Labels and Assuming in Christianity: Can We Do Better?

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The dangers of assumptions and labeling in Christiandom

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I’ve been stewing about something for a while now and hope I can articulate my thoughts clearly. Today, I found an example that might give a window into what my brain has been stewing about.

 

Is Thabiti Anyabwile really promoting Rachel Held Evans . . . . or not?

Take a look at this tweet sent out by Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile in which he links to an article by Rachel Held Evans. Are you surprised that he linked to Rachel Held Evans?  I was.  My first thought was: cool! I think it’s great that he could look beyond their doctrinal differences and connect with Rachel on something  in her words that rings true for him.  But my second thought was:  “Uh-oh, what will his Gospel Coalition (TGC) friends think of this?”  Rachel Held Evans is not highly respected in TGC camp and I know that even linking to her blog in a positive way will likely send a message of “endorsement” to some people.

Sure enough, those comments came in:

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Is Julie Anne is in Peter Lumpkins’ camp  . . . . or not?

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The above tweet is from J.D. Hall. He tweeted this after I tweeted something about Peter Lumpkins. (My Twitter handle is @DefendtheSheep.) I don’t know much about Peter Lumpkins and his doctrinal background. I do know that he wrote an important document, a sex abuse resolution to submit to the Southern Baptist Convention. I would applaud that effort whether Lumpkins was Arminian, Calvinist, New Calvinist, or even a Muslim.  Yes, even a Muslim, because I care about protecting children from sex abuse.  You’ll notice that JD Hall (Pulpit and Pen) assumed that Lumpkins and I are on the same “side.” This is not the only tweet in which Hall has assumed we are good buddies.

 

Is Julie Anne an egalitarian . . . . or not?

A while back, I saw an article in which a Twitter follower of mine wrote an article based on one of my articles. He gave background info on me indicating I was an egalitarian. He also had me labeled in other ways which left me scratching my head, “say what?”  How could he come to those doctrinal conclusions about me when I hadn’t even come to those conclusions myself? After our discussion, he scrubbed the article.

 

Is Julie Anne’s friend, Michelle, a Calvinist . . . . .or not?

Earlier, I made a comment referring to my friend, Michelle. Michelle and her family were part of the church (BGBC and Pastor Chuck O’Neal) we came from. I mentioned that Michelle considered herself to be a Calvinist. She happened to read that comment and sent me a text saying that she didn’t consider herself to be Calvinist/Reformed, that she hadn’t read much of Calvin. Thankfully, she wasn’t offended by my comment, but I felt bad and confused. I texted her back and then called her on the phone. What had I misunderstood?

You see, a couple of years ago when their family visited our family, Michelle and I went for a walk and we had a conversation about Calvinism and TULIP, and I jokingly told her that I thought TULIP was ridiculous (I’m blunt like that). I told her that someone put together TULIP and right now it is the go-to “flower” for Calvinism and maybe next year it will be DAFFODIL as someone conjures up some other sort of system with the letters of D-A-F-F-O-D-I-L. Of course I was being facetious. I was correct in that Michelle had once identified herself as Calvinist, but now she’s not comfortable with that label. Boy, do I ever get that.

Michelle and I have gone back and forth on certain doctrinal issues,we sometimes differ in our interpretation of scripture, but we always come back to the fact that we both are in strong agreement on primary doctrinal issues. We love each other as sisters in Christ, we respect each other, and because of that, we can overlook secondary doctrinal differences. She probably won’t convince me to sway to her beliefs and I probably won’t convince her to sway to mine.  Sometimes it’s fun to debate and challenge each other, but in the end, we encourage each other towards Christ. Man, it’s great to have a friend like that.

Did David Robertson “cancel the Reformation” when he “sided” with Catholics?

My former pastor gets caught up in this black/white, all-or-nothing thinking, too.  You have to meet certain criteria for him to even associate with you. In this tweet, he calls out Scottish pastor David Robertson for aligning with Catholics based on a couple of short sentences taken out of context. This is a hot topic for O’Neal. If you like anyone who has any ministry work with Catholics, you are guilty of being in the wrong camp. O’Neal says in the tweet to listen to the 4-5 minute mark. I’d encourage you to continue listening past the 5-minute mark where Robertson explains his stance further.

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Is SSB promoting errant doctrines?

