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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Thursday, September 07, 2006

R.C. Sproul's Ministry is Suing Blogger

see update below

I just read a link off of the Sharper Iron page reporting that Ligonier Ministries, the ministry of R.C. Sproul, is suing blogger over some blog by a guy named Frank Vance. This Vance fellow apparently has issues with Sproul, I mean some real deep down in the heart kind of hang-ups. His various blogs accuse Ligonier of mis-managing funds, of gross incompetence on the part of the leadership and the imbibing of all sorts of sin. He even suggests that Tim Challies - sweet little ole docile Tim Challies - is involved with the corruption at Ligonier as an unwitting victim.

Now, I have no clue as to what Mr. Vance's beef is with R.C. Sproul, his son, and Ligonier in general. I am assuming there is a root of bitterness growing in his heart or something; some bad blood from the distant past. At any rate, I just think it is petty of Ligonier to be suing blogger, a non-party in this tit-for-tat squabble between blogger Vance and the Sproul boys. I mean, all that blogger is doing is providing a platform for Vance to maintain his slander-screed site. Why is blogger being brought into this? Vance could just as easily go somewhere else to publish his venom.

I guess my thought in all of this is Vance should either be refuted once and for all by Ligonier or ignored. I would choose the last: if you ignore the rantings of a crackpot, he will go away or just be left rambling to himself with no one to listen but other crackpots. Over the years, my church and pastor have been the target of all sorts of loons who stand out on the street and yell, curse and otherwise slander our fellowship and pastor. We may engage them in a spirited debate for the time being, but we eventually move on, ignore them, and they go away. The last thing our elders would think to do is sue the city because they are using the public sidewalks out in front of our church to hurl their insults.

Am I missing something here? Anyone have some further information as to what all this is about that Ligonier would be driven to sue blogger to have this guy's blog tore down? I don't think this is the wisest move on the part of a ministry I happen to really like.

Update, Sept. 7th

Tim Challies has posted an entry explaining his involvement with this Sproul-Vance story. It is detailed and specific and sheds some good light on the background to this situation. Apparently, it sort of all started on Tim's comment forum. The more I learn about this Vance character, the more I am becoming suspicious as to the reliability of his accusations against Ligonier.

Also, David of Thirsty Theologian pointed out a big mistake on my part. I wrote that Ligonier is suing blogger, you know, the google blogging site. But it is really Vance, the blogger writing slanderous things against Ligonier. The blog where I linked over to the World Magazine online article seemed to imply that Ligonier was suing blogger to get to Vance. However, reading the online article more carefully, it is Vance, not blogger.

But, I still think this lawsuit is not the wisest of things to do on the part of Ligonier. The reason being is that if Ligonier does win their lawsuit against him, a court would have to force blogger to make Vance take down his blog. I believe there are some serious ramifications for all bloggers, bad and good alike, if this were to happen.

I will be curious to see what happens.

22 Comments:

Blogger Carson Allen said...

First of all I think you should take the time to get to know Frank; or send him an email before you go spouting off calling him a crack pot. Let's try to get the facts straight; shall we.

Frank has absolutley know personal ties whatsoever with the Sproul clan. He is just a member of the Body of Christ that seeks to bring Glory to God. Frank and his family were spiritually abused by an Ecclesilastical tyrant. He has no personal grudges with the Sproul's at all. If you took the time to read some of his blog you might know that.

I used to think Frank was a crack pot myself untill I got to know him.

You say "I guess my thought in all of this is Vance should either be refuted once and for all by Ligonier or ignored.

I agree 100%; but don't hold your breath waiting for a refutation of any sort. It boggles my mind that a thelogian of Sprouls stature can refute the grandest of heresies; but he can't atleast make an attempt to reconcile. I mean come on; why not let the truth come out. I would like nothing more then for Sprouls name to be clear. I love the guy. All it would take is a simple letter to Frank from R.C.

What do you think John Piper would do?

9:33 PM, September 06, 2006  
Blogger C.H.H. said...

Well doesn't this look pretty to the world- us Christians feudin' again. God help us.

6:03 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Law said...

