Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Some Thoughts on the Biblical Warrant for Corporate Repentance

Tom Ascol discusses the matter on the Founders blog, in reference to the recent passage by the SBC of a resolution that urges corporate repentance for failure to apply the biblical principle of regenerate church membership and for dishonesty in reporting statistics.

26 comments:

Dave said...

Ben,

I am assuming some connection between this post and the one below it, but if not, I'll make it. Here's my question, and it's a sincere one, what exactly do you believe that BJU should publicly repent of?

Ben said...

I'm not arguing that this post provides the foundational argumentation for the previous post. I simply think it's relevant to the issue and worth considering.

But to answer your question:
1. There was a statement in 2000 that the policy was "meaningless," yet the principle was still "very, very important." Now, I have no objection to seeing in Scripture a principle that a godless, ecumenical, one-world government is fashioned by a spirit of anti-Christ. However, I believe that the extension of that principle to relationships between believers and within churches (and institutions that profess to serve churches) is fundamentally wrong. There is only one inter-racial marriage that is prohibited by God, and that is intermarriage between the people of God and the enemies of God. Any principle that adds other forms of "inter-racial marriage" is a doctrine of men. Frankly, I think it's a false doctrine, and I think it's antithetical to the gospel.

Simply put, here's the logic for why public repentance is necessary:

1. The statement from 2000 affirms that the principle still exists.

2. For decades the policy was understood and intended to support that principle (and by implication, still would were it still in force).

3. The policy was dropped because it was "misunderstood," not because it was wrong to begin with. The implication is that it's still wise to avoid "inter-racial" marriage. I think that implication is very, very wrong.

4. It was claimed that the policy was never defended with a verse of Scripture, but rather a broader principle. In one sense that's true. LOTS of verses were used. They were used out of context. They were used selectively. Sometimes they were even used to argue the exact opposite of what the text means. The "Race Relations" pamphlet is simply astonishing.

5. It was claimed that generations of students had never heard the policy defended publicly. Now, the folks who've told me they heard it and the other folks who told the same thing to the people who run the petition site may all have been lying or incorrect. But if not, that statement was untrue.

6. There are more things we could quibble about, but though they're very real issues I think they're somewhat peripheral and would only distract from the most important issues. Plus I'm out of time right now.

I have to say that I'm simply floored that the argumentation for the need for an apology is even controversial. I'm not angry about it, but I'm surprised, and that doesn't happen often anymore. Maybe I'm completely out to lunch. Or maybe it's a generational thing. We're all products of our times—from BJSr. to BJIII to Dave Doran to Ben Wright. I know that one day I'll see clearly the ways I should've been repenting that I never saw (in addition to all the ones I knew full well about). I guess I don't know much more to say at this point.

Dave said...

Not much time to interact, I just wanted to know what was on the table here. I think, and perhaps I'm wrong here, that your list mingles a variety of issues into one and that's part of the problem for me.

On one hand it sounds like the apology (here and in other places) is a specific one connected to what BJ III said on LKL, but then it sounds like it is because of past practices, and then it sounds like it is because of misrepresenting the Scriptures.

Of course, one could simply say "all of the above" but most of us know that in practice asking someone to apology requires more specificity than this.

I guess we can all be amazed at each other over this. So far I've seen nothing to change my original view of it, so I'll end where I began and leave it at that.

Ben said...

Dave,

I *think* I get what you're saying.

I'm not sure if this is the best way to articulate a response, but it might be that the reason for the mingling you're speaking of is that what happened in 2000 was a reaffirmation of the convictions and attitudes that led to bad principles and policies. The change wasn't a change of heart, but a realization that the policy caused a PR problem that exceeded the value of the policy. So there was no repudiation of the principle or the policy, just a recognition the cost of maintaining a good thing was greater than the good it produced. The 2000 statement fused the bad theology, attitudes, and argumentation of the past with bad theology, attitudes, and argumentation continuing in the present. It removed the superficial problem that was the immediate source of public irritation, but the deeper problem has never been addressed, to my knowledge.

So I'm arguing that it was a bad thing that produced bad fruit. When the school reiterated that the policy was actually a good thing that was merely misunderstood, that undermined any good that might have been produced by abandoning the policy.

No need to interact more if you want to unplug.

Dave said...

This will seriously be my last comment on this because we're stepping into a zone where I am not comfortable. However, I think it is important to point out, as I believe that III did that night, that the matter of changing the policy was already under discussion before the blow up about G. W. Bush's visit.

