thatmom

real encouragement for real homeschooling moms

bringing back Matthew 18 and Galatians 2 in light of Kevin Swanson’s claims of internet gossip

A year or so ago I wrote this article for this blog and thought it might be helpful to post again today after listening to Kevin Swanson’s podcast this week on how to deal with differences among Christians. Anyone paying attention to the Sonlight situation has to believe that John Holzmann was in Kevin’s cross hairs as this was written and recorded. There is this misguided notion that we are never to publicly question any of these homeschooling gurus and instead are to meet privately with them, away from the scrutiny of the very public who is most affected by their teachings. I hope this is an encouragement to anyone who is struggling with how we are to address Kevin and others who have put on the mantle of homeschooling leadership when their teachings and actions deserve to be examined.

“Encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” Titus 1:9

In the past few weeks, I have repeatedly been reading online about gossip and slander. I would heartily agree that real slander, gossip, and libel against our neighbor is a violation of the 2nd great commandment. However, the implication has been that critiques, debates, and discussions, particularly of some well-known homeschooling “leaders” are really acts of slander, libel, and gossip, particularly when addressing patriocentricity. Several times I have been personally, and have seen others as well, admonished to go to those with whom I disagree and begin a Matthew 18 process with them. I have been asked numerous times if I did that with any of those whom I have critiqued and if I have discussed my differences with them, seeking reconciliation.

This has been a strange suggestion to me, since what I have always understood that passage of Scripture to mean is that when another brother or sister in Christ has sinned against you, you are to go to them and tell them how they did so, hoping that they will confess that sin and make it right with you. I have been on both ends of that experience and always thought I understood it well. But, wanting to maintain a teachable spirit, and being really confused when I heard these admonitions, I went to my husband who shared a passage of Scripture with me and suggested I research this topic. The fruits of that research were so good that I wanted to share them with you. I know this is long for a blog entry, but I believe it is so important that it must be said.

I began by looking at Matthew 18: 15-17, which is the passage in reference. It says:

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

If you read this passage and look at the end result for the one who is not repentant of the committed sin, it is damnation. So, you would need to be certain that the person you are confronting in a Matthew 18 process 1) is a believer 2) is in a relationship with you 3) has sinned against you in a personal way and 4) that you are willing to take the matter all the way through to the excommunication process, which also implies church courts, written documentation proving sin, etc. (the ramifications of this and the procedures themselves differ among various denominations).

This is a very serious matter and as such, the offense involved must also be serious as well. It must be named as an actual sin in Scripture and you must be able to open your Bible and show them a sin they have committed against you. Just because someone has offended you does not mean that that person has sinned against you, no matter how angry they have made you. It does not mean that you can read their hearts, their motives, or assign sin to them, allowing feelings about them as a person to override the truth of God’s Word. And the sin must be worthy of taking all the way to the end process if necessary.

So, after I confirmed what I had known about the Matthew 18 process, I listened as my husband read Galatians 2 to me and suddenly I understood the confusion and the problem. Here is what he read:

“Fourteen years later I went up again to Jerusalem, this time with Barnabas. I took Titus along also. I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. Yet not even Titus, who was with me, was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek. This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. As for those who seemed to be important–whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance–those men added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Peter and John, those reputed to be pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews. All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

In this portion of Scripture, Paul approaches Peter and, in an act that would certainly be called slander and gossip and libel had he done so on a blog, opposed him in front of them all! And then, of course, he later told people all about it, in fact, the Holy Spirit continues to tell all believers everywhere that Paul did this, because it is written in the holy writ via a letter to the Galatians, God’s warning and an example to all of us!
You see, Peter was a public figure and one who had great influence. Paul knew that he had to make a public statement for three reasons: First, Peter, because of his influence, was leading many astray. Because Peter’s ministry was public, Paul’s rebuke also had to be public.

Secondly, Peter was teaching the gospel plus Jewish tradition. Rather than instructing the Jews that their personal system was of no value to them, Peter was teaching legalism, rendering the Gospel of grace ineffective.

