Jonathan Merritt recently wrote an article about how The Gospel Coalition evades and blocks people at will. This modus operandi of evading culture has deep roots in Neo-Calvinism as I experienced this from Andrew White of Redeemer Arlington. Many Neo-Calvinists are evading the difficult questions, and this reveals that their foundation is flawed and built on sand. This post also deals with another problem in Neo-Calvinism – “Gospel Centered Flight” meaning from Andrew White to C.J. Mahaney you run from your problems and flee all while taking about being a man.
“In all secrets there is a kind of guilt, however beautiful or joyful they may be or for what good end they may be set to serve. Secrecy means evasion, and evasion means a problem to the moral mind.”
“Go straight down the road and do what is best, and to do it frankly and without evasion.”
George C. Marshall
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 NIV
“Dave do you know what 9 Marks is?”
I had just purchased some food and was with Andrew in the cafeteria. I turned to him and asked,
“What about C.J. Mahaney fleeing to Capitol Hill Baptist Church and running from church discipline?”
Andrew looked down and said that he thought that was resolved. I asked again and he quietly said,
“What about grace?”
My response was the following:
“Andrew do you know how many of the 9 Marks C.J. Mahaney violated when he fled to Capitol Hill Baptist? What about the 9 Marks that Mark Dever violated?” Andrew turned away and evaded the question. That brief conversation later become the foundation for this post in which I explain how Mark Dever made 9 Marks absolutely worthless and violated at least five of them. Which five? That would be membership, “The Gospel”, leadership, discipline and discipleship. When Andrew was trying to get me involved in Redeemer Arlington he often evaded difficult questions. For example on Easter in 2012 a man stood before the congregation of Redeemer Arlington and spoke about his best friends’ suicide and how God used it. I asked Andrew the following question. “Did God foreordain his friend’s suicide?” It was an honest question. Andrew said he would explain later, but like many other situations he evaded the question. When I asked him questions regularly there were many times he avoided the topic. I was confused, bewildered and left scratching my head. It was during this time that Andrew’s evasive nature reminded me of what I had previously encountered in Mormonism nearly 18 years prior. When I was converting into Mormonism and researching it, I had a lot of questions. I would ask the Mormon missionaries difficult questions. I was not trying to be difficult as I honestly thought I would get the answers I was seeking in the end. That never happened as Mormonism couldn’t be honest about the questions I was asking as they created problems for them in the end. Their theology demanded that they could not be transparent about such difficult topics because the foundation is built on sand and wobbly. Its the same way with Neo-Calvinism as its built on sand. Andrew was evasive about many of these difficult topics as well. Evasiveness is a core value of Neo-Calvinism.
Jonathan Merritt and the Evasiveness of The Gospel Coalition
Recently Jonathan Merritt wrote an article about The Gospel Coalition that is most interesting. The article is called, “The Gospel Coalition and how (not) to engage culture.” In that article Jonathan Merritt explores the evasive and authoritarian nature of The Gospel Coalition and the deep systematic issues that cripple it. In the article that talks about lack of listening the following is said about how The Gospel Coalition not only refuses to listen but blocks people in its efforts as well.
A friend of mine once told me that God gave humans two ears but only one mouth for a reason: to help us talk less and listen more. In terms of sheer content, few Christian websites that do more talk-talk-talk-talking than The Gospel Coalition. Yet the organization seems uninterested in listening to dissenters.
Over the course of the past year or more, TGC has been on a social media blocking spree. Those who dare to criticize them are being shut down and shut out.
To be clear, blocking on social media can be warranted. I’ve taken this action against people who use racial slurs or harmful sexist language or homophobic hate speech and those who repeatedly use personal attacks to harass others. But rather than ward off internet trolls, TGC is simply silencing those who challenge them. The ministry has even taken punitive action against well-known Christian leaders.
You may not agree with popular blogger Rachel Held Evans, for example, but she is no troll. She’s a New York Times bestselling author of numerous books and more than 100,000 people follow her on Twitter and Facebook. But Evans was blocked by TGC when she questioned a post on their site that used rather alarming language to discuss sexual intercourse.
The article quoted controversial pastor Douglas Wilson: “the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” Evans countered that the statement was offensive and degrading to women and triggered images of rape and sexual violence. Later, prominent theologian Scot McKnight called on TGC to remove the post, arguing it “inculcates justified violence” against women.
