Cancelling cancel culture

Church bulletin:

No sooner had Alister Begg made the comments that he did, and the rumblings of cancelation began. The rumblings became an earthquake when he refused to repent (if you don’t know what I am referring to, consult Google). Now to be clear, I do not agree with the advice he gave to the lady in his congregation. Nor do I have a problem with Christians expressing their concerns and objections. In fact, I believe we should do so. Anyone taking up the role of teacher, especially when they reach thousands upon thousands, must be held to account. Put yourself out there and people have the right and the responsibility to respond.

Predictably, as the backlash ramped up and Begg held his ground, the cancelations started. It raises the question – upon what basis do we disassociate ourselves from a particular person or ministry; if we don’t agree with one aspect, do we cancel them entirely. It seems to me, that some Christians want to be seen as stalwarts for the truth and are ever at the ready to put their flag in the ground. I thought the ferocity toward Begg from some quarters was over the top. In my opinion he was unwise but he is not a heretic.

During the Covid lockdown I read a book review which piqued my interest. As a result, I bought a copy. The style of writing was a bit different but kind of refreshing; I didn’t agree with everything, yet I enjoyed it and found many points helpful. The author is well-known although I had never bothered with him. I have since read some of his other books which I also enjoyed. I have watched interviews with him and appreciated his spirit and insights. As it turns out, he also said something controversial toward the end of his life and it produced the same fiery onslaught. There were calls for all his books to be removed from Christian bookshops. He subsequently retracted the statement saying it didn’t come across the way he intended. Nevertheless, he said what he said and it is concerning. This matter required a response just as the Begg matter required a response, but I don’t think either men, need to be cancelled.

If we are going to be consistent, let’s cancel Martin Luther over his hatred of the Jews. Let’s cancel William Cowper over his inappropriate behavior toward women – the husbands of these women would certainly have been keen. Let’s cancel the hymns of Arminians, hyper-Calvinists and priests. Let’s cancel Whitfield and Edwards over slave ownership. Let’s cancel R.L. Dabney over his racist views of Afro-Americans – in fact we can probably cancel most Southern American ministers in the 1800’s. Let’s cancel Lloyd-Jones over his mystical views of the Spirit and John Stott over annihilationism. The list is endless. Will anyone be left?

I am not suggesting that we ignore unbiblical behaviour and doctrines (as indicated). What I am saying is that good men err (including those with their fingers on the trigger), and this does not tarnish the entirety of their ministry. Good men also differ over many issues because there are many issues which are complex. The fallibility of people reminds us that God alone is without blemish. It teaches us to listen and read judicially. It teaches us not to put our trust in men and not to fall prey to the cult of personality. It means we must learn what hills are worth dying on. As bad as the Pharisees were, our Lord Jesus did not cancel them. On the contrary, the scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. (3) Therefore, whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do” (Matt 23:2-3).

Calling out error is one thing, cancelling everyone we disagree with is another.