I am happy to interact briefly with Andrew Sandlin’s most recent observations. I need to highlight the word briefly, because I just want to suggest the outline of a response, and not to produce a massive tome. If I were a postmodernist, it would be described as the “contours of a response,” but it amounts to the same thing. I just don’t want the brevity to be confused with snippiness.
Andrew says that God reprimanded Job’s friends for “championing just the sort of epistemic certainty” that he saw on display when we identified 9-11 as a judgment on America. But God did not chastise Job’s friends for their certainty. He chastised them for being wrong. Now of course, when you are wrong, certainty makes it worse, but the issue is whether the judgment is right or wrong, and not whether it is a certain judgment. The basic Christian confession is not “Jesus is Lord, imo.”
Andrew says he would like me to ratchet down my rhetoric to conform to my acknowledgment that I am not infallible. But this overlooks the biblical requirement to speak with a prophetic voice, and no, not about everything. If Andrew were to ask me who I thought would take the Super Bowl, he would get more than enough epistemic uncertainty to satisfy him. How would I know? But if he wants to know whether God has responded in any visible way to our nationalist idolatries, the task of the minister is to declare the ways of God to sinful man.
He challenged my contention that some of the Pharisees were saved people, and said that it was gratifying I did not try to support the claim with patent biblical evidence. So, on one occasion, Pharisees warned Jesus when there was a plot on His life, Nicodemus was a righteous man and a Pharisee, Saul remained a Pharisee after his conversion, and thousands of Pharisees believed in Jesus after the resurrection. How’s that?
And last, Andrew says that his view that I am (at times) religiously arrogant is an opinion and not a charge, and was surely not “some silly presbyterian judicial accusation suited for an ‘ecclesial court.'” Perhaps his experiences have been different than mine, but I have good reason to be far more jumpy about accusations of personal sin that are made against me on the Internet (where there is no accountability) than accusations made against me at presbytery (where there is a measure of accountability). If I were to state it as my personal opinion on my personal blog that Andrew spends his lunch hours downstairs in his basement kicking puppies, the fact that I was not intending to bring any ecclesial charge at presbytery would not lessen the impact of my words on Andrew’s reputation. In fact, it would make things worse. In short, Andrew’s charge against me was made to the wide world, not to me, and not to those responsible for my spiritual condition, despite the fact that we are fellow ministers in the same presbytery. I think it was poorly done, but that is just my opinion.