Thirdly, Paul recognized that many people who desperately needed Jesus were seeing Peter’s hypocrisy. Peter was, in essence, saying “do as I say not as I do” and Paul called him on it. I think, on one level, Paul even had to have been terribly embarrassed for Peter.

And this brings us full circle to the reason why understanding the differences between applying Matthew 18 and Galatians 2 is so crucial within the homeschooling community. You see, those who are currently raising the subject of “online gossip and slander” of late are within the patriocentric camp. They know that they cannot win their debate in the arena of public discussion. They think if they can make a case for privately talking, one on one, where they can say anything they want, free from public accountability, they can continue to teach what they teach. Those of us who are challenging these teachings MUST keep the discussion within the sphere of public discourse, where each and every word can be seen and heard.

I believe this quote from Dr. Jay Adams, in his volume “Grist from Adams’s Mill”, addresses this illegitimate use of Matthew 18 in an attempt to censure public criticism:

“Any Christian who sets himself up as a teacher in the church of Christ and publicly teaches anything thereby opens himself up for criticism by others (cf. James 3:1). If they think what he is teaching is harmful to the church, they have an obligation to point it out just as widely as it was taught. Such public warning or debate on the topic should not be considered a personal attack at all. The teacher’s plea that a critic should first have come to him about his disagreement on the basis of Matthew 18:15 does not hold. This passage has to do with personal wrongs known only between the two, who should privately discuss the matter that separates them. What a critic of a public teaching does in pointing out his disagreement with that teaching has nothing to do with personal affronts or lack of reconciliation; he is simply disagreeing at the same public level as that on which the teaching was given in the first place.” (pg. 69)

I would encourage you to continue to hold fast to the truth of the Gospel message in this day when patriocentricity is worming its way into the church of Jesus Christ. Be a Berean and do not grow weary of well doing!

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13 Comments»

  sarah wrote @

Karen, I appreciate your analysis. It is disheartening to see how fast and lose these self-proclaimed men of God have become with the scripture. They definitely twist the Bible to their own interests.

  Cindy K wrote @

Karen,

How godly of you to sit in quiet submission to learn Galatians 2 from your husband, and I only partially mean that as sarcasm. I know that you do approach the Word with reverence and you desire to learn because you are teachable. You would listen to Clay in such a way but it has nothing to do because it is on a list of what someone has declared as a rule and role for women. These two motives stand a world apart from one another. But I digress.

I am so glad to see this topic revisited. I am amazed at the royal abuse of Matthew 18 that takes place in the church. Just amazed.

I just listened to Swanson’s podcast. He can point to this podcast to say “We don’t think this way,” until he is blue in the face, yet the fact remains that they don’t practice this principle. They don’t remotely approach the concept of respecting different beliefs held by other evangelicals as a matter of different perspective. I believe that they are either producing this as PR spin or they are truly blind to what they are doing. I hope that they are indeed blind and not wilfully and knowingly saying these things for PR value.

It is sad, because on a great many topics, I actually share some of Swanson’s beliefs, but I do not make wholesale declarations about groups of believers being moral reprobates and inferior Christians. This man spends most of his air time morally “one-upping” himself in comparison to those whom he views as inferior or impure. Well, take note. We are all impure until the day when we shed this mortal coil. We all are subject to the influence of the flesh in this life, and we are all in process of being made pure. Our iron sharpening iron is part of the process of our purification. Yet Swanson’s whole schtick revolves around establishing his own group as one of an elite or higher life in terms of Christianity in concert with a particular disgust and terrible intolerance for sin in the life of the believer. And he seems to define sin by that which contrasts with his opinions such as being a republican, or you will suffer his abuse. (That is a far cry from “We sharply disagree with this group on this topic but affirm their commitment to Christ and the pursuit of the Biblical Authority.” Kevin and cohorts are princes of pejorative.) I can barely believe he talked of “Orwellian fairness doctrine” without any apparent or notable twinge of conscience.

