If Stats Could Speak

Tim Brister —  March 10, 2007 — 11 Comments

Tim Challies, who recently live-blogged the Shepherd’s Conference, shared some reflections today on his blog.  Concluding his post, Challies writes,

I will leave you with one amusing visual. This is a graph showing the traffic to my site over the past month. You won’t have any trouble telling how the Shepherds’ Conference fits into this chart. In particular, you’ll know just how much interest was generated by John MacArthur’s comments in the first session regarding eschatology.

Here is his chart:


What does this tell me?  It tells me that we love controversy.  It is titillating to our ears and satisfies our sensational craze for the next best provocative statement.   I have learned this in the past when it comes to addressing the attacks on Calvinism, Billy Graham’s inclusivism, or the like.  Now I realize that my blog is called Provocations and Pantings, and it would be fitting to be provocative.  But the things I had in mind were the stuff that provoked me in the same way things provoked Jesus in the Temple or Paul in Athens.  The issue is not being provocative per say, but what exactly brings about such a provocation.  Dividing Reformed brethren over eschatology is a lamentable provocation in my opinion.

Let’s face it.  Controversy sure does the job for our blogs and stats, but I wonder what the gospel does when we proclaim it?  I wonder what faithful exposition of Scripture or writing about substantive material from church history does to our stat pages?  Does this diagram not speak volumes about the weakness of our affections and our lust for controversy? 

My hunch is that if MacArthur preached on the gospel, the stats would have looked really different.  I hope I would be wrong.  But a man of MacArthur’s stature gets up and says some uncharitable and controversial things on a nonessential matter of eschatology, and we are stuck to this tar baby.  Would to God that we would be so stuck and staggered by the gospel!  One of the things I pray and long for is that we would see a movement when our affections and attention would be so riveted by the excellencies of Jesus Christ and His gospel that we are consumed by it.  That would be revival.  This?  This shows our need for it.

If these stats could speak, what do you think it would say? 

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  • total depravity.

  • Dividing Reformed brethren over eschatology is a lamentable provocation in my opinion.

    Hearty Amens.

  • Wow, those statistics are a very humbling reflection on my own sinful flesh’s love for theological gossip. You hit the nail on the head when you say that simply preaching the gospel wouldn’t have generated any unusual interest among Christian bloggers. That is a sad reflection on all of us, I think.

  • Sean Gould

    yes…..total depravity. Good exhortation Timmy.

  • I agree guys.

    I thought of the verse John Flavel preached so many sermons on in his day as fitting for me in this situation:

    “Keep your heart with all viligance, for from it flows the spring of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.”

    Proverbs 4:23-24

  • Pingback: Response to MacArthur « Adopted()

  • I hope you are not suggesting that John MacArthur is being divisive simply by preaching a sermon in which he espouses his beliefs regarding premillennialism (perhaps I’m reading you wrong, I’m tired). I’ve seen posts expressing shock and awe that he would preach this at the Shepherd’s Conference, but I haven’t yet seen an examination of the content itself (I’m sure there’s one out there). It’s clear that MacArthur believes in preaching the whole counsel of God, and I am glad he doesn’t feel obligated to an indeterminate number of subjects in speaking to pastors.

  • Matt.

    The issue here is not whether McArthur can be premil but rather if a Reformed brother (or sister) could be anything but premil. I can’t examine the content at this point because the audio is not available yet (at least I think it isn’t). But from what I have read elsewhere, it appears that MacArthur is making a prescriptive and conclusive argument against anything but the premil position (at least if you’re Reformed).

    There are many Reformed brethren who hold to a different eschatology than MacArthur’s dispy pre-mil position, and they are well documented and Scripturally valid. Do you not think that beginning a conference with a message like this would eclipse whatever thenceforth would be offered?

    In all of this, I ask myself, “Why?” Why at a pastors conference where you have Reformed brethren gathered in unity over the gospel you begin by being polemical over a non-essential matter? I just don’t see it.

  • Hi Timmy,

    This is an excellent take on the controversy. I feel rebuked for my bad attitude (I listened to the message). Thanks, I needed that!

    I’m still disapointed in Dr. MacArthur. The focus should be on being Together for the Gospel. We can have irenic discussions about eschatology, but we shouldn’t be attacking each other.

  • Terry,

    I agree with you brother (it’s good to hear from you by the way!). This type of rancor about eschatology is a badge of the fundamentalist movement which sought to elevate non-essential matters to essential. Anyone who appears to look like a modern-day Bob Jones Sr., John R. Rice, or Carl McIntire, I am very wary of. We need men like Lloyd-Jones and Henry as reminders of how we can disagree and dicuss theology while focusing and uniting under the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    If you can remember, MacArthur noted at the T4G conference that the doctrine of the headship of Christ was the missing doctrine of the day. I believe he is on to something, but what about dividing the body? Should we not take Christ’s call to unity seriously? If Christ is the head, who unites us into one calling, one gospel, one salvation, then why should there be needless division and polemics over such non-essentials?

  • One should remember that the Shepherds Conference is not Together for the Gospel and has dealt with a number of issues through main sessions and breakout sessions throughout the years. I went in 2004 and there were a variety of topics covered. MacArthur preached on baptism in the opening session that year if my memory is correct.

    Dr. MacArthur isn’t obligated to convince people of the sovereignty of God in salvation. He was using his forum to talk about something he believe in. It’s clear from reports of the sermon that he wants pastors to really think through this issue as a matter of being (a) faithful to the text, and (b) consistent in their theology. From what I have read and heard from those who heard the sermon he makes some valid points. Admittedly, I am a “dispy pre-mil” as well. I hope to have more thoughts on the sermon on my site when I get the audio in a couple of days.

    Thanks for the forum, Timmy.