Messing with Pyromaniacs, Again. Because of an Elephant in the Room!

Day 1 // Elephant Room

Image by Eelke de Blouw via Flickr

The Elephant here is a serious slander of James MacDonald in the Pyromaniac’s room.  *sigh*  But some demonic spirit has fiddled with my computer, and I keep getting an annoying error report, and so I am forced to post my  response here.

The post by Phil Johnson is here, and I have no quarrel with it.  But I took exception to these  slanderous comments on the meta about James MacDonald,

“It is a rare megachurch pastor who is concerned about what kind of fruit is produced in their ministry. There are of course a few very noteworthy exceptions to this. But the Nobles and MacDonalds of this world are clearly unconcerned.”

(or, scroll down to the  very end of the comment thread to read it).   Because the reputation of another godly man is at stake, and no-one else seems concerned about this slander of a man with a history of integrity in the church he serves, I was compelled to stop  lurking.  Here is another letter, this time  to  JuniorTeamPyro:

Dear Tom,

Interestingly, you have  read between my lines and made some false assumptions  here: “You may well think that his ministry is going in a good direction” — now, where did you get this idea?  I said, “I am concerned for the direction of his ministry.”  Might this be a pattern for you, a certain hastiness to form conclusions? And did you  do the same disservice to James MacDonald?

Because the truth is, I feel uneasy about MacDonald’s  direction.  When I read the blogpage  quoted above, and  read of his squishyness concerning the Trinity, and sensed, as you do,  the possibility of its being demoted to a secondary issue,  I was very concerned.  Like James White, I Love the Trinity!

And like Mr. White, I do not consider it a matter of “doctrinal hairsplitting.”  I   spent several months on a blogthread debating a Oneness Pentecostal so I am thoroughly acquainted with the  heresy of Modalism —  so, no I do not think  this vagueness concerning the personhood of God is a good direction for Mr. MacDonald’s ministry!

But am I  like you, one of those ‘pugnacious purveyors of pertinacity’?   Those are Alaistair Begg’s choice words, part of his warning to pastors  that I urge you to give a listen to, Tom:   I will  remind you of his own pertinent words.  Begg  thinks pastors should  not  be “distracted by ceaseless arguments” because then they 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 need: clear sound helpful instruction of the Scriptures.”

You seem ready  to go to the shed and reach for the pike, Tom.  But even that firebrand Todd Friel urged some caution in judging James MacDonald’s stance last Monday on Wretched Radio!  I too, am going to wait and see.   I plan to pray for those in  ‘The Elephant Room’ to parse out  exactly what this phrase  “existed eternally in three manifestations” means to the glory of the Triune God. And pray especially that –oh me of little faith! — Jakes would repent of his idolaltry.  And that if he does not,  that James MacDonald would forsake building bridges toward heresy, and  would affirm this  truth that has been tried in martyrs’ blood.  And all of  that repentance would be a good, and God-honoring outcome of the Elephant Room…that of iron sharpening iron.  It is indeed good and pleasant  for brothers to dwell together in unity, but it is awful when it is at the expense of the truth.

I can’t resist this.  I’m sorry, I just can’t!  “Go to war with the Church?” Really?  Didn’t we all  have such a delightful  discussion concerning this particular hypocrisy in February?   So you are still blind to all the scorched earth surrounding the  endless Open Letters generated from that site? The wounds from chainsaws regularly taken to those with doctrines or preaching practices differing from “Biblical Christianity”, aka “Pyros Brand”?  And then you wrap it all up by calling James MacDonald’s statements “arrogant and spiteful”  Oh Tom, Tom, there really are no words.  I pray to God you will be given a vision of your  very blind spots.

Your  statements would be  hysterically funny if they weren’t so incredibly sad.

Now I am going to go write James MacDonald a letter I’ve been meaning to write for ages.  I am going to tell him of a patched-up prodigal I know whose heart was softened by his ruthless and tender Gospel preaching.   And that he   is still one of the few preachers this one, now returned to the Father’s house, will eagerly listen to — tunes it in faithfully, every day! And this one is growing in faith, humbly asking forgiveness, admitting faults, responding to the appeals  Mr. MacDonad regularly makes to his listeners to repent of  their sins. It is a lovely and ongoing work of the Spirit that gives great joy to my my heart.  I suspect Mr. Mac Donald would rejoice with me too.  Because this is real  fruit growing out of his ministry he needs to hear about.  Especially now.


Believing the best (about you too!),
Karen Butler

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4 Comments on “Messing with Pyromaniacs, Again. Because of an Elephant in the Room!”

  1. Tom Chantry Says:

    Karen,

    First, I had to go re-read one of my comments, and I find (to my embarrassment) that I mis-typed. What I meant to say was, “You may well think that his ministry is going in a different direction, but you may as well take him at his word that he hasn’t changed.” I don’t know how I wrote “good” in place of “different” and never saw it. My point was, you may be concerned about a perceived change, but
    he specifically argued in a blog post this week that nothing has changed.

    If you believe that my ministry or even my online presence has been characterized by “ceaseless arguments,” then I think you do not know me well. I have entered this particular fray because, as I stated, I know MacDonald’s ministry, and I know its fruits. While the rest of the conservative evangelical blogosphere is aghast at his embrace of a modalist pastor and his insistence that this heresy is within the bounds of historic Christianity, I am only mildly surprised. When others shake their heads at his use of rhetoric previously known among the emergents – rhetoric designed to arrogantly shut down all disagreement and to mock those with sharper discernment as being childish – I nod and say, “that fits.” I find myself in the unusual position (unusual in these controversies, that is) of actually knowing something of the man and his work, and so I feel like the one person who is unsurprised.

