A couple of friends have asked me why I’m uncharacteristically mordant about certain people I have dealt with on social media. These friends have said that they normally count on me to avoid ad hominem arguments and to stick to civil disagreement. So why, they ask, have I unloaded on particular people, not just faulting their arguments or actions, but attacking them as persons?
This is an excellent question that goes beyond the more basic question of publicly disagreeing with fellow Christians. (I deal with *that* question on this blog page.) Here’s my answer to today’s question.
I’m going after these people—Franklin Graham, Ravi Zacharias, Eric Metaxas, Conrad Black, and the like—because I think there’s something badly wrong with *them*, not just with this or that bad idea they happen, by accident as it were, to have espoused.
An “ad hominem” attack is bad if it substitutes for an argument against bad thinking. (“This idea is bad simply because it comes from a bad person.”) But I don’t do that: I show that there is bad thinking. In these few cases I then go beyond that to warn readers about people who are unworthy of esteem because they are generally up to something bad: their agenda is bad, not just this or that item on it.
That isn’t the same thing as saying “Raca” or condemning them as hopeless or refusing to pray for them or any of those actions forbidden by Scripture as absolutely writing someone off. It’s not my place to do that: It’s God’s.
As a teacher in the Church, however, it is my place—indeed, it is a sacred responsibility—to say that this spring is producing poisonous water. Not just a bit of bad water from time to time (and I’ll point out the bad spurts) but the whole flow is generally toxic. Beware!
That’s why I use such strong language. These are *generally* (not entirely) bad people exercising generally bad influence and producing generally bad results. So ask yourself: How does Jesus refer to such people? How does Paul? Not just their arguments, but them?
This kind of discourse is therefore a special case of public interaction, not just my indulging a bad mood and letting ‘er rip. Normally, yes, we forbear and forgive and get along as best we can. Look at how much nonsense, not to mention abuse, I deal with in the comments to some of my posts. That’s the price one pays for being oneself a public figure (albeit at a very modest scale). And look at how I deal with such people. That’s the way most of us should deal with most of us most of the time.
I write these particular posts deliberately the way I do, however, because these people are in a special class that, I think, have to be denounced in the special terms similar to those by which our Lord and the Apostle denounced serious and ongoing threats to the Church. And particularly as long as Christian individuals and organizations continue to defend them, other Christians need to make clear that not all Christians think and speak and act as they do—but in fact repudiate them thoroughly. So I do.
I hope, then, that this makes sense to you, as it is my solemn aim to do the right thing here. And thanks to my friends for doing the right thing and remonstrating with me. We need each other’s help in these difficult matters.