Where Are My Critics Now?

Where Are My Critics Now? December 14, 2009
If only my critics were as honest as Waldorf and Statler

In his contribution to the Didache blog tour, Mike King wrote something that piqued my interest,

Those who have tried to “label” and “dismiss” Tony Jones will have a hard time believing that Tony would be so interested in a text that starts out, “There are two ways, one of life and one of death! and there is a great difference between the two ways.”  But, he is, and so we reap the benefit.

As anyone should who’s in the public eye (including most pastors), I have a couple “vanity” searches set up in Google to automatically search my name along with a couple keywords.  This allows me to keep an ear to the ground about what’s being said about me in the blogosphere.

And here’s something that hasn’t surprised me at all: There’s been nary a word by any critics about my new book, The Teaching of the Twelve.

Honestly, I don’t fault those to my far, far right for blogging against me when I write a blog post about gay marriage, nor when I publish a book that has entire chapters devoted to epistemology.  They have every right to tell the world that I am a dangerous theologian who should not be trusted.  They can even shout it from the mountaintops that my books on (Christian) spirituality and prayer teach a pagan, New Age mysticism (which, of course, they don’t).

But the past couple weeks is what ultimately proves their dishonesty.  I’ve written a book about an early church document, the Didache, which teaches about following Jesus.  As Mike writes,

The concern of…the Didache is the “particular practices that constitute the rhythm of life for the gathered community. Instructions about eating sacrificial meat, baptism, the Eucharist, prayers, and welcoming wandering prophets and teachers ensue.” The detail of the practices of this first century community of Christians in comparison to our current practices of baptism, fasting, prayer and Eucharist are astonishingly fascinating.

And the critics are silent.

Of course they are.  That’s because they are, as I said, dishonest.  If they were honest, they’d write about my latest book that, while they disagree with my theological viewpoints in some books and posts, they can appreciate this book for its treatment of the earliest church.  But they won’t, because they’re dishonest.

Instead, they post about me constantly.  They put my name in other posts — posts about Rob Bell or Brian McLaren, and completely unrelated to me — in order to come up higher in search engines when my name is searched.  They use my name as a keyword in posts about me, and in posts completely unrelated to me.  They double-post their posts about me on two different blogs, and then link back to themselves, in order to have more permanent in-bound links, which is a primary way that the Google crawlers determine the strength of a site.  (In other words, many in-bound links to a site that mentions my name tells Google, “This is an authoritative site about ‘Tony Jones'”).

They do all of this because they are dishonest.

That’s why I am asking all of you to never click on a link posted by Ken Silva, or Christian Research Net, or Lighthouse Trails Research, or Apprising Ministries.

Never use their names in a post or on a website (as I just did).

And if you’ve got any old posts that link to their site, delete the links.

I’m not asking you to do this because I’m afraid of criticism.  If you’ve followed me at all in the past few years, you know that I’m not. 

I’m asking you to do these things because these critics are dishonest.

I look forward to honest criticism about The Teaching of the Twelve and all of my books.


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  • Done and done.

  • I was sitting in a very conservative college course on church history. They were talking about the awesomness of the didache. I hope tons of people read this book.

  • MoJoJules

    Already done!!! You are right. I would also suggest that seeking out to get his attention should be stopped as well. Far too long has he gotten the attention of those in or around the conversation.

  • The Didache is about actually practicing Christianity and following Jesus and how we treat our neighbor. Those topics may be of little interest to some of your critics, since they place so much emphasis on things like proper beliefs and holding to the right atonement theory.

    My guess is that you writing about a book of early Christian practice will probably be dismissed as endorsing more “works -righteousness”. Additionally, since many of these critics focus on creating a “first century church”, they can easily dismiss the Didache by saying it’s a second century document and therefore after the magic cut-off date of 95 AD. So I’m sure some will see your use of extra-canonical literature as evidence of the Catholic/emergence conspiracy.

    In any case, enjoy the silence. It’s a welcome relief.

  • you could always create gifs showing their names and then there wouldn’t be any mention that google could read… but then again is that really too much effort. 🙂

    And as above, I’m sure they’ll find something to complain about.

