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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Via Negativa: The Way of Progress

Thomas Aquinas used the practice of via negativa ("by way of negation") to define something by stating what it is not. Instead of affirming something positively, he identified something by reducing the possibilities of what it could be by negating other possibilities. I know and am aware that there are some people who read my blog and wonder if I am a "grumpy old man" in a 26 year old body. You think that I am critical all the time, negative to the core, and can't find the good in every situation. I understand that perspective. But I would venture to say that those who know me can attest quite the opposite to be true. I enjoy life and have a great time living it with others zestfully and joyously. So you might ask, why are so many of your blogs carrying a disposition so critical? My answer is simply that of Os Guiness when he says that "progress does not come without resistance thinking." What I mean is, there needs to be a check in us with everything we believe and do. Christianity for so long has been naive and played the ignorance card, and the cause of Christ has suffered greatly for it. Wolves go in sheep clothing everyday, and the sheep look at the wolf on the surface and think, "What a trendy, cool new outfit!" and fail to realize that he wants to devour them. We allow lies to come into our beliefs from the back door mixed with an appealing presentation, and we all seem to jump on board. I could go on and on with illustrations like this. I am critical in an affirming way. I use the device of "the way of negation" to produce resistance thinking for the progress of the kingdom of God. I can and will write posts that are "positive, upbeat, and encouraging" as one radio station would put it, but let's be true to the air we breathe. These are difficult days for Christ-followers. No, we are not facing persecution or imprisonment. We are facing a much great danger - heresy. False teaching and ungodly methods are going about in the name of Christ and no one is sounding the alarm. The church who should be "a pillar and buttress of truth" should be propagating the truth, not running from it. There is must for Christians to resist these days, and it seems that the door is swung wide open and our mouths are suspended in open jaw to receive any and everything that is put before us. As a result, there are no more distinctives between the believer and the unbeliever, except for our fish stickers on our cars. Is this what we are to be known for? I believe there is more than sufficient cause that would warrant me to write these posts, and book after book have chronicled them. For starters, I would recommend No Place for Truth by David Wells, and follow it up with his sequel God in the Wastelands. These took books alone provide a penetrating analysis of the current climate of evangelical Christians today. Yes, progress is needed. But it won't come from saying, "Can't we all just get along?" Get along around what? Whom? Where? How? You might say, "Why don't you just see the good in everything?" I try and I do often, and I affirm and rejoice in the truth. Yet for every time this occurs, I declare that there is 10 times as many that cause me to lament and mourn. God's messengers were once bound only to the message. We have left that message because of appeasement and conformity to our culture. We need to return to the Lord and message He left us with, regardless of controversy or criticism or stigmatizing of others. It is worth it. Trust me.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

but where is the encouragement? the positive? i don't see it. i don't thing negative is the way of progress. we are called as believers to encourage, uplift and support one another. i agree that we do have to question and look at what we believe, but it doesn't have to be negative all the time.

4/12/2005 03:38:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with the other comment. i think we as believers need edification and uplifting. i seem to find that these blogs are either bashing or ridiculing the local church and other believers in some form. i want to read things of encouragement that can lift me and others up, not denounce what other believers have done.

4/12/2005 06:37:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

I think the two who replied to this post so far are missing the point. I understand about being encouraging, and,well, in most cases in everyday life I consider to be one. However, have you ever considered that the majority of the Bible is not encouraging? Have you noticed the warnings of the prophets to repent and stop "playing the whore" with other idols and hooking up with pagans? What about the command to remember and return to the Lord? Jesus' words themselves were often hard. The problem today is that we want to say and speak of the kind of Jesus that is warm-fully all the time. You know, He did turn tables too, and called folks white-washed tombs, brood of vipers, hypocrites, and so on.
This is the reaon why: we as human beings are naturally inclined to sin, waywardness,and idolatry. And if we are so rosy-eyed about ourselves to think that all we need is more encouragement, then we are on the fast-track to repeat the sins of the past. For those who love the church and love the truth and are willing to face up to the daunting task of speaking out against the norm, the charges are to be expected of not being encouraging and so on.
These words I am sure were ringing in the ears of Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, and other prophets, who, bound to the Word of God, only spoke what God commanded them to, and it was not pretty. "Come on Jeremiah, why are you weeping all the time. Can't you just accept the way things are and just encourage us instead of these unkind pronouncements?"
It is not about "denouncing" or "bashing" other believers. It is about caring more for what is right and true than turning a deaf ear and a hard heart to reality. Believers today seem to be spineless, gutless, and convictionless in the most important matters of faith and practice. Sure. We can all stand up and condemn other sins like homosexuality, murder, and drunkenness. But why can't we just encourage them, and not speak against their sin? Now, we can speak of the sins of the world, we just can't speak of the sins of the church, for in doing so, we are stepping on our toes and not being encouraging. Tell that to the prophets and the majority of Biblical revelation. And ultimately, tell that to God, the source of the message. He is a God of love, and the Scriptures are to be a source of encouragement, but the encouragement comes from obeying the voice of God and heeding their example. So in the midst of all that, encouragement comes.
There are plenty of self-help and self-fulfillment that will pamper us to death and make the theraputic gospel work for you. But this is not the message of the Bible nor of Christianity. I affirm that encouragement is needed, and rightfully admit that times I am not as "positive". It is difficult, and I wrestle continuously over that. Nonetheless, the matter remains. And must be willing to deal with it.

