Monday, April 26, 2010

The Duty of Harsh Criticism: It Humbles the Proud and Sharpens the Culture

In May of this year our church will be hosting Jeff Sandefer, the President of Acton School of Business and Chairman of the Board of The National Review. Jeff will be speaking on the subject "The Difference Christ Makes in Business." Jeff's great-grandfather, Dr. Jefferson Davis Sandefer, was President of Hardin-Simmons University. Jeff has been described to me by the Business Faculty of the University of Texas as Donald Trump without the fluff. In preparing the audio/visual introduction to Jeff for our church, I came across a very interesting article in the National Review called The Duty of Harsh Criticism. The National Review has a tag line that reads "Where intellects collide." I found the article on criticism, written in 1914, a powerful encouragment to citizens of all communities to be engaged in civil, active criticism of those who are considered our intellectual leaders. The words are as prophetic for Southern Baptists today as they were for Americans and Great Britains a century ago. A sample paragraph is below.

"There is a serious duty before us, the duty of listening to our geniuses in a disrespectful manner. Criticism matters as it never did in the past, because of the present pride of great writers. They take all life as their province to-day. Formerly they sat in their studies, and thinking only of the emotional life of mankind—thinking therefore with comparative ease, of the color of life and not of its form—devised a score or so of stories before death came. Now, their pride telling them that if time would but stand still they could explain all life, they start on a breakneck journey across the world. They are tormented by the thought of time; they halt by no event, but look down upon it as they pass, cry out their impressions, and gallop on. Often it happens that because of their haste they receive a blurred impression or transmit it to their readers roughly and without precision. And just as it was the duty of the students of Kelvin the mathematician to correct his errors in arithmetic, so it is the duty of critics to rebuke these hastinesses of these writers, lest the blurred impressions weaken the surrounding mental fabric and their rough transmissions frustrate the mission of genius on earth."
Great, intellectual food for thought prepared for us a century ago by a young woman named Rebecca West (pictured above).

If, fellow preachers, you have to reread Rebecca's article in the National Review two or three times to comprehend her sagacious writing, allow me to gently prod you with the information that she was only TWENTY ONE when she wrote it. It makes me want to wince when I read what is being written by Southern Baptist pastors today.

In His Grace,