Who Watches the Watchers?


Watching the Heretic HuntersCerulean Sanctum lost a few links from the sidebar Kingdom Links. Some blogs went comatose, their bloggers on extended sabbatical or having said “Adios!” to blogging altogether. WordPress will render “invisible” those links you wish to keep but not display. Rather than hit the delete key, I did a Claude Rains with Mysterium Tremendum, Shizuka Blog, John Wesley’s Journal, and The Gad(d)about with the expectation that they might some day return.

But a couple live blogs I deleted outright. The common factor in those links and blogs that I will no longer read is that they were mostly heretic-hunting blogs.

Old timers here know that I’ve discussed the Godblogosphere’s explosion of heretic hunters and taken a middle-of-the-road approach: We need to root out heresy, but we also need to do it soberly and with care.

But I’ve seen enough. The following are the reasons why I will no longer support those sites:

1. They’re not confronting soberly and with care.
2. They’re using dubious logic and questionable facts to assail their targets.
3. They disingenuously look the other way when their favorite sources violate their standards.
4. They often ignore the whole counsel of Scripture.
5. They operate in the same manner as the targets they criticize.
6. They overlook their own issues.
7. They utterly refuse correction when they’re clearly wrong.

I was originally going to name names, but that flies in the face of how I typically address issues at Cerulean Sanctum. I’m sure every Godblogger has been irresponsible in a couple of those above points before (including here), but not on the consistent level of the heretic hunters. Many of you will already know the sites I’m hinting at. If you’ve read them, you know those sites refuse correction anyway, so naming them will not make a difference in how they promulgate their particular brand of “righteous” ire.

I’m also stemming the criticism sure to come my way that by posting this, I’m just as guilty as the heretic hunters are. Honestly, that may be true. The difference, I hope, is that I’m willing to admit it upfront and to say that I may be wrong. I also hope this post is written without a trace of snarkiness or pleasure in the writing. It’s sad to me that this post even has to exist.


Here’s a breakdown of how these sites fail in the seven points listed above:
Not confronting soberly and with care

Over time, the tone on some of these blogs and sites has turned particularly gleeful in routing perceived enemies. But just as God takes no delight in the downfall of the wicked, rather hoping that they would repent, no Christian blogger should do a “Ha! Ha!” a la The Simpsons‘ Nelson Muntz when they see a perceived enemy stumble. Nor should we joke about error or make fun of our enemies. And while it is fine for the Apostle Paul to “wish they’d go emasculate themselves,” none of us is Paul, or even a pale copy of him.

The other problem here is the absolute unwillingness to personally contact supposed heretics to doublecheck facts or to get a clearer understanding. The Lord doesn’t want His Church whispering in alleys about this fallen brother or that. The Church is not bettered by innuendo—and much of what passes for “truth” on some of these heretic hunting sites borders on innuendo. Or at least questionable facts. Just once I’d love to see something along the lines of “I spoke with Richard Foster about this perceived problem and we came to an understanding.” But sadly, holding my breath to see that sort of responsible confrontation will surely lead to little more than a change in my overall skin color and an eventual fall from my office chair.

I’ve attempted to confront some of the writers of the heretic hunting sites on numerous occasions, but they’re almost impossible to locate. No e-mail addresses, no comments allowed on their blogs or sites, no way of getting through to them (more about that further down.) In those cases where the bloggers are available, confrontation is stemmed by having comments deleted or being disallowed from a site. I firmly acknowledge a blogger’s right to manage his or her own site, but still. An unwillingness to connect directly speaks volumes about the folks behind the blogs—and none of it in keeping with true Christlikeness. None of us should be afraid to reason together with fellow believers.

Using dubious logic and questionable facts to assail their targets

Rampant, rampant, rampant. As much as many of these sites claim to be intellectual or to uphold wisdom, their command of logic and reality is often lacking.

I’ve read some of the books the hunters claim are from the devil’s own hand and I swear I read a different book than they did. I’m well-acquainted with Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and questioned some of the practices in the Meditation section long before the heretic hunters made Foster a whipping boy. But when an all-out assault on spiritual disciplines occurred earlier this year on some of the heretic-hunting sites, I had to question if the hunters had even bothered to read any of Foster beyond the few quotes they all seemed to be shunting around from one of their sites to another.

So out-of-context were some of those statements that it was clear that the hunter never bothered to read the entire book, or read it in such a way that the chip never left the shoulder and the “Ah hah! There’s more heresy!” was never far from the lips. But that kind of apporach does severe injustice to genuine Christian scholarship and knowledge. In truth, it’s little more than presupposition and eisegesis. Nor does it call for real discernment. Blanket condemnation based on presuppositions is not godly grappling with truths and lies.

