Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Criticism — Constructive, Destructive, Gentle, & Stinging

Saturday, October 4th, 2008

Michael Patton is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary with a ministry called Reclaiming the Mind.  He’s got a lot of good resources–the Parchment & Pen blog, the Theology Program, Theology Unplugged Radio, and Converse with Scholars.  There’s a wealth of audio, video, & written material, all freely available.

He has a very irenic style.  I appreciate it.  I’ve learned.  But the danger for him is that he will be so irenic–so polite–so nice–so even-handed–that he will fail to rebuke well, or fail to press home the urgency of believing rightly, or fail to press home the danger of error.

He recently posted Criticism from a Reader, which contains a well-articulated, gracious criticism from a reader along those lines.  It–and the comments–are worth reading.

Some observations:

1.) Irenic, gracious speech is very important.

We’re supposed to speak the truth in love–our words should be gracious, seasoned with salt.  Our criticism of brothers should be helpful, loving, and hopeful.

2.) Charity police can be some of the least charitable people in the world.

If you read many blogs on the internet, you will find people who speak very uncharitably–they’re constantly unnecessarily harsh in tone and unreasonable in how they interpret others.  You will also find people who are obsessed with accusing others of being uncharitable.  You can call them charity police.  And those guys can be some of the least charitable people around–accusing others of uncharity at the drop of a hat or the slightest hint of language that isn’t excessively polite.  Majorly unreasonable & oversensitive.

We should be gracious with each other in addressing their mistakes–including mistakes of style.  And we shouldn’t be too quick to assume the worst.  But we must be discerning & watchful.  We must correct each other.  Just be careful in how you do it, and how you interpret people.

3.) There’s a place for hard words.

Hard words are sometimes necessary & right.  The Bible is full of examples.

I have found that very confusing.  I’ve had difficulty reconciling gentleness and harshness.  I haven’t known what to do with it.

4.) Doing both well is very difficult.

Myself, when I err, I usually err on the side of being too polite/nice.  Others usually err on the side of being too harsh.

Mark Driscoll recently spoke on the subject at the Desiring God national conference.  Give it a listen.  It’s worth thinking about.  (And, BTW, Driscoll himself doesn’t claim to do perfectly on this, in his practice.  But his teaching about it is sound.)

Part of the task is to know when to speak in what ways.  Driscoll says to feed the sheep.  Rebuke the swine.  Shoot the wolves.  Bark at the dogs.

For the full explanation with a definition of those groups, check out the message.  (I’ve listened twice.  It’s good, convicting, humbling, funny, tender, and hard.)

How Sharp the Edge? Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words by Mark Driscoll

5.) The wounds of a friend are faithful.

Prov. 27:6

Driscoll’s thoughts on “the wounds of a friend”:  A friend is someone who has love for you, and hope for you.  And who prays for you more than they criticize you.

When you criticize a brother, seek to do it as a brother.  As a friend.

6.) Aim for more pervasive & consistent humility, grace, and love.

The reason I mentioned “charity police” is that a couple of them showed up in the comments at Michael Patton’s blog.  Or… Well, that was the way I labeled it.  That was the way I categorized them.

To pile irony upon irony, I was in danger of uncharitably dismissing them, instead of correcting as a brother.

Isn’t that interesting?  It is so easy for us to fall into the mistakes that we’re criticizing.  We need to keep praying for God’s heart-transforming grace

New Feature: Tags

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Yesterday I activated the Tags feature of WordPress blogs.  I’ve actually been adding tags to my entries for quite a while, but I never added the display.  Now, you can see the tags at the bottom of each entry.  If you click on the tag, it will show you all the entries having that tag.

For example, all the entries that discuss the Holy Spirit will have the Holy Spirit tag.  It’s like having multiple categories for every entry.

The other cool feature is the “tag cloud” on the right.  It shows all the tags that I’ve used–and the size of each one depends on how many entries have that tag.

Change to the Links

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

FYI, I just changed a setting on my blog.  Previously, links to my posts were ugly, like this: “

Now, they look more like this: “

The old URLs still seem to work, fortunately.  Now all the links will be more expressive.

Carry on.

Challies on Discernment

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Tim Challies, Christian blogger, recently came out with his first book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. It received some strong endorsements–from Al Mohler, Nancy Pearcey, Mark Dever, and a foreword from John MacArthur. (My copy is on its way from Amazon, to find its place on my bookshelf among the many other wonderful books I should really get around to reading some day.)

He just completed a “blog tour“, in which he went around to a number of popular Christian blogs, answering questions about his book and the subject of discernment. There’s some good reading. (And I think I’ll have to add some of these blogs to my RSS reader.)

