Monday, May 09, 2011

Where is Heidelblog?

As a former Roman Catholic, I’m still a bit of a newbie when it comes to being a Protestant. And I have to admit, I’m somewhat puzzled by “church discipline”.

For some Reformed Christians – in some of the Reformed Confessions – there are two marks of the church: that the Gospel is faithfully preached, and that the sacraments are properly administered. For others, there is that “third mark” of “church discipline,” and here is where we face potential train wrecks.

Now, I know that some pastors are very sensitive to the dimension of discipline, and discipline, properly effected, is a good thing. It can save eternal lives. And as a member of a PCA church, I have taken a membership vow that “I submit myself to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace.” I don’t wish to question the concept of church discipline.

But sometimes, it seems as if the concept of “church discipline” can be taken too far.

I’m not going to speculate as to who did what to whom in this case. I know that Clark was frequently controversial. At one point he turned off the comments on his blog because they became too rowdy.

As a freshly-minted non-Roman Catholic in the late 1990’s, I searched the Internet for sources about Reformation theology, and one of the sources I found was a site that was the precursor of Clark’s Heidelblog.

Because of his writings and his blog, I was able to get to interact with and to know the man. Not well, but even during some disputes, I always found him to be accessible and open and a good guide through a number of Reformation-related topics. I referred to, and even quoted his blog a number of times.

And no doubt the same is true for many of his students and readers.

Whether you like(d) Clark or hate(d) him, The Heidleblog, in its entirety, was the culmination of years’-worth of effort from a brilliant and erudite man. And its removal has the feel of a 21st-century book burning.

Edit (3:00 pm EDT): Since I made this initial post, I've learned a bit more about Dr. Clark’s reasons for deleting the blog. What I have to say is that it takes a tremendous amount of work and commitment to continue to write, day after day, on controversial topics. As Christians, we should be grateful for the work of such individuals, especially those who labor mightily for the kingdom -- on all sides of controversies that we have among ourselves -- and we need to be mindful that we work for the ultimate [in this world] controversialist, Jesus Christ.


  1. For my part I always pronounce his name as "Dr. S.Clark" where the "C" is silent and the "l" is enunciated like an "n".


  2. Two very popular alternative pronunciations in some parts of the country, I understand.

  3. All of my favorite bloggers seem to be disappearing. Can you do a post on 'Where's Aporetic Christianity' as well?

  4. Hi David -- Paul addressed that in a comment somewhere -- he said Steve bought him out because he was taking away too much Tblog readership :-)

  5. David,

    Considering the topic of this post, it's time I come clean. Steve Hays subjected me to church discipline because I criticized his desire to do a "Christian rap" on Easter Sunday.

  6. "And its removal has the feel of a 21st-century book burning."

    Ignorantly impugning the motives of those in authority over Dr. Clark is unjustified. I suggest you contact his consistory with your questions.

  7. Ignorantly impugning the motives of those in authority over Dr. Clark is unjustified.

    I'm not impugning anyone's motives. I explicitly said above, "I’m not going to speculate as to who did what to whom in this case." Nor did I say whose impetus it was for the blog to be removed.

    The fact that it was removed is an extreme measure.

  8. "I'm not impugning anyone's motives."

    "Book burning?" Unfortunately, your final comment left that very impression. It was unjustified and unnecessary.

  9. I realize we're operating in an electronic, vs a print environment. But I am having hard time coming up with another analogy.

  10. Paul said:

    Steve Hays subjected me to church discipline because I criticized his desire to do a "Christian rap" on Easter Sunday.

    Steve's rap prowess started on the mean streets of Compton. I recall because I was present in the audience at the time.

    It was Good Friday, but there wasn't anything good about it. A freestyle rap battle had been raging throughout the day.

    Steve dazzled the audience with his lyrical genius to conjure sick verses on the spot. One challenger after another fell. 50 cent, Jay-Z, Eminem, Elmer Fudd. There was no stopping him. None could so much as touch Steve's silver tongue coupled with his velvet mouth.

    Paul was there as well. He sensed a prideful spirit emerging. There was only one way to fell the prideful spirit: humility by way of rhymes.

