The woodworks opened, and out poured the Wright fanboys in their smoking-jackets and slippers, demanding a sworn, notarized affidavit certifying that each of us had read and understood each of the approximately 231,517 pages that Dr. Wright had written to date, before venturing to criticize any independent statement he made or wrote about anything, anywhere, ever.
Fast-forward to my post on Francis Chan's written announcement of his "step of faith." In that post, I specifically stated that I was not going to focus on Chan, nor on anything else he ever said anywhere except that one statement. My focus would be his stated rationale. I explained why I found it (at best) problematic.
My assessment resonated with many, and ticked off a few. Though again and again I said, "Now, maybe he meant this...", another blog faulted me for not giving Chan a chance, and otherwise badly misrepresented me. A couple of commenters said I really needed to watch the video.
Here's the thing: no, I really don't. Let me explain.
What's on that résumé again?Wright, Chan, any pastor, any writer, me — we're in the "business" of communication. It is what we do. Particularly in the case of pastors (again: Wright, Chan, yr. hmble svt.), we are held accountable for our words (cf. James 3:1). We know it going in. If we don't, shame on us — but the accountability is there, regardless.
My point about the single piece of communication I identified for analysis is that there is no context that would change my analysis of it.
Well, okay, I suppose the one exception would be if, in the video, Chan says,
"Okay now, after this, I'm going to write this letter chock full of mystical mumbo-jumbo and irresponsible, potentially disastrous implications. Don't even read it! I don't mean a word of it! As I just explained for 56 minutes, what I mean is the exact opposite! I'm writing that letter just to expose people who don't listen to and read absolutely everything I write and say. Mock them."Does Chan say that in the video? Does he? Anyone? Bueller?
Didn't think so.
Let me give an analogy, drawing on a more grave subject.
Let's suppose: a grave, Gospelly analogySuppose some pastor gives a 57-minute sermon, in which he preaches the Gospel. Suppose (for the sake of argument) it is Biblical, crystal-clear, and faithful. Certified 100% sound. Lig Duncan, Phil Johnson, R. C. Sproule, John MacArthur, James White... even Ingrid Schleuter — all of them get all teary, it's such great and solid preaching.
And suppose as a follow-up he writes his congregation this note:
Dear Friends,So... is it fair game to rip that note to shreds, with Biblical analysis?
For those who did not hear it, this past Sunday I preached the Gospel of Christ. It was a moving experience for me, as has my entire ministry here at Bogotron United Church.
It's just really neat to know that when we believe in Jesus, get baptized, take communion, join a good church, get circumcised, and obey the commandments to the best of our ability, God will judge us and our works, and will accept us if we are sincere and try our best! It's really neat to live by faith and works!
Love and kisses,
Pastor Phil Ajius
But what if people say, "You have to see the video of the sermon. It gives a totally different context. It is completely sound."
Yes, well, maybe it is. In fact, in this illustration, it is! The sermon was perfect!
The problem is not that work, it is this work. And this work is totally unsound. because there is no context that will save that work from a sound and deserved drubbing.
ApplicationThe problem isn't people who fairly and closely analyze inane things Wright says. Nor is a problem with people who fairly analyze Chan, as I tried to do.
The problem belongs to those communicators'. They own it. The problem is what they write or say. They voluntarily took the role of leadership on themselves. If they regret what they said, if it was horrid and bumbled and misleading, they should just say so, apologize, humble themselves, learn a lesson.
There isn't any excuse for what I faulted in Chan's letter. People look up to him. Taken seriously, what he says in that note has really troubling implications, as I tried to show. There isn't any "context" that will make those things OK.
Now, anyone and everyone will note that I never said that either Chan or his entire ministry should forever be banned or condemned for this one letter. The letter is a problem. The letter is a problem.
- Over at Pyro, we caught unholy heck because we defended Chan for a Gospel video he did a couple-few years ago. Now I fault this problematic letter he sent... and I catch a little heck. Life's funny. Someone should sell tickets.
- Odd that I was very cautious in analyzing Chan's letter, while some of my critics were far less cautious in analyzing my analysis.
- I am expected to take an hour to watch the video. Why? The problem is Chan's letter. I wonder if those same people are asking Chan to take a lot less than an hour to read my post.
- Why do I have to view other Chan oeuvres to criticize one letter, when my critics aren't required to read my whole corpus before criticizing one post?