Warning: THIS PIECE IS VERY LENGTHY
I initially prepared the piece below (below the double under-lined section) as a comment for this thread. I do think. however, it needs wider exposure. It is a longer comment exposing I think a fundamental divide between what I find as acceptable, honorable exchange and what other bloggers—specifically some Southern Baptist bloggers—judge as the “best” and “worst” in blogging. I think it beneficial if one is interested in knowing what drives me to write as I do. More importantly now, please read at least the first portion of this piece...
Presently, for those who’ve not kept up over the week-end, I wrote a post raising a question about whether the concerns I expressed beginning over a year ago were actually bearing some unfortunate signs that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary may be experiencing the beginnings of a universally unwanted harvest, a “crisis brewing” (no pun intended) over the use of alcohol among the student body. I carefully framed my concerns in terms which avoided the alarmist accusation that a full-blown crisis was in blossom at SEBTS by raising the question whether the double-barreled blast about total abstinence coming from Southeastern president, Danny Akin, was indicative of a problem in the student body, the beginnings of which were, in my words, "a bit more than they would like.”
I am not ignorant of my provocative writing style, an incurable literary spark-plug in many ways I realize. On the other hand, the proposed critique written by SBC Voices moderator, Dave Miller, entitled, “The Worst Kind of Baptist Blogging” (subsequently changed to “Responding to Peter Lumpkins re SEBTS and Alcohol”), including the subsequent comment thread, naming Peter Lumpkins as the candidate,caught me by surprise a bit. Not because my writing cannot be subjected to painful scrutiny, but because Dave’s critique is, shall we say, so fundamentally shallow, a shallowship which does not support his strong appeal for me to "apologize" for my alleged "accusation" concerning both Danny Akin and SEBTS, an accusation, he charges in the comment thread, as crossing the line of "Christian decency."
As for but one example, Dave contorts the actual words I used above describing the concern I raised about SEBTS. I specifically wrote querying whether a possible “brewing crisis,” existed at SEBTS, a potential problem I dubbed as "a bit more [of a problem] than they would like.”
However, in Dave’s rebuttal, he specifically argued on the basis I had accused Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary of being an “alcohol haven,” an SBC entity which now possessed “a rampant alcohol problem,” an accusation nowhere in my original piece. In my lengthy response to him, I pointed this out along with other inaccuracies. His response, among other insignificant factors, was making me analogous to the infamous O.J. Simpson defense lawyer, Johnny Cochran, in parsing words, etc. In other words, rather than showing how my actual words demonstrated his use of "alcohol haven" and "rampant problem of alcohol" he simply labelled me a slick huckster whom would make "Johnny Cochran proud."
Even so, Dave Miller made this appeal at his critique’s end: “I would renew my call to [Peter Lumpkins] to take it down and suggest he apologize to Danny Akin and SEBTS for making this kind of public accusation.”
Here is Dave's strained logic reduced to a simple syllogism: a) what you wrote implies what I say it does even if I can't tell you how it does; b) what I say it implies is an accusation of "alcohol haven" indicating a "rampant alcohol problem"; c) therefore, since you falsely accused SEBTS and Danny Akin, you crossed the line of Christian decency and owe both a public apology.
So, I am supposed to “apologize to Danny Akin and SEBTS for making this kind of public accusation,” an accusation the content of which was formulated by Miller himself, taking my actual words about a possible problem I described as “a bit more than they would like” and contorting them into an “alcohol haven” indicative of a “rampant alcohol problem at Southeastern”? Is this a sufficient basis for my solicited apology? Not the way I view things I’m afraid.
In fact, Miller even indicated if I’d take down my post, he’d take down his. Not a chance, Dave, not a chance. I'm perfectly willing to leave the result to discernible readers (a more thorough critique of Dave's response may be found on this page).
