Jeff the Gatekeeper, On Maybe Keeping it Shut
Whatever is on the other side of Jeff Dornik’s gate should be kept shut.
His podcast introduction says, “Now, there’s finally someone who’s taking a stand” [against false teaching]. Apparently oblivious that good, but fallible men – like James White, Justin Peters, Phil Johnson and Chris Rosebrough – have been “taking a stand” against false teaching since before he was knee-high to a grasshopper, Dornik has become Brannon Howse’ voice in social media used to attack some of those very same men.
[Obligatory Disclaimer: Pulpit & Pen has never agreed with White’s now-infamous “interfaith dialogue” and I went on record accordingly at the Judge Not Conference, while steering clear of the more hostile invectives launched at White by Team Howse. Click here for video. Likewise, anyone who thinks I am a schill for James White or a part of the Reformed “Good Old Boys Club” (as has been suggested) clearly didn’t pay attention to most of 2017]
I’ve been doing polemics since 2010. My program launched on Worldview Weekend, after my “Modern Day Downgrade” sermon was played by Chris Rosebrough and Brannon Howse on their radio programs. It went to terrestrial radio and I broadcast on the East Coast, West Coast, and places in between. There’s not a single name in “discernment” that I don’t know, and few I wouldn’t consider my friends. I have had many, many conversations with Brannon Howse. I know him as well as someone can be known over the phone. I know Phil Johnson, and he has been in my home. I know James White, and I have been in his studio as a guest. I know Justin Peters and he has preached at my church. I know Mike Abendroth, and have spoken on stage with him at several conferences and we’ve had meals together. I have had numerous phone calls with Steve Camp and several “run-ins” with Janet Mefferd, some of which went bettter than others. There is not a single person in the entire White-House-Camp-Johnson superfecta, on any side, who I do not know.
The one and singular exception to this is a new “broadcaster” for Worldview Weekend named Jeff Dornik, who seems to have made it his mission to single-handedly tweet-storm Phil Johnson to death. It may be that he resembles what I imagine the Lance Bass of discernment would look like. It could be the newness of him. It could be because Howse pulled Dornik out of his sleeve like a cheating gambler pulls out an Ace of Spades, right when he decided to flush two of his best podcasters down the Worldview Weekend toilet (if ever there was an appropriate metaphor, that is it) for not aggressively defending him well enough. Perhaps it’s because Dornik hit the ground running on Howse’s network with all the enthusiasm a lap dog has for its master, I don’t know. But, watching Dornik relentlessly attack Phil Johnson with a steady flock of two or three angry, heckling women has me moderately annoyed.
Whatever happens in the Twittersphere takes time to get to me. I haven’t been on Twitter in (about) two years or more. I had to request a password from P&P’s editor to even be able to see what has been said in recent weeks regarding this controversy. Twitter is basically a cesspool, a gutter, a cloaca of uncleanliness that, frankly, hasn’t brought me anything but trouble. Regardless of my distance from the medium, I was still hearing about Brannon Howse’s new fawner and footman who was tweeting incessant accusations and insult towards Phil Johnson. I shouldn’t have looked.
Speaking as a representative of the dark recesses of Internet-Land known as discernment blogging, I take except with Dornik’s approach to Phil Johnson on several points, which I will elucidate here before crawling back into my hole and ignoring the weeping and gnashing of teeth that will follow.
First, Dornik has repeatedly attacked Phil’s pithy directness in social media while – himself – being obnoxiously caustic and self-unaware. Phil is blunt. This is why we love him. This is why everyone should at least – on some level – appreciate him. Evangelical leaders typically shroud their actual opinions in six layers of nuance and cloak it in a veil of diplomacy. Phil is blunt, God bless him.
The reason it is so uncouth for a “discernment guy” to make such a screaming, blathering complaint about directness or bluntness is because – as a discernment guy – you HAVE to likewise be direct and blunt. Dornik doesn’t realize it because he’s been on the block for three straight minutes now (and will last about that much longer), but the most obnoxious part of the job is the endless escort of tone police, issuing citations and trying to take you into custody. For a “discernment guy,” Dornik should realize, this is a “live by the sword die by the sword” type situation. Complaining about tone, if you hope to call out false doctrine, is to metaphorically stab yourself in the face.
Secondly, Dornik has repeatedly taken cheap shots at Phil based upon what is – speaking as a pastor – a garbage reason to take cheap shots. Virtually everything Phil has had to say in his back-and-forth volley with him has led Dornik to say something along the lines of, “And he’s a pastor?!” I do not know what kind of Reverend LoveJoy, Ned Flanders-type expectation Dornik has for the pastorate, and I don’t know what kind of home church or youth pastor experience Dornik himself may have, but it’s a low-blow cheap trick to attempt to engage in debate with an elder on one hand and then incessantly complain he is direct with you on the other. I’ve seen this strategy for years, and usually engaged in by the seeker-friendly, purpose driven pastors with Open Minds, Open Hearts and Open Doors. This is the equivalent of stealing Aaron’s rod or cutting Samson’s hair. Demanding a double-standard – that you can be aggressive but they cannot be – is beneath Christian discourse and intellectual honesty.
Third, continuing along these lines, the victim signaling of Dornik is grotesque. Phil made a comment at some point in a Twitter thread about screeching and silly women (probably because Twitter is full of screeching and silly women). Dornik then became the sensitive male archetype we all tried to be in high school, taking on the cause of women everywhere while he painted Phil as “hating Christian women.” Effectively letting out a cat whistle for the Survivor Blog Gals, sending up the bat signal of victimhood, Dornik did what is beneath any legitimate polemicist; he stooped to the demands of political correctness and stoked the snowflakes to agitation. In this line of work you never, ever go full snowflake.
Apparently oblivious to the reality that Paul himself used the term “silly women” – that to which Phil obviously referred in 2 Timothy 3:6 – Dornik argued that Paul would never have referred to women that way. Instead of grasping that Phil was against screeching and silly women, Dornik contrived this as an attack on **all** women, thereby being blissfully unaware that he himself was painting with a broad brush and promoting the very stereotype he was accusing of Phil.
Fourth, if you desire to do discernment work, you don’t work for opportunities and highest bidders. I’ve more scars on my soul for living by that ethos than I care to count. In this calling, you’re nobody’s lap dog. You may have some level of loyalties with other men, but you do not work for them. Watching Abendroth and Peters be shoved out the door only to be replaced by someone more willing to attack other-wise innocent men (speaking of those, who like Phil, would disagree with James White but not anathematize him), is nauseating.
Finally, and this is advice for Dornik, you are replaceable. When the sole purpose of your promotion is being useful to the Grand Wizard who promoted you, you will one day outlive your usefulness. You had best make sure that when you criticize you do it impartially and with integrity. And trust me, those tactics you use will one day be used on you.
– JD Hall