Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"It's a dirty job . . . "


You have no doubt heard that line before. Over years, in the Providence of God, it has befallen my lot to do some of the "dirty work" of dealing with error and aberrant teachings. Among the more notable of my tasks have included the Campbellites, the Hardshells, the Neo-Orthodoxists, the Landmarkers, the King James Onlys, the Oneness Pentecostals, the Preterists, the Anti-Inerrantists, and in more recent times the Hybrid Calvinists represented by the "Reformed" and Flounders.

I have not actually gone about to arbitrarily pick these for targets, but circumstantially they have in most cases simply "crossed my path" and I was rather unavoidedly pressed to give them my attention.

For example, shortly after I was converted, both the Hardshells and the Campbellites attempted to lure me into their camps. Likewise, Pentecostals and Holiness people -- some among my own relatives -- zealously tried to influence me to accept their views. This resulted in some long and intensive studies of the history and doctrines of such groups, and several of my written materials resulted.

The Scripture exhorts us to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" ( 2 Timothy 4:3). There is much Scripture devoted to "doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16).

When one feels the burden to engage in this, he should be prepared in more ways than one. He has to study and understand the error, and he must be prepared to take the "heat" from the errorists and their defenders. Exposing error is not the Dale Carnegie method of "winning friends and influencing people" with errorists and those who are in sympathy with the errorists.

Therefore, on the Flyswatter, we expect to "offend," despite how much we would simply prefer to "persuade." There is simply no formula for being unoffensive when we "mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which we have learned" (Romans 16:17). When there is justification for "marking," it is obvious that names must be mentioned, and sources cited. This usually results in someone's being "offended."

Some who dislike our Flyswatter posts and "swattings" evidently believe that they are free to offer their rebukes, but in the same breath they call on us to stop rebuking others whom we consider to be in error. It's as if they have a right to offer rebuke, but we don't have the same right. These kind of rebukes roll off of us like water off a duck's back.

On the other hand, if someone cites a particular item which they consider to be erroneous and they offer their reason for this, then we are more inclined to evaluate what the person has to say. In fact, we feel obligated to consider objections of this type as a matter of ethical responsibility. We are not interested in alleging something which has no justification.

Controversy should be governed by ethical polemical standards. A broad or generic attempt at reproof apart from specificity is ethically unacceptable.

That is why we do not talk in generic terms. We name names and cite sources, and we know when we do so that someone is going to carp about "name-calling." But we are not going to fire a broadside concerning which no one knows who or what we have in mind. We believe this is the only fair and ethical way to offer reproof and rebuke. We must name names and cite sources.

Sorry if you are "offended" by our approach.


At Wednesday, June 04, 2008 3:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God's the one you offend!

At Wednesday, June 04, 2008 8:05:00 PM, Blogger Stephen Garrett said...

Dear Bob:

It is indeed a "dirty job" and I no longer relish the fight as I once did.

There is some spiritual enjoyment that comes from "doing apologetics" and combating the hereitics, but it can be spiritually depleting at times!

I think more and more, as time passes, that my time would be better spent out in the highways and byways talking to sinners about simple gospel than fighting with all these errorists and factious people.

But, like you said, "somebody has to do it."

God bless you in all your efforts.



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