For Christmas 2021, my husband gave me the complete DVD set of The Waltons (a TV show from the 1970s). If I recall correctly, we began watching it straight through sometime in February, finishing with the six epilogue movies shortly after Thanksgiving. We own several DVD sets of other TV shows, and had almost decided which of them to watch next. But as the final show closed with Earl Hamner reading the voice-over of John Boy’s journal entry, I knew I wanted to go through the series again.
John Boy’s character is based on Earl Hamner Jr., who grew up in rural Virginia during the Depression era. Like Hamner, John Boy is an aspiring writer, writing mostly about his family and Walton’s Mountain. He writes with simplicity, and yet with a poignancy that often astounds me. I especially love his descriptions of the mountain at night, with its sounds and smells intermingled with fond memories of his family as they bid each other good night.
As a child, oddly enough, I had no patience for descriptive passages. I much preferred dialogue. But Earl Hamner and John Boy had such a way of using words, that they transport me to their world of whip-poor-wills and applesauce cake and younger siblings who cause irritation and joy. Each time John Boy or Earl Hamner reads the prose that supposedly flow from John Boy’s pen, I find myself wishing I could make my words paint such beautiful pictures. Perhaps the exquisite quality of those brief moments inspired me to go through the series a second time.
Quite often, you’ll hear Christians quote the phrase, “speaking the truth in love” (a phrase from Ephesians 4:15), as if it was a fully fledged point of doctrine. Moreover, you’ll hear them emphasize love, almost as if it truth holds little consequence. By implication, love requires us to make truth palatable, even if it means changing truth or covering it up.
In the early 21st Century, love demands that we never hurt someone’s feelings.
And that’s where discernment bloggers (even the legitimate ones) get in trouble. We call out false teachers and/or identify unbiblical practices, trying our best to be charitable. And even when we manage to be charitable enough that some people accuse us of fence sitting, we still have readers calling us self-righteous and arrogant. According to most people, speaking the truth is the antithesis of speaking in love.
Maybe we should look at Ephesians 4:15 in its context to see what the apostle Paul meant.
11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. ~~Ephesians 4:11-16 (NASB)
Doesn’t it sound as if Paul emphasizes truth in this passage? He concedes that truth must be presented lovingly, but actually love compels us to present truth and refute error.
Obviously, you can speak truth unlovingly. We’ve all read discernment blogs that, although they pointed out the errors of a given false gospel with extreme accuracy, evidenced no desire to see either that teacher or the followers of that teacher repent and receive God’s mercy. We must acknowledge the sad reality that sometimes the truth is spoken without love.
Usually, however, we don’t detect the love that inspires a blogger to say the truth about a given false teacher. Many times, our anger and hatred toward falsehood — an anger and hatred that Christians should feel and express — makes it difficult to see the love for truth that motivates the blogger. Although their demeanor certainly appears unloving, love very much compels him or her to call out that false teacher.
It’s easy to throw brickbats when a discernment blogger names a false teacher. It’s much more difficult to investigate that blogger’s claims by measuring the false teacher against God’s Word.
Most discernment bloggers have done their research, and consequently know why a teacher threatens the doctrinal purity of the Church. Rather than vilify someone who loves Christ’s body enough to warn them about dangerous teachers. perhaps we ought to appreciate their courage. Perhaps we should thank them for loving us enough to speak the truth.
I pretty much knew what I wanted to say, so I started writing the introduction to my latest post on Titus 2:3-5 Monday. My back hurt from having to spend the weekend in bed due to a lack of Personal Care Attendant coverage, so typing was slow and painful. I knew I needed to check the Greek for the word translated as “love” in verse 4, although I’ve always assumed it was “agape.” I promised myself I’d look it up Tuesday, when my back would feel better.
Tuesday my PCA didn’t feel well, and didn’t want to come in case she had COVID. (Thankfully, it’s just a very mild cold, so she came back Wednesday.) My backup PCA had car troubles, so I spent Tuesday in bed, mentally revising part of my introduction. Of course, Wednesday I had pain from spending another day in bed, and unexpected company ate an hour that I’d planned to use for blogging. When I finally got to my blog, I chose to rewrite my second paragraph before looking up the Greek. Again, the pain slowed my typing, and consequently I was simply too exhausted to do research.