4/12/2005 07:13:00 PM

Anonymous Jimmy said...

I like what you said regarding the greater enemy of the church: heresy. I would add to it apathy.

I remember, a long while back, speaking with a friend about American Christians. I supposed that we had it too easy--no persecution by the state, no jail time or underground church. It's not hard here, I said. I praised the Chinese church for its steadfastness. (As well we should.) But my friend said this: It's much harder to be a Christian here in these United States. There are so many distractions that would have our attention, so many ideas that would rule our minds, so many loves to steal our hearts. So much meaningless activity to spend ourselves on. So easy to forget Christ in this convenience culture that hurtles itself at breakneck speed to God-knows-where. It's hard to die sometimes...

4/13/2005 12:57:00 AM

Anonymous Jimmy said...

Mindless encouragement does no one good. I agree wholeheartedly that we are called to uplift and edify each other; there is no question there. We must have honest fellowship--we must strengthen one another and build love. Yet if we are to worship in truth, how is dishonesty edifying anyone? How is it glorifying the Father?

You say: what do you mean by dishonesty? I say: If we are not willing to see our mistakes or call them to light; if we are not willing to point out deliberate error; if we will not risk decrying the actions of an organization at the risk of hurting feelings; if we do not embrace the doctrines of Scripture; if we shake a brother's hand while we stab his back; we are dishonest. Sometimes the church does things that are so ridiculous they just deserved to be laughed at. Sometimes actions need to be denounced.

Unfortunately, many times the truth is not positive nor upbeat, but it should always be encouraging to hear! Even though it offend you, you should be encouraged by the truth, simply because you are believers (I might rashly assume)! If we worship a God of pure truth, we ought to revel in truth! And we must recognize that the truth--even about ourselves--will offend our sinful hearts. Yet we must know that it is truth, and rejoice that it is true.

Where is the encouragement? The positive? They are found in understanding the truth, and embracing it.

And I would point out that there is a difference between criticism and cynicism. Should we be cynical towards the church? Not even so; if Christ gave himself for the church, we ought also to love each other as he loved us. We ought to do all that is possible to encourage and to edify. But in order to do this, we must often be critical. (Especially in an age of error such as ours!)

Let us build each other up in love and in truth! I don't want to read things of encouragement if they are half-truths, or a neglect of serious problems.

That said, is there any good in today's church? Quite so. There are many sincere people, and many who also strive for uprightness and truth; there are many people engaged in service and the spread of the gospel; there are missionaries being sent and communities being reached. There are lives being changed with the knowledge of the truth. There is reform happening; there is a hunger for God stirring; there is a work at hand. And yet, let us not be so pleased and "encouraged" with the appearance of success that we gloss over hard, convicting truths!

The truth, in its forms both offensive and affirmative to our hearts, must always encourage our minds and spirits.

4/13/2005 01:19:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok, i agree that yes, we do need to speak the truth, whether it is hard, critical or not. But what do you think a lost person will think if he/she reads this blog? They will see someone who has found everything wrong with the church that they can. I am NOT saying that it all has to be encouraging--yes we need the truth. But someone who is not a believer reads this, what do you think they are going to think about christians? they don't want negative, critical things like this. maybe this blog is not for the non-believers. i don't know.

4/13/2005 07:04:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

I would like to reply to "anonymous" by making two points:
1. I work with lost people everday. I discuss Christianity to them almost daily, and the one thing they have to say is that Christianity is irrelevant and unimportant to them. They are sinners and enjoy their sinful lifestyle. Why are they not being reached? I would say that many (not all of course) Christians have abandoned them. We do the visitations and arm's reach altar calls, but the majority of the world is out of reach. We are happy in our sub-culture. Churches are focusing on church growth, which statistics show that is the product of other either competing churches "going out of business" or splitting. Transfer growth, not conversion growth is the norm, and as along as the numbers keep going up, well, we'll keep them however we can get them.
2. We should be more concerned about what God thinks that what unbelievers think. God knows us fully, better than we know ourselves. And if we are not authentic, transparent, and honest, not only is God not fooled, but the world isn't either. The problem with what the unbeliever's seeing is that they usually see the swagger in the triumphalistic mentality of western Christianity that not only irritates but repels them. I hear it everyday. They need to see repentance, brokenness, and transparent confession in individual's lives as well as the church corporately. But we do this not for them, for they are not our audience, but because Yahweh is holy and demands our covenant obedience to His character.

4/13/2005 10:46:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

One more thing, I have requested that should you post a comment, please identify yourself at the end of your comment. Multiple people can use the "anonymous" identity and makes it impossible to have conversation with words to no author. Please, if you don't mind, leave your name at the end so that your comment can be indentified to the commenttee.

4/13/2005 10:47:00 AM

Anonymous Jimmy said...

It's a good question. On one hand, a nonbeliever may possibly see division here, but I personally doubt it; there is no angry or bitter spirit here. I think there is passion for the church in these writings. On the other hand, a nonbeliever might be surprised and "encouraged" to see that someone within the church gathering also sees its problems, and that people of faith are willing to address their issues with sincere discussion. But, I honestly don't know either way. I would hope it might be the latter, but it is a question worthy of consideration.