Sometimes people attempt to make things very rigid and black and white. Some of us even, including me, after having left an abusive black/white church situation can easily get caught into this trap. It’s happened here on the blog and I want to put this on the table for discussion.

Last week, I posted a very short video by N.T. Wright. I don’t know all of the doctrinal background of Wright. I posted it because many of us who were spiritually abused have gotten bogged down by errant doctrines, by man-made rules, or legalism. What I’ve heard expressed by SSB readers is a desire to go back to the foundation: a relationship with Jesus. That’s where I’m at, too. That’s what the video expressed to me. It brought me back to the importance of the gospels and of my relationship with Jesus, away from all of the spiritual clutter and confusion around me.

Some people did not like the video because they have put N.T. Wright’s teachings into a category of errant doctrine and so no matter what he says, it cannot be correct. Evidently I created quite a doctrinal ruckus causing some e-mails to be sent to others regarding my lack of judgment. Perhaps the e-mails said something like this: “Hey, did you see what JA just posted? I think she’s off her doctrinal rocker.”

I’m not quite sure how someone can decide that I’m off my doctrinal rocker as I haven’t really disclosed a lot about my doctrinal beliefs. I have a few “absolutely nots”  – ie, Patriarchy, but overall, as I have been recovering from my spiritually abusive church and residual mess, I have decided to put secondary doctrinal issues temporarily on the shelf. To me, it’s more important to save what is important and essential:  my relationship with Christ.

We are all unique individuals on a spiritual journey. For most of us, our spiritual journey has evolved or refined and sometimes we do not fit in nicely wrapped and labeled boxes.

Now – let me go a little further and relate it to SSB and the commenting here. I’ve been getting some feedback (both private a-mail and in blog comments) about how SSB is hostile towards Calvinists and there’s been criticism on how I moderate comments. There is concern that I let certain people who are labeled by some to have errant beliefs have more of a platform. The concern is that people might be influenced into wrong doctrinal beliefs. On the other side, there are those who say I let the anti-Calvinists give too much push back against Calvinists/Reformed and they dominate the blog creating a hostile environment for anyone who comes here wearing the label “Reformed or Calvinist.” There could be some truth to both of those conclusions and I’m sure that I do miss things in moderating.

That said, the primary goal of this blog is to be a refuge and encouragement for those who have suffered spiritual abuse. Now, I know there are some that will say, “but wait – – it is the Calvinist doctrine which is the heart of the abuse.”  I get why some would say that. I certainly have seen abuse in Calvinist churches. But instead of dealing with the big picture, I think it’s important to get to know people right where they are without the labels. And in order for us to do that, it’s important to make sure we know where the other person is coming from before diving in.

JA identified as Catholic, but was a Christian?

Can you stand just one more example?  Part of my childhood, I was raised Catholic. When I was in high school (a Catholic high school), I rededicated my life to Christ and devoured scripture. But I also considered myself Catholic.  But wait -you might ask – how can that be?  Well, I practiced my faith as closely to the Bible as I could, even while leading a “praise and worship team” at my Catholic church. If there was something within the Catholic tradition that did not line up with scripture, I didn’t hold to it.  For example, when I went up for communion at my Catholic church, I did not believe in Catholic transubstantiation. I took the wafer as a Protestant would take communion. The wafer did not represent the literal body and blood of Christ to me. When people around me said, “holy Mary, mother of God,” I didn’t recite that part. I rejected it.

You see, I was living in a home with Catholic parents. I felt it was my responsibility to honor my parents as best as I could while under the roof. I prayed about it and this is what I felt God telling me was acceptable for me.  I formally left the Catholic church on the day I got married and left my parents’ home. My point is that I labeled myself as a Catholic. If you were to assume I was a Catholic in the true sense of the word based on my label, there would have been misunderstanding. (A side note, not one of my immediate family is Catholic any more – they go to protestant churches.)

I think there are people who because they go to a Reformed church, label themselves as Calvinists, but may not be too clear on what that means. They may be following along because that’s where their husband brought them. It’s important that we dig deeper before assuming.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that labels do not adequately tell the whole picture, and sometimes they portray the wrong picture. Because I post a video about NT Wright,  doesn’t mean that I hold to Wright’s doctrine. When I retweet someone’s tweet, it might be just because I am in agreement with only the message on their tweet.  Because I work out with a Pilates DVD does not mean I endorse Yoga’s spiritual philosophies. We need to be very careful about judging others based on specific connections or language used.

