Blunting the Serrated Edge

Posted by Bob Mattes

If you missed the dust-up here at GreenBagginses over Thanksgiving weekend, you missed quite a show. I am deeply appreciative of, and indebted to, those who so quickly and freely rose to my defense, as well as that of the PCA and SJC. I had an amazing a post written in my head to right all the many wrongs against the PCA, the personal attacks, and more. But then…

While struggling with how to wrap all this up, I providentially encountered a passage in William Cunningham’s The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation. This is a collection of articles that William Cunningham wrote in the mid-19th century. The third essay, written in 1856, is on assurance and refutes an article by Sir William Hamilton. Dr. Cunningham starts out by quoting a very long section of Hamilton’s work, then starts his analysis with this sentence (page 112-113):

We hope to be able to prove that this elaborate statement contains about as large an amount of inaccuracy as could well have been crammed into the space which it occupies; and, if we succeed in doing this, we may surely expect that Sir William’s authority upon theological subjects will henceforth stand at least as low as zero.

OK, that seems to fit into the “serrated edge” mentality. But then I read a footnote added after Dr. Cunningham’s paper was initially presented. My heart broke as I read it:

In the interval between the publication of the former article and the present one, Sir William Hamilton died, and Dr. Cunningham, in his introductory remarks, thus refers to the event: “The knowledge, if we had possessed it, that he was to die so soon, would assuredly have modified somewhat the tone in which the discussion was conducted, would have shut out something of its lightness and severity, and imparted to it more of solemnity and tenderness; and the knowledge which we did possess, that he, as well as ourselves, was liable every day to be called out of this world and summoned into God’s presence, ought to have produced this result.” [italics in original]

“…ought to have produced this result.” Reading this brought home the reality of Dr. R. C. Sproul’s constant reminder that we live our lives Coram Deo–before the face of God. Our Lord could call us to His presence in heaven in the next second. With apologies to Francis Shaeffer, how then shall we blog?

Are we bringing honor and glory to our Lord Jesus Christ with our words and wit, or are we adding our pride and acerbic “peculiar talents” to the offense of the cross? Do we seek to justify ourselves, or to humbly offer the justification of God freely to the lost, even those with whose politics, business, or lifestyle we disagree–becoming all things to all men so that we may bring some to Christ (1 Cor 9:19-23)?

Here’s what God says about the “serrated edge” in Titus 3:2:

…to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (ESV)

How about James 1:26 on “peculiar talents”?

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. (ESV)

And last but certainly not least, 1 Cor 10:31-33 to tie it all together:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. (ESV) [all emphasis added]

How then shall we blog, brothers?

Posted by Bob Mattes

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41 Comments

  1. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 29, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Love is the frame in which truth rests. Without that frame, our truths are not fully true. A lack of love says to the foot, “I don’t need you; I’m not responsible for you; I don’t have to be concerned for you.” And that is a falsehood, which attaches itself to any of our other “true” statements and perjures them.

    Jeff Cagle

  2. Morgan Farmer said,

    November 29, 2007 at 11:40 am

    For me how we answer or post on someones blog is just as important. A blog is the authors’ home on the internet. A person replying to a blog post should never post what they would not say while visting someones home IN PERSON. Manners are very important.

    I find it very distressing especially on the theology blogs that most commenters are interested only in ‘theological one-upmanship’; (Is that even gramatically correct? :) ) as well as making their personal points the focus.

    The point (I thought) of comments is just that…comments. Most commenters should use the old adage: “If you don’t have anything NICE to say…don’t say anything at all.”

    But then…that’s just the MOM in me and yes nice does matter.

  3. Morgan Farmer said,

    November 29, 2007 at 11:51 am

    WHOOPS….let me change that to “many commenters should use the old addage…

    (I can see getting publicly flogged for ‘most’) :)

  4. Seth Foster said,

    November 29, 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Blogs lend themselves to both good and evil. Why does one choose to blog? In most cases, blogging is one of the few, if not only means for anyone to freely express one’s opinions in order to persuade and influence others. Before blogging and the internet, we had to confront people face to face if we wanted to express an opinion. There were consequences and accountability for our words. As a result, there were restraints on our speech. And, most of what we share on a blog would not be shared in person because we either lack the conviction and courage to say it, or we are not in a position of authority to say it, or we know in our hearts that it is wrong either in tone or content.

