Don Miller on Speaking the Truth in Love

Just this week one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller, wrote an article in Relevant Magazine entitled “When Truth is the Enemy of Truth.” In my opinion, Don is one of the most profound story tellers of our time. He’s a phenomenal writer, brilliant communicator, funny as heck, & is a creative leader in caring of children without fathers. (You should check out his Mentoring Project). If I’m honest with myself, hearing Donald Miller speak after reading one of his books significantly impacted my spiritual development in college. All that to say, if you couldn’t tell… I’m a huge Don Miller fan.

After that “i heart DM” rant I want to get back to his article in Relevant.

In his article, Don (yes I do call him that in pretense like we’re old friends… don’t judge me) explains Thomas Kuhn’s theory on paradigm shifts and then applies it to our current evangelical culture:

“When theologians throw out anomalies that threaten their paradigms, they respect their interpretation of truth more than truth, or worse, believe their interpretation of truth is actually truth. They use terms like “biblical” and “heretic” to convince themselves and others that their interpretation is the real truth and others are a threat to ‘the Gospel’ or to God Himself. This sort of language isn’t helpful or respectful of anomalies, not to mention its behavior indicates a genuine intellectual threat that should be taken seriously, not dismissed as heresy.

What we are encountering in Christian culture today is a paradigm in crisis. Will there be a shift in the way we understand truth or read the Bible? Time will tell. But it would be arrogant of us to dismiss the anomalies. Dismissing anomalies rather than addressing them may be good for existing structures, including financial structures and power structures, but it isn’t good for truth. This does not mean anomalies have to be accepted but rather carefully addressed in a reasonable manner.

I loved that last line – but here’s my question: What does “carefully” & “reasonably” look like in the world of theological debate? How do leaders on opposite sides of ideals faithfully debate an issue? And is it ok after much debate to still label a brother/sister as a heretic if indeed it is true?

Now, let’s all be honest here… we all know what sparked his blog entry. Even though Don states that this is more related to McClaren’s old book rather than Bell’s new book… I’m not buying it. And even if it is, this entry is still extremely applicable in the debate over “Love Wins.”

I was tracking with Don for the majority of his article – although I have to stay that I do not think that McClaren’s book “seemed faithful to Scripture.”  But the core of Miller’s article isn’t about which side we’re on, it’s about how we debate & articulate disagreement in a way that is helpful to the Christian community. What do we do with ideas that differ or threaten our own? Although I love that Don brought up the topic, I would love it if a prominent pastor or Christian leader would set the ground rules for theological debate in world where much of it takes place via social media. I think Don is right – dismissing ideas without intellectually addressing them is hurtful to the body as well as ostracizing to those on the outside who are wrestling with these issues. But how do we respectfully yet adamantly seek truth, speak truth, debate truth, and shepherd our people towards truth in this crazy world? Because ignoring ideas, allowing anomalies that contradict Scripture permeate our churches is equally poisonous.

I’d love it if Mark Driscoll/David Platt/A. Mohler/Rob Bell/Brian McClaren/John Piper/(fill in with your fav. controversial pastor) all got together in one room – without weapons – and said, “This is how we are going to publicly and privately debate these theological issues.” This would be extremely helpful to the evangelical community because whether they like it or not… these leaders set the tone for theological debate. And as we’ve seen over the past few weeks, sometimes these debates can be extremely hostile (ie. the infamous “Farewell Rob Bell” tweet).

Yes, I recognize that the likelihood of Piper and Bell ever hugging it out is slim… and I’m not asking for that (although I would probably pay some serious cash to see it)! It’s just that I truly believe we are capable of debating ideals and discussing theology in a helpful and intellectual way. I know we can because I’m seeing it happen now through many less known authors who are writing fair and thorough book reviews on Bell’s “Love Wins.” So, as we slowly (and hopefully) move on from “Farewell Rob Bell” to the issue of what is a Biblical view of hell, I’d love to have our leaders develop a standard for theological debate.  I think it would greatly benefit our Christian community not only now, but when future anomalies occur.

Just a few lighthearted thoughts for Friday 😉

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4 thoughts on “Don Miller on Speaking the Truth in Love

