How to respond: Shail Linne vs. Paula White Ministries

I wouldn’t say that I’m late to the Christian Reformed hip-hop scene, because I don’t know if I qualify as actually having arrived at the scene. However I do appreciate this genre, and I have enjoyed some stuff by “Propaganda” and “Beautiful Eulogy.” Strangely enough, Reformed rappers have really started to rise to the top of the overall Christian Hip-Hop scene. Some will rap about life, Reformed theology, and one named Shai Linne has actually made a good bit of noise with his song “Fal$e Teacher$.” This song points the finger at health and wealth preachers, calling their names out one-by-one and labeling them “False Teacher.”

Now I’m not super familiar with every name on the list, but I certainly would agree with his take on the teachers I know. These “preachers” preach a prosperity gospel equating the atonement of Jesus with guaranteeing riches and health in this life. The lack of health/wealth comes from lack of faith.

Of course if my name had been called out in such a song, I might be moved to offer a response. Such was the case with the son of prosperity preacher Paula White. If interested, you can read that here.

And then Shai Linne responded back here. I would recommend reading this because in it you will see a good example of how to respond to critics. Regardless of whether you agree with Shai on this matter, I think this dialog gives us all a solid blue-print for HOW to respond. I’ll highlight several things I found helpful.

It’s not a race.

Shai had tweeted three days earlier that prayer and guidance would precede his reply. He wrote the response while traveling on Clear Sight Music’s Black Out Circuit Tour which has been on the road since April 5. The unedited letter is below.

I’ve found with most people (including myself), we run to our own defense as if it were a race. The early bird does not catch the worm. Time is needed to respond, listen, digest, absorb, pray (James 1:19). I can’t tell you how many times I wish I would have applied this! But I’m thankful for the examples of others and hope we all can learn as much as possible from them. Three days is usually enough time to calm down, absorb, pray, and learn.

Begin with affirmation

Before I directly address the substance of your open letter, I first want to commend you for a few things that encouraged me as I read it…..

I was encouraged to hear of your mother praying for your salvation, as well as teaching you the faith. Again, I can relate. I myself am the result of a praying mother. In fact, I once told my mom that I would never become a Christian. Even as I entered adulthood while continuing in rebellion against God, she never stopped praying for me. I am eternally grateful to her for crying out to God on my behalf when I was dead in my sins! So I was glad to hear you mention what you did about your mother. It’s a good model for other mothers to emulate.

If Paul commended the Corinthians before getting into some of their issues, there is not only biblical precedence but also opportunity to do the same thing with our critics today. Shai does a good job of celebrating their common ground, which he no doubt found much easier than the issues going on at Corinth.

Deal with what the person has actually said

I want to address a few of the false teachings themselves. I went straight to the Paula White Ministries website and your Youtube page so I could hear what you have released as representative of Paula White’s teaching. There are many things I could speak on, but I’ll highlight three here.

It is easy to deal with implications of what others have actually and by-pass what he/she has actually said. That takes time. It is also easier to deal with what you have heard others say about a teacher/critic/enemy than dealing with what he/she has actually said. Perhaps what I appreciated most about Linne’s response was his diligence in documentation. Look how specific he gets! He’s shown love by taking the time to really understand and articulate his opponent’s viewpoint. He’s articulating a view point that his opponent can say, “Yes that is my position.” Or the opponent can say, “That is what I said, but you’ve misunderstood what I meant by what I said.” Either way, there is something concrete you can discuss without talking past each other. This would have taken a lot of time, but time is what it takes to properly deal with criticism or false teaching.

Paula White did a series called 8 Promises of the Atonement, that at the time of my writing this, is currently featured on your ministry website. In it, she states that physical healing and financial abundance in this life are provided for in the atonement of Christ. See the following video at the 25:00 mark where Paula White teaches “salvation includes healing.” She says it again at 28:30. But then she goes even further. If you keep listening, she talks about commanding her body not to be sick because of the blood of Christ. She ends this section by boldly declaring around 29:40:
“You are not going to die of sickness. When you go, it’s going to be because of your appointed time of old age and full of life”

Invitation to further dialog

And those who follow her must be warned. And just so you know, I have your email address and will gladly take this conversation offline with you if you’d like.

Some internet dialog is a waste of time. The opponent is probably not going to change his/her views and you will not be changing yours. But the invitation to further dialog is a way to show love and just may open the doors for real change down the road. Paula White’s son may be never be convinced of the heresy of the prosperity gospel. Yet he has had the opportunity to explore why Shai Linne believes she is a false teacher. And he has the opportunity to further explore should he choose.

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A Boobalicious Baptism? Nope, not classy enough

A friend of mine posted a video snippet from the show Big Rich Texas (I guess that’s a real show) on how to do a classy and stylish baptism.



It is worth watching because it is quite outrageous. It is also quite funny, but at the same time it is quite sad. A weird mix, like Hope Solo and Jerramy Stevens who married one day after being arrested for assault. Jesus is conspicuously absent, but not in a Esther-esque type way.

