Monday, August 27, 2018

Criticism Willingly Given and Freely Received

A few years ago I came across an article in the National Review called The Duty of Harsh Criticism.

The National Review has a tagline "Where intellects collide," so most National Review articles are intended to be read by intellectuals.

The Duty of Harsh Criticism was written in 1914 by a twenty-one-year-old woman named Cicely Isabel Fairfield (picture left), who wrote under the pen name Rebecca West.

Rebecca believed that was the duty of free-thinkers to listen in a disrespectful manner.

In her mind,  criticism should be the norm.

And, according to West, critical thinking has become a lost art which is in need of recovery. Listen to just one paragraph from her 1914 article:
"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."
It may take two or three times to comprehend the paragraph above.

I will summarize it:
"Critical readers and listeners are needed to keep professional writers and speakers sharp. Prideful, self-absorbed people despise criticism, but those who treasure receiving it and freely give it become the genuine experts." 
Could it be that one of the reasons Christian writers, speakers, and leaders are often puerile, vague, and formulaic is because we have wrongly associated criticism with evil?

Criticism must begin at the house of God.

It is to be given willingly and it is to be received freely.

Practicing the lost art of criticism is the only way to prevent "blurred impressions" of the truth of Christ.


Samuel Conner said...

The wise love correction because they love wisdom.

There are many really intelligent people who reflexively
resist analysis of their views. I suspect that something
other than "love of wisdom" underlies such resistance.

If you get one thing, get understanding.

Bob Cleveland said...

One thing I very much admire about our pastor at FBCP: One day we were having lunch and I told him he'd said something in a sermon I disagreed with, and what did he want me to do if that happened. His response: "By all means, please tell me".

Fact is, that really frees one up to listen and not just be there and nod.

bunkababy said...

I had to learn critical thinking.
After growing up in a normally conservative environment we started attending the vineyard.
It had it's merits for me personally and allowed me to begin getting help for my upbringing an extent.

But even though peoples's hearts were really wanting to know God their brains flew out of their heads.
Personally, it created a place for peoples heads to swell with the latest God said.

My husband being one with a big pompus 22 year old head. Although sincere, not a shred of critical thinking.

Fastforward 10 years. Out of the church we realized what we had been taught was an endless feed "new moves of the HS", "new revivals" every month there was something new to attain to.

And when we started to really look into what we had left behind the most bizarre things were considered normal.

We started to get some excellent teaching online that set us straight and gave us answers to where we had strayed in our thinking.

And it became even more crystal clear that all these "new" winds of false doctrine were just an empty pit.
There was no personal growth. There was no more becoming like Jesus in the sense of character. It was all works based crazy stuff.
And we ourselves had zero personal growth. No conviction of sin what so ever.
I thank God we left when we did. We have old friends still in it. It is just empty cycles of jibberish that produce no fruit.

So we had to learn to be critical thinkers. It literally saved us from further deception.
I question everything. As you probably noticed.
After being abused by conservative church leaders, then brought into a fold of people who just accept everything they hear as God, I find it imperative not to be
Stupid again.

It might have one word or one line of truth, and the rest is stuff that sounds good but is off requires a sharp mind to discern.

And I found out if you know the truth the deception is easier to spot.

And I don't consider that one denomination is the end all be all to truth. Humans fail way too much.

But alas the church tells you to be quiet and complacent. Don't judge. But that is quite opposite to what the NT tells me to do.

Being a critical thinker takes time and energy. Most people dont have that so they just believe whatever is easiest.

Rex Ray said...


Wonder if Dorothy Patterson agrees with your post.

The greatest repercussions to the Family Amendment came from the phrase, “A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband” based primarily on a flawed exegesis of Ephesians 5:21-25 Though traditionalist’s claim to be “biblical,” the word “graciously” is nowhere in the passage. Does this additional adverb mean that wives must not say, “O.K. I’ll do it,” and frown, but rather they must smile and be sweet as they submit?”

“Dorothy Patterson was questioned by a reporter about female submission in the amendment she helped frame: “As a woman standing under the authority of Scripture, even when it comes to submitting to my husband when I know he’s wrong, I just have to do it and then he stands accountable at the judgment,” she replied.”

P.S. Jon Estes, which one of us should use this in “our contest”?

Christiane said...

Wade, thanks for the SUMMARY, LOL.

