A public letter to inquirers about imprudent criticism, by Dennis Petersen (February 20, 2003)
With the publishing of a new book that arouses enthusiastic appreciation from many readers, you would expect harsh criticism from those who advocate a totally opposite opinion. However, when the criticism comes from the “same side of the fence” that you're on, and even resorts to distortions, intimidation and pettiness to persuade uninformed readers, one can't help but wonder what “spirit” motivates such a censorship. As followers of Jesus Christ, responsive to the wisdom of God in Proverbs, we are admonished by several biblical examples to exercise great patience, humility and love while privately correcting those with whom we disagree (Lk. 9:51-56; Acts 18:26; 2 Tim. 2:24-25). To rouse public discord through faultfinding, as do politicians, over matters of opinion is not the mandate of pure hearted children of our Redeemer and King of Peace.
God-fearing Christians are apt to realize that we are called to be ministers of reconciliation, motivated by Christ's spirit of humility and servanthood. Selfish ambition becomes apparent when a brother doesn't “go the extra mile” to be an encourager to those in the family of God who are attempting to do good works for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ. Walking “in the Spirit” inevitably reflects “the fruit of the Spirit.” And we are all capable of being discerning “fruit inspectors.” Thus, in a spirit of obedience to God's Word in Psalm 15, it is vital for true servants to avoid backbiting, doing evil and taking up a reproach against a neighbor.
One of the reasons it took so many years to publish our new book [Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation] is because of the large amount of time spent to research and cross check the multitude of details for accuracy and clarity. When you write any report you inevitably have to depend on the reports of others as well as your summary of your own experiences. And no matter what you end up with, you realize that new observations and insights will always warrant future revisions.
A fair number of excellent ministries around the world have worked hard to bless many with information fostering complete confidence in the biblical account of creation and the authority of the Word of God. When a ministry organization becomes very large and influential there is a temptation to assert themselves as a final authority and self-appointed policing agency to maintain certain standards of opinion. Unfortunately some have taken that posture to an extreme by publicly censuring other well-meaning godly men and their ministries. That approach has been to discredit their work and castigate publicly those with whom they differ, rather than to dialogue with them and entitle them to their own opinions. This style is more adversarial than conciliatory and tends to cause temperate people to wonder why the concerns are not handled privately.
In one recent published criticism of the new book (by a ministry we will not name here), their disagreement with certain points amounted to far more than a mere critique that would also point out the overall good points of the book. Beginning with their first sentence using the term that Caesars used to condemn fallen gladiators (i.e. “thumbs down”), it clearly was written to discredit the entire work not because of errors in doctrine or clear Biblical teaching, but apparently because of technical points that have been argued from various points of view. Since all of the objections are extremely petty and many are even uninformed or distorted, one can only surmise that there are deeper self-serving motivations that provoked such a strong subversive recommendation to avoid the book.
There are three types of criticisms raised in the review. First, there are trivial points that either can be easily corrected or which have little bearing on the overall purpose of the book. Some of these trivial criticisms are misguided because of a lack of attention to the context itself. Next are the items that arise from a position that gives more credence to “majority opinion” about a topic without acknowledging that other opinions might be worth further study. Then there are the objections to unique discoveries or lines of reasoning that have raised controversy and thus are judged unworthy for inclusion because there is not a consensus of agreement among scholars who agree with the critic's opinions. It is important for the discerning reader to notice when criticisms convey opinions as if they are absolute. These recent critics insist that only their “peers” who agree with them are credible. This kind of intimidation leads their trusting readers to believe that if there were more information available then the critics would certainly know about it and recommend it. Such subtle manipulation is a sad commentary for such an otherwise outstanding supporter of biblical truth. However, it betrays that their own “spirit” is not meek and has determined to “think more highly of self” than is appropriate.
It's important to note that Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation is not just a book. It is a series of seminars and biblically based lessons that have culminated through a lifetime of study and ministry devoted to honor the Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect. We aim carefully at keeping a God-honoring attitude and behavior as we attempt to present the truth in love and share how we must fear God rather than man. Telling the truth, as we know it, is always a vulnerable position. Not only will we draw criticism from outright enemies, we can draw attacks from some fellow Christians with different opinions. Because new insights are being constantly discovered, there is no book that can be considered the final word on things, except the Bible. That's why we anticipate changes in future editions of our book. Helping others develop a confident faith in the Bible is our paramount motive. Observations in nature and history are interpreted through many different preconceptions. Reports about them, no matter how well meaning and carefully researched, are continually subject to flawed reasoning or prejudiced presuppositions. Our premise is that the Bible is true and that everything around us should be examined and understood in view of the truth of God's Word. As expressed in the introductory pages of the new book, our goal is to help people look at all kinds of things with open hearts and with questioning minds. A key goal of the book is to reach people who are not reading, seeing or hearing the truth of creation, often because the topic is not presented in an exciting and engaging way.
There will always be differences of opinion this side of heaven. Often they are fueled by a lack of knowledge coupled with a stubborn insistence that “we certainly couldn't be ignorant of evidence in support of the opinion opposite to ours.” To be truly humble we must continually remind ourselves that none of us has all the information. After all, that's why so many people have been convinced that evolution is the only acceptable explanation. By offering information on topics that are ignored by others, seekers of truth will be inclined to think about evidence they may not have seen before.
Naturally, a mindset governed by a rigidly ultra-conservative or even monopolizing agenda would attempt to censor anything it has not incorporated into its own list of evidences or worldview. At the least they would urge others to ignore topics of discussion that they have taken a strict opinion against.
Yet, the controversial examples used in our book to encourage people to think about our general theme are often some of the most compelling, meaningful and pivotal. Since they are being discussed in some “fringe” circles and since they have not been altogether eliminated or disproved, it would seem unnecessarily censorious to ignore them completely. That's why we decided to disregard the advice we received from some creationists to omit them. People want to know. We want to encourage them to explore more and keep their minds active.
Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight. Prov. 18:17 TLB
The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. James 3:17
He that answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him. Prov. 18:13
The fear of man brings a snare, but whoso puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe. Prov. 29:25
Do not try to win an argument. Do not quarrel. Do not speak against another. Do not try to defend ‘yourself', but defend your faith. 2 Tim. 2:14, 24-26; James 4:11
Do not place yourselves above others. Ro. 12:3
God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 3:13-18; 4:6
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee because he trusts in Thee. Isaiah 26:3
I have written a personal letter to the director of the criticizing organization, and posted a lengthy article on our ministry web site in answer to the criticisms raised. Our foremost hope in both actions is to humbly urge others to seek to be peacemakers and continue developing the positive ministry that will help people to discern the truth for themselves. The next printing of the book will reflect appropriate updates to clarify the few minor points that need clarification or may be outdated by new discoveries. However, the controversial evidences that have been criticized the most will remain unless substantial reasons are shown to change the presentation. Those who discover that our censors or any group or individual has taken a debatably erroneous position and publicly condemned others are encouraged to communicate with them directly. Urge them to resist harshness and the attitude of supremacy before making a public spectacle of their errors and bad attitude. And always guard your own heart from striving with your brethren. Rather let the peace and patience of our Lord prevail in your own attitude.
Sincerely trusting the Lord to work His good even from what appear to be distractions,
For more information on Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation, contact your local Christian or secular bookstore with ISBN number 0-89051-371, or log-on to www.creationresource.org, or phone toll free (866) 225-5229.
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