We can approach the many comments from the Triablogue Posse to my Dr. Z case in terms of tone or content. In this post I’m going to focus primarily on the tone.
As I read the comments I couldn’t help but think that some of the commenters should watch some old SNL skits featuring Stuart Smalley (played by Al Franken. Yes I know Franken is “a liberal”. Cue the scary organ music). Stuart may have been kind of effeminate (e.g. had Mark Driscoll not been elect he may have put the boots to poor Stuart in a back alley), and he may have been an emotional wreck, but he at least recognized the value in people liking you.
Not so the Triablogue Posse. Indeed, one gets a whiff that the fewer people like them the happier they are and the more they are confirmed in their own election. (Okay that’s not all of them, but after awhile one does begin to discern a general pattern.) Consider the way three of them respond to my story.
First, a brief recap of the story itself. I told of Dr. Z, working in the Congo, desperately attempting to help the victims of rape and mutilation in the ongoing war in the region. After seeing a mutilated eight year old with her legs amputated, Dr. Z loses his faith. “What say you?” I asked the Triablogue Posse.
I was caught off guard by Pastor Dustin Segers who responded by calling the story a “tearjerker”. By doing so it seemed that he was suggesting it was somehow a manipulative cynical play on emotion as if we’re talking about a movie like “Titanic” or “My Sister’s Keeper”. That seemed to me terribly unfair. There are many people like Dr. Z who have experienced horrors we cannot begin to fathom. In the war in Bosnia a man saw his grandson disembowled in front of him. Then he was forced to eat some of his grandson’s intestines before he was impaled to a tree. Did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, some people might have a difficult time conceiving of the compatiblity between a God of infinite love and compassion in light of such heinous evils?
D Bnonn Tennant’s tone was even more striking. He writes:
Randal, in your contrived scenario with Dr Z, I believe a sinless and correct response would be:
“You speak as one of the foolish men would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
But perhaps you don’t believe that the fool says in his heart, “There is no God”?
My jaw dropped to the floor when I read that one. This guy makes Job’s comforters look like rank amateurs. Dr. Z, his shirt still soaked with the blood of the eight year old he labored to save, is a foolish man? And then Tennant continues the perpetual abuse of Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1. I am convinced that the people who quote those texts against atheists and agnostics must surely have never read them. (I dealt with this horrible proof-texting in my article “Are Atheists all Fools?”)
But the palme d’or must surely go to Kilgore who had the most vicious response to the Dr. Z story:
“Maybe Dr. Z would think more clearly if he wasn’t boozing and crying into his brandy?”
Yes, it is true. In the story Dr. Z was drinking a glass of brandy as he was weeping. Didn’t he know that as Jesus was rising at the ascension he looked down and said “I almost forgot, when you do that Lord’s Supper thing, make sure it’s grape juice.” (Too bad it took an additional nineteen hundred years before Thomas Bramwell Welch got around to inventing grape juice and stopping the tide of Christians sinning boldly every time they knelt for communion.)
In a way Kilgore’s comments are ironically funny given the number of Reformed theologians (many of whom Kilgore probably has posters of on the wall of his basement suite in his parents’ house) who enjoy a good cigar and brandy. (I could name names, but I don’t want to shake Kilgore’s faith.)
A final note to the Triablogue Posse: Once you write things like that, ending your statement with something like “Sincerely, at the foot of cross of sovereign grace…” kinda rings hollow.