Monday, January 9, 2017


Recently, Mr. Frank Turk, of the once widely read blog, Pyromaniacs, (at least within conservative Evangelicalism), published a post titled, The End, in what can be considered a disavowing of some of the mental attitudes and practices which he believes were offensive or a harmful example and periodically having less than ideal motives. He states, in the initial portion of his final blog post as he departs from his noted role on the conservative Evangelical web:
Way far north of 95% of Christian blogging is really just exhibitionism, either exposing one's own poor judgment and thinking or exposing others faults (usually both) for the sake of gaining attention for one's self. I think unintentionally, I have done this. I repent of ever doing that, and I repudiate everyone who is blogging for the sake of exposing himself or herself to gain an audience.
Most of you reading this blog know that in 2012, when Pyromaniacs' flagship personality and majority benefactor, Phil Johnson (Pastor at Grace Life church in California and Executive Director of John MacArthur’s GTY program/ministry) vacated his role at the blog, I wrote a rather stiff piece, criticizing the unflattering habits of this band of brothers and my anticipation of the eventual drying up of the waters at that site. The title of the piece is, Pyromaniacs: When Bullies Lose a Leader and you can click on the title to scan my appraisal.

I examined Mr. Turk’s estimation of both life online and the remorse he has for his now and then, lumbering efforts where he admits to needlessly stinging others and more substantially, his inducement for blogging at times, namely, self-aggrandizement. I must say that I was genuinely convinced of his sincerity and intent on personal remediation.

This is seldom a thing done in private between two parties and sadly among Christians, never mind online. The owning of one’s infractions along with a deep and sobering reflection as to their consequences, offered to all those willing to receive such an unpretentious admission and overture of reconciliation, calls the Christian to not just accept but embrace such spiritual and Biblical candor with humility and a reciprocation of forgiveness. Thus, I certainly do accept Frank Turk’s contrition as forthright and my hope is that everyone observing this gesture, would do so as well.

But wait…

There is Always Someone Waiting to Take Your Place

In the piece I wrote about Pyromaniacs, I referred to the three men as acting like bullies, at times. Whether this ultimately is fair or not is for the reader to assess but I now believe Mr. Turk is divesting himself of the elements which would qualify him as such, with his abnegation of those regrettable features. Of course, one would nullify this view if suddenly, for example, one was to read of Mr. Turk taking back up the online persona he has renounced. I do not anticipate such a duplicitous display preferring, instead, to take him at his word.

But wouldn’t you know it, the moment he spiritually transforms into a more distinguished illumination - which is now pointing him to increased face-to-face ministry - there is a line of bullies a mile long heatedly grappling to take his place and beating him about as he resigns!

The most ironic thing about all of this are the online proletariat responsible for doling out Mr. Turk’s verbal flogging, which is a company of compatriots who profess to crusade for those who are, get this…victims of abuse! Yes, that is right, The Wartburg Watch strikes again! I am not sure if I should be laughing or crying this is so preposterous.

If you are not aware of The Wartburg Watch, they are, well…I’ll let you decide what they are. You can read what they claim to be but like any good inquirer, I strongly recommend you observe what they actually do.

Recently, they had a blog post about Frank Turk’s online footprint reduction titled, Frank Turk Retires His Blog and Demonstrates That He Hardly Knew Us and it emerges as apparent that these online abuse advocates relish in engaging in some rather nasty treatment of others, themselves, at least as I see it.

Their Claim…

From what I have deciphered in the blog post and comments section, their general suspicion - which apparently (at least as I see it) warrants granting themselves license for various forms of composed punching and cliquish juvenile group think along with back patting as they impress one another with their inscribed maltreatment against Turk, crowned with exaggerated cynicism and recollections (I’ll address this in a moment in my closing section) - is the issue of Tom Chantry’s arrest on a number of sexual abuse charges against minors which allegedly occurred before Chantry’s ordination and installation as a Reformed Baptist Pastor and Turk’s coming to his defense to some degree, at least with trying to fight off an online judge/jury/ horde, as it seems he viewed it.

From what I understand, Chantry was a blogging associate of Frank’s at the Calvinist Gadfly and when Frank was invited to be one of the Pyromaniacs' triumvirate, Chantry followed and became a heavily favored regular commenter. Thus, when all of this transpired with Chantry, and Frank Turk being Chantry’s reasonable ally and TWW being who and what they are, well, a Twitter war erupted (*as a side note, it did not escape my notice that about a month before Tom Chantry’s arrest, Dan Phillips’ unremitting Twitter presence suddenly went dark, as he described it.). The result, it seems, culminated with Mr. Turk’s exasperation, exhaustion and ultimately his luminosity and for The Wartburg Watch, fresh game for a pitchforking blog post, at least in my view.

I will say that to some degree I understand TWW’s frustration but on the other hand, they get little sympathy from me seeing that they undertake with the very same malignant ingredients which harmed Pyromaniacs’ reputation. In this episode of their ongoing ecclesia opera, TWW’s battle is a vain one, with the mirror being their real enemy.

My Objection with The Wartburg Watch

I would rather conclude the post at this point, even before mentioning Frank Turk’s tormentors, but I am unenthusiastically constrained to qualify my criticism of TWW simply because of people being who they are. By that I mean, people generally invest their ego in some position on a matter and then go about hunting for evidence to satisfy their selfdom and in this case, lest I be remiss in carefully crafting my words, let me be clear.