TGC’s leaders would have done well to listen to her. She was expressing legitimate concerns and Douglas Wilson has also praised the “unexpected blessings of slavery” and admitted that he believes LGBT people could be executed in certain circumstances. Instead of listen, TGC blocked her on social media. (The original link to the article is now disabled. The author later apologized for posting the quote, but the link to the apology is also now disabled.)
Jonathan goes on in talking about how The Gospel Coalition blocks people left and right. How some people are blocked and yet they don’t know why. Why some people just sent a Tweet and they were blocked. Its a baffling situation that shows a rather immature modus operandi for an organization that titles itself as a “Coalition.” The other aspect that I found interesting is that Jonathan Merritt upon learning of these issues emailed Collin Hansen who is the editor of The Gospel Coalition. Collin ignored him completely. When Jonathan followed up, asking if Collin received his emails Collin again continued to ignore him. In the course of time Jonathan Merritt found out that The Gospel Coalition didn’t want to engage him and instead decided to ignore him. This is how Jonathan Merritt summed up The Gospel Coalition’s problems:
But we can also learn about something by providing negative answers, rather than positive ones. We can get at how one might do something by describing how not to do it. Here’s a start:
- Constantly criticizing outsiders while only listening to insiders … is how not to engage culture.
- Shutting out dissenters who challenge your beliefs, content, or ideas … is how not to engage culture.
- Operating in a pattern of isolationism, tribalism, and egotism … is how not to engage culture.
- Refusing to answer difficult questions about your organization’s practices … is how not to engage culture.
If You Are Going to Criticize You Have to Take It
Here’s the deal…if you are going to criticize others you have to be able to take it in the end. I have known this from the very beginning of writing this blog. If you look at my front page I publicize my email address which allows you to contact me. In addition before I started to write about Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania I came forward and revealed my name. So I write these posts in my actual name. However, I also know that if I am going to write difficult posts that I also have to be able to take deep criticism as well. Plus in all honesty I should be challenged from time to time and actually encourage that questioning. That is the key difference between me and many un-healthy churches. I invite questions, many places will not allow you to challenge them. Or if you can ask questions they are questions that are “approved.” But stop and consider some of what has happened from my perspective. I have received some difficult emails in the course of time. I became the only Christian blog that let one of the most notorious commentators comment for a while. I let him comment even when people emailed me and asked me why do I let him comment? But aside from that consider the comments I have approved. In this post you can see a member of my Bible Study at Fairfax Community Church criticize and go after me. On this page you can see hateful and scathing comments that I have also approved. Just the other day I approved a difficult comment from someone who dislikes and disagrees with my writing about Community Evangelical Free Church.
Its good to have outside opinions and to open yourself to criticism. Its why if Jordan Kauflin is ever interested he can always email me his concerns, criticism, and more. I am always open to discussing and hearing his thoughts. He or anyone else can contact me and ask to meet and say, “Dave you’re wrong about some of what you have said about ________.” That is fine. Honestly for my own personal development I welcome and support people doing that. If a person refuses to be teachable and coached then they have reached a limit and will start their decline. This is the problem The Gospel Coalition has in their policy. They won’t listen to outside opinion which could be the most valuable.
But here is the other aspect, you can’t base an entire organization upon criticism either. Plus there is also constructive criticism that is meant to build up and help in the course of time. I have written a number of encouraging posts such as a tribute to a pastor I once had. Or in this post I made recommendations on how to improve Neo-Calvinism and even the potential I believe Redeemer Arlington has if it does the right thing. Its important to have a balance of both and to be diverse in many ways. Plus admitting your mistakes when you make them (yes Tim Keller, DA Carson, and Kevin De Young are sinners also…) is necessary for the health of an organization. A good example of this is Community Evangelical Free Church in Elverson, Pennsylvania which is led by Steve Estes. Will Steve Estes repent? Or will his stubbornness bring down a church in the end? What makes The Gospel Coalition so un-healthy is that it will not receive feedback. How many times does The Gospel Coalition delete or refuse to let people comment? They needlessly and ridiculously create their own enemies when they don’t have to. Its pointless, and it is stupid. Plus it shows an incredible amount of profound insecurity, narcissism, and the behavior of a control freak.
