Thursday, September 06, 2007

Your Weekly Dose of Gospel
"...hold the old gospel - I can do no other..."

It's sad how easily we all can dismiss genuine believers so ceremonially in the blogosphere today. Throwing people under the evangelical bus has become a spiritual gift. Some make sport of belittling others to exalt themselves; forgetting that "pride comes before a fall." Under the noble flag of "we're defending the truth", they will justify anything they say and do in order to evince their tone and tactic.

How do I know this with such certainty? I have shamefully done this myself; it is wrong; it is sin; and needs to be repented of (no matter who you are). Numbers mean nothing in real ministry; inviting the trolls to stir up controversy and ravage comment threads just to boost ones own visibility is rubbish. Faithfulness, Christlikeness, God's glory, sound doctrine proclaimed in humility and love, yet with boldness, and genuine unity with other Christians IS everything. It is here that we must be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16).

Beloved, true biblical discernment requires skillful use of a scalpel rather than wild mutilation by machete (cp, Eph. 6:10-18; Heb. 4:12). Spurgeon gives us a great remembrance of such skilled workmen, unashamed, approved unto God in handling the truth of God's Word. A dear pastor friend of mine emailed this gem to me and I thought it good timing to share it with you. It is excellent truth for us all to heed. Read Spurgeon's words carefully--they are powerful, convicting, humbling, and useful in our sanctification.

May his tribe increase...

Run to the Battle,
1 Corinthians 15

by Spurgeon

“Everybody admires Luther! Yes, yes; but you do not want any one else to do the same today. When you go to the Zoological Gardens you all admire the bear; but how would you like a bear at home, or a bear wandering loose about the street? You tell me that it would be unbearable and no doubt you are right. So, we admire a man who was firm in the faith, say four hundred years ago; the past ages are a sort of bear-pit or iron cage for him; but narrow-minded bigot, or give him a worse name if you can think of one. Yet imagine that in those ages past, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and their composers had said, ‘The world is out of order; but if we try to set it right we shall only make a great row, and get ourselves into disgrace. Let us go to our chambers, put on our night-caps, and sleep over the bad times, and perhaps when we wake up things will have grown better.’" Such conduct on their part would have entailed upon us a heritage of error. Age after age would have gone down into the infernal deeps, and the pestiferous bogs of error would have swallowed all. These men loved the faith and the name of Jesus too well to see them trampled on. Note what we owe them, and let us pay to our sons the debt we owe our fathers.

As for me, I must hold the old gospel:
I can do no other...

It is today as it was in the Reformers’ days. Decision is needed. Here is the day for the man, where is the man for the day? We who have had the gospel passed to us by martyr hands dare not trifle with it, nor sit by and hear it denied by traitors, who pretend to love it, but inwardly abhor every line of it. The faith I hold bears upon it marks of the blood of my ancestors. Shall I deny their faith, for which they left their native land to sojourn here? Shall we cast away the treasure which was handed to us through the bars of prisons, or came to us charred with the flames of Smithfield?… An ancestry of lovers of the faith ought to be a great plea with us to abide by the Lord God of our fathers, and the faith in which they lived [Hebrews 11].

Look you, sirs, there are ages to come. If the Lord does not speedily appear, there will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to his truth today. We have come to a turning-point in the road. If we turn to the right, mayhap our children and our children’s children will go that way; but if we turn to the left, generations yet unborn will curse our names for having been unfaithful to God and to his Word.

I charge you, not only by your ancestry, but by your posterity, that you seek to win the commendation of your Master, that though you dwell where Satan’s seat is, you yet hold fast his name, and do not deny his faith. God grant us faithfulness, for the sake of the souls around us!

How is the world to be saved
if the church is false to her Lord?
How are we to lift the masses
if our fulcrum is removed?
If our gospel is uncertain,
what remains but
increasing misery and despair?

Stand fast, my beloved, in the name of God! I, your brother in Christ, entreat You to abide in the truth. Quit yourselves like men, be strong.

The Lord sustain you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

Source: Charles Spurgeon, “Holding Fast The Faith”,
quoted in Ashamed Of The Gospel [MacArthur], p 41:


Sam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam said...

