My Tone Offends You? It’s Mutual.

“Fire Breathing” is now considered a bad thing. It was once a compliment.

This ministry specializes in a field of theological study that is called polemics. This doctrinal discipline is as old as the church itself, and its contributions are seen in historic creeds that discern the differences between authentic and inauthentic Christian doctrine. Polemics has been used by God to clearly articulate important doctrines like the Holy Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and the Hypostatic Union.

The theological defense for this field of study is found in verses too multitudinous to list in exhaustive detail.

I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Romans 16:17).

Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh (Philippians 3:2).

Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15).

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse! (Galatians 1:8).

If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing…(1 Timothy 6:3-4).

As Ian Paisley pointed out in this sermon at Bob Jones University, the only way to know what is Christlike is to take it directly from the actions and words of Christ as recorded in the New Testament. Paisley was incensed (and rightly so) that he or other rebukers of evil would be called ‘unchristlike’ for their tone when they were more closely mirroring the language used in Scripture than their critics.

To quote Paisley:

Don’t run around whispering in their ears. ‘What you’ve heard in secret, shout from the housetops,’ that’s what the Lord says. Make no apology. Don’t clear your throat and blow your nose and say, ‘I’m terribly sorry I have to say these things.’ Nobody has any time for a man who makes apologies for what he’s saying. Say ‘I’m not gonna apologize, I’m not gonna take anything back, I’m gonna say what I’m gonna say and if every speech a lighting stroke and every word a thunder bolt, let it be. Get at it. Get at it. It’s not pleasant language, it’s Holy Ghost language, and I pray every day God would give me Holy Ghost language.

He continues:

[Regarding Elijah mocking the prophets of Ba’al] Imagine mocking them. If you did that today, this lovey-dovey crowd would say, ‘that’s not Christlike to mock them.’ Let me tell you something; the only standard of Christlikeness is revealed in the New Testment. Christlikeness is not what some old apostotate professor thinks Christ was like. Christlikeness is what God says about his son. And when the Lord went after the apostates of his day he didn’t say, ‘lovely liars, delightful serpents, beautiful sepluchers. No sir, he didn’t preach like that. I want to be like my Lord…he started his ministry by cleansing the temple.

Darn right, Paisley. You can see his sermon below.

But without fail, when we polemicize the theological error of especially popular theological leaders like Hillsong, Bethel Redding, IHOP, Beth Moore, Anne Voskamp, Sarah Young, Christine Caine, Todd White, Francis Chan, Joyce Meyer, or Joel Osteen, we will be lectured about ‘tone.’

Usually it’s a citation of 1 Corinthians 13:1:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

The post-modernist who understands subjective impressions of tone to be a matter of ‘love’ typically interpret this passage to refer to how we speak (as in, with enough sugar doused atop a rebuke, if a rebuke must be offered at all).

John Gill’s excellent commentary is astute on this point and demonstrates that 1 Corinthians 13:1 deals not with how one speaks, but why:

[This verse does not refer to] a charitable opinion of men as good men, let their principles and practices be what they will; for this is not true charity, but rather uncharitableness, and acting the most unkind part to their souls, to consider and caress them as such, when destruction and ruin are in all their ways; but the grace of love is here meant, even love to God, and love to Christ, and love to the saints, which is a grace implanted in regeneration by the Spirit of God;

We become pointless, loud, clangy gongs when our goal isn’t genuine love for God, love for the truth, or love for fellow Christians (like the ones misled by the above-listed false teachers). We must always include a call for repentance in our polemics and remember that the ultimate goal is the work of the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21).

If you think Gill’s commentary of 1 Corinthians 13:1 is off, consider the words inspired of the Holy Spirit which surely must be the standard of love (considering God is love – 1 John 4:8).

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” – Jesus (Matthew 23:27).

“You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” – Matthew 23:33

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – Jesus (John 8:44)

“Then John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” – John the Baptist (Luke 3:7)

“Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” – Paul, (Titus 1:12-13)

“As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!” – Paul (Galatians 5:12)

If 1 Corinthians 13:1 deals with how one speaks in terms of ‘tone,’ then it’s fair to say that Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul were noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. Does anyone want to make that argument?

Rather, even while using a harsh tone, Jesus, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul all spoke for the purpose of bringing repentance of the offender and warning those misled by the offender.

So for those who are upset at our tone when we deal with topics like false prophecy, idolatry, homosexuality, adultery, or heresy, let me go on record as saying, ‘Your tone offends me.’

While the Bible speaks of hell-fire and damnation, will you cry foul at our repetition of the Bible’s words? Will you accuse us of hate for repeating the words of Jesus? Will you tell us to quiet down, shut up, stop talking, or to stop holding back those stumbling toward the slaughter (Proverbs 24:11)?

I love you, but I hate your tone. And isn’t my subjective opinion just as valid as yours?

Last week I stood at an abortion clinic with my 13 year-old son whose boot heel happened to be over the Planned Parenthood property line. A professional murderer came out and threatened him with arrest. I responded appropriately, but assertively, and told her that considering she murders people for a living maybe she’s not the best person to judge boundaries. And yes, I said it loudly.

The man next to me, a Romanist standing with Rosary-holding women vainly repeating prayers (Matthew 6:7) to a fertility goddess they call ‘Mary’ admonished my tone.

That woman was a murderer, slaughtering children for a paycheck.

I hated his tone. I perceived it as effeminate, uncaring, apathetic, flaccid, unmanly, uncaring, and divorced from the reality that human beings were being slaughtered on the other side of the wall.

We now view “fire-breathing” to be an insult. The term comes from Revelation 11:5 in which God’s two prophets defend their message by fire proceeding from their mouth, “And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.

If only I could do that.

From now on, when you tell me you don’t like my tone, I’m going to reiterate that you probably wouldn’t like Jesus’ tone, either. Something about a millstone and suicide (Matthew 18:6) comes to mind.

So if you don’t like our tone, trust us; it’s mutual.


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