23 November 2005

Hoping to clear the air


For reasons I cannot quite fathom, I've received public scoldings here and there around the blogosphere for supposedly waging "war" against another blog.

I'd just like to point out that the supposed "feud" has been rather one-sided. I haven't mentioned the blog in question in ages. I've alluded to it exactly twice in the past month—once when I expressed disgust at a snide and utterly inappropriate remark posted there, and a second time (without even saying whom I was referring to) when I objected to some gratuitous scatology that was posted there.

I won't give a tally of how many times I have been mentioned or held up to ridicule on that blog in the past ten days, except to say that it has been a steady stream of snark. That isn't a "feud"; it's a blitzkrieg.

Some thoughts about all this unpleasantness:

  1. Can we lay the "It’s a tavern, not a Swiss watch doctrinal precision factory" mantra to rest? In the first place, I don't see how that is supposed to exempt bad theology, bad attitudes, or bad manners from criticism.
         In the second place, I generally try to discourage Christians from trying to develop a better understanding of theology by listening in on heavy-drinking armchair-theologians' dialogues anyway. Taverns these days tend to be the worst venues for theological dialogue and Christian fellowship. So I'm not sure how the "it's a tavern" abracadabra is supposed to make aberrant ideas and ungodly words untouchable.
  2. I have never been deliberately unkind to anyone at the Tavern, including the monk who usually tends bar. My personal interaction with all of those guys has always been friendly and polite. A few of my jokes about them have ruffled feathers, but even in those cases, I did everything possible beforehand to make it obvious that I wasn't entirely serious, and I have never acted out of malice.
         On the other hand, every time I have ever expressed any disagreement with anything posted there, it has prompted an angry response and days of retaliatory sneering.
  3. To my knowledge, not one of the people who routinely expresses outrage about every uncomplimentary remark or criticism directed toward the Tavern has ever once made a similar complaint about the sarcasm, filthy language, and foolish talk that pours forth from there on a nearly daily basis.
  4. Frank "Centuri0n" Turk accidentally unleashed a firestorm of "PyroManiac" proportions yesterday. Contrary to conjecture that has been publicly posted elsewhere, I did not in any way consult beforehand with Centuri0n about anything he posted, stir him up to post it, dare him to do it, or ask him to do it. (Actually, the person who incurred Mr. Turk's criticism is the one who did all those things himself.)
         I'm not going to comment on that controversy, except to say that I believe those who are so absolutely sure that they know Frank's heart and insist that his request for prayer was merely flippant and sarcastic have misjudged him. See John 7:24.
         Ironically, some who are most outraged at Frank's supposed irreverence are individuals whose own blogs and comments (especially in their interactions with people who push the limits of sound doctrine) seem beset with a chronic and constitutional inability to be serious about anything that really is serious.
  5. Well, OK. Here's one more comment about the controversy at Centuri0n's blog: I was glad to learn that I am not the only one who has noticed that the so-called "confessional essays" have become increasingly shrill. And conversely, let me go on record saying that Frank Turk is not the only one who finds them worrisome.
         Perhaps I am not empathetic enough. But let me share my heart: Darlene and I don't have prolonged fights about petty issues. If we ever had one, I wouldn't blog about it. I don't think that's appropriate or edifying, much less laudable. (And it's well-nigh blasphemy to compare that kind of drivel with the book of Lamentations.)
         I've had my share of pastoral struggles and disappointments, but honestly, I have never once regretted entering the ministry or questioned my calling. If that makes me seem less "authentic" in the eyes of people who have a voyeuristic need to enter vicariously into someone else's angst, I'm sorry. But in all candor, and with no rancor whatsoever, I do sincerely wonder if someone so bitterly disappointed with his own failures, so openly disillusioned with the church, and (by his own testimony) so emotionally fragile really is called to ministry. And my heart has been burdened to pray for him. You want me to be transparent? There it is.
  6. Finally, some of the patrons at the Tavern have repeatedly and publicly asserted that I "hate" them. For the record, I have never entertained a hateful thought about any of them. If I were even tempted to hate them, I would simply ignore them.
         Why don't I just ignore them anyway? Because they insist on airing their criticisms of everything I stand for, replete with links and jeering references back this direction. (They were doing it before I even started blogging.) Meanwhile, the outpouring of complaints every time they are criticized is proof of their influence.
         And I really do think much that is posted at their blog is unnecessarily negative toward the church, rooted in a low view of the Scriptures, and detrimental to impressionable readers.
         Those concerns are serious. Mere melodrama (a lot of it, too!) has not been sufficient to convince me that it would be appropriate to stifle those concerns for the sake of an artificial pretense of "unity."