4/13/2005 10:52:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'll just say this and i will not comment any more. i understand and know that we are to be more concerned with the Lord thinks than unbelievers. But i also know that we are not to live in a dark, critical box all the time. the christian life is as 1 Peter says, "and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." where is the joy in this? yes, we are encouraged when we embrace the truth. but there are verses, chapters, books about joy, encouragement, uplifting. i just personally think there should be a balance in one's life. this critical thinking, to me, is not healthy if that is all there is. yes, i know you and know that you enjoy life to the fullest. but that is not being expressed in this blog. thank you for listening.

4/13/2005 11:03:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

I want to thank you for the taking the time to read and respond to the posts, thought it is apparent that you thought of it as a waste of time. I am sorry that you feel this way and that dialogue could not be established. If however, in the future, should you choose to comment, please leave your name that I may know who you are. It appears that you do know me, and for the purpose of credibility and fair ground of discourse, it is only right to ask that, as I mentioned in another post, that you identify to the public who you are. Thanks, I hope that maybe in the future you can derive some benefit from this blog should you come again.

4/13/2005 11:11:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am not saying it was a waste of time. i just don't think my point is getting across. I dont want to argue either. i just think there needs to be a balance. honestly, i am discouraged by reading this blog. but, that is my personal opinion. there just needs to be a balance.

4/13/2005 12:18:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

As mentioned earlier, you point has been taken and received. This doesn't necessary mean that one has to agree with you. In the future, I assure you that you will see other posts that will indicate a better balance. I admit that the recent posts have been tough, and honestly, tough for me to write because I know that there will some who will disagree with me (and others I presume). The point is not to argue but to simply provide what I call "a table of transparency", one which is unfortunately not allowed in many churches. Twice I have asked for that transparency with the simple signing off of your name at the end of your comment, and you choose not to. For that reason is enough to me that transparency is not possible at the most elementary of conversation or dialogue. However, I hope that you will stay tuned in or least drop by in the future, and I assure you that other types of posts will be avaiable. Because of your input, and others for that matter, I am more aware and sensitive to the need to be more balanced, and hope to do so. Thanks again, and I hope to hear from you (and who you are) in the future.

4/13/2005 12:28:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i will continue to read i promise. i just wanted to make the point that there needs to be a balance. thanks for listening to me. i have not been putting my name because that might make a difference in the response i received. ep

4/13/2005 03:26:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with both the anoymous and bro. timmy. i believe that we as Christians do need encouragement and that it is a great source of uplifting. we also need to hear what we are doing wrong and how we can change it. to many times as a christian i want to hear what i desire to hear, and that would be that everything is ok and not what God wants me to hear. this blog and others have challenged me to understand what i believe and why i believe it. i have taken the mindset of what is talked about in acts 17:11 study the scriptures daily and see if what is said is true. no matter who you are or what you say, i need to figure out what doctrinal and theologocal beliefs i have. if i do so the Holy Spirit will reveal it to me. at the same time i will keep an open mind and read these blogs without having a biased opininon.


4/13/2005 04:07:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

since encouragement seems to be refuted every time it is brought up. why did God make it a spiritual gift?

4/13/2005 09:40:00 PM

Anonymous Jimmy said...

I don't think anyone is refuting encouragement. I think what is refuted here is false positivity.

4/14/2005 01:06:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

To anonymous "ep", I respect your reservation to reveal yourself (though I think you have), and I want you to know that the ground at the foot of the cross is level for all of us. There is no reason to suspect that you would be responded differently should you put your name. Some of my closest friends disagree with me, and you know, I would rather have it that way. Sometimes I think we assume that intimacy or closeness comes through always agreeing or the absence of varying thought. To me, that is just the removal of individual conviction for the mass consensus.
Concerning what Lee asked, I think he as a good point. Encouragement is a gift, and it is needed. I admit that it is not my spiritual gift either. However, those who do have the gift should not expect everyone (including those who do not have it) to pretend like they do. Yet everyone should be an encourager. Second, spiritual gifts are often misused and under-developed. For instance, there are many things that can be said or done and called "encouragement" but is nothing more than tell each other what we want to hear, i.e. flattery. Scripture speaks hard and often about flattery, maybe moreso than addressing encouragement. I am just saying that we need to be careful what we call certain things. Yes, encouragement is a spiritual gift and has its place, as does I believe a word of admonition or rebuke. It is good to see that you are interacting with these ideas, Lee, and I hope that in the midst of rhetoric and many differing opinions, you will continue to be that good Berean you are aspiring to become. I echo that desire.