    The advantage of blogging is that it does allow the common citizen to participate in the free exchange of ideas. Truth is great and will always prevail if it is left to itself. Truth is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from conflict, unless others disarm the truth of its natural weapons which are free argument and debate. Once free argument and debate are taken away or diminished, errors will inevitably creep in and cease to be dangerous.

    I believe that this is what has happened to the PCA and the Federal Vision. The Federal Vision advocates have successfully disarmed the weapons of the Truth – free argument and debate. They have used their positions of leadership in the church to “assume dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible and as such endeavoring to impose them on others”. They have almost successfully “established and maintained a false religion” within the denomination.

    Just take a look at the conflict of last week’s posts on this blog. My prayer is that this blog would continue to provide a home of free argument and debate for the Truth – the Truth that sets a person free.

  5. Ron said,

    November 29, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    This post reads at first as if that self-aware “providential encounter” graciously served as a check on the tone of *your own* forthcoming wrap-up post, but apparently the whole point was to rebuke Pastor Wilson. Weird.

  6. Gabe Rench said,

    November 29, 2007 at 3:18 pm

    Bob,
    no doubt those verses needed to be on the forefront of our minds, but at the same time you are only telling half of the story. Also you “blunt the serrated” while at the same time jabbing at my pastor. The issue is not that you don’t think being serrated is wrong (you just demonstrated this), this issues is who should it be directed towards. Christ was serrated at times… Paul was serrated at times and he wrote a couple of the verses you quoted above. So the debate is not over if serrated edge is found in the scripture, because it is, but the debate is over who it should be directed towards and if it is out of love. Maybe you are arguing this and I missed it. Cheers!

  7. Seth Foster said,

    November 29, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    I think last week’s posts revealed an enormous amount of frustration that has been pent up in the hearts and minds of those who have suffered the abuses of the Federal Vision. Many members have been silenced by their church leadership, so they took advantage of Bob’s plight to express their own. The comments turned into a wild runaway train off its tracks. But even though some comments got out of hand and vindictive, let’s at least try to glean some truth from them.

    If one is in error, he will give birth to hypocrisy and meanness.
    If one is in error, he will use coercion, not persuasion.
    If one is in error, he will resort to personal attacks or some threat of punishment to influence others.

    God, our Creator and the Author of all Truth, and Lord of all, chose not to use His Almighty power to coerce us to believe, but rather gave each of us liberty of conscience. We, as His children, should extend that same liberty to others.

    Sometimes the truth has to hurt because it serves to convict hearts. How we respond to truth that hurts reveals our character. This blog is popular not because of its book reviews (sorry, Lane, but look at the dearth of comments on those blogs) but because of its passionate appeals to truth – truth that may oftentimes hurt but can transform us to be more like Christ.

  8. jared said,

    November 29, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Bob,

    I’m curious as to how Matthew 23 (as the first and best example that comes to mind) fits into this paradigm you’re trying to create. Is Jesus allowed to be serrated, acerbic, unbridled and offensive while we, His followers, are not?

  9. November 29, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Jared,

    Thanks for your thoughts. How about this for a start: Jesus is God, we are not. He is perfect, we have a sinful nature. His holy wrath is against those who rebel against His holy commands and commit cosmic treason, our human jabs arise from and are tainted by our sinful nature and the targeting system is notoriously unreliable. Should we exercise the prerogatives of the Divine when elsewhere in Scripture He warns us against exactly that behavior? Would there be a name for such an exercise?

  10. November 29, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Ron & Gabe,

    Thanks for your notes. Please see my response to Jared in #8. My post stands on its own.

  11. jared said,

    November 29, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Bob,

    Thanks for the response. You say that “our human jabs arise from and are tainted by our sinful nature and the targeting system is notoriously unreliable.” This is not necessarily the case and you have not demonstrated that “human jabs” always, without fail, 100% of the time, are without warrant. The fact that you’ve made this very post contradicts the view in your response to me. Let me ask this, if you think otherwise; how is naming this post “Blunting the Serrated Edge” not a “human jab” at Wilson’s book title?

  12. Keith LaMothe said,

    November 29, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    Bob,

    Have you read _The Serrated Edge_?

    To be perfectly honest, I think you are grossly oversimplifying in a way that will play right into Wilson’s hand.