  • So if I could try to clarify this post a bit by saying it another way, it seems that your critics are mistaking the part for the whole. They latch on to a blog post, a video, or part of a book that stirs some controversy and use that as the Tony Jones piñata. Once the piñata or blog post has been created, they use dishonest means to draw more folks in to take a swing at it. If I’m following you correctly, then yeah, that’s pretty frustrating!

  • Ben hammond

    Sounds good. It would also be great if they were honest and showed (what they see) as the good and bad about you, but they don’t. They only want to criticize.

  • Connie

    Bravo Tony! Thank you for your observations. It is so frustrating to watch those spritual fruit flies buzz around folks who are bearing Kingdom Fruit! They are nothing but an annoyance that regurgitate the same stale thoughts over and over. Insults and condenmations are no subsitute for critical thinking or intellegence.

  • come on Tony, for people like you in the public eye “there is no such thing as bad publicity.”

    There are lots of low blows, as you know. But if you write something with whicd your critics take no exception, they are not compelled to say so – it does not move the needle on the blogometer as much as ad hominem/claims of apostasy do.

    Now, when are you going to get around to a piece on “suffering for righteousness’ sake” in our modern lives, in which loss of live and liberty is not really “in play” as much as loss of “economic standing” in confronting collective wrongdoing?

  • Simon

    Tony, if we remove references to them from our blogs, all the unenlightened masses Googling for your critics will have less chance of finding you portrayed in a positive light. Don’t game the system.

    Just a thought.

  • Joe- That may be the cynical response, but it’s not accurate. I have lost numerous speaking and writing opportunities as a result of those websites. I’ve actually been told that by potential employers.

    Simon- I see your point. So replace that link with a link to a thoughtful, brotherly critic: R. Scott Smith, Jim Belcher, Bob Dewaay, etc. There are plenty to choose from.

  • Deleted, but here’s a better idea: Post positive blogs instead of talking about what the critics say. It’s hard sometimes, and I know I’ve been one to say some quip out of annoyance with them. But instead, post a positive blog about someone being talked about (Tony, Jay, Doug, the list of critic-fodder goes on). Then, create those links so Google indexes those and raises them higher in the listings.

    I’m smelling a search engine optimization bootcamp 😉

  • Loved the book Tony, as you know.

    And for what it’s worth, the “dangerous theologians” are the only ones worth listening to these days.

  • Kenton


    When you lose “numerous speaking at writing opportunities as a result of those websites,” is it because they have tipped off those potential employers with some things that could be valid concerns? Or are those websites just so powerful that they can blacklist you Hollywood style? I mean googling a person who is going to do a speaking engagement is proper due-diligence. If one of those websites raises one of your controversial red flags that might have otherwise been missed, it’s not really dishonesty, is it?

  • Kenton, that’d be great, if it were due diligence, and if people were honestly concerned with theological positions I’ve taken. But more often than not, it’s along the lines of, “We can’t afford the controversy right now.”

    For instance, see how some far right bloggers got Shane Claiborne disinvited from Cedarville University.

    That’s not due diligence; that’s a witch hunt.

  • A concern:
    Without having much background knowledge of your work, I have to ask if your comments are too aggressive. Would you break fellowship with your critics because they consistently “slapped you on the cheek”? I came across your blog while searching the web for an article criticizing the authority of the Bible when I came across your blog. I saw Waldorf and Statler and had to pause. 🙂 After reading this post, I wonder if such measures are really necessary. It seems that your comments are just salvos that can be used as fodder for your critics.

  • Perhaps these “Christ-peddlers”, have finally been found out. That is, they really know nothing of the “product” they’ve been pushing.

  • Jeff Rensch

    This is a bit like a certain story early in Genesis. I don’t even know who those people are that I’m not supposed to link to but now that I know I’m not supposed to I’m feeling I just can’t resist!