I get their essential goal. I have no grievance with the uncovering of corruption, especially ecclesiastical malfeasance where serious injury is cloaked and capacious offenses minimized if not dismissed and done so with a scent of insolence toward those who would dare demur. In that respect their ethic is admirable.

What I do contest, however, is a consciously overly hostile temperament and technique. I don’t know the blog owners, personally, only from the product of their writing but I will say that while they are clearly academically or intellectually skilled to some degree and highly galvanized - a trait which speaks of conviction and in many cases that is to be appreciated - in my opinion, they repeatedly write with extreme prejudice and seem to project onto almost every piece, some sort of personal trauma or injustice they received somewhere in their past and it appears that from this, they permit all kinds of nasty and offensive commenting by others as if these are surrogates through which they can vicariously squeeze out the toxicity of a personal emotional/psychological infection which has gone untreated to for far too long. Of course, this is what I have observed and is only my opinion so you be the judge.

This, again, is not to say that their vital aim is faulty, nor is this to say that they do not get some things correct. They do and I applaud that, especially their exposure of CJ Mahaney and his relationship with Al Mohler/Southern Seminary and The Gospel Coalition with respect to Mahaney’s utter failure as the head of SGM (Sovereign Grace Ministries) under which a number of criminal offenses involving the sexual abuse of minors took place, never mind the remainder of his contracted troubles as the organization’s commander along with his false Apostolic doctrine at the time.

Hence, I agree with their goal to address other problems within the Evangelical church which appear to be disregarded or instantly diminished. Where there is injustice, and especially ecclesiastical unscrupulousness, profiteering and other assorted malefactions, every Christian should be concerned and rightly informed.

The problem?

As I said, my contention is with their collective belligerence and modus operandi. And beyond what I believe are the blog administrator’s personal projections is the belief that their construct is self-refuting and will cripple any effort to gain a hearing from those outside of their camarilla in using the method and encouraging the disposition they do so at their blog.

They come across, and fairly so to me and many others in my experience, as screaming banshees far too often. Sorry ladies, only those who like shrieking deities are going to hearken, even if you are authentic. You are consistently forfeiting the very audience you seek to acquire. Exaggerations do not attract, rhetorical asymmetry does not convince and ridiculous and highly prejudiced matrimony only results in you not being taken seriously when you may, indeed, have a genuine case. Sure, I know, you can point to a few publications and new allies in your fight against the establishment but who, within the establishment, have you won and who is willing to value your complaints and give them a proper weighing with the desired change? The answer is, not one of any real consequence.
The Wicked Witches casting hexes, vexes and downing the opposite sex is…
…not going to accomplish anything other than creating a mutual admiration society, but maybe, in the end, that is all you really want, who knows?

Another Way…

There is a blogger named Todd Wilhelm who contributes at TWW and has his own blog, Thou Are The Man. I believe that his prospects of being heard are far superior to that of his aforementioned companions. His work and investigation into problematic constructs and various problems within the so-called conservative Evangelical community is consistently well-documented and articulated. I am not sure how his comment section rolls and to what degree he permits the excesses which occur at TWW but in any case, he does seem to be more proportionate. Thus, my praise is limited to what I know and have observed up to this point in time.

I will say though, within his critiques, there seems to be the sporadic intrusion of his own past personal injury, in having been a member of a 9Marks church plant overseas and where, in his leaving the church, they aggrieved him, if I understand his narrative correctly, with implications of formal excommunication due to proprietary and not Biblical requirements being forced upon him and the situation which came via the United Christian Church of Dubai’s Elders. A dilemma he eventually resolved.

My appreciation for Todd’s desire to address ecclesiastical malpractice goes without saying and may God bless and refine his efforts and that a greater assemblage would attend to his evaluations and especially the ears of those in a position to listen, respond and eventually provide remedy though I do believe his commonwealth with TWW, in their current form, will hurt those chances.

Better Yet…

Aimee Byrd, who is a contributor over at the blog, Mortification of Spin, published a recent post titled, Christian Celebrity Culture and Shot Glass Communities. In it, she addresses a number of things but mainly her destination is to challenge the way we formulate our responses to tragic events within the Evangelical community. Her opening states:
2016 has revealed a lot of problems with the Christian celebrity culture. There have been big names that have fallen, treasured orthodox doctrines downplayed and distorted, and many people and churches terribly hurt. Those who warn about this culture, about the ignored or overlooked issues, and even the suppression of abuses within it, are often dismissed because of their tone or accused of overreacting. One popular response to the lament of celebrity culture in evangelical and Reformed communities is an acknowledgement of its prevalence, but with a “What can you do?” shrug. We’re always going to have a celebrity culture.

We are.

Others, accepting this reality, say they want to leverage celebrity culture in order to do good. That sounds like a plausible response but can too easily become an excuse for uncritically selling-out to celebrity and it usually ends up making its advocates practically indistinguishable from those who are more obviously in it for the purpose of self-promotion.
Here, she lays out a recognition of our need of reformation in the way those in power are engaging with their constituents with respect to a prevalence of Evangelical celebritism; a commodity which currently cannot afford to wash itself in public thus, denying it is ever dirty thereby, encouraging pristine posturing which ultimately constrains them to tap dance or leave the studio completely rather than admit that there is a problem with the program or its personalities.