4/14/2005 04:19:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have to agree with everyone. i believe it is easier to hear all the good in every situation and we want to hear encouraging words, but at the same time we need to hear whats wrong with the situation and what needs work. but i believe that that is Gods job in the church. when something is going wrong i believe He will convict the one who is over that and He will take care of it. i dont believe He wants us to all sit around and talk about the church and find all the wrong in it. why not do something about it?? i know yall asked that question once, but as i watch yall, i see no change. i dont see you trying to figure it out, i see you getting on here and complaining about it. now i may be wrong b/c i dont see you 24/7 but i do see you at church. the 'anonymous' person was trying to get across that we need encouragement b/c if i was a non believer and got on here and read what some people said about the church and how everyone is caught up in religion and everyone wants bigger and better, i believe i would be turned off from some certain big churches. why would i want to go there if thats what 'christians' are saying about them. in that case why go at all?? i understand you talking about the church and talking about how people are caught up in religion, but please cant we discuss how to help that come to the light?? cant we help each other out in that situation at our own church?? as you said before -this is a hard time for christians. we are being persecuted for our faith. so why not have a place on the here where we can help eachother out, tell of our struggles and pray for one another as God commanded christians to do? why are we bringing only the bad up?? where is the good about how God is moving? the church is here to help us... a place for worship. im not asking you to change your way of talking and make them all uplifting but i know in my opinion i want to get on here and read how God is changing peoples lives and what He has shown each of you and i want to get fired up or realize God is for real b/c he isnt only moving in my life but others too. its hard to though when i read mostly negative comments. i guess im asking that we would all think before we type out something and say it to the public. think about what the other people reading it will think and how they will take it. more importantly than that though, what will God think?? is this something that i should take up with God alone and not anyone else?? is this my own problem?? am i pleasing God with bringing down the church? you know maybe you are one of the reasons the church is so religious. maybe if you would get your personal problems right with God before bringing them to man, there would be revival in the church. im not talking to anyone specifically- im talking to myself included. lets all check our hearts and lives out and ask God to reveal to us our own problems and get the block of wood out of our eyes, before we point out the speck in someone else's eye.

4/14/2005 12:32:00 PM

Anonymous Jimmy said...


Though you may not have been directing your statements to me, I want to respond. I don't personally know how to fix everything I see. I see things wrong at church (and yes, I see things right), but if that is considered to be discouraging and divisive, then how much more divisive would I be to say these things in the open? I have no desire to tear down my church, and most people will not see things from my perspective and would consider me to be negative. I am always wanting and hoping and considering for avenues to change. I don't know how right now. And I know I have my own problems; believe me, I am fully aware of my own shortcomings and they grieve me.

Yet, Paul writes: "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."

To reprove is to voice or convey disapproval of, or to find fault with. To rebuke is to criticize or reprove sharply, or reprimand. To exhort is to urge by strong, stirring argument, admonition, advice, or appeal. Why did Paul urge Timothy (2 Tim. 4:1-5) to all these, plus patience and teaching? Because people have itching ears that turn themselves to any wind of doctrine, to suit themselves and wander into myths. It is certainly the Spirit's job to convict, but it is also charged to us to do these (above) things, and to teach one another from Scripture. I don't personally claim to be able to convict anyone of anything. But we can't sit on our pews and endure errors and expect God to just magically change people--because he has called us to reprove, rebuke, and exhort each other.

4/14/2005 01:40:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

again, i say it has not been a waste of time. i personally don't agree with alot that you are saying. but that is fine. i don't want to argue. i never did. i just want my point to be heard. but it seems that every time someone does not agree they are 'attacked' or 'confronted' but those that agree 'it's all good'. ep

4/14/2005 02:06:00 PM

Anonymous drew said...

jimmy, please don't forget the complete meaning of exhort, finding that I have this gift it is a gift of encouragement yes sometimes it means by stirring argument and to urge someone but not to get your point across but to stir out of love.

to all, Chuck Swindoll said this about the gift on exhortation, "the ability to bring encouragement, to help others see the relevance of Scripture, to give insightful counsel, to motivate, to comfort, and to offer hope that prompts action." The question here is this, amidst all the discussions here is there love? Is their encouragement to see the relevance of scriptures, are we being counseled or being force upon by what each of us believe, is their comfort, and in all this is it going to prompt action in us all? I have sit down and read through all these pretty well and I don't feel much love, but conviction and passion, which are great don't get me wrong, but where is the love? Let me reflect back on the love chapter 1 cor. 13: 1-13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love is the greatest thing we have, then why don't we show it through everything we do. It's not about making my point or getting the other person to give in or say ok ok your right, but it's about speaking in love, not out of frustration at the church, even though it is frustrating at times, but we must go in love. Because without love, we gain nothing, we are nothing.


4/14/2005 02:39:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

no i wasnt talking directly to anyone.... i was just saying in general. i do understand your point of view and i agree with drew that there needs to be love. im sorry if i didnt come across that way b/c that was not what i was trying to sound like. i was trying to say lets all be here for one another, build eachother up and encourage one another. i understand talking about how the church is falling apart, but lets not dwell on that. mk

4/14/2005 05:16:00 PM

Anonymous Jimmy said...


I agree on the importance of love in this. I can also see how kindness and compassion for each other could be clouded or obscured by more obvious points of criticism. (I don't know that encouragement and exhortation are the same thing, though.)

I think everything we do as Christians should be soaked in love for Christ, each other and the unbeliever. I know that not everything I do is so. But love doesn't always take the form of "warm fuzzies." We must still take into account "tough love," and the messages of condemnation of the prophets and apostles. If I had no love for the church I would not lament over its waywardness or acceptance of unstable doctrines and practices.

But I think you make a good point. Let us build one another up in love, to do good works in order to glorify our Father in heaven. Let us remember the supremacy of His Love, and let it temper all that we say.

