kinnon —  September 15, 2007 — 33 Comments


I was reading Grant McCracken’s blog yesterday – his Mr. Smarty Pants post on scorn. The noun scorn is described as the feeling or belief that someone or something is worthless or despicable; the verb, is to feel or express contempt or derision for someone or something.

McCracken’s post begins with his description of a conversation he had recently @ C3 at MIT. He was discussing "what makes websites attractive, compelling, and engaging. Inevitably we were talking about bad practice…" He goes on to say,

I was struck by what happened to my half of the conversation.  I began to roll out the scorn.  When talking about bad website design, I would relish how really bad it was.  I would hold the brand up for "how stupid can someone be" excoriation.

Now, the linguists can tell us what is happening here.  This kind of talk has a meta-pragmatic function.  It builds solidarity between the speakers.  (The mechanics: scorn presumes that we both understand a topic is risible.  This presumption claims a commonality.  This commonality builds a solidarity.  Or something likes this, more or less, give or take.)

Solidarity is a good thing especially with one’s colleagues, but in this case it didn’t sit right.  In fact, I found myself recoiling from scorn even as I manufactured it.

The problem is that this scorn must, I think, interfere with the dispassion with which we are, again I think, obliged to talk about contemporary commerce and culture.  It really gets in the way.  At the very least, we have confused the issue.  More specifically, we are using our talk to build solidarity when we ought to be using it to think about the world.

McCracken’s words hit me at a couple of levels. The first was the experience of someone I value highly as a friend and thinker, Michael Spencer.

This week, the iMonk once again found himself in the cross hairs of the Truly Reformed/Hyper-Calvinist wing of Fundamentalist Evangelicalism. (You can scroll down through the BHT posts if you want details.) The scorn from particularly "righteous" members of the "we have the Total Truth" Brigade was applied thickly.

In McCracken’s words, it had a "meta-pragmatic function" allowing members of the TTB to express their solidarity with each other. Spencer was "Captain Drama," "the gusher of sniveling emotional spasms," "dishonest," "self-absorbed" – the list of scorn-filled descriptives continues ad nauseum. And this from people who consider themselves highly moral, righteous, beyond-reproof Christians. If anyone deigned to defend Spencer, they were quickly shot down with the same level of scorn. It was and is disgusting. How one gets from this to that is beyond my comprehension.

But McCracken’s words also forced me to look at my own conversations, writings and thoughts. Would that I never availed myself of the scorn applicator. But I have. Too often. As recently as this week. In fact, only a few posts ago. And I apologize for it.

I have written a fair amount on the concept of the Generous Web (including a chapter with that title in this book). My original use of the term came out of reading Kathy Sierra and Doc Searls – two writers who were willing to freely share their thoughts, concepts and ideas with the web masses. (Doc still is. Kathy’s stuff is still up and worth reading but an internet stalker has taken her out of the game.)

The generous web is a place where generative conversations take place. Yes, there can be heat and light in the generous web – but ad hominem attacks and self-righteous scorn are not part of it. In my chapter in this book, I call this the UnGenerous Web and liken it to Newton’s Third Law in operation.

I am reminded of St. Paul’s words to the sisters and brothers at Philippi,

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

I confess that I don’t expect that anytime soon from the TTB, but I do need to hold myself accountable to it. You are welcome to hold me accountable, as well.

UPDATE: The latest two ASBO Jesus comics are particularly appropriate to this discussion. Here and here.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

33 responses to Scornucopia

  1. Important reminder. It is a hard line to follow between scorn and genuine, needed critique. Thanks for this post, Bill.