I know for a fact that it was a matter of board discussion in 1999, so it is not fair to say that the change was made solely as a PR move. I don't think it was made even mainly as a PR move. It was made clumsily because the timing was forced by the media avalanche. III was over a barrel--he knew they were already moving to make the change, but if he waited he'd appear intolerant, if he responded to the crisis he'd be viewed as an opportunist. Classic no win situation (which I know they never should have been in if they hadn't had the stupid policy in the first place).

I'll leave the last word to you, but mine will be: (1) I disagree with this method of pursuing spiritual goals (the end does not justify this means); (2) I think the spiritual goals are muddled by the mixture of items (personal, institutional, interpretational) and attitudes involved (which seem to run the spectrum from sincere to selfish, i.e., my career is adversely affected by this); and (3) I am amazed at how folks can say they attended the institution without paying attention to the policy and then claim that BJU was training people to be segregationists and anti-miscegenationists.

Just a few historical tidbits to end my portion of this: (1) the Reagan administration filed a brief to argue on the side of BJU before the Supreme Court; (2) as a student officer, I actually got to be in the Supreme Court for the hearing (I did a little poll and the majority of us there as reps didn't agree with the policy); and (3) I've rarely seen such racial hostility as I witnessed firsthand in the way the media treated the black BJU students that were with us at the Supreme Court that day. Jaw-dropping.

Last anecdote, the night before the trial, another student and I were dropped off at the home of someone who volunteered to house us. Shortly after we arrived, the conversation turned to the court case and this guy jumped from his seat, pulled a book off the shelf entitled "When God was Black" and proceeded to rip on my friend and I because BJU used to not allow blacks to attend. I believe I simply said, I don't agree with the policy, but I also don't agree that the government can use tax exemption as a means of enforcing public policy, and I wouldn't argue with him. He made the mistake that often happens--he thought a student made the rules. I just informed him that this wasn't the case, that I didn't agree with that rule, and moved on. That was almost 26 years ago, but I think the same approach would still be the best approach.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at how folks can say they attended the institution without paying attention to the policy and then claim that BJU was training people to be segregationists and anti-miscegenationists.

I've seen a difference between students who came from Christian schools/strict homes and those who were reared in a more diverse situation. The former group did not tend to question the status quo, and I was one of them.

My Christian school history teacher taught an enthusiastically pro-South version of the Civil War. I was pretty much an unintentional racist myself back then. God has opened my eyes since then.

So, yes, I didn't really question it at the time, but I do now. I was all about pleasing Authority (The School) back then.

Dave said...

I think I was unclear. It seems to me that there are two, apparently contradictory, propositions being set forth by the same people:

Prop 1: I passed through BJU without really noticing the position.

Prop 2: BJU was training people to be segregationists and anti-miscegenationists.

How does one pass through the institution without noticing something which it has set out to train people in? Either the school was not very good at what it was doing or it wasn't doing it in the way that it's been charged with.

This is the rub for me. I knew the school's position and policy and how the school tried to support it from the Scriptures. I disagreed with the school's position/policy and found its explanations implausible. I did not, though, view any of this as deliberate acts of rebellion against God that would call for public repentance. But for people to claim that they didn't really pick up on BJ's position while also arguing that BJ was inculcating this in people is self-contradictory. That was my point of amazement.

That being said, mine is simply an observation that is probably ancillary to the whole point of the discussion, so I should probably have left it out so that it doesn't shift the conversation toward the internal mental state of people. Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

You've brought out some excellent points, and I'm thankful for your interaction. I know you prefer not to engage, and that it takes a good deal of fortitude/stamina to do so.

The inculcation bears fruit, whether noticeable or not. My racist history teacher was a BJ grad.

By 1) not teaching a correct view of the races and 2) defending segregation and same-race dating/marriage, the signals were sent.

Most people just go about their business, maintaining their historic positions, unless challenged to go counter-culture (at which BJ usually excels).

Dave said...

Your history teacher serves, possibly, as a good example of the complexity here. I had two very hard conflicts over the race issue while I was a student and both of them were with other students. Both of them were from the deep south and articulated positions that were not the position of the school and were not acceptable to the school.

I doubt that being at BJU did much to disabuse them of their bigotry (but I came close to attempting it physically did!), but is BJU to be credited with it? That wouldn't be right. So, your history teacher may have gone to college a bigot and left college a bigot, and may have done so no matter where he went to college.

I'd counter your example by my own. The Christian school which I attended was fully staffed by BJU grads, at a church pastored by a BJ grad. Going back as far as the 70s we were integrated (more accurate would probably be "not segregated" since the numbers were not close to balanced) and allowed inter-racial dating to school banquets, etc.