There is something to be said against washing in public but when you decided to roll in the mud in front of everyone and then want to go wash in private only to reappear with an attitude of incredulity that one would dare reference that moment ago when you were lying in filth, well, you’re asking for it.

Byrd identifies what I believe are the communities, healthy and unhealthy, which have coalesced in protest to the failure by establishment leadership to concede to and adequately address, Evangelical moral and practical crises. Mrs. Byrd relays the following in her citing a blog who provided a quote from a book:
I have recently been reading up on a needed corrective to the establishment, or as referenced in a more secular article, the official public sphere, defined as subaltern counterpublics. That is a loaded term that pinpoints smaller spheres that are affected by and interrelated to these establishments, “where members of subordinated social groups invent and circulate counter discourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs.” Ioannis Kampourakis explains further:

Nancy Fraser, coining the term from Gayatri Spivak’s “subaltern” and Rita Felski’s “counterpublic”, argues that counterpublics are formed as a response to the exclusions of the dominant publics and that their existence better promotes the ideal of participatory parity.

…Fraser highlights the argument that the official public sphere not only rested upon, but was constituted by significant exclusions.
I find this exceptionally enlightening with respect to how it is qualified. I am confident -not from hard evidence but from my protracted observations regarding responses by various establishment principals - that their bafflement and utter astonishment at the formation of these subaltern communities (SAC’s) is measurably their fault and is the result of their insular practices and avoidance of self-audit.

Interestingly, this is precisely how and why the establishment media were so stunned when Donald Trump won the presidential election in November. The political SAC’s multiplied and then, when the occasion rose for them to exert their influence via voting, they did so to the chagrin of the self-appointed nobilities which included some rather perniciously pious so-called conservative Evangelicals.

Her conclusion on the matter is paramount and what I am persuaded is the beginning of a good model. In my quote I obviously leave out a few portions so I recommend reading the whole piece but still, I wanted to share much of it here:
“I like to think of these subaltern counterpublics as shot glass communities, strong doses of truth that cut through the spin of the establishment…The establishment often looks at them as nuisances, and the shot glasses often look at the establishment with disdain. But there is an interdependency that should be recognized and used for good….We need to recognize good talent and work. And yet, we cannot take it all at face value. The Top Men need to listen to the critique. They need to hear from the oppressed---and do something about it. They need to correct bad teaching and not believe their own hype.”
And not all shot glass communities are concerned for truth. Some just like to be a strong dose of condemnation. Some are after ruining reputations. Some are so burned by the establishment that they are now bitter. They are tired of trying to engage and are now only concerned for revenge. There are both Top Men and shot glasses that it would be best to turn away from.

But what about those in between? What could happen if instead of pretending like this isn’t already the dynamics at play, we recognize the need for one another? Kampourakis pleas that if we keep proceeding as if social inequalities do not exist when they do,” it merely “works to the advantage of dominant groups in society and to the disadvantage of subordinates.” He affirms the “positive value of counterpublics” in that they “bring to the fore issues that might have been overlooked, purposely ignored, or suppressed by dominant publics.” In the parachurch realm, I see these shot glass communities as a pathway to transformed consciousness.
This insight is not only invaluable but essential to be grasped. Counterpublics are not all bad. These SAC’s are the result, sometimes, of fugitive hegemony who refuse to listen to valid grievances and reasonably respond. Their own cursory demeanor is a noticeable contributor to the generation of such factions.

As Mrs. Byrd points out, however, there are also those who must be avoided in their expeditions because they are willing to act out in the very manner of which they expostulate. They exaggerate, posture, ego-flame and glorify retributive wounding instead of earnestly pursuing constructive remedy.

Aimee Byrd correctly signals to us that from detached institutional administrators - who have acrimoniously failed to manage instances of serious negligence and other scandals - to inimical shot glass communities whose motto it seems is more blood and less patience and civility, there is a productive region in-between where dissenting residents may equitably collaborate.

Problematic, as Byrd cites, is that many of these issues are the result of parachurch organizations, many of whom who do not have any real ecclesiastical government nor constitutional process for organizational discipline either in matters of heterodoxical teachings or with onerous personalities conveniently afford casual affiliation thus, plausible denial of accountability. After all, they are minimally affiliated under the banner of “the gospel” - as if such a dereliction is permitted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A Prototype Specimen

In my estimation, a prime example of this tension between the seemingly tone-deaf ecclesiastical oligarchy and the objecting counterpublics, is the case of Mr. C.J. Mahaney who, in my view (which is shared by others), should not be active in an ordained or influential role within the church, at this time.

(This does not indicate that he may not be active in that manner, in the future, nor that within his local church he may not, but his swift and dubious rehabilitation and re-installation do not bring to mind the course one should undergo in light of the catastrophic failures and collateral damage which transpired under his reign before returning public ministry in an ordained role, even just within a local church, never mind the church at large).

In my view, he publicly and manifestly demonstrated his lack of qualification both theologically and practically, for leadership and an ordained role in his seismic fiasco as the head of SGM, and my evaluation certainly does not stand alone. An entire organization was built upon his errant doctrine of active Apostleship as well as his facilitation of immense inter-personal failures under his guardianship along with the remarkably inept handling of the criminal offenses mentioned earlier. As I put it a couple of years ago in a blog post I wrote called, The Gospel Coalition, SGM and CJ Mahaney-Opinion-Ecclesiastical Malfeasance:
Ultimately, this is not the result of qualified or competent theology, this is not the result of competent or qualified leadership and this is not the result of competent or qualified practice. If, in the end, CJ Mahaney was ignorant of all of these matters, he is at best the most incompetent and unqualified men for leadership in quite some time in the body of Christ and is wholly disqualified for and from ecclesiastical leadership and the teaching of doctrine.
Unfortunately, on the whole, the rejoinder by the conservative Evangelical establishment was pitifully filled with disdain toward a number of worthy persons who sought answers. Obfuscation seemed to saturate the responses to this crisis by Mahaney's ecclesiastical advocates.

It was rather fascinating to observe Mahaney’s benefactors assign to him a handful of spiritual supervisors for his rehabilitation and then, in miraculous Jimmy Swaggart-like record time, announce his recovery only to be followed by the reward of a move to Louisville, Kentucky along with aiding in his planting a new SGM church not to mention, the convenient move of the SGM headquarters, from Maryland to Louisville. Now granted, this is my description of events with a slight tongue-in-cheek style, but not much, mind you.

I say convenient because of the documented connection of SGM (when Mahaney presided) with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, of which Al Mohler is the President and of which and to their credit, TWW well-documented starting with SGM’s initial and then elevated giving to the seminary from which there appears to be have been a reciprocation toward or for Mahaney in his being embraced by Mohler along with the advocacy of his personality and teachings, via The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel (T4G), both parachurch ministries, which included promotions/endorsements for his books. Wow.

Do not be Puzzled

And so, one wonders why these alternative or counter societies have risen - clearly some with the banner of incessant discontent and armed with hysterical thunder but others with genuine Spirit-led potency and weighty objections - and now are, with vigor, articulating their voices. I don’t nor should you. It seems rather inevitable. 

History demonstrates time and time again, that and no matter the context, when officials prolongingly condescend, patronize or completely ignore their boroughs, preferring instead, a delusional self-serving narrative in order to salve their doubtlessly conflicted consciences (at least I hope there is some inner struggle in such matters by the aristocratic ruling elites), fraternal orders of the disrespected, real or perceived disrespect, organize.

What I do contend with, and have in this post, are the cancerous groups who encourage an industry of perpetual victimhood and who exercise precisely the same rhetorical vituperation of which they claim to hold in disrepute. Generally, these kinds of people, both their gurus and the acolytes who follow them, overwhelmingly have unresolved personal/psychological issues which nefariously sanctions them the prerogative of hoisting onto the issues they raise, all of their internal torments with all of its accompanying hyperbole surrounded by a concert of sycophantic group flattery as they offer on their altars of malevolent loquaciousness, the subjects of their scorn while romanticizing their own values, ideals and interactions as a virtuoso community of love, care and healing. Poppycock.

Those excesses aside, it is clear that there needs to be a balanced and fair forum for these instances and particularly with parachurch bodies. As well, churches and denominations need to ameliorate their explanations to or of these Evangelical maladies, especially one’s involving groups over which they govern.

Even in the most favorable light, what the counterpublics, or what Aimee Byrd calls, shot glass communities, must require of themselves is the humble acknowledgment that they do not always possess all of the facts, that they are not ceaselessly privy to the various routes of ecclesiastical adjudication either in motion or already taken with respect to potentially disreputable events. And a further prerequisite that these social cloisters must enforce is the acceptance that the results will not always be what they, in their partial illumination (though their general protest may be merited) expect.

So with respect to the most helpful of the subaltern groups, when things do not go as they hope and a determination with its conclusion is reached and is reasonably orthodox – again, remembering that the counterpublic does not possess full-disclosure - it is vital that these bodies not only resist the temptation to collectively pout or engage in retributive rhetoric but need, themselves, to be held accountable for that kind conduct if or when it does arise and not only toward healthy such entities but especially in the direction of the unhealthy ones. This, in my view, is something that many of the leading voices of alternate societies are rather unwilling to do in the name of their righteous crusading which apparently is the ruling principle use to justify postmortem tirades and general mayhem.

Back to Mr. Turk

As to the commencement of this post, I bid adieu to Mr. Turk. With that said, however, I encourage him to not make his absence permanent. The online or web community of people are both real and willing to listen. I agree with the assessment that our substantial investment must be face-to-face, local church people. We ought to discover ourselves getting our hands dirty with those we see, touch, hear and feel. Yet, as the Apostles wrote, as David wrote and as God inspired all writers of the Bible to lay down script, we are encouraged to communicate to a larger audience through the written word.

Certainly none of us now pen under the auspices of divine inspiration yet still, we do write and share our illuminations from God’s Spirit as we believe we are given and by example, we have in our church fathers and their ancestors. They wrote for a far greater body of hearers and we have no less a liberty.

Thus, to you, Mr. Turk, as you decline from any significant online Evangelical community participation, I encourage you to consider a future renewal in the manner suited to your newly expressed values. You do not lack the natural or spiritual endowment which is absent in so many dull and lifeless ministers of the gospel. God has not only given you wit but a sizeable teaching gift.

I do want to make clear that I am not composing this piece with the hope of some appreciative reciprocation, not at all. I imagine you may retain some objections to my personality, style and substance at the blog. I understand that distinct likelihood and you are definitely not alone, if that be the case. I only write out of respect to your final effort at Pyromaniacs.


Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,

I wanted to share some of my thoughts on this post having been a commenter on TWW and having been banned for my comments plus lately I have been considering what I see as two forms of “shot glass” (parachurch) entities, and perhaps you will have an opinion on my thoughts. I’m talking mostly about evangelical and reformed churches and organizations.

I think parachurch organizations can be broken into at least two groups, the big ones like Samaritan’s Purse which seems to want to reach the world physically and spiritually and the smaller ones whose main presence is on the internet. I should state that I’m not convinced parachurches are God’s plan as he said he would build his church not build his parachurch and also believe many started because of a misunderstanding of some scripture and become more about self preservation and growth than the original purpose they set out to do, it’s my belief Samaritan’s Purse falls into this category.

It’s the smaller group with mostly an online presence that I’ve been thinking about lately and think it fits in some way with your article. I have broken some this smaller group into two groups 1) Online Discernment Ministries (ODM’s) and 2) Online Watchdog Ministries (OWM’s). I’ve heard the ‘OWM’s’ call the ‘ODM’s’ the “doctrine police” so I suppose that makes the OWM’s the “people police”. These two groups find themselves at odds and from what I can tell the reason is because one is concerned with what they perceive as wrong and/or false teaching and the other seems to put people's feelings and experiences above scripture, both claim to believe in the fundamentals of the faith. The ODM’s want purity of the word and behavior the OWM’s seem to want purity of behavior to the point of disregarding the word unless it fits the narrative at the moment and at times become vindictive to say the least, the poor behavior seems to be less egregious with ODM’s because of the seriousness in which they take the scriptures and less dependence on comments. The ODM’s are more interested in ministering to the church and the OWM’s want to make a safe place for those who have been hurt by the church, those who want to introduce newer understandings to scripture and those who hate the church.

Some of both groups have things in common, both had problems with a church or a parachurch and appear to have tried to work out their problems but were similarly shut down without hearing or satisfaction and in many cases have been run out by those churches or parachurches either literally or by conscience, others ran into authoritarian leadership and structures (the latter mostly in the reformed churches) which led them to the internet to air their grievances, which has been a way of shining light on the problems they and others have encountered. Others who have had these experiences found these “shot glass” ministries online and found some much needed relief. All of this, in my opinion, is because of failures in the church which seems to be growing rapidly.


Anonymous said...

The people that find themselves at odds with a church is seen as a problem or threat by the leadership who has inflated their importance and power to unbiblical standards and in the mega church circles has become like the big parachurches, more interested in staying in power and growth than serving according to the bible, and shuts down any feed back. I know one mega pastor who won’t even look at his email until it has been cleansed from all negative feedback and walks around with several security personnel. These “leaders” cut themselves off from those they “serve” and surround themselves with those who only agree with or promote them leaving them in an echo chamber. The people who have legitimate complaints try and find common ground with these leaders to work out their complaint and so concede points where possible, the concession is quickly taken but never reciprocated, the leadership concedes nothing! This becomes very frustrating to those with a legitimate complaint and those without and so they end up at times bitter and unwilling to concede anything, hence, I believe, you have the dynamic you wrote about. The ODM’s seem to be content to provide their perspective without need of comment but can lead to believers unable to find a church. The OWM’s find the comment section a useful tool to do their dirty work although they are very willing to do it themselves, I have not found OWM’s honest as their point is all that matters regardless of scripture, facts, or reason, yes many times they are correct but that makes the behavior easier to go unnoticed.

I think your article includes at least both of these groups, the OWM’s being in the “perpetual victimhood” and the ODM’s being more of what you are hoping for Mr. Turk.

I don’t see OWM’s working with the church ever being a successful thing, at least not a biblical church.

I wonder if the church would be what it is supposed to be, a pillar of truth with hope and love, would we need parachurch organizations.

Anyway those are some of my thoughts and observations.


Anonymous said...

Frank Turk.

I too appreciated your earlier piece on Pyro having read them for years and increasingly finding the rigid attitudes hard to take. I appreciated them being straight talkers, you always knew where you stood with them, but eventually it went beyond this, especially after Phil retired from blogging. He was the most articulate of the three.

Turk could, however, be very witty, and I would never say I didn’t benefit from his teachings. The same is true of Phillips. I wish more that Phillips would do what Turk has had the courage to do. They started well but got side-tracked. Their strident and increasingly arrogant attitudes backfired, in that I have drawn back quite some way from reformed theology. If this is the fruit it produces, something isn’t quite right about it, notwithstanding what the bible says is ultimately what counts. Also with things charismatic – not the mania, but rigid cessationism that has an agenda underneath it that is not based on trying to understand and put into practice 1 Cor 12 to 14 in a thinking, yet believing way. Part of the agenda is wanting to be in control and fear of making mistakes. There is room to disagree on this subject without breaking fellowship over it or getting personal.

Their unwillingness to tolerate genuine and reasonable dissent in their comments section spoke volumes to me.

I think we should accept Turk’s change of heart at face value until and unless there is evidence he lacks sincerity. He has taught by example here, and I am happy to forget the less savoury things he may have said in the past.


Anonymous said...


I think Wartburg is now occupying the vacancy left by pyro when it comes to attitude problems. I haven’t been there for months now, except looking at a couple of things Grigg’s Wartburg Whiners has highlighted, and especially the comments he quotes. If someone who attends a church they have criticized tries to defend it, they really are like a pack of foxhounds! Except it is actually not funny.

Parsons’ criticism of Turk’s last post struck me as yet again demonstrating the absolute inability of the admins and commenters to look at their own attitudes and not just those of others. They believe the worst rather than the best, which significantly diminishes the value of any discernment they have. Griggs’ quotes the comments about Turk – disgraceful, ungracious and unedifying. Displaying bitterness and unforgiveness, something you don’t always see clearly when bogged down in commenting there yourself.

I think believers should be wary of commenting there as they will go against Paul’s instruction not to associate with … revilers or verbal abusers. (I can still get angry at the treatment I received at their hands, the sheer hypocrisy - if I allow it to. And yes, I made mistakes too.)

Hearing a sermon recently on 1 Cor 10, I was struck by how big a sin grumbling was. Hadn’t really seen it before. We’ve all done it, discussing what is wrong with the church we are in and wishing it were different. Comment sections, WW in particular, have made an art of this. In fact I thought of them as an example.

Parsons has undoubtedly moved to the theological left. The blog really does not tolerate reasoned dissent, but suppresses it by putting dissenters into permanent moderation. I don’t regard her as an enemy, but I do think she would do well to reflect on Turk’s recent actions, and … close the blog down if it can’t be reformed? A previous attempt to clean up the comments failed by not being enforced. Well-meant criticism is taken personally. The result is it’s doing more harm than good now.

Like you, I think it has done good in the past, and like you am hesitant to be too critical myself, but what is going on over there now cannot be excused on the basis of this past good like a kind of double-entry book keeping. Started well, but got side-tracked.

Finally, although a lot of what transpires there is clearly often a work of the flesh, there are spiritual hosts of wickedness at work in the background too. It is an aspect I have become aware of, and want to avoid making myself vulnerable to spiritual attack.


Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Finally some breathing time to respond.

Q, thank you so much for your investing your time in constructing a solid presentation of your observations.

Firstly, dittos to the parachurch concerns. God has established his church with a distinct government which enables a real government with an accountability system for its members, leaders and non leaders. Parachurch orgs. simply are not the church and often refuse to conduct themselves under the same guidelines yet, insist on representing the church.

I positively appreciation your distinction between Online Discernment Ministries (ODM) and Online Watchdog Ministries (OWM) with the latter often functioning with disregard for doctrinal truth and far more toward Pharisaical pettiness, though not always but yes, it definitely destroys their credibility outside of their clan of disaffected people. Both groups, as you said, to have some commonality and I admit to some extent, I might fall within the range of ODM but that is not the purpose of this blog though, I do have some pieces, more lately, of that genre.

I do believe there is a general flaw in the way things are constructed in regard to the church's communication of its understanding of the concerns of its people. However, much of that is exacerbated by online communities, both leadership/control groups and grievance groups, talking past one another.

As you said, if the church was what it should be, much of these parachurch things would disappear since we would not need them.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...


Good to hear from you. Did not know about Wartburg Whiners. I agree that TWW's theology is leftward, more and more, and not due to theological illumination, rather, from personal maladjustment which result in preferred associations rather than principled ones, hence, whatever those who like them and agree with them on their critiques of women/abuse problems, they give ear and attendance to their belief system.

Your qualification that they have filled the void is a bulls-eye. Wow, talk about constant moderation and abuse toward anyone not getting in line and agreeing.

Rarely do crusader types comprehend their error until it is too late and that usually comes after they see their own attitude and actions in their disciples which repulses them. However, in this case, I am not sure repulsion will be the response rather, mutual admiration.

They really do not see their hostility and abuse toward others. Fortunately, enough people have come to understand what goes on there that the Peter Principle is staying true. They've reached their highest level of incompetence and will not go past where they are and eventually the ladies will tire of their raging at some point and then whomever is next in line will take their place.

Anonymous said...

"But there is an interdependency that should be recognized and used for good….We need to recognize good talent and work. And yet, we cannot take it all at face value. The Top Men need to listen to the critique. They need to hear from the oppressed---and do something about it. They need to correct bad teaching and not believe their own hype.”

I honestly don't get this. Isn't this a bit like hoping the king will grant us an audience? I realize that Byrd and her compatriots come at this subject from a more authoritarian caste system mindset than I do. I guess my question is why there are "top men"? Isn't this
Where we should start rather than hoping "the top men" will someday listen?

Anonymous said...

I love Todd Wilhem's aproach. I am amazed at the amount of work they put into their posts. They are very good at documenting patterns of behavior and connecting disparate dots to show an overarching theme or goal of the subject matter. He helps you see a much bigger picture.

I think there are different approaches to all sorts of issues and I certainly would not think Pyro or TWW should shut down. I just don't visit pyro. I found Turk confusing-- for years. Trying too hard to be clever and vitriolic so the point was often lost. One mans trash is another's treasure, I guess.

We have had enough censoring and posturing from the left over people "being meanies". And I don't even know what a theological leftist is? A mutualist? Jeremiah Wright and hating whitey sermons? There is some of that there is very syrupy benign ways. Or even a conservative anymore. All the lines are blurred. There are a lot of political liberals over at TWW who think donning a hijab is fighting the "persecution" of Muslim women in America. Sigh. Or that NOT advocating special rights for certain groups is racist and homophobic. As a libertarian type thinker I find it all a bit amusing. Left/Right. Who has power. Why not individuals? Nah, too dangerous to expect and allow individuals to be responsible.

