Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Correcting a Somewhat Distorted Picture

Jason Wallace, our former OPC pastor, thinks I'm very dangerous--before because of my views on the FPCS and my attempts to join an FPCS in Texas, and now because of our conversion to Catholicism.  As a result, he feels a need to warn people about me.  Unfortunately, he seems to think that in order to do this he must discredit me by trying to paint a picture of me as unreliable, and in order to do this he has tended oftentimes to present a distorted picture of my attitudes, beliefs, and actions, and of various historical events (though I do not mean to imply that he has done so intentionally or with bad motives--for all I know, he believes his statements not to be distortions).  Although I get tired of correcting these distorted pictures, I feel that I ought to do it to some degree.

He has done it again recently on his Facebook page, in response to my Facebook announcement of our Catholic conversion.  So what I'll do is paste his comments below, with my own comments (clarifications, corrections, addition of important material) interspersed through them.

I don't really like talking about these things.  I would much rather let the past go.  But I do feel a need to deal with this at least a little bit.  I suppose that Jason will continue to feel a need to present such distorted pictures of me for the rest of his life (unless, as I pray, he comes to see the wrongness of what he is doing), and I cannot correct them all.  So let me make a necessary more general observation:  Over the entire history of our conflict with Jason over these matters, I have observed repeatedly that he has exhibited a tendency to convey a distorted picture of myself and of the situation.  Sometimes he uses words that convey a false impression; sometimes he leaves out important bits of information; sometimes his descriptions lack important nuances; etc.  As I said above, he seems to feel a need to present a negative picture of me in order to warn people away from me, and the result is that instead of simply providing an objective picture of what happened or of his views or of my views, he shapes his narrative into a form that tries to portray me as a negative character.  This makes the whole thing regrettably personal, when really there is no need that it should be.  For me, it is not.  It is really about what the evidence says.

The lesson?  CAVEAT EMPTOR.  Check things out with the other side before you believe what somebody says, especially when it is about other people.  Gossip is a dangerous thing.  (This applies to what I say as well, of course.)  With this general comment, hopefully I will not need to continue to pursue all that Jason will choose to say about me in the future, trusting more in the ability and willingness of his hearers to avoid receiving an evil report without checking it out first.

With that said, here's my commentary on what Jason has said:

For those who have seen Mark Hausam's announcement of becoming Roman Catholic, the elders of Christ Presbyterian Church specifically predicted this last year.  Yes, they did, and they were right.  I suppose it is quite common for people who really try to follow Sola Scriptura to its logical conclusion to find out its problems and be directed towards Catholicism or Orthodoxy. We had tried to tell Mark that he did not understand sola scriptura and was moving into an untenable situation.  The only problem here is that I do understand Sola Scriptura. He had no problem with leaving us to join a church that excommunicated women for wearing makeup and pants, but was apparently shocked when they wanted him to give up fiction.  This is misleading.  The issues here are complicated.  In short, I felt that the FPCS had the best claim to being the right denomination to join.  I knew they had positions that were more "conservative," for lack of a better word, than I myself would lean to, in a number of areas, but I felt that I ought not to break from them for another denomination unless they went so far as to have their requirements require sin.  Regarding the fiction issue (see here where I discuss this further in the context of my doctrinal trajectory over the years and my move to Catholicism), the FPCS has no official position on this.  One elder in Santa Fe suggested to us that reading fiction would be a problem for having our child baptized.  There are no doubt others in the FPCS who agree with him, but there are also those who don't.  I had come to understand a good deal about FPCS culture, and I knew that there wasn't a strong chance of having trouble with them in this area.  It was, indeed, truly surprising that we did run into trouble with that one elder over it--it wasn't that I was just stupid, as Jason's account suggests.  Other FPCSers have found this one elder's position surprising or problematic as well.  Also, it should be noted, as I have elsewhere, that the fiction issue was merely a catalyst that prompted a reexamination of Sola Scriptura.  It was not a major factor at all in our ultimate decision to become Catholic.  Mark was arrogantly insisting that even though only a couple of people in the world were supporting his ideas, if people were reasonable they would have to agree with him. Hmm. . . I don't recall ever saying that anybody who is reasonable must agree with me.  I did think I was right, but I always acknowledged that these are complicated issues and that intelligent people of good will can disagree about them.  It is not accurate to say that only a "couple" of people agreed with me.  As I was formulating and arguing for these matters over the years, I interacted with a number of people in the FPCS, and none of those I interacted with ever told me that my theology of church relations was wrong, and a number of them confirmed it.  I admit, however, that there were few people willing to come out and make a lot of explicit support for what I was explicitly trying to argue for (and a couple at times counseled me to stay, for the time being, in the OPC).  This raises a question:  How many people have to agree with you before it is no longer "arrogant" to hold a position?  Was Martin Luther arrogant when he asserted Sola Scriptura in opposition to 1500 years of universal (or very nearly universal) Christian belief to the contrary?  The only people I can think of who might have held Luther's view before Luther were perhaps Wycliffe and some of his followers.  Maybe Jan Hus, I'm not sure.  Perhaps some few others.  Over against the rest of Christendom.  Luther, at the Diet of Worms, said that he would not follow popes or councils, but would only go with his own interpretations of Scripture or reason.  Was this arrogant?  Is it arrogant to go against an established view--whether in theology, or philosophy, or science, or whatever?  Most of what I was arguing for were principles agreed upon by all Presbyterians during earlier periods of history--such as the 1600s.  I wrote an entire book to document this.  At the very least, then, it should be admitted that these issues are quite complicated.  To dismiss me as arrogant in this way is, I think, a bit lacking both in nuance and in proper charity (at least in action, if not in motive).  We told him that since he seemed unwilling to back up from his errors we feared that he would overreact and become Roman Catholic.  Is my conversion to Catholicism an "overreaction"?  How, exactly?  Could it be that it is the result of learning and growing in my understanding, as I think it is? He laughed at us  I have no memory of laughing at them.  That meeting was quite intense (I assume he is talking here about the meeting he mentions explicitly just below).  I certainly didn't feel like laughing.  I rather felt concerned to try to be calm, friendly, and congenial as much as I could.  But more on this in a moment. and quoted Martin Luther's "Here I Stand" speech to us last October when he demanded his family be erased from the rolls of the church.  Some context would be helpful here.  This meeting was the meeting where the OPC session declared that I and my family had "relinquished all rights to be considered Christians" for seeking to join the FPCS in Texas.  (This is described more here.)  They also banned us from attending Christ OPC so long as we held our views and talked to other people (any other people in the world) about them.  And this was after a good bit of previous conflict, in which I tried very hard to get the session to be what I saw as more reasonable in its dealings with us.  Our preference was to not have a dramatic break with the OPC.  But Jason and the session saw us as too dangerous for that.  So we had this meeting at the end of it all, and it was a very tense meeting.  I brought a friend along just for emotional support, because I really hate interpersonal conflict.  I tend to internalize people's attitudes towards me, and I didn't want to get too angry and blow up at them or something (I had blown up at Jason a few years earlier when the conflict had begun).  What I tried to do in this meeting was to remain calm, explain my positions carefully and in a nuanced way once again, work for a peaceful resolution, etc.  I believe I remained quite calm through the whole thing.  At the end, after pronouncing their sentence upon us, Jason said melodramatically, "May God have mercy on your soul!"  Well, since we were onto the melodramatic thing, I responded by saying, "Here I stand.  I can do no other."  Jason replied, "But you're tearing the church apart!"  And I said, "That's what the Romanists said."  (Now I realize that, by following Sola Scriptura, I was indeed tearing the church apart, as also all Protestantism has done for 500 years.  So Jason was right about that.)  One more thing:  I "demanded" that my family be erased from the roles.  What that means is that I said that that is what we wanted, given the options available to us according to the session's ultimatums.  I guess the word "demanded" is meant here to further the impression that I was aggressive and arrogant, or something.   Unfortunately, we have been proven correct. Yes, that is true.  They were correct that we have moved towards the Catholic Church.  Of course, the reasons they think we have done this are different the reasons we think we have done this. Our continued warnings have fallen on deaf ears and been rejected.  Translation:  "We disagreed with him." The man who denounced the pope as the antichrist a year ago is now calling him "holy father."  That is true.  I guess it is possible to learn in life.  (I've noticed that a lot of people I've talked to seem to think that the mere fact that I've changed my mind on some things is somehow a damning indictment in itself.  I guess "progress" isn't a word in some people's vocabulary.  If everyone in the 1500s had felt this way, ironically, there would have been no Protestant Reformation.) Please join us in praying for the Hausam family's repentance.  Yes, please do, if you think we need it.

