Can questions be slanderous?

Can questions be slanderous?

I do not usually respond to criticism but it has been so fast and furious this week, culminating in an accusation of slander from a famous pastor, that I feel a few brief words are in order.

First, I should make it clear that I have nowhere slandered Tullian Tchividjian. Further, I was not the Ref21 blogger who accused him of false teaching. That was my colleague, Rick Phillips. Rick serves the PCA as a minister, as does Pastor Tchividjian.  Thus, there are church-judicial ways of addressing that, if it is slander.  I did point to a comment he made on Mike Kruger's blog a few weeks ago where he claimed large numbers of American evangelical and Reformed pastors were teaching error on law and gospel.  But that was a statement of fact, not a slander.

Second, my post on 'Practical Questions' this week was described by one correspondent as 'the most hate-filled screed' he had read in the sanctification debate.  I will not respond to that but simply refer interested readers to the post where they can judge its level of hatred for themselves.  It is a shame that a post intended to focus minds on practical pastoring has been treated by some, including Tullian Tchividjian himself, as a polemical - and slanderous - attack.

Third, the post was made up mainly of questions.  Questions can certainly be loaded and problematic (as in 'When did you stop beating your wife?') but it is very difficult for them to be slanderous or to break the Ninth Commandment.  Slander and lies involve false assertions.  To state the obvious, questions are not assertions.

In fact, the one assertion I did make about the radical gracers is that they would not counsel as radical antinomians.  Here is exactly what I said: "I do not believe that any of the critics of pastors like Mark Jones would actually do that in such a situation.  They would surely know that such is clearly inadequate.   But if they would not do so, why not?  How would they counsel the child rapist?  And would such counsel apply only in cases of extreme public sin as society sees it?"

In short, I am asking for an explanation of how radical grace theology shapes counsel in such situations.  I do not know.  I need to know if I am to take it seriously.

Tullian Tchividjian has had a hard week, with his dismissal from TGC. Needless to say, I had nothing to do with that: I resigned my one connection with TGC (an editorial role at Themelios) in late 2011 when my conscience would not allow me to continue after top level decisions on the Jakes debacle.  Incidentally, I was, I believe, the only one to resign over that matter. Nobody else, including Tullian Tchividjian, felt it necessary to resign at that point or, indeed, to speak out in my support.   Since then, I have enjoyed less influence among TGC's policy makers than the vice-captain of the Icelandic Olympic Curling Team. Thus, I can put hand on heart and say that I have not caused any heartache for him on the TGC score.

I am genuinely perplexed as to why a series of questions (described to me by Heath Lambert as 'precisely the questions which need to be asked') has earned so much ire.  A question can be answered or ignored.  It is hardly a hopeful sign for Christian discussion when the response is neither but rather accusations of hate and slander.

I am disappointed that Mark's and then my public call for a public debate was ignored in favour of a strange outburst on Christian radio. I will, however, take this opportunity to reiteratemolesworth_reasonably_small.jpg the offer to fly with Mark Jones to Florida and debate Tchividjian on sanctification (Jones) and his use of Luther (me).  The Puppet Master has indicated that the Alliance would be interested in sponsoring such an event.  I should add that I feel no resentment to Pastor Tchividjian for his outburst.  On the contrary, my own view is that such face to face discussion as a debate or roundtable offer would likely be far more productive, gentlemanly, and positive than any exchange of brickbats on blogs and radio