More importantly, Dr. Danny Akin logged on the thread and passionately insisted no alcohol problem existed at Southeastern*, a status I hope and pray remains until Jesus comes. He made a few references I thought were intriguing and, in the future, may stir me to offer a few thoughts in return. He also assured the reading public the double-barreled plea for abstinence he posted on the SEBTS blog was not a sign a alcohol problem existed, another reason to celebrate. He did nothing, however, to address the fundamental basis of my concern which drove my piece in the first place.**
Since Dave Miller tried but failed to address it; nor did the commenters at SBC Voices generally address it; nor did Danny Akin address it; I want to reiterate my concerns I raised last Friday the occasion of which was Dr. Akin's back-to-back pleas for total abstinence.
The verdict is in: young, hip, cool Christianity poses a unique challenge to Southern Baptists. As Brett McCracken writes in his recent book (and I quoted in the original piece), "hipster Christianity":
“Over the years, I’ve come to see [post-church activities] as one of the clearest distinguishing features of Christian hipster subculture. They usually do something as a group after church, and it frequently involves alcohol” (p. 95, emphasis added).
Suppose this is an accurate description of the “constituency,” generally speaking, SEBTS is pursuing.
- SEBTS often lifts up as moral leadership models—church growth specialists, church planting specialists—leaders who not only believe in moderational use of intoxicating substances for pleasurable purposes, but also have an in-your-face posture toward those who are abstinence-oriented…
- not only are leaders brought in who teach and practice moderation rather than abstinence but also there are some faculty members who publicly affirm in no equivocal terms,
“Are alcoholic beverages a good thing? Sure! Within moderate amounts of course…Every time someone argues that alcohol consumption is unbiblical, they have rejected the sufficiency of Scripture and become a closet Roman Catholic…Every time someone imposes their private practices concerning alcohol on others, they have become a closet Pharisee…I can think of zero good reasons to replace Scripture with tradition…making alcohol consumption a practice that disqualifies someone from denominational service…Southern Baptists who drink alcohol…[should recognize]…that the convention is filled with weaker brothers who don’t yet get it…the integrity of Scripture…is at stake”
- that abstinence from intoxicating beverages for pleasurable purposes is routinely bumped down the ladder of moral and/or epistemological significance for “cooperation” as a result of the “triage” hermeneutical principle in vogue today, especially as expressed by any number of instances by adjunct faculty at SEBTS
- that those embracing abstinence—the majoritarian position among Southern Baptists today and yesteryear--are and have frequently been an endless whipping post, being alluded to as “pharisaical legalists” who care more for tradition than they do the Word of God, the lashing from which originates from at least some adjunct faculty members at SEBTS
There are other concerns I could raise concerning the driving force behind my piece but surely enough is mentioned to simply ask, if what I have raised above is even close to accurate—and I assure you, documentation exists—hard documentation—which justifies those concerns…
if what I have reiterated is true, what under the blue sky do you think is going to happen? Would it surprise anyone that not only could a crisis actually be brewing, a crisis seems to me, given what I know, to be the inevitable outcome of unwise leadership decisions concerning the significance of the issue of intoxicating substances and its affect on church and culture
In the words of Thomas Sewell on another subject, a “thin crust over a volcano” awaits to erupt. If a warning chorus is not sung, no choir will be left to sing.
Therefore, I have no intention of apologizing for singing this song.
I will not repent…
I will not be quiet…
And, I will not stand down.
With that, I am…
*the reader will note I have the comment posted on my own page. It’s becoming more significant that important links be cached since they too frequently disappear into cyberspace
**it’s important to realize Dr. Akin was under no obligation to address the fundamental concerns driving my piece since a) he was responding to no one’s specific question, at least any questions about the fundamental concerns I raised. Hence, b) I am *not* criticizing Dr. Akin for avoiding what he obviously was not asked. I am only stating he did not address the fundamental basis of my piece. That's all.
Thanks. I'm glad you logged on, and I appreciate your comment because it displays nicely the fundamental disconnect between the way I understand engagement and apparently the way you understand it. This same disconnect may also be indicative of how you and I differ on what constitutes acceptable blogging. Or, using your model, "[the best and the] worst in Baptist blogging."