Phil's signature


DJP said...

From where I sit, I must say, some of the stuff I've seen from BHT brings back memories -- of John Kerry.

Today, it's "BRING... IT... ON!"

Later that same day, at the first waft of a hint of a vapor of an aroma of the suggestion of criticism, it becomes "Wahh! Not fair! Make it stop!"

Seems to me that, if one doesn't like bruises, one shouldn't play soccer.

From what I know and FWIW, you've played fair, Phil. Playful, mischievous, but fair.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I've only been to the Tavern once. That was enough for me.

Steve said...

Well, Phil, I can empathize with you. I've experienced a tiny dose of what you've gotten from that other blog.

I once made a very standard observation about salvation in the comment section of another somewhat prominent and commendable blog. The comment was straightforward and orthodox, and made no mention of and had absolutely nothing to do with the other blog.

A few hours later, I found my comment quoted contemptuously on that other blog, along with a brutally snide remark about me. I was stunned. There was no question the participant had gone far out of his way to make an uncalled-for attack.

What's unfortunate is that a lot of Christians today will see vigorous theological discourse that is occasionally laced with tongue-in-cheek wit or dry sarcasm--such as seen here in your blog--and misinterpret it as vicious and malicious attacks. I admit I questioned the level of sarcasm contained in one comic cover you created some time ago. But that pales into absolute nothingness when compared to the persistently derogatory and venomous snarls emitting from the tavern full of intoxicated boars spoiling for a fight.

On a related note, you've been extremely gracious to allow the open discussions that take place here. At least to me, you've exhibited a remarkable level of tolerance for some who are basically little more than blogjackers who use the open forum here to peddle their bent of theology rather than engage in genuine discourse over what you served up in a given post. Worse, some individuals seem to think the open forum here not only gives them permission to speak, but also to be inconsiderate and even nasty.

Anyway, though there are some in the blogosphere who misunderstand the nature of what's happening between you and the other blog and they've been vocal about it, know that there are many more "silent ones" who emphathize with you and see the facts for what they really are. I know some lurkers who benefit enormously from your blog and simply don't say so. Thanks, Phil, for contending for the faith with earnestness and integrity (and transparency, per today's post).

Daniel said...

Our old pastor, was asked one day by one individual in a group of men who were studying for the ministry what was the single most important word of advice he could give them.

My old pastor is almost 90, and has served the Lord in the pulpit for well over sixty years - personally leading thousands to the Lord, and you could walk the known earth and you might not find five men as humble - this man got all silent and really examined himself and the question, and as is his way in all things - he prayed about it - then answered a simple response:

Count the cost.

He went on to explain that ministry was not about personal glory, but about servitude - and only a willing servant is going to find joy in it. Unless you give the Lord all of it up front, you will never be content in every trial.

Carla Rolfe said...


what an incredibly appropriate response.

Thank you for posting that, I hope it doesn't get lost in the shuffle.


Jared said...

Count me in as a fan of vigorous theological discourse.

Phil, I don't think I've ever criticized you for your criticisms, and the main reason is that when you do a critical piece, you do a critical piece, and when you do a satirical piece, you do a satirical piece.

I don't think I'm the only one who found Centurion's "humorous" jabs at Michael ending with a call for prayer insincere. I tried to make it clear over there that I'm not saying Michael is above criticism or that peace trumps rightly dividing the truth. I've criticized him myself, and my sites have hosted theological debates since their beginnings.

All I'm saying is that if one genuinely and sincerely thinks a brother is emotionally and spiritually unstable, the biblical mandate is not needling the guy.