I have known for the longest time about The Gospel Coalition blocking people. In my case on Twitter for some strange reason I have not been blocked by them and I have been puzzled. I have Tweeted a lot of stuff to a lot of people all across the spectrum. But in my case I have not and in all likelihood will not block anyone. I have even had Muslims tweet me stuff about Islam and I just let them. I have been blocked by a couple of people such as Mark Dever and CJ Mahaney. I actually Tweeted this post directly to CJ Mahaney in which I thank Pam Palmer and others for the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace, and how it helped me in resolving the problem of evil. In that same post I also encourage them and other former members to finish the job and hold Mahaney accountable for all allegations of criminal activity. But even some of the churches and organizations I have written about have followed me on Twitter. Some of those include people from Fairfax Community Church (which is not Neo-Cal by the way), Sutton Turner, the Summit Network, and Christ Kirk. For me that is fine, I expect some of that and I am okay with them following me. The only person I would block is someone who would physically threaten me, but that is only in the extreme scenario. For example I know that many atheists or those in a faith crisis can be combative, argumentative and down right difficult. Again I expect that as well.
“Gospel Centered Flight?”
There is another thing I would add that follows the issue of The Gospel Coalition being evasive. Many Neo-Calvinists like to practice what I would call “Gospel Centered Flight.” What that means in that all their manliness when they are confronted or found to be in the wrong what happens is that they flee. For example let me illustrate with several examples:
- Mark Driscoll was all about being a man. Yet he couldn’t take the heat and when the pressure was on this “dude bro” who was all about kicking the crap out of someone and MMA fighting fled from Seattle and popped up in Phoenix. In the process he left many people in pain, and many people want him to repent, own his sin, and work things out. Its my understanding that two weeks before the RICO lawsuit was launched Rob Smith reached out to Mark and tried to get him to repent and he was re-buffed.
- C.J. Mahaney once called Covenant Life Church the “happiest place on earth.” It was a twist on Charles Spurgeon’s teaching on how the church is the dearest place on earth, I believe. If I am wrong correct me please. Then when all the allegations of criminal activity, his blackmail and more came pouring out, he fled. He went to Capitol Hill Baptist Church and eventually fled again to Louisville.
- Then there is an Air Force Captain who Jordan Kauflin directly discipled. Andrew gave birth to a false accusation that threatened my name, employment, future employment and more. He refused to deal with it, broke off discussion in resolving it and I would say fled to Colorado Springs without doing anything to neutralize it.
In all these situations and more there are many people that want these men to deal with what they have done. Now if I was Mark Dever and I found C.J. Mahaney at my door step and I learned about all his allegations of criminal activity, blackmail and more and I found out he was fleeing from church discipline I would have done the following. I would have turned around and given Mahaney a good strong kick in the ass, and told him to go back to Covenant Life Church and to practice what he preaches. However, that’s not going to happen, as we all know with this crowd money trumps doctrine, and is much more important that doctrine. That is why I believe its so important to follow the money and that there is so much we can learn from Watergate in regards to the Sovereign Grace scandal. But here is another tip as well…can I recommend more in the Neo-Calvinist community put down John Piper and instead read Jonah? Plus here is another question I have…why do many Neo-Calvinists feel like they can run from their problems? When you dodge and avoid your problems you make them worse, and they grow, and grow. You can’t run from your mistakes as running only makes them worse. For people so committed to “sound doctrine” when I watch their behavior it begs the following question. What the hell are they teaching in places like Redeemer Arlington and others? Plus the other rich irony is this…many of these organizations dare to talk about what being a man is. What kind of man runs from his problems? What type of man flees from difficult situations and acts evasive? Can someone explain this to me please? There is another way to sum up “Gospel Centered Flight.” I would call it “Gospel Centered BS.” However, that is just me.
The Neo-Calvinist Culture I Don’t Understand
There are a lot of aspects about Neo Calvinism that frankly I don’t undestand. I’ve spent time in Catholicism, explored Mormonism in college and have been involved in Third Wave theology and consrvative evangelical Christianity. Plus my faith crisis sent me through the world of atheism and skepticism. So by the time I was 40 I have seen a lot…more so than most people. Yet the Neo Calvinism culture is one I can’t figure out. These are some of the aspects that be-wilder me.
