Archive for the ‘A Tussle With TeamPyro’ category

The Inner Ring. Or The Single Eye?

February 6, 2012
Elephant Self-Portrait

My response to the troublesome Pyros parable about the Elephant Room:

Your story was a nice self-portrait of TeamPyro at its inimitable best.  I want to suggest a different story arc for a parable.  A more useful one, that moves away from highlighting the efforts of ‘the outer circle’– well, no need to have an inferiority complex anyway, you are securely in the Inner Ring now–after all You Told Us So!

What bothers me most about your parable is not its focus on your heroics, but that with such a  “shocking and brutal” deed, the criminals  are surprisingly absent the scene. ‘A bad deed was done’. A little too reductionist here.   I assume you are trying to avoid assigning motive, but it is hard to get around that, though isn’t it?  It is in the back alley of that story, a little murky  maybe– a hint of a subtext.

Just survey the crime scene, see the bodies “being carted off”, for goodness sakes!  We do not have a mugger hereabouts,  there  is a serial killer lurking in the darkness! All that blood being spilled, all over the Body: a great dilemma of Gospel heterodoxy in Reformed Circles. And it is a terrible crime. Many will be hurt.  No one can feel safe.  But has this perp malice aforethought?

A less irksome parable would have a different story arc.  Something  with some big elephants whose eyes were not sound, and a magical magnification and discerning device, and a grey mouse with very big ears posing as anEnglish: The eye of an asian elephant at Eleph... elephant, and ridiculously enough he’s proclaimed one.   Then the elephants  with sound eyes trumpet, “eek, a mouse!”  And some of the baby elephants are  scared and a stampede starts…and utter, utter confusion, and the wonderful magnifier that the elephants cherish–among other things it could help them figure out who might be truly an elephant and who is not– is all trampled on.

And such deep grief there in Elephantland, because they love the magnifier and they love the sick-eyed elephants, and oh, WAS that ever a bad, bad idea to have a meeting with a mouse in a little bitty room, with microphones and cameras  and all those ginourmous ears confusing things–yes,we all should have known and what can we do to clean up this horrible mess?  Oh someone recover that device before it is even more destroyed!

Ah, the muse beckons, I think I shall go polish this up a bit.  It has potential as a children’s story– if I can nab an illustrator in the style of Sendak!  I wonder who would enter my Inner Circle.  How I love this smoky garret of a blog, but how I hate the sense of delicious knowledge I get when I go to scribble in it.  It is unavoidable, this Inner Ring thingy, as Mr. Lewis says, but oh, so regrettable.  God have mercy on us all.

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

September 29, 2011
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

Building Bridges

February 20, 2011

Under a bridge of the Nymphenburg Channel in M...

As a Charismatic disgusted with the False Prophetic and seeking the truth, I struggled (and still struggle) so much with my prejudices about those in Reformed Circles:  I saw them talking  much about What Jesus Said, and did not see them as those who have come from sitting at His feet with words that He has just said to them. And a person who has been with Jesus  is filled with Spring, one wonders,  What is all this juice and all this joy? ”  and you want to be around someone like that.

The gulf between our two worlds kept me from such a person–I describe him here: I think it is the best thing I ever wrote. And not because of the writing, but because of the man.

It is such a grief to me that all the years  when I attended a church growing in idolatry, there was the loveliest little Baptist church down the street. We never thought of entering it, until we were out of every other option, because the water is so wide between our worlds. And we can convince very few friends  similarly disenchanted by Charismania to join us in worship there. It is such a shame, because the moment I entered First Baptist, I cried. The Spirit was so present there, and the worship was so clean and God exalting, and I had so missed that kind of worship,  the kind that is in Spirit and in Truth.

But I wonder, Reformed pastors: Is your church a place that makes a heartsick former Charismatic weep with joy during your worship? Phil was on the platform, leading the parade, giving his people permission to really exult. It was humbly done, and lovely to see, and I really miss that man.

Another question: Would those  with whom you vehemently disagree  theologically give an eulogy at your funeral? Many of the pastors who prayed regularly with Phil disagreed with him about lots of things.  But they interceded together  for this sin-saturated city at the prayer meetings Phil had initiated, and this meeting  included my former pastor.   He spoke movingly about him, recalling the day when Phil led his parishioners in another kind of parade, streaming down the sidewalks to the newly-opened charismatic church down the street, in a  funny sort of welcome wagon to the newcomers on the block.  I remember that day. They came in at the end of our service, and I thought they all looked a little nervous–I never guessed what Phil was risking.  But we weren’t that weird then.  My pastor wasn’t running with the crowd he runs with now, and we weren’t aligned with Bethel Redding.  Things were done decently.  Pretty orderly.

