2008April14, Monday

Obligation to Critique Someone Else?

Posted in My Life, Theology at 12:53 by Trey Austin

Second, i was criticized for failing to criticize anyone other than Dr. White. I, apparently, haven’t “lifted a finger on [my] blog” (so says Gene Bridges) to help the High Calvinists in their railing against other Christians and their various non-Reformed views or against non-Christians on their non-Christian views. Well, i’m very sorry, but i didn’t get the memo about the compulsary use of my blog for so-called “internet apologetics.” In fact, having taken part in several forums devoted to internet apologetics, i have been increasingly convinced that it is a useless exercise that simply balkanizes positions rather than leading to understanding and mutual love. Now, i’m not saying that anyone who feels called to do it shouldn’t do it—your conscience is your own and, so long as you don’t overtly sin, you are free to do whatever you desire—I’m just saying that i don’t care for it, and i don’t feel compelled to engage in it.

My calling is to minister to God’s people in the Church. That’s what i was ordained in Christ’s Church, by a presbytery of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, in order to do. I obviously don’t use the internet for what some people do. My use of it primarily is for helping to learn and grow in my understanding of the faith and to help edify and encourage other Christians. My ministry takes place where i live and work (a challenging ministry it is, too, since practically everyone in the town in which i live is a Free Will Baptist, Old Regular Baptist, Pentecostal, or Primitive Baptist, or some other kind of Arminian or Hyper-Calvinist, baptistic Christians), not on some interenet forum, my blog, or anywhere else of the like. So, for your information, though i haven’t put it on display for my peers to fawn over (which, i’m beginning to think is the only reason some people have blogs), i put my faith and my theological emphases into practice all the time–yet for some reason, it’s being questioned, because i haven’t devoted my blog to the use which others have chosen for their own. Here again is that same attitude: if you don’t do it like i do, you’re wrong.

Yet, none of this changes the fact that my criticism of some Reformed theologians (in this case, James White) is warranted. I am reminded of what happened to me when i got in trouble as a child. I would always protest that my sister was just as guilty, either for doing some other thing or for doing the same thing. But as my father always pointed out, regardless of what my sister did, it didn’t change what i did. So, yes, i could criticize Mr. Gregg for his views and behavior in the debate i was referring to, but i chose not to. That’s my prerogative.

The reason i chose not to is because i believe we need to get our own Reformed House in order. We can’t ignore all the clutter and problems that characterize the Reformed faith as it stands today and simply point the finger at someone else. That’s been one tactic used by many Calvinists over the years, and we see where it has gotten us: just more in-fighting over lots of issues and no resolution of any of them. And, for that matter, the reason i have taken note of this thing that happened between White and Gregg (what Peter Pike made note of in his comment on my original post) is not because i want to inject myself into something that isn’t my business (as if a public debate can be classified a private matter between two people, to begin with), but because the way people act who are the spokespeople for a certain point of view has a bearing on how people perceive all of the people who are part of that larger group. In other words, James White’s actions in a debate on Calvinism give an impression to those listening from the other point of view that has an affect on how they relate to every other Calvinist they will ever come into contact with.

So, yes, it *IS* my business, and the business of every other Calvinist, how James White acts and how he displays a less than charitable attitude or a theological eccintricity that he presents as *THE* Reformed view, because, for good or for bad, many people will see that, recognize it as someone negative, as i do, and judge all Calvinists on that basis. And, too, since this was a public debate and not a private offense, it is the proper province of all who heard it to comment on. Also important to note is that my post isn’t directly responding to anything in particular about the debate between White and Gregg; that’s what got me thinking about it, but i am not referencing the particulars of that debate. All i’m doing in this regard is noting a critique of my brother and allowing other people to help me refine my point of view.


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