“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”– Aristotle
I have been blessed in my life. Despite the unusual start to my Christian life (It involved Star Trek), God was gracious enough to send me into the arms of some loving pastors and theologians. Joanne Hummel, Howard Keeley, Pete Briscoe, Wade Burleson, and now, my two warm and loving Lutheran pastors. There are others here and there, including a Catholic priest. I grew in my faith due to the loving concern of these folks. They helped me to see that we have a God of love and care. Look at where He was born. It was a stable that was probably a cave. The angels sang to the shepherds, not to the priestly theologians of the day. He loved lepers, prostitutes, fishermen, and even a tax collector who was despised by the populace. He used His authority to protect the outcasts and the nobodies of this world.
When I came to the faith, it was an encounter with the God of the universe who deeply loved me, got me, and gently molded me. Yes, I got the sin part. How could I look at Jesus and not see how sinless and different He was? I became a nurse and developed a deep and enduring empathy for those I encountered; from the Navajo to the poor who lived in difficult circumstances. I remember visiting a flophouse and developing a love for the man, a letdown drunk, who had developed an unusual wound. I cried when I visited one day and found out that he had died.
I believed that this is the sort of love for others that God gives to all people. I thought all Christians felt as I did. The day I found out that my old church didn’t give a darn about the many who were abused was the day I got smarter and wiser. As I’ve wandered this post-evangelical wilderness (Thank you, Internet Monk, RIP) I discovered that many churches coldly apply unjust discipline, believe that women will be subservient to men in the hereafter, and appear to think they are mostly Saints with an occasional whoopsie.
I also noticed that some of these folks get irritated when someone challenges the way they treat or view the abused, the wounded, and the letdown. They appear to be distressed when someone, who is a respected theologian, actually emphasizes love and empathy. Why does it seem they want to knock down and fight instead of trying to understand? Is it personally threatening? Maybe so.
TGC’s Collin Hansen posted My Top 10 Theology Stories of 2021
I became concerned about the following. Under #2, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill’ podcast rocks the church as leaders continue to fall., he wrote:
Prominent churches suffered internal divisions in this atmosphere of mutual suspicion. Because many Christians today expect their leaders to affirm more than challenge them, theologians will continue to debate the proper definition and application of “empathy.”
He appears to believe that the muddled masses, of which I’m one, want their leaders to affirm them, not challenge them I believe that we, the masses, want to find leaders who truly love us. It’s not the lack of *challenge.* It’s the lack of love and empathy.
He says we will continue to debate the role of empathy in the church. The gospel boys aren’t big on empathy. Have you heard the one about empathy being a sin? This worries me.
Scot McKnight causes a conniption in The Gospel Coalition by writing about *Tov.*
Scot McKnight, along with his daughter, Laura Barringer, wrote a book called A Church Called Tov which I recommend with my whole heart and soul. The subtitle to the book is Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing. McKnight, his wife Kristin (who is a faithful abuse advocate), and his daughter attended Willow Creek and had their eyes opened as the accusations of the abuse of women by Hybels became internationally known.
The Gospel Coalition, via the author Brian Tabb, attempts to “theologically” school Scot McKnight on what is a ‘good’ church Themelios is a TGC journal that is THE resource to determine what constitutes ‘good theology’ and, ipso facto, a ‘good’ church in the eyes of TGC. They posted Brian Tabb’s What Makes a “Good” Church? Reflections on A Church Called Tov. Note how they put the word “good” in italics. Is it a subtle dig at McKnight’s book? By the way, 9Marks went after McKnight as well. So why are all the gospel boys going after McKnight? Let’s look at some of the statements from the Themelios article.
TGC appears to believe that McKnight has ungospelly views in the areas of theology. ecclesiology, and missiology. In other words “It’s all wrong!!”
The authors rightly lament unbiblical, worldly leadership practices in the church and commendably call for Christian communities to cultivate qualities like Christlikeness, compassion, and truthfulness. The question is this: how do we promote “good” churches that reflect Jesus’s truth and love to one another and the watching world? I argue that the tov proposal ultimately lacks the proper theological, ecclesiological, and missiological foundations for building healthy churches
It appears McKnight and Barringer don’t like membership covenants and how Matthew 18 and other verses are misapplied.
I just knew that covenants would be up first. These covenants are legal contracts with which TGC churches attempt to control members. TWW has written article after article of the problems with covenants and the problems with Matthew 18.
McKnight and Barringer take particular issue with how church leaders mishandle or misapply three NT passages—Matthew 18:15–17, 1 Timothy 5:19, and 1 Corinthians 6:1–8—in a way that seeks to silence critics, cover up wrongdoing and control the narrative in response to accusations (see pp. 47–53).
McKnight and Barringer also take particular issue with membership covenants, which appeal to principles from Matthew 18 and other biblical texts to direct the conduct of church members, including how they will resolve disputes and conflicts with other members. The authors argue that these covenants, along with some organizations’ use of nondisclosure agreements for departing employees, “are a way for church leaders to prevent negative information from becoming known” and protect the institution from lawsuits (p. 70).
By focusing on examples of pastoral malpractice without presenting the normative biblical practice for dealing with disputes and serious sin within the community, the authors foster suspicion and distrust of church membership covenants, pastoral admonitions, and appeals to Scripture as self-serving “spin.”
TGC appears to emphasize that church is all about accountability, discipleship (perhaps defined as church discipline?), and ex-communication.
Do you notice the words that TGC/Tabb leave out? Love is one. I rarely see the word ‘grace.’They seem upset that Mcknight does not mention church discipline in his book. We have seen example after example of the incorrect and abusive application of church discipline. As many of you know, I first met Todd when he was “retroactively church disciplined” by Mark Dever’s best buddy, John Folmar, in Dubai. I believe that I invented the term “retroactive church discipline” to describe what happened and I have used it many times since.
