Monday, September 12, 2016

THE EVANGELICAL GESTAPO? A SHOCKING AND SHAMEFUL REPORT ON THE SILENCING OF THEOLOGICAL DEBATE THROUGH INTIMIDATION BY EVANGELICAL LEADERSHIP

For those of you unfamiliar with the picture above, it is the brand icon for a blog venture by three people, Carl Trueman, Todd Pruitt and Amiee Byrd, which goes by the blog name, "Mortification of Spin" (MOS). The mix of personalities is complimentary but not necessarily as mere amplifiers of a singular narrative on all matters. But even on issues where they share positions, they bring varied approaches and styles which is attractive to readers and aids in their overall objective of enlightenment.

Carl Trueman, if you do not know of him, is a professor of Church History as well as the Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church. He is the author of a number of books, a lecturer and consummate apologist for Reformed and Evangelical church theology and philosophy.

Todd Pruitt is the Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Virginia and is a graduate of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taken on some rather weighty theological topics in his writings. He also tackles very practical issues facing the church today. His script, while academically precise is also artful in its inclusiveness of every level of readership which speaks to his shepherding identity.

Aimee Byrd defines her reflection as a believer who strives toward faithfulness in her service to Christ both in Word and deed and with regard to her earthly calling, is married and a mom of three. She refers to herself as ordinary but unlike many ordinary people I've met, she appears to be willing to do the extraordinary with her foray into the world of hot theological debate and is regularly well prepared.

But this brief post isn't really about my view of the people or blog, overall. Still, let me be clear. These bios are not as endorsements or any attempt to gain their approbation. I have never met them nor do I expect to until eternity future and have only sent one of them an email in the past with no response. So essentially, I do not have a personal relationship with any of them. Yet, like all readers of all people who write and offer their work to the public, there is the relationship between the writer and reader in which we do get to know them by the integrity of their work. In that respect, I know them as most readers do.

Further, in the past I have been critical of Carl Trueman regarding his non specific criticisms of what he calls Big Eva. He has his reasons and because of his tempered evaluations and my knowing that I do not know what he knows and respecting his experience, I have not multiplied my complaint, which frankly, was only once or twice anyway. Now that I have bored you with this intro let me get to the meat of the issue which will be brief.

The Issue at Hand

Denny Burk, a Professor of Theology at Boyce College, wrote a paper on Philippians 2:6 regarding the Subordination of Christ, God the Son, to God the Father. He sides with an eternal subordination view, albeit, in function and not in person. I won't go into further detail, that isn't what this is about.

In response to this, Todd Pruitt wrote a rebuttal article at the MOS blog. Apparently, while Mr. Burk was able to maintain his composure in objecting to Pruitt's conclusions, what I am terming the Evangelical Gestapo (I'm sure others have used this term) were not. 

You might be thinking about now, "Okay, he's exaggerating." I may be but you will understand the comparison when you read what Todd Pruitt reported. He states, regarding what appears to be several leaders within Big Eva, at his blog, here (I believe Mr. Burk's strong association with The Gospel Coalition cannot be ignored in this matter and the unidentified Evangelical Oligarchy who seek to orchestrate narratives and so on):
I made the decision to take down my post critiquing Denny Burk’s article on Philippians 2:6. It was not an easy decision. I still believe my critique was appropriate. I still believe Denny’s article is problematic. 
But I don’t have very thick skin. 
I learned a lesson today. It was a lesson I was warned of: Be very careful about taking on men with powerful friends. After being bombarded well into the night by angry emails accusing me of everything but the Kennedy assassination I decided that the satisfaction of critiquing a problematic article was not worth it.
That's right, he was so intimidated that he removed his rebuttal. This censoring could not simply be the result of typical frustration by debate opponents being expressed in an email. I suspect some genuinely threatening language of some sort was employed. I don't know, I am not saying that is the case but rarely does one initiate censorship of their own words merely from common complaints, even hardy ones. But it does not stop here because his friend, Carl Trueman, a Christian thinker, Bible teacher, theologian and Pastor who, at large, is more than well-respected but admired, this man, also became privy to these menacing barbs. 

Trueman, in evaluating the response, provides a summation of concern that reflects what can only be defined as a shameful time for Big Eva's oligarchy as he writes at the blog, here:
When Todd told me of the vicious attacks he was receiving yesterday, I was shocked to know the name of the person involved.   But then again I was not shocked at all -- such vile attacks are part of the culture.  I get them myself all the time, usually cloaked with some throat-clearing token piety at the beginning or the end.   It is simply easier to attack the man than address the arguments.   For myself, I simply ignore them -- hey, the man who has no enemies has no honour.  Todd, however, is more sensitive. 
And that’s why Todd pulled his original post about Burk’s article: the relentless behind-the-scenes attacks are tiring and discouraging, aimed at one thing and one thing only – closing down any discussion of the errors that are rampant on the doctrine of God.  Not everyone can put up with them. I know the toll such attacks have taken on Todd in the past. But somebody will have to take a stand at some point or the situation really is lost -- theologically and, as is increasingly apparent, ethically.
My objective isn't to "out" someone in particular, though I wouldn't shed a tear if the guilty party(s) was outed rather, for you, the reader, to have confirmed, once again, in your mind, the state of the union regarding what Trueman calls Big Eva. 

