I first started blogging around four years ago now, and for good or for ill I bumped into the Pyromaniacs. At that point it was just Phil Johnson, executive director of John MacArthur’s radio ministry Grace to you. Now it is three of them, they are:
Phil Johnson, Dan Phillips, and Frank Turk (centuri0n).
I think some of my first blog comments, that I ever made (even before I had a blog of my own) were over at the infamous Pyromaniacs (then known as “Pyromaniac”). Knowing where Phil was coming from theologically made my initial responses (and even current) rather pointed. You see, John MacArthur (and crew) hold to a form of Calvinism that has come to be known — quite quaintly — as Lordship Salvation. Basically it is just the “re-packaging” of Five Point Calvinism (TULIP) for mass consumption (and it has been working, as far as its consumption). Knowing this, and knowing my own theological predisposition, I waded into the blogosphere by challenging some of the comments and posts being made over at the Pyromaniacs. But when I did this, if I received any kind of response, from this dynamic trio, it has typically been more like dealing with these three:
And, to be honest nothing has really changed. You see they forward a particular theological position, unapologetically, and that’s fine; but for me, the problem arises when someone (like myself) may want to call them on their broader theological framework. Their blog runs off of a simple paradigm (at least conceptually), and that is there is this latent appeal to Us versus Them. These guys have a huge following (which in many ways is simply because of the coattails of John MacArthur, and the connection that Phil has with him [Phil also edits MacArthur’s books, and serves as an “Pastor” at MacArthur’s church]), and I would say that most of their following could be called the choir (and that’s fine). But the problem, at least for me (and others like me), is that when I might raise a serious question about the fundmental legitimacy of their “Lordship Calvinism;” there typically (on the part of the respondent [whichever of three]) is an appeal to the people (or the choir). There is no attempt to engage with my question, they simply engage in “evasion” by “marginalization” (Go to this thread for the most recent incident of this type of behavior evinced by Dan Phillips) — by appealing to the sentiment of “their crowd.”
I only raise this up because I find their approach disingenuous and ‘insulated’. Instead of dealing with “whacks’ like me, instead of demonstrating the fallacious nature of my qualms; they simply run away, back into their fortified castle. If I was a blind follower of MacArthur style Calvinism, then I could see how singing the songs of the Pryomaniacs might be appealing; but if I wanted to be a critical thinker, and try to really understand what “Lordship Calvinism” is about and where it came from (historically) — and what underlies the central tenets [philosophically] of the development of Calvinism (let alone its hybrid version as articulated by folks like John MacArthur, Phil Johnson and crew) — then I certainly would not recommend the Pyromaniacs. If you want to be entertained by cool and colorful (and quite imaginative) graphics like the one I have embedded in the post here, with equally colorful word-smithing and anecdotal quips; then indeed the Pyromaniacs is the place for you.
Lest I come off as too harsh, which I am afraid that I am, let me also caveat this whole thing by saying that I think these guys, in general, are really good Christian brothers (who I just happen to disagree with) who in fact do offer up some helpful and insightful postings — every now and then. Phil Johnson, every weekend, offers up postings that quote Charles Spurgeon directly (which I find refreshing, for the most part). And I have noticed a change in tone, with Phil Johnson (although not with the other two so much), as of late; which is encouraging.
I realize that blogging is blogging, and everyone has the right to set the tone that they want; and folks have the ability to try to engage or simply ignore certain people and certain blogs. This holds true with the Pyromaniacs, they are certainly allowed to communicate however they want, whatever they want, and whenever they want. I guess my initial expectations would have been (given the relationship between MacArthur’s ministry and Johnson’s) that the Pyromaniacs would have been a little more earnest to engage folks with a little more informative and humble spirit; but alas my expectations, by-and-large, have been dashed (duck! watch out for that log coming out of my eye). They are but men, trying to have some fun, while at the same time trying to edify their “own.” Maybe if they realized that they have a broader audience, they might see their blog as an opportunity to actually engage different traditions in a more irenic and collegial and ‘Christian’ way; instead of appealing to an Us versus Them paradigm, which is usually called upon.
If you dare, go visit the Pyromaniacs, see if what I have been saying is true — and then come back and let me know.