I haven't seen the filing, so I cannot be certain, but most likely, Ligonier is suing Blogger, the host of Frank Vance's Contending for Truth blog, in addition to Frank himself so that, if for some reason the court cannot or will not order Frank to take his blog down there would still be a possible alternative of ordering Blogger to take the blog down.

Or, even more likely, the hope is that the mere fact of the troublesome and expensive lawsuit may be enough to get Blogger to take the site down. But Blogger, or rather Blogger's parent/owner Google, has deep pockets and wants to grow Blogger's market share (in fact, they have almost finished a major upgrade to the service), so they would be wise to vigorously defend this suit to establish a favorable precedent rather than set a precedent of giving in and face many more such suits in the future..

6:05 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Carson,

I do appreciate the comments. Like I mentioned in my blog, I am rather ill informed about the goings on with lil' Sproul, Jr. and certainly this Vance fellow, so the jury is still out in my mind. I have never been a big fan of lil Sproul, Jr. I am only familiar with his dad, Big Sproul. In fact, I have never heard him preach or teach and the squabbles he had with his denomination seemed to me to be petty denominational bickering. He may very well be a psycho-fundamentalist in the vein of your IFB variety.

However, I have been around a major ministry (Grace to You) and a well known church (Grace Community) for long enough to learn that disgruntled individuals who take to the Internet to showcase their ill will toward a ministry of another person with slanderous diatribes are generally not taking the wisest course of action to deal with their problems and the person is bordering on crackpottery. I have also learned that even though the person may had been unjustly wronged by a particular ministry (or at least perceived as being unjustly wronged), does not mean the person is all together an "innocent" victim in all of what happened.

I have been disappointed by decisions by church pastors who may have unintentionally hurt others, but my last thought was to go to blogger and start a blog to air out my greviances and accuse the parties involved with gainsaying and corruption.

Moreover, I have met many people who have been abused by tyranical leaders. Again, they didn't go start a blog to publish their anger against the people.

I would personally like to hear Ligonier's side of the story. Right now, they are painted as this big bad souless entity out to get some little guy and I have a gut feeling that is not the case, but like I stated in my entry, I also don't think them suing blogger to silence a critic as the wisest course of action either.

As to what Piper would do? I have no idea, I never listen to Piper and I may have one or two of his books. Maybe we can make braclets? WWPD?

Fred

6:06 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger ThirstyDavid said...

Ligonier is not suing Blogger, they are suing a blogger, Frank Vance.

6:52 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

That's interesting Dave, because when you read the World Mag article, they seem to imply that it is the blogger site, because they want them to take down the blog.

I would like more info if you have it.

Fred

7:30 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger ThirstyDavid said...

Fred, I can't find the World article anymore, so I haven't checked what they said. I don't know if Ligonier asked Blogger to take down Vance's site, but I am pretty sure the lawsuit is against Vance only.

You may have already seen that Challies has more on this this morning. Anything I could tell you beyond what he has written would be speculation.

My opinion is:

Ligonier has a long record of excellent ministry and integrity.

Vance has demonstrated a willingness to, at best, present unsubstantiated allegations as fact, and to build conpiracy theories based on those allegations.

So, while Ligonier could conceivably be entirely guilty, and Vance could be completely right, It's easy to see who should be given the benefit of the doubt until all the facts are known.

9:09 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I think you are correct about Ligonier. I tend to side with them on this because of my run ins with individuals like Vance.

Looking over the article, it was more specific that it was the blogger, not blogger the entity, so when I have time, I will amend my article or put a P.S. up. That is my stupidity for not reading more carefully. I may have gotten that notion by the way the Sharper Iron forum announced the article.

However,I think the question of blogger's role is how far a court of law could push them to take down a blog if another group disagreed with the writing of the blogger. In this case, Ligonier, if victorious over Vance, would need to have blogger take down his blog in order for their victory to be sustained. That of course gets into first admendment rights stuff, and I am not sure Ligonier would be wise to tread there.

Fred

10:26 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Socially Reformed said...

