching the Word, in season and out of season, and be willing to ignore the waves of silly fads that come and go and leave the church's head spinning."

Affective:
" I agree that there is a sickness in evangelicalism right now; but I must say, if the kind of guys the Master's Seminary (in general)are putting out into the pulpits, are the kind of preacher boys you have in mind--then I think this is just as problematic as the fad driven church.I know of many churches, my parent's church (my former church), that have been split in half by Macarthur driven pastors. Is this an intentional philosphy of ministry, find churches that are "fad driven" and purify them with the "True Gospel of Jesus"? Does Grace Community have a corner on the gospel that no one else has? And by the way, it's not necessarily "what" these Macarthurite Pastor's are preaching/teaching, it's (in many situations) "how" they're communicating it ("MY way or the highway).

Is there any legitmacy, Phil, to my take here?"


Unfortunately I havemany friends who have had problems in churches this is typical in the whole body of Christ but unfortunately it is a reputation of those from the Masters Circle that they do exactly what this guy above is saying.

I am reminded of what I read from a brother on "SharperIron":

" Not long before my freshman year, the seminary had just finished analyzing a survey of churches in which Master's grads had been placed. To faculty dismay, they found that a lot of our guys scored very high on exegesis, exposition, accuracy, and theology; and abysmally on tact, gentleness, pastoral care, and grace. Consequently,my incoming class heard a lot about the need to enter churches with a desire to serve in love, not with guns blazing, prepared to clean up Dodge."

The seminary has been around since 1985 and this survey happened
fairly recently. That is many years of lack of tact, gentleness,
pastoral care, and grace and alot of years of gun's blazing read to clean up PDL/emerging/psychologized/charismatic/ seeker churches everywhere.

I think these issues that you are raising Sharad need to be brought up prayerfully and with tears.

The church needs discernment but these spirits can only be cast out by prayer and fasting(& with exposition-;) )

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks for your comments, Nate. Really appreicate them. You're right, mbiguity is inevitable and even probable in these settings. That, coupled with equal senses of urgency about different issues makes for some real potential for friction. Truth matters. So does fidelity to one another in the family of God. Whether artificially or not, sometimes these are set in tension and different perceptions will likely arise based upon which aspect of Christian virtue a person is most urgently emphasizing. Generally speaking, I like what Bret had to say on the TMS alumni page (see the comments as well). In any case, thanks for your comments.

ScottyB said...

for clarification the stories line was a joke

TheBlueRaja said...

Sameer,

Well said, as usual.

Scotty,

You're saying some things which I feel desprately needs to be heard.

Nate,

I've got to add that as gracious as your comments have been, I don't feel as though you've really dealt with the substance of what Scotty, Sameer or I (among others) have been saying.

Greg P said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Greg P said...

Sorry about that...still new to this whole blogspot thing.

Don't ask me how I came across this site but as a TMS student I got caught reading this.

Regarding ScottyB's next-to-last post, I agree that's a legitimate concern. I hope all would be encouraged by the emphasis that is put on avoiding going in "guns blazing" and splitting churches.

The professors make a huge deal out of not doing this. One was speaking the other day about not starting in Ephesians in an Arminian church, for obvious reasons. At least two chapel speakers last semester warned us sternly not to try to change a church too quickly, but to give people time to grow.

I have said, before I read this, to some of my fellow students that if anyone leaves TMS and has head-knowledge only and is set on being a hard-headed guy who doesn't care about splitting the church as long as he's "upholding the truth", that person did not listen to what he was taught.

I can understand why guys would come out that way, because it's the temptation that comes with knowing God's Word very well. But it's neither acceptable to throw doctrine out either, for you can only grow as much as you know. You just have to be extremely diligent to live God's Word and wise to keep from wasting it.

Lobezno said...

Scotty,

I heard the same warnings at TMS, but the seminary needs to model what it preaches. You can tell people not to go out with guns blazing, but when the one saying it is packing a double barrel and as reloading, it ends up ringing a bit hollow. Perhaps the school needs to think a bit more deeply with regard to the actual cause of TMS' reputation. If warnings are note working, maybe there is a deeper, underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

ScottyB, your final comments were awesome. Thanks so much.

Joshua Smith

Lobezno said...

That first comment was addressed to GregP, not ScottyB. The last comment WAS for ScottyB. oops

TheBlueRaja said...

You're right on the money, as usual, Joshua.