Mark Lamprecht blogs at Hereiblog. While I've had theological squabbles with Lamprecht over the last few years, we've kept an amenable distance for some time now.
I could not, however, allow his latest post to go without some type of response. Lamprecht is pushing a resolution against suing other Christians apparently being proposed to the Resolutions Committee by Tom Buck, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church Lindale, Texas. Entitled "SBC Resolution on Christians Suing Fellow Christians," Lamprecht explains:
Despite the fact that 1 Corinthians 6 has strong language against Christians taking other Christians to court, many do so anyway. Unfortunately, we Southern Baptists are not strangers to lawsuits.
As a means to "move forward," Lamprecht points readers in the direction of one pastor who is "trying to get a united voice on the subject since the Southern Baptist Convention is around the corner," calling for an "amen" to the proposed resolution.
My main grievance obviously has nothing to do with presenting a resolution. Nor is it relevant Lamprecht is promoting a resolution. What is particularly relevant for my part is twofold.
First, Lamprecht appears to be going back to his old obsession with taking down Ergun Caner. Not only do two of his footnotes recall his publicly recorded disdain he's had for Caner over the last few years (a disdain concerning which I'm under the impression he supposedly was sorrowful), he leaves readers in the dark as to exactly who Tom Buck is. Buck's church strangely sponsored1James White's unprecedented "seminar on Ergun Caner," a seminar from what I can tell, is the first seminar a Christian apologist has ever devoted to bringing another Christian apologist down. What was the agenda? Much of it was devoted to Caner's lawsuits concerning what Caner maintained was copyright breach.
Second, Lamprecht cited as one of the reasons Southern Baptists should consider a resolution against suing other Christians are words from a "well respected Southern Baptist." Consequently, he quotes Dr. Jerry Vines as saying, “lawsuits between Christians are a disgrace for the church."2
The quote Lamprecht snatched from Vines' lesson clearly contorts Jerry Vines' view. While he did write "lawsuits between Christians are a disgrace for the church" Lamprecht conveniently ignored Vines' opening words in dealing with lawsuits:
Before we look at the lowdown on Christian litigation, we must understand Paul had no intention of teaching Christians should never go to court. Our justice system has its proper place and authority, and Christians as much as non-Christians can exercise their rights under established law. Even the Apostle himself appealed to the Roman justice system (cp. Acts 25:11; 28:19, emphasis added).
To completely ignore this important disclaimer stands irresponsible and fundamentally contorts what Dr. Vines actually says in his lesson. Vines goes on to say when "Christian brothers and sisters have a disagreement, the first place to head is not the Areopagus." Correct. But by saying litigation is not the first place to turn, in exactly what way does such a claim deny litigation to be no place to turn? In fact, Vines answers that in the beginning paragraph Lamprecht ignored--Paul had no intention of teaching Christians should never go to court.
Furthermore, Vines' entire scope in this lesson deals exclusively with local church affairs. He did not have in his mind to globally deal with every ethical dilemma living as a citizen of two kingdoms involves (though Vines' sharp intellect, piercing logic, and exegetical powers I've discovered reading him could very well have handled a wide range of ethical issues 1Corinthians 6 raises). This is a Sunday School lesson for Pete's sake (pun intended). I ought to know. I scoured every sermon he preached on 1Corinthians when I personally edited this series of lessons for him.
Hence, Lamprecht misstated Dr. Vines' position. Therofore, he should take the contorted reference to Vines' By the Book series down and find legitimate support. He won't find it in his present reference.
As to the resolution per se, Lamprecht, Buck, White, and Smathers all appear to hold to some type of simplistic ethical template as to what Paul means in 1Corinthians 6 about lawsuits amongst Christians. They claim "Christians should not dare take a grievance against a brother" as if no litigation is morally possible or biblically justified between any professing believers.
Contrarily, not only was Paul primarily speaking of local church matters, to take Lamprecht, et al at face value, a Christian is prohibited from civil justice to sue another person so long as that person--any person--claims he or she is a Christian. Claim "I'm a Christian" and abracadabra, instant isolation from anyone ever bringing legal charges!
Moreover, it also implies if I'm living in America and a person claiming to be a Christian lives in China, and somehow gets my credit card information, I remain morally obligated to forfeit any type of civil or criminal petition since the person in China claims he or she is a Christian. I don't have to have proof. Name it. Claim it. That's how ethically spastic these guys' position is.
They further maintain "condemn[ing] the initiation of a lawsuit against fellow Christians" and that initiating a lawsuit against a Christian is sinful and must be repented of" (emphasis added). By initiating a lawsuit, presumably they mean the guy who first files the injunction. Excuse me, but where in 1 Corinthians 6 is there the slightest indication that censure should be limited to someone initiating a lawsuit? Not there I'm afraid. They simply added that to their "biblically" motivated resolution.
Let's be honest. Is this not a convenient way to indict Ergun Caner and call him to repentance--which is what Lamprecht, Buck, White, and Smathers all want to do and publicly say they want him to do and continue to harrass him into doing--while leaving guys like Smathers out of the equation? Sweet.
What is more, arguably a convincing case could be made that professing Christian people who continually harass, stalk, ridicule, and scorn other Christian believers are actually the real initiators of a potential civil lawsuit. Where's the cover for guys like Smathers then? No. For them, they insist civil lawsuits are morally permissible for believers as long as you don't draw firstblood (i.e. legally file an injunction).
Were this not so morally skewed (with real people getting hurt), it would be hysterically funny. Where's the moral outrage from Lamprecht, Buck, et al on Smathers for allowing his so-called "right" to post somebody else's material incense litigation against him? Why did Smathers not, as they cite Paul contra Caner, "allow himself to be wronged" (1Cor.6.7) rather than go to the secular courts asking the judge to demand his "right" to post the videos be secured by the state? Where's the outrage? Well, it's covered in their little addition they added to 1 Corinthians 6--"initiating a lawsuit against a Christian is sinful and must be repented of." Hence, Smathers is justified in the lawsuit because a) he claims he's a Christian; b) he didn't officially start the litigation process (i.e. file the injunction). If we can't see through this phony-bologna, unmitigated, simplistic goofiness, it may very well be too late for Southern Baptists.
Finally, I'd like Mark Lamprecht, et al to explain to the grossly victimized Christian families of the C.J. Mahaney scandal how their legal complaints against sexual abusers fits into their simplistic ethical template flowing from the purported resolution to condemn all lawsuits provided both people claim their Christians. If Buck, Lamprecht, et al have their way, we'll be morally indicting all those who brought charges against Nathaniel Morales. Remember: so far as we know, Morales has never denied himself to be a Christian. In their view, his accusers were wrong to file suits against him. He's a Christian.
I wish these silly games would stop. For my part, Lamprecht should take that ridiculous post down. But if not, it seems to me he must at least remove Dr. Vines as a willing supporter of his simplistic proposal for a resolution against lawsuits.
With that, I am...
1curiously one won't find the seminar in the church's promotional material which named White's main reason for going to Lindale First Baptist Church--to give a presentation on Islam.
2the source for the quote is a link to a Sunday School lesson in the By the Book series by Jerry Vines Ministries. I find this an interesting source and intend to query whether Mark Lamprecht has legitimate access to this resource-especially making the resource available online to everyone (if in fact that's what he did)--since my understanding is, By the Book series is available only to subscribers outside a sample lesson available for anyone to download. I stand to be corrected, however. I intend to gather some info on this for my own benefit.