Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 28, 1951

Criticizing The Critic

Robert C. Welch, Florence, Alabama

It has been observed recently that the papers are filled with criticism. Some contain criticism of the work and organization being engaged in by some brethren and churches. Others are criticizing those who criticize for criticizing. Now, if one writer can criticize me for criticizing, then why should I be criticized for being like him. Is the sweet-spirited soul, who criticizes the critic, any sweeter than the critic? They look like companions in travel to this writer. One possible difference is that the critic admits that he is one, and the criticizer of the critic will not admit it. If the person who does the first criticizing has the right to do so, then the person who criticizes him has the right to do so, but he ought to be gentleman enough to admit that he is doing the same thing he is criticizing in the other. The right of either to criticize depends on the correctness of their remarks, and not on the mere fact that they criticize.

One editor seems to think that it is all right for us critics to criticize denominationalism, but if we forget and turn our guns on some denominationalism among church members we have committed the unpardonable sin and must fall, ourselves, by one blast of his own criticism. He complains, "Do not either, get so in the habit of fighting sin and digression in the ranks of denominationalism that we carelessly turn biting and devouring one another." It seems that he is trying to tell us to overlook sin among us, but go ahead and condemn it in a sect. Of course, he would plead innocent of biting the critic of whom he complained. In his same criticism of the critic he complains about pessimists and other sinners, "But there were knockers and critics and destroyers then, even as there are now." That editor is one of them, for what is he doing if he is not criticizing in such statements? He is "knocking' against the work of some critics. Of course, that is all right with this writer, for he is of the persuasion that proper criticism is being like Christ and Paul. But how could one who is so averse to criticism be so critical? He finds fault with their spiritual and mental insight into matters, "They see things that do not exist, and imagine tendencies, results and consequences the most remote, unlikely and improbable." Suppose they are just imagining things, why should he take the time from his building to grumble about the idle dreamer? The things the critic seems to see may be just as real to him as his criticism seems to the editor. If it is wrong to "pull down,' the critical editor has no right to be pulling down the critic. It depends on what is being pulled down, rather than the general act of pulling down.

Then there is the writer on "Dunderheads." He wants to criticize some preachers for being critical of the manner of evangelizing which some are using. He compares the work of the Lord to busses for carrying children to school. I wonder where he would find that the parents have sinned if the busses never got the children to school. The "how" of their getting to school is a matter of indifference, because their going does not depend upon scriptural authority. But the Lord has commanded us to "go" preaching the gospel. If the scriptures say anything about the "how" it must be respected by the hearer. The writer's sweet-spirited, zealous woe is thus pronounced, "Woe unto those with obscured vision, who, not knowing "how" to "go into all the world,' go nowhere. Dunderheads indeed!' I wonder if the writer of this woe cannot see that he has placed himself in the class of "dunderheads." He has taken time out from "going' to criticize some critics of the "how' of going. His idea is to go just any "how,' just so we go. If I stop to question the "how" of evangelizing, maybe criticizing some things that have been done; am I any harder hard-head, bigger block-head, or dumber "dunderhead' than that writer, who has taken time out to call somebody names, and criticize him for being critical of the way of doing things?

That same critic of the critics has this bit of censure in another article in another paper about the "how" of evangelizing, "Let the highly orthodox 'scriptural' brethren rave and rant. Let the ink-slingers work up an ink lather condemning everything and everybody. Let the world continue to burn; we cannot be perturbed. We are too busy arguing. We have joined the cynic's band. We must be scriptural!' My, My, with such cynicism as that he wants to give somebody a dry shave before they can get an ink lather stirred up. With such irony as that he hopes to iron the critic flat, so he will no longer have any cynicism to offer. I believe I had rather be a scriptural brother raving and ranting, than one who raves and rants against the "scriptural brethren." Now, if he is so set against "arguing" about this matter, what did he want to get into it for? Somebody (an inspired man not a group of school men discussing busses) said, "Verily the legs of the lame hang loose." (Prov. 26:7) Another inspired man said, "Thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?' (Rom. 2:21) It appears that some of these men think that it is wrong for anybody but themselves to criticize.

Another writer and editor wanted to call somebody "Diotrephes' but he was afraid to say who. Maybe those whom he had in mind are like Diotrephes. Maybe they do prate against some "missionaries." Maybe the "missionaries' need prating against. I have not seen one lately that I thought would compare to the Apostle John. If the "missionaries" are doing what the "last surviving apostle" and the other apostles taught and practiced, the person who would criticize them ought to be compared to Diotrephes. If the "missionaries" are following a system of their own devising instead of the New Testament pattern, their critics cannot be rightfully called "Diotrephes." In such case the "missionaries" themselves fall into another class which John speaks of. (1 John 3:24 - 4:1) I wonder whom the writer had in mind. Is the reason he did not name them, an aversion to calling names, or a fear that he might be wrong about their being "Diotrephes?" Since he mentioned no names, if his judgment proves to be wrong he has nothing to take back. The apostle named his man, why did not the writer who was supposed to be following the example of the apostle name his man? If we have some "Diotrephes" we need to know who they are, just like John told Gaius whom he was talking about. Does the writer not see that if the critics are right in their opposition that he places himself in the class of "Diotrephes" by prating against the critics? He needs to show first who is right before he calls the other of them "Diotrephes."

Is it wrong to criticize? John criticized when it was necessary. (3 John 9, 10) Paul criticized his brethren when they were guilty. (2 Tim. 4:10; Gal. 2:11) Stephen criticized his audience. (Acts 7:51-53) Peter was not ashamed to do the same thing. (Acts 2:36) Christ, who came to bring peace on the earth, was not afraid to be a critic of sin and sinners. (Matt. 23:1-39) This writer realizes that there are troublesome faultfinders whose mouths must be stopped. But the person who finds sin and points it out cannot be truthfully called a faultfinder. He needs to be able to show the error before criticizing. Furthermore, the one who criticizes the critic must be able to show that the critic is wrong in what he says before he criticizes such critic.

This article is not opposed to proper criticism. It does seek, however, to warn the person who has not thought that some who assume the roll of opposition to criticism as free with it as the ones whom they criticize. If they are opposed to criticism let them not criticize the critic, or anyone else. The most pious opposers of criticism are often the most avid devotees of its use. Be not deceived by their claims. The names of the writers quoted in this article will be given if they request it. Otherwise, I do not see that the use of their names would improve it; I recognize their right to use criticism. The sole purpose of the article is to emphasize the proper use of criticism.