Wow, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry! The poster is hilarious but you nailed it in the article. It's a sad situation to be in when Christians who hold to the same essential truths cannot stand together in spite of differences of opinion. Ultimately we must subject ourselves (thoughts, convictions, and opinions) to the word of God even if it puts us at odds with someone we like. It's easier to dismiss those who raise concerns rather than humble ourselves and receive correction. I know I've been guilty. Good words. Thanks.

SJ Camp said...

Well said my brother... Thank you.

jen elslager said...

Very much in agreement with you, Mr Camp.

davidinflorida said...

sj camp,

As usual, the words of Spurgeon are priceless and timeless.

However, the best words of this post are yours in the preface.


cyd said...

Wow. I agree wholeheartedly.
Your words here are tremendous.

"Quit yourselves like men, be strong." Indeed! Thanks for doing just exactly that, Steve.

Tony Myles said...

Thanks for your transparency on this one, Steve. I involuntarily whistle this unharmonious tune throughout the week, only to find muself wishing to sing a notable ballad through my life.

Most of the time, though, I end up singing songs from High School Musical.

Robert said...

I do agree with you...we hold to the gospel!

However, while you're denouncing the "putting down" of one Christian to another...aren't you taking a little pot-shot at the Pyros blog at the same time here? If you aren't then I'm just thick headed and disregard what I just said.

ann_in_grace said...

Wise and good post, Steve. As always.

SJ Camp said...

Jen, David, Cyd, Tony, Ann
Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words here. I am always honored to have your interaction here.

Thank you for your comment here brother. Good to have you aboard this important discussion.

Let me try and clarify for you: I am not taking a “pot-shot” at the Pyros blog - I don’t believe in that approach. But I am expressing concern over a trend on how others are mistreated in the meta. But that concern is not directed to them alone; for it is a problem we all must give attention to and heed--it's not just for a few mavericks at Pyro.

I respect Phil and his ministry greatly. I have even sometimes benefited from some of the articles written by Phil’s blogmates there as well. Even when his blogmates try and single me out and "take me on" - I don't take them seriously and at the end of the day I can still smile and genuinely hold no ought against them. (Being in ministry for almost 30 years you learn to have thick skin in these kinds of things.)

But, to be constantly abrasive and belittling to those who are asking legitimate questions or expressing disagreement with some of their assertions and views is uncalled for.

I, and several other bloggers have noticed this trend for sometime now and truthfully preferred Phil's blog when it was just him posting. It was biblical, theological, thoughtful, and absent of the air of acerbic tone and arrogant castigation of others.

That saddens many of us who so love, appreciate and respect Phil and his ministry. Even one of his blogmates said yesterday in the meta: "a large part of our credibility comes from Phil and the mutual friends we share." Very true. If they did not have Phil's platform or name associated with them, they would be relatively small, insignificant bloggers left to their own influence through their own blogs. But even their respective numerical growth at their respective blogs can be largely attributed to their association with Phil. They have, in the opinion of many, abused that association.

I think you would agree brother that no blogger, including myself, is above constructive criticism and a biblical model in how we interact with other people in the combox. We should remain teachable, patient, and welcoming of anyone and their questions if they are abiding by the rules that any blog may establish.

And at the same time as we proclaim God’s Word and His gospel, may we do it with great charity, patience, grace, and humility. And when there is disagreement, steadfastly instruct from the Word of God.

Do any of us do they perfectly? Have any of us arrived at that standard? I certainly haven't. Some days by God's grace I may do that well, and many days I fail miserably at that goal. But when it becomes the accepted habit in any of our lives rather than the rarity, then it crosses the line and should not be tolerated.

Listen, we all can have a bad day can’t we? In the best of marriages or closest of friendships tempers can flare, unfortunate things can be said, attitudes can go awry; we can become defensive and hurtful to others and afterwards regret deeply for how we have acted. That is me; that is you; that is Pyro; that is a given. But brothers and sisters in Christ should not be treating one another continually in that fashion without regret and without charity.

Though I deeply respect Phil and his ministry in what he writes and teaches (he is one of my favorite Bible teachers anywhere) – and to be clear, my criticism here is not directed toward him — his blogmates I will not currently support until real change occurs.

