A short while ago we received some correspondence from an anonymous emailer. It will be fitting to feature the exchange that occurred with this person, especially because so many people today, even the majority of churchgoers, think that it is sinful to pass judgment.
First comment by anonymous correspondent (with caps locked):
WHAT ARE YOUR CREDENTIALS? HAVE YOU ACTUALLY TAKEN TIME TO TALK TO THE MAN FACE TO FACE?
My first reply to anonymous correspondent:
What are my credentials? you ask. I am self-educated, but have put myself under the tutelage of the great masters in divinity, like C. H. Spurgeon, Ralph Venning, and Thomas Manton. With such help as that, I am in far better hands than would be the case should I choose instead to go to seminary. Google these men, then take the time to read some of their material; if you are an honest seeker, you will soon praise me for choosing well. I do not criticize on my own strength; that would be proud, foolish, and tragic. The command in Scripture to ‘prove [test] all things’ must be obeyed through the best divinity that is available. This have I done, and will continue to do.
Have you taken the time to talk to the man face to face? you ask. Each analysis currently on this blog (January 2011) has been, before its appearance here, sent to the pastor responsible for preaching what we have subjected to the Bible for scrutiny. Neither Mr. Cochrane nor Mr. Vallee has taken the trouble to respond. This is proof enough that a face-to-face meeting would do no good; very likely, a suggested meeting would not even be consented to. Furthermore, this blog is not about reforming errant pastors; we have tried that. It’s about granting inquirers (teachable people) access to the results of our very cautious and very biblical attempt to lay out what exactly is being preached in our city and how this preaching conforms or not with the word of God that these pastors claim to be expounding.
Many church-goers are fed up with hearing idle stories, jokes, and unholy banter from the mouths of the pastors who are supposed to be preaching to them the oracles of God. They would like to hear actual sermons, but are not so sure about what biblical preaching should be. We aim to inform these discouraged souls in order that they should learn what pastors are obliged to preach and with what spirit. If change will not come from the pulpit, yet there is hope that it might be demanded from the pew. Salvation, morality, and glory to God are the motives that compel us to reach out with this little, weak, modest blog. If we take great care to be orthodox before we go about criticizing those who should be even more orthodox than us, then we are on a solid footing. We can see nothing at all in the Bible to forbid us from measuring pastors by the Bible they profess to believe, love, and honor; indeed, there is much in the Book to put us urgently to the task. Souls are on their way to either hell or heaven; they are departing to one place or the other every single day; therefore the need for biblical preaching; and therefore the need for someone to look into whether this is being done or not and to exhort befittingly.
Second comment by anonymous correspondent:
I thank you for your response. I find Pastor Vallee in general to be quite the opposite of your critique. However as you say, you are fully entitled to your opinions as is everyone. While I am not as studied as you nor a wordsmith, I now can see why these honorable men have chosen not to respond. These men may not be perfect but God will judge, not us. Thanks again.
My second reply to anonymous correspondent:
You say that you have found pastor Vallee to be the opposite of our critique of him. Let’s be specific about what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about your general perception of the man. He’s a very nice man. We don’t dispute that one bit. We’re talking about the sermon.
Now if you mean that you have found his preaching to be unlike what the critique says, then look again at what you maintain, for the proof that we have submitted shows that we have not misinterpreted the sermon. Did you read the critique in full? Did you open your Bible up to see if our comments were justified? These critiques are not done to stir up trouble, but to show what the man’s preaching is like and ought to be.
You’ll let God judge, you say. This kind of judgment that we do in these analyses is nothing else than what God commands every Christian to do. Even if the pastor were perfect, we would still be obliged to judge in this manner. There is a judgment that we must perform. Indeed, there is more than one kind that we are called to exercise. But here is the one in question: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4.1.) This is the kind of judging we’re talking about. You won’t judge, you say. But the apostle, moved by God, commands you to.
You say you’ll not judge; you’ll just let God do that. First, God commands you, through the apostle, to judge. Second, you have judged already. Your judgment was to judge positively, but without any ground or argument for doing so. Our judgment was to judge negatively (though not entirely, for we commend when deserved), and we have given much reason for leaning in that direction.
