Saturday, January 19, 2008

critique of critique

I've been asked to reply to a specific post by Ken Silva. I claim Silva is under the influence of Satan in his attack on other believers and I was asked to support that since my statement appears to be the same type of general accusation as I say Silva does. I will not make this an on-going debate but thought it best to reply via a stand alone post. I considered a personal email but think some others may get a better glimpse into my mind/heart if I do it this way. I do this at risk of turning this into a battle. If the fallout from readers in general gets ugly, I will likely just not reply further.

My friend Daniel writes:
I am still not so sure about your continual attack on people like Pastor Ken. If they are wrong, can't you point out specifically where they are wrong, instead of just blanket condemnation? FOr example, let's take this as an example. Do you have any problems with it? If so, what are they?

First, I am no defender of Doug Pagitt. I think that if he literally believes some of the words he is using, then he is in trouble. If he doesn't, then he should learn to do better. But as my friend Randy no-blog said, "Once you decide you hate your wife, nothing she does is right." So for this analysis, let's put aside preconceived ideas of Silva and Pagitt and the other players.

Second, I do not see my general remarks as continual. I think the weight of Silva's remarks qualify as continual and I do not see my blog and comments as having the frequency or emotion that his carry. I blog from time to time addressing concerns but I try to be very specific and I try to ensure that does not become my focus (although I failed at that during the Pyromaniac PoMotivator era).

With those general remarks behind, now to the specific post by Ken Silva. I think Doug Pagitt made a poor showing in the interview referenced by MacArthur and I commented on that here. Bottom line for me, Pagitt failed to answer a direct question. At the same time, I was not impressed with Todd Friel, the interviewer. I found his question to be poorly framed and it took a lot before he relinquished and posed it better. His persistence indicates he may be holding on to some typical yet incomplete theology held by many Christians. Pagitt was right to press that point. In the end however Friel got there and I do not think Pagitt responded in kind. In his effort to make his point, Pagitt missed an opportunity to clarify the important concept he was being asked about because "it wasn't interesting to him." I think that was foolish ... but I don't think it qualifies him as a heretic worthy of disdain.

In Ken Silva's post, MacArthur is quoted as saying Pagitt is a Universalist which I understand is a person who believes that all humankind will eventually be saved. Is this what Pagitt is? MacArthur said that "What he [Pagitt] was saying is real simple. ... we’re all going to end up in this wonderful, warm and fuzzy relationship with God." Listen again and tell me if that is what Pagitt said. I did not hear that the first times I listened to the interview nor now. I think Pagitt said that in the final analysis we each are going to have to deal with God on His terms rather than our religious affiliation. He did not say it was going to be all good, he simply resisted the conversation about literal locations called heaven and hell. But MacArthur would have you think Pagitt means everyone will be ok and that is what Silva represented as truth. The problem is that this is not what Pagitt said and none of us can know what he meant because he was focused on a different point.

Silva then quotes DeWaay's disparaging remark about Pagitt. While the sentiment may be true from DeWaay's perspective, does it mean Pagitt has committed some error as Silva would have you believe? What is the issue? Where is the heresy? We do not know from Silva's writing, we are just influenced to think negatively toward Pagitt. This is not Christ-like.

Now we get to some actual quotes. Silva writes:

Ingrid Schlueter: So what you’re saying is that the question of whether the Gospel exists in other religions is a thrilling question that we should be asking.
Doug Pagitt: I think it’s the biblical question. Yes, I think it’s the right biblical question. I think, I find that you couldn’t read the New Testament without that question being raised and without the answers to it being the answers that we should be paying to; which is there is no culture or religion which holds God in complete isolation or purity. (15:25-15:56)

That doesn't sound good for Pagitt but Silva left off that Pagitt went on to say:
There is always the act of the Spirit outside of our religious systems. That's true of ... all religions. There is nobody who should be able to say that what we believe is the end of the story and that there is nothing else that God can contribute through people in the world. Or that there is nothing else that God is ever going to do in the world. That is a serious overstatement. There is no Christian expression which is not also a cultural expression. We do not have a culturally neutral Christianity. So what we have in any system of belief ... we are now engaged in a culturally invented Christianity which has its limitations.

As in the other interview I critiqued, I struggle with how Pagitt comes at this. He is challenging some good paradigms, i.e., God is at work throughout the world not simply in the boxes we build for Him. If God shows up to do something wonderful in the Hindu (or whatever community) wouldn't we want to be available to those people? Wouldn't we want to be open to His leading to go to them?

And, because there is a false religion, does that mean that everything about the people and the culture in those religions are all bad? Is the sinner next door to you all bad? In once sense yes and in another sense no. I recommend that at least in the context of the way you interact with your neighbor, no. You should not adapt or celebrate his faith, it is false. But not all the he does is evil.

