Friday, June 15, 2018

Wrapping Up A Few Things

Unless Dr. White gives some kind of response in the future or something unusual pops up in any other context, this is probably going to be my last post on the White v. Wood controversy.  Therefore, I want to just wrap a few things up.

In my first post, an eternity and a half ago, I spent a deal of time discussing how the Bible speaks a great deal via stories.  There’s still didactic teaching all throughout, but I would estimate that more than half the Bible is in story format.  As I’ve been musing things over, I think that this distinction—the distinction between didactic and story-telling—might be driving quite a bit of the confusion from White and those who support him here.

For example, the one episode that White has said he might show others—the only episode he has given any bit of praise toward at all—is the adoption episode, and even then White’s complaint is that it doesn’t go far enough because it relies on “emotion” instead of teaching the Gospel.  You know what other story I think doesn’t go far enough?  The book of Esther.  It doesn’t even mention God anywhere in the text.  Imagine how much better Ester would have been if just once the author had said that Yahweh was behind the events, protecting His people!  Perhaps God should have talked to me before He inspired that one….

This issue bugs me a great deal in part because I love to write my own stories.  And because of that, I’ve had to deal with many of these topics.  If you’re representing a real story, how realistic do you make it?  When an atheist gets out of bed in the middle of the night to go use the bathroom, if he trips over his cat and smacks his face against the coffee table, he’s not going to say, “Drat, that wasn’t very fun.”  But by the same token, do you really want to write down what he would have screamed out?

When you are writing a story, you have to take into account the purpose of the story.  Your story cannot be everything for everyone—it’s literally impossible.  So you have to have your focus, pick your target audience, and go for it.  Part of why so much horrible fiction is out there is because some writers try to be everything to everyone at the same time, and the story suffers because of it.

But then you have Christians who insert themselves into the fictional works of other Christians.  (And it’s amazing how many people are making the mistake with the video series from Wood, in that they don’t even realize that there are fictional characters involved.  The videos are not about David, Jon, and Vocab—they are about Dennis, Jamar, and Giovanni, three fictional characters played by David, Jon, and Vocab.)

Back to my point: there are Christians who do not understand how stories work, but who demand that every story be turned into some kind of specific Gospel message that they would approve of.  These people are the reason so few Christian productions make it through Hollywood.  The story itself is sacrificed for the sake of the propaganda.  You don’t like it when non-Christians do it; why do you think they’d watch it when you do it?  On the other hand, when you do a well-written story, you can get people to think about and discuss those Christian themes because the message is attached to something that works as a story first.

Now, you don’t have to do that if your videos are didactic.  Those are teaching videos.  Everyone knows what they are getting into with those types of videos.  But if you’re doing a story, like Wood was doing, then you have to get the story first, to get the plot in sync with the message you are conveying, and not to sacrifice the story for the sake of the message.  (If you’re doing that, just do a didactic video since story is clearly not for you.)  For those who are concerned about the propriety of producing something with a story-emphasis, message-second focus, I would point out once again that God inspired the book of Esther without once having His Name mentioned in the text...

But this does lead me to the next point.  I’ve read some tweets and comments on YouTube where people have said they wouldn’t use the videos to evangelize their Muslim neighbors.  To that I say: “WHAT?!”  It’s a complete fallacy that you should be using any video to evangelize at all.  Telling people, “Go watch this video series” is not evangelism.  Do you really think if you’re standing before the throne of God and He asks, “In what way did you observe the Great Commission?” that you will satisfy Him by saying, “Well, I sent some people to YouTube to watch a James White video”?

Evangelism was designed to be interpersonal and relational.  Yes, sometimes mass appeals work.  Some people actually did become saved at a Billy Graham Crusade, for instance.  But by and large, the primary method of evangelism is when people talk to other people about the Gospel.  You have to do so if you’re going to be able to address where people are.  Just throwing out a cookie-cutter video isn’t going to address the specific questions and issues that specific people have.

Does this mean that I think videos are worthless?  Clearly not, or I would not have spent time to defend Wood’s video.  Rather, videos need to be used intentionally for specific reasons—just like books, and even passages from the Bible itself.  For instance, if someone asks you to show how Jesus was divine, would you tell him to read Judges?  If they were confused about the Trinity, would you have them read about the Tower of Babel?  No, you would address the specific concerns they have and send them to those particular sections.  And in doing so, you are not belittling the rest of Scripture or considering it less important or worthless.

