Deference

Here’s an easy, but interesting, read by Dave Doran of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Perhaps I’ll comment on it later, but I think it’s worth a moment of your consideration. Click here for the article.

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10 Responses

  1. I agree with DMD in the main, however, the word “clear” appears six times in DMD’s essay between paragraphs 7-9 (it occurs elsewhere):

    clear biblical teaching, clear error, clear violation, clear disobedience, clear teaching, and clear doctrine.

    The problem is that one’s man clarity is another man’s fog…and this is exactly where the “delights of deference” come into play.

    The whole JM issue is a case in point as far as I’m concerned. We should delight to defer to a man who is a staunch defender of truth almost but who has a conscience that allows him the liberty before God to go further in some relationships than others may. The very fact that so many good men and women disagree here, means it is not all that “clear.”

  2. Sorry for inserting the word “almost” in the last couple lines..typing on the fly and ended the sentence different than I started it.

  3. It (the article) is an exercise in pointed ambiguity. I came away from it thinking that we need to practise much deference, but I get the impression that his intention was to say practise less deference. The whole thing seemed to be written in code.

    Some folks actually suggested to me that Doran was aiming at several targets: the KJVO crowd and others who might use deference as a cloak to “get soft on ecclesiastical separation.” It has been suggested that was a barb toward the likes of me who see no problem with sharing a platform with a JM type. In other words, I’m showing too much deference because I would go to a conference where Rick Holland is speaking who works for JM who befriends Al Mohler who associated with BG. That whole issue is not very clear to some people, but it is unclear whether Dave had that in mind.

    I don’t know and don’t care. Worst case scenario: I took it to be a broadbrush warning to anyone who was more tolerant than DBTS, whether right or left. That deference is suspect.One almost gets the impression that there should be no deference towards those who demonstrate varying degrees of deference. Whatever, I thought I’d show deference by posting the article. I think it is so vague that it is benign.

    You’re absolutely right. His multiple use of the word “clear”, clearly negates any clear conclusion about the clear limitations of deference unless, of course, they are clear doctrines. That being said, it was not mentioned which clear doctrines are to be clearly held in such a way that there is no deference allowed and which clear doctrines clearly do permit Christian deference. Nor did the article assume the clear possibility that some doctrines are clear to some and not clear to others and there is no clear directive on what our disposition should be toward the unclear ones in that case. It is clearly possible that among those that are clear it may be clear to some to show deference to the unclear and clear to others to refrain from showing deference. Clearly, it is unclear what is clear unless in some cases there is no universal clearness. It’s clear to me that that is clearly likely. However, I think it is also clear that Dave is clear about what he thinks is clear and thinks that we should be equally clear on what is clear to him. If not, he thinks it is clear that our deference has slipped to compromise.

    Clearly, the article is an easy read and (as I said) “interesting.” If it is as clear as it clearly appears than it is nothing more than a three page statement of the obvious. But it is unclear whether Dave would write three pages on something that is so clear. Therefore, one is left to speculate on whether it is clear or unclear.

  4. You said it much better than me.

    I am guessing the paper was aimed at those who practice too much deference (in the eyes of some) in the area of “joining together for joint spiritual endeavor.”

    Having just finished a trek through Romans 14:1-15:13, I think there is need for a clarion call for more deference in the application of truth to life. Our difficulty, it often seems to me, is the elevation of application to the level of clear doctrine. We can practice deference in some areas quite well (insert example here), but in the area of ecclesiastical separation, life gets pretty dicey. I like to put things on a scale…overall…do we need more or less deference…the answer seems clear to me…a resounding “more.”

    This comes from a neck of the fundamentalist woods where one can be ostracized for just thinking about the possibility of a differing application, let alone actually practicing it.

    We should invite Dave to clarify, though I think he is headed for Africa soon.

  5. Just got back home from our church’s family camp and had an email from Jon informing me about the skewering I was getting over here. Not much time to actually interact, but I offer some clarification and response:

    (1) This article was written for our seminary’s newsletter, hence its brevity and general nature. Those articles are usually suggestive rather than exhaustive. I try to raise a subject about which it seems that we need to do some thinking. The length generally does not allow exploring the subject in depth.

    (2) I think it is interesting that your criticism’s of the article aren’t really about what it says, but what it doesn’t say. As a basic intro to the subject of deference, it simply tries to set that idea in a proper context–it can’t be a replacement for personal convictions; it can’t be used when biblical truth is at stake; and it can’t be an excuse not to practice church discipline. Have neither of you seen situations like these where “deference” was improperly urged? I sure have.

    (3) While you consider the lack of clarity about specifics to be a real detriment, I would counter that it serves the purpose of laying out some general principles that readers will hopefully see points of application that are appropiate to them. It was stated clearly I believed this misuse of deference may be more of threat within “Fundamentalism” because some are making the mistake of allowing doctrinal heresy to be tolerated under the guise of deference. For example, being deferential cannot extend, in my mind, to those who are attributing to a translation that which can only be said of the autographs.

