Tuesday, April 09, 2013

On Ed Dingess and covering for apathy

Dr Ed Dingess has replied to our rebuttal of his original critique of our position. Let's analyse together his reply.

(FYI: It appears that he only remembered he was talking to AHA and not Triablogue halfway through the composition of his article.)

Dr Dingess begins with his opinion "that abortion is murder and should never be considered a viable option to manage an unwanted pregnancy". Good, we can agree on that. One of the themes that we will see emerge in our analysis will be: What is the Christian to do about the fact that we agree that abortion is murder, and that abortion is widespread and has happened 55+ million times in 45 years?
Is God pleased with empty words, or convictions held forth and confirmed in action?

Dr Dingess helpfully gives us the entire premise of his argument, namely:
The entire premise of my argument is really quite simple: it is not the place of the Church to abolition (sic) human abortion in our society. The Church, believe it or not, has a higher calling. She is charged with preaching the gospel, baptizing those whom God converts, and turning those converts into disciples.

We appreciate Dr Dingess' clarity of expression here, but we disagree significantly for the reasons stated in our previous article. Dr Dingess apparently holds that discipleship of believers, teaching them to obey ALL that Christ commanded, is not accomplished in the context of performing good works of love, protection, assistance, agitation, etc. Not to put words in Dr Dingess' mouth, but if training in good works aren't included in discipleship, would be propose restricting such discipleship to the consumption of theological treatises and Bible studies?

Yet what does the Scripture say about that?
Titus 2:14 - who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Ephesians 2:8-10 - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

James 1:27 - Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

And, with tongue half-in-cheek:
Ecclesiastes 2:12 - But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.
(Abolitionists love books; don't get us wrong.)

She extols Christ’s values before the world community.

Not by hanging out behind her walls. Nor by restricting herself to preaching the Gospel. We are commanded by the Lord Jesus and the rest of the Scripture to do ALL that He commanded, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Dr Dingess seems to be operating under the mistaken belief that preaching the Gospel and zeal for good works are mutually exclusive. They are not. Abolitionists' daily work is living proof thereof. Come to think of it, so was Jesus' own earthly ministry.
Matthew 4:23 - Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

the Church is not an institution that should focus her time and attention on social transformation or political reform.

Dr Dingess' mistake here is to play with words, such that "love of neighbor" is arbitrarily transmogrified into "social transformation or political reform". Loving one's neighbor is not primarily either of those things.
If, however, the society and the current political zeitgeist entirely accepts the systematic murder of preborn (or Jews, or "Negroes", or the elderly, or disabled), then we are against the world, for the world. If our task of loving neighbor brings us into conflict with the world system, is that not the example of the Lord Jesus and His apostles?
Is Dr Dingess attempting to insulate himself behind a cloak of piety and religious language from the needs of his preborn neighbors? There is no way to know, but this would certainly be a convenient excuse for inaction.
And that's a problem, for the lazy and unregenerate false brother could easily grab onto this type of argument to ward off conviction of sin. It's actually dangerous for everyone's soul. It is one step away from antinomianism and covers for the false convert, which is bad both for the false convert and the church of which he may be a member.

It is likely that if we in the Church did a better job turning converts into disciples, we would have fewer John Wayne Christians running around rebuking pastors and elders for not getting on board with their personal agendas and pet projects.

This is no doubt true, though if Dr Dingess is implying that abolition is a "personal agenda", which is unclear, he needs to argue against what we have contended already.
We would also no doubt have fewer elders and pastors (and members) who waste time and resources doing things the Lord has not commanded while neglecting the weightier matters of the law of God.


The author fails to recognize that a necessary connection between the church and AHA would equate to a divine imperative to adopt the views and practices of AHA.

Rather, Dr Dingess has confused abolition, the ideology and the God-ordained responsibility of His people, with naming the name of "abolitionist" or "Abolish Human Abortion". We don't care a whit if anyone ever uses our symbol, calls himself an abolitionist, or ever talks to us.
Philippians 1:15-18 - Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Not that abolition is identical to preaching Christ (rather, it is simultaneous and alongside). Abolition is commanded by God, and "go forth and make disciples" is commanded by God. Both are law. What we mean is that we want people to obey Jesus, not be part of a clique.
It is certainly true that "AHA is not a necessary part of the Church of Jesus Christ." Abolition is, though.

The Church can legitimately exist as the Church without complying with and adhering to the views and practices of AHA.

