Thursday, February 09, 2006

Stop the Presses!

It's come to my attention that some people (not within my church) have contacted friends of mine in pastoral minsitry with fears about my orthodoxy because of my occasional criticisms of Phil Johnson and John MacArthur. Some of these fears are related to what is seen as me "promoting the New Perspective", which has been given a blanket billing of heresy by some concerned individuals. Beyond the fact that our church has been ravaged by such controversy in the very recent past, and the fact that we have made our position on the New Perspective clear, I'd like to point out a few things to keep in mind when reading this blog:

  • I love Phil and John: Though I have in the past criticized both Phil Johnson and John MacArthur for their reactions to various trends in evangelical churches/scholarship, I have always pointed out that I respect them and agree with them on most issues. 9 out of 10 times it's the manner in which they criticize and the way their criticisms are sometimes used to smash other truly born again believers that fuels my critique of them, not the substance of their doctrinal conclusions. I have benefitted from the ministry of Grace Community Church in a hundred ways and recognize the positive impact of these guys.
  • I am theologically conservative and orthodox: What I will never do on Soylent Green is call into question the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, the Trinitarian nature of God, the secure, electing love of God, the Chalcedonian nature of Christ, the literal death and resurrection of Christ for the penal substitutionary atonement and forgiveness of our sins, the necessity of faith and repentance plus nothing to appropriate this forgiveness and justification, the imputation of Christ's divine status of righteousness to believers by virtue of union with Him, the sealing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit at the moment of regeneration and the bodily return of Jesus in His coming kingdom. However this blog IS NOT an attempt to explain these settled doctrinal positions. It is instead intended to promote discussion, reflection, debate and refinement (not redefinition) of my thinking on other theoretical issues and implications. Because it is a scratch pad for my thoughts, it isn't a reflection of my core doctrinal convictions anymore than thoughts about whether heaven will include pets or not.
  • I am approachable: If you have problems with what I post, POST THEM IN THE COMMENTS or EMAIL ME DIRECTLY. The point of this blog is for my edification and yours, and if there are Biblical, logical or pastoral reasons for disagreement I want to be confronted with them so that I can change and grow. That's the point. If you have a question about how I define words like justification or imputation, or if you're wondering if I believe in salvation by works ASK ME! And if my answers don't satisfy you, post your concerns and tell me why not! Don't try to use this site to silently build a case for my heterodoxy. It doesn't reflect concern for me and it doesn't display integrity as a brother/sister in Christ.
  • I love debate: It's been stated above, but in case anyone missed it: don't confuse discussion with my position. I'm trying to be thought provoking. I'm trying to sort out the issues, not claim that I have them all sorted out or reporting what I have sorted out. I'm often trying to play the devil's advocate in order to elicit Biblical reflection. Moreover I have several friends involved in Biblical studies and a devestatingly handsome twin I like to toss around theological issues with, and this is my primary means of doing that.
  • I have no liberal loyalties: Much of this blog is simply reflection on books I've read. I don't endorse the views of all the authors I read, and I actively try to find the best in them, so if you don't hear me blowing them out of the water or focusing on their errors, that's intentional. I will occasionaly be critical, but for the most part my focus is on what I can learn to help me understand God's Word. So, if I'm not blasting someone who you think deserves to be blasted or if I'm blasting someone you think doesn't deserve to be blasted, don't take that as me "defining my allegiances". I'm not. If you think I am, you'll be annoyed more often than not. My allegiance is to God, the elders of my church, the people to whom I minister and to all those who have been born again. My conscience is held captive to the Word of God, but I recognize that I still have so much to learn about it!
Maybe there's more to say, but I can't think of anything else right now. If you have concerns, take this opportunity to let me know or post a comment! I don't bite, and when I do, I apologize! For the most part those who have posted here recognize all of the above, and I offer my sincere thanks for the wonderful interaction I enjoy here. The idea of starting a blog was primarily as a ministry to me, in order to find a space to dialogue and mix it up over theoretical and methodological issues that don't find a lot of relevancy in the Sunday School class. The last thing I'd want to do is mislead or confuse a brother as to the essentials of the Christian faith!

