Last week I posted two articles in regard to Sharper Iron. The first was posted at my this blog blog. The article was composed by Ps. Brian Ernsberger who recently quit SI and explained his departure. Please see, SI’s Deplorable Moderator Actions Run Off Another for details. The second article I posted was a response to Aaron Blumer’s article (9/2) A Few Answers to SI Critics. An article in which he complains about long time, wide spread legitimate criticism of SI. You may read SI Sizzles In & Over the Iron Skillet for a complete reaction to Blumer’s complaints. Today, Aaron is hearing from another former, long time member of SI who shares his experience with SI. An experience, which typifies what is commonplace at SI and why so many have quit SI or would never join in the first place. Let’s now consider why one would ask: Does This Sharpen Me?
I’ve recently come to a decision. It wasn’t earth shattering, and quite honestly, the effect of my decision will likely go unnoticed by the very individuals that necessitated it. In May 2005, I joined the self-identified, fundamentalist website, Sharper Iron. Since that time I posted literally hundreds of times on a variety of topics, some serious and others not. My purpose in joining was to reacquaint myself with some of the current issues in fundamentalism as I approached my ordination some twelve years removed from my graduate work. In those early days, I found much to praise at Sharper Iron. I learned a lot. I solidified a number of positions as I observed, and occasionally partook in, the discussions. I entered the fray decidedly separated in my personal life, as well as, ecclesiastically. I am also convinced of the superiority of the traditional family of Greek texts, and I am a non-Calvinist.
While I rarely dealt with threads on Calvinism or the text issue, I derived much personal edification from the interactions of men like Scott and Christian Markle, Jon Gleason, Lou Martuneac, John R. Himes, and others. These men represented a brand of fundamentalism with which I identify. It is a thoughtful, church-centered fundamentalism, but not one that easily tolerates error or compromise. It is also a loving fundamentalism, although you would never know that by listening to its detractors. (I have more than a few anecdotal stories to prove my point here, however). Unfortunately, those men, and effectively this whole segment of fundamentalism, are gone from the threads and pages at Sharper Iron.
Increasingly, the threads are filled with intimations of “serious doctrinal error” hurled toward fellow fundamentalists, while the compromise and errors of Conservative Evangelical personalities are glossed over as praise is lavished on their ministries, as in a recent series of articles by Dr. Kevin Bauder.
When a concerned member recently posted a thoughtful response to one of Dr. Bauder’s articles, his response A Letter from Dr. Richard V. Clearwaters to Kevin Bauder was sharply criticized by SI moderators (Rogier, JayC and Linscott) and ultimately removed by Aaron Blumer. A few days later, an SI Filing/thread was posted by Sharper Iron leadership (Jim Peet, Aaron Blumer) introducing and eagerly promoting a website that was nothing more than a vicious personal attack on Lou Martuneac.
Just last week an SI filing referencing a blog post by Dave Doran provided an illustration of some of the concerns I am articulating in this article. It was one of the clearest examples in a long line of the double standards that exist at Sharper Iron. Doran hurled an ad hominem attack at an unnamed fundamentalist(s) using the phrase “pathetic and disingenuous” to describe those who opposed or were relieved the merger of Faith and Central had not gone through. When one commenter called SI to the carpet over this filing he was firmly rebuked. It appears there is a lot of “respecting of persons” going on over there, and now I suspected and have confirmed yet another conservative fundamentalist has left the SI ranks.
If homogeneity was their goal at SI, they have very nearly accomplished it.
It seems serious concerns brought in from the “right end” of the fundamentalist spectrum are scrutinized far more closely at SI than the attacks thrown back the other way. I find that disheartening at best. My alma mater has been a regular source of ridicule, yet such ridicule is rarely hurled at Conservative Evangelical institutions. It smacks of a bias away from the southern brand of fundamentalists and away, it seems, from me.
I’ve watched over the years as non-Calvinists, traditional text men, and those who hold to a certain standard of personal separation were repeatedly shouted down by SI moderators and other members. Of course, a vigorous debate is desirable in many cases; however, on the internet, such debates often become a numerical dog-pile where reasoned arguments carry less weight than the shear number of responses. The result is that the admittedly minority viewpoints eventually “wore out” and stopped posting.
Today SI is a place where Calvinism is the settled opinion of the overwhelming majority of posters. The traditional text family is seen as inferior and those who hold to it are routinely labeled obscurantist or ignorant. Personal separatism to a degree held by our parents and grandparents is regularly declared legalism and almost anything now appears acceptable under an understanding of Romans 14 that puts the perceived rights of the “strong” over concern for the weak.
I find that SI is not a place that welcomes my viewpoint, nor is it a place that holds the Conservative Evangelical camp to the same standard it holds my “camp.”
Well, I, for one, am tired. The old caricature of the angry, fightin’ fundy, so repudiated by the SI majority is quickly becoming the new face of that very site (moderators and remaining membership), only in reverse. It’s a strange, almost surreal thing to realize that you’ve become the very thing you’ve opposed. Unfortunately, I am almost sure the SI leadership does not even recognize the shift.
I am sure there will be those who believe my assessment is wrong, but I know that I am not alone in this opinion. When a number of different individuals with no connection to one another outside of this website bring the same concerns to light, it should raise the concerns of the site leadership. As for me, I wish them no ill, but I had to ask, “Does this sharpen me?” So, I’ve chosen to leave Sharper Iron for good. As I said, in the beginning, I doubt they even noticed.
(Disclaimer: I have submitted this article anonymously. I am obligated to do so by my current ministry situation.)
Site Publisher’s Addendum:
The author is one of many in a long line who have quit SI because of its obvious bias. Many of these raised and tried to resolve genuine concerns with SI’s leadership prior to departing, but without success. Aaron Blumer claims he wants to hear from critics, but when wide spread legitimate concerns with SI were posted in his (9/2) thread by a fundamentalist pastor (Marc Monte) SI moderators immediately set upon him. Blumer responded with, “It’s not like everybody has to like SI. If a few dozen or a few hundred don’t see much value in it (or worse yet, think it’s toxic) that’s OK. They have no obligation to even care about what happens here. But if they do, the contact form is there. I have nothing more to say than that…. And we’ve given folks lots of opportunities to communicate. Until they do, the whole matter is moot. I’m not going to chase ghosts”
That reaction typified why the pseudo-fundamentalist SI has hemorrhaged so many members over the last several years. Typifies why SI will never be able to win back the departed. Typifies why SI is not a welcome place for fundamentalist preachers like Marc Monte, Brian Ernsberger and the author of this article. SI is a place whose leadership eagerly welcomes those who wish to heap lavish praise on the star personalities of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals, welcomes those who will tolerate and excuse the aberrant theology and ecumenism of conservative evangelicals, welcomes those who castigate fundamentalism with the broad brush and line up against any who dare to offer legitimate criticism of conservative evangelicalism, defend fundamentalism or question SI’s obvious bias.