Fred,

Here are some links on this issue:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/orl-blog0506sep05,0,6545015.story

http://board.derekwebb.com/viewtopic.php?t=21091

On the webboard the fellow named "westmin" claims to have "close" connections in this. I think the heart of the issue lies with the way Ligonier acquired Soli Deo Gloria Ministries, the ministry of Dr. Donald Kistler.

Hope this sheds more light.

10:47 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Carson Allen said...

Fred

Thank's for the answer. If you were or are involved with Grace To You; you have my upmost respect. I love MacArthur. I would hope that he would council his brother R.C.

As far as atacks against Grace to You; I remember a fellow named Darwin Fish and his budy Rick Meisel. I think that's what you might be refering to.

These two individual are no doubt crack pots. If you remember; Phil Johsnon Personaley responded with an in depth article defending the Charchter of MacArthur. Phil Did a fine job at refuting these crack pots and exposed to the world how crazy they are.

Of course that wasn't good enough for the crackpots. So Phil made a second rebutle and then let it go considering it a waste of time; which it would be after the second rebutal.

So that's all I am asking for here with Ligonier. Did MacArthur sue little ole Darwin Fish; Of course not.

You can tell allot about someones charachter the way they hande certian sitiuations. In MacArthurs case he proved that he acts how he preaches.

So if Frank is such a crackpot like Darwin Fish; then why can't R.C. or someone else do as Phil Johnson did for MacArthur? Refute the charges and set the record straight. If Ligonier would just issuie a writen statement debunking Franks claims(if they can) that would go along way in my eyes. If not then I believe they have something to hide.

Any objectable reader who read Phil Johnsons two rebutals to Mr.Fish and Rick Meisiel could desern what crack pots these two are. So why Can't Ligonier do the Same?

What say you?

4:58 PM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Carson,

I am unsure I can say anything that would satisfy you as an answer.

For the record, there have been many, many more lesser known individuals besides Darwin Fish who have assailed MacArthur and our ministry. I have been blogging off and on about a more recent one. Additionally, there are many websites (google John's name sometime just for fun) who slander John in the same way this Vance fellow does.

I can't speak for RC and his ministry and the way they wish to pursue this. Suing would not be my immediate course of action, but I have no idea what sort of dialogue has transpired between RC and Vance up to this point. Vance could very well be not telling us the whole truth.

I will say this: After reading Tim's post today highlighting how this all transpired and how he was unnecessarily smeared by Vance who accused him of being some front man for RC, I have serious doubts about the credibility of his claims against Ligonier ministries.

I am not sure if that is what you wish to hear, but at this point, I tend to hold Vance at an arms length distance as being reliable.

Fred

6:25 PM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger pilgrim said...

I believe we need to see both sides here.

Often we see one side and that is skewed but we may not know it. And that side may look ironclad.
But upon investigation it's built on sand.

I'm not picking sides here.

What I have seen of the controversy looks one sided and looks alarmist--which makes me skeptical. ALthough they could be right.

I had a comment about this on one of my blog posts.

I hope we see some resolution soon...

7:35 PM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Hank T said...

Carson Allen,

Rick Meisel is in no way, shape or form a crackpot. He is a great researcher. In fact, he documents in his excellent expose on Macarthur that RC Sproul has spoken on at least 2 different occasions at the Crystal Cathedral. On both occasions, the following day Sproul spoke at Grace Church. Is that the mark of a true Christian?
One reason Macarthur doesn't sue Meisel is because he'd surely lose. Is it a lie that Grace employed the psychologizer Larry Crabb?

2:41 AM, September 09, 2006  
Blogger Michael Metzler said...

There seems to be a good deal of pontificating from ignorance here. Vance’s site is easy to read and very exhaustive if you include the comment sections. It is not sites like his that worry me when it comes to issues of “slander,” but sites like this. Please just go read his entire site—not too much reading—before offering sever criticisms of its author. I would like to point out just one thing here (I’ve written much on this already at www.poohsthink.com): Your first assumption was that this was just some form of bitterness between Vance and Dick. But the facts indicate the opposite. Vance had already been laboring for months exposing the subterfuge and deceit from RC Sproul Jr followers, trying to cover up the scandalous way Sproul Jr responded to his defrocking. Tim Dick started pursuing Vance, and Vance realized the Ligonier lake was a little bit more stagnant than he suspected. Dick’s writing on various blogs and private emails to others has been unintelligent and thuggish and he has done nothing to encourage Christian dialog on these matters. That’s all for here….