BUT again, IMHO, Phil’s blog and the part of the body of Christ it reaches would be much better served if he were to return to just posting himself. Even if it was just one or two posts a week due to his schedule, that would be a welcome change to many of us bloggers and the lay-contributors in the blogosphere.

May we pray for each other that we take seriously the ministry that can take place in and through blogs. That we stay teachable and by God's sanctifying grace represent Christ and His Word without compromise, confront error head on, but doing it with humility, charity and boldness.

“In the essentials unity; in the nonessentials liberty; and in all things charity.” Amen?

Grace and peace to you brother and thank you again for your comment here...

Col. 1:9-14

jen elslager said...

Very well said. Though I wasn't around in the early days when Mr Johnson posted alone, I've seen the trend in the meta, and it's simply become an uncomfortable place to go.

It just seems clear to me that even if you absolutely know you're right about something, there's a better way to get your point across.

And this is coming from someone who can be as argumentative as the next guy.

SJ Camp said...


"...uncomfortable place to go" is an apt description. May the Lord give us all the grace to honor Him even in the combox! Amen?

Thanks again--good to have you here.
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Carla Rolfe said...

Not only has this been a topic of discussion for me lately with a friend offline (in a more general way of course) it's also been in a related way, a topic of discussion in my own house as it pertains to Christian responsibility & internet use.

Having been online and active in Christian discussion forums (email and public), chat rooms & blogs for the past 14 years, I can say that this is unfortunately not an uncommon thing among online Christian communities in the various formats. Part of that is due to the wide variety of personalities and sense of humor, maturity in Christ (and otherwise), religious backgrounds, traditions, etc. One brother once said to me something that put it in an interesting light that I hadn't previously considered: "groups of Christians are just groups of sinners, never forget that". Of course he didn't mean we're to excuse away any kind of sinful conduct but he did mean to imply that we're all still lugging around the flesh and prone to letting it rip, at times.

When I moderated at other people's forums and chats over the years, it became commonplace to have rules and guidelines in place to help keep the peace and also commonplace to modify and fine tune those rules as time went on. Bear in mind that this was keeping the peace WITH fellow professing believers - since we generally didn't have that many unbelievers among our communities. Once I opted to open my own forum and chat room, I took with me years of experience in dealing with this kind of interaction online. For several years as I ran my own forum and chat (with the great help of others who supported the idea of a highly moderated, protected and safe place to ask questions and carry on conversations about the things that Christians really have questions about), I found it to be harder and harder all the time, to maintain an online atmosphere where sarcasm, condescension, belittling and personal insults weren't flying like new year's eve confetti. It was possible to have a forum without that stuff, but only after banning so many people the ban lists were larger than the active member/user lists, at times. After several years of that, I just got tired of playing the referree, and closed it all down. I'm a mom of 7 kids, I play referree offline all day, I don't need to go online do the same things as a moderator.

I said all that to simply say, it's quite common and most unfortunate at times, to find Christian conduct less than stellar, in some of the places online where Christians gather. We all have "issues" that we need to deal with, and we should all be careful how we say what we say and seriously consider if what we say was motivated by love, or by pure snark. That applies to me, as well as anyone else. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't pretty good at snark, but that's not what I want to be remembered for.


SJ Camp said...


Especially: "I found it to be harder and harder all the time, to maintain an online atmosphere where sarcasm, condescension, belittling and personal insults weren't flying like new year's eve confetti. It was possible to have a forum without that stuff, but only after banning so many people the ban lists were larger than the active member/user lists, at times. After several years of that, I just got tired of playing the referree, and closed it all down."

And this becomes more impactful when it's the blog-hosts that are promoting this kind of thing rather than setting a more godly example. One blog-host today threatened to delete any comments that challenged them on how they do what they do in tone and tactic--he even threatened banning some if they even brought it up again. That is very sad when we don't remain teachable to the criticisms of others.

I have crossed the line in the meta here before and I was wrong. And though I didn't appreciate how some challenged me, I can say now that I fully agree with them and my attitudes did need correcting. I thank the Lord for them now for He used it greatly in my own sanctification.