Just as it would be wrong to use our situation as evidence that BJU didn't make much of the position, I think it is wrong to use other situations to prove they did.

I think it would be good to have Larry and Ben go after to Frank Turk's debate website and tackle the question of public repentance as it relates to the sins of previous generations or something like that. :)

Jonathan Henry said...

Dave, if you were referring in particular to my "internal mental state" as a student, I assure you it was a very confused, thickheaded, West Virginia, adolescent perspective, which is difficult for me to even remember, let alone explain! I didn't even know what a GPA was until someone sat me down my second semester and explained it (I run the risk of being ribbed here). Do not be amazed when I say that I didn't really comprehend that complex racial doctrine!

As I said, there were a couple of occasions (policy enforcements, sermons) that really jumped out at me, but I wasn't in any mental position to analyze, synthesize, and critique as you obviously were while studying there. You were put-together as a teen, it seems, and were my superior in this regard.

I know I'm in a Catch-22. In other forums, some have seized on those "one or two times" I questioned, and emphasized the spirit of rebellion in my heart for questioning authority. From the sound of it, you were perpetually rebellious when it came to this issue. That's them talking, not me.

Of course I don't want to leave it at that, because you were right to question (in my opinion, and it would seem in yours too). I'll grant your good attitude in questioning the doctrine, and I hope you'll at least give some benefit of the doubt that other humans are complex in their opinion formation as well. We aren't static creatures, and I'm thankful that I didn't remain the 17-year I was at my first registration.

P.S.: As someone said elsewhere on here, I hope this remains friendly. I hope we can be friends even though we disagree on this one thing. I'm sure we would agree on the majority of other things!

Ben said...

Dave,

Fascinating details. I'm glad to hear BJU was considering dropping the policy already. I wish they'd done more than consider it. And of course, I wish they'd have acknowledged the error of the principle and the evil of the policy when they dropped it. It may have been a no-win PR situation, but I don't think the opportunity to honestly acknowledge and turn from wrong is a no-win situation in relationship to truth and righteousness.

For what it's worth, concerning your two propositions, 1) I did notice the position. I had at least one friend who was admonished about his relationships with another "race." 2) Apart from one history professor who said, "Slavery isn't so bad; we're all slaves to Christ," I remember no public discussion of the policy in my time there (91-95). So I don't think there was an explicit training of segregation and anti-miscegenationists. But that doesn't mean it couldn't have been an unintended consequence.

I always thought the rule was unbiblical, but I'd grown up in a culture that set BJU on such a pedestal that I wrongly assumed that even if a policy like this was wrong, surely it couldn't be that big of a deal. BJU simply couldn't be THAT wrong on something important. Over the years after I left, I began to see some of the seriousness of the issue.

And ironically, it was under some excellent teaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary that I grasped the true horror and gospel antithesis of it.

That's my autobiography. I don't think it proves anything, but I do think it's a different stream from the two propositions you've laid out, which may well be broadly descriptive of what's going on.

Jonathan,

I wouldn't worry too much. I've bumped into him a couple times in the past year or so. He got me in a headlock and gave me a pretty nasty noogie then whacked me with a hockey stick, but we had pleasant conversation afterward.

Bob Bixby said...

Dave said:

I think I was unclear. It seems to me that there are two, apparently contradictory, propositions being set forth by the same people:

Prop 1: I passed through BJU without really noticing the position.

Prop 2: BJU was training people to be segregationists and anti-miscegenationists.

How does one pass through the institution without noticing something which it has set out to train people in? Either the school was not very good at what it was doing or it wasn't doing it in the way that it's been charged with.


Response:

Reducing the concerns of graduates asking for a public repentance to these two propositions strikes me as a red herring. I, for one, have not observed these two claims simultaneously proposed very often (and I have been very involved in many discussions about this topic with influential graduates and some board members) and even then the claims are completely irrelevant to the actual concern. Who cares if students actually noticed the underlying philosophy while they were students? And who really cares whether the school was proactively training people to be segregationists and anti-mecegenationists or merely passively maintaining its position? Debating those questions and exchanging anecdotal evidence for either side bypasses the real issue.

Dave said:

This is the rub for me. I knew the school's position and policy and how the school tried to support it from the Scriptures. I disagreed with the school's position/policy and found its explanations implausible. I did not, though, view any of this as deliberate acts of rebellion against God that would call for public repentance.

