- “Who are #the15?” (by the group’s founder…or one of its founders)
- “Why I Number Myself Among ‘The 15′”
- “Why I’m joining #the15, and I’m not even an angry Calvinist”
Although there is far more history leading to #the15’s formation (so you should review the articles above…especially the first one), the combination of LifeWay stores carrying heresy and one of its employees, Ed Stetzer, insultingly blowing off a concern some had about John Piper mentioning the Pope in a tweet seems to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. If you take time to review “Who are #the15?,” you’ll see JD Hall (a Montana minister) summarize the answer to “Who are #the15?” with:
- #the15 are those who refuse to be shamed into silence.
- #the15 are those who are willingly sacrificing our own reputations among men for the sake of God’s holiness among the nations.
- #the15 are those who will sacrifice our careers and denominational or organization advancement in order to continue speaking prophetic truth to false teachers and those who sell false teachings .
- #the15 are those who do not mind being made fools for the sake of the Gospel.
- #the15 are those who will not relent to ask tough questions until we receive truthful answers.
- #the15 are those who will not be intimidated by power or Christian celebrity.
- #the15 are those who know people are listening, but would speak even if no one were.
- #the15 are those who know that God has not called us to success, but to faithfulness.
- #the15 are those who know this modern day Downgrade is reality, and will warn others of its seductive appeal and destructive nature.
- #the15 are those who, despite being ignored, ridiculed or attacked are not going away any time soon.
#the15’s concerns are valid. For instance, LifeWay is a Southern Baptist Convention denominationally-connected (owned?) company. It has no excuse for selling heresy unless it is there only for research (and labeled as such). It also isn’t appropriate for Christian leaders to ignore legitimate concerns…or mock/marginalize and/or attack people. I feel an affinity to #the15’s cause.
I have not joined #the15. Why? Because (a) on the surface they have an air an amalgamation of victimhood and superior piety; (b) I believe many of them make the same mistakes they are accusing others of (especially “marginalize” and “attack”); and (c) I do not agree with some important aspects of what they are being encouraged to do:
Again, to ensure that you get an accurate understanding of what I am commenting on, please be sure to read the strategy article (and the “Who are #the15?” one). It is important that you give them a fair shake and not base your conclusions on mine. Having said that, this is what I would advise #the15 based on JD Hall’s strategy.
1) We NEED to be more than what one well-meaning fellow called “reactionary tweeters.”
Agreed. And agreed they should do something about the real wrongs they’ve identified. However, I would question this:
Furthermore, #the15 (as a whole) have reacted only after years and years of being ignored and years and years of heresy-peddling from Lifeway and condescension from evangelical leaders. We’ve reacted in a big way, but it was a very, very long fuse.
My response? So what? Waiting a long time and building up a truckload of wrongs doesn’t make an act more righteous. Also…focusing on being ignored comes off as crybaby-ish (as does complaining about being marginalized). Your concerns are legit. Focus on them, not the “hurts.”
Which leads me to the first principle I would like to suggest for #the15:
1) Whatever you say or do, use the “How would most reasonable true Christians react?” litmus test.
(I throw in the world “true” because I agree with #the15 about the “downgraded” state of the modern church.)
For instance, let’s use that test on:
Third, for the more outgoing person, take a sample of the more heretical titles and ask to speak to the manager. If they are not available, speak to the clerk. Ask questions as to why Lifeway sells these books, while explaining what makes them heretical. Capture it on video or audio on your smartphone (for your own protection, because they will report that you were being mean and abrasive and probably, threatening). Be as polite as you possibly can. Stand back several feet so as to not come across as threatening and do not raise your voice. Offer to put up the books when you’re done so the clerk doesn’t have to – don’t just leave them sitting there. Avoid the urge to putting them in the fiction section. When you’re done conversing, upload to social media.
I don’t think most reasonable Christians would agree with confronting employees in stores, polite or not. Also, as soon as one of those videos is posted anywhere, the “for your own protection” taping will be proved false. If you are truly polite, you won’t need to tape yourself and you’ll be protected against the temptation to throw it up on YouTube.
Additionally, “avoid the urge to putting them in the fiction section” is funny, but not edifying.
Now, if I were someone from #the15 reading this I would say, “What is the scriptural backing for this ‘reasonable Christians’ litmus test?”
And I would commend them for asking that! 🙂
Scriptures with come with a few linked articles later. My first principle could be summarized as “act like a Christian” or “be Christlike”—we just differ on what that means. However, if an average true Christian would think you’ve gone to far…you’ve probably gone too far.
Okay, back to Hall’s strategy:
2) We NEED to be focused.
Agreed! (See, I told you I had an affinity for #the15. :-))
Not only will it make no sense to complain about everything, I would suggest my second and third principles come into play:
2) God calls specific individuals to correct others, not mobs.