It is interesting, because Swanson seems to have full right to do and say whatever he wants, but when things challenge his opinion or his perspective, they are problematic? It is every man’s natural assumption that he sees clearly when he makes declarative statements. That is how human beings function. But what if the people who do comment on blogs and such actually do desire with all fervency to advocate a particular position? And when they criticize Swanson, they do so from the bottom of the the heart and soul of their most informed conviction and conscience, giving full attention to the ramifications of their statements?

These men are attempting to “poison the well,” yet another attempt to establish milieu control so that their following tends to doubt and discount anything critical of them and their views on the internet. (Their whole façade depends heavily on the control of the flow of information within their following, because as Karen notes, their arguments cannot stand up to open scrutiny.) Swanson compares the internet to purchasing a billboard to declare an opinion, using himself as an example – something to the effect of “Kevin Swanson is a jerk.” I’m none too impressed with his behavior or his approach or some of his doctrines, but what if I am fully cognizant of what I say online when I state that I believe that a great number of his approaches and application of the Scripture are in error? How does this young man know whether or not I am so committed to my thesis so strongly that if I thought that a billboard would accomplish the task that I would have already bought one? This is another ad hominem attempt to dilute the message of dissent and to marginalize it. That is essentially all they really have to defend themselves.

My grandmother had a saying of “Consider the source.” This is discussed in the book, “The Cult of the Amateur,” a book that I’ve mentioned on this blog before. What Swanson effectively says here is that not only should unqualified voices like silly women “gossips” not have a voice on the internet, they are also suggesting that Christians cannot discern and “consider the source.” Is that not sarcedotalism? (Who gets to determine who is qualified to speak? Kevin? Who established Kevin as my authority?) I agree that we need to be very sober about what we do write online, a separate consideration that cannot be stressed too much. This is true for Christians as well as everyone else, but particularly for the Christian who will give an account of every idle word. This medium of the net gives idle words more staying power. But they have no faith and see no virtue in individual discernment, something that I see as a terrible insult to anyone who reads the internet. Why should they have one iota of concern for what “silly housewives” have to say about their declarations of truth in authority, if indeed that is what they are?

Discerning Christians have the maturity through the power of the Holy Spirit that guides us and leads us into all truth, do we not? If that is truly the case, and considering that these men profess to be Calvinists, then why are they concerned about anyone who disagrees with them online, particularly if those others are so obviously in error? The Holy Spirit should make that kind of thing abundantly clear, and if people do get deceived, the Holy Spirit will work the deception into something that will purify the person anyway. God uses all these things to bring glory to Himself because He is sovereign. It’s interesting that, according to Kevin, everyone but Kevin Swanson gives insufficient thought or not enough thought to what they put online. And Kevin seems to have little faith in people’s ability to discern matters for themselves. Aren’t questions that challenge their ideas just opportunities to demonstrate the truth?

Why does it seem to me that everything is intensely personal for this young man? Why do I always think of the phrase “You only intimidate the weak” when I listen to him? And does he really have that low of an opinion of the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal truth in the mind, heart and life of the believer? He’s literally insulting his listeners with his paternalism. Very telling.

  Cindy K wrote @

Note to above:

By God’s grace and based upon no merit of our own and based upon no inherent or earned righteousness of our own are we pure. But we are made pure under the Blood of the Lamb of God. And we are taken, through the process of sanctification, from glory to glory in Christ Jesus as he purifies us over the course of our Christian walk. The point I hoped to make but may have taken for granted is that our good standing and even our purity is not due to us but by virtue of Christ alone. Not of works lest any man should boast, not before first faith in Christ or afterwards.

I am convinced that Swanson and those who share his ideals do believe that serving the law buys spiritual merit and that grace is merited. It is a legalistic and shame-driven approach as opposed to one of grace in the Spirit.

As Paul described in Romans 7, we do struggle against our flesh as long as we are subject to the flesh. But we are no longer condemned by or held down by the penalty and curses of the law. We are under Grace through faith in Jesus.

Just in case anyone was confused, suggesting that I think we as Christians should tolerate sin. But we do sin while we are subject to the flesh, and it is a constant tension we face in this life. That is different than tolerating sin or approving of sin which is — ah — sin. Sin is not forgiven until one repents of it.