Response:

Few people have actually said that this principle and its related policies were "deliberate acts of rebellion." In fact, most of the people I know who are hoping for a public statement of some kind are admirers of the University for its commitment to obedience. Few claim that the policy in the past was a “deliberate act of rebellion.” Besides there is no precedent in Scripture that ONLY "deliberate acts of rebellion" merit the call for public repentance. Even unconscious acts of ignorance may require public repentance. I'm inclined to think that BJU has been guilty of that rather than "deliberate acts of rebellion," but unconscious acts (policies) of ignorance can negatively impact people for a long time and it is perfectly appropriate to apologize for them as well as for others to expect an apology for them. Most parents don’t accept “I didn’t mean to” as an apology from their children, and even if they did an institution is not a child, it is a teacher.



Dave said:

But for people to claim that they didn't really pick up on BJ's position while also arguing that BJ was inculcating this in people is self-contradictory. That was my point of amazement.

I find it hard not to be sarcastic here. Dave finds it amazing that people weren't really picking up on a position while it was being inculcated. But this is exactly how error works, particularly through cultural assimilation. Few people actually pick up on an unbiblical mindset (particularly cultural impressions) while it is being inculcated. I don't find it marveling at all that students today would say that they didn't notice underlying philosophies behind various policies when they were in school but now believe that those philosophies were nonetheless inculcated. What’s so amazing about that?
But – again – that’s not the issue. Who cares if they noticed or not? Who cares if it was actually being taught?


Dave said:

That being said, mine is simply an observation that is probably ancillary to the whole point of the discussion, so I should probably have left it out so that it doesn't shift the conversation toward the internal mental state of people. Sorry about that.

Actually, I'm sorry that people don't realize that this is indeed about the "internal mental state of people" because most of the people asking the University to publicly apologize (as well as the thousands who would love to unreservedly endorse the school and the thousands of blacks who are personally offended by the former policy and a present-day refusal to renounce that position/policy as sin) are more sophisticated than to reduce complex complaints to two supposedly contradictory propositions that, in fact, don't contradict; nor are they inclined to approach any problem with a binary reasoning, simple either/or alternatives, without any grappling whatsoever with the heart of concerns.

This is not gamesmanship. This is not debate team. This is not about who is best at articulating his position. This is about presumably spiritual people asking presumably spiritual people to deal with a perceived sin. Whether or not they have presented it effectively or not is fair discussion. It is not fair, however, to misrepresent their argument by two simplistic statements that appear inherently contradictory while picturing one’s self to have been a much more sophisticated thinker as a student in college.

The fact that Dave was both aware of and unimpressed with the position/policy is interesting trivia. The heart of the complaint has nothing to do with whether people were aware of the position, whether the school proactively or passively promoted anti-micegenation or segregation.

The heart of the charge is that the principle/position/policy actually existed, was sinful, and has yet to be properly acknowledged as such.

Dave said...

Bob,

It would be helpful if you would slow down some. Re-read my original point on this matter and you will see that I said "some" regarding the matter of the two propositions.

IOW, I am amazed that some are saying such self-contradictory things (and they showed up specificly in the other thread). I did not say that this petition effort was built on these two propositions, so your suggestion that this is a red herring is wrong. The fact that my last paragraph acknowledged that raising what I considered to be the problem of some was an ancillary point also demonstrates that I was not basing my rejection of the effort on that.

I never reduced their concerns to these propositions and it reveals a rush to judgment on your part to claim that I did. Quit being so trigger happy.

While it may be irrelevant to you, I think it important to understand exactly what is at stake here. And I don't believe that misinterpretations of Scripture and subsequent applications based on it fit into the same category of error as deliberate rejection of biblical teaching driven by racial prejudice. Yes, both are wrong, but certainly we all know that such matters factor into our response to the ones who are wrong.

As a parent, I certainly do factor into the equation whether my sons meant to do something or not. I sure hope you do too. My response to their wrong doing would not be just if it did not consider such things.

Bob Bixby said...

After posting the above comment I notice that in the previous thread the debate is now turning to what I believe is the core of the discussion: was the former policy sin or was it a mistake? This is where the real debate should center, in my opinion. Anecdotal evidence for either opinion muddles the discussion and doesn't lend to biblical resolution. I'm looking forward to how Ben will respond to Dave.

I think a solid argument can be made that holding an erroneous principle and enforcing that principle by policy is sin which may or may not necessitate public repentance depending on how the sin is or is not exacerbated by its context and subsequent consequences.

Bob Bixby said...

Dave said:

It would be helpful if you would slow down some. Re-read my original point on this matter and you will see that I said "some" regarding the matter of the two propositions.

Actually, Dave, the word "some" does not occur one time in the comment I was responding to. And unless "folks" is a euphemism for "some" then forgive me if I thought that we were talking about the people behind this effort for a public repentance.