ADDENDUM:  Jason Wallace just sent me a message:

If you're truly concerned about accuracy, you need to be clear that you were insisting on publicly declaring us "idolatrous" and "schismatic," and calling people to renounce their membership in our congregation.

See here for an example of what I was actually saying with regarding to the schism issue.  I was indeed discussing these views publicly, mostly by writing on my blog.  I had avoided bringing up these issues to most of the OPC congregation while we were there (so as not to cause unnecessary confusion or difficulties), so that hardly any of them knew anything about it until after we had that meeting where the OPC session banned us from attending, etc.  More about what we were actually doing is discussed here.  I did use the word "schismatic," but in a very carefully defined and nuanced way, as you can see from looking at actual statements.  (Notice that Jason doesn't like to give actual quotations.  Of course, if he did, he would probably take them out of context, etc.  Sigh.)

Regarding whether people should leave Christ OPC, I never told anyone in the congregation that they should leave Christ OPC.  I did, however, discuss the question of the appropriateness of remaining in schismatic denominations on my blog and perhaps elsewhere from time to time.  See here for an example of this.

Regarding calling the OPC "idolatrous," I don't remember ever using that word in anything I ever said or wrote.  What I preferred to say is that the OPC, by allowing the singing of hymns and some other things, was violating the regulative principle of worship, as would be the view of all Exclusive Psalmody churches and even various well-respected people within the OPC, such as G. I. Williamson.  The only time I remember acknowledging the word "idolatrous" was when Jason tried to press me on the point.  He asked me if I claimed the OPC to be "idolatrous."  I responded that while I believed that the OPC was violating the regulative principle, which is a sin listed under the Second Commandment in the Westminster Catechisms and is thus in a broad sense a form of "idolatry," I did not like the word because it gives the impression that the OPC is doing something worse than it is, like worshipping a golden calf or something like that.  I said I thought of the OPC more like the overall good kings of Judah who obeyed God but "didn't destroy the high places"--a more balanced attitude.  As I recall, Jason kept pressing me, so finally I granted that the word "idolatrous" could be used theoretically for reasons I just mentioned, but that I didn't think I'd ever used it or that I would be likely to use it, at least not without much clarification.  He decided this was sufficient to say I was declaring them "idolatrous."


Chris Cole said...

I had had a link to your blog on my own for a long time, even though I disagreed with some of the things you were advocating. I thought that variety within the Reformed camp was healthy. However, I hadn't read it until I saw the title of this post come up. I cannot think of you, now, as anything but an apostate. Under that circumstance, it would be irresponsible for me to continue to provide that platform for you.

I am appalled that you would take a step so radically opposed to what you have professed before. You yourself give that statement when you warn readers that posts before March reflect a Protestant viewpoint. I truly hope that God will grant you repentance (II Timothy 2:25), while there is time.

Mark Hausam said...

Thanks, Chris!