Sep 27, 2006

Ligonier's Justification

I had a nice little chat with "Senior Management" at Ligonier on Monday afternoon, and I thought you readers would like to know about it. "Senior Management," or at least one of them, is John Duncan. He was patient with my questions and spoke with me for more than two hours. I was grateful for the time, because dealing with a real person is so much easier for me than with a nebulous entity like "Ligonier" - especially now that customer service has been forbidden to talk.

John was upset, however, that I had accused Ligonier of “deeds of darkness.” I explained that “deeds of darkness” is just another term for sin, and that we all sin, both believers and unbelievers alike. He did not think Ligonier had sinned in this matter with Frank Vance, however. I, of course, repeated I Corinthians 6 to him, about Christians not suing Christians, at which time he shocked me by saying that Frank Vance has never professed to be a Christian, so they were operating under the assumption that Frank Vance is not a believer, and therefore they had the right to sue him.

Let me stop here and say that even if Frank Vance were a lying Muslim, as Doug Wilson has concluded, the best thing Ligonier and Tim Dick could have done would be - nothing. Frank Vance was a “nobody” in the blogging world and in Reformed circles, so his little blip on the screen would have been nothing more than a fleeting rant. Nobody would really have cared much about what was happening inside Ligonier if Tim Dick hadn’t made a public spectacle of demanding his rights when somebody called him a name.

However, let’s get back to Ligonier’s and John Duncan’s justification for suing Frank Vance. John stated over and over and over again in our otherwise delightful conversation that Frank Vance had not professed to be a Christian. By the time we finished conversing, I decided that I needed to see for myself if that was indeed true.

As I was looking through various posts and comments, I noticed that many people didn’t use their real names. Being the story of the day, we all wonder who Frank Vance really is. I wonder who Passerby is on Frank’s site? I wonder who Hoping is on my site? I wonder who Charitable Onlooker and Practicing Attorney and Maggie and Wendi are? I don’t have any links to them and they don’t tell me their real names, so should I just discount all their comments? Why aren’t they forthright in telling their names as well? This is how the blog world works right now and we need to hold everyone to the same standard. Well, I may not know who Frank Vance is, but I think I do know who Passerby is, and that’s important. Frank told Passerby that he knew he was John Duncan, and neither Passerby nor John Duncan have refuted that. I mention this only because one commenter on my blog accused Charitable Onlooker of being “Senior Management” and there was a quick denial there.

Passerby has, however, posted this comment: “(please accept the anonymity of those of us who don’t want five blogs spending their days slandering us).”

Hang in there with me as I bring this all to my point. John Duncan repeatedly told me that Frank has never professed Christianity. John Duncan speaks exactly like Passerby and Hoping and has not refuted that he is Passerby or Hoping. Now I would like to bring you to another significant comment Passerby left on on September 17th in speaking of Frank Vance.

“I am a senior manager at Ligonier. ,,, We have never encountered this degree of malice and distemper from a professing believer.”

John, you almost had me convinced in yesterday’s phone conversation.

What does Frank have to say about whether or not he is a believer? Here is a whole post about why it is biblically unlawful for Ligonier to sue him because Christians are not to sue other Christians. If Frank were not a believer, would he go to these extreme lengths to exposit Scripture on this point? He has quoted numerous Scriptures throughout his entire blog. He has made many references to Christianity, to the Reformed doctrine, and to Christians and churches. Is that how unbelievers generally talk? Personally, I’ve never heard unbelievers speak that way.

Here is a comment that Frank posted last week telling Passerby that perhaps Frank’s “own Pastor and Elders could have been party to a mediation process,” if Ligonier hadn’t already sued him in the first place. Last I checked, the Muslims don’t have “pastors” and “elders.” That sounds like a Christian church to me.

Frank once said, “"Through it all, at no time did Ligonier Ministries or Tim Dick ever admit that they had filed a lawsuit against me, a fellow Christian."

And Mike answered, “There is no solid reason to believe this; - The part about you being a Christian, that is. Your actions are inconsistent with such a statement.”

I guess Mike thinks Frank is a believer, too.

At no time did Ligonier ever ask, “Frank, are you a professing Christian? Are you a member of a Christian church? Could you share with us your testimony of how you came to faith in Christ?” Even now they’re not asking. It seems they’d rather not really know. They didn’t ask because they didn’t care. The only reason they seem to care now is because they’ve come under withering criticism for violating I Corinthians 6, and their only escape clause is if they can show that Frank is NOT a believer after all. I repeat, even if Frank were a Muslim, or some such unbeliever, is that truly a biblical justification for suing him? Aren’t there better ways to handle name calling?

Maybe Frank Vance’s “tone” is not what John Duncan would have used in a similar situation. But we cannot accuse someone of not being saved merely by their “tone.” Frank is a man who obviously spends much time in church and in the Word. I’m not sure I’ve ever come out on my site and quoted, “I am a Christian; therefore, you cannot sue me.” But with the amount of Scripture I’ve used, it ought to be obvious that I’m not an infidel. I’ve read your statement, John, “Senior Management,” and at no time do you profess to being a Christian either. You use the same phrases and terminology Frank has used throughout his site. Does that mean that you are a Christian because you use that terminology, but Frank can’t be one because he uses that same terminology?

