Image by Ryan Ashton
“My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character.” Charles Barkley
Here are 4 article on James MacDonald’s defense of his lawsuit against The Elephant Debt, their wives and Julie Roys.
I’m watching my wording since, to be perfectly frank, I’m concerned that macDonald might try to sue me and everybody else who write about him. So, I frequently will be using words like “it appears* and IMHO (in my humble opinion). So, here I go.
On Novembers 2, 2018, Christianity Today posted an Op Ed by James MacDonald. James MacDonald: Why Suing Is Sometimes the Biblical Choice It was subtitled 1 Corinthians 6:1-9 does not apply to every situation.
I also plan to reference a post by Eric Rasmussen CHRISTIANS SUING CHRISTIANS? EXAMINING JAMES MACDONALD’S REASONING which is found at his website Warhorn.
… but HBC seemed to be saying that Dr. Grudem supported the lawsuit. I wanted to find out whether Dr. Grudem had really counseled that, so I emailed him.
I will be referring to the Harvest Bible Chapel’s Elders’ Update on October 19, 2018 in which the elders’ seemed to imply that they got all sorts of support from really cool Christian *leaders* who know their Scripture stuff.
Our goal was to end their prolonged and divisive effort to undermine the Elder governance of our church and to discredit our primary leaders. We have chosen to accomplish that by filing a civil suit in Cook County.
We believe governmental authorities, whether criminal or civil, are His protection when those who oppose us are actually breaking the law (Romans 13:1-2). In consultation with highly regarded Christian leaders and students of Scripture, we received unqualified support for this difficult decision.
Finally, MacDonald got all huffy (IMHO) in October 2018 and wrote Enough is Enough: Why We Can and Must Take Bloggers to Court which is available on the HBC website. It appears he is upset that the great unwashed (bloggers) are allowed to have a microphone. He appears to be implying that all of his thoughts are rigorous and true.
Now anyone who breathes can get a microphone — even if their thoughts are not rigorous, even if their statements are not entirely true. In this new world, people who struggle with the same micro-ailment of mind or body, who uphold the same partisan creed or caution can gather affirmation on a world-wide scale with no regard for fact checking or due process. A few moments of impassioned typing after midnight on any subject, regardless of credential or credence, nearly ensures the blogger will have enough approval by morning to believe their work is urgent — and needs repeating.
Wayne Grudem and other unnamed celebrity leader need to be named and quoted accurately.
I’m looking at this again is because of this statement in MacDonald’s Op Ed.
A conversation with Wayne Grudem, the widely respected theologian and my seminary professor, helped me understand that we should model our response to criticism after Christ’s ministry (John 8:49) not his road to the cross, when his total silence was a unique fulfillment of prophecy.
I found this rather odd. Grudem, while a firm supporter of CJ Mahaney as well as all pastors and theologian in his Reformed (Calvinista) tribe, has not inserted himself into these battles as of late. In fact, I had heard that perhaps his health was giving him trouble. If so, I am sorry.
My lingering response to this statement could be summed up like this. I didn’t believe that MacDonald had a conversation with Grudem which ended with *proof* that MacDonald was supported by Grudem and maybe even other super Christian leaders who supported this according to HBC. I attempted to get a response by Grudem through Twitter to no avail. I also heard that a number of other people had tried as well with the same result.
However, Rasmussen was able to connect with Grudem by email (I am so grateful someone got him to respond) and he posted Grudem’s response.
When I talked with James by phone, I referred him to the section, “The Necessity of Responding to Slander,” on pages 334-335 of my book Christian Ethics. I also referred him to the notes on 1 Corinthians 6 in the ESV Study Bible. I stand by what I wrote in Christian Ethics and I agree in principle with the notes in the ESV Study Bible.
I have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the specific lawsuit that James McDonald has initiated, nor have I looked into any details about that lawsuit or the accusations from the people who have criticized his ministry online. Nor do I intend to.
Grudem’s response appears to say that he didn’t tell him what to do-one way of the other. Since the HBC elders did not share any communication with other super Christians, then that leaves me with the impression that HBC elders and James MacDonald are playing games and I don’t like it one bit.
So, it appears that Wayne Grudem did not give MacDonald *permission* to sue the bloggers. But MacDonald claims that he has had confirmation of his actions by many influential pastors and Biblical scholars. Who are they? What exactly did they say? Why are they not coming forward with their names to defend MacDonald and HBC? Do they even exist? At TWW we would actually list the names of who advised us and quoted them precisely. That is not evident here and it causes me to doubt HBC and MacDonald.Also, it is possible to make Scriptures say what you want them to say.
We have carefully reviewed the Scriptures related to the purpose of human government and the church. We have contacted many influential pastors and biblical scholars, and received near unanimous confirmation of our thinking.
Rasmussen indicated that HBC elders and MacDonald may have been referring to certain books by celebrity leaders .
In my opinion, (my very humble opinion for the lawyers), it might appear that HBC and MacDonald are conflating what was verbally said. If they merely looked at books, they should quote them precisely. Are the sources actually giving explicit Scriptural reasons for suing the bloggers? In this example, Rasmussen shows how one resources is NOT discussing lawsuits.
