On leaving no room for discussion

I had a couple of exchanges with Tim Margheim, a Christian brother from Texas, on a comment thread of the Team Pyro blog a few weeks back, and his comments were so helpful I asked his permission to re-post them here, which he graciously gave. Tim occasionally blogs at Through A Glass, Dimly.

In his Open Letter to George Barna, Frank Turk links to Tim Challies’ review of George Barna and Frank Viola’s book, Pagan Christianity. In that review, one of Challies’ points is:

2. I dislike the way Viola and Barna put forward their argument. They leave no room for discussion on the issue. If you disagree with them, you must love the traditions of man more than God. It becomes impossible to enter into honest dialogue because of the way they have set up the predicament.

But where the Scriptures are clear, we’re not to be discussin’, but teaching the Word, right? It’s not bad that Barna/Viola spoke forcefully, but that they departed from Scripture.

I said as much in a comment on the TeamPyro post, and received this reply from Tim Margheim (aka “Jugulum”):

I don’t think Challies was objecting to forceful, confident conclusions about what Scripture teaches. He objected to the way Barna & Viola portray the motivations of people who disagree.

An analogy would be “If you’re not yet a Calvinist, you’re not willing to submit to God’s sovereignty”, or “If you believe in continuation of miraculous gifts, you care more about flashy signs than God’s word”.

Or an example relevant to today’s post (which Frank and Dan avoided): “If you’re a proponent of small house churches, you just want to avoid accountability to mature qualified leadership.”

To which I replied:

Thanks for the examples. I’m less convinced than ever though. We need men making strong statements like this — not baseless ones of course– but if I make such a case and I’ve erred, is it not my rightful expectation that a brother will confront me and say, “You’re wrong, brother, and here’s why.” How has my strong statement left no room for discussion, unless my brother is afraid to tell me I’m wrong? Why is he afraid? I only said what I did because the love of God compelled me to warn my brothers from the Scriptures–I don’t like to look like a fool more than anyone else. If I’ve erred, what prevents him from stepping up to correct me?

And if he can find no basis on which to correct me, he needs to consider the possibility that I’ve spoken the truth and that his fight may not be with me but with God’s truth. How would I be serving the Lord and my brother better by toning down my assertions so that he was never forced to such a decision? Or what godly men through church history would we point to as our examples in this?

No, we need to learn to be men, both in giving and receiving those pointed, life-giving words.

Daniel Meyer

Tim answered this way:


I’ll make a distinction that I’m not sure was clear in my first comment, and see if that affects your answer.

I absolutely agree with you that we need to learn to give and receive pointed, life-giving words, which will sometimes include “You’re not willing to submit to God’s sovereignty”, and “You care more about flashy signs than God’s word”, and “You just want to avoid accountability to mature qualified leadership”. Sometimes, it’s apparent that those are indeed people’s motivation, and love demands that we call them out on it. (Though we have to guard against pride & irritability in ourselves when we do it, and against making that judgment too quickly.)

The problem in the examples I gave is that they’re universal accusations, which Scripture doesn’t justify. When we say such things, they have to be judgments, not assumptions.

Unwillingness to submit to God’s sovereignty will certainly prevent someone from accepting Calvinism–but it’s not the only thing. So will “I haven’t delved into the relevant passages”, or “My traditions are twisting my interpretation; I haven’t yet succeeded in setting aside my preconceived ideas,” or “I’ve been fed bad information”. (Someone from an Arminian background might be entirely willing to accept Calvinism, without having clearly seen the biblical testimony yet. God can give us humble hearts before he fixes our soteriological understanding.)

On the house church issue, DJP handled it very well up above in his 6:13 AM, August 31, 2011 comment. He spoke pointed, convicting words, without presuming that the criticism univerally applies to all “house churches”.

We have to show discernment, and knee-jerk generalized accusations are anything but. That’s how I read Challies criticism of Barna and Viola.

