The fresh, crisp air of Alaska, normally in the mid 50’s, was quite the contrast to the current 102 degrees here in Phoenix, as I knew it would be. But, such joyous experiences only last so long, and now it is back to so many other projects and tasks. My next trip will take me up to speak in the chapel services of Moody Bible Institute in just a few weeks, something I am truly looking forward to.
So I start trying to catch up with what has been going on while I’m gone, and once again I am struck by the fact that some folks just can’t stand me, no matter what I am saying or doing. For the past few months I have been focused upon one particular topic, that being the debates with John Dominic Crossan and all the issues related to apologetic response to the most extreme forms of destructive criticism (i.e., the Jesus Seminar), such as the Synoptic field. And so I haven’t mentioned men like Timothy Enloe in quite some time (last notice was simply a long recounting of his own vitriolic posting on a Catholic web board), and it has been months since I dared type the name “Internet Monk” on this blog. Yet, while I was away defending the historicity of the gospels and the resurrection of Christ, both made either direct, or veiled, references to yours truly.
Others have already documented, once again, the inconsistencies and repetitive chanting endemic to Enloe’s materials. But one thing that keeps catching my attention in his voluminous chatter is his deep, deep insecurity regarding how to handle and interpret the Word of God. He obviously has no facility in the field, knows it, and hence has decided it is a bad thing to be trained to do so; and what is worse, he has decided that he will dishonestly misrepresent the study of exegesis in almost every single thing he writes as a cover for his own incapacities. No matter how many times he is exposed on this matter, he has adopted the mindset of men like Art Sippo, or Dave Hunt, both of whom likewise cover over their inability to deal with exegetical issues with the same straw-man hysterics. The shrill rhetoric he employs is so transparently fallacious it is no wonder he only uses it in contexts where he knows he is in friendly company: you will never see Enloe facing myself or Eric Svendsen or David King or anyone else in public. This kind of bravado only exists behind a keyboard that is located in the wilderness of Idaho:
The reformers were not men who, like many of our apologetical luminaries today, went out and got themselves seminary educated (complete with a quantum-mechanics level understanding of the workings of Greek participles and prepositions) and then sat down at their desks, learned to pretend to be able to consciously divorce their minds from all linguistic and cultural factors which had made them what they were, and then “just” exegeted the “plain” Scriptures without anything being “added” to the text–resulting in a neat package of wonderfully “clear” biblical insight that happened to exhibit a (nearly) one-to-one correspondence with the uncontaminated purity of the primitive Church. Why do we find Calvin approvingly citing the excellent evangelical qualities of Bernard of Clairvaux? Why does he claim, following the ancient tradition originating with Gregory I, bishop of Rome from 590-604, that the first four General Councils were full of nothing but the pure doctrine of the Scriptures? Why do so many of the Protestant reformers’s arguments sound like many Medieval precedents? Simple. Because the Protestant reformation was not what the Modern Evangelical worldview claims it was.
Evidently Mr. Enloe is not up on his participles these days, on the quantum level, or any other. And he well knows that no one sits down and “pretends” anything at all: to do what Mr. Enloe obviously can’t is to recognize the influence of one’s presuppositions and culture and to purposefully cast a strong light upon them for the very reason of being able to come to understand the intention of the author in his original context so that one can make the connection to the current context in the form of application. That is what teachers in the church are called to do—Mr. Enloe hasn’t been called to do that, but he sure is quick to attack those who have.
Now, I’d try to defend myself from the rest of these cavils, but the fact of the matter is, no student of mine who has ever taken (and hopefully passed) a church history class I taught could possibly begin to recognize the caricature Enloe presents, so, why should I bother? Those who know me know Enloe is being deceptive; those who do not will not care what I say in response anyway, so…what is the use? The older I get, the more experience the Lord grants me in ministry, the less I am concerned about such things. Some folks are just beyond rational dialogue, so the only reason to even note their words is if there is a greater good to be accomplished.
Now, the next name I find addressing me directly is one I haven’t uttered in a long while simply because the last time I did so he blew a proverbial fuse. I refer to iMonk, the Internet Monk, yes, Michael Spencer. OK, there, I got past typing the name. It will get easier from here, I’m sure. Back in April someone informed me that Mr. Spencer–who I did not know then, do not know now, and probably will not know in the foreseeable future–had made some comments regarding me. OK, well, hey, I write in public, publish in public, do radio and webcasting in public, debate in public, preach in public, etc., so, fair is fair. So I went over, looked around, and found an article that was relevant to the audience I seek to edify, one in which Spencer explains why he isn’t “like” me. And I wrote a two-part response. Here they are: one, two. If you read it you will see it is not some nasty disemboweling of Mr. Spencer. In fact, in comparison to the vast majority of discussion in the blogosphere, it is milk toast. Downright friendly. Contains personal elements, seeks to open dialogue, etc. and etc.
Well, the response was Three Mile Island in the Boar’s Head Tavern. Utter melt-down. Pure “I’ve been attacked! I’m a victim!” I had never seen anything quite like it. How dare I point out his inconsistencies, and how dare I defend my own position! Evidently, only cyber clerics can address these issues, the rest of us are to sit silently and learn. IM shut down his blog, some kind of electronic martyrdom, I guess–just without the permanent results. I did not get it then, I surely don’t get it today, either. But I got the message loud and clear: IM is a guy writing in a forum that requires far more ability to take criticism and response than he currently possesses, therefore, to avoid unnecessary embarrassment regarding the behavior of a grown man in a public forum, leave him alone. Of course, the thought going with that is, “And maybe he will leave you alone, too, and all will be well.”
