On Being Positively Negative…


James MacDonald has posted a follow-up on his video comment, my post regarding it, and some comments he received concerning the matter. He does an admirable job attempting the delicate balance of admitting a mistake without conceding too much. IOW, he remains convinced that the tone here was indeed angry, but acknowledges the imprudence of commenting on the current state of things based on a 25 year old impression.

So, in a spirit of non-anger, I applaud the fact that he would take time to post on the matter and admit that it was an unwise move. And, in what might be interpreted by some as vestiges of fundamentalist anger, allow me two quick comments:

(1)     Wow. I can’t believe James actually cited Jack Van Impe’s book (which btw was entitled Heart Disease in Christ’s Body) as proof that fundamentalism was angry back then. If anybody wants to read an angry book, find a copy of that one. I changed the sub-title on mine to A Case Study on Jack Van Impe.

(2)     As the current pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church, I can confidently say that James has misrepresented the matter of our relationship to the GARBC. There was no accusation of liberalism, but a question of whether the association was changing its position on ecclesiastical separation and whether its approval of certain schools was contributing to a decline in that area. Most people familiar with the issues of that time know that these were important discussions happening throughout the association, some of which resulted in significant changes (e.g., dropping the approval system, some of the schools breaking away from connection with the association).

I don’t personally know James MacDonald. I’ve never heard him speak other than a couple of video clips in connection with this little kerfluffle, and I’ve not read any of his books. I have no beef with him personally and didn’t post about his comment because I was offended by it. I think he is one year older than me, so we’ve lived through the same period of time, but on mainly different paths. He stopped by DBTS on the way to TEDS. I passed through DBTS before going to TEDS for my D.Min. From what I can tell regarding the wing of fundamentalism in which he grew up, I can understand somewhat why his perspective was shaped as it was. I’ve met some angry fundamentalists, so you won’t find me denying that they exist. I’ve met some angry evangelicals too, and even some angry liberals. Anger is a depravity problem, not the exclusive property of any sub-group.

My concern, and James may share it, is that the angry label is used too often to discredit those who are taking a good and necessary stand on biblical truth. In reality, it is a form of ad hominem that deflects the discussion away from the principle involved to the disposition of the people making the point. This trope shows up just about anytime someone says anything particularly strong in nature (e.g., remember the reaction to John MacArthur’s assessment of Mark Driscoll—how many times did Driscoll’s defenders dismiss MacArthur as angry?).

Do some people who are taking the right stand need to lighten up? Sure. Do some people who seem allergic to anything negative need to sober up a little? Indeed. Let’s not confuse sobriety for anger, though. And let’s not confuse a positive disposition for a compromising one. My favorite president was described as a happy warrior. I like the balance of that.

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