I don't know why that couldn't be understood. Instead I got told I have a plank in my eye, that I just want to be touchy and feely and hold hands and sing kumbayah.
Is that what biblical love amounts to these days? Is it a joke?
Why when someone wants to take what the Bible says about love and grace as seriously as he does what it says about God's sovereignty and predestination, is he suddenly ridiculed?

If Centurion had just done a straight-up hit piece, responding to things Michael has written, I wouldn't have said anything. Shoot, I don't have the time to cover the blogosphere responding to every criticism of Michael! But I do believe Frank did something different, and I thought it was objectionable. I read "prayer" tacked on to the end of that piece as I do the letter filled with vitriol at the end of which the writer signs off with "In Him." It's reeks of insincerity. I have no doubt Frank believes in prayer and prays often. But if he wanted to demonstrate actual concern for Michael, he failed.

Whether anyone agrees, can't my point at the least be considered?
That faith and hope remain, but the greatest is love?

Cue snide remarks from the peanut gallery . . .

Ray said...

Daniel -- I agree with Carla; people need to read your comment... I know that when I went into the ministry it was after truly 'counting the cost'. Many, many people have come up to me at 18 years of age and said that they were called into the ministry, I tell them the same thing; 'count the cost'.

And Phil -- I must say that there are benefits to being on the backroads of the blogsphere, I may not have the same traffic, but the upside is that I don't have the same traffic! :-)

eculeus said...

Daniel: I really appreciate your comment. It's servitude not only in ministry but in all of Christian life, even for those of us who might not be called to preach.

It seems to me that the root of all these problems stem from the tone we tend to "read-in" to all written material. We tend to read a tone that reflects our own mood at the time, our own feelings on the subject, or how we ourselves might think in our private thoughts. But that is often incongruous with how the original author meant it.

To avoid unnecessary hurt feelings and division that muddy the real issues at hand, we should more often than not extend to people the benefit of the doubt with respect to their tone (e.g., Frank)

Michael Spencer said...


I immediately wrote Broken Messenger and told him there was no current conflict with you that I knew of.

My apologies if you have been implicated in this unnecessarily in some way.

As far as I know, aside from the fun we have with your blogroll and the usual normal banter, there has been no problems of any note.

I in no way implicate you in Mr. Turk's posts or comments of yesterday.

Your comments of today are nothing new. We've said it all before. It's apparent to me that we have substantial differences in about everything we do on our blogs, but as I've said before, I would gladly meet, pray and eat with you anytime.

I've responded to Mr. Turk's misreading of my views on ministry elsewhere. Interested parties can find them.

Thanks for reading

Michael Spencer

Brad Huston said...


My post wasn't meant to scold at all. Since I read and appreciate both you and Mr. [That Other Guy], I have watched the reactions escalate over the last week or so, particularly in response to recent blogroll changes here concerning the BHT. Has the feuding been decidedly one sided lately? Yeah, at least until Frank threw in his hat yesterday. Please know that while my post was intended to lampoon, it was meant and written in good will too.


Kim said...

I guess I will displaying my incredible ignorance and naivete, but doesn't all of this conflict and debate simply wear you out?

I guess I'm too much of a cream puff to ever have to deal with some of this. Obscurity has its rewards.

Adam Omelianchuk said...


Thanks for this post. I think it was me who asked the other tavernites why you "hated" us (because I'm not that familiar with all the past rancor). I certainly did not mean to declare that you hated us, although I can see how it was construed that way. For that I am truly sorry, and I hope you accept my appologies.

As for Turk I think John 7:42 applies to him too. I don't think his judgement was right, and I don't believe the post was honest plea for prayer. I stand by that position for the reasons I cited in the comments of his post.

Deathrow Bodine said...

Awwww...man! Phil, you have spoiled all the fun by starting a group hug.

Nothing gets a hillbilly in the holiday spirit more than "boar's head roasting on an open fire..."

[Seriously though, nice show of class... I wish I knew what that was.]

chamblee54 said...

Take a look here to see where this could go.
Even if you do agree that the bible is the word of god, you still have to trust the man who is reading it to you. There is no substitute for good will.

Jason Robertson said...

I decided to post my thoughts at Fide-O.

