An Open Letter to TeamPyro

I was a refugee from the world of Charismania when I landed at Pyromaniacs from a link at the Spurgeon archives.  I was being drawn into Reformed Theology by such lovely words as his, and hoped to find more.  Frequently, at Pyromaniacs, I did.  Stuff like Turk’s “This Shall Be A Sign to You” which inspired a weeks fruitful meditation and even a mediocre poem bearing that title.  And the post by Phil Johnson this week on fornication’s particular sin against a body that is owned by the Lord is now part of the must-reads on my teenage boy’s curriculum list.

But more and more the blog has dedicated itself to serving up tasty morsels of scandal, and you all seem to gleefully compete for the most comments in the meta from those with itching ears.  And  the readers who would disagree with your points of view, as I  frequently do–not having completely converted to the cessationist camp– are too intimidated to refudiate your furious clanging swords.  I mean words. And I confess, I was also titillated by all the blood and guts flying about, too.  But then.

The Open Letter to Horton seems like straining at gnats while you all swallow camels.  Mr. Turk  accused WHI of fostering a cold kind of Calvinism.  What about the level of charity and hospitality on this blog?  That quality certainly is lacking in the comments following the posts.  Turk’s very necessary apology to Challies in the meta of the Horton letter only proved this. Time and time again, commenters have begged, “Don’t hurt me”, as they plunge into the shark tank of the comments section.  Mr. Turk used adjectives for Tim Challies like vanilla and worse, but I am not afraid to post on that  blog, even daring recently to pose a question for Tim to use in his interview of John MacArthur.   I have no fear of being shamed at Informing the Reformed.  That is how it should be when we wander into each other’s Internet oikos’, is it not?  When we with meekness seek to glorify the Savior, to make Him known, and help along those weak in knowledge and faith?

And yes, I agree meekness is not a synonym for milktoast.  Jesus was not a wimp.  And I firmly believe that for those who are proud there is much to be recommended in the use of that serrated edge encompassing satire, sarcasm and Open Letters, as I did when I crafted my own “Letter From a Child to Bill Johnson” a year or so ago.  But Mr. Johnson  preaches a false gospel, and I wept when I wrote that post, and I suspect tears had also honed the blades of Jesus and  Paul.  Those motives and emotions keep chances of bleeding to a minimum for rebukers using such messy implements.

Last week, Turk gloated quoted, “big boys play contact sports.”  Well, those big boys’ 300 pound brains eventually turn to cauliflower after too much head to head battering–and all that damage is  done while trying to move a silly ball down some lines in the dirt.

Interestingly, during today’s broadcast on Truth for Life Alistair Begg talks about the twin perils of distractions of the pastor and divisions from the people  in the church.  I urge you to listen to his helpful sermon about dealing with controversies; it comes from his series on Titus titled, “Danger: Keep Out.”  Begg says those distracted by ceaseless arguments have “ceased to be a power in edifying and evangelism…. when they think they have to correct all the ills…they have lost sight of delivering to the people  what they most needed: clear sound helpful instruction of the Scriptures …( these peripheral controversies) will bring your fellowship to nothing, because they are ultimate futility.” And he goes on to talk much better than ever I can about dealing with the ‘pugnacious purveyors of pertinacity’, …or something like that.

I pray better things for Pyros than futility.  I pray  for a  pursuit of edification, exhortation and yes, sometimes the necessary rebuke;  not a devolvement into a scandal-sheet, but instead a growth in this storehouse of wisdom–that it continues to be a blog befitting those who are the caretakers of the Spurgeon Archives.

Respectfully yours,

Karen Butler

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26 Comments on “An Open Letter to TeamPyro”

  1. Frank Turk Says:

    “Shark tank”? “gloated”? “damaged brains”? I request you to find that kind of disapprobation in any of my open letters — but specifically in my open letter to Dr. Horton. In fact, to take your concern seriously, I’m afraid I require it.

    I also think you should check where the phrase about big boys and full-contact sports comes from. Since Dr. Clark introduced it to the discussion, I believe reusing it in refernce to him was completely fair game.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      I am copying the exchange between Mr. Turk and me on the Pyromaniacs blog for reference. I will update as needed. My answer to him, here:

      Dear Frank,

      So sorry! I enjoyed an afternoon’s blissful gardening in the warm sunshine,(that is what “gloating” is, Frank, as you seemed particularly confused by that word in my post) and I have just fished your comment out of the Askimet spam filter, and am mulling over my reply. You will have to be patient with me. My brain is very lightweight.