And would you call your opponents your friends? Phil did, when I told him about leaving that church, and why–because of Lakeland, and Bill Johnson.  His face became very grave. “He is my friend” Phil said. “We pray together for this city.” He wasn’t going to let me talk smack about his friend.  I said I hate the False Prophetic but I love the man. Phil reassured me that he knew of Lakeland, and its falseness, and was in dialogue with his friend.  Go figure what that means.  But I know Phil had a love of the truth.

Some would argue that he went too far in his spanning of  divides.  But the men he prayed with, and the men who joined his wife in that hospital room to pray for him in those last moments, that God would stay his hand, were men who loved the Lord and preached the Gospel.  They were like all of us in our various confusing stages of sanctification. Oh, how we all prayed for Phil.  But he died. As we grieved together at his funeral, I said to my former pastor and  his friend,  and my friend, “oh, my father, my father!  The chariots and horsemen of San Francisco.” He knew exactly what I meant.  He had torn his clothes, too.

Kevin DeYoung asks these questions best, and I finish this interrogation with him  because you will hear him better than me. I think it is the essence of my concern:

“Do we possess deep and pervasive piety? I know that pietism is a bad word in some circles. It conjures up notions of anti-intellectual sentimentality. But we got pietism because Protestant scholasticism had gotten dry (or at least many of the churches of the time had). If we want to be more than intellectual people who happen to be into theology, we need to cultivate deep affections and deeper sanctification. As Reformed Christians (assuming many of you are), let’s lead the way, not only in theolgocial integrity, but also in meditation, Scripture memory, intercession, and earnest worship. What our families, friends, and churches need most from us is our own personal holiness.” And I would only add that those outside the church, and those orphaned by the destructive cults that are your unpaid bills, need it too.

I desperately needed that winsome holiness Phil displayed.  But he was not a perfect man, he had but a breath in his nostrils, just like me.  Lest any think I am constructing a hagiography of a defenseless man, I am not.  I was fully ware of some theological weaknessess, and they were enough of a concern that my husband and I were preparing ourselves to talk to him.  But then he died, and so I have no idea how he would have responded, and so I will bury those concerns, and thank God I never had to deal with them at all. Only God does, now.  And I imagine that from Heaven Phil is chuckling and fully agreeing with me.

All I know is Phil finished well.  Would that our own hospital rooms become a sanctuary,  and we leave our people with the most important words that can be said, and we meet our Savior with the songs of praise that are the custom of our lips. And that we could prophetically speak a blessing from our deathbed, as Phil did.

He said that the sufferings in his body were for the healing of God’s Body.  And First Baptist suffered terribly, and almost died.  But look what God has done! A courageous young man from Arkansas, who understands fully the challenges ahead, and with humility and boldness in one necessary move, just took us through a week of prayer and fasting for revival at FBC, and for the city .  Such deep affection I have now, not just for him, but for all the saints in this church, and I have greater faith, that the people of God can at last be a bridge to this city that is a proverb for sin-sickness. In the abounding grace of God, He hears the cry of His people for help, and He will always provide for Himself a remnant.   He is so good.

Why I Said, “Don’t Make Fun of the Retards” to TeamPyro

February 8, 2011

I want to preface this post by apologizing to any who might be offended by the use of that word, “Retard”,  a word that still stings me, as I grew up with a brother who was deaf and developmentally delayed, and  I worked with severely autistic and Downs children as an adult.  I am trying to redeem that label from the culture, by applying it in fresh new ways.  I am deeply sorry if the attempt failed, and you remain offended.

I have to speak up one last time for the Retards–those like me, those escaping Charismania, who through a lengthy period of having our minds continually offended so that our hearts might be revealed, are thus a little delayed in our critical thinking skills.  We are also, unfortunately, usually overfond of rhetoric.

We come with a deep distrust of cessationists, and have been trained to think of them as heartless whitewashed Pharisees, who love their doctrines more than the actual people of God.  TeamPyro seems to delight in skewering our logical deficiencies but does nothing to erase the caricatures we have already formed about you all.  The focus here  seems to be all about who is going to score FTW, but with your curt dismissals and rude behavior to those without your theological training and vast reasoning skills, you  sometimes seem to have actually forgotten the most important thing.   It is edification.

I forgot this myself yesterday, and I insulted Mr. Turk, so I know how hard this can be, but I have repented, realizing that it isn’t a word game I am playing but that actual hearts and minds are being affected. Please do not forget that some may actually be in dangerous mind-control cults, like IHOP, the 24/7 prayer movement.  All kinds of people come to this blog. It seems like you all forget this is not playing a game, but this is for real. Forget about  who scores the winning goal. Win your reader’s  hearts. Teach them what a wonderful and exciting thing it is to adore the Lord Our God with all of their mind.

Again, I seek only the highest and best for all of you at Pyromaniacs.  That you would have, in Kevin DeYoungs wonderful words,  at your core “the blazing hot center …. what God has already done for us in Christ”, and I would add only a blessing,  that the love of Christ constrains you as you press on for the prize.

An Open Letter to TeamPyro

February 2, 2011

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