Cover Image by Stefano Mallus
The following appears in my book, Fatal Drift-Is the Church Losing Its Anchor, Two Clicks Away: The Lost Art of Vetting :
My friend and colleague . . . indeed my collaborator on this book project, Pastor Larry Johnson, has been a faithful minister for over thirty years. He and I attended seminary together in the late 1970s.
Larry is one of those pastors you would want to be there if your family was in a crisis. His preaching is rock-solid faithful to the text. He is filled with the Holy Spirit, and demonstrates both the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. His congregation knows that they have a pastor who has not wavered or surrendered to the world spirit of accommodation. His ability to do sound exposition and make pertinent application is second to none.
After thirty years of faithful service Pastor Johnson ran afoul of his denomination’s leadership. As is happening with increasing frequency all around the country, he was given a book to read by his divisional superintendent. Larry read it and found some huge inconsistencies between the author’s position and the doctrinal positions of the denomination that Larry served.
Pastor Larry asked the superintendent, “Did you read this?” Embarrassed, but honest, the man replied, “No, I was told to give it to all the pastors by the district supervisor.”
Later at a larger meeting of the district, a no-agenda meeting took place at which any concerns could be discussed. My stalwart friend plopped the book down and said, “Why are you recommending these books? Have you checked out these authors, and who mentored them, and who they cite as authorities?”
Admittedly his tone may have communicated a confrontational approach but the meeting was, after all, to be “an open conversation.” When Pastor Johnson spoke, the so called conversation was over. Two leaders took him aside and rebuked him for publicly challenging them like that. He said, “They seemed to infer that I was passionate but not very informed theologically and that even though they didn’t agree with everything that was in the book, they had discernment and could ‘eat the chicken and spit out the bones.’”
As it played out they were telling him in essence, “We have discernment. There is no need for you to vet the authors we recommend.”
As we begin to discuss the necessity for vetting authors and speakers, let me say from the outset that I am painfully aware that there are two extremes when it come to this whole subject of scrutinizing, and in some cases, critiquing other believers.
On the one hand it is possible to make assumptions based on feelings and impressions. It is entirely possible for instance to speak critically about an author or speaker because we just don’t prefer his or her style, or even how they look or sound. In this seeker sensitive menu driven culture we make far too much of our one opinions and tastes. We can also go by someone else’s opinion, or negative remarks on the internet. I think of the story of the two old Quakers. The one said to the other “The whole word is queer save thee and me…and I am beginning to wonder about thee…”
The other extreme is to just choose to not look too deeply into things because we might have to be responsible for what we find out. If you want to know how the United Sates got into the mess we have gotten ourselves into, it is precisely because we have a public that willingly stays uninformed and accepts the prepared narratives of a liberal progressive press. It is as if we have collectively covered our ears so we won’t hear what we really know is true. Francis Schaeffer, in The Greet Evangelical Disaster, makes this point over and over again.
The reason I went into such depth about the whole subject of narrative creation is that we are succumbing to this phenomenon right now, both in our civic lives and even in the church. Does it matter that the speakers and authors we celebrate are known to be sympathetic to other authors and speakers who have adopted heretical stances? Are we responsible to go home and search the Scriptures ourselves to see if these things (what the authors wrote and the speakers say) is so?
In the next few articles we will look into the necessity for vetting. I’ll give you a teaser…What two world figures both taught and studied Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and have implemented what they have read? If you don’t think this is important, then just stand by as the race riots and general unrest in America comes to the town where you live in the year leading up the election.
Don’t be surprised to hear Christian leaders you never would have dreamed would compromise come out and say sympathetic things about the gay marriage issue. Stop your ears or do the work and vet these people….it’s your choice…you’re responsible.