Despite the fact that this video misses Jesus entirely, I will try to practice Paul’s method in his ministry to the Athenians (Acts 17) when he commended that which he could before critiquing and pointing to Jesus. Here’s my best shot.

Positives

1.) Breasts should take a backseat to a baptism. Now she doesn’t say this exactly, but instead warns against being “boobalicious.” I think that church is probably also a time not to be “boobalicious.” Then again, whatever that means, boobaliciousness is probably best reserved for the bedroom. 

2.) Baptism is celebratory. I think this lady gets that. It is a big deal. A baptism is something we should get very excited about. Jesus is on the move as a conquering King and we join in the celebration.

3.) Community. Sometimes shy people would prefer to have as little attention drawn to them as possible, and therefor postpone or put off baptism entirely. But our baptism is not an individualistic endeavor. We are being brought into a new community, of which we now have new blessings and responsibilities. And in turn, that new community, the church, has new blessings and responsibilities as well.

Negatives

1.) Baptism is not about you wanting to change. Baptism isn’t primarily about the commitment to live a different life or turning over an new leaf (thought that is certainly the result of the gospel), but about Jesus atoning sacrifice and resurrection which then empowers us to live differently (I Peter 3:21; Col 2:12). It may sound like semantics, but if God doesn’t deal with the punishment and power of sin, all is lost. Baptism is not a sanctified public New Years resolution ceremony celebration of your commitment to Him. It’s celebrating His commitment to you.
2.) Classy and Stylish? Not exactly God’s great and wonderful plan for our lives. I even wonder how “classy” Jesus was. When he describes the great eschatological banquet and party he’s going to throw at the end of time, he goes after the classless, scoundrel, smelly, crippled, blind (Luke 14). The classy people you would expect to come to the party didn’t want to be there. Maybe they felt too classy? I wonder if we don’t at times follow the same M.O., but just don’t realize it. Jesus washed feet, touched lepers and bleeding ladies. And that’s not to say he didn’t have classy friends: I’m sure Zaccheus’ house was probably pretty classy. When you steal a lot of money, you probably spend that money on your house. But classy and stylish didn’t form some sort of invisible fence determining that which he should or shouldn’t do. Now I’ve never been accused of being too classy and stylish (my high school priest/teacher refused to believe my family were members of the Tampa Yacht and Country Club), but there are things that I should do which I sometimes feel are “beneath me.” Am I not then acting too classy but sub-Christian?

3.) Don’t try to make baptism or Jesus beautiful. You can take something beautiful, such as a baptism, and try to make it more beautiful, and end up making it repulsive. Like Big Rich Texas. We can do this with our pictures of Jesus. CNN actually offered a survey to discern whether or not you were “Red Jesus or Blue Jesus?” When we create a Jesus that has a bigger heart for the 2nd amendment than the 2nd commandment, or a Jesus that is primarily interested in entitlements and more government regulation, we have before us a very ugly Jesus.

We’ve all tried to make him more beautiful by adding stuff which seems classy, stylish, fitting, and relevant, but we have ultimately presented a repulsive view of Jesus. If not to ourselves, then to others. And he’s beautiful beyond description as the disciples found out (Matt 17:2). They were speechless, minus Peter who was apparently a talker.

Anything you try to adorn Jesus with will in the end leave him looking uglier beyond belief, whether it be good works, tradition, politics, etc…That’s the irony.

In the end, I’m ok with an non-traditional baptism as long as the person and work of Jesus, and His church, take a front seat to stylish, classy, convenience, and individual.
 

Dealing with cricism: Lessons from Jeremiah Trotter and Paul

Like it or not, I’ve had a number of chances to watch the Philadelphia Eagles this year. And they look the opposite of good. Not just from my vantage point but from the view of Philly fan, and Philly fan is in a league of his own (Phillies and Eagles scored number two on GQ’s worst sports fans just behind WVU) Several weeks ago in their home loss to the Falcons, defensive end Jason Babin believed they crossed the line and became quite upset. 

Former Eagle Jeremiah Trotter (and inactive Buc for one season) had this to say about Babin’s complaint:

“Dude, get a grip, this is football,” Trotter said, via Phillymag.com. “You’re a man. Why are you worried about what people say anyway? I understand that players have feelings, but you’re a man. You’re playing a gladiator sport, and you’re running around worried about what fans are talking about? Even if I did feel a certain way you would never hear me say it because number one, you are showing your weakness right there. You’re playing a gladiator sport, dude. Go play ball.”

There may be some sort of symbiotic relationship with players and fan when it comes to sports. Ultimately if fans don’t like the team, and its players, then they can choose not to come. If they don’t come, the team could eventually move. Hopefully this won’t be the case with the Bucs.

So to ignore the fan completely is probably not wise. But neither is being controlled by the fan. Jeremiah Trotter couches his response to dealing with criticism in the very identity of the individual.