    Paul stepped up. The two battled. The braggadocio was relentless. Back and forth it went. Hours upon hours. There was nothing like it. "Fire on the mountain. Run, boys, run!" the audience chanted. In the end there was no clear winner.

    That's when Steve challenged Paul to continue the rap battle another day. He told Paul to "bring it" on Easter Sunday. Paul criticized this move.

    Nevertheless, when the day came, Paul showed. So did Steve - along with several church elders also versed in the Way of the Rap. They had the skillz to pay the billz. They could hip hop till you don't stop. Together they were able to subject Paul to discipline. The rest is history.

    Oh, except I left out one small detail. I didn't mention the epic dunk contest that followed. But I'll save that rhyme for another time.

  11. John Bugay: "I'm not impugning anyone's motives."

    Tom: "Book burning?" Unfortunately, your final comment left that very impression. It was unjustified and unnecessary.

    Me: You left out "felt like." What was given was a report of qualia, not an impugning of motives. It is neither necessarily unjustified or unnecessary to report on on one's internal mental state. It's an honest report of the qualia state John was in upon acquaintance with the ostensible facts. You need to learn to make basic distinctions between reports of qualia and impugnings before carelessly lambasting people.

  12. I feel like Tom should be lambasted, and I believe that I would enjoy seeing Paul carefully and bombastically lambast Tom.

    Is the preceding a valid example of a report of qualia, Paul?



  13. R. Scott Clark was a staunch advocate of R2K. So I wonder if his decision to remove Heidelblog was based solely upon his posts about worship styles.

  14. Hi Annoyed. There are snippet views of that here and also here. If you'd like something more detailed than that, email me at johnbugay [at] gmail [dot] com, and I'll be happy to give you more information.

  15. Let's be entirely accurate:

    “And its removal has the feel of a 21st-century book burning.”

    Perhaps it was just a poor analogy. Recall this was in the context of a perplexity about Reformed church discipline perhaps being taken too far. Book-burnings are generally identified with radical groups and their activities, e.g., the Nazis. Whether this was a qualia statement or not, the comment seemed directed toward whoever initiated the “book burning”-like actions, unless we allow that RSC himself was doing the burning.

  16. Tom, books were being burned long before the Nazis. And it may not have been the perfect analogy--is there such a thing?--but rest assured, reams of information has been vaporized, and no man wants to see his life's work go up in smoke.

  17. these two statements are logically consistent

    "X has the feel of phi"

    "X is not extra-mentally phi"

    In other words, John could admit both that this was not in fact a book burning and it nevertheless had that feel. And, apart from whatever the facts of the matter are, it is a salient feature of this incident that it indeed had that "feel" for a great many people. And I'm not sure that feel is "unjustified and unnecessary," even if it happens to be false.

  18. Why does the reason for Clark deleting his blog have to be a state secret?

  19. OK. It has the feel of impugning motives.

  20. OK. It has the feel of impugning motives.

    Sorry, Tom, I really meant to say that it's all perfectly innocent. It was just an accidental slip of the mouse. "Ctrl-Z" didn't work, however. They're working now to restore it from back-up tapes. Everything should be back to normal in the morning.

  21. Tom,

    OK. It has the feel of impugning motives."

    Good, which means you take back the "unjustified" and "unnecessary" and "ignorant" comments, a concession that was the telos of my commenting.

  22. “Good, which means you take back the "unjustified" and "unnecessary" and "ignorant" comments, a concession that was the telos of my commenting.”

    No, not at all, since it certainly feels like the comments were unjustified, unnecessary, and made in ignorance. Indeed, on the last point they were. (While Mr. Bugay attempted some sort of clarification in his 3pm edit, frankly it is more confusing than the rest of the article. If he spoke personally to RSC or his consistory and was informed that maintaining the blog was taking up too much time, then just say that plainly and let it go. Admit “book burning” was the wrong feeling to have. Yet today we have another blog from Mr. Bugay further attempting to justify his first go at things, this time suggesting an agenda and using Orwell and Rome as a backdrop.)

