Monday, February 06, 2006

A Game of Let's Pretend: The Unconditional Surrender Edition

Anybody else remember Mr. Rogers' world of Make Believe? Let's all go there for a moment and live a little fairy tale. Let's pretend that Every Tribe Entertainment and the New York Times (does it really deserve the italics?) apologized for irrationally insinuating to the FBI and the cultural elites who read the Times that Kevin Bauder is a crazed lunatic. Let's pretend that ETE offered a public apology for casting someone as the lead character in The End of the Spear whose worldview is diametrically opposed to that of the martyrs. Let's pretend that ETE promised never to minimize the gospel and always to cast only evangelical Christians whose lifestyles stand up against extensive investigations. Let's pretend that they pulled the movie, burnt all the copies, and started over, producing instead a movie with a clear presentation of the gospel.

Exactly what would we have accomplished? Someone please edumicate me.

Seems to me that Shakespeare wrote a play with an appropriate title. Just replace "Nothing" with "Very Little of Any Eternal Consequence" and I would be satisfied.

I will now hang up and listen to your answers.

14 comments:

G-Harmony said...

Ben,

Theoretically, why do we ever bring up anything we have a problem or concern with on our blogs? You brought up the LU debate team article, for example- to what end?

I can say this- I think the topic has helped people who may have been on the fence, so to speak, more clearly think through the strategy and practices that define much of contemporary evangelicalism. I know the topic has helpe me converse with people in my church to that end.

Ben said...

So in other words, you believe there is value in pointing out error to help folks grow in their discernment. I agree. But what do you think about addressing a fly with a barrage of cannon fire when a sharp swat or two from a flyswatter might do? (In case New York Times reporters or ETE staff are reading, please e-mail me at paleoevangelical [at] gmail [dot] com to have the non-violent intent of this analogy explained to you.)

Jason Janz said...

I guess it's because what one sees as a fly another sees as a snake.

Anonymous said...

Your sarcasm isn't very becoming. You sound as if you're being very judgemental. That's not the Christian way, is it? Spend more time trying to improve yourself and less time critisizing those with different views.

Pittsley said...

Anonymous, there is something inherently contradictory about your comment. You seem to spending time be "critisizing those with different views."

Your incoherence isn't very becoming.

Chris Anderson said...

Hey, Ben.

I think GH has it right: a big reason for addressing error--and doing so passionately--is to help people think biblically about a current situation and others that will arise in the future. There is an shocking inability or unwillingness to bring Scripture to bear on these situations. Will ETE pull the movie? Obviously not. Will they make better decisions in the future? Will Osteen? Will Warren? Perhaps not, but that’s beside the point. The more important question is whether professing Christians will start looking at issues through the lens of Scripture rather than the lens of Dr. Phil. I’m not optimistic, but shrugging & saying nothing doesn’t seem like a wise response. Based on the spirit of your posts, I think you usually agree.

I'd suggest that evangelicalism’s history of using a fly swatter when cannon fire is appropriate (speaking figuratively!) is what got them into this mess in the first place.

Ben said...

Chris,

As I said to GH, I agree with that objective completely, in this situation as in others. My questions are genuine, accusations of sarcasm notwithstanding. We're really talking about a difference of opinion in methodology for confrontation here (i.e. what method best fosters discernment; I favor the Mohler model). I'm not sure further discussion of that would be productive at this point. There should be no doubt that I respect those who are on the other side of this one, but I do think there are more worthy targets for barrages.

G-Harmony said...

Ben,

For sake of discussion, then- let's say a representative of LU responded to the matter in some way- perhaps publicly on your blog, or in the MSM. How do you respond?

------------

Bixby was right when he observed that this controversy is bigger than the film. It really has served as a revealing case-study for the methodology and perspective of contemporary evangelicalism. Dan Kachikis, Roger Youderian's son-in-law, recently observed on SI:

"But, the Lord is sovereign and, if nothing else, I have seen something that God is using to sharpen the focus of my ministry. It's been a real "wake-up" call."

If this controversy serves as a stimulus for believers to evaluate and better emphasize a doxological priority in their lives and ministries, than I believe the segment of the church involved in this matter has been well-served.

a witness who can no longer remain silent said...

The offense has been addressed, but not reconciled.

Perhaps this is the reason we are hanging by our fingertips at the bottom of the slippery slope... We witness injustice, and we may even make attempts to fight the good fight, but we lack perseverance and tenacity. Our commitment to a cause is a mile wide, but only inches deep. We are all too willing to compromise for the sake of keeping the peace... when there is no peace.

In this particular instance, we are not dealing with a fly, or even a snake, but a pit full of snakes. In terms of the slippery slope, our toes are dangling only inches above that snake pit. To make matters worse, the snakes are getting smarter. They have done their homework. They've found ways to slither out of the pit, and they are already biting our children.

Is it still our Christian duty to turn a blind eye, so as not to appear judgmental?

Chris Anderson said...

Ben,

Can you contrast Mohler's method with what you've seen in this situation?

Chris

Ben said...

I think our diverse interpretations of the analogy are revealing. First, the point of my fly/flyswatter comparison is that the response ought to be appropriate and sufficient to deal with the problem, not that the problem is insignificant. We have swarms of flies, and they cause problems.

When we start talking about snakes is where our broader objectives seem to diverge. GH and Chris talk about discernment. I agree. When snakes replace flies, I'm not sure discernment is still the issue. Is the snake(pit) an internal lack of discernment in our churches or an external insidious force? If it is the latter, then my question about what we accomplish remains unanswered. If we chop off one head, will not seven new ones replace it? If it is the former, then the inescapable question is why our flocks are so lacking in spiritual understanding.

It seems to me that there just might be a deeper spiritual problem. I hope we don't lose sight of that in the mêlée. Is it possible, ironically, that our cultural engagement is simply a new fundamentalist application of the new evangelical strategy in an attempt to respond to the old failures of the historic new evangelicalism? The overall point of my blogging for some weeks now is that our problem is not cultural, but ecclesiological. I fear that the front lines of our battles for the gospel need to be inside our churches (and I do mean our churches), not in the media of our culture. We like to think that our problems are created by forces that are external to us. Sometimes they are. Scripture tells us that. It also tells us that other people's problems are easier to confront than the ones within ourselves.

These are questions that have been simmering in my mind for some time and have recently coalesced. I don't expect everyone to agree with me—yet (I'd put a smiley face here, but CJ told me not to). I do think the questions are worth considering.

Ben said...

To answer a couple questions:

Greg,

If someone from LU posted here, I would probably comment a couple times and let him have the last word, as I often do. If it hit the MSM, chances are I would clarify as necessary and ignore it from there. I have a hard time believing that a philosophical debate between Jerry Falwell and me on the value of Christians honing debate skills would come off well for either side in a secular forum.

Chris,

Between his commentary, blog, and radio program Mohler swats a few different flies every day. He seldom if ever is dominated by one fly. He is contributing to the development of discernment/biblical thinking skills, regardless of whether one might disagree with some of his conclusions.

Ben said...

Also, my apologies for not mentioning this earlier, but I'm not likely to interact much with anonymous posters. My policy on anonymity has always been pretty permissive, but it does seem as though there is some obligation for courage when you're taking shots at the blog author.

Ryan Martin said...

Wow. This went over like a lead balloon. Perhaps I should do some self-examination into why I agreed with it so much. We are obviously fighting the same enemies, Ben. Most of the time, anyway. Good post, and good responses.