I suppose an answer is necessary….
Don Johnson wrote a critique of my “Unanimity vs. Unity” paper which you are all invited to examine. Don’s main contention with my paper was my naming of Rod Bell. He said, “Foremost was my reaction to the references to Dr. Bell.” They seemed to him to be “gratuitous shots.” He then reacted to my “overly favorable view of MacArthur.” I will address these two points in this entry, and only touch on some of his other concerns mentioned in the rest of his blog.
My Mention of Rod Bell
First, you reacted to my mention of Rod Bell. I do have an apology in this context, but it is not for having mentioned him or his drunkenness. What I wish I had mentioned (and apologize for not having mentioned) was that he has resigned his position and I do wish for him a rich outpouring of the grace of God to prosper his soul and further sanctify him for the glory of heaven. I believe we shall have good fellowship in Glory. I do not revel one second in his fall and frankly tremble for my own walk. We all have feet of clay. We are all saved by grace. Nor, do I wish to imply that Dr. Bell has not been used of God. I suspect that his usefulness has been far greater than mine will ever be.
However, with that free, full, and sincere admission I do not withdraw my mention of his name in the context of my paper The point that you missed in my mention of his name was understood by scores of other readers. Yet I feel somewhat obliged to make an answer even though I believe you are in the minority because I do agree that that mention of Dr. Rod Bell’s name without the aforementioned charity could be perceived as triumphalism on the part of a younger generation that might exult in a man’s fall. God forbid.
You correctly linked my mention of Dr. Bell with the complaint I had with Davey’s broad-brush faulting of “conservative evangelicals” because their disciples cannot discern between anagnwsis and epignwsis (see page nine of “Unanimity”). Then you missed the point which is, frankly, obvious. Let me restate it in other words: It is unfair to fault conservative evangelicals this way when we have the same problem not only among our disciples, but with our leadership. Of course, as you say, MacArthur (or Ryken, or Piper, etc.) have probably had associates resign in disgrace. That’s not the point. My point is that we have had people resign in disgrace too, and it is therefore unfair and arrogant to condemn other ministries or circles by the faults of their disciples as if that is a litmus test we are willing to enforce on outsiders, but not on ourselves. If we applied Davey’s anagnwsis/epignwsis test to every ministry, we would all fail. Even Jesus had disciples who failed to discern the difference between head knowledge and life experience. Worse. One of them was filled with the Devil. I would agree with Davey’s criticism if he had applied it to the Body of Christ generally, but to make it a distinction between us and them is clearly wrong, untenable, and easily disproved.
That I have decided to name Fundamentalists who are wrong (at the risk of being accused as a “neo”) while dogmatically affirming my love for Baptist Fundamentalism is hardly gratuitous. I have been intimately familiar with inside dealings in Fundamental politics, closely acquainted with many of the leaders, have either spoken or key-noted in at least nine different Fundamental colleges or seminaries, and have suffered misrepresentation and misunderstanding for my positions. My choice to mention names is calculated. And I do not apologize for it. The mentioning of a name as a negative example is not slander as you charged me with in your first response. Otherwise, you are quite guilty of it also.
I abhor slander. Slander is – according to the dictionary – the “utterance of false charges or misrepresentation which defame or damage another’s reputation or character.” The statements I made concerning Rod Bell’s drinking problem were less detailed than his own public admission. It was a public statement in his own words. Just because he is one of “our boys” doesn’t mean we can’t verbally and publicly react to his verbal and public statement. You, my brother, slandered John MacArthur. You apologized. And you are forgiven. I do not want to be guilty of slander. And I hope that I am as quick to clear myself as you were as soon as it has been proven that I have slandered someone. I go to great lengths to either talk directly with the individual in question or get his own wording.
Your defense of Rod Bell illustrates the very point I was attempting to make. We are not even allowed to mention his faults, but we are supposed to be hyper-analytical of the variances between MacArthur’s modus operandi and the vague, biblically-indefensible, strained, culturally-irrelevant, sectarian definition of “secondary separation” that the collective will of a pharisaical and biblically-illiterate sub-culture has imposed upon us. Some cave in. Some flee. Some of us object.
My Favorable View of John MacArthur
You were offended that I defended John MacArthur. That really wasn’t my point. In fact, I stated in my “Unanimity” that my goal wasn’t to defend MacArthur. I want to defend the facts. When we are no longer allowed to defend the facts because it might ennoble someone outside of our party, then the party is no longer a servant of truth. I don’t know MacArthur personally and he doesn’t need me to defend him. But why not? Let me as a foaming-at-the-mouth Fundamental Baptist defy partisanship and defend him. I’ll be happy to defend a man that wrote The Vanishing Conscience, Hard to Believe, Faith Works, Reckless Faith, Rediscovering Expository Preaching, Charismatic Chaos, Ashamed of the Gospel, The Gospel According to Jesus, and Faith Works to name a just a few of his works that have ministered to my soul and enhanced my ministry. I’m not ashamed to defend such a man. I haven’t read all Dr. Rod Bell’s books yet, but if they are helping young men hone their thinking to champion the Word of God then I’ll celebrate his ministry too. And hope that even though he had to resign from public life he will be able to continue his great and illustrious writing ministry.