  Luke Holzmann wrote @

I think it’s important to note that honest questions and rational response is very different from saying, “This guy is lame because he doesn’t read the Bible in the morning!”

Gnats are one thing, but camels are something else.

~Luke

  thatmom wrote @

Sarah, you are correct that the Scripture twisting to support their beliefs is the most troubling aspect of it all!

  thatmom wrote @

Cindy, I know you were partly kidding, but, seriously, one thing I so appreciate about my husband is the iron-sharpening-iron aspect of our relationship. We both really enjoy diving into the Word and we each bring such different insights to our studies and discussions. I am so blessed that he is, first and foremost, my brother in Christ.

  thatmom wrote @

Cindy, you did a good job of pointing out one of the things that really troubled me regarding Kevin’s podcast. The assumption that those of us who critique this stuff don’t put any thought into what we write, that we click “send” without taking the time or doing our homework. Wow. I spend lots of time preparing my podcasts and don’t just talk off the cuff. I also run nearly everything past Clay that I put up on my blog. In fact, the only time I don’t is when he has suggested that I might want to write about such and such and we have discussed it already.

There are other times when I go to others to ask them if I have misinterpreted something or for input about something they know more about than I do. It is pretty insulting to be treated as though you are an airhead!

  thatmom wrote @

Luke, you are absolutely correct, there is a huge difference between camels and gnats! This is one reason that any claims that I have made or others have made regarding well-known homeschoolers have been backed with actual quotes and verifiable facts. I also encourage people who are concerned about some teaching to go straight to Scripture and to read IN CONTEXT whenever they hear some new teaching that is supposedly “biblical.” If I don’t do this, I sure hope someone calls me on it.

  Abby wrote @

Karen,
AMEN! Thank you for saying this. I’ve been going through the gospels and really studying lately, because I’ve felt like there is so much out there that is trying to pull me in the wrong direction. I loved the passage you quoted because it was something I had just discussed with my own husband, as well.
What has troubled me most about the patriocentric crowd is the loss of the gospel message. I’ve also been reading My Utmost for His Highest, and the last few passages I read were all about our greatest calling, which is to preach Jesus. It’s not about our own agendas or anything we might think is necessary for living the Christian life. If we preach Christ, the rest will come.
The difference, I think, between these men and Peter is that Peter recognized what Paul was saying as the truth, and Peter turned his back on legalism when he was called out. Most people now don’t recognize their own legalism. How I wish there were more Pauls out there and that those who needed to hear what you were saying were as accepting of it as Peter.

  TaunyaH wrote @

Karen,
Great post I have not listened to this podcast but one thing that bothers me about these so called “homeschool leaders” is that when you do go to them privately as they suggest they don’t respond or respond by not addressing the question or problem you had in the first place.

My husband and I have seen this first hand when we went to two of these leaders privately by email with a long email full of concerns. One responded with one sentence that shed no light whatsoever on the situation. The other let two weeks go by and then had an assistant respond to us via email apologizing for the delay and stating that the “homeschool leader” would get back to us soon. That was over a month ago and still no reply.

I have heard this over and over from many other people. These folks don’t want to be accountable. They just want to continue to increase their sales to unsuspecting and all too trusting homeschool families.

How shameful!

Taunya

  thatmom wrote @

“What has troubled me most about the patriocentric crowd is the loss of the gospel message. ”

Abby, I couldn’t agree more. Or it is the Gospel plus some lifestyle tangent or another.

  thatmom wrote @

Taunya,

You have brought up another aspect of this movement…they have placed themselves in an untouchable situation. They insist that you meet one on one and use Matthew 18 as the basis for that. But if you must be willing to go all the way through to excommunication, as I demonstrated in the article, how is that done? They know that it cannot be. They also know that they will have no one holding them accountable for not answering any questions at all. It is all pretty efficient, actually. Efficient but not godly.

  Corrie wrote @

Or, Gospel plus “Christian decorum” and Victorian mores. When you are part of “them”, you are a better, more holier type of Christian than the average Christian slob.


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