In a healthy church, clearly defined standards for membership offer a basis for proper accountability, discipleship, and, when needed, removal of those whose conduct dishonors Christ and harms those within the community.5
McKnight and Barringer do not mention church discipline in their proposal, nor do they present a process for evaluating accusations of abuse or other serious sin within a congregation.
The author appears distressed with McKnight/Barringer’s idea that evil in a church should be exposed in a public fashion.
Why do people need to tell what happened to them to those outside of the church? It is quite simple. The church often rejects those who come to tell them the truth. In my own story, I saw two different churches claim that some of us were the problem when we exposed the church leaders’ apparent rejection of the truth. I had one pastor tell me that he was told the recently released pedophile was not a problem. This is despite a 30-year history of molesting kids. I have told story after story of abusive church leadership going after the “little guy” who told the truth.
Let’s be clear. The Gospel Coalition and assorted hangers-on are fearful of being exposed to the public. I say, “Let’s throw open the windows and doors of the church and let the Spirit come in and clean house. Let’s let the light shine on the darkness and show us all what churches care for the abused and oppressed and what churches are contributing to the pain of those who are victims and those who are marginalized.”
Sometimes the most biblical thing we can do is to expose evil to the light of truth by going public” (p. 144).
rather, they mean “tell it to the world,” presumably via news outlets or social media.This makes the court of public opinion the arbiter of “the truth” and dispenser of proper “discipline” for those within the church,
The author appears to skip over McKnight’s concern about the despicable use of NDA’s in churches. These are often used to keep people from talking about the nastiness that goes on in some of these churches. It looks like he wants to avoid that discussion
Instead, he offers a series of Bible verses that say to take the ‘evil’ to the church and let the church decide whether or not to throw out the person!!! In other words, keep it internal. How’s that been working out in the last decade?
It seems that TGC advances CJ Mahaney’s theory that the sermon is the most important part of the week.
I may be mistaking his intent but it seems his following point has a sarcastic ring to it. As we know, many in the TGC, mostly due to Mahaney’s influence, look at the sermon as the most important time in the week. Some of them believe that the pastor should attempt to spend 30 hours preparing his sermon which leaves little time for others.
It appears that the author has trouble with the idea of letting the stories of women, the marginalized, and the wounded get anywhere near the pulpit. Imagine if a pastor actually allowed a woman who was abused to tell her story from the pulpit! It will be the end of civilization as we know it.
They make few positive references to preaching, though they note that pastors ought not think too highly of their own homiletical prowess and should regularly share the pulpit and preach inclusive sermons that incorporate stories of women, marginalized, and wounded people (p. 110). They celebrate several examples of tov leadership and community outside of the church, such as an accomplished NCAA basketball coach declining a raise (pp. 90–91) and the city of El Paso responding with empathy and compassionate support for a grieving widower
The author agrees that there are bad people in the church. He says churches should set high standards for those in the pastorate. Still, the people MUST OBEY.
Yet this is a group that has been consistently fooled by men like CJ Mahaney, Mark Driscoll, Doug Wilson and has even overlooked the problem with John Piper’s church because well… they like our doctrine ya know.
Hebrews instructs believers to “remember,” “obey,” and “submit to” leaders who speak the word of God, keep watch over people’s souls, and set an example of faith
The author claims to want to have leaders that reflect God’s love but
We need to lament the painful effects of pastoral failures, and we need to recover a biblical vision of humble, godly servant leadership that reflects God’s love and authority and that’s measured by “faithfulness … according to God’s design.”18
I truly do not feel this author, as well as many in TGC, get McKnight. He gets sin and there sure has been a whole bunch of sinful leaders who have brought grave harm to church members. He is working through how to change the church culture.
McKnight and Barringer’s book was not one more book designed to hit marginalized and abused church members over the head with their sin. I don’t get how this works in TGC churches. I’ve seen people who have been abused being told by pastors that they contributed to the abuse and that they are sinners as well. I have talked with women from some of the TGC churches told to stick it out in abused marriages and to spend time focusing on changing their own sin. The author complains that McKnight doesn’t focus enough on preaching or making disciples. It seems to me that McKnight would attract more disciples with his ideas.
Here’s the problem. I wouldn’t listen to the preaching in an abusive church that shows little love by stupidly disciplining folks for things like “not getting the vision. Years ago, I watched as TGC formed and gave us cock sure formulas which were made into redundant sermons that emphasized obedience and double honor to the church leaders, who “keep watch over their souls.” They haven’t done such a good job of it.
The tov church may be affirming, authentic, and sincere, but by failing to emphasize that sin is fundamentally against the holy and righteous God and not merely against other people, the authors offer a shaky foundation for promoting true repentance, forgiveness, and change.
McKnight and Barringer offer their clearest answer in the book’s final chapter: “Those who align themselves under the headship of Jesus as Lord identify with the redemptive work of salvation accomplished by Jesus on the cross (and brought to fulfillment by his resurrection and ascension), and they are brought into restored relationship with ‘the God who saves’
They acknowledge Christ’s saving work on the cross, but they focus attention on salvation from corrupt pastors and toxic churches and do not clearly connect this to the fundamental need of all people to repent and seek forgiveness for sins against a holy God. Further, while the authors stress the church’s “redemptive and restorative” agency in people’s lives (p. 216), they do not relate this to the normative activities of preaching, evangelism, or making disciples.
Given the choice between John Puper’s way and Scot McKnight’s way, I know what I would choose. I would go for the love that focuses on the marginalized and abused within the church any day. What about you?
I often think that Mary is marginalized in discussions of the Gospel. Here is one of my favorite Christmas songs.