    Book burners are generally well-identified, esp. in the case of some perceived authoritarian punishment (as in this narrative). As far as we know, RSC, voluntarily and with good reason and positive motivation, removed his blog from the Internet. All this presumably could have been discovered before anyone made suggestions about book burning and heavy-handed authoritarianism.

  23. Tom, I see your latest comment has hit the spam filter. Someone should let it out shortly.

    Nevertheless, let's just say that your speculations are way out of the ballpark, and something far more serious really is going on.

  24. Tom,

    Again, a claim that "X has the feel of phi" doesn't imply that "X is phi." You said you agreed. You initially tried to claim that the post was *in fact* unjustified, unnecessary, and ignorant. You have undercut your initial comments. If you want to keep claiming that the post has that feel to you, fine, but what I'm saying is that you can't claim that the post *is* those things. Are you catching on yet?

  25. Tom,

    What are the public facts? RSC admits he made a mistake in undermining his elders in the URC.

    That apology stays up until we get a note that the blog is coming to an end.

    What's more probable, he was forced to take the blog down or he did so voluntarily? Pr(forced) or Pr(voluntary).

    In terms of assigning probabilities, we need to ask about the timing. What's more probable, right after a public apology for overstepping what he takes himself as allowed to say in public he voluntarily takes the blog down (due to no outside urging by others), or he was politely asked to? But perhaps it's just a coincidence. Perhaps. But then we need to ask about the probability that Clark would voluntarily take his blog down. Clark does view his thoughts as pretty important and thinks he's involved in the Reformation fight all over again. He views himself as one of a small group of people trying to save Reformed theology from the neo-cals, the transformationalists, and the theonomists. He's recovering the reformed confessions for us. He also uses the blog to highlight WSC interviews, his office hours, and goings on with the seminary. Other than WSC itself, his place was the only place that did this on the internet. And then he just closes shop? With no hint anything was out of place? One minute he's heavily involved on the internet, going about business as usual, then next he's done. Gone like a ghost? What's more probable, Tom? Given the public facts, what's the "feel" you get?

    I don't know why you wanted to push this.

  26. Speculating? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that something fishy is going on here. If Clark simply wanted to stop blogging, why delete all the resources from the past?

  27. The fact that this happened is just more evidence for WHY the blogosphere SHOULD exist! Without it denominations are not held accountable for their equivocations and their compromises of the truth.

    Being a "company" man may assure you have a "career". But will you be able to face your God in the judgment? I think the bible has a word for that. At least the KJV does. It's called a "hireling".

    But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. (John 10:12-13 KJV)

  28. Unless someone has taken the time to speak to RSC's consistory (the implied book burners here), I'm done. Y'all may have the last word.

  29. Sorry, one more …

    “I don't know why you wanted to push this.”

    Frankly, because the reputation of men, officers in Christ’s church, is being brought into question by speculative blather. I don’t understand why the parties involved who have the answers could not have been contacted prior to the speculation and “feelings” got out of control. Can you answer that? Or is the nature of blogging to promote such inflated rhetoric? Comment first and seek truth later?

  30. Scott was honourable, decent, scholarly, involved and a strategic thinker. If his consistory pulled him from the game, screw that. The consistory is not sovereign. Let them defend themselves with specifics. Are they afraid? "Put up or shut up," clerics.

    "O consistory, consistory, where art thou?"

    If Scott pulled himself from the game, that is a leader dropping his 100-lb pack on a 30-mile march, an ignoble image, for a war-weary combat veteran. At this point, that is the justifiable presumption--he dropped his pack in war.

    In either scenario, this lad, Scott, pulled the entire blog down, years of work.

    Unacceptable leadership, period.

  31. Might be of interest:

  32. Tom:

    You better believe some officers' reputation are at bar. Let them speak.

    Scott was a public figure. Let them vindicate themselves, as officers.

    In either case, consistorial issues or Scott's retreat, it is an ignoble image--retreat in time of war.

    The onus of proof rests on the Consistory. If they can't handle the tough questions of leadership, let them say so.

    A public explanation is in order. Otherwise, this scribe shall and already has concluded--unseemly behaviour in war, desertion of duty, and lack of leadership.