Your opinion seems to be that our critique is the opposite of what it should be. Okay then. Let’s deduce where this puts you on just one point. You think that Mr. Vallee’s preaching is generally okay. This sermon of his, The Difference Jesus Makes, seems like a fair representation of his preaching generally. Do you think, like Mr. Vallee does, that Jesus ‘hung out’ with sinners? We think otherwise. We think that ‘hanging out’ with sinners connotes an ungodly, even participatory association with sinners. A pastor who uses that kind of language is pretty loose with how he portrays the Lord he supposes to be saved by. Do you really think this is sanctified talk?—: to state that Jesus hung out with sinners? Is it sinful to ‘judge’ a pastor for talking like that about the Saviour of the world? Maybe you’ll not stand up to oppose an undignified portrayal of Jesus Christ the Righteous, but some of us will.
Why do you suppose a pastor uses this kind of talk? We think we know, even though you might be offended that our guess comes close to ‘judging.’ He cares more for presenting an inoffensive Jesus than for showing Jesus to be what he really is: the Lord of Glory. He cares more for convincing us that Jesus is ‘non-judgmental’ than for elevating him to the dignified status of a Judge, which is what he is, in truth. He cares more for persons than for Jesus’ Person and Work—this is what it comes down to. This pastor is despicably ashamed of who Jesus is, and so instead of preaching a Jesus who loathed sin and died for it, he preaches that Jesus thought so lightly of sin that he just ‘hung out’ with sinners as if sin didn’t matter! Maybe you think that’s alright. But there are some of us who object to a description of Jesus that resembles something like a man who slaps a filthy joker on the back and winks at another fellow’s dirty story. You might not want to ‘judge’ a pastor who depicts the Lord of Salvation like that. This is why the blog exists: to do that which you will not do. What do you lack? Is it love, understanding, faith, or fortitude? You do understand, don’t you, that Jesus did not ‘hang out’ with sinners? You do have the fortitude, do you not, to stand up for the holiness of Jesus? Your faith is not in a Jesus who ‘hung out’ with sinners, is it? You don’t love the pastor more than you love Jesus, do you?
You should be careful before you give your support to something that puts you on the level of accepting that Jesus was buddy-buddy with sinners and ‘hung out’ with them as one might with the lazy loiterers that you find hanging around a convenience store. This is the image that is naturally conveyed by the term ‘hanging out.’ Some of us respect Jesus enough to object to that kind of imagery, while others don’t mind it. We should all mind very much! You should get hold of this sermon we have analyzed. Ask us, and we’ll send it over. Then listen to it. Then read the analysis to the end. You will probably come away from that experience a little more ‘judgmental’ than you now are.
You must get wise to the fact that not all forms of judgment are evil. We judge what is right and wrong every day. This is all we do by our analyses. We judge in the choices that we make, the books that we read, the movies we go to, the sitters we choose for our kids. Judgment is okay. It must be done. Are we to judge in matters earthly, but not spiritual? Are we to judge the lesser things, but not the higher? Now we are not to condemn anyone without reason. And we are not to judge hypocritically. But we are to judge what a man preaches. If we do not, we are not being faithful to what God commands us to do.
Post-debate note by M. H. Gaboury, the blogger:
This idea that we are not to judge comes from the widely circulated misapprehension of Jesus’ warning to his disciples: “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7.1.) The immediate context shows that the judging forbidden by the Lord is the hypocritical kind. To criticize the sin of another while we are just as guilty of the same is what we are told not to do. To judge hypocritically would be like beholding the particle of dust in someone’s eye while our eye has the beam of sin in it (7.3-5) “Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery?” (Romans 2.22.) This is the idea. To say the least, Mr. Vallee preaches a watered-down gospel. He preaches a timid form of therapy and motivation instead of sin and grace. And Jesus Christ is portrayed in an undignified manner by him. If I did the same, I would be guilty of judging in the sense reprehended by Jesus. But I am not guilty of this hypocrisy; therefore is my judgment just. The form of judgment done by me in these analyses is according to that verse by the apostle John already mentioned in the foregoing correspondence. We must test the spirits of these pastors, for we are commanded to keep ourselves free from the errors that they might be teaching.