  • In order that I not be misunderstood, I will re-state my concern. Are these critics truly evil, ill-intentioned persecutors? Or are they genuinely seeking truth inappropriately? Even if they are liars, scoundrels and cheats, does that fact justify name-calling and hatred on our behalf? This seems to be contradictory to the virtues I want to maintain in my life, and I become no better than these critics. Do I really have to engage in such bi-partisan mudslinging? Way too many people see this aggression and want nothing to do with it.

  • tom

    Tony, I’m sympathetic with your frustration with these bloggers’ selective criticism/engagement, but I can’t help feeling this is a step too far. If their criticism of you (or of Shane Claiborne) was egregious before, then that should have been what merited counter-argument; their (apparent) silence now does not necessarily entail dishonesty.

  • Jane Smith

    Unfortunately, websites such as Lighthouse Trails have a very high profile from which they peddle their “instant coffee” version of Christianity (I refuse to dignify it with the word “theology”).

    If Cedarville University cannot deal with controversy, then – since we are talking about dishonesty – it is being dishonest by calling itself a university.

    I’m less charitable than some posters about Tony’s critics. If he writes a book that they cannot find fault with, then they should continue to have the courage of their convictions and say so. I might add that these people have been allowed to define what constitutes Christianity for far too long and have done incalculable damage in the process (e.g. thanks to them, many thinking folk have turned to Buddhism).

    I don’t know how one fights this sort of thing without being, in a sense, aggressive. Deleting permanent links may well be the most Christ-like way of dealing with the problem.


  • tom

    Being charitable to one’s critics does not mean one should be uncritical in one’s own response.

    I would argue that Cedarville University’s actions regarding Shane Claiborne were inconsistent with the first and third clauses in their Mission Statement (see below — the whole Mission Statement is found at http://www.cedarville.edu/about/cumission.cfm). I don’t know if this inconsistency amounts to dishonesty. Why not just say that the University is not living up to its Mission?

    “Cedarville University is a Christ-centered learning community equipping students for lifelong leadership and service through an education marked by excellence and grounded in biblical truth.

    To achieve its purpose, the University seeks to accomplish the following objectives:

    1. To undergird the student in the fundamentals of the Christian faith and to stimulate each student to evaluate knowledge in the light of scriptural truth.

    3. To increase each student’s awareness of the world of ideas and events which are influencing our contemporary culture and to prepare each student to participate knowledgeably in our society.”

  • Tony,

    When I reviewed chapter 7 of your book for the blog tour I was amused that several people who have come to my blog to critique things you have written had nothing to say about the post. (I have yet to figure out why people think any one associated with the emerging church is clearing house for all other thoughts by all other people remotely associated with the emerging church, but I digress)

    The only comment I heard was that I was misleading my congregation by promoting anything you did. There was no critique of the actual work, just that anything you wrote was obviously tainted. Just made me laugh.

  • Thanks for sharing the love Tony.

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  • Jane Smith

    Yes, I agree. Cedarville University is certainly not living up to its mission.

    I’m incorrigible. I clicked on all the links we were told not to. It seems to me that the authors of these links are all terribly afraid of something – I’m not sure what – which is why they vilify Tony Jones and many, many others (including, I see, someone as conservative as Rick Warren).

    I get the impression that they’re frantically lashing out at almost everybody except those who form part of their own inner circle!

    All rather silly and sad.

  • Tony~

    Hey man, I think it is great that you are not afraid of critique. That said, are you saying that everything that the above listed groups have said about you is dishonest? I mean, do you think there goal is out to destroy you for fun or what?

    Perhaps is it possible that they, like i have, make reasonable, honest critique of your stance on things like homosexuality and Sola Scriptura, and perhaps your hermeneutic? I’m not saying that we doing this are 100% correct all the time about, but don’t you think that there is some truth in there?

  • Tony~

    Just as a follow up… Don’t you think that your stance on hot issues has caused people to say no at times?

  • Jim Pierce

    So Tony’s point is that his critics are dishonest because, according to him, they remain silent about his recent book? Huh? /rolls eyes Perhaps the book doesn’t contain anything terribly controversial? Could that be the reason for the silence? Do you think?