4/14/2005 05:43:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

After thinking through some of the comments, I would like to appeal to some key considerations that are important to the argument, and what I believe reveals the weakness, or at least misguided viewpoints of those who disagree with me:

1. Lack of understanding of Biblical revelation and the totality of Scripture. It appears to me that the justification people are using is strickly Pauline (Paul's writings). While this is an important part of Scripture, it just shows how "Paulinesque" our tendencies are. The Bible Jesus read and the Scriptures NT writers quoted was the OT, which is over two-thirds of Biblical revelation. It would seem more important to integrate the entirety of the Bible in the argument in order to give biblical justification.

2. Church History Ignored. If one would look through the annals of church history, one would find that via negativa was principle in the progress of the church. For the early church fathers, they affirmed their doctrine by denying others (Arianism, Doceticism, Appolynarianism, etc.). In their combat of heresy, they would remove the possibilities of what was right and confirmed the truth by exposing the error. This was also true of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrich Zwingli, and the rest of the Reformation. Their resistance to the "open wide" syndrome resulted in a revolution, one of which I am benefiting from today. And this could be said throughout the course of history, even today - yea, especially today. Without an appreciation of what the church has went through and its progression through affirmation of truth, formulation of creeds, and denial of false teachings, one would easily conclude by saying that criticism is unimportant and we should be encouraging and loving and so on. I guess you could say that Martin Luther was unloving to the Roman Catholic Church and to Christians when he wrote the 95 Thesis, or was he?

3. Contextualization of commentary. Another problem I see is the microscopic approach taken by those who disagree with me. The subjective and largely limited response is coming from a perspective majorly defined by your immediate surroundings. I would appeal to larger scope, a more macroscopic approach to addressing the issue. This, however, would require some research, getting out of the box, and seeing the situation with fresh eyes. We cannot simply contextualize the issue with our opinions and grade the argument subjectively. We have to weigh the issue at large and consider all factors, including the ones we are not immediately and immenently familiar with.

4. Issue vs. Individual. This is really important to me. The purpose of these posts is to address some important issues and problems today. Yet, it appears that the object of our arguments are directly more to the individual that the issue. It is crucial that, if we are going to be encouraging and affirming, that we address the issue solely and not people who hold the ideas. For some reason, however, when one shows the fallacy of an idea, it automatically is assumed that you are attacking the person. This is wrong, period. Ad hominum attacks are not appreciated and should not be allowed, regardless of what side of the issue you adhere to. When you talk about the speck or log in someone's eyes, you are referring to the judgment of an individual, not their judgment on the issue. This concerns me, and I hope that it won't continue.

5. Finally, the healthiness of the church comes from wrestling with thought and striving for the truth. The church for 2000 has withstood error and attacks by truth and love. The kingdom of God is not a house of cards, but a kingdom that will last forever. It cannot withstand arguments and ideologies. However, we must prepare our minds for action and engage in the "contending for the truth" as Paul puts it. Healthiness does not come from the absence of a diagnosis or the pretending that there is not the problem. When a proper diagnosis is made, then the cure can be applied. Band-aids have been applied that simply wear off and are superficial. We can't accept this. Surgery needs to happen sometimes, and it hurts. Yet the hurting is for a moment. The healing is for a lifetime. Which would you rather have?

These are some things I ask that you consider in the discussion. I thank all of you for responding and ask, once again, that should you comment, give us your name (not your initials) as Lee and others have. It is only fair to ask that of you. Continue to respond, and as other posts are made, I look forward to hearing from then as well

4/14/2005 09:52:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

concerning the points bro. timmy made i would have to say a majority of the time it's not the churchs fault, but it's the apathetic attidue of the individuals making up the church. the church itself can only do so much. no matter what the man of God speaks and teaches on, each person has the duty of application. with this attitude i am speaking of, is where the root of the problem occurs. God and us as well can not work with the unwilling. if there is no desire then what does the church have to work with. nothing. when it comes down to it, people just don't care anymore. it is not a priority. they belive going to church is doing God a favor and its not. yes the church has its faults, it also has the faults of its members. i will be the first to admit that it starts with me. i just pray that i am not hindering what God wants do in the church.


4/14/2005 11:00:00 PM

Anonymous Jimmy said...

I have a couple points I would like to make.

'ep' said: "but it seems that every time someone does not agree they are 'attacked' or 'confronted' but those that agree 'it's all good'."

I think you mistake valid point-for-point discussion and response for attack. I am bewildered by the idea that a response to your point from a different view is an attack or a confrontation.

'mk' said: "i understand talking about how the church is falling apart, but lets not dwell on that."

That's an alarming comment. "I understand talking about how the burning roof of our home is caving in on us, but let's not dwell on that." We can't just not dwell on an issue like the church "falling apart" around us (which, contrary to what you may think, I don't believe it is doing. It is in danger though.).