And so I was just a bit surprised to find him mentioning me yet once again in a less than favorable light. On 9/1 he posted, in explaining how he became a “pariah” in the Reformed blogosphere,
#3 I don’t like James White.
Let me be really clear on this one, because it comes up a lot and chances are the mention of his name will get me back on the autopsy table.
I had never read a book by James White or visited his web site for more than a momentary glance when he picked up “I’m not like you” and carved it up like a thin sliced ham in several very long posts over three days in April of this year. The things White wrote about me, my ministry, my school, my church, my personality and my life were so out of the blue that I almost quit blogging on the spot. It was a “drive by experience” like none I’d ever been through. I’ve never read anyone, before or since, who tore another blogger apart line by line with such obvious relish.
What prompted this? Did I do a comic book? Nope. Pope John Paul II died, and Tim Challies posted a comment from White that said people who were talking about the dead pope as a great Christian were wrong, because he wasn’t a Christian. I reposted this, with a comment, pointing out White as a typical reformed teacher who did not believe JPII was a Christian. I said that I thought his assessment was pretty cold on such short notice.
That was it. I assume that was all true, I didn’t call any nasty names or make any degrading comments.
Well, Katie….bar the door.
For the next week, White carved me up like a turkey. White is an excellent writer and a smart guy, and he tore me apart. He denounced me as liberal, postmodern, unfit for ministry, an embarrassment, mentally ill, etc. Did I react to this? Uh….yeah. I did, as best I could. I shut down IM. I said “Ouch” a lot. I whined a bit.
The real problem erupted when fans of White (not White and not at his request) began dominating the BHT comments, leading those comments to be permanently shut down. Later, some of those same fans went to extremes that I will not repeat, but that were scary and harassing. At least one of these people continues to send profane and abusive material to me and others. (I want to be very clear that White had nothing to do with any of those people, as far as I know, though apparently, I am far from the only one to get the same treatment. I don’t think my fans are quite as devoted.)
Do I like James White? No. He likes people who I like, and who like me and know him, but the biggest struggle I have in my life as a Christian right now is what is in my heart towards James White. I deal with it daily and it grieves me. I wish we could sit down and work it out, but I don’t know what I would say and I don’t really want to have to deal with the emotions of the whole episode. I support White in much of what he does, and I know he is a good and decent man. But I’m still reeling.
OK, let’s get the simple untruths out of the way first. Read my replies. I carved no one up: I replied in a friendly fashion consistent with my faith. I denounced no one, and as to where Mr. Spencer has gotten the idea that I said all these other things that an even semi-fair reading of my posts would indicate I did not, I cannot begin to imagine. The fact is that the man has never interacted with what I did write, but simply exploded at the existence of a response at all, and has consistently caricatured it and misrepresented it. He will move a long way toward helping himself by first facing the reality of the nature of the materials he has misrepresented (and ignored) for so long. You can’t get past something when you refuse to deal with it honestly.
Next, I have no idea who “White fans” are. Almost any conservative Reformed person would take the position I did, hence, they really do not have to be “White fans” to comment on his negative comments concerning those who are “Reformed.” Evidently, if other folks have beliefs similar to mine, and they likewise comment on Mr. Spencer’s viewpoints, this reflects on me as well. To say maintaining that kind of view of folks results in a real mess is a bit of an understatement. I am glad he notes I have nothing to do with anyone who harasses him, but if that is the case, then why include this in a section about why he dislikes me? But most troubling is this:
…the biggest struggle I have in my life as a Christian right now is what is in my heart towards James White. I deal with it daily and it grieves me. I wish we could sit down and work it out, but I don’t know what I would say and I don’t really want to have to deal with the emotions of the whole episode.
When I hear someone saying that the biggest struggle they have in their Christian life is the attitude in their heart toward someone they do not know, have never met, and whose sole sin was responding to his own negative article aimed at that other person’s faith (and that with humor and personal commentary and the like), that is profoundly disturbing. I’m a nobody. I do not matter. Anyone who would waste precious hours and days of life obsessing about someone who writes books, does debates, teaches, and otherwise has had the very slightest contact with you must be profoundly unhappy for many other reasons that are not at all reflected here.
Mr. Spencer, please allow me to address you directly. I do not know why you have chosen to so completely misread my attempt to respond to your attack upon my faith back in April. I do not know why you chose to take a very friendly, very personal set of replies to you as an “autopsy” and to mischaracterize them as a frontal assault against aspects of your life I never even thought of, let alone included in my replies. If I were the kind of person who takes offense with the ease, it seems, that you do, I could have very easily, and far more honestly, screamed at your response to me and that of your “fans” as well (who were more than happy to send nastigrams my direction, I assure you). But all of that history aside, sir, I must confess that to discover that your heart-attitude toward me, a man you have never met, never interacted with, and about whom you quite simply know almost nothing, is your greatest struggle in your life as a Christian, truly troubles me. Such should not be. It is simply wrong. Please be assured, I do not return your feelings. How could I? I don’t know you. I do not hold such feelings in my heart for people I do not know and with whom I have had not the slightest personal interaction. I do not invest any time at all in pondering what you think about me, and I truly do not believe it worth your time to worry about me at all. Let me uncomplicate your life: stop thinking about me. Move on. Far more important things in life, don’t you think? The next generation is stewing in a cesspool of humanism and hopelessness…shouldn’t you be more concerned about such things than about disliking me? I’m not worth your effort, I assure you. Please, move on. I do not wish to see you unhappy.