Matt Chandler and Bull Balls

My church has bought something a lot of churches are buying— videos that teach so you don’t have to.

I’m sure you can tell I’m not too excited about the proposition, but I understand the need. Most folks aren’t scholars so having good, introductory-level educational resources is a must. And if you can stream it to your iPhone, all the better.

So my church is using RightNow Media, which allows users to stream “discipleship” videos from folks like Chip Ingram, Tommy Nelson, Margaret Feinberg, and Francis Chan. Already I’m nervous cause this has potential to continue the turning-leaders-into-celebrities syndrome that Derek Webb has sung ad nauseum about.

But you gotta try it before you knock it, right? So I see Matt Chandler has a new video series up called “Apologetics”. Matt Chandler has been the speaker at more than one youth camp I went to as a kid, so his was a recognizable face. I’ve also gone from reading Norman Geisler to Mark Noll, so I’m familiar with apologetics and what its proper place is.

Chandler’s first video in the series is called “Why Does God Allow Suffering and Tragedy?”. Some of the things Chandler says are helpful. Some things he says are stupid mistakes from the best of intentions. But some things he says are scary and dangerous, I think.

Good things– Chandler takes suffering seriously. He shares some of his own medical history and how it debilitated him for a time. He honestly shares that Scripture in the face of that pain seems trite and even rude to the person suffering. He also reminds victims of abuse that “no one gets away with injustice”. Its a confession Christians must repeat and remind ourselves of.

Not so good things – Chandler also makes some stupid mistakes that are easily fixed by doing your homework before you open your mouth. The first happens a few minutes. Chandler says,

“When he (God) created the world we live in, he created it good. The Hebrew word is shalom. He created it at peace, or really, in rhythm.”

Actually, the Hebrew word is טוב tov (good). In fact, the Hebrew word שלום shalom doesn’t happen in the Bible until Genesis 15. I’m not sure what source says that God created the world in shalom/rhythm, but it isn’t the Bible. Sounds like Chandler needs a Hebrew refresher before he preaches from the OT publicly. (He and 1,000 others here in North Texas. But you’d figure folks who put this up on the internet would know to check it with the biblioblogging community first. Sheesh.)

Sadly, Chandler builds a theology from this mistake and claims that God’s shalom was fractured when sin entered the world. But shalom doesn’t just mean peace in the shallow way we Americans talk about it. Shalom means wholeness, completeness. So to say that God’s shalom has been fractured is to say that God is not whole. But you’d have to read the Bible to get that. And who has time? Isn’t that why we need to stream these videos?

Another item that shows OT ignorance is a statement that Chandler makes that I hear a lot of people make. In fact, my old systematics prof said it too and he said it started with Augustine. The statement is “God uses, he does not cause, he uses suffering”. Well the Bible says the opposite. In Isaiah 45:7 Yahweh tells Cyrus and the prophet that there is none like him who creates light and dark, peace and violence. That word for violence (רע) is the same word that gets translated “evil” often times in King James style Bibles. No matter how you translate it, Isaiah says that God causes pain. (I’d like Chandler to answer the question “Why did God make the snake?”)

Okay, now the scary dangerous part– Chandler turns to Romans 8:18-22 to find encouragement in the face of suffering. He, like Paul, admits that the world is still waiting to be fixed. So how do we live in the midst of this suffering? Chandler says,

“If we can get our minds on 10,000 years from now, when Jesus Christ has made all things new, and everything has been redeemed, and restored, and put back into that Shalom— if we keep our minds there, our hope there, then we have hope for tomorrow.”

This is a common answer to people who suffer: One day, you won’t suffer anymore, so try to focus on that time to come. But this is cheap comfort. This is a back without a spine. This is scary in the face of suffering. And it is not the gospel.

Chandler should finish reading chapter 8 of Romans (v37 is a doozy!), because Paul certainly does not tell Roman Christians (some of whom were slaves) to focus on a liberating day 10,00 years down the road. Instead, Paul tells us to hope in what Jesus has already done. Jesus’ faithfulness  is evidence that God keeps his promises. And since we share in his death, we also share in his resurrection (which has already happened! Ya’ know— Easter!). Because God makes good on his promises, we are more than conquerers even while we suffer in slavery. Paul raises Christian tolerance for pain, rather than convince us to focus on something else (or somewhen else) that is not painful. In this regard, Chandler’s ethic is more Buddhist than Christian or Jewish.