    Did Paul “Give no offense”? In a sense (as Wilkins might say), yes. But did he never intend to give offense in anything he wrote? Or was it the Holy Spirit giving offense (as divine prerogative), and Paul never had such intentions (righteously) in his non-inspired communications?

    I certainly agree that the knowledge of our transitory nature (among many other grave and solemn truths) ought to give us pause in addressing one another, particularly if we think to be less than perfectly courteous. But to say that human jabs are *always* sinful (is that not what you have said?) is indefensible from a Biblical standpoint.

    In the interests of full disclosure, the limited knowledge available to me brings me to the conclusion that Pastors Wilson and Lawyer owe you a fairly big apology over the “Parable of Two Airmen” exchange, so I don’t think they’ve used the serrated edge perfectly. I pray that God will bring us all to be of one mind about that unfortunate series of events and conduct the necessary repentance and forgiveness.

    Grace, and peace,
    Keith

  13. Gabe Rench said,

    November 29, 2007 at 7:58 pm

    Bob,

    So we pick and choose attributes of Christ we should follow? It is okay despite our sinful nature to try and love like Christ…but it is not okay despite our sinful nature to be serrated like Christ. Paul and Elijah used the serrated edge and they were sinners just like me and you.

  14. November 29, 2007 at 8:06 pm

    Keith,

    Thank you for your comments. If I am wrong about the book, then so is Dr. Frame. The FVers seem to like Dr. Frame, so I don’t see the issue here. And honestly, I thought that Dr. Frame was too kind in his assessment, but I do agree with his critiques as far as they go. But that’s just my personal opinion of the book. Others may differ and are free to do so.

    All I can say about the “playing into hands” part is that the recently past dust-up here has taught me that it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else writes, it can be misinterpreted, misstated, and/or misrepresented variously (put nicely) despite what the plain English says. I have occasionally done this myself, of course, being a sinner saved by grace, but I have always publicly published a retraction and repentance when my error is pointed out.

    But to say that human jabs are *always* sinful (is that not what you have said?) is indefensible from a Biblical standpoint.

    Respectfully, that isn’t what I said. I said that “our human jabs arise from and are tainted by our sinful nature and the targeting system is notoriously unreliable.” That doesn’t mean that they are always sinful, but that we with our sinful natures cannot often tell if they are or not, or if they are misdirected or not, because:

    The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9 (KJV)

    Is there a man who thinks that he can search his heart and know that an acerbic word that burns to get out does not originate from their deceitful heart? I am not such a man, nor do I know one.

    I definitely concur with your last paragraph and thank you for saying so, but I’m not holding my breath.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  15. Jeff Cagle said,

    November 29, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    It’s not quite like that, Gabe. Yes, there are a few examples of “the serrated edge” in Scripture. In the case of Jesus, we can be sure that they are sin-free. Ditto with, say, Paul’s criticisms in 2 Cor. (But we’re not so sure about Paul in Acts 15.39.)

    And on the other, we have a whole host of commands to guard the tongue. Let’s see: Prov. 12.18, 15.1, 17.27, and 18.21 are fairly representative; and 1 Tim 3.3 and Tit 3.2 along with James 1.26 and chapter 3 are worthy of consideration also.

    Now, these commands are normative for us. They provide a fairly clear, straight path that should be the substance of how we interact with others.

    So might there be instances when we should act like Jesus or Paul in their indignation? Possibly so. But those instances are not the norm; in all likelihood, for every 100 times that we *think* that righteous anger is called for, only one of those is the real deal.

    What is God’s will for our tongue? Is it to try to imitate Jesus in our serration? Or, is it to obey the commands of the Lord: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.

    Jeff C

  16. November 29, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Gabe,

    It is okay despite our sinful nature to try and love like Christ

    This we are commanded to do, and we cause no one harm nor do we risk sin by doing so.

    but it is not okay despite our sinful nature to be serrated like Christ

    I already said that Christ had no sinful nature and was not in danger of sinning. I do not believe that it is OK to slice and dice fellow believers being remade by the Spirit in the image of Christ. 1 Cor 10:31-33 quoted in the post make that explicitly clear. Do you find that passage unclear in this regard?

    Paul and Elijah used the serrated edge and they were sinners just like me and you.