3) Just because the Internet means everybody can see somebody’s sin, that doesn’t mean everyone has standing to call that somebody to repentance.
In my opinion, one area #the15 goes wrong is that they do encourage a mob mentality (literally asking everyone to do certain things). Choose some leaders. Choose wisely—they need the right disposition. Then support those leaders…but don’t everyone go on the attack.
Now, don’t get me wrong. LifeWay (sadly) will probably not change it’s behavior unless they think it’ll hurt their bottom line (my apologies to them if I am wrong…and clearly this is not true of everyone at LifeWay)…so a letter writing campaign to them does make sense. A bunch of people slamming others on Twitter, even truly public figures like Ed Stetzer, just makes the lot of us look unloving. (And I would suggest that is because, when we act that way, we are being unloving.)
And speaking of Ed Stetzer*, Russell Moore*, John Piper*, and so on. I know #the15 would agree that we should respect authority (see Romans 13:1) including religious ones (see 1 Thessalonians 5:12). That doesn’t mean we should ignore their sin…but that correction should always be respectful. A good example for us:
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people'” (Acts 23:1-5, English Standard Version).
I think Ananias would be considered at least as heretical and evil as any modern day “bad” evangelical leader…and look how quickly Paul backed off. That respect probably didn’t do much good with Ananias, but I suspect it was helpful with reaching some who were watching.
And I think if #the15 keep those who are watching in mind, they would do well to reconsider some of their approaches.
Getting back to Hall’s second strategy, he goes on to propose “#the15 should stick primary to the following”:
A) Lifeway – a Southern Baptist owned and operated entity – and its bold, brash, unrelenting selling of Word-Faith, Prosperity Gospel, Mysticism, Heaven Tourism and Anti-Trinitarian heresy.
Agreed. And then…
B) The snobbish and dismissive ignoring, marginalizing and attacking of all who question them, by evangelical leaders and the evangelical intelligentsia.
If those evangelical leaders are sinning, teaching heresy, supporting others in sin or heresy, and so on…I agree they should be called out. However, per an earlier point, the way it is put here sounds very “hurt feelings”-ish. I highly recommend #the15 get past that, because I would say some of un-Christlike behavior some members exhibit is because they allow hurt feelings (mixed with ample righteous anger) to affect their actions. Suggested fourth principle:
4) Stick to the facts. Leave emotions out of it.
After this section, Hall goes on to strategy #3:
3) We need to be clear that #the15 has nothing to do with Calvinism or Arminianism.
Fair enough. But be willing to admit, as a whole, it is mostly Calvinists. It really doesn’t matter, but trying to make sure that everyone knows that it’s not just Calvinists implicitly adds legitimacy to those who would use that as a sledge hammer. There is nothing to be embarrassed about even if every single member of #the15 was a Calvinist.
Continuing on…at this point Hall goes on to “a clear call to action”:
First, call or write to the Lifeway Trustees
Agreed! But I think it would have been good for Hall to repeat the “be polite” counsel again (and I would add “be respectful”). Write them like an erring brother instead of a demonic enemy.
Second, walk into a Lifeway store and take photos of their heretical books.
Hmmm…I guess I am “okay” with this…as long as you don’t follow it up with…
Third, for the more outgoing person, take a sample of the more heretical titles and ask to speak to the manager
Okay, this is better than the previous “clerk” advice…but, come on, this isn’t trench warfare. If the LifeWay manager is a brother or sister in your church, then go speak to them privately (or maybe ask your pastor to). Sure, managers have “authority”…but, using my “reasonable Christians” litmus test would still fail for confronting some poor, (likely) underpaid person in position that already has plenty of long, lousy hours and stress.
Treat them like your closest sibling instead of Satan’s minion.
Back to Hall’s article…
Fourth, have your church issue a statement that they will not be purchasing any more material from Lifeway until they affirm by their actions that they are, indeed, a fundamentally Christian bookstore
Fifth, if you employ the hashtag #the15 toward the second primary goal (highlighting the dismissive attitudes of the intelligentsia)
You’ve already seen my thoughts about worrying about dismissive attitudes…but I would say it goes south from there with what soon follows:
- Communicate in writing – and save the correspondence. Even their lack of response speaks volumes.
- Approach them personally through either in-person encounters (this may require driving to their nearby speaking gig) and inquiring as to why they’re not listening (again, record it for your own safety).
- Approach them in social media and ask simple questions and do not relent until they answer.
I’m okay with the first bullet…but with the second I would suggest that confronting leaders in person is really not much better than doing that with LifeWay clerks or managers…and I can almost guarantee those interactions will end up on YouTube or the like from people proud that they called a heretical evangelical leader to task.
You will not change their views or behavior that way.
The only think you will accomplish is self-righteous satisfaction…have that person further build their wall against the truth…and turn off others to your cause.
