Ad Hominem – ATTACK THE MAN! (But, you know… love him too)

A dear friend of mine, the great thinker – and a few short weeks away from Ph.D. in Theology (from DUKE People!!!!) – Michael Raburn (Read his AWESOME Blog posts HERE) and I were having a conversation last night on Twitter. The subject: Tim Challiesreview of Rob Bell‘s new book ;” target=”_blank”>Love Wins.” (STOP! This isn’t a post about Rob Bell!!!!! Please continue reading!)

I liked the review, but my friend Michael did not. He said “[Challies] Review begins [by] comparing Bell to the serpent in Gen.3. … Ad hominem has no place in serious theology.”

Now, the fact of the matter is, I have, for years, deferred to Michael on almost all things theological. He is, as far as I am concerned, one of the greats. He is a staunch adherent of truth, a sincere searcher for understanding and absolutely full of love for not just his brothers and sisters in Christ but for all people.

So, is this all about singing Raburn’s praises? No. His stament re: “Ad Hominem” got me thinking.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary “Ad Hominem” is defined as follows:

1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect

2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made

So, what my brother is saying is that when someone makes a theological argument, taking an “ad hominem” approach in response is unacceptable.

I want to believe what he says, but, at the same time, I can’t dismiss a person’s character from their affirmations. Ad Hominem may be a “classic logical fallacy” but that doesn’t make it fallacious in every instance. Character matters. Truth is truth regardless of who says it. And these are the murky waters we find ourselves in EVERY DAY in the body of Christ.


Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) This must be the highest rule of conduct in the Body of Christ. Period. You might disagree with Rob Bell (Or Joel Osteen, or Billy Graham, or Joyce Meyer, et al.) or you might disagree with those who disagree with them, but if you have affirmed a faith in Jesus Christ then your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ must be evident before ANYTHING else (And, yes, I’m preaching to myself here).


He didn’t ask me to do this, but Michael has started a fund-raising project to help fund his dissertation year. GREAT benefits for investors and this will, I truly believe, be of great benefit to the Church. Check it out at: Between Love and Doctrine

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

One thought on “Ad Hominem – ATTACK THE MAN! (But, you know… love him too)

  1. Thanks for the kind words, you made me blush.

    I agree that character matters. Holiness is a central part of the Christian life. But if a person has a character issue, which is a nice way of saying a sin issue, then that is not something that should be dealt with publicly (Charlie Sheen notwithstanding), unless no other means will work. Jesus makes this clear in Matt. 18 and Paul follows this teaching in dealing with the issue in 1 Cor. (as well as the restoration in 2 Cor.

    With regard to the Bell review, intimating that his questions were akin to the serpent’s questions in Gen. 3 was (imo) out of bounds because it implies evil intent on Bell’s part. The serpent was not asking a serious, legitimate question, it was only trying to manipulate. Chailles indicated pretty clearly (again imo) that Bell was likewise being manipulative and seeking to lead others astray.

    Whatever the book says (it’s still not out yet), whether Bell is right or wrong (or more likely some of both), to assign intent to him is an attack on his character and the very sort of judgment the sermons on the Mount and Plain forbid us from engaging in. Chailles could just as well dealt with the theology without attacking Bell, but that is not what he did.

    We have got to get to a place where we can have serious discussions and still have them in love – real love, real compassion for each other, real graciousness in how we read each other. I don’t imagine I will agree with Bell’s approach in this book, but I do sympathize with the questions, and I think a more charitable reading of him is not only possible, but necessary. The sort of thing PIper and Chailles have done here has never been okay, but in our world of social media, it is more important than ever that the world is able to identify us by our love (as you stated). In all this so far, I don’t think they’re seeing that so much.