Leaving aside the explanation of the "thread philosophy" you reiterated above with which one may in some ways sympathize, and focusing on the latter part of your comment, toward what am I supposed to understand your counsel to me:
I tried to focus people away from personal attacks and keep the discussion focused. You might try listening to critics instead of attacking them, Peter. You might learn something once in a while (Dave Miller)
First, Dave, I assure you I both listened and learned from the thread, as soured as it was and remains, a souring of which you evidently have no dissent. At least given your self-confessed attempt to correct the thread--"I tried to focus people away from personal attacks..."--you obviously agree, do you not, much of the thread bears "personal attacks," at least enough to get your attention to “focus people away” from them?
Even so, Dave, I both listened and learned from "critics" as you call them, but not so much about any argument I made; rather I learned about my deception, my psychosis, my dis-ingenuousness, my deniability, my hucksterism, my sinful disposition for which I need repent, etc. In other words, I "learned" plenty about what some allege about me. The problem is, Dave, none of the above teach me about the error of my words. Instead those are condemnatory remarks about my inner life, the motives I bring to a discussion, the dishonest person I am, the coward I remain, etc etc. What you’re referencing as “critics” I would reference—whether about me or another—as “condemners.” They dismiss an idea or argument and focus on some personally perceived deficiency in the person conveying the idea.
And, it is this which constitutes at least part of the disconnect I mentioned above, Dave. Appropriate engagement does not focus on the persons themselves; this is among the first and fundamental laws of sound argumentation. Granted the engagement is between two (or more) persons, so in that sense arguments are always personal . Even then, however, the exchange must be focused on the way *I* or *another* is arguing. In other words, his or her method of arguing may be entirely inadequate. Here is where a fundamental disconnection takes place.
So, Dave, I am denying your conclusion--I not only learn something from almost every exchange, I learned much from the soured exchange at SBC Voices; but, as I described, there is a fundamental disconnect between what I count as helpful, appropriate, expedient and valid content and apparently what you find acceptable, valid criticism from which I need to learn.
So, I've denied and rejected (and shown why) your premise that I'm not listening to "critics"; therefore it is false I did not "learn." Know I’m not saying you’re lying though, from my perspective, you obviously wrote falsely. Rather, you are fundamentally mistaken, Dave. There is a difference. So that’s the first sign of a disconnect on what constitutes valid engagement between you (along with others) and me.
If I may, allow me to extend the disconnection I mentioned only a single time.
From your perspective, I need to "start listening" to "critics" instead of "attacking them." So, Dave, I need to know how I "attacked" my "critics." What justifies your charge? I can only suppose you're referring to what I've mentioned in this thread for I have nothing on the Voices thread about which I am aware (feel free to point it out if you find something).
On this thread in which you placed your assertion, the following represents well what I wrote concerning our personal exchange. On this post, I:
- characterized your response as a non-sensical critique
- asserted your original piece contorted my actual wording
- said you drew more meaning from my words than they linguistically imply
- asserted you pulled rabbits out of the hat like "[Peter] even admitted no evidence" and the strange implication that Akin and I were "debating" or some such
- noted that you had a strange way of deciding which comments met the “high standard” you sought
- asserted your original piece was a misfired critique of my original post
- concluded you offered not even a thin defense of your original post I just demonstrated had no real basis
I may have missed something here and invite anyone to point it out if I did. So, Dave, which one of the above is an attack against you? And, you’re welcome to point to anything I may have written on the soured thread at Voices as well. Which can you show, Dave, that attacks you or another? If I am supposed to listen rather than attack, then I need some specifics of the attacks I am supposed to have rendered. Do you not agree?