In the same way, videos are just tools that can assist you in evangelism but do not take the place of evangelism.  And if you’re going to use these tools for evangelism, you need to know if it’s the appropriate tool to use at the appropriate time.  Your friendly Muslim neighbor who’s grown up in the West might benefit by watching James White tackle an issue with gentleness and respect, while his seventeen-year-old son who is dabbling in ISIS chatrooms and has heard an imam say the very things that Wood lampoons might completely ignore White but take notice because of Wood’s presentation.  People are not all the same, and when you evangelize you have to know which method will work with each person.

How do you do that?  By listening to the Spirit, ultimately.  There is a time to destroy and a time to build, and if you’re in a genuine relational ministry with your Muslim friends and spending time with God in prayer, in His word, and in His Church, He will lead you to when you destroy the false worldview of your friend and when you build up the truth of Christ.

So you do not need David Wood’s videos to do everything for you, to evangelize on your behalf.   No, you need to evangelize and Wood is just providing a tool that fits the scenario that is needed when you run into the hardened Muslims who need their worldview knocked down a peg or two.  If you don’t need those videos when you’re witnessing to someone, guess what?  You don’t need to send anyone to them!  You use the tools you need at the time you need them, and only a fool would get upset that a circular saw isn’t a cement mixer.

Hmm.  Maybe someone should have told Paul to write a metaphor like that.  But I guess he wouldn’t have had power tools.  Maybe he could have used, I don’t know, body parts or something.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The adoption episode touched me as my brother and myself were both adopted to different families.

    All this just to satisfy the lust of the flesh of Muhammad. How can one truly reason from a logical position to support this lack of empathy?

    1. This note may be helpful in answering such question

  3. This is a side issue - about the book of Esther -
    It doesn’t even mention God anywhere in the text. Imagine how much better Ester would have been if just once the author had said that Yahweh was behind the events, protecting His people! Perhaps God should have talked to me before He inspired that one….

    I had to think through that issue as I was preaching the book with a team of elders and some chapter were assigned to me - about 10-15 years ago.

    What it showed me is the truth of this life in this world - even if people don't mention God or talk about God; even if the west becomes totally secular; or even if Islamic Jihad stuff starts taking over countries in Europe, etc. - God, the Holy Trinity, the God of Scripture, is still sovereign and in control and guiding the world in His providence, in the battle of "good vs. evil" (Esther & Mordecai vs. Haman) even if His name is not named or people don't know that it is God who is behind the scenes.

  4. "Back to my point: there are Christians who do not understand how stories work, but who demand that every story be turned into some kind of specific Gospel message that they would approve of. These people are the reason so few Christian productions make it through Hollywood. The story itself is sacrificed for the sake of the propaganda. "

    Excellent point.
    I hope to digest the rest of these last few articles and the comment boxes; it is just too much right for me to completely digest; but thanks for all the articles on these issues and civil discussion!

  5. The divine name might be hidden in acrostic form in Esther. See Bullinger's The Companion Bible appendix 60.

  6. Very well put. I think you have hit the nail on the head - White's main complaint is that there were "teaching moments" that were missed or substituted for mockery/humour/satire. I think apart from his Biblical misapplied verses, this is the main issue for him.

    Btw, I hope White's church comes out with their version of Islamicise Me videos. I am sure those will have their place in Christian apologetics too.

    The point about videos used in evangelism is also a great point. These are indeed just tools at our disposal - and one has to know when to use the hammer and when the scalpel. My best friend who is a Muslim asked me about our Bible being changed because there is a distinction of "Old" and the "New" in it. I gave a short summary of why he is incorrect, and then shared some videos from the Bible Project. Now I am waiting for him to come back to me with questions. I did the same with another non-Christian friend.

    No video can answer all questions. But as an evangelist you can at least try to address most of them.

    1. The reason I am leery in referring my best friend to Wood's channel is because my friends is a very sophisticated person, and a Nabeel Qureshi/Ravi Zacharias approach will better work with him. The scalpel is the appropriate tool for him.

      But I know PLENTY of other Muslims who would not appreciate the latter approach (at least at the beginning because of their supreme confidence in Islam), and if I had to use a tool to supplement my apologetics - Wood's channel would be one of those. Here the hammer would work - and probably only hammer to shatter the baseless confidence.