Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Making Charges

I have commented before on the lack of police for the blogosphere. It is a disconcerting thing. The reality is that anyone can say anything on a blog, which is fine. The problem is that some people feel no responsibility to actually make an argument or give evidence in support of their charge, even when directly asked.

This is a basic argumentative distinction: An assertion (or a conclusion) vs. an argument (or a premise). An assertion is a proposition: X is Y. It is, technically, a conclusion in most cases. An argument is a collection of evidences (e.g., logical induction or deduction, citation of quotations, etc.) that support the assertion and shows its foundation. An assertion needs arguments to demonstrate its validity. Arguments show why an assertion should be accepted as true.

I bring this up because recently, I saw a particular charge made, one that I have seen before. Once again, as with every other time I have seen it, there was no evidence put forth for this charge.

When I asked for some evidence, I was told that if I couldn’t already see it, this person did not know what to say to convince me.

I said, (in essence), “That’s easy an easy one. Give me a quote from someone. Point me to something that was said that supports your charge.”

I was met with a stony refusal.

Why? My gut tells me it is because this person knows that they have no evidence that supports this. They know it’s not true,or at least that they can’t show it is true. They know that they cannot make a believable case for it. That’s just my gut. I may be wrong, but to me, it should be easy to show if the evidence is as abundant as this man says it is.

Now, I don’t know this fellow apart from a few exchanges on the blogosphere. I have read his blog perhaps four or five times in my life. I found this article because it was linked somewhere else. So my point is not to go after this person (who is intentionally unnamed), because my point is not really about him per se, but about a bigger problem.

Here’s my point: This lack of argumentation is not a good thing. If you are going to say “X does Y” then show us where X does Y. Show us how you arrived at your conclusion. Or as our elementary school teachers used to say about our math, “Show your work.”

Your word means nothing when it comes to making charges against other people. And don’t bail out with “It’s plain and everyone can see it.” If it’s that plain, then it should be no problem to show it.

There are, in my opinion, some people who think they have the license to say whatever they want with no accountability. Let me be clear that I am not necessarily referring to this man who I don’t know and don’t read. But there are some who believe that their words alone are enough to prove something, and that nothing else should be required. The guy who asks about it is the bad guy, the dumb guy because he can’t already see it.

I wonder if this, in part, hearkens back to the day of pastoral authority that operated on the basis of “Because I said so, and you don’t question the man of God.” It smacks a bit of the appeal to authority, lacking only the authority.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why I am the bad guy for asking for a simple demonstration of how one arrived at a conclusion.

Fundamentalism needs to get past the day where “I said so” was considered an appropriate reason for anything past parenting a toddler. A toddler should be expected to obey because “I said so.” But we, as fellow believers, should not be expected to believe something “because you said so.”

Prove it; it should be easy. Or don’t say it until you can. Asking for evidence is hardly a “bizarre obsession.” It is actually the only reasonable response, isn’t it?

So let me conclude: If you want to say that fundamentalists have a love affair with John Piper, Al Mohler, or whoever else, then make an argument and show us why you think that. And subject yourself to peer criticism. Don’t think that your word is sufficient proof. It’s not. If the evidence is as widespread as you think it is, then it should be a relatively easy task to cut-and-paste a few things (with their links so that we can see them in context) as evidence for your assertion.

NB – If you have evidence for the supposed “love affair” please post it here in the comments, or send it to me privately. I would honestly like to know what in the world is being referenced here.

I am not saying it’s not true. I am saying, I haven’t seen the evidence for it. Now, I admit up front to not reading many fundamentalists blogs. And you may use “love affair” differently than I would. But let’s put the cards on the table—(you better not be playing cards or we will turn you in)—let’s be plain about what we are talking about.


Jon from Bucksport said...

Now Larry, what you are asking for here is a demonstration of critical thinking skills. You know that anything with the word critical is bad just like textual criticism! So let's not be critical. Just let me say whatever I want to say and don't expect me to *prove* it. LOL
Very nice article. One of the reasons why I started blogging is because I wanted to push myself to be able to demonstrate what I believe; to be able to show how A=B.
As for the "love affair" one must define what that is and whether it is good or bad and then prove (as you said) that it is going on. I know that the idea of a "love affair" is often used with the color of adultery to it but it seems difficult to accuse any christian of having an intellectual "love affair" with another christian! Last I checked we were commanded to love one another. Seems your blogger has an uphill slog to show that there is any illegitimate emotion between me and any conservative evangelical leader that I may be kindly disposed toward.