I expected that kind of response from you. I've been discussing things with you for several years now. I did practice your admonition to "slow down" and I noticed your word "ancillary" and fully expected you to come back with "that's not what I said." You are one of the most vocal and able champions for the establishment in our little blogospheric bubble and your "ancillary observations" effectively serve as red herring even when accompanied with a preemptive "I'm sorry." Whether you designed it that way or not doesn't matter to me. I want to stay on topic.

But it is red herring because you spent time writing about the argument of "some" and are acknowledging that the two propositions don't sum up the arguments of the people making the effort (or at least that you didn't say so). But isn't the call for public repentance and the specific public effort to make that call what precipitated this whole conversation what we are talking about? How are we supposed to know that you were actually talking about "some people" and not the ones making the effort? When did the subject matter change?

You say:

While it may be irrelevant to you, I think it important to understand exactly what is at stake here. And I don't believe that misinterpretations of Scripture and subsequent applications based on it fit into the same category of error as deliberate rejection of biblical teaching driven by racial prejudice. Yes, both are wrong, but certainly we all know that such matters factor into our response to the ones who are wrong..

First of all, I don't know exactly what you're referring to as potentially "irrelevant" to me because I'm investing time here just as you are. My point is that anecdotal evidence is irrelevant. Everybody has tons of stories proving either side.

However, I totally agree with you that debate and discussion needs to take place about "what is exactly at stake."

I think now the debate is boiling down to your comment I quoted above (and I think I concur with you): is the mistaken interpretation of Scripture about race and the application of it by policy racist and/or sinful in such a way that justifies a public call for repentance?

I think we agree on the core question.

I also agree that "I didn't mean to" may be a legitimate factor to consider when training children, but it is not necessarily a factor that precludes an apology or even repentance. That's my point. BJU may not "have meant to," but that doesn't necessarily mean that they shouldn't apologize.

Dave said...

Bob,

You are right. I said "folks can say" and not "some can say." That being conceded, it seems fairly obvious that these words do not apply to anyone who does not say these things.

Help me out here. Are you saying that I have used the red herring tactic deliberately in order to defend the establishment position? I asking you to clarify yourself because that seems to be a serious charge on your part.

Bob Bixby said...

I don't know whether you do it deliberately or not in order to obfuscate (my assumption is that you are honest in motive), but I am saying that your argumentation sometimes strikes me as the work of a defense attorney determined to defend his client (thus my use of the word "establishment") and not necessarily a pursuit of understanding and truth that not only seeks to understand the "other side" but is prepared to draw a conclusion that is contrary to long-held loyalties toward the "establishment." A defense attorney will never concede an argument. If he is getting out-argued he'll dismiss the opponent's argument, discredit it, or throw out a red herring. Missing the point is part of his modus operandi.

Parenthetically, this is one thing I cannot stand about the American climate right now. I can barely tolerate Hannity & Colmes, for example. The idea of conceding anything, even nuanced points, is a complete improbability for either side.

Back to the point...

If I could persuade you with biblical arguments, culturally-contextual rationale, and spiritual reasoning that Bob Jones University was not only sinful in the past but is currently sinful in the present concerning this former policy would you be willing to "turn on your client" by withdrawing your defense of them and throwing the weight of your influence with your friends there into the biblical resolution of the problem?

I'm not saying that I can persuade you, because I'm willing to admit I might be wrong. I'm persuadable. I'm just not sure that you are persuadable.

I do not know how Ben and Shayne will answer your challenge in the previous thread (which, by the way, I think was a good challenge), but I'm fully prepared to launch into it if I felt that people listening to it were treating it more than a debate class.

The real serious charge has been made: BJU was sinful in its past and it is still not resolved. That charge is a compound of two separate problems.

The question is this: does BJU have enough friends that are willing to be persuaded of that (IF, in fact, that is the case) and will they, once persuaded, join with those who are seeking a proper resolution?

Are you that kind of friend or are you a 'defense attorney"? Your tactics confuse me. Don't take it personally if I push back, particularly when I think there is obfuscating argumentation going on because it is really not about you in my mind. It's about others who are reading this who are very likely to be the kind of friends to the University that will bring the weight of their considerable influence to the leadership at the institution.

I'm willing to be persuaded that I'm wrong. But I'm not willing to be tricked into it by a better debater. I think that sometimes your style appears (and I stress appears) condescending and dismissive, and that only a few care little enough about what anyone thinks about them to push back, even to push back in kind when necessary, because of the obvious risk of being talked down to once they start winning the argument.