Secondly, isn't Pagitt correct that we package our Christianity based on our culture? As one who travels the world, I get to see first hand that Christians everywhere are not alike in all that one may easily consider part of the Christian tradition. It isn't really Christian at all, it is culture creeping into our tradition. There is that which we must agree is fundamental but quite a bit that we do in Christendom is simple baggage we carry in and we ought not delude ourselves into thinking that our personal box is pure Scripture.

I struggle to know what Pagitt is saying but it is clear that these people have evaluated him on the preconceived notion that they have of him. And then Silva has only disclosed the portions of conversation to support his claim and not the whole conversation which at least reveals this isn't simple black and white.

The next excerpt from the interview is equally misleading.

Ingrid Schlueter: So we could interpret what you’re saying as how is God at work; how is the Gospel present within Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism—all of the different religions of the world.
Doug Pagitt: Yeah, for sure because—I mean—Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, those are not—I me—they are the right way to say ‘em. They are “isms,”right; so they are a school of thought, and they are also embedded in a particular cultural setting. And so I think someone could say, “yes, I can see how God—how God is expressed, talked about, understood, through these schools of thought.” Which I find to be quite helpful and they’re not all in contrast with my Christianity. (17:05-17:47)

Again, Silva leaves off this important next statement by Pagitt.

And I could find other parts of those same systems that I think I could say I don't think that is at all the way God operates in the world. But I find that very same thing inside the Christian context.

Within Christendom there are some folks that are diametrically opposed and might it be possible that God is at work in both camps (or neither)? Continuationists versus Cessationists? Calvinists versus Arminians? How can we pretend that simply because we wear the badge Christian that all we speak is truth? Pagitt is simply challenging our way of thinking.

Is Pagitt saying as you are led to believe? He acknowledges clearly that there is false teaching in these other systems. He just isn't willing to say every word that flows from someone in another culture is false. Is he wrong? Is he a heretic? I do not think so based on this. But I do think he has been misrepresented.
So unless Pagitt means what he didn't say, where is the heresy? It is only there by intentional inference on the part of MacArthur, Schlueter, Silva, et al. If that is a true statement, who is promoting error? Silva or Pagitt? On this basis I think Silva is a deceiver and a divider.

Bottom line - my friend reached back several months and picked an article that I had to work hark at. In spite of what I said above, I also struggle with Doug Pagitt. But he is not the topic so let's look at some other more recent examples of Silva's deception.

Two days ago, An ecumenical fairytale by Silva ... doesn't say anything except to draw your attention to another piece written by Silva named the same An ecumenical fairytale ... simple mockery with no reference to some real person saying some real anything that can be argued either way. I only see general slander motivated by a heart set on deception and division.
But it is linked to another piece written also by written by Silva but almost 2 years ago. Was there no new information to critique since then? Regardless, let's see what he says then.

First a general observation, as with the majority of Silva's work, the references are all to other things written by Silva himself. I couldn't read the whole thing. It just don't have time for such venom. It goes on and on with accusation but at least as far as I read it did not cite a specific from someone that Silva then points out the error.

Well, except one where Silva says that Rick Warren is under the influence of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. What is the evidence? Rick Warren says, "I've only met Robert Schuller twice, I believe. I've never had a one-on-one conversation with him. Not once. So how do I even know him?" He added that he's never even read a book by Peale.

Or here's another by Silva from three days ago, Rob Bell Your Liberalism Is Showing. Here Silva quotes Bob DeWaay again disparaging the emerging church but again not providing any information for that accusation. He then quotes Rob Bell but falsely claims a number of other people could have said what Bell said. How is that responsible and Christ-like?

What did Bell say?

Jesus was killed because of how He confronted a particular socioeconomic religious system. He’s a first-century Galilean revolutionary who proclaimed a Kingdom other than the kingdom of Herod,

Silva is correct. But again, he attacks someone, here Bell, for something that is taken out of context. Rob Bell was speaking specifically about why Mars Hill strives to be nonpartisan. Not because Bell doesn't understand that it was God's will as Silva would lead you to think.

Here is all that Bell said.

We refer to ourselves [at Mars Hill] as aggressively nonpartisan, so we don’t engage in partisan politics in terms of “Here’s whom you should vote for; here’s whom you should support.” We do acknowledge that the Gospel has deeply political edges to it, but that should not surprise anyone. Jesus was killed because of how He confronted a particular socioeconomic religious system. He’s a first-century Galilean revolutionary who proclaimed a Kingdom other than the kingdom of Herod, so the Gospel does have political edges.