One of the most egregious examples of the kind of nonsensical logic and reasoning employed by some of the hunters came when a Christian drumming conference that advertised “drumming in the Spirit” was equated with African shamanism for no other reason than that drums were used. The heretic hunter in this case used twisted logic to say that because A uses B for dark purposes, any use of B is therefore dark. Now, I’m not Joe Carter of The Evangelical Outpost , so I lack the facility with fallacies that Joe possesses, but I’m smart enough to know one when I see one. If the argument used by the heretic hunter is valid, then almost every practice that takes place in our Sunday services is out because some other non-Christian religion uses a similar practice. Goodbye to communion, prayer, the laying on of hands, worship, and nearly everything else.

That sort of guilt by association is the primary means by which many of these sites denigrate individuals, too. Christian A endorsed the book by Speaker B who on a single occasion spoke at a church lead by Pastor C who knew Worship Leader D who once led worship in the church of Reverend E who in passing said something nice about supposed Heretic F. Therefore, Christian A is a false prophet and teacher because the chain leads to Heretic F. And how do we know Heretic F is a heretic? Well, in the heretic hunter’s blog posts from last week, he/she used that same six degrees of separation method with a different set of conspirators to prove that case.

And on it goes, a sort of Last Man Standing game of theological musical chairs. Sadly, the favored sources for proving this person or that is heretical can have the same sort of tactic applied to them. Everyone is tied to the tainted. This is a no-win effort that only makes the entire Church look bad. Just as bad, it gets perilously close to fearmongering and conspiracy theories. From the content I’ve seen on some of these blogs, The Da Vinci Code hasn’t cornered the market on either of those two.

Disingenuously looking the other way when their favorite sources violate their standards

Oh my, is this one huge. Even bigger than Joel Osteen’s church. I’m talkin’ ginormous huge.

I start with one of my favorite sources, A.W. Tozer. Tozer is the patron saint of many heretic-hunting sites. They quote him religiously and use his writings to slay every manner of dragon. Good for them! Tozer, who also happens to be the patron saint of Cerulean Sanctum, had a prophetic voice unlike any to come out of modern Evangelicalism in the last sixty years. The heretic-hunting sites call on Tozer’s keen understanding of the perilous decline of Evangelicalism to prove their points whenever a modern Evangelical heretic needs a solid keister kicking.

But let’s go back to look at some of the issues many of the heretic hunters are confronting: the surge in Christian mysticism, a reliance on feelings and ecstatic union with God in worship, getting back to what the desert fathers and monastics had to say about the Faith, recovering ancient church practices, and more. All barrels are blazing, firing volley after volley into the backsides of any Christian leader who happens to support those ideas and practices. And what is the weapon used to devastate these new apostates? The writings of Tozer.

The bitter truth here is that Tozer was an apologist for many of those supposed heresies, but the heretic hunters selectively quote his writings in such a way as to twist Tozer against the very things he stood for! In my opinion, that’s downright deceptive on the part of those sites that are doing this.

One of the books widely quoted is a series of sermons Tozer delivered that have been printed up as Whatever Happened to Worship? A Call to True Worship. As a huge fan of Tozer, it’s one of the few collections of his I had not read.

But after reading this book this last week, the one thing apparent to me is that the heretic sites are completely misrepresenting the book in an effort to have Tozer say many things in support of their position that he’s simply not saying. We should all have a problem with that kind of disingenuous use of the words of notable Christians.

Here are a few samples from Whatever Happened to Worship?:

Tozer on the Christian way to confront liberals and others who oppose orthodox Christianity

We who are the fundamentalists and the “orthodox” Christians have gained the reputation of being “tigers”—great fighters for the truth. Our hands are heavy with callouses from the brass knuckles we have worn as we beat on the liberals. Because of the meaning of our Christian faith for a lost world, we are obligated to stand up for the truth and to contend for the faith when necessary.

But there is a better way, even in our dealing with those who are liberals in faith and theology. We can do a whole lot more for them by being Christlike than we can by figuratively beating them over the head with our knuckles

The liberals tell us they cannot believe the Bible. They tell us they cannot believe that Jesus Christ was the unique Son of God. At least most of them are honest about it. Moreover, I am certain we are not going to make them bow the knee by cursing them. If we are led by the Spirit of God and if we show forth the love of God this world needs, we become the “winsome saints.”

The strange and wonderful thing about it is that truly winsome and loving saints do not even know about their attractiveness. The great saints of past eras did not know they were great saints. If someone had told them, they would not have believed it, but those around them knew that Jesus was living His life in them.