Grace and peace to you...
Col. 1:9-14

gigantor1231 said...


So what does this all mean? Is it a new gentler you or are you just choosing your words in a more thoughtful manner? I did not see you as having a problem, I thought you were pretty well balanced. Please don't feed us pablum and make us sing kumbyah.
You are a honest man Steve, you work with the word wich is compared to a sword, don't put your sword away, just use it more skillfully and remember that no matter how skillful you are you sometimes will draw blood, the great physician will be there to patch the wounds.

SJ Camp said...

As always, thank you for your comments here.

Let me clarify: I am not putting up my sword to be more congenial. That was not the thrust of this post. What I was trying to convey was the double-edged sword of theological reformed blogging:

1. Speak the truth: and do it boldly, passionately, correctly, doctrinally, exegetically, thoroughly, rightly, biblically, theologically, historically, culturally, contextually, circumspectly, etc.

2. Do so in love: with right motives, tone, application, respect, care, purpose, patience, longsuffering, humility, free from snarkasm and vitriol.

There is an unapologetic pervasive trend in the blogosphere today where certain Christian bloggers offering commentary on a myriad of subjects think themselves a law unto themselves. They will delete comments, ban commenters, shut down threads, etc. and for what "biblical" reason? They don't want to be confronted as to how they do what they do. And when they are - watch out - they WILL come after you.

One such blogger issued another threat just yesterday again to ban anymore comments that seek to tell "them" how they should be blogging better. That is arrogant and preposterous.

Most respectable blogs have rules of engagement to post by. It is necessary to foster and promote profitable discussion and dialogue. If someone continually violates those rules they should be warned, banned or at least restricted from posting again until they are willing to honor those rules and comply accordingly. That is neither unreasonable nor burdensome to require.

BUT, when the rules have not been violated, and the blog host or hosts are frustrated because some well-meaning soul keeps coming back with the same concern unanswered; and instead of their concern being addressed biblically they are vilified, threatened, chastised, made fun of, have their comments deleted, or they are threatened with being banned or banned... then that air of unteachability is uncalled for and should be confronted. But they don't want to be confronted on their blog; they prefer you do it on your or elsewhere which violates the principle of Scripture that when you have ought against another--go to him directly. Some now reject that biblical model for dealing with conflict or dispute. Tragic.

THAT is the purpose here of this post. What's good for the goose should be good for the gander... but its sadly not the case.

I run an open thread system here. I don't shut down threads because the discussion is too heated, too critical, too controversial, etc. They have a life of their own and will most of the time naturally cease when people have had their say and are on to another topic of interest. I have had to ask a handful of people to not post again until they comply with the rules or ban a few for repeatedly not honoring that request. But for the most part, I let people have at it here--which IMHO should be the norm.

The sword is not being put away in its sheath. The meta or combox here will continue to hum along. BUT, I hope as much as I am aware, to really dial down any purposed snarkiness that I or any of you have unnecessarily used in the past. That's all.

I am all for sarcasm, humor, satire, debate, disagreement, cordial and heated... We need honest expression here and truthful discussion. And yes, when I am wrong on an attitude or have crossed the line myself into snarkasm I am asking all of you to point that out to me, I will do my best to repent and carry on on these important issues biblically.

SO, hold me accountable beloved--for I will do the same to you. But that is not a heavy handed thing. It is a joy to be here with you each week and an honor to serve the Lord through this media of blogging. I know I say strong things in the posts; I know I take many unpopular stands, I don't play favorites, I don't play politics, I've been in ministry for close to 30 years and have seen it all. I have thick skin and a soft heart (contrary to what some might think). This stewardship here means the world to me and I take it seriously. Rightly dividing God's Word is a huge task and responsibility - even if one is not a pastor of a church and more itinerant in ministry.

But blogs that continually give a knee jerk reaction to others by putting them down and when those same people come back to them with a modicum of similar retort and then are either deleted, threatened with being banned or banned altogether--then I will speak up. Regardless of who they are...

Hope this helps a bit more...

2 Cor. 4:5-7

gigantor1231 said...


thanks for the clarification, I enjoy the conversation here and I feel that the moderation as well as the discussion has been well balanced and presented in a spirit of Love. Keep up the good work!

