The contributors to Conservative Resurgence Voices have questioned what, if anything, separates us from the so-called ‘discernment ministries.’ Although we believe in discernment, and we believe in ministry, we nevertheless find some discernment ministries highly suspect, if for no other reason than they often make the work of ministry that much more difficult. We have reached a point where almost anyone who raises an objection to almost anything is dismissed as being a ‘discernment blogger.’ Certainly a celebrity culture that considers itself above the need for accountability and questions and critique can carry some blame. But discernment bloggers are hardly blameless.
Sometimes discernment ministries and associates don’t base their ‘arguments’ on the Bible, confessions, or even conservatism. They unthinkingly attack those outside of their tiny tribes. They determine ‘downgrade’ by failure to conform to a personality, or a particular way of addressing things, not Christianity. That’s why a guy like Owen Strachan can write a series against Critical Race Theory – which the discernment crowd is also supposedly against – and become a target. That’s why Al Mohler faces opposition for inviting James Lindsay on his show to speak against wokeism. That’s why Denny Burk is denigrated even when he says something that falls squarely in line with what the polemicists have said. That’s why Tom Ascol gets called out for entertaining ‘wolves.’ And that’s why this crowd even has its doubts about Doug Wilson. How far ‘right’ does the downgrade go?
Now, to be fair, some of the aforementioned men do seem to arrive on the scene a day late and a dollar short. So we can grant the discernment folks some grace here, as men who should have known better can seem slow in sliding around to ‘see the light,’ and, we fear, not for any good reason. Sure, one would find it frustrating when he was thrown under the bus by the very same people who later proclaim problems in the very same places he was pointing out years earlier. That is leading from behind. However, shouldn’t we also be worried when a discernment ministry does not seem to be about the Bible, confessionalism, or conservatism, but rather a false narrative, money, or attention?
That may be why the discernment crowd has so many inconsistencies as to orthodoxy. They’ll separate from every conservative under the sun, but side with atheists and Roman Catholics to prove a point about how supposedly liberal the conservatives are. This is inconsistent orthopraxy. The goal always seems the same: attack conservative individuals and institutions. Tear them down. Create a narrative that there’s a downgrade with everyone else. The only exception will be those declaring themselves to have a special gift of ‘discernment.’ That sounds like a cult. But there’s more. The aforementioned methodology also echoes virtually every concern that people have with Critical Theory. Dismiss biblical and confessional standards. Attack conservatives. Sow discord. Make ideas about the identity of the people espousing them. Tear down their institutions. What exactly is the goal here and how does it differ from what liberals will do?
So what separates CRV from the discernment crowd? After all, we are for discernment. We are for ministry. And we don’t believe in the inherent badness of blogging. But we want to base our arguments on the Bible, confessionalism, and conservatism. We want to build, not burn down. We are for the Southern Baptist Convention, not against it. And this, we believe, separates us from those in love with liberal ideologies as well as from supposed conservatives divorced from doctrinal grounding.