      I have to admit, I am somewhat nonplussed. I thought you had an English background, and even were flirting with a MFA. I am indeed overfond of rhetoric…but still the text seems plain enough to me. *sigh* What to do, what to do?

      I know! Mr. Phillips would shrug wearily and recommend you read it over less cursorily, but I have a better idea–I will model for you gracious bloghosting!

      I will prepare a handy “Butler’s Notes”–a quick guide for hasty readers who have been trained by Facebook and cannot attend to texts over 140 characters. Unless they are their own words. Or someone’s they don’t condescend to.

      yours truly,
      Karen Butler

      6:44 PM, February 02, 2011

      Blogger Frank Turk said…

      Karen —

      Good luck with that.

      7:21 PM, February 02, 2011

      Dear Frank,

      First, I owe you an apology for the bit about gloating and playing contact sports like a big boy. You’re right, and I won’t even complain that it was the confusing way Dr. Clark conflated your objections and CT’s, or that I was distracted by his crass merchandising because I have ADD. But I won’t.

      Because, although it is tempting to want to make excuses, I will follow your good model of an apology, and say you’re right. It was perfectly fair game to quote him, and for me to even ascribe such a silly phrase to a man with your rich skills with words–what was I thinking?

      Go ahead and gloat. You have every right.

      I am going to have to withdraw my offer to do an exegesis of my text.
      I really haven’t the time, and frankly, I also just don’t have the heart. This whole thing has started to make me feel very sad, especially after fielding the comments stream this morning.

      Though, Providentially, everything you could wish to know about what I meant to say in my Open Letter is right there in the comments field.

      There you will find a shark circling, little children stumbling,the ministry of the rest of the Body of Christ made to feel inferior to that of the ginormous brains.

      And as for “brain damage”–there will be lots of damage done to the hearts and minds of those who continually engage in this crustiness. Kevin DeYoung described what it looks like better than I could.

      Karen Butler

      1:28 PM, February 03, 2011

      Blogger Frank Turk said…

      I find the humility of Karen Butler has a funny flavor.

      12:15 PM, February 04, 2011
      OpenID thenface2face said…

      Your’e not trying to lure me into some strangling web of self-defense, are you, Mr.Turk?

      It has a very sour taste in the mouth doesn’t it? It was the flavor of Weltschmerz mixed with sarcasm, and it does not satisfy anyone who tastes it. The two should never be together on the same spoon.

      So I’m just going to emulate your excellent example and say, I was wrong in that quote, and I’m sorry to say you gloated, or even to predict that you might.

      really humbly this time,
      Karen Butler

      1:54 PM, February 04, 2011

      Dear Frank,

      But that was a relatively minor gaffe, wasn’t it? A misattribution?

      The substantive charge remains. In the “Butler’s Notes” version of the text, it would have read something like “you are guilty of blatant hypocrisy in your rebuke of Michael Horton.”

      If you are confused about why I think your blogmetas encourage unkindness and unhelpful competitions for consumers of scandal, then read my comments meta. Don’t worry. I set clear boundaries for what is acceptable there, and I have edited entries that don’t meet my standards of what I let be said in my kitchen.
      Your ears might burn,but only a a little.

      But I pray reading uncursorily would bring forth fruits of repentance, and this charge is not just for you, but DJP, too: like Play Nice. Like share your toys with those not so abundantly blessed. Since you two are such strong big kids, help the younger and weaker ones. Don’t make fun of the retard.

      Sit on the think bench for a little bit. At least five minutes. And please don’t talk with your mouth so full of that nasty camel.

      affectionately yours,
      Karen Butler

      • Karen Butler Says:

        I made this comment in reference to Frank’s comments on this blog, here.
        Quite the rage, these Open Letters.

        Dear Frank,

        “I’ll be glad to receive their repentance, and to receive their renewed work in the Spirit it ought to be delivered.”

        The hypocrisy watch continues,and I believe I detect its accustomed flavor of pomposity in your challenge here.

        “Hilarity will ensue…”

        Indeed it already has. From where I sit this has the makings of a delicious little farce, with everyone calling everybody else out,intriguesand backstage manipulations, posturing for the audience, and of course, the essential: the overweening ambition of all the principal players.

        But I think the One who looks from Heaven laughs the most, over all our little washpots He casts His shoe.

        Chuckling Still,
        Karen Butler

        2:00 PM, February 07, 2011

        Dear Frank,

        “intrigues and backstage manipulations, posturing for the audience, and of course, the essential: the overweening ambition of all the principal players.”

        Okay. This was unacceptable–I know nothing of what is going on behind the scenes, and in particular what is motivating any principal character in this sad little comedy, other than myself…so I am sorry for impugning your motives. I have read enough of your posts to know that your motive in blogging is like mine: to build up the Body of Christ, and to glorify our gracious God. And so these remarks were not true, or kind. Please forgive me.

        My deep fault as a writer really is to get carried away by a metaphor, which can be lovely in the poetic realm, but not in the real. So I overreached here. I am not taking back, however, the charge of hypocrisy. That still stands, and it sticks, I think. But I am done trying to press that point.

        I am going to get out of the way here, and simply pray for the Holy Spirit to do His work. I have been writing about this for
        too long, and I am testing my family’s patience. Some of us bloggers like our anonymity, and the comfortable hum of our blog statistics. This spike in reader hits makes it so much harder for my second grader to plot the points for math class. So thank you for your patience in hearing me out. Again, I’m sorry for the sinful aspersions I cast on your character.

        Thank you,
        Karen Butler

        9:54 PM, February 07, 2011

  2. chamblee54 Says:

    I saw where you were leaving comments with the pyronoids.
    Maybe it is different when you share a religion, but pyromania has shown me little but abuse. The meanness I have seen there does not speak well for Jesus.

    • paperthinhymn Says:

      there is something to keep in mind- the men at teampyro, for all their jesting and humor, take the gospel and the scriptures deadly serious. for this reason, they don’t have time to entertain foolish people at their blog who don’t think. insincere, thoughtless questions get dismissed, and as they should. there is the expectation of deep, worthwhile, critical discussion and thought, and if people are unwilling to invest these things into their responses, i think it right that they are summarily dismissed.

      • Rachael Starke Says:

        IOW, Karen, for all your protestations, the indications are growing ever-stronger that you actually aspire to be Frank Turk when you grow up. Only more holy, of course.

        Girlfriend, sister, be careful. You are hoisting yourself on your own petard. You have no idea what kind of mind you are dealing with in him, nor with what manner of kindness he’s treated you so far. Let this go. Don’t cause the rest of us to stumble into gleeful and sinful rejoicing over your demise when he takes the gentleman gloves off.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        Ms. Starke,

        Thank you for your kind… um, warning? You make your champion sound like a malevolent spider, toying with the hapless fly in his web. I choose to think more charitably of your friend than perhaps you do. Or I wouldn’t have even bothered to wade into his…shark tank. But I can see by your comment that I am perhaps in water way over my head, so in part I agree.

        “Don’t cause the rest of us to stumble into gleeful and sinful rejoicing over your demise when he takes the gentleman gloves off.”

        My good woman, haven’t you heard the words of your Lord, who says, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him…And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-23)

        You stumble yourself.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        And thank you again for proving my point about the toxic atmosphere at Pyromaniacs.

      • chamblee54 Says:

        Does that create good will for Jesus?

      • Karen Butler Says:

        I agree, paperthinhymn, they take the Gospel and the scriptures deadly serious, or I wouldn’t have bothered. And I care about the men,and only desire for them to follow an upward call–all cute sarcasm aside. And I understand how difficult it is to suffer fools. And I hope I haven’t wasted my valuable time in this endeavor. I homeschool six kids–I can’t afford too many distractions.

        But Jesus, and the things of His kingdom are also my passion, and I hate seeing those weak in faith stumbled. And here’s the thing: what I think “is summarily dismissed” is Horton’s comment back to them, or anyone who urges them to take some responsibility for the climate there at Pyro. An illustrative example is above.

      • Jan (2) Says:

        yes, paperthinhymn you are probably right. That is why I visit Pyro often but have never left a comment because I am aware I am often foolish, insincere and thoughtless. Thankfully I am not judged by God on my ability to enter into deep, worthwhile, critical discussion and despite my failings have a lot to offer which will be missed by Pyro because there is a fear of summary dismissal or a harsh reaction which would reduce me to tears. I’ve seen many of them. I go there because I learn such a lot by reading.
        Here is the scripture that came to mind:
        The eye cannot say to the hand I don’t need you. And the head cannot say to the feet I don’t need you. On the contrary those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
        If you are right then Pyro is headed towards being a bunch of clones, a sort of stepford wives blog.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        Thank you Jan(2), for that incisive, gracious comment. Spot on!

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Ah me, Chamblee I understand. We as Jesus followers so often disappoint! And I am too, too aware of my own failings in charity, and only seek to point others to Jesus. He is the only Beautiful One. And the Bible in Romans 3 agrees, with you too, saying,

      “None is righteous, no, not one;
      no one understands;
      no one seeks for God.
      All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
      no one does good,
      not even one.”
      “Their throat is an open grave;
      they use their tongues to deceive.”
      “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
      “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
      “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
      in their paths are ruin and misery,
      and the way of peace they have not known.”
      “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

      So we cannot look to men for any succor, can we? But at the end of time we will all see Him face to face, and then what will you say when the Father asks, what have you done with my Son?

      Trust Him, Chamblees. Look upon the goodness of God in the land of the living. Look upon the Cross, where He suffered and died for all of our failings, and all our evil. He offers you forgiveness for all the times you have disappointed others, and rebelled against Him. He offers abundant life–those who trust in Him will never be disappointed! I have walked with Him for nearly thirty years, and I have known only unfailing love.

      • chamblee54 Says:

        Thank you for your kind reply.
        We may have to agree to disagree here. My experience has been different from yours. The time I have spent with “bad” Christians far outweighs the time I have spent with “good” Christians. You have to trust your own judgment.
        I wrote a piece at my blog about this once. I speculated that what Jesus said should have been translated as “show kindness to your enemy”. If you don’t agree with the words, you can always enjoy the pictures.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        Thank you for your invitation, Chamblees. I will stop by soon. I will be praying for you to see Jesus, only.

  3. Dave Says:

    Karen, What is acceptable in the sight of God? (Psalm 19:14) Are blogs exempt since it is a virtual world? If I had a gun would I have let the Aucas spear me and my companions? When I first visited the Team Pyro website a couple of years ago I believe it was a post about Rob Bell that caught my attention (I know a former charter member and one of my neighbor’s attends Bell’s “church”). The guys at Team Pyro are gifted and have something to say. However, it didn’t take long to note a condescending attitude. Their message loses its impact, actually it is nullified by the hypocritical potshots and name calling. It is one thing to address an issue it quite another to refer to another person as a “nutjob”, “flavored yogurt”…and make snide comments about the mother of a commenter. (These are just a couple of recent examples – of which there are many by Turk). My flesh has the tendency to want to respond to people in kind, however, I would call it sin. I remember when I used to curse God and man, without regard to the damage that it does. It appears that the guys at Team Pyro do not have such a past and are not as sensitive. I see the handwriting on the wall if they are unable to take responsibility for how they respond to others.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Welcome, Dave! Thanks for commenting.

      “My flesh has the tendency to want to respond to people in kind, however, I would call it sin.”

      I agree, it is sin, and I don’t want to have anything to do with it. And not recounting other’s sins, either, as you did there with Turk’s unfortunate reference to Tim’s mom and milk products. I did bring it up in my post, yes, but it was necessary in order to point out hypocrisy and highlight in helpful ways differences in blog climates: Challies, warm, welcoming–Pyros, highbrowed and scary. Mr. Turk made a very acceptable apology for his nastiness, and we will forgive him, as I am sure Mr. Challies, and our Lord have.

      And this is a good time to talk about the rules for engagement on this topic, so my own blog does not “(devolve) into a scandal-sheet.” I will not keep a record of wrongs, rejoice in wrongdoing, pass judgement on motives–charity and thinking the best about our brothers, and trusting that our loving Father will complete the work begun in them will be our earnest goals.

      “Are blogs exempt since it is a virtual world?”

      No, I heartily agree, and each of us as blog hosts have a little homefellowship, an “oikos”–a word I very deliberately chose in my post, to make my point about our responsiblilities to maintain a household of faith that is edifying and glorifying to our Lord. Maybe if we thought about our blogs as church basements, and then our duties to our brothers and sisters would be clearer–no gossiping or snarking or namecalling or anything bitter that, left unchecked, would poison the root and defile many.

      Indeed, Dave let it be in the virtual worlds just as the natural, as you pointed out,

      “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
      let them not have dominion over me!
      Then I shall be blameless,
      and innocent of great transgression.

      Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
      be acceptable in your sight,
      O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps. 19:13-14)

      • Jim W Says:

        Very nicely handled at Pyro. I know what’s it like to be on the receiving end of their bristles and whether it’s warranted or not is immaterial. I truly enjoy their original posts, and usually learn a lot from them, but so often the comments devolve into just plain meanness.