  2. Good stuff, Bill. It’s why I unsubscribed. I find myself wanting to argue for a special dispensation though… and it relates to the pain of detox. I don’t know if the posts to which you refer include the FKA series, but I don’t think it should. Yes, those posts had a tinge of scorn (speaking for the series including mine, not zeroing in on yours)… but there’s a special context to it, that of pain. It’s the pain talking, and we need to recognize that. The problem then is actually Newton’s First Law: inertia. Processing the pain and even speaking with scorn sometimes is a process of getting it out, and if it’s done in an understanding context and doesn’t build so much inertia that it can’t stop when the time is right, then it’s a problem. I’m not really trying to argue for the good side of scorn so much as suggesting it needs understanding in some contexts.

    To be clear, I don’t think the TTB is one of them. Good post.

  3. I don’t think I said that very clearly — I mean that scornful words in the right context can be part of the path to wholeness, if they are understood as speaking from pain. They don’t *always* come from pain, and I think that’s what you’re zeroing in on… and well done.

    Gotta say I love the graphic, too.

  4. Bill,
    My initial response is that the posts of yours that you are likely referring to are some of my favorite posts of yours, which leaves me in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with my own participation in this issue. Thanks a lot!

    I agree that much ugliness takes place under the guise of truth-speaking. However, I am also aware that many voices are silenced under the “don’t talk rule” using the verse you quoted.

    I don’t think that any of us want to be like the TR guys, however there is a time for saying something is wrong, which often isn’t perceived as “nice.”

    The awareness that we can be blind to our own motives, should make us cautious in the manner in which we presume to speak the truth concerning issues of corruption or injustice.

    In general, this is an area to be aware of especially by those of us who often critique existing church structures and methods. I have a problem with the idea of requiring a type of false peace instead of dealing with real issues. However, those who rock the boat should examine their heart and approach issues in love and humility.

    Would that we were always humble, wise, and gracious. (You might not want to visit my blog today.)

  5. Grace, Jamie and Bro May,
    I don’t want to suggest that real critique or “witty cynicism,” to quote a phrase from a good friend, don’t have a place in the blog world. What I’m not interested in reading (or writing) is contempt or derision of someone that is almost exclusively ad hominem in nature. (Unless, of course, it’s a post about Benny Hinn’s new Gulfstream IV, then all bets are off.)

    The attack on Michael was not just unfair, it was un-Christian by any reading of the New Testament. Would that the TRs who perpetrated the attack have the intestinal fortitude to apologize. I won’t hold my breath.

  6. Wow. Bill Kinnon doesn’t like me? I may never recover.

    I’ll take your offer of admonition here to heart, Bill, when both you and iMonk don’t use any sarcasm, either. Seems like you just don’t like it when it comes your way — thus, “Captain Drama”.

    You can be his faithful companion “Dramaturg” if you like. It suits you.

  7. Just to be clear, I’m having a hard time seeing how the label “scornucopia” distinguishes itself from the label “Captain Drama”. I think Bill’s label is pretty clever and sarcastic; he thinks mine is totally reprehensible — can’t be uttered in good company.

    That just seems to make mine -more- relevant and useful, not less. Could be wrong — would love to see any kind of explanation other than, “it just is. Read the Bible.”

  8. Oh yeah — Total Truth Brigade, too, but we’re keeping that one. That’s like being called “Protestant” by Cardinal Cajetan.

  9. Bill:

    Rest assured, your point has been made, and underscored. Not that it’s been heard in some quarters… but none of us were holding our breath and waiting for people to understand that the problem isn’t cynicism or sarcasm, it’s derision. Oh well.

    On to happier topics, I propose.

  10. Bill, I read this post yesterday fairly early on (I think before it hit the readers) and then got wrapped up in my weekend events, so I’m just coming back to it now.

    I think that the visual speaks volumes if one would but study it for a moment. It’s quite good.

    It’s unfortunate that there are some who are not capable of separating their communication style from who they are. I did not hear you condemn anyone, simply a derisive style of communicating. One which has been proven to be unproductive to loving interaction between Christian brethren as we are commanded by our Lord. Since a tree is also proven by its fruit, we must therefore wonder about the trees that produce such derisive, caustic fruit that poison the atmosphere around them.

