There is a disturbing trend that I have noticed the last few years. I almost fell into myself while reading a book recently.
The author favorably quoted from Karl Barth. I had to catch myself. Karl Barth had some very unbiblical notions, but as one of the most prominent theologians of the 20th century he had to have a few good ideas.
The theological Pharisee will not permit anyone to quote from those deemed unworthy. We are expected to treat these men like pariahs or we will be treated like them after a good internet lashing.
I’ve seen people like Jonathan Edwards attacked for having slaves. He never wrote about it and defended it (like some others). Yes, he was part of the cultural sins of his day in this respect. But should that invalidate everything he wrote? No.
Others, dead and alive, have defended slavery which is crazy in my book. I’ve never gotten into the “southern Presbyterians” though I am technically in a southern Presbyterian denomination. I prefer the Princeton theologians, overall. But I don’t cringe when someone quotes Dabney. I see what is said and evaluate it.
Doug Wilson has been put on many a black list for a variety of reasons: racism, Federal Vision, excessive sarcasm etc. But Wilson can be insightful at times. Jared Wilson learned how quoting him can be a problem. Of course, the particular quote was problematic. But many took exception, not to the content, but that it was Doug Wilson.
While I disagree (quite strongly) with N.T. Wright on justification, I recognize that he stood up to the liberals in a number of areas. He’s been insightful in other areas and people can acknowledge that. Unless they are theological Pharisees.
The list could go on. I’ve been in groups where one or two false views means you are obviously from the devil. And so people regularly attack Mark Driscoll, John Piper and others.
We need some humility. R.C. Sproul is found of saying that Calvin wrote that even the best theologians are only about 70% right. They all have errors and blips and cultural sins. That means that you and I have more than 30% of our theology bespotted by such errors. This should humble us such that we exhibit charity toward others.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t expose error. We must. But we also recognize that even Rob Bell can be insightful at times. I know, I’ve listened to some old sermons. His insightfulness may be over now, but not everything he has said or written is wrong.
And not everything our personal heroes have said or written is right. I disagree with Keller on issues of creation. That’s okay. I don’t have to burn his books. I’m not sure where Sinclair Ferguson is in error, but since he isn’t Jesus he’s wrong about somethings. Perhaps they are some of the same things I’m wrong about which is why I can’t see them.
In a way this is continuing to view people according to the flesh. We should evaluate them (not their doctrine on a particular point) on the basis of whether or not they are in Christ. That is the main thing. Everyone of us speaks truthfully on some issues and not on others.
So …. our repentance would be looking at each quote and examining it instead of maintaining our bias against particular people. In other words, the gospel frees you to treat others like you’d like to be treated. Let’s lose the theological Pharisaism.