I’ve been doing polemics since about 2010. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, I’m corrected by checking my news feed. As I’ve said since at least 2012, quoting Spurgeon, our Modern Day Downgrade has us “going downhill at breakneck speed.” Part of what Pulpit & Pen does (in fact, most of what Pulpit & Pen does) is archive the Downgrade for the sake of posterity. Some pastor is entering the pulpit with a zip-line (link). Some church is putting in stripper poles (link). This megachurch built a baptistry with a confetti cannon (link) and that one is attacking expository preaching (link). This pastor is putting away his wife on a bus to go live at a shelter (link) and that evangelist is having one night stands that end with him shoving the abortion pill on the girls (link). You know, stuff like that. The goal is for evangelicals to get “woke,” as the kids say these days. In the end, it’s not really about the individual subjects of our reporting; it’s about our readership who we pray will wake up, look around, and figure out that things are even worse in evangelicalism than we claim.
We curate this daily Downgrade so people wake up and pay attention. Although some accuse us of using hyperbole or exaggeration, the reality is that the facts we present are undisputed and the situation is worse than what you see on the virtual pages in our publication. We can only cover a smidgen of what’s out there. Spurgeon’s Sword and the Trowel published this, and we think the parallels are striking:
Our solemn conviction is that things are much worse in many churches than they seem to be, and are rapidly tending downward. Read those newspapers which represent the Broad School of Dissent, and ask yourself, How much farther could they go? What doctrine remains to be abandoned? What other truth to be the object of contempt? A new religion has been initiated, which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese; and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty, palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching.
There is clearly a caste of evangelicalism that simply does not care to project itself as Biblically faithful. These are – generally speaking – the theological clown-hats you see on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, asking you explicitly to shut down your brain, stop thinking, and start feeling. These types don’t even feign orthodoxy; right thinking is wholly irrelevant to them. There are others in evangelicalism, however, who make a show of orthodoxy and others who honestly attempt to hold to some kind of doctrinal standards. And, for the most part, good on them. They are trying.
The unfortunate reality is that not everyone in evangelicalism who is guilty of sliding into Downgrade is jumping on the zip line. Some go more slowly than others. When we address these men – the ones who are either pretenders at being theologically astute or who in reality might actually be theologically serious (albeit with some problems that need correction) – this is when most of the hatred and vitriol is levied toward the Downgrade museum curators who are doing little more than documenting the errors and filing them accordingly.
“How dare you critique Seminary President, Danny Akin?” Well, he did an actual video promotion for an atheist organization (link).
“How dare you critique Seminary President, Albert Mohler?” Well, he hosted a filthy mouth and pot-smoking rapper to entertain kids at Southern Seminary (link).
“How dare you critique Seminary President, Paige Patterson?” Well, he enrolled a Muslim at his Christian Seminary as an “evangelism strategy” (link).
“How dare you critique Bill Graham?” Well, he said lots of heretical stuff, and here are some videos (link).
You get the point. Sacred cows make for expensive hamburgers, and when you’re the one grinding it, the cost can be astronomical. I don’t mind the heat. No matter what can be said, I’ve probably been called worse by better people. But, so long as I’m using the Rolex of Polemics Blogs to get all feely-emotional, let me tell you what bothers me the most of the criticism projected toward us.
The accusation of “lying” is one that grieves me deeply. It doesn’t grieve me deeply because there’s any ounce of truth in it. There is not, and I’d quadruple-dog dare someone to demonstrate anything Pulpit & Pen has printed that’s untrue. It grieves me deeply because that single accusation – perhaps better than any other – best demonstrates the Downgrade of our age and diagnoses our general problem: We are post-modernists, and post-modernism has invaded the modern evangelical mind like a mind-possessing parasite. Let me explain.