But let me make this perfectly clear.  If John Piper or C.J. Mahaney or even Mark Driscoll were to tweet something like:

Cilantro should never be part of a cuisine, it should be identified as chief among weeds,” I will be the first person to stand behind that tweet and retweet it – maybe even a few times, and y’all are just going to have to deal with that.    🙂

 

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photo credit: Henna Sooq via photopin cc

166 comments on “Labels and Assuming in Christianity: Can We Do Better?

  1. I am glad all is now resolved!

    I don’t want to be one of those people who focuses on issues secondary to salvation. No one here agrees with everyone else on every point and that is okay. i hope none of my comments ever lead anyone to think that I do not consider then to be a brother or sister in Christ.

    I think what often triggers a reaction to Calvinism on my part and on the part of others is not so much what another Christian believes but a genuine concern that someone will conclude that they could not possibly be one of the elect and turn away from God. With so much prosperity ‘Gospel’ being preached today, I can easily see (in fact I have seen) people assuming that they are outside of God’s love because bad things have happened to them.

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  2. “Dustin: Others have stated it here better than I can. But don’t you and others that are up in armsendlessly about Caner realize it is way past time to move on. Surely there are more important tasks for Kingdom work you and the others can be doing with yours just as mine limited amount of time on this earth.

    One final thought. It is real easy to hope that others get what they deserve, but then if we take just a minute to examine our lives we are very glad we do not get what we deserve.”

    Hi Mot. I do a lot of different things that I would consider kingdom work. Probably most predominantly is my involvement with an abortion abolition group, my other writing and blogs, and my support of charities like world vision and the one closest to my heart- destiny rescue. Ergun stuff is minutes a week/month

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  3. “Dustin, it is now public information that Caner lied about his background. That means that anyone wanting to hire him knows this and anyone considering listening to him preach or reading something he wrote, will be informed. The government has stopped using him as a consultant on terrorism and wasting taxpayer money. As far as I am concerned, the goals of discernment blogging have been met.

    It would be desirable for him to repent and apologize. Will he do that? I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in Hades that he will do so any time soon; this is a man who doubled down and sued someone for telling the truth about him.

    Is there any chance that the Pulpit and Pen gang is going to get him to make a public apology? You must know that there is no chance at all! If it happens, it will likely be a combination of the efforts of the Holy Spirit and people who care about him, not your efforts.

    You need to examine your motives in continuing this campaign. It just looks bad to other Christians, like you are having fun calling out others and feeling superior to them without having a constructive goal that can be met.”

    Hi Marsha- sorry I haven’t gotten a chance to get back to this until now. Speaking only for myself [and not the P&P gang] I can tell you and that we have radically different goals. My goal isn’t to see him lose his job or have his consultant reputation taken away. I really meant it when I say that my goal is to see him repentant and saved. A twin and equally important goal is also to warn other Christians about him.

    You may think the latter unnecessary, but I don’t, as the fact is that there are tons of people who believe Ergun that he did not lie, and has no reason to apologize. Ergun has repeatedly said that he has been exonerated, and didn’t do anything wrong, and he has a cheer-leading section led by guys like Peter Lumpkins who are echoing those sentiments.

    If you look at my/our history with Ergun, we only really wrote about him when major events went down, notably him being the new president at BP, when he elected Peter Lumpkins to top communication guy, when he sued other Christians, when the judge tore him to shreds and ruled against him, when he became the headline speaker at a Christian camp, and when Jonny Hunt invited him to speak at his 20,000 member Church.

    From 2010 when he was exposed, to when he was elected to Pres, we never said anything. Its only when he made waves and started to emerge from his self-imposed slumber that we responded.

    So yeah, we’re probably past the point where we can be optimistic that he will repent. I hope and pray for it, but it’s doubtful that it’s going to happen.

    For that reason the SECONDARY GOAL HAS KICKED IN, which is warning people about him. You may think that people are sick of it and they already know it- but again, Jonny just had him preach at one of the biggest Churches in America, so what does that tell you? And honestly, I don’t see any biblical imperatives that say that after you warn the Church about someone 2-3 times, then it’s time to let it go and just leave him be. I don’t see Paul doing that and for that reason [among others] I see no reason to discontinue the warning.

    Does it look bad? Probably to some people, sure. Is there an end-game? I’m not convinced there needs to be. The end game would be conditional on the actions of Ergun. I understand that that may not sit well with people, and they may have a negative, visceral reaction to that, but how long do you oppose false doctrine and evil men? as long as they keep on preaching falsely and acting evilly.