  11. Maynard:

    I see: “scornucopia” (with the accompanying vomiting graphic) is not derision, but “Captain Drama” is.

    I think I heard Bill’s point — I just don’t think Bill sees how deep it cuts if it is true at all. In Bill’s view, this post isn’t self-refuting. In my view, it is.

    I think there’s a bigger problem here than whether or not both sides of this little send-up are practicioners of the art of lampooning the other side: there’s the problem of whether either side ever deals with the reason they are getting lampooned.

    Let me suggest something: when the first-wave of response is, “Ad-hom. Too mean to be true,” every time, that’s simply ignoring criticism.

  12. Gee Frank, perhaps you’re right. I have the links to the posters and such (the irony and cynicism – some of which is genuinely funny), but perhaps you could point me once again to your thoughtful critique (in words) that outlines your issues with the emerging/missional church and the ways in which they/we are at odds with your understanding of scripture and proper doctrine. From your many comments on the movement, I know that you have reviewed our writings to be able to contrast them with your understandings of scripture, sourcing what we’ve said contra orthodoxy as you understand it. You know, the helpful criticism that we can engage, think through, and reform our ways. I seem to have lost that link.

  13. Bill says: “McCracken’s words hit me at a couple of levels. The first was the experience of a someone I value highly as a friend and thinker, Michael Spencer… But McCracken’s words also forced me to look at my own conversations, writings and thoughts. Would that I never availed myself of the scorn applicator. But I have. Too often. As recently as this week. In fact, only a few posts ago. And I apologize for it.”

    For some reason, one section of the blogsphere reads only “Someone thinks that Michael Spencer has been scorned by us. Let’s go point out how scornfull that thinking is towards us.”

    I am reading the words and admonition about scorn and thinking they more about checking your motives rather than a specific rhetoric device (sarcasm). Sometimes (and this is true in any area of blogdome, including mine) our reason for posting with or without sarcasm is not for building up the whole body of Christ, but rather for the sole purpose of making sure everyone knows that we don’t like (insert person, people group, thinking style, etc…). That’s not defending truth. That is not seeking to be the church. That is not in any way, shape, or form corrective, speaking truth, or hard loving in Christ.

    Bill, good words. Thanks.

  14. PS, Just to make sure I am understood: This issue is NOT about lampooning each other. It is about, “…using our talk to build solidarity when we ought to be using it to think about the world.”

  15. I wrote about this subject (or one that highly overlaps it) here.

  16. That’s an interesting reply, Maynard: I thought we were talking about whether my use of the phrase “Captain Drama” was unchristian and rude. That was Bill’s statement to which I responded, and the context is that Bill didn’t do any better or worse when he replied here by calling folks on my side of the present difficulties the “Total Truth Brigade” or likened what happened to a vomitting cornucopia (with a picture — not with words).

    If you want to change the subject to the posters, I suppose we can go there. But it doesn’t quite get to how Bill is a lamb in lamb’s clothing for finding clever ways to verbally box-in those he disagrees with but I am a wolf in rat’s clothing for doing the same thing.

  17. Aaron:

    Yes, I read that part several times to make sure it said what you cited here — only to find that Bill thinks he didn’t apply scorn at all in this blog entry. TTB? That’s not sarcasm? The graphic isn’t a lampoon?

    I read it. I don’t think Bill did — because he just did what frankly comes naturally in a polemical piece of writing immediately after writing that such practices are somehow disreputable.

  18. Frank,
    “Captain Drama”: Sarcasm
    “Total Truth Brigade”: Lampooning

    I am not trying to say that Bill has not used sarcasm in this post. He has, and I think it’s funny. You use sarcasm in your writing as well, and I think it’s sometimes funny.