The definition of winsome: “Charming, often in a childlike or naive way.”

All I ask is this: Are these heretic hunters winsome by any stretch of the word?

Tozer on feelings and mystery being a part of true worship of God

We find much of spiritual astonishment and wonder in the book of Acts. You will always find these elements present when the Holy Spirit directs believing men and women.

On the other hand, you will not find astonished wonder among men and women when the Holy Spirit is not present. Engineers can do many great things in their fields, but no mere human force or direction can work the mysteries of God among men. If there is no wonder, no experience of mystery, our efforts to worship will be futile. There will be no worship without the Spirit.

If God can be understood and comprehended by any of our human means, then I cannot worship Him. One thing is sure. I will never bend my knees and say “Holy, holy, holy” to that which I have been able to decipher and figure out in my own mind! That which I can explain will never bring me to the place of awe. It can never fill me with astonishment or wonder or admiration.

The philosophers called the ancient mystery of the personhood of God the “mysterium conundrum.” We who are God’s children by faith call Him “our Father which art in heaven.” In sections of the church where there is life and blessing and wonder in worship, there is also the sense of divine mystery.


I don’t know, my friend, how that makes you feel—but I feel that I must give God the full response of my heart. I am happy to be counted as a worshiper.

Well, that word “feel” has crept in here and I know that you may have an instant reaction against it. In fact, I have had people tell me very dogmatically that they will never allow “feeling” to have any part in their spiritual life and experience. I reply, “Too bad for you!” I say that because I have voiced a very real definition of what I believe true worship to be: worship is to feel in the heart!

In the Christian faith, we should be able to use the word “feel” boldly and without apology. What worse thing could be said of us as the Christian church if it could be said that we are a feelingless people?

And yet so many of the sites that quote Tozer liberally will deny that feelings and mystery play any part in the Faith.

Tozer on the value of Christian mystics

I hope you have read some of the devotionals left us by that dear old English saint, Lady Julian, who lived more than 600 years ago. She wrote that one day she had been thinking about how high and lofty Jesus was, and yet how He Himself meets the humblest part of our human desire. She received such blessing within her being that she could not control herself. She let go with a shout and praised God out loud in Latin. Translated into English, it would have come out “Well, glory to God!”

Now, if that bothers you, friend, it may be because you do not know the kind of spiritual blessings and delight the Holy Spirit is waiting to provide among God’s worshiping saints.

Friends of Tozer repeatedly joked about his “girlfriend.” That would be the “Lady Julian” he mentions above—Julian of Norwich, a Catholic mystic.

And there’s more…

I mean no ill toward other Calvinists when I point out that all of the heretic hunters I’ve run across on the Web are strict disciples of John Calvin, some even going so far as to say that if you’re not a five-pointer, you’re not a Christian. It’s a shame there aren’t more good Arminian blogs and bloggers out there, but if they were to degenerate into that same rhetoric, perhaps it’s a good thing they stay off the Web.

Tozer again on the reality of what we Christians label ourselves

We are told that when John Wesley was dying, he tried to sing, but his voice was nearly gone. He was almost ninety. He had traveled hundreds of thousands of miles on horseback, preaching three or four times daily in founding a great church. He was plainly Arminian in his theology, but as his Christian family and friends gathered around his bed, he was trying to sing the words of an old Calvinist hymn:

I will praise my Maker while I’ve breath, And when my soul is lost in death, Praise shall employ my nobler powers.

That is why I cannot get all heated up about contending for one theological side or another on that issue. If Isaac Watts, a Calvinist, could write such praise to God and John Wesley, an Arminian, could sing it with yearning and they both can meet and hug one another in glory, why should I allow anyone to force me to confess, “I don’t know which I am!” Why should anyone bother me with an issue like that?

I was created to worship and praise God. I was redeemed that I should worship Him and enjoy Him forever.

That is the primary issue, my brother or sister. That is why we earnestly invite men and women to become converted, taking Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

If the heretic hunters are quoting portions of Tozer that support their ideas, but rejecting just as many that dispute them vehemently (even on the very heretical topics they’re attempting to refute), how can anyone reading them trust them to accurately portray the ideas of any great Christian they quote?

Often ignoring the whole counsel of Scripture

In the same way that selective quoting of great Christians occurs, so too is the Bible often reduced to the same well-worn passages, while others are ignored altogether if they don’t immediately prove the heretic hunter’s point or make it hard to explain. But as much as many of those sites say it’s wrong for a heretic to base an entire doctrine off a single Scripture (or two), the heretic hunters employ that same tactic. Again, the hunter becomes the hunted if consistency is applied.

