on a disappointing distortion

I have a clip from a message preached in 1991 called “Gray-Area Decisions Made Easy”. The bulk of the message contains reasonable decision making questions Christians should ask about whether they should do or not do something. The subject matter is what the preacher calls ‘non-moral’ things, but things about which Christians have had questions throughout the history of the church.

I don’t agree with some of the interpretations offered in the message. The preacher misses some key passages quite badly. However, as a whole the thrust of the message is reasonably biblical.

Much more than these errors of interpretation, the thing that bothers me most about the message is a statement made in the introduction. I don’t know if this will work, but I am including a link to a

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

from that introduction. Below is my transcript of the clip. I think it is accurate:

“I went away to college at a very narrow kind of circumscribed legalistic school and everything was reduced to rules. We had rules for everything. In fact we used to say the school song was ‘I don’t smoke and I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls that do.’ That sort of summed up the whole approach to spiritual life. Everything was reduced to some kind of list of things that were forbidden.”

I, too, went away to that same college. I, too, had to sign the same rule book. But I find it extremely disingenuous for the speaker to suggest that the leadership at that college thought then (or even still think today) that spirituality equalled keeping the man-made rule book of the college. What a foolish and uncharitable misrepresentation! When I was a student there, no one assumed that the student who didn’t break the rules was spiritual. Keeping the rules was one thing, spirituality something else again.

Even more disturbing to me is this question: What does such a distortion say about the credibility of the one speaking?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

P.S. Yes, I know the clip is from 1991. Would anyone care to confirm a change of attitude in the intervening years?


  1. Andy Efting says:

    Who is that speaking?

  2. Kent Brandenburg says:


    One of the new rules is that you can’t say anything about the inaccuracy of someone who is the hero of the young fundamentalist.

    You were both edgy and cutting edge both in this post.

  3. Don Johnson says:

    Hi Andy

    The speaker is the pastor of a large church in southern California with a worldwide radio ministry. As Kent says, he is a hero of the YF.

    Sorry for being cryptic, but I am just wanting to leave it that way for a bit… (PS – check the file name on the audio, right click and save as…)


    I realize that I am pushing the edge of the new rules pretty hard. I have had this post on hold for a week. One of my men brought me a CD with the message on it as it fit in with our series on legalism. As I said, the essential message gave some reasonable direction, with some poor exegesis, and with this one thing that really bugged me…

    So there you have it.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  4. Andy Efting says:

    OK, I think I know who it is now. I guess it just goes to show how much I listen to him (or read him for that matter).

  5. Kent Brandenburg says:

    One of my points, Don, was his talk about rules at his former college. You are breaking one of the rules of those who hate rules.