    The question here is not whether sarcasm should be used, but rather WHY is the lampoon taking place? Is it to think about the world we are in, the people we are interacting with, and the situations we see, poke a bit of fun at it all and try and help people see another side? Maybe to highlight and point out some foibles or some serious problems, but ultimately to see something change for the better. Or, are we highlighting foibles and problems just to point out someones weakness and remind everyone that we don’t like them.

    I must say, I have seen you fall prey to the latter, and there is a certain “fan base” that certainly building solidarity with. But that is the wrong reason for a lampoon. To quote Bill’s quote of Grant McCracken again, “We are using our talk to build solidarity when we ought to be using it to think about the world.” And that is the difference between scorn and sarcasm, or (to put in another way) the difference between bullying and satirizing.

  19. Frank,

    As I expected… you didn’t answer the question, which was not an odd reply. You said:

    I think there’s a bigger problem here than whether or not both sides of this little send-up are practicioners [sic] of the art of lampooning the other side: there’s the problem of whether either side ever deals with the reason they are getting lampooned.

    Let me suggest something: when the first-wave of response is, “Ad-hom. Too mean to be true,” every time, that’s simply ignoring criticism.

    1. Nobody said “too mean to be true” – certainly not “every time”. You’re caricaturizing.
    2. “ignoring criticism” – I asked you to point out thoughtful criticism to which a response might be made. Evidently, you can’t.

    I’ve granted you that some of your stuff is funny. I don’t think it’s particularly kind or good-natured, but yes, it’s sarcastic, it’s cynical, and on occasion, it’s witty. I grant you that not everything has to be syrupy-sweet, to the point I couldn’t care less if it’s satire or what you call it. But come on, let’s have some substance.

    The issue isn’t so much whether you’re saying things that are rude, but whether you are scornful toward those with whom you disagree. You deride us, denigrate us mock us, yadda yadda yadda. I don’t care. The real question is if your heart has any Christian love for us as brothers and sisters in Christ. If it’s there, I’m not seeing it… perhaps because you see us as apostate. Does that make it right to hate? Is that going to win us back to your view of proper Christian doctrine and practice?

    I renew my request for you to provide a direct link to the posts on your blog where you interact with what we’ve written from a theological point of view, citing sources for what we’ve written and contrasting it with your understanding of scripture and theological views. If you’ve done that and we’ve denigrated your critique, I might understand the nature of the response now… though I can’t say I condone personal attacks as a form of debate. On the other hand, if you can’t produce such a thoughtful critique and all you have is personal attacks and slams, mockery, derision, and scorn… well then, your criticism is pretty shallow despite its far-flung nature. A mile wide and an inch deep. Give me some intelligent criticism and perhaps you’ll get a response… all we’ve got now is name-calling, and you whinging that we’re ignoring the criticism. So where is it?

    Of course, if you want to forget about that and go ahead with spiteful name-calling ad nauseum, you can do it without me to your heart’s content. Heck, it’s probably good for traffic. Is that what all this is about?

  20. Frank,

    I do not believe that you are a stupid person. So I am left to believe that you must be purposefully misunderstanding the nature of this post and the graphic to suit your own purposes.

    The graphic is not a lampoon, but a graphic to represent the effect and nature of scorn in general. If you somehow believe that it is a lampoon of how you are perceived by others, then perhaps you need to spend some time in prayer about how your words and deeds may have harmed others. Then set about rectifying that problem. It might be that you are being prodded by the Holy Spirit on an issue and you are choosing to ignore that. But please stop pushing your issues off onto everyone else. Especially on someone else’s blog. It’s most impolite.

    It would be nice too, if you could answer Brother Maynard’s substantive questions. I’ve gone over the Team Pyromaniac’s blog at some length and cannot find constructive critique anywhere. It might be buried amongst the giddy name-calling and laughing. I realize that you all must be having great fun at our expense, but then, in what form is that building Christ’s Kingdom? How is that showing the world who we are by our love for one another despite our differences (which are many)?