    Indeed they were, but large chunks of their work was specially inspired by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work-Elijah as a prophet and Paul as an apostle and Scripture writer. I don’t claim those attributes, nor do I think anyone else can today.

    As for the rest of the time when Elijah and Paul did sin, is that license for us to do as well? Should we have multiple wives like many of the patriarchs? Should we kill our brother as Cain did? Should we commit adultery as David did? Should we lie to the Holy Spirit as Ananias and Sapphira did? Of course not. These things are forbidden, not to be emulated, just as the verses I quoted in my post and comments (and many others) forbid the deliberate slicing and dicing of people.

    Frankly, I’m more than a bit amazed that anyone finds such conduct defensible at all.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  17. Keith LaMothe said,

    November 29, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Bob,

    Thank you for the response.

    Doug himself actually agreed with (much of) Dr. Frame’s criticism, as he posted here. One of Frame’s chief criticisms is that, while Doug mentions the need to be very careful about using satire, he doesn’t give much if any instruction on what the principles and such are for being careful. Doug agrees that this is a major weakness of the book and (while this doesn’t fix the book) provides a fairly long list of principles for the who/what/when/where/why of using satire.

    “(my words) But to say that human jabs are *always* sinful (is that not what you have said?) is indefensible from a Biblical standpoint. (/my words)

    Respectfully, that isn’t what I said.”

    Then I apologize for misrepresenting your statement. I was hoping that you didn’t mean to sound as absolute on the matter as I was hearing.

    Perhaps, if you have a moment, you could read Doug’s list of principles and qualifications in the post I linked and give your own list of what a person should be like to use satire (and in what circumstances)?

    “All I can say about the “playing into hands” part is that the recently past dust-up here has taught me that it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else writes, it can be misinterpreted, misstated, and/or misrepresented variously (put nicely) despite what the plain English says.”

    This grieves me. I urge you (and Pastor Wilson, should he read this) to pursue reconciliation. Whatever this whole kerfluffle ends up doing, don’t let it put more walls between brothers in Christ than it absolutely must.

    Grace, and peace,
    Keith

  18. November 29, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    Keith,

    Thanks for your gracious reply.

    Perhaps, if you have a moment, you could read Doug’s list of principles and qualifications in the post I linked and give your own list of what a person should be like to use satire (and in what circumstances)?

    I will try to find it. Without having read the post in question, I’ll say up front that I believe the Scriptures already provide all the guidance needed in this area. Jeff C. did a nice job of listing a number of such passages, but certainly many more apply. Whatever guidelines I might write, given Jer 17:9, would just be my attempt to minimize my sense of sinning against my brothers when I think that I can be witty or clever. I say this for myself: I don’t need to justify my sin, I need to repent of it.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  19. Gabe Rench said,

    November 29, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Bob,

    We are commanded to imitate Christ. Our sinful nature is not the standard for picking and choosing which attributes to follow. Christs’ life is our standard. I have seen people do just as much damage loving their kids all the way out the church front doors and similarly I have seen the same damage from a serrated edge- same results, different sins. We imitate Christ in every way and of course we are going to sin along the way, but just because we are imperfect does not mean that we should select the attributes that we want to follow.

    The same goes for Paul and Elijah. Just because they were inspired does not mean that their example to us is off limits. No one here is claiming direct revelation and inspiration from God. What we are claiming is that we are to imitate Christ in everything. Correct me if I am wrong but in my mind your view is a trunckated view of Christ Lordship. You can love as Christ loved but you can’t rebuke the way Christ rebuked. I believe Christ was loving when he was serrated, and in the same way we can love and be serrated….of course we can also be unloving and serrated too. I find all of Christ conduct defensible, it is my pathetic imitation of Christs’ love and serration that can be debated. Blessings!

    Jeff,

    I whole heartily agree that biblical balance is important here. God’s will for our tongue is to imitate Jesus in our serration and love…and biblical balance is important in all this- amen!

    Cheers!

  20. November 29, 2007 at 9:07 pm

    Keith,

    I found the post you mentioned, but it is way too long to read and critique tonight. It’s been a long week here and I’m going to crash for the night. Tomorrow night we’re decorating the church and I have another post to get out, so I don’t know if I’ll even get to it then. I’ll try to get to it this weekend. Just glancing through the post, though, I don’t see much chance of coming up with a significantly different answer that I gave in comment #17 above.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  21. Seth Foster said,

    November 29, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Regarding the principles of godly satire, I would like to ask Pastor Wilson if his describing the work of the MARS faculty as “dog breakfast” fits within the bounds of godly satire.