Heretics that go back to experience, tradition, and history are soundly booed because they’re looking outside the Scriptures for answers. Yet heretic hunters who denigrate charismatics like to pick a single widely-disputed verse out 1 Corinthians 13 and then call on experience, tradition, and history to supposedly prove that all the charismata have ceased. I’m not trying to pick doctrinal fights here, only to point out their astonishing inconsistency in sticking to their own rules.

I just can’t take people seriously who say that it’s okay for them to play outside “The Rules,” but no one else can. And that leads into the next problem…

Operating in the same manner as the targets they criticize

I think I’ve made that point clear in the commentary already.

Overlooking their own issues

Yes, we know from the heretic hunters that Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Ravi Zacharias, and {fill in the blank with any popular Christian leader} are leading the Church astray. Okay, horse beaten. While I do not have the space to cover all the reasons for their beliefs in those regards, I can at least understand concerns. Every Christian leader needs some correction now and then. Consider the thumping Paul gave Peter for The Rock’s concessions to the Judaizers.

Cerulean Sanctum is a site that aims for Church purity as much as any other out there, so I’m not happy when any Christian, no matter how famous, gets something wrong.

But whatever happened to the idea that we’re sinners saved by grace and see through a glass darkly this side of Eternity?

And is doctrinal impurity in others any more harmful than being personally unloving, prideful, spiteful, and unwilling to be disciplined as needed? Yet so many of the heretic hunters, by the very words they write on their blogs and sites, show an abundance of those unwelcome traits.

Sometimes a speck has to be removed from an eye. But as the Lord commanded, we must remove our own log first.

That brings us to my last comment.

Utterly refusing correction when they’re clearly wrong

There is no surer sign of spiritual pride than a refusal to be rebuked when rebuke is warranted.

I will say this to start: most of the supposed heretics and heretic hunters out there are better Christians than I am. My own spiritual sloth is ever before me. But one thing I do know, I’m willing to be corrected when I need it. I may argue with someone about that correction, but that point is still taken as it thaws on my leather-like hide and gradually sinks in. I’m certainly not the brute beast I was long ago.

But when I’ve confronted some of the heretic hunters on points of error, I’ve either had my faith questioned, my comments censored, or been given the complete brush-off. I will acknowledge that one site pulled a post after I noted the blogger’s horrendous slam on Third World Christians, but lately my other correcting comments have been deleted. The message sent to me and others like me is clear.

Those are reasons why I can no longer include links to well-known heretic hunting blogs in my sidebar links or read them myself. Yes, they can have good things to say, but there are other sources out there who more perfectly model the way we Christians should deal with the wayward. As Tozer said, we should always let our winsomeness speak for the Lord first .

There’s something to be said for the velvet-wrapped hammer.

58 thoughts on “Who Watches the Watchers?

  1. WOW! I will be so very cautious the next time I post anything on Warren or McLaren or Campolo, yet I don’t think that will qualify me for your blogroll! :o)

    Dan, I appreciate your comments and sympathize with your sentiments. And while I attempt to post discernment pieces with care and humility, I am not convinced the God-blogosphere should abandon such altogether.

    The men I mentioned above, and many of the men you mentioned in your post, have, due to their positions of influence and their writings, placed themselves and their theological views in a position to be evaluated, appraised, and even criticized. Anytime one accepts a position of influence over others, one also accepts the accountability that comes with that influence. People in my church (and probably people in your church) are reading these mens’ books … and being influenced by their theology.

    Again, I do agree with your thoughts … and I have had to openly admit that I’ve been wrong on my blog … and, while I agree that disernment must always be tempered with love, we must not sacrifice discernment in the name of love.

    • Ken,

      Okay, okay, I put you on the Blogroll! 😉

      Seriously, you’ll never hear me say that discernment isn’t necessary. In fact, recovering truly godly discernment is one of the clarion calls of this blog. I don’t have all my past posts categorized yet, but I’m sure there’s at least fifty posts that I’ve written that could go into that category.

      What I’m objecting to here is the manner in which dragons are being slain. If it’s being done in a mean-spirited, haphazard, unscholarly way, then that’s not the way of Christ. Too many “discernment” sites have gone that route and I won’t support them or send readers to them because they’ve stopped being discerning in the full meaning of the word.

      As far as criticizing ministries goes, wouldn’t it be great if we reached out to them instead and offered to help first before we criticize? It’s like praying for your enemies. I’d just settle for a willingness to seek some kind of face-to-face, even if it’s simply through an e-mail or two. That’s what I’ve tried to do with some of these sites, but they simply don’t want to listen to any kind of reproof—much in the same way they claim their foes won’t listen.