    You may have knowledge of God’s Word, but your maturity in Christ (1 Cor. 13) is sadly lacking my brother. Go with God.

  21. Aaron: I can tell you frankly that when I employ sarcasm, it is to scorn an obvious wrong. I hope that this is the case for Bill as well — that his motive is to correct wrong, even if he’s wrong about what’s wrong.

    That, fwiw, is the biblical reason to use sarcasm.


    I combed out my archives last night looking for the places I gave iMonk a hard time, and then trying to find the corresponding iMonkery which followed to see if iMonk has ever said, in response to my criticism of him, “Huh. I should think about that.” Or if he has even ever engaged the concerns with so much as a rebuttal -other than- “HE HATE ME!”

    I couldn’t find one — and iMonk and his various friends and cohorts, not the Emergent Church, are the the topic here. It’s what drew the “Captain Drama” quip, and it’s what Kinnon is on about in this post.

    However, since sonja also shares your concern here that nothing substantive was ever said by a member of TeamPyro about ECM prior to posting the posters, here’s a list of posts on that topic:

    A guest post from John MacArthur, 03/2006

    Phil on PostModernism, 06/2006

    This one which also link to my favorite post on the subject of who the real fundies are, where Phil made the point clearly, 08/2006

    This one on TIV as it relates to some emergent guys and CBA

    And at any of those, you can find our blogger tag “emergent” which will lead you to many posts on this subject.

    Thank you for asking — now how about we go back to the point which Bill was making?

  22. Frank, Frank, Frank. With minimally due respect, you’re the one who said,

    there’s a bigger problem here than whether or not both sides of this little send-up are practicioners [sic] of the art of lampooning the other side: there’s the problem of whether either side ever deals with the reason they are getting lampooned.

    I’m surprised I had to remind you twice. And on this point I agree — there are larger issues at hand. Some of the things you’ve said about people personally (i.e., not about their viewpoint) are at hand here. I could go on at length about what you’ve said to Michael, or Bill, or Sally-Jane Smithwiggle. But it would be pointless, like a physician who never looks beyond the symptoms. It would go on forever. You seem to enjoy that, but I do not.

    What’s at issue is the way in which you continually attack people who disagree with you in general. I’m not here to talk about a specific incident, but the bigger issue of the overall debate — to which (I remind you again) you opened the door.

    As to the attitude, it’s plainly clear in your last comment. You refuse to call me a “brother” in Christ and you seem to be the sole arbiter of what is, in your words, “obvious wrong” which in your view deserves scorn. At least now you admit your use of sarcasm is scornful. That’s what you’ve been told for what seems like ages now.

    You’re on Michael’s case for not saying “Huh. I should think about that.” Where and when have you ever said such a thing in response to something anyone from the emerging church conversation has said? C’mon, Frank, chapter and verse. Where’s the link, and why should Michael do what you’re so flatly unwilling to do? Is your position really that “I can afford to be closed-minded — I’m right.”

    The arrogance is astounding. Or am I misreading everything? Or are you humbly saying that you have a corner on Truth™? Now here you are judging me as not being a believer, not being worthy to be called your brother. Huh? I’m so glad that your judgment that means a whit to me, but that I will be judged solely by the One who loves me and died for my soul. Him I am fully prepared to meet, and embrace. He is the One who walked the face of the earth and, yes, used harsh and/or sarcastic words… the harshest of which he reserved for the attitude you employ in all your conversations with us. Do you still pray every day to thank Him that He did not create you a woman, an Arminian, or an emergent?

    It seems to me that since you’re personally (self-)appointed to the CTB — the “Corner on Truth Brigade” — and are unwilling to consider anyone else’s view in a properly evaluative sense, and since you refuse to call me brother and have evidently judged me an unbeliever not worthy of your charity, there’s precious little ground for discussion. It’s a sad thing that you have such contempt for those outside your belief system, else you might actually win some over to it. Were you to acknowledge my brotherhood in Christ you might find I hold to a more Reformed theology than most of the emerging church… however, since I am detestable to you as a member of the emerging/missional church, it doesn’t even matter if I’m a 5-pointer who would agree with much of what you say is true. In my general direction — as with others in the e/mc, you’re far more interested in damnation than discussion.


