Friday, February 17, 2006

Hugh "Squish" Hewitt?

I like listening to Hugh; it's a daily thing as I drive home. He knows an awful lot, he's very interesting, and he is on balance by far the best radio interviewer I have ever heard. He has great guests, and gets the best out of them, he's generally very polite but takes no prisoners and no guff. He also probably most influenced me to get blogging. He also is on my very-select list of links, as you'll see.

All that having been said.....

I called Hugh's show probably a couple of years ago, to talk about something. But Hugh was flogging one of his books at the time (I think it was In, But Not Of : A Guide to Christian Ambition), and he asked me what he was asking every caller. "Have you ordered my book yet?" I said, maybe a bit too emphatically, "No!" He was taken a bit aback, I think, and asked why. It wasn't what I'd called about, so I semi-punted. I've since wished I had been prepared with a better response.

Here's why. I just have no respect for Hewitt as a spokesman when it comes to Biblical essentials. If he wants to have coffee and talk about spiritual things, terrific. But I don't need to buy one of his books on the subject. I accept him as a Christian, but I can't accept him as an authority or spokesman in any sense -- which is unfortunate, given his position and influence.

Starting with the most minor anecdote: he moderated a debate on some aspect of eschatology at Biola, and openly joked about having no clue about the very topic he'd be moderating. First, that's interesting, given that a great deal of the Bible was prophetic/predictive when first written, and it is a subject of some moment. What's more, it isn't as if teaching isn't available. You want to write books about Christianity that other people should pay money for, it seems to me you should have some knowledge in the main areas.

But here's the one that bothered me the most. Hewitt used to have columnist Michael Kelly in what is now the Mark Steyn spot. Kelly was a great guest, knowledgeable and affable. Kelly went to Iraq to do some on-site journalism and, tragically was killed in an accident. It was shocking and sad, and Hewitt paid due tribute to him.

But Hewitt pretty well declared that Kelly was in a better place, or Heaven, or something to that effect. How did he know that? In this essay, Kelly said that he is (Roman) Catholic and his wife is Jewish, so his kids get both Christmas and Hanukah -- and he says this in passing, emphases added:
People sometimes ask me if it is hard to raise children in respect and love for two great faiths that have a slight doctrinal disagreement between them, and I say: Not if you give them presents every day for eight days of Hanukah and for Christmas. The more Gods, the merrier is Tom and Jack's strong belief.
The identity of Jesus the Messiah -- a "slight doctrinal disagreement"?

Since making that stunningly ignorant and misleading statement, did something change within Kelly? Is that the sort of thing a saved man says, to Hewitt? How did Hewitt know Kelly was in Heaven?

Now, I can hear Hewitt demanding of me, as he does to guests when he's in hectoring-mode, "So is Michael Kelly in Hell? Is he in Hell? Did you want me to say he was in Hell? No, I won't let you talk about anything else until you tell me: is Michael Kelly in Hell? Why won't you just answer that simple question: is Michael Kelly in Hell?" And of course I don't know, so I wouldn't have said.

But Hewitt doesn't know, either, so he shouldn't have said anything.

But what I do know, and what self-proclaimed evangelical Hewitt also should know -- unless he didn't learn about soteriology when he wasn't learning about eschatology -- is that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6), and that those who don't affirm His Messiahship and Deity will die in their sins (John 8:24). I know that false Gospels damn, they don't save (Galatians 1:6-9). And I know Rome preaches a false Gospel. Does Hugh know that? (More on that later.)

But then something saddened me even more. On that same show, he had a regular caller, a Jewish man named Yoni. Since Yoni was running for political office in Israel, I take it he is unsaved, an unbeliever, rejects Jesus. In the course of talking with Yoni, Hewitt asked Yoni to pray for Michael Kelly.

Wait. What?

Where do you start? This evangelical leader, big-name "God-blogger," author of Christian books, is asking (A) an unsaved man to (B) pray (C) for a dead man? What was that about? Is Proverbs 28:9 in Hugh's Bible? To say nothing of... hello? Praying for a dead man?

Now, I've done a funeral for a person who'd given no evidence of Christian faith. It was tough. But I didn't try to preach him into, or out of, Heaven. Not my business, thank God. But what I did do was preach Christ to the living, and laid down the Gospel as crisp and plain as I could.

Many other things have been niggling concerns over the months. Hewitt has pastors and/or theologians on the show to talk things over and goes on about how deep and wonderful they are -- but the conversations are anything but, as a rule. If I were to say that I could have dug deeper, my point would not be that I'm anything special, but that his "experts" aren't.

Then there was the whole mess around the death and replacement of the Pope. At that time, I began to wonder anew how far Hewitt really had escaped Rome. One perspective alone (friendly to Rome) was given respectful consideration and air-time. I remember Hewitt registering no concern (as I did at the time) about the fact that Rome preaches a damning Gospel, nor that the late pope was a great leader of Mariolatry. The edges of the Gospel just don't seem to loom too large to Hewitt.

And now my fellow-Pyro Frank Turk has weighed in. His post, Hugh Hewitt, Mere Religionist, is what actually finally edged me over to expressing my concerns. Frank's a terrific writer, and I won't try to reproduce what you should read for yourself. Hewitt slaps down all sorts of stuff -- but damning doctrinal insanities? Not so much.

So no, I really probably won't be buying anything Hewitt writes about how to be a Christian witness.

UPDATE: Unlike me, Frank did read In, But Not Of. Looks like I did well in saving my money.

UPDATE II: FRESH SQUISH? I wouldn't have assumed Hewitt knew who John Piper was. But yesterday Hewitt wrote, "If you have cancer, have battled it successfully, or have lost a loved one to the disease, you will want to read this post, and this one, and especially this one." The first is Piper's very challenging essay, "Don’t Waste Your Cancer," written on the eve of his own surgery for prostate cancer. The other two are by some guy who attacks him and his theology. The one that Presbyterian Hewitt says we should "especially" read is a sarcastic, blistering attack on Piper as a pastor, written from equal helpings of emotion and ignorance. There is a lot of venting, and not much Bible. Why does Hewitt think we should "especially" read that one?

UPDATE III: A HISTORY OF SQUISHINESS: m'man Frank Turk looks back into Hugh's deceased books and finds a squishy trail.


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