Big Ben (taken by Deb)
"The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all."
Psalm 103:19 (NASB)
Allow me to make an observation, to use SGM’s loaded language. Comments are mysteriously disappearing from several Calvinista blogs. Don’t these bloggers believe in the sovereignty of God? If so, then why are they micromanaging their websites by eliminating any commentary that might challenge their leaders and/or movement, which they claim are in the center of God’s will?
If these bloggers are divinely appointed by God to do His work here on earth, then absolutely NOTHING can stand in their way, not even critical or challenging comments.
“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:4 (ESV)
“For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” Isaiah 14:27 (ESV)
Here at TWW, we firmly believe that God’s plan cannot be thwarted. That’s why we allow critical comments to stand. In this blog’s two and a half year history, we have only deleted a handful of comments. In those rare cases, we had someone silly enough to impersonate Dee’s husband and several commenters who unwisely chose to use extremely vulgar language. Other than that, ALL comments here at The Wartburg Watch remain visible for anyone to read. We believe, much to the chagrin of our detractors, that our blogging is God’s will for us, and we are not at all concerned about negative comments. In fact, it’s great to know that we have a variety of readers.
Unfortunately, there are those in the New Reformed movement who are threatened by negative comments. The first time I witnessed the deletion of comments from a Calvinista blog was last year. I had been sporadically reading Joshua Harris’ blog, and someone wrote a comment challenging Josh about his association with a pastor whom they described as vulgar (I assumed it was Mark Driscoll). Josh responded several times to this commenter, and then the next day I checked to see if there had been any more dialogue. Incredibly, they had vanished! All eleven of them! When this phenomenon happened again on Harris’ blog, I wrote about it in a post entitled The Power of Positive Comments on Josh Harris’ Blog.
Recently, I wrote an article that focused on the close friendship between C.J. Mahaney and Mark Dever.
Several days went by, and Jim posted the following comment on the Mahaney/Dever post:
Jim on Fri, Aug 19 2011 at 09:31 pm
“Sorry I’m late to the conversation, but I was so glad to find someone asking questions about Mark Dever, CHBC, and 9 marks and their relationship to the CJM debacle. I tried to post some comments and questions to the 9 marks blog. The comments were on for about a day, they gained some traction, and were getting responses, and then poof! They all disappeared (sort of like the broken links-cover up mode).
I have been around CHBC and have been troubled by the set up. I think the constant entourage that Dever has developed of Mark wannabees and sycophants (young men who like to read books, who want to have elbow patches on their tweed jackets, and who have not climbed as high on the ladder in the secular world and turned to religion) is creepy, even cultic. How long till there is a CHBC-Survivors or CHBC-Refuge blog?
Here were the sorts of questions I was posting that were yanked:
1. Given that Josh Harris and CLC have expressed dismay that CJM did not consult them in his decision to attend CHBC and these elders (in the church where CJM is a member) would prefer that he attend their church during his “break” from ministry, how can CHBC be welcoming him to worship with their church? Is this not hypocritical? Does Dever have one standard for his chums and another for every one else?
2. Would 9 marks please offer an open financial accouting of how much money CJM and SGM under his leadership have given to 9 marks over the years? Has this affected their motivation in caring for (protecting) CJM?
3. Would Mark Dever please offer an open accounting of the finances of T4G (which has grown into a mult-million dollar enterprise)? Would he release the amount given in honoraia to conference speakers and organizers?
At least Josh Harris and 9 Marks allow some comments to be posted on their blogs, even though they have been caught in the act of deleting certain ones… In case you haven’t noticed, so many of the Calvinista bloggers DO NOT allow comments. Al Mohler and C.J. Mahaney are the first individuals who come to mind. Do you remember that Gospel Coalition interview where James MacDonald interviewed C.J. about whether e-mail should be used to correct others? (link)
At the very beginning of the interview James MacDonald says: “O.K. CJ, so I get this comment on my blog the other day. I mean why do I even take comments on my blog? I mean who is this person that’s writing this?”
Not surprisingly, Mahaney responds: “I would recommend you NOT take comments on your blog…”
Speaking of C.J. Mahaney, blogger Tim Challies, who operates the blog “Challies Dot Com: Informing the Reformed”, finally chimed in about the SGM debacle that we have been discussing here at TWW. His post is called C.J. Mahaney and Difficult Days. (link)
Here is what I believe to be the crux of Tim Challies’ post. He explained:
“The Lord has given me a unique platform at the blog and if there was a serious, systemic issue within the ministry, I might be able to use the blog to inform people. Was this legitimate or mere justification? I don’t know that I can discern the motives of my own heart enough to say with certainty.
As we consider future leaks and future documents exposing other Christian leaders—perhaps men I know and love—how will the Bible direct us? I believe that in almost every case the Bible would tell us not to read leaked documents like these ones. As soon as we read words that may well be gossip, we have allowed tasty little morsels to sink into our hearts—morsels that may well change our understanding of a brother or sister in Christ. We will inevitably begin to pass judgment based on an incomplete understanding of a situation that is far removed from us. A couple of proverbs seem to offer valuable guidelines: Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
Once we read or hear these things, we cannot unread or unhear them. Our love for a brother or sister should cause us to refuse to listen to their interpersonal conflict. There will be occasional exceptions for those who are in positions of leadership over the people involved (If someone leaked documents about me, I would expect my fellow elders to read them). The situation may well be different where there someone has broken the law and remained unrepentant and is putting other people in danger. But at least as it pertains to conflict, I believe we need to avoid involvement.”
