Friday, October 28, 2005

The Resolution That Didn't Make the Cut

From the "Resolution on Rick Warren" adopted by the American Council of Christian Churches at its annual conventon this week:
[Warren] repeatedly takes verses out of context as proof texts misapplying the Word of God to fit his own ideas and beliefs. There is very little if any exegetical study of the verses quoted.
I'll be looking forward to the resolution skewering fundamentalist preachers who mishandle the text next year.

15 comments:

Unk said...

Nice

david said...

man, Ben, first you erupt into a flurry of posts, and now you're treading on sacred ground with unabashedly muddy feet. what's gotten into you? i've always checked your blog daily, but now there's actually new stuff every time. i like it.

Scott Aniol said...

What, you expect resolutions to mean something> ;)

Ben said...

David,

Reading your "shot heard round the world" post from days gone by has inspired me.

Dave said...

It would be nice if they did, but it really isn't relevant to pointing out the fact that Rick Warren handles the Bible very carelessly or, one might even say, pragmatically.

Using the logic of your post essentially calls into question any group passing a resolution against most problematic things. There is no "group" that is without bad preaching, sloppy evangelism, etc. There is enough self-critical stuff published to pretty much conclude that all of contemporary American Christianity is a mess or at least sorely plagued with problems.

It seems the only legitimate option then is for individuals who are without fault to voice their concerns. Either that or suffer the criticism that it seems all resolutions suffer these days. Personally, I think it would be sad to see the end of good, well-thought out resolutions, but that's just my opinion.

Ben said...

Dave,

I think you know me well enough to sense that I have no love for what Warren is doing. If you have doubts, I suspect that you won't in a couple weeks.

I'm not asking anyone to stop making resolutions. In fact, I defended the FBFI over the Piper resolution, highlighting the good that they said in conjunction with the warning. That said, I highly doubt their value. One might counter that Paleoevangelical is little more than one man's resolutions, and I would accept that as a point well taken.

But all of that is neither here nor there. I didn't challenge their resolution [I agree with it] or their right to make it [I respect it]. I simply expressed a hope that those who willingly accept the role of resolution-makers will cast out the motes AND the beams. Is that too much to ask?

Dave said...

Clearly I don't think it is too much to ask since my first words were "It would be nice if they did...."

I don't think you got the point of my post (which is probably the fault of the post and its author). I didn't suggest you were sympathetic toward Warren. I didn't suggest that you think resolutions are invalid.

What I tried to highlight was that the tendency in our day (I think exhibited here, certainly exhibited in many responses on SI to the resolutions) is to immediately counter by pointing out the flaws in those who make resolutions (whether that flaw is their own guilt or their ignoring of guilt by people close to them).

I probably read more into your post than you intended. I guess I have grown tired of the incessant complaints about fundamentalist preaching, etc. (don't personalize that statement). Frankly, I would take our best preachers over any other groups best preachers, but that's really not relevant, so never mind.

Why can't we simply read a resolution and evaluate it on its merits rather than point out what wasn't said?

Ben said...

I guess my thoughts are predicated on my opinion that the biblical obligation to cast out beams first constitutes more than a nice option.

The problem with fundamentalist preaching is not that it is worse than in other movements. The problem is that fundamentalists do the same thing other movements do—elevate some of the worst of it by giving it prominent pulpits. Again, other movements are not better. SEBTS certainly does the same thing, SBTS (I am told) does also, and the SBC annual meeting, well, words cannot describe. In any venue, teaching expository preaching in the classroom while tolerating anything in the pulpit is a volatile cocktail. A wise man once said, "It's not what you teach; it's what you tolerate."

I'm getting away from the point. This may or may not help me return. Let's say Shepherds Conference next year adopted a set of resolutions, one of which criticized Warren for his failure to separate from those who compromise the gospel. Suppose I criticized the Shepherds crowd for their failure to insist on consistent application of separational principles among themselves. Would any fundamentalists be crying foul at me because I didn't "simply read a resolution and evaluate it on its merits rather than point out what wasn't said?"

Dave, I don't mean to sound like a wise guy in writing that. I do think it's a fair question. I've heard fundamentalists critique evangelical critiques of evangelicalism because those critiques didn't go far enough. Ok, fine, suppose they're right. But as you say, all contemporary American Christianity is a mess, not just the parts that aren't fundamentalistic. Would it be inaccurate to say that Doug McLachlan took some criticism over Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism from people who didn't want to hear what he had to say?

Dave said...

I got lost somewhere in the turns of that last post.