Kent Brandenburg said...


If I may, let me attempt to explain the whole thing that you may be making an unproven assertion about. Ironic.

Don doesn't want to give you specific examples because he believes it is so obvious to you so as to be necessary. I think it is too. I haven't asked him, but this is what also seems obvious to me. He doesn't want to name names because it would take the discussion down a path of whether that particular person really does have a "love affair" with Piper, denials will be made, hurt feelings will be had, apologies might have to be made. Don, it seems to be obvious, would rather not have it go that direction, because he's pretty sure it will. I would think that's what would happen too.

Don, of course, was using "love affair" in a colloquial way, so reading too much into that idiomatic expression wouldn't be good.

Now, do several fundamentalists have this love affair with Piper? Remember that article by Riley on Piper for Frontline that was then brought to SharperIron? I believe I would be right to say that it was the most read, viewed, and commented upon post in the history of SharperIron. The commentary showed this "love affair" with Piper. That's a first strand of evidence. There are many others, but is that enough for you?

Larry said...

Thanks Kent,

See how easy that was, Don? In a few short paragraphs (three more than necessary), Kent addressed the issue and gave an example.

Please understand that my follow up comments are not meant harshly at all.

First, no, it isn’t obvious, and that should be obvious. If it were obvious, I wouldn’t ask. Furthermore, if it were obvious, then it would be simple to demonstrate with a link or a quote. The more obvious it is, the easier it would be. For example, if you asked me to demonstrate that the Tigers won opening day that would be an easy one because it is obvious. If you asked me to demonstrate why the Tigers are a better team than last year that would take longer precisely because it is not obvious (and perhaps not even true).

Third, if this is a serious matter as Don seems to think it is, why not name names? Why is it that we name Piper, or MacArthur, or Mohler, or whoever without worrying about hurt feelings and apologies to be made later? I understand not wanting to make apologies and hurt feelings. I am sensitive to that myself, which is why I didn’t mention Don’s name in my post … I don’t want to call him out in that forum. I really am sensitive to this. I asked Don to tell me privately. It's not a "bizarre obsession." I am curious as to what he bases this one.

Third, I understand how he is using “love affair” I think. I didn’t find that problematic.

Lastly, let’s look at Riley’s article. I searched for the article and found this one: I believe it is the same article. I couldn’t find the SI article and I don’t know how it ranks in terms of views.

But I did a little quick work on this one. There are 1,468 words. 667 are in the part concerning criticism. That’s about 45% devoted to critiquing and warning about Piper’s weaknesses, including a strong warning about his lack of separatism. He concludes that we cannot give him a blanket endorsement. So I ask you, How much more of this article would need to be devoted to critique in order to demonstrate that there is no love affair? Can you imagine being the object of love by one who cannot give you a blanket endorsement and in fact publicly points out your serious weaknesses almost half of the time? (Perhaps that is too similar to a marriage … :) )

In that article, Riley gives five commendations, and four negative items, particularly pointing out his lack of separatism. Again, that’s about 45% negative. What ratio would be acceptable to you to demonstrate that there is no “love affair”?

Now, I know it is not all about numbers, but Riley’s article seems a good example of how to treat a man like Piper. We recognize that he has some great contributions that are very helpful (which is undeniable). We also point out that there are severe problems that warrant great concern and prevent endorsement. I have yet to see any fundamentalist say anything more positive that Riley’s, and I think it is easy to see that Riley’s comments are not entirely positive but contain significant warning.

So in answer to your last question of “Is that enough for you?” my answer is no, it’s not. It seems fairly obvious whether by word count or content evaluation that Riley’s is a fairly balanced evaluation that includes strong warnings about several issues. In sum, if all your proof is like this article of Riley, I understand the hesitancy to name names.

Ironically, I wonder if the grief he got for this article shows the truth of my suggestion in a blog post a while back that for some fundamentalists, there is a belief that we cannot say anything good about these men. I was accused of lacking integrity over that, something that was never demonstrated. I offered to repent if this lack of integrity could be shown. I was ignored in all five of my attempts to deal with it privately.

I would be interested in seeing more evidence that might support this. I am not trying to nitpick here, but I think it is a serious matter.

Thanks again, Kent.

Don Johnson said...

Larry, this is pathetic. Apparently you have appointed yourself to the job of internet policeman. Have fun!