Clearly, Challies does not believe there is a systemic problem in Sovereign Grace Ministries because he presents the situation as simply an interpersonal conflict between C.J. Mahaney and his longtime colleague Brent Detwiler. There were quite a few comments in response to the Challies post, including several from Detwiler. When the comments reached 122 in number, Challies posted his final remarks and closed the comment section. He stated:
“Thanks for all the comments, everyone. At this point I am going to close them down. I typically do this after 100 comments, but have let this go on a bit longer. At this point I don't know that there will be much more constructive conversation. That is very difficult to do after a while (which is why I generally do cap things at around the 100 mark).”
Too bad if you didn’t read Tim’s post right away and quickly comment. We never close comments here at TWW, so feel free to share your thoughts with us.
I read through all of the comments, and Tim Challies had quite a few commenters agreeing with his position. I was glad to see that some challenging comments got through, but then I wondered whether any had been censored. I checked over at SGM Survivors and found the following comments which related to the Challies post.
August 19th, 2011 at 8:24 pm
“Just suggested on Challies blog that he write his next post on the rights and wrongs of blackmailing one's ministry colleagues. My post was swiftly deleted. I wonder why?”
August 20th, 2011 at 2:09 pm
“Well, try #3, I posted this below at Challies blog and they erased it, and I got a yellow flag that I am barred from posting any more comments at that site.”
Donald Philip Veitch
August 20th, 2011 at 3:09 pm
“@Melody and 5yearsPDI:
I think my post just got whacked at Challies’s blog.”
Donald Philip Veitch
August 20th, 2011 at 8:41 pm
“It’s unquestionable now. Have watched closely. Mr. Challies, http://www.challies.com, is actively and unquestionably deleting unfavourable posts, either as primary posts or as replies. Several “deletes” have been observed. Noted, decisively. For this scribe, Challies is in the cross-hairs.”
Just before Challies closed the comment section, Donald Veitch FINALLY got a comment posted. Hopefully, it won’t be deleted. Here is what he wrote:
Donald Philip Veitch
“Tim, an unimpressive and shallow review. I'll endeavour to redigest your argument; there are multidisciplinary reasons for the necessity of an on-going inquiry and analysis. Unfortunately, you haven't done that. This review wouldn't pass an undergraduate level course in writing. Go back to the sources again.”
I happen to know that Donald Veitch has read through the 600+ page document more than once, so I give him more credibility than Challies, who likely did not do exhaustive research on the matter.
In case you aren’t aware, Tim Challies has received quite a bit of notoriety through his blogging efforts. Because of his success, he was recently featured in a Christianity Today interview called “Christianizing the Social Network”.
The interviewer, Matthew Lee Anderson, asked Challies the following question: “You point out that the “new Calvinists” gained influence by adopting technology. How do you see those tools shaping the movement?”
Challies responds: “You can’t really understand new Calvinism apart from the Internet. It allowed us to hear from these people in an unprecedented way. We seem to have short attention spans, and much of what we’re learning and hearing comes through the social media. Far more people are getting John Piper in 140-character chunks than are listening to his 45-minute sermons…”
There can be no doubt that the internet is the means by which the Calvinistas have thrust themselves into the limelight. If it weren’t for this relatively new technology, few would recognize the name Tim Challies, and TWW loyalists wouldn’t be reading this blog post about him. Incredibly, this communication tool has revolutionized the way information is transmitted around the world, not just by the Calvinista leaders but by the average Joe. Isn’t it incredible that blogging allows ordinary Christians like Dee and me to challenge those who call themselves “new Calvinists”. Is the internet part of God’s plan? I believe so, even though there are those who shamefully use it for evil.
As we wrap up this post, take a look at how Challies responded to one commenter regarding what he believes Brent Detwiler should have done:
“To some extent it seems like he felt that was true. But even if that's the case, I'd contend that he should have just walked away and left it in the Lord's hands.”
So is that how Calvinstas respond to controversy that casts a negative light on anyone in their club? Just leave it in the Lord’s hands? When someone like Rob Bell writes a book that is contrary to their theology, they don’t “leave it in the Lord’s hands, do they?” I firmly disagree with Challies’ position to let go and let God… I believe God often uses His people whom He calls to carry out His plans. We see this happening throughout history. As God’s Word confirms, He does not change; therefore, He is using His children to do His work.
With regard to God’s sovereignty as it relates to Sovereign Grace Ministries and the posting of Detwiler’s documentation, I agree Juneapple. She bravely left this comment on a recent Sovereign Grace Ministries post at this link:
“…everything that is hidden will be brought to light…
“Sovereign God is behind this leak to wiki and the blogs, not Brent..
there is serious need for change in polity and doctrine in SGM and maybe a few leaders should be stepping down…
God may not be currently blessing this movement…
Just a thought..”
The Bible is crystal clear: God’s plan WILL NOT be thwarted. We can hardly wait to see how our Sovereign Lord goes about fulfilling His divine plan.
Lydia's Corner: 2 Kings 4:18-5:27 Acts 15:1-35 Psalm 141:1-10 Proverbs 17:23