Thursday, I actually did look up the Greek word rendered “love” in Titus 2:4. To my surprise, Paul used two Greek words — one for loving husbands and one for loving children. That’s very interesting, and I will restructure my article according to the correct definitions of those words. But of course I’ll need to first think through the proper application of the verse in light of those definitions.
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ~~Jude 3-4 (NASB95)
Have you noticed an increase in articles and podcasts lately discussing if, why and how Christians should address false teachers and doctrinal error? There seems to be a growing angst within Reformed circles regarding the topic, and not a great deal of consensus.
Regular readers of my blog know that I’ve struggled with this matter for years. I don’t know if that puts me ahead of the curve or what. And it doesn’t really matter if I was onto something before it was popular or not, does it? I guess I just find it reassuring that more and more people now question certain tactics and motives of some discernment ministries.
A recent episode of Apologetics Live from Striving For Eternity made an interesting point about how good discernment ministries can take a wrong turn. Host Andrew Rappaport explained that the vast majority of discernment bloggers start out with right intentions. They see false teachers or erroneous practices among professing Christians, and they write articles correctly addressing those problems. But when those articles get lots of clicks, likes and shares, many bloggers realize that calling out the bad guys enhances the popularity of their website. So they produce more articles, sometimes cutting corners on research and ignoring context in order to convince their followers of their position. In the end, they forfeit whatever discernment they have for the sake of notoriety.
Things hadn’t gotten back to where they had been before my back injury, but I’d gotten into a nice routine of publishing two articles a week plus a weekly Saturday Sampler. It bothered me a little (okay, maybe more than a little) that I recycled graphics so often, but I’d decided that the content of my writing outweighs the importance of a new picture.
So I contended myself with a scaled back blogging schedule, reminding myself that I’ll turn 69 at the end of this month. How many old ladies even have blogs? I accepted a reduction in my productivity, albeit reluctantly.
Then a little over a week ago, my primary Personal Care Attendant called out, suffering from extreme stomach pain. She called again as she was being admitted to the hospital for gallbladder issues. Yesterday she called to tell us that she can’t work (except to do laundry and cooking) until after she has surgery.
Because I’ve been without a consistent weekend PCA for over a year, the ladies who do backup for me are getting understandably tired. With my weekday PCA out of commission, their frustration is rising. Tomorrow, we’ll start advertising for a temporary weekday person in addition to ads we’ve been running for the weekend position. We’d appreciate prayer for that endeavor.
Between advertising, interviewing, (hopefully) training and accommodating the schedules of my backups, I don’t anticipate much blogging time for a while. Oh, never fear — I’ll blog as often as I can! It’s just that Saturday Sampler will be entirely off the table for a while, and I may post old articles more than I’d like. I hope to write some original blog posts whenever possible.
So far, the Lord is helping me resist temptation to feed feelings of anxiety. I know He has sent this trial to deepen my trust in Him and to mold my character.
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. ~~Romans 8:28-30 (NASB95)
Please pray that God will continue strengthening me against the sin of anxiety. I know I have a particular weakness in that area, but I also know that God is faithful. I want an attitude that glorifies Him. The closing hymn of our church service today encouraged me to cultivate that attitude.
The watchman keeps awake in vain. ~~Psalm 127:1 (NASB95)
Almost seven years ago I abandoned the blog I’d kept to showcase my writing and digital artwork, believing the Lord would be better honored with a blog focused on discipling women for discernment through doctrine. I don’t for a minute regret that decision. The Outspoken TULIP has been a wonderful experience so far, and I hope the Holy Spirit will continue to use it to minister His Word to my sisters in Christ. It’s a delight to focus on Scripture and the Lord in my blogging.
Blogs dedicated to writing for its own sake have their place, mind you — I’ve actually encouraged one or two young writers to start blogging expressly for the purpose of getting their writing into circulation. These days, publishers won’t consider manuscripts unless a writer has a blog with at least 1000 followers. So please don’t think that I’m disparaging blogs that have the purpose of displaying someone’s writing skills. If I was young, perhaps I’d blog for that reason.
But I’m no longer young, and I no longer have an interest in selling my writing. Rather, I have an interest in serving God through this little blog.
At least, I thought that’s all I wanted out of blogging until last week.
Recently a few people have expressed opinions about someone close to me. They don’t know her, but they see how her actions have caused unpleasant effects on my life. As a result, they’ve judged her, and judged her pretty much harshly. Additionally, they wanted me to join in their judgment and act according to their expectations.