A personal application

“The problem in the examples I gave is that they’re universal accusations, which Scripture doesn’t justify. When we say such things, they have to be judgments, not assumptions.”

Ah, this is good. The care and wisdom needed when discerning where a particular person stands in relation to the Scriptures is not at odds with our responsibility to speak the truth of God clearly and unashamedly.

We do not speak forcefully simply for the thrill of speaking forcefully. We are not merely playing with words — this is not sport. This is the truth of God, and we want to understand it for the purpose of submitting to it ourselves and for the edification of the body. Clear speaking and writing and vigorous contending for the truth help toward that end.

I have sometimes received forceful words condemning my forceful words, saying that they leave no room for discussion. The funny thing is, I have sometimes felt that these forceful words about my forceful words left no room for discussion. But I was wrong. Rather, I need to manfully address the points raised, if I can! This is iron sharpening iron, and my brother and I both benefit from challenging each other from the Word.

AT THE SAME TIME, when addressing a particular person, I must be careful not to jump to conclusions.

Thanks to Tim for helping me to see this latter point better.

This entry was posted in "tone", authority, honoring God's Word, Let all things be done for edification, preach the word. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On leaving no room for discussion

  1. Norma Smith says:

    I would like to know why people who attend church are the first ones to turn their back on others? The first ones to judge others and the last to open their door to someone? I have a friend that is a hard worker in her church but at home sits on her throne when discussing helping people. I help people and that is any people. When I come across someone who need help I know they have ask God for help. “Please God do not leave me stranded out here” They will say No when I ask but I know I would not be there if they hadn’t. ” are you sure” is my reply. I feel God compelling me and I think it is because I help not quitting until the person/s are safe or where they best can get what they need. I have taken people very far on Christmas and been told that they didn’t believe in Christmas Miracles and never thought their angel would come in form of a white granma. Having preferred a black anyone to me. I cried all the way home because of what the white race had done to cause that and because the lesson day was for them not me and Im not sure they knew that. I buy gas for people and never let people walk in the 102* Texas heat. I help with court matters and forclosures, CPS issues and Coming to Terms with your problems that you are blaming on someone else. Buy a new mirror because yours is lying to you. When Justifying gets out of control, which is where our law enforcement is standing today, too much justifying and assuming. Born of assumption is Arrogance and Anger, all Anger is from not getting our way or what we want. Think about it ! People do not communicate with their children but communicate to their children. If only children understood that form of communication. Teaching children is a lot easier done if you respect the fact that they are people and not objects! Last but not least ; why are you two people of your church talking about someone else. Heavily disguised someone is not speaking truth of the scripture or not speaking of it in a correct way and someone said something and was not liked because of it or called down for it. The other of you is taken aback by that and had to say something and take not a side but remind the speaker of his humanity in a way that did not hurt his feelings like the he had done to the one that spoke out. Why is it wrong to object in church if you think whatis being taught is not exactly as you understand it? Isnt better to clear it up for all parishoners than discuss it later and leave them out of what the conclusion is. Are you as a preacher not bringing the word the God and not the word of you? Are you so concieted that you are not to be interrupted. That is vain and against a commandment. Isnt the word of God more important than you and are you not just a guide as are parents? As a guide would you rather have people enjoy you or be scared of you? Would you rather they discuss God or be talked at? I think discussing your sermon is a remarkable idea and could revolutionize church all over again. It could bring in a whole new church goer. Quit talking about people and apologize and be open minded to people with the need to know. Respect the fact that the burning desire made him unafraid and no question is ever stupid or ask at the wrong time when someone is teaching. Get over your self. Preachers preach Teachers teach my experience is preachers make people afraid to sin Teachers teach the word of God, which are you?

    • danielmeyer says:

      Dear Ms. Smith,
      Thank you for writing. It will be difficult for me to be helpful to you with the many issues you raise as I am ignorant of many details of your situation. A couple of questions that may help me give general guidance: Are you a Christian? And do you have a trusted pastor or elder who knows you well who you can speak with of these things?
      Daniel Meyer

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