The anonymous and comment-free churchwatcher recently put up a video of J D Hall defending judgment, discernment and pontificating on the art of polemics, which was very interesting, but incredibly defensive.
Interesting, because one of our regular commenters, GB, recently added a reference to an intriguing conversation on Facebook, in which the Reformed polemists have apparently turned on themselves.
No backing down
I guess when you are so steely-faced in determination to be right about everything, and too proud to back down from an argument, there will always be the temptation for a Mexican stand-off with people who are supposed to be on your own side.
All of which is exacerbated when you are a very wordy person only too happy to type out your offence on the keyboard and send it out onto the web.
No doubt, should they read this, they will head off to the King James to find a scripture or two that illustrate the way in which brethren sometimes opposed one another, such as Paul and Peter, Paul and Barnabus, Paul and Mark.
This is probably because they have to justify even their public bad behaviour. Being right is an immense responsibility. Getting things wrong sometimes is a big no-no.
So justifying the right to be judgmental, discerning and a polemist was always going to be the next step for the self-parading Reformed polemists.
The curse of the inverted comma
Hall calls out those who wrap inverted commas around ‘discernment’ as if all discernment must be accurate, good and well-balanced. He calls them ‘scare commas’, which, of course, is a figment of his imagination.
We tend to place these commas around ‘discernment’ when referencing these so-called ‘discernment’ ministries because their discernment is not necessarily discerning at all.
They are not ‘scare’ commas. They are commas that say these discernment ministries miss the mark far more than they hit.
Hall considers the use of inverted commas an act of sacrilege against Biblical discernment, when, in fact, it is a declaration that not all discernment is Biblical. The inverted commas codify those who fall short of Biblical discernment.
He lists historic polemists and, seemingly, by so doing, seeks to place his name in amongst them.
In an attempt to justify the discerners’ tendency towards judging others, he redefines the words of Jesus by saying that Jesus didn’t mean what He said when He said we should ‘judge not lest we be judged’. He wasn’t saying it’s OK to judge as long as you judge yourself beyond judgment. He was talking about righteous judgment. Who, then, is the righteous Judge? I think that answers its own question.
Justifying judgement by redefining the words of Jesus is not discernment. He said what He meant, and He meant what He said. Of course we weigh up every word that is preached against the Word of God, but if our own theology is imprecise how can our judgment of another ministry be accurate?
And where does it say in scripture that we wrestle against flesh and blood? We test the spirits whether they be of God. We discern between right and wrong. We discern spirits by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
We measure everything that is preached against the Word. Yet, we do not wrestle with flesh and blood. We expose heresy, false doctrine and false prophecy. We rescue those who are caught up in it. We seek to bring correction to those who are in error in a spirit of meekness lest we ourselves are tempted. We do not attack the person or publicly berate them. We correct the doctrine.
Jesus is clearly saying that we should judge our own doctrine and ensure that it is not coming up short, long before we presume to judge another for theirs, unless their doctrine is so blatantly in error that a five year old could tell you it’s out of sync with the Word of God.
So, despite some very controversial doctrines of their own, including the cessationist error, the Reformed crew continue with their attacks against the non-Reformed saints, and not in a pleasant way. They excuse their rudeness of application by pleading that polemics have to, by their very nature, be sharp and cutting. Meekness, somehow, left the room when the Reformed polemists discovered the internet.
And, so, now, it seems, they are at each others’ throats over a minor issue. They are publicly biting and devouring one another when they should be sharing the Lord’s Supper, and discerning their own motives, lest they be judged unworthy of the body and blood of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 11:27-32 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
Yes, polemists, the world is watching as you chomp away at one another. Do the Reformed folk take communion? Do they break bread with one another? Do they remember the blood and body of Christ? Have they heard all the sermons on forgiveness and walking in love? Do they know what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ to bring us into this liberty we have been blessed with?
Galatians 5:13-15 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
So, yes, judgment begins at the Household of God, but if we do not first judge ourselves, we will be found wanting if our judgment of others turns out to be wrong or we fight error with error.
We need to take the fight to where it belongs, not against the saints.
Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—