HBC introduces and then quotes Grudem’s Christian Ethics as follows:
In wrestling with a biblical response to slander, we contacted my favorite seminary professor, Wayne Grudem. He directed me to his book, Christian Ethics.
Here is what Wayne Grudem wrote about responding to slander… — Pastor James MacDonald.
The Necessity of Responding to Slander. The Westminster Larger Catechism, in further explanation of the ninth commandment, says that it also requires “love and care of our own good name and defending it when need requireth (Question 144)…. [emphasis in the original]
What the book actually says is that a pastor shouldn’t be silent in the face of accusations, but should respond publicly. Of course, that isn’t the same as suing his accusers,
What could MacDonald and HBC have done to avoid this lawsuit?
This has been a sticking point for me. I have one solution but first let’s look at what Rasmussen suggested.
Suppose HBC thinks TED has defamed it, and TED disagrees. I Corinthians 6 is clear that for HBC to sue TED is a shameful way to address the problem. Rather, after “private appeal” failed, HBC should have explained the situation to some Christians without a personal interest in the case and, if they were persuaded, gone together with them to talk to TED. That’s what Matthew 18 tells us to do. If that didn’t work, HBC should have gone to the churches to which the TED people belong and presented its case to the leaders of those churches, who would administer appropriate discipline, perhaps even excommunication.
Rasmussen quickly points out the problems with this his suggested approach.
- HBC is autonomous with no other entity having any say over their actions.TED often discussed this problem.
- HBC is a member of the SBC which has no hierarchical function over any member church (editor says: unless that church appoints woman as pastor and then the SBC finds something stop that.)
- Finally, perhaps, both groups could find some celebrity leaders who could serve as mediators. IMHO, the problem with this is the tribal *protect our own* nature of the Reformed Baptist world. Would HBC/MacDonald even allow outsiders to arbitrate? I have no idea.
In my opinion, HBC/MacDonald could use social media to document the evidence of their claims and avoid the lawsuit.
What exactly have HBC/MacDonald done except to fuss and moan that they’re being slandered? Slandered how? I’ve read extensively and I haven’t found one article in which MacDonald/HBC sets out their factual, point-by -point disagreement with TED’s claims. I have certainly been able to find TED’s beliefs (I haven’t yet found anything to even show that Julie Roys or the wives of TED have said anything exciting so I don’t get why they are being sued.)
I was excited to see that Rasmussen developed a similar idea. He first quoted Grudem.
Too often today Christian leaders mistakenly allow their own names or the ministries they lead to be slandered relentlessly in the public eye while they give no response. This can be immensely damaging in an age when Internet accusations can multiply rapidly with no accountability for the authors. These silent Christian leaders perhaps think they are imitating the example of Jesus at His crucifixion, but they fail to appreciate the uniqueness of that situation, and so they fail to imitate the example of Jesus during his entire public ministry, when he immediately defended himself and answered false accusations. I do not mean that we must answer everything we hear or read. For sometimes a false accusation has little influence and is best ignored: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you” (Eccles 7:21). But when it seems that a false accusation will gain influence and do harm, it must be answered. [Grudem, p. 334, emphasis added]
So, why doesn’t HBC/MacDonald respond, point by point, with documented evidence to TED’s claims.
- How much does James MacDonald make? Show the books.
- Did he actually fire all the elders? Show the documentation.
- Warren Throckmorton asked What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF. Why not answer him?
- Exactly how much money does HBC owe?
- Prove why they think people left the church due to the bloggers as opposed to getting fed up with problems at the church.
They need to carefully outline, with documentation, why they believe that TED is lying. If HBC/MacDonald would present the facts in a rebuttal, I would happily print it.
Do MacDonald and HBC really want to discuss the facts? They will have to if they go to court.
I have often said that pastors who have engaged in coverup are scared to death to go to court since they will be required to open up all of their documents pertaining to the so called slander and defamation. My guess is that some of this information might be uncomfortable if it were to come into the light. Is HBC and MacDonald ready for this information to get out?
The US government is not into protecting people from critics. The legal bar that must be met in order to prove libel is quite simple. The plaintiff must prove the all three of the following points in order to win the lawsuit.
- The person must have told a lie.
- The must have know that they lied.
- They must have lied in order to bring malicious harm to another.
In my case, I have never knowingly told a lie on the blog. Perhaps I have been wrong in my judgement but I never, ever knowingly tell a lie. It is my opinion that TED and Roys never knowingly told a lie. I would never have featured TED’s posts if I knew they were telling lies.
What is really going on?
In this PDF we learn quite a bit.
It appears that MacDonald doesn’t like the little nobodies to have a voice. Read his words carefully. He appears to believe that he should be the one with the microphone. Why?
It used to be that you had to accomplish something to get your voice heard above the unceasing rumble of news cycles, politico-religious rancor, and the cacophony of sports entertainment. In the last millennium, if you didn’t have something profound, proprietary or penetrating to say, no one would stop to listen.
He claims that bloggers are nobodies who write their posts in just a few moments.
The bloggers I know spend hours researching and writing. It takes me 4 hours to write a post. That’s after doing the research. I do it during the day and am asleep at midnight.
Now anyone who breathes can get a microphone —
A few moments of impassioned typing after midnight on any subject, regardless of credential or credence, nearly ensures the blogger will have enough approval by morning to believe their work is urgent — and needs repeating.
Bloggers are hurting ministries and pastors.
Our blog is named after the castle Luther hid in because the Pope was not pleased with his direct confrontation and disagreement with the doctrine and actions of the church. Luther made his views well known via the Gutenberg Press. In fact, Luther was the original blogger of his day and he changed the church forever. The Pope was not pleased.
Our observation is that hobby bloggers harm too many ministers and ministries, and more importantly, the people we are called to serve.
Bloggers are hurting the people that MacDonald (and presumably other pastors) serve.
I think MacDonald might have enjoyed living in the old Soviet Union when all the news that was fit to print had to be accepted by the only newspaper in the land, Pravda (It means truth…) A loyal, communist committee decided what was allowed to printed because they believe that they had to protect the people from any ideas that might run contrary to the Communist party’s ideals.
Unfortunately, MacDonald appears to believe that the *people we serve* must be idiots, unable to seek out the truth for themselves. If I were in his church I would be insulted. I am perfectly capable of making up my own mind. I would not want HBC limiting what I could read or which voices I listen to.
The world has changed. Does MacDonald know that many news services are getting their news directly from bloggers? Bloggers often have access to communities that the *official* media might not. The days of preachers controlling the microphone are over and HBC and others must learn how to function in this new world.
It’s time for those MacDonald and other leaders to step up to the plate and become a voice for their ministry. That means they must respond with facts and stop hiding under the covers.
By the way, Pastor MacDonald, my blog is not a hobby for me. I actually care about children and adults being abused by the church and am determined to make a difference with my writing. I’m a nurse and I have an MBA. I’ve started a medical ministry for victims of human trafficking. Are you implying that my credentials do not meet your standards?
Our observation is that hobby bloggers harm too many ministers and ministries, and more importantly, the people we are called to serve.
MacDonald claims bloggers look at issues and controversies that he deems trivial.
Again and again, he appears to want to be the one who gets to decide what is trivial. That is the beauty of blogging. He gets to hear what other people think is important. How many people oppose his ideas to his face? Is he just a nice guy who people feel comfortable approaching with differing points of view?
Again and again, as something trivial, controversial or difficult would happen in the church, the bloggers would show up online as carnal commentators distorting the record, then giving voice through comments to people who used anonymity to say the cruelest and most vile things.
MacDonald claims he has made many appeals to meet with TED who he says does not act like believers.
I would love to see documentation that this has occurred. I would like to read what was said. I would imagine he has copies of any emails that he sent. Was he kind and thoughtful in his approach or was he angry? Surely he has documentation of these appeals, right?
When professing believers refuse, over and over, to act like believers — refuse even to meet after many appeals over many years — we can, and I believe must, turn our attention to the matter of protecting our church family and seeking the protection God has established as His provision.
MacDonald claims that we must presume innocence over guilt and we live in an *age of rage* (cute) and fake news.
In a court of law, the presumption of innocence is the standard. A trial then occurs in which evidence must be given that someone is guilty. However, in real life, I’m not obligated to presume the innocence of an individual. For example, I believed that Tom Chantry was guilty of child abuse prior to his actual conviction. I had read the information available and formed an opinion. Also, there is the case of OJ Simpson who was declared not guilty. Yet many, many people believe he was guilty. Does MacDonald presume Simpson is innocent?
Once again, I believe what TED wrote. I don’t believe they were engaged in *fake news* not do they impress me as being filled with rage. However, as I’ve read MacDonald’s commentary, I sense something simmering under his surface.
We are indeed living in an age of rage, fueled by ‘fake news’ where the presumption of innocence has almost universally given way to the presumption of guilt.
MacDonald’s commentary seems a bit over the top but, for the lawyers, but that is only my lowly opinion.
Do I really have to comment on this?
No more sitting by doing nothing while digital attackers ravage the body of Christ.
My final thoughts:
- MacDonald should rebut TED point by point with hard evidence.
- If he does this, I will post it at TWW.
- He should drop the lawsuit.
- If they do not stop the lawsuit, I believe that TED, their wives and Roys will prevail.
- Maybe all of his really cool theologian advisors could offer to mediate…
- MacDonald should get some advice on how to get his points across in a world that is, and will continue to be, dominated by digital media.
- Remember, MacDonald will have to prove that the bloggers deliberately lied in order to bring him harm. It is often very difficult to prove that.
- MacDonald sounds like an old man who can’t accept the world has changed.
- Can someone help MacDonald to ratchet down the rhetoric. Bloggers are *ravaging the body of Christ*…seriously?