Monday, March 10, 2008

are we too nice?

Over at the AGTS Karoox blog there's been a discussion on the emerging church and if it is faithful the historic Christian faith or not - I agree with others that it depends - some yes, some no. I also agree that the term emergent is really hard to define.

The site provides a link to a lecture by Mark Driscoll that I think you may find interesting: (it's about an hour and a half long or so).

Anyways, in the comments section one commenter noted his displeasure with all the name dropping by Mark Driscoll (he named names to identify were folks fall on the spectrum of supposed emergent teachings). Instead this commenter would prefer that Driscoll talk about the issues and not leave the people out of it.

He wrote:

One thing a did not appreciate in the podcast: I think it does more harm than good to name names and “throw down” like Driscoll did in the court of public opinion. In so doing lines are drawn in the sand and camps are formed. Why not just argue your point in opposition to a given opinion and keep it above the fray? When individuals like Driscoll and others get a big following they tend to draw these lines and make people choose imaginary sides. That is ridiculous and counterproductive. If they really want to discuss issues they feel are detrimental to the Kingdom then get together and have a debate. Attacking them from a distance is like trying to grasp a vapor. I also think it comes off looking like a straw-man jousting session.

Talk about the ideas. Not the people. I know it is a lot easier to attack personalities. It's also more entertaining. A modern day theological gladiator match. We have learned to be entertained over and over again by the bloody arena of political campaigns. But if we make it about people first and foremost, if or when we reject an idea we must by default reject the person. That begins to tread close to a sinful response. We are all God's children and thus deserve honor and respect presented in love. If we stick with challenging the ideas, thoughts and words and we can disagree agreeably while remaining a part of the body of Christ.

While I can understand where he is coming from, this is what I wrote back:

As to name dropping, well, I understand what Gary is saying, deal with issues and not people, however, too often the issues and the people are so intertwined it is hard to separate them. Even so, Paul seemed to have no problem name dropping if necessary. In 1 Timothy 1:19-20 he specifically pointed out that "Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme." That seems pretty harsh if you ask me, but it was necessary for Timothy's sake. In Philippians 3 he called the false teachers "dogs" (3:2).

I think if there are dangerous teachings going on then if necessary they need to be pointed out - obviously with grace and respect but again if necessary it needs to be done.

There wasn't a reply to my comment but I wonder about it - was Paul too easily angered and just shooting off his mouth when he called false teachers "dogs" (a term not unlike calling a Police Officer "pig" today)? In Galatians he wished the Judaizers would go all the way and emasculate themselves (Gal 5:12) Or did he know false teaching when he saw it and rightfully said those preaching a gospel different than his "eternally condemned"? (Gal 1:8-9). Was he going overboard when he went public in pointing out that Hymenaeus and Alexander had harmed him and shipwrecked their faith?

I am wondering if we have become so "nice" we can't take a stand when false teaching arises - as a Pastor people can and do get terribly offended when I say Mormons are not Christians - some people don't want to go that far. Or worse - certain sectors of the Charismatic movement teach really bad doctrine and have flat out abandoned the gospel - it is wrong to point out who? It is unethical or inappropriate? Unnecessary? Or should we just keep it quiet and not point out false teaching but just redirect people elsewhere?

What say you? Are we as Christians sometimes too nice?


At 3:37 PM, Blogger Pascalian Awakenings said...

Oooh, what juicy question! I suppose it depends on what the motivation is. There are times by pointing out names that it may lead people to repent, or warn others of false teachings. In this case, I think it is actually helpful. However, there are also times people just want to look like a know it all and elevate themselves. In this case, I think sticking to issues is important. But pastorally, I see nothing wrong with naming names for the purpose of warning who the false teachers are and the hope of false teacher repenting.

It is also to note that in some instances, Paul referred to generic titles (false teachers) and other times to names. I would have to assume his audience knew who the false teachers were.

I do agree with the other person when they talk about drawing lines and make people choose imaginary sides. Not everything is as cut and dry as a lot of people want to make issues.


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