Matthew Self said...

I thought Broken Messenger's Truly Reformed Emergent Calminian badge was right up there with any graphic the Pyro had done. That wasn't a scolding. That was pure genius behind the wheels of good graphic design software. Inspired, I tell you.

As for the plea for Christian civility, I suspect BM might have inferred tension from the dialogue going on at the tavern. I know I am often caught off-guard to realize there are some real hurt feelings behind the sarcasm, and some real concerns masked in humorous jabs. Maybe we need a Pyro/BHT detente -- Kissinger style -- to improve foreign denomination relations. Clearly it is BHT that needs healing, and the Pyro who needs a vacation from having to explain his jokes.

Someone make reservations for Camp David. I'll put in a call to Hank Kissinger. If we can't get Kissinger, I'm sure we can get Kissinger wanna-be Ben Stein. Maybe we can put an end to this Cold Shoulder War.

Phil Johnson said...

Gad(d)about: "I thought Broken Messenger's Truly Reformed Emergent Calminian badge was right up there with any graphic the Pyro had done."

I gotta agree with you there. Made me want to go back and retool the car decals.

DWright said...

Well, I guess I was scolding. I did intend it in a humorous and friendly spirit, but since we don't know each other, that may or may not have come across. I can't tell whether I have caused you offense or not. If I did, I'm sorry for having done so. If you want to discuss anything personally, here's my email (needs deobfuscation before use): dkwblog AT(@) nelmezzo DOT(.) net.

I've been thinking much about my own minor involvement in this fracas. For now, I'll forgo a detailed reply to your substantial post. I'm wary of adding any more heat to the discussion than the two posts I've already made. I'd like to make sure I add light. If I feel like I've got something good to say, I'll keep to detailed and more subdued conversation in the comment thread of my post.

Thanks for interacting with my post!

Brad Huston said...

I gotta agree with you there. Made me want to go back and retool the car decals.

Oh Stop! You're making me blush. Seriously though, I will always be second tier when it comes to the graphic design here, Phil. I mean, the comic covers (though they have rankled me in the past) are pure genius from a grapic standpoint and the bumper sticker is premium grade compared to anything I've put up.



puritanicoal said...

Am I the only one who picked up on the (un)intentional pun in the title of Centurion's post?

Another TURK-ey Recipe.....


As Emeril would say, "He really kicked it up a notch with that one."

Jason Robertson said...

Maybe we can get a pink version of Broken Messenger's Truly Reformed Emergent Calminian badge for the Good Thoughts Blog.

SB said...

frank was being a bit unkind-i appreciate jared's comment above

-i think Frank's point: Michael's self-loathing disqualifies him from being a credible critic of the Christian church

got lost in the timbre of the post

(was that his point?--it just seemed like an unfortunate list of michaels failures-that could be michael's fault- i dont know-- it doesnt matter-we should have compassion on all --even our enemies-Look how Our Lord had compassion on us-"Father forgive them for they know what they do")

My concern is the way we deal with our opponents:

"And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will."

Due to my belief in the doctrine of indwelling sin--this verse applies to all of us in this debate. Let us all examine ourself.

I dont have a problem with refuting false teaching or theological debate

Occasionally there are times in debate where we are more theologically astute or more orthodox than our opponent.It's easy to look condescendingly down upon your opponents in those times and thank God that you are not like them.

It's hard to fight false teachers without forgetting that we are Coram Deo.
Often our righteous indignation is self righteous justification.

The attitude of the Publican serves me well in reasoning with someone trapped in error,"God have mercy on me a sinner".
It reminds me of my condtion before the Lord justified me.

None of us are immune to error and it's only the grace of God that has made us sound and kept us sound.

Semper Reformada

Thanks Phil overall for a gracious and honest post.

Sled Dog said...

Ever notice stuff like this never happens over at Challies blog?

SB said...

dang i messed up on the Semper Reformanda -gosh waht an idiot and i wish i had some pink graphic on my site i think i may turn it pink once i have some better posts

Brad Huston said...

Maybe we can get a pink version of Broken Messenger's Truly Reformed Emergent Calminian badge for the Good Thoughts Blog.