        I am sorry you got on the short end of their stick, I can’t see anywhere that you (or usually anyone else) deserve such short shrift. (There have been a few people that deserve whatever they get-the human side of me coming out-not the Christ side, sadly) God bless you.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        Thanks for your comment and good wishes, Jim. I edited your comment slightly so it adheres to my rule of what I will listen to in my church basement.

        I don’t think I’ve been given short shrift, I think I’ve been listened to, judging by the talk about crustiness and all. Much of the conversation with Mr.Turk continues on the thread, which I will copy and paste here.

        Let’s continue to pray God’s best for them.

  4. Momoffour Says:

    I have been a daily visitor to the teampyro blog over the past few years. I recognize that they hold God’s Word in very high regard, and I’m thankful for their faithful instruction. I’m regularly informed, encouraged and challenged there. Having said that, I have always been uneasy at the cocky and sarcastic way some people are treated in the comments, by one of the team members in particular. I think it’s possibly you have raised a concern that many people quietly share.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Thanks for your graciousness to our brothers, Momoffour!

      “Having said that, I have always been uneasy at the cocky and sarcastic way some people are treated in the comments, by one of the team members in particular. I think it’s possibly you have raised a concern that many people quietly share.”

      Yes, it was on behalf of all the frustrated, silent lurkers that I decided to speak out. I felt the grace (and I might get into trouble with a certain member of TeamPyro) and dare I say! of an open door and the promptings of the Spirit.

      God has graciously gifted me with an ability with language, and I can fling about five syllables with the best of them. And my witty husband has built up my skills with sarcasm and humor. Most importantly, I have learned through much affliction to fear God, and not the no-account, man–who has only breath in his nostrils.

      And I witnessed the spectacular collapse of a blog when its owner neglected the log in her eye, and devoted herself increasingly to scandals. I ignored the early misgivings I felt as a regular commenter on her blog .

      So instead of quashing my concerns, and beginning to really care about the members of TeamPyro, I felt a duty to speak out.

  5. Chris Says:

    I appreciated the thoughts expressed in your open letter, Karen. In the main, I’ve had to leave Pyromaniacs behind, much as I enjoy the perspective on display in many of the articles themselves. The comment sections just all-too-often devolve into abusive snark attacks on those who’d dare disagree with something Dan or Frank has pontificated. A shame, really, given that both clearly have good minds for theological reflection. I get the impression that they just don’t like people very much.

    • Karen Butler Says:


      Thank you for your kind words and gracious thoughts towards TeamPyro. That impression “that they just don’t like people very much” is so unfortunate and reinforces every stereotype Charismaniacs have of the Reformed, and particularly those who are cessationists. That is why it is so unhelpful, and why I entered the fray. I wanted to stand up “for the retard.” I explain this phrase, in the following post.

      “I’ve had to leave Pyromaniacs behind, much as I enjoy the perspective on display in many of the articles themselves.”

      That is an interesting topic Frank will be addressing in his debate with Mr. Chew, I think. Do we separate, or lovingly demonstrate the Gospel? I think the latter, unless we have innocent children to protect from ungodly influences, as we did when we came out of the False Prophetic Movement, or if the teaching is so hopelessly reprobate that to continue is to pollute the vessel of the Lord. It is always a matter of discernment. Are these teachers drawing men after themselves, or always pointing them to Jesus?

      And of course, you must judge the readings on the blood pressure cuff, and the level of enamel on your teeth. One must not risk grinding them too much. I am going to try to be a cheerful, helpful presence in the Pyros comments section. Or a tart rebuker, if the need arise.

  6. chamblee54 Says:

    I sense that I am missing some of the comments in this collaboration. The only blogs I have followed, regarding this conversation, are this one and pyronoia. When multiple blogs are involved, it can be tough to keep up with all the players.Thank you for the effort you have made to have as much of the information possible in this one facility.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      You’re welcome, Chamblees! I am glad I have been helpful to you. I sense the drama will be dying down, here, and moving to other stages. I am bowing out of this particular fray, as I think I have said all that needs to be said, and to continue would definitely be “posturing for the audience.” And my children need me. I am leaving this issue to prayer, and the sword of the Lord–His own effective Word in their lives.

      Watch Pyro’s tweets–they provide helpful clues as to what they are thinking and doing, and where the latest rebuke is taking place. Those Open Letters are going to be a fad, I think.

  7. […] entertaining blog.). This post begat (at least) two more posts. These are from Mike Ratliff and Karen Butler. It seems that PG is not the only one offended by the meanness of Mr. Turk’s. At some point […]

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