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  4. “Julie Anne
    SEPTEMBER 14, 2014 @ 7:50 PM
    I agree with Marsha on this constant Caner badgering. Dustin, are you concerned that your ongoing behavior is making you look like a fool and could be a stumbling block to someone? Who wants to be a part of Christianity that behaves like this?”

    I think certain people will think my behavior foolish, sure. Some people may not understand or appreciate what we are doing, some people may be ignorant and hostile as a way of life, and some people may have thoughtful, legitimate concerns with my efforts to warn people about Ergun. I have no fear of man, but I do consider whether or not my behavior is reflecting well on Christ and his words. As this point I am convinced it is.

    I’m not trying to compare myself to Jesus, but if we look at the times that Jesus rebuked the pharisees and Sadducees,we don’t see a “Ok Jesus, you rebuked them publicly twice now. That’s enough. let the Holy spirit deal with them. Stop badgering them

    ” No. So long as they teach falsely and are given a platform to influenced, they will be resisted. I feel the same way about Ergun.

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  5. “I am not referring to Dustin here because I don’t know what his belief is in this area, but I have had some discussions with some who believe that some are born for salvation and the rest are born for damnation and nothing we do or say can change that or cause those born for salvation not to be saved. One person said to me: “I can be as rude as I want, it won’t change those who will be saved. God will still save them.” I see this a lost in the Westboro folks.”

    I believe God elects some people to be vessels of wrath, destined for dishonorable use, and some to be for vessels of mercy, designated for honorable use. This was done before they were born and before they knew right or wrong, yes.

    I would certainly reject the way you have described it, as that’s certainly not an accurate representation of what I would personally believe, or what the doctrines of grace teach.

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  6. I think certain people will think my behavior foolish, sure. Some people may not understand or appreciate what we are doing, some people may be ignorant and hostile as a way of life, and some people may have thoughtful, legitimate concerns with my efforts to warn people about Ergun. I have no fear of man, but I do consider whether or not my behavior is reflecting well on Christ and his words. As this point I am convinced it is.

    Dustin, I’m not sure if you are understanding me. Are you willing to accept the responsibility that some people may reject Christ because of what they see and identify as bad behavior? Frankly, the way you are going after Caner is kind of like how Westboro goes after certain groups of people. Christianity becomes repulsive to many because of the behavior. That is what I see you and P&P doing with the unending attacks on Caner.

    Furthermore, if you believe in Calvinism as you say, aren’t you making a mockery of the Sovereignty of God – by doing man’s works instead of allowing God to repay evil for evil? In other words, are you interfering with God’s and making an idol of yourself by saying YOUR work is more important rather than allowing God to punish evildoers?

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  7. Dustin:

    I think you have made up your mind about your work as it relates to Ergun. I’m sure you will continue to be as successful as you have to this point.

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  8. Julie Anne, I don’t believe that what I do in this situation will cause people to reject Christ. Certainly some people may not like it and they may think lesser of me and the God I serve because of it, but there are presuppositions which must be dispensed of.

    I’m wary of getting to any specific theological arguments about my views of soteriology, and prefer to just state what I believe. But, to answer your question, If they are already legitimately saved, I don’t believe they can become unsaved- certainly not by my actions. If they are not yet saved, then they are not a neutral party and are under the wrath of God for the sin and depravity that they were born with. For this reason they are already in a state of being disconnected from God and have already rejected him. Its difficult to know exactly what things will set people off and how they will view things. As a rule I try my best to be at peace with all men, as much as possible, though clearly i am imperfect at this and have sinned in my pursuit of this.

    In a similar vein, I frequently call someone like Joel Osteen a false teacher, or some other prosperity gospel teacher a heretic. I’m sure this upsets many people and I have had people make similar pleas and arguments that you have for Ergun, and would likewise reject their words of caution and rebuke.

    Like I said though, I know you believe it to be excessive, but I would suggest that that is your opinion and your conviction, but not something that I must bind my conscience to. I can think of many circumstances where a repeated, continued, sustained “calling attention to ,” of certain things would not be sinful, even though some might label it “excessive” and would ask that it just be let go.

    When you say ” Christianity becomes repulsive to many because of the behavior.” We have VASTLY different understandings of what that entails, and what the issues are surround that statement.

