A friend’s blog pointed up Kevin Johnson’s critique of Tim Challies on the issue of doctrine and Christian unity. Johnson’s post is stunted at a number of levels.
First, why use a dying metaphor like “wax eloquently.” Why not think of something that conjures up a nice word picture? I’m your reader, you want my sympathy; don’t test my intelligence with banality. Was Tim’s waxing that eloquent? Or is this mere cheek for the sake of it?
Second, why the mud-slinging at the outset? For someone so concerned about unity, tossing about the epithet “fundamentalist” in a pejorative sense is puerile. It is not a mark of good writing to alienate your audience from the outset.
Third, Johnson chides Challies on the latter’s interpretation of Acts 5:12-14 where the emphasis is placed on doctrine over praxis. Johnson claims that there is no discussion of theology as the basis of unity in this chapter. I guess he thinks that “believers were being added” is an indication of doctrinal absence. Believers in what?
Fourth, “waning denominationalism.” I’d be interested to see why he thinks that denominations are on the wane. What of the Southern Baptist Convention–are their doctrinal distinctives on the wane? What about the PCA? What about URCNA? What even of the PCUSA? Waning in whose eyes?
Fifth, Johnson concedes what he chides Challies for in the first place: “Unity in theology is not totally unimportant but the key word here in terms of necessary doctrinal unity is that Christians believe the gospel.” He derides “Calvinism” and “sola fide” but begs a big question: isn’t believing the gospel the problem he sullied Tim for in the first place? (Remember the block-quote at the beginning?) Challies assumes that “believers being added” is to do with believing. Believing what? Well, the gospel. More than that, it would be a gospel consistently worked out in the overall dogmatic perspective of the believer. Would Johnson rather an inconsistent, vague, mushy gospel?
Sixth, why use the term “gnostic”? What kind of gnostic is Tim Challies? Is he a Valentinian gnostic? Maybe he’s got a touch of the Marcion about him? He’d like to get rid of the law-bits in the bible and all. Or is he more of the docetic variety? I should ask Tim the next time I see him if he thinks that Jesus had a physical body or not. I don’t care for this shoddy use of terms to sound theologically profound (not to mention insulting), when in fact he sounds as if he’s read a page or two of Elaine Pagels and thinks she’s on to something.
I’d keep going but I’ve probably said enough.