On Being Fed Up
Well, well, well. Here we go. Phil Johnson is Fed Up. And he’s letting us know.
So… What’s he all fed up about? He’s fed up about the Emerging Church. He’s fed up with the way people react to his various criticisms of the Emerging Church. He’s fed up with Rob Bell. He’s fed up with Mark Driscoll’s language.
The timing here is fortuitous for me as well, since I just recently finished up Mark Driscoll’s book, Confessions of a Reformission Rev (review here). So I’ve been running over a lot of these same questions myself recently, and I continue to do so.
In my review, I tried to strike the right tone. I wanted to balance grace and truth, after the model of our Lord and Savior. Of course, I know that my grace will never be His perfect grace, my truth will never be His perfect truth, and my balance will never be His perfect balance, for that matter. But I do try. And here’s the pattern I see, well, emerging (no pun intended).
When I try to balance grace and truth, I err on the side of grace. Up to a point.
By this I mean that I find myself holding back on the truth.
In my Driscoll review, for example, there were many more things that needed to be said. There were, for example, plenty of things to say about his sense of humor. While I sometimes have a junior-high mentality sometimes myself, I don’t wear that as though I’m proud of it. There were other things to be said about how some of his beliefs play themselves out, or, rather, fail to play themselves out. And so on.
But, in the interest of grace and truth, I tried to balance my review. I don’t want to be overly critical, because he is doing some good things out there. But I don’t want to be giving a rousing endorsement of all of his methods either.
And therein lies the struggle.
How do we balance the good with the bad? How do we balance the grace with the truth? And how do we do it in such a way that the message will be heard? I think this is truly what has Phil fed up. I think that he has tried to point out error in the “Emerging Church” out of pure love for Christ and His Church, and trying to “restore… in a spirit of gentleness” but still trying to “rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”
But that’s not how it’s taken.
In this day and age, and in the inclusivist error that has overtaken so much of the “church,” any rebuke, any attempt at restoration, any correction is taken as an unfair criticism, no matter how well grounded in scriptural truth. This would be understandable if we were talking about non-believers here, but we’re talking about “the church.”
Or, as one of Phil’s commenters puts it, “The very idea that you strive to defend Godly conduct TO BELIEVERS, is rather exhausting.”
So we get fed up.
As the commenter said, it is exhausting to defend Godly conduct. But I’ll go one step further than that – in this day and age, it is also exhausting to have to defend even the simplest of scriptural truths.
You: “But the Bible says Y.”
Them: “I don’t think it says that.”
You: “Here: chapter, verse, right here, it says, ‘This is a trustworthy statement: Y.’”
Them: “Yeah, but it doesn’t mean ‘Y.’”
You: “Of course it does. It says, ‘Y.’ Y means Y.”
Them: “Well, it may have meant Y then, but it doesn’t mean Y today.”
And so on. And so on.
And that’s just for basic propositional statements. Forget simple doctrinal matters like, oh, say, the Gospel. Or the atonement. Or the call to a devout and holy life. Or…
I’m not even going to touch the complex issues. (Well, for now.)
So, as I said, we get fed up. We get fed up, and like Phil, we just break down and say, enough already. Enough with being nice. This is just plain wrong. I’m tired of trying to be “graceful” about it, as if a mere statement of fact or truth could be “ungraceful.”
Don’t get me wrong. I think Phil was graceful. I think that he violated no standard of decency, propriety, or courtesy. I think that he was tremendously patient, even when saying he’s fed up. I pray that I can be that graceful when I’m fed up. I know I often am not. (I am trying.)
But the fact remains…
Phil is right. It’s time to be fed up. It’s time to stop erring on the side of grace. That doesn’t mean err on the side of truth, either. It means we need to push harder for the balance. We can’t be fearful of men and think “what will they say? Will they think I’m too harsh?” We must speak the truth in love. Not neglecting the love, but speaking the truth in love is ultimately about getting the truth in there.
So… What next?
It will be interesting to see where this all leads (if anywhere). I will be very curious to see what action results, or if it will stay merely discussion. And I don’t mean for Phil so much as myself and others.
Because it is hard to speak the truth in love. It is easier to say, “well, it will work out” or “well, I don’t want to offend.” I don’t want to offend. But I fear that I am offending Christ by not being more truthful. And let’s face it – I don’t want to make Him fed up with me…