Kent gives you, by the way, a good example, but you conveniently and completely ignore it. You can go to SI and search in the archives. Search under Riley and Piper, you'll find it. You'll find lots of other threads with Piper-love happening.

It is amazing that you think 1. my comment isn't stating the obvious and 2. that the truth of it isn't obvious to you.


But have fun, you can carry on pretending you don't understand and don't get it. That's fine.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry said...

So let me see if I have this right, Don: A "good example" of this love affair is an article that spends almost half its time criticizing Piper and clearly states that we cannot give him a full endorsement? Seriously? That's a "good example"?

If so, then I think you are proving my point about just how unobvious this really is.

Almost half, Don. We are not talking about a single sentence tacked on at the end. Almost half. It says that Piper had some problems in his major ministry premise of pleasure, in his gospel, that he was a charismatic, and that he was very weak on separation and had no excuse because of his background. How in this world does that show a "love affair"?

I am not the internet policeman. I don't want to be. And calling it "pathetic" won't make it so.

As I told Kent, I purposely did not name you or reference your blog because you are not my point. I am not trying to call you out. I don't generally read your blog, so it's not based on history or any of that. I am addressing something I see frequently.

I believe that truth should be spoken and that it should be demonstrated to be true. Again, make an argument. I want to hear it. Make it here so it won't clutter up your blog and very few will see it.

As I said, if your comment is stating the obvious, it should be easy to give a link or two. At least Kent tried. He obviously missed, but he tried.

Do you want to attempt to make an argument for this article showing a love affair? I don't blame you if you don't. I don't even know where one would start to try to show that Riley's article was a "love affair."

The truth is that that article is obviously not a Piper lovefest, and you know that. Riley concludes that Piper is wrong in four areas and that we cannot give a wholehearted endorsement.

So Don, if you have some examples, I will be glad to consider them. I think there were some people at SI in the early days that like Piper way too much.

As I told you privately, I want to know. I am willing to entertain the idea. I don't hang out a lot with the kind of fundamentalists you do, apparently. I don't read their blogs, so I may have missed it.

And BTW, Kent, the Piper/Riley article was the third most viewed article at SI apparently. An article on Clearwater and one on Schettler leaving PCC were both ahead of it, I think.

Scott Aniol said...


Kent Brandenburg said...


To be clear, I wasn't talking about Mike Riley's article. I know he was critical. I was talking about the reaction to the article.

See it here:

I know that Michael Riley has problems with Piper. He writes some of the best stuff on worship and he believes in separation.

I'm not going to document the lovefest. There are 182 comments to draw it from.

Larry said...

Fair enough, Kent. I can buy that a little more. And I appreciate your clarification.

But for my part, I wouldn't classify everyone on that thread as fundamentalists, and I don't think all of them would claim it. I don't remember the whole thread and don't care enough to go back now and read it. But I have no doubt that some fundamentalists think more highly of Piper than they should, and some think too little of him. (Only I have the perfect balance, of course.) But I don't know of any fundamentalist that I would classify as having a "love affair" with Piper.

Remember one of the early (and ongoing) issues at SI is the definition of fundamentalist. It basically meant whatever anyone wanted it to mean (i.e., "self-identified"). I disagreed with it then and still do. There has been some discussion about it. There's no way on God's green earth (after today's wonderful rain) that I would say some of those are fundamentalists. And some of them are my friends.

Perhaps I misunderstood your point. My apologies if I misread that.

Overall, I didn't have a lot of issues with Don's post. But I think the comment was at best misleading. I simply wanted some clarification as to what he was talking about.

The fundamentalists I know of are pretty consistent that Piper has some very helpful stuff along with some very dangerous stuff. They (and I) would take the same position on Piper that Riley did, and which I appreciate very much.

Have a great night.

Don Johnson said...

Yes, Larry, it was the THREAD on SI that was the evidence, as Kent said the first time he mentioned it.

It is the MANY THREADS on SI and elsewhere over the years that evidence it.

It is astonishing that you are unable to see this, or even to read what Kent or I said. Amazing.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry said...

Thanks again, Don. I read what you and Kent said. I simply don't see this great evidence for it. Sorry man. Perhaps, it's just not as obvious as you think it is. I don't have an axe to grind here.

