Friday, September 27, 2019

Deceivers at the Banner of Truth


Here is a letter that I sent to a publisher of Christian books. Christian conduct is hard to find these days, even among persons who sell the best books on Christian conduct that have ever been written.

THE BANNER OF TRUTH TRUST
The Grey House
3 Murrayfield Road
Edinburgh
EH12 6EL

THE BANNER OF TRUTH TRUST
PO Box 621
Carlisle
Pennsylvania 17013

March 2019 

Dear Banner: 

I recently noticed that you shadow-banned my comments on your YouTube channel. I didn’t know that channels had the means to do this. It’s not called shadow-banning on there, though. That would be too honest. It’s called ‘Hide user from channel.’ Let’s take a look at what you shadow-banned me for. I was not shadow-banned for trolling. I was not shadow-banned for making threats. I was not shadow-banned for using foul language. I was not shadow-banned for propagating fake news. I was shadow-banned, obviously, because you guys do not like the factual things that I say. My guess is that you shadow-banned me because of the discussion that I am about to walk you through, or because of my comments about Alistair Begg. There is no good reason to shadow-ban anyone, much less me for stating facts. To shadow-ban is a form of deception. Hiding a user from a channel means hiding his comments from everyone but himself, allowing him to think that his comments are being seen and read by others, when, in fact, they are hidden from view. Is it a Christian virtue to deceive? Is deception recommended in the books that you recommend and sell? Therefore, let’s have our walk-through/talk-through, shall we? The discussion below may be the reason why you shadow-banned me. I am the ‘Puritanical Opinion.’

You posted a video on 5 September, 2018, ‘How Can You Help the Banner of Truth?’ We can help, you say, by leaving testimonials on your site. Well, I happen to disagree with this approach because someone I know was disallowed from testifying simply because her testimonial was not fully positive. Therefore my comment:      

My Puritanical Opinion: A testimonial means this: you don’t accept actual honest reviews. No man is perfect, not even a Puritan. The Puritans, mister, would not ask for testimonials. They would ask for honest criticism. Quit being a pretender, man. Imitate the writers of the books you publish, already!

Then (maybe one of your men) someone responded:

Wayfaring Gent: Please do not speak on behalf of our glorified brothers and sisters. The Banner is doing the world a great service. They have changed many lives through their efforts, myself included. I am sure many of those Puritan works in your library are branded with their “George Whitefield” logo.

My Puritanical Opinion: I did not speak on behalf of ‘our glorified brothers and sisters.’ I spoke according to my knowledge of history. The problem with you people is you do not put into practice the principles that you publish. Allow reviews, not testimonials; espouse freedom, not dictatorship.

Wayfaring Gent: I believe you could benefit greatly from Richard Baxter’s tract, “Anger Management,” published by the Banner. You can also find it in volume 1 of his works, “The Christian Directory.” It was of great help to me. I will also pray for you.

My Puritanical Opinion: You are a condescending, petulant fellow. You calling me angry is like a leftist calling a person racist for lack of argument. I condemn your testimonial idea because it runs contrary to liberty. Asking for a testimonial is tantamount to asking the reader to not ‘prove all things.’

Wayfaring Gent: The irony of your comment is almost humorous and lost on you. As I said, I’ll pray for you. How can you as a finite creature judge men’s heart whom you do not know? You are trying to ascend to heaven and dethrone the Lord. We saw how that worked out at Babel.

My Puritanical Opinion: What unfounded accusations you make. Trying to dethrone the Lord because I challenge you to allow Christians to prove all things, as the Lord commands them to do? And you are somehow in a position of power? Saying you will pray for me is a virtue signal from a false accuser.

At this point someone else drops in.

Liveluke9.23: Is it your ministry to constantly troll banner of truth with your terrible comments? Do you feel empowered to sit behind a keyboard and troll a ministry that does more for the church than you can do in your mom’s basement? Don’t watch their video’s or subscribe to their page, and don’t buy their books, simple as that. You sound more like a pharisee than one who actually attends church and fellowships with believers. Hopefully Banner will see the pattern and block you.

My Puritanical Opinion: Accusing someone of being a troll and a Pharisee is not an argument. Either deal with the issue in question, or leave me alone.

Liveluke9.23: Oh, it wasn’t an argument. You must have missed that being a hyper-intellectual that you think you are. It was a statement of fact based on the observation of your constant trolling comments. “Leave you alone,” sorry, you posted here trolling banner of truth with your self-righteous pharisaical comments. Stop being a self righteous troll. As far as the issue in question. You are the one with the issue. It’s a simple issue to fix. You can do it in a matter of seconds. Stop being a troll and I’ll leave you be. Cheers!

My Puritanical Opinion: Those who have no arguments accuse others of being racists or trolls or homophobes or some other despicable epithet. I don’t do that. I posit biblical views, like the right to ‘prove all things.’ I just want Christians to accord me the biblical right to ‘prove all things.’ That’s not being a troll.

You should have observed that the discussion became nasty, not from my end, but when insults and unfounded accusations were leveled against me from the other. Not long after this discussion, I was shadow-banned. The Banner of Truth engages in censorship and deceit, then, when it cannot give good answers to reasonable questions. This is just like what the mainstream media does, just like what the tech-giants do, just like what the Roman Catholic Church does when it can get away with it. You people do not act like you are told to act in the books that you sell. Am I trying to ‘dethrone the Lord’ just because I ask a Christian publisher to give Christian readers the opportunity to ‘prove all things,’ as the Bible commands them to do?—that is, just because I ask you to grant readers the freedom to give testimonials that are not 100% positive about the books you sell? Does that make me a Pharisee? Should I be blocked or shadow-banned because of my reasonable opinion? Does silencing voices that disagree with you give you an honest measure of your ministry? Is it evangelical to refuse to hear words of correction? Your action is not fair and it is certainly not virtuous. You act like the censors of the Established Church that Samuel Rutherford contended against. You have probably not read his letters; I am halfway through them. Reading them is nobler than selling them. And censoring someone for imitating the lessons contained in them is not noble at all. You men at the Banner remind me of thin-skinned politicians. Like them, you react like dictators when it suits your purpose. I am with Rutherford: “I wish and pray that the Lord would harden my face against all, and make me to learn to go with my face against a storm.” That is different from the easy path that you think a Christian should take, isn’t it? You are helping me, in a small way, to learn to harden my face. Rutherford is helping me by his example; you are helping me by being my sinful opposition. I am with Rutherford, who said, “Our Church, madam, is decaying.” Yes, and this includes the Banner. About the leaders of the persecuting church in his day, Rutherford said, “Our prelates, the Lord take the keys of his house from these bastard porters!” Well, I will not go as far as that about you. But I am glad to report that the keys to Puritan literature are not in your hands alone. They are not in the hands of prelate-like autocrats at the Banner. I get all I want for free from Google books. Downloading PDF files for free is the method of acquisition that I recommend. I have more Puritan literature than I could read in two lifetimes, much less in the time that remains to me in this one. I would not flatter you in order to acquire from you one single book, even if I could not get my Puritan books anywhere else. If reformation or revival ever occurs, it will happen through readers of Puritan books, not through those who censor readers who try to put into practice the principles that these books contain. We do not need you. Your service can dry up. God has raised up a stone (‘Google’ of all things) to provide books to us by which we may learn to praise God better. Even wicked people, such as the ones who manage Google, may prove more beneficial to Christians than you are. Is that not humiliating? It should be.           

It is true that I have called Mr. Begg a ‘joker’ in the comment section of some of your videos. But my calling him a joker is not a false charge, as the charges against me are. If a man cracks jokes in the pulpit, what is he but a joker? and not just a joker, but a joker of the very worst kind? a joker who thinks it appropriate to be comical in the holiest place on earth? a joker who is so unsanctified as to think that grace might find its way to sinners through farcical comments? Levity in the pulpit is conduct that any Puritan would denounce in strong terms. No Puritan—listen to meno Puritan would share a pulpit on a stage with Mr. Begg. This is why I reproved R. C. Sproul for inviting this man and others like him, to speak at his conferences. Incidentally, get my book on Amazon and read it, R. C. Sproul and the Boys. It’s not very popular; but the opinion that says preaching and joking do not go together will be vindicated in the end. I cannot be proven wrong on this. Every book in the Bible and every single Puritan will be on my side. 

It seems to me that Mr. Begg has not read the books that he is asked to promote on your channel. I am not saying that he did not read the books. I am saying that, based on his comments, it seems that he has not read them. It is natural to suspect that a man who jokes in the pulpit would lie about what he has read. It is not a sin to be suspicious. Based on what he says about the books he is asked to comment on, it seems that he has not read them. I have read The Mystery of Providence at least twice. I would not recommend it by uttering comments about it that might be said about almost any other book, such as, “The Mystery of Providence is punchy and accessible.” This is not saying much of anything, is it? The Communist Manifesto is punchy and accessible. Probably so is Mein Kampf. If a reader of Puritan books has read The Mystery of Providence, he would say something like, “This book is not as illustrative as one that Charnock or Bunyan would write, but it has its ornaments. The anecdotes are often startling, always fitting, and they occur less frequently in the second half than in the first half. Flavel’s exposition of that part of Psalm 107—the part about they ‘that do business in great waters’—this I found particularly edifying because of the trials that I have been through. This book convincingly shows that the providence of God comes into contact with every event in some way or other. It therefore is one of the most God-centered, encouraging books that I have ever read.” I just made these comments based on what I remember of the book, except for the phrase from Psalm 107, which I wanted to get word perfect. How come I can say something more substantial about the book, without turning to it, than Mr. Begg can say in his scripted video? I think that someone would be more apt to buy the book based on my comments than based on Mr. Begg’s comments, whose comments sound like general talking points that could be used to recommend any book at all, Christian or not. My comments come across as though I have read the book, for I have indeed read it. I am not saying that Mr. Begg did not read the book. I am saying that it seems like he did not read it. So don’t accuse me of making that charge; be honorable. Strive to be like the men whose books you sell. Do you even read the books yourselves? These books advocate tolerance, liberty, charity, and integrity, not censorship and deceit. You will be held to account for your deceptive censorship. God will see to it.  

Do not send me a condescending letter stating how much I need prayer and so on. Instead, do some actual prayer for both you and I. We are not supposed to be enemies. You have declared me your enemy by your conduct. I am blameless on your YouTube channel. Even my tone is biblical, if the example of the apostle Paul is taken for comparison. You people might not be bastards. But your conduct, as far as I can tell, tends to live down to that moniker. Because of how Wayfaring Gent presented himself, I assumed that he worked for the Banner. If he did not, or does not, forgive my false assumption. 

Know which side you are on when you censor persons for no biblical reason. Know whose side you are on when you solicit a joker like Mr. Begg to recommend books to people. A Mr. Humphrey Jones was one of the chief men used by God to set the Welsh Revival in motion. I quote this man from that book (not from one of your editions): “Beware of displaying yourself in any of your sermons. I try to aim at two things in studying and preaching: one is, not to say anything to show off myself; another is, not to say anything to amuse the people” (Thomas Phillips, The Welsh Revival, p. 10.) Anyone who has listened to Mr. Begg knows that he is fond of displaying himself by joking and amusing the people. This comment from Mr. Jones reproves Mr. Begg just as truly and as forcefully as I did. In censoring me for speaking against joking in the pulpit, you show that you would censor Mr. Jones as well. You show that you are not for revival, but against it. You show that you are not on the side of the men whose books you sell—the men used by God to communicate the gospel to multitudes, through which communication multitudes were saved. You show yourself standing against the Spirit of Revival. You have declared me your enemy for no other reason than that my comments reflect the comments of the men whose books you sell. It seems to me that selling, not saving, is what you aim to accomplish in life. Until you join me in condemning comedy in the pulpit, and until you cease to censor people who condemn comedy, you stand in opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit. If Samuel Rutherford or Humphrey Jones lived among us, I believe that you would, by your conduct, count them, too, your enemies. Real men like Rutherford and Jones would turn your stomach, just as Mr. Begg’s demeanor would turn theirs. You like to make merchandise of Puritan books. But the content of these books is not the kind of thing you admire, is it?

When I became a Christian near the close of 1994, I asked God to impart to me a clear mind. My aim was to find out truth, and to be receptive even to its more offensive aspects. Even back then I knew that my natural self would recoil from some aspects of God’s truth. Because of the short list of interpreters that were available to me then, I became a Scofield Fundamentalist. But in 1998 began a series of remarkable events that led me to study Covenant Theology, the Reformed Faith, and Puritan writings. The prejudice that had formed in me through Fundamentalist teachers was overcome by the Providence of God. I was led, against my will, to creeds, to catechisms, and to commentaries on both. The event that blew the door wide open to the discovery of Puritan excellence, though, was an ad for your magazine at the end of a book. I have bought many of the books that you sell, and I have studied them carefully: books, for example, by Perkins, Venning, Bridge, M’Cheyne, Ryle, and Spurgeon. Like Princeton Seminary, however, you have become intolerant of freedom of thought and speech. You have become that which Puritan writers rallied to oppose and convince. I can spew you out of my mouth and yet absorb, and benefit from, the nutrition that you sold me. It was romantic to buy the books that you sell, which I did for a long time with my GST checks four times per year. I keep typing ‘your’ books by mistake, as if any credit should fall to you for what the books contain! I thank you for the Puritanical honeymoon that you made possible for many years. This honeymoon will continue; but you are no longer the mediator of it. When possible, I do not transact business of any kind with haters of freedom. 

You will no doubt hate this stern letter, as well as the man who wrote it. But you would hate, if they were here, the outspoken men that I greatly admire: John Knox, Augustus Toplady, William Cunningham, and R. L. Dabney. Therefore, because of the company that it puts me in, your hatred has a good use. 

Farewell, Misters.

Be readers, and not sellers only. Books are more than merchandise; knowledge is better than mammon; and piety is worth more than the paper that it is written on. I do not look forward to your response. Therefore spare yourselves the trouble of conniving an answer. You dare not moralize to me, hypocritical deceivers that you are! 

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