When I first read Carl Trueman sniping at the celebrity culture — and did not know Carl at all — I wasn't much impressed. It just struck me as sour, maybe even sour grapes, and overdone.
Here's why: I've known people who are famous — celebrities, even — who use their platform to do the most good they can. Take my friend Phil Johnson. He's well known the world around. And what does he use that fame for? To get out every bit of God's truth as effectively as he can, with every opportunity he's given. What's more, as anyone who knows him will attest, he is incredibly generous in every way with what God's given, and remains as accessible as humanly possible. Turk and I have often chuckled about how walking from Point A to Point B with Phil is never that quick of a proposition, given all the people who want to talk with him.
I could speak similarly of Lig Duncan, Thabiti Anyabwile, and others. Generous, gracious men.
So naturally, I think (A) first, of Phil, and (B) second, of my naive assumptions. What are those? Well, they run along the lines of a Gospelly noblesse oblige. That is, I just assume (assumed) that prominent pastors would all do the same, that they'd expand the "tent" as broadly as they can, support good brothers and good projects, take joy in every legitimate expansion of the Word of God, grow the base as much as possible along ideological lines. That's my model, and that was my assumption.
But reality kicked open the door, yanked me out of my La-Z-Boy, shook me like a pit bull with ragdoll, and threw me across the room.
I won't go into much detail, except to say that right now Carl Trueman's critique (read some here) is the only explanation that makes sense of what I've reluctantly been forced to learn over the last three years. I don't like it any better than I did at first. In fact, I hate it. But I've had to come, reluctantly, to grunt acknowledgment: Trueman's more right than wrong about this, and more right than I wish he were.
What else explains the overwhelming clubhouse-mentality I've been forced to see? What explains good and decent men promoting folks who say and do absolutely outrageous, harmful things, circling the wagons and/or turning a blind eye? Worse, it explains why Christians take it — why they continue to flood their churches, inflate their traffic, crowd into their conferences, buy their books.
They're celebrities. Adoring enablers, and a tight-knit club — not a happy combination. But it does explain why those in the club can do no wrong, and those outside The Club are for all intents and purposes invisible, even if they're moving professed club objectives forward.