Celebrity Preachers and Secondary Separation

Cody Libolt, who helps run the Christian Intellectual website, asks some questions of the organizers of three major Reformed conferences, G3, Shepherd’s Conference, and Ligonier.

The questions pertain to the ongoing battle with social justice warriors who are injecting their social justice ideology into the blood stream of the Christian church. A few men who have been labelled supporters for the social justice viewpoint have either been, or will be, speakers at those three conferences.

The main point of contention is between anti-SJW folks who wonder if those men should be uninvited from those conference. Allowing them to speak, even if their message is not related to social justice, devalues any argument against the social justice philosophy, say for example the statement on social justice. They should not be given a platform only for the sake of maintaining unity with celebrity preachers. Cody’s questions are an attempt to flesh out the thinking of those conference organizers in light of the social justice affirmations from those men. I’ll provide my personal answers, so I do not speak for everyone.

Questions for G3, ShepCon, and Ligonier:

1. On the topic of social justice, who are the ones you know are being divisive and should be receiving direct, public correction – by name? Do they exist?

Yes, those individuals do exist. I would add that I believe they are a menace to the Christian church. (This was discussed, by the way, at the G3 pre-conference hosted by Sovereign Nations). The folks coming immediately to mind who are flagrantly promoting social justice (which really amounts to cultural Marxism) are such individuals as Tim Keller, Jamar Tisby, Thabiti Anyabwile, Russell Moore, Matt Chandler, Dwight Mckissic, Eric Mason, David Platt and lesser known personalities like Kyle Howard and Brad Mason who sow discord among the brethren on social media.

2. Do you want to be publicly associated with those divisive people? In what way? Is there a principle here or not?

No. I personally would not want to be publicly associated with those divisive individuals I named above. I would imagine they wouldn’t want to be publicly associated with me, either. However, most of those men, at least to my knowledge, have never been associated with the conferences in question. David Platt is the only person I know who preached at G3. His message was on missions, not social justice; and as far as I know, the issue was not raised with him nor did he mention it when he spoke.

3. If there is someone known for repeatedly promoting those divisive people—someone who speaks as if the divisive ones were right and does not speak as if the truth were the truth (on a matter such as social justice that you say you consider primary), would you endorse them as being a trustworthy teacher?

I believe Cody is looking for someone to say, “Oh yes, but Al Mohler promotes Russell Moore,” or “Ligon Duncan wrote the forward to Eric Mason’s book on wokeness.” The question then turns to whether or not Al Mohler or Ligon Duncan can be trusted because they promote those problematic individuals.

Here we begin crossing the border into the area of secondary separation. This one, otherwise solid guy is associated with a person who has troubling orthopraxy, (not orthodoxy, which is a key distinction). Should Christians break fellowship, or in this case, uninvite the solid guy from the Reformed conference circuit because of his association with the troubling woke person? I would say no, it is not necessary, and only comes across as petty, as I will explain momentarily.

4. Do you believe that inviting them to speak at your conference constitutes a tacit endorsement of their trustworthiness?

Of course. As it pertains to the topic of the conference and the initial reason they were invited. For example, the 2019 G3 conference was focused upon missions and the Shepherd’s Conference will focus upon faithfulness. If those men are staying true to the topic at hand and are faithful to exegete the Scriptures, they are trustworthy. We can maybe discuss their odd association with the woke social justice warriors at some other point.

The Solution:

Cody then moves to providing a solution to our fraternal dilemma. How should we treat solid guys who mess around with troubling guys? His suggestions are a worthy effort, but I disagree on the finer points.

Despite the strawmen being burnt by some, the point of all this is not to excommunicate Mohler, Duncan, Platt, Dever, etc. Who said anything about that?

Excommunicate is a rather strong term. We must exercise care when employing it. Excommunication is an action reserved for those individuals who have abandoned the Christian faith and who teach contrary to Scripture. The men in question, Mohler, Duncan, Dever, even Platt, have done nothing worthy of excommunication.

However, it is not entirely inaccurate or burning a strawman to point out that critics of those men wish to excommunicate them. While it is true that those critics are not using the terminology of excommunication as if those men are now apostate because they entertain woke ideas, they are insisting that conference organizers must now uninvite them to speak at G3, Shepherd’s Conference, or Ligoneir, or any other similar conference, or they partake in their sinful deeds of wokeness and expose countless thousands of unwashed laymen to cultural Marxism. I’m sorry, but that is ridiculously absurd.

The point is this: You ought to be thoughtful about whether you will tacitly endorse their teaching.

I am assuming by “endorsing their teaching” you mean their overall personal ministry apart from a conference. Dever’s 9 Marks material or Al Mohler’s podcast, for example. As the person’s teaching pertains to the conference at hand where he is speaking, if he stays on point, I can endorse his teaching. But like with any ministry, regardless as to who that ministry may have endorsed or partnered with in other venues, I would exercise discernment with everything they present. That is not a compromised position.

There is a good solution. You can still bring them on your stage, if that is what you want.

Simply warn viewers at the event that there are major disagreements about social justice in discussion right now, and not all people on the stage agree about the answers or even about the relative importance of the questions.

There are a couple of problems I have with this approach. First, we are underestimating the conference attendees, assuming that they are uninformed as to those men’s woke affiliations. Why tell them something they already know and have laid aside for this unrelated conference? But then secondly, and more importantly, it is petty and unnecessarily humiliating to call out individuals before the entire conference audience that you have invited to speak regarding a disagreement that is unrelated to the conference. That just tosses an awkward wet blanket over the event and not only dishonors your guests, but insults them.

While I understand the need to take a stand against the social justice movement within the church, we still need to carefully distinguish between those individuals we certainly would not associate with from those faithful men that we have called friends, but who have offered encouragement to that other group. Of course separation from compromise is vital, but what we have determined is “compromise” needs to be expertly weighed. The last thing we need to do is become so consumed with the purity of our alliances that we inflict an equal amount of damage to the church as those we are separating from.

 

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