You’re a man. Why are you worried about what people say anyway?

Men aren’t supposed to care what people say (true or not, there is something Trotter says needs to be remembered). But even more specifically, he reminds Babin that not only are you a man-as if that weren’t enough-you are a football player (yes there is a women’s football league so maybe that’s why Trotter started with “man” first.) Football players have feelings too, but they are supposed to be in control of them. Based on your identity and based upon your job, this kind of stuff shouldn’t bother you as much as it does. 

I think old Trotter may be on to something. He does eventually tell Babin to do something (“play ball”) but he gives him an indicative (you are), and reminder of his mission/job (this is what you do) before driving home the imperative (so go do it).

When dealing with criticism, the apostle Paul points us in a similar direction. We can’t by-pass the gospel because 1.) we never should by-pass Jesus 2.) it won’t work 3.) we will either listen too little or too much to criticism 4.) we worry about the wrong things.

Because there is no more condemnation for the Christian (Romans 8:1), he no longer has to fear false accusations from anyone (you’re not doing a good job). But he also need not fear things said about him/her that may actually be turn out to be somewhat-true (you may not be doing as good a job as someone else), yet don’t disqualify him/her from that job. Providentially we are where we are for a season, and so for that season, we can plow ahead. When the season draws near to its end, we can evaluate whether or not God would have us in the same job/position/opportunity in the future. Therefore, if we believe this precious truth about our shameless identity, we don’t have to respond to, nor be enslaved to unnecessary or semi-accurate criticism.

But there is also a mission connected to this identity that further helps in dealing with criticism. What helped Paul is more than those words he wrote to others in Romans, but also words he wrote to others in the epistle of Galatians.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. -Gal 1:10

If you want to try to please man, there is another line of “work,” although the irony of that is that it is impossible to please man but possible to please God through the work of Jesus. A servant of Christ inevitably brings criticism and disapproval. That is part of the job description. I often forget that.

Paul grounds his refusal to capitulate or be moved by this obviously wrong criticism in his identity and mission. The two are inseparable. A servant serves his master. His master’s opinion is the only opinion that ultimately counts, and pleasing others is not the servant’s goal.

Trotter is just doing what Paul has done 2000 years before him. As a servant of Christ, one’s goal is not to please people, but to honor his master. And if your master has already approved you, based not on what you’ve done, but what he has done, doesn’t that free you to care less what “fans” think of you?

Micheal David Smith concludes:

Babin may be right that some of the fans crossed the line by saying vile things about players and coaches. But Trotter is also right that if the players are worried about what the fans are saying, then they’re worried about the wrong things.

We often hear the voice of “fans'” displeasure over us instead of the voice of our Lord’s pleasure over us. His Spirit reminds us that we are shameless servants who need not fear. If we believe our very identity, and our mission connected with that identity, we won’t be worried about the wrong things. When we start to worry about the wrong things, the answer is not to “toughen up” and be a “man” or “woman” but to believe who God has recreated you to be.

On critiquing and being critqued

A blogger I follow, some Canadian I’ve never met but have been very impressed with his gracious writing, Darryl Dash reiterates some of Tim Keller’s address to some UK churches. His post is here.
  • To respond [to critiques], evangelicals must understand and practice biblical repentance as a result of believing the gospel. This will allow evangelicals to admit their sins, even if they disagree with 80% of the criticisms … and even if the remaining 20% is expressed poorly. To the degree that we understand the gospel, we will be able to freely admit our shortcomings as an evangelical movement.

  • To the degree that we understand the gospel, we are free to admit the worst about ourselves finally. Repentance isn’t how we get right with God; it’s just the right response. It gives immediate assurance.

  • Don’t ever think that we can respond to legitimate criticisms of our practice by defending our doctrine. In defending our doctrines, we have not responded to the criticisms of our practices. Orthopraxy is part of orthodoxy.

  • It is necessary to draw boundaries. What really matters is how we treat the people on the other side of those boundaries. People are watching. We’re going to win the younger leaders if we are the most gracious, kind, and the least self-righteous in controversy. The truth will ultimately lose if we hold the right doctrines, but do so with nasty attitudes and a lack of love.

  • We need to approach the controversies with a repentant heart corporately and say, “Despite all the bad things that are being said here, there’s a core of truth here and we need to deal with it.”
 Then finally he concludes with this priceless snippet
My dear friends, most churches make the mistake of selecting as leaders the confident, the competent, and the successful. But what you most need in a leader is someone who has been broken by the knowledge of his or her sin, and even greater knowledge of Jesus’ costly grace. The number one leaders in every church ought to be the people who repent the most fully without excuses, because you don’t need any now; the most easily without bitterness; the most publicly and the most joyfully. They know their standing isn’t based on their performance.

I tried to add some of my own thoughts, but I just couldn’t improve on what had already been written. Great stuff here, applicable for those in any area of leadership: pastor, elder, deacon, parent, teacher