Thanks
Michael Metzler
www.poohsthink.com

12:47 PM, September 09, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Well Michael,

The manner in which Vance decided to deal with his issues with Ligonier and lil Sproul, by spreading speculative gossip on a blog, does not sit well with me. He may very well be right, but airing out grievances with a person in full detail for third party observers to witness is not honoring to the body of Christ.

Additionally, Tim's post on Friday I believe, reveals that Vance does not care for the facts in the matter, especially if he is falsely accusing Tim as being involved with defending Ligonier and covering up for them. There are much better ways to deal with this problem than how Vance has handled it. There is no excuse, in my mind, of publishing a screed blog naming a bunch of people as corrupt.

Fred

1:43 PM, September 09, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Rick Meisel is in no way, shape or form a crackpot.

(Fred) Yes, he is. A woefully misguided one. See here

On both occasions, the following day Sproul spoke at Grace Church. Is that the mark of a true Christian?

(fred) And why is it not a mark of a true Christian?

One reason Macarthur doesn't sue Meisel is because he'd surely lose.

(Fred) No, the reason MacArthur doesn't sue is because it would be a waste of time and resources. People like Meisel are better left to themselves.

Is it a lie that Grace employed the psychologizer Larry Crabb?

(Fred) I am not sure about him being employed. He may had been. However, that was a long time ago, when Grace had not fully formulated their views on biblical counseling. The important thing is that he is no longer employeed at Grace. That is all that matters.

Fred

1:55 PM, September 09, 2006  
Blogger Michael Metzler said...

Fred,

I would want to point you firmly back to Vance’s web site, including the comment section and other supporting links (including my own exposure of Challies’ unjust behavior). I am disappointed that you would reveal so much ignorance about the facts and yet still slander Vance like this. Clearly, what Vance has done is not accurately described as “spreading speculative gossip on a blog.” Nor is he “airing grievances with a person.” The connotations of this are the opposite of the real story line here. Tim’s post did not reveal anything but hypocrisy; he failed to provide a sufficient argument for the claims he was making against Vance, and in fact proceeded to do the very think he was aggressively accusing Vance of. And then when folks try to point this out, in full incoherence with the very claims of his post, he unjustly censors them. Talking about unjust measures here my friends! Vance spends months simply trying to clear away the deceit coving up the RC Sproul Jr scandal, a very public matter; it was this that led to the problem with Dick and Challies, not the pettiness of a bitter man. Many facts have been revealed since them, in part due to Dick’s arrogant and foolish responses, including an impulsively filed and ludicrous law suit. Look at the facts you are seeking to cover up in this kind of criticism as well: what of the character of his son? What of his salary from donations to a Christian ministry? What of his tromping around on the world wid web furthering slanderous libel, calling Peter Kershaw’s and my own web site nothing but “slander”? Really? Kershaw’s site is one of the most helpful and balanced sites I have ever seen with respect to a controversial issue. There is plenty of excuse for publicizing absolutely unaccountable corruption, corruption that continued even in the face of a judicial defroking. This is called Christian investigative journalism, and it has been done well. Period. Using the word “screed” doesn’t change the hard facts here. Face the facts here Fred, and please don’t continue spreading slander and rumors about Frank Vance on the internet; that is not a very Christian thing to do (frowny face).

Thank you
Michael Metzler
www.poohsthink.com

3:59 PM, September 09, 2006  
Blogger Hank T said...

Fred,
You don't have a problem with Sproul speaking at the Crystal Cathedral? A supposed Christian who possesses such little discernment? Even the highly ecumenical bridge building Macarthur knows enough to stay away from Schuller.

3:18 PM, September 10, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Michael,

You are spot on that I am ignorant of all of the details surrounding this situation. I am ignorant for at least three reasons: a) I don't follow Presbyterian denominational politics. b) I like RC and Ligonier, but I don't listen to either him or his son on any regular basis. Like I said in a previous context, I have never even heard lil Sproul speak. And c)I tend to ignore gossipy tit-for-tat squabbles unless I am some how immediately involved with the situation.

