Last Thursday, The Christian Index editor, Gerald Harris became a hunted man. His literary crime was posting his personal opinion concerning what he perceives as an unusual rise of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention and to do so--gulp, gulp--in his personal opinion editorial column of The Christian Index >>>
The first one to put out a bounty on Harris was Founders Ministries high sheriff, Tom Ascol. In his unhindered emotional meltdown, Ascol got so caught up in victimization rhetoric, he forgot to actually criticize a single proposition Harris wrote.1 Apart from the I-can't-believe-Harris-had-the-audacity-to-write-this-stuff shock-n-awe reaction, Ascol kept saying over and over, "it's sad," "it's frustrating," "it's sad," "it's frustrating," "it's sad," "it's frustrating."
Even so, let no one fool you.
Emotional pleading still has its advantages and still serves a pragmatic purpose even for Calvinists who so often lament the evil pragmatic "bogeyman" we non-Calvinsts are supposed to have spawned. In fact, Ascol's rhetoric against Harris was so profound and so enticing, the self-confessing Arminian believer, William "Billy" Birch, interrupted Ascol in mid-sentence, falling to his knees and with hands in air, weeping and wailing out,
Seeing Birch emotionally vulnerable was a pragamatic sovereign moment for Founders to put together the perfect posse to go after Harris. Calvinist and Arminian wed together in SBC. Unity finally comes. Forget that unity was happening at the expense of blood--namely, bounty for a Harris corpse. "No way we'll miss the opportunity to walk hand-in-hand with our pelagian--semi-pelagian anti-Calvinists," Ascol was seen to text to Brister, Wax, and some dude named Darrin Patrick. "This is our chance for the unity we seek. We'll bring in that low-down literary heretic, dead or alive" he texted again.
So, Ascol's bunkhouse boys all gathered around Birch, putting their arms on his shoulders, offering him tender and kind words. Each in his turn giving William "Billy the Kid" Birch their hand of fellowship, including the secretly known, Calvinist cowboy hug.
Birch got on his pony and galloped back to his ranch. After feeding three coupes of chickens, he got him a plate of beans, sat down, and scribbled out a colossal follow-up to his profound but emotionally driven moment--"it's ridiculous, I tell you, it's ridiculous!" Playing off Harris' title to his ridiculous editorial "The Calvinists are here" Birch's title was ingenious--"The Calvinist have been here..." And, then boy did the cowboy Calvinists come; they came riding in with pistols ablaze in celebration of unity and peace!
It was one adrenaline rush after another, I tell you:
- "I'm a Calvinist. It's so refreshing (yea "wonderful") to read such civility"
- "I am a Calvinist. Yet your response is refreshing and should be a model"
- "Great post Billy! You have promoted cooperation of both sides."
- "What a helpful post!"
- "William, outstanding article brother! I'm willing to reach the nations with you anytime."
- "Well said. This is the attitude the SBC needs."
Indeed champion Bull-rider and part-time rodeo clown, Dave Miller, fired the last shot in the celebration above. And, as a follow-up, Miller brought "Billy the Kid" Birch back over to his ranch and introduced him to their brand--SBCV. Besides good barbecue, SBC Voices is famously known for reasonable objectivity, factual commentary, fair appraisals, and mega-tons of original sources. Not to mention all the ranch hands there have been loyal lovers of all things SBC, and their combined experience in denominational affairs boggles the mind.
"Billy the Kid" Birch bit and bit hard when Dave offered him a chance to ride his black stallion up to Dead Man's Gulch where he could finish off Gerald Harris. So, Birch loaded his pistols, climbed on a borrowed stallion, and once again went gunnin for The Christian Index criminal hiding out up in Dead Man's Gulch.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
"Billy the Kid" Birch was the least of Gerald Harris' worries. Even if the Kid had an age advantage, Harris could still beat the young, cocky gun from Southeastern to the draw. But that's not all. As it turns out (and we'll soon see), "Billy the Kid" Birch had some surprising wanted posters circulating around the territory about him. And, rumor has it, a ruthless, independent bounty-hunter named Pistol Pete, who lives in an abandoned chicken-house in redneck Georgia, had already mounted his amazing mule "Rambler" and was onto Billy's whereabouts. Better watch out, "Billy the Kid" Birch. Pistol Pete has the goods, and he's got you in his bead. "Hee haw Hee haw Hee haw" Rambler bellows out, as Pistol Pete slowly but inevitably gets closer and closer still.
No, Harris doesn't have to worry about "Billy the Kid" Birch. But The Christian Index literary heretic will have to face another posse, and this time they got the Federal Marshalls involved.
The Feds fired off their first round in an article innocuously entitled, "encroachment of Calvinism concerns editor." Assistant Federal Prosecutor, Erin Roach, assembled the group of marauding LawDogs. Here's a summary of their response to Gerald Harris' editorial, "The Calvinists are here...":
- Al Mohler: "I don't even know what you just said"
- Mike Ebert: "Nobody is saying editors can't have an opinion about the rise of Calvinism. Nobody is even saying editors can't speak their opinion about the rise of Calvinism, and speak their opinion in public. All we're saying is, editors can't speak their opinions about the rise of Calvinism in their own personal editorial columns"
- Danny Akin: Well, we can't publish what Danny Akin said. We do know that three times he denied he even knew Mark Driscoll and then he began to cuss and swear
- Marty King: "Pretty good trick, liar!"
- Trevin Wax: "Here's the way the Gospel Project came together. Cross my heart and hope to die! We asked 20 Reformed men if they'd work on a Bible study project with us at LifeWay. All these Reformed men were connected with reputable Christian organizations and churches well known to have few, if any, theological agendas, organizations like--Founders Ministries, Acts 29, The Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, and Sovereign Grace Ministries. And, we assured both Dr. Rainer and the Reformed men that we'd never ask them if they were Reformed. And, we didn't. So, what's all the fuss about?"
See what I mean? Gerald Harris may just need to go ahead and give himself up. With the Feds in on this, Harris is just no match for their stunning, persuasive words.
Note to Gerald: if you read this, I'll ride over to Sugar Valley half past four tomorrow. Be there (you know where we've met before), and I'll take you in myself.2
With that, I am...
1Ascol did manage to reproduce Harris' full essay online apparently without permission from The Christian Index. One wonders if Founders Ministries would complain if, for example, another website reproduced their Founders materials online, materials they deem copyright in the same sense The Christian Index copyrights theirs. Georgia Baptists pay for their privilege of reading the Christian Index. Ascol apparently sees no problem with giving somebody else's material away for free. Perhaps this website can pursue the ethics of Founders in its weekly focus on ethical issues
2the answer of course is yes, I most certainly do intend to offer a serious critique of what's gone down with this hard-to-explain reaction to Harris' editorial from the Calvinist (with a little help from a non-Calvinist) community. This piece is intended to be playful and light. And, I'm confident it will be received by most readers in that light. Some of my harshest opponents undoubtedly will take offense. But then again, they'll take offense with most anything I write