    And no- I don’t believe I am making a mockery of anything

    Oh- and lastly, because you mentioned this earlier, I am a complementarian-ish, in that I believe that men and women have equal but different roles, that the husband is the head of his wife and that women are not to be pastors or elders. There’s a lot of other peripheral issues surrounding that, and how that plays out in different situations will look different for many people. In my case, how I express my “headship” is unique to my situation. I essentially relegate the details to “filler” and wouldn’t get dogmatic about those sorts of things, and would disagree with those who do. There are many hard and soft comps who would have problems with how my wife and i have chosen to conduct our marriage, and I couldn’t care less what they think.

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  9. I have Mot, Yes. But at the same time several people have challenged me to consider the mission and be consistent in how I apply certain tenets of this belief to other circumstances and scenarios. This has been both challenging and uncomfortable at times.

    You may not appreciate this, but how I have come to view this over the last year has softened quite a bit. A lot of the righteous rage has dissipated, and its been more reflective and graceful. You may not think that’s saying much, haha, but it’s been often through corrections and rebukes that this change of perspective has come about

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  10. Dustin,

    I noticed that you did a Saga write up on 9/12 on Caner.

    We really do get it, you think he is an unrepentant liar and he isn’t going to spar with you.

    He lost his son, you need to move on.

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  11. I’m wary of getting to any specific theological arguments about my views of soteriology, and prefer to just state what I believe. But, to answer your question, If they are already legitimately saved, I don’t believe they can become unsaved- certainly not by my actions. If they are not yet saved, then they are not a neutral party and are under the wrath of God for the sin and depravity that they were born with. For this reason they are already in a state of being disconnected from God and have already rejected him. Its difficult to know exactly what things will set people off and how they will view things.

    Ok, I expected your response to be what it is. So in essence, I think that your theology gives you license to behave like a jerk (sorry, that’s the way I see it and so many others see it like that, too).

    As a rule I try my best to be at peace with all men, as much as possible, though clearly i am imperfect at this and have sinned in my pursuit of this.

    Your behavior is proving you otherwise. And that is what people are telling you, Christians and non-Christians alike. You are harming the reputation of Christ with your stalking behavior. And bro, please don’t get me wrong. I think in your heart of hearts you think you are acting righteously, but it is not. And if you want to discuss the theological stuff, we can take it to the Calvinist thread, but also keep in mind the verse that talks about causing one of His to stumble.

    In a similar vein, I frequently call someone like Joel Osteen a false teacher, or some other prosperity gospel teacher a heretic. I’m sure this upsets many people and I have had people make similar pleas and arguments that you have for Ergun, and would likewise reject their words of caution and rebuke.

    I don’t see you going after Osteen anything like you going after Caner. No way – not the same.

    When you say ” Christianity becomes repulsive to many because of the behavior.” We have VASTLY different understandings of what that entails, and what the issues are surround that statement.

    I don’t know what you’re talking about here.

    Oh- and lastly, because you mentioned this earlier, I am a complementarian-ish, in that I believe that men and women have equal but different roles, that the husband is the head of his wife and that women are not to be pastors or elders. There’s a lot of other peripheral issues surrounding that, and how that plays out in different situations will look different for many people. In my case, how I express my “headship” is unique to my situation. I essentially relegate the details to “filler” and wouldn’t get dogmatic about those sorts of things, and would disagree with those who do. There are many hard and soft comps who would have problems with how my wife and i have chosen to conduct our marriage, and I couldn’t care less what they think.

    From our conversations, what you described above is what I gathered – and I think you function more egalitarian, but choose to wear the comp hat. Whatever – I don’t even care – it sounds like your wife is happy with the arrangement and that’s what matters. If she is feeling that you love her as Christ loves the church, then there’s nothing that needs to be fixed as far as I’m concerned. Good for you.

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  12. You may not appreciate this, but how I have come to view this over the last year has softened quite a bit. A lot of the righteous rage has dissipated, and its been more reflective and graceful.

    Well, Dustin, the fact that you are here, that you have had conversations with me both publicly and privately show this to be true. I remember what you were like – – what was it – – a year or so ago? You are not the same.

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  13. Dustin I am just saying what other Calvinist are trying to convince me of. One even told me just yesterday he couldn’t believe in a god who loved everyone but sends most of them to hell but he is ok with a god being sovereign enough to create people to send to hell.

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