I went back and quickly read more than half of the pages of comments. What I see is a lot people who don't have a love affair with the FBF and who question their application of separation. There wasn't a lot of love for Piper, so to speak. There were a number of "I think he has some good and some bad" type of comments. It seems to me that the main thrust was the FBF and separation. But it seems to me that the main thrust of the comments was on the topic of separation and the FBF's application of it, and Piper was a sideshow. In fact, I imagine that if you took every reference to Piper out of the discussion, you would still have a very coherent conversation on the application of separation.

Furthermore, I am not sure the thread at SI is all that great of evidence of what fundamentalists think since as I pointed out a great many of those aren't fundamentalists anyway. How do you take the positions of non-fundamentalists as great evidence of what fundamentalists think?

Perhaps we simply think "love affair" is different. As I said, the fundamentalists that I know appreciate Piper and have some grave concerns about him. I am not sure how that is bad.

So again I say that if this is your best example, it seems to confirm my belief that this is not obvious. If that is astonishing to you, then so be it. But I wonder if that might say more about you than it does about me.

Larry said...

And for the record, Don, speaking of reading, Kent didn't say "the THREAD" the first time he mentioned it. He said (and I quote, as in cut-and-paste for evidence):

Now, do several fundamentalists have this love affair with Piper? Remember that article by Riley on Piper for Frontline that was then brought to SharperIron? I believe I would be right to say that it was the most read, viewed, and commented upon post in the history of SharperIron. The commentary showed this "love affair" with Piper. That's a first strand of evidence. There are many others, but is that enough for you?

I took "the commentary" to mean Mike's commentary on Piper. Notice, if you will, the absence of "the THREAD."

When Kent clarified, I accepted that, and pointed out that it still doesn't make a good example.

Jon from Bucksport said...

So, now we have an eleven post thread here about "evidence" and "obvious." Some people thing it is obvious that the Bible teaches that God sovereignly selects who will be saved and grants them saving grace. Some people don't see it that way. At the end of the day we have to be able to *show* those who don't see things JUST LIKE US why we believe what we believe. With the unbeliever we have to show them why they need a savior and why Christ is the only way of salvation. If they don't "get it" we have to patiently keep showing them from the Word. We don't get to write them off! With Christian brothers we must reason with them and patiently keep showing them from the word. We don't get to write them off and call them names!
This is one of the most frustrating things that goes on in Fundamentalism. People get tired of patiently, cogently explaining why they believe something and they just resort to calling names and "The Write Off." We need to come to a realization that no one thinks just like us and then have a realistic way of dealing with our differences. If we have a minor area of difference perhaps we need to just let that go. If we have a major theological area then lets reason together. But reasoning requires rules: you have to show evidence and avoid logical fallacies like begging the question, excluded middle and appeal to authority. In all this we must have humility.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Maybe we're wrong and Piper isn't popular with fundamentalists. I think Mike wrote the critique in the first place, the FBF wrote a proposition in the first place, because they thought that he was very popular with fundamentalists. And then when that article was posted at SharperIron, the number of views and the commentary went wild, as if that was actually true. And then Piper has been regularly quoted in a positive way on fundamentalist blogs. Several items have been linked at SI and many comments made about his inviting Rick Warren. More could be said, but that might not show his popularity. I am willing to concede that to you and let people judge for themselves. At the time, I thought that might be what Don was thinking about. However, you might be cued into Piper popularity than what I am and truly he doesn't get fundamentalists attention that much and is generally disliked. Thanks for the heads up on that. I'm willing to consider your point of view. Thanks.

Larry said...

Thanks Kent,

I have no problem saying the Piper is "popular" with fundamentalists. The charge was "love affair" and I think that is not borne out. I view popularity and "love affair" as two very different things. Carson is also popular, as are many others that I could name. But I think the idea that this popularity is the lack of discernment or critique is strongly questionable.

Piper's popularity among fundamentalists exists for a number of reasons (some of which I think are legitimate, others perhaps not). But in my experience, that popularity is usually accompanied by qualifications.

Yes, Piper is often quoted, and I think with good reasons: He says things that are clear, accurate, and memorable. He says things in ways that others say, "Yes, exactly. I wish I had said it that way."

But I wonder about the implications of the idea that quoting Piper is bad. I am not sure how that follows. If we teach people to be thinkers and discerners, we can quote Piper and understand that people have the discernment to sift through it.

So it's complex to be sure, as are most things. I don't have the time to flesh it out here. Perhaps later I will address it more.

While I agree that Piper is popular, I don't think that's bad. And I don't think that is a love affair in some nefarious sense.