SJ Camp said...

Thank you my brother...

We all need to speak up now and again... and no one should feel fearful of doing so. Each one of your voices is important--let them be heard around the Christian blogosphere.

Risk being banned at another blog to see the right thing be said and done.

Grace and peace,

gigantor1231 said...


If banned I will summarily shake the cyber dust off of my cyber feet as a testimony against them! Otherwise I preach the truth boldly with love.

Jim from said...


This is in response to your comments above, and not so much your post. One of the impressions that I'm getting (please correct me if I'm wrong) is that you believe that blog owners owe it to people to give them a public way to express their disagreement, otherwise it "violates the principle of Scripture that when you have ought against another". If that's what you meant, that would make people like our friend James White the biggest offenders since they allow no comments at all. I know that neither of us thinks that's the case, but I can see where someone might take what you said and run with it in that direction.

You and I are both former Slice writers; I'm not sure if you were as active in the comment moderation there as I was, but in my year of helping Ingrid I'll bet I saw pretty much every trick in the book with comments, larger blogs (not just Ingrid's or Ken's) are magnets for this abuse; it's not the same as smaller blogs. And it's shocking how willing people (even some pastors!) are to deceive (ie: post a comment as "Harry", then post an amen-comment by "Sally", detectable by their IP address. Then you ban them and they come back as "Fred"). Then there were the commenters that knew how to insult your mother in a sly way without violating the rules of engagement.

A couple of examples of comment abuse that might require a more firm approach by the blog owner that might appear unfair to the outside spectator:

Group comment domination: The commenter emails all of his friends and tells them to fill up the first 20+ comment slots with a view that opposes the blog owner, or even challenges a core tenant of Christianity. Let nobody else get in a word edgewise. Leave no provable trace that it's coordinated group effort.

I call this next one a "correction ministry": Somebody who takes it upon themselves to post "counter comments", and that's all they do on your blog. They somehow think it's their ministry to hang out on your blog and provide an opposing voice. I've had a guy on my blog that pops in whenever the topic of election is brought up, and pastes in the same comment all of the time on how it's somehow inconsistent with evangelism. Slice has similar problems with some ECM folks who seem to have endless time on their hands.

Those are just two examples that high-traffic blogs can run into, and the folks who abuse these blogs usually know how to avoid breaking the rules. They are polite, and as I see so often on TeamPyro, such commenters have a dagger coming around your back as they hug you. In other words, they will post a paragraph of kindness, just to get in one sentence with a thinly veiled message of personal insult. I had another guy on my blog who, for months, left what appeared to be "legitimate questions" but then at the end of most comments he found a way to sneak in a jab to the effect of "people from your theological spectrum are prideful".

Steve, what are your thoughts on how to handle situations like that in which we are dealing with not simply someone with an innocent opposing point of view, but instead - the folks with "stealth agendas"? How should we handle them in a way that is Christian, and yet sends a message: "I know what you are up to here, and it's not going to fly". Also, do you think you are in danger of going too far in saying how others should operate their blogs and manage their comments, according to a set of norms that you believe to be fair? Take for example a person who has a blog that exposes Mormonism, and they want Christians to participate in the discussion, but NOT Mormons. I wouldn't do that, but I'm not going to say that somebody else shouldn't. But that conflicts with your acceptable blogging guidelines, correct?

Trying to understand.
Thanks Steve!

Jim from said...


It's been a couple of weeks since I posted my question for you above. I'm not sure if you are going to respond or not, but I thought I would provide an example of one of the things that I was talking about above. Here is an attempt at "Comment Domination", in which a megachurch (in this example) encourages it's blog readers to "go comment on a thread". Both on Slice and my own blog, I've seen this particular church do this to the point at which the comment section becomes almost entirely taken-over by people from that megachurch.

Still hoping to engage in discussion with you on some of these things Steve. These are the areas in which there are no "rules broken"; it's just bad netiquette that somehow needs to be confronted by the blog owner. I'm wondering how you think that should be handled.

Jim from said...

Sorry, the link got chopped off. Here it is in shorter form: