Sunday, April 05, 2009

Quick question about false teachers of every variety

So Phil puts up this post about the CT workshop on the Emerging Church, which you can see in fullscreen here, if you want to. I've labored through about half of it.

So far, Tony Jones and Scott MacKnight have spent just about all their time whining and crying and bellyaching and tossing accusations that their critics (all of them in general, and Kevin DeYoung in particular) don't understand them, misrepresent them, missed this journal article or that writer or the other book... and (so far) DeYoung is on the defensive... and here's what I'm thinking.

With the sole exception of Jehovah's Witnesses, this has been pretty much the pattern of my experience with just about every vein of false teaching, whether it is a Christian goof that won't get anyone sent to Hell, or whether it is full-on apostate or heretical teaching such as Roman Catholicism or Mormonism. That is, every false teacher, faced with an aggressive, pedal-to-the-metal, decisive refutation, says he's misunderstood and misrepresented.

Roman Catholics are absolutely classic on this, as thirty years of experience bears out. Bear down Biblically on their practice of praying to dead people, and you get "Oh no no no, we're not praying, you misrepresent us." Leave the room and listen at the door, and you hear them saying "Pray to Mary for ___... pray to St. Jude for ____..." and so on. I could go all the way down the list, same thing. Ditto Mormons on most counts, ditto Charismatics, and so on.

What I've experienced myself, I see abroad. John Piper bends over backwards to be over-charitable to NT Wright, corresponds with him, goes the extra mile, then critiques his view... and Wright (without first checking his interpretation with Piper) says Piper misunderstood him. As Jones and MacKnight do with deYoung here.

So here is my question:
Can anyone name a time when any proponent of any aberrant doctrinal view has said, "Yes, this dogged and flat-out critic of mine understands my position perfectly well, and represents it with crystalline clarity, and I have no complaints about his attitude or character, but I maintain my position because of A, B, and C"?

21 comments:

Solameanie said...

In a word, no.

Excellent observation.

sem said...

I just experienced that very thing on Everyday Mommy this past week. It all started with beads and the next thing I know I'm going toe to toe with a Catholic debating the position of Mary. I had never gone up against a Catholic before so was unprepared for this particular strategy. It was a chorus of you don't know, you don't understand, you're misrepresenting what we believe, etc. etc. Very much like banging my head against a wall only less satisfying. I had been thinking that I need to be more prepared next time, but given the above information, I wonder if it's even worth it.

JPT62089 said...

@Sem:

Yeah, that whole thing was pretty crazy. I don't think many were really prepared.

But I do believe that we need to be prepared all the time. While the outcome may not always be good, we are told to preach the Word in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

And remember, no matter the outcome God is ultimately in control. He is Sovereign :)

sem said...

You're right. It's always worth it to at least try. I just need to get better prepared for the next time.

The Squirrel said...

It would be nice to hear someone say, "Yep, that's what I believe!"

Ain't gonna happen...

~Squirrel

Everyday Mommy© said...

Word!

Now, why is it when I write a post like this I'm ungracious, sharp-tongued, less than meek and humble, a crow, a latrine and a dump? Oh, and too sarcastic.

Everyday Mommy© said...

To answer your question: Has never happened and will never happened.

Chris Poe said...

I'd say that it happens rarely at best.

Four* Pointer said...

What I've found in dialoging with Mormons is close, but a little different. If the subject is something like polygamy, the usual pattern is deny, deny, deny. Then when I have shown enough Mormon scripture and sermons by Smith, Young, Hinckley to prove that yes, this was indeed taught widely in the LDS church, the response is something like, "Well, yeah, but David had mnay wives." (Which leads to another advantage the Mormon enjoys: the ability to say "But it was never offcial Mormon doctrine" when confronted with such an issue.)

Carol Jean said...

Does it seem to be the result of aberrant/liberal factions of any religion - not just Christianity? It seems to me that the orthodox believers of any particular religion tend be more willing to "own" their beliefs. The most orthodox (small o) Catholics will generally own every jot and tiddle of Rome's teaching. Same with hard-core orthodox Muslims. It's when various factions veer from it's original teachings that you begin to see squishodoxy in its various forms.