This particular issue is huge because it literally impacts who we are as Americans and as Christians. I speak for myself when I say that my personal concern for BJU's proper handling of this situation is motivated and my criticism of their mishandling of it is motivated out of loyalty and love for the school. You obviously have the same motive.

The goal then is what is best for the institution, the glory of God, and all the Christian people involved. I may be wrong. You may be wrong. But our debate should be in pursuit of the same thing, not merely throwing the other person's argument.

In short, whether you intended the red herring or not, I contend that it was.

greglong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greglong said...

Forgive me for interrupting Dave and Ben's debate, but...

As I said on the debate on this issue on Sharper Iron, I think we need to distinguish between an "apology" and and "acknowledgement of wrongdoing." Many get hung up on the whole "apology" thing because they say current leadership can't apologize for something they personally didn't do.

But I think that argument is neutralized if we instead refer to an "acknowledgement of wrongdoing."

Basically it would simply be saying, "We [as an institution] were wrong, and here's why. Here's what we've changed, and here's what we're going to do moving forward."

Who could disagree with that?

I guess Bob is right (and this is what I said on SI)--it comes down to whether or not you believe the policies were inherently wrong, or just unwise/ignorant, etc.

Dave said...

Bob:

Last go round on this because it’s been several posts past wise already.

First, I’ll have to say I am a bit dumbfounded that you’d say I never concede anything in these discussions. All someone has to do is read this or almost all of the other discussions I’ve had on-line and see that this isn’t so. But what’s shocking about this statement by you is that in three years of interacting with you on-line I cannot remember one time where you’ve conceded a point. The most you will ever do is move on to another part of the discussion without every acknowledging that you were wrong or mistaken.

Second, you have completely misunderstood my point throughout this discussion. The essence of it is I cannot agree with and will not participate in an on-line petition movement like this because I believe it is wrongheaded in that it uses coercive methods to achieve a spiritual goal. Added to that is the fact that I believe that the case has been stated very poorly in that it lumps into one pot a mixture of accusations (as I said above personal, institutional, and interpretational). Topping it off is the fact that, assuming that the leadership of BJU still does believe that there is a biblical principle pertaining to the non-unification of the human race, isn’t calling them to public repentance something like a group of Baptists calling for the PCA to repentance of their commitment to infant baptism? Good men, like Mark Dever, won’t admit other good men, like Lig Duncan, to the Lord’s Table over this matter, but I don’t hear them issuing calls for public repentance over a misinterpretation of Scripture that results in an unbiblical practice.

Third, and I am going to be blunt here, the fact that you would accuse me of using a red herring and of approaching this insincerely (i.e., using debate tactics to win an argument) is wrong on all fronts. It’s wrong because it was not a red herring in any meaningful sense of that term. I expressed a judgment about what I perceived as self-contradictory statements by some folks within this very conversation. I did not turn the argument that direction and, as a point of fact, immediately took steps to remove that issue from the discussion when I saw it turning that direction. In reality, though, it was you who came into the discussion and turned it away from substantive argument by introducing accusations against me with loaded terms like “establishment” and “defense attorney.” Rather than address the points I made, you questioned my sincerity, “wondering” whether I am more concerned about the truth or protecting people. You may be on the internet to make a name for yourself or prove that you’re Mr. Anti-Establishment, but I write what I do because I believe what I write. It’s a joke for you to accuse me of defending the establishment. Good rhetorical device to shift off-topic, but a flat out joke.

I’ll leave it to the readers of these two posts by Ben and their threads to assess who tried to move the discussion forward and who turned it away from the central issues. The record is there, so I am content to let others make the call on it.

Anonymous said...

Dave wrote: "I know for a fact that it was a matter of board discussion in 1999, so it is not fair to say that the change was made solely as a PR move. I don't think it was made even mainly as a PR move."

Why wasn't the policy changed in 1999 after it was discussed? And, why, if not for PR, was it changed precisely when the media was pressuring? Are you really claiming that the timing was unrelated to public pressure and impact on BJIII's chosen presidential candidate? Even BJIII's own words to Larry King seem to indicate otherwise.

Dave wrote: "It was made clumsily because the timing was forced by the media avalanche."

How was the timing forced. There was negative media when the IRS came after BJU years before, but the Joneses didn't get forced into anything that time. They held their ground for years -- all the way to the Supreme Court as you witnessed.

Dave wrote: "III was over a barrel--he knew they were already moving to make the change, but if he waited he'd appear intolerant, if he responded to the crisis he'd be viewed as an opportunist."

He had already appeared intolerant for many, many years. Didn't seem to matter for all that time. What was so different in 2000 that was able to force him over a barrel?

Dave wrote: "Classic no win situation."