If you'd like to read the few posts where I actually mentioned N.T. Wright you can read them here and here. The posts which more off-handedly mention him are here, here, here and here. You can judge whether you thought me to be saying something inappropriate or not.

In any case, for all those reading this post with lingering suspicion, I humbly suggest you read a previous post about what I call "doctrinal politics" in the spirit of brotherly kindness with which it was intended.


metalepsis said...

I had to laugh when I thought about the fact that people would question your Orthodoxy for being critical of these two men.

I understand that it is no laughing matter, when a job is on the line, and you have a family to think of, blogs can be dangerous! Our prayers are with you.

TheBlueRaja said...

I feel your pain . . . wait, that's my pain. I feel my pain.

On the other hand I can really see where someone who has benefitted from years of their teaching ministries might trust their opinions over some no-name podunk who they don't know anything about. Credibility isn't really something you can simply ask for - it has to be earned: they've earned it, and I haven't. Maybe in the kingdom people will be more wont to judge Biblical ideas based on their own merits, but for now it's important to recognize that affiliations, associations and traditions are important factors in how people recieve them.

wulffenstein said...

I don't know man I just thought you were a commie pinko liberal (politically speaking) Liberal (theologically speaking) democrat, higher critical loving, non-cessaionist, amillenial, arminian, anti-dentit (Seinfeld speaking). :>}

Hang in there. Thanks for you friendship and your challenges to make us think.

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks, Andy! I really appreciate it. I just hope you're not one of those freakin' orthodontists. If there's anything I hate more than a dentist . . .

But hopefully no one gets the idea that I'm being "persecuted". People have concerns. I understand that. Loving God means loving His Word, and when people feel as though His Word is being perverted it will always make the first reaction a rather strong one. I hope the clarification helps!

Rose~ said...

I am glad that you think for yourself and you aren't afraid of taking some criticism for that. I pray that the value of your questioning, challenging quality will become evident.

TheBlueRaja said...

So very kind of you to say, Rose (or is it Rosie?) - appreciate your encouragement!

H K Flynn said...

It's best to be forthcoming with criticism / it's also best to leave town before the boom gets lowered

Ariel Gazelle said...

My 2 cents on this issuee (NPP) overall in blogdom :

Ever been walking out on a rainy day, and you stick your foot into a deep sticky clay filled muddy puddle? Then you try to take your foot out of it, and you kinda have to yank at it for a sec, then get out and get going. This issue is like that.

My point is that, I think that the NPP is a highly time consuming and involved topic, and I think that the average lay person ought to be dissuaded (sp?) from going any where near it.

- Not bec. its a demonic heresy or the teachings of heresiarchs or that we are trying to censor it, etc., but rather simply because it takes too much time to sort out, and and and ... you dont want to lose focus in life.

There are things that God has called us to do in this life, and there is only so much time, and we cannot lose focus.

This issue is a far greater problem because a lot of people have lost focus on account of it, rather than because it might be an erroneus teaching.

Ciao !

ScottyB said...


marc said...


I guess you'll want me to stop phoning your friends and telling them your a Ganeesh follower as well, huh?

Bobby said...

You're a heretic . . . I guess I'll have to stop reading your stuff ;)!

Mark said...

What? Trying to reason with people on this issue? Are you sure you're not a postmillennialist?

Like you said, reading this post I feel my pain.

Michael F. Bird said...

Sharad, I'm sorry to hear that you've been pestered over this issue. It is grossly unfair. There are some guys who have a bee in their bonnet on this issue. I don't mind John Mac, but there's nothing wrong with criticizing him. I mean he criticizes everyone else!!!

Caleb Kolstad said...

Sharad Raja Soylent Green and all you other clones (for those of you who like Jim Rome);

Nate Busenitz did a good job of "defending" Pastor MacArthur's lecture. I thought MacArthur's presentation was right on the money.
It seems to me that you (raja) love to play on both sides of the fence. In that respect you remind me of the Emergent guys....

Phil Johnson, Jerry Wragg, Nate Busenitz, etc. all exert alot of needless energy trying to clarify things for you.