I did re-read the quote several times, but on the fourth try, I thought WHEN is Wade's suggestion going to kick in. :)

Always did have trouble 'understanding' because I needed to comprehend the 'Whole' before I could see how the parts inter-related and this has led to a lot of inquiry of those for whom I felt I needed to 'hear' from directly rather than to just 'read about' or worse, 'assume' from what I already 'knew'.

On the whole (pardon the pun), is always better to ponder what a person has told you themselves that they find meaningful. It's the trying to connect what they have told you up with the bigger picture (context) that is sometimes troubling, if you don't grasp what that bigger picture really entails. . . .

pieces of a puzzle . . . saved and held . . . and someday comes another piece that 'fits' and then the picture very, very slowly takes form over time if one is patient and this ONLY WORKS in the realm of the RESPECTFUL. Why? Because what IS meaningful to another must be valued not for itself but because the person has found in it something to hold on to for a time. And for them, that is important. And for THEIR sake, it becomes important also to you.

'Understanding' has more of "love" to it than of 'being right'.
So it is said: it is BETTER to understand than to be understood. :)

Christiane said...

Hello out there, REX RAY

you wrote, this:

"“Dorothy Patterson was questioned by a reporter about female submission in the amendment she helped frame: “As a woman standing under the authority of Scripture, even when it comes to submitting to my husband when I know he’s wrong, I just have to do it and then he stands accountable at the judgment,” she replied.”

ummmm . . . sounds like she wants to abrogate her own responsibility for her God-given conscience? and in a way, sounds a bit like the 'I was only following ORDERS' Nuremburg Defense.

Poor lady. May God have mercy on us all.

Tom said...

Churches have no issues with those who criticises what is occurring in their midst. They simple ask them to move on to another church. The problem is then no more until the next critical thinker comes along. Hopefully not straight away so that the problem(s) can be entrenched a little more into the heads of the congregation who bypass their critical thinking and are spoon feed slowly so as to not alarm them about the lie they are being force feed.

Sadly a critique of what is actually happening in these place is also seen as a criticism of and by the leadership team and should not be tolerated or allowed to happen as well within their little empire.

Round them up and move them on is the call to action that happens so quietly that no one really notices.


Rex Ray said...


When Dillday was SWBTS’ president the program was to prepare students to work for the Lord in different ministries. Enrollment reached its highest; around 5,000.

Under Patterson, enrolment was so low it was embarrassing even though he turned the Seminary into a regular college. (Remember the Muslim student he got to enroll in archeology.) He even got Dorothy to teach cooking classes.

Anonymous said...

One saying they are willing to accept criticism or learn from it versus one actually accepting it and learning from it, are two very different people.

More people would voice their criticism, in an honest attempt to help the other grow Spiritually, yet they remain silent because of the history of the "listener" in past experiences.

Criticism today tends to bring more death to a relationship than growth.

Christiane said...

Hello Anonymous,

The work of helping someone 'spiritually' usually consists of pointing towards Christ. Setting an example by 'preaching the Gospel' is helpful, if 'words' are not needed.

Essentially, real spiritual growth is the work of the Holy Spirit.

'Criticism' has its place, as does 'confrontation'. But in the realm of the Kingdom of God, I suspect that HUMILITY will take precedence, as it is known that even one humble minister of God can draw thousands to Christ.

bunkababy said...

Well any criticism has to be done in this manner.

4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? 5You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

It says to take out our own hypocrisy. Take out our own sin first. THEN WE CAN SEE CLEARLY to remove the speck of our brother.

Which tells me, we dont see the issue at all if we dont clear up our own sin and hypocricies . We have to be able to be humble ouselves and realise our own stuff before we can be critical and help another.

He isnt saying dont help your brother's speck. Just dont be a hypocrite.

Christiane said...

I have found this to be helpful:

Good Advice, Abe! :)

Tom said...

Our best friends are usually those who do not really like us. They tend to have no problems with being honest with us even if we do not really want to know about what they are telling us. Sadly our so called "best friends," because they value the friendship relationship more than they do the person, are rarely honest with us about our faults.

The obvious question then is, do we treat God like a friend we want on our terms, rather than a God who is drawing us into His loving embrace on His terms whereby He encourages us to become the type of person He intended us to be from the beginning of time?

How many real friends do we all have?


Christiane said...

Hi Tom Ross

I've thought about your question, this: "how many real friends do we all have?"

I expect my own question is the other side of that coin: "to how many people have I been a real friend?"

After some soul-searching, I like your question better, I think. :)