Dr. Bell knows full well that he will be discussed. That is one of the scary things about leadership. I have decided that while this blog entry is still hot I will make him the focus of my personal prayers even though don’t know him. Truly God is a mighty God who can yet do marvelous things in that man’s life. I spoke the truth about his drunkenness and my criticisms of his KJV-onlyism and preaching are based on personal observation. I speak the truth when I speak of Dr. John MacArthur’s help to our cause.
I don’t have the unfounded paranoia that seems to plague so many Fundamental Baptists that the mere utterance of gratitude for the help of such men as Piper, Ryken, Sproul, and MacArthur spells the demise of our beloved cause. Au contraire, I am fully persuaded that authentic Baptist Fundamentalism’s only hope is when more men who are assertively Baptist, assertively Fundamental, and assertively independent unshackle themselves from the artificial and ungodly constraints of isolationism.
Finally, I object to the blanket “he-endorses-everyplace-he-speaks-for” paradigm of Biblical separation parroted by so many within Fundamentalist circles. My assistant and I have spoken this summer in a Covenant Church here in Rockford to help that suffering congregation. Does that mean that we endorse that church’s doctrine or methodology? Hardly! All it means is that a “door of utterance was opened unto us.” In fact, I would much rather preach in the places that I do not endorse to persuade, convince, and challenge others to consider my point of view. Isn’t that what preaching is about? It seems to me that many in Fundamentalism think of preaching as merely the best opportunity to make one’s self heard in their affiliation’s pep-rally which provides the possible chance at promotion to more invitations as long as he doesn’t transgress the collective pride of his circle by suggesting that they, in fact, are not the paragon of the pure. I happen to think of preaching as the opportunity to proclaim truth. If I perish, I perish. If I get spit on, I get spit on. Who cares? If anyone dares to invite me knowing who I am and what I believe, I’ll go. And I’ll preach whatever God lays on my heart.
Most Fundamentalists don’t get that opportunity because our unbalanced view of separation has made us like little children at a zoo that taunt and hiss at the wild animals from behind the safety of bars. We beat our chests and do our war dances but never actually enter the conflict of ideas because we have become cowards. Cowards who have piously erected our excuse for non-involvement. An excuse we sanctimoniously call secondary separation. The remarkable thing about your charge against MacArthur for preaching at the Laurie meeting was not that MacArthur went. It is that Laurie had him come! That – and I don’t know the details – is actually quite encouraging! I have heard MacArthur get verbally abused by charismatics. He has made his position clear. You think that he should back up his position by never speaking to any group even remotely related to charismaticism. I think that if a “door of utterance” has been given to him, he should take it. That he has helped Laurie doctrinally seems to be a known fact. Glory to God that someone has helped another preacher be more effective.
Since you have attempted to illustrate MacArthur’s sinfulness (for what else can it be if you have to separate from him) by showing his association with the Laurie’s “Preach the Word” conference, I will use that very same event to illustrate the thrilling opportunity of witness that is granted to those who are untrammeled by pietistic secondary separation. The conference happened to be on “preaching the Word.” What a golden opportunity for a preacher of the Word to make sure that the Gospel is clearly understood especially – I say especially – if there is the possibility that many of the truly regenerate attendees are a little bit confused about soteriological doctrine! What an opportunity for a faithful teacher to step in and articulate with passionate precision the doctrine of truth. That MacArthur did! That others at the conference might not have done it is irrelevant. And, if you actually listen to his message you will hear him boldly name two Charismatic leaders and denounce their doctrine as – I quote – “blasphemous.” Listen to it. You’ll also hear him allude to the time that he was physically removed from the pulpit for proclaiming his convictions. Many Fundamentalists won’t get the opportunity to be physically removed from the pulpit for declaring truth because we have adopted a monkish isolationism in which we piously refuse to preach anywhere unless we are preaching to the choir. The only time a Fundamentalist risks physical removal is when he forgets the unwritten code of ethics and begins to challenge the biblicity of his own circle. Otherwise, his doctrine of secondary separation encloses him in the hypnotic embrace of isolationism, safety, and –sadly – uselessness.
What an irony. Fundamentalists who make the most noise about fighting for truth cannot name Rod Bell when he is clearly unbiblical, cannot commend John MacArthur when he is clearly Biblical, and cannot proclaim Bible where it is clearly optional!
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