  22. November 30, 2007 at 7:22 am

    Gabe,

    Our sinful nature is not the standard for picking and choosing which attributes to follow.

    With respect, I believe you have that concept backwards. Our sinful nature is not the basis on which to choose which commands of Christ we like better than others. In fact, there is no such criteria for making that kind of a decision as such disobedience is not our calling. Obedience out of gratitude for God’s mercy and grace towards us is our explicit calling (Jn 14:15).

    In the verses like Ja 1:26; 1 Cor 10:31-33; Prov. 12.18, 15.1, 17.27, and 18.21; 1 Tim 3.3 and Tit 3.2; we are clearly told NOT to engage in the behavior which you and the book’s author try to justify for yourselves and others. So the question on the table is: Do I ignore Jer 17:9 and create guidelines for myself so that I may continue to disobey Christ’s explicit commands, or should I simply repent and obey Christ’s explicit commands?

    The rest of your argument collapses given what I just wrote, and what I and others have already commented above. Repeating the argument of the book back to us does not make your case. I and others have already indicated our strong disagreement with, and rejection of, that argument. If you have a verse handy that clears us to ignore God’s explicit commands to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15), then I think that we’d all like to see it.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  23. November 30, 2007 at 8:01 am

    To all commenters,

    Before we get too far afield on this thread, let’s review the purpose of it. The initial post’s challenge to blog “the truth in love” is laid out to the entire Christian blogging community, not any individual. This thread should not deteriorate into a debate about any one individual. Things are going fine so far, but I’m just reiterating the rules of engagement because the potential is always there.

  24. Robert K. said,

    November 30, 2007 at 8:04 am

    Just read this post. I’m always convicted by this message. It’s hard to be heavenly minded and aware of the reality of death behind all the storm and thunder of life, but that’s what we are called to do. I tend to think, though, that such an approach will be taken as lukewarmness or indifference or lack of valuation for the subject matter being defended and attacked, but we can defend with a steady hand and a clear view to what is most important. Not easy to maintain though… Or remember…

    A few well-chosen and delivered words will blunt a thousand rhetorical knives though.

    What do you do with a character, though, who, even knowing he is going to die, and conscious of it NOW, still engages in mocking false teaching? The saying comes to mind, there is nobody in hell who doesn’t want to be there…

  25. November 30, 2007 at 8:52 am

    Robert,

    Thank you for your note. I think that you have the answer to your last question embedded in your insightful comment. A steady hand, speaking the truth clearly but respectfully, and keeping in mind that the One for whom we speak will ultimately bring His will to pass. Better to glorify Him through our obedience to Him demonstrated in our thoughts, words, deeds, and posts, and leave the outcome to He who “freely and unchangeably ordains whatsoever comes to pass.”

    Blessings,
    Bob

  26. Gabe Rench said,

    November 30, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Good morning Bob,

    I am advancing that a Christ-like serrated edge is not out of step of the verses that you listed and is not out of step of a Christ-like love; if so Christ contradicted His own word and so did Paul. A serrated edge can be done in love and you would not be contradicting the verses you listed. The serrated edge can be used to “speak the truth in love” just like Christ did- he was not out of step with this verse in Matt. 23. In 1 Cor. 11:1 Paul says: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” We are not only commanded to obey Christ explicit commands but also His example…and of course everything is in the context of love. The serrated edge is not my hobby horse …my hobby horse is to imitate Christ in everything. Jeff C. makes a great point that Biblical balance is important in this and it is also important to note who Christ was dealing with when He was serrated. I would not speak to my mom like this, but I would speak like this to a puffed up pharisee whose cup is clean on the outside but full of stench and filth on the inside. Context is key. Cheers!

  27. Mark T. said,

    November 30, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Gabe,

    Let’s test your argument. What if your mother happens to be “a puffed up pharisee [sic] whose cup is clean on the outside but full of stench and filth on the inside”? Would you apply a serrated edge to her?

    Thank you.

  28. Morgan Farmer said,

    November 30, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    OK Mark T., who gave YOU the inside scoop? . ;)

    No we do not apply the serrated edge to her. We honor her*** and make sure her needs are taken care of and we stay as far away as we can. Distance is a wonderful thing.