Just don't see it. He could easily have "won" by doing one of two things: (1) Tell the press that he believed the policy was sound and that he had no intention of being bullied into changing it, or (2) Tell the press, and provide evidence, that he and his board had been discussing the policy for at least a year, had concluded that the policy was unsound and wrong, had come to regret it deeply, and had been making plans to drop it.

Obviously, I'd vote for (2). However, even though I would strongly disagree with (1), I could at least respect the committment to principle.

Of course it's true that no matter what or how BJIII handled the matter, he would have been criticized by some. That's just a reality of leadership -- it's not being put over a barrel or into a no win situation.

Keith

Anonymous said...

Dave wrote: "Assuming that the leadership of BJU still does believe that there is a biblical principle pertaining to the non-unification of the human race, isn’t calling them to public repentance something like a group of Baptists calling for the PCA to repentance of their commitment to infant baptism?"

In a word, no.

The PCA doesn't try to have it both ways. They don't say, "We believe in the principle of covenant baptism, but since it's widely misunderstood, we aren't going to do it anymore."

The PCA is crystal clear that they believe and practice covenant baptism. Their confession of faith clearly states that it is a sin for Christian parents to neglect the sacrament of covenant baptism. Covenant baptism is practiced regularly. Therefore, while it makes sense for baptists to try and convince PCAers to abandon this belief and practice, it makes no sense to issue calls for public announcement of repentance -- there is no repentance to announce.

BJU, on the other hand, is sending mixed messages. Statements have been made that the "principle" is valid, but the practice has been dropped. Some say that dropping the practice is evidence of repentance, but the school and folks like Dave oppose formal statements of repentance. Why?

If the PCA were to repent of covenant baptism, they would have to ammend their confession of faith. And, I can't imagine that the leadership would have the slightest problem acknowledging the reasons for the ammendment.

Again, I can understand reservations/concerns with the petition strategy (even though I'm not sure such a strategy is always wrong). What I can not understand is why any strategy or any pressure is needed.

A policy was dropped. Unless the dropping was a disingenous political ploy -- pure hypocrisy -- something about it must have been viewed as wrong. Why not openly admit that? No one opposing the petition has yet to suggest a plausible answer to this question.

Keith

Bob Bixby said...

Dave,

I won't bother to catalogue all the times I've conceded or said, "I'm sorry" online, even earning for myself the title from blog readers "the King of Mea Culpa." The fact that you don't know of one time in three years is, once again, merely anecdotal, and typical of some of your argumentation.

You are certainly telling the truth: you really don't know of a time that I conceded something. Is that an argument? What if I responded in equally sincerity that in five years - not three, five! - I don't know of one occasion when you conceded something? Where does that get us? Anecdotal evidence may be true in and of themselves, but they get us nowhere - that is a point I tried to make concerning the debate on these threads.

If I sinned this time it was in foolishly trying to explain to you how I read you and why I think your argument was red herring. It was a sin against myself and anyone else reading because I was fairly confident you'd miss the point either because I don't make it well or because you get offended too easily. Yet I attempted it anyway.

However, what I said was said in sincerity and straightforwardness admitting all the time in the writing of it that it "appears" and "seems" as such. I was taking exception to your tactics as they appeared to me and restraining myself from making a judgment call on your motives. Your tactics confused me, I said, because I assumed different concerning your motives.

I said, "I don't know whether you do it deliberately or not in order to obfuscate (my assumption is that you are honest in motive), but I am saying that your argumentation sometimes strikes me as the work of a defense attorney determined to defend his client (thus my use of the word "establishment") and not necessarily a pursuit of understanding and truth that not only seeks to understand the "other side" but is prepared to draw a conclusion that is contrary to long-held loyalties toward the "establishment."

"I don't know" "sometimes" "strikes me" etc. and that was the tone of the entire comment. At one point I stressed "appears" and at another point reaffirmed your motive of love for the institution (something I claim to have as well) and concluded with what I hope was the common motive that we share. Finally, I said plain and simple I felt like your argument was a red herring, deliberate or not I know not.

Blunt, yes. Plain, yes. Possibly wrong, of course. But you asked a question and I had the decency to make an effort to explain to you what I saw instead of merely talking about it behind your back as a host of others might do. You're not the the only one who "writes what [he] believes."

I am not trying to earn for myself a title of anti-establishment. In fact, I have written a number of times pro-BJU statements and posts. I encourage students from my church to go to the University. I am very close to people who are on advisory boards and such. Your effort to peg me as merely an anti-establishment rabble-rouser may invalidate my arguments with some, but others are getting weary of the standard shut-down of objective criticism by labeling it as anti-establishment rhetoric.