The interest is in giving voice to people who have no voice and using all of our abundance and wealth and resources on behalf of those who have a shortage. Some of our pastors had a meeting with the mayor of [Grand Rapids], which was simply for the purpose of asking who the most forgotten and the most hurting in our city are. They mayor had several very specific answers, and so we’ve actually reorganized a whole area of our church, putting the majority of our efforts around trying to take care of the worst problems in our city. I don’t know if you would say that’s political or not, even though it involved meeting with the mayor, but if Jesus comes to town and things don’t get better, then we have to ask some hard questions.

Here is more that he said.

I would say that we have a historic opportunity in that all truth belongs to God. It is not owned by the Republicans. It is not owned by the Democrats. It is not owned by the liberals. It is not owned by the conservatives. All truth belongs to God. And God has set us free in Christ.

Our culture worships at the altar of duality. Everything that comes to people - ‘Is it this, or is it this? Is it conservative or is it liberal? It it modern or post-modern? Is it emergent or is it non-emerging?’ And the Kingdom of God - “how God wants things” - transcends whatever divisions our culture has created.

We, as a church, will remain aggressively non-partisan. The gospel has political edges to it. So when a person says ‘oh, no, Jesus just came for the personal’ - [I say] ‘then why did they kill him’? There were deep political edges that had implications.

The environment and our care of the earth is not a Democratic party issue. It is a Genesis 1 issue. If I met a woman today who is pregnant and thinking about terminating that pregnancy, I would introduce her to about ten women in our congregation who would tell her their stories, and I say ‘we are desperate for you to not make that choice.’ That is not a Republican issue. That is an issue of ’we want to affirm life, and we believe mistakes and redemption become opportunities for grace’. So - any side that wants to say ‘we own this issue’ - if it’s true you only own that because you borrowed that from God.

I’ve had people say - ‘well, if you’re saying that, you must be against the President’, or ‘if you’re saying that, you must be for him’. I’m trying to articulate the way of Jesus, and I don’t really care who is for it or against it - I just want to get the word out so that everyone can do it. If you take the gospel seriously, it will always feel lik you are flirting with various political parties, because it is not surprising that different groups would grasp different dimensions of God’s truth. ’Well, if you’re advocating for the poor, that seems to be a Democratic thing’, or ‘if you’re advocating micro-finance that seems capitalistic - is that a Republican thing?’ As far as we know, it’s true and it doesn’t belong to anybody, because it belongs to God.

Can we be a church that transcends all of the ways our culture tries to divide us? What we are trying to do here at Mars Hill is to say that there is a truth that is not the swinging of the pendulum. It is the kingdom of God and it transcends all of the ways we try to divide ourselves. The beautiful thing here is that truth and love seem to be winning. I would beg this community to consider that when Jesus is fully on display, it won’t fit ANY of your boxes, so just toss your boxes out now. I am only trying to come from one perspective: Jesus. NOBODY will co-opt this stage or this community or hijack the agenda, which is that jesus would be put on display for the whole world to see.

I would beg this community to consider that what we are doing here is inviting ourselves to be a part of something our culture has not seen: ‘OK, it’s nice that you have that disagreement, and it’s nice that you have that ‘thing’, but let’s take communion together and then let us break ourselves open and pour ourselves out for the world. So, I would beg our community to have no fear. There is nothing to fear - Jesus can be trusted, so let’s go…

So regarding who killed Jesus why, there are a number of answers depending on the context of the question. But that is not what is important to Silva.

Let's do one more since it's easy and I am making a serious accusation. Go back just another day and we find, Cultural Architect: Why Churches are Declining in America. The target this time is Erwin McManus who said;

A cutting-edge church leader known for his innovative ideas on reaching a post-modern generation for Christ contends the reason why churches are declining in America is because they are self-centered.

“My primary assessment would be because American Christians tend to be incredibly self-indulgent so they see the church as a place there for them to meet their needs and to express faith in a way that is meaningful for them,” said cultural architect Erwin McManus, lead pastor at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, to The Christian Post Monday.

“There is almost no genuine compassion or urgency about serving and reaching people who don’t know Christ,” he added.

Silva's critique:

Right; as if man-centered seeker sensitive emerging churches with lead pastors billing themselves as cultural architects are not exactly like this themselves.

Wait! Isn't what McManus saying true? Isn't the self-indulgence in American churches an issue? Isn't that one of the things Silva also takes issue with? So what is McManus saying that is wrong. Based on Silva's remark it seems it is only that it is McManus saying it and therefore McManus must be a hypocrite.

Or, perhaps McManus is fine and Silva is simply bent on deception and division - the work of the devil.

