Archive for April 27th, 2010

(or Ricky Bobby becomes a theologian )

In case you were not aware, pastor/author Francis Chan is stepping down later this year after a decade and a half as teaching pastor of Cornerstone Church. This video gives a short description of the decision. It’s also a bit amusing, as the guy who was interviewing Chan had no idea what was coming. Watch his face in the first few minutes.

There’s a longer video here — as Chan addresses his congregation regarding the decision.

Now, of those who know who Chan is, there are probably very few who didn’t already know about this transition. So why bring it up, anyway? Well, a sure sign that you’re getting older is that you have déjà vu more often (after all, if there’s “nothing new under the sun”, you’re bound to get more re-runs the longer that you’re on the planet). And I had a massive, two-fold case of it recently.

Piper-esque déjà vu

While some of the reaction to Chan’s decision has been positive — “Wow, rock on, bro; sounds like God is doing some serious stuff in your heart and life” — there has been other reaction that has been quite negative. And the negative reaction isn’t just coming from the far-right fringe bloggers who only care about attaching labels and don’t give a rat’s glutes as to the actual veracity of what Chan writes and teaches. Rather, it’s coming from writers who, while further to the right than I am, I would consider to be rational and capable of conversation with those with whom they disagree. While it’s not clear in some cases, many of these bloggers certainly seem to be people who like/admire Chan. As I said recently about the crucifixion of John Piper, with friends like these …

Actually, a lot of the hub-bub surrounding Chan is quite reminiscent of the firestorm around Piper. And much of the same reasoning that I discussed in my last post about Piper applies here as well. For instance, while Chan’s track record is not as extensive as Piper’s — and it looks like it may never be, at least publicly, as God takes Chan off the radar — it’s still pretty clear that the guy has lapped me (and probably you) a few times spiritually. And while (again) no one gets carte blanche, I’m thinking that a Christian brother needs to be given at least a tiny bit of the benefit of the doubt.

Since the Chan issue has no whipping-boy (a la Warren in the Piper issue), there are some points of divergence in the criticism. One of them seems to be an appeal to cessationism. Now while I think it’s a wrong viewpoint, I don’t have a major beef with cessationism. Unfortunately, in most cases surrounding the criticism of Chan, it’s tied to something with which I do have a major beef.

Many of the writers criticizing Chan would claim to believe in sola Scriptura, and if that’s what they truly believed, I would agree with them. But what they are actually espousing is not sola Scriptura (the belief that Scripture is the highest and ultimate guide for the Christian’s life), but solo Scriptura (the belief that Scripture is the only guide for the Christian’s life). Sola places things like counsel from other Christians, teachings, and guidance by the Spirit on a lower level than Scripture. Solo dismisses them entirely.

Now I would imagine that the writers who espouse solo would argue that that’s not what they’re saying. But when Chan specifically states that he’s been diligently searching the Scripture to be sure that this decision aligns with God’s Word, there are only two conclusions at which we can arrive: (1) the aforementioned critics are ignorant of Chan’s statement* or (2) the aforementioned critics are genuinely espousing solo Scriptura. If the latter is true, then — to be intellectually honest and consistent with their beliefs — they need to stop attending church immediately (and throw out chunks of the Bible, to boot).

(And yes, I recognize the conflict of a believer in solo Scriptura throwing out chunks of Scripture. This is simply illustrative of the lunacy of such a belief.)

One other thought on this. I defy anyone to watch this two-minute video of Chan and tell me that this is not a man who takes the Bible very seriously.

Bobby-esque déjà vu

In Talladega Nights**, there is a conversation between Ricky Bobby and his team’s owner, Larry Dennit Jr., after Bobby has won a race. Dennit chides him on the “obscene gesture” that Bobby made, specifically as it relates to the NASCAR points and sponsorship dollars that it will cost them. The following exchange ensues:

Bobby: With all due respect, Mr Dennit, I had no idea you’d gotten experimental surgery to have your [censored] removed.

Dennit (indignantly): What did you say?

Bobby: Whoa, whoa! I said it “with all due respect”!

Dennit: That doesn’t mean you get to say whatever you want to say to me.

Bobby: It sure as heck does! It’s in the Geneva Convention. Look it up!

(The censored word refers to a portion of the anatomy often attributed to manliness.)

While the criticism of Chan and its theological ramifications are quite disturbing, I find it down-right terrifying that some of Chan’s critics are employing the same logic as Ricky Bobby. They might not use the phrase “with all due respect”, but they often employ some radical, wild-eyed (and usually generic) example, quickly followed by “I’m not saying this about Chan, but …”

Puhleeeeeze, Sparky. If you’re not saying it about Chan, then why even bring it up in a blog post that’s all about criticizing his decision? I’ve looked it up. The Geneva Convention does not allow you to make crazy accusations about mythical third parties in the midst of a criticism of a real person, but preempt any cry of “foul” by simply saying that your crazy accusation was not in any way related to the real person.

With all due respect, we’re not as stupid as you show yourself to be.

* I know for a fact that this is the case for one critic. He’s actually proud of his willful ignorance. Don’t confuse him with the facts; his mind’s made up.

** (not a movie I’d recommend, FWIW)

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