So, my church… This is level of education and excellence we expect from our preachers and teachers and its lower than a bull’s balls are to the floor. WTF.

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9 Replies to “Matt Chandler and Bull Balls”

  1. You have totally disgraced yourself with your language at the end of your post. You need to read Ephesians 5:4, Ephesians 4:29, Colossians 4:6, Matthew 12:36 and on and on and on.

  2. Hi John,
    Are you referring to the F in WTF? or “balls”? If the former, we disagree. WTF is a chunk that symbolizes an annoyed sense of shock or being stupefied. Lots of folks nowadays use it for that without spelling it out or meaning anything perversely sexual. In fact, one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes now is called WTF with Marc Maron and all of his intros are him playing with WTF and giving the phrase various substantival endings. Its funny. Give it a listen. Its not mean. Its not name calling. Its comedy. I think that meaning is defined by context and in the context of this post, I don’t think I was disgraceful. I think I was frustrated with my own church and that’s what WTF connotes. If you’re the language police and insist that some words, abbreviated or not, are always bad, then you will always have career opportunities as a 9th grade English teacher.
    If you’re talking about balls, I’m happy to give you a list of Scriptures where private parts are used in Scripture to make a point—usually a prophetic point against some falsehood (hmmm… that sounds kinda familiar).
    Did you also write Matt Chandler and tell him that he disgraced himself by teaching falsehoods that he claimed were from Scripture? What do you think does more long term damage: a half-way anonymous blogger who uses three letter abbreviations you don’t like or a nationally known pastor who fails to offer the hope of Jesus? Glad to see you can get mad enough about something to comment on a blog. But try getting mad about something worthwhile… like the fact that Right Now Media charges churches for crap and then doesn’t let users comment on that material. Enough mad voices could actually do something about that.
    Much love to you John and your righteous anger,

  3. DageshForte, i had no problem with the profanity in your writing. I really like that you’re willing to call someone of Christian “fame” to a level of accountability. I will say this: if you’re going to use WTF, (which i sincerely liked) have the “balls” to acknowledge that the larger context, Maron not withstanding, is that pretty much every one using that abbreviation defines it as “what the fuck”. Stand up for what you seem to believe- namely that “bad words” won’t send you to hell and defend your writing. I don’t think you intended it any other way than how you spoke of, certainly the context would support ideas of frustration and confusion over sexuality. While i sincerely applaud your willingness to critique Chandler on how he approaches suffering (there he is clearly doing some proof texting and out right poor hermeneutics) as i have similarly been frustrated, i would say this- you seem to care about christianity, and the health of the church, maybe the last thing it needs is christians speaking condescendingly about each other. I think the primary idea of your article has significant merit. I sincerely applaud someone calling Chandler on doing poor work on the subject, and i even think theres people in the “church” who have condescension coming. I like that you used profanity because it challenges people to see someone with knowledge, depth, and care for the church that doesn’t conform to arbitrary rules they’ve created about which words are ok, because its so much easier to tell ourselves that when we are commanded to watch what we say it means bad words, not pointless gossip, or bs (thats bull shit) bitching. (you know things that actually cause damage to people) When i see Chandler, i see someone who does genuinely care, and try to live out his beliefs. Its a guy who gave up money for ministry, and stuck with God in good times and bad. He does need to be called on his half assed approach to scholarship, but of the guys with his speaking talent, he’s one of the few willing to call the church on some of its crap, and not grub for money or shy away from tough subjects. I think poor scholarship is a major sin of the emergent church types and chandler is guilty, but few are inspired to a faith based on a love so weak that its adherents can only sling poo at each other, and love has little room for condescension. I guess in short i’d say my problem with you language had nothing to do with profanity but rather with your more damaging arrogant tone. In full disclosure i’m just an atheist but i do want the best for the church, because the less damage they do the better- and while all ministers eventually damage some people id be willing to bet Matt’s percentages are far better than most and at least (i used to know him and some of his friends personally, though i would not characterize us as having ever been friends) i know he’s the same guy on and off the pulpit- as much as anyone could reasonably expect. If i’ve read your bible correctly isn’t a little grace, compassion, and humility, sort of a trademark for your faith when dealing with each other?

  4. Hi Justin

    Thanks for your interaction. BTW its your Bible too.

