14 January 2012

Jesus and Religion; Discernment and Nitpicking

Lots of discussion on this video. Our brothers Kevin DeYoung and Jared Wilson, for example, are typically thoughtful in their appreciation mingled with a bit of brotherly pushback.

This world, the church, and my own soul would be worse off without Kevin DeYoung and Jared Wilson.

I confess I find the pushback a bit strange, though, especially Kevin's. I agree with most of the actual points of disagreement, I suppose. But is a lengthy, line-by-line analysis of this video the path of wisdom? Is that a step forward for all of us? I'm not so much asking is Kevin's post right, but is it wise--a related but distinct question.

Is there a point at which discernment becomes nitpicking?

What if I applied to Kevin's sermons the strictures he does to this video? Kevin's comments on "religion," for example--is it really that hard to understand tacitly what the video means by religion? Isn't it clear that the guy in the video isn't using the word as some texts in the Bible do? Wouldn't he agree that Jesus was an observant Jew, and so on? This critique largely misses the point, I think.

Happy to receive correction here!

Above all I am so glad to be on the same team with all three of these great guys--Kevin, Jared, and Jefferson.


Michael Lambelet said...

I think, in general, there is a line between discernment and nitpicking. I think we should always lean towards grace. But because this video has gone so viral on Facebook, I think DeYoung and Wilson's posts have been profitable. I have interacted with non-Christians who have been upset with this video saying Christianity is not a religion. They are right to be upset because, in normal English, it is a religion. Evangelicals have just redefined the word in their own idiosyncratic way. I have pointed some of my non-Christian friends to DeYoung's article and they have found it very helpful and honest. As evangelicals, we need to proclaim the gospel with integrity and clarity. It is unhelpful to our proclamation when we redefine words that, in turn, confuse the world. It is the opposite of contextualization. 'Jesus hates religion' is a provocative statement. But, in our attempt to be provocative, that statement can become a stumbling block to those who don't speak Christianese.

Garrett said...


I felt the same as you, especially after I saw in the video description that Jefferson specifically wrote the poem to "highlight the difference between Jesus and FALSE religion."


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dane, for looking for ways to find common ground and points of agreement. In my opinion, that wisdom goes deeper than any criticism or approval of this video.

ZACK ESWINE Ph.D. said...

Thanks Dane. Well spoken. C.S. Lewis in his "language of religion," reminds us of differing kinds of language. We are used to the idea of context and authorial intent. But most of us are less accustomed to applying these ideas to a poetic rather than a systematic gospel statement. The poetic video is incomplete and imperfect and so perhaps is our systematic critique of it. The video gives the poet and the critic an opportunity to be humbled, to learn and grow. In that regard, it sounds like the poet did what a poet aims to do; use familiar language in an unfamiliar way so that we think again and deepen.

Jed S. said...

Considering how many people have viewed the video, I thought Kevin's response was appropriate. The tone of it was great: lots of love to Jeff (the author of the video) and yet some gentle criticism. In fact, I thought it was a perfect model of that sort of thing.

Interestingly, Jeff and Kevin began a correspondence because of the blog post and at least Jeff himself thought it was profitable.
See: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2012/01/14/following-up-on-the-jesusreligion-video/

Dane Ortlund said...

Great point, Zack, about the fact this the video was a poem and should be read as such. Thanks.

chrisblackstone said...

One thing to note is that because the video was viewed a lot on Facebook and other mediums where it was embedded, the description of the video including the reference to "false religion" wasn't available. Had that been there, there might not have been as much "angst"

Brad said...

Thanks for this Dane! I agree with your assessment!

Alex said...

I'm not so sure Kevin was justified in applying such strict critique to a poem. Poetry is a bit looser in meaning and definition than normal language, and it was obvious was Jeff was trying say. I thought the video was pretty good.

I'd bet when the majority watched the video they knew exactly what it was talking, false religion that props up man rather than God.

George Robinson said...

You said exactly what I was thinking. As a prof I'm prone to critical thinking. And as a Christ-follower I desperately need God's grace to sometimes get me past my overly-critical thinking. Words are important. The heart behind the words even more so. Thanks Dane!

michael said...

Thanks for this post, I felt the same way - agreed with the content of the critiques but wasn't sure if they were really necessary. I think the video itself makes it clear how the word "religion" is being used and surely we don't expect a poem to define every term in detail in the way an academic paper might.
I also found it strange that Tim Keller has been using the word religion in the same way for years but people didn't seem to be lining up to pick faults with him.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments. I liked Jefferson's video, but I also appreciated Kevin's critique of the poem. I don't think his concerns with it are unwarranted. Young people in my community (30 and younger) are very much into "I want spirituality, not a religion" by which they mean, "I want to do what I want and believe what I want and I don't want anyone to tell me differently". I believe the video can be a helpful corrective if they will actual consider Jefferson's words. But I think many will hear a confirmation of their own errant thinking in his poem. So I think Kevin was wise and appropriate to point out some of those things in his post.

Corner Creature said...

DeYoung's comments serve as a good example of loving, constructive criticism.

Wilson's replies serve as a good example of accepting constructive criticism.

When one (such as Wilson) "publishes" a message about the gospel, it is definitely appropriate to scrutinize its orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...

Exactly what I was thinking,