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Mush-Minded Invertebrates

When Christians fail to immerse themselves in Scripture they turn into mush-minded invertebrates!  Spineless creatures with no cerebral cortex!  They devolve into jellyfish that have neither a backbone or grey matter.    

That’s because we live in an age of moral hostility not just indifference.  There can be no rights and wrongs.  The only absolute is tolerance which has come to mean the mindless acceptance of evil.  In our day, people crave comfort, approval, and advancement.  They not willing to suffer for righteousness or speak up against evil.  They are unwilling to disturb the status quo.

This put us on a collision course with Jesus who said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” (Luke 6:26a)  And “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.” (John 7:7)  The Bible is a double-edged sword (Heb 4:12), not a butter knife.  It is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Tim 3:16)

My opponents often quote a handful of Bible verses but don’t understand their meaning in context.  This is not a mean spirited put down but they are not schooled in Scripture or conversant with Systematic Theology.  In like fashion, they have little knowledge of church history or Historical Theology.  Or, if they do, they fail to connect the dots.  As a result they are “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” (Eph 4:14)

Too many people in SGM are vulnerable to this kind of manipulation.  Rebuking Dave for extensive lying and deceit is not a lack of gentleness.  Calling C.J. to account before the SGM pastors for spiritual abuse and hypocrisy is not slander.  Holding the SGM Board accountable for their broken promises and favoritism is not a lack of kindness.  Exposing the three panels for manifest partiality is not divisiveness.

Ignorance and cowardice are a lethal combination.  Some who say I am bitter, judgmental or harsh mean well but they are misguided.  Others are arrogant.  In fact, those who condemn the loudest typically claim a superior knowledge of good and a superior understanding of kindness.  They fancy themselves champions of love, gentleness and forgiveness.  They would never read my documents or access my blog.  They are too holy but in reality they are fooled by “the trickery of men” and “craftiness in deceitful scheming” because they have partial or faulty notions of godliness and God’s Word. 

In other words, they are nicer than God.  But their “holier than Thou” attitude betrays their self-righteousness.  In their niceness, they end up commending evil.  In their cowardice, they end up commending themselves for being gentle.  They are not true to Scripture.  They’ve imbibed the spirit of this age.  Their super-spirituality is humanistic thinking dressed up in a few Bible verses but it is not in line with the testimony of Scripture.

Men and women throughout Sovereign Grace Ministries must rise up with knowledge and courage.  They must be informed, ask hard questions, call men to account, study Scripture, fear God, and address evil.  They can’t worry about being liked or accepted.  The sins of Sovereign Grace Ministries are not superficial; they are serious and they have not been addressed by the three panels or anyone else in public.  Polity recommendations have been made but deceit, hypocrisy, partiality, cover-up, and heavy handedness remain unaddressed.  No one is being held accountable.  The outside of the cup may be cleaner but not the inside.  Things have gotten worse not better. 

With this introduction in mind please read the following article.  Don’t be silenced or intimidated by mush minded invertebrates or deceived by the damage control of SGM elderships like the one surrounding Dave Harvey. 


The Theology of Invective by Michael Bauman[1] (July 5, 2006)

I can see no other way. 

We must learn once more to confront nonsense in all its forms and to call things by their real names.  We must learn that euphemisms are lies and that patience and gentleness sometimes do no good.  Worse still, they often do injury.  Count on it, when you treat a fool with nothing but kindness, he remains a fool.  If you pat him on the back and stroke his ego, he does what any fool does:  he mistakenly concludes that everything is alright with him, rather than realizing that you are simply being kind to ignorance the way you are kind to all other forms of poverty.

We must revive the ancient and honorable art of invective, which is to language what justice is to law -- a means of giving people what they deserve.  What some of them deserve is a good kick in the pants.  This article, therefore, is dedicated to telling the fools to bend over and grab their ankles.  The beatings will now commence.

The New Testament

If, like me, you are a Christian, you often encounter brothers and sisters in the faith who are, to put it plainly, well-intentioned but mush-minded invertebrates.  They seem unwilling and unable to grasp with clarity or conviction that some things are wrong and some are wicked.  Even if they could grasp that fundamental truth about the world, they lack the courage to call evil and error by their real names.  They do not understand that if you fail to call evil evil you are treating it no differently than you treat goodness, which you do not call evil either.  The only thing they seem able to oppose publicly is that small collection of Christians who speak forthrightly, Christians who are less afraid of giving offense to the offensive than they are of aiding and abetting wickedness and error with sloppy and unjustifiably lenient language.

This will never do.

We Christians rightly recognize Christ as the very embodiment of love.  But Christ was no bleeding heart, and He was no invertebrate.  The “gentle Jesus meek and mild” never existed.  He is a nineteenth and twentieth century fiction.   The historical Jesus was another matter altogether.  At various times, and when the situation demanded, the real Jesus publicly denounced sinners as snakes, dogs, foxes, hypocrites, fouled tombs and dirty dishes.  He actually referred publicly to one of his chief disciples as Satan.  So that his hearers would not miss his point, He sometimes referred to the objects of his most intense ridicule both by name and by position, and often face to face.  

