Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Name Calling

When there is a discussion, and one of the conversationalists cannot advance his position, he may be tempted to advance an ad hominem argument. An ad hominem argument is a logical fallacy and moves from the issue to an appeal "against the man."

Such arguments stereotype the opponent, so that the audience or readers are biased against him for being such a person. In the church we tend to label and mark too quickly. It is easier to make a charge than it is to convince others the charge is not true.

Several years ago my brother-in-law, Dale Hartman, left the church in Senatobia, MS, to enter the mission field in Australia. Dale is from western Oklahoma and grew up on a farm/ranch. Rodeo is a big deal in Oklahoma, and some rodeo wannabes are often called "goat ropers." Since I was coming to Senatobia as he was leaving, he told everyone I was a "goat roper."

Dale's description of a goat roper was rather detailed. He wore Levi's and had the circle of a Skoal can in one of his back pockets. Of course, he also dipped. He wore a western hat, belt, and boots. He practiced his calf-roping on goats and often road home-made or mechanical bulls. A goat roper was indeed a wannabe that never did. Oh, he said, and there is one last thing:

"A goat roper will deny it to the end!"

Now, I was caught between a rock and a hard place. No matter how often I told the guys at Senatobia that I grew up in town, didn't care about rodeos, and wasn't a goat-roper, the more they were sure of it. One dear friend even left a couple of cans of Skoal on the pulpit one Sunday morning after our twins were born. (I attended my dear friend's funeral a couple of years ago, and his boys gave me an empty can of Skoal.) This half-truth stuck on me for years.

When I began this blog, I began it due to criticisms leveled at me from both the far left and the far right. (Go to the early posts.) I have been slapped on both cheeks from the ultras at both ends of the theological spectrum in churches of Christ. I even found my name on a website featuring its title in red, burning letters....suggesting my eternal end.

Some folks think I'm conservative; others call me liberal. I guess it depends on what issue you are dealing with. I am often called a Pharisee, a traditionalist, and a legalist. I always liked what J.D. Bales said, "I'd rather be a legalist than an illegalist!"

I really don't care to be labeled except for this: I am a Christian. Jesus is the Lord of my life, and I don't care who knows it. I belong to Him.

Name calling is rude, pejorative, and often unfair. Few gossips who call names are honest enough to apologize or take it back, when they are found to be in error. I was once the featured victim of an acid pen calling me a deceiver and compromiser. The fellow who wrote the drivel had failed to do his homework, but he never apologized. Instead he got another guy to join in the slander.

Before you call a name, consider whether that is the best approach. You may lose any opportunity to dialog with that person later on. You may unfairly label someone you don't understand.

There is a time to mark and avoid (Rom. 16:17-18), but such an action on unfounded evidence is cruel and dishonest.

Our law does not judge a man until it hears him.

my thoughts,


john dobbs said...

Hi Phil

I didn't know the history of this blog... sad that it had such an unhappy beginning.

I find that I disagree with your conclusions a good bit. I don't feel the need to inform you of that for I know you are a Bible student and love the Lord.

I agree with this post 100%. What does "liberal" and "conservative" even mean any more? It's all relative.

And why is it that when Christians disagree with one another they often believe that gives them the privilege of being exempt from godly characteristics such as kindness and gentleness? When is it ever right to ignore the golden rule and lambast a brother?

Even vigorous disagreement should be coated with grace ... for around the corner we may learn that the very thing we decry is true....and the very brother we have attempted to destroy is a child of God.

We mark and avoid much too quickly and for reasons that do not measure up to biblical ones.

Thanks for this post.

john dobbs

preacherman said...

The anyon. was not and I repeat not speaking for me. You were kind in your response. I greatly appreciate your response. I love accappella music. I just want to understand where we get the Biblical authority to get involved in other churches and leaderships. Do we see the Biblical Authority? I kindly appreciate your response and am so sorry that you were attacked. I have taken off anonn. comments on my blog. Phil I greatly appreciate you joining in on any discussion on my blog as well and again would like for you to answer my question on the Biblical authority on getting involved in other Church matters.

In Him,
Kinney Mabry

Anonymous said...

Brother Phil,
I admit i have been reading your blog for only a short time. I am truly sorry some folks have called you names or hurt your feelings someway. If we as servants of Christ are out there doing His work, its going to happen. You know this as well as anyone. Your first entries simply introduce yourself to the blog. Nothing is said about any name calling, at least that i could find.
Your third post and many to follow do critisize those who simply dont understand scripture like you do. I appreciate your conviction, I also appreciate those who freely admit they are struggling sinners. I dont have all the answers, i dont even know all the questions. I would much rather be the sinner, justified in front of God, than the man who condemns any and all who disagree with him. Lk 18. Im just going to continue the process of removing logs from my own eyes. When i can see more clearly maybe i can help some struggling soul remove his. I wish more of us worked on that unending process. Be careful, spend more time alone looking in the mirror.
philip sims

Matthew said...

We should never do this to one another. But I do need to call you a name. A Great Preacher.

Mitchell said...


I know just how you feel. During the course of four days about two years ago I was "written up" as a leagalist in a popular email distributed article, and accused of being too liberal by a member of the congregation where I preached at the time. In both instances they were nasty, sneak attacks. Of course I was devastated and questioned my own ability. A friend and now fellow co-worker gave me this advice at the time, "well, if the people on the left don't like you and the people on the right don't either then you must be somewhere down the middle. Thats where you need to be right in the middle of the bible."

I pray all the name calling would stop and we would deal with differences in a more Christlike manner.