My initial comment was not about fundamentalist preaching per se; that was your point. Mine was simply why do we have to take pot shots at almost every effort to sound a warning.

If you really believe that Matt 7 applies to resolutions in the way you imply, then I return to my initial comment: no group would be able to do resolutions because no group is without its own faults. I disagree with that understanding/application of Matt 7 and I question its relevance to this discussion.

Re: your Shepherds' illustration, I hope that I would have the integrity to not post something like "The Resolution That Didn't Make the Cut" in which I point out this is all well and good, but... Let me be clear--I use the word integrity regarding myself since I am the one who criticized your post, i.e., it would be a lack of integrity for me to act in this way. I don't think you have acted without integrity--you don't agree with my point, so you aren't doing anything contrary to what you claim.

If a resolution itself leaves something out that should be said, then it is fair game. To point out the hypocrisy of a resolution is probably fair game too. To shift the discussion away from what the resolution says to another subject altogether falls somewhere on a spectrum that runs from pot shot to evasion (IMO).

You completely lost me on the last paragraph. I have no idea what Doug's book and criticism of it by people who didn't like what he said has to do with this subject. I am not even sure what the critcial of critiques comments has to do with this. Am I missing something?

To go back to your invocation of Matthew 7, it seems that you viewed your post as a matter of pointing out the beam in fundamentalism's eye. That is precisely my concern. Doing it seems to imply that there is something flawed in the fact that they would point out this problem in Warren. Establishing this standard (no flaws before issuing warnings or critiques) is a dead end (IMO).

Ben said...

I'm not sure I disagree with any of the substance of what you're saying. I am probably trying to say too much in too few words and in too little time. Perhaps we are simply addressing different issues.

You're saying that warnings and resolutions are appropriate. I'm not arguing that point. Although I didn't say it explictly, it would be easy for a reader to conclude that I think there there needs to be more open, honest, constructively-critical introspection within fundamentalism, the absence of which is magnified by its abundant (and admittedly most often accurate) critiques of other movements.

I'm not calling out an accusation of hypocrisy on the ACCC for this one resolution. I do wonder if observers of fundamentalists would be unfair to conclude that we are hypocritical as a group when we critique others so much and ourselves so little. Perhaps next year the ACCC and the FBFI will be more self-critical in their resolutions. If so, then my hope will have been fulfilled. I think my comment is only a pot shot if it is inconceivable that they would do so. The history of fundamentalist resolutions would seem to inspire pessimism. Perhaps there is reason for optimism.

My Shepherds analogy was obviously unclear. I'm not putting you in my role of commenting on the resolution. I'm leaving myself in that role—as if I were to call on Shepherds to clean their own house first. My point is that if I did that, I suspect that fundamentalists would jump on the bandwagon, not defend Shepherds for adopting a good resolution and question whether I should be asking them to point their guns inward. Am I making any sense?

Concerning Matthew 7, my exegetical skills are not up to yours, but I think you are insisting on a rigid literalism that I do not see. We would agree that the passages does not preclude any judgment or discernment. We would also agree that no individual, church, or movement is ever going to be unassailably righteous on any point. I think verse 2 in particular demands that we be more aware of, critical of, and vigilant about exorcising our own faults than we are about those of others. And I am convicted about my own failure on that point even as I type the words.

Thanks for the sharpening. You are more patient than I deserve.

Keith said...

Of course no individual or group is without flaws. And, of course, perfection would be the wrong standard to require of resolution makers.

Nevertheless, the resolution maker should be free of the specific fault against which he is resoluting. If he is not, he is inviting the charge of hypocrisy.

If a drunk stumbles into a ditch and starts issuing resolutions against someone elses drunkenness, it won't carry much weight -- even if, on its own merits, the resolution is true.

When it comes to using Scripture out of context, fundamentalism has spent too much time in the ditch.

Paleo's point seems blatantly obvious and self-evidently true -- not to mention supported by Scripture.

Keith

Dave said...

Keith,

If "fundamentalism" passed the resolution your comment might be accurate, but since it wasn't "fundamentalism" but a very distinct group of fundamentalists (ACCC) it remains subject to examination.

I would consider myself a fundamentalist with a very strong fundamentalist heritage where a resolution like this could be passed with complete integrity. The criticism of it was not self-evident from my perspective.

Keith said...

Is there a secret branch of fundamentalism that hasn't tried to twist Scripture to make it teach teetotalism, to make it ban movie theater attendance (but not home theater movie watching), and to make "the weaker brother" the only ethical consideration of import?

Keith

Dave said...

Whatever

Keith said...

Didn't think so.