Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Namecalling and the Gospel

I think for the most part using the words "sides" and "camps" are unavoidable when discussing this thing. Regrettable, sure. But practically unavoidable.
The key, I think, is to make sure when we talk of sides and camps, we're not perpetuating an us-versus-them rhetorical atmosphere. No person is the enemy. ("We don't wage war against flesh and blood" and all that.)

Today in the TalkBCC Forum someone on my "side" called Dr. Foster a terrible name. This is inappropriate, unnecessary, and wrong.

This is what happens when we go into this sort of angry, namecalling, spirit-of-accusation mode: We dehumanize our intended target. David Foster is not a _________. He is a man with strengths, weaknesses, gifts, and flaws. Like you and me. And like you and me, he is also two other things -- a sinner and a person for whom Jesus died.

We cannot reduce anyone in this process to anything less than who they are as human beings. We have to personify, not villify. We are made in the image of God.

What the elders and Dr. Foster and you and me and everyone else need today is the same thing we've needed every day since the day we were born: the Gospel. And when you think about it, one of the firstfruits of the Gospel proclamation was the day Jesus was born. That Christmas day marked the miracle of the Incarnation.

The Incarnation, then, is really the first great principle of the whole gospel. God became man; God became man for man. He stooped. He deigned. He did not treat us as things or enemies; He personified Himself and treated us as brothers. "Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us! That we could be called the sons of God!" That gives me goosebumps, folks.
The Incarnation affirms the dignity and the sacredness of people. The incarnate body of Jesus restored the imago dei tarnished by original sin. That's good news!

Be the Gospel in this situation, to yourself and to everyone you interact with. Affirm their dignity and humanity and worth as people. Be Jesus to them, is what I'm saying, I guess.
We will honor God in this process, whatever the result, by treating everyone involved in it as real people with real hurts in a real world. (Sounds familiar, somehow . . .)

This assumes, of course, you have a basic grasp of how to go about doing the Jesus thing. If you don't, then you have bigger fish to fry right now than calling people names on a message board.


At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Amy Edwards said...

Jared, thank you so much for doing this and for giving me a place to see all sides and hear many different voices. I want you to know I have read every word you have written. you have provided much to think about and more links to read. Mostly I just wanted to tell you I REALLY appreciate you time and energy. I am open minded and listening to all sides and open hearted hope others will be too.Mostly, we need to heal, and continue to continue. Growth and change is hard for everyone.

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Matt Sipos said...

Hi Jared

I appreciate your dedication to getting truth out about these events.

As for your comment about name-calling, I submit that there is nothing wrong with it when it is done to accurately describe a person. Here is a clip from a site I found:

Unfortunately, most professed Christians today seem never to have gotten past Matthew 7. That’s too bad, for they should proceed to read Matthew 23. In that chapter alone, Christ calls the scribes and Pharisees names 16 times. The names are "hypocrites" (7 times), "son of Hell" (once),"blind guides" (twice), "fools and blind" (3 times), "whited sepulchres" (once), "serpents" (once), and "offspring of vipers" (once). Since Christ was without sin, we may deduce by good and necessary consequence that name-calling as such is not a sin. Since everything Christ did was righteous and virtuous, we may deduce by good and necessary consequence that accurate name-calling is a virtue.

But Christ is not the only example. John, who some professed Christians love to quote because they misunderstand and misrepresent what he says about love, calls certain persons known to his readers "liars" and "antichrists." Those sensitive souls who flinch when they read chapter 25 of the Westminster Confession identifying the pope as antichrist should read 1 John 2 and 2 John. John was not talking about someone far off in Rome; he was referring to persons known to his readers.

Then there is Paul, who in 1 Corinthians corrected those at Corinth who denied the resurrection. In chapter 15, verse 36, he refers to one objector as a fool. And can we not conclude from Psalms 14:1 and 53:1 that Madalyn O’Hair, for example, is a fool? Further, in 1 Timothy 4:2 Paul refers to "hypocritical liars" and in 5:13 he writes of "gossips and busybodies." Those who object to name-calling must object to the practice of Jesus, Paul, and John, among many others.

The obvious question, which the perceptive reader has already asked, is, what shall we do with Matthew 5:22:"Whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the Sanhedrin; but whoever shall say, Fool, shall be liable to the fire of Hell." Does not this verse, just as Matthew 7:1does with judging and Matthew 5:34-37 do with swearing, prohibit all name-calling? The answer, equally obvious, is no. Such an interpretation would create irreconcilable contradictions in the Bible. Just as Matthew 7:1 does not prohibit accurate judging and Matthew 5:34-37 do not prohibit legitimate swearing, neither does Matthew 5:22 prohibit accurate name-calling. It is not name-calling per se that is proscribed, but inaccurate name-calling. Jesus, John, and Paul used names accurately and achieved a specific purpose: telling the truth.

Name-calling, accurately done, is not only not a sin, it is a virtue. It is identifying a person for what he is, and this cannot be done except by doing it. Anyone who studies the examples quoted here or any of the many other examples in the Bible will find that the name is used in conjunction with stated reasons for using it. The reasons constitute an argument, and the name is a conclusion. Those who deny that Jesus came in the flesh are antichrists and liars. Those who deny the resurrection are fools, and so on. The reluctance to call names is a type of reluctance to draw valid conclusions from the evidence; it is an attempt to "curb logic," to use the neo-orthodox phrase. As such, it is but another example of the anti rationalism of our age.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Matt, there is a lot I could say to that. I am not unfamiliar with the Gospels, having spent the last three or four years pretty much drenching myself in them, Matthew's in particular.

But I don't have time.
I'll say two things, and I hope we can still exchange respect.

1. I agree with you that namecalling is not always wrong.

2. I still believe the name you used in that context at this time was a wrong action.

I'm sorry I can't elaborate. The reason I didn't name you in this post or even repeat the "namecall" in question was because who did it was not important. I mean no disrespect or even rebuke to you. I don't know you.

I hope this response sits well with you, but I can understand if it doesn't.


At 4:54 PM, Anonymous Jonna Watson said...


I have been reading your blog & have found it VERY helpful in the interim while I cannot attend an elder's meeting until next Monday night.

About the elder's meeting that you posted about...Did the elders expound upon the reason why Dave Fleming was permitted to speak given the new information the church board was faced with that week (from Dr. Foster)?

I have not yet heard much discussion on this point, and I do think it's an important issue to explore.

The part to the story that is fuzzy to me is just how long Dr. Foster was aware of this information. That is something I do not know & will probably never know for sure. Dave Fleming claims that Dr. Foster knew for months, however with that it certainly seems to indicate that Dr. Foster withheld this information for personal reasons-whatever they may have been.

For whatever reason, he did choose to disclose before Dave Fleming spoke, and the church did not act!

I plan to ask that very question next Monday because personally I am very disturbed by the idea of the church I trust knowingly endangering and subjecting their congregation & community visitors to a speaker who they cannot with integrity endorse (which I understand is why they relieved him of his duties the Monday after he spoke) all for the sake of not wanting to interrupt the streamlined process in place.

The elders had no problem distrupting the weekend services this past weekend in order to report the news of our pastor, however instead of protecting and safeguarding the integrity of the church they willingly, knowingly chose to allow it (for Dave Fleming to speak).

I have yet to attend the meeting and I know things will continue to unfold, however I do appreciate this outlet.

Jonna Watson

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Matt Sipos said...


We're cool, I would enjoy a private dialogue with you sometime.

I chose every word of my statement with caution and care and each word I chose to describe David Foster is accurate, the proof is in the accounts of the Elders and others who have experienced the same relentless abuse from David over the years. By hiring a total scumbag like Craig Barber as an adviser, David Foster himself has become one in the same. I do not say these words lightly, nor do I hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

As I said, I have appreciated your blog here and have recommended it to some friends who have not yet had the opportuinity to attend a 'cottage meeting' but were seeking information. Instead of debating the proper adjectives to describe David Foster's appauling, despicable, thuggish behavior, I will simply say thank you for 'keeping it real'.


At 8:41 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Matt: Actually, "appalling," "despicable," and "thuggish" sound like appropriate adjectives to me.
I appreciate your graceful response, man, and I would love to talk with you in person sometime.

In all honesty, this post was not directed at you, and only the first part was inspired by the name you used. The last paragraph, actually, I had someone on the other "side" in mind. Not you.

I appreciate your kind words and encouragement.

Those are valid concerns and good questions. I urge you to ask them of the elders at the meeting you attended.
I actually will put my own response in an actual post, because I do think you raise points that require addressing.

At 9:01 PM, Anonymous BellevueGirl said...

I just wanted to thank you for doing this. It has really helped me come to terms with my feelings for BCC because I kept trying to make BCC my church home and finally realized I had to find another church - which I have. I originally started attending two years ago, and did so off and on until January 2006. The reasons I left really were due to the fact that I never felt a community to the church. It seemed to be people coming to hear Dr. Foster and leaving with very little interaction with others. The other was that I started to pick up negative vibes from Dr. Foster when he was speaking. In other words, I sensed the anger and that he was a very different person than the man who spoke when he was on stage. When I left, I felt like there was something wrong with me because I couldn't fit into the church. But now, I know it wasn't me and that my intuition was letting me know that at the time.

Also, I just to share with others that things going on at the church did have a negative impact on at least one person who attended the church on a weekly basis and tried very hard to be involved in the church.

Again, thank you for all you have done. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone now as the church goes through this period of change and growth.

At 4:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the church split issues. Been there, done that. I have never gone back and have more peace than ever. Matt knows me as Chuck...


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