Very few such blogs ever get past the information and story phase to the solution phase. It is simply not their mission.

But what is going to rock their world is now many of their readers find they actually agree with the pontificating of Russ Moore and Piper! The very people they despised as right wing evangelicals. And I doubt many of them will see the bigger picture-- that all along they have had more in common with them from their supposedly loving but marginalizing all who disagree --lefty perch ---than they imagined. It is going to be interesting.


Alex A. Guggenheim said...


Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to Surly share your thoughts, I appreciate that.

I agree that neither Pyro or TWW should shut down however based on their existence as intolerant antagonist toward anyone who might challenge their View and their mistreatment of those people they should not exist. Neither are able to withstand a thorough rebuttal.

As to agreeing with Russ Moore and those who object to the excesses of people like Moore, if they were honest they would have to concede they agree on many points.

However I'm not sure that they are denying an agreement on many points but that their disagreements and concerns are sufficient to warrant a divorce. A deal-breaker in overall compatibility but I do sense there are some who wood even deny it is raining if Russ Moore were to go outside in the middle of a thunderstorm and declare water is falling from the sky.

But as it stands, while there may be many valid approaches to many things I remain confident that my view (which is shared by many but that is irrelevant frankly if it's true it is true and I believe it is true) that TWW disqualifies itself on several points as a valid and serious voice for those objecting or even those who believe they've been injured, stands.

Anonymous said...

Alex, I have been around the Moore circles for years here. If he says it's raining, I would at least check or wonder what the agenda for the rain really entails. :o) But that is me based upon my personal experience and perception of his methods.

And it's a good thing we don't need each other's qualifications and people are free to avoid one another if they don't subscribe to their message or methods. We have had nefarious "gatekeepers" for too long. It reminds of the evangelical writer who is contracted for space now and then in WaPo. She made an impassioned argument for news gatekeepers ---for our own good. As if editors and publishers are not worried about Ad Renenue or being invited to establisment parties. Her argument was that gatekeepers would protect us from fake news. Rather naive or nefarious? Not sure But twisted information that could be construed as fake news going on for years. Dan Rather comes to mind and that debacle with Bush. .

Information and methods are messy. We have to be grown ups when reading and listening. Letting the peasants speak always makes some uneasy. We don't control the result of who is considered a serious voice or not and by whom. I think that is a good thing.


Alex A. Guggenheim said...

"Alex, I have been around the Moore circles for years here. If he says it's raining, I would at least check or wonder what the agenda for the rain really entails. :o) But that is me based upon my personal experience and perception of his methods."

I won't lie, this was like a piece of chocolate pie.

I do believe the peasants have been too willingly the kingmakers and not their own voice. We have freedom. However, there is a real commodity of leadership and the peasants needs a theological John Galt, if ever.

Anonymous said...


Just to clarify if I can. I do get where you are coming from in some respects. For a converse opinion, I am not a big fan of MoS for similar reasons in that I think they are hypocritical and condescending. Not brave enough for comments, either, it seems. I realize some of it is due to their institutional caste system approach which I don't share. But for Truman to publicly rail against Big Eva and the celebrity culture without coming clean with his part in declaring Mahaney as "fit for ministry" is what? Hypocritical? Blind?

I read the arguments from Pruitt on Trumans defense at TWW but they ring hollow to me. I would have more respect for them if they either decided not to discuss the celebrity culture or come clean and explain why Truman was wrong to go along. Either he was naive and impressed with the celebrity culture at the time so was conned OR he was a true believer. You know, one is free to say, I find your parameters too narrow and am uncomfortable only hearing on side. But no. I think it is fair to expect an explanation if one is to take them seriously. For many, it seems it does not matter a bit. Yet, I find their defensive posture over asking about it "illuminating".

Again, that is what these discussions are about. Opinions, methods, practices. No one cares if I take them seriously or not as a nobody. TWW often references MoS in a positive way. But they have allowed comments to carefully point out the problems. One often walks on egg shells there against the popular views. Most over there adore the MoS writers and have decided to ignore past behavior and pretend Truman never participated in saving Mahaney's ministry career. They read Trumans oblique writings on the problem with the Eva celebrity culture and applaud and fawn over Truman. Sigh. No transparency from the "top men"?

Pruitt kind of ruined the TWW romance by coming over to accuse people of slander. It seems that mentioning Truman in the same sentence as the Mahaney panel, is slander. Who knew? They do love their accusations of slander and breaking the 9th commandment. I can't keep up. Top men don't do well being questioned. Of course they are always the arbiters of tone, approach, wording, venue etc. There is never a right way to ask uncomfortable and very obvious questions, publicly. Yet their articles and opinions were "public".