    I said I would consider the posts that you have linked, and I will do so. At a glance, they do not appear to be sourced to our writings as I had requested, but I’ll give them a look in case I missed anything. Once I have had a reasonable chance to sift through them, if a proper response will be longer than comment-length here, I’ll post it on my own blog.

  23. I decided I was going to do something about my tongue a couple of years ago. I decided I was only going to talk about someone in a 1 to 1 ratio to the amount of time I spent praying for that person and their family.

    That should do one of two (or both) things. First it should make me pray more. Second it should keep me from talking so much. What it did was cause me to be behind on my praying…a lot, but I think it’s helping ever so slowly.

    James said that if anyone thinks he’s religious and doesn’t bridle his tongue that persons religion is…wait for it…worthless. Something I need to ponder daily.

  24. For the most part I have had to take a rather “professional wrestling” approach to the blogdom. It’s mostly entertaining but not real. That keeps me from taking any offense from the overwhelming somrgasbord of inviting opportunities to lift up the civility template and see no similarities.

    Charles Manson and his cell mate would have more of a respectful conversation that occurs when the tower dwellers place a scornful megaphone to their lips and grace the surfs with some intellectual invectives meant to remind everyone of who is where on the doctrinal foodchain.

    The doctrinal bourgeoisie bends down to feed a little correctional cake to the doctrinal proletariat decorated with the icing of scorn so as not to give the wrong impression that there is any condoning of their doctrinal malaise. Truth, you see, is like the Holy Grail, we have it and we will protect it, you may look but do not touch.

    And scorn, disdain, contempt, satire, demeaning, is the dinner show for the Christian elite basking in the epiphany of their awakening and laughing at the blind man who trips over his own deception.

    No tears, prayer, compassion, respect, dialogue, consideration, or manifested love will be tolerated. Let the tolerant folks waste their time on those things, we have important work to do. Ready swords? Unsheath! To the scrolls!!

  25. This pissing contest needs some criteria for determining who wins. That is what this is about, isn’t it? About winning the argument? I think the person who gives in first, and admits that their theological/ecclesiastical system lacks logic, coherence and justification is the winner. Then we can all join hands and sing, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

    Seriously, this argument isn’t about the merits of your arguments. It is personal. The spiritually mature/emotionally fit person recognizes that Christ has taken all those attacks on his back. We do not have the luxury of taking things personally, or the privilege of treating people in the same way. We only have the luxury of sacrificially loving people as Christ loved us. If that makes our theology or our blogging suspect, then it is time to grow up.

    If you hear irritation and disgust in my words, then you are hearing me. However, don’t take it personally. It isn’t personal. It is the principle at issue here.

  26. The issue is not about winning the argument, it is about arguing itself. Or as it might be softened, sharing thoughts in an atmosphere of family without fearing verbal execution.

    What would that look like…

  27. Henry(Rick), even in the Victorian age, arguments were about winning. If you don’t see that you don’t understand the role of power in human relationships. In a argument, if you aren’t interested in winning it, getting your point across, and convincing everyone else, then you are a poor representative of your position.
    When it becomes personal, on either side of the equation, either I’m making personal attacks or I’m taking another person’s argument as a personal attack, the argument is lost.
    That is why politics and religion have degenerated to this type of worthless pissing in the wind. It is not intended to illuminate perception, but to push personal buttons.
    That is why this is about winning and power and making it personal.
    And it is beneath the cause of Christ, and at the same time not unexpected because we are all basically working out our sin in a variety of very sophisticated ways.

  28. Read the Dynamist’s post on Steven Pinker’s new book- The Stuff of Thought -p link to

    It is relevant to this discussion.

