Criticizing Critics and Judging Judgers

[Note: You may have to click photos to enlarge them]

Since Ergun Caner has become the newly elected President of Brewton-Parker College, the Marketplace of Ideas (in the 21st Century this is called social media and the Internet) has become aflame with legitimate disbelief and outrage. The sheer magnitude of righteous indignation has been astounding, and people I’ve never heard discuss Caner before have become vocal about their feelings concerning the poor spiritual stewardship and reckless disregard of truth exhibited by Brewton-Parker trustees. If the number of blog entries, Facebook statuses, and Twitter posts could be actuated in an audible volume, it would be deafening. At the same time, response from Southern Baptist leaders has been muted.

There may be a reason for the silence from our Convention leaders. Perhaps there’s an unspoken rule about interfering in the institutions of others. That’s a possibility. Perhaps there’s a precedent I don’t know about that allows us to call non-Southern Baptists to repentance but not Southern Baptists. Perhaps our friends at Louisville don’t want to say much about a man who was once a trustee at that fine seminary. Perhaps the folks in Dallas don’t want to say much about a man who named his eldest son after their seminary president. Perhaps there’s a defense to the well-documented lies told by Caner consistently since 2001 that no one except Southern Baptist leadership know about and for some reason are sworn to secrecy. Or perhaps we love our institution more than we love truth and we desire the outside of our cup to be clean while the inside lay a filthy mess. Perhaps not.

And yet, there is something going on. There is a fear among many that if they speak out, they’ll be rebuked as being troublesome, problematic, or dissension-causing. When the story broke that Caner was a candidate for the presidency at Brewton-Parker, one blogger who alerted the masses – after calling for concerned Southern Baptists to call the Media Relations director and voice our opinion – backed off the story after being assured that they were not seriously considering him and after “much prayer and some counsel” decided that he didn’t want to be “THAT blogger.” What is “THAT blogger,” anyway? Well, it turns out THAT blogger had his information wrong (which for all I know is not at all his fault). You see, it’s a legitimate fear to be pigeon-holed into the “basement-living-opinion-giver” stereotype that was once vocalized towards bloggers who voiced concern about a certain pastor who was, ironically enough, also a blogger. We don’t want to be the one that others consider a “bully” or “mean-spirited.”

And so in certain Southern Baptist circles in recent days there has been posted some patronizing advice from our leaders (ironically enough, posted on blogs) about how criticism of fellow ‘brothers’ should be done in the “right spirit” and in “good intentions.” They lecture us about Matthew 28 (as though that applied) and seem to forget about 1 Timothy 5:20 altogether. In short, although their words and advice may be timely, and not altogether irrelevant, it’s oddly out of place. It’s oddly out of place because whereas they’re inexplicably silent about grave miscarriages of common sense, cognitive reasoning and institutional stewardship, they don’t hesitate to rebuke the rebukers. They seem to wink and wince at sin, but boldly shield the sinner from criticism while criticizing others for, well…criticizing. Not only is their approach condescending, it’s hypocritical.

Please consider the former 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dave Miller. Miller had the following interaction with me (and others) on Twitter today:

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What you’re about to see is that former SBC 2nd VP Miller is going to take issue with voicing concerns. Oh, sure – Miller calls it other things (that sound more ominous). At the heart of it, there simply is not a place for public discourse on the mockery and mayhem running amok in the SBC for Dave Miller. These things are to be kept quiet. You’ll see more of this…

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And so I pose the question, “what other kind of critic is there than a ‘vocal’ critic”? Should we voice concerns to a brick wall? Or does Miller presume that no one is voicing concerns to our leaders, that we only stand on the street corner and shout out criticism on a busy street? I’m positive that if you were to ask certain of our leaders about the phone calls, emails and letters they’ve received about why they’ve given no comments about these controversies you’ll receive another ‘no comment.’

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There you have it. We shouldn’t talk “about” Ergun Caner, but “to” Ergun Caner. How many individuals, I would ask, have to speak personally with an unrepentant sinner before they can be rightfully called an unrepentant sinner in the midst of the Congregation? The answer from Scripture is “two.” It’s not only absurd, it’s a display of a sophomoric Scriptural interpretation to presume that each and every person who wishes to call “sin, sin” has to speak to the individual personally. Not to mention that Caner’s sins are not private and so this courtesy is forfeited, as we see throughout Scripture (Acts 5:1-11, 1 John 1:8-10, Acts 8, Galatians 2:11, 1 Corinthians 5:13, 1 Timothy 5:20). This is also presupposing that Ergun hasn’t been spoken to about his lies by people he knows personally or by countless thousands of emails from well-intentioned Christians begging his repentance. It would be fool-hardy to presume that he hasn’t been spoken to personally about these errors. Not only did Ergun sin on video, and in front of many congregations, but on the world stage. He’s yet to give a public response to public sin; rather, he refuses to interact with anyone that would seek his repentance. He calls people that seek his repentance “bullies” and “trolls.” He sues them. But Dave Miller doesn’t seem to come to grips with any of that; what he seems concerned with is that Ergun Caner’s name is mentioned on a blog or Facebook status instead of quietly and off to the side begging his repentance in person.