1. I don’t understand why many Neo-Calvinists act as if John Piper sufferred and died at Calvary. I can’t figure out why many have deified him and made him God.
2. Why have many Neo-Calvinists lost the basics of scripture especially to love, be gentle and worship God?
3. Why do many needlessly create divisions and turn away people who could be sympathetic? Why the alienation and circling the wagons mentality? They have driven away people like myself and others?
4. I don’t understand why a man shepherded by Jordan Kauflin would be the only person and Christian out of 140 people who heard of the lengths I went to work things out and would reject it. 140 people and the person who most boasted of his church and faith would have such an epic fail. I mean I had people all across the board who forgave me and were thrilled – from Lutherans, to Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Assembly of God, Third Wave, those in para-church ministries, Anglicans, Acts 29, Non-Denominational, and yes even a skeptic in pain – mostly react in a joyful way and responded with warmth. The only guy who spurned it was a member of a former Sovereign Grace Church. Can someone explain this to me?
5. Plus the other thing I don’t get is what is Andrew afraid of? Why is it that all he does is run? Does he know how much courage it took to overcome the false accusation I endured and try and work things out? Here it is 3 years later and I still have more questions than answers? I don’t know why he is so fearful and keeps running? These questions actually grow the more I tell my story and the more people reach out to me and ask about it. It tells me that the issue rests with Andrew and the Sovereign Grace culture of which he is a by-product.
6. When I look at what is happening in many of these organizations I honestly wonder…what the hell are they teaching?
7. I am baffled why so many questionable and un-ethical individuals are looked at with so much reverant awe. Many of these clowns could never hold a job in the real world. Plus blackmail, and other criminal allehations would be flagged and keep many out of sensitive jobs, corporations, law enforcement, the military and US government.
8. Why do I see a culture in Neo-Calvinism that reminds me of the Mormonism I once left from my youth?
9. Why did Andrew White ask me not to attend Redeemer Arlington? I was willing to come, just sit and listen. Yet he asked me not to come to church when I was trying to resolve things with him. This raised many eyebrows…after all who asks someone not to come to church? Is that how Jesus operated? Asking people not to listen to him? This remains baffling and has been the only time in my life where someone asked me not to come to chuch. Jordan Kauflin can you explain any of this behavior?
10. Why does someone who boasts of his faith, sanctification and more turn around and give birth to a false accusation that threatens to destroy someone’s life. That behavior in itself is very telling and it reflects as well on Redeemer Arlington as well. Jordan can you explain that to me?
11. Finally when I look at the behavior of many Neo-Calvinists especially when it comes to running from their problems, and to being evasive it makes me want to ask the following question. Why do two women in North Carolina – Dee Parsons, and Deb Martin – have more balls than men like C.J. Mahaney or Mark Driscoll? Again, can someone please explain this to me?
The Future and Our Coming Minority Status
Here is another reason why The Gospel Coalition practice is so flawed and jacked up. For two weeks here at The Wondering Eagle I spent time writing about the Reason Rally and atheism. Now granted the Reason Rally is an extreme example. The average atheist or skeptic is not going to travel from Oklahoma City, Minneapolis or Seattle to participate in an atheist event in Washington, D.C. However, here is the status…Christians are declining and the rates of the nones, and skeptics is growing. We are going to be a minority in our lifetime. For the Christian faith this will be exceptionally good and one of these days I need to write a post as to why I welcome the death of Christian culture in the United States. The church will come out ahead in the long run. The death of Christian culture will force the church to change its ways. It will force the church to stop marrying itself to politics, and it will force the church to re-think and change its way and engage people. I think this will force the church to become more intellectual and embrace science in the long run.
When we are a minority behavior like The Gospel Coalition pulls off now will not accomplish anything and force them more into a corner. Not only will they become the laughing stock in many ways, but they will be dismissed and ignored if they think they can act that way. When we are a minority we are going to have to learn how to engage people. We are going to have to learn how to discuss difficult topics like evolution, or how does a loving God allow so much pain and suffering? Why does a perfect God create such a flawed world? In order for the church to engage people these are questions that must be tackled. We can’t evade and choose to block anyone we so desire. The time is coming and it will be here in the not so distant future. That is why organizations like The Gospel Coalition are going to have to ditch their modus operandi and clean house, and deal with their internal issues. That’s it for today guys, as always I love you.