No doubt His doing so made the invertebrates around him begin to squirm because they realized how offensive this tactic would be to outsiders.  Nevertheless, Jesus persisted.  He did so because He knew better than his jellyfish camp followers that alluding to heinous acts, and to those who continue to practice them, in only the most innocuous and clinical language does no one, least of all the offenders themselves, any good.  I cannot say it forcefully enough:  Christ did not affirm sinners; He affirmed the repentant.  Others He often addressed with the most withering invective.  God incarnate did not avoid using words and tactics that his listeners found deeply offensive.  He well understood that sometimes it is wrong to be nice.  I deny that we can improve upon the rhetorical strategy of Him who was Himself the Word, and who spoke the world into existence.

The objection raised by the invertebrates that Jesus spoke aggressively only to self-righteous Pharisees simply misses the point.  Any sinner who rejects repentance, or any sinner who holds repentance at bay because he somehow believes it is not for him, is self-righteous.

Paul talked the same way.  

Although his invertebrate comrades probably considered it offensive and indelicate of him to do so, Paul did not hesitate to suggest to several churches -- publicly, plainly, and in writing -- that his many detractors ought simply to emasculate themselves (Gal. 5: 12).  If you believe that circumcision makes you right with God, he argued, why not go the whole way and really get right with God?  If Lorena Bobbitt was reading the Bible on the night that made her famous, this was the verse she read.

Furthermore, in the same letter, (in fact, in the space of but three verses) Paul twice refers to his Galatian readers, the very people he is trying to convince, as fools (Gal. 3: 1, 3).  Subsequent events indicate that his shocking words, though clearly offensive, were not ineffective.  The Galatians chose to follow Paul rather than the Judaizers, whose tactic was, in Paul’s words, to “win the approval of men,” the very tactic urged upon us so indefatigably by the invertebrates -- though never in gender specific language. 

In short, if the religion and practice of the New Testament offend them, the invertebrates need to argue with Jesus and Paul, not me.

Christian Literature

Furthermore, like Christ and his chief apostle, the greatest Christian writers of the Western world also refused to subscribe to the principle that language deeply offensive to one's readers or listeners ought always to be shunned.  Neither the greatest writers of Western tradition (such as Dante, Erasmus, Milton, and Swift) nor the best of the present day permit their language to be censored or vetoed by the hyperactive sensitivities of the spineless.  Great writers select one word over all other words because that word, and that word only, most fully conveys their meaning, and because that word, and that word only, can best be expected to produce the author’s intended effect.  That meaning and that effect are occasionally, and sometimes intentionally, offensive.

The Rules  

Verbal precision, not inoffensiveness, is the traditional hallmark of the West’s best writing and the West’s best books, some of which were deeply and intentionally offensive to great numbers of those who first read them.  Dante’s Inferno consigns a number of Catholic notables -- including popes -- to Hell.  Erasmus’s Praise of Folly excoriates monks and theologians as a shameless and squalid mob.  His Julius Excluded locks Pope Julius out of Heaven because he was an adulterous, blood-thirsty, syphilis-ridden, mammon hound.  Some of Milton’s political pamphlets and poetry are, among other things, timeless handbooks of insult and invective.  Great portions of the works of Jonathan Swift constitute a veritable scatologist’s Bible.  These works and many like them would never have been written or published had the modern preoccupation with inoffensiveness been then the controlling consideration.  Because that preoccupation now prevails, these books and many like them are being harried out of the literary canon.  In other words, the guidelines according to which the invertebrates want us to write are guidelines that not only would have radically recast many of our culture’s great books had they been followed, but would have prevented some of them from ever being written at all.  Had modern guidelines been previously in effect, they would have banished many of our civilization’s most important and memorable texts far more effectively and extensively than has the politically correct curriculum at Stanford, Harvard or Oberlin.

Freedom and Virtue

Invertebrates cannot comprehend that despicable conditions inevitably arise in a fallen world.  Those despicable conditions sometimes require us to employ the language of shock and of confrontation in our unflagging efforts to push back the frontiers of evil and error.  But the spineless do not like it when we do.  They want to police the way we speak.  They want, literally, to erase words from our language.  I have been told by one Christian professor, whom I like and whom I respect, that there was never a time when shock language was right.  Such language, I am asked to believe, ought to be eliminated.  But though others delete it, I shall not.  The fewer words you have at your disposal, the fewer thoughts you are able to think or to articulate with full precision, and the fewer points you are able to make with your desired effect.  When the range of words is small, the range of thought is small and the power of speech is diminished.  In that sense, word police are thought police.  The invertebrates want to put you under arrest.  


Language, like liberty, is not normally lost all at once.  It slips through our hands a little at a time, almost imperceptibly.  Don’t let it happen.

Slang words and shock words have their legitimate use.  Sometimes the right word is a slang word or a shock word because no other word conveys your meaning as fully or as accurately, and because no other word elicits the response you desire.  Sometimes the right language is language that falls beyond the pale of polite discourse –- but not of virtue. 

[1] Michael Bauman is Professor of Theology and Culture at Hillsdale College, in Hillsdale, Michigan, where he also is Director of Christian Studies.  He also is the Scholar in Residence for Summit Semester. He holds a B.A. from Trinity College (1977), an M.A. from McCormick Seminary (1979), and a Ph.D. from Fordham University (1983).

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