    Say what you might, those smells will be hard to remove.

    Are there any meritorious explanations?

  33. Thanks Warren, but unhelpful. Pulling the entire blog down reeked of bad odours. Nuff said. I have little use for the abandonment of a post assumed in combat.

  34. Pulling the entire blog down reeked of bad odours. Nuff said.

    I agree. A concept of "church discipline," whose ever it is, which would necessitate such a public spectacle, can be commented on in public, without going into the underlying source of it.

    Going back to what I said in the original post, "I’m not going to speculate as to who did what to whom in this case." I'm not holding a trial, nor am I judging the case.

    I don't care who did what or who said what. The concept of "church discipline" that necessitated (a) the groveling public apology that we saw, and (b) the removal of an entire blog, is what's at question.

  35. Tom, I just gave an argument that showed you have the burden. Not only was John justified in his feel, the public facts are probabilistically weighted in that direction too. Considering the arguments against you, and your only response has been to repeat yourself ad nauseum, it has now been shown that your remarks are unjustified, unnecessary, and ignorant. No, what's your next move? Deny the rationality of making probabilistic inferences and their ability to give us warrant for our beliefs, thus giving them positive epistemic status?

  36. I completely understand if Dr. Clark needs to move on to focus on other responsibilities. Frankly I'm amazed he has been able to devote as much time as he has to the effort over the years.

    But to delete a resource like the H'blog and remove it from the world of ideas is a pretty drastic and destructive step, and uncharacteristic - particulary for someone like Clark, - leading to legitimate sentiments of dismay and concern.

    I'll set aside conspiracy theories about possible reasons for quitting and just say that for a prolific writer who engaged in personal dialog with the community to suddenly go silent without so much as a word of explanation and then try to destroy all records of that dialog is just weird.

  37. The question remains to all you armchair coaches, who has contacted RSC’s consistory? To all you proud confessionalists, who has followed the letter or spirit of WLC Q. 144&145?

    The silence is deafening.

  38. Tom, have you contacted RSC’s consistory, and if so, is there anything that you can share with us here to shed light on the discussion?

  39. Tom,

    Contact them for what, exactly? People are reporting their feels on the matter, and I advanced an argument for the greater probability of the forced take-down thesis. On what basis do we need to contact them? Both feels and probabilistic argument might turn up wrong. But what does that matter? Does the mere possibility that you might be wrong mean you can say nothing? Well, then, since you might be wrong, then please say nothing. If that's not the issue, then what's wrong with offering "feels" and pointing out the probabilistic weight of the forced-takedown thesis? Really, Tom, you need to advance an actual argument instead of pounding your fists on the table. That may work in a "Reformed Biker" bar, but it's not conducive to the rational exchange of ideas.

    Moreover, I don't see how WLC 144 & 145 have been violated. But if it has, I don't see how you haven't violated them. Indeed, since I think John is "innocent" of your charges, and since Q. 144 tells me my duty is to defend the innocent against false and scurrilous charges, I'm trying to figure out why you want me to violate question 144?

  40. “Tom, have you contacted RSC’s consistory, and if so, is there anything that you can share with us here to shed light on the discussion?”

    Actually, I have been in contact with them, along with my consistory, since the earliest days of this present matter. I’m not sure I’m at liberty to share the substance of those conversations. It’s best to get the facts firsthand. If you care, you may contact them yourself via their website:

    Granted, it may not be as satisfying as blogging about nefarious authoritarianism and “book burning,” but knowing the facts may be better than speculative whining about degrees of probability. I trust you’ll report back when you speak with them. Ask them directly what you can share via this forum so you may set the record straight.

  41. Some recent posts seem to be missing. Is this a Blogger site problem? I noticed some stuff was not working last night.

  42. Yes, Tom, although it's just about resolved:

  43. 1. This scribe has moved on.

    2. Perhaps the finest comments in blogdom appeared from a fellow Churchman from England, a fellow-reader.

    3. My narrowly-tailored objection still prevails, but cannot and will not eclipse the perspective of wide and great gratitude for HB during its existence. The big picture obtains.

    4. Time to move on.