Ok - that's enough. This is way too long and not that important. I simply want to be clear, it is not in a casual frivolous way that I make the charge that I make. It is clear that certain writers have nothing in mind other than to disparage, divide, and deceive and this is not from God.


PuritanReformed said...

Hello Rick, thanks for the post. At least things should be clearer now. However, now I am faced with the same problem you face, ie should I email you personally or do you prefer me to reply on the blog itself? Or maybe you want me to arrange a possible interaction between you and Pastor Ken to sort out this state of affairs, if you are interested that is? =)

All I will say for now is that I see where you are getting at, but I don't think you are correct in some places, while in others you do have a point.

One thing I will most definitely say up front, however, is the remark about Rick Warren and Robert Schuller. Having researched into this area myself, and writing a book which discusses this part slightly, I can say that either Warren is lying or, most probably, he is technically correct (only met him twice, never had a one-on-one conversation), but that doesn't mean he was not influenced by Schuller. In other words, Warren is pulling a red herring before others to give the impression that he is not influenced by Robert Schuller. After all, I have never met MacArthur before, yet that does not mean that his works do not have an impact on my beliefs, right? With regards to Norman Vicent Peale, it is correct that Warren has not read a book by Peale. However, what Silva probably has in mind is that: Since Schuller is Peale's disciple, and Warren is influenced by Schuller with regards to the core teaching of "seeker-sensitivity" (in inverted commas to differentiate between this and the official codification into a fixed system of the same name by Bill Hybels), therefore Warren stands in the same line as Schuller and Peale, although Warren is correct that he has not read a single book by Peale.

So do tell me how you would prefer me to respond, and whether you would like to talk to Pastor Ken. =)

rick said...

Daniel - I think there are great men of God doing a fine job of living and preaching the Gospel while confronting error as necessary. At the same time there are men whom some believe are great men of God but their ministry is primarily one of exposing and confronting error.

I do not believe we are called to the latter. I'd like us to be men of the former type. It is wrong to ignore error - we have far too many who are not dealing with error but I think it is equally wrong to make that our 'ministry'.

It is on that base that I would like to not delve deeper into this topic. I wouldn't oppose it; but from here it seems that it would be quite time consuming and fruitless.

Using your example, let's say there is a Warren-Schuller-Peale link. Does that mean Warren is aware of that? Building on your point, I have talked with several friends about being MacArthurites who initially denied it for all of the reasons you can imagine. In one sense, even I'm a MacArthurite. But would it be proper for me to go to a group clearly pre-disposed against MacArthur and introduce you as one of his? Would they be open to you? Would they know in what area he has influenced you in or would the presume it is all that they dislike about him? Is it possible that his influence is in A yet you have much good to speak regarding B which may have nothing to do with him but because of the association, you now have no audience?

I remember that this was a tactic against me. Because I am a disciple of Wimber and he was a Quaker I am therefore wrong. I didn't even know what a Quaker is. I would have denied being one. And certainly I am completely unaware of how whatever all that means negatively affects my ability to speak Biblical truth. Yet people have done just that.

MacArthur has helped me value Bible study. But to some of my Continuationist friends, if you introduce me as a student of MacArthur, you have now influenced them to discount me. That is not proper.

I see Silva doing this sort of thing. I see many others doing a fine job of saying "hey, here is what Pagitt said and that is not consistent with Biblical truth and here's why." Silva's bent is to not properly represent the other view, to do mass associations, to set-up scenarios where there is no chance of a positive outcome (e.g., the McManus example), etc.. I do not know how I would speak with him since there is such a broad range of issues and I simply have no relationship with him.

Again, it seems that it would take quite a lot of time and ultimately be fruitless.

I'd much prefer getting back to the business at hand which is the spreading of the Gospel.

PS - I will send you a personal email on some private follow-up you and I might do.

iggy said...


Great post.

I do have issue with some minor details that Doug states, but when some seem to want to overgeneralize and purposely misquote or twist his quotes, it is hard to be able to defend and critique Doug on a higher level... I feel at times I defend others to the point I can't them go to them with my own questions.

But, then we are talking of Ken Silva and Ingrid... I am noticing that there is a subtle stepping away from Ingrid already...

Sadly I see that Calvinists will accept some Arminians and not others. They will attack some fro becoming more "Catholic" but accept someone who believes in "baptismal regeneration". So, the watchdoggie has become as diverse as the emerging... and worse they seem more willing to compromise on things like baptismal regeneration in their focus on attacking who they both disagree with.

More and more I see the wisdom of the early John Wimber who did not answer his critics and was busy in the work of the Kingdom... so I am more and more in agreement with you on that as becoming more our focus...

Be blessed,