Samuel Sey, a recent Twitter phenomenon, has weighed in on an article produced by J.D. Hall over at Pulpit & Pen regarding the G3 conference lineup of speakers. You can read Hall’s article HERE. In the article, Hall, a Reformed Baptist pastor who is well-acquainted with the life and teachings of C.H. Spurgeon, contends that Spurgeon would not have shared the stage with some of the speakers at the G3 conference. This is due to the fact that at least three of the speakers at the conference espouse much of the Social Justice theories circulating within evangelical and SBC churches. According to Hall, Spurgeon would have opposed these Social Justice theories, and hence, he would have separated from men who propagate them. Now, David Platt, Mark Dever, and John Piper are propagating Social Justice theories and have been for some time now. It follows then, that if Spurgeon would have separated from men who propagate Social Justice theories as gospel issues, then he would have separated from Platt, Dever, and Piper. That seems uncontroversial to me from a logical standpoint. If you wish to offer up a challenge to Hall’s position, you could contend that Spurgeon would not have separated from those who propagate these Social Justice theories or you could claim that Platt, Dever, and Piper do not, in fact, propagate such theories. That seems to me to be the two most obvious rebuttals. Whether or not one could produce the requisite evidence to overthrow Hall’s argument is another matter entirely.
Now, the irony in all this is witnessed in the fact that most of the G3 conference speakers are supposedly huge fans of Spurgeon. And therein lies the rub. If Spurgeon would have separated from these guys, and you in fact love and agree with Spurgeon, why aren’t you separating from them? To add insult to injury, and as if the irony wasn’t heavy enough, many of the G3 speakers who are sharing the stage with these men, signed the Dallas Statement on Social Justice (opposing the movement), calling it subversive and the single greatest threat to the gospel in recent memory within evangelicalism.
Here is a sample of the language in the Dallas Statement that most of the G3 speakers signed:
If the doctrines of God’s Word are not uncompromisingly reasserted and defended at these points, there is every reason to anticipate that these dangerous ideas and corrupted moral values will spread their influence into other realms of biblical doctrines and principles.
I am extremely sympathetic to Hall’s position. I understand what he is saying. And I agree with Hall’s conviction that men who are guilty of propagating error within the churches ought to be dealt with biblically and brought to repentance. I realize how unpopular this is in American culture as well as how foreign and off-putting it is to American churches. Nevertheless, it is the biblical thing to do. While I would stop short of criticizing G3 and ShepCon for inviting these speakers to their conference, I would say that I really wish they hadn’t done so. If I had a say in either conference, none of the men propagating Social Justice theories would have been invited. That would include Ligon Duncan and Al Mohler in addition to Dever, Platt, and Piper. I have nothing to say to the G3 organizers or ShepCon beyond “I would not have placed these men on the speaker’s list this year.”
This brings me to the dust-up this week involving Samuel Sey and JD Hall. Now, what is interesting is that Samuel Sey has been on the right side of this issue since emerging on Twitter-sphere. For reasons about which one can only speculate, Sey decided to weigh in on Halls comments and wow did he ever! I like Sey. I usually enjoy his contributions to this subject. But in this case, I have to admit that I am disappointed. If we read the above Twitter exchange, you can see that Sey has some harsh things to write about Pulpit & Pen. Initially, he tweets out that they are more like the Accuser (the Devil) than they are like Christ. Now, this is a statement about the genuineness of the faith of JD Hall. I don’t care who you are, that is a very big deal. Because it is such a big deal and because I like Sey and I like Hall, I thought it might be helpful for me to reach out to Sey and offer a little pushback in hopes that he might walk the rhetoric back a bit. Rather than walking anything back, Sey doubled and tripled down by comparing Pulpit & Pen to Satan. I found his remarks to be disgraceful and ironically, egregious slander. After all, it was the sin of slander that Sey had initially levied against P&P.
Now, how should we rebut Sey’s claim? First, we have to ask the question, what is slander? If one is going to accuse someone of slander, then one must have a working definition of the behavior in question. According to the dictionary, slander is the action or crime of making false spoken statements about someone damaging to a\that person’s reputation. To say that Hall slandered Piper, Dever, and/or Platt is to say that he made a false statement about them that damages their reputation. That is Sey’s burden to prove. So far, I have not seen anything from Sey outside of shallow, generalized rhetoric to sustain his assertion. Still waiting. Perhaps something will be forthcoming.
Next, Sey has the burden of demonstrating that Piper, Platt, and Dever are not guilty of espousing Social Justice theories. But that seems to me to be an impossible task since all three men are on record as doing that very thing. All three men have openly taken up the cause of Social Justice in their respective sphere of influence. Therefore, it would seem to me that this is not a route that is open to Sey if he hopes to sustain his charge against Hall. So then, Sey has to prove that Hall’s claims are false. Then he has to show that Piper, Platt, and Dever are not guilty of propagating Social Justice. They go hand in hand. From my point of view, Sey has a daunting, if not impossible, task.
Another matter is the question, would Spurgeon have shared the stage with these men? Let’s pretend for a minute that Hall could be mistaken on this point. Is that in and of itself enough to accuse Hall of slander? I don’t see how it could be. At best it would mean that Hall was perhaps mistaken. To take it further than that one would have to demonstrate just how this opinion damages the reputations of Piper, Platt, and Dever. This, in my mind, is also not a path open to Sey if he wishes to sustain his charge.
It seems to me that the only way Sey’s charge of slander actually sticks, is actually true, is if Hall intentionally made false statements about Piper, Platt, and Dever regarding their positions on Social Justice. If Hall said that Dever promotes Social Justice theories as gospel issues, and such promotion ipso facto damages Dever’s public reputation, then Hall would be guilty of Slander if and only if Dever had NOT in fact done so. Is that what happened here? The simple and direct answer is no. Hall, as far as I can tell, did not misrepresent anyone’s views. The only question, which isn’t much of a question, is whether or not Spurgeon would have in fact separated from these men over this issue. Hall’s informed opinion on the matter leads him to believe that he would have. I am not a Spurgeon expert. Couple that with the fact that I am convinced that Hall is an honest pastor and fellow brother in Christ, and I am inclined to defer to Hall’s opinion on the matter. But, even if Hall is mistaken on the Spurgeon question, that still does not make him indictable for slander. The grand jury would refuse to issue an indictment in this case. There simply isn’t any evidence to sustain the accusation.
Now, the real problem here rests with Sey. Samual Sey has leveled an indictment of slander against Hall. He has, for all intents and purposes, called him devilish. That claim requires a judgment about the character of Hall as a believer as well as the nature of the genuineness of his faith. Now, is it damaging to Hall’s reputation as a pastor for a high-profile blogger like Samuel Sey to claim that Hall does not know Christ? I would have to say, yes, it is. A pastor’s reputation is destroyed if in fact, it is the case that he is not a true believer. The second question is this: Is Sey’s accusation of the sin of slander and his claim that Hall is devilish, true? Since it turns out that Hall is not making false statements about Piper, Platt, and Dever, it follows that he is not guilty of slander. And since he is NOT guilty of slander, Sey’s accusation that he is guilty of slander is a false statement about Hall that damages his reputation. What is the definition of slander? Slander is the action or crime of making false spoken statements about someone damaging to that person’s reputation. If anyone runs the risk of slander, it isn’t Hall. As it turns out, Sey seems to have some explaining of his own to do. And that is where I will leave it. Perhaps Sey is thinking more deeply about his remarks as I write. Who knows if he will do the right thing and walk these statements back a bit.
“But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” (Galatians 5:15, NASB95)