4/15/2005 12:34:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

To Lee, I would say that God often does use human agents to accomplish his work. That is what we are here for. However, when you speak of "the man of God", who are you referring to? The church is not centered on a pastor, especially not a "senior pastor" (a corporate concept rather than biblical one). We ARE the body of Christ, a holy priesthood, and are all accountable for truth, righteousness, and holiness. And when the church shows to be unaccountable, history and Scripture shows that God can and does work not because of us but rather in spite of us. God does not have his hands tied because he can't get his people to do his work. He has an ass to speak if his prophets won't. I agree with you when you said that it begins with each one us, for we are all make up the church (the redeemed). It my desire that through this blog more and more individual believers will be provoked to pant more for holiness and righteousness after God. GOd will accomplish his work, with us or without us. I hope and pray that we join Him in His work to glorify Himself.

4/15/2005 07:02:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

To "MK":

It is certainly possible to make your point without leveling charges and the heightened use of rhetoric. I do not know who you are speaking of that you know and feel like you have the liberty to assess individuals more than the issue, but this approach is not conducive to discussion.

Concerning what you said (content wise), I did not said the church (western church that is) is falling on hard times because of persecution, but rather lack thereof. We are not only bringing up the bad. We are evaluating reality as we see it. If is bad, so be it, but the "badness" should not cause us to cower down to the sad state we are in. You made a good point when you said that if the lost person saw that we argued and had differing opinions about bigger, better, churches. Many look at our "kingdoms" and are completely turned off. They see our money going towards fancy buildings and not the poor and needy. They see our billbords and consider them disingenuous. And I think you would be surprised by the "amens" that would come from the unbeliever when they seen Christians thinking critically and objectively. Furthermore, testimonies of changed lives and getting fired up is wonderful, and I love to hear personal testimonies of the grace of God manifested in other people's lives; on the other hand, we are responsible for the cause of Christ at large, for His name's sake, His renown and reputation. To bear His name lightly is to curse it, and this is what I see happening with the cotton-candy Christianity that tastes sweet but leaves you empty. I keep on hearing about there needing to be a balance. This is what I believe this blog is doing. Far too long have we been so rosy-eyed to realize that the real plank as you said is within the church, on every pew, in every Christian. Both you and are that person, and the movement of God I am praying to see is the people of God away from idolatry and infidelity towards faithfulness and fidelity to God's name and His Word. I think both you and I as well as others would agree, you think?

4/15/2005 07:25:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to start this off, I have read all the blogs from the beginning. There have been several times I’ve started to comment on things, but I find myself deleting it and moving on; however, someone once told me I should speak up more – not be so agreeable with everyone – so that’s what I’m doing. Please hear my points, and know they are written out of love – “tough love” if you want to call it that.

1. In a recent post, Timmy stated that we should be addressing the issues and not the individuals. If this is so, why is it so vital to sign your name? Initials aren’t even good enough. But you don’t want to address the individual?
2. I’m not quite sure who said it, but I believe it was said this whole blog-thing is to open people’s minds. Whose minds are really supposed to opened by this? It seems to me that whenever someone agrees with you, it’s a great comment, but when someone doesn’t agree, then they’re missing the point. Maybe our minds do need to be “opened” on some things, but to me, it seems like other minds need to be opened as well.
3. Regarding the comment on taking things the wrong way…please realize that this is a machine we’re using to communicate, and its extremely hard to know how things are really meant to be taken. This is a lesson for me as well. Due to the fact that I hate face-to-face confrontation, I tend to write/email things a lot, and it is hard for the audience to really understand what the “author” is trying to say. Maybe if we really want to have this conversation with someone, and for them to know exactly how we mean it, we will find other means of communicating.
4. Back to “missing the point”, maybe I’ve missed some of the points as well. However, sometimes when people post their comments/concerns, their points are also being missed. Take for instance, Lee’s comment about the church and it’s people. I feel like his point was missed because the following post was then turned towards the man of God which was not his point at all. His point was about the people of the church and their apathetic attitudes.
5. Moving on to the comments about the unbelievers being “encouraged” by these discussions. How much do you really know about being a lost person? You didn’t live 24 years of your life lost. Please know that I’m not condemning the fact that some of you were saved at a young age. Believe me, I wish I could say that about myself, but the fact is, I can’t. But I know God is doing a work in us all, no matter the age we became Christians. Speaking from my personal experience as a lost person, I would find this very discouraging. It would probably push me away from Christianity even further. Just from being around my dad and other friends & family I have who are lost, and seeing their reactions when a Christian is in the wrong (i.e. drinking when not around “church people” and having an ugly attitude towards people they don’t go to church with) proves my point. They see no difference in Christians & themselves. I feel like they need to see something in us as Christians that they long to have. Yes, we will be rejoicing in heaven one day, but they won’t be able to see that unless there’s something good they can see in us while here on earth.
6. As for young Christians reading this, I am highly concerned. Some tend to be followers of Sunday School teachers, Youth leaders, etc., and they don’t understand that they need to dig into the scriptures on their own to find out what the Holy Spirit is revealing to THEM. They tend to just take it all as truth without really finding the truth within themselves.

Yes, I do agree with some things being said. I think we do need to check ourselves daily to find our faults, and I pray that the Holy Spirit continues to convict me of mine, but unless we are willing to fix the problem, why even bother with it? Tim, you know me and you know how personal I tend to take things. If you don’t know, then just talk to your wife – she knows me better than any of my friends, so please hear my heart when I say this. I just wanted to get all this off my chest, but I will no longer be reading the posts, so if you would like to respond to anything I’ve said, feel free to email me or call me. Yes, I know I am spiritually weak and “lack understanding of the totality of Scripture”, but that’s why God is not finished molding me into the Christian He saved me to be.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I know I have been extremely long-winded in writing this. I love you all!!

