This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Monday, February 11, 2008

Greg Livingstone's Tepid Acknowledgment of Wrongdoing

Last week, in my entry concerning the retraction of signatures to the Yale "Loving God and Neighbor Together," the alleged "Christian" response to "A Common Word Between Us," I briefly addressed Greg Livingstone's comments in the comment feature. The Desiring God blog has posted the full comments made by Greg Livingstone during the Q&A session at the recent Pastors' Conference last Wednesday, February 6. Find the comments here. If you prefer, listen to Greg Livingstone's response here. If you would like to view the video of his response, click here. Find the question and response at 21:19. Below is what I posted in the comments section of Between Two Worlds, the blog that belongs to my friend Justin Taylor.

I agree with all above comments. I am disappointed in Greg Livingstone's acknowledgement. Below is an edited private response I sent to an individual.

It seems to me that Greg Livingstone's response to the question asked of him was rather tepid, even minimizing of the gravity of his actions. For example, he says, "I also am very aware that some of us are more called to defend the faith, and others are always looking for opportunity. Sometimes that opportunity grabs you before you think about asking for counsel."

This response is quite disappointing, but a rather commonplace response these days because people think of everyone as "specialized." He seems to view himself as "specialized." His role is not to defend the faith or even his faith in particular. That, apparently belongs to other people who specialize in apologetics. His specialization is to look for opportunities. Does
1 Peter 3:15 and the gospel call for us to engage in apologetics belong to a specialized set of people or to all Christians?

Ponder the following statement: "But I'm not afraid to also rebuke the American Christian who sees Muslims as bigger sinners than we are. We've loved cannibals and they eat people. Muslims don't eat people. It's not halal; they're not allowed. And I don't think they're any more evil than the people in this room."

Ponder Greg's opening line of this portion of his comments. It comes off as designed to ameliorate the wrongness of his signing the statement. Instead of simply, humbly, graciously, and unequivocally owning his error, he diverts attention away from himself to the imaginary American Christian
who allegedly views Muslims as greater sinners than we Christians are. His statement, then, comes off as diversionary at best.

But wait! What kind of view of the human who is in Christ Jesus does Greg Livingstone have? What kind of view is this that sees the human, who is redeemed by God's amazing grace, as equivalent with the unredeemed godless Muslim? Muslims are no more evil than the pastors at the Desiring God Pastors Conference? Amazing! Yikes! What a comment! This is not the biblical view of God's people in Christ Jesus. Is it? Are we not called the saints? And why? Is it not because of the extraordinary work of God's grace that has transformed us from being held captive in the kingdom of darkness to become servants and subjects in the kingdom of his dear Son? Greg Livingstone's comment reminds me of the ubiquitous moral equivalency argument made ad nauseam throughout the Cold War.

I am grieved and disappointed. Greg Livingstone did not show the kind of leadership that Duane Litfin manifested in
his statement when he explained why he retracted his signature.

Deeply disappointed to have to write these comments. Let's be leaders! Let's have courage! When we're wrong, let's be man enough to acknowledge it unequivocally.


Afterthought. Consider the following.

  1. Keep in mind who Greg Livingstone is. Greg Livingstone was, until recently, the chief executive officer of Frontiers, a mission organization dedicated to developing new strategies for a penetrating witness among Muslims. In other words, should he not have been more keenly aware of the negative implications, ramifications, and deleterious effects of his signing on to the "Loving God and Neighbor Together" letter in response to the Muslim clerics' "A Common Word Between Us"? Why did it take John Piper's video response to bring these things to light for him?

  2. On January 17, John Piper posted "Why I Invited Livingstone to Speak at the Pastors Conference." John posted this, undoubtedly, to allay concerns that Greg Livingstone was a signatory on the Yale letter. Later, on January 23, John Piper, host pastor of the Desiring God Pastors Conference, released a video response concerning the Yale letter, which Greg Livingstone signed. In the video, John makes a fairly passionate appeal to express disappointment concerning evangelicals who signed the document, rather obviously thinking of Greg Livingstone.

  3. When Greg Livingstone responds to the question during the Q&A session on Wednesday, February 6, he admits the following: "And I've talked to John Piper, who pointed out that we were hasty and that there were implications and innuendos and issues involved that could, in fact, damage our testimony. I appreciate that." So, Greg Livingstone shows knowledge of John Piper's expressed concerns.

  4. Therefore, when Greg Livingstone spoke at the Desiring God Pastors' Conference last week, he surely had to anticipate that he would be faced with having to explain, to defend, or to retract his endorsement of the document. Did he not? Here is the real question, then. Why did he not come with a prepared statement? Why did he not beat the questioner to the punch? Why did he not use the occasion of the high profile Desiring God Pastors Conference to issue a press release with a prepared statement expressing his sorrow and publicly retract his signature?

  5. Listen to Greg Livingstone's response to the question during the Q&A session at the Desiring God Pastors Conference. Was he not caught in error? Was he not caught flat-footed? Was he not caught wholly unprepared to offer a proper response to the question? Am I imagining this? What a disappointing response to a question that he had to know that he would have to answer! And his defective theology, exploiting the moral equivalency argument, diminishing the transforming power of God's redeeming grace, as he leveled God's redeemed people to the same level as Muslims is astonishing. Is it not? Even worse, he attempted a couple of whacks at humor and roused laughter from some who were present.

  6. Note to self: When caught in error, humbly acknowledge your error and repent immediately. Do not dig your own grave.


Jeremiah said...

Very well said, Dr. Caneday. I had many of the same thoughts running through my head at the Pastor's Conference. It is quite saddening.

abcaneday said...

It is sad. The comments on Justin Taylor's blog (Between Two Worlds) overwhelmingly agree.

Pilgrim said...

Scathingly true: A Statement to Sign

abcaneday said...


Thanks for the link. I appreciated it.