Post-modernism is the preeminent philosophy of our age and has been since the mid-twentieth century. When it comes to worldview, post-modernism is best defined as a denial of absolute truth. It is the single greatest bain of our existence, and regardless of how Christians have tried to anchor ourselves in the Word of God, for the vast majority of us, we are still children of our age. We have not heeded the admonition of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:17, to come out of the world and be separate. We have not taken seriously the Apostle’s instruction to take every thought captive unto God in 2 Corinthians 10:5. We have not obeyed his instruction to the Romans in Romans 12:2, to not be conformed to the world, but to have a mind that is renewed rather than corrupted by our age. We have not taken his instruction in Colossians 2:8 seriously, to not be led astray by vain philosophies built upon the traditions of men.
While many conservative Christians recognize that truth is absolute and ethics are not situational, we have systematically failed to recognize the extent that post-modernism has polluted our minds. It works like this…
When someone says, “You have lied,” almost without fail, they mean, “I don’t like what you said.” This has been such a regular annoyance in our work, that we had to publish the definition of lying, which we repeatedly post on threads where people make the accusation. I’ll give some examples.
When we posted links and videos to Billy Graham espousing unabashed Universalism and calling the Pope a saved believer, people said things like, “This is a lie!” When we posted Leighton Flowers – in his own words with VIDEO – saying that some could be saved even if they die before hearing the Gospel, he promptly took to Facebook to accuse us in no uncertain terms of “lying.” Again, we painstakingly point out that all we did was cite his own words, in context, verbatim, and provided video of what he said. When we exposed Greg Locke as putting away his wife, people accused us of “lying” even though he admitted to what we alleged, and it was further confirmed by other press outlets. The same could be said for Clayton Jennings. “Lies!,” they say. When we ask what those lies are, so that we can repent of them, we hear nothing besides (to summarize), “You guys are mean.”
“You have lied about James White and Jeff Durbin!” Why, we ask. The post-modernist responds, “You said Apologia had a booze fundraiser!” They did have a booze fundraiser. “Ah, but Durbin and White explained that it wasn’t a fundariser…it was just an event that raised funds.” Seriously. That was the depth of their argument, along with, “It was for a good cause,” as though that somehow changes the facts reported.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that people don’t know what a “lie” is because they don’t know what truth is. In post-modernism, truth is whatever you like. “What is your truth?” someone might ask. What they mean is, “What would you like to be true?” Or perhaps, “What do you prefer the most?” So then, if the truth is what you like, then a “lie” is whatever you don’t like. A lie is something that is demonstrably untrue. Opinions you don’t like do not fall into the realm of “lying.” Facts that you find inconvenient do not fall into the realm of “lying.” Not stating something – the way you would like us to – is not “lying.” Pulpit & Pen is not the public relations department of anyone who we might happen to criticize. We are not obligated to take words or deeds of any given person and spin the facts for them.
The reality is, we report facts and opinions. And our facts are not wrong. Our facts are stellar. This is why, without exception, when you ask someone with the “lying!” accusation what specifically we’ve stated is untrue, they then revert to complaining about how we have stated something or our opinion regarding that fact which may follow. It’s a sub-intellectual criticism and stained with post-modernism.
Or, what I find to be most annoying when we post someone’s words – in context and with video – and they go on to contradict themselves double-mindedly, and then accuse us of “lying” retroactively as though somehow contradicting themselves magically removes the video or audio or facts that we originally reported. But, for the post-modernist, “lying” is something they don’t like. Karen Swallow Prior is probably the greatest example of this tactic, as she changes her message according to the audience to whom she is speaking and has all the spinal fortitude of jello nailed to a wall. If she said the sky was purple, and we quoted her, she would then say the sky was blue and accuse us of misrepresenting her. It gets quite old.
If we’re to have any honesty in discourse and if the scales of balance in the evangelical Marketplace of Ideas is to have any fairness, we have to shed our Christian minds of all semblances of post-modern thinking. Truth is not malleable, and therefore, a lie is not whatever you fancy it to be. It grieves me that many of us have lost the ability to think critically, having our minds enslaved by the philosophies of our age.
[Contributed by JD Hall]