    Btw, I like reading Ken Silva and his blog Apprising Ministries. I hope that people are smart enough not to fall for Tony’s pleading to ignore his critics.

  • I do hope that my bluntness is received, not as an attack, but rather as sincere Christian concern for your spiritual condition.

    Was it really necessary to let it be known what damage Ken Silva or anyone else for that matter has supposedly done to you? How did your actions serve to honor God? Perhaps you now feel somewhat vindicated for getting in the last word with that post title? (2nd Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV)

    Tony, I don’t recall Jesus ever going out quite like that.

    I think your post did nothing in a Christ honoring way, and actually makes you out as self-centered. Please, don’t get me wrong Tony, I’ve been insulted and accused in the past as well. To say that it didn’t hurt would be a lie, but I will tell you that by the grace of God I held my tongue, and in time the Lord made the situation right through a brother in Christ.(Romans 12:18-20 NIV)

    Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship with Christ? Maybe you need to unplug from the blogging, Twitter, writing etc; and just concentrate on living, preaching and proclaiming Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins? (1 Corinthians 15:1-5 NIV)

    I close with this question for you to ask yourself.

    Whatever you do… is it to honor God?

    Grace and peace be with you.

  • Gino

    What I don’t get, is that if we are to follow Christ, shouldn’t our Life living the Bible be an example enough. As it says in the Word:

    ” Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Tim 3:7
    “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” 2 Tim 3:16
    It appears as if The Genesis 3 is being provided by you, because I see no mention of Scripture, but rather an influence “Did God really say ….?” and you have taken the bait.

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  • Reformed Amillennarian

    Dear Tony,

    Stop being a heretic and you won’t have to worry about the church exposing you.


  • My desire is not to be unkind in any way to anyone who claims to follow Christ, but sometimes when our error is exposed we take it as an insult. I know this is true in my own life at least.

    However in recent times, I have been drawn to many articles, interviews etc., with various Christian ministers, by the very people and ministries you have mentioned. Not with a desire to tear down, but with a desire to understand the obvious error that has spread through much of the church in general.

    In that time I have come across many, many articles from people such as Rob Bell, Brian MacLaren, yourself, Richard Foster, Phylis Tickle to name but a few, who seem to undermine the very fundamental aspects of faith in Christ.

    Things such as the critically important things such as the doctrine of the atonement, the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, the reality of the wrath of God against sin, and even the very incarnation of Jesus Christ Himself; all being undermined freely, as though the truth of God changes over the course of time.

    I truly am sorry if you feel offended by some, and I realise that what we do must be done in love. However that truth cuts both ways, a true brotherly love can never be displayed by idly sitting by whilst the wolves come in and devour the sheep.

    For most of my Christian life I have been Biblically ignorant, and would have been first on the scene telling people such as Ken Silva to stop judging others. But in truth I have found that often, those with the silky smooth tones and slick approach, are the very ones whose teeth are waiting to devour.

  • Able

    Not sure what the fuss over Apprising Ministries is all about. Read your post but I’m comfortable with letting the truth speak for itself. Erasing links is over the top. What is there to fear? Relax, have a joe.

  • lonnboles

    Tony Jones needs an exorcism! He tells lies about the Holy Scriptures and is afraid of his critics, since they are speaking the truth.

    email me for a fair discussion: lonnboles007@gmail.com

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  • Lighthouse Trails has never done those gimmicks to raise Internet ratings as you suggest in the quote below. I realize some people do that, but we have never done that even once. We try to report honestly and in a non-vitriolic, non-sensationalistic manner.

    “Instead, they post about me constantly. They put my name in other posts — posts about Rob Bell or Brian McLaren, and completely unrelated to me — in order to come up higher in search engines when my name is searched. They use my name as a keyword in posts about me, and in posts completely unrelated to me. They double-post their posts about me on two different blogs, and then link back to themselves, in order to have more permanent in-bound links, which is a primary way that the Google crawlers determine the strength of a site. (In other words, many in-bound links to a site that mentions my name tells Google, “This is an authoritative site about ‘Tony Jones’”).

    They do all of this because they are dishonest.”