This is one of the central points in this dispute.
Dr Dingess capitalised "Church", which leads us to believe that he refers to the invisible church, the universal group of people who belong to Jesus, who have been born again, and redeemed. There are no unbelievers in the invisible church.
Each visible local church will probably contain both unregenerate people as well as members of the invisible church.

But the problem here is identifying who is in The Church and who is not.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

There are false converts out there. They do not love the law of God, nor the Gospel. They merely pretend, yet they can be part of a given local visible church.
If someone does not love one's neighbor, is his faith not dead, a mere shadow of what it ought to be, and false?
James 2:14-17 - What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

This is nothing new. No one should be assured that he will find himself admitted into Heaven at the end of his life if he refuses to help love his neighbor who is in need when asked to, when reproved for his inaction, for his immunity to reproof and instruction in the Scripture displays a heart of unbelief.
Who is in need more than the preborn child, of whom 55 million have been murdered in this country alone? We asked Dr Dingess that question last time, but we don't see an answer so far.

That insistence, which shows up throughout the website is without merit. In short this method of reasoning is related to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Dr Dingess is a bit confused here. One can't help but wonder if he wanted to adorn his poor argument here with some Latin dressing.

There are a variety of ways to oppose abortion and to love unborn children.

Dr Dingess is too ignorant of AHA to know that we have been saying that from the very beginning.

It illegitimately applies the command to love one’s neighbor to the unborn and it also equivocates on what it means to love.

This statement literally caused us to laugh out loud the first time we saw it.
So, Dr Dingess really thinks that saving preborn children from murder "equivocates on what it means to love"? Perhaps Dr Dingess would prefer a 21-gun salute to show posthumous tribute to the dead? Yet what good would that do anyone?
Would Dr Dingess really argue that the preborn are not our neighbors? Yet he thinks abortion is murder. He can't hold to both; he must choose.

This argument involves argumentum ad verecundiam, or an appeal to inappropriate authority.

More Latin dressing. Simply read back and see whether we appealed to Wilberforce or Garrison as authorities. Rather, we reminded the reader of their lives' work as examples of which we ought to be thankful.

It also begs the question on the issue of slavery assuming biblical condemnation of the practice without showing any concern for the need to prove that thesis.

So Dr Dingess believes that antebellum American slavery may have been justified.

Where is the exegetical support that teaches us that all slavery is a sin?

Two responses:
1) We don't need to show that all slavery is a sin. We'd just need to show that antebellum American slavery was, for our point to stand.
2) Even if slavery weren't a sin, it is far from the ideal. We can be thankful for these men's work even if they merely spent their lives trying to move our society from the acceptable to the better.

Otherwise, those who issue the mandates are guilty of asserting “thus says the Lord God,” when the Lord God has not said!

The Lord God has most certainly said that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.


The attitude in the author’s argument demonstrates a seriously defective ecclesiology.

To paraphrase Dr Dingess here: I am also requesting exegetical proofs that such a contention is true. I do not approve of defective ecclesiology. But that is not the point. My reasons for disapproval are apparently far from those of Dr Dingess. If anyone will lay mandates on the Church, I am well with my rights to demand that all such mandates be shown to be the product of sound exegetical practice. Otherwise, those who issue the mandates are guilty of asserting “thus says the Lord God,” when the Lord God has not said! And this, indeed, is a most serious issue, far more than many in the modern American watered-down Christianity realize.

Christ authorizes ministry through His Church and only through His Church.

See here and here, please.

In addition, these cowboy Christians as they are so prone to do, due to their personality, will often turn around and make demands of the Church and her pastors and elders, accusing them of apathy, being misguided, not caring, in need of revival, etc.

Is the accusation the problem? Or is Dr Dingess pre-emptively saying that it is not true, by and large?

the men who are supposed to be their leaders will often find themselves the target of criticism

Are church leaders above criticism?

much of it from a distinctly uneducated vantage point

Is not Dr Dingess expressing his prejudice rather than examining us as in specific?
These are great warnings to heed. Sure, let's avoid these practices. But where is Dr Dingess' evidence that such is true of AHA?

All leaders and ministries must come under the authority and guidance of God’s ordained leaders, under the Church.

Where is Dr Dingess' Scriptural evidence that this is true?


if AHA is a ministry of God, then darkness has no place in it. And if AHA permits the ungodly and the deceived to partake of Christian ministry, that is a entirely different problem deserving more serious attention.

