I promised to update the previous post, but life is running at mach 1 right now.
I’ll do my best to update quickly now as I providentially have around two spare hours in my day, but this will pretty much be a frantic rant. Dr. Brown has reached out to me for dialogue and unblocked me on Twitter. Regardless of disagreements, that’s commendable. I have had some interaction with him privately, and that’s still ongoing.
I will say that Dr. Brown claims that he was given the impression that Phil Johnson was the person to contact in order to arrange a dialogue with John MacArthur (that’s a fairly public claim, so I don’t believe I’m revealing private correspondence). Phil has responded to Brown’s claims today with this updated article, claiming otherwise. Phil has provided some rather straightforward comments, where as I haven’t seen anything of corresponding clarity from Dr. Brown. He may have responded in kind, but I haven’t seen it.
I’m in no place to comment, seeing that I don’t have the necessary information to have an opinion beyond what I’ve already insinuated: Phil appears to address these things candidly and with straightforwardness, which makes him look more credible…
…but that situation is not really what has frustrated me with this all.
A good number of people who have been watching from the sidelines (from both sides) are trumpeting judgments, as they have always done. Around 90% of those people are the same people that like to air their opinions on everything, and their opinions are basically weightless. They’re not thinking clearly or carefully, haven’t done nearly adequate biblical research to have an opinion with the level of vocal conviction that they profess, and they don’t really care about being careful or accurate. For them, this whole issue was settled when they discovered that John MacArthur was a CALVINIST, or when Michael Brown went on Benny Hinn’s show. There’s a time for thinking and a time for action, and they don’t think this is a time for thinking.
They what I’d call the social media lynch mob; they come out of the woodwork by the boatload, regardless of the issue. I ignore them and hope that Michael Brown will stop giving credence to the opinions of people who clearly don’t know what they’re talking about. I think part of this whole problem is the mental/spiritual consequences of constantly being online and facing the attacks of hordes of fools.
But even that is not what has frustrated me the most.
The thing that has really bothered me is the people who come from Cessationist circles, with right theology on paper, who have acted like pygmies with a PlayStation when it comes to applying their right theology in public discourse.
It’s come to my attention that Dr. Brown has been subjected to memes and generally direct insults as a result of this whole interaction…and that by people who should most certainly know better. I’ve responded to this sort of behavior in the past, but now I’m going to take matters up a notch.
If you have a biblically-informed understanding Cessationism and Calvinism and are yet confused about the right use of the tongue in common conversation, you’re less mature in the Lord than you like to tell yourself.
You’re apparently unaware of the meaning and application of passages like:
“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;” – Ps. 15:1-3
“There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.” – Prov. 6:16-19
“With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.” – Prov. 11:9
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Prov. 12:18
“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” – Prov 15:28
“An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment.” – Prov. 16:10
“A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.” – Prov. 17:20
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” – Prov. 21:23
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Col. 4:5-6.
“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” – James 1:26
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” – James 3:1-12
Those are some serious passages with serious warnings and repercussions. For example, James 1:26 suggests that if your mouth is habitually shooting off, the act of that shooting off bears testimony to the fact that your profession of faith is fraudulent.
Yikes. That’s not even commentary on what you say, but simply commentary on regularly giving unfiltered vent to whatever you’re thinking.
Beyond that, I’ve heard some people justify mocking on the basis of 1 Kings 18:27. It’s quite ironic for Cessationists to justify contemporary behavior on the basis that it was performed by a prophet. Beyond that, I cannot mock without crossing the line into sinning with my mouth. If you think you can, you’re either amazing or a wildly deceived about yourself.
Guess which one I’m betting on?
Now am I a hypocrite in these matters, judging by a standard that I have inconsistently and self-servingly applied to myself?
Without a doubt. I don’t see that in myself, but I’d be a fool to think I’m sinless in this regard.
I’ve tried to let objective facts speak for themselves (with some choice pictures and a few tongue-in-cheek comments along the way).
I’ve tried to not call names, ever.
For the record, saying that someone has lied (or misrepresented) about a specific incident is not saying that the person is a habitual or unrepentant liar.
Saying that someone hasn’t adequately researched a topic is not saying that they’re generally incompetent as a scholar.
I’ve tried to do my research into whatever matters I’m addressing, knowing full well that nobody reads the copious links and documentation I provide to establish a point.
Does my hypocrisy somehow impugn the biblical standard?
No. My inability to keep the biblical standard doesn’t compromise the integrity of the biblical standard. It only shows that I’m not the righteous man I wish I was. I need Christ to be righteous and fail to be righteous continually, just like everyone else.
I’ve been told by Charismatics that I’m unsaved, a workman of Satan, deceived and deceiving others, a possessor of a conscience that is malfunctioning, working for the Antichrist, committing the unforgivable sin in being a Cessationist, etc. I’m not surprised by that sort of vitriolic/ignorant mockery coming from people whose life verse is 3 John 2 or Mark 11:24. I’m sad for those people and I pity them, knowing that they’ve been deceived by the shallow/false teachers whom those people lack the biblical acumen to properly evaluate as false teachers.
But to my fellow Cessationists who acting in that same manner and yet are exposed to far greater quality theology, teaching and biblical exegesis, I say this:
If you don’t obey Christ’s commands…
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Eph. 4:29-32
“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” – 2 Tim. 2:22-26
“Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For
‘Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’ ” – 1 Pet. 3:9-12
…you may also face his warnings.
“But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.” – Luke 12:47
Doctrine is only as valuable as it’s application. If you know a ton and don’t rightly apply it to how you act, your learning is in vain.
So here’s a hint: when it comes to your tongue or being gracious to folks with whom you disagree, always air on the side of caution. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any biblical warnings against those who are too cautious in guarding their tongues when condemning theological error. That doesn’t mean saying nothing, but rather restraining the tongue in the process of biblical evaluation. You know, like Paul did:
“And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” – Acts 23:1-5
I hope I’ve, in some way, modeled appropriate restraint while critiquing my theological naysayers and opponents. If not, learn from my bad example and do better.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Anticipating no shortage of kickback…too my face” Unger
P.S. – I’ll likely be offline for a few days. I’ll be traveling.