05 August 2010

Eager to Criticize

This week someone asked my opinion about a Christian leader, and the response that leapt to the forefront of my mind was a deficiency I perceive in this guy. This is a godly, admirable man. The first thing, the crouching instinct, was criticism.


I made sure to say some nice things first in order to prevent being perceived as negative or proud. But the hors d'oeuvres of building up were my subtle way of setting up the main course of tearing down.

What is going on in the heart when we lick our lips at the prospect of diagnosing weakness in another?

I'll tell you: I don't believe the gospel. I really don't. I say I do. But I don't.

If I did (really did), the reflex level of my heart would be grace, not law. The reflex level. Instincts. I wouldn't find it emotionally intoxicating to background my own inadequacies by foregrounding someone else's.

For all the talk on this blog about the gospel, and the gospel as a daily resource, in the past few years I have moved from gospel infancy to gospel toddling, not from gospel infancy to gospel maturity. Two years ago I took a baby step (Dr. Marvin) into the ocean of grace that moved the water level from the soles of my feet up to: my ankles. Most of me is still pretty dry.

What would my heart and life look like if I totally submerged myself?

Let's go there.


Eric said...

Dane - A few months ago I did EXACTLY the same thing when asked my opinion about another OT scholar. I would genuine go about interpreting the OT in different ways from that person - but my goodness, they're under grace like I am, doing the best they can. I went back later and apologized to the person I spoke to. Thank you, dear brother, for persistently and prophetically sounding this note in your blog. Thank you.

Dane Ortlund said...

Thanks for the good comment Eric.

Unknown said...

I really want to criticize this post...

Thanks for this convicting and gospel-driven word.

Dane Ortlund said...

Hi Paul, thanks for the thoughtful comment.

Yes, there is a time not to start out positive: when the gospel itself is at stake. That was the issue in Gal. In every other of his letters, Paul starts out with commendation--even to the Corinthians! Yet the Corinthians were the most perverted, screwed up bunch of weirdos around. On the outside, the Galatian church would have looked much more healthy. But the Cor's, though failing to incorporate the ramifications of the gospel, were not distorting the gospel itself, as in Gal.

Unless the gospel itself is at stake, the path of wisdom is to look hard, as hard as is necessary, to find something positive to say before and after raising a criticism, if a criticism is indeed needed (what struck me and prompted my post is that I didn't even need to criticize--there was no value or edification in it).

Dane Ortlund said...

Paul - it appears I deleted your comment? Apologies brother!

Paul D. Adams said...

Hey Dane:
No worries. I thought you may have a policy of not permitting links to other blogs/source, so...

Here's what I said [albeit ipsissima vox]:
"Thanks for this admonition. I certainly need to hear this. But I wonder, must we always begin with something positive. Is there ever a time to be just negative? I am thinking of Galatians vis-a-vis Paul's opening to Philippians. I annotated a recent worship experience from a first visit to a church in an Open Letter to Pastors and Their Churches and the intended audience slammed me on several fronts [via private email exchange]. Of course, my entry did directly apply to our worship experience, but it indirectly applies to all churches that seem to "overstate" the production of worship at the expense of the necessities in worship.

Aaron said...

Dane - good word brother.

You sound/write like your dad - and I mean that as a high compliment.