  1. You don’t know me. I’m a follower of Jesus. I was just wondering if you would ever change your posts if you ran them by your pastor(s) first? Would that change the way you presented your posts as a member of your congregation? Do you believe that what you post to the pubic is actually speaking for your congregation in a way? If so, do you believe everyone would share your view of the whole “Rob Bell” issue? Is your pastor(s) equally a fan of Don Miller? Is there anything that the pastor(s) would correct in your posts? Do you think pastors should deal with the issue of wrong teaching the same way that an author should? Do you believe its more of an issue for pastor’s that they are theologically “right,” or that they are being so vocal in the public as to warn their flocks of the dangers of wolves? Have you ever thought of it from that angle? I enjoy your posts. You are very creative. You don’t have to respond to this. And you don’t know me from Adam. But I think these issues of correct doctrine and theology are bigger than we can see from the social media angle. If your children were in a car that had a bomb in it and they didn’t know, would you casually pull up next to them, smile sweetly, and say “dears, there is a bomb in your trunk.” Or would you be speed after them, doing everything in your power to warn them of the danger, even taking it upon yourself to give up your life to spare theirs? I believe thats what these sound teachers/pastors are doing. They are YELLING into the crowd (the media) so that their children (or just Christians in general) can hear them say DO NOT FOLLOW THIS. THIS IS SERIOUS. My statements were not meant to be a verbal whipping by any means. But your posts seem sometimes to convey that you have this whole “lets just get along” thing down. And if everyone would listen to you, everything would be ok. I could be reading that completely wrong, Once again, your blog is great and I really enjoy it. Blessings.

  2. Kris, blessings brother!

    Thank you for commenting – I didn’t take it as a whipping at all. 🙂 But you have some valid questions and I’d love to answer them! After all if you can take the time to jot out your thoughts, I think it’s only respectful that I answer the questions you posed. So thank you!

    A. No, I do not “run” my posts by my pastors. I’m not writing on behalf of the church so it isn’t necessary. I attend a large mega church and a few pastors/staff members do read my blog and I have no doubt that if they saw something they felt was alarming they would notify me IMMEDIATELY. Also, I’m on staff at a SBC seminary and have professors and staff members who read as well. I also have pastors at a few other churches who check in every now & then (one being my very conservative father…). In fact, I was on the phone with one this afternoon discussing the topic/blog. Trust me when I say that I have folks speaking into my life! I’m well aware that I’m by no means your typical SBC reformer, but I’m also well within the bounds of that “sect” as well.

    B. No I do not speak on behalf of my local church body on this blog. Not a bit. I try not to identify my current church body on here. I don’t think I have let it slip?? But maybe I have… Either way, what I’m writing about isn’t out of the umbrella of my church’s doctrine so I since I’m not speaking on their behalf nor am I speaking heresy, I don’t think they mind. Either way, I’m sure they’d let me know if they had a problem with it.

    C. Opinions on Bell/Miller at our church? First off, both authors are in 2 very separate categories. I think there are a variety of opinions in our congregation on HOW to handle the Rob Bell issue. But I would hope that all members are in unison and have a thorough understanding on our belief in a very real Hell. I posted Tim Keller’s statement on Hell a few weeks back and our church holds a similar view. Similarly, I think there are a variety of opinions on Don Miller at our church – I’ve seen his books on a variety of bookshelves. I’m definitely ok being a public Miller fan.

    D. To answer the multiple questions about pastor vs. author. Although the two have different responsibilities in the body, both carry the responsibility to engage and discuss issues with respect, love, and fervor. I believe in the power of words, and I strongly believe that communicators are responsible for their words (including myself!). I think there is nothing wrong with pastors teaching on hell, heresy, and even warning their flocks about unwise reading choices. I think it is healthy when pastors READ books, engage with that book and compare it to the BIble, and share their results faithfully with the flock they’re responsible for. I think some pastors are taking that approach and taking the opportunity to teach on the subject of hell. Praise God! But I think a few of our prominent leaders were a little TOO excited to “get rid” of Rob Bell. I didn’t see a well thought out & thorough book review until a few days prior to the book’s release. I mentioned this in a previous post, but when we dismiss a member from our churches it is a painful and grievous process. Up until this past week I’ve seen more excitement about pushing Bell off of the evangelical cliff rather than weeping over what could be a sad dismissal. I am encouraged though by many who are starting to engage in the debate over hell, rather than simply attacking the latest “heretic.”

    Like you, I think this is SERIOUS issue. But I think there are two serious issues at hand that this whole dramatic debacle has brought to life. (1) How do we engage in theological debate and disagreement in a social media age? and most importantly (2) What is hell according to Scriptures?

    E. As for the bomb question – I don’t have children yet. But I’m fairly certain the first option you gave wouldn’t be my first choice. 🙂

    F. One final note – I apologize if I come off as a “know it all,” thinking everyone should listen to me. That isn’t my intentions at all. I am definitely opinionated (if you can’t tell ;)), and I just really enjoy writing. Blogging is a great way for me to articulate my thoughts and share my life with friends/family a far. Sometimes it’s about the hat I buy at the mall & others it’s a bit more of a serious nature. But I know when I put my thoughts out there, I’m bound to get feedback and it helps me sharpen my thoughts & heart attitude (like right now!). One thing is for sure, I’m young, learning, and if everyone listened to me this world would still be a crazy mess because I’m just as much of a sinner as Bell, Piper, and the apostle Paul. I pray that I never communicate otherwise.

    I do hope that people hear me out and then smack me around when I’m wrong. It’s quite the humbling thing to be in Christian community. So thank you brother for contributing to the conversation. It’s refreshing to hear people’s perspectives on the blog – even if they differ from mine.

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