Having participated in two uproars back to back, and in anticipation of a hat trick, I wanted to set out a few things that describe what is actually going on, and what I believe to be at stake.
I have already outlined the basic two-step that usually runs. Pick an offense, demand an apology. If you get an apology, pick a new offense, demand an apology. If you don’t get an apology, make that the new offense and demand an apology. You can work your way completely around the ballroom this way — but only if the designated target accepts your invitation to dance, which some of them still do, mysteriously.
One of the reasons why some Christians are attracted to hard line political conservatives (even the problematic ones) is that they are people who usually see and understand this ploy, and they actually fight back against it. That doesn’t make all their content okay, but they are often shrewder in this matter than are the children of light
Anthony Bradley has published a second post about me, linking to a host of my erstwhile critics. But he didn’t link to these critics because if he had, it would have been immediately obvious to everyone what the caliber of the critics actually is. We have been dealing with this kind of thing for many years, and the Bloomington videos simply gave everyone a first rate glimpse of it. It is beyond telling when someone like Dr. Bradley shows us what he believes to constitute reliable sources. It is pretty bad when your footnotes are all coming from the Occupy Library. If Dr. Bradley were to actually meet some of his sources, he would most likely feel really sorry for them. It is therefore strategic that he keeps his distance from them, and from me, so that he can keep this ramshackle allegiance standing.
So this is not about race, or the War Between the States, just as the previous dust-up was not about abused women. Racial animosity has no place in Christ’s kingdom, and what the Christian faith has done for the treatment of women is one of our glories. But if this is not a racism thing, or a misogyny thing, what kind of thing is it? It is a battle over how we will allow the Christian faith to be represented in this coming generation — will it be by those who speak the Word of God with a damn-the-torpedoes authority, or will it be those who like to retain their respectability by slicing it exquisitely fine?
In his first piece, one of the things that Anthony Bradley expressed surprise about was the fact that I had become (in certain respects) mainstream — okay to link to, okay for an occasional conference gig, okay to ask for book blurbs, those sorts of usual things. Well, let me add my voice to his astonishment — but with an important caveat. I don’t ever want to pretend to be important so that I can then try to be humble about it. I don’t ever want to look like I am trying to pull that stunt. And I know that such baubles, even when you actually have some of them in your bag, are still baubles. If you want to know where we should keep them, that is what the dumpsters outside the pearly gates are for.
When our small town version of all these things erupted some years ago (when a number of the slanders that Dr. Bradley now links to were first cooked up), Nancy and I obviously had to work through it. It was as though somebody had given a signal (just like now), and all of a sudden people were throwing their past-sell-date tomatoes at us, along with some dead cats. Incidentally, in his second post about this, Dr. Bradley has said when this happens, I try to play the victim. Gosh, I hope not. I actually feel extraordinarily blessed, which I hope to explain in a minute. But I do have to fight an optical illusion. I don’t feel victimized, because I think I understand what the Lord is giving me. But it can look like you’re being a victim when people are objectively wronging you, as Dr. Bradley is doing. I actually feel like the Puritan who said he had learned to live in the high mountain air of public calumny. If you understand where you are, it is kind of bracing.
At any rate, back in the day, I said something to Nancy that is relevant again because it is happening again. I told her that this was my big promotion. I believe firmly that this is happening again. First, the fact of it, and then the necessary cautions.
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
All manner of evil. Hatred of women. Contempt for blacks. Arrogance, conceit, pride. Connivance at child abuse. Hard-heartedness. Tribal cult leader. All manner of evil.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad.
But here is the caveat. Jesus says that the reward is in heaven, not here. Sometimes we are given a foretaste of that heavenly vindication here, and sometimes we are not. So here is the thing. How the establishment defines success has to absolutely not matter to us. How the evangelical establishment defines success has to absolutely not matter to us. But it has to “not matter” in both directions. It is often missed that Paul had learned the secret of contentment when he was well fed, as well as when he was hungry. It is often missed some great heroes of the faith routed armies and conquered kingdoms. Others were sawn in two, and others had to hide in caves. All of them were heirs of this joy.
So I don’t know for a fact that this round of abuse will result in a promotion for me in the here and now (though I suspect that may be in the cards). I do know that whether it does or not, the Lord is God and His Word is true — and that is all that matters. We don’t need to panic about whether or not the kings of the earth and their offended constituencies have taken their stand against the Lord and against His anointed.
The dogs can bark at it, but the kingdom train keeps rolling. And it need not distress me if I turn out to be just a dog on the train, barking back. If I am only a dog, then I am a happy one. Though if given a choice, I would rather not be one of those little yippy ones.
The gatekeepers need for it to matter to you. If it matters, they can control you by their denials of privilege, or by their grants of it. This is one of the central devices that unbelief has. “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:44, ESV). The greasy pole of ambition has had many a fellow try to shinny up it, but the only thing that happens is that you get your clothes dirty, and you don’t usually make it anyhow. God has to put you on top of that thing, like Daniel in Babylon or Joseph in Egypt. And if He determines to do that, He is the Lord. If He determines to not do that for you, then it is equally good. Glorify His name, for He is good.
In the meantime, assume the center (by faith) because the center is where the Word is, and where the Spirit is. There are times when the center is hiding in caves, and other times when the center is walking into the king’s court to advise the king. Jeremiah and Nathan were both true prophets. Where the Spirit is, there the real center is.
Egalitarians are happy to “discourse” with complementarians so long as the complementarians assume their assigned place on the ichabodian periphery. They will talk all day long with us, so long as we are the ones who are apologetic. But if we speak a sure word from God, a light in a dark place, a dry rock in the middle of a swamp, we will find ourselves accused of all manner of evil. Historical levelers do the same thing. They will dialogue with you just so long as you are playing the common soft conserative game of “let’s surrender slowly.”
It is also important to guard against becoming the tame wild guy, the court jester, but that is a topic for another hour.
So, to steal something really good from Whitefield, let the name of Wilson perish. I know that I have feet of clay, up past my knees. I am grateful, therefore, that my foes don’t aim for my feet, which are made out of clay, and keep going for my head, which is made out of granite.
I know that I don’t deserve to have God use me, not even a little bit. I know that if these adversaries knew just a fraction of what God knows about my heart, they would really have the goods on me. But also, like the psalmist, I know that these charges against me as false as a politician’s smile. I have had more than one occasion to thank God for the caliber of my friends, as well as for the caliber of my adversaries. God is good.
In his essay The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis discusses two ideas of glory, one pernicious and the other superficial. One was fame greater than that of others, and the other was luminosity. “As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion adn therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electrice light bulb?”
But he goes on to locate the real center of glory, which is “fame with God, approval or (I might say) ‘appreciation’ by God.” And of course, to say out loud that this is what you are after is to invite more howls of outrage — who does he think he is, striving for God’s “well done”? But we just have to complete the phrase — “well done, good and faithful servant” — to see instantly that it is not coxcombery to seek after this accolade, but rather revelatory of settled antipathy toward God to not seek it. And one of the central things we must get mastery of, one of the things we must mortify, if we are seeking that well done, is the desire of the flesh to vindicate itself, instead of letting God do it.
Does it sting when God squirts the Bactine of their false charges on your scraped knee? Let it sting. Builds character.