Monday, August 22, 2011

An Open Letter to Phil Johnson and Team Pyro

An Open Letter to Phil Johnson and 'Team Pyro'
Dear Phil, Please stop writing put an end to the 'open letters'. Sincerely, Josh Gelatt

Update 9/7/11: Per the comments left below by Phil, I seem to have caused offense by addressing the letter to him since he does not personally write these open letters (though he does approve of them, at least generally). But Phil is the originator of the blog and is widely recognized as its leader. Therefore I still feel acknowledging his leadership role and addressing the letter to him (as well as the other team members) was the appropriate choice. However, I do wish to be at peace with my dear brothers in Christ, so I've adjusted my wording.


  1. But what would we do without self-appointed arbiters of all that is good and proper?

  2. Dear Josh --

    Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, haters gotta hate, and bloggers gotta blog.

    If you can distinguish for me the difference between the open letters and any of the other blog posts we have made at TeamPyro over the years which are critical of movements, people, churches, theologies, marketing techniques, lifestyles, politics or other bloggers -- a difference which makes the open letter spiritually- or morally-inferior -- I'll be pleased to stop at the end of this year in order to avoid the sin of lying.

    Personally, I get a laugh out of folks who will criticize nameless people behind a proxy but find the direct form of address somehow untoward.

    Let me know what you come up with and I'll be pleased to cover it with you.

  3. Silly Frank...let's not pretend "open letters" are a direct form of address. Your talking ABOUT people, not TO people.

    As for the general nature of the posts at Team Pyro, they do remind me of a dog I had as a kid. He was a great dog, and always barked to warn our family of strangers who entered the yard.

    The problem was that he also barked at everything else: the moon, the sun, the birds, the leaves, passing cars, growing grass, etc. Sure, in his mind he was simply being faithful. He was the self-appointd protector of the family and he loved his role. There were strangers that needed to be barked at, of course. But in the end he was finally sent off to the pound (to a less than desirable fate, I assume). Silence was deemed more satisfactory than incessant barking.

    Dogs are great, but the ones who know how to be silent most of the time are that much better. An occasional bark is more effective than a constant one.

  4. Pastor Josh -- if your critique amounts to a very creative version "shut up, you're bugging me," I would put any two (1 2) of my open letters against your critique of all of them every day of my life.


  5. No, dear brother. It is your tone. Always combative. Christ died so that we could be better than this. There is a time and place for confrontation, but everything in its season. At TeamPyro it is, shall we say, "always Winter and never Christmas".

    I am simply urging you to be more seasoned with love and grace. But, truly the same could be said of me and my blog. I've written far too many uncharitable posts, to my shame.

  6. I have to hand it to you, pastor: at least you're willing to die on principle. If you can make the criticism of me that I'm "always combative" and then throw all your own blogging under the bus to make sure the point sticks, I'm proud of you for being willing to stand up for what you believe is right.

    Thanks for your comments. I hope your new standards guide you to a new and better place.

  7. TeamPyro is incredibly influential. God has put you in a wonderful place to set the tone for many within our circles. My challenge to you is to pursue gentleness, patience, and peacefulness as much as you pursue doctrinal soundness.

  8. Dear Josh,

    Thanks for the open letter, but as far as I can remember, I don't think I have ever written a single open letter to anyone. So you are at least one ahead of me.


  9. Josh

    My challenge to you is to pursue gentleness, patience, and peacefulness as much as you pursue doctrinal soundness.

    I do have to ask. Is it even possible to have doctrinal soundness if you eschew any attempt at gentleness, patience and peacefulness? What good are the doctrines of grace if someone exhibits not a whiff of grace to others?

    “If I have a wide blog readership and run in the popular Reformd circles and have a soteriology that is above reproach, but have not love, I am like an overly loud praise band doing covers of REO Speedwagon.” (1 Cor 13, the missing verse)

  10. Dear Josh,

    Thanks for the open letter, but as far as I can recall, I have never written a single "open letter" to anyone. Why did you address this to me? By my count you're at least one ahead of me as a writer of open letters.