In our conversation you came across as a kind man, John, but your justification will not wash with me. Shouldn't you and Tim Dick have shown this concern about whether or not Frank is a believer BEFORE you sued him?


tired of excuses said...

Jen, your readers should know that Ligonier paid John Duncan $180,000 in 2004 for his services as a senior manager (we still don't know about his 2005 salary, because Ligonier still has not filed its tax returns for last year). Despite such a high salary and the level of management experience and knowledge it implies, Duncan last week tried to explain away Ligonier's early public denial of the lawsuit by claiming senior managers didn't realize Ligonier's request for an "injunction" was part of their lawsuit.

Given how incredible such an assertion is coming from a senior manager of a non-profit organization, I'm not surprised Duncan now tries to justify the lawsuit with a new story: claiming to sincerely believe Frank Vance is not a Christian. I don't find this excuse any more credible than the old, and I doubt many others will either.

Table Talk Contributor said...

Ligonier Ministries and Tim Dick have been worldly in responding to blogger "Frank Vance." That is, they have plainly conformed themselves to the world's ways of doing things, no matter who or what "Frank Vance" is.

They could have proceeded on the assumption that Frank Vance was a Christian, and pursued Matt. 18 instead of violating 1 Cor. 6. They did not.

Or, they could have proceeded on the assumption that Frank Vance was an unbeliever, and simply turned the other cheek. They did not. Their inability to turn the other cheek when their CEO is called a "nincompoop" and a thief by someone they consider to be an unbeliever indicates their inability to turn the cheek at any slight or insult or attack.

Or, they could have proceeded on the assumption that "Frank Vance" was an anonymous non-entity, and thus simply ignored him/it. They did not. The guilty flee when no one is pursuing, and the guilty defend themselves when no one (in this case, literally "no one") is attacking.

I have no idea whether "Frank Vance" is a believer, an unbeliever, or a non-entity. But, in any case, the management of Ligonier Ministries has conformed themselves to the world.

They need their minds and hearts renewed by the good news of grace found in a crucified Christ, who loves them and gave Himself up for them. It is possible that they may yet publicly confess and repent. This is what we all hope for. Short of that, though, they will have as much credibility as any other fundamentally worldly organization or business.

Auffie said...

Jen, did you ask Mr. Duncan why there's yet no court record of the withdrawal of the lawsuit, even though the statement from Senior Management says it's been withdrawn? (Funny they avoid the term lawsuit in their statements and uses complaint which sounds nicer in the everyday usage but is really a legal synonym for a kind of lawsuit.)

Charitable Onlooker said...

I will be glad to give you my name, address, phone number and what not if you reveal a private email address on your site, Jen. I am not really keyed up to do so in a public way because it is imprudent. But I cannot find a link to private email on your blog.


Teacher said...

Jen, I post using something other than my name because when I was using my name I noticed there was a correlation of dates of my comments and the Ligonier ISP address visiting my blog.

This sort of creeped me out. Perhaps I am over reacting but I do not need any lawsuits or any other tyrannical ministers in my life right now. I just came from an abusive tryrannical church that had a 'scandalabra' ....meaning many scandals such as we see here going on at once.

No thanks.

Jen said...

Auffie, yes I did ask Mr. Duncan why the papers weren't at the court yet. He said it was not his responsibility for when, or if, they ever got to court. After they told the lawyers to drop it, he said it was out of his hands. Unfortunately, leadership is ALWAYS responsible for follow through and this situation is no different. John and Tim will ultimately still be responsible for seeing that their attorneys do the job correctly. Not a good excuse!

Friend of Jen said...

Charitable onlooker and others who wish to email Jen with questions or to supply information confidentially can find her email on her blog profile page, which is linked from the blog homepage. The email address there is: jlepstein at earthlink dot net.

Auffie said...

Ligonier's attorney tells the press that they may file a new suit if they can find Mr. Vance.

Orlando Sentinel article of Friday, September 29

This is inconsistent with Ligonier's public statements -- or maybe it is consistent, since the statements were not repentant to begin with!

Dr. RC Sproul, where are you?! Please say something, take responsibility, and stop and discipline those who are dishonoring Christ and ruining your once-respectable ministry. Please do not let your love of family overtake your love for Christ.

Fearless Minky said...

Quote from your article here:

"John Duncan speaks exactly like Passerby and Hoping and has not refuted that he is Passerby or Hoping."

By using two different names for himself, Mr. Duncan may reasonably be accused of "sock puppetry."

From Wikipedia: "This may be used for fictional support of separate people in a vote or argument by falsely using the account as a separate user, or for acting without consequence to one's 'main' account. It is often considered dishonest by online communities, and such pretending individuals are often labeled as trolls."

Trollery is always an offense, and you have no obligation to "feed the trolls."

(For the record, I use a pseudonym right now because I've had threats from people in the past. And I'm not quite good enough with a shotgun yet to reveal myself and feel confident.)

Jen said...

Fearless Minky, that is quite a "name" for one who appears to be intimidated by threats! Well, go to the shotgun range for some practice and come back with your real name!

Actually, Charitable, and all, I really do not care who posts comments on my blog and by what name. There are very often legitimate reasons to withhold your name from the public and that was not the intent of this post - to make everyone reveal who you are.

When you comment here, use any name you like. Just know that your character will speak for itself!