My favorite stop on the tour, I think, was the final one, at SharperIron. He answered the following challenging, meaty questions. (I’ll include excerpts from his answers, to tease you into going and reading the whole interview. 🙂 )

  • How does Scripture tell us to view discernment as a step of rational thought guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than a supra-rational sixth sense?
    • “The Bible, though, teaches that discernment is a skill and that it is a practice of the mind more than the “heart” or “spirit.” Hebrews 5:14 tells us that discernment is a skill that is developed by constant practice and Romans 12:2 says that, in order to be men and women of discernment, we must have our minds renewed. In these passages and others we see that discernment is more than intuition and more than new revelation.”
  • If I use my knowledge of Scripture to judge some action as evil, and this discernment seems clear, how should I view my brother who does not make the same discernment?
    • “So when you judge an action to be evil or wrong, you will first want to see just how important an issue it is. If it is an issue that strikes right to the heart of the faith, you will want to address the issue immediately and firmly, though always with love and humility. It may require church discipline or disassociation. But if you find it is a second or third-level issue, you will want to first affirm your common fellowship and from there seek to understand whether this disagreement must preclude you from close fellowship or if it is a disputable matter than should not inhibit close communion.”
  • In the same situation, how should I treat my discernment when no one around me agrees?
    • “It may be that God is using this issue to move you out of a dying church; of course it may also be that Satan is using the issue to use you to divide a God-honoring church. So proceed humbly, cautiously, prayerfully and with a heart saturated with Scripture.”
  • What about if I discern an action to clearly be good, how then should I view my brother who judges that to be evil?
    • “Assuming that this is not a first-level issue, this may well represent a time to express humility and a time to keep in mind the “weaker brother” principle. […] We do such things as an expression of love for our brothers and sisters in the Lord and as proof of a God-given desire to esteem others higher than ourselves. We build true Christian unity by humility.”

Links From Two Dans

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Dan Phillips had a very interesting post over at the Pyromaniacs blog. It involves this verse:

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”
(John 5:6)

Dan looks at the issue, “Doesn’t that look like a dumb question? Isn’t it obvious the guy would want to be healed?” He comes up with an interesting possibility for why Jesus asked the question. And whether he’s right about that or not, I thought his observations were very insightful, edifying, and convicting. It involves asking, “Are you really willing for God to change you? Do you want to become healthy, or are you too attached to the way you are?”


Meanwhile, I got a compliment from a well-known scholar today! At the Parchment and Pen blog, Dan Wallace posted an entry on textual criticism–the study of places where the New Testament manuscripts differ from one another. Dan Wallace is a big-name Greek scholar. He wrote a major Greek grammar textbook, Greek Grammar Beyond The Basics, and he’s one of the top 10 scholars in textual criticism. (I think there are 11 in the world. 🙂 ) He wrote a good review of Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus, a NYT best-seller that tries to argue that we can’t have confidence that our Bible is the same as the original. He also cowrote a book as a response, called Reinventing Jesus.

Anyway, Wallace has been writing a series of posts to introduce people to textual criticism and talk about various issues. I posted some comments in today’s entry with the username “Jugulum”, replying to some questions that someone asked. Then later, Wallace posted his own answer. And when he did, he also said, “BTW, Jugulum has given excellent responses to your questions. I don’t know who he or she is, but I like what s/he has to say!”

Cool. I love the internet. 🙂

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six wingèd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

— Translated from the Liturgy of St. James, 4th Century

New Feature – A Mailing List!

Monday, December 24th, 2007

If there are a lot of blogs you want to read, it can be bothersome to have to go to each blog individually to see if there are new entries. There are two ways around that problem: Mailing lists and RSS feeds.

Mailing Lists

I just installed a new plug-in for my blog that will let you subscribe to a mailing list. Any time I post a new entry, you’ll be notified by email. You can unsubscribe at any time. The subscribe form is available on the sidebar to the right, and also has its own page, linked up above.)

RSS Feeds

The snazzier solution is something called RSS feeds–it stands for Really Simple Syndication. If you’re already familiar with RSS, you probably already noticed the feed links in the sidebar. If you’re not familiar with RSS, and want to find out more, you can read this introduction, or the article at Wikipedia. In a nutshell, when you subscribe to an RSS feed, you don’t have to go to each of your blogs individually–your browser itself can keep a list of your blogs, and tell you whenever new entries are posted. Most major news sites also have RSS feeds for their headlines. (The link for a feed is often marked with this icon: RSS Feed)

You can set up a Google Reader page for your RSS feeds. If you use Firefox, I recommend the Sage plugin. (It makes a sidebar in your browser with a list of blogs you’ve subscribed to; any time a new entry is posted, that blog turns bold.  Here are some screenshots.)

Here are the links for my feeds–one for the entries, and one for comments that people post:

RSS Feed Entries (RSS)

RSS Feed Comments (RSS)


A New Blog

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

I’m sorry, it’s been a while since my last post. I have one written on the Holy Spirit, but I want to give it a little more thought, so it’s stuck in my Drafts page.

For the moment, I’d just like to share a new blog with you. It was just started by a friend of mine named Katy, from my small group. The name is Life in the Shadowlands. I’ve read the first entry, and it promises to be delightfully edifying. Welcome to the blogosphere1, Katy!

[1] Oh dear, isn’t that an ugly word?

On the Lighter Side

Friday, August 10th, 2007

C. Michael Patton has a list of Top Twenty Theological Pick-up Lines NOT to Use. My favorites: “Until this moment, I thought I had the gift of singleness,” and “Well, gouge out my eyes and cut off my hands. If I hang around you much longer, I won’t have any limbs left.” My least favorite: “God may be the bread of life, but you are the butter.”

From Youtube, King of the Hill offers a look at church splits, the trial of finding a new church, and mega-churches: