Saturday, June 2, 2007
Since Thursday morning, I have been angry. My anger grew steadily from then through this morning. With each blog post of the past twenty-four hours, I injected more and more anger into my writing. "...the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God." (James 1:20) Although the question of whether the Holy Spirit inspires non-language utterances is a matter of some contention among us, we all ought to be able to agree that the Holy Spirit convicts us quite eloquently when His children are of the wrong heart. I have to give a little narrative to get around to apologizing to everyone. I have to keep the narrative very vague and uncompelling in order not to make matters any worse. Late Wednesday evening, I first learned of an inappropriate (I came to conclude later) circumstance relating to the upcoming PPL report. Indeed, this is how I came to know that a PPL report was even coming out on Friday. Thursday morning I lit up phone lines across the nation trying to get into a position of equity. At points along the way on Thursday morning, I discovered the inappropriateness of the circumstance. Thus a very strange conversation with Dr. Brad Waggoner on Thursday morning—I had called earlier that morning to try to achieve some equity in the situation and had not gotten through. By the time he called me back, I was starting to learn unsettling things about the situation. At that point, I didn't know whether to beg him, accuse him, tattle to him, or what. I simply spoke with him briefly about my admiration for Lifeway Research—which, at that point, was still how I felt. Nevertheless, that obviously was not why I had called him. I misled him. For that, I apologize publicly. I mention this because someone in a comment had made reference to that phone call, and an explanation is in order to whoever that was. As the day progressed on Thursday, I learned positively that the circumstance had indeed taken place, and in a manner that bothered me even more than what I first thought had happened. I grew very, very angry—all the more so because I felt so foolish about my earlier telephone call to Dr. Waggoner (whom I shall be calling and to whom I shall apologize personally on Monday morning). Then the Lifeway report came out, missing any numbers for SBC laity—an absence barely enabling people to claim that the majority of Southern Baptists believe in PPL. I connected this bewildering and convenient feature of the report with "Situation A" described above, and moved from angry to livid. And that, quite obviously, has been the attitude behind my recent posts. But today, during the wedding, while I was preaching to a young couple beginning a life together, talking about the biblical pattern for marriage, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the awesome destructive force of anger. Yes, sir. Guilty as charged. So, I repent of my anger and my angry words. I have spoken with and apologized to a certain blogger. I apologize to all of the other bloggers who have had the misfortune to cross my path in the past twenty-four hours. I apologize to Dr. Ed Stetzer—although I never alleged that he was a part of the inappropriate circumstance, I did mix his name into all of this, highlighting chapters of his life in the past year that he would probably rather forget. I'll be calling him Monday morning, too. I wasn't ever angry at Dr. Stetzer, but I stirred him into a post marked by my anger toward others. I don't think I wrote clearly enough in my anger for a reader to be able to tell that I wasn't accusing Dr. Stetzer of anything other than being a human being in a difficult position (a fact that he himself acknowledged in the podcast). I apologize to Dr. Waggoner. I never got to my final post in this series, where I was going to point out that, even with all my doubts about the Lifeway report, I would be surprised to see the appropriate corrections lower the PPL fraction by more than a 10-point swing. Thus, I think that the "majority" thing is very dubious, but this report still shows the PPL fraction to be much higher in the SBC than I thought it was. So, where does all of this end up? I've lost a little faith in Lifeway Research. The things that I chose to get angry about are inappropriate and still concern me, even though I am putting away the anger. People make mistakes. Other people ought to forgive. I've lost a little faith in the Southern Baptist people. Azusa Street has made tremendous inroads into the Southern Baptist Convention. My opinion of that is clear, and there's no need to deny it. The trend is also clear. I do not think that the 50% figure is accurate today when describing all Southern Baptists (pastors and laity alike), but clearly that is the direction that the statistics are moving. In a century, we may be thoroughly charismatic as a denomination (I hope that Jesus comes back long before a century has elapsed, for reasons other than this conversation). But mostly, I've lost a lot of faith in myself. God's servant may indeed get angry, but it is unbecoming for anger to be in control of God's servant. I apologize not only to a certain blogger, Brad Waggoner, and Ed Stetzer, but also to you, my readers. I realize that, with all the intentional vagueness, this sounds pretty foolish. I feel pretty foolish right now. If you knew the details, it all might make more sense to you. Others know the details, and it makes sense to some of them. But I can't clarify further. Think of me as foolish if you wish, and that way I'll think twice before I write in anger again. Dear friends, we disagree. I'm not going to quit disagreeing—to pretend I believe otherwise than I do just to please men. But I will not be angry about it. Let us follow our polity to resolve our differences. Let us leave what happens in the hands of a sovereign God. Let us be honorable in our speech and deeds. I will be praying that Southern Baptists will see through the "Charismatic Chaos" and stem the tide. Some will pray otherwise. But I will pray what I pray in love for you all.