    ***Honoring her by not making her misdeeds public and knowing that all things will be worked out after we enter into eternal life with Jesus. Some things cannot be fixed in this reality….(sorry…my Dr. Laura moment).

    Not a terribly theological solution but at least practical.

  29. DaveGlasebrook said,

    November 30, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Blogging is a dangerous sport.

    Too often men do not discern between right and wrong. Often they blog in hate and say that it is in love.

    ***SNIP***

  30. November 30, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    DaveG.,

    I edited comment #29 for content and tone. Name calling and personal accusations have no place on this blog. That is strike 1 by the posting rules. If you haven’t read Lane’s rules for this blog, I suggest that you do so before you post again.

  31. DaveGlasebrook said,

    November 30, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Bob,
    It is one thing to call names. I did not name call and make personal accusations.

    I pointed out that a brother was sinning and that you were facilitating him. Is that against Lane’s rules? No. Is it fair to snip my comment about a brother sinning on his blog? No.

    Look at the URL that I posted and tell me that it is not sinful. That is not a personal accusation. It is pointing out sin in a blog, the substance of this thread.

  32. November 30, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    DaveG.

    I read your post and know what it said. You did make a very personal accusation. GreenBagginses isn’t the place to complain about blogs that you don’t like. If you want to police the blogosphere, please start your own blog. Here we talk about theology and polity, as well as books on the same. Please keep to the topics.

    The substance of this thread is proper tone, attitude, and conduct for Christians on the blogosphere, not pointing out every blog on the net that you don’t like. Others here seem to be able to stay within the bounds without a problem.

    Again, read the rules. Complaining further on this subject will gain another strike.

  33. December 1, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Gabe, RE #26,

    Thank you for your response. I respectfully disagree with your premise that we can slice and dice fellow Christians or others in love. I see no Biblical warrant for such a statement. I asked you for such a citation, but did not see one in your post. I have explained all this above.

    You cite 1 Cor 11:1. This is the concluding verse of the discussion in 1 Cor 10:23-11:1. In verse 24, the passage leads with:

    Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. (NKJV)

    Here we’re told to not to seek our own but other’s well-being. That hardly sounds like encouragement for slicing and dicing people with whom we disagree. Then the sentences immediately before your verse are the ones I used in my post:

    

    Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just was I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

    So what Paul is saying to imitate in 1 Cor 11:1 isn’t slicing and dicing your brothers, but not seeking ones own interests and not give offense to those in or out of the church. That’s exactly the opposite of your stated point. Other verses that talk about imitation work similarly. 3 Jn 11 is quite explicit:

    Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God.

    I don’t see how you could get any clearer than these verses. And they are perfectly consistent with the other verses cited above against slicing and dicing.

    Mt 23 consists of divine pronouncements of judgment and prophetic pronouncements. I don’t see anything there that mortal men can possibly imitate without presuming upon divine prerogatives. You may as well try to imitate Christ by attempting to walk across your swimming pool or raising the dead. I don’t see any help here for mere mortals to slice and dice their brothers.

    So again, Christ says that if we love Him, we’ll obey his commands (Jn 14:15). I have yet to see here or elsewhere any evidence that Christ releases us from obedience to His explicit commands listed in the post and above comments so that we can slice and dice fellow believers or anyone else. If you can find verses that specifically release us from explicit commands so that we can verbally shred others, I’d like to see them.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  34. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 1, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Let’s put this in the context of some situations.

    (1) Suppose there is a brother who needs to change for some reason. Perhaps he believes something heretical. Or perhaps he acts in some unorthoprax way.

    Question: What’s the best way to provide the most likely opportunity for change?

    My answer: It depends on the person AND our relationship with the person. If we have a good relationship with the person and are confident that speaking toughly and directly is the best way to get to his heart … pull out the serrated edge and cut with skill. But otherwise, it’s much more likely that gentle words will build the necessary bridges for change. It is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance…

    And that’s assuming that I’m the right person to try to bring about change! Maybe my right role is to shut up and allow the HS to sanctify according to His own pace.

    (2) Suppose a brother is under attack. Perhaps the attack is unfair; perhaps it’s partially fair.

    Question: What’s the right way to act the part of a loyal friend? Both Jeff H and Doug W have found themselves in this position recently.

