Thursday, August 02, 2007

Must Our Speech Always Be Gracious?

Okay, so I’ve been getting very tired of solid Reformed men whom I respect telling other solid men whom I respect to speak more respectfully to those whom I don’t respect. This is a very interesting phenomenon to me. I’ve seen at least three cases in the past week of men using harsh rhetoric to tell those using harsh rhetoric to soften up their rhetoric.

Here’s one example. After last night’s catastrophe in MN, John Piper wrote a wonderful article about how to respond as Christians. The Between Two Worlds blog made recommended it to its readers. I’d recommend it too, it’s priceless.

One Arminian reader took exception to the article and saying Piper was way off and that such articles were the reason that he avoids Desiring God Ministries.

I think Piper is way off. My heart grieves for those families, especially the ones who are told God is behind it. I think Piper is a very godly man and I know many are blessed by him, but this is one of the reasons I don't follow his ministry.

Bryan L

In response, another reader, named Daryl, defended Piper’s article by pointing out the fallacy of the alternative.


Are you serious? Perhaps we could tell them that God could have stopped it but just didn't bother, or that he couldn't stop it because [h]e isn't strong/fast enough.

Piper's message was spot on, powerful and tender.

So far, so good. However, a “peacemaker” named Barnabas, rebuked Daryl for his insensitivity in responding to Bryan.

Don't bash people like Bryan who have a difficult time accepting that God could have ordained such a tragedy and be using it. Rather use every effort to explain the goodness of God's sovereignty in these situations. It's caustic responses like yours that turn people off to belief in the sovereignty of God. Make an effort to be more tender and winsome in your responses.

So here’s my problem with Barnabas. He’s wrong! Not that we shouldn’t “use every effort to explain the goodness of God’s sovereignty,” but it’s an overstatement to say that “It’s caustic responses like yours that turn people off to the belief in the sovereignty of God.” And this very exchange is proof.

This man Bryan was turned off by Piper’s loving article in the first place. Piper tried the tender loving thing, and it failed. People like Bryan just don’t like the fact that God is sovereign and it doesn’t matter how tenderly we speak of it. This is very similar to the proclamation of the Gospel. The very heart of the Gospel is the story of God’s loving compassion for unworthy sinners. Most every evangelist you can find (not including the campus clown how calls the women in short miniskirts who walk past sluts and whores), presents the Gospel in the most tender and loving way possible. Yet most reject it.

It seems to me that the “tender only always” premise is flawed. We need tenderness, but we also need some rough edges. The greatest evangelists used both tools. Jonathan Edwards could speak of God’s infinite love in ways that surpass us all, and yet he’s known for his “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” George Whitefield was not all warm and fuzzy.

In fact, we also see this more balanced pattern in Scripture. Here are a few verses that come to mind.

John the Baptist:

Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?


Matthew 12:34 "You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.

Matthew 23:33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?

Matthew 16:23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."

Luke 13:31-32 Just at that time some Pharisees came up, saying to Him, "Go away and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You." 32 And He said to them, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.'

Mark 7:27 And He was saying to her, "Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."

Revelation 22:14-15 Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

John 8:44a "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.


Galatians 5:12 Would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

Philippians 3:2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;

2 Corinthians 11:13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

Galatians 2:11-14 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

2 Thessalonians 3:10-15 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good. 14 And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. 15 And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

1 Timothy 4:7 But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women.

2 Timothy 2:16-18 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some.

2 Timothy 2:24 - 3:5 And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. 3:1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.


2 Peter 2:12-22 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, 16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression; for a dumb ass, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. 17 These are springs without water, and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. 20 For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."


2 John 1:10-11 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

3 John 1:9-10 I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10 For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, neither does he himself receive the brethren, and he forbids those who desire to do so, and puts them out of the church.


Jude 1:16-19 These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their own lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage. 17 But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, 18 that they were saying to you, "In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." 19 These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit.

So, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6). And, recognize that sometimes, your speech must be a little rough around the edges.


Leslie said...

Hey honey,
I don't think you should bash people who are bashing people for not being loving enough when they bash others who bashed Piper for his post. Can't we all just get along?
Just Kidding!
Good post.

Bryan L said...

If you had these thoughts why didn't you share them in the blog? I think it would have made for interesting discussion.

Bryan L

Christopher said...

Hello Bryan,

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you don't mind me calling you an Arminian! I don't know if that's how you would describe yourself. Also, the "men I don't respect" was a general reference to people with theological position I don't agree with. It's not that I don't respect their persons, I just don't respect their interpretations. I have close family members whom I respect tremendously in every aspect of their lives, and yet, when it comes to their Arminian views, I cringe. Hope that helps.

As far as sharing these thoughts more publicly, I thought it called for a few more paragraphs than would be appropriate in the comments section of anothers blog. As you can see with our short dialogue, I can get a bit wordy.



Bryan L said...

Understandable. Thanks for the clarification.

Just so you know, I didn't think someone needed to come defend me in the conversation from people responding harshly or with a lot of rhetoric. The conversation we were in is one of those types of conversations and I realize people are going to respond emotionally or with feeling. In fact I expect people to respond emotionally when it comes to theology in general if they have any passion at all about the truth of God. I just try not to do the same and try to speak calmly and clearly when I can because I know that if I'm one of the only ones defending my views and I respond the same way (harshly and with rhetoric) then people will latch onto that instead of my arguments and the conversation will either get diverted or what I say will be effectively null.

Have a good day.

Bryan L

BTW I get really wordy too. I don't know if it's a cures or a blessing, but I always want to make sure I adequately explain my views and get my point across. Unfortunately I find that often people don't or they only focus on a small section of all that I had to say.