For now, let’s suppose all of the above that I wrote about your criticisms can be shown as true and accurate (only for argument’s sake I assure). Here’s the kicker, Dave--if all of the above is true, what does the summation of the points I make demonstrate about Dave Miller? Does it imply your dishonesty? Your dis-ingenuousness? Your hucksterism? Your deceitfulness? Your sinful disposition? Your psychosis? Your deniability? No. Either individually or together none of the above imply anything about your inner life, your moral integrity, your motives, or your honesty. The single issue concerning which the statements I expressed would imply strike at the heart of whether your criticisms were points well-taken or not—and that only about your one critique not about any other critique you’ve offered.
It’s not like, for example, I wrote “Dave always misfires” or “Dave offered a thin defense because of his inability to do otherwise” or “Dave purposely contorted my words” because he cannot offer a rational defense” or “Dave writes in such a way he can deny responsibility.” Do you see the obvious difference? What I actually wrote characterizes what you said (we’re still assuming, for argument’s sake all are accurate), while the latter takes what you said and spins a moral insult out of it. For instance, while it’s true you misfired in your critique, the fact you misfired on this critique says nothing about whether you misfired elsewhere; or, the fact you offered but a thin defense on this argument says nothing about your ability to make a devastating critique in another context; or, the fact that you contorted my words, overextending their meanings, in this instance says nothing about whether you’re quite capable of rational argument; the fact that your words do not explicitly make a point says nothing about your honesty. All of the latter, are morally offensive, at least in my view, and have no place in engagement because they imply some devious characteristic about you, not about your words.
Supposing, however, all of what I actually wrote above proved false (for argument’s sake again). Suppose through exchange it is revealed that your critique actually does make sense—even good sense. Suppose it is discovered you did not contort my words but actually gave a good sense of them, even demonstrating from reputable sources the words I employed routinely mean what you said they meant. Suppose you show how your case is not at all “thin” but in fact, jacks my jaw a bit. Suppose, Dave this is so. And you defend your case by showing my concerns were, for the most part, dismissible.
Granting the above, exactly what, Dave would such say about me personally? Would it demonstrate I was devious, disingenuous, psychotic, or a huckster? No. What it would demonstrate would be, I did not make so good of an argument after all. Your have shown me not to be a liar because I was wrong but to be entirely mistaken and hence incorrect in my assertions. You have shown my thinking to be flawed, not me as a person trashed.
Here the fundamental disconnect is on full display, Dave: what you have called “attacking” critics, I call making reasonable assessments of a critic’s view based on what knowledge I possess. I merely described your content but you assert I denounced you as critic; you suggest I need to learn from being characterized as devious, deceptive, psychotic, and immoral; my idea of learning is from real critics who examine what I actually write apart from subjectively judging me personally as an unfit writer. Such does not mean there will not be strong arguments both pro and con. It doesn’t even mean one has to be nice. Some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in dialog has been from people who were not so nice but their points were making headway through my defensive armor. Frankly, being nice has nothing to do with proper argumentation, but with proper etiquette. Niceness normally affects not one single point of an engagement; it does affect--and affects much--about whether peoples may or may not want to strike up an engagement with you.
I recall in my “college” days in Louisville being tutored to tears by my philosophy professor. I use tears literally. He so pounded me during our one-to-one sessions on my inadequate “fundamentalist” mindset I thought I would throw-up sometimes. He was not nice; he was relentless; he was rude; and he was repugnant at times, but he unapologetically insisted on right argumentation if I was to open my mouth and speak back to him. And learn I did, I assure.
I am not perfect by any means. I make logical errors, category errors, non sequitur statements, and a host of other argumentative mistakes. All people do, including writers—even the best of them. In logic textbooks for university classes, the examples explored are usually from some of the best thinkers and writers available. We’re no more logically pure than we are morally pure—our fallenness sees to that. And, it also may be said that we’re all very capable of being deviant, deceptive, and psychotic as well. However, exploring the ideas one places into the public square rightly focuses on the viability of the writing not whether the writer possess a virtuous heart or a heart filled with vice.
With that, I am…