Jason for a donation of $77 it's yours...it comes in blue too! ;o)


Phil Johnson said...

Sled Dog: Are you suggesting I ought to pick a fight with Challies?

Matthew Self said...

Sled Dog: That's about the funniest thing I've read in over two months.

Sled Dog said...

Hmmm, I guess my question would be COULD you pick a fight with Tim Challies? He seems like a pretty even-keeled fellow...

Sled Dog said...


Well it was meant to be funny AND make a point! By the way, I noticed on your profile you are no longer in Sacto, but in Arizona. Going okay there?


Matthew Self said...

SD, things are much better since I left Californication. Y'all who can still afford to live there must've already owned homes, which means you're all bazillionaires by now. That means the Pyro can eventually sell his home and retire to the Cubs' second home here in my backyard and teach Dr. White about a real sport that doesn't involve spokes or traffic hazards.

Stephen Morse said...

Uh.... sometimes I make my sons kiss and make up when they get out of hand.... It really really works!
I missed out on all of the mud slinging anyway so... pucker up gentlemen!

Carla Rolfe said...

"Ever notice stuff like this never happens over at Challies blog?"

Hmmm... maybe that has something to do with the moderators? ;-)

Just a thought.

SB said...

Sled Dog you and Tim Challies are jerks

comments here:http://valueofthekingdom.blogspot.com/

Sled Dog said...

Thank you, Scotty B!

Gad, Arizona looks like a very interesting state. This is the first time I've lived in the city in about 20 years, and I don't think I've missed much. Mountains and deserts are a lot more fun.

CSB said...

I have only been to the tavern once but my gut feeling on something like this would be to completely take the gloves off. You know just be mean.

But that would just be my gut and probably a good Christian reflection would probably moderate that feeling.......

Phil Johnson said...

Stuff like this used to happen at Challies all the time. Now he just sends all the troublemakers over here.

Tim Challies said...

"Stuff like this used to happen at Challies all the time. Now he just sends all the troublemakers over here."

Must be!

So what do you want to fight about? American League vs National League rules?

Savage Baptist said...

I just don't read the Tavern anymore. Period. I understand the reasoning behind reading it, that they have a tendency to pop off with things that really need a response, but it's just an exercise in frustration. It reminds me of the old story about mud wrestling with a pig: after a while, you both end up covered in crud, but you find out that the pig likes it.

One of the hardest things for me to learn about the blogosphere was that short of developing a crippling illness that will allow me to spend all my hours in front of the computer, at government expense, there is simply no way to respond to every quirky blogger and oddball post out there. There's not even enough time to keep track of them all.

Those things being the reality, more and more, I find that some blogs are worth neither the time spent reading them nor the time spent attempting to respond to them. That's the way I feel about the Tavern, and should one of the Tavernistas ever visit my blog, I'm sure the feeling would be reciprocated.

David said...

Stuff like this never happens on Challies blog??? Say what?

You haven't seen a good dust up till you've seen Challies take on Rick Warren! The Warren sympathizers come out of the woodwork and the anti-Warren smackdown team goes nuclear on them.

And when Richard Abanes gets involved, whew! You can sell tickets to that.

Adrian Warnock said...

Awe....did I miss the "fight"

Surely all this is just an attempt to sideline us from the real fight that matters - the mudwrestling contest betweeen pyro and warnie over charismatic issues......

Thats surely just on hold over thanksgiving......

Perhaps we should sell tickets!

Sled Dog said...

Phil, your post almost had me laugh out loud! It's just to funny to read how innocent you perceive yourself!

*You declare that you haven't mentioned the BHT'ers but twice in the past month, yet in your blogroll you make mention by listing them as "disturbing" every minute of every day!

*You link to a Michael Spencer quote that sounds like many a comment a person could find around your blog. Snide is snide, whatever side of the theological spectrum a person finds themself.

*You refer to CenturiOn's comment as an accident! C'mon,it was intentional. I'm not saying he intended to create a blog war, but he verbally took a swing at Michael Spencer. Let it be what it was!

*Finally, this comment just cracked me up: "...let me go on record saying that Frank Turk is not the only one who finds them worrisome."