That being said, I believe I have enough information from what I have seen on Vance's site to express my opinion that he is off his rocker and I mean "off his rocker" in the general sense of the word. Vance my very well be a nice guy, but airing out his greviances with Ligonier and slandering the character of specific men on a public blog is not the way a matter like this is to be resolved. It is like I am witnessing a classic business meeting free-for-all at a Baptist Church.

Why is Vance's website necessary? Why does he believe he is justified in name calling the head guy at Ligonier with untoward words and rude remarks. This is the sort of stuff I see from KJV only wackos like Peter Ruckman.

And then you all seem to have a problem with nepotism, or the hiring of family for a job. Nepotism is only a problem if the person being hired is incompotent to do the job they are hired to do. It is a private ministry. The can hire whom ever they wish. I can either choose to support them or not.

And please, why is it an issue to put the salaries of Ligonier staff on the web and draw attention to it if there is some scandal with making 80,000 plus a year? You're not one of these individuals who thinks ministers should live in dirt huts barely scratching out a living in some perverse protestant view of the vows of poverty are you?

Vance may well have some legitimate problems with Ligonier; however, the forum in which he has choosen to address them speaks volumes to his character and that is why I can't take him seriously.

Fred

6:21 AM, September 11, 2006  
Blogger Michael Metzler said...

Fred,

I certainly don't think you have made a cogent argument here. Beyond your mere assertion that, a priori, someone has moral problems because they publicize accusations, I don't know how you have addressed the points and arguments on Vance's site, my site, and what I have already said here. Feel free to explain, but I have a feeling that more words are not going to help us here. I would just encourage everyone to read Vance’s site along with the comments and links carefully as this unfolds. I have a new post up today offering another angle in defense of Vance's method: http://poohsthink.com/?p=780

Unfortunately in this case, in the name of combating slander, folks like to further some of it themselves. Serious claims about Vance's character perhaps shouldn't be aired on the internet, right? And if so, shouldn't you be able to sufficiently back up these claims? I don't see this level of support here at all, which is very disappointing. Vance claims to have sufficient evidence for his claims, and half of his claims have already been demonstrated almost beyond a reasonable doubt by the mere fact of the ludicrous law suit.

Thanks
Michael Metzler
www.poohsthink.com
Moscow, Idaho

3:03 PM, September 14, 2006  
Blogger John Steinhausen said...

Jen Epstein has written some excellent articles about this Ligonier Ministries lawsuit. Now Jen has posted some Open Letters on her blog. Everyone who's concerned about the obvious shame and embarrassment that this Ligonier Ministries lawsuit will bring upon the Christian community should copy and paste them and mail them to Ligonier.

Open Letter to Dr. Sproul,
Open Letter to Vesta Sproul and the Board of Directors
Open Letter to Tim Dick.
Contending With Ligonier Ministries.

6:23 PM, September 16, 2006  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Michael, et al,

Perhaps you don't think I made a "cogent argument" but I personally think my concerns about Mr. Vance are warranted. Putting together an insulting blog to gossip about why a certain ministry has wronged people is not the way to handle those difficulties. I am sorry, but Vance is acting sinfully. Moreover, the recent email posted on Tim Challies blog by Don Kistler refutes pretty much everything Vance has been claiming. Astonishingly, he actually posted a comment asserting that the email did not come from Kistler, but from someone else inside Ligonier. Now we are really headed down the road of paranoid crack pottery if that is his first impression of an email. His credibility is certainly unraveling now.

On the other hand, as I have always maintained, I do not think Ligonier is taking the wisest course of action in suing Vance either. I believe there is no scriptural mandate preventing them from doing so, but still, it is better to suffer the harm from the actions of an unhinged critic who will only expose his lack of integrity in time than to bring reproach upon the Lord. They are simply setting a sad precedent in doing so.

Now, I am going to close the comments because there is no need to further discuss this issue. Sorry, but it is my blog, my perogative.

Fred

9:03 AM, September 22, 2006  

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