    Here’s one sentence to contemplate.

    “I think the reason that swearing is both so offensive and so attractive is that it is a way to push people’s emotional buttons, and especially their negative emotional buttons.”

    What we do in the church is sanitize, Christianize our language but the heart behind it is no different that what Pinker says the use of curse words do.

  29. The word “winning” is carnal and indicates comtetition not sharing with a view of enhancing and refining the other person’s view hopefully to the truth. You are correct that many times it is nothing more than theological badminton, but that is the norm not the Biblical template.

    Swearing is irrelevant and should never be a part of Christian dialogue. Boy does that date me…

  30. Henry, who says winning is carnal? Since when? Are you saying you don’t want to communicate your ideas in a persuasive manner so that other people will accept them? You are deceiving yourself to think that you don’t want to win. You would be participating in this discussion if you didn’t want to win. You may not want to win at any cost, and if so, they we are in agreement. Some forms of winning are carnal.

    If fact, I believe you are masking your desire to win with clever spiritual language.

    Don’t take any of this personally. I don’t know you, and I assume that you are simply a product of the Christian subculture that has had a formative impact upon your thinking. So, I’m really addressing that culture instead of you personally.

    You wrote “…not sharing with a view of enhancing and refining the other person’s view hopefully to the truth.” That is a noble thought that masks the real motivation to win that person to your way of thinking. It is the type of speech, like cursing, that is intended to hide its real intentions.

    The core assumption of this perspective is that we, our Christian subculture, have arrived at an understanding of the truth that is synonymous with the truth. The Bible and my theological system are as close to being the same as can possibly be expected. In fact, it is so close, our system does a better job of explaining the Bible than the Bible itself. And we have been trained in this system are commissioned with the job of evangelism and apologetics to persuade and correct the thinking of misguided Christians and non-Christians so that they know the truth.

    My experience – 25 years of ordained ministry, 10 more as a volunteer, the past 12 years as an church/organizational consultant dealing with the absolute worst in human behavior – has shown me that people use their religion to mask their real intentions. What they may be are many and varied. It could be a quest for recognition, for power and control, for escape, for validation or simply identity.

    So, when I read that you want to enhance and refine someone’s theology, that just doesn’t bother me, it scares me. Because that assumption is born in arrogance and masked by the nobility of Christ’s calling us to ministry. When Paul said that he was the worst of all sinners, he wasn’t blowing smoke. That wasn’t some clever preacher spin-doctoring going on. He was speaking from the very truth of his experience. And from my experience, the people who are credible are those who have dealt deeply and behaviorally with their arrogance, rebellion, need for control and belief that they are better than other people.

    For me, this is at the heart of this whole discussion of scorn. It would be far more valuable for us to discussion how Christ has changed us from arrogant b*****ds into men and women whose lives are exhibits of Christ’s transforming love.

  31. “If fact, I believe you are masking your desire to win with clever spiritual language.”

    Ah, you caught me. And with that – You Win!


  32. Well, I’ve sat on this for a few days now. I don’t want to stir things up again, but I said I would comment on the posts Frank offered. They are:
    – 1) “Harry Emerson Fosdick and the Emerging Theology of Early Liberalism” by John MacArthur, which is tagged “emergent” but doesn’t actually establish any connection between the movement and the subject matter of the post.
    – 2) “On keeping up with popular worldly ideas” by Phil Johnson, which begins, “Some actually believe the ’emerging church movement’ is the polar opposite of ‘modernism.’ So if you criticize the movement at all, you will automatically be accused of blithely and unthinkingly buying into the errors of ‘modern’ thinking.” It does not source the claim and makes an unsubstantiated assumption about the relationship between the emerging church and postmodernity: “That claim is based on the assumption that postmodernism itself represents a correction of the philosophical errors of modernism, rather than just a further step in a wrong direction.” (emphasis his).
    – 3) Three posts by Frank, Phil, and Dan about “the symmetry between liberal and conservative anti-intellectualism.” Phil says, “I think anti-intellectualism is a huge problem in the Emerging/Emergent Church/Conversation/Movement. The literature produced by the movement is shot through with deliberate naïveté about Christian doctrine and the history of heresy.” It’s an opinion, with nothing sourced to EC writing to support it.
    – 4) “Wednesday, from vacation” in which Frank interrupts his vacation to rant about the TNIV, in which discourse he mentions Chris Seay, Doug Pagitt, and Rob Bell. The first two are only losely connected to the topic and the latter is chided for embracing the TNIV, which is not an emergent-specific subject.

