Last January I challenged Todd Friel of Wretched and some of his friends (including John MacArthur’s right-hand man, Phil Johnson) for misrepresenting American Vision’s message, particularly my project Restoring America One County at a Time. I also wrote a follow-up critique. Many awaited responses or engagement from the men involved.
The original charge, you will remember, was against any effort to “reclaim America,” but with specific reference to “Rushdoonyites.” As I wrote,
Friel followed by calling “Rushdoonyites” “pharisaical moralists” who engage in political activism “without the Gospel,” and “trying to impose a worldview without any authority.”
At one point Friel queried whether “dominionists” are “heretics,” to which Johnson replied “some of them are.”
I showed how none of this was true or accurate, but rather badly distorted what we teach. I included twenty or more direct quotations from several Rushdoonyite and dominionist writers to show that exactly the opposite is true.
A public error of this sort when exposed as error deserves either 1) a public apology, 2) a clarification, or 3) a reasoned defense of the original position.
Many readers commented at the time in hopes there would be some such response from Friel and friends. None was forthcoming. There was no public response, no retraction, not correction or clarification.
When contacted in private, Friel pleaded that he did not have us in mind when he said these things. When asked, then, exactly what “Rushdoonyites” and “dominionists” who wanted to “reclaim America” he did have in mind, he never responded back. Stone wall.
I was willing to let water under the bridge be water under the bridge, even if it was a bit muddied. I assumed the issue would fade away. But no, Friel has started throwing stones again.
Last week, someone sent me a link to this tweet from Wretched side-project called “The Biggest Project.” It said:
IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM TODD FRIEL: Forget Reclaiming America, Let’s Reclaim Souls! Click HERE for more. . . .
It could be taken as a bit cheeky, but I was not that jumpy at first. Converting souls is vital, but it’s just the beginning. But why, oh why, did he have to preface that important call to missions with “Forget Reclaiming America.” Forget it, really? But like I said, I was not too jumpy about it. I told the guy who sent it to me that this probably was not meant as a reference to me. But I was curious as to whom it does refer. So I emailed Todd to ask what he was aiming at.
Then, the same person sent me a copy of Todd’s monthly newsletter. The same phrase was used as a headline for an article. Things got a bit clearer. The article, as the title suggest, exalts simply proclaiming the gospel and “making disciples” and downplays culture, politics, and voting. Apparently discipling the nations and teaching them all things Jesus commanded us (Matt. 28:18–20) should not entail any discussion of law, institutions, social ethics, business, finance, etc.
Nevertheless, I still thought it only typical dualistic, dispensational stuff. But then I read the line: “Our help does not come from Washington or even local government. Our help comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and earth.”
Gee I wonder what person out there is speaking of “reclaiming America” with any reference to “local government.” Hmm.
Just to make sure, I emailed Todd again, asking “Who in the world has ever said such a thing? Whom are you targeting? Please let me know so I can join you in refuting such a ridiculous idea.”
Again, no response whatsoever.
And it is a ridiculous idea, because no one has ever suggested that our help comes from local government, or any human government, and not the Lord. This is Todd’s own dualism imposed upon the message, flipped on its head, and then misattributed wrongly.
Of course, if pressed, Todd can easily say once again, “I never had you guys in mind.” Yet he will never substantiate what he does have in mind. I am trying not be judgmental, but am growing convinced that guys like Friel write this way purposefully to give themselves plausible deniability. They describe you just enough to give the idea of whom they’re talking about, but never link, quote, or name names. And yet the argument they present is a pure straw man of your position.
Really, it seems like a stick in the eye.
Todd is not the only one; there are others actually. They can’t leave us alone, they have to take shots at us, but they can’t do so honestly, and they refuse to name us. The more I see this the more I lose respect for such individuals.
Such behavior can only be accounted for as 1) irresponsibility, or 2) dishonesty. Either the guys don’t do their homework before they go into print, or, they do know better, and distort the truth anyway.
I don’t mind criticism. In fact, I covet it. I don’t mind even the severest of criticism if it is square and earnest, does its homework, and quotes its sources. Please, please criticize us in this way. But if you’re going to sit at a distance, hide behind some weeds, and throw stones, then expect to treated like a mischievous child.