For a while, they almost persuaded me to make a decision that promised to alleviate my predicament at her expense. In a way, it’s a bit tempting, I admit. But then I remember all the factors involved in her situation — factors that those criticizing her don’t know about or don’t understand. And I realize that those other people have no right to pass judgment on her. In fact, since I’ve never experienced her circumstances, I have no right to pass judgment on her.
My years as a discernment blogger have conditioned me to feel a little queasy when people quote Matthew 7:1.
Maybe getting married for the first time at age 48 has something to do with it, but I’ve felt uncomfortable about using this blog to teach women how to be godly wives. Writing articles on false teachers and theological matters seemed more up my alley. And there’s a place for women teaching other women such things.
Scripture also says, however, that older women should instruct younger women particularly on domestic issues. Look with me at the passage in Titus 2:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. ~~Titus 2:3-5 (NASB95)
I liked focusing on the phrase “teaching what is good,” taking it to include teaching sound doctrine, I still believe that’s a legitimate application of this phrase, and I think women sorely need such teaching because of all the false teachers that prey on women who aren’t well-grounded in the Word. But I tended to ignore the bulk of what older women should teach younger women because I felt inadequate.
Good bloggers have a specific focus. When someone starts a blog, it’s important to find her niche, and to build her posts around that niche. For instance, The Outspoken TULIP focuses on teaching women discernment through sound Biblical doctrine. Most of the blogs I read fall into that niche as well, and occasionally I interact with those women through social media or by email. We concentrate on defined areas because readers look to us for answers in those areas. God gave us this ministry so that He would be glorified.
So often, I’m tempted to veer off from the purpose of my blog for the sake of just writing. As enjoyable as such a vacation might be, it would ultimately change this blog into something I don’t believe the Lord wants it to be. I could start another blog devoted to the art of writing, and it would still honor Him. But it would need to be a separate blog. I don’t want to diffuse this blog by meandering into ideas that would distract women from discipleship. Consequently, I narrow my subject matter to select categories that contribute to my overall theme.
Even when a blog intentionally narrows its focus to a few related aspects of Christianity, however, the author should find a broad spectrum of sub-topics within that focus. One Scripture will most likely lead to more Scriptures, leading the writer to think about angles that give fresh perspectives. Too much of a focus leads to repetition that ends up annoying readers. Additionally, it can damage the writer’s credibility,
Does a Christian blogger really need to include a Statement Of Faith on his or her website? Strictly speaking, maybe not. There aren’t any actual rules or regulations for blogging — Christian or otherwise — because blogs are self-published, and therefore guided by the conscience of each author. From that perspective, one might argue that no one mandates that a Christian blog must include a Statement Of Faith, and thus one is unnecessary.
One might further argue that a blog itself is a Statement Of Faith since its individual posts over time reveal the author’s beliefs. I see merit in this supposition, particularly since a Statement Of Faith can’t possibly present every nuance of an author’s theology. Readers get to know a blogger over time, especially if articles cover a fairly wide range of subject matter. No writer possesses enough skill to condense all of his or her beliefs into a single webpage. If we want to fully understand a blogger, we have to read a good amount of that person’s work. Indeed, that commitment to read someone’s blog with a degree of thoroughness should be a priority in properly vetting that person. After all, anybody can copy-and-paste an orthodox Statement Of Faith from a website and then proceed to promulgate all kinds of error. For example, see Beth Moore’s What We Believe page and the About page for Joel Osteen’s church.
And yet, vetting a blogger (or any Christian ministry) begins with examining their stated doctrine. Look again at Beth Moore’s beliefs. Among all the points that do align with Scripture, she tucks in a crafty little item that demonstrates her lack of obedience to the very Bible that she earlier claimed to believe. She writes:
We believe we have been “baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1Corinthians 12:13) and recognize the value and equality of all members of the body of Christ. We are “all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Did you notice that subtle opening to egalitarianism? It opens a big door to justify her unbiblical practices of preaching with men in the congregation. Thus, her Statement Of Faith drops a tiny clue that she’s not a teacher we ought to follow. Similarly, Joel Osteen’s page absolutely ignores the issue of sin. In fact, neither of them mention anything about judgment, hell or God’s wrath. leaving us to wonder why Jesus died on the cross. So their Statements Of Faith, while giving the appearance of fidelity to God’s Word, offer hints of doctrinal error,