      That’s too bad.

    • Ken, et al.,

      One more thing.

      You mentioned Campolo and I’d like to riff on a point about him.

      I agree and disagree with a lot of what Campolo says. I think he’s right on the proper Christian response to environmental issues and wrong on his stance on homosexuality. I’ve seen his position slide further into doubtful areas, but let’s talk about something else first.

      His now-classic tale of throwing a birthday party for that prostitute in the diner is more than any of the heretic hunters would have done. More than I would have done, either. And I have to wonder at what point does “love covering a multitude of sins” come into play on any of these “heretics.” If I’m feeding the poor, clothing the naked, and loving the unlovable yet my theology has some holes in it, am I any worse or better than the person with a perfect theology who never once reaches out to “those people”?

      People who are out feeding, clothing, witnessing, and doing all those other beneficial things for the least of these don’t have time to sit around scrutinizing what Rick Warren is doing in his den. Perhaps they have no time to blog, either. They’re the invisible folks.

      Maybe all of us, heretic hunters included, need to think about being a bit less visible.

  2. Morning, Dan.

    I must admit that I’ve participated in some of the above practices in responding to people online I’ve found to be abrasive and ‘heretic hunting’. But I realized, as you have so eloquently outlined here, that sparring with them on their turf, in their style is pointless.

    We would do well to remember Proverbs 26 4-5 “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

    Error must be addressed. And their are times when addressing it head-on is the way to go, and times when it needs to be addressed in a private manner. After going back and forth on the issue, I have decided that, typically, I can address error better by not engaging in a dialogue with the erring, but by writing something on my own – and letting God do what He will.

    Sometimes I’ve found people open to correction, and that’s great. But most of the time, I’ve found people to be set in their ways of thinking, writing, and arguing, and engaging them does no good.

    I pray God will always keep me open to correction if I propagate error.

    Thanks for your efforts to both teach, and be teachable.

    • Warren,

      It’s a very sad thing to see people who DO see the problems in others, but can’t acknowledge problems in their own lives and ministries. That leads to a haughty spirit and I see that on display more and more on these sites.

      I was in my late teens and early twenties when Jimmy Swaggart was king of the TV preachers. He was a great preacher, too. Preached the Gospel and had many good things to say.

      But somewhere along the way, he started preaching AGAINST things. In my spirit, I knew something was wrong. He’d gone from humble to haughty. I told my mother that it seemed to me that he was secretly trying to talk to himself instead of to others. Sure, the message was intended for the congregation, but it was an effort to deal with something more personal. I told Mom that I wouldn’t be surprised if he was hiding a terrible secret.

      Well, as we know, he was. But in his pride, his message shifted from being FOR the Lord to being being AGAINST others.

      We can’t have that. Christianity is not about things we’re against, but the Person we’re for. Yes, confrontation with compromise and evil must occur, but there’s a way to go about it.

      I think many of the heretic-hunting sites have forgotten about the proper way of going about it. I think you’ve seen that too.

      Thanks for writing.

      • Dan,

        I concur whole-heartedly. Thanks for your hours poured into thoughtful considerations and non-self aggrandizing.

        I wish more of the people I know who are solid Christians would start blogs of some kind to show that the only people in the ‘godblogosphere’ aren’t all heretic hunters and folks with axes to grind.


  3. Firstly, thanks for keeping hope alive for Mysterium Tremendum and Shizuka Blog. 😉

    Secondly — Great post.

    On your point on hypocrisy:
    I was chagrined recently over seeing that a particular big gun blogger who once refused to link to a post of Thinkling Bill’s because it contained the word “cr*p” (ostensibly due to the big gun’s blog policy regarding language) had virtually nothing to say about a buddy and co-blogger using an actual profanity. Even after said blogger buddy hemmed and hawed a defense of using that word, Big Gun said nothing publicly, and certainly didn’t de-link him. So much for the policy, which apparently is designed for specks in the eyes of opponents, not planks in the eyes of cohorts.

    Plus, the whole taking glee in the dismantling of others got old, like, two years ago. There’s contending for the faith for the benefit of the Church, and then there’s being contentious for the pleasure of the coliseum . . .

    • Like a Romulan Warbird he decloaks!

      Jared, thanks for stopping by. Long time no comment.

      You’re right. It’s the inconsistencies you mention that drive me nuts. I like Steve Camp (and he’s NOT one of the folks I class as a heretic hunter, even if he sometimes takes that role), but his attempt to find a black Calvinist of note for Black History month last February was almost painful. The man he featured was clearly a man of God, but he’d also been married and divorced five times after his conversion.

