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Dane Ortlund:

The apostle [Paul] was a boy scout with his language compared to Ezekiel.

The culture in which we live certainly devalues objective truth. I cringe at the thought of truth-whittling Kumbaya-singing hand-holding Rodney King-echoing creed-demoting confession-neglecting lowest-common-denominator fluff. That’s about as attractive to me as Dennis Rodman in high heels and lipstick.

But if our deepening knowledge of God and grace in all its doctrinal contours creates in us, imperceptibly perhaps, impatience or frustration with other believers, it is not knowledge of God and of grace that fuels our frustration and snide tone but concern for being personally right. It is sin.

Paul said that if we have all knowledge and all faith but lack love, we are nothing. What if we made every blog comment mindful of that?

You can read the whole thing here.

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14 thoughts on “Defending Whose Honor?”

  1. Jeff Wright says:

    This is getting a bit played out.

  2. Christopher says:

    Dear Sirs,
    Can I say just a couple of things (out of a sense of frustration- see below, and after I thought about pushing the send button)? First, Mr. Ortlund assumes that it is possible to make a distinction between a concern for truth and a concern for being right. I don’t know of any human who is not concerned with being right, with having the correct perspective on reality, on things. It is as natural as breathing to want to have the right answer. It would seem a strange, morbid sort of self-denial if we all walked about saying “I would be happy being wrong; I think my own thoughts are wrong”. Even so, men may think this way, but when you turn the thought over, the impossibility becomes apparent. For even the man who thinks he is right about having wrong thoughts still thinks he is right about that. Mr. Ortlund would have us assume a kind of pietistic nihilism. This is the corner he wants to paint his father’s detractors into. It is an impossible place to be. We would all sit wringing our hands in his guilt-closet if we listen to his diagnosis.

    Second, how is that Mr. Ortlund and others like him can discern the intent of others? When his father is challenged or corrected, rather than engage, he resorts to attacks of motive. Does Mr. Ortlund possess a special kind of x-ray machine that can peer into the hearts of men; men who are as concerned about the truth as he or his father might be? Is smart now snide, is tenacious now self-vindication?
    The real question is: is it right, is it true? Is that theologically correct, or is it wrong? When we get back to this then, like men, we can start the conversation again. Perhaps the real issue is that some men do not like to be corrected, do not like to be told “what you said was wrong!”, and then repent of it. Very simple, and it avoids all the messiness of trying to look into another man’s heart.

    As an aside: Jesus got frustrated. Jesus was snide, and sarcastic at times. This is not a justification to live in it, to always embrace it. But it is a contradiction of the notion that it is always sinful to be so.

    1. You are much more likely to be heard and trusted if love is evident in your tone: if it is clearly the motivation for your pursuit of truth.

      It’s possible to pursue truth out of a “knowledge is power” mentality. That means, you can equally pursue truth out of a desire to have power over people, rather than power to love them. God delights in confounding us when we seek truth for our own sakes rather than out of love for him and for others. “Hills peep o’er hills and alps on alps arise”…and hopefully as we discover our own limits, we learn the value of love over knowledge.

      People who have love are the kind of people you’d be happy inviting to a dinner party.

      From Blackadder, series 2:

      1. Christopher says:

        Not sure what this has to do with my post, as I was not screaming at my screen, nor was my face stuck in a smirk. Somehow, you have been able to hear my “tone” through the internet, which is an amazing gift that even Scripture does not list. Wow.

        “God delights in confounding us when we seek truth for our own sakes”? If that is true, for whose sake shall I seek it? Jesus tells me to seek it for myself, so He just might be wrong according to you. He is the the Truth, so should I stop seeking Him? That is a profound thought there Beat.

        My mentality is beyond my ability to measure, and in and of myself I have little power.

        Well, I have to go be by myself for dinner now.

  3. Richard says:

    At some point, this amounts to a PC pietism which is more concerned with how we respond when truth is violated than with speaking the truth itself. Thus, we emasculate those who speak truth fearlessly–such as Luther. Is this what we have become in the Christian world?

    1. Christopher says:

      If Mr. Ortlund ever comes around to seeing that he is wrong, then he will be right in thinking that he is wrong. I hope he does not go on to question whether his thinking he is wrong is in fact wrong, and he can no longer think.

      I like what GK Chesterton said about this line of thinking: “With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it”.

      He is “inviting us” to go along with him, but my party has another engagement.

      1. Richard says:


        Good old Chesterton! He would have had a field day in today’s PC environment. It’s a shame that evangelicals buy into this though in the name of Christian love. We wind up silencing ourselves.

        1. Scott says:

          You two do realize that you’re perfectly illustrating Ortlund’s point?

          Being correct is no justification for sarcasm. Neither is another man’s error an excuse for indifference. This isn’t about being “PC.” It’s about the careful nuance of delivering the truth and correcting error in a loving manner. And I dare say it’s all about humility.

          1. Richard says:


            Sarcasm was used by many inspired characters in Scripture and by many of our fathers in the faith (such as Luther) to prove a point of truth. When we get to a point that we are more concerned with the way in which we deliver truth instead of speaking truth itself, we as Christians will have reached a pretty sorry state. This is my concern–that we are more concerned with navel-gazing (what is the state of my deceitful heart?), and that this impedes us from speaking truthfully.

  4. Steve says:

    Amen and amen, Great Dane! I feel convicted about my self-righteousness. Cutting others in two with the word of God in the name of “truth” (even though we might be defending truth) is not Christ-like. Yes, truth is important and Jesus was frustrated at times, but “…If I deliver my body to be burned [by speaking the truth or contending for correct doctrine et al], BUT DO NOT HAVE LOVE, it profits me nothing.” (1 Corin 13:3)

  5. Tom says:

    Tone and conduct do matter (2 Tim. 2:23-26):

    “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

    1. Christopher says:

      So, in light of Paul here, are you willing to concede that I am being impatient at enduring evil?

      1. Christopher says:

        Also, are you suggesting that Mr. Ortlund has been taken captive by Satan to do his will?

        1. Tom says:

          No, I was just noting that the original post has Scriptural support. And if it says be humble and patient toward those who are taken captive by Satan, I would think it would certainly apply to Spirit-filled Christians who, e.g., disagree over the 5 points of Calvinism.

          It would seem from Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles that harsh, sarcastic language is appropriate toward those who teach false gospels, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue in this discussion.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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