The funny thing about Mr. Miller is that he bats about 17-for-20 when it comes to theological truth -- you know, when he has to actually express the fundamentals of the faith, he finds it difficult to write something which is outright quackery. For example, in his book Searching for God Knows What, he has a chapter in which he is essentially criticizing the Four Spiritual Laws® method of evangelism, and I think he's on to something when he says (in words to this effect) that while this tract may be all true, it is hardly all Truth, and it probably short-changes the Gospel over all.
I think even in his qualification of this criticism he overlooks the nature of tracts as a genre and as an evangelism tool, but that's not what I'm blogging about right now. What I sat down to blog about was Miller at his worst, which is in the intro to Chapter 13 of this same book:
When I was young I had a friend whose father was the pastor at a Methodist church. I grew up Baptist. I remember thinking my friend had it all wrong, and I wondered if he was even a Christian. His father was a terrific man, very intelligent and soft-spoken and tall as a building, with big hands and a deep voice that spoke the sort of encouragement you believed. And even though he spoke encouragement, I remember feeling very sorry for him because he had been misled, somewhere way back, perhaps in seminary, and that had made him grow up to become a Methodist instead of a Baptist. I thought it was a crying shame. And at the time I didn’t even know what it was a Baptist believed that a Methodist didn't; I only knew we were right and they were wrong.Now, fair enough, right? As a Baptist myself, I am 100% confident that if there are any kinds of Christians out there who think less of others for differences in belief, Baptists are leaders in the field. And this behavior can veer into a kind of vice, but it is not inherently vice.
But before elaborating on that, let's let Miller finish up his intro:
I suppose believing we were right and they were wrong gave me a feeling of superiority over my Methodist friends. It all sounds so innocent until you realize that whatever evil thing it was that caused me to believe that Baptists are better than Methodists is the same evil thing that has Jews killing Palestinians rather than talking to them, Palestinians killing Jews rather than engaging in important conversation about land and history and peace. It makes you wonder how many of the ideas we believe are the result of our being taught them, and we now defend them as a position of our egos.Let's think about what Miller is saying here. On the one hand, he's saying that it's wrong for a Babdiss to think of a Methodiss as a lost person -- someone who is desperately and eternally wrong. No too much to complain about that in the broadest possible sense, I am sure.
Of course, I think the thing about Methodists being wrong is silly now, now that I have met so many people from so many backgrounds who have a deep respect and love for Jesus, and so many people from so many theological backgrounds who don't.
But his conclusion, oddly, is only a different flavor of his original error. He started out as a Babdiss who thought that Methodists were "misled" and "wrong"; he has ended up thinking that Babdisses like he used to be are "silly", victims of an "evil thing", on the same menu as Palestinians who kill Israelis.
I wonder: is believing that Baptists who think they are the only true Christians are wrong the same evil thing as Palestinians who engage in terrorist attacks? Or is that the truth -- the position that Donald Miller will hold 5 years from now because he is actually better informed than the Babdist he used to be?
There are self-defeating criticisms, and then there are Donald Miller books, which are like more like busloads of Palestinian terrorists who get into an argument about history and land and peace on the way to the mall in Tel Aviv.