I had to remind Miller that his rebuke that we “talk to people and not about people” is not keeping with his own past behavior.

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Dave then responded with a less-than-courteous and fairly insulting tweet, which he’s since deleted and apologized for, and so I won’t re-post it. But he did invite me to post the screenshot in reference, saying he didn’t remember saying anything negative about me (not to me) at all. Here’s what I found one day – by surprise – stumbling across a friend’s Facebook page:

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And more of the conversation…

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…and after I joined the dialogue:

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You can see what happened after I arrived; he left – quickly. With an opportunity to speak to me, he chose to speak about me. Furthermore, I reminded Miller about this on June 7 in a thread on his blog entitled “Maintaining Unity: What Calvinists Must Do”, and so I find it hard to believe that he genuinely didn’t “remember” insulting me, as he said in today’s Twitter conversation (if you care enough to find it on Twitter, assuming nothing more has been deleted, go for it).

Maybe I’m reading our former 2nd VP all wrong. Maybe he doesn’t have a problem with people asking questions, so long as it’s coated with a little more sugar than how I usually dish it up. But the data seems to suggest otherwise, because Miller used social media to rebuke others for using social media to rebuke others.

Joshua Breland posted the following comment on his Facebook page, A Georgia Baptist problem is a SBC problem. False lines of demarcation bring damage and shame to Christ & the SBC. #saysomething.” Apparently taking issue with Joshua’s “#saysomething” hashtag, Miller decided to say something about those that say something:

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It’s interesting that the “elephant” Dave sees is not the unrepentant (and we have no reason to believe, regenerate) ‘man behind the curtain’ at Brewton-Parker. To Dave, the elephant is his subjective notion that this is all about Calvinism. Interesting. That’s the elephant Dave wishes to address – the possible motivation of Joshua Breland and others (and thousands of others who are disgusted at the situation) and not Ergun Caner and the unwillingness of anybody in leadership to talk about it. Notice again; Miller says that anger directed toward the current situation isn’t of the righteous variety, but because people hate Ergun’s personality and theology. It’s stunning, when you think about it.

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Apparently Dave perceives a geographical boundary to truth and conviction or he doesn’t understand that Caner’s influence and harm extends far further than Georgia. Dave is repeating what is apparently the official position of the SBC, which can be defined as “shush.”

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There it is again. Notice the logic. “He’s not my leader. I’m not his pastor. I don’t have the Biblical right to speak.” That’s an interesting argument coming from a denomination that funds the Ethics and Religious Liberty Council. That’s an interesting argument from a denomination that just rebuked the Boy Scouts. We’re really good at calling unbelieving reprobates to repentance. But when we have an unbelieving reprobate masquerading as a Southern Baptist, then all in a sudden we have “no right” to speak.

Then, Jared Moore (the current VP of the SBC) chimed in about a recent article he published on his own site that asked some excellent and respectful questions to Caner [click here for the link].

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Miller then posted a link to an article in response to Moore (or at least it seems was, in part, due to Moore and the thread on Breland’s Facebook page). Miller entitled it, aptly enough, “It’s none of my business!” [Click here for the link] Ironically, Miller posted his opinion of Caner and declared him guilty of creating “a mythological life story.” In case you missed that, Miller posted his opinion that Caner was guilty on his blog. Then, Miller gives six reasons why we shouldn’t talk about Caner because it’s none of our business.

I think you can see the irony, illogical hypocrisy, and cognitive inconsistencies here. I’ll address Miller’s six assertions in a forthcoming article. Until then, let it suffice to say that people in the Southern Baptist Convention are growing weary of being castigated for talking about sin. We’re tiring of being derided for caring. We’re tired of supposed leadership that shrugs its shoulders and says “That’s not my concern.” Our leaders are about to see that it is their problem. They’re about to see an exodus of Southern Baptist churches from the cooperative fellowship.

Countless thousands are about to shrug their shoulders and say, “That’s not my convention.”

[Contributed by JD Hall, all Facebook screenshots posted by permission]



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