    Basically, the list of posts given as an example of the critique we’ve ignored and should have responded to with an “I’ll think about that” doesn’t contain enough sourced information or substantiated critique for us to consider or respond to. Essentially then, the rest of the scornful material is based on our non-response to something that isn’t substantive enough to respond to. At least, that’s how I read it, as a shortcut to getting to the scornful (and fun) posts. The posters, for better or worse, actually present a more rounded picture of the Pyro opinion or view of the e/mc and our beliefs than do the worded posts I read… and they are no less sourced or substantiated then the worded ones where one expects to find the case explained.

    I also noticed that Frank made up a very nice “Friend of Sinners” badge for people to use. It’s a nice graphic, and a great idea. Honestly, Frank, I like it. I don’t think I can use it, because the grant of permission prohibits its use on sites with material you would find offensive – it is specifically issued “for your friends,” which is a closer association between us than I think you would want. Given the verbage toward the emerging church, I actually wasn’t certain if the graphic was entirely serious or was another sarcastic bit that I wasn’t quite getting — sorry, but I’m not sure why or how it’s good to be friends with sinners but not emergents. I suppose it must be either we’re not sinners, or we don’t rate that highly.

    I also wanted to address some of the intervening comments since my last, particularly Ed’s. Ed, I really appreciate what you had to say, and I agree with you wholeheartedly if not whole-emotionally. You see, I was rather direct and harsh with Frank in my last comment, and, I think, a little bit mean and more personally-directed in my criticism than I should have been — that is, I should stick to the issues. Alas, my humanity sets in… my friends and I are being slandered and it gets to me sometimes. The worst part is (and I confessed it to Bill via email) that in a way, I actually enjoyed writing it. A clear sign it’s time to quit. Sure, I want to “win” but more deeply, I want to win “to an end”, i.e., a higher goal… but if I can’t stick to the high road in getting there, maybe someone else who can will have better luck than me.

    Henry and any other innocent bystanders, if my comments have offended you, please accept my apologies.

    I’m looking back at some of the comments and here at the end, I think I have to disagree with part of the first comment by Jamie… there is a clear distinction between scorn and critique. The former is to deride and demote, elevating oneself and the views one holds. It creates distance. The latter is to correct what is seen as an errant viewpoint — it is offered with respect and an openness to dialogue about the matter being critiqued in the hope of finding agreement. It closes distance. One is anti-relational, the other is pro-relational. Unfortunately, when the former masquerades as the latter, those being critiqued begin to try and have a discussion but get shut down or shouted down pretty quickly… because the openness isn’t there. This is a misinterpretation of the aim of the critique, and it leads to just the kind of situation we’re seeing, where people feel personally attacked and hurt by it.

    I’m all for critique aimed at closing distance, bringing understanding, and yes, correction as needed. But when it’s offered in scorn, I really want no part of the discussion because it’s at cross purposes… we’re trying to close distance that the other party is attempting to create.

    And with that, I believe I’m done here.


  33. And so the highways and streets of brotherhood upon which dialogue could travel on are broken down. One man’s carnal scorn is another man’s anointed rebuke. Repulsive truth rejects friendly error and in the end eternity continues to flex.

    Tick-tock, tick-tock…


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