In fact, the accusations that were launched were from you. You entered in by saying the effort was 'nonsense' (though you explained it later - thanks) and you hastily charged me in your typical talk-down way of not rightly reading your comment when in fact the word you claimed was there did not appear one time in your comment. You seem to enjoy saying that I am "a hoot" and that I "pile on rhetoric." I don't know what your purpose in that is. Is it to undercut the influence of my ideas?

In answering your question about why I thought your discussion was a red herring I honestly and forthrightly tried to explain emphasizing the word "appears" and qualifying it with "seems" and so forth. (And, by the way, those words are actually in my comment and "appears" and "seems" mean what they mean. Those words in and of themselves are concessions of possible mistaking.) I meant exactly what I said and how I said it, and I meant it out of love. I cannot help it if your ego is too fragile to take thoughtful criticism. Perhaps you believe your own press too much.

I have both defended and critiqued "the establishment." I'm an equal-opportunity offender, I guess. But I am also an equal-opportunity friend. I credited you with sincerely wanting the good of the institution we are talking about and I make the same claim for myself. I also credited you with narrowing the debate down to one important question and then asked a straightforward question about whether or not you were persuadable either way if argument could prevail to make your change your mind. You rebut by suggesting I'm trying to make a name for myself and implying that I am an idiot to boot.

Fine. You may be right. I said "I could be wrong."

The question remains for all people involved if there is actually anyone that could come to the table willing to change their minds if they were persuaded by the opponents' arguments. Otherwise, we waste time.

I said I was persuadable. You didn't answer.

Ben said...

Friends,

It's hard to hear tone of voice on the internet, so I don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill.

But neither do I want a discussion of the need for public repentance to create the need for more public repentance.

I'm grateful for the pretty consistently civil tone by the commenters here over the years. I'd just encourage all involved to recover that tone. I haven't been able to read closely enough to analyze who said what to whom when and in what tone of voice, but let's each take care to consider our own words and lines of argument.

Thanks as always,
Ben

Ben said...

Dave,

Paedo-baptists don't engage in "deliberate acts of rebellion," but I still think they're sinning by failing to obey the Great Commission.

I don't even think evangelical feminists are deliberately rebellious, but that doesn't mean making a woman a pastor isn't sinful.

And the rub for me is that I don't think these two actions, wrong as they are in my understanding of Scripture, strike at one of the essential implications of God's intentions for the message of the gospel to the degree that the alleged principles behind the defunct BJU policies do. And while the policies are gone, no one has repudiated the principles or acknowledged their error. The last official position of the school on the public record is that they are still very much in force.

Does anyone want to argue that Billy Graham was deliberately rebelling against God when he used Roman Catholics and liberal Protestants in his campaigns? As sinful and gospel-compromising as those actions were, and as much as the people involved ought to have publicly apologized, I'm not sure we have the right to accuse them of deliberate rebellion. But now I'm talking crazy.

I may be about to reveal my ignorance of OT Levitical sacrifices, but weren't there sacrifices for sins committed in ignorance, not outright rebellion? If blood was shed to cover those transgressions, isn't that a good indication that disobedience is sin whether it's deliberately rebellious or not?

Dave said that he doesn't "believe that misinterpretations of Scripture and subsequent applications based on it fit into the same category of error as deliberate rejection of biblical teaching driven by racial prejudice." Look, I'm glad BJIII acknowledged the error of these statements . . .

http://www.please-reconcile.org/2008/04/we-are-not-racists/

. . . but I'm not sure the apology is able to expunge the reasonable conclusion that some level of racial prejudice was behind the grievously flawed interpretations of Scripture that led to the racially discriminatory principles and policies. I'd love to hear an explanation for how those statements from the 60s had nothing to do with the principles and policies.

Ben said...

Dave,

By the way, you will hear Mark Dever calling Duncan's position and practice on paedo-baptism sin. You'll also hear him teaching that sin demands repentance. I haven't heard him specifically connect the dots, but it seems pretty straightforward. I think the discussion would be what repentance looks like in that case. I've described what I would perceive it to be.

Fundamentalist have a tougher time grasping that these kinds of principles and actions that result from bad interpretations of Scripture ARE SIN. The reason is that it would make everyone an unrepentant, disobedient brother on some point, and we all know we can't separate from everyone. But whether fundamentalists believe it or not, they do not have the right to define what's sin. God does. And whether we have an honest misinterpretation or not, doesn't (in my view) change what God understands to be disobedience to his commands.

I could go on a bit about why I think fundamentalists have such difficulty here, but I really must stop for tonight.