    We disagree on WTF. Maybe I’m being too much of a construction grammar nerd, but its a chunk that is used apart from the “perverse” sexual usage of the F in WTF. I totally agree that bad language doesn’t get one sent to hell, but I don’t think WTF is bad language, just a little on the crude side (much like a pic of bovine testicles).

    Either you’ve missed the point of my post or I haven’t clearly communicated. My “arrogance” and “condescension” was not directed at Matt Chandler. As I wrote, I’ve heard him preach many times as a kid. Now as an adult, I was greatly disappointed to see that he is actually a very poor Bible teacher though he is an excellent communicator. I don’t think its arrogant or condescending to tell a Bible teacher that they’re teaching the Bible wrong. He clearly doesn’t read Biblical Hebrew or he wouldn’t say things about Hebrew that are 100% wrong. He clearly doesn’t think theology through to say that we must wait 10,000 years to realize the hope we have in Jesus. He’s bad at teaching the Bible. And I don’t think its arrogant or condescending to say so.

    But my post is obviously angry and annoyed, but not at Chandler. My anger is specifically aimed at my own church family who has incredibly low standards when it comes to Bible teaching. We spend our tithe dollars on the garbage that Right Now Media puts out and it makes me angry. Right Now Media does not allow comments on the videos they put out, so the only way to discuss them online is through blogs and social media (BTW I did tweet Chandler about his Hebrew mistake but he didn’t respond). I have talked to folks in my church family about this issue and expressed my feeling that we have the lowest of low standards when it comes to Bible teaching that isn’t from one of our ministers. I have also found that my church isn’t the only one with such low standards and others are just as mad about it as me. So, I shared my thoughts with others here on Joel’s blog. The feedback I’ve gotten has been all positive except for the comments here.

    Yes, our language is supposed to be marked with grace and compassion. But sometimes frustration takes over and we can be angry in our language, just like anybody else. Joel has already pointed to places in Scripture where this happens. I could point to loads more. Believers are supposed to live and act certain ways, but what about when they don’t? What’s the answer? Should I shut up or tame my words to be more acceptable to you and Just Sayin’ and John (who’ve commented above)? Maybe, but I already didn’t. So, you can choose to ignore me as an arrogant, condescending jerk who can’t practice what he preaches, or you could read closer and see what I’m preaching before y’all lay your own expectations on me. I’m really fine with either.

    I think what’s more important when language gets rough is for people to continue to love each other even though they might not like what the other is saying. I’m happy to report that this is kind of relationship I have with my church family. We tell each other what we honestly think (without rules on language) and we are committed to working though issues as a family. You ever cussed your own family? I have. We still love each other.


  5. I’m not a fan of your crudeness, I think it’s a weak attempt to be culturally relevant. That being said, your are absolutely correct to call out Matt Chandler on his horrific hermeneutic. Sadly this is nothing new with Chandler. I used to attend his church and after a while, just couldn’t take the error filled sermons any longer. In fact, the second half of his book, the Explicit Gospel, is based on a faulty understanding of the ministry of reconciliation. This is a symptom of the problem so common in evangelical churches today who elevate men to a position of leadership/prominence based on their charisma rather than their ability to “…rightly divide the word of truth…” Of course, the reason this happens is because most elders/deacons and pew sitting members haven’t the slightest clue about proper exegesis based on a sound, consistent hermeneutic. Thus, we have leaders who are a reflection of the people they are supposed to lead. Leaders like Chandler with no theological training who jumble truth and error together like a tossed salad. Thankfully, Chandler gets the most important things right, but when anyone with half a brain and an ability to read anything in any document in context listens to or reads a guy like Chandler, they can easily discredit the truth by pointing out the error. Until more people hold guys like Chandler accountable, this will be an ongoing and troublesome problem.

  6. I’m a little late in posting here as I just found out about Chandler two years ago and just now found out that he had an apologetics study…I haven’t watched it, but I read your post. I think you missed his point. Chandler is my age. I have been all over the world and seen much suffering. Since you are a bit younger, regarding your mention of Chandler speaking at your youth camp and your use of vulgarity, I would beseech you to slow down and stop throwing rocks at men of God. You can always write them a private letter or e-mail and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. You write well, use that to encourage, exhort, and correct but in the appropriate setting. Blessings.

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