Only this, and nothing more

Israeli soldier praying at the Western wallAt the risk of pouring vinegar on an open wound, there is something I must say about the controversy currently beclouding Emmanuel Christian Seminary: I feel ashamed of some of the treatment of Paul Blowers and of ECS coming out of the biblioblogosphere. We “overheard” Paul question Chris Rollston’s character (or at least some of his decisions)—and some of us responded by impugning Paul’s character. We “learned” that the “public opinion” held by ECS’s denominational constituency (including actual or potential donors) might influence ECS’s institutional behavior—and some of us responded by trying to leverage the “public opinion” held by “the academy” (of which we appointed ourselves spokespeople) to influence ECS’s institutional behavior.

I find these actions embarrassing. I find them self-referentially inconsistent. I find them lacking in both Christian and academic graces and virtues. Perhaps even more to the point, I find them completely inconsistent with Chris Rollston’s character. I cannot imagine that he would want anyone to defend him by attacking Paul Blowers, Michael Sweeney, or ECS as an institution.

This does not mean that I agree with Paul’s criticisms of Chris, or that I endorse certain actions that ECS is known or alleged to have considered or taken. It also does not mean that I wish to shut anybody up; I have already expressed my opinion that people who care about Chris have “standing” to express their support for him, regardless of institutional ties to ECS or lack of same. However, I do want to plead for virtuous speech on this matter, especially speech that reflects charity, temperance, and prudence. In retrospect, I believe my own comments on October 12 may have lacked prudence, particularly with regard to the metaphors I employed at the end of that post. I may have helped to fan the flames when I hoped to help calm them, and for that I wish that my foresight could have exceeded my hindsight.

To Paul Blowers I say: Paul, I disagree substantially with your criticisms of Chris Rollston and his August 31 article. I also think you’ve responded imprudently to some of your online critics in the intervening weeks. However, if my October 12 post expressed my thoughts in a manner you found hurtful or uncharitable, I seek your forgiveness, and pray that your critics may find more gracious ways to express their disagreements.

To Chris Rollston I say: Chris, I grieve to find you at the center of such a roiling controversy, and wish that I could do more to ease your own grief and speed your healing. However, if my October 12 post expressed my concern in a manner that reflected negatively on you within your local context at ECS, I seek your forgiveness, and pray that your critics may find more gracious ways to express their disagreements.

And to my dear friend in East Tennessee who opened my eyes and my heart wider than they had been before, I say: thank you.

In contrast to my normal practice, I will not be accepting comments on this post. I normally encourage free discussion of my ideas, but not this time. This post is not an invitation to discussion or argument, defenses or accusations. It is a confession. It is a sermon. It is a prayer, and it ends in prayer:

Κύριε ἐλέησον