    (BTW, I tried to post a version of this comment yesterday. It seems to have got lost in your moderation queue. You should get that checked. When you call someone out publicly for something he didn't even do and that person's comments then get consigned to moderation purgatory, it looks bad.)

    -- Phil Johnson

  11. Phil, the letter is written to "Phil Johnson and Team Pyro", so that seems to have convered my bases. However, you did, I believe, start the blog and remain its "top billed" man. Leadership does have its downside, my friend (as Obama is learning regarding Hoffa's recent outburst).

    Your high-level of involvement with the blog does seem to imply agreement at least with the general tone, direction, and content of the various posts.

    In any case, kindly pass this on to the rest of your team, though Turk seems to be one step ahead of you.

    I see you are/were in Ohio (my state) lecturing. Trust all went well and God's people were edified. Blessings.

  12. Well, the actual letter is addressed: "Dear Phil." Why not "Dear Frank?"

    Since day one, we have had a notice displayed at the bottom of every page on our blog (in bright red letters, no less):

    The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views of all contributors. Each individual is responsible for the facts and opinions contained in his posts. Generally, we agree. But not always.

    I'm just suggesting that since you're such a stickler for charity, protocol, collegiality, etc., it'd be sweet if you took care to avoid the appearance of so many breaches of the ninth commandment.

    That includes statements like "As for the general nature of the posts at Team Pyro . . ." Seriously? If you count the critical posts in the past month at our blog, you'll find they constitute less than 25 percent. And even when we're being critical, I wonder if you could actually point out a couple of _specific examples_ of language where you think the "tone" is reminiscent of barking dogs. I think you'll find they are a lot harder to come by than your comment suggests.

    Meanwhile, I'm having trouble seeing why you think slander and cheap shots against me are morally superior to anything you find too harsh in Frank's open letters.

    Feel free to set me straight on that if you can cite those specifics.

    Otherwise, just take me to the pound and have me put down. I think I'm ready.

  13. Phil, this is what I am talking about. You are already going to war, brother. You seem to enjoy this type of fighting and controversy. You even titled yourself on your blog as a "provacateur" (e.g. One who intentionally surrounds himself with controversy). Is that a badge of honor?

    But, if you disagree with the nature and tone of Team Pyro's Open Letters, than say so. I would be glad to hear that from you. But,for you to allow something to go on repeatedly at your blog, and then now try to distance yourself from it, certainly seems absurd from the appearance of it.

    Brother, I just challenged you men to stop writting open letters. I also indicated that I think your too often critical. You seem to be deeply offended by these remarks, as evidenced by your accusations. Truly, it was not my wish to offend, only challenge and perhaps point in a better, more Gospel-oriented direction.

    You certainly need not listen to me. I am a pastor of a small country church in a city most have never heard of (and Lord willing will be allowed to stay here until Christ calls me Home). Feel free to ignore my advice. But if you choose to engage it, I hope you can see the spirit in which is meant. Certainly Team Pyro must also have feet of clay like the rest of us.

  14. Wait, Josh said "your high level of involvement seems to indicate a GENERAL agreement".

    Phil objects to that, believing Josh is guilty of slander and the sin of bearning false witness, only to himself say "Each individual is responsible for the facts and opinions contained in his posts, GENERALLY we agree but not always".

    Considering that Josh "accused" Phil of the exact same thing that Phil just openly admitted to, how exactly is this bearing false witness?

  15. Josh, hate to break this to you but the tone of Team Pyro has been declared off-limits. They have examined their own tone, found it fine and above reproach and declared that it is not an acceptable topic for discussion or criticism. Anyone who says different is some lib'ral emergent type. When you visit Pyromaniacs you know what you are going to get, sort of like when you buy tickets to a mixed martial arts event.