    You want details, and they are coming. Since our exchange the other night, I’ve been working on a better forum in which to say what must be said than somewhere below comment 100 in a days-old thread at Pyro. Perhaps you are right that I should have held my tongue until I had the opportunity to say all that I have to say. When it is said, you may of course feel free to criticize it as you like. This doesn’t upset me, because I don’t consider your open letter to me to be “scorched earth.”

    I have read every Pyro open letter closely, and what I find is two facts often missed by Frank Turk’s critics. Every letter has been addressed to someone in a position of public ministry (OK – not the humorous ones like the “Open Letter to College Football”), and every one has been driven by gospel concern. I have to say that if someone writes me – a minister of the gospel – a letter which is driven by gospel concern, then I ought to take that seriously. If that letter is a scathing rebuke, I still ought not to take offense, even if I think it is wrong in its particulars. If the driving concern is gospel fidelity, then I ought to take it seriously and respond in kind. I would refer you to the two responses given to the “Open Letter to Mike Horton.” Horton’s bullying Westminster colleague wrote a scathing “You have no right to say anything because you’re not as Reformed as we are” reply, but Horton himself answered and said in effect, “We disagree on the particulars, but these are important gospel matters and thank you for entering the discussion.” In other words, there is no reason why a gospel-driven challenge given to a public ministry ought to be considered “scorched earth.”

    This is rather different from what Noble did. Noble did indeed go to war against a church – his own church. He seems to do this quite often – to abuse and insult the sheep from up front – to criticize their personalities, their friendship, and – worst of all – their more conservative convictions. His desire to “p*** them off” when he chose his radical worship music is only one example of this. To MacDonald’s credit, he disapproved the choice, but he doesn’t seem to appreciate the implications of Noble’s hatred (yes, hatred) of conservative Christians. To call such a man a longsuffering servant of Christ is outrageous. And yes, it raises the question – what does one need to do to be James MacDonald’s friend? Does one need to love the church, or only to draw big numbers? That is a critical question, no matter what the nature of the man’s preaching. If he has come to view the mega-club as an elite untouchable clique, then no matter what he preaches on Sunday, one has to ask where his convictions lie. Does he value the gospel, or the fame? Seriously, this has to be asked.

    I intend to continue asking it, and when I do, I’ll make clear the background from which I ask it. I apologize to you for the distress it has obviously caused that I said what I said before I was prepared to back it up, but I cannot back down from those words. I honestly believe that many, many souls are at stake in this matter.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      “You want details, and they are coming. Since our exchange the other night, I’ve been working on a better forum in which to say what must be said than somewhere below comment 100 in a days-old thread at Pyro. Perhaps you are right that I should have held my tongue until I had the opportunity to say all that I have to say.”

      Yes, you really should have held your tongue. Because in all your dark forebodings of dreadful revelations to come, you just graduated from slander to gossip. Oh, I do hope your expose is not going to be a 600 page document drop, because we all know how beneficial that all was to those poor saints at Sovereign Grace Churches. I am sure that Detweiler felt it was a gospel issue, and that many many souls were at stake in his matter.

      But I wonder how many who read those sad pages clicked their tongues, ‘tsk tsk’ and went on to the next RSS feed. And I wonder how many readers of Mr. Turks Open Letters get on their faces afterward and cry out, for the name of the Lord, for the glory of His Name’s sake, and cry out for the church to repent…not too many, I think. And so for all the high sounding motivations, all those efforts remain just tasty morsels of gossip to titillate, nothing more and nothing less.

      That blog I referred to in which I devoted so much time to debating and arguing such topics as Modalism was a kind of Charismatic Pyros, devoted to Discernmentalism, and it crashed and burned because of an incredible level of self-delusion on the part of its proprietor. Many of the commenters on my blog are refugees from that site. One of the wisest observations of that debacle was this comment by Mark Finger, who described the continuum toward self deception:
      …. a ‘fixation’ upon what is wrong
      …. leads to condemnation
      …. which leads to legalism
      …. which leads to self-righteousness and deceit.

      The whole nasty scandal of it just confirmed in me where to fix my gaze. “On what is RIGHT, and what has made me righteous: the cross of Christ! Such safety there, under its shadow.”

      And so I urge you to seek the best counsel for your expose, and really whether it is really needful. And I’ll end with the wisdom of of a man who understood Gospel controversy well:

      Don’t be the Devil’s bellows any longer to blow up the fires of strife. Leave off setting people by the ears. If you do not cut off a bit of your tongues, at least season them with the salt of grace. Praise God more and blame neighbors less. Any goose can cackle; any fly can find out a sore place; any empty barrel can give forth sound; any brier can tear a man’s flesh. No flies will go down your throat if you keep your mouth shut and no evil speaking will come up. Think much, but say little; be quick at work and slow at talk; and above all, ask the great Lord to set a watch over your lips.” —Charles Spurgeon

      And isn’t our standard Ephesians 4:29, Tom? No corrupting speech but only what builds up? Be sure you are getting wise counsel for all your efforts.

  2. Tom Chantry Says:

    Yes, you really should have held your tongue. Because in all your dark forebodings of dreadful revelations to come, you just graduated from slander to gossip. Oh, I do hope this is not going to be a 600 page document drop on the church, because we all know how beneficial that all was to those poor saints

    Thank you so much for believing the best about me too!

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Tom, I have to be honest, and say I feel nothing but dread about this right now. I do not think any good will come of it. But be assured you are in my prayers…that is where the refinement of my heart has to take place, does it not? Not on these blogpages.

      And you are right that comment was sarcastic, and I am sorry for it. More and more I am trying to move away from it. It is not a tool for an unrefined heart.


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