      Now, not only did the heretic hunters not question that choice by Camp, but I suspect that if someone like Jack Hayford—a Pentecostal—had been married and divorced five times, the heretic hunters would have torn him (and anyone who supported him) to shreds time and again.

      That double-standard doesn’t fly by me. Many of those heretic hunters also love to rip dispensationalists apart, but they won’t touch John MacArthur. I personally don’t believe in dispensationalism (nor do I support the anti-charismatic stance that MacArthur takes), but I value MacArthur’s adherence to the Bible and his contending for the Gospel. Trying to get a heretic hunter to agree with ANYTHING one of their targets says, though…well, you might as well ask Reaganites to label Ronnie a “commie.”

      Why heretic hunters can’t find ANYTHING good in those they choose for punishment is bothersome. Again, that wide brush with broad strokes kills real discernment dead. The inability to say that someone like Richard Foster has valuable things to speak to today’s consumerist church is craven, if you ask me.

      Ah well, you and I are on the same side.


  4. Hi Dan,

    Great post! I have had many of the same thoughts, but you express it very well. I am relatively new to blogging, but I have grown tired of reading diatribes rather than humble exploration of biblical truth. It just strikes me as wrong when someone is gleefully and sarcastically thumping all the heretics. How does all of that look to non-Christians who happen to stop in? We need to learn how to “speak the truth in love.”

  5. ccinnova

    I remember reading a blog last year and noticed a post responding to a comment from an earlier post. The commenter implied that the blog’s author was bound for hell because of the author’s view on a particular matter. I can’t help but wonder if that contributed to the author’s decision to stop blogging a few months later.

    There are times when people need to speak up, but they also need to be careful how they present their viewpoints. As an example, consider the controversy that erupted in the Christian singles’ community a couple of years ago when a Christian radio program broadcast Albert Mohler’s infamous address criticizing singles. Most of the responses I read were respectful in their disagreement, and Dr. Mohler eventually backed off his implication that singleness is a sin.

    On the other hand, I’m amazed at the ferocity of the attacks on Brennan Manning, one of my heroes of the faith, because of both his beliefs on certain issues and his personal failures. His book, “The Ragamuffin Gospel,” is one of the tools God used to lead me back to church after an absence of several years. The last time I “Googled” Mr. Manning’s name, the second item in the search results linked to a heretic hunter’s criticism.

    Thanks, Dan, for watching the watchers.

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  8. Fantastic post Dan. I’ve been wanting to post something like this for a while now over at my blog, but I think you’ve nailed exactly what I wanted to say. We certainly have a responsibility to root out false doctrine, but the way in which some of these sites do it is all wrong. I’ll not mention names either, but I’ve caught the main writer on one of the premiere heresy-hunting sites spouting severe disinformation about her ideological opponents. I suspect this stems more from ideology-fueled ignorance than deliberate deception, but it’s a good example of what you’re talking about. I’m adding Cerulian Sanctum to my blogroll.

  9. Outstanding Dan. I agree with Glenn – you hit this one out of the park. It is also very convicting for me because I know I do my fair share of heretic hunting. I will keep your words in mind next time I go off on a hunt.

  10. Yeah, I agree. I was just thinking of these things as I got into a mess at Challies regarding Mark Driscoll. It is disheartening. To try to reason with people is difficult, because so many are just plain emotional about things even though they are claiming to be discerning. they don’t listen to what commenters who have a slightly different perspective have to say…but they assume the worst.

    One thing I do suspect is that many people who criticize others don’t have anyone in their real lives of a differing persuasion. They can just blast people and assume the worst without accountability.

    • Kristie,

      A guy like Mark Driscoll, who’s the modern day Christian theology equivalent of an Old West gunslinger, is sure to attract some pretty divisive and diverse commentary. I agree with David that Tim’s more fair than some of his commenters–I’ve been torn apart a few times at Challies, but once for very good reason (I was wrong)–but anything can happen at Challies. Because Tim’s a strong Calvinist blogger and has the #2 Christian blog out there, he attracts a lot of people from all parts of the Christian realm, especially of the Calvinist persuasion. All the heresy hunting sites I’ve come across have been Calvinist, so there’s a fair chance that there’ll be some of those folks dropping in at Challies from time to time.

      Sadly, Tim himself got waylaid at one of those sites last year. Worse still, he had designed the site! That’s the problem–even good people get chewed up. Earlier this year I blogged about “The Godblogosphere’s Black Hole” and now that my site is moved and redone, I hope to go back and implement the kinds of things I mentioned in that post and its follow-up. Stay tuned.

