Tim Irvin (of The Irvins) posted some thoughts on Saturday that caught my attention. I have tremendous respect for the elder Tim and value all that he says (except, perhaps, his thoughts on horror movies). Because of my respect for him, and because I felt his comments applied to myself and my site, I wanted to respond to them. I am attempting to do so in a spirit of humility, acknowleding Tim as my elder and one who undoubtedly has wisdom far surpassing my own.
In his article Tim writes “I lost most of my vanity many years ago, about the time my chest fell into my drawers, and the thought that I could write something on a regular basis that would appeal to anybody never really crossed my mind. I’m continually amazed by the amount information some writers post on a daily basis. I’m equally amazed by some of the topics.” The topics he is amazed people write about are “Rick Warren, Saddleback, The Purpose Driven Life, The Emerging Church, and Joel Osteen.” He then confesses that he gets “tickled” at the amount of time, energy and space that are dedicated to these people. “I don’t find them the least bit interesting or worthy of our time and attention…”
The other Tim goes on to reminisce about the days when Swaggarts and Bakkers and Fayes roamed the earth, I mean the church, and when they were the hot topic of conversation amongst believers.
When I was a young pastor and Oral Roberts locked himself in a tower and said that God had spoken to him and promised to kill him if he didn’t raise 8 million dollars within a month.
When James Robison left the Southern Baptist Convention because a Pentecostal brother laid hands on him and he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and began believing in sign gifts.
When Jimmy Swaggart went on the Larry King show and said that Jim Bakker was “a cancer in the body of Christ.”
When Jerry Falwell tried to rescue the PTL club and when he accepted 3.5 million dollars from the Korean cult messiah Sun Myung Moon as part of a larger deal to bail Liberty University out of debt.
Tim then shows that all these people are still in the church and are still involved in ministry. “Were they worth the time, money and energy the Christian community spent discussing their methods, doctrines and politics? Not hardly. Is Warren, Osteen and the emerging church movement worth our time, money and energy? Probably not.”
There is a part of me that agrees with Tim. It does seem that there must be better things for us to do than to write about Warren and McLaren and all the other people within the body that we are concerned are leading the church in the wrong direction. Yet I do not agree with Tim’s reasoning for two reasons.
First, he seems to say that because Swaggart and Bakker and the others are still around and engaged in ministry, all of the words written against them were useless. I disagree. First, notice that none of these people (with the possible exception of James Robison) have as big a ministry as they did in the past. Many of them have, thankfully, and for good reason, lost their national audience and have lost much of their credibility within the church. We rarely hear from or about them anymore, and neither do the unsaved.
Second, while we can show that these people are still engaged in ministry, what we cannot show is how many lives were impacted by the discussions about their ministries. How many people would have become dedicated followers of the Bakkers but for the efforts of a man like Tim who spoke to them, warning them of the dangers? How many might have become disillusioned with the church and walked away, had they not been warned off? These questions will only be answered in eternity, yet I believe they are exceedingly important.
What Tim has not taken into account is the invisible aspect – the lives that were changed for the better. While many were warned, I am sure that only few listened. But these few cannot be discounted. I do not live under the illusion that we can cause The Purpose Driven Life to become an enduring “classic” in the church and one that will continue to be read by tens of millions. But I do hope that God can use me to reach individuals, to challenge them to read the book carefully and with an open Bible. I have no doubt that mysticism will continue to impact the church, but trust that conversations I have been able to have with others will perhaps, just perhaps, give them an awareness that will protect them when someone tries to introduce them to contemplative prayer.
I agree entirely with Tim’s conclusion. “Rest assured, brethren, God is in the business of getting glory for Himself because He alone is worthy and all things are done under the direction of His providential hand. No person, group, cult, denomination or professed christian movement is going to rob Him of His glory or rise any higher than He allows. If any person or group believes that they are the sole agency for God’s work or professes to be a recipient of God’s blessings because of something they’ve done then they are deceiving themselves and chasing the wind.”
Absolutely. But this does not mean we should stop examining all things, holding them up to the light of Scriptures, and lovingly criticizing when necessary. Ironically, this is Tim’s signature in the forums at this site: “If Error is harmless then Truth is useless…” What value is Truth if we are unwilling to defend it by refuting error? Would God bless us for turning our backs on error, believing our efforts to be wasted? No, I do not believe so. I believe we are duty-bound to warn others.
I am reminded in this of the difference between David and his general Joab. Both men were great warriors and fought a great number of battles side-by-side. Both men won amazing victories and received praise for their efforts. Yet there was always a difference between them. David was the shepherd king, a man after God’s own heart, who fought when there was just cause. Conversely, Joab’s motives were less pure. Joab fought battles because he was a warrior who loved the thrill of battle and who loved to kill. In the end Joab’s motives were found out. He was demoted and came to an untimely end. David, on the other hand, is memorialized as a man who loved God above all – whose life was a testament to his strength of character.
When we defend the faith, even against other professed Christians, we must model ourselves after David, being motivated as shepherd and not as warriors. We must proceed carefully, respectfully, and with pure motives. In all things, we must seek to further God’s kingdom and to bring glory to His name, for this is our highest calling.