Physically confronting someone unexpectedly in public will make you look like a jerk. And, 99% of the time, you will be being a jerk, whether you or your compatriots think otherwise.
Can I add a fifth principle? 🙂
5) Don’t be a jerk.
Before I get to the final section of this post, I want to give Hall credit for something his strategy post mentions. He is firmly standing by his convictions and pulling two of his own books from LifeWay (and no longer having his church purchase anything from the chain). I especially found this refreshing given that some of his followers earlier in the week were defending Hall’s works still being available at LifeWay. Kudos to him for recognizing the inconsistency.
Although it is an oversimplification, the biggest gotcha I (and many others) have with folks like #the15 is tone. We do not disagree with their foundational goals, but believe their methods are lacking. I think their response is telling:
Who made you orthodoxy police? The same folks who made you tone police. Now let me introduce you to my friend, historic Christianity #the15
— Pulpit & Pen News (@pulpitpennews) December 31, 2014
Who made you orthodoxy police? The same folks who made you tone police. Now let me introduce you to my friend, historic Christianity #the15
Although pretty humorous, the reality is that it is both snarky and condescending. It is not meant to engage, it is meant to belittle. One might argue it is meant to marginalize and attack. You’ve got to admit that’s ironic given their mantra, “They ignore, marginalize, and attack. We stand strong.”
(As a quick aside…I really don’t care what historic Christianity did outside of what is recorded in the Bible. As much as I respect the church of the past and its leaders, there is plenty of stuff that greats like Calvin and Luther did that nobody in their right mind should consider normative for Christians. When it comes to orthodoxy enforcement and tone, Sola Scriptura still holds.)
Also, often their argument against of those of use who question their tone can be summed up with:
— Tim Weakley (@WeakleyTim) December 31, 2014
@AlanCult @PulpitAndPen @fbc_jd if your house is on fire and someone yells “your house is on fire” are you concerned about tone? #the15
Fair enough, but it’s not “either or.” Nobody would think it is un-Christian to yell at somebody to get them out of a burning building…and if someone is using the tone argument to say we shouldn’t be calling out bad Christian behavior at all…then I agree with #the15 that’s bogus. However, modern Christianity acts in a way that seems to go against what any good parent teaches a child.
The ends do not justify the means. A righteous cause does not make all the actions taken in it righteous…and “yelling” only makes sense when it is both required and effective.
Not to mention, even if the evangelical leader you are dealing with is a minion of the devil, that does not bless any action you might take. To the contrary:
But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 1:9).
Which brings me to the second thing I’ll give Hall credit for. After I suggested tone didn’t have to be a victim in all this, he responded:
@AlanCult I’m totally open to hearing the Bible’s advice on “tone.” Email me your suggestions at PulpitandPen@gmail.com with some verses.
I give him kudos because (a) he looks to Scripture and (b) he shows a willingness to consider contrary opinions.
So, to him (and to you) I give the biblical arguments I’ve made in the following articles. The reason I am not just listing scriptures is because I think these put them together better then a bunch of verses.
I also found this apropos tweet from Darrel Strahan inform the conversation about tone…and it is a list of verses for those who prefer that. 🙂
Some good rules I ran across as a Christian we should remember for our public discourse with each other on social… http://t.co/KlpoVLQdhR
— Darrell Strahan (@DarrellStrahan) December 31, 2014
Some good rules I ran across as a Christian we should remember for our public discourse with each other on social… http://twishort.com/6Tphc
Finally, let me wrap up with this. Yes, you can find cases…in the Bible…of inspired men calling people out, ridiculing false prophets, being snarky, and so on. First, they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to do what they did…I can’t imagine anyone in #the15 will claim that for themselves. Second, the exception proves the rule. The fact, for instance, that Jesus only once is recorded as pulling out a whip shows that is to be extraordinary behavior, not the norm. To Philip, who asked:
— Philip Lee (@LeePhilipA) December 31, 2014
@AlanCult @PulpitAndPen @fbc_jd Was Paul unChristlike when he said he wished the Judaizers would cut their man parts off?
That would be my answer…along with Galatians 5:12’s “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” making a lot more sense in its context than the needlessly contentious tweets and posts of modern day Christians.
Wrapping up I’d like to clearly state my hope is to dialogue with #the15, encouraging them to continue to stand for truth and righteousness, but without the less-than-constructive (and sometimes sinful) behavior. I especially do not want to repeat the same mistakes I accuse them of, and apologize ahead of time for my shortcomings.
May we all do the Lord’s will in the Lord’s way.
*I have not researched what Stetzer, Moore, or Piper have done to agree or disagree that they are sinning, peddling heresy, or otherwise deserve to be taken to task. Additionally, I have only found Moore to be gracious on Twitter.
#the15 logo taken from here based on fair use.