      • WOW! Been RSSing Challies more lately, so I missed the comments. Starting to make me wonder. I had written some time ago about my relatively short blogroll:

        … there is a limit in my mind (and I’m not saying that others are wrong not to observe it) at which I believe there is too much anger (either by the author or the commenters) on a given blog, such that I will not link my readers to it.

        Given the comment thread about Driscoll, (unfortunately) Tim’s blog is teetering on the brink of falling off my blog-roll.

        • You know I was thinking something similar. I am thinking through whether or not I should be more careful about linking to other blogs that might use occasional bad language. But along the same vein, should I be concerned about linking to Christian blogs that exhibit rancor?

          One thing I have desired to do (and all of us at our group blog) is to influence our friends to focus on the reformational doctrine/Calvinist faith. We also want to bring up our concerns with the Emergent movement. And it would be nice to have links to send people to that we can trust will be charitable in their delivery. But many of these blogs do little in the way of being winsome.

          I still like Challies, and I think the guy is fair. But I’d be careful about commenting there again.

          I just feel like I unknowingly stepped into the middle of ….I don’t know what!

  11. Kristie – I read through the comments on Challies post on Driscoll – it was an utter fiasco. Knowing Tim as I do I would have expected him to be far more harsh than he was and I thought the review itself was pretty decent and pretty fair. But the comment thread exhibited all of the worst of what Dan is writing against here.

  12. Gaddabout

    I don’t have much time, so I’ll try to keep this short and simple:

    – Great job, Dan. I have nothing else to add.

    – I think too many people — and there’s entire sub-culture in American Christianity that I refer to — take delight in being offended. Since it’s pretty hard to break a sweat doing the Lord’s work these days (at least that’s the delusion), I think we’ve raised up our “defenses” to the point that we think someone crossing our arbitrary lines somehow equates to carrying our cross. Only we don’t really carry the cross, we toss it down and put up our dukes.

    – Mark Driscoll is very often wrong for the right and just reasons. I wish he would spend more time choosing his words, but I hope he never changes his message. I continue to find him refreshing — and have considered him a leader to emulate for a decade now.

    • I think too many people … take delight in being offended.

      Having come from a legalistic background, I can’t identify with that statement at all.

      (Slowly removing tongue from cheek)

  13. Dan,

    You’ve expressed my thoughts and feelings also. When I’ve tried to bring some sanity and objectivity to some of these discussions attacks, I’ve been pummeled and accused of unchristian behavior.

    I read this in The Deeper Journey recently:

    Our religious false self is often an angry self. We are angry at anyone or anything perceived to be threatening our “God and the structures of perception and ritual in which our “God is contained and controlled. . . .
    Whenever our identity is rooted in an idol we call “God, we become very protective of that “God. . . .
    Whenever anyone even suggests an alternative theology, a different doctrine, an opposing dogma, a variant liturgy, our religious false self rises up to defend the truth against these “heresies.

    M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., The Deeper Journey, pp. 51-52

    These people immediately came to mind.

    By the way, I’m doing my best to remedy the dearth of quality Arminian bloggers.


    • Bigger question is, ‘where are the Lutheran bloggers?’ Lutherans have a lot to add to these discussions (so long as we don’t bog down the blog with minutiae as the seminary-trained Lutherans are taught to do).


  14. amen and amen!

    thanks for adding some sanity to the blogosphere…after my Saturday night frustration at the now-infamous Challies comment thread, I’m relieved to see other like-minded people who don’t find much good in the delighted-to-be-offended heretic-hunting. Thanks for being a voice of discernment and clarity.

    • Amy,

      Thanks for dropping by. I see from your blog that we share a profession (although I certainly don’t consider myself “unemployed”—my clients might have something to say about that, too!) and a love for that sweet brown confection that is surely one of God’s greatest natural gifts.

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  16. Great post, Dan… I’m part of a small, but merry, band of folks trying desperately to stop reading and commenting on Slice… but the addiction seems too strong.
    One thing-
    You said “am I any worse or better than the person with a perfect theology who never once reaches out to “those people?”

    Now, just for the record, could you provide a link to “the person with a perfect theology? I have a couple of issues I’d like to ask about 🙂

  17. Dan,

    One of the self-appointed heresy hunters, she who has somehow gotten the label as the “nice” one, asked at her site how to effectively ban someone from posting comments. She said she no longer wanted any contact with this person. I asked why this was an appropriate attitude for a Christian.

    She told me to drop it. When another commenter asked further about it, his comments were deleted. He posted once more, and she banned him from commenting at her site.

