Risking the Ethics of Critique

Social media creates any number of occasions for errant critique. Ernest Goodman interrupted his regularly scheduled programming about Scripture translation to raise the issue of the ethics of critique in a global social media world subject to the whims of those able to push “publish.”

John Piper and the Gospel Coalition took aim at missional authors Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. Incidentally, I facilitated an online course with Hirsch on his book The Forgotten Ways for Biblical Seminary a few years ago. According to Piper, in the video, he received a paragraph of a recent book by Hirsch and Frost, The Faith of Leap, from the Gospel Coalition. I have not read the book so any opinion I formed about the book would be un-informed. Too bad others refuse to assume such a position.

Goodman likened Piper’s critique to a MacArthurian move. May be. I think it follows the pattern set by D. A. Carson. Rather than investigate the claims of some in the Emerging Church at the time, Carson read what he felt he needed to then wrote a book that suggested he knew how to be conversant. I realize that in a bygone day that meant something like becoming familiar with and so reading someone’s thoughts may well have sufficed. That was then, this is now.

Tim Keller recently remarked that he wished we were still living in the day when what someone wrote had the time to be ruminated over – maybe as much as two years – before being blasted. Would that then over that two year period, given the modernization of communication, someone might pick up a phone, offer to Skype call, or get a little Face Time, and ask questions before declaring a position false to the gospel. Even more so in our day since these possibilities are real. Not Piper.

Ernest pointed out that the move was reminiscent of the now in-famous “Farewell Rob Bell” tweet. Making harsh claims with little more than a paragraph read seems more tabloid-esque rather than Christ-like. But, who of Piper’s peers would dare call him and suggest he may have exhibited a bit of theological hubris and if not careful may end up ignoring the Sword of Damocles? It seems no one. As Goodman pointed out in the comments, every Piper fan-boy would gladly re-tweet all the good. When, however, he may have demonstrated a less than thoughtful approach, it is left alone.

I am sure Hirsch and Frost would have considered a conversation with Piper if he would have asked. But, maybe Piper is only open to doing so with Rick Warren who likely has greater visibility than the Australian friends. Surely, before you could allege the pair are “belittling the glory of God” and “damaging the mission of Christ,” you would want to be more informed about their views than less.

The demand for site traffic makes actions incongruous with Christian charity more the norm than the exception.

What would be your solution? Goodman seems to suggest the need for established guidelines. I am not sure a new law would help except that if we have no peers to whom we are accountable, then maybe we need more an external guide to remind us of Jesus if our internals seem a bit out of balance from time to time.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.