Tuesday, December 06, 2005

When My Time Comes: An Appeal for Due Process

Inevitably, at some time in the future (or even the present), I am going to fail miserably in one or all of three ways: 1) I will sin publicly myself; 2) I will inconsistently overlook someone else's public sin and put him or her in a position of public leadership; or 3) I will indiscriminately put an unqualified person in a position of leadership through inexcusable negligence. I have no doubt done at least the first one already.

I do not relish the prospect of having my impending request fulfilled, but I'll ask anyway: When you see me sinning, whether by personal activity, inconsistency, or negligence, would you please communicate with me personally?

In the event that you feel compelled to use my sin to instruct the church universal, would you please do me the courtesy of giving me the opportunity to repent and address the sin myself before you make it into a public spectacle? (I draw a line between my sin and my ideas; if my ideas are bad, take your best shot. I'll probably learn something.)

Does that make me spineless? I hope not, but maybe I take the Golden Rule too literally. And then there's just something else in my mind that inclines me to believe that the universal church for which one might care so deeply will be better edified when I repent publicly and pursue retribution after private confrontation, than if my filthy laundry is dragged first through the cyber-mud through what could be perceived as some kind of power play. If I refuse to repent, then cut me to pieces. I'll need and deserve it.

But hey, I'll be the one sinning, and you'll have to give account for how you shepherded the universal church, I suppose. I guess you'll have to do what you'll have to do.


Bob Bixby said...


The "Golden Rule" is the best argument that has been proffered. So far, everybody's biblical arguments have fallen short in my book. And, while I think that people are tempted to apply the "Golden Rule" by making what "what I would want to have done to me" as a self-preserving sinner being the standard of "what I must do to someone else" it is, nonetheless, a powerful check to unrestrained responses. I accept it (since I know you have me in mind)as good food for thought. Thanks.

G-Harmony said...

Something David Bayly posted in the comments of his blog seems relevant to this situation...

Jesus commands in Matthew 18 that we first go ourselves, then with a brother, then take it to the church. But what is the context of this statement? The context is clear: “If a brother sins against you…”

This is not a blueprint for all church discipline, let alone for every false teacher or false teaching. It is a command for the often-selfish give-and-take of daily interpersonal relationships. Jesus could have said, “If a brother sins…”, leaving out the “against you” and made the point you seek to have Him make. But he added “against you.” And it is not faithful to Scripture for you to remove it. Nor is it faithful to Scripture for you to suggest that Paul followed the pattern of Matthew 18. In fact, he quite explicitly did not, but brought it to his face “in the presence of all.” (Galatians 2:14)

...You must not force Scripture into the shape you like by ignoring what it actually says. ...Galatians 2 (says) Paul further describes the confrontation as taking place in the presence of all, in front of the entire Galatian church...

In fact, Paul would be sinning by what (some) suggest Jesus commands. But (some) also misread Christ’s command and therefore... judge Paul.

There are even times in personal relationships when we do not simply follow Matthew 18. Would you follow Matthew 18 if you or your daughter were molested by a man in the church? If he repented would you forgive him and leave things be? You must, by what you’ve written me. It would be wrong to do otherwise. And again, and again, and again you would need to forgive and forget if he expresses repentance. But in such a situation, we would do well to realize that this is not the personal offense Jesus is speaking of in Matthew 18, the merely personal affront. It is grievous sin, and we would do well to take it to the church.

In the realm of false doctrine, it is not an offense against you or me, it is an attack on Christ. And we would do well to do as Paul did with Peter, to confront it at its core. Perhaps there are times when a private word can be had first. But you’re living in fantasy land if you think it’s always possible to speak to someone privately in the position of a Joel Osteen or Billy Graham.

Dave said...

It seems to me that Ben is correct to keep the discussion of his post separate from Bob's comments.

I believe this simply because they are dealing with two separate kinds of situations. Ben is sharing how he wishes to be confronted about his own actions. Bob was questioning how a certain position against or about worldliness are to be understood in light of other positions taken. While I don't particularly care for how this has been handled, this distinction seems to be completely missed.

It is strange to me that you, Ben, have used this venue to point out inconsistencies of other people and ministries, yet this same action by Bob is being viewed by you so negatively.

Ben said...

Nothing personal to anyone, but I've deleted all posts that alluded to specifics of the other blogosphere situation at hand. I don't want in any way to foster another open forum for criticism of an individual for whose passion for truth I have great respect, despite the fact that we see these issues differently. I think the posts that were deleted were largely appropriate examples of debating the ideas, but I think they would be better served to be posted in another place.

Ben said...

Chris and Dave,

You both raise essentially the same question (Chris in a deleted post), so I'll try to answer them together.

First, I think your question is legitimate and instructive. It's one that I wrestled with in my own mind before I posted anything. As I wrote in my post, I see a distinction between discussing ideas and discussing sins. If I write something that's dumb or you find some theological error in a study that I edit, take me to task. And I have every confidence that it's there.

So if I've posted something that publicizes the sin of someone else, then you can legitimately call me into account for hypocrisy. I realize that there can be a fine line between wrong ideas and sin. (This is a question that reaches into the whole debate about disobedient brothers—a question that has to this point quite efficiently eluded consensus) As I see my ethical obligations, that line is crossed when the tone and words of the post focus on the motivations, attitudes, and sinfulness (as opposed to merely the wrongheadedness) of the person under scrutiny.

The bottom line is that I see a difference between critiquing public ideas and actions and publishing an exposé of sin. I'm thinking of one post in particular from several months ago in which I wrote about a change in position on a prominent issue—a change that could be construed by some as hypocrisy. I sought further explanation from the affected party before I published anything, and in my post I was careful not to imply that the change in position was sinful.

There's another line of reasoning I'm thinking through. I can't say that I have a thorough biblical rationale developed, so take it for what it's worth: When everything that you know about a person or church is that they will deal with sin problems, then it seems reasonable and wise to give them a chance to do so before putting the offense in the spotlight, particularly when you have personal ties that facilitate the communication.

T.J. Pennock said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dave said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben said...

Another post deleted. Folks, I don't know how to make this any more clear. This is not the place for any discussion of the specifics of the real-world situation at hand. I think you have other avenues for that if you choose.