Academically, I respect your knowledge greatly. It is clear God has gifted you with a very sharp mind. When it comes to wisdom issues (for lack of a better word) I can’t say I admire many of your opinions/perspectives/controversial blogs/etc.

If to some (or many), TMS is not considered an “academic” institution(and if that’s a bad thing), then I’m glad I choose to attend a loser seminary. TMS is a "feather-weight" school only committed to the small task of adequately training bible expositors (sarcasm intended). Outsiders like Dr. Steve Lawson have no idea what they are talking about when they praise this institution.
I think it is a lame argument to try and indict people for not dialoguing more with men like Brian McLaren. When leaders like John MacArthur or Rob Bell publish a book they are entitled to criticism. That can take place through a faculty lecture series, a book, a journal article, whatever. Public figures (even 'famous' pastors) have to deal with this more than others.
I agree with you that it is very important to accurately understand your opponents views before attacking their position. “Straw men” are easy to build and even easier to destroy.
Personally, I don’t think John MacArthur, Al Mohler, D.A. Carson, or Trevor Craigen are guilty of the things you attribute to them.
John MacArthur has been accused of so much over the years i don't even think it effects him anymore.
It's funny how John (the apostle of love) wrote such "unloving" Epistles. It's interesting how our Lord spoke so 'vaguely' to the Pharisees (Matthew 23). Didn't he realize Nicodemus did not represent 2nd Temple Judaism?
Perhaps we need to reconsider what Jesus truly meant when he said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Application of that verse is so abused these days.
With that said, it is a wonderful country we love in. The wide world of blogosphere is no different; nobodies like us get to share our opinions as if they mattered. I guess in that respect we're alot like the TMS faculty (again sarcasm intended).

Together for the Gospel

TheBlueRaja said...


Holy High School, Batman! Look, this isn't an issue of loyalty for me. Like I said, I love MacArthur. I think he's wrong here. Why is that so hard to put together? It's not "playing both sides". I'm just not really into "taking sides". The whole "stand with me or you hate Jesus" thing is a perennial frustration in conversations about the emergent church (on both "sides") and I'd rather not cave to that pressure. It's school spirit run amok.

I didn't say that TMS not being a beacon of contemporary scholarship was a bad thing. It's not. But it's not their contribution - training men for pastoral ministry is. You took that as a wise crack. It's not. It's a way of saying "don't hold them to a standard they're not trying to achieve". You can disagree with me if you want - but I gave a lot of reasons for my rejection of their critiques. It doesn't mean that I'm "switching sides" or somehow ditching everything I've learned in my time at seminary. I'm not writing off MacArthur. John Piper is my favorite preacher in the world (besides Brad Arnold). I think D.A. Carson is an example of evangelical scholarship. But they can be wrong. Let's not make that the end of the world as we know it! Drawing party lines and demanding that everyone get behind your heroes is the worst kind of Corinthianizing. Chew up the meat; but for the love of the esophagus, spit out the bones!

TheBlueRaja said...


Taken under advisment. Maybe I could live in your basement for awhile.


Sage words!


Right back at you!


Ganesh actually INVENTED the New Perspective. So yes. Stop passing that on, you cur!

Bobby said...

That's probably the LEAST of all the reasons to not read my stuff . . .


You're right - what was I thinking? Here's to a more pessimistic inaugurated eschatology . . . maybe I'll be a progressive dispensationalist.

Dr. Bird,

Thanks so much for your kindness and all the help you've been (unwittingly) in the past! As for John Mac, my sentiments exactly!

Caleb Kolstad said...


You make my laugh brother and for that i thank you. You have a pretty good sense of humor even when it's at my expense.

I liked Mr. Waymeyers post. Perhaps you should give it some thought?

