Last week I wrote about John MacArthur’s public comments about Darrin Patrick. Now, I don’t know MacArthur, though I’ve met him (in fact, when my oldest son was four-months old, we took his picture with MacArthur and Al Mohler). Nor do I know Darrin Patrick. And that brings us to one of the difficulties in a situation like this.
I don’t know if John MacArthur contacted Darrin Patrick before publicly criticizing him. I do know that I did not contact John MacArthur before publicly lamenting his remark and its tone. And for that, I was taken to the proverbial woodshed, both publicly and privately.
My concern was not simply with MacArthur’s comment regarding Darrin Patrick. I perceive that, over the years, his tone has changed; become more harsh and divisive. It was coupled, in my mind with MacArthur’s harsh words for Mark Driscoll and his general disdain for contextualization. I realize that you may not agree with this but I know others who do. This latest comment was simply (for me) more evidence of this and that prompted me to think publicly about MacArthur’s comment.
I was also told that my reaction was not in direct proportion to MacArthur’s comment, that I needed to grow up, that if I had an issue with MacArthur then I should simply go to him personally and that I was arrogant, and guilty of the very things I was regretting in MacArthur.
I have to wonder what all of this means. In an age of public discourse, how is it that we don’t seem to know how to disagree in love? To add to that, how should we handle “celebrity” comments made in public settings. Apparently, a good number of people think that it’s not appropriate to address someone’s public comments unless you’ve first gone to them in private. Others, however, seem to believe that comments made in a public setting can be addressed publicly. I do think that our “celebrity” culture has only complicated matters. We have given some people a wide forum in which they often make 0ff-the-cuff comments in very public manners. This leaves the question of how to address these comments appropriately when they are inappropriate. Should it be left to other “celebrities” to go in private or can a common citizen express public concern? Apparently, there is little agreement on this.
I obviously lean towards the position that public comments may be addressed publicly, but I was surprised by the good number of people who adamantly disagreed with me. To the credit of one person, I did receive a private message asking if I had contacted MacArthur before writing. However, I also had several people ask me the same question publicly, which is a bit confusing. Apparently, there is little agreement on this.
I was honestly a bit surprised by the criticisms of my criticism. As far as I can know my own heart, my concerns did not arise from conceit and I did not write that post out of arrogance, but that was how a good number of you took it. It could certainly be the case that I was not as careful with my words as I should have been but I also wonder if it’s simply the case that we don’t know how to disagree well. When criticism is simply dismissed as arrogant or divisive, we have closed the gateway to meaningful dialogue. On the other hand, the public forums in which we now live have made it easier for criticism to simply be arrogant and divisive. Even when a writer is careful with their words, a good many people seem to think that to criticize at all is arrogant.
As we live more an more in an a time of public forum and as Christians give in more and more to celebrity culture, we must think carefully about how to tread these waters. Public criticism is not going away any time soon so we’d better think well about how to deal with it.
I have always said that one of the reasons I blog is not to simply make my opinions known but to interact with other people and ideas. One of the ways I process ideas is through dialogue and the blog format can be very useful for this. But this also means that I open myself up to a lot of criticism and people who are simply not careful with their words. It is my prayer that iron can still sharpen iron (Proverbs 27:17) and that we can have enough humility to listen to others (James 1:19) and to realize that all criticism is not arrogance.