If Dr Dingess' local church is a ministry of God, then darkness has no place in it. And if his local church permits the ungodly and the deceived to partake of Christian ministry, that is a entirely different problem deserving more serious attention.

Of course, we agree. Yet no one is omniscient. God brings such things to light in the times He chooses. Sometimes false brethren hang out for a long time among the true brethren. May the Lord be merciful to all gatherings of His people to correctly distinguish!

In addition, there is the question of females preaching at abortion clinics as well.

We admit to disagreeing that the outside of an abortion clinic is actually a church.

This is precisely why submission and supervision by pastors and elders is indispensable.

Because pastors and elders would tell us that the outside of an abortion clinic is a church and therefore our women should be silent there?
What room does Dr Dingess' position have for the obvious, that pastors and elders are themselves fallible men and sometimes get things wrong, that we are to test everything in light of Scripture, and that authority is no replacement for truth?


if you don’t do it our way you don’t care, or more subtly, you don’t care like we do if you are doing it differently than we are. We are setting the standards!

We are glad to report that Dr Dingess has misread us. The problem is not that some people prefer to staff a Crisis Pregnancy Center when they could otherwise spend that time preaching outside abortuaries.
The problem is that far too many don't actually do anything.

When you add to this equation the fact that we cannot find a local body of elders and pastors who are actually the spiritual supervisors and leaders of this coalition

If you think about it, it would be strange to insist that a member of the Abolitionist Society of Memphis be subject in some way to elders he doesn't know at a church he's never visited. Each abolitionist is to be subject to his/her own elders, because abolitionists are to be Christians, and Christians are to follow what the Scripture commands.

Who authorized these men to engage in the kind of correction and rebuke of the Church they put forth?

(By the way, what rebuke of the Church is he talking about?)

Can anyone who wants to just decide that “THIS ISSUE” is the most important issue and then proceed to claim it is God’s work

We don't have to "just decide" it. It's not based on our claim. It's what the Word of God clearly says.

If AHA is correct, and you must do as they do and think as they think in order to obey the second commandment


And we also confess there is more than one way to oppose abortion and demonstrate we care about this very important issue.

Yes, we all agree about this.
However, how does this match what Dr Dingess has said above, about how "the Church is not an institution that should focus her time and attention on social transformation or political reform"?
He can't have it both ways. But he has multiplied confusion for his readers by not taking the time to figure out what we are actually saying.

it is highly inappropriate for AHA to assert that it is a divine command and to use pressure and manipulation to intimidate others to get on board or else.

This sort of hyperbolic panic language is actually sort of humorous.
"Pressure and manipulation"? Like what? Does Dr Dingess have some sort of evidence that we have engaged in blackmail or threats to enforce compliance with abolition?
"Intimidate"? By making rational arguments (both written and spoken) and posters that speak persuasively to both the mind and heart?
"Or else"? Again, whom have we threatened? What is Dr Dingess even talking about?


Why is it that every time an evil grabs our attention, the first thing some men do is indict the Church?

As it happens, if Dr Dingess had checked, for example, the archives of our blog from the beginning, he'd see that's not what we started with at all.

Why is it the Church's fault that women are killing their babies?

This question is poorly phrased. Rather, we should be asking (and do ask): What does Christianity look like in a culture that murders its children?
Shall we obey Jesus or not?
One of the problems (far from the only problem) we are pointing out is that far too many in the visible church actually do nothing.

Did not Christ warn us that the world would get worse, that wickedness would grow worse, and that the world would hate us?

We asked Dr Dingess this before, and he did not reply, so we ask again: Shall we then do nothing in the face of evil?
No, rather, the Lord has commanded us to work to effect abolition. If He chooses to use us to accomplish it, glory be to His name, for He is worthy.
If He chooses to use us up in that way and yet we fail in the attempt, glory be to His name, for He is worthy.

This we know: The Lord has redeemed us. We can do no less.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It illegitimately applies the command to love one’s neighbor to the unborn and it also equivocates on what it means to love.

I laughed at that one too, in spite of the mild nausea I felt upon first reading it.

I think you nailed it here, and it is my opinion that he does not see the unborn as alive in the same way a three-year-old is. Surely he would not say the same things on the subject if "late term" infanticide were extended out to three years old tomorrow.

I would hope, that is.

With this one statement, this man has lost all credibility in my eyes.