    I am sorry that you both found the article of such little value. It is obvious that you were looking something beyond what I was attempting. For my part, I think the foundation for that further discussion has to be laid first. That was my aim, and I feel comfortable with the article viewed in that light.

  6. Bob:

    I was thinking some more about what you wrote and wanted to get a clarfication from you. You wrote:

    “Worst case scenario: I took it to be a broadbrush warning to anyone who was more tolerant than DBTS, whether right or left. That deference is suspect.One almost gets the impression that there should be no deference towards those who demonstrate varying degrees of deference.”

    Do you really believe that I wrote this to establish my/our position as the only legitimate stance and all others are to be warned? I hope that isn’t what you believe, but that clearly is what this statment means.

    Is that what you really meant to say or have I misunderstood you?

  7. Dave,

    I wanted to suggest both the improbability of the scenario and the possibility of it being perceived as such. In other words, I meant by the words “worst case scenario” to suggest the improbability of what followed. However, instead of saying, “I took it to be”, I should have said “It could be a warning to anyone more tolerant than DBTS. . .” (Or better: “It could be perceived as a warning….”) which would have been more faithful to the message I was trying to send.

    I was fully persuaded of the improbability of it. Thus, “worst case scenario.” You personally have never given me reason to think you’re that kind of person. I sense a generous catholicity of spirit in you about many minor issues. But I did mean to say that the perception was there because that perception (though possibly unfair) is a distinct challenge that DBTS needs to overcome contra the other seminaries. Sometimes it is hard to divorce you from the institution when one reads the articles.

    BTW, we weren’t “skewering” you! (I know you were speaking hyperbolically) We were just commenting/critiquing your article. That’s something that’s been done for eons. Only now we have the technology to know what people are actually saying “behind our backs”! We fully expected that if you thought it was necessary, you would come on and clarify.

    Also, your clarifications were helpful and appreciated. And the perception (mine anyway) is cancelled by your defense. Thanks.

  8. Bob,

    Thanks, I appreciate your response and am glad that I asked.

    I didn’t mean anything bad by my skewered comment; just that you guys were grilling the article a little. As we all know, whenever a person writes something for public consumption, they open themselves up to critique. That is good and should be welcomed.

    Take this instance as an example–I never would have thought that Jon or you would have “read” the article the way you did. I would have expected that you would be glad that someone was speaking out against the tendency to ignore serious doctrinal errors among our cronies under the guise of deference. Now, the fact that you both read the article as coming from a different perspective should cause me to reflect on both my writing skills and the quality of my thoughts as set forth in the article. (I won’t venture to say what it ought to cause you and Jon to do!)

    In any event, skewer away!

  9. Sorry so late in the conversation, busy day…

    To Dave:

    #1: the context helps clarify. I “assumed” the article was a response to some of the separation issues that have been flying around of late. We all know what “ass”-uming leads to. BTW, when I was an assistant pastor people would say, “Do you like being called an assistant or an associate pastor?” My response was always, “It doesn’t matter, they both start with the same three letters.” Good to see I am still living up to the standard.

    #2: clear as a bell

    #3: yep

    That being said, I admit to looking for more, but no reason I should force my expectations or experience on you, Dave. Perhaps it is just my context, or neck of the woods, but I have heard many warnings against deference, but very little praise for deference, not even to speak of the practice or lack thereof. So I’ll defer here and look forward to you building on the foundation. Whip those seminarians into shape.

  10. Apologies in advance for getting into this so late.

    I’m in Dave’s corner on this one. Perhaps his clarifications have mollified Bob’s disagreement already, but I think we should see this discussion similarly to how I’ve argued we should view the FBFI resolution on Piper. Is this not an affirmation of solidarity on what has been a key point of contention? As the FBFI accepted the benefits of Piper’s theological emphasis, so also Dave has agreed that Fundamentalism (the non-existent movement) needs to deal with its deviants. This could well be a call to arms, although some of the folks who have been shown deference up until now may not realize just yet that they are the objects of the militancy advocated below:

    There is also no room for deference to professing Fundamentalists who have embraced defective views of essential biblical doctrines like inspiration, the person and work of Jesus Christ, or the meaning and necessity of repentance. Frankly, genuine, historic Fundamentalism may face more danger because of this mistaken deference toward these new, doctrinally deviant “Fundamentalists.”

    Bob’s satire of “clearly” is well taken—everyone will have a personal view of clarity, just as everyone has a personal view of “biblicist”—but the venue for that disagreement will be such a time when Dave or others begin to define the “circle of sound doctrine.” I suppose, on the other hand, that one could argue that any such consensus circle is a pipe dream, which might make this article moot. I suspect that consensus even on criteria for defining a conclusion, let alone the conclusion itself, is unlikely, but I’m interested in seeing how Dave attacks the question.

    By the way, Dave, I don’t know how Bob came across the article, but I got an e-mail a couple weeks ago from someone at ICBC suggesting it for blog discussion. I posted today without knowing about this conversation. I assumed it was intended for the merciless scrutiny of the paleoevangelicals and the contented misfits. Regardless of the intended purpose, I’m grateful for your contribution and look forward to more.

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