    I apologize for using your post to point out this hypocrisy, but I didn’t really want to waste an entire post on it at my site.



    • Joey,

      There were some that thought that Zacharias was a compromiser and did not preach strongly enough against Mormonism when he spoke at the Mormon gathering last year.

  18. I find myself in sad agreement with the post, if not some of the comments here. I think sometimes it’s a good thing when comments are turned off some of these posts, because the comments are often where things become astonishingly out of order.
    I too don’t tend to drop by certain sites anymore, because I hate the way I feel afterwards.
    The most obvious, and most unpleasant error I keep seeing is some people’s tendency to flag up an error and be unable to resist questioning the state of the soul of the person who made the error, and the general attitude of suspicion.
    But there’s nasty snarkiness flying about on all sides and I don’t think there’s a nice, non-muddy moral high-ground here. Which is probably a good thing.

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  20. Which is why I always email Tim Challies directly, so we can have a discussion without the interference of the trolls.

    Dan, this is probably the best post on this subject I’ve ever read. Well done! I’m a-linkin’ ya!

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  22. RevMac

    Thanks so much for the very thoughtful and (IMHO) inspired commentary. I fully agree. I used to be a participant in a blog that was thoroughly fed up with the actions of many in a particular denomination. However, that blog degenerated into what you call a Heretic Hunter site, and I left, “shaking the dust off my sandals.”
    I did confront some in the hierarchy of that denomination, and eventually left my position as an Elder there to join with others in a new church, but the stooping to the lowest common denopminator was not something with which I was comfortable at all. It was decidedly anti-Christian.
    I am so very happy that a friend pointed me to this site, and I intend to be a regular here.

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  24. Mark


    You don’t know how much good it did me to come across your blog site this evening. I only wish there were more christians and more ministries who would wake up to the smear tactics that heresy hunters repeately use. These professing believers are like trained Doberman Pinschers – they spend so much time mocking, attacking and demonizing fellow christians, all in the name of “doctrinal purity.” It’s about time the church stand up to these theological bullies and demand the same accountability out of them that they always demand out of their targets. And by the way, I am speaking from the perspective of someone who has been studying doctrine and apologetics for over two decades.

    You are exactly right when you say the heretic hunters virtually never take the time to meet with those whom they are so bent out of shape with. I have concluded they don’t want to because they don’t really intend on trying to find out the real truth of a lot of the things they allege. The Bible is very plain about how christians are supposed to approach things when one has something against his brother (or sister), yet you’d be amazed at the sort of reasoning used by the heresy hunters in their attempt to justify why they don’t have to meet with those they love to repeately tear into.

    You are also correct that much of the theology and reasoning used by these critics is not Biblical. They love to portray themselves as being completely Scriptural in all they say and do and continually make snide remarks against anyone who accuses them of being unloving. Yet, I have seen enough to convince me beyond any doubt that in many respects the heretic hunters are every bit as wrong Scripturally in some of the things they say as they claim their targets are. It is so true that spirtual pride is the worst type of pride, and the HH people are saturated with it!

    I have heard preachers over the years say that we christians should ban together because we are all really fighting only one common enemy….yet, when someone visits a heresy hunter website or reads one of their slanderous books, it would be easy for that person to conclude that not every believer thinks there is just one enemy out there that we should be concerned about.

    It seems that these critics are virtually obsessed with trying to find new material or targets to spew forth their poison at. If they would get off their spiritual high horse and would go back and re-study the Bible they claim they are so loyal to, they would see that, proportionally speaking, there are few verses that actually address the matter of correcting a believer. Therefore, since God did not think it necessary to repeatedly hammer on the matter of rebuking believers (since most of the New Testament talks about other subjects), these heresy hunters are thus being unBiblical when they give so much attention to doing such, because they are majoring on minors and therefore handing Scripture disproportionately.

    I did want to comment on one other thing you said. You wrote that most of the supposed heretics and heretic hunters out there are better Christians than you. I dispute that. On the contrary, you seem to have the truly Biblical approach, in which you recognize that a balance must be struck between (a) contending for the true doctrines taught in the Bible and (b) doing so in a Christ-like, not worldly, manner. Heretic hunters violate 2 Timothy 2:24-25 in their constant tirades against those whom they despise and thus do not use the balanced approach so desperately needed today.

    Sorry that my post is so long, but I just had to get this off my chest. Thank you again for addressing this issue. I only wish the whole American church could see your blog. I would enjoy communicating with you via e-mail, if that is something you would consider. You can send one to the address I provided. May God bless you in all you do.

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