Lindsey Drew Zirbel

4/15/2005 03:05:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

bro. timmy when i was speaking of the "man of God" i was most certainly talking about the pastor. i know the church is not centered around the pastor or anyone else for that matter. but i do know that if God has called you preach you are to preach truth and the scriptures the way He intended them to be. yes God can use the rocks to praise Him if we don't. i am implying that the man of God has been placed in a specific church for a specific purpose, he is to do all he can do with what he has. whether each individual takes what is taught and applies it is up to them. in my last post my point was that pastors, sunday school teachers, and etc. can teach the word but if the members of the church are apathetic and do not care the church can do nothing.


4/15/2005 06:35:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


4/15/2005 09:09:00 PM

Anonymous Jimmy said...

"Luther Explains His Vehement Writing
December 1532

When asked... why he wrote with such vehemence, he [Martin Luther] said, "Our Lord God must precede a heavy shower with thunder and then let it rain in a very gentle fashion so that the ground becomes soaked through. To put it differently, I can cut through a willow branch with a [bread] knife but to cut through tough oak requires an axe and wedge, and even with these one can hardly split it."

(From p.300, "Faith and Freedom: An Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther")

4/16/2005 01:12:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So..."The Way of Negation" Tim's blog seemed to be in the form of a monograph (one writing on one subject). The comments on his blog began by faulting him not on whether he was right or wrong but that he did not include certain material (viz., an encouraging section) in his monograph. The comments seemed to snowball from there away from the original issue.
Does God require us to be discerning and "negate" unhealthy "fads" which are finding their way into the church? Yes, He does and we will give an account for it.
Tim's monograph was sobering not sombering. I know him personally and testify that he is not Satan's wrecking crew. His actions testify to the fact that God's hand is upon him for good. I wish I were more like him.

KJ Pugh

4/21/2005 11:44:00 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I approach the issue and particularly this conversation not as a would-be theologian, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson would have it, as Man-Thinking. It is amusing to me that Timmy should be under such fire by several of you. Funny and ironic. You see, when you voice your disagreement and rebuttal to Timmy, you PERFORM and, as such carry out, the very criticism that his "Via Negitiva" view advocates. So several of you claim, Christians should be more about encouraging than criticizing. But, notice: when you point out this to Timmy, YOU ARE CRITICIZING his view. You are suggesting that something about what he said is wrong and should be changed. Hehe. It seems then, your position is untenable logically speaking. For, if your criticism of Timmy's view is correct, then the Timmy's view is correct and your view is effectively defeated.

What I have pointed out is what logicians often call self-reflexive incoherence. I actually would rather label it, in this instance, performative contradiction. That is: something about the manner of your voicing X stands in direct contradiction to X itself. In other words, its a logical fallacy.

One added note in favor of Timmy's original view - I offer an argument:

1) to believe that p is to hold that p is true.
2) to hold that p is true is to hold that p can address all possibile objections, now and in the future.
3) to maintain 2) is to be commited to the process of justifying one's beliefs with reasons
4) THEREFORE, to hold beliefs is commit oneself to the act of belief justification (1-3).

Now, if the above argument is correct, then there are interesting ramifications.

a) when an individual (or institution) holds beliefs, that individual (or institution) may be properly called upon to justify those beliefs.

b) doing a) is the very criticism Timmy's view advocates.


4/23/2005 02:08:00 PM

Anonymous Matt Crawford said...

I'm kind of jumping into this conversation late, but I have some points that I think are relevant to the discussion. First I have a few responses to what other's have said...

Timmy stated:
"I assure you that other types of posts will be avaiable. Because of your input, and others for that matter, I am more aware and sensitive to the need to be more balanced, and hope to do so. Thanks again, and I hope to hear from you (and who you are) in the future."
Timmy, I sincerely hope that you will not censor your pantings. This blog is a place for you to share your heart. I know your heart is not full of negativity. And I want you to share the balance with us as well. But don't cut back on the via negativa in order to avoid offending someone. If it's of God speak it boldly.

Anonymous/MK said:
"i understand you talking about the church and talking about how people are caught up in religion, but please cant we discuss how to help that come to the light??"
If you know of a way that the problems Timmy raises can be fixed please tell me. Most every post I read on this blog I ask myself how can Christianity fix this problem? Most of the time I admit that I don't know how the problems with the church can be fixed other than making the church aware that there is a problem by IDENTIFYING the problem and then TALKING about the problem.

Anonymous/MK also said:
"i want to get on here and read how God is changing peoples lives and what He has shown each of you and i want to get fired up or realize God is for real b/c he isnt only moving in my life but others too. its hard to though when i read mostly negative comments."
If you read through the OT you'll see story after story of how a prophet made "negative comments" that showed people their wrong. Those "negative comments" were the result of God moving in that prophet's life. Those "negative comments" caused people to wake up and see they're not living how God wants them to live. Yes God is good! Yes God is awesome! Yes God is moving in my life! Yes I am fired up about it! But no, God is not always positive. No Truth does not always feel good. Yes truth sometimes hurts. Yes truth sometimes offends. Yes truth will be proclaimed.