While you refer to TWW as screaming banshees, witches, etc. I refer to the MoS team as deceptive, hypocritical and authoritarian. They go after what they ignore on their own team. Weird. I think at this point, it is a bit of compliment for both sites. The fact we even mention them says something. :o)

As to Turk, I first interacted with him in 2006 or 7. It was the frontier days. He contacted me about linking to his site back when I blogged. He was very intent on building up a large following fast-- as I learned. I was not impressed. And found it wise to avoid him by not responding to his comments on any blogs. Frankly, I doubted he would go away but Pyro and Gadfly were already dead-- so why not? He was accusing anyone of discussing Chantry's arrest as gossiping. The mistake was including him in the tweet. Then he become out of control and nasty with the necrophilia comments. One would think he would be more wise. My position since 2007 is to never engage Turk at all. But, I find your comparison a tad unfair. Like Piper, I think there might be psychological issues at play because this has been the normal for Turk for many years. Nothing new. He has been konwn in the past to write about taking his marbles elsewhere and it never happened for long. So who knows. Too soon to tell.

Thanks for allowing me to comment. Lydia

Anonymous said...

Oh yes. Galt persuades people to be more independent thinkers and doers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the convo. Gotta run! Lydia

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

I have been critical of Trueman in the past regarding his glad hand with the CJ Mahaney situation and the absent of some kind of formal acknowledgement that he, indeed, has left that T4G circle and disavows his support of Mahaney as he once did, would go a long way. However, he is British and not American and their method is to simply go away and demonstrate a new posture with less expressed judgment. It certainly does not satisfy American taste.

And I do believe you are right about the nature of seeking an audience yet disallowing a dialog or objections. Which is why I permit comments, though there is little threat that my comment section will get out of hand or that there is much in the way of debate, ha.

I believe it is important and if for some reason the comments ever heavily increased, my hope is that they would mainly be theological or practical debates.

Anyway, thanks for your time.

Anonymous said...

"As you said, if the church was what it should be, much of these parachurch things would disappear since we would not need them."

Wouldn't that be great.

Some are building with gold, silver and precious stones, other with wood, hay, straw... Others are enemies of the cross.

I enjoy your writing, thanks.


Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Enemies of the,cross, indeed. My writing has slowed due to an ongoing illness which isn't improving but I am hoping to do more, soon.

Imagine, God's own children functioning as enemies of the cross. May it be I audit myself and remove such a possibility.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about your Illness, I pray the Lord heals you of whatever is going on.

Your brother in Christ,

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Thank you for the prayer offer. It is valued so much.


Anonymous said...

Hi Alex,

I would like to join Q in praying for you as well. My prayer is that if you have committed sins you would be forgiven them, that God will bring you back into health, and that you will be delivered from evil.

In your dealing with TWW, in reading the contributions there and the comments in particular I do wonder if you can find yourself involved in the spiritual warfare Paul outlines in Eph 6.

Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy

There is a lot of ‘flesh’ operating there. The frequent insincerity indicates the ‘wisdom’ there that all too often contains bitter jealousy and selfish ambition is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual (“soulish”), devilish (“demonic”). Some of it is at a very natural level, carnal thinking/the mind set on the flesh, but I wonder if you can touch on the demonic sometimes. Slander in the biblical sense in particular. Vulnerable, psychic women straying after Satan, and bringing each other and potentially those who read them into spiritual oppression, maybe unwittingly ‘fellowshipping with demons’.

I wouldn’t want to overdo this like a superspiritual mystic, but I’m thinking of the effect the site had on me, and bad things starting to happen. Coincidence? I wouldn’t claim a word of knowledge about this, but it seemed a bit much just to be coincidence on reflecting about it. It is an aspect of the Christian life more likely to be overlooked than over-emphasised these days.

I appreciate your current health problems could have much more mundane causes like a lack of vitamins or something!

Therefore let every one who is godly
offer prayer to thee;
at a time of distress, in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
Thou art a hiding place for me,
thou preservest me from trouble;
thou dost encompass me with deliverance

I love that last sentence, and claim it often!


Anonymous said...

How did Cherry Joe and Liquid Incense get past the 'I'm not a robot' filter?

I was suspicious about this, Alex, because I can't imagine incense is your kind of churchman ship ...


Alex A. Guggenheim said...

I relegated it to spam and by the way, thank you for thoughts, your prayer for forgiveness of sins and your overall encouragement. The days are mixed experiences, some high, some low.

Anonymous said...

Alex, I do hope your health is improving.

Your brother in Christ.

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

Thanks Q. It has been good enough to get half of a post done maybe I'll finish it next weekend

Anonymous said...

Good to here I'll look for it.

Anonymous said...

Egged on by Wartburg Whiners I did skim read the article and comments at TWW regarding Mike Pence and the Billy Graham rule. I've barely done this in over a year now.

You have to give it to them, how on earth do they keep it up? The same people going through the same motions. Haven't they got anything better to do? It's almost a marvel to behold!

My sister reminded me not long ago that in any dialogue between Satan and God in the bible, Satan never uses God's personal name. Without reading too much into this, I was reminded on my recent drive-by that your old friend Headless Unicorn Guy never, as far as I can recall (and I'm certainly not going to check this!) uses the personal name Jesus. Is he actually a believer at all? You could be forgiven for wondering if a site dissecting Christian trends ought to have a bit more discernment than this, that unceasing negative commenting indicates someone who does not have the Spirit, or if not that, someone who has a lot of problems and too much spare time.


Alex A. Guggenheim said...

You're right, one must acknowledge that there is a seemingly endless supply of energy for the injury cult at TWW. And what I just said may be precisely why and how their engine races. They have an incurable injury, the wound that never heals. Thus, they will be perpetually in search of what does not exist.

Anonymous said...

Alex - you have a wonderful way of putting your finger on things in a couple of short sentences!