<aside> 🖨️ Click for printable PDF version.
For a number of years Ryan and I have been involved in occasional disagreements over a number of doctrines. I have made serious and concerted efforts to discuss our disagreements (often in writing, because working out theological issues this way is much more effective). My hope was that by explaining and arguing for my views, I could at least help him to see that they are well within the bounds of orthodoxy, even if he was not personally persuaded of them.
At first he seemed happy to reason with me…but when he could not convince me to abandon my views, he became increasingly unwilling to talk—to the point of not even acknowledging receipt of my messages. Eventually he became hostile. How this happened is very important for understanding why he is now bringing charges against me—charges which I believe are scandalously false and unjust.
The one significant discussion Ryan was **willing to have, at least at first, revolved around the necessity of good works for salvation (if this sounds dodgy, please read on; I am not describing works-righteousness). We had some face-to-face discussions in 2017, and these culminated in an email exchange from December 2017 to March 2018. In this exchange, I explained and defended my view (which is the historic Reformed view), and showed why Ryan's rejection of it was unscriptural and illogical (for more on the theological details, see The Reformed pedigree of my views).
I have a blog where I occasionally write on topics that interest me. One such topic, which I had been thinking about over 2017-2018, was on what faith looks like across time, rather than as a one-time act when we are first converted. This connects to the question of how works relate to our salvation. In my view, many modern Reformed Christians have lost sight of important truths here, that were clear to our Reformed forefathers.
I wrote the following article, and since Ryan had coincidentally preached a sermon recently that dealt with some of these issues, I included a quote from him as an example of the modern view that I disagree with. To preserve his reputation and to avoid any appearance of division or slander, I deliberately anonymized his remarks so that he could not be identified, since I was interacting critically with his view, and arguing that it is pastorally dangerous—i.e., that if taken far enough, it can lead people into license, and even to shipwreck their faith. Here is the article:
Faith across time: is final justification unchristian? ⋆ Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)
Ryan apparently read this, realized that I had quoted him, saw that I called his view "dangerous to people's souls," misunderstood what I meant, thought that I was slandering him, and took offense.
<aside> ⚠️ He did not come to me at this time, or at any time afterward until he compiled formal charges, to confront me with his belief that this was slander.
Around this time, I was having difficulty with processing what I was learning about "red pill," and especially with knowing how to use it constructively. Sarah saw the negative trajectory I was on, and was very worried about it. She begged Ryan to meet with me and exercise some pastoral oversight, in the hope that he might help me to work through these issues, and guide me to a more positive path.
This should not have required my wife to beg; Ryan uses Facebook and could see what I was posting. A competent pastor who cares for his sheep would have taken it upon himself to meet with me as soon as possible. But despite repeated requests from Sarah, Ryan put off meeting with me for weeks. This is just one example of a long-standing pattern of faithlessness to the pastoral care of our church—a pattern which I believe extends far beyond just my family.
When we did finally meet, he did not engage with any of the issues in a substantial way. I don't believe he has any fluency in them, and he made no effort to gain fluency. He never confronted me about anything specific, and his followup and further "pastoral care" was extremely cursory; I would describe it as a token effort.
Thankfully, another pastor, overseas, intervened—Michael Foster. He helped me onto a more stable and positive path, which is how I got involved with It's Good To Be A Man. This is just one of many examples of pastoral negligence that I know of, and makes Ryan's accusations against Michael's ministry not just ridiculous, but outrageous (see What people actually say about It's Good To Be A Man).
In February 2019 I visited a church in Indiana for a conference. Observing their pastoral ministry, and the effect of it in people's lives, I became convicted that I had acted poorly in some of my previous dealings with Ryan. In March, I invited him over to repent to him. I apologized for the times I had been disrespectful, emphasized my regard for his office, expressed my desire to be a help and encouragement to him, and asked him to consider specific ways that I might be able to do this. I had served the church for years before his arrival, and wished to continue doing so if at all possible.
I was also concerned about the lack of pastoral care my family was receiving, and tried to tactfully ask about Ryan's philosophy of ministry. Having seen the importance of full-orbed pastoral ministry in Indiana, I wanted to encourage Ryan toward a more biblical model that involved him in the lives of his sheep. The apostle Paul went daily from house to house to teach and care for those under his charge (Acts 20:20ff), and a major part of pastoral ministry is this kind of pastoral visitation. Ryan had committed to this when he was called, so I wasn't sure whether my family was an isolated case of neglect, or if the problem was more general.
I can only describe Ryan's answer to my question as evasive; I had no more clarity after he had answered than before.