What is really needed (and what will never, ever happen - because certain factions are whiny crybabies - is an actual legal, academic debate, officiated by the Harris twins. Then the straw men and illegal dodges and verbal pit maneuvers could be called out and the offenders could be sent to the penalty box until they learn to give straight answers.

Aaron said...

"squishodoxy"

Nice word.

I have the same problem with Catholics that you described, Dan. I've had pretty much the same conversation about praying to dead saints. But then you get their little prayer cards and 50 other things they sell and everything indicates prayer to dead saints. It's just like the crucifix with Jesus on it. They say one thing (i.e. it helps remind them of Christ's sacrifice and it doesn't mean he's still on the cross) and yet at every wedding I've ever been too, you bow before the large crucifix with Jesus hanging on it. In the future, I expect they'll also say they aren't supporting premarital sex even as they have a bowl of condoms next to the holy water (this statement based on current pressure to provide condoms).

The other problem I have is that I argue that Scripture says, whereas my opponents argue from what reason says (which could be anything they say it does). Inevitably we leave each other in disagreement because we cannot agree on sola scriptura.

Mesa Mike said...

Squishodoxy is necessary to rationalize squishopraxy.

Rhology said...

Some Eastern Orthodox with whom I've interacted (notably a good friend of mine, David Bryan) can be counted on for this. But not all the time.

DJP said...

Then that would be the exception that proves (tests) the rule.

Trinian said...

They're not evil, just misunderstood. ;)

Puritan Man said...

I have actually experienced this. I had two Mormons over to my house for several visits and I was able to get them to agree with me that they believed X,Y, and Z. I think it is very possible to do it, though obviously it doesn't always happen. I would say that when John MacArthur laid out his understanding of Post and Amillenialism he did a very poor job of articulating their view points. Though I am not Post I have a pretty good grip on their beliefs and John IMHO totally hacked their position. So I would say that it is also possible to get an opponents position terribly wrong as well.

I have seen Christians hack JWs and Mormon positions. Just because the JWs, Mormons, and RCs are wrong doesn't mean that we always articulate accurately their position. I think it is very important to do so when discussing religion with them. I have done it several times and believe that it absolutely can be done.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

DJP: "Can anyone name a time when any proponent of any aberrant doctrinal view has said, "Yes, this dogged and flat-out critic of mine understands my position perfectly well, and represents it with crystalline clarity, and I have no complaints about his attitude or character, but I maintain my position because of A, B, and C"?"

I don't know if I have this right, or if this counts as a legitimate answer, but would John Wesley have said something along those lines to George Whitefield in defending Arminianism against Whitefield's Calvinism?

Motley Fool said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Motley Fool said...

Well, to be fair, would even a Christian say this?

"Yes, this dogged and flat-out critic of [a Christian doctrine] understands my position perfectly well, and represents it with crystalline clarity, and I have no complaints about his attitude or character, but I maintain my position because of A, B, and C"

I can't think of an example. On the contrary, take for instance the collegial debate on padeobaptism between James White and Bill Shisko. They were good friends enough that James preached at Bill's church the day before they debated! And yet I daresay neither one would agree that the other had "understood my position perfectly well, and represented it with crystalline clarity".

Aaron said...

Puritan Man:

One of the problems with Mormons and RC is that they say one thing, but when you look at what they actually practice it doesn't quite match. Mormons are excellent at redirecting and then using a plethora of words to hide what they really believe.

Puritan Man said...

Aaron:

I am very familiar with the doouble speak of Mormons. We speak the same language yet mean two completely different things. What I'm getting at is that I have laid out their definitions for them and they have agreed that it was indeed what the LDS church believed. I don't claim that they always will do that, but I have had it done.

However, I do stress that just because they are wrong doesn't mean that we can present their religion ignorantly. I've seen far too many Christians not even know what they're disagreeing about with them they only know that they're wrong. Well...yes, they are most certainly wrong but...

Sometimes people can simply agree to disagree.