Zirbel said:
"In a recent post, Timmy stated that we should be addressing the issues and not the individuals. If this is so, why is it so vital to sign your name? Initials aren’t even good enough. But you don’t want to address the individual?"
I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. The only issue I have with anonymous comments are that it makes it difficult to follow the discussion. As long as you leave some unique identification so as to allow the discussion to be followed I couldn't care less if you leave your name, your initials, or an alias.

Zirbel also said:
"Moving on to the comments about the unbelievers being “encouraged” by these discussions. How much do you really know about being a lost person? You didn’t live 24 years of your life lost. Please know that I’m not condemning the fact that some of you were saved at a young age. Believe me, I wish I could say that about myself, but the fact is, I can’t. But I know God is doing a work in us all, no matter the age we became Christians."
Amen! I didn't get saved until I was 15. While I would say that is a fairly young age to get saved at, it did comprise three quarters of my life thus far. However at the same time I find it hard for me to honestly evaluate what a lost person would think of this blog. I think some of them would be pushed away because they would see it as people within the church critisizing the church, but I think some would see this blog as a good thing, finally someone within the church who sees that the church has problems too.

This may be somewhat off topic but it's been on my heart... Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today. Just because it's growing does that mean it's of God? Just because more people believe it every day does that make it truth? Would you say about Islam, well it's growing and successful, therefore they must be doing something right. Numerical church growth should not be seen as a sign that the church is doing something right in the eyes of God. It should be seen as what it is. The church is doing a good job of marketing their product, and making it appeal to more people. Their product? "Feel good Christianity". Jesus didn't die so that you can feel good about yourself or so that you can have a happy wonderful life here on earth.

4/28/2005 09:36:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey i agree alot with what lindsey and lee and drew has to say on their subject.

4/28/2005 10:47:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

to bro. timmy, i realize this was posted a month ago, but have read these postings or whatever you want to call it. like others i agree with some of the remarks, but disagree with the majority!!! where is the encouraging words that christians are to not only give to one another, but to a lost and dying world. for four years i sat under your teaching and preaching, and was encouraged by your messages each and every time you spoke. you taught us as students Acts 1:8 (which i dont have to remind you what it says) my point is when you witness to people, just like the word of God commands us to do, you can't help but to grow the church. christ died for the church and it is our job as christians to tell others about the love of christ. satan will do everything he possibly can do to destroy a christian and the church. if you don't think you are bashing the local church, than what do you call it?? don't tell me that i am "missing the point" you made your point very clear. i had a great deal of respect for you, but now i can't say that anymore. i appreciate what i was taught under you, and i will continue to carry those principles with me through my walk with the lord.

5/07/2005 11:47:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

I wrestled once again on whether or not to respond to "anonymous" since it is clear that I (and others)have moved on from the discussion. Although I am saddened by the fact that you discredit and no longer esteem me because of my convictions, I would like to make a few comments:

1. Still in the 38 comments provided which are most contra my stance, no one has yet to address the Via Netativa principle. Rather, I have been attacked, maybe necessarily so, since substance is lacking and the only alternative is to label charges against an individual's character.

2. By criticizing me, you are contadicting yourself, because you are criticizing me for me being critical! How can you allow yourself latitidue to criticize me illigitimately while castigate me for my post which has yet to be delegitimized? As JCC has stated, this is a performative contradiction and not only is unfounded by unsuppoted with any logic or reasonable support.

3. Truth is controversial, and anytime truth is told, you are in the center of controversy. I admit that there is a price to pay in doing what I feel is right. When the prophets of old spoke a word from the LORD, how did the people respond? They wanted to stone them and kill them! I am not going to make the audacious claim that I am saing "Thus saith the LORD," but until someone shows me where I am wrong (other than saying "let's be encouraging", the questions are still unanswered).

4. I appreciate that you believe you benefited from my teaching. However, my teaching (hopefully) is an extension of my life. Granted, given my position in the church, there were many limitations on what I could say (audience, position, respect for leadership, etc.), but that does not mean that I left my disposition unstated. If you knew me personally, I think you would find this out to be true.

5. Finally, concerning the church. Growing the church does not come at the expense of truth, for she is the "pillar and buttress of truth." This whole church-growth priority is deceptive, for we want more people in our churches, but not more God. Can you have both? Yes! But not without paying the price of faithfulness to Him! That was the problem with Israel then, who broken the covenant by their disobedience (playing the whore), and is the problem today. We could be gaining numerically daily but ICABOD can be written over the doors. I am afraid that we can get so good at doing church, that God could leave and it would be "business as usual." And this whole devil thing is deceptive as well. Who is afraid of the truth? Who uses such scare tactics and spiritual threats to those who are authentically and incontrovertibly committed to the Bride of Christ? Only those who will be accountable in doing so. We don't want accountability period. We hear what we want to hear. We do not "test everything" or "discern the spirit"; no, because we know that truth divides. Yet Jesus said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

Thank you for your comments, and although I grimace as I read them, I accept the things you have said, and hope that, by God's grace, I can be seen for who I am, not who I am propped up to be.

5/07/2005 02:39:00 PM

Anonymous Jordan Collura said...

There are different opinions on this subject.

11/24/2005 02:16:00 PM


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