I believe you make some unnecessary dichotomies between TMS’ focus on pastoral ministry and the other real “academic” schools of the world. We can agree to disagree on this though.
BTW, my comment was made in light of MANY observations (your previous comments on Phil’s blog, TMS’ blog, expository preaching blog, etc, etc). I have delayed writing you for some time now. Honestly in part because I see the way you interact with men like Phil Johnson and Jerry Wragg. It appears to me (sometimes) you don’t even hear out what others say to you. You are already thinking of a come back without really examining what’s being said. As a young man I struggle with that as well. Perhaps you disagree though?
Let me say when MacArthur, Sproul, Carson, Mohler, Dever, etc come to a similar conclusion on something that (to me) is very significant, I try to listen very carefully. The same can be said of the Master’s Seminary professors (though I understand they come from more similar backgrounds). I believe that the blog site “Emergent No” has done more research on this issue then you and I combined. They seem to agree with TMS’ analysis of the emerging church.
If I get accused of being a MacArthurite then that’s truly ok with me. When someone calls me a Calvinist I normally take it as a compliment. The same is true when it comes to aligning me close to John MacArthur. Do I worship Calvin or MacArthur? I don’t think I even need to answer that...

Matt Waymeyer said...

"To help you understand my perception of how you have approached this, let me create a scenario. Let’s say that a bunch of us fellow TMS alumni are hanging out and wondering what to do next, and out of the blue, you say: “Uh, let’s see. I have an idea. Let’s play a game. Let’s all take turns telling the others what we think of, oh, I don’t know, let me see....oh I know: the TMS chapel series on the Emergent Church! Oh, my turn? Oh, okay. Let’s see. I thought the president of our seminary was unimpressive, glib, totally ridiculous, sad, inappropriately measured, impatient, inaccurate, sloppy, unrighteous, the definition of demagoguery, unfair, dishonest, a miserable failure, and lame. But you know, he’s a great guy and everything, and I’m thankful for his ministry, but who would like to go next?”

I offer this in a spirit of wanting you to know how I believe you are being perceived by some of us. A large part of this involves the fact that you are the one who posted MacArthur’s picture, the link, and the invitation on two blogs to critique our professors. I think that if (a) someone else had made the post and asked the question, or if (b) you had invited a critique of the EC rather than of the TMS faculty’s handling of the EC, you would have seemed less eager to tell everyone what a pathetic presentation MacArthur gave.

Sharad, I sincerely appreciate you personally, as well as your zeal for fairness and truth, but I believe you will be more effective in your stand for fairness and truth if you will think more carefully about how you are being perceived and if you will more consistently and overtly show respect for those who have mentored you.

For what it’s worth,

Matt Waymeyer"

7:50 PM

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks Caleb . . . I think? I've read Matt's post and responded with troubled appreciation.

I of course have felt as though Jerry and Phil haven't been listening, but I'll leave that to others to decide. I feel as though I can at least point to posts and comments in which I agreed, changed my mind or took the point that these guys were making, though I'm not sure you could find one where the oppositte is true. Of course when two people feel that they're not being heard most often both of them are right!

I could of course name all of the places where I have benefitted from MacArthur, Sproul, Carson, Mohler, Dever, the Master’s Seminary professors etc., but I'm not sure what difference it'd make since I've dissented from their take on the "issue of the hour".

I can't say I've spent any time with the “Emergent No” site, but I'll have to take a look.

As for being accused of being a MacArthurite or a Calvinist, I can, on the one hand, see it as a compliment: I'd love to be seen as even approaching the faithfulnes of these guys on a number of levels.

But on the other hand it could be seen as a divisive practice of labelling upon which those who don't attach themselves to the proper people and parrot their views are under immediate suspicion and characterized as either second class citizens or utterly heterodox.

In the second mindset, what does it matter that I believe in all the things mentioned in this post, the london baptist confession, the priority of expository preaching, biblical counseling, male headship in the home and church and a plurality of elders? MacArthur said some things about emergent, and I'm not towing the line!

I've no doubt that Matt's right about the need to temper my comments with more generally positive sentiments - I can admit my fault in not being more gracious. But without some more explanation, I can't see how there isn't an element of the above in what's been happening here. I'd love for someone to admit it.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Lest i fail to apply my own counsel to you let me spend some time thinking about your thoughts/ideas....

Grace to you (please don't interpret my use of that phrase the wrong way). :)