    I don’t want to presume to tell them their business, so I’ll not sketch a full answer here. But in general, facts dispassionately laid out without interpretive rhetoric speak a whole lot louder than rhetoric. In general, I find that when I read rhetorically charged posts, my confidence in the writer goes down, not up.

    (3) Suppose there’s a dangerous false teacher on the loose and we feel the need to warn everyone about him.

    Question: What to do?

    My answer: Work the denominational channels. It’s nonsense to believe that I can unilaterally declare someone to be a false teacher without consensus from Session, Presbytery, or GA.

    Those are my opinionated thoughts, which are only worth the bytes they’re stored on.

    Jeff C

  35. Seth Foster said,

    December 1, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Hebrews 4:12 For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

    Every time the pastor gets in the pulpit, IF he preaches the word, he is using something much more powerful than a knife or a sword, or in this case, a two-edged sword. Is he speaking the truth in love?

    As Christians, we are to wear the full armor of God; that includes the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. But the Sword must always be accompanied by the rest of the armor. There are bloggers who have no helmet of salvation, have no shoes of the gospel of peace, have no breastplate of righteousness, no buckler of truth, no shield of faith. Without the WHOLE armor of God, we reduce ourselves to “slicing and dicing”.

    It would be an interesting exercise to see another rule added to this blog. In order to comment, a blogger must support his comment with Scripture. That way, we can edify one another by directing each other to the Word of God, not just to our own opinions. Iron sharpens iron?

  36. Gabe Rench said,

    December 1, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    Bob,

    Comparing a miracle to a prophetic rebuke is not a legit comparison. I agree with you that we should not seek our own well-being but others well-being. This is exactly what Christ, Paul, and Elijah were doing. Was Christ loving His neighbor when he called the pharisees vipers or when he made fun of their hair- You bet! Was Christ, Paul, Elijah imitating evil? I dont think so.

    I dont have a verse that out-right says to be serrated. Better- I have a living example in Christ. Do you have a verse that says to baptize babies?

    Jeff C.,

    I agree with you to an extent. One question- Was Christ following the denominational channels when he jumped on the Pharisees?

    Cheers!

  37. December 1, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Gabe,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Comparing a miracle to a prophetic rebuke is not a legit comparison.

    It is in the sense that both are divine prerogatives in the cases described. I hope that you aren’t saying the such divine prophetic pronouncements can be claimed by mortal men today. Forgive me if I am misunderstanding you on that point, but it is the third time I believe that you’ve made that point in different ways.

    I dont have a verse that out-right says to be serrated. Better- I have a living example in Christ. Do you have a verse that says to baptize babies?

    I respectfully reject that comparison. Slicing and dicing fellow believers and others is forbidden by a large number of Scriptures as has been pointed out many times above. I cannot find a single Scripture forbidding baptizing babies in all of Scriptures.

    I have a living example in Christ.

    Again with respect, I don’ t think a WWJD approach to taking divine prerogatives upon oneself is an excuse for for disobeying His explicit commands.

    After a number of exchanges, I still find no Scriptural support for disobeying explicit Scriptural commands in order to excuse personal behavioral preferences. I again suggest that repentance is the appropriate approach in a circumstance where one feels the need to slice and dice one’s opponents.

    Though I continue to disagree with your point, I do appreciate your courteous approach to the debate.

    Blessings,
    Bob

  38. December 1, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    Jeff C.

    Those are my opinionated thoughts, which are only worth the bytes they’re stored on.

    What about the bandwidth required to download them? :-)

    Blessings,
    Bob

  39. Jeff Cagle said,

    December 2, 2007 at 1:33 am

    One question- Was Christ following the denominational channels when he jumped on the Pharisees?

    That’s a tough one.

    Technically, I’d say “No.” No charges were filed with the Sanhedrin.

    But *Technically*, I’d say “Yes.” He is the head of the church, after all.

    So pick whichever sense works for you. :lol:

    JRC

  40. December 7, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    [...] of my original post. It is way too easy to strike back at those who wrong us, but as I wrote in another post about a week after I published the original version of this post, Christ commands us to do better. [...]

  41. December 7, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    [...] of my original retort. It is way too easy to strike back at those who wrong us, but as I wrote in another post about a week after I published the original retort, Christ commands us to do better. For my falling [...]


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