Friday, September 16, 2011

Do not want

So I’ve noticed that pretty much whenever somebody in the evangelical world negatively critiques somebody else in the evangelical world, a few bad arguments are sure to follow from folks who seem to be allergic to any sort of sharpening confrontation. Whether these arguments rear their well-worn, played-out, ugly heads in their own follow-up blog post or just in the comment threads of the original critique, we’re sure to be paid a visit from these uninvited rhetorical guests.

[...] (Hear me now: I’m not saying any commenter is uninvited or unwelcome, just that there are some bad arguments that I could go without seeing for the rest of my life.)

The Call for Private Discussion
First, the “You-should-have-spoken-to-him-privately” argument wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to drop by. People wielding this argument just don’t seem to understand the nature of public discourse. You know: public statement, public evaluation, public discussion. [...] A word to the wise: if you think the only proper way for Christians to express disagreement with each other is to meet privately over coffee, a blog comment isn’t the place for you to express that disagreement.

The Accusation of Disunity and Division
[...] It’s always struck me as quite sad that when someone is touting bad doctrine and propagating error, it’s always the one who sounds the alarm that’s labeled as divisive. [...] The person who calls for the correction of error is not creating disunity, but only drawing attention to the disunity that already exists by virtue of the defection from sound teaching. And that warning is sent out as a call for a return to true unity, which is defined by a common commitment to the truth, not a common commitment to never discuss our disagreements in public.

The Reverence of Form over Content
Then there are the Tone Police, who care disproportionately less about what someone says than they do about how they say it. [...] The irony is rather astounding. The same people who get so distraught over this horrible, needless, uncharitable infighting, are themselves willing to engage in some uncharitable infighting—not over anything substantive, like one’s philosophy of ministry or the place of the miraculous gifts in the contemporary church—but over their tone. Form is revered over content.  I’ve decided that I don’t like the tone of commenters who don’t like other people’s tone. I’m hoping that’ll keep them busy for a while.
Free Pass by Association
[...] This is actually the argument that grieves me most, because it’s the most plausible and therefore the one most likely to lead people astray. This is the notion that since other men whom we respect seem to approve someone’s ministry, that someone must be above reproach.

[...W]e trust these other men. By the biblical faithfulness demonstrated in their own ministries, they have earned our confidence as faithful shepherds. But even that doesn’t mean they can’t make foolish decisions and be sincerely wrong in their evaluation of and participation in someone else’s ministry. Perhaps their endorsements should give us greater pause than normal about dismissing someone out of hand, but each man’s work must be tested on its own merits. [...] Evaluate what he’s said, test it against Scripture, and honor the Word more than you honor the opinions of your spiritual heroes.

The Pragmatic Argument
[...] This argument is so biblically baseless and logically vacuous that it was what motivated me to write this post at all. Even if you disagree with me on the previous four and will continue to brandish those terrible arguments with impunity, annoying everyone who crosses your digital path, please summon whatever shred of self-discipline you have in order to refrain from saying, “But God is obviously using him, so it must be OK!”


The reason that this is such a bad argument is that God uses everything to accomplish all His good pleasure (Ps 33:10–11; Isa 46:9–10; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11). [...] But it should not be a reason given as evidence for God’s stamp of approval.


Our infinitely wise God uses everything—from the most wicked of sins to Balaam’s jackass—to accomplish what He will. Therefore, whether they be worldly preachers or worldly methods, the argument that God uses something has nothing to do with whether it is legitimate for His people to emulate or approve. That God has sovereignly ordained certain events does not automatically mean that they’re not unwise or even sinful on the part of men, who are responsible even in view of God’s sovereignty.
~"Five Uninvited Guests," by Mike Riccardi (on the Cripplegate)

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