Understand that often, more than you know, the livelihoods of men in ministry are threatened and actually curtailed if not comprehensively suppressed by these would-be theological and ecclesiastical aristocrats. These men whom many of you admire from a distance, when you come close to them or they come your way, frequently arrive with fire in hand rather than water and it is stunning, to say the least.

They believe every battle is the war. They take no prisoners, they relieve no debts, they pardon few sins - if any - and usually it is for show more than out of compassion and there is no backdoor to their organizations, only a front one in which you are given a grand entrance when signing up - with your fee in hand of course - and a perp-walk when dismissed other than the other treatment, which is to pretend you never really were part of them if your Big Eva life as a Big Eva personality somehow falls apart.

Christianity is a big business for the world, for the flesh and for the Devil. For God, however, it is not a business, it is His Kingdom and he does not view it as ours to make into a business which must be defended by some Evangelical Gestapo or their tactics via surrogates. It is a Kingdom of which we have been given the duty and privilege to reflect while here on earth and one for which we will account before Christ at His Bema Seat in eternity future. 

Possibly, these men have either forgotten this or simply find it unbelievable so, in the meantime, while Christ neglects his judgment, they take up the task themselves. God save us from such men. Yet, may God help us all to remember this, humbly so, and repent quickly and thoroughly that the light of His Kingdom be not hidden, especially among his own.

(*P.S. How ironic would it be were we to discover that one or more of these boisterously threatening voices were the same Big Eva mouthpieces claiming matters of conscience in their posturing against Donald Trump's so-called undignified fisticuffs political strategy? Maybe that is why they dislike him so, because they see too much of themselves in him? But again, that is merely conjecture however, it would not surprise me a bit.) 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

May I put a question mark against using the term ‘evangelical gestapo’? You are the first hit if you put this in google! I know what you want to say with this to make a strong point, but it comes across (to me at any rate) as being in the Headless Unicorn Guy tradition of overdoing Hitlerlite associations for current evangelical errors and leadership styles.

The gestapo, like the Russian KGB and its predecessors, was beyond the pale in its evil, and sums up in many ways the total depravity of regimes that had suppressed any notion of Christian compassion and care either by paganism or atheism. The resulting evil was catastrophic for the countries concerned.

Perhaps evangelical dictatorshipor evangelical secret police might be better. The appalling behaviour you are putting under the spotlight is something the watchblog community rightly complains about, but then undo any good they might achieve … by uncouth or foul commenting.

(I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is a … reviler …. This disassociation applies to fellow believers who are revilers or verbal abusers (NET bible), also to leaders who indulge in this – and, and it took me a long time to see this – blogs where this is the mode of operation.)

Regarding the issue itself, I agree with you completely. Being able to disagree amicably ought to the hallmark of Christian disputes and arguments. Intimidation, censorship, threats and vicious personal attacks are completely out of order. It needs to be resisted. You are so right to bring the judgment seat of Christ into this, something that has really gripped me in more recent months. I don’t just mean others have forgotten this, but my own personal life and what I have done and said.

For a UK example, when David Pawson published his book Leadership is Male, he got angry pushback from feminists as you would expect, but also well-known evangelical leaders wouldn’t publically stand with him although privately they agreed with him, ‘because this would result in the loss of ministry opportunities’.

The fear of man lays a snare,
but he who trusts in the LORD is safe.

Ken

Anonymous said...

Ken

I acknowledge that the use of the term may be a bit close to home with my objections to the abuse of adjectives and adverbs assigned by the perpetual injury crowd but I took that chance in this case because of the strong hint that this came from places of power and involved forms of intimidation which implied career injury.

To me, taking down the article had to be due to remarkably ugly pressure, which is precisely what the Gestapo were known for that they may impose group think.

I do, however, take your counsel with all appreciation and will keep it front and center.

Anonymous said...

I certainly didn’t want to be a discouragement!

I am aware possibly of being over-sensitive on this issue due to a particularly vile comment or two I read elsewhere, now some months ago, thanks to your wise counsel!

It is certainly true that some evangelical celebrities, like heavy shepherds before them, are starting to act like little Hitlers.

I noted the comment of William H Smith in his respectful confrontation of the Bayly brothers in the context of you Trump piece below. Refusing to hear well-meant criticism is for me a clear sign of deception being at work, or else a threat to someone’s ‘authority’ or sphere of influence in a particular evangelical constituency.

The trouble is some of the Big Names are remaining faithful to some biblical doctrines (e.g. on homosexuality) in what they say, when others are collapsing into compromise. This makes it harder to believe what they are actually doing to other believers by way of ugly intimidation.

KB

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

No discouragement at all. I try to always begin with the belief that even with the most unfriendly criticism or objection, someone may see something I do not.

In this case, of course, it is both friendly and wise.

AG