L'Orthodoxie? C'est Moi!

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In reflecting further on the issue of accountability, I have noticed a rhetorical trick played by some of the fellows who have caused controversy recently.  If you look at Furtick's Hey, Haters or Macdonald's Elephant Room 1 video, the most noticeable thing, after the powerful aesthetics, is the practice of attack being the best form of defence.  By characterising criticism in advance as driven by hate or sectarianism, they effectively make it impossible, or at least very difficult, for anyone to raise any concerns.  They also engage in remarkable feats of clairvoyance concerning the future motivation of anyone not convinced by their arguments or actions.

I have also found, watching and reading other material that such figures produce, that one is never very far away from two other claims.  First, that the critics are small church guys having a pop at big church guys, the implication being that the motivation is envy or even hate.   Such may be the case with individuals, but the Bible nowhere says that the successful should only answer to the successful; indeed, 1 Corinthians makes it very clear that, whatever else it is, success by itself is utterly irrelevant as a criterion for judging fidelity to Christ.

Second, they often make the point that Jesus was controversial and was criticised, as if this too sanctified their actions.  That is a non sequitur.  From saints to serial killers, many people have their critics; it is not the fact of criticism but the content of criticism that is important. 

I have no problem with mixed platforms.  I have appeared in discussions with atheists, Roman Catholics and even a female gladiator from the British TV series of the same name.  But when one claims, as James Macdonald does for the Elephant Room that this is a context where he gets "brothers together who believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone but normally don't interact" he is making a strong doctrinal claim for the orthodoxy of the men he has invited and the significance of appearing on his show.  Further, by pre-empting criticism as `discernmentalism' he is in effect saying, in a manner reminiscent of Charles DeGaulle speaking of France, `L'orthodoxie?  C'est moi!'  This is further confirmed by his dismissal of Nicene orthodoxy as non-essential.  That latter is, of course, about as sectarian a move as one could make.  Orthodoxy becomes what these men decide it is and the rest of us can get with the program or get out of the way.

I have no connection to either man; they have no relevance for me at all; I simply use them as examples of how independent maverick pastors can end up trying to punch above their weight and speak for the whole church.  It will be interesting to see if those who do have such connections will step up to address the issue of accountability in these cases.  Church history from Paul onwards teaches that the faith cannot be maintained simply by making general, positive statements of doctrinal positions.  It can only survive when those crossing the line are called out by name and, if necessary, shown the door.  Silence is golden in many cases but not